Eliana and I had always thought about the possibility of adopting a baby but we also wanted to have our own biological babies. We had talked about having our own kids and then maybe adopting one. Life not always happens as planned.
By: Carlos Szajnert
In the summer of 1983, during a vacation trip to Venezuela, I met Eliana, we were 15. It was love at first sight.
After finishing high school in the US, I decided to move to Venezuela where I spent most of my time with Eliana. We knew after a few years into our relationship that we were meant for each other and that we were going to spend our lives together. We got married on the day of my 20th birthday.
Eliana was taking birth control pills because we did not want to get pregnant at that time. However, after being married for about four years, she stopped the pill and decided to let things go and whatever happens, happens.
Months went by and even though we were having unprotected sex, Eliana was not getting pregnant… We were not very concerned about this because we were not actively trying to have a baby. A few years went by and then we obviously realized that we had an infertility problem and we decided to go see a specialist. All the tests and all the work ups were normal. In other words, our infertility is the kind of infertility called idiopathic, where doctors cannot find the reason or cause.
This is very frustrating because we did not know what was going on or if we would ever be able to have kids.
After we both graduated from college, we decided that we were going to do everything possible to have a baby. So the option was in vitro fertilization or IVF. These treatments are very stressful, the medications are extremely strong, they are painful, and have side effects. It was an indescribable experience for both of us.
Unfortunately the first treatment did not work. At that time, in Venezuela, the pregnancy rate with IVF was only about 35%. We knew that eventually we were going to achieve a pregnancy and we had to persevere.
After a couple of months we tried again with no luck. We decided to change to another infertility group and we saw another doctor. The other doctor also recommended IVF and we did our third treatment which was also unsuccessful. At this time we were getting very frustrated and sad.
We then decided to try one more time, one more IVF, and if it was not successful then we would adopt a baby.
After the next IVF, the pregnancy test was positive.
We were so happy that we couldn’t wait until the day of our appointment with the doctor where he would do the ultrasound to make sure that everything was going well with the pregnancy. That day however turned out to be a very stressful day, since the doctor told us that he saw three sacs and it was a triplet pregnancy. Back in those days, there were not many centers with all the technology necessary for follow up and treatment of premature babies. We were young and immature so we were thinking like most young people think…. Instead of thinking that it was a very high risk pregnancy and that something could happen to the babies,
we were thinking about the names, how we were going to manage, what kind of car to buy, how many cribs, etc.
When Eliana was only 26 weeks pregnant, she went into premature labor and broke her water. When we got to the hospital she was already 6 cm dilated and there was nothing that the doctors could do to stop her from delivering these premature baby girls. She had them vaginally, and they were so small that unfortunately they did not make it.
One of them died the same day they were born, the second one died the next day, and there was one little baby girl that survived almost 2 weeks.
Eliana and I had to make the decision to let her go, to unplug the machine and let her rest in peace because she had irreversible brain injury and she was going to have a miserable life… This was probably the hardest decision we had to make in our lives.
After this experience, we did not want to know anything about having babies or pregnancies. We didn’t have the energy to go on with our lives.
It took us close to 2 years to get over this severe depression. Then, our desire to have a family resurfaced. We went to the ministry’s office and filed the documents requesting an adopted newborn baby. At the same time we went to see the IVF specialist for another treatment. As usual, Eliana started to get the medications to induce ovulation. When we went to the doctor’s office the day of the egg retrieval, the doctor did the ultrasound and told us that she had developed big ovarian cyst and that he had to cancel the IVF treatment, we would have to try again in a few months.
We were sad, discouraged and frustrated. We went back home and as soon as we opened the door,
there was a blinking light in our answering machine, we listened to the message and it was from the adoption agency.
They were telling us that there was a newborn baby boy that would be up for adoption and they were asking us if we would be interested to go and meet the baby. We thought that things happen for a reason and we did not waste any time and made an appointment to go to the hospital to meet this baby boy. The baby boy was only two weeks old. He was abandoned in the hospital by his biological mother.
When we saw him for the first time, we fell in love with him.
He’s big dark eyes looking at us, it was love at first sight. We felt that we were orphaned from the baby’s standpoint and vice versa. It was a no-brainer, we named him Harry, after my late father who I miss everyday.
We were so happy with him that we could not stop smiling, laughing and enjoying life!
In July 1996, when Harry was only five months old, we moved to New Jersey where I started my residency in OB/GYN. After a few months, I learned that the hospital had a remarkable infertility program and that the IVF success rate was approximately 75–80%. I told Eliana about this and that the IVF was covered by our insurance, so we should probably give it a try. After thinking about it, Eliana told me that she was actually so happy with Harry that she did not think about having another baby! But, we also knew that eventually we would want to have another one so this was the right time to do it.
This time, the IVF was successful!
There were four embryos but the quality was so poor that, “we would be lucky if we get a singleton pregnancy out of transferring all four embryos at the same time”. Two weeks later, the pregnancy test was positive. We were SO happy! When we went to the doctor for the first ultrasound, he said: “Congratulations!!!, I see one gestational sac with one embryo and a heartbeat.” The next week, the doctor was able to see two sacs with 2 heartbeats. Finally, after a week, the doctor saw three sacs, three embryos with 3 strong heartbeats!!!
After what had happened with our last pregnancy, we were terrified! We were so scared, confused, depressed and realistic that we were expecting the worst. Weeks went by and all the ultrasounds showed that there were three sacs, three embryos with three strong heartbeats.
At some point the doctors offered us the possibility of reducing the pregnancy from triplets to twins to reduce the risk of a premature delivery. We thought about it but we decided not to do it and go on with the triplets.
Harry was about 1 1/2 years old, a very curious and active boy so keeping up with him was a challenge. I was working long hours in the hospital during my residency and Eliana had to remain on bedrest when she was only 20 weeks into the pregnancy. We had to hire someone to help us during the second half of the pregnancy. Eliana had some complications, she developed pre-eclampsia, but she fortunately made it to 32 1/2 weeks and
our babies were born in January 1998.
Two boys and one girl, the boys weighed 3 pounds each and the girl only weighed 2 pounds. It is impossible to describe how stressful and how much fear we had during the second triplet pregnancy. We thought that our nightmare was going to happen all over again. Our babies spent approximately one month in the neonatal intensive care unit but eventually left the hospital without any problems or complications from prematurity. Our entire family was so happy for us!!
After everything I have been through in my life, I have learned that we should enjoy life!!!
Infertility is a very common problem. When you get married, there is a lot of social pressure to have children. People start to question if you don’t. I learned that couples know what is best for them and very rarely do they need other people’s advice.
Getting pregnant with triplets is extremely unusual, but getting pregnant with triplets twice in a row is an oddity.
I learned that things happen for a reason
Perhaps if we wouldn’t have lost the first triplet pregnancy, we would not have adopted Harry, and if we would not have adopted Harry, perhaps we would not have attempted another IVF. When bad things are happening it is very difficult to understand why it’s happening. I realized that after time, you are able to “connect the dots,” and then, everything makes sense.
Now, when I am going through a difficult experience, I know that it is happening for a reason and with time we’ll know why.
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