It is currently National Infertility Awareness Week® (NIAW), which runs from April 19 through April 25. This movement was launched back in 1989 by RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association to raise awareness about infertility and encourage the public to understand their reproductive health.
The theme for this year’s National Infertility Awareness Week® is “You are not alone.” One suggestion to raise awareness is to share your infertility story.
Well, I debated writing my story because I wasn’t sure if I was “worthy” of discussing infertility now that I have 3 children of my own. How can I talk about infertility when I have kids? But then I realized that my story is worth sharing. I HAVE been there. I DO know what it feels like each month. So I decided to share my story as a success story. Maybe it will give someone out there hope that they’ll eventually have their own child too!
Our story with infertility began in 2009, when something suddenly clicked in my head that I was ready to be a mom. Chaz, on the other hand, was not so ready to be a dad yet. But I was persistent, and we finally decided to begin “trying.”
I thought it would be easy. I mean, they warned us in all of our reproductive education classes that “it only takes one time!” I thought for sure I would be pregnant by the end of the year. In fact, we decided to ring in the New Year of 2010 at home drinking sparkling grape juice because I was convinced I was pregnant.
I was not.
And I wouldn’t be for quite a while…
After several months, I began to worry. What in the world was taking so long? I started to obsess over it. I started turning to “Dr. Google” in order to diagnose myself and look for at-home solutions to whatever our problem might be. This probably wasn’t a good thing. Or maybe it was, because it led me to make an appointment for a consultation with a fertility specialist.
I had read that couples should try for at least one year before seeking professional help. But I called a couple months in advance so that our appointment would land right at the “one-year anniversary” of when we started trying to have a baby. I figured if something happened before then, I could always cancel. And of course, I desperately hoped something would happen!
Now my memory becomes foggy of how things started at the fertility specialist. We went through a few initial tests which took a few months since they had to be timed according to my cycle. Mine included internal ultrasounds, which checked out my ovaries and uterus, and a hysterosalpingogram (HSG). Yes, I know, that’s a mouthful! The HSG checked to see if my fallopian tubes were blocked, which they weren’t. Obviously, Chaz had his own test too.
Eventually, we actually started to DO something. Based on our test results, the first step in our treatment was me taking Clomid, which is a drug taken in pill form and is supposed to stimulate ovulation. Then we would time “things” accordingly in hopes of conceiving.
The first cycle was a fail! The Clomid did not affect my body the way it should. So we never even got to the point of “timing things.” And guess what, the second cycle was a gigantic fail too! This time, the Clomid made my ovaries produce “junk.” Literally, that is what the doctor called them. He said something along the lines of, “These follicles are irregular, which means they are junk.” Some might take offense to that, but our doctor had quite the personality, so I took it with a grain of salt. So again, because of this, it wasn’t worth “timing things.”
Even though these Clomid cycles didn’t give us the desired results, they did give our reproductive endocrinologist some more insight to our situation. I guess these cycles could be considered another test for what was preventing us from conceiving. He suspected that my ovaries wouldn’t respond very well to follicle stimulating hormones (for those who haven’t gone through this, just consider that to mean “fertility drugs.”)
He was right.
We decided that the next step was to go right into an intrauterine insemination (IUI) cycle. This is where it “got real” for me. During an IUI cycle, the drugs for this are actually subcutaneous injections. In other words, I was giving myself shots daily. The needles were only 1-inch long I think, but still… It definitely took some internal pep talks to do the injection each time. The trigger shot (which induces ovulation), however, was a much bigger needle (maybe 2-inches) that went into the muscle in my lower back/upper butt.
I’ll spare you the rest of the details of this procedure, but I’ll let you know that the running joke between Chaz and I was that I needed to bring a bottle of wine and light some candles in the doctors office.
Again, I thought this would be it. But no, it didn’t happen for this IUI cycle.
And it didn’t happen for the next IUI cycle either.
By this point in the process, I was an emotional mess. Every single cycle ended in tears. Chaz learned that there was absolutely no consoling me and it was best for him to keep his distance. We’d have to cancel all plans for the weekend so that I could just lay in bed and wallow in my depression. It was incredibly frustrating for me to feel like I had no control over the situation. It was all just so emotionally draining and exhausting.
Well, after the second IUI cycle failed, our doctor had an official diagnosis for our problem. Or should I say MY problem. He said that I have “diminished ovarian reserve” (DOR). He explained to me in layman’s terms that it meant I “have less eggs than my peers.” Not only that, but he told me that there is a good chance that the eggs that I do have are low quality.
Obviously, this wasn’t the best news I’d ever heard.
But he went on to say that if we proceeded with in-vitro fertilization (IVF), we’d have a 1 in 3 chance of getting pregnant. While the odds weren’t in our favor, they definitely weren’t zero percent. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the following meme!
So we moved along to an IVF cycle. Which actually meant shutting my body down for a month with hormones before things actually got started. That month was horrible for me because it felt like we weren’t making any progress. It felt like a month wasted, even though it was necessary for the procedure to work correctly.
Again, my memory is foggy with most of the details about this cycle. What I do remember is there were A LOT more drugs. I was filling sharps containers like it was my job!
There were also A LOT more tears. This was probably the hardest cycle of the whole process. We were “all in” now, with the most expensive procedure, and pretty much our last resort at getting pregnant. And as the cycle continued on, I wasn’t getting much positive feedback from the doctor.
Because of my DOR, my ovaries weren’t producing many follicles, and even less were growing as they should. The doctor kept increasing my medication to “hit them full force.”
When it came to retrieval day, I had 11 follicles but only 10 eggs were retrieved. Because of the low number, all were fertilized with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). Only 7 little embryos made it to the 3rd day. Four of which were frozen, and 3 were transferred to me.
After what felt like the longest 14 days of my life (maybe because I was getting progesterone shots in my back every 12 hours), I went in for my blood test. Only to find out that it was negative.
Obviously, this was crushing news to me. It was another weekend spent crying in bed.
But we still had 4 little embryos left. It was our last chance. We continued on into the next cycle to do a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET). The added risk to this procedure is that the embryos might not survive the thaw. While all 4 made it to transfer, they showed me a picture and explained the 2 were “doing great” but the other 2 were “dying off.” That didn’t really boost my confidence.
As a side note, the 14 day wait went by much faster. I had actually been in a bad car accident just 2 days before the embryos were transferred to me, and my car was totaled. So we spent the next 2 weeks taking care of that situation. I didn’t have much time to dwell on what might be happening inside my body.
It was the Friday morning before Mother’s Day when I went in for my blood test. I wasn’t feeling very confident at all. In fact, I asked the doctor if we would be able to take a break from this if this cycle didn’t work. He told me that based on my situation, I could take a few months off, but definitely not a year.
I went in to work following my blood test, and after a meeting, I had a voicemail on my desk phone. The doctor, not a nurse but the actual doctor, left me the best news in a voicemail! He was very clinical about it, just stating my hCG level and that it meant I was pregnant. I needed to come in for a follow up blood test on Monday.
I had to immediately go in to a conference room because I was crying some seriously happy tears, and I called Chaz. I don’t even remember what I said to him. I just know that it felt amazing. Even though it was still very early and there was still a lot that could happen, I just couldn’t keep it a secret, so I called my sisters and told them too.
My due date was in January, but in December of 2011 our twin girls were born.
And that is my infertility story. It took 1 month shy of 2 years to get a positive test.
Unfortunately, I know that there are a lot of people who have been on their journey for much longer than that. Please believe me when I say how much my heart hurts for you, and I know how exhausted you must feel. I wish you the best of luck, and I want you to know that you are not alone.
UPDATE: After re-reading all of this, I realized that this is more of the clinical side of our story, and doesn’t touch very much on the emotional side. Which means I’m going to write a follow-up post on this topic! [Click here to read part 2 of this series.]
Until then, I’d like to encourage you to take a look at some of the other posts in the Make a Difference Monday Link Up. You should be able to find some uplifting and inspirational posts from these wonderful bloggers!