My husband Noah and I started trying to get pregnant when I turned 30. We’d been together for ten years by that point, married for two, and the timing seemed right. We assumed a decent bottle of wine and a well-timed wild night would do the trick, but we were wrong. Month after month we were wrong and each month brought me a little farther into panic mode. I followed my OB/GYN’s advice and used ovulation test strips and took Clomid, but couldn’t quite bring myself to follow orders to “just relax.”
After almost two years of trying and failing, we started documenting our process with the idea that maybe we would make a short film about in vitro fertilization (IVF) (Read further: An Intro to In Vitro Fertilization process), because it seemed like we were likely headed in that direction. We thought it would be helpful to others who were struggling in isolation at the dreary place I call Infertility Island. We could never have imagined the extensive “journey” we would embark on to create a family, or that we’d make a feature-length film chronicling said journey that helps to answer the question of where babies come from when the old-fashioned way doesn’t work.
Some Babies Come From a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE)
When we entered the world of infertility, I was 32-year-old infertility amateur. I didn’t know anything about the very technical details of how conception actually worked. I didn’t know about the various tests that could be done to measure ovarian reserve and uterine functioning. I didn’t know all the assisted reproductive options, but I learned about them very quickly. My tests showed I had diminished ovarian reserve (DOR), which meant my egg count was low and my egg quality was questionable. The massive amount of hormones I was on combined with intrauterine inseminations (IUI) (Read further: How Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) Works) amounted to nothing but bad skin and a few extra pounds around my hips. The first round of in vitro fertilization (IVF) also left us empty-handed. After extensive, meticulous preparation, we had no embryos to transfer.
Though many people are successful with IUIs and several rounds of IVF, this was simply the first stop for us, and we ended up spending close to four years and God knows how much money with our RE.
The miracle of science is that these doctors can take tiny cells from each partner’s body, smash them together and create human life, but the reality of science is that it has its limitations and there are no guarantees.
Some Babies Come From Another Person’s Body
Our next stop was donor eggs. While we wanted to do another round of IVF, our doctor explained to us that we would likely “checkmate” ourselves and deplete our resources. Our chances of IVF being successful using my eggs were slim, and our financial limitations were critical. When my younger sister (who is a brilliant, beautiful doctor) offered to donate her eggs, I felt I hit the jackpot. While I still had to mourn the loss of my genetic contribution to my potential child and wrap my head around the whole concept, I felt very lucky to have a sane sister who was willing to do this for me. So we did. And we got to our first transfer day, where three decent looking embryos were transferred into my uterus on day 3. And after the dreaded two week wait we found out that nothing implanted. We were crushed.
Had it worked we would have been among the hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. who have been able to conceive using a donor. We live in a time where the old-fashioned sometimes seems kind of old-fashioned. And if a person is open to receiving help from others, whether through egg, sperm or embryo donation, surrogacy or adoption they can rethink the meaning of family and embrace the alternative third party ways a family can come together.
Some Babies Come From Your Heart
When I “found” the donated embryo (spoiler alert) that resulted in our daughter, something in my heart knew this was it. Nothing had made much sense to us during our very long stay on Infertility Island, but by the time we got to embryo donation, something just felt right. I had spent so long fighting and resenting what we had to do to make a baby that I wasn’t always able to connect to my heart. Deep down, I knew that where our baby came from didn’t matter. I knew we wanted to parent and have a family. I knew I really wanted the opportunity to carry. I knew genetics were just a small piece of what would be a lifetime of love and learning. I knew that any baby that landed in my arms would be mine. In 2015 I gave birth to our daughter conceived via embryo donation. That moment was the end of our tumultuous “journey to parenthood,” and the beginning of the rest of our lives.
These pit stops are what we show in our film, One More Shot, along with interviews with many others who have created a family in alternative ways. Because, thankfully, there are several ways of making a baby when the old-fashioned way doesn’t work. Perhaps there’s even one more, The Stork. If anyone has his number please send it my way. We’ve been working to transfer baby number two, the genetic embryo match to our daughter, and we’ve hit some roadblocks along the way. Tell the stork to hit me up on twitter.