A woman in Texas is finally pregnant after years of trying to conceive and multiple miscarriages–and she’s shared her journey in a Facebook post that’s garnered a lot of attention. The post features a photo of two onesies–one that says “Worth the wait” and another that says “and wait…and wait…and wait”–surrounded by needles.
In the caption, Lauren Walker writes that she and her husband Garyt struggled through “452 needles, thousands of tears, one corrective surgery, four Clomid/Letrozole attempts, two IVF rounds, and three failed [embryo] transfers.” Now, she’s pregnant with twins, due in August, that the couple has named Duke and Diana.
Walker, 28, says in her post that creating the photo was “surreal.” “Halfway through, my hands started to quiver, my breath got short, and I had to stop,” she writes. “I sat down, looked at it, and started to cry. Not because I was sad about what it took to get here, but because it was a representation of my world, our world, for the past over two and a half years staring back at me.”
She says there was “a lot of pain, hope, and fear behind each of these needles. Each one represents a different day, a different path, a different emotion.” But after she had a “good cry,” Walker noticed that the needles started to blur together. “Now all I see are these tiny onesies that so perfectly sum up our journey: Worth the wait. And wait, and wait, and wait,” she says.
The hardest part about the journey was going through an entire cycle of IVF and losing five embryos, Walker says. “Coming so far only to miscarry,” she writes. “Getting to where all the hope, the money, all of what could have been your children were gone.”
Walker tells ABC News that she and her husband spent about $30,000 in fertility treatments by the end of 2014. They gave it “one more shot” with a final embryo, but found out two days before Christmas that year that it didn’t take. “We just held each other and I let out this blood-curdling scream,” she said. “I was completely broken.”
They eventually decided to try again in October 2016 after taking out a $14,000 loan. They didn’t tell family members and friends they were trying, and surprised family with the good news a week before Christmas by handing them the pregnancy test wrapped in a bow.
Now, Walker says their long journey was worth it. “The reason why we were waiting so long is that we were waiting for them,” she told ABC News. She also ended her Facebook post with this tear-jerking message: “Duke & Diana, you are already so loved…Mommy and Daddy cannot wait to hold you in our arms, for we have carried you in our hearts for a lifetime.”
Their story is incredible (and potentially a little scary for those struggling to get pregnant), but Carl M. Herbert, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist with Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco, tells SELF that young couples can usually get pregnant with a single IVF cycle. This is especially true given current technology that allows doctors to test the embryo for chromosomal abnormalities, therefore lowering the odds of a miscarriage.
“If we don’t get a positive pregnancy [test], we start to wonder what else could be wrong,” he says, noting that a miscarriage can happen for reasons other than an embryo having abnormalities. Herbert says IVF is “amazing” for people with tubal problems or people whose partners have a low sperm count, but it may be more difficult if there is another complication, such as an abnormality with a person’s uterus.
IVF success rates also vary with age. It’s around 50 percent at age 30, per the most recent available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 percent in women in their late 30s, 11 percent in women 41 to 42, and lower beyond that.
However, reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist Brian Levine, M.D., the founding partner and practice director of CCRM New York, tells SELF that “although there are no guarantees with IVF, many patients are pregnant after their first cycle.” (A cycle of IVF includes taking medication for 10 to 12 days to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs, undergoing a minor surgical procedure to extract the eggs, and then about five days of growth of the embryos in the laboratory, he explains. The embryos can be transferred right away, or transferred the following month.)
The length of time it takes for IVF to be successful can vary depending on how a person’s body responds to the medication and whether they’re working with fresh or frozen embryos (i.e., eggs that have just been harvested and fertilized or those that are frozen until a later time), Lina Akopians, M.D., Ph.D., from the Southern California Reproductive Center, tells SELF. “Additionally, depending on the quality of the egg or sperm, some couples may require multiple IVF cycles to produce a genetically healthy embryo available for transfer,” she says.
People who are struggling to conceive will typically undergo treatment with clomiphene (Clomid), a drug that stimulates ovulation, before resorting to IVF because it’s easier and cheaper, and unlike IVF, people other than reproductive endocrinologists can administer it, Christine Greves, M.D., a board-certified ob/gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, tells SELF. (Femara [Letrozole], another ovulation-stimulating drug, may also be used.)
Reproductive endocrinologist John J. Rapisarda, M.D., of Fertility Centers of Illinois, tells SELF that people can do a few things to increase their odds of IVF success. He recommends following a healthy lifestyle, including eating a balanced diet, exercising lightly, stopping smoking, and avoiding excess caffeine and alcohol.
It can also be a good idea to minimize exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides, solvents, and even BPA-containing plastics, he says. (BPA is a potential toxin found in many plastics, Greves notes, which is why she recommends women who are trying to conceive try to minimize their exposure to it.)
Lowering stress levels is also important, Levine says, noting that his patients often undergo acupuncture to help manage their stress before starting IVF. “IVF is like a marathon; they both require training and conditioning,” he says. “Patients should try to get themselves into the healthiest state possible.”
But the best way to ensure IVF success is to seek professional help early and not delay treatment, Akopians says. “The IVF success rate is remarkable,” Jane Frederick, M.D., a board-certified fertility expert at HRC Fertility, the largest provider of advanced fertility treatment in Southern California, tells SELF. “We are on the cutting edge of science and technology offering couples the chance to have a family they have longed for.”
If you’re planning to undergo IVF, Greves recommends being prepared for emotional swings and having a good support group in place to help you through it. And, above all, try to stay positive. “Don’t lose hope if you don’t get a positive pregnancy result on the first or second cycle,” she says.