Ben and I decided that we wanted to start a family soon after our wedding in 2011. We officially began "trying" in December of that year. Being the researcher I am, I immediately started reading books, articles, websites, message boards, and everything I could get my hands on to learn as much as I could about TTC ("trying to conceive") and pregnancy. We were so excited.......and so naive. From my research, I knew that it may take my body a few months to regulate after stopping birth control pills. I read that for a normal healthy couple, it can take up to a year to conceive. No way will it take a year, I thought. I honestly assumed it would take 2 or 3 months max. It didn't help that I had recently gone out to dinner with a friend who told me after her and her husband decided to start a family, it literally took 1 try for her to get pregnant (as in she went off the pill, they had sex 1 time, she ended up knocked up). I wanted to do everything possible to increase our chances right off the bat. I bought "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" (GREAT book, by the way. I highly recommend it if you are trying or thinking about starting a family soon) and immediately began tracking my temperature and peeing on OPK's (ovulation predictor kits) to track my cycles and pinpoint ovulation.
After the first couple of months, it was clear that I did not have the textbook 28-day cycles with ovulation occurring at day 14. My cycles were longer and my luteal phase (the time between ovulation and your period) was shorter than normal. Again, I thought it was no big deal and that my body was still regulating after stopping hormonal birth control. I kept tracking everything and every time my data indicated ovulation, I would get so excited and hopeful! I daydreamed about being pregnant. As we planned our honeymoon to Paris, I wondered what maternity clothes I would wear and I envisioned taking a picture of my baby bump at the Eiffel tower.
Of course our honeymoon came and went and I still wasn't pregnant. I started feeling discouraged and wondered if something was wrong. I checked in with my doctor and she decided to run some labs. Everything came back normal, so we continued on our TTC path. After about 8 months, I reached out to a naturopath who specializes in women's health/fertility. Ben and I followed all of her suggestions, including vitamins/herbs, a 2 week cleanse, maya fertility massage, accupuncture, etc. My cycles did begin to regulate more and more, but I still wasn't pregnant. After 12 months of trying, it was time to move on and be evaluated by a reproductive endocrinologist.
I met with the RE and after collecting a very thorough history, she did an ultrasound of my ovaries and discovered the "string of pearls" effect that is common with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). She diagnosed me that day and we came up with a treatment plan. I was surprised by the PCOS diagnosis because I don't have a lot of the symptoms of PCOS and my labs were normal just a few months prior. She explained that there is a spectrum of PCOS diagnoses, and even though I don't have many of the common symptoms, my infertility and polycystic ovaries were enough for an official diagnosis. I had labs drawn, Ben went in for a semen analysis, and I picked up my first round of fertility drugs from the pharmacy. Even though I was upset about the PCOS diagnosis, I was so happy to know what the problem was and to have a treatment plan in place. My RE told me that it was very likely I would get pregnant during the first 3 rounds of treatment. I actually felt hopeful again!
Those 3 treatment cycles came and went and still no pregnancy. They weren't easy either. The fertility meds cause all sorts of side effects that are not easy to deal with physically or emotionally. I am a pretty laid back person, but these meds made me feel a little bit crazy sometimes. I also had to go in each cycle for an ultrasound to make sure the meds were working, but not over-stimulating my ovaries. The ultrasounds showed that the meds were working - I was ovulating at the right time and my cycles were regulated, but they just did not result in pregnancy. I met with the RE again as it was time for the next step. I went in for an HSG (hysterosalpingogram) to make sure my fallopian tubes were open (btw, for anyone having this done, it was definitely uncomfortable for me, but not nearly as painful as I expected it to be). The test showed no blockages or problems. My doctor increased my meds, and I went through 1 more unsuccessful cycle. I had another visit with the doctor who was kind of stumped as to why I wasn't pregnant yet. We decided to add in a couple more meds to increase the odds and also do an IUI. For that 5th cycle, I started metformin, did a round of femara, Ben and I went in for the IUI, then I started progesterone after ovulation. By this point, I was so discouraged and frustrated. I was clinging to what very little hope I had left. After so many months of disappointment, I was fully expecting another negative pregnancy test and was already dreading future treatments. Boy oh boy, was I in for a shock!
12 days after the procedure, I decided to take a pregnancy test. I went in the bathroom and peed in a cup like I had done so many times before. I watched the test and saw that it looked negative, once again. I was standing in the bathroom, thinking about how I had to go out and tell Ben the disappointing news. I dreaded having to tell him and see the look on his face. As I worked up my courage, I picked up the test to throw it away and there it was. The faintest line you have ever seen! It was barely visible, but it was there! I ran out of the bathroom saying, "do you see this line? There is a line here, right?". Ben agreed that there was a line and asked me what it meant (duh!). We were both in shock. I said, "I think it means I'm pregnant". He did not want us to get our hopes up, so he kept saying that we would just wait until tomorrow to see if the line got darker. I stood there shaking and we both just kept looking at it in disbelief. We left for work and that ended up being the longest day ever. Of course, all I could think about was the test. I stopped and picked up many more pregnancy tests, including a digital one (that says either "pregnant" or "not pregnant" so that there wouldn't be any doubt). I came home and peed on the digital one. I stood in the bathroom, waiting for it to register and when the word "pregnant" popped up, I just started bawling. Once Ben got home, I showed it to him, along with all of the other tests I took, and the news finally started to sink in. Wow, what a year it has been!
This also happens to be national infertility awareness week. Chances are, whether you know it or not, someone you know is dealing with infertility. For various reasons, it's something that a lot of people don't feel comfortable talking about as they are going through it. Be aware and be sensitive. I can't tell you how hard it was for me when one day my aunt called me up and asked me if Ben and I were ever going to have children. That just happened to be a day that I found out one of our treatment cycles was unsuccessful. I was heartbroken and her phone call made it that much worse. Here is a great page for infertility etiquette. If you are dealing with infertility, you are not alone. Feel free to contact me with any questions or if you just need to talk to someone who has been there.