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In a The Doctors exclusive, Gretchen Rossi and fiancé Slade Smiley open up about their emotional journey to have a baby. The couple is best known for appearing on the reality show, The Real Housewives of Orange County.
Gretchen and Slade first met 15 years ago but did not start dating until 2010. In a Season 8 episode of the popular reality series, Gretchen proposed to Slade. Since that time, they have been busy planning their wedding, as well as their future family.
“I always knew that I wanted to be a mother,” Gretchen says. “Slade knew that it was something that was very important to me, but he also told me he had a vasectomy.”
Although a vasectomy reversal can be successful, it is not guaranteed to restore a man’s fertility, and the procedure comes with a lengthy recovery process. The couple says they had concerns about waiting too long, because Gretchen already had surpassed the ideal age to conceive.
“We just decided that in-vitro fertilization was a much quicker way to make things happen for us,” Gretchen explains.
To begin the IVF process, Gretchen underwent an egg retrieval procedure, while Slade had testicular sperm extraction performed. By the end of the day, Gretchen and Slade’s doctors had successfully harvested 19 eggs along with healthy sperm for fertilization. “We were super thrilled. Everything looked like it was going just perfectly for us,” Gretchen says.
Six days after the fertilization process, however, Gretchen and Slade were informed that none of their embryos were viable for implantation. “Everything had arrested, unfortunately, so we lost all of the embryos,” Slade explains.
The protocols for IVF typically involve the use of three hormone-stimulating medications to help ovulating women produce multiple eggs instead of one. In Gretchen’s case, she and Slade decided to postpone purchasing one of the pricey drugs until they were sure they needed it. Upon learning she did need the drug, Gretchen placed an urgent order, but she still missed her scheduled dose by eight hours.
“If we’re doing everything correctly and the quality of the embryos are there, then the success rates are very high,” IVF and infertility specialist Dr. Brian Acacio says.
Whether the delayed dosage played a part in Gretchen and Slade’s unsuccessful IVF attempt is uncertain; however, Dr. Acacio stresses that a strict adherence to the stimulation protocols is crucial for attaining optimal results. “If you lapse in the stimulation, you’re going to lose momentum, and when you lose momentum, the eggs that we get may not be functionally as good as they could have been,” he explains.
Despite the outcome of Gretchen and Slade’s IVF experience, OB-GYN Dr. Jennifer Ashton urges the couple to stay optimistic. “It’s human nature to always want to find an explanation for things, or in some cases, maybe even to blame,” she says. “We take modern medicine, especially reproduction and IVF, almost for granted today. This is still, in my opinion, a medical marvel and a medical miracle. You had one very unfortunate cycle, and maybe one missed or late dose had a contributory role, and maybe there were other factors. We won’t know until we go forward. I would really encourage you to put the past behind you and stay positive, because I think you guys will be parents.”
Slade’s urologist, Dr. Aaron Spitz, adds that there was more than enough sperm extracted for another round of IVF, if the couple chooses to go through the process again.
“For us, I think we’ve decided to wait a beat,” Gretchen says. “We’re going to take a deep breath and we’re going to do what [Dr. Ashton] was saying about getting back into that positive state of mind, and then go for another round.”
Update: In January 2016, Gretchen and Slade returned to The Doctors to discuss Slade's recent vasectomy reversal. Click here for more.