Dear Diary,

Garmin should create a GPS to navigate the road to fertilization. Instead of entering an address, women could plug-in their age, medical information and family history.  The system could map out the fastest route to conception.  The GPS could store favorite destinations, such as an OBGYN office and baby shower registration locations.  The device could detour around low egg and sperm counts and direct drivers to infertility clinics or adoption agencies.  Unfortunately, the journey to motherhood isn’t that easy.  At times, women break down.  They become depressed and disappointed when they are unable to have children.  And when they get home from a tearful trip, they turn on the television and watch stories about Octomom or celebrities in their mid-forties showing off their baby bumps.

But sometimes their travels have a happy ending.  That’s why Diary of a First Time Mom wanted to tell Natalie’s story. We changed her name to protect her identity.  She wanted to be able to share her most intimate thoughts without worrying about someone judging her.  For years, Natalie and her husband tried to have a baby.  They finally conceived, but five months later, her water broke, and she lost her baby and her hope.  Then, the couple decided to explore IVF.

Why did you want to become a mother? What made you turn to IVF? How long did you try to get pregnant? 

I wasn’t “trying” to get pregnant per say, but we stopped using protection on our wedding night back in 2004.  My husband and I were open to the idea of having a baby, but didn’t want to put pressure on ourselves. We finally conceived in February 2007 (I was 28; my husband 24.) But we lost our baby girl around 5 months gestation due to my water breaking prematurely with no warning or medical explanation. After her loss, we tried to conceive without medical intervention for two years. In March of 2009, we decided to investigate why we were unable to have children naturally like other young couples we knew.

I thought conceiving would be an easy feat, after all I was healthy; I was young and had no prior indication that trouble becoming a mother would be in the cards for me, but sadly it was. I had a traumatic loss of a beautiful baby girl and was terrified to become pregnant again.  Despite this, I wanted so much to become a mother. Now that I was ready, it just wasn’t happening. It took several months to get in to see an infertility specialist.  Once I got an appointment, there was many more months of testing, prodding, poking, and more waiting. Then came the meds—boxes and boxes of pills I needed to regulate my cycle and grow strong ovaries before starting the IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) process. The IUI procedure is quite long, but many women must undergo this before the IVF process if they are young and have an “unexplained infertility” diagnosis. So, I began my birth control pills for a couple of months to regulate my period, then I had (painful) HCG shots daily to grow my follicles.  I went back and forth to the doctor’s office to check the growth and schedule a day to take the husband’s sperm, wash them, shoot them my way, and then endure an agonizing two-week wait to learn the results. Well, I went though this process FOUR times! I was depressed, disappointed and just simply exhausted. So, we turned to IVF. It was November, and I wasn’t too optimistic. Then, more waiting.  Our insurance provider had to approve our request before we could proceed.

Did anyone oppose getting infertility treatments?  For instance, some critics say it goes against Mother Nature’s plan. 

No one opposed the infertility treatments, but I didn’t exactly announce what I was doing to the world either!  I told a few of my friends and family members, and everyone was supportive. Given the fact that we tried to have children for years, I think many understood our plight, and we received a lot of positive feedback.  I also got great tips and encouragement from infertility chat rooms and blogs. Reading stories shared by other women going through similar circumstances helped a lot.

How did you educate yourself about IVF?  Did you feel you had to educate others?  What myths and misconceptions do you think surround IVF? Sometimes when people think of IVF, they picture octomom or designer babies. 

I read all the literature multiple times and visited the examination room so often I knew the IVF charts by heart! After four rounds of failed IUI attempts and several months of disappointment, I was ready! Contrary to the public media and fanfare about Octomom, most doctors are very persuasive about only using one or two eggs a cycle. They want to minimize chances of multiple births, because it puts both moms and babies at a greater risk. I had very good doctors and was supported by a team of nurses who guided me through my decision-making. I, along with my husband, settled on only one egg for the first round of IVF. I had lost a baby without any medical reasoning and felt no need to take on more stress during what I’d hoped would be my second pregnancy.

Were you worried the treatments wouldn’t work? 

After four IUI’s, I was very discouraged about the first trial of IVF. It was more invasive; I had to have my eggs surgically removed (this was very painful) and the odds of me getting pregnant weren’t much higher. I recall listening to doctors tell other patients after the egg retrieval their egg count was 20 or 19.  I only had 8! I was extremely disappointed with my low number. What I soon discovered is that quality is a lot more important than quantity. In a day or so, I learned I had 5 good eggs ready to go. My husband and I returned a few days later for the transfer of our best looking embryo on day 5 of fertilization, coded 4BB. This wasn’t the highest grade, but it was ours.

 Is IVF a costly venture?  How did the price impact your decision-making?

IVF can be as expensive as a small car or a small house. Depending on how many cycles one attempts, it can be very costly. However, if you have good insurance and research the policy prior to starting a family, women will find that some insurance companies will cover a few IVF trials.

What was it like waiting for IVF results?  Do you remember where you were, the response you had to the good news?  Were you worried that the pregnancy would miscarriage?

I wanted whatever blessings I was granted in the form of a baby.

I recall not rushing to take a home pregnancy test as I did for each IUI.  Doctors strongly discourage these tests because they aren’t as accurate as blood tests.  I refused to look at another stick and read that I would have to start this saga again. I lied in bed on the day after my blood work and just prayed. I let my husband take the phone call from the nurse with the news—good or bad.  I screamed with excitement and cried tears of joy and relief when we found out we were indeed expecting. Weeks later, I screamed again when I learned the egg had split, and I identical twins were inside my womb!

How has your life changed for the better?

My life now has a meaning I recognize and appreciate much more because I have been on such a journey to motherhood. I feel like I earned my badge on that operating table after my eggs were harvested. My two blessings have opened up a part of me I didn’t know existed. When I was able to hear my babies take their first breaths, I knew I would endure a thousand rounds or testing, poking, or prodding to reap this reward again.

What advice do you have to give other mothers trying to conceive?

My advice to other mothers would be to love your offspring with everything you are because they are what makes you a mother. The road one takes to motherhood isn’t what is important, nor is it taken into account when it comes to how you love your children. I have fought long and hard to have my girls, but the fight isn’t and won’t be worth anything if my children don’t feel my love on a daily basis. In the end, they won’t really care how they got here. What they will remember is how much they are truly loved!

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

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