Ryan and I had met when I was 33. Throughout our two years of dating we continuously discussed how many children we would have not once thinking that just having one baby appeared impossible. We began trying for a family right after we were married but after a year… nothing happened. Were we timing it wrong? Doing it wrong? Was something wrong? It was then we decided it was time to see someone within hopes to find answers.
2008 “So, you came here hoping I can help you achieve pregnancy. Well, you came to the right place, however, due to your age it is going to be a difficult task. I’m not saying it’s impossible but it won’t be easy. In fact, most couples your age stop having kids.” Couples our age? Were we really THAT old? These were the first set of words given to us while meeting with our local fertility specialist. I was 36 and hit with a bombshell. I wasn’t expecting such words and couldn’t help but feel anxiety race through my body. Maybe this doctor was right. Maybe we did miss our window of opportunity. But I was angry that this fertility doctor had no problem making us feel hopeless and not hopeful. But we stayed with him. Why? Because there was no other fertility clinic in town. I was immediately introduced to Clomid. I asked about the possible side effects. I asked if there were specific foods I should be eating. I also asked if there were certain exercises I could do. I was basically grasping at straws wondering if there was anything I could do to improve our chances. His response? If you want to know about side effects, talk to a pharmacist. If you want to learn about certain foods talk to a nutritionist. If you want to know about different exercises, talk to your primary or a trainer at a gym. I’m just here to get you pregnant and have a baby. Wow! Okay, thank you for the valuable information. I went ahead and did the Clomid challenge and failed with flying colors. Low ovarian reserve was my problem. However, I was continued on Clomid and we did multiple IUI’s. Naïve to this process, I didn’t realize until later that the lining of my uterus thinned out due to the Clomid, yet my fertility doctor went through the IUI’s anyway. So yes, IUI after IUI, money spent over and over; all for negative results. We stopped seeing him because it appeared the cold tone from our fertility doctor trickled down to the staff. After each pregnancy test, the nurse from the fertility clinic would call me at work and say, “Hello. I’m calling about your pregnancy test. It was negative. What we want you to do is start the Clomid on the third day of your next period and then call us so we can set up an appointment for a scan.” It was so matter of fact. So simple to call me with such bad news while discussing a new plan of action even though I had not yet processed the failure of the old plan. It was hard enough not achieving a pregnancy each month, but it felt worse when the staff didn’t display support or empathy. It appeared like it was nothing but a job to them. Calling up emotional women day after day sharing heartbreaking news without an ounce of compassion. I always thought there should be a mandatory class for such people working in such an environment. Didn’t any of them understand that us women who desire so much to be a mom would become even more devastated and depressed when the cards don’t play out in our favor? We began researching other fertility clinics across the United States online. But that was all we could do at the time. We couldn’t pursue other clinics due to lack of funds. And in all honesty, I was also fearful to call any of them up. I walked away from our fertility clinic feeling horrible about myself and dreaded the idea of being treated badly by another doctor. I didn’t want to be told I was old while having to go through another cookie cutter process. So we decided to go back to trying on our own while enjoying our lives in the process. We did what we could afford which included seeing an herbalist and going for acupuncture.Honestly, we tried everything. We ate a clean diet, continuously juiced fruits and vegetables and read infertility books. We researched so much online about DHEA, wheat grass and vitamins, we became a loyal customer to the Vitamin Shoppe. Though Ryan had a good sperm count/motility, he even took a bunch of different supplements. We continuously prayed for a miracle hoping that one day we would become pregnant. We also took advice and suggestions from our supportive close circle of friends. “Stand on your head afterwards!” “Meditate.”“Take yoga to keep yourself centered.””Just relax.”How can I relax when the clock keeps ticking and time keeps passing by?But we were open to any suggestion, tried everything believing that something had to eventually work. But no. We were in the same place where we started. Someone once said, “Adopt a dog. It’ll be a good distraction.” So we did. A couple. It actually was a great distraction to spend our free time with them. We absolutely love our animals…they brighten our day, every day. They are part of our family that we are grateful for. BUT….THERE WAS STILL A VOID.
Around this time I had some family members and friends announce their pregnancies on Facebook. Of course I was envious but I was also genuinely excited for them. A counselor at the time treating pregnant women with chemical addictions, I saw so many unwanted babies born. Babies who unfortunately will stumble down a rough path of life. Time and again I witnessed uncaring mothers who thought of themselves first. So to see friends and family achieve a pregnancy; a pregnancy they honestly wanted brought me joy. I knew that little bundle of joy would be loved and cared for and that’s how it should be. I didn’t feel resentful but could only express an overwhelming well deserved congratulations. I didn’t find it fair to project my own sadness or struggles on to them or expect them to tippy toe around us. They should only jump for joy! I know I would! Besides, its not like they were announcing their pregnancy and having a baby just to hurt us. I just know that if we were fortunate enough to finally become pregnant, I’d be telling the world while hoping for the same elated response from the people we care about.
November 2010 Continuously researching we discovered IVF Vacations. We had never heard of doing fertility treatments abroad. But at last! Somewhere we could possibly afford the IVF treatment. The first location we looked at was in the Czech Republic. After researching further, we came across a discussion forum that talked about after care. From what we read, the Czech Republic didn’t appear to provide that. Because not all American doctors are excited about patients going abroad and are not always willing to help, we needed to make sure after care was easily accessible. What if we had questions when we returned? What if we ran into problems with medication? Medication used abroad can be different from the United States and we were not sure if American doctors could answer unknown medication questions. We needed to make sure we were monitored closely for those “in case” moments. So though we were enticed by the Czech Republic we were more interested in Barbados!
An affordable, warm, fun place to have our IVF procedure done. We had never even heard of Barbados but when we clicked on to their website we were immediately intrigued. The first line that caught our attention was the following. “Our success rates are 10-13% higher than the average rate in the United States”. Yet, we appreciated their honesty regarding statistics. “It depends on the woman’s age. The success of your treatment depends on many factors and your specific treatment options. General IVF success rates can be misleading because they do not take into account the individual patient and their situation.” They are not offering unrealistic promises but offering a realistic idea on the options available based on the individual. We also felt some sense of encouragement when reading the following.
“Your IVF medical team at Barbados Fertility Centre can talk you through the hurdles of your specific treatment. We will be able to assess your individual case and give you a projected success rate that is applicable to you. Going through an IVF cycle involves substantial commitment of time, energy, finance and emotional input. Therefore, we will provide all the information necessary to assist you in making an informed decision. This includes medical, psychological, financial and statistical data.”
“Talking you through hurtles” indicated they were willing to answer all our questions. “Individualized treatment” says they do not follow the typical cookie cutter treatment. “IVF is an emotional process” basically acknowledges our anxiety and high stress levels. We read about Dr. Skinner and was quite impressed.
“Dr. Skinner studied in Ireland and worked Coombe Women’s Hospital. She was at that time the youngest doctor to ever be appointed the position of Assistant Master of this prestigious Dublin maternity hospital. She even developed and evaluated a number of ultrasound diagnostic tests both for fertility and for obstetrics. “
It was clear Dr. Skinner had been doing this for a long time and knew exactly what she was doing. Anna Hosford, a nurse (RGN) from Ireland and the Clinical Director of the Barbados Fertility Clinic had many years of experience and had also worked in the United States with well known doctors such as Dr. Geoffrey Sher.
“Throughout Anna’s 14 years exposure to the pain infertile couples experience, her dream has always been to create the ultimate fertility care within a reduced stress environment. This dream became a reality in Barbados as it shows in our high success rates.”
This said to us that Anna sincerely understood the emotional devastation infertility can bring. And… they also provided after care; continuously accessible after we get home. Okay, we are hooked. I put in a request to the Barbados Fertility Centre on Sunday night and on Monday morning at 6am, I received a call from Anna, the Clinical Director. She was upbeat, cheery and I immediately felt at ease. When I explained to her our struggles over the past few years, she immediately validated how I felt. As she explained what the clinic could offer to help us; I felt hopeful again. There was something about the way Anna displayed both compassion and support that I could feel through the phone. I simply felt better about pursuing this new path to achieve our dream in having a baby. Before we hung up, she asked me to fax over our medical records and had me set up a free consultation with Dr. Skinner.
We found both Dr. Skinner and the staff responsive, friendly and knowledgeable. They took their time and answered any questions we had in an unhurried manner. They informed us of things we had not even thought of yet. We eagerly soaked up the information with the thought that our dreams of having a baby could finally come true. The staff were happy to announce that they are JCI accredited. JCI accreditation is a certification from Joint Commission International, who carry out stringent testing on patient safety and clinical practice that ensures they are operating to the highest standard and that these standards meet or exceed the standards set for a clinic in the United States.
This gave us peace of mind that we would be going to a clinic that used safe practices and we would not be putting ourselves in any medical danger. It was a perfect match for us. An idyllic location with a safe, affordable clinic that has great success rates. For the first time in years, Ryan and I felt optimistic. We didn’t know anyone who had gone to Barbados or even thought to speak to other American patients who had experienced the Barbados Fertility Centre. We simply decided to take a gamble. We said to ourselves that if anything we can get away, spend quality time together and enjoy a well earned vacation while going through our first IVF. Really! What do we have to lose? The price of the IVF procedure in Barbados is half the price of the states and our medication ordered through IVF Meds saved us a ton of money. Anna explained all of our medication while going through the specific instructions she had emailed earlier. The one advantage we had was that Ryan was an RN at the time and provided the shots needed. In March of 2011 we were ready to go and flew to Barbados. WOW! Barbados is beautiful! The locals are extremely friendly and the hotel staff were very accommodating. Our room had an incredible view from the balcony. Breath taking. The sound of the ocean overheard from our room, the first night and every night after was peaceful. It was like being in paradise. The next morning we arrived for our appointment at the Barbados Fertility Centre. The minute we stepped through their doors, we knew we made the right decision. We were greeted with warm smiles and cheerful staff.
BFC only takes a certain amount of patients per month, which means their waiting area isn’t packed with people. The clinic was cozy and pristine and were fascinated on how prompt the staff were and how organized the process was. We went in for an ultrasound. Though we all were aware I had low ovarian reserve, I couldn’t help but feel I would beat the odds and have a ton of follicles. I believed I was the exception and wanted nothing more but to prove to that fertility doctor in our home town wrong. So yes, I was distraught when there was nothing on my right ovary and only 5 follicles on my left ovary was seen. 5? Only 5 follicles? When we met with Anna afterwards, I asked for a higher dose of medication. “Karen, you are already on the highest dose.” I shook my head ready to cry. But Anna, sensing my frustration leaned over her desk and gently said, “Karen. It’s okay. I know you are disappointed but I’ve had some women come in here who didn’t even get one follicle. They would give their right arm for your 5, you know? It’s just in the way you look at it. Besides, you only need 1 good egg.” True. So I sucked it up and tried my best to be grateful for my 5 follicles. I stimulated a little longer just to see if anything would change. And during that time, Ryan and I enjoyed ourselves while indulging in what Barbados had to offer. A few days later, it appeared my right ovary finally woke up. Maybe it was all the fun and relaxation we were having, because I had another set of 5 follicles on my right ovary. They weren’t as strong, but they did spring into action and looked promising. The retrieval date was set for two days later and I will admit I was scared out of my mind. I was scared because I didn’t know what to expect and wasn’t happy about the idea of going through the common practice of being put under for the retrieval. But Anna reassured me. “It’s going to be okay. You will be just fine.” I felt safe with Anna and was relieved that she was working that day and would be with me while Dr. Skinner performed the procedure. She provided comfort that was much needed right then; holding my hand and offering kind words of support. Dr. Skinner, brilliant and humorous also put my mind at ease while explaining the procedure reiterating the process that Anna had explained earlier. Dr. Skinner took her time with us, making sure we understood what I would be given when put under, what a retrieval entails and what to expect afterwards.
The more knowledge I had, the more empowered I felt. As Anna promised, everything went fine. I had no pain or any discomfort afterwards. During the procedure, Dr. Skinner managed to collect 9 eggs. When initially starting out with only 5 follicles, without a doubt we were beyond elated to have 9 eggs collected. Out of the 9 eggs, 7 had fertilized.Each day that passed, the staff called on the local cell phone they gave us to provide updates. Our embryos were looking pretty darn good and we were pretty darn excited. On the third day, we met with Dr. Skinner who discussed the quality of our embryos. Most of our embryos were perfect and some were on the weak side. She explained everything to us regarding the embryos, including how they were graded, the difference between 3 day and 5 day transfer and the freezing process of embryos. We went ahead and did the 3 day transfer. We had extra embryos that made it to the 5 day blast and were frozen.
The clinic made this entire IVF process so easy while offering support, suggestions, advice and valuable information. We couldn’t have asked for better treatment because the quality of care they provide is superb. They have set high standards for themselves and continuously meet their own expectations yet always try to do it better. Ryan and I were extremely happy that we made the decision to do our IVF at the Barbados Fertility Centre. After arriving home, we felt extremely optimistic. Of course the two week wait was tortuous as questions crept through my mind. Did it work? Am I pregnant? Should I test early? Should I not? My breasts hurt, is that a sign I’m pregnant or is it the progesterone? What brand should I use? How many pregnancy tests should I buy?If I said our IVF cycle worked for us after that trip to Barbados, I would be lying. Unfortunately, before I could even do a pregnancy test, my period arrived. A devastating blow especially after such an amazing experience in Barbados. Though my ovaries started out slow, it all seemed to turn around and go so well. We were so convinced it would work. So when it didn’t, we were distraught and could only lie on our bed and cry. We only had each other to get through this unforeseen nightmare and continuously supported each other through such a devastating time. On the flip side we received something we considered a gift: MASSIVE SUPPORT.When I called the Barbados Fertility Centre in tears letting them know I had started my period and the cycle had failed, I wasn’t blown off. The response from the staff at the clinic was, “Oh no! Oh Karen, I am so sorry. I can only imagine how you both must be feeling right now.” I was on the phone for close to forty minutes as I cried while the other end was filled with empathy. “You and Ryan hold each other tight and give yourselves time to grieve. Please let us know if there is anything we can do. If you need to talk, do not hesitate to call us.” A follow up email from Anna was sent where she continuously asked how I was and if I needed anything. She wasn’t pushing for us to try again or trying to impose the next step. She was simply offering support and lending an ear for me to vent to when needed. Instead of focusing on that darn negative result – we tried to focus on the positive by creating a light hearted video about our experience in Barbados. Click below and check it out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWVBLQi9zS8 Dr. Skinner, Ryan and I had a phone conference a week later. In a extremely gentle voice offering her condolences, Dr. Skinner allowed us to discuss our concerns and questions we had and what other options were available to us. Further blood work indicated I had high NK cells and we discussed the possibility of different medications, while adding different protocol that may be more effective. Intralipid, prednisolone, blood thinners, etc.
After our in depth conversation with Dr. Skinner, she told us to discuss it amongst ourselves further and if we had any other questions to feel free to call. She didn’t push us to come back but kindly left it for us to decide on what we wanted to do next. Ryan and I are a united team. We are in this together. After an open and honest discussion with one another we came to the conclusion that we couldn’t give up and wanted to try again. Off to Barbados we went a few months later. And tried out our new protocol, including intralipid. If I said our second trip to Barbados was successful, I would again be lying. Our second cycle failed. We started becoming pretty good at failing these IVF cycles. We were officially on the fertility roller coaster ride; a ride we did not enjoy and desperately wanted to get off of. I couldn’t stop crying honestly feeling as though I was being punished for something I did in my past or present life. It brought on more stress and even more anxiety as each birthday past by. I felt incredibly alone and barely functioned. It was mind boggling, depressing and incredibly painful to feel so out of reach of having a baby.
We tried a third time in Barbados hoping three times a charm. To put it bluntly my eggs were fried. When we spoke to Dr. Skinner, she confirmed our thoughts. My egg quality was declining and in her opinion didn’t appear viable. Though Dr. Skinner was more than willing to support us if we wanted to try with my own eggs, she did suggest the use of donor eggs. We would increase our chances of success by 80% as opposed to my 4% chance if I continued down the same path of using my own eggs. On some level it sounds like a no brainer. Why try again with only a 4% chance and continuously repeat the cycles no success?On the other hand, using donor eggs was an emotional hurtle to get over. My heart was broken. I was crushed beyond words. The idea of not having a genetic link with my future child was hard to swallow. It was as if my husband would be creating a child with someone else and I was simply the oven. Rationally, I knew my eggs were bad and this new path would be our best bet. Emotionally? I struggled with the whole idea of using donor eggs.I needed time to let that concept sink in. I needed time to process. I honestly did not understand the donor egg process and needed time to talk things over with Ryan as many questions crossed my mind. I thought about the long term. How would this decision affect my child? Would my child feel like I’m not really his/her mom? Would my child be confused that would ultimately bring on emotional issues? As much as I wanted for us to be parents, I also didn’t want to cause any potential psychological harm to our child down the road. By choice our child would know where he/she came from so it would becomes a part of his/her life. I would never want to keep it a secret; secrets do more harm than good. If the truth was accidentally revealed much later our child could feel betrayed. The child could also feel ashamed; after all if it was no big deal why didn’t we tell him/her early on? So with those thoughts in mind, we had to think long and hard before coming to a decision. I also needed time to think about how I would feel.
I read somewhere about a woman who often viewed herself as the step-mother due to using donor eggs. I also read stories online about women continuously feeling a sense of loss after their child was born. They also struggled with the child having genetic ties with the father only. Would I feel the same way? Would I feel emotionally connected to the child or no? Would I mourn not seeing myself in this child? It was the emotionally charged questions such as the ones above that raised concerns. Though Ryan wanted to have a baby as much as I did, he didn’t want to put me in a position where I felt uncomfortable. He didn’t want me to feel pressured. What do we do? We initially decided to speak with a therapist who specialized in fertility issues hoping she would help us find some answers. TIDBIT If you ever go to a therapist who claims he/she specializes in fertility issues- always make sure they actually do know how to specialize in this area. When making an appointment, ask them directly what classes/training do they have that makes them an expert in the arena of fertility. I failed to ask that question and our therapist was basing her expertise on experience. That would have been fine had she resolved her own issues first.
Upon meeting her, our first session became all about her; her infertility and the journey she traveled. She said to us, “It didn’t work for me. My husband and I tried multiple fertility treatments, multiple times without success. We remained childless. We ended up getting divorced. I felt destroyed by the ongoing failed fertility treatments and losing my husband afterwards. But it’s okay. I presently have a boyfriend and we are doing great. I’m really, really happy now.” Therapists are supposed to play the role of Switzerland and stay neutral. They can identify with a client through validation and empathy. They are to display professionalism, have clear, healthy boundaries, ask the appropriate questions, utilize their listening skills and allow an individual to explore their own thoughts and feelings. Therapists discussing their own personal lives is A) crossing boundaries and B) has no place in a clients session. We quit seeing her and started researching and having discussions amongst ourselves. We also brought our questions to Anna who helped us understand the process. At the end of the day, we simply wanted a baby and it didn’t matter how this baby came to be. After researching further, I did come across an article on a website that discussed epigenetics.
The following was quoted: The effect of epigenetics on donor egg conception Remembering that 99.9% of a baby’s genes are identical to all other humans, 0.1% results in the variations we see in humans. A baby conceived using a donor egg (roughly the size of a full stop) gets his/her genes from the donor; she gets the “instructions” on the expression of those genes from the woman who carries him/her to term. This means that a baby conceived using donor egg has 3 biological parents: a father, the egg donor and the woman that carries the pregnancy. The child who is born would have been physically & no doubt emotionally different had another woman carried that child. In other words the birth mother influences what the child is like at a genetic level – it IS her child. She has had a “say” in her offspring as does the donated egg and the sperm used to fertilized. I think some of those stories other women had experienced I initially read about put doubts in my head. But I knew myself better than that. Working with teenagers, children and babies had been a huge part of my career and I fell in love with so many of those young munchkins. To think I wouldn’t bond with my baby or feel a sense of loss due to a genetic link seemed unfathomable. And my fears on how this child will feel also subsided. Ryan and I know in our hearts that unconditional love, being open, honest and supportive will allow this child to adjust just fine. We believe that talking about it early on is key to healthy adjustments while being in a warm, loving family. If this child asks questions as he/she gets older, we have no problem answering them as we want our child to feel whole. So my conclusion was that this option is in fact a gift because I’d be carrying this baby, my blood would be running through this baby while my body is creating this baby. This baby will be mine. This baby will equally be ours. This baby – A baby – the dream we’ve been chasing! What are we waiting for? Lets get pregnant!Anna put us in touch with Dionne, BFC’s IVF Donor/Recipient Coordinator. Extremely friendly, helpful and accessible, Dionne helped Ryan and I get the ball rolling. Because their in-house donors are mostly Caribbean, Dionne explained that the process would move faster if we sought an outside donor agency. She recommended some reputable agencies that BFC had worked with. We went with one located in the states after speaking with the agency’s director/owner. Scrolling through their website looking at young egg donors was quite overwhelming. So many to choose from and not sure what to exactly look for or how to choose was a challenge. And depending on the egg donor, prices varied.
However, in Barbados the cap is $5,000 so we needed to find a donor willing to not only travel out of the country but to also accept the set price. Again trying to find the humor in this stressful process, I handed the computer to Ryan and said, “Pick an egg donor, any donor. Take advantage, because this is the only time in your life you will be able to look and pick out another woman without getting in trouble.”Thankfully, the donor agency had a donor in mind for us. The donor was proven, had a previous cycle in Barbados that was successful and was known to produce quite a bit of good quality eggs. When we looked over her profile, she was perfect. To us, this was a good sign and decided to use her. After we decided to use this particular egg donor and after coordinating her cycle and our transfer, we were back in Barbados. Excited to see what the outcome was going to be after the egg retrieval, we were elated when told 18 eggs were collected from the donor. Out of 18, 11 had fertilized and 5 made it to blast. We transferred 3 on day 5 and froze the remaining 2. The embryos we transferred were above and beyond perfection and our chances of success were high. We were elated! So back home to the states, we sat for 2 weeks waiting for this miracle to happen. On the day of our pregnancy test I happily went into the bathroom only to be shocked. Shocked to what I was seeing. Ryan and I were floored. How can this be negative when everything went so well? We had perfect and young embryos! This donor had managed to get every couple pregnant; every single couple she donated for… everyone but us.
I could only angrily throw the pregnancy test in the trash and begin to sob. “I’m so done! I don’t care anymore! I just can’t do this anymore!” It just didn’t seem fair that we had to go through so much emotional pain. All we wanted was a baby. Why did it have to be so hard? When I let our donor agency know that our cycle had failed, I was even in more tears when I received such an unexpected response.
Dear Karen and Ryan,
I did let the donor know and she was very sad to hear the news. She said she would be happy to come back for another cycle for no compensation just pay the travel expenses. We would not charge you another agency fee as I feel terrible this did not work. If this is something you would like to do you could pay the travel costs through our agency and we would arrange that for you. If there is anything I can do or if you need someone to talk to please do not hesitate to contact me.
It was such a kind, generous gesture that both our donor and agency had offered us. It was evident we were blessed; between the staff in Barbados and our donor agency, we were fortunate enough to be working with wonderful, lovely people.
Unfortunately, I was too upset to even think about another cycle. Too upset to even consider going through the process again. Needless to say that after such a blow, we needed time off. We simply needed a break in order to collect ourselves.
Throughout our travels to Barbados along with the emails and phone calls afterwards, we became close to the staff. Overall, they became our major support system. Rachel would often email me offering encouraging words. I always appreciated it because she had a natural tendency to make me feel good on my worst day. Anna was always so supportive! So compassionate while validating how I often felt. She is passionate about what she does and genuinely cares about her patients. Months went by and Anna had suggested that we at least try the last two remaining embryos. Because we were struggling with getting time off from work to continue our trips to Barbados, Anna repeatedly told us not to feel obligated to BFC but to feel free to check out other clinics. “I don’t want you to feel obligated to come here if you can find a clinic closer to home. I honestly just want you two to have a baby regardless if it happens here or in the United States.” We did check out other clinics that were in nearby states only to be disappointed. I remember saying to Ryan, “Once you go to the Barbados Fertility Centre, you never view fertility clinics in the states the same way again.” Once you are treated extremely well there is no going back to mediocre treatment. We once again found ourselves in packed waiting rooms, the long wait before being seen, matter of fact nurses and doctors and unanswered questions while the typical cookie cutter process was shoved in our face. Truth be told, the clinics didn’t offer any answers or ideas that BFC didn’t already offer. Just by looking at me, a doctor said, “Yes, you do in fact need a donor egg and we can set you up with our in house donors and get that taken care of. ” But it was all so cold sounding. We were simply another number.
After sending our medical records to a top specialist in NYC and talking with him by phone, he stated several times how impressed he was with the Barbados Fertility Centre. “Based on what I’m reading here, the Barbados Fertility Centre was extremely thorough while covering all basis. They really have gone above and beyond compared to the other clinics I’ve seen around here.” Hands down, Barbados Fertility Centre was the place to be. There was also something refreshing about Barbados; it started to become our home away from home. We knew our way around the island and became friendly with the locals. We even had a woman in the hotel we stayed in that prepared my favorite breakfast every morning without me having to ask.
Despite our failed attempts, we made humorous videos about our IVF cycles and looked over all of our pictures. That was our way of coping; finding the silver lining of loss when looking back on our trips there. We always had a good time and the videos and pictures were a reminder of the cherished moments of the fun quality time spent together. I will admit that upon arrival home we often sat on our couch in the evenings constantly asking ourselves, “WHAT DO WE DO?” We needed to do something because time was running out. I couldn’t help but think that maybe it was me. That maybe my body wasn’t designed for pregnancy. After multiple discussions, Ryan and I decided on using a surrogate. Because surrogacy is illegal in Barbados, we had to seek this path in the states. We went back to our donor agency who also had screened surrogates.
I honestly didn’t want to use a fertility clinic in the states but it was closer to home. It was not going to be a cheap process but we believed it was our only option. When I bounced our plan off of Anna, she asked, “What do you want to do with your last two remaining frozen embryos?”Ryan and I were going to let them go. They didn’t appear to be good quality and we didn’t want to focus our energy on fair/poor looking embryos. “First of all, they aren’t poor quality.” Anna said. “They are fair to good quality. And truth be told, I have seen many bad looking embryos shake hands with Dr. Skinner a year later.” Anna explained that we could simply try the last two remaining embryos because its a simple transfer and an inexpensive quick trip down to Barbados and back. “Why spend so much money on a new donor and surrogacy if in fact we can get this transfer to work?” Anna had a point. 2 airline tickets and a $1,000 transfer vs. $50,000 for a surrogate on top of money spent towards a fresh donor IVF cycle appeared like a no brainer.
“What if the transfer actually worked?” Ryan asked. I shook my head. “It won’t because what is really different?” Due to my NK cells being high, Dr. Skinner wanted to add Humira to the protocol alongside the Prednisolone I had tried before. Though Ryan and I planned to go down to Barbados for our final transfer, we also set plans in motion for an IVF cycle to be done and a potential surrogate to be used anyway. Working out our finances with plans to cash in on investments and retirement funds, this back up plan was necessary. It was hard to be confident in this transfer while wondering if the frozen embryos would even survive the thaw. Even if they did, what were the chances of them surviving inside my uterus? Before our departure to Barbados, I saw my OB/GYN. At my request, he ordered a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) to check for polyps. Yes, I had it done before and nothing was found, but I wanted to be sure. I also asked if he would be willing perform a uterine biopsy. I wanted this done because it would be good to know if anything was wrong with my uterus. Anna had also said that some studies have shown scratching the uterus or doing a biopsy prior to a transfer could increase chances of pregnancy.
Timing it right was key and my OB/GYN was extremely flexible with doing it on a specific day. Though I wasn’t sure if the biopsy would make a difference, I once again had nothing to lose.So in March of 2014, 2 years after our first donor cycle failed, we left the cold behind and arrived in Barbados. I can be honest and say we didn’t take the transfer too seriously. We were not full of anxiety or worry because we had it set in our minds that it wouldn’t work. It had nothing to do with BFC and their treatment. No. It had to do with my body. I had sadly yet accepted the fact that my uterus rejected embryos and there wasn’t anything I could do to control that. I may have wanted to give us one final shot but deep down was convinced I wasn’t ever going to get to experience pregnancy.
I think it helped having the back up plan of using a surrogate. I think that is what emotionally protected us while alleviating that heavy weight off our shoulders. Rather than stress about the outcome we chose to make light of this trip and have fun with it by taking selfies during the transfer. Anna had happily announced that our embryos not only survived the thaw but bounced back to their original state not losing any cells. In other words, the embryos appeared strong and overall looked fantastic. We were happy to hear this news but still couldn’t help but err on the side of caution. After all, we’ve had perfect embryos in the past with no success. We returned home and continued on with our lives during that 2 week waiting period. Those two weeks were incredibly busy. So busy, I actually forgot to buy a pregnancy test. So when the two weeks were up, I wasn’t even prepared. Anna had sent me an email early on the morning I was supposed to take the home pregnancy test. “WELL?” I shrugged to myself and wrote back, “I still need to buy a pregnancy test. I will let you know in a bit.” Anna immediately emailed back. “Come on Karen! I’m dying over here. ”
Because we had been down this negative road so many times before, I was sparing myself the grief by taking my time in heading down to Walgreens to buy the pregnancy test. Not something I was looking forward to. I mean granted we had emotionally prepared ourselves for the worst. And yes, we even had a back up plan. But still, there was still this small sense of hope I couldn’t help but have. I wanted it so badly to work and yet couldn’t let go of the fact that we were so good at failing these tests. Why rush around to find the answer just to ruin my morning? So yes it was no shock when immediately upon use I saw a negative line. “That’s exactly what I figured”, I said to myself while feeling that same empty, disappointing pit in my stomach. Who was I kidding to think it actually worked? SIGH I tried to shrug off the tears that stung my eyes, reminding myself we had a back up plan. But even so, it still hurt. As I washed my hands, I looked down again only to see this.
I couldn’t help but say to myself, “No way. No frigin way!” I then began to yell,” OH MY GOSH! NO WAY! SHUT UP! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? IT REALLY WORKED! IT WORKED!” I began pacing around the house sobbing and laughing trying to process what I was seeing on this pregnancy test I was now holding in my hand. When I immediately called Anna in Barbados, I sighed into the phone and said with a flat tone, “Well Anna. We all gave it our best shot you know?” I could hear Anna sigh following the sound of her sucking her teeth in disappointment. I then said,” But it finally paid off because IT WORKED!” I yelled. “I”M PREGNANT!” Anna yelled back, “IT WORKED? OH KAREN IM SO HAPPY FOR YOU! THIS IS THE BEST NEWS EVER!”
In the background I could hear the entire clinic screaming with happiness. It was so wonderful to have the Barbados Fertility Centre who had been there for us throughout our painful journey only to finally share in the joy of a positive outcome. Ryan unexpectedly stopped by at home because he forgot some important documents. He saw that I had been crying and asked, “What’s wrong babe?” When I explained that I took the pregnancy test, he nodded his head in disappointment and hugged me. “Can I just show you the test?” I asked. “Of course. Want to make it official, hunh?” He kindly smiled. I handed him the test and as he looked down his mouth dropped. “It says positive.” He looked up at me confused. “We are pregnant?” I nodded my head and began crying again. “We are pregnant babe. It worked! It actually worked this time.” Ryan started crying while hugging me so tight. “We are finally pregnant.” he whispered. “We are finally going to become parents.” The blood test came back that afternoon in high numbers. After 6 and 1/2 years of trying with no success, I WAS OFFICIALLY PREGNANT! That same day, Rachel who always made our visits at the clinic fun sent us the best email.
Okay I am all trying to keep it together but…
I AM SO FREAKING HAPPY FOR YOU!!!!!!!!
Yes, it is OUR time. FINALLY. I wrote Rachel an email that evening trying to convey to her and the rest of the BFC staff how grateful Ryan and I were.
– Karen and Ryan