"Your ancestors called it magic but you call it science. I come from a land where they are one and the same." - Thor (the Marvel Movie)
As I look into the beautiful blue eyes of my baby boy Michael James (MJ), I know that I am grateful to both science and magic for bringing him into the world! They both were needed on our epic journey to parenthood.
This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. I want to share our story, so others have hope if they are struggling to conceive. Our journey and this blog is long. Grab a snack, a cozy blanket, and start reading…
I love the quote above. I distinctly remember it when we watched the movie, “Thor” on our plane ride to Fiji back in 2011 when Mike (my then boyfriend, now husband) were first dating. It was one of our first trips, but I knew if wouldn’t be our last. 😊 Mike and I were married in August of 2013. We honeymooned in Bora Bora in January 2014 and began trying to start our family at that time. He was 37 and I was 39 at the time. I had a feeling we might be challenged, but I had no idea what was in store. I’m actually glad I didn’t, or we may have never even started.
After 6 months of no luck using “the old fashion way”, we reached out to a fertility specialist, InVia. It was the summer of 2014. We learned all was good on Mike’s end. However, I had a polyp in my uterus, so we needed to remove that asap. I was also diagnosed with PCOS, so that was a hurdle with my ovulation. After my first procedure to remove the polyp, we decided to start with IUI (intrauterine insemination.) I think of it as encouraging the boys and girls to meet in the gym at the same time for the big dance. Sadly, we had no success with IUI. The boys showed up at the dance. However, all my girls (eggs) were no shows. Honestly, IUI was the worst of all the routes we took. I couldn’t stand the hormones I had to take. They made me the most hormonal. For example, spontaneous crying outbursts on my daily commutes. I couldn’t take it anymore after two failed rounds. No more of this route. On the bright side, after the 2 IUIs, I needed a break for me. I went to visit my dear friend Nichole in Boston. She is my enrolling sponsor in Isagenix (my home based nutrition business.) We took our business to the next level going forward, so that was a big silver lining…especially of what was in store the next few years.
In January 2015, Mike and I took our 2nd annual January trip to warm weather…Hawaii. It was a wonderful get away and we decided it’s time to bring out the big guns and start IVF. This introduced some very important changes…most important….we changed insurance. Even though I had insurance through my employer, it stunk. No IVF coverage = no dice. We did our research and switched to our own independent coverage. It included at least 4 egg retrievals, and more if still needed. I highly encourage women and couples to research insurance and be your own advocate. There are options out there, but you need to look and ask questions. No one does it for you.
I did my 1st egg retrieval in April 2015. I had 5 great embryos sent for PGS (preimplantation genetic screening). Due to my age, I knew that many of my eggs may be old and not the healthiest. It was our personal choice. I knew I could handle the embryos not taking and not becoming pregnant. However, I couldn’t handle having multiple miscarriages due to unhealthy embryos. Every journey is personal and unique. You and your partner need to do what is right for you as a family. This was our choice. I’ll never forget the day I found out the results of our 1st PGS testing. All 5 embryos were inferior. I was in Hong Kong for business. I checked my online patient portal while I was alone in my hotel room. Talk about a blow to my core. I was devastated. Even worse, I wouldn’t see Mike for a week or more. After Hong Kong, I was going to Taiwan for a few days of business meetings and then visiting my brother who lived there at the time. This I’ll never forget. While visiting with my brother, we did a special blessing at a temple where I could make a wish. You can guess what I wished for. Then I got to pick a fortune from the temple. I had an elder interpret it for me….something like this, “You will be on a journey. It will be long, but you will prevail in the end. Stay strong. Keep going.” Ummm, that felt appropriate. As sad as I was, I took comfort in the blessing, and carried on.
Now it starts getting interesting. A few weeks after I returned from Hong Kong and Taiwan, I was laid off from my corporate job. Some might think this is a big bummer, I was relieved! The Universe was telling me it was time to stop commuting and stressing over a job that no longer served me. It was time to live my passion of health and fitness full time! Thank you Universe! Once again, thank goodness for Isagenix. I already had an additional revenue stream coming in by helping people live their healthiest life which allowed me to live mine! Talk about being grateful that I had my own independent health insurance. Love how life works out.
So, carry on, we did. In July 2015 we did our 2nd egg retrieval resulting in 6 embryos to send for testing. We did our 3rd egg retrieval in Sept 2015 resulting in 2 additional embryos to send for testing. In efforts to save a few thousand dollars, we batch tested all 8 embryos together. (fyi…embryo testing is NOT covered by insurance. It’s approximately $6K each time you test 8 embryos. Batching let us test the two rounds together for the bargain price of $8K vs.$12K.) Of our 8 embryos batch tested….0 were viable & healthy. Devastation. At this point in the process, my specialist started talking about other options, like egg donor and/or adoption. I was in a daze. I felt like I had been holding onto a rope so tightly, and suddenly it was slipping away. When I was about to let go, I had a thought and fortunately I asked a very important question...
While reviewing the testing report explaining the issues with each embryo, I learned that each and every defective embryo was a result of the egg, my egg…except for one. I asked our Natera genetic counselor about this. She told me this one embryo had a quality egg, but the sperm was the culprit on the defect. Immediately I said, “So…you’re saying there’s a chance??? I AM capable of healthy eggs. They just haven’t met their perfect sperm yet.” She said, “Yes! I’m saying there’s a chance.” The sun started shining again. I received the greatest gift….HOPE. Our dream was not over, just delayed. We needed to try again. Keep going we did.
In December 2015 we did our 4th egg retrieval, I had 8 embryos ready to send to Natera for testing. Of the 8 sent for testing, 1 came back healthy, strong, and viable for tranfer!!! It’s a miracle!!! I knew that we could do it!!! So exciting!!! We were thrilled!!! We planned to implant in the spring of 2016. Carrying on tradition, Mike and I got out of Chicago and traveled to Argentina and Brazil for 3 weeks in January 2016. We figured this would be our last trip before baby, so let’s make it epic. It was! Absolutely incredible!
We planned our 1st embryo transfer for March 2016. We did learn some interesting news as we prepped for the transfer. My doctor could see that I had a fibroid in my uterus. It wasn’t affecting the lining (or so we thought), so we proceeded with the transfer. I did everything perfect. However, when we got the news on Good Friday, it thought I had died. Good... it was not. Not pregnant. Totally devastated again. Why didn’t the embryo take? What did I do wrong? Should we have removed it first? Was that my only good egg? Is all lost? A fertility journey is such a roller coaster of emotions. So many high hopes, and then the lowest of lows. Fortunately, I had Mike by my side. I couldn’t have done this without him. I kept telling myself, be grateful for where you are and what you currently have. As sad as I was, I was so grateful to have Mike. I reminded myself that "single Dooley" would gladly trade places with "married without child Dooley." 😊 When I gave thanks for what I had, I always felt better. I also would dive deeper into my business and help others in these tough times. That always made me feel better too.
So, now we have fibroids to think about. There’s at least one, maybe more. We’ll have to weigh this when we have more embryos to consider. That leads us to Egg Retrieval #5 in July 2016. It started off great like any other retrieval. We only had 2 quality embryos to test. I was a little shocked it was only two. However, I got a really great sign from above. Later that day it rained and something compelled me to go outside. I screamed for Mike, there was a double rainbow!!! I knew it was a sign from my dad. (he always shows up in some version of rain to let me know he’s thinking of me and that everything will be ok!) We may only have 2 embryos, but they’ll be good ones. , You’ll never believe this. When we got the genetic testing results, they both came back healthy, strong, and viable for transplanting!!! Even better, a boy and a girl!!!
Now, I mentioned this started like any other retrieval. It was my 5th, I knew the drill. However, this time something felt off. I usually recovered in a couple days and was back to my active self. However, not this time. I felt off. A very strange unfamiliar pain started building in my belly. I went to my doctors and no one could figure it out. About ten days after, it came to a head. I was on my way to a friend’s family funeral, and only 5 minutes into the drive, I screamed for Mike to turn around and take me home. The pain was unbearable. Long story short, the next day I was admitted into the emergency room for my 1st CT scan. Turns out my ureter had been damaged during the egg retrieval and my bladder had been leaking urine into my body for 10 days…hence the pain. YIKES!!! Now here’s where this story gets a little silly. It’s a Wednesday and my doctor wants to do the surgery that night. However, on Thursday (next day), I’m supposed to do my Sing-A-Long Body Pump class at East Bank with my amazing friend Leslie. I had been dreaming of this event for years. No way was I going to miss it. I told my doctors, if I could handle this for 10 days, what’s an extra 2? I know, I’m crazy. However, I missed out doing my Anchor splash lip sync with Hulting back it college and I was depressed about that for years. (I mean come on…we rented Carmen Miranda dresses and everything!) I was NOT going to miss this! So, the show must go on. Leslie and I coached THE MOST EPIC Sing-A-Long Body Pump class EVER, and I had my surgery the following morning. My urologist inserted a stint to help my ureter heal. I’d have it removed in 8 weeks or once it was healed. Side note...(and now a word from our sponsor...LOL!) another reason I love Isagenix...Obviously, I had to take off work to go to all these doctor appointments, hospital visits, and surgery. No class= no pay. However, with Isagenix, I enrolled a new member while I was in the waiting room of my urologist!!! How crazy is that! Gotta love a home based business or should I say phone based business. Where there’s WIFI, there’s a way!!!
So one really cool thing came out of this crazy busted ureter or as I call it, “my broken pee-pee” incident….my doctors realized there wasn’t just 1 fibroid in my uterus. There were at least 7 (or more.) I definitely needed to have fibroid surgery to remove all the fibroids if I wanted to successfully transfer my good embryos in the future. Game on….schedule the surgery. We did, I had fibroid surgery in August 2016, and they found not 7, but 12 fibroids!!! Fun fact: my uterus was 1/3 smaller after the surgery. No wonder little “Fitzroy” couldn’t take…it was a jungle in there! So grateful we chose to do the surgery. Now we had to let my uterus heal for 4-6 months before can transfer again.
While my uterus healed, my ovaries still had more eggs to give, so we scheduled our 6th egg retrieval for October 2016. We got 6 more embryos to test resulting in 1 healthy, strong, & viable embryo and 1 no-call. Another little boy. More good news… the stint took nicely. My ureter healed, and it was removed two days after the egg retrieval.
Now we just had to wait and heal. Mike and I had 3 quality embryos on ice. We should be set with a big family in due time. So a few months went by and my uterus is healing beautifully. We decided to transfer our best embryo, our little girl in January 2017. My HCG elevated slightly, then stopped. No pregnancy. We were devastated. Why didn’t it work this time? My uterus was perfect. The embryo was perfect. My little girl was perfect, but no luck. She is gone. We went back to the doctor for an HSG (hysterosonogram) to reevaluate my uterus. Everything looked great. Just no baby. I was at a loss.
Fortunately, we have more embryos. We decide to transfer one of our boys in February 2017. This time I did everything: acupuncture, Chinese herbs, anything I could think of. However, nothing. Not even elevated HCG, nothing. I was devastated. WHY ISN’T THIS WORKING??? We did everything right from the science standpoint. Medically speaking it was all perfect. Just no pregnancy. This truly was the worst. I had been pretty open with many people about our journey. However, I couldn’t bear to speak of our loss this go around. Everyone was so hopeful and caring, yet it felt like so much pity when they heard it didn’t work. I know intentions were good, but I just couldn’t bare speaking of it any more. We knew we had 1 last “at bat” with our final little boy and no call. However, I refused to speak about when we would transfer, if we would transfer. For the 1st time in my life, I shut up. LOL!
I was pretty down that spring. Fortunately, I have some amazing friends who show up just when I need them. One was my friend Jasmine. We hadn’t seen each other in a year or so. However, I saw her post on FB about some incredible meditation she was doing. I wanted to hear more, so we met up for coffee to chat and catch up. It was a wonderful visit and she explained the meditation, “Close your eyes and watch the show go by. Do it for 1 hour, and then write about what you saw.” That’s all. No special focus, just close your eyes and watch the show. I made a commitment to do a 1 hour meditation every day for the month of April. This was a game changer. I even documented each meditation with a short FB live video each day to keep me accountable. This practice was liberating. I was able to let go of some crazy baggage I didn’t even realize that I was holding on to. It basically allowed me to “let go” of expectations of how things were “supposed to be” and let them “just be.” I felt free and was ready to try 1 more time.
Mike and I decided to do our final transfer on May 2nd, 2017. We didn’t tell anyone. I kept saying that we’re taking the summer off to have fun, regroup, and maybe we’ll do the final transfer in the fall. I didn’t want to speak of this final “at bat” to anyone. I decided to release control. Mike and I always play music at the transfer and name the embryos. I let him have full control as he played the theme to “What’s Happening?” while the doctors transferred “Dwayne and Rerun.” 😊 (fyi…our previous embryos were Kale-ee and Brocc-Lee…yes, Kale & Broccoli.) I was prepared to have negative news and to be ok with that. Hope for the best, be prepared for the worst. Mike was prepared in case it would be negative that he reserved a trip to New Zealand for us. Ready to pull the trigger once we heard the bad news.
On May 12th, I took the blood test at 7am and then coached 3 classes at OTF. Now every other time my doctor called around 3pm. I have a feeling she was putting off making the call till the end of the day. I mean who really wants to deliver such bad news…over and over again. However, I saw there was a VM left around 10:30am!!! I didn’t listen as I wanted to listen with Mike. Well, he stopped by during my break at 11:30am. We listened together, “Congratulations!!! You’re pregnant!!!” It was the most wonderful VM I ever received!!! I’ll never forget that day!!! Fast forward to December 29th, and Michael James Sieman was born!!!
I tell everyone, the hardest part was getting pregnant, everything else is a piece of cake. Pregnancy was easy, my c-section delivery was a breeze, and MJ is the best little boy ever. Worth every shot in my belly and butt. LOL! Funny, it all faded away as soon as I heard his first cry and now when I look in his beautiful blue eyes.
So, to sum it up:
So, the lessons learned from our journey:
I used to think, “Why? Oh, why didn’t the other embryos didn’t take?” We had all the science figured out. However, it was that touch of magic we needed to find in the journey. When I look into MJ’s beautiful blue eyes, I now know why. Life is about divine timing. If the earlier embryos had taken, he wouldn’t be here today, and I can’t imagine a world without my little MJ. He is my magic, and I wouldn’t change a thing!!!
With smiles & sparkles,