This story was submitted by reader Kristin.
I met my husband in an area of Illinois known as the Quad Cities. We were both working at a TV station. I was a reporter. He worked behind the scenes in production. We were friends for a long time and then a romance blossomed.
When we married in 2001 we knew we wanted to have children, but we didn’t want them right away. By this time we were living in Ohio and working in a town that had been suffering from a lockout at a major employer. Morale throughout the town was low and we had no desire to begin our family in this particular area. We moved to Michigan in 2002, became homeowners and knew we were ready to start our family. If only it were that simple.
During a “routine” check up with my new OB/GYN it became clear that something wasn’t right. The doctor told me I either had ovarian cysts, endometriosis or ovarian cancer. Having lost my mother to breast cancer about a year before this check up, I felt myself slipping into panic mode.
Not cancer. Surely it can’t be cancer. Fortunately it wasn’t, but it turns out endometriosis is no walk in the park.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus (the endometrium) grows outside your uterus. In endometriosis, displaced endometrial tissue continues to act as it normally would. It thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. Because this displaced tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped. Surrounding tissue can become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesions.
Growing up, my friends always complained about how bad their menstrual cramps were. Mine were ridiculously painful, but I just assumed all females had at least one day of the month where their cramps were so bad they didn’t want to move. My lower back would ache all through my cycle.
On the advice of the obstetrician I had laproscopic surgery to remove the buildup of scar tissue caused by endometriosis. One year later I was no closer to being pregnant and we were referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE).
I went through yet another laproscopic surgery to remove the scar tissue that had built up during our year of trying to become pregnant on our own. Then we turned to Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). Fortunately, our insurance covered most of the tests and medication leading up to each IUI attempt. After three failed IUIs the RE told us In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) was probably our best chance at conceiving.
It took us time to decide what to do. We knew IVF would be expensive. We knew there were no guarantees. We had already started exploring adoption and had attended an initial meeting with an agency that works with other agencies outside the United States.
In the end, I decided to give IVF one go. I didn’t want to live with the “what ifs” of not doing it. The process leading up to the actual embryo transfer was brutal. The hormones made me a mess. I was either in tears or yelling at people. I had night sweats from the medications. One of medications had to be injected in my lower back/hip area, so my husband, who hates needles, had to give me the shot.
Like IUI, the majority of tests and medication leading up to the embryo transfer were covered by insurance. But there were other expenses to consider… the 2 ½ hour drive to the clinic for every appointment, the hotel room we had to stay in the night before the IVF procedure and the cost of the embryo transfer.
When my embryos were removed to be fertilized there were three viable ones. All along the plan had been to transfer two embryos. On the day of transfer the RE recommended transferring all three because the third one likely would not survive being frozen and thawed. He pointed out that this would increase our chance of multiples, but said the chance of triplets was slim. We transferred all three and then played the waiting game.
After the transfer I spent three days on bed rest, bored out of my mind, hoping to never spend this many days in a row in bed ever again. About a week after the transfer I went in for a blood test and then the call came. I was pregnant!!!! Don’t ask me what else was said in that phone conversation. I know the nurse said my hormone levels were high, but I can’t tell you the number. I focused on the important part of that phone call… I was pregnant!!!!
Three weeks into the pregnancy I became very ill. I can’t call it Morning Sickness because it was All Day, Round the Clock Sickness. This coincided with my first follow up with the RE. On the way to the appointment I told my husband we should be prepared for twins because of how fast and hard my Morning Sickness came in. (I realize this may in no way be a sign of multiples, but my skills of logic and reasoning were severely distorted due to constantly vomiting).
At the appointment the woman who did the ultrasound didn’t initially point the screen in a way that I could see it. A funny look crossed her face. “How many embryos did we transfer?” she asked. My heart sank. I knew she was going to tell us something was horribly wrong. She left to get the RE. He came in, looked at the screen and said “Yep, four heartbeats.” Four? Yes, four heartbeats. I would love to tell you my husband and I had some epic freak out or spouted profound words of wisdom but really, we didn’t say much, although we smiled a lot.
Three embryos transferred and four heartbeats? That’s right. One of our embryos split into two viable embryos, going on to become the identical pair among our otherwise fraternal quadruplets.
Becoming pregnant was just the beginning of the story. I was diagnosed with severe hyperemesis and was put on bed rest 5 weeks into the pregnancy. For most of the pregnancy I would go to the hospital every other day for IV fluids. Luckily I only spent one week of the pregnancy on hospital bed rest. At that point I begged my obstetrician to admit me because I couldn’t even keep down Twizzlers. Fortunately, after a week of round the clock fluids in the hospital I was able to go back to my own bed, where I would spend the duration of the pregnancy.
Our plan was to get to 32 weeks. My water broke at 28 weeks and 2 days and four teeny tiny wonderful girls began the fight of their lives. They weighed between 1 ½ pounds and 2 pounds at birth. Two girls left the NICU after 63 days. A third came home after 74 days and the fourth one finally left the NICU after 89 days.
Here we are 8 years later and I know I am truly blessed. I have four amazing daughters and a husband who is an equal partner in raising them. When diapers needed changed he would do it. We both worked during their first year of life so he readily took on some of the overnight feedings. Even now he pitches in to make school lunches or help with homework. This life would not work if we were not both on board.
It annoys my husband to no end when people ask how we ended up with quadruplets. I get his annoyance. It’s really no one’s business. But I’ve found more often than not after I answer I tend to find myself talking to someone with similar struggles. If I can lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on to another woman or couple struggling with infertility, then I do what I can.
Keep in mind as you contemplate my story, it could have had a much different ending. The area where my husband and I met was originally called The Quint Cities!
This post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.