While I might be on the other side of this infertility journey these days, there is still so much more about infertility to be shared. Infertility was part of our lives and indentity for four years and I often feel like I'm in this awkward "in between" place. Infertility raises a lot of questions even after pregnancy has occurred. But that's for another post! Let's jump into things you can't prepare yourself for while struggling with infertility!
1. The emotional toll- Nothing can prepare you for the emotional roller coaster that is infertility. Nothing. Every single month that passes yields nothing but devastation and often hopelessness. Infertility makes it hard to enjoy the joys that others are experiencing around you and this doesn't make YOU a bad person. I personally found myself avoiding uncomfortable situations. There is no right or wrong way of coping with this infrequently talked about situation. While complete isolation isn't the healthiest of choices, if baby showers make you uncomfortable, don't go. This is your struggle and no one but you understands it, unless you have an infertility support system. And even then, no two infertility journeys are alike. Try not to compare, but look to them for support, hope and encouragement.
2. The financial aspect- No matter your financial situation, infertility costs add up, even with the most basic of treatments. According to the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago, the average cost of fertility treatment is $11-12k. Most people don't have money just sitting around that's begging to be used towards something that may or MAY NOT work. If Dyson introduced a new vacuum to the market that may or may not pick up the dirt on your floors, are you buying? It's a hard decision to spend a significant amount of money on testing and treatment. Not all insurances cover infertility, in fact, most don't. We chose to do as much fertility testing as possible through my normal obgyn and a urologist, verses a referral to a specialist for this reason. With the appropriate diagnoses, some testing may be covered. But most everyone has a deductible they have to meet, before insurance covers. With that being said, there are copays every single visit. When it came to medications in our situation, Brent started Clomid around September 2016 as well as two supplements. These three medications alone cost us over $100 per month times the five months he took them. Several cycles before we started our IUI, I started Clomid alone to make timing my ovulation easier which was $50 per cycle times four cycles. The next major expense for us was having IUI performed twice. Both cycles of IUI cost just over $1000 each( $200 for the in office procedure part and a little over $800 for the semen washing). We were not quoted the estimate for the semen washing prior to our procedures, so it did come as shock to us when we received the bill. Each year deductibles reset, so time is most definitely a factor in the cost of fertility treatment. And these expensive barely touch what others going through treatment pay for. Injectable medications are so expensive. Egg retrieval is expensive. Implantation of these eggs is expensive. And let's not forget about the hours missed at work and the down time after procedures. Time is money.
3. The physical changes- Oh, the physical changes. For me personally, Clomid was a nightmare. During the four cycles I was on Clomid, I gained a good 15 pounds. And when you're only 5'4", 15 pounds is a big deal. I had heard of people gaining weight on Clomid, but thought surely I could stay on top of eating right and exercising and keep the pounds away. Boy, was I wrong. I was going to gain it regardless. And it took months to even drop a small portion of that weight. Not only did I experience physical changes on Clomid, but Brent did as well. I guess a common male side effect of Clomid is swelling, which he experienced in his legs. He naturally has lean legs, so the side effects could have been worse, but they were real. Stress also takes a toll on your body through this process.
In the end, I can say it was entirely worth it for the peace of mind that testing provided and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The four years we spent longing to add to our family made us appreciate the gift of parenting that much more and made the experience of getting pregnant so special for us as a couple.
Boy have these last 13 weeks flown by! We are a third of the way which feels so surreal. Since we kept pretty much our entire first trimester under wraps, I thought I'd share how it went for me!
Week four for me was a breeze. I had zero inkling that I was pregnant until we got our positive test during a routine doctors appointment around 4 weeks 5 days. Weeks 5-9 were essentially the same repetitive symptoms and boy were they unpleasant. By week five, nausea hit in HARDCORE. Like debilitating nausea. Thankfully, I never experienced any vomiting episodes, but I combated the nausea in a terrible way! It seemed the only thing that made me feel better was eating something every two hours. That's a good amount of food. I don't recommend it! Along with the nausea came my first food aversion... coffee. It wasn't the smell or taste, but the mere thought of coffee made me want to hurl. During my first trimester I think I drank a Starbucks decaf Americano with cream and vanilla MAYBE three times, which if you know me is super unusual. I love my coffee! As far as cravings go, I've really craved a lot of comfort type foods... soups and mashed potatoes... carbs! Again, I don't recommend my eating habits!
As far as physical activity goes, I was active most days of the week up until week five when the nausea hit. Since then I've stepped foot in the gym maybe five times. I'm a little disappointed in myself, but it's something I'm hoping to get back into as these symptoms fade in the second trimester (I'm already feeling a million times better). Weeks 5-7 I started experiencing a really stuffy nose, especially at night. At first, I attributed it to allergies but it's been a persistent thing since. I read that stuffy noses are common during pregnancy because of blood flow changes. As far as body changes, I started experiencing some serious abdominal bloat starting around week 6. I was so uncomfortable during the evenings. The extreme bloat ended week 12. One word, constipation. End of topic, lol. Oh and I almost forgot about this symptom and I have no clue how. I'm reminded every time I look in the mirror that I'm pregnant. Acne! I am not one to usually have more than one random pimple at a time, but holy cow! Pretty much my entire first trimester was spent looking like a pizza instead of a glowing, mom to be. Week 10 I began to have trouble buttoning my pre-pregnancy jeans by the evening, so I used the ole rubber band trick.
Around week 10 I also started experiencing sciatica in the right side of my hindend/tailbone. It seems to have gone away as time went on. Frequent urination is also improving. I'm down from getting up six times a night to three times during the night. Feels like winning the lottery! Aside from the nausea, pregnancy has pretty much gone as I expected it too. My outlook during week 12 is far different than that of week 9 and I'm sure as time goes on I will forget all the not so pleasant moments of the first trimester!
Brent's biggest pregnancy complaint would be how loud I breathe now. He doesn't understand the struggle of all your organs shifting lol. But I totally empathize for him! I sound like I've been running on a hampster wheel for hours just from walking up the stairs! Also, week 9 I had to buy a new bra before vacation. Essentially NONE of my regular bras fit so I've been living in sports bras and will be until right before I deliver, at which point I'll purchase bras that I won't outgrow... because there is no sign of them stopping anytime soon *insert embarrassed emoji*. I'm already a D cup 13 weeks in and can't fathom them any larger!
Well now that you know all the unpleasant details, here's to hoping the second trimester treats me nicer!
Baby Smith is a sweet little girl! You may be curious how we know so early. We found out her gender when we did genetic testing (Natera Panorama to be exact) at 11 weeks and found out the results by 11 weeks 6 days. If you're curious what genetic testing is, it's a series of maternal blood tests that determine fetal risk for chromosomal disorders such as trisomy 13,18 and 21 (Down syndrome). While Down syndrome was/is the least of our concerns, trisomy 13 and 18 are much more severe conditions and often these effected babies don't survive but a few days after birth.
You may be wondering why we would decide to do genetic testing, especially with no family history of these conditions. When you find yourself in a situation that's taken so long, things feel too good to be true. You feel like you're just waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under your feet. We asked for genetic testing purely for peace of mind. Pregnancy is stressful enough, but a first pregnancy after Infertility brings a whole other level of stress and fears.
By the time we had announced the news, we had had two ultrasounds and genetic testing that yielded our pregnancy low risk. Praise God! If our testing had yielded inconclusive or high risk results, we would have approached our announcement very differently and much more privately. You may be wondering if we would have taken action or done anything differently as far as our pregnancy goes. Not a chance. This child was no mistake, no matter what the results were. Our love for this little girl is beyond words and she was hand picked just for us at just the right time.
You might be wondering if she has a name! As of right now, we have a few names picked and plan to see what suites her best when she makes her arrival! Some think we're crazy and some totally get it, but this is how we're approaching our pregnancy and what works for us. Our moto this pregnancy has been that sometimes God gives you things that you should keep close to your heart and sacred and when the timing is right, you'll know. We have no doubts the moment we look at her, we will know her name.
By now you've probably heard the good news! Brent and I are expecting! While this has been an exciting time for us, it has equally been as nerve wrecking. This baby was conceived around the end of May and was a total shock to us. I'll spill the details on how we found out down below. Finding out I was pregnant was complete validation that opening up and starting these series of posts were necessary. I knew no matter the outcome of this pregnancy, there would be someone out there who might relate and benefit from hearing our journey. The "M" word is always in the back of my mind, I won't lie. But I will say one thing, each day feels like a total blessing to be getting to experience something that could be taken from me tomorrow. When you live for so long with constant disappointment, it seems natural to prepare yourself for the worst possible scenario, so each day that passes I'm thankful for.
I will get straight into how we found out! The weekend of June 10th, I felt crampy, which I attributed to my period starting soon. It's typical for me to feel this way. I was a few days late, but again, typical. So I went about that week knowing I had my yearly pap on June 14th. Never once did pregnancy or taking a test cross my mind. There comes a point were you just can't let your mind go there and can't handle another negative test, so I typically just waited for aunt flow to arrive. The morning of my appointment day, Brent just wasn't feeling the idea of going to work, so he decided to use a personal day. That afternoon rolled around and Brent decided he would go to Zanesville with me, which looking back it was definitely God in control of this day because this is not typical Brent behavior to offer to spend hours of his day off sitting at a doctor appointment that he didn't need to be at. So, I arrive at my appointment on time and go in. The doctor was running 30-45 minutes behind so I signed in and told the staff I was going back out to my car because the waiting room was full. Brent and I spent some quality time in the car before I decided to head back in about 35 minutes after my appointment time. When I got called back, I gave the typical urine sample for urinalysis, updated my health history, told them my last menstral period and went into a room and put on a gown. Within five minutes of being in the room, I heard a knock on the door. Surely it wasn't the doctor, I just got into the room. It wasn't. The nurse practitioner popped her head in, then her whole body and said " your urine pregnancy test came back positive!" Uhhh, excuse me? Positive? What does that even mean? I remember saying "Noooo" in total disbelief atleast ten times. Then I said "How does this happen?" To which I laugh at thinking about it now. Duh, I knew how it happened, but how did this happen FOR US. Then she asked me if I was happy, to which tears welled up as I said YES! Holding a positive test for the first time ever felt surreal. I immediately called Brent who was waiting in the car and asked him to come into the office. He came in the room and sat and I immediately handed him the positive test. I'm not sure either of us have experienced a shock like this one ever. This was NOT how I expected this appointment to go. After a good bit of sitting around and smiling at each other in disbelief, the doctor came in and congratulated us and said "I told you you would have increased fertility after the hsg test!"
We drove home in utter shock. How do you try for so long, spend so much money on fertility procedures and medications and BAM. When would seem the most unlikely timing, it happens. Brent hadn't been back on Clomid but a few days when this would have happened. The only earthly explanation is that the hsg test cleared my fallopian tubes enough that his weaker than average swimmers could make the journey successfully. Isn't it funny how God's timing is so different than the timing we would have chosen?
We had mentally prepared ourselves before the ultrasound that it might not go as we hoped, but this was a milestone for us no matter the outcome.
Monday, July 3rd we got to see our little person for the first time and see its little heart fluttering at 157 bmp on ultrasound. Again, surreal moment. I jokingly told Brent that it looked just like him. He and the tech just chuckled. The baby was measuring at 7 weeks 3 days, right in line with my last period. We left with a few pictures and we felt a little more at peace.
And again, July 24th, we got to see our little miracle on ultrasound at our first prenatal visit. The baby was measuring right on track at 10 weeks 3 days and a heart rate of 167 bpm. This time things felt much more real. Just when I thought things couldn't get more surreal feeling, they did. We could see its little arms wiggling all around and its facial profile. I had never seen Brent's face light up with so much excitement as he filmed the monitor.
Thank you all again for your continued support and sharing in our excitement that this otherwise painful journey has become! It means the world to us knowing so many people care.
Today, I wanted to talk about the first two years of our journey and why it was an absolute blessing in disguise that pregnancy wasn't in our cards. Brent and I had been dating for about 4.5 years when we got married in September 2012. That's a good while to get to know someone- when you're both adults not teenagers. We both had no idea how much growing up, responsibility, and adulthood would change either of us at 22 when we tied the knot. We were either going to grow together or grow apart. We struggled the first two years of marriage and had many demons to face. There was a lot of anger and resentment. Being totally naive I thought, maybe parenthood would soften Brent's heart, but boy am I glad we had those first two years without a child in the mix. Marriage is its own kind of adventure and we needed time, lots of time to work out the kinks, reestablish our priorities and rebuild our spiritual foundation. We sought counseling, both attended church support groups and learned how to communicate better. It's amazing how different things can be when you actually put in effort and don't give up the fight, which we were on the brink of. We had a lot of nights of just bawling our eyes out in our one bedroom apartment in a new town with no family and very few friends, yelling about how the other person wasn't the person they thought they married, and feeling complete hopelessness for our future until our breakthrough. Growing up and finding your own identity, exploring careers, and moving away from family all while being newly married can take its toll on a relationship. Getting married young is a beautiful, often catastrophic thing. And thankfully God knew what he was doing keeping a baby out of the picture during our first two years. Those years were critical to the people Brent and I are today, the people that so excitedly and longingly wait for baby Smith. As hard as it feels in the moment, God's plan for your life is so much bigger and better than anything you could fathom for yourself. It's the hardest thing deciding you're going to relinquish all control and give it to him. Some things you're not meant to carry alone. I only finally started to feel at peace with our situation when I realized no matter how hard I tried or planned, my timing didn't matter. By no means do I regret the things we've done along the way, failed IUI's, testing, appointments, etc. These were all necessary stepping stones that revealed things to us about our health, gave us answers and peace of mind, and taught us how to be better people.
Before our own infertility struggle, I would never have given it a second thought about asking someone if they wanted children or when they would start a family. I think those are common curiosities people have. But being on the other side for 4 years now, it stings every single time we get a question about the one thing we've longed so long for. I know intentions aren't vicious, but it's just one more reminder that we have zero control in the timing of starting our family. I know God has a plan for our lives, but we would all be lying if we said it didn't make us happy when things happened on our good timing. And what sort of response do you give back to someone who's curious? Do you open that can of worms and say " we're struggling with infertility" and leave that person feeling awkward and guilty for asking? Or do you simply say "someday"? I often find myself saying the second. Is it a lie? Quite possibly. How am I to know where this infertility journey will take us? Maybe God's got bigger plans for us than to be parents. But it's the least alarming answer for the recipient.
I can remember at a recent Christmas, a relative came up to me while I was holding a baby and said "are your ovaries burning?" I can remember feeling my heart sink into my stomach. I knew they weren't being cruel, but it felt like pouring salt in a wound. How do you even respond to that? I didn't. I sat there holding this little person in pure and utter shock. Words didn't come out and I forced a smirk after what felt like an eternity of awkwardly sitting there.
I feel like the awareness for people who've never struggled with or known anyone to struggle with infertility doesn't exist. Sure, some people will never have a filter even if they knew someone was struggling, but I like to believe most people would be more sensitive if they knew. I find that being asked "do you WANT children?" is a totally valid question. It's a yes or no question. If someone says "yes", leave the question alone. They will tell you more if there is more to tell.
When do you want to start a family?
Your clock is ticking!
You and *insert name* better get busy!
Don't you know how babies are made?
It will happen when it's supposed to.
Quit trying and it will happen!
Just don't think about it.
You have too much time on your hands. You need kids.
I have heard all the above statement and believe me, they cut like a knife. Smiling and simply saying "I'll be praying" and "God knows the desires of your heart" are perfect ways to handle awkward infertility statements someone might throw at you if they're open about their struggle. So to those struggling, have compassion for someone who might seem insensitive to your situation, they likely don't understand your struggle. I often found myself feeling bitter towards people when they said or did things early on in this journey because I was overly sensitive, which I think is a normal response to dealing with something so painful. But before you react, take a step back and put yourself in their shoes. Likely, they want what's best for you and if they knew their words were hurting you, they wouldn't have said them. Maybe, also, it's time to start filling people in on what's going on in your life. It's not easy. It took several years for me to admit the small detail that I hadn't been on birth control to close relatives, let alone spill that we've had every testing imaginable and undergone two failed IUI's. It takes time, but once the cats out of the bag, a weight almost feels lifted and you don't feel so alone.
Moral of the story, be kind. Everyone has a struggle. And don't be so quick to let things hurt you, you're stronger than that.
Hello! Welcome to the latest addition to my blog! If you're already familiar with my blog, welcome back. If not, my name is Beth. I live with my husband, Brent, in central Ohio and started this blog a few years ago as a way to document and share our home renovation process (does it ever end? Lol). Here I have linked a timeline of events during our journey which might make it easier to follow along with this post.
March 29, 2008- Beth and Brent began dating
September 11, 2011- Beth had exploratory laparoscopy due to painful, irregular menstral cycles. Revealed small ovarian cyst and no endometriosis.
September 8, 2012- Beth and Brent got married
June 2013- Beth discontinued NuvaRing
April 7, 2014- Beth expressed concern to the ob/gyn during an annual visit as to why pregnancy had not happened yet, but decided to give it more time.
May 11, 2015- Again, during an annual, Beth expressed concerns and requested lab work be completed. Lab work came back normal and continued to keep trying without intervention. Beth knew Brent needed to hear the fertility options, so he came along for this visit. Around this time Beth began tracking ovulation and CM.
May 16, 2016- Yet again, during Beth's yearly exam (Brent in attendance), concerns were addressed and the decision was made that Beth would start Clomid to regulate ovulation (even though no known ovulation problems existed) once Brent completed a semen analysis.
May 28, 2016- Brent's semen analysis came back abnormal. There were only 7% motile sperm. A referral to a urologist was made and Clomid was not started.
August 31, 2016- After the consultation with the urologist, Brent was started on Clomid three times weekly (M,W,F) and on Q10 and L-carnitine. He would need to continue these medications for a minimum of 72 days (number of days it takes for sperm to mature and a fresh "batch" to be produced) before another semen analysis could be performed.
November 30, 2016- Follow up with the urologist revealed a much higher motility of 32%, but a decrease in sperm count. Brent would continue on the Clomid and supplements.
December 6, 2017- (Beth's birthday!) The first IUI (intrauterine insemination) was performed. Both Beth and Brent were on clomid this cycle to allow for optimal ovulation timing. Semen analysis post wash revealed better results than November's. IUI failed.
January 6, 3017- Second IUI was performed. Both were on clomid this cycle. Semen analysis revealed promising results. IUI failed. Brent stopped Clomid after this cycle for an upcoming physique competition in May. The decision was made to not continue with a third and final IUI, but rather take a much needed break from trying.
April 3, 2017- Ob/gyn follow-up- lab work was ordered and hsg test scheduled for Beth. Ovarian reserve and all other labs came back normal.
April 14, 2017- Hsg test was performed and came back normal. Both fallopian tubes were open and normal shaped uterus. Told that there would be an increase in fertility for the next three cycles post-hsg test due to fushing of the fallopian tubes, making it easier for weak sperm to access. Next and final step, a referral to a reproductive specialist would need to be made.