Normally I like to post earlier in the week, but not only have I been busy taking over both our littles without any help at home this week (and I’m surviving just fine–phew!), it’s taken a lot of thought and care to craft this post. I want to be honest without oversharing because I want the content to be relevant to lots of readers, yet I also want it to be helpful to those going through a similar experience. I also want to really get this right. It’s emotional to look back at where we were several years ago, and to see the incredible difference. We just celebrated our first holiday as a family of four (excuse this blurry photo. We couldn’t hold still). Holy crap.
There were many months we never thought that would be possible.
So, today’s post is taking things way back. Almost five years back actually. We’re going back to where our infertility journey began. Back to a time where our hope to become parents was fragile, unknown, and charged with emotion. When I think about our journey I remember how terrifying and uncomfortable it was. I remember the toll it took on our marriage. I remember endless doctors appointments, hours logged driving to and from the clinic before work, days and days of bloodwork. And then, yes, finally being one of the lucky ones.
Almost two years after trying to start a family we admitted something might be wrong. We had “tried to relax,” “went on vacation,” attempted to “just not think about it,” and followed all the other advice people kindly give when you’re struggling to have kids. But we finally had to admit, something wasn’t working and we didn’t know why. We needed some help.
When you start infertility testing, men are typically required to do semen analysis and some blood work testing hormone levels. Seriously fun compared to what us ladies have to do, yet not fun at all! Women typically do at least an HSG (hysterosalpingogram) test (where they inject radiographic dye through the cervix and into the uterine cavity and fallopian tubes) and matching blood work.
None of this testing, while uncomfortable, was physically painful. I remember some cramping with the HSG test, but nothing unmanageable. However, emotionally, I’ll never forget feeling like a total failure when we started down this path. And then feeling like an even bigger failure when our doctor told us our diagnosis was “unexplained infertility.”
He couldn’t tell us what was wrong because according to all of the tests, everything was fine. In fact, I learned I’m hyperfertile, meaning my egg stores were huge. I should have been happy they were telling us we were okay, but instead I was sincerely upset they didn’t find a problem. Because this meant there was no easy solution. Our options were to keep trying naturally or with some medical assistance: IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro fertilization).
We opted to keep trying on our own just a little longer, but not until the last funny bit related to this initial appointment happened and really made things uncomfortable. When our last round of bloodwork, testing my hormone levels, came back a couple days after we met with our doctor they called to say, “You’re ovulating now, you should have intercourse!” Clearly the kind of call that totally gets you in the mood. And then the real funny part. While we sat at the bar that Friday evening trying to relax and laugh at our current life, who sat across from us other than the doctor who had asked his nurse to deliver this instruction just hours earlier. That same doctor we had seen 48 hours before.
We didn’t get pregnant that month.
Or the month after, but three months later we did. We had started using some ovulation prediction kits and apparently it helped. It seemed our prayers had been answered and that things were finally going to be okay.
I mentioned in my last post, we experienced multiple miscarriages, but those happened after our first appointment with our fertility clinic. They started that first month we fell pregnant. I remember being so thrilled when we finally got a positive test. We couldn’t wait to tell our families. They had been dying for us to conceive as much as we had, if not more. I’ll never forget their overjoyed reactions. And I’ll never forget the next day either. The evening after we delivered the good news, I miscarried. And the same thing happened in my next cycle. Everyone was clearly devastated. Adding insult to injury, the second miscarriage took 16 weeks to clear. Meaning my body tried to shed our baby for 16 weeks. This was longer than I had even been pregnant and every day I physically could not forget about trying to have children.
Finally, another 8 months passed uneventfully–at least on the family planning front.
Our dogs turned two.
We traveled to South Carolina for a week long getaway with our pooches (I poured so much of my “mom” self into our pets during our infertility years–all for another post).
We got our ducks.
Also significant in that time, but in a very different way, Chris got a new job and with it came new health insurance. I mention this because while many only consider a new salary and health insurance in general, we were familiar with the intricacies of our insurance and in particular, what it covered regarding infertility. With his previous job, they would only cover IVF after multiple failed IUI attempts. And their cap contribution towards infertility treatments were less than his new job. Sadly, I know many people who have switched jobs just to find better infertility treatment coverage. Insurance coverage was NOT the reason Chris changed jobs, but it WAS a pro vs. con.
During these 8 months, our marriage was also cycling in and out of a dark place. Few people knew this. We looked very happy on the outside. We were traveling (I became an excellent budget traveler in those years). We were still hanging out with our friends. Every selfie we posted online displayed the realest smiles. But despite those smiles we were posting on social media, sometimes I was barely holding it together and I felt like we were crumbling apart at times.
We had been married almost five years and as we faced our infertility and really came to terms with the idea that we might not have children, we were living through the “good times” and “bad.” Things got tense. At times I didn’t want to be married at all, to anyone. Sometimes we barely talked. And when we did we had endless conversations about how we might start a family. Our moods would often rock with my monthly cycle. We would both be so hopeful when I would ovulate. Then we were both morose when I would get my period. Finally, we would try to heal and build our hope back up in between. I can say infertility tested our marriage. It seemed like we thought about little else besides having children, yet our lives had to function like none of this was happening every day.
Thinking about starting our family in alternative ways, I was most interested in adoption. Chris in IVF. Both options would be taxing financially. And both options never guarantee a child. In the end, we determined both options kind of sucked.
Yet, I couldn’t just sign up for IVF. I knew the option would be taxing on my body physically, but even more than that, I felt like if we didn’t get a child through adoption, at least it wouldn’t be my fault. If IVF failed, I felt like I would be to blame (something I’ll add that Chris NEVER made me feel). Finally, after much soul searching, hours of talking, and finally some marital healing, we decided we didn’t marry each other to just have children. This perspective put our marriage back on track for good. We booked a trip to Disney to remember we will always have good times together–whether we would have kids or not–and we booked another appointment at the clinic.
I wasn’t sure I would actually do IVF, but I was open to learning more. We made our appointment with a new doctor (I love a little bedside manner and this is something our first doctor lacked). We did more bloodwork to test for genetic deficiencies since we miscarried twice and we attended an IVF information session; a requirement with our local clinic. After learning more about conception than you’ll ever cover in a seventh grade science class, we said okay to IVF.
This is a decision that consumed me. One that I really wasn’t comfortable with, but that I felt like I had to try. For years now, I literally felt like I could not do something my body was built to do. But I had to let go of those constant feelings of failure (or at least push them into the back of my mind if possible) and try something new. I wasn’t going to be comfortable knowing I didn’t try, so I picked what felt like the lesser of the two evils.
After an epic backpacking trip to Europe to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, we came home and started IVF. In my next post I’ll delve into this next phase. Like with any project in life, nothing is ever as easy as you think it’s going to be and IVF was no exception. It’s not a cut and dry tale. Everyone’s story is different. Yet I will say it eventually had the happiest ending we could hope for: our first daughter, Isla.