I’ve sat down at my computer several times over the last year and thought, “How will I write about this? If we are to get pregnant, how will I ever put into words what these 6 years have been like.” And I’m still not really sure.. so here goes.
If you’ve known Rami and I up close anytime in the last 6 years, you’ve probably heard us talk about our quest for a baby. If you’ve known either of us in the last 15 years, you’ll know that long before we were trying to have kids, we were both very much “kid people.”
Since I was about 15, I’ve been babysitting. I’ve kept tiny babies and crazy toddlers and talkative elementary school kids, single kids and small families and a couple families of 6! There’s the obvious appeal of sweet baby coos, and little laughs and movie nights watching Princess diaries, but my favorite part of babysitting is watching their little brains make connections and hearing their perspectives on life. I could go on but I think you get the point. Kids are some of my favorite kind of people.
Rami has always been the uncle that cries when a niece or nephew is born. He isn’t one to express such things with so many words but he cherishes each of them so much. He loves snuggling newborns and playing on the floor and helping our 8 year old niece with her math homework.
When we met, it was a no-brainer. We are having kids stat. A whole mess of em. I remember in our first year of marriage lying in bed talking about baby names, wondering what our kids would look like. The future felt like a choice, just something we had to decide on and then it would all come into being. We would wait until the end of our first year of marriage to start our family and then when we wanted to.. we would have one.
But those of you who have lived this life of unexpected, who have felt your own longing for something, who have seen any movie where you can just feel the ironic twist coming.. you know where I’m going with this.
Our dream life would not be so easily secured.
We started trying in September of 2012. At first we were very relaxed about the whole thing. “It will happen when it happens. There’s no rush” But around month 9 or 10, this feeling starts to come over you.. this sinking.. unsure feeling. “This doesn’t seem normal. We should probably like.. talk to someone.”
In January of 2014, we saw a specialist in Dallas who would diagnose me with mild polycystic ovarian syndrome. A complicated syndrome that essentially means my ovaries were not releasing eggs very often.. if at all. We tried a drug called clomid for 3 months in a row which was successful at making me ovulate but we still did not conceive. I got sick each of those three months with an infection in my mouth that babies get called thrush. It gave me painful sores all inside my mouth. Though my doctor said it had nothing to do with the medication they had given me, I knew my body wasn’t reacting well to something and I decided to step away from the medical interventions for a while.
I started something called “The Candida Diet” in the summer of 2014, did a cleanse, started lots of supplements, got some interesting IV drips and kept a very regimented diet for about 8 weeks before admitting that I felt terrible, had lost almost all interest in food and didn’t think this was actually going to help our fertility journey.
The season after that was spent exploring essential oils, some different supplements and doing our best to “relax” (P.S. If you know someone struggling with infertility.. don’t tell them to relax. Don’t tell them that if they “just relaaaxxx,” it will all work out. “Take a vacation! Maybe take some time off work.. As soon as you stop trying, that’s when it will happen.” Stop. We all collectively want to punch you in the face.)
In the spring of 2015, we met with another specialist. This guy did a more thorough work up on Rami since the last test we had on his “swimmers” in 2013 came back inconclusive. This doctor was able to tell us that contrary to our earlier belief, our chances of conceiving naturally were not just “slightly decreased” because of my diagnosis, but were “less than 1%” because of our combined diagnoses. We immediately started asking questions about boosting sperm health. I had heard that alcohol consumption could have negative effects. The doctor so tactfully replied something like, “Ha! Yeah that’s not gonna help. You guys should go get a drink tonight. You’re gonna need it.” Beautifully put, medical professional.
That day our choices became: in vitro fertilization, adoption or maybe not having any kids.
We had no idea what we should do, what seemed most right, what we could even afford.
Since we would be moving to Israel in less than a year, we started to research what our options would be there. Adoption statistics were very bleak. However, IVF was shockingly inexpensive. While someone can expect to pay upwards of $15,000 in the U.S. for a single round of IVF, in Israel, bearing children has been deemed a citizen’s right. Thus, IVF is fully covered by the government’s socialized healthcare.
We realized that this was probably going to be our best option. It would still be a lot of waiting, but we had a real chance at a procedure that could work for us.
We moved to Israel in January of 2016 and life was paperwork and language school and a million meetings to establish my status in the country. I didn’t receive health insurance until the Spring of 2017 and then would have to wait the mandatory 6 months before beginning any major procedures (like IVF). In the Fall, we were finally able to start completing the steps necessary to qualify for the process. Imagine a full page single-spaced document typed in 8 pt. font with a list of tests you must complete before you even meet with a fertility specialist. Sooo many blood tests (for me), breast exams, pelvic exams, sperm analysis, genetic consultation. We had to get my shot records from when I was a kid.
And then finally, at the end of 2017, we were able to meet with the specialist at the clinic, get our treatment plan, and pick a time to begin. We did our egg retrieval cycle in January of 2018. What this means is that everyone got real fussy about all these levels in my blood so I had to take different oral medications in the weeks preceding so that everything would be perfect. Then once it was, Rami gave me shots in my stomach every night for 10 days, and then some other meds for a few days.
Here’s a video of Rami giving me the first shot. Try not to be jealous of all my chill.
After 10 days of ovary stimulation, my ovaries were covered in grape sized follicles. On a sonogram, they look like this:
Once all the eggs were at a good size for harvest, we went in to the clinic. I was under sedation for about 15 minutes and they used a big needle to remove all the little eggies from my ovaries, 29 in total. (That’s a very high number btw. The goal is about 10-15. Doctors consulting with us after were like, “Wait.. How many?”)
Unfortunately, I had a bad reaction to the anesthesia (vomiting, losing consciousness, low blood pressure.. fun things) and had to spend a night in the hospital.
None of that mattered by the next day though because we got the call that lots of the eggs had fertilized and that everything was looking really good. In the end, our final count for frozen embies (embryos.. but c’mon thats not as cute) was 16! That’s a really really high number meaning that my eggs and Rami’s sperm hit it off pretty well.
The months after that would be aaggoonniizing while we waited to transfer some embryos back to my uterus. Because of several factors, my estrogen was way too high for months after the transfer so we wouldn’t get the green light until June of 2018.
So one magical day in June, we went to the clinic and they inserted two little embies into my uterus (giving us about a 40% chance that one would stick.)
The next 2 weeks obviously felt like an eternity, but we had a feeling it had worked.
On the morning of Father’s day, I took a home pregnancy test (I wanted to surprise Rami) and I’m not sure I can convey with words what this moment is like for people who have been trying to conceive for a long time…
For years you pee on these sticks. I can’t even say how many I’ve peed on now in my lifetime.. 60? And you always see the same thing- that stupid single line or the negative sign or the “not pregnant.” The ones with words are particularly obnoxious. You see on movies or hear friends talk about seeing that “plus sign that changed everything” and you just think.. not for me. That is never going to happen for me. Like most people when they flip a coin.. sometimes it’s heads.. sometimes its tails.. Nope. Mine only has tails. This is reality.
So when you pee on a stick, you’ve learned to take it less seriously, to not hold your breath.. that this one is probably going to look like all the others. You look around the room casually, send out all your chillest vibes and eventually glance back at it..
But when that plus sign shows up, YOU AIN’T READY. I looked down (because I set the test on the floor like a weirdo) and saw the plus sign appearing and suddenly nothing made sense. I did not process. I did not cope. I fell on the bathroom floor and wept and gasped and searched for answers. I could not connect with the reality of what was happening. I eventually had to collect myself and be a human being and wait the entire day to tell Rami.
When Rami got home that evening, I asked him to sit down on our bed and told him I had something for him. I handed him the pregnancy test and said “Happy Father’s day.” Guys.. we’re both kinda slow on the uptake because he said, “What is this?” And I said, “A pregnancy test.” And he said, “Did you take it?” And I said, “Yeah! It’s positive!” And he said, “What does this mean?” And I said, “We’re pregnant!” And he lay back on the bed and looked at the ceiling with a happy, confused look on his face. Rami does a much quieter rendition of “Does not compute” than I do.
We got the results confirmed with the blood test a few days later at the clinic and a few weeks later we would go back to see one teeny tiny baby nestled in my womb.
When they found the heartbeat on that sonogram, we were officially “released” from the fertility clinic to join all the “normal people” with the normal doctors for their normal babies. And that was an insane feeling. We hugged some of our nurses who had been with us on this journey now for months. Some of them had held my hair while I threw up. Others consoled me when I tried to explain in Hebrew that I didn’t know if I could wait any longer.
We said our goodbyes and then walked out onto the sidewalk and I said to Rami.. “Soo.. we’re not infertile anymore.” And I started to cry because hormones and because the reality was just that big.
From there we started telling family and friends. At 14 weeks, we found out we were having a girl. And sincerely life has felt like a dream for the past few months. Not like a “life is perfect” dream, just like a “how in the world is this happening” dream.
Here we are at the 22 week mark- still reeling in disbelief. We have seen our baby girl wiggling around on a sonogram and I have started to feel her little kicks. All her scans and tests say that she’s healthy and growing normally. We’re starting to set up a nursery and deciding on birth plans and living in this moment that we thought may never be.
We’re so thankful and overwhelmed and at least once a day, Rami and I look at each other and one of us will say quietly to the other, “We’re having a baby.”