Paralympic Swimmer Mallory Weggemann and Husband Jay Expecting First Baby After IVF Journey

·5 min read
Paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann and husband Jay are pregnant
Paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann and husband Jay are pregnant

Christopher Weggemann

Paralympic gold medalist Mallory Weggemann and her husband Jay Snyder have invited PEOPLE to follow their IVF journey as they try to start a family.

Mallory Weggemann is going to be a mom!

"We are 8 weeks pregnant — and we are over the moon!" the Paralympic gold medalist tells PEOPLE exclusively.

Weggemann and her husband Jay Snyder, who married in 2016, always knew they wanted to start a family. But they realized there would be hurdles, from planning around Weggemann's Paralympic swimming career to managing Snyder's male-factor infertility.

They decided to be open about their journey from the beginning. "There's a lot of isolation when people go through IVF," Weggemann previously told PEOPLE. "There's stigma about it. There are assumptions and misconceptions. And then you add in the fact that one of us is not like the other, and that brings a whole other layer to this conversation."

The couple, who live in Eagan, Minnesota, officially started the IVF process 10 months ago, chronicling every step on social media. Now, after several surgeries, more than 440 injections, two stim cycles, one unsuccessful transfer and endless hoping and praying, the couple is thrilled to be due in March 2023.

"Things are pretty awesome," Weggemann, 33, says. "We had our second transfer in July and found out 10 days later that Little One stuck!"

Snyder 39, described how he felt last week at their first ultrasound. "Staring at the ultrasound, I lost it," he says. "Hearing the heartbeat was truly a miracle."

Paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann and husband Jay are pregnant
Paralympic swimmer Mallory Weggemann and husband Jay are pregnant

Christopher Weggemann

They were especially joyous because of the loss they had experienced in April, when their first transfer was unsuccessful. "We have faced a heartbreak we never knew possible," Weggemann shared at the time.

Only one embryo remained.

"From April until our July transfer, that was the hardest part of the journey," says Weggemann. "Loss, fear, knowing we had one shot left, compounding fatigue."

The couple says they tried to create space for each other to honor their individual feelings."We were going through grief while trying to find hope again," Weggemann says.

Snyder shared how difficult it was to be around other families. "Our loss was in April, and in May and June you have Mother's Day and Father's Day, and we would see kids everywhere," he says. "It rocks you to your core."

RELATED STORY: Paralympic Swimmer Mallory Weggemann Gives Update on IVF Journey: 'We Are Preparing for Transfer'

But they didn't have much time to dwell, as they quickly had to decide next steps. The lead-up to the July transfer was especially stressful and included a mock transfer cycle.

"They do everything they would do for a transfer, but on transfer day they take a biopsy of your lining to measure your hormones," Weggemann explains. "Imagine redoing all the meds, injections, hormones — but there's no transfer. And on the heels of the loss... you're highly emotional already, and then filling body with more hormones."

She also needed an operative hysteroscopy to ensure her body was as prepared as possible for pregnancy. During this time, "we had to make tough decisions," she says, which included medically withdrawing from the Para Swimming World Championships in June. "It was really hard."

Through it all, though, they kept their eyes on the bigger prizes: a future baby for their family, and the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, which they see as the ultimate future event for Weggemann's career.

That's not to say they don't have worries.

"The worry evolves," Weggemann explains. "After our loss we didn't have time to process because we needed to make our next decision quick. We had to keep  our heads down and stay in the fight."

"And now that we are pregnant, some of that is resurfacing," she says. "Everything we've been through the past 10 months, we're starting to feel the weight of it."

RELATED STORY: Paralympic Swimmer Mallory Weggemann and Husband Jay Snyder Open Up About Their Fertility Journey

And all of this is even before the considerations of being a pregnant female athlete. "I plan on staying competitive through pregnancy as much as my body will allow," Weggemann says. "Jay and I are both passionate about being a part of that conversation and changing that stigma, changing perception of what's possible as an athlete, a pregnant woman, as a mother."

"And then of course you add in the double-edged sword of being a woman with a disability in a society where we won't celebrate parents with disabilities as being capable parents. So I think that's the whole next level of worry, the next mountain we're going to climb."

The couple is also planning Snyder's next sperm extraction surgery in the fall since they have 19 eggs frozen from their January retrieval. "We want to try to get a couple more embryos, so that in a few years when we are ready to talk about another child, we have that option," says Weggemann.

RELATED VIDEO: How Mallory Weggemann Turned Tragedy Into Paralympic Gold: It Was About 'Believing Again'

As members of the IVF community, they want to be sensitive about sharing their baby news. "It's about being able to celebrate, but also being aware that pregnancy announcements can be very triggering for people who are still dealing with infertility, and making sure there's a balance of the excitement while still being a voice for that community," Weggemann explains.

"People keep fighting despite the pain and the loss," she says. "They keep fighting, and then a combination of things — science in particular — does its work. But infertility is always going to be a part of us as long as we yearn for children. And that's okay."

And as they start to settle into their new roles as parents-to-be, they can look ahead with a bit more ease. Paralympic Swimming National Championships are on the calendar for December and Weggemann cannot hide her exuberance.

"We'd love to race!" she says. "I'm a mama on a mission now. We're doing this. Baby's gonna be along for the ride and we're gonna go shake things up and make some changes by just simply being."

"Diving off a starting block at 26 weeks pregnant with a wheelchair beside will say enough," she says, laughing.