Today's story of perseverance features Emily Wallace and her journey with infertility, miscarriage, and IVF.
Mom to: Dallin (4) and Owen (2)
Briefly describe your experience with your Infertility journey and IVF.
Ryan and I got married in March 2011 and decided after about 6 months that we wanted to try to add a baby to our family. We never really thought about the possibility that we’d face issues with infertility. Neither of our parents had a hard time getting or staying pregnant and we were both young and healthy. About six months later we found out we were expecting, yay! Around 7 weeks, before we even had a chance to go to our first doctor’s appointment I started spotting. I called my doctor’s office and they did an ultrasound. They said there was a baby there, but it was smaller than it should have been based on the date of my last period. The doctor suggested maybe my dates were off but based on when I’d gotten a positive pregnancy test I knew it was unlikely. Unfortunately, blood work over the next couple of days confirmed that I was having a miscarriage. We were so upset but our doctor assured us that there was no reason to think we wouldn’t conceive again quickly and have a healthy baby.
Over the next year, we tried again to get pregnant. Finally, about a year after our first miscarriage, I found out I was pregnant again! It was hard not to have a nagging feeling of worry after our first experience but everyone assured us that our chances of having a second miscarriage were low. But then, on Thanksgiving, I started spotting. We were visiting my family in Pennsylvania but I was able to get in for an ultrasound the next day. We were encouraged to find that the baby had a heartbeat! However, the roller coaster continued and over the next few days, it became very obvious that the pregnancy was not going to stick and we were right back to the beginning. This time it was even harder because it had taken much longer to get pregnant and the second miscarriage did not help us feel hopeful for future pregnancies.
The next two years were rough. Few doctors will do any sort of testing or intervention when you’ve only had two recurrent miscarriages (they start after three). Also, everything we read and heard told us that it was normal for a healthy couple to take a year to get pregnant, and since we were inside that time frame we didn’t feel like going to a fertility doctor was necessary or an option yet. We tried on our own for another year with month after month of negative tests.
In 2014 we went to my OBGYN to begin some fertility testing. Everything came back normal and he suggested we try Clomid. We tried that for three months with no success. That year Ryan graduated from law school in August and we moved from Provo, Utah to Pocatello, Idaho for a year for a clerkship. In early 2015 we began seeing a fertility specialist back in Salt Lake City. We were still in Pocatello so we’d drive 2 ½ hours each way for appointments. All of our tests came back perfectly normal and we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility. Our doctor was (and still is!) AMAZING! She is kind and compassionate and knowledgeable. She was such a bright spot in this whole journey. Over the next 6 or 7 months we tried some more medicated cycles and then four intrauterine inseminations (IUI) cycles. None of it worked. Ryan completed his clerkship in August 2015 and we moved back to Utah.
Our doctor told us the next option was IVF. I had some friends who had successful IVF cycles and I was an awesome candidate. We were sure it would be a breeze and we’d have lots of little embryos and in turn a baby. We were all surprised when my body did not respond as well as expected to the medications and our doctor told us it wasn’t even worth trying to do an egg retrieval. She suggested we convert the cycle to an IUI and if it didn’t work try IVF again with higher doses of meds. On January 4th, 2016 we started our second IVF cycle. This time, things were seeming to go much better and they were able to retrieve 12 eggs, 11 of which fertilized. The little embryos would grow in the lab and then after 5 days we’d go in to have them transfer one (or two - twins, anyone!?) back into my uterus where it would hopefully implant and be a baby! The last update that we had before our transfer was that 6 of the embryos were still growing.
We decided we were going to transfer two! However, the day of the transfer we arrived to learn that all but one of our embryos had arrested, or stopped growing. The one we did have was a day behind in development. We were devastated. I didn’t even want to transfer the one embryo, I thought there was no way it would stick. We called our doctor from the procedure room (it was a different doctor performing the transfer) and she encouraged us that there was still a chance for this embryo and we should do that transfer. We agreed and began the dreaded “two-week wait” between the transfer and the time that a pregnancy can be detected. I was miserable and spent most of it researching what the next steps might be because I was so convinced this hadn’t worked. Imagine my surprise when about 10 days after the transfer my impatient self took a pregnancy test and was greeted with a faint pink line. Over the next four days, before I would go back to the clinic for a blood test, I took more tests and the line got darker. A blood test confirmed I was pregnant!
We were cautiously optimistic based on our previous experiences with miscarriages but after a nearly perfect pregnancy our “little embryo that could” arrived. Our son Dallin was born on September 27, 2016, five years after we starting trying to have a baby. I never liked the term miracle baby, but he’s our miracle baby.
Who or what helped keep you grounded during this challenging time?
Ryan was so strong and supportive during all of this, while I was an emotional mess. I know he was hurting too but he helped me stay positive and enjoy all of the other awesome parts of our life. I also found that connecting with other women going through similar situations helped me realize that I wasn’t alone and that it was normal to feel the way I was feeling. During the really tough times, like after our 4 failed IUIs and before we started IVF I saw a therapist to help me work through the pain and anger I was feeling, and that helped me reframe some of my feelings to not feel so negative.
How did you balance the needs of yourself and your husband while still allowing room for your grieving?
Well, one thing I did was unfollow a lot of people on Facebook, haha. I realized I could be supportive of friends and family who were expecting without being constantly reminded. Other than that we just took it one day at a time. We tried to find activities to distract ourselves and focus on the other positive things in our life.
What advice would you give to eager parents in a similar situation (or any parent who is dealing with uncertain challenges or loss)?
Don’t be afraid to share your experiences. You might be surprised how many others are going through, or have been through, the same things and might be able to provide support. If you don’t like how something is making you feel and you don’t know how to fix it go to therapy. It can help you change how you feel even when you can't change your situation. I can’t overstate the value of therapy.
What did this experience teach you about resilience?
So much! This experience taught me that I was resilient. It taught me that even when you feel like you can’t take one more disappointment, you can. I didn’t realize it during the difficult times, but now I look back and know that I can do hard things. So when I face something hard I KNOW I can do it, because I’ve done it before.
Update on life after infertility:
We now have two perfect boys! Dallin is now 4 ½ and a happy spunky kiddo. Clomid finally came through for us right before we were about to start IVF to have a second baby and Owen was born in June 2019. It’s hard to know if we truly are “after infertility” because we think we would like more kids, but having our boys makes it much easier to face the thought of going through it all again!