First of all, I just want to say that life is funny. And the one thing I've learned from this journey is that the Lord's Timeline is never your timeline. And the sooner I learned that, the better!
Rewind to 2002. It's been six months of waiting for a baby and every month we buy those pregnancy tests: so excited!!! Just kidding, false alarm! I'm working as the receptionist at Pres. Bednar's Office on BYU-Idaho campus. One Tuesday Elder Grow came for devotional and spoke a little about what a blessing it has been for his family to follow the prophet and have his wife stay home with the children and not work. There are MANY working mothers in the admin building that I see every day on the second floor. I observed as many of these women (some had to work, single moms etc) turned off the devotional or slammed their office doors as not to hear the radio, and some blatantly stand there and criticize his words, i.e. "He has no idea what he's talking about. Ricks College would shrivel up and die if all of the mothers went to stay home with their children." etc. I was getting a little riled up because at this point I would have given my left arm to be able to get pregnant and stay home with a baby and I literally wanted to stand up and tell them all, "the guilty taketh the truth to be hard!". I wrote Pres. Bednar an email and explained the situation and asked him how you know when you should bite your tongue and how you know when to make a stand and let people know they are wrong. Thirty minutes after coming back to the office from devotional Pres. Bednar asks Betty to have me come in to his office. (Can I just add as a 10-year postscript after being a SAHM, part-time worker, and full-time working mother -- this issue is just a little more complex than my 20 yo mind could grasp).
Here I sit, a 20 year-old, lowly receptionist in front of Pres. Bednar. And I will be grateful until the day I die that he took the time from his schedule to teach me a little about life. First of all he asked how long we'd been waiting for a baby. I told him, "Six months." The man literally laughed in my face and said, "Well first of all maybe you need to learn some patience!" His son and wife had been trying for over 3 years, he tells me. One day he was alone with Elder Eyring and his son's problems had been weighing on him and he asked Elder Eyring about it. What do you say to the couple who has done everything right, who has prepared themselves their whole lives for the day when they can build a family and raise children up unto the Lord, and they remain childless? Elder Eyring told him that the Lord doesn't send children for us to teach them, the Lord sends children for them to teach us. The point of this life is for us to learn how to become like Him. Sometimes that is accomplished by having children. And sometimes the Lord determines that is accomplished by NOT having children. Do parents learn patience, long-suffering, service, and humility from having children? Yes. Do couples learn the same things from NOT having children? Yes. So the point is for us to submit our will to the Lord's to become all that he wants us to be - no matter the path He gives us to get there.
This moment was huge for me - if I had not been able to be taught so clearly at such an early stage in our journey, I'm not sure how well things would have worked out for me. I thanked Pres. Bednar and he sent me back to work. Over the next two years we try two different doctors and one local homeopath in our search for a baby. There was chlomid, double chlomid, triple chlomid with a blood test and extra HCG shots, and there was all those expensive herbal supplements. After so much of the same things for two years you come to realize these doctors have no idea what they are talking about. When one thing doesn't work, they decide to just double it. It wasn't until our Endocrinologist in Vegas til we learned if chlomid doesn't work in 6 months, it aint gonna work. Woulda been nice to know after 2.5 years on chlomid!!
In the spring of 2003 I decide to go back to school. I realize if I'm not going to ever have a baby I don't want to spend my life as a receptionist answering phones. As wonderful as my job was. We calculate that I have 42 credits to graduate with a bachelor's and I can fit those in two semesters of 21 credits each. Around this time Darik graduates and accepts a job offer for the Las Vegas Gladiators Arena Football team. I decide I'll try to transfer to UNLV and finish there. No luck, I would have to start all over and have 2+ more years of school. So 2 semesters in Rexburg without Darik, or 3 more years in Vegas. I move in with my grandparents in Rigby and Darik moves to Vegas without me. This 6 months apart was insane, but I think we were stronger for it. Darik moved me down with him into our first home in December of 2003. We loved living in Vegas, can you tell?
We spent a few months trying to decide what to do, and eventually I told Darik I didn't want to waste $5k on IUIs when they might not even work, and then have to move on to IVF and spend an additional $10k. And we could just decide to adopt, but I would spend my whole life wondering what WOULD have happened. If I would have been able to have a baby if we had just tried one time. So I told Darik we would only do ONE cycle of IVF. Whatever the result was, that was Heavenly Father's answer. I would not be one of those women who bankrupted everything doing IVF 12 times chasing after a baby when you can just as easily adopt. So we decided that if we sold our townhouse that we had just bought 9 months ago, we could make just enough money to pay for IVF. So, that's what we do. We scheduled it so close, in fact, the day we made the deposit of the $ in the bank was the day we had to pay FCLV and the $ hadn't cleared so we had to charge it to our credit cards ($5k on each, please). September of 2004 is when I start taking about 40 pills a day. Also? When Darik has to start giving me daily shots. I wish I would have been keeping a blog back then but I believe Follistim for two weeks in the pen-syringe followed by the serious vials of hormones with daily shots to the hip for two more weeks. Knowing how much I hate needles, looking back, I seriously can't believe I pulled this off.
Malignant hyperthermia. He freaks out a little bit, as everyone was being put under general anesthesia and decides it would be safer for me to have a epidural instead. At this point what choice do I have? I'm very scared, as is Darik as he's the one that can see the needle. But it goes off without a hitch and I have the special pleasure of being awake to watch the doctor during retrieval. Which was going along great until I actually *felt* the needle inside me and started freaking out. The anesthesiologist pushed a button and I flopped back in bed so drugged I don't remember anything else until I wake up in a recovery room with several women surrounding me in their recovery beds. The doctor is going around to each of them as they wake up from their general anesthesia and letting them know how many eggs he retrieved from each patient and letting them know they are free to leave. I remember him saying to the other women, "Congratulations you did great! We retrieved 7 eggs (or 11 eggs)!" I had a felling that I would have plenty of eggs, since my ovaries felt the size of grapefruits, and I wasn't disappointed. He comes over to me? 31 eggs! I rocked that task! The only problem, recovering from an epidural takes several hours. After about 4 hours I'm leaving whether I'm ready or not so they let Darik come back and help me dress and he basically carries me to the car. At home he lets me know that there were complications during fertilizing the eggs -- if fertilization isn't completed within less than 24 eggs the fresh eggs are no longer viable. The doctor calls again and says, "Our only option right now is to try something experimental. We've never done it before and it's only been done a few dozen times before in the world. We can freeze the eggs without fertilizing them (oocyte cryopreservation). Then when we can collect a sample from your husband at any time in the future we freeze that and we schedule a time to thaw both and fertilize. To understand the risks, we need to know that the egg is the largest single cell and has not been known to freeze and thaw very well. In fact most eggs are destroyed in the process." I look at Darik and he shakes his head. What choice do we have? I tell the doctor, "Freeze the eggs." Of course this whole process will cost a few more thousand dollars :-).
A few weeks later we are ready for thawing and fertilizing - which they then let the embryos grow for a few days in the lab to the blastula stage, studies have shown a higher rate of pregnancy when the embryo is a little bigger. So I'm back on more shots and medication (which costs more money) to ready my body for embryo transfer which they have scheduled for Sunday, October 3. Now by this time I'm working for Andre Agassi and Agassi Enterprises Inc. and we are gearing up for year annual fundraiser to be held on October 2. The whole week before the event I'm down at the MGM Grand Arena setting up. Well near the start of that week is when the Doctor decided to thaw and fertilize to prepare for transfer on the 3rd. Every day he would call me and give me an update. The first day? Only about 20 eggs even survived the thaw and most of them they have serious doubts about their viability, but they fertilized all of them anyway and he will call me tomorrow with an update. Every day a call from the doctor comes on my cell phone and I freeze in the hallways of the MGM as he gives me the news. "7 more embryos stopped growing today. We have only 12 left." The next day, "4 more didn't make it." On and on my heart breaks and a little bit of my hope dies every day until he calls on Friday and lets us know we have 2 embryos left. He said it looks like one has stopped growing and he really only has hopes for the 1 left that keeps multiplying its cells, but he'd like to have an extra day to let them grow in hopes the second one will catch up. So we reschedule the embryo transfer for Monday, October 4.
Here are some pictures from that weekend. The Agassi Grand Slam for Children featured Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, John Mayer, India.Arie, Ray Romano, William Joseph, and Robin Williams. After the event around 2 am we saw Tim and Faith in the hallway of the MGM giving autographs and snapped a picture. And back in the hotel room Darik took a picture of me, I think I looked good because they let all the employees use the Hair and Make Up Stylists that they hired for the event :-). It was so late and I still needed my shot to the hip, and we were so tired we accidentally switched the needles on the syringe (to the huge one), so when this one went in my hip I believe I jumped about 4 feet in the air. I was sore for several weeks in that one spot.
The picture in the corner is of my nieces on the next day, Sunday, October 3. My family had come into town for General Conference and we went over to see them that morning - this is where we learned that, coincidentally, Pres. Bednar had been called to be Elder Bednar the day before! And some people wonder about my connection to a certain apostle!
On Monday we show up for transfer. It's been a LONG time coming, and while ideally it would have been nice to have 31 embryos sitting in the freezer for the rest of our lives to make babies any time we want, really we are just grateful that we made it to this point - that whoever that one little embryo that decided to keep growing, that he/she would be determined enough to actually implant and turn into a baby! We were actually a little celebratory that one had survived - less than 100 babies in the world had ever been born from a frozen oocyte (at that time in 2004). And here we were rolling the dice hoping we could count ourselves among them. They roll me in the same room as before on a stretcher, this time I get Darik holding my hand, my attending nurse and a few other nurses who had gotten to know us were there. Dr. Shapiro walks in all smiles with Dr. D and mentions that several colleagues are in town from Southern California observing and would like permission to be present. I look around and there are already about 10 people in the room. What's 4 more, right? I laugh every time I think I can say about 15 people were in the room watching as Ellie was conceived!! That disturbs a lot of people until I explain about our little IVF baby. So embryo transfer is over and I'm on bed rest for a few days to add whatever minuscule help that little embryo needs. We should come back in about a week later for a very early blood test to determine if it worked. So a week later we're in the phlebotomy nook of FCLV with my fave needle girl (you really develop favorite phlebotomists, nurses, and radiologists throughout this whole thing) and she asks us if we cheated already. Cheated? Yes, she said, most people already know by using a pregnancy test. Ha! After dropping so many hundreds of dollars on pregnancy tests in the past four years it strikes us as funny that we didn't even consider buying one this time around - the one time we actually had chance at a result. We just shake our heads and they tell us the Doctor calls everyone individually to let them know the results. So we both go to work almost shaking in anticipation. I let Alicia and Patty know that today is the day I find out and I want to let Darik know first . . . and when my cell phone rings and I freeze by my desk as I answer the phone Alicia's eyes locked with mine. She smiles. I freak out when I see it's Dr. Shapiro. I answer the phone and he's cordial. I'm preparing myself for the worst. I just need to know. If the answer is no we'll just move on to adoption and that's it. As I'm overthinking in my head I hear the doctor say, "Kristine I'm pleased to tell you the test was positive. You're pregnant!" What I didn't expect is that I really didn't believe him. I pester him, "Are you sure? Was the test too early? How reliable are the results? Are you sure? Etc. etc." I think it took him a full 5 minutes to convince me that I was, in fact, pregnant. I thank him and get off the phone and Alicia watches me walk out of the office so I could call and tell Darik. He was on a sales call at the Summerlin Marriott walking down the hall when he answered the phone. We are both so happy standing in our respective hallways of our posh high rises :-) We celebrated by going to Gordon Biersch for lunch.
There is one thing I neglected to mention -- we told NO ONE that we were doing IVF. A few people at work knew because I was having so many doctor appointments and coming late from doing my daily blood draws at 730 am in Summerlin . . . but not one member of our families or friends knew. Well we did tell Jon & Laura; and we also had Laura, who worked at a hospital, have her get some of her nurse friends help teach us how to do all our shots right. So at this point only Jon & Laura know and we intended to keep it that way. We could lose that baby at any time, verified by the fact that my blood tests indicated my body was not making the necessary pregnancy hormones on its own and I was still taking about 30 pills/patches/medications a day. I was categorized as a high-risk pregnancy with daily blood draws and medication adjustments and weekly ultrasounds. The good news? Now that we're pregnant we go from paying cash in full every blood draw/test/ultrasound to only having to pay a $20 copay. It was heaven!!
I labored for four hours until I measured a 4, and they said I couldn't get an epidural yet but they could give me demoral to take the edge off. Around 3 they let me have an epidural. The only problem? It slowed down my labor and I wasn't progressing. So now they HAVE to give me pitocin. Finally my labor is progressing enough that by 8 pm I'm at a 10 and ready to push. And boy do I push. And push. And push and push. Another problem? This anesthesiologist didn't hook the epidural up so if it started to wear off all he had to do was push a button like last time -- this was one and done . . . and by 10 pm that baby was wearing off big time! After two hours of pushing the doctor had finished delivering the rest of the babies for the day on our floor at Mercy (and at St. Lukes) so I'm the last one. Once again I have about 2 dozen people in the room to witness my bidness (all employees were done with everything else for the night). So by now the doctor realizes this baby aint comin out without some help. So here comes the episiotomy - in addition to the third degree tear and out pops Ellie around 10:30 pm. And she was pissed! Crying and screaming! Waaaaah! Waaaah! It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.
Darik cuts the cord and the nurses take her away to clean, measure, and wrap her (She weighed 8 lb 1 oz and was 21 inches long). I seriously was in shock and upset at the nurses that they were blocking my view of her. I made them move so I could still see her. I couldn't believe it - I was a mother! The nurses say, "She has red hair!" Wahhh? And another one says, "What's her name?" I look at Darik, he was adamant that we wait until we see her when she was born to name her. But after watching me go through what I just went through he says, "Whatever you want, honey!" I look over at the nurse and say, "Her name is Eliza Beth Anderson!" And I swear heavenly music played the first time they laid her in my arms. It was the most magical day of my life. So much ache, pain, and hurt has been removed by my little Balm of Gilead. It was a rocky journey, but it was also a blessing. And I wouldn't have had my family created in any other way! She truly is a miracle baby - one in a billion!