My husband, Dan, and I met in college. I was at a party with a shirt that had "Julie" spray painted on it. Dan came up to me and asked me if my name was "Brenda.". Annoyed, I rolled my eyes and said, "No! It's Julie!" and walked away.
Fast forward to six months later, my work-study job was to rip the tickets at the football games. This cute, tall, and built guy came up to me with his ticket and said, "Hi Julie." I was surprised this cute guy knew my name! I found out later his name was Dan---the same guy from the party! I got his phone number and ended calling him a week later. That was 2003 and we've been together ever since!
RUNNING INTO PROBLEMS
In April 2009, after finishing my Master's degree, my husband and I began trying to conceive. We always wanted kids: I'm a first grade teacher, and my husband is the youngest of seven kids. I have 14 nieces and nephews that I adore, and I love being Aunt Julie!
While we were trying to conceive, I began to have severe hip pain in July 2009. Since I was a four-sport athlete in high school and a collegiate All-American javelin thrower without ever experiencing any joint issues, I was concerned that the pain was abnormal. I went to my doctor to have it checked out and was diagnosed with three developmental hip abnormalities and learned my 27 year-old hips were equivalent to an 85 year-old woman's!
In addition to my hip problems, the MRI showed a large ovarian cyst. I had a mini-laparotomy and laproscopy in December to remove the growing cyst. Shortly after, I went on to have two reconstructive hip surgeries that were unsuccessful in eliminating my pain and joint degeneration. By age 31, I had both hips replaced. During this time, we were still trying to conceive.
ANOTHER ROADBLOCK TO CONCEPTION
Three days after my bilateral hip replacements, we found out I was pregnant. We were so happy for it had been 2 ½ years of trying! We even saw the heartbeat at 6 ½ weeks, but during the 2nd ultrasound, it was gone. Since the hospital was right down the street from the OB-GYN’s office, it was recommended that we get a second opinion immediately. I was very distraught and my husband and I had to wait for 45 minutes in the hospital waiting room to get seen. I was angry, frustrated, confused, and worried. The first opinion was confirmed, and sadly, I miscarried at eight weeks and two days. After the D&C, it was discovered that our baby died due to Turner's syndrome, a fatal chromosomal fluke that only occurs in females. I felt all sorts of emotions from frustration to anger and finally, sadness. I naively thought I had beat both infertility and orthopedic pain in the same week.
The miscarriage was a big struggle for me. We discovered there was no heartbeat the day before school started, which meant I had to return to work the day after hearing such terrible news. As a first grade teacher, it was very hard to be around so many happy children when I had just lost my hope for one the night before. At first I didn’t know how I was going to make it at school – I was constantly crying. Eventually I was able to pull myself together for work and be “on” at school, but the emptiness still set in whenever I returned home.
SEEKING HELP AT SHADY GROVE FERTILITY
I first talked with OB-GYN about not getting pregnant and she did some blood work and found that my progesterone was low. After two rounds of Clomid with her, I was recommended to a reproductive endocrinologist in my area. We ended up doing two more rounds of Clomid and eight IUIs with injectibles. When we had no success with the treatments, we decided to travel to
Despite our distance, I have always felt very well taken care of by my medical team. I never once feel rushed at appointments. Dr. Jason Bromer is so compassionate and wonderful! SGF has amazing statistics and I love how they want you to ultimately be happy and not just get you pregnant---they want to you to have that baby in your arms! Our Out-of-State Patient Liaison, Kendra Noll was caring, informative, and provided me with all the information I needed to begin my journey at Shady Grove Fertility.
I started my first fresh cycle in March 2014, I was able to retrieve 14 eggs which turned into 4 blastocysts on day 5. We transferred one and I got pregnant. Again, I was so elated! Unfortunately, I miscarried at 7 weeks and the D&C showed it was another fatal chromosomal fluke: Trisomy 16 and another female. I was devastated: lightning had struck twice.
With three frozen embryos left, I chose to transfer two in July 2014. Again, I became pregnant with one baby, but once again, I miscarried at 6 weeks. Since it was a natural miscarriage, I didn’t have the chance for a D&C to test fetal tissue. It would most likely be another fatal chromosomal abnormality according to Dr. Bromer. A third lightning strike and a third miscarriage…definitely the worst day of my life. Of all the terrible things I’ve experienced, nothing comes close to that day.
Deflated, sad, angry, and hopeless, I had one frozen embryo left and couldn’t bear to transfer without knowing if it was abnormal like the other three from that cycle. The odds were that it would be normal, but how could we know? Pre-implantation Genetic Screening (PGS) was how! By biopsying the embryos before transfer, one is able to see if the embryo contains any fatal or nonfatal abnormalities.
Electing to do PGS was the absolute BEST decision of our lives: we knew that we could possibly find an answer to our unexplained infertility as well as find a normal embryo to transfer.
I set my sights on November 2014 for a 2nd egg retrieval and got 17 eggs! Those turned into 4 blastocysts and with the previous frozen embryo, we were able to get 5 embryos biopsied and sent away for genetic testing. Waiting for the results was almost as bad as the two week wait and when we learned that only one embryo was normal, we were not sad---quite the opposite! We were BEYOND thrilled. We just wanted a baby in our arms! Most likely the reason why we were infertile was due to my eggs not replicating DNA with the sperm and causing the embryos to have fatal chromosomal abnormalities. The embryologist at IVIGEN explained to me that women at my age of 33 usually have 56% abnormal embryos whereas I had a whopping 89% abnormal! Finally an answer…in PGS, I found my past, present, and future. If you have unexplained infertility or recurrent loss, you need to purse PGS. Although it is very expensive, the emotional pain of miscarrying is far more tolling.
My son was born on August 6, 2015 after 6 ½ years of trying, 3 miscarriages, 12 surgeries, 4 Clomid cycles, 8 IUIs, 4 IVF cycles, 6 weeks of bedrest, 4 emergency hospital stays at 3 different hospitals, and 1 very scary ambulance ride. I never cried more in my life than the day he was born and the days after. I still cry to this day for even at eight months old, my son is alive and well. We are lucky and realize that millions of people do not get the chance to get off this roller coaster ride. We will never forget the struggles endured to get to where we are now. I do everything I can to advocate for PGS and getting the word out about seeking treatment at Shady Grove Fertility. I am forever thankful to the staff at Shady Grove Fertility—especially Dr. Bromer and Shirley. I know most people think of heroes that wear masks and capes, but my heroes wear scrubs and lab coats.
REFLECTING ON THE PAST – THE GOOD AND THE BAD
It has been many, many long years of ups and downs! The ups would be learning so much about myself, my husband, my family, and my friends: a support system that helped me stay focused, but also helped me cope with devastating loss. If I was not open about struggling, I would not be able to have pushed forward. I’m a huge fan of seeking professional counseling and developed more strength because you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have. I also blog and have “met” many women and men still struggling…they had told me that reading my story gives them hope to push forward, and that is a huge compliment. I have recommended Shady Grove to 3 friends and ALL of them were able to have babies! This story that we all share is very difficult and heart wrenching, but having people who've experienced what you've experienced makes things feel less isolated. As a teacher, I find myself educating others about infertility, baby loss, and fertility treatments because I'm an open book and I really enjoy helping others understand 'us' better. I am forever infertile in my mind although I had a baby, but I am no defined by it.
I was a great student and athlete. I always studied and did well and have been in control of everything for most of my life. This was the ONE thing that I have had no control over and it drove me insane! Between the treatments, constant anxiety, depression of thinking over and over: will this work?, you lose sight of who you were prior to trying to conceive. You must take the time to remember that you are not infertile: you are living with infertility. You second guess the time, money, and effort put into IUIs, IVFs, meds, and daily living, worrying that it’s going to fail over and over again. Also, seeing on social media how others are seemingly getting pregnant so easily and how they are very nonchalant about posting all their ultrasounds or cravings can be discouraging. Please stay strong, push forward, and don’t ever quit pursuing your dream of a child in your arms.
MY ADVICE TO A FRIEND:
"Nothing is impossible to a determined woman." ~ Louisa May Alcot