Wednesday, April 26, 2017

National Infertility Awareness Week 2017

I have always been crazy open about our journey to becoming parents. It was definitely not by any stretch "normal", even as a fertility patient, thanks to working at SGF; however, regardless of the steps we took to get here, I could not be more proud of our journey. In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I will share our story again today.

B and I quickly got pregnant in early 2012 after just a few months off birth control pills. Sadly, that ended with a loss. I was devastated. After another 6 months of trying in vain, B and I did a fertility prescreening work-up to see if we could find out why I wasn't getting pregnant.  While the answers were tough to hear, they were answers and answers meant we could come up with a family building plan. We could use those answers to take action.

The first step on our fertility journey was Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) cycles.  These cycles take sperm and place it above the cervix to aid in conception. It's super non-invasive, "low-tech" and relatively easy treatment. Our first cycle in October 2012 was medication free. We had completed our prescreening by mid-cycle so Dr. Levy ordered an ultrasound which showed a perfect follicle so he had me do some blood work which showed I was having an LH surge on day 13 so we did our IUI 2 days later. Please note: completing an IUI during the prescreening cycle is not then norm but rather a perk of being an employee. Unfortunately, this cycle was negative. Our second cycle in November was also medication free. We did our baseline appointment and came back on day 12 of my cycle for blood work and ultrasound monitoring. Nothing. We came back on day 16 of my cycle. Nothing. Day 19? Still nothing. By day 21 of my cycle, I finally had a little bitty LH surge and we scheduled our IUI 2 days later. Again, the cycle was negative. For our third cycle in December of 2012 we decided to bite the bullet and add Clomid. We monitored this cycle on days 10, 12 and 15. While I had a crazy lady response to the Clomid that happens in <0.1% of patients, I was also anovulatory which caused the cycle to be canceled. We decided to regroup and come up with a new plan. We'd move forward with IVF.

At this point, we were over a year off birth control pills and still not pregnant. It was tough and emotional and frustrating. We started the new year with a new treatment plan and I was optimistic that this was going to work out. I got my period a week into the new year and was excited to get my IVF protocol dates and roll into a cycle. An ultrasound revealed that I had ovarian cysts. Whomp whomp, no IVF cycle this month.

In February 2013, we were finally ready to start our IVF cycle. I will say this, if I had to choose between IUI or IVF treatment - I would pick IVF every. single. time. And not just because the success rates are better. There was more control and more structure which someone with OCD like mine really loves. I previously wrote posts breaking down my IVF cycle part 1part 2, the egg retrieval and the embryo transfer. On March 3rd 2013, Brandon and I found out that our IVF cycle had worked. We were pregnant. We graduated from Shady Grove Fertility on April 3rd and on November 13th we welcomed Natalie into the world.

In late summer 2016, B and I started talking about baby #2. We had a lot of concerns about expanding our family and we decided that maybe late spring, early summer 2017 would be a better time to re-evaluate our timeline and possibly have a frozen embryo transfer (FET). Then in August of 2016, I almost lost my husband to a fluke accident. There is nothing like a near death experience to make you re-evaluate your life plans. B and I decided that we would start treatment again in the fall. The reality is that there would never be a "good time" to have another baby and there were always going to be hurdles.

Our FET cycle was so different than anything I had expected. I was terrified of the intramuscular injections complete with 1.5 inch needles, but they really were not that bad. I was anxious that it seemed so easy: baseline appointment, lining check, transfer. Done. I was nervous about whether or not it would work. But we were lucky. We had our frozen embryo transfer on November 8th, 2016 and found out on November 14th that our cycle had been successful. On December 18th, 2016 we were once again graduated from Shady Grove Fertility. It took awhile for it to really sink in that we were pregnant. It had been so so easy this time around and I had all kinds of guilt because it was easy and I had several friends who were struggling. I was reminded countless times that while it seemed easy, 70+ IM injections were not easy and I had put in the work back in 2013 with my IVF cycle.

It has been quite the journey to get to where we are. A journey that has changed me as a person.  I am so thankful for my amazing, supportive and loving husband who held my hand and encouraged me every step of the way.  Infertility and fertility treatment are things that could have put a serious strain on my marriage but we used it as a stepping stone and a building block and it made us stronger.  I am beyond grateful for my clinical team and friends at SGF who made this possible for us.  B and I have said so many times that if I didn't work at SGF, we never would have considered fertility treatment as a family building option. And I am so thankful that I was where I was when I was because B and I have a beautiful daughter and a healthy pregnancy because of it.

If you are experiencing infertility or going through treatment, I am always happy to share my experience in more detail and lend a supportive shoulder.  It can be an overwhelming and emotionally (not to mention financially) draining experience. No one should ever have to feel alone in that.  I was lucky enough to have the greatest support system on the planet and feel like everyone should be that lucky.