A Ten Year Retrospective to Today: My Infertility Journey

Ten Years ago today, I was a first grade teacher, living LIFE teaching a classroom full of 27 first grade students. Ten Years ago today, I was a wife yearning for a child that once was told was never possible. Ten Years ago today, I was a scared and yet excited patient of Dr. Peter Ahlering. Most of all, ten years ago today, I was a DREAMER and BELIEVER that maybe TODAY was the day that we had hoped and prayed for.

When Dale Bader and I married in 2003, little did we know that having a child would be such a long and emotional journey. For 4 years we tried on our own to conceive before hitting the road block of NOT being able to go any further. We sought the help of our OBGYN which led us to the path of finding an infertility specialist for assistance. After hearing some of the most hurtful words at one of our first interviews, “you’ll never be able to conceive a child,” we were determined NOT to take these words for an answer. After interviewing several local St. Louis physicians looking for the perfect match, we found HOPE. We knew the minute that we shook Dr. Ahlering’s hand that this man was more than an incredible doctor.

Our Journey to have a baby….

In March of 2007, we met with Dr. Ahlering where we were told that while this journey was not going to be easy, that with patience and persistence that he would help us to create the family that we so desired. After diagnostic testing, we were diagnosed with male and female infertility and were not going to let this diagnosis determine our destiny! To this day, I still remember Dr. Ahlering sharing options with us by drawing pictures in his office. The one thing that really sticks with me is: “while we can try an IUI, I feel like I would be robbing you of your money and dreams.” When you’ve waited your whole life and yet alone 4 years, why wait any longer? In April of 2007, we went through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and had high hopes that the battle of infertility, would soon be dominated.

April 2007: IVF Procedure (18 eggs, 14 fertilized and 8 made it to day #5 blastocyst stage)ivf_embryos

On May 22nd, 10 years ago today, we arrived for our fresh embryo transfer. I’ll never forget Dr. Ahlering walking in to chat with Dale and I before the transfer with pictures of our embryos. “These are textbook perfect. I have a good feeling about this.” Days past and there is nothing that I could do but pray and hope that these two embryos would STICK! For the days ahead, I would continuously use “Google Chat”, remember there was not Facebook yet. I still remember messaging Dr. Ahlering, Mary and Peggy looking for as much encouragement as they were willing to provide.  Still to this day, I am so thankful to God for bringing such an amazing team into our lives. We are forever grateful.😊

So many times, I feel that the male is left out in so much of the journey. Dale and I decided that when our beta (blood test) results came back that HE would take the call. Even 10 years ago, you had to WAIT and WAIT, which seems like the LONGEST wait ever to get those results.  The BIG day was here, was this long and arduous road going to come to JOYous turn with a positive pregnancy or would it end in devastation? I remember the last week of school and a classroom full of first graders being the LONGEST week of my teaching career, until Dale showed up in the school lunch room full of some of my FAVORITE people, my co-workers with balloons, a special gift and most of all an ANNOUNCEMENT. “Positive numbers” – FINALLY, lab results had showed that our IVF procedure yielded what appeared to be a SUCCESS!

This was not the end of our journey, however. Not only were we pregnant, but during our second ultrasound I recall Dr. Ahlering saying, “there are two sacs, but only one heart beat.” How could that be? The road along Joy just came to yet another twisted turn and were we crushed.  While our heart may have hit the floor, at the end of the day, after prayers and contemplation we were still in awe that the dream that was once told to ise was impossible and was coming TRUE, with a healthy em-baby we were PREGNANT! For the next several weeks, I was scared to death as continuous monitoring was completed due to an hemorrhage.  However, I had come this far and could NOT give up yet. Another day that I’ll never forget is going for our 13 week ultrasound and adding a SURPRISE into our journey, TWO HEARTBEATS!!!!!!!!!!  Our second miracle em-baby had found her way.

After many complications, weeks of hospital bedrest, we welcomed Addelynn and Alexander into the world at 31 weeks in December of 2007.

After a tough initial road to parenthood, in October 2009, we discovered that we were spontaneously pregnant with a third child. Our little surprise miracle still has a strong connection with Dr. Ahlering while being known to have told MCRM Fertility patients in the early days, “I am not an Ahlering baby, but a surprise.” While Josie was not an Dr. Ahlering baby, directly, we do feel that he played an important role in her early, healthy first term.   At first, we were told by our local OBGYN that this pregnancy was not viable and that they were not willing to prescribe any medication to assist. After having kept in touch with Dr. Ahlering and the team, I remember sitting on the sidewalk at work crying and typing an email, again looking for HOPE & ENCOURAGEMENT from Dr. Ahlering. As it was two years previous, he and the team was there to assist and uplift.  Again today, I am so thankful that our journey has played out the way it has, as we LOVE nothing more than being a family of 5.

ivf family

Looking back 10 Years ago, here’s some interesting thoughts & emotions:

  • Patients at MCRM Fertility ask me all the time, did you do genetic testing?
  • While genetic testing was available 10 years ago, it was not something that many did due to price. It simply was readily available to the general population and was only typically utilized when one had a known genetic defect. It’s amazing to see how far genetic testing has come and how accessible it is to patients going through IVF, today. One might say, “when doing IVF, you can’t afford NOT to do genetic testing”.

 

  • The emotional journey even after success seems to linger. Even when working with patients struggling with infertility, it’s hard to see so many that are walking in the shoes that were once mine. It’s always on my heart to pay it forward and to show others that they are never alone in this journey.

 

  • There’s one word that describes how much things have changed in 10 years, TECHNOLOGY. The resources that patients at MCRM Fertility have access to including the Embryoscope, MSI, Nano Beads, PGS with NGS testing and DNA Fragmentation Sperm testing is remarkable. To think that 10 years ago, all lab work and male testing was completed off site. Now, at MCRM, some lab work and ALL male testing are done in house. WOW!

 

  • Its amazing to see the average age of patients coming to receive assistance with infertility. Ten years ago, I felt that most people were at or around my age, near 30. Currently, the trend of patients waiting to begin their families later in life is leading to an increase in patients over the age of 35 and even over 40!

 

  • Back at the time, I remember Dr. Ahlering mentioned his involvement as a researcher in investigating the effectiveness of intravaginal culture devices, which today is now available to patients interested in IVF, through INVOcell.

 

  • Over the past 10 years, prices of treatment have dropped significantly. For what we paid for a single cycle with an educator discount 10 years ago, patients, today, can take full advantage of a complete IVF cycle with all the available scientific advancements that MCRM Fertility offers, including PGS with NGS, Embryoscope, MSI, DNA Fragmentation testing, etc.

 

  • How did patients connect and receive support 10 years ago? Well, it was little to if ANY! A large reason is that for many it was simply Taboo to discuss infertility issue. Those were also the days of online chat and discussion boards. The outlets, resources and support that patients have access to today are incredible! To have had Patient Support Resources like this 10 years ago, I can only dream of what the journey would have been like.

 

  • The advanced science at a lower cost gives patients of today easier access to utilize protocols yielding success rates more than twice of what they were 10 years ago.

 

  • Today, more and more individuals are deciding to partake in using Third Party (Donor) for fertility treatments. In addition, as women choose to delay child-birthing, they are taking advantage of advancements in fertility preservation that yield to healthy outcomes years in the future.

 

dr. ahlering_and_twinsFinally, one of the biggest changes that I have seen in regards to patients going through an IVF cycle:

In 2007, 72% of IVF cycles were doing a FRESH transfer, while 16% of transfers were an FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer). Today, 45% of patients select an FRESH transfer while 27% are doing Frozen Embryo Transfers. We have found that with more patients going through fertility preservation, selecting to do PGS Testing and, generally, higher success rates compared to Fresh Embryo Transfer, the numbers of FETs will continue to increase.

 

Infertility, like learning a NEW Language…..

 

When walking the journey through infertility, you have to learn a whole new language. You are so overwhelmed with emotions, anxiety and excitement. In addition, it’s hard to find ways to communicate with family & friends. While one can try and relate or even understand, those that can empathize the best are the ones that are currently walking in similar shoes or that have been through the journey before.

For many couples going through infertility is like a roller coaster ride, triumphs and even set backs. It’s through the Patient Support Program at MCRM Fertility that we encourage current and perspective patients. The support program is an extra resource and sounding board, an outlet for patients to support and interact with others.

Looking forward to seeing what the next 10 years brings to the field of Reproductive Medicine. Thanks for allowing us here at MCRM Fertility be such a small part of your journey~

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