Humor, undeterred optimism, music and IVF helped couple overcome low fertility odds
Cheryl and Corky’s pregnancy story didn’t start off like a fairytale. The two were unlucky enough to have cases of both male and female factor infertility issues, and chances of the couple conceiving naturally were remote.
Despite the unfavorable odds set before them, Cheryl and husband Corky wanted to have a child, and they were determined to at least try. Their fertility may have been low, but their hope was high…
Cheryl and Corky started trying to have kids when Cheryl was 35. After about a year without success, an OB-GYN informed them that in vitro fertilization (IVF) would be the only route to get pregnant. So Cheryl started researching IVF clinics online.
She said she liked that University of Colorado Advanced Reproductive Medicine (UCARM) was a university institution and that they were upfront with potential costs. The couple booked a consultation with Dr. Alex Polotsky.
“I felt University of Colorado Advanced Reproductive Medicine was portraying the expense in the most honest way and I appreciated that,” says Cheryl. “Then once I met Dr. Polotsky, I knew that we had found the right place.”
Their first appointment, in April 2014, included a series of initial tests and procedures. That’s when they discovered Corky’s low sperm. In his previous marriage, Corky was unable to get pregnant with his ex-wife after trying for five years, so Cheryl figured that Corky’s male factory infertility was contributing to their challenge.
Corky’s sperm count was about two million per millimeter. Typical sperm counts average anywhere from 15 million to 200 million per milliliter. But there was more.
Cheryl had low ovarian reserve and her anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) level was .8 where it should be around 2-3. Additionally, Cheryl’s follicles had only produced four eggs and two embryos to use for an attempted IVF embryo implant. Not a great number but enough to try, according to Dr. Polotsky.
Cheryl says that Dr. Polotksy was very forthcoming and that although he would proceed with the IVF, he urged the couple to not get their hope too high due to their double factor infertility.
More bumps in the road
Cheryl underwent her first round of IVF that following July. Unfortunately, the pharmacy provided her with the wrong hormone medication. This meant that she needed to stop the cycle, forgo the scheduled IVF procedure and wait for her next period to begin before trying again with the correct medication.
“I was frustrated but wasn’t going to let it affect my attitude and mood about getting pregnant,” says Cheryl. “The pharmacy and CU owned up to their mistake and provided the next round at a reduced cost, so all we could do was move forward with the situation.”
By October, Cheryl was ready for a second try at a complete IVF cycle. Despite the low odds and the previous setback, the first full round of IVF worked. Cheryl gave birth to a beautiful healthy son, Collin, that following June.
“We were ecstatic and a little surprised to be honest,” says Cheryl. “We knew our odds and we didn’t want to set ourselves up for disappointment.”
Cheryl says the best advice she can give to others experiencing similar situations is to keep a positive mindset. Corky, who is not a musician, would adapt popular songs and add fertility themed lines. For example, Corky would sing along to the popular Disney movie “Frozen” and its theme song “Let it Go,” only he would sing the chorus as Let Them/Him Grow.
“We really tried to maintain a sense of humor about the whole situation,” says Cheryl. “We laughed a lot and kept singing those songs at night to keep the smiles on our faces.”
Cheryl acknowledges that the couple certainly experienced hard moments during their IVF treatment – the prognosis, the blood work and the medication mix up. But it was all worth it in the end because she finally got her healthy baby son Collin out of the deal.
Cheryl says her experience with Dr. Polotsky was unparalleled to any previous doctor interaction she had ever had. She says she would send Dr. Poloskty an email and he would call back minutes later. Sometimes she said the calls would be about something minor like back pain, but Dr. Polotsky always took the time and provided her with the answers and guidance she was looking for.
“I really felt like I was cared for in such a compassionate way,” says Cheryl. “I’ve never had an experience with a doctor like that before.”