Erin Bulcao's Story


Nick and I got married when I was 25. We knew we wanted kids and while we thought we would wait a couple of years the summer of 2010 brought the baby itch. We started trying. I got off the pill and I wasn’t getting a period. Being the instant gratification personality that I booked an appointment with my OB after a couple months had gone by. I sat there waiting for her to come in and while this should have been an exciting moment in my life it was absolutely terrifying and little did I know what lied ahead. She explained to me that I don’t seem to ovulate on my own in which case I would need fertility treatments to conceive a child. I was shocked, I didn’t know anyone who had to do this let alone at 26! So, she referred me to a specialist and we made an appointment.

I remember sitting in that waiting room for the first time. I felt embarrassed, I felt like I didn’t belong there. I thought fertility treatments were only for older women, not me. But there we were waiting to see what we needed to do. The RE we met with, reproductive endocrinologist, suggested we first try and IUI (intra uterine insemination) with the help of fertility drugs to stimulate my ovaries. Apparently, I had A LOT of follicles, but they weren’t maturing and therefore not releasing. So, we started off with Clomid. A drug to help stimulate your ovaries. That didn’t work, so we moved on to a more invasive method of injecting my stomach every day and night with Menopur. This would hopefully help the follicles grow and mature and then with another injection, a few would release. Sure enough, this method worked, we did what is called our “trigger shot” and my follicles were on their way to being released. We came into the clinic for them to inseminate Nick’s sperm in me with a long syringe and there we were, pregnant until proven otherwise. I remember laying on the exam table for 20 minutes after they inseminated me thinking how I would NEVER want to tell anyone about this. I already felt bad enough making Nick deal with this so there was no way I would ever be sharing this.

Two weeks later I got my blood drawn to see if this worked. I have a very bad relationship with pregnancy tests as up until then I had gotten so many negatives. I used to pee on the sticks three or four times in a row thinking I must have done it wrong. This time I just waited for that blood test. I didn’t want them to call me since Nick was at work so I made them call him. I stayed in our apartment all day, pacing, not being able to think about anything else. And then suddenly Nick came barging in, with a huge grin! He picked me up and said, “We are pregnant!” I called the doctor now that I felt safe and they informed me that my first beta reading was at 1,1500. That is VERY high, they said that could possibly mean multiples but we would wait for the first ultrasound in a few weeks. I bled A ALOT the day before my ultrasound. The nurse said to just lay low but that not to worry, it was normal. I couldn’t sleep that night obviously. We went into the clinic and had our first ultrasound. With my legs wide open and my heart pounding fast, worried we had miscarried, the nurse looked up and said “Congratulations you are having TRIPLETS.” We were in shock, so thankful we were all ok, but triplets??? Immediately following the ultrasound we were called into the doctor’s office to discuss. He told us that I would be at high risk, meaning my own life would be at risk along with the babies’ lives if we decided to carry all three. He said we should consider a reduction and that’s what he would recommend. “There is a clinic in LA you can go to, you just have to do this before 9 weeks.” Our hearts sunk. How on earth could we make this decision and yet how would I survive mentally worrying that our lives were at risk if we moved forward with three? We knew what we had to do and it was the most traumatic decision of our lives. I was 26 and Nick was 31.

We drove to LA, we stayed in a little hotel close to the clinic since we had to be there first thing in the morning. We went in, the physician told us she would be aborting the embryo that was the easiest to get to. We didn’t know the genders or anything of that sort, we didn’t know if any of them were normal embryos or not, we just shook our heads and said ok. I closed my eyes most of the time, I didn’t want to watch. She said I would bleed out the remains and to take it easy for a couple of weeks. We were very quiet on the way home. We didn’t tell anyone for years.

As hard as that was, I knew and still know we made the right choice. I carried my twin girls to term and birthed them vaginally! They were both perfectly healthy except one, Eliana, was tiny since her umbilical cord was very thin. She needed more nutrients to get a little fatter so she stayed in the NICU for 11 days. Those were some of the hardest days of my life. I felt so guilty bringing one baby home and not the other. I was exhausted from being a new mom and driving to and from the NICU daily to feed and be with the other twin. But we did it. She came home after 11 days and has been the strongest, spunkiest child since.

The months following, we found out I had a hernia from the pregnancy and that my stomach muscles had torn. We decided I needed to have that fixed so that my back would stop hurting and I could regain my strength. I had Diastasis recti surgery and hernia repair surgery in December 2011, 6 months after the twins were born. I don’t remember much as they say you forget trauma, but I wasn’t allowed to pick up the babies for 6 weeks. Thankfully I had stored enough milk (since I was producing 22oz every 3 hours) to last them for an additional 3 months post-surgery.

Life went on. We were beyond grateful for our girls. But then they turned 6 and we knew we had to try for another baby. We stayed hopeful and tried on our own the summer of 2017 and sure enough ended up back at the fertility center for help. This time we would be jumping into IVF right away. I was elated, I thought ok, IVF meant I would be pregnant in 4 months! I would get to choose the gender and we would have this baby by the end of the coming summer. I was very wrong.

We paid for this first round. Unfortunately, here in California, insurance doesn’t cover fertility treatments. So almost $30,000 per round, meaning egg retrieval to transfer was what we had to pay upfront. Forms were signed and we were on our way. We had our first egg retrieval and they collected 8 eggs. Only 3 made it to full embryos and after sending them to get tested (PGS testing to make sure they were normal babies) we only ended up with one. But we only needed one right? So, hopeful and honestly naïve, we transferred the one in December 2017. This transfer failed. We were back at square one, devastated and in shock.

We tried again. Signed the forms, paid upfront, and went through another retrieval and transfer. We had the same results. We transferred the one embryo, along with one other one that was not normal but could potentially grow to be (termed a mosaic embryo) and they too failed. I didn’t understand. I felt like I had all the pregnancy symptoms. But that’s the thing with IVF, you are on so many hormones and fertility drugs that your body almost mimics pregnancy symptoms. It was such a mind game. I started to feel so depressed. I felt so guilty that we had spent so much money and I had spent so much time going back and forth to the doctor, doing shots, bloodwork, and exams for nothing. I had taken so much time away from my twins (or so it felt like I had) and I couldn’t handle that guilt.

After trying an IUI, and having it fail we decided to take a break. We need a break financially, mentally and I needed it physically. We were disconnected as a couple and my mind couldn’t focus on anything other than IVF. We took the summer off to cleanse my body. I started acupuncture treatments regularly to help with fertility and I trained to become a yoga teacher. We traveled and you better believe I was as present as I could be with my girls.

September 2018 came quickly, we switched clinics because we weren’t happy with our old one and tried for our third egg retrieval and third transfer. This time we decided not to test our embryos. We had three and thought, due to the controversy of testing, we would take our chances. We were pregnant! It worked!! I remember crying in my closet on the floor, so many tears of joy, of relief, and shock. We didn’t tell the girls right away and waited until 6 weeks to tell them once we saw a heartbeat. They were so excited, they cried and we could not stop talking about that baby. A couple weeks later it was time for me to “graduate” from my fertility center and onto the OB. “I’m sorry Erin, but the baby has stopped growing.” My world collapsed. We had miscarried. I remember holding on to Nick’s shirt so tightly as he held me up so that I wouldn’t fall out of the bed. I couldn’t even pull my pants up, how would I continue about my day? How would I tell the girls? But we did, they sobbed and we had to explain that the baby had died in my tummy. The guilt ate me alive.

I bled for about 3 months straight. I was told to take misoprostol, which is a pill to induce miscarriage. I was told to catch any tissue that came out of me and save it for testing. I had to do this twice. The second time I took the pill I bled through four sets of pajamas and my sheets. I couldn’t walk the next morning as I had lost so much blood. The bleeding continued, not as severe, but for 3 months until finally the doctor discovered more tissue in my uterus, yes from the miscarriage. I had to have a D&C. I couldn’t believe it, I was so angry that this went on for so long because I couldn’t move on. But I went into surgery and felt a sense of relief when it was done.

The tissue didn’t show much, in fact, we don’t really know why I miscarried the doctors just assume the embryo was abnormal. We tested the remaining two embryos because I wasn’t about to have another miscarriage if I could help it. One came back normal, we transferred that one and it failed.

I wasn’t sure if I could keep going. We were now two years in, 3 retrievals and four transfers, and a miscarriage in. But Nick encouraged me, he knows me too well. “I think you’ve got it in you to do one more retrieval.” So, we did. And we got 3 PGS normal embryos, the most ever! We transferred one in august in such high hopes, and it failed. I was miserable and so confused. I had a pelvic MRI done and a biopsy on my uterus and they found some inflammation and something called adenomyosis. I was on medication for that for 3 months. This killed me, it meant more waiting. December 2019 rolled around and it was time to transfer again. I mean it should work now, right? We “fixed” my uterus!

Another failed transfer. I had one embryo left. I didn’t even know if I could go through the transfer process again, the heartache of another loss, and the physical and emotional pain of the process. I knew something had to change. I became my own advocate. I asked to speak to another doctor in the same clinic. I liked him, we connected so I asked to switch. I learned that this is MY journey. I need to be happy and confident in my process and having the right doctor was a huge part of it. I also told him I wanted my uterine lining to be thicker. In the past, the doctors had always insisted on it being 7-8mm for transfer, but this time is said no. I said I wanted it to be at least 9.5. I checked my vitamin D levels, rechecked my thyroid and we were on our way to our 7th transfer. I felt the most positive and confident (and informed) as I had ever felt in the past. I knew this would work. And here I am holding my rainbow baby who is now 4 months old.

IVF was a roller coaster. A mind game to say the least. It almost broke me, it hurt my marriage at times and it took over my life for 3 years. But it also made me stronger, it made my marriage the strongest it has ever been. It made my little family closer. It made my girls compassionate and grow. It made me humble and patient. But most of all it made me into who I am today. I wouldn’t wish this journey upon anyone but I also know had I not gone through it I wouldn’t be where I am today. Not only pregnant with our little girl, that third baby that I knew was meant to be one day, but it led me to growing into my own skin. To feeling powerful, stronger than ever and it has made me realize how incredibly strong I am, and I only hope that my girls will see that one day. Life is crazy, it’s so unpredictable and I truly believe that the strongest ones, the warriors, go through all this because they are capable of coming out the other end.