Written By: Women & Infants Fertility Center on May 17, 2021
Sandra and her fiancé Meredith didn’t follow the conventional timeline of most relationships but they both knew that starting a family was a part of the plan.
After working retail together, a friendship blossomed into roommates, which led to them dating. Over the course of time they moved to Massachusetts where Meredith’s family is from. Recently they bought a house in Rhode Island, and soon decided to get engaged – about a week or two before COVID-19 hit.
They started talking about having kids and decided to look into fertility clinics nearby. Being a lesbian couple, Sandra and Meredith knew they would have to use donor sperm to achieve pregnancy.
They made an appointment at Women & Infants Fertility Center. They thought they’d give the clinic a try and if it didn’t feel right, they’d go somewhere else. They first chose Women & Infants because it was the only clinic they looked into that specifically said they help same-sex couples with the legal aspects of having children.
“I’ve just heard or read about like horror stories. You have to adopt the child, if you’re not the birth mother,” says Sandra. “So, for me and my partner being a lesbian couple, I just didn’t know how to maneuver all that and make sure legally we are both parents to this child. Like if something terrible were to happen – you know?” Of note, this legislation is changing in the State of Rhode Island in January 2021, with the Equal Parentage Act.
They decided that Sandra would try to get pregnant with their first child and that Meredith would deliver their second child. Since Sandra and her fiancé knew using donor sperm has its own set of complexities, they did their research on the Fertility Center’s reviews and experience with helping same-sex couples to get pregnant.
They were pleased to ultimately have nurse practitioner Jacalyn (Jackie) Finerty assist with navigating the process.
“Part of the process is meeting with the social worker, and she walked us through everything and I still get updates,” says Sandra. “I’m not going there anymore because I’m so far along, but Jackie and the social worker both still update me if there are changes to the legal part of it. They still call me and say, ‘I just wanted to let you know this came through and I thought of you.’ They were very helpful.”
“Jackie kind of walked us through the process. Then she gave us a list of probably four or five different sperm banks that they recommend,” Sandra explains. “With all the genetic testing done, she was able to tell me I carry a recessive gene for something. She was able to make sure we don’t have a donor that has that gene as well. That really narrowed down the amount of people we were choosing from because you wouldn’t believe how many people are on these websites.”
Sandra and Meredith put a lot of thought into who they would choose for their sperm donor since once they have their first baby, Meredith wants to try conceiving using the same donor. They mostly looked at the donor’s genetic aspects and physical features that matched theirs.
They decided on California Cryobank because they conducted the most genetic testing of the sperm donors.
Sandra started the treatment process with an initial appointment where Jackie explained all the details. Sandra completed all the recommended testing and four months later she became pregnant on the first try.
We couldn’t believe that it happened on the first try together.
Sandra’s treatment included an intrauterine insemination (IUI), a procedure in which sperm, in this instance donor sperm, is placed directly inside the uterus to facilitate fertilization. Sperm placed in the uterus is much closer to the fallopian tubes where fertilization occurs.
Every time Sandra went into the practice, everyone was so welcoming and understanding. This was particularly important for her.
“I have some past trauma that I went into this whole process being really nervous,” Sandra says. “Our first visit was with Jackie and she did everything she could to just make me feel comfortable. I was having some issues getting into the whole process and getting comfortable with it. Every single person I met was completely understanding and did everything they could to help me out. Now at the end of the process at Women & Infants, I feel like a different person since the beginning of the year.”
Jackie and the staff ensured that Sandra and Meredith were being supported through the entire process from the initial consultation to picking out a sperm bank. Sandra says they really helped her mentally through everything.
Sandra’s pregnancy has been filled with the typical symptoms like fatigue and nausea. And she’s also had to deal with symptoms of her newly discovered Hashimoto’s disease. This is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid.
“When they did the all the testing at the beginning of this whole process, I found out I had Hashimoto’s disease, the thyroid disease. I keep having to get tested every four weeks to make sure my thyroid levels are good, throughout this whole pregnancy. When I found out about the condition – I thought, We, this came out of the experience. So, it’s already been a positive experience.”
Now that Sandra has been feeling better during her pregnancy, she’s preparing to start her new path of being a mother. After experiencing a year full of physical and emotional changes – all during a pandemic – Sandra and Meredith are thankful for their journey and hope others will find inspiration in their story.
“I think the most important thing is the staff at Women & Infants is there to help you in whatever way you want,” relates Sandra. “So, it’s not like they put you on one journey the same as everybody else. I feel like the most important thing is to just stay positive about it. If it doesn’t happen right away, that’s why you’re there with all these people, who will help you get to your goal of having a baby.”
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