When Patrick and I met in 2006, he came as a packaged deal with two children ages 5 and 7 and they are wonderful! We already felt like a complete family — bonding over movies, ice cream, and carnivals — so rather than trying to have children of our own, we got a dog and a cat!
Then in my mid-30s, I felt a yearning for children that I had not experienced before. Parenthood was always something I wanted, and up until this point in time, I genuinely believed that being a stepmom satisfied my maternal needs.
Patrick had a vasectomy in 2000, so we visited a urologist at Johns Hopkins to learn about our family-building options. Long story short, our urologist felt that seeking fertility treatment would be our best path forward given our circumstances. He referred us to Dr. Gilbert Mottla at Shady Grove Fertility’s Annapolis office. As a woman on a mission, I called SGF from the hospital parking lot to schedule a new patient appointment! We were seen the following week.
Finding motivation during IVF treatment
Our road to parenthood was not straightforward. For my first IVF cycle, one embryo was transferred, and I ultimately miscarried. For my second IVF cycle, we enrolled in the Shared Risk Program. We transferred another embryo and miscarried.
Why? Why was this happening?
I underwent further testing to ultimately learn that I have two copies of three different blood clotting disorders. By this point, we felt defeated as we sat in Dr. Mottla’s office. He recommended that we take some time to ourselves. He has these fatherlike qualities that are so nurturing that it helped me stay motivated throughout the journey.
Patrick and I knew that we needed to recharge our batteries, so we booked tickets to Park City, Utah to explore the Sundance Film Festival — it was just what the doctor ordered! Patrick and I did not know what to expect from our getaway (aside from a few celebrity sightings like Wesley Snipes!), but it was the food our souls needed to keep moving forward.
Doubling down on parenthood
We started a third IVF cycle upon our return and decided to transfer two embryos this time around. My grandfather was a twin and I said that if I ever had kids, I would love to have twins of my own.
My wish was granted, and on November 13, 2009, we welcomed our twin girls, Sophie and Audrey, into the world.
Patrick got a job in Manhattan, so we packed up our Maryland house and moved onto five acres of land about an hour outside of New York City to raise our newly grown family. We had a garden, put in a pool, and fell in love with the Hudson Valley of New York. I was involved in everything you could be involved in as a mom with young kids from music lessons to the library program.
I got a job offer to write a column for the Pawling Newspaper in 2010 and would write a piece about parenting. So, we lived in this little town and things were fun! And as we grew as a family, I reflected on an internal growth within me that I never recognized before — a strength to carry the weight of being a new mom and devoted stepmother as our family adapted to new people, places, and norms.
My first frozen embryo transfer
Life brought us back to Maryland when the twins were 4 years old. Being so close to where our family dreams first manifested sparked a desire to act upon the remaining frozen embryo I had from my third IVF cycle. We returned to SGF for an embryo transfer that would hopefully complete our family with baby number three.
Yet, the embryo never materialized.
We were disappointed by this, but I knew at that moment that I would not give up on having another child. With no embryos remaining, I turned to SGF’s website to learn more about different treatment options. That is when I came across SGF’s Donor Embryo Program, and after doing some digging, I decided to email the listed contact on a wing and a prayer.
In 2017, I scheduled an appointment with Dr. Mottla to discuss embryo donation. Dr. Mottla held onto hope that IVF could be our answer once again, but IVF did not have the same appeal to me this time as it had years before. Let’s face it, I was 44 years old at the time and did not want to delay the possibility of a third baby any longer.
We knew what was at stake with the Donor Embryo Program, and SGF laid all the considerations out on the table for us. Our counselor would ask, “Do you know what this means for your future? Are you prepared for your child possibly having questions one day?” My heart was set on reliving the monumental stages of life with another child, whether the baby came into our lives from third-party reproduction or even adoption. We would love the child just the same. Patrick and I would look one another in the eye during the counseling sessions with a determination to make this dream our reality.
Selecting a donor through SGF’s donor embryo program
Selecting an embryo donor was overwhelming at first but then our priorities became clear: We wanted a donor who was physically healthy and emotionally compatible with our family. Each donor’s profile page noted the viability of embryos, further allowing us to align our priorities with the available options. I set my cutoff date for choosing a donor on Valentine’s Day.
Yet as my self-imposed cutoff date grew closer, I lacked the assurance that we would find our perfect match. One night, Pat and I found ourselves praying on our basement stairs for clarity.
We put our faith in God’s hands and shortly after came across a donor profile that reignited a sense of hope in an otherwise overwhelming situation. The donor’s profile expressed how they wished their remaining embryos would offer the same love, joy, and fulfillment to a new family as their embryos offered them.
The message resonated with me on a continuous loop. Inspired and excited, I immediately shared the profile with Patrick! We emailed our nurse the next day saying we wanted to move forward with a selected donor. There was no turning back for us. We had all the information from our own research and our trust in God. Patrick and I got to the point in our journey where we needed to take that leap.
The lows of my journey were captured in the periods of waiting — waiting for positive news and that the right donor would come along.
And the right donor did come along. We shortly became the grateful recipients of two embryos.
Allowing myself excitement with our first donor embryo transfer
We transferred one embryo on April 14, 2019.
I was so eager to learn our fate that I bought every pregnancy test in the drug store! By the fifth positive pregnancy test, I remember thinking that it was meant to be, and I allowed the news to be real in my head and heart.
I felt good in the weeks following my embryo transfer and I was still energized by the pure elation of a positive pregnancy! My neighbor was pregnant at the same time and so we would sip lemonade in our backyards bonding over our shared pregnancy side effects and daughters. We truly leaned on one another during our journeys.
When the nurses told me I was having another girl, I was extremely thankful and blessed to know I will have three SGF girls. It felt like winning the lottery a million times more.
The months passed and we quickly approached my December due date. The equestrian facility my girls ride at hosts an annual Christmas festival where they help lead children on horseback as part of the celebration. We were all together at the barn when — BAM! — I went into labor!
I sat down with a nurse to time the contractions, and while they made themselves known, the contractions were still far too far apart to go to the hospital. Thankfully, we did not have to wait too much longer.
On December 9, 2019, our baby girl, Glory, was born!
I will be forever grateful for SGF’s Donor Embryo Program and Dr. Mottla, who made me feel like the world was my oyster. Our family is now complete. We have two beautiful and compassionate daughters through IVF and one sweet and inspiring daughter through Donor Embryo Program.
There was only one last thing to address: our remaining frozen embryo.
Giving back to the donor embryo program
I had one remaining embryo and decided to donate it back to SGF’s Donor Embryo Program, bringing our story full circle. I knew our embryo would help fulfill someone else’s dreams the same way donated embryos fulfilled ours.
I printed out pictures of our donors to put in Glory’s file, and every time I look at them, I am thankful beyond words.
During my journey, I learned to not take things for granted — the strength of my body, resilience of my spirit, blessings from friends and family, and the general love of those within my support circle. It’s important to be in the moment and simply breathe as life moves around you at a million miles per minute.
I want to encourage people to take the plunge and do this. The courage lives within you, but sometimes you need to take the leap of faith. And when the hurdles and odds seem to be working against you, hold onto a light that will guide you through the darkness in hopes of a brighter tomorrow. My heart is with you.