Warning: This post discusses topics related to reproduction in a tactful, mature manner. Don’t worry, there are no anatomy diagrams to label or intimate details. Just the truth about this difficult process.
No seriously. It’s terrible. Like something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy sucks. The emotional, physical, and mental toll it takes on you and your significant other is rough. And you never know what your outcome is going to be. Will it work this time? How much more do I have to pay? Is this the right choice? There are so many unknowns. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 10% (6.1 million) women in the United States has trouble getting or staying pregnant. Infertility has no prejudices – race, nationality, age, sexual orientation…infertility doesn’t care.
Although everyone who goes through these struggles has quite a few “oh my gosh, me too!” moments, we each have a different journey. It can be comforting to hear others experiences and what better way to help others than sharing here. Without further ado, here is my infertility avenue!
I suppose it all starts back when I was “blossoming into a woman”. My cycles were all over the place – 2 days on, 8 days off, 3 weeks on, 3 days off, 9 days on, 5 weeks off. How confusing for a girl just getting started with all of this. I was really hoping this wasn’t how it was going to be for the rest of my life. How did grown women deal with this chaos??? My gynecologist put me on birth control pills to help regulate my cycle and all was well.
Fast forward a number of years later after college and marriage when my husband Matthew and I decided to start trying to get pregnant. We did the “adult thing” and waited until our house and career were settled before making this decision. For the first time in 13 years, I stopped taking my pills and (ugh) my cycle havoc ensued. Following the calendar, tracking with ovulation tests, and trying to time it simply wasn’t working. I always knew this was a possibility considering my history with odd cycles and talked about it with Matthew before we even were married. So knowing I previously had cycle issues, my gynecologist recommended that I move on to see a reproductive endocrinologist (RE for short) after 6 months of trying.
The Second Beginning
Our first visit to the RE at Reproductive Medicine Associates of NJ (RMANJ) was a whirlwind. We talked about our previous/current health status, steps we needed to take next, and options for the future. Dr. Maguire was so upbeat, amazing, and supportive. We left with a “to do” list and optimism.
Our first steps were to get everything tested in hopes of explaining our infertility. Matthew and my “plumbing” and parts were all in working order. Since my cycles were off, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS – There are a lot of acronyms in infertility…). PCOS is an imbalance in hormones with no known cause, resulting in a combination of symptoms: weight gain (and difficulty losing weight), irregular and heavy periods, insulin resistance, excess facial hair (tweezers are your best friend), and…ahhh…reproductive difficulties. Great. But bloodwork tests revealed that something was also wrong with my thyroid too. It wasn’t performing as it should. In fact, it’s lazy and doesn’t produce enough hormones – bring on hypothyroidism. Double whammy. Here I was, 27 years old and just learning that these things were happening (or I guess not happening) in my body. To continue with treatment, I needed to lose some weight which is not easy with these two conditions. I took some time to get it all in check and was given the okay to move forward from Dr. Maguire.
Our insurance required taking the least invasive step, so we had to try an intrauterine insemination (IUI) first. Sperm is placed inside the uterus to increase the chance it will find an egg and fertilize. We were given the okay to move forward with this treatment in January of 2014. I had the IUI done, then returned 2 weeks later to have a pregnancy blood test done. (By the way, during this entire process bloodwork is done. A lot. Sometimes 5-6 times a week. And for us, the closest RMA facility was an hour away. That meant waking up at 4:30 in the morning, driving an hour, getting blood drawn, sometimes an internal ultrasound to monitor the uterus too – fun for the early morning, then driving to work and teaching all day. Not really sure how I did it some of those days!) Our first attempt at IUI resulted in a pregnancy! What?!? First try and it worked?! Sweet! A few days later I returned to RMA to monitor my beta hCG levels that are present with a pregnancy. I remember it was a dark, freezing winter morning. As I was backing out of the driveway, a tree jumped out of nowhere and got in my way, breaking the glass in my back window. Great way to start this day! Matthew woke up and drove down with me since I clearly was a hot mess. On our way home, I got a phone call from my doctor. My numbers were decreasing. This pregnancy wasn’t staying. The doctor called and told me it was having a chemical pregnancy. I didn’t even know this was a thing, but it happens to many women without them probably even knowing. The sperm and egg met, but never fully attached to the uterine wall. Broken window, broken pregnancy hope for this cycle. There were a lot of tears that day.
After recovering from this cycle and having my bloodwork numbers where they needed to be, we geared up for another try at IUI in March of 2014. Another insemination, another 2 week wait. But this time there was no positive pregnancy test. Another failed cycle.
It was tiring to wake up early for morning monitoring. It was emotionally tiring to have a constant series of hope then despair, hope then despair. It was heartbreaking to see pregnancy announcements, attend baby showers, or hear how yet another person “accidentally” got pregnant. We have a beautiful home, good jobs, a long-lasting and stable relationship…why wasn’t it happening for us? Will it ever happen for us?
Considering how long this post already is, I will tell our infertility story in parts. Stay tuned for Infertility Sucks (Part 2) to see how this adventure all works out!
How to Deal with Infertility
We have been blessed with our amazing daughter and I know there are plenty of people who ache to be where we are. If you are feeling that ache, here are some ways to cope with the stress and emotions. Maybe we need to all make a little change to help those dealing with this disease. Let’s try to stop asking couples when they’re going to have a baby (or another one). They may have been trying unsuccessfully for years. They may not be ready for kids. Heck, they may not even want children. One of the best articles I’ve seen comes from Tiffany Sauter, a woman who hit the ‘infertility nail’ right on the head. You can read her article here.
If you would have asked me 4-5 years ago, I probably wouldn’t have shared very much. We kept our experience to only a few family members and close friends. We weren’t ashamed or embarrassed; rather preferred to keep it personal. Now I am completely open to sharing and listening to those enduring the battle. Shoot me an email, leave a comment below, send a Facebook message, or if you’re lucky enough to know me in person…Ask! Talk! Share! Cry! Laugh! Get support! I’ll be there for you. (Great, now the Friends theme song is stuck in my head…)