After nearly a decade of trying, Susie Troxler, a licensed psychologist living in High Point, North Carolina, became a mom for the very first time — at the proud age of 50.
"I don't even have the words, it's surreal," Susie tells TODAY Parents. "I still can't believe it. I spent so much time being me, first, and then being a wife. So now, this idea of being a mom is... it's still a 'wow' for me."
Susie and her husband, Tony Troxler, 61, welcomed their first child and daughter, Lily Troxler, weighing 5 lbs and 12.8 oz., on Sept. 29, 2021. The road that led the couple to that joyous moment was long, and started long before the couple recognized they were having a challenging time conceiving.
"We didn't even realize there was a fertility issue when we got married, because we were just doing the couple thing," Susie explains. "I was working, he was working, and we were just busy." A reported 9% of men and 11% of women will experience fertility issues, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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When five years became eight years without a positive pregnancy test, Susie says the couple started to wonder why they hadn't conceived. During a routine OB-GYN visit, Susie shared her concerns with her physician, who referred her to the Carolinas Fertility Institute in Greensboro, North Carolina.
"My doctor said, 'You know, I would bet money you had fibroids.' And it turned out, she was right," Susie adds. "I had a boatload of fibroids."
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus, according to the Mayo Clinic. During surgery to remove the fibroids, Susie was also diagnosed with endometriosis — a painful gynecological condition in which endometrial-type tissue grows outside the uterus. Tony also had medical issues that were impacting the couple's chances at conceiving.
"Between the two of us we had an Abraham and Sarah thing going on," Susie adds, a Biblical reference to a parable in which God grants Sarah her first child at the age of 90.
Still, Susie and Tony were determined to keep trying. Susie said her doctor was upfront and honest about how difficult it would be for the couple to conceive and for her to carry a healthy pregnancy to term. Her doctor also shared with her the potential risks associated with getting pregnant later in life. Some risks, according to the Mayo Clinic, include gestational diabetes, premature birth and fetal chromosomal abnormalities.
"He was very clear that this was going to be an uphill battle from the beginning," she explains. "I had fibroid surgery January of 2019, went through the healing process, and then they collected egg after egg. I went through several rounds of egg retrieval and the insemination of eggs and none of it took. Nothing, nothing, nothing."
Tony and Susie turned their eyes to egg donation, and after another egg insemination were left with only two viable embryos. Susie underwent a fresh embryo transfer in late 2019, but the embryo did not take. As Covid-19 began to spread in the United States, Tony and Susie were left with one viable embryo and what the couple considered to be their last chance.
"It was not going to happen," Susie explains. "There wasn't supposed to be a baby."
Still, Susie and Tony remained positive and upbeat — an accomplishment Susie contributes to their shared state of mind. The pair didn't consider themselves "less than" just because they weren't parents, nor did Susie think she was somehow "failing" as a woman for having never given birth.
"We weren’t waiting for our joy to happen once we had kids," she explains. "We were in a place where if it turned out we never had children of our own, it would have been ok. We would not have liked it, but we would have been in a place of peace about it."
Still, the couple had one more chance to try to conceive, and decided to give it one last go.
"We had that second embryo, frozen, and we knew we didn't want to leave it frozen forever," Susie adds. "So we moved forward and they did an embryo transfer. And here we are — parents."
Susie says that while the doctors monitored her pregnancy closely, both her pregnancy and her daughter's birth were rather uneventful. Due to her previous fibroid surgery, Susie knew she was going to have a C-section, which was scheduled for September, 29, 2021 — exactly six months from Susie's birthday.
"It's what I call divine irony," Susie adds. "So I knew that was going to be her day."
Susie and Tony have now been parents for two months, and while Susie admits the pair are not sleeping very often, she is enjoying every second of new motherhood.
"You roll with it, because it’s so totally worth it," Susie says. "I actually cherish those moments at three in the morning, when I’m sitting there rocking her and she’s sitting there looking at me with those bright eyes, not the least bit sleepy. Because you don’t get them back."
"So I’m determined to enjoy even the sleep deprivation," she adds, "because it almost never happened.”
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