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Finding the silver lining

Ashley endured the pain and disappointment of infertility on the road to becoming a mother of three.

Mom, dad, daughter and twin sons, sitting together on a couch.
Ashley Fisher found her silver lining: life with three beautiful, healthy children.

The in vitro fertilization (IVF) process can be daunting and difficult, even for someone who knows her way around the healthcare system, like Ashley Fisher—a nurse at Northwell Health’s North Shore University Hospital. But when you’re not the nurse, and you’re the woman hoping to be a mom, your clinical detachment can quickly go out the window. Fortunately, Ashley’s arduous journey had a happy result: the birth of a daughter and twin sons.

Ashley, 33, and her husband, Bruce, wanted to try for a baby not long after they wed in August 2014. She knew conception might take a while because she had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can trigger the growth of small ovarian cysts, potentially inhibiting fertility.

Four months after the Wantagh, NY, couple began trying, Ashley was pregnant, but complications led to miscarriage. She was given methotrexate injections to nonsurgically end the pregnancy. Because methotrexate is a chemotherapy drug, she had to wait three months before attempting to conceive again.

In April 2015, she began seeing Northwell fertility specialist Christine Marie Mullin, MD, at the Manhasset fertility clinic. After two unsuccessful intrauterine inseminations (IUI), in which sperm is placed directly at the top of the uterus to facilitate conception, Dr. Mullin suggested IVF. Ashley began those treatments in June of that year.

“I hyperstimulated,” Ashley says, explaining how the drugs she injected to stimulate ovulation led her to produce an overabundance of eggs. This made Ashley too ill to have any of the fertilized eggs implanted, so they were frozen while she spent a few weeks recovering. The first embryo transfer, though it seemed promising at first, resulted in what’s called a chemical pregnancy. That’s a type of miscarriage in which tests show a pregnancy, but nothing is detectable on an ultrasound.

Dr. Mullin suggested that Ashley undergo a hysteroscopy to inspect and dilate her uterus before another embryo transfer. “That’s when I got pregnant with my daughter,” Ashley says. Vale, named after Ashley’s mother, Valerie, was born on June 3, 2016.

Mom smiling while carrying her daughter in her arms.
Ashley and her adorable daughter, Vale, are inseparable.

Six months later, Ashley got pregnant naturally but miscarried because of a chromosomal issue. Visiting Dr. Mullin for another round of IVF and embryo transfer, Ashley was 10 weeks into another pregnancy before miscarrying yet again for the same reason. 

From then on, Dr. Mullin used preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) to evaluate Ashley’s remaining embryos. This testing allows doctors to choose the healthiest, most viable embryos. Even so, two more transfers were unsuccessful, requiring Ashley to undergo dilation and curettage (D&C) and another hysteroscopy. 

This time, Ashley confided in Bruce that she was almost ready to give up. “I told him, ‘I think I’m done. I don’t think I want to do this anymore.’” But Bruce encouraged her to give one final transfer a chance. This time, she said, “happened to be the easiest transfer.” Ashley was delighted to learn she was pregnant with twins. On December 1, 2018, Jake and Reed turned the Fishers into a family of five.

Mother sitting on a couch holding her twin baby boys.
One last try: A final IVF transfer brought twins Jake and Reed into the world.

Five months later, Ashley, who is herself one of five siblings, and Bruce took all three kids on a trip to Disney World in Orlando, where they celebrated the joy of family with a total of 22 relatives. 

Ashley says now that it was hard to stay hopeful through the enormous emotional and financial strain of fertility treatments. “It’s discouraging going through it not knowing if you’re ever going to have a baby in your arms.” Being a nurse may have helped prepare her for some of the rudiments of fertility treatment, such as frequent blood work or the nightly injections she taught her husband to administer. But the rest of it, mainly the uncertainty, is not something any woman or couple can prepare themselves for.

“When you’re in treatments, it’s hard to see the silver lining,” she says. “But you don’t know unless you try.” 

These days, Ashley enjoys cooking and doing crafts with Vale, a “daredevil” who also loves to swim. The twins are a (literal) handful now, but Bruce can’t wait to share his love of working on projects in the garage with his boys.

“I’m very thankful and grateful that now I have three children,” Ashley says. “You kind of forget sometimes what you had to go through to get here, because I got the silver lining.”