Decisions

The road to IVF

The decisions Nick and I had to make after learning of our failed plan were not easy. You see, I was raised in the Catholic Church and very much still practiced my faith. As a Catholic, in-vitro-fertilization (also known as IVF), among other fertility treatments, are not accepted. In fact, they are considered morally wrong to engage in. I knew this, hence the reason we wanted to avoid it at all costs. And actually, at the time, I was completely against it. However, unless you’ve ever been faced with being told you have a less than 5% chance of conceiving naturally and your body is essentially working against you to have a biological child, please reserve your judgment. I’m not looking for a fight or an argument about “my sin” but merely just sharing how we got to that point.

In the next weeks (we really didn’t have time to make a choice as my condition was worsening by the second), we talked to a lot of people – Catholics, Protestants, priests, and people who went through the fertility process. My wonderful husband was willing to go to the ends of the Earth to make this happen for us and what was important to him was that we “gave it our all”; essentially “tried everything we could” to have a baby. If we still ended up with no baby, then we tried. We would look into other options, like adoption, if that was the path we were meant to be on. While what he said made sense and I just wanted to fall completely into that idea and not look back, I wanted to make sure my heart was in the right place. I wanted to make sure I would have no regrets. This was also an expensive decision and I was feeling super guilty I was the one that brought us to this place. I know it was out of my control, but the guilt was real.

While everyone was super great in listening to our concerns and helping us through this decision (as best as anyone could), we were directed to this great Catholic couple and via email she helped me more than anyone. She said TWO things to me that have stuck with me through these years:

1. Her and her husband made a decision BEFORE the IVF process started that however many children they were blessed with in the process, they vowed to transfer them all in their lifetime.

2. That no matter what they did as a couple, if God’s plans were for them NOT to have children, it won’t happen. Science is great but if science REALLY could circumvent God’s will, then everyone who went through IVF or fertility, in general, would have children.

Let me talk about the impact these two points made on us. The first one was right in line with how I felt about helping create these embryos. THESE EMBRYOS were going to be OUR CHILDREN and I couldn’t bear to not try to conceive them. I won’t go into every detail of the fertility process but many embryos are put up for adoption, abandoned, or given to science for testing. Neither one of these options were the paths that Nick and I wanted to go down so vowing to have however many children God will bless us with was something we felt we could commit to BEFORE we started. Let me tell you, we could have ended up with no children or eleven children, we had no idea! And even now, there are still no guarantees. 

The second point really hit home. We had no idea what we were really getting ourselves into and my naivety about the process led me to just believe we would have children. I mean we were going through all this and paying for it, why wouldn’t we have kids? Well, it’s about a 65% chance of conceiving when you transfer one embryo which is much better than what we were looking at naturally, but still not great. With the twins, we were looking at a slightly higher percentage of having one baby and a 25% chance of having twins. The process of taking all the medications and going through the procedures essentially had to be perfect to even get to the transfer of an embryo. What I am trying to say is that throughout the entire process, ANYTHING could have gone wrong. We could have faced financial hardship and not being able to afford the treatment which is in the tens of thousands of dollars range. My body could have failed to respond to the medications. The procedure to retrieve the eggs could have been unsuccessful. The combining of the sperm and egg could have failed and then the embryos themselves could have failed to multiply and grow correctly. Every single part had to work. Science is a wonderful gift but it’s not fool-proof. 

Nick and I confidently decided to go forth with IVF. The IVF journey is a beast and not one I will tackle in this post. However, we were blessed with 5 embryos. 5 children. Our children. Our family of 7. But this family of 7 has to wait a little bit.

Many people…..most people, go through this life not knowing how many children they will have but we do. We know. At that moment, when we got the call of how many embryos survived, we knew we had 5 beautiful children awaiting their lives with us. That knowledge right there was absolutely the hardest part for me to emotionally handle. You see, I knew I had 5 children but I could only transfer 2 of them the first time around. I was lucky enough that both the embryos took. But during that pregnancy (it was tough so I had a lot of down time), all I could think of were my other babies. I had a lot of guilt for not being able to have them at that moment. I know in my mind I couldn’t but it still hurt. I am their mommy and needed to protect them and I couldn’t. Now, I am sitting here feeling my little wiggle worm rolling around in my stomach – my 3rd baby. My baby girl. I couldn’t be more excited to have her with us now. But my heart is not yet complete. It hurts a little less this time around then when I was carrying the boys but it still hurts. It’s so unexpected how the pain of infertility continues to creep into my heart and mind. I have no regrets whatsoever.

Although, I am so excited to have the life I have with the twins and soon to be with little miss, there is not a single day that goes by I don’t think about my two children waiting for us. I always say to myself when I start thinking of them: “Daddy and I will come and get you one day. We will. We promise. You won’t be alone anymore. We love you so much.” In a way, it’s comforting because I feel like they are close but in another way it breaks me. And although it’s a pain I cannot even begin to describe and tears roll down my face, I know we will bring them home one day. That day, will be the best day of our lives because our family will finally be complete. 

 

Here’s to the loves of my life in waiting,

Rachel

“Sisters, sisters….

…..nothing can come between sisters”

I am the oldest of 4 kids in our family. I have one sister, who is 16 months younger than me and then 2 younger brothers (4 years and 8 years younger respectively). I always wanted an older brother but that’s just not how life worked for me. Instead my parents brought home this sister. 

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One of my favorites of us

My boys are about to have a sister in about 4 months (I still can’t believe it) and there is just something about having a sister that is the most frustrating, at times, explosive, and most wonderful experience I have had in my life. I hope the boys feel the same with maybe a little less explosiveness but let’s be real, she will have TWO older TWIN brothers almost just like her daddy. I couldn’t be more excited her and nervous for them. Ha ha!

The explosiveness. When I think about growing up with my sister, I think about her stealing my clothes and being a BRAT. Seriously. I would have to label my clothes to get her to stop taking them. I would get so mad. And she still took them. 😦 Why did it matter so much? Well, I’m sure it’s all about territorial things when you are growing up, right? I wasn’t the only one dealing with this I am sure. I’m also sure I was a brat too but this is my version of the story, right? 😉 Then when things really got crazy between us, my dad would sing us the song from White Christmas Sisters (Check it out here if you don’t know the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trD3Kqf-g0w). Man, that would really get our blood boiling! But I guess it would get us to stop for that moment. So parental mission accomplished.

Did I mention she always ALWAYS got away with everything too? I mean life couldn’t get more unfair! Maybe she was just better at lying and hiding what she was REALLY up to – I have no idea but she seemed to NEVER get caught. Me, on the other hand, ALWAYS got caught. I was ALWAYS told I needed to be a good example. Totally UNFAIR. I mean she had younger brothers too!

I don’t think there could be two people living in the same house that were SO OPPOSITE from one another. She was into architecture and modern looks. I am more into history and traditional looks – we still are today. I mean, when it came to almost anything, we had a different outlook on everything. I’m sure our parents were so exhausted from dealing with us by the time my brothers came along – I don’t blame them. They’re probably still recovering. 😉 

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She still makes this face now.

Anyway, as we got older and I mean, out of college, things were better between us – not great but better. I guess the whole growing up thing really helps. Plus, I was living in Dallas and she was finishing up her Masters with Texas Tech while living at home. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? 🙂 She was very helpful when it came to planning our wedding festivities and she was so supportive! To be honest, I was a little surprised, at the time, at how she listened to what I wanted and she was there for everything. It was really neat and memories I’ll keep forever.

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At one of my bridal showers

But really our relationship took the next level of understanding was when I was finally pregnant with the boys. I say finally because that wasn’t an easy process (we will get to that later in this blogging journey). In the weeks leading up to the boys being born, she changed. She grew up. My little sister literally grew before my eyes. I don’t know if that really happened and maybe I was the one who really changed but I saw HER for the first time. I understood her for the first time. We were really friends for the first time in our lives. The sister thing clicked with us and it was magical. 

In the photo to the right, I was doing my usual thing laying on the couch (I was so incredibly pregnant and miserable) and she wanted to take a picture of her with her nephews – so sweet. I had no idea that when the boys were born, next to my husband, she would be the rock in all of our lives. 

The boys were born at 34 weeks and lived in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for 15 days at Memorial Hermann Medical Center (again, another part of the story that we will definitely talk about later on). While we were there, I’m pretty sure she came every day – the days run together when you are in the NICU so I have a hard time remembering exactly. Lucky for us, she worked in the Houston Medical Center so visiting was easy for her and it was helpful for me to have another adult there just to get my mind off the babies (well, as best as anyone could) and pumping and all the healing that needs to happen after a c-section.

These pictures were taken early on in our stay at the hospital. Some of these memories make me laugh because she was SO AWKWARD holding them and trying to feed them. Now, to be fair, the boys were very tiny so everyone had to learn how to hold them a little differently. So not only had I watched my sister grow up, I was watching her become an aunt and hopefully one day training her to be a mommy. It was beyond the neatest experience and I know when this little girl comes, she will have a better handle on her (I hope). I hope we all will. 🙂

We came home from the hospital and my sister, with the help of my family, had cleaned and rearranged everything to help us transition better. In the days after the hospital, she continued her aunt journey with us. She lives in the Heights so it’s not exactly around the corner. But whenever she made it to Sugar Land, she would stop by. This was the best time because I got a break and the boys learned who she was and to this day, she almost makes weekly trips to see us. 

In January 2016, she became the godmother to Andrew when the boys were baptized. In March, she treated Nick and I to the rodeo for my birthday – a much needed night out. By April, she was on our first flight with the boys to Ohio to see family! I mean, pretty much when we need her to be there for us – she is and usually without a complaint (except for missing some sleep 😉 ).

When she transitioned jobs over the summer of 2016, she spent the time off she had with her nephews (me too, but let’s just be honest about who she really wanted to see). We went to the Houston Zoo and the Fort Bend Discovery Center and we probably did others things I can’t remember. It was so fun and I loved the fact she wanted to spend time with us when she could have done a million other things. Her aunt-y heart is so big – I know she will have room for more. 🙂

On July 11, 1989, my sister, Rene Louise Hoelker was born and I had no idea how she would rock my world but I’m glad she did. I didn’t know that when my parents brought home this little sister of mine that we would grow to have this special relationship. I truly believe all those fights (yes, even some physical ones) and all the misunderstandings brought us to this point of friendship. This sisterly friendship is one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

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Rene’s Graduation from St. Agnes Academy May 2007

“Lord help the mister that come between me and my sister
And Lord help the sister that come between me and my man”  — Sisters, Bette Midler

Here’s to everything in between,

Rachel