We are Antonella & Valentino and last June (2019) we celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. It has always been our dream to complete our little family with children but not everything has been as smooth as it was in our dreams.
Not many may know this but 1 in 8 couples are reported having trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. Worldwide, an estimated 48.5 million couples are impacted by infertility. And of course, we are here asking for your help because we are that "1 in 8"
We struggled a lot with the decision to start a GoFundMe page to support our journey to parenthood. But this incredibly long journey broke us a little, both mentally and economically. We worried about sharing our struggles and being vulnerable but we know we now need help.
Valentino and I met in April 2007 and we both agree that it was love at first sight. I was 21 and recovering from a skiing injury but very ready to take over the world....at the time it meant running for student union! He was one of my adversaries...but we ended up both being elected!
It was immediately clear we were a perfect complementary pair! Whatever I couldn't do he stepped in, as I did for him... He pushed me and kept me motivated throughout my "I cannot do it" phase in college...and I ended up graduating Summa cum Laude.
We knew immediately that we were meant for each other and wanted a family, so we began saving almost immediately for our big day!
We got married in June of 2011 during the first year of my Ph.D. scholarship. We had to live apart for a year while I completed my studies abroad. Living 3500 km apart after only a few months of marriage wasn't the plan, but we made it through.
We began trying a few months before the wedding but when nothing kept happening we assumed it was due to all the stress. Planning, traveling, living apart...we blamed it on everything remotely stressing that we could think of. After a while, I began to ask my doctor for tests and check-ups but everything was fine. Around 2014, my husband got tested and the result was azoospermia. He was shocking for him but at least we had a road to follow!
He underwent a TESE surgery and got some immature swimmers out directly from the testicular tissue that got frozen in 7 precious vials.
This situation left us with only one road to follow. ICSI. For those unfamiliar with IVF, let me just tell you that it is not for the faint of heart. ICSI is an IVF procedure in which a single sperm cell is injected directly into the cytoplasm of an egg. This technique is used in order to prepare the gametes for the obtention of embryos that may be transferred to a maternal uterus. as any IVF, ICSI is an invasive treatment spanning several weeks and overall extremely draining, both mentally and economically.
Being a healthy woman at the age of 25, I didn’t actually need stimulation to produce a single egg..but since every defrosted vial was then lost forever, the point was to maximize the number of eggs to fertilize with every round/vial. So my menstrual cycle was regulated with medications. Had to take various hormones, injected a couple of times a day, to get my ovaries to produce LOTS of eggs. One cycle I ended up producing 16 eggs! And let me tell you it is not a nice thing as it might seem.
I got hyperstimulated and had to be hospitalized for several weeks, with trouble breathing, fluids in my belly and severe kidney blockage. But that didn't stop us...we tried again. And again.
For those of you who don't know...during this stimulation phase, there are appointments every few days to monitor the ovaries. After nearly two weeks of various hormones injections, the doctor orders a final “trigger” shot to encourage the eggs to fully mature and release. A day or so later the eggs are collected in a procedure done under general anesthesia. All mature eggs are then injected with sperm and the wait begins to see how many embryos are created.
During our 5 cycles, we had a few tiny little embryos but none of them were healthy enough to survive. There is actually a scale...a grading criteria to rate the quality for the embryos which is correlated to the success rate of the implantation. Sometimes our baby embryos were really low on that scale but we got them transferred anyway....hoping that mommy's love would keep them and help nest inside her....but that never happened until last year when we got a positive test. That pregnancy never made it to week 8. I was heartbroken and took me several weeks to finally "function" again but know at least I know it can happen. We can get pregnant.
I know it seems crazy to want to try "just one more time" because deep inside you know this might be the good one...but before this happened to me, I honestly didn't know much about infertility. I didn't understand that deep sadness and loneliness, the disappointment and constant grief that I would feel. I didn't realize infertility would rob me of the joy of celebrating pregnancies and milestones with friends and their children, because while I was happy for them it was just too painful for me. Before infertility, I never felt that sting of wanting something so bad but it being just out of my reach. I didn't realize the stress and strain it would cause. But most of all I never thought financial constraints would come into the discussion about having a family.
Before infertility, I didn't realize how strong I was or how strong I could be. I didn't understand how deep I could love, both those around me and that future child not yet in my arms. I didn't appreciate how strong my marriage was. I didn't fully know how deep faith and hope can run. I also didn't realize just how many people would want to help us along the way.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for reading our story, for sharing it with others, and for helping us on our journey to become parents.
Thank you for your donation, as every little bit makes a difference. We truly cannot express our gratitude enough for your help towards us becoming parents.
Thank you to those few friends and family who have been with us throughout this journey - every hug, prayer, and act of kindness has helped us through those trying times.
It means more than you will ever know.
To say thank you isn't enough - we are forever grateful.
Antonella & Valentino
- nathalie iofrida
- Lorenzo Cufari