After receiving an unexpected diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Natalie shares her experience conceiving a baby with the help of IUI, what's next for her family, and everything she and her husband learned along the way.
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Growing up in Fairfield, Connecticut, Natalie always dreamt of becoming a mother.
When she was just 12 years old, she met the boy who would eventually become her future husband. They quickly became best friends. Over the years, their friendship turned into a romantic relationship, and they became a couple - dating throughout high school and college.
As time went on, they realized that they weren't just a great match - they wanted to be together forever. In 2016, they finally got married.
The couple knew they wanted to build a family, but they also wanted to experience life's big adventures as a duo before embarking on their journey to parenthood. For the next five years, they traveled the world together and embraced their new roles as husband and wife.
"We knew we really wanted our kids to grow up and go to school in the same area we did," Natalie says. "After we bought our house in Fairfield and began to settle down, we knew it was the right time." They were finally ready to become parents.
An Unexpected Challenge
After the very first month that the couple started trying to conceive, Natalie missed her period. "I thought - wow, we got it on the first try," she recalls. But after realizing she wasn't pregnant and consulting with her doctor, Natalie received some unexpected news: she had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Finding out this information at the age of 26 was devastating for both Natalie and her husband. "We never thought something like this could happen," she says. "We were unaware and uneducated about what issues might delay two young people trying to have a baby."
As they learned more about PCOS and how it can impact fertility, they felt completely defeated. They even began to wonder if their dreams of having a family would ever come true. But they weren't ready to give up.
Coming to Terms with PCOS
After Natalie's PCOS diagnosis was confirmed, her doctor urged her to call around and explore the local fertility clinic options. Natalie did her research and read countless reviews, eventually landing on Illume Fertility.
"I didn’t want to accept the fact that I needed fertility treatment," Natalie shares. "But once I went in for my first appointment at Illume, I saw that it wasn’t just me, there were tons of women going through the same journey."
Although the stigma around infertility is slowly dissipating, it is still a topic shrouded in secrecy. It's easy to think that you're the only one experiencing fertility struggles if you aren't surrounded by friends and family who discuss it openly. But coming to Illume gave Natalie some comfort. "I learned that you’re never actually alone," she says.
First Time's a Charm
In 2020, after consulting with their new Care Team at Illume, Natalie and her husband decided to begin with intrauterine insemination (IUI), a commonly used fertility treatment method that is often successful for those with PCOS.
"It required a lot of early mornings, a lot of support, and a lot of testing," Natalie says. "There was a point where my oral fertility medication wasn't working, and we had to move on to injectable medications - that was a little scary for me because I hate shots!"
With the help of lots of coffee and perseverance, Natalie attended early morning monitoring appointments for two months as she and her doctor tried to create the perfect environment for pregnancy.
Finally, the couple got the green light to move forward with their first IUI procedure.
"Waiting for my pregnancy test results after that IUI was the longest two weeks of my life," Natalie says. Thankfully, all their hard work paid off, and that first round of IUI was successful.
Becoming First-Time Parents
In 2021, Natalie finally gave birth to their first daughter, a baby girl they named Ava. "We are so lucky that she is here and healthy," she says. Although their fertility journey was challenging, the couple never gave up on their dreams of parenthood.
"My husband and I knew we really wanted this, and we were going to do whatever we could to make it happen," Natalie shares. "With support from our doctors, family, and faith in God, our daughter Ava is now in our lives."
The Road to Baby #2
"With Ava, I was really lucky that we had success with our first fertility treatment cycle," Natalie says. But once the couple decided they were ready to try to conceive their second child, they encountered some additional obstacles.
"It is taking much longer this time," she shares. "I even had to have a surgical procedure to resolve some issues that were standing in our way."
Although their path to Baby #2 has been more challenging than anticipated, Natalie says they still have hope that their family will grow again. Even though the couple are trying to remain optimistic, there have been moments where Natalie has felt like giving up.
Natalie's experience is a perfect example of just how different each fertility journey can be. "We are just going to keep trying and hope that we can give Ava a sibling," she says.
What They Learned On Their Journey
Now that she has been through multiple fertility treatment cycles, countless tests, procedures, and appointments, Natalie has a new perspective on the process. "I would say the toughest part of this is going through all of it and not knowing if you are going to be successful," she admits.
"Hearing you have PCOS is so tough - it's easy to wonder why me, why did this happen?" Natalie adds. "To be honest, I had no idea PCOS even existed until I was diagnosed."
Through it all, she has discovered what's really important: having a supportive partner, as well as friends and family who are there for you. "Some days, you just need to hear 'It’s OK,' because you don’t always get the answer you were hoping for," she says. Another helpful tool? Distraction, Natalie says. "Have other things to focus on to help distract you from fertility treatment!"
As the couple continues to work towards their dream of giving Ava a sibling, they now know that they are far from alone in the world of infertility.
Sierra Dehmler is Illume Fertility’s Content Marketing Manager - and also a fertility patient herself. Combining empathy gained on her personal journey with her professional experience in marketing and content creation, she aims to empower and support other fertility patients by demystifying the fertility treatment process.