Monday, February 3, 2014

Adventures in Infertility

{Update 1.5.16: Welcome! We are currently working on launching a new website further detailing our story,, so please check back for updates.}

My last blog update was from 2012 as I concluded a phenomenal week at Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy.

So here I am, almost two years later.

Sharing our story has been on my heart for a very long time, and I’ve always been reluctant.

Compared to others, our story isn’t one of life and death. It’s not one of tragedy and triumph. I felt like our story is too petty/insignifcant/younameit. Mainly, I didn’t want people to read our story and think that I was eliciting sympathy—that’s not it. Not at all. We don’t need the white glove treatment.  We don’t want to be treated any differently. This is our life. It’s our journey. It’s our adventure. And I’m finally ready to share it. (Side note—and I have a lot of these—if this is news to you and you didn’t already know, I’m sorry. I didn’t purposefully keep it from anyone. It’s just not the kind of thing that you pick up and call someone to say, “BTW I’m not pregnant and here’s why! So, if this comes to you as a total shock and surprise: I’m sorry. Forgive me?)

So here I go. 

Two years ago, I stopped blogging. (Not that I ever seriously committed to blogging—I really did do it as a way to look back at what was important to me in my early years of adulthood. To be honest, I’m scared to go back and reread it…scared in the OMG-I’M-SUCH-A-NERD-WHY-DID-I-WRITE-THAT-I-AM-MORTIFIED sense.) 

My last update was June 20. A few short weeks later, we started our first IVF cycle. We started our journey with infertility.

{Disclaimer: I am not going to hold back here. If you can’t handle terms referencing reproductive organs OR if reading about God makes you uncomfortable: 1.) grow up and 2.) stop reading.  I’m going to talk about religion. I’m going to talk about God. I’m going to talk about body parts and functions. Andplusalso, this is very long. Like wayyyyy long. I'm sorry. It just happened. Andplusalsoalso: I didn't re-read it for grammar or things like that. I kind of just kept typing.}

How We Got Here

I’m not sure who will read this (if anyone, at that.) For those of you who don’t really know us, our story goes a little bit like this: We met at LSU during the fall of 2005. We got married in June of 2010. (I mean, a bunch of important stuff happened during that time span, but my mind is so not there right now…) We were not in a rush to have children. We had a plan. We wanted to travel and save money for a down payment on a house. We wanted to settle into our careers. We wanted to do things “the right way.”

Way back in the day (2005)

Just a little back in the day (2010)

Third Anniversary (2013)

More background info: I’ve always had painful periods and super severe cramps. Since I’ve always had them, I thought they were a way of life. Come to find out, that’s not the case. My OB/GYN often tried different types of birth control to suppress my cycles and ease my discomfort. It never worked. After a few different rounds of different types of birth control pills, my OB/GYN ordered an ultrasound. During said ultrasound, the tech made some kind of comment like, “Wow! You don’t feel that?” and turned the screen my way. Think of an ultrasound of a baby. (I’m sure you’ve all seen one, even if you’ve never been pregnant...I mean, have you been on facebook? Like, ever?) There was a mass so large that it didn’t fit on the screen. There were massive cysts on both ovaries. The tech printed out a bunch of images and I brought them back to my doctor. Meanwhile, I waitedandwaitedandwaitedandwaited in a back waiting room. Just when I was convinced that I had been forgotten about, said OB/GYN walked by.  Guess what? She forgot about me. (Aside: How can one forget about me? I’m kind of unforgettable. For those of you who really know me, you can have the pleasure of imagining the facial expression I gave her when she told me, “Oh, I forgot you were back here!”)  She took one look at the ultrasound images and started making phone calls. She immediately referred me to a specialist.

After a few months of attempted hormonal suppression, it was evident that the cysts were not responding. They grew and grew and grew. (Side note: every woman’s body produces a cyst every month. Said cyst is either functional or non-functional. If it’s functional, it will turn into an egg that can be fertilized. If it’s not fertilized, it is shed during the woman’s menstrual cycle. If it’s non-functional, it’s a pain in the you-know-what.) It was determined that I needed surgery to remove cysts and for exploratory reasons (for suspected endometriosis).

My first surgery was in December of 2011. What was supposed to be a quick in and out, grab ‘em and go procedure, ended up lasting over 3 hours (or so I’m told. I kind of don’t remember it). We learned two things from that surgery: 1.) My body hates general anesthesia; and 2.)  I had severe (Stage IV) Endometriosis. I was told (as I drifted in and out of sleep/puking) “we’d have to skip some rungs on the baby making ladder.” Ideally, we’d have a couple of babies and have a hysterectomy before the age of 30.

Due to the severity of the Endometriosis, my body was put into menopause through hormone injections immediately following surgery. I was menopausal from January-June of 2012.

May the Odds be Ever in Our Favor
In July of 2012, we began our first IVF cycle. I was 25 years old. I only knew one (very special) person who had gone through IVF. Seeking to understand every.last.detail, I began to dive into research. I didn’t just Google things. I read medical case studies and research available through physician publications.  I researched the drugs I’d be given. I read until I understood the chemistry and derivatives behind each medication. I knew possible side effects.  I watched videos. I read blogs and online communities. Case study after case study, story after story, all signs pointed to success. “Failure” was just something that never crossed my mind.

I handled the injections, blood work, ultrasounds, and monitoring appointments like a champ. Blood work results and ultrasounds showed unusually impressive development. When it came time to retrieve the eggs (more specifics on the actual process later) I handled it very well. Coming out of anesthesia (IV sedation this time) I was perky and alert. I had no complications. I was an IVF Rock Star. Emotionally, I was different than most IVF patients. I didn’t go through years of heartbreaking failed cycles or miscarriages. Our first IVF cycle was our first infertility treatment. (We didn’t have time to spare with other processes—more on that later, too.) It wasn’t a sad/terrifying/heartbreaking thing for me. It was kind of just a thing.

Round 1 Medication 
Five days later, we transferred two perfect looking expanding blastocysts (not embryos! There is a difference.) into my body. It was an exciting day. I remember being so excited to see that ultrasound image of what would be my future twins. (Note: Doctors, or at least good doctors, very rarely transfer more than two embryos/blastocysts.) Failure was not something that crossed my mind. I mean, I was twenty-five years old. I did all of the things they told me to do correctly. My body responded very well to the medication. Our blastocysts looked great. However, I vividly remember laying in that hospital bed after the procedure and tears just streamed and streamed down my face. I wasn’t sad. Or at least, I didn’t know I was sad. I wasn’t even crying. However I was doing one thing: I very much freaked Chris out. He kept asking what was wrong. I couldn’t give him a reason. My heart didn’t feel sad. I kept looking at that ultrasound image of our blastocysts. The tears kept on rolling down my cheek. I didn’t even feel sad. I smiled and talked and joked the entire time. Looking back, I think some how, somewhere deep inside of me, I knew that it was the start of a journey.

July 29, 2012: Heading into the hospital for our first transfer

Post transfer, cycle 1 (Can you tell I had tears streaming down my face? I'm telling ya--I talked and laughed the entire time!) 
A few days later, we packed up the car and headed to Houston for a friend’s wedding.  I kind of left a really important medication at home in Baton Rouge and I kind of really didn’t realize it until 11:00 PM. I had started spotting the day before, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss a single dose of medication, even though the nurse had told me that what was going to happen was going to happen, and no amount of medication could change it. So…..I kind of called my doctor at almost midnight and had him call me in said medication to a pharmacy about an hour away. I got the meds (and called and apologized profusely to the answering machine the very next morning. I was mortified!)  We had a blast at the wedding. We made great memories, going from the Country Club to a Biker Bar with no floor. I took it easy—I didn’t drink and I didn’t dance (too much). I continued spotting throughout the weekend. I can remember praying perhaps harder than I had ever prayed in my entire life on the way home. I repeatedly begged God, “Please—if this isn’t going to work out, let it happen now. Please don’t let me hear heartbeats and then have to say goodbye.”

God answered my fervent prayers. My body rejected the blastocysts and I officially had my first failed IVF cycle at 25 years of age. 

Since then, we’ve been through five subsequent cycles of IVF. Obviously, we haven’t ended up pregnant. I’ve watched everyone around me start families. It just so happened to work out that I’ve had either a friend or a co-worker get pregnant and have a baby every single cycle that has failed for me. So when I hold their babies, I quite literally look into the face of what could have been. I don’t say (type?) that to elicit sympathy. That’s the way it has worked out thus far.
And you know what? I’m okay with that. 

God Winks
God has granted me such a sense of peace through everything. I have witnessed God’s hand throughout our entire journey with infertility in more ways then I could ever fit into a single entry (I call these moments “God Winks,” a borrowed term from that friend I talked about earlier.) I’ve ended up at a doctor’s office where the staff has become like family. I can talk to my doctor about God and the major moral realities of infertility treatment. I know that his wife fervently prays for us.

And for those of you who are asking how I could possibly be thankful or at peace during this time, or for those of you who have that “If God is so great, how could this be His plan for you, when plenty of ‘unfit’ mothers have no problem getting pregnant” mentality, I say to you this: How can you not see God’s hand in all of this?

Medically, I am mystery. My body has responded perfectly to medications. We have produced beautiful expanded blastocysts every.single.time. We are always left with blasts left to freeze (more on that later). I’ve been poked/prodded/violated/drained of blood more times than I can count. While it’s possible that there is something we’re missing, there’s a very real reality: It just hasn’t been ‘our time’ yet.

Maybe I’m naive. Maybe I’m being too simplistic. If that’s the case, I’m okay with it. 1 Samuel 1: 27 states, “For this child, I have prayed.” For this child. For this child. I know that if/when I finally do have my own child in my hands, it will make perfect sense. At that moment, I will know that that child was the child of our destiny. That was the baby that God specifically chose for us. Not the twins from our first cycle, or babies that may have resulted in cycles 2-6. 

I’ve always found tremendous peace in knowing that looking back, everything worked out and fell into place exactly the was it was supposed to. To me, that is no accident. That is God’s hand in our lives. Five, ten, even twenty years from now, we will look back on this journey and we will be able to see how things have fallen into place without accident. It’s like when you’re caught up in fog, and you can’t even see the water beneath you (or Tiger Stadium from the Mississippi River Bridge) but you know it’s there. Eventually, the fog burns off, and things are exactly where they’re meant to be.

For those of us going through infertility (or any other trying situation) I think it’s very easy to fall into the questioning mentality of “Why me?” You know what? Every time that whole “Why us?” thing has popped into my head, it has immediately been replaced with a thought of “Why NOT us?” (And that’s a God Wink.) If you’re in that situation right now, I am here for you. I’m here for you in laughs, tears, fears, friendship, and wine. There’s a reason that God chose this journey for us. It’s all a part of our adventure.