Freyja: A story of hope after years of despair

It is a story of an Indian couple residing in New York who went through fertility treatment for five years. The treatment included three cycles of TI, three cycles of IUI, one cycle of IVF in India followed by a miscarriage, another cycle of IVF in New York followed by chemical pregnancy before meeting Freyja. Our goal is to bring hope to couples going through fertility treatment, share our learnings and support them through the journey.

Gaurav and Surabhi fertility treament summary
Begining of

The beginning

After knowing each other for several years, we got married and moved to New York in 2015. After the move, Surabhi started noticing irregularity with the period and started treatment for PCOS in early 2016. Somehow, Surabhi always believed that she might have trouble conceiving, so we started planning early and tried the natural process until mid-2017. Once we tried for at least a year, we decided to seek medical advice.

Initial assessments and non-invasive assistance

We met a doctor in Manhatten, and she ran different tests to rule out the usual causes of infertility, but everything looked great. The doctor put us on timed intercourse for four-cycle with Clomid, but that did not help. Towards the end of 2017, she referred us to a fertility specialty where they performed more invasive tests like HSG and started managing PCOS and Diabetes first. We managed that for a couple of months but later decided to change the doctor to take a more aggressive route. Surabhi decided to stop eating sweets as a promise until we had a baby.

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IUI (Intrauterine Insemination)

In the absence of a known cause of infertility, we started with IUI with RMA New York. We went through three cycles of IUI, but that did not help. We met the doctor in charge of the facility, and he said the next step is IVF; let's get you started. It was so insensitive that we felt a part of an assembly line in a foreign country. We were not mentally prepared, and the doctor did not care to empathize. We were feeling lost but decided to go to India and seek a second opinion.

First Hope: IVF - Cycle I

Surabhi traveled to India in Sept 2018 to consult with doctors and decided to get started on IVF. We went through extraction, and she suffered severe OHSS, and the doctor needed to aspirate water with a thick needle followed by a high dosage of protein. After five days of extraction, we knew that only one embryo was fertilized, but we kept hope. Gaurav left for the USA, and Surabhi went through the embryo transfer. On Jan 3rd, Surabhi's pregnancy was tested positive. Gaurav decided to stop eating eggs as a promise until we had the baby.

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Dispair: Miscarriage

We were thrilled and made all plans to welcome the baby. Surabhi planned to fly to the US after completing the first trimester and NT (Neo-natal) scan. Gaurav promised her to book a business class flight, and she was looking forward to it. Surabhi found that she had a miscarriage a few weeks ago and had to go through a DNE immediately during the NT scan. Gaurav traveled to India overnight, and Surabhi had her DNE at the Fortis hospital. We were devastated, and our world came crumbling down. Surabhi was hurt so severely that she would wake up crying in the middle of the night that someone took her baby. We were feeling lost again, but somehow, we managed to hold ourselves together.

Recovery & Break

After a recent miscarriage and DNE, all doctors recommended rest for a couple of months to recover the body. A doctor from Fortis helped us give hope and shared that sometimes there are chances to conceive naturally after IVF. She prescribed some estrogen, progesterone, and folic acid to help the body with natural conception. We immediately moved back to the USA due to some work-related issues and followed the doctor's advice, but nothing helped. We started exploring options again to continue to move forward. We found the New Hope Fertility clinic, which looked pretty good. Given Surabhi's history of OHSS and miscarriage, doctors recommended going with mini IVF along with genetic testing of embryos. We started seeing a path forward again.

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Saw a ray of hope again: Mini IVF 2

Sorabh, Gaurav's brother, was getting married in November 2019, so we planned egg retrieval in Aug 2019 and decided to continue with embryo transfer in 2020. This egg retrieval was rather more painful for Surabhi, and she had severe bleeding after the extraction. Total seven eggs were retrieved, out of which four were fertilized. Out of four embryos, one embryo was not fit genetically, but three were ready for the transfer. This time, we were hopeful again.

Embryo transfer saga

The first embryo transfer was scheduled in January 2020, but Surabhi's progesterone levels were not satisfactory and needed injection rather than tablets. In February, we went to Cancun and by the time we came back, we missed the ovulation cycle. In March, levels were looking good but both Surabhi and I had Corona so the doctor denied the transfer. Doctor asked to skip April for the recovery and planned next cycle in May 2020.

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Mini IVF - Embryo Transfer 1

After delaying the transfer for four months, the first embryo was transferred in May 2020. Gaurav was very stressed due to work, and we were not feeling great about the transfer. Surabhi went for the HCG test after seven days, and it tested positive again. As we already had a miscarriage, we were somewhat scared than being happy. Surabhi went for the follow-up on the 9th day, and HCG levels dropped to Zero. The doctors called it chemical pregnancy, but once again, we were back to the same place. We can't even comprehend the level of stress we were going through. At one point, we even considered seeking medical help to help us cope with the situation.

Hysteroscopy

We met with the doctor again to discuss the cause of the chemical pregnancy and our action as we advanced. The doctor mentioned that it's possible the embryo implanted, but not entirely, which is a positive sign for future attempts. The doctor wanted to perform a hysteroscopy to ensure everything was intact inside the uterus after the DNE. Surabhi went through the DNE in June 2020, and the doctor did perform some surgery during the procedure, which we did not follow completely. The doctor mentioned that everything looks perfect and healthy, and we should move forward with the subsequent transfer cycle.

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Mini IVF - Embryo Transfer 2

The second embryo was transferred on July 20, 2020, and we found out that the pregnancy was positive on July 27, 2020. Given the chemical pregnancy, we were scared and not sure how to react, so we waited for a couple of more days to see HCG trending upwards. We kept working with the fertility clinic for the first two months, and they moved us to OB & GYN after that. Since Surabhi's progesterone levels fluctuated, so the doctor prescribed an oil-based progesterone injection for the first 15 weeks. The injection site needed to be rotated and massaged to manage the pain. We started getting hopeful again and decided to name our daughter "Freyja".

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Second Trimester

Surabhi started feeling a little better as her nausea improved, but she was not gaining any weight. The anatomy scan and NT scan were great this time. Its just the doctor could not see baby's spine, so they had to schedule multiple scans. Surabhi's glucose levels were a little high, so she had to get tested four times a day and had to inject insulin three times a day, which meant seven pricks a day.

Third Trimester

From starting of the third trimester, we started sharing the news with close family and friends. The doctor wanted to monitor the baby's heartbeat closely, so Surabhi had to go through two NST (Non-Stress Test) every week and administer two different types of insulins. Surabhi started to feel significant movements, kicks and we felt like talking to Freyja. We used to sing her a lot of spiritual songs and started waiting to see her. This was the time in the whole pregnancy which we celebrated with everyone and even disclosed the gender. Surabhi was having severe back pain on March 10th, so Gaurav gave her a back massage and slept around midnight. After half an hour, we realized that her water broke and we rushed to the hospital.

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The labour

Surabhi was admitted to the hospital, and as we saw in movies, we were all excited to welcome Freyja any minute, but the reality was completely different. Surabhi was in labor for 28 hours, where sometimes she had to ask for extra anesthesia to manage the pain. During contractions, Freyja's heartbeat dropped below 90 twice during the night, and a team of doctors rushed to get it back in the normal range. Surabhi pushed for a couple of minutes, but she was exhausted, and doctors concluded that Freyja could not descend and recommended the delivery by C-Section.

Meet Freyja!

After five years of struggle, we met Freyja in March 2021. Since she was premature, she was kept in NICU for a day which was not easy, but we had seen worse :)

Happy Ending

Surabhi made a promise to eat sweet with Freyja's hand, irrespective of however long it takes. She waited for five years for that piece of sweet. There is always hope for those who refuse to give up. We are grateful for the science and technology who gave us a chance to be parents. We live in an era where everyone can become a parent with the help of assistive reproduction; it's just a matter of time. If you have trouble conceiving, hang on there for a little bit, and everything will be alright.

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What did we learn?

It was a very long, challenging, and painful journey, but it made us stronger to face any adversities.

Start Early

It can be a long journey and chance of conceptions reduces with the age, so start as early as you can to avoid stress down the line.

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Educate Yourself

Reproduction is a complex process and in order to be successful, you will have to believe in the process. Learn as much as you can to make an informed decision.

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Stay Positive

It's hard to stay positive, but stress can cause hormonal imbalance and make it harder to conceive. Surabhi made sure we had some exciting plans to stay happy.

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Engage in recreational activities

As it's a long process, you should find something which makes you happy. Surabhi started recording cooking videos, did some live bhajans, and listened to a lot of music to keep us occupied.

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Make a promise

Surabhi stopped eating sweets and Gaurav stopped eating eggs. Make a hard promise to remind you that you are on a mission.

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Find a support system

You might not feel comfortable talking to your family members, but you will need a support system to listen to you and hold you while you are on a downward spiral. That is why we are starting HiFreyja, Join Us.

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No one should have to go through infertility alone

Join a welcoming community of couples who are going through fertility treatment. Here, you will find answers to dozens of questions about the process and its challenges, get support from peers, and find people with similar stories that can help ease some of your stress.