Get cozy. This is a long one! I am so excited to share my happy news. And today, I am digging a bit deeper into the ‘how’ of my pregnancy by sharing my Infertility and IVF Journey with you guys.
– 1 in 8 couples will struggle with infertility– Resolve.org
Thirty-five is the average age of females when their natural fertility begins to show a marked decline. By age 40, a woman’s natural chance of pregnancy is less than 5% per cycle.– fertility answers
As of 2014, almost one million U.S. babies have been conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF) since the procedure was developed in the 1980s.– fertility answers
Some Baby Talk, Continued…
It’s been three years since I wrote this blogpost, chatting about my desire to be a mom – and touching a bit on my struggles. And since then, I have kept pretty quiet about this topic. Well, I am finally ready to share..
COVID-19 NOTE: What a strange time to share this. But telling my infertility story is hugely cathartic and healing for me — especially in a time like this – so I am so grateful for this space to share. Thank you. And if you want to read it, here’s my post on being pregnant during coronavirus.
Pregnant After IVF
The biggest update for you: I am pregnant. I am so grateful to be here.
Choosing to Share My Infertility Story
It’s understandable why most couples keep their TTC (trying to conceive), infertility, IVF and loss experiences to themselves, or a small circle of loved ones. But for me, sharing publicly allows me to do three things:
- Give back.
- Encourage honest, shame-free conversations about fertility.
- Help myself heal.
Reason number one for sharing: giving back.
The thing that saved me through this entire infertility journey was hearing other women bravely speak about their own experiences. Their stories are 100% how I learned, was comforted, and how I kept going.
Because when I stepped into my first fertility clinic three years ago, I had no clue what I was doing or what I was in for. I felt overwhelmed trying to figure out all the basic variables involved. From fees, outcomes and terminology to medications, timelines and clinic options. And I hadn’t even begun to investigate the emotional side of things.
My saving grace? Shared stories on this taboo topic. I read infertility blogs, articles, interviews, Instagram captions, chatted via DMs, browsed hashtags, shared in-person stories, listened to podcasts, watched documentaries and more. (I’ve linked a few of these in my resources section at bottom.)
Those shared stories are what saved me. And now, I want to give back.
Infertility shouldn’t be a path you have to travel alone. There is a vibrant, empathetic community standing by. I hope my story adds to that beautiful echo of voices, the fearless women who are bravely sharing.
Let’s Talk About it.
The second reason why I am sharing. To help encourage honest conversations. Increase awareness. Reduce shame. Educate.
Awareness for fertility, reproductive health, pregnancy, miscarriage, ART and more is increasing, but we still have a long way to go.
Sharing is Healing.
And lastly, sharing my story helps me heal. Pressing “publish” on this post will be a huge catharsis for me. An energy shift. One step closer to some closure on this chapter in my life.
To the TTC Community: I See You.
(TTC – trying to conceive) I want to preface this post by addressing anyone out there going through infertility, IVF, secondary infertility, miscarriage, loss or heavy heart of any kind in this arena. I know reading pregnancy news is extremely triggering. Some of my heaviest tears were shed from seeing pregnancy announcements pop up online. You’re happy for them, but can’t help feeling sad for yourself.
Please never forget that you are so strong, and worthy of all the joy you are seeking. I am sending you love, hope and healing. I see you. Our TTC stories are all so different, but they unite us just the same.
And with that, a bit more of my story…
Status: Baby on the Way.
December 2019. That faint little second line that I saw on my early result pregnancy test, five days after my FET (frozen embryo transfer), wasn’t kidding. It got darker and darker as the days passed. And all of the sudden, I’m like any other pregnant lady — headfirst into my first trimester, barely able to eat from nausea, taking two harcore naps a day and sobbing over animal rescue videos and sappy movies – even more than usual. Pregnancy hit me hard and fast. Though I felt like complete crap, I was so stinking happy.
“I am pregnant.”
..I have waited my entire life to say that phrase. But it’s still hard to believe. When all you’ve heard is bad news for so long, the good news seems unreal. Like, when is the sky falling next? (And ha, it did again.)
But when it comes to finally meeting my baby, with each day that passes, I ease more and more into the excited and glowy feeling bubbling inside.
I’m trying to lead each day with happy, hopeful feelings, like holding a gleaming, Valyrian steel shield, leading me into this next phase of life.
I’m trying to savor this moment. The small changes each day. The magic of it all. “Good things are happening.” And that leaves me feeling…
Life will challenge all of us in different ways.
Maybe infertility will never touch you. But we all go through unique challenges and can share the spirit of struggle and fight.
For me, these past few years have been a big ol’ lesson in:
- following your heart – no matter what others say or think
- speaking out – finding my BIG mama bear voice
- being fearless – being scared + going forward means you are being brave
- having patience – your body has it’s own timeline in mind
- ..and having empathy and admiration for others doing the same – in all sorts of journeys and challenges, not just infertility.
From the Beginning. TTC.
Where to begin? This is a lot.
Honestly guys, I have pondered how to structure this post. Share every detail? Go way back to 2008 when this all started? Then I realized… this post isn’t about the details.
This post is about sharing my story. Standing up and saying out loud..
“I went through this thing, this struggle to get pregnant. Something that a lot of women go through. Now I just want to be seen and heard and have a conversation about how my experience fits into the world. And also talk about how we can better support women going through similar struggles. And let them share shame-free too – if they need to.”
My infertility and IVF journey in a nutshell…..
INFERTILITY. Doctor’s appointments. Getting misdiagnosed early on. Surgeries. Doctor changes. Tests and blood draws. MRIs, CTs, HSGs. Multiple fertility clinics. Some better than others. That monthly reminder of not being pregnant. Failed medicated IUIs. Then onto IVF — with daily needle jabs, mood swings and feeling that your ovaries might explode out of your belly if you cough the wrong way. Physical and emotional pain. The social struggle. Surviving in a baby-infused world as a wannabe mom. Clinic bills. Giant boxes of medications. Pharmacy runs. Daily emails with your IVF clinical team. Ten years later – getting correctly diagnosed. The shock of that. Another surgery that will fix it. Waiting for my body to catch up and heal. More pills. More hormone shifts. A slow pace to everything. Constant grief. Tears. And above all, the uncertainty of it all.
Emotional Side of Things…
Infertility is actually pretty simple to understand… it’s grief.
Infertility is a grieving process, a long one, usually.
What is Infertility? Defined…
The basic definition of infertility: “Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after 12 months of trying to conceive.” – resolve
But here’s my definition…
You want to be a parent. But you can’t get there...
You become confused and frustrated about that. After some mental pacing back and forth, you realize that you have to really put all your attention on this one thing – if it is ever going to have a chance to happen. And then you’re in it. Infertility and TTC become your world. You have to constantly be thinking about it. And the world certainly doesn’t let you forget about it. From celeb baby bumps to baby showers and just normal growing up, where your friends now have kids of their own – triggers are all around. It’s an emotional challenge – even more so than the physical stuff.
Eventually, you reach a breaking point.
I was good at hiding my sadness for a long time — until I wasn’t. My “breaking point” was three years ago — but it was actually my starting point. The start of something good — my road to here.
Not So Fun Fact #1: ART (assisted reproductive technologies like IUI and IVF) are NOT sure things. I think a lot of people think that IVF is the cure-all for infertility. Well, it’s not. Many couples spend money and suffer heartbreak trying their best and come away empty handed. The older you get, the harder it gets to succeed.
Big Step! Consult at a Fertility Clinic
Making that first appointment with a fertility clinic – three years ago – was the first sense of HOPE I had in a good ten years. I was clueless and scared, but knew this was our best chance. We were giving it our all.
I went into IVF feeling hopeful, but also very cautious.
IVF, The Final Frontier in Infertility.
Shit gets real when you start IVF. It’s really the last stop for any couple on their road to trying to have a baby. Some couples dive right in and others try IUIs and more moderate interventions first. IVF is scary and big and serious – but also, it’s mind-blowing science.
Fifty years ago, I simply wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. Today, I am, thanks to ART. Thanks to science.
For my situation, I had to have three big surgeries before even getting to the FET part of my IVF cycle. It was a long road. That misdiagnosis I mentioned, was a huge speed bump in my path. But in the end, I’m so glad I corrected things with surgery, because I don’t think I would be pregnant otherwise.
And off we go.
After a lot of researching, we signed away our lives on the massive stack of IVF forms and we were off.
Not So Fun Fact #2: By the time any couple signs IVF forms, they are already drained. Exhausted. TTC testing and doctors are exhausting. TTC failure is emotionally draining. So finally entering IVF is like going into a marathon when you just ran a 10K. If you do make it to the finish line, you know you’ll be on hands and knees, crawling to get there. But still, so elated that you made it.
My First IVF Cycle
My IVF cycle was in January 2019. In my non-baby-making life, I was blogging and doing an intensive screenwriting program at UCLA. I was out in the world, but socially I was just done. Checked out. Any brain power I had left went to writing. Creative things.
Socially, with so many friends having new babies, I felt stuck in-between the moms and the non-moms.
Infertility is like an identity crisis.
I saw myself as a mom. But I wasn’t one.
I’d pass moms on the sidewalk, stroller in hand, gurgling baby tucked under plush blankies — and I’d want to cry. I couldn’t look them in the eye. I wanted so badly to be in their shoes. Babies would giggle and smile at me in grocery store checkout lines and I couldn’t even smile back. How sad is that?
Eventually you just turn on a numbness that both destroys – and saves you.
IVF mentally begins, when that big box of medicine arrives in the mail.
It’s emotionally overwhelming to see all those meds, needles and first aid supplies. Alcohol wipes and gauze pads. A sharps container, packets of instructions and medication warnings. It also doesn’t help that the price tag on all those meds is usually more than you would spend on a luxury vacation to Europe. The price for my big box o’ meds? Around $10,000.
IVF: Shots. Shots. Shots.
I gave myself three shots every night for about two weeks. The first day is the hardest. It’s weird. You’re literally stabbing needles into your stomach.
But by day three or four, you’re a total pro. And you’re just ready to plow through the needles and get this over with. It hurts, but the physical pain is nothing compared to the emotions during this time.
The hormone swings make you tired, wheepy, headachy, anxious or maybe even happy and energized! Everyone is different. It feels hopeful even though you know there’s a chance that this could all be for nothing.
“Go Away, I’m Stimming”
During this “stimulation” – aka stimming / stim phase – of injections, your ovaries grow and produce more eggs than usual. Your stomach swells a bit and you may feel tired or anxious or just not really like your old self. Then, your surgery day comes. Hooray!…
Egg retrieval is commonly a general anesthesia surgery where your RE (reproductive endocrinologist) doctor extracts as many eggs as possible from your ovaries using a thin needle. You wake up, find out your number of eggs and either cry or smile or feel apathetic.
After Egg Retrieval Surgery
Each day after your surgery, you receive a call from the clinic, updating you on the process of fertilization. It takes a good five days (usually) for the final embryos to develop. In the end, you are told how many embryos (if any at all) make it ‘to freeze.’
Optional genetic testing can be done on any embryos you end up with. Some people do fresh FET transfers, but frozen is way more common these days due to success rates. Waiting for an FET also gives your ovaries and body some time to rest. Personally, I felt so crappy after retrieval, I would not want a fresh transfer.
Not-So-Fun-Fact #3: The weeks after your IVF surgery, your ovaries actually continue to swell, due to fluid collection and you get super bloated – painfully bloated. Bloated like, wait am I actually five months pregnant right now??? – bloated. But relief finally comes when you get your period.
…And it’s over! If you are lucky enough to have walked away with one or more embryos, you basically wait until the right time to start prep for your FET – frozen embryo transfer.
We came out of IVF with one good embryo.
The Mental Game of IVF
Not-So-Fun-Fact #4: The two weeks of pretty painful shots is nothing compared to the mental game of IVF.
Emotionally, every step of IVF feels intense. Sitting at my desk, my heart would start to race when the doctor called. Each day, she would give the latest news – the latest counts on our developing embryos. It’s a numbers game. You usually start out with more embryos than actually make it to day five. I think we had six – then down to one. And for some people, none of them make it to freeze.
FET Prep Finally Begins
Not-So-Fun-Fact #5: FET prep can actually be more challenging that IVF! (At least it was for me…)
Your infertility journey has the possibility of coming to an END with your FET – frozen embryo transfer. Huge moment!
However, the FET turned out to be a lot more intense than I had expected.
For me, what really didn’t help was the fact that I had a nine month wait between egg retrieval and FET. I had to have more testing, and several surgeries – plus healing time. So by the time the FET prep began, I was already feeling pretty drained from doctors, appointments, meds, and just basically healing! My body was tired.
But luckily that healing time gave me a bit of relief! A pause. A reset. A break.
I did my IVF surgery in February and my FET prep started around November. A lot happened in between! Luckily, a lot of fun was had, travel and feeling excited to start the FET in the fall!
Embryo Transport – Clinic Change (Again)
Another glitch in our timeline was the number of times we had to switch clinics – mostly due to insurance changes. Well the final time, after IVF, we had to physically move our one frozen embryo. There are actually shipping companies that ship embryos all over the world without damaging them. Crazy! Your baby could be a world traveler before making it to a womb!
Well since we were just moving our embryo across town, we had the option to move it ourselves – in a big freezer-happy tank! Sure! It was our first act of parenting. And baby’s first car ride. She made it across town safe and sound…
November FET Prep
And all the sudden, it was November. Ready to start the final lap in my marathon race. The FET.
Not-So-fun-Fact #6: While all protocols are different, for me FET prep not only involved the dreaded PIO shot, but also a lot of pills.
At one point, and for a good many weeks, I was taking 13 pills a day to prep my body for the transfer. The pills do everything from mess with your hormones to your immune system and even your blood. And then came the infamous PIO shot.…
The PIO injection.
Progesterone in oil, via a one and a half inch needle. Those shots are beasts. And you do them every single day up until you are either around ten weeks pregnant (every doctor is different though) or until you get a negative pregnancy test.
My daily PIO shots started the night before Thanksgiving.
The Day of My FET
My FET was early December. Christmas lights and music playing in the clinic.
FUN FACT #1: The FET procedure is super easy!! (Minus the anxiety..)
The FET. No pain. You just lay there and watch on the big screen as they bring your thawed embryo into the room and finally give it a home. Then you lay there for about fifteen minutes, alone, trying to mentally will your baby to stick, aka not fall out or get lost or whatever else could go wrong up there.
Then you get dressed, go home and wait. And hope.
Then you Pee on a Stick…
Five days later and I was ready for it. I’m stubborn and impatient, so waiting the actual two weeks for the blood test to see if I was pregnant – just wasn’t happening.
Four days later, I tested, and again the next day – and to the biggest shock in my life – I saw a very faint positive line. And that little thing turned into my BFP (big fat positive.)
What IVF Is to Me
For me, IVF isn’t just something that you read about in celebrity tabloids or judged by people who don’t really understand – IVF is a miracle. And I’m so crazy thankful for it.
The Most Important Thing My IVF + Infertility Journey Taught Me…
This process strengthened me in so many ways. It showed me what my spirit + body is capable of! And pregnancy is only continuing all those lessons.
But one more gift that infertility brought me: a deep realization of just how much I truly wanted to be a mom.
I always knew I wanted a baby – but it wasn’t until I had to claw my way towards that goal that I felt the urge so profoundly. And I didn’t just land here, via helicopter or sherpa. I had to dig my fingernails into sharp grey rocks, and climb the jagged-edged face of this infertility mountain.
And today, not even halfway to 39 weeks – I know I’m not there yet. And that’s frightening. I know things could still go wrong. But making it this far, having this little life brewing inside me, is forever something to cherish. And I can only hope, the start of the next chapter of my life.
Thank You to…
- Every friend or family member who showed up for me in various ways these past ten – then three intense – years. thank you.
- YOU, reading this post – allowing me to share and heal – thank you.
- Each reader who left a comment on my initial post or comments something new – continuing the conversation and exchange of experiences and words and kindness — thank you.
- Women everywhere who share their stories – those hard, sad, lesson-teaching, transformative and ever-complicated stories. thank you.
- updated: THANK YOU for all the kind + heart-warming comments on Instagram. Seriously crying from all the love.
- And above all, the MOST IMPORTANT PERSON EVER – thank you to my amazing husband for always being the best support system, partner and future dad that there ever was.
Thank you for the love. The kindness. The empathy. The stories. And the space. — THANK YOU.
Infertility, TTC Resources + Media:
- IVF Success Estimator – CDC
- ART Success Rates – CDC
- KindBody – innovative fertility clinic
- Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology
- RESOLVE.org – Nat’l Infertility Association
Topical Articles – Categories:
- What to Say to Someone Struggling with Infertility – NY Times
- The Lasting Trauma of Infertility – NY Times
- The psychological impact of infertility – Harvard Health
- Infertility is hard to talk about. How the internet makes it harder — and easier – LA Times
- How I Found Joy in my IVF – Mother.ly
- Infertility: Other people’s pregnancies – Harvard Health
- Michelle Obama’s Story with IVF – Wash Post
- Ellen S. Glazer’s Infertility Topics – Harvard Health
- To the Mama TTC – don’t let the internet let you down – Mother.ly
- 5 Infertility Bloggers to Follow – AttainFertility
- Stop Doing These 10 Things – Very Well Family
- The Struggle of Infertility – Liz Marie Blog
You can catch up on my infertility + pregnancy journey right here…