Telling My Family

For the last year and a half, I’d been pretty tight-lipped about our efforts to have a baby. For the first year, it didn’t seem like anyone’s business, then when we started doing Clomid and IUI, I just didn’t feel like talking about our troubles. But IVF felt like a different, more intense beast. So I slowly started talking about it to my immediate family.

Of course, when you tell your family you’re going through something like this, they’re bound to ask a lot of questions and check in on how things are going (because they care and love you, obviously). I felt a little odd talking about it, sure, but I wanted them to understand the process – and it helped me mentally to talk through it out loud. But since everyone knew the key dates, when it came time for the beta results, my family group text blew up. “Did you hear back?” “What’s the latest?” “Are you pregnant?!” “Did it work!?”

Hmm. Sort of a drawback of being so open about the process. I lied and said that the results weren’t coming for another few days. Meanwhile, I thought about how and when I wanted to share the good news with my family. After the second beta test came back on Sunday with good results, I decided I was ready to tell them. I planned to tell my dad in person, then the rest of the family on FaceTime, as they were on vacation in the Philippines.

Joe and I had already planned dinner with my dad that Sunday night, so on Sunday afternoon, I was busy brainstorming the coolest way to tell him. I ended up at Swoozies, picking out my favorite baby book, Goodnight Atlanta, and a Quotables card that said “Life doesn’t come with an instruction book. That’s why we have fathers.” I also did a SUPER QUICK photo shoot with Disco, our labradoodle, and three pairs of shoes… then quickly had the photo printed at Walgreens (thank you Walgreens app!!!).

I hid my present until we got to the restaurant (Pasta Vino in Buckhead, for Atlantans), and after we settled into the table, presented him with the card. He read the front out loud (I knew he would). “Life doesn’t come with an instruction book. That’s why we have fathers.” Then he opened the card, to read, “…AND GRANDfathers! YAY! We’re pregnant!!!” He was so happy! He gave me a high five and shook Joe’s hand. I warned him that it was super early on… and he said the most calming thing. He said, “Well, anything can happen at any time. What’s important is that you got here.” Preach! So helpful. He opened the book and pulled out the photo… it was all so great.

We got back to my parents’ house, and Facetimed with the rest of my family. Everyone was so happy and excited! I wish I was able to tell them in person, but FaceTime was a decent substitute. I also got to FT my grandma!! She was so so happy too. She said she had been praying for me every night. There were lots of laughs and happy tears. It felt like a big hug.

The one thing – my family is full of big talkers, and Facebook posters, so I had to warn them multiple times not to share my secret on pain of death. I begged them not to, since we hadn’t even told Joe’s family, and it was so early in the pregnancy. So far, they’ve managed to keep mum about it, thank goodness!

We plan to tell Joe’s family this weekend 😀

 

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IUIUIUI: Turkey Baster Time

IUI stands for intra-uterine insemination. I had literally never heard of this word before my ob-gyn brought it up, somewhere in the Clomid months. I didn’t know there was a step (multiple steps) in between “can’t get pregnant” and IVF. But! I was glad to hear of this seemingly low-key treatment option. So we agreed to start with IUI right away under the watchful eye of Dr. Fogle and the wonderful nurses at ACRM.

How IUI works: well, the specific protocol probably differs person to person, but at my clinic, here’s how it generally worked on each of my 3 cycles.

Cycle Day 1: On the first full flow day of my period, I was to call the office and let them know that it had started. They would then schedule my Day 3 ultrasound and bloodwork to start the treatment cycle.

Cycle Day 3: Ultrasound and bloodwork. The vaginal ultrasound (via dildo-cam, as others have called it) is really not a big deal. It didn’t hurt me personally. The doc goes in and checks out the uterus and ovaries to make sure that everything looks good to start. Bloodwork checks estrogen and progesterone levels to make sure all levels also look good.

Cycle Day 5-9: Clomid, my old friend.

Cycle Day 11-ish: This is the mid-cycle check up, pre-trigger and ovulation. Same deal as Cycle Day 3, ultrasound and bloodwork. The doc checks to make sure that everything in the uterus and ovaries still looks good, and that the follicles are growing as desired. Depending on how the follicles are doing, the doc prescribes the medication to trigger ovulation.

Cycle Day 13: Trigger time! It’s an HCG shot given by a nurse in the office. Funny – I remember thinking, there’s no way they expect ME to mix this up myself?! I clearly did not know the IVF drill yet.

Cycle Day 14: IUI day! Joe’s appointment to produce a ~*sample*~ happens early in the morning. The lab washes the semen, distills the most qualified sperm, and then gets it ready for the short catheter trip directly into my uterus. Then I’d come in and the doc would insert the swimmers up the chute, hoping that more sperm in the uterus = a better chance of fertilization. I’d lay still on the bed for 5 minutes, then I would be able to continue my day as usual.

SEE? JUST LIKE SEX!

No. But hey, SCIENCE! What a time to be alive.

 

Our New Best Friend, the RE

I remember being so nervous for that first phone call to ACRM, our fertility clinic. Driving in the car on the way to work, I stuttered over my explanation of my reason for calling (trying to get pregnant… nothing happening… help) and was pleasantly surprised when they scheduled my first consult for later in the week with Dr. Robin Fogle, a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) at the practice. Before the appointment, the office had us download and fill out a bunch of entry paperwork, including our individual and combined medical history and insurance documentation. I also had to call my regular doc to send in paperwork on previous tests, including the HSG (dye test) results and semen analysis (I told you we were going to get into the details!).

Insurance sidebar: We were lucky enough to have insurance cover a significant portion of our infertility treatment (there’s a lifetime cap amount). I hope to do a post someday breaking down the costs we entailed throughout this process, including with IUI, IVF, and meds. I’ll need Joe for that one – he really took care of all the financial details so that I could focus on staying calm throughout our treatments. I was extremely thankful.

Back to the story. We got to the office (Perimeter location, for Atlanta-based readers). I had some more forms to fill out while waiting, then our names were called. Dr. Fogle herself greeted us at the door. She was nice as could be, and led us to her spacious office with a beautiful view of the surrounding scenery. We talked through medical history, she asked a few questions along the way, then we got down to the business of infertility. Dr. Fogle described the physical and chemical details of a regular cycle, and then pointed out the areas where we could run into issues: Egg quality. Ovulation. Physical blockage. Male Factors. And so on. She reminded us again that all tests had come back just fine… so at the moment, our infertility was unexplained. Or as she put it, “You’re unexplained.” Then, we moved on to treatment possibilities: Clomid. IUI. IVF. Chances of success by age group. (Since we’re in the youngest bracket, time is on our side.) All the while, she sketched the information she was telling us on a plain piece of paper, to illustrate the points. As a lifelong doodler myself, I mentally gave her bonus points for the visuals.

At the end of the conversation, we discussed immediate next steps: more Clomid, or direct to IUI. We decided to go home and think it through, rather than make a decision on the spot. It just so happened that we were there on a convenient cycle day for some bloodwork, so after saying our goodbyes and thanks to Dr. Fogle, I was shuffled off to The Blood Room (as I call it in my head), for a quick draw.

I liked Dr. Fogle right away. She was warm, friendly, completely sympathetic, but also straightforward with the details of our treatment options and chances. She made me feel comfortable. Her doodles felt like a map to somewhere hopeful. I didn’t feel like crying. I felt like everything was going to be ok.

We went home, and pretty quickly decided to jump into the IUI process. Dun-dun-dun!!!

The Clomid Months

February 2015. Getting a prescription of Clomid seemed about as easy as sneezing. For many people with infertility (according to my IRL friends and internet bloggers), Clomid is the first square on the infertility game board. It’s basic systems checks. You essentially take one pill a day for 5 days towards the beginning of your cycle, to stimulate ovulation. Some docs prescribe taking Clomid on cycle days 3-7, others do 5-9. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to finally get to that positive pregnancy test.

Well, I took Clomid for 3 cycles – the first two on CD5-9 and the last on CD3-7. It didn’t make one bit of difference in the results (BFN x3).

Looking back, the months on Clomid were a blur. Like, I can’t remember them at all. (So this will be a short post, haha). I do remember the fact that it didn’t change anything – though I had many high hopes pinned on those 5 days of pills. I KNOW Clomid was the right first step. But after three BFNs… it felt like 3 cycles of trying, wasted. It felt like we needed to bring in the heavyweights, and sooner rather than later. So, before starting the third round of Clomid, I reached out to a recommended fertility clinic (the Atlanta Center for Reproductive Medicine) for an initial consult.

Let’s Rewind: NYE 2015

Ok, so where were we… I reached out to my doc in November of 2015 and made an appointment for early December. All initial tests had come back normal, including the AMH test that checks egg reserve. But on December 30, as we were in North Carolina with some friends to celebrate the New Year, I received a follow up note from the doctor’s office: “Hi Isabel. Your progesterone level indicates no ovulation this month.”

WHAT? How was that possible? I hadn’t been using the ovulation predictor kits regularly but I definitely had gotten ovulation confirmation before. Maybe my cycles were just irregular? How do I make myself ovulate?? How big of a problem was this?? And how do I fix it!?! hsalkghkashgkahglahgakgh!!!

Anyone that’s ever gotten a bad email or phone call knows that dreadful, awful feeling in the pit of your stomach. My brain was on fire with questions, but on the outside, I was silent. I didn’t know what to do with myself. (Always, that’s where the internet comes in.) After some quick Googling, I learned about Clomid and how anovulation can be easily solved with simple medication. Ok, I thought. It’s ok.

But, UGH. What news to get over New Years. I felt trapped and anxious, ready to do something, anything, about my ovulation issue. I couldn’t do much – but a cloud hovered over me for the rest of the trip.

I scheduled a follow-up appointment with my doc for January.

A little history…

Since I haven’t yet deciphered the ~*TTC*~ shorthand (that’s Trying to Conceive for you) of fertility forums, I’ll describe our situation and current status in prose.

After 4 years together, Joe and I were married in May of 2013 and began our newlywed life in Atlanta.

You know, every married person tells you to “Just enjoy the time you have together before kids – Travel! Spend money on fun things! After all, when you have kids, all the money goes to them.” This seemed like excellent advice at the time. Plus, we had a ton of big expenses with the wedding, saving for a house down payment, traveling for our own honeymoon, other people’s weddings, grad school, etc… and didn’t feel ready to start a family yet. So all in all, it made sense to wait.

By summer/fall of 2014, we had a house and a yard, with a dog. I was starting to feel ready. We picked January of 2015 to start giving it the old college try – an auspicious way to start the new year. I remember when I ceremoniously popped that last Nuvaring out (TMI?) and thought to myself, “Ok! A baby on the way, practically!” I dutifully went out and bought a few pregnancy tests and downloaded a period tracker to get situated.

I’ll spare you (and any family and friends reading this) from the details of our sex life, but here was the general progression of 2015:

Unchanged routine minus BC –> Googling ovulation timing –> Buying ovulation predictor kits –> Too stressful, back to regular routine –> Googling “how long off BC until pregnant” –> Calling the doctor to start tests –> 2016

I wouldn’t say we were intense about trying… I’ve never taken my basal body temperature or explored any of the fancier fertility technologies. But, we weren’t lackadaisical either. Either way, we reached November 2015 without pregnancy news, and something felt off about that. I reached out to my regular ob-gyn doc to schedule a check-in and some tests. (For those wondering, I turned 30 in September 2015… so this was all right after the big 3-0).

Ok, let me try to use TTC lingo and you guys let me know if I got it right 😉

Me: 31 DH: 33
Married since 2013
TTC since 2015 (unexplained infertility)
2016
March: Clomid
April: Clomid
May: Consult with RE, Clomid + IUI #1 BFN
June: Clomid + IUI #2 Cancelled – Cysts
July: Clomid + IUI #2 BFN
August: Clomid + IUI #3 BFN
September/October: IVF (Trigger 10/4, ER 10/6, ET 10/11, Beta 10/21)

To be, or not to be…

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? – Shakespeare, on infertility

JUST KIDDING. But really, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Is it too late to start an infertility blog in the middle of IVF egg retrieval and embryo transfer?

Let’s jump right in: Joe and I have been struggling with unexplained infertility for the past two years of our three-year marriage. Over the last year, we’ve been through it all: trying-by-not-preventing (fail) timed intercourse (fail), testing (all looks good), Clomid (fail), IUI (fail, x3), etc… and now, IVF. Along the way, and especially with IVF, I’ve learned from the experiences of so many strong, amazing bloggers and YouTubers online. I wanted to start this blog to add my voice… and let other women know that they’re not alone.

Shouldn’t this blog be anonymous? Maybe. Probably. Infertility can be incredibly personal, and private. And it’s ugly. Undignified. Full of TMI moments. But I didn’t want to hide the fact that we’re struggling through this. I didn’t want to be ashamed. And when we finally find our way to parenthood, I want to claim that victory for us, with our names, not in Internet anonymity.

So here we go…