A Bebe Rexha lyric helped put these Knoxville parents in the fast lane to family
Kristen had a playlist that she listened to every time she drove from Knoxville to Chattanooga for appointments at her fertility clinic, Tennessee Reproductive Medicine (TRM).
“I had the same playlist I would listen to the whole way there and the whole way back, every single time,” Kristen says.
What a coincidence, then, that she would hear the lyrics from Bebe Rexha’s “Meant to Be”[i] every time she made the hour-and-a-half drive each way nearly every other day for blood tests, ultrasounds, monitoring and doctor appointments at TRM:
“Who knows where this road is supposed to lead …
If it’s meant to be, it’ll be
Baby, just let it be
So, won’t you ride with me, ride with me
See where this thing goes”
Type A personality Kristen was told, “You’re a hostile environment for sperm.”
In early 2016, Kristen and her husband, Jonathan, started trying to conceive naturally. After many unsuccessful months, school principal Kristen, a self-proclaimed “Type A” personality, started tracking her ovulation.
A conversation with her sister-in-law prompted the idea of consulting a fertility clinic. But first, Kristen checked in with her Ob/Gyn. That doctor prescribed Clomid for Kristen to stimulate ovulation, but the couple did not see any results.
“That Ob/Gyn (who I no longer see) told me, ‘You’re just too uptight. You need to just relax. You’re a hostile environment for sperm,’” Kristen recalls.
Was endometriosis causing her infertility?
Kristen and Jonathan immediately found a fertility clinic in Knoxville. The doctor there tried a different kind of medication and performed more tests. He thought maybe Kristen had endometriosis and ordered laparoscopy.
“We were sitting in the doctor’s office,” Kristen says, “and I asked them, ‘If I have the endometriosis scope, will I still be able to go on my cruise in two weeks?’” The clinic told her that if she wanted to continue with fertility treatments, she’d have to cancel the cruise. “I found out that, if you go out of the country for a certain amount of time, the fertility clinic will not continue with treatments because of the Zika virus.”
By then, she and Jonathan were more than a year into their pregnancy journey. “My world, at that point – I was done. I was broken,” she says.
After a dead end, turning to the right fertility clinic
Determined to stay on this journey, Kristen underwent the laparoscopy. But there wasn’t even a spot of endometriosis, she says.
The fertility specialist then recommended intrauterine insemination (IUI), which Kristen and Jonathan did – seven times! When those did not work, the doctor then suggested injectables.
At her wits’ end, Kristen called her sister-in-law, who recommended IVF (in vitro fertilization).
The Knoxville specialist suggested they look into a Nashville fertility clinic. “But my sister-in-law said she had a friend from school who recommended a clinic in Chattanooga, and that they have some of the best statistics in the state.”
After nearly two years of riding this bumpy road, she and Jonathan decided to transfer to that clinic: Tennessee Reproductive Medicine, more than 100 miles away.
IVF with embryo transfer was the right way, but more hazards on the highway
“We met with Dr. Scotchie,” Kristen says. “She took all of my records, explained everything and said, ‘I really think IVF is the way to go.’ I asked if it would be possible to always get the first appointment of the day, because I was driving in from Knoxville and had to get back for work. They were just so gracious.”
In January 2018 the couple started their first IVF cycle. “They retrieved 12 eggs, and of those, I think six of them became embryos,” Kristen explains. “However, we’d get a daily report, and those embryos would just die off, like every day.”
One of the embryos was sent for preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) and came back positive for chromosomal abnormalities. PGT is a way to screen for genetic abnormalities that involve chromosome imbalances; these, in turn, can cause implantation failure, miscarriage or genetic syndromes. PGT can screen for these abnormalities prior to embryo transfer in IVF.
“We were devastated. I mean, it was really for real at that point,” she said. “We hit a low. There were several lows on this journey. That was one of the big lows.”
Kristen received a call from Dr. Scotchie. “I was just astounded. She called me personally, which totally just stuck out to me because it’s not very often that a doctor would do that,” she says.
TRM’s “everything but the kitchen sink” plan, then a detour to the ER
“Dr. Scotchie said she talked with Dr. Murray, and they decided to throw everything but the kitchen sink at me, basically,” Kristen says.
She started a protocol that included multiple injections each day, patches and oral medication. This time, her progress would be monitored in Chattanooga, not Knoxville, which meant an hour-and-half drive to TRM and back nearly every other day – with that playlist along for each ride.
In spring 2018, she underwent her second egg retrieval. This time, the plan was to do a delayed transfer.
But Kristen’s body had other plans. It began hyper-stimulating. She got really sick and made a trip to the emergency room. “When I got to the ER, the doctors freaked out because this isn’t something they see all the time,” she recalls.
“What impressed me is that Dr. Scotchie reached out to the ER doctor. It just made her stand out above and beyond what another doctor would do.”
Committing to one route: a single embryo transfer
When it was time for the embryo transfer, Dr. Scotchie talked with Kristen, and they decided on just a single embryo transfer and to freeze the others. Staff members told Kristen not to take a pregnancy test in the meantime.
“I’m a rule follower, so if they say don’t take one, I’m not going to take one,” she explains. “When we went in next for bloodwork, my IVF nurse, Linda, asked, “Did you cheat? Did you cheat?”
“Those are the kinds of conversations we would have all the time,” says Kristen. “Everybody there at TRM – they were just like family. I mean, I always felt like I needed to take a covered dish when I went. That’s just how close Jonathan and I felt with them.”
After 30 months of trials and tribulations, canceling the cruise, missing their season tickets to Clemson football games, and focusing solely on pregnancy, the couple decided to take a beach vacation.
“Jonathan and I were driving to Hilton Head when TRM called us. I said, this is either going to be a really great beach trip or a really sad beach trip,” Kristen remembers. The call brought good news: They were pregnant.
“Dr. Murray, Dr. Scotchie and Linda were all in the room when we heard the first heartbeat,” she recalls. “It’s just such a family-friendly atmosphere, and I definitely cried driving back to Knoxville on our last visit. They went through every high and every low with us.
“We just had a wonderful experience. The overall feeling at TRM is just above and beyond,” Kristen says. “And now we have sweet Caroline Grace, born in February of 2019.”
It was a long and winding road, but worth every mile.