TRYING TO CONCEIVE / INFERTILITY
1. First, start with an overview of your journey.
My husband and I were married back in 2007. We originally knew we wanted to wait a few years before trying to start a family. We traveled, bought a house, built our careers, etc. When we decided we were ready, naively we just assumed all would be good. Of course, time went by with no results or I wouldn’t be typing this story!
We started with my OB/GYN, who ordered blood work for me and a SA for my husband. My husband’s SA came back so poor, we were immediately referred to a RE. We were lucky enough to get a quick appointment about a month later. Our RE saw my husband’s SA and immediately re-ordered another. The numbers were so low and the sperm quality so poor, she thought there had been a mistake or contamination in the processing!
After the second SA confirmed the same results again, my husband was referred to a urologist. It was determined he had a varicocele and needed a procedure to take care of reversing that. After scheduling and recovering from that, no progress was made so it was recommended to try a testicular biopsy to see if that sperm was better quality. If better quality, we could be candidates for IVF-ICSI. Unfortunately, that did not get us the results we hoped for. The lab determined my husband suffered from a genetic condition called Kartagener Syndrome. The flagella of his sperm were affected therefore causing immotility. This condition caused my husband’s sperm to be At this point, our RE said we could continue to try ICSI or look into using donor sperm. IVF was very expensive and overwhelming but thinking of using donor sperm was heartbreaking.
Meanwhile, my bloodwork had come back with some elevated levels with my pituitary so I was sent for a brain MRI (which came back normal) to check for a tumor. I was also placed on some regulation medication, dostinex and vitamin D supplementation.
So there we were…what do we do?! I decided to let my husband decide. Told him I was supportive on whatever decision he made and to take all the time he needed. He ultimately decided that donor sperm was okay with him. His thought was that he didn’t want any future child of his own to suffer the same path we had been walking due to a genetic condition that he passed along.
After the process of “shopping” for a donor, we went forward with AID (artificial insemination via donor sperm) procedures with our RE. We did 3 tries and got nothing so decided with number 4 to do ultrasound monitoring and a trigger shot. Boom, it worked! Hooray, we were pregnant! Fast forward 9 months and our son was born in July 2014. After three long years of testing, procedures, inseminations, and one quick labor, on a Saturday morning, we finally were a family of three!
Fast forward 18 or so months and we decided we were ready to try for number two. Our RE said alright, let’s do it! Even remarked that we didn’t need to change anything since we were successful during the first round. Month after month we tried and nothing was happening. Our RE recommended trying clomid and then letrozole. We had one BFP with each medication but both resulted in early miscarriages. We didn’t know how to process that information except for taking a break after the second miscarriage. After the break, our RE then recommended trying Glonal-F. Wait, what? Now you wanted me to inject medication into my stomach every night?! Okay, whatever is best! The clinic was kind enough to donate the medication to us so we went with it. Our first try we got pregnant!
Everything looked good. My levels were rising, I was feeling pregnant, my boobs were sore! When we went for our first US at 6 weeks, the doctor remarked that the sac was small but quickly said the heartbeat was present and good. They said they wanted to check my levels “one more time” before I left. Later that afternoon I called for my results. They were not rising at the rate they should have been for how many weeks I was along in the pregnancy. The doctor said miscarriage was likely. We were devastated…my husband was at work and I was packing up to head out for a weekend work trip. How were we supposed to process this information? What were we supposed to do? How could this be happening? I started bleeding and cramping on my work trip. In fact, my husband decided to come get me from the trip early so I wasn’t alone and so we could be together. I arrived back at the RE that Monday and the US still showed a small little babe but the heartbeat was lower. There’s nothing worse than laying there and hearing a heartbeat that was slower and lower than last week. This baby was literally dying inside me…slowly. It’s all I could think about. It took another week for the baby to leave my body. At 5a, on a Friday morning in January, in our bathroom, I miscarried.
We took a long break after that occurred. I didn’t want to think about another pill, another injection, another ultrasound. I just needed my family of three to be together. We opened up more to our family and talked about it. We decided to go for one more try, knowing that emotionally, mentally, and financially, it was our last chance. Glonal-F was present in our life again…and it worked! We were having a rainbow! We cautiously watched my numbers. We cautiously went for ultrasounds. We cautiously went every month, then every 2 weeks, then every week to see the midwife. Every day I lived with fear and anxiety that our rainbow baby to leave me prematurely. If I didn’t feel the baby move often enough, I was calling labor and delivery, asking to go on the monitor. I lived for appointments that reassured me Baby was alive and healthy. Everything seemed so long and drawn out, I just wanted time to fast forward to delivery. It was hard to enjoy pregnancy and our final months as a family of three. After three even longer years of medications, injections, ultrasounds, miscarriages, and blood draws, on a Saturday morning in May 2018, our rainbow girl was born. She came into this world fast and furious, beautiful and healthy.
2. Describe your journey in three words
Heartbreaking, Grief, Relief
3. If you’ve started seeing a fertility specialist, what advice to do you have for someone who is going into their first appointment with a RE?
Do a little research before you go on infertility and the different diagnoses that could occur and different treatment options. Including insurance coverage! I went to our first appointment having done NO research and felt so lost and confused, which lead to a lot of crying and miscommunication
4. If you could go back in time to when you first started trying to conceive, would you change anything? If so, what would it be?
Yes. Saying something to my OB sooner that TTC at home wasn’t successful.
5. What advice do you have for someone who is just starting to try and conceive?
Go into it with minimal time expectations. Some people are blessed with conceiving immediately and some it takes some time. By having minimal expectations, your stress level will be less and you can enjoy it more.
6. What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learn while battling infertility?
Life can’t fit in a “box”…nor should you want it to. Your life is to be designed as it is to be designed, sometimes that’s out of your hands or out of the norm and that’s okay! In the end, what your family is or looks like, is exactly how it was supposed to be a long.
7. How has infertility affected your relationship with your partner?
It has helped solidify our relationship, we are a stronger couple in our we communicate, love and respect each other. “Through good times and in bad, in sickness and in health” takes on an entire new appreciation.
8. What do you do to feel closer to your partner in moments where infertility is taking a toll on you?
Took a break from treatments
9. Infertility and all that comes with it, can be so isolating. What do you do to deal with the isolation? Have you lost friendships over your struggles? Share what the isolation, if any, has been like in your experience.
Never lost friends, actually made friends! When you start talking openly about your struggle, you start to know how many people have also struggled with infertility. There were some people that I had to limit contact with and/or stop following on social media but they understood.
10. Are you open with your friends, family, or co-workers with your struggle to conceive? If so, how do you feel they reacted to your news?
YES! Most needed a lot of education but were empathetic to our story and struggles.
11. How has infertility made your life worse?
I wouldn’t use the word worse, but instead say “more complicated”. Work suffered, our finances suffered, our marriage suffered, our social life suffered. Basically our entire life was “more complicated” due to TTC and infertility. Vacations were postponed or canceled, we lived by the calendar every month, events and parties went unattended, our bank account slowly dwindled, taking time off work was unexpected but necessary and hard to manage.
12. How has infertility made your life better?
Infertility brought me my babies and for that, I am forever grateful. It gave me a new appreciation for “everyone has a story”. Don’t assume a certain person’s life is peachy and stress-free because it’s not. It has given me a new perspective on friendships and being a better friend.
13. Random question but I’m a huge foodie so, what’s your favorite food?
Tacos! And dessert, who doesn’t like dessert?!
MALE FACTOR INFERTILITY
1. Please give an overview of your experience with male-factor infertility:
See previous questions. Genetic condition causing the use of donor sperm
2. Once given the diagnosis, how did you comfort your partner?
I let him take the lead. I gave him the space he needed to process and think. When he wanted to talk, I listened. When he wanted my opinion, I gave it. When he needed time to not talk, I stayed silent.
3. What course of treatment was recommended (medication, surgery, ICSI, donor, etc)? How did your partner react to having to do said treatment?
Varicocele and testicular biopsy procedures first, IVF with ISCI with low chances discussed. Best chances were donor sperm.
4. What is something about MFI that most people don’t know?
How common it is. For us, it was a genetic condition. Nothing my husband could have done would have changed our outcome. It seems to be even more of a taboo subject than anything else involving infertility and TTC.
5. What advice do you have for couples that receive the diagnosis of male-factor infertility?
Just like us women, give your partner all the time he needs to process and understand what’s going on. If he needs help researching, do it. If he wants space to process, give it to him. He needs to process everything on his own time, you cannot rush it or it will just add stress to the moment.
6. If applicable, What advice does your partner have for a male that is given the diagnosis that your partner was diagnosed with?
Look at the big picture and decide what’s best for you and your family. In our situation, we could have tried for biological children but that would have been a daunting task. Even if we could have gotten past the financial aspect of IVF it would have involved us passing down a genetic condition to our children. We didn’t want to think about our children possibly going through all the infertility heartache we had been spending years to figure out and overcome.
7. Has male-factor infertility affected your relationship? If so, in what ways? (it can be positive or negative)
It has given me a new love and respect for our husband. He said he doesn’t even think about donor sperm anymore. These are our children together. Technically genetics doesn’t connect him but that doesn’t matter. He has been there for everything, every appointment, every moment since day one. He has no reason to not be considered Dad. The sacrifice he made in deciding for us to use a donor was the biggest, most self-less act he could have ever done, in my opinion.
1. When you first learned that you are going to experience pregnancy loss, what went through your head?
This cannot be happening. We have fought so hard to have this baby, why would my body take it away.
2. How did your partner support you before, during, and after the loss?
Just was with me…cried with me, grieved with me, talked with me.
3. Did you do anything special in memory of your angel?
Keeping the ultrasound pictures. Working on a tattoo to remember all three.
4. How did you feel your doctors’ support was before, during, and after your loss? Were they informative, supportive, distant, etc.
Certainly informative but also a little distant. They do deal with this every day and tried to say “this is for the best” but at the same time, this is the worst moment for me. Nothing you say will help me feel better.
5. In three words, describe your experience with pregnancy loss.
Numbing, devastating, humbling
6. How do you handle the bad days after your loss?
I worked. I tried to forget what was happening by staying busy.
7. What advice do you have for a fellow Warrior who has been given the “I’m sorry there is no heartbeat” news?
Don’t go to any appointment alone. You really don’t know what could happen and you need a support system there with you. Take the time you need and however long you need to grieve. Don’t short yourself time to heal, it’s a big deal and no one can determine how long it will take you to process everything except yourself. Be honest with yourself if you need more time.
8. I’m really big on focusing on the positive (the best I can) so try to dig deep and find one positive outcome that came from your loss. Did you learn something about life, yourself, your relationship?
Life is precious and I cannot keep trying to “plan” everything. I need to focus better on myself and self care. A healthier me is what helps make my life, my marriage and my children healthy.
9. To raise awareness of pregnancy loss and how (very sadly) common it is, what is one thing about miscarriage that you wish the world knew?
That it’s real. It’s a real baby, it’s a real pregnancy. No matter when or how many weeks you are, there’s a baby growing and it deserves to be recognized and grieved for.
10. Often times after a loss, friends and family will bring gifts/food to show their support for you - what is something that you either received or would have liked to receive that made life just a little bit easier while you were either physically or emotionally healing from your loss?
A bracelet with an inspirational quote or the date of the loss on it. It isn’t something to forget about, needs to be remembered. Even just a card that said “thinking of you” is supportive and loving.
11. Is there anything else that you would like to share in regards to pregnancy loss?
I just wish there were more resources to help women process and deal with loss. Mentally we need to understand what’s going on and need support. Counseling or somewhere to go or someone to talk to. Someone to sit down next to you and say “how are you feeling? It’s okay to feel this way”.