Chad and I always knew we wanted to have children, and we decided to wait a year after we got married. We started trying to grow our family in the summer of 2016, but never really thought that we would have trouble conceiving. After 9 months of irregular cycles, we sought help from our OB/GYN, and he started us on our first round of Clomid. It worked on the very first round and we were ecstatic, but I suffered my first miscarriage just a week after confirming we were pregnant via blood test.
Going through that miscarriage was the hardest thing we had ever dealt with and suffering through it alone was one of the biggest mistakes we made throughout this journey. We mostly held back from sharing our experience with others at first because it felt strange telling our loved ones about the miscarriage before we even had a chance to share the news of our pregnancy.
Once we were able to work up the courage to start speaking with people about our miscarriage and journey to conceive, we came to realize that so many others had been in our same shoes. It was quite comforting to hear others’ stories, especially from friends who were coping with miscarriage and infertility privately as well. Our hope was renewed that one day our dreams would come true.
We tried Clomid a few more times and failed but we were able to again get pregnant on our 4th round in October 2017. At our 11-week appointment we got the news that our baby's heart had stopped beating and that she (as we later found out) had stopped growing at around 8 weeks.
We were devastated to say the least and had a D&C on January 2, 2018. We sent the tissue off for testing to find that she had a chromosomal abnormality called Turner syndrome. Our then OB/GYN wanted to continue to do what we had been doing, but after years of following his guidance, we decided that we needed to seek out a fertility expert, and a new OB/GYN.
SCRAPPING THE “WAIT AND SEE” APPROACH
One of my very best friends had suffered an ectopic pregnancy the same week I had my first miscarriage. She made the choice to start treatments at Shady Grove Fertility and had such wonderful things to say about everyone who worked there.
After following my OB/GYN’s guidance to follow a “wait and see” style treatment, we were so excited to speak with doctors who really wanted to help us overcome our struggles with an individualized treatment plan. We booked our consultation appointment with Dr. Beall, and after meeting with her, we knew it was the next best step for us.
After bloodwork, genetic testing, HSG, and saline sonogram, Dr. Beall diagnosed me with PCOS, a diagnosis that made me feel weary because of the many unknown’s tied to the condition. Dr. Beall also found that I had polyps in my uterus that could be affecting my ability to hold a pregnancy. Even though this was another wall built between me and my chances to conceive, removing the polyps offered hope to a solution. We scheduled surgery to have them removed, and shortly after, I started my 5th round of Clomid to see if that did the trick.
Again, the Clomid worked for us and we were pregnant in June of 2018 but as I returned for the blood tests to confirm everything was on the right track, my numbers were not going up as they should, and I was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy.
I was given methotrexate injections and we decided then that the risk to my tubes for future pregnancies was too high and that IVF was our next step. We actually felt pretty good about moving on to IVF. We had already been through so many losses and months of uncertainty and the fear of another ectopic pregnancy that IVF felt like a big stride in our journey. By trying something different, it offered a new wave of hope.
MOVING ON TO IVF
We had our first egg retrieval in September 2019 and were able to get 27 eggs, but only three embryos survived and were sent off for PGS testing. We chose to do PGS testing because of our history of chromosomal abnormalities but thankfully all three of our embryos came back normal, which was so exciting for us. The thought of three chances or potentially three children was so inspiring after years of only negative news.
We then did an ERA biopsy in October 2019 so we could be sure to transfer on the right day for my first IVF cycle. Dr. Beall didn’t want to leave anything up to chance after all that we had been through and we appreciated her commitment to our journey so much.
We transferred in November and January, but both failed.
With only one embryo left, we decided to do another egg retrieval prior to our next transfer and were able to get 33 eggs. However, only four more embryos made it to freeze and were normal after PGS testing.
Our third transfer again did not work, and we were beginning to lose hope as we knew all of our embryos so far had been rated higher than the ones from our second retrieval. We went ahead and did another exploratory polyp removal surgery in May of 2019 because our scans didn’t show them, but Dr. Beall wanted to be sure all was clear and sure enough there were polyps that needed removing.
We then had our fourth failed transfer in June 2019.
BREAKING THE NORM
At this point we were feeling completely confused. Why had we been able to get pregnant naturally on Clomid three times, yet while doing two rounds of IVF with perfect timing, perfect embryos, and lots of injections, nothing was working for us?
But we kept holding on that our possibility of parenthood was coming. Just knowing that we had more embryos to transfer gave us hope. We kept thinking that if our transfer didn’t work, we would try again. I’m thankful we were able to get seven total embryos from our two retrievals to help keep that hope alive.
Dr. Beall decided to break from the norm and create a protocol that was specifically unique to us based on our history. We were instructed to do an IVF transfer with one of our embryos, but rather than doing the injections, she wanted us to monitor my body naturally. Dr. Beall put me on Letrozole, and then explained that we’ll do the next transfer when my lab worked showed that it was the right time.
WENT TO TARGET FOR ONE THING, CAME HOME WITH MUCH MORE
Typically, whenever I would get a call from Shady Grove Fertility with our results, I would let the call go to voicemail so Chad and I could listen to them together. I was heading out to go shopping with my mom at Target when the call came through and I decided to answer. Honestly, I answered because I expected it to be negative and figured why wait all day to hear those words again. I had become almost numb to the process.
I answered the call and nurse Tina, who had been with me on this journey for 2+ years, squealed with excitement and said, “I am so glad I didn’t take the day off and that you answered.”
I could not have been more thrilled or terrified at the same time and drove straight to Chad’s work to give him the news in person that we were pregnant! He came outside to meet me where I was already crying tears of happiness. He was absolutely thrilled! I pulled myself together to go meet my mom where I shared the news with her in a Target parking lot. We cried. We hugged. We celebrated. It was such a special moment!
LEARNING TO EMBRACE POSITIVE NEWS
After years of disappointment, I found it really difficult to get past being scared and nervous for a long time. It’s hard in the beginning because it's too early to feel the baby moving or kicking, so I just had to hope that everything is alright. Thankfully, I didn’t have any morning sickness but part of me wished that I would so that I could have the reassurance that everything was still on track.
Week after week, we went to our check-ins and everything progressed as it should. We left each appointment feeling excited, and yet so scared, as the next appointment seemed so far away.
At 15 weeks, Shady Grove Fertility gave me an envelope with the gender sealed inside. I passed it along to my best friend to help us have a fun gender reveal. On Christmas Day, we opened a gift from my best friend that informed us our sweet baby was a girl. In that moment, I felt as if I could actually start thinking of the future and get excited!
Finally, after 4 years of trying, three miscarriages, and a lot of uncertainty, our Harper arrived in June of 2020 and the joy that she has brought to our lives is beyond what we could have ever imagined.
Our story is unique, complicated, and filled with uncertainty, but it is also one that is full of hope and the willingness to persevere. This journey has taught us that anything is possible, good and bad, and that we are so much stronger than we ever thought.
Chad and I decided when we first started at Shady Grove Fertility that if one of our embryos worked, we would want to try again shortly after. Harper turned 8 months on Valentine's Day, and we are beginning the process of doing transfer number six in hopes of a second child with one of our two remaining embryos.
Dr. Beall has a plan in place for us to repeat our same unique protocol and we couldn’t be more thankful to have a doctor who thinks outside the box, catered treatment to our specific needs, and continues to lead us forward with new ideas and a hopeful outlook.
NEED-TO-KNOW FERTILITY RESOURCES AND GUIDANCE
- Understand infertility terms and what they mean.
- Get to know Dr. Stephanie Beall and the Towson office.
- How does polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) impact your fertility?
- Is in vitro fertilization (IVF) your next step? Learn what to expect.
- Explore what a frozen embryo transfer (FET) is as well as what to expect and success rates.