Matt and Kinsey Make a Baby : IVF

How do we start this? How do we ask you - our friends and family, our colleagues and community, our acquaintances and those who we haven’t seen in years but whose lives we could describe in detail because…Facebook – what we’re about to ask you? How do we, a healthy young couple with seemingly everything in the world going for them, say to everyone we know, “Please, help us have a baby?” That works. Please, help us have a baby. Well, I guess you have to let people in on your story if you’re going to ask them to help you raise $16,000.

Growing up, my mom had a bowl on the kitchen counter, a kitschy catchall intended for car keys and whatever other odds and ends came of outturned pockets. It was white enamelware, the black stone beneath shone through the cracked edges around the top. Most of the time it sat empty, and visible at the bottom was a well-known phrase by Woody Allen. It read, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” As a child, I laughed at it because I knew it was supposed to be funny, but I didn’t actually get it. A decade into adulthood, six years of marriage, three plus years of infertility, and two failed IUIs (think teeny tiny turkey baster) later, it resonates much deeper. But before I continue (take a deep breath all you grammar police, yes, I started a sentence with the B word) this is not a story of God’s failed faithfulness. Quite the opposite, in fact. If this were the right forum for telling our whole story, you’d see what we’ve come to know and believe; God’s hand – no matter the “kinks” in our plans – is always present, and he truly does work ALL things (even the really hard ones) for the good of those who love him. We love the Lord our God, and we know that he didn’t put this overwhelming desire in our hearts just to watch us agonize over every negative pregnancy test and unwelcome visit from everybody’s favorite Aunt. Psalm 34:7 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” We believe Him.

About three years ago, on the eve of a ski trip with friends, we decided to stop preventing pregnancy. I had never been on birth control, so we assumed that stopping any other measures would open up the fertile floodgates fairly quickly. One day, after hitting the slopes (black for Matt, bunny for me) I became nauseous. “This is it!” I thought. Hours later, two more of our friends were hugging trashcans. “It” turned out to be the stomach bug. It was also the first of dozens of hopeful incidents just like it, cramps or fatigue fooling me into thinking the reproductive system that brought me nothing but moodiness and pints of Ben & Jerry’s was finally bringing me something worth all the crazy lady symptoms (you know what I’m talking about, husbands). “We’re not preventing right now,” turned into cycle trackers, ovulation kits and “actively trying.” After downloading a fancy app, we just knew that charting my temperature, cycle days, and you don’t even want to know what else would help us nail down the optimal “let’s get it on” day. Surely we would get pregnant now that we were trying harder. (I’m just going to leave that right there and let you interpret it however you want, you dirty birds). In all seriousness, we really did believe that having a baby was just a simple equation of input = output. Three years of whittling down our sex life to an exact science and we were still childless.

But (there’s that B word again), as is the nature of our God, he did not leave us alone in this struggle. Sometime during the course of those three years, He led us to two dear friends who had suffered through infertility and child loss to have their firstborn. They were open about their story from the start, something that allowed us to ask them for help and later decide to be open ourselves as we fought our own battle. Our friends recommended us to their fertility specialist, and we set our first appointment with him right away. “We can see you at the end of this week,” his receptionist said cheerfully over the phone. My heart swelled. We were finally here. We were going to have a baby. We wouldn’t have to add years onto those we’d already spent trying, hoping, and praying on our own. We could be taking concrete steps to starting a family in a few days.

Warning: colorful language ahead. In case you’re reading this jolly little tale aloud during family hour.

“Let’s get this shit done!” chimed a small, charismatic man as he strode into the room and sat down in front of a giant photograph of broken eggshells. His comical demeanor put us at ease, but still we held our breaths, praying against the worst. He explained the different possible reasons we were struggling to conceive and laid out courses of action like equations. Basically, if “x” is wrong, then we do “y.” He also told us that some, however, fall into the category of unexplainable infertility. “There is no identifiable reason why couples in this category have not gotten pregnant before entering our office.” Not knowing exactly what’s preventing conception makes it difficult to determine the best way to help it on. Couples with unexplainable infertility, though they are healthy, actually have less of a chance of conceiving. I know it sounds backwards, but I hoped we didn’t fall into this “unfixable” category. I hoped for some particular issue that could be remedied. If we knew “x” was the problem, we could do “y,” and I could stop wondering if I was doing something wrong. But alas, our results came back and into the unexplainable category we fell. The doctor seemed hopeful as he recommended intrauterine insemination, or, IUI. Even though the success rate started at around 30-40% for the first IUI and decreased with each subsequent attempt, we believed – especially since nothing seemed to be wrong with either of us - our spunky little doctor would indeed give us a baby.

So, through the timeline of medications and hormones we went, and I was inseminated a few weeks later. Our doctor entered the room, fist in the air as he sang the theme song from “Rocky.” He seemed as certain as we were that this would work. “You want a cigarette?” he asked jokingly as I lay on the crunchy medical parchment after the procedure, heels to the heavens. I stayed that way for the next ten minutes, then walked out excited and sure.

The next two weeks dragged on. Friends prayed with us, sent messages of support, and innocently asked if I had any pregnancy symptoms yet. As in the ski trip days, I weighed each strange pain, sleepy day, and moody moment as a sign in our favor. The day finally arrived when I was to have bloodwork done to determine whether or not I was pregnant. The phlebotomist talked about his garage band as I stared at the thick red liquid filling the vile, willing it to contain evidence of life. The fertility clinic would send the bloodwork off to a lab where it would be analyzed and the results sent back to the clinic. It was 10am. We would have to wait until after 4pm to find out whether or not we were pregnant. We waited in Matt’s office, worked out, prayed with a precious friend of ours in the middle of the gym, and waited some more. I prayed to hear that my husband would be a father, but the cramps that grew stronger throughout the day began to wear at my optimism. Close to 6pm, the number of the fertility clinic flashed across my phone. “Hey, Kinsey,” the nurse spoke on the other end of the phone, slowly. Her tone told me everything I needed to hear. I was not pregnant.

We drove around blankly and settled on tamales for dinner because, what hurt can’t be healed by Mexican food? The doctor called to follow up as we were heading home. “I’m sorry this didn’t work,” he offered, defeated.” “It’s ok,” I replied. “No, it’s not. It sucks.” He was right.

He recommended a second round of IUI, saying there was nothing he’d do differently. The next day when my cycle came like clockwork, we called the clinic and began round two. Although none of the variables changed, we still hoped the next IUI would be successful. Maybe my body had treated the first IUI like a “trial run,” and now that it was juiced up on hormones it would at last be ready for the Big Show. You can convince yourself of anything when you’re desperate. Over the next few weeks, our office visits took on a less playful tone. Rather than cracking jokes, we heard over and over “It’s going to work this time.” We kept pleading with God and telling ourselves the same thing. It’s going to work.

As I hugged my knees and wept into my chest a few weeks later, I wasn’t so sure.

I had just hung up with the nurse, her patronizing tone telling me everything I needed to hear in the first two words. Matt had been out of the room when I got the call. He came back to me folded in on myself, sobbing. Everything I hadn’t allowed myself to feel with the first failed IUI came pouring out of my face and onto my knees. Every well-meaning but misplaced comment we’d heard over the last three years rang in my ears. I had tried to stress less, pray more, thank God for the time we’d had as a couple, and trust in His timing, but nothing had given me more control over this thing that I wanted to happen so badly. My husband, who I’ve seen cry maybe a handful of times in the last ten years, sat beside me on the couch staring blankly through the quickly fading future we’d imagined for our family. Tears slipped from his eyes. I felt mocked by the vision boards I had made over the years, collecting pictures of mamas nestling their newborns and articles on “The Best Bottles for Breastfed Babies.” I could no longer envision Matt’s hand on my growing belly, nudged by the repositioning of a tiny foot or picture the look on his face when he holds our baby for the first time. What had we done wrong? Was there a reason our hopes were once again deferred? And perhaps the most terrifying question, what were we supposed to do next?

When we first began infertility treatment, we were certain that if insemination failed and we were asked to consider in vitro fertilization, or, IVF, we would adopt. But, sitting on our couch we realized we were grieving more than just a failed process; we were mourning the possibility of having babies, our babies. I’d always thought of adoption as a resounding picture of the Gospel – God’s unrelenting pursuit of us and the great sacrifice He made so that, through Jesus, we could be called His sons and daughters. I viewed IVF as an extravagant and selfish choice. This is not a choice I would have made for myself.  Before joining the barren ranks of women TTC (trying to conceive, a term I learned on my fancy baby-making app) I demonized fertility treatment and glorified adoption as the only means through which the Lord could make his redemption story known. Fighting for our family over the last four months, we’ve realized that even through a process we formerly considered self-serving, we will be able to tell our babies, “Just like our Father fought for His children, we sacrificed everything to make you ours.”

We scheduled a consultation with our doctor a week later.

Back in the broken eggshell room, our dynamic doctor walked us through the detailed process and financial commitment required to undergo in vitro fertilization. Infertility treatments, as they are considered elective procedures, are not covered by health insurance. Other than doctor’s visit copays, all costs associated with “making this shit happen” come out of couples’ pockets. We had already sunk close to $3,000 into our inseminations; however, that number paled in comparison to those our doctor was currently scribbling across the top of our IVF paperwork. Also, the nature of IVF does not allow for a set price. The costs of treatments and medications vary based on the patient’s age and relative reproductive health, number of eggs produced, necessary dosage of medications, and whether or not the couple can pay out of pocket. In an eggshell (see what I did there) we will pay $685-$1125 at our first appointment for pre-screening evaluations. The estimated cost of doing the dang thing ranges from $10,015- $17,300, and the medications can cost from $3000-$6000. Tack on the fact that I’m a medical mystery, and young, healthy women who can produce eggs just fine on their own but can’t manage to keep one a-cookin’ are at a higher risk of ovarian hyperstimulation – the remedy of which is to delay the IVF process for an additional $2300-$2800 – and the costs are overwhelming. To say, “We could use your help,” is an understatement.

So, here we are, a healthy young couple with seemingly everything in the world going for them asking you, “Please, help us have a baby.”

There’s a song by the heaven-sent country singer, Chris Stapleton, called Broken Halos. We listened to it on repeat after each of our failed IUIs, our pity party anthem if you will. In it he sings, “Don’t go looking for the answers. Don’t go asking Jesus why. We’re not meant to know the answers. They belong to the by and by.” We don’t know the reasons why we have yet to see that little pink plus sign. We don’t know God’s plan for our family, but we know He does. We know He has put this desire in our hearts to bring it about in a way only He could imagine. Romans 5:3-5 says, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts…” As believers, our hope does not rest on the success of this procedure. We have not lost faith in our God, and no amount of heartache can rob us of the greatest gift we’ve ever been given. Verse 8 gives the reason for our hope: “but God shows us his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Whether or not you feel led to pray with us or give to our cause, we pray that, in sharing our story, you will see that God’s hand is in it. He says He will give us the desire of our hearts. We believe Him.

Thank you,

Matthew and Kinsey Aquallo

P.s. To any English teachers reading this, forgive me. I really don’t understand how to use parentheses. Also, if starting a sentence with a conjunction is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
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Matthew J Aquallo 
Aledo, TX

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