Today we are diving into the touching story of our friend, Carly Kenihan, of the of the Bun Bun Book Blog as she shares her struggles + journey with IVF. It’s a must-read for any of you women out there struggling with infertility and will leave you with a happy heart + hope for your own journey!
Infertility was never a label I expected for myself. I have so much to be grateful for: a loving husband, a supportive family, good health, happiness, and success (damn, my life is almost as perfect as my Instagram feed), so a year+ of trying to conceive shouldn’t have been a big deal, right? A few negative pregnancy tests were nothing compared to the couples struggling with three or five or ten years of infertility, so how dare I compare my ache to theirs? After five rounds of Clomid, a couple invasive tests, a diagnosis of Endometriosis, and a round of In Vitro Fertilization, I told myself I should move on with my life as a normal mama, blogger, and woman. But. As much as I wanted to continue with my daily routine, my life quickly became 1% flowy wrap dresses and lavish lunch meetings and 99% needles, meds, pharmacies and doctors appointments while I clung on through the wildest rollercoaster ride of my life. My social appearances diminished into moments of isolation, and my anxiety of facing the outside universe increased. My blog posts felt empty. My head was removed from my “Top Trends for Fall” post and stuck in the clouds with my future babies and finding another IVF sister’s blog hoping for inspiration and support. As I sat at my computer facing writers block for the hundredth time, I realized that I had an opportunity. As much as I’d wanted to keep my struggle with infertility to myself, it dawned on me that maybe my story could help other women the same way so many had helped me. I decided it was my turn to contribute to the infertility community, and that the blank page in front of me was meant for my story.
I felt so broken in my quest for motherhood. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I do the one thing I felt I was supposed to do? I knew I had to get over this overwhelming and depressing thought to make it through and be a success story, so I shoved it aside and accepted that God had a different plan for me. Instead of letting my self-administered injections terrify me, I told myself they empowered me.
I paid attention to how lovingly my husband would study the pamphlet to get the syringes prepped exactly right. I looked at the times we left dinners and events early so we could get home in time for our “nightcap” (aka injection) as a step forward rather than a missed opportunity. The shots hurt and sometimes left welts and bruises on my abdomen, but each poke was one step closer to baby. I took every difficult and negative situation and turned it in to an exciting opportunity. The thought of being one step closer to baby made it all worth it. Next came egg retrieval. Sometimes I laugh at this one because, in truth, the only way to survive this period with sanity was to lighten up and chuckle a little. Along with three or so weeks of injections came visits to the doctor every. other. day. They wanted to ensure the injections were stimulating my eggs correctly and through blood draws and ultrasounds they would decide what meds to add, what doses to increase, etc. During that time I canceled on my niece’s baptism and a family wedding and literally played my life by ear for a solid month because I couldn’t make a doctor’s appointment more than a few days in advance.
The doctor called us around day 16 of my cycle and basically said your retrieval surgery is tomorrow at 7:30 am, take x and y shot at precisely 10:30pm tonight, and we will see you in the morning. Just like that, we dropped everything, prepared for the big day, and in we went. I remember the anesthesiologist being so nice to me. I’d never been put under before, and he made me feel like a champ. They rolled me into the OR, I asked them to put some music on, and the next thing I knew I was awake and in pain until the nurse gave me morphine. I asked why there was so much pain from what I anticipated to be such a seamless procedure, and she said they had pricked my insides with a needle 32 times and retrieved 32 eggs which was way more than they expected! Things were going in the right direction. Meanwhile, my husband supplied a sample so we could create the embryos. My doctor came to recovery and said that although the original plan was to freeze our embryos while they treated my Endometriosis, my uterus was “looking beautiful” from the past weeks’ meds so they were going to do a fresh embryo transfer in 5 days. It was the cherry on top! Within a few hours I was home in bed sleeping off the anesthesia. The next few days were rough. Post-egg retrieval bloating is no joke. I read about it but didn’t think it would happen to me. WRONG. And the way I felt was on another level. I could hardly eat because my ovaries tripled in size from the 30+ eggs (remember we usually have only one mature egg a month) and were squishing my stomach. I spent the next 4ish days on bed rest and miraculously felt normal the day of the transfer. Initially we planned on one embryo with the transfer, but after several conversations with our doctor, we decided 2 embryos was the best choice for this particular fresh attempt. We were ready.
We told no one about our fresh transfer. Since IVF takes some of the surprise factor out of the equation, we took this as our chance to possibly gift our families and friends with a completely unexpected pregnancy. We went on a date the night before the transfer, and I got zero sleep that night. The next day was so special between my husband and I…arguably the most sacred day of our lives thus far, and I don’t regret keeping it a secret. I detached from my phone, we walked to the beach, I wrote Hunter (my hub) a letter, and we watched our wedding video. We listened to Coldplay as we drove down the empty road of hope to the fertility center where we met my acupuncturist for a quick treatment. Hunter got in his scrubs and met me where I was admitted. They took us into the OR so we could meet our embryos for the first time and it was such a surreal experience. It was the first look at my (em)babies, and I was in love. They did the transfer, and we got to watch on a screen as the two embryos literally entered my uterus. If you are TTC, you know how deep that dark baby hole is in your soul, and this was the first time I felt a bit of it, maybe, quite possibly, start filling up.
After that came more bed rest, a 2-week waiting period, and lots of calls from my mom ignored. I tell her pretty much everything, and I knew I’d let the secret slip if I talked to her too much. She can always sense any excitement or upset emotion of mine, so she for sure would have figured something was up if I’d given her too much phone time. They say you are PUPO (pregnant until proven otherwise) post transfer, so aside from hardcore rest, I had to eat and (not) drink like a pregnant person, abide all the rules, and continue taking my 17+medications/vitamins/hormones.
At the end of the two-week waiting period, I was on so much estrogen (among other hormones) that I was crying every other day. The kind of cry so deep you don’t know where it comes from. What if it didn’t work? What could I have done wrong? Do I deserve it? I was so optimistic the first week that by the second week I entered the reality that it might not all be butterflies and rainbows and things might unravel differently than planned. But I kept my head up. It was hard to resist my cabinet of at-home pregnancy tests, but I refused to be heartbroken over one more little white plastic stick.
On the final day, Hunter took me to get my blood test and although there are always tons of couples in the waiting area, I particularly noticed two other women who were getting their blood drawn. I remember thinking I could be ending Part 1 of my journey, and they may just be starting theirs. I smiled at them, and I felt for them. I then stuck my needle-bruised arm out for my lab guy (who by now was my buddy), he took what he needed, said “good luck,” and I walked away.
It takes a few hours to get the results, so Hunter and I spent the rest of the day attached to my phone. Our plan was to call his parents who were traveling, then my best friend, then drive up to Lake Arrowhead where my parents were to tell them the good news in person. We’d be over the moon. And we would be able to breathe again. And then the phone rang. Hunter pulled the car over as I answered. I heard my nurse say “Hi Carly,” but she didn’t need to say much more. I knew from her tone of voice it was unfortunate news, so I said thank you, hung up the phone, and instantly fell into tears with my husband. Neither embryo had implanted. I couldn’t help but feel angry with myself and my body for a second. It was one of those moments I wanted to end so badly, but at the same time, I didn’t know what I would do once it did. We failed. Our first IVF attempt failed. We know now in our hearts it wasn’t meant to be, but we went through a lot of heartache and pain before we realized that. And that’s okay. We are human. We are allowed to cry. We are allowed to be sad. We are allowed to FEEL. And now, after a second round of IVF and a successful transfer and the news that we’re having TWINS! I can say I’d do it all again to get where we are today. I’d take months more of fertility drugs just to understand the concept of trial and error. I’d travel across the world again with syringes in my suitcase to realize the distance I’d go for my child. I’d cry a million more tears to exude the permanent smile that now lives on my face. And I’d prick myself a thousand more times to receive the joy I now know.
It’s funny to think about last year and our original “plan.” One thing I know is that life doesn’t go as planned and, as my dad always says, the journey is half the fun. Had I known then that one year later I’d have not one but two beautiful gifts on the way, perhaps I would have slowed down a bit to enjoy the ride. I have learned how to fight for something I love, practice patience for something that felt unreachable, and understand physical, emotional, and financial sacrifice for my children before ever even meeting them. The reward I feel now is intensely overwhelming as my once broken heart is now pieced together with double the love. “We don’t always know why God does things the way He does, but His way is always better.”