The following blog was written by Jennifer Grace Robinson. These are her words. This is her journey. This is her joy.
Ever since I was a young girl, I knew I wanted to be a wife and mom before anything else. And, I thought it would just happen, probably just like you. As a young person, you have goals and do not automatically start thinking about potential setbacks. Your thinking is not jaded by disappointments and your outlook is positive and naive.
My husband and I were married in the summer of 2013 and I gained 2 handsome stepsons in the process. We always talked about wanting a little girl to complete our crew. I was on birth control until January of the following year when we decided that we were ready to grow our family. Months rolled by and nothing happened.
I can still remember the roller coaster of emotions every month feeling like I might be pregnant — PMS symptoms sometimes feel like the start of pregnancy. When it seems like your friends get pregnant by simply looking at their spouse, it’s easy to let feelings of isolation and inadequacy sink in. I know the emotional ride of a late cycle, and the ultimate let down and despair when your period comes, solidifying that somehow your body failed to complete the task it was created to do.
That was me for nearly 2 years.
Looking back, I probably went into this process with unrealistic expectations. I just assumed that things would happen naturally and quickly.
In April of 2014, my period was 11 days late. I thought for sure I was pregnant. I must have taken five pregnancy tests that week; all five came back negative. I talked myself into thinking that “it” just hadn’t shown up yet.
I remember a very specific Sunday afternoon at work. I went to the bathroom and there appeared my dreaded cycle. I spent the next 10 minutes just trying to pull myself together.
The following September I went to the gynecologist for my annual checkup. I shared with my doctor my frustrations, and she assured me that everything was probably fine. I actually breathed a sigh of relief. She said, “If you’re not pregnant by January, I’d be surprised.” I left there with so much hope. Everything was fine, right?
January came and went. More negative pregnancy tests for an entire year.
My OB advised we see Dr. Jerald Goldstein at Fertility Specialists of Texas. The words “fertility specialist” echoed over and over again in my head. I hated the sound of it, honestly.
But we dove in headfirst.
There were blood draws to determine ovulation and progesterone, a semen analysis for my husband, another screening to evaluate my ovarian reserve (how many eggs I had and how I might respond to treatment), antibiotics to avoid any potential infection for the next tests, and a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) to check my fallopian tubes for any abnormalities or blockages.
The HSG was the most invasive test at this point in our journey. Almost immediately after the doctor administered the dye into the catheter, it was easy to see on the screen where the blockages would have been. I was beyond relieved to hear him say, “Good news, Jennifer. Your uterus looks great and your fallopian tubes are clear of blockages.” The idea of something being wrong with my tubes had plagued me.
Ten years prior, I had surgery to clear up a moderate case of endometriosis. The surgeon warned me as I was being discharged that my best chances of getting pregnant would in the months after surgery. I was 24 at the time, unmarried, and had just relocated to Dallas. In that moment, I knew I had to make a choice to trust God when it came to my health and preserving my body for having kids later.
Things were quiet for about a month; results from initial testing just took time. The first round of labs was normal. My husband’s SA was mostly normal. There was a slight abnormality, but nothing that should have prevented us from getting pregnant.
The urologist suggested my husband start taking Clomid. While not approved by the FDA for men, it’s often prescribed off-label to help increase sperm production. During a consultation with my OB/GYN, we talked about next steps, if we chose to opt out of Clomid. An IUI (intrauterine insemination) was recommended. If we did that, and the procedure was successful, I would be pregnant in about three weeks.
It’s hard to explain the height of emotions of wanting something so badly, and then being told you have a pretty good chance of getting it in three weeks. As excited as I was initially, a dozen questions and uncertainties quickly flooded my mind.
Is this unnatural?
Is now really the right time?
Can we afford this?
Should we have more money in our savings account?
Can I balance this and work?
Maybe we need to wait?
We spent about an hour going back and forth and decided no to the medication. We also decided to push pause on the IUI. We felt confident in knowing what our next steps were. This was in April; we planned to revisit the IUI in the summer.
On April 26, for the first time in 15 months, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. The lines on that test were incredibly light, but they were there. You would think I would have done cartwheels. But, I wouldn’t let myself get too excited.
What if it was false?
Instead, I tried to self-diagnose via the Internet and figure out all the reasons a test might show positive. Word of advice: DON’T do this!
The next day I had an appointment with my gynecologist. The in-office urine test came back negative, but the following day I got a call saying the results of the blood work were positive. POSITIVE! No one could wipe the smile off my face. It was a blur of words on the phone after she confirmed what we’d been waiting so long to hear. The only thing I could remember after that news was making an appointment the next day to check my hCG level again. I just knew this was going to be our miracle moment — no fertility treatment needed, pregnant on our own!
We dreamed about how we would tell our boys. I beamed at the thought of surprising my dad in Boston the week before Father’s Day with a card that said, “Can’t wait to meet you, Papa!”
Then the phone rang.
The nurse said my HCG levels had gone up (they’re supposed to double every 48-72 hours in early pregnancy). P E R F E C T, I thought.
…but only by a tiny bit.
And, then what followed, I was not ready for. I sat on the couch, held back the tears and listened to her say, “…based on these levels, this won’t be a successful pregnancy. You will most likely miscarry this weekend. If the pain or bleeding gets too intense, call the office and we will prescribe you something. Take care and come back on Monday for more blood work.”
I couldn’t even utter the words thank you before hanging up and sobbing. I was glad to be alone. I didn’t want anyone to tell me it was going to be OK or to feel sorry for me. I just needed to cry it out.
Nothing the nurse predicted happened that weekend. But, I still knew something wasn’t right. The nights were the hardest for me. I would come home from work, lock myself in the bathroom and just cry.
A week after that dreaded call, with still no miscarriage, we were lying in bed, and my husband asked me how I felt. I immediately broke down and through the tears I said, “I feel like something is growing inside of me that will die and the thought of that makes me want to vomit.”
I was in such a dark place and in that moment, without any hesitation he grabbed my hand and began to pray. I don’t remember what he said. But I know he uttered words when I couldn’t find anything to say. He held onto our faith when all I had were unanswered questions.
The next morning was another doctor’s appointment with more blood work. My doctor looked at me with caring eyes and said, “Jen, I know how bad you want this, but we are beyond the point of a healthy pregnancy.”
I took a deep breath, determined not to let tears rule this conversation like they had the past week.
As strong as I could, I said: “OK. Tell me what’s next. What do we do now?”
She told me that if my body did not pass this naturally, she would give me a shot the following week to force a miscarriage.
I left there defeated. Sad. Numb.
After 20 minutes in the parking lot, I went to work and tried to hold it together for a 9-hour shift.
Half-way through, I began to miscarry.
I wrote a letter to my baby that night.
“To my sweet little angel baby:
I wish you could have seen the excitement in your dad’s eyes when we realized you existed. I cried joyfully, thinking about all our friends who had prayed for us and spoken over your existence. We tried for 15 months to create you. Doctors told us we couldn’t do it alone, and that we would need their help.
But we didn’t. Your dad and I created life. You made me a mom. For 4 weeks, you did your best to grow.
You even grew a whole week longer than the doctors predicted you would.
I never felt you move, and I will never hold you. Or, rock you to sleep, give you a name or teach you life lessons.
But I refuse to not acknowledge you, or to not celebrate your existence.
You are a miracle. You are our good thing, one of the best things that’s ever happened to me and Dad.
You are our greatest adventure. You are what dreams are made. You are God’s faithfulness to us.
I cried harder and longer than I ever have at the thought of losing you.
But even though we will never get to look into your big brown eyes, we are thankful for you.
Because of you, I am a survivor.
Because of you, I am stronger.
Because of you, I am a mom.
And no one can take those things away.
We love you, sweet baby!”
We celebrated Mother’s Day that following Sunday and my husband wrote these words in a card:
“I love you so very much. Someday we’ll look back and rejoice over our lives together. You are an amazing mother and wife. Our gift is closer than you think!”
This process was strengthening me. We now know that 1 out of every 4 pregnancies ends the way mine did. I learned that I was physically able to get pregnant. And, I gained new perspective — I found HOPE in the darkness.
That summer I lost 25 pounds. I needed a break from peeing on sticks and tracking periods. Thinking about it now, this was my way of ensuring my weight was not the reason for the miscarriage.
After traveling for the summer, we took an assessment of what we wanted to accomplish and decided to get serious again about making baby Robinson. In the beginning of September, we had a 90-minute consultation with Dr. Goldstein. The Frisco office was so welcoming. He took his time with us, listened and offered his opinion. I never felt rushed. We had his undivided attention and I felt confident in his expertise and sincerity. We went over more medical history than you could ever imagine and finally were presented with 2 options. IUI or IVF (in vitro fertilization).
Dr. Goldstein assured us we would not only end up pregnant, but with a baby. We just needed to decide which route felt better. We decided that day in the office we would pursue IUI first. It’s less invasive, less expensive, and we could start the process that same day.
Our first IUI cycle was unsuccessful. I was devastated. Rather than asking why, “Why can’t my body do the one thing I want more than anything else?” I refocused and asked, “What can I learn from this?”
One of the things I loved most about Dr. Goldstein was his sensitivity to my timeframe. He was aggressive in all the right ways.
We started IVF with ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection). We got calls almost daily from FST that my ovaries and follicles were responding very well to treatment.
I laid in bed one night staring at the ceiling. My stomach bruised from injections. Drowsy and bloated from the meds. But I was so thankful. I thought, if this is the hardest thing we have to walk through, I can do this. We can do this.
On Friday, November 20th, 2015 I was put under local anesthesia for the egg retrieval. Sixteen eggs were retrieved, we froze six and of the 10 remaining, five were mature and viable. Those five fertilized; the embryologist called us daily to let us know how they were progressing. Three grew as expected, and two progressed better than expected. On Wednesday November 25th, we made our way to the Frisco office for the transfer. I will never forget the embryologist walking in with a picture of the collection of cells. I held onto that print for days just staring at it. To this day, it’s still on my refrigerator.
Before they wheeled me back to the room for the procedure, my husband asked all the doctors and nurses to step out of the room for us to have a moment alone. He was genuinely grieving the loss of what we consider life, thinking about the miscarriage and the embryos that did not mature successfully. I was so happy with what was in front of me, I had almost blocked out the loss. As women, we carry the brunt of the emotional weight, and even the physical implications of fertility wounds. But, we should never dismiss the heaviness of our partner’s load. They do their best to support and walk alongside us, and it is to be expected that they will process the journey differently.
Christmas 2015, we were praying for a little miracle.
I was shopping, looking for outfits for our yearly family photos when I got the call from FST confirming pregnancy. My hCG levels were already astronomically higher than they were when I experienced my miscarriage; everything was looking so bright. I Facetimed my husband screaming with joy.
In our very first sonogram, there were two gestational sacs, although one was much smaller than the other. By the time we had our second sono, there was only one; We heard our baby’s heartbeat, strong and fast; I had to pinch myself. I was carrying a little life inside of me.
When it came time to be released from FST and back to my OB, I was actually sad. During my time being treated at FST, I truly felt like I was the only patient that mattered. They called every time they said they would and they were never too busy to answer any question.
My actual pregnancy was a dream, honestly. Sure, I was tired and sick my first trimester, but those few months of discomfort were nothing compared to the journey it took to get there. Every time I was nauseated, I told myself that there was a life I was about to bring into this world, and everything was going exactly as it was planned.
I gained a total of 10 pounds over those 40 weeks, and exactly on my due date, Mariah Grace Robinson was born at 9:06 am weighing 7 lbs., 3 oz.
They laid her on my chest, and I couldn’t even catch my breath. I was relieved, overjoyed, and beyond thankful.
Fast forward two years to Thanksgiving 2018 — a surprise (natural) pregnancy! On July 30th, my son Rocco Gregory Robinson was born.
I don’t know why our road was hard in 2014 and 2015, and why we had to wait. I don’t know why we suffered loss, only to experience the fullest of joys years later. But what I do know is that you are stronger than you think. And, you will get through the valley, because the top of the mountain is breathtaking.
If you are trying to conceive and/or have experienced loss, my biggest challenge to you is to not give up — go to the appointments, do the shots, take the tests, foster, adopt, be the best step-mom and aunt you can — but just DO NOT give up! You were created to be a mother, and do not let the pain of infertility stop what you know you were born to do. AND, tell your story. Infertility wants to silence you, and make you feel like you are alone in this, but you are not. 1 in 8 women will walk down this same road. I refuse to let the stigma of infertility run over the emotions of women. Our voices will be heard and we will pave a path of hope for our fellow sisters in this community!
If you would like to share your story of hope and inspiration like Jennifer, please e-mail email@example.com.