Four-day pregnancy

Last Wednesday night I had a dream that my beta test was negative.

On Thursday morning I woke up, still recalling the dream, and wishing it not to be true. I found a leftover home pregnancy test and went to town. It was positive.

I snapped a photo and immediately texted it to my husband, who is working out of town for the next several weeks. He replied with appropriate emojis.

The next two days were spent secretly happy, but cautious. Sore boobs. Intermittent nausea. Fatigue. I decided not to move up my beta, which was scheduled for Saturday. That morning I woke up, went to have my blood drawn, and then waited.

Since it was Labor Day weekend, I heard back a few hours later from the doctor on duty. My beta was, indeed, positive, but my hCG was a little on the low side at 31.5. Commence Googling. I knew enough to know that at four weeks pregnant “normal” hCG levels can vary wildly. As long as the number doubled in 48 hours, things could still be perfectly fine.

I tried to spend the rest of Saturday and Sunday off of Google, and allowed myself to be a little bit excited. I had noticeable symptoms. Before I went to sleep each night I talked to Olaf and Anakin in my head. I told them to stick around, please. I was ready for this. I promised my endometritis-free uterus could take good care of them if they just stuck around.

Monday morning I went in for my second hCG check. I felt like things were on track.

It’s all too easy for me to ask myself why I even bother being happy or excited about anything when it will just be taken from me. That was my first thought when the doctor called on Monday. My levels has dropped by half. She said she was sorry. I could stop the PIO and estrogen. I should expect a slightly heavier period soon. Did I have any questions?

My husband was sitting on the arm chair to my left and I just shook my head as I finished the call. He buried his head in his hands.

This was the briefest of all of my pregnancies. Because I was only four weeks and two days, it’s classified as an “early loss.” A chemical pregnancy. It was barely real. It felt barely real, too, I guess.

We’d said this was going to be our last try. A large part of me still feels that is the right call. The emotions are raw, though. I ask myself, as if on a loop, if I’m okay with never experiencing a baby kick me from inside my body. I don’t know. Why do other women get to experience this, and I don’t? I don’t know. I never seem to get closer to the answers.

These questions and many of these feelings are wrapped up in the idea that my body continues to fail me. I’ve talked in therapy about this at length. I want to forgive my body and make peace with her. I hope that I can.

Of all of the outcomes going into this last FET, pregnant for four days wasn’t one I’d considered.

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Learning not to live in fear

If there’s one key thing that I’ve learned from spending time around other women who struggle with infertility, it’s that nearly every one of us lives in fear. When we see two pink lines or hear that we got a positive beta, we can allow ourselves to be happy for a second, but that happiness can quickly turn into fear. Grave thoughts of miscarriages past don’t leave us with passing weeks. The mindset can easily become why be happy when it’s just been taken away from us before?

I’m a few days away from my beta following my FET, and am feeling the sore boobs, fatigue and twinges of nausea. But I know well that those symptoms could just be the meds. I have a positive gut feeling, though. And that makes me anxious. I feel a bit like a tennis ball mid-match. Back and forth.

I was describing to my therapist that while I have this positive gut feeling, the idea of being pregnant again is shrouded in this fear of loss.  Will we tell people — our families and close friends that know about the IVF — this time? Is it worth it?

But on the flip side, if I am pregnant and, heaven willing, am able to carry successfully, will I look back in a few years and know that I didn’t allow myself to fully enjoy the experience? (Because, for real, at this rate I’m not sure I’m going to do it again.)

And then my therapist said something brilliant: If I feel happy because I am pregnant, then give myself permission to be happy. If I’m trying to protect myself by not allowing myself to enjoy it, it won’t work. Protecting myself in this way will not make it any easier should I miscarry again. It will be awful no matter if I was or wasn’t happy or excited.

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I’d never thought of it that way before, but YES! If I should miscarry again, that would be awful. But trying to pretend that I am less invested in the pregnancy won’t make it any easier for me.

As should come as no surprise to anyone reading this, I’m not really a “the world is rainbows and sunshine” kind of person. I’m just not. The “choose happy” mantra isn’t really my jam usually.

So if I am pregnant — if Olaf or Anakin or (gulps) both of them hang in there — then I’ll take the happy moments as they come. Of course I’ll be anxious sometimes, too. Because that’s completely normal. But I’ll work on living outside of the fear. It may be challenging, but this whole damn ordeal has been so I’m familiar.

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.

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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.

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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.

All hail me, the antibiotic queen

The last two months have been, shall we say, a bit confusing in Infertility Land. Following my second unsuccessful IVF transfer in November, my doctor was puzzled why three seemingly good (day 5 and 6) embryos had failed to implant. Statistically, given both my and my husband’s genetic screening are normal, it is extremely unlikely that they were all abnormal.

My doctor:

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The most likely candidate for failed implantation in my case (to recap: two failed IVFs, two miscarriages, and a boatload of IUIs totaling more than four years of unexplained infertility) is endometritis.

WTF is that and why does it sound just like endometriosis?

Endometritis is inflamed uterine lining, and I have it. Chronically. And how did we land on this diagnosis? With the most painful biopsy of my uterus I could imagine. I do not mince words here. I have a reasonably high tolerance for pain. I’ve had sporadic kidney stones since I was about 17 years old. I bite down and bear it. A uterine lining biopsy is no joke. I, in fact, nearly fainted. I sat up following the procedure, felt weird, and then hear my doctor and nurse yelling into the hallway for juice and a cold compress as they each grab my hands and check my pulse. It had slowed to about 50/bpm.

This endometritis thing is wack, but at least we’re starting to get some answers. I was asymptomatic, so there was no real reason to test for this before. It’s possible that I contracted the initial infection that lay essentially dormant when I had my D&C for my first miscarriage. The timing of that makes complete sense, actually. Nothing has worked since then. The number one complication of endometritis is infertility. Check! I got that.

I was relieved to have a diagnosis and something to blame the stress of the last few years of fertility treatments on. And thankfully, chronic endometritis is treatable. Just a course of antibiotics should clear it right up! Yes, there would be another painful biopsy waiting for me on the other side of that treatment, but so what?

I dutifully took my two pills a day for three weeks (thanks to a sinus infection prior to my treatment, my course of antibiotics was more like four and a half weeks). Then tried to keep my anxiety at bay for the next invasion of my uterus. You know what helps, though? Valium! The most wonderful nurse on the planet gave me one about an hour before the procedure and I’d slide that pain scale on down to a seven this time around. I was also pretty high most of the day, so I joyfully spent the following few hours in my bed.

Fast forward one week to yesterday… results day. No bueno. The tissue remains inflamed. Three weeks of antibiotics is no match for MY chronic endometritis!

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So, ya know, that’s not fair. The next step is a double dose of antibiotics for two more weeks. And then we biopsy again. Cannot wait for that good time.

In all seriousness, I’m sad. Sad that this easy treatment for this condition we didn’t know I had didn’t work. Sad that the timing of all this effectively prevents us from having a child in 2017, even if I were to successfully get pregnant in my next FET cycle. Which, sure, is fine, but it’s just one more thing that sucks. I made an effort to start the year positively after the last few have beat the crap out of me, and it makes me question why I’m ever positive.

Yes, I’m selfish — I want a baby and I’m pissed that I’ve waited so long to get what I want. Only to just keep on waiting. Now I’m waiting with boxes of probiotics and Monistat to quickly clear the inevitable yeast infection.