Caitlin and Ben Lindquist Dash of Darling IVF journey infertility  struggles story
Caitlin and Ben Lindquist Dash of Darling IVF journey infertility  struggles story

Since I was a little girl I always knew I wanted to be a mother and have a family full of my very own little best friends. The relationships that I share with my parents as well as my siblings mean so much to me, and that is something that I want for myself and for my own family. As soon as my husband, Ben, and I got married we wanted to start "trying" right away, but chose to wait until after we had finished law school and taken the Bar exam to allow the anxiety of it all dissipate so we could focus on more important things, like, of course, building our family.

Once the exam was over, we "pulled the goalie" so-to-speak... and I think I expected it to happen right away. But after a year of watching friend after friend seemingly get pregnant after their first try, I felt a little (ok, a lot) discouraged (and majorly envious), but I tried to lift my chin up as best I could and just keep marching on.

But when "Aunt Flow" came to visit every 25 days, I would sit and cry on the toilet in disappointment. It was then that I decided to make a visit to my gynecologist. Truth be told I was hoping to receive some answers (or miracles), but all I ended up walking away with were pregnancy rate stats and suggestions to track my ovulation, which we had already been doing for several months. I felt defeated. But ever the optimist that I am, I just assumed it would happen naturally eventually, and kept plugging my cycle dates into the iPhone apps and urinating on the ovulation test kits hoping to hit the jackpot.

We tried every formula we could think of - procreating at the exact time of ovulation, hours before, the day before, days before, even the days after... and all of the above combined. Nothing seemed to work.

After constantly being awkwardly asked when we were going to have kids - by friends, family and even complete strangers who read and follow my blog - I decided it was time to try something else.

My sister-in-law has a blood clotting disorder and after an ectopic pregnancy, she had undergone IVF with success, so I decided to pick her brain a bit about the process. I wasn't sure if meeting with a fertility specialist would help, but I was hoping that maybe they could at least pinpoint why we hadn't been able to achieve pregnancy yet. Was there something wrong with me? Wrong with my husband? I guess I really hadn't even allowed myself to consider those possibilities until this point. I just chalked our lack of pregnancy up to those aforementioned stats given by my gynecologist in the months before.

After doing some research on embryologists and local fertility teams, I finally made an appointment to discuss our options. I wasn't sure what to expect at our first appointment, but I think I walked away even more worried and confused than ever. Everything that goes into our ability to get pregnant - from our age to egg quality to your partners use of hot tubs or hits to his man-parts over the years, everything seems to play a part, and it can certainly feel overwhelming. But we walked away from that appointment with a new determination to see this through... and to get there, we were going to just take a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other.

The first thing we decided to do was to have my husband's sperm analyzed. Once his quality and quantity had been verified and ruled out as a suspect, we thought that the next step should be drug-assisted IUI - intrauterine insemination. It's a process that is a lot less invasive (and a whole lot less expensive) than IVF and we were hoping this would bypass whatever was preventing us from getting pregnant. And if you're wondering... no, the fact that some semen comes out after sex thanks to gravity won't affect your ability to get pregnant. I have had to be assured of this numerous times. Needless to say, I was hoping that by maximizing the number of sperm in my tubes we would walk away with a little Lindquist.

However, six months, ten pounds, swollen follicles and four failed IUI's later, it was time to re-evaluate. Ok but first, I must address that I am not saying an IUI won't work for you - because I have friends whom it has worked for on the first try (oh, to be them, am I right?!). IUI's are truly a wonderful thing and a great way to get a head start by giving your partners semen, well, a head start haha. Because my blood work had indicated nothing was wrong with me, (that we could see), IUI was the next logical step. Plus, an IUI can also help pinpoint any issues you might have or help shed some light on how your body reacts to certain fertility drugs. Despite the (four) failures, I am glad we chose to go this route first - again, we chose to take things one step at a time.

But after the fourth failed IUI, we were told our chances of achieving pregnancy would no longer increase and would simply plateau. So we could either continue spending our money on more IUI's, or we could start saving our pennies for the next step - IVF. We chose the latter.

Caitlin and Ben Lindquist Dash of Darling IVF journey infertility  struggles story
Caitlin and Ben Lindquist Dash of Darling IVF journey infertility  struggles story
Caitlin and Ben Lindquist Dash of Darling IVF journey infertility  struggles story

Before I dive into our path to IVF, I first must address something - and this is something I haven't shared publicly before. But, throughout the whole fertility process, it's easy to get down on yourself. To feel alone, defeated and downright depressed. And that's exactly where I was. After months of not getting out of bed, bothering to brush my teeth or to even leave the house, I decided to get proactive about my life and health and seek help. Mind you, this was all about the time we moved to Arizona and I visited the gynecologist. You wouldn't have known it from my blog, but I was suffering.

After seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist for a few months and starting celexa, a SSRI antidepressant, I was starting to finally feel like myself again. With this newfound sense of myself (and reduced depression and anxiety), my husband and I chose to take six months off before starting IVF to 1) save up our money and 2) in hopes that we would get pregnant on our own now that I was in a happier, healthier place. Stress really does play a role in our ability to get pregnant - and after hearing so many stories about "a friend of a friend of a friend" who finally got pregnant after they stopped "trying," well, we thought, maybe it could happen to us too. But, it didn't.

We gave ourselves a six month timeline (until my thirtieth birthday) before diving into IVF. But after summer had come and gone with Aunt Flow's continual monthly visits, we knew it was time.

Caitlin and Ben Lindquist Dash of Darling IVF journey infertility  struggles story

In August of 2015 we started our first round of IVF. First came the preparation phase (birth control to calm things down inside), followed by the (not so) super awesome stimulation phase (lots and lots of hormones and injections) and the ever-dreaded egg retrieval (ouch) before allowing my body to calm back down before we started preparation and stimulation again for the FET, frozen embryo transfer. (I can dive into more detail on what this process is like for those of you who are interested, just let me know).

But with great happiness, I am so incredibly thrilled to report that our first round of IVF was a success. Not only did it mean that we could get pregnant, but we got pregnant with two beautiful identical twins. I know... what are the chances of that?! Miracle babies in more ways than one. And for 9 weeks I carried those two beautiful babes around simply just glowing with excitement knowing that our family was growing, and wherever I went I wasn't alone. It was like I had this happy little secret behind my smile and smiling eyes. But sadly, very very sadly, 9 weeks was all I got with them.

After bleeding a few weekends in a row, I was informed I had a sub-chorionic hemorrhage, a fancy way of saying bleeding internally as a result of embryo implantation - and it's quite common. I wasn't that worried about the bleeding from then on until the cramps came along. After rushing over the ER one Sunday under the advice of the weekend fertility staff, we heard our twins heart rates drop - they had been at 117 and 129 two days before (Friday), and by then, Sunday, they had dropped to 45 and 57.

The next day, Monday, I went back to our doctor for an ultrasound where no heartbeats were detected. We had lost them. Our babies. Our miracles. Our little family. To say that we are devastated and utterly heartbroken would be an understatement. We only knew them for a few short weeks but already they were our kids, our babies, our hearts. I don't think I have ever been so deeply sad or sobbed so hard in my entire life. And to be honest, I didn't really believe it was true. I even requested another ultrasound a week later just to confirm because my broken heart was in disbelief. It was, and has been quite frankly, a very difficult time. Hence why I have had to slow down on the frequency of my blog posts. And while I know it's easy to let yourself feel let down (trust me, I have), we have to remain hopeful and remind ourselves that WE WILL GET PREGNANT again. WE CAN GET PREGNANT. AND WE WILL HAVE CHILDREN OF OUR OWN. Say it like a mantra. I know I do.

Caitlin and Ben Lindquist Dash of Darling IVF journey infertility  struggles story

So, after carrying our precious little (dead) babies around inside me for 32 days after detecting no heartbeats, I finally had a "complete miscarriage." It was a dreadful time. I don't think I have ever been in such pain - physically, emotionally and mentally - in my entire life. And I have been through some hard times. Since our babies were identical's and shared the same sac but each had their own yolk sac, it was like pushing out an 18 week old baby. While I won't go into further details on what that was like, because it's a bit of a horror story and quite frankly, no one should ever let that deter or worry them. It's something you just have to accept that happens. And you deal with it as it comes. But the best advice I can give you is to keep your eyes glued to the light at the end of the tunnel: the day when your uterus is clear and available for rent for another beautiful little baby to occupy and live in for 10 months.

Once my uterus was "clear," we had to follow my HcG levels back to zero. It took a while because I was still over 30,000 by the time I completely miscarried. It took patience and a lot of blood tests, but a few months later and I was finally back at zero. This meant that I was finally able to submit blood work (and a whole lot of it - 12 vials) to test for reasons why we miscarried, such as thrombophilia (blood clotting disorder), antiphospholipid antibodies (antibodies that attack the fetus or cells), lupus, and anticardiolipin antibodies (antibodies that cause blood clots and prevent blood flow to your reproductive organs). Thankfully, my blood work all came back as normal. But to be honest though, I was a little disappointed because I was hoping for at least an answer as to why I miscarried. But alas, we received no answers.

Caitlin and Ben Lindquist Dash of Darling IVF journey infertility  struggles story

After I finally got my period again, I got the go-ahead from our doctor to once again begin the preparation phase for our next frozen embryo transfer, which was to occur on March 21, 2016. It's not a fun process but certainly a necessary evil. And evil it is - filled with hormones, injections, mood swings and exhaustion. But there was not a date we were looking forward to more. Our miscarriage had set us back five long, painful months and we couldn't have been more excited for that day to come. But sadly, the day of our transfer, we had to cancel last minute. Our pre-transfer ultrasound revealed I had "endometrial fluid," which meant that the embryos would have a harder time implanting and could just slide right out. And these were our last three embryos - it was a chance we couldn't take.

It was another devastating set back and one that kept me inside for the next week in sorrow. (It's been a rough road you guys). But I had to lift my chin up and get ready to try again.

Casually, my doctor mentioned that he wanted to do a hysteroscopy, but that I shouldn't worry. It was to check for reasons why I had endometrial fluid. For those of you who don't know, a hysteroscopy is a procedure where they put you under and go with a camera in via a thin, lighted tube to look inside your uterus to diagnose and treat any issues they may find. When I came to, I discovered that they had found and removed over 20 larger sized polyps. Where the heck had those come from? FYI, a uterine polyp is a growth that's attached to the inner uterine wall, and sometimes they can be cancerous. I had to wait a long three weeks to find out if they were cancerous or not. If they were, that meant that I would have to stop all fertility treatments and begin chemo... and trust me when I say that, HELL NO - ain't nothin' else gettin' in my way of having a baby! So thank God that indeed, they were all benign! What a freaking relief.

Caitlin and Ben Lindquist Dash of Darling IVF journey infertility  struggles story

So after all that, I had to once again wait around for my next period to arrive before we could get started on the next round. And finally! She came on May 3rd (TMI? Sorry guys). This meant we could get started with the preparation phase (drugs, injections and more drugs and injections).

I am so happy to report that we had our last frozen embryo transfer on May 23rd... and it came with SUCCESS! YAY! Like, REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY YAY! Oh my gosh, we're pregnant (again)!!!!! Ben and I were jumping up and down with excitement (literally) as we cried and hugged. He had come home from work early and we couldn't wait to celebrate and share with you all our overexcitement on Snapchat (dashofdarling) and Instagram (@caitlinclairexo). We couldn't take the smiles off our faces and I have been walking on cloud nine ever since.

We had our very first ultrasound (the earliest they can do it is at 6 weeks and 4 days) on Monday, June 20th. I was so hopeful and beyond excited (I had a calendar countdown and would check off the days as they pass - and yes, it has been the longest few weeks of my life).

Unfortunately we didn't get the good news we have been anxiously hoping and praying for. There were two sacs: one with a little bean measuring at 4.71mm (small for its gestational age) and with a lower than expected heart rate (96 BPM), and the other sac appeared to be completely empty. No yolk sac, no bean, no heart beat, nothing. The nurse said it might be what they call a 'blighted ovum,' also known as 'vanishing twin syndrome.' Monday was a tough day. I kept a brave face during the ultrasound but fell into a funk the rest of the day and just took a nap to escape it all.

It's evident to us that two little souls are up in heaven anxiously waiting to join our family but keep running into trouble. My body keeps turning on them. But I hope they keep trying and pushing.

We are hopeful that in our next ultrasound in a week our first babes heart beats faster and grows steadily, and that our second little bean will appear and show that he/she was just shy and in hiding. If not, I am scared what this may mean for our other baby. If the second babe does indeed "vanish," what caused this to happen? Was it my fault? Was it due to a chromosomal abnormality? Has my body turned against me? And if so, will our surviving twin absorb those abnormalities? (Note: don't google. Just don't do it. I googled and it said something about the first baby absorbing the vanishing twins DNA so it can have two sets of DNA - abnormalities and all). These are just all unanswered questions.

All we can do is wait until our next ultrasound and pray that baby #2 appears, and that baby #1 grows and gets stronger in order to survive. We want these two little souls to join our family from heaven.

So quite frankly, I still don't know if we will be having twins, a single baby or no baby at all from this IVF cycle. All we can do is pray, remain hopeful and try to stay positive. It's easier said than done, but I will say that all of your loving comments, emails, messages, snaps and tweets have truly made a world of difference. Reading your words of encouragement and your stories of success really have helped us in more ways than you could ever imagine. So thank you for sharing your stories with us and for taking the time to reach out to share your love and support. I can't tell you how much it has meant to me to connect with you all who have gone through or are going through the same or similar thing. It makes it that much easier to continue to share our fertility struggles, heartaches, and successes. Because I want you to know, if you are going through this too, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

If you wish to continue to follow our journey, feel free to follow me on snapchat (dashofdarling) and Instagram (@caitlinclairexo) where I will continue to share real-time updates and happenings. As I have said before, I am an open book and there is no shame in the struggle. We can be there for each other and cheer each other on. So consider me your fertility cheerleader, my friends. I am always here for you and I hope that by sharing our story, you won't feel so alone.

Caitlin and Ben Lindquist Dash of Darling IVF journey infertility  struggles story

Photos 1 - 8 by Joey Kennedy Photography.

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