After toying with the idea of starting this series, Life Lately, I have finally decided to take the leap. Personally, it is one of my favorite reads from other bloggers I follow, so I too decided I would pull back the curtain a little bit to my life behind the blogging scene. With that said, what better way to start this little series than with a heavy post on the most intimate and personal thing I have ever dealt with?! My Infertility Story.
In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I am sharing my infertility story in hopes of raising awareness and lifting some of the stigma associated with this disease. #StartAsking
My Infertility Story
A look behind the curtain at my 3 year long battle with miscarriage, PCOS and infertility
In the summer of 2013 I excitedly returned from a two-week European vacation ready to finally start trying to build our family and have a baby. I had checked some major things off of my baby bucket list, including getting back to Germany to visit my host-family, fundraising and walking the Susan G. Komen 3-Day and more.
You see, my husband was ready to start having children the minute we got married in 2010. I, on the other hand, wanted the timing to be just right. Alas, the timing was finally right. At 28 years old, I was ready to be a mother. I had a good job with great benefits, was happily married, had dropped some weight and no longer had any more reasons to “wait just a little bit longer”.
I had done my research and knew that most couples take a few months before they get pregnant, but most achieve success within 6 months. There was a tiny voice in the back of my head that had been getting louder over the years that told me I might not get pregnant as easily as most women though.
I squashed that voice with planning and persistence. You need to understand that I am the type of person that goes all in. When I make up my mind to do something, I give it 100% all the way.
There was no “If it happens, it happens” stage for me. I had planned the timing and was ready to get pregnant immediately. That meant peeing on ovulation predictor kits and having precisely timed intercourse from the minute we started trying.
After we weren’t successful the first month, I reminded myself of the statistics. I only have a 20% chance each month, so this is nothing to worry about. We continued on like this for a few months.
On the fourth month of trying, I found myself sitting at my desk feeling super crampy. The odd part was that I didn’t have my period. This had never happened before, so naturally I turned to Google.
There it was, staring me straight in the face. These cramps were a sign of early pregnancy. Immediately I knew it was true. There were too many signs for it not to be. Sore breasts, feeling overly warm all the time and an unusually heightened sense of smell had me convinced of it. I peed on a pregnancy test the minute I got home but it turned up negative. I repeated the process a few times the next day with the same result. It didn’t shake my resolve that I was pregnant though. I just knew it was really happening.
Finally, after two days of this torture, I got the faintest positive test early in the morning. I hadn’t told my husband of my suspicions up until this point because I wanted to surprise him. I excitedly ran across the house to tell him the good news and together we celebrated our impending baby, due on Christmas!
We both agreed not to tell our families until the pregnancy was further along. Again, I knew the statistics and it was very possible this pregnancy might not stick. Nevertheless we basked in the excitement. We debated baby names, imagined what our little chunk would look like and undoubtedly had a glow of happiness that was hard to miss. I was enjoying an easy breezy first trimester with virtually no signs of morning sickness, or many other annoying pregnancy symptoms for that matter. Life was good!
Mother’s Day was approaching and my husband and I decided it would be the perfect time to tell our parents despite only being two months along. The night before Mother’s Day we made the trip over to my husband’s mother and sister’s house to tell them the good news. I had designed and created a little onesie that said ‘Grandma’s Little Helper’ with a picture of a tractor and wrapped it up as a Mother’s Day gift. (We are a farm family.)
The minute we walked into her house, I practically shoved the gift in my mother-in-law’s face and insisted she open it. She carefully peeled back the paper and unfolded the gift. At first she was confused but it quickly settled in that she was about to be a grandmother. She was over the moon excited for us. We talked into the evening about all of the exciting things to come.
Late that evening we headed home and I couldn’t wait to make our way over to my parents early the next morning to share our good news.
Before heading to bed I made my way to the bathroom for my nightly routine. As I was finishing up going to the bathroom, my worst nightmare came true. There was blood. My heart sank further into my stomach than it ever had before. Instantly I knew it was a bad sign.
I called out to my husband and told him what happened. I was still shaking from the shock of it all. In his best effort to stay optimistic, he tried to reassure me that everything would be fine. He called his sister who was a nurse and she gave a similarly optimistic speech about bleeding being common in the first trimester.
I didn’t want to hear any of it. Frankly, all the optimism was just pissing me off. I knew my body and I knew something just wasn’t right. The idea of anyone trying to tell me differently was just making me angry.
My anger was only further fueled by the fact that my doctor wouldn’t see me. She too insisted that I needed to wait it out and that everything might be fine.
The days seemed to drag on slower than any days before. The bleeding continued and my hopes were fading quickly. Finally after about a week, my doctor agreed to see me.
After an examination from my doctor, which didn’t produce any external signs of a miscarriage, I was sent down the hall for an ultrasound. I laid on that cold bed, still clinging on to the smallest bit of hope. The ultrasound tech spent what seemed like hours poking and prodding trying her very best to find something. At the end of the day there was a gestational sack but no fetus. I was watching the screen and observed the quiet tech, taking in what I knew was going to be bad news. She sent me back to the doctor for the final news to be delivered.
The doctor nonchalantly told me that I had indeed miscarried and that it is a very common occurrence in pregnancy. No sympathy or condolences were to be had. She asked whether I would like a D&C or let it naturally take it’s course. From my research, I knew that a D&C could potentially inhibit my chances of getting pregnant again, so I opted for the natural route. She sent me on my way with little to no explanation or advice on how to medically handle the situation. This only furthered my frustration.
A few days later I was home alone when unbearable cramps started rocking my body. I was unprepared for this and wept in pain. I was experiencing contractions as my body dispelled the placenta. This was some of the worst physical and emotional pains I think I have ever endured.
Weeks went on and the bleeding persisted. According to my friend Google, bleeding should last around 1-2 weeks. I was pushing 6 weeks of non-stop bleeding. It was so bad that I recall softball games where I would have to sneak off to the outhouse after every inning to change my pad. Again, the persistent bleeding which seemed like it had no end in sight, only further fueled my anger.
Finally, almost two months later, my body was seemingly back to normal. I took one month off from trying to conceive, because I still wasn’t fully emotionally heeled from the entire ordeal.
It was during this miscarriage that I knew I needed a distraction from the constant loop of sad thoughts running through my mind. I had been contemplating starting a food blog for a year or two and this ordeal was the catalyst I needed to get started. I jumped in with both feet and my dear friend Julie showed me the ropes while giving me the exact distraction I needed at the time.
Finally, the fog of anger and frustration had finally began to lift. We jumped back in and began the routine of ovulation predictor kits and timed intercourse. The fact that I had gotten pregnant at all had alleviated all of those concerns I had over the years that I might have difficulty getting pregnant. Surely, this will happen again in a matter of a few months…
…a few months turned into six. Six months turned into a year. Here we sat over a year after we had started trying to conceive, with no baby and getting pregnant seeming more and more unlikely. Mr. Google said that if you didn’t get pregnant after a year of trying that you should make an appointment with your health care provider, so that is precisely what I did.
After my disappointing experience with my last doctor, I opted to see a new doctor who had just started at our hospital. At the appointment she asked me lots of questions and went over the reproductive cycle in great detail, answering all of my questions along the way. She decided to run some tests to make sure my hormones were all in check before proceeding with any treatments.
I got the call a couple weeks later with the result. It was evident that I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. PCOS is a complicated disorder that presents itself a little differently in every woman who is unfortunate enough to have it. In my case, I produce too much testosterone and not enough estrogen along with some other hormone imbalances. I also have a tendency to hang on to extra weight due to difficulty processing insulin, have cysts on my ovaries and am cursed with a mild case of hirsutism.
I checked just about every box they have when it comes to diagnosing this condition, so my doctor immediately referred me to a specialist. My husband and I made the three hour drive to go see Dr. Corfman, the Reproductive Endocrinologist who came highly recommended to us, to start the process of figuring out a solution to my issues.
After an in-depth meeting going over my specific disorder and the course of treatment it would require to get pregnant, the specialist told me I shouldn’t have a problem getting pregnant with the course of action set in place. That course of action started with something I had been dreading hearing though. He wouldn’t start treatment until I lost an additional 35lb. This particular specialist doesn’t treat anyone with a BMI over 30 because study after study has shown that extra weight is a huge contributing factor to infertility. I already knew all of this because of Mr. Google of course.
So, I couldn’t start treatment for the disorder that helps contribute to me carrying excess weight…until I lost weight. Irony anyone?
During the time I was to be working on weight loss I was also put on a medication called Metformin to help manage my PCOS as well as birth control to help regulate my hormones. Additionally, I was also schedule for a Hysterosalpingogram. This is a process where they pump dye through your fallopian tubes to ensure nothing is blocked and it also helps flush them out if there is any minor blockage. It is shown to slightly improve chances of pregnancy in the following months of the procedure, so I was quite optimistic about it all.
I was able to have the Hysterosalpingogram at our local hospital. This nice old Eastern European man performed the procedure. Although it was short, it most certainly wasn’t sweet. I winced in pain as I laid under this large x-ray machine and they pumped dye through my fallopian tubes with a chatheder. As I was about to break into tears, the procedure concluded and the nice old doctor proclaimed in a heavy accent, “You look good, there is no reason you won’t get pregnant!”
THANK GOD! Finally some good news. Surely this man who just spent 20 minutes all up in my reproductive business must know what he is talking about, right?!
The next thing up on the docket was getting my husband checked out to rule out male factor infertility. I waited with bated breath to get those results. The thought of having both of us messed up was just too much to bare. Thankfully the results came back within a few days letting us know he was in perfect working order.
During all of this, I was bound and determined to loose the weight that was ordered of me. I set out on a strict diet and began hitting the gym. I dropped the 35 pounds in three months and I was waiting at my specialist’s doorstep the minute I hit my goal weight to begin treatment.
My hopes were higher than they ever were before. I had just dropped major weight, I was coming off birth control and I was starting a full cycle of monitored drugs. SURELY this was going to be the magic bullet and work the first time.
I excitedly popped my small pharmacy of drugs each day. Metformin, Letrozole, Estrace, Progesterone and HCG. These were all of the drugs I took throughout a single cycle.
I am fortunate in the medication department because they didn’t cost me much with my amazing insurance ($80 per cycle) and more importantly they didn’t give me any terrible side effects. The only downside I experienced with the drugs, was that they mimic all of the symptoms of being pregnant, because they are the same hormones your body produces naturally when you are pregnant. Because I had already been pregnant once, I knew exactly what those signs felt like and every cycle was torture wondering if the symptoms were real or just a result of the hormones.
Despite my body growing some nice follicles and feeling like it was pregnant, it turned out the cycle had failed. I was crushed. I truly thought this was going to be a one and done experience. My specialist told me that my case of PCOS wasn’t that bad. I had done all the work to loose the weight. I was CERTAIN that I would get pregnant with the first crack at this.
After shedding some tears, throwing a mini pity party for myself and loosing hope, it was time to pick up the pieces and start the next cycle. My hopes were tapered this cycle, but after a second failure, it wasn’t any less devastating.
The third cycle started and my expectations were low but hopes had began to ramp back up. This cycle NEEDED to work. According to Mr. Google, if you don’t get pregnant in the first three medicated cycles, your chances of ever getting pregnant with those drugs are virtually 0%.
The third time was going to be the charm, right?
My cysts continued to persist, so the specialist told me I needed to take a month off and go back on birth control to try and regulate my hormones and eliminate some of my cysts. The break was somewhat welcomed at this point.
After the month of being on birth control, my cycle arrived and I went in for my baseline ultrasound. I knew exactly what to watch for on that monitor. I held my breathe praying there wouldn’t be any cysts present as the ultrasound tech passed over my ovaries.
There were my ovaries, just as they had been at every other ultrasound. Fully surrounded by what looked like a string of pearls. AKA a shit ton of cysts. Once again my hopes were dashed. At this point it really started to feel like I was fighting a loosing battle that I would never find victory in.
As ashamed as I am to admit this, I used to judge women who “gave up” and quit trying with fertility treatments. How could you ever give up on something that you want more than anything in this world? Surely you must not want it bad enough, right?
At this point I fully understood how at a certain point you just decide to stop pumping your body full of drugs, spending thousands of dollars on fruitless efforts and admit defeat.
5 failed medicated cycles into this process, I’m not quite at this place yet. I still have IVF left as an option on the table and a glimmer of hope, but I feel that dark place looming just around the corner…
#StartAsking for Support
My journey has included
- 1 miscarriage
- 3 years
- 5 failed medicated cycles
- 5 injections
- 12 blood draws
- 14 ultrasounds
- 25 bottles of pills
- 75 ovulation predictors
- 92 negative pregnancy tests
- 225 suppositories
- 1,000’s of dollars
- Unmeasurable heartache and sadness
The emotional support of my husband, my best friend, my sister and my parents has been what has gotten me through this journey thus far. Whether it is a proverbial shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear for my sad and bitter words some days or someone to support me through my erratic and hormone driven emotions, I am so grateful for every one of them.
#StartAsking for your emotional support!