Our “trying to conceive” journey started almost 5 years ago in the summer of 2009. I went off of “the pill” and we just thought it would happen after a few months of trying, just like it seemed to work for everyone else. We just kept trying and trying and trying. At first, it was maybe a bit annoying and frustrating that things didn’t work as quickly as we had assumed.
As time marched on, it became painful. I struggled to go to baby showers and kids birthday parties. Seeing pregnant women and mothers with young kids made me want to cry. I outright avoided Facebook on the first day of school because I didn’t want to see the photos and comments about parents sending their kids off. I stayed away on holidays too because I didn’t want to see the cute Halloween outfits or what they were getting their kids for Christmas.
It angered me every time I heard a news story about an abandoned or abused child. Why were those people able to get pregnant and have babies when they would not love them?
There were good parts too. Along the way, I met people or learned that they also faced infertility. We made new friends and grew our support network. There were also great resources on the internet that brought inspiration. (I recommend watching this video. This pretty much sums up our thoughts and feelings as we were going through infertility.)
Although there were times of pain and sadness, and I felt like giving up, there was hope throughout it all. I didn’t know every turn of the path I would take, but I knew where I wanted to go.
By September of 2010 I really started marking the important dates on the calendar. In March 2011 we started using the ovulation predictor kits. Trying to have babies just wasn’t working on our own.
After almost two years, I sensed that something was wrong so I made an appointment with my OBGYN. In April 2011 we went to see my OBGYN to discuss possible infertility. The doctor went over our medical histories and discussed our very private intimate information. I didn’t realize this at the time, but I made the mistake by saying we had only been for the past 6 months…what I meant to say was we had been trying since 2009…but REALLY started timing and tracking cycles in the past 6 months. The doctor said, “Because you are under the age of 35 you need to keep trying for another 6 months because it needs to be a full year before we can try infertility treatments.” So we went on our way…and we kept trying.
I went in for my annual checkup and PAP. Before my appointment ended the doctor told me if I got my cycle this month to come in and have blood work done – that would hopefully get things started for when I come back in October…by then, our full year would be up and we could move on to looking into our fertility issues – if there were any. Well, my cycle started about 5 days later and the next day I went to the clinic for blood tests – thyroid, glucose, prolactin & FSH (follicle stimulating hormone)…8 days later I received my results back and they were all normal – which was great! Now we just had to wait a couple more months before we could go back to the doctor.
Finally, November came and we met with a new OBGYN. Again, we discussed our medical histories and our very private intimate information. This doctor ordered the same work up of blood tests to be repeated, ordered a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) which is an internal x-ray of the uterus and fallopian tubes and also ordered a semen analysis test for Ryan.
The blood tests came back and everything was normal. The HSG was so incredibly painful and the results were about the same: one of my fallopian tubes is blocked. Sometimes when this procedure is done they can push the dye through and open up the tube, but they tried 3 times and the entire procedure was so painful and it didn’t work!! After the HSG was over the doctor explained everything to me and tried to reassure me that many women can still get pregnant with one functioning fallopian tube. I asked her about Ryan’s semen analysis. Ryan’s counts were in the normal range – but the low end of normal. They suggested that we could try 3 cycles of Clomid, which stimulates ovulation. If that didn’t work, then it would be the end of the road with her, and she would need to refer us to a fertility clinic since this was out of her expertise.
At the end of November, we decided to go to the pet store – just to look, of course. As I was looking at the windows with puppies playing inside, one of them pawed at the window as if to catch my attention. I showed the puppy to Ryan, and she also pawed at him. It didn’t take long playing with her and asking a few questions before we decided to adopt her. We had been talking about getting a dog for a while, so it wasn’t entirely an impulse decision – just not one we had planned on that particular day.
We brought our nameless puppy home, full of pride and joy that we had at least somehow grown our family a little for now. We debated names for a while until it came to me.
With a smile on my face, I suggested the name to Ryan. Without a moment’s hesitation, he knew too that it was perfect. Hope represents what continued to drive us in our struggle with infertility.
December 2011 – February 2012
We did 3 cycles of Clomid with timed intercourse. On Clomid, I felt like I was a crazy person. I was quick to anger and nearly everything seemed to irritate me. Essentially, I was a difficult person to be around. I persevered in hopes that it would all be worth it and I would be pregnant soon. Unfortunately, it didn’t work…so it was time to move on to the fertility clinic.
April of 2012
We met with a fertility doctor and we went over ALL of our medical history and went over our very private intimate information…again.
June 2012 – August 2012
During the summer of 2012 we did 3 IUI’s (intra uterine inseminations); 2 cycles with Letrozole, the 3rd with Tamoxifen – two medications that work differently but are both prescribed to stimulate the follicles in hopes of more mature, high-quality eggs. That didn’t work either. Each month we would start out so excited and hopeful…only to end the month in tears and disappointment.
May 2012 – December 2012
Ryan decided to see an urologist to see if there was something more going on with him due to his counts being low on insemination days. Ryan had an exam and did a couple more tests in May and then had to wait until August to see the doctor again because that’s how far the doctor was booked out. When we went back for Ryan’s follow-up in August, the doctor decided to do another exam to see if he missed anything. It was then the doctor found a varicocele which is an enlargement of the veins.
Varicoceles are a common cause of low sperm production and decreased sperm quality, which can cause infertility. It was explained to us that varicoceles would cause blood to pool, increasing heat and damaging the sperm. Our options for treatment were to either do in vitro fertilization (IVF) or for Ryan to have surgery.
We were on the fence about IVF at the time. Ryan didn’t hesitate on questioning the doctor about how the surgery was done, the risks and recovery time. Ryan had seen me go through enough poking and prodding, he felt like it was his turn to try something. Ryan had surgery in mid-September and everything went well and was repaired. Now we had to wait…at least 6 months before we would see results in his counts. Ryan was able to have his counts checked in December and we noticed a slight increase. We had to wait a few more months to do another IUI and we were so hopeful.
During this wait we went on vacation in Mexico. We decided to take some time and really discuss how far we were willing to go medically with trying to have our own children. In talking to our fertility doctor back in September he suggested doing an IUI cycle with injectable medications (10-12 days of shots in the tummy – sort of a small scale version of IVF meds). We searched our hearts on all the options. Were we ready to do IVF for the fast results? Would it be better to adopt or choose a child-free life? We agonized over details like costs, risks and what our lives would be like in each scenario. After the several days of this, we finally came to a decision.
I told Ryan I’d be willing to try another IUI cycle with shots…if Ryan gave me shots. I did NOT want to give myself the shots at all. So, it was agreed that when we returned home we would talk with our doctor and try the next cycle with shots. With the relief of having made this decision, we were able to enjoy the rest of the vacation with our family and really take in the sun, beauty and relaxation of it all.
When we returned home – it was go time. My cycle had just started and we made the call to our doctor and got the ball rolling. We went to the clinic the next morning and got started, and the doctor gave me a quick lesson in doing shots, then sent me on my way to pick up my medications. As it turned out, because of the timing, Ryan wasn’t able to give me the shots. I had to give them to myself…at work, in an empty office. It took me 45 minutes to do 2 shots. I read the instructions over and over and over
This was something I did not want to mess up.
I finally drew up the medications and gave myself 2 shots. I squeezed my skin so hard on the first one that I gave myself a bruise instantly. When it was over, I was relieved and I was so pumped and proud of myself that I had done something I never thought I’d be able to do. I went on to give myself 11 more days of shots – which only took me a few minutes in the morning each day.
Just a couple of days before insemination the ultrasound showed I had 2 possible follicles that would potentially release an egg. The insemination was done and we waited…for almost 2 weeks for our results. Once again…it didn’t work. We were devastated. This was one of the times I had actually convinced myself it worked and with every little twinge and feeling I thought for sure this time it had worked and I was pregnant. But that wasn’t the case, I wasn’t pregnant. There were times I thought, “maybe we were just not meant to have kids.” This was our 4th and final IUI.
Ryan decided to get a 2nd opinion from another urologist who has some background in male infertility. They did more in depth testing, they didn’t find anything wrong. It was then they suggested we either move on to in vitro (IVF) or adoption. We decided to take a break for a while to think about what our next step would be.
We went to a RESOLVE Conference (RESOLVE is the National Infertility Association). This was a conference to connect with others who have been and/or are going through infertility currently, and learn about the basics of infertility, IVF, letting go of the biological dream, adoption, foster care and living child free. It was a great day, even though at times it was very emotional and overwhelming. Ryan got pretty psyched about the idea of adopting, and learned a lot about the options available to make adoption more affordable. I felt inspired by one of the couples who shared their infertility story and how they felt like IVF was worth at least trying once.
We gathered a lot of information and went home and discussed our options and shared our thoughts with each other. Over the weekend and after numerous conversations we decided our next step would be IVF (in vitro fertilization). For something that we had been on the fence about from the beginning, it finally felt right and we decided to make this giant, giant step. Adoption would be our next step if IVF didn’t work.