Polly Barrett had three strikes against her when she decided she was ready to have children.
She was single, over 38 and experiencing significant anatomic barriers to pregnancy. It’s always ironic for women to discover that they have wasted years taking birth control pills, unaware of hidden syndromes such as tubal disease or adhesions that make conception nearly impossible without intervention. By the time Polly walked in to our Austin fertility center, the odds were stacked against her.
Polly grew up in Valley Mills, Texas, a town of less than 1,200 near Waco. She had finished law school at Texas Tech before setting out for Brooklyn, NY to start her career and a “fabulous single life.” When her parents began slowing down, she moved back to Texas to help.
Starting the journey with donor sperm IVF
“I was 35 and as long as I was changing my whole life moving back to Texas, I decided it was time to have a baby,” recalls Polly. “I thought I could have a baby anytime I wanted.”
An obgyn helped schedule intrauterine insemination using donor sperm from a well-known cry-obank. “After three [failed] attempts my obgyn told me—with a blush on his face—that perhaps I needed personal attention to make it effective.”
After a long-term relationship ended with a man with two kids, and many hands-on hours spent building elementary school dioramas and happy memories, Polly knew that she wanted to have children and to share a biological connection with them. At 38 she understood that time was ticking.
Dr. Kaylen Silverberg emphasized having realistic expectations for IVF success
Polly’s obgyn referred her to TFC in 2009 so that she could access IVF, ICSI “and all of the sci-ence we could get our hands on,” she said.
She says that when starting fertility treatment with Dr. Silverberg every test she took had “atro-cious” results. Her FSH levels were 21, and Dr. Silverberg cautioned that it would be very difficult to get pregnant, especially after fertility surgery revealed an ovarian adhesion and fallopian tubes “tied up in knots like a corkscrew.”
“I said, ‘You are supposed to be the best in Texas, so let’s give it a go!’”
Polly felt nervous about having a baby on her own, particularly introducing the situation in her small-town community. “In Valley Mills you don’t show up pregnant without a father,” she said with a laugh.
But she never worried about infertility. “I thought I would just try, even though it was highly unlikely that it would happen.”
Dr. Silverberg presented her options, including using an anonymous egg donor and surrogate. “For goodness sake, I should just adopt as a single woman,” she recalls thinking, “but Texas was not keen on it at the time.”
A positive attitude and a positive pregnancy after IVF
Having a positive attitude throughout the process helped Polly even when everything that could have gone wrong did due to her infertility issues. Because of her age and diagnosis as a poor responder, Dr. Silverberg designed a flare protocol to coax multiple follicles to mature.
She enlisted the help of her church prayer circle before each test, procedure and stimulation.
“If I needed five follicles out of seven to mature, I would ask the church ladies for this specific number,” she said. “It was never easy-peasy during my IVF. Everything went awry but it all turned out ok. I got pregnant and today my son has 90 church grandmothers!”
Regarding a sperm donor: Let’s get someone 6’2 who is left handed
When deciding on a sperm donor, Polly made a wish list. Her father, a Texas Rangers fan, weighed in on characteristics.
“I found someone who played college baseball and basketball and was left handed. Yes, I selected a sperm donor based on athletic ability,” she said with a laugh. “He was also an actor and loves chocolate chip cookies.”
Her five-year-old son, Strike, plays baseball, and Mom says he is funny and a pretty great tap dancer, too.
“It was a wonderful experience,” said Polly. “Deciding whether or not to pursue IVF is a tough question, and a very personal choice.” This resilient single mom overcame the odds with the help of her experienced fertility specialist. Through it all, she stayed upbeat and encourages others with her success story.
Contact Dr. Silverberg and the expert fertility specialists at TFC about options for single women and donor sperm IVF.