We always wanted a big family. Even though we were only 26 when we got married, my husband and I wanted to start growing our family almost right away. We spent the first 8 months of marriage “not NOT trying.” We were traveling and just enjoying married life and didn’t think too much of it that we hadn’t gotten pregnant yet.

We found out my sister-in-law was expecting, and we were so excited to be an Aunt and Uncle for the first time. We were dreaming about how amazing it would be to have our kids be close in age, and have these cousins grow up together. And yet, we still weren’t pregnant. We shifted into full TTC mode – tracker apps, ovulation tests, pregnancy tests, LOTS of peeing on sticks. Still nothing.

It had been almost 2 years since I had gone off birth control and I had my annual appointment with my OB/GYN. I hadn’t called earlier because everything I read said you need to be actively trying for 1 year before seeking treatment (FYI – this is false). It was at this appointment that I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that causes a number of problems, one of them being irregular periods and/or anovulation.

My doctor recommended I try a medication called Clomid to “force” ovulation each month. I was willing to try anything, but taking this medication was extremely tough on me. Typical symptoms include headaches, hot flashes, and mood swings. The first 2 months of Clomid were unsuccessful, I did not ovulate or start my cycle, so my dose was raised for 3 more months before deciding we had to move on. During these 3 months, the medication did work, but we still weren’t pregnant. It was so disheartening doing the same thing month after month and it ending with that same negative pregnancy test. I had to try something different for the sake of my mental health.

We had our first of many visits to a fertility clinic. Before recommending a treatment or starting a new cycle, our doctor signed us up for a ridiculous number of tests, each one more uncomfortable than the next. Through the testing, we were able to find out that Greg is in perfect health (eye roll), and I was diagnosed with another fun condition, Hypothyroidism. This can also cause irregular cycles and anovulation, and may be an indication as to why the Clomid wasn’t working well for us. I started on a new medication to treat Hypothyroidism that is taken daily. I still take it to this day, 5 years later.

We spent months trying different treatments, more clomid, trigger shots, timed cycles, IUIs, none of it worked. I had reached my breaking point. I was very depressed during this time, crying most days, skipping social activities, unable to focus on anything outside of having a baby. We decided even though the physical and financial cost would be high, we were ready to try IVF.

Starting IVF gave me so much hope, I felt so confident this was the right path for us, it was the happiest I’d been in months if not years. We had an incredibly successful egg retrieval with 19 mature eggs. 8 of which fertilized and continued developing into viable embryos. We had them genetically tested, 6 were normal and 2 were inconclusive, but we still froze all 8. A month later, after my body had recovered, we transferred a beautiful 4AA graded embryo. That embryo is our 4 ½ year old son, Max.

It felt like we cracked the code, having a baby would be easy now. We should have known better, infertility is full of obstacles, delays, disappointments, and sometimes even miracles, but it’s never that simple. We scheduled our next frozen embryo transfer, to have a second child, for early 2020. Hello, pandemic! The clinic closed, then later opened with limited patients and procedures, and eventually 6 months later, we were able to do a transfer. I had to do all the appointments and even the actual transfer alone, which was really difficult. Greg is such a great support system and is so good at asking questions when I get overwhelmed with all the information.

The transfer worked and I was pregnant again, with another little boy! My HCG was rising normally, everything was going smoothly until the weekly ultrasound visits. These were a little chaotic. Because of the pandemic, Greg wasn’t there, and I saw a different doctor each week. At each ultrasound, all the different doctors pointed out something different. “There’s the sac but it’s a little small, it’s probably fine.” “There’s baby and the heartbeat but these striations look a little weird, we’ll keep an eye on it.” “Baby is a little small but his heartbeat is strong and he’s doing great.”

I graduated from the fertility clinic and went to see my OB/GYN at 9 ½ weeks. I chatted with him about how our oldest was doing, how excited we were to have 2 little boys soon, all the small talk, and then he just stopped talking. I immediately felt a lump in my throat, the silence felt so long. When he finally spoke, he said, “I’m so sorry Cassie, there’s no heartbeat.” The months that followed were some of the hardest of my life. I still can’t talk about it without crying. The grief never really goes away. I had a D&C and then a hysteroscopy to remove tissue from my uterus. All the genetic testing came back normal, and we still don’t know why we lost our little boy.

My husband and I desperately needed to feel hope again. A few months later we scheduled another frozen embryo transfer. Things were looking up, I was back in the routine of ultrasounds and monitoring appointments. Until our transfer was abruptly cancelled when the doctor found a large cyst in one of my ovaries. I was heartbroken and angry. I asked what we could do to reschedule the transfer as soon as possible. The doctor recommended a medication that is typically used as a trigger shot to induce ovulation. She said the medication should clear the cyst and allow us to move forward. Later that day, after administering the shot and lots of Google searches, I called a nurse at the clinic and asked if the “cyst” could be an egg. She told me based on the timing and my hormone levels it was unlikely but not impossible. So… we tried. Just in case.

We rescheduled the transfer for about 8 weeks later, but before that date came, I took a pregnancy test. It was POSITIVE. Shocked is an understatement, and Greg genuinely did not believe it. I took about 6 more before calling my doctor. The test was right, there was a little miracle growing. That little miracle is our 2 year old son, Levi. Although we’re not religious, we thought it was a beautiful tribute to our angel baby that in the Bible, Levi is the third son of Jacob.

We thought after Levi, we may be able to get pregnant on our own. We tried for a few months but eventually decided it was best to go back to do another frozen embryo transfer. While there is nothing easy about IVF, this was certainly our least dramatic round. We transferred another embryo in June of this year and I’m now 20 weeks pregnant with our baby girl.

Nothing about building our family has been easy, but damn has it been worth it! I would go through it a million times over for my babies. For anyone else on a similar journey, just know you are not alone. I’m always here to lean on if you need a friend. Feel free to reach out on Instagram or TikTok @thismomdidit or my blog www.thismomdidit.com or over email thismomdidit.cassie@gmail.com.