Jessica S Story

My story starts many years ago. When I was a teenager, I struggled with my weight. I was always the bigger girl in my classes, within my friend group, even within my family. My mom was a beautiful 5ft petite woman who weighed maybe 110 at her heaviest. When I went to the doctor around 17 years old complaining that my periods were irregular and unpredictable, I was told that I had PCOS and that I would likely need help conceiving children in the future. This was shocking to me, because I always envisioned and hoped to have many children. I was always acting like the ‘mom’ in our group of friends; making sure everyone was eating or that all in the group were accounted for when we went out. I was given birth control by the GYN and sent on my way.

When I was 19, I met my now husband. We were always careful because I always knew I wanted to wait for the right time to have kids, and let’s be frank, when I was 19 wasn’t the time. Little did I know that even when I was trying to get pregnant, that I would not be successful on my own. Fast forward about 7 years, I found myself 26 years old, a working registered nurse, with the same man, and emotionally ready to give up my social life and free time to expand our family. I came off of birth control and at first I thought it would be fun; though truth be told, I could always hear in the back of my mind my GYN telling me I would likely need help getting pregnant and felt some anxiety surrounding the whole thing.

Nonetheless, we persevered and continued to try. If it happened and we were successful, I would be happy, and if it wasn’t happening, I still had plenty of time because after all- I was only 26. About two years passed with no success. At first, because I wasn’t desperately trying, it wasn’t a big deal that it wasn’t happening. Over time, I began to question and doubt my body and its abilities. I cursed myself for being overweight, I hated myself for every unhealthy food choice I made, with each time I skipped going to the gym. I cried each time I heard another one of our friends was pregnant. After those 2 years, I decided to seek expert help from a reproductive endocrinologist. Enter the story – my most trusted physician, Dr. Rachel Weinerman and her incredible nurses.

Walking into the first appointment with Dr. Weinerman, I was filled with anxiety and fear. How much was this going to cost? Was there something truly wrong with me? Would I ever really get to be a mother? What if they couldn’t help me? Would I adopt? As I sat down with the doctor, she had a slideshow prepared of all the ins and outs of infertility testing, the different artificial reproduction options they had to help and how we would approach my individual scenario. After speaking about my history, I left that appointment feeling confident in my choice to seek help.

The many many tests that followed would soon give us a better idea of what we were working with. After HSGs, ultrasounds, bloodwork and physical exams, Dr. Weinerman confirmed that I did in fact have PCOS. In a nutshell, PCOS changes the way your body makes and responds to hormones. You can have all the right things happen, but your ovaries do not release mature eggs in order for them to be fertilized. You can do everything right, but if you aren’t ovulating an egg, you won’t get pregnant.

The first line of treatment is to administer medication to force your ovaries into releasing said matured egg for fertilization. We started a course of letrozole, to help get those ovaries working. The problem with letrozole is that you have to move to a timed intercourse routine. That’s right ladies and gentleman, we’re talking about scheduling having sex, down to the hours. Talk about romance! To add insult to injury, I was working swing shifts in a very busy and stressful ICU. I would work 2 weeks of 7a-7p, followed by 2 weeks of 7p-7a, and then switch back and forth. When I would get my period after again being unsuccessful in becoming pregnant, I had to count the days to see when I would need to do timed intercourse and if I was working nights, I didn’t even bother taking the pills because I wouldn’t be off and home to have sex.

We continued in this way until we decided that we needed a break. In case some of you are new to scheduled sex, it is absolutely not sexy. It became a chore, we lost the intimacy that comes with spontaneity. It became work that we both dreaded, and there was a great deal of pressure with every encounter. As fate would have it, we stopped keeping track, took some pressure off ourselves and in August of 2019, I saw those two glorious pink lines. I was both overjoyed and perplexed that while we were trying so hard we couldn’t do it, but while not trying we were successful. At any rate I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to tell my husband. I did the whole cute reveal. I made little bandanas for our dogs to wear that said “big brother/sister to be!” and left them on for him to see when he came home from work. I told my friends, I told anyone who would listen because it was finally our turn!

I went to Dr. Weinerman’s office where they confirmed I was indeed pregnant. They scheduled an early ultrasound for about a week later. They put me around 5 weeks, based on my last period. When I went for the ultrasound, I was so excited and couldn’t wait to see my baby’s heartbeat. Instead, we saw a gestational sac that was not measuring what they expected. I was told to come back in a few days as it was still early. I spoke with my nurses and they told me not to panic, but I still did. Before my next scan, I went to the bathroom and saw my worst nightmare, pink. I was able to get in that day, and my fear was confirmed. There had been no growth on the ultrasound and my hcg had dropped. I was told to prepare to miscarry. I’ll never forget the way my emotions switched from so high to incredibly low within just a few days.

I began to miscarry at home, and it was worse than I could have imagined. It was painful both physically and emotionally. My husband was incredibly supportive and helped me take care of myself. Though I had only just found out, I grieved that little baby so hard. I would never have the feeling of finding out I was pregnant for the first time ever again, and this had left a huge scar along with it. In the months that followed, I was not able to think about anything else. Sure, I had moved on and went back to work, tried to maintain a sense of normalcy, but nothing felt normal. I would get upset and tearful at the grocery store seeing mothers and children. None of my close friends had suffered a miscarriage, so I didn’t have anyone who could relate to my pain. I wanted to talk about the loss 24/7 but there was nobody to talk to. I began attending therapy but found little help in that as well. I had never felt so low in all my life. I did all the things to help, that didn’t help. Including watching stepmom (a must see – my mom passed away from breast cancer when I was 16 so that movie hits me extra hard,) marley and me, the fox and the hound; you know, all the depressing movies.

After several months, I was ready to think about trying again. However, this coincided with the beginning of the pandemic. I was working with active COVID patients and so much was unknown about the transmission of the virus or long term effects to pregnant women or fetuses who were exposed that I didn’t want to risk not only exposing my baby to covid, but possibly suffering another miscarriage due to COVID. This continued until about summer 2021, when I decided I was tired of waiting for COVID to end so I could get on with my life. We did another few rounds of timed intercourse with letrozole, but had no luck. I spoke with Dr. Weinerman about moving onto the next steps. She explained that we could do IUI or IVF next. I looked into both options, and between my inability to ovulate and get pregnant, and my husband’s low sperm count and low motility, we decided that IVF had the better chance of getting us to our goal of becoming parents more quickly than IUI. We began all the steps towards an egg retrieval and making embryos. I felt some excitement, thinking that I had a chance of becoming a mom, for real this time.

At the end of our cycle, we had made 2 embryos. After speaking with Dr. Weinerman, we elected not to have the embryos PGT tested. (I’ll let you research this if you’re interested but PGT testing is not always accurate and does have its flaws.) We transferred our first embryo just at the same time I was moving to a less stressful job, with better hours (yay straight days) and higher pay. It seemed like everything was coming together, and this was our time. When it came time to test our HCG after the transfer, our value was low. We retested a few days later and it had gone down. The transfer did not work. I again felt that awful low, those ever present feelings of self-loathing and disappointment returned in an ugly way.

After another few months, I worked through the depression that followed the unsuccessful transfer and was ready to try again with our remaining embryo. We transferred and to my suprise, our HCG was positive. Though I was happy, I was extremely cautious and did not allow myself to get too excited. At our early ultrasound, I was shocked when they told me they could see a heartbeat. Once I saw it, I thought, this is it, holy shit it’s actually happening this time. I was so excited. Then Dr. Weinerman entered the room. She explained to me that though the heartbeat was there, it was very low. She told me to prepare myself for bad news, but that they would continue to watch me like a hawk. I came back 2 days later and it was confirmed that the heartbeat had stopped.

 I couldn’t believe I was here again, in the same room, with the same doctor, for the second time telling me I had lost another baby. I expressed to the doctor that I didn’t want to do it at home again, that I wouldn’t be able to handle it mentally and that I wanted to send the fetal tissue for testing, hoping for an answer. Dr. Weinerman obliged but there were some difficulties. This loss happened on December 23rd. In Ohio in December 2021, there was a covid surge, closing all operating rooms to elective cases. Having a traditional D&C was not an option. Dr. Weinerman offered to perform the procedure in her office, however I had an allergy to lidocaine (numbing medication) and in the office, they don’t have access to strong narcotics for pain. Anesthesia was unavailable to administer any kind of twilight medication to make the procedure more tolerable. Still, I decided that the physical pain was better than the emotional damage I knew would come about from having to pass everything at home again. Dr. Weinerman did everything in her power to make the procedure as painless as possible. She held my hand prior to, she shed tears with me. That being said, that d&c was the single most painful experience I had ever felt. I couldn’t believe that I stayed awake and stayed strong through it. I had never felt that intense of pain in my life. Thankfully, it was over quickly and I had minimal bleeding afterwards.

When we got the results back from genetic testing of the fetal tissue, testing had shown it was a little boy with trisomy 15. This means that there were 3 copies of chromosome number 15. Unfortunately, this condition is not compatible with life. So, essentially, my body had recognized that this pregnancy would not result in a live birth and it stopped supporting it. I wish that at the time, I would have been able to take comfort in this, but all I did was again blame myself. I blamed my weight more than anything else. I not only had been bigger my entire life, but ongoing depression and self hatred made it really easy to make bad choices with coping, and really hard to find motivation to do better. My husband, friends, therapist, literally anyone who knew me tried to tell me time and again none of this was my fault, but that inner critic inside all of us is strong, and mine has an extremely loud voice. It took quite a few months to again heal emotionally and forgive myself.

After working through the loss, we moved into 2022. I told my husband I was ready to try again, and although he was scared, he agreed. My sweet husband was just so worried about me. He once told me that with each loss, he had watched a piece of my heart break off and drift away. He said that I had changed since we started the whole process, that I no longer laughed at things I once did, that I was so much more critical of myself than I ever was before. He was worried I was going to hate myself if something went wrong with my body again. Even though I knew this was a possibility, I still chose to move forward. In my second egg retrieval, I made 15 eggs, but only 1 embryo made it for testing. Dr. Weinerman and even the embryologist were quite perplexed because it seemed my body made mature eggs, but when they went to fertilize, they were not mature. (For context, you can only fertilize a mature egg) For some reason, my body was not creating matured eggs. I again felt incredibly letdown, but we sent our one lonely embryo for PGT testing. At this point, I wanted any and all information possible to make decisions that would prevent me from experiencing another loss.

The testing for this embryo showed that it was a Low level mosaic 20. This means that there are a mix of normal and abnormal cells on chromosome 20. I was completely shattered again until I spoke with a genetic counselor who explained that babies with low level mosaicism on chromosome 20 have an almost 90% live birth rate with a normal karyotype. It took a while for this information to set in, and I began to gain a little hope though I was mostly still pessimistic about the entire thing. While my husband and I were deciding what to do with this embryo – transfer or not – I was shocked to find out…you guessed it, I had become pregnant again spontaneously. I couldn’t believe that we had again conceived when we weren’t trying. I wanted so much to be excited about this news, but I found myself constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. My numbers looked great, there was a strong heartbeat, and all measurements looked great. After we made 8 weeks, we graduated from the fertility office to the OBs office. I remember being so afraid to leave the office and asking repeatedly to the doctors, are you sure? Can I stay longer? I went to my first OB appointment and everything continued to be fine. I actually began to exhale, and started to feel some excitement. I began to envision our future, I started to feel some real optimism. The next day, I wiped and had the smallest amount of pink. My heart dropped and I thought to myself this cannot be happening, again. Unfortunately, when going to the OB again the next morning, it was confirmed. I had again lost another baby.

After my second miscarriage, I couldn’t imagine I would ever feel as low as I did then. To my horrifying surprise, I did in fact feel even lower with my third miscarriage. I could not believe that my life was what it was. I told my husband he had full permission to leave me and find someone who’s reproductive system worked, that I wouldn’t even bear a grudge. I hated myself and I could not fathom how another being could even be around me. I cursed everything in the universe – why even let me get pregnant to just take it away? The betrayal I felt towards my body was almost immeasurable, the hate almost unbearable. Luckily, at this time, I was able to have a d&c in the OR and I didn’t have to feel anything. They sent my sweet baby away for genetic testing once again. Additional testing was done on me, to try to see if there was something in my body that was contributing to losses. With each test, all results were normal.

When the results of the third loss were received, it was found that the baby was a partial molar pregnancy, a triploidy. This means that there was an extra copy of each chromosome from 1-23, and that condition is not compatible with life. In molar pregnancies, there are 2 sperms that fertilize one egg; if the egg contains genetic material, the egg will fertilize and a fetus will begin to develop but miscarriage is imminent, if the egg does not contain genetic material, a fetus will not grow and can turn into uncontrolled cell growth, aka cancer. I had to be monitored for months after the miscarriage to ensure that HCG levels were not rising, that I would not need chemo to get rid of any retained tissue that may continue growing. I thank my lucky stars that I did not have to endure chemotherapy on top of everything else. I tried my best to tell myself that again, I hadn’t done anything wrong to cause this miscarriage, which is always easier said than done. We followed lab levels and were eventually cleared.

At this point, my doctor had a real conversation with me. She told me that because I had gotten pregnant twice on my own, once with IVF and 2/3 of the losses had chromosomal causes that I still had a good chance of having a successful pregnancy. I, of course, thought these were loaded words. How could I not think that with the experiences I had. She told me that I could go forward with transferring our mosaic embryo or that we could try to make more embryos with a different protocol. The frustrating thing about IVF is that it works similar to many other drugs – you don’t know how one’s body will respond to it until you try it. Unfortunately with IVF, there’s a pretty big price tag associated with this trial and error. At this point, I started to wonder if I should start looking for another way to become a mother. Whether that was through surrogacy or through adoption, but something in my heart just wouldn’t let me stop yet. I knew I wasn’t done trying to attain this goal, my self esteem be damned.

After some thought, I decided to try a different protocol altogether. Dr. Weinerman and I came up with a plan and we tried some things I had done research on, things I had seen other women do through support pages on social media. My doctor was always great in the sense that she listened to things I had researched independently of her. We came up with the protocol and crossed our fingers. This last retrieval, I made 16 eggs that resulted in TEN embryos. The most I had ever made before was 2 embryos. We sent those embryos out for PGT testing and 5 of them returned genetically normal. I was suddenly feeling more hopeful than I had in many years. No need for stepmom or Marley and Me now!It was like I was finally through the darkness and seeing some light.

We set up our next transfer for February of 2023. We had low positive HCG results but I knew this time, things would be different. They continued to rise, but then drastically fell. Another loss, this time, a biochemical loss. It still hurt, but we did more testing on me, with biopsies and genetic screenings and again nothing abnormal. I decided to put my faith in the universe and try once more. We transferred our highest rated embryo in May 2023. I am beyond thankful to share that transfer was successful. I have had many ups and downs with this pregnancy. Physically, I have felt great – in the beginning, a little too great. I found myself wishing for symptoms because with each previous pregnancy that I had lost, I didn’t feel symptoms and I took that as a sign of an unhealthy pregnancy.

About 9 weeks into my current pregnancy, we suddenly had to say goodbye to our first dog my husband and I had raised. He had been there for me through every loss, laid with me when my husband had to leave me to return to work and brought a smile to my face when I felt that nothing ever would again. His illness happened very quickly and we couldn’t let him go on in pain. It was the hardest decision to make and I knew there was no way my sweet baby would survive the grief I subjected him to. I had cried so hard I made myself sick, couldn’t eat, you name it. When I went to my ultrasound afterwards, there my strong boy was, looking as good as ever. It was beautiful and cathartic that I said goodbye to one being and welcomed another into my heart.

Things moved on from there pretty uneventfully. My pregnancy was going well, I felt great and all things were positive. I found myself optimistic, but ever cautious not to feel too secure in the pregnancy itself, knowing it could end at any moment. I reluctantly began to plan a baby shower with the help of my best friend. I announced to close family and friends around 16 weeks. So many people were so happy for me, that finally my moment was coming.

August 27th 2023 was easily the worst day of my life. It was a Sunday, my husband and I had our anatomy scan a few days prior. Everything was noted as normal, we confirmed the gender and everything was perfect. We were going to my brother’s house, where I was making dinner for everyone. My husband, brother and father were tinkering in the garage. I was in the kitchen cutting a watermelon and something prompted me to get up and look out the window. My father had known heart disease for years. As a nurse, I often reminded him he needed to take things easy, not push himself, etc. He, like me, is stubborn and did what he wanted to do. I had looked out the window and saw him trying to cut a fallen tree from a previous storm, alone. I happened to look just at the very moment he collapsed and fell down. I immediately ran outside, told my husband and brother and ran to his side.

When I reached him, he was not breathing, nor did he have a pulse. My ICU nurse instincts kicked in and I immediately began CPR. I continued for about 15 minutes until EMS arrived and took over. They took him to the hospital, but unfortunately, he was not able to be revived. Losing him in this manner was not only tragic but extremely traumatic for me. I see so many things through a new lens because of this. I have had an extremely hard time with guilt surrounding his loss. Did I not do CPR well enough? Could I have run faster to him? If I had been skinnier could I have done better because I wouldn’t be as fatigued from 15 mins of CPR? The questions I have are endless but none of them can change what happened.

As much as I hate to admit it, I also felt guilt about my pregnancy in those moments afterwards. Was I risking the life of my child by doing rigorous CPR? Could I have caused myself to miscarry again? Truth be told, I would have given up this pregnancy if it would have saved my sweet father. If I thought I had cried when we put our sweet dog down, that was nothing compared to the grief of losing my dad. I had a hard time accepting what had happened and had put my body through some extreme stress. I tried to eat, but I would make myself sick eating with no appetite. I tried to drink water but everything tasted awful. I couldn’t sleep because each time I closed my eyes I was back in the backyard doing CPR, I relived running to him and could hear myself scream ‘daddy!” It was absolute hell, and is something I still struggle with a month later; likely for the foreseeable future.

I am currently 27 weeks with a healthy baby boy due in January 2024 who’s kicking me as I type this. I share my story in hopes that someone who is feeling as low as I have both prior to this pregnancy and during this pregnancy sees this and draws some hope from it. That they can be inspired to hold onto the feeling of faith and hope that brighter days are possible. I am still worried everyday that something will go wrong with my pregnancy, but am trying my hardest to let go of that and just rejoice in the moment. Enjoy the small moments because you truly never know when your life will change forever. Sending hope and love to everyone who has read this, or who can relate.


Well, I hit a big bump in the road towards the end of this pregnancy. I developed pre-eclampsia with severe features. For those of you who don’t know, pre-eclampsia is a condition in which the placenta causes issues with the pregnancy and is manifested by increased blood pressure that may or may not be responsive to meds. As the condition worsens, mom suffers kidney and liver damage and can lead to seizures, or eclampsia. The condition, if left untreated or monitored, can be fatal to both mom and baby. On 11/11 (hold on, no wishing just yet!) I noted some swelling in my legs. I had an elevated BP in the OBGYN office earlier in the week and was told to keep an eye on it. I decided to take my BP and it was alarmingly increased with systolic (the top number) pressures in the 170s. I called and was told to report to the ER. I did, and upon arrival was told I wasn’t going to be leaving. I would have to stay until my baby was born. To reiterate, I was 31 weeks at the time. A Lot of hours and many many tears later, I made it to my goal of 34 weeks. I was taken to labor and delivery to be induced. Induction did not go as planned, and after 30 hours, we converted to a c section. Jackson Shoup was born on 12/1/23, small but mighty weighing just under 6lbs, and his daddy’s twin. We stayed in the NICU for a few days and then in the hospital for a few more. We were able to get him home on day 13 of life!

When I think about the road traveled to get this sweet boy here it overwhelms me. I can’t wait for him to grow up, simply so he can understand how incredibly wanted, how incredibly loved he is; how his momma sacrificed and never gave up on him. Being on the other side of this infertility story (but certainly not out of the game altogether), I know I can say one thing for sure, my rainbow baby was worth every single shot. Anyone reading this who is still fighting their battle, keep going, beautiful things can come after the storm.

Jessica's rainbow baby is wrapped in a white blanket. He sits in a basket on top of the rainbow skirt.

Jessica's rainbow baby is wrapped in a white blanket. He sits in a basket on top of the rainbow skirt.

Jessica holds her rainbow baby and snuggles him close to her.

Jessica's rainbow baby sits in a basket. Around him are IVF shots made in the shape of a heart.

Photos taken by Honey Lens Photography.

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