I met my husband, Matt, in our first year in college. We had the same English literature class, and he sat behind me. It wasn’t until he was called on to participate in a magic show on campus that we truly hit it off and became friends. And from that friendship blossomed a young love. We dated all four years in college. During and after college we did long distance dating since Matt was from Harrisburg and I was from Pittsburgh. Countless trips back and forth but we knew our relationship would survive. And after five years together, on our first vacation, Matt proposed in front of Cinderella’s castle in Disney World. Of course, I said YES! We married on our six-year dating anniversary, and we were excited to start our lives together.
Two years into our marriage, we decided we wanted to have a baby. Easy right?! I remember playing house with my cousins growing up and knew I always wanted to be a mom. In my adulthood, I was told by loved ones and friends, countless times, that I would make a good mom. Constantly getting hounded with questions about whether I was pregnant and then wondering why it was taking so long. Seriously what was taking so long?!
Spring ahead five years of trying to conceive on our own and constantly asking my gynecologist if something was wrong and not getting answers other than keep trying, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
At first, we decided to go with a big healthcare system near us for our fertility journey. From the very beginning there, we felt like a number (not individuals) and were required to hand over a check before even talking to a doctor. There we attempted countless intrauterine inseminations (IUIs), Matt saw a urologist, and we tried one round of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Our doctor was sure this was going to work since my follicle count was “supposedly” great.
I will never forget the phone call I received after my first (and only) egg retrieval at this hospital system; the doctor called me on a non-recorded number and proceeded to yell at me over my less-than-adequate egg retrieval. Like I had any control over my egg count! I decided right after our day 3 fresh embryo transfer, that I would never work with that unprofessional doctor again. When our transfer did not stick, we decided it was time to truly do our research and find a fertility center that would work with us.
Which is when my mother-in-law (from Harrisburg), saw a billboard about Shady Grove Fertility. I did some research and felt excited about the information I read. We called SGF and found out more about the Shared Risk 100% Refund Program, which seemed like the best fit for us and thankfully we were approved.
We first met Dr. Nguyen on a video consult to talk about our fertility journey thus far. I remember crying telling her about trying for so long and our previous horrible experience and my fear of never getting to have my baby. Dr. Nguyen reviewed my old charts and felt confident we should be able to have our baby. In 2020, we signed all the paperwork with Shady Grove Fertility and started our new baby making journey. We were lucky Matt’s parents lived out in the Harrisburg area so we would have a place to stay for our Shady Grove appointments (since there was not any in the Pittsburgh area at that time).
Our first saline sonogram was hit was a disappointment, polyps were found. I previously had a D&C in 2015 due to polyps and fibroids and I was upset about this happening again. Dr. Nguyen helped us find a doctor in the Hershey area that she knew would help limit scar tissue, take our insurance, and be able to fix the issue. The surgery was successful, and we were extremely optimistic that our first egg retrieval at SGF would be our last.
Sadly, even though we got 11 eggs, only 3 made it to blastocyst and none of them successfully stuck.
Again, we were in a rut, such high hopes but no luck. Dr. Nguyen told us to keep trust in the process and that medications would be adjusted. We continued to have faith in her and my nurse, Jess. Dr. Nguyen also encouraged us to have an endometrial receptivity analysis (ERA) test done to see if that would give us answers — we figured it was worth a shot. From the ERA test, we found out my transfer time needed some adjustment.
I also took a break from social media for my mental health, constant baby ads and friends/family sharing their pregnancies destroyed me. After multiple egg retrievals, medication adjustments, frozen embryo transfers, I was both physically and emotionally exhausted.
My emotions were all over the place. It was like a roller coaster of emotions, getting excited for the thoughts of what could be, the two-week wait, and in my case, felt like every time it was a plummet of disappointment. I was truly almost ready to throw in the towel, and I will never forget the phone call I received from Dr. Nguyen, she encouraged me to keep going and that she had a feeling about our next egg retrieval. We decided to try again.
On January 30, 2022, we went to Chesterbrook, PA for our egg retrieval. I woke up from the retrieval remembering pain different from previous retrievals, being told that the trigger shot did not work, and they had to really fight/pull to get two eggs out. After discussing everything over with the SGF doctors, we decided to do an additional trigger shot and get another egg retrieval two days later, which gave us three more embryos. After days of waiting, only one embryo from the first egg retrieval made it to blastocyst and was frozen. I tried to stay positive and kept telling myself “It only takes one.”
On March 9, 2022, Dr. Martin at SGF in Chesterbrook did the transfer. Dr. Martin told me it was a high-quality embryo and that he really had high hopes for us. He held my hand and gave it a squeeze for luck and the transfer proceeded. I just kept telling myself that I need to stay calm and positive. Right from the start I felt different, I just had this little glimmer of hope knowing this was our last frozen embryo left before we would have to start the whole process again.
On March 22, 2022, we got the news that I was pregnant! Dr. Nguyen and my nurse Jess called me, and we all cried.
I even took a few at-home pregnancy tests to verify the bloodwork. I honestly thought that extra line was make-believe, like a unicorn, since it never existed for me before.
At the first ultrasound, I cried and continued to have positive thoughts about our future life ahead of us. After my eight-week appointment, I graduated from SGF and was extremely optimistic again.
The very next day while at work, I started to have heavy red bleeding, I immediately went to the emergency room thinking all my dreams were dying. An ultrasound at the emergency room, made me cry again at the most beautiful sight and sound … the baby was still alive. I was diagnosed with a subchorionic hematoma and was told to take it easy, drink more fluids, not to lift anything over five pounds, and to be on pelvic rest. Those weeks that followed were scary; every time I bled some, I got nervous, but I was told it was expected if I was not having significant bleeding. By 12 weeks and 4 days, the hematoma was gone, and the bleeding/spotting stopped. I waited to tell extended family and friends until I was in the second trimester, once I felt some risks were decreased.
My pregnancy was standard afterwards, bouts of morning sickness, food/drink aversions, and mood swings. It was just so exciting to have made it this far, I was willing to deal with these symptoms with a smile.
I continued to send sonogram pictures and updates to Dr. Nguyen and Jess. On November 25, 2022 (my due date), we welcomed our son, Orion. Labor was interesting, between being induced, pushing for hours, vacuum-assisted delivery, and second-degree episiotomy, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.
That feeling of holding my son made me realize the entire process every blood, sweat, bruise, and tear was worth it for that very moment. It was a wonderful experience to go full circle and get to have Dr. Nguyen hold Orion — she is like family to us and will always be our miracle worker.
For those going through this process, know you are not alone. No one will ever understand all the stuff you will be dealing with and going through unless they have been down this road before as well.
Try to stay as calm and positive as possible, this helped me a lot. Remember to go easy on yourself and your partner. You will be on a roller coaster of emotions. Between all the hormones and stress, you will be wiped out physically and mentally. Sometimes it is ok to cry it out and enjoy those few scoops of ice cream — or the whole carton.
Everyone’s experience in this entire process is different. Don’t expect your results to be the same as a friend or family member; it does not necessarily mean it is not working; it just means everyone is an individual and their symptoms are different.
Remember it’s fine to ask for help when you need it, between just having a shoulder to cry on or a friend who is willing to give you a shot in the back end.
Between all the costs, shots, travel, and raw emotions, whenever I look down at my son sleeping in my arms, it was worth it! And if I had to do it all over again I would. Know that with SGF, the doctors, nurses, techs, embryologists, and even the receptionists are all rooting for you to succeed. Your success is their success.
I want to give a huge shoutout to the amazing staff at SGF Mechanicsburg, Chesterbrook, and Wexford; you are all angels in disguise and were all a joy to work with.
To quote Winnie the Pooh (A. A. Milne), “Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you’ll ever know.” You got this momma! Prayers, fingers crossed, peace, and love!