Sorry to anyone who is reading this – this is the background to this shitty story of how I got here and it might be a little long. I hope by blogging I will be able to process the ups and downs that come with this rollercoaster ride.
So – here goes. We are over 2 years (maybe closer to 3..gross) into this “journey” (that word feels super cheesy to me). Honestly like many women I never anticipated I would be here. Growing up my mother always told me she and my father conceived on their first try (again, a little gross but also super comforting) – both times. So, at the age of 29 (younger than my mom was) when I stopped the pill I really thought a few months later I would likely be expecting without too much effort.
Well, newsflash – it didn’t happen. At first I chalked it up to stress, timing, etc (which was fair) – my hubby (or “DH” as I have learned from reading lots of forum posts) and I were not living together and realistically we weren’t really “actively” trying for the first several months. I started to take things a bit more seriously probably 8 months into the process. Tracking my ovulation and trying to plan intercourse around this. For those of you who have not tried it, “timed intercourse” is probably one of the least sexy things ever. Not so great for the sex life, you’re having a ton of it but all of sudden it loses a lot of its allure! AND it didn’t work for us. Enter a little bit of panic…
A year into things I decided it was time to look into the next step. For years my DH knew he had a varicocele so I had a inkling that there may be an issue with fertilization or sperm qaulity. I went through a battery of tests – hormone levels, ultrasounds, a hysterosonogram and AMH level – they all came back normal. My husband had his semen analysis (much to his dismay, I guess forced ejaculation isn’t really that fun) – the first lab report read “abnormal morphology (less than 1% normal) unlikely to result in fertilization” with the counts right on the edge being on the low side. We were pretty heartbroken to read that.
After meeting with our local Ob-Gyn with an interest fertility he seemed optimistic about things. He felt that we should go ahead and start intra-uterine insemination (aka IUI – not as fun as it sounds, I know it doesn’t sound that fun). He wasn’t too concerned about my DH’s abnormal semen analysis, he felt we had a reasonable chance with IUI (about 20% after 3 attempts). I felt fairly optimistic (of course we would be that 20%) so when we had things in place and I was able to re-arrange my work schedule we did our first one last April.
It turned out to be a bit of gong show – I had to go in for early morning ultrasounds and bloodwork 6 times – each time lasts about 2 hours. For those not familiar, these ultrasounds are extra special because they involve a long probe inserted right up in your lady garden. This gets less and less fun as you get closer to ovulation because your ovaries swell and become quite tender. I was using an injectable medications (Gonal F – an FSH analogue) for “controlled ovarian stimulation” to push my body to make more than one possible follicle for fertilization. This whole process also happened to fall during a weekend when our entire family was visiting so not the best timing wise. I got 3 good sized follicles, but the sperm counts were low and… it didn’t work. Even though I knew that the odds of success were probably closer to maybe 8-10% of success, especially with male factor, it was still a pretty tough loss. I think whenever you invest that much time, effort and money it definitely makes it hard to swallow.
After picking myself up and trying to dust myself off and regain the initial optimism and positive attitude I went back in for an ultrasound to see if we could try again. Unfortunately my body was still not ready, I had a few left over cysts that were producing estrogen – this meant I couldn’t start a cycle. Oh, but I got to go on the pill for 2 months (makes a lot sense when you’re trying to become pregnant, eh?). After 3 months the little cyst guy was still hanging around.
We took a little break – which was a good thing for me. I couldn’t really believe the emotional toll this process was already having and we were still early on. Part of me wondered how much I even wanted to keep going and how much did I really want a baby…deep down if I am honest with myself I know that I really want to be a mom. So, onward and upward – or whatever. In October we did another IUI – this time I had 4 follicles (eep – risk of quads!?), again – BIG FAT NEGATIVE (BFN). And again, cysts delaying the next cycle.
After the second failed IUI I arranged to meet a “Reproductive Endocrinologist” (RE) who comes to our town from Toronto. He also agreed that we should do 3 IUIs but thought that we would be very good candidates for IVF with ICSI (can get around any problems with morphology/acrosome which may affect fertilization rates). After such long breaks between my previous cycles and the relatively low likelihood of success we decided to take the plunge and pull out the big guns.
Now, here we are – getting very close to our first IVF cycle. It still feels a little surreal. Such a mix of emotions – excitement, fear, hope, ambivalence, frustration, impatience. So many FEELs. I am currently on birth control and waiting to find out when we can finally begin this process. I am so hoping this works but I am not naive and I know that it doesn’t always happen or sometimes it takes more than one try. I am hoping that one day we can say this was all worth it.