IVF helps overcome infertility at CCRM Dallas-Fort Worth
Friday, May 27 of 2016 was not an ordinary day for Nichelle and Brandon Holloway. On that day, the young couple from Garland, Texas, had something extremely important to celebrate. May 27, 2016, marks their daughter Ava’s second birthday, and according to Nichelle, “Ava’s birthday is a really big deal around here.” Not only is Ava’s birthday important because she is an incredible amount of joy and happiness in both of their lives, but also because Nichelle and Brandon went through years of struggle and heartache in order to have her in their family.
In their mid-30s and ready to grow their family, Nichelle and Brandon had been trying for about a year with no success getting pregnant. “We kept trying and trying and I remember I kept thinking that maybe something was wrong,” recalls Nichelle. After a year of taking dozens of over-the-counter home fertility tests and continuing to hope and pray, there was still nothing. Once the couple knew they would need further evaluation, they sought initial counsel from a local urologist who, after taking a sperm sample and finding a very low sperm count, referred them to three different fertility specialists in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Nichelle and Brandon eliminated one of the fertility clinics based on location. The next stop was CCRM Dallas-Fort Worth (formerly the Frisco Institute for Reproductive Medicine) and Dr. Rinku Mehta.
“I knew within 10 minutes of meeting Dr. Mehta that she was the doctor for us,” Nichelle remembers. “She had a confident, can-do attitude and was willing to go above and beyond to help us.”
Although Nichelle and Brandon were immediately keen on working with Dr. Mehta, due to the impact that this procedure would have on their lives they decided to meet with the last doctor who had been recommended. They both agreed that the physician was not a good fit for them.
“His style of care was impersonal and there was a lack of attention to detail and compassion for our situation that didn’t sit well with us,” Nichelle says.
Nichelle and Brandon appreciated the little things that CCRM Dallas-Fort Worth implements in their practice, including a tour of the facility and informative sessions about the services they offer.
“They were always available when Brandon and I had questions and they were extremely supportive and compassionate.”
As part of CCRM’s dedication to personalized and compassionate care, Dr. Mehta performed every sonogram herself and Brandon and Nichelle saw her at every visit.
After an initial evaluation, Dr. Mehta realized that Nichelle would likely have issues keeping a child.
“I was devastated upon finding this out. I was young and I really wanted to have kids,” says Nichelle. “I didn’t want to tell anyone. I felt inadequate or like there was something wrong with me.”
Dr. Mehta, Brandon and Nichelle decided that they wanted to move forward with in vitro fertilization (IVF), a procedure that involves retrieving a woman’s eggs, fertilizing them with a man’s sperm and placing the resulting embryo into the woman’s uterus to achieve a pregnancy. In preparation for this process, Nichelle had to take hormone injections that would stimulate her ovaries to release more mature eggs.
A teacher at a local middle school, Nichelle found that keeping up with the injection schedule was a bit difficult. At the time, she was coaching the girls’ basketball team. Her husband Brandon would come to her games to bring her the hormone injections.
“I would sneak off to the bathroom to give myself the injections,” laughs Nichelle. “The players on my team thought I had cancer or something.”
Once prepped, it was time for the egg retrieval process. Only one embryo formed and was implanted.
The Waiting is the Hardest Part
According to Nichelle, one of the most challenging aspects of completing the implantation was the waiting.
“The waiting truly was the hardest part,” she says. “I’m a teacher and so I kept hearing about all of these 16- and 17-year-old students at my school who were getting pregnant. I would also receive invitations to other people’s baby showers and baby birthday parties. It was tough.”
Nichelle waited and waited and understandably began to grow more discouraged.
“As the female in this situation, I blamed myself for our fertility struggle,” she says. “I kept thinking, what if this doesn’t work? and Did we do something wrong?”
Unfortunately, the first round of IVF didn’t work and did not result in a pregnancy. Nichelle was devastated, and Brandon did everything he could to be strong for her.
“I don’t remember a time in my life that I’ve cried so much,” she says. “But my husband Brandon was an amazing support system for me, he even sent me flowers at work to cheer me up.”
Dr. Mehta suggested that the couple try again. The second cycle only yielded one embryo. Due to current research, Dr. Marius Meintjes recommended that Nichelle and Brandon freeze the embryos and do one more cycle, a freeze-all approach to successful IVF.
Dr. Mehta studied Nichelle’s blood work, embryo quality and response to medications and developed a new stimulation protocol based on some new findings with human growth hormone (HGH). Brandon and Nichelle were skeptical, considering the emotional roller coaster ride that they had been on during the previous IVF experience, but agreed to move forward with a third cycle.
During the third cycle, the embryologists reported that the embryos were better that time around and they would be able to implant three embryos.
“I remember Dr. Mehta asking me how I felt about implanting all three embryos.”
Dr. Mehta and Nichelle had spoken at length about the possibility of multiples. However, after one failed cycle Nichelle was ready to take the chance.
“After the implantation, I was so anxious, just waiting. Every day I would buy a pregnancy test and take it.”
After the transfer, Nichelle miscounted the days and took a home pregnancy test too early. It was negative.
“This was a huge let down considering this had been our Hail Mary attempt,” says Brandon. “I just reminded her to stay positive and remember that home pregnancy tests didn’t always yield accurate results.”
Finally, one test revealed what Nichelle had been painstakingly waiting months for. It was a positive pregnancy test.
“We were just so excited.”
Nichelle remembers the moment vividly.
“I remember Brandon was in the shower and I put the test on the glass wall of the shower because I couldn’t wait to show him. He was crying and I was crying and it was just so wonderful and emotional,” said Nichelle. “We were just so excited.”
Then came more waiting.
“She took home pregnancy tests every day until we went back to Dr. Mehta for the blood test,” says Brandon.
Nichelle and Brandon waited five days until Dr. Mehta could verify the pregnancy with a blood test. The blood test came back positive. A week later the couple returned for an ultrasound.
“The fetal pole was not visible, nor was a heartbeat detected,” says Brandon. “This was a big setback as we were informed that this might not be a viable pregnancy although there were signs that it was, and it was still possible that the fetal pole would develop.”
A week later, the couple returned and when Dr. Mehta came back in the room, she confirmed what the couple hoped was true: It was official, they were pregnant. The fetal pole was visible, and a heartbeat was detected.
“Literally, everyone in the room was crying. After all, everyone at FIRM had been on this journey with us from the start,” Nichelle says.
Nichelle and Brandon had formed a strong bond with the staff and physicians at FIRM. It was Brandon’s fun tradition to ring the bell at the front desk every time they went in for a consultation or treatment. The day they found out that they were pregnant was no different.
“The day we found out we were pregnant, he rang the bell, as per the usual, but with such enthusiasm,” says Nichelle. “The nurses and everyone were so thrilled for us.”
Nichelle and Brandon view FIRM as family.
“Every time we failed, Dr. Mehta was there saying, ‘Don’t give up!’ recalls Nichelle. “And I needed the positive support. I was so scared that I would never be a mother.”
The two also built strong relationships with the lab staff.
“I enjoyed working with Dr. Meintjes because he is so calm and intelligent. I would tend to get very anxious and worrisome during the process, so it was nice to have a calming person in the room.”
A Mother’s Love
“Now I take Ava to CCRM Dallas-Fort Worth clinic at least once or twice a year,” says Nichelle. “That’s the type of people they are and the practice they maintain. It’s a friendly, family environment. I even tell Ava, “This is your family.”
Although Nichelle and Brandon have more embryos, they have decided that Ava will be an only child.
“I’m so proud of Ava and I want her to understand how special she is,” says Nichelle. “We named her after her grandmother [Brandon’s mother] who passed away.”
Nichelle and Brandon remain grateful to the staff for offering such great care and support during an extremely difficult time.
“Dr. Mehta is wonderful and everyone on staff at CCRM Dallas-Fort Worth (formerly FIRM) is so great. They had strength and hope for me when I had none left.”