Your cart

Real life

Fertility stories: Katy

Fertility stories: Katy

Katy's story

Hey, I’m Katy - a Healthcare Assistant living in Devon. I’m sharing my story in the hope that it can help others and raise awareness. 

"Like many, we too are on this difficult journey" 

 

My husband and I have been trying to conceive now for five years. We have been together since December 2011, fell pregnant naturally in January 2015 and then married in April 2015, unfortunately two weeks before the wedding, at our 12 week scan we had found out that the baby we went to see for the first time and were very excited about had no heartbeat, we’d had a missed miscarriage this news was devastating for both of us. 

Once the disbelief of what had happened had time to sink in we were in a waiting room sat side by side waiting to discuss the procedure to remove what a few hours earlier we believed would be our child, a very emotional feeling for both of us basically we were in a state of shock that this is happening to us.

Although the pain was horrible we knew we had to keep going and believe it will happen for us, we cannot give up hope and we must do whatever it takes to finally have our baby in the future.

"I knew early on something wasn’t right"

One Year Later

Moving on exactly one year I fell pregnant again, this time I knew early on something wasn’t right, after various investigations and weeks and weeks of scans we had to take yet another loss, this time it was a blighted ovum, again disappointment and anger and again sat in the side room awaiting a procedure to take away our baby, although we suspected the worst early on it was still extremely hard to take and we felt helpless almost feeling it will never happen for us but we had to pick ourselves up and go again, it was clear our journey was going to be a tough one but one we are willing to battle until one day we have our baby.

IVF Community

I started using the IVF blogs after my 2nd miscarriage as we were due to start our own procedure as I wanted to hear other people’s stories and honestly the strength I gained from some of the battles these women had gone through to get their dream was inspiring to me and has given me the determination  to never give up. Given this new found optimism we were ready for our first round of IVF. 

After all our tests we were told it is unexplained infertility and so once the results all came back good we were optimistic about the IVF procedure.

IVF

After no success naturally, we started IVF eighteen months ago and have since had two failed transfers and one chemical pregnancy. We started our third Frozen Embryo Transfer at the end of February, but unfortunately, after three weeks, due to the Covid 19 outbreak we had to stop all of our medication and our cycle was cancelled, which was so frustrating but I look back now and I am thankful because I did get Covid myself which would have been around the time of transfer. 

After months of waiting finally in May we got the go ahead from the health secretary that clinics can apply to reopen. My clinic unfortunately took a little longer but we have now been allowed to start treatment and I am currently in the down regulation phase and all being well we are hoping to transfer our 4th Embryo in August. 

"We are very passionate about breaking the silence of infertility."

The Journey Starts Here

Whilst we awaited our appointment to prepare for our FET attempt we decided we wanted to make this journey a bit more fun and take out (even if it's only for a second) the seriousness and anxiety of it all and that’s when we came up with our IVF socks company, to document each stage of the process. 

We think it’s a fun way to tell your fertility story. We hope it brings couples together and also brings a smile to everyone's face as it’s such a difficult journey. They can make lovely, thoughtful gifts to family and friends or other men and women you know who are also on this journey of trying to conceive. 

Connect with Katy on Instagram @ivf_got_this_uk

Head to the shop on our app to buy some of Katy’s lucky socks or find them here. 10% of every sale goes to Fertility Network UK!

Continue reading

Q&A: what's it really like to freeze your eggs?

Q&A: what's it really like to freeze your eggs?

Egg Freezing has gained popularity in recent years as the go-to option for delayed parenthood.

With increasing numbers of fertility providers now offering the service - in which a woman's eggs are surgically collected then stored and preserved for future use - not to mention companies such as Facebook and Google now offering egg preservation as an employee benefit, the trend looks set to continue.

Continue reading

Fertility Letters: Alex

Fertility Letters: Alex

Dear future mother/mother to be/you/friend I haven’t met yet,

It’s taken eight years to be 100% comfortable with my decision to have a child on my own and three years of IUI and cycles of IVF to be now enjoying a healthy pregnancy. 

Continue reading

Paths to Parenthood: Abi's story

Paths to Parenthood: Abi's story

 

Abi, age 36, co-founder @ The Fertility Circle

2.5 years, before the arrival of Amber, via IVF, in 2018

The start

Everyone’s fertility journey is different and I share mine in the hope that talking opening and honestly about it will make someone else feel like they are not alone. Our journey lasted 2.5 years (which I know is short for a lot of people) but it certainly had its share of rollercoaster moments.

"It's funny because I'd always had this feeling that I was going to struggle to get pregnant."

Of course, everyone told me not to be silly and it would be fine once we started trying. And so it began when I came off the pill. I was quite desperate to get going but my partner was more reluctant believing he had super sperm and I would fall pregnant immediately. Of course, as the months passed and I didn't get pregnant (even despite that super sperm!), I began to feel a negative "I told you so" attitude overtake me.

"I admire people who can roll with it and see what nature brings no matter how long it takes but I’m not one of those people, I wanted answers!"

I pretty quickly went and had various tests to see if we could uncover what was going on. I knew there might be issues because I’d been diagnosed with endometriosis in the past and had already had two laparoscopic surgeries to remove ovarian cysts. It was during this time that I realised that it isn’t always easy to diagnose what’s going on. I had a number of blood tests, some of which told me there was nothing wrong and others which said my hormones were all out of whack. My cycles weren’t awful, they varied in length from 30-45 days and occasionally I would miss a period. I was obsessed with ovulation sticks which told me I was ovulating some months but not others. Even two scans I had within six months showed different results.

The low

As we entered our second year and my cycles seemed to be worsening, I became more desperate. All these people who’d started trying way after me were falling pregnant and I was having to attend baby showers left, right and centre. It didn’t help that my closest circle of girlfriends (bless them) seemed to be the most fertile women on the planet all falling pregnant immediately or by mistake (how is that even possible I thought?!). 

A private doctor recommended surgery to do ovarian drilling for my polycystic ovaries. I dove in head first thinking this might be the answer. During the surgery, he discovered things were a lot worse than expected due to adhesions caused by the previous surgeries I’d had. Both my ovaries were in the wrong place attached either to my womb or my abdominal wall. My right fallopian tube was embedded in my abdominal wall and my left fallopian tube had a large hydrosalpinx (when it becomes distended by fluid). He wasn’t very hopeful for my chances and I left feeling pretty hopeless. The next day I started experiencing severe abdominal pain and ended up in A&E. After 12 excruciating hours in hospital they discovered that my bowel had been mistakenly perforated in the surgery the day before. I was rushed into emergency surgery to remove a portion of my bowel. This left me pretty sick and in hospital for a while as this was then complicated by a bout of sepsis. I think this was my low place. My dreams seemed so far away and I felt that in my desperate quest I’d brought all this on myself. Despite all this there was a moment of complete surrender in hospital and I think this ultimate low was the beginning in a shift in mindset for me.

The change

It took me about four months just to recover properly from the surgery. I spent a long time meditating during this time and I kept getting this feeling that I needed to do something drastic (as if I hadn’t done that already!). Ultimately, this led me to quit my consultancy gig and head to India for four months to do panchakarma (an ayurvedic cleanse and detox). I’d been dabbling with lots of different natural therapies and panchakarma felt like exactly what I needed to cleanse my mind and body of all the stress it had been under. Panchakarma was definitely an unusual experience and I’ll share more in a future post.

When I got back, I took some more time off and we underwent a round of NHS-funded IVF. I feel eternally grateful that this worked for us first time (despite estimated odds of success of about 15%). 

I think unless you’ve been through it no one can understand what it feels like. And, of course, it manifests differently in everyone. For me, it was the inability to control my life (something which I’m normally ok about), and the monthly cycle of hope and desperation, but the worst thing was the fear. Sometimes this fear that it would never happen took hold of me and I just couldn’t shake it.

I got through it by meditating to reduce and manage stress and doing my best to cultivate a positive mindset to manifest what I wanted (this required every trick I knew from the Eastern practices I’d grown to love). Plus I had support from some incredible holistic practitioners who I believe were fundamental to our success (again more about this in a future post).

And finally I feel incredibly grateful for the wonderful people in my life. I couldn’t have gotten through it without my mum, my friends (you know who you are) and, last but not least, my partner who put up with my craziness, obsession and occasional middle-of-the-night rants/cries despite the fact that he was going through the same ordeal.

I knew I wanted to do something to support others in this most emotional of quests. This led me to new studies and I’m looking forward to sharing more of what I’ve learnt about Eastern practices and fertility in the future. Plus, of course, The Fertility Circle was born and my hope is that this is a source of power and comfort for you.

With love and gratitude,

Abi xxx

Continue reading

Paths to Parenthood: Hannah's story

Paths to Parenthood: Hannah's story

Hannah, age 45, co-founder@The Fertility Circle

7 years, via 5 rounds of IVF, including egg donor treatment.  We were successful on our final round and have a 20 month old son

“It never, ever occurred to me that I’d struggle to have a baby"

Anyone could have a child whenever they were ready, couldn’t they? To say I was naïve about my fertility is an understatement.  As a 70s kid I recall a much-hyped ‘sex education’ class: in reality an awkward one-hour session dominated by nervous giggling over some odd-looking drawings in a biology text book.  No word of dwindling egg supply or there being an age when you were quite frankly past it.  

So a combination of busy career and meeting my now-husband later in life meant we didn’t really get started until my mid-30s, by which time my body clock was ticking audibly.

I’d always had heavy and painful periods and by my early 30s started to experience quite debilitating abdominal pain, leading to a couple of emergency hospital admissions and two laparoscopies.  

I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis and also the less-well-known adenomyosis, where rogue tissue grows within the muscle of the abdominal wall itself. 

“The best thing you can do for your endometriosis is to get pregnant.  Oh how I laugh at that now."

Everything else – ovaries, tubes – looked fine, and my gynaecologist actually told me ‘the best thing you can do for your endometriosis is to get pregnant’. Oh how I laugh at that now. After about two years’ trying (I was 38 by now), I was referred by my GP to my local hospital.  All the usual markers of ovarian reserve – FSH, AMH etc – were good and I was offered one free cycle of IVF on the NHS. I was put on a long protocol but as it turns out – lucky me!- I’m very sensitive to hormones, and I had a bad reaction to the drugs. A couple of trips to A&E and an almost-cancelled cycle resulted in just six eggs, three of which made it to day three transfer but it wasn’t looking hopeful and the cycle resulted in a negative test. Because of my age, and because I wasn’t offered any further treatment on the NHS, we had to find a private clinic.  

We swapped to a short protocol and tried again.  This time we got eight eggs: five of them fertilised, which seemed positive, and we transferred two.  Again though, a negative test two weeks later. IVF no3 followed a very similar pattern but by this time my husband and I were working together in Hong Kong.  I was 41 and really beginning to feel desperate. My body clock wasn’t so much ticking now as screaming and I struggled as friends announced their own positive test results.

“Things quickly unraveled as I found myself in A&E with ascites and impaired liver function”

We couldn’t complete a full treatment cycle during our visits back home to London so we had to find a local Hong Kong clinic. 

Success rates were a lot lower, especially in my age bracket, so deep down we didn’t fancy our chances, but needed to keep trying.  ‘Third time lucky’, we kept saying. But things quickly unraveled as I had another bad reaction to a different fertility drug and found myself in A&E with ascites and impaired liver function.  A week in a Hong Kong public hospital later and I was struggling to continue with the stimulation treatment, but I was determined to finish the cycle. Again, the cycle failed, so we returned to our London consultant for advice.  We managed a short protocol for IVF no4 during an extended London visit (I’d confided in my CEO about my fertility struggles by this stage and she was very supportive). As a couple, we’d always been in the ‘unexplained infertility’ bracket, so we chucked everything at this round including endometrial scratch, ICSI and even some advanced sperm and DNA testing for my husband. Just. In. Case.  But again, it resulted in similar egg quantities; average embryo quality and again, the same negative test result.

At this point we were really despairing.  I was getting older and, faced with the diminishing odds of success as a 40-plus woman, we turned to egg donation.  A dear friend in Hong Kong generously offered us her eggs but we decided to use an anonymous donor. Our London clinic worked hard to get us a good match. The only details we were given about our donor were her ethnicity, age, eye, hair colour and build, educational background, and childbearing history.  We saw no photos of our donor but we felt confident in our clinic and decided to go ahead with the first donor they put forward.

“We put two embryos back, crossed our fingers one last time and got on a 12-hour flight back to Hong Kong the next morning”

Our donor was doing an egg share so we only got 50% of her total eggs, and with just seven, it felt a bit like old times again: would they fertilise? Would they make it to transfer? We ended up with three viable embryos in the end.  Two were good-looking blastocysts; the third a poorer-quality embryo. We put two embryos back, crossed our fingers one last time and got on a 12-hour flight back to Hong Kong the next morning. A week later, we were on a staycation in a HK hotel and I started to bleed.  Me and my husband had agreed this really was our final throw of the dice, not least because having spent over £50,000 by now, we’d simply run out of money. I’d been given some drugs in case of a bleed so I took my final injection and prayed. As it turned out, one of the embryos had arrested, hence the bleeding.  But the other one made it. We welcomed our boy into the world in March last year.

So what next? I feel the most overwhelming sense of gratitude for our son but as more and more friends with children the same age start to fall pregnant with number two I feel that familiar pang of things being just out of reach once more. A month off my 45th birthday with no eggs on ice from any of our past cycles means my chance of having any more children is pretty bleak. Fertility is such an odd game though, so perhaps I’ll leave it at this: never say never and watch this space.

Continue reading

Paths to Parenthood: Karen's story

Paths to Parenthood: Karen's story

Karen, age 39, co-founder@The Fertility Circle

3.5 years, 2 rounds of IUI, 5 rounds of IVF, eventually successful through double donation. 

In my twenties and early thirties life was good, everything seemed to be going to plan. I had a successful career, met my partner, got married and we set up a lovely home together. Whilst many of my friends were starting to get pregnant I didn’t feel quite ready for that. But by 34 the time felt right to embark on the next chapter of our lives and to have a family. Just like that ...or so I naively thought! Of course I knew it wasn’t always that straightforward but never in my wildest dreams did I think we would become “that couple”. 

Quite quickly I got pregnant naturally. Amazing, right? Well that’s what I thought, especially as I’d had what I thought was my period and yet, two weeks later, I was still getting positive test results. Turns out I was actually having an early miscarriage. This was the start of a painful and familiar pattern.

“I picked myself up and went full steam into fertility mode”

Although the first miscarriage hit me hard I did take from it some positives. I was able to get pregnant naturally;  we’d only been trying for a short time and I knew a lot of people who’d had the misfortune to miscarry but had then gone on to have successful pregnancies. I picked myself up and went full steam ahead into fertility mode. I researched and read up on anything I could about how to naturally increase fertility. I found a wonderfully supportive fertility acupuncturist, I tried meditating (but mostly fell asleep!), I did fertility detoxes, yoga, you name it I probably tired it. I even had my husband on a similar regime. He was having maca smoothies, spirulina shots, goji berry and brazil nut snacks as an after dinner treat plus handfuls of vitamins each day. He’d come home from work wondering what concoctions I’d present to him that night.

After a few months of giving it our all with no signs of any positive tests we decided to investigate things further. There then followed a year of tests and appointments. Somewhat patronisingly, three different doctors gave me the “you’re young, you have plenty of time, it will happen” speech. But then all the basic testing for both me and my partner suggested everything was normal. So why wasn’t it working?!

After two failed rounds of IUI (the first didn’t work and the second was a possible chemical pregnancy), we were extremely fortunate to be eligible for one round of NHS-funded IVF.  Things were looking good: I had 13 eggs collected. 10 of those fertilised so we continued to feel optimistic. I’d read that typically 50% of fertilised eggs will make it to Day 5 so with 10 in the bag I thought we were guaranteed something. On Day 2 all the embryos were showing signs of fragmentation but we were told sometimes that can happen. On Day 3 we were called to go for a transfer. We arrived at the hospital to be told that we had no good quality embryos but they would transfer two (the best of a bad bunch) just on the off chance. We were devastated. I resigned myself to the fact that it would be unsuccessful and spent the two week wait researching our next steps. It was a shock when at four weeks I actually had a positive pregnancy test, I just hadn’t believed it would work. However, the excitement was short-lived when I began bleeding a few days later and miscarried.

 “This time it was worse.  We had 11 eggs: 9 fertilised, but all started to fragment on Day 2 and by Day 3 there was nothing viable to transfer”

 

I wanted to know what had gone wrong and what could have caused the high rates of embryo fragmentation. The embryologist suggested that it may be an egg quality issue but the doctor assured me that due to age and my hormone results showing normal levels that I had no reason to think that. I did a lot of my own research and spent hours trawling the internet to find stories of people who’d experienced something similar to see what they’d done and what their outcome was. The little information I did manage to find on this suggested it was due to poor egg quality. Armed with my research and results from our first IVF we sought the opinion of a private clinic. Again reassured it was unlikely to be an egg quality issue we were advised to try ICSI for round 2 to see if we would get a better outcome. We didn’t. This time it was worse. We had 11 eggs: 9 fertilised, but all started to fragment on Day 2, and by Day 3 there was nothing viable to transfer.

Back to the clinic for more tests and this time further investigations for my partner. At this point with no definite answers it was all still very much trial and error. Our options were to try:

1) my eggs with donor sperm,

2) my partner’s sperm with donor eggs, or, 

3) double donation of both eggs and sperm. 

We faced some very emotional and tough decisions (I’ll share more about this in a future story) but opted to try things in that order.

IVF 3 with my eggs and donor sperm produced similar results to previous rounds with high rates of embryo fragmentation. I did get pregnant this time but sadly at 9 weeks I had a scan which showed I had a missed miscarriage resulting in me having an ERPC. Having used donor sperm this result confirmed that I had an egg quality issue and going forward egg donation would give us our best chance of success. 

The wait to be matched with a donor was tough. One of the most frustrating things for me throughout this whole process was the waiting and lack of control. From one appointment to the next or the wait between treatments it would feel like torture. I was so aware of each day, week, month ticking by that I still wasn’t pregnant and there was nothing I could do to change that. 

“We were tired of experimenting and tired of the failures. This was the best possible chance for us to have a family”

When we were finally matched with an amazingly selfless donor (who gave us one of  the most wonderful gifts anyone can give), we’d had such a long wait we thought we’d use half the eggs with my partner’s sperm and the other half with donor sperm. Surely this would lead to success? The clinic suggested that if the donor produced a low number of eggs we might want to consider putting all our eggs in one basket (!). If it was a low number and we split the batch we might have less chance of success. We decided that if we got 14 eggs we would split between my partner and the donor and any less we would just use the donor’s. We got 13 eggs! It was devastating because my partner then never got the chance to find out if it would have worked for him but by this point we felt desperate. We were tired of experimenting and tired of the failures. This was the best possible chance for us to have a family.

Using double donors resulted in six great quality blastocysts. We’d never had anything make it that far before so it finally felt like things were looking up. I had one transferred and the rest were frozen. Again I became pregnant and this time we thought the outcome would surely be different. It wasn’t. I miscarried at six weeks and was distraught. I started to think that as well as my known egg issue perhaps my body just wasn’t up to the job.  At the same time as miscarrying I ended up in hospital unable to walk with a prolapsed disc requiring back surgery. I was a complete mess both emotionally and physically and felt I couldn’t take much more. Up until this point I had been able to keep pushing forward each time by focussing on the next steps to get me through. Unable to consider treatment again until I’d healed I was forced to take a break for a few months. Frustrated with yet more waiting I now realise I needed that time to recharge. However, five months later I was ready to try again so we had a frozen embryo transfer which finally led to success!!!!! 

What a journey we had and with so many bumps in the road. It may not have been the route we’d planned to take but I feel so fortunate and blessed that our wish to have a family finally came true.  Xxx

 

Continue reading

Paths to Parenthood: Tanya's story

Paths to Parenthood: Tanya's story

 

Tanya, age 42, one failed IUI and 3 rounds of IVF

In all my reading up on IVF, I think I can truly say there was not one article that opened with the line: “The fantastic thing about facing fertility as you get older is….”

Well here it is.  Time to break the mould.

The fantastic thing about facing fertility as you get older is it is your own journey.  It can’t be replicated by anyone but you, as you hold the keys to it.  It may be easy, it may be hard. But it’s yours to remember, pass on if you choose to others - to help them - and most of all, no matter what the outcome, remember every journey leads somewhere.  It may not be the somewhere you thought, but I think we have to take from it what we can and remember life is short so however the journey has come to you, embrace it.

Too much overzealous positivity or zen spiritual outlook in one paragraph for you?  Well let’s take my journey.

"Enjoy marriage for a year, travel, try carelessly naturally, baby will come, right?"

Married at 37 to the man I'd decided couldn't possibly exist, but truly did, and the man who I could finally imagine the whole “having a family” thing with and what it might be like.  We talked about natural conception and adoption openly and freely, opting to try naturally.   Enjoy marriage for a year, travel, try carelessly naturally, baby will come, right? Not exactly.  Enjoy marriage yes, travel yes, lots of try carelessly, and... nothing.

It’s a hard one for any woman opting for the natural path, as I think it’s always assumed pregnancy will come easy, and when it doesn’t it takes a bit to open up and ask what should I do or what doctor or what clinic should I go to?

There are a ton of resources, friends, articles -  it can be overwhelming - but support is there.  I think here I insert for advice:   use those resources and be vocal to friends, it’s okay.  I wish someone would have said that to me.  I had my amazing husband, sister, and best friend, but there were more resources to use, more people to listen.

"If you don't feel 100% ready, it's okay not to be 100% ready for IVF"

Why I say it’s your journey…I didn’t start with IVF immediately.  I flushed my tubes, and then did IUI.  I wasn’t ready for IVF.  The doctor that did the IUI, prior to doing it, strongly advised against it and recommended IVF instead.   But I wasn’t ready.  I say that with emphasis as yes, we women face a ticking time clock as we get older, but we are also our fabulous selves who have reached this point in life with fulfilling careers, diverse educational backgrounds, and other wonderful traits.  If you don’t feel 100% ready, it’s okay not to be 100% ready for IVF.   I’m not going to say after failed IUI and 2 rounds of failed IVF my husband and I didn’t bring up (repeatedly) the doctor who recommended IVF immediately.  You do tend to look back at the 'what if’s?' if your path tends to be rocky on your journey. But I also made myself look forward, and during that time my husband and I still had a wonderful life together, with families and friends and careers and travels, despite the failures of fertility occurring in my life.

When IVF round 3 worked with my son, I do know that if I had listened to that doctor I wouldn’t have him and to that, I hold high my glass and toast my journey to date.

For your fertility journey if the outcome is no baby, one baby, multiple babies, adoption, or maybe even fostering…stop and remember:  no matter how hard the path,  always remember it’s your journey, and the outcome will be as equally beautiful as you.

Continue reading

Paths to Parenthood: Alex's story

Paths to Parenthood: Alex's story

Alex was diagnosed with azoospermia. Alex and his partner are now parents to a daughter conceived with the help of donor sperm.

 

My path to parenthood was not at all what I expected. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a dad. I was always good with kids, it just came pretty naturally to me. Part of that may be because I have two younger sisters, plus two younger cousins that grew up on the same street as us. It always sort of felt like I was the oldest of five, which often meant helping out with the younger kids. As I got older and had more cousins and a niece being born, it was quite often I had people tell me I would make a great dad. It honestly felt like a life calling of some kind, one I never imagined would be in jeopardy. 

My wife and I met when we were 16, dated through the last two years of high school and all of college, and got married at 23. Since we had already been together 7 years, the plan was to have children pretty quickly. We started traveling and enjoying married life, and eventually decided to wait a few more years. As we approached our 5 year anniversary, we decided it was time to start trying. 

"Each month that passed caused more and more stress in our lives"

 

My wife is a teacher, and we were naive enough to believe we could time a pregnancy perfectly to align with her summer break. After a few months we realized that wouldn’t be the case, but thought “oh well, we can announce our pregnancy at the holidays!” Wrong again. Each month that passed caused more and more stress in our lives. My wife was becoming increasingly triggered by things like pregnancy announcements, baby showers, and birthday parties. As we approached one year of trying to conceive, my wife asked her OBGYN for some additional testing to try and identify any possible reason why we weren’t succeeding. After everything seemed normal, the doctor suggested that I get tested. To be honest, I thought it was a little ridiculous. I had spent months consoling and reassuring my wife, telling her “it will happen eventually, it hasn’t been that long.” I honestly believed that, and only agreed to get tested to hopefully give her some peace of mind. 

The night my results came in is one I will never forget. My wife received the call while waiting for me to finish a meeting, and when I returned to the car she was sobbing. She broke the news to me: there were zero sperm. Zero?! Zero. My jaw was on the floor, I was completely speechless. We called the doctor together and I asked lots of questions. How does this even happen? Wouldn’t I have known? Could it be a mistake? Do we have any hope? What do we do now? 

"Varicoceles are very common and can sometimes cause infertility in men"

 

We quickly scheduled a re-test, which confirmed the zero count. We also did blood work to rule out any genetic disorders or hormonal deficiencies that would cause infertility, and everything looked normal. We then met with a urologist who specialized in infertility. I learned that the absence of sperm is broadly called azoospermia, though it can have a variety of causes. During my initial visit with him, he noted the presence of a varicocele, which he suggested be surgically repaired. Varicoceles are very common and can sometimes cause infertility in men. He seemed fairly confident and believed that this would give us the best odds of ever finding sperm. Since there wasn’t any other obvious explanation for my azoospermia, we were fairly hopeful that this could be our solution. 

After the surgery, we had to wait six months for the follow up appointment. At this point we had already been trying for over a year, and six more months felt like forever. But what choice did we have? We spent that six months grieving, traveling, daydreaming about getting good news, and discussing alternative options should we receive bad news. On the day before Thanksgiving in 2017, we finally had our follow up appointment. The urologist walked in and said “Ok so you know there’s still zero sperm, right?” I was devastated. Thinking back on that day still puts my stomach in knots. I had been trying to prepare myself for the worst, but it still broke me. 18 months and a surgery later, we were still no closer to having a child. 

Immediately after breaking that news to us, the urologist suggested a possible micro-TESE procedure. For that surgery, he would make an incision and try to manually extract sperm with a microscopic needle to be directly injected into an egg. He said there weren’t great odds, and it would be expensive, but that it was our last remaining option if I wanted biological children. We went home, fake smiled through the holidays, and weighed our options. After lots of research and discussion with my wife and our doctors, we eventually decided that micro-TESE wasn’t for us. That meant saying goodbye to my genetics, and grieving the loss of the child we couldn’t have. 

"Eventually, we both felt ready to move forward again"

 

We needed to allow time for that grief, and honestly to try to find happiness again. We gave ourselves a year to seek counseling, travel, and come up with a plan. We started to open up to friends and family about our situation, and even met people who had been through the exact same thing. After feeling alone for a very long time, we started to feel supported and understood. Eventually, we both felt ready to move forward again. 

One thing that my wife and I both really wanted was for her to be pregnant. Pregnancy and childbirth was such a major part of the experience we had always dreamed of. For us, that meant using donor sperm. We searched through several major cryobank websites and compared donors. I made a spreadsheet to track all of their medical histories, interests, physical traits and more. We selected a donor, purchased his last four vials, and started preparing for medicated IUI cycles. After our second IUI, we had our first ever positive pregnancy test! 

Our greatest wish came true when in February we welcomed our perfect baby girl into the world. It took us four years and an unexpected path to find success, but I would do it all again to get to her.

If you have any questions or would like to connect with Alex you can find him on Instagram @pursuingfatherhood where he provides valuable support to the fertility community.

Continue reading
  • Page 1 of 2