Chelsea Wright’s journey to motherhood was met with major roadblocks along the way.
After trying to conceive for about a year, Wright and her husband, Chris, decided to visit a fertility clinic. They were pleasantly surprised when a test result showed that Wright was actually pregnant. Unfortunately, she would go on to miscarry, and have two more back-to-back miscarriages.
It was a “brutal six months or so,” Wright, tells PEOPLE. In search of the cause, her then doctor suggested fertility testing. “She said, ‘you’re young, you’re in your 20s, ‘let’s do some blood work and see what’s going on, but everything about you seems healthy and normal and fine.'”
The results would be life-changing for the then-29-year-old. “She said, we have some very interesting news, you have started and are well into menopause,” Wright says. “I was devastated, angry, upset, confused. I kept saying, ‘no, no I’m in my 20s, I get my period every month.’ Nothing was really adding up.”
Wright, now 35, was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure and diminished ovarian reserve. She had a high follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level and an anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) level so low it was considered “undetectable.”
Basically, “what that means is, you don’t have any eggs left and if you have any remaining, they’re terrible [quality],” Wright says. She would also learn that her chances of having a biological child were less than 1 percent. It was recommended she use a donor egg.
“I always wanted to be a mom … [I thought I would] get married and have a baby the old fashioned way,” says Wright. “So this news was devastating in a way I can’t explain because the entire picture of seeing life was all distorted.”
Wright wasn’t ready to give up having her own baby, so she searched for another doctor, and after being turned away from some clinics due to her condition, she finally found Dr. Michael Drews, co-founder of Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey, in 2013.
“Chelsea was dealt a pretty tough hand by Mother Nature when it came to her own natural fertility potential,” Dr. Drews, who is also the medical director of IVF at RMANJ, tells PEOPLE. “We do a lot of hormonal blood work to establish egg quality or basically just how old a woman’s ovaries might be acting. In maybe 1 to 2 percent of cases, we find very young women like Chelsea, at age 30, with this situation, diminished ovarian fertility reserve. She not only had it to a mild degree, she had to a very significant degree … her ovaries were behaving about ten to fifteen years older than her young age.”
Dr. Drews still suggested they try for a baby through IVF using Wright’s own eggs, while also managing expectations. “Observing her ovaries on ultrasound we could clearly see that there were eggs there and there was a glimmer of hope that we could push through this,” says Dr. Drews. “Chelsea also had determination like I had never seen before.”
Hearing a doctor express some hope was what Wright needed. “He said, if you’re willing to go on this ride with me, I would love to go with you. It was from that moment on, that positivity…I was like ‘yes, I do want to try!’ Before I went to donor [eggs], I needed to know I did everything I possibly could,” she said. “He had said, ‘I have seen miracles over the years, where it conflicts with science completely. I hate to tell you not to try’… It’s going to be up and down, and up and down, but if you want to do it, I’m with you … I’ll never forget it.”
Fearing that “time was running out” Wright says she underwent an intense IVF protocol that included “around the clock hormone injections.” In about seven months, Wright underwent five IVF cycles with the goal of gathering as many embryos as possible to genetically test, using Comprehensive Chromosome Screening (CCS), to ensure the embryo was genetically normal before implanting.
“We were kind of like prospectors in the Old West sitting there by stream side panning for gold. You might find a fair amount of stones and gravel, but then you find that gold nugget. That’s what we were looking for. And that’s basically what we were doing each cycle,” explains Dr. Drews.
It worked. And in June, 2014 Wright had been implanted with two healthy embryos, and eventually gave birth to her now 3-year-old twin sons, Owen and Duke.
“The insane miracle is the amount,” says Wright. “We didn’t expect to get any and I collected seven [genetically normal] embryos. So I still have some embryos left. I went back when the boys were a year-and-a-half, and had my little girl, CeCe, who was born 11 months ago.”
Wright, now a stay-at-home mom, is sharing her story as part of National Infertility Awareness Week, in the hopes her story helps other women. She also is revealed what she did to stay positive.
“I had friends and family give me [my] IVF injections,” she said. “I took a photo with everyone who gave me [a shot]. I kind of made it into this normal thing. For me, it’s how I had a baby. It’s not, you know, just me and my husband having this baby together … It became a positive thing for me and what lifted my spirits. I made a journal about it with [the photos]. You have to do something to keep your head afloat.”
She also suggests looking into egg freezing. “If you want to have your own child with your own eggs, it’s the best insurance policy you can take out on yourself,” she says. “I have a daughter and we will definitely be talking about this because I could pass this down to her … because when you hear the words it’s too late, I can’t even speak it without crying still, when you run out, you run out.”