As I share several infertility journey stories on Instagram this week in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I'll also be posting them here on the blog. Thanks for taking the time to read them and supporting the infertility community. Here's my own personal story.
My husband and I started trying for a baby in 2010. Like most healthy 20-something year olds, we anticipated it to be a quick and easy task.I bought a basal thermometer and started charting my daily temperature, used ovulation predictor tests, took all the right supplements, and so on. The first few months I didn't think anything of it. Friends got pregnant, I didn't. Life went on. Around 6 months in I started getting discouraged. My cycles had been long and irregular and I didn’t see ovulation in my charts every cycle. We waited a few more months, and then I decided to see my GYN. She did some labs and then referred me to a Reproductive Endocrinologist because my testosterone was high. Everything else checked out totally normal. We kept trying while waiting to see the RE.
When we got in to the fertility clinic, we ran more tests, did pelvic ultrasounds, ran some tests on my husband, and the RE said to come back in 6 months when I was pregnant. She was so dismissive of my concerns. We had just hit a year of trying to conceive and I knew something was wrong. But, she was the expert and was telling me there wasn't a problem. So, we kept doing what we had been doing. And received the same results. No pregnancy. No baby. No hope. Lots of tears. Lots of anger. Lots of jealousy. Lots of loneliness. I started researching Assisted Reproductive Technology and its costs, and felt even more desperate. How on earth do Infertile couples afford this? It completely overwhelmed me. My insurance didn’t cover any of it. It was awful having to deal with not only the emotional fears of never having children, but also the financial fears of creating a horrible financial situation for my family in the quest of motherhood. So we basically stayed in the "what do we do?" limbo for close to another year. We kept trying naturally, but we did not end up pregnant. I saw that RE a few more times but she was never very concerned or proactive.
In 2012 I saw a new doctor, and he did more for me in that one visit than my other doctor did in months combined. He diagnosed me with Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, which made total sense given that I’ve NEVER had “regular” cycles. The new doctor wrote me a prescription for Metformin to help with the PCOS. He was also concerned that I might have endometriosis, and wanted to perform surgery to diagnose and/or treat it if necessary. I had a laparoscopy, hysteroscopy, and myomectomy done. He did find Stage II endometriosis and a large fibroid. In his words, "People don't get pregnant with uterine fibroids that size." I was fully expecting to go to my post-op visit 2 weeks later and be told we were cleared to try again. Instead, the doctor told me that the Endo and fibroids were extensive enough that he thought I would benefit greatly from a drug call Lupron Depot. It's a form of chemotherapy that put my body into synthetic menopause. It would deplete my body of estrogen to shrink down/kill off any microscopic lesions or deposits of endo/fibroids. The plan was one shot per month for 6 months. I was not thrilled with the thought of putting my body through this, but I felt that it was my best chance at becoming a mom, so I said I would do it. The day after agreeing to the Lupron injections, my Dad passed away. Since one of the big side effects of Lupron is depression and severe mood swings, I decided to postpone the Lupron for a bit. Experiencing infertility alongside loss of a family member is emotionally a very unique and difficult challenge. Knowing that any hypothetical future children will never know their grandpa was a very big thing to try to process in the middle of this journey.
We finally started Lupron and did the 6 monthly injections. Finally in early 2013 we were done with all treatments and were ready to start trying again. That cycle did not result in pregnancy. Neither did the next one. I had a naive sense of hope that I would get pregnant right away after all I’d put my body through. At that point when I realized that it was a third failed post-treatment cycle, I was honestly the most discouraged I had ever been about infertility. I starting re-evaluating all of my options. Keep going like this, try IUI with Injectables, look into IVF, possibly travel to another state or even country where IVF is much more reasonably priced, do IVF locally, start the adoption process, consider embryo adoption, etc. None of the answers felt right. All of them involved great financial and emotional tolls, and none guaranteed a baby. I no longer felt like myself. I was feeling disconnected from all of my friends, unsure of my identity, and overall just really insecure and hopeless. I had an endometrial biopsy performed which came back saying my lining was thin. At that point I was sick of doing nothing, so we decided we would do a low dose of Clomid and then start a cycle of IUI with injectable drugs if the Clomid failed. I was excited for the IUI, and had no anticipation of the Clomid cycle working.
MUCH to my surprise, I got a positive pregnancy test the day I was scheduled for my next endometrial biopsy!!! I was in shock!!! I was also petrified. I had no idea how nerve wracking pregnancy could be. I had my blood drawn three times to make sure my HCG levels were rising correctly. They were each time! Could it be true? Am I pregnant?! We were so happy, we told our moms for Mother's Day and our close friends in the coming weeks. Our first ultrasound was scheduled for 8 weeks+ 5 days. By then I had finally started to loosen up and not worry about a loss. So I was totally unprepared when they said there was no heart beat. Our tiny miracle was no longer growing. 3 years of hope, all wrapped up in this baby, suddenly shattered. I had a repeat ultrasound the next week to verify lack of viability. Baby hadn’t grown, and there was still no heart beat. My HCG levels were still rising and the gestational sac measured 10 weeks. My body wasn’t registering the loss. Talk about torture. My body felt pregnant and was responding accordingly, but the baby inside me was not alive. I couldn’t mentally handle that, so we decided to schedule a D&C.
We were extremely fortunate to be able to conceive again very quickly after that, and now have two wild and thriving kiddos. However, Infertility will always be a huge part of my story. To anyone still in the midst of the struggle, trust your heart, listen to your gut, and be your own biggest advocate. If you ever feel alone in your journey, know that you are not. Find a support system, and hang onto them tight.