Still Parents

In a sudden rush of fear, I feel the inevitable coming. Is it Mother’s intuition? I don’t know, but what I do know is that our little boys are gone. I call out to my husband.

“Greg, we need to prepare to say goodbye,” I tell him. “Something is wrong with our twins.”

Greg takes my hand as tears fill his eyes.

“Let’s pray for them,” I say. “And let them know it’s OK to go.”

Not an hour later, a gush of blood comes from under me, and we rush to the hospital. Blood fills the car seat, but we make it to the emergency room.

With more blood pouring out of me, the doctors discuss a transfusion or an emergency dilation and curettage to try and get the blood under control. I try to stay strong for our boys.

Then we go in for an ultrasound.

“I still see something,” our doctor says.

It’s a glimmer of hope and despite the heavy sedation and morphine, I’m ecstatic. If there is something still showing on the sonogram, then one of our boys is still there — and we have hope.

The doctor releases me from the hospital and to my reproductive endocrinologist (RE).

“I can’t say for certain, but this may not be over,” he tells us. We pray that it isn’t.

Greg and I embrace. It’s a miracle. We may still be pregnant. Once home, we wait anxiously by the phone for word from our doctor about the results of our blood work.

The phone rings and I recognize the number.

“Greg, it’s our doctor!”

We answer the phone excited and filled with hope, but the doctor begins speaking in a soft, almost hushed tone. We both know what’s coming next.

“I’m sorry, Tressa, but this is a complete miscarriage.”

Those words knock the wind out of us. Our glimmer of hope is gone. We sit down together, and we cry.

A Long Journey to IVF

We had been married for two years and we had good jobs, a beautiful new home and a sweet little puppy. The time was right for me and Greg to start a family. So we tried. But after two years passed without me getting pregnant, I made an appointment with my OB/GYN. She ran a few tests and told me that my follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels were slightly elevated, but that it was nothing to worry about.

“Try harder,” she told me. “You’re young!”

So we tried harder. We changed our diets, exercised more, and I even left my job in the airline industry, all in the name of “trying harder.”

Eventually, we listened to our instincts and made an appointment with a fertility specialist. We walked into the office and saw many other couples who were just as young as us. We quickly understood that infertility can affect anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 47, red, white or blue — it’s a silent illness that can impact any couples’ life. Knowing that made us feel comfortable.

We met with our doctor who asked us a list of questions.

“Greg, have you fathered any other children?” the doctor asked.

“No, but, if I did, I’d want to find out on Jerry Springer!” Greg joked. The doctor let out a nervous chuckle, and we had a hearty laugh. That’s Greg — a sense of humor to help get you through even the most awkward of times.

Next came questions about our family and medical histories. I told the doctor about how I was probably one of the only women in the world to have been diagnosed with latent tuberculosis (non-activated form) on her honeymoon. My doctor was stunned and so was I — what 27-year-old gets TB on her honeymoon? Me, apparently. After nine grueling months of taking Rifampin, I was pronounced to be “in good health.” I also told the doctor about my mom’s fight with uterine cancer, an aggressive form of sarcoma which took her life at the age of 40. I was born just a few days before she learned it had returned.

The doctor assured us that neither of those factors would impact my getting pregnant, which sounded like good news to us. After all, if tuberculosis and a family history of uterine cancer couldn’t stop us, what would?

Months went by, and after more tests were done, the doctor gave us an answer. “You are in a very gray area,” she said.

“A gray area?” I said. “What does that mean?”

“It means you have difficulty producing quality eggs,” she explained. Her recommendation: try medication or go forward with IVF — it was our choice, she said. We chose IVF.

Next came two months of injections, pills, and doctor appointments, along with a surgery to retrieve the eggs, and another month of medication. We were on our way to becoming parents!

Getting Pregnant

The day of our transfer was a day of elation for us. We could not wait to transfer our embryos — our babies. Sure, we had made them unconventionally, but for us, it didn’t matter. God had blessed us with two beautiful embryos. We saw them on the sonogram and then began the dreaded process known in the IVF world as “TWW,” the two-week wait before you find out whether or not your embryos implanted. The wait was torturous and every time I went to the grocery store, I struggled with the home pregnancy test question — to test or not? Most doctors discourage patients from doing a home pregnancy test since they can produce false positives or negatives, but one day, I decided I just couldn’t wait any longer and I said to myself, “Let’s test!” And so we did. And the result was clear: we were pregnant!

Four days later, we went in for our blood test and our nurse told us, “You are good and pregnant!” After everything, we had finally done it. We were parents!

We celebrated and thought and talked about what our family would look like. What would we do together? Who would our children be? Should we start thinking about preschool? We started feeling and acting like parents making decisions on behalf of our future children.

Soon, we found out that we were having twin boys. We named them, and started talking and singing to them. I knew they couldn’t hear us, but we felt like they could. Being parents and preparing for the arrival of our miracles was an incredible feeling. We were on top of the world.

Still Parents

As Mother’s Day approached, we looked back on our time with the twins, and we asked the question that any couple would ask: Why us? We are God-fearing people, we work hard, we treat others well, so why us?

But we quickly channeled our emotions into staying strong as a couple, and persevering through what was unquestionably our most difficult time as a husband and wife. And we realized something that we hadn’t realized before: we had felt the joy of parenthood, if only for a precious little while.

Following our loss, a priest issued two “acknowledgements of life” on a certificate to show that our beautiful boys existed, albeit briefly — but forever in our hearts. My brother has since planted trees in their memory, and friends and family have stood by our side, many asking us what’s next.

After two failed cycles, we’ve stopped treatment for IVF. Some people say not to give up and to keep trying, but we say that we haven’t — we have simply accepted that it may not be in our plan to have biological children, and we are at peace with that.

Not long after losing the boys, we learned that we had been approved for adoption through the Cherokee Nation. As a member of a federally recognized Native American tribe, we can adopt a child from any tribe. Adoption is not an easy process and it certainly is not for every couple, but our hearts are full knowing that we will someday hold a child, whether biologically ours or not.

We have a long way to go on our family planning journey, but anytime someone asks me if we have children, I smile and say, “We do. Their names are Noah and Wade, and we are still their parents.”

Tressa Mattingly

Update: We are pregnant with a sweet baby girl, due in February.