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Jessica Grosset knew she wanted to be a mother when she was 15.
"In high school, when we had to take care of those (toy) babies, I was probably the only one who liked it," said the 32-year-old customer service representative.
"Everyone's path in life is different. Mine was definitely meant to be a mother."
Her 28-year-old husband, Tyler, also wanted a family so two years into their relationship, they started trying. They didn't expect five years ago when they started their journey to pregnancy would involve years of fighting for gynecologist referrals or cost almost $20,000.
But they are grateful for it, as they are expecting their first child in September thanks to in vitro fertilization (IVF) therapy.
FIRST THREE YEARS
Jessica was 27 in October 2015 when she stopped taking birth control. A year later and no pregnancy, she went to her family doctor requesting a referral to a gynecologist.
Refused on the basis she was young (under 35), Jessica was told not to worry, relax and pregnancy would happen.
Six months later, no pregnancy and Jessica returned to request a gynecologist referral. Again she was refused, this time because there appeared to be a minor physical issue that would resolve in time.
Two years after the first visit, Jessica returned a third time for the referral. This time she had another doctor's recommendation that she see a gynecologist — her husband's, who Tyler had gone to examine his part in their infertility. The referral was granted. It took another year for her appointment.
"From a medical standpoint I was young, the doctors were dismissive. Yes, I was young, but I wanted to have my family young. If I had been listened to then, my family would be complete now," Jessica said, eyes welling up.
The gynecologist referred her to Nova Scotia's only fertility clinic, Atlantic Assisted Reproduction Treatment (AART) in Halifax, which says on its website services are done at cost. Located in Halifax, AART is one of two fertility clinics in Atlantic Canada. The other is in New Brunswick.
TESTING AND TREATMENT
Two weeks before their wedding in October 2019, the Grossets were called for their first appointment at AART.
The first step was testing which showed the couple had a zero per cent possibility of conceiving without IVF.
"It was so validating to hear, to finally know there was nothing I could have done differently," Jessica said.
"It is one thing to hear family and friends telling you to just relax, but from your doctor? It's like, 'Are you kidding me? Am I doing this wrong?'"
Tyler agreed: "You go through a lot of self-blame. A lot of frustration."
Plans were made for their first IVF cycle in March 2020, which involves egg removal, insemination and incubation outside the body, then embryo transplant.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the clinic's closure and the couple had another delay.
"We were lucky we hadn't started yet so we didn't lose any money on medications," said Jessica, who said their prescription cost was $3,500.
In June, the Grossets finally started and doctors retrieved 10 eggs from Jessica. Five were viable for semen injection, which was followed by an incubation period. Jessica cried when doctors warned only 50 per cent of fertilized eggs often survive. Then she was overjoyed when they arrived for the embryo transplant appointment to find out all five made it.
After the first embryo transplant and confirmation of pregnancy, the couple was overcome with happiness. Jessica started all the baby shopping she'd been hoping to have a reason to do for years.
At their six-week ultrasound, no heartbeat was heard or baby seen. By their eight-week ultrasound, the couple was told they were no longer pregnant.
Heartbroken about the miscarriage, it had been the first time in years Jessica had gotten excited about becoming a mom only to have the dream crushed again.
On New Year's Eve, the second embryo transplant was done.
"My New Year's shot," Jessica joked.
When the couple received confirmation of pregnancy, this time there wasn't joy. Although excited, both were worried about another miscarriage.
When the baby's heartbeat was detected at the six-week ultrasound, Tyler's worry lessened and his excitement grew.
It wasn't until 13-weeks that Jessica, who is now four months pregnant, began to feel her fears dissipate.
"With this pregnancy, I almost feel robbed of the joy. I feel the five years it took to get here," she said. "I am so excited, but I feel it."
No one definition
Generally means lack of conception
16 per cent of Canadian couples experience it
8 per cent of Canadian couples experienced it in 1980s
Only five provinces provide some coverage
No coverage is 100 per cent
N.S., N.L. have no coverage
Only two fertility clinics in Atlantic Canada
N.L, P.E.I have no clinics
Assisted reproductive therapies (ART) aren't covered under health care in Nova Scotia. The average IVF treatment cycle costs $20,000 in Canada and many couples need two cycles before pregnancy.
For the Grossets, the cost was $17,000 because they had a lower cost for some medications. To cover this, they took out a bank loan.
"We were incredibly fortunate we could take out a loan but there are a lot of people who aren't in that situation," Jessica said. "I couldn't imagine not being able to have a child because I didn't couldn't afford the treatments."
For now, their costs are like any other family getting ready for baby's arrival — until the couple decides what is best for them to do with their frozen embryos.
Looking for help?
- Fertility Matters Canada: support, advocacy, education: 506-853-4401 [email protected]
- Atlantic Assisted Reproduction Therapy: medical treatment, procedures: 902-404-8600 [email protected]
- Canadian Infertility Awareness Week, April 18-24, www.ciaw.ca
Nicole Sullivan is an immigration/diversity and education reporter for the Cape Breton Post.