Left Behind 

Today, I feel left behind. It’s a grave feeling, one that tugs deep down at my soul.  It’s a quiet pain, watching the days and months turn into years, passing by with an empty womb and empty arms, making for an empty heart.  Watching everyone enjoy their growing families.  At times like this, I briefly feel bitterness and anger, but not nearly as much as I used to.  When I feel left behind like this now, I am consumed by hurt more than any other emotion.

Yes, I have triggers that make me feel awful, and for the most part, I try to avoid them. Usually this involves people complaining about their kids or pregnancies, making jokes about getting pregnant, or acting like I do not understand their kid problems because I am not a mom in their eyes (“just wait, you will see”).

But there are also things that I choose not to avoid anymore, like FB pregnancy announcements, bump updates, and newborn photo shoots. I used to run from these, now I try my best to find joy for those people.  After all, these are happy things.  Dont get me wrong, some days it is still too much to bear.

Overall, I think I have learned to make the most of the cards I have been dealt and so, the majority of the time I try to believe this is just a shitty chapter of our love story.  But when I am brutally honest with myself, I know that being childless might not be just a chapter; it might be how this story ends.  Before you tell me not to give up, that no one can stop me from being a mother, hear me out.  Let me whine and listen to what I want, please.

Part of me wishes I could turn back time, which I just told my husband the other night.  If I could, I dont know if I would have ever done IVF. Seriously. I dont care how strong it has made me/us. My husband & I were so incredibly naive. We truly thought it was the ultimate fix.  We believed wholeheartedly we had a simple issue (male factor), and we would succeed the first time.  Never in our worst nightmare did we imagine that two years and over 30,000 later we would be sitting here with nothing to show except broken hearts and dreams. Oh, and wallets, but honestly money is the last concern if you have gone through what we have…FACT.

Anyways, 5 lost babies and now we are being faced with the news that I may never be able to carry our child.  That appointment is just 2 days away from now; something we never fathomed. We are so deep in the IVF trenches it is almost like there is no turning back.  I know some of you ladies here me on this.

I dont regret carrying our babies for the time that I did, but at times I do regret jumping full force into something I really didnt fully understand. I wish so badly that IVF would have been the answer for us, the answer every infertile couple is so desperately searching for.  Maybe it still could be, but not without a lifetime of scars along with it.

Over the years, I have watched each and every one of my close friends grow their family.  Keep in mind that none of these close friends had any kids back at our wedding, when we began our TTC journey. In fact, only 1 of my close friends you that you will read about below was married before my husband and I were.  The rest got married after us and have since easily lapped us many times over.  

My maid of honor, has just given birth to her second child, who was due just weeks before our last would have come into the world a month ago.

Another bridesmaid is delivering her 3rd child tomorrow, who would have also been just weeks apart from the birth of our last child a month ago.

My friend who read at our wedding ceremony just delivered her first born, just a few months before our last child would have been born.

Yes, all 3 of these friends above were pregnant and due within 2 months of when I should have been with our last.  In high school, us 4 were the best of friends.  The 3 of them carried to full term together, but I didn’t make it.

A different one of my bridesmaids underwent IVF and successfully conceived and gave birth to healthy twins after their first fresh transfer.

A close friend of mine for the past 18 years adopted twin boys and completed her desire for a family.

Another friend underwent medicated cycles at home through our same RE, conceived, and gave birth to her son, just a few months before our 3rd would have entered the world last month.

A friend has just had her second child, due weeks apart from when our 2nd would have come, naming him Noah, a name we both loved.

A close friend of my husbands who was a groomsman in our wedding gave birth to his son the day our son was scheduled to be here last month.

Am I happy for all of my dear friends? Absolutely.  It has nothing to do with that.  Remember the title of this post, please.  

Even here, in the blogging world, I am seeing so many ladies graduate on.  Again, I am so pleased for them (because of course that is the point!!), but at the same time, I am sad because I wonder if I will still talk with them as much.  I have seen a lot of bloggers disappear once they finally become pregnant. I pray not to loose that support.  

I think you get the point by now, if not here it is….I feel left behind today.  I want my baby.  Our baby.  I want to get pregnant at home with my husband. I want some of the normalcy all around me to rub off on us! 

I wish IVF would have worked on the first try, or even the 2nd or 3rd try.  I want to erase all my losses away. Why did I have to fall pregnant each time, only to suffer a loss??? It is one of the cruelest feelings one could ever know, to have joy ripped out from inside of you.  

And now, after all this, to be told that being pregnant all those times was basically a tease, that it may never happen again, is the icing on the cake… I don’t want a gestational carrier, I don’t want another surgery, or 10th opinion, I don’t want to adopt, keep putting our lives on hold, or spend thousands of more dollars…I just want it to be easy for me, just for once! Imagine being pregnant so many times but never experiencing it completely.  Like I said, a tease. Empty arms.  

If you are reading this and have not experienced infertility, or infertility coupled with recurrent loss, or loss in general, I pray you never do. Cherish every moment of your pregnancy and your children. I still remember the last time I felt pregnant, before I knew it was all over, and it is something I will never forget. If you are reading this and it is the opposite, and you are like me, my heart goes out to you.  

I want a miracle…to wake up from this nightmare that NO ONE should have to go through…to get pregnant, and carry a healthy child to full term without having a nervous breakdown during those 40 weeks. I want to catch up and experience some of the joy taking place all around me.  Is that too much to ask??? Guess so.  

Advertisements

Positively Positive +

Well, here it is…

 
My BFP ovulation prediction test.  No, this is not a BFP pregnancy test! However, we are still stoked about this positive.

Would you believe it if I told you I have never gotten a positive on one of these before? Never, ever? Well, it’s the truth, because I haven’t. I tried the Clear Blue tests years ago, before our IVF days & never saw success with them. They were pricey, and eventually I gave up.

Looking back, I didn’t know nearly as much about my fertility then as I do now. That being said, I think I was always testing too early during my cycle. We didn’t really think much of it either because I was always getting my period every 28 days, so we knew I had to be ovulating at some point. We just couldn’t pinpoint it. Instead we followed my OB-GYN’s orders, did the deed starting on day 12 up until day 16, and hoped it would just happen like it does for others. Well, as you know, it never did.

Now to the present day, 3 IVF miscarriages later. I recently bought the Wondfo tests in bulk, and I started testing (morning-afternoon-evening) beginning on day 9.  By day 13, I had a faint line, but it wasn’t until night time on day 15 that I finally got a positive LH surge. This means I should ovulate anytime in the next 12 to 48 hours, which would be day 16 or 17 of my cycle.

As many of you know, my lining check on day 12 was 5mm. I’m actually happy that I’m not ovulating until 4 or so days after the check because this means my lining had even more time to thicken itself. Maybe it even made it to the desired 8mm mark! Who knows. But I would like to think positively and say it did.

We originally bought these tests with the intentions of making sure my cycles were still regular.  I didn’t think we would even be allowing the thought of getting pregnant on our own the slightest consideration, but for some reason we are. I’m not really sure how it happened, but it did. I guess we figure that since we aren’t moving forward with another FET anytime soon, what the heck. It’s officially been over 2 years since my husband had his Varicocele surgery, & even though his count is still lower than normal, it is the highest it has ever been; almost 10 million more than when we began this journey. We know when I am ovulating now, my uterus is clear, & overall, I am pretty relaxed.

Regardless of the outcome of us TTC on our own over the next few months, it’s reassuring to know that it’s all in Gods hands. We believe miracles can happen, but this doesn’t mean one will right now. God’s timing might not be ours. We also find comfort knowing that no matter what happens, we still have our 3 frosties waiting patiently for us!  

Enough Said

OK, so I get that while many of the people closest to us choose to read our blog, many people who know us do not choose to. This is absolutely fine with us. In no way do we expect anyone to read it! 

When we created this blog, we did it publicly through our Facebook and other forms of social media. We wanted all of our friends and family members to finally know what we had been secretly battling for many years. This was part of the healing process for us. And thankfully, we received such overwhelming support. Seriously, I cannot say that enough.  You all have been 100% supportive. 

Through our blog, we have touched on how we feel about numerous topics such as male factor, pregnancy loss, adoption, surrogacy, IVF, etc.  Unfortunately, those who do not read our blog are unaware of these details; and if I had to guess, I would say they most likely are only aware that we have done IVF, and maybe that we have miscarried.  However, they have a choice not to read our story and again, we respect that.  

Here’s the dilemma we are having…we want these people to respect the fact that we would rather not discuss our infertility with them if they don’t read it (too bad those who I want to hear this message aren’t reading it anyways). And here’s why we don’t want to… We really do not want to be asked the same question we just poured our heart out about 5 minutes ago.

This is not in any way, shape, or form the same as someone who follows our story asking how we are feeling or similar…we love this kind of thoughtfulness. Instead we are referring to someone who doesn’t follow at all, by choice, who asks the same questions over and over that we have already answered. I like to call this pretending to care.  It took us a very long time to get to the point of opening up and sharing our story publicly. Why should we have to verbally rehash things numerous times?

In addition, we would rather not discuss our story with the person who makes “jokes” about our infertility, thinking it may lighten up the situation.  If they understood what we have been through, and took the time to really get it, they would see there is nothing funny about it. At all. Why am I on this rant? Here are a few (NOT funny) comments made by people who do not fully follow our story, yet choose to bring it up:

  1. “My husband can donate his sperm if yours is shooting blanks,”  (ummmm…really??!! My husbands sperm has got me pregnant numerous times you idiot!)
  2. “I understand how hard it is for you because we tried to conceive for several months before we finally did.”  While I am very sorry you had to go through this, I would be thrilled to conceive on our own in several months. THRILLED.  Please don’t compare.
  3. “I will happily give you my uterus!”  This is not funny. At all. It’s actually disturbing, joking or not. Thanks, but no thanks-I do not want your uterus that you feel can so easily be disposed of.
  4. “I think it is going to happen naturally for you.” Can you do math? It hasn’t magically happened in the past 7 years, or 84 months.
  5. “Do you have a friend that will give you their uterus?” Again, I am not on a uterus scavenger hunt.  I’d really love to use my own uterus to carry a pregnancy, as the female body is designed to do.
  6. “There is a baby out there just waiting for you to adopt them.” Maybe. But maybe there is one waiting for you to adopt them, too! Are adoptions limited to only infertile couples nowadays?!? There are thousands of babies waiting for someone to adopt them. If you are so keen on it, I think you should pursue it yourself.

Rant over.  Enough said!

.

Taking the Next Step??

After 2 failed IUI’s it was time to re-evaluate.  Maybe we should have listened to the fertility specialist who told us we had no chance of it being successful with it?? Nah, we needed to know for ourselves.  So, now what?  We wanted to figure out why his count was so low.  We decided to see a urologist that specializes more in the male reproductive side of things. My hubs shared with me that when he was a teenager he was diagnosed with a large Varicocele vein.  However, he did not think it would be a problem as far as reproduction goes, since the doctor he saw back then told him it wouldn’t be.

When we saw the urologist for the first time in 2012, he said otherwise.  He wanted to do a “Varicocele repair.”  The vein was so large that it was blocking some of his sperm from being released. The surgery entailed undergoing anesthesia and tying off the vein using silk fibers.  The chance of it improving his count was only 30% and it could take up to 2 years to see the complete improvement. 2 YEARS?! It had already been 2 years since we started all of this. And such a small chance of it helping. But, we discussed it, went back for a 2nd visit, found out our insurance covered it, and decided to move forward with it (even though we knew 2 different couples who did the surgery and ended up still needing IVF after).  Again, we were hopeful it might be different for us.

anesthesia

We did his first count 6 months post surgery and it showed no improvement.  Then 1 year after the surgery, still nothing.  During this year we tried on our own every month.  I ordered so many things online like FertilAid Count Boost, FertilAid vitamins, Pre-Seed, FertilFocus (when you test your saliva to see when you are ovulating!), etc.  I took my temperature everyday.  I peed on ovulation sticks every month.  We started juicing everyday and eating super foods like Maca Root, Flax Seeds, Goji Berries, and Acai.  Each of us took at least 3 supplements a day that year.  After we did the deed, I wouldn’t go to the bathroom for hours.  Instead, I’d lay upside down in hopes of 1 making it.  Starting to sound pathetic, I know.

#FertilAid

Suddenly, I started to notice that we weren’t even us anymore.  We were barely talking about anything other than getting pregnant.  I was soooo sick of it, and come to find out, so was he.  I think what made it even harder was no one really knew what we were going through, except a few family members and close friends.  And by now, most of them had babies or were pregnant.  We hid it from everyone.  It was now late 2013, and we needed a break.  We decided to give it a year and see if it would just happen naturally when we stopped trying to make it happen (like people try to tell you all the time…so annoying!!). 

Well, that year came & went with no pregnancy.  We decided it was time to test his count again.  This time there was some improvement. Unfortunately, the improvement was so slight that we still fell into the terrible “1%.”

ivfjoke

Coping with Male Factor

Male Factor.  That was our official diagnosis as to why we were infertile back in 2011.  When they do a sperm analysis, they don’t just look at the count as many people think.  They look at about 7 other major factors too.  NOTE: I do not claim to be a doctor in anyway, all of this information is based purely on experience. Some of these factors are sperm volume, concentration, motility (IMPORTANT!), viscosity, PH, and morphology (ANOTHER BIGGIE!). When it comes down to it, the 3 most important factors are: count, motility, and morphology.  In other words, the amount of sperm, the rate at which they swim, and if they are shaped normal or not.  Don’t worry, I won’t get into all of the details and percentages like a doctor will and bore you to death, however feel free to ask if you are curious.

When we had our 2nd sit down with the fertility specialist after the 2nd count, he told us our only option was to do In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) with Intra-cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI).  WHOA! What? These are very common terms to the infertile couple even though they may sound foreign to a fertile myrtle (notice I emphasize may).  Basically, we figured out on our own that IVF meant retrieving my eggs and putting them with my husbands sperm in a dish in hopes they would form an embryo(s) that could be transferred into my uterus.  The ICSI part meant that instead of allowing the sperm and egg to join together on their own in the dish, the embryologist would pick the best sperm and inject them into the best eggs.

Initially, we wanted NOTHING to do with IVF.  It was so scary to even think about it.  We had friends that went through it and we knew what hell it was for them, whether they finally achieved the pregnancy or not.  Emotionally, physically, financially…we didn’t want anything to do with it.  So, we insisted that the doctor allow us to do an Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI) first. The doctor clearly told us there was no chance it would work as we only had a tenth of the sperm they recommend for this procedure.  We didn’t care.

Here’s why:  In my opinion, IUI is wayyyy easier than IVF.  The amount of hormones and monitoring by the doctor is significantly less.  Plus, it is much less evasive and significantly cheaper (IUI is only about $1,000 each round).  For us, IUI involved taking Clomid (sometimes referred to as the “gateway drug” for infertile couples) for a few weeks before ovulation, with ultrasounds in between to measure the size of my follicles, and when they were the right size, I would inject myself with a “trigger” shot (OUCH! This one was in the stomach though, not like the big daddy IVF one in the a** which is so much worse).  The trigger shot meant I would release my eggs (ovulate) within 36 hours. During that window of time, we would go into the doctor, Shane would do his part, and they would inject it into me.  It was definitely worth a shot to us.

Here’s the catch-the only way you can proceed with an IUI or an IVF is to have MORE tests done first.  Anyone embarking in the field of assisted reproduction should understand and accept that there will always be tests to be done on them. The two most common diagnostic uterine tests are the Hysterosalphigogram (HSG) and the Saline Infusion Sonohysterography (SIS).  Ask any woman who has had an IUI or IVF done and I bet she will know exactly what these are.  The HSG is an x-ray that checks your uterus to make sure your tubes aren’t blocked.  You go into the same type of room as you would for an x-ray, except you lay down and they inject a “dye” into your uterus through a catheter so they can see the uterus better.  I HATED this test the most of all tests (all 3 times I had it done).  It was uncomfortable and took about 20 minutes.  And there was an issue.  The doctor said my right tube appeared to be blocked and we would need to repeat the test to be absolutely sure (there was a chance I was just having a spasm that was causing it to appear blocked).

#HSG

So, I repeated the evil test and it came back normal, no tube blockage, just a spasm.  Next on the list was the SIS.  This one isn’t as bad.  I’ve had it done about 5 times.  Here a catheter is inserted and saline is injected into the uterus.  This test looks for things like polyps, fibroids, and scar tissue.  My first one came back normal and we were finally ready to give the IUI a go!  As you can see, it takes a while for anything in the fertility world to actually happen.  From the time we decided to do the first IUI until we actually did it, it was around 3 months later.

The day following my trigger, we went to the doctor for the insemination.  My husband did his job in the “secret room” while I was prepped in the room adjacent.  It took about 20 minutes because they have to wash, or spin out his sperm, finding only the moving ones with nice shapes.  There weren’t many they told us.  But, we were still hopeful.  Hey, it only takes 1 right?! I laid back and the doctor injected the sperm into my uterus through a tiny catheter.  Piece of cake! After I rested there for about 30 minutes while we talked. I took the day off work even though they said I could return to my normal activities. We went back in the following day & went through the same steps trying to make sure we timed the IUI perfectly right.  I took off another day to relax.  And then 2 week wait began (2WW).

In the world of infertility, this is one of the most dreaded times.  Seriously, Google it and you will see. During the 2WW, I tried to stay busy at work and at home, and so did my hubs.  We didn’t tell anyone we did the IUI, other than our fertility buddies at the time. The doctors tell you that you should never take a pregnancy test early, but we did anyways.  Negative.  We still thought it might have worked.

That’s the viscous cycle with infertility; you are always hopeful and sure THIS is the time.  But, the day my blood was to be drawn at the doctor, I got my period and it confirmed the BFN.  It was now 2012.

#negativepregnancytest

Our Story-part 2

The dreaded word in the world of infertility–“tests.”  At first, one might think “OK, I will get the test, rule out any problems, & we can move on,” or, “OK, we might find a minor issue, fix it, and voila, PREGGO”!  Not always the case.

Thinking back to 2010, after 2 years being off the pill, I remember my OB explaining to me that protocol was to do a work-up on the woman before looking at the man for any potential problems.  Seemed simple enough.  So I got some diagnostic blood work done- FSH, TSh, CBC, etc. (most might sound like jargon if not a fertility specialist).  We waited for the results & the phone call came, “Everything looks normal,” she stated.  “Maybe, we should take a look at your husband now,” followed. Taking a look at my husband meant him giving a sperm sample.  She made it sound so easy.  Yea right! What man wants to willingly give his sperm to a doctor to be analyzed?  Not mine for sure.  I recall those first few sperm counts turning into battles between us. Who did I think I was? Of course, nothing could be wrong with him!  Ladies reading this, please take note: No man thinks anything is wrong with him, let alone with his “soldiers”!

Well, eventually my husband consented because after all, he wanted a baby too. Oh, and another note: The sperm has to be dropped off within 30 minutes or it’s not a valid analysis.  Hence, it is mad rush to get it there once he’s all finished.  Then, when you take it in, trying to be discrete with the cup in a brown paper baggie, the receptionist is never discrete back.  She will loudly say something, trust me.  And you think that everyone in the room knows exactly what’s in that baggie too.  Don’t worry, the good part about all of this is that after a few counts, your husband won’t mind that he has to do it, and likewise you won’t care even enough to hide it in a baggie.

#sperm, sperm count, sperm analysis, fertility testing, semen analysis

If you ask me, generally it takes too long to get a count back.  Usually a week or so, depending on how high up the rank you are.  At an OB, you will be lucky to hear the results within 2 weeks, a fertility specialist 1 week, and if you are on their VIP list, maybe 3 days.  Since at this time we were low on the totem pole so to speak, it took a solid 2 weeks for that phone call.  TORTURE.  But what we heard next was worse…the count came back extremely low.  I can still hear the words, “The chance of you two conceiving naturally is about 1%.  I think it’s time we refer you to a Reproductive Endocrinologist” (fancy lingo for RE, or fertility doctor!).

The next thing that came into my mind wasn’t even about having a baby or how devastated I felt, it was about my husband.  How could I ever tell him this? How could I be the one to steal his manhood from him?  I didn’t tell him that day, because I couldn’t.  But the next day I did.  He actually took it pretty well and after a discussion, we convinced ourselves that it was probably just a fluke & the next one would surely be better (notice the “nexts” are already starting..a sickness in the world of infertility).

In early 2011, we met with the fertility specialist.  We were referred to this guy because, and I quote, “he was the best around & could get anyone pregnant.”  You get shuffled around and meet the staff, which includes the surgical coordinator, the financial coordinator, the medical assistant, the RN, the receptionist, and the sonographer (I am probably forgetting someone).  Finally, you will meet the doctor you came to see.  FYI: Most fertility clinics in Florida have several doctors at a practice, along with several locations. You will travel and you will most likely see various doctors (unless you start speaking up, that will come in a later post).

Anyways, this first meeting with the doctor is a whole lot of talking, with a whole lot of jargon.  You will NOT understand it.  But again, there is a bright side! Just think, one day you will know all of these processes and terms he described so well that you, yourself, could be the specialist without any schooling.  The one thing I actually do remember amidst all the jargon was that horrible percentage thrown out at us again of  “1%.”  UGH.  Additionally, he informed me that all of those tests that I did that came back normal didn’t count anymore.  They needed to do them again at their practice to be sure.  Insurance did cover these tests since they were considered “diagnostic.”  Another silver lining…I guess.

#infertility, testing, bloodwork

We did as we were told.  He repeated the count & I my tests.  My tests came back normal again, heck I even had a good number of follicles each month! The doctor called with his results about a week later.  It wasn’t a fluke like we prayed.  The extremely low number had just gotten lower. That’s when he requested to see us again to decide on how we would like to proceed. I cried myself to sleep that night.