As you drive north on Highway 7 through Anoka, MN, the city starts to fade and the roads become windier. Just through Ramsey, you’ll arrive in Oak Grove. Although it’s considered “country” to most, married couple Daine & Greta Randall think they’re still too close to the city. These two, who met and fell in love at a young age, got married in 2013. The couple enjoys taking camping trips in their camper, visiting state parks, and rescuing adorable pups. Daine, a civil engineer in the oil and gas field, also enjoys woodworking and creating beautiful furniture as a hobby. She, a dedicated and bubbly elementary school teacher, knew at a young age that she was destined to become a Mama someday. Daine & Greta knew right away they wanted to have a family, and although they didn’t “try” to conceive, they weren’t stopping anything from happening from the very beginning.
However, time progressed and the couple continued to see negative pregnancy tests month after month. Her doctors suggested ovulation kits and assumed there was no reason they wouldn’t get pregnant naturally–after all, she was healthy and young! So, they moved forward with the ovulation kits and decided to try for a while longer. Time passed and after another year she was watching her cycle and trying to time things, all to no avail. Greta & Daine went in and moved forward with an HSG (Hysterosalpingogram) procedure. This procedure is used to determine whether the fallopian tubes are open; they inject a dye into the cervix and use an x-ray to examine. Greta’s results showed that her tubes were, in fact, open. Similarly, Daine also had testing done at this point, and his tests came back normal as well. The couple was diagnosed with “unexplained infertility.” There seemed to be no biological reason why the two were unable to conceive. Greta reflected, “I’ve always wanted to be a mom and when it became a reality that I might not be… was devastating. You get married and get pregnant. That’s what it supposed to happen.”
They were referred to a local clinic and moved forward with three IUI procedures and three timed cycles with the trigger shot. After six attempts they were still not pregnant. At this point in the story Greta paused to share that, “The frustration and emotion behind all of this and the stress it puts on your marriage is hard. Every cycle you’re so hopeful and you’re so excited because you think this time will be the one that will work. The negative pregnancy tests month after month after month are wearing…” The two decided to take a break from the process because, as Greta put it, is so taxing.
When they decided to pick up the process again, she felt like the clinic was not matching her expectations, or perhaps there was another approach they should be trying. She did some research and the couple moved clinics. Upon reviewing their history, the new clinic suggested that because the IUI and timed cycles weren’t working, they should move forward with IVF. After a lot of consideration, they moved forward with it all–injections, monitoring, surgery for the egg retrieval, and the overall process to get ready for it was really intense.
Everything went well from a medical standpoint; Greta responded well to the drug she was using–Lupron. The process is setup to grow as many eggs as you can so when they are retrieved, the more eggs there are, the more embryos that can possibly be created. Her body over-responded to the medication and ended up with 31 eggs. This might sound like a positive thing– to over-create eggs; however, this OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome) created a problem. They would not be able to do the transfer because her body was so sick. She recalled, “It was super emotional because you have been through this whole process and you’re excited to do the transfer but you have to wait six more weeks.” So, after their several years wait, they were finally ready for the first transfer. And to their dismay, it didn’t work.
Greta felt, sadly, Oh my gosh, how could it not work? “You get to a point where you think this HAS to work because this is the last step if we ever want to have a baby. It was so crushing… we’ve been through so much to get here… this is hard.” She remembers feeling so sad that even the happy things–like being with friends, going out and doing social things with other couples, it just didn’t sound at all like something she wanted to do. It was difficult to hear of anyone being pregnant. “Of course you’re happy for people, but you just don’t want to hear about it, and it’s a really dark place to be…” She remembered, “getting the paperwork and staring at the $30,000 bill. And the whole time you’re reminding yourself that this might not work. Just because there are embryos doesn’t mean there is a baby… this isn’t a guarantee.”
So then, they waited again. The next procedure would have to wait another six weeks. With this comes more injections to get your body ready. Her doctor also suggested a uterine scratch; the idea behind this procedure is that it ultimately forces the uterus to “heal” and rebuild itself and give it a fresh surface for the transfer. Daine and Greta discussed with their doctor, the desire to implant two embryos in the next try. They weighed the pros and cons and decided that they were willing to accept any and all challenges if that meant they would be pregnant. So in December of 2017, they implanted two embryos. And their Christmas wish came true! On December 15 they found out they were pregnant with twins.
Their joy, though, was quickly hit with the sadness that came with their first ultrasound. Baby A had a very strong heartbeat; however, Baby B’s was weak. The ultrasound tech went to get another machine and Greta recalled, “The room got so quiet. You could sense something wasn’t right…” Baby B had a faint heartbeat but it wasn’t strong. The doctors decided to monitor closely. Soon after, at the 7-8 week ultrasound, the couple discovered that Baby B had not survived. Greta remembers thinking, “The things that go with that are you’re so happy and overwhelmed that you’re finally pregnant–that high is so extreme; but then losing one is incredibly hard to deal with because it’s such an opposite emotion. We were finally going to have a baby and we lost one at the same time. We decided that this was meant to be and God gave us this baby… as hard as it was, we tried not to overthink it because, we have this baby.”
Greta shared how much she loved being pregnant. She was one of those beaming Mamas who rarely had a complaint. They decided to wait until the baby was born to find out the gender. Other than some swelling and an early induction due to high blood pressure, Greta and Daine welcomed their beautiful little Millie Jeanne Randall on August 5 at 5:39 AM via C-section. She was 6.9 lbs & 19” long. A tiny little miracle.
This Mama was the first to reach out to me and want to share her story. I can’t even express how much I was just in awe of her and her desire to want to connect her experience with so many others who are going through these same motions. She shared through some tears (me, too, on so many different occasions throughout our interview), “This time of year can be hard. It’s hard in general, but this time of year… Christmas was so hard. You are trying so hard and yet you’re not pregnant. I love Christmas and these last few years I didn’t want any part of it. Shopping, going out, nothing… you want this one gift and there’s nothing you can do to get it. My hope is that someone reads this and if they’re going through this, that they feel validated–it’s ok to feel those things. It’s not an easy journey. It’s a dark place to be and you feel frustrated, mad, and alone. But you’re not. And the more we continue to talk about this as a society, the more accepting we are and can help one another. So many couples experience some form of infertility and you think, Oh, that won’t be me. But then it is, and once you start talking you find this network of people who are there with you, too. I’m not trying to knock people who haven’t been through it, but it’s not the same. You can try to be empathetic… but having people who are in your shoes, is different.”
To close, Greta shared that she would love to be an open and willing ear to any Mamas out there struggling with infertility. If you would like to get in touch with Greta please comment below. To anyone going through this experience this Christmas, you are not alone. I am just one small part of this gigantic Band of Mamas we’re forming; there are people out there who would love to be there for you!
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Hey Greta! I had no idea you went through all of this. My last 5 years of nursing was in a IVF clinic here in Minneapolis. It was a honor to help people like you on your journey to becoming parents. So many emotions everyday, even as nurses. Glad you got your Millie! 😘 Susan