Shannon Berger is joining The Write Mama today to share her family’s journey through infertility and in vitro fertilization. Shannon is a proud new mom to twins but says getting to this point was something she wouldn’t wish on her worst enemy. Here is her story:
What was it like for you when you first realized you had a problem and weren’t able to get pregnant on your own? How long was it before you were referred to a fertility clinic?
We knew before we actually started trying that things were going to be ‘difficult’ for us. My husband has a motility issue with his sperm. We tried for about a year and a half; using everything from date calendars to ovulation sticks to just trying to ‘do it’ as often as possible. Finally, after about a year and a half my doctor referred us to the fertility clinic.
Tell us about your journey at the fertility clinic and with IVF.
At our initial consultation at the fertility clinic, I was expecting the specialist to say that we could do artificial insemination. However, that was not the case. He suggested IVF and ICSI also! I was devastated! You never think that you will be the one that needs all this ‘help’. We started the process about three months later and had our retrieval and implantation in October 2012. They implanted two embryos with none left over to freeze. About five days later, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. We were so excited! However, that didn’t last long. Three days later, I started to bleed and the pregnancy test lines gradually faded to negative. We were distraught. We never thought that it wouldn’t work. The doctors were so positive and everything was going according the schedule. At our follow up appointment, they said that the ‘embryos failed to implant properly’ and that we should try again. I remember my husband and I thinking it was easy for the doctor to say “try again’. He wasn’t the one injecting all these hormones and going through the financial and emotional process. We decided that we would try one more time and started the process again the following January. This time they upped all my medication and injections (and the cost). On February 14, they did the removal and three days later implanted three embryos. We had two left to freeze. I did the same thing as last time (it’s hard to resist taking the tests) and it was positive again. I couldn’t get excited about it though until we went for our ultrasound confirmation two weeks later. At that ultrasound they indeed see a heartbeat……three of them! They immediately started talking about selective reduction and how we shouldn’t carry three babies. Our dilemma went from no babies to too many. Of course the selective reduction has a 5-10% chance of terminating the whole pregnancy. After much soul searching and discussion we decided to go through with it and at twelve weeks pregnant reduced to two babies.
What were your biggest challenges through this journey you went on to have a family? Where did you find the strength to go through all the ups and downs?
There were many challenges. Firstly, and it’s hard to admit, I had some anger at my husband. This was ‘his issue’ yet I had to go through all the invasive procedures. That was difficult and something that I could never fully admit to him. When the first procedure didn’t work, we were both distraught. That brought us closer together as my husband was my rock through the following month when I was depressed. You don’t really feel that you can talk to anyone about it because a) it’s kind of taboo that you need the help and b) if they haven’t gone through it, they don’t understand the draining process. The decision to terminate one baby was one that I still question but know that with the way my pregnancy went it was the best decision. Finally, the finances.
How did you deal with the financial costs of IVF?
When we heard how much IVF costs we were shocked! Really, it didn’t seem that it should be that expensive. We were quoted $10,000 – 12,000 for the first round (all depending on the medications). The first round was $11,000, and the second was about $14,000. Of course, the ICSI was $1,500 more. We were lucky that my husband’s medical covered some of the medication (they paid around $3,000 for the first round and about $3,800 for the second). I remember talking to my husband about how lucky we were that his medical coverage included this. Our families each also gave about $5,000 to cover some of the costs. The rest came out of our credit line. It was super embarrassing asking our families if instead of presents for Christmas, we could have a contribution to help us start a family. We talked about the possibility of being $30,000 in debt if we needed to be and agreed that eventually we would recover. That this was more important.
Tell us about your happy ending!
My pregnancy was a difficult one. We found out at 20 weeks that were having a boy and a girl and we were so excited!! That was perfect. I remember thinking “ok, now we don’t have to do this process again.” That was a super special day. At 25 weeks, we found out that the little girl was not growing as she should. That was horrible – we thought we might loose her. At 27 weeks I was admitted to the hospital for high blood pressure, a short cervix and because of the concern about our little girl. While there, she grew a bit and then would stop again. At 32 weeks, the boy broke his water and we delivered our babies via C-section.
Austin John weighed 3 pounds 3 ounces and Aubryn Elizabeth weighed 2 pounds 14 ounces. She was not breathing when she was born. I remember yelling out “is she dead? She’s not breathing.” The babies were taken immediately to the NICU and stayed there for another month and a half. Austin came home on October 19 and Aubryn on October 25. They now weigh 8 pounds 4 ounces and 7 pounds three ounces and they are almost three months old. They are the lights in our lives and we couldn’t be happier. It was a long journey – a hard journey and one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy – but so worth it in the end.
Thank you Shannon for your courage in sharing such a personal and painful story. The reason Shannon, Lucy, and I have shared our experiences on my blog this year is to shine a light on infertility and IVF and to advocate for financial support from the BC Government for families like ours. I have received some positive news from the ivf4BC campaign this week and am delighted to share the following update:
BC Government to Consider Funding IVF
Misty Busch, the Infertility Awareness Association Canada Western Regional representative, made a presentation to the finance committee for the 2014 budget consultations in BC stating “public funding for IVF is a solid investment for BC families and will pay health, social and financial dividends well into the future.”
As a result there is a recommendation in the BC budget consultations report for 2014 that says BC should “adopt and fund comprehensive IVF policy that would provide equitable access to treatment for all British Columbians regardless of where they live.”
This post is sponsored by ivf4BC.
is a fabulous campaign from the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada to advocate for IVF coverage for the 1 in 6 BC families who will face infertility in their quest to have a family. One cycle of IVF costs approximately $10,000 including medications; these costs are not covered in Canada except in Quebec. Check out the ivf4BC website
and find them on twitter @ivf4bc