Michael and I got married in October of 2011. When we got married - I was 34 and Michael was 39 so I guess we were considered "older!" We both knew we wanted children right away. We even joked that we wanted to get pregnant on our honeymoon! For our honeymoon we traveled to Washington D.C. from upstate NY. Michael’s favorite President is President Reagan so we said if we got pregnant and the baby was a boy then his middle name would be Reagan. All our siblings had children and we just loved our nieces and nephews so much that we didn’t want to wait to become parents. Needless to say it did not happen for us as quickly as we would have liked.
Why am I not getting pregnant?
I had never had a normal period and was on birth control for a number of years. I guess I was naive thinking that when the time came to get pregnant it would just happen like everyone else! I knew there were issues with my body but no doctor seemed concerned about it so I guess I wasn’t concerned either. After some months of trying and not getting a normal period I went to my OB/GYN who suggested we try two rounds of Clomid. I did not respond at all. This doctor didn't want to waste our time because of my age, so he referred us to an IVF clinic in our hometown area. I couldn't even process this. Why couldn't I just be like everyone else? Why did my body have to fail me? What was wrong with me? We went to that initial appointment at the IVF clinic and were so overwhelmed with all the information thrown at us and all the tests they wanted to do. We were grateful they could help but felt like it was information overload! Plus we had no insurance coverage. So not only are you trying to process all the procedures but the enormous financial burden you are about to take on. We were definitely not prepared for that.
During those initial tests I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and I also learned that I am a carrier for Fragile X. What on earth is that and why am I just learning about this? I didn't know anyone in my family affected by this but it did explain a lot as to why I was having trouble conceiving. I had the full-mutation, which meant there was a high probability I would pass this gene on to my offspring. If we were to have a boy affected by this he could have physical and social disabilities. If we had a girl she may just be a carrier like I was. We didn't want to burden our child with this issue so we decided to jump right to IVF with preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). Looking back, it was just so hard to hear all these terrible diagnoses and challenges we would face. The only thing that kept us going was our faith that one day we would be parents. We did not pursue any further treatments at this particular center because I got a promotion and we moved to Northern Virginia in March of 2014.
Discovering Shady Grove Fertility
Michael heard a radio commercial for Shady Grove Fertility one day so we made an appointment at the Fair Oaks location with Dr. Malik in January of 2015. I knew the moment we walked into the lobby this was a special place. Dr. Malik was honest with our challenges but she had a plan for us to move forward. We just clicked right away from that first meeting and she never lost faith in our dream! We did repeat all the initial blood tests, which confirmed I was, in fact, a carrier of Fragile X.
We jumped right into IVF in March of 2015. Our first round gave us three embryos. My estrogen tanked right before retrieval so it was suggested this was a sign of poor egg quality so we decided to do one more cycle to bank as many embryos as we could for the genetic testing. Our second round gave us two more embryos in September of 2015. The second IVF cycle seemed pretty perfect on paper. I was monitored very closely so the doctor could adjust the dosages of medicine as needed to yield the best results. We had 15 eggs of which only three were mature and ultimately only two made it to Day 5. I still remember that call from the nurse - I was so devastated! But we had five embryos and we had to believe we would get some normal embryos. The IVF cycles were not easy. I over-stimulated both times ending up having to have surgery to drain excess fluid. While this was a slight setback in our journey, we knew we had to keep going. We proceeded with the genetic testing and waited for the call to find out if any of the embryos were genetically normal. I felt as if we had done all we could and it was in G-d’s hands now. In October of 2015 Dr. Malik called to say we had one normal embryo and it was a girl. I was so excited and hopeful in my heart; the joy I felt was overwhelming.
Here was our chance and it just had to work! We transferred this beautiful embryo on 12/18/2015 and Michael and I just cried. I put my hand on my stomach and said welcome home baby. That 2 week wait was the hardest of my life! It was a cloudy day the day of our beta test and we wanted to go to downtown D.C. to walk around and try to distract ourselves. When we walked out of the clinic after our blood test the sun was shining right through the clouds right at us. I had lost my mom to cancer and Michael had lost his dad to cancer too but in that moment we felt their presence so strongly! While we waited for the call we were sitting on a bench on the Tidal Basin looking at the Jefferson Memorial. I remember looking at the water and trying to just remain calm. The call finally came in and Dr. Malik and our nurses, Marci and Jenn, were all on the phone. To this day I can't even remember what was said. We were all just crying. We did it!!!
Emily Marlene Silverman was born September 9, 2016. To meet her and hold her for the first time was the greatest moment of our lives. The love and joy we feel for this precious baby is overwhelming. She is the most precious gift we could have ever asked for and being her parents is our greatest honor! I look at her each day and I just thank G-d for her.
My Advice to Current and Future Patients
Never give up on your dream! Don’t think for a second that miracles cannot happen. That feeling inside of you that you long to be a parent is there for a reason. Trust in that! The road is not easy and it's probably the hardest road you will ever travel but being a parent is the most incredible thing we have ever done. The treatments are intense and will take over your life but still find time to enjoy life and each other. Do what you enjoy to do, take trips, be silly and laugh. Take one day at a time and just breathe! Find a support group whether in person or on-line – they are invaluable. And remember you are stronger than you think! We never know why things happen to us but there is always a reason. If our story helps just one person then I am very grateful my journey brought me to a place to help someone else!
Dr. Malik, Marci, and Jenn were not just my doctor and nurses, they became our friends. There are not enough words to express how awesome they are. Without them we wouldn't have our miracle! We love them dearly and Emily will know who played such a huge role in helping to get her to us. They laughed, cried, and most importantly supported me and never gave up on us. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!