The Scenic Route to Parenthood: Caitlin and Shawn’s Story

October 20, 2015

In this blog series, I interview women and couples who’ve experienced infertility, turned to fertility treatments to help grow their families, and made it out on the other side with a baby or pregnancy. My goal is to help inspire and give hope to people going through similar situations and to spread awareness to those who may not understand all the emotions and intricate steps that fertility treatments entail. Today’s interview is with Caitlin, 27, who went through 2 donor egg cycles to conceive their twins. Click here for list of acronyms and slang definitions that may pop up in the interview.

Due to the sensitive nature of these extremely candid and honest interviews, there is a zero tolerance policy in place for any comments I find rude, hurtful, or inappropriate and they will be deleted immediately. Thank you for having an open mind and understanding!

Tell us about yourself and your partner:

My name is Caitlin and my husband’s name is Shawn. I am 27 years old and my husband just turned 29 today! We currently reside in the very hot Phoenix, Arizona. I am an elementary school teacher currently in my 6th year of teaching and my husband is a laboratory manager at an oncology office here in Phoenix. We have a boxer named Emma who is 5 years old. We love hockey, working on house projects, craft beer, going to concerts, all things Disney, day trips to enjoy cooler weather and spending time with our friends and family.

How long have you been TTC and when did you have a feeling something wasn’t right?

We began TTC June 2012. Within a few months I knew something wasn’t right. I have always had terrible periods and had questioned my doctor before about possibly having endometriosis. Two doctors told me I definitely did not because my mom didn’t have it and that was the end of that conversation. In October of 2013 I met with my RE who finally gave us our diagnosis.

What diagnoses have you been given from your doctors?

Before meeting my RE I was told by my gynecologist that I was young and to just relax. Once I met my RE and began some testing we quickly found out that I indeed had endometriosis like I always thought. While waiting for surgery my bloodwork came back that I also had diminished ovarian reserve and premature ovarian failure. Relaxing and being young was not going to help me. My husbands SA came back good thank god!

So with a proper diagnosis, did it make coming up with a treatment protocol easier or were there new challenges?

After my surgery and bloodwork, our RE told us the only way we would get pregnant was through IUI or IVF. Even with my diagnosis she felt like she could get a few healthy eggs from me. It was extremely hard to hear because I was a healthy 25 year old. After many tears I decided to bite my lip and move forward with the full support of my husband. Little did we know the challenges that would lie ahead.

What fertility treatments have you done?

We began with IUIs. I did 2 of them. Both times I responded well to the medications and was hopeful. Both of them ended in BFNs. We decided before hand we’d only do 2 IUIs before moving on to IVF. We discussed IVF with my eggs and IVF with donor eggs. My RE felt like she could help me get some healthy eggs – not very many but at least a few since I was young. Unfortunately this cycle was cancelled after only finding that I had 2 follicles so we converted to an IUI which ended in a BFN. We moved onto picking an egg donor. Everything was going great; she was responding to meds and my body was ready, and when it came to retrieval day I got a devastating phone called that her trigger shot didn’t work and they would try again tomorrow. They ended up getting 11 eggs from her but few fertilized and we had to do a day 3 transfer.

Unfortunately this ended in a horrible BFN and we were devastated. Everything that wasn’t supposed to happen happened. Her trigger shot didn’t work, the few eggs we got were bad, I had an allergic reaction to my progesterone injections and we weren’t pregnant. We took a long painful break, picked a new donor and began another cycle 7 months later. Our doctor felt horrible about our previous egg donor cycle and ended up doing an at cost cycle for us. We only had to pay for meds and my IVF nurse got a bunch of free meds for us as well. I will forever be thankful for them. Everything went perfectly this round. We had a 5 day transfer and transferred 2 fully expanded blasts. We even have 6 frosties left!

Were any treatments successful?

Our most recent egg donor cycle was a success! I am currently pregnant with twins. We are over the moon to have some frosties as well. If we decided not to use them in the future we want to donate them to our RE for a couple who would like to do embryo adoption.

Are any of your treatments or medications covered by your health insurance?

My insurance covered testing in the beginning to get my diagnosis and that was it. We wrote off close to $45,000.00 on our taxes last year for all of our fertility treatments and medications. That total doesn’t include our recent cycle in 2015.

Can you tell us how you and your partner settled on which egg donor to use? And what is the process of choosing like?

Luckily my RE ran an in house egg donor program. The donors are screened by a psychologist and had their day 3 labs done. They also share their personal and family medical history before being accepted into their program. We met with the Nurse Practitioner who ran the program. We were able to look online and through a binder of hers to see personal photos of the donors as well as all of their information. Besides medical history they listed their personality types, highest schooling and gpa, interests & why they wanted to be an egg donor.

My husband and I looked for a donor who had similar traits. The donor we used for our successful cycle was a brunette with hazel eyes and is 5’5 just like me! She has a college education and two children of her own and she was younger than me (by a year). Her family medical history was great and her parents even had similar traits to my mom and dad. She had a previous cycle before us where they froze her embryos so there was no proven cycle yet but we went with our heart and chose her and we are SO glad we did!

What’s the hardest part of dealing with infertility to you?

The hardest part is feeling alone and beating yourself up constantly. I hated myself and my body. I was a failure and I was so ashamed of myself. I remember during the hardest time I told my husband he should leave me before it got any worse. People do not talk about infertility. I didn’t tell my family about anything until I had to have my laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis. It took me 2 years to tell a few of my friends. It takes over your whole life. I secluded myself and lost friends. I skipped social functions and I was extremely depressed for a long time. It definitely changed you forever.

What’s something you’ve learned throughout this entire experience?

I learned how extremely strong I am. I also learned that there is no better man for me than my husband. I would have never survived without him. I also learned that it is okay to talk about infertility. Just find the right people who are going to understand and support you. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we come together (Girl Power!).

Where did you turn for positivity and inspiration during your darkest moments?

Making an Instagram and following other IVF/Egg donor ladies was the best decision I ever made. Finally, people who knew what I was going through! I exchanged numbers with other women who were going/went through and egg donor cycle and I even found a person who went to the same doctor as me and used a donor! These women got me through hard times. I cannot thank them enough for their continued support. My husband was my biggest supporter. He was just as heartbroken as I was after our failed attempts but did everything he could to help me make it through each day. Whether it was making dinner, cleaning the house, taking me out, etc. he helped me survive and reminded me that we were in this together.

What advice would you give to someone about to go through a donor egg cycle?

  • Don’t beat yourself up about using an egg donor. Your goal is to become pregnant, carry your child, and give birth to a healthy baby. It’s extremely hard to hear in the beginning but remember what your ultimate goal is! You ARE their mom.
  • Go with your heart when picking your donor. We initially picked a very proven donor for our first DEIVF cycle and it went to hell!
  • Be honest and open with your doctor and IVF team. Ask them a million questions no matter how ridiculous they may seem. This is your life and you’re spending thousands of dollars to make your dream come true.
  • There is nothing wrong with spending some nights crying on your bathroom floor. Let it out, re-group, and keep fighting. What you’re going through is hard! Give yourself some credit, eat some junk food, and buy yourself something nice. Swearing helps too.

What’s something you wish people knew about infertility?

I wish people knew how common it was. If you know someone who is battling infertility do your research. Please don’t say “why don’t you just adopt.” Research infertility, IVF, IUI, Adoption and get the real facts not just a story of “someone you know”. Unless you have dealt with infertility the best advice you can give is “I know what you’re going through is really hard – just know I am here for you- I love you & you are so strong.”

Twins pregnancy announcement

Anything else you’d like to say?

You will have a family. I know it may not seem like it now but just know as long as you keep fighting and moving forward it will work out in some way, shape, or form. I used to hate when people would say that but they were right :).

How to reach Caitlin:

Instagram: Fightforthefuturexo

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