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Madeline's Infertility Story

I remember talking with my OBGYN in the fall of 2017 about the process to start our family.  I had been diagnosed with PCOS a year earlier and without Provera (a form of progesterone) I didn’t have a period.  I knew we would need some kind of intervention and ironically enough I am a Clomid baby myself.  My OBGYN discussed trying clomid for 6 months doing timed intercourse.  My husband and I decided to wait because he was in school and working full-time and I just wasn’t quite ready.  Fast forward a year later to Fall 2018 I met with my doctor again and she said that we could try clomid or she could send me straight to a reproductive endocrinologist.  I opted to be sent straight to the fertility clinic because I felt they were probably more specialized in it.  October 2018 we had our first consultation and discussed using Femara because it was more effective for patients with PCOS like me.  We did all of the routine blood tests, sperm analysis, and HSG before deciding to start in January 2019 after the holidays were past.

 

January and February led to disappointment.  The doses that I was on did not cause me to ovulate.  I was starting to get frustrated, isn’t it crazy when you look back that so much impatience is coupled with this journey when you really have no idea what is ahead.  We talked with our doctor and she said we could do IUI with the next cycles.  So in March we did Femara and IUI and I finally ovulated but it was unsuccessful.  We did another cycle like this in April with the same result.  At this time, I started to have some doubt that we had made the right choices.  I was emotionally charged and felt that my current doctor wasn’t giving me the time or explanations I needed at this time.  This clinic had multiple other physicians so I asked to switch doctors to someone my friend recommended.  Thankfully he agreed to see us.  We set up an appointment with him and he was much more attentive and thorough.  We discussed how important it was to just get me to ovulate and step back from IUI.  We went back to Femara and timed intercourse and in July we got our positive test!!  This was our 4th month total on Femara including the IUIs and I got a positive pregnancy test.  To say I was shocked is an understatement.  I had taken a test very early in the morning and it didn’t show anything so I went back to bed only to wake up a few hours later to see a line.  I was so confused and of course had no more tests so my husband rushed to the store and sure enough when we tested multiple times they were all positive.  I was elated.  I immediately called some of my close family who had been on this journey with us and my husband cried.  It was the day after his birthday and we had just bought a new SUV that we hoped would be our family vehicle.  I remember feeling so grateful that it had worked and that we were going to be parents.  I called my clinic the next day and went in for a blood HCG test.  The clinic called me that afternoon and told me the news that my HCG did show I was pregnant, but that it was low and they expected this to be a chemical pregnancy.  I was heartbroken and anxious but still hoping for a miracle.  I went back two days later for another blood test and was called that afternoon to be told my HCG had dropped and this pregnancy would be so brief.  My clinic was wonderful in how they handled it and my doctor assured me it was not my fault.  What’s so hard about this path is that as soon as you get that positive you plan a life with that child no matter how early it is, you think about the nursery, the due date, everything so when it comes crashing down it’s so painful.  My doctor wanted me to take a month off to let my body heal so we went back to timed intercourse with Femara in September and that month it did not work as it typically did.  I felt so much frustration and again impatience.  I met with my doctor and discussed IVF.  I was ready to move forward, I had felt what it was like to have that taken away and I wanted it back!  When meeting with the doctor he felt that it was a reasonable plan at this point and that with my age, 29, and my diagnosis we should hopefully have success.  We started on the path of IVF in October 2019.  

 

I’m blessed with a mother who is a nurse and she accompanied me to my IVF training since my husband could not make it and we learned all about the process to come including injections.  I was hopeful and excited again.  Everyone I had known that had done IVF had their miracle baby and I saw that getting closer for us.  I thought about banking embryos for our future family.  I really had wanted to be pregnant by the end of the year and have that Christmas to celebrate.  We started our protocol and for me the shots weren’t terrible, I mean of course, they are shots but I was on pretty low doses due to my PCOS and the fear of overstimulation.  My follicles were growing but not as well all together so I ended up being stimulated for 16 days!  It was definitely way more than expected and I started to worry.  We ended up doing my egg retrieval the week of Thanksgiving and man I felt terrible for a few days but well enough by Thanksgiving.  We thankfully had retrieved 20 eggs but many were immature and did not fertilize.  After the end, we ended up with 4 beautiful embryos.  I remember being so elated because I have always wanted 3-4 children and thought how wonderful it worked out.  The clinic we were at does fresh transfers if possible so we had our fresh transfer the Saturday after Thanksgiving and everything went smoothly.  We started the progesterone shots and everything I said about the injections being easy before this was not the case for me.  I knew it was worth it for our miracle.  We had our beta scheduled and I couldn’t help to test at home.  (This is where I want to plug in the fact that we had no insurance coverage for infertility so we used Future Family which provides loans for infertility.  Through this program you are assigned a fertility coach who is usually a nurse who is available to you 24/7.  Laura was mine and truly saved me.  She helped talk me off a ledge more times than I can count.  She was my emotional partner when my husband couldn’t understand or answer my questions.  I am incredibly thankful I found that program and wish everyone had this through infertility.)  Through my negative tests at home I became more and more worried this didn’t work for us.  When I went in for blood work it confirmed what I already knew that we were indeed not pregnant.  How could it have not worked?  Why did it work for everyone else?  My dream of being pregnant for Christmas was lost.  My husband and I were scheduled to go on a work trip for him to Oregon the same day we got the news and it was a hard day.  I remember flying into Portland and not even being excited that we had this chance to have a getaway because I was grieving.  Luckily I had scheduled myself at a local spa while he worked the next day because after IVF I figured if it was positive or negative I still deserved it.  I left that spa feeling lighter and pampered. 

My doctor called and we discussed the result and how sorry he was.  We discussed that I still had three good embryos and a frozen transfer may be that magic for us.  We hung up with a plan that after a month off I could start again.  I wish I could say I was just excited to get going again and that I was able to enjoy that trip with my husband but I was depressed.  I was emotional.  I was so up and down with my emotions all over the place.  We explored the coast and mountains and I was crying on and off the whole trip.  I felt empty.  When we got home I felt the lowest I had felt maybe in my whole life.  The combination of the hormones and loss just hit me like a ton of bricks.  I had thoughts about not wanting to live anymore.  I just didn’t want to feel this pain.  I didn’t feel strong enough to keep going.  Thankfully I had a wonderful therapist, husband, family, and support system who helped get me through.  Therapy throughout this journey has saved me.  The path of infertility is no easy feat and I always recommend having a therapist to help you process the trauma, grief, and loss we all go through.  I hope you know that you do not have to go through this alone and that there is always help available in whatever form that looks like therapy, faith, even instagram.  I was able to get through the holidays with a glimmer of hope for our next transfer.

 

We started medication for our frozen transfer in January and my husband and I had decided that for this transfer we would transfer two embryos.  We had always liked the idea of twins and were wanting an increased chance.  My embryo transfer fell on Valentine’s Day 2020 and we felt this was our sign that our little one would be coming soon.  For anyone that hasn’t done a frozen transfer man it is so much easier than fresh.  The process almost seems too easy compared.  Well after our transfer we went out to breakfast and thought of names and what our future could like with twins.  We were just hopeful again for what our future held.  I had my beta scheduled but again I could not wait to test and so I tested at home.  I saw what you may expect negatives and I started to get really worried again.  I talked with my fertility coach and she helped me through.  Beta day came and I got the news that AGAIN it was negative.  We had lost two embryos this transfer and I didn’t understand why this wasn’t working.  We had done everything we thought we were supposed to, how could this be happening.  It was devastating but because I didn’t have the extra hormones in my system I thankfully did not go to as low of a place as previously.  Still sad, still grieving, but manageable with help.  We had one last embryo and decided we wanted to talk with our doctor to see if there was anything we needed to do to make sure this worked.  We discussed multiple options and ended up doing a sonohysterogram which came back normal so we got on the schedule for our last chance to have our dream come to fruition. 


Well I think we are all aware of what happened in March 2020.  COVID hit and we had decided to hold off until things settled down because we did not want our cycle to get canceled.  This put a delay on things but it was a good break.  During this time, I took time to take care of myself.  I had started a journal during my IVF cycle so I leaned into that, I leaned into meditation.  I highly recommend the Expectful app; it was so amazing during IVF for me.  It has meditations for trying to conceive, fertility treatments, loss, and motherhood.  I really took time to take care of myself and focus on my husband and I as the world stopped.  It was during this time that my husband was preparing to graduate college, he had gone back to school while working full-time.  I was so proud of him and we talked about what our future looked like.  He ended up getting a job offer in Phoenix, where he was from and we decided to move in July 2020.  During the midst of a pandemic dealing with infertility and moving was certainly challenging.  During our time off from fertility treatments, we talked about adoption and even talked with a consultant about it.  We prayed and had many conversations about what we should do.  It seemed like it was maybe what we were supposed to do, but we came to the conclusion that we had one last embryo and we wanted to pursue this.  So in July we transferred our last embryo less than two weeks before our cross country move!!! I had so much to focus on that this time the transfer was easier but when that beta came I had still tested at home and knew it was negative.  We got the call that our last embryo had not stuck.  We moved that next day.  I didn’t even have time to process the loss, I was moving my life across the country.  Of course I was sad but I had come to expect the loss, the negative.  It was where my mind went.  I did have hope but it wasn’t as strong as expecting it not to work.  I had already set up a consult with a new clinic in Phoenix that everyone highly recommended before the result because the wait list was so long and I thought we would need it.  In the meantime, I found another doctor others recommended that could see me a week within us getting there.  He ran all kinds of tests and told me it would be hard to get pregnant and hard to keep me pregnant.  He refused to do anything but IVF with me.  I trusted my gut and decided this was not the doctor or clinic for me.  That’s one piece of advice I think is so important.  You are in charge of your journey.  TRUST your gut!!! Trust what feels right to YOU!  I remember that with my first clinic I liked them but felt that they weren’t doing enough for me.  I had gotten a second opinion and loved them but didn’t want to start over and so I stayed.  I wish I hadn’t.  So this time I knew I was going to trust myself and move on.


We decided in the meantime to adjust to our new home and focus on my health in a way that I hadn’t.  I had been diagnosed with Hashimotos from the RE in Phoenix after asking my original clinic to test for this as my thyroid had creeped up.   They were treating me for that but they said it was unnecessary to test for Hashimotos.  I sought out a fertility naturopath in the area and began working with her.  She listened to me and looked over all of my tests and discussed options for more testing.  I did them all because I was wanting to know if there was anything I could do to help my fertility naturally why not!  We found that I was estrogen dominant which was not surprising.  My PCOS isn’t the type that has high androgens or really abnormal lab work.  I started on many supplements and working on a healthier lifestyle overall.  In December 2020, we had our consult with a new reproductive endocrinologist that we had waited almost 6 months for.  His energy was refreshing and he was hopeful about what would come next.  He suggested IUI with injectables for us as with my PCOS diagnosis this had a good success rate.  We felt that this was a good plan for us and we started this in January 2021.  We did two cycles of this January and February with good follicle growth both times but unfortunately they were again not successful.  I ended up taking a break March-May as I needed it and also I changed my thyroid medication and needed to get it in a better place before going on.  We had discussed doing IVF again but ultimately decided to do one more IUI with injectables cycle in June.  And it worked!!! We were pregnant.   Yes I said “were” because as the story goes I ended up having a blighted ovum.  I had a gestational sac and yolk sac but at 7 weeks there was no fetal pole.  To say we are devastated doesn’t put all of our feelings into words.  Finally being pregnant again two years later after our first chemical I was so excited but also fearful.  I worked really hard to try and reduce my anxiety and be in the moment of our pregnancy but my ultimate fears came true and that's heartbreaking.  We discussed our next steps with our doctor and he recommends trying two more IUI cycles with injections and feels it should work!  But if it doesn’t then it is on to IVF round #2.  At the beginning of every year we have been TTC I am always hopeful we will be pregnant by the end of the year.  I am sure other fertility warriors relate to this.  Yet here we are inching closer to the end of our chance for this year as cycles go quick.  We will do our next two cycles most likely in September and October which means if we had to do IVF it would lead into early next year.



I wish I could say we have our miracle over two and a half years later but that is not our story.  Our story is still ongoing.  It’s not over despite being so close.


Throughout our journey there have been so many things that I have taken away from it.  I am actually grateful for this experience in so many ways.  My husband and I have really leaned into each other, sought therapy, and grown emotionally together.  I have grown a deeper faith despite unanswered prayers.  I have leaned into my strength and grown more open about my struggles.  I have seen how this path has changed my life forever and will as I continue forward.  I have handled way more than I ever thought I could.  I have learned what’s important in life and what really doesn’t matter as much.  I have learned to always have hope and to honor your emotions and physical limits.  Taking breaks through this process has truly been the best thing I have done for myself.  I have learned how important talking with other women who are going through it too is and that opening up can help so many along the way.  If there is some advice I could pass along to any woman or man going through this is to seek help.  This path is a roller coaster and the anxiety and depression rates in infertility is staggering it’s okay to need that support and help.  I wouldn’t be here today without it.  Also, always trust your gut and follow your heart and own path.  You know what’s best for you and your future family more than anyone else.  Never forget how amazing you are for walking this path and that you are never alone.






Instagram: @infertilityandgoodwill

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