A little background
May 4th, 2017. 1,355 days. That’s how long we’ve been struggling with infertility. Matt and I naively decided that we wanted to wait a year after we were married to have a baby. We never expected that when that year was up that we wouldn’t be able to conceive. We saw a doctor in Louisville about 8 months in that was able to get us started on figuring out what the underlying issue was. Haha, I remember my first blood draw at the clinic. Oh the nerves!! I’ve always been afraid of needles to the point I would cry. Up till this point, I had actually only had to give blood two other times in my life. Now, I’ve actually become a pro even when my veins are “scared.” Thank goodness for great phlebotomists, says every infertile woman around the world.
The doctor also wanted to do an HSG (Hysterosalpingography). It’s an x-ray procedure where the physician injects dye into your fallopian tubes to ensure there’s no blockage. It’s a relatively uncomfortable procedure, even more so for those with blockages. Thankfully, I didn’t have any. After results from my bloodwork came in, I was informed of two factors that could be having an effect on our ability to conceive. I was told that I had Hashimoto’s disease, which can cause hypothyroidism. My levels were were above what is considered full-blown hypothyroidism so I was immediately prescribed medication to bring that back down to normal levels. I would soon figure out that a lot of women actually struggle with thyroid issues. The second factor played a bigger part but I wouldn’t know how big of a part it played until we moved to Boston and talked with a new physician. My AMH, according to the blood results, was low for my age.
When we moved to Boston, we saw one of the top rated doctors in the city. It was then that I figured out that I have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR). That, along with Matt’s results, didn’t equal a winner combo. While our doctor in Louisville had suggested doing a few IUIs (Intrauterine Insemination – “a fertility treatment that involves placing sperm inside a woman’s uterus to facilitate fertilization” [American Pregnancy Association]), our doctor in Boston said that we needed to go straight to IVF (In vitro fertilization – “the process of fertilization by extracting eggs, retrieving a sperm sample, and then manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish. The embryo(s) is then transferred to the uterus.” [American Pregnancy Association].
It wasn’t always this way (& more background)
In the beginning of your journey, you’ll learn that like so many others, infertility can take a toll on your physical intimacy. Because timing is a major concern, sex gets planned out based on ovulation. You can only imagine the social interactions between partners when that happens. It wasn’t always pretty. After a year of timing it, we finally started to relax and just said when it happens, it will happen. It was also when Matt was offered an opportunity to move to Boston with the company he was working for. I would like to say that we knew it would happen but the way that company communicated, it wasn’t actually until September (maybe August) that we were confirmed that we were moving.
Anyhow, we knew that some of the top hospitals in the US were in Boston so we knew deep in our hearts that this was where we needed to go. Flash forward a few months, Matt got us an appointment with that “top rated” doctor I mentioned earlier. After sitting down with him, neither of us felt good about the situation. Not only did he say that our previous doctor had downplayed my AMH levels, it was going to cost about $15-20k for a round of IVF and that was what he recommended. He also told us that we have less than a 1% chance of being able to get pregnant on our own. I read books about changes that we could make in our life. I started taking supplements, we changed to plant based cleaners in our house, I stopped buying candles and so many other lifestyle changes. Honestly, I wouldn’t change any of that. The changes we made have made a positive impact, even if we don’t have a baby in our arms.
After figuring out that our insurance covers practically nothing (like so many insurances across the nation but that’s a rant for another day), we found something else to argue about. Now let me preface this and say that money has NEVER been a topic for arguments in our marriage. We are big on budgets and that has saved us so much headache but this was a new beast. Granted, we only argued about it for a day or so but all of these things most “fertile” people don’t have to ever think are the things that tear marriages apart for so many. Matt, who had been unhappy at his current job for a while, decided that he needed to find a company that was based out of Massachusetts (MA has great infertility coverage). Eventually Matt found a MA based company that had great benefits, he accepted the job, my grandpa passed and then we had a house fire that did over $300k in damages. Let me start off by saying that being positive these past few years has been a struggle so I get it. After the house fire and when I recovered emotionally, I decided that I was tired of waiting and I called the doctor and within a month I had new blood drawn. Again, I was back to waiting because it took a few months to get my thyroid levels back under control because I hadn’t that tested since we were in Louisville. I didn’t grow up going to the doctor regularly if this gives you any indication as to why I hadn’t figured this out along the way.
Right after Christmas, when we returned from Kentucky, the nurse called me up and said that my levels were finally in good standing and that I could start as early as my next period. (I just realized this is more backstory but I needed to point out the struggles along the way.) I felt so overwhelmed because my next period was starting in two days but I jumped on it. It was now or never. Surprisingly, I did okay while on meds. Most women experiences a butt load of symptoms but I think because I was drinking water out the wazoo, I adjusted better. For those reading this going through an IVF cycle, drinking plenty of water really does make a HUGE difference. It’s also something a lot of women don’t think about but I always tried to plan my monitoring appointments with “Wanda” first thing in the morning at 6:30 so that by 7:10 I could be on the train headed to work in the city. It’s a lot on working women. Thankfully when we got to our third cycle, I was self employed and could make my own hours but those first two cycles, it was rough and I would come home exhausted and I just wanted to be alone. By the second cycle, Matt was on a huge project at work working 15-16 hours a day/7 days a week so we didn’t see much of each other anyway.
During my second cycle, COVID hit and most clinics stopped starting new procedures. Thankfully I was on CD5 or so when my clinic decided to do that but the stress of not knowing was too much and anyone who talked to me during that time could tell I was stressed. Because you go under anesthesia, you’re not allowed any food or drinks from midnight on before a retrieval and mine wasn’t till 2PM for that cycle (they vary based on when you trigger). I had a dry cough and I was trying to express to the nurse that it was just because I was thirsty and the more I thought about my thirst, the more I coughed. 😑 It was a losing battle.
When I figured out after the first cycle that none of my embryos made it to transfer, I cried. Like needed to pull over on the side of the road, ugly crying. I treated myself to Chick-Fil-A, checked on the status of the house (it was being rebuilt) and Murph and I went for a hike at Blue Hills. Matt, knowing how upset I was about it all, scheduled us a spa day at G20 in Back Bay. He even got a massage with me (though he says that he won’t do it again 😂). It was the perfect way to unwind after upsetting news and I was actually about to start again on a new IVF cycle so I knew that it could possibly be beneficial. Sadly, the second cycle failed us too but the massage I received and that spa, I would recommend in a heartbeat!! So nice and so many ways to relax while there. It’s definitely an experience.
Lol, I feel I’ve gotten a little off topic so I’ll end the backstory here and let you know my secrets for positivity (more how to deal with it all and distracting yourself when it all becomes too much).
Positivity (more like distractions)
If you’re going through infertility, you also need to realize your partner is also going through this and infertility is not a journey you have/need to take alone. While it does cause arguments, overall, it has only strengthened our relationship and it can yours too, if you let it. While we would trade it all in a heartbeat; because of our infertility, we’ve been able to go on more vacations and move across the country. It doesn’t have to be you wallowing in your sorrows 24/7. That’s no way to live and it’s not going to benefit anyone, including yourself.
When you feel that it’s all too much, cry it out. Watch a movie and let it go. Treat yourself to dessert (I love Ben & Jerry’s half baked). Go for a run. Take a long hike. I like to do this because being in nature is freeing. Call up your grandma, who I considered my best friend. I did so many times and will really miss her when we be
gin our next chapter. You can call whoever you’re close with. Take a road trip. Heck, when we had our house fire, I told Matt that I needed to get away and a week later I had a few days in Ireland booked. It’s the same scenario when our first round failed and Matt booked us a trip to the spa. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Take a day trip or the weekend and head to the beach (or lake …whatever is within driving distance). Do something for you. I’ve always had a selfish day following disaster and then came back to my partner and worked through it together.
Find what you enjoy and make a list. Also, come up with a list of stuff you would enjoy doing on a day when infertility is overwhelming you and you need to take a step back. You’ll be glad you have it ready to go on your bad days.
Like me, there are a lot of women struggling with infertility and finding a community (they are all over Facebook) can be unbelievably helpful. Not only can they share their journey with you, they can give you advice on protocols to suggest to your doctor or let you in on the questions they’ve asked that they have found most useful. It’s also nice to rant to women who understand what you’re going through. If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to total strangers, feel free to reach out to me. I’m always here if anyone wants to talk/text. I don’t have all the answers but I have a shoulder you can lean on when it all becomes too much.
Honestly, I’m not 100% certain. Multiple IVF cycles and our doctor doesn’t recommend another round of IVF, unless we feel we need closure. We’re currently weighing our options to figure out what’s next. Stay tuned 😉