Whew, man does it feel good to be able to finally tell people!!
First off, I want to start by apologizing for any “odd” behavior from myself or Alicia over the past couple of years — Maybe you invited us to do something but we couldn’t because of an “undisclosed reason”, we seemed distant / short with you / or just awkward, or maybe you’ve said something to the effect of us needing some kids of our own and we just straight up didn’t reply — I promise we weren’t trying to be mean or anything, but we’ve had an ordeal with trying to get to this point in our lives, and I’m not lying when I say that it is by far one of the hardest things we’ve ever experienced and endured.
Alicia and I have been trying to have a baby for the last 2 full years. We started out with the “if it happens, it happens” approach, but over time we started realizing something was up. We tried for a year and then consulted with her doctor and tried Clomid for about 3 months but still didn’t get pregnant. We were then sent to the A.R.T. Fertility Clinic in Birmingham, AL where we went through treatments, surgery, procedures, what felt like thousands of blood tests & billions of trips back and forth to Birmingham, and much much more for 9 full months. We had 4 artificial inseminations (IUI) and were on the brink of having to take out a loan to pay for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) before we got the AMAZING news that we were finally pregnant! I swear to God, I’ve never been more excited in my entire life than I am right now! We’ve wanted this SO BADLY for SO LONG, and it’s finally happening!
Alicia and I want to thank everyone at the A.R.T. Fertility clinic in Birmingham from the bottom of our hearts. This has been one of the most physically, emotionally, and financially draining experience that we’ve ever had to endure, but we seriously have never felt more cared about by any medical establishment than we did there. They made us feel like family, and I’m not exaggerating. If we called with a question, someone was calling us back later that same day with an answer. They sincerely cared about how we were doing, the /entire/ staff was ALWAYS friendly, and Dr. Long was absolutely determined that he was going to get us to this point! We never felt like just a “number” there. We want to specifically thank by name Dr. Cecil Long, Neicey Dunlap (Nurse Practitioner), Casey Graham (Nurse Practitioner), Tammy (Ultrasound Tech), Eva Addison (Lab Tech), Andy Reed (Receptionist), and every other single person at the A.R.T Clinic that help people like us on a daily basis — this group of people are absolutely amazing, and while I’m ELATED that we’re finally pregnant (!!!), I’m still going to miss all of them like crazy.
I am so incredibly thankful that our time has finally come. It’s been a long (and a lot of times, painful) road, but I know that there’s a reason we were supposed to travel down this particular path. It has definitely made our marriage stronger, opened our eyes to a lot of things in our lives, reminded us to be thankful, taught us patience, among a plethora of other things.
Before all of this, we obviously never thought that we might run into problems trying to have children. When we learned that we needed a little help to get to this point we felt like we were among very few people that have to go this route. After starting down this path though, we found out that fertility problems are more common than we had originally thought. We wrote all of this out to let other couples like us know that you’re definitely not alone! It’s not an easy situation, by any means, but the best advice we can give you is to trust in God, love each other & be there (wholeheartedly) for each other and you will make it through it <3
FYI, This is the “lite” version of our story — For the full version, click the “+” icons beside each heading below to expand the story for each time period. I warn you, it’s very long — but this has been a very very long process. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, just skim for the pictures of things like our first ultrasound photos and etc. Please feel free to post comments at the bottom of this post if you want!
In June 2010 Alicia and I decided that we were ready to start expanding our family. She stopped taking her birth control and we just decided at that point that if it happened it happened. As the months started to go by, our mindsets started changing from “if it happens” to “ok yeah, we’re definitely ready for a baby”.
Around December of 2010 we started using ovulation tests and continued that for a few months to no avail. Alicia had her yearly doctor appointment in May 2011 and talked about our situation with her doctor. The doctor said that normally they don’t start checking into why you’re not able to get pregnant until after a full year of trying, but we were right there at a full year already so she said that we could move forward. Before we started anything, she wanted me to get checked out first. After some tests, we found out that I was supposedly “fine”, so in the beginning of July she did blood work on Alicia and found that she wasn’t ovulating well. She decided to put Alicia on 50mg of Chlomid starting with her next cycle in August of 2011. During that cycle with the Chlomid they found that she did ovulate, but not “well”, so we did the same thing all over again for her September cycle. Same exact results once again.
For the October cycle, the doctor upped the dosage to 150mg of Chlomid and Alicia didn’t ovulate at all. At that point the doctor said that she couldn’t do anything else for us herself, and referred us to the A.R.T. Fertility clinic in Birmingham at the Brookwood Medical Center. 3 days after our referral, we were sitting in the Doctor’s Office at A.R.T., starting the next chapter in our story.
Once we were referred, Alicia and I were terrified. We were scared of the unknown, and we felt completely alone in this. We knew that our families and friends would have been there for us to give us support, but we wanted to be able to give them that happy surprise of us announcing that we were pregnant — not to mention this was hard enough on us already that we didn’t want the added pressure of “are you pregnant yet?!” everywhere we turned. Soooo we decided to continue down this path on our own, though we knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
I think that first trip to the A.R.T. clinic was THE LONGEST ride to Birmingham we’ve ever experienced. We both were nervous as everything, so much that we were both feeling sick to our stomachs because of our nerves. We rode in silence majority of the way in anticipation of what we were going to find out. Once we arrived, they did blood work and an ultrasound and without a doubt determined that Alicia did not ovulate in October and that she had a large cyst on her right ovary (which they said is normal, but probably was the reason she didn’t ovulate that cycle). The nurse (Neicey Dunlap) knew we were nervous because she said that Alicia’s heart was beating SO fast when she was getting her vitals, lol. After the ultrasound, we met with our amazing doctor (Doctor Cecil Long) for the first time and we started a plan. He went over the results of the ultrasound with us and said that her uterine lining looked great, so when we do get pregnant she should have no problems with carrying the child. To get rid of the cyst, he put her on birth control for the month of November to basically “reset” everything.
The Tuesday of Thanksgiving week we had to go for a dye test procedure to make sure that her fallopian tubes weren’t blocked. The procedure was a little painful but we got the fantastic news that the dye flowed straight through with no problems, so neither tube had any blockage!
Once she started her cycle in December we had to go to Birmingham for blood work and another ultrasound (this happens pretty much every single time we go to the doctor, so I’ll refer to it as B&U from here on out). We found out that the cyst was gone and we were ready to move forward with our first plan: Follistim injections (75mg) for 6 nights, at the same time every night. On the 7th day, we made a trip to Birmingham for B&U to see if any follicles were mature. The ultrasound showed that they were not quite ready, so we had to continue Follistim injections for 2 more nights. After that, we came back again for another B&U and found out that she had one (1) mature follicle. Since she had one that was ready to go, we were to do an HCG shot that night at 8PM on the dot to trigger her ovulation. 2 days later we had our first IUI (artificial insemination), which ended up being on December 23rd. (Side note: that week we drove to Birmingham 3 times, Monday/Wednesday/Friday).
After the IUI, we were to wait 2 weeks and then return for a pregnancy test (blood test). That 2 weeks was the most excruciating time period of our lives I think. We tried our best to not think about it, but everywhere we turned there was something there to remind us about babies and pregnancy: tv commercials, movies, Facebook, everything! We went back for that blood test on January 4th and had to go back to work all day long and wait for them to call with the results. Alicia got a call that afternoon and found out that the pregnancy test was negative. Hearing that was seriously brutal and Alicia took it pretty hard. Our next instructions were to come back after her next cycle started a few days later and start this whole process over again.
On January 10th we returned for B&U. We did Follistim (75mg) injection from the 10th-15th, returned to the doctor on the 16th and had 1 follicle that was mature and 1 that was almost mature. So on the 16th we did the HCG shot to jumpstart ovulation and returned for our 2nd IUI on January 18th. Started the 2nd (excruciating) 2 week wait…
On January 30th, to save us from having to drive to Birmingham, Alicia had blood drawn in Gadsden at The Lab and we weren’t aware that we wouldn’t find out the results that day, so we were pretty pissed that we didn’t get a phone call by that night after stressing about it all day long…sooo Alicia left a voicemail later that night asking what was up and she got a callback the next morning letting us know that if we got blood work drawn at a different lab, it took an extra day to get results. Lesson learned on that one. So we began a 2nd agonizing day of waiting on those results. Around 3:30 Alicia got the bad news once again and ended up leaving work early because she was so upset.
On February 1st we had an appointment with Dr. Long to discuss what direction we wanted to go in next. He gave us 3 options: 1) To continue on with the same plan and have another IUI, 2) Go straight to IVF (in vitro fertilization), or 3) have surgery to see what everything looks like on the inside and check for any problems such as endometriosis (which he thought Alicia had a 75% chance of having due to the cyst). So we decided together that the most logical plan was to have the surgery and find out what all was going on first. So to get ready for that surgery, she was put on birth control once again (for a full month and a half, to keep her from starting a new cycle before the surgery).
Alicia’s surgery was scheduled for March 9th, and she had Hysteroscopy & Laparoscopy procedures done. Again for surgery day, it was just me and Alicia…alone. She was very nervous — I was very nervous. We struggled with the decision to not include our parents again, and that was really hard not having them for support…but again, we felt like it was the best choice for us at the time, even though it was really really really hard on us to do this alone. It was just super important to both of us that they be able to be surprised when we finally got pregnant.
We had to BE at the hospital at 6am, so we left our house at 4:30 am that day. We got her admitted and I sat in the waiting room for about an hour before they called me back to see her before she went into surgery. I got to spend a little bit of time with her in the room before they took her back, and it was /really/ hard to watch them wheel her out and me not be able to go too. I got to stay in that holding room and wait on her to come back from surgery though. I tried to “work” on some web projects while I was back there waiting, but I basically just stared at my computer screen with my mind racing with thoughts about what her results would show. The whole procedure took a couple of hours (though it actually felt like forever). Doctor Long came in and told me that the surgery went fantastic. He told me that she did have a touch of Endometriosis but that he took care of it with the laser. She also had a slight septum in the uterine cavity that he fixed too. He told me again that both tubes were completely clear and that he thought we were “in great shape now”. A little bit later, Alicia was brought back into the room.
These are her hot leg circulation things. Sexy, right? I know!
We had to wait a bit for her to be released, but when we were we started the long ride home where every bump hurt her : ( She had a pretty speedy recovery though! The day of surgery and the day after were the worst, with the pain of the gas from surgery making her hurt extremely bad in the tops of her shoulders if she sat up at all. By Sunday we went to the track and walked a mile because she was going crazy being stuck in bed, and by Monday we biked 2 miles!
Her stitches were the kind that were supposed to dissolve on their own, but after a week or so they were starting to look like they were getting infected. The doctors office wanted us to come in to have them checked out, and we found out that for whatever reason, Alicia’s apparently allergic to those stitches and that’s why they weren’t healing. So. We had to try to get them out. After that, they healed up fine.
During first part of April, Alicia started a new cycle, which also started us back on our plan for another IUI. B&U, and in the ultrasound they saw another cyst (this time on the left ovary). Nonetheless, because it was a relatively small cyst we were told to continue on with the plan of Follistim 75mg and now we tacked on a new medicine, Menopur 75mg too. But later that afternoon, Alicia got a phone call telling her that her estrogen levels were too high: they were at 315 and needed to be less than 100 at the beginning of a cycle & they said that it was because of the cyst. We were told to NOT continue on with the plan for this month and that if we DID continue, we would not have good results. So that cycle was lost.
Randomly at the end of April she started a new cycle (yep, that is 2 in one month). Soooo. Back to the doctor + B&U, found out that the cyst was gone! We started the Follistim 75mg + Menopur 75mg Injections, and did them for 6 days and returned for B&U on May 3rd. The ultrasound showed that none of the follicles were mature, so we were to return home and do 2 more nights of injections. The blood work also showed that her estrogen level was at 833.5, which was fine for that point in the cycle, and that it was probably that high because of the number of follicles she had. We returned on May 5th for another B&U. The ultrasound on May 5th showed 2 mature follicles and 2 that were almost mature, so by the time Monday the 7th rolls around (IUI #3 Day), there is a chance that she could have 4 mature follicles. The woman doing the ultrasound made the comment of “Soo…have you been talked to about the possibility of multiples…?” since we had so many possible mature follicles this time…yeah. We about had a heart attack because of how real that just got, even though yes we were aware of that possibility.
To get you on the same page with us at that moment:
a) if we have 4 mature follicles that each release an egg, that is potentially 4 eggs being released at once
b) those 4 eggs have the possibility of all being implanted, meaning 4 children
c) even further, those eggs could each (though super duper unlikely) split into 2 (or more), bringing the grand total to a possible 8(+).
Yes. Josh & Alicia plus 8(+)…heh, just kidding…but seriously. Alicia says “please no octo-mom!” lol. It was a pretty scary moment to say the least.
Later that afternoon we got a phone call telling us that “everything looks really good!” — her estrogen level was 1,705 and her progesterone level was 1.4. We were told to continue on with the plan of giving the HCG shot at 8 pm that night and be back Monday morning for our 3rd IUI.
The IUI came and went that Monday (May 7th) and we just tried to stay really busy those 2 weeks after that we had to wait so that we wouldn’t be thinking / worrying / wondering about anything. That really helped too, the time seemed to fly by.
Sidenote– We were told going into this IUI that we needed to go ahead and schedule an appointment to meet with the doctor for the end of the month to talk about our other options IF the IUI was unsuccessful…and if it WAS successful, we could just cancel our appointment with the doctor. Anyway, moving along.
The dreaded day finally came though, and that trip to Birmingham to have a beta (blood) pregnancy test was yet another long and nervous hour-long drive followed by an excruciating wait until later that afternoon for the results. We hoped that the 3rd time was a charm, but we got the bad news that once again we were not pregnant. No matter how many times we hear that, it never get’s /any/ easier.
Since our IUI was unsuccessful and we hadn’t reached the date of our doctor visit yet and needed to make a decision as to what we wanted to do for this month (since obviously it’s a time sensitive issue), we just decided to start the whole process again for another IUI on May 25th and then meet with Doctor Long on May 29th to talk with him about if /this/ IUI was unsuccessful.
So Alicia started the shots again on May 25th. The same combo of 2 injections daily of Follistim and Menopur, which by the way was getting more and more painful for her each cycle as the Menopur really really burns when it’s injected.
Tuesday May 29th rolls around, and we’re nervous about this appointment with Dr. Long because we know what he’s going to tell us: we need to move up to IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), which is /really/ expensive. Yep, we were right. He explains to us about how the process works, and that he thinks that we’d be great candidates for it since the reason for our infertility is completely unknown. This process would just eliminate as many variables as we possibly can. He also suggests that since my count isn’t the best, we should go for the package of up to 3 “fresh” cycles of IVF. Basically what this would do is we’d get 3 cycles where they could extract any eggs, fertilize one or two (our choice), and any that were left over from those cycles we could freeze and use those frozen ones up to 3 more times. The good thing about this is: if it doesn’t work, you get more than half of your money back. The bad news is: if it works on the first try, you get zero money back (and you’d be spending about double what you’d pay for a single IVF cycle).
Either way, at this point it really feels like this is our only option, so we say sure let’s do this…now, time to talk about the cost. We head over to the financial office to speak with someone, and it’s just myself and Alicia in the room talking for a few minutes as we waited for them to come in. We’re super nervous at this point because we know and understand that it’s going to be expensive, but we both think that this really might be the only option we have to finally be able to have a child together.
The lady comes in and starts going over everything. She starts with “So the whole process Dr. Long recommended for you guys is Seventeen-five ($17,500)” — at this point, I swallow /really/ hard and my stomach hits the ground — she continues, “if you go through all 6 cycles (3 fresh, 3 frozen) without becoming pregnant, you’ll receive a refund of $10,500. If you purchase only one (1) IVF cycle, the price is $7,500.” I felt numb. I could tell that Alicia was really trying to hold it together in front of this woman. We finish talking with her, and get up to leave to pay for our visit that day and while we’re standing there at the window I’m just in this daze where I hear absolutely nothing but my own breath and heartbeat. We start walking out of the office, and Alicia’s really really getting upset but trying to hold it back until we get away from all of these people in the hospital. We get to the car and she loses it and I start crying too. I tell her don’t worry about it, that it’s just money, we’ll make it work, we both know it’s completely worth it and that one of these days it will finally be our time. That was of the worst days ever, and we were both barely holding ourselves together anymore those days.
Two days later (May 31st) we’re scheduled to come in for an ultrasound and see if any follicles are mature. At this point it’s really hard to be super excited because we just know that our odds aren’t really great that this is going to work this time, but nonetheless they do an ultrasound and see that she had 2 mature follicles and one that’s almost mature (and should be by Saturday, our 4th IUI). So we head home and I give Alicia the hCG trigger shot that night to get the ball rolling for Saturday, June 2nd.
Saturday morning comes around and we leave the house at like 6 am because my appointment is at 7:30 and Alicia’s is at 9:00 am. Got there on time for my appointment and then we headed down to the hospital cafeteria to have some breakfast while we wait. Alicia’s supposed to have a full bladder when they do the procedure, so she’s drinking her tasty beverages and thinking nothing of it. It’s like 8:30, heh. We get called back to a room at 9 and are informed that Dr. Long is the one that’s going to be doing the procedure today, but that he’s also running a little late and should be there by 9:30. Alicia’s about to die at this point because she already has to pee like whoa, lol. She cut on music (Atreyu, to be specific, heh) to get her mind off of it while we waited and she ended up falling asleep. Dr. Long finally got there at almost 10 and Alicia basically told him to hurry up because she was about to bust, haha.
The 2 week wait after this IUI was really weird. Neither of us really even thought anything about it the whole time just because we both had pretty much just come to terms with the fact that we were going to have to take out a loan for the IVF (we even went to a few banks to check into it and found the direction we wanted to go in during that 2 weeks). June 14th was the day though…the dreaded blood pregnancy test day. No matter how “not on our minds” all of this was during the 2 week wait, it allllll comes to a head on pregnancy test day. We were both nervous on our way to (and from) the doctor’s office that day, and nervous throughout the whole day while waiting for the results! They usually call around 2:45 in the afternoon, but I hadn’t heard from Alicia by the time I got off at 5, so I just assumed either they hadn’t called yet or she just has been waiting to listen to the message until we got home so that if it was bad she wouldn’t get upset at work. Well, I mentioned maybe picking something up for supper because I was exhausted, so she chimed in and said that Jefferson’s sounded fantastic. So that’s where we went. We sat outside and waited for a while for someone to come out and take our order, but no one came, so I got up and walked inside to grab a waitress when I saw my parents. They invited us to come have dinner with them, so we did, though Alicia was kind of hesitant at first (I figured she just didn’t want to be around them if the Doctor’s office happened to call with the results). After dinner we were going to swing by the store and grab a few items we needed, but first we needed to run home for a few. I had just let Sophie outside and was standing in the kitchen when Alicia comes down the hallway and says “Put prenatal vitamins on our list” and I, not even realizing what she just said, grab my phone and start to write it down and she goes “because I’m pregnant!”
Greatest moment of my life. Ever. (so far!)
I was instantly flooded with so many emotions, man. I was excited, overjoyed, laughing, and even cried…I COULD NOT believe that FINALLY we got good news!! We both had totally given up hope on the IUI and had already just had it in our minds that we HAD to do the IVF…I wasn’t prepared AT ALL for those results! Alicia then told me about how she said Jefferson’s because she wanted to tell me at dinner but we ran into my parents (and that’s the reason she was hesitant at first, but went with it and looked for another opportunity to tell me, heh).
She told me about the message from the doctor saying they considered anything over 25 on the hCG levels to be a positive…her’s was 153…so she was /definitely/ pregnant heh. So we scheduled another appointment for a week later (June 21) to have more blood work to test her hCG levels, and those tests said her levels were over 2000, so we can schedule an ultrasound for the next week!
On June 25th we had an appointment for our first ultrasound since we found out that we were actually pregnant! We were taken back to our exam room and were waiting on the ultrasound tech to come in and Neicey (one of the Nurse Practitioners) stuck her head in and told us that she wanted to give us her hypothesis about something before we had the ultrasound. That hypothesis was: twins! She thought that because Alicia’s hCG levels were so high already, we were going to see twins on our ultrasound, heh. The funny thing was, we had already been thinking it was going to be twins! We even had caught ourselves many times saying “they” when we would have conversations about the little being(s) inside of her stomach, lol.
Above Photo: This was us the day of the 1st Ultrasound
The technician came into the room and started the ultrasound and sure enough, we saw two little black circles on the screen! We were only at week 5 then, but we would find out more about whether there truly were just two little ones inside on week 7. We were so so so very excited, and even more so that they were twins! That was THE BEST Monday ever, lol.
We were scheduled for another ultrasound the next Monday (July 2nd), and we were supposed to be meeting with our doctor to talk about “multiples” but he was on vacation that week for the 4th so that meeting was postponed until the following week. We also found out today that we’ll be continuing our visits to the ART Fertility clinic through at least week 10, possibly week 11, before we start seeing our own doctor (which made us super happy)! We’re going to be so sad when we have to leave this amazing group of people :/ I swear, they honestly feel like family to us now.
Today, July 24th, was our last visit to the A.R.T. Fertility clinic. Suuuch a bittersweet day. We had another ultrasound today and was able to see both heartbeats and got to see both babies looking a whole lot more like babies, heh. They were both a whole lot more active than they were last week too, especially Baby B! After the ultrasound, we met with Dr. Long and he told us that everything was still looking great and that now we would be released and start going to our regular doctor. We got to say goodbye to him and majority of the staff that we saw regularly, and even though we’re so incredibly happy that everything’s going really well and we’re being released, it was still a very sad day for us too. These people are amazing, and they have played such a huge role in our lives — we honestly can’t thank them enough for everything that they’ve done for us. <3
So there you go! There’s our story. It’s been a pretty long and difficult road, but we couldn’t be happier right now. We just can’t wait until we get to hold our 2 bundles of joy! Below are a couple ultrasound photos from Weeks 8 and 9!