Some people might say I have 23 children. I have only met two.
My husband and I started our journey to parenthood in 2016 when we embarked on the emotional in vitro fertilization (IVF) process. After hundreds of needles and pills and appointments and procedures, we were finally able to create 23 embryos. The future of a family looked promising. The hard part was over, or so I thought. Our first embryo transfer was a success. I was pregnant! My bloodwork looked great. We went for our first ultrasound appointment, around 7 weeks, and devastatingly saw no heartbeat. A D&C procedure was scheduled for the following week. After allowing ourselves time to grieve, we started the process for another embryo transfer.
Again, pregnant! I think I held my breath the entire first ultrasound appointment. I was expecting heartbreak, expecting to hear sad news again. But instead, I heard the most beautiful sound, my baby’s heartbeat. Everything was going great this time. My husband accepted a job opportunity that moved us to New Jersey (NJ). I continued to be monitored by a fertility clinic there, while they sent my results to my doctor here in Texas. At each appointment I got to see my baby grow, and hear that beautiful sound of his heartbeat. It was my 12 week, and last, appointment at the fertility clinic. After this they were releasing me to continue my prenatal care with an OB. As the doctor was analyzing the screen, his face changed. I had seen this look before. I knew what he was about to say. He didn’t see a heartbeat. I had to find a doctor to execute a D&C procedure if I didn’t want to pass the baby naturally. This was surprisingly hard.
I could only find one OBGYN willing to perform a D&C on me as I wasn’t yet an established patient. I will spare you the details, but unlike my first experience, where I was completely under general anesthesia, this one was performed while I was awake with no anesthesia or pain suppressants. It is still one of the most painful (both physically and psychologically) experiences of my life. We flew back and forth from NJ to Texas for the next two embryo transfers. The next one did not take, and I did not become pregnant. The fourth attempt was successful, and I was pregnant again! This time I took every precaution. No soft cheeses, no raw eggs, no caffeine. I followed all the “you probably shouldn’t rules.” It took us a long time to get excited, but the longer the pregnancy progressed the fear of loss became less and less. We finally got to the third trimester and I was overwhelmed with the sense of happiness and excitement to finally get to meet this baby.
It was a snowy morning and we were crossing the Verrazzona Bridge on our way to meet friends for brunch when I started experiencing the most intense cramps I have ever felt. I had no idea I would finally get to meet my daughter the very next morning. This was my fourth pregnancy, but would be the first time I got to hold my baby in my arms. My husband finally convinced me to go to the hospital. We arrived around 11pm. I was already 4cm dilated. Almost immediately I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia which scared me more than the thought of giving birth. Seven long hours later, it was time to push. After all the traumatic years of IVF and the miscarriages, I kept imagining the moment my baby would be born and placed on my chest.
I had envisioned it often. But immediately after my daughter was born, sirens went off and the room filled with people. She was born with the cord wrapped twice around her neck and she wasn’t breathing. The room was busy but silent. Time stood still. No one moved except for the doctors surrounding my newborn. Everyone was waiting for that little cry. When we finally heard it, it was musical.
It wasn’t how I envisioned becoming a mother, but it was worth every hardship and every pain. We finally had our baby, our Story. Story Elizabeth Bower.