Thursday, April 23, 2015

National Infertility Awareness Week: my story

The other day when Jordan and I were walking back to our desks after meeting with Dr. Levy, we were talking about a patient who is back in treatment for baby #2 and I mentioned that I couldn't believe it had been almost three years since the patient had baby #1 and four years since she did treatment.  And then it occurred to me that it had been two years since I went through my own IVF cycle.  How is that possible?  It feels like it was yesterday while also feeling like it was an eternity ago.  It's hard to believe that so much time has passed since Brandon and I began our journey to have a family. 

Three years ago this month I experienced my first and, so far, only known miscarriage. Miscarriages are not uncommon. Ten to twenty percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, but the number of miscarriages could be higher as many occur so early in pregnancy that the woman may not even know she was pregnant. That was not the case for me.  I was very much aware that I was pregnant. I was a couple days late. I peed on the stick and saw the faint second pink line. I took a couple dozen or so tests over the next several days and watched that second line grow darker. I scheduled an appointment for blood work with my OB/GYN and had come up with so many ideas for ways to tell Brandon he was going to be a father. I never got the chance. I grieved in silence for weeks.  Finally, I opened up to Brandon and we took steps to move forward. 

By September, we weren't pregnant.  I had tracked my ovulation religiously.  I had tried every weird trying to conceive myth from laying with my legs in the air to eating tons of baby carrots. Nothing was working. I did cycle day three blood work that revealed an elevated prolactin level. I had to have an MRI done to rule out pituitary tumors. Brandon and I both completed full prescreening work-ups that included karyotypes and we sat down with Dr. Levy.  Both of us had our issues.  He had decent sperm, not fabulous. I had an elevated prolacatin, crappy ovulation and weird cycles.  We were a match made in infertility heaven :)

We started with lesser before greater treatment.  Dr. Levy didn't want us to rush into anything. Brandon was happy with that approach. I dealt with it. Our first IUI cycle was not successful. It was a beautiful cycle that seemed promising, but resulted in a big fat negative.  Our second IUI cycle was pitiful.  I didn't surge until day 21 of my cycle and my ovulation was "disappointing".  I will never forget when Dr. Levy used that word.  For cycle number 3 we opted to use Clomid. I developed a serious case of the clomid crazies (something that happens in less than 1% of women - lucky me) and we had to cancel the cycle.  The clomid left me broken hearted and with three big cysts to kick off the new year. Charming.  I was so over doing IUIs and I was especially over the idea of ever using Clomid again.

In February of 2013 we started our IVF cycle. The dates all made sense and had some kind of meaning to us which I completely took as a good sign.  IVF treatment was much easier than I had anticipated.  It was super structured: do this and then that.  You take x amount of medicine on this day at this time and then you show up on this day at this time for an ultrasound and blood work appointment. You wait for results and then repeat. It was so calculated that I feel very confident that things would work out.  One day later than we had anticipated based on my protocol, we had our egg retrieval and then five days later we had our transfer.  Two weeks later we found out that we were pregnant.  We crossed the first big hurdle.  Then we watched our blood pregnancy level rise (second hurdle).  Then we had our first obstetric ultrasound and we saw the heartbeat (third hurdle). We were graduated from Shady Grove just shy of the one year anniversary of my miscarriage.  In November of 2013, we were blessed with the most beautiful, perfect, little bundle of joy.

Infertility was a tough road to go down.  I know I talk about it now so freely and happily like it was all so easy peasy, but it took time to get to this point.  There were some very dark days, but we took on the challenge and we are so much stronger for it. Our road to have a family was a longer road than some go down. At the same time, it was a shorter journey than others have faced.  But it was our journey and I am so blessed to have had such a wonderful outcome. Infertility could have ripped my marriage apart.  I have seen it happen. Instead, it made us stronger and, in the end, gave us the most perfect present of all for our hard work.

If you are struggling to get pregnant, please know that you are not alone.  If you are grieving the loss of a pregnancy, you are not alone.  If you are getting ready to start your fertility journey or are in the middle of it, you are not alone.  I faced the struggle, I embraced the journey and I came out stronger on the other side. There are so many wonderful resources available and I am happy to help you find them and take full advantage of them. Please know and always remember (even on the hard days), you are not alone.

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