Audrey is the second mama-to-be in the pregnancy series I’ll periodically feature in this space. She’s a 33-year-old teacher living in Los Angeles with her husband of five years, Scott, and their adorable dog, Arizona. Soon, they’ll meet the newest member of their family – a baby girl or boy – who is set to arrive around the end of August!
Tattooed on the inside of Audrey’s left wrist, in bold blue letters with serifs, is the single word, “Surrender.” It serves as a fitting reminder that in life there are some things you just can’t plan and having children is one of them. An admitted Type-A personality, Audrey is the kind of woman who plans and is accustomed to working hard to achieve the goals she sets for herself. But her four-year struggle to conceive a baby with her husband sent her on an unexpected journey that tested her will and taught her lessons along the way – most importantly, to surrender — to learn to give in when life has other plans for you. That sometimes in life, you can’t always plan.
Audrey and her husband, a musician, decided not to know the sex of their baby and neither has a preference — they’re both simply elated that they’ve come this far and whether they’ll welcome their Copeland Michael if a boy or Bernice Lee if a girl next month, makes no difference at all. Because they’re finally having the baby they’ve dreamed of for years.
I sat down with Audrey recently in her sunny hillside home, where an airy, gender-neutral nursery with cheery green walls adorned with alphabet cards strung along on clothespins, awaits her precious baby. She discussed her difficulties in getting pregnant, suffering two miscarriages along the way and how ultimately turning to IVF helped her conceive the life she’s happily carrying now.
Tell me about your journey with fertility struggles and IVF.
My husband and I had been married for a year and I went off the pill right before we got engaged. We knew we wanted to start a family right away. Both of us were ready. At least in our minds we were ready, but physically and financially we definitely weren’t ready. We tried to conceive for a year and we weren’t having any success. My husband also traveled a ton — he was always on the road — and so it never really worked out for us.
So we tried IUI, which is intrauterine insemination. We tried two rounds of that. One round on our own and then one round with Clomid, which is a drug that helps you drop multiple eggs to increase your chances of the sperm fertilizing an egg.
That was unsuccessful and very stressful also, just very hard. Because when you want something so badly and you see everyone else around you that has it and you hear stories about how easy it was for them to get pregnant, it’s just hard.
So we decided after that, because it’s really expensive and insurance doesn’t cover any of it — this is all out of pocket — let’s just stop. You know, what’s the point? We just quit trying and I let go of it. I finally just said I’m done and I gave up. I’m done trying.
So we went on with our lives and six months later I took a pregnancy test and — sure enough — I was pregnant.
When I let it go, it happened naturally.
So you knew you could get pregnant.
Yes, and of course, my husband and I were elated. We called both of our parents. I was dreadfully sick. All day sickness. Scott was on the road, so I was pretty much alone for the first trimester. Then they discovered my fetus had no heartbeat. I was shocked. I carried until 11 ½ weeks. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, I was totally by myself. When you try for something and then you get what you want and all of a sudden it’s taken away from you, it’s just devastating.
A few months later we started trying again. The first couple of months, it didn’t happen, we weren’t getting pregnant and I was going to just let it go again. I had that physical feeling of just letting go.
Six months later, I got pregnant again, naturally.
And then, I’m visiting my mom for the weekend and I’m driving on the 101 and I get rear-ended driving 75 miles an hour on the freeway. Of course I was traumatized. I’m eight weeks along at this point. I didn’t go to the hospital the first night, because I wasn’t injured, but everyone said to go to the hospital. I went to the hospital and we saw the heartbeat but it was low. I went home and had an appointment the next day with my doctor and there was no heartbeat.
How did that second miscarriage affect you emotionally?
It was horrible. I was upset, I felt defeated, I felt “Why me?” Regardless of how little your fetus is, the second you find out you’re pregnant, it’s a baby, regardless if it’s at the blueberry stage or the grapefruit stage — whatever that baby bump is — it’s yours.
I went through a couple months where I hated every pregnant woman I saw. I had to go to therapy because I found I was angry at people I didn’t even know, resentful of women.
So in December of 2011, after continuing for almost another year trying to get pregnant, you and Scott decided to start IVF. What was that process like?
It was actually the most amazing and non-stressful experience ever. You do the research and it’s so structured. You immediately start injecting yourself with drugs so basically what you’re doing is getting follicles to produce in your ovaries to where the eggs are then going to mature within those follicles.
So you’re developing these eggs for about two weeks and [the doctor] does an ultrasound and you count how many follicles you’re producing. After about two weeks you start talking about the day you’ll go in for egg retrieval. She’s checking your estrogen, your progesterone. And then you take drugs to help mature the eggs as well.
I’m an anomaly because I wasn’t getting pregnant, got pregnant naturally twice, miscarried twice and then didn’t get pregnant.
Describe the egg-retrieval process.
It’s a half-hour procedure and the doctor removes all the eggs from the follicles. I produced 27 eggs. I mean, I could have donated my eggs! What they do is put the eggs and the sperm in these Petri dishes and they hope they find each other. So then you wait five days. 23 of the 27 eggs fertilized! We had five that they picked out. We chose to implant two, because if we did three, there was a chance of having triplets — if we had done all five –there’s a chance of having five babies!
I was on bed rest for five days. And basically I just had to take it easy. My hormone levels dropped drastically. I wasn’t producing estrogen or progesterone. So now I’m taking estrogen orally, progesterone orally and doing intramuscular shots too.
And then one day, after leaving my doctor, I’m walking to my car and she calls me and she says, “I just wanted to tell you you’re pregnant!” I started bawling. “You’re kidding?” I’m pregnant?” First round, first everything. Scott was at work and I called him right away and told him. It was the best feeling ever. I called my mom, my dad and my brother. We technically conceived December 9th, 2011.
Now that you’re this far along in your pregnancy, is your mind more at ease?
It was probably at about six months that I felt like I could really let myself get excited about it. I still wake up in the middle of the night and I’m 34 weeks now and if I haven’t felt the baby move I’m like “Come on baby, move!” And then the baby does.
What has been the best aspect of your pregnancy so far?
Watching my husband so excited about the baby. He talks to my belly and he tries to wake the baby up all the time. I actually enjoy being pregnant. I’m sharing my body with another human being and it’s so beautiful. That’s why I don’t care what sex it is, just that I’m pregnant and I’ve come this far and I get to be a mom and that I’m actually getting something that I know I was supposed to do. It’s just an amazing feeling!