Infertility, you nasty little dream crusher.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh infertility…sigh.

Hi, I am 1 in 4. I’ve decided that since I always have a million things spinning around in my head, I should start a blog. Hopefully by sharing our always changing and never boring fertility story, I can provide support to others in a similar situation, and if that doesn’t happen, I’ll just provide support to myself by writing, win-win.

I suppose it’s important to set the stage for why I’m writing an infertility blog, after all, to get to this point one must assume I’ve been through some sh*t, because let me tell you, I most certainly have!

It all started off in the beautiful summer of June 2014, We were two newlyweds in love, not even trying for a baby and shockingly found out we were pregnant when I became sick for multiple days in a row. We thought, wow that was easy, we weren’t even trying! We rushed to the book store and picked out as many baby education books as we could find. We scheduled our first ultrasound and I made sure to do everything right, eat the right foods, sleep a full 8 hours, drink lots of water, take prenatal, blah blah blah. We scheduled our first ultrasound at 9 weeks. We were so excited to go in, we even had our camera out to take a photo of the ultrasound. During the ultrasound we were told there was a baby, but no heartbeat. Baby measured only 6 weeks and had stopped growing. We were shocked. I had been very sick with morning sickness for the last 4 weeks. It didn’t make sense. Why would I have a miscarriage?

October of 2014: We began trying again, blissfully unaware of what the future would hold for us we figured, “hey, we both really do want a baby, let’s give this a go, it shouldn’t be that hard, last time we got pregnant without even trying.” Fast forward to 7 months later.

May 2015: We found out we were pregnant again. We realized that 7 months took us way longer than we expected, but figured the chances of a second miscarriage are pretty slim, and that we were actually going to be parents! So exciting!

June 2015: We had our first ultrasound, everything looked fine, baby was a few days off in measurement but the doctors said it was nothing to worry about. Nick and I figured, 8 ½ weeks was longer then we made it the first time, so that had to be a good sign. At this appointment, the doctor had meet with a lady who handed us a giant stack of “what to expect when you’re expecting” type books and congratulated us on our pregnancy.

At this appointment, I requested a second ultrasound because my heart was telling me that this would help ease my anxiety from our first loss. The doctor told us we could do that, but it would likely be an out-of-pocket expense, not covered by our insurance. We agreed to pay whatever it would cost to put my mind at ease. Two weeks later we had our next ultrasound scheduled.

July 2015: Nervous and excited, we both went in optimistic. The ultrasound started and the lab tech was silent. We knew what we were looking for, a flickering heartbeat because we had seen it two weeks prior and knew what it looked like. This time it wasn’t there. The ultrasound lady looked at us with tears in her eyes and said “I’m sorry guys, I don’t see the heartbeat.” She told us to hang tight and the doctor would be in to talk with us, she quickly left the room. We cried. It was terrible.

The next day I was scheduled for a D&C procedure. I’m grateful they got me in so quickly. I hated my body at that point and wanted this baby inside of me out, immediately. The doctor who did the procedure agreed to send the tissue in for testing even though he said they don’t typically send it in for testing until 3 miscarriages.

September 2015: We got the results of the tissue testing. The results were that our baby boy, yes, they tell you the gender, had an unbalanced translocation, which was not compatible with life. We were referred to a genetic counselor, who took our blood and told us to wait.

October 2015: We found out that my husband was a carrier of a balanced translocation (BT). BT is condition where part of the chromosome breaks off and attaches to another part of a chromosome. 1 in 560 people have a BT and it causes no health-related issues to a person who has it. The ONLY issue with a BT is that it can cause repeated miscarriages and fertility problems. Basically, what happens is a piece of the chromosomes break off and attach to places they shouldn’t, causing it to be “unbalanced”. This news was gut-wrenching. We were referred to a fertility clinic and given 4 options: 1) Continue to try naturally with the knowledge we will likely have more miscarriages 2) IVF with genetic screening 3) Adopt 4) Chose to live childless.

We opted to continue trying naturally. We agreed to try for a year and a half, then consider IVF if we didn’t get pregnant. At that point, neither of us thought we would have to venture down the IVF road, that just seemed so far-fetched and not something we would ever have to do. (ha!)

Fast forward through the entire 2016 year: Nothing was happening, no pregnancies. Awful. The waiting was excruciating. We agreed to consult with a doctor at a different clinic to try some clomid medication to hopefully create some more eggs to give us better odds. We attempted a few months of that and nothing happened, unless you consider the hormonal weight gain, moodiness, sleepless nights and acne as something…

April 2017: I couldn’t handle it anymore. I wanted to be a mom. I didn’t want to wait another few months to see if we’d get pregnant, I’d already decided that was a crapshoot and a waste of time. I begged Nick to go in, he agreed it was time. We consulted with our fertility clinic. We went in hoping they would tell us we could do an IUI. For those of you who are fortunate enough to not know, a IUI is a less invasive procedure then IVF and typically doesn’t take loads of injections or surgical egg removal.

During the initial appointment, we were told the likelihood of IUI working for us was no greater then continuing to try on our own. IVF with Pre-Genetic Screening was our best option. I’m not sure if people are aware, but IVF in Minnesota is not covered by most insurance and runs upwards of $25k+. Holy Shit. That is insane. The other options remained to either continue trying natural, adopt or go childless. None of those seemed like good options.

Side note and rant: All the people who say “just adopt” that’s the most insensitive, asshole-ish thing you could say to someone with infertility. Do you know that adoption can take many years (3-5) before a birth mother picks you and on average $40k? Unless your someone who has adopted due to infertility and has personal experience, DO NOT EVER SAY THOSE WORDS! Rant over.

We chose to go forward with the IVF. Luckily, we are blessed with amazing, generous family, and decent jobs to help us fund this astronomically expensive dream we were trying to fulfill. After all, they too want to be grandparents and have seen firsthand the heartbreak and frustration infertility has caused us and them, over the last few years.

August 2017: We finally get to start our IVF treatment. We are so hopeful and excited, this is actually happening! We get to be parents! Maybe we will have twins! We figured, for sure this is going to work, how couldn’t it? We are young, healthy individuals, we deserve to be parents, we will make great parents!

So ensues multiple weeks of daily injections, several clinic visits which include nonstop poking and prodding at my V by various nurses, oral medication, bloatedness, being uncomfortable, crabbiness, emotions, etc. etc..

September 2017: “Egg retrieval day” comes, they collect 11 eggs. The number wasn’t what I was hoping, but it gives us 11 potential chances for a baby. For those of you who are new to the IVF terms, egg retrieval is when they put a woman under sedation to surgically remove all of the eggs from her ovaries. The IVF medication helps create tons of mature eggs, unlike a normal monthly cycle where there is only 1 mature egg. Hence feeling bloated and comfortable.

Day 1 report after egg retrieval: 9/11 embryos fertilize. This is promising.

Day 3, 6/9 embryos look good enough to be sent off for genetic testing. Not a great number but surely one of those embryos will be genetically normal.

We are given the green light for our transfer day, this will happen on Day 5, which was so exciting. (Note for you fertile people: Transfer day is when the put the embryos back inside my uterus to hopefully make me pregnant.) Our biggest concern was if we were going to put 1 or 2 embryos in……did we really want twins? F-yea we did, 2 it is!

September 11, 2017: We walk into the fertility clinic ready to transfer our embryos into my body. My poor body has been through so much, now I’m going to reward it with a baby. We were so excited. When we arrived, the receptionist checked us in, we hardly had time to sit down before we were called to come back. We walked back into a back office I’d never been before. I looked at Nick and knew the office wasn’t where they would put us if we were transferring our embryos back today. We sat down with the embryologist who explained she had just gotten our results back, we had zero embryos to transfer. All were chromosomally bad, not just with the BT, but other things too, they were a mess. She apologized and told us if we tried again, we would likely have a similar outcome. The rest of what she said I honestly can’t remember. I blacked out. The embryologist told us to call the clinic when we were ready to discuss different options.

We drove home in silence. We cried. We held each other. We cried some more. We texted our families and friends instead of calling because calling was too difficult. We were heartbroken. We were in shock. We were so sure that IVF was our answer, heck, we were even willing to gamble $25k on it.

We had an outpouring of love from our closest friends, many stopped over that day and left cards, flowers, candy, beer, and even chipotle to help ease our sorrows. It worked, they made our day just a little bit brighter because of their thoughtful gestures. Thank you, friends, I’ll never be able to tell you how much those simple things meant to us on that day.

October 2017: We mustered up the courage to walk back into our fertility clinic for our “WTF” appointment. The WTF appointment is known in the infertility world as the- what the f**k went wrong appointment, where the doctor talks about all your results. Luckily, he cut right to the chase, we didn’t want a bunch of BS pushed our way. He said he wasn’t impressed with my egg quality, and that paired with BT was likely our culprit for our fertility struggles. He reviewed options with us. All of them sucked. We left saying we would think about it and be back.

November 2017: We attended the RESOLVE conference here in MN. The RESOLVE conference is a conference to get information on all things fertility related. We learned A LOT about different options, including donors and more about adoption. It was so helpful. We left feeling impowered and hopeful.

January 2018: We decided it was time to dip our toes into the land of donor sperm and hope that maybe my eggs weren’t as bad as our doctor has suggested. We consulted with our fertility clinic and they gave us the green light to pick a donor and order-up the “specimen (sample)”. We stressed about picking a donor, we thought it would be so tough. Reality was, it wasn’t, we went with someone who had similar features to Nick, it was a done deal. This particular donor we picked was a hot ticket, his “samples” were nearly sold out. Side note: Donors from most facilities are only allowed to have 20 births before they are “sold out” the remaining samples are then set aside for additional siblings to families who already have children from this donor, so the open public can no longer pick them. We also figured this guy’s swimmers must be good if he’s almost sold out…we hoped they’d be good enough to fertilize my (possibly crappy) eggs.

The plan was to do IUI with donor sperm, again, IUI is a simple fertility treatment. Think of a turkey baster, that’s essentially an IUI. The procedure itself is super easy and takes about 1-2 minutes, then you lay there for another 10 to hopefully get all the swimmers where they need to be. I have no idea what the success rates are with donor sperm IUIs, but our clinic informed us that we could only do 6 tries with them. 6 tries seemed like plenty, plus, its freakin’ expensive. A “sample” (we choose to do an open donor, I’ll discuss that in a different post) costed around $1,250 after shipping. Our insurance doesn’t cover IUI because we have met our $10k lifetime max last year, so roughly each IUI would cost about $3k with everything-that is ONE try for ONE month. I’m not sure if you are a math whiz, but that means if we tried unsuccessfully for 6 rounds, it would be another $18k out of pocket. Jesus, I’m buying a lottery ticket, my odds might be better.

Anyways, long story short, donor sperm IUI #1 was a bust. It didn’t work, but neither Nick or I were surprised, I don’t think either of us had our hopes up. Bye-bye $3k. We had previously decided that if it time didn’t work, we would take 4 months off. We had a trip planned to Europe for my 30th birthday in May and I planned to drink my weight in wine. 😊 Gulp Gulp.

May 2018: We returned from our Europe trip ready to crank out the 5 more donor IUIs we had planned, we were both feeling excited. Unfortunately we had to pick a different donor because our previous one had met his quota, of course.  At the end of May we had attempt #2. That also was a big FAT FAIL. This time it hurt a bit more, I had convinced myself nobody gets pregnant on IUI #1 anyways, the second fail made me a bit more nervous. Ugh.

June 2018: Try #3, we figured this one would for sure work. With IUI’s they give you medication (oral and injections) so you produce more follicles that hold eggs, it increases your odds of multiples, but not by much, again, we figured if we have multiples so be it. My body has always responded well to the medication, this time I had 4 mature follicles and the donor sperm numbers were the best we’d had yet. I convinced myself during the two week wait (the time between the procedure and when you see if you’re actually prego) I had every early pregnancy symptom there was, cramping, frequent urination, sore boobies, etc. etc.. I told myself I wasn’t going to take a pregnancy test at home before I had blood work (beta test) at my clinic, I was going to wait…Yeah right, I’m the most impatient person there is… I did shock myself when I waited until the day before my scheduled beta to pee on a stick.

And then I saw it… it.. it was negative. Stark white. Not even a squinter. “Fucking fuck!” I screamed as loud as I could followed by a stream of tears that seemed to have no end. I was on the verge of having a panic attack, I could feel it in my chest, I knew this feeling. I had my first panic attack in April of 2017 which landed me in the ER because I seriously thought I was dying. They prescribed me some calming pills to take if I ever felt one coming on again. I’ve maybe taken about 4 total since that time, and this day I definitely needed one. That stupid little pill helped, but boy did the tears keep flowing.

I decided I wasn’t even going to go in for my blood work the next day, I hated that clinic, in that moment.  I no called no showed for my 7:00am blood appointment the next day, so unlike me. The nurse called me that afternoon to see why I missed, I told her I already knew the test was negative and stopped taking my medication. She apologized and told me to call back when my period started. I told her, between sobs, I had zero intentions of doing another IUI again.  The tears flowed on and off for days, I had just enough grit to keep it together to go to work and interact with other humans. When I was at home, I was a wildcard, I’d cry over everything. It was awful. Thank god for my freakin’ awesome therapist who has helped me through all these tough times. (Shout out to Brooke Flemming from Rum River Counseling Center, if any,one needs to find a therapist that specializes in infertility I highly suggest searching here:   https://resolve.org/support/professional-services-directory/).

Of course, I got my period, a nice reminder of how much that cycle, and ones before it didn’t work. I never called the clinic when I got my period. Nick and I both agreed that continuing to do DS- IUI was not worth it for my mental state or our bank account, we’d have to re-evaluate our route. Was it time to start the adoption process?

July 2018: I’ve stuck to my guns. I have not wavered on doing another IUI cycle with my eggs, these things suck, its pointless. We figured we would get a second opinion at another fertility clinic to see if they would do things differently. During this time, I also utilized facebook support groups big time, I remember seeing a group specifically for embryo donation, so I joined. I decided it was time to do more investigating on what this “embryo donation” thing is all about.

We had our second opinion, the first thing she said when she sat down was “Well, you’ve both certainly been through a lot.” She reviewed our history with us and discussed options to do another DS-IUI with them, stating she would tweak the medications a bit, but that was it. She also discussed getting tested for endometriosis, which would require surgery. She informed me that none of the ultrasounds or tests I have done could have caught endometriosis if I have it…hmmm why has no one else ever suggested this? Maybe I’ll need to get this surgery, after all, endometriosis can cause fertility problems too. Anyways, we asked her about embryo donation and she informed us she has had a lot of families choose this route, we asked her if she has worked with people who have done it internationally, and she had. International embryo donation, sweet…

July/August 2018: We jump into full force into the world of adopting an embryo also known as “Snowflake” adoption…..

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