Infertility and Our Journey to a Forever Family
Infertility did not win
I was just like any girl, always dreaming of the day to finally get married and have children. I had the names of both boy and girl picked out back in high school. Once I had actually typed the names all on a piece of paper and I kept it in my purse. Back in high school my worst fear was not being able to have children. It is almost like I had a feeling I would never have a child. I remember telling my mom one time “Mom, I want kids so bad, I bet I won’t be able to conceive”. She said “don’t say that Stephanie”. I guess when you want something all of your life you wonder if it will actually happen…
Terry and I met in the summer of 1995. I had just graduated high school and we met hanging out in the town he lived in. We instantly clicked and I knew after a very short time he would be the man I was going to marry. We became engaged February 14, 1998. The wedding was set for July 22, 2000. We were so excited to become husband/wife. Our plans were to be married for a few years and then try to have a baby. Sometimes plans change in life….
September of 1999, I started having pains in my side. I dealt with it for months until one morning, I woke up and the pain was unbearable. I called my gynecologist and went in for an appointment. The doctor ended up doing an internal ultrasound and they discovered I had a golf ball sized cyst on my ovary. A few hours later, I was in surgery. I remember being so scared because I had never had surgery before, let alone emergency surgery. My parents and Terry assured me things would be ok and I was hauled off to surgery. As I woke from surgery, I remember my mom at my bedside. I don’t really think I was fully awake when she told me that the doctor found something during surgery. At first I thought the worst, assuming it was cancer or something but then she told me the doctor found endometriosis meaning if you want to have a child, he said you have to start soon. Endometriosis is the development of uterine-lining tissue outside the uterus. Symptoms include abdominal pain, heavy periods, and infertility. The doctor said the endometriosis was really bad. In my mind, I was thinking “ok, that’s fine; we want kids anyway so it’s ok…” I was never upset by the news; all it meant to me was that our plans will change. Having a baby right after marriage won’t be so bad. My aunt had endometriosis and she didn't have any infertility issues, so I was certain I wouldn't either.
Terry and I talked it over and decided not to move up the wedding, we would just wait until after the wedding to try to become pregnant. The doctor put me on continuous birth control. If you are not having a period, the disease is not supposed to grow. I stopped taking the pill the week after our wedding and we were so excited to start trying. I just knew I would get pregnant right away and we were very hopeful it would happen quickly.
Months went by and every month I was disappointed with negative pregnancy tests. I went in for another doctor’s visit and the doctor told me he would put me on fertility drugs. He told me that with me having endometriosis it will be harder for me to conceive. He said it should work and help me get pregnant. I took Clomid for a couple more months along with doing 3 months of artificial inseminations, with no success. I asked the doctor to up my milligrams. So, I took stronger doses and still no pregnancy.
I started feeling pain bothering me in my side again, so the doctor did an ultrasound and I had another cyst that had to be removed. Again, I was heading to surgery not even a year later to go through the same thing. I was so aggravated. When the doctor got out of surgery this time, he said that my endometriosis was rapidly growing and that we needed to talk about other options right now.
I was so determined to get pregnant and I felt like something else was constantly bringing me back to square one. There was nights I would cry myself to sleep not understanding why this is SO hard for us to become parents.. Something we wanted more than anything in this world.
The doctor finally put me on a shot called Lupron. Lupron basically puts you into a menopausal state; it also is supposed to kill endometriosis. I was on the Lupron for 3 months. 1 shot a month. I felt terrible when I was on the shot. My body was all messed up and I was very moody. Terry couldn't stand to even be around me when I was taking the Lupron shot. It messed with my emotions so bad. After the 3 months was over with, the doctor told me to go ahead and try to conceive again and it should work. The doctor suggested I get a HPV shot thinking that maybe I needed that for ovulation and to help get pregnant.
We tried for about 3 months and then all of a sudden the pain on my side came back again. Back into surgery I went and the doctor found out once again that my endometriosis was all over the place. The endometriosis was spreading all over my organs and was causing damage to my tubes. That is when the doctor suggested I go to a specialist. The doctor gave me hope that a specialist could help me and get me pregnant. He thought that the specialist was better qualified in my condition and could help me better.
We went to the specialist and he gave me a lot of hope. He said he’s dealt with this condition before and would do everything he could for us. He thought that doing inseminations would work and we would try those first. We ended up trying 3 times doing inseminations in a 2 month period and still no pregnancy.
In the middle of us trying to conceive, going to doctor visits and all of the stress that comes along with it, a tragedy hit our family.
On January 22, 2002, Terry’s brother, Corey, was killed by a drunk driver. He was driving his motorcycle on the way home from work one day and a drunk driver hit him. Having a baby was the last thing on our mind for months after that. The stress of everything was really starting to affect both of us. And the last thing on our minds when the tragedy hit was having a baby.
It took us about 6 months to get back on track of wanting to try to conceive.. And we tried on our own those 6 months with no fertility drugs. We ended up going back to the specialist and he told us that he doesn't feel we are going to become pregnant on our own and said we had 2 choices, either do invetro or I would have to have a hysterectomy because the disease was too bad to let it go.
We decided to get a 2nd opinion. We went to St. Louis and met with another specialist, after reviewing my history and records, he said the exact same thing, invetro or hysterectomy.
I was 25 and was told I had to have a hysterectomy. Knowing I was going to lose my chance to carry a baby myself was so devastating. I have never felt so upset and hopeless in my life. My heart was broken. I cried for days knowing what was to come..
Terry and I talked and invetro is a lot of money, and it’s not guaranteed, we could use the money to adopt instead. We talked it over for a month or so and decided we would adopt and I would go through with the hysterectomy.
Scheduling the appointment for my hysterectomy was hard. The nurse looked at me and I could see in her eyes she was thinking, how sad it was to see a 25 year old who had never gave birth and here I was going to have this surgery to finalize the fact that it will never happen.
The nurse gave me the date of my surgery and I dreaded that date. I hated that date.
Terry suggested we call an adoption attorney and talk to her before surgery so we would both be reassured and get on a list for adopting. We talked to the attorney and found out what steps we had to take to get on the list. I had a fun time making our portfolio and the next step was having a home study done. We wanted to wait on the home study until after my surgery so I could recover for a few months. The attorney kept our portfolio on file at her 2 offices and told me that she would show it to potential birth parents if they were looking for a couple like us to choose for their baby. This was the one hope I needed before surgery…
The night before my surgery, I was having second thoughts. Should I do this? Can I honestly say this is the right thing for me? I even asked God for a sign that maybe it’s not what I should do. He never gave me one.
The morning of surgery I had butterflies in my stomach. I cried on the way to the hospital. I kept thinking in my mind “when I walk out of this hospital, it’s over; I will not be able to ever have a child on my own”. "Am I going to regret this decision, one that I can NOT take back?"
Having the hysterectomy was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. After surgery, the doctor told me that I had the worst case of endometriosis he had ever seen. I had a stage 5,. He didn't think it would have been possible for me to ever become pregnant as bad as it was. I don’t know why, but it did help hearing that. It almost made me feel like I made the right decision.
We decided to wait until I fully recovered from surgery to contact the attorney again about the next steps of the adoption process. I needed to recover mentally and physically so I could dedicate all of my time/thoughts to the adoption process.
In the meantime, some friends of ours, Megan and Chris, called and asked if they could come over to visit and bring their kids over. We met them through Terry’s brother, Corey. In fact, one of their son’s middle name is Corey (named after Terry’s brother). We had a nice visit and there was one point where I was talking to Megan and the guys were outside. She had mentioned to me that she just decided to be a surrogate and went online and found an agency and signed up. She filled out the papers and was in the waiting process. I then shared with her that we were going to be putting in for adoption as I had just had a hysterectomy about 2 months beforehand. She had no idea that I had a hysterectomy. She knew I had surgery, but nothing further was said to her about it. Then she said “I would have a baby for you”. I said “whoa, what did you say?” We actually checked into my mom having a baby for us, but the doctor was concerned about her age. I didn't think anyone else would offer to actually carry a baby for us. She told me to talk it over with Terry and we would talk in a few days. When they left I told Terry what she said. He was as surprised as I was and said we would talk about it.
A few days later, Chris and Megan called us back and asked if they could come over again and talk. I was thrilled to hear back from them because I had already discussed with my parents and some family members what she offered to do. My family and friends were skeptical as some of them had never met our friends before. I think it’s normal to feel that way and I was ok with that and understood.
Megan and Chris came over and they expressed to us that they were serious about helping us and they would do it however we had to. Considering that I didn't save any eggs before my hysterectomy we only had one choice of how we could do the surrogacy. We would do a insemination with Terry’s sperm and Megan’s eggs. So legally, she would be the birth mother and then I would adopt the baby. We discussed it among the 4 of us if we could all handle the surrogacy, and everyone was on the same page.
We called the attorney we had previously talked to about adopting. Our attorney wanted to meet all of us. We went in for an appointment and the attorney explained the surrogacy process to the four of us and how it worked, the laws, etc. Then the attorney wanted to meet all of us with individual couple appointments. We did that, and the attorney said she wanted to make sure we were all on the same page and there were things she wanted to discuss.
After the meetings, the attorney had a contract written which all of us had to sign. After the contract was signed, we contacted a doctor about the insemination. Luckily the doctor’s office I was using for my gynecologist agreed to do the insemination. We made our 1st appointment and waited patiently.
The doctor’s appointment couldn't get here soon enough. We were all anxious and nervous to start this journey together. We went into the doctor’s office and it was uncomfortable. Terry and I were used to going in, both being called back and we would take care of it all in about an hour’s time. This was very different. There were 4 of us, and the whole situation was very uncomfortable. We did make jokes to at least break the ice, so to say. After Terry gave his sample and Megan was called back for the insemination process. I went in the doctor's office when she was inseminated and held her hand and I prayed so hard it would work. The doctor had made the comment that this was his first surrogacy and he was really excited about it. Megan was inseminated and we went about our day… Megan called me a few days after the insemination and told me how weird she felt. I felt the same way after my insemination feeling cramps and not feeling right was my side effects as well.
About a week/week in a half later, Megan called and she had taken at pregnancy test. It was on Memorial Day and we had just gotten home from being w/our family. She shared the news that the pregnancy test was positive and she was going to keep the test for me so I could see it. I couldn't have been happier. I couldn't wait to tell Terry. Terry was outside taking the garbage out and I ran outside to him and said “do you want to be a dad, and he said "well yes", and I said "well you are going to be”. I think it took a while for him to even realize what I had said. We were so excited and we hugged each other, and cried happy tears. We decided not to tell our family just yet and about 10 minutes later we changed that decision and called everyone!!! It was the best day of our life! FINALLY we are going to be PARENTS!!!!!!!
Megan called and got into her doctor and requested a blood test be done. We went and had the blood test done a few days later and it also indicated she was indeed pregnant. Every doctor visit Megan had, I went with her, I was very thankful she let me be part of the process.
At 20 weeks we had the appointment to find out the sex and we were so excited. If it was a boy, we were going to name it Corey Jacob. (Corey after Terry’s brother, and Jacob, after mine). And Terry wanted to name the girl Shelby. I had several girl names picked out. We made a deal if it was a girl I could name her. So, we went for the sonogram and found it the baby was indeed a girl. When we saw her, we were both in complete amazement. Finally we got to see the little baby that we have been waiting for. I looked at her and said to Terry “There is Shelby” and he said “OH, we are going to name her that?? (He had a huge smile) and I said “yes, but I want to spell her name different. I want to spell it S-H-E-L-B-E-E. The reason he LOVED the name Shelbee is because he LOVES Mustangs and if you know anything about them, there is a Mustang Shelby that he loves. Seeing Shelbee on the ultrasound screen was amazing.
Shelbee was confirmed due February 14, 2005.
We shared with our parents that night that the baby was a girl and everyone was so excited. It took us a few days for it to sink in. It was still unbelievable we had a baby on the way because we weren't reminded daily (like a normal family would, with the wife being pregnant and getting bigger every day).
The next couple of months went by and everything went great. I was included in the surrogacy, just like I was the one carrying the baby. Megan would let me feel the baby move and we watched her tummy grow each month. The nine months were very hard and I went through all types of emotions. But, knew it would be worth it in the end, and Megan was so great about it and kept me reassured that everything was going to work out. She was very open with the surrogacy with everyone. Even when strangers would ask about her pregnancy, she would explain she was a surrogate for a friend. She amazed me daily the sacrifices she was making for us. Chris was so understanding and very supportive of her decision. We all went through this together and developed an amazing bond between the four of us. Megan and Chris didn't want any type of payment or anything for doing this for us. She was willing to dedicate 9 months of her life to bless us; they truly are an amazing couple.
When the baby shower came, it was a very emotional day. I was on verge of tears all day thinking, this is really my shower? I avoided baby showers for years because they were just too hard for me to go to. However, this day was my day… Megan came and she was introduced to everyone in my family and friends. Everyone hugged Megan and thanked her for what she was doing for us.
2 days later, January 24, two weeks before the due date, about 6 am we got the call from Megan, she said it was time. I called my parents and Terry called his and we got ready as quick as we could and went to the hospital. We got to the hospital and Megan and Chris just got there too.
Megan ended up having to get induced. The whole delivery was amazing and emotional. We were all so excited to see this precious baby.
At 2:36 pm Shelbee Jane-Marie Geisler was born. It was an amazing experience. Seeing her for the first time was a feeling I could never describe. Terry, Chris, and I were all in the delivery room. Watching Megan go through labor and all the pain she had to go through for us, was really hard. I just wanted to hug her and take all the pain away.
The hospital although had never dealt with a surrogacy before, let us have a room to stay in while Shelbee was in the hospital. It was great to be able to stay at the hospital and be there for Megan and to be able to take care of Shelbee. Megan was amazing at the hospital. I know it had to be hard on her. I can’t even imagine the emotions she had to have gone through. Yet, she smiled and was strong through the entire thing. She was excited to finally bless us with a baby.
We got home and the next few days our house was a busy house. Everyone wanted to see this sweet miracle baby we waited so long for.
When Shelbee was about 3, she found a tape recorder I had used to tape her heartbeat with, when I attended the doctor visits with Megan. She pushed “play” before I could get the recorder from her and said “Oh mommy, that’s me in your tummy”. I still to this day, don’t understand how Shelbee at 3 even knew what the noise was and KNEW it was her heartbeat. It was that day; I sat her down and told her. I told her my tummy was broke and Megan carried her, in her tummy. She cried at first and said, “But I want to be from your tummy”. But after some discussion she understood God did what was best so I could be her mommy. She already knew Megan so it wasn't a complete shock to her.
As Shelbee got older, Terry and I really wanted to have another child. Shelbee randomly asked about having a brother or sister. My heart still felt like there was another child meant to be in our family.
Megan and Chris conceived and were due March 2010 with a baby boy. She had gone through some infertility issues herself after Shelbee was born so her getting pregnant was a surprise and a blessing. We were so happy for them. I was there when they had their son and did pictures of the baby and family in the delivery room.
After their son was born, they mentioned to us that if we wanted another child, they would like to try another surrogacy. We talked it over and decided we would. We all wanted Megan’s body to heal though, since she just had a baby.
We went to the doctor and the doctor said we needed to wait at least until her son was 6 months old. Which six months would make it Sept/October 2010. We were so excited to try another surrogacy. The possibility of having another child was so exciting for us.
We did not tell Shelbee about us doing this; we didn't want to get her hopes up. In fact, we kept it pretty much a secret from everyone. Several of our friends and some family didn't know we were even trying again.
September came around and we were so excited for the insemination. Unfortunately the procedure was negative this time around. But we had high hopes that the next time would work and not to worry about it. We were lucky that when Shelbee was conceived, it worked the first time. Artificial insemination working the first time with Shelbee was a miracle. The odds are very low of that happening. We weren't going to give up hope.
October rolled around and we were ready to try once again. Megan got a positive ovulation test and we went back to the doctor’s office to try another time. October ended up being negative as well.
There were other things going on in our lives at that time and my grandfather just passed away with cancer. We were so consumed in trying to have a baby that when we got the negative result and his passing so close together, we decided to hold off on trying again.
I was having a hard time dealing with both.
I kept asking God WHY? Why is this not working? The doctor reassured us the last time we did the insemination that everything looked great. Why didn't it work then?
We told Megan that we wanted to hold off trying again. And it really wasn't a bad idea to let her heal better. She had just given birth 6-7 months prior. Although we appreciated that she wanted to do the surrogacy for us, a part of us felt bad having her do it again. Megan had sacrificed already so much when she had Shelbee we just felt bad having her go through it again.
In November of 2010, I quit my full time job to pursue photography. I wanted to be able to spend more time with Shelbee. We would no longer have any use for daycare. I would be able to take her and pick her up from school. I was excited to be able to spend more time with her and go to all the parties at school. I loved the idea of having photo shoots in the day and evening and having more time to keep up housework, more time with my family, and less stress on myself.
We made up our minds that Shelbee was the only child we were going to have. And we decided no more trying. However deep down, I prayed for a “call out of the blue” asking if we wanted to adopt a baby. I even joked with people and said we are done having children, unless we get “the call” and laughed it off.
In March of 2011, my cousin (who lives in Kentucky) called me at home one night. She said “Steph, do you have a minute to talk to me about something?” She doesn't normally call me at home. I was a little worried what she was going to want to talk about… She said “Lorie (which is a mutual friend of ours) has a cousin that’s pregnant and is looking for a family for the baby, would you all want to adopt it?” Ok, my heart stopped beating for a few minutes and then tears began to flow rather quickly. I said “Are you serious???” “YES!!!!” And then I told her I would talk to Terry. She said “think it over, pray about it, and talk to Terry and let me or Lorie know”. So, the first thing I did when I got off the phone was talk to Terry about it. He seemed a little skeptical at first, which is expected. We wanted to know more about this girl. We talked it over and let Lorie know YES we are interested and she was going to talk to her cousin. Lorie gave her cousin our phone # and I waited a couple of days for the call.
A few days went by and I hadn't heard from her. So I decided to get her # so I could call her, Lorie had mentioned that her cousin was out of minutes on her phone.
So, I called her and we talked. Instantly I knew this was meant to be. We had a lot to talk about, she was very easy to talk to, and I was so excited for the possibility of adopting the baby.
The baby was due July 15th. And I was so shocked because if our last surrogacy would have worked, we would be having a baby in July!! How crazy is that? I was in complete shock of this! Is this really happening??? Is God really going to bless us once again?
Amy (the birth mom) and I talked and I mentioned I wanted to come meet her in Kentucky (where she lives). She mentioned she had a doctor’s visit coming up. I asked her if it would be ok if I went and she said she would love that. So, me, Terry and Shelbee planned a trip to Kentucky and went down there and the next morning I went to the doctor visit with Amy and Terry and Shelbee went and ate breakfast. Lorie (Amy’s) cousin also went to the doctor’s office with us.
Meeting Amy was very emotional. The first glance of her made me cry. We hugged each other so tight when we first met and I couldn't stop looking at her and thinking, she is beautiful. She has dark hair like me, yet dark eyes. She is so southern and such a sweet person. I was in a daze the whole doctor visit and a nervous wreck. I didn't know what to say, I didn't want to say the wrong thing. It was a little uncomfortable, but I prayed God would be with me. The doctor was so nice and Amy introduced him to me and told him we were going to be adopting the baby. He was great about it and said however we wanted to handle the delivery and everything, was ok with him we just had to let him know.
After the doctor’s visit Terry and Shelbee met us back at the doctor’s office and Amy met them. We decided to go to lunch and Amy’s father came along with us. We ate lunch and had a nice visit with them. I was really excited that we got that time together.
Amy was so sweet and reassured our family that the baby would be ours and there was nothing to worry about.
Amy and I kept in touch online during the next few months. When it came time for the next doctor visit, I drove down to Kentucky myself. When I got to Kentucky I thought it would be nice for me to make dinner for Amy and her dad and sister. I hadn’t met her sister yet and was very anxious to do so. I had talked to her sister online a few times already. I stopped and got all of the items to make dinner that night and drove to Amy’s dad’s house. We had a great time visiting and I made meatloaf, potatoes, and green beans. To my surprise they all loved it.
The next morning was the doctor visit. The doctor visit went well and everything was going good with Amy and the baby. After the doctor's visit I drove back to Illinois. It was hard leaving Amy because I wanted to be there with her and go through the pregnancy with her. But I had family back home to get back to.
The next few months were very hard. We talked about Rylee all of the time like she was already in our family. Shelbee asked many questions and became to understand more about how she came into this world. Knowing Rylee has a birth mom and she does too, she started to put things together in her head. It was really amazing seeing her little mind putting pieces together. And we were very open with her about everything.
July 6th 2011, I get a call from Amy that she just walked out of the doctor’s office and they were going to induce the next day. We packed our bags quickly and we were off to Kentucky that evening… It was a 5 hour drive so we talked a lot about Rylee on the way.
Sleeping that night was impossible. The anticipation of seeing Rylee was in overdrive.
July 7th 2011, we met Amy at the hospital. I was in the delivery room and watched our precious baby come into this world. I remember the first thing I noticed about her was the beautiful dark hair. I have always dreamed of having a baby with dark hair like mine. She was perfect. Shelbee seeing her for the first time was priceless. She had always dreamed of having a sister.
I had to stay in Kentucky a week ½ after Rylee was born so all legal issues were complete. It was really hard staying in Kentucky when Terry went back to Illinois. We wanted so badly to start our lives together as a family of 4.
Once we got the call from the attorney that all was clear, I couldn't get home fast enough.
We have an open adoption with Amy. I send pictures to her once a month until Rylee is 18 years old. The communication will always be open on our end with Amy and her family. We have a lot of respect for the decision she made. We will always let Rylee know how thankful we are for Amy and how much Amy loves her.
One day recently I was brushing Shelbee's hair and told her “Shelbee you are looking so much like Megan” and her reply was “Good, because I think she’s pretty”.. I laughed and laughed. It really touched my heart.
Shelbee told me recently when she gets big she wants to have babies for people like Megan did for us, because it makes people happy. Knowing that Megan is one of her role models means the world to me.
The surrogacy is discussed very frequently in our home. We always talk about Megan and Chris and their boys and how special they will always be to us. Shelbee knows Megan is her birth mom and I am her mommy. It is important to me that Megan and Shelbee have a relationship. I want Shelbee to grow up knowing she has many people in her life that love her very much and the sacrifices Megan made to bring her into our lives.
Watching the girls grow up together has really shown me all the hard times were worth it. Our journey to parenthood has been rough. We have been through more than any couple should have to experience.
We look into our daughters’ eyes and see two beautiful women that blessed us beyond belief.
Life isn’t always easy. We come across difficult roads that make us want to ask WHY, WHY ME. I have asked myself that several times in my life. But God has a plan for each and every one of our lives. He never gives us more than we can handle and I firmly believe that.
NEVER GIVE UP!!