You might be wondering why we have been pretty quiet the last several months. On February 22, 2018, my husband and I welcomed to the world the newest little nerd. She is perfect and already so much fun and gives us so much joy. However, her existence came with many twists and turns, from conception to after birth. These complications took a toll on us and we had to put the blog on the back burner for awhile. We are ready to move forward again and I would love to tell you the story of our little miracle! Since I have so much to tell, I am breaking it into three parts. This is part 1 – conception.
My husband and I married in early 2011. In November of that year, we decided to start passively trying to have a baby. It was one of those situations where we were not going to do anything to prevent having a baby, but we were not going to worry about it obsessively. As the months of not becoming pregnant turned into years, we slowly tried different things to make it happen. I bought a bulk size package of ovulation kits, I tracked my basal body temperature, I used an app on my phone to track my cycles, my OB-GYN put me on metformin and then Clomid…nothing worked. Finally, when I was at my regular doctor having an annual check-up, he said that he would really like me to become pregnant by 35, because after 35, it would be much riskier. I was 33.
At this point, I was sure that I was barren. Why else would I not be pregnant after five years? A fertility clinic tested my husband and even though his count was slightly lower than average, his boys were good. People kept telling me, “Just relax! Don’t worry about it! Once you relax you’ll be fine! It happened to my sister’s best friend’s cousin!” Talk about the most unhelpful advice ever. (And my advice – please, please, please do not say things like this to someone trying to get pregnant. It is the last thing we want to hear, is unhelpful, and makes us feel like poop.) I was relaxed. I was a busy person, but I never stressed about it. Had I taken roughly 100 different pregnancy tests in the past five years? Yes. Did I ever cry over seeing the negative sign? No. I told myself the timing was not right yet and I moved on. During those five years we went to Europe twice, we entered and completed graduate school, I took over teaching AP classes for the first time…we were busy people. A baby would have just complicated things, right? It was not until the doctor told me I was suddenly on a deadline that I finally started to stress over whether or not I really, truly wanted to be pregnant. And even then, it took me another six months to finally take the step we needed to take – me going to a fertility clinic.
National Infertility Awareness Week was April 23 – 29, 2017. One of my Facebook friends shared a post from Audubon Fertility that stated they were running a special to test both the man and woman for $100. This post started the process that would eventually give us our baby. A side note – I wish I could remember who shared the post because honestly, if she would not have shared it, I do not think I would have ever taken that leap and I would still be sitting here, thinking I am barren and unable to have children. My Facebook friend literally changed the course of my life by sharing that post, and I cannot even remember who it was. Therefore, if you are reading this and you remember that you shared it, thank you. My daughter would not be here if not for you.
We decided to get the testing done. We immediately liked the place and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone struggling to get pregnant. Everyone that works there is a woman, so I felt extremely comfortable. Next door is the Audubon Surgery Center (formerly Vivere-Audubon), which is where my husband went to previously be tested but since about three years had passed, we wanted to test him again. As for me, they did a blood test and an ultrasound to check my reproductive organs. Lo and behold, my ovaries were fine and I was ovulating according to the blood test; however, there was a couple of issues. The main was that I had PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) which, if you look at a list of complications, the number one is infertility. Once I started learning about PCOS, all of the symptoms fit me to a T. I suddenly felt like I had answers to questions that I did even know I should have been asking.
They immediately put me back on metformin, which can help regulate the amount of blood sugar in your body because PCOS and higher insulin levels go hand-in-hand. I then had to get extensive blood work completed, to check everything from my thyroid to if I had any STDs. This is where is started to get interesting. When I went to get the blood work, the normal phlebotomist was on vacation and the substitute was not exactly a people person. When she stuck the band around my arm to make the veins stick out more, which makes it easier to insert the needle, it felt like a vice. I have never felt the band that tight and my arm immediately started turning red. I told her it was way too tight, tighter than I had ever felt, and she just kept telling me that it was supposed to be tight. She then said to squeeze a ball. I could barely move my hand to squeeze. As she is finally drawing the blood, imagine molasses dripping off a spoon…that is how slow my blood was flowing out my veins. I start crying, telling her my arm hurts where the band is located, that I cannot feel anything below the band, and that I feel like I am going to pass out. She just keeps telling me she is almost done (which she is not). Finally, I start swaying and seeing black. A bunch of nurses come into the room and start talking to me. The next thing I know, I smell something weird under my nose. They had to break out the smelling salts because I had fainted. The phlebotomist was JUST finishing collecting my blood. I had to sit there for several minutes as they gave me juice and crackers. It was terrible and I was very thankful that it was over.
We return for our next appointment and they tell me that they had to redo the blood work because the substitute phlebotomist messed up the six vials (I am guessing the blood congealed, making it unusable). They were supposed to have called me to tell me this information, but somehow they did not or I missed the call. I immediately burst into tears. I told them I just could not do it again, that the last experience was horrible and I could not go through that again. They informed me that they cannot proceed without the blood work to make sure I am healthy. At that point, I almost walked out. But luckily, my husband was there with me to calm me down and reassure me. The normal phlebotomist was there and reassured me that she would be much better than the substitute. I tearfully agreed and they laid me down, had juice and crackers ready, smelling salts ready, and carefully began. From the get-go, it was infinitely better. The band did not feel like a vice on my arm, the needle did not hurt too much, and my blood flowed at a normal rate. She was finished incredibly quick and I swiftly consumed the juice and crackers. They apologized a dozen times and the phlebotomist was so upset for us (every woman that had blood work done by the substitute that day had to have her blood work redone) that she said it made her never want to go on vacation again. Even though this experience was less than ideal, I would still wholeheartedly recommend Audubon Fertility. They are wonderful people and are caring and thorough. This episode was an anomaly and I truly believe it was just par for the course for my pregnancy, because absolutely nothing about it was easy.
All of my blood work came back fantastic (No thyroid issues! No STDs!) and I even finally found out my blood type (A+…I definitely made a joke about how I would expect nothing less from an Honors student). They decided to try the simplest procedure, an intrauterine insemination (IUI). We had to wait until my next cycle started, so they could then monitor me. Right after memorial weekend, my cycle starts. At the beginning of June, we head there again. They really wanted me to have multiple eggs to increase the chance of fertilization, but there was only one. They monitored the growth of the egg and the next week, they told me I had to get a shot in my stomach to stimulate my follicles. It had to be at night. And my husband was going to give it to me. I am not ashamed to say that I acted completely hysterical the night of the shot before finally allowing him to give it to me…only for me to not even feel it. The needle was so incredibly small and it was completely painless.
We went back two days later to check and my egg is almost prime. They set the date for Friday, June 16 as the day they would perform the IUI. When we went back on Friday, my husband had to do his part first, then it took about a half hour for them to prep it with only viable ones. When they finished, they told us he had one of the lowest numbers they had ever seen. Usually there are around 15 to 200 million. He had 2 million on that day. The nurse practitioner that performed the procedure was trying her best to be optimistic. She kept telling us that she had seen low numbers, though not that low, before be successful. The success rate for an IUI is only about 7 to 16 percent as it is, so to add a low count in addition to me only having one egg to work with that month…we were not hopeful. Naturally, we were going to go through with it, but we were prepared to redo it next month and to pay for a second procedure (the altogether costs for everything was about $1200). They used a catheter to inseminate and apparently, my cervix, uterus, something, is misshapen, because she could not reach the spot she was aiming for and had to get a bigger catheter. No wonder why his boys could not find my egg!
The procedure itself did not hurt, but it was uncomfortable. It was a lot of pressure and especially after she used the bigger catheter, it caused my eyes to slightly tear up, but it was nothing serious (and believe me, my pain tolerance is very low). I then had to lie with the lower half of my body raised for about fifteen minutes. My husband put on Weezer for me and we joked that our potential child could be conceived to Weezer, thus making him or her a literal lifelong fan. Once we were finished, they said to come back in two weeks for a blood test to check and see if we were successful. And in the meantime, to pray for a miracle.
Those next two weeks were filled with us trying so hard to not be hopeful and telling ourselves we were prepared to go through this again, but praying that by some miracle, it worked. On June 30, we went for the blood test. They told us they would call us later on that day to let us know. A part of me wanted to take an at-home pregnancy test, but I wanted the blood test results so we would be 100% sure. That afternoon, the phone rang from the clinic. I put it on speakerphone so that no matter the result, my husband and I would hear it together. And that is when, on what would have been my dad’s 68th birthday, we found out that somehow, against all odds, our miracle had happened. I was pregnant.
To read part two of this series covering the pregnancy, click here.