Introduction of the prognosis
I have three significant infertility issues. I am 41. I have Diminished Ovarian Reserve and Primary Ovarian Failure. I have developed autoimmune issues, which has resulted in chronic urticaria for more than a year. And my husband and I have a perfect Human Leukocyte Antigen match for an organ transplant, which is not great for pregnancy.
Past context and mindset
I used to be a career woman working in an international finance corporation. My job was intense, deadline driven, and required long hours. I strongly desired to find my soulmate and have a family but I never wanted to be a slave to my biological clock. I enjoyed the independence my job gave me, and my philosophy was that it’s "better not to have children than to have one with the wrong person.”
At age 34 I was lucky enough to meet my charming prince. We moved in together and slowly began planning to have a baby when I was 36. We were not in a hurry and were enjoying a beautiful life as "DINKS"- double income, no kids.
After getting married at 37, we regularly tried to be fall pregnant naturally. Nothing happened. I saw my gynaecologist, who told me to be patient and see her in 8 months if I wasn’t pregnant by then. Through 10 years of visiting her, every year she said "have a baby soon", but gave me no facts about my fertility, such as my AMH level. I did a lot of tests, blood tests, and pap smears. I thought, "no news, good news, I still have a chance to be a mum at a later stage”.
One day, just before signing a relocation contract with my company, I felt extremely exhausted and overwhelmed. I had hot flashes and brain fogs. I saw also growing dark spots on my face. I had mood swings and I became highly emotional. I felt something was wrong with me. I was gaining weight rapidly. Before that age, I was 60 kg for 170 cm and then at 38, 70 kg. I saw belly fat around my waist increasing despite being careful with my diet and doing regular exercise. My body gave up on me and I did not know why. I went back to the doctor and was told my health problems were the result of my busy work life, my new lifestyle, the "happy kilos of a new marriage," and our relocation to another country.
I decided not to sign the work contract and resigned. I lied to my employer and gave another reason for leaving. I could not share what I was going through; it was too much. Unfortunately, in the environment I was working in, I felt little empathy for my being a future Mum. You might know how many hours you can spend in the IVF clinic for blood work or ultrasound scans and having to do injections at a specific time. Having a baby is my priority and this can be very stressful when you have to meet work objectives. I wanted to increase the chances. Stress-free.
My gut feeling was right; when I turned 39, I discovered my AMH was 0.14ng. I felt deep grief; the death of my fertility.
Based on my research and friends' references, we have travelled the world to be treated by, presumably, the best doctors in the reproductive universe. We went to Madrid, Brussels, and Hong Kong and then ended with a world-renowned clinic specialised in DOR in New York. I consulted IVF doctors in Los Angeles for celebrities, and I also got rejected by many doctors, and their stats were more critical of my chances.
A friend recommended the book “It Starts With The Egg.” I have rigorously followed it’s advice and have seen physical improvements through the years. Trust me; this book is a game-changer. Most IVF clinics don’t believe in supplements or lifestyle changes and rush to inject hormones into their patients. I cut alcohol, gluten, as much sugar as possible, avoided xenobiotics, ate organic food and took more than 20 supplements per day (methyl folate, DHEA, Ubiquinol, DHA, vitamin D, NAC, etc...). I ran so many tests including Baby Grow by DNA Life, blood tests, genetic tests, and food intolerances tests. I saw my AMH going up and my FSH going down. I visited an acupuncturist every week, a naturopath, osteopath, chiropractor, kinesiologist and an immunologist. In two years, I had 350 doctors’ visits and gave my blood 80 times. Almost a full-time job. I have been practising yoga almost daily since I was 39; at 41, I can even do a full split! I lost some belly fat and my strength came back. My health is way better.
I managed to get pregnant three times. The first time was my second round of IVF; I remember hearing the first heartbeats of our baby at seven weeks. It was the most beautiful sound. My husband and I were so moved by this miracle. Our holding hands were shaking with excitement. It was a girl.
The week later during the ultrasound, I saw the aggravated face of the doctor—to our disbelief, there was no more heartbeat. Unfortunately, our baby silently passed away in my womb. I had a D&C. I came home howling of unfairness, pain and sadness. I cried a river and witnessed the first tears of my loving husband.
Three months later, I had a chemical pregnancy after my 4th round of IVF. Two months passed, and at my 6th round of IVF, I had seven eggs retrieved; the best record in my case. It resulted in my third pregnancy. Thanks to the DHEA, I assume. Unfortunately, I started having severe urticaria all over my body and face, symptoms of rejection and lost the baby at six weeks. It was a boy. Emotionally, I was more prepared and managed to overcome. However, since then I have continued to suffer from chronic urticaria, and I have been under long-term hydroxychloroquine treatment. In a total, throughout my journey, I did 12 cycles of IVF within two years with different protocols.
Love and Social life
My husband is a strong support for me, and he attended almost every ultrasound scan despite his challenging work schedule. The journey has brought more love and strength to our marriage than we’ve ever had. He took supplements too.
Socially and generally, I was lucky to be surrounded by open-minded family and friends. They were ready to discuss the IVF journey and gave tremendous moral support and doctors references. Thinking we were alone, we discovered that seven couples we know went through IVF. I also met beautiful people who faced infertility and showed us different perspectives on being a parent: a couple who adopted; a young adoptee sharing her experience; a strong mum who had an egg donor; and a couple who used surrogacy. I am also grateful to have gotten help from various Facebook support groups. It has helped me to not feel so isolated and stressed.
Still, sometimes, I met narrow-minded or, should I say, clumsy or untactful people who gave unguided opinions. They did not experience this journey; how should they know better? Avoidance was necessary.
Now, I have decided to stop my IVF journey to spare my physical and mental health. Also, financially, it is not sustainable. I did 12 IVF cycles within two years and without insurance refunds—so many sacrifices...
As you can imagine, my heart is broken into millions of pieces. I will never be a biological Mummy or even be able to use an egg donor. I was almost there, and I am still in mourning.
Despite the rollercoaster of emotions, I have learnt resilience and appreciation of my surroundings. I didn't want to become frustrated and not be able to be happy for others. I felt positivity encourages good endocrinologic function, too, which is so much needed when you wish to conceive. But I can understand sometimes; many silently swallow their pain when a birth is announced. We are human, and pain management is very personal.
Some may say I was stubborn to keep going, but I was "focused". I was working hard on my epigenetics and tried to be gifted by Nature. Unfortunately, despite all the efforts, Nature did not give me that chance; cruel.
My last words
If you dream of being a Mummy, go for it. Try everything you can. It is better to regret the things you did than the ones you did not do. And if your dreams don't come true, make your reality a dream.
Also, spread awareness to the younger generation on eggs freezing; it may help spare them from this pain we are going through. Ten years ago, no one mentioned it, especially the country where I lived, not even my GYN.
I also want to add one point; many corporates promote gender diversity and equality for women in business. What hypocrisy. How many companies allow women to have flexible working hours to do IVF, develop a culture of empathy, or offer egg freezing program benefits? Only very few. Women are still blamed for sacrificing family priorities over their career instead of being offered support by their employers. We are the ones who can promote awareness to try to change this.
In these last words, I want to say " Good Luck" to you. May you have all your Rainbow Babies! I pray deep in my heart you will all make it. Remember, Mother Love always wins.