The First-Time Mom Whose IVF Experience Wasn’t Easy

Lauren Caruso
The First-Time Mom Whose IVF Experience Wasn’t Easy

In our new series Pregnancy Diaries, we ask expecting women to jot down every pregnancy-related detail of their lives for a week. (Special thanks to New York mag and Refinery29 for the inspo.) Work-related conundrums, struggles with IVF, and a whole lot of nausea, ahead. This week, we have a 32-year-old Advertising Sales Exec based in NYC who’s 34.5 weeks pregnant with her first child. She and her husband chose genetically test their embryos via IVF for a rare genetic disorder—and it paid off. 

My husband and I returned from our honeymoon excited to jump off the pill and jump into making a baby. I’m Jewish, and while I like to consider myself a Type-A Hippy, I went to the doctor to ask 101 questions before trying to conceive. I wanted to be taking the appropriate vitamins well in advance and do genetic testing prior so that we had no surprises. Being Jewish Tay Sachs was the real genetic disorder most are looking for, and when you get married, your rabbi will likely give you pamphlet to properly scare you.

Shortly after my appointment, I learned we were a match for FMF. A super common, not life threatening auto-inflammatory disease. The way it was described was it could feel like absolutely nothing, or the child could have fevers running 104+, joint pain, and need medication and dietary restrictions for the rest of his/her life. Is this happening? I felt STUCK. The only opportunity to avoid this was to genetically test my eggs via IVF. IVF??? I never ever tried naturally and they mentioned these words. We sat on the decision for 2 months speaking to doctors. Some thought we were crazy for wanting to do IVF for something so minor, while others who had patients with FMF said if you can avoid this, why wouldn’t you. We spoke to pediatricians, genetic counselors, and made an appointment with an IVF clinic to understand the process and evaluate.

After two months, we received an email that in 2016 IVF would be 100 percent covered under our insurance. That was the only email I needed and I never looked back. We started IVF. It was NOT a black and white process. While I was lucky and received 8 beautiful embryos, 4 were affected with the genetic disorder—leaving us with 4 embryos. After waiting four months to build a probe to test for the disorder in a lab (we needed blood from all four of our parents which were fun phone calls to make) my first transfer was cancelled due to my lining not being thick enough and my body didn’t want medication (shocker). We’re not five months out from starting this process which felt like 12 years.

We tweaked our efforts and I did a “natural” transfer the following month working off my natural ovulation. I went in every other day to track this so my life was mornings in the clinic. Low and behold, the second transfer stuck! We kissed, skipped while walking, and that was it. Two days later, we get a call that my numbers dropped, and I had a “chemical” pregnancy and lost the embryo. That’s when I panicked. I started the process in January. After blood tests, waiting on labs, etc. here we are with no answers—almost seven months into the process and no explanation.

July came by and I was hopeful that the first was a common fluke, but no luck. Now we were worried that we might have a fertility issue, and wondering if IVF was a horrible decision, so I took a month off, did rounds of testing, and went on a weekend retreat to relax. I refused to transfer one of the two we had left without understanding why the first failed. The only thing found was that I had a high level of “natural killer” cells. This was controversial but meant that my immune system was seeing the embryos as foreign objects making them harder to stick. The solution was to take an anti-inflammatory drug and and IV every 2-3 weeks prior to the next transfer. It came with more risks and now I was left weighing the pros and cons of IVF over risking FMF to begin with.  At this point, we were all in and I took the auto-inflammatory pill and IV treatment.

Come November, we did our third transfer with an embryo they said was the lowest grade and the weakest, but my husband and I had our eye on this one the entire time. It was the underdog and had to be thawed twice to get a proper reading on its genetics and they contemplating disregarding this embryo. You MUST be your own advocate, and call your own shots. Eight days after the transfer we received a call that it stuck, but my levels again were so low that it would be incredibly rare if it carried through to a viable pregnancy.  I can’t explain how the next 12 weeks went by—walking around thinking about how quickly I could—and probably would—lose the baby. But I didn’t! The embryo defied the 1 percent odd of survival. I even bled the entire first trimester, and here I am, eight months pregnant with a healthy baby boy. His embryo number was 14, so that’s our lucky number now. Our emails from our IVF doctor are beyond adorable (“GO 14 GO!”) the entire time. It was a journey to say the least.

Summary of my conception? Don’t put a date on your conception, never stop asking questions, and forget the world around you. This is your path, your timing, your child and family’s health and whatever that path looks like it’s yours.

Day 1

6 a.m. — Husband is away on business and I slept with the shades open to wake up with the sun, which is the easiest way for me to wake up right now. I felt famished and woke up on my back (which is a no-no, so I panicked a bit). I eased into the day with cereal with almond Milk and a Liquiteria Coffee and Cacao smoothie which has been my vice. Protein, a little caffeine, and it curbs appetite in a way I can’t describe. It’s magical.

9 a.m. — In the office, draped in a white ASOS maternity dress in 75-degree heat. Feeling pretty good. Working on my maternity coverage document to ensure if I go early my work world is still afloat. I’ve had many moments where I felt panicked and figured I need to stop thinking and start doing. My energy is a bit lower but still fully functional. I keep reciting my favorite quote: “Clarity comes from engagement” and powering through.

12 p.m. — Taking a 30-minute walk to a client lunch to get my body moving.

3 p.m. — Trying not to eat copious amounts of chocolate. I’ve been pretty good about my weight gain (I’m 5 ft.) and don’t deprive myself but I did sneak a bite. Drank water and Honest Tea to fill up and hydrate. My girlfriends warned me of what they call v-lightening, which I felt when getting up for a snack. You know it when you feel it—that’s for damn sure.

6 p.m. — Met a friend for a brainstorm for a new business idea. Staying social and most of the girls just get a kick out of seeing me pregnant. Surrounding myself with friends is super helpful even on the days I want to crawl in a hole.

10 p.m. — Yeah right, good night. Read Richard Scarry to my babes and passed out cold.

Husband comes home from work trip, but I’d be lying if I said I wish I had the king bed to myself for one more night….

MORE: The First-Time Mom Who Can’t Get a Day Off From Work

Day 2

9 a.m. — Woke up to go head over to Latham Thomas Mama Glow prenatal workout class in downtown Tribeca. Summer Fridays never felt so good and since I’ve only done Yoga Vida workout classes which are more of a stretch, this one really kicked my butt and made me feel like I could move again.

12 p.m. — My real cravings have honestly been almond milk, anything with ice, chocolate, and fruit. I know, not that interesting but I’m constantly thirsty and never truly hungry. I snagged avo toast after the workout with a hard boiled egg, but I honestly could have an icy smoothie for every meal.

3 p.m. — I got tired real fast, and took a nice 2 hour nap. They are becoming more frequent in this trimester and I can’t function without them.

6 p.m. — Nighttime rolled around and my husband arrived home. We took a walk through the park to dinner. Per usual, I stared at the menu, wanted nothing, ordered out of pressure to do so, and barely ate it. All I wanted was a tall glass of milk…. Go figure.

8 p.m. — Off to bed early, as this weekend is the last of the wedding circuit and I’ve committed to a wedding at 8.5 months ripe and a bridal shower prior. Good news is I was looking forward to wearing my stretchy, bold red, ASOS maternity dress. I’ve always worn oversized frocks and dresses, but ASOS has really been a savior here. Having the right outfit that’s comfortable yet attractive has kept me enjoying events like these. I tried to slip into a flowy Zimmerman number but it was a complete fail and just wouldn’t lay right.

Day 3

9 a.m. — Red dress on, and out the door. I knew this was going to be a long day for me given I was attending the bridal shower as a bridesmaid and headed off to a wedding upstate directly from there. I didn’t drink my traditional morning smoothie (coffee, bananas, cacao, protein powder, and almond milk) and I certainly paid for it. I was noshing on random snacks and never truly felt satisfied. I was a bit cranky to say the least. I spent the majority of the wedding chatting, answering questions on how far along I was, and eating cake. One thing I always have room for is sweets. I was never a drinker prior to pregnancy so it didn’t bother me being sober. I was more focused on how my tolerance for heels declined dramatically—as well as my ability to dance until the wee hours.

Day 4

9 a.m. — Typically my Sundays are far more pampering with face masks, yoga, and errands, but today was Father’s Day and it’s certainly a special one. I drove home to see my dad and spend the day with my family and snagged a little gift for the soon-to-be dad. He was running low on work polos that he wears on more casual days, so matching light blue polo and one for our little guy on the way (monogrammed, an added perk).

3 p.m. — My dad put the car seat in the car. I’ve started to get a bit freaked that I could go into labor at any moment, as my sister in law gave birth at 29 weeks. Anything I can do to prep puts my mind at ease although I know you can never truly prepare yourself.

6 p.m. — Driving home, car seat intact, 900 other items ran through my head which I threw on the calendar to handle in the AM. I look forward to work, because I’m my most productive, surrounded by amazing women, and get so much done which eases my mind in this home stretch.

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Day 5

9 a.m. — Woke up, ready to tackle the week and had a slew of meetings. I’ve certainly been moving slower than usual but wrapping this up for my last three weeks at the office and weaning in some self-care has been my savior. I had my favorite Liquiteria Coffee + Cacao smoothie, gave up my work tote for my Celine cross body for comfort, and stopped carrying anything heavy. I refuse to eat lunch at my desk and went out for tomato + ricotta Toast. Weaning in walks and good food is keeping the work days lighter and more functional. Before heading home, I cleaned up our online registry a bit since I feel I’m coming close and I went nuts with the gun at BuyBuyBaby. A store that never crossed my mind in a million years—which I’ve come to learn is the end all be all for this stage in life but I had to go with the “less is more” strategy and will figure it out once baby is here. Clutter and waste frightens me.

6 p.m. — After taking the pup for a walk through Washington Square Park, we stopped for dinner at Senza Gluten and ate outside. I jump at the chance to do things that I may not be able to do when baby arrives. I scarfed down a Caprese salad and pasta w/ mushrooms. Dessert these days is a MUST so I try to keep it in check a bit (5 ft. tall and pregnant is a challenge in itself). I had chocolate sorbet from Amorino. It’s even better than iced cream, I swear.

Day 6

6 a.m. — I haven’t been sleeping well. As a back and belly sleeper, the side sleeping isn’t cutting it. Some love the pregnancy pillows, and they do help, but it’s not the same. The lack of a solid night’s sleep has been one of the one of the harder things to get used to. I was moving like a snail and took me a while to get into things today.

12 p.m. — I took clients to mani/pedis and anyone even remotely touching my legs is a dream. I get Charlie horses on the regular. I don’t have many pain and aches but between the sleep and legs tightness I’d say those are my downfalls. I ended the day in an Epson salt bath and went to bed early.

Day 7

9 a.m. – I woke up with a lot of energy and ready to tackle the day. It’s amazing what a warm bath and solid sleep will do for your headspace as well. I polished off my maternity leave document which is making it very real that I’ll be weaning out of the office and into this new life for the next three months/18 years/rest of my life let’s be real.

12 p.m. — I was on fire getting work done, making calls, and an out of the office client meeting that I picked up lunch to eat back at the office and close out the day feeling like I accomplished more than I expected. I snagged a balsamic chicken + avo sandwhich from Pret A Manger and ate at the office. One thing I legit can’t live without is anything with ice. I know I’ve said this earlier, but seriously anything icy. I grabbed an enormous cup of ice at a deli for my Honest Tea Half and Half and sipped this on my walk back.

6 p.m. — I had all the intention in the world to head to pre-natal yoga (I set to go two to three times a week but today I just took a pass and went home.)

7  p.m. — My husband was craving sushi so I opted for a cooked shrimp roll. We’ve agreed the minute this little boy comes out, he’ll be running out to Sushi of Gari for the tuna assortment…I miss fatty tuna more than I can express. Headed off to bed, as my 35-week check up is early in the morning and checking to see how this miracle #14 is doing.