When our patients begin their path toward successful fertility, the stress and anxiety can be overwhelming. At Dr. Tanya Williams Fertility Centre, we love sharing the stories of the couples that have come to us for help, because it gives others hope that the struggles they encounter on their journey will lead to a positive pregnancy.
Today, we’re excited to bring you Sarah Oddson’s story. She was a patient at our clinic in 2005, more than 15 years ago, resulting in the healthy birth of twins. Her energy and excitement are an inspiration to so many of us here at the clinic.
Sarah Oddson’s Fertility Journey: “All I ever wanted was to be a mom.”
Well, if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, all I ever wanted was to be pregnant. Somehow I never got around to thinking about what comes after. Maybe on some level, I always knew that pregnancy would be the biggest challenge of my life, not actually the raising of children.
My husband and I were married in 2001. From our wedding night onwards we never used birth control. It was only later that I started to wonder why I had been so lucky on not getting “accidentally” pregnant… if I’d only known!
So I started doing a LOT of research. I already knew from charting that I had a short luteal phase, and felt sure if I could get my hands on some Clomid we’d be off to the races.
After two years of infertility, I made an appointment with my family doctor. He basically said, “Pah, you’ll be fine. I’ll refer you to a fertility specialist, they’ll put you on Clomid, and bam! You’ll be pregnant.”
To my dismay, there was a six-month wait to be seen, and after that, it was a long haul to get through the testing phase.
“I suppose what I wished I'd known is how lengthy the process is to get a plan in place and that for us, a simple pill was not the answer.”
After six months, I saw Dr. Williams at Rouge Valley. I felt relieved that we were on our way but also fearful that we would find out very bad news.
The testing phase was frustrating as hell. After so much research I felt like screaming, “Look you fools! I have a short luteal phase! Fix it so I can get pregnant!” Anyway, I see now that I was highly emotional and stressed out and unable to hand myself over when I had been self-diagnosing and self-treating for so long.
It was an act of faith to give my body over to Dr. Williams. But she really was so kind, wonderful, optimistic, and trustworthy that I overcame that. Unfortunately, my husband got stage fright and would NOT go in for his test. He put it off for six months. I could have killed him. Of course, now I see that it was essential that all the tests be done. Hindsight is always 20/20.
On why it’s important to talk with your partner about the process and male factor infertility: “I found it incredible that the only test required of my husband was so simple, whereas what I went through was mind-blowing.”
My advice would be to get your partner fully involved right from the beginning. Help them see the importance of getting their test done right away because there are a lot more hoops to jump through, for the woman, after that.
Talking about male fertility is just as important because the journey you’re undertaking is completely a team effort. And, since testing of the male is the first step, he has to be invested and ready to do his part.
I think probably there is a stigma around male infertility – fears around being perceived as less virile, less “manly.” It’s critical to overcome that and the only way to do so is by being supportive and working as a team. Think of it as “our fertility” rather than his or yours.
Looking for answers at Rouge Valley: “I felt good — we had a problem we could work on solving!”
With a very deep breath, and against every cell in my body screaming “NO!!!” I washed down a little pill every night to correct my cycles. Then I was put on Clomid. Dealt with the weird vision side effects with glee — because it must be doing something!
I was prepared to get pregnant instantly! Instead, I got big fat cysts all over my ovaries. Cycle canceled. Fast forward to the next cycle. Cysts again. Canceled. The next failed cycle, I bawled like a big ole baby when Dr. Williams went in and ruptured the cysts. Fast forward… a Clomid cycle with IUI. THIS is going to be the ticket. Nope. Fast forward… Nope.
Now we were ready to bring out the big guns — injectables! Since we’ve already wasted all this time, I might as well give birth to a litter, right? We did three cycles of injections, and still nothing. We began to discuss IVF, which we had dismissed earlier as something that other people do. Too expensive, too invasive, too unnatural.
But isn’t it interesting how one’s perspective can be changed when you begin to realize that all other options available to you have been thoroughly explored and exhausted?
Moving ahead with IVF: “When you’ve been through years of tests, treatments, anxiety, and seemingly endless cycles of hope and failure… it’s enough.”
Before we could consider moving forward with IVF, we had to rule out Endometriosis. I had to undergo a laparoscopy. As far as surgeries go, it wasn’t too involved. But I tell yah… I wasn’t sure how to feel when the results from the lab indicated I had moderate Endo.
Is that a relief that we’ve cleared up a possible obstacle to our fertility? Is that a curse? Then the SCSA test results for my husband’s sperm came back. They were devastating. The results showed a less than 30% chance that he would ever be able to fertilize an egg.
We knew we’d only ever be able to afford one round of IVF. Would it be a waste of our time and money to even try? Should we use donor sperm? Dr. Williams met with us and helped me see that if we didn’t at least try, we would probably kick ourselves later. She assured us that it was a relatively new test, and we shouldn’t put too much emphasis on the results.
So, we planned out our IVF cycle and she pointed to an acupuncturist to complement the process.
Talking more about naturopathic treatments during the process: “Yes, I used acupuncture with our successful IVF cycle.”
I also tried it with our unsuccessful frozen transfer three years later. It’s impossible to know why one worked and the other didn’t, but I felt better knowing that we’d used every tool in our toolbelt to maximize our chances of success. I thoroughly enjoyed the acupuncture sessions, although the tea I was prescribed — not so much!
Sarah on getting the good news: “I was in the car. It was a Monday. My phone rang.”
We had our egg retrieval on October 30th, 2004. We had three viable embryos by the date of the transfer, November 3rd. Though I begged Dr. Williams to transfer all three, she assured me that we should only do two and freeze the third. I’m glad I listened to her.
The night before the beta test, my husband and I went out for dinner, and I kid you not, I sobbed for the entire meal. I was convinced, 100% convinced, that I was not pregnant. I almost didn’t bother going to the test. I went anyway. Then headed straight for a manicure to cheer myself up while waiting for the phone to ring.
When it did, it was Liza, the senior lab manager. She told me to pull over. She then asked me something really bizarre… she said “How many do you want?” And I said “What? Are you telling me that it’s a high beta count?” And she basically shrieked “YES!”
I still get goosebumps. After I got off the phone, I drove straight to my husband’s work, marched into his office, and smiled.
“At least I can say that I’m pregnant! And I’m going to shout it from the rooftops. No one can take that away from me!”
When our first ultrasound confirmed the pregnancy, and the second confirmed it was twins, the anxiety disappeared. I found it remarkably easy to switch from “fertility focus” to “we’re having babies” focus.
I handled a high-risk pregnancy with nothing but joy. And somehow even when my water broke at only 30 weeks, I really never focused on the possible negative outcomes of that. Our babies were tiny and weak but perfect.
After the endless waiting of infertility, the knowledge that your babies are here, in this world, and you’ll have a lifetime to spend with them, that wait doesn’t seem like hell. It seems like heaven.
On her husband’s reaction when he learned they were having twins: “My husband's reaction? How about MY reaction?!”
I mean, he was pleased and excited but it had been more my journey, than his, in reality. It was me with the full bladder, ultrasounds, bloodwork, procedures, surgery, self-administered injections. He was a great cheerleader but it was definitely my time to shine. I was overjoyed, and overcome.
On her children today, and their hobbies and interests: “My daughter gives me dating advice (rightly or wrongly!).”
They’re coping well with the pandemic – typical teens, they’re quite happy to be holed up in their rooms and glued to screens. My daughter is a gifted artist and wise beyond her years.
My son is very funny and clever when it comes to solving puzzles and problems. He spends too much time on the Xbox but assures me it’s part of his plan to become a YouTube millionaire.
On being a mother and parent: “All you can do is hope that you're ‘doing it right.’”
Usually, I feel underqualified. But my view is that as long as you love them and try your best, you can’t break them too badly. I always wanted to be a mother — I felt so fortunate to have been able to have two at once, since we would not have been able to afford to try again. I am so very grateful.
Fifteen years later, Sarah’s advice for those going through a similar situation: “I would have liked to have gotten started sooner.”
Given how long the road ahead ended up being, I would have investigated IVF earlier on, instead of thinking of it as a last resort and something that other people do.
Also, try not to let the unsolicited advice of well-meaning people bother you. They all feel like they have the answer – just nod and smile and know that you’re entitled to feel what you feel – do what you need to do to make it through another cycle.
Dr. Tanya Williams Fertility Centre Is With You on Your Path to Pregnancy
The goal of reaching a positive pregnancy test is just one step on a lifelong journey. It’s easy to forget how much childbirth changes, well, everything. Sharing fertility success stories is incredibly important because it reminds us that what you’re going through is worth it. Plus, it breaks the taboos that surround infertility.
We want to thank Sarah Oddson for sharing her heartfelt journey with us. If you’re thinking of starting your own journey, contact Dr. Tanya Williams Fertility Centre to find out how we can help you.