Darrell and I met on a blind date on November 24, 2011 (Thanksgiving Day). I’m a former high school science teacher and now the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Coordinator for a university, and Darrell is an engineer. We knew within days that we would spend the rest of our lives together. We became engaged 72 days after meeting and were married six months later.
Because I’m older (I was 36 at the time), my gynecologist suggested that we run some bloodwork to make sure my hormone levels were conducive to becoming pregnant – Darrell and I both wanted to start building our family as soon as we were married. Since there were some issues – including PCOS – I started taking Metformin.
When we still weren’t getting pregnant, even with my hormones regulated, my gynecologist suggested we have my husband checked to see if there were any issues on his end that might be affecting our fertility. Boy, were there ever…
An unexpected diagnosis
After six months had passed without us becoming pregnant, my OB/GYN suggested we have a semen analysis done. At our first appointment to get Darrell’s semen tested, we were unable to obtain a sample. At that point, they decided to run some bloodwork on my husband to see what might be going on.
The results were shocking: he had the testosterone level of a toddler (it was nearly undetectable), and some of his other hormone levels were either way too high or way too low. We were referred to an endocrinologist, who listened to my husband’s symptoms and immediately scheduled an MRI.
A month later, we knew what was wrong: a large, inoperable (but thankfully benign) pituitary macroprolactinoma. He immediately started twice-weekly treatment to try to shrink the tumor and (hopefully) regulate his hormone levels.
Our next semen analysis brought more devastating news: no sperm. None. We were heartbroken.
Even knowing there was no sperm, we continued to try to become pregnant. We were hopeful that his treatments would do what they were supposed to and that maybe – just maybe – we’d be able to get pregnant. Month after month, we hoped, and month after month, we were disappointed when it didn’t happen.
Deciding to seek treatment
In November 2013, we made an appointment with Dr. Gilbert Mottla at Shady Grove Fertility’s Annapolis office. Truthfully, we weren’t optimistic; we went into the appointment fully expecting to be told, “Sorry, but there is nothing we can do to help you.”
We were overjoyed when Dr. Mottla told us that he thought there was a very real possibility that we would one day have a child. He ordered another semen analysis for my husband, as he had been undergoing treatment for nearly six months and it was possible that he was now producing sperm. Two weeks later, we got a call that would change our lives: his count had gone from zero to 12 million. We were shocked and overjoyed!
We started our first IVF cycle in February 2014. Other than terrible weather threatening to muck things up – I spent many, MANY nights in hotel rooms in advance of monitoring appointments, since we lived 2+ hours from Annapolis at the time – my cycle went really smoothly. There were little to no side effects from the injections, and my body responded beautifully.
On March 17 – after driving through a blizzard (literally) to get to the surgical center – we retrieved nine eggs. Eight of those eggs were mature, and all eight were successfully fertilized using ICSI. Five days later – with eight still-thriving blastocysts – we transferred a single embryo.
Two weeks later, we got the single most amazing phone call of our lives: I was pregnant!
I had a beautiful pregnancy. No morning sickness, healthy baby, feeling great. We found out pretty early on (through genetic testing) that I was carrying a boy, and we were both elated! My anatomy scan at 20 weeks showed a beautiful, feisty (he hated ultrasounds from the beginning – we called him our little ninja), perfectly-formed little boy.
Ten days after our anatomy scan – spotting a little and with my back hurting – I went to the emergency room, where we received devastating news: I was dilating, 100% effaced, and our precious boy’s amniotic sac had descended through my cervix. Despite every intervention possible, my water broke just four hours later, and my son was delivered a few hours after that. At 21 weeks, five days gestation, weighing exactly one pound and measuring 10.75 inches in length, our precious William Edward Paul died moments after birth.
We were devastated. After all that we had been through, planning our son’s funeral less than two weeks after a “perfect” anatomy scan seemed unfathomable…
I have now been diagnosed with cervical insufficiency, one of the most common causes of second-trimester loss. Our plan is to have a Transabdominal Cerclage (TAC) to prevent my cervix from failing during another pregnancy; after the TAC is placed, we will undergo a second fresh IVF cycle. We are fully confident that – with Shady Grove Fertility’s help – we WILL be able to have more children.
We ADORE Dr. Mottla and our nurse, Dana. Absolutely love them! Every single person – from the receptionists to the finance office to the nurses who drew my blood – has been so warm and supportive. And everyone mourned with us when our son died.
Kristen’s advice for future patients
When looking for where to seek treatment, Darrell and I wanted to find a practice in Maryland that had a high success rate and Shady Grove Fertility had a very high success rate. My advice to others is to go to SGF – it’s one of the best decisions we have ever made!