Here we are for December’s Squawk Box post! Remember, if you feel moved to give advice or share your story with others I would love to post them up. I am still taking submissions!
Send your stories to: email@example.com
Today’s post is actually the first post in a 2 part series. Chea Palmer sent me her story as I was just gearing up for my first IUI. It was very comforting to read about someone for whom IUI actually worked! It was an important lesson that not everyone is the same and to never count something out until you’ve tried it. Chea has been through a long road in order to grow her family, multiple diagnoses and treatment plans. She has gone through it not once but twice in order to give her first child a sibling. For those of us struggling to achieve that first pregnancy I know the idea of having to do it all over again is daunting. Daunting and never far from out minds. Often times we start planning our next treatment cycle shortly after the birth of that first baby. Chea knows all about that! Here’s the first half of her story, the second half will go up Thursday.
The image for today is actually one that Chea took herself! Gorgeous little feet in perfect tiny shoes! It takes struggles to get there, she can attest to that, but the end makes it worth it.
Our Journey Through
Written by: Chea Palmer
Published with the author’s permission.
I met my husband in the summer of 2005. We hit it off quickly and started dating. We got married after 2 years and decided we were ready for a family. We did everything in the right order: establish jobs, check; get married, check; buy a house, check; buy a sensible family vehicle, check; have a baby, ch…. Wait.
And wait we did.
We waited and waited. After a few months of having fun and not getting that positive, I started getting a little more into charting and really getting in tune with my body. I charted my temp, I used ovulation sticks, and stood on my head every time we did the deed. After about 2 years of unsuccessful results I went to my yearly gyno appointment and asked him if there was anything he could do to help us.He was not helpful. While discussing our problems with the doctor he basically said there was nothing he could do for us because I was “just to god damn fat.” (Those were his exact words). You see, once I got married I did the typical “I’m happy”, and ate and ate and gained some weight. It wasn’t like hundreds of pounds or anything! But maybe it was a few too many. Not that it made his comments any easier or ok! After reporting him to the medical board, I gave up. Maybe we just weren’t meant to be parents, I thought. We looked into adoption, but in the end it just didn’t work out.
I just went about my days. I went back to school, had a great job, later on got into roller derby and just generally had a good time. Then it happened. My greatest “frenemy” got pregnant. At first I didn’t really care, while it was true that she had 3 other kids from 2 other dads that she had basically given away custody to, who am I to judge. Even though she really didn’t want to have anything to do with these existing kids and complained every other weekend when she had them, but really I tried not to let it bother me. She knew about our struggles to build our family and she knew how much pain I had been in. At least she was understanding! But then, one night she comes over to look at our new flooring and starts rubbing her 10 week pregnant belly and going on about how much the baby is moving and how she can’t believe how early she’s feeling it, blah, blah, blah. I almost killed her. For the record, I have to be nice to this woman because our husbands were best friends and my husband was her husband’s supervisor at work, so I have to play nice. But this was the push I needed to find our way to the fertility clinic. The next day I called my new gyn and asked for a referral. They made my appointment for me and we settled in to wait. It only took 2 months and that’s really not that bad!
I buried myself in work and activities to keep myself occupied.
Soon we met with our RE and the testing began. Ultrasounds, blood work, semen analysis. Everything looked perfect! What! WHY!!?? Why was everything on paper perfect but we couldn’t get pregnant!!?? He ultimately diagnosed us with unexplained infertility. What the hell does that mean?? Is that like when you go to the doctor with a mysterious illness and he says it will go away on its own? No. There’s no way this is something you just “get over”. We needed help. It wasn’t working on its own.
The RE started us out with timed ovulation and intercourse. We knew that wasn’t going to work because that’s what we had already been doing for 5 years!! And it didn’t. So the next step was IUI (Intrauterine Insemination). They wanted to try an unmedicated cycle of IUI first. Just to see what would happen. I continued to use my ovulation sticks to test for the surge and when I got a positive they had me come in for blood work to determine if I was really ovulating. It turns out I had… already… and they missed it.
Another month wasted.
So the next cycle we decided to do medicated. We did 50 mg of Clomid days 3-7 which I responded very well to. We had 6 mature follicles before IUI!! We were warned about the possibility of multiples to which we said “fine”. I took the trigger shot about 34 hours before IUI. We did our IUI on a Saturday, and we left feeling nervous and optimistic. The dreaded two week wait was upon us.
Thankfully we had a long weekend planned halfway through our wait so at least that broke up the constant thinking about what’s going on inside. Before we left on our vacation, I stupidly took a pregnancy test just to see if anything was there. Of course it was negative and I don’t know why I took that test, but I quickly forgot and enjoyed our vacation.
After we got home I tested again. It was a day earlier than the clinic told me to, but I was just so excited. My husband was working out of town and I thought it would be a nice surprise for him to see the test when he got home. I was so happy when that stick turned positive!! And it was a dark positive too. No squinting required. I was so shocked but I wasn’t getting my hopes up just yet. In general I’m not really an optimistic person, and I just knew that something wasn’t going to go in our favor. Since I tested Thursday night, I decided to wait until the next Monday to call and report my positive test.
I went in that Monday for blood work and even they seemed surprised that it was positive. They even said let’s wait to see what the beta says. I got a call later that day that my beta HCG level was over 800!! Whoa!! Of course I got onto Dr. Goggle to see what information there was about high HCG levels. Dr. Google said it was either multiples or a chemical pregnancy. Since I’m not an optimist, I dove right into the chemical pregnancy article to prepare myself for what was probably going to happen. I went back to the clinic 48 hours later to repeat my beta and this time it was well over 1800!! While we’re glad it more than doubled, my fears of it being a chemical pregnancy were at an all-time high. I mean, those numbers were through the roof. If high HCG could mean chemical I didn’t feel out of the woods yet. They scheduled an ultrasound for the next week when I would be just over 5 weeks pregnant.
When we went in for the first ultrasound we really didn’t know what to expect, but I don’t think we expected what we heard. We heard a heartbeat! Then a couple minutes later, another one! Excitement turned to nervousness which then turned to fear. We had always talked about the possibility of twins, but the reality was so much different. The doctor showed us what was on the screen and what we saw was amazing. There were 3 gestational sacs, one was a blighted ovum and never developed into a baby but inside the other sacs were 2 little babies with tiny beating hearts. The doctor then advised us that “baby A” had a very small gestational sac and may not survive. Immediately I was scared and ready to do everything I could to make sure that baby stayed put. I spoke to a few friends that had twins and they actually had similar experiences to share. I tried to become optimistic while I continued to be monitored by the RE.
Everything seemed to be going to plan and at 9 weeks I was released to my OB. That’s when things went downhill. I went to my first appointment when I was around 10 weeks and the doctor tried to find both heartbeats with the Doppler. I had a little extra fluff in my midsection so he was having a hard time finding the second heartbeat. He rushed me over to ultrasound and by this point I had seen enough of these ultrasounds to know what I was looking at. I saw one super strong heartbeat and active baby and then they looked at the other baby. I saw no activity and no heartbeat. I knew it, but the ultrasound tech wasn’t speaking. I knew she wasn’t supposed to say anything, but I think that made it harder. I desperately wanted answers.
They sat me back in the waiting room until another room became available and I just sat there and cried and cried. I knew my baby was gone, I didn’t need confirmation, and I definitely didn’t need to sit in a waiting room full of people staring at me while I cried. The nurse called me back again, handed me a box of tissue and put me in an exam room. About 20 minutes later the doctor came in and told me what I already knew. He was so nice and so supportive and told me things that I might expect and what to do if I experienced them. He told me they weren’t going to do anything about the baby that passed, due to the risk of harming the healthy baby.
I think the most difficult part of that experience, other than the fact that I lost a baby, was that my husband was out of town for work. It was a Tuesday and I wouldn’t see him until late Friday night. I couldn’t keep that from him for that long without him catching on that there was something wrong. After I left the doctor’s office I texted him to see when he could talk. I wanted to do it via Facetime so that it was somewhat face to face. I went home and buried my face in my pillow until he called me.
That was by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
I continued going to the doctor weekly until he was confident that they baby that had passed wasn’t affecting the healthy baby. After that, I settled in for the remainder of the 9 months. I did have a couple of complications here and there, but we delivered a sweet, healthy baby boy in February 2013. We love our little bug to the ends of the earth and we are so completely grateful for him and for everything he has given us.
While this was our most wanted outcome, and having our son was wonderful, it was certainly not the end. During this first round of fertility treatments the doctor told me that my FSH levels were starting to climb. Basically, if we planned to have another child, we needed to do it sooner rather than later. So, when my son was about to turn a year old we made an appointment to see the RE again. I had no idea the challenges that still lay ahead of us…
Check back on Thursday to read the part two of the Palmer’s journey!!