I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but no partner surfaced. Time was running out and I had a friend who had done in vitro fertilization (IVF) and she convinced me that I could do this alone and referred me to the Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine (PCRM). I was very excited to get started on finally making my dreams come true. I worried that my family and friends wouldn’t be on board, but my mom supported me as she knew I had been talking about becoming a single parent (if necessary) for a decade. Most of my friends supported me and those who didn’t I just tried to tune out as their objections were about how hard it would be for me as a single parent, but I knew it would be worth it.
Dr. Seethram was very upfront and honest at my first meeting after getting my first blood tests. I felt like he gave me hope but wasn’t sugar coating my situation; I had a low ovarian reserve and we discussed that it would be best to go the IVF route. I wasn’t thrilled by the added cost (I thought that I might be able to do less costly options instead) but glad not to go through a bunch of unsuccessful intrauterine inseminations (IUI’s) that would deplete me emotionally. As it turned out I also had blocked tubes and would have to have them removed. We knew time was of the essence, so we began the IVF process so I could freeze my embryos and then have my tubes removed. Good thing, as I found the recovery a bit harder than expected! After that initial meeting it became very real and I was so excited to finally pursue becoming a mom.
I had told my coworkers that I was pursuing fertility treatment, as I was off a lot and I was excited to be doing this. I wanted their understanding when I had to take medications during the work day or if I was going to face losses. Many people were so curious as not everyone is open about IVF and donor sperm. That is one of the benefits of doing this solo, I can be open without worrying about someone else’s privacy!
We did the egg retrieval first and I was a ‘slow grower’, needing extra time to get the mature eggs. After the egg retrieval, it was so exciting every day as the lab department called and told me how my embryos were doing. Five! I would be successful for sure! I was so naïve and on a real high as I really should have gotten two or three embryos, so really thought I was a rockstar for bucking the odds. I transferred my best two frozen day-five embryos. Twins, first time! See, rockstar! I was so full of joy when I found out I was pregnant, not knowing yet that it was twins.
Then, Christmas day the miscarriage began. That is actually when I confirmed it was twins. I was so nervous as I really only wanted one child as a single parent in a small condo. I lost one naturally and was really traumatized by that miscarriage. No one can prepare you for that. When it turned out the second was a blighted ovum, I asked for a D & C as I didn’t think my body would be able to miscarry again within days apart.
Attempt two, I only transferred one embryo after knowing the last two took. That transfer resulted in a chemical pregnancy; heartbreaking, but luckily it doesn’t really allow you to form a connection and physically you don’t even know.
Third and final try, I transferred my last two embryos. They were still good quality, so it had to take, right? At seven weeks the heartbeat was not very strong and I miscarried at week eleven. All of my original embryos were used and with them my dream of becoming a mom. I was in shock. I think the hardest part of this whole journey was the belief that it would work, and then the realization that it might not. I was glad I had told my workplace so that people could support me, and people stopped asking questions such as, “Were you on a holiday?” I also had a ton of women share their miscarriage stories with me. I had no idea what a miscarriage was like and I think it’s such a disservice that we don’t talk about it openly, leaving women scared and feeling alone.
Then I picked myself up, dusted myself off and decided I would do this again using donor eggs. From the beginning Dr. Seethram had suggested I may have to go that route. I weighed lots of options: adoption, embryo adoption, surrogacy, and frozen donor eggs. I really wanted to have as much control as possible after realizing I don’t have a ton of control over my body, so I chose donor eggs so I could be pregnant. Again, I was super lucky and got six embryos! “Of course, that would do the trick”, I thought.
First time with a fresh embryo transfer, pregnant! Then Christmas came again, and my miscarriage happened. I thought “You have got to be kidding me!” Okay, I have lots of embryos left and we have decided that one at a time is best. Next try, I didn’t even get pregnant. Same with the third. What?? I was devastated to be going backwards in this process. Summer came, and I finally got pregnant again. As what seemed to be my usual schedule, I miscarried again. It was becoming old hat physically.
We had done every test and could not figure out why this was happening. By now, everyone in the clinic knew me and consoled me when they would hear of the continued heartache. Embryologists would come cheer me on, nurses listened as I cried making the call to report my miscarriage. I felt like they were there to support me, whatever I needed. It helped me to stay steadfast in my resolve to make this happen. I am not the typical case, I am the exception, the “unicorn” Dr. Seethram called me. As long as I had another embryo to try though, I could keep going. By now, I felt like PCRM was personally invested in this too. Every doctor gave their best advice on medicines and tests to try, and I felt like I was their challenge to figure out. I would do an endometrial scratch as this has been shown to help. That would do the trick, I’m sure. I was always happy to try anything we hadn’t tried previously, hoping to find the answer. I put in embryo number five and again, it didn’t take. How could I be down to one last embryo and no answers?
I took a break before my last embryo transfer to get physically and emotionally healthy. Dr. Seethram gave me every test and procedure possible, every medicine that might help me. We did an ERA and it said I needed one more day of progesterone for optimal implantation. The evidence was not significant that this would work, but I would have been so upset with myself if I didn’t try every possible procedure for my last embryo. My last transfer was so smooth and calm. I forced myself to stay calm, not test at home, not stress like usual during the wait to find out if I was pregnant. She stuck! I had such a good feeling about it but was cautious due to my history. I did have some scares along the way, but she was fine. The nurses and other staff were so excited for me! I now have the most beautiful smiley two-month-old! I am so grateful that Dr. Seethram and team never gave up on me.
My advice, looking back, is to advocate for yourself and talk openly with your doctors. Dr. Seethram was great at allowing me to try what I needed to and giving me honest opinions and feedback. I also learned that I needed a time to mourn each loss but then focusing on the next try gave me hope that I could hold onto. I had several friends who had been through this journey and faced the same obstacles, so I reached out to them often. Find your support crew and use them as needed. Be prepared that it will definitely not happen on your schedule and there will be changes along the way. That’s okay, you want the optimal timing and readiness.
If you know someone going through infertility, just listen to them. This process is often physically, financially, and emotionally draining so it’s not the time to question choices, but instead, to cheerlead for them in their experience with trying to have a child.