It is still a little surreal writing out the title to this blog post. Yes, that’s right! Baby Farr is on the way! We recently shared our news publicly – and by that I mean on my blog’s Instagram and on Facebook and we had previously shared it with close friends and family. But there are a handful of people who have known the full story. I never spoke about it on social media until recently when I shared a Reel on Instagram that gave the speediest SparkNotes version of our story possible, but recently I have found myself wanting to write our whole experience out. In some ways, it mirrors what millions of other couples go through – that dreaded word…infertility. And in other ways we encountered some things that we could’ve never seen coming. I find myself wanting to share about our experience for a few reasons. First, it gave me great comfort to read others’ stories since it made me feel less alone. Everyone’s infertility story is so vastly different and there are so many variables involved, so reading what others had walked through before me gave me a lot of strength that I didn’t always know I needed. And in that spirit, I’m hoping that sharing my story will do the same for other women who might also right now be dealing with what I did and, like me, draw strength from the experiences of others and the knowledge that they’re not alone. Second, I have never been one to journal or keep diaries. In some ways my blog has been able to offer a way of chronicling things and moments in my life that I might not otherwise have. I want to write this all down and perhaps one day come back here to read my own words or share this story – the specifics of which I’m sure will fade in my memory over time – with our little one.
And lastly, as I sit here writing this I’m so fully aware of the little life inside of me. There are so many moments where I just stop and marvel at this precious baby who beat all the odds and surprised even me by hanging in there, continuing to grow, continuing to thrive. When I see this baby on ultrasounds, happily kicking and squirming around I am absolutely overwhelmed by so many emotions, the greatest of which is pride. I am so proud of what we have been able to accomplish together. It took a LOT of work to get here. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, all of it. But, God. And here is this beautiful tiny life growing in my belly. Every day I think about what it took to get here and how PROUD I am. It might surprise you after reading these sentiments, but I have never been the maternal type. I wasn’t the little girl who dreamed of being a mommy. And in college when other girls wanted a husband and babies, I was busy achieving one crazy thing after another. I’ve stacked on academic achievement after academic achievement, completing multiple degrees and certifications in international relations, international law and nuclear security. I’ve had multiple careers already by the age of 31. I started from the bottom wrung and worked my way up to a managerial role of a multi-million dollar legislative bill tracking service by the age of 24. I ran for office and won, serving in my state’s House of Representatives, authoring and passing landmark legislation to bring billions of dollars into my state’s economy through bolstering our aerospace sector. I had a minor setback during politics, matured at a much quicker rate than I would have had I not made the mistakes I did, spent some time contemplating what I really wanted out of life and switched career tracks to what I now consider my DREAM job working to eradicate the water crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa. I traveled solo, spending a summer in South Africa working at a center for refugees. I traveled with friends. After meeting the kindest, most gentle, patient, caring and worthy man and marrying him, I traveled the world with him too. I got the absolute most out of life…or so I thought. After marrying the man I’m convinced God specifically put on this planet to love me, my mindset on kids started to change because I knew that I now wanted them with him. I wanted those Christmas mornings with tousled-hair kids in their footie pajamas running down the stairs to see what Santa brought them. I wanted the Sunday lunches around a crowded table. I saw it all, but only with Adam and not as a replacement for the life I was living, but as a complement to it. And I wanted it badly. We were in Mérida, Mexico when we decided to start trying. It was January at the time, a great time of year to begin something new. And I naively thought we’d be pregnant within a few months, having come from a strangely super-fertile family. But as the months passed by and continued passing by, it began to become obvious to me that something was wrong.
We spent that first year trying naturally – and by that I don’t mean just living our life and having fun without any form of birth control, I also mean that we were tracking ovulation and being very intentional with timing and scheduling. But after a whole year of no success, we were proactive and sought help. After being told we’d have to wait several months for an opening at the infertility clinic we wanted, we got super lucky with a random cancellation and opening in January, so again we got to start a new journey at the beginning of our second year of trying. We did all of the initial consultations, blood labs, examinations, analyses, etc. and after a few months of getting all of that out of the way, our (very frustrating) short answer was that we had “unexplained infertility.” If you’re not familiar with that term, it basically means that there was nothing that they could find that gave them an answer as to why we couldn’t conceive. Adam was totally fine and I didn’t have PCOS, endometriosis, cysts, fibroids, or anything else. It was just…unexplained. Except for one tiny little issue that at first was just a question mark, but eventually became a huge discovery. At the risk of being a little TMI…when you go through infertility, there are *a lot* of ultrasounds that are done. And I don’t mean the belly kind. If you catch my drift. And through a series of these, my right ovary never appeared. At first, my doctor assumed it hung a little higher and therefore was not visible on ultrasound or there was a bowel or other organ obscuring a view of it. But as we did more and more ultrasounds and the right ovary was never visible no matter how, um, aggressive the ultrasound got to find it, we began to have more serious conversations about it. I remember the day my doctor finally just looked at me and said, “Ok. This right ovary is still not visible which is highly unusual this many times in a row. From your medical charts, I know you had an appendectomy previously. Was your ovary removed at that point?”
Imagine my surprise. Honestly, at first I laughed at him. Of course it wasn’t removed. I was 10 years old when I had my appendix removed during an emergency appendectomy. I was very, very sick and my dad – who is a doctor – was out of town at the time so no one knew to take me in. Eventually on day three of me puking my guts up and complaining of severe abdominal pain on my side, my family loaded me up in the car and took me to the ER…where they promptly explained we needed to get to the OR stat or my appendix would rupture. Having a doctor as a dad is a double-edged sword because while it’s great getting all of your medical attention at home, it becomes normal practice to never actually go to the hospital. I actually can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve gone to the hospital for myself. I didn’t even go when I had swine flu, people. So anyway, I literally “toughed it out” to the point where it almost killed me and thank God we went to the hospital when we did. But what was I saying? Oh yeah, my ovary. So here I was, 10 years old having an emergency surgery to remove my appendix. The surgery – as we were told at the time – went well and we were sent home after a few days of recovery. And we never really thought about it again. AKA we were clearly not told anything at the time. No, they wouldn’t have sought consent to remove an ovary from myself, a minor, but they would have gotten that consent from my mother or would have relayed the results of the surgery had they included a removal of reproductive organs as a result of some kind of complication. But no, none of that happened. So I laughed at my doctor and told him no way that had happened. But I got in my car after that appointment a little perplexed. Could it have happened? Why else was it just not in there? There was a little nagging thing in my head that kept thinking about my appendectomy scar. I’m not sure how familiar you are with appendectomy scars – I’m assuming you’re probably a little familiar. This is not an uncommon surgery. A simple Google search told me that 300,000 Americans have their appendix removed annually. Not exactly a rare procedure. Chances are that if you haven’t had the surgery yourself, you know plenty of people that have. Most appendectomy scars are very small, thin white lines on the right side of the abdomen that are barely detectable, some are three dots that make a triangle – also not noticeable – and some are done laparoscopically through the belly button with no scar at all. Growing up, I had friends that had any number of these scars. And then there was mine. The way to best describe it to you is that it looks like a Mexican drinking worm. It is – and I’m not exaggerating – about 6 inches long, raised from the skin and very puckered in places and is purplish red in color. If I wear a tight dress or shirt, you will see it under my clothes. As a pre-teen/teen I was super self-conscious about it, as you would be, and hated wearing swimsuits. I mean, when I say it’s obvious, I really truly mean it. I eventually stopped caring that it was there and mostly forgot that it even existed. But as I sat in the car that day with that nagging feeling in the back of my head thinking about my scar, I lifted my shirt and examined it once more. Why was it so large and why did it look so different from everyone else’s? Could a doctor really have removed one of my reproductive organs that day and not informed my family? More importantly, WOULD he have?
It remained a question mark for the rest of that year. Every time I would go in and we would do another ultrasound, that dang thing never showed up. But we didn’t have proof of anything. The closest we got was when I did an HSG (Hysterosalpingography), which is a test to see if your fallopian tubes are blocked. It also shows the shape of the uterus. During this procedure, you’re watching what is happening inside of you on a screen so I am witness to this. A dye is injected into your uterus, which fills up and then the dye goes to your fallopian tubes and spills out the ends. We watched as my uterus filled up with dye (very painful by the way), the dye went to the left fallopian tube, ran through it and spilled out at the end. But on the right side, the dye traveled up and appeared to spill out at the very top. On the screen, it looked like there was a little nub on the right side that the dye had gone to and immediately spilled out of. I’ll never forget my doctor seeing that, looking at me and then saying, “I don’t want to say anything for sure, but it appears to me like your fallopian tube has been severed at the top.” Countless phone calls with my dad occurred around this time. We went back and forth and back and forth on what could have happened. At the time of that surgery, he was a surgeon in the same hospital but like I said he had been out of town for the surgery. He shared with me that after he got back into town, because his little girl had had surgery when he was gone and he needed all of the information, he had actually gotten his hands on the operation report and the pathology report. The operation report states everything that happened in the operating room and the pathology report states everything that was taken out of the body and sent to the pathologist. Both reports did not mention an ovary and/or fallopian tube. So, clearly, my dad did not believe that his had happened. But at this point, I was convinced, even if my confusion over the whole ordeal was compounded by the fact that the medical team had clearly lied on the reports. I sent a picture of my scar to a friend of mine who is a nurse and she showed it to a surgeon at her hospital who agreed that based on the size of it, it would have been entirely possible to remove an appendix and be able to reach the ovary. My doctor and I had also concluded that I wasn’t born without it. Like I said, the HSG shows you the shape of your uterus. When a woman is born without an ovary, that side of the uterus is also misshapen. But mine was not. And there was evidence of a severed tube. So…at this point we knew that the ovary was not there, we highly suspected that it had been robbed from my body, but we couldn’t prove it quite yet so we moved on from the ovary conversation.
When trying to conceive naturally, women with one ovary are disadvantaged by 20%. When undergoing infertility procedures for a reason that cannot even be explained and then discovering that you’re operating with only one ovary, that percentage increases but we didn’t know by how much. We just knew it was another hurdle that we were bound and determined to overcome. It’s not easy to go through any kind of infertility journey, much less when you discover for the first time, in your 30’s, that a disgusting skeezeball surgeon removed your reproductive organ and likely threw it in the trash since it didn’t find its way to pathology. It was a massive emotional setback for me. I desperately wanted to start a family with Adam and not only was my body failing me, but I had also been unfairly put at a disadvantage by an egregious medical malpractice as a 10 year old child.
Over the course of that second year of trying, and after getting all of the initial assessments (and discoveries) out of the way, we began our first procedures. Our doctor was very optimistic for our chances and suggested, as most do, that we start with IUIs before jumping into IVF. For those unfamiliar, IUI procedures are very simple but in the right people can be highly effective and have resulted in successful pregnancies for a lot of families. TMI again, but it’s just strategic placement of your partner’s, ahem…sample, in the uterus after closely monitoring the woman’s cycle, manipulating it with medication and timing when ovulation will occur and eggs will drop, aided by an HCG trigger shot that helps to release mature eggs. We did our first IUI and we were so excited. The two week wait was hard but we were looking so forward to the day we could take that pregnancy test because we just knew for sure it was going to be positive. Two days before we were supposed to test, on Easter morning in quarantine of 2020, I woke up to my period. We were broken hearted. We went ahead and watched Easter church service online and cooked our Easter lunch together, but then we just sat at the table trying to eat it but mostly crying together and asking God, “Why?” It was a hard hit. But we went back to our clinic and we started a second round. The medication I was taking, Clomid, started to have a negative effect on me. Whereas I’m usually very pragmatic and unemotional, everything triggered an emotional response on these pills. I got just about every negative side effect including the super rare ones…like visual hallucinations. Yeah, that happened. But we tracked on. And the second IUI procedure failed as well. I tried not to get angry at my body, tried not to blame myself, tried to stay optimistic, succeeded in not becoming bitter and becoming the girl that felt anger when I saw pregnancy announcements. I was heartbroken for us, but it didn’t make me angry at others. We pressed forward. Our doctor, still optimistic, encouraged a third IUI. We thought hey, the more rounds you do the higher the odds! And we did another round. It was not successful. Another year had passed us by.
After our third failure with IUI, our doctor switched gears. It was time to step it up. We had spent more than $750 on each round of IUI, but that was nothing compared to the cost we would face with IVF. The cost alone is mainly why reproductive endocrinologists suggest IUI before IVF on the chance that IUI is successful. It saves you the cost, and as we were to find out, a large physical toll on the body. IVF can cost upwards of $20,000, a singular fact alone that made me wildly emotional. Adam and I are financially blessed to have spent all we did on our infertility procedures but there are so many couples who want children just as much as we do, and they cannot afford to seek medical help. It is a fact that is not lost on me. I am privileged, blessed and so thankful.
Sticking with the theme of beginning new ventures at the beginning of each new year, we began our IVF journey in January of our third year of trying to conceive. I honestly was not prepared for what would lie ahead. I knew others that had done IVF and their experiences seemed simple enough. But me? Oh no no no. Of course it couldn’t be simple for me. The medication for the egg retrieval portion of IVF is serious business – three shots in the belly daily and one shot in the butt cheek. These medications are packed with hard hitting hormones and a lot of stimulants. Some people react just fine to them. And some develop Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome. I was one of those unfortunate souls. To be fair, my one ovary was taking on the level of medication that other women take with two ovaries and that’s my theory for why this happened to me. But my body reacted STRONGLY to the medication. My little left ovary, normally the size of a peach pit, swelled to the size of a GRAPEFRUIT and was producing so much excess liquid that I swelled to the point where I looked like I was 5 months pregnant. And the swelling was heavy. It felt like there was a bowling ball and a half in my stomach, no exaggeration. I was on bed rest for over two weeks and to get out of bed to take the shots or go to the bathroom, I had to physically hold my stomach in both arms it was so heavy. The medication also made me really sick. Projectile vomiting sick. To put it simply: I was miserable. By the time the day of my egg retrieval came along, I could barely walk and I looked like death on a stick. To go through all of that, which spanned the entire month and took me completely out of commission, I was at least hoping for a really great outcome. And if I’m being honest, it wasn’t a great outcome. They were able to retrieve 22 eggs which I thought was fantastic – my one little ovary was working overtime and had done a great job. But of those 22 eggs, when mixed with Adam’s um, sample, it turned out that the majority of them were not viable. We ultimately wound up with only 5 embryos. A few days after the egg retrieval, when I still felt like I was on my death bed and I was still super swollen, and after waffling a bit on if we should go forward with a transfer when I was so sick, my doctor made the executive decision to go forward with our first IVF and a fresh embryo that had just been created days before was transferred to my uterus. The rest were frozen.
After a couple of days, when my swelling went down and I started feeling more like myself, I started to finally feel the excitement of having done our first IVF. Chances of success with IVF are a lot higher than with IUI. I couldn’t believe that an embryo was inside of me! I kept thinking about how those embryos all already had their own DNA. They each had hair color, eye color and more. They were the epitome of possibility in one microscopic embryo. I just had to wait and see if it would implant – and I so naively assumed it would. The IVF transfer process is so specific. They even map it out beforehand, planning a route through your cervix and to your uterus, finding the most optimal position to put the embryo so it has the highest chance of sticking. We waited our two weeks and the day finally came to test. With IVF, testing is a little different. You go in to your clinic where they take a blood sample that they test and then they call later that day and let you know the outcome. Some women go ahead and take at home tests, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to go by the book, even if finding out by phone call was the way it had to go down. I went in for my blood test that day and then anxiously watched my phone for the rest of the day until I finally got that call. After mispronouncing my name, the lowered the hammer. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t the news were were hoping for. You aren’t pregnant.” And cue the sucker punch to my gut. I had just gone through a horrible month, I had forced my body to endure a lot of sickness and pain and every single day when I waddled into the bathroom to give myself more injections, I would cry through all of them knowing that with every injection of more medication, I was making my body sicker and sicker. But I wasn’t pregnant. My body had failed me again. I couldn’t hold on to that precious embryo. I let myself go to some dark places at first, berating myself and crying out to God…wondering who that embryo would have been if it had just been given a chance to live in someone else’s body that could hold on to it. But I decided to try again. And this time, I really meant business. I completely changed my lifestyle. I finally called a therapist and started going to therapy once a week, ceaselessly working out the built up trauma in my life and healing a lot of wounds, both old and new. I thought if I could work on my brain and my mind, it would help. I wanted a healthy everything. I went to a hormone specialist who ran some labs and got me on the right vitamins and supplements that I needed. After what happened to me in politics, she discovered that my cortisol levels had been so used to being elevated (lots of fight or flight responses back in those days, people) that they had stayed permanently elevated and my body was in a constant state of panic. That was a huge breakthrough for me. And I was able to regulate my body back to normal with the right vitamins and supplements. But pairing that with therapy wasn’t enough. I continued on. I made a lifestyle change with my diet and exercise as well. I began tracking my macros and eating very specific nutrition, specifically very high protein. I worked out diligently and without relent 5-6 times a week. I did my normal cardio with spin classes, but I started training with lifting weights too. Strong body. Strong mind. Strong everything. I set myself up for success and after taking several months to re-center and focus on me…I was ready to try again and I knew this time would be different.
In July, we went back to our clinic for a second IVF. We transferred one of our frozen embryos. You can probably imagine the outcome. I got the same phone call. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t the news were were hoping for. You aren’t pregnant.” And I’ll be honest, friends, that was my breaking point. A year of trying, 3 failed IUIs in year two, 2 failed IVFs and doing everything under the sun to better myself in year three. But my body still failed me. Up to this point I had been disappointed but I had carried on. And now I just wanted to crawl into a hole and tap out. I called Adam to tell him the news and I just remember sobbing in to the phone, pleading with him to “forgive” me and continuously telling him I was sorry that I was broken. I still have tears in my eyes remembering the pain I felt. My sweet, adoring, loving husband who did not at all blame me for one second had to listen to me begging for forgiveness in one of my biggest moments of mental weakness that he couldn’t do a thing to help. He couldn’t take away that pain. And worse still, he felt that pain with me. Adam was hurting just as much as I was. And even though I desperately wanted to throw in the towel, we decided to continue pressing forward. We took one month off and then went straight into a third cycle. This time, the optimism was greatly diminished. I even told my friends I felt silly for believing we should try again, that I felt like a fool. We decided we didn’t want to do the same thing expecting a different outcome and that we wanted to add in some new variables. Our doctor agreed and so we added in a new medication and we decided to transfer two embryos. Remember, we only had three left. On the day of the IVF frozen embryo transfer, when we went in for the procedure, our doctor informed us that when they thawed two embryos one had not survived the thaw so they had to thaw our fifth and final embryo. We transferred both that day and I left absolutely convinced this would be our third IVF failure and I was staring down the barrel of another egg retrieval, the same misery I had just gone through just a handful of months earlier. I became very unattached from this transfer and didn’t even think about it – to the point where I consistently forgot and missed my medications and took my shots later than I was supposed to. I did everything wrong this round.
On the Tuesday of the week that I was to go in for my blood lab test to see if I was pregnant, something changed. My bitterness and doubt melted away. We were at the Oklahoma State Fair with friends and as I walked around, taking in the crisp September air and drinking my miniature jug of root beer (a yearly favorite), I *felt* something. I’ll never be able to explain this but I felt something change in me that day. I knew I was pregnant. I had every intention of waiting until Friday for my blood test like I always had before. But….I didn’t do it. On Thursday of that week, I went home from work and I immediately peed on a stick. I left it turned over so I couldn’t see the result, and I actually set up a camera to record my reaction just in case I was right. I turned on my video and I turned over the digital pregnancy test.
It said Pregnant.
I have been shocked before in my life, but nothing will ever compare to the shock that ran through my body in that moment. I was pregnant. HOW WAS I PREGNANT?! My eyes flooded with tears and I cried OUT to GOD! Thank you, thank you, thank you God.
Over the course of the next several weeks, we found out that both embryos had stuck. But, unfortunately, in as much time as it took for us to find out we were having twins, it took just about that same amount of time to learn that we had lost one of them. We had what is called a vanishing twin. We estimate that it grew until about the eight or nine week mark and then, for a reason that I don’t know but I trust God does, we lost that second baby and my body and the twin’s body slowly reabsorbed it. I experienced the grief of loss you’d imagine a woman would feel in this position, but it was one of the strangest emotions of my life to know that I needed to accept and grieve that loss while at the same time experience such distinct and overflowing joy over the baby that was and is so happily thriving. It may be too supernatural to be real, but I secretly hope that there will be times I will see flashes of the twin in our baby. A glimpse of a soul I would have been privileged to mother alongside their sibling.
I’ll never in my life know what made this procedure successful and in some ways, I’m okay knowing that I’ll never know or understand it. All I know is that it is now 12 weeks later, I am officially out of the riskiest portion of pregnancy (a specifically torturous wait for someone who has experienced nothing but failure in the past and who lost one of the two) and this miracle baby is still kicking its beautiful little legs, developing its precious organs and features and continuing to grow every day. We got to this point together, this little baby and I did. We will always share a battle that was not easily won, but as it turns out this baby is quite the little fighter and it has every intention of taking this world by storm. And I can’t wait to be there to witness all of it. We are immeasurably blessed.
I fought like hell to get you here, little one. Your daddy and I can’t wait to meet you. You are and always will be, so loved. Beyond anything I have ever comprehended or understood in my life…I know this much to be true.
Three years. Six procedures. One hundred and thirteen injections. And I’d do it all over again.