Nothing happened like I planned, but what did occur was going to be our biggest heartbreak, our deepest sorrow, our toughest test of faith, and our greatest triumph. This is my love story, and it’s about how my husband and I finally conceived the first of our two miracle babies.
I was always that girl who knew she wanted to have kids one day. Growing up in a mixed-cultural and mixed-race house, life wasn’t always smooth. I was 8 when my family moved back to the Philippines from the States after my parents decided to separate, and my siblings and I were basically raised by my amazing mother. I think watching her handle all of her four kids by herself--with what I believed was ease and strength--just made me want to be a mom too someday. That was the dream, always.
I met my husband, Chris, when I was only 15 years old. I had recently moved to a new area and we became quick friends. He was funny and sweet, and I loved that about him. We started dating less than a year after that, and 8 and 1/2 years into our relationship, we got married. I was only 25 at the time, and already planned out what our life was going to be like. We would enjoy our first year as a married couple, get pregnant one year later, and finally have the baby I had longed for--for what felt like my entire existence. Of course, nothing happened like I planned, but what did occur was going to be our biggest heartbreak, our deepest sorrow, our toughest test of faith, and our greatest triumph. This is my love story, and it’s about how my husband and I finally conceived the first of our two miracle babies.
It all began with a simple visit to the doctor. I was so excited to finally get this dream moving, I didn’t even think that there would be any issues at all. And what I thought was going to be a regular routine checkup turned into a stepping stone to our crazy, 9-year infertility journey. A gung-ho gynecologist told me that I had PCOS, and started me on shots to increase egg growth in order to up my chances to get pregnant. I think because we believed it would get us to our end goal faster, we just went for it.
And what I thought was going to be a regular routine checkup turned into a stepping stone to our crazy, 9-year infertility journey.
Little did we know that agreeing to start fertility treatment at that time was going to launch me into an almost decade long roller coaster ride full of tons of medication, thousands of injections, endless doctor’s visits, invasive procedures, minor and major surgeries, forced menopause, three IUIs, LIT and other immunology treatments, and four IVFs (yes, 4)!
To my complete and utter surprise, I found out that I had another underlying medical condition aside from PCOS called endometriosis. This is when blood clots known as “chocolate cysts” form within the reproductive system during your menstrual cycle. I did have really painful periods when I was younger, but I didn’t know that this was the reason why. In fact, a doctor had told my mom she wanted me to go on the pill when I was around 14, but i didn’t really think anything of it at the time. But the older I got, the worse it became, especially with all the medication I started taking to try to conceive. The cysts were aggressive, growing rapidly, and were quite painful too. It was such a catch-22. I couldn’t get pregnant because of the cysts, and the medication to help me get pregnant made them worse. The medicine to make them shrink put me in a menopausal state, which meant that I couldn’t get pregnant either. And this was truly only the beginning of my fertility woes. I never thought that I would have any issues when I finally started trying. I mean, I was just 26. Who has that much issues getting pregnant at such a young age?
I just kept my eyes on the prize, to finally hold that baby in my arms. But things continued to go downhill from there.
Things were happening so fast, but even though I was feeling frustrated and confused by the whole situation, I kept going, I wasn’t willing to give up. Yet at the time, I couldn't have known the Goliath that was going to stand in my way. I just kept my eyes on the prize, to finally hold that baby in my arms. But things continued to go downhill from there.
Before I knew it, the cysts had gotten so big that I needed to get surgery to remove them because medication could no longer make them smaller. By that time, I felt pretty defeated. I couldn’t understand why this was happening. And the problem with infertility is that time isn’t on your side. The older you get, the less your chances of actually conceiving. I had no choice but to allow my doctor to cut into my stomach and cut the cysts out, and it was scary as hell. And that wouldn’t be the only time either.
And the problem with infertility is that time isn’t on your side. The older you get, the less your chances of actually conceiving.
Healing from my first surgery took a couple of months, but it also felt like a new beginning. It was a clean slate. I thought “Okay this time around for sure, I’m finally going to get pregnant!” So with major anticipation, we started the whole process over again--taking medicine to grow follicles, inject medicine to force ovulation, attempt to get pregnant, and so on. But rather than conceive, I just grew more cysts. Again, the cysts would become too big so I’d have to manage them with medicine that would put me in menopause, with all the side-effects too. Then once again, I’d need surgery because the meds weren’t enough. Over and over again this cycle would occur, and over and over again I would get a negative result from every pregnancy test I took. I actually began to hate those little plastic tests that could manage to break my heart in a span of just three tiny minutes.
He looked straight into my eyes and told me that I would never get pregnant in my life. N E V E R. That’s the word he used. He said it with such finality that I kind of believed him too.
This became our new normal. It was always bad news. It was always something else that would go wrong, a test that would come back negative or I’d need another procedure or another surgery. I felt utterly helpless. I would go through days where I was so determined that everything would finally work, then I would fall into a pit of sadness and desperation, thinking it’s never going to happen. And the worst part about it was, it was all my fault. I was the reason why we couldn’t have babies, why my husband was being robbed of giving our child the love he so obviously had to share. Plus it was even harder when we’d attend events or gatherings. People would ask us, “When are you going to have kids? You’ve been married for so long!” And I learned to smile through the pain because there was nothing else I could do.
I actually began to hate those little plastic tests that could manage to break my heart in a span of just three tiny minutes.
As time passed, doctor’s visits became more about watching if the endometriosis was growing rather than if I was fertile that month. The doctor began checking for blockages in my fallopian tubes by doing hysterosalpingograms, which led us to find out that my right tube was completely blocked due to the endometriosis. I even started trying eastern medication. I was willing to do everything humanly possible to get pregnant. I thought if maybe, just maybe, if I tried something new it would finally happen! I visited a well-respected iridologist only to have my hopes shattered in a single second. He looked straight into my eyes and told me that I would never get pregnant in my life. N E V E R. That’s the word he used. He said it with such finality that I kind of believed him too. He broke my heart into a million little pieces that day and I thought, how am I supposed to pick up all those shattered parts now scattered on his floor? How do I pick myself up from this pain again? I was so tired already. And I was so angry. I was so sad. But most of all, I was so sick of hearing bad news, yet I was so desperate to make it happen.
Eventually, the endometriosis got so bad I wasn’t even allowed to lean over or squat for fear that the biggest cyst would suddenly burst. I was on painkillers almost every day too. It was depressing. But while my mind was falling into fear, pain, anger, loss, frustration and sadness, my heart always knew deep down inside that I was going to be a mom. I knew I was meant to have my own baby, to carry it in my womb, give birth to it, and that it would be 100% mine and Chris’. I also felt like that longing I had inside couldn’t be just me. I knew God was faithful, and He was going to answer my prayers one day. I could feel it in the deepest part of me.
People would ask us, “When are you going to have kids? You’ve been married for so long!” And I learned to smile through the pain because there was nothing else I could do.
Unfortunately, things got even worse. Right before my last laparotomy surgery, my OB-GYN called me to ask if she had permission to remove both my fallopian tubes because of the clotting. I begged her, “Please just save one!” I didn’t have kids yet, and she was going to leave me with no chance to have one without IVF?! My heart couldn’t take it. Amazingly, she did save one but had to remove the other, yet I’m still so incredibly grateful for that. But of course, we still had such a long way to go.
About 3 months after my last surgery, we delved into the idea of IVF. All the doctors we had met in Manila at the time were so expensive, so we looked for an alternative. We heard about Dr. Lee in Taichung in Taiwan and spoke to a couple that had a successful pregnancy with twins! Mind you, it was their 4th try, but it was positive which is what my husband and I focused on. So along with my mom, in April of 2007, we moved to Taiwan for a month in the hopes that we would finally have that baby we wanted so badly. It was crazy to think that we were willing to go to another country where we didn’t know anyone, a place where no one spoke English, not even the doctor! We were basically stuck in a hotel room for 30 days with bad television, eating most of our meals inside, with hardly any entertainment to keep us busy. Our only excitement was the 7-minute walk we would go on each day as we headed to the doctor’s office where I would get pricked and prodded by a doctor who couldn’t explain anything. The entire clinic felt like such a baby-making factory where you were just another number in line, another faceless couple praying that you would finally have that baby you wanted for so long.
It was crazy to think that we were willing to go to another country where we didn’t know anyone, a place where no one spoke English, not even the doctor!
But lo and behold, that baby didn’t come that year. And after suffering the pain of my first failed IVF, I allowed myself to mourn for just a bit before deciding that I needed to go back for the second one. Just a few months later, I was back on a plane headed to Taichung all by myself because I refused to accept that even IVF wouldn’t work. Chris followed two weeks later when they needed him, and once again, we prayed that this time it would finally happen. We had invested so much, prayed so much, believed so much, it had to work, right? But of course, it failed again. The baby didn’t come that year. It didn’t come in 2008 or 2009 or early 2010 either. It had been about 8 years, and it felt like we were getting further and further away from our dream.
We were drained. Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, basically everything was suffering in one way or another. It began to feel impossible. After the 2nd failed IVF, we went to see an immunologist only to find out that all my blood levels were basically in the worst possible way. My body was probably doing spontaneous abortions where, IF I was getting pregnant this whole time, my body was killing the embryo before it even had a chance to grow. Again, we were devastated. I remember feeling cheated… totally cheated after everything we had done.
My body was probably doing spontaneous abortions where, IF I was getting pregnant this whole time, my body was killing the embryo before it even had a chance to grow. Again, we were devastated.
At the same time, I saw so many of my friends and family get pregnant before me. I was happy for them, but each time I would find out, I would go inside the bathroom and cry because I didn’t want anyone to see me, but I just couldn’t stop the tears. I would shed deep and heavy tears for the baby I yearned for so much. I wanted to know, when was it going to be my turn? When were we going to be able to share our happy pregnancy news? Didn’t I deserve it? What did I do wrong? I even thought to myself at the time, was I living out some sort of karma from a past life? It was heart wrenching. I felt like such a failure as a wife and as a woman. But it also gave me the strength and resolve to continue, so I soldiered on.
After speaking to our immunologist, we were told that I needed to start LIT treatments. And for one single treatment, they would take 12 vials of my husband’s blood and separate the red and white blood cells. Then, they would inject the white blood cells into the upper layer of skin in my arm so I could “recognize” Chris and not try to kill everything that was “his.” We did this around 12 times, and my husband never complained, not once. Sometimes they couldn’t get all 12 vials from one arm in one sitting, so they’d have to transfer to the other arm. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. It was selfless, but then isn’t that what parents are supposed to be like for their children? He was already being so selfless for a baby we didn’t even have yet. But then again he wanted it just as much as I did. We were totally in sync when it came to having this baby--and I needed that to go on, considering that all the fertility issues were because of me.
Mind you, even after we finished the necessary LIT treatments, my levels did improve but I still didn’t get pregnant. Our 3rd IVF failed, and it felt like it was never going to happen. By that time, I already had 11 embryos - that was 11 babies that had been formed and put in my womb that would never grow. To me, they were all my little possibilities, tiny reminders of the life we wanted so much. But sadly, they never even had a chance to live.
I already had 11 embryos - that was 11 babies that had been formed and put in my womb that would never grow.
After so many failed attempts with such weak eggs, my doctor told me that maybe it was time to think about different options. She told me that maybe I needed a surrogate or a donor egg, and that I should ask my sister if she was willing to give me one of hers. Of course, my amazing and selfless sister said yes, and despite how grateful I was, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I wanted this baby to be half me, half Chris. And at that time I wasn’t willing to accept anything else.
We finally decided that maybe we needed to go to another IVF doctor, maybe we needed a different perspective, a pair of fresh eyes that might figure something out, another way to make it work. And so the search began once more. Not too long after we started looking for someone new, we were able to find the most amazing IVF doctor we could have ever asked for. Dr. Anthony Ancheta was God-given in my eyes. He was kind, understanding, caring, funny, and hopeful, and I think that’s what I appreciated the most. For some reason, this time felt different from the get go. This time around, I literally gave it all up to God and I stopped trying to control things. I just told God, “Lord, it’s up to you! I lift it all up to you!” and that’s when everything changed. And the best thing about our 4th IVF was that we were home, surrounded by family and friends. It finally felt like our time, and we were finally going to have our happily ever after. On October 30, 2010, we got the news that I was finally pregnant. From the four embryos they transferred this last time, I got pregnant with one baby. Funny, but I knew exactly which embryo it was too. During an embryo transfer, you can see the doctor putting them into your uterus, and from the four, Lucia was the most developed one. When it comes to IVF, you’re supposed to do the transfer after 5 days of the embryo forming, when it’s in the blastocyst stage. This is when a formed embryo attaches to your uterine wall. But my eggs were always too weak so we always had to put them in early because if not, they wouldn’t survive. Of all the IVFs we did, this was the first and only time that I saw one of the embryos form further along than before, and I put all my hopes on that one tiny embryo.
Finally, it happened! It was our turn to be pregnant. We were ecstatic, yet it also felt so surreal. Every day was filled with gratefulness and apprehension, but God saw me through.
Finally, it happened! It was our turn to be pregnant. We were ecstatic, yet it also felt so surreal. Every day was filled with gratefulness and apprehension, but God saw me through. Thankfully, my pregnancy was pretty uneventful and smooth, and moreover, it was filled with laughter, a little bit of anxiety but mostly with thanks. Finally, on June 24, 2011, our daughter was born via C-section and she was absolutely perfect, all 7 pounds and 2 ounces of her! She was the epitome of love, trust, and God’s utter faithfulness, and as cliché as it sounds, she changed our lives forever.
We aptly named her “Stella Lucia,” because she is our Star Light. This miracle baby is our bringer of hope, our vessel of faith, our symbol of unwavering perseverance in what seemed like a never-ending string of sorrow. She was a promise fulfilled and my testimony, as well as the testimony of every single person who went through our infertility journey with us, who prayed with us, fought with us, cried with us, and never gave up with us.
We aptly named her “Stella Lucia,” because she is our Star Light. This miracle baby is our bringer of hope, our vessel of faith, our symbol of unwavering perseverance in what seemed like a never-ending string of sorrow.
During the entire time of this crazy journey, I held on to the verse Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” And boy, did He battle for me! I’ve always said that half the battle is being able to truly fight for your dreams and remember that God will answer. Not always in the way we think He should, but in His own perfect way. Lucia wasn’t the only miracle we experienced either. About two months before Lucia turned 4, I gave birth to my son, Alvaro Jacobo. He was another miracle conceived naturally from that one fallopian tube that my other doctor had saved. But well, that’s a whole other story ;)
Nicole Guidotti started an Instagram account in the hopes to help and encourage others going through their own infertility struggles. Follow her at @theovaryobstacles