How did you first know you were dealing with infertility?
I stopped using birth control at our wedding in May, and we decided we would start really trying when we got back from a big trip we had planned in the fall. After a couple of months of trying on our own, we started using ovulation kits to see if that would help. But, they would never turn-I just wasn’t ovulating.
What happened once this was determined?
I went to my annual and talked to my Obgyn about my options. She was comfortable prescribing Clomid so we started there. We did one 5 day course but my period started immediately, so my doctor felt like that medication was not a good treatment option anymore. The following month my doctor moved, so the OBGYN office referred me out because no one else was comfortable managing fertility treatment.
That January, at the fertility clinic, we started with the initial testing: blood work for hormone levels; the dye test; and frequent ultrasounds for follicle size. With no “reason” determined but still no ovulation on my own, we started with medicated cycles and tried this for a few months. When that brought no results, we then tried our first round of IUI in May. Still nothing. I can’t recall if we did two or three rounds of IUI, but on the last round, we were told that, due to overstimulation, we either had to convert to IVF or cancel the cycle. This was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. I called a friend to talk it out but ultimately, it was up to my husband and I to make the call-and we had less than a day to do so. We debated back and forth-I wanted to proceed, he wanted to cancel-but ended up moving forward. I felt like I just couldn’t wait any longer and we were told we’d have to take a break for several months before trying again if we cancelled. Thankfully, that IVF cycle worked and we found out we were pregnant in August.
What was the medical process like for you?
The shots during the medicated cycles were no big deal. IUI was also not difficult at all. As far as IVF, I remember the retrieval being very painful. I was on the couch in pain for a couple of days following it and was not expecting that. But the transfer itself was similar to an IUI, I don’t remember there being any pain at all.
Strangely, the douching [part of the IVF protocol before the retrieval] was really hard for me. I remember my husband offering to buy it for me and just melting down over it. It just felt so unnatural, doing this thing that I was told my entire life was bad for me. For some reason that just bothered me the most.
Did you try anything beyond medical interventions?
I did acupuncture for three of my cycles, including the successful round of IVF. In some ways it was stressful to add another thing to my already packed calendar of fertility related items, but I left the appointments feeling refreshed and calm.
What was most helpful?
Talking to people who were supportive, who had already been through it or understood what I was talking about.
During failed cycles, I established a bit of a ritual-a one woman pity party. I would drink wine and eat good cheese, fruit, and bread. It helped me to be sad and cry a bit without having to talk about it with anyone.
What was hardest for you during this time?
Not having any control over the process. Also, the process itself-it is so stressful and time consuming. There is a constant awareness you have while you are going through treatments, it’s always in the back of your mind. And I was restricted from doing things I loved, which just reminded me all over again. For example, I was on exercise restriction and I was really into power yoga at the time, but was advised to stop by my doctor. I hated giving something up that I loved and that relieved stress.
Trying to plan for sex or medication was also stressful and difficult to manage. We had to get a hotel room one night while visiting my sister. Another time, I had to give myself injections while on a trip, which also meant bringing along my medications and keeping them refrigerated. Again, there is that constant awareness that you are trying and failing to get pregnant.
At the time we were trying to get pregnant it seemed like people all around us were getting pregnant. It felt like a kick in the stomach every time we had to celebrate someone else’s baby. I knew we would be good parents and couldn’t understand why it was happening for other people but not us.
How did your partner deal with this process?
My husband is practical and a “fix it” type. The tasks, the things that needed to be done, he was on top of. The emotional aspect was more difficult. He would want to move on immediately and had a hard time just sitting with the feelings.
What was the least helpful thing someone said to you?
My mom made a comment at my baby shower along the lines of “see? I knew you’d get pregnant”, as though it was no big deal, making little of everything that came before just because I did end up getting pregnant. It made me realize how many people don’t get what you go through with infertility treatment.
What was the most helpful/supportive thing someone said to you or did for you?
My sister was always supportive and listened to me whenever I needed to vent. She would also remember what I had told her and where I was at in my cycle so that I didn’t have to repeat myself. She quietly listened to every total freak out and crying fit about how unfair it all was.
What would you like others to know about your experience?
The balance is difficult, between wanting people to know what I’d been through and also not wanting it to be all people thought about when they saw me. Or be the only thing we talked about.
What advice would you give to someone about to begin the process of infertility interventions?
1. Find an office you like, and staff just as important as the doctors.
2. Expect for long term.
3. Expect everything to be talked about in terms of cycles or rounds.
4. Be open to taking time off. I wasn’t hearing it when they said it. If I had known more people ahead of time that had taken breaks, maybe it wouldn’t have felt so urgent.
5. Talk to other people about their experience and those at different stages to get a wider idea of what to expect. But remember that this only gives you a broad idea, everyone will have a different experience.
6. Read sites that are helpful vs the commenting boards-they can be terrifying and most of the time people on them are trying to compare their individual experience with someone else’s.
What not to say?
“IVF is unnatural”
“If you can’t get pregnant you shouldn’t have kids.”
“So there is something wrong with her?”
What would you want said to you?
“You’re not doing anything wrong.”