My story by Julie

My husband and I wanted to start a family shortly after getting married. There was never a doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a mother. I imagined my little family and a wonderful future

I met with my OBGYN a few months after we started trying to conceive and expressed my concerns regarding my age, which was 35 at the time. My doctor told me not to worry and encouraged me to continue trying, reassuring me that she’d just had a baby at 40.  A couple of months later, intuition told me to press for testing and I met with my OBGYN again, she tested my hormones while referring me to the in-office fertility specialist to pursue IUI. We attempted IUI (intrauterine insemination) once and did not have success. During the process, I met with the fertility specialist to review my lab results and was absolutely shocked to receive a diagnosis of DOR (Diminish Ovarian Reserve).

I was diagnosed with the disease of infertility. My husband and I were 1 in 8 couples who had trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy

There were a number of tests confirming my DOR. A woman’s ovarian reserve refers to the quality and quantity of her eggs, and DOR means those factors are decreasing. Age is the primary cause of DOR, however, it can be caused by other factors such as genetics, some medical treatments and injury. AMH (Anti Mullerian Hormone) blood levels are thought to reflect the “ovarian reserve”, meaning the remaining egg supply. Unfortunately, my level was undetectable. Additionally, another test which confirmed the DOR was my Antral Follicle Count. During an ultrasound, a doctor views the ovaries and counts the number of activated follicles, which is a number used to further estimate a woman’s total ovarian reserve. My total number was less than 5.

I vividly remember sitting in my doctor’s office – papers piled on his desk, the photo of his wife and children in the corner…sunlight beaming through the windows. We discussed my results and that he thought it best I see a RE (Reproductive Endrocrinologist) for IVF. My husband was not there for that appointment as the gravity weighed in.

I left through the office that day in tears; I couldn’t hold back the sobbing as I ran through the lobby. Later that week, we found and RE and began the process.

Infertility feels invasive

It is difficult to explain the process of going from a “regular person” to an infertility patient. As an infertility patient, you are examined beyond belief. You feel like a science project and a pin cushion. Any form of modesty goes out the window. You enter a world of many tests, unknowns and questions. Control and predictable outcomes are impossible.

Infertility is expensive

I live in the United States and most states in the US do not mandate infertility insurance coverage. We were in a state that did not require coverage and our insurance did not cover it. This left the financial burden on our shoulders, as we paid out of pocket to treat this disease.

Our RE recommended 2 back to back IVF egg retrievals in order to retrieve as many eggs as we could, as time was of the essence with my diagnosis. After months of delays, additional tests and minor complications, we completed 2 retrievals. The 2 retrievals resulted in 2 total eggs and 2 embryos.

Infertility can be isolating

While going through our IVF cycles, my husband and I reluctantly fell into a new reality. A world of isolation and self-protection. Our friends didn’t understand what we were going through, the outside world became extremely triggering. It was very difficult for me to be around children, it was painful to see photos of other people’s children and it was unbearably hard to receive news of pregnancy announcements. This type of pain is so deep that many couples going through infertility often avoid certain social situations as a way of coping.

Infertility is sisterhood

Thankfully I found a wonderful support group in my local area. I met women who got it, they understood this path. I met women who I am still friends with today, years later.

IVF is not a guarantee

We proceeded with 2 single embryo transfers. The first failed and the second resulted in a miscarriage. The miscarriage took my husband and I to a level of pain that was beyond what we’d experienced to that point. Not only had we lost a pregnancy, but we were back at square one with no remaining embryos.

We did not know if or when we would have a baby with my eggs. We were depleted in many aspects but still had such a strong wish to become parents. After soul searching and considering our options, we both made the decision to move forward with egg donation.

It is not easy to reconcile with the loss of one’s own genetics, there is no playbook on how to process the realization that you will never visually see yourself or your family in your child. However painful the loss of that dream was, the idea of becoming a parent through egg donation gave us a renewed sense of hope that we would become parents.

We selected a donor a few weeks later and our experience with the egg donation process was very smooth. A few short months later we transferred one beautiful embryo who is now the light of our life. It was not an easy path to be called Mommy and Daddy, but there is not one day that goes by we aren’t thankful for the gift of egg donation which helped build the family we dreamed of all of those years ago as bright-eyed newlyweds.

Infertility is life changing

I am not the same person I was before my diagnosis, but I am not defined by my diagnosis. I have taken a disease and turned it into a passion. In effort to help my own family and others, I wrote Happy Together, a collection of heartwarming books to help introduce young children to the family building concepts of IVF, egg donation, sperm donation and embryo donation. Children and parents love the heartwarming words and bright, cheerful illustrations!

My hope is through advocacy and awareness, infertility and various family building stories will be more openly discussed.

With love, Julie x

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