Even though we are no longer trying to conceive, writing this post has taken a lot out of me.  Going back to memories-some I neatly tucked away and others I have slammed them into a box that says Never open again.   Let me go back in time to about ten years ago.  We were a couple of twenty nine-year-olds living in New York City, with stable careers.  We were not married yet because it was not legal in our state.  We always talked about having children, but I was more of the dreamer for this part of our lives.  It’s not that Nicole didn’t want to have children, she was nervous about becoming a parent.  Even though we physically didn’t begin the process in 2009, we started having serious conversations in  2006.  If we knew then what we know now, I wish we would have frozen our eggs. But we didn’t do that because we never imagined our path to parenthood would have been this challenging.  

In 2009, I was a teacher in a Catholic High School and I could have been fired if anyone knew I was a lesbian.  I knew this when I took the job, but I needed a job desperately so that we could begin creating our family.  I was asked personal questions, I was completely thrown off by the questions but quickly realized I forgot to take off my engagement ring.  I began creating a story about my life in the interview.  I even went as far as saying the month that we were planning on getting married and that I was not changing my last name.  I went this far with the lie because even being straight I could have also been fired if I was not married and pregnant.   Lying to me is really never ok, but I saw the bigger picture in this situation.  

Looking back, as much as I loved that job, I never should have applied to it.  It was a tough position to lie to people I cared about every single day.  But I truly hated not being true to myself.  Every job that I have had since, I make sure the organization is all inclusive and I have been out.  

Once I was hired and my health insurance coverage began we went to see/visit fertility clinics.  We went to two different fertility doctors and we were told the same thing.  My health insurance would not cover anything, the organization did not believe in assisted fertility treatments.  That was a huge blow to us.  We didn’t have the financial freedom to pay out of pocket for procedures, medications, office visits, and sperm.  

We didn’t know what our next step was going to be.  We did our homework and researched and read every book we could get our hands on.  We also attended a TTC group for lesbians.  These meetings were helpful for a while, but then I realized that I was more informed than the leaders on most of the topics covered.  

After months of research and many many discussions, we finally created a plan to begin Intracervical Insemination (ICI) at home.  Once I was cleared by our gynecologist, we didn’t waste any time and ordered our sperm.  Prior to this, I had been tracking my ovulation for months.  I thought I had a good understanding of my cycle.  I took my temperature daily and recorded it every morning before I stepped out of bed.  I filled journals with temperatures.  For extra insurance, I purchased an ovulation test kit.  

It was time for our first insemination and we knew it was a slim chance that we would get pregnant on the first try.  But why not dream? Our first round didn’t work.  I don’t remember getting upset because it was the first try.  But round 2-5 hurt and I was so upset with my body, my job, my relationship- really with everything in my life.  I had placed so much unneeded pressure on myself to get pregnant by a certain time. I was not me, I turned into a mean, spiteful person.  I was trying to plan everything around my work schedule.  As a teacher I had my summers off- so obviously I wanted a summer baby so I would not interrupt my work schedule.   

After five rounds of ICI in a seven-month span, we decided it was best to take a break from TTC.  We realized TTC was taking over our lives. I came out of that fog, I thanked Nicole for sticking with me and for truly loving me unconditionally.  Little did we know that our few month break from TTC would be a four year break.  

During our four year break from TTC, I changed careers, completed another Master’s Degree, and Nicole was promoted.  We were busy creating our best professional life, but having children was never too far from our minds.  We never gave up on the hope of getting pregnant, but we always discussed becoming foster parents.  We decided that we would start our family through foster to adopt.  We became certified foster parents, completed an 8 week training, two home inspections and we were interviewed by multiple social workers.   

The months passed and we did not receive any calls.  The agency was well aware that we were only interested in opening our home if there was a chance for adoption.  In total we received two phone calls for placement and neither had a chance for adoption.  We turned down both placements.  After speaking with our case planner, she informed us that our county was not in need of foster parents.  So we let go of that dream. To us it was another huge hurdle and blow.  We knew we had to go back to our original plan to start a family.  

In 2014, we finally got married and I started a new job.  We didn’t waste any time once I was hired.  We chose a new donor and contacted RE’s in New York City.  With the help of a friend, our doctor’s office was highly recommended.  We met with our doctor in December of 2014 and had our first cycle in January 2015.  We were so hopeful that we would become pregnant early on and live our dream of becoming parents.  

Our first cycle was unsuccessful, we were slightly disappointed but we were realistic knowing the chances of us getting pregnant on the first try were low.  Each cycle that didn’t work, we got more nervous and worried about why we weren’t getting pregnant.  After our fourth cycle, we finally went on our honeymoon and joked about what if we had a honeymoon baby? That would be hysterical.  When we left for our honeymoon, my period was a day late so it was consistently on our minds.  Every time I used the restroom a panic took over because I was so scared to see if my menstrual cycle began. We purchased three pregnancy tests and they all came back negative.  I truly believed in my bones that I was pregnant.  I ended up being five days late and unfortunately began my menstrual cycle.  Every day one, I was in denial-but for this one I still believed I was pregnant.  I always held out for the possibility of implantation bleeding.  By cycle day two, I always came to term that the cycle was truly over and we would start again. But this cycle was extremely difficult, because I even had my wife believing that we were pregnant.  We both cried and cried.  Nicole offered to drive us back to the hotel so that we didn’t have to be in public.  I didn’t want to further ruin the day.  I asked for a little time to talk, to cry and be in my head.  This helped because I realized I didn’t want to remember this as the “ highlight” of our honeymoon.  A honeymoon baby would have been a great story, but not ours.  

It was not until our sixth IUI that we were told we were pregnant.  We were told to be optimistically hopeful because I had a low BETA.  This was on a Friday and by Monday my numbers dropped and I was told that we had a chemical pregnancy.  As much as I tried to not be happy I couldn’t help but to feel the joy of finally being told- you are pregnant. I was crushed when I heard, I’m sorry.  I walked around Manhattan crying.  I couldn’t tell Nicole this-not again.  I called out of work that day and let my fears overcome me.  I remember being so scared thinking about never becoming a mom. I knew that we would be venturing into the world of IVF.

I don’t know if anyone wants to necessarily do IVF, but I was petrified mainly because I knew IVF was going to be our last option.  Financially, we had already spent a lot of money completing the ICI’s and IUI’s.   We are very fortunate to have medical coverage that covers the cost of IVF medication and one full IVF cycle.  The down side was if the IVF cycle did not work, we would have a lot of decisions to make.  All of this flooded through my brain on a consistent basis.  I felt like we were putting all of our eggs in one basket.  I was so reluctant to start IVF, but we did anyway.  

When I was being monitored for the first round of IVF, I was not responding well to the meds.  I had more follicles during our IUI’s.  I questioned early on if we should cancel, but we waited.  Our RE was aware that we basically had one chance.  At the last minute, we decided it would be best to cancel the IVF round and do a seventh IUI.  Although I was somewhat relieved that we were canceling this round, I was disappointed in myself, my body and for second guessing the process.  I took all the injectable medication for IVF and did acupuncture for another failed IUI.

My next cycle began on my 36th birthday. A part of me died that day, when I realized and accepted that my period was here. We were with family trying to celebrate my birthday but all I could do was try and keep it together. I sat in silence acting like I was ok and everything was fine. Only my wife and myself knew what was going on. I don’t know what hit me, but I told myself enough. I was finally full heartedly ready for IVF. My fears were still present but I just knew IVF was going to work.

The morning of our BETA test, I was pretty confident that I was pregnant. We didn’t bother taking a home pregnancy test.  I had a few early symptoms and what sealed the deal for me was the taste of copper in my mouth.   We finally got the phone call that we waited for.  Our RE called us and left a message, she just sounded happy.  I promised Nicole good or bad news I wasn’t going to tell her until after we got home from work.  But after I saw how nervous she was that morning I had to share the news.  

Early on, I was so scared of losing the pregnancy.  I took pictures of my body progression, but it was always a week late so that I didn’t jinx anything.  I hoped that this pregnancy would last at least until the first ultrasound so we could at least see our baby.  First ultrasound came and there she was, our child.  (well she looked like a grain of rice).  We could see her heartbeat but couldn’t hear it yet.  I don’t remember one word from that appointment because I was lost just staring at the heartbeat.  

As the first trimester moved along, I was a mess internally and tried my best to act like I was fine.  I counted down the weeks until I was out of the 1st trimester.  I knew the weeks and percentages of the chance of miscarriages memorized.  I finally started to let my guard down a little, but in week 11 we had a huge scare.  I started bleeding a lot and quickly, no cramping. I froze, had no clue what to do and just cried.  Nicole contacted our doctor and we were told to go to the ER.  We were also informed that if it was a miscarriage there was nothing that could be done.  By the time we got to the ER the bleeding had stopped and I was able to think more clearly.  I had stopped my doom and gloom thought process.  When we got to see our child on the ultrasound, she was literally doing backflips.  We could breathe again.  

From weeks 11-20 were delightfully quiet, I spotted occasionally.  But I was on constant guard of my emotions, I shut them all off.  I am usually a sensitive person, I cry at cheesy commercials.  But not during my pregnancy, my emotions were locked away.  

At our 20 week scan, we had another scare with my placenta.  It ended up being a bilobed and its placement was anterior.  After being seen by a high risk OBGYN, we were reassured that everything should be ok as long as Olivia kept growing and gaining weight.  I had to be monitored more closely and we had scans every month.  We took it as getting to see Olivia every month and began to look forward to seeing her.  

With the anterior placenta it meant that I would have more difficulty feeling her move.  I knew a few tricks to get her moving- like drinking ice cold water, juice or laying on my side.  I monitored her kick counts as well.  There were a few times I did all of the tricks and she didn’t respond.  I would go to the doctor and do a non-stress test and she was always fine.  Towards the end of my pregnancy, I wanted her to be born so I knew she was safe and in our arms.

The day finally came and I was in labor for 36 hours and I had a medicated vaginal birth.  There were a few minor hiccups during labor, but we were ok.  For years, I imagined what that moment was going to be like when we had a child.  I dreamed that Nicole would hold our child first and we would lovingly gaze into each other’s eyes and cry.  Well none of that happened HA! Olivia had to be thoroughly examined when she was born because there was meconium present when my water broke (little stinker) and she had a delayed cry. Nicole kept reassuring me that everything was ok.  She was finally placed on my chest and I was so out of it, I was so scared to hold her.  I asked Nicole to take her and she gladly did.  I felt so much shame for months after her delivery.  I would see TV commercials, TV shows or people posting their birth stories on social media and it didn’t look like what I felt like.  Finally on Instagram I saw a mom post a picture of herself after labor and it looked very familiar to the way I looked and felt.  That day is when I finally accepted my feelings.  I am proud to report that Olivia is a happy, well adjusted, healthy 4½ year old.  

The plan was that when Olivia turned one, we would start trying for baby #2.  We discussed it and Nicole would carry.  This took a little bit for me to adjust to but this was our new plan.  Nicole had her first IUI in August 2017, it was weird going back to IUI’s, but we were confident that Nicole would have a different outcome with IUI’s.  Nicole did everything she could to help her chances of getting pregnant, cut caffeine down, walked, ate a healthier diet, cut down on sugar, and tried to get more sleep.  IUI 1-3 came and went quickly with no luck, but her 4th cycle she really thought she was pregnant.  She had some symptoms, even though they could have been menstrual symptoms she said they just felt different.  She made it to BETA day and we received negative results.  She seemed sad, nervous and began questioning if this was going to happen.  I had similar feelings and started re-reading the books that I read when we were trying for Olivia.  I started focusing on IVF.  I knew we would need two more rounds of IUI’s to get us there.  After the next two IUI’s were also negative we discussed if Nicole was physically and mentally ready for IVF.  I wanted to make sure she was in the right mind frame to move on.  Without hesitation, she reassured me that she was ready and we proceeded.  

It took some time to get the medication cleared and ordered- I did not miss that process.  Nicole had her egg retrieval in March 2018 with a total of 8 eggs retrieved and 7 fertilized and a plan of a 5 day transfer.  We were ecstatic because we compared this to my cycle.  I had 5 eggs retrieved, 4 fertilized, 3 began to grow and it was strongly encouraged to complete a 3 day transfer.  Olivia was the only embryo that made it.  So our excitement was huge!.  We knew that things could change but we chose to be hopeful and believe in the process.  We were filled with joy when we were informed that Nicole would have a 5 day transfer, we had a total of 4 embryos and we would have frosties!!! 

We transferred two beautiful embryos in March and waited and waited.  We read into every symptom and spoke about this cycle daily.  We were on vacation when it was time for Nicole to complete her BETA exam, her period was late and we were so hopeful that we would receive the news we had been waiting for.  Unfortunately, the results were negative-again.  I was in denial, and wanted to retest when we got home.  Nicole just cried and cried and cried some more.  We held Olivia very tight that night.   

What carried us along was our two frosties.  We did our next transfer in June.  Early on Nicole said she felt different, she didn’t want to talk much about it and I was ok with that.  We finally heard those beautiful words, you are pregnant! I could hear Nicole smiling through the phone, we were so damn happy! Neither of us thought to ask about the BETA numbers until we received the results of the second BETA because the numbers were so low.  When we learned our number, my heart sank and I saw our dreams of this pregnancy fading away.  We were told by our nurse that because the numbers are still rising to not lose all hope, be cautious, but don’t give up.  I am so grateful for that advice and advice I received from another family on Instagram that went through a similar situation.  We enjoyed where we were at and chose not to let worry and fear trump our happiness.  

We didn’t know what to expect for our first ultrasound.  The day of the exam we were both a ball of nerves.  Due to the BETA results, a few different things could have been going on.  One being an ectopic pregnancy, but thankfully it wasn’t.  WE could see our little fighter (that is what I was referring to our child as) on the screen. We were told to be cautiously optimistic and we were.  But we couldn’t help ourselves, we started to dream and talk, from simple things like decorating the nursery to how life is going to be with two kids and how excited Olivia will be to have a baby.  I begged our baby to keep fighting because it will never have to fight this hard again in its life.  I wholeheartedly believed everything was going to be ok.  

We were excited for the next ultrasound, this time we had to bring Olivia with us because daycare was closed for the day. My thoughts were, we will see baby #2 and get a moment seeing both of our kids in the same room.   Those warm and fuzzy feelings were crushed when the doctor told us there had been minimal growth and a few other signs that pointed to an abnormal pregnancy.  

We were given the option to continue meds, recheck next week or stop meds and let nature take over.  After many tears and deep discussions, we decided to stop medication.  Nicole hoped her body would naturally miscarry so she didn’t have to go through a procedure.  Something you never thought you would hope for.  Nicole began miscarrying a few days after her 39th birthday.  It was truly a sad time for our family.  We tried to be ourselves in front of Olivia but she would catch one of us crying.  We just told her we were sad and she hugged and cuddled whomever was upset.  Nicole and I spoke about our grief and how different this grief was because we never actually met this person.  We were both trying to be strong for the other.  I didn’t want to cry in front of Nicole because I felt she needed more support since she was physically going through all of this.  Nicole talked about how her heart was broken and in turn that broke mine more.  I wanted so badly to take away her pain and protect her.  But I couldn’t, instead I looked at my wife for the strong persevering warrior that she had to become. 

We transferred our last and final embryo in October, all of the nervous emotions came flooding back.  The TWW came and went and we barely spoke of the cycle.  On BETA day, I was physically sick to my stomach.  My nerves got the best of me that day.  Nicole called me with the results and I could hear her trying to keep it together.  BETA was positive but the numbers were extremely low, there was much more crying.  We knew how this story was going to end.  All we could do was be there for one another.  Nicole was a trooper and completed every BETA, again.  Her numbers were rising properly but still very low.  She graduated early from BETA hell and scheduled an ultrasound.  We were both nervous but decided we were going to do our best not to focus on it.  

At our scan, we found out there was  something in the womb but no yolk sac and it was measuring behind.  We were presented with the same options, but this time we chose to stay on meds and come back the following week for another scan.  Neither of us were feeling hopeful.  Our hearts broke the next scan because there was no change.  I don’t know if this one felt more real because it was our last embryo or because we heard the due date.  

I think a lot, I have an anxiety disorder and PTSD.  It’s hard for me to shut unwanted thoughts off.  Looking back and comparing both pregnancies, I feel guilty because we never celebrated the second pregnancy.  It might sound silly but I feel like infertility robbed us of so much.  But I was so tired of letting infertility take things from us.   

I am taken aback by the strength that Nicole had to have.  We discussed every option we had for baby #2.  Nicole doing another round of IVF, Reciprocal IVF, me trying again and adoption.  We agreed that we were not ready for adoption.  Nicole wanted to be pregnant so badly that we decided for her to continue with the next round.  

Before we began the next round of IVF, Nicole did genetic testing.  It took months to get the results back due to miscommunications on the specific genes that were being tested.  It felt like we were hurrying up just to wait, and wait.  When all of the correct tests were ordered and results came back genetically normal.  There were no genetic reasons why Nicole had multiple miscarriages. We ran to start her second IVF cycle. 

We changed sperm banks for many different reasons and I am so incredibly grateful we did.  We chose another ID-Open donor but we decided to choose the characteristics to be similar to Olivia.  Since this was about our 7th donor over the years, this process did not take us long at all to decide.  

The retrieval was better than we could have hoped for.  Nicole had 6 embryos total and 5 made it to day 5.  We transferred two AA graded embryos and were extremely hopeful.  Our doctor informed us that the embryos from this round looked much healthier compared to the last round.  

When we received the news that that cycle was unsuccessful, we were numb but also in a way grateful that the cycle was done.  There was no limbo, no BETA hell.  Again, something else I never would have imagined being grateful for.  

We knew we still had 3 embryo’s left, as usual we decided to transfer 2 embryos.  During that TWW, Nicole knew she was pregnant.  She always felt it early on.  We decided not to talk about it and just want until BETA day.  When BETA day came, we were overcome with JOY with her numbers.  We didn’t have to hear, be cautiously optimistic.  We only heard CONGRATULATIONS.  When it was time for our third BETA, we started questioning how many babies are we going to have? 

To our surprise, we found two healthy babies growing inside of Nicole.  I hope I never forget seeing the second baby on the monitor.  Nicole was crying, joyful tears for a change.  Our doctor who had been with us since trying for Olivia, said I hope those are happy tears-congratulations moms, it’s twins. We promised ourselves that we were going to give two days of just celebrating and then let the panic of twins set it.  

We were in heaven for about two weeks, then Nicole started bleeding-a lot.  As I am typing this, I am flooded with emotions of that day.  We were certain it was all over and there was nothing we could do about it.  We had an appointment with our RE the next day so we decided not to go to the ER.  We didn’t sleep, we both were in panic mode.  After seeing both of the babies measuring ahead, seeing and hearing their heart beats changed our perspective.  We didn’t stress about having twins, we became more grateful for them than we ever could have imagined. 

Nicole bled a lot during her first trimester, we finally stopped worrying and as much as we could and  we got used to it.  Thank goodness, the rest of her pregnancy was quiet.  She was put on bedrest at 23 weeks for a shortened cervix (extremely common in twin pregnancy) and well then COVID.  We were even more grateful that she was on bedrest because she is a medical provider and would have had to work during the beginning of the pandemic.  

I am so honored and grateful to report that our twin boys Phinley Joe and Logan Walter were born safely via emergency C-Section.  Nicole shocked me again with her strength, she was in the hospital by herself with the boys.  Recovering from a C-Section and learning how to breastfeed.  When the boys were born, New York City was the epicenter of the virus.  I was only able to be at the hospital for delivery and two hours post delivery.  It was an awful feeling leaving my wife, and sons at the hospital.  Logan was in the nursery and Phinley was in the NICU.  I don’t remember my drive home, but I know I was numb and cried. Fear of COVID, the unknown of why Phin was having issues breathing, and joy of their birth.  It was a lot to process before I walked back in the door and had to be a mom to Olivia. 

We have adjusted to becoming a family of 5.  We still have one frozen embryo and frozen eggs.  We have not had a serious conversation yet if our family is complete, but the door is not shut.  What I do know is, we are about to celebrate our boys 1st birthday and it finally feels good to not constantly think about ttc.  Living in this moment with my family is everything.