Infertility is a difficult path for any woman. For many of us the expectation is that we will have children at some point in our life. The Atluri family now has 7 children but it took every trick in the assisted reproduction toolkit to get them to this outcome. Josephine is one of the 1 in 8 women requiring fertility assistance, and also one of the 1 in 4 women who have experienced a miscarriage or pregnancy loss.
My blog today comes thanks to an article in LINK> The Huffington Post by Josephine Atluri. The family also had decisions to make regarding their frozen embryos, a situation in light of the uncertainties brought about by the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade and the rush to close and lock doors in many Republican controlled states. Not that this was a factor in the Atluri family’s calculations but it has become a factor for many couples who have used IVF now.
The first child added to this family came by way of adoption. During the 3 years they attempted to create their family with assisted reproduction through IVF, she experienced chemical pregnancies, miscarriages and flat-out failed cycles. After losing a twin pregnancy at 17 weeks, she realized that she could no longer handle the physical, mental and emotional toll of another IVF cycle. Thus, half a year after the loss of their twins, they pivoted in their approach to parenthood and pursued an international adoption. They adopted a 10-month-old boy who became the physical manifestation of their hopes to have a family.
After a year of joyful parenthood, their sense of optimism had renewed enough to try one more IVF cycle at a new fertility center in Denver. Thankfully, they succeeded, becoming pregnant with twins again and this time the pregnancy went to term. They became the parents of healthy boy and girl twins.
The happy ending did not erase the pain experienced from infertility, miscarriage or pregnancy loss for Josephine. This eventually manifested in a fight to control her body as untreated mental health issues snowballed into bulimia. During the healing process, she discovered that she felt the need to “control” her body through her eating disorder partly because it was uncooperative reproductively.
Every year after the birth of their twins, they received a letter from the storage facility that safeguarded the many embryos from their last IVF procedure. For four years they decided to keep them frozen. On the fifth year, her husband said, “I think it’s time we give these embryos a chance.” After a drawn-out moment, she expressed another truth she had confronted during her healing journey. “I can’t. I just can’t do it again. I’m so sorry.”
It was at this point they decided to pursue surrogacy. She says, “At every step of the process, an unthinkable level of trust, vulnerability, collaboration and communication was required.” Without complications, their surrogate gave birth to their twin boys. Even so, they continued to receive annual reminders regarding their remaining frozen embryos, They tried surrogacy again and two decades after their first IVF cycle, they are now the proud parents of seven children: a 15-year-old son, 13-year-old boy/girl twins, 6-year-old twin boys and 1-year-old twin girls.
She thinks of herself as a warrior in a 17 year long war against infertility. Thanks to the support of online community, she was able to find strength in her story and voice. She speaks up about women’s physical and mental health issues in an effort to destigmatize and normalize these important conversations. She has become a fertility, pregnancy and parenting mindfulness coach.