Each person’s family building journey is different and unique. There isn’t a cookie-cutter approach to any of this, which is why sharing stories is so powerful – the goal is to share experiences to support one another as we navigate through our own paths to parenthood.
This week, Andrea tells us what it’s like to have endometriosis while trying to build her family.
What do you do for work?
I am currently a doctoral candidate and project coordinator for two research projects.
Do you have a partner? If so, how did you meet?
My husband, Brent, and I met 10 years ago at my best friend’s wedding. It’s like what you see out of a romantic comedy; he was the best man and I was the maid of honor.
Did you always know you wanted children?
I always knew I wanted children, but Brent wasn’t sure he did. We got to a point in our relationship where this decision was a ‘make or break’ and we decided yes.
Your Fertility Journey
When did you start thinking about having children?
We thought about having children before we got married but knew we wouldn’t start trying until after. I was in my doctoral program and in some ways, we were waiting for the “right” time when my workload wasn’t as crazy (which is really never!).
How long were you trying before you sought fertility treatments?
Because I have Stage 4 Endometriosis, our doctor said that after six months we should pursue fertility treatments. Brent and I tried for six to eight months on our own with ovulation monitoring and had no luck.
Editor’s note: Endometriosis may affect more than 11% of American women between 15 and 44.1 It is especially common among women in their 30s and 40s and may make it harder to get pregnant (source). For more information about Endometriosis, check our education page here.
What’s your journey been like so far?
The journey has been a bit of a rollercoaster, with each step in our treatment having its own excitement and disappointments. At the beginning of this process, we completed four intra-uterine inseminations (IUIs) without a successful pregnancy.
I think it was disappointing for both of us and I cried every time the nurse delivered the bad news; that part will never get easier. That said, we took solace in the fact that we knew we still had options because Brent had a fertility benefit through his employer.
We started our IVF consultation in January of 2019 and loved Dr. Salem at Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine (CCRM). Throughout this process, he has been so thorough and made us feel like we mattered; we aren’t just another couple on the IVF assembly line. Yet again, another positive!
We had our first egg retrieval in April of this year. During the stimulation period, I had been doing well and felt okay, although Brent wasn’t thrilled that I was falling asleep at 7:00 pm due to the fatigue. We retrieved 18 eggs, 14 fertilized, and nine went off for genetic and chromosomal testing, which was much more than the doctor had expected given my baseline numbers.
We originally planned for three retrievals in a row, however, I had some complications after the first one. This left us in a precarious position, and we needed to weigh our options.
Despite this hiccup in the process, we were feeling positive about the fact we had nine embryos going off for testing, with the odds looking good that we may have several viable embryos. We found out, however, that of the nine embryos, only one was chromosomally and genetically normal. Once again, we were between a rock and a hard place. We had no safety net if this little embryo did not transfer and would lose our opportunity for more than one child.
After spending a lot of time consulting with my primary care physician, our OB/GYN, and Dr. Salem, we weighed the pros and cons of another retrieval over chicken wings and beer. In the end, we decided to move forward and have another shot at additional embryos, with a clear plan to mitigate my risks. We found out that we now have an additional two embryos that are both genetically and chromosomally normal.
Through all of this, I honestly do NOT know what we would do without Manuela (our dedicated PCA,). Manuela has been amazing and has blown our expectations out of the water. She answers all of our questions (multiple times, too!), makes sure our authorizations are sorted out, and she has even called just to check in after she found out about the challenges of our first retrieval.
I was floored that she called just to see how I was doing – she is an incredible human and is clearly part of a company that supports a person-first mentality. In the end, having this kind of care and compassion is uncommon – she, and it seems that everyone in the company, is truly there to make sure this process goes as well as it can.
Editor’s Note: A Progyny PCA is a fertility expert (they’re nurses, embryologists, fertility clinic educators, etc!) someone who helps the member throughout their fertility journey – from finding the right clinic, follow-up after an appointment to making sure treatment is going well. Our PCAs are there every step of the way. Listen to this episode on This is Infertility about the PCA support.
Where are you in your journey right now?
We’re in a bit of a holding pattern! I’m currently taking several medications to reduce the impact of my endometriosis on the transfer. We are hoping to transfer in the coming months and will let the universe decide what happens next!
What advice would you give other people going through this?
One of the biggest things I would say is to make sure you and your partner are on the same page and have open lines of communication. Getting married in our thirties, Brent and I had spent a considerable time living independent lives.
It was uncharted territory and the first major challenge in our relationship. By intentionally making time to talk about the options, acknowledge our anxieties, and celebrate the successes, Brent and I consistently work through each win, roadblock, and decision together.
I have a solid partner in this process, and I cannot underscore how wonderful that is. It takes effort to be intentional, but the payoff is more than worth it.
I would also say to be gentle with yourself and to the extent you find it helpful, talk about your process not only with people who are good listeners and empathizers but also who may be going through this process themselves.
For me, it has been wonderful to have a support system of women who are going through this process; I know I’m not alone.
Are there other resources that provided support along the way?
I have also started therapy with a professional who specializes in fertility challenges. This outlet has been a way for me to say my dreams and fears in this process. I would also recommend it to others.
I started acupuncture mainly to reduce stress, anxiety, and pain from my endometriosis. There’s limited research on how it supports fertility but figured I’d give it a try. So far, so good!
We thank Andrea for sharing her journey with us! It’s always so powerful to hear what it’s like to go through this journey and we know it’s not easy to be so open.
If you’re a Progyny member and you’d like to share your story, tell your PCA and they’ll be in touch with next steps.
If you’re not a Progyny member and would like to share your story, visit our podcast page, This is Infertility, for more information. If you don’t have the Progyny benefit and would like to, check out our resource tool, Talk to HR, to help bring fertility benefits to your company.