Episode 142: Me, Myself, and Motherhood
Today’s guest enters the realm of fertility treatments despite never in her 38 years being diagnosed with infertility. Angela Hatem’s journey began with seeking out a sperm donor to fulfill the one thing that she wanted but couldn’t have without a partner: a child.
What she expected to be a fairly simple journey turned out to be quite complex. In today’s episode, we hear how Angela goes from thinking fertility treatments are a guarantee to conquering Clomid, ovarian cysts, seven rounds of IUI, and three rounds of IVF, all on her quest to motherhood.
Guest: Angela Hatem, freelance writer
Host: Lissa Kline, Progyny
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Here are some highlights from this episode:
Deciding to Start Trying — On My Own
02:27 – 07:35
Angela Hatem: I always knew I wanted to have kids. And I just assumed it was going to happen in the traditional way at some point. And then as I got older, and I still hadn’t really found the relationship that was a fit for me, I started to think, do I want to get married is that even something I want? And as I kind of looked at that, I said, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the right fit for me. But I also knew that I wanted to have kids. And in a lot of ways, those two things go hand in hand for a lot of folks. And I thought to myself, well, do I want to become a single mother by choice?And then one day I woke up and I was 38. And I thought, oh, well, I need to get real about this. I need to really start to think about it.
Lissa Kline: So, a full fertility workup is called for before selecting a treatment option for those who are going the single mother by choice route. The simplest and most affordable option is usually intrauterine insemination using donor sperm. But if the fertility workup shows blocked fallopian tubes, difficulty with ovulation, diminished ovarian reserve, or other issues, then an IUI might simply not work. And IVF might be more appropriate. In Angela’s case, her bloodwork came back as expected. So, she moved ahead with treatment.
Angela Hatem: So, I went through the process of selecting a sperm donor, an anonymous sperm donor through a catalog of gentlemen.
I have a friend who has a Ph.D. in psychology. So, we were able to listen to the audio interviews with the donor. I had him listen to them with me just to see if he could, like, suss out any crazy or any, like, warning flags. And he’s like, no, these all seem like good dudes that you know, think their genetic material would mesh well with your personality, and it’d be fine. So, we did that, and I picked my donor, and we went through with insemination one, and I felt different, like, I don’t know why I just thought, you know, it would instantly work. I googled all those symptoms of pregnancy. And I’m like, look at me, oh my gosh, all the things. It’s all happening. And then my period was actually a day or two later than usual. And then it showed up and I was like, oh, okay, I guess not.
And the doctor and nurse were like, nope, totally expected, you know, it might take a couple of tries. So, I geared up for round two. And I think at that round, my fertility specialist said, we’re going to put you on Clomid, and it’s just this thing where you haven’t slightly increased risk for twins. I was like, ooh, twins. Oh my gosh, okay. Well, you know, here I am thinking twins are totally realistic now. And so I went through that round, and I did not get pregnant.
Every Treatment in the Book
07:36 – 17:29
Angela Hatem: I got a cyst on my ovary from Clomid. So, I had to skip a month. Anyway, we, we went through, we got rid of the Clomid, and then we went to injectables, which is basically the medicine that they would use for IVF. But on a slightly, majorly decreased level in terms of the amount of the medicine I was taking. So, I did that. And then suddenly, I was seven rounds into IUI. In my head, I told myself, I’ll go to three rounds and then I’ll stop. And then it’s kind of crazy that you say these things to yourself, and suddenly, you’re like, wait a minute, no, I got to keep going. And I wasn’t ready to stop, I thought this was going to happen for me. But no, that’s not how it works. You’re so invested at that point you’re honestly frustrated with your body and the process and why this happened and so after that seventh failed IUI my doctor brought me in and he said, you know, we need to be more aggressive, we probably need to look at IVF.I just thought that fertility was inherited, which it is not. IVF was expensive, and I was you know, having to really dig deep to get the money to afford what I was already doing. I turned my Honda Accord into an Uber, which, you know, wasn’t my favorite thing. But let’s do it. I got to fund this thing somehow. So, I was picking up fares on my way to work to afford treatment, I was applying for grants. I was, trying to think of anything I could think of to afford treatment, looking up coupons to help pay for the medication. And that was a financial strain. IVF here in Indianapolis, was $26,000+, without medication, and I wasn’t in a guarantee program due to my age. So yeah, it was a lot.
So, I went through the process of being a travel patient, which meant, having my blood drawn at a lab here locally, I was getting my ultrasounds done here locally through a radiology center, and they were sending my results back to New York. Once we got my follicles to the mature place it was go time. So, I got in a car with my best friend, and we drove to New York in a snowstorm. And we came in for my retrieval and the clinic was awesome. It was almost spa-like, which was a big relief. And so yeah, so I went in, and I think I had eight follicles from the last ultrasound we did before retrieval. They did the retrieval; I woke up and we got two eggs.
Lissa Kline: The result of the egg retrieval wasn’t exactly what Angela was hoping for. But at the end of the day, the cycle did produce embryos, and they did a fresh embryo transfer in New York.
Angela Hatem: So, I think it was about, I don’t know, 12 days after that I went in for my blood draw to see if I had a pregnancy level, which I did not have. I got that call. And it was a real downer. Obviously, I took the day off from work on the days of my blood draws just because I knew I wanted to process that privately.
I kind of got my head around to okay doing this again, we’ll do a second round, it’s going to be fine. I read up on the process, it takes sometimes more than once, and I’m like, okay, that’s fine. More than once, I have the money, I can do this. And I spoke to my doctor, and he said, we’re going to increase your meds, to see if we can get more eggs out of you.
Going through that second round, I felt like I was in a good place. I think at that round, we had the same scenario, we had eight follicles and I was like, okay, they might not be excellent. I knew that. They did the retrieval and once again, two mature eggs. They fertilize thankfully. And this time, we decided to do a frozen cycle. So, I drove back to Indianapolis, I waited, I think it was a month, and went back for my retrieval. They transferred the frozen embryos back and I went home and waited 12 days or so and got the call that I was not pregnant again.
All You Need is That One
18:29 – 24:03
Lissa Kline: Angela was reaching a breaking point. But she decided that she could try IVF one more time. Angela and her doctor decided on a different protocol to try to reach a different result.
Angela Hatem: I had my call with my fertility specialist, and he said, Okay, this is what we’re going to do differently. We’re going to do a less is more approach. We’re going to take down your meds. We’re going to go for quality, not quantity. And you’re on paleo, right? And I said yep. And he said, what about if we tried keto? He has this version of keto that he recommends, and he thinks it is helpful to patients. And I said, you know what, I’m throwing everything at the wall on this one. We’re going big or we’re going home.
So, I drove back with my aunt for my third round of IVF and I wanted to be as dense as possible. I had acupuncture that morning. I think they always give you Valium and usually I turn it down, but I took my Valium, I had my acupuncture, and they did the retrieval. And they got two eggs, both mature, which is at par for the course for me, both fertilized. I went home because that was another frozen cycle. And then I went back the following month for my transfer.
So, I went home to wait. And during that waiting period, I turned 40. And I was freaking out. I was like, oh my God, this must work. And I just prepared myself, I answered the phone, and I was just ready for the worst news. The nurse on the phone. She sounded different than they usually sound. And I was like, why do you sound happy? Why do you sound chipper? This is so unlike you, Hannah. She asked me “How are you doing today?” And I said, “You need to tell me how I’m doing.” And then she said, You have an HSG of 137.” And I just fell on the floor. Because I just did not expect that at all.
Lissa Kline: Despite some early nerves, her pregnancy went smoothly. And down the road, she welcomed her beautiful baby boy into the world.
Angela Hatem: For people that are trying, who are in a situation like mine, you don’t have to have great numbers. You just need that one. That one and that’s what I got. I got my one. And that’s all I wanted. So, it wasn’t easy, for sure, but it was totally worth it.
Lissa oversees the Patient Care Advocates and the Provider Relations Team. She worked at Columbia University Medical Center for several years in the division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Involved in Patient Services and the Donor Egg Program, she loved working with patients while they underwent fertility treatment. Lissa graduated with a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University.
Angela Hatem enjoys piña coladas, getting caught in the rain, and obviously soft rock. Born and raised in Homestead, FL and adopted by Indianapolis, IN, Angela enjoys her single life with her son, alongside all of her not so single friends and family. She tries to find the funny when it’s possible, when she can’t find that she looks for money under couch cushions.
Music From This Episode:
Artist: Andy G Cohen
Track: A Perceptible Shift
Artist: Kai Engel
Track: Cold War Echo
Artist: Loyalty Freak Music
Track: Summer Pride
Artist: Soft and Furious
Track: Melancholic Ending