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As some of you know, I’ve been on quite the journey over the past few years.
I want to say it began three years ago when we started trying to get pregnant with our second baby, but now that I can see things a little more clearly, I think it actually started the day I was diagnosed with endometriosis back in 2005.
The journey ultimately led to us starting the process of in vitro fertilization in November of 2016.
While there are more details than I can possibly cover in a few simple blog posts, I wanted to start putting my thoughts down about this very unique topic and experience.
This will be the first in a series of posts I write about my IVF journey. I know it won’t apply to some of you and you may not be able to relate, and that’s completely fine. You can definitely stop reading and skip to the workouts or recipes. You won’t hurt my feelings at all.
But there will be quite a few of you who can relate, who have been there yourselves or are wondering if IVF or IUI is right for you.
Even if you haven’t been there yourself, you probably know someone who has. Or you know someone currently dealing with infertility or endometriosis or IUI’s or IVF.
If so, this might be just the information they need to know they are NOT ALONE.
While you can read about my full back story in the links above, I know it can be helpful to hear what led us to the decision to start IVF.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis through laparoscopic surgery in 2005. I was told I would need to learn to manage my pain and symptoms and that it could be hard to have children.
This began my journey towards regular exercise and healthy eating, and we were able to naturally conceive our beautiful daughter in 2012.
Because of this, I didn’t think twice about my ability to have more kids. I assumed it wouldn’t be a problem.
We started trying to conceive our second baby in April of 2014. We tried. And tried. And tried.
I was seeing a reproductive endocrinologist already for a small pituitary tumor I have, and he went ahead and ran the standard blood work for me. My prolactin was a little high from the tumor, so I started medication for that thinking it would solve the problem.
So a year and a half after starting to try, we went through the next round of testing. This included a semen analysis for my husband and a sonohysterosalpingogram (SHG) for me. This is a test that passes air bubbles through your uterus and fallopian tubes to assess for blockage.
(Note to anyone going through this: if you have the choice and need this procedure, chose the SHG instead of the typical hysterosalpingogram (HSG). Unlike the traditional HSG, there is no X-ray or dye needed and your doctor can do the procedure in the office versus the radiologist doing the procedure and then sending the results to your doctor).
All tests again came out completely normal.
There was no clear reason we weren’t getting pregnant.
During this time, I was reading every book I could on natural fertility and talking to anyone I could find. I was doing reproductive acupuncture, chinese herbs and various vitamins regularly. I also tried Mayan abdominal massage, maca powder, collagen peptides, royal jelly supplements and baby aspirin.
I tracked my temperature and cervical mucous and used ovulation strips and timed intercourse.
I stopped drinking coffee and even timed my exercise so the most intense workouts were before ovulation.
I truly did everything I could.
Yet I still felt like a failure.
For those of you going through infertility yourself or those of you who know someone who is, please understand this:
The feeling of absolute failure and hopelessness can be overwhelming.
As women, there is one thing we are supposed to be able to do with our bodies: have babies.
Of course I believe women are capable of 100048932 more things than that, but on a very basic, primal, physiologic level, that feels like a truth.
So when you suddenly can’t, you feel broken.
And when there are no answers?
You feel broken and somewhat crazy.
During this time, I had started to experience some unexplained back pain, specifically in my right SI joint and hip.
I had a feeling my endometriosis might be coming back.
One of the problems with endo is that it can block your fallopian tubes. Since my SHG test came back normal, I didn’t think this was the problem at all.
But my pain kept getting worse. To the point I was having pelvic pain and cramps 21 days out of every month.
So in August of 2016, my doctor and husband and I decided I would have another laparoscopy.
Yes, we could have gone straight to fertility treatments at that point, but there are a few things that factored into my personal decision to have the surgery first:
- All the tests were normal. That is all the information I had to go on. I kept thinking there must be one magic bullet or key and I didn’t see how medical intervention could help if the tests were normal.
I knew that the endometriosis could be causing a problem at this point. I also knew that, if that was the case, no IUI or IVF could help. If the endo was doing something crazy, it needed to be removed before any procedure could help us get pregnant. The endo was also causing a significant amount of pain, and that needed to be dealt with.
We just weren’t ready. Looking back I kind of wish we would have done everything sooner, but I also know that hind site is 20/20. I personally just wasn’t ready to make that decision or commitment. We already had our miracle daughter and I know that helped me be more patient than if I hadn’t had her. If I can give you one piece of advice, it is to listen to your gut. Mine was telling me I just wasn’t ready for fertility treatments yet.
So I came out of the laparoscopy and went home to recover. Two weeks later I went back to my doctor for the results.
I was told “I can’t believe you look as healthy as you do on the outside for what I found in your pelvis”.
I had stage 4 endometriosis and a frozen pelvis due to the severe amount of scar tissue that had formed over the years. My uterus was stuck to my abdominal wall and my tubes were indeed scarred and twisted on themselves. (It is still a mystery as to why the SHG test was normal).
My doctor said there was basically a less than 1% chance of us getting pregnant on our own and that IVF was our next step.
I went home sobbing.
Not really for the information about needing IVF, because I was somewhat ready for that news. I just wasn’t prepared for the gravity of my medical condition. For the knowledge I would need to keep managing this condition the rest of my life and my health future was unknown.
I needed time to heal and make some decisions.
We scheduled an initial appointment with an IVF doctor for October. I’ll cover more about the ins and outs of visits and how to schedule in a future post, but keep in mind it usually takes about 4-6 weeks to get in for an initial consultation. Many doctors make you fill out extensive forms before they will even schedule you. I recommend finding someone who is referred by a friend or professional (my reproductive acupuncturist recommended ours) and one who is fairly close to your house. You’ll be going A LOT and it’s so much less stressful if you don’t have to deal with traffic or a long drive.
At the first appointment she went over everything we needed to know about IVF. (Because of my blocked tubes, IUI wasn’t an option). While I went in to the appointment full of hope for a new chance, I left completely confused and in a fog.
I thought I would be ready to start the next day. We even scheduled an ultrasound with the doctor and prepared to move forward.
When we got to the car, though, we both knew we may need a little time to process everything.
Choosing to start fertility treatments is a very intense and complicated decision. I have some friends who found it simple, but to me, it was overwhelming.
Knowing I could actually chose the sex of our baby and that the embryos would be frozen and tested and poked and prodded was more than my fragile mind and battered faith could handle at the time.
Not to mention the reality of the true cost of fertility treatments and needing to have an honest conversation as a couple about our budget. (I was prepared for a $10,000 cost per cycle. In reality it’s closer to $25,000.)
I was still healing both mentally and physically from surgery, and we were planning on traveling for the entire month of October. Because of those things, and simply the need for some time and space, we put off starting IVF.
While I had been extremely anxious to start treatments, I am so happy we took that time off. I completely understand the feeling of urgency when it comes to wanting a baby. I think you have to really listen to yourself and what your needs are as a woman and as a couple.
For me, while a part of me still wanted to just get going, I knew that taking a month off as a family to simple sit with the information and not deal with procedures or tests or blood work was necessary.
I drank coffee and wine. We travelled to Colorado and Hawaii and Portland. I ate what I wanted and didn’t test myself for a single thing. We didn’t talk about getting pregnant and I completely lost track of what cycle day I was on (miracle).
And I mourned.
I mourned the idea that I would have another baby naturally. I mourned the reality of taking a pregnancy test and running in to tell my husband it was positive. I mourned the loss of innocence and the truth of needing medications and injections and a lot of interventions in order to have a baby.
I truly believe mourning has to happen at some point when you prepare for fertility treatments. Let yourself be sad for the things you will miss. It’s natural and important to recognize those feelings.
Then remember how blessed and lucky we are to have this chance. Women 30 years ago couldn’t make these decisions because it wasn’t an option. Many women today don’t have the means or resources or tools to make fertility treatments happen.
I did have those things, and anytime I started to have a pity party, I remembered how grateful I am simply for the opportunity to TRY.
It also finally hit me that miracle babies come in many shapes and forms. I had been waiting for a “miracle” by avoiding fertility treatments, assuming that, once science took over, there would be no “magic” left in conceiving a baby.
That is a complete myth.
I guarantee you that there is just as much magic and faith and “unknown” in fertility treatments as trying to conceive naturally. God and the Universe can give us babies in whatever ways they chose. It’s not always up to us to decide how our babies come, but it’s up to us to believe they are coming.
On whatever road they chose.
We regrouped in November (3 months after surgery and 2 1/2 years after starting to try and conceive) and decided we wanted to move forward. I knew I would always regret it if we didn’t, and I also knew that time wasn’t on our side. I was about to turn 39 years old and we needed to move forward one way or the other.
This was my personal journey towards deciding to try IVF, and I hope it gives you a little comfort to know you are not alone on this journey.
In future posts, I’ll be covering topics such as:
– A typical IVF cycle
– How to chose your IVF doctor
– How to chose your IVF doctor
– What exercises you should and shouldn’t do during IVF
For now, give yourself some grace and time to make this big decision. Talk to people you know who have gone through it and ask questions. Be open and honest with your partner about how you feel and what you need from him/her as you start the process. Chose a few books or trusted online resources. I really enjoyed the podcasts Beat Infertility and Sarah’s Laughter, and I stayed away from most online forums and chat rooms as the energy just didn’t work for me.
Do what works for you and, above all, listen to yourself. Amidst all the information and facts and test results being thrown at you right now, it’s the one voice you should trust the most.