Updated: Oct 26
Infertility. Struggling to get pregnant and going through a loss is one of the hardest, most heart breaking, infuriating, hopeless, defeating and emotionally turbulent times of one’s life. October is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness month and I wanted to take the time to share about my personal journey to create a family, and the significant ups and downs that we encountered along the way to building our family, to remind others in the trenches that you are not alone. Others have been and are here too.
In my gut, I knew it all along. The answer to our ‘unexplained’ infertility struggles resided in my gut and had to do with my autoimmune diseases, Celiac and Hashimotos.
However, when the first fertility specialist asked me what I thought was going on and I told him autoimmune infertility, he actually laughed at me and said no, no, that’s only in the movies (this was in reference to my thinking it was similar to what Charlotte and Tray went through in SITC. Interesting enough, this doctor now currently still works at this same clinic that now features an entire treatment suite with IVs to treat autoimmune infertility.)
So, for 2 years, I followed what the doctors said – “relax and it will happen”. Don’t stress. Go on vacation. Try acupuncture. Try functional medicine. Try this diet. Try eliminating that food. Try osteopathy. Try a chiropractor. Try not trying!
Heart-wrenching month after month of ‘nothing’. Feeling gutted and completely hopeless that we would ever have our own family. Non-stop tears at the seemingly smallest ‘trigger’. Two of the hardest years of my life. Struggling to understand why this was part of our journey? Why me?
For those still on their journey, some gentle words of wisdom that helped me through our darkest days were:
“For some reason, this is part of our journey to start our family.”
“This too shall pass.”
“The Universe will never give you anything you cannot handle.”
(Hands on your heart)
“I am not alone. Millions of people all over the world struggle to start/grow their family, and for some reason, this is part of my journey. But I am not alone. Others feel this extreme pain too.”
These are not meant to downplay the intensity of the heartbreak felt when your journey to conceive is not as simple and happy as you imagined it to be. The long-term mental health consequences of this journey are often significant, and if you are struggling and feeling alone, please reach out to a mental health professional so that you can receive the regular support that you need and deserve.
Until finally, I found a specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Sher, who specialises in recurrent pregnancy loss & IVF failure. The answer (often) being alloimmune and/or autoimmune infertility. (For more of the medical details on these types of infertility, please read Dr. Geoffrey Sher’s blog, or watch the Podcast he invited me to share my story on my experiences with autoimmune and alloimmune infertility). I connected with Dr. Sher for a virtual consult days after I found him, completed the testing he recommended for natural killer cell activity and bloodwork for possible alloimmune issues.
Within a few weeks we had answers.
Autoimmune infertility!!! Just as my gut had told me from the beginning.
My husband and I were overcome with emotion – FINALLY - after 2 years of so-called “unexplained infertility”, and being told to “relax and it would happen”, we finally had an answer! Overactive natural killer cells in my uterus. It made too much sense. Over our 2 years of struggles, on numerous months I would get the early symptoms of pregnancy the week before my period was due, I would know in my heart I was pregnant, and then a night or 2 before my period came, I would dream that the baby was no longer in me… and at the time I didn’t know it as I never tested positive, but I was having numerous very early miscarriages.
Shortly after my diagnosis with autoimmune infertility, we received another call from Dr. Sher. We also had a partial DQ-alpha match which meant that 1 in 2 embryos would be rejected from my uterus regardless of the quality… Thus, making it even harder to conceive naturally and successfully carry a baby to term.
As much as this was a lot to digest, it was also so incredibly relieving. Finally an answer!!! I wasn’t just “too stressed out”, my immune system was literally rejecting the embryo in numerous ways every month!!!
So… as a woman of action, of course we immediately wanted to know how to proceed. What were our next steps?
Fortunately, I was in amazing hands. Dr. Sher’s confidence, patience and clear communication of our treatment plan were music to my very broken heart. He had a plan. It might take a few transfers, but following his protocol, he was quite sure that I would be able to get pregnant and have a healthy baby.
In June 2016 my husband and I went to see Dr. Sher in person at his Las Vegas clinic to start our first full cycle of IVF with egg retrieval. At first I was feeling overwhelmed having to take 12 days off of work, to leave our furbaby, our home and social support system to go to Vegas, but having to go away to Las Vegas ended up being such a beautiful silver lining after everything that we had been through. In between appointments, my husband and I got to be tourists in a very touristy town, enjoy meals together and see some of the best shows. We also enjoyed a lot of downtime together which was also very much needed after the difficult 2 years we had endured. The transfer went smoothly, and two weeks later we had blood work confirmation (for the first time ever), that I was officially PREGNANT! Fast forward 9 months through a relatively healthy and smooth pregnancy, and we finally had our first born in our arms. FINALLY, we were parents!
For those of you who know me, you know that we are lucky enough to have 3 healthy kids now (at the time of this writing) ages 2, 4 and 6. The journey to get here was not easy, and we have endured three miscarriages as well. However, we would not have our beautiful family without the unique (and now much more common) treatment for autoimmune and alloimmune infertility.
If you or someone you know is struggling to conceive or with recurrent pregnancy loss, please check out the resources below, and I highly recommend (if you haven’t already) you consider getting a second (or 5th) opinion from another doctor and/or clinic who has a different approach.
For those on the journey to conceive, sending you so much love on your journey to build a healthy family.
Thank you for taking the time to read about our journey.
PS – Yes please I would LOVE it if you would share this with anyone who might be interested and/or find this helpful!
PPS – I offer health & wellness coaching support for people on their journey to conceive.
More info and to book in for a FREE consult can be found here.