After a difficult fertility treatment journey, two moms-to-be discover they will now have to overcome a new challenge: high-risk pregnancy, long-term hospitalization, and caring for a premature baby. Claire and Alexandra share their story and what they learned along the way.
In this article:
Meet Claire & Alexandra
Originally from Connecticut, Alexandra always had a strong desire to serve others. Little did she know, this path would someday lead her to the love of her life. Alexandra first joined the United States Army, and later, decided to become an emergency medical technician (EMT).
One day while she was studying for her EMT exam, Alexandra met Claire. "She offered me a glass of wine and we quickly became friends - which eventually led to marriage!" says Alexandra.
Like Alexandra, Claire also loves serving her community, working as a full-time Pre-K teacher, where she is able to nurture children and support parents through the early childhood years.
Expanding Their Family
From a young age, Alexandra knew that she wanted to be a mom one day.
After she met Claire (who already had a daughter, Paige, from previous relationship), the couple discussed their future family-building plans. Prior to getting married, they decided that they wanted to have another baby - this time, with Alexandra carrying the pregnancy.
Finding LGBTQ-Friendly Fertility Care
When Claire and Alexandra decided they were ready to try for Baby #2, they began their search for the best fertility clinic with options for LGBTQ+ couples. "We did a lot of research," Alexandra says. "We looked at multiple fertility clinics in our area and even surrounding towns, but Illume Fertility seemed to have the best reviews."
Even better, the couple also knew other parents who had worked with Illume to grow their families and spoke very highly of the practice. They decided to schedule a consultation.
Claire and Alexandra were placed in the care of reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Joshua Hurwitz, who was a perfect match for the couple. "We were not disappointed one bit!" says Alexandra.
What is a reproductive endocrinologist (REI)? An REI is a board-certified doctor with many years of focused training. In contrast, a fertility specialist refers to a provider who is not required to pass any tests, attain any certifications, or attend any specialized schooling.
An REI may also be referred to as a fertility specialist, but the reverse is not true.
The Ups & Downs of Fertility Treatment
After undergoing initial fertility testing and discussing their goals with Dr. Hurwitz, the couple began with a less-invasive treatment option called intrauterine insemination (IUI). For some fertility patients, IUI is all they need to conceive a baby.
Unfortunately, after three IUI cycles, Alexandra still wasn't pregnant. They processed their disappointment, then regrouped with Dr. Hurwitz and made the decision to move on to in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment.
A Dream Come True
Alexandra began the IVF process, taking medication to stimulate her ovaries to produce multiple eggs for retrieval. Those eggs were then combined with donor sperm and monitored closely in Illume's embryology lab as they developed.
Just a few days after her egg retrieval, Alexandra had a fresh embryo transfer - which finally resulted in a positive pregnancy test! The couple was thrilled.
"The entire process was mentally, emotionally, and financially draining, but absolutely worth it in the end," Alexandra admits. "The failed IUIs were hard to deal with emotionally, as we were very optimistic and hopeful [going into it]."
Navigating High-Risk Pregnancy
While the couple was elated to finally be expecting a baby, they soon found out they would have to overcome new, difficult challenges. "We had a very difficult pregnancy - dealing with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and abnormal blood flow to the baby," Alexandra shares.
Coincidentally, Claire also had a hard pregnancy with her daughter Paige, which resulted in preterm labor and an early delivery at only 24 weeks. Having been through the experience before, she was uniquely qualified to support Alexandra in her own high-risk pregnancy.
"It was very exciting, but scary," Alexandra recalls. "I was admitted to Yale New Haven Hospital for eight weeks [to be closely monitored], and our son Kayden spent five weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after birth."
In May 2022, Claire and Alexandra welcomed their tiny baby boy, Kayden, at 34 weeks gestation. He weighed only 3 lbs 0 oz and measured 15 inches long. "We still wouldn't change it for the world," says Alexandra. "Our son was and still is so perfect."
What They Learned On Their Journey
One thing they wish they knew before starting fertility treatment? The mental toll the process would take on them both, Alexandra says. "The ups and downs were very hard, as well as all the injections, medications, and appointments; I also wish we knew more about how to obtain financial help."
The toughest part of their fertility journey was all the negative pregnancy tests, the couple shares. "Even with all of the needles, appointments, precisely-timed medications and other challenges, the negative tests were the worst."
Advice for Other LGBTQ+ Moms-to-Be
Throughout the roller coaster ride of family building, your support system is key, Alexandra says.
Whether that be your partner, parents, a therapist, a friend, or someone else, make sure you have a strong network of cheerleaders and compassionate listeners that will stick with you from start to finish.
In addition, having the unwavering love and support of a partner can be life-changing: "I would not have been able to go through any of this without my wife, Claire," Alexandra says. "She was my absolute rock through the entire process and I am not sure I would have been able to keep going without her."
What's next for the family?
The couple say parenting has been incredibly rewarding and joyful thus far: "Being able to watch our little 3-pound baby thrive, watching him smile, hearing him babble, and even the middle of the night wake-ups are all magical for their own reasons."
"Our family currently has a few frozen embryos left," Alexandra says. "We know we want to continue growing our family in the coming years!" But for now, they are content to enjoy their life as a family of four, creating new traditions and making special memories together.
Sierra Dehmler is the Content Marketing Manager for Gay Parents To Be and its partner clinic, Illume Fertility. She is also a fertility patient herself. Combining empathy gained on her personal journey with her professional experience in marketing and content creation, she aims to empower and support other hopeful parents by providing family-building resources that educate, inspire and encourage.