Krista reached out to me after I shared our newest journey. I was so touched by her story and asked her if she would share her heart and her family with you here. Their testimony is one of great faith and God’s blessings MULTIPLIED. Thank you, Krista, for being willing to open your heart and share your amazing journey with us. I appreciate it so much! Read to the bottom of the post. You will be blessed. EVERY child (no matter how big or how tiny) matters!
For the last couple of years I have followed the Salem’s beautiful journey of growing their family. I am always amazed at how faithful they are to our heavenly Father and when He asks them to trust Him they simply answer ‘YES.’
I am one of those who reads each and every one of Adeye’s blog posts and fall more and more in love with the Salem family but I remain quiet and never comment. Then a couple of weeks ago Adéye shared with us her and Anthony’s next journey in growing their family and for the first time I left a comment for Adéye. I didn’t leave a comment because I am adopting or because I have a child with special needs but because I have been in the same position as Anthony and Adéye– four embryos sitting frozen waiting for the chance at life.
These embryos did not happen simply because I couldn’t get pregnant. They didn’t happen because I wanted to quickly have a family and be done. They didn’t happen because we turned to science instead of trusting God in His plan. Instead they were conceived out of love after trying for years to have a family and from the moment they became more than just a sperm and an egg–they were seen as a life. Now, what became of those four embryos you may ask? Well first let me start from the beginning.
My husband, Paul, and I were high school sweethearts and neither of us has ever dated anyone but each other. In our junior year of high school we had 3 classes together. We ended up dating throughout the remaining of our high school career and then I conveniently happened to have gotten into the same college he had always wanted to go to. After our junior year we became husband and wife.
After graduation we moved out to California with so many dreams and plans. Nothing was going to stop us from reaching those life goals or so we thought. At 22, Paul noticed a small lump in his neck. Soon we got the news that would change so many of our life dreams–Paul had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It didn’t take me long to realize that with intense chemo, the chances of having children afterward is slim. We had about one week from finding out he had cancer to beginning treatment. We met with fertility doctors to figure out what we needed to do to freeze Paul’s sperm to use after he was in remission.
After 9 months of chemo and a month of radiation we were given the green light to start trying for a family. Each month our hopes of having our own children were taken from us with one normal trip to the bathroom and seeing that once again I had started my cycle. Paul always knew we were not pregnant each month because I would come out of the bathroom crying those ugly cries that only women can do.
Our fertility specialist finally advised us to move on to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) because we only had a couple of vials left of Paul’s stored sperm. Before Paul was diagnosed with cancer I always thought if we had trouble becoming pregnant we would never go as far as IVF treatments. In my mind if we couldn’t get pregnant then we would just adopt. But here I sat in an infertility clinic with the deepest need I have ever had–to become a mommy. There was no question in my mind that we would try 1-2 rounds of IVF. I never felt like we were playing God by using IVF, instead we were using help to conceive a child between my husband and I.
During our first cycle of IVF, we harvested many eggs; 2 were transferred back inside me and 10 were frozen. Eight days later we found out we were pregnant and the words were the most amazing words I had ever heard and we told everyone. You can just imagine the heartache when a week later we found out we miscarried. It had never even crossed my mind that we could lose the baby we tried so hard for. In my heart once I heard the words ‘you’re pregnant’ I was going to carry that baby for nine months and then hold it in my arms forever. Miscarrying was never something I thought would happen to me. We had to take a month off and then we tried again by transferring 3 frozen embryos.
We once again heard ‘you’re pregnant’ to be told later that the baby had stopped growing. At this point I had vial after vial of blood drawn to see if something was causing me to miscarry but everything came back normal. All this time, which is now almost 2.5 years into our infertility journey, I really felt our inability to have a child was only affecting my husband and I but I realized quickly this was not the case when my mom came to me and told me with tears in her eyes that if I was not able to carry a child she would carry one for us. It was this love that a mother has for her child that I wanted to give my own child. It hurt so badly that some days I did not want to face the world.
As we went into our third cycle of IVF I had complete peace, which is something I had never felt before in any of my cycles. On the day that we transferred 3 more frozen embryos, one of the medical assistants, with whom we had become friends during our journey, placed a small polished stone in my hands with one single word–FAITH. I held on to that so hard that my fingers turned white. I prayed to God and the blessed Mother that if it was their will that I would become a mom. That stone stayed with me under my pillow during my three days of bed rest following the transfer.
On day 8 we once again heard the words we were so desperate to hear but this time our pregnancy levels were higher than they had ever been. I allowed myself to dream but only a little because I knew how quickly those dreams could be extinguished. Two weeks later our dreams became just a little bit bigger when on the ultrasound screen we saw 2 of the most beautiful flickering heartbeats. We were blessed with twins and we were ecstatic.
From that point forward I had a great pregnancy with barely a day of morning sickness. When we were about 6 months along with the twins we had to pay for our yearly storage of Paul’s frozen sperm. We decided that since it had been almost 4 years since his chemo we would check to see if any of his sperm had come back and the results were yes but the number was very low and the morphology was very poor so it would be very unlikely that we would ever conceive naturally. We held onto the frozen sperm until our twins were here safely. We figured we still had 4 embryos and if we could not conceive with those we would adopt. On the morning of April 2, 2008 I finally became what I always had wanted to be; a mom to two absolutely beautiful twin girls, Natalie & Aubrey.
When the girls were 16 months old, I had a feeling I was pregnant. I came out of the bathroom once again crying but this time, I showed my husband the pregnancy stick as the tears rolled down my face. We had just created a life when we were told we would never be able to do it.
After my 19th week, I got a call from my OBGYN with ultrasound results–“Your son has a cleft lip.” It was not the cleft lip that bothered me so much but it was knowing that my son would need surgery when he was 3 months old and would be in pain. He may not be able to nurse which was something I wanted so badly with a single baby after nursing twins. And I also worried about him getting made fun of by other kids.
After learning of the cleft lip we met with my doctor, who is a Christian himself, who said, “I already know your answer but I am mandated to give you the option to terminate the pregnancy due to the cleft lip but you only have a week or two before it is too late.” I could not believe I was being given this option for a split in a lip that could be repaired. My child already had every part of his body and I was being asked if I wanted to kill him. We of course declined and I went home and cried; not for my unborn child but for those children who had been killed for the single reason that they had a cleft lip.
The rest of the pregnancy continued and I will tell you it was filled with lots of anxiety because we really did not know how bad his cleft was or if he had any other chromosomal abnormalities. I was scared of how I would react when I first held him. Would I love him like I loved his sisters? Would he nurse? Would I think he was the most adorable baby ever or would his cleft make me want to stay home with him?
I shouldn’t have worried though because the moment I held him I did not see a baby with a cleft lip, instead I saw my perfect, beautiful son who we named Drew.
Life with 3 kiddos was wonderful but we knew we were not done. We still had those 4 frozen embryos just like Adéye and Anthony have now. When our son turned one we met with the fertility specialist and discussed our options. Our embryos had now been frozen for almost 6 years which greatly decreased the success rate of surviving a thaw and implanting. During our meeting we learned that two of the embryos were of okay quality but two were in their opinion ‘non-viable’. We were told that knowing the data they have now, the clinic would never have frozen the poor-grade embryos six years ago.
After hearing this we came to the decision that we would thaw and transfer the two okay quality eggs and destroy the 2 non-viable ones since they would never produce a pregnancy. We had it all set up to begin the transfer within a couple of months when another one of those home pregnancy tests showed a positive! In disbelief, I texted Paul a picture of the pregnancy test with the words “Oops, we did it again!” But at ten weeks, I woke up to bleeding and knew that the child inside me had stopped growing. I had fallen madly in love with this little baby who I feel to this day was a little girl.
Two months later we were ready to transfer our embryos into my womb. The night before the transfer an embryologist called me as we had just pulled into the garage. I still remember the conversation as if it happened yesterday. She asked me how many embryos we wanted to thaw and I responded with just our two. She continued to say that we had four and so I explained what the doctor had told us. She then went on to say that she was looking at the information regarding the embryos and she wanted me to know that in her years of working she had occasionally seen that poor embryos take. Without even asking Paul I told her to thaw all four. There is only a 60% thaw rate and they had already been frozen for six years. Also there was no way that if there was a chance my embryos could become a life I could destroy them. My husband and I believe 100% that life begins at the moment of conception.
The next morning we learned that all four embryos had survived the thaw and so our next question was how many to transfer. Our doctor told us he was fine with 3 or 4 because the embryos were not of great quality. We had transferred 3 two other times and it had taken 8 embryos to get our twin girls. We had a 1% chance of triplets and a 0.5% chance of quadruplets. Paul and I decided to transfer all four as we prayed for 1 or 2 little miracles to take up home in my womb. I will never forget when right before the transfer the embryologist told me our embryos were ‘blooming beautifully’ as I held onto my FAITH stone.
The embryologist with her one sentence changed the destiny of my unborn children and there will never be a day that I am not thankful for the call she made to me as we had pulled into our garage. No, my pregnancy was not without its hardships and struggles but I could not fill my days feeling guilty any longer.
You can follow Krista and her growing family on her blog HERE.