we’re pregnant!

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it still feels absolutely surreal typing that sentence. but we have the sonogram on our fridge to prove it -i’m growing human life inside of my belly (technically uterus, duh)! after a long two-year process of ups and downs on our fertility journey, i can shout it from the rooftops –WE’RE PREGNANT!

let’s back up 2.5 and capture the entire story. mostly because i’m sure one day i’ll want to refer back to this post when i’m feeling nostalgic and hormonal at 2:00 a.m. when my baby isn’t sleeping and i’m counting down the minutes until it’s acceptable to brew the first of about 12 cups of coffee. for many of you who have followed my husband’s and my #journeytobaby on instagram, this story may be nothing new. but as transparent as i’ve tried to be, there are still pieces of our story that i have yet to share in a public forum. so here it is, the full tale of how S and i went from making the decision to consciously start trying for our third wheel to the day we found out we were expecting. grab a cup of coffee and get comfy, the writer in me has a lot to say and a lot of blank space on which to write…

it’s no secret that the only role i’ve ever really wanted in life was to be a mom. when asked what my career goals were in my very first (and really only) professional interview at the ripe ol’ age of 21, i answered (through tears, mind you, yikes), “a wife and mom.” call it antiquated, but God instilled in me from a very young age a maternal instinct that has driven me most of my adult life. you can ask many of my friends (and perhaps even strangers), i’m a bit of a baby whisperer. and for that reason, i’ve always known i was destined for motherhood. i just never knew it wouldn’t exactly be a perfectly paved road to get there.

in fact, i think actress anne hathaway summed it up perfectly when she announced her second pregnany via instagram back in july stating “for everyone going through infertility and conception hell, please know it was not a straight line to either of my pregnancies…” similar to the road i trudged to find S (if you’ve been with me that long, you know he was stuck in proverbial traffic for years before finally showing up!), the road to our pregnancy certainly hasn’t been a straight line. but sometimes there’s beauty in taking the scenic route.

anyway, i can remember the exact day we decided to “start trying.” i had been taking spironolactone -a low blood pressure medicine commonly prescribed to treat adult acne (fun!) and knew that in order to be safe in our efforts to conceive, i would have to cease taking the drug since it can cause complications in pregnancy. i can vividly recall shaking the nearly empty bottle in front of S as he sat at the foot of the stairs. we both smiled in excitement over the possibility of starting our family. though slightly fearful that in stopping the medication, my skin would reap negative results, i knew whatever the outcome, it would pale in comparison to the joy we’d feel seeing two bold lines on our next pregnancy test.

i’ll spare you the details (hi grandma!) of how the next few months transpired but let’s just say we didn’t just snap our figures and magically become pregnant. weird. you hear stories all the time of couples who get pregnant seemingly overnight. they try one time (or don’t even try at all -i.e. honeymoon babies!) and three months later they’re posting a sonogram picture with an inspirational quote on instagram announcing their future baby’s pending arrival. as the weeks ticked by, my frustration grew. how could something that i was anatomically designed to do be so hard? i made an appointment with my primary care physician to see if she could shed some clarity on the situation.

what she recommended next was something i had never considered (nor ever heard of for that matter) –physical therapy. say what? yes, apparently pelvic floor therapy is a very real thing that can aid in the relaxing and/or strengthening of one’s pelvic organs. albeit a tiny bit confused/frightened as to what types of exercises i might encounter in my sessions, i swallowed my pride and made an appointment. if doing some extra stretches could aid in the ease of conceiving, i was willing to give it a try. for the next year (yes, year!) i had a standing appointment with my therapist twice a week. it was a big commitment -i used sick time (i was still working my full-time job) in order to make my early afternoon sessions, paid a co-pay each time, and did my best to do keep up my “homework” exercises on my off days. looking back now, i can’t believe how i managed to hold it all together. these sessions were on top of teaching studio barre classes, commuting to and from my 9-5 job, and maintaining a healthy relationship with my newly minted husband (we had just celebrated a year of marriage). i was constantly exhausted and had lost a ton of weight from the stress. so much so that one point i no longer had my period. oh the irony. i realize people can get pregnant without having a regular cycle, but for me, i knew it was my body’s way of telling me something needed to change.

a few months later S and i made the decision that i should quit my full-time job (i worked as the membership director at a private country club). after 11 years and thousands of commuter miles, it was time. i realize how fortunate we are to have made this choice given the cost of living in san diego, but through proper planning we were able to make it work. ultimately, whatever sacrifices we’d experience in making the transition to a single income from two (though i still planned on teaching studio barre classes) would be well worth it if it meant finally realizing our dream of becoming parents.

in the weeks following my resignation i could instantly feel a weight lifted from my shoulders. the lack of commute along was a GAME CHANGER. i knew we had made the right decision and i have never once looked back. without the additional stress, i started to believe we were closer than ever to our goal. i can’t remember the exact month but my cycle eventually returned, breeding a habitual marker from which to base our intentional efforts. we entered into that new year (2019) ready to celebrate our second year of marriage (january 21st) and the possible addition of one more member to #teamrivera.

it’s natural to set intentions at the beginning of a fresh 365 days. while i don’t necessarily believe in resolutions (i believe lifestyle changes can occur at any point of the year, not solely on january 1st), i knew i wanted to be intentional about how i was going to approach 2019 in light of our growing fears, frustrations, and feelings of uncertainty as it pertained to our pregnancy journey. we have a little felt board with plastic letters we often use to display clever and (at times) seasonal sayings in our living room. on january 1st, i scanned through the alphabet and composed the following to showcase on our mantle:

2019 is our year

ask

believe

receive

let’s do this team rivera

on the very same day i also vowed to pray for our future baby every. single. morning in the quietness of my car en route to my daily workout. nearly a year later, i can confidently say that i have kept this promise. my prayers have been answered in so so many ways, but i’ve remained steadfast in my petitions for a healthy, happy, and safe pregnancy, and ultimately –birth of our sweet sprout.

by the end of january, i began to feel the pull to seek additional help. after hearing numerous stories of its benefits, i decided to try acupuncture to aid in what had become a question of my fertility. at this point, my physical therapy appointments were reduced to a solitary monthly visit so it was more palatable to add in weekly acupuncture appointments (which our insurance graciously covered). it was at this point that i decided to begin sharing our story –details that had only been limited to close friends and family –on a more public forum. i posted my first instagram story confessing our nearly two-year struggle. the outpouring of support, love, and encouragement from friends, internet friends, and strangers alike was unlike anything i could have anticipated. i received countless messages of hope from women who had traveled down a very similar path and who had come out mothers on the other side. simply knowing that i was not alone in my journey, our journey, was enough to affirm that i had made the right decision in speaking out. it was then that i knew that God had every intention in dealing us this hand (clearly He always has a plan, it just takes a while sometimes for my dense brain to comprehend and ultimately accept it). this was our story for His glory.

i began to change my mindset. instead of dwelling in my guilt and shame of harboring this “dirty little secret” for so many months, i began to embrace our current situation. the more vulnerable i became and the more open i was with sharing our story, the more responsive people became. friends i had known for years (we’re talking people i hadn’t spoken to since high school!) reached out to tell me of their past struggles. it was eye opening to learn just how many of us had experienced the same frustrations. the same feelings of despondency. the same feelings of loneliness. all of a sudden i found myself a member of this underground club. i can attest that membership was never something i would have intentionally sought, but simply knowing that i carried the same badge as so many other amazing women was comfort enough for me. these women’s success stories were what began to fuel me to continue putting one foot in front of the other. especially on the days when the pregnancy tests very clearly displayed negative results (million dollar idea: someone come out with a line of pregnancy tests with more gracious wording for a negative outcome -how about “keep your chin up, lady! maybe next month!” because “NOT PREGNANT” is kind of a buzzkill for someone who was taking them almost weekly. just a thought.).

eventually the allotted appointments our insurance would cover for acupuncture ran out and as my 34th birthday inched closer, i could start to see the writing on the wall. we needed to call in reinforcements. while no family history or past personal health had ever indicated the contrary, i began to question my own fertility. i knew 34 was by no means “old” but seeing as a pregnancy after 35 is considered “geriatric” (RUDE), i couldn’t help but hear my biological clock ticking louder. on july 1st, 2019, i made the decision to call our insurance company and explore our options. what happened next was a CLEAR sign from God. to my surprise, S’s company offers a very rich fertility program. i immediately enrolled and was offered two local clinics with which to partner to start the next chapter of our seemingly never-ending journey. i chose the slightly closer of the two (in terms of proximity to our house) and made an appointment the very same day. july 26th. i circled it on our kitchen calendar. it was then i felt like i took a giant sigh of relief. for better or for worse, we’d finally get real answers and in turn, a game plan.

on that friday afternoon we arrived at HRC fertility clinic in oceanside. after tending to a few housekeeping items (you know, the normal new patient procedures like weight, blood pressure, and medical history), we were ushered into a tiny conference room to meet with the resident OB -dr. mickey coffler. his smiley blue eyes popped against his naturally tan skin. he was kind but also matter of fact. in so many words we laid out the details of the past year. he took notes, glanced at charts (we had done preliminary blood work prior to our visit to help expedite some of the processes) and began asking questions.

“so how many children do you want?”

if you had asked me that question back in my early 20’s (when S was nowhere to be found), i would have said three boys. that had always been my dream (i knew how much work i had been as an adolescent tween and feared history repeating itself). but as the years had ticked by and i found myself now well into my 30’s, i had widdled down my number from three to one.

“honestly, i’d just like to start with one and see how that goes.”

it felt selfish to ask for anything more, especially considering the fact that the status of our fertility had yet to be determined. dr. coffler went on to explain that we really had two options -IUI and IVF.

i had known friends who had been down both roads and all things considered, if we were fortunate to be candidates for IUI, it was absolutely my top choice.

but before we could do anything further, dr. coffler said we had a bit of homework to do. in a weird way this appealed to the school nerd in me. i love a list and knowing that with each procedure we could uncover more answers, i was ready to get the ball rolling.

the first line of business was a bunch more blood work. a BUNCH, you guys. at one appointment they took nine viles! i’m surprised i didn’t pass out to be honest. S had it done, too (though they took far less of his blood. men, they have it so easy in this process). they tested our hemoglobin for everything under the sun. all baby business aside, it was quite reassuring to have the results, especially when they all came back negative (check!). it was also at this time that we were encouraged to do genetic testing to see if either S or i were carriers for chromosomal abnormalities. thank GOODNESS i married a scientist because when the results landed in my inbox a few days later, S was able to decipher what appeared to me to be hieroglyphics and ultimately assured me that while i’m a carrier for one disease, S tested negative for ALL of them. no matter how you sliced it, our future child(ren) would not be affected (check!).

looking back now, the blood work was the easiest part. what came next was –i’m not going to lie –pretty scary for yours truly. i was about to embark on two back to back procedures to ensure my reproductive organs were in tip top shape. this would require back to back hospital visits as well as a bout of anesthesia. for someone who hadn’t been admitted to the hospital since she was two and hadn’t been put to sleep since having her wisdom teeth removed during winter break of her freshman year in college, this made me a little uneasy, but i reminded myself of the greater purpose for every doctor’s visit and feigned bravery until i actually felt, well, pretty brave.

the first procedure was a hysteroscopy. i know, i know, it sounds VERY similar to hysterectomy but i can assure you it’s quite different (thank goodness). essentially the doctor inserts a tiny camera into the uterus to take a quick gander around the joint to ensure it would be a viable home for a baby. usually this procedure is done while the patient is awake, but dr. coffler takes a more proactive approach and prefers to place his patients under anesthesia in the rare chance that he finds something in the uterus that needs tending to -i.e. removing a cyst, growth, etc. while i wasn’t thrilled for what would be –albeit outpatient, surgery, i did appreciate the extra precautions we were taking to ensure the next steps in our fertility journey would not be taken in vain.

i’ll spare you the specific details of the surgery itself (mostly because i clearly don’t remember many of them), and simply say that overall it was a success. as i was coming out of my anesthetic haze, i do remember dr. coffler showing me photos of the inside of my uterus (which i got to keep! we have them proudly displayed on our fridge. just kidding) and declaring it would be “a happy home” for our future baby. lucid or not, that was all i needed to hear to alleviate any stress and worry i had built up in the days leading up to the procedure.

the recovery time was next to nothing (i just couldn’t drive for 24 hours after anesthesia) which was good because i was due back to tri-city hospital the very next day. the second of the two procedures would be less invasive (thankfully) but no less important in determining the path we’d venture down to achieve our pregnancy. when it comes to fertility, there are basically two acronyms you need to know -IUI and IVF. the former may be less familiar to you while the latter is often a more common route for many couples struggling to conceive.

let’s take a timeout to go over the specifics of each methodology, shall we?

IUI, which stands for intrauterine insemination involves placing the sperm inside the uterus to facilitate fertilization. for all intents and purposes (and sorry for the visual), think of it like a turkey baster. the doctor takes the sperm and inserts it so high into the uterus that its chances of uniting with an egg are dramatically increased. the process itself is fairly benign and not terribly invasive. it’s also significantly less expensive than the IVF process. for all of those reasons, it was our preferred methodology in achieving pregnancy. the only issue we faced was whether or not my fallopian tubes were open in order for the sperm to swim through them to get to the egg(s). since we had had an issue with conceiving on our own, dr. coffler believed blocked tubes could be what was impeding our success. should the tubes be blocked in any way, we would automatically have to go the IVF route.

which leads me to IVF, perhaps a more commonly discussed fertility procedure. with IVF, or in vitro fertilization, the doctor actually removes the eggs from the woman’s body and mixes them with sperm in a lab, to aid in fertilization. once the egg or eggs have been fertilized, the embryos are then inserted directly into the uterus in hopes that one or more implant in the lining of the uterus. unlike IUI, IVF takes month of prep work including shots (usually into your stomach) to stimulate egg production before retrieval. i have had a handful of friends who have gone through the process and i know how taxing it can be both mentally and physically. however, because the embryo is first created outside of the body through the miracle of science, the chances for a successful pregnancy are good (at about 50% based on age). with a more extensive process, the price of IVF can be quite high. thankfully S’s insurance is very generous so we were encouraged that if we had to go this route, we’d have some reprieve from high medical costs.

hopefully that provides some clarity as to the options women struggling with fertility are presented. in my discussions with friends and family, i have found there is a bit of confusion between the procedures and some find them to be interchangeable. as you can see from their descriptions above, they are actually quite different and for that reason, our first choice was always to pursue IUI should my reproductive organs be compliant.

which brings me back to the second procedure –the hysterosalpingography test (or HSG because who can pronounce that word?!), an x-ray procedure used to view the inside of the uterus and fallopian tubes. it is helpful in determining if the fallopian tubes are partly or fully blocked, thus impeding sperm from connecting with the egg. if my tubes were blocked in any way, IUI would no longer be a viable option and we would have to detour toward IVF. obviously we were willing to do whatever necessary to achieve pregnancy, but knowing the above information, i prayed fervently that my tubes were as open as the freeway at 5:00 a.m.

after having a big procedure just hours before, i was obviously a little on edge when we returned to the hospital for appointment number two. throughout the process i could feel God lining our path with what i believe to be his angels on earth. one such angel was my nurse in the x-ray room. she was an absolute delight and put me at ease right away. again, details of the actual procedure aren’t really necessary but i can tell you that they called S into the room as a black and white image of my lady parts appeared on the screen so he could hear the results together. the technician (who was equally as delightful) inserted a dye into my fallopian tubes and we watched the x-ray machine with bated breath as we witnessed the fluid fill and overflow the tubes. MY TUBES WERE OPEN and it was then that i immediately burst into tears.

when you struggle with conceiving (especially when it feels like everyone else and their sister is getting pregnant around you), it can really mess with your self-worth. at least it did with me. there must be something wrong with me. anatomically. for a healthy, strong woman, this was always hard to accept. so having the medical confirmation that my reproductive organs were sound was just the confidence boost i needed. we declared it an issue of mechanics (the sperm just needed a little assistance getting to the egg) and left feeling more hopeful than ever that we were on the track toward success. next step, IUI!

the rate at which things progressed from here was pretty remarkable, given the fact that our journey thus far was closing in on 24 months. once the tests had been completed, the start of my subsequent cycle would be the catalyst for the final steps toward baby. september 12th marked the day my period returned (sorry for the TMI, it has now become an important date!). a few days later i began taking clomid, an ovulation stimulant that can help produce multiple eggs for increased opportunities for fertilization. five days later i returned to the clinic to see the results. to my surprise (and excitement), there were three (and a half) mature eggs each prepped and ready for viable sperm. it was go time!

it’s important to note that before i began taking the clomid, both S and i had to sign a waiver with the understanding that the drug could help facilitate multiple births (multiple eggs meant multiple embryos). we signed the documents electronically and weren’t physically together at the time, but we both texted each other the fine print, adding an lol, wouldn’t that be fun…

the next step was to give myself a “trigger shot” to release the eggs and prep my body for fertilization. S had to give me a shot in the lower abdomen and i was to report back to the clinic the following morning for the first of two back-to-back IUI procedures.

on september 24th, S arrived to the clinic independently of me to provide his ‘contribution.’ from there, the nurses cleaned the sperm to ensure it was nice and strong for insertion hours later. i arrived later in the day for the actual procedure. the whole ordeal lasted all of seven minutes. far from glamorous, it didn’t hurt at all. after the sperm was inserted to meet the egg via long tube (essentially a very skinny turkey baster), i had to lay still for five minutes (they used an egg timer like i was a batch of cookies, ha!) before i was up and on my way. S and i repeated the same exact process the following day. back-to-back IUI treatments obviously increase the chances of pregnancy and lucky for us, our insurance paid for both. why not give ourselves the best odds possible?

the next two weeks were excruciating. like waiting for christmas morning times 10. i tried my best to stay busy and keep my mind off things, remaining mindful of any symptoms that left me feeling not quite myself. right away i noticed a bit of cramping in my lower abdomen as well as breast tenderness. a quick google search informed me that both could be signs of early pregnancy. i tried to temper my excitement so as to manage my expectations, but i couldn’t help but feel the subtle changes in my body were harbingers of something greater. the extreme exhaustion also came in waves over that 14-day period, another tall tell sign of a baby on the way. while i was tempted to take an at-home pregnancy to put myself out of my misery, i stayed the course and waited the full two weeks until i could do a blood test with the clinic for conclusive results.

on october 9th i marched into HRC bright and early in the morning to provide a vile of blood, the contents of which would hopefully seal our fate toward parenthood. the nurse said we’d have the results by 3:00 p.m. that afternoon so i attempted to fill my day until S could come home early to accompany me as we awaited the fateful phone call. 3:00 p.m. ticked by, as did 4:00 p.m., too. finally as it neared the 5:00 p.m. hour, i called the clinic myself to see if they had possibly forgotten to notify us or worse yet -they had refrained from calling so as to avoid delivering the disappointing news. unfortunately the office staff had already left for the day and we were left scratching our head as to what to do…

S had the idea to email our personal nurse, angel, in the off chance she’d check her inbox while away from the office. to our surprise, she emailed back right away expressing her apologies for the delay and going on to explain she was just getting to the results and had planned on calling us as soon as she could. it was also in the email (which only S had read at this point) that she couldn’t contain her excitement. she typed out CONGRATULATIONS, you’re pregnant and assured S she would call me on my cell phone in a couple minutes.

do you know that S sat with that information for a solid 120 seconds before my phone rang?! he was officially the first person to know that our prayers had finally been answered. an unknown number popped up on my phone moments later and he advised me to answer it, knowing it was angel. i answered the phone with trepidation.

“hello?”

“shawna…con —

she couldn’t even get out the entire word “congratulations” before i immediately broke into deep guttural sobs.

she went on to finish her sentence, confirming a sentence i have waited to hear –in all honesty –for most of my adult life.

“congratulations, you’re pregnant.”

besides S’s request to marry him, no sweeter words had ever been uttered to me. i sobbed for a solid five minutes, so hard that i swear i could hear angel tearing up through the phone. she mentioned my hcg (pregnancy hormones) were strong (325) and that we were due back to the clinic for our initial sonogram in two weeks time.

after hanging up the phone, i immediately flung into S’s arms and there we cried together in a solid embrace. holy moly, we were going to be parents. our long, arduous, frustrating journey had finally resulted in our dream come true. we attempted to let it sink in as we immediately started the phone train to our respective moms followed by some of our closest friends. unlike traditional pregnancy announcements where couples wait the recommended 12 weeks (through the first trimester), i felt compelled to tell the community of people who had been there every single step of the way throughout our fertility journey. these were the (mostly) women who calendared important doctor’s visits/sonograms/procedures, the angel humans who prayed for us daily and who felt as though they were in the trenches with us, experiencing every triumph and setback together. it was only fair that they get to share in the initial news. and as expected, the news was met with pure jubilation.

it’s weird to wake up the day after finding out the biggest news of your life and act like everything is the same. but to the outsider, it is. despite a slight growth in my chest region which is quite foreign for this normally flat-chested gal (i know i’m in for a rude awakening as the weeks progress), nothing really felt different. i went about my normal routine, business as usual and counted down the days to our first sonogram where we’d get to see our teeny tiny baby.

on october 18th S joined me at the clinic to get our first look at our little human. as dr. coffler turned on the sonogram machine, we noticed what appeared to be not one but two sacs. come again? the first of the two was very clearly a gestational sac and inside you could spot (barely) the yolk sac starting to form (google 5 week ultrasound and you’ll see what i’m talking about), however the second was a tad bit irregular (on the thinner side). while it COULD be twins, the lack of clarity with regards to the second sac left the results inconclusive. we laughed and cried at the thought of TWO babies. dr. coffler gave us our very first sonogram –what he called “a group photo” with a chuckle and told us to make a follow-up appointment for november 1st (two weeks later). i’d be seven weeks by then and we’d get to hear the heart beat(s) at that time.

with a mix of emotions (shock, excitement, elation, etc.) we left on a cloud. once we got home, i proudly displayed our baby(babies)’s first photo on our fridge. in a truly surreal moment, i glanced up at the black and white image and smiled. i never thought this day would arrive and now, there was our baby.

babies?

after feeling pretty good through weeks four and five, by week six the dreaded morning sickness kicked in. you may have noticed that my instagram activity began to drop significantly over this two week period as it was all i could do to survive the day to day. thankfully i never got sick, but a constant stream of nausea was enough to make me want to curl up in the fetal position and cry. coupled with the morning sickness was the food aversions and cravings. my beloved brussels sprouts (and pretty much all vegetables in general) became the sworn enemy. as did coffee, fruit, and well, most anything healthy. for two weeks i survived on a diet of perfect bars (semi-healthy), avocado toast (also healthy), chips, salsa, guacamole, refried beans (the good greasy kind from your local mexican restaurant), pick up stix (i hadn’t eaten there in at least five years) and a bevy of other nearby restaurants that S visited nightly to appease my fickle appetite. i discovered cinnamon bears were a great antidote for nausea (especially in the morning) and that waiting too long to eat was no longer an option. when momma was hungry, she had to eat NOW. i vividly recall one afternoon, upon arriving at home, i was so hungry i ran to the fridge and grabbed a piece of cold grilled chicken sausage and just ate it like a slim jim staring off into the abyss making audible “mmmm” sounds along the way. who had i become?! it’s so weird to hear about something like pregnancy and all of its nuances for so long and then actually experience it for yourself in real time. some things are exactly as people said they would be while other aspects have been what i can only imagine are unique to me and my sweet little body.

thankfully in the days leading up to our 7-week appointment, i was finally able to stomach salads and felt a little better about myself for getting something green into my body. S and i were excited (and nervous to be honest) for this appointment in particular as it would be the first time we would get to hear our little sprout’s heart beat. if you’re not aware of how sonograms go this early on in your pregnancy, they’re intervaginally (no goo on my belly quite yet). considering all of the procedures i’ve had and how many people have been in and out of that region, i don’t even think about it anymore. i only tell you this nugget of information to add to the story that as he inserted the wand into my uterus and turned the screen toward me so i could see, it was then clear as day that there were DEFINITELY TWO SACS on the screen. the skinny sac had grown over the course of the last two weeks and there was no longer any doubt about it.

WE WERE HAVING TWO BABIES.

TWINS, you guys! TWINS?!

while we knew it was a possibility at our last appointment, we both had kind of convinced ourselves that the irregular sac was simply fluid or some other abnormality that would eventually dissipate over time. but now our fate was staring right at us.

TWO BABIES.

dr. coffler immediately cracked a joke that S should probably look for a second job. our diaper bill alone would be off the charts! after the initial shock of our news began to sink in, we carried on with the remainder of the appointment. it was then we were able to hear baby A and baby B (they’re unofficial names at the moment)’s heart beats. as expected, i immediately burst into tears. baby A clocked in at 153 rpms and baby B at 144. there’s an old wive’s tale that states a faster heart beat may indicate a girl and if that’s the case, we might be looking at one of each sex. but of course we won’t know until i’m further along. and if you think we could go the entire nine plus months (probably shorter since twins tend to come early) without knowing the sex of our babies, you don’t know me at all. this type A momma is a PLANNER and will need to know as soon as possible for nursery prep and names of course! plus i just want to stop referring to the babies as A & B, i’d love to start calling them by their chosen names (we have a name for a boy and girl and even two girls, but two boys is another story at the moment).

this time our sonogram photos were nearly as long as a CVS receipt! as we came out into the waiting room, all the nurses were abuzz with our news. over the course of the last four months, these wonderful women had become integral players in our fertility story. it was such a gift to have them share in our exciting albeit crazy news. we made one of our final appointments with the clinic for two weeks’ time and bid them adieu for the weekend.

in true shawna fashion, i called the office of our preferred OBGYN the day after we found out we were pregnant to set-up the standard 8-week appointment. after receiving glowing recommendations about dr. einat duhamel from scripps encinitas, we elected to have her oversee our pregnancy journey. on november 7th -just six days after our appointment at HRC we had the pleasure of seeing our babies for now a third time.

let me tell you, it doesn’t get any less special every time we see those babies moving and grooving inside my body. in just a week, the babies’ heart rates had climbed to 177 and 173 respectively. the sonogram technician confirmed that due to the size of the membrane between the two sacs, the twins were most likely fraternal. she measured a few more things and looped a video showcasing both babies (their first boomerang!) so we could record it on our phone and share it with family and friends. after that we were passed along to the PA, amanda balch to go over the quintessential do’s and don’ts of pregnancy. we received an informational packet choc full of information for how to not only prepare for the rest of pregnancy, but a TWIN pregnancy nonetheless. albeit a tad bit overwhelming, we both left feeling extremely confident that we had made the best decision in electing scripps medical group to guide us on this exciting journey. we made our 12-week appointment for december 4th with dr. duhamel herself and the four of us headed home to celebrate another positive appointment.

pregnancy has been a trip, you guys. most days i feel pretty nauseous. not enough to get sick, but just enough to feel as though i’ve just driven miles through the windiest roads. so many women have it much worse (hyperemisis) so i really try not to complain, but i would be lying if i said i feel like a magical daisy all of the time (in fact i’m counting down the days until my second trimester in hopes that it’ll bring a little reprieve -if only for the fact that i really miss the taste of coffee!). one thing that does help combat the nausea is eating. and often. no exaggeration, i have to eat about every two-two and a half hours or the babies get angry (i don’t know if they’re angry but from the crazy belching that occurs, they sure do make their presence known). i filmed this and will share on my instagram stories later but i wanted to make sure i penned this little anecdote about a specific food run at the beginning of week 9 that really made me question who (or what?) pregnancy has made me become. i had just finished teaching three straight barre classes and knew i would never make it home (it’s about a 25-minute drive from the studio to our house) without an in-transit snack. since i’m supposed to get an obscene amount of protein (we’re talking about 100 grams a day) to keep the twins growing big and strong, i knew exactly what i wanted –a rotisserie chicken. i stopped by a local landmark -chick’s natural (it has literally been around since i was in high school) and while i contemplated ordering a 1/2 chicken, settled on just a quarter of all white meat. “just the 1/4 chicken to go, please.” it was so inexpensive i paid for it in cash. i eagerly awaited my order to arrive on the counter and raced to the car to tear into the bag. i kid you not that i didn’t even make it out of the parking lot before ripping off a piece of juicy chicken and shoving it into my mouth. there may have even been an audible, “mmm…” this is who i am now, you guys. a girl who aggressively devours chicken with her bare hands while maintaining the speed limit down el camino real. if you think that chicken lasted me the entire duration of my commute, you’d be wrong. i finished it handily somewhere about a mile out from my destination and at that point seriously regretted not going for the double order. like i said, pregnancy has been a trip.

on november 15th, just a week later from our last OB appointment, we were back at HRC, our home away from home for one of our final sonograms with the team that had over the course of the last four and and a half months had become part of our family. at our previous appointment, dr. coffler had mentioned that at our 9+ week visit we’d be able to see the babies waving. i had laughed it off at the time but sure enough, we caught both baby A and baby B waving their tiny little hands at the camera (hi mom and dad!). due to its location, we tend to have a better view of baby A during the sonograms and were even able to see its tiny little perfectly formed toes. modern science is such a beautiful thing. both babies’ heart rates were rapid and strong (184 & 173) and they continue to grow, measuring almost 3 cm a piece. we were finally given a more definitive due date -june 18th, 2020, though most twin pregnancies don’t go full term (40 weeks) and can deliver anywhere between 35-37 weeks, so we’ve been warned to be prepared weeks ahead of time should the babes decide to join the party early. at any rate, we know we’re adding two more geminis (appropriate as they are the twins of the zodiac) to our household. FOUR GEMINIS under one roof, lord help us all!

this year we headed out to the la quinta resort to celebrate thanksgiving with my parents. clearly we have SO MUCH to be thankful for this year. we kicked off the holiday weekend with one final appointment at HRC. at officially 11 weeks, it was time for us to “graduate.” we were treated to one final sonogram where baby A put on quite the show, flipping and waving and wiggling and kicking like crazy. he/she had a strong heartbeat of 168 and showed off his/her developing features like eye lenses, tiny fingers and toes, and spine. it is WILD to see how much they’ve grown in just two weeks! baby B is a lot more demure than baby A -for this reason we have an inkling that baby A is a girl (crazy like her momma) and baby B is a boy (chill like his dad) though it’s too early to confirm these assumptions. he/she was a lot less active (for a minute, i thought he/she may be sleeping) but he/she gave a little wave as dr. coffler measured him/her and took inventory of the heart beat. for being so chill, the heart rate clocked in at 180! two strong healthy babies, what more could we ask for this thanksgiving holiday?!

you’d think after the countless couples he has helped on their fertility journey, dr. coffler would be a little jaded by this process but he was SO engaged the entire time, smiling and giggling, noting he could “watch them all day.” i don’t blame him, i may be biased already but they are stinkin’ cute little nuggets. i love them so much already, you guys. after we finished with the sonogram, we met back in the room we had sat in exactly four months (to the day!) prior for our very first appointment (july 26th). what a full circle moment. it was there that two of the employees who had been with us the entire journey busted in with gifts -two stuffed animal pigs (wearing HRC shirts) -one for each baby, and a makeshift diploma. dr. coffler reminded us that while it may have seemed like a long journey, we had been exemplary patients and that not everyone is as lucky to have the process work so quickly as it has for us. with his signature smile on his face he shook S’s hand and gave me a big embrace and just like that, we closed the first chapter of our fertility story. we promised we’d keep in touch and of course visit next summer or fall after the little ones had made their arrival earth side.

to close out our first trimester, we had our first appointment with our actual OBGYN, dr. duhamel on december 4th -which also just happens to be my half birthday. i was immediately put at ease by her calm yet matter-of-fact disposition. she was accompanied by a midwife whom she mentioned would be a wonderful addition to our birthing team. i’ve heard such great things about midwives in delivery rooms so i was excited to learn of dr. duhamel’s support of them as well. together they carried a portable sonogram system to view the babies on an ipad-sized screen. we were able to view both little nuggets right away -baby A (in typical form) was wiggling and waving as usual while baby B was more subdued (again, as usual). both heart beats were strong (it’s crazy to see the tiny heart fluttering on the screen) and both ladies affirmed that everything looked picture perfect! praise Jesus for healthy little bebes. we left feeling confident and grateful –two of the best emotions parents-to-be can experience, i’d imagine.

so on that positive note, this is where i’ll put a pin in our baby(babies) story for now. as i enter into the second trimester, i pray above all else that these little ones continue to grow healthy and strong. aside from that, i’d love to feel a little less nauseous all the time and maybe start drinking my beloved coffee again. i’m also excited to have this bump grow enough to feel as though i didn’t just eat a big lunch. i have plenty of maternity pants to fill out 😉

for everyone who has followed our story thus far, thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and well wishes. we are beyond thrilled to continue sharing this journey with you and i personally can’t wait to showcase my maternity style (i’ve created a capsule wardrobe that i’ll share soon), as well. if you’re interested, i’m sharing a lot of fun photos and video footage from the last twelve weeks in my instagram stories to provide a closer peek into our lives over the last three months.

love always,

S, me + baby A & B

12 Comments
  • Kristen
    December 10, 2019

    Loved reading this post! You’re amazing! Can’t wait to follow on your journey!

    • srivera
      December 12, 2019

      Aww, thanks so much, Kristen! I am grateful for all the love and support we’ve received. I plan on continuing to share as much as I can as we progress toward next June! xoxo

  • Grizzled IVF veteran
    December 10, 2019

    So, I’m always happy to read another infertility success story. And as a mom of 1 year old twins from IVF, you are certainly in for a life changing experience.

    Just a couple of thoughts though – the biggest lesson from your story is to not wait so long to seek help from an experienced reproductive endocrinologist. Your story is a 2.5 year haul, which could have been shortened significantly by going straight to IUI. I would hate to see others waste time with procedures that aren’t likely to help (pelvic therapy what??).

    Some of us have really serious fertility issues that will require years of actual treatment – and enduring multiple IUIs, IVF cycles with nothing to transfer, miscarriages, ectopics that nearly killed us … and at the end of all of that, no baby. Some of us needed multiple rounds of donor eggs to get our miracles.

    If you want to be a mouthpiece for infertility, recognize that most of in this boat don’t hit the jackpot with a single IUI and encourage people to get help early and often!

    I truly wish you the best of luck.

    • Lauren
      December 24, 2019

      No one wants to go down the road of infertility. So she has been on the luckier side of us unlucky ones on this path. She is simply telling her story!

  • Liberty Bernal
    December 10, 2019

    Xoxoxo! ❤️❤️

  • Jenny Mahon
    December 15, 2019

    Umm…so, I was randomly thinking of you this week and decided to check in on you via this blog. What in the world? You’re expecting…TWINS! I love it and I love it for you both. You’re going to be (well you already are for that matter) an incredible mother to two fortunate children. Congratulations S & S!

    • srivera
      December 16, 2019

      Jenny! What a lovely surprise. Thank you so much. Miss working with you so much, I hope all is well with you and your sweet family. xoxo

  • Lauren
    December 24, 2019

    Congratulations! As someone on the same path I really loved reading this and I’m so happy for you and your family. Thanks for sharing!

    • srivera
      December 26, 2019

      Thank you so so much, Lauren. I appreciate your love and support so much! xoxo

  • Deb
    January 7, 2020

    I just read this and cried and I already knew. Love you S + S

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