- Candice Erskine
God is Faithful and His Word Cannot Return Void
Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
I begin my testimony with this scripture as it was the spark that ignited the fire inside me which lay dormant for many years on my fertility journey...
And before I get ahead of my story. I truly want all of you who read this to know that His word is paramount. Joshua 1: 8, Hold on tight and put your eyes solely on Jesus. He is our comforter when we are hurting and walk during uncertain times. He is our strength when we are at our weakest. He is our true love who puts us together when we feel like falling apart. I’m truly honored to share my testimony and I pray you see His goodness in our story.
It all began in June 2011, straight after we got married, we were ready! Ready to start our family. We had been living in Italy for over 6 years, and been in a relationship over 6 years, we had plenty of years to plan when and how we wanted to start our family, and we were excited to be pregnant. We had prepared for our baby in all the ‘normal’ ways – Durandt was enjoying his professional career in rugby and we were working hard at being financially stable. We were prepared….or so we thought. Things didn’t happen as planned, unlike many getting pregnant stories, ours wouldn’t be so simple.
The First Signs
In our first year of marriage, my monthly period transformed into my monthly dread. We always hear about the fear a woman has when she has no period. Much less talked about is the fear and anxiety countless women have when their period comes, signifying one more month without conception, one more month that makes them wonder if they’ll ever have a family. With every month that passed, that fear and anxiety grew. I could not imagine a life without children.
Desperate to find an answer to this problem, I sought out an expert in fertility. A dear friend of mine suggested that I meet with a doctor to discuss our options. Thus began our journey on a path that would change our lives forever.
Fear and Hope Don't Go Together
In February 2012, We were in a small town in central Italy and began all the necessary tests on both Durandt and I to find out the reason. And after countless tests, the doctor discovered that I had a condition know as Hydrosalpinx, which damaged both my fallopian tubes. He advised the only way for us to have a healthy pregnancy would be to remove both tubes and walk the IVF route. This was one of the most disheartening moments of my life, I remember being in the doctors office and looking at DuRandt, I felt broken, betrayed by my body. I didn’t know then that that feeling would become my new normal. That I would spend the next 6 years living my life in cycle increments, carefully building up enough hope to sustain me, and then having it all slip away, again and again. Of all the getting pregnant stories, why did mine have to be like this?
The Start of my Fertility Journey
In August 2013, we had our official IVF consultation with a doctor in South Africa. We discussed medications, injections, retrieval, and transfer. We looked at the financial obligations and tried not to panic about the fact that trying to have our baby would cost essentially all of our savings, and then some. We tiptoed around the reality of the statistics – at best, a 33% chance of success. There was no guarantee ours would be one of the successful getting pregnant stories. And immediately began our first round of IVF. Ten days of stims. Ultrasounds and bloodwork nearly every other day. A trigger shot. My body was exhausted, but holding tough with the flood of hormones and medications, the constant needles. By the time egg retrieval rolled around, my belly was swollen, the follicles that cluttered my ovaries so big that it hurt to walk, or sit. I woke up from anesthesia loopy and in pain, but happy. They had retrieved 4 eggs. The next day, 8 had fertilized. Each step was new to us. We did not know what to expect and trusted the process. We began the process of prepping to transfer two embryos. I took estradiol 4 times a day, began progesterone injections 5 days before our scheduled transfer and I saw our perfect little embryos, watched on the screen as they were placed in my uterus, and began the hardest waiting we’d ever been through. I was PUPO (Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise), and I was desperately excited, and desperately scared. Each day brought more anxiety, more worry, and fading hope. Then came the day before my blood test. My husband found me on the floor. My poor husband had no idea what was wrong when he found me on the bathroom floor struggling to breathe. He fortunately had been awakened by the sound of me calling before I passed out. We knew something was very wrong. My doctor had mentioned a rare side affect of IVF (called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome) before we started treatment and told us the warning signs. I remember them briefly mentioning a very severe form of OHSS. Once I came to after passing out and saw my stomach, I realized what was happening to me and knew we needed to get to a hospital ASAP. I knew right then that our first attempt had failed. Broken! It took all of me not to lose sight of our dream, Not to lose faith and not to lose hope.
The 2nd....3rd and 4th Cycle
It was the 2nd May, 2014, we were back in Italy. We had found a wonderful clinic in Florence (I had considered calling our little girl Firenze), which was an hour train ride from Rome. After a long wait and a bit of time to save. We were so excited to begin our 2nd cycle. FILLED WITH HOPE ONCE AGAIN. I knew what to expect but doing this in another language was going to have its own challenges....so familiarly, it began with the ten days of stims. Ultrasounds and bloodwork. A trigger shot. My body exhausted, the flood of hormones and medications, the constant needles but I did not care, I was thrilled to be given another chance. This time round, embryo transfer scheduled on 3 June, 2014. Everything went perfectly and we left feeling sooooo good.
Embryo Transfer Ultrasound
I then spent the next 2 weeks willing my baby to get cozy. I ate pineapple core (an old wive’s tale to get the baby to implant), prayed and prayed with desperation, made a pregnancy diet plan, read motivational books to keep my mind busy and positive during the two-week wait.
I felt really different from our last transfer, and had a lot of pressure in my uterus…which I took as a good sign. I decided not to test early and instead to wait for the blood test at the doctor. When we got the call, I was overjoyed. It was the best day of my life. My HCG level was high and things were looking up!
But when you go through infertility, you never let yourself get too excited. Du and I both tried to not get ahead of ourselves because we knew we still had a long road ahead of us. Instead, we stayed cautiously optimistic. The doctors continued to monitor my HCG levels and it was more than doubling every 2 days…an awesome sign of a viable pregnancy! We were ecstatic but knew the ultimate test would be the first ultrasound.
Our First Ultrasound
We had our first ultrasound at 6 weeks and were both a nervous wreck. At 6 weeks, you’re looking for a gestational sac, a fetal pole, and sometimes a heartbeat. 6 weeks can be a little early for a heartbeat, so we promised ourselves that we wouldn’t get upset if they didn’t hear one today. It was still early.
6-week ultrasound – 1 gestational sac....At that point, We were overjoyed that we had a baby doing well in there.
At our 7-week ultrasound, we were really nervous and anxious. Our first ultrasound hadn’t gone exactly as we expected, but we were hopeful for a good visit. We soon saw our baby up on the screen with his beautiful little heart beating away. We were told that everything was looking amazing and it had a strong heartbeat.
At 8 weeks, I was feeling confident about our ultrasound appointment. Durandt had flown to South Africa for his father’s wedding so I had a close friend come with me to the appointment. At this point, we had already seen the baby twice and had heard his strong heartbeat at the last appointment.
Giulia and I walked into the room and immediately I knew something was wrong when she began the ultrasound because the technician was very quiet. I started to panic a bit and looked at the screen searching for clues to her silence. And that’s when I saw it…my baby on the screen without the flicker of the heartbeat. Just floating there in silence.
She turned to Giulia and said in Italian, “I’m sorry, but there’s no heartbeat.” Giulia looked at me and at that instant, I was numb. I just kept thinking that she was mistaken. We had seen a strong heartbeat just 6 days before…how could it stop? I was lucky to have my friend Giulia by my side at this point and I immediately called Durandt. He was so far away from me, and he could’nt be there with me to put his arms around me...we both sobbed uncontrollably having just lost the best thing that had ever happened to us.
He returned within two days from South Africa and we went in a day later. I had a D&C surgery to remove our baby. I remember waking up from surgery and touching my stomach, knowing that he was no longer with me. The next few weeks were a blur. I tried to pass the hours going to work, trying to see the positive in anything seemed pointless when I was hurting so badly. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t smile. I looked at the clock everyday wishing for it to be bedtime, so I could just sleep. But then at night, I would find myself lying awake replaying every moment over and over in my head and asking myself questions. Had I done something wrong? Why did this happen? Were we ever going to be parents? Was I not meant to be a mom? Could this happen again?
We began socializing, reading books on how to overcome and speaking to 2 close friends to help deal with the pain…holiday gatherings, baby announcements galore, and Christmas cards full of families. How Did This Happen? That’s a question I ask myself over and over. Unfortunately, miscarriage is all too common. Most miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities, a whopping 70-80%.
After 2 failed and traumatic IVF cycles I was desperate, broken, could’nt see any way but to push myself to do another cycle. It had consumed me. We had 9 viable embryos frozen after our 2nd IVF cycle. So In our 3rd and 4th cycle of IVF we did frozen embryo transfer within a space of 8 months. And both attempts failed.
1 x Laparoscopy, 4x IVF cycles, 1x miscarriage, 1 x D&C and no baby. My body was tired, my emotions were tired, I had nothing left in me to try any more and hopelessness was beginning to take over. We decided to stop trying...besides the physical and emotional toll, the financial mountain had put us in an extremely bleak place for our future. I want to stop here for a moment and add that through all the above I prayed, I prayed, I prayed. God gave me 3 prophecies by this point and I had a journal of prayers which I prayed over my body through each and every cycle, I begged God each time and it felt like a “no“ to me, the enemy was revelling in my unbelief. But when I look back now, I realize it was a “not now”....God saw me even though I felt unseen. In the deepest crevice of my heart, I had the smallest amount of hope but believe me the unknown and longing I can still re-live while I write this and it is a testament that my journey was meant for a season and a reason.....
Fast Forward 3 years later. We were now living in Dubai. After longing, praying, saving and uncertainty and giving my body a break we decided in January 2018 to fast and I made the decision that God would lead us if we were to attempt this for the 5th time. WOW, the comfirmation through words from Starla and scriptures from close friends had me so spiritually excited and emotionally ready.
Deuteronomy 7:13 Isaiah 26:3 Songs of Solomon 2:10-13 Romans 4:17 John 16:33 Matthew 9:29
He had not only led us to the doctor in South Africa which corrected another underlying issue (septum uterus, corrected with surgery) but he financially put us in the position to do this! We took each step by faith on this final attempt. My eyes closed but my spirit focused. I had also created a prayer group of woman to keep my emotions honest and spirit in check throughout the 5th attempt. The day finally came. It was September 3rd, 2018, and we finally began our 5th round of IVF. First came the shots which I began in Dubai and 6 days later I flew to South Africa to continue the stim. Boy was this a fun time. To prepare for the egg retrieval, I had forgotten all my body had to go through. However, this time I was ready, I was surrounded by family. I remember moments during the prep, feeling like holding a baby in my arms felt so far away as I was going through this. Seeing so many negative pregnancy test results before, I wondered if I would ever see a positive. When it got to the day of our egg retrieval, I was scared but so excited to see how many eggs my body made with the help of medicine that month. They put me to sleep for a short time to retrieve the eggs. I was so excited when I woke up to find out that they retrieved 9 eggs!! This was good news that I knew we could work with!
We got a call a few hours later that said they were about to make 9 embryos out of the eggs and sperm they had collected. They would watch them grow for the next 5-7 days and determine how many would survive. I continued shots and medication in preparation for the embryo transfer to my uterus.
On October 20th 2018, we transferred 2 embryos! I watched on the ultrasound machine as they inserted the embryos into my uterus. I literally saw these little blobs of life get added to my body. It was insane! The waiting this time was 100% the hardest part. For the next 10 days we prayed and hoped and prayed and hoped that one or both would implant into my uterine wall. I remember starting to feel like something was happening in my body. God had given me unbelievable peace. Durandt had flown back and I stayed for a couple days in SA to be safe and then flew back to Dubai. I was hopeful that IVF would work this time and just kept remembering that God has a plan. Even if that meant saying that out loud several times a day and in between tears.
Day 10 After Implantation had Arrived
I went in early that morning with DuRandt to get the beta test done and we had to wait all day for the results. Lets just say, I had never cried so much for so long in one day without knowing the results. It was late afternoon by the time they called with the results from my beta test, and I was so anxious I nearly threw up. Then the nurse said those two words: “You’re pregnant!” I sobbed, full on ugly tears, makeup dripping off my face. I was sitting next to Durandt crying and laughing and still in disbelief. Our second beta test came back two days later, and my levels had tripled. I was just shy of 9 weeks pregnant. I had seen my baby three times and listened to her heartbeat. I was ecstatic and terrified. I was trying to believe in my body again, to believe that come that July we would hold our baby in my arms. And on the 7th of July 2019, I gave birth to a 4.08kg little girl named Roma. She is all we dreamed and more! Infertility will never leave me. I will never forget the pain and heartbreak and loss we experienced, or the fear and anxiety that snuck up on me. Our journeys can break us, but still make us stronger, more resilient. And we will never, ever stop being grateful for our little IVF miracle, the happy ending to our "getting pregnant" stories. I want every woman longing to be a mom to know that it is God's will for you. You are a descendant of Abraham. Every day I look at Roma, she is a reminder of God’s goodness. That He is faithful and that his word cannot return void. Isaiah 55:11.