My name is Melissa Salentine, and I met my husband Ben, in eighth grade at Collierville Middle School. We dated all through high school and college, and we were married in November 2009, so we will celebrate 13 years of marriage this fall. Right after our wedding, I decided to go back to grad school for my Master’s degree. With working full time and being in school, we decided it would be best to wait a little while before we started growing our family. After graduation, we knew we were ready and we were so excited to begin our journey to parenthood. The timing seemed perfect. Our lives, up until this point, had seemed to fit into this “perfect timeline”. We graduated from college, started “real” jobs, saved some money, got married, bought a house, I finished my master’s degree, and we just knew we were ready for children.
But, that’s when the “perfect” timeline came to an abrupt halt and we learned that our timing was not exactly God’s timing. We started trying to conceive in August 2013 and continued until May 2015 with no real answers, and we often heard “give it more time”. The despair we felt month after month was soul crushing and extremely lonely. The only way I knew to cope was to open up to those around me and lean on my husband, family, and friends, even when they didn’t fully understand my pain. Eventually, I tried Clomid for several months, which was finally prescribed through my regular OB/GYN and still nothing happened. Of course, it seemed like everyone around us was getting pregnant with little to no effort. It was a dark place, trying to balance feeling joy for others and deep heartache for Ben and me.
We first visited Fertility Associates of Memphis in the summer of 2015, where we met with Dr. Kutteh. After bloodwork and numerous tests on Ben and myself, they found that Ben’s results were clear. Dr. Kutteh then decided we should start with an IUI as our next step. We ended up doing three rounds of IUI with no luck. Finally, in October of 2015, I had a hysteroscopy, where they found that I had stage four endometriosis and they were able to remove the majority of it. After this procedure, we were hopeful and tried one more round of IUI in December. We were once again met with heartache. Our next step was to go all in with IVF in January 2016. I began injections mid-January and had my first egg retrieval on February 1, 2015, where they retrieved 12 eggs.
The following day, we learned that we only had 3 mature eggs and the panic truly set in. Two days following retrieval, we received the call that only two of our eggs had fertilized. Over the next few days, we prayed so hard for those sweet embryos, as we anticipated those phone calls each afternoon. On day 6, we finally found out that we had two viable embryos, one A+ and one C+ grade. On March 18, 2016, we transferred both embryos, per Dr. Kutteh’s advice and the waiting game began. Ten days later, after bloodwork, the nurse finally called with some good news. We were pregnant and my HCG levels even suggested that it might be twins. We were ecstatic. On December 9, 2016, we welcomed our precious son, Wells Joseph, who is now five years old and thriving. Following Wells’ birth, my regular OB recommended that I get back on birth control as soon as I could to keep my endometriosis at bay, even if our family was not complete.
In the spring of 2020, we decided that we were ready for Wells to have a sibling. At my yearly check-up, my OB told us that we had a short window of opportunity to try to conceive naturally before my endometriosis would begin growing back. The birth control was keeping it at bay so she recommended that we only try on our own for three to four months. On August 3rd, 2020, we again met with Dr. Kutteh and based on our history, we decided to fast track and begin IVF right away. On September 30th, twenty-seven eggs were retrieved, and our numbers funneled down to having two grade A’s, one B grade, and one C grade embryo, which we decided to freeze.
On December 15th, we transferred one grade A embryo and our grade C embryo, per Dr. Kutteh’s recommendation, as this is what we had done our first time around. He said that at the age of thirty-six, the A embryo had a 60% chance of implantation and the C had a 20% chance. On January 11th, we had our first ultrasound, where we were told we were expecting TWINS! Our ultimate plan was for me to have surgery again in January (starting a new insurance calendar year), and transfer one embryo at a time beginning in February. We just knew a transfer wouldn’t work the first time around because it had been four years since I had given birth. God had much bigger plans, and on August 3, 2021, we welcomed our sweet babies, Palmer Mae and Grey Emerson. This was EXACTLY one year from the date that we met with Dr. Kutteh to begin our second round of IVF. Through four rounds of IUI and two full rounds of IVF, we did not receive any support or money from our insurance provider.
To even dream of starting our family, we had to take out a small personal loan, which we didn’t pay off until our oldest son was two years old. When we were ready to start again, we were luckily able to refinance our home to help support the high costs of this process once again. Ben and I both work for small businesses so fertility coverage was not an option. While it is extremely frustrating that we had to make so many sacrifices, it was 1000% worth it and we would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I share my story to give you courage and power to know that it can be done. While it was a very hard and painful process, it taught us so many valuable lessons. We had to lean into each other, which strengthened our marriage and it showed us how to be more empathetic to what others may be silently battling. If you are reading this and you find yourself in the middle of your own journey, I pray this gives you some hope and it is a small reminder that you are not alone.
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