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A journey to motherhood

With perseverance and the help of fertility experts, Jennifer realized her dream of being a mom.

Father, mother and toddler pose for a picture in their home.
Alex and Jennifer Martinez love being parents to their beautiful daughter, Sophia Rose.

On Mother’s Day in 2016, Jennifer Molloy-Martinez, an IT specialist at Northwell Health, received the ultimate gift: She learned she was pregnant with her first child.

Getting to that point had required singular focus—and a lot of pain and setbacks. Jennifer knew, based on her history with a pre-existing condition, that getting pregnant would present challenges. Ultimately, she navigated three rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and about a dozen embryo transfers—and along the way, met with many disappointments. Her husband, Alex, and her parents rode that roller coaster with her, including through some of her most emotionally trying moments.

After she and Alex wed in 2013, the pair, who live in Massapequa, decided to start trying for a baby right away. “I knew based on my history that I was probably going to have some challenges or that there was a risk,” said Jennifer, who is now 32. That’s why within about six months of trying to conceive, she made a life-changing decision. “I decided to talk to a fertility specialist,” she said. “It wasn’t going to be easy, but I needed to be an advocate for myself. I wasn’t going to give up.”

She chose Matthew A. Cohen, MD, a fertility expert at Northwell’s fertility clinic in Manhasset. Dr. Cohen performed minimally invasive exploratory surgery and found scarring. This, he told Jennifer, put her at a high risk of ectopic pregnancy—in which the embryo attaches outside the uterus. For that reason, Dr. Cohen said she’d be a good candidate for IVF.

Mother and daughter playing
Fertility treatments were trying—but being a mom to Sophia is a joy.

One round of IVF and two embryo transfers were unsuccessful, but finally, she got pregnant. Unfortunately, the embryo was implanted in a bad position. It was a cornual pregnancy, a rare and dangerous type of ectopic pregnancy. She needed emergency surgery, this time with Michael Leslie Nimaroff, MD, senior vice president and executive director of OB/GYN at Northwell. 

A few months later, Jennifer tried another round of IVF and transfer—and again an embryo took hold in the wrong place, requiring yet another procedure. She pressed on with a second full round of IVF, including more stimulation medicines to produce more eggs to harvest and fertilize. 

On Mother’s Day in 2016, she scheduled another transfer, which proved to be a good omen—this was the transfer that resulted in her becoming pregnant with her daughter. And on January 5, 2017, Allen Wesley Toles, MD, Jennifer’s OB/GYN, delivered her daughter, Sophia Rose, by cesarean section at Long Island Jewish Medical Center

But she wasn’t finished.

“We had always wanted a really big family,” she said. “So we decided we were going to keep trying.”

Forging ahead with her third full round of IVF, Jennifer found the process had evolved. This time, her embryos underwent preimplantation genetic screening to detect abnormalities (all passed). She also was told she could leave the office without being wheeled out. All Jennifer’s hard work and resolve paid off—right now, she’s pregnant with her second child. 

Mom, dad and toddler outside.
Jennifer says her fertility struggle brought her family closer together.

Throughout all the disappointments and the strain on her family, Jennifer was determined to push forward and not look back. She fought feelings of guilt, like she’d done something wrong, especially when she was told an embryo was growing but would have to be removed for her health.

Jennifer said that a positive outcome of all she’s been through is the intimate bond she built with her caregivers. “I’ve grown so close to the staff at the fertility center—they know who I am. They ask how Sophia is and how I’m feeling, even though I’ve moved on and am now under the care of a regular obstetrician.”

She also stressed that women should not downplay or avoid discussing the dizzying emotions they face during their fertility journey. In fact, she draws inspiration from others who shared their stories on social media. “When you’re trying and still going through the fertility process, you don’t share as much,” she said. But once she had her daughter, she wanted everyone to know. “If you’re struggling, things will be OK.”

Ultimately, her fertility struggle has brought her family closer. “There were times when it was my mom or my dad next to me at the doctor’s office, sometimes with bad news.” But despite not experiencing the typical path to childbirth, she remains undeterred. 

“I think I have in my heart to have as many kids as God will give us.” 

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