The inspiration for Angel Wings came from many women (my angels) that guided me during my infertility journey; my life coach, counselor, medical staff, friends, strangers and even a celebrity. If you look at the Angel Wings logo, you will see seven stars which represent my seven babies in heaven. The wings are shaped to wrap themselves around the reader. It is my hope that the experiences I share will bring you comfort and companionship, elevate your perspective and that you will use your angel wings to transcend your infertility, too.
S.J. O’Hara is an American Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur, Community Leader and Advocate for Women experiencing fertility challenges. Becoming a mother of three did not come easily to her. After having her first son, S.J. experienced secondary infertility and seven miscarriages before having her miracle twins. On her six year journey, she learned to advocate for herself and recognize that her body needed the assistance of a gestational carrier. S.J. had the support of “angels” in the form of friends, a professional counselor, a life coach, and even kind strangers. On one occasion, she was sent a “burning bush” sign in the form of a celebrity to help guide her when she was feeling doubt about which path to take.
S.J. is living, breathing proof that being spiritual and having fun are not mutually exclusive…
S.J. is a sixth generation Southerner with a warm heart. She studied vocal music performance before receiving a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Human Resources. Around town, she is known for her wit, kindness and generosity. She is living, breathing proof that being spiritual and having fun are not mutually exclusive. She’s been known to jump on stage and sing with the band wherever she goes – from a pub in Ireland to a dive bar in Costa Rica S.J. is what you would call a “HybridMom” , with a work-life balance. She is a business owner, community leader, chauffeur and laundress to her sports obsessed 9-year old son, chef and master diaper changer to her energetic 2-year old girl/boy twins and spooner to her husband. She enjoys Pilates, Yoga, a weekly date night with her husband, spending time with her friends and family, cooking and having a glass of wine with her girlfriends. At the end of a long day, she has been known to fall asleep with her clothes on. The O’Hara house is full of messes, joy, wackiness, positivity, praise, fun and encouragement. S.J. and her husband have logged in over twenty thousand hours of volunteer service in their community since they have been married. She and her husband still live in the same town where they fell in love. Their priorities are their faith, putting others second and themselves third.
My Infertility timeline
Winter 2008: At 37 weeks, labor induced. Gave birth via C-section to healthy baby.
Fall 2009: Conceived second child. Seven weeks later, I experience cramping and spotting. Doctor prescribes rest. Ultrasound reveals no heartbeat, HCG blood test values still rising. D&C procedure performed. HCG test repeated twice more until values finally reduced to zero.
Summer 2010: Early miscarriage/chemical pregnancy. I missed my period, took a pregnancy test which was positive, and started spotting several days after.
Fall 2010: Early miscarriage/chemical pregnancy.
Spring 2011: Pregnancy confirmed via blood test. Two weeks later, started spotting and passing massive blood clots. Miscarriage (naturally) at 5 weeks with a peak HCG of 53 (per blood test). M/C continued for almost 10 days. Referred to a specialist by my OB/GYN who notes, “mild undulation of the uterine cavity may represent postsurgical change.” This indicated that my c-section could have played a role in my recurrent miscarriages.
Summer 2011: Pregnancy confirmed via blood test. HCG was 2358. Ultrasound confirmed heartbeat. HCG increased to 25,165 at 7.5 weeks. At 10 weeks, heartbeat lost. D&C performed several days later. Operative report states, “There was slightly higher than normal bleeding from the lower uterine segment at the conclusion of the procedure, but with manual massage and Pitocin infusion the bleeding stopped.”
My family research finds that my aunt and cousin both had recurrent miscarriages and gluten allergies. Specialist dismisses any connection.
Late summer 2011: Tests for Celiac disease negative. Food allergy tests confirm gluten allergy.
Fall 2011: Sent letter to specialist outlining gluten sensitivity, my disappointment at his dismissive bedside manner. Requested records and dismissed my specialist. Two weeks later, specialist responds in writing, “please be aware that gluten sensitivity has not been shown to have a relationship to pregnancy loss.” Letter includes two studies supporting his theory. Appointment with new female specialist. She is blunt but caring. More tests.
Christmas 2011: God is present. Pregnant without trying. Met with our new female pastor and she prayed over me. I cried the “ugly cry” as she anointed me with oil. Her beautiful words brought me peace.
January 2012: HCG drawn for pregnancy; values at 559. HCG repeated; level had more than doubled in 2 days to 1270. Ultrasound reveals no heartbeat and no sac. Conflicting information. Scheduled me for a D&C. Three days later, HCG repeated, level was 17620.
Halfway through the ultrasound, strong heartbeat found. Fetus was in fallopian tube, not uterus. Ectopic pregnancy. D&C/tubal pregnancy through at 7+ weeks.
Post-op, went home, fainted when I got out of bed and hit my head on the floor. Hemorrhaged on the toilet through my bellybutton incision. Doctor had used Dermabond. Lost a significant amount of blood.
Surgical site closed with Steristrips, given fluids and morphine for pain at ER. Prescribed a week of bed rest.
HCG repeated, level was 15040. Values starting to decline. Two weeks later, HCG level was 2289. Bleeding continued for two weeks.
Spring 2012: STILL having to repeat HCG tests; level was 67.6. One month later, another HCG blood test; level was 8.5. One month later, final HCG, level finally 0.
Late Spring 2012: Doctor recommends 5-Day Embryo testing with Embryologist out of state.
Fall 2012: Phone consult with CCRM. Scheduled appointment. Final appointment with local specialist. Decision made to do IVF despite concerns about freezing embryos and traveling out of state. 1-day workup including HSG at CCRM. Full day of tests, interviews, classes, exams and procedures. We are given 65% chance of successful pregnancy. We decide to go for it.
December 2012: First box of meds, which includes 100 syringes, countless pills, vials and patches, arrive.
January 2013: Begin meds/shot protocol to prepare for egg retrieval. My husband prepares the shots, while I pray in the other room. We pray together after he gave me injection. Despite bruising on my stomach, I feel absolutely euphoric. One month later, we travel to CCRM and begin daily visits and monitoring with CCRM.
January 31: I receive final trigger shot.
February 1, 2013: Egg retrieval surgery. Twelve eggs retrieved. Did ICSI, embryo genetic testing and grew eggs to 5 days. Several normal embryos frozen.
Spring 2013: Started meds/protocol to prepare for embryo transfer. One month later, travel again for high tech embryo transfer. Two weeks later, positive pregnancy test. One week later, HCG levels were tripling every other day. Doctor advises this pregnancy is “very dangerous” and is likely a partial molar pregnancy. I miscarry in church at 8 weeks. I am broken. I tell my husband I can’t do it anymore. I am already a mommy to our son, and each pregnancy becomes more dangerous than the last. We hang up the idea of getting pregnant.
Fall 2013: My best friend and next door neighbor selflessly offers to carry our baby/embryo for us. We fly to CCRM for her 1-day workup. Within one month, she begins the medical protocol for embryo transfer. After trying for two months, her uterine lining does not progress. After a natural cycle the next month, CCRM decides she is not a candidate.
Spring 2014: We make decision to hire a gestational carrier. We start interviewing agencies and reading profiles of potential carriers. Phone interview with strong candidate leads to in person meeting. We signed a contract right away!
Fall 2014: Our gestational carrier passes 1-day workup. She begins medical protocol for embryo transfer. Transfer date set.
January 2015: Two embryos transferred to increase viability. Two weeks later pregnancy confirmed! At 6.5 weeks, ultrasound confirms two heartbeats. One day later, Embryo #1 confirmed BOY and Embryo #2 confirmed GIRL by our fertility specialist (since they had done genetic testing, they knew the sex of the embryos and would reveal once both positive fetal heartbeats found).
August 2015: Happy birthday to our beautiful twins aptly born on Labor Day via C-Section from our angel, a gestational carrier.