Episode 147: A Teacher’s Dream to Become a Mom
Today’s episode highlights something we talk about a lot on This Is Infertility — how a fertility doctor can make a huge difference in one’s journey. Today’s guest, Amber Walther, discovered soon after trying to start a family, that the process wouldn’t be so “cut and dry.” As a teacher, Amber’s plan was to take some time from school and hopefully return after the summer break with a new family member.
Nowhere in her plan did she account for how much time it would take to find the right care. In this episode, we’ll hear about Amber’s journey and how she went through multiple Clomid prescriptions, three rounds of IVF, and a friend in the field, to get to where she is today.
Guest: Amber Walther, High School Teacher
Host: Julie Campbell, Progyny
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Here are some highlights from this episode:
Saga of The First OB-GYN
02:33 – 06:32
Amber Walther: I’ve always known we wanted to be parents. I think I dreamed more about being a mom than I did my own wedding day, because that was just something I know I’ve always wanted. Currently, because I don’t have children of my own, I always tell my students they’re my kiddos. They’re my babies — I love them, and I’m here for them.
Julie Campbell: When she started entering the world of IVF, and more invasive fertility treatment, she knew that she might need to take some personal time.
Amber Walther: I didn’t want them to worry that I had COVID. Especially students that have trauma, I didn’t want them to think I abandoned them, and I wasn’t coming back. So, it was important to me to share.
I went off my birth control in August of 2020 because I had a gut feeling that things weren’t going to be easy for us. I have some other medical conditions. So, I decided that we should try it on our own. But it wasn’t going very well because I didn’t get my period for like another three months. And it was an entire saga with my first OB-GYN. Awful would be the way that I could describe my experience.
When I sent a message, it was evident the nurses weren’t actually looking at my chart when I had voiced concerns about my period not coming after three months. And when it finally did, it was a regular they just were lackadaisical and didn’t care. I was given Clomid with no instructions, I was just told to take the Clomid and have sex, no specific timing, no windows.
We did Clomid for three months but had been trying on our own before and after the rounds of Clomid. And I literally for like six months went for bloodwork every month and like every time we got a negative pregnancy test, I just got more and more upset.
Amber’s Timeline vs. IVF’s Timeline
07:04 – 13:30
Julie Campbell: It’s not only IVF that can be difficult. The trying and failing can be emotionally exhausting. And taking medication like Clomid for an extended period can be especially challenging as well.
Amber Walther: Clomid is the devil drug. I definitely struggle with anxiety. But I wouldn’t consider myself depressed and on Clomid, I was just straight-up depressed. I would just come home from work and just like sit on the couch and have no like oomph to do anything. So yeah, I knew I needed a fertility doctor.
I finally ended up getting an appointment. But before I had an appointment at the fertility clinic in June, I had requested one last test from my OB-GYN and I asked for an HSG. And lo and behold, the test showed that my one tube wasn’t visible.
I was thinking that we could do one round of IVF and transfer by the end of July. And we’d be right on time for our “timeline” that I was playing to so badly. And we’re all in, a lot of bloodwork and false hope. So right before starting my first round of IVF, I had what’s called a biochemical pregnancy, except the clinic couldn’t really say if it was or if it wasn’t. I went for baseline, my HCG levels were up for baseline again, and HCG levels went up a little bit again. And then they dropped back down. I felt like I didn’t get a chance to be sad or grieve that it was even a loss because I hadn’t even known that I was maybe kind of pregnant or fully pregnant. It was so early on. And again, like I said, it was just kind of like, all right, hurry up and move on, because they got to get this cracka-lacking and during the summer. My first round of IVF. Unfortunately, I had zero viable embryos. And so, I immediately wanted to do a second round. We decided to do a second round before we even got the results of our first PGT-A testing because I figured I should bank some embryos. And unfortunately, my second round of IVF, although we had four embryos that were sent out for PGT-A testing, no embryos were viable. So, I had gone through two full cycles of IVF and had zero viable embryos. I was only 30. My amazing and incredible friend, Julie, decided that I couldn’t stay at the clinic I was at, and that I needed to go elsewhere.
The Doctor Makes the Difference
14:33 – 17:00
Julie Campbell: When she expressed to me that she was having difficulty with this clinic, I knew I couldn’t let this go on. She had already been through so much. And it was so hard for me to watch her and Stephen go through this from the sidelines. I recommended one of my favorite clinics and doctors and she said well, they don’t take my insurance and I definitely can’t afford it.
I was quite familiar with this specific clinic. And I knew that they had some programs available that could potentially help with the cost. And I also knew that they were the right clinic that could actually help my friend.
Amber Walther: He used a low simulation approach with less medication. And I stimmed for longer, I’m pretty sure I stimmed for like 15 days, as opposed to the first two rounds, I think it was only like 10 and 11.
Julie Campbell: The doctor makes the difference. There’s not one IVF protocol for everyone. Depending on you and your specific situation, your protocol might be different. Everybody is different. This is why it’s so critical that people are paired with the doctor in the clinic that is right for them.
Amber Walther: So that cycle went amazing. And I have three healthy and viable embryos to use for transfer from that cycle, which was honestly amazing.
17:04 – 18:21
Julie Campbell: When we recorded with Amber, she had three embryos and had the plan to transfer one of them. Well, here’s the thing that was like, what, a year ago? It’s been almost a year since we recorded this conversation with Amber. And I’m thrilled to say that just recently, Amber and Stephen welcomed their perfect daughter, Avery Mae into the world. And I must say that I take special pride in this one.
For anyone who’s listening to this right now who feels stuck. I want you to know that the right doctor and clinic are out there. And it’s worth searching for the right one for you.
Julie has been working in the fertility industry for the last 9+ years and started her career as a Progyny Patient Care Advocate (PCA). Through this experience, she transitioned into Business Development to support employers. Today, she leverages her experience and passion for helping individuals achieve their dreams of having a family by working with employers to help them understand the fertility landscape and comprehensively cover fertility treatment as part of their healthcare benefit offering.
Amber Walther is an energetic and passionate high school interventionist teacher. Her unwavering dedication to her students reaches far beyond the confines of her classroom. Amber refers to her students as her kids and ensures that they know how much she loves them on a daily basis. Her colleagues refer to her as the human equivalent of ‘rainbows and sunshine.’ At age 19, she met her husband Steven while attending college and the two bonded over their mutual aspiration to become teachers. Today, Amber and Steven both teach and reside in Western New York with their rescue dog, Bella.
Amber always knew that she wanted to be a Mom but never imagined that she would endure a harrowing battle with infertility. After getting married in 2017, Amber and Steven didn’t feel ready to start a family, so they took time to travel, hike, and enjoy life together as a couple. When they began their family building journey, their plan was to have a Spring baby in an effort to maximize maternity leave given that teachers typically have to take leave using their own time off. After multiple failed rounds of medicated timed intercourse, many tears and much frustration over not feeling heard, Amber decided to take her journey into her own hands and became her own advocate. Shortly after, she found a fertility clinic and braced herself for more aggressive treatment measures in order to achieve her family building goals. One biochemical pregnancy and two failed IVF cycles resulting in no genetically viable embryos left Amber and Steven heartbroken and unsure what their next steps should be…all while trying to navigate the most difficult school year of their careers, returning back to “normal” school after two years of virtual pandemic schooling.