Sarah Barth’s Story

Sarah is the IAS Webmaster.

After being married for about two years, my husband and I started trying to have a baby. After just a few months of not getting pregnant, I started researching and being more diligent with tracking my fertility. I started charting my temperature in the beginning of 2009 and researching what could possibly be wrong. After a few months of that, I went to my OB/GYN and showed her my charts. She thought it could be possible that I had a luteal phase defect, and had me try Clomid. I took Clomid for 3 months, with no success.

Then we decided it was time to have my husband checked. He was more than willing to do whatever was necessary, so my doctor ordered a semen analysis for him. It came back with some low numbers (at this point we didn’t know anything about anything), so we took her advice and made him an appointment with the urologist. The urologist was the first person to tell us officially that our male factor infertility was severe enough that we had no chance of conceiving on our own. We would need to do IVF to have a child. We were devastated and shocked at the news.

We made an appointment right away with a reproductive endocrinologist, and the earliest appointment was TWO months away! After that dreaded wait, we met with a doctor who explained IVF to us, but really rubbed me the wrong way. I was so annoyed to have wasted two months waiting for the appointment and then didn’t really like him, so I almost just stayed with him to save time. A friend of mine encouraged me to keep looking, and we found another doctor that we felt more comfortable with.

We signed up to do a “mini-IVF” cycle with him, which is a low stimulation protocol where you get fewer eggs and embryos, but they are supposed to be better quality and it is cheaper. After the first round I only ended up with a couple of embryos. We decided to do another round of the mini to build up more embryos before we did a transfer. We ended up with 5 embryos. We did two frozen transfers (2 embryos each, 1 didn’t survive the thaw), but never had a positive pregnancy, even though all the embryos were “beautiful.”

I remember waiting for the phone call after the two week wait of our very first transfer, and being so scared and so hopeful. When the nurse told us the news, I cried for days. It is the first time in my life I saw my husband openly sob. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard.

I am a planner and a control freak, though, so I was ready to go again as soon as possible. We signed up to try a conventional IVF cycle. We did that and ended up with a fresh transfer and 2 frozen transfers (a total of 6 embryos) and none of them worked either. We had spent so much money and so much energy and had nothing to show for it.

In the midst of the last cycle, I was at my wit’s end and needed help. After some googling, I found the infertility support group on IAS’s website. I was so nervous leading up to the first meeting that I attended, but it literally changed my life. There was a room full of other women who were also dying to become pregnant, and they knew what I was feeling. I instantly connected with several people and am still great friends with them today. I sought out individual counseling through my insurance also. I told my sob story to the therapist and complained about the unfairness of it all, but I eventually stopped going because I got so much more out of the IAS support group. I learned so much from the other women going through similar things, and looked forward to the meeting each month.

Now our doctor was suggesting we keep trying IVF, and we felt insane doing the same thing over and over again. We decided to get a second and third opinion, and while the other doctors also recommended IVF, we loved one of the other doctors and decided to give him a try. We did the March 2011 IVF cycle. It wasn’t really that much different as far as the drugs I was on, but the entire experience was different and better for us in a new office. We decided to shell out the big bucks and also do the genetic testing of the embryos (Comparative Genomic Hybridization, or CGH). We had 19 embryos tested and of those, only 6 came back as “normal.” That was kind of depressing but also exciting to know that we could take those 6 “normal” ones and hopefully get a better outcome. Of the 6 normal ones, only 2 even made it to the transfer day (so we ended up with none to freeze).

I had seen a negative result so many times, I was in complete shock when the nurse called to say I was pregnant. I didn’t believe her, and I had mentally prepared to be let down again. It was crazy! That day my husband and I both sobbed happy tears! Our son was born in December 2011 and our dream of having a family came true.

Fast forward two years, and we felt like we were ready to try for another baby. We went back to the doctor we had success with for our first son. In November 2013, we started another IVF cycle. We got right back into the routine of shots and pills and drugs. We had a good number of eggs retrieved, and a decent fertilization rate. By transfer day, we only had 2 embryos left. With one son at home, I was a little terrified to have twins so we opted for a single embryo transfer. Twelve days later we got the amazing news that I was pregnant again!!

After all the failures we had to get our first son, this seemed unreal. In August of 2014, we met our second son. (Here’s a video I created to try to win a contest for free IVF in the secondary infertility category before we had our second son!)

In July of 2017, we decided to try for a third child using our last remaining frozen embryo. Everything was going as planned with the transfer protocol, drugs, and shots. On the morning of the transfer, as we were driving in for the appointment, we got the dreaded phone call. Our embryo had not survived the thaw. We were crushed that the opportunity to have a third child disappeared just like that. At the same time, we were thankful to already have our family of four and decided to focus on that to get through the pain of a failed transfer.  It was not easy, and all the same feelings of jealousy and anger came right back.  Time heals all wounds and we have reached a point of acceptance and happiness about our complete family.

I feel like our infertility story will always be a part of me. I still feel a little jealous and upset when people announce their pregnancies. I still want to hang a sign above my children’s heads so people know what it took to get to this point. I don’t ever want to make someone struggling to become a mother feel worse by seeing me with my kids. It’s a crazy feeling, but I think it will always be there. While I would never wish infertility on anyone, I am so thankful for the amazing friendships I have made because of it, and the beautiful family I have to show for it.