That ringtone…that dumb song my cell phone ringer was set to every time I got the dreaded phone calls from my doctor’s office. I shook every time I heard it, until years later, when I finally got good news.
At 20 years old, I was the first of my friends and family to get married. Naturally, you would think I would be the first one to have a baby. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Since we got married so young, we weren’t in any rush to have a baby. We enjoyed our youth! We traveled and really enjoyed ourselves. Never could we have imagined we were going to have the journey that we did.
After a couple of years as newlyweds, we were ready to start our family. We tried for some time but nothing was happening. When we felt that too much time had passed trying naturally, we decided to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist, which was something I was very apprehensive about doing.
A family friend referred us to a doctor in Brooklyn. I remember walking into the waiting room filled with people thinking, “Wow! All of these people are having trouble just like me. I guess I’m not the only one.” Our doctor did every test that he could – a thorough workup of bloodwork, ultrasounds, and a million questions. After everything was finished and all of the data was processed, my doctor diagnosed me with unexplained infertility and laid out the plan. We were going to start by taking medication to make me ovulate and have timed intercourse. If that didn’t have any effect on me, we would move to an intrauterine insemination (IUI). IVF would be the last resort and it was something my doctor really didn’t think would be necessary. The bloodwork did show, however, that I had a unique blood clotting disorder (unrelated to fertility), which meant that even if I were able to get pregnant, I’d need to be closely monitored and take medication (in the form of a shot) throughout my entire pregnancy. At this point, I really felt like I couldn’t catch a break!
I started out with step one of our plan – Letrozole, a medication used to induce ovulation. It’s similar to Clomid. My period was always normal and I had no other medical issues, so I was really confident in this treatment plan. But after a few times using Letrozole and having timed intercourse, I still wasn’t pregnant and I was absolutely hysterical. I didn’t understand why, if everything in my body was working normally and the tests showed nothing wrong, that I wasn’t getting pregnant even with a medication to help.
It was time for step two of our plan – an intrauterine insemination (IUI). I was a nervous wreck and so scared to do it, but again, I told myself that it had to work. And yet again, that fateful time came to take a pregnancy test and I got the devastating news that I wasn’t pregnant.
At this point I felt defeated. I didn’t understand why nothing seemed to be working. What does unexplained infertility even mean? My doctor kept saying don’t worry, we will try again. Over the next few months, I did IUI after IUI, after IUI. These months felt like a lifetime. In my mind, this whole process was taking way too long and I was mentally done. I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere without thinking the same thing every time. Were people wondering why I didn’t have a baby. Were they wondering why it was taking so long? That I must be trying? What’s going on? I have always been a private person, so I never spoke to anyone about what I was going through. It was really tough. Both of our families obviously knew about what we were going through but I really hated talking about it.
I went in for my next doctor’s appointment and that’s when he told me it was time to think about starting IVF. Right away I was against it. I was so scared listening to what the process was going to be like – the shots, the blood tests, the ultrasounds, the egg retrieval, the transfer. It was all just way too much for me to handle. How was I even going to go through IVF if I was petrified of needles?
Thankfully, my husband was right there with me every step of the way. We went through this journey together. The process began with bloodwork and an ultrasound, and from there I found myself driving from Deal to Brooklyn every morning at 7am for more bloodwork and ultrasounds. Every night my husband did my shots for me. It was a lot of work, both physically and mentally.
The day finally arrived and I was ready for my egg retrieval. The procedure went as planned and thank G-d we got a lot of embryos. I quickly geared up for the transfer. We decided to implant three embryos, in the hopes that at least one would stick and I would be pregnant. After the transfer, the waiting game was torture. For 2 weeks I was a nervous wreck! I waited and waited to get that phone call that I was pregnant.
The day had come. The phone rang. “I’m sorry Mrs. Shamah. Unfortunately the test came back negative.” I was numb. I handed the phone to my husband because I couldn’t even speak. How could it not have worked? I did everything that I was supposed to do. We put back three embryos! My stomach was black and blue from all of the shots. I drove to Brooklyn every morning, through snowstorms. How could it not have worked? I was devastated. My husband turned to me and told me we would try again. I couldn’t understand how he was so positive. In hindsight, thank G-d he was because he really got me through this difficult time. He said that everything was from Hashem and that when the timing was right, it would happen and I would be pregnant. Truthfully, I was really getting scared that I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. It wasn’t like I was pregnant and G-d forbid miscarried or something happened. I wasn’t even getting pregnant. How could this be? I felt like the whole community knew I was trying to have a baby. People were so nice to me, giving me segulahs to dress their sons at their bris or inviting me to the mikveh in their ninth month.
I was gearing up for our next round of IVF when my husband and I started talking about moving out of Deal. We felt like we were in a rut. We were in Brooklyn one night for dinner and I turned to my husband and asked if he wanted to move here. He looked at me, shocked, and said yes! I didn’t really see myself as a Brooklyn person, but we thought we could use a change of scenery. A few months later, we made the move.
I was finally ready for my second transfer. At the end of September 2008, we completed our second procedure. I was scared. I wasn’t getting my hopes up. I remember it like it was yesterday; we were in our bedroom, sitting and waiting for the phone to ring. The call came in. I was too nervous to answer. My husband picked up. The nurse asked him if I was sitting next to him and he said yes. I was shaking! She screamed, “Bette you’re pregnant!” I burst out crying and asked if this was really happening. All of the nurses got on speaker because they all knew us by then and answered “YES, Bette you’re pregnant!”
I couldn’t believe it. My husband and I were going crazy and crying and hugging each other so tight. We did it! I was finally pregnant! My emotions were uncontrollable that day, as you could imagine.
In August 2009, almost seven years to the day after getting married, we welcomed a healthy baby boy. It was the biggest bris I had ever seen! We invited everyone and anyone we knew. Many people kept telling us the phrase “Meshane Makom, Meshane Mazal” which means when you change your place, you change your luck. It can’t be a coincidence that the month after we moved we got pregnant. This was the hand of Hashem.
When my son was six months old, I told my husband that it was time for another, especially since we were nervous to see how long it could take. We wanted to start IVF right away. Thank G-d, to our excitement, we did one transfer and I got pregnant, just like that! I couldn’t believe it worked on our first try. We were ecstatic. Nine months later, we had another baby boy. Crazy enough, 9 months after that, my period was late. My period was never late! Could it be? It could never happen to me. My husband told me to take a pregnancy test just for fun. He ran to the store and got me the test. I stared at it in disbelief. Two lines. I was pregnant. After everything we went through?! How could I have gotten pregnant on my own? We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. I wish I recorded everyone’s reaction when I told them. Everyone was in shock! We had a beautiful baby girl in 2015. After that, we got pregnant naturally again and had our third son, and then again we welcomed our fourth son in 2017. It was truly a miracle. We did IVF to have two children and then got pregnant naturally with three additional children. Wow!
Throughout this whole process, I was so thankful for my husband. I couldn’t have gone through this without him. He stayed so strong and positive throughout the entire experience. We are both very private people. I never wanted to share my life and fertility struggles with anyone. I was incredibly embarrassed and felt like a failure. For me, talking about it was taboo. Back then, there weren’t support groups or other women to turn to. After going through so much and opening up about my journey later on, I realized that I really wasn’t alone. There were so many women going through similar experiences, I just didn’t know about it because it wasn’t talked about. Thankfully, now there are people to turn to with SBH Fertility. Today, years later, I feel more comfortable sharing my story and hope that it can help others overcome their fears of failure. I want them to know that they are not alone. You are never alone.
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