Lauren & Nick Howe came to AART for support to start their family. They have twin sons named Bradford and Owen who were born in January 2018.
When and how did you learn you were having challenges with your fertility?
Nick and I got married in October of 2011 and knew that eventually we wanted to start a family. We also knew that we wanted to have some time together as a married couple before we started trying. In the summer of 2014, we decided that we were ready! As a teenager, you are led to believe that becoming pregnant occurs easily if you don’t follow the “safe sex” rules you read about in health class. Therefore, in our adult lives we often think that once you’re mentally prepared to become a parent, it’s just going to happen. We absolutely had this mindset and assumed that it would work right away. This is a common misconception in our society and makes it that much more painful when it doesn’t happen.
We started out very lucky. We became pregnant for the first time in August of 2014. It was hard not to let ourselves get excited; we didn’t know any better. Seeing that positive sign on the pregnancy test allowed our minds to imagine all the incredible ways our lives would change as our family grew. We were completely giddy. Our excitement lasted a few weeks before things went wrong. I know now how easily a pregnancy is lost in the first trimester but at the time it came as a shock. It became even more scary when I realized I wasn’t just having a normal miscarriage, I was having an ectopic pregnancy. If you’re unaware, as we were, of what this means, the pregnancy is trying to take place in a woman’s fallopian tube. This can only last for a certain amount of time before the tube can eventually rupture. Luckily, we caught it early on. We were given the choice to have a surgery to remove the fallopian tube or to take a medicine called methotrexate, which would terminate the pregnancy. The decision was easy for us, we chose the medicine in an attempt to save the tube for future pregnancies. This whole process took about 5 days’ worth of emergency room visits and lots of blood work. Clearly, our first experience being pregnant wasn’t favorable.
We had to wait 3 months before trying again. No problem. At that point, we were a little traumatized and gladly took the time to gain our confidence back. Little did we know, our heartbreak had just begun. We became pregnant again right away, in January of 2015. We were cautious with our excitement but still very hopeful. Like clockwork, we were able to hang on to our excitement for a few weeks before we saw signs that something was going wrong. A trip to Emergency ended up with an ambulance ride into Halifax to have surgery. I was having another ectopic pregnancy and this time they wanted to remove my right fallopian tube. It was obviously a scary experience but we remained as optimistic as we could about our ability to have children after the surgery. We assumed that once they removed the “faulty tube”, our problem would be solved. We decided to take a break for a while and start again when we both felt healed, physically and emotionally.
We decided to give it another try in the fall. We were successful again and found out we had become pregnant in October. Sadly, I had a miscarriage very early on. As weird as it sounds, this made us somewhat hopeful. The fact that we had become pregnant without having another ectopic pregnancy made us believe that we would be able to naturally have a baby, and the baby would be able to develop in my uterus for a successful pregnancy.
The story goes that once you stop trying to get pregnant, it will happen. It happened to us in December. The holidays came and went and in early January I realized that I was pregnant. We really felt that this was it. The heartache and disappointment that we had experienced so far had led to this moment. We just wanted it so bad. We kept it to ourselves and secretly got excited about the strong possibility that it might be our time, our turn. I was at school when I realized that something was wrong. I couldn’t even wrap my head around the fact that it was happening again. I try not to have those “why me?” moments but it was impossible not to feel that way this time. I went to Emergency and told Nick I would call him if I needed him. At that point, I had spent so much time in and out of Emergency for pregnancy-related issues that I knew there were some things he didn’t need to be there for. My blood work came back to show that my HCG levels were doubling, meaning the pregnancy was still progressing as it should. I was hopeful. Next came the ultrasound. The ultrasound technician wouldn’t comment on what she was seeing so I had to wait for my doctor. When she walked in the room, I knew immediately. I was having an ectopic pregnancy in my left fallopian tube. Because of how high my HCG levels were, they wanted to get me downtown for surgery right away. I could barely get the words out of my mouth when I called Nick. Knowing they were going to remove my left fallopian tube meant that we would never be able to get pregnant naturally. Nick was at the hospital within ten minutes and my mom was right behind him. It was devastating.
How did you feel when you began this journey?
Luckily, when they removed my fallopian tubes, they were able to keep both of my ovaries and my uterus, making it possible for us to have children. However, the method changed and the new method had a price tag. While some provinces assist with expenses related to infertility, Nova Scotia does not (which is infuriating!). Based on this realization, we felt extremely overwhelmed by the cost of the procedure but we were willing to do whatever we could to start our family. To be honest, once we made the decision to take this path, we were optimistic, excited and ready to start.
What was the most unexpected part of your journey? Any surprises along the way?
I think the biggest surprise for me was the day we got the phone call informing us that it had worked and that we were pregnant. For years, we had received so much bad news so despite being optimistic, we always had our guard up and expected more bad news. That phone call left us both speechless and happy beyond words.
When I asked Nick this question, he said that he was most surprised by the cost of the procedure and the fact that there was no assistance from the province, despite it being a medical condition. We were also really blown away by the amount of support we received from our family and friends during our low moments. We can only hope that others who are going through similar experiences have the same support that we had.
What was the most difficult part of your fertility journey?
Generally speaking, the most difficult part of our journey was the waiting. When you are ready to start your family and have already been trying for years, every additional day of waiting is painful. The IVF process is time consuming and you follow a very specific schedule. When you’re starting out, it seems like such a long time to wait to see if the process has been successful.
Specifically, the hardest day for us was the day we got the phone call that our second transfer of our first round of IVF wasn’t successful. This news meant that if we wanted to continue trying to have children, we would have to start the process all over again- the clinic visits, medications, injections, clinical procedures and of course we would encounter the cost again. The news was almost enough to make us give up, but we found the strength in ourselves and through our incredible support system to try again.
When you were a patient, how did AART support you?
We felt completely supported by the staff at the AART clinic. Dr. Bouzayen happened to be on call the day I had my first tubal removal so she was a part of our journey before we even decided to seek out fertility treatments. She eventually provided us with the information about what services were offered at the clinic and how we were still able to become pregnant and have the family we dreamed of.
On our very first visit to the clinic, we were greeted by the incredibly friendly administrative team who instantly made us feel comfortable. We became very familiar with the entire team of physicians, nurses, pharmacists and administrative staff during our 27 visits (Yes, 27!) to the clinic. Having their support made this difficult time bearable. Once we became pregnant, Dr. Ripley followed our pregnancy and his continued support kept us feeling comfortable and at ease during those nine months.
How do you feel where you are now in your fertility journey?
As I sit here writing this, my healthy two month old boys are napping next to me, which is a rare moment of silence in our house these days. We could not be more grateful for their presence in our lives and for the happy ending to our fertility journey. Getting here was not easy and we were tested too many times to count but we ended up exactly where we wanted to be. Our path to get here was not what we planned, but we got here.
What words of encouragement would you give to someone just starting on their fertility journey?
There were so many times that Nick and I thought we couldn’t possibly continue trying. When you are tested with fertility issues, it is very easy to get caught up in the negatives and the “why me” attitude. I hope that by reading this, you are encouraged to do whatever you can to make your dream come true. When you are at the beginning of your fertility journey, everything is overwhelming and a positive outcome can seem impossible at times. Looking back at our journey to get here, the years of hospital visits, surgeries, medications, injections, procedures and gallons of tears cried is now a blurry memory. Staying positive and leaning on your partner, family and friends for support is imperative to your own success story. I would also encourage you to take your health into your own hands. During our second round of IVF, I saw a naturopath and had weekly appointments with my chiropractor, acupuncturist and massage therapist. Get yourself in the best possible shape to start this journey!
On a completely different note, if you are reading this I would encourage you to reach out to your MLA regarding Nova Scotia catching up with other provinces in this country and actually supporting those families dealing with fertility issues.Leave a reply →