I’m 35, I’ve Lost 15 Pregnancies, & I Have $20k Worth Of Fertility Loans

Welcome to Refinery29’s Fertility Diaries, where people chronicle their joyous, painful, and sometimes complicated paths to parenthood.
History: I’m 35 and have been pregnant 17 times — 15 of which ended badly. After several miscarriages, we turned to In Vitro Fertilization, thinking it could be the solution we needed. But more miscarriages ensued. We persevered through tears, blood, a house fire, and heartbreak. This is my fertility diary. 
Age: 35
Location: Rochester, New York 
Occupation: Customer support representative
Household Income: $85,000
October 2001
My first miscarriage
I had my first child recently, and I suspect I’m pregnant again. I’m young to be a mom (especially of two), but I’m actually so excited! I run to the store to get a pregnancy test. The box says “best when used with first morning urine” so I decide I’ll wait until the next morning. It’s the longest night and I wake up at 4 a.m. so anxious to use the bathroom and take that test. After 3 minutes, a dark second line pops up. I wake my boyfriend up and show him the test. We spend the morning calling family and friends. We go to sleep so happy, but sometime throughout the night I wake up with excruciating pains. I try to get up and walk but it’s unbearable. 
I go to the hospital, and they do an ultrasound. They tell me I was pregnant, but that my hCG levels, which indicate pregnancy, are low for how far along I am. Meanwhile, I’m starting to bleed. They tell me I’m having a miscarriage. I’m shattered. 
I don’t know now that between now and May 2017, I’ll have a total of 10 miscarriages, one ectopic pregnancy, and one tubal pregnancy. 
Cost: $12.99 for the pregnancy test. The hospital visit was covered by insurance. 
May 16, 2017
First consultation with the fertility clinic
My husband and I got married last month on April Fool’s Day after dating for seven years. Today, we find ourselves sitting at the fertility clinic, feeling hopeful and proactive. We had a miscarriage while we were planning our wedding —  my 12th failed pregnancy overall — but now I feel like I’m finally getting things under control by seeing a specialist. Even though I’m only 32, and probably could keep trying “naturally,” my husband and I are just feeling done, especially considering my history. I’m certain that something is wrong and my body needs help.
I meet with my fertility doctor for the first time. We discuss a plan of action and he explains the ins and outs of IVF – the prep drugs, the enlarged ovaries, the harvesting. 
Over the past two months, I’ve met with a bunch of fertility clinics in the area and settled on one that seems the most professional and supportive. The biggest obstacle for me is cost. My insurance doesn’t cover any fertility treatments or medications, and I understand that IVF will cost $20,000 at least. I’m totally freaked out. We have some savings, but not enough to plop down that much without batting an eye.
After a lot of consideration, I’ve decided to pay for all this using a loan from a company, called Future Family, that helps you spread out payments for fertility treatments over time. The loan will cover appointments, the cost of fertility drugs, and the IVF procedures. 
The company connects me to a fertility coach. She’s a registered nurse who helps plan out the costs of treatment. She says I can call her any time to vent about how the clinic visits, needle-pokings, and procedures are going. She encourages me to picture holding a baby in my arms. I’m ready to do whatever it takes to have another baby.
Cost: $250 for the first month’s payment to Future Family. This is one of 80 monthly payments of $250 each. Depending on procedures and the cost of medication, that monthly payment cost could go up. The first appointment with the fertility clinic was $300, but the cost was lumped into the loan.
July 3, 2017
The egg retrieval
I’ve read a lot about how other women experience egg “harvesting” (that’s not the official term, but that’s what it is), and it’s supposed to be pretty painful. I think I’m prepared, since one of my miscarriages was pretty painful too. My husband and I both call in sick for work since no one knows what we’re going through, and head to the clinic. While he drives, I try to psych myself up by visualizing an endless field of eggs. 
My husband delivers his sperm sample, and I enter the surgery room. Gulp. They sedate me for the procedure, thank goodness. Then good news comes: My doctor says they were able to get 15 eggs! I thank my enlarged ovaries and then I’m released to go home.
The next day, the clinic calls to tell me that eight embryos have been successfully fertilized and will be strong enough to be transferred. We’ll do a fresh transfer of an egg into my uterus five days from now. 
Cost: $250 monthly loan payment for July
July 8, 2017
Embryo transfer number one
I’m back at the clinic. I just downed a few glasses of water to prep myself for the transfer (they say it’s easier to do the procedure if your bladder is enlarged, because it changes the angle of the uterus). Unfortunately, I have to sit in the waiting room for 35 freaking minutes after downing an insane amount of Strawberry Kiwi Propel. I’m ready to freak out. By the time the doctor is ready to see me, I try hard not to pee on him as he inserts a speculum and places an embryo inside my uterus. I look at the ultrasound screen, trying to figure out what’s what. Then, we’re handed an ultrasound photo of the embryo. It feels like the world stops. Instead of joy, I felt sudden panic as I remember a photo I got last year before my ninth miscarriage at almost nine weeks. I push the thought away, telling myself this is going to be different.
Although the doctors will draw my blood soon to see if I’m pregnant, I still buy pregnancy tests and obsessively check to see if I’m pregnant almost daily. 
After my first pregnancy hCG blood draw 12 days later, my doctor tells me I’m pregnant again. With hesitation and a bit of optimism, I go back for a second blood draw two days later, only to find out that my hCG values have not risen appropriately. After eight days and two more blood draws, I’m back to square one, realizing that this pregnancy will miscarry. I’m shattered. Part of me blames the fertility clinic because I think they should be monitoring me more closely. I don’t understand why they aren’t listening to me. I felt a little helpless, spending so much money and not knowing if it’s going to work. I cry for a week. 
Cost: Around $60 on pregnancy tests on Amazon, plus $7 for a 12 pack of Propel. I’ve already paid off my July loan payment, which covers the procedure and the appointments. 
December 15, 2017
Embryo transfer number two
My doctors can’t tell me why this pregnancy didn’t take, but they do reassure me that I have seven more strong embryos and say we simply needed to try again. Despite the talk, I begin to feel a tinge of the same helplessness I’ve felt before due to all my miscarriages. 
I go in for a second embryo transfer. In the waiting room, there are two other women whom I assume are there for consultations. I want to tell them not to get their hopes up, but I bite my tongue. 
I know the drill now: I drink my water, open my legs, and watch the ultrasound screen as they place two embryos inside me. This isn’t my first rodeo, I’m not as nervous, but I also wish I felt more excited and hopeful than I do right now. 
For the next two weeks, I try to go about my days and not obsess about what the embryo are up to. I figure, the less I worry about it, the better. I try to go on meditative walks when I can, but, mostly, I try to focus on work and other aspects of life. My husband and I don’t talk much about it this time. We keep busy. We go to the movies, eat out, see a play. I call a couple of childless friends that I haven’t spoken to in a while. They don’t know about my fertility struggle, and I want to keep it that way. My distraction strategy ultimately doesn’t work, though. 
Two weeks later, I go back to the doctor’s office for yet another pregnancy blood draw. I’m pregnant again. 
I’ll miscarry one week later. 
Cost: My monthly loan payment went up to $300 because this time we are doing a frozen transfer and I have to take extra medication. I pay at least another $60 for more pregnancy tests — I go back to the drug store to get more constantly, and have a drawer full of them at this point. At this point, I feel like a pee-on-a-stick-aholic.
June 2018 
Who needs fallopian tubes anyway?
I thought IVF was the magic solution that would give me a baby when I couldn’t do it on my own, but now it’s looking like this magic of modern medicine isn’t quite cutting it. When I show up at the clinic today, I want some answers. My doctor examines me and said he thinks my fallopian tube may be leaking into my uterus (I already lost my first tube during my ectopic pregnancy in 2003) due to a condition called hydrosalpinx. He suggests removing it before our next embryo transfer. 
I tell him I needed some time to think it over and go home. On the one hand, the fact that someone has a working theory on why my reproductive system is malfunctioning is reassuring. On the other hand, what!? I wanted a baby, not a body part removed. I talk it over with my fertility coach and she says that my decision is up to me. 
I personally feel that if my eggs were fine and I was able to get pregnant before, it must be something else inside me that’s killing the embryos. My doctor’s theory just doesn’t feel quite right. But I tell myself he’s a well-reviewed physician working in a recommended clinic, so he must be right.
I decide that trying another round of IVF without making any changes just doesn’t make any sense.  I give him the green light. Six weeks later, I have the surgery.
Cost: My insurance covers the procedure to have the tube removed because my doctor marks it as a medically necessary surgery, because hydrosalpinx could lead to long-term problems. I still have a monthly loan payment of $300.
September 2018
When the doctor says, ‘oops’
My doctor tells me he “was mistaken” in removing my tubes. He still doesn't know why I’ve been miscarrying — he had removed them based on a hopeful guess. It hits me that no fallopian tubes mean I will never be able to become pregnant on my own. And now it seems it was all for nothing. I’m really grieving the tube. I feel incomplete as a woman. I feel betrayed that he did this procedure without knowing for sure that it would work, and I feel like I betrayed myself by mistrusting my gut. 
I decide that I’m done working with this clinic. I’m done wasting time. Maybe I’m even done with trying to have a baby. 
Cost: $300 monthly loan payment.
October 2018
New clinic, new diagnosis
I know I don’t want to go back to the same doctor, but I don’t know what to do. So, I FaceTime my fertility coach. She tells me that if I want to keep trying IVF, I can just switch clinics. Somehow, I never thought of that. She explains that I can even take my five remaining embryos with me. 
There’s another clinic that I’ve heard amazing things about, so I go for a consultation and immediately feel a connection with a fertility doctor there who wants to hear exactly what I think is the issue causing me to miscarry. He already has seen my medical history, but doesn’t use his medical authority to shove another theory down my throat. It feels incredible to be listened to in this way, and it’s such a stark difference from my last doctor. I feel like I really made the right call by making this change.
They do a bunch of tests, and, with the help of my OB/GYN, figure out the root of my miscarriages within a month. Turns out, I wasn’t wrong. Something was indeed killing my embryos. Apparently, I’ve had an autoimmune issue and my body has been producing too many “elevated natural killer cells” called CD56s. Yep, you read that right – “killer cells.” They end up prescribing lots of medicine to suppress my immune system, including the steroid prednisone and a drug called Neupogen which runs around $400 for a ten day supply. Luckily, the loan company helps me apply coverage that will lower the costs of some of these meds.
Cost: My monthly loan payment goes up to $378 monthly because it’s covering so many new medicines. 
December 19, 2018
My third round of IVF
Armed with an actual diagnosis, I do one transfer of two embryos to see if they’ll take.  Of course, before the transfer, I’ve been taking tons of immune suppressors and blood thinners. These medicines make me feel bloated and I’ve gained 40 pounds, but it’s worth it for the hope of another child with my husband. 
For the next two weeks, I feel like I’m walking on eggshells, trying to protect my two embryos from killers on the loose. I’m feeling very torn. I’m hopeful and yet I’m also telling myself not to be. I could miscarry, I could have one baby, I could have two. The various outcomes are making me feel confused. My husband is a mess too. He’s shutting down. he’s been worn down by the emotional toll of being even more powerless than I’ve been throughout this process. 
Cost: I have another $378 monthly loan payment for December, and another $60 or so on pregnancy tests.  
December 30, 2018
Another fail
I wake up in the middle of the night with a terrible cramp. I stumble to the bathroom, trying not to wake up my husband because we’re planning on staying up for New Year’s tomorrow night. The cramp gets stronger and, as I sit down to pee, I dread wiping. When I do, there’s blood on the paper. When I see it, I stop caring about not waking up my husband and about celebrating the New Year. I howl, tears streaming down my face uncontrollably.
March 21, 2019 
Another round 
My new doctor feels that IVF can still work for me, so he convinces me to try one more transfer. I still have three embryos left, though I can’t say I have much hope. He changes my medication doses and says that might help. I tell him this fourth round may be my last. 
Luckily, I’ve found some solace after my last miscarriage in a suport group for women with fertility struggles on Facebook. I discover that some people are going through the same problems that I am, and that gives me something to hold on to. I also decide to push through and try again because I can’t begin to think that all the money I’ve spent and heartbreaks I’ve had were for nothing. 
The morning of the procedure I go into the clinic, drink my water, and take a Valium that they offer me for anxiety. I also do acupuncture before and after my embryo is inserted at the clinic. They usually charge $75 per session, but they do a two-for-one deal since I’m doing it both before and after the procedure. I’ve never done acupuncture before today, but it feels great and I pass out afterwards. After all is done, I go for a walk in the park. It’s a cold day, but I need the fresh air and the clarity of mind.
Imagine my surprise and relief, when two weeks later, I get the call that my hCG blood draw has a great first number. I’ve been here before, so I’m reluctant to give into hope. But I go back for second and third blood tests only to get more positive news. 
My husband reminds me that things could still go south. Still, this feels like a victory. Funny, but the first person I tell after my husband is my fertility coach. She’s super excited for me and says she had a feeling this was the one.
Cost: I have the $378 monthly loan payment for March, and it’s $75 for the acupuncture treatments and another $60 on pregnancy tests. 
July 19, 2019
Four months pregnant and back at the hospital 
I’m over 20 weeks pregnant when I wake up my thighs covered in blood. This wasn’t the first time I’ve had bleeding during my pregnancy, but it’s the most blood I’ve seen. It looks like a murder scene. I’m terrified for not only the baby, but my own life since it looks so bad. I’m rushed to the hospital where I’m monitored for two days. The hospital has become a second home by this point, and though I don’t love all the tests, forms, and the scare, hearing my baby’s heartbeat and seeing her grow is reassuring. 
During the first trimester, my husband didn’t want to touch my tummy because he was afraid of getting attached. But he’s grown much warmer by now, whispering to the baby every night before we go to sleep. This was a scare for him too. 
The hospital says things seem to be under control and I can go home. Now, all I have to do is carry her for another couple of months. I’m taking prenatal vitamins and fish oil on top of the medications my doctor prescribed, so I hope that will help.  
Cost: $378 monthly loan payment for July, plus $20 for 30 days worth of prenatal supplements. 
August 22, 2019 
The fire
I’m a caregiver to my mother-in-law — yes, even though I’m almost six months pregnant — and I’ve just taken her to a surgery appointment at a hospital. That’s when I got a phone call from a fire chief that my house burned down in a fire caused by a frayed electrical cord. My husband was in the room where the fire happened. He tried to put it out at first, but was eventually able to escape. 
My world shatters. When I arrived at the hospital, he’s completely black from head to foot. After everything we’ve been through, I couldn’t lose the man I love — our daughter’s father. 
I’ve heard stress is a strong force in miscarrying, so I know I need to relax. But how can I? I’ve now been up for 36 hours and haven't felt my daughter move in over 24 hours. While my husband is sedated I go down the hall to labor and delivery alone to get checked out. They hook me up for a test and I immediately hear her heartbeat. Now, I’m able to breathe, but I’m still scared. 
He stays in the ICU for a week, and then is released. We have nowhere to go, but thankfully we have each other and a baby who’s still on her way.
Cost: $378 monthly loan payment for August. My insurance covers the test. 
November 29, 2019
Here she comes
It’s the day after Thanksgiving and my stomach has been in a knot since the fire. I also lost my father three days ago. But today is also the day I’m supposed to be induced into labor. I worry something will go wrong — I can’t take any more bad news. But I must keep going. 
We grab our overnight bag, drive to the hospital, and settle in. The contractions start. I’m so excited to finally hold a baby in my arms that I’m giggle half the time (though maybe that’s also the drugs). Right after 5 a.m., our daughter is born. I looked into her eyes, and I bawl with relief that she’s healthy and here and mine.
Cost: $378 monthly loan payment for November. 
Total spent: I spent a total of $10,042 on loans throughout this diary, and paid at least $350 on pregnancy tests, vitamins, and acupuncture. I’ll be paying $20,663 more off through monthly increments of $378 for about four and a half more years, if all goes as planned. 
Reflection: I had a particularly difficult fertility journey, and I don’t wish what I went through on anyone. I’m glad that I didn’t wait to try until I was any older, because it may have been too late for me. I’m glad I turned to IVF. I wish I listened to my gut sooner, and hadn’t let my first doctor talk me into removing my remaining fallopian tube when it wasn’t necessary. 
I’m so glad I had my fertility coach, and I believe the loan was the right way to go for me. Comparing my experiences at the two fertility clinics, I now know the value of my insight into my own body, even if I don’t have a medical degree. What a difference it makes to work with a doctor who listens. 
The journey was not easy on our marriage, but we’re stronger for it now. Our daughter really brought us together. My first child is much older than her, but she loves her so much, too — although she did enjoy being an only child for all those years. 
Considering how much I’ve endured, I’m so thrilled that my newest daughter is healthy, and developing well. That gives me joy. She’s everything I could have hoped for and more. 
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