A Conversation with Stefanie Miller of Making a Miller
Here at Circle + Bloom, we consider the entire month of April to be dedicated to Infertility Awareness (the official National Infertility Awareness Week is April 21-27). To honor this important issue, we’re featuring the stories of two women who have bravely and openly shared their own journeys with infertility – both in their own public blogs, and here with us and our Circle+Bloom community. In fact, both of these women were featured in our blog series, What Doctors Don’t Tell You About IVF.
Today, we’re talking with Stefanie Miller. Stefanie’s most recent post on her popular infertility blog, Making a Miller, is titled “Transferversary.” She wrote it in on the one-year anniversary of her IVF transfer, which led to the birth of her now five-month-old daughter, Mia. Today, Stefanie is considered a success story, but she knows all too well the hardships and pain of infertility.
Trying to Make a Miller
Before their introduction to the world of infertility, Stefanie and her husband Dale had no reason to expect they would have difficulty conceiving children. While Stefanie had been born premature, she checked in with her OB/GYN to ask whether that could affect her own conception and if there were anything she should do to optimize her fertility. But everything seemed just fine.
“We got married in July 2011 and, while we knew we wanted kids, we wanted some time together first,” said Stefanie. Five years into their marriage, she went off birth control and the couple started trying to get pregnant.
“But after a few months, I started to wonder and overanalyze everything,” Stefanie explained. “I was waiting to ovulate, waiting for my period, waiting waiting waiting. Always in the back of my mind I had a feeling that there was something else going on, but I didn’t have any reason to think that.”
“I eventually got more obsessive, and purchased a temperature tracking bracelet and started tracking my cycles,” Stefanie continued. “I did everything that the old wives tales tell you about how to get pregnant and nothing was working. I decided to go get tested from my OB, and my husband got tested as well.”
The results of Stefanie’s testing showed low levels of AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) for her age, which can indicate a decline in the ovaries’ ability to produce good-quality eggs. However, the doctor wasn’t concerned.
“I started to see an acupuncturist who specializes in infertility to help me relax and connect with my body. I did that for a few months, but still nothing was working. I went back to the OB, was diagnosed with “unexplained” infertility, and got a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE).”
Stefanie and her husband visited a few different REs before choosing the right fit.
“I learned more about AMH and was worried about how it would affect me, but our RE wasn’t concerned,” Stefanie explained. “She was confident, and started us with three rounds of IUI (two in one month, so four in total). None of them worked. It was very frustrating for me. It just wasn’t happening. With each passing month, I got more despondent about it. I expected that medical intervention would be the thing that worked and it wasn’t.”
The Mountain in the Distance: IVF
As we spoke, Stefanie explained to me that IVF had always felt like a looming mountain in the distance. As frustrated as she was, a year into her fertility journey, she didn’t feel like IVF would be part of her path. Until it was.
“We didn’t want to spend more time, heartache and effort to have it not work. Our doctor was very confident that IVF would work. But you always have doubts in your mind because you keep getting negatives, and there is no reason to “know” that it will eventually work out for you. But finally, we realized that IVF was going to be the best option for us.”
On her blog, Stefanie explained, “Despite every fiber of my being wanting to get pregnant on my own, without shots, without being put under, without spending thousands and thousands of dollars, I book a pre-IVF consult with my RE. And despite knowing our odds, I’m feeling pretty doom and gloom about it.”
In October 2017, Stefanie underwent her first cycle of IVF. Retrieval was a success, with 14 eggs retrieved.
“I felt a sense of relief wash over me when I got the report,” she wrote on her blog, “Closely followed by what I can only describe as a healthy dose of pessimism. On the one hand, I am SO grateful that we have 11 (maybe 12) awesome embryos trucking along to hopefully make it to day 3. On the other hand, everything we’ve been through up until this point hasn’t worked out for us. What’s to say that something drastic doesn’t happen, and we’re looking at a huge drop off by the time we get to day 3 or 5? I am doing my best to stay positive, and I may or may not have teared up in my moment of feeling relief. But it’s also going to be just a bit agonizing waiting for these next couple of reports, not to mention waiting to hear back about PGS testing in a couple of weeks.”
At the end of the day, five embryos made it to blastocyst and passed the genetic screening. Following a full, unmedicated cycle, she went in for the Frozen Embryo Transfer, which was a resounding success.
Making a Miller: Baby Mia
Today, Stefanie’s daughter Mia is five months old. Throughout her pregnancy, Stefanie continued sharing her story on her blog, even though she struggled a bit with what she calls, “infertile guilt”.
She explained, “I felt guilty talking about how I was feeling. It was a difficult pregnancy. The birth and postpartum were both very difficult. I didn’t want to be honest because I felt that it looks bad.”
When she was 20 weeks pregnant, Stefanie opened up on her blog and shared her fears and worries:
“These tracks keep playing in my head:
Remember, you wanted this!
You should be feeling lucky right now, not whining about how you’re feeling.
You have no right to be complaining when other people have it way worse than you.
Who are you to talk about feeling crappy when there are so many people who haven’t had their prayers answered yet like you have?
It’s a catch 22: I want to be honest about how I’m feeling, but I’m constantly cautious about how much I share, since I don’t want to come off as whiny. After all, this is what I’ve been wanting for so long! I don’t want to seem ungrateful, especially to those following my story who have been in the same infertile boat as me.”
Eventually, she realized that it was important for her to continue to share her truth: the good, the bad, and the “sometimes really ugly”.
“You may think that you’re the only one experiencing all this, but you will always find out that there’s someone else going through the same thing.”
The Empowerment of Telling My Truth
Early on, friends knew that Stefanie and Dale were trying to get pregnant and would ask questions about how it was going.
“It was pretty uncomfortable answering those questions,” she said. “But when I finally opened up and started talking about it and ripped the bandaid off, it really started to feel easier.”
Stefanie’s friends were getting pregnant one by one, and they were starting to open up about what they were going through with fertility.
“I found out that a close group of my friends were all going through infertility, and we hadn’t been talking about it. There’s still that shame and stigma surrounding infertility. But when we started talking about it, it was really cathartic for me.”
“When I started my blog and decided to be open with other people, that was what really got me through.”
When I asked Stefanie what she thinks about when she looks back on her journey, and what she would like to tell other women, she thoughtfully responded:
“Don’t be afraid to open up to other people. Most of the time, I received an incredible response from anyone I opened up to. For some people it’s not right to share, but this worked for me.
And don’t doubt yourself; trust your gut. If you think something is going on, it’s can’t hurt to get tested. You may find out that everything is just fine, but if there is something wrong, you can save yourself the time.
Know that the timeline may not be what you expect, and you may not get there the way that you want to. As doors were closing for me, other doors were opening. Trust your gut and do what’s right for you. Things will work out in a way that you may not expect.”
Thank you, Stefanie, for sharing your personal story with us. You can read more about Stefanie and her fertility journey on Making A Miller.
Our Circle + Bloom guided meditation programs can support and help you during your fertility journey. Find the program that best fits your needs, such as the IVF/IUI Program, Natural Fertility Program, or the PCOS Fertility Program.
With love + gratitude,