Infertility sucks, but only those who have been through it know just how much. I know how it feels; I’ve been there myself.
It’s such a challenging phase of trying everything possible to reach to your goals, only to get let down every month that passes you by. You just keep hoping with each new cycle that this month might be your month. The winning cycle you’ve been waiting for. And when it’s not, your heart breaks that much more.
The word ‘infertility’ itself is excruciating and often incorrect. Sub optimal fertility should not be called infertility as the literal meaning of infertility is ‘not fertile’. But couples needing medical intervention do succeed eventually, and significant times without third party assistance. If I could, I would get the medical definition of infertility changed. Poor reproductive health should not be considered infertility unless you knock on the doors of third party for reproduction.
I was a healthy young woman with a career as a research scientist in the biotech industry and in a fantastic relationship with my husband, Zain. We had no reason to believe we wouldn’t be able to have the future we both hoped for after immigrating to states a decade ago.
But then, fate twisted.
When we began thinking about starting a family, we soon learned I was suffering from premature ovarian aging. My antral follicle count was 1-2, FSH 25, and my AMH levels registered a big fat zero (i.e. Undetectable) all of these numbers mean that I was running out of eggs at a what felt like too young of an age. I was 31 and conceiving a child would not only be challenging but only possible with donor eggs.
It was solely the virtues of perseverance, patience and a positive mental attitude that led us to conceive our now four year old twin girls with my OWN eggs.
There were five important lessons from my journey.
- In-fertility Can Strike At Any Age.
I was barely 31 -years old, married for five years, and had never conceived naturally. We had a healthy lifestyle, vegetarian diet, no alcohol and never smoked. Even though my lab results when I was 27 showed high FSH levels of 20-25 and few follicles, my doctors never explained them to me. It never registered as diminishing ovarian reserves because my cycles were generally regular with only occasional hiccups that doctors fixed using birth control pills.
If this sounds like your story, I want you to know that you’re not alone. Dr. Peter Ahlering, the director of the Missouri Center for Reproductive Medicine, conducted a small study among his patients and found that close to 15 percent of women younger than 32 had diminished egg reserves.
You would never know unless you got test and kept good track of your records.
- Don’t Believe Everything You Read and Hear. You’re Not a Number.
We actually tried to get pregnant and yielded no success for 6-8 months before we decided to consult local doctors. At least three of the gynecologists and fertility experts cautioned us that we immediately use donor eggs as easy resolution. While I know donor eggs are the right choice for many families, I wondered if they had any idea how devastating it could be for a young woman who thought her cycles were normal to hear this suggestion.
With a research background in cell biology, I couldn’t stop reading scientific articles and clinical study reports on premature ovarian aging and available treatment options to empower myself with right knowledge. In a short span of three months, I must have read enough on this subject that I could not find anymore new articles that would enhance my knowledge and that my efforts would qualify for a certification.
If I had believed in what I read, I’d probably have never been able to succeed the way we did because I learned that the actual pregnancy rates were below 5% with my own eggs. But I knew in my heart there would be a way. I never gave up and steered clear from online forums and social media that made me feel feeble and hopeless.
Sometimes, the virtue of perseverance and focus are the biggest contributors to greater success in life. Listen to your heart and keep making thoughtful choices along this journey.
- Be a copilot on your journey; not a laxed passenger.
After receiving unpleasant responses from three doctors, our search became focused on identifying a fertility expert who was willing to believe in my fertility.
Our web search spotted Dr Aimee Eyvazzadeh, who is exceptionally talented and shines like Christmas lights. I chose her to receive a fourth opinion.
The combination of a thorough, knowledgeable, compassionate and super human doctor and an inquisitive, dedicated and unstoppable patient got us heading in the right direction. We worked as a team and she tailored an aggressive treatment plan to rescue my poor reproductive health. I moved forward with fast pace and proactively questioned every suggestion in order to stay informed, focused and hopeful.
Doctors are after all humans and can only do so much, it’s you who knows yourself the best, keeps best records of your health, identifies a clinic and doctor that meets your needs and personality to be on an accelerated path to success.
- Gratitude is the Greatest Emotion Towards the End
Every story doesn’t always have a happy end. My heart goes out to couples who tirelessly struggle for years or are still eagerly waiting to meet their miracle babies. But when you do, there’s only one emotion that overpowers every negative feelings encountered during your struggle, and that’s “Gratitude.”
I tackled the journey worry free only because I had found my fertility co-pilot who stood by us every single step of the way, went miles and beyond and put me in the best position physically and mentally. Dr.Aimee’s positive reinforcements kept my stress in check during the journey. While many of the clinics do not perform IVF or egg retrieval for one or two eggs, Dr. Aimee offered me the option to try IVF after a couple of failed medicated IUI (Intra Uterine Insemination) cycles.
It turned out to be an unplanned yet astonishing IVF (In vitro fertilization) cycle for us in which we only retrieved two eggs. To our surprise, both the eggs turned out to be mature, fertilized via ICSI (Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection) and converted into Grade A embryos by the day 3. We couldn’t believe the outcome and decided to transfer both of them. Guess what? within a week, we found out that we were pregnant with TWINS. It was a freaking miracle that this happened in the first IVF attempt with my OWN eggs with such low ovarian reserve.
The surreal end in our journey brought gratefulness first towards God and second to our God sent angel Dr. Aimee.
Gratitude if not expressed is like wrapping a present and not giving it. We decided to present her with her namesake, Aimee. One of our babies is named Aimee, as a small token of our love and appreciation to her.
- Fertility Journeys Transform You and Bring Out the Best in You.
Fertility struggles are physically, emotionally and financially draining. The uncertainty you experience can easily convert a sane-headed individual into a cuckoo. Even though our twins were born healthy and continue to thrive, our fertility journey has changed my perspective on life forever. It has made me extremely compassionate towards anyone going through this experience, and passionate about supporting the community. I try to make time to extend peer support even though I’m now a busy working mom of young twins. I’m affiliated with RESOLVE the National Infertility Association, and host peer led support group meetings locally. I also offer and provide my support in online forums, Fruitful fertility’s and Shine fertility’s mentorship programs.
My personal journey and Dr. Aimee’s belief that every woman needs to take care of her fertility health just as you’d do for your general health inspired me to become a fertility advocate. I want to help anyone who needs support and work to break the taboo of this subject.