When Clara’s period didn’t come on schedule, she and her husband, Ekong thought they were pregnant. They had been married for almost two years and were already looking forward to starting their family.
Clara, who was 31 at the time, was combining housework with studies and full employment. She hoped that a pregnancy announcement would be met with a warm welcome, the thought of having their first child excited them, but when the pregnancy test came back negative, they were devastated.
However, the disappointment prompted a new resolve more so as they were fully ready to be parents. Now, they started trying for a child in earnest and were not going to be contented with the mere “if it happens, it happens” sort of attempt.
Clara got ovulation kits, and read up on different factors to improve fertility, she became dedicated and committed, but despite regular periods and on-time ovulation, she still wasn’t pregnant more than six months later. Practically all the tests came back inconclusive.
Clara had done everything right, she thought. She had a good education, got married and had a promising career. Her own mother never had fertility issues, so why should she? Why was all this happening? There was no immediate explanation, the inconclusive test results didn’t leave many options.
This continued for several months, but at the recommendation of one of their friends, the couple visited a fertility clinic. More tests and investigations were done over and over.
At one point, it was determined that some of her hormone levels were slightly elevated, and this was an abnormality that triggered concern. Also, Ekong’s sperm count appeared low at first, but follow-ups indicated that they ought not to have problems getting pregnant.
The clinic suggested In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) – the process by which mature eggs are retrieved from a woman’s body and fertilized in a lab with a man’s sperm, forming an embryo. The embryo is then implanted back into the woman’s body to carry out the pregnancy.
Clara read up everything that she could about IVF. The more that she read, the more excited she became. In a way, she felt that the start of her IVF journey looked so promising. Her perception about the whole IVF process was quite positive and she was actually welcoming it and excited about it. Already, she was imagining being pregnant with twins or even triplets, but things didn’t exactly happen like that.
The first IVF cycle was set up and everything was done precisely and correctly as recommended, but Clara didn’t get pregnant after that first round of IVF. They tried again with the same result. The third and fourth attempts were no different – no pregnancy.
At the start of each cycle, the fertility specialists adjusted or changed something, and each time, Clara and Ekong got their hopes up, only to be disappointed all over again. It was hard for them, and they went through a lot of depression.
Whenever she encountered friends and colleagues who married around the same time as she and they shared pregnancy announcements or baby photos, it pricked her heart.
There were times that the burden of wanting a baby but not being able to have one became too much to bear. It even forced her to temporarily put some friendships on hold and she made new friends through IVF support groups online.
She quickly learned that the highs in IVF are so high and the lows in IVF are so low that only someone else that’s going through it or has gone through it can understand. That was how she survived.
After four failed IVF cycles, Clara and Ekong finally got the news they’d been dreaming of: They were pregnant! But six weeks later, devastation hit again. Clara miscarried. Her levels of the pregnancy hormone known as human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), were too low.
At that point, they considered changing clinics or switching doctors, but that wasn’t easy. Clara was regretful doing that. Some of her regrets with the first clinic were hope and loyalty, because they had doctors that she had become very attached to.
At the second clinic things started smoothly, Clara and Ekong decided they’d only complete two IVF cycles there and hope for the best. They felt that two cycles would allow for one attempt and then one more to make any necessary tweaks.
The first cycle passed without success. On the second cycle, Clara became pregnant but again miscarried at five weeks three days, the same as before. The clinic was very supportive. The doctor reassured the couple and emphasized that it was about them having the family of their dreams so they were free to seek their dreams.
After two fertility clinics, seven IVF cycles and two miscarriages, Clara and Ekong decided it was time to change tactics. But she and Ekong were still anxious. If they went to a third clinic and failed, would it be that they might never have biological children?
They felt that their pregnancy attempts could come to an end. After visiting the third clinic, she knew there was something different about the place. Right from the appointment, everything felt right. These were professionals. They were sure of it.
After more tests, Clara got the news she’d heard so many times before: There wasn’t a clear medical reason that she couldn’t get pregnant. No one knew what the problem was. She was sad. To be sitting with experts in the field and for him to be unable to explain your situation was scary.
She decided to try one more time. They would go through with one cycle only because they didn’t want to repeat unsuccessful methods. There were other options to becoming a parent, but IVF was the real deal. Clara’s fertility dreams were crashing down but she wasn’t giving up.
Leading up to the new appointment, Clara felt immense pressure. Her embryos looked great, and her doctor was further encouraged. The results were promising. Clara had six genetically sound embryos. More than she’d ever had during an IVF cycle. Two were implanted.
The wait for confirmation of pregnancy was a long one. It was the longest two weeks that Clara had ever lived through. When the results came, it was the best news ever. A positive pregnancy test. Clara was hysterical. She called Ekong but couldn’t get words out through the tears.
It was a special day for them both. Even though they knew that there was a chance of miscarriage, but they had hope and confidence that they had made the right move. At eight weeks, Clara miscarried one of the embryos. She still had one. Eventually, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
Almost immediately after, Clara felt the urge to get pregnant again. She wanted to give her baby siblings. Two more embryos were transferred. It was a resounding success. Nine months later, another healthy baby girl was born. One minute later, her twin brother came into the world.
After years of heartache and disappointment, Clara and Ekong were parents to three healthy babies. It was everything they’d dreamed of. There were two embryos left. What should they do with them, they wondered?
Their hands were full with three young children. They thought of donating them to help another couple, but every time Clara looked at her embryo picture, she imagined her children. They took some time and adjusted to their new life as parents before revisiting the topic.
Eventually, she and Ekong decided to give the last two embryos a shot. She was told the likelihood of twins a second time was low. But just a day after their first daughter turned 5, Clara and Ekong welcomed their second set of twins. First came Farrah and then Athena.
After everything, she regrets nothing. Clara’s IVF journey was nothing like she expected, but then, she regrets nothing. Each of her doctors played an integral role in the formation of her family, and for that, she is forever grateful.
She is glad to have five beautiful, healthy children. And her priority now is to help other women who share similar experiences and struggles.
Clara always mentions something about her IVF journey. She doesn’t want others to feel alone, as she often did. She remembers the good and the not so good along the journey.
To women struggling with fertility issues, she urges them not to become paralyzed with grief or fear, but to keep working toward their goal.