Nothing can prepare you for this

When I was in my mid-20s I briefly considered donating my eggs. At the time, my motivation was primarily financial, although I was not ignorant to the idea that I could help give a baby to someone who desperately wanted one. I’ve always wanted to be a mother, and I had no doubt that being told you couldn’t have one “naturally” could be crushing to a woman.

After some consideration I deemed my motivations too selfish and my work schedule too hectic to move forward. I didn’t give egg donation another thought.

I didn’t give another thought to that woman I could have helped either. I wish I could rewind. I had no idea, ten years later, I’d be the woman struggling to force her body do the thing that it was built to do. No one ever thinks that it will be her. No one ever wants to be the one running out of time, money and options.

My husband and I began trying to conceive right around the time we got engaged, four and a half years ago. We weren’t naive that given our age, both 31, that we were shorter on time than some of our counterparts to build a family. We certainly didn’t consider ourselves geriatric, but we could do basic math. We planned a July wedding and I sincerely thought I could be pregnant before I walked down the aisle. As long as I still fit into my dress, I would be happy.

Two years later, after many life changes, but none of the baby variety, we reluctantly were referred to a fertility clinic. After the prerequisite testing, we were given an unexplained infertility diagnosis, and I began the first of several rounds of Clomid + IUI. While an unexplained diagnosis was intimidating, I was still so unprepared for what was to come.

In March of 2015, only a few months into fertility treatments, I wrote this:

When I wonder how much longer I can go on like this, in this state of mind, it makes me feel guilty. I would give anything to be pregnant. And I’m trying to give everything I can. I am trying. But I am so tired, too.

I had no idea what it meant to be tired, then.

Less than a month later I would become pregnant for the first time. A month following the happiest moment of my life, I miscarried for the first time.

More than two years, another miscarriage, five more IUI cycles, two failed IVF rounds  and a bout of chronic endometritis later, I know what it means to be tired. I read “not pregnant,” again, on that little stick just this weekend.

When I wrote that early post I was still so full of faith in my own body. I knew I would get the job I coveted of mother, and it would all be okay. The bloated, achy, overly hormonal side effects of Clomid would be a distant memory as I rocked my son or daughter to sleep at night.

But it hasn’t happened that way. Our infertility story is much longer than we could have ever expected, and we’re still very much in the thick of it. Infertility demands so much of your time, money, body and brain space. No woman or couple has any idea just how tiring this can be.

It’s hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes. Without the child my husband and I so desperately want, I’m not yet to a point where I can say, yes, everything was worth it. I’m still waiting. I’m still tired.

We’re nearing a crossroads. I’ve given my body, my energy, our money and more than four years of our time to science. Soon, we’ll need to decide how much longer we can continue, if at all. Facing that decision is parts scary, parts sad, and a small part freeing.

My husband and I are supposed to be parents. No one could have prepared us for what that would take, when it comes to others so easily. But we will be what we’re meant to be, someday.

52

Today and tomorrow

Two years ago today I found out I was pregnant for the first time. It feels like it could have been a lifetime ago. At that time, my husband and I were still noobs of infertility. We were already a little more than two years in to “trying,” unsuccessfully, but still so hopeful that we were seeking medical intervention and would, no doubt, solve the underlying issues quickly, whatever they might be. We’d just done our second IUI, but as the TWW drew to a close, I wasn’t optimistic that I’d be pregnant. My husband, unbeknownst to me, suspected it had worked because he’d noticed a change in my boobs.

When I saw that stick read pregnant early on a Tuesday morning, I laugh-cried. It was such a happy moment. Later that day I stopped at Target to pick up “What to Expect…” because I was so excited to buy it and need it.

Of course, by later that April things had changed so much.

Last April we were dealing with similar circumstances.

April sucks.

Tomorrow we’re doing our seventh infertility treatment. Another IUI — the thing that has worked — now that my endometritis has cleared. A big part of me hates that this is happening in April. It’s too full of bad juju. The flip side is that maybe this April will turn it all around. Maybe it’s supposed to be April.

Or maybe I just need to stop looking for a sign in every damn thing.

Later days, endometritis

The super annoying, potentially infertility-causing house guest in my uterus is finally gone! Following my third (and heaven willing my last) biopsy earlier this month, my chronic endometritis has cleared. Boatloads of antibiotics did the trick.

The day that I got the good news, I was actually terrified that it would be bad. I just had the worst gut feeling that the condition was still lingering, and had, perhaps, gone too long untreated leaving my my uterus permanently inhospitalable.

I’m incredibly thankful that doesn’t appear to be the case.

While the coast is currently clear, I’m eager to move forward as quickly as possible. “Quickly,” though, in infertility land almost always means waiting for your next cycle to begin. After some back and forth with the doctor and input from the most amazing nurse in the world, my husband and I landed on returning to IUI for just one more cycle.

That decision was primarily driven by financials (IUI is pocket change compared to IVF), but also by the tried-and-true approach of “well it worked before…” Said with a shrug, of course.

giphy

Both times that I’ve been pregnant were a result of IUIs. Since both of those pregnancies ended in miscarriages, though, we’ll this time supplement the IUI with progesterone shots (Crinone suppositories historically haven’t worked for me).

I’ve started the Clomid regimen. In previous cycles Clomid has flattened me like a pancake, although it has done what it’s intended to do. I decided I was willing to deal with the side effects one last time.

Mentally, though, I’m already checked out of this cycle. Although it has been successful in the past, Clomid + IUI has failed me twice, too. I expect it will again. My expectations are low — where I hope they will stay.

This will be my seventh attempt to get pregnant with medical intervention. That number seems very high, but also not high enough given that we’ve spent more than two years and thousands and thousands of dollars doing it.

Is it time to move on?

It’s a question I don’t really want to ask, but it may be time: Is it time to move on from my clinic? 

The stats:

  • “Unexplained” infertility, diagnosed in January 2015
  • Six total assisted cycles over two years
    • Four IUIs, resulting in two miscarriages (#2 and #4) and two failed attempted (#1 and #3)
    • Two failed IVF cycles
      • One fresh stim cycle
        • Resulting in five embryos for freezing
      • One double embryo FET
    • Two different “lead” doctors on my case

Not great, I hear ya. But here’s the thing: The support staff at my clinic warms my soul. I feel bonded, especially, to my IVF nurse, who I’ve written about before. She’s rooting for my success as much as I am, and that means a lot to me. She answers my questions and eases my concerns day, night, weekend, whatever. She’s in this.

Having said that, it’s counterproductive to throw money (not to mention time) at a place that, to date, hasn’t been successful getting me to my goal. Ultimately, that’s what matters most.

We will meet with the doctor later this month for a post-mortem on this failed cycle, after which, I feel like I will need to make the decision about moving on from this clinic. Dislike.

I’m listening

Probably one of the most important lessons I’ve learned about fertility over the last two-plus years is to listen to my body. Only a few years ago I likely would have thought this concept to be too new-agey for me, and in a way, it is. But when your month, every month, consists of testing things, prodding and then waiting, it’s natural to become hyper-aware of your body.

My husband and I tried to conceive naturally for nearly two years before we sought assistance. I was pretty well convinced when we first starting fertility testing that the doctors would find something wrong with me. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I knew that to be true. Early on in that process, we got some mixed results which had be concerned. These red flags all but convinced me that I was right. I was so very thankful to be wrong. The red flags largely turned out to be caused by ultrasound shadows. By the time sat down with our fertility doc, our infertility was unexplained. My husband and I fell into that mysterious 10-15% of couples where there’s no discernible cause to have not conceived naturally in two years.

Less than a week after meeting with our doctor, we began the Clomid + IUI plan that we’re currently on. A friend of mine, when I mentioned that course of treatment mentioned that Clomid didn’t work for her, and she felt strongly about that very early on. She heeded, “listen to your body.” It’s great advice, and words I paid attention to.

In our most recent Clomid + IUI cycle, my OPKs never picked up an LH surge (this had also happened the previous month, and I missed the window for IUI because I never saw a positive OPK). But, I had all of my typical ovulation symptoms. Over the course of about 18 hours, I went back and forth with the incredible staff of nurses that I work with at our clinic, along with my husband, to decide if we should proceed with this month’s IUI. There are always a lot of factors to consider in fertility treatments, and, too often, cost is a major one. Our medical insurance does not cover fertility treatments, so we’ve paid for our visits and procedures over the last several months out of pocket. This cost is significant to any couple that doesn’t have a hefty savings to fall back on, as it has been for us.

So, a serious concern in deciding to move forward with this IUI was, obviously, cost. Without an LH surge detected, I had no firm indicator that I’d ovulated. It was more of a risk to decide to move forward with an IUI (and timing it, essentially, blind). I listened to the advice of the nurses that have gotten to know me, and that of my husband (who, ultimately said, “uh, I don’t know…”). And then I listened to my body. My body said, in her sassy way, “girl, you’re trippin’… you ovulating! Go make that baby!”

I’m happy that I listened, no matter the outcome. For now, though, to be continued….

The shift

Sometime in the last hour my outlook on the day changed dramatically. That happens to me frequently, as I’m sure it does to most women trying to have a baby. That dramatic, sudden shift – the certain to uncertain – is a source of fear and loneliness for me, not to mention it can physically hurt.

This month I had my first fertility treatment – a five-day round of Clomid, paired with intrauterine insemination (IUI). These past 24 days have felt like some of the longest in my life. Never have three plus weeks crawled so unbearably slowly. In fertility lingo there’s an acronym – TWW (the two-week wait), of which I am more than midway through. TWW refers to the void of time between an insemination and the pregnancy test.

I’m scheduled to take my test this Friday, but about an hour ago, in the restroom, I feared that I wouldn’t have to wait out the calendar for another few days. Now my heart hurts. The last few days I had essentially convinced myself that I was, in fact, with child. Headaches, fatigue, nausea for no discernible reason… classic pregnancy symptoms. It’s a strange thing to be happy about feeling bad. Yesterday when I felt like I could barely keep down some fruit for lunch, turned my nose up at my large iced coffee, and then sat most of the afternoon at my desk with a box of crackers in my lap, I was feeling elated. When I packed my crackers in my desk drawer at the end of the day I thought gotta get used to this…with a smile on my face.

Yes, I know that a successful round one of fertility treatments isn’t that common. Tries three and four are more likely to work. I know. But, you see, I did some simple math and it added up to a sign. Insemination (and therefore conception) took place on my father-in-law’s birthday. We would find out if it “stuck” on the 13th – my mother’s birth date and (deceased) father’s lucky number. Then, 40 weeks later would take us to November 6th. A lucky six dead in the center of my husband’s lucky five and my lucky seven. That math just couldn’t lie.

Since that moment I’ve treated every second as though I’m carrying the child that I’ve waited for. The nurses tell you after insemination that while nothing is restricted, you should behave as though you are pregnant – stay away from alcohol, take good care of yourself, and the like. I have. I will. Until that little stick shows me one line or two. That stupidly small piece of technology that determines if I get the job as “mama.”

Right this second I’m less sure that I will get that job this month. I want to go back an hour and unsee the spot of red that suddenly, like a shot, made me feel hopeless and helpless again. Just as I have every month before.