Our (In)Fertility Story: Part 2
If you’re here, you’re likely looking for the continuation of the journey Clay and I have been on in regards to our infertility. If you haven’t read part 1, you can find that here.
So, picking up from where I left off:
In hindsight, after our miscarriage, we probably should have waited longer than we did to try again. But we were so anxious. But that also entailed putting ourselves on a schedule and making our love life something it was never intended to be: regimented and robotic. And it made both of us miserable. So we took a break for a little while… and then we headed back to the doctor. We started with me first. Since I had never had really regular, predictable cycles, I had all the blood tests and more stick ultrasounds than I care to remember. And it all came back normal, for the most part. I had low progesterone, so the decision was made to start me on Clomid. And I’d make a trip back to get an ultrasound each month to ensure that the Clomid was helping me to produce egg follicles. I just have to say, during this time, praise Clay for not wanting to divorce me. To say I was NOT a nice person on Clomid is the understatement of the century. Clomid is some nasty stuff. And it did nothing to help me. I wasn’t producing multiple eggs like I was supposed to be. I was lucky to have one in either ovary.
So we went to the next. Letrozole. Actually developed as a medication for breast cancer patients, I was a little nervous, especially considering how I responded to Clomid. But Letrozole actually DID make me ovulate. And made me gain weight. Like it was my job. So not only was I depressed about our fertility situation, but I was increasingly uncomfortable with what I was seeing in the mirror. Which just made me feel all the more like a disappointment and failure to Clay.
After a couple of months on Letrozole with no pregnancy, Clay got tested. And the results shocked us both. Clay had idiopathic male fertility issues: low sperm count and low motility. For absolutely no good reason we could find. So I don’t ovulate regularly on my own and Clay’s sperm isn’t as strong as it needs to be. Combined, we were told we had about a 1% chance of getting pregnant on our own. My world came crashing down. 1%? And we’d already used that one percent… and it ended in miscarriage. I remember after we miscarried, so many people told me “At least now you know you can get pregnant.” And the response in my head was always “no, I know I can get pregnant after 18 months and it last 7 weeks.” And now I KNEW we wouldn’t ever be surprised by a pregnancy. It was going to be planned and it was going to be work. And expensive.
It was recommended we start immediately with intrauterine insemination (IUI), sometimes referred to as the turkey baster method. So I took my Letrozole and we’d schedule our IUI procedure. Clay gave me Ovidrel shots to time my ovulation perfectly. The next morning, Clay would go and do his part. His sample would get “washed down” and the best possible specimen would be put into a test tube. We’d pick up the washed sample, I’d put the tube in my bra (to keep it at body temperature), and we’d go sit in the waiting room of my OB/GYN’s office… amongst allllllll the pregnant women. We’d plaster on fake smiles and I’d squeeze Clay’s hand until I was sure I would break all the bones. And I’d fight back tears. Always fighting back tears.
If you’re not familiar with IUI, basically, it’s the process of putting the sperm as close as possible to the egg to encourage fertilization without actually putting the two together. There are speculums and clamps and catheters… it’s a fairly uncomfortable procedure for the woman. And we went through it 5 times. FIVE times. Five failed times. And during that time, we went through 3 doctors. My original doctor (whom I loved with everything in me) moved to Cincinnati. After our 2nd IUI failed and I went in for my 3rd, my 2nd doctor (apparently thinking he was funny) stated “Well, you were supposed to come back pregnant!” Nope. Not the right thing to say. So, I moved on to a new doctor. And bless Dr. Rone. He was exactly what we needed for those final 2 rounds of IUI. He was patient and carrying and listened to my concerns and understood the many many times I broke down crying.
After our 5th failed round, he asked if anyone had mentioned a procedure/scan called an HSG, hysterosalpingography. This would show my fallopian tubes and make sure there was nothing blocking them. So we went in for yet another test. Another uncomfortable test. And of course, everything was fine. Dr. Rone told us that day, sitting in the procedure room, he would do as many rounds of IUI as we wanted, but he would suggest we pursue IVF at this point. At well over $600 each, with IUI, we were just throwing money at the wrong solution to our problem.
I can vividly remember hearing blood rushing into my ears and my body going numb. It was my worst fear. Clay was a resident. And resident’s do not make “doctor money.” And my job didn’t exactly have us rolling in it. There was no way we could afford upwards of $14,000 for a SINGLE round of IVF. Yep. You read that number correctly. My dream of becoming a mother had come to a screeching halt. I couldn’t become a mother naturally and we couldn’t afford it “un-naturally”… nor could we afford adoption. I slipped further into a dark place and isolated myself from friends and family. Thankfully, I was able to allow myself to open up to Clay some. I cried. I cried a lot. And hard. For no reason sometimes. I just couldn’t hold it back. I didn’t know if I’d ever be normal again. I just wanted to stay in bed. I didn’t want to see anyone. I wanted to avoid any social situation that involved babies. I hated Facebook and every single “announcement” I would see.
At this point, Clay knew I needed something. We were more than 3 years into this and I was just getting hit with disappointment after disappointment. So our sweet Rolo came into the picture. I am not at all suggesting that a puppy filled the hole in my heart. I am saying that taking care of a tiny living thing and having that sweet puppy love on me did my heart a WORLD of good. I still had an emptiness in my heart, but I had something that depended on me and that took my mind off wallowing in my own self pity.
We’re now going on year 5 of our fertility story… and we’re finally in a place where we can talk about the few ups and many many downs we’ve experienced along the way. Clay and I have had multiple full-snot crying sessions with each other. We’ve been mad. We’ve shut people out for a few days. But we’ve gotten to a healthy place where we can be happy for those announcements now, while still mourning what we don’t have… yet. We’ve realized the two are not mutually exclusive. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not at all saying everything is always rainbows and butterflies these days. We (especially me) still have days where I just need to cry. Thankfully, I have amazing friends who I can pour out my true heart to without fear. And I have an amazing husband who is traveling this road with me.
We’ve been saving. We’ve been planning. And we’re hoping to start the process of IVF in or around October. We have absolutely zero expectations for the outcome. I know that’s easier said than done when the time comes, but we’re trying to be realistic and accept ALL possible outcomes. So we’ll see what the Lord has planned for us.
All this to say, the road of infertility is a ROUGH road. It sucks. Just flat out… it sucks. And I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But it’s a reality. And tiptoeing around it or pretending it doesn’t exist does no good. Especially for those of us going through it. You’d be surprised how many close to you are traveling this road silently. I was. Can I ask one thing? If you find out someone you love is battling through any sort of infertility, don’t offer cliches and advice. Just say I’m sorry and ask if they need anything. That’s it. Just love on ’em. Just love on ’em.
(Just a reminder, Clay will have a post from his perspective next week.)