February 16th, 2019 – the dark in-between

My tenuous grasp on any form of normalcy was quickly unravelling. I felt defeated. I felt like the universe was actively working against me. I felt angry ALL the time. I couldn’t be around people. Family, friends, strangers, it made no difference. I couldn’t keep my anger, my jealously, my agony, from showing through in every interaction. And this is exactly when I had to return to work.

Unable to bare the thought of leaving my house and being surrounded by happy people daily, I finally admitted that I might need help. The clinic we are at has a therapist on staff to talk to people or couples about the struggles of their infertility journey. I figured this was a good place to start.

It was not.

I made the appointment, and as I was waiting to be seen, I was extremely anxious and agitated. Just being in the same building that all the other negative interactions had been in made me want to crawl out of my skin! I closed my eyes, clenched my fists, and tried to just focus on my breathing. I was here to get help for how I was feeling. I just had to focus on that.

Finally, the doctor called me into her office. It was decorated with plush cushions, soft furniture, and discreetly placed Kleenex boxes lurking everywhere. But no matter how I tried, I just couldn’t get comfortable. I ended up just sitting straight backed on the sofa as the doctor took a seat in an office chair across from me.

“Tell me why you are here” she began. That was easy enough. I told her how I have struggled with anxiety my entire life, but have always managed to keep it in check, but now with the stress of infertility, that just seems to be chronically present and never ending, I’m having difficulty coping. My resiliency just isn’t there. Every little thing was the end of the world. I told her how I was worried we’d never get pregnant, how my dream of being a mother was getting blacker and blacker, and how I worried that my worry was a big part of the problem. I know that anxiety and cortisol have a negative effect on conception and pregnancy so I was afraid that I was a self fulfilling prophecy. I also said that I was worried about the stress this was putting on my marriage. I didn’t want to gain a baby and lose a husband. The words poured out of me, and of course, so did the tears. Then I waited for some pearl of wisdom that would help me change how I was thinking, or some coping strategy that I was unfamiliar with that I could try, something!

No such luck.

First thing she told me was that my fear of stress affecting conception was unfounded. “Look at rape victims” she said “they get pregnant, and they are certainly stressed, right?” I couldn’t believe my ears. I honestly had no response to that, I was so horrified. And oddly, I wasn’t comforted about my own chronic level of stress at all…. (Yes, the sarcasm is dripping out of those words, how on EARTH were those situations similar? And as someone who has exposure to that world through my work, I didn’t appreciate the nonchalant comparison).

Next, she told me that I should find someone that I can talk to, like my mom, and just go shopping. Splurge. Have a me day and just enjoy it. I see what she was going for there, but when all you want is a kid, and you have to pay through the nose to TRY for a kid, spending money on materialistic things just doesn’t hold the same appeal, ya know?

The one nugget of information that I gleaned from her was that she also struggled with infertility in her first marriage, and that she subsequently married in to having step children and now grandchildren. She said that even to this day she politely declines baby shower invites, unless she happens to know that they too struggled before becoming pregnant. That one I held on to. I no longer feel bad when I decline baby shower invites, I just acknowledge that I am practicing self preservation and putting myself first. I used to be raked with guilt over declining, but no longer!

And that was my first experience with therapy…. I walked out of there feeling confused, and a little angry. I couldn’t get passed the rape victim comment. I decided that perhaps it was a personality conflict, and that maybe a different therapist would be able to help me.

My second experience with a therapist was better. She seemed to genuinely care about me and what I was going through. She was completely unaffiliated with the clinic and dealt more with anxiety and depression than infertility. I saw her twice. Each time, she acknowledged my anxiety, hinted at depression, and tried to find ways that I could outlet my anxiety, especially while undergoing fertility treatments when most activities are not allowed (no jogging, no kickboxing, etc) but none were really found (granted it was only 2 sessions). My problem with therapy was finding the time to go to an appointment. I already had numerous appointments per week, and I still had to TRY to hold down a job, finding time for all of my appointments quickly became a source of anxiety in itself.

That’s when I found an online therapy program, where you could talk to your therapist via text message at any time of day (and they answer during designated days and hours). I have been using this option for about a year now. I can’t say it has been life changing by any means, but we have a connection, I enjoy talking with them, and I appreciate their insights into things. We touch on infertility, but mainly we are focused on dealing with my depression and anxiety.

How did I come to realize it was depression too? It was before Christmas last year. I was working at my dinning room table while my husband did some work readings in the lazy boy in the adjoining room. I was a little bored, and I did some web walking and somehow happened across a website that talked about depression. And it hit home. I started to cry and I couldn’t stop crying. My husband, now VERY used to this behaviour, asked if I was ok. My usual response would be “I’m fine” or a very angry “of course I’m not ok!!!!” but this time, I turned to look at him and said “I’m not ok. I haven’t been ok for a very long time”

He got up and came and put his arms around me. “I know” he said, which just made me cry harder. I told him I thought it was time that I started antidepressants, or anti anxiety meds, and he told me he thought that was an excellent idea.

You know how they say that the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have a problem? Well, what they don’t tell you is how freaking long it can take to get to the next step!

Me being me, my first reaction was to research the crap out of anti depressants. And of course, the minute you google ANYTHING medical online, all you get are the negatives, the side effects, the pitfalls, the big and scary. I’m not someone who freaks out over drugs, or anything, but there were enough side effects (lowered libido being one) that I thought would negatively affect our fertility dreams that I was just not comfortable pursuing treatment. So while I may have admitted that I needed help, I was far from actually receiving it.

I continued with online therapy, and I continued to degrade. I all but ran home from work and cried the entire way home. I’d get inside the door, lock it behind me and sob until I could pick myself up and continue with my evening routine. I blamed infertility for having such a long reach that it could ruin even my dream job, because I HAD my dream job, the job I’d wanted since I was a little kid. and instead of waking up and looking forward to it like I always had, I dreaded it. I dreaded working in that open environment with all those moms, talking and complaining about motherhood. I just couldn’t cope with it. So much so, that there were a number of break downs at the office. There was one personality in particular that caused endless pain, despite my taking her aside and telling her what I was going through. Yet she still planned surprise ‘gender reveal’ parties at mandatory office meetings, among other unnecessarily cruel things.

To be clear, I do NOT want to detract from anyone else’s joy. You wanna have a gender reveal party? Baby shower for work colleagues? FILL YOUR BOOTS! Do it at lunch! Or book a conference room! Or go to a restaurant! Do it LITERALLY ANYWHERE other than a MANDATORY work meeting that your fellow colleague struggling with infertility THAT YOU KNOW ABOUT will be forced to attend!

She was the final straw. A job posting came up for a promotion in a completely different section and I filled out an application. I. NEEDED. OUT.

I stressed about this more than any other job decision in my entire life. I would be leaving a job I loved, for an unknown job, just to escape the people in my section…. it felt both wrong and right at the same time…. Fast forward (because this is already super long) and I got the job! I was ecstatic, and nostalgic for my old job all at once! But, more on that in the next post or this will become an extremely long read!

In the next post: starting a new job, starting a new transfer, and my continuing saga of depression and anxiety.

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February 10th, 2019 – IVF transfer #1

My husband and I arrived for our first embryo transfer with stars in our eyes and hope in our hearts. I had been shoving progesterone tablets up my vagina 3 times a day since the egg retrieval, my abdomen was tender and bloated, and I was still bruised from all of the injections. I have also come to learn that of all the hormones I take? Progesterone is THE WORST for me. If there was ever a hormone that directly and negatively correlated with my mental health? It would be progesterone. But none of that mattered as we walked through the door. We had made SIX embryos.

Now, in all honesty, my anxiety couldn’t let me just be happy. There was still a very large part of me that thought the doctor would sit us down and tell us that all six embryos had died over night since they called us and we in fact had no embryos to try a transfer with at all. As it turns out, I was right to be skeptical of how smoothly things seemed to be going.

We went back to the waiting room with the little curtains. They had told me I needed a full bladder for the procedure so I had been drinking like a fiend all morning and my bladder felt ready to burst. But that was fine. They needed a full bladder? I would give them a full bladder! Next we were called into a little side room, where one of the residents sat down with us to discuss our embryos. The first thing she told us was that 3 were not of high enough quality to freeze, so in effect, they were being trashed right out of the gate. Of the remaining 3, one was of highest quality, and 2 were high quality. Now, I feel I need to interject here and say that ‘quality’ is based solely on how the embryo looks. No genetic tests are run at this stage. They are purely judged on cell division (ie size), shape, and general characteristics of a 5 day old embryo (proper blastocyst is visible, that type of thing).

Now, I know that 3 embryos is really good and better chances then most get. But after being told that we had 6, learning that half were being trashed was a shock. Both my husband and I did not want to waste those three embryos. But according to the health guidelines, my age, and that it was our first try at IVF, multiple embryos would not be transferred at a time because the risk of multiples adds extra risk to the mom and puts more stress on the medical field as more resources are required. That’s all well and good, but to my husband and I, the ‘risk’ of twins was more than worth it! Regardless of how we felt about it, we had no choice, and those 3 embryos were destroyed. It broke our hearts. But we still had 3 embryos to work with and we had to move ahead.

It was explained to us that they would transfer the highest quality embryo that day because it was the best looking and therefore the best shot. The other 2 would be frozen and retained for future transfers should we need. Squeezing my hand tight, my husband led me back into the procedure room where I again hopped up on the table. This time, there was a green screen lit up. When directed by the doctor, we were able to see our little embryo displayed on the screen. It looked textbook! I had the biggest, goofiest, science-geek grin on my face when I saw it. We made that. And it was beautiful. It looked exactly like any I had ever seen in textbooks or on the Internet. Looking at that beautiful embryo, I had a good feeling about this transfer. This was it. I knew it.

Using an ultrasound wand on my abdomen, my uterus was displayed on a the screen next. Then I saw the catheter inserted into my uterus, and finally, the tube with the embryo. There was a puff of bubbles visible inside my uterus, and a picture was taken. We were told that the embryo was somewhere in the puff of bubbles. We cherished that photo. It was the start of it all. We were going to show our kid the exact MOMENT they were put back in my tummy. I couldn’t stop crying for the rest of the day. Happy tears, sad tears, overwhelmed tears, they were endless. I was told to take it easy that day so that’s what I did. It wasn’t hard, I felt like I would squeeze it out if I sneezed too hard, despite knowing that that is not how things work. Plus, my abdomen still felt like it had been run over by a truck from the retrieval so taking it easy was the name of the game.

I had to continue with the progesterone suppositories 3 times a day for 2 weeks, at which point, I would have a blood test done to determine whether or not the transfer took. THAT was THE LONGEST WAIT OF MY LIFE. Nothing prepared me for that wait. I have a fairly physical job, and I was a nut job from the hormones anyway, so I got medical leave to be off for those 2 weeks. I did anything and everything to try and distract myself. Someone told me that keeping your feet warm was important so I became obsessed with keeping my feet warm, using socks and electric blankets, anything, to make sure they stayed toasty. Every time I went to the bathroom and didn’t see spotting was a victory, and then I would worry all over again. Every little twinge in my belly scared me. Was that a sign that I was pregnant? Or that my period was coming? I’m not sure if you’ve ever noticed but the signs and symptoms of both are surprisingly and annoyingly similar!

About a week into my wait, my mom took me shopping. It would be great to get out of the house, shopping wasn’t strenuous, we could talk, nothing could actually distract me from wondering if I was pregnant or not, but at least it would be fun. I picked her up and drove to the mall. We parked and headed inside. We hit one store and my alarm went off to insert my progesterone suppository. We hit the washroom and I used the applicator to stick it up. And that’s when my world collapsed around my ears.

The white applicator came out with spotting on it. I couldn’t breathe. I sat staring at the spotting, not moving, not breathing. At some point I started whimpering ‘no, no, no, no!’. My mom grew concerned and asked me what was wrong. That’s when I realized where I was. Still in a very public area with my mom. I couldn’t fall apart. Not yet. I flushed and stepped out to her concerned face. I explained what had happened and she tried to play it off, stay optimistic, but I knew my body, and I was having none of it. She asked if I wanted to leave and I nodded. I all but ran back to the car. As soon as I was safe in my car, I lost it. I sobbed. I screamed. I slammed the steering wheel. I didn’t understand why it was so goddam hard for us to get pregnant??? It seemed so fucking easy for everyone else! Had I done something wrong? Was I being punished? My husband would be a great father! None of it made any sense. I was on hormones to prevent spotting and somehow, here I was spotting right through it. My mom just cried with me. What was there she could do? I knew it hurt her to see me this way, but I couldn’t hold it back. Nothing made sense to me anymore. Nothing mattered to me anymore. Life was just one cruel joke. And I was the butt of it.

Finally, I was cried out enough that I could turn to my mom and see the tears on her face, still in her eyes, and the pain plainly visible. That sobered me enough to take all the pain and hurt and stuff it back deep down inside where I had been keeping it all this time. Eventually, I drove her home, mostly in silence. Then I went home to break the news to my husband. The second week passed kind of in a blur. I slept on and off day and night. I sat watching mindless tv, crying almost all day, everyday. I didn’t even notice when I cried anymore, it just happened so constantly. My husband grew more and more concerned, but there was nothing he could do either. If he asked why I was crying, I snapped at him. If he asked if there was anything I needed or wanted I would reply with “a baby?” which only hurt him more. It was a very dark time for me. For us. I lost a lot of weight because I just had no interest in food, and I pulled away from a lot friends who were trying to help, but had no idea how (I don’t blame them) and somehow always ended up making me feel worse.

I kept taking the progesterone because I had been instructed to, but my period came long before the blood test. I went, again, because I was supposed to, not because I at all expected a positive result. When the nurse called to deliver my result I could tell she felt awful and reluctant to tell me it was negative. I’m not sure if it was an attempt to spare her the need to deliver the news or just my being upset and snarky, but I said “let me guess, negative?” She said yes, and that I didn’t seem surprised. I said that I wasn’t as I had been bleeding for quite some time. I heard the rustling of papers, and then she asked me again, to be clear, I had a period? “Oh I sure did” I replied. She told me that that was peculiar as my progesterone level was quite high, exactly where they wanted it to be, I shouldn’t have been bleeding. “Well I certainly am” I said. All she could say was that that was odd and that the admin assistant would be calling in the next few days to set up a follow up appointment with my doctor. I thanked her half heartedly and hung up the phone.

I knew that my time off was coming to an end. I knew that I was going to have to go back to work and pick up my life like nothing had happened. I honestly had no idea how I was going to do that. The thought of leaving the house was enough to cripple me. The thought of being trapped for 8 hours a day with my entire section of MOMS who did nothing but complain about their children made me want to pull out my own hair. I never stopped crying. Any time tears weren’t streaming down my face I assumed I was just too dehydrated to cry. Despair, anger, and numb were the only feelings I had left in me. Finally, my husband suggested I see a therapist, take stress leave from work, something! Deep inside, I knew that he was right, I knew that there was something wrong with me. I knew that I was broken. But somehow, I still couldn’t take that step. I still couldn’t reach out and ask for the help I needed. Looking back, I honestly can’t tell you what held me back: pride? fear? anxiety itself? I just don’t know. All I do know is that I wish I had asked for help sooner. If I could go back and tell my younger self anything, it would be that. ASK FOR HELP! YOU NEED IT! AND IT’S RIGHT THERE! But alas, I received no messages from future me, so I remained in my hole, incapable of clawing myself out.

In the next post: Moving forward and trying again.

February 8th – IVF: the egg retrieval

As I sit here, drinking my tea, it’s hard for me to even remember the mind set I was in going into our first egg retrieval. We had a follow up appointment with our doctor, where he agreed that he thought it was best to move on to IVF. Due to the ‘male factor’ in this (i.e. my husbands borderline sperm count), we would be doing ICSI IVF. Basically, they would shoot me full of hormones to make as many eggs as possible, then, my husband would give his sperm, and instead of just putting them in a petri dish and hoping for the best, they would use a microscope and needle and actually inject sperm into eggs. This does take away the ‘natural selection’ part of the process, but the doctor didn’t recommend anything other than that. So, that’s what we went with.

He went over all the odds, with my age and health taken into consideration, our chances were as good as they were going to get (ps? when you physically CAN NOT seem to get pregnant? There is nothing more annoying than being told ‘you’re young! You’re healthy! don’t worry!’). Both my husband and I were very hopeful that THIS was finally our shot. I had my worries of course, but the doctor was so confident and my husband was so full of hope it was hard not to get swept along in it!

We were given a run down of the drugs, what they would do, how I would take them, when I would take them, etc. It was daunting, but we had managed with the IUI drugs and these were very similar. We could do this. On my next day one, I called to report it, and we were scheduled to begin.

At first, the injections were ok, but slowly the hormones started messing with my depression and I started to get out of hand. We had to go for ultrasounds every second day, and blood work every day to make sure that everything was still on schedule. I was a nightmare. I was sad, I cried at every little thing. I was mad, I yelled and lost my temper easily. I was angry that my husband had it so easy, he continued to eat and drink and do whatever he pleased while I had to inject myself multiple times a day, had to restrict alcohol, caffeine and activity. I was going out of my mind not being able to be active! I felt like a caged animal! And all the while, I grew more and more bloated and uncomfortable. To the point I couldn’t even bare to have my pants done up! (This was an unfair judgement on my husband, but there was no use trying to tell me that then, unless you felt like dealing with an angry ball of tears for the rest of the day).

Despite my emotional state of being, physically, things were progressing well. Every ultrasound showed a beautiful uterus and ovaries with many follicles developing, exactly what we wanted to see. That didn’t prevent me from hyperventilating every time we had to sit in the waiting room before an ultrasound appointment, convinced that the follicles will have reabsorbed, or ovulated, or that my uterus would start shedding it’s lining despite the medications I was on to prevent all of those things from happening.

To say I was functioning poorly would be an understatement. My work suffered. I found it hard to concentrate on anything. And I was perpetually angry at the world. I hated everyone with kids, because it came so easily to them. I hated anyone who announced a pregnancy and I took it as a personal affront. If someone asked about us wanting children it took all I had not to burst into tears in front of them or rip their throats out for daring to ask. And yes, I realize how horrible I sound. But, this is the truth. The situation we were in, combined with the hormones I was being pumped full of, and my own unchecked depression and anxiety, made me a terrible person. I would be being dishonest if I told you that the thought of ending it all didn’t cross my mind. Thankfully, I have a loving support system and that was not something that was ever actually attempted, but the thoughts were there. This was a long road.

FINALLY, we got the word that it was time to induce ovulation and extract the eggs. The moment of truth, well a moment of truth among many in this procedure: how many eggs will they be able to retrieve? Of course I was panicked that they would not retrieve any at all, but there was literally nothing I could do to help increase the odds. It’s ridiculous how helpless you feel during this. I took the shots as instructed and we nervously arrived for our appointment. My husband visited his favourite chair, then met me in the procedure room. We sat while they took my blood pressure and oxygen saturation levels, with other couples behind curtains all here for the same reason. One by one, couples got called to a back room, until finally it was our turn. Walking through the door, I could see a medical table in an open room. They asked me to hop on and asked my husband to pick a radio station I would like, while they put an IV in my hand to give me a pain killer. I warned them that pain killers often don’t work on me but they assured me that this was a strong one. After a few minutes of chatting about the music, the nurse was shocked that I was still so coherent, and gave me another dose of painkiller. When that didn’t succeed in making me spacey, she instructed me that it will hurt, but not too bad and to just breathe through the pain. They next described how they were going to insert a giant needle through my cervix into my uterus with which they will PUNCTURE the wall of my uterus into my ovaries to extract the eggs. As many times as I have eggs to collect. Oh ya. Not too bad my ass.

Holding my husband’s hand tight enough to break it, and breathing like I was the sole participant in a meditation training program, they punctured away and collected my eggs. When it was all said and done, I gingerly got up and was escorted back to the curtained waiting room where they covered me with a heavenly warm blanket and gave me a juice and some cookies. Later they came in to tell us that they had successfully retrieved 9 eggs. NINE! I was over the moon! NINE! 9 is a lot of chances in this business! I had a moment of unbridled hope before they instructed me that the next step is attempting to fertilize. Once that step was done, they would monitor the embryos for the next 5 days to see which survived. If they did, we would be back in for an embryo transfer of the best looking embryo. For now, go home, take it easy, and they would call us with any important updates.

That was the hardest wait, ever. Every time my phone rang, I thought it was the clinic calling to say that the embryos didn’t survive, or that something had gone wrong somewhere! They did call to tell me that the fertilization had been complete and that some of the embryos were growing. “Some”, I had no idea if that meant 2 or 8. All I could do was wait and see.

Finally, on the fourth day, they called to tell me that 6 of the embryos had fertilized and survived! SIX!!!!! SIX!!!!!!!! I could live with 6!!!!!! I cried with joy at the news! They scheduled us to come in for our first transfer, at which point a doctor would talk to us about embryo quality and which to use and which to freeze. I thanked them profusely, tears streaming down my cheeks, then called my husband to rejoice with him! We had 6 embryos growing, 6 little bundles of cells that were a mash up of OUR genetic material! We had made 6 embryos! Everything seemed to be going exactly like it was supposed to, textbook! I was finally starting to believe that this was actually it. We were going to be pregnant. And soon. I was trembling with excitement and anticipation. After years of waiting, we were going to be parents. Oh how wrong I was.

In the next post: Embryo transfer #1.

February 3rd, 2019 – IUI attempt #2 aka Universe, what else you got?

We waited the requisite month between treatments, and then it was time to call with my day one. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, distinguishing my day one is ALWAYS a huge source of stress for me. I spot constantly, and trying to distinguish the subtle difference between heavy spotting and actual flow, when all your hopes and dreams are riding on this determination, is a metric fuck ton of stress, throw anxiety into the mix and it’s enough to send me into a full on tail spin. But this month, the universe decided to throw a completely new wrench into the works for us: I didn’t start spotting.

Now, dear readers, you need to remember that we were still very early into the process of assisted fertilization, this was really only our second kick at the can, we were still full of hope, and happy ‘what if’s. When I didn’t start spotting when I normally would, we started getting hopeful. “Maybe that jump start of hormones was just what my body needed!” I thought “maybe we ACTUALLY succeeded in getting pregnant naturally!” With each passing day we grew more and more hopeful.

BUT I’m getting ahead of myself. In my last post I explained how my husband was meant to have another sperm analysis done, which was supposed to be when I called to report my day one. For a sperm analysis, they would like him to have abstained for 2-3 days, any shorter and it wouldn’t be a good sample, any longer and the sperm start to die off naturally (degrade and make way for new sperm). My expected day one was a Saturday, and knowing the clinic would answer only IUI or IVF calls on the weekend, I called Thursday to say that my EXPECTED day one was Saturday, so would it just make sense to have my husband go in on Friday, as he had already abstained in expectation of a Saturday day one (as he’d been instructed to). I was rudely told that I was jumping the gun, and that he would only be scheduled when I ACTUALLY reported day one, as per the doctor’s orders. While, I do understand their logic, they refused to even listen to mine and explain why it was not correct. He just needed a sperm analysis somewhere near my day one as a ‘testing the water’ type thing. Whether it was my actual day one or not made no real difference and he’d already abstained the 2-3 days in prep of Saturday. But nope, no dice. I just needed to remind you all of this, because, as you may have guessed, this will come into play soon.

Finally, my expected day one arrived. Still no spotting, still no period. We were through the ROOF! With every trip to the bathroom I was terrified that I would see spotting, then elated when I didn’t! I would give my husband CONSTANT updates, with every flush he would get a happy shout or a text message if we weren’t together. We were on cloud nine and NOTHING could bring us down. It was 14 days past ovulation, no period, no spotting, AND my basal body temperature (BBT; which you KNOW I was also measuring!) had gone up with ovulation and STAYED up! Even now! All signs pointed to pregnant!

Having taken so many pregnancy tests in the past, I had begun to hate and fear them just on principle, so at this point, I still hadn’t taken a test. I waited until 3 days past my expected day one with no spotting, and no drop in temp (my cycles usually are 28 days long, give or take a day, and ALWAYS with spotting, I’ve never NOT spotted!) before I caved and took a test. I wanted to just wait, BUT being low in progesterone means that IF I was pregnant I could miscarry without hormone supplementation. So I needed to know sooner rather than later. So, the morning of the 4th day post expected day one, I took a test. NEGATIVE. I was devastated to say the least. My hopes had been through the roof, I’ve NEVER not had spotting, I’ve never had a REASON to hope before! I had totally convinced myself that THIS was IT! In tears, I called my mom, who informed me that well in to both her pregnancies, she tested negative with urine tests, it was only the blood tests that would give a real result for her. She advised to give it another day or 2 then ask the clinic to do a blood test if my period still hadn’t arrived. Well, by the following Friday, my period still had not arrived (a week late at that point), and my BBT still hadn’t dropped, so I gave the clinic a call. AS ALWAYS, I had to leave a message…. and they never called back.

The next day was Saturday, and the clinic was open for people currently undergoing treatment. So I called again and left a second long-winded message explaining the details and why I was calling and could someone PLEASE call me back. Around 11, I received a call back from a nurse, who curtly told me what boiled down to they won’t do a blood test because I’m not CURRENTLY undergoing treatment (which to my ears sounded like “we didn’t put it there, so if you lose it, we don’t care”). I was FURIOUS, but tried to maintain my composure. I explained (again) that I had JUST finished an IUI cycle with them, and am starting another as of THIS PERIOD, but THIS PERIOD is the one I need help concerning! She would have nothing of it. Kept trying to brush me off and get off the phone. Finally, I lost my temper and explained that my husband and I have been trying unsuccessfully for too long to lose a baby because your clinic is too lazy to do ONE SIMPLE BLOOD TEST for a registered patient, and I would camp out their waiting room if I really had to. To which she told me she would leave my chart on the on call doctor’s desk and they would give me a call back. I thanked them, and they hung up. But again, no one called me back.

At this point, I had had enough of their bullshit. Sunday morning, as soon as their clinic opened, we marched into their office and demanded to be seen by ANY POSSIBLE DOCTOR. I explained the situation, and to the admin assistant’s credit, she said yes immediately and asked us to take a seat. after a surprisingly short wait, we were ushered into a room with a doctor we had never seen before (but who, coincidentally, was the one who had called to tell me about the cancelled IUI in that fateful cafe brunch). The conversation, did not open well.

“First of all, let me reassure you that you are NOT pregnant” she says to us. ‘Reassure’???? Based on what, was she clairvoyant?

“Okaaaaaaay” we said, waiting for there to be something more.

“If you took a urine test and it was negative then its negative, you are not pregnant.” She looked at us, like that explained everything and we should be packing up and heading out the door. So, I ran down all the facts again. The lack of spotting, my mothers history with urine tests, and all the other things that had given us hope. “You probably just miscalculated your expected day one, that’s all, I’ll run a blood test to test your estrogen and progesterone so we can tell you where in your cycle you likely are”. I was flabbergasted. I had been charting for close to 3 years at this point, I was confident I knew exactly what I was doing! Trying to not loose my temper, I explained everything again, sticking only to the observable and documentable facts.

“I have been charting for three years” I began, “my cycles are consistently 28 days on average, I had a positive ovulation prediction kit (OPK) test on the 14th day of my cycle, followed by a significant raise in body temperature. This raise in body temperature stayed consistently high for over 18 days with no sign of spotting, period, or even cramps. And nothing like this has EVER happened. Given that I’ve been told time and time again by your office that if I were to get pregnant, that i will lose it due to low progesterone, can you understand why I would rather do a blood test to look for the HCG hormone to confirm the urine results, the same thing that would be done if I got a positive result with the urine test?” To this, she finally faltered.

“I suppose I could add an HCG test to your blood work if it would give you peace of mind”.

“Yes, yes I think that would be lovely. Thank you.”

I left the tiny office feeling a small sense of victory over this growing-ever-more-evil-in-my-mind place. I gave my blood and awaited the call that would disclose whether or not I was or wasn’t pregnant. To say that I was full of jitters is the understatement of the century.

Finally, the call came in: NOT pregnant.

We were crushed. And looking at my blood work I was not, nor had I ever been pregnant. AND they had zero explanation for what had happened, why I still didn’t have a period, or why my BBT was still up. They told me just to wait. That’s when the next stress started to hit. Expecting my day one to be over a week ago, my husband had been abstaining all this time. I didn’t need a sperm analysis to tell me that boys he’d been hoarding for over a week were not gonna be the best swimmers.

I called, and tried explaining my fears to them, but again, it fell on deaf ears. When my day one eventually did come, and come it did, they scheduled him for his sperm analysis and he did it, having abstained for over 9 days. Low an behold his results were poor and our IUI was cancelled.

Not being a moron, I had already expected it to be cancelled, and yet? that didn’t make the blow any easier to handle. Add on top of this, I had an ever deepening suspicion that this clinic was actually incredibly incompetent. His sperm analysis was conducted on over 9 day old sperm! We did not need his result that desperately considering how shaky the connection was between this result and the result the day of the IUI. Why could he not have ejaculated and then conducted the sperm analysis 2-3 days later? This entire process was handled so goddam poorly and not once did they seem to have my best interests in mind! After his poor sperm result, they booked us for a follow up with our doctor, and that was that. We were left to stew on this blundering pile of misfortunate mistakes, and the more we thought about it, the more it left a bad taste in our mouths. But, given that they were the only clinic in town, we didn’t really have a choice but to stick it out and see what the next meeting held for us. My guess? was a suggestion to move on to IVF.

My pit of despair was deepening. I had known other friends who had gone to this fertility clinic and none of their experiences had prepared me for this. Everyone else seemed to get pregnant on their first shot! Thought they were the picture of competence! Why were we seeming to have so much trouble with them? Was it because my anxious brain refused to relax and trust them? Was it because I second guessed every little thing they did? But if they were truly doing science then every decision they made should be backed up with a valid reason for that choice! My spiral had begun, and I was helpless to stop it. Nothing had gone right since day one with this clinic but this clinic was our only option! How could I trust anything that they suggested?? My husband thought that I was too negative, but he had experienced the same things I had! How could he think that? Why was I alone in this???

Things were dark for me, but I was only at the edge of what would ultimately be my spiral into the abyss of depression. I wish I could go back in time and point out all the ways that I wasn’t acting like myself. I wish I could tell myself that HEY! this is your depression LYING to you! But I didn’t have the benefit of future me’s knowledge. And in that moment, my depressed, anxious brain was winning. And I didn’t know how to ask for the help that I so desperately needed.

In the next post, moving from IUI to IVF, the BIG step.

February 1st, 2019 – a deep breath

So I’ve been a little absent and I’m sorry. We just took yet another devastating blow with fertility treatments so I’ve been reeling from that and just didn’t have the courage to write about the past experiences. I’m hoping to get another blog post out soon. Once I’m caught up to the real time struggle, it’ll be easier to just vent about the current struggles without having to provide all the background info. Thanks for bearing with me.

January 27th, 2019 – IUI attempt #1 continued

Injections and craziness continued. As we got closer to D-day, the craziness only enhanced. For my husband to provide his sample, they wanted a certain number of days of abstinence. Fine. But here’s the catch: we wouldn’t actually KNOW D-day until my blood work showed that I was getting close to ovulation. How do you prep for 2-3 days abstinence with only a day’s notice?? Needless to say, this was something that I asked about and stressed about constantly. Oddly, the nurses did not seem overly concerned at all, and all I could attribute that too was that they see this day in and day out so it wasn’t a big deal for them, nor was my reaction new.

The series of events that happened next, I think I will remember until the day I die. They are burned so clearly into my brain by pure stress and pain, I don’t think there is enough time in the world to make me forget them.

We went for one of our routine ultrasounds and blood work. At this visit, we were told that it looked like it was close to go time, so we should pick up the injection that would make me ovulate to have it on hand. It needed to be refrigerated so I himmed and hawed about whether to take it home before going in to work or bring it with me and stick it in the lunch fridge there…. finally I decided to bring it with me to work and thank god I did. Around 11:30 am I got the call; something was different after looking at my blood work. Heart in my throat, I picked up the phone.

It turned out, my body was preparing to ovulate. I was instructed to take the ovulation shot immediately and scheduled to come in for the insemination the following day. Still shaking from having received the unexpected call, I went and retrieved the shot from the lunch fridge. Terrified that I would fuck it up my first time doing it unsupervised, I asked a friend to accompany me to a board room where I could take the shot under her supervision. With trembling hands I took it in my abdomen. “this is it” I clearly remember thinking.

The following day, my husband and I took the day off. He was to provide his sample 2 hours before I was scheduled to come in so that they had time to conduct a sperm wash, spin it down, and have everything prepped to turkey baster it up into my uterus where, the hope was, it would meet up with those lovely freshly prepared eggs. We went in, he did his thing where, to his endless amusement, they had replaced the worn out terrible looking chair. And yes, I was notified in the waiting room via text immediately.

And yes, this one also had a hand drawn speech bubble. It said “I spruced myself up for you”

Job done, we went to a nearby cafe to eat brunch before I was to return. We ordered our breakfasts and chatted. We were both excited and hopeful, and also nervous. There was a lot riding on today, but we had faith that we had paid our dues and THIS was gonna work! How very wrong we were. My phone rang just as our plates were being set down. It was the clinic. Confused and scared, I answered. The doctor on the other end informed me that my husband’s sperm count was too low in this sample to continue with the procedure. I couldn’t understand. His count had never been that low, not in 4 previous tests. I was told it was likely a random fluke, but unfortunately there would be no insemination today. She instructed us to have sex, because I was still ovulating those eggs, and that the clinic would be in touch to schedule a follow up appointment with my doctor regarding these results.

I hung up the phone and stared at it blankly. Then I looked at my husband and started to cry. Next, is a bit of blur. I remember my husband’s arms around me. I remember him speaking with the waitress and walking me out to the car. Then he just pulled me into a hug and held me as I cried. Soon I realized that he was crying too.

Eventually, we got in the car and drove home. Once there, we crawled into bed and just held each other and cried. My heart stopped when he apologized, and asked if I still wanted to be with him. I couldn’t comprehend. He said this was his fault and he couldn’t give me what I really wanted. I just kissed him and held him and repeated over and over again that I loved him. When my brain caught up, I told him that this isn’t his fault or my fault it was just happening, to both of us, we were in this together (even if secretly to this day I still feel like it’s my fault). There are no words to describe how hollow, empty, cheated, and hurt I felt. I took the rest of week off and could do nothing but lay around, cry, and stare off into space. My depression was at an all time low. My life felt completely out of my control and things that used to bring me joy did nothing to cheer me up. I honestly had no idea how to buck up and carry on. I found myself actively avoiding children because it was too painful to be around them, and this included their parents of course, so I was very withdrawn. I felt angry. All the time. I hated the world and how easy everyone else seemed to get what I so desperately wanted. I found myself questioning the point of things, especially things I had done in my past. I was a ‘good’ girl. I always had safe sex, I made my husband wait until we were married before we could start trying for kids even though he wanted to start years earlier, I had struggled for years to be on birth control that was clearly the most pointless toiling of my entire existence, I was PLAGUED with ‘what if’s and ‘if I’d only’s. I was in a dark place.

Finally, our follow up appointment arrived. We went in, honestly not sure of what to expect. With the results we got I expected to be told IVF was the next step, but we’d never had results like that before, was it really just a fluke? The doctor was his regular to the point self, which I honestly appreciated. He said that this was very unfortunate but likely just a fluke. He even showed us some reports to emphasis that men’s ejaculate varies in sperm concentration daily and this was likely just a bad day. So his recommendation was to do another round of IUI, but that the choice was ours whether we wanted to try it again or move to IVF. I was honest, and said that I liked the idea of IUI because while invasive, it was far less invasive than IVF, but how do we avoid another ‘bad day’? Because I seriously doubted I could survive another blow like preparing for weeks only to be told hours before that it wasn’t going to happen. The doctor understood my hesitation and suggested that when I call to report my day one, my husband do another sperm analysis. While it won’t be an exact prediction, it will give some indication of how he’s doing around the time of D-day. This comforted my husband, and slightly SLIGHTLY alleviated some of my fears (I still had many questions, like if it’s really random, what does any sperm analysis tell us?) but we agreed to this course of action. Probably mostly due to our fear of IVF.

And so the wait began. You have to take a month off after an assisted cycle, and then I was to call with my next day one, at which point I would be given my drug schedule and my husband would revisit that lovely leather chair, again.

And that, my friends, concludes IUI attempt #1. Up next? IUI attempt #2. This one was hard to write, and if you stuck it out, I’m glad. I hope my story touches someone else out there. I hope I can help someone who is struggling alone, or maybe someone who is helping someone struggling. All I can say is even when I feel absolutely, completely, desolately, ALONE, the people who stick by me, wait out my storms, are cherished beyond words. We may not seem appreciative in the moment, but the support is a huge part of why I am still here, still fighting. Knowing how much I would hurt the people who love me if I were to give up and end it all has kept me inching slowly forward when nothing else has. So please, don’t give up on us. Keep showing you care, even if there is NOTHING you can do to rectify the situation (in my case, if you DO know how to magically make us pregnant, I am ALL EARS!) the fact that you are there, not trying to ‘fix’ us, just being with us, is sometimes all it takes.

January 24th, 2019 – IUI attempt #1

Sitting in the doctor’s office, I was terrified that he was suggesting hormone assisted Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) (aka the turkey baster method), but at the same time? Enough was enough. I had begun to lose any and all hope that we’d ever conceive without help, so bring on the help! Let’s get this show on the road!

Honestly? I was a numb as he explained the figures and risks. There’s risk of ‘multiples’ (ie twins or triplets etc) which to me? really didn’t seem like a damn risk! If I can get all my kids in one shot and never have to see THIS office again? Hallelujah! There was a risk of ovarian cysts, or your ovaries twisting if you were too active while being stimulated, or of Hyper-stimulation Syndrome (HSS) where I guess you respond TOO well to the drugs and too many eggs develop and can be risky, and bla bla bla bla. It was all kind of background noise.

Next he started to talk about success rates. Which, I’m gonna be honest with you? Are depressingly low. For a woman of my age and physical health, the stats are ‘quite high’ at 25-30%….. which he tried to convince us was wonderful if you consider that the natural rate of successful conception is around 20-25%. Ya….. I still wasn’t buying it, but considering OUR natural rate of successful conception was 0%, I was willing to give this a shot!

After discussing all of the options, all of the risks and all of the rates, we were ready to get this thing moving! I had a pen in hand ready to sign all the documents. And THAT is when he clarified that oh no, this was only to discuss options. You’ll have to make ANOTHER appointment with the front desk to come in and sign the papers. Ummmm what?!? Can we be added to the procedure wait list in the meantime? Oh no, not until you’ve signed the papers. UGH. I was angry. But I bit my tongue and marched out to the front desk to make the appointment after thanking him for his time. Making appointments here is like pulling teeth. If you get in within the next 2 months it’s a miracle. Apparently, miracles were on our side that day and we got a ‘signing’ appointment for just over a month away. (grumble grumble grumble, wasted time, not getting any younger, angry at the world, you get the general idea).

Finally, our appointment came! We went in, we signed the papers, we got on the wait list, and another few months later, our time had come. And thus I entered into the most stressful time in my entire life (up to that point of course).

The first source of extreme stress hit me straight out of the gate. Step one: Call on your day one (ie first day of full flow of your period) so that they can start you on your drug schedule…… ya…. about that…. remember the whole spotting thing? It makes it kind of impossible to accurately indicate your day 1 of flow, when you are SERIOUSLY spotting all the goddam time! Now, I do have a system, that has worked for me in predicting my cycles. Which I will describe below.

WARNING: FLOW DESCRIPTION BELOW! SKIP THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU’RE BETTER OFF NOT HEARING ME DESCRIBE MY PERIOD COLOUR

Ok, so for me? I spot. For what seems like all the time. From any day after ovulation until my period finally arrives and then a few days after. The spotting is usually a brown or black colour, and can be anything from a trickle to full on flow. Then, it normally takes on that typical red quality 14 days-ish after ovulation, and I consider this to be my day one. But this is kind of a retrospective kinda method. Not a “hey day one is here, lets call it in!” kinda thing……

OK, DESCRIPTION DONE, YOU CAN REJOIN THE PARTY NOW!

So needless to say, needing to pin point my exact day one was causing me a LOT of stress. So, I called their nurse help line and got a machine. So I left a message and waited for them to call me back. I explained my situation as best I could. The advice I got from the less than enthusiastic nurse I was speaking to was “We don’t care about colour, we care about flow” to which I responded “yes, I understand what you are saying, however for me, I believe my day one is based more on colour than flow”. “We don’t care about colour, we care about flow”. “Yes, I’m hearing you, but I don’t believe I fall into the norm here”. “We don’t care about colour, we care about flow”. “Ok thank you, you’ve been less than helpful”. “We don’t care about colour, we care about flow”. So ya, no help there!

I finally, after DAYS of agonizing about it, decided that I knew my body best and trusted my gut. I went with colour, NOT flow, and called in my day one. It was a machine (I would become quite used to never reaching a human when calling in the months ahead). Again, I left my name and number and reported my day one. They took what seemed like FOREVER to call me back, and told me my drug schedule. In a few days time the injections would start, and then I would go in for an internal ultrasound to see how things were progressing and do a blood test to get an idea of where my hormones were at. My husband picked up the goods and we set our alarms and prepped and everything we could think of to NOT think about the enormity of what we were about to do.

Then, the day arrived. First injection day. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad! Deep breath, little prick, and done! Oh how naive I was haha.

With every injection, I got progressively more insane. My abdomen got full and bloated feeling and I started to go a little stir crazy, not used to being so sedentary. I missed the gym! Sports! Moving and feeling my body! All of which did not help with the hormone induced insanity. I found myself crying at EVERYTHING. Arguments. Hugs. Books. Movies. TV shows. TV commercials. My dog. The aforementioned scarf dropping (see my previous blog entries). You name it? I cried over it. And when I told myself that it was just the hormones, that everything was fine it was ALL the hormones, that somehow just made me cry harder! I still can’t explain why, I just know that it did. It was a lot.

Then our first ultrasound. The dose I was given was aiming to develop between 2-5 eggs, and it looked like I was developing 3, so right on track! Brilliant! They sent me home to continue to do injections, but now they added a second injection. One that I had to mix up before I injected myself with it. That’s right. They ask hormone crazed hysterical women to mix powders into liquids and inject said liquid into their bruised and swollen abdomens! That just sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it?

This continued for a little while. Ultrasounds every second morning with blood work, then meet with the nurse who would prescribe the injections for that day and the next. Every ultrasound was panic that the eggs or my uterus wouldn’t look right, then the rest of the day would be panic waiting to see if they would call with a change of plans after getting the blood results. No call meant continue as planned, call meant change. For someone with anxiety? This process was hell on earth.

Eventually, they added a third shot per day that would help prevent me from ovulating. This shot required me to mix a liquid from one vial, into a powder in a second vial, then suck that all up and mix that into a powder in a third vial, and THEN inject myself (ya, ok, I know, it’s not rocket science, but add the insane, unclear, non-logic of hormones to my already anxious brain AND the fact that this and this alone was preventing me from losing the eggs I’d been stabbing myself to create before the doc was ready for them? Ya, it was a lot!). Well. My first attempt at mixing this concoction went the EXACT OPPOSITE to whatever the plan could possible have been. The syringe had an improper seal (random, unfortunate factory defect) which meant that fluid leaked out of the syringe. Precious ovulation preventing fluid! And of course this is a timed injection and my time was when there was NO pharmacies or doctors offices open to get me more. To say I was freaked out, is the understatement of the year. However, I had a job to do and dammit, I was going to do it if it killed me! One problem, I had no idea what to do! My husband, god bless him, was right there asking me that very question and after the fifth “I DON’T KNOW!” response from me, he did the only thing someone in his situation could; he called in the big guns. And by that I mean he called my mom.

Now picture this, if you will: Drug mixing paraphernalia strewn about the kitchen counter, me frantically reading instructions and holding the syringe JUST SO so as not to lose any more of the precious fluid, and my husband holding my phone on speaker phone as it rings through to my mom.

“Hello?” came her familiar voice

“Hey, hey, how’s it going?” my husband, not sounding casual at ALL

“What’s wrong?”

“Well, we’ve got a little injection question for you”

I feel now is a good time to note that she had been a nurse so while my mom was exactly who I wanted to hear, she was also a very logical choice. I proceeded to explain what had happened and my mom asked a few questions like what was the dose I was prescribed, exactly how big were the drips, what cycle day was I on, and a few others that I can’t fully remember thanks to the haze of pure panic. Finally, she advised that I should go ahead and inject and not worry about the slight variation in dosage. She said that most women who do this will have no experience with needles or mixing medications and some wiggle room is to be expected. In retrospect, this could all have been a crock of shit because really, what other option did she have but to tell me to take it and hope for the best? But she said it with confidence and that is what I needed. So in went the needle.

“Did you do it?” she asked. To which I could not answer, as I had dropped the empty syringe on the counter, sank to floor and begun to cry, soundlessly sobbing after ‘holding it together’ (yes, I use that term loosely, but hey! I didn’t cry!) for so long. My husband picked up the phone, said that I had, thanked her and quickly hung up. He stood, petting my hair for a few minutes before he asked me if I wanted chocolate. When I shook my head no, he hesitated for a few minutes, then said he had nothing else to offer. I said there is nothing for something like this and continued to cry. Eventually, I picked myself up off the floor and we prepared to do this all again the next day.

I think I’m gonna wrap up here due to the length of this post, plus it kinda feels like a logical break, but fear not! There is much more insanity to come! In my next post: D-day aka IUI day.