This week, the actress — who lives in California with her fiancé, yoga instructor Kent Katich, and their 16-month-old daughter, Luna Marie — tells PEOPLE Moms & Babies about the long fertility struggle that eventually ended in the conception of her baby girl.
|Courtesy Constance Marie|
OMG! Ladies, I am so overwhelmed by your cloth diaper support! I was the only one in my mommy group who was doing it. I felt like an oddball but now, not so much! Thank you.
This week’s topic: My fertility journey. Oy! It was so long, but so worth every second, because at the end of it, I got my sweet little Luna Marie. I always knew I would have a family, but I just didn’t know how I would get there.
I never felt ready to have a baby until I was about 37 years old. I knew I always wanted kids someday, but I needed to be “ready,” ya know? Emotionally, physically, mentally, financially, etc.
Plus, my mother had me when she was 18 — I didn’t want to repeat that. So, like any smart girl I was always careful. Growing up we are told every day, “Don’t get pregnant! Be cautious!” As if just standing next to a boy would knock us up! Right?!
But then, somewhere in our lives that all changes! It goes from, “Make sure to not get pregnant!” to “Oh man! I gotta hurry up and get pregnant!” Honestly, I wish we had a visible meter that would just DING and announce, “It is time to get serious ladies!” That biological clock is a force to be reckoned with.
I do wish I had started earlier, but I never thought I would have a problem! I had read how a lot of women were having kids later in life. I was healthy, in good shape and Latina! I mean come on! We are supposed to be muy fertile right?! For sure it was gonna be easy! Wrong.
When I turned 38, Kent and I decided it was time. We were thinking “Yea! We have to have lots of sex!” And by nine months in, it was, “Ugh, we have to have lots of sex!”
My doctor suggested I have some blood tests done and go to a specialist for a test called a hysterosalpingogram, which I can only describe as a combination x-ray/pap smear. They inject dye into your fallopian tubes to see if there’s a problem. Sounds like fun right? Um … no.
The test did not go well. His diagnosis: blocked fallopian tubes. I was shocked! All these years I had been trying not to get pregnant and I had blocked tubes! What a waste of a lot of birth control right?! I was so shocked and sad. I would not be able to get pregnant naturally.
My gyno suggested I wait a bit and then go for a second opinion. I went to see a different specialist that I nicknamed “Mr. Sunshine.” He was patient, sweet and calm. This time — I kid you not — he injected the dye, it just flew up the tubes and presto! Like a frickin’ miracle, they were fine! I didn’t question it — back to lots of sex! I was on a mission! This time I bought an ovulation kit and I became a pro at peeing on a stick.
|Courtesy Constance Marie|
After a few months I was pregnant! Kent and I were in shock! Wow! At seven weeks we went for an ultrasound to see and hear the baby’s heartbeat. As we eagerly looked at the monitor, we grew silent. There was no baby. Words cannot express how sad we were. That was a horrible day.
The only thing I had to hold onto was that years earlier a friend of mine had shared her pregnancy journey with me. She told me that she had gotten pregnant three times and that each time, it didn’t work out. She was very matter of fact about it. She knew it was just part of the process when a woman is older. That friend went on to have two beautiful girls. I loved her so much for being honest and sharing that story with me. I needed hope.
Once more we got pregnant! Once more, it did not work out. Another horrible day.
I tried the holistic approach, doing research on toxins that could impede my getting knocked up. I eliminated coffee and fish from my diet. The pesticides in coffee and fish, as well as the mercury in the latter are considered possible contributors to birth defects in fetal tissue. I also stopped drinking out of plastic bottles, because the plastic releases a toxin called Bisphenol A (BPA), a known hormone disruptor. Lastly, I did a few cleanses. I was not kidding around!
We decided to get even more serious. My doctor suggested Clomid, a drug that helps a woman produce more than one egg each cycle, along with the most common type of Artificial Insemination, Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI). We did this about six times! One of the times, our substitute doctor — because of course, I only ovulated on major holidays and weekends, especially Sundays — spilled the specimen all over the floor! Dammit! After all of Kent’s hard work. Then he had the nerve to say he wouldn’t charge us!
So far, none of this was working. I was getting tense. I was running out of time and knew I needed to bring in the BIG GUNS!
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) was our next step. I asked around and my friends suggested the rock star of the IVF game, Dr. Richard Marrs. I LOVE this guy! I started a regimen of injections — Yes, I injected myself. Eek! — plus meticulously timed sex. Romantic right? Not so much.
This did not work.
Then we upped our game. Major hormone injections helped me to produce up to 13-18 eggs each cycle — that will bloat a girl! — that they would then harvest like I was a frickin’ orange tree while I was under anesthesia. I was nervous but trusted Dr. Marrs.
Afterwards, they would take my egg and thin the outer layer — because it had grown hard and bitchy over my 38+ years — and Kent’s sperm and introduce them to one another. When they weren’t looking, they’d SHOVE them together! When they formed an embryo, we would wait to see how it developed, literally calling in every day to see how our lil guy/gal was doing. When it had developed far enough, it was time to be put back in my uterus.
|Courtesy Constance Marie|
I also included acupuncture into this method because it has been reported to increase the ability of the embryo to implant into the wall of the uterus.
We did the IVF process two times. Each time, my odds looked so great, but each time it did not work out.
At this point, Dr. Marrs started to realize that something was wrong. I was able to get pregnant naturally but because the fetal tissue wasn’t great quality, the baby wouldn’t develop. Now they were putting in the A-team embryos and still nothing! I had eight embryos left, so Dr. Marrs started thinking outside the box.
He believed that the IVF medicines were messing with my own natural implantation process. That part I could do fine on my own, so he decided that we should freeze the remainder of the embryos and just wait, allowing my body to clear out from all the hormones and get back to normal.
Me? I did not like this concept! I was panicking and feeling pressed for time. I wanted that baby NOW. But who was I to argue with an IVF rock star?
I detoxed, relaxed and cleaned out mentally and physically. Whew! During a regular ovulation cycle two and a half months later, we defrosted a few of my little popsicles and put them in the oven, followed immediately by acupuncture. To ensure implantation, I literally laid down on the couch for two days until one of those little buggers took hold.
And take hold one did! One little embryo survived the ice age and implanted! That little embryo was and is little Miss Luna Marie, the love of my life!
I cannot tell you how depressing, frustrating, difficult, sad, lonely and just plain crappy the whole process was. However, I can say that I would do it ALL OVER AGAIN! As I sit here listening to those little puffy pickle toes running upstairs and screaming “Mama!” while I sit here and type away, I can tell you that it was all worth EVERY minute!
That is my story, as condensed as I possibly could. I hope it is helpful to some of you who are just beginning or mid-process, or maybe you can forward it to a friend. Just know that you are not alone. We women need to support each other!
My last thought — if you want a family, it can and will happen! One way or another!
|Courtesy Constance Marie|
– Constance Marie