If only our plans were to work the way they were planned
My husband and I had been married just under a year when we decided that it was time for us to add to our family. Before we were married, we had the typical how-many-kids-do-we-want conversations. We were both on the same page with our family plan.
I had just completed my Associates Degree in Nursing and had one year left to finish my Bachelors Degree. I anticipated that it might take a couple months to get pregnant since I was taking birth control. The timing was perfect because I would have the baby right when I finished school.
On with the plan
I stopped taking my birth control pills and my body returned to regular 32-day cycles. Almost 4 months after stopping birth control, my period was late…like 10 days late! Naturally, I got all excited. What else could that mean other than that I was pregnant? I planned a nice dinner to share the news with my husband, and excitedly ran out to the store and bought a pregnancy test. I donated a small urine sample to the cause, and…
It was negative. And then my period started.
And it was the worst period I had ever had, the bleeding was heavier and it lasted MUCH longer than usual. I convinced myself that the pregnancy test was incorrect and that I had actually miscarried. I was devastated.
I later learned that I did not miscarry and that there are multiple reasons for a period to come late and for it to be heavier and longer because it was late.
After that horrible experience, my cycles continued to be regular. I thought it was going to be a matter of time before I got pregnant. I was certain that I was ovulating, and that there was nothing that would keep me from getting pregnant because I was having a regular cycle.
This experience taught me the obvious truth: A regular cycle isn’t the best sign to indicate “all is well.”
I had two sisters and a sister-in-law announce that they were pregnant within the next couple months. I was so sure that I would be getting pregnant soon and super excited that all of our kids would be the same age.
One year passed and I still had no pregnancy and no baby. My sisters, friends, and neighbors all had babies…and my belly and arms were empty. I continued to convince myself that everything was fine and that my body needed more time. I blamed it on having taken birth control pills and anything else that I could think of.
I now know that birth control hormones leave your body quickly after you stop taking them, and that they don’t cause infertility.
…and on, because life can’t (and shouldn’t) pause
When I graduated with my Bachelors Degree in Nursing, I found a job working at Valley Women’s Health. I gained a treasure trove of knowledge about fertility and pregnancy. I told patients all the time that if they have been trying to get pregnant for more than a year that they needed to come in to be seen. However, I somehow didn’t believe that that applied to me too. I was so convinced that nothing was wrong and that I didn’t have any problems because I had a regular cycle. Everyone that called in to our office had irregular cycles or had already been diagnosed with something that was known to cause infertility. That didn’t apply to me…that wasn’t my story.
Change in plan
After working at Valley Women’s Health for almost a year, I finally decided to schedule an appointment for an annual exam and to talk about trying to get pregnant. It had now been 2 years since I had stopped taking birth control, so something was wrong. I saw Heidi McSweeney, N.P. and she was incredible. I had lab work done and found out that my prolactin levels were high. (Prolactin is the hormone that produces breastmilk). They weren’t very high above normal…nowhere in the range of being worried that I might have had a problem with my pituitary gland. I was told that it could be what was causing the infertility and that I could take a medication to get it within normal range.
So, I started taking Bromocriptine and waited for the right day in my cycle to get my progesterone level checked to see if I was ovulating.
The results came back. They showed that I did NOT ovulate!
I was so confused. I had learned that your period comes 14 days after ovulation because of a drop in progesterone levels, which dropped because you weren’t pregnant. Somehow, my uterus was deciding that it needed to shed its lining on a regular cycle without the influence of progesterone. Weird.
I started taking Clomid to help my body to ovulate. It worked, and I ovulated…but still no pregnancy. After a couple months of clomid cycles I took a break.
The ups and downs of having hope that I would get pregnant to then start my period and be crushed were awful and I needed an emotional break from it all.
I remember specific Sundays at church when I saw that people were pregnant for the second time since I had started trying. I would get so emotional that I had to find an empty room to sit in the corner and cry. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting pregnant.
Why wasn’t I allowed my greatest desire when it was such a good and righteous desire?
I had tests done to check if my fallopian tubes were clear, and they were. Nothing else seemed to be wrong with my body…at least not to the extent that explained why I wasn’t getting pregnant.
This isn’t working
I felt broken – emotionally and physically. I felt like I had failed my husband and thought that he wouldn’t want me if I couldn’t give him children. I thought that I was worthless and that there must be a reason that God wasn’t giving me the opportunity to be a mother.
I went through a dark time. Looking back at it now, I realize that I had depression and that I probably should have talked to someone about it. Instead I kept it all to myself, which caused the emotions to build up even more. Luckily, my husband was incredible and paid attention to my needs. We prayed together and he helped me to see my self worth and have faith to keep going.
You should be very aware that the men in this situation go through similar emotional struggles. They show it differently, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not there and that it’s not real. Be loving and kind to one another if you hope to help each other through.
Standing up again
After a short break that allowed me to “get to a better place” emotionally, I was ready to keep going with treatments.
Femara – 6 cycles
This time, we switched to Femara (another medication to help with ovulation). It seemed to work even better than Clomid, and I was so hopeful that I would get pregnant. Then, I went through the same emotional downs as before when my period started each month. What an awful way for our bodies to remind us each month that we aren’t pregnant!
We went through 6 cycles of Femara and one Intrauterine Insemination at the OB office.
IUI – this is where they take the sperm and insert it directly into the uterus to bypass the sperm’s long swim through the cervix.
More time passed. My sisters and sister-in-law that I talked about earlier all had babies again. I was so happy for them…and at the same time, so sad for myself. I wanted a child so badly. And I wanted my children to have cousins their same age, but it wasn’t happening.
After none of the Femara cycles worked, we finally decided that it was time to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). I decided to go to Dr. Foulk at Utah Fertility Center.
Dr. Foulk was sure that doing a couple IUI cycles would do the trick. We did three cycles and none of them worked. By this time we had been trying for almost 4 years. I decided that it was time to have a diagnostic laparoscopy. The laparoscopy was to take a look inside my body to see if there was anything wrong. I had recently learned that one of my sisters had Endometriosis, so I thought that it was possible that I had the same problem. I met with Dr. Thorpe at Valley Women’s Health to discuss my concerns and plan for surgery.
I had the surgery. Dr. Thrope found one tiny spot of endometriosis behind my left ovary and removed it. There was no other scar tissue. My tubes were still clear, and nothing else was found. Dr. Foulk didn’t think that the endometriosis fully explained why I wasn’t getting pregnant. He was sure that I would get pregnant with IUI cycles now that the endometriosis was cleared.
On and off again, because…
I did one IUI cycle, which didn’t work, and then took a couple months off.
I did a second IUI cycle, which didn’t work, and took a couple months off.
Then did a third IUI cycle. That didn’t work either…had to take more time off.
Infertility is some crazy emotional business!
When we initially talked, Dr. Foulk had said that if I wasn’t pregnant after 3 IUI cycles that it was time for IVF.
Almost 5 years after we started trying to get pregnant, we met with Dr. Foulk (RE) to discuss In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF – where they stimulate the ovaries, remove eggs, take sperm to fertilize the eggs, and then place the embryo(s) into the uterus). The fertility treatments and emotional roller coaster ride pushed me to my heaviest weight I had ever been. My idea was to wait a year so that I could get my emotions and weight in check, so I was surprised when Dr. Foulk said, “Why wait? Let’s start the process now.”
So we did.
I started getting regular lab work done to check hormone levels. Dr. Foulk started me on birth control for one month, then all of the oral medications and injections started. I was surprised by how well my body handled all of the medications because I had heard horror stories of the side effects from the IVF meds.
During this time, two of my sisters…yes the same sisters mentioned twice before…announced that they were pregnant. This time I was not sad. I was hopeful that I would get pregnant and that my child (or children) would have cousins their age. I wanted that so badly.
When it came time to retrieve the eggs they removed 42. Yes I said 42! And somehow I didn’t get ovarian overstimulation. I was so proud of my body. After having so many years of feeling that I was broken I finally felt that my body was amazing.
Survival of the fittest
Of the original 42 eggs, 28 were mature. From the 28 mature eggs, 17 fertilized and started growing. They continued to watch them grow and gave me updates. Five days after egg retrieval, I went in for the fresh embryo transfer. There were two embryos that were ready and five embryos that they wanted to monitor for maturity. We had them implant the two embryos that were ready. We decided to implant two because Dr. Foulk, our RE, had mentioned that if we were to put in one embryo, we had a 50% of getting pregnant; by putting in two we had a 75% chance of getting pregnant, with an added 30% chance that we would have twins.
Several days later, they let me know that 3 of the embryos continued to grow and were frozen.
We recently had those 3 embryos genetically tested and they are all normal, yeah!!
The tortuous wait
Then came the waiting and hoping for two weeks before we could do a blood pregnancy test. It was the longest two weeks of my life. After having gone through the ridiculous ups and downs you’ve just read about, I had to maintain a very strange emotional balance between the positive and potential negative emotions. On the one hand I was so excited and hopeful. But the other hand held the bucket full of potential devastation if the IVF didn’t work. One day before I was scheduled for my blood test, I did a urine pregnancy test.
Super happy dance
I was so happy. I had never seen a positive test of my own. I saw plenty of them while working in the OBGYN office over the 5 years that we had been trying to get pregnant.
It was a miracle. I immediately told my husband.
The next day, I had the blood test done to confirm that the levels were good. A couple days later, we repeated the blood tests, and the levels were rising really well.
On April 25, 2016, exactly 2 years ago today, we had our first ultrasound and we got to see our unborn baby for the first time. It was incredible. It finally felt real. I had a living thing inside of me. We got to see and hear the baby’s heartbeat. I was in love.
The rest of the pregnancy and delivery went well. I will share my birth story later. My daughter has 2 cousins that are her same age; 3.5 and 2 months older. It’s wonderful.
Experience…curse you, and bless you
Now that those five years are in the past, I am grateful for how everything happened. I am grateful for the knowledge, empathy, compassion, patience, and love (for myself and others) that I gained during that period of my life. That in no way means that the journey wasn’t hard, it was. It was the most difficult time of my life. Just thinking back on it makes me emotional and I have cried several times while writing this.
If you are struggling with infertility, I am so sorry! I know how you feel. I know how hard it is. I want you to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Your light might be different than mine, but there is a light. If you need someone to talk to feel free to reach out to me. Don’t hold it all in, that only makes it worse. Share your feelings with someone close to you. Share what you are going through. You are NOT alone.
If you know someone that is struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out a helping hand. Give them a hug. Show them some love. You may not fully understand how they feel, but don’t avoid saying or doing something because you aren’t sure what to say or do. Say that you are sorry that they are going through this and that it sucks and let them cry on your shoulder as you hug them. That will help more than you know.
I hope that my personal infertility experience will help you as you are going through infertility. Or, if you aren’t personally going through infertility, I hope that it will help you understand a little bit more about what infertility might put someone through.
Thank you to Heidi McSweeny, Dr. Thorpe, and all of the other Doctors, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, and everyone else at Valley Women’s Health that helped me through this time and thank you to Dr. Foulk, Susie Sollis, and everyone else at Utah Fertility Center for helping make my hopes and dreams into reality.