Why I am Thankful for my Fertility Journey.
When I started working for Shady Grove Fertility in the summer of 2010 I had absolutely no idea how much that decision would impact the rest of my life. I was a newly engaged twenty three year-old and I knew absolutely nothing about infertility. It took me over a week before I could say hysterosalpingogram without stammering and another few weeks before I could spell it without feeling like I was in a spelling bee. Just a few short months after starting at Shady Grove, I transitioned into the role of Dr. Levy’s Clinical Assistant. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and I am so incredibly thankful that I ended up where I did.
Brandon and I got married in September of 2011 and I stopped birth control pills that December when we put an offer on our first home. I was ready to let married life happen. We closed on our townhouse in early 2012 and I was excited to start our family right away. I got pregnant without any problem but miscarried before my first OB appointment. After another six months of trying, I was frustrated and worried. It’s funny how working in this field makes you curious about your own fertility potential, especially when you’re in the process of trying to have a baby. I mentioned something in passing to Dr. Levy and he encouraged me to set up an appointment with him. He told me that he would not piecemeal treatment together. It was all of nothing. I remember feeling hesitant. The idea of seeing a reproductive endocrinologist had never crossed my mind or Brandon’s.
Brandon and I met with Dr. Levy on October 16th 2012. I will never forget how anxious and nervous I was the entire day leading up to the appointment. I had sat in that office, in that chair, hundreds of times but this time was so incredibly different. This time I was sitting next to my husband, not the nurse on my team. This time I was looking to Dr. Levy as a patient, not as his clinical assistant. Dr. Levy reviewed the results of the prescreening we had done so far and explained our next steps. With each piece of prescreening we did, we got more answers. We learned from my day three blood work that I had an elevated prolactin level that would require medication and an MRI. We learned from my HSG that my tubes and uterus looked beautiful – yep, that’s what Dr. O’Brien said “beautiful uterus”. We learned from Brandon’s semen analysis that things on his end were ok, not great, but ok. It seemed like the more answers we got, the more questions we had.
I remember Brandon being so worried that Dr. Levy was going to recommend IVF right off the bat and he was surprised when Dr. Levy encouraged us to do lesser before greater treatment. We were grateful for another opportunity to attempt to have a family with minimal assistance. Like most people, I did not envision building a family through medical treatment. Under Dr. Levy’s guidance, we opted to do a natural cycle IUI. Our first IUI cycle was unsuccessful. I knew it was a possibility but I still took it pretty hard. I remember being so angry but strangely optimistic. We had done everything we could.
Our second IUI cycle seemed to last an eternity and we learned that my follicular phase is pretty flakey. This time Dr. Levy wanted us to use Ovidrel as a trigger. I was so anxious about it. I don’t have a needle phobia or anything, but the idea of sticking myself with a needle was terrifying. I couldn’t do it. I will never forget standing in the kitchen staring at Brandon holding that syringe. I will never forget the way he pinched my belly, looked up at me and said, without blinking an eye, “When you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s best to do it quickly” before sticking me with the needle. I will also never forget laughing to the point of tears at how ridiculous it all was. Never had I ever imagined that this would be the road we would take to create our family. I am so incredibly thankful that through it all, my husband kept me laughing. Unfortunately though, in the end, that cycle was also negative.
With our third IUI cycle we decided to try medication. Dr. Levy recommended we do a Clomid IUI cycle. Unfortunately, that cycle was cancelled 3 days before Christmas due to a poor response to the medication. To top it off, I had developed ovarian cysts. The blows just kept coming. However, no matter how down I got, my little team - Dr. Levy and Jordan - were so incredibly optimistic and so positive that we would get to the finish line. Jordan was my personal cheerleader and I was, and still am, so thankful that I had her on my side.
We started our IVF cycle in February of 2013. I remember when my medications arrived from the pharmacy; I took all of it out of the box and put it on the kitchen table. I was so overwhelmed. What had I gotten myself into? But when I reviewed my protocol with Jordan, every date seemed to have a meaning. This sense of calm washed over me. We would have our pre-cycle evaluation on a Monday, a fresh start to the week. I would start my medications on February 7th - the anniversary of when I got engaged to Brandon. My egg retrieval would take place on February 18th - President's Day - a day when Brandon was already off of work. And if things go as planned, we would have a Day 5 transfer on Saturday, February 23rd, my mom's birthday. See what I mean about fate? To top it off - I would have my first pregnancy blood test on Friday, March 8th - and this one is so crazy that it gave me chills. First of all, it was pay day: woohoo, money to celebrate... or to drown my sorrows. Secondly, it was the last day that Dr. Levy was in town before a two week long trip. Talk about perfect timing. And finally - best of all - March 8th is the anniversary of when Brandon and I made our relationship official. I felt like these were all good signs.
Honestly, IVF was so much easier than I thought it would be. I actually kind of enjoyed it. Strange, right? The cycle was so structured and it was interesting to see what my ovaries were capable of. I was excited to go to my monitoring appointments. The MAs and sonographers who I had been standing next to for years while trying to catch Dr. Levy between patients in monitoring had become my cheerleaders and a constant source of support. I still feel so grateful for their patience with my blood draws and their warm smiles first thing in the morning. I don’t know that I could ever thank them enough for all of the little things that they did to make my experience so perfect. Eight ultrasounds, nine blood draws, twenty five medication injections later (which in retrospect does not seem like that much AT ALL) it was time for our retrieval.
The morning of my retrieval, some of the nurses I work with came through the ASC to wish me good luck. They had gotten me a card and flowers. I felt so grateful to be so loved and so supported. I still get teary eyed thinking about how wonderful everyone was and how supported I felt through the entire process. Dr. O’Brien did my transfer on a gorgeous Sunday in February and then we waited… again. This time the waiting was not in vain. On Tuesday, March 5th 2013, I did a blood pregnancy test four days early (because I had cheated and had a positive home pregnancy test). I came in and was the first patient to have blood drawn. I waited ever so patiently (yea, right) for the results. I remember standing in the office of Dr. Chang’s team, holding his nurse Jessica’s hand and pulling up my chart. I was so scared to see if the blood confirmed things. It did! Brandon and I we were going to be parents. Within minutes, the entire hall of nursing offices knew what was going on. We all cheered and cried and again I felt so incredibly loved and supported in my journey. My celebration was their celebration. Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013 Paige from Dr. Sagoskin’s team gave us our discharge instructions. We were officially Shady Grove Graduates!
On Wednesday, November 13th at 6:18pm after twelve hours of labor and twenty eight minutes of pushing, Natalie Grace Wilkinson entered the world one day late. Our lives had forever been changed.
A couple weeks ago I brought Natalie into the office to celebrate her first birthday with Dr. Levy and Jordan. I stopped by the third floor to see the nurses. They all played a role, in one way or another, in helping me build my family. It was incredible to feel the amount of love they have towards that little girl. On my way to Dr. Levy’s office, I ran into Dr. O’Brien. Natalie instantly gravitated towards her, like she knew Dr. O’Brien was a person of importance in her life. As always, Natalie could not wait to see Dr. Levy. She always smiles when she sees him and it melts my heart when he holds her. After visiting with Dr. Levy, Karen and Lisa from the surgery center came out to see Natalie. They had both been a part of my retrieval and my transfer. Again, I got teary eyed. Before leaving we visited with the MAs on the second floor after monitoring. Natalie smiled and blew kisses all day like she realized that these are the people that made her parent’s dream of a family a reality.