Trigger warning: This post deals with topics of infertility and as I discuss my IVF journey.
I still remember being a teenager, a few months starting my period when I went for my annual physical check up with my family doctor. I will never forget the conversation we had about my period. She warned me that since my period was not regular, I may have trouble having kids. Even though I was miles away from any thoughts of children, I tucked that information carefully at the back of my mind.
Fast forward many years, when Avais (my now husband of 11 years) asked me to marry him at age 23, I had to share shameful secret with him. I thought it would turn him away, but he responded with compassion and love. Despite my flaw, he loved me and wanted to marry me.
A few years later, Avais got very sick. Very very sick with a very rare disease that the doctors in Toronto had never seen a real case of. There was no well known treatment path. It was all experimental treatments. I won’t go into the details, but it was the most difficult time in my life. He was in the hospital for months and I had nightmares of what the outcome would be.
At the time, I was pursuing my PhD. I took a leave for the semester. Thankfully, I had an amazing support system of our families. We were especially fortunate to have so many family members in the health community. Avais’ cousins, sister and my brother scoured research and health journals to find more information to help our care team.
My IVF Journey
At the beginning of his treatment, his young female physician pulled me aside in the hallway. She told me that after this treatment, there was a very real possibility we would not be able to have kids. She suggested we consult with a fertility specialist. This was information no other doctor else shared with me.
I went between home, hospital and the fertility clinic. We were given some options to help increase our chances of having kids. Between my irregular periods and Avais’ treatments, I thought I would never had a child. It was not important at the time. I was in crisis mode. I wanted my best friend to be “better”
By the grace of God, Avais was given a treatment path and we resumed some sort of normalcy and routine in our life. 2 years after he was diagnosed, we opened up the conversation of having children. I remember conversations from this time so distinctly. We made a commitment to each other to be madly in love, that even if we couldn’t have kids, we would be enough for each other.
I remember one night my parents came over for dinner. I told them this heavy load I had been carrying around. My mom and cried sitting at our kitchen counter. My dad sat in the living room, silently listening. My dad has always had a strong faith. He said that God Willing (Inshallah) we would have kids. He said to never underestimate the mercy of God, and that miracles DO happen.
So Avais and I started to explore options to have a family. We went to adoption seminars and started our IVF Journey. We started the IVF path and it was brutally demanding. I had no idea how time consuming it would be. I would wake up at 5am, walk to the subway in the darkness of the night. I would head to the clinic on the subway and see the doctor daily for cycle monitoring. After that, I would head straight to work to be at my desk for 9am. I didn’t tell anyone other than my parents and Avais. This went on for weeks.
Luckily I was young (28 years old) when we started the process. My age would help to improve our IVF success rate. After semen analysis, we did not try intrauterine insemination (IUI) because we knew the male factor would prevent success. We went straight to IVF. In fact, we did ICSI which is when the egg is injected with sperm. It results in higher IVF success when there is a male infertility as well.
The IVF process in the Pakistani community was not discussed, not an option, and in some people’s opinions forbidden (haraam). It was a dark time in my life. I have never felt so alone. Our fertility doctor was a light in this time. He smiled, he joked, he was compassionate. I felt like he was really rooting for us after hearing our difficult story. After we had our egg retrieval, I had 4 eggs that were fertilized. We prayed day and night. I never let myself imagine what it would feel like to be pregnant.
2 weeks after our embryo transfer, I went to the clinic for a blood test to see if were pregnant. Avais and I were heading out for Friday Prayer (Jummah). As we stepped out of our condo door, into the hallway I got a phone call. I can’t describe the feeling, but I felt hot and overwhelmed. I knew it would be the clinic telling us if we were pregnant or not. I answered it and the nurse immediately said “I have some good news for you”. I couldn’t even speak. Avais stood there, staring at me, waiting for me to share any news. I finally broke into a smile and looked at him. It was a true miracle.
A woman with irregular cycles and a man with health problems were going to have a baby. That’s the story of our first child. To anyone going through the process, I would offer these words of love: be optimistic in your IVF journey. Be patient. Be in love with your partner and support them. God has a plan for the two of you.
Stay tuned for part 2 on how we conceived our second child.