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This piece is dedicated to all the women out there who are currently struggling with infertility. It may not seem like it at this very moment, but there will be a light at the end of your long, treacherous tunnel, even if that light is something completely different from what you originally imagined.
Stay strong, stay brave, and stay positive. Allow yourself to feel every single feeling that comes along with infertility; bitterness, sadness, and anger. It’s ok to cry! But don’t forget to laugh and acknowledge the love that you already have in your life. It may sting a bit when it seems like everyone around you is falling pregnant and you’re on your way to the fertility clinic for the 1,000th time, but remember that you know the struggle and wouldn’t wish it on anyone else.
You are not alone! I hope our story encourages you to tell your own, and maybe one-day infertility won’t be such a taboo topic. Oh, and maybe more health care providers will cover infertility costs.
Our journey started about 4 years ago right after we had gotten engaged. I had stopped taking birth control and we were not using any other means of protection. With that comes the question, “what if we get pregnant?”
Well, we decided that if we get pregnant, we get pregnant. We weren’t getting married for 2 years anyway so why not get a jump start on our family? We had just moved in together and things were seemingly on track. About 6 months after I had stopped taking my BC (birth control - I’m going to be abbreviating A LOT) I felt like something was a little ‘off.’ I wasn’t sick, nor were my periods abnormal, but I just figured that as much as we are having sex, I should have gotten pregnant by now.
I made a routine check-up with my regular OB at the time who was AMAZING - Dr. Iwamaye (he has since closed down his practice and passed away. We were extremely heartbroken to hear the news that he was sick. Dr. Iwamaye made it his mandate basically to make sure we did everything we could to get pregnant. He even called me on Christmas morning 3 years ago to remind me I was ovulating! He is surely missed and I’ve kept him in my thoughts while continuing on this journey.) I figured I would just bring up that we were trying & see what the next steps would be. I honestly didn’t think anything of it at the time. At the appointment I was asked the basic questions - are you tracking your ovulation (at this point, no I wasn’t), are your periods regular (yes they were & still are), are they heavy, (ah- yeah the first day is a bit brutal), how many times are you and your fiance intimate, (a lot - he’s sexy.) With a little blood-work & an internal ultrasound, my OB decided to have me try a cycle on Clomid. This is a medication used to jump-start your ovulation. With this, I began to track EVERYTHING & make sure that I was indeed ovulating. I was, but the next month I still got a negative pregnancy test. We tried naturally for a few more months, but once we hit that one year mark, we decided to search a little deeper into the issue.
Fertility Dr. #1 - Dr. Damien
Austin and I met with Dr. Damien in January of 2013. We both had a lot of blood-work done, more U/S (ultrasound), and I had a lovely procedure done called an HSG. This was done to make sure I did not have any blockages in my fallopian tubes. What the do is, they take a catheter that has a balloon on the end of it and inserts it into your uterine cavity. It’s not the most pleasant experience, but Dr. Damien and his nurses were AMAZING! Austin was there with me, but couldn’t come into the surgical room, so I was really nervous to be in there alone, but they made me feel so much more at ease and reminded me why I was having this done.
Once it’s (the catheter) inserted, it feels like period cramps on roids plus someone hitting you in the stomach with a hammer. They advise you to take 4 Advil an hour prior to the procedure but guess who forgot to do that and guess who passed out during? ME! The balloon is meant to inflate once inserted and mine didn’t the first time, SO they had to start over again & it was just downhill from there. Don’t let this make you nervous - but just aware of what COULD happen. I’m guessing childbirth is a lot more painful, so I sucked it up until the color ran away from my face & I felt overheated.
A few days later I got the results back from there and EVERYTHING WAS FINE! They even said that a lot of the time, women who have this done fall pregnant a few months after because everything is cleared out, making it easier for the egg to travel to where it needs to be. A few months come and go & still - no positive test.
[The only thing at this point we thought could be the issue was a cyst that has been hanging on my left ovary for quite some time now. It comes and goes & varies in size. As of today, it’s completely gone.]
Getting Austin Tested
The next step was to have Austin tested - men LOVE this… Actually, he’s been a great sport about all of this. It’s a little easier on the men as their tests are generally less invasive. The only problem my poor hubby dealt with is passing out from the bloodwork. That’s not his favorite thing to do, but thankfully both that and his SA (semen analysis) came back perfectly fine. Babe has great swimmers ;)
Getting All GREAT Results
With all this good news we figured we were headed down the right track and would be pregnant in no time at all. Unfortunately, right after my 2nd cycle of Clomid, we lost our insurance and couldn’t afford the infertility treatments at the time. So I kept tracking my ovulation and literally making dates to have sex with my husband. At first it wasn’t too bad, but after some time it began to feel like a job. My advice for you is when this starts to happen, it’s time to take a break. Dealing with infertility is already stressful enough. The last thing you need is for it to put a strain on your intimate relationship too. We also figured that since the wedding was now a year away, it would be a great time to stop trying. I already had my dress & there wouldn’t be room for a bump, ha!
Two Years Later
We’re now in 2015 & happily married. We both agreed that we want to enjoy our fresh marriage & just have fun. We still weren’t tracking any ovulation and making dates to have sex; we were just enjoying life. We also still didn’t have health insurance so when we did decide to start trying again, it would just be us trying naturally. During this time, my husband did start a new and much better job that offered health insurance. The only thing was, he had to go through MONTHS of training before he was hired as an actual employee. MEANING, we still had to wait before we could get back to a fertility specialist.
Getting Bad News & Having to START OVER
As I mentioned in the first part of this piece, my first OB fell terminally ill & closed down his practice. When this happened, I felt so many emotions - the first one just being, “why?” He was such an amazing Dr. and you can tell that he personally cared for each one of his patients so much. Like I said, he actually called on us Christmas morning to remind me that I was ovulating! His exact words were, “You can give Austin the best gift he’ll probably get all day!” He was so funny & down-to-earth and made going through this process so much easier. So now I was back to square one.
Fast Forward to 2017/2018
With all new jobs, new insurance, and new doctors on hand, we were finally ready to jump back into the baby race. I had a few visits with my regular OB just to keep an eye on that pesky cyst that kept showing up & then I finally made an appointment with a new fertility specialist who I absolutely adore; Dr. Thomas Molinaro from RMA in Eatontown, NJ. He is yet another amazing Dr. who puts his patients wants & needs first & calls me regularly as well.
I had set up A LOT of appointments and decided to start preparing my body for our first IUI Cycle. One of the side-effects of taking Clomid (aside from the mood swings, hot flashes, and cry-fests) is weight gain! I mean honestly, with all the scientific medicine lately, they can’t make a fertility drug that DOESN’T cause weight gain?! As if we AREN’T going through enough right now. So I decided to take some time for ME and get that under control. As of today (March 2018) I am down 10 lbs. HOLLA! I feel great and continue to get to the gym at least 4 times a week.
Not only has that helped me physically, but mentally as well. To be completely honest, there were a few times that I felt myself falling into an odd state of depression while dealing with all of this. Being able to work hard and work out my frustrations has really helped A LOT! If you start to feel yourself becoming distant, exercise. Go for walks, go for a run, get into the gym. I have also become extremely close to a lot of the women there and am able to talk to them about EVERYTHING that’s going on. It’s like an hour of therapy!
Getting Ready for the IUI
All great things take time right? That’s what people say. I mean how many times have I relaunched my website just to perfect it? I guess that makes sense when trying to start a family too. April was supposed to be our month. We were so excited to finally start this process and get on the road to parenthood.
Well, ladies and gents, we have hit yet ANOTHER bump in the road. What was supposed to be just routine blood-work turned out to be so much more. Honestly, a lifetime of having weird symptoms that were answered within two weeks.
Dr. Molinaro called me last month to let me know that my platelets were pretty low & that he wanted to schedule a follow-up. This has been an issue before when I was younger, so I just figured it was a fluke. I made the appointment with the hematologist and honestly didn’t think anything of it.
Well, I was wrong. It was something. It turns out I have an autoimmune disease called ITP. Basically, my antibodies are destroying my platelets which isn’t good in general but even worse for pregnant women. It can cause significant blood loss so, in order to move forward with the IUI, we have to get this under control first.
Opening Up To Family & Friends
For the last two weeks, I have been in and out of Dr. offices - having bloodwork done & ultrasounds as well. I’m on a very high dose of steroids that seem to be helping the platelets go up. But if for some reason they drop down again or stay at the level they are at now, the treatments may need to be a little more intravenous. This is something that I have always had and will always have. Once I am in remission, we can start the process of starting our family again. We’re praying that everything goes smoothly & that I do not relapse during this process or during pregnancy.
We have an amazing team of doctors on our side & my hematologist is already talking about being there for me the day I finally do deliver in case I need a blood transfusion (situations like this are why it's so important for people to donate blood! You really can save someone's life). We also have our team of amazing family and friends who we just started to open up to about our journey. This has been one of the hardest things to talk about publicly, as it’s such a taboo topic & I want to become an advocate for infertility.
Couples shouldn’t be afraid to talk about their infertility issues, but they are. They’re afraid of judgment & more so, afraid of the comments that come from people who just don’t understand. I have dealt with A LOT of bosses who just don’t get it - I even lost a job because I was going to “too many doctors appointments.” I have finally learned that I have to be my own advocate and fight for what I/we want in our lives. I'm thankful to have finally surrounded myself with people who are in my corner & can understand why these appointments are so important.
We are going to deal with this minor set-back one day at a time and wanted to share our story with you all. All I ask is that you please share this piece. Share it because chances are, you know someone who is dealing with infertility & all the bullshit that comes along with it. Help them to realize that they are not alone in this! I'm hoping that this will educate those who may not understand what exactly infertility is.
I hope you all stick with us during the journey & we cannot wait for the day when we can finally share with you that positive pregnancy test!