MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For Shayna Holmes, motherhood became her greatest challenge.
Holmes had already raised one son—now in his teenage years—but after finding and marrying the love of her life, she wanted to have more kids.
That desire grew strong despite every obstacle. Two words kept her driven throughout her motherhood journey: “try again.”
Its been called "the toughest job," but motherhood keeps Shayna Holmes on her toes.
“Motherhood is an essential part of my life," Holmes said. "The task of being a mom, the luxury of being a mom, the excitement of being a mom … I can’t even explain it."
It is a feeling that she has chosen time and time again.
“Our journey is a spiritual journey to say the least,” Holmes said.
She and her husband married in 2015.
“My husband and I wanted to start a family of our own," Holmes said. "We both had children from previous relationships. We wanted to join our union and start a family of our own.”
That journey created a challenge in and of itself beginning in 2015.
“I was able to conceive, but it wasn’t a viable pregnancy,” Holmes said.
Instead of her fertilized egg passing through her fallopian tubes to the uterus, it was stuck in her tube.
"I had an ectopic pregnancy," she said. "I was pregnant in the tube. I had to have surgery to have my left tube removed. I was about six weeks pregnant."
That feeling of motherhood held strong.
“We tried again in 2016 — we experienced another ectopic pregnancy," Holmes said. "I was pregnant in my right tube. At that particular time, they were able to salvage the tube.”
Then, in 2017, Holmes and her husband tried again.
“We conceived once more," Holmes said. "To no avail, we were pregnant again in the tube. At this point, I was at a very sunken place, very dark. I lost faith. I stopped going to church. I stopped believing.”
Because of her prior experience with ectopic pregnancies, Holmes no longer had a tube, she said. She couldn’t conceive the natural way.
"We had to undergo the IVF process simply because it was more effective,” Holmes said. “It’s a very lengthy process. Everything has to align. Your body temperature has to be right. Your hormones have to be a certain level. Everything has to be aligned …These are just a couple of the needle discard boxes that I have.”
Holmes injected more than 100 shots.
“From my egg retrieval, we were able to retrieve 40 eggs. Of those 40, we decided to fertilize 20. Of the 20 eggs that were fertilize, we were blessed to have nine viable eggs,” Holmes said.
She also did genetic testing and decided she wanted to have girls.
“Our first transfer, we transferred two girls," Holmes said. "The transfer was unsuccessful. It was a heartbreaking experience because I knew going in with all faith that this was going to work. My doctor, Ameilia Bailey, called. She said 'I think you owe it to yourself to try again.' I will never forget those words.”
So, she did.
“There was one girl egg left, so we decided to transfer the girl egg. The second time, it did not work,” Holmes said.
With six boy eggs left, Holmes' husband stepped in to provide encouragement.
“He said let’s try one more time,” Holmes said.
So, they did.
“We went in, and the nurse looked at us [and] said, ‘I think I hear two heartbeats,’" Holmes said. "At that moment, everything in me broke. I could not continue the vaginal ultrasound because I was so overwhelmed with joy. After having five failed attempts with three ectopic pregnancies, pregnant in the tube, two failed IVF, I couldn’t put into words what I felt at that particular moment…I’m a boy-mom and that means the world to me. I am a true boy-mom in every essence of the word.”
Holmes hopes her journey helps other women not give up and tears down the stigma around infertility.
“What society has done is make us feel less than a woman because we can’t carry," she said. "Society deems us as being forfeit in motherhood and that’s not always the case."
Holmes said when she looks back over the experience "it's tough," but she has no regrets.
"It was worth every shot," she said. "It really was. When I look at the twins and they’re running around healthy [and] full of life, I have no regrets about this actual process. I wouldn’t think twice about doing this again.”