Over the past 13 years, Lindsay Vargas, 35, and Brian Vargas, 37, of Omaha, Neb., have experienced multiple miscarriages, three failed adoptions, 13 unsuccessful artificial insemination attempts, and one ectopic pregnancy.
The couple, who married in 2005, cashed in their stock portfolios and retirement accounts to fund their “exhausting, embarrassing, and expensive” dream of parenthood.
“When we started trying, I figured it would take a few months to get pregnant,” Lindsay, a hair salon owner, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. However, after a year and a half, the couple visited their OB-GYN who prescribed Clomid, a medication that helps trigger ovulation and the release of eggs for fertilization.
“My doctor kept increasing the dose beyond the recommended length of time and didn’t monitor me,” says Lindsay. “As a result, I developed a softball-sized cyst on my ovaries.”
After undergoing surgery to remove the fluid-filled cyst, Lindsay and Brian spent the following five years trying artificial insemination using her eggs and his sperm. The procedure involves directly inserting semen inside the womb to increase the chances of fertilization and cost the couple $3,000 for 13 rounds. “I kept getting pregnant, but I’d miscarry each time after about eight weeks,” says Lindsay. “We’d hear the baby’s heartbeat at our first ultrasound, but at the next appointment there would be no heartbeat.”
The emotional highs and lows were difficult to endure. “After the first four miscarriages, we stopped telling people we were pregnant,” says Lindsay. “I kept a secret life because I was embarrassed to share that there was no baby anymore.”
She adds, “I longed for the experience of being excited about my pregnancy. And I became jealous of pregnant women in my life — even those I saw at the grocery store.”
After 15 miscarriages in total, some of which involved D&C procedures to evacuate the fetus that hadn’t survived and one of which became an ectopic pregnancy, Lindsay’s new doctor suggested she take birth control. “He said, ‘There’s nothing we can do for you. We need to give up on your body.” So Lindsay was implanted with an IUD.
“That’s when my sister Kelly stepped in and said she wanted to carry my baby,” says Lindsay. Kelly O’Toole had extended the offer in the past, but because she was a 40-year-old mother of three, Lindsay had declined out of respect. “I didn’t want to burden her — she’s my best friend,” Lindsay explains.
At her sister’s encouragement, Lindsay ultimately agreed. “Our mom had just passed away and she wouldn’t have wanted us to give up,” she says. However, at O’Toole’s first ultrasound, doctors discovered a grapefruit-size benign tumor, which they removed, along with one ovary. She was then artificially inseminated with donor sperm (Lindsay’s husband had been diagnosed with a genetic condition that often resulted in miscarriage) and O’Toole’s own egg, but four rounds failed to result in pregnancy.
“We were wiped out,” says Lindsay. The couple decided to pursue surrogacy and launched a Go Fund Me campaign for associated costs, raising nearly $14,000 of their $20,000 goal.
They also wanted to try in vitro again, this time using Lindsay’s harvested eggs. “In the meantime, a woman contacted us through Go Fund Me and asked if we could adopt her unborn baby and we went for it,” says Lindsay. The little girl named Henley was born on October 15 — on National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
But Lindsay and Brian were due for another surprise: Kelly became pregnant with the remaining two embryos and is expecting twins — a boy and a girl — in April. “I’m nervous — how will I handle three children? It takes us forever to leave the house with Henley,” Lindsay jokes.
After her experience, Lindsay is moved to a higher purpose. “I get so many messages from women struggling with infertility — why is the topic so shameful? I want to turn this into something positive for others,” she says. “We’ve been through hell and back, but it’s worth it.”
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