Monday, April 20, 2020

...Then Came the Baby in the Baby Carriage!

We're having a baby!!! We couldn't be more thrilled to welcome our baby girl into our family in July! I've shared our happy news publicly already so most people know but I wanted to share an official announcement on my blog as well because it's a documentation of our lives and this is such an exciting part of our personal history. Our story is unique and very, very special to us, and we finally feel ready to share more details about our experience with infertility and trying to grow our family.


I have always wanted to be a mom. When anyone would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say, "I want to be a mom and I want to teach dance a couple of nights a week." I always wanted to be a "young" mom and yes, I know I'm still young... Parker and I were both 21 when we got married and we figured we would wait 2-3 years before growing our family which I think is pretty typical for a young couple of our upbringing. November of 2016 was when we both decided we were ready to have a baby. I was so, so excited to finally fulfill my dreams of becoming a mom. If you do the math we weren't able to conceive until October of 2019 so we struggled with infertility for 3 years. The array of emotions you experience every month after unsuccessfully trying to conceive are horrible. It's truly a terrible rollercoaster and we rode that blasted thing for a long, long time. If you are going through something similar, I feel your pain and my heart hurts with yours. I wish I could hug you and tell you that it will be okay but I know that there are few things to say to someone in this situation that are actually helpful other than I'm so sorry.

Doctors won't see patients for infertility until after a year of trying to conceive without success. Our health insurance was not good during medical school and we most definitely didn't have the funds to get medical help so that was off the table at that point. It also didn't help that we ended up traveling around the country for Parker's 4th year of medical school while he did rotations and being in a different state every month was not really conducive to getting fertility assistance. So our dream was basically at a standstill until we could see a doctor.

The 4th year of medical school is a doozy. At that point in their education, medical students have decided which specialty they want to pursue so they'll apply to residency programs in September. The programs then invite applicants they see potential in to come for an interview. After the applicants complete their interviews (typically during October-January) they'll rank the programs that they interviewed at and submit that list mid-February. The programs will then rank the applicants that they interviewed and submit their rank lists as well. Then an algorithm does its thing and "matches" applicants to programs. Match Day is held on a Friday mid-March. The Monday before Match Day, applicants will get an email saying whether or not they matched and then on the Friday, they'll find out where they matched to.

Parker was pursuing dermatology which is a highly competitive specialty due to its great lifestyle. He was an AMAZING applicant and I'm not just saying that because I'm his wife. His test scores were off the charts, he was at the top of his class, his application was incredible and it showed in the number of interviews he was invited on. The 'sweet spot' number for dermatology interviews in the past to have a high likelihood of matching was about 9 interviews (see the infographic below lol). Parker had 22 derm interviews so we were pretty confident that he would match. Dermatology residency is 3 years but it's required that they do an intern year first so Parker also applied to those programs in addition to derm. Well, the Monday before Match Day came and we found out that Parker matched to an intern year, but he didn't match into a dermatology program which was truly heartbreaking and honestly, unbelievable. One of his mentors said that it was the biggest travesty in the history of the Match. It was easily the worst week of our lives and a really dark time for both of us.

Match Day came and we went to the ceremony to support Parker's classmates and that was a really, really bittersweet day. I had to work hard to hold myself together and I felt like I was living in an alternate universe because we had envisioned that day so differently for so long but we were very happy for all of his classmates that matched. We discovered that Parker would be doing his intern year in internal medicine in Boston at Brigham and Women's hospital. Shortly after receiving this news, we remembered that Massachusetts is one of the few states that require health insurance to cover fertility testing and treatment so it seemed pretty clear that that was the reason things worked out the way that they did but I was still very fearful and honestly, really angry about what our future held as I really didn't want to have to do any scary treatment in order to conceive. We decided that Parker would reapply to dermatology residencies in the fall and we would do the whole interview/match process again as we weren't ready to give up on that dream.

We moved to Boston in June of 2019 and Parker started working. His health insurance through his job is amazing and I had an appointment at one of the best fertility clinics in the world, that happens to be at Parker's hospital, by mid-July. They did lots of bloodwork and I had an HSG test where they inject dye into your fallopian tubes and do an ultrasound to make sure the fallopian tubes are open. They found a very small polyp on my uterus and what looked like some inflammation by one of my ovaries so they scheduled a surgery for August 30th to take out the polyp and figure out what was causing the inflammation. The people that I was nannying for at the time happened to go out of town that week so I was able to have time off for the surgery and time to recover which I believe was divine intervention, yet again.

My first ever surgery! I was really nervous but Parker helped me feel calm and my doctor and nurses were so nice!

As a result of the surgery, they discovered that the inflammation was due to a teeny tiny bit of endometriosis and were able to scrape out any scar tissue. I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor on September 12th where I was hoping to hear that I was 'healed' and we would have no issues getting pregnant on our own from that point on. But he told me that what they found likely wasn't enough to prevent pregnancy so we had 'unexplained infertility' which was my nightmare. He explained our options moving forward:

5% chance of conceiving on our own each month
8% chance of conceiving doing IUI (intrauterine insemination)
50% chance of conceiving doing IVF (in-vitro fertilization)

Both IUI and IVF were almost entirely covered by our insurance so I gave it a couple days to talk to Parker and to pray about our options. We both felt like we should go ahead and jump in with IVF right away since the chances for success were significantly higher so I returned to the clinic with our completed paperwork and happened to bump into my doctor who fit me in for a visit right then and there. He filed the paperwork and submitted our information to insurance and told me that it would likely take up to 4 weeks to hear back. Well, I heard back within a week saying that we were approved! I had happened to start my period the day before so I quickly called the nurse to ask if it was too late to start IVF that cycle. They got me started on birth control (who knew that that was a part of IVF?!!) the next day and we got the rest of my medications ordered to start the following week. We began injections on October 4th.

Don't mind the mess in the background but the injections and such arrived!
All the meds out of the box!

I'm really grateful that the injections didn't hurt very much. It helped having Parker there to do most of them for me. I only had to do about 4 by myself throughout the cycle. And I was very, very lucky that I didn't experience any of the crazy side effects that so many women experience as a result of the medications. It was honestly pretty easy for me so I don't take that for granted at all and I am very grateful to have been so fortunate in that regard! With the injections came vaginal ultrasounds (these are sooooo cringy) and blood tests every other day to start and then those increased to every day to monitor the hormone levels in my blood and the progress of follicles in my ovaries. The hospital had early morning hours for both the ultrasounds and bloodwork so I was able to do all of this without missing any work. Another tender mercy.

On October 18th we went in for the egg retrieval. That was the worst part of the whole process by far and Parker sure rushed me to wake up from that procedure lol. We had friends in town and everyone was waiting on me to head to Maine for the day haha. I probably shouldn't have done so much so soon after having surgery but it all turned out okay!

Ready for the egg retrieval! I've never looked better! lol

Had to include a picture of us with our friends in Maine that day!

They retrieved 13 eggs and called us the next day to tell us that 10 of those had been successfully fertilized. They continued to watch them to see which ones would be viable to transfer and scheduled the transfer for October 23rd. We ended up having 4 viable embryos and they transferred 1 on the 23rd.

They sure make you look like a queen before procedures, eh?! Here I am ready for the transfer!
First picture ever taken of our daughter as an embryo! 

At that point, I was pregnant until proven otherwise and then came the 2 weeks of waiting. Those 2 weeks were some of the longest of my life and it took everything in me not to take a pregnancy test early because they can give false positives due to hormones from the injections staying in the system. But we did end up taking a pregnancy test a few days prior to going in for my blood test and the faintest second line appeared. I wasn't ready to believe it at that point so I tried not to get my hopes up. Parker kept telling me to take more tests over the next few days and the line continued to darken so we had an inkling that it had worked but again, I wasn't going to get excited until I had confirmation through the blood test.

The first positive pregnancy test.

On November 4th I went in for the blood test and within a couple of hours, the nurse called me to congratulate me on being pregnant. I still get very weepy to this day when I think about that phone call and I quickly texted Parker to let him know that WE'RE HAVING A BABY!!!!! We celebrated by going to The Cheesecake Factory that night and just kept saying over and over again, "I can't believe this!"

Right after I got the phone call confirming that I was pregnant. Soooooo many happy tears!

Celebrating at The Cheesecake Factory!

A picture of baby girl at our first ultrasound on November 27, 2019. 

Looking back on 2019, it was quite the year for us. We started the year out so hopeful for the future with Parker's residency prospects. Then we experienced the absolute lowest of lows both of us have gone through with him not matching. Shortly thereafter we realized that the only way the situation made any sense at all was if we relied on our faith that God was in control and that He had a plan. When we moved to Boston, things started to happen so quickly and from my first appointment in July to the fateful phone call in November, we were shown over and over and over again that our Heavenly Father cares. The ONLY way we could have ended up in Boston is the way the Match turned out. And the ONLY way we could have gotten pregnant at this point in our lives is if we had come to Boston as we would not have been able to afford the necessary treatment otherwise. We are so grateful for these miracles!

And the story doesn't end there! Parker reapplied to dermatology residencies in September. He did the entire interview process again and once again had over 20 interviews. And just days after we had submitted our rank list for the second year in a row, he got a phone call from the program director at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, North Carolina saying that they had a spot that would start this year in their dermatology program and they wanted to offer it to him. It was pretty much a no brainer so we were thrilled to say yes! Since Parker didn't match into derm last year, there was a good chance he would have had a year to fill before starting a derm program from this cycle so to be able to start this year was a HUGE blessing! He didn't even interview at Wake Forest last year so we feel, yet again, that this is all part of God's plan for us. Parker has always wanted to live in NC so he is especially excited to live out this dream and the Dean of the Life Sciences Department at BYU once told him that if he ever had the chance to live in NC he should take it haha. We are so excited about our future there with our sweet baby girl and we are eternally grateful for the way things have worked out. We've learned that while God's plan can be very confusing, painful, and hard, it brings the most joy and happiness we've ever experienced. I know that He is in the details of our lives and I'm learning over and over again to trust in Him, in His timing, and in His perfect plan of happiness!

Thank you, everyone, who has shown us love and support in response to our news about our baby girl and our move to NC. We are so grateful to have so many wonderful people in our lives to share our happiness with! I hope that by sharing this special and personal part of our story, maybe someone else can feel some hope and assurance of God's love and plan for them, too.

xoxo, Chelan

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