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.
Discovering you need the help of a fertility specialist to successfully conceive can be overwhelming to anyone - but throw in a global pandemic and the experience becomes even more stressful. Illume Fertility patient Alicia shares her and her husband's journey through four IUI cycles while navigating some unexpected challenges.
When Alicia and her husband Corey decided they were ready to grow their family, they tried to conceive for about two years on their own. However, they tried on and off over those two years, because Alicia owns her own business and was trying to plan the perfect due date - a goal she now looks back on and laughs at, having gone through fertility treatment and learning to give that control up completely!
After having no success conceiving on their own, Alicia and Corey finally decided to take the plunge and get some help. A friend referred them to Illume Fertility, and Alicia and Corey began working with Dr. Cynthia Murdock. "She was incredible," Alicia says. "Dr. Murdock is so kind and patient."
Uncovering Fertility Issues
"Right off the bat, we learned I had a uterine abnormality (a bicornuate uterus) and some polyps, which needed to be removed," Alicia says. "Having a weird uterus is really overwhelming and a lot to take in - I didn’t understand what it meant or how it would really affect our journey."
"I was cautiously excited to begin our fertility journey," Alicia remembers. "We knew it would be a struggle, and we were stressed about the finances but we were hopeful, which I think was the most important thing."
Starting Fertility Treatment During a Pandemic
They began their fertility journey right as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which Alicia says made things "a little weird and crazy sometimes - but I loved having a team to guide us through."
Alicia and Corey had their first intrauterine insemination (IUI) on March 17, 2020. That’s right, just threedays after the kick-off of a global pandemic. "We were stressed, scared, and confused - for so many reasons," Alicia says. "When that IUI didn’t work, we weren’t surprised...the world had literally just flipped upside down."
The following month, they weren’t able to do another IUI cycle due to the pandemic, but they picked back up with treatment in May 2020, and had their third round of IUI in June 2020. Unfortunately, their third IUI was also unsuccessful, which left Alicia and Corey feeling a little hopeless.
"We pleaded to do just ONE more IUI, and much to our surprise - it worked!" she says. "Four was our lucky number, and on July 7, 2020 - we finally got pregnant."
A fertility nurse explores the process, step by step:
Navigating a High-Risk Pregnancy & Early Delivery
Since Alicia has a bicornuate uterus, her pregnancy was considered high risk, right from the start. But she soon discovered it was a blessing in disguise. "I secretly loved that I got a lot of ultrasounds," Alicia says.
At 33 weeks, she went for an ultrasound and found out that her growing baby girl had evacuated all of her amniotic fluid somehow! They never figured out exactly why this happened, but knew they had to move quickly to keep baby and mom safe. "We had an emergency c-section the next day," Alicia says. "But we always knew preterm delivery was a possibility."
"Our badass little babe spent 17 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and then finally came home with us," Alicia says. "We are so lucky to have had that extra time with our girl, because we had already waited so long for her to get here!"
Finding Comfort in Friendship
Alicia says she feels lucky that she had a friend going through a fertility journey at the same time. They were able to talk about every moment, every fear, every "this is the worst day ever" - together, which provided a lot of comfort as they navigated fertility treatment.
"I’m not sure how I would have done it with out her," Alicia says. "Thankfully, she got pregnant just three months after me!" That friendship helped her get through some of her toughest days.
If you're fortunate enough to have someone in your circle who understands infertility and fertility treatment, you can lean on that person for support and empathy throughout your journey.
Those who don't have a friend or family member who have experienced fertility struggles can find community by checking out Illume Fertility's support groups or reaching out to our Patient Advocate, Lisa Rosenthal, for one-on-one support.
Why She Shares Her Fertility Journey
The reason Alicia has chosen to share her story is that she knows how impactful it can be to know you're not alone during an experience that can feel so isolating and overwhelming.
"I am grateful to be able to support people by sharing my experience and truly hearing their pain, feeling it with them and knowing firsthand what stupid things not to say," she says.
Dr. Josh Hurwitz shares what NOT to say:
"It’s okay to be scared and it’s okay to be open," Alicia says. "I recommend finding a good person to share your emotions with, because you need to be able to talk about it out loud - otherwise the weight of it can be all-consuming."
Alicia also encourages other fertility warriors to try to stay optimistic, even throughout the disappointments and setbacks. "Just have hope. Every day - have hope."
More IUI & Fertility Resources
Curious about the IUI process or what your other fertility treatment options might be? Explore the resources below to learn more and read other Illume Fertility patient stories to gather inspiration for your own journey.