Our Life Prior to Diagnosis
Our story began in a small town in Ontario, Canada. My husband Andrew and I met at a surprise birthday party that my best friend threw for her husband. It felt like fate: I had introduced her to her husband a few years prior and now she introduced me to mine. He asked me to dinner on Valentine’s Day, but I lied and said I had to work. I felt like it was too much pressure to have a first date on Valentine’s Day. A few days later he drove through an ice storm to take me out for breakfast and that was it, we fell in love. Two and half years later, we were married. We knew we wanted to start our family right away. We envisioned two kids, dogs, and the house with a big backyard. Turns out, life had other plans.
How We Discovered We Had Infertility
I had a doctor’s appointment prior to our wedding. I was concerned that I hadn't had a period for 6 months after stopping the birth control pill. I was experiencing weight gain and was suddenly dealing with acne. He ran some tests and I was diagnosed with PCOS. We tried three rounds of IUI with no success. We moved on to IVF at the encouragement of our physician. After our egg retrieval, we had 19 fertilized eggs, by the time we made it to our scheduled Day 5 embryo transfer, we had two embryos left and decided to transfer both. Unfortunately after the 2 week wait we found out I was not pregnant. We scheduled a follow up appointment with our physician thinking we would just start another cycle. We were completely blindsided when he told us he was concerned about my overall egg quality. He didn't feel confident that we would ever get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term with my eggs. That was our lowest of lows. I was only 31 years old! How was this possible? What do we do now? Do we try again and hope our doctor was wrong? Do we adopt? Or do we just give up on being parents?
How a Couple of Canadians Found Shady Grove Fertility
After the shock wore off my focus became research. I spent hours online searching similar situations to ours and treatment options. I was on our Toronto-based fertility clinic’s website and came across a link for donor egg treatment. That link would change my life because it led me to the Shady Grove Fertility website. I called our patient liaison rep and she told me that our clinic in Canada had a partnership with SGF. Our doctor in Toronto supported our decision to not try IVF again with my eggs and told us get in touch with SGF. We read every article and watched every YouTube video to learn all we could about donor egg treatment and the international patient services offered at SGF. As Canadians we do not have the same access to donor services as the United States. Our options were to use eggs from someone we knew, travel abroad, or select a donor through Donor Bank USA. We knew that we wanted to use an unidentified donor and liked SGF’s donor program. After making the initial call, we had a phone consult with Dr. Robert Stillman and before we knew it we were making plans to travel to Rockville, MD, to see the clinic and meet with the SGF team. We drove 10 hours/1000km to Maryland to meet Dr. Stillman and our whole care team. We were so impressed and felt that we were in the best possible hands. Things moved quickly from there. We were accepted into the 2:1 Shared R 100% Refund Program for Donor Egg Treatment and we began the process of picking an egg donor.
Picking a Donor and Getting Pregnant
It was emotional picking a donor. I wasn’t worried about not bonding with a baby that didn’t come from my egg, but it felt like an impossible task to pick the next best person, besides me, to help make us parents. The best way for us to pick our donor was just to pick the girl that we felt the most connected to. We made a trip back to Maryland for our embryo transfer and drove back to Canada to wait. Two weeks later we finally got the news we had been waiting for...we were pregnant! We were so excited and hopeful—we had made it, we were going to be parents. Unfortunately our joy was short lived. At our 7.5 week ultrasound appointment we learned our baby didn't have a heartbeat. I sat in our car in the hospital parking lot crying while my husband called our nurse Gail and told her the news. I honestly didn't know if I could keep trying, we felt so lost and hopeless.
Finding Support and Trusting Our Team
Andrew and I made sure we had counselling throughout our journey to help us process what was happening. We also had trust in our team. Dr. Stillman and Gail called us at home and offered us much needed support and reassurance that we could try again and felt confident that we would have a healthy baby one day. So we picked another donor and eventually made the trip back to SGF for our next embryo transfer. After another dreaded 2 weeks, we found out we were again, pregnant. We were terrified, but hopeful. The best day of our lives was seeing a strong heartbeat at our 7 week ultrasound. My doctor followed us closely; I lived for the heartbeat checks every 2 weeks. It was a long 4 years and 9 months to become parents, but I had a support team that kept me going on the tough days.
Our beautiful daughter, Henley Ann Tavish was born 2 weeks ahead of schedule and it was the most beautiful, amazing day. Henley is now 20 months old and when she’s awake, she is moving. People tell me she looks like me, and sometimes I smile and say “thank you,” but most of the time, we are honest. We tell people we had help from a wonderful American donor. We are so proud of our journey and want Henley to feel that every day. We wouldn’t change our story, even if we could. Without Shady Grove Fertility, we wouldn’t have her. We are planning to make the trip back to Maryland so Henley can meet her amazing team at SGF.
Advice We Would Give
The advice we would give other couples is to reach out and ask for help, find support. Don’t forget to celebrate your relationship with your partner. Plan date nights, road trips; try something you have always wanted to do. Find something to be grateful for every day.