Our Family's Reciprocal IVF Journey
By Christina Bailey
It was 2012. Girl meets girl through an online dating website. We were so embarrassed to tell anyone we met online that it wasn’t until 2016 we finally came out with the truth. The first time we met was at a park by my house. I walked over there after I finished work at a restaurant in town. I made her a milkshake before I got off of work to bring with me to the park. I wasn’t sure if there was chemistry at first when I walked up to her carrying a milkshake but by our next meeting, I knew Katie was the one. She showed up with flowers on my doorstep and that’s when I knew, this was the girl I was going to be with forever. After that, our weekends were spent taking turns driving an hour back and forth to each other’s houses.
After we met, we just couldn’t stop seeing each other. One date led to another. Everything just clicked right into place. We were married about a year after meeting each other. We moved in together. We started to save money for our future. In 2015 we bought our first house. It was time to start our family.
Katie and I started our Reciprocal IVF journey thinking we would make our dreams become a reality. I had always wanted to have kids but Katie didn’t want kids until she met me. She told me she wanted to carry my egg so we could both be a part of the process of making our family. We agreed this would be the best way for us to have children.
After our first IVF appointment, we already had in mind what we wanted. We wanted to implant two embryos and we hoped to have two babies. We also wanted to implant two embryos because it raised our chances that at least one would take. We never imagined implanting two embryos would cause problems later in our journey.
Our first round of IVF was exhilarating. We were so excited during the entire process. The day we received all our shots in the mail was like Christmas morning. We couldn’t wait to get started. It’s a long process of medications to create embryos ready to implant. I mapped out who had what shot on what day and if we were supposed to take it in the morning or evening. In the beginning, it was mostly me who did the all the shots. This prepared my body for an egg retrieval.
Meanwhile, we started looking for a sperm donor online. This took us several days. It’s hard to pick someone that will play a genetic role in your child’s life. We tried to find someone who resembled Katie as much as possible but also had similar interests. This sounds easier said than done.
The day of egg retrieval was terrible. My body was in so much pain. I was told many women feel moderate pain, but of course I felt intense cramping. The pain continued after my surgery. It hurt to stand up, walk, and go the bathroom. I wasn’t focused on the pain though. All we could focus on was a phone call to see how our eggs fertilized. We were told we wouldn’t get a phone call until the following morning. However, Katie got a phone call from the embryologist later that day who asked if he had permission to open our second vial of sperm. The eggs weren’t fertilizing and he wanted to try the second vial. We both went into panic. What if our eggs didn’t fertilize? What if our dreams were crushed? The dreams of us holding a little boy and girl in the hospital vanished from my head. My heart sunk. We were left wondering what happened until the following morning.
The next morning we got the phone call. Out of the 13 eggs that had been retrieved, only 2 had survived. The embryologist had to perform rescue ICSI on the two remaining eggs and hoped they would fertilize. He informed us of the low percentage of eggs that survive this procedure so late after retrieval. Immediately after our phone call, we started searching the internet for any information we could on surviving embryos from this procedure. We found more sad stories than happy ones. We hoped these two embryos would be our miracle babies and our dream could still come true.
The following day, we got the news we didn’t want. One of our eggs didn’t make it. We still held onto hope for our last remaining egg. I was still giving Katie shots of progesterone each night preparing her body for our embryo. Every night we went to bed wondering what would happen tomorrow. This process had lost its excitement.
Sadly, we got the phone call that our last egg didn’t make it. The news was devastating. Day after day we had been holding out hope that we could still have a healthy baby from this procedure. We were left feeling empty inside. We broke down crying on each other after we got that last phone call. We didn’t know what to do. All we could do was cry. I don’t know how many hours I spent crying. I tried to not show how depressed I was and tried to get all my crying out during the day while Katie worked. My body felt weak from being depressed.
I turned to the internet for answers again. I came across another option, embryo adoption.
Embryo adoption seemed like it could be the choice for us. What I liked about embryo adoption was that we could get 3 embryos and we could get our money back if it didn’t succeed in a pregnancy (if your health/age/history qualified, which we did). Unfortunately, this process is so expensive that money played an important role. We would have to borrow money to even do this procedure. We also considered that Katie’s body was ready for an embryo. We were still doing progesterone injections each night, not sure of our next decision. Our time was running out and we needed to make a choice. This could be our answer.
We moved along with the process of embryo adoption. We signed papers. We went back to our clinic for implantation. That morning we sat in the waiting room of our clinic. We weren’t smiling. We sat, staring at other couples in the waiting room wondering why they could have their dream and we couldn’t. Our names were called and we walked back to our exam room. We sat, waiting. We didn’t even speak to each other. We were both consumed with our thoughts. Our nurse walked in. She was our nurse from our previous procedure and wanted to be with us during implantation. We had grown close with her and she was as devastated as we were when our first round of IVF failed. As soon as she walked in, I burst into tears and she hugged me. I looked over and Katie was crying too. This was supposed to be a happy day so why were we both so sad? After talking with our nurse who consoled us, we decided not to pursue embryo adoption and to try IVF one more time.
We tried to stay positive but this time we were cautious more than ever. Katie looked to the internet for support. She found many blogs about IVF and other fertility stories. We both found this helpful. Hearing from other people who have gone through what we went through was comforting. They had success, and we would, too. We looked into more details when it came to a sperm donor. After we narrowed our decision down to three donors, we found out as much information as we could from the company about success rates, complaints, and age at time of donation. We were going to choose the right donor this time. The last donor we chose had problems during fertilization. This would not happen to us again.
We did the same needle routine. We prepped our bodies with shots. Egg retrieval day came again. I was in pain, again. After, we waited for that phone call the following morning, again. We were relieved when we didn’t get a phone call the day of egg retrieval as we did during our first round of IVF. The next morning, the embryologist called with great news. 18 eggs were retrieved, 9 went through ICSI the day of retrieval while the other 9 were left for regular fertilization. In the end, 11 embryos were fertilized! Two of those embryos were grade A embryos. The embryologist rarely gives out an A on embryos but he said these two looked fantastic.
Embryo transfer day was so exciting. It was like Christmas again and we could celebrate! We sat anxiously in the exam room eager to have our two embryos implanted. We watched the ultrasound screen as these two little flickers of light were implanted into Katie.
Just as we had our minds filled with excitement again, we were faced with turmoil. Our second embryo miscarried. It was a morning I would never forget. Katie panicking and crying in the bathroom with blood all over the floor. I tried to stay strong as I cleaned the floor hoping that we didn’t lose both babies. We were able to get an appointment with our IVF clinic that afternoon. The work day dragged on, followed by an hour and half drive to our clinic that seemed to take forever. What a relief it was to hear our one baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound. The huge blood clot we saw on the ultrasound sitting next to our tiny baby was terrifying. Our baby was still so small and the blood clot was four times the size of the baby. We were told the blood clot could take over the baby and end the pregnancy. It was unlikely our baby would survive.
However, time passed and eventually the day came where our pregnancy had progressed enough to transfer to an OBGYN and graduate from our fertility clinic. That was an exciting day, but we tried not to get too excited. We knew the risk of losing our baby was still there. Yet, we had gotten far enough along to transfer to another doctor. It was hard to not feel a little bit of happiness.
Luckily, our baby got bigger and the blood clot kept to itself. We spent the entire pregnancy very cautious. We worried about every little thing. We tried not to get excited about anything. Every ultrasound we had was a focus on the blood clot. We didn’t want to buy anything for the baby because we weren’t sure we would have one. We tried not to talk about all our fears because it wouldn’t ease all our worries.
As Katie’s pregnancy progressed, we started to feel little moments of joy. I remember feeling our daughter Kennedy kick for the first time. I wanted to cry. I couldn’t believe a little baby was inside there. A baby we both created with the help of science. It was an amazing moment. All my worries and fears faded in that minute.
Finally, Kennedy’s birth day was here. Kennedy remained breech the entire pregnancy so we scheduled a cesarean section. We scheduled it for her estimated due date. It was a date we had memorized already and we felt it was meant to be that day. We checked into the hospital to only find out Katie shouldn’t have had orange juice earlier that morning. It was frustrating, yet comical, that the day we were so anxiously awaiting for would now be delayed. We went from having a planned cesarean at noon to have a cesarean at five o’ clock that evening. We had to leave the hospital, go home, and wait around the house.
After we checked back into the hospital everything seemed to happen fast. Before I knew it, it was time to go in. Everything felt different. It’s hard to explain the feeling of being in a room, sitting by Katie with a mask on, holding her hand, expecting a baby to come out at any time from behind that curtain. Then, the doctor stated the baby was out. I didn’t hear crying at first which worried me the most. I had so many worries going on in my head that day. Luckily, it wasn’t long afterward I heard crying. I was walked over to see her and it was amazing. I can’t explain how it feels to see your daughter for the first time. It was overwhelming. This little girl you had once seen as an embryo was now a full grown baby.
This little baby was created in a tiny dish. She was amazing and she was a perfect. I just couldn’t believe this baby was ours and she was actually here. I felt a huge relief. I was no longer thinking about the pain from fertility procedures and needles, the mental pain I felt when our first round of IVF failed, or all the money we had spent on the process. Kennedy was all I could think about. We had our family now and our dream had become a reality.
Katie and I have so much love to give Kennedy. We were already worried before she was born, but after she was born, we worried about new things. Now we would watch her sleep, worried she would stop breathing. We worried over how she was put in her car seat. We worried about her weight gain. We were just permanent ‘worriers.’ Even now I realize the worries will never go away. Being a parent means you will always be worried about your baby (no matter how old they get). We have gotten better as the years have passed. Kennedy is now three years old!
We started our IVF journey again for our next child, Charlotte, who is now a year old. When we embarked on this second journey, we knew the process would be different. We didn’t expect any problems this time because we were using a frozen embryo which seemed to be an easier process than going through egg retrieval and fertilizing eggs. This embryo was from the same batch as Kennedy. I didn’t need to do any shots because no eggs were being retrieved. The shots Katie had to do were to prep her body for an embryo.
Transfer day came quickly. We were both excited. Katie had to come in with a full bladder for the transfer and the clinic was actually running behind that day, so we were trying to keep each other calm as we waited anxiously in the exam room. The transfer happened, the little flicker of light appeared on the ultrasound screen, and we sat there with our embryo photo wondering what this little boy or girl would look like one day. We were already in love with him or her.
We did our blood test a week later and waited by the phone anxiously for the results. Although we both wanted to cheat and go get a pregnancy test from the store, we didn’t. We were too worried of getting a false pregnancy result and feeling sad afterward. The phone rang and our nurse delivered us great news. We were pregnant! We went out and bought a pregnancy test knowing it would be positive. We took photos with huge smiles on our faces thinking about our soon to be family of four.
Katie went and took her second blood test and the BETA number didn’t double as it was supposed to. The nurse assured us that everything was probably okay but Katie would do another test just to make sure. The next phone call we received was unpleasant. We were told the number from the BETA test showed that Katie would most likely miscarry or have an ectopic pregnancy. We were told to watch Katie’s body carefully because if it was ectopic and untreated, it could result in serious damages. We were terrified but also heartbroken. We broke down and cried. We sat in silence. Nothing could take away this feeling we had right now. Why was this happening to us? Kennedy was taking a nap and Katie had to go back to work. We both went about our day silently. I tried to focus on Kennedy and get my mind off the little one that was no longer.
Waiting for a miscarriage was terrible. We waited each day wondering when it would happen. We had a hard time talking about it because all we wanted to do was cry. Katie called me one morning and said she began bleeding. She called our nurse who told her to prepare for the miscarriage to happen that day. Katie stayed home from work and waited for the rest of it to happen. She waited for the terrible cramping. However, nothing happened. She decided to go back to work. We scheduled an ultrasound to see what was happening. We drove the long drive to our clinic wondering what we would see on that screen.
We waited for what seemed like forever to be seen. Finally, the moment of truth. Both of us hoped that there might be a baby but kept telling ourselves there wasn’t, and we would try again in a month. A little flicker appeared on the screen and heartbeat was heard. I wanted to just cry right then and there but we waited until the doctors left the room. Our baby was there all this time! It was a miracle. The doctor told us he has only seen this happen one other time. He said to still be cautious but the baby was the size it should be. This little one was a fighter.
Weeks passed. We were transferred to our OBGYN. We started thinking about names. This pregnancy was very different than Kennedy’s. Katie was sick all the time. She said she always felt terrible. We thought for sure it was a boy. We decided to do a gender reveal with just us. Katie knew the results before I did and revealed them to me after work that day. We had purchased pink and blue smoke bombs. I was shocked to open my eyes and see pink everywhere! Katie and I both talked about how weird it was that we were having another girl. We had been calling our little girl the boy name we had picked out all this time.
The girl clothes are unpacked and a girl room was made for Kennedy and Charlotte! We had a rough start to this pregnancy but we are so thankful Charlotte stuck. We plan on having more children in the future. We know now that anything can happen. Getting pregnant just isn’t smooth for us. We will try to be more cautious with the next pregnancy. I think we told ourselves this when we went back to our clinic for our second child but we threw it out the minute we heard the news, ‘You’re pregnant!’ It’s hard to not get caught up in the excitement of receiving pregnancy news. This emotional roller coaster takes us from an all-time high to an all-time low. We would experience it all again to get us to where we are today.
No matter what journey you take to make your family, we are all amazing parents doing what is best for our babies. Undergoing fertility treatments is hard. During our process, I always tried to push my thoughts toward the future. I thought about how hopefully, someday, we would have kids. I wondered what they will look like and what they will sound like. I wondered about their personalities. I thought of family pictures we would take where everyone would look so happy. The stress, heartache and money that was spent conceiving them would not even be a thought, but a thing of the past. My eyes would water thinking about these things but it kept me going. I just kept telling myself, one day it will happen. I didn’t know how long it would take, but it would happen for us.
We spent thousands of dollars making Kennedy and Charlotte. This is nothing compared to what some couples have spent to have a baby. Once we had our girls, the money spent just became a number and nothing else. Charlotte was less expensive but still costly when you think about how creating a child is usually free.
There are so many options now to becoming a parent. Whatever road you chose to go down, be positive. Be there for one another. When we had a baby, it created a tighter bond between the two of us. We are now a strong team and teamwork has become a key part to our marriage. Teamwork was something that still needed improvement in our marriage before Kennedy was born. However, the process to create Kennedy tightened any weak areas in our marriage. Charlotte continued to tighten that marriage when we were faced with more heartache at the beginning of the journey with her.
To every person out there who has done IVF, it truly changes who you are. The journey we go on is like no other. I am so happy we decided to try again because if we didn’t, Kennedy and Charlotte would be with us. I do still think about the ‘what ifs’ with embryo adoption. We almost went through with it and I wonder if we would have three kids right now. I wonder what they would look like and how they would be quite a few months older than Kennedy is now. I think about our little boy or girl we lost who was supposed to be here with Kennedy right now. I think about all the tears, worries, and stress in this journey. I think about all the joy we will have now that she is here. I don’t know how it feels to be a mother who has a traditional way without any labs or doctors helping you make your baby, but I do know the feeling you have seeing a baby you once saw in a dish. That feeling is the most amazing feeling I will ever have. I am so grateful for the help of science and for being alive in a time that has a process such as this. Reciprocal IVF made our dreams a reality.
We had such a challenging road to get to where we are today. A few years ago, I started to think the road was never-ending to have a baby. I know some of you who will read this are still on that road and have been on it for way longer than Katie and I were on it. I admire those who continue to go down this path and keep trying despite the emotional and financial turmoil it puts you through. Stay strong.
We started our Instagram account to help trying to conceive (TTC) couples and LGBT couples. When we were struggling to make our family, we sought out Instagram accounts and blogs of families who were undergoing fertility treatments to help make their family. Reading blogs and following many families on Instagram gave us hope for our family and got us through our toughest times. The online community we have found has been incredibly supportive in our journey. It’s amazing to find others who are feeling the same emotions you are during a hard process.
We continue to teach our children that love makes a family. Love is something every person has in common.
Christina and Katie are a girl meets girl love story! They have two daughters, Kennedy (3 years old) and Charlotte (1 years old). To sum up their life together so far: they fell in love, got married, and now have two children via Reciprocal IVF. Their family is still growing, but for now they are enjoying their time as a family of four. They love to travel and show their kids as much of the world as possible. Follow them on Instagram at @babybaileymamadrama or click here to visit their blog!