With Death Comes Life
My name is Kelli Rodriguez, I am 35 years old. Born and raised in Southern California—I grew up in Moreno Valley, spent a ton of my adult life in Long Beach and Orange County and currently live in a home my husband I recently bought in Corona. I am the proud fur-mama to two wild but super cute pups, Benny aka Bernard- the Frenchie and Lilly aka Lilly-Belle the pug!
Looking back on my life growing up, I guess you can say I didn’t have it “easy”. I lost my father at the very young age of 4 years old. My Mom was left to raise me, my sister who had just turned 9 and my brother who was 7 at the time. It was tragic, to say the least. From one day to the next, we had a single Mom struggling to raise three young children, dealing with the grief of losing her husband at the age of 31 and just trying to hold it all together for us and do the best she could. We really really struggled for a lot of years. We were poor, we lived in motels from time to time, we didn’t have transportation at times to get to school, I lived with friends here and there between our home rentals, overall, just really tough. Did my Mom make mistakes? Yes, a ton of them but never did I once doubt the love she had for us. My Mom is my best friend, and I am grateful for the strength and perseverance she taught me. I preface my story with this because this tragedy and the struggle that followed it, truly shaped who I am and what would define my future. I hate that I lost my Dad, but I can honestly say that I look at my life and I know that enduring this type of struggle so early in life gave me a fight and determination to succeed that I am forever grateful for.
After growing up poor and the situation we lived in, I told myself that I would be successful and never have to worry about that again. In 2008, I graduated from Cal State San Bernardino, I originally went to school to be a teacher because I LOVE kids but ended up starting my career in the corporate world after graduating college and found that I have a passion and drive for the business world. I have been able to fuel that competitive drive and passion to succeed in corporate sales for the last 13 years.
I mentioned that I LOVE kids, I do. Aside from having a husband, a successful career, a beautiful home, and the ability to support a life I am really proud of because I didn’t have it all growing up, all I have ever really wanted was to be a Mother. My husband and I knew very quickly after dating that we both wanted children and wanted to begin trying right away. I wasn’t getting any younger either, lol. So, we started trying.
Months and months went by and nothing was happening. We decided that I needed to chat with my OBGYN to see what was going on. MY OBGYN asked us to track and do “timed intercourse” for a few months before we discussed next steps. A few months went by and still nothing. Our OBGYN suggested that we do blood work and testing to rule out any reasons why we weren't getting pregnant. All of our tests came back normal, phew! At this point, we were still very unaware of how serious the situation would become for us. We were then asked to do a few “medicated cycles” which is essentially medication to help support ovulation. A few medicated cycles went by and still nothing. At this point my OBGYN referred us over to a Reproductive Endocrinologist.
In 2019 we met with a Reproductive Endocrinologist Fertility Doctor. We knew we needed some help but still had no idea of what was to come. Our doctor started with all the diagnostic testing to help identify what the issue was. To our surprise everything came back normal for the both of us and we were diagnosed with “unexplained Infertility.” I don’t know what’s worse, getting the diagnosis that something is wrong or getting the diagnosis that nothing is wrong but you’re still not getting pregnant.
Our doctor decided that because there was nothing glaring wrong that an IUI would be a great first step for us. An IUI Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a fertility treatment where sperm are placed directly into a woman’s uterus. We decided to go for it. I look back at how naive I was that an IUI would work on the first try. WRONG it failed, not once but THREE times. At this point, we were crushed. We had spent over 2k on each IUI and felt like we didn’t know what to do next. I was honestly still in denial that our reality was that our next option was IVF. Why is this happening? How will we afford this? Will we ever be parents? So many thoughts running through our heads with so much uncertainty of what was next for us
We decided to take a little time off as we were trying to purchase our home. We were blessed with a beautiful home but no children to fill it with. We didn’t know how we were going to afford it, but we decided to make a leap and schedule a consultation for IVF with a new doctor. It’s funny how God works because he made a way for us. With some help from family and a good financial plan we made it work. In June of 2020 we began more testing only to find out that our diagnosis was still “unexplained.” Our doctor recommended IVF and saw no reasons why it wouldn’t work for us.
Hopeful and excited, in August we started treatment and underwent Egg Retrieval surgery. After countless needles, shots, blood draws, procedures, appointments and a roller-coaster of hormones later, we retrieved 16 eggs. Of those 16 eggs, 16 fertilized and 7 made it to what they call the Blastocyst stage making them viable embryos. We decided that we would do genetic testing to ensure they were chromosomally normal. This testing can help to rule out miscarriage, so we wanted to give ourselves the best shot of a healthy pregnancy. Of those 7 embryos, 4 came back genetically normal. YAY- four chances at our family. We were one step closer.
After retrieval I began new medications to begin the Transfer Cycle process. This is the preparation to put one of our four genetically normal embryos in my uterus in hopes that it would implant, and we would have a viable pregnancy. September 23rd, we went in for our first transfer, we were scared but so hopeful. 9 days later we received the best news of our lives. I WAS PREGNANT! We were going to be parents and our dreams were finally coming true. It seemed that everything we went through to get to that point was all worth it, the pain, the struggle, the medication, and the thousands of thousands of dollars later. We were blissfully thankful that it worked on the first try until the worst thing of our entire lives happened, we miscarried. I can’t begin to explain the pain we felt hearing this news. How could this happen? We did everything we were supposed to. Why would God give us the blessing we prayed so hard for and then take it away from us? How will we go on? All these things went through our heads,we were absolutely heartbroken. There were times I didn’t even recognize myself. I devoted and sacrificed years of my life, my body, my metal being, my heart and soul to try to become a mother and it all was ripped from my fingers. On October 30 I was having a D&C surgery to remove my baby from my womb. I was at my lowest.
At this point, I felt like giving up, but I just couldn’t. One, because we had three additional embabies (embryos) that deserved just as much effort as I gave to our first who is now our Angel in heaven and two, you remember that drive and determination to succeed I talked about? Well, it pushed me to keep going. I knew at this point; I was ready to start sharing my story. I knew I couldn’t possibly be the only one going through infertility, pregnancy loss and all that goes with it. I knew that if I shared my story and it helped one woman going through this to not feel alone that it would all be worth it. So, I did, as hard as it was to open about our pain and struggle it was also freeing. All the weight I had been carrying for so long seemed just a little lighter by sharing our story.
In December we finally found the strength to try again. Sadly, this transfer that we hoped and prayed would be our Christmas miracle, failed all together. Another negative pregnancy test. I can’t even put into words how crushed we were. I remember crying out in pain for hours. It felt like my heart was literally in two. The weight of a miscarriage and topped with a failed transfer with absolutely no answers to tell us why this was happening was excruciating.
I eventually met with my doctor and we decided that I needed to undergo a surgery where they go through your cervix to examine your uterus for polyps, fibroids, inflammation etc. This was the 3rd time under anesthesia in one year. I was drained, and scared but I wanted and needed answers and was determined to do anything we had to if it meant it would mean a chance to fulfill our dreams of becoming parents. Surgery came and went and while I was in recovery the words I got from my doctor in recovery were “everything looks absolutely perfect.” While I didn’t want anything to be terribly wrong, I secretly wanted them to find something I could blame all the pain we had been through. We still had no answers. How could this be?
Where do we go from here? All we knew is that we had to keep going, had to keep trying. We decided to do something different with our next transfer, my doctor suggested that I was a great candidate based on my last surgery of a natural approach which required less medication and little to no injections (YAY) it just required more monitoring appointments and relied more on my own body. The day came for our 3rd Embryo transfer. I felt different this time. I felt calm and I knew it was in God’s hands. I knew that our struggles were not in vain, I trusted that God would help us through whatever the outcome. 9 days later we got the amazing news, WE WERE PREGNANT WITH OUR MIRACLE, OUR RAINBOW BABY!
I quickly realized that Miscarriage and Pregnancy after loss PTSD was real. I was so incredibly happy and thankful yet so deathly afraid of what could go wrong. The anxiety is still there, and I deal with it everyday but I’m learning to give it to God and doing my best to enjoy pregnancy because I deserve to. Infertility and loss have a way of stealing the joy, stealing your identity, stealing your ability to live life without the fear that the thing you love the most is going to be taken from you in an instant.
A lot like losing my Dad, I know that infertility made me stronger, stronger than I ever knew possible. It made me more determined, it made me strive for a life I never had. Infertility, as terrible of a disease that it is, I can see the positives it brought. Infertility tried to ruin my marriage, it only made us stronger. A husband who did every single injection and put up with me with all my raging hormones, helped me as I wept and didn’t know how I'd go on and it only made me love this man even more. Infertility tried to drain all the money we had but it only made us work harder to pay for it all. Infertility intensified anxiety made me feel like I was broken and tried to put me in a deep depression, but it only helped me strengthen my relationship with God. I am forever grateful for that. I don’t think that God wants us to suffer but I do know that our pain is never in vain and He works all things together for good for those who love Him and have been called together for His purpose.
Death changed me, infertility changed me, but neither defined me. What defines me is the strength I had to keep going. To keep going when it seemed impossible to take another step forward. I choose to see these challenges as things that made me strong, made me a fighter and made me the strongest mother I can be.
Infertility feels like you’re fighting a battle with no armor on. You feel hopeless, scared, tired, lost, and sad. It is truly heartbreaking and debilitating and all-consuming BUT I’m here to say that you just must keep going. You have to find your strength to keep going because you just never know what’s on the other side of your last struggle.
I’m so glad we never gave up. What was on the other side of our least struggle is my baby boy. I can’t wait to hold Elijah in my arms and tell him how hard we fought for him, how loved he is and tell him all about his Grandpa Dennis in heaven. I am and will be forever grateful to God for this true blessing and miracle. I couldn’t have made it through the journey without God’s strength guiding me and helping me every step of the way. I don’t think ill breathe until I am holding my baby in my arms, but I will praise God every moment until we get there.
I hope my story brings awareness to infertility. 1 in 8 women struggle with infertility and 1 in 4 women will have a miscarriage. I hope you know you are not alone if you are experiencing this and drowning in grief, loss, and heartache—I am always here for you if you need support.
All my love!
Elijah’s Mommy- Kelli