From Infertility to Cupcakes Everywhere

Erin’s story is sprinkled with hope, strength, and the sweet surprise of cupcakes.

It began the summer after her college graduation when she crossed paths with her future husband. The happy couple embraced life as carefree 20-somethings chasing after their dreams of adventure, companionship, and professional success, moving from Georgia to Illinois and Nevada along the way. It was in the glittering lights of Las Vegas that they began their fertility journey.

Having taken careful measures to prevent pregnancy until now, they never anticipated issues with expanding their family. Erin candidly shared, “I did the fertility awareness method [where you track ovulation and identify ‘safe days’]. I thought that I was doing it perfectly but, turns out, we just had issues getting pregnant.”

The Heartache of Infertility

After a considerable period without a positive pregnancy test, Erin and her husband sought answers from her OB/Gyn. Their path to parenthood took a daunting turn when they received a diagnosis of severe male factor infertility coupled with unexplained infertility. Erin recalled feeling defeated, saying, “I remember lying in bed the entire day we found out, repeating, ‘We’re not having kids.’ And just saying those words felt like it couldn’t be true.”

Although they were taken aback by their diagnosis, they would not let it redefine their dream of having a family. Erin and her husband began their first series of treatments under the guidance of her OB/Gyn. First Erin started Clomid, an ovulation-inducing drug, with the hopes that it would increase the odds of conception. The next step was doing intrauterine insemination (IUI) with Clomid, which was also unsuccessful.

Erin felt frustrated that, even with the help of her doctor, she was still not pregnant. At times, she struggled to cope with how easy it was for others to conceive. She lamented, “Attending baby showers, seeing a new mom on the sidewalk pushing her stroller, people enjoying their newborn out at brunch, seeing celebrity pregnancy announcements — all of it was really hard for me to handle.”

It became evident to Erin and her husband that their situation necessitated a more tailored approach, so they transitioned to a fertility clinic in Las Vegas. Though Erin was averse to doing in vitro fertilization (IVF), it was recommended as their next step. “At the time we hadn’t even considered doing IVF,” she explained. “It seemed much too invasive, and like something I would have never wanted to put my body through.” Weighing her options, though, she decided that it was the only realistic path forward.

Erin held onto hope as she maneuvered through an intricate dance of appointments, tests, and treatments. Sadly, their first IVF cycle in Las Vegas brought disappointment when after five days she got the call that her transfer was cancelled and there were no embryos to freeze. It was a blow that shattered their hopes, and after a much-needed break Erin and her husband, united in their determination, looked for answers elsewhere.

Starting Fresh at Fertility Centers of Illinois

This led them back to their hometown of Chicago and into the welcoming doors of the Fertility Centers of Illinois (FCI). It was here, under the compassionate care of Dr. Brian Kaplan, that Erin’s journey took an encouraging turn. Erin expressed her gratitude in finding a doctor who helped rebuild their confidence, saying, “The first time I met Dr. Kaplan, I felt like a huge weight was off my shoulders. When we walked into his office, there was this feeling of relief that he had thoroughly reviewed our case, was realistic about our odds, and was very warm, reassuring and positive. I just had a feeling in my bones that he was the one who was going to help us get pregnant.”

Dr. Kaplan, armed with a different strategy and a keen sense of empathy, introduced changes to Erin’s medication and treatment plan. The monitoring became more frequent, each visit a step closer to their dream.

Erin’s second attempt at IVF filled her with hope, as a successful embryo transfer yielded a positive pregnancy test. Sadly, this glimmer of hope was soon overshadowed by despair when Erin experienced a heartbreaking miscarriage. The pain of loss cast a long shadow over her dreams of motherhood. However, with a bruised spirit, Erin persevered.

Determined to leave no stone unturned, Erin embarked on her third and fourth IVF cycles with a renewed commitment to doing everything within her power to ensure a successful outcome. She transformed her diet, opting for nourishing and healthful choices, drank green juices, attended acupuncture and fertility yoga classes, engaged in guided meditations, and meticulously followed every piece of advice that promised even a sliver of hope. She tried to minimize stress and follow all the recommendations her care team had to offer. Despite her best efforts to curate a perfect environment for pregnancy, both cycles concluded without a successful embryo transfer. The repeated setbacks were disheartening and almost led Erin and her husband to give up.

In an unexpected twist of fate, the fifth cycle brought with it a pivotal change in Erin’s approach. She decided to eschew the pursuit of perfection. Instead, she opted for a natural cycle frozen embryo transfer (FET), many of the rigorous medications in a medicated FET.

It was during this cycle that Erin experienced not only one miracle that she had longed for, but two! The natural cycle FET proved successful, culminating in the joyous news that she was pregnant with twin girls – their last two embryos. The elation was overwhelming, a sweet triumph over the trials and tribulations that had paved the path to this moment.

Erin has credited not only Dr. Kaplan for her daughters but everyone on her care team that helped make her two miracles possible. She emphasized the importance of the laboratory staff, saying, “I had started to educate myself about different embryology techniques and quickly realized that the lab at FCI is top-notch in the country. It gave me comfort to know that they were highly proficient in cultivating, freezing and thawing embryos, so I could ensure all the blood, sweat and tears I was going through on my end would be matched by those who operated their lab using the highest possible standards.”

In the years that have passed since her treatment, she has found great satisfaction in seeing how things have come full circle. She rejoiced, “It gets better every single year and every holiday that I get to spend with my kids or the milestones that I get to watch them go through like graduations, losing teeth, making friends, getting certificates or awards in school, things like that. I feel like those things are what I was always wanting and what I was always grieving the loss of when I was going through infertility. It was the family aspect of it that I knew would be so fulfilling if I were able to achieve that, and I think that’s what I enjoy the most now about being a mom.”

A Sweet Surprise

Erin’s fertility journey doesn’t end after the birth of her twin girls. Less than two years later, despite years of struggling with infertility, Erin was amazed to discover she was pregnant without any fertility treatments. She wanted to share her news in a way that encapsulated her long journey full of twists and turns, so she opted to announce the pregnancy of her son creatively on social media, using cupcakes as a metaphor.

Comparing the process of making cupcakes to her own experiences, Erin shared,

“Platitudes fail to describe what it’s like having a “miracle baby” after infertility so let me just tell you a story. It’s a story about cupcakes.

Cupcakes are delicious. At first, everybody around you is eating them, but nobody gives you one. After a while, you get pretty upset. Is it really so hard to just get one measly cupcake? Other people can make one at home for just the cost of ingredients, but yours – if it comes at all – can only be made at a very expensive specialty bakery with a team of expert bakers in a very sterile kitchen.  

And then, after a few years of sitting around at this sad specialty bakery, you get not one cupcake but TWO AT ONCE. You feel incredibly fortunate since you didn’t know if you’d even get one cupcake, let alone a pair.

And then… out of nowhere…somebody all of a sudden gives you a THIRD cupcake. Something you cried over and hoped for and shook your fist at the skies about years ago – now, just yours, no specialty bakery needed.

So there you go – the joy and the shock and the disbelief and the gratitude all wrapped into one. A story about our three cupcakes – the third coming this summer. “

Cupcakes Everywhere!

Her Instagram post garnered a heartening response, with many suggesting she write a children’s book explaining infertility through cupcakes. Erin realized the power of her sweet creations in conveying complex emotions and experiences, so she embarked on writing a children’s book about IVF with the hopes of enlightening and inspiring families facing similar struggles.

“I found myself in search of a book that could tell my IVF kiddos about their origin story,” Erin recalled. “There were a lot of fantastic infertility children’s books alluding to waiting for a baby, or longing for a baby for extended periods, but not one that highlighted the isolation you can experience when it feels like everybody except you has an easy time getting pregnant. And that’s when I realized that my family needed this book to spark a real, authentic discussion — which made me consider that maybe others needed it, too.”

When writing her book, she channeled the intense emotions she felt while encountering growing families amidst her struggles with infertility. “Those were very raw, human feelings, and I hope somebody else can read them and feel comforted that they are not alone with some of the discouraging thoughts they might have while undergoing infertility treatments.”

She added, “I also wanted it to be a book that both children and adults could enjoy together, keeping it age-appropriate by using the power of a simple metaphor. I chose something that literally makes life sweet — cupcakes — in hopes that it would tell a story about what it feels like to struggle with something that everybody else makes look like the easiest thing in the world.”

Her passion project has come to life, with the upcoming release of her book, “Cupcakes Everywhere: One Sweet Tale of Overcoming Infertility” on May 17th, 2024. Her book has received tremendous support from the infertility community, including the person who helped make Erin’s dreams of becoming a mother a reality. “Dr.  Kaplan has been supportive of “Cupcakes Everywhere!”  from the first time he heard about it, even before he really knew what it was. I think that speaks volumes of the level of care for his patients, long after they’ve been ‘successful’ in the FCI sense of the word,” Erin said.

Erin’s journey through infertility is more than a story of becoming a mother; it’s a narrative that intertwines vulnerability, courage, and the power of sharing one’s truth. In the pages of her book and in the smiles of her children, Erin’s journey continues to inspire and support others, making life a little sweeter, one cupcake at a time.