My Story of Infertility: Part II
Editor's note: This is part two of a three part series. Read part one here.
After the 4 failed IUI (Intrauterine insemination), we decided on an extensive panel testing. My doctors eyes always spoke so much to me. He could feel my heart hurting from the unknown and these failed attempts. And I could sense he needed more data to help me have children. The moment we had our meeting and reviewed next steps I knew we had to do the extensive blood panel. My reasons for choosing this option were two fold: First, if we were going to financially and emotionally invest in IVF, I needed to know all that we could about my body, and second, my gut kept screaming that there was a missing link.
After the blood was taken and shipped to Chicago for twelve days of testing, to say I was counting down those days was an understatement. I loved my job so I threw myself into it like never before. Also I began really opening up to my village about what was going on. At this point in my life I did not know many people who had infertility issues, but the wonderful thing about my village is they supported my hopes. Sure they did not understand all the technical items going on, yet they know my love language and prayers, good vibes, wine, food and cupcakes were being delivered on the regular.
Despite a supportive village this began when I recall crying frequently. I mostly cried by myself. Often I did not know truly the exact reason, but it all boiled down to the unknown and the strong desire I had to have a family and feeling helpless to try to achieve this hope of having children. For a person who is always wanting to look at the glass half full, I had more moments where I feared the water was pouring out.
It was noon on a Friday in New York when I got the call. The call that the test results were back from the extensive blood panel. I must mention the IVF clinic I went to was small - most are not this way. For me, I have always been a small business gal and my way of living is by my heart. This entire clinic became my family. The main nurse I worked with literally felt like a sister I always wanted. A smarter much more mature sister than myself. The nurse called because she knew I was traveling for work. She said in the mail is an extensive panel and she is scanning it in so I can have an email too. But the report was huge and she knows science is not my strong suit. Her voice was more solemn. This is the person who had to call me the other four times to say, “Sorry Jen you are not pregnant and we don’t know why.” She told me this is urgent and I need you to talk to the office today. It showed a series of issues. And the doctor is recommending I start IVF on my next cycle. It was a flood of emotions. Knowing they figured out issues to why nothing had worked prior to felt like a homerun. I wanted to hug my gut and say thank you for screaming from the rooftops. Yet it all happened so fast. The job I had has two huge months out of the year that are the busiest. Of course one of those months I would now have to miss because of IVF. Yes of course a family is more important, but you have to work to pay for life oh and IVF. My two bosses gave me the biggest gift that day - the gift of being able to focus on having the World Series of shots to get that family.
I landed in Dallas on a Monday and met with my IVF office first thing. If you are reading this and have gone through this process you realize the IVF office becomes literally your home. When you are going through this process you have to get checked sometimes weekly or daily. I would work from my IVF office all the time. Thanks Al Gore or whoever really created the Internet.
At this meeting we went over my issues. One glaring issue is that my eggs were not in great shape, my body rejected babies when I did get pregnant and that my body was starting to stop producing eggs. On top of this I had PCOS and my thyroid condition. My doctor had gotten people pregnant who had cancer, one ovary and all the odds against them. Yet he still looked at me and said this is what I recommend but this is not an easy case. Well doc don’t you worry my life has not always been filled with the easy roads. But I knew I could and would do anything. And had no doubt he was doing the same.
A calendar is given to you with very specific details on what meds to take, what time of the day and what days you must come to the office. Due to my issue with too many killer cells. Which is what they found was having my body attack any times I would get pregnant and would result in very early miscarriages. I started taking blood thinners on my stomach. I did this twice a day. The next step, in an odd twist, the first thing you do is take a round of birth control. I recall telling people and they were like WTF. Ya I felt the same way, but followed my calendar to a T! Also to help my body with all of the foreign objects I did acupuncture. I eventually stopped because I was having to give myself so many shots in a day, the thought of any needles by choice wrecked my mind. But a good old foot massage while getting a pedicure always helped my stress.
To help my body during this time the doctor had me start infusions. This is something most people do not have to do. But due to the odd series of issues they felt this would help. I would call it the good juices. Overall mentally I was strong yet fragile. The first infusion I went and thought I was ready, but I got there and my blood pressure was crazy. My body was telling me I was under so much stress mentally and physically that I was hitting a very low point. I had to call Steve at work because they wanted to take me to the hospital. These people did not know me and I was hysterical. I told them I had to get this infusion and why. They were not familiar with this form of treatment and were not kind. So here I am with my blood pressure going crazy, my IVF calendar in hand and tears as if the Niagara Falls had landed on my face. I was able to regroup and sat there for 4.5 hours and received my first infusion. Infusions did not always take this long but of course my veins broke a few times. But this task I could mark off the calendar and move on.
When you start this process it is like running up a large mountain. It starts out so simple - I thought wow this is a breeze. Quickly I was taking so much medication that I was feeling foreign in my own body. Going in to get vaginal ultrasounds and blood work weekly felt normal. Yet on the days the journey would not go as planned, it wrecked me. I would blame myself for not enough rest, eating too much junk food or not distressing enough. The Universe always helped me on these days. I would get a kind text from someone checking on me or a wonderful email. I was always very open with this journey in my life. It was my own little battle that if you saw me it was impossible for me to hide or not talk about.
The photo of my first delivery of meds looks huge, yet times that by two. On my journey we had to up the medication numerous times to get my levels where they needed to be. The first major goal is to create healthy eggs that can be harvested. A week before my eggs would be taken out there was a glitch. I had developed a large blood cyst. So large that it could be damaging to myself and the process. So I was told they needed to go in and drain this cyst. And that meant my calendar would have another week. So once it was drained, I would need to repeat that week again so my body could keep at that special step. At this point I could not fit into my pants. My stomach was so swollen and bruised. All of the needles and meds had made my body furious.
Often I would look to the universe for signs if this was the journey I should be on. There were days I would sit in the shower crying hysterically begging for my body to react to science. I prayed to God asking for him and his crew to help. And I thought of my Dad a billion times. He was often the person that helped talk me back into my positive space. And through it all no matter the day I knew I was fortunate. Fortunate that I was able to get IVF and to have support. I would allow myself sad moments but rarely ever a sad day.
The day before my egg retrieval we made it a fun one. We made homemade egg drop soup. It tasted pretty good but it was another great activity to take my mind off of the big day ahead. When you get your eggs taken out you are knocked out. When I take anasthesia let's just say I hear I do not handle it so well. I had anesthesia for my cyst and now for this. I woke up crying both times and loopy. I remember the doctor and Steve coming in with huge smiles. That was all I needed to see. Neither of them are good at faking a smile. I had 29 eggs that were taken out that day. Just so you know, that is a ton!
Now we wait. The eggs were harvested with Steve’s sperm. And just like that we wait to see which are the survivors. At our clinic they grade them A, B and C. We, of course, wanted A level. The other doctor at our clinic was pure genius, as well. He did his magic to give our hopeful family a chance. Everyday I would get a call with how many were still in the running to be put back in my body.
I still took meds in hopes we would be putting back fertilized eggs into my body. I was over stimulated from the meds so I was in some pain for a few days after this procedure. I, of course, puked a billion times, but that is pretty normal for my body and modern medicine.
Life had to keep going. I worked and waited for my daily updates on how those fertilized eggs were doing. After the first night they went to 16, then 14, then 12 and we ended up with 4 grade A fertilized eggs left.
Two days before I would get the eggs back in, I went to a baseball game with my family. It felt odd to try to be “normal” yet pondering that your potential children are growing while you are at a game. At the game, I started spotting and my heart sank for what felt like the 1,000th time. I called my doctor who assured me what to do and thankfully I was okay.
Five days after the eggs were taken out, I had an appointment set to put two fertilized eggs back in. Your chances with having two put back in are so much greater. For me, the chance of having twins seemed like a dream.
The morning of the transfer I remember putting on my lucky socks. Brought my purse filled with cards, notes and good luck photos. During this procedure you are awake. It is a true modern day miracle to get to watch your two potential children being placed in your body. It was surreal. And it was painless.
My doctor is modern, yet old school. He recommends five days of bed rest - most recommend 1 to 2 days. But per everything else, he gave instructions and I listened. Leaving the clinic that day every single person on staff hugged me and gave me their most hopeful smiles. The snapshot of their faces is forever one of the layers on my heart.
Steve wheeled me to the car and for the next five days I was setting up shop to get these babies to implant! He was a great caretaker. Whatever food I wanted he would get and always made sure I had whatever was needed. My days were filled with endless what if questions. But I did vow to NOT search the Web. I knew everything we could do was done, so I indulged on my favorite things and watched Gilmore Girls, Love Actually and Arrested Development on repeat. Juiced, ate cupcakes and Mexican food. Being open about my journey I felt helped me so much at this point. I could reach out to people for support and also enjoyed catching up on what other people were doing.
On the fifth day, Steve went out for work. I had been feeling so sick. My clinic instructed to not take a pregnancy test. There are a million reasons why not. But Steve did leave me alone for possibly too many hours. I hopped in my car and purchased a handful of pregnancy tests. Now this is a Friday and my blood work to see my pregnancy levels was on Monday.
Over $100 at CVS gave me the most priceless news… five positive pregnancy tests! On that Monday my blood work came back like my CVS tests. I was for sure pregnant. There was no way to know with one or two. But with juding by how sick I was, I was pretty confident I was puking for two future children.
Now the quest to keep those babies to a full term pregnancy became my next chapter to my story.