The irony of being a divorce and family law attorney who deals with the dissolution of the family unit and then writing about the creation of a family through in-vitro fertilization is not lost on me. But then again, nothing about life is predictable or often linear.
My journey through IVF was similar to that of many others. I was never one to dream about babies and motherhood, but when the time was right for me, I was ready to jump. But lo and behold, my body had other plans for me.
Most of us at age 35 are considered to be in the prime of our lives — professionally, socially and emotionally. I had graduated from law school a few years earlier after having made a career switch from public relations. I was primed to do anything and that included getting married and having kids. But in the world of reproduction, I was teetering on the verge of being geriatric.
After six months of trying to get pregnant “naturally” and considering the ticking clock, my husband and I decided to have a consultation at the Fertility Centers of Illinois. After a series of tests, it was determined that both of us were producing what we needed to bear children. The problem was, I couldn’t get pregnant and time was not on our side. We decided to try one round of IUI (intrauterine insemination) before embarking on the IVF (in-vitro fertilization) route.
When I think back to what became of my life — of needles and daily monitoring and sitting in waiting rooms while my name of “Katy M.” was called out (no last names are used so as to avoid confidential information being shared) — it is all a giant haze. The first round produced no eggs of sufficient quality for fertilization. Drugs were changed and monitoring became more intense. I dealt with daily shots and every morning returning to the fertility center to see how my body was faring. As a result of the new protocol, I produced multiple eggs, which were harvested (keep an eye on your language when you’re coming out of being anesthetized; thank goodness for the lightheartedness of the FCI staff) and then fertilized. A few quality embryos resulted and we discussed with our doctor the pros and cons of implanting more than one at a time. After some serious consideration, we decided to implant two. And…no pregnancy.
Heartbroken, we took some time off. The process had been emotionally and physically exhausting. My body just needed a break. Luckily we had three embryos that we had frozen and when it was time, we implanted two. This time, my body cooperated and I became pregnant. Nine months later, my son Luke was born.
We waited about two years to embark on the journey again. I was now 38 and practically a senior citizen by fertility standards. My law career was bustling and I was slated to make partner. While not technically convenient to become pregnant again, it was now or never.
We had one more frozen embryo in storage which was implanted. I had thought that given the “youth” of the embryo, pregnancy would be a no-brainer. Well, I was wrong.
I then embarked on round three of harvesting and fertilization. To say that a few years aged my uterus was an understatement. I was the mom of a 1 ½ year old (read: exhausted), my body produced very few eggs, and when they were fertilized, there were very few viable embryos. My doctor said she would take the very “best” and keep her fingers crossed. Pregnancy number two was not likely, and my husband I discussed adoption as an alternative. I remember driving home from our lake house and googling adoption agencies. It was so overwhelming, I just had to stop.
My doctor transferred the embryo and just one day later, I was on trial for a very contentious case. I was sure the stress of trial would prevent a pregnancy. But I had no other choice.
After a grueling 10 days, I decided to take a pregnancy test. Positive. I could not believe it. Here I had a “questionable” embryo implanted, I was on trial, and I was nearly a senior citizen in the eyes of reproductive staff. It was a miracle.
Nine months later, my feisty daughter was born. She turned out to be a fighter, which I knew would be the fact the moment she held on for dear life that day my doctor took a chance on her.
While my fertility journey is far from unique, it is personal to me. It has helped shape me into the mother — and person — I am today.