In a candid blog for PEOPLE, Bachelor in Paradise alum Astrid Loch aims to "raise awareness so that conversations surrounding infertility become less of a taboo"
Astrid Loch and Kevin Wendt pregnancy
Credit: Astrid Loch and Kevin Wendt

Astrid Loch and Kevin Wendt, who met on season 5 of Bachelor in Paradise and announced their engagement in August 2019, revealed on Mother's Day Sunday that they are expecting their first baby together after a long and challenging journey to conception.

In her first blog for PEOPLE, Loch opens up about her fertility struggle and how she hopes to help other hopeful parents.

The news is finally out — we're pregnant and we couldn't be more excited to finally be able to share the good news with you all! But getting to this point wasn't easy for us. Like many couples (1 in 8 to be exact) we struggled with infertility. So, as excited as we are to celebrate the milestone of getting to 13 weeks, we also think it's important to talk about what it took to get here.

One of the things Kevin and I first connected over was our desire to have a family. As our relationship grew, our desire to have kids did too — even more so than the desire to get married — which is why we actually started trying to get pregnant in July 2019, about two months before getting engaged.

When I think back to those first few months of "trying" I can't help but laugh knowing all of the other methods we would later attempt with no success. Three cycle-tracker apps, ovulation sticks, basal thermometer, fertility-friendly lube (that was fun), legs up, legs down, every day, every other day, multiple times a day — we really tried it all.

Each month we were hopeful and told ourselves this would be it. I had never been so in tune with my body before. I felt every cramp, every headache, every tenderness of my breasts, and even though I knew my period was coming, I tried to tell myself the symptoms may be those of pregnancy. Coming down the stairs to tell Kevin it didn't work again was the thing I dreaded most each month, but he was always there to comfort me.

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We suffered together month after month, but we also suffered silently. I cried in the shower and he took a little longer than usual walking home from the gym because we both wanted to be strong for the other person. After 12 long months with no success, it was Kevin who pushed me to call a fertility specialist.

I was hesitant because I was scared. At the time, going to seek help felt like I was giving up on my body, but after some convincing we made our first appointment for June 2020.

I'll never forget sitting in the waiting room at Create Fertility for the first time, anxiously watching each woman get up as she was being called. There were women of all different sizes, ages, ethnicities and backgrounds, yet we all had this one thing in common, this one thing nobody ever talks about.

When it was our time to meet Dr. Sharma, she broke down the next steps: sperm testing, bloodwork, egg count and tube testing. As it turned out, Kevin's sperm was great (excellent, in fact), my eggs were "average for my age" (I was 30 at the time producing 12 to 18 eggs each cycle), my tubes were clear, and our bloodwork didn't reveal anything that would give us that "aha" moment of what was wrong.

As Dr. Sharma explained, 20 to 30 percent of couples have unexplained infertility, which made us feel even more helpless. Thankfully our doctor had a plan and together we decided for my next cycle we'd try a medicated IUI (intrauterine insemination) approach. This meant cycle monitoring beginning on day 2 of my menstruation that was made up of an ultrasound, bloodwork and checking in with my doctor, along with daily fertility drugs to help my eggs mature.

These appointments were tedious sometimes taking 3-plus hours and had to be attended every two to three days so we'd be able to perfectly time my ovulation. By this point COVID was also rampant, so this meant I'd be having to attend all these appointments on my own while Kevin anxiously waited at home waiting on updates.

On the day of our first IUI, with Kevin still not being allowed in, I sped to the clinic with his sperm in a cup between my breasts — I had to keep it warm and get it there within an hour. Imagine the conversation if I would have gotten pulled over....

Two weeks later I got my period and we were back to square one.

Astrid Loch, Kevin Wendt
Astrid Loch, Kevin Wendt
| Credit: Paul Hebert via Getty

We decided on another IUI, this time with stronger fertility drugs, and the cycle monitoring began again. Bloodwork, ultrasound, see the doctor, repeat. It was draining, time-consuming and emotional (thanks fertility drugs), but on the bright side I got to read a lot while sitting in the waiting room for countless hours.

We had our second IUI procedure Sept. 19 and two weeks later, after some spotting, it was time for bloodwork. Our hopes were low, but later that day the nurse called us with a glimmer of hope: There was some hCG detected in my blood but it was low. I kept going back every other day and my levels grew: 7, 10, 12, 73, 179 (it was doubling), 305 (still hopeful), 471 (could be higher).

On Oct. 14, the ultrasound tech detected a sac but it wasn't where it was supposed to be. I was having an ectopic pregnancy, meaning the sac was in my right tube putting me at risk for a rupture. The next day, Dr. Sharma had to administer two shots of methotrexate, a cancer drug that kills all living cells in your body.

We were devastated. Even more upsetting was the fact that this meant we couldn't try again for another eight to 10 weeks, delaying the one thing we'd been wanting for another two months.

Astrid Loch pens essay for PEOPLE about fertility journey
Credit: Courtesy of Astrid Loch

At the start of December, it was finally time for me to go back and talk about our options. While Kev sat at home on the phone, we discussed our options: Since the risk of having another ectopic pregnancy with IUI was high, we decided to start IVF (in vitro fertilization). I went back on my prenatal vitamins and started on the fertility shots with the help of my handsome nurse Kev, who administered them to me.

Because my eggs weren't maturing as well as we wanted them to, my dosage was increased twice until I was finally ready for my retrieval. I went to sleep while Kevin waited in the car as Dr. Sharma retrieved 13 viable eggs. We were hoping for eight, so this was huge. The lab added Kevin's sperm and then it was back to the waiting game to find out how many embryos would get to the blastocyst stage. On the day we had six embryos who had grown enough to go off for DNA testing and a week later we found out we had three grade-A embryos for transfer whenever my body was ready.

On March 2, 2021 — 20 months since we started trying to conceive — it was time to transfer Susie. (We don't actually know if it was a boy or girl embryo but that's what we decided to name Baby Wendt for now.) At this point I was also taking estrogen pills three times a day along with daily progesterone oil shots to ensure the embryo had the best environment to thrive in.

I left the clinic that day feeling different. I can't quite explain it, but I called my best friend Malissa on the way home and told her I was pregnant. Eight days later, much against the advice of our doctor and nurses, I woke up at 4:20 a.m. and peed on a pregnancy test.

I waited anxiously with tears in my eyes, praying to see those two pink lines. There they were. My plans to tell Kevin in a cute way were out the window as I ran into the bedroom to wake him up and tell him the good news. We just held each other for a while before he decided it was time for a 5 a.m. whiskey and Diet Coke. He could finally breathe, and it was time to take the edge off.

Astrid Loch pens essay for PEOPLE about fertility journey
Credit: Courtesy of Astrid Loch

A few blood tests and ultrasounds later to confirm what that pregnancy test told us, we're finally where we are today. And although our road to get here was hard at times, we still realize just how fortunate we are.

We've read countless messages from all of you and we know many have had much tougher fertility journeys. Not to mention IVF and the meds that come with it are not cheap, it's not covered by insurance, and many couples don't have the option to go this route.

Our hope in sharing our story is to raise awareness so that conversations surrounding infertility become less of a taboo. We will continue to be advocates for all of the fertility warriors whose voices aren't as loud as ours, and we're excited to continue to share our pregnancy journey with all of you.