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Former ESPN Anchor Sara Walsh Opens Up about Years of Infertility and Welcoming Twins via IVF, with the Help of SGF’s Dr. Ryan Martin

Sara Walsh, Emmy Award Winning sportscaster and former ESPN anchor, opened up to Pregnantish about her struggles to start a family with husband, former Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Buschmann. After years of pregnancy losses and failed treatments, the couple was thrilled to welcome twins via IVF in February 2017. Dr. Ryan Martin, who sees patients in Shady Grove Fertility’s Warrington, PA office, was Sara and Matt’s doctor throughout their fertility journey.

When Sara spoke at a NICU Benefit event last year, she invited Dr. Martin as a guest and admitted to feeling overwhelmed with gratitude.

“He had no idea I’d be speaking about him. I had no idea how scared I’d be, because I was certain nothing I could say could ever adequately express what this man means to me.”

“He treated me as a friend, not a patient, put up with me bringing in People magazines, pointing out every older celeb who could seemingly get pregnant so easy when I couldn’t. He called me when I was no longer his patient, but heard I’d received devastating news. He swore to me he’d find a way to make it all work. When I lost hope, he never once did. He fought for the only two good eggs I had just as hard as I did and convinced me to put them in when I was frozen by fear it wouldn’t work. On the morning of my last attempt at any of this, the last thing he said to me was this would work. He was right. About everything.”

2goodeggs“And as difficult as my journey was, it pales in comparison to the adversity Ryan himself has overcome. A senseless act of violence left him paralyzed at a young age. What did he do next? He became a national champion at tennis, played at the White House, won a US Open. Then decided to be a doctor, becoming the first wheelchair-bound student to graduate Yale Medical. He never mentioned any of this when I was in his office complaining about how hard I had it. Google told me later. The life he’d led puts Forest Gump to shame, and I’ve already called dibs on writing his Hollywood story. (No, seriously I asked.)”

“After I spoke the other night, I was nervous to go back to his table. He leaned over and said, ‘I hope you know that what you’re saying now matters more than anything you could’ve said on SportsCenter.’ I could’ve cried.”

“He’s not just great at his job, he’s great at being a human being. The world needs more Dr. Martins. I can never repay him, but here’s hoping a lifetime of gratitude will somehow suffice. #2goodeggs”

Read Pregnantish’s Full Q&A with Sara Walsh:

Q: How did you meet your husband? Did you always know you wanted to have kids together?
A: I originally met Matt when I was a sports reporter in Nashville and he was playing baseball for Vanderbilt University. I had to interview him for a story, a meeting we still actually have on tape. Six years later, I was hosting SportsCenter, doing an interview with a former Vandy teammate of his from those days, and he brought Matt’s name up. We got reconnected through his teammate and the rest is history. I had been so focused on my career, having kids wasn’t really on my radar. But once I met Matt, my mindset completely changed, and having children mattered to me in a way it never had before.

Q: What’s your fertility/infertility story, in a nutshell?
A: I was 36 when I first got pregnant. I had concerns about my age, but every day we’re inundated with success stories of people my age or older who seemingly have no issues having a baby. People told me it would be simple. It wasn’t. We lost that baby. People would tell me how common it was to have a miscarriage. They’d say that it happened to them, and they were fine the next time around. I wasn’t fine. I lost the next baby. We went down the road of IUI and lost another baby. Clearly I could get pregnant, but I had sadly learned that that didn’t mean I could have a baby. At this point we knew we needed to genetically test the eggs because something was wrong.

During IVF we learned there really weren’t many eggs to work with. We could only come up with two eggs after multiple cycles, some of which were cancelled in the middle of the process because it just wouldn’t work. After accepting we couldn’t do much more in terms of retrieving eggs we decided to take our last shot and transfer the only two embryos that we had frozen. After a long road, filled with plenty of devastating news, we finally had something to celebrate. We had twins.

After having the twins, I got pregnant one more time without medical help, but again we would lose that baby. We realize that despite the many losses, we are incredibly fortunate to have what we do.

Q: Can you describe being on air, and broadcasting during Mother’s Day, after experiencing losses? What do you wish people knew then about what you were going through?
A: The first time I realized I was having a miscarriage I was actually on-air and far from home. I was in Alabama hosting SportsCenter on the road in front of a huge crowd of screaming college kids. I knew I needed to get to a hospital, but I was scared and I didn’t feel there was anyone on set I could tell. I worked with all guys, in a male-dominated industry. My mindset at the time was I didn’t want to be known as someone who was bringing their “female problems” to work. Every commercial break my husband was texting me hospital options in Alabama, trying to logistically coordinate medical help while being more than a thousand miles away, helplessly watching this unfold on television. It was just the beginning of what would become a nightmare couple of years for us…

I don’t believe anyone watching that day would have had any idea what was going on. I prided myself in putting my job first. And looking back, I was wrong in doing that. If you’re having a serious medical problem, you should speak up, no matter how worried you are about the consequences at work. I realize now having a miscarriage isn’t a female problem – it’s a human problem. It affects far more people that any of us think, and it affects the men we know because they are husbands and fathers and brothers and friends.

I was always anchoring on Mother’s Day, and year after year I would be standing there knowing a due date had come and gone with nothing to celebrate. I felt like I had let Matt down, and then I’d stand there and do a show, talk to athletes about what it meant to be a mom, while feeling like a failure. It was just a blatant reminder of all that had gone wrong.

Q: What do you wish people knew about what you were going through then?
A: I wish people knew how hard I worked just to be at work. Keeping it together professionally while everything fell apart personally was the toughest part of my journey.

I hid appointments, pregnancies, miscarriages, and surgeries. I’d have surgery one day, the doctor would tell me to be out of work for a week, and I’d go back on air the next morning. Nobody knew. One day on SportsCenter I got a text completely out of the blue from a friend that said, “When are you going to have a baby?” I had lost a baby that week. I plastered a smile on my face and kept doing the show, trying to blink back tears. At my lowest, I thought about suicide more often than I want to admit. I clung to the idea that I was fooling people and seemed fine. I wasn’t. Every single day was a struggle.

Q: How did you keep faith or hope to keep going, despite so many losses and setbacks?
A: With twins here now, it’s so easy to say I just kept the faith. That’d be a lie. I had lost hope many times throughout the journey. When you’ve gotten nothing but bad news at every turn, it’s really hard to believe the good news. My husband, and my brilliant IVF doctor (Dr. Ryan Martin of Shady Grove Fertility in Philadelphia) are the ones who never lost faith, who believed it would work out long after I had given up. Looking back now, I wish I had let more people in. The situation is really hard, and I made it significantly more taxing trying to hide everything, worried about what others would think. When you lose hope, surround yourself with people who never will.

Q: Anything else you want to add for those reading who are feeling overwhelmed or hopeless as they try to build their families?
A: You are not alone. If you need help – from a friend, a coworker, a boss – ask for it. I didn’t. But I know now that people genuinely want to help one another.

Fertility struggles are a sensitive topic, but more often than we know, the person next to you could be going through the very same thing. You don’t have to fight your battles alone. I thought I did. It wasn’t until after I had the twins that I finally went public with my experience. I was completely blown away by the number of people that reached out and said, “If we’d only known….” Or “This happened to me…” People can’t help you if they don’t know you need help.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Sometimes it takes a village to have a child.

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To learn more or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Martin, please call our New Patient Center at 1-877-971-7755 or complete our online form.

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