jenn grant with partner and child

Jenn & Daniel

When and how did you learn you were having challenges with your fertility?

I never knew what was going on. We tried to get pregnant on and off for 5 years. I got a referral to AART via my family doctor, and got a call after at least 6 months of being on the list. When I went to return the call, I just said something like “Oh never mind I’m not ready!” and hung up. I think it was another year later that we had our first visit with Dr. Mike Ripley. Even though he told us we shouldn’t hang out in our hot tub anymore, we liked him! We were diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’ which I found sort of frustrating. But after two egg retrievals, maybe I didn’t have so many eggs in there. who knows? Life is a mystery.

How did you feel when you began this journey?

I felt excited! And also, incredibly stressed out about trying to manage an album release tour. Everything had to cancelled. Oh well! Worth it.

What was the most unexpected part of your journey?  Any surprises along the way?

Yes, I became obsessed with several nurses. I fell in love with everyone. I wanted to carry out my whole pregnancy there. They are amazing, beautiful people and will never, ever forget them.

What was the most difficult part of your fertility journey?

 It was the years of self-doubt and trying to be strong and happy despite my greatest wish of being a mother. Also, we did two rounds of IVF. During the first round, we used two embryos. One looked great, one wasn’t going to develop any further on its own, so we decided it might do better in the womb. I had an early miscarriage, or something. I’m not even sure what happened. But it was the night before our blood test, and I was in a lot of pain, and a lot of heartache. But I felt so determined. One failed cycle is not a failure. I saw it as a practice round (after laying on the couch for two days eating an entire loaf of white bread and butter).

When you were a patient, how did AART support you?

They took about ten thousand phone calls from me. They hugged me. They were our complete support. They were everything.

How do you feel where you are now in your fertility journey?

I feel amazed that we have the most beautiful little boy in the whole world. He was worth the 6 years it took to get him here. I wouldn’t trade him for any other baby out there. We’re keeping him! If I never have any other children of my own, I will always be a mother, and always get to share this parenting experience with my husband. The joy and fulfilment he brings me is something I wished for so long. In many ways, he was the most wanted baby of all time, and he will always know that.

What advice would you give to someone just starting on their fertility journey?

I would say, life is short. Listen to your heart.

Photo credit: Melanie Stone

brit and aaron

Brittenay & Aaron

When and how did you learn you were having challenges with your fertility?

In May 2014 we got pregnant on our first cycle trying, we were elated because it just doesn’t happen that fast, however it was short lived as we miscarried at 7 weeks. We started trying again almost immediately, assuming things would be as simple as the first time, but 14 months of nothing happening signalled that things weren’t normal. My doctor referred my husband and I to AART and after numerous tests I was diagnosed with PCOS in March of 2016.

How did you feel when you began this journey?

Scared, anxious, apprehensive, hopeful, basically every emotion you can think of. An infertility diagnosis is a lot to take on. You spend so much time as a teen trying to avoid pregnancy, being safe, being cautious, because people tell you one slip up will get you pregnant. That’s the expectations you go in to trying with-that it will happen instantaneously and when it doesn’t…Well, nothing you’ve been taught has prepared you for that.

What was the most unexpected part of your journey?  Any surprises along the way?

The biggest thing that shocked me about it all is how common it is and just how little I had heard about infertility before I was personally involved. The statistics around infertility and miscarriage are pretty astounding and with so many people being affected you’d think it would be a topic that was more out there in the world. I never myself understood why it was such a taboo subject, seeing as it’s a health condition that deserves attention just like any other medical condition.

What was the most difficult part of your fertility journey?

I’d have to say our miscarriages. You feel like you have finally taken a step forward and then it’s all ripped away. We did the treatment, the painful procedures, jumped through all the hoops and we finally allowed ourselves to really feel like this was it, it was finally our turn. While our first miscarriage was devastating, I think because it was a natural pregnancy it hurt a little bit less. We hadn’t invested the years, the stress, the pain and the money in to that first pregnancy. It doesn’t mean we didn’t want that baby, it’s just a different pain to miscarry early in your years of trying versus after 5 years and a round of IVF.

When you were a patient, how did AART support you?

I am still currently a patient at AART and I have to say the support we have received from all staff has been bar none. From the admin staff, the nurses, Al the pharmacist and the incredible team of Doctors, mainly Dr. Ripley, I couldn’t imagine traversing this journey with any other clinic. My husband has never been a big fan of doctors, but I remember leaving our first appointment in December 2015, with Dr. Ripley and Aaron saying, “I really like him” and that feeling has never changed. You know from the second you meet him that he has your best interests in mind. When we had our loss this past July he looked just as defeated as we did. It’s that kind of caring that has kept us from giving up.

How do you feel where you are now in your fertility journey?

Scared, anxious, apprehensive, hopeful- I don’t think the emotions ever really change when it comes to infertility, you just take on new ones. It’s a roller coaster that you often can’t get off of, there are some really high highs and some really low lows. Currently I’m between apprehensive and hopeful because we have a new plan for whenever we do our next cycle, but it’s uncharted waters and while I want to hope for the best, after 5 years of trying for our first baby and 3 miscarriages that hope is no longer pure, it’s burdened down by loss and fear.

What advice would you give to someone just starting on their fertility journey?

The best advice I can give is just know you’re not alone and don’t be afraid to reach out. Whether it’s joining a support group, talking to a friend, calling your doctor, just do what you feel comfortable with and don’t bottle it up. And just as importantly, do NOT be ashamed of your journey. None of this is your fault, it’s just one of those unfortunate things that affects one in six Canadian couples. On your bad days reach out to someone, just because you’re struggling now doesn’t mean you will forever.

Photo Credit: Carly MacKay Photography

elisa & marianne

Elisa & Marianne

When and how did you learn you were having challenges with your fertility?

As a same sex couple, we considered the different ways in which we could start our family. After a lot of thought, research and soul searching, we decided that assisted reproduction made the most sense for us. We are very lucky, that as 2 women in Nova Scotia, we don’t have to worry about second parent adoption or any of the other complexities faced by same sex couples in other provinces, or same sex couples who require surrogacy to start their families. In the summer of 2013, we made the call to AART to start the process of growing our family.

How did you feel when you began this journey?

While our journey before AART differs from that of someone struggling to conceive, I think most of us turn to AART with a single feeling…hope. Hope that this will be the way that we get our baby and grow our family. Along with that hope came excitement. We wanted this so badly, and having had no experience trying to conceive, we weren’t really anticipating challenges.
What was the most unexpected part of your journey? Any surprises along the way?
We had many surprises in our journey. The first I think came out of naivety. When we started, we really thought that given Marianne’s age and health, that we would have no trouble conceiving using TDI. We pursued that option for a while, and then realized that we were at a cross roads. We had the funds to try for 4 more months doing TDI or pursue IVF. If we kept going with TDI and it didn’t work, then we would be out of options financially. So, we decided to switch gears and pursue IVF.

We were very lucky, and Marianne got pregnant after our first round of IVF. One morning, 7 weeks in to pregnancy our second big twist in the road. Marianne experienced some morning sickness and afterwards she knew that something wasn’t right, she was in excruciating pain. We rushed to the emergency room. They did an ultrasound and found one empty sac and one heartbeat but couldn’t pin point what was wrong. It was clear that there was one embryo that had been lost, but that’s all we knew.
After many hours and ultrasounds, she was diagnosed with ovarian torsion and rushed to surgery. She was very lucky and they were able to save her ovary. However, in her ultrasound right before the surgery they could no longer find the baby’s heartbeat. We had to wait a week after her operation for our 8-week ultrasound to find out if the baby had survived. We were elated to find a heartbeat at that ultrasound and thought that this was going to be our miracle baby. Sadly, we were wrong, and Marianne miscarried a week later. We were of course devastated, just a week before we were so sure that everything was going to be ok. However, we also chose to remain optimistic in the face of the loss. We still had 3 frozen embryos and so we knew we would continue our journey.
A few months later we did a frozen transfer that didn’t take. The next month we decided to thaw both remaining embryos and try again. One didn’t survive the thaw and the other was transferred. Then came our 3rd and most joyful surprise, our last embryo became our baby…Spencer.

What was the most difficult part of your fertility journey?

The ovarian torsion and subsequent miscarriage were certainly the most challenging part of the journey. Also, I think anyone who has had to turn to assisted reproduction to conceive knows, the monthly anticipation followed by the disappointment if it didn’t work is incredibly hard. I don’t think there is any way to really prepare for that. Logically you know that it may not have worked, but you are so hopeful that when it doesn’t, it’s hard to not dwell in the disappointment.

When you were a patient, how did AART support you?

The doctors and nurses at AART were there for us through every step of our bumpy journey. We felt surrounded by people who were so invested in creating miracles. They celebrated with us in the joyful moments and supported us through the sad ones. We really felt cared for, which is an amazing thing.

How do you feel where you are now in your fertility journey?

Blessed. Spencer is now 3 and a half and is the most amazing, bright, stubborn little human. And without AART we wouldn’t have him. Even after all the struggles, we would do it all over again in a heartbeat…and we are; we just went through our second IVF round.

What advice would you give to someone just starting on their fertility journey?

It’s important to be realistic, but it’s also important keep your optimism.
Even when the worst-case scenario happens, there is still hope. Trust the nurses and doctors, they truly have your best interests at heart.

Photo credit to: Kristyn Smith Photography

Dana and family

Dana & Kareem

When and how did you learn you were having challenges with your fertility?

In 2012 I began to have issues with my periods and after almost a year of medical management for dealing with pain and longer than usual periods, I was referred to Dr. Bouzayen. I had surgery in 2013 and was diagnosed with endometriosis.  With this diagnosis came the reality that fertility challenges would be a distinct possibility.

I met Kareem in 2015 and very quickly on in our relationship, I told him about my possible fertility challenges.  I knew I wanted to have a family and the road to get there – whether biological or through adoption – was not going to be easy.  I felt I owed it to myself, and a potential partner, to be completely transparent about the possible challenges.  To my relief, he took this information in stride, asked many questions and didn’t let it scare him away (as I imagine – and rightfully so – it would have so many others).   Luckily for both of us, this was his attitude throughout the entire process.

How did you feel when you began this journey?

There have been many, many intense feelings throughout this journey.  When I was first diagnosed with endometriosis, I went through a whole range of emotions – grief, anger, and denial.  I am a pediatric speech-language pathologist and my entire adult life has been centered around working with children.  I couldn’t fathom the thought of never being a mommy.  At the beginning, the overwhelming grief caused by that idea had more than once brought me to my knees.

When we were ready to begin our journey, Kareem and I met with Dr. Bouzayen to figure out our options.  Given my fertility challenges, we were informed that IVF was our best option.  We began our journey with AART in 2017.  We were nervous and excited.  It’s an incredibly scary thing to put your heart on the line, as we were doing, when you know the odds are not in your favour.  Even though Kareem never once made this a “me vs. you” issue, there were many times through this process that I felt a great deal of guilt.  I was the one with the fertility issues and yet he was also having to go through the pain and stress of this incredibly intense process.

What was the most unexpected part of your journey?  Any surprises along the way?

We knew this journey was going to be difficult from a physical and financial point of view.  We also knew it would be extremely draining emotionally – with highs and lows.  What I didn’t expect was the amount of time this process consumed.  I knew there would be many appointments, but I didn’t realize this would consume our thoughts and feelings every single second of every single day.  If we weren’t in appointments, we were waiting for the next injection or waiting for results.  We were still going through the motions of our everyday lives, but our heads and hearts were consumed by only one thought.

What was the most difficult part of your fertility journey?

We completed our first cycle of IVF and were overjoyed to find out we were pregnant!  At our 8-week ultrasound, Dr. Hamilton had the most difficult job of having to tell us that we had had a miscarriage.  How could this be?  We knew the stats and realized this was a possibility but after all we had been through to get to this point, I felt like somehow this had to work.  Our hearts were broken.  We were not lucky enough to have had embryos to freeze, which meant if we wanted a baby, we had to start the entire IVF process again, from the beginning.

Even through all of this, however, I think the most difficult part of our fertility journey was the (seemingly) innocent questions we’d get asked by family, friends and strangers.  “Do you want children?”  “When are you having children?”  “Why aren’t you pregnant yet?”  With every question asked, it was as if salt was being rubbed on an open, yet invisible, wound.   While we were very open with some people, we would smile politely through the questions and make small talk with those who didn’t understand how much pain they were causing.  I remember going to a party shortly after our miscarriage and having a stranger ask these questions and offer advice on ways to help us get pregnant.  I wanted to crawl under a rock and cry but had to put on a smile and try to navigate the conversation away from the baby talk. 

When you were a patient, how did AART support you?

From the very beginning, we felt completely supported by all staff at the AART clinic.  I remember having a very lengthy and emotional conversation with Nurse Beth before even setting foot in the clinic. During one of our initial meetings with Dr. Bouzayen at the AART clinic, she counselled us to sit down together at home and have a very open and honest conversation about how many cycles we were willing to do to try to have a baby.  She suggested we think about it from all angles – emotional, physical and financial, as she said once we began the process and emotions were high, these hard decisions were made even more difficult.  This was incredibly sage advice which we indeed needed to reflect on during the process.

Once we decided to begin our journey, the nurses, doctors, pharmacists and even receptionists were incredibly professional and supportive.  This is an intensely personal process and it is imperative that you trust those helping you along the way.  We always felt as if the nurses and doctors were there to talk with us, answer all our questions and even give hugs when needed.

When faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to proceed with a second IVF cycle, Dr. Bouzayen was a huge support.  I will never forget her words to us which (summarized) were that her measure of success was making sure her patients were able to get to a point in their fertility journey that they were happy with their decision and end result – whether that be with having a baby or deciding to not pursue further treatments.

How do you feel where you are now in your fertility journey?

As I write this, our sweet little 8-month old daughter is napping in the next room.  While we would love a large family, we both feel we have reached the end of our fertility journey.  Our pregnancy, after being discharged from the AART clinic, was not an easy path and we know we are incredibly lucky for our little miracle.  We are grateful every day that our wish came true.  Kareem and I will never have the words to adequately thank the doctors, nurses and staff at AART for our baby girl.

What advice would you give to someone just starting on their fertility journey?

I can say – without a doubt – that this process would have been impossible if Kareem and I were not on the same page with all decisions made during this process.  Lean on your partner, family member or friend – whomever you have decided to have sitting next to you during the appointments, procedures and at-home injections.  Ask all the questions you want and need to, even the ones you think are too silly to utter aloud.  The nurses, doctors, pharmacists and embryologists are there to help you and will take the time to answer your questions.  This is your journey and they understand it’s a difficult one and are here to help you.

Aimee & Ashley

When and how did you learn you were having challenges with your fertility?

Our story is a bit different in that we knew we would need to access fertility treatments to grow our family. We first learned we were having challenges when Aimee discovered she had low ovarian reserve, through the AMH test. Dr.Hamilton recommended we do this test, which tests for ovarian reserve. This was recommended based on family history. When we met with Dr.Hamilton to discuss the results, we learned that Aimee would also be a low responder to fertility medications. We were hopeful given that she was otherwise healthy and under 35, that even though she had a low ovarian reserve, the remaining eggs would be good quality and therefore yield viable embryos.  We were optimistic because everyone kept telling us, “you just need one!” However, we received a devastating call on day two to inform us that none of our embryos had survived the night. It was an especially hard pill to swallow, that after all our hard work, months of saving and the emotional and physically demanding process that we didn’t even get to try to grow our family.  It felt like our journey was over before it had even begun.

When we had our follow up appointment to discuss our next available option. Dr. Hamilton didn’t recommend Aimee completing another cycle. She suggested a donor cycle as Aimee wanted to carry the baby if it was still an option. Luckily for us, Ashley was able to be that donor. This gave Aimee the opportunity to try again to get pregnant and carry our baby.

How did you feel when you began this journey?

We had a range of emotions from excited to terrified. Even though we were loved and supported by our friends and families, we felt like no one quite knew what we were going through.  We were over the moon excited at the possibility of growing our family but definitely scared as a newly married couple with a new house that the cost of IVF was potentially out of reach.  When we decided to start saving for our first round of IVF our new mantra was “you can’t put a price on having a family” and we decided we would do whatever it took to save.

Looking back we were also a bit naive. We assumed that because we were under 35, healthy and active we wouldn’t have any difficulty getting pregnant. First the insemination didn’t work and then the first round of IVF didn’t work and then we came to the realization that this wasn’t going to be as easy as we thought.

What was the most unexpected part of your journey? Any surprises along the way?

The unexpected part was the duration. At first, we had only allotted the time for an insemination, thinking we would track Aimee’s ovulation, do the insemination and we’d be on our way to starting our family. In total, it was three years from our first call to AART to our first successful pregnancy test. We did not expect that.

One surprise we had along the way was during our second round of IVF when Ashley’s cycle went five days longer than we expected and what we had financially budgeted for. As the stimulation medications weren’t covered by our extended health benefits.  The medications we needed were approximately $600.00 per day and at this point there is nowhere to go but forward. Luckily the AART clinic has a wonderful on-site pharmacy with the best pharmacist and he helped and supported us through the process by allowing us to delay payment and continue with the cycle.

We got another surprise when we were in the middle of our first embryo transfer.  We were excited that our first transfer had been booked and that everything was checked and ready to go. On examination Dr. Hamilton thought Aimee’s lining wasn’t thick enough and her recommendation was to freeze all the embryos and wait for the next cycle. She told us it was our decision. So, standing there in our scrubs, with these people that now felt like family we asked her to go ahead. We waited so long to get to this point, and we were ready to start our family.  We transferred the embryo. I can still hear Dr. Hamilton saying, “Perfect!” with her hands in the air after she did the transfer, it gave us hope.  Turns out, it was the best decision we ever made.

What was the most difficult part of your fertility journey?

Without a doubt the most difficult part of the journey was when we were told we had no embryos survive the first cycle. It was difficult for us process the fact that we didn’t even really get to try to start our family after all we had been through.  It was also a difficult time for Aimee to come to terms with the fact that she wasn’t going to be able to have children, because at this time we felt like our journey had come to an end.

Given the fact that our first cycle had failed we were extremely nervous every morning that the embryologist would call to update us on the status of the embryos.  When we had 3 embryos survive the five days, we were ecstatic.

When you were a patient, how did AART support you?

While we were patients at the AART clinic we felt completely supported by everyone. From the first moment you enter the clinic you are greeted with a smile from the receptionists and staff behind the desk. The nurses were always available to answer any questions we had and took extra time when we needed it. They never made us feel rushed and took the time to explain everything throughout our cycle. They always seemed to be able to make you smile or laugh even during the stressful times throughout our journey. The pharmacist, Al, was very supportive.  From helping with the medications, answering all our questions and supporting us when our second cycle went 5 days over our allotted budget. We really felt like part of the AART family while we were patients.

How do you feel where you are now in your fertility journey?

We feel extremely blessed and grateful about where we are in our fertility journey.  Our son is now a year old and we can’t thank AART enough for helping and supporting us on this journey.

On the other hand we don’t feel our fertility journey is over yet, we still have similar feelings as when the just started  – excited, nervous. We hope to be able to give our son siblings, but again back to the original point we feel so blessed to have our son, who is happy and healthy and makes us laugh every day. We are thankful for where are but hopeful to keep going.           

What advice would you give to someone just starting on their fertility journey?

Try and remain positive. Positive language, positive thinking. but also because it can be a very stressful time, be compassionate and patient, with yourself. Allow yourself some freedom to have good days and bad days. Always know that you’re courageous for trying and that you are good hands.

Photo credit: Edgewood Studio