I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe New Years Eve and that you were all able to ring in 2015 with your loved ones all around you. We’ve been pretty quiet on this blog recently and some of you already know why. But for those that don’t, my husband and I, after a long road to get here, are expecting our first child. Thus, for our first post in 2015, I’d like to get a little personal and talk about our journey to pregnancy. This type of post doesn’t happen very often on this blog, but I know 2015 will be a year of personal triumphs and adventures so I thought it would be a great fit to kick this year off with this particular topic.
First let me preface this by saying that I think the issue of infertility is something that’s not talked about a lot and for good reason. It’s a very private matter and for my husband and me, we pretty much only shared our experience with our closest friends and immediate family. However, at least for me, when I was going through my ups and downs that naturally come with infertility, I felt a lot of times I was alone. Even though I know a lot of women go through this, but because I didn’t talk about it in person with a lot of women, I felt like no one understood what I was going through. That was until I started to find support from online women going through the same thing I was. Some of these women, whether it was on personal blogs or on YouTube vlogs, have been going through it for longer than I have. It made me feel just that more included when I was feeling like I was in the middle of a vast desert. And this is why I’m writing about this. With the hope that someone will read this and feel the same way I did when I first read about other women’s experiences. Let me tell ya, there’s a whole community of women out there dealing with infertility that are more than happy to talk and discuss their experience and heartbreak. There is also a whole Trying to Conceive (TTC) vocabulary out there that I had to learn. And I’ve made great friends along the way with some wonderful, supportive women that I’ve never even met in real life. With that said, here’s our story.
August 28th 2010 was the happiest day of my life. It was our wedding day. I knew pretty early on that I wanted to be a mother, but like a lot of women, I wanted to spend about a year of wedded bliss with my new husband. So we decided to wait a year before we started to try for a baby. I was on birth control pills and we have decided that when I ran out of my prescription (May 2011) that I would not refill. And that’s when our pregnancy journey began. I have heard numerous stories of people getting off birth control who easily fell pregnant because their hormones fluctuated which worked in their favor. So I was of course hopeful. But when it didn’t happen immediately, I chalked it up to us being the couple that needed a little bit more time.
More than a year and half of trying the old fashioned way with no results, we decided to seek help from my OB/GYN in December of 2012. We decided we’d talk to her first since she was the easiest person to talk about this with. And my OB gave us some hope. Both my husband and I did some initial blood tests (semen analysis for him) and the test results came back mostly normal. Our OB described a procedure I’ve only heard about in passing called Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). For those of you who are not familiar with this, it’s basically a very quick procedure where sperm has been treated and separated from the semen before being placed in a woman’s uterus around the time of ovulation. This facilitates an easier “journey” for the sperm to fertilize the egg. My husband and I were extremely hopeful at this point because this procedure was not expensive and it sounded like it’d finally help us get pregnant.
Six months and four IUIs later, still with no results, my husband and I decided that we’d move on from my OB and seek help from a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). From my research and communications with women online, their experiences with their RE’s offered a more personal and monitored approach and it was something I felt like I was not getting with my OB. In June of 2013, we met with Dr. Lee Hickok at the Pacific Northwest Fertility Clinic. Dr. Hickok was an expert in this field and he was one of the original founders of the fertility clinic. We placed all of our trust in him and his team. And his first approach in helping us was to try two more IUIs, this time with different hormone medications to see if it’ll help. He also explained that after these additional two IUIs, we should begin thinking about next steps in terms of fertility assistance because any additional IUIs after six wouldn’t result in any higher chances of pregnancy. But because he saw nothing unusual on all of our tests (we were then officially diagnosed with unexplained infertility) he was extremely hopeful that one of the two IUIs at his office would work.
Sometimes things just don’t turn out the way you hoped it would and the additional two IUIs, even with a different medication, closer monitoring of my ovulation cycles, did not result in a positive pregnancy test. At this point in time, I was feeling pretty frustrated. My days were filled with highs and lows from emotions of this need to be a mother. I felt like I had no control of anything because this was THE one thing I could not obtain no matter what I did. No amount of money, hard work, perseverance could have gotten me pregnant and it was devastating. My husband at this time was so supportive and honestly, without him there to pull me out of my sad pool of despair, I wouldn’t have known what I would have done. So hope was then restored when both of us decided that we’d see Dr. Hickok to talk about our next steps.
September/October 2013 timeframe, we met with Dr. Hickok again to talk about In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). He helped us map out a plan for the next couple of months and his IVF Coordinator, Renee (love her to death) helped me understand and order all the necessary medications I needed. Prior to starting IVF, I had done my research online about the procedure and was pretty educated on it and I was prepared for all that’s to come.
For those of you that don’t know much about IVF, let me just tell you that it’s a toll on the body. I did not know that each IVF cycle would result in me taking birth control pills for a month before I could start on my medication. So patience was something I had to practice! The medications I had were mostly daily injections. Needles scare some people but I wasn’t scared at all because like I said, I was ready and prepared for whatever to come. The injections were through the stomach area and by the end of my shots, my stomach was bruised as if I was being abused on a daily basis. It was definitely not pretty.
Throughout my IVF cycle, I was closely monitored by Dr. Hickok on the number of egg follicles I was producing. The hormone injections I was taking were supposed to over-stimulate my ovaries so I would produce multiple eggs. I would go into his office every other day or so to check on my status and I was doing extremely well until around Day 9 of my shots when I introduced an additional shot injection. This other injections made my estrogen levels plummet and right then I felt like something was off. Dr. Hickok wasn’t 100% sure what had happened but my egg follicles were still growing so he told me to continue on with all my meds until it was time to retrieve my eggs. At the time of my egg retrieval, they were able to get 18 eggs out of me. Those numbers seemed promising!
Let me just talk a little about the egg retrieval process here. Boy did no one warn me about the recovery process. The retrieval itself was fine because I was put under and slept through the 30 minute procedure. When I woke up, it was the start of the horrible recovery. I did not expect so much pain in my abdomen area, which lasted for two weeks after the procedure. Going to the rest room (especially number two…sorry TMI) was extremely difficult. But I digress.
After my egg retrieval, I would get almost daily reports from Renee, my IVF Coordinator on how my eggs were doing. It would take 5 days for me to get a final result of how many of the 18 eggs would then turn into viable embryos to place back into my uterus. I won’t go into too much detail here of the technicalities, but long story short, by Day 5, Renee called me with my final report. And it turned out that out of the 18 eggs, I had ONE viable embryo.
Again, my husband and I were devastated. I was extremely hopeful that out of 18 eggs, I’d at least have 4 or 5 viable embryos by Day 5. And speaking with Dr. Hickok, he had said that women my age with that many eggs retrieved usually resulted in a handful number of embryos. However, when I heard I had only one, we were again at a frustrating point. With this one embryo, it would not guarantee 100% that I would have a full term pregnancy. Because at my age, 25-40% of pregnancies ended in miscarriage. And because my husband and I thought we would have more embryos, we were going to perform genetic testing on them to eliminate the embryos that had problems and would possibly result in miscarriage/preterm birth. But having one embryo was just too little.
From here on we were ready to do another round of IVF to gather more embryos. And so the whole cycle started again. Birth control pills, medication injections, office ultrasound visits, egg retrieval, pain from recovery, and on and on. Our second IVF, with the help of Dr. Hickok changing a little bit of my medication cocktail so that my estrogen levels wouldn’t plummet, also resulted in 18 eggs retrieved. I guess 18 was my lucky number! By end of Day 5, Renee called me with the news that I had two fully viable embryos.
Now with three embryos total from two IVF cycles, my husband and I felt that was a good number to send off to the genetic testing company for testing. So we froze our three little babies and waited for the test results. The test results took about two weeks to come back and it turned out that out of the three, two of them were full healthy embryos that would have a decreased miscarriage rate. The two that were healthy were from the second round of IVF. If we would have put the first embryo in me after our first round of IVF (which we considered for a short amount of time) that pregnancy would have probably resulted in a miscarriage. It was a blessing in disguise that we had to go through a second round of IVF and now we know it was totally worth it.
We were at this point so excited with our two healthy embryos and were ready to put one of them in. I never thought I’d get to this point and it was so hard to believe that we were finally here. But remember when I said before sometimes things just don’t turn out the way you want it? Well, the hurdles that were there through this whole process weren’t quite gone. When it was time for the transfer of my embryo, Dr. Hickok wanted to make sure that my uterine lining was at a good thickness for that embryo to implant. The number they wanted to measure and see was 9mm by day 14 of my cycle. And my lining was 7mm at best. Again, I felt that sense of cloudiness I felt all through the last three years of my life. I started to feel that cloud getting lower and lower and that dreaded feeling I was getting where I felt like I was never going to be a mom started creeping back up. Month after month, with different types of medications, my uterine lining would not cooperate. And it was such a hard time for us. We were SO close. Our baby was waiting in the freezer for us and my body just would not cooperate. Finally, after five more months of monitoring and with the help of estrogen patches, I was able to get a good lining. Dr. Hickok, bless his heart, would not implant an embryo if he wasn’t 100% certain it would result in a good viable pregnancy. And I could tell he was perplexed with my situation during these five months. But on the fifth month when he finally measured a good thick lining, I saw his face and knew it was time.
I prepped my body for my transfer with additional estrogen patches and suppositories and on August 21st of this year, we transferred our little baby embryo that resulted in my current healthy pregnancy.
Oh my, that was long. Let me just apologize if you’ve stuck with me until this point. I’m almost done! Before I end this post, I just wanted to say that when we first started our road to becoming pregnant, I never thought we would go through IVF. I think no women out there automatically think they’ll have problems and jump to the conclusion that they’ll have IVF. For me, each roadblock we experienced meant that I had to go through an influx of emotions to get to the point where I saw hope on the horizon. From the IUIs with the OB, to seeking help from an RE, to finally deciding to go through IVF, we’ve had to slowly come to terms with the situation we were facing. That things weren’t going to go the way we originally planned or wanted but the end result would be a healthy baby that we’d love and have been wanting and longing for the last 3.5 years of our lives. And that is what’s important.
Our little baby, a true gift, has an estimated arrival date of May 9th, 2015. Mother’s Day weekend…which seems appropriate because it’ll be the gift of a lifetime for me. The gift that allowed me to become a mother…finally!