I don’t remember the first time I held my babies. I don’t know who I held first. I don’t know if I immediately kissed them and told them I love them. I don’t remember those sweet important details.

I remember the feeling of panic in the operating room. I remember the anesthesiologist telling me where I could puke if I needed to (it was to my right). I remember more people coming into the room and others shuffling out. I remember getting more anesthesia to put me out completely. I remember the panic in the room.

Even as I write this more than 5 months later, my throat closes a little, my eyes begin to well, and my breathing becomes shorter. I remember how close I came to death during childbirth.

elizabeth osberger holding her twins in the hospital

Rewind 5 years…

My husband and I married in 2014. We knew we wanted children, so we didn’t waste any time trying to make a baby. We tried for a year with no luck. No missed periods. No close calls. Nothing.

I went to my OB/GYN for my annual checkup and to discuss options. As my feet were in the stirrups, my doctor looked up and said, “I can’t find your uterus.” What do you mean you can’t find my uterus?! It just didn’t seem like something that could be misplaced. It turns out I had a massive fibroid that shifted my uterus so far to the left that my doctor couldn’t locate it with a pelvic exam.

I was immediately referred to a Gynecological Oncologist. The doctor explained that in order to remove the fibroid, they would have to remove the ovary and fallopian tube, and, possibly, the appendix. I was devastated. We had been trying to have a baby for more than a year, and now I was facing the loss of half of my already dwindling eggs.

When I was being prepped for surgery and signing consent forms, I looked my husband square in the eyes and told him not to let them take my uterus. Please don’t let them give me a hysterectomy. I knew I could still get pregnant with one ovary. I knew there was still hope that if they removed the fibroid, we could still get pregnant.

Fortunately, the fibroid found a blood supply from my abdomen, so my ovary, fallopian tube, and appendix stayed intact. I, on the other hand, have a 1/2-inch wide scar that runs from above my belly button to my pubic bone—a reminder of what I am capable of enduring to get pregnant. Thankfully, the pathology report came back negative and we were back to trying for a baby. The doctor told us to go back to my OB if we weren’t pregnant in 6 months.

Six months later, we had moved across the country and I explained my journey to get pregnant to my new OB. She wasted no time and began ordering all of the things. I had an HSG during which they found a polyp and it was removed. I tried three rounds of Clomid, which didn’t do anything. I tried acupuncture, teas, and tincture, all to no avail. Finally, it was time to bring in a fertility specialist.

In May of 2017, we met the woman who would finally make our dreams of becoming parents a reality. Dr. B gave us the gift that we had been dreaming of for years, except that it would still be another two years before our twins were born.

elizabeth osberger's twins in the hospital

In August of 2017, we did our first round of IVF. I endured multiple shots a day for several weeks to plump my ovaries up with lots of eager follicles. I went to multiple monitoring appointments per week and received repeated assurances as to how well my body was taking to the medication. 20 eggs were harvested at my retrieval, which were whittled down to 4 embryos that were sent off for genetic testing.

I was in my shared classroom when I got the call from the genetic counselor letting me know how many viable embryos we had. I moved to the custodial closet down the hall to take the call. I stood in front of rows of latex gloves, boxes of hand soap, and a dirty mop bucket as the genetic counselor explained that none of our embryos were viable. I stood in that tiny closet as my world closed in on me.

Our first round of IVF was a successful failure. I produced loads of beautiful follicles, and they fertilized into a handful of precious embryos, but they were all unviable. All 4 that made it to genetic testing came back UNVIABLE. It turns out I have a translocation between chromosomes 11 and 15. Essentially, it’s a needle in a haystack situation to find eggs that would become viable embryos. We finally had our answer…it was incredibly unlikely (and financially impossible) for me to produce biological offspring. While it was not the answer we were looking for, after 3 years of uncertainty, we finally had an answer…my eggs are broken.

I silently grieved not being pregnant. I silently grieved standing in that tiny closet. I silently grieved as I explained to our families that my deepest desire to become pregnant was not an option. I silently grieved as friends and family shared their pregnancies.

But then Dr. B. opened a door I didn’t realize was an option—egg donation. I had never thought about egg donation before. At this point, I thought traditional adoption was our only option. I was ready to go down that road, but I knew it could be even more tumultuous than the infertility route we had already traveled. I knew there were no guarantees and a whole new level of heartbreak around every corner. I didn’t know if I could endure that, but the thought of an egg donor gave me hope.

In October of 2017, we met with a counselor to discuss our journey and what was to come. Counseling was required prior to being given access to the egg donor database. For me, there was still something very science fiction about using an egg donor. How do you explain to a child that even though you carried them for 9 months, birthed them, and loved them from the moment they were fertilized, you do not share any genetic material with them? It hasn’t been addressed on a sitcom, yet, so I couldn’t picture the conversation. The counselor told us to take photos through the process, create an album, look at that album together as a family, and tell the story of their birth from the beginning…a beautiful tale of our family.

I couldn’t look at the donor database until February. I was still grieving and exhausted, and my hope meter was dismal. Finally, we picked a donor and got mentally ready to go through IVF all over again. But the donor didn’t work out and we were back to the beginning. I was gutted. Again. In May, we did it again. And it worked. IT WORKED. We had 6 perfectly viable embryos waiting for us to take them on the journey of a lifetime.

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In September of 2018, I was finally pregnant. PREGNANT. WITH TWINS. I spent the next 38 weeks loving every moment. No joke. I LOVED being pregnant. I LOVED feeling my babies inside of me. I loved that Baby A had the hiccups every day and Baby B went crazy when I ate pizza. I loved how strong I felt knowing I was creating two little humans. I did yoga twice a week and a prenatal fitness class on the weekends. I ran a 10k at 27 weeks. I LOVED being pregnant.

Fast forward to May 2019…

At my 38-week appointment, Baby B’s fluid was low, and I was immediately admitted to the hospital to be induced. We had already planned on being induced at 38+3, but I was really hoping to go into labor naturally. My entire pregnancy was so easy that we never truly anticipated any complications.

But no one anticipates hemorrhaging following the birth of their babies. No one anticipates their uterus not being able to contract back to its sweet little shape. No one anticipates losing 3 units of blood. And, certainly, no one anticipates waking from anesthesia to hear their doctor explaining how they did absolutely everything they could possibly do, but they were unable to get your uterus to contract and they had to perform an emergency hysterectomy to save your life.

Say what now?

My uterus died. My uterus died so I could carry two healthy babies to term. My uterus died and was removed so I could live. My uterus died on the same day the lights of my world were born.

I share my journey of infertility because, too often, we grieve in silence. My silent grieving has taken a deep toll on my mental health. I share my story to process my grief and to connect to support outside myself. I hope my story helps others realize they are not alone.

infertility warrior elizabeth osberger with her husband, twins, dog, and cat at home

Elizabeth Osberger is a twin mom, wife, special education teacher, and overall badass. When she’s not singing theme songs to her sweet babies, she enjoys reading, running, and a delicious Oregon Pinot Noir. She hopes her story will help continue the dialogue of infertility struggles and trauma to create space for all of us to heal.