We have some exciting news to start out 2022… Steph and Aaron are thrilled to announce they’re expecting a baby in July! Steph shared their personal infertility journey below.
We’ve sat through a storm over the past few years to get to this point, and it’s important to me to share it because going through infertility and loss can be so lonely and isolating. I was buried in shame, heartbreak, sadness…you name it. I had no idea so many people go through this, and a big reason is that it just isn’t talked about. I definitely didn’t want to talk about it, so I get it, but I want others to know they’re not alone and this is a conversation that needs to be normalized.
Within the first year of trying, we had an early loss that was devastating. I started going to regular appointments, lots of blood work, scans, ultrasounds, testing and during that time everything came back normal, so we had no real answers. I tried “not to stress” …minimizing alcohol, changing my diet, acupuncture, getting away on a couple’s trip…all the things people will tell you to try that just don’t feel helpful, and for me, they weren’t.
Around Christmas time last year my OBGYN gave us the option of surgery as sort of a last effort since we’d been trying for over a year with no answers. What a way to start the New Year…a laparoscopy and hysteroscopy was how I kicked off 2021. The surgery would at least give us answers and there was a possibility of fixing the problem, so we had to try it.
I remember being at home by the time I finally asked my husband how it went. I still remember how sad he looked when he answered “sweetheart, you have scar tissue blocking your tubes and they tried to repair it but weren’t able to…. I’m sorry.” Cue the silent tears. Now what…
We were referred to a few IVF clinics and after recovering from surgery I was ready to see what that process would entail. I had no idea what I was in for, but I was happy that we had a direction to go in.
Even If you’ve never had to look into it, you probably still know that IVF is very expensive and rarely covered by even the best insurance policies. This will add an extra layer of difficulty to almost anyone’s already difficult situation. Tens of thousands of dollars, but where there’s a will…there’s a way.
In April we met with Dr. Moghadam at Austin Fertility Institute. This was the third and final IVF clinic we had spoken to, and our gut said this was the one. It’s important to proceed with a place that makes you feel comfortable and well taken care of and AFI checked all the boxes. I also have to mention that the team was excellent, and Nurse Amy not only became a good friend, she was also my go-to for all the questions during the process (and there were A LOT!) I’d happily give a personal recommendation and list of reasons why we loved Austin Fertility Institute and Dr. Moghadam so please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions via email Stephanie.Gilbert@kxan.com
Our IVF cycle started in May of 2021, and it was a wave of blood work, ultrasounds, medication (including lots of shots) and excitement to get started. Dr. Moghadam and his team prepared us well for the road ahead and were always available to answer anything.
I’ll leave out some details on shots and meds but I will say that the schedule is intense and it feels like a full time job. No matter what you read and prepare for, you likely won’t be ready for what’s to come until you’re staring it in the face….every.single.day.
Our egg retrieval was the day after my birthday, July 5th. Something I would recommend during this process is scheduling some time to just be a normal person while still working in your meds and appointment schedule. My work team gave me an on-air birthday party that was so refreshing and my husband and I escaped to our favorite getaway, The Wander Inn in Round Top to enjoy some alone time and celebrate the next step. It’s all hard enough…this made it just a little easier to digest.
Egg Retrieval Day had arrived and is done under light anesthesia in a surgery room, the process is quick. I’m sure my husband would love to share the videos I took as I was coming out of anesthesia…very embarrassing but also, a much-needed funny memory that still makes us laugh. Dr. Moghadam was able to retrieve 10 eggs and I was back on-air the next day.
The next few weeks were full of updates on how many eggs were fertilized, then how many grew then how many were sent for genetic testing then finally, how many embryos we were working with. Our final number after testing was two. My mother-in-law (who was crucial in supporting us through this process) reminded me that it only takes one, so we were doing ok. I can’t quite articulate the feelings of loss and joy that simultaneously happened during that process but there is a lot that went on emotionally.
During that phase we had to pick the embryo we wanted to implant. This was one of the most difficult decisions of our lives. We had one that was “fair” and one that was “good” …our “fair” embryo didn’t have the same estimate of success as our “good” embryo, but we wanted to give it a chance, so we scheduled our first transfer to see if “fair” would make it. This isn’t a typical decision in this scenario and processing the potential outcomes was rough, but we journeyed on.
Transfer meds are a whole other beast. If the transfer is successful, you’ll be on these meds until you hit 10 weeks of pregnancy, so a total of several months. I didn’t expect the transfer meds and shots to be so intense, but alas…I got used to it. I took meds leading up to transfer day and then took a day off work to go in for something so exciting, scary, vulnerable, and incredible. I was awake during the transfer, and we got a printout of the embryo hatching. My husband was holding my hand as we saw a little burst of light flash on the monitor, all systems were go and our little embryo was in place. The most vivid memory of that day was Dr. M leaning over the surgery bed and looking me in the eyes to say “We’ve done everything we can, and so have you. It’s now up to the embryo.” That statement was so freeing for me. Whether this works or not, its up to the embryo. I appreciated that so much.
Following the transfer, we stopped at McDonald’s for French fries. It’s a common thing in the IVF community, a superstition that I’m on board with…fries following your transfer. It gave me something to look forward to and I’d recommend it!
Then the wait…the wait is the worst, ya’ll. For nearly two weeks you continue taking your meds and wonder…every second of every day….am I pregnant? Did the embryo stick? Will I have good news to share or the worst news of my life? There is no easy way to get through the two week wait. You just wait and it sucks.
I finished the show at noon on a Monday and waited for the call from our nurse. I had taken the next two days off and booked a getaway in Round Top again where we would either be celebrating or working through some seriously hard emotions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the news we wanted but in some ways, we had already prepared ourselves for it. We recovered in the country, under the stars with some good wine and some time to process this. What now?
Those messages to friends and family waiting to hear the news were the worst. I told myself I couldn’t do that again. We waited a few weeks and spent some time going over our options with Dr. Moghadam. We could either go through another egg retrieval process in hopes to get another good embryo or two, then do a transfer…or, we could transfer the final embryo we had and go from there. I would have really liked to start with another egg retrieval so we had some insurance of a few possibilities but financially we just couldn’t do it. Emotionally we were also spent.
We quietly decided to start meds again and scheduled another transfer just before Halloween. This would mean that we could potentially share the news around Christmas and since no one knew this time we could share if the news was good and keep it private if it wasn’t. Going through the process quietly was rough but it was worth it. Things didn’t feel as foreign as I’d just gone through it all so that was a bit of a relief.
On the day of our 2nd transfer, things felt good. The embryo was strong, and we were cautiously optimistic. Our chances were high and I left knowing it was up to the embryo, so we went to McDonald’s and enjoyed more fries. Then we waited…
The call came on November 8th and our nurse, Amy finally got to share the best news of our lives with us. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still scared, but it was also so relieving. I continued meds and had regular blood draws to confirm everything was going well. We saw the baby for the first time a week after our confirmed test and we heard the heart beat the week after that. Little by little Aaron and I were getting more and more excited about our growing little family.
In the IVF world you “graduate” your clinic and your meds at week 10. It was a bittersweet appointment for us. This team had spent some much time taking care of us and guiding us through this process that it was sad to say “see ya later” and know I was about to be a “normal” pregnant person. I was however pretty excited to stop my shots and many many meds.
When I shared the news on social media on Christmas day I was blown away by the response. I promised myself that I would share a piece of my story and not just the highlight of my life. The number of people who thanked me for sharing and said they were going through the same thing or have been through something similar was shocking. It’s such a sensitive subject and my hope is that we can make it something that isn’t so hidden…that doesn’t feel shameful…that can be talked about. If nothing else, I hope someone who is reading this will feel less alone or potentially more prepared. It’s a journey I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but something I would do again and again. Our ending is happy and we realize not everyone has the same outcome. We’re so grateful and are open to helping anyone who has questions for us. Aaron went through every step of this with me and he is also a great resource. Please reach out if you need to and thank you for taking the time to read this little peek behind the curtain of our infertility story.
-Stephanie, Aaron and Baby Gilbert