Our Infertility Journey
Most people don’t think infertility is in their future. Personally, I had no physical indications that I’d become an IVF warrior. But just like we can’t predict a car crash, you can’t always predict when your fertility will crash.
Trying to Conceive
Age was the only fertility factor counting against me. Fertility generally begins to decline after 35, but usually doesn’t get critical until 40 years old. After 4 months of trying without even a faint line on a pregnancy test, I started to question if we may have issues with infertility. After 8 months of trying everything that we could and a few late periods but no positive tests, I was mentally exhausted. The emotional cycle of the hope you feel around ovulation that this may be “the time” it works, only to have that hope squashed two weeks later is grueling. I began to feel like I was failing, even though it was out of my control. What everyone else called the “fun part” of starting a family had become a chore to schedule and complete.
Meeting with a Reproductive Endocrinologist
When the time came to meet with our Reproductive Endocrinologist I was so ready for answers! We jumped into testing. Blood draws for hormone checks. Sonograms of my ovaries. Filling my uterus and fallopian tubes with fluid to check for blockages and abnormalities. A semen test for Mark. It all came back normal.
Mark and I always said we wanted at least two kids. With the clock ticking, IVF was our best bet for achieving that goal. Taking this route would give us viable embryos to use (even if my eggs ran out) and the best chance at multiple children.
First I would like to state for the record that I have a fear of needles and surgeries. However, my desire for a family and love for a child that I’d never met was greater than my fear and anxiety. We had our egg retrieval 1 month before our first wedding anniversary.
Fifty-four shots later, they harvested 8 eggs, 7 mature, 7 fertilized. From those we had 5 progress to a quality blastocyst that could be biopsied for testing and frozen. Out of those, 3 embryos were chromosomally normal!
Each normal embryo has a 60-70% chance of becoming a baby after transfer, so we decided to do a second retrieval to better our chances of having more than one child. That round, everything was looking positive until we got the call 5 days later that only one embryo made it to blastocyst… and that embryo was chromosomally abnormal. After that entire month and another huge chunk of change spent, we were no closer than we were after the first retrieval.
With only 3 embryos to make our desired two children, the statistics were in our favor, but just barely. We decided to do a test called an ERA (Endometrial Receptivity Assay) to identify when my body would allow an embryo to implant into the uterus, and then try to transfer one embryo. If it took, we’d still have two left for a sibling. If it didn’t, we’d do a third egg retrieval and try to get more embryos.This test showed that my body needs 17 hours of extra hormone exposure than the average person before it will allow an embryo to implant. We finally had a small explanation for our unexplained infertility!
On October 1, 2019, we transferred our first embryo. I want to pause for a moment to express an important point. Getting to the point of having a real chance at starting our family took us a year and a half to reach. Thirty percent of people who decide to start a family and get a positive pregnancy test after one month of trying. Sixty percent are pregnant within the first three months. In the first 6 months, 80% of people get pregnant. This means we took an entire extra year of several invasive procedures and hormones to achieve what comes easily for the majority of couples.
The Infertile Parent
I’d like to note, that while we all want a baby equally as much, the infertility parent had to endure more obstacles to create their children. They’ve had more moments of devastation, fear, and anxiety about their future family than 7 of 8 couples. All that extra time to think, visualize and envision the future changes us. We fall in love with that tiny cluster of cells and our dreams of what it will become.
Those sometimes traumatic experiences that infertile couples go through often color our perspective and make us even more protective of our babies. We know how much it took us to get here, and we know our chances of being here again.
After the Positive Pregnancy Test
Thankfully, our first transfer worked, and we are expecting a baby girl in June 2020… In the midst of a global pandemic. Now more than ever, my thoughts and actions are around protecting this little babe and her chances for a happy healthy life. My reality at this time does not completely align with my hope-filled vision of the future during IVF. We’ve had to cancel the baby shower and people can only see my growing baby bump in photos. However, just like going through IVF, we do what’s best for our babies.
We were already considering storing cord blood for extra peace of mind, hope for the possibilities it holds, and more protection from the unknown, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made me extra aware of protecting our little girl’s health with the power of cord blood stem cells. We checked in with our OBGYN who was enthusiastic about stem cell banking and all the possibilities that it brings to families. After exploring a few companies, we felt that CBR would be the right decision for our family. CBR is the world’s largest newborn stem cell company, with more than 900,000 cord blood and cord tissue samples stored. Because older parents like us have a statistically higher chance of having children with Autism and other conditions, we feel good knowing that CBR stays at the forefront of science and has the experience we can count on if it ever comes to needing to access our baby’s stem cells. To date, CBR has helped 600 families use their cord blood samples as part of either stem cell transplants, or for investigational regenerative applications for conditions that have no cure today.
We don’t know what the future will hold for our family. I never thought in my lifetime I’d have to go through IVF or live through a pandemic that partially shut the world down. IVF has taught me that you can’t predict or control the future, but you can take measures to prepare and face the unknown by building extra security into the things you can control. Since making the decision to bank with CBR, we’ve learned that stem cells were approved by the FDA to be used in a clinical trial for COVID-19, a good reminder that stem cell banking is worth it for whatever the future holds.
I can sleep a little easier knowing that after all that investment in IVF and building our family, we are adding another investment to protect our health. But I have hope that the steps we are taking today to preserve the cord blood and tissue may help our daughter navigate whatever medical challenges will come in her lifetime.
As we approach our second wedding anniversary and the birth of our first baby, the biggest thing I’ve learned over the last two years is the power of love. It helps us make sacrifices we weren’t sure if we were strong enough to make. Love makes us stronger than we knew we were, it guides us and helps us adapt. For those of you who are still on your fertility journey, there will be hard moments. Those too shall pass and the limbo you are in is only temporary. Hold on to the love that drives you, and use it to do what’s best for your future family, however that family is created.
For more information on Katie and her journey head over to her blog