Our Fertility Journey, Part 2
This is Part 2 of a three-part series. To read Part 1, click here.
So my doctor started me on Letrazole as she prefers it can help boost the endometrial lining and because its risk of multiples is lower than that of Clomid’s. Over the course of several weeks, she bumped up my meds, hoping to get my follicles to respond and for me to ovulate. Short story is my body didn’t do much of anything. I was getting high doses of medication and my follicles were just sitting still and happy. So then she went to the highest dose of Clomid. Again, not much happened. Now in between all of these are vaginal ultrasounds and lots of blood draws to monitor progress, 2-3 times a week, for months.
When we realized that the oral medications weren’t going to be the ticket, we went back to the meeting room. Injectables with timed intercourse? Injectables with IUI? IVF?
IVF was something I didn’t even want to think about at this point. There had to be another answer. I wasn’t mentally ready to go down the road of figuring out all IVF was about because that all just seemed like too much to handle. One step at a time. Plus, the cost.
So, next step? Injectables.
Injectables are exactly what they sound like. Concentrated hormones that you inject into your belly nightly to stimulate your reproductive cycle. Luckily and unluckily, because my period was nonexistent, timing medications was much easier. Usually you start meds at a certain point in your cycle, but I was a blank slate. My doctor is very conservative, which I loved, so she titrated the meds slowly, making sure i didn’t over-respond (too many follicles maturing which means risk of multiples). This meant more days of waiting, but ultimately, we got what we wanted, I triggered ovulation, and we were told our window for baby-making. We followed the doctor’s orders, I came back a few days later just to make sure I ovulated and woohoo, I had! So then it meant we had to wait 2 weeks for the test results to come in. During this time, I took progesterone suppositories which are these giant pills you insert like a tampon. They ooze and get gummy, but they’re also supposed to enhance your endometrial lining and encourage implantation of a fertilized embryo.
But what they also do is... mimic pregnancy. Your boobs get bigger and tender, you really bloat, you feel a little light-headed.
I could’ve cheated and bought an at home pregnancy test, but I didn’t want to jinx anything or get a false result. I went in for the bloodwork, got all the “good lucks!” from the fertility clinic staff, and went to work. Later that afternoon, I got the call...it didn’t work. Test was negative. I was devastated. I felt pregnant. I had this feeling in my heart that it had worked. Also, I couldn’t bear the thought of having to stick myself in my stomach over and over and over again. I was bruised and bloated and emotionally drained.
But, really and truly, the odds were against us. Many things had worked out right -- I had the right number of follicles mature and I ovulated, but everything else was a shot in the dark. So I waited for my period to hit a week or two later, and then we started over.
My doc’s combination of meds worked the first time so she proceeded with the exact same protocol. Except this time, no response. So she upped the dose. No response. So then she upped the dose again. A response! My follicles were growing. A few were growing steadily. And then suddenly too many -- 7 -- were growing too fast. Which means that triggering ovulation could’ve meant the risk for septuplets! We ended up having to cancel the cycle which means the two weeks of injections were all for naught. Canceling a cycle was just as upsetting as getting a negative test because I still had to do all the hard part, but this time there wasn’t even a sliver of hope that we’d conceive. I waited to get my period, waited for my body to recover from the surge of hormones, and then went back to the drawing board.
At this juncture, a few things happened. We took a few weeks break as we wrapped our heads and hearts around what to do next. During this time, my husband got tested for any abnormalities -- some could argue that this should’ve been done earlier - -but we already knew there was a problem with me, and luckily his sperm came back normal. At some point (I can’t remember when since I blocked most of this painful memory out) I had a hysterosalpingogram (HSP) test done where they inject dye through a catheter through your uterine wall, to make sure that my uterus was healthy and there were no blockages anywhere. Note: this test is painful. Like tears streaming down the face painful. I didn’t premedicate which is apparently what I should've done, but it is rather quick. You just get some serious cramping afterwards, and luckily everything came back healthy and normal.
I also had a major mindset shift during this time. I had been clinging to this idea of wanting a baby, wanting to be a mom so badly, that every little bit of bad news or more waiting would send me into a dark hole. I was having a hard time focusing, being present. I reached out to a therapist, but I couldn’t find the right fit, so I started to draw on all of my experiences from yoga teacher training, from health coaching. I turned to meditation. I started to think about what I would tell a client of mine going through this, what advice I would have.
During one of my guided meditations, I was reminded of a practice that brought me a great deal of peace during my yoga teacher training several years prior. This idea of aparigraha or non-possessiveness. Another way to think of it is “non-attachment.” The idea of letting go of something because your desire for it is causing you more suffering. So as I cultivated this practice within me through meditation and self-talk, I loosened my desire to make this work,. Not that I didn’t want to have a baby and be a mom any less, but I felt less burdened by my inability to have those things right now. I told myself, and my husband, we’d continue to proceed with how we thought was in the best interest of our family, and that if it was meant to be right now, it was meant to be. But if it wasn't, then it wasn’t.
So we decided to make one more effort for the time being. Whether it was injectables or IVF, it came down to a math problem. What treatment would give us the best odds for the price?
Both processes were difficult, but IVF was certainly more involved. But then it also had a much higher chance of success. It also opened up the possibility of us freezing embryos for later use in case we had trouble again if and when we tried for a second child.
Read Part 3 here to find out what we decided.