Brian and I began dating in September 2007 and after just 4 months of dating he popped the big question!!! We got married on December 6, 2008. And oh what a day it was. The Grand Rapids/Holland area was hit with a HUGE blizzard. But it was the best day of my life. And what a journey we were about to begin.
We decided to start trying for a family right away since we have an 8 year age gap. So in March of 2009 I went off birth control. It seemed like every month someone else announced their pregnancy but it wasn't until the end of September that my dam burst. I always felt like we might have "some" difficulties in getting pregnant (since Brian had testicular cancer when he was 23 years old) but never did I imagine the extent we would have to go through. On September 28, 2009 I made our first fertility appointment with Dr. Lown. The earliest appointment available was not until October 20. We met Dr. Lown and decided that based on Brian's history our first step was to get a semen analysis. We met with Dr. Lown on November 3 to get our results. The results showed (more than likely) due to Brian's radiation treatments that we would have a difficult time conceiving on our own. (His SA came back with very poor motility and morphology but normal count). Dr. Lown felt it to be in our best interest to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist (enter Dr. Dodds).
We were very fortunate to get an appointment (because of a cancellation) for the following day. So on November 4, 2010 we met the man who through God we hoped would (and still believe will) bring us our family. He basically told us if we wanted to be pregnant NOW that IVF was the way to go but that he would do IUI's for up to 3 months. We were not ready to commit to IVF at this point and since I was a week late we were able to start meds that very day for our first IUI. We did our second IUI in December but a few days after I was injected we received a phone call saying we had a less than 1 percent chance that this IUI would be successful. The nurse who called went on to say that although Dr. Dodds was willing to do one more IUI...he was recommending we move towards IVF. After much prayer we decided to for go our last IUI and dive into IVF.
We did a two month protocol starting with Lupron (a medication that puts me in early menopause) in January 2010. And on February 11 I went in for my egg retrieval. Moments before being taken back I said to Brian we need to fertilize more embryos (we had agreed on 8). So we decided to fertilize 12 embryos instead (and praise the Lord we made this decision...truly orchestrated by Him alone).
Two days later (on February 13th) I was implanted . What an exciting (and nerve-wracking) day. First things first a nurse let us know that 3 of our little embies had not made it through the night...so we were left with the perfect number 9. Dr. Dodds implanted 2 embryos and the remaining 7 all made it through the freezing process. I was sent home on bedrest for the next 2 days and told to take it easy for a couple more days before resuming normal activities. The two week wait was tortuous. But on February 24 we got the news of our life...WE WERE PREGNANT!!! And just a few weeks later on March 8 we received even better news...IT WAS TWINS!!! And my due date was November 4, 2010 (remember my very first appointment with my RE was November 4, 2009...crazy)!!!
I was released from my RE (Dr. Dodds) at 8 weeks and had my first appointment scheduled to see Dr. Lown (again) at 12 weeks. My pregnancy had a lil bump in the road however at 11 weeks when I started spotting. Thankfully it ended up being nothing. At 16 weeks we found out that baby B was a girl (yea!!!) and Dr. Lown told me that my body was made for twins. Our 20 week ultrasound started off good but ended horribly. We found out that baby A was also a girl. I was one ecstatic mama-to-be. And that both of our girls looked perfect!!! But when my US tech asked if I had been having any pains I knew something was wrong. She told us to go back to the waiting room while she talked with Dr. Lown. We were called back in a few minutes later so Dr. Lown could check my cervix. He was immediately concerned because I was dilated to a 4. Little did Brian and I know that we would be meeting both of our precious daughters in just over 2 weeks.
We were immediately sent to Spectrum Health's Labor and Delivery Unit where they monitored me overnight. My care was completely transferred over to a high risk group that would now be seeing me for the duration of my pregnancy. Since there was no activity the following morning I was sent upstairs to the OB Special Care Unit for 2 more nights before I was sent home home on strict bedrest. On June 23 my friend Karie was "baby-sitting" me. I told her that I needed to use the bathroom so she helped me up. I slowly made my way to the bathroom and when I wiped I was shocked...there was blood and lots of it. I went back to bed and called my doctor. She said to immediately get to the hospital. I called Brian who was home in 20 minutes.
I called my mom in tears and told her what was happening. My life was falling apart before my eyes and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Once I got to the hospital they immediately put me on a drug called magnesium to stop the contractions. It was a loooooong night to say the least. Thankfully my whole family and Brian's parents spent the evening up at the hospital with us. My mom was the last to leave (around midnight) and as she left she promised to be back first thing in the morning. Around 3am I was not feeling so hot so my nurse gave me a drug called stadol. I immediately felt like I was drowning which led to me vomiting which led to my water breaking but thankfully it stopped there.
My mom and sister arrived the following morning at 8am with a posse of doctors right behind them. My doctor checked me and said to let my nurse know when I felt like I needed to push. My Pastor came in after the posse of doctors left. We talked, prayed, and read some scripture and then he headed out telling us to call with any changes. A little after 9am I called my nurse because I felt different. Sure enough my little girl was trying to make her way into the world. With support from Brian, my mom and my sister Alayna Joy Helmholdt entered into this world at 9:30am. She weighed 14oz and was 10 and 1/4 in long. She was absolutely beautiful. We held her and told her how much we loved her. Our Pastor came back and baptized her while she was still living. She lived for an hour and 45 minutes. We had many visitors (close family and friends) that day and all were blessed to see our sweet baby girl.
But the fight was still on. Baby B (unnamed at this point) did not follow her big sissy into the world. However, two days later I started having some contractions again. I asked to be put back on the Magnesium but before they would agree to this proposal they wanted to do an amniocentesis to check for infection. If I did have an infection in my uterus it was too risky to try and stop labor. Brian and my mom were with me when they came back in with my results. My uterus was infected so there was nothing they could do to stop my labor. The plan was to now check my WBC count every day to watch for an increase in my infection. And every day my counts increased so 5 days after delivering Alayna my doctor came in and told me that I no longer had a choice...I needed to be induced. I have never cried harder than I did that day. Knowing that I had already lost one daughter and that I was about to lose the other too. Brian and my mom just held me as the tears fell one after another. We asked for a second opinion from another high risk doctor by the name of Jelsema. We had heard wonderful things about him from acquaintances. They called Dr. Jelsema and within an hour he was at my bedside and clearly (unlike the first doctor) explained why I had to be induced. My baby was so infected that she had no chance of survival. I was becoming more infected every day and was risking my uterus and my life. The decision was made.
They started me on pitocin around 9:30am on Tuesday June 29. Nothing...nothing...nothing. Did we make the right choice? Why after weeks of trying to keep her in would she not come out. They finally let me get up and get into the shower. Wow did that ever feel good. Brian even shaved my legs :) Once I got out of the shower they let me eat a little something. Afterward they gave me a drug to "ripen" (aka...thin out) my cervix 3 different times over the next 12 hours. Nothing...nothing...nothing. They finally put me back on pitocin sometime early in the morning (of June 30) and long story short at 9:36am (after 24 hours of labor) with just one push my sweet Ella Adrianna finally made her debut into this world. She weighed in at 14.7oz and was 10in long. She blessed us with her presence for 1 hour and 15 minutes and she too was baptized before passing into Jesus' arms.
Fast forward to September...the month that was suppose to be my first FET. I went in for a routine ultrasound on the 24th (scheduled with one of my IVF nurses) that did NOT end up in my favor. She said that there was "something" on the wall of my uterus. Long story short I had a ruptured blood vessel in my uterus...FET was a NO GO for September. Which brought us to October (the month of my 1st FET). We decided to only implant one perfect little embie this go around but sadly it was not successful. Disappointment on top of disappointment was weighing me down but I picked myself back up and prepared for my 2nd FET which occurred on November 27, 2010. With the failure from the previous month we decided to increase our chances by once again implanting 2 embryos. And on December 8 we once again found out that WE WERE EXPECTING!!! We saw our sweet baby's heartbeat at our 6 week ultrasound. But we also found out that the little embie that had implanted had also tried its very best to split but without success...meaning I had 1 living (heart-beating) baby and 1 dead (NO heart-beating) baby IN THE SAME SAC. My RE told me that a failed split was quite rare and that it unfortunately came with some risks. And at my nine week (and fourth) ultrasound our sweet baby boy was no more.
Because of the two consecutive losses we had to do some testing...and wouldn't you know...EVERYTHING came back negative. There was absolutely no explanation (unless it was related to the failed split) for why we lost our little man who we named Luke.
So here we are with so many unknowns and so many questions. My RE believes that the two losses are completely unrelated (thank goodness). And he also believes (as does my perinatologist) that as long as I am on antibiotics I will be able to carry a baby to term. But no matter what I will be watched extremely closely.
So that's our story in a nutshell...please join us on this infertility and loss journey where all we can do is keep hoping. Keep trusting. And keep believing!!!
UPDATED ON FEBRUARY 7, 2012:
So when I last left off we were awaiting our fourth implantation. Well that implantation happened on April 12, 2011. Three little embryos were dethawed (THREE because one of the first two did NOT make it through the dethawing process) and on April 22 (which happened to be Good Friday that year) we received the news that we were once again expecting!!! Thrilled does not even begin to describe what we felt. We could finally breath again after a nerve-wracking 2 week wait.
But that "breath" didn't last long. My pregnancy was the longest 10 months of our lives and boy oh boy was it ever stressful. But after 44 doctor appointments (which included 24 ultrasounds and 15 non-stress tests), 20 counseling sessions (with a pregnancy after loss counselor), 8 prenatal massages, and 10 weeks worth of shots (8 of them being IM booty shots) the most precious little boy entered into our lives. Mason Dale Helmholdt arrived on December 27, 2011 at 11:13am. He weighed in at 9lbs 5oz and measured 21in long. BEST (late) Christmas present ever!!!
Someday we hope to add to our (Earthly) family of three but for now we want to enjoy this time with Mason. But since I am a planner I will admit that questions have been asked about baby
UPDATED ON FEBRUARY 5, 2013:
On November 8 (2012) we implanted our last sweet embaby. And on November 19 our prayers were answered when we received the "you're pregnant" phone call. We were ecstatic!!! (My hcg came back at 107). However, the excitement dwindled some when two days later my hcg didn't quite double (it came back at 199). My RE said it was nothing to be concerned about so I tried to remain excited and hopeful. But on November 29 I started spotting. I called the office and I got my hcg checked again. It should have come in around 3200 but it was only at 1926. Two days later I got my labs checked again (should have been around 3850) and my level had only risen to 2569. Had some more spotting on December 2. My ultrasound was moved up to December 3 (there was concern that the embryo had implanted in one of my tubes). Thankfully, this was not the case but at 5 weeks and 6 days all we could see was a gestational sac and a yolk sac...NO baby. A second ultrasound was scheduled for December 7 and we thought our prayers had been answered when low and behold there was our precious (em)baby WITH a heartbeat!!! We had a third ultrasound on December 14 and once again saw a baby with a good heartbeat!!! I was very nervous throughout this whole time period because although the baby measured "on track" it was measuring a significant amount smaller than what Mason had. Then on December 19 (while at work) I started spotting again. Called the office. Left work. And went in for another ultrasound that afternoon. And wasn't too surprised (although still very disappointed) when I saw that our baby no longer had a heartbeat.
I ended up miscarrying on my own 2 weeks and a day later on January 3, 2013 (Happy stinking New Year). We had a follow-up appointment with my RE on January 18 and it was decided that we will...when the time is right do another fresh cycle. So as my motto has been (and still is) all I (we) can do is keep hoping. Keep trusting. And keep believing that God WILL bless us with another healthy child(ren).
UPDATED ON JULY 5, 2013:
In February 2013 I had a sonohystogram in prep for IVF 2.0. Unfortunately they found "something" during the test and IVF 2.0 had to be post-poned. I was SO bummed. On March 6, 2013 I had a minor surgery to remove the "something" that ended up being some significantly large benign polyps from my uterus. Thankfully later that month we were still able to start meds for IVF 2.0. Through much prayer and talks with our RE we decided to only fertilize 6 egg and sperm. Our prayer was for at least one more child. An earthly sibling for Mason. God answered our prayers EXACTLY when 4 of the 6 turned into embryos. (We really wanted two embryos for a fresh cycle and two embryos for a later FET). I was implanted (with two embryos) on April 13, 2013 and on April 23, 2013 we found out we were expecting once again!!!