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Infertility.

Infertility can be an isolating, awful experience.

This is her story:

My name is Gen and I’ve always loved children. I love being their entertainer, their caregiver, their snuggle buddy. Having one of my own was on my bucket list but having one ON my own wasn’t.

I was 28 when I met Sam, the man who was to be my husband. In less than 4 years we were ready to give parenthood a try. I went off the pill and we were as busy as bunnies. After 8 months without results, I consulted a gynecologist.  He took a history, did a pelvic exam and recommended that Sam provide a sample for analysis.

The results were mixed. I appeared healthy. Sam’s sperm count was low and had low motility. But there was a supplement that showed promise.

3 months later Sam’s sample didn’t show any improvement. We consulted a fertility specialist. This time, the same history the same pelvic exam and the same semen analysis. The only way we would get pregnant would be with IVF with ICSI, that is, in vitro with intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

No, we really didn’t know what we were getting into. And no, we hadn’t talked about adoption.

Next step was to start on birth control and then the follicle stimulating hormones. The process involves needles. Lots of needles. And did I mention the hormones? Lots of hormones.

To cut to the chase, the first cycle failed. The second failed and third and fourth cycles never made it to the transfer stage. My body did not respond well to the hormones. I suffered months of migraines and my uterine lining refused to thicken with the treatment. I took a month off. I tried acupuncture, took a few more yoga classes. I relaxed.

August came and the migraines were far enough behind me that I was willing to try another cycle. My uterine lining barely responded to the hormones but there was just enough there for the doctor to approve proceeding with the cycle.

And we were successful. We did it. Nine months later, Chloe made her appearance.

But we weren’t satisfied. Chloe was a delight. Being a mom was the most wonderful experience of my life and I couldn’t wait to try again. 10 months after her birth, we went back to our fertility doctor and asked for another. We had several embryos cryopreserved.

We had been through the process we knew what we were getting ourselves into.

I weened Chloe and started the hormones again. Fortunately my body responded. My uterine lining thickened nicely and we scheduled the transfer.

We took our first pregnancy test and wow, we were pregnant. That was easy, right?

Wrong. Sadly it was a chemical pregnancy.

We tried again. This time nothing.

We had one embryo left. We tried again and again.

Nothing.

Finally our fertility doctor suggested testing me for hydrosalpinx, a blocked and fluid filled fallopian tube. Turns out this is a pretty standard test for women having difficulty conceiving a child naturally. And I had it.

We went through a procedure to correct the situation, essentially a sterilization. Yes, it was surreal.

By now we had used all of our frozen embryos. We were going to have to go through a fresh cycle again. Great, more hormones and a LOT more needles.

We completed the cycle, the transfer, the pregnancy tests. We were pregnant, finally. And then we weren’t.

Our fertility clinic provided ultrasounds for the first 8 weeks of the pregnancy. The initial ultrasound showed one live embryo. The second ultrasound showed a slow heartbeat, but a heartbeat nonetheless. The third showed progress, not excited, not reassuring but enough to qualify as growth. I was released and sent on to my regular OB.

At 9 weeks, I went to my OB, without Sam, for my first appointment. She did an ultrasound and there was no heartbeat. She checked a few times but nothing. I left her office with an appointment for a D&C.

I was in shock when I left, I was in shock when I had the procedure and I was in shock for at least another 2 weeks. I didn’t cry, I didn’t talk about it, I felt nothing.

This effort to have another child has been harder than trying to have the first….because I know what I’m missing.

And yet, I’m still trying.

My Infertility Story (Part II)

Infertility is a bitch.

This is her story:

Hi, Gen here, again. In my last post, I gave you all the details about the cycles I’ve been through, the HUGE number of procedures I’ve had done to my body and my quest to have both my first and my next child. I wrote that post as I was looking down the barrel of another Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET).

We had miscarried with my last try.  It had been a fresh cycle which meant tons of shots taken both in my belly, (self-administered) and then in my backside (given to me by Sam, my husband.).

What my last post didn’t describe to you was the emotional roller coaster the past 3 1/2 years have been.

The hormones are a bitch. I didn’t react well to the estrogen but I had no choice but to continue to self-administer this excruciating medication. It killed me. Every swallow, every suppository, every injection ate away at me. And broke me down.

With my first child, I had to take a break after several unsuccessful cycles.

I sought out massage and acupuncture. I increased my cardio work-outs. I did more yoga. And I found my sanity.

The next cycle we got pregnant and stayed pregnant.  It was a dream come true.

When Chloe was 10 months old, we started again.

We blew through our frozen embryos. My doctor recommended that I be sterilized in order to protect future embryos from the caustic fluid in my fallopian tubes.

We then did another fresh cycle. And we were pregnant! But I wasn’t in a good place. Sam and I had been arguing. The money we had been shelling out to build our family was taking a toll on us.  My emotional instability was wearing us both down.

When we went for our first ultrasound the doctor didn’t see a heart beat. He assured us it wasn’t unusual at this point, only 5weeks, 4days.

We went for another ultrasound. Heartbeat!  But the baby wasn’t as large as it should be. And the damn nurse practitioner had NO bedside manner and did NOTHING to assure us of anything, did not tell us be prepared for this pregnancy to be rough. Nothing. She didn’t offer to answer questions, her face stern and uninviting.

I hated her.

A third ultrasound showed that the baby was growing well, so that was a positive. At 8 weeks, my doctor released me to my OBGYN.

Sigh of relief.

Surprisingly, I was able to get into to see my OB the next week. We joked, it was good to see each other again. I made my usual inappropriate jokes about a dildo cam.

We were both still laughing when the image of our baby came on the screen.

And there was no heartbeat.

I was in shock.

The D&C was scheduled four days later.

I didn’t cry for three weeks.

Three months later it was time to try again. I had started working out again. Sam and I had been working on the house together and had found a new sitter who relieved a TON of stress we’d been suffering.

Life was good.

As I started meds, a friend recommended that I write a post for Band Back Together.

It scared me. I was afraid to feel this all over again. I was afraid it would wreck the fragile self I was holding on to so tightly.

But I did it. I was careful, I didn’t fall apart and I didn’t write from my heart.

We did the implant, we tested ten days later and had good numbers, we were pregnant.

And the real waiting game began. The mental challenge was laid before me, “hold it together for another two weeks.” Two days ago I asked Aunt Becky if I could write this post because I was a neurotic mess.

I took a home pregnancy test and was such a nervous wreck I did it wrong and invalidated it. I took another.  It was positive but took SO long and how could I trust it?

I was wigging out!

Sam kept telling me to calm down. He asked, “What is it going to take for you to relax? One good ultrasound?  Two? Another trimester?”

I said I didn’t know. The last pregnancy ruined me.

Today we had our first ultrasound.

And there was a heartbeat.

And I am relieved.

No, I’m Not Pregnant, Just Having A Fat Day

Infertility affects us all differently with the exception of one thing: the pain.

This is her story:

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not a Mommy Blogger. That is because I am not a Mommy. I would like to be a Mommy mind you, but alas, I am not.

Apparently, my female parts don’t get along with sperm as well as they should and they reject those little buggers every time my husband busts a nut. And yes, trust me, we’ve tried everything from WD-40 to Grandma’s old tyme Hold Yer Legs Up Over Your Head technique. My husband actually refers to this as “Mauding it” a term he coined after watching The Big Lebowski one too many times. For those of you who haven’t watched the film 70+ times, that’s Maude Lebowski’s (Julianne Moore) technique of rolling around on her back to let the semen deposit brew.

So anyway, it’s been two years of nut-busting and Mauding it and quite frankly, I’m starting to get a little bit depressed. Sure, we joke about it and try to make light of the issue, but the last time I got my period, my husband cried. As you can imagine, in my hormone-enhanced state, it turned into a dueling cryfest. It was worse than when we watched Sophie’s Choice last winter.

I should probably also mention that aside from our down-home techniques, we have gone through all the proper medical tests. According to my doctor and all the lab technicians we’ve met along the way, everything is working properly on both sides. My doctor eventually pronounced our situation as “unexplained infertility.” I sort of stared at her when she delivered that prognosis until I was finally able to locate my smart assedness and retorted “so is that like the proper medical way of saying you don’t have a clue?” My OB-GYN doesn’t have an ounce of humor in her and she said “it’s what we call it.” Thanks. She sent me back out into the streets knowing less than I did before I came to see her.

While we’re technically not in any rush, we are both 34, and well, time is a-ticking. I swear that all the comments my mom and in-laws make don’t bother me, but I would sort of like to get pregnant so I can just tell them to shut the hell up. My mom, especially. She totally blames me. Everybody does. Even my husband.

Carrying this burden is annoying and unfair. While I realize that there are people out there with problems far worse, it doesn’t change the fact that getting pregnant is theoretically a fairly simple thing to do. I frankly just don’t understand. I see crack whores in Hell’s Kitchen who are able to reproduce. Repeatedly. I only smoke crack when I drink. It’s just not fair. (note the sarcasm)

Seriously though, I take pre-natal vitamins and do yoga and do acupuncture for fertility. I eat healthy, I exercise. I’ve even given up lots of stuff like running and drinking wine and eating sugar. I guess I haven’t given up on hope though. But you know what, it’s a daily battle.

You Are Not Alone

Coping with infertility can be an incredibly isolating experience.

This is her story:

Anyone who has been through IVF or any type of infertility treatments can vouch for how isolating it is.  The time period where I spent all of my energy and focus on trying to conceive were the most lonely times of my life.  Sure, yes, you’re with a partner, but as only woman knows, creating life is entirely a maternal thing.

I could sit here and tell you my story, which would take all day.  And believe me, I LOVE to talk.  But to spare you, I’ll give you the short version.:

I went through approximately 6 1/2 years of infertility, on and off.   It killed my first marriage, and with my second marriage, it definitely took its toll, but we had our limits.  Our last attempt was a Frozen Embryo Transfer (or FET for you newbs or n00bs if you prefer leet speak).  We both decided, for our mental health and our marriage, that this was it.  If it didn’t work, we were going to become the crazy animal people in our neighborhood.  There probably would have been weird things like ferrets and tegus.

But it worked.  And we were…shocked.  That’s the thing about fertility treatments,  when they actually work, you feel like you pulled off a bank heist.

Cut to four years later, and we now have two healthy children, one, who was a big old natural surprise.  We call her the Matlock baby.   Because we joke that we had ten minutes before Matlock started, and well, you get the rest.

But my point to this is, that going through it, I felt…depression doesn’t even begin to cover it.  The first time around, I felt as if I had this blanket of sadness wrapped around me, that I couldn’t take off.  Ever.  The second time around, I found solace in the internet. It wasn’t so taboo!  I had people I could talk to.  Blogs I could read.  But it taught me two things:

One, you are not alone. Not by a long shot.

Approximately 7.5 [million] women are affected by infertility.

Two, use your voice.  Educate.

I feel no embarrassment or shame in telling people that we had a hard time conceiving, or that my son was conceived via In-Vitro Fertilization.   Was I ashamed that my body failed me?  Yes, for a while, but it wasn’t my fault.  So I tell people.  I talk about it, and 70-80% of the time, someone will chime in, “ME TOO!”  It opens doors.  It helps us to find others like us.  And it also helps to educate people that don’t understand what its like.   When we were going through treatment, a good friend of mine was so interested in the process.  She would watch me inject medication.  She would ask questions.   Some people will always be ignorant, but by and large, people are just uneducated about the topic.

Please don’t be afraid to speak up.  Don’t be ashamed.  Lastly, don’t isolate yourself.

My Journey To and Through Infertility

When I was 15, I had terrible ovarian cysts so my doctor put me on birth control. Not that I needed it – I wasn’t sexually active. It was great. No cysts. When I was about 19, I decided to go off the pill. I was taking them but didn’t need them as I still wasn’t sexually active. I knew it couldn’t be great for me so I just stopped taking them.

And then, I never got another period.

After about a year, I went back to my gynecologist and asked about it, whether it was strange or not. He said it WAS very strange and that it did happen occasionally. I may never get another period and may, in fact, be infertile. He told me this very solemnly and with great empathy. He was a good man.

But me, well, uh, I was ECSTATIC! Infertile? Please. Thank you, god. I was never the kid who planned the wedding and the babies and the names. I had three younger siblings I didn’t really care anything about (now I do). I loved to party and this was before the HIV/AIDS epidemic. (YEAH..I know, I said it. This was mid to late 70′s. Figure out how old I am)

I was trying to be an actor and was living a very vagabondish life. I worked about 10 different jobs so I could live and enjoy my life and sexuality. And then one day I felt different. I went to the clinic and yes, I was pregnant. This was after not using birth control for 6 or 7 years. It was a very easy decision for me to make and I had an abortion. I have never regretted that decision.

I lived my life. I used birth control (not the pill, the sponge… remember the Seinfeld episode when Elaine hoards them?)

And then I met Tom. We were friends, fell in love and got married. I realized that, in fact, I did want to have a family with him and that it was going to be wonderful. My life and expectations were turned upside down by the love I felt for Tom and it was so exciting and fun. We were older and after a year of trying, we started dealing with infertility. I was fine. Tom’s motility was low. No boxers or hot tubs. My eggs were a little old. We did inseminations. (Did any of you ever ALMOST make love in the quiet room with your legs in stirrups? To make it more personal? I KNOW you did!)

About a year later, during an insemination break, I became pregnant. There were little lines on the test and it was so exciting! We told everyone. It was amazing. We went to check in and have an ultrasound and hear the heartbeat and well, you all know… there wasn’t one. It was ectopic. I sobbed as they took me in for my D&C because I wanted this baby that I never wanted. This was a little “me and Tom.” It was heartbreaking for both of us.

The next step was IVF. I became a science experiment. I’m not sure there are enough words to convey how much I hated the process. I was going crazy from the hormones, the daily shots of Lupron and the shots Tom gave me (though, I think he got a little pleasure from it). I had eggs harvested and there were a lot. Not many were viable though. There were enough for a transfer and enough to freeze for the next baby.

So we followed protocol and did everything right. There was no baby. It was heartbreaking. Because for the faintest minute, they thought there was a baby… but no, there wasn’t.

We did it once. That’s all we needed. I looked at Tom and said I didn’t want to be a science experiment anymore. I wanted to be a mom and I was already 38 years old. We moved on to adoption. We were together on this decision. He didn’t need a clone and neither did I.

I am so grateful I was with Tom because someone else may not have seen it that way. And that would have been OK but a problem for us. And with Tom it was not a problem. We moved together to the adoption process and that will be my next post.

Because that was a barrel of laughs, too!

It Wasn’t Supposed To Be This Hard

I’m an ordinary person with (semi) ordinary desires. I was a skinny bitch before I got married, but six years later, I can’t even fit one leg into my old jeans. The youngest child of Bible-thumping Southern Baptists, I was an honors student, youth group member, and basically a good kid.

Until the boy next door.

Age 15, was determined to prove I was not the naive loser across the street, so I rebelled. I hated my life during high school. I hated the rules my family had – no one else’s family seemed so strict. I hated that I was different. I was diagnosed with a neurological disorder at eleven, I spent most of my teen years trying to be normal. I wanted to be like the other kids, not the freak who’d gained weight and slept too much thanks to her medicine. I managed to graduate from high school with honors, was accepted to an in-state, public university, and I was determined to help other freaks like myself.

Six months into college, I met my future husband. My husband wanted to start trying for kids immediately. I was an independent, stubborn college graduate who wanted a career before starting a family. But I’m only <insert age here>, and I’m just not ready for kids. I could have said that line in my sleep, I repeated it so often.

Finally (says my husband in the background – FINALLY!), I caved. Having been on various maintenance medications since adolescence, childbearing was not an overnight decision for me. Doctors had to be consulted, medications slowly eliminated from my bloodstream, alternative therapies considered.

After two months of planning, I threw away my birth control. My own little piece of feminine power was gone. After having had several pregnancy scares and supporting several friends through their unplanned pregnancies, I never dreamed it would be so hard.

31 cycles later, I’m still trying. Over two and a half years of sex on a schedule, peeing on sticks, and praying month after month after month. 26 months in, my husband finally agreed to be tested. The verdict? His swimmers are intact, mobile, and raring to go. Male ego still intact, he went with me for my tests. Blood tests, hormone levels, ovulation tests, all came back normal.

Until the HSG. One fallopian tube appears completely blocked. I have no idea why because my insurance won’t cover infertility testing and we can’t afford a specialist and exploratory testing. I have a few friends who know of and support our efforts, but no one really understands. How can they? Until you have faked a smile through baby showers and children’s birthday parties and yet another holiday during which Grandma asks when you will finally start a family, how would you know the constant emotional ache of an empty womb?

I’m scheduled for a consultation to see if an ovulation induction drug may help, but that’ll be out-of-pocket. I have no one who really understands what this feels like – the constant frustration and disappointment and guilt that I’m keeping my incredible, loving husband from being a father. In all fairness, my closest friends are wonderful and supportive, but I don’t want to be all whiney and “woe is me and my pitiful plight,” so I don’t really talk about it.

I feel the kick in the gut when yet another “guess who’s expecting!!!!!!!” post pops up on Facebook. I smile on the outside and congratulate the happy couple.

I ask myself why I didn’t start trying to have children earlier. I’m 28; he’s almost 31. If it was going to be this hard, I should’ve known somehow so I’d have more time to fight it. I should have known. Hell, I was on so many medications as a child, I’m surprised I haven’t sprouted gills. I didn’t get my period for two years as a side effect of one particularly difficult prescription.

I should have known.

The worst part is the fear that I somehow deserve this. I know intellectually I don’t, but what if this is God’s way of telling me that my genes don’t need to be passed on? Why should I force an innocent child to go through the hell I did as a kid? How fair is it to have kids, knowing there’s a 50% chance my child will be another “survivor” of my condition? What if this is punishment for being a rebellious teenager? I wasn’t a responsible kid; hell, most days I didn’t care if I got caught. What if I DO deserve infertility? What if I did this to myself? These words look so strange on the screen, but what if it’s true?

Yes, I’m asking the question that no couple struggling with infertility wants to ask and what no doctor says: what if this is my fault? How can I look my husband in the eye and tell him he picked a reproductive dud? How do I tell my parents who want a grandchild so badly?

And how do I go through the endless days in this haze of despair without someone who understands?

I didn’t know whether to post this here on Band Back Together. I know The Band is here for anything, but my life and my problems seem so…ordinary. I tell myself, you don’t have it so bad, you know. I don’t like to complain, and I don’t like to draw attention to my imperfections (hell, they do a good enough job on their own… no help needed, thank you very much).

But..I changed my life’s plans to have a family.

What if I gave up my dreams for nothing?