Sharing our personal battle with infertility as well as our success story, in hopes that it brings hope and inspiration to others currently on their journey to parenthood.
We recently had our annual family photoshoot, an experience not for the faint of heart. (If you’ve ever tried to get 6 and 9-year-old boys to smile on command (a real smile! not a fake one!), you understand the struggle.) As stressful as it can be to take family photos, I would be lying if I said the simple act of having family photos taken is a gift I will never take for granted.
You see, over the last 11 years sharing my life, recipes and travels here at The Lemon Bowl, I haven’t had the courage to share my full truth. That all changes today as I push past the fear and share our battle with infertility. Disclaimer: the primary reason it has taken me literally a decade to work up the nerves to share our story is because I always feared backlash from those who haven’t yet found their happy ending like we have with our two boys.
However, over the years as I’ve shared a bit here and there on Facebook or Instagram is has become very clear to me: our story is one of hope and if there is one thing I can offer others currently in the middle of a fertility battle it would be a story of hope. I hope my personal infertility success story provides inspiration and hope to all of you not yet on the other side of the bridge.
Our infertility story begins in 2008 when, at the age of 27, we decided to start trying for our first child. After a year of unsuccessfully getting pregnant the old fashioned way, we decided to seek medical attention. Since I was still in my twenties with no reason to believe there are any major issues, my OB had me start clomid treatments.
How does clomid help with infertility?
Clomid is an oral treatment (a pill) that makes the body think that your estrogen levels are lower than they are causing the pituitary gland to increase secretion of follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH, and luteinizing hormone, or LH. These higher levels stimulate your ovaries to produce more egg follicles which are released during ovulation. You can read more about clomid treatment here or, better yet, ask your OB if you’re curious in hearing more about it.
Spoiler Alert: Clomid did not work for us. Month after month I would produce plenty of follicles but would not get pregnant. On top of that, during routine X-rays we discovered that I had a benign cyst on my left ovary. My OB advised us to have the cyst removed so that it wouldn’t enlarge or burst during pregnancy at a later time. As lucky would have it, the cyst was so large they ended up having to remove my entire left ovary. Fortunately, my right ovary would still be able to produce eggs each month but this was still another road block in our journey which led to immense sadness and despair.
Fast forward to 2010, we begin meeting with fertility specialists. Our hope was that we could try intrauterine insemination and have a higher chance of getting pregnant. This was now the last year of my twenties so thirty was looming around the corner.
What is an IUI (Intrauterine Insemination)?
A bit less invasive an In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), an IUI is a procedure where sperm is washed (they pick the BEST swimmers in the batch) and then placed directly inside your uterus during the time of ovulation. To clarify, this would have used my husband’s sperm and my eggs BUT you can also do this with sperm donors. You can read more about IUI here.
In March 2010, Rich and I went on a cruise for one last “hoorah” before we got pregnant with IUI. Or so we thought… as we docked back in the US after being out of the country our phone was full with voicemails from the fertility clinic with less than ideal news: based on our test results it was determined that we would need to skip directly past IUI and go directly to IVF for the best changes of pregnancy. Yet another setback which led to immense pain, sadness and despair. I remember texting a friend after that phone call saying “I need to begin considering that I may never be a mom.”
What is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)?
The most effective form of assisted reproductive technology, IVF is a long and complex series of medical procedures used not only to help with fertility but can also assist in preventing genetic problems. During IVF, mature eggs are retrieved from ovaries and fertilized by sperm in the lab before being implanted back in the uterus. You can learn more about IVF here.
Fast forward to June 2010, we begin our first round of IVF. Naturally hopeful and optimistic, I was very confident it would work. After all, we now had a 60% chance of conception.
What was it like going through IVF?
If I’m being honest, going through IVF wasn’t very difficult for me. I’m not afraid of needles and had weekly allergy shots as a kids so that part wasn’t hard for me. Despite daily medication for many weeks, I didn’t experience any negative side effects. Of course, that’s just my personal journey with IVF but I share it in case it helps to hear. Not everyone has a hard time with IVF and not everyone has negative side effects.
What was the hardest part of going through IVF?
The most difficult part of IVF for me was the dreaded “two-week wait.” This is the two-week period after the embryo is implanted and you have to wait and see if you’re pregnant. Once you complete the two-week wait you go in for a blood test where they can detect early pregnancy.
Dealing with a Failed Round of IVF
Despite all of my hope and optimism, our first round of IVF was unsuccessful. I’ll never forget the call: I was driving home in the pouring rain from a business meeting out of town. In fact, I had to go to a random hospital in the city I was visiting to get the blood work drawn. I’ll never forget the woman’s voice on the other end of the phone: stoic, calm and very matter-of-fact. There wasn’t much empathy and the whole call ended in a matter of 30 seconds or so. I continued the rest of the two hour drive sobbing in the rain. I will never forget that low point.
Fast forward to July 2010, we begin planning for our 2nd round of IVF. We change the “cocktail of meds” a bit to increase our chances but other than that, IVF is pretty much like rolling the dice. The more you do it, the higher your chances of success. Or so we thought….
In August 2010, we get more bad news: our second round of IVF was also unsuccessful. At this point we are advised to move on to donor eggs for our best chances of getting pregnant. We were also told that our chances of getting pregnant naturally were only 3%.
At this point, I begin going to mandatory therapy to start mourning the loss of our biological children. While I could have used eggs from my sisters, it was not the right time for them so we decided to begin finding a donor egg match. As you can imagine, being matched with an egg donor is a much longer (and much more expensive) process than finding a sperm donor. The truth of the matter is there are far fewer egg donors out there than sperm donors so the waitlist to get matched can take 3 months, 6 months or more.
Not one to give up easily, I push forward and begin therapy to make sure I am fully comfortable getting pregnant with a donor egg. This means that my child would not be my biological child. While I’ve never been one to insist that I have a “little girl who looks just like me”, this is definitely a major decision. I’ll never forget standing in front of the bathroom mirror one day looking at my eyes and bursting into tears thinking about the fact that I may never get to see my eyes in my child. Needless to say, there were a lot of tears during these few months.
It’s now December 2010 and I’m 30 years old. After years of road blocks and bad news, we finally receive some incredible news: we’ve been matched with an egg donor! As we get ready to begin the process of a third round of IVF (first one with an egg donor), we get the unfortunate call informing us that our donor changed her mind and has dropped out. We are back to ground zero now.
Luckily, just a few weeks later, we are matched again and we are now ready to begin a third round of IVF with an egg donor….
…Or so we thought. The first step to a donor egg cycle is to go on the birth control pill to align your menstrual cycle with the egg donor. You start taking the pill the first day of your cycle. Except my period never came. I WAS PREGNANT WITH OUR FIRST SON!!!!!!!!
This boy right here is our 3% miracle child. Conceived naturally without any medical intervention, he is our real life miracle. And what a miracle he is. I have chills just recounting this story. I hope you have chills of faith and hope as you read it as well.
Curious about our second child? He was also conceived naturally without any medical intervention. Fortunately, it only took us three months to get pregnant the second time around.
If you’re interested in learning more about my personal battle with infertility, as well as the lessons learned in therapy about dealing and coping with infertility, I invite you to listen to a recent Irie Lemon podcast episode where I shared my story and how it has shaped the last decade of my life, well past the stage of trying to get pregnant.
One thing is for sure: I will never take motherhood for granted. Is every moment butterflies and roses? Absolutely not. But I do know that, looking back, our infertility battle was a gift in disguise because I have such immense gratitude for these two boys now 7 and 9. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for being a mother to these two. We are so truly lucky and being a parent is a gift, not a privilege.
If you are still in the middle of your journey to becoming a parent, please know that there are many paths to becoming a mom or dad. The road is not over unless you choose for it to be over. In fact, all 15+ women in my 2010 IVF support group now have between 2-6 kids. I hope this story provides comfort, hope and faith. You are not alone.