"Path to Parenthood” is a funny term, but one that certainly describes what my husband and I have been through.
We tried for six months (due to age) to conceive, with each month feeling like a tiny punch in the gut that we had not gotten pregnant, until we went to infertility treatments. We did three rounds of IUIs before deciding to start IVF. I got pregnant on our first round of IVF and we were thrilled - so excited that we told our entire family!
Then, at approximately 7 weeks pregnant, I started bleeding and went into the doctor's office for an ultrasound. An extremely long and extremely quiet ultrasound followed before the doctor told us, "I'm sorry you have lost the baby." I couldn't believe it. I kept thinking I know I'm still pregnant, this doctor is wrong, but knew saying that aloud would make me sound crazy. It was Mother's Day weekend and we spent most of it inside our house, alternating between crying and numbness.
Then, just a few days later, after taking further blood work, they found that my numbers were rising and sent me back in for another ultrasound. This ultrasound let us see the heartbeat, much to everyone's shock except my own because I knew deep down in my heart that I was still pregnant. We both went to work and then I met up with my sister at her job that evening. As I was getting out of the Lyft, I felt a gush of liquid and thought, oh, please tell me that I peed myself. It turned out to be massive amounts of blood and ended up in the hospital with hemorrhage. There, they sent me for yet another ultrasound and this time could not find anything and told us I had completely miscarried, that even the gestational sac was gone.
We tried another round of IVF that was unsuccessful before switching doctors. Dr. Nayak from Reproductive Medicine Institute was instantly warm, friendly, and had herself gone through IVF. I explained how the previous treatments had left me either sobbing for no reason or like I was going to jump out of my skin and she listened and asked questions. She changed my medications slightly so that I had a positive experience with taking them when it came time for our next round of IVF.
On our third round of IVF, we got pregnant with our daughter Colette. It was exciting and terrifying and joyful and difficult. I was constantly nauseous and could barely keep anything down, but all signs pointed to a normal, healthy pregnancy. Then, at 21 weeks pregnant, a fairly standard OB appointment found me with a blood pressure of 188/110 and I was sent to the hospital for observation. I was admitted that night with a diagnosis of severe preeclampsia and told I would stay in the hospital until I delivered. I stayed in that hospital room for a little over three weeks before the doctors recommended delivery via emergency c-section. Colette came into the world with a loud squeak at 24 weeks, 5 days. She was super tiny and was whisked off to NICU before we had a chance to see her.
My first days with my first child, my daughter, my love, my Coco, were spent with me bedside inside an incubator. I did not get to hold her, just to slip a hand in the openings to place my hand on her. She spent her very short life in that tiny incubator until her little lungs were just too small to maintain her huge spirit and she died at nine days old.
Since her death, we have started The Colette Louise Tisdahl Foundation, whose mission is to improve outcomes of pregnancy, childbirth, prematurity, and infancy, as well as aid in the grieving process through financial assistance, education, and advocacy. Colette's financial assistance program has helped over 600 families and given away over $600,000 in assistance.
We also welcomed home our rainbow baby, our son, Elliott Miguel. I realized as we started trying again after Colette's death that I was terrified to be pregnant again. No one had been able to find a reason why the preeclampsia happened and not having something concrete made it very hard for me to repeat the same process, just hoping for better outcomes. We ultimately chose to use a gestational carrier (who was fabulous) to carry our embryo, and we are so lucky to have our gorgeous son home with us--our first living child after five years of trying.