On episode 59, Tanika was born and raised in Fresno, California. She currently lives in Manhattan, New York and is a project manager. She had her first daughter at 23 and is a single mother by choice. There was a burning desire in her heart to have another child. She felt like she was meant to shepherd another soul, so she looked up videos on YouTube. She found other single moms by choice and how they built their support system and what it entailed. At 46 years old, she decided to re-embark on motherhood on her own. She didn’t think she had a lot of time, so she wasn’t going to waste time looking for a partner. She told herself she only wanted to do this if she could use her own eggs. We will learn later that her heart wants what it wants and she ended up changing her mind.
Her employer offered fertility benefits, so she had to go through a “Center of Excellence.” She met with her first provider, but she ended up with three different reproductive endocrinologists. The first one she met with recommended starting with IUI. She had the initial consultation and followed with lots of tests. She found out what her antral follicle count was, the test that tells how many eggs are left in the reserves. All of her tests came back fine. Knowing what she knows now, she would have gone straight to IVF. Sure she had done a lot of research about being a single mom by choice, but hadn’t done a lot of research about reproductive endocrinology or assisted reproductive technology. In 2017, she did her first IUI with donor sperm but did not get pregnant.
Before switching providers, they refused to do an egg retrieval and told her she needed to go straight to using donor eggs. She felt like it was out of the blue. It felt like a rejection. A year later, she switched providers and decided on IVF. Her first egg retrieval was in November of 2018. The clinic wanted to test her to make sure the trigger shot had taken for her egg retrieval. It was the day after Thanksgiving. She remembers she had to get blood work done in downtown, but there was the Macy’s parade. Downtown was crazy. She only got one egg. They were hoping for seven, but they discussed before the retrieval that she might not get any. They wanted to know if she wanted to proceed with the egg retrieval. It was a hard conversation for her, but she did want to move forward with the egg retrieval. She had already paid for the meds and had gone through all of the psychological torment of injecting herself. They got one egg, transferred the embryo, but she ended up having miscarriage.
I’m going to become a mom, just in a different way than I thought.
She found another RE who was willing to let her try her own eggs. Even though it delayed the process, psychologically, that was helpful for her to accept what eventually came to be. Otherwise, she would have always had doubts. She quickly became a semi-expert on the reproductive and endocrinology system and the medicine behind it. She did not want to be ordered around. She did an egg retrieval with her third RE. This RE wanted the embryo to go to blastocyst and be tested with was his criteria for the egg retrieval. It went to blastocyst on day six, but then it arrested. In 2019, she went back to her second RE and said that she wanted to try donor eggs. She thought she would do a tandem. She wanted to use donor eggs and her eggs, so she would have a backup. In February of 2020, she left for California to be with her mother who got sick with cancer. She was back in New York in July of 2020, but it didn’t make sense to spend the money for two retrievals and two cycles with medication. Her heart wants what it wants. She is going to be a mother, just in a different way than she thought. It’s not the genetics that were important to her, but it was the soul she’s meant to shepherd. That’s when she decided she should just use donor eggs. She felt lucky her clinic facilitated the donor. It was important to her that the donor had a creative interest, but not necessarily had to have completed college. The woman she chose was 28 years old and had a really dark skin complexion. Much darker than herself, which concerned her. Her goal was ultimately having the child look like her. She was already a single mom by choice, and she didn’t want other children at school questioning who she was. She switched donors.
In early 2021, her donor had her egg retrieval. She was excited and asked for her stats as if it was her retrieval. Because her donor was only 28, Tanika decided to not have testing done on the embryos. The nurse gently guided her back to focus on the results which ended up being ten embryos. In February 2021 Tanika had her first transfer. Her home pregnancy test was positive. She was excited it worked! By the time she got to beta day, day nine post transfer, her HGC was one. A failed transfer. She felt so close. At 49 almost 50, she took a short break after her first transfer to look inside her uterus and found polyps, which she had removed. The next thing to test was the progesterone and check the timing. They decided the progesterone should be a day earlier when we go into the next cycle. Then she had three more transfers back-to-back. She vacationed in Hawaii for her 50th birthday, and the day after she returned home was her transfer.
They got to the fourth transfer and no HCG. Her insurance has an option for second opinions, so she sent all her medical records to a woman out of UC San Francisco to review them and speak with her RE. Her RE was not happy about this, but Tanika wanted the second opinion to look at her files objectively and see what else they could do. Tamika already had three miscarriages, so she wanted another opinion. She was diagnosed with recurrent implantation failure. The embryos haven’t been tested, but that would be the last resort. She said it was either the embryo or it’s the environment that it’s being transferred into. This is the information she received in the middle of her third transfer. They added a steroid, but it did not help. Then she went to the reproductive immunologist, and he ended up testing everything. He found a slight bit of inflammation in her uterus. They told her because of her age and all the other things happening, it’s enough to affect the embryo from implanting properly. She was prescribed Plaquenil, which is hydroxychloroquine, to reduce the inflammation. The next cycle was canceled because she ovulated.
She was given Lupron to suppress for the next cycle. After her transfer she began to spot which panicked her, so she called the doctor. The doctor said that was probably a good sign the embryo was implanted and asked her not to stress. She promised herself not to test because it got her hopes up the last time. She talked herself into testing the day before the blood work, and it was positive. From that day on, she became a pee-on-a-stick addict, but she watched them get darker and darker. She just knew this was her take-home baby. She could have done cartwheels. It was amazing and scary at the same time. The few people she told continued to ask her how she was feeling, which made her feel anxious. She had her anatomy scan at 18 weeks. At 24 weeks, she had more relief. After so much loss, it never felt real. She felt afraid to get excited, but she pushed through. She had her baby shower and went to California and celebrated with her family. She went to term. She didn’t get high blood pressure or gestational diabetes. She has one kidney because in 2006, she gave her sister her other. Preeclampsia could be deadly, so they monitored her closely. This pregnancy was not like the first one at 23. Everyone thought she was ruining her life at 23. At 52, everyone was celebrating and was excited about the baby. They also knew what she had gone through trying to have this baby. She has lots of support. Back then, she had youth on her side. Now, she eats well, she is resting well, continues yoga and acupuncture. She felt energized and excited to be pregnant. She embraced it all. There was just this tiny voice that said,” Just don’t get too excited yet.” She didn’t know the gender and didn’t want the test because she felt it would cause her more anxiety. She didn’t want to know the gender because she needed a surprise at the end of it all.
She had cravings like crazy. She needed lots of sour everything, like lemon milkshakes. She loved thick chocolate milkshakes. And, of course, the cliché pickle craving. They are nice and sour. She was really bummed because she couldn’t have sushi and carbonara because raw eggs are used. She had a strong dislike for wine. They let her continue coffee, but she had to limit her intake.
I felt healthier in this pregnancy in my 50’s than I did in the one in my 20’s.
She had no memory of what she did during labor at 23, other than breathing, so She took a childbirth class at the hospital where she was giving birth. Her sister came from California to be her birth partner, but she also hired a doula. She was prepared for a natural birth, but at the end of the day, her goal was a take-home baby. She continued with her yoga until the third trimester. She also reduced using the treadmill and did a lot of walking with leg stretches.
The night before she was scheduled to be induced, she and her sister had a big meal. Her bags were already packed, so at 39 weeks, on May 31st, she went to the hospital in the evening. The hospital was having an emergency, so she ended up in the waiting room for quite a while before they took her to her room. They started off with a cervical ripener to soften her cervix. She got to three centimeters and then they put a balloon into the opening of the cervix with a tube attached and filled it with saline. It was very painful. She was crawling away from the practitioner. That’s when she began to think she couldn’t make it through a natural birth. She got to four centimeters but did not progress after that. They added Pitocin, but she still didn’t get passed four centimeters. She asked for an epidural because she had an idea, she was going to have a c-section. That meant that my doula can’t come in. She asked him if he could put the epidural in and not give her any meds. He said no. Her mobility was going to be limited and she was going to be bed-bound. She asked to give her a little of the epidural. After waiting two hours, he put it in. She wasn’t able to feel her legs but could feel to push. At one point, she tried to get up and the Doula kept her from trying to walk. They broke her water after the Foley, so there’s a time clock once your water is broken because of the risk of infection. She had 24 hours. Her time was running out and it was getting close to the night shift. She decided it was time for the c-section. They did an ultrasound to confirm the baby’s position and they confirmed they didn’t think he was going to come down. She asked if they could use the same incision of her kidney, but they said it was too low. Her sister went back to her apartment to rest, so she didn’t make it back in time. She had to pack up her room, but she couldn’t move. Her doula helped her pack everything up. Within 30 minutes, she was in the delivery room with her doula. They lifted the baby up over the screen and the surgeon asked who was going to call the gender? She was in tears and couldn’t speak. She was able to squeak out the words: Boy! She told them to do something with him. The doula cut the cord. They placed her son on her cheek, but he wasn’t crying or screaming or anything. She couldn’t nurse until she got to the recovery room. They were sewing her up and the nurse was holding the baby on her. She was a little panicky. Her heart was racing uncontrollably. She could only feel her head and her shoulders. She asked the doula to put her hand on her shoulder to help ground her. She couldn’t feel anything else. She was praying and doing Hail Mary’s and just tried to breathe through it. She was just trying to stay focused, but excited to meet her son.
She wondered if they would have a connection, but it was seamless. She felt the bond more and more. Breastfeeding was a struggle in the beginning. It was a real struggle. Her milk came in while she was in the hospital. One of the pediatricians was concerned about his weight, which made her stress about it, which affected her milk production. Once they got home, it was better, but he did lose weight. They walked to the pediatrician’s office every other day for weight checks and worked with a lactation consultant. She had to do power pumping, which she hopes nobody ever has to go through that. Tanika wasn’t allowed to leave until she fed him some formula. She had to get the social worker involved. She got a breast massager, so that helped with letting the milk down. It took a while, but he was growing.
She describes her recovery as interesting. She was up and walking the night of her c-section, but it hurt. She felt semi-prepared for it because she thinks it’s similar to having her kidney removed. She believes yoga helped her with her recovery. She was on a pain med schedule. If they weren’t there on time, she was hitting that button. Because she only has one kidney, she can’t have ibuprofen. She made herself get up and push the bassinet up and down the hall. The doula came to do the postpartum and helped doing the laundry and the dishes so she wouldn’t stress herself out. She highly recommends having someone come in to do the meals. She did that for two months and thought it was very helpful and stress-free.
Today, her son is four months old. She feels like they are finally in a rhythm. He is in his fourth month and doing some sleep-training. She hasn’t gone back to work yet, so she is trying to de-clutter and get organized. She does see a therapist and a psychiatric nurse that orders her Zoloft. Mentally, she is doing great. She is already thinking that maybe she should have another one? The doctor said to wait until the baby is nine months.
Tanika feels lucky to have six-month maternity leave, but she’s already getting anxious with childcare in January. She wants to start off with a few days a week in daycare and a few days with someone at home with him. Her office building also has childcare in the basement so she can pop in and see him.