When I was ready to become a mom, all I wanted was to have and to hold a little baby to call my own. It seemed like the entire world was pregnant…except for me. And no matter my financial status, my education level, my job title, or the strength of my marriage could make infertility go away…because infertility doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone, and I was not exempt.
I remember when my husband Dan and I decided we were ready to start trying for a baby. It was exciting. It was romantic. And it was supposed to be easy. I was thinking back upon the high school sex ed classes that we had to sit through, and how it was almost engrained upon my Catholic-upbringing-brain that, “you have unprotected sex, you get pregnant.” And was taught none other.
Interestingly enough, there were a few small details that were overlooked. A woman only has about a 15 – 20% chance of conceiving via sexual intercourse each month and as she ages, that % dwindles. The best age for a woman to conceive is in her late 20’s to early 30’s. And for men, younger than 40. Yet, no one talks about this until women, for the most part, try for six months to a year to have a baby, and then look in the mirror and wonder, what could I possibly be doing wrong?
I booked an appointment with my OBGYN. After conversation, she referred me to seek treatment from a fertility specialist. And the most unforgettable piece of information was when my husband and I were told the odds of us conceiving “naturally” were less than 1%.
The doctor proceeded to say that in vitro fertilization would be the best chance for us to carry a baby and would raise our chances to about 73%.
My brain was now going… “what the heck is IVF?” I knew it was going to involve lots of big, 1-inch needles, and I hate needles. Like I’m the girl who can’t watch her blood get drawn. And then I knew this wasn’t going to be quick. I thought I was an organized person but with IVF, you are introduced to an entirely new world of timing and scheduling with no input. And finally, I knew this was going to be expensive. The average cost of in vitro in the USA is $12-$17K before medication, which bumps the cost to an average of $25-30K. And if the insurance policy provides coverage, many only allow for one round per year.
And this was all to get to the point of being able to conceive…with no guarantee of a successful pregnancy.
I worked in the heart of Chicago, but my fertility clinic was in the suburbs. So, I was grabbing the 6am bloodwork appointments so I could then grab the 6:36am train. And there was a portal in which the facility would communicate with me through. Literally with daily instructions on which to come in, when to start taking this medication, when to stop taking this medication, and that’s what I went by. To quote words from my favorite movie Pretty Woman, I turned into a “moment to moment, fly by the seat of my pants, gal”. I tracked everything I took, everything that I spent out of pocket, and everything insurance was covering. Because one thing you lose with infertility diagnosis is control. You are no longer in control, and you really need to trust the process that you will get to your baby…the journey is going to be different than you planned and learning to accept that is all a part in making the process easier to digest.
And so we dove into the process of artificial reproduction. And shot after shot, progesterone and a trigger shot, the fertility doctor retrieved 7 eggs. After fertilization and necessary wait times involved, three embryos survived and were available to transfer. My husband and I opted to get the embryos sent out to be genetically tested because the doctor’s goal was to ensure a healthy pregnancy for me. One embryo had too many or too little chromosomes and needed to be discarded. One embryo came back positive to transfer. And the last embryo came back with no result. We decided to go ahead and have that embryo retested (an incredible option to us that not all countries offer), as we had time. After all, we had one positive embryo to transfer.
And that embryo took.
And I was pregnant.
While in that process of prepping my body for the transfer, we found out that the embryo with no result that was retested and came back positive to transfer. Not needing to worry about that, but excited to have another embryo, we kept that positive embryo frozen.
Well, if you’ve heard my story before, you know I suffered a miscarriage with that first pregnancy. I got the call from the clinic at work. It was awful. I went for a walk around State Street and spaced out for the rest of the afternoon. It was a Friday and delivering the message to my husband was the hardest part. Because no one ever prepares someone for that conversation. It’s grieving and painful loss of someone you never even got to know.
But we still had one embryo left.
I did everything different the day of that transfer. My actions, my thoughts, what I ate (grilled cheese) …even my body responded differently.
And that embryo took.
And I was pregnant.
And this time I stayed pregnant.
A high-risk pregnancy that was able to deliver a baby boy named Ferris.
It is important for me to address a recent disease that I was also diagnosed with…this time as a 37-year-old mother of a two-year-old. In October 2020, out of nowhere, I survived sudden cardiac arrest and was diagnosed with takotsubo cardiomyopathy. I was suddenly on a ventilator, in a drug induced coma with broken ribs from the CPR and AED. After receiving a surgically implanted defibrillator, I learned more-than-ever how support is key in this life. Like how I processed infertility, accepting that days and nights might not go about how you envisioned it is step one and embracing that the beauty is in the journey is step two.
The more we talk about things, the more healing power we discover.
And the more we realize that we all have a story to tell, and that story just might be exactly what someone else needed to hear to find his / her inner strength today
That’s why I now bring professional attention to infertility and women’s heart health through I’m Very Ferris books, public speaking, and certified fertility coaching all through www.tesskossow.com.
Empowered women empower women. And I am so grateful to reach you.