Updated: May 19
I am blessed. I have a beautiful 14-month-old son and adorable 8-month-old daughter. Yes, that is a 6 month difference. How is that possible? Easy, fertility is complicated.
Four years ago, my life looked very different. I was 37, professionally satisfied, but had no children, and desperately wanted them.
Shortly after making the decision to have a family, I got pregnant. Sadly, the embryo had a chromosomal defect. I decided to terminate that pregnancy. Choosing to terminate a pregnancy that you desperately desire is not an easy choice. While it was the right decision for me, I was in a total haze for days, unable to function. While the fog eventually lifted, the grief lingered. Yet, my desire to be a mom strengthened.
Determined, I continued my journey with the help of a fertility clinic. As I had previously been pregnant, I figured I would snap my fingers again and be pregnant. If only.
I tried three rounds of artificial insemination. All unsuccessful. Then I turned to in vitro fertilization (“IVF”).
The first step is to harvest your eggs. This process requires a lot of medications, which effects your hormones, your moods and your body. I made it through (combating headaches and feeling like my ovaries were going to explode) and the result was the creation of two healthy embryos. The second step is to prepare your body to accept the embryos and have them attach. For me, this process included a surgery to remove scar tissue from my uterus.
I took all the medications as directed, avoided alcohol and caffeine, and followed the doctor’s protocols. Unfortunately, my body did not respond to the medications and the doctor called off my first transfer. A new plan was made. This time I took different medications and made it to transfer!
After the transfer, I stayed home with my legs elevated for two days, and eagerly awaited two weeks to see if I was pregnant. I was not. The doctor said she didn’t know why the embryo did not attach, and to try again. I did. Again, the transfer failed. This time the doctors told me they did not believe I would ever be able to carry my own child because my uterine lining was not good and suggested I use a gestational carrier (“GC”).
I was not ready to give up on myself, and sought a second opinion from a doctor in Mexico City. He thought I still had a chance of getting pregnant and should try IVF again. While the general procedure was the same, there were small differences in medication dosages and the fact that I did a transfer of fresh not frozen embryos. As a result of this round of IVF, I got 3 healthy embryos, two of which were implanted and the third was frozen. The transfer failed again.
As I was almost 40, the doctor in Mexico thought my best option was to use a GC with my last remaining embryo.
I felt depressed and defeated. I was mourning the loss of my 5 babies and felt my body had betrayed me. I started to question all of my life choices. Why did I wait so long to have a family? Why did I focus on my career? Did I make a mistake in being a lawyer, which is a stressful profession? Did my choices cause my body to reject the embryos?
If I wanted to have a baby, my only remaining option was using a GC. My eggs were fine, but my uterus was the issue. As I looked into my options, I realized the surrogacy in the US can cost well over $120,000, money I did not have. I also learned that in Mexico, surrogacy would cost less then 40% of what it did in the US, and because I had an embryo, I would not have to put my body through the trauma of creating another. I decided to find a GC in Mexico. My doctor referred me to a surrogacy agency, who quickly found me a GC. She was 30 years old, had proven fertility, and got pregnant with my embryo.
As I was waiting for my son to be born, against all odds, I got pregnant, naturally. I was 40 years old, had been through 3 rounds of artificial insemination, 3 rounds of IVF, used a ton of medication, had surgery to make the perfect uterus, and had been told I would never carry a child. Yet, I was pregnant and terrified. Would I lose the baby? Would she have a chromosomal abnormality? Would my body reject her?
I could not dwell on my fears; I was 9 weeks pregnant and had to go to Mexico City to be present at my son’s birth, a moment I had dreamed of for 3 years. I was 11 weeks pregnant when my son entered the world.
Due to issues around getting back to the US, my son and I were stuck in Mexico for about 2 and half months. Finally, in mid-April of last year, I came home. My son was healthy and thriving, my pregnancy was going well, and all of the scans showed a healthy baby girl, who was born 4 months later.
My fertility journey took 4 years, but it ended with two beautiful babies. Never give up hope.
If you want to know more about using a surrogate in Mexico or the issues we had coming home, check out the article in Above the Law, and my interview on the pod cast “I want to put a baby in you.”
Carolin Topelson is the owner of Carolin Topelson Law LLC. Her practice focuses on real estate litigation, landlord tenant law, mechanic liens, business to business disputes, breach of promissory notes and other related matters. Carolin has been honored to be named one of 5280 Top Lawyer’s in Landlord Tenant law for the past four years. Carolin is on the board of the Jewish National Fund, participated in Leadership Denver 2018, and is one of four past presidents of the Denver Jewish Chamber of Commerce.