Previously published on AlexandriaStylebook.com, A note from the editor:
On August 11, Britt and Geoff welcomed a baby girl into the world. Their journey began several years ago, and today, Britt bravely opens up about getting to this joyous day. This was written exactly one week before she gave birth.
I sit here, a week before my due date, finally writing an article I promised nearly 18 weeks ago. Honestly, I haven't been motivated to write about how we got here, mostly because I've been so focused on maintaining where we are. But a recent conversation with a great friend and fellow IVF mom made me realize that I need to write this journey down now while it's still fresh.
We were conversing about where I was in the process, and I started the "Do you remember the drug XXX and how it had to go intramuscular?" She looked at me and said, "Honestly, Britt, I've blocked that all out of my mind. I can barely remember any of it." I thought, "Please let that be me one day, too."
I realize the following may be overly technical and not interesting to some readers. Still, I hope by writing this, I'm able to help others struggling with infertility.
Our fertility journey started in May 2018 with our first miscarriage. I was six weeks along. We were devastated, but at the same time, research told us one in four women miscarry with their first child. Our doctor did a saline sonogram (if you've ever had one of these, you know how awful they are!) and found nothing wrong. We got pregnant again shortly after that, in November 2018. I miscarried at seven weeks, and we had our third miscarriage in May 2019. In between and during all three, we did typical fertility 101 testing, genetic reports, thyroid testing, estrogen, FSH, AMH, and Vitamin D, and regularly tested my HCG and progesterone levels. Not a single test showed anything was abnormal.
In August 2019, at the recommendation of my fabulous OB-GYNs, we engaged the help of Shady Grove Fertility. In September, we did our first egg retrieval; 12 eggs were successfully retrieved, and ultimately three eggs passed all genetic testing and were graded AA embryos (the highest quality).
On October 30, 2019, following the standard/generic fertility protocol - monitoring lining, taking estrogen and progesterone, and getting daily injections - we transferred our first prefect grade embryo with the highest of hopes. And seventeen days later, on November 15, I miscarried. If I'm being honest, while they all hurt, this one hurt the most. This one was our perfect embryo, and we followed the perfect bell-curve protocol that has worked on hundreds of thousands of women before me. This is also the one that made me really tune into the fact that something was off and something really must be wrong. This is the one that launched my self-advocacy. This is the one that made me consider alternative medicines and opinions.
What Shady Grove offered as a next step was testing for endometriosis (I tested negative) and what are called ERA cycles. Essentially, this means that you take the entire round of medications and prepare your body for a transfer, but instead of transferring an embryo, they test your lining via a biopsy. Remember, by this point, we had been successfully pregnant four times. We had received high HSG levels, indicating the embryo was implanting. My gut told me something was happening after implantation.
In January 2020, I started seeing doctors at Indigo Health Clinic in Georgetown. This incredible mother/daughter team ran a full panel on me. They did a nutritional evaluation, metabolic markers, element markers, amino acids, fatty acids, adrenal hormone report, antinuclear antibody, hemostasis report, neuro basic profile, Lyme, and thyroid tests. When I went back to review the results with the doctors, the first thing they said to me was, "Have you ever had mono?" and the answer is, yes - I had mono in 1994, in fourth grade. I remember it like it was yesterday. Well, it turns out mono, or EBV, is linked to autoimmune diseases, and children infected with EBV are 50 times more likely to develop Lupus (an autoimmune disease). Additionally, I tested positive for Lyme WB IgG Band 41- which doesn't mean I have been diagnosed with Lymes disease (the CDC requires more than one band to be present for a Lymes diagnosis); however, it is yet another marker of an autoimmune disorder.
Feeling inspired by our new information and preparing for our next transfer, I returned to Shady Grove armed with this new information. Shady Grove basically told me that autoimmune disease and miscarriage are not correlated. I pointed to several studies that suggest otherwise, and after much back and forth, tears, and demands, the doctor finally agreed to SOME changes in standard IVF transfer protocol. And she agreed to add in daily Lovenox injections and 5 mg of Prednisone, also daily.
On June 26, 2020, we transferred our embryo with loads of excitement. We had identified an issue, and we had done things to fix it. This time I actually remained pregnant for almost five whole weeks. Our HCG levels doubled (normal!), we found a heartbeat, and we were out of our minds. On July 23, I had minor bleeding, and Shady Grove was too busy to see me, so I went to see my incredible OB-GYN, who found a large subchorionic hematoma and prescribed bed rest. On July 28, sitting in the Shady Grove office, they found no viable embryo. I thought the floor was falling out from under me. While sobbing my eyes out, the employee at Shady Grove approached me with a pamphlet of information. I opened it to find information on the Shady Grove Surrogacy program. While I'm sure they thought this was helpful and hopeful information, it sent chills down my spine. We walked out of Shady Grove that day and have never been back.
To be continued…