by Kerri Randles
I curiously took a card from the tall stack on the famed fertility doctor’s desk. A black and white image of the most beautiful newborn baby graced the cover, and below it were the words, “Expect to Expect”™. On the inside was a cut-out for a photo. An ultrasound photo I assumed. The charming and handsome doctor came in and dumped out some colored balls on the desk to explain to me my odds of becoming pregnant at 46. Never one for statistics, I’d already tuned him out. When he took all but one blue ball away, amidst a bunch of orange balls, I wasn’t alarmed. That was my one good egg. I didn’t care how many bad eggs I had, I just needed to fish out the one good one. As I left, I grabbed an empty card and shoved it in my bag. Expect to Expect™ was exactly what I planned to do.
I was 42 when I met my husband. He was ten years younger than me, already had a son from a previous relationship, and nowhere near ready to start a family. I was still winging it in Hollywood and had almost given up on finding love and most certainly having a baby. Not but a few weeks into our budding relationship he said he could see himself marrying and having children with me. Welp, if you say that to a 42-year-old, fasten your seatbelt. The next few years became a struggle between my fertility and building his career.
We started trying naturally to conceive, but after a year of acupuncture, Chinese medicinal teas, doses of Clomid, and four IUI treatments, it was clear we would have to step things up. The pressure set in and we actually broke up over the whole thing. Then, six months later on a random Sunday afternoon in August, he proposed.
We were married in May 2017 and a month later I turned 46. I’d initially worked with a Beverly Hills celebrity doctor who was known to be aggressive with drug protocols and then divine intervention usurped that plan and sent me to Dr. Andy Huang. He specialized in mid-40s pregnancies. The moment I met him I knew he was the one.
It looked hopeful for me at first, eight follicles for a 46-year old was a lot. As we got started though, that number quickly dwindled, and the result on the first retrieval was one unfertilized egg. The second retrieval produced two eggs that didn’t fertilize and led to the “egg donor” conversation. Not for me.
I went full-on warrior. My eyes on the ball. One. Good. Egg. That’s all I needed.
The third retrieval was the turning point. I was a 21- year practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism, and was aggressively chanting 2-3 hours a day. It’s at this point that I sat down at the altar and began to chant while waiting for the embryologist to call about the status of my embryos. I felt a resistance, a common phenomena when one sits down to face their lesser self. There was an insurmountable mountain in front of me. “Let’s chant for the cells to come together for a healthy embryo”, my friend who was by my side said. And so we did. The phone rang. It was the embryologist. We had two eggs, one damaged during the retrieval process but the other fertilized! It was a 10AA, best quality according to their embryology rating system.
The fourth retrieval was the last as it was all we could afford. It wielded one more fertilized embryo. While two embryos wasn’t a hopeful statistic at my age for implantation, we moved forward with the transfer, one fresh, one frozen. All bets placed, I pushed my chips to the center of the table and focused on making the impossible possible. Before my transfer the embryologist let my husband know my chances were .04%. Thankfully, he didn’t tell me this until later.
Then we waited. While it seemed like forever, I had finally arrived in front of my Buddhist altar the morning that I would find out the results of my blood test. I was overcome with FEAR. Suddenly I saw very clearly the pattern of my life – always coming SO close, but never crossing the finish line. I was now at the finish line with nothing else in front of me. No more possibility. In an all-out battle with the self, I determined that this was the moment I would change that pattern, and my destiny.
Several hours passed, I couldn’t wait any longer, so I called the doctor’s office. One of his nurses answered and said she had my results but wasn’t supposed to give them to me before the doctor had seen them. Pause… “I feel bad if I don’t tell you… you’re pregnant!!”
Even though I had a healthy pregnancy with no complications, there is still a culture among medical professionals and society that doesn’t believe a woman can have a child at my age with her own eggs and her own body. Most statistics said if I was even able to get pregnant, I wouldn’t have a normal child, but at every turn I surprised the doctors and nurses with my test results and overall health and development. Then, right on my due date, my water broke. After twenty-four hours of labor I gave birth, at the age of 47, to a healthy, happy, and beautiful baby boy.
And here I am, 49, chasing my two-year old wonderboy. Seems like an eternity that I was single in LA, chasing the dream to have it all. The quest for love and my own biological child well into my forties, which was maybe the most difficult to surmount. I’m still in shock it actually happened. I’ve had so many women desperate to conceive come my way and I offer advice where I can, but mostly I impart to them not to give up. There is always a way. It will undoubtedly look different for each person, but ultimately, it’s overcoming one’s own limitations, whatever those may be, that is the unspoken reward.
I’m not sure what my identity is yet in this new life. A remnant of the past and piece of the future, maybe. But for certain – writer, wife, and MOTHER.