From Infertility to Motherhood
I was born to Greek parents in Toronto, Canada. I have one older brother. My father was a known chef and my mother worked as a hospital dietary assistant. Our family moved to Greece when I was seven years old, where we lived there for seven years. This time abroad allowed us to create strong bonds with our extended family. Family has always been very important to me.
For as long as I can remember, from a young age I wanted a family of my own. I imagined myself, married in my 20’s, starting a family early, being a mom to at least three children, maybe more. I loved children, I loved to baby-sit, I loved hanging out with my nephews and nieces and I cherish the innocence of little people. Having children just seemed a part of my destiny, my journey, the purpose of my life. Although I enjoyed sports and involved myself in my big brother’s activities, somewhat of a tomboy, I still had a strong desire to have children. I knew that I would be a mom one day. But I never imagined this … the longing to be a mom and the hardship that I endured throughout the years is indescribable.
Thirty years ago, while in my early twenties (the 1980’s), l contacted a fertility clinic near the University of Toronto (while I was at the library studying, where l got this burning question in my head), and asked if there was a possibility to freeze my eggs. Their response was that “it would cost $2,000 (which was a year of tuition back then) and could only guarantee five years cryopreservation service”. I was only 23 years old and being given only a 5 year period of possible use was not really in my favour!!! Seeing how everything has evolved today ... l wish l had gone through with it ... since we know now that a 21 and 28 year frozen sperm led to live births in 2004 and 2005! In hindsight, maybe l should have “put my eggs on ice”!
Nowadays, women have the opportunity to do so for a much longer timeframe and I am very glad to see that women are taking advantage of this precious gift for their future! My advise to women between the age of 25-35 is “freeze your eggs”, this allow you the option in the future to have a family when you are ready and not because your “clock is running out”. It’s on your term. The earlier the better!
When I first started my fertility journey through assisted reproduction, I joined an online fertility site, fertilityfriend.com to assist me with monitoring my cycles. My first entry was back on March 8, 2004 and the last cycle was September 10, 2015. My last entry was when we received the news that we were indeed pregnant and our little miracle arrived 38 weeks later. Looking back, I had charted my cycles for 148 months (just over 12 years). Looking at the number of months that I monitored my cycles, I shake my head! It was indeed a long, exhausting, difficult ride.
Our thirteen-year struggle with infertility included, 7 IVF cycles, 6 IUI’s, guidance via multiple natural cycles, countless alternative treatments, numerous miscarriages, spread over five fertility specialists in two continents. We further went through the adoption process for over a year with some disappointments. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do. And I mean anything. I had indeed become a “fertility junkie”.
When we fully emerged ourselves into the fertility treatment world our diagnosis after extensive tests resulted in “unexplained infertility” and as the years went by, it was then “advanced maternal age”. I know I started later in life, at the age of 38 and that played a big factor for all our road blocks, but I believe it had to do with luck. Having the right clinic, the right doctor, the right team fall in place at the right time we would have conceived a whole lot earlier.
We started off being referred by our family doctor to a clinic in the downtown area of Toronto and then to other ones in the suburbs. Our experience with the ones in the suburbs was different… at least we did not feel that we were just a number. Nevertheless, they were unable to assist us to produce results even though they were considered the top fertility specialists in the country and after spending thousands of dollars, we were nowhere close to our dream of having a family.
After 5 natural cycles of guidance and monitoring, 6 IUI’s, and 4 IVF treatments, we needed to move on. You see our first three IVF procedures where a shock to our system and for the Doctors too! All three times, my eggs dropped prior to retrieval. It seemed that everything was going perfectly, until the morning of egg retrieval. According to our doctors they had never experienced this before, so when it happen cycle after cycle, they were in shock and we were in despair. I was beside myself. I felt like I lost all my babies! My body ached and my mind was ready to explode. All three times we were left with one egg, these were my “secondary ovums”… since they never caught my primary ones because they dropped earlier. Nevertheless, the eggs we did retrieve created Grade "A" embryos. Even though l was of “advance maternal age” according to our Doctors’ we created “perfect embryos” all three times. Yet they did not implant, they did not survive.
Many times over, I never thought that I could go back yet for another fertility treatment. But I did … because it was my dream and desire to be a mom, so I carried on and started all over again, year after year.
That’s when we turned to Fertility Tourism and we chose Athens, Greece as our destination, being that it’s our parents’ homeland, that our family members were doctors, specifically fertility specialists.
In addition, the fertility treatment success rate in Greece is quiet high in comparison to other countries in Europe, Canada and the US, plus it’s less expensive and not as evasive as the treatments I endured in Canada. Clinics in other countries have different systems regarding treatments and pricing, so l can provide guidance through the fertility journey abroad.
Our lead fertility doctor specializes in gynecology, obstetrics; advance assisted reproductive technology (ART) and cord blood stem cell research. Our fertility team, "our miracle baby dream team" is fluent in Greek, English and French and their motto is “Remember that impossible is possible”. And it sure is!
I am sharing with you my fertility/reproductive tourism journey in hopes of encouraging others to not give up. I, along with others have experienced how dark and depressing the inability to have a child is, when every cell in your body wants one. Infertility has probably been one of the hardest things I’ve gone through. Unless you’ve lived it, you don’t truly know what it’s like, so be kind to yourself and give yourself grace to feel all the feelings that go along with infertility. You feel totally alone during this journey, and I want others to know that you are not alone and there are options available. In the end, our dream did come true with the assistance of our fertility tourism team in Greece.
When we were finally blessed in 2016, with the most precious wonderful miracle baby, I became even more involved in helping others through their fertility journey. That is the reason why Tomorrow’s Heroes changed its direction.
Throughout my fertility journey, I shared with many about what I went through during this long process and offered my knowledge to anyone who wanted and needed my help. My main focus is to reach out to women who are walking in the shoes I walked, to first take care of their sole, mind and body. Allowing one self, to skip certain holidays, baby showers, and kids’ birthday parties, if it was too painful to attend. Because I sure did. Also I highly suggest finding a support group or a strong support system you can lean on, whether it is your family or friends. Most importantly, take care of yourself and don’t lose hope!
As a Fertility Coach, l support couples or individuals trying to get pregnant. Each Fertility Coach has their own methods, focus and approach to meeting their clients' needs. At Tomorrow’s Heroes, we define the role as someone who guides families through the process of trying to conceive, conception, and pregnancy.
I am here to support you and help you fulfill your dream and change your life as my journey changed mine. I don’t have the answers for why we must go through such struggles to bring children into the world; I do know however, that when we look into our babies’ faces, they will know that they were truly wanted, no matter how they came to us!
Throughout my journey, I had the opportunity to receive treatment from some very special people, my fertility "Dream Team":
Dr. Randine Lewis – The Fertile Soul Retreat (www.thefertilesoul.com) A Body, Mind, Spirit Approach to Fertility
Belinda and Larry Wurn - Clear Passage Therapy (www.clearpassage.com) Treating Chronic Pain, Obstructions and Infertility Naturally
Dr. Vasilis Kellaris, Obstetrician-Gynecologist (OBGYN), ART and Cord Stem Cell Research (www.vasiliskellaris.gr)
Dr. Cara Flamer – Centre for Proactive Medicine (www.torontobioidentical.com) Bio-identical hormone restoration and wellness
Dr. Jing-Lan Li Burns - Positive Chinese Medicine (www.acupuncture-fertility-ivf.com) Fertility Acupuncture Specialist
Dr. Stirke (Chiropractor) - (www.drstirke.com) Nervous System Specialist
Liping (Sophie) Song, Registered Massage Therapist (R.M.T.), Fertility Relaxation Massage
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for helping me reach my dream of becoming a parent.