When high school sweethearts Nicole and Steven decided they were ready to grow their family, they never anticipated needing the help of fertility treatment. But once they began trying to conceive, they discovered some some surprising roadblocks.
In this article:
Meet Nicole & Steven
After meeting in high school and eventually getting married, Nicole and her husband Steven always knew they wanted to become parents. "We waited until after we got married and had established careers before trying," Nicole says. But after one year of trying to conceive with no success, they were referred to Illume Fertility by Nicole's OB/GYN for further evaluation.
There is a common myth that women of color are somehow more fertile than others, and don't struggle as much with fertility issues. "I was always told by family members that we were naturally fertile and to just relax," Nicole remembers. "I never imagined needing fertility treatment, but knew I would want to try whatever I needed to in order to grow our family."
The Next Challenge: Affording Treatment
While the couple were open to seeking help from a fertility specialist, Nicole and Steven worried that it would be out of their budget and increase their debt - a frustrating roadblock for many hopeful parents in need of fertility assistance.
While some patients have insurance coverage to help defray the cost of treatment, there are various options for those who do not, such as special financing, grants, and other financial programs. Cost can sometimes feel like an insurmountable obstacle, but there is support available.
Many wonderful organizations and medical professionals also work to increase access to fertility care every day, advocating for more inclusive legislation at both the state and national level.
Uncovering a Surprising Diagnosis
In January 2020, Nicole and Steven met with Dr. Spencer Richlin for the first time.
After meeting with him, they made a plan to proceed with fertility testing and eventually began intrauterine insemination (IUI) treatment. What happened next was difficult for the couple, but they tried to remain optimistic.
"We attempted two rounds of IUI with no success and then the pandemic hit and made us rethink our strategy," Nicole says. "We wanted to be more aggressive, but took a few months to research how we could afford it and to find a positive mindset to approach the IVF journey."
Moving Forward with IVF
"We chose to freeze our embryos [instead of doing a fresh embryo transfer] because one of my tests showed that I had a blocked fallopian tube," Nicole says. "I had a surgery in January 2021 to remove that fallopian tube, which ended up shedding light on a bigger issue."
During that surgery, both of Nicole's fallopian tubes ended up getting removed, and as a result of the findings from her procedure, she received an unexpected diagnosis of endometriosis.
Though no one wants to hear they have endometriosis, it felt like a relief to have a reason for why they'd struggled to conceive. "I felt like I actually had an answer for the first time in years," Nicole says.
A Dream Come True
After her surgery, Nicole focused on letting her body rest and recover before they moved ahead with their first frozen embryo transfer in March 2021. After their transfer, they waited to see if their little embryo had successfully implanted. "That two-week wait was the longest of my life, but then we got the call that changed our lives forever," she says.
"Being told we were finally pregnant and seeing that little heartbeat flicker for the first time on ultrasound was so incredible," Nicole remembers. And while pregnancy after infertility can be both exciting and challenging for many fertility patients, getting to hold that long-awaited baby in your arms is always worth it.
Their son Alexander was born December 2, 2021, weighing in at seven pounds. The couple was overjoyed to finally become parents after so long!
The Emotional Impact of Infertility
When she looks back at their journey, Nicole remembers feeling incredibly isolated as she and Steven navigated how to share what they were going through.
"I wasn't intimidated by the actual fertility treatment process, but did feel a need to keep things private, only sharing details of our journey with a few trusted friends and family members," Nicole says. "Having that small support system definitely helped!"
Where are they now?
Their son Alexander is now a toddler, and Nicole and Steven are enjoying every second of parenthood. As for what's next, Nicole hints that they plan to return to Illume to do another embryo transfer soon in the hopes of giving Alexander a sibling!
Nicole, Steven, and Alexander.
Tips for Fellow Fertility Patients
"Trust your doctors and do everything in your power to protect your peace," Nicole advises. "Whether that be speaking openly with your support system or choosing to stay private about your journey."
She also suggests finding something outside of fertility that brings you joy and keeps you in a positive mood. "I like to sing, so I always found at least ten minutes a day to sing it out as loud as I needed," she says.
You Deserve Holistic Fertility Care
In the end, each fertility journey is so unique. Exploring different tools like acupuncture, therapy, and yoga, or adding in fun distractions (like new hobbies or other projects to focus your energy on) can help tremendously.
At Illume Fertility, all of our patients have access to our Integrated Fertility & Wellness program, which offers many different forms of support like the ones mentioned above, plus nutrition counseling, support groups, and more. We encourage you to try each one until you find what works best for you.
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.