Hope Mills, NC
Give us your quick bio:
I'm a wife to Shawn and a mother to our fraternal IVF twin boys Walter Hudson & Payton Leo. We also have a four-legged fur baby, Gunner. She's a German Shorthaired Pointer who thinks she's a human.
What is your personal experience with Infertility?
I am an Infertility and Loss SURVIVOR.
Infertility and loss has robbed me of quite a bit, but oh how much it’s also given me. It knocked me down, almost put me in the ground after losing a very much wanted child, but it also gave me the strength to get back up. And here I am. Here WE are.
Shawn and I were married on June 26, 2007. I was 18 years old and he was 20. I’d just graduated high school 18 days prior. In fact, the night I graduated high school was also the night he proposed. So yes... you read that right. Shawn and I were engaged for just 18 days. We’d also only dated for 10 months. The United States Army brought him to my hometown in 2005, we met in 2006, and got married in 2007. We were young and our relationship moved fast. A lot of people thought we’d lost our minds, that it was a joke, that WE were a joke even, that it was a mistake, that it wouldn’t last, that I was pregnant...
Now isn’t that some shit? I can’t think of a nicer way to really put that. What an ignorant assumption it is to think that two young people get married only because of a pregnancy. Was it really so crazy to think that we got married just because we loved each other enough so early in life to know that we wanted to spend forever adventuring together? We didn't think so. And that's exactly what we have done. For TWELVE years.
We honestly weren’t even thinking of children when we got married. We WERE children still. We obviously knew we wanted a family someday, but we had college & careers & “just us” dreams to chase first. Children would come in 5-7 years or so. Nothing to worry about then, right?
In July of 2008, after a surgery to remove a grapefruit-sized cyst from my right ovary, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Endometriosis. Nothing much to worry about, they said, but I might need a little help getting pregnant when the time came. We’d only been married a year... we still weren’t thinking about starting a family, but at least now I had an explanation for the excruciatingly painful periods I’d had for years.
Fast-forward to late-2011/early-2012 and two deployments later when we started trying to get pregnant. Nothing happened, so off to the OB-GYN I went. They put in a referral for me with the Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility Clinic at Womack Army Medical Center. And that became my second home for the next 5 years.
After some extensive testing, and determining that my Endometriosis was most likely the reason we were Infertile, we started treatment. That was early 2013, and Shawn was about to deploy again. We tried three Clomid cycles before he left, and each of them failed.
Shawn came home in March of 2014, and we took a few months to ourselves before we started treatment again. In May of 2014, we decided to try another round of oral medication, but this time we went with Femara. To our surprise, it was successful and I became pregnant.
That first ever positive pregnancy test brought the greatest joy to my heart that I’d ever felt before. The three years we'd spent trying and waiting finally gave us our hearts' desire. My due date with that pregnancy was February 23, 2015. My sister had also found out that she was pregnant around that same time, and we even shared the same exact due date. It was one of those magical things that you only hear about in a movie and it was happening to us in real life. My sister has been one of my biggest supporters and tightest hand-holders though our Infertility journey. It was a true blessing to be experiencing something so beautiful with her. That pregnancy was special in so many ways. But that pregnancy didn’t last. No sooner than we'd heard our first baby’s sweet heartbeat once, then twice, it stopped.
July 21, 2014. She was gone.
Shawn was away for work in Washington at the time. He'd just left a few days prior for a month-long trip, and he couldn't come home. That was the hardest phone call I've ever had to make in my whole life. I had a D&C three days later. While I was thankful to be surrounded by my immediate family, Shawn and I being physically apart during that time was excruciatingly painful.
That loss almost killed me. I wasn’t really emotionally stable after that for a long, long time. I still carry that pain with me today. I always will.
We tried five more Femara cycles after I’d physically healed from my D&C. They all failed.
In April of 2015, we were ready to move forward. We moved on to our first IUI, which failed. And then Shawn deployed again in July of that same year.
In January of 2016, Shawn came home and we had a long discussion about what we would do next. We, along with our RE, decided that we’d try two more IUI’s and if those were unsuccessful, we’d take a break and I’d go on a drug called Lupron to shut down my ovaries, calm the Endometriosis down for a bit, and kind of reboot my reproductive system, and then we’d move right on into IVF.
IUI Number Two failed.
IUI Number Three failed.
I started Lupron in August of 2016, and Shawn and I continued to enjoy each other as we always had, make the most of what we hoped would be our last year as a family of two, and went on lots and lots of amazing adventures.
In January of 2017, we started IVF.
I had my egg retrieval in February. We had 14 beautiful embryos make it from that cycle. We freshly transferred 2 of those beautiful embryos on February 12, 2017. I loved them. I wanted them. But they didn’t stay with me.
That failure devastated me. That failure broke me down almost as bad as my miscarriage had. We’d kept so much hope for almost 6 long years, and there just wasn’t much left. Shawn and I decided that even though we had 12 perfect embryos left, we were only emotionally able to withstand one more transfer. We were both tired. We both hurt. We couldn’t take much more.
We moved forward with our frozen and final transfer on March 28, 2017. We transferred two more beautiful embryos.
And they stayed with me. For 34 weeks and 3 days.
My pregnancy and delivery was not without complication... because with us Infertiles nothing can ever be easy, right?
But after 6 years of fertility medications, procedures, having to give one very-much wanted baby back to God, countless sleepless and tearful nights, my Double Rainbow saved my whole life.
Walter Hudson and Payton Leo were born on November 5th, 2017, at 6:01 and 6:02 PM.
It was the best day of my entire life. And every day after has continued to be a dream come true.
Infertility never defined me. But it definitely changed me. And as painful as our journey to our sons was, I'm truly thankful for every single step of it. It tested every single part of who I am... my faith in God, my marriage, my sanity, my character. But it strengthened me down to my absolute core.
Infertility took away from me so much.
And even though I am on the other side of it, I am still Infertile. I am still dealing with the awful that is Endometriosis. I now have Adenomyosis, and a scheduled hysterectomy in July of this year. And you know what? I still get angry sometimes.
But I choose to view Infertility as a blessing.
You see, without that ugly diagnosis, I wouldn't have this strong support system we each have in each other in this community of warriors, and I'd have never had this beautiful story to tell.
At your lowest point, how did Infertility impact you?
After my miscarriage, I did not seek professional emotional support until about 8 months post-loss. During that period of time, I kind of stopped treading water so-to-speak, and I allowed myself to drown in grief. I became so depressed that I truly didn't want to live anymore. I had never felt that kind of pain. I was so sad that during that time that I can't even remember pieces of my life during that season... like it was all a fog.
What was the turning point in your mindset?
This is going to sound so awful, and honestly I don't think I realized that this was the turning point for me until just now. My husband is going to be surprised at this for sure...
But there was this evening that we'd planned to go out to dinner. I was trying to get myself ready, but I was also mid-meltdown. Shawn walked into our master bathroom to find me on the floor of out closet just sobbing. I can't remember all of his exact words, but he basically told me that I needed to get myself together because he needed his wife back. My husband is pretty tough. He's not a warm-fuzzy kind of guy. His heart is huge. He is passionate and loves like no other, but he's very direct in the delivery of his words. I will never forget these words he said to me. I've never let him forget them, either. In fact, I've held this against him several times over the years because at that time, I thought it was the meanest thing he'd ever said to me. But right now in this moment as I type, I finally understand.
He said, "People have lost arms, Danielle. They've lost legs. And they keep going. We lost our baby. It sucks. But we have to keep going. We are still here. We are still alive. You have to get the fuck up."
I was pissed and hurt over the sternness in his voice at the time. But his words were true. I knew it then even though I was a little upset at his delivery. But it was in that moment that I saw he was hurting, too. It wasn't just me in the middle of that storm. It was the both of us, as it had always been, as it would always be... with a baby or with no baby. We didn't marry each other because we wanted a baby. We were just dealt a shitty hand of cards, and we needed to play them as best we could... and TOGETHER.
THAT was my turning point for sure.
How have you created a fulfilled and content life with Infertility?
I do believe that our twins have helped with that tremendously.
But as I've said already, I still struggle with the uglies of Infertility. I still have thoughts such as, "Why did it have to be that hard for us?" "Why did I have to lose a child?"
But instead of dwelling on all of the heartache we endured or the fact that we had to bust our butts to get to our children, I view it as a blessing.
I am a Christian, and I do believe in God's perfect plan for my life. Even in my darkest moments, I knew that God would never leave me there. I knew God would never leave me empty, whether that be by giving me a baby or showing me another purpose for my life, or directing me down a different path. My faith in something greater kept me going, and trusting the Lord with my life allowed me to feel peace in the toughest of times. Never losing hope or giving up on MYSELF allowed me to feel content.
What actions did you take to help you heal?
Self-care was HUGE for me while we were battling Infertility. It still is, actually, because I'm still healing. I am a lover of therapy and talking-it-out. But also something as simple as going for a walk, going to get a pedicure, or grabbing a good cup or coffee and going for a long drive with the windows down and the music blaring helped. I still use those coping mechanisms. And I mean a glass or two of wine and a good, healthy cry always helps me every now and again, too. :)
What would you tell other people facing an Infertility diagnosis? (in lieu of the phrase "never give up")
Don't lose YOURSELF. It's so very easy to do when we're hurting. I lost myself for a while because I let the pain, the loss, the struggle consume me. I mean it swallowed me whole. And if there was one thing I could go back and change if I could, that would be it. I lost happy moments with my family, my friends, my husband because I was so focused on the pain. I spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself that I forgot to enjoy the beautiful life that I had even before my babies came to me.
So love yourself. Remember to be kind to yourself when you're hurting. YOU are ENOUGH. YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE & HAPPINESS. And no disease or diagnosis owns you or defines you. YOU DEFINE YOU. YOU OWN YOU.
Be the individual that YOU desire to be, and try not to lose sight of who you truly are. Because you are not broken. You are beautifully and wonderfully made. And you are a badass.
How do you views align with the InfertileAF Mission?
I am very open with our story because I think it is important that people know it's okay to talk about hard things. I openly share that we endured 6 years of Infertility treatments, a miscarriage, and that our twins are the product of IVF, a little bit of science and a WHOLE lot of faith.
I started sharing our story to heal my own heart.
I disappeared from social media for a year after my miscarriage. We'd announced that we were pregnant, and I remember feeling such embarrassment and shame at the thought of having to say something like, "just kidding, guys, not anymore." And THAT thought was sickening in itself. We should never be made to feel like we can't speak up and talk about things such as miscarriage, infertility, adoption, stillbirth, infertility and TMFR (Termination for Medical Reasons), donor eggs, donor embryos, IVF, IUI, living child-free not by choice, among so many other "taboo" topics and going into detail about it. So when I reopened my social media accounts, I shared ALL of the details. I shared my heart, my hurt, all of what we had gone through to get pregnant the first time, losing that pregnancy, and what we were going through to try to get pregnant again. The support I received just by speaking up was overwhelming. So my mission became to just touch ONE life, let one person know that they are not alone, and never will be again. We need support. We need each other.
How has Infertility shaped your future self?
I am stronger than I ever envisioned myself being. I am one bad mamajama for being able to endure all I endured, and I don't think I'd be the mother to my boys that I am had anything been easily handed to me. I think I love harder and stronger because of Infertility. I think I am more outspoken because of Infertility. I am more patient and understanding because of Infertility. I am more passionate about life. I take the time to stop and embrace even the tiniest moments- you know, truly take all of the feelings in.
What goals do you have for your future?
TO RAISE THESE LITTLE GENTLEMEN UP RIGHT.
To remain an InfertileAF supporter/lover/encourager.
And to keep sharing our story.