Guest blog by Ekin Ozlen, CEO of the high-science beauty brand Keracell.
When my first IVF egg retrieval failed, I was angry. Angry at my doctor, at the nurses, at my body, at God. I was ready for good news, but I have never been more wrong about anything in my life. It was like a knife to the chest when I heard my doctor utter the words that “there were no viable embryos.” I had gone through the most emotionally challenging time of my life and during a global pandemic to make matters worse, for nothing. I couldn’t even bring myself to consider the prospect of a life without babies. I felt so maternal and connected to my body. I was supposed to be a mother.
After my first failed round of IVF, I almost gave up. For a moment I thought, “Forget this, I’d rather just put the resources towards redoing my house.” There was also still a tiny hope in my heart that I would get pregnant naturally. But when I took a step back to reflect on my journey, I realized that I just had to accept that I was at the mercy of so many external factors out of my control. But at the same time, I made a promise to myself that I would do everything in my power to ensure my next try was successful. After all, the first time around, I hadn’t even done my research. I thought “I’m in good hands and I’m too busy running my business, let them do whatever they have to do to my body. They are the experts.”
Before long, I realized just how big a part my actions could play in my IVF journey. Everyone started telling me to get acupuncture, lower my stress levels, take certain supplements and eat certain foods. There was a whole slew of things that I needed to do from a holistic perspective that I didn’t do for the first round. I’m a perfectionist in everything I do, so I needed to start applying the same ethos to my health. The disappointment of a failed round of IVF can make you feel like your body and mind are not coexisting. I desperately needed to bring them back together.
After my second egg retrieval, I’ll never forget, my doctor called me when I was out walking my dogs. He told me I had one viable embryo. Not only did I get one, but it was a little girl. I was beyond ecstatic — I couldn’t stop crying tears of absolute and pure joy. The feelings of complete and utter failure were magically erased and I felt redeemed as a woman, but I also wanted to be able to give my husband a boy. I knew he wanted that too but would never admit this. At that moment I knew I had to go through it all again. As horrific as a third egg retrieval sounded to me at the time, both for physical, emotional and financial reasons, I somehow found the strength to do it all over again.
At this point I was doing acupuncture twice a week and had also been on many supplements. I couldn’t believe the contrast from my first round — when I was drinking wine every day, riding my horses, working my ass off — completely physically over-exerting myself. But my acupuncturist, Dr Jenn Schulman, was my lifeline — she taught me the value of mixing East and West, holistic and regular medicine. So when it came to my second and third egg retrievals, my body got into a rhythm. Once I got through my hardheadedness, did the acupuncture, made the lifestyle changes, I got a boy on the third egg retrieval. One boy and one girl. All I ever wanted in my life. This perfect little family.
When it came to the actual transfer of our little boy embryo, my lifestyle had to change even further. I completely stopped drinking coffee as well as alcohol. I couldn’t ride my horses, I couldn’t even go in a jacuzzi or take baths. I had to find new ways to relieve my stress. For the egg retrieval my acupuncturist was in the room to give me treatment before and after. After a beautiful, bright flash of light on the TV screen that showed the embryo, Dr Surrey carefully placed him via catheter into me. They recommended a couple days of modified bed rest but I took this to a whole new level — I barely got off my couch for 12 days.
I resisted as hard as I could to make the grave error of doing a pregnancy test myself. But when I found an old pregnancy test in my bathroom cabinet, it felt like fate. Not only did it come up positive, but it overpowered the control line. In disbelief, I asked my mother-in-law to connect with a psychic she’s used in Italy for many years. The psychic told her to tell me that I needed to be careful not to be overactive, but that the baby is healthy. I was beyond hopeful but still not totally believing it could be true! I of course still went for my actual blood test the following day.
When Dr Surrey called with the results, I think he couldn’t even bring himself to say that I was pregnant. He said “Well, everything looks good,” and proceeded to instruct me on my medication changes. It was such a delicate moment for all of us, I just remember saying “but does that mean I’m pregnant?” and he indeed confirmed the news we were so desperate to hear. Just two weeks, but pregnant nonetheless! I was so grateful to him and to all the nurses that held my hand through this process. The joy and elation of that moment was unparalleled. It was pure euphoria for both my husband and I!
My story is definitely not over yet, but if sharing my journey helps other IVF warriors realize the power of holistic methods, and encourages them to make their own lifestyle changes, then exposing the vulnerability of my own experience will be well worth it.
Ekin Ozlen is the CEO of the high-science beauty brand Keracell. You can follow her IVF journey on Instagram.