Our Story, as told by Chris:
Our story is simply about a sailor and a teacher that have become each others rocks, one granite and one limestone. I joined the US Navy in 1997 and I was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia in 1998 far away from my family in California. I was 25 years old and I had no plans on starting a family considering I was single. In August of 2004 (8 months prior to my enlistment ending and planning on going back west) I had the greatest and last date of my life. I was so thrilled; I actually called my best friend in Arizona to tell him about my future wife, Susan the schoolteacher.
Over the next 8 months the only time we were apart was when I was at sea. As we fell more and more in love, we discussed getting married and having a family. I remember lying on my bed during our first discussion of having children. It was almost simultaneously that we both mentioned we wanted a little girl named Kaylee.
I was not fortunate to find the right job in Virginia Beach so I had to look elsewhere. I ended up working at an oil refinery in New Jersey for 2 years until I was able to find the job I love and am still working at today in Virginia. We spent about 5 years in a long distance relationship and it was difficult but we always made each other laugh and made the most of the time we had together. I was her granite and she was my limestone.
We still continued to discuss getting married but we were now living 2 hours apart and we didn’t want to have a long distance engagement. We wanted to be responsible and start a family the “right” way by getting married and then having children. As it always does, time kept moving while we continued to grow older. Susan loved teaching so it was a very difficult decision for her to leave teaching and move up to Richmond to become my wife. We were married in 2011 and life was getting better and better.
Now that we were husband and wife, we knew it was time to start our family so our two dogs (or doggers as we call them) could have a human sibling. After about a year of trying with no success and due to our ages, we made our first appointment with our fertility doctor. It was a snowy day and we called to make sure the office was still open. I remember being nervous on our way to the appointment and a little excited thinking it was a guaranteed step to success. After all, you always hear about the successes and rarely do you hear about all the non-successful couples dealing with infertility.
As we left Dr. G’s office we were both quite happy with our choice of doctor and excited to start getting the process started. After some diagnostic tests on Susan there was no obvious reason we shouldn’t be able to get pregnant. Because of cycles and timing we decided on the spur of the moment to do an IUI and “just see”. We hadn’t even asked how much it was going to cost! Up to this point all of the diagnostic tests were covered by insurance. Of course we were excited but when our doctor called Saturday afternoon to inform us that the analysis showed low motility, our hopes of the IUI being successful was very small. The following week we received our first of many not pregnant results.
It was determined that IVF was our best option of getting pregnant and having our own biological baby. We knew that although we had great insurance coverage through Dominion we didn’t have any coverage for infertility treatments. This would all be “out of pocket” from this point forward. Somehow we were determined to make this $21K not seem impossible. We sat in our doctor’s office learning how to give injections and I did not believe Susan would allow me to give her a shot or that I myself could give her a shot. This was the woman who is so terrified of needles, she was crying in the parking lot prior to her first blood draw. She asked me to inject my own stomach with the saline solution in the nurses’ office before she would inject herself. I’m not a fan of needles either but I am her granite so I gave myself an injection and it didn’t hurt. Susan could not physically give herself an injection that day so we decided I would do all the injections. As much as the injections were going to hurt the $5K cost of the medicines was just as painful. These medications are very specific in their administration timing wise. Trying to give an injection about the same time each day is not an easy thing to do when you work 12-hour days of rotating shift work.
We made it work and the day had come for our first retrieval. The retrieval went well and we transferred our first two embryos then anxiously waited to go get a blood test on day 10. Thankfully I was off work the day we went for the blood test because as I saw Susan walk out of the front door as I was cutting the grass, I knew the results were not pregnant. We sat there on our front steps holding each other and sobbing. Unknown at that moment, we would get many more not pregnant results.
In August after our 3rd transfer we finally received the PREGNANT result and I remember the next few weeks being full of laughs, excitement, and planning. On September 15th we had our 9-week ultrasound only to find out that we had a miscarriage. Devastated is the only word I can use to explain how we both felt. My wife had a D&C and the results determined our little girl had Turners and that was most likely what caused the miscarriage.
As I mentioned before, we are each other’s rocks and we could not have made it through this without one another. Our 2nd retrieval was not as fortunate only 1 of 9 eggs would fertilize and since this was our last and final retrieval we paid for, again our world was devastated. We were all so surprised with the horrible results of the second retrieval, Dr. G managed to get us a third retrieval at a GREATLY reduced cost (plus the cost of medications of course).
We would have 3 more not pregnant results before receiving our 2nd pregnant result. We lost our second baby at week 7. This time the microarray showed no genetic abnormalities. After our 3rd retrieval we would get another positive pregnancy again in September of 2015. About a month would go by before I would leave work to meet Susan at the doctor’s office due to her having heavy bleeding. I remember two things from that day; the doctor not being positive of the cause of her bleeding and that Susan was pregnant with TWINS! We already had an appointment for 4 days later and were told to keep that. The thought of having twins was overwhelming but we were ready and willing to accept the challenge. Susan had a gut feeling something wasn’t right so we called and were told to come in early and “put our minds at ease”. Instead all we saw was an ultrasound with nothing on it. The twins that were there 3 days ago were now gone and the doctor was utterly confused. That day on the drive home was the first time I broke down in front of my wife, for that day she was the granite and I was the limestone. There was no genetic testing so the cause is still a mystery.
Susan had a hysteroscopy to make sure everything was still ok. Then we were dealt another blow…. Dr. G would be retiring at the end of the year. We managed to scrape together money for a 4 retrieval only to have horrible fertilization 3 of 11, with only 2 making it to Day 5. We said our goodbyes to Dr. G and were transferred to Dr. Steingold’s practice. He ran the few tests that were left to run and there was nothing significant that showed up. He would perform the last transfer of our final 2 embryos. When we received our last positive pregnancy test we had the highest beta count yet so we were very excited! We knew this was the ONE and finally had a sigh of relief. However, this one would result in our last miscarriage and the genetic testing revealed Trisomy 22 for our little boy.
We just spent tens of thousands of dollars and years dedicated to getting pregnant with no success. The stress, depression, and anxiety have taken its toll on both of us but somehow we manage to laugh everyday. I remember laughing with our doctor and nurse almost every visit while seeing most other patients being so serious. Our friends and family are amazed that we have not given up hope or our positive and joyous approach to life. Susan and I would just respond to them all with a simple saying, “If we weren’t laughing we would be crying.” It has not been an easy journey nor a successful one. You feel jealous every time someone else announces a pregnancy; even though that’s the last thing you want to feel. But, we are hopeful that with donor eggs, Susan and I can experience the miracle of a pregnancy.
I cannot think of another woman so deserving of the experience of a pregnancy. We would love to be parents and are often told, “You guys should have kids because you’d be great parents.” I just nod in agreement and think to myself, we would if we could. We want our turn but we just need help. We are hopeful that donor eggs will be the fix (because it’s not a cure). It’s hard to adjust to the thought of “your” child not being biologically yours, but over this journey we have learned it’s not the genetics that matters, it is the heart and love you invest. This grant is our lifeline to our dream.
Learn more about donor eggs and donor embryos as a path to parenthood – click here.