When Corey and I got married, our plans looked like this: to have our first child within the year, then have our children one year apart, but what we didn’t know was what the journey would look like to get there.
Being the planner that I am (which doesn’t go well with trying for a baby or fertility treatments), Corey underwent testing in 2018. Corey was 40 at the time, so he decided to get the ball rolling first, and soon learned that he had low sperm count. The doctor put him on Clomid (crazy right?! I thought that was just a medicine for us ladies) with hopes that his sperm count would increase — and it did, it just took time.
With Corey’s sperm count up, we seriously started trying, but each month that passed was different than the one before. My periods would come late — sometimes 45-day cycles, sometimes 55-day cycles, and even sometimes 20-day cycles, but the thing that remained constant was that I wasn’t getting pregnant. How was I supposed to tell when I ovulated based on my crazy periods?
We told ourselves that we would seek medical help if we reached to the 1-year mark of trying with no success. Well, we reached that mark, and then some. I did my research on fertility centers in Tampa and came across Shady Grove Fertility. At that time, SGF was new to the area, but we decided to take our chances and learn more about scheduling an appointment. We spoke with a patient coordinator, and she couldn’t have been nicer! Corey and I felt valued – you know, not just a number.
We met with Dr. Celso Silva for our consult on April 2, 2019, and we were in awe of his genuine passion to help couples get pregnant. With Dr. Silva, we felt like we were home. He helped us feel comfortable in choosing our next steps and assured us that we would have a family at the end of it.
And so, our journey with SGF begins
After months of testing, we found out three things: I don’t really ovulate (I knew it!), I likely have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and the rest is unexplained. It was a relief to learn that there was truly something there that was stopping Corey and I from getting pregnant naturally.
We decided to start off with the IUI. I couldn’t wait to start my period, so we could get this going, and trust me, I never thought I would want to start my period so badly. With my protocol mapped out and my meds in hand, I was ready for this!
On July 16, we had our first IUI. I thought it would work since I had a nice juicy follicle. That was all we needed, right? Well, it didn’t work, and we were heartbroken. I felt as if my body was failing me, and if my body wasn’t helping us fulfill our dreams of parenthood, what was the use in trying anymore?
Dr. Silva recommended that we try 3 rounds of IUI before moving on to IVF, so we tried for a second time. I had this mindset of, “why would a second time work if the first time didn’t?” On August 11th, we tried for a second time. This time, I had a few more follicles, so I was thinking that it would for sure work this time.
But, you guessed it; it didn’t work. I was numb to the feeling of defeat since we have been trying for so long. We decided to go for the IUI one last time, as suggested by Dr. Silva, but wanted to be proactive in case it didn’t so we scheduled an IVF consult in the meantime. To be honest, I really didn’t want to try a third time. I was tired emotionally and physically, wanting to take a step back and rest for a bit. But Corey and his words of affirmation would say, “we got so far, just one more time, it won’t hurt. It could be the time!” I wanted to go straight to IVF, but Corey and Dr. Silva were hopeful, so we tried a third time.
After rain comes sunshine
This third IUI was different: Dr. Silva changed my medications to increase our odds, plus there were all these stressors outside our control. During the first week of September 2019, Tampa was on the verge of getting wrecked by a hurricane. It looked like the hurricane was going to hit us head on, possibly interfering with our final IUI.
Thankfully, Mother Nature was on our side, and my IUI went according to schedule. I went to the office for my first ultrasound to see how many follicles I was producing, yet we couldn’t seem to find them. Turns out there weren’t any in my right ovary! We proceeded to look in my left ovary, and guess who decided to be camera shy? My left ovary was literally hiding, but what we did see to my dismay, was what appeared to be a cyst or fibroid on my uterus.
Dr. Silva asked that I return the following day to check my ovaries again. Well, I came back the next day, and there it was: a massive follicle. It was go time!
I was taking that last and final IUI with a grain of salt. I was a lot more stressed this time, so I for sure thought, “Oh, this is not going to work.” What about that potential fibroid/cyst? Were we too late to do the trigger shot because of my hiding ovary?
But, something in my heart told me to hold on to that last bit of hope I had left, so I did.
Third time’s the charm
On September 6th, we had our final IUI, the last one before moving on to IVF if unsuccessful. I remember waiting in the exam room, and before each IUI, I pray — I pray that it works. But this time, my prayer was different. I thanked God for getting us this far because no matter the outcome, I was grateful we made it here.
We completed the third IUI, and the “two week waiting period” began. Nearly 10 days later, Corey and I were preparing for our first IVF consultation when I started spotting. The timing synced with my natural cycle, so I figured it was my period knocking. I told Dr. Silva about it, but he didn’t rule out pregnancy quite yet. There was something in the air because both Dr. Silva and Corey kept saying, “we think this third IUI worked.” I, of course, didn’t listen and started to prepare my heart and mind for IVF.
On September 18th, 2 days before my pregnancy test at SGF, I woke up with the worst cramps! Must be Aunt Flow making her grand arrival, right? A pregnancy test was sitting in the bathroom, and I thought, “why not take one last one during our IUI journey?”
So, I took the test, and it was…positive?!
It was 6 a.m., and I drove myself to Walmart to get more pregnancy tests just to be sure. Well, 15 tests over the course of 2 days later (yes, I am crazy and don’t recommend taking that many!), the lines kept getting darker and darker.
I kept thinking, “no way, this still has to be my trigger shot in my system!” I consulted with my SGF/TTC/infertility-sister-turned-bestie, Cyndel, and she thought for sure that I was pregnant! I was hesitant to believe it was true because I was so accustomed to seeing the negative pregnancy test.
On September 20th, I went in for my first beta test with Cyndel and received a phone call from my nurse 4 hours later.
“Hello?” I asked.
“Hi, Dani. I have a question for you: Do you feel pregnant?” my nurse asked with the most epic mic drop ever!
Cue the tears. It really happened — I was pregnant!
Never in my life would I have thought that the third IUI would have worked, but the one thing that we didn’t have against us was hope. When I couldn’t find any more hope, it always showed up. Whether the hope was coming from Corey, my family, friends, Cyndel, or the SGF staff, it was always there. I wouldn’t have been able to overcome infertility and treatment without it. And to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t have been able to get through life without it.
On May 21, 2020, we welcomed our SGF miracle, Gunner Kemp Johnson. His name means “warrior.”
Life as a family of three is beyond my wildest dreams! As a new mom, I don’t know what I am doing half the time, but whatever I am doing, is making Gunner the happiest baby. We call him the unicorn baby because he is so sweet, full of smiles, and happy all the time. The biggest challenge so far has been having a baby in the middle of a global pandemic. He still hasn’t met a few family members and friends, leading Corey and I to feel isolated most days, but we have learned how to move forward. Our entire world has changed for the better.
We plan to start trying for baby number 2 with SGF in a few months – we would love for Gunner to have a little brother or sister. After going through IUI treatments already, we know how long the process can take, so we want to get started! We know it may not be easy, and we know it may not work on the first or even second try, and that’s ok, because we have Gunner.
Words of wisdom to others on their path to parenthood
If you’re on your journey to starting a family, and find yourself getting frustrated month after month, just know, as cliché as this sounds, it will happen. It may not happen on your timeframe or the traditional way you may have wanted it to, but I can assure you, hold on to hope, and it will happen. Hold on until you get over that mountain, because what is on the other side is beautiful. From one infertility warrior to another, I have hope for you.