The old saying goes, ‘First comes love, then comes marriage then comes the baby in the baby carriage.’ Ok, so love: check! Marriage: check! Baby: Check…finally! As you now know, Kyle and I had some struggles getting pregnant and they were only amplified with each question of, ‘So, when are you two going to have a baby?’ or ‘What are you two waiting on? When are you going to start a family?’ Oh, it would be so frustrating to hear that…we DID want to start a family so bad! Now, that we are on our way, I’m going to share all of our background and everything we’ve been through before our decision to do IVF in the hopes that maybe it will help and encourage someone else out there. So let’s start at the beginning:
The period in your life when you decide to start a family is so exciting! You are opening the next chapter in your lives by bringing a child into the world. The excitement in our household was tangible and Kyle and I were already starting a baby name list and discussing the nursery the first week! My mom told me when her and Pops decided to have me, it happened in the first month of trying! Also, many of my friends conceived in their first few months. So, being a healthy, young woman, I thought, ‘No problem. I got this!’ Of course, I immediately began pinning everything baby-related on my secret board: the nursery, maternity clothes, gels for stretch marks and the like. I mean, hey, I was going to be pregnant soon so I needed to be prepared and in the know! (Also, what else are you suppose to do at 2:00 am when you can’t sleep!)
Well, the first month went by and I followed my ovulation calendar to a T but I got my period. I thought, ‘Ok, no reason to be discouraged, it’s only been a month, I will just have to repin a different baby announcement idea so that it will fit with the holiday coming up.’ In months two, three and four the same thing happened. I thought maybe my ovulation calendar wasn’t quite right so I went to the store and bought the ovulation-at-home predictor kit. Because surely that’s what must be wrong: I had my days off. For those of you who have never had to use one of these, a blinking smiley face means you are fertile and a regular smiley face means you are ovulating. (Both mean great times to try and conceive.) So now, I lived to see the smiley faces on the stick because that meant game time.
As many of you who are going through this know, the first few months of trying are spontaneous and exciting but then it becomes almost comical. That smiley face on a stick was the boss of the day. Meetings, call-ins, appointments…nothing mattered if there was a smiley face. If there was one, we had to drop EVERYTHING…and we did! (Well, I did which subsequently forced Kyle to do so too. It’s “game time”, remember?) This is my only piece of advice here, for your husband’s sake, try not to be like a drill sergeant, barking orders during “game time” (‘we have to do it NOW, we have to do it THIS way to increase the chance’, etc…). I will admit I was absolutely awful during this time and honestly feel bad about how I treated Kyle. I took all the fun out of it and was even down right mean sometimes during the act. In retrospect, I am embarrassed how I acted and disappointed in myself but getting pregnant was like this crazy obsession…it was all I focused on.
The first month doing the ovulation kit, I really thought we finally got pregnant. I had severe cramping, weird smells made me nauseous and I was really tired. I also had slight bleeding mid-cycle which they say is the implantation bleeding. However, a few days later, my period came. I was devastated. There was extreme crying, throwing the stick across the bathroom (yes even bleeding I still took a pregnancy test)…the whole nine yards. I just didn’t know why it was so darn hard to get pregnant! It seemed like everyone else was having such an easy time! (I feel like I attend a baby shower every couple of weeks!). I continued to use the ovulation kit though for months to come with no success.
**A Side Note: For all of you struggling to get pregnant, you should probably stay off Facebook and any other social media. One day I found out that seven of my friends were having babies, and that four of my Pinterest announcement ideas were taken. I promptly had a Stage 5 melt-down and am impressed my iPhone survived a long trip across the room. Don’t get me wrong: I was so happy for my friends but, at the same time, I have to admit, I was so jealous! It’s such a terrible mix of emotions. (Let’s not even go there when they begin to announce baby names and you have to start scratching them off your own list!) I really began to get very depressed and began drawing into myself a lot. It just really hurt to talk about it. All I wanted in the world was to have a child. Why was it so difficult?
As the months of trying went by, matters for me got worse…a lot worse. (More physically though as opposed to the emotional toll the fertility struggles were causing.) One day, as I was taking a shower and washing my hair, it began to fall out in clumps! Not just the normal wad of hair that you pull out and stick to the shower wall so that it doesn’t go down the drain. I am talking clumps! Later, when I went to see my hairdresser, she confirmed that I had lost a good 20% or so of my hair! This, for a girl who already has really thin hair, was devastating! I understand many people experience hair loss with other illnesses but just the unexpected shock of losing it was overwhelming. (I love too when people say, ‘it’s only hair’ and act like it’s so unusually vain to be worried about it. Umm, hello? I’m a girl and when 20% of my hair suddenly disappears in a day, I’m going to freak out.) Each month, it continued to do this and then my eyelashes began shedding more than normal too. I spent countless hours reading reviews and trying various hair regrowth treatments so if you ever want to know what helps and what doesn’t, just let me know. Also, I would suggest a shorter hair-do, I chopped mine into a long bob and wore clip-in extensions, which helped a lot!
Lets also discuss all the acne that happens because of all the stress and hormones, which are going crazy. 27. Yes, 27. No, I am not talking about my age. This is the number of pimples I counted on my face one morning that seemed to magically pop up overnight. And it gets better: my chest, shoulders and back suddenly were broken out like a teenager. How much more fun could I take here?!?
Soon, things got down right scary and I will keep the gory details light but two weeks after having a normal period, I, well, how do I put this: there was a mini massacre in the bathroom. Seriously, the prom scene in the movie Carrie had nothing on me. With such extreme bleeding, I promptly made an appointment with my OBGYN. They did the works: a full blood panel, a physical and an ultrasound. (Let’s discuss the ultrasound here for a minute just so those of you who haven’t gone through this yet aren’t surprised and embarrassed like I was. So, going in for the ultrasound, the nurse gives me a gown and exits the room. I put it on, lay down and lift it up to show my belly. I was excited to get the ultrasound you see on TV and in the movies all the time where they put the cold gel on your belly and rub it around and you see the image! BUT that is NOT the type of ultrasound you get when they are initially checking your ovaries. When the nurse came back in and saw me with my gown rolled up, she started giggling and explained to me that this type of ultrasound was a bit more invasive. It was actually A LOT more invasive. To be blunt, they essentially stick something that looks like a curling iron in your Hoo-ha. So fair warning to all of you going in so you aren’t embarrassed like I was, it’s NOT the same ultrasound from TV.)
A few days later, we went back to get my results. First, my progesterone levels were crazy low and my testosterone was elevated. They diagnosed me with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Perhaps you can relate if you are dramatic like I am but when I first heard the word “syndrome”, I instantly had a panic attack. The doctor explained that when they did the ultrasound, they found something off in my ovaries. Normal people’s ovaries have a few follicles and, each month, one becomes dominant and with the right levels of hormones (which I don’t have), the follicle develops into an egg and it is released. Mine were showing a ton of follicles on each side with none of them maturing. How in the world does this happen? I had so many questions. First, of course, I had to ask, ‘If all those eggs are almost to the surface and are just sitting there, was something wrong with them?’ My dear husband equated it to real eggs in the fridge and asked about their shelf life! Next, I was informed that they wanted me to start on a drug called Clomid, which would help increase my low progesterone levels. This was very confusing to me because the at-home ovulation kits said I was ovulating correctly but apparently, they test for a different hormone. I was told during the appointment that I would be taking this medicine on days 5-9 of my cycle and the doctor warned Kyle of things to come: hot flashes, moodiness, nausea and, oh yeah, taking Clomid increases your chances for multiples. Instantly, I envisioned myself as the next Octomom! I mean, seriously, if normal people have two or three on this medicine and I have a ton of potential eggs in me…well, I am going to birth a Baker’s Dozen. Great!
I was comforted when I was told that PCOS is pretty common, as is taking Clomid. However, I guess that’s another reason I am sharing all of this with you. I never knew anyone who had to take it. I come from a long line of very fertile Italian women who only have to think about sex and <BAM!> they are pregnant. My types of struggles and the medicines you take weren’t really Thanksgiving dinner topics in my family.
We tried Clomid for a few more months and, after another bleeding episode and no pregnancy success, it was suggested that we go to a fertility specialist so we promptly made an appointment with the REACH clinic in Charlotte. Both Kyle and I had the gauntlet of tests run on us and we were both just stunned at the outcome. The doctor sat us down and very honestly told us that, aside from a miracle, there was no way we would be able to have a child together on our own because we both had issues. My hormone levels were completely out of wack and my ovaries could not make a mature egg, much less release it. Kyle was informed that his swimmers weren’t exactly up to par so IUI was not even an option for us. We were left with the cold hard truth that if we wanted a baby IVF was our only option…