Patient Story

Lisa & Tim

Recurrent Pregnancy Loss
Eric D. Levens, M.D.
Fairfax, Virginia
Falls Church, VA
Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)
Genetic Testing of Embryos
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)


Even though Tim and I went to the same middle and high schools we did not officially meet until right after college. We hit it off right away and have been together almost every day since. Before having children, we enjoyed simple date nights going out to dinner and coming home and watching a movie. Tim has been my biggest cheerleader for the last decade. He always believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself, even now. Without his attitude and love toward me, there is no way we would have made it to where we are today. 

We were shocked when we got pregnant easily. Being anxious people, we assumed it would be difficult. We had a great first appointment but when we returned for another scan toward the end of the first trimester, we were told our baby had stopped growing. We decided to do a D&C because my body was not recognizing that the pregnancy was no longer progressing. I became pregnant again quickly. We were scared but took comfort in the fact that consecutive miscarriages are uncommon. We found out at 8 weeks that our baby had stopped growing about two weeks prior. We opted for medication this time. It did not work completely, and I ended up with retained tissue and in the ER with heavy bleeding. While there they found my platelets were low and they said I needed to get a D&C. 

Finding fertility care at SGF with Dr. Levens

I refused to believe that it was normal to miscarry two times in a row and I called Shady Grove Fertility. I did not know anyone at the time going through this, but I had heard the commercials on the radio and thought maybe they could help me. I didn’t know that recurrent pregnancy loss was something Shady Grove Fertility helped patients with. I am so grateful I called. 

We started treatment almost immediately. Looking at our history, Dr. Levens advised that in vitro fertilization (IVF) would be our best route to grow our family. Our results from our egg retrieval were amazing. We ended up with 6 PGS normal embryos. It was such a comfort knowing that we had our potential babies safe and frozen somewhere. I thought about those embryos every day. They gave me hope.  

Before then, it was hard to not feel like my body had failed us. I felt so guilty and as if I was preventing Tim from having children. I kept wanting to put the blame on myself. Tim was always there to assure me that it was no one’s fault.  

In general IVF was hard, but I also feel a sense of strength having gone through it. It is physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging, but I did it. It felt intimidating to need IVF, but it also felt like there was a plan to try to get to our children. I liked feeling like I was actively working toward that goal with each day of monitoring, each shot, each pill. Throughout the whole process I was very emotional and had all-or-nothing thinking. If something went wrong, I was sure the whole process would never work. If something went well, I felt optimistic. My emotions depended on the result of each blood draw, each ultrasound. Thankfully Tim was levelheaded and even if he was a mess on the inside, he held my hand and made sure we got through each step. 

The key to success

The results from the genetic testing of our embryos were very good, which was great but also confusing because it left us with no explanation for our miscarriages.  Dr. Levens thought we should do some more testing to try to identify the cause of the losses. He recommended that we do an ERA cycle. I was disappointed to have to wait longer, but we wanted to do everything we could to be sure we gave those embryos the best chance. The ERA proved to be the key to a successful pregnancy for us. Dr. Levens changed our protocol based on the results and I believe that is why I was able to sustain my pregnancies. 

After the ERA, we thought we would finally get to do a transfer. We started prepping but my lining was a little slow growing. It was so frustrating because there was nothing I could do. Dr. Levens adjusted my meds. I was giving myself estrogen all hours of the day, drinking pomegranate juice, lying with my legs up, and trying any other old wives’ tales I had read about because I needed to feel like I was in control. Ultimately, our transfer was canceled because my lining did not get thick enough. I was devastated, but Tim was there hugging me, and we felt hopeful thinking about our little embryos.  

The next month, with estrogen patches on my trunk and in my hand, I thought thick-lining thoughts and hoped for a better result. Thankfully my lining thickened up and we were able to do our transfer. Dr. Levens kept us calm and assured us through every step of the process. He would call us and talk us through each step, any setbacks, or our next steps. He was always encouraging and made us feel like we were his top priority.  

Excited but cautious

We did our first transfer on January 11, 2019. I was told not to test at home, but after all the waiting I had zero patience. I got a positive result at home on January 18th and we received our first positive beta a few days later.  

We were so incredibly excited, but also nervous and cautious because we had been here before. Getting pregnant did not seem to be so difficult for us, remaining pregnant was our biggest concern.  

We tried to remind ourselves about all the ways this was different from our other pregnancies. We lived in fear every day. Always nervous to see blood. Waiting for the next ultrasound. At 5 weeks and 1 day, I started spotting while at work. I called the clinic and Dr. Levens told me to come in. He squeezed me in within the hour and performed the ultrasound himself. It was early, but we saw our baby and it seemed to be growing right on track. We continued to come to our appointments and continued to see our baby grow and grow.  

After graduating from SGF, we started up with our regular OB/GYN. He knew how anxious I was and allowed me to come in every week to be sure the pregnancy was progressing.  

I kept telling myself I would feel better if I made it to certain milestones, but I never felt better.  

We went to our anatomy scan at 21 weeks and found out that my cervix was shortening and opening. We continued to go to our regular OB/GYN and now the MFM doctors at the hospital as well. We were too late to get a cerclage, so they put a pessary in place and put me on bedrest at home. In addition to my shortened and opening cervix, I developed gestational diabetes and my platelet count got lower and lower throughout my pregnancy. We held our breath every day until I hit 34 weeks. I felt good and was given the go-ahead to go back to work and do slightly more than bed rest. I had my first day at work and my water broke that night.  

Photo by Antonette Dimaiwat

A forever love

After a 26-hour labor, I gave birth to our son Edward at 34 weeks and 3 days. He spent 12 nights and 13 days in the NICU. Almost 4 years later and I still cannot believe how lucky I am to have my son. He is so curious, kind, and caring. He sometimes will check with us to be sure we will love him forever and it gives me such pleasure to squeeze him and assure him that we always have and always will love him.

We knew that if we wanted more children we would come back to Shady Grove Fertility and Dr. Levens. By the time we were ready to try the pandemic was in full swing. We had a virtual appointment with Dr. Levens and he told me I needed my hematologist and an MFM to approve my health before moving forward with another frozen embryo transfer. I was given the go-ahead with the understanding that I would get a preventative cerclage at around 14 weeks and my platelets would be monitored throughout pregnancy.

Photo by Jamie Romaezi

A sibling journey at SGF

The second time around was not as eventful. We knew what to expect. My lining was still a bit stubborn and slow to grow. In February 2021 I was ready for a transfer. Due to Covid protocols, I had to go into the office alone for all my appointments leading up to it and did my transfer alone.  

Though I didn’t have Tim with me, Dr. Levens and the team at SGF were such a comfort and had me smiling throughout my transfer.  

Before going into our sibling cycle, I kept telling myself it would be easier this time around because I knew it could work. Unfortunately, the first transfer failed. 

I went right back to my all-or-nothing thinking and assumed we would never have another successful transfer and pregnancy. I was a wreck. Dr. Levens remained encouraging and hopeful. He didn’t mess with our protocol and said he believed it could work again which made us feel good. We started prepping for another FET. This time there was a little bit of fluid in my uterus and once again my lining was taking a long time to get where it needed to be. Our transfer kept getting pushed back one day at a time. Every time it got pushed back Dr. Levens would call us and explain our next steps. Somehow everything fell into place and things looked great 9 days after the expected transfer date.  

We did the transfer and it worked! We were so excited and a little less nervous as we were running after a toddler and didn’t have as much time to stop and worry.  

I had a cerclage put in at about 14 weeks. Because of this, I was able to avoid bed rest. I got gestational diabetes again. My platelets plummeted again. All things considered, everything went pretty smooth though. We were planning to induce at 38 weeks, but I did not quite make it that far. Our baby’s heart rate was dropping during contractions while I was being monitored. They decided to keep me at the hospital and induce me. With my platelets as low as they were I was not able to receive an epidural. My daughter came quickly and got stuck in the birth canal causing an injury to her arm. It was a fast and scary delivery.  

Strong and loving

Almost a year and a half later, Madeline is the most opinionated, strong, loving girl. She makes us laugh and smile every day while also giving us more gray hair with her daredevil ways. Eddie and Madeline love each other so much. Their bond seems to get stronger by the day.   

Every single day we look at our children and cannot believe how lucky we are. We don’t take it lightly that not every story ends like ours. Despite how difficult it was, I would do it all over a million times to have our family. We know that this would not have happened without Dr. Levens and everyone else at Shady Grove Fertility who helped us along the way. We still have frozen embryos and I can’t help but smile when I think of them. Maybe one day we will be back to add to our story. 

Advice for others

For anyone going through infertility my best advice would be to let out your feelings, whether it be in a private journal, with a trusted friend, or with the whole world. No matter how your story ends, it is so freeing to let your emotions out. And know, you are never alone. 

I also encourage others to share their story along the way. Sharing my story and being so open has actually brought me some of my closest friends. I always felt that if sharing my story helped even one person, then it was worth it. I hope sharing again can help more people feel less alone.  

Pregnancy loss is hard.  

Infertility is hard.  

IVF is hard.  

Nothing will change that, but there are many people who have gone through it and are here cheering others along!  

Photo by Jamie Romaezi


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Fairfax, Virginia, location
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