Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Story of Our Infertility…

About a year after we were married we decided to start our family. We had both graduated and we both had jobs we enjoyed. Todd was working for a great web start-up and I had a dream job as a designer traveling all over the Caribbean. (If you are squeamish about details you can stop here or skip to the end… but I’m going to lay it all out there…). The first month we “tried” I got pregnant. I missed my regular period, but miscarried around the 8th or 9th week. I was pretty naïve and didn’t know what to do about it. I finally went to the doctor when friends and family convinced me that I had miscarried, but it was too late to determine much. I would have gone sooner, but I am a tough-it-out sort of girl who is used to a lot of pain and discomfort revolving around “lady issues”.

We kept trying, and didn’t mind getting in a lot of practice! But nothing happened. Here’s the part where I look back and think, “What SHOULD we have been doing? What signs were we missing? Why did it take me so long to figure it out that we were having problems?” But you know what? We were just living life. We are not the kind of people to focus on our problems; we just keep going forward. It sounds silly, but we didn’t realize that we might be infertile. We had faith that it would happen when it was supposed to happen. We both kept working and enjoying each other and the many nieces and nephews that began to fill our family.

Finally, in the fall of 2006, we saw a fertility specialist, Dr. Richards in American Fork. He put us in touch with a Dr. Slater from a fertility clinic in Idaho. She comes down here and works with Dr. Richard in a sort of satellite extension of the Idaho Reproductive Center in Boise. Dr. Slater did an ultrasound and found that I had cysts in my uterus. So after two hystero-salpingograms it was discovered that my right fallopian tube was completely blocked AND I had a good-sized uterine cyst. In October of that year I was driven to Idaho by my dear mother and my dear Aunt Jan and it was all taken care of in a 2 ½ hour outpatient surgery by Dr. Slater and her AWESOME team. (It was a really positive experience… I love Dr. Slater and the people she works with.) My right tube was blocked by some scar tissue of indeterminate origin and they removed it, and the cyst was easily removed. They checked my body cavity for signs of endometriosis (endometrium cells from the uterus that can “escape” and lodge onto other organs causing pain a major cause of infertility). I didn’t have endometriosis. We thought everything was going to be fine, and I was actually a little nervous that we would get pregnant right away and things would all go too fast.

Well it didn’t. I few more months passed and nothing happened. So my wonderful general practitioner, Dr. Steven Berry (who, with his wife, went through 7 years of infertility before beginning their family with adoption…) suggested I try artificial insemination (putting the sperm directly into my uterus with a catheter) along with Clomid, a drug that stimulates follicle production. On the 4th try, we got pregnant.

I remember looking at the positive pregnancy test in utter disbelief. Do you know how many of those I have taken in my life? And NONE of them had EVER been positive! I walked out of the bathroom and told Todd; he had the same cautious and stunned reaction. But neither of us cried or jumped for joy… it was a restrained happiness.

I went to the temple that morning and I remember sitting in the Celestial room and saying a little prayer of thanks. I can’t describe my emotions at that moment, they are beyond words, but it might help to understand that I knew that my Heavenly Father was aware of what I was going through. He felt close, but I did not experience the joy I was expecting.

My biggest mistake was going to the bookstore afterward and purchasing “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”. I was just too excited to “participate” in that universal female experience: pregnancy. I should have waited.

The next day I traveled to Texas to witness the graduation of two of my brothers-in-law as they accepted master’s degrees in business and architecture. I was proud of them, and wanted to be there to support my sisters and their families on these happy occasions. Unfortunately, I began to bleed while I was there. I called Dr. Berry, and his nurse encouraged me to go to the hospital to get my hcg levels tested for the next two or three days. This was impossible to do in Texas due to being out of state and out of coverage etc. It just wasn’t feasible. Besides, I didn’t want to put a damper on the celebrations and take up family time by being driven back and forth from the hospital. Lame.

So that was a little sad. We had come the closest yet in 6 years. We tried one more round of artificial insemination after that, but my motivation fizzled. It is an invasive procedure and I was tired of having my legs up in the air while my doctor impregnated me.

It was during this time that I really came to appreciate how “free” conception CAN be. People just go into their bedrooms and have sex (or if you prefer… make love). They don’t even have to go to their bedrooms. It happens anywhere a sperm and an egg can meet, and that can be up in the canyon, in a tent on the beach, in your kitchen (heaven forbid), in a box, with a fox, in a house, with a mouse… just about anywhere. But for us… having sex involved a team of people, and catheters, and iodine, and KY… oh, and money… lots of money.

Taking breaks can be important when you are trying fertility treatments. It takes its toll. So we took a little break. I even took a break from full-time work to let my body “de-stress”.

People often ask us (and there are more who wonder and don’t ask) whether we plan to adopt. We have considered it. I don’t necessarily believe that adoption is a foregone conclusion to infertility. I know what it feels like to receive an answer to prayer, and I have not received the answer yet. The “path” of adoption has not been illuminated for us yet. Don’t get me wrong; this is frustrating. Our good friends adopted the MOST beautiful, charming, hilarious, handsome baby last year, and it has been hard to see them build their little family that way and not wonder why it doesn’t feel right yet for us. But I feel like we will know when the time is right for us.

I see now that earlier in our marriage and in the infertility saga, some of the more expensive procedures were not options for us then. The opportunity to try IVF (in vitro fertilization: extracting the eggs and combining them with the sperm in a Petri dish, allowing the eggs to fertilize and to split into at least 4 cells, and then implant them back directly into the uterus through a catheter…) came this summer.

Again, we chose to work with Dr. Richards and Dr. Slater and their wonderful NP Anne-Marie. The whole team was great. I began to get ready by taking daily shots of hormones to produce lots of follicles (normally a woman produces one follicle per month… a follicle contains one egg). The day came for egg extraction, and I had 19 follicles ready to go. Dr. Slater told me (when I woke up) that 9 of the 19 follicles were endometriomas (follicles filled with endometrial cells instead of an egg… apparently, I have endometriosis in my right ovary which was impossible to determine before, but not a reason why we are not be able to conceive). Todd provided his cells and for the next two days the other 10 healthy eggs “incubated”.

When it was time to implant the eggs Dr. Richards informed me that of the 10 eggs, 6 had been fertilized. They “grade” the quality of the zygotes to determine their viability. They only want to implant healthy, good-quality cells, obviously. We had one grade A, one AB, three B, and one abnormal zygote. This was really good news because only 20% of Dr. Richard’s patients have A grade zygotes; most have B and C grades. We pondered our options and decided to implant the three best (the A, AB, and one B… there was only a 6% chance of triplets, but Dr. Richards doesn’t like to implant more than 3 at a time so that women don’t have to make a hard choice later on in a pregnancy).

We were hopeful because we are really good candidates for this procedure. We are both healthy, and there is no explained infertility (although we obviously have challenges with the cysts and the endometriosis). Waiting was the hardest part. We were really hopeful.

After the first HCG blood test I looked up what my results meant online. My results meant that I was not pregnant. My second blood test was not for two more days. During that time I cried a lot (lots of hormones were still coursing through my body…), but I still had a small flame of hope that the second test would show that my levels were rising and that life was struggling within!

But, alas! We got the second set of results and had to face the fact that we had just spent $12,000 for nothing. Bless Dr. Richard, Dr. Slater, and especially Anne Marie the NP. It was Anne Marie who had to call us and give us the official news. What a job! She was so kind, I appreciated her tact and sensitivity.

This is where I wish we had had a little money set aside. All I wanted was to get out of town. I needed a change of scene, and I think it would behoove couples who are facing this outcome (or even a positive outcome) to get out of town and spend a couple of days alone together. We went camping and without the distractions of TV and cell phones or any civilization for that matter, we had the tough discussions of “What now…” and “What do we really want…” and “How are we going to get ourselves back on our feet financially…”.

After consulting with our doctors, we decided that we are still good candidates for this procedure. A couple can expect positive results after an average of three IVF treatments. If after three tries a couple does not conceive, then most doctors will counsel them to try something else (although couples are free to try as many times as they want… the cost is usually the main barrier).

After much consideration (including fasting and prayer), we have decided to try the IVF procedure again. The Baby Rhodesbud Fund was created, and is run, by my sister, Sarah, to help us reach the financial obligations to do so. 100% of the funds raised will go toward future treatments. None of it will go toward debt resulting from past treatments (that is our responsibility).

We are hopeful that IVF will help us have children. Thank you for your love and support.


(Jen) Domino-n-Crash & Fam. said...

I've loved your family for what feels like forever (since my life as part of the Foxboro Ward feels almost like another life). I was so thrilled to get the links from my brother to read up all the blogs I could get my keyboard on. I remember crying helplessly as I read (hmm, can't remember if it was yours or Sarah's blog...weird) but learning of your situation. I guess the instant tears were for the fact I knew you always to be such a fun and loving person, and I always imagined you'd have at least half a gaggle of kids (hey, you still could...just look at some of those family featured on Dicovery and TLC - love Jon & Kate plus 8!)
Anyway - I just wish you and your husband the very best of luck with what ever path it is that leads you to Parenthood. I thank you for sharing, so very openly, your journey, and I am so happy to hear how your husband was such a good friend LONG before he was more. That's what helps thru the hard times, I wish more people knew that comfort.
I hope you can continue to receive so much support as I've read up on, so that you may reach the financial goal sooner then later. Just one more piece of evidence as to how wonderfully loveing the family you are from IS. You've got blessings all around you, and you're kids - boy will they be adored by all the eager cousins!
Love you, and may all the blessings continue to pour into your life in countless ways thru this journey.

brittany said...

how I dearly love you, friend.

MJ/Mom/GrammaJ said...

I am good friends with your cousins Debbie and Lisa. My daughter just went through invitro (she gets two trials for 18,000,) and on the 3rd try she got a boy and girl twin who were born 11 weeks early and are fat and sassy now! I know what you are going through and will go to Lisa's garage sale on Saturday. I am sure you have anyone you have ever met praying for you. I will add you to our list. Love, Mj

Lisa M. said...

I stole a picture of you guys and highlighted project baby Rhodesbud on my blog.

Suz and I have been blogging friends for a long time, and I have stalked your families blogs with quite regularity.

I think I know the NP Anne-Marie that you are referring to. I'll bet good money and she and I are old friends.

Anyway, I have been hopelessly devoted to your story and I really, truly appreciate your entry and forth rightfulness that you have shared here.

I especially have appreciated your thoughts on adoption and the testimony you shared regarding that.

Best of luck to you. Really.

I need the Code for the sidebar link. Suz sent it to me, yonks ago, but at the time, my Mom got really sick and passed away, and I am just now getting around to adding it.

Thanks again- for sharing this with us.

I think it is a really good conversation.

Constance said...

I'm not sure how I ended up at your site. I started at a friend's site and just linked site to site until I came here. I just want to let you know you are not alone. My husband and I have been dealing with infertility for 18 years (with no identifiable cause), and it was 14 years before we tried IUI or IVF. Neither worked for us, but knowing I tried "everything" brought me great comfort. We also have not gone down the adoption road. We have prayed about it, but never felt that it was the plan for us. I hope that you get your baby Rhodesbud, and I hope that you don't mind if I keep my eye on your blog.

Anonymous said...

Good luck to you. We did treatments of one kind or another for eleven years. I had six miscarriages and two live births.

NOT ONE of my pregnancies was the result of a fertility treatment! I was on the pill taking a break when I got pregnant with both my living children. Crazy, huh?

After a late miscarriage three years ago I opted to have a ligation done. I couldn't take losing another pregnancy ever again. My fertility journey was over at age 28. It was sad, but also a relief to be done with it all.

I realized when both of my children were given to me for the first time that there was nothing I could have done to get them here any faster. Heavenly Father had a divine timetable for each of them, and they were here not a minute too early nor a moment too late.

Your children will come. It is so dang hard to be patient, I know. I wish you nothing but the best as you travel this difficult road.

Jackie said...

Hi, I am a mom to 3 kids, all adopted from China. It's something to consider. We had a certain budget and decided to get a baby instead of getting a "try" at getting a baby. It's not for everyone, and I am not saying you SHOULD adopt. It's just something we did and it worked out so so wonderfully. Good luck, I hope a baby is in your future!