Our story is a little different than the beautiful ones of high school sweethearts or those couples meeting in college knowing they were destined to be together, although I love reading those stories. After college, I began teaching school (kindergarten and first grade). I enjoyed babysitting as a teenager and loved my job as a teacher – I always looked forward to becoming a mother.
When I met my husband-to-be, he had a previous marriage and two children. We married when I was 29, and within our first year of marriage, we moved out of state to Florida (my husband was in the Navy at the time, and he received orders to Jacksonville).
Within a month of living there, knowing no one, with a new job, two step-children to take care of on my own (they were older, 8 and 10), my husband was deployed. During our six-year stay there my husband was deployed twice overseas and we lived apart for about a year for another job assignment within the states. During those years I did talk to a doctor about really wanting to have a baby and was told I would have to wait until my husband was in the country for at least a year. After meeting with another doctor who understood my increasing longing for a baby, we tried several rounds of Clomid without success.
After being married for six years and never getting pregnant I began to wonder. Even through the deployments, you would have thought at least once we might have gotten pregnant. Finally, after moving back to Maryland and living all together again under the same roof, I was 35 now and knew I was getting “older” for having babies but certainly didn’t think of myself as “ancient.”
I will never forget going to the doctor on base here and she looked me straight in the eye and said, “35 is practically a dinosaur to be having a baby. If there is any trouble, you need to get help and you need it now!” Of course, at the time this hurt my feelings, scared me some, but in retrospect made me think, ‘finally someone is taking me seriously!’ She called and scheduled an appointment for us at Walter Reed within a week.
Seeking a diagnosis
After several months of testing, I was diagnosed with PCOS and unexplained infertility, but because of a variety of reasons we were not able to make it all the way through a cycle there. We made it as far as a mock transfer. By now I finally started doing more reading and realized how much there is to learn. Interestingly we found out at the same time my insurance through the school system covered 3 cycles of IVF. I picked up this insurance and we made an appointment at Shady Grove Fertility within a week of being on the new insurance. We were so excited!
When we pursued our treatment at Shady Grove Fertility they did all of their own tests (blood tests, HSG, etc) and shared the same diagnosis of PCOS and unexplained infertility. Following our first IVF cycle, we were filled with joy. It was all so new to us. The meds, the blood tests, the sonogram, etc. After our 2 week wait we received the call we were pregnant! It was just amazing!
But a few days later the numbers still went up but were not as high as they hoped. Needless to say about 2 weeks later I miscarried. I remember clearly when I started bleeding on my 36th birthday. Pain and grief filled our hearts.
The ups and downs of treatment
By this time our children (my stepchildren) were in high school, and my mother-in-law moved in with us. Dr. Kipersztok suggested I lose some weight and, well, life just got busy. I took care of a family member with cancer, I took care of the kids, and then one day John and I realized (when I was 39) if we are going to do this it needed to be now.
We then made the commitment to focus on this because it was important to us. We would accept what happened—well at least try. We had two frozen embryos from the previous cycle but decided to try a fresh cycle. It was in the fall of 2013 when we went back to Dr. Kipersztok to do another round of IVF. This cycle was unsuccessful.
That December I had some polyps removed and we were cleared to try another fresh cycle in January. I lost about 20 pounds and began to take Metformin before this next cycle. This was our last cycle covered by insurance. We were so nervous yet full of hope and excitement. I will never forget the two week wait call for this cycle because we received it on Valentine’s Day– we were pregnant!
The next day I started bleeding. This was a weekend so we went up to Rockville and they did a sonogram and took our blood. The minutes seemed to literally tick as slow as possible that day. That evening we heard my numbers had gone up a good amount! Things were looking good!
Our six-week sonogram was terrific and seeing that heartbeat for the first time still brings tears to my eyes. At age 40, after 11 years of marriage– I was really pregnant and was looking at the precious miracle’s heartbeat.
My husband was not able to be with me for that appointment, but I shared the wonderful experience with him and showed him the pictures. He could not wait for our next appointment!
By now it was March and I was just about 10 weeks along. I had a due date: October 21st! As we got started with the sonogram the room was very quiet and my husband and I were squeezing our hands together with excitement. Then I saw my nurse look away and knew at that moment something was very wrong.
It fills me with grief and to this day. I still cry when I think about it. There was no heartbeat. I had to go back to school that day and remember feeling frozen and numb. Over the course of that weekend, my husband and I went on a trip that we had previously planned and I sobbed and he cried for our unborn miracle. That next Monday I was scheduled for a D and C. Very late that Sunday evening I woke up in a lot of pain and began to miscarry. It was painful—both physically and emotionally.
At this point, my husband made it happen and found a way for us to try those two little darling frozen embryos that were left. Dr. Kipersztok wanted me to put it on hold until life was a little less stressful so we waited until school was out for the summer. I had lost a little more weight and came back ready to try again. We knew we had to at least try. I remember wearing my lucky hand-knit socks at the transfer my mom had made me, just like I had for the previous cycle.
My mom told me to tell them to use Gorilla Glue this time during the transfer. Funny enough my nurse remembered this story (a testament to how personal and caring the Shady Grove Fertility staff is–they truly listen and make you feel special). When I got the call after the excruciatingly long 2 week wait, she said that gorilla glue must have worked because you are pregnant! Elated doesn’t even begin to describe how we felt!
We hadn’t told anyone about what we were going through up to this point other than my parents because my mom was helping me with some of my shots. As we approached our six-week sonogram it was July and I was in a school meeting. I felt a little funny and uncomfortable. I thought it was something I ate and then I felt blood begin to just flow. I got up and ran to the bathroom.
I left immediately for home and my husband and I went to the local hospital where we waited hours to hear what I already knew from the amount of blood I had lost… we miscarried yet again. This was a very low point for me.
Taking the next step
The next time we had our follow-up appointment with Dr. Kipersztok I brought all of my extra meds with me to hand them over. We discussed options but I was ready to accept defeat at this point. I was lucky to have two wonderful children in my life even though they weren’t biologically mine, and have a mother of their own, but I was thankful for the experience of seeing them grow up and graduate from high school.
Dr. Kipersztok mentioned a donor egg at this point and we talked about a few other things. He also said I could get some testing done to look at possible reasons for “recurring miscarriage” at this point. We went home to discuss it. Through a conversation with Dr. K. and a miracle in itself, an opportunity arose for a chance to try IVF one more time.
One little piece of information that always was dear to my heart (which may seem silly to some) was that I was adopted (this is not the silly piece–this is very important because I grew up being grateful to my birthmother whoever she may be for knowing she could not take care of me. She gave me the chance to have a wonderful life with my loving parents–who I was lucky enough to have chosen me) but for some reason, I just always hoped for that experience of being pregnant and having my own biological baby.
At this point, my husband and I were too old to be considered to adopt. In any case, we decided one last time to try a fresh IVF cycle. And at age 41, that October we had several embryos transferred. It was a very, very quiet ride home from Rockville that afternoon. My husband and I just stared at each other with love and longing, praying this would work this time. And, it did!
At our six-week ultrasound, there were actually two heartbeats! I will never, ever forget how nervous I was at our nine-week ultrasound. I knew I had to be positive but all I could think of was our last ultrasound the previous March when there was not a heartbeat. There was a very healthy heartbeat! And a weak one. We grieved for this one and said our blessings to be lucky enough to have one miracle survive. That was in November of 2013.
Since then we had found out that I had a positive lupus anticoagulant test and I would need to take daily shots of a blood thinner–first Lovenox and then because of allergic reaction heparin– throughout the duration of my pregnancy.
Our miracle baby
Our third pregnancy of the year – and on July 2, 2014, our healthy 8lb, 1oz, baby boy was born. Our hearts were filled with joy, and we are thankful every day for the miracle received and the team/staff at Shady Grove Fertility who made it happen!
Our little miracle is just over a year now! Our days are filled with laughter and joy. No matter what may happen during the course of the day our little boy’s smile lights up our day and makes everything happy. He is a busy boy and keeps us on our toes and brings sunshine to our days.
My experience at Shady Grove Fertility
I don’t even know where to begin. There are so many ups and downs with fertility treatment. Through the years some of the details have blended together, which I am surprised at because I remember at each point having such strong feelings/emotions whether they’d be happy or sad or nervous or hopeless
Dr. Kipersztok and his staff are AMAZING! They are professional and caring. I remember once I had blood drawn before driving up to Baltimore to meet my kids for a field trip. I was a little nervous about this trip and shared a little about my upcoming day while having my blood taken. A couple of days later when I went back the nurse asked how my kiddos liked the trip. I really felt like they cared.
They seemed like cheerleaders in a way for us, as well as very professional and knowledgeable. I could e-mail my nurse whenever I had a question and she always sent a reply the same day. After the birth of our little miracle we sent out pictures to everyone and of course included Shady Grove Fertility.
Dr. Kipersztok called my cell phone and left a beautiful message on there with his congratulations and best wishes on our little guy. They honestly felt like family. We will always be grateful to them and especially for Dr. Kipersztok who never gave up on us and always gave us hope. He knew how to change things each cycle to make it happen, ultimately giving us our miracle.
My advice to other patients
Have hope, stay positive. Go see someone early (much earlier than I did!!!) even if you just want to ask questions. There are amazing groups out there on social media with people struggling daily who are willing to share their stories. I found hope in all of the Shady Grove Fertility stories and would read them whenever I got them in my e-mail.
For me, they were inspiring. Everyone’s story is different. It put things into perspective for me. Find what works for you. I’ve heard of people getting acupuncture, and certainly staying fit helps–this can be challenging with PCOS but there are many options to try. We didn’t use them but there are support groups out there and counseling. Each miscarriage was heartbreaking. You need someone to support you and to talk to. Someone to lift you up when you feel low and someone to just listen.
Be resourceful! There is so much information out there and people who are willing to share. I did a Shady Grove Fertility webcast one day that was very interesting about PCOS and then there was an opportunity to ask questions by typing them in and the presenter responded. There is much to be thankful for. And lastly, maybe this sounds hokey– but I would say to believe in miracles– because they do happen! Especially at Shady Grove Fertility!