Fertility Blog

Andy and Susan Nelson

Now it is December 2010 and we’re nearing the end of a blissfully uneventful pregnancy. Our baby boy is due to arrive on New Year’s Eve! It looks like our story will have a happy ending, but I don’t need to tell you how difficult the journey has been. Instead, I’m going to try to share a little bit about how we got through it all, in the hopes that it might give you some ideas or a new perspective for your own experience.

First, Andy and I knew we wanted to be parents. We absolutely knew it would happen for us, one way or another. Although our first preference was to have “our own” child, it was only a preference. We both knew that if IVF did not work out for us with my own eggs, we would go the route of an egg donor. If necessary, we knew we would move to adoption. Starting a family was our priority and our dream. We believed that whatever baby came into our lives, that baby would undoubtedly be the baby we were meant to parent, and we would love our baby no matter what. Have you ever heard the Buddhist saying, “Don’t be attached to any particular outcome”? It became one of our mantras and allowed us to stay focused on the big picture plan, as opposed to the various routes or paths that might be part of that overall plan.

Teamwork was another essential element of our journey. I’m lucky because Andy is very detail-oriented, patient, and he was completely on board with the program. I’m more emotional. I have a short attention span, I like information in summary format, and I can manage a calendar like nobody’s business. We make a great team because I could endure the shots and stay on top of all those doctor appointments, but keeping track of the drugs, the dosages, the ordering—that was all Andy. At first, I worried that we would run out of a drug that we’d need, and we wouldn’t realize it until it was too late. However, thinking like that made me nuts. Soon we developed a system where Andy managed all the prescriptions and ordering, he prepped my needles with the right dosages, and he tracked what we were supposed to do each day. I did my own injections and dealt with the side effects. Those were our roles. I didn’t want to have to think about the details. By relying on Andy to “manage the minutia,” I was able to stay more relaxed and less stressed.

Finally, I had an epiphany that, in order for this process to be successful, I’d have to stop expecting infertility to somehow fit into my life. I don’t know about you, but I was pretty overwhelmed by all we had on our plates. At first, I was trying to squeeze in my appointments with PFC and with my fertility acupuncturist, while maintaining a calendar filled with dinners with friends, a busy work schedule, and a significant amount of travel. It’s no surprise that I was tired and stressed out, but I also became very resentful. I was seeing a fertility acupuncturist on a weekly basis, yet I was annoyed that she recommended I take herbs and make changes to my diet. I was frustrated as I tried to find time for all the appointments at PFC. Then, one night I was crying and sharing my frustrations with Andy, and he helped me see things differently. He said that none of this was going to work if I didn’t fully embrace what we were doing. I had to take the herbs with a positive attitude and whole-heartedly believe in the power of both eastern and western medicines. Otherwise, what was the point in going through it all? I realized that my bad attitude could have the power to neutralize all we were doing and I had to shift my mindset, accept that this was our path, and surrender to the process. I created a big opening in my life so that there would be space for the infertility and all the energy it would take to tackle it. I stopped traveling, dramatically reduced my social commitments, and spent much more time resting and “nesting” at home. This was really difficult for me as an extrovert, but it became so much easier to make the right decisions and to more graciously accept what was required of me.

The last thing I would like to mention is that we were not secretive or private about our challenges with infertility. I’m used to being pretty open with my friends, and I think it helped us to reach out to people for support during our ups and downs. One friend in particular, who had gone through her own IVF process, was reading some message boards online and found out about a new form of preimplantation genetic testing that she thought might be helpful to us. We brought it up to Dr. Chenette and he was happy to give it a try since our prior IVF rounds produced seemingly good embryos, but failed to result in a viable pregnancy. So, on our 3rd round of IVF, on day 3 we had 12 great looking embryos. PFC biopsied all 12 and Gene Security Network ran a full analysis of all 23 sets of chromosomes. On day 5 we showed up to transfer the best ones. We were excited because we would know which embryos were genetically viable and which were not. As we waited to see Dr. Givens, we wondered whether we would have 2 or 3 embryos to transfer. But when Dr. Givens entered the procedure room, we could tell something was wrong. We were told that all 12 of our embryos were genetically defective and none were viable for transfer. Worse yet, because all of them possessed defects from the maternal chromosomes, it was recommended that we stop trying to conceive with my eggs and to think about alternative paths. It seemed that this path had come to an end. None of our embryos were good and there was no point in trying to make any more. The news was devastating for us.

Andy and I went to a dark place for a few weeks. But I’m happy to say that after talking and crying and praying about our situation, we came out of the darkness fully ready to embrace the process with an egg donor as soon as possible. But first, we wanted to do the same preimplantation genetic testing on the 4 frozen embryos we had saved from our 2nd round of IVF. As expected, 3 of those embryos were genetically defective, just like the 12 from our 3rd round of IVF. But, we also experienced a miracle: one of those embryos was a genetically perfect boy. He was my last hope to have a baby with my own genetic make-up. Amazingly, he survived the freeze and the thaw, and survived the biopsy for the testing. We transferred him in April and today I hit 37 weeks of pregnancy. He is now considered full term and we are excited to meet him soon!

So, that’s our story. I know we all have one. Andy and I wish you the very best as you pursue parenthood and aim to build your family in whatever way makes sense for you.

~Andy and Susan Nelson

Update:

“Our son was born on 12/30/10 at 12:20 am. His name is Boden, he weighed 6 lbs. 15 oz. at birth, was 20” long, and is completely healthy.”

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