Once Sheri decided to get pregnant through artificial insemination, her body became a kind of science experiment.
For weeks before the artificial insemination procedure, Sheri had to give herself hormone shots designed to stimulate her egg production. At the fertility clinic, she was given blood tests and ultrasound exams to determine her peak time of ovulation. On that optimal day, her doctor injected the donor sperm into Sheri's uterus.
Then Sheri waited, hopefully and anxiously, to see if she was pregnant. When she found she wasn't, she shook off the disappointment and began the cycle all over again.
On the third attempt, Sheri did get pregnant, but miscarried after a few weeks. However, the fact that she was able to conceive was considered a very encouraging sign by her doctors. Bolstered by the support of her friends and family, Sheri kept trying.
During this time, she developed a host of serious digestive problems including an ulcer and kidney stones. Sheri is pretty sure her health issues were caused by the emotional and physical stress she went through trying to get pregnant.
After six unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant with artificial insemination, Sheri decided to move on to in vitro fertilization (IVF), a much more invasive, complex process that's much more expensive. Artificial insemination costs about $3000 per month; IVF can cost up to $20,000.
Again, Sheri had to take heavy doses of hormones to stimulate production of eggs which were surgically "retrieved." Here is a summary of Sheri's first attempt at IVF.
- 14 eggs retrieved
- 12 eggs fertilized with donor sperm
- 3 eggs developed into embryos
- 2 embryos placed in Sheri's uterus/1 frozen for future use
- 1 embryo resulted in pregnancy
- 1 miscarriage at 7 weeks
The miscarriage was an terrible blow. "I was on my own on that journey," said Sheri. "It was devastating. The money began to drain; emotionally I was in a spiral."
Yet Sheri persevered. Having a baby was that important to her.
She tried again with the frozen embryo, but it didn't take. She needed to select a new sperm donor, because the first man was no longer available. Feeling like she was running out of options, Sheri decided to go through the full process one more time, but have the embryos genetically tested for viability - an even more expensive procedure.
Here's what happened the second time around:
- 14 eggs retrieved
- 12 eggs fertilized
- 10 developed into embryos
- 10 embryos genetically tested
- 1 embryo found viable (only 1 out of 10!)
- 1 healthy embryo placed in Sheri's uterus
- 1 pregnancy
- 1 heartbeat at six weeks
- 1 normally developing fetus at 14 weeks
After all Sheri has been through over the last 2.5 years, this pregnancy is a thrilling result. But it's still early, so Sheri tries to stay cautiously optimistic. Now that she's pregnant with a normally developing baby, she no longer sees her fertility doctor - she visits an OB/Gyn like any other pregnant woman.
Knowing what she does now, Sheri would have approached getting pregnant differently.
"I would have had my eggs genetically tested at age 38," she said. "I would have tried artificial insemination a couple times, but then gone straight to in-vitro."
She advises older women who are considering having baby on their own, "If you want it, you'll meet with a lot of disappointment along the way. You need to prepare yourself for that," she said. "You need someone (a friend or family member) to help you through it. It's too much to deal with on your own."
But hard as it was, Sheri feels her journey has been worth it. "It has been a life altering experience."
Check back for the conclusion of Sheri's story - how her outlook on life has changed and how she envisions her future as a single mom.