Guest Writer Wednesday: Melissa's Unicornuate Uterus Story
Guest writer, Melissa, pours her heart out in her story of love and loss. She eloquently shares life’s unpredictable intersection between life and death. Joy and sorrow. I am so grateful for Melissa and her story. Please help welcome her to the Unicorn Mission!
It’s Not Always Rainbows and Butterflies
Sometimes it’s Rainbows and Unicorns
By: Melissa Klemperer
I walked across the stage at Syracuse University in 2009; my life was sprawled out in front of me. There was so much to look forward to and it seemed like the possibilities were endless. I was on the perfect path. I had a great job and was looking forward to my next chapter.
Two months later I was introduced to a man who I immediately knew was the one. Tall, dark, handsome, and so much more. Over the next six years, Mike and I spent every day together. Rented a place, attended grad school, got a dog, eventually bought a house, and one day in April of 2014 decided we would spend the rest of our lives together. He proposed on Easter, at my parents’ house, in front of my mom and dad…Rainbows and butterflies, right?
Well, my dad is a huge part of this story – we both had struggles we would soon face.
July 25, 2015 Mike and I were married on the beach in Jamaica with dozens of friends and family standing by. My dad walked me down the aisle and handed me over to the man he trusted to take care of me forever. He was so happy that his only child had found such an amazing partner and gave his blessing a million times over.
“Thank you for walking by my side today and always.
Daddy, you’re my best man.”
When it rains…
After our wedding, Mike and I decided we’d wait a while for kids, a year or so, have fun.. BE MARRIED!
When that year passed, we tried to conceive for about eleven months with no success. Around the same time, my dad who was a rock and roll drummer began noticing some weakness in his right thumb and index finger. We bought him gloves to help him hold his drum sticks, put rubber bands on door knobs to help him grip it and a variety of other tricks. He sought the help of specialists. A slipped disk? Arthritis? Shit, it could be anything.
I would rather it had been ANYTHING than what it was. In 2016 he was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and it was at that moment that we decided we wanted to do everything we could for him to meet his grandchild. We decided it was time to seek help.
Enter Dr. Kiltz at CNY Fertility; Syracuse, NY.
Mike and I met with Dr. Kiltz and we told him everything. My dad was inevitably going to die and we had been trying naturally to no avail. We needed his help. He was on board and explained that he would perform a Hysterosalpingography, a dye test that would show if there was a blockage in either of my fallopian tubes. During this test he was unable to see both tubes. He told me not to worry and ordered a hysteroscopy so he could take a closer look.
I went in for the more invasive procedure with hopes that all would come back normal. I remember coming out of sedation and being brought to the room where my husband waited for me. Dr. Kiltz came in and very calmly told me I had a unicornuate uterus… A WHAT?? Should I laugh at the name? Cry because it sounds like there is something wrong? Maybe I should just start by asking what that is…
It basically means I only have half a uterus. This malformation happened while I was in my mother’s womb. I’ve had it forever! One of my fallopian tubes, known as a “rudimentary horn,” is underdeveloped and does not communicate with the rest of the uterus. Dr. Kiltz said that because my uterus is smaller than average he did not want to attempt IUI, a fertility treatment that places sperm inside the uterus to aid fertilization. With IUI there is an increased chance of becoming pregnant with twins, which for me would be like carrying quadruplets. So, we’d go the IVF route, implant one embryo at a time and hope for the best! On the bright side, I do have two functioning ovaries that would hopefully provide me with plenty of eggs!
To be perfectly honest, I have blocked out so much of this part. My dad declined RAPIDLY. He was walking with a cane now and having a really hard time accepting that his body was completely failing him. I felt like my body was failing me too.
Egg retrieval #1: September 2017. I was hopeful and so scared. The shots that my husband managed to administer were countless. Keeping track of the pills, the suppositories and the shots was nearly impossible. I had a notebook to write it all down. The day finally came and I said a prayer and went in for surgery. NOTE: Egg retrieval is one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced. We ended up with 10 fertilized embryos! Ok here we go.
FRESH Embryo Transfer #1: September 2017. So much hoping and praying. ::THE TWO WEEK WAIT:: We’re sorry, your HCG test is negative.
Frozen Embryo Transfer #2: October 2017. Shots, pills, suppositories, more shots. Transfer. ::THE TWO WEEK WAIT:: We’re sorry, your HCG test is negative.
Frozen Embryo Transfer #3: December 2017. Shots, pills, suppositories, more shots. Transfer. ::THE TWO WEEK WAIT:: Your HCG test is positive!!!
I was over the moon. I went and bought a ton of pink and blue balloons! Came home and put them next to the Christmas tree with a sign that said Merry Christmas, Daddy.
Mike was so happy. WE WERE SO HAPPY. We brought the balloons to his parent’s house to tell them and I could not wait to tell my parents! They cried. My dad was going to meet his grandchild. I went back three days later for my second blood draw.
“We’re sorry, your HCG levels are dropping.”
It was chemical pregnancy #1.
A “chemical pregnancy” is a very early miscarriage, usually before the fifth week of gestation. Many women who experience this never even know they are pregnant. Because I was being monitored so closely, I was WELL AWARE of what was happening. Waiting for HCG levels to return to zero is a weird feeling. You want POSITIVE HCG levels because that means you’re pregnant, but at the same time you are hoping they drop fast so you can start the sickening cycle all over again.
At this point, my dad was in a wheelchair. My mom had to help him dress and do the day to day things he could always do for himself. He wasn’t playing in his band anymore. He could barely hold a fork, let alone his drum sticks.
Every bodily function was deteriorating.
And I thought an egg retrieval was bad?
Just keep going Melissa, you can do this… He WILL meet his grandchild.
Dr. Kiltz decided it was time for a laproscopy. He wanted to see EXACTLY what was happening. Another major surgery was in the books. He discovered and removed quite a bit of endometriosis, which he thought would help the next transfer stick. I was out of work for 2 weeks, on bed rest, just me and my thoughts.
Frozen Embryo Transfer #4: February 2018. Shots, pills, suppositories, more shots. Transfer. ::THE TWO WEEK WAIT:: We’re sorry, your HCG test is negative.
Egg retrieval #2: My insurance covered 3 rounds of IVF and I had used the insurance coverage for Round 1 (egg retrieval and fresh transfer) and Round 2 (frozen transfer). We paid out of pocket for the 3rd and 4th transfer. I wanted to make this round count so we did another retrieval and billed insurance.
March 2018. s.h.o.t.s ... p.i.l.l.s. ... s.h.o.t.s. egg retrieval … OUCH!!!! And only 3 eggs made it to fertilization. Are you kidding me? Oh well, it’ll be ok - I have more frozen… 10-4=6 ... 3+6=9… I’ve got 9 frozen embryos left.
Frozen Embryo Transfer #5: March 2018. Shots, pills, suppositories, more shots. Transfer. ::THE TWO WEEK WAIT:: Your HCG test is positive!!! Three days later, blood draw number two…
We’re sorry, your HCG levels are dropping.
It was chemical pregnancy #2.
Frozen Embryo Transfer #6: April 2018. Shots, pills, suppositories, more shots. Transfer. ::THE TWO WEEK WAIT:: We’re sorry, your HCG test is negative.
God, if you’re out there…. Please… I don’t know how much more I can handle.
Frozen Embryo Transfer #7: May 14, 2018. Shots, pills, suppositories, more shots. And this time lets try IVIG (Intravenous immunoglobulin), a treatment for patients with antibody deficiencies. Dr. Kiltz thought maybe, just maybe, my body was fighting off pregnancies as if they were an invader – a disease – a virus.
3 rounds of IVIG. $1,700 each, no insurance coverage for this one. And each round took approximately 4 hours to infuse. A lot to lose on something that might not work.
Transfer. ::THE TWO WEEK WAIT::
Then, the sun comes out…
“Hi, Melissa, it’s Alyssa from CNY Fertility…
Your blood work is back, it’s positive! VERY positive!”
My HCG levels had never been higher than 100 when my tests had come back positive before, but this time it was almost 300! I had learned my lesson though; don’t get your hopes too high! But, every time I’d go for a blood draw the numbers increased! Up, up, up… oh my God, I’m really pregnant!!!
Now, let’s just pray. My dad had basically lost his voice at this point. He was confined to his bed and my mom did EVERYTHING for him. Side note: she is an angel. I needed him to keep fighting, 9 months, he can meet his grandchild!!!
But, the clouds are never far away…
“Mel, it’s mom. I just called 911, meet us at St. Joesph’s hospital.”
July 12, 2018. Stomach drop. This isn’t the first 911 call my mom had made. I knew the drill unfortunately. Rush to St. Joe’s and wait for the ambulance to appear with my mom, hysterical, and my dad in some sort of distress. Last time, he fell in the bathroom and broke his arm and bruised his tail bone. This time, he seemed SICK – couldn’t breathe, hadn’t eaten in days. Turns out he had developed pneumonia from lying in bed 24 hours a day. This is common in ALS. He remained in the hospital for almost a week with my mom sitting and sleeping by his side the entire time. They said that he was aspirating. Fluid was getting into his lungs when he ate; strictly liquid diet from now on. FOREVER.
This is when he made my mom, my uncle, and I sign a DNR. It was the hardest signature I have ever put on paper. I did it though, we all did. He didn’t want a feeding tube. He didn’t want a respirator.
BUT DAD, I WANT YOU TO MEET YOUR GRANDCHILD. WE ARE SO CLOSE.
I get it though, I really do. His quality of life was baseline. Miraculously the pneumonia cleared and he was sent home. When we got home we had a gender reveal in his bedroom, where pink balloons escaped as I opened the box! He cried.
“Have fun with your daughter, I won’t be here to enjoy it.
But I’ll be watching.”
Rainbows and unicorns
On August 4, 2018 my dad took his last breath. I can’t explain the loss. It isn’t something that can be put into words. My dad told me he’d be watching and I know he is, from a rainbow in the sky.
Lyla Jeanne Klemperer was born on January 21, 2019. She is our miracle unicorn baby. She has her Papa’s spunk and love of music. He is with us every day in the eyes of his granddaughter.
* * *
My name is Melissa Klemperer. I am 31 years old and have been married to my husband, Mike, for almost 4 years. We are both teachers and always knew we wanted kids. We thought having babies would be easy. We were wrong. Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, it’s unpredictable. Embrace every moment and never give up… always believe in unicorns. Sometimes life’s imperfections come together so perfectly.