Ep 118: Fighting Infertility with Samantha Busch

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Warning: This episode includes loss

Samantha Busch is a wife (to NASCAR champion Kyle Busch), mother (to 5-year-old Brexton), author, entrepreneur, lifestyle blogger, infertility warrior, philanthropist and co-owner of a professional race team. As a woman in leadership, Samantha is driven to empower all women to become their own fiercest advocates.  In Busch’s first book, Fighting Infertility, she shares a raw account of her infertility journey. Today we’re going to talk a bit about that journey including what has happened since the book was published. She’s open and honest and I’m grateful she’s sharing her truth

She also shares about her and her husband’s organization, The Bundle of Joy Fund, which is a monetary award to help couples pay for IVF treatments. To date, the fund has awarded more than $930,000 to help cover the cost of IVF treatments for 70 couples, resulting in more than 35 babies with more on the way. This is an incredibly touching episode and you’re going to really enjoy it.

In this Episode, You’ll Learn About:

  • How Samantha found out she had PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
  • Why it’s important to factor in both partners’ fertility
  • How Samantha and her husband shared their infertility journey
  • Which assisted reproductive methods Samantha tried
  • What emotional ups and downs Samantha experienced in her struggle with infertility
  • What inspired Samantha and her husband to start their foundation

Links Mentioned in the Episode

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Ep 118: Fighting Infertility with Samantha Busch

Nicole: I'm really excited to have Samantha Busch on the podcast to discuss her journey with infertility. Welcome to the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast. I'm Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins, a board certified OB GYN who's been in practice for nearly 15 years. I've had the privilege of helping over 1000 babies into this world, and I'm here to help you be calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Quick note, this podcast is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Check out the full disclaimer at drnicolerankins.com/disclaimer. Now let's get to it.

Nicole: Hello. Hello. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 118. Thank you for spending some of your time with me today. So today we have Samantha Busch and Samantha is a wife to NASCAR champion Kyle Busch. She's the mother to six-year-old Brexton. She's an author, entrepreneur, lifestyle blogger and fertility warrior philanthropist, and co-owner of a professional race team. As a woman in leadership, Samantha is really driven to empower all women to become their own fiercest advocates. In her first book, Fighting Infertility, which was just recently released, she shares a raw account of her infertility journey that has spanned nearly a decade, and it's really defied the picture perfect image seen in the public around having children today. We're going to take a deep dive into that journey, including what has happened since the book was published. She is so open and honest about her journey, and I'm grateful that she is sharing her truth with us today.

Nicole: Samantha also shares about her Bundle Of Joy fund. Samantha and Kyle Busch's Bundle Of Joy fund is a monetary award that helps couples pay for IVF treatments. Those of you who don't know, IVF is quite expensive. And to date the fund has awarded more than $930,000 to help cover the cost of IVF treatments for 70 couples resulting in more than 35 babies with more on the way. This is an incredibly touching, real, honest, and inspiring episode, and you are really going to enjoy it. Now, before we get into the episode, let me tell you about this amazing live workshop that I have coming up on June 15th on how to make the best of your prenatal care experience. I am super excited to deliver this super informative, fun, live workshop with you. I'm so excited for it that it's going to be live because I get to interact with folks in a way that I don't get to do on the podcast.

Nicole: Now, of course, if you can't make it live, there will be a replay available. And FYI members of the Birth Preparation Course will automatically get access to the replay video. I'm going to offer the workshop twice that day, um, noon Eastern standard time and 7:00 PM Eastern standard time. Just to give folks a couple of times to sign up. You can go to drnicolerankins.com/workshop to grab your seat. Please know that there are a limited number of spaces available for people who can be there live just based on the software that I have. So if you are interested, go ahead and grab your seat. Now that's drnicolerankins.com/workshop, and it's all about a live informative experience on how to make the best of your prenatal care. All right, let's get into the episode and conversation with Samantha Busch.

Nicole: Samantha, thank you so much for agreeing to come onto my podcast. I am so excited to have you here.

Samantha: Well, thank you so much for having me on, I'm excited to talk with you today and I apologize for my earlier technical difficulties.

Nicole: That's okay. That's okay. Like if I had a dollar for every time I had a technical difficulty, I'd probably be like wealthy.

Samantha: I think after this long, we would all know how to use these platforms by now, but it's inevitable that something always happens.

Nicole: Of course, of course, of course. All right. So why don't you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your work and your family, if you'd like?

Samantha: Sure. So my name is Samantha Busch. Um, I'm very blessed. My husband, Kyle and I have one son. His name is Brexton. He's actually turning six next week. So we are in full shark birthday party planning mode over here. And he's absolutely just our world. Um, we actually tried for quite a while, um, to get pregnant naturally. So I could give you a little background. My husband and I met when we were, I was in college. Um, you know, we were young, we got married. I was just 24. We started trying to have kids a few years later. Never thought I would have an issue just given that, you know, we were well under 30, healthy. Um, didn't really think there'd be a problem. All my friends were getting pregnant. And so, so I think like many couples out there the first few months are very exciting and you're trying, and it's going to be this new chapter in your life.

Samantha: And then month after month after month, that goes by it, it really wears on you mentally and physically. And so like most women, I did a deep dive on the internet of, okay, what can we do? And tried every, you know, old wives tale or anything we saw from supplements to diet to positions, you name it. We, we tried it. And, um, I just remember at the time, um, uh, OB GYN and w we weren't very close or anything, obviously, you know, I hadn't dove into the world of fertility and just kind of went in when I needed an annual.

Nicole: I mean you didn't think you needed to dive into the world of fertility.

Samantha: Right. And, and so I didn't have like a very close relationship. It was more like, okay, who, whoever has an opening, I'll go see whatever it is. And I remember calling and be like, Hey, um, I just really think something's wrong. Like, it's been a number of months and nothing's happening. And we're young. And I got the very standard, you know, oh, just, just wait a year. It's nowhere near a year. You're fine. Dah, dah, dah. Oh, okay. But I feel really funny, like, I'm on these sticks and they're smiling back at me all the time. So am I like constantly ovulating, like, I'm very confused and, you know, I just felt like I got the, oh, you're very young. Surely there's no issues it'll, it'll happen. And so, um, what really started to happen is right around the year, mark, um, I just had a series of health issues. I was just very broken out. My hair was falling out in clumps. I was bleeding a lot. Um, and I, you know, I was like, okay, something's wrong? Like, something's definitely off. I've never felt this way before. I've never had these reactions. Well, you know, I went in, they did blood tests and an ultrasound confirmed. They're like, oh, you've PCOS. That's why you're not pregnant. Great. We should have done this a year ago.

Nicole: I was going to say, how did you feel at that moment, like, I have been trying to tell you all that something is not going on. Right. I mean, were you angry at that point?

Samantha: I think at that point, it was almost like relief to know that I wasn't crazy that something was off. Um, so I kind of just rolled with it. And so they put me on four or five rounds of Clomid and still nothing happened. And that's when they said, okay, we can't really do anything else for you. You need to go to a fertility specialist. And, and so I think the anger part came when we got to the fertility specialist, um, you know, I brought all my paperwork with me and they were like, well, where's your husband's paperwork. And, you know, we both stared at them and we're like, no, no, no, I have the issue. I have PCOS. And they're like, well, that's fine. And great. But like, what's his sperm like, right. We just looked like, what do you mean?

Samantha: And they were like, please tell me, you did not go on multiple rounds of Clomid and your husband hasn't been checked. And then I was like, oh, the Clomid was horrendous. Um, so that was really disappointing. And he got checked and it ended up that he had male factor and I had PCOS. And so they said, you know, due to kind of the severity of his male factor, actually IVF with ICSI is really your only option. Um, which at that point it was like, now, gosh, 18 months into this, it was like, we will do whatever we have to do. Like, I was obviously very nervous and apprehensive, and I think this was, you know, mind you eight, eight, not eight plus years ago at this point, uh, eight or nine years ago. So infertility wasn't talked about as much, um, when you searched IVF, it was very either doom and gloom or very medical. I felt like, um, but at the same time it was like, okay, we have an answer. We finally have a plan of attack. So screw all the scary stuff. Here we go. Um, and we dove into it head first and we were super blessed our first round, uh, first transfer we got pregnant. I had a, you know, fairly easy, very textbook pregnancy, nothing complicated, no signs of anything wrong. And we were blessed with a healthy baby. And so

Nicole: On your first round of IVF?

Samantha: Yeah. So, you know, to us, it was like, okay, great. IVF is the answer. It, you know, we were very naive now after all we've been through and thinking IVF is a guarantee.

Nicole: Sure, sure. And I have the benefit of knowing a bit about your future story when you said that. That's why I'm like, oh my goodness. Like that just sets you up in a way that makes the rest of the story very challenging.

Samantha: Yeah. I mean, one good thing that came from having that early success and kind of just living this dream of like, we had our miracle son and everything was great. We realized how much money we had spent to get to that point. And we realized that, you know, even though we both have great insurance, it didn't cover much of anything. Um, so with that, we started our foundation called the Bundle Of Joy fund. And we work with the clinic here in Charlotte called the Reach Clinic in order to provide grants to in need couples. And, um, that's what we've done for the past six years now. We're really excited. We're like $50,000 short of a million dollars that we've given away. Yeah. So we have 37 babies born already through it and, um, a handful already on the way this year again. Um, so for us, we just thought like, Hey, this is our life mission. This is our goal. God put us through those struggles to have to go through IVF to start this fund. And like, everything was great. And so

Nicole: Sure, sure. And I w I, I definitely want to talk about the, um, the, the foundation, because I know you have some goals for how you want to, like who you want to be able to help, but I'm just so curious to hear, like, what happened after, after you, you know, you had this successful pregnancy and then you try to get pregnant again.

Samantha: Yeah. So the next time Brexton was around three and we're like, okay, we're ready to do this again. And this time I said, Hey, you know what Kyle, like, are you okay if we film and record everything? And he's like, what do you mean? And I said, well, at this point I had already had a blog out. I had talked about IVF, but I was like, let's really let people see what at least our cycle looks like from the medications to the shots, to the doctor's visits. I was like, in my head, that way women going through this for the first time, won't be so scared because they'll see it all. And at least that fear of the unknown will be taken away. And he was like, okay, great idea. So that's what we did, you know, we opened ourselves up to questions and

Nicole: You've been very public about your infertility.

Samantha: Yeah. We were like, Hey, like, this is what it looks like, but walking into it and knowing that our first cycle had worked and I had this great pregnancy, we really were very, very naïve to what IVF looks like on the other side. Um, you know, with the Bundle Of Joy fund, I have read applications of people that have gone through a miscarriage or have had failed cycles. And I just, you know, I felt really blessed that it had worked and just very confident from the stance of, you know, the doctors are like, oh, on paper, you know, you're perfect. Your uterus is great. Lining's great. You're young. Like you've already had your first one with no problems. Like your success rate is great, you know? And so we just never thought differently. So, I mean, literally walking into that clinic, like, we weren't scared, we weren't apprehensive. It was, it was like a family reunion.

Nicole: Like we did this before, we got this, we're ready.

Samantha: We knew all the nurses and the doctors from working with them on the foundation. So, you know, it was just like chit chatting away. We did, it did our thing went for the first blood test. They were like, you're pregnant, went for two, three, and oh, your numbers are more than doubling. You're great. And it was like, awesome, awesome. We, you know, like, didn't think anything of it. And so at five weeks, because everybody knew like when we were transferring and how long the wait was, we put it out there, like we're pregnant. And, um, you know, like we're excited. And, and I mean, with Brexton there was no cramping, no bleeding, no, I, it was textbook easy pregnancy. Um, so right after we announced just the following week, uh, out of nowhere went through miscarriage and I, it was just devastating. Yeah. Unbelievable.

Samantha: I'm like this, this isn't happening. What, like this, this isn't happening. And so it was really, really hard. And, um, I've talked about it very openly, um, you know, on the blog and podcast. And, and I wrote a book called Fighting Infertility where I documented that, um, I'm me and on our marriage, it was probably the hardest year that we've ever had to face. And everything seemed to just spiral out of control because it was such a devastating and tremendous loss. And we didn't really know how to manage that. We had never felt like anything like that before. Um, so it really took us a good year to feel that like ourselves and our marriage was in a place to try again. And this time I was like, uh, I really mentally cannot let people in on this journey because I, it was amazing. The support of the social community really helped me get through so much. Um, but then also just the, I know people say things and they don't mean them in a harmful way, but ,

Nicole: I mean, did people, I'm not gonna, I don't, I obviously, I know people mean as supportive, but was it things like, if you just do a, B and C, then you'll get pregnant and you're just like, just just stop.

Samantha: It's a lot of people saying things that places a lot of blame on the woman. So a lot of people were like, Hey, just so you know, you probably miscarried because you traveled or, um, like I know you still work out. That's probably what did it, or, um, you know, you guys live like a very fast paced lifestyle. You should have stayed home in bed on bed rest, like basically saying like it was my, it was your fault. Yeah. And so that was hard because I already felt obviously, like, it was my fault, even though, you know, now with working with a fertility therapist and the doctor's like, I know I didn't do anything wrong, but at that time you're already questioning yourself. And so it was difficult. Um, and that's where really now I feel like I'm strong enough to like, block that out.

Samantha: And I have some really good infertility support circles that they're like my go-to girls. Um, but you know, it was hard, but at the same time, it was wonderful that because it was public, it made it easier for other women to say me too. Um, so there, there was that silver lining of women being like, I didn't feel like I could talk about it. And for us, I didn't have a choice. Like we made that choice to be open. So then we were, you know, almost forced to be very public about it. And it ended up now, I'm obviously not happy that it happened, but happy that it opened up that conversation, um, for others.

Nicole: Sure, sure, sure. 100%. Yeah. You it's like, it's difficult in the moment, but it's lovely that you were able to see, you've been able to see a bright side to some of these things.

Samantha: Yeah. So, so we went through the third round, um, we did it in private. It ended up being a complete failed cycle. So, you know, our embryo didn't even take and I was like, okay, now what? And so I sat down with the doctors, they did their tests, everything came back, you know, totally in the normal range. And so they were like, well, I don't know. Would you consider trying a surrogate? So, or gestational carrier? Um, you know, cause we still had embryos and it was like, okay, that's what you guys think. That's what we'll do. Um, so the,

Nicole: I mean, I'm not, I can't obviously be in your shoes, but it seems a little bit like, but I, I carried a baby to full term. So it did that feel sorta like, I don't know.

Samantha: It did, it was really hard to hear. Cause I said, well, clearly my body knows what to do and you know, to their, um, side though, they were like, yeah, but you got pregnant. Then you had a miscarriage now, you know, the embryo didn't even implant at all. So you're really declining, you know, I was like, okay, I get that. That's fair. So, um, we had to find us a GC in the midst of COVID, which was challenging in and of itself. Um, one day I would, you know, if I ever do a second book, I would like to write about it because it's really hard. Um, it's hard to find that perfect person. And, um, I'm very blessed that we actually met in a very random way. We became friends. Um, we still talk to this day, you know, um, I have a very great relationship with this woman and her family, but getting there, um, you know, there was other meetings or people who didn't pass medical and every time just felt like another failed round, another failed.

Samantha: And um, so anyway, she, she went in, we did the transfer, um, there's just like a whole nother level of stress that comes with it. Not like not being in control, I guess is a great word. Um, and it was funny. I, I saved this text message. I will never forget being at target. And I sent my husband a text message and I was like, there is no hallmark card or present that says, thank you for putting our baby in you. What do I get this woman. And I was just like crying, pacing, target. And I was like, nothing seems correct. And it's funny. I like want to go to hallmark and be like, you need to make one card that covers this topic. Anyone listening out there, I ended up getting her like cozy socks, comfy lounge wear or robe and a bunch of books.

Samantha: Like I was like, okay, that seems, that seems like a good, thank you. Good luck. I don't know what to say. Um, so anyway, she went through it and ended up having a failed cycle as well. And at this point we're all just like, wait, what is, what has happened? Um, so I obviously met with the clinic and then I ended up getting a second and third opinion. Um, and all the opinions came back the same of, because I'm a proven uterus and she's a proven uterus, which I love that term. It's like what, but yes, it's true. Yes. Yes. Because we're both proven uteruses. They said meaning we've had, uh, we've, you know, birthed children before everybody was like, it has to be something with the embryos, which totally confused me because I'm like, okay. But they were all graded. Like the, the ones that we had already transferred were like our highest graded. So basically Brexton and the first two sisters were the highest graded. And then there was a next level of another embryo, which we transferred to our surrogate that didn't work. And then our remaining embryos were either that level or lower. And so I was like, I just don't understand, you know, I'm not understanding this. So I was like, are you all really telling me seven years later, I have to go back through egg retrieval. And they're basically like, yep. Yep. That's that's what we're saying, so,

Nicole: Okay. Okay. Cause before you had done, you had done the egg retrieval and you had all these embryos, but then now they're saying we don't want to use any of those embryos at all.

Samantha: Yes. And so I was like, oh, oh boy. Or they're like, we can't, we can keep trying, but like, right, right. These that were quote unquote graded higher, aren't working, you're only lessening. And I was like, oh boy. So I was like, all right, that's it. I love my clinic here. Um, literally they're like family, but I was like, I'm going to research and choose a different clinic because I just feel like I, this is like our, our last chance almost. And so I need to know that I took every possibility possible and you know, people were like really sad and this and that. And I was like, honestly, I looked at it from the viewpoint of, I'm grateful that we can even have these options to do this because six years later of working with patients in need, couples that need grants to go through it, like it's a blessing just to be able to go through it.

Samantha: And then I became this crazy person of, okay, I'm not only going to do this, you know, egg retrieval, IVF, I'm going to do every single holistic thing or diet or supplement known to man because I'm seven years older now and I'm going to do all the things. So that's what I did from acupuncture to supplements, to diet, to you name it, we did it. Um, and they were very pleased that we, after a retrieval had a number of very high quality embryos. So super excited because, um, you know, what, seven years in reproductive years, I feel like it's dog years, right? Yeah.

Nicole: Yeah. It's, it's a long time.

Samantha: Yeah. And, and so they were really pleasantly surprised that the quality and number was the same as it was seven years ago. Almost the quality. I think we got a few more higher graded embryos, you know, and I don't, I'm not an embryologist, so I'm not a thousand percent sure how they grade them and all that, but they were happy. So I was happy. So we go St. Patrick's day we do the transfer. And just, honestly, everything felt like every sign that was possible. Um, I mean, you, you're going to think I'm crazy, but literally flying out to the clinic for, uh, like our transfer and egg retrieval, or I'm sorry, as far as retrieval, I was doing a crossword puzzle and like four of the answers in there. Cause I always joke that, like I was like, I kind of feel like a hen, you know, like when they're collecting your eggs, like they, one was like eggs, hen, ova, or something and you're like, this

Nicole: This has to be a sign. Yeah.

Samantha: And then, uh, our transfer, my mom found these necklaces and all my grandma's old stuff in, in a jewelry box together, were two necklaces. And one said, number one mom. And one was a four leaf clover and the St Patrick's day. And just like all these things. And, and just knowing that I had done everything from a nutritional physical standpoint, we had brand new embryos, I just said, okay, we've got it. And so, um, they did the transfer, you know, did my day of bedrest, flew home. Um, they wanted a blood test in nine days and I starting at day seven. I was like, I'm going to take a test. No, I'm not. I'm going to take a test. No, I'm not. I just kept taking it in the box, out of the box, in the box, out of the box. And so finally at like 10 30 at night on day eight, when I was going in at like seven, the next morning, I was like, all right.

Samantha: All right, Kyle, we're going to do this. And so we took two tests cause I was like do 'em both. And it was like the longest three minute wait. And it said pregnant. And it just was like, we did it, you know, after a miscarriage, a failed cycle, failed surrogate cycle. Like we finally did it again. Um, and just over the moon, I don't think I slept all night. Cause I was just up looking at nursery stuff and just on cloud nine. So I, I walk into, uh, get my blood draw and, you know, literally announcing to the nurse, like I'm pregnant. I took a test, but here's, here's my blood like, go ahead and confirm that, you know, and just woo. We did it and I get the call that afternoon and they said, Hey, um, you know, you, you are pregnant, but just so you know, like at this stage for HCG level, we'd like you to be at 50 you're at 48.

Samantha: Don't worry, like super close. As long as it keeps going up. We're fine. Right. Okay. Little, little bit of wind out of my sail, but I was, you know, that's fine. And they're like she could have been implanted a little bit later. Don't worry. Okay. So we go in 48 hours, they call, Hey, we just want to let you know, your number only went up to a 49 or it went up like a point. And they said, but I, I had been traveling. So I was at a different lab, like, okay, we'll go get retested in two days because maybe it's the lab. So I go get tested and it's a 65. And they're like, well, we hate to tell you this. But you know, obviously we think it's going to be an ectopic pregnancy cause it's not really doing anything, but because it went up like 17 points or whatever it was, you have to go for another test.

Samantha: So this point I'm just devastated. And so go two more days for another blood test, get a call. Well, this is weird. It's at 112. What does that mean? I don't know. It means you got to go for another blood test in 48 hours. Okay. Go again. We're over 700 now. What does this mean? I don't know. We're going to have to wait until it's time to go to an ultrasound. Okay. So eight days later, I think it is, we go for an ultrasound and they said, um, cause I would have been right at six weeks. They said, um, well you're measuring more like five weeks. We see a sack, but we don't see anything in it. But your numbers are now like, I don't know, 16,000 or something huge. So I'm like, what do you think? And uh, they're like, well we think she might've, you know, implanted a little bit late and, and you just, you don't typically see anything on an ultrasound at five weeks.

Samantha: So we wait another week we go back and I'll never forget the, the lady doing the ultrasound. She was like, oh, the sack really hasn't grown too much. I still don't see anything in it. And we're like, okay. Then she's like, wait a second. Wait. And she moves the probe the other way. It's just like, whoa, whoa, wait, wait, here's the sack. Wait, there's the little like, you know, fetal pool and little, I think they refer to it as a yolk sack if I'm saying that correctly. So Kyle's like, what's the first thing you saw then. So she's starts moving around and she's like, well I see two sacks. I'm like, excuse me. So then, you know, the OB or midwife comes in and she's like, well, they did this thing where they couldn't hear the heartbeat yet, but they saw the flicker. So they're like, well, we have one sack with a fetal pole and a flicker.

Samantha: And we have another sack separating into all the correct parts. I'm like, what in the world does this mean? Well, at some point she could have split, been delayed. Maybe that's why everything has been so weird. You have to come back in eight more days. For the love of God, this is the longest maybe pregnancy, you know? And I'm just like, are we feeling good about this? I'm like help me out here. Cause this is a lot. Yeah. And then like, we're feeling good about this. It's like, we see the flicker and this other sack forming the right parts. So what are you telling me? I might have like identical twins and they're like, well, but if you only put one in, that's kind of what it's looking like. And now I'm just over the moon, just getting my hopes up, looking at matching outfits and names.

Samantha: And um, I also, at this time they had done my blood again, I'm like over 30,000 at HCG level feel like utter crap, right? Like morning sickness, just boobs hurt. And I'm like so pregnant. Right. So we go in eight days later and I mean, just at this point, like walked in. Yes. Apprehensive, but just also excited. I'm thinking, well, all this seems to add up why things were so kind of wonky in the beginning and they're wonky then now it's going to be okay. And so, you know, we get in there and they do the ultrasound and she just got real quiet and Kyle and I knew we're like weird. We don't see anything. And she's like, yeah, I'm sorry. There's nothing in either sack. And at this point I would have been about 10 weeks and their one sack's measuring like seven weeks and the other's like under six still.

Samantha: So, um, unfortunately another miscarriage. Yeah. So I was like, well, what happened now? What, you know, um, just kind of in utter disbelief. And so they said, um, you know, you're gonna stop your meds. I had to call my other clinic and talk with them and they're like, we're going to stop your meds. You should, you know, start to bleed. You might miscarry naturally. But unfortunately you're pretty far along. It might not happen on its own. It might just, you might just continue to essentially slowly grow two empty sacks. So that was really hard. And um, I told Kyle and I even, I wrote it down cause I like to journal when I can't figure out things. And I said, never in my life did I think I was going to pray for a miscarriage because a natural miscarriage is my best option on the table.

Samantha: Like it was so painful because literally they gave me the option of like, hopefully you'll miscarry naturally. Um, your other option is you can take these pills. They're very painful. It's very traumatic. And anywhere between 30 and 50% of the time, you have to go in for a DNC anyways. And your third option is to go in for a DNC, but it's a procedure. And I literally looked at my husband and I was like, how is a natural miscarriage my best option? Like how has our life and trying to have a sibling for our son come to this. Um, and actually this is the first time talking about it. So sorry you have like a therapy session on your hands.

Nicole: No, no, no. I think this is going to, I mean, this is going to be incredibly helpful for folks and I'm grateful that you feel comfortable sharing

Samantha: So crazy because the first time I miscarried, it was out of nowhere. I instantly had these horrendous cramps and then just was gushing blood and clots and knew instinctively like, obviously this is not good. And then it went to getting off my meds and sitting there every day for like eight days. Every time I went to the bathroom being like, please let there be blood. So I know that something's starting because I don't, I don't want to go to the hospital and I don't want to take these pills. Like, like what shitty options like Hmm, exactly. Right. It just wouldn't happen. Wouldn't happen. And, and my, my midwife, uh, and the OB were like are you having cramping. I was like, Nope, like, are you still have morning sickness? Yup. You know, I still had all the signs of being pregnant. So I went in and you know, basically we're like well it's time.

Samantha: Like if we have to, we have to do something. Um, and so what ended up helping my decision was just reaching out to a lot of people, women in the community and saying, Hey, if you wouldn't mind sharing, did you go the pill route or the DNC route? Like my body's just not. And it's hard to like when your body doesn't release the pregnancy naturally because in my head I'm like, no, my body really wants to be pregnant. And so it's, it's termed a blighted ovum. And, and I guess I had two, which I just couldn't believe. Um, so after reaching out to a lot of women in the community, many of them, uh, said even the ones, some who had taken the pills ended up having to go for a DNC. And I just hate everything about going under. But, um, there happened to be a woman who was going to be able to perform it at the hospital who is an IVF patient herself.

Samantha: Um, and I reached out to a few doctor friends and they were like, you know, there's something called where they'll just, um, they won't scrape and because scraping can cause scarring for your uterus. So had long talk with her and just begged her. I was like, please, like, I dunno if there's a word gentle in this procedure, but please protect my uterus. And she was like, I understand, like I've been in your shoes. I, I fully understand what you're going through. And so, um, yeah, we haven't even told anybody yet, but last Friday I had to go for a DNC and it was horrific. I mean the, the procedure, I shouldn't say horrific. It was just a procedure was I, you know, obviously didn't feel any of it, but it was horrific to start back at square one. Feel like I did everything right. I was pregnant. I was not pregnant. I was pregnant. I was not pregnant. I was having possibly twins. We were for the first time, because in 2018 we lost her before we got to really see a heartbeat. Like this is the first time since Brexton that we saw anything on the screen. And even though it was just like, they call it a flicker flutter. They're like, there's something there. Um, so it was like so much hope and then just gone, gone and nothing you could do. And so it's, it's been hard. Um, sure. It's so,

Nicole: I mean, it's, it's just, it's a lot. And then not understanding why things happen when you feel like you do everything right is always like the struggle.

Samantha: Yeah. And it's just even hard when, even when it comes to a miscarriage and they're like, okay, it's not happening naturally. Like you need to make a choice. Just, I, I literally was like, I don't want to, can somebody like, sure, I don't, I don't want to do either. Um, no, thank you. And option, like, I, I don't, I don't, because I just kept saying like, what if we just keep waiting? And they're like, we're sorry, it's over. And it was, it's just hard to accept that because I was like, but I saw it and they're like, but it's gone. And, and you're so far behind now, like it's not going to happen. So it's just hard.

Nicole: It's just a lot. I, I wish that, and that, and I wish I knew the right that what, what to say, but it's, it's just, it's just hard.

Samantha: There's really nothing to say. And, and for anybody out there who's like, you know, do you feel like the DNC was the right choice? Like, I don't, I, I don't know. Um, it was really tragic when I miscarried naturally like seeing those clots and kind of saving them. And I talk about, at one point I had one at the clinic and I saved it so they could look, they're like, no, you know, that's not it. And then afterwards, cause I had what was called in 2018, a threatened miscarriage. So I was bleeding heavily, but my cervix was closed. And then when they retested me, my number, my HCG level had dropped. So they knew it was going to come where, and it was just devastating to be like miscarrying. And, and I talk about in my book, one of the most horrific things was like, you know, that one of these clots contains your, your baby.

Samantha: And I would just like wrap them all up and cry and like say a prayer and not know what to do with them. And, and now this time was so confusing. Cause every time I went to the doctor, my levels were going up, but I wasn't growing anything. And then I essentially went to sleep and the whole thing was taken care of. And I didn't feel like, even though it was so tragic, like seeing all that come out of you in my own little weird way, like I had a, I don't feel like I had closure, but like now with having to go through the DNC, like I guess I felt at least a little more connected to the process. Just like you go to sleep, you wake up and it's over. So yeah, you're right. It's hard. There's just, it's just hard. Yeah.

Nicole: It's just hard. And I will, you know, not that my opinion makes a difference, but I do like to tell people like, whatever choice you make in that moment was the right choice. You know, everyone, you know, you do the best. We each do the best that we can with the information that we have and our body compass checks and things that feel right. And you do the best that you can. And in the moment, like that's, that's, that's all that each of us can ever do.

Samantha: Exactly. And I'm really blessed. I have a midwife. Um, she's amazing. And you know, so she kind of led me through it and she was the one that actually found that the surgeon, you know, was somebody who understood infertility and was going to take their time. And, and I was very lucky and feel very lucky to have somebody who would listen. Um, and I've learned now over the past almost decade to be your own advocate, but I'm, I feel very blessed after talking to a lot of women to know that, you know, my midwife will sit down and, and sit in that room with me as I cried and be like, Hey, here's the option of this. And here's the option of this. And like, there's no good choice. There's no right choice. Like, but let's lay all of our options out on the table. And, and I think, you know, finding, uh, a care like somebody in the medical field, like that is crucial for your journey 100%.

Nicole: 100%. So at this point, I mean, I know you're still early in the process and I definitely want to save some because I know you're really passionate about talking about your foundation, that we can talk about your foundation, but have you, have you thought about, are you going to continue with fertility treatments or do you have an end point where you're like, we can't do this anymore. And you can say, I don't want to answer the question. Like you're fresh.

Samantha: Um, I mean, it is kind of crazy, um, because I am actually like still spotting from a DNC, but I, you know, Kyle and I talked about it and we're not ready to give up and we're kind of figuring out next steps moving forward. Like, is it with myself? Is it with the surrogate? What does each option look like? Um, I think the hardest part has been just for our son. Um, we were, you know, he knows every round that we go through, he's getting older. Um, for him, we didn't really totally tell him like yes or no, she doesn't obviously know quite what happened. It's just that, you know, it hasn't happened yet, but he's really such a strong motivator for us to keep trying, even when we do feel defeated.

Nicole: Sure sure. Well my goodness. I I know you talk more about this also in your your book Fighting Infertility. I know that, um, this can take a toll on your relationship. And I know you talk about in the book, like how you all were able to work through that. So I would encourage folks who have struggles with infertility to pick up the book it's called Fighting Infertility. And of course, we'll link that up in the show notes. Um, and I do want to ask how have you taken care of yourself during this journey?

Samantha: Well, I definitely think that what we learned in, and it's funny, you talk about the book because my husband and I were just joking today. He was like, Jesus criminy, since you finished the book, because when the book ends, it talks about looking for a surrogate to now, he was like, you have a whole nother book of stuff that you've gone through. Um, but each failed round since having the first miscarriage, hate to use the word has gone better, but because we saw a marriage counselor and because we understand what each other are feeling and because we have the right tools to talk to each other, which I know sounds so dumb, we've been together for like 13 years, married 10, you would think, you'd know how to talk to each other, but it really took a marriage counselor to be like, hold on, go back to the basics. And now this round, you know, I feel like with his support and understanding how he processes and him understanding how I process, we've been able to really find a better balance so that, you know, we're obviously both hurting, but we're not taking that hurt out on each other. We're a team. And we're going to face this problem instead of tearing each other apart because we're hurt. Yeah.

Nicole: Yeah. Yeah. That makes perfect sense.

Samantha: Yeah. I have realized you find small victories through all the hard times because that's kind of what helps you keep fighting. Yeah. Can survive, right? Yeah. Yeah.

Nicole: So let's talk about your Bundle Of Joy foundation. You said that I think this is just amazing as you, you found out that IVF is expensive, like it ain't cheap and as you said, insurance also is not covering it. So I think it's just a lovely thing that you've created this opportunity for people to get help and assistance with IVF. And I know you're really passionate about spreading the word so you can help serve more folks in that capacity. So tell us about that

Samantha: Right now. Um, we're with the Reach Clinic here in Charlotte, our hope, and we had hoped to expand to more clinics by now, but obviously COVID happened. Um, but our goal in the future is to expand to more clinics, be able to help more couples, but then really in the last year or two, what we've also started focusing more heavily on is just education and empowerment and understanding that, you know, not only are we fortunate enough to financially be able to go through this, and that's why we understand the financial aspect, but I feel blessed to have, you know, support from women in the community or an amazing midwife and to have the resources and knowledge to make informed decisions. And that's not out there for everyone. Um, you know, it might start at the family level that they don't feel like they have support from their family, or it might start at the clinic level that their clinic isn't giving them the information that they need, or they might be, you know, nervous to speak up or ask certain questions or back, you know, when I was 27 years old going through this, I didn't know what to ask.

Samantha: Um, and so just really working on spreading the word, spreading the knowledge, connecting people to other organizations or other support groups or other women, because I I'm a firm believer that we all learn from other people's journeys. And I, I absolutely applaud and love all the doctors in this field, but sometimes like, it's not even the way the doctor presents it. Like after my egg retrieval my doctor and nurse fully gave me a piece of paper that said, like eat salty foods, like do this or do that. But it was other women in the community being like, Hey girl, like go get some top ramen or some tomato soup. I don't know what it is about the blue Gatorade, but like get the real blue Gatorade, not the sugar free one. And like, it's just this connection. Or, you know, like your doctor will be like, oh, take a stool softener. But it's like, people like me and my book that are like, okay, go get that lemon flavored one that you have to drink. It's really salty. Really. Like, just, there's something about that peer to peer support

Nicole: About community, community, community is so important community, a village it's, it's so important.

Samantha: Yes. And like, you know, I did tell a few people about my procedure on Friday and specifically other women who had been through it and just being able to ask them like, Hey, is this normal? Or did you feel this? Or how did you emotionally feel? And like, knowing that my feelings are like validated and I'm not alone in that is just so helpful.

Nicole: Yup. Yup. Yup. And to be clear, it's not like you're saying obviously you're discounting what the doctor says or anything like that, but you, you, there's something that's important and we all do it. Our doctors do it, we all do it. We'd like to talk to people who've been through something similar or who can provide us like a more firsthand account. Yes. And, and, you know, it's just, it's just something, something to that level of support that, that helps you in some of these difficult situations.

Samantha: Exactly. Like my midwife sat down with me and she's like, now look, I've talked to patients who took, you know, the pills at home. And it was very scary because there was, you know, a lot of clotting and, and a lot of, you know, a lot of blood. And she was like, now don't forget, you're farther along than you were. So it's going to be more. And, you know, she told me it, but it wasn't until speaking to another woman who had a blighted ovum, also and told me her experience and told me she ended up having to go for the DNC and like hearing it from her, even though my midwife, you know, she held my hand, she looked me in the eye. Like she was crying right along with me. Like, I, I felt her love, but it also was somebody who has themselves recently been through it to sit down and be like, you know, this, this is like step by step, what it was like for me.

Samantha: And knowing that everybody's experience is different. Sure. But you know, just, it's amazing what this community does. It's amazing how many women and I always tell people this, you don't have to be like me and write a book or go on podcasts and share that. But there's like closed apps or groups that you can be completely anonymous. And I say, you feel free to use a fake name. Nobody cares. Like, just get that support, share your story, get that advice or guidance or love or understanding back from other women in the community. Like nobody will judge you, nobody will, you know, belittle you like, you will leave those conversations, just feeling like, all right, I'm in a really shitty situation, but others have been there too. And like I can learn from their experience 100%,

Nicole: 100%. So I guess as we wrap up, what is your favorite or what is the, your favorite piece of advice that you'd like to give to someone who is struggling with fertility?

Samantha: I like to tell people struggling with fertility that you are so much stronger than you think. Um, it really took me writing a book to really realize that as I sat there and obviously wrote it all, but I wrote chapters like very out of order and just kind of, when I, you know, when something would hit me, I would write and then I piece it together. But when I sat down and, and read it cover to cover and realized everything that we had been through and everything that we had overcome, and I talked to women and I'm like, you were so strong for, you know, rearranging your schedule to get to those doctors appointments, to taking those medications, to like having to function in the real world while on Clomid like, you deserve a medal for that. Um, every small thing like should be looked at as a victory and a sign of your strength. And so it's okay if there's days that you feel defeated or broken or sad or alone, like those feelings are valid and they're natural and they're going to happen. But also just realize that inner strength you have in you, whether it's to keep pushing or to keep asking questions or whatever, it might be like a skill like women in this community are so strong. And sometimes it just takes some, somebody else in the community to remind them of that. Absolutely.

Nicole: I love, love, love that. Well, where can people find you? I know I'll link all of your website and things in the show notes, but, um, I know you do a lot with Instagram. You have a lovely Instagram feed where you get the videos and things. Some of them are heartbreaking, oh my God, the one had me in tears when you had the, the buckets of the needles. And I was like, oh my God, it's just a lot. So you're very, you just, there's a, um, a great opportunity for people to connect with you. They, I don't know if you want to talk about that or any other social media platforms at all.

Samantha: Yeah. So I'm um, @samanthabusch, Busch being B U S C H. Um, and I do, I try to kind of share everything and, you know, people, sometimes they're like, oh, don't you feel weird putting everything on social? And I'm like, no, because if other people hadn't shared their stories with me, like even in this situation last week, like I would still be floundering and confused. And, and it's just, I know that obviously you see it in the news and the world. There's a lot of bad social media, but there's so much good especially for our infertility community. That, um, as I mentioned before, like search the hashtags, follow, you know, the other people, and I just feel like you learn so much

Nicole: A hundred percent, 100%. Well, again, thank you so much for agreeing to come onto the podcast and share your story with my audience. I super-duper appreciate it.

Samantha: Well, and thank you honestly, um, since everything is still so fresh and new, I besides writing about it really haven't talked about it yet. So it was, you know, I, I feel like getting it off my chest. It does help. So thank you.

Nicole: Wow. Wasn't that an incredibly informative, honest, heartbreaking episode. I'm really grateful again, that Samantha was willing to come on and share her truth about her infertility journey. Now, you know, after every episode, when I have a guest on, I do something called Nicole's Notes and here are my Nicole's Notes, my takeaways from my conversation with Samantha. Number one, this sounds obvious, especially after you hear this conversation, but I want you to know how common it is that infertility can be so freaking frustrating. Okay. It's also very much so unfair. You can do everything right, and still not have success with fertility treatments. And it's like, it seems crazy because there are people who maybe are not in the healthiest shape or haven't done the right things, or even don't want to be pregnant, who end up getting pregnant. And it all just feels very, very unfair.

Nicole: Fertility is also invisible. It's not something that people can see and because it's invisible that can make it more challenging to manage on a day-to-day basis. So do get help. If you need to, as Samantha mentioned, community can be really important and it can be an online community that can be very helpful in order to help you navigate the difficulties of infertility. You also may need to see a therapist who specializes in infertility, but know that it's frustrating. It's unfair, it's invisible. All of those things make it difficult. All of those things are normal. Don't feel bad. Don't feel guilty about feeling all of those things. Unfortunately, that is a part of the infertility journey for many. Number two in this podcast, and in my work, I talk a lot about advocating for yourself during pregnancy and birth. But the reality is you just have to advocate for yourself period when it comes to your health. Samantha, unfortunately it took a year for her to be diagnosed with PCOS, despite the fact that she was continually bringing up that there were concerns and that she had things that she was, that she was worried about. If you have concerns, if you don't feel right, regardless of what it is in relation to your health, do be persistent until you feel like you get an answer. Another area where this came up recently for me was a podcast guest. We had back, um, a few episodes ago, Dr. Kristen Robinson, who was a breast radiologist. And when folks have breast masses and they're concerned about them and their doctors dismiss them as not being anything significant. And unfortunately, sometimes it turns out to actually be cancer just in general, if something is going on with your health, continue to ask questions, find another doctor.

Nicole: If you need to, until you get answers and you feel satisfied with those answers, okay. Number three, for the love of God, y'all do not offer any unsolicited advice to anyone who's going through infertility treatment. I know it may come from a place of trying to be helpful, but I can tell you time and time and time and time and time again, that people who are struggling with infertility, they really don't appreciate unsolicited advice about things they can do. They haven't done. They should do all of that. If they want advice, they will ask for it. So do not offer any unsolicited advice for people who are going through infertility treatment. What you can offer is things like, I know maybe that's, I know that's hard, or I'm here for you if you need me, or just general words of support without advice. Okay. Also related to that, resist the urge to ask couples when they're going to have children, it is a common thing that we do.

Nicole: And I know that I've probably done it myself as well, where you ask a newly married couple or newly partnered couple, when they're going to have children, it's sort of a natural thing that we ask. But again, because infertility is invisible, you may not know what they're struggling with to have children, or if they're having some struggle behind the scenes when it comes to having children. So although it's common and although you mean well, just resist the urge to ask couples when they're going to have children. Alright. So there you have it for this episode, go ahead and subscribe to the podcast, wherever you're listening to me right now. And if you feel so inclined, you know, I would love it. If you leave that review in Apple Podcast, in particular, it helps the show to grow helps other women find the show. The show has consistently been in the top 30 on the Apple Parenting charts, and I am so grateful for your support in helping to make that happen.

Nicole: And we can help it climb up the charts even more when more of you subscribe. So subscribe to the podcast, wherever you're listening to me right now. Again, I appreciate it. Also do sign up for that workshop, How To Make The Best Of Your Prenatal Care Experience. It's drnicolerankins.com/workshop. It's going to be super fun, interactive live. I cannot wait to see you there for that on June 15th. So that's it for this episode do come on back next week. And until then, I wish you a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast. Head to my website, drnicolerankins.com to get even more great information, including free downloadable resources on how to manage pain and labor and warning signs to look out for after birth. You'll also find information on my free online class, on How To Make A Birth Plan That Works as well as everything you need to know about my signature online childbirth education class, the Birth Preparation Course. Again, that's drnicolerankins.com and I will see you next week.