A Little Science and a Lot of Faith
Coming from the athletic world, hurdles were nothing new to Katie and her husband, two certified athletic trainers. The pair’s romance blossomed on the job, eventually culminating in a dream football field proposal and a memorable Slurpee-filled wedding at a 7-Eleven in 2015. Like many couples, they aspired to build a family but opted to wait a year before trying. Their dream of becoming parents, however, turned out to be their greatest hurdle yet when they experienced difficulty conceiving.
Despite months of trying timed intercourse, Katie hadn’t become pregnant and suspected that complications from previous health issues were making it difficult for them to conceive. Her OBGYN prescribed Clomid to regulate her period cycles, but after months of unsuccessful attempts her physician referred them to a fertility specialist at Fertility Centers of Illinois (FCI) where Dr. Asima Ahmad ultimately took over their care.
Starting Fertility Treatment
A review of their medical history and fertility testing revealed that the couple faced difficulties conceiving due to a combination of factors, including a male-factor and anatomical irregularities. As a first course of action, they tried Clomid with intrauterine insemination (IUI) combined with Endomometrin and Estrodial to help with estrogen levels following the procedure. Three IUI cycles were attempted, though only two were completed due to a low egg count resulting in the cancellation of the third. Much to their disappointment, none of their attempts resulted in a pregnancy.
Katie recalled how they turned their frustration into perseverance, saying, “We were at a loss at that point because we couldn’t conceive on our own even with the IUI. It was the less invasive treatment so we were hoping it would work, but even though it didn’t work, which was tough at the time, you just have to trust your doctor and their expertise. It can get discouraging at times, but you have to have faith. We were willing to do whatever it takes.”
As a next step, they decided to try in vitro fertilization (IVF). Although she never imagined herself in this situation, Katie found relief in a support system of others who had been through treatment. This support system enabled the couple to prepare for the process and navigate any obstacles that arose. “If we had a question about how to administer a certain medication, we could ask them. You read the information and watch the videos, but having another person who went through it was so helpful.” Her husband also played a vital role as they worked together as a team, supporting each other every step of the way. “If we didn’t have that team aspect, I don’t think we would have had that outcome that we had.”
Still, balancing IVF and daily life proved difficult for Katie. Apart from the mental and physical strain, the process also posed inconveniences. Nonetheless, her support system never failed her. She shared, “At the time I was an outreach athletic trainer and had to bring all my medication. There was one time I was working at a football game and had to bring all my medication to a football game. Thankfully a lot of the moms were nurses and helped me with the shots because I didn’t want to do my own shots.”
Following weeks of medication and monitoring, Katie’s apprehension was palpable as they headed into the egg retrieval process. “Everyone is bound to feel nervous before an egg retrieval. It’s an intimidating process. You’re put under and you have no idea how many eggs you’ll get,” she confided. The procedure yielded only four eggs, a lower count than they had hoped for, but they were grateful to have any at all.
Due to a lower-than-desired egg count, they opted to undergo the intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) procedure to boost their chances of creating viable embryos. Following the procedure, three of the fertilized eggs turned into embryos which made Katie feel more hopeful. “We just kept the faith that they would keep progressing. We did lose one to that process.” One of the two remaining embryos was transferred fresh five days after the retrieval, so all Katie and her husband had to do was wait to see if it would stick.
While waiting to take a pregnancy test, they clung to hope and were cautiously optimistic, seeing signs in the universe that this one was going to take. It was as if their success was written in the stars when they got a positive pregnancy test, and the couple was ecstatic.
Their journey came full circle as they welcomed their little one into the world under the care of the very physician who initially directed them to FCI when they encountered challenges with conceiving. Bennett was born a healthy, strong boy at eight pounds even and twenty-one inches long. Holding their baby for the first time, Katie and her husband cried tears of joy. She gushed, “We love our little champ so much and we are forever grateful for FCI for helping us bring our little miracle.” Now almost four, they couldn’t be happier with their little boy!
Trying for Baby Number Two
Following two years of soaking up every moment with their son Bennett, the couple made the decision to pursue a second child. They opted to embark on another round of IVF treatment to provide a sibling for their beloved firstborn.
Since they still had a frozen embryo to transfer, Katie found the second time around to be less invasive. The medication was different, utilizing oral medication instead of injectables which felt more natural. The constant that remained was the team of caretakers who provided exceptional support and guidance, ensuring that Katie and her family were confident in the path they chose to take.
Though they had faith in the process and their care team, they were a little apprehensive given that they only had one embryo to transfer, and Katie wasn’t keen on starting over again. Katie recalled, “If it didn’t work, we were happy we had our son. I said I would do it one more time but if it didn’t work the second time, I was happy with what I had.”
Katie’s happiness knew no bounds when the embryo transfer was successful, resulting in her being pregnant with her second child. They welcomed a baby girl in December 2023. The family of four is over the moon with their new addition, including now three-and-a-half-year-old Bennett. “He loves his sister so much. Which we’re just ecstatic about because we didn’t know how that was going to go from being an only child to having another human in the house.”
Finding Gratitude During Fertility Treatments
Although the couple faced a challenging journey towards parenthood, they are appreciative of the avenues available to expand their family and the individuals who supported them throughout the process. “We were so thankful there was science and so many different options. All these different ways to have a family,” Katie said. “I would recommend anybody to Dr. Ahmad. She is so caring and driven to succeed in our goals and aspirations. She always gave us the input for our care saying, ‘This is what we’re going to do, do you have any questions, what do you think?’ We can’t thank our care teams enough for what they did,” she added.
Katie also expressed gratitude for the resilience she discovered within herself during her fertility journey. She explained, “I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was. In the beginning, I was not mentally prepared for how hard it was going to be. But as we were going through it every day, I found myself like, I can do this. It has shaped me into a stronger person than I was before.”
She’s also used her experience to support others struggling with infertility. “A lot of my friends now are opening up about their IVF journey and I’m open about what I went through to help them. We’re in this club you don’t want to be in it, but you find the support system to be a stronger person in the end.
For anyone who is struggling, she recommends finding support wherever you can, even if it’s outside of your comfort zone. “If you need help, reach out. Even if you want to keep it more private, reach out to support groups or family members. Confidants. Keeping it mostly inside will eat you alive.”
At the end of a journey filled with ups and downs, Katie and her husband emerged with the family they always envisioned. They stared down adversity and managed to defy the odds. The moment of sheer joy arrived when, out of only four eggs retrieved, two flourished into healthy embryos that would eventually grow to become their beautiful boy and girl, both brought to the world via IVF. This chapter in their lives serves as a testament to the indomitable human spirit when powered by love and a little bit of science.