My husband and I met in 2011. It’s funny because when I first met him I remember thinking, “He is so cute and tall, we would make some cute babies.” We had an instant connection and began dating. We got married in 2017 and knew we wanted to start trying to have kids.

It only took two months before I got a positive pregnancy test. We were so excited. Little did I know, this would be the pregnancy that would turn our whole life upside down. About 6 weeks in, I had some heavy bleeding and excruciating back pain. I knew something wasn’t right so we made a trip to the ER just to be safe. It was there that I waited and cried because, in my heart, I just knew I was miscarrying.

infertility warrior kelsi burley with sign that reads "ectopic pregnancy"

They brought me back and performed an ultrasound, and the energy in the room shifted. Doctors started scrambling and talking fast, saying words I wasn’t familiar with, “You’ve had an ectopic pregnancy, we're going to rush you into surgery,” was the only thing I can recall from that time. Everything else was a blur. I remember looking up at my husband, so scared, wondering what was going on around us. I could tell he was scared too but was trying to hold it together for me.

It seemed like in no time at all I was wheeled up to the OR and was getting prepped for surgery. The doctor told me it was good that I came in as soon as I did because I could have had my fallopian tube rupture, which could have damaged my organs or caused a life-threatening loss of blood. Needless to say, I woke up from surgery and was no longer pregnant, all of my hopes and dreams taken away from me. 

I bled for almost four months. Every time I went to the bathroom it was a constant reminder of my loss. My HCG levels took months to get to zero, and every week I had to go to the lab for blood work for confirmation of what I already knew--that I was no longer pregnant. This miscarriage took everything out of me. 

We gave my body a few months off, and then we began talking about trying again. We tried for almost a year, spending hundreds of dollars on ovulation tests and pregnancy tests. Every month, we were let down yet again. We made an appointment to see my OBGYN, and he suggested we get an HSG test to check and make sure my fallopian tubes weren’t blocked. They were blocked--both of them--completely. I was mortified. 

The results of my HSG were sent to my doctor, and we got an email from him explaining that he was sending us a referral to see a fertility specialist. We made an appointment pretty quickly and in the week leading up to our first appointment, I tried to enjoy myself, because I knew we might have a long road ahead of us. 

When I met my husband he had just moved back from Las Vegas where his job was different than most. He was a professional high stakes poker player. In the years we were together he had started to teach me how to play, and I grew a love for the game. So the week before my appointment, I spent my days in the card room doing something I loved to do. 

infertility warrior kelsi burley with her poker wins

“JACKPOT!,” someone at my table yelled, running up to me to give me a high five. Everyone started clapping and screaming, “YOU HIT THE JACKPOT HAND!” To put it into perspective, the odds of hitting a jackpot are 0.00002359% or about 1 in 42,391. I had hit it, and I didn’t even realize it. The floor man came over to me and said, “Congratulations, you just won $16,000!” I couldn’t even believe it; it didn’t feel real.

About a week later was our appointment at the fertility clinic. My doctor explained we would have to go the IVF route. We were terrified. We didn’t know anyone that had gone through IVF and weren’t really sure what it entailed. She then told us that I would be administering about 2-3 shots in my belly daily, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. My stomach dropped. This was going to be our reality if we wanted a family. You can never prepare yourself for something like this. 

The woman from the finance department came in to talk to us and give us a breakdown of the cost and said we were looking at about $16,000. We couldn’t believe it. IT WAS A GOOD THING I HAD WON 16K EARLIER THAT WEEK! Talk about a true gift from the fertility gods. 

A few weeks later, we began IVF treatments: 3 shots a day for 12 days with ultrasounds, doctor visits, and blood draws along the way. We were so naive going into this, thinking we would do one round of IVF and get pregnant. What actually happened was that we went into our egg retrieval surgery, and the doctor only retrieved one egg. One egg. At that point, I had started sharing my infertility journey on Instagram and followed other IVF warriors. They were collecting 15, 24, some even 33 eggs. These were the numbers I was seeing from everyone around me; how could I only have one? 

kelsi burley with her husband in the clinic for ivf procedure

My one little egg fertilized, and I waited 5 long days on a report from my embryologist to see if it made it to the blastocyst stage. It didn’t. We had finished our first round of IVF with nothing to show for it, and we were back at square one, heartbroken and feeling so discouraged. That first IVF cycle was a true test of our strength and our marriage. When you’re injecting hormones into yourself three times a day, you’re not always very pleasant to be around. 

We were so determined to start our family that we pulled our savings together and went straight into round two. This time, we were prescribed double the medicine. 11 days of injections and thousands of dollars later, my body ovulated on its own, and my cycle was canceled. Another round that had led to absolutely nothing. It was so upsetting and devastating. My body had just endured so much, both physically and emotionally, but I was determined to fight until I got what I wanted. So we went straight into round 3. 

I was so determined to get eggs this time, but I didn’t have the best track record when it came to IVF. I was hopeful but also so scared to be let down again. Round 1: 1 egg, no embryos. Round 2: canceled. Why would round 3 be any different? I woke up from egg retrieval to my husband standing over me, tears rolling down his face. I couldn’t tell if they were sad tears or happy tears. I was so out of it, but I remember him whispering in my ear, “They got 7 eggs, babe.” I felt like I was drowning for so long and finally had come up for a gasp of air. I couldn’t believe it, our luck was turning around. 

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kelsi burley with husband holding a blastocyst embryo photo

The clinic called us later with a fertilization report: 7 eggs were retrieved and all 7 fertilized! After all of the pain and suffering, there was finally some light at the end of the tunnel. A few days later, we got the call that we had two blastocysts, and they were watching a few others to see if they would catch up. I had never even had a single embryo before, so to have two felt like a dream come true. The next day, they called us and said “You have two more!” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. We had four embryo babies on ice; we were so happy. 

A month later, we had our first frozen embryo transfer. It was such a big milestone for us! We were going to become parents. This was our time. When we arrived they gave us a photo of our embryo and I cried so much. You feel so silly looking at a picture of this blob on a piece of paper, but that blob was what we had fought so hard for, paid tens of thousands of dollars for, and represented all of our hopes and dreams. We watched the monitor as the doctor inserted it into my uterus where we prayed it would snuggle in and stay for the next 9 months. 

Then came the dreaded two-week wait, where we had to wait and see if it ‘stuck.’ My husband held his hand over my belly every night and we prayed. After two weeks, we went and took a blood test at the clinic. I had so many nerves, excitement, and worries all at the same time. Hours later I got the call. “Kelsi, I’m so sorry, you’re not pregnant.” It felt like a miscarriage. We had lost our perfect embryo, our dream. It was heartbreaking. I had been going, going for so long. I needed a break and so did my body. 

We have three more embryos left, and we are currently holding on to hope. From our experiences, we know that things can not go your way, and we also know your luck can turn around and surprise you when you least expect it. All that’s for sure is, whenever or however it may happen, I will be a mama one day, I’ll make my husband a father, and together we will be great parents. Until then, I know I am strong and have so much willpower, whatever might come next. I also know that all of these experiences have come with lessons that have shaped me into the person I am today, and my marriage is stronger than ever because of what it’s taken us to get here. 

To our future IVF baby,

We are ready for you whenever you are. We can’t wait to meet you, and I promise never to take you for granted and to love you unconditionally when you’re finally here.

Kelsi Burley shares her infertility & pregnancy loss journey on Instagram at @myjourneywithivf. She recently started a series of Instagram Live events called “Infertilitea,” with which she spreads awareness and education surrounding topics related to women’s reproductive health.