Tiffany Rex is just a few short weeks away from her due date and meeting her baby girl, Avery—something that seemed next to impossible until a few months ago. The 34-year-old and her husband, Mark Wojtowicz, struggled with infertility for two years and tried hormone supplements and four rounds of IUI before turning to IVF to conceive. And now, as the Washington, D.C.-based couple approaches the end of their pregnancy journey, they want to share their story with in vitro fertilization to give hope to others like them.
In late August, as she prepared for her baby shower, Rex posted a retrospective album on her Facebook page that told the full play-by-play behind their long-awaited pregnancy.
"So many people have confided their journeys to me after our [pregnancy] announcement, and I wanted to share more detail on the long road we faced to help give hope and strength to others," she began the post.
Through 38 photos, Rex shared everything from the hard times to the triumphs of conceiving through in vitro fertilization.
At first, she said of the hormone injections: "Wrapping our heads around how to work them all and when to inject was so overwhelming."
They got the hang of it, but the result wasn't glamorous—here's what 50 shots to the stomach (three per day) over two weeks looked like:
But then, some good news: An ultrasound showed only nine eggs, but doctors were able to collect 13 during the egg retrieval procedure, 11 of which fertilized successfully. Three of them would ultimately be options for transfer.
"The recovery from surgery is not bad," Rex told Parents.com. "You have some cramping that night, but you are pretty good to go about somewhat normal life by the next day."
But then, a bump in the road when the bills came: IVF is expensive! The cost typically ranges from $15,000 to $25,000, and most insurance does not cover it. "I recommend anyone beginning IVF to do their homework on any financial help available," Rex told Parents.com. "For us, we were able to get a military discount, and we had a couple angel nurses that got us all our medications through samples (about a $4,000 savings). If you know IVF is nearing, ask your doctors and nurses to start asking around to reps for any [medication] samples you could get. Also, call the various pharmacies and cost compare. I found that there was a difference in cost for the same medications through the different specialty pharmacies that supply them."
The next step was surgery to remove a minor polyp that had been found on Rex's uterus, but doctors discovered another problem during the procedure. "It turns out that when my doctor opened me up to remove the polyp, she found that I actually had a pretty bad uterine septum," Rex told Parents.com. "This meant that my uterus was misshapen, and where it was caved in, the lining was dead and had no blood flow. A healthy lining is essential for embryo implantation. This was definitely one of the reasons I was not getting pregnant, and if we had not found it, we probably would have lost all our embryos to failed cycles and IVF would have been a wash."
"My doctor fixed it all up while she was in there and implanted a balloon in my uterus to keep it open to heal (kind of a reverse cast)," Rex said. "The balloon had to stay in for about two weeks. It was quite uncomfortable."
In the meantime, Rex had to stay on top of the meds she was prescribed, which was no easy task:
After weeks of waiting, Rex was finally told her uterus was healed and was approved for an embryo transfer.
But then came the second round of shots—progesterone—to help thicken the uterine lining. Rex needed one shot a day for 14 weeks, and the needles looked like this:
Still, Rex and her husband were all smiles on transfer day, February 3.
And they got to see their baby girl, AKA Embryo #2, for the first time:
Six days after the transfer (and six days earlier than expected), Rex and her husband were thrilled to see not one, but three positive pregnancy tests, which were then confirmed by a blood test. "I carried my test around with me for two days," Rex told us.
And soon, they saw their healthy, growing baby girl in an ultrasound.
When it was time to make their pregnancy public, the couple decided to honor their IVF journey in the announcement.
Years of challenges and waiting culminated when Rex had her first standard OB visit that showed she was on track with a normal and healthy pregnancy.
Now that she's on the other side, Rex's biggest piece of advice to others considering IVF is to make sure you are with a doctor and staff you trust and like."You will spend a lot of time with these people and are trusting them with the biggest thing in your life. You need to be comfortable with your team and if you're not, find another one," she said.
"Additionally, don't be embarrassed or ashamed of anything you are feeling," Rex added. "Do what you have to do for your sanity. I unfollowed anyone that became pregnant and avoided pregnant friends as much as I could. I loved them dearly, but the pain and longing and frustration you feel is so overwhelming. True friends will absolutely understand what you are going through. Above all, stay strong, trust your doctors, and lean on each other!"