Garrison and I met and got married in college. From the beginning, we knew we wanted to start a family as soon as possible. Our plan was that I would be walking at graduation with a 9 month pregnant belly to accessorize my cap and gown! I counted backwards from my graduation date and put a note on my calendar of exactly when to go off birth control! We thought we had it all figured out.
After the first month of just "seeing what would happen," I decided to take matters into my own hands. I put a cycle tracking app on my phone, bought a bulk pack of ovulation tests, and took my basal body temperature every morning. Still, the end of each month resulted in negative after negative pregnancy tests. I couldn't believe that we'd have trouble getting pregnant, being both in our early 20s. Lots of well-meaning advice of "relax and it will happen," or "you're so young, you have plenty of time" didn't help. Living in a community where young families were the norm, we felt very isolated.
After a year of trying and tracking, we saw a Reproductive Endocrinologist in Utah where we lived. After all of the tests came back clear, she gave me a diagnosis of suspected endometriosis. She presented us with the option of doing a laparoscopy to confirm the diagnosis and remove the lesions, or to move straight to intrauterine insemination (IUI). We decided to do IUI, and were met with heartbreak at the end of the failed cycle.
Our Journey at SGF
Soon after the first failed IUI cycle we moved to Annandale, VA, for Garrison's job. Once I found out we’d be moving there, I started researching fertility clinics in the area. There were three within less than a 10 minute drive from where we’d be living! With so many options, I was drawn to Shady Grove Fertility because of its high success rates reported on the CDC website. I also appreciated its early morning hours, so I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about taking too much time off work to pursue treatment. I called for an appointment with whichever doctor would be available the soonest! I was scheduled to see Dr. Levens. While I was a little nervous at first about seeing a male doctor for my “female” issues, his kindness and compassion put me at ease after the first appointment. Based on my case history, he recommended doing a laparoscopy and then depending on the results deciding on IUI or in vitro fertilization (IVF). The surgery revealed stage III endometriosis, with lesions on my right ovary, uterus, and bladder. After a cycle to ensure a full recovery from surgery, Dr. Levens recommended we pursue IVF.
When Dr. Levens told us IVF was the best option I was surprised and excited. I’d been expecting to have to go through more IUI cycles. Some might call me crazy, but I actually enjoyed IVF! I loved going in for monitoring and seeing my follicles, and then getting the call with updates each evening. After nearly 2 years of being “in the dark,” I loved knowing exactly what was happening with my body. Of course, the medications and injections were not enjoyable. I had to quickly overcome my fear of needles, but never got brave enough to give the injections to myself! The most difficult part of the IVF journey was the emotional uncertainty. A single day could bring feelings of hope and encouragement that would quickly shift to feelings of imminent failure.
Throughout the entire IVF process, Shady Grove Fertility provided an amazing support system. I loved my nurse, Sarah, who helped me with all my questions along the way. I appreciated the updates and phone calls from her and from Dr. Levens. I knew they really cared not only about the results of the cycle, but also making sure that I was informed and comfortable with the whole process. I also really appreciated the injections class!
The day of my embryo transfer happened to fall on my birthday. After the transfer was complete, the embryologist, Jeanette, came out and told me happy birthday. She said, “Congratulations, you are PUPO (pregnant until proven otherwise)!” and of course, I teared up a bit. It is a sweet memory that I will always cherish!
The Call We Were Waiting For
The two-week wait was a whirlwind as I traveled to Arizona for Christmas and my sister’s wedding. It was so difficult to focus on the celebrations when all I could do was worry about the upcoming beta test. Finally, a few days after the wedding and before Christmas I got the call I’d been waiting for. We were pregnant!
A few months before our baby boy was born, we moved to Texas for Garrison's job. We feel so blessed that we were able to live in Virginia for that short year and receive the care that we did at Shady Grove Fertility. We plan to make a return trip when it's time to try for a brother or sister!
Advice to Future Patients
To future patients I would say this: don't give up hope, you're not alone in this! You can do hard things, and you will make it through!