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Apr 24

My Infertility Story {Don’t Ignore Infertility #niaw}

This week, April 22-28, 2012 is National Infertility Awareness Week. Last year I posted the story about my struggle with infertility on my short-lived other blog. Because so many of my readers here are new, and because I feel that Infertility is an important topic that shouldn’t be ignored, I’m sharing my story again.

Infertility affects about 1 in 8 couples of child-bearing age. There are so many causes of infertility, many of them unknown. It could be from the husband. It could be the wife. It could be a giant question mark and no one knows the answer. A couple may have a baby no problem and experience secondary infertility. Some may get pregnant at the first intervention; other spend years and thousands of dollars on extensive treatment. Most often you have no idea you will experience infertility until you do.

I have a beautiful, wonderful daughter. She’s seven, and she’s my only child. Y’all know this, because I can’t stop shooting my mouth off about it (or her). Even in the moments where I’m so tired of her; where I can’t catch my breath because she is driving me crazy, she is my miracle. She’s the child I wanted since I was a little girl dressing up my babies; and she is the child that, for awhile there, I never thought I’d have. Here is my story.


My husband was married before and during his marriage, my husband decided to have a vasectomy. This would eventually alter the course of our fertility.

Fast-forward a few years and he is divorced and we start dating. I don’t remember exactly, but I believe it was our third date when he told me about his vasectomy. I still remember the warm sun on my face and the hot sand beneath my feet when he told me. In all my youth and inexperience, I said, all matter-of-fact, “Well that can be reversed, right?” and in my head, thought, no problem. {Ah, the naivety of youth.}

(To be clear: I would not have changed the course of my relationship with my husband, even after going through all we did. I loved him already that warm day at the beach, and I love him even more today.)

About six months after we married, he had his vasectomy reversed. This was not covered by insurance and cost $5,000. It was a lot more painful than the actual vasectomy; it was a much more involved surgery. The best advice his doctor ever gave us was to bank some sperm, just in case. Vasectomy reversals have a nasty habit of scarring over, thus rendering the reversal useless. A few months later we moved to Arizona and banked sperm. At the same time they did an analysis and found his little guys were swimming, although they had “morphology” issues. (Basically, their heads were soft and might have a hard time cracking the egg, so to speak.) Phew, we thought. The reversal worked, we can start trying.

After six months we knew we might have a problem. Nothing was happening. Normally, they make you wait a year (especially for a woman my age; I was only 26). Since we knew the deck was stacked against us we went to the fertility doctor to get checked out.  He did some tests on me, a dye test and some exams and said everything was fine. He reviewed my husband’s sperm analysis that was only six months old. We decided to try an intra-uterine insemination (IUI). For you laymen out there, that means the turkey baster.

I went through the month taking some sort of drug; I don’t remember which one now. We got all ready, did the “harvest” shot and went in on Easter Sunday to be implanted. My husband dropped off his sample, we left for an hour and went back for the procedure (they had to get the little guys all ready). I’ll never forget that woman’s face when I walked back into that clinic. There was no sperm. His vasectomy had reversed itself. We would not be getting pregnant that day, nor through any “easy” method. I still remember the grief I felt that day; it was one of the worst days of my life.

The next step for us was in-vitro fertilization, or IVF. Thank goodness we had banked that sperm because without it? The doctor would have had to use a long needle and remove a cross-section of my husbands’ you-know-what to get sperm out. {Shudder}

IVF is a long process. You take birth control pills for one month to get your cycle in sync. Then you start daily shots to stimulate egg growth. I was prescribed Follistim. It came in a pen, so I just had to dial the dose and shot myself up in the thigh. I don’t remember any horrible side affects from the Follistim. The Lupron, however, was a different story. Lupron keeps your body from ovulating. It produces hot flashes like you wouldn’t believe. (I’ve had hot flashes since I was a teenager and these didn’t even compare. I’ve heard them compared to the hot flashes experienced during menopause.)

I’ll never forget my trip to the pharmacy to pick up my medications. They came to me in a paper grocery bag (the large size) and cost me $2,500 after what the insurance would cover.

During the first two weeks of your cycle when you’re doing IVF you’re going in for blood work and ultrasounds every day or every other day. Then, when the time is right for ovulation collection, you take a shot of hCG that causes the release of your eggs in a specific window of time. The egg harvest is done under twilight sleep. Most women I’d been chatting with on the IVF message boards had been getting 10-15+ eggs for harvest. I got seven. Two of the seven eggs never fertilized. Because of the morphology issues, we had to do a procedure called ICSI, where the doctor takes the individual sperm and injects it into the egg.  (Can you say cha-ching!?)  After all that work, all I had to show for it were only five chances at a baby. (Mind you, this is after expecting to have all these little embryos to freeze for next time, if the first time didn’t take. It makes it a lot easier and cheaper when you’ve already got frozen.)

After a few days we went back in to the clinic to have our embryos implanted in my uterus. Such a romantic place to get knocked up; me in an exam chair with my legs up in stirrups, a strange man down at the baby end while my husband sat next to me an held my hand. All I can say is, thank God for the Valium they had prescribed.

It turns out, of the five embryos, three were “C” grade. One was a “B” and the fifth was a “superstar.” We implanted the two best embryos.

For three days I was on bed rest. I could come downstairs in the morning and go up at night. I could get up to pee and that was it. After two weeks (the longest two weeks ever) we went in for a blood test to check for pregnancy. My husband came home from work early to wait for the doctor’s phone call. We sat on pins and needles waiting for that call. Finally when it came we got the best news of our lives: we were pregnant. We were so happy.

Even though we didn’t want to tell anyone (my husband’s past experiences cautioned us that waiting to tell your news is a good thing), we called our families. One of the things that IVF takes away from you is the ability to keep pregnancy secret. Everyone you are close to knows about your doctor appointments, your shots, your bed rest. You’ve had to take off work and had to explain why or you’ve gone to a dinner party and had to excuse yourself during dinner to give yourself a shot. Dealing with infertility not only takes away the romance and joy of getting pregnant but it takes away your privacy as well.

But did you know that the first test isn’t a necessary an absolute positive? We had to wait two more days for another test to be sure. We did all the waiting again and got another positive result. We were finally pregnant!

Then came weeks of progesterone shots to my bottom (given by my dear husband) as well as cream insertions, and even more weeks of hoping nothing would go wrong. With his past history, we were a little skittish. But, thankfully 10 days shy of nine months after that romantic doctor’s visit, we had our beautiful baby girl.

We were so happy that it had worked for us. In some ways, I consider myself extremely lucky. I only had to have IVF once and I got pregnant. I’ve known women who have done countless IUIs and several rounds of IVF before (if ever) getting pregnant. But getting pregnant the first time around makes you wonder. Would it happen that way again? Or, because I was successful the first time would it be harder the next time around? When you know that there is no way you’re going to have a baby without such an extensive procedure, you think about what it would take for a “next time.”

That day we got the call that yes, we were pregnant? I think in that moment, without even talking about it, we knew we wouldn’t be doing it again. I know, for myself, if that call had been a bad one? I don’t think I could have handled it. I think that feeling I had on that Easter Sunday would have paled in comparison to a “no, you’re not pregnant” phone call. I knew I never wanted to feel that, ever. Because where do you go from a “no”? Do you do it again and mortgage your house? Charge it on a credit card? We spent about $15,000 on our IVF, and that was with some insurance coverage. How many times can you spend that much money before you say enough? And if we had decided to go for it again, and it hadn’t worked, would I have become obsessed and wanted to keep going over and over? These are questions I still ask myself.

Having an only child when the choice for more was taken from you is a hard one. But, as much as I often long for another baby, it was the right thing for us. We are a happy family of three.

And I think I’m okay with that (for today anyway; it’s an ongoing process).

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I have my miracle; my superstar.

Don’t ignore infertility. Infertility affects so many people. It’s a disease that makes something that should be very private something very public. Chances are, if you haven’t experienced it, someone you know did. That mom on the playground who gives you a stiff smile when she sees your baby. The woman in the grocery store line, childless, whose gaze seems to linger on the baby in front of her. Or even the mom with two or three kids, who has to watch every last penny because her doctor bills are so high. Do you have a story? I’d love to hear it. Share your story with someone today. Help someone realize that they are not alone in their fight to have a child.

When I was going through the whole process, Resolve helped me. It can help you too.
For a basic understanding of the disease of infertility, click here.
For information about National Infertility Awareness Week, click here.
For information about support, check out Resolve.org.

For my most recent post about how infertility never really goes away, read here.

Thanks for reading!