This Mom's No Expert, but I do know a lot about infertility...
Did I think it would be difficult to get pregnant when my husband and I were ready to start trying? Absolutely not! After all, we each had a daughter from our previous marriages. Both girls were conceived rather quickly so we knew neither one of us had any issues making babies. In fact, twins run in both of our families so we figured we would try the first time and...BOOM! Be pregnant with twins. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Not even one single baby.
We decided to start trying in July of 2008. So, I met with my doctor, told her we wanted to start trying... She wrote me a prescription for prenatal vitamins and away I went... ready to make a baby.
So, the first month, we very actively tried to conceive, and to our surprise, I was not pregnant. Hmm... must have been a fluke! I read about ovulation predictor kits (OPK's) and we decided to try that for the second month. When the stick finally said I was ovulating within the next 12 to 36 hours, we did our part, as many times as possible. We just knew this was the month! But, we were again disappointed with a big fat no. Boo.
Months 3-8 we continued the OPK's, timed intercourse and took our vitamins faithfully every single day. And still… no pregnancy. We were beginning to become overwhelmed and stressed out at the not so spontaneous way we were going about doing this… “Oh honey, I’m ovulating… we need to do it now. Meet me at home for lunch!” Not the most romantic way to make a baby!
We made an appointment with my doctor to see if she could help. Given that I was 32 years old, she decided not to make me wait the full year to get medical assistance in getting pregnant. We decided that my next cycle, I would do the OPK’s and when the test said I was going to be ovulating, I would call her office and we would schedule an intrauterine insemination (IUI). This procedure gets the sperm right where it needs to be when that egg pops out ready to be fertilized. Great! My dear sweet husband had to do his duty at the urologist’s office where they would spin the semen down and pick the best sperm to inseminate with. Perfect! It’s going to work this time. We can feel it! They had me come in for a blood test a few days later to make sure I ovulated and I did! We were so excited and couldn’t stand the wait of taking that pregnancy test. So, the time comes, we take the pregnancy test and it is negative. We couldn’t believe it. We were beyond shocked.
For the next 2 months my doctor decides to put me on Clomid. It’s an oral fertility medication that helps you produce more eggs in hopes that one would fertilize. Both months I took the Clomid and we did the IUI and both months, ended up with no pregnancy. She decided it was time for us to see a fertility specialist.
In July of 2009, exactly one year from when we started trying, we met with a fertility specialist out of Mobile, AL. He wanted to do testing on both of us to see what the problem was and suggested injectable fertility medications if all went well with the testing. So, we agreed and began the testing: laparoscopy, hysteroscopy, HSG test (dye through the fallopian tubes), tons of blood work and an ultrasound for me. Complete semen analysis, exam, ultrasound and blood work for my husband. Maybe we could find out what the problem was so we could fix it and get pregnant.
The results were in. No problems with me or my husband. Everything was normal. We were diagnosed with “Unexplained Infertility”. Let me tell you… that was probably the worst diagnosis we could receive besides being told that we could never have children. If we knew what the problem was, we could fix it. But there was no problem, so the doctors couldn’t explain why we couldn’t get pregnant. Very discouraged, we agreed to start injectable fertility drugs during my next cycle along with an IUI. This was the next step in having a baby. We took a mandatory class on how to inject the meds, because it’s a daily injection. We read and researched everything we could on the subject of not only unexplained infertility, but the meds and how good of a chance we had of them working. We started to feel optimistic that maybe this would get us the baby we so desperately wanted together.
My next cycle starts in August 2009. The routine is a grueling process of blood work, ultrasounds and daily instructions on doses. I had blood work and ultrasounds approximately 5 times during a 9 to 10 day period. I would have to inject myself with Follistim every single day in the stomach after receiving dosing instructions from my doctor depending on what my ultrasound and blood work showed. Follistim makes you produce many eggs instead of the normal one egg during a cycle. Once it showed that the follicles (those are the sacs on your ovaries that holds the eggs) are the right size, they had me inject myself with Ovidrel which is an ovulation induction medication that makes you ovulate ALL eggs that are the right size… from both ovaries. They then schedule our IUI for 36 hours later. So yes, there is a chance of multiples, but as my doctor said… “Our goal is to get you ONE healthy baby”. We drove to Mobile, had our IUI and the wait was on. My blood pregnancy test was scheduled for exactly 2 weeks later. That was the longest 2 weeks of my life. I was on the internet every night looking for stories of people that got pregnant during their first round of Follistim/Ovidrel. I looked up statistics… I was obsessed. I couldn’t stand the wait so I bought internet cheap pregnancy test and became a pee-on-a-stick-aholic. Of course it’s not showing up positive yet, it’s too soon. Finally the day came for my pregnancy blood test. But I already knew. I had taken a test that morning. I was not pregnant…again. We were devastated. The doctor said he would change up the doses for the second round to give us a better chance.
Round two with injectable meds started immediately. After all, you start your period just a day or two after finding out you’re not pregnant and the entire process starts over. So we did the same routine as the month before, with higher doses. The meds really make you feel unwell, bloated, you gain weight. We decided that if we didn’t get pregnant this month that we were going to take a break. We were going to get through the holidays and begin again in January. Well, that’s exactly what happened. Blood test came back that my pregnancy hormone levels were at 1.20. They explained that an egg must have fertilized and implanted, but didn’t take. They saw this as a good sign because at least we knew it could happen. But for us it was more devastation since we now knew we had to wait until January to regroup, rekindle the romance that had been taken over by medical intervention and start this process all over again.
January came and so did some bad news. My biological father had died. I hadn’t seen him in 15 years, but my sister, brother and I went to Savannah to pay our respects to the father we hardly knew. Guilt set in. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I felt guilty for not pursuing a relationship with my alcoholic father, even though as the parent, he should have reached out to me. I was in no position to try to get pregnant. I had to get myself back on my feet mentally and physically. And it took me until the end of April to do that.
May 2010, we went for our third round of injectable meds and IUI. The entire grueling process all over again. They increased my meds, went through the process and then we waited. We were hopeful… optimistic… ready for this to be the time we got our baby. Two weeks later, I go in for the infamous blood pregnancy test and I already knew (because I’m a pee-on-a-stick-aholic, remember?). I WAS PREGNANT!!!! We were ecstatic! We told everyone… we were going to have a baby! We went to our 7 week ultrasound and saw that sweet little heartbeat. It was amazing. We were in love with this tiny little pencil head sized embryo already. We had wanted this for so long! Around week 10 of my pregnancy, I started spotting. I called my doctor and they had me come in for an ultrasound. My sweet ultrasound technician looked up at me and said “Heather, I am so sorry, but the baby doesn’t have a heartbeat”. I was crushed. I called my husband in hysterics and he just couldn’t believe it. I called my mom who cried with me. Our baby was gone. Just like that. I had my D&C the next day. And I cried every morning that I woke up realizing my baby was gone. They wanted to do testing on the baby to see what the reason for the miscarriage was. If it was a genetic problem with me or my husband we needed to know that. The results came back and our baby girl… yes, a girl had Turners Syndrome. It’s a random genetic disorder that could not be prevented and was not caused by me or my husband’s genetic makeup. 98% of embryos with Turners Syndrome will miscarry. So the statistics and the reasoning behind what happened made me feel a little better about the situation. Knowing that it was nothing we did, or nothing wrong with us genetically helped me accept it. Although it still hurt tremendously.
Getting pregnant and having a miscarriage made us more determined than ever to start trying again as soon as we could. But I had to wait and have a normal period after the D&C first, and then the next month we could try again. So I decided that maybe God wanted me to pray for other people instead of just praying about me and my need for a baby. So I prayed every night for everyone I knew that was pregnant… including my husband’s ex-wife. I prayed for safe pregnancies, normal deliveries and healthy babies for all of them every single day.
September 2010, we started our fourth round of injectable meds and IUI. Nervous, excited, worried… those are the words I would use to describe my feelings through the entire process and the two week wait. But to our amazing surprise, we were PREGNANT! Scared to tell anyone just in case, we only told our parents and two of my co-workers who were the only ones that knew we had gone back for round four. I wanted to wait until week 12 to announce it just in case, but when I had an ultrasound at 9 weeks and everything looked great, we decided to tell the world! I have to admit, I was scared to death the entire pregnancy that I would miscarry or something would go wrong. I had a few issues with spotting, but the baby was fine.
One June 1, 2011 at 37 weeks, our beautiful daughter, Addilyn Rose was born weighing in at 5lbs 15oz and 18 ½ inches long. She was wanted for so long and she was finally here! We are so blessed to have her in our lives. Her sisters adore her, she looks just like her daddy and has my personality. She is truly a miracle!
So, from start to finish, our journey to pregnancy was one month shy of taking 3 years to add our little blessing to our family. It was a long and at times heartbreaking process, but in the end it was all worth it. If I had it to do it all over again, would I? Absolutely.
This Mom’s No Expert, but I do know a lot about infertility issues. So my reasoning behind writing this article for Wiregrass Parenting Magazine is to give hope to someone that may be going through the same thing that I went through. If it can give one person hope, then I did my job. My advice? Pray. Miracles can and do happen. Addilyn is living proof of a God given miracle!
Addilyn Rose Rotenberry
June 1, 2011