When I was 38, my wife and I decided to have a baby. My initial efforts to conceive were via Kaiser Permanente. We used a sperm donor from the Sperm Bank of California. I had three IUIs, in the summer of 2010, the winter of 2010, and the spring of 2011. I got pregnant each time. Initially I was absolutely confident in my body's ability to nurture a baby, and when I lost the first pregnancy at 7 weeks, I was utterly surprised and disappointed. The second pregnancy only barely got off the ground; I believe that pregnancy lasted only to 5 weeks--just after my missed period. After each of the first two miscarriages, my Kaiser doctor urged me to be optimistic; statistics say that after two miscarriages, the next pregnancy will go to term. So I did a third IUI. That pregnancy lasted a little over 8 weeks. I didn't spontaneously miscarry; at my first ultrasound, my doctor told me there was no heartbeat and no embryo, only a placenta. I took medication to induce a miscarriage over a weekend, but the medication's effect was sluggish, and I did not actually miscarry until the middle of the next week. (The apex of the cramping came on the same day I had a job interview--that's exactly what I was trying to avoid by inducing the miscarriage over the weekend. Happily, I still got the job.)
After the third miscarriage, my Kaiser doctor was abruptly less optimistic. She suggested I consider IVF. I clearly had eggs firing at each ovulation, but it was probable that the integrity of those eggs was not uniform. She felt that I would probably eventually have a successful pregnancy with IUI, but that I might have many more miscarriages along the way while I waited to get lucky and ovulate a sound egg.
Our insurance did not cover IVF. And from the beginning of the process of trying to get pregnant, I vowed that I would not use such an invasive, expensive procedure. I had done some reading about how women trying to conceive have a hard time putting a limit on their spending and their physical and emotional suffering. I thought that if I decided to do IVF, I was in danger of being so driven to have a baby that I would drain our bank account, tax my body and test my marriage. That scared me. During the spring and summer of 2011, while I was adjusting to my new job, I decided to concentrate on that and take a break from even thinking about getting pregnant. I tried to enjoy everything I could about not being pregnant. I drank wine, I ate sushi, I went rollerblading. I ran and hiked and bought clothes that I would not fit into if my stomach stuck out one centimeter beyond where it was. I celebrated my good marriage and strong friendships. I did not take my temperature every morning. I reconnected with everything positive about a childfree life--and there is a lot of joy in my life--before I made a choice about how much further I would go to have a baby.
At the end of the summer, I was ready to try IVF. I decided that I would do one IVF cycle and carefully re-evaluate if it didn't work. But I felt more at peace about whatever the outcome would be. And my time away from trying to conceive made me realize that I didn't have an unlimited number of miscarriages in me--emotionally I was not willing to be in baby limbo forever. I realized that the intrusiveness of IVF, as well as the cost, was worth it for me to avoid the experience of countless further miscarriages--I really saw a different cost-benefit breakdown than I had before.
I wish I could tell you that I carefully researched fertility clinics and made an informed decision to choose Pacific Fertility--here's the truth. I contacted another clinic, and I found their information on pricing utterly incomprehensible, and their support staff did not enlighten me. Pacific Fertility, on the other hand, responded adequately to my initial requests. Plus, PFC was very close to my work.
But I am so happy PFC was the clinic we chose. The staff and doctors were always available to answer questions throughout the process, including assessing whether or not we should stay with the same sperm donor and deciding how many embryos to implant. Everyone was incredibly professional and warm. The care of the entire team was excellent. Finally, and importantly, PFC is obviously at the cutting edge of fertility treatments. A friend of ours who had IVF in Manhattan the previous year was only able to get 3-day embryo growth and no genetic testing, and she had FIVE embryos implanted at one time to produce just one successful birth. But PFC grew our embryos to six days and genetically tested them. We implanted one six-day-old embryo, and that one embryo grew into our baby girl Georgia.
Dr. Schriock was our doctor at PFC. He clearly enjoys his job. He's a practitioner and a researcher--he enjoys being able to help his patients, and he also enjoys thinking creatively to come up with new ways to overcome infertility. I advise any prospective patients to be alert for the initial appointment--Dr. Schriock talks fast. He was optimistic about my potential to use my own eggs, which was important to me. At our appointment to assess my follicles, we found they were happily bumping along, pointing to developing eggs. We also decided that it was worth the money to undergo genetic testing, again based on the theory that many of my eggs were capable of being fertilized, but that they were not viable. So genetic testing would further ensure that we picked viable eggs. The counseling, like all our PFC experiences, was great.
The next step was the fertility meds. They were expensive, and giving myself shots was unpleasant, but I got used to it. The meds did make me a bit depressed and slow. Not to mention bloated and crabby. I won't lie, it freaked me out that I was messing so much with my body's chemistry--imagined or not, I really did not feel like myself. I was on the edge of overstimulation. Dr. Schriock and the PCF team kept lowering the dosage levels to avoid this. But I never got to a dangerous level, and I was able to continue to egg retrieval.
PFC was incredibly organized about retrieval, and everything ran more smoothly than any other medical procedure I've ever experienced. We were so impressed with everyone who attended us during that procedure. PFC retrieved 31 eggs from me. We were thrilled.
After six days, 15 of the 31 eggs had survived and were suitable for genetic testing. The genetic testing showed that 7 embryos were of good genetic quality. We decided we wanted to know the sex of the embryos, something that PFC allows (some clinics don't). We had 5 female and 2 male embryos.
We froze all of them. My body needed time to recover from retrieval and the effects of the fertility medications. The next decision was how many embryos to transfer. I've heard stories about transfer of several embryos leading to multiple births. But Dr. Schriock didn't recommend transfer of multiple embryos; even before we expressed concern, he gave his recommendation for transfer of only one embryo based on its survival for six days and the strong genetic test results. We chose to transfer one of the girls; two weeks later, PFC tested my blood and confirmed that I was pregnant.
After so many miscarriages, it took a long time for me to believe that I was really going to have a baby. My wife and I held ourselves distant from the pregnancy well into the second trimester; it was hard to let ourselves feel hopeful. But the weeks kept passing and I stayed pregnant. And after reality finally hit, I loved being pregnant. I felt healthy and beautiful, even after my feet swelled up, even after I had grown out of most of my maternity clothes. After our long process to get pregnant, the pregnancy flew by, and on August 2, 2012, our daughter Georgia was born at Kaiser Oakland. She is the most gorgeous baby I have ever seen.
I'm so thankful I chose IVF and that I did it at PFC. I truly believe that PFC is right on the leading edge of fertility techniques, and that we benefitted directly from that. The process is expensive; there's no getting around it. But I feel that the money we spent was money well spent. As I write this, my seven-week old daughter is gazing at me from her swing; she is grunting and making baby noises (she's either interacting or working on a bowel movement--it's unclear which), and we're totally in love. We are so grateful to everyone at PFC for helping us to create our family.