Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sitting, waiting, wishing...

You don't forget the look on a woman's face when she confides in you that she and her husband are having difficulties conceiving a child.  I know because there was a day not too long ago, when I sat across from my friend Kelly (as we gorged on chips and salsa and drank margaritas) and she told me exactly that.  Though I didn't know it at the time, Kelly and her husband were just at the beginning of a long, hard journey.  I have no idea what I said in that moment.  I'm sure it was the wrong thing.  But, I do know that I knew exactly how she was feeling.  No, I did not suffer from any reproductive struggles, but I did know the longing that you feel the instant you officially decide to try to have a child.  You want to be pregnant in that 
instant and obviously, it doesn't work that way.  So, to hear my friend had been struggling with that feeling (as well as with the very real situation that she may not be able to conceive without major intervention) for 6 months - I was devastated for her.  These are two of the nicest people I've ever met and Kelly and I had shared several conversations over the years about her hopes to become a mother.  I invited Kelly here to share her story, because I know people will benefit hearing this story.

Because sometimes the paths to becoming a mother are as varied as the paths of actually being one.

Because I know there are so many women out there who have been through this and can relate.

Because I know there are so many women who are currently weighing their options and could really use a hopeful story right now.

Because sometimes even though someone doesn't have a child, it doesn't mean they don't desperately want one.

And this is one such story - with a very happy ending.


“It’ll happen.”  That's what everyone said.
“Give it time.” 
“Just don't think about it.”

If you're a woman trying to conceive, you want to slap any person who utters the words "don't" and "stress" in the same sentence...regardless of their good intentions. Through gritted teeth, I'd respond with a "Thanks, I'm working on it," and a half-hearted chuckle, while baby bumps danced through my head and doctor visits started monopolizing my calendar. 

Let’s back up a little. 

At the time, I was a very healthy (albeit holding onto probably 15 more lbs than I should have) 26 year old woman. I didn’t smoke. I exercised. I brushed my teeth and took my vitamins. I did everything I was supposed to do. I was very happy with my husband who’d been my better half for over a decade by then…but something was missing. We had been trying to conceive for about a year with no progress. I know what you’re thinking. That’s not much time to start panicking. However, I started charting my cycles and taking ovulation tests with no indication that I was actually ovulating. 

This brought me to my doctor and I was diagnosed with poly-cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and cannot ovulate on my own. My OB/GYN put me on Clomiphene (Clomid) for 7 months which regulated my cycle, but we saw no results (as in, no baby). My husband had been tested a few times using a standard system with no red flags. We even went to an urologist; if only to rule out more reasons why we didn’t yet have a 3rd member of our family, to no avail. Then, once we were referred to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE), they took his sample, sent it across the country to one of the only labs that tests DNA fragmentation and sustainability, and a few hundred dollars later, we got some definitive bad news. Our doctor concluded that we had about a 1% shot at conceiving naturally due to Male Factor Infertility and my PCOS combined. At least we were in it together!

I. Was. Devastated. 

Our RE was very honest about our options. We could keep trying and maybe a few years down the road, it could happen. Miracles happen every day, however, I wasn’t going to risk my child bearing years on the hope that I MIGHT have a child one day…maybe. 

He didn’t recommend the less invasive (see also, less effective) IUI procedure which is basically the turkey baster method. Oh yes. That’s what he called it. 

Our RE basically told us we had the best shot with IVF, but of course that is physically, emotionally, and financially draining and we could still revisit that option a few years down the road if we weren’t interested in committing right away. We would, however, have a great chance at conceiving this way because of the way they fertilize the egg at this particular clinic. Instead of a traditional IVF where they put an egg and some sperm in a dish and let nature do its thing, science intervenes even further by having a doctor inject a single, perfect sperm into an egg. This is the best way to overcome male factor infertility. He all but guaranteed us a child by the end of the process. Science rules. 

I’d wanted to have children since I was a child myself. My husband and I were ready, or as ready as you can possibly be…which is kind of not at all. We’re good people. We’re young. We have a wonderfully loving, stable relationship. We have good paying, full time jobs. How could we be getting the news that having a baby would be such a challenge?? That wasn’t in my plan!

For me, I think I decided then and there in that office that I wanted to do IVF…like…yesterday. I remember talking to my husband that night, or rather, sobbing to my husband, about how I much I wanted this. I know he shared in my enthusiasm for expanding our family, but maybe not so much my knee jerk reaction to go all in with this procedure. We hadn’t exactly been saving our money with this expense in mind and I was going to have to give myself shots. HE was going to have to give me shots. Big ones. 

Of course, I also doubted myself and thought that if we weren’t able to conceive naturally, is that somehow a sign? Should we just accept that it isn’t meant to happen and we aren’t meant to be parents? Maybe we were meant to adopt. Maybe we were meant to have a surrogate or lots and lots of dogs instead. Maybe we were supposed to do something else with our lives. God knows those are all fantastic, valid life options. 

Then again, why have all these advances in medicine if we won’t use them?! If we didn’t try everything in our power to have a child with our own DNA, we would always wonder, “what if?” If we go through with it and it doesn’t work, at least we know we tried, and we can move on to pursuing another option. 

Some people are meant to make the laws or enforce them. Some feel like their purpose in life is to teach. Some help to save lives and keep people healthy. I was born to be a mother. I would make that happen, one way or another. That much, I was certain. 

We considered waiting a few months, but I couldn’t see how waiting any longer would change our situation. Not long after that last doctor visit, my husband and I made the decision that would change our lives. It was April 2012 when I made the call to our RE telling him we were ready to start the process of IVF. I was signed up for the June 4 cycle. 

Suddenly, I felt relief. It obviously wasn’t an ideal situation, but we were given hope that this could work. We could have a baby. There was an end in sight and while I didn’t have a lot of control over it, I was confident in those that did. It’s amazing how having a plan of action can be so satisfying, even if it isn’t what you thought it would be. The wheels were at least in motion. I could breathe again. 

We signed and notarized our documents, contracts, medical records, etc. I wrote the biggest check I’ve ever written in my life and ordered my meds. Panic set in once I opened my box of meds. 

Even more so once I got my schedule. 

I could write a novel of everything we went through that month: needles, blood draws, ultrasounds, surgery, tears, laughter, and LOTS and LOTS of waiting. Somehow, though, the details don’t seem that important anymore. Not compared to our happy ending, anyway. 

On Tuesday, June 19, 6 days after the doctor transferred 2 (yes, 2!) blastocysts to my uterus, I took yet another blood test. 

My HCG level had to be over a 5 for them to consider it a positive pregnancy test. It came back a 32. I was pregnant! I got the news in my office at work and just stood there with my cell phone, back pressed against the wall, happy tears filling my eyes. I can’t believe I even worked the rest of the day. 

Once home, I took a home pregnancy test and it was positive. I cried again. I had never seen a positive test of my own before. I can’t tell you how much money I spent on them over time, always seeing that stupid single line staring up at me; mocking me. All of a sudden, there were 2 lines. (I must’ve taken more than 10 more tests over the course of the next few weeks…just to make sure!)

I surprised my husband with the news that evening and from there, we told a few friends and family who knew about our IVF journey. It would be another 3 weeks before we would learn that I had just one baby growing inside me, not two, as we originally thought. In that time, I also experienced a fairly common side effect of IVF called ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome. Because my ovaries were stimulated to the size of baseballs (not an exaggeration), some fluid was leaking from them with a surge of HCG (caused by pregnancy), and filled my abdominal cavity. It was as pleasant as it sounds. Luckily it subsided within a few weeks and I got to enjoy the rest of my pregnancy. And did I ever. 

From then on, everything was smooth sailing, and I can honestly say I LOVED being pregnant. Maybe it was because I understood the magnitude of the blessing and miracle I was experiencing and maybe it was just because I knew that in 9 months, I would fulfill my dream. 

Sure enough, at exactly 40 weeks, my son was born. I was a mommy. 

It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t cheap. It wasn’t painless. 

It WAS worth it…and so much more. 

1 comment:

  1. HI there, a close girlfriend of mine is going through quite a similar experience. She tears up at even the sight of others who have babies or toddlers. It isn't easy also with the amount of treatment she is getting. Anyways I really am glad that you shared your story. I have forwarded it on to her. Thanks, Kate


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