Note: I am in two minds about this. I do feel comforted reading what other women have been through and knowing they do know what it feels like. However, I also feel like the details don't always matter. 'Infertility' to me, covers the struggle to ovulate, conceive or carry your baby to term (and even other related issues like secondary fertility and adoption loss). The issues are not about the physical process but the significance or meaning behind this- not carrying a child in your womb, not giving birth to your child, not bringing up a child, not being able to provide a sibling to your child, pretty much 'the end' of a dream/desire that is innate.
What I mean is, if you have faced any of these issues, we are in the same boat. Can you miss children you've never had, even children you've never conceived? I think so. My pain is not much different to yours.
- SHORT VERSION-
Issue 1: I do not ovulate.
Reason: PCOS and extra-'stubborn' ovaries
Methods tried: Ovulation Induction:
- Climophene (4-5 rounds),
- Laparoscopy- Ovarian Drilling (2 minor surgeries),
- Gonadatropins (FSH) injections (3 rounds), including one IUI.
- LONG VERSION-
I want to be a mother of children, I've always wanted to have a family of my own and I haven't been afraid of that. I understand that being a mother is challenging, but I also believe God has made us women to be mothers. This grew especially stronger after I got married. I acknowledged that it may be something that could take time or could be hard, and I told myself this, but somehow... I didn't expect it to be quite this complicated and quite this hard.
We were married in 2004. We'd decided to do the normal thing of waiting a couple years before we started a family. In 2007 we had a big trip planned to visit family who live far away, so we thought that after that would be a good time to start trying. By the end of 2007, I had been off contraceptives for about four months, and had not had one cycle. This is when the 'infertility journey' started.
My quick-thinking gp guessed something was up and referred me to a specialist in gynecology and fertility. (Thankfully, she has been a helpful and pro-active doctor.) Because I was referred, it took about six weeks to see her. In the meantime I was to do some ultrasounds. This is where I met my first fertility 'friend', the pelvic ultrasound. Let's just say I had been warned, so I was not as traumatised as I maybe would've been otherwise.
I knew about PCOS (polycystic ovaries syndrome) but I was still really shocked to find out this was what I had. I don't have the usual symptoms that come with it and so maybe that's why I was still thinking that it wasn't the case. Anyway, it explains why I don't ovulate much (or at all really). Even though many women have this, it was still a massive shock for me. I had taken it for granted that I was healthy and therefore should be fine... This was when I first was faced with the idea of being childless.
Through my fertility specialist, I did my first round of ovulation induction by taking climophene (Clomid) in the first part of 2008. Thankfully this was affordable. In this very first round, we got pregnant!
However, a scan at 7 weeks revealed that all was not well and we miscarried. We had a DnC at 9 weeks.
Because I didn't expect it or know much about miscarriage, it was indescribably hard for us both.
We had some time-off and tried again a couple months later, a second round of climophene and I was trying to not think much of it (which is not possible). When I got the phone call from the nurse after the agonising and famous 2-week-wait of every couple dealing with infertility, I was told that I had been pregnant but was no longer. It was a 'chemical pregnancy'. This one was a bit more of a mystery, in the sense that we didn't get to 'attach' emotionally because when we found out it was already over. However, the reality was that we knew about the loss and that didn't make it easier. We had lost our second baby.
We did a few more climophene rounds after this... with one I didn't ovulate and with two cycles I did, but wth no positive-pregnancy result.
We took a break (yes, please note the breaks) and in the meantime I got put on the list for a laparoscopy (ovarian drilling) through the public system- so it was free, thank you New Zealand tax-payers. This is a common procedure for those with similar issues to mine and often results in women ovulating naturally for a couple months- which meant I might be able to ovulate without drugs! And maybe even get pregnant naturally. (Did I just DARE to say 'pregnant' and 'natural' in the same sentence?)
In January 2009, I went in for my laparoscopy. I was fine about the whole thing, but it sorta freaked me out that I had to do surgery in order to even try to have kids. Fortunately the whole thing went well (just puked as I left the hospital, cos' the general anesthetic wasn't the most amazing- free is good but the quality of private care is way better) and there were no complications.
Sadly, my cycles did not resume. The laparoscopy revealed no new problems but it didn't deliver what we'd hoped. Somehow, I was in the 30% group, where it was unsuccessful in terms of ovulation. We were working down our list of options and it is a scary feeling.
We waited a few months to try our next kind of infertility treatment- we had made our way to injections. Gonadotropins or follicle-stimulating hormones.
Our first round with FSH was long and tiring. I had one injection a day for 30 days and still did not ovulate, despite them making small increments. Thankfully, the husband did all the injections and was okay to be a part of the drug-taking exercise. Because this was publicly funded (thank God!!! and thank you again New Zealand public health system) we didn't have to pay for these super-expensive drugs. However, it also meant we had to stop and re-evaluate. It also was a particularly stressful time in terms of our jobs and so we thought taking a breather would be best.
We took another break and started another round of FSH injections in the second half of 2009. After about 3 weeks, the drugs did their thing. Yay.
Two weeks later, we did THE blood test. I was so nervous and doubtful cos' I hadn't had any early pregnancy symptoms like I'd had in the past. I finally got the call. Miraculously, we were pregnant! It was awesome and I am thankful for this.
About a week later, I did a second blood test. I had planned to travel (because we were trying very hard to not let everything 'wait' because of fertility cycles, and you sometimes just couldn't figure out when drugs were going to work and when they weren't so it was tricky... AND the idea was to 'relax'...) overseas for two weeks for a family wedding and so we went ahead with it. I received results of my bloodtest upon touching down at the airport, via a voicemail message.
I don't think I have ever felt more alone. In the message, the nurse was apologetic that she had to do this to me, but said that she couldn't find the husband's number. She said that my hormone levels were low for pregnancy and so it could mean that I would miscarry or that it was just taking a while to progress. I called the husband and wished so badly that we were together. We decided there was nothing we could do to change the situation, in terms of the baby, even if I went home I would have to wait and see, so I would try my best to enjoy the trip.
Somehow I survived the two weeks away, though I didn't feel safe enough to share my good-bad news with anyone except for one good friend. When I got back, we had a scan at 7 weeks, 8 weeks and 9 weeks of pregnancy. Even today, four months on, I have no idea how this happened or why, but the scans looked full of hope- each one was better than the last, the baby's size and hearbeat were good. This was awesome news! So good that my specialist was sure it would continue to grow well and felt confident enough to send me to find a mid-wife.
This time, it was the husband's turn to travel. We were okay about this though our nerves did not really settle. My dear mother even came to stay with me, feeding me lots, as she knew I was trying hard to take it easy and chill.
Sadly, 10 days into his 27-day trip, he came home urgently. I had been spotting and I miscarried at 12-weeks (though my baby did not progress far past 9. Somehow, we didn't pick that up.) I had been scheduled for a DnC but the night before the appointment my body decided it couldn't wait. I was in so much pain and I went to the hospital in an ambulance! Thankfully I had a wonderful and resourceful friend with me who called the ambulance, came to the hospital with me and helped me through the contractions, as the husband only could arrive after that. (Since then, being apart from each other has been difficult becuase of these raw memories.) I recovered okay but I left the hospital without my baby.
Somehow I have survived a six month 'break'.
After lots of scans and an MRI, in May (2010) I had to have a second laparoscopy to remove a benign but large lump on my one ovary, as well as to drill my ovaries again, for another shot at conceiving without drugs. Thankfully insurance covered most of this cost, and I could do it in the comfort of a private hospital, and on a sooner date than if I went through the public system.
The drilling didn't do anything for my ovulation. I was so hoping it would but as far as we know, it hasn't done much. Frustrating.
This August we did another round (Round 8) of ovulation induction using Puregon/Gonal F and then did IUI (our first)... it 'worked', however, it ended in early, early miscarriage. Again.
How can this be? It feels like it is getting harder and harder.
We are thinking that we will take a break again and see how best to move on.
What about you?