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Finally Pregnant at 49: How IVF Made My Dream a Reality | Alicia's Story

A new mom shares her IVF journey and how her own mother's death inspired her to keep going through the grief.

April 22nd, 2024 | 10 min. read

By Sierra Dehmler

When Alicia decided to pursue IVF with her partner Mary, she ended up carrying more than just a baby—she also carried the memory of her own mother. This two-mom family's story of loss, love, and late-in-life pregnancy redefines the fabric of hope and resilience.

In this article:

Editor's Note: We are so grateful to Alicia for being willing to share her story with us in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week. To learn what RESOLVE and other organizations are doing to protect access to fertility and family-building care across the United States, please visit their website.

Meet Alicia

"I’ve always wanted to be a parent," says Alicia. "I have two girls who are mine through adoption, and I love them both as if I did carry them, but a part of me always wanted to carry a biological child and have that experience."

As the years went on, she tried to conceive with the help of a fertility clinic, but unfortunately had no luck. After she decided to put her dreams on hold, she met Mary.

"I ran into her one day at her job and I thought she was cute, had beautiful long hair, and was really tall," remembers Alicia. She was immediately drawn to Mary, and told her sister.

Alicia made a friendly bet with her sister that Mary 'played for the team,' hoping she might have a shot. Her sister claimed Mary wouldn't be interested. "And well, here we are, 12 years later," jokes Alicia.

A Dream Deferred

From the start of their relationship, Alicia and Mary talked about Alicia's desire to try for a biological child. At the same time, her mom's health was declining, and had been for awhile.

"I knew that I wanted her to have a [biological] grandchild, knowing how happy it would make all of us," Alicia says. "I thought it might give her a reason to fight - some motivation to get better."

Luckily, Alicia's employer provided amazing fertility benefits, which allowed the couple to access fertility treatment and give them a chance at realizing Alicia's dream. "I’m not exactly a spring chicken (48 years old at the start of this process) so it was definitely an 'Are you having a midlife crisis?' kind of moment," she says. 

Finding a New Fertility Practice

Alicia and Mary decided to find a new fertility clinic and see what was possible. "I didn't have fond thoughts or memories of my previous fertility clinic," Alicia admits. "There was no warmth to it, and I knew I wasn’t interested in revisiting that practice." 

However, Alicia entered into this new journey determined to have a different experience.

"I looked at different clinics that my insurance benefits covered and saw that Illume Fertility was one of them," she says. "Conveniently, Illume's Trumbull, CT office was very close to my house, and I liked the name of the practice (Illume – bringing light). Super corny, but sometimes the signs are just there, and to me, this felt like one!"

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A Fresh Start

The couple scheduled an initial appointment and were paired with reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Ilana Ressler. "We had a Zoom consultation and it was such a wonderful experience," Alicia recalls. "It wasn’t rushed at all - I want to say it lasted an hour."

They found Dr. Ressler to be incredibly friendly, calm, patient, and understanding, and say she provided a high level of clarity on what the fertility treatment process would entail.

"She didn’t make us feel less hopeful [when it came to my age], but was very open about our odds, and kept our expectations within reason." This helped the couple stay realistic, yet optimistic, as they moved through the process.

"Honestly," says Alicia, "I'd never had anyone make me feel so at ease about such a pivotal, life-changing decision."

Preparing for An IVF Cycle

"It was quite the journey," Alicia says. "It felt like it took forever to get started because of all the medical clearances I had to undergo first. The delays were more on my end, as I had to wait for my primary doctor to clear me, but once that was complete, the real fun began!"  

The couple was assigned a personal Patient Navigator named Savannah, who would help guide them through the process and serve as their main point of contact at Illume. "She was incredible," Alicia says. "Very easy to reach and quick to respond when anything was needed."

Although there was always a lot to do and keep track of, Alicia and Mary never felt overwhelmed. "It was like the best organized chaos," Alicia says. "Illume has such an established process, and scheduling our appointments was so easy - which is saying a lot."

Selecting Donors

The couple worked closely with Illume's genetic counseling team to figure out the perfect donors for them. "They made sure that we were doing everything we could to make the best decisions, not just for me, but for our embryos," says Alicia.

Note: You can learn more about donor conception with our free guide. 

They also met with Dr. Ressler several more times to discuss the IVF process and get their questions answered. "By the end, we almost felt like doctors ourselves!" jokes Alicia. 

When One Life Ends, Another Begins 

Everything had gone perfectly up to this point, with a remarkable number of healthy embryos progressing through each phase of development with flying colors. 

Alicia and Mary's embryo transfer was scheduled for August 2nd. Sadly, as that date drew closer, Alicia's mom's health worsened, and she was rushed to the hospital.

"She fought hard for a week, but in the end, she just couldn’t fight anymore," Alicia says. "It was crushing for all the obvious reasons, but even more so because in my heart, I just knew that we were going to have this baby and she wasn’t going to be here for it."

Her mom passed away on July 30th, only a few short days before their transfer.

A Bittersweet Embryo Transfer 

"After my mom died, everyone told us to wait, to give it some time before moving forward, but I knew I wanted to do it," says Alicia. "Time wouldn’t change that she was gone, the pain of the loss would still be there, and I believed more than anything that she would've wanted me to go forward with it." 

So Alicia and Mary stuck with their plan, arriving at Illume's Norwalk, CT location for their embryo transfer on August 2nd. "As always, Dr. Ressler and her entire team were so kind and compassionate," Alicia adds. "They never knew what was happening to me outside of the office - it just speaks volumes about who they are as people." 

They proceeded with the embryo transfer, then went home for their "two-week wait," eager to know if their little embryo had successfully implanted. 

"We went into the office on a Friday for the pregnancy test blood work, and our team called us later that day to confirm we were pregnant," Alicia says. The couple were shocked, and thrilled to hear that Alicia's beta hCG levels were nice and high.

"When we heard the news, we cried for so many reasons - the joy of it, the sadness of losing my mom and of her not knowing (even though I know she did know)," Alicia adds. "I believe that her loss of life gave life to our baby."

alicia-mary-story-cta-image (1)

A New Baby & A New Beginning

Alicia's pregnancy progressed perfectly, and the two grateful moms welcomed their healthy, handsome baby boy James via C-section on March 28, 2024.

"It's indescribable, how it feels," Alicia shares. "Sometimes it seems as though it isn’t even real, but then you see his face, hear his laugh, see his smile...and it just feels right."

What's the best part?

"This has to be the most cliché answer ever, but it’s honestly just learning the different levels of love you can feel," says Alicia. "Never understanding how you could love someone so much, but then you meet them, and it all clicks into place like a missing puzzle piece."

Alicia remembers when she was young and her mom would say things she didn't understand. As a child, she would ask her mom what she meant, and her mom would reply "One day, you will know." Now, something happens that triggers those memories and it all just makes sense, Alicia says. 

What's next for their family?

"We're training him to play in the NBA," Alicia jokes. In reality, the current goal looks more like figuring out how to get their new baby on a schedule while finding ways to balance both their careers and life at home.

"We are very fortunate to have a great tribe around us to help, but we're working on figuring out the logistics for when we are both back to work full time," she adds. 

Advice for Other Moms-to-Be

After working with multiple fertility clinics and trying for years to conceive, Alicia has the following tips to share with others who are working to expand their family:

Lean On Your Care Team

While the IVF process can be daunting, Alicia says that she and Mary simply leaned into the support and guidance of their Care Team members at Illume and learned all they needed to know. 

Build Your Support Network

Alicia says that her partner Mary and her own sisters were huge supporters throughout the entire journey. "I’m very blessed and fortunate to have them in my life," adds Alicia. "The waiting to hear test results or embryo updates was the hardest for me, but that’s just nerves, and part of the process!"

Know That You're Enough for Your Baby

"This journey will make you question your ability to be good enough for them, but you are more than enough," Alicia says. "The only thing they need, you already have, and that is that you wanted them, that you love them, and no matter what, you will be there for them."

Although every parent will inevitably make mistakes and question themselves and their abilities at some point, it's important to remember that you are your child's primary foundation, Alicia says. "You will be able to provide what they need to be a good human." 

Holding Grief & Gratitude Together

After such a long journey, Alicia and Mary are soaking up every moment with their miracle baby, grateful to finally be on the other side. And while the pain of losing her mom will always linger, the love and joy that James has brought into their family makes that pain a little less sharp, says Alicia.

"He has helped all of us learn a different kind of love, a healing kind, a hopeful kind - like everything that happened was worth it," she says. "We would do it all again 1,000 times without a thought; James is a true blessing."

Sierra Dehmler

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.

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