Women's History Month: Ahnee Min
Never Give Up on Your Dreams: My path to Motherhood & My Life’s Work
By: Ahnee Min
You wouldn’t guess it from my external appearance, but I just had a baby 10 days ago! I feel great! My pregnant belly seems to have shrunk over the past week, my energy is good (though I’m slightly tired from pumping every 3 hours) and oh, I just turned 47 in January!
While it isn’t so unusual to hear about celebrities like Cameron Diaz or Halle Berry pregnant at age 47 or Janet Jackson having her first child at age 50, or even Brigitte Nielsen having her 5th child at age 54; it was however, a monumental, dare I say a historical achievement for me to give birth, since my husband and I had been trying to conceive since 2015. Five years certainly doesn’t sound as bad as some couples who have much longer struggles and worse yet, that end without bringing home a baby, but it was not an easy path for us!
My hope is that in sharing my journey in creating our family, it will encourage young women, older women, all women who know they want to conceive (whether now or in the future), to not be afraid to ask questions, get educated, take measures now to protect your fertility and even go as far as ‘preserve (like egg freezing) your fertility’ so that you have options to carry your own biological children when you’re ready.
Like many women who are focused on their careers or who married later in life, I never thought that once I was ready to start a family, I would have difficulty conceiving. Because we started trying to get pregnant when I was 42 years old, we spared no expense and tried all the amazing ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies) to help us get pregnant. The good news is that there are remarkable treatment options like:
*Inter-uterine Insemination (IUI)( where the sperm is placed in the uterus for those with motility issues or women with fallopian tube issues that could prevent the sperm from meeting the egg),
*Invitro-fertilization (IVF) (where the egg and sperm are fertilized in a lab and the embryo is allowed to grow 5-7 days and their quality level is prescreened so only the most viable embryos are transferred into the uterus),
*Egg freezing (freezing a woman’s own eggs which can be thawed later at a future date and fertilized with a sperm in a lab),
*Intra-cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) where a needle is used to gently aspirate the egg with sperm),
*Donor eggs (where the eggs of a donor are used, usually from a younger woman),
*Pre-genetic Diagnosis (PGD) (a genetic test that helps screen for chromosomal abnormalities), *Surrogates
offering various medical interventions that can address the primary issue involved in successful conception.
However, the bad news is that although “nearly every state has seen a rise in women having their first child after age 35” (Sifferlin, 2014), fertility complications more than double for women in that age group, causing difficulties for one out of every three couples. Even more troubling unfortunately, is that the majority of IVF cycles do not result in pregnancy, requiring multiple rounds, and with only about two thirds (65.3%) of patients (under age 40) successful after six or more cycles of IVF (Smith, et al, 2015).
For women over 40, the likelihood of success with IVF drops significantly. According to
CDC’s “2014 IVF Success Statistics for Age 40 and Over,” (generated from national data from
about 450 reporting clinics and over 200,000 IVF cycles), live birth rates at age 40, 43 and over
44 were 16%, 5%, and 1% respectively. The stats don’t lie, and it was no different for us as well. After trying multiple rounds of IUI, plus 3 rounds of IVF, we decided to take a step back and reevaluate our approach, figure out what our best options were to start our family, and what was most important to us.
While I was always a fan of adoption, I know my husband wanted to first try donor eggs. That took us on a whole other path, researching where, how, and who we could get donor eggs, and importantly from an Asian donor. Little did we know that Asian egg donors are a hot commodity after searching not only egg banks here in the Bay Area, but also overseas and even in Hawaii (knowing there’s a very large Asian population there!), only to find that many donors were already in cycle or had already donated multiple rounds, or simply that there were no donors available, and we had to be put on a waitlist.
It was then that we started turning inward to our family and our personal network. My cousin in LA has a daughter who I’ve known since she was born, who now has 2 kids already of her own and after several casual discussions, she graciously offered to help us. She said, “it’d be an honor to be part of your journey to creating your family.” It was a gift from God and a chance to finally make IVF work for us, using eggs of someone in their early 30’s, so that the embryos would have a higher chance of being viable. And as long as I was healthy in carrying the baby, our chances were good that the transfer of the embryo would stick, and I could carry the baby to term! We realized that there’s so many ways to create a family and that if we were to do another round of IVF, we wanted to maximize our chance of creating our baby, even if it meant using donor eggs.
We were extremely lucky, it took on the first try and 8 months later, our baby boy has arrived, a little bit early (5 ½ weeks early), but he’s in good health and both he and I are doing very well!
And just as we were lucky in finding my 2nd cousin who was so willing to help us, we were extremely lucky in finding the right Care Team and healthcare providers that would help support us along our journey to conceive. Some fertility clinics won’t actually take ‘older’ patients because the success rates for IVF for women over 40 can be so low. In addition, some fertility doctors and OB doctors will just simply discourage you and remind you of all the risks with ‘advanced maternal age’ or ‘geriatric pregnancy.’ But what we choose to focus on can make the difference in whether you succeed.
If I were to give one piece of advice, I would recommend do your own research, find doctors who support your goals, integrate alternative healing therapies/ nutrition/ mind-body therapies as part of a holistic approach to fertility so you can truly thrive and succeed in your family planning goals. We did acupuncture, Chinese herbs, stress-reduction therapies (this whole process with all the hormone injections, appointments, tests, waiting for results, can certainly be stressful!!), nutritional supplements, and put a whole lot of trust in God! And never give up on your dream to have your family because it is possible!
It is because of my struggles with fertility and my realization of the shortcomings of our healthcare system, that led me to change careers, go back to school for my doctorate in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, and open my own Wellness Center focused on women’s health, fertility, pain management, digestive issues, cancer support, as well as emotional health and wellness. Our clinic provides a fully integrated, whole person approach to health and healing no matter what stage of care you are at.
I strongly believe that with better education and awareness for women early on, even in their teenage years to understand their cycles, be aware of their bodies, and be educated about fertility at an early age, will help us eliminate the need for ‘’fertility treatments’ and hopefully help us decrease rates of infertility across any age.
So, as we celebrate Women’s History month in March, let us pause and recognize women’s contributions in science, medicine, business, sports, social movements and so many other fields, because in the past, women’s contributions were often overlooked and omitted from history. And as I reflect on all the inspirational female role models, strong women in my life like my mom, and female teachers and leaders who have shaped and served our country and even our world, let us also honor and recognize our everyday women heroes that have played pivotal roles in building our local communities and families.
I welcome more education, outreach and support around this topic and invite you to visit me and to learn more at Tao Natural Healing, www.taonaturalhealing.com