Here we are for your April Squawk Box! Today’s story is anonymous… I am always saying that you do not have to share your name in order to share your story and it’s true! Here’s your proof! Feel compelled to share your story?
Today’s story is uplifting in that after many, many failed rounds of treatment this couple is finally expecting their baby… because of the lag in posting these they are probably due any day now! If you don’t want to be hopeful today, and I understand those days, this one’s probably not for you. But sometimes, against all odds, it can happen and that makes me feel a little bit better about being infertile and having to wade into these treatment waters to get a baby. Obvious choice for a rainbow picture today. I hope we all get there eventually. Good luck, all you Unpregnant Chicks!
Against All Odds
Written by: Anonymous
Published with the author’s permission.
I am laying in bed tonight with my hand on my belly, feeling my little baby kick/punch away, and all it took to get us here seems like such a distant memory. Just 27 short weeks ago we were out of province undergoing a frozen embryo transfer. Our first embryo transfer ever. The 26 weeks leading up to that transfer likely felt like an eternity. Now I’m 28 weeks pregnant and thanking my lucky stars every single day that the little embryo we transferred is this little thriving being who we are falling madly in love with.
Our journey to this place is not unlike the journey of many other couples – unexplained infertility, years of TTC, failed IUIs, and the eventual acceptance that IVF may be the only thing that works for us.
We TTC for a full year before going to see my family doctor, who immediately referred us to a fertility clinic. I remember during our consultation with the specialist, she seemed very nonchalant. She actually said, “I think if I left you guys alone you would get pregnant naturally.” I remember this vividly because it crushed me as she said it. Though I’m certain it’s not what she meant, I heard it as, “You just haven’t been trying hard enough.” It killed me to feel that way, particularly when we had used ovulation predictor kits for several months, attempting to time things perfectly at home, restricting caffeine and alcohol intake, doing all of the right things. I left that consultation feeling hopeful, but her words stung like a bad sunburn.
Step 1 was the dreaded HSG. Hurt like hell, but no blockages or issues identified. The doctor told me, “Your best chance of conceiving is within 3 months of this procedure.” We went home and TTC, hopeful that the HSG was all we needed to get things moving in the right direction. It didn’t happen for us that month so the doctor started us on routine bloodwork – day 3, day 21, check for ovulation, repeat. Soon it was discovered I wasn’t ovulating on my own, or at least not regularly. I continued with routine bloodwork, and we started IUIs right away.
As we talked about the IUI procedure we were both extremely positive – you are pushing an egg out of your ovary and inserting the best sperm into the uterus, perfectly timed. How could it not work?! It felt like a sure thing. I was taking Femara and used Ovidrel as a trigger shot. Hubby went into the clinic, got a fresh sample for the lab tech and a few hours later I went in for the procedure. Truly I felt SO positive about it, it was like the nurse performing the procedure was inserting a baby directly into my uterus. I waited the 20 minutes on the bed in the clinic, went home, went to bed and assumed I was growing a person.
To my horror that first month was unsuccessful. Of course if you read about IUIs you will see that it’s more likely to work the 2nd time, for some reason. Then again, all articles I’ve read on the topic have differing information. We signed ourselves up for IUI #2. Same meds, same outcome. IUI #3 came along and, well, I wish I had better news to report. Unsuccessful. Another negative pregnancy test. Another crack in our hearts.
After 3 failed IUIs the doctor likes to meet with you to debrief and discuss next steps. I met with the doctor and she indicated that it may be time to move to IVF. This is the same doctor who had told me she believed I would conceive naturally if left alone. I said we would do 3 more IUIs and left there feeling confused.
A short time later I went in for an ultrasound during the process of IUI #4, and when I saw my doctor I asked to have the referral written for IVF. We chose a clinic that was in a convenient city (as it’s not offered in my home province), and away I went. IUI #4 was the first time I had used injectable drugs, Gonal F to be precise. IUI #4 failed, then IUI #5 failed. IUI #5 was kind of interesting for me because I felt very pregnant, and had a feeling it worked. I was traveling for business during the time I should’ve been testing, and one evening I was out with colleagues and started to feel a burning cramping sensation. I knew something was wrong. I went up to my hotel room and discovered a spurt of bright red blood that lasted just a few minutes. I went to bed that night feeling like perhaps I had experienced a chemical pregnancy. I never looked into it, but I have always been very curious.
IUI #6 only happened because the IVF clinic hadn’t called yet and I didn’t want to entirely give up trying. IUI #6 was in September/October 2015.
Christmas 2015 I started feeling very desperate. I had requested the IVF referral back in the summertime, had to do some additional tests prior to being accepted by the clinic, but hadn’t heard anything in quite awhile. Christmastime for infertiles is one of the most challenging times, so on my break from work I emailed the IVF clinic for an update. One of the doctors there is Jewish so was in the clinic over Christmas. He emailed me and said they were still waiting on an ultrasound from the local clinic. I was beyond upset. Why didn’t the local clinic have this done by now? Months had been wasted. I left a voicemail for the clinic and said I wanted to do the ultrasound ASAP. On the first day back after the Christmas holidays they brought me in for that ultrasound, sent it away, and then I was back to waiting.
Deciding I must take fate into my own hands I emailed the IVF clinic again and asked if I could be fast-tracked given the delays on my file. The administrator for my physician was super accommodating and made me an appointment, only to call back later that day with a cancellation and a sooner appointment, somewhere around 10 days away. Perfect. Progress. Hubby and I had our consult with the physician and she sent along some consent forms for us. We returned them right away and got scheduled for our IVF round.
When you’re a remote patient most people will tell you to either book flights that have good cancellation/change insurance or simply don’t book until you’re ready to go. We chose not to book until we were ready to go. Typically I had been slow to respond to stimulation drugs, so I didn’t want to book flights and keep pushing them out until I was ready. It seemed like a waste of energy. I started my protocol and was very anxious about the whole thing. I was made even more anxious once the ultrasounds started to look concerning. I wasn’t growing many follicles, the ones I was growing were small, and things didn’t appear to be progressing the way they should. The doctor increased my meds which ended up recruiting a bunch of more follicles (who knew that could happen?!) and then we had a real mess on our hands – some follicles were 14mm, some were 10mm, some were 7mm, and all the new follicles were 5mm. Because I had so many and the sizes were all over the place the cycle was canceled. I remember getting the call that afternoon from the doctor on duty. “This isn’t an optimal situation. We believe we can achieve pregnancy for you, but we don’t believe our best chance is this cycle.” I remember texting my husband the news, laying down and sobbing for the remainder of the day. I took the next day off work as well. Then it was the weekend. I promised myself that I would return to work on Monday in brighter spirits. Turns out, though, the canceled cycle took more out of me than I realized. I went back to work on Monday but I was in a fog. Some of my close friends said things like, “I didn’t expect to see you here today!” which felt similar to being stabbed in the heart (I think.)
We had a debrief with my doctor a few weeks later and she said she hadn’t realized I would be difficult to stimulate. She wanted to try again and would be aggressive with the medication, potentially overstimulating me and leading to a freeze-all cycle. At the time we didn’t know we were basically agreeing to that process, we just thought it was a possibility.
The cycle felt very different than the first. Ultrasounds were positive and the local doctors confirmed that things looked the way they “should” for IVF. In no time we were booking flights and flying out of province for the big procedure. After arriving at the IVF clinic I had an ultrasound, and the nurse came in to tell us the news – we had at least 26 follicles and we would need to freeze-all. We were inconsolable. We had come all this way only to be sent home without a little embryo. We spoke with the doctor and he explained OHSS and the risk to me. Broken-hearted we left the clinic to rest and prepare for egg retrieval.
Egg retrieval gave us 43 eggs…….WAY more than anticipated. Out of the 43, 35 were mature. I was given a bunch of medications to help stave off OHSS, and a few days later we flew home. We were then told how many embryos made it to day 5 and how many were successfully frozen. We had 14 beautiful embryos of great quality, frozen and waiting. Certainly a glimmer of hope in the whole thing. And truly I had felt so miserable after egg retrieval (for a few days) that I was thankful I wasn’t going back in for an embryo transfer. I was extremely bloated and uncomfortable, and my body needed some rest.
Two months later we returned for an FET. Upon arriving at the IVF clinic they did an ultrasound, and then sent a doctor in to see us. I had blood in my uterus and they were not recommending an embryo transfer. Just two days before I had an ultrasound at home, and had some spotting that the IVF doctor passed off as possible high estrogen levels. Now we’ve traveled and wasted our time and money on another busted cycle. We talked to another doctor while there and asked what the risk would be to us transferring an embryo. She said the only risk was that it may not implant because it’s like putting an embryo in a swimming pool. We decided we wanted to try. She said, “If you only had 1 embryo I would talk you out of this, but since you have so many there’s no harm.” She also said “anecdotally” people have taken Sudafed and that seems to help dry up excess fluid. She said there was no evidence of it, but if we were looking for an old wives tale that might be a good place to start.
Naturally, our first stop after the clinic was a pharmacy so we could get some Sudafed. We went out for burgers, did a bit of shopping, and went home to rest up. I took the maximum dose of Sudafed precisely at the intervals suggested on the box. The next day we went to the clinic for our FET. The 1 embryo they thawed was thriving and all looked great. We went in for the procedure and the doctors were fantastic. We were very hopeful and felt very positive. Afterward, we went to the mall for lunch, a little window shopping, and then again I went home to rest. The next day we flew home and I tried to take it easy for a few days. FET was on a Monday, and since there was no trigger shot in my system I could test anytime I wanted, but my blood test wasn’t for 15 days after the FET. I was taking progesterone suppositories afterward.
The following weekend I ran out of my suppositories completely by accident. The next day I was attempting to get more at the pharmacy, found out the clinic hadn’t requested a repeat on my prescription, had a mini-meltdown (cried my eyes out), and went back to work after getting a new prescription. Later that day during a routine discussion at work I started to cry again. It had been exactly 1 week since my FET. On the drive home I mentioned it to my husband. I felt it was strange because I’m not a crier.
The next day it was still bothering me that I had cried the day before. I worked all day, went for a long walk that evening with a friend, and then snuck out of the house to go buy a pregnancy test. I didn’t tell hubby I was taking it because I wanted some privacy. This procedure had a greatly reduced chance of working because of the blood in my uterus, so I could not let myself get too attached to the idea that I could be pregnant.
It was around 8:30pm when I took the test, and roughly 20 seconds later I had my answer……………for the first time in my entire life I held a positive pregnancy test. I didn’t know what to do. I was in shock. Disbelief. Utter bewilderment. I had always pictured the cute ways I could tell hubby we were pregnant, but in the moment I could only show him the stick and ask him what it said. He was also shocked and asked if I was supposed to test this early. I said yes and we both kinda did a weird jumpy dance thing. We went out for ice cream to celebrate, but mostly sat in silence because neither of us knew what to say.
I took a test every day until my blood test, and every day it was positive. My blood test was positive and my beta was strong. Repeat bloodwork showed a normal rise in beta, and soon I was scheduled for an ultrasound to confirm pregnancy (and rule out an ectopic pregnancy). The first ultrasound was at 5 weeks 6 days and, to the doctor’s surprise, there was the beginning of a little fluttering heart visible. At 8 weeks it was even clearer. At 10 weeks all looked great and they released me back to my family doctor. The OB said he would see me again when I was around 24 weeks pregnant.
Since that time my pregnancy has progressed very normally. I had severe morning sickness until 16 weeks, but since then the baby has been thriving. I’ve been measuring a couple of weeks ahead, which they say is a sign of a healthy baby. The anatomy scan looked great.
We are still on our journey to becoming parents, but the little ninja inside my abdomen seems to be doing great – little kicks and punches throughout the day remind me of the miracle that’s taking place inside my body. It’s so surreal I sometimes have a hard time attaching myself to the pregnancy. It’s hard to believe this has happened for us, against all odds.
For a long time we wondered if becoming parents was actually our fate – we thought perhaps we would get a second dog or just continue to travel the world and embrace that lifestyle. Instead we are putting together nursery furniture and updating our baby registry. I guess it’s just further proof that we never know what life has in store for us until it happens.
From here we will continue to pray for a healthy baby and safe delivery. One thing is for sure though: we will never take this child for granted. It took so much from us – physically, emotionally, financially – to get here, and I think that will make us very grateful parents.
Baby dust to those waiting!