Our fertility journey.

First, let me acknowledge that every journey is different.  Every family dynamic is different as well as the desire to grow your family.  No path is “right” or “wrong”.  This is ours …

Our fertility journey is a bit different as neither of us had fertility issues (at least that we know of!) – we were just two women, so we needed a bit of science to help us out.

When we started to really talk about growing our family, we never could have predicted all that was to come.  It was hard + challenging + beautiful + oh-so worth it.

Cut to the summer of 2015.  This is when Jordana + I decided that we were ready to start the process of having a baby.  We were in the car driving home from the Hamptons chatting about baby names and how we would grow our family (this is actually where we picked out the name Parker Bryant since we had met after getting on the subway at the Bryant Park subway stop).

We each had the desire to get pregnant and since Jordana is 3 years older, the plan would be she would get pregnant first.  And now, our journey:

Step 1: find a local fertility clinic + make an appointment

We had friends who got pregnant at a local clinic and loved them, so we made an appointment for October 2015 thinking we would starting in December or January.

Your clinic is SO important.  This is such an intimate process that can be tough + emotional.  So you really want to make sure that you vibe with the doctors, nurses  staff because you’re about to see a whole lot of them! (and may shed a few tears in their office … ahem, me)

Step 2: create a plan with your doctor

Our original plan was that we would each do IUIs with the same donor so that we could both carry and have biological children.  Since Jordana is older, she was going to go first.  More to come on how our story unfolded …

Step 3: pick out a donor

Our clinic recommended Fairfax and California Cryobanks.  We checked them both out and ultimately, ended up with Fairfax.

This process was legit like online dating.  You can filter based on certain attributes that you’re looking for (we chose height, eye color, hair color + ethnicity – we wanted our kids to look as much like us as possible since we couldn’t combine our own DNA!).  From there, we reviewed everyone’s medical history since that was the most important thing for us – a healthy baby.  We were not only able to find out the donor’s medical history but also his family’s!

What was so crazy wsa we could see both baby / toddler pics AND adult pictures!  So we actually know what our donor looks like today.  We lovingly refer to our donor as “Ted” because “Ted” sounds like a nice guy (you know, your buddy Ted) LOL

Another important thing for us was that the donor was “open”, meaning, when our children turn 18, they can contact the sperm bank who will then reach out to Ted to see if he wants to connect.  It means he is open to the possibility of connecting with any of these kids (there are other “diblings” – donor siblings).  Some donors are anonymous, but we felt that it should be up to our children to decide and we hope they connect one day so we can thank him for the incredible gifts he has given us!

Another common question I get is “how many vials should I purchase?”  It really depends how many kids you want and what your plan is.  We purchased 8 vials to start because we initially planned on doing IUI.  So we thought it would give us each 4 tries.  If you’re doing IVF, then you will need less since you will likely (and hopefully) end up with multiple embryos.  I do suggest buying a few even if you’re doing IBF just in case something goes wrong or you need to do more than 1 egg retrieval (like we did).

Step 4: let the testing begin!

Our clinic had both Jordana + I get blood work done for all the things!  Even though I wasn’t preparing to get pregnant yet, they just wanted to check since I was planning to get pregnant eventually.  Looking back, I don’t think I had an ultrasound done right away.

Jordana had to go through (and then eventually me), an HSG test and a hysteroscopy (the first, they squirt saline or dye in your tubes to make sure there is no blockage and the second, the put a camera up your uterus to make sure it looks clear and there are no polyps … was not a party).

Since we used donor sperm, we also had to see a genetic counselor to discuss any potential issues (silly because neither of us or the donor had any) and also a therapist to discuss how we would explain our family composition to our kids.  It was actually helpful and basically she suggested creating a story where we said we really wanted to grow our family and someone (donor) gave us a gift (sperm) to help us.  There are also now really cute books on family makeup that I found on amazon (love makes a family, the family book + you were made for me {mom mom donor option – they have all kinds of scenarios!}).

Step 5: prepare yourself for the journey

This is not to scare you or to be negative but to just prepare you.  Obviously, go in being positive + optimistic but also realistic that it may not work on the first try.

Here is what happened to us.  We started the process with oru clinic in October 2015 and Jordana was on a lot of medications for anxiety – some of which she had to completely go off of as they weren’t safe for pregnancy (note: always discuss meds with your doctor).  One day in December, Jordana experienced a serious panic attack while she was driving.  And then again the next day.  It started a bit of a downward spiral and we quickly realized that being off some of these meds was NOT a good idea for anyone.

We still wanted children, of course, and we wanted them sooner than later.  So I suggested that I get pregnant instead.  The idea of not being pregnant and not having a biological child was too devastating to Jordana though.  I had never considered this idea – I don’t even think I ever heard of this idea at the time – but I said, why don’t I get pregnant and carry your egg?  It wasn’t an easy decision for her but after some careful consideration and releasing the expectation and desire she always had to get pregnant, we changed our plan.  I was honored to carry our child – a piece of her.

So now we had to start the process from the beginning. We had to schedule an IVF consult and then I needed to do all of the testing.  Lots of needles ensued for me and ultimately, surgery.  This was not part of the plan.  None of it.  I cried on the phone with my doctor.  Turned out, I had a large cyst on my one ovary and it needed to be removed before we could try to get pregnant.  Fortunately, if recovery went well, we could try the next month.  And it did.

Now that my uterus was clear, it was time to prep.  We had to sync my cycle with Jordana’s because we wanted to do a fresh transfer; meaning, my uterus would be ready once the eggs were retrieved and the embryo had grown five days.  So that meant a lot of shots, pills, patches + ultrasounds.  And a lot of shots for Jordana as well.

So, to do an egg retrieval, they stimulate your ovaries so that you produce a ton of eggs (as many as they can have you make) but it has to be done slowly + carefully. We were at our fertility clinic literally every other day. We had to monitor and measure her follicles and also my uterine lining to make sure that it was thick and ready to go. Essentially, we had to trick my body into thinking that it dropped an egg so that it would hold the embryo (science is so freakin’ cool!), so I was on meds out the wazoo — oral estrogen, estrogen patches (which are evil to your skin as pictured along with my surgical scars), progesterone suppositories and eventually progesterone shots (aka PIO shots – ginormous needles that go in your back side … good times). All this to make a baby (obvi so worth it). Oh, and did I mention insurance covers none of this?

Once Jordana’s ovaries were ready (and my lining was as well), she had a little procedure to remove the eggs.  It’s all done through the vagina, so no incisions or anything.  They are able to tell you how many eggs they got right away.  The eggs are then fertilized with the donor sperm.  We had two different fertilization processes with our kids: for Parker, a bunch of sperm was placed on top of the eggs so that the strongest would get in.  For Josie, because the sperm didn’t have as great mobility, they did a procedure called ICSI where they actually poke the egg and stick in one viable sperm.

We then got a call the next day to tell us how many embryos fertilized and then on day 5 (our clinic does 5 day transfers), we went in to do the transfer and find out how many of the embryos made it.  For Parker + Josie, we ended up with 3 viable embryos each.

Parker was our first fresh transfer.  We went in on April 28th and I found out a week later that I was pregnant!  The other two embryos from Parker ultimately didn’t become our babies — one didn’t survive the thaw before a transfer and the other was transferred but didn’t turn into a pregnancy.

Josie was our second fresh transfer.  Jordana went through another egg retrieval in July 2019 and Josie was the one!!  We still have two remaining frozen embryos from Josie’s batch.

Now to baby two.

Our plan all along was for us both to have a bio baby, so I always thought we would do an IUI and I would carry our second with my own egg.  As Parker was getting older and we got closer to wanting to start the process, my feelings shifted.  Having a biological child suddenly wasn’t as important to me. Parker couldn’t be any more MINE.

So I had to do a lot of internal work around what I wanted to do for our next baby.  Jordana left it up to me to decide because she said it wasn’t her place to take away a biological baby if that was important to me.  I journaled, I made pros / cons lists, I listened to podcasts on decisions … ultimately, I decided that I wanted to use the remaining embryos from Parker. (also, tbh, part of my decision was a fear of having multiples with IUI!!).

Since we changed our plan at the end of November, our clinic told us we couldn’t do a transfer until January because of the holidays (the labs close for two weeks at the end of the year).  After a good cry because I was READY, I knew that there was some silver lining in it all (hello having some prosecco on New Years!).  January came and it was transfer day. We were so full of hope that the two remaining embryos would work.  We were to transfer 1 and since it worked right away with Parker, we just believed it would work again.

I was taken back to the transfer room (alone) and was told that the first embryo they thawed didn’t survive, so the embryo they were transferring was our last one.  Basically, if this didn’t work, we were back to square one.  And that’s what happened.  Not pregnant.  No more embryos.

I was devastated.  I cried over the loss of the baby I thought I would have.  You see, I’ve always been a planner.  And suddenly, I had no control.  We met with our fertility doctor again and decided we wanted to do another egg retrieval with Jordana’s eggs, so she went in for an ultrasound.  Well, not so great news.  The fibroid that she previously had was now completely blocking her ovary, so the doctor couldn’t even see it.  She had to go for an MRI and the doctor called and said she needed to see a gynecological oncologist pronto.  WTF just happened.

She wasn’t worried it was cancer but the fact that it grew so rapidly in only 3 years was concerning.  Fortunately, we have an amazing gyno team and the one surgeon looked at the scans and was confident that it wasn’t cancer and she could remove it.  Jordana decided on a partial hysterectomy for a few reasons: (1) fibroids grow back and then you could need surgery again. (2) why not? She wasn’t going to get pregnant, so why not remove periods from her life! (3) she will no longer be at risk for cervical cancer bc they took her cervix and they removed her fallopian tubes and research is now showing that ovarian cancer actually starts there and not in the ovaries.  (4) she would not go into early menopause because she would keep her ovaries so we could also use her eggs.

And it was a good thing she made that decision ahead of time because the surgeon said when she went in there, the fibroid was so large and also where it was located / attached to the uterus (don’t quote me on this bc I’m not a doctor), she would have had to remove the uterus anyway.

So, while all of this was happening, we obviously took a pause on the baby making.  That said, we decided that we would try IUI while Jordana was recovering because i was ready for a baby!  We decided to do a back-to-back IUI, which is when you do insemination two days in a row. My clinic doesn’t push for this but it made me feel better knowing that the odds of the sperm being there when I ovulated (they do a trigger shot that tells your body to release the egg. But some women release it early, some later, so having the sperm in there longer just made me feel better / more in control).  Well, it didn’t work.  And then it didn’t work again.  And then it didn’t work again.

Three failed IUIs.  And the one round, I SWORE I was pregnant.  I legit was telling people that I thought I was.  I had symptoms. I felt implantation.  I actually swore I felt two twinges, so I thought it was twins.  And then nothing.

Before the third IUI, we did set up our IVF consult to come up with a plan for RIVF if the IUI was unsuccessful.  So when we got that negative test, we knew what we were in for.

We had to wait for my period and then I started my meds.  Again, we had to prep my lining first before we started to stim Jordana’s ovaries.  Fortunately, my lining responds very quickly!  During all of this, Jordana’s mom suddenly passed away.  It was a heck of a year.  But going into our RIVF round, we knew that her mom was watching over us and taking care of us.  And we were convinced she would send us a girl (Jordana is 1 of 3 girls and her mom only ever wanted girls lol).

We were excited and nervous because now, Jordana was 37.  And they say that the older you get, the less eggs you have and your egg quality also goes down.  We actually ended up with more eggs than we did the first time but we ended up with 3 embryos again.

Josie was one and two more are in the freezer.

Wherever you are in your journey, I see you.  Keep holding onto hope.  I share with people that I look back and I am SO glad the other times didn’t work because then I wouldn’t have my Josie girl.  And she was the baby we were meant to have.  The moment she was placed in my arms, nothing else mattered.  The negative tests. The crying, the waiting, the unknown.  It all led to her.