I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 16. At the time, I had no idea what that would mean for my future. While the question of whether it would be hard to have children always loomed in the back of my head, I never actually thought that infertility and pregnancy loss would happen to me.

My husband and I knew we wanted to have children right away after getting married. I had told him about my PCOS diagnosis and mentioned that it could be a problem, but I figured we were both young (at the time, I was 24) and healthy so I wasn’t too worried about it. I wish someone would have told me then that infertility doesn’t care how old you are.

It genuinely makes me sad thinking about how excited I was to start trying. I was so optimistic that things would be different for us regardless of my PCOS diagnosis. If you would have asked me in 2017 where we would be in 3 years, I would have said a baby plus one on the way. That’s how I always envisioned our life after marriage. I could never have anticipated the journey we would have to embark on in order to start our family.

Our story starts in late 2017. We tried to conceive on our own for months with no success, let alone any positive ovulation tests. I went to my OBGYN, and she put me on the standard protocol, Clomid. I successfully ovulated but did not conceive. This was a huge shock. My OB had explained to me that it would be a “quick fix,” so I thought for sure it would work for us.

I was completely unsatisfied with the way my doctor handled things: there was no monitoring, blood work, or follow-up. So, I decided that while it hadn’t been a full year of TTC at home (about 9 months) I wanted to see a fertility specialist. It felt so pointless waiting until that year mark if I knew I wasn’t ovulating. I followed my gut, and I am so happy I did.

We saw the specialist in May of 2018 and did not start treatment until October. We did tons of testing and procedures in between. I wasn’t immune to the chicken pox, so I had to get the vaccine. My husband's sperm count was on the lower end, so he was put on Clomid three times a week, HCG injections twice a week, and Anastrozole twice a week.

We had our first round of IUIs (our clinic did two back to back) in October 2018 and the second round in November 2018. Both were unsuccessful. By the time our third IUI rolled around I wasn’t that optimistic it would work. I knew if that round failed, we would ultimately be pushed to start IVF.

On December 25th, 2018 we did our trigger shot and went in for the IUIs December 26th & 27th. Typically after my IUIs I would take it easy and not do much physical activity during the two-week wait. This time was different. We had very little hope it would work. It was the end of the year, and we wanted to have some fun. We went to my favorite place, Disney World, to ring in the New Year with our family. We walked approximately 10 miles a day, ate whatever we wanted, rode all of the rides, and basically lived our best life.

When I took the 7DP progesterone test, the results came back indicating that I needed to be on the suppositories. While I knew this wasn’t a real indication that the IUI hadn’t worked, I did the suppositories every night thinking it was a waste of time. 14DPO rolled around, and it was a completely normal day. I wasn’t nervous or excited, I just wanted to get it over with. I went in for my HCG draw and then went to work. I had completely forgotten about the blood work until about 3:45 when my mom called to ask what the results were. I realized that the office hadn’t called and they were about to close. Odd, I thought. They always call around 2.

I figured my beta was negative but decided to give my nurse a call anyway. This was the first time I had ever not tested early at home. The nurse said she was about to call me and that the results had come in late that day. And then the best words I’ve ever heard in my life came out of her mouth: you’re pregnant.

My HCG levels were rising, and all we had to do was wait for the ultrasound date. At 6 weeks we saw what we needed to see. There was no heartbeat yet, but everything looked fine. We were so excited. I enjoyed every single second of being pregnant. I took pictures, and I took pregnancy tests just to see the darkening line. My mom and I pinned all things baby-related on Pinterest, and my husband and I dreamed about the future of our baby.

We went in for our 8 week ultrasound, and we saw and heard the most beautiful thing in the world, a heartbeat. 92 BPM. But then, my doctor looked at me with a very sad look in his eyes and said words I know will haunt us for the rest of our lives. He said, “This is unfortunate.” He explained that the progression wasn’t where it needed to be and that this would not lead to a viable pregnancy.

I didn’t want to believe it. No, not our baby. Our baby was a fighter. This was our miracle. I fought to stay on the progesterone for another week because there was no way I was not going to not fight for our baby. I prayed harder than I have ever prayed. I tried bargaining with God and told him I would give anything for this baby to be born healthy. I begged him to take me instead.

On February 14th, 2019, we went in for our 9 week ultrasound. We held on to any little piece of hope we could that our baby would have caught up and grown in a week. But instead, our biggest nightmare came true when we were told the heartbeat had stopped. There had only been 3 days of progression from the time we went in for our last ultrasound.

Completely devastated, we scheduled a D&C for the very next day. Two weeks later, we found out through the testing from the D&C that our baby was missing a chromosome and was a girl. We decided to name her because to us, she was real. She was and will always be our baby girl, Hope Andreu.

I will never understand why we lost our baby. I will always wonder who and what our daughter would have been. My heart yearns for the day we are reunited in heaven, and I will finally be able to hold her. And I will make sure our future children know about their big sister in heaven.

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Even though we never got to meet our daughter, she taught us so much during her brief time with us. She taught us that life is tough, but my husband and I are tougher. She taught us what it means to have faith even when it seems impossible. She showed us a love that we never knew existed. But most important, she made us parents, and we will never forget her.

After our loss, we did another round of IUIs that were unsuccessful. At that point, we decided to move forward with IVF. Our first round of IVF was in June of 2019. We were expecting very promising results. We retrieved 17 eggs. Of that, 15 were mature. 7 fertilized with ICSI, and one embryo was able to be frozen. The PGS results came back normal. Since we only had one embryo, we did all sorts of testing. We did an ERA cycle to make sure the progesterone timing was optimal, and the results came back that I needed an extra 12 hours of progesterone. We then proceeded with an embryo transfer.

The doctor was so confident it was going to work. He called it a “slam dunk” transfer, which on paper, it had been. 6 days after the transfer I decided to take a HPT. The line came back faint. I was concerned, but I thought it would get darker as the days went on. The next day, it remained the same. By 8dp5dt, it was completely gone. The next day we had our beta and our worst nightmare was confirmed: I was not pregnant. I was in shock, devastated, and angry. How could this happen to us again? Our sweet perfect little boy that was supposed to be our “it only takes one miracle,” was gone in a flash. And the worst part? There was no explanation.

After the failed transfer, we decided we needed to switch doctors for a fresh perspective. Our new doctor decided to make some changes to our medication protocol and we were off to the races on IVF round 2. The retrieval came, and it was a great experience. We retrieved 28 eggs. 19 were mature, and 14 fertilized. Our doctor was so pleased with those results, and we really thought this time would be different. One embryo made it to freeze. Our doctor explained that 9 other embryos had made it to day 5 but were such poor quality they could not be frozen. So we are left in the same position as last time, with one embryo. One chance at our double rainbow baby. At this point, it was hard to decide what to do next—another retrieval or a transfer. It’s hard to make a decision when every option seems to lead us down the hard road of the unknown.

But my new motto for this year is to be afraid and do it anyway. Be angry and do it anyway. Be sad and do it anyway. Infertility warriors are brave, because we do things everyday that are scary. We take medicines that carry hardcore side effects, we are masters at waiting, and we take whatever results are given to us and keep on going, because that is the only thing we can do.

Our journey is a story of hope found, not lost, regardless of still not having our rainbow baby. We still have hope that we will have our miracle baby and that our story will one day show them what true resilience means. This journey has taken so much away from us, but the one thing that will not be taken away is my hopefulness for the future we are working so hard to create.

Stephanie Andreu is an infertility & pregnancy loss warrior who shares her journey to her rainbow baby on Instagram @hoperainbows.