There’s a Japanese proverb about perseverance that roughly translates to: “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” Erica Cox’s five-year journey to motherhood required this level of endurance to keep getting up again after each devastating setback.
Erica and her husband, Nate, first started trying to get pregnant in 2014. But six months after going off the pill, Erica was still not ovulating. Tests showed low levels of two pregnancy-related hormones, luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone. That’s when her OB/Gyn referred Erica to the fertility treatment program at Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
There she started hormone treatment, and in 2015 Erica got pregnant but miscarried at eight weeks.
Using the same hormone regimen, Erica got pregnant again in 2016, but soon came bad news. It was a cornual ectopic pregnancy, in which the embryo implants between the uterus and fallopian tube, rendering the pregnancy non-viable. This rare condition is dangerous for both the embryo and mother because it can lead to rupture of the uterus and cause massive bleeding. The usual treatment, wedge resection surgery, involves removing part of the uterus, which can complicate future fertility.
Erica’s doctor at PAMF Fertility, Mary Abusief, M.D., FACOG, reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist, proposed a different way forward.
“Dr. Abusief and her team came up with a solution to save my uterus,” Erica says. The team at PAMF managed Erica’s condition through a minimally invasive approach that did not cut into the uterus.
The recovery took six months. All throughout the process of losing her second pregnancy and recovering, Erica recalls the unwavering support she felt from Dr. Abusief.
“Dr. Abusief was fantastic throughout this process.” Erica says. “She always took the time to respond to our questions thoroughly and thoughtfully, whether it was during an office visit or on the phone.”
With continuing hormone treatment, Erica got pregnant a third time, miscarried again, and then tried in-vitro fertilization (IVF), only to miscarry again.
At this point Dr. Abusief gave Erica the option of using a gestational surrogate.
“But we weren’t ready at that point to try surrogacy,” Erica says. “We decided to try one more time before turning to surrogacy. Dr. Abusief was very supportive of that approach.”
After each miscarriage, Erica underwent surgery to remove retained tissue from her uterus. After the fourth lost pregnancy, Dr. Abusief performed the surgery and afterward sounded optimistic.
“Dr. Abusief said my uterus looked open and healthy,” Erica says.
The next IVF embryo transfer failed. But it turned out to be just a small bump on a very long journey. They tried one more time and that embryo transfer was successful. Erica got pregnant and carried to term. Erica and Nate’s son, Cameron, was born in November 2019.
Riding the high hopes and excitement of each pregnancy, down to the deep grief with each miscarriage was a rollercoaster, and it was difficult to keep going. Having a trusted and supportive guide in Dr. Abusief was invaluable.
“I felt like when we were grieving, she was grieving with us. She never got overly excited because she knew, just like we did, to have guarded expectations. She was practical but also hopeful. We feel she’s been an absolute blessing on our long journey.”
Cameron is now a healthy, giggling and smiling delight.
“He is the light of our lives,” Erica says.