Sarah’s Story: Infertility, RESOLVE, & the Charlotte Walk of Hope

by A Fellow Warrior
RESOLVE logo within a fingerprint on "Sarah's Story: Infertility, RESOLVE, & the Charlotte Walk of Hope," on Not So Mommy..., an infertility & childless blog
Wobble Warning:  Sarah Ekis, Peer Leader of RESOLVE Support Group and Organizer of the Charlotte Walk of Hope, bravely shares her infertility journey in this post.  Spoiler Alert…  Sarah got the littles.  Honestly, that’s not what made me cry, however.  As I read Sarah’s Story, my heart broke as she talked about treatments, miscarriages, and more…  She left me feeling empowered at the end.  But there were wobbles along the way.  Please, only read if you are feeling strong enough.

Though Sarah and I had already connected via social media, we truly got to know one another at the Night of Hope 2023.  Sarah received the Hope Award for Service because of her work as a peer leader of a RESOLVE support group and because she is an organizer of the Charlotte Walk of Hope.  Sarah invited me to speak at her support group, giving the perspective of a childless by infertility woman.  I asked her if she’d like to share her story with the Not So Mommy… community, and she graciously agreed. 

As the “wobble warning” states, Sarah got the littles.  So, please know, there are potential triggers throughout her story.  I truly believe you’ll feel empowered by the end.  But please, only read if you are feeling strong enough.

Now, let me turn it over to Sarah…

The Story of Sarah:  Infertility, RESOLVE, & the Charlotte Walk of Hope…

My infertility story is long. I have a quick elevator pitch that can explain it in a few sentences, but the reality is it was a hard, emotional, expensive, and rewarding journey.

The elevator pitch goes something like this “My infertility story was long, but it involved endometriosis surgery, countless medicated cycles, 5 IUIs, 3 egg retrievals, 7 embryos transferred before moving onto donor embryos. I have a son who is the result of my second donor embryo transfer and a daughter who was the result of my fourth donor embryo transfer. I had a late miscarriage between having my kids. It took 7 years for me to have a child and 10 to complete my family.”.

During those ten years so much more happened. I was at my lowest of lows. I discovered so much about myself. My relationships with people changed. I gained a whole community of new friends and found support that I never knew existed.

So here is the longer version.

I got married in July of 2012. I was days away from turning 32, so we started trying right away. We naively thought that we would be making a pregnancy announcement by Christmas. Eleven months went by and nothing, so my OB ran some tests and they found out I wasn’t ovulating. But that’s an “easy fix” with some Clomid. Three months of Clomid (and ovulation) and still nothing.

So, the next test was the HSG. This is where they push dye through your tubes to see if they are open. It was painful. Maybe some of the worst pain ever. I didn’t have this done by a fertility specialist. It was just in the regular hospital and was done by a radiologist who couldn’t have been older than 25. I felt exposed and it–to this day–was one of the worst medical procedures of my life. And I failed the test. My tubes were blocked. Which meant an immediate referral to a reproductive endocrinologist.

The clinic I was referred to was great. They suspected endometriosis and so they repeated the HSG during my endometriosis surgery. Great news, my tubes were not blocked, they had just spasmed shut during the first HSG. And studies have shown that after an HSG, chances of pregnancy can increase. So, with the endo under control, and my tubes clear I jumped into IUI (intrauterine insemination). Three rounds and no luck. I did a fourth and still had no luck. The doctors said I was a great candidate for IVF. But I wasn’t ready. I had always said we would never do IVF. But now with it staring us in the face, the plan changed.

Dave and I saved up for IVF and in late 2015, I did my first egg retrieval. I do not remember the specific numbers, but at the end we had 5 frozen embryos. We transferred two embryos a month later. I got a positive pregnancy test. And then I had my first pregnancy loss. So, we transferred two more a couple months later. That transfer didn’t work. We were down to our last embryo.

Looking back, I think I was shocked. I really thought IVF was going to work. We had spent over $15,000 and now we only had one embryo left and four had failed. The doctor encouraged us to get a second opinion, so we changed clinics. I also joined a support group that I found through RESOLVE. Joining that group was the best thing I could have done on this journey. I met people who were like me. People who were broken, and struggling, and people who understood how I felt.

The new clinic had a money back guarantee. We gave them $22,000 and they guaranteed two egg retrievals and unlimited embryo transfers until I turned 37. We jumped in.

The first egg retrieval resulted in one embryo. It was crushing. But we had the one from the other clinic and this new one. So, we transferred them both. Positive pregnancy test. The first ultrasound was okay, but no heartbeat. They said it was still early though. A week later I had my second pregnancy loss.

It took a few months for my body to get back to normal and we jumped right back in for another egg retrieval. And got one embryo. And when we transferred it, it didn’t stick.

What I haven’t mentioned up to this point is that at this new clinic they explained that my uterine lining was thin. So, they did a lot of experimentation with my medication doses, and how I took the medications. And they were careful not to waste my embryos. I had more lining checks than most people. And I had multiple transfers failed the morning they were supposed to happen because my lining had broken down. But now, after three egg retrievals and 7 embryos transferred, we still had no baby. The “good news” is we got half our money back from that money back guarantee.

But the recommendation was donor eggs. Donor eggs are expensive. And it was too expensive for us. So, we took a break.

During this time the clinic I was at was starting a donor embryo program. It wasn’t available yet, but I started exploring donor embryos or embryo adoption and found some great resources, and eventually we matched privately with a couple who planned to donate their embryos to us when they completed their family. She was pregnant and due about 6 months later. So, we waited. Six months later they changed their minds. And it was devastating.

Dave and I decided to take one last chance and go back to the clinic and participate in their donor embryo program. The RESOLVE support group I mentioned earlier was a lifeline for me through all of this. But the leader needed to step down. I offered to take over. So, in February of 2019, I transferred our first donor embryo and I took over running the support group. The embryo transfer failed. But the support group started growing. And I met more people who were like me. Then, I decided to plan a Walk of Hope in Charlotte because I thought it would be a great way for the support group to come together and have something to look forward to.

And we had one embryo left. In April of 2019, we transferred that embryo. And the day before the 2019 Charlotte Walk of Hope, I got a positive pregnancy test. And he stuck. He’s four years old now.

When he turned one, we decided to do it again. So, we got a new batch of donor embryos from a different donor. The first transfer worked. We kept it pretty quiet, not really sure how to share the news. At my 18-week anatomy scan, (in April of 2021), we found out there was no heartbeat. My third pregnancy loss. That one required a D&E and then a follow up D&C a week later.

We still had one more embryo. But we were not sure what to do. I was 41, and my husband was 42. But we also couldn’t come to terms with not transferring that embryo. So in November of 2021, we transferred what we knew would be our final embryo. I got a positive pregnancy test, but my numbers were low and the first scan showed I was measuring a week behind where I should be. The second scan showed the same thing, but that was growth. And she hung on. Now, she is a year and a half. And she is still tiny for her age.

So now in 2024, I am still leading the support group, planning the Charlotte Walk of Hope, and doing whatever I can to raise awareness about infertility and help people realize they are not alone. In 2023, I was awarded the RESOLVE Hope Award for Service which was one of the biggest honors of my life. My support group continues to grow. And we continue to have members graduating so our graduate group continues to grow. And I still consider the women I met through this some of my closest friends. As I get further away from my infertility journey my feelings towards it have changed. They have turned to feeling grateful. I wouldn’t have the children I have without this struggle. I wouldn’t have the friends I have without this struggle. And a lot of people wouldn’t have had a place to get support on their own journey.

Sarah, THANK YOU for bravely sharing your truth!  And THANK YOU for volunteering your time to lead a support group and organize the Charlotte Walk of Hope!  You.  Are.  Fabulous!

Fabulous one, if anything Sarah wrote resonates, please tell us about it in the comments…

Would you like to support RESOLVE & the Charlotte Walk of Hope?!  DONATE HERE!

Photo of Charlotte Walk of Hope 2023 on Not So Mommy..., an infertility & childless blog

Charlotte Walk of Hope 2023 (Photo Provided By Sarah Ekis, Organizer)

Featured Photo: Main Image Provided By RESOLVE NIAW Toolkit; Edited by me, using Canva

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