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Going To Any Lengths: My Infertility Journey

Trying to help women go through this journey is my way of giving back.

Pressmaster / Shutterstock
Pressmaster / Shutterstock

In 1991 at the age of 31, my husband Jeff and I began fertility testing after my husband’s sperm count was zero and my GYN told me to “get inseminated and call me when you are pregnant.” Supportive, wasn’t he?

I was tested to make sure I was healthy enough to receive sperm donation from an anonymous donor. We requested a professional Jewish donor without a weight problem. I got a call from the nurse saying, we found you a nice Jewish boy, I asked, what’s wrong with him and was told he’s 5’11”. I said, please don’t let that stop you. For the record, I am 5’1/2” and my husband is 5’6”. 

My friends were afraid to tell me they were pregnant or that they knew someone who was pregnant. One night, several of them came over with an ice cream cake to tell me someone else was expecting. I told them not to worry, that I was so happy for anyone who did not have to go down the infertility path. Another night at Shabbat services, a friend who was also having trouble conceiving, asked me how I still had hope. I told her that if I give up my hope, I would die, because without hope, I would have nothing.

I went out an bought a tiny pair of Converse high-top sneakers. I brought them with me to every doctor’s appointment. They were going to be my focal point during labor. Because I knew something was going to work!

During one of the  appointments, I went to the doctor’s office for my procedure and was told that she was out of the office and I had to take the tank of sperm with me to the hospital office, where a nurse would do the insemination. I took that tank, strapped it into the front seat of my car and talked to it the entire way from the office to the hospital. I let the guys in the tank know that I was their mother, explained where we were going and told them I couldn’t wait to meet them. 

After months of inseminations, I had a positive EPT and at 6:00 in the morning, walked down the street with the stick in my hand to my neighbor’s house to confirm what I thought was true. Unfortunately, it was a false positive which was confirmed by a blood test. This was the first time I really cried. My nurse felt so horrible about it that she suggested I take chlomid for one week. After that I will have a week of ultrasounds; one shot of HCG in the behind and all would be right with the world.

The ultrasounds, which no one told me were vaginal, were interesting. My husband, who was incredibly supportive throughout this process, came to two of them with me. During the second one that week, the printer broke, so there is my husband holding the wand which was inside of me, while the tech tried to fix the printer. When that didn’t work, Jeff was instructed to write down follicle sizes. We did have a good laugh about it.

Well the nurse was right, the Friday of Labor Day weekend 1993, I got the good news that I was indeed pregnant! For 9 months throughout my pregnancy, my incredibly supportive Jewish mother said to me; why would a Jewish boy do this to get money for law school? The kid is going to be ugly. It took me a while to actually tell her that it was a boy. She felt that every mother deserved to have a daughter. I have two brothers and you can tell who she liked more!

While I was pregnant, I noticed an article in a Halachic magazine stating that my son would not be entitled to my husband’s fortune (such that it is), because he is not genetically his. We went to our Conservative Rabbi because I was a little freaked out. Our then Rabbi, had 5 children. He asked why we didn’t come to him when we were having difficulties. He said that everyone wants their kids to look like them and he would have advised us against having a Jewish sperm donor for this exact reason. 

On April 27, at 1:20 am after three days of induction and three attempts at breaking my water (turns out the cord was wrapped around his legs 5 times and he was face up – I thought he didn’t want the liquid lunches he was about to embark on), Michael Jonah Karon came into this world. He came out via c-section face up, which my doctor said was his way of saying here I come world and looking around to see what was happening. I say he’s still looking. 

Michael came out the spitting image of my handsome father. My mother who was convinced he was going to be ugly, was the only one who couldn’t see the resemblance. Same reddish hair and dark brown eyes.

Three years later, we began again. This time, no amount of monthly shots could get me to ovulate. We spent lots of time (thankfully, MA covered all of my infertility treatment) driving to the doctor; going for ultrasounds; going to a specific pharmacy for the medication; nothing worked. My doctor asked me about egg donation. I said that no Jewish woman would donate her eggs to me; that I was close to 40 and didn’t want to wait 18 months for the eggs and that we could do so much more for one child than two.

I have always said that we don’t love Michael more than other people who love their children, we just appreciate him more, because he may never have been. We told him when he was 11 how he was conceived and he was fine with it. Knowing that we did everything we could to bring him into the world.

My advice is to never give up. The procedures are so much better now than they were back then and remember there are always children that need a good home.

Susan, Michael, and Jeff Karon

I answered a call from Mayyim Hayyim, our local Mikvah asking for a panel of women who had infertility treatments to talk about ways of comfort and hope for women who were going through treatment. While my story is not as sad as some, and while I do have a beautiful son, trying to help women go through this journey is my way of giving back. I wish I had someone to turn to while I was going through it.

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