I have two beautiful 8-year-old twin girls, and yet I have been battling with IVF for the past 2.5 years. My husband and I, married 10 years this past September, decided to have kids the summer after we were married. We had to go through infertility treatments to get pregnant since I didn’t, and still don’t, ovulate on my own. 

We were lucky and got pregnant with our girls on our first round of IUI. I was on Menopur and ended up with a lot of follicles. In fact, we ended up with triplets! Unfortunately, the doctor advised us to terminate one of the babies, since my life and the babies’ lives would be at risk if I tried to carry triplets. So, that’s what we did. It was very traumatic for a 27 and 30-year-old to go through, but we knew that’s what we had to do, and we are blessed that all three of us made it all the way to 37.5 weeks.

Fast forward to when our twins were 6 years old, and we were ready to have one more. I always knew I wanted three, just not all at once. So, long story short, we have been going through IVF since September of 2017. We have had five failed FET’s, one miscarriage, and have done four egg retrievals.

We currently have two healthy, PGS normal embryos left from our last retrieval in July. I was also diagnosed with Adenomyosis this past September and was on Letrozole and Neothindrone—menopause inducing medications—for two months.

The hardest part for me has been the guilt that comes with going through IVF when you already have children. We didn’t tell anyone we were going through treatments for the first two years. We didn’t know how people would react since we are already so blessed with the twins. But as time went on, keeping it to ourselves got much harder emotionally.

I didn’t have many people to talk to about all of this, and I started having to make up excuses for not wanting to attend events, especially those centered around babies and pregnant friends.

The guilt kept piling on. I was lying to people, not being physically there for friends and family, and I also had nothing to show for it. It became very isolating, and it made me very bitter. 

Guilt has also been a huge issue for me as a mom. I feel like the worst mother every time I have to hide in my room and cry because I’ve had a bad day, or every time I get bad news from the RE. Truthfully, it’s hard for me to hide my emotions, so I do cry in front of them sometimes and it just makes me feel worse!

I don’t want my kids to remember their mom always crying or being sad about not being able to have another baby when I already have the two of them to love unconditionally, but that’s just how it is right now. The reality is that this journey has made me cry, a lot. I am in a constant state of feeling guilty, angry and depressed because I know how much IVF has taken from me. I know how much mental space it takes up, and I know it has caused me not to be fully present for my family. So, for that, I go to bed feeling guilty every single night. Talk about #momguilt. 

Aside from the endless doctors’ appointments and being consumed with IVF every second of the day, it has also been hard to navigate talking to my girls about it. As they’ve grown, they’ve also become very aware. The two-week wait is the worst.

“Why can’t mommy play? Why can’t she jump on the trampoline?” My husband and I would lie every time. We would tell them, “Mommy’s back hurts. Mommy’s foot hurts.” But that just made them worried for me. Even when we tell them not to worry, deep down, I know they do. I know this because last January when our third transfer worked and we saw the baby’s heartbeat, we decided to tell the girls we were expecting.

One of my daughters burst into tears. However, these were not tears of joy— they were tears of relief. My poor baby thought there had been something wrong with me for over a year! She thought I was sick because of all our doctors’ appointments, so when she found out it was because we were trying to have a baby she was so overwhelmed and relieved. My heart still breaks every time I think about putting them through that.

Unfortunately, we miscarried last January and we had to break the news to the girls. So, not only was I grieving and feeling horrible upon learning that the pregnancy wasn’t viable, then I had to put on a brave face and tell my innocent first-graders what had happened.

We all cried—a lot—and I felt so horrible for making them feel so sad at such a young age. To say it’s been hard is an understatement. Parenting is hard as it is, but adding IVF into the equation is a whole other ball game. 

Ever since that moment, we decided to be more honest with them.  Let’s face it: kids are very intuitive and very understanding!  I have learned to tell them the truth. Of course, we leave out the details, but we explain to them that we are working on having a baby. I’ve also told them that I’m writing a book about it (my blog) and about how hard it is for some women to have a baby. I constantly reassure them that I’m okay and very healthy. They seem to be content with that answer, at least for now.

Selfishly, I don’t think I would be able to navigate some days without my daughters. So, I know now, more than ever, not to take them for granted. They truly are my entire world.

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My husband and I have also become an incredibly strong team. The beginning of our journey was hard—deciding to have a reduction was something that I pray no one else has to go through—but it brought us so much closer.

Together, we have endured a lot of loss. He has seen me at my worst. And the thing is, I also know he feels the same things I do, but somehow, he’s always there to pick me up. I’m lucky I have a strong partner because this is a very wild ride that no one should have to go through it alone. So, if I have to find a silver lining in all of this, it is that it has made our marriage stronger than I ever thought possible. I’m so thankful for that, for him, and our entire little family.

As much as I want to shield my kids from all of the pain of infertility, it’s honestly close to impossible. I know that now, and I can see how strong, understanding, and kind they’ve become because of it. Honestly, I couldn’t be more proud of them.

This journey has been hard. Even after opening up to the world about our IVF journey—to our friends, family, and the infertility community—some people still don’t understand it. Some people still say hurtful things like, “Well you already have two kids. Why do you want more if it’s so hard?” or “If it’s meant to be it will be.” But I’ve learned that unless someone has gone through this they can’t fully understand it.

I’m lucky because, through this process, I have found my voice. I have made amazing friends and have let go of those that don’t serve me at this time. I have strengthened my marriage, and I have found a strength within me that I never knew I had.

Every day during infertility is hard, some days more than others, but I am trying to let myself be okay with that. I’m trying not to let others make me feel bad for my choice in growing my family. I am trying to be more present and enjoy special moments with my girls. I’m working on smiling more, because unfortunately, IVF took that from me too many times last year.

I’m still fighting, and I’m constantly learning, but I know there is a reason I’m still on this journey. I know there is something waiting for us, and as long as I stay on this path, I know we will get there.

Erin Bulcao is 35 years old. She lives in Encinitas, CA with her husband of 10 years and their twin girls who were conceived through IUI 8.5 years ago. Erin is a certified yoga teacher but had to put teaching on hold due to fertility treatments. She loves hot yoga, taking long walks with her husband, which they use as therapy (although she does that, too). Her favorite food is chocolate, eating off of her kids’ plates, and ceviche (but never all together!). She is also a big Bravo TV junkie. Her favorite place to be is in NYC, and she hopes to move there one day once she can convince her husband. In the meantime, they will keep working on that third baby. You can read Erin’s blog here, and follow her on Instagram here.