I’ve always wanted to be a mother. Growing up, out of all of my friends I was the one that didn’t care about college or a high powered job. All I ever wanted was children. My mother and my sisters all had babies so easily that it never crossed my mind that I would have any trouble. The following is my story. I am not a doctor and this represents my own research, opinions, and experience.
After my first miscarriage, the doctors informed me 1 in 4 women would suffer a miscarriage and that if I got pregnant again we had every reason to believe all would be fine. After miscarriage number 2, I knew something had to be wrong. I decided to seek out a specialist and find the problem. This was a reproductive endocrinologist that did some hormone testing on me and put me on clomid (a commonly used fertility drug). I used it for a couple months and decided to move on to ivf to speed the process along. At this time I was 31 years old and was feeling pressure to get the ball rolling so I could send out those precious Christmas cards like all my friends showing the perfect family. So we started the ivf process and we were told that I should have a great outcome because I was young and very healthy. Out of 23 eggs that were retrieved, I only had 2 that were quality eggs to implant. I was not discouraged because all we needed is one. That pregnancy was confirmed only to watch the hcg numbers fall in the coming weeks. At this point I felt so lost, so defeated, so confused, and so alone. My follow up appointment with the RE, I walked in with a list of questions. One of the questions was that my best friend had a clotting disorder and was told if she didn’t take blood thinners throughout her pregnancy she would miscarry. So could I have this? The RE laughed and said, ” no, no you don’t have that.” I guess this doctor could diagnose patients by looking at them instead of blood tests. His advice was that there was no connection and that it is standard practice to do testing after 3 miscarriages but he didn’t feel that necessary and I should try ivf again. My intuition was telling me that there was more going on with my body and I in no way wanted to put my body through another ivf just to lose another baby.
A friend of a friend got in touch with me and told me her story of 6 losses and she found this doctor in Dallas that helped her have her 2 living children. I had HOPE again! The next day I overnighted all my records to Dr. Brian Cohen, another reproductive endocrinologist. The following week my husband and I were sitting in an office talking about all of these things that can cause recurrent miscarriage like natural killer cells and antiphospholipid antibodies. After blood was taken, it took about 2 weeks and we were back in his office to hear for the first time what could be causing all my losses. Come to find out, I had an autoimmune response to pregnancy. My body actually fights off a pregnancy like it would a cold or a virus. I tested positive for antiphospholipid antibodies, antinuclear antibodies, natural killer cells, low hormones, and PCOS. Any one of those conditions can cause a miscarriage and so to say the least I was overwhelmed but encouraged because there were treatments for all of it. I soon started all the required treatments prescribed for my conditions and we got pregnant again with #4. My protocol consisted of intralipid iv infusions once every 4 weeks upon a positive test for natural killer cells, estrogen and progesterone, and baby aspirin and heparin shots in the stomach for the + APA. This pregnancy lasted a only a few weeks when once again the hcg number fell. Here I was again and I couldn’t understand why this was happening. I’m seeing The Guy and I’m doing all the treatments to fix my problems. Why is this happening to me? Dr. Cohen wanted me to come back to do some follow up bloodwork when his lovely nurse Shania said, “You don’t look right Heather and I want to do a thyroid test.” In a few days, she called me back to say I had hypothyroidism and needed to be on a drug called synthriod. I had my thyroid checked before and it was always within the normal ranges, but when I would get pregnant there was not enough for me and a baby. Babies will depend on the mother’s thyroid until 12 weeks gestation until they make their own. If the mother has too little, the pregnancy will not progress any further. I was actually excited about this piece of the puzzle because I had a reason to think this was the culprit and so we were bound to get it right the 5th time for sure.
At this time it took me a lot longer to get pregnant unlike the other times, after all I was 33 now. After months and months of trying doing all the treatments only to find myself looking at a negative pregnancy test I finally got pregnant! My hcg numbers were coming back great this time and we were watching the pregnancy thrive. I did a more aggressive iv treatment early on in this pregnancy for my natural killer cells that was called IVIG and then switched back to the less aggressive treatment because my natural killer cells were controlled. We also added a low dose steroid prednisone to the mix for my ANA that was still positive. At six weeks, we saw a strong heartbeat and each week we saw a growing baby. At week 9, my RE had me see a perinatologist to see me through as I was high risk after losing so many before. At this 9 week appointment, we saw a beautiful baby but no heartbeat. My husband and I were devastated. This was my lowest point I think because I was doing everything I could do. My stomach was black and blue from the heparin shots, my arms were sore from the constant bloodwork, but my heart was in the worse shape of all. If this news wasn’t bad enough I had to do a D&C because the pregnancy like my first one had gone too far to pass naturally. After the surgery I felt robbed. My baby was gone along with my spirit. After each baby I would allow myself one day to cry but this 5th one I couldn’t stick to that. From my first miscarriage an ever growing feeling of shame had developed in me and by this time it had taken over my thoughts. I would constantly think about the growing reality in my mind that I would never have the one thing I wanted in life the most. I grew up thinking that if you just try harder, then you will achieve your goals and this was certainly not the case with infertility. This plagued all my thoughts and it was very difficult to keep myself together most days. Most nights I would sit on my iPhone and Google anything I could find on the subject.
I spent countless hours which paid off because I found 2 things that made all the difference for me. I stumbled upon articles about the research that Dr. Beer had done and a book he had written called Is Your Body Baby Friendly? I ordered it that night and read it cover to cover in one day. I also found an amazing blog on Yahoo!, with women just like myself with all these same conditions who were helping one another all across the world. I started chatting with these women and educated myself as much as I could. This is where I found Dr. Kwak-Kim. Dr. Kwak-Kim is a reproductive immunologist in Chicago that worked with Dr. Beer. Before I knew it, I was on a plane to Chicago and sitting in her office going over all my 5 losses and what I knew at that point. She took 22 vials of blood that day. Dr. Kwak-Kim called me 2 weeks later to tell me her thoughts on the matter. I hadn’t been unhappy with my care thus far I just needed to seek more info if it was out there for my own peace of mind. Dr. Kwak-Kim found that I had 2 genetic blood disorders and thought I should be on a higher dose of heparin than I was currently taking. Almost the whole year I tried to get pregnant. I thought maybe ivf was the answer but I knew I didn’t do well with fertility drugs. Luckily I went back to Dr. Cohen, to see if I was still ovulating and in fact after an ultrasound in his office that day I had made a very large great looking egg. I was so encouraged that I had hope again.
Lo and behold, a couple weeks later I walk into the kitchen where my husband was and said for the 6th time those two words that had brought us both so much joy only to leave us with so much pain, “I’m pregnant!” I secretly felt this one was special but I kept it to myself and we just said we would follow up with the doctor the next day. This 6th pregnancy was confirmed with an early hcg and we started all over again. This pregnancy, Dr. Cohen was not taking any chances. We did the more aggressive treatments of IVIG and steroid therapy. Every ultrasound I would almost hyperventilate with fear. I had been here so many times and gotten bad news. Week 9 was approaching, where we lost out last pregnancy and I was so scared. But we made it! Week 12 came along and the baby was doing great. Before I knew it, we were told I was out of the woods and I could be happy and have reason to believe this baby would make it. Through the entire pregnancy, my body was trying its best to fight off the baby. Every 4 weeks, I would get the call that the natural killer cells were high and sometimes extremely high and I needed the IVIG very quickly. My body never accepted this pregnancy and without all the medication and medical supervision, I would have never been able to say my dream has come true and I am a mother. My daughter was born at 38 weeks 7lbs 5oz on April 17 2012.