Patient Story

Ashley & Emily

Valerie Libby, M.D., M.P.H.
Atlanta – Sandy Springs, Georgia
Greenville, SC
Donated Embryos
Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)
Polyp removal

My wife Emily and I met in college and quickly became inseparable. We moved in together in 2009 and were eager to start our adult lives together. We moved to Greenville, South Carolina, and Emily started a career as a case manager for a federal program with the Department of Employment and Workforce, while I started a career in sales.  

We knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together but, at the time, South Carolina didn’t recognize gay marriage, so we worked to build our life. We were ecstatic when the Supreme Court issued their Obergefell ruling that would finally allow us to be married. Emily proposed in the most “us” way I could ever imagine – with a custom Magic the Gathering card on a trip to Charleston, SC. We would return to Charleston in April 2015 and be married in front of a lighthouse on Sullivan’s Island, surrounded by our family. 

Beginning our family-building journey

For the longest time, neither of us wanted children. We loved our life how it was – lots of traveling, mountain biking, nights playing board games late with friends and quiet nights just the two of us. It wasn’t until Christmas of 2019 that we changed our minds. We were having Christmas dinner and our two-year-old niece got angry with Emily’s brother because he wouldn’t let her eat butter by itself. She was so angry with him. We watched him scoop her up and calm her, showing nothing but pure parental love and affection. On the drive home, Emily turned to me and said she thought maybe we should have a baby. I was thinking the same thing while driving and it was one of the moments we often have where we have the exact same thoughts at the same time, without discussing with each other. We agreed to start researching and that we both wanted to move forward. 

We started trying to conceive by using frozen sperm for Intracervical Insemination at home. Based on our high school sex education, we didn’t expect conceiving to be difficult. I remember tracking ovulation and waiting for the cryogenic tank to be delivered each month. Each month for 6 months we were met with negative tests. We didn’t let those negatives discourage us. It was during this time the mantra we kept repeating during our entire fertility process was born: “We will get the baby we are supposed to have.” After 6 tries at home, we decided to begin working with a clinic that was local to us for intrauterine inseminations (IUIs). I was 35 at this point and sperm was expensive. We wanted to have the best chance that we could at success. Despite testing, we had to repeat our mantra after repeated negative tests – “This wasn’t the baby we were meant to have.” 

Finding fertility care at SGF Atlanta

After twelve failures with different methods, we began to explore the idea of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and that is when we found Shady Grove Fertility. Because of my age and that our baby would only be genetically related to one of us, we were very intrigued by the concept of using donated embryos to build our family. Since Shady Grove Fertility is in Atlanta and we live in Greenville still, and because it was the middle of a pandemic, we met Dr. Valerie Libby virtually. 

Dr. Libby explained the process of using Donor Embryos and also explained how the Shared Risk 100% Refund program worked with Shady Grove Fertility. Once approved, we would have 6 transfers to have a live baby or we would get our money back. We were sold – both on donated embryos and also SGF. The only hang-up was that the clinic was two and a half hours away – but we weren’t going to let that stop us.  

We started the testing process to determine if there were any unknown barriers to me successfully carrying a baby to term – which meant I started driving. Over the three and a half years we worked with SGF, I made dozens of trips, driving thousands of miles to the Atlanta clinic. To minimize the impact to my work, I would often ask for the earlier appointment of the day, meaning I regularly left our home around 4 a.m.  

Once we were approved for the Shared Risk 100% Refund Program and were given access to the Donor Embryo database, Emily and I would review the donors separately and then compare our top three choices. Like so many other things, we would often find we had the exact same top 3, even without discussing. We became close with our nurse, Lexi, who was always available to answer questions and make sure our protocols were correct. We anxiously awaited our first transfer. We prepped with meds, and I drove to monitoring appointments and eventually the day arrived. Emily and I drove to Atlanta together and we were so sure that this was finally going to be the baby we were meant to have. Unfortunately, we were wrong and our beta came back negative.  

Little did we know that we would have a surgery, more testing, countless meds, and protocol changes, visits to other SGF locations while on vacation and another two negative betas before we got our first positive.  

The betas for our fourth transfer doubled and we were so excited! We immediately planned how we would tell our families. We had kept this process a secret from both our families in order to surprise them with the news of a grandchild – a first for my parents and the third for Emily’s. We bought Christmas ornaments announcing Baby Pye Coming 2024 and planned to give them to everyone at Thanksgiving. 

When we went for our first ultrasound at Shady Grove Fertility, we were devastated to learn our baby had no heartbeat. The drive back from Atlanta to Greenville was so quiet. We grieved together and kept reminding ourselves that we would have the baby we were meant to have.  

As we approached our fifth transfer, Dr. Libby suggested we PGT-A test the embryos from the donor this time. So, we went back to the database and chose a new donor and anxiously awaited the results of the genetic testing. We eventually got the results that the embryos were normal – and we learned that they were both girls! I had one more procedure to remove scar tissue from the miscarriage and prepped for another transfer. 

Finding hope and beauty

Emily and I traveled to Atlanta together for Transfer Day on May 26, 2023, for the transfer. We ate Benihana as our traditional transfer meal. Everything went beautifully and ten days later we had a positive beta. It doubled beautifully and we were cautiously optimistic as we went in for our first ultrasound.  

I can still remember when I saw the flicker on the screen that would become her heartbeat. I remember squeezing Emily’s hand and saying “She has a heartbeat!” over and over again. Leaving the clinic with those precious photos is something I will never forget. It was only a few weeks later that we graduated from SGF. 

The pregnancy progressed without much excitement, other than a gestational diabetes diagnosis at 15 weeks. Because of my age, the IVF pregnancy and the gestational diabetes, we were considered high risk and chose an induction at 39 weeks. 

Meant to be

Checking in for the induction was a surreal moment. Our almost 4 year journey was coming to a close. The induction took 48 hours but our daughter was born after pushing for 10 minutes. Parker Zara was born in February of 2024. The moment they laid her on my chest and I saw her grab Emily’s finger and respond to our voices, I knew we finally had the baby we were meant to have. 

Even four months later, we look at each other in astonishment and talk about how unreal it is that we brought this perfect human into the world together. She is everything that we didn’t know our family needed to be complete for so long. We are eternally grateful to our team at Shady Grove Fertility, especially Dr. Libby and Lexi, for never giving up on us and working to find the perfect protocol that brought our sweet girl to us. In addition, we are forever in debt to the family that donated their embryos so that we could have the privilege to raise her. 

Hospital photos by MG Photography


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