A tad different from my other posts, I wanted to share my personal struggle with infertility. I’m currently 22 weeks and am now confident in my pregnancy to share what it took for us to get here. Despite the hardships, or maybe even more because of the hardships, we are over the moon that we are pregnant and expecting our baby in December. I hope to share more about my pregnancy, postpartum, and motherhood on the blog.
Why I Care to Share
When struggling through infertility I promised myself that when I got pregnant I would share my story. It brought me much hope and comfort reading other people’s fertility struggles and success, and knowing I wasn’t alone.
Now that I am pregnant, it would be easy for me to just focus on the joy of being pregnant and ignore what it took to get here. The truth is, I feel guilty not sharing what I went through. I don’t want anyone going through infertility to look at my husband and I think we had it easy, when that was not the case.
If you are struggling, I hope my experience makes you feel less alone or helps provides hope.
The Beginning: Thoughts on Parenthood
In March 2016 my husband and I thought it was time that we start thinking about having children. I knew I wanted to have kids, maybe four of them, and my first before my thirties. However, the idea of becoming a mother was daunting and I remember desperately googling: “How do you know when you’re ready to have a baby?” I distinctively remember one particular answer ‘you’re never really ready until you are having trouble conceiving”. Little did I know that would be my golden answer.
I went off the birth control that March, after fourteen years, to free my body from synthetic hormones and get back to my natural cycle. I downloaded an app to countdown the day to when we were going to start trying: August 1, 2016.
Looking back I was foolish to implement such a plan.
When August finally came around, I had not experience one period. There was nothing, not even spotting after five months of being off the pill. I heard that this was common after being on the pill for so long and it sometimes takes 6 months to get your cycle back, so I waited another month before visiting my gynaecologist.
My doctor ran some tests and alerted me that I had high prolactin and that may be the reason for my lack of period. He thought since we wanted to be pregnant as soon that we visit a fertility clinic. The word’s ‘fertility clinic’ took me by surprise. It made my fertility issue sound scary and real.
The Fertility Specialist and First Diagnosis
I remember when making my appointment with the fertility doctor I was hit by my first big low. I guess the reality settled in that I was currently ‘infertile’ and I needed a doctor to intervene. My dreams of naturally conceiving were dwindling.
There were pages and pages of information to fill out. It all sounded too serious and I thought we were getting ahead of ourselves. I broke down, called my parents and told them for the first time that Elliot and I were having issues conceiving.
After blood tests and ultrasounds my doctor diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormonal disorder that can result in irregular or missing periods and I was not ovulating because of it. My doctor told me I was born with it, there was no cure but I need not worry. He assured me that women with PCOS more often than not go on to have children. We decided that the best course of action would to proceed with an IUI (Intrauterine insemination). I joked to him that we would be moving to New York in four months and that I wanted to get pregnant before. He said not a problem. I was happy that I had a diagnosis and quick solution. Again, I was naïve.
Treatments and Second Diagnosis
The start of the treatments welcomed fertility drugs to my life and the start of a regimented schedule.
The first IUI failed and the second was cancelled because my follicles were not responding to the meds. I was devastated. I was moving to New York in a few weeks and I had only had one thing on my mind, to get pregnant.
I guess you could say since being diagnosed with infertility I had a one-track mind, which seems common in people who are experiencing it. I thought of nothing else but to become pregnant as fast as possible. Still believing my fertility issues were a simple fix and I’ve had bad luck up until now, I chose a doctor in New York with that could see me as soon as possible. He told me it would be quicker if I just went ahead and did IVF (In vitro fertilization). He also convinced me to do PGS (pre-genetic testing) on my embryos to improve my chances. I was told my success rate was 80%.
Before infertility treatments, the idea of IVF was daunting and scary. Now I was thankful and excited there was an option with high success rates. I didn’t think twice before deciding to move forward with it.
Over the next eight months I had three failed frozen embryo transfers. After each failure I was devastated. I had never felt lower, more confused, lonely, and helpless. I questioned if my body was even capable of becoming pregnant. I felt my zest for life and my confidence as a person being sucked out of me.
Despite my difficult emotions, I had no desire to take a break. I found, who I believe to be the best doctor in New York City, and started the IVF process all over again. This second IVF retrieval was more successful and with addition of the ReceptivaDX test I was diagnosed with endometriosis. I was shocked because I had no obvious symptoms, but again I was happy that we had a reason as to why I was not yet pregnant.
My doctor put me on a drug called Lupron Depot for two months to calm down my endometriosis before we did a frozen embryo transfer. It was the first time in over a year that I could go two months, or even two weeks, without having to worry about doctor appointments, or Elliot having to give me daily needles (only one needle a month with this drug!). My husband and I enjoyed this freedom by going to Hawaii, or as we like to call it our ‘Infertility Moon’. Minus several ladies sporting baby bumps on their “baby moons” reminding me of my infertility, it was just what we needed, a break from it all.
On March 29, 2018, we proceeded with the frozen embryo transfer. The day felt like a dream. I did acupuncture before and after the transfer and popped two Valiums. Let’s just say I was pretty relaxed but also very excited. I remember the moment we saw our 5-day embryo, I had this gut feeling that it was the one. This may sound strange but I thought it looked beautiful. I guess that’s how you start to think when you become well acquainted with 5-day embryo photos. The transfer went smoothly and better than my previous ones. It was now our job to wait and hope that our baby would implant over the weekend.
Two days later our baby implanted. I remember I was having breakfast with Elliot and my nose just started to bleed. I (obviously) googled if nose bleeds had any relationship with early pregnancy and it did. Whether this is the truth or not, I took it as a sign from g-d things were happening. Later in the day I was very crampy. My doctor reassured me that this could be from implantation.
Four days after the transfer I gave into my urge to take an at-home pregnancy test and to my surprise saw the faintest line. Until this point I had probably peed on fifty sticks and had never seen a faint line. I was ecstatic but cautious. Up until my beta blood test, I took a pregnancy test every day and cheerfully watched the line get darker.
Nine days after our transfer we went into the clinic for my official pregnancy blood test. We asked the nurse to write the gender down on a piece of paper and we would look at it if we received good news (we were able to do this because PGS allowed the doctors to know the gender). To our excitement the doctor called with a positive result! We then had our little gender reveal just the two of us. When the sticky note read ‘Female :)’ I pretty much lost it and cried from relief and happiness. Not because we were having a girl, well maybe a little bit, but because it was finally happening, we finally got our BFP! (big fat positive).
Infertility hijacked my life for two years. As I have mentioned, I was obsessed. I was living from doctors’ appointment to doctors’ appointment, without really living in-between them. I would count down the days until we were one step closer to success. When a procedure was delayed or failed, I became depressed. Finding a job was on the back burner. I didn’t want anything in my life to interfere with my appointments or to create more life stress. I fuelled my desire for a baby with infertility message boards, YouTube videos, and reading peoples journey’s.
I isolated myself and became anti-social. This was easy to do because I had just moved to a new city. I only wanted to speak to my friends that knew what I was going through. I felt like a lie to my friends who didn’t know. I also resented the people I told who didn’t give me the support or outlet that I needed. In retrospect, it’s hard to understand when you’re not going through it.
The truth is, I didn’t tell many people what I was going through because I was embarrassed. I knew this wasn’t a valid emotion but I didn’t want to broadcast to everyone that my body wasn’t working like it should. I also had hope we would have success sooner than later and there was no need to advertise it. I was very wrong about this.
I felt confused. How could I go on my entire life feeling healthy and normal yet have a range of hormonal issues going on beyond the surface? I thrive on being healthy and taking care of myself, but this was something I could not control.
Trying to let go of control was difficult and not really in sync with my personality. I did whatever I could to be in control of this situation. I read that PCOS and Endometriosis can go into remission if you change your lifestyle. I cut out gluten, processed food, and rigorous exercise. Basically anything that would cause stress on my body. I replaced my makeup, body, and home cleaning products with natural alternatives. Although many of these changes are positive and I still swear by today, I got carried away.
My journey wasn’t easy. For those who do not have to go through it, it may be difficult to comprehend how much it can impact your mental health. However, it made me a more patient, compassionate, and stronger person than I was before. I can also take a needle in the butt like it’s my job.
I’m very fortunate it didn’t impact my relationship with my husband. It just made me fall even more in love with him because he was the strong, supportive, rock in my life, and I know he would stick by my side no matter what happened.
I also understand that not everyone has access or the means to receive the treatments I received. I am grateful that I was able to have the opportunity to get pregnant through fertility treatments. Science is pretty incredible.
For those who are going through it today and need support, don’t hesitate to reach out. I also understand that sometimes reading someone else’s story is comforting enough.