Here for your November Squawk Box! I am doing pretty well with a stock pile of Squawk Boxes for the moment but I am ALWAYS eager to hear and share your stories!
Have any interest in submitting one? Send it here!
Today’s Squawk Box comes to us from Santina. She is an endo-warrior who is waiting in the adoption process for her child. Infertility carries such a heavy burden and can be a shocking pill to swallow. Even with a diagnosis of endometriosis you don’t always expect that you will be unable to concieve. Even then you hope that medical science will help and figure out a solution. It’s a harrowing journey. Her’s is not over yet. Sending all the luck and dust your way that your child is placed in your arms sooner than later, girl!
Nothing worth having comes easy, or that’s what they say.
Written by: Santina T
Published with the author’s permission.
My story started on a hot July day in 2011, I was floating in the pool with some girlfriends, when I was struck by an undeniable pain in my lower abdomen. At first I just thought it was the onset of my period, but I remember thinking it seemed odd since I wasn’t due for my period for a while. Fast forward a few hours, I was in the emergency room being rushed in for emergency surgery.
I had never heard of an ovarian torsion in my life up until this point, but that’s what occurred. I had a sizable cyst on my right ovary, which was so heavy is caused my ovary to twist and ultimately cut off the blood supply and die. I remember waking up from anesthesia and hearing the doctor telling me that they had to remove my right ovary and tube and I also had a severe case of endometriosis (stage 4). I was in shock; I was 21, healthy, had no medical history of anything like this. In hindsight, I frequently had bad cramping during my period, but wrote it off as “normal”.
After the dust settled and I healed, I didn’t think too much about how all this would affect me down the road reproductively. I was told I still had a healthy left ovary and should be able to have kids in the future no problem.
At the time this all occurred I was still in college and not at all ready to even think about children, so I went about my life and didn’t think too much about it. Jumping ahead to 2014, I had been married for almost a year, when my husband and I decided it was time to pull the goalie and start trying! We were so excited in those early months, the thought of us growing our family was everything we had ever wanted. The first few months of trying nothing happened, but I had read extensively about being on birth control for a long time and how it could take a while to start functioning normally again. When we hit the year mark I was beside myself, I had tried taking my temperature, done the ovulation kits, even tried using the fertility lube! Honestly, they have a lube for everything nowadays. You’d think they were all the same, but it is actually important to know what to get depending on what you are using it for. We used the fertility lube for obvious reasons, but no to avail.
We agreed to start small, we met with my gynecologist and I began clomid. We did five months of clomid and still no positive pregnancy test. After no success with clomid, we made an appointment to meet with a reproductive endocrinologist, the appointment was an eye-opener for us. Up until this point I never really realized the severity of my condition. I was told I have such a severe case of endometriosis that they only gave us a 4% chance of conceiving on our own. That was hard to hear- I was young and healthy, how is this happening to me!!!
Our doctor recommended going straight to IVF, anything else would be a waste of time and money, so we did. But before we could begin round one I had to undergo a laparoscopic cystectomy to remove a sizable cyst on my left ovary. I was dreading this procedure since my torsion in 2011 had left me terrified of surgery, but everything went well and I healed quickly! So once we got the all clear, IVF #1 began. The whole cycle took about 5 weeks; I responded well enough to the drugs but at retrieval day we were surprised to only get one mature egg. Talk about depressing! Luckily, this egg fertilized and survived for a day five fresh transfer. Fast forward 10 agonizing days of waiting, our beta pregnancy test came back negative- god that was a terrible phone call. We barely had time to process the outcome when I was rushed to the emergency room with severe abdominal pain. Once again I had to undergo an emergency laparoscopic cystectomy, the fear is always an ovarian torsion and the stakes are so high with only one remaining ovary. Fortunately, my doctor removed the cyst and was able to keep the ovary intact.
We took about two months off after the failed cycle and subsequent surgery then jumped right into IVF #2, long Lupron cycle.
This cycle was much harder, I literally wanted to quit on day two of the shots! Luckily, I pulled through, and we were able to retrieve 13 follicles; 9 mature and 8 fertilized. We ended up freezing four perfect day-5 embryos, although we weren’t able to do a fresh transfer because of ovarian hyper-stimulation, this was such a victory!! We were pumped! In the next couple of months, we did two frozen embryo transfers (2 embryos each time) and both resulted in negative betas. At this point, unsure of how to proceed, we took a little break. During our break, we began exploring adoption. This was a hard time for me, I struggled with feelings of guilt and anger. I also was trying to grieve all the pain and loss we had been through in the last 2.5 years of trying to conceive. After some soul searching, we decided to begin the adoption process.
In the meantime, we had agreed from the start we would try three rounds of IVF. Our clinic had a “buy 2, get 1 free” deal on IVF…lucky us! So we began again! This cycle was very similar to round two. Like in round two, I suffered every day until retrieval, when we were able to get 14 follicles! This was exciting for us; we were able to get one more than last time! But unlike round two, none of the fertilized embryos made it. We were given an answer of “we were able to get lots of follicles just not of good quality, your severe endometriosis really had an effect on the egg quality this time”. There really are no words to make that pill easier to swallow.
Although we are actively pursuing adoption, I still feel so much pain and disappointment from this whole process, especially IVF. Who really thinks infertility is going to affect them? I didn’t think it would, even after my torsion. Some days are just so hard, the grief sneaks up on you, one moment I am fine and the next I’m not. Grieving the loss of not being able to have biological children of your own is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Through it all though, some days I still feel hopeful, I know we will eventually become parents! I dream of that moment daily, and I just hope that once we hold our baby, the pain of infertility will slowly fade.