"I'm so sorry, but you're not pregnant." The same words I have heard many times before. The same feeling of the air being sucked out of the room. The same sense of hopelessness. The same despair and devastation sinking into my bones.

Our fertility journey started in late 2016. I got off birth control and remember feelings of giddiness as I threw the empty pill case in the trash. I was so excited to be a mom. Brian and I had been married for two years and we were ready to start our family. I immediately got on Etsy and ordered a matching Baby Mama and Baby Daddy t-shirt set. I couldn't wait to surprise Brian in the most cheesy way possible with the news that we were pregnant. I was already making lists of baby names and visualizing my gender reveal party. I just knew I would be pregnant in no time. Boy was I wrong.

holly waters and her husband preparing for embryo transfer

I impatiently waited for aunt flo that first month off of birth control. After 14 years on the pill, my gynecologist recommended having a couple of regular cycles to get my uterus back in top shape for pregnancy. My period never came. I waited month after month, hoping something would happen. It never did.

After about nine months of waiting and trying multiple times to force periods with medication without success, we decided it was time to see a reproductive endocrinologist. After some blood work and transvaginal ultrasound, I was diagnosed with lean PCOS due to my non-existent periods, anovulation, and polycystic ovaries. This whole world of infertility was so new to us. It was overwhelming. I remember going into the room to be scanned for the first time and thinking I was going to lift up my shirt for a belly scan. Brian and I looked at each other wide-eyed as she told me to undress from the waist down before leaving the room. I had no idea that Wanda (the ultrasound wand) and I would soon be best buds.

We did medicated cycles for over five months to no avail. Then we heard the words that shook our world: IVF was going to be our best option. We were so disappointed. We had no clue that we were about to go down a rabbit hole that would feel almost impossible to get out of.

We spent the next 19 months doing all-consuming, brutal IVF treatments. I quickly realized that this was a marathon, not a sprint, which was a hard pill to swallow due to my impatient nature. I underwent a hysteroscopy under general anesthesia, three egg retrievals, two surgical fluid aspiration procedures for OHSS, an ERA biopsy, more excruciating endometrial scratches than I care to remember, two canceled transfers, and six failed embryo transfers.

For this last try, we decided to attempt a fresh transfer. One really frustrating thing about my body is that my uterine lining can't manage to get over 6mm. For an ideal IVF transfer, doctors typically want the lining to be over 8mm. No matter what medication I took, my lining did not want to cooperate. Even though I was at risk for OHSS, we decided to go for the fresh transfer. It was something new. It was something I could feel hopeful about even though my lining was still not at optimal thickness.

holly waters and her husband

I waited 10 days without testing and felt cautiously optimistic. This could be it for us. We could finally have the one thing our hearts most desired. Then we got the call and I heard the same words that I'd heard so many times before. Not pregnant.

I knew at that moment I could not put my body through any more. My broken body has been desperate for a break for a long time. And it's not just my body that needs to heal, but my heart. I have been through trauma, and the trauma has been really heavy. I want so badly to continue to push forward in our desire for a family, but I also need to protect my heart.

Brian and I knew it was time to talk about other options. Even before we knew we were infertile, we both had adoption on our hearts. It is something we have thought long and hard about. The day after we got the bad news about the negative pregnancy test, we were sitting down in the middle of a furniture store (because shopping can cure heartache, even if it's fleeting) and Brian said that he wanted to try using a surrogate.

Surrogacy was obviously something I had thought about, but I honestly hadn’t expected him to say that. I thought since we both wanted to adopt, that would be what he wanted to pursue next. I was immediately overwhelmed with a sense of hope. The heavy trauma that had been weighing us down started to feel lifted. We have two precious embryos left, and this is our opportunity to try something new.

A couple of days later we had our WTF appointment and our doctor confirmed what we had already decided on our own. He said our best option was surrogacy. It was a relief knowing that our doctor agreed with what we had already chosen. Making this choice gave us a sense of renewed hope. It allowed us to breathe again. In the meantime, I will keep praying that I will get pregnant. I will speak it into the Universe. I will never give up on my dream to carry a child.

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holly waters flexing

The grief this time around has been different. I’m a crier, and I really haven’t cried since we initially heard the words not pregnant. I don’t know if I’m in shock. I don’t know if it’s because we are moving in a different direction. I don’t know if it’s a God thing and He has put peace in my heart. I do know that I’m still processing. On multiple occasions, I have felt overwhelmed with emotion, and then it’s gone as quickly as it came.

My grief might not look like an uncontrollable sob. Maybe it will trickle out over time. I expect as I reach each milestone of the surrogacy process, it will start to hit me a little harder. And when the pain starts to overcome me, I will remind myself that I have not given up. I am still counting on my miracle that I will one day be pregnant. For now, we are giving my body time to heal.

Infertility is the hardest thing I have ever gone through, but I feel a purpose in it as my story unfolds. It has allowed me to bring education and awareness to infertility. It has allowed me to support and connect with other women on their journey. It has shown me that I am capable of more than I ever thought possible. I have found unimaginable strength in the disappointment. I have found hope in the devastation. I have found resilience in the pain. I have found beauty in the heartache. I have found surrender in the lack of control. I have found wholeness in the brokenness. I have found patience in the waiting. I have found faith in uncertainty.

Is it still possible to feel abundance in all this? Absolutely. As we pursue parenthood via surrogacy, I am going to pour love into myself and my relationship. I am going to do things every day that fill my cup. I am going to make spiked lemonade out of lemons.

holly waters jumping for joy in front of the hollywood sign

Holly Waters documents her motherhood-after-infertility journey on her blog, www.whattheheckivf.com, and her Instagram (@whattheheckivf). After six failed IVF transfers Holly and her husband decided to pursue parenthood via surrogacy when they found out she was pregnant, naturally. She is now the proud mom to a miracle baby boy.