As a 42-year-old, single, LGBTQ woman I truly believed I had said goodbye to the dream of one day being a mother. Although it was something I always wanted, circumstances and choices always took me in a different direction. At some point the scales tipped. My fear of doing parenthood as a solo artist paled in comparison to my fear of never having tried. That’s when I hit the “Get Started” button on the MLF website. I had my first consult with Dr. Bloom online and started the process. Pretty quickly I made the decision to begin IVF due to my age. I truly believed I would have no problems getting pregnant. I thought for sure everything would work the first time I tried. I was healthy, had no negative medical history and the only thing working against me was my age. Easy would not turn out to be my story.
I started my first stim cycle the day after Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, only one egg reached maturation and we cancelled my retrieval. I was really disappointed – and then the IVF lab closed over the holidays so I couldn’t jump right into the next cycle. I had to wait until the end of January to try again. Dr. Bloom made some adjustments to my med protocol, my stim cycle went well and I had 5 eggs going into my retrieval. I was so excited going into the procedure room. I felt sure that everything had gone to plan. When I woke up after, I learned that I had ovulated early. Dr. Bloom was on a mission and was able to retrieve one egg. That little one would go on to fertilize and become a 5-day blastocyst. A week later, after genetic testing, I learned that my embryo was not viable. I was crushed. In late February/early March, Dr. Bloom had me do an ERA cycle so that if I did get a viable embryo we would know when to transfer. This meant different meds and more injections. I started my third and final stim cycle in late March. The cycle went really well and Dr. Bloom retrieved 6 eggs. Five fertilized, and two went on to become 5-day blastocysts. In early April, after genetic testing, I learned that neither would be viable for transfer. This was my low point.
3 stim cycles, 2 retrievals, 3 five-day blastocysts and no viable embryos. I had made a promise to myself at the outset of IVF that I would maintain a financial limit- that I would call it if I got to the point where I was no longer being financially responsible. I had no IVF coverage, some prescription coverage and I knew that if I were to bring a baby into the world, I had to have the means to care for them. I had to make a choice about how much more I could do – financially and emotionally. After much deliberation and about a million conversations with Dr. Bloom, I decided that, ultimately, I wanted to be a mother.
Instead of going through another stim cycle with only a slim chance of a viable embryo, I decided to use a donor embryo. This was a complex decision. I knew that if I were to get pregnant my child would have genetic siblings out in the world that would remain anonymous to us, and simultaneously, I had to accept that my child would share none of my genetics. Ultimately, I knew that my donor’s gift was my future. I was certain in the fact that my child was created from unbelievable love and that could be enough. I guess in some way I felt uniquely qualified to go this route. As a person who is adopted, I know what challenges there are for a person whose DNA is different. I felt confident as I made my decision that I could do this.
In May, after being carefully matched by the amazing third-party reproduction team, I took custody of two donor embryos. In early June, one embryo was transferred and one was stored. And then I waited. After 5 negative and 1 positive at home pregnancy tests, I went in for my blood test on a Monday morning convinced that the transfer hadn’t worked. Dr. Bloom promised she would call as soon as she knew. I was prepared for more bad news. I went to work and waited. About 3 hours later Dr. Bloom and the entire Havertown office called me on speaker phone to tell me that I was finally PREGNANT!!! They cried, I cried. The transfer had worked.
At 43, I am now pregnant with my little boy and I am full of gratitude. After 6 months, more than 250 self-administered injections, lots of meds and lots of financial and emotional rollercoastering, my dream has come true. And while I am technically a solo artist, my village has come out in full force to support us. My parents will be first time grandparents, my sisters – first time aunts. Our family is forever changed.
My gratitude is deep. This was not the story I imagined, but now I understand firmly that this is my story, our story – mine and my little boy’s story. He wouldn’t be if it weren’t for every single heartache and joy along the way.
I am going to be a Mama. My heart is full.
How was your experience at Main Line Fertility?
I chose to work with Dr. Allison Bloom from the outset of my journey. I loved that she was part of the LGBTQ community and had lived through her own journey with IVF. I knew from the minute we started our first Zoom consult that I had made the right choice. Throughout the last 9 months Dr. Bloom has demonstrated compassionate and expert care. She continues to hone her craft, is present in all facets of the process and was always accessible. I never felt like I couldn’t call or email -and Dr. Bloom always got back to me personally with answers or reassurance. Her respect extends beyond her patients to every single one of her colleagues, be they doctors, nurses or staff. This says so much about who she is and how she practices medicine. She is extraordinary.
Aside from my personal experience with Dr. Bloom as a patient, I happened to be receiving my care during a time in which she was instrumental in improving services and establishing inclusive protocols for all patients at MLF – particularly for members of the LGBTQ community. This was incredibly meaningful to me as I made my way through IVF. Although I am not partnered, it meant so much that my identity was always honored and valued.
The care advocate, nurses, office staff, technicians, sonographers, embryologists and anesthesiologists at MLF are the best of the best. When you’re going through such an intimate and personal process it means everything to feel known. I felt that my care was personalized for me. The nurses and office staff were coaches and counselors and cheerleaders throughout my time at MLF.
Additionally, I worked closely with the third-party reproduction team and the financial office. Terri, Regina and Amy are remarkable. From matching me with my donor embryos to navigating paperwork and strategizing financial options- I couldn’t have done it without them.
I will be forever grateful for the exceptional care I received at MLF.
What advice would you give to other members of the LGBTQ community who are thinking about starting a family?
I didn’t know what to expect when I started on my own path to parenthood. I learned quickly to advocate for myself and to ask every question. There is so much information out there and that can be overwhelming. Dr. Bloom and I agreed to direct and honest communication from the beginning. I wanted to know everything I could, so we would talk and then I would read. Be careful with online searching- if you can, get connected with real people who have gone through it. One thing I realized as I moved through the process is that no one is talking about fertility or the struggles that are unique to this particular path. No one is talking about what it’s like for gay couples or individuals to build a family. When I announced my pregnancy, I received a number of private messages from parents sharing that they, too, had utilized assisted reproduction. I didn’t know that any single one of them had been through it.
Find a community or individuals who are willing/able to share the challenges and the triumphs. You’re going to need to talk about it and it helps to have a solid support system. Also, make a plan for your legal needs. Being an LGBTQ parent requires a lot more paperwork and securing of rights. (Maybe someday it won’t?!) Do your homework and be ready to access resources. Most importantly, take care of yourselves. Rest. Find spaces and people that bring you comfort and joy. Know that you’re not alone.