Too Scared to Hope

Paola: Our New Year’s resolution for 2015 was to get pregnant. That might sound like a simple thing to some, but for us it was a huge goal. There was no guarantee.

Camilo: The chances of us having a child were next to nothing. When I was eighteen years old, I was out for a ride with a friend when our car got t-boned really hard. Our car rolled and I ended up pinned to the ground with half of my body still inside the car. My back was broken and I was paralyzed from my chest down. Couples struggle with infertility for different reasons, but for us, it’s because of my paraplegia.

Paola: So when we started dating and got engaged, I knew we would probably never be able to have kids. I didn’t want to end up disappointed, so I never let myself get my hopes up. Life wasn’t bad. We were enjoying our married life together and getting settled in Toronto, where we’d moved to from Atlanta. It was natural for my older sister to have kids before me, and I was even OK when my younger sister had her first, but when she had her second baby four years ago, that’s when it really hit me: I really want to have a family. If I don’t do something soon, it will be too late and won’t happen for sure. I’m turning forty soon. I thought a lot about having a family, but I was really guarding my heart because the odds were against us.

Camilo: That’s when we started to check out our options for in-vitro fertilization. We’d found good jobs, so we started saving any extra money we made. It was going to cost twenty to thirty thousand dollars. We knew that all of our life savings was going into something that might not work.

I thought a lot about having a family, but I was really guarding my heart because the odds were against us.

Paola: It felt like a high-risk investment. The money could be a downpayment on our first home. Our chances of success were very, very small. But I didn’t want to be staring at the walls of a big house one day, constantly reminded that we never tried — that I could have had a baby.

Camilo: I had a special procedure at a clinic to get my sperm out. They took three samples, but the news was not encouraging. Only a few in a million were alive, and even those had zero mobility. They said the chances were very low, but that we could try. The fertility doctor suggested a procedure where they would actually soften the outer edges of her eggs and nudge each sperm in. Knowing our chances were low, we chose one of the best fertility clinics in Toronto, even though it was more expensive.

Paola: When they explained the process I would go through, I got really scared because they would have to give me a lot of injections and hormones that would really affect my body. I thought, “What if I go through all of that and it doesn’t even work?” So we waited another year. Then came the January when we made our New Year’s resolution to get pregnant.

They started with me right away. I had to go on a lot of medications to increase the amount of eggs my body would release. I was really worried about the side effects, but my body accepted the preparatory treatments really well. I produced twenty-eight eggs which they collected. Of those eggs, ten were poor quality, leaving eighteen left. The doctor fertilized ten eggs using frozen sperm and he froze the other eight eggs in case the first treatment did not work.

Then we waited for the phone calls.

The first call, they told us that seven had died. Two days later we heard that one more was dead. Only two were left. On the fifth day they called again. There were no living embryos.

That was my lowest point. I was devastated and depressed. I felt really hopeless. I didn’t know if I could go through with the whole process again.

Camilo: That was my darkest moment as well. I had grown accustomed to accepting my limitations, but at that moment I had to face new feelings of failure — of not being man enough or good enough — of not being able to give her a family like she wanted. She was so hurt and sad and I couldn’t make her happy.

Paola: But we didn’t want to give up, so we tried again with fresh sperm. In this second stage, I was really trying to protect my heart, trying not to even think about having babies. I told them not to call me — to call Camilo instead. I flew to stay with family in Colombia for support. I was really scared to hear bad news again.

Camilo: Once they fertilized the remaining eight eggs, I waited for the phone calls.

“Five have died....”

“Two more died....”

“Only one is left.”

Paola: Then the doctor called me directly. He was very excited: “This is a good one. It’s really high quality.” Camilo called me and said, “You better get back here soon so they can put it into you!”

It was a three-day wait to see if we were actually pregnant.

Back in Toronto, they gave me more medication to prepare my body to accept the frozen embryo. When the day came in October, we actually watched on a screen as they placed the embryo into my uterus. There were what looked like bubbles when the syringe was injected. The Doctor said our embryo was proceeding up as expected. Then it was all up to my body to attach it to the wall of my uterus. Doctors can’t make that happen. It was a three-day wait to see if we were actually pregnant.

And we were!

The first week went well. I was still pregnant. The following week was good too. But we were told we had to wait three months before we could say with confidence that we were expecting a baby and could tell people.

Camilo: We were taking it one day at a time, trying not to have big expectations. We were still afraid and nervous. The chances at that point were still about 50/50. After every appointment, where they’d say, “You are still pregnant,” we’d breathe a sigh of relief.

As it turned out, the three-month point was December 31st, 2015. Our New Year’s resolution came true on the very last day of the year!

Paola: That was the best day of my life. It was a huge relief and so much joy. We still had to take it day by day, but it wasn’t nearly so stressful. We could relax and share the news! There were a lot of complications with my pregnancy, but our daughter, Antonia, came into our lives on July 9th, 2016. She’s now six-months old.

Having a support group of family and friends was an incredible help on our journey. We could share our hopes and fears and doubts, which made things a lot easier to bear. Infertility can be a really hard thing to share about openly. If you find yourself feeling alone individually or as a couple in this struggle, please know that you don’t have to continue on alone. If you fill in your info below, someone from the mentoring team will get in touch with you soon to come alongside you on your journey.

Photo Credit Rodolfo Mari

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