My Fertility Journey: And Keeping the Hope Alive

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and should not be considered medical advice.
Always consult your doctor for the most appropriate treatment.

Keep the hope alive. Be your own advocate. Persevere.

After 15 years—and 2 months before our wedding—I downed my final birth control pill, and assumed that within a few short months, we’d be pregnant. I was super healthy and active; taking care of my body was my priority. Our wedding came and went, as did another 6 months, and my cycle still hadn’t returned. In July 2016, when I was at the ripe old (not!) age of 32, my OB/GYN swiftly referred me to our first reproductive endocrinologist (RE), where we proceeded to undergo standard testing to determine next best steps and a possible diagnosis. The one thing that stands out from my last appointment with my OB/GYN was that she tested my anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) and said, “Well, if you ever have to do in vitro fertilization (IVF), you’d be the perfect candidate!”

My OB/GYN said, “Well, if you ever have to do IVF, you’d be the perfect candidate!”

Thinking the issue was caused by my missing cycle, we were completely taken aback when my husband’s semen analysis revealed that he had azoospermia (lack of sperm in the semen), which affects 1% of the worldwide male population. Lucky us! We were told that IVF timed with testicular surgery would be our only shot at making a baby. Four rounds of IVF resulting in 90+ eggs, 2 tries with donor sperm, and 3 testicular surgeries later, we only had 2 fertilized embryos.

We were told that IVF timed with testicular surgery would be our
only shot at making a baby.

Clearly, there was something wrong and our doctors weren’t able to figure out the root cause of our issues. At this point, they’d given up on us and suggested we move on to adoption. Amidst all of these treatments, I’d experimented with anti-inflammatory diets, regular acupuncture, fertility yoga, Chinese herbs, and Ayurvedic methods (ie, I didn’t have a sip of cold water for nearly 18 months in an effort to keep a “warm” uterus), and force-fed my husband goji berries and Brazil nuts. At this point, we’d spent $85K after quickly blowing through our $25K insurance coverage. I spent many, many afternoons at work locked in the 100-square-foot storage closet making calls to my insurance company to check the status of our deductibles and claims, cost of alternative treatments, which meds were covered, and so much more. Feeling depressed and completely hopeless, we were weeks away from moving forward with embryo donation when a friend of a friend begged me to give a third clinic a shot…this time with a reproductive immunologist.

Clearly, there was something wrong and our doctors weren’t digging deep
enough to figure out the root cause of our issues.

Five weeks later, I was on an operating table and diagnosed with stage 3 endometriosis, PCOS, insulin resistance, and a host of other autoimmune issues. In July 2018, 2 years after we were first referred to an RE, we embarked on our fifth and final IVF cycle following an out-of-the-box immune protocol, which resulted in 90% of our eggs fertilizing, something we never thought would be possible.

Although our first transfer of 2 blastocysts didn’t take, we dusted ourselves off this January and went for a frozen transfer of our last remaining embryos, leading to our very first positive pregnancy test. Both embryos took, but 1 stopped growing at 6 weeks…another reminder of how incredibly fragile each step of this can be. But—I am finally pregnant! Never in a million years did we think this would be the way we’d grow our family, but alas, these were the cards we were dealt.

Never in a million years did we think this would be the way we’d grow our
family but alas, these were the cards we were dealt.

Fertility challenges have a way of reminding you every single day that no one’s “safe.” Bad things happen to good people, but you will get through it. Allow yourself to wallow and grieve, and don’t listen to anyone who says, “Just relax!” or “Be grateful you have your health!” They truly don’t know any better. Lean on a tight-knit community of friends and family, but always put yourself and your partner first. Keep the hope alive. Be your own advocate. Persevere.