I’ve been thinking about how to write this post for a very long time now as it’s never easy to share something so personal and feel so vulnerable, but it has been such a significant journey so far and how it has changed me into the woman I am today. So, I thought it was time to finally share my full story.
Last year, in my “kickboxing saved my life” post, I briefly mentioned about our infertility struggles but most of you don’t know the full story behind what’s been going on, what my husband and I have been through, what I have been through mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Baby announcements can be a lot to process these days especially if you’re having a difficult time on that journey yourself. I’ll be honest, as much as I am happy for all my friends with their baby news, I’m sorry that I just can’t get as excited as I want to be for them. There’s still a pain that stabs my heart every time. With all those Instagram posts and Facebook announcements, it can be overwhelming and quite frankly, depressing. Every picture, every announcement, every sonogram snap – it hurts. It was a constant reminder of how difficult it was for us to get pregnant. What hurt most wasn’t the actual announcements itself, but rather the fact that it seemed so easy for everyone else.
While we were on our journey towards getting pregnant, I vowed that I would be honest when my turn finally came. Because I wouldn’t want someone like me to feel that same twinge of sadness, hurt and mostly disappointment. For the longest time, I kept wanting to only share this journey once I had good news. I’ve read so many success stories online or witnessed with my own eyes. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are just as many of us (if not more) still toughing out this journey and we are the ones that need to speak up and support each other. Mine isn’t a success story, not yet anyway but I’ve learned that it’s okay. We all have our stories to tell and this is mine…
I hope that my UNsuccessful story will help more women to open up about their own story. It is sad to say the least, how common infertility is and I do not wish this upon anyone but I hope it you will find understanding and comfort that if you are going through this same journey, that you are not alone.
TRYING TO GROW OUR FAMILY
To get to where I am now, I have to share a bit of a back story. My husband and I had always wanted 2 kids that were close in age. I got married when I was 30 (he 32). Hoped to have our first child at the age of 31 and a second by age 33 (or 35 at the latest). I am now 35 (
My husand and I had to go through some tests to find out what was going on with us. Sadly, our results were less than appealing. My results. Well, the main issue was that my ovaries didn’t produce enough eggs. The average woman may produce say 20 and I only about 5-6 (and that’s with stimulation meds!). They told my husband there was nothing he could do to improve his side, except to stay as healthy as possible. At least, we had somewhat of an explanation for why weren’t getting pregnant.
To start, the hubs and I started eating healthier, taking supplements, we continued to see a TCM for herbs and I continued with acupuncture until we could start on our IVF treatments. The waitlist was rather long and we couldn’t see Dr. Virro for 3-4 months for our IVF protocol.
We finally started on our fertility treatments. Lots of needles; injections and blood work, and pills and thousands of dollars. When it came time to do the first ultrasound, it was not good news. After all that, I only had 1 mature follicle, which meant we couldn’t go through with the IVF procedure. Instead, we had to proceed with an IUI (Intrauterine insemination). FYI: One needs at least 2 mature follicles for an IVF. Although, the doctor explained to us early that the success rate with an IUI for us was nearly impossible, we didn’t want to waste this follicle and prayed that luck would be on our side so we gave IUI a chance. Bright side: an IUI is only a few hundred dollars compared to a few thousand dollars for an IVF! As expected, it failed.
Okay, so the first attempt wasn’t successful. That’s not going to stop us. We can try again. We were still optimistic and luckily that we were financially able to go down this road of IVF. I know not everyone is so fortunate. I have to thank my parents for teaching me the importance of savings!
So now this is our second attempt but first IVF protocol. It is now 2016. I go through all the needles, blood work, and pills once again only this time the Doctor has increased the dosage for my stimulation meds, which also means more money. Thankfully, my husband’s work benefits cover most of the drug expenses.
An IVF procedure is about $9K CAD and the medications can range from $2K-$4K, then there’s also the admin fees, ultrasound and blood work fees to consider. At this point, we must have spent $20-25K including the acupuncture sessions I was still continuing weekly. Each acupuncture session was $85 and I had to go twice a week, so that’s $170/week! Note, I stopped taking herbs during this time as my Doctor did not want me to mix the herbs and medications I was taking for the fertility treatment, which I can totally agree. It came time for the ultrasound and yay! we got some eggs! We also made the decision to go forward with a PGS biopsy. Preimplantation-Genetic Screening costs $1350 to biopsy 1-4 embryos fee and $250 for each additional biopsied embryo, plus a $450 lab setup. PGS is a screening process designed to increase the chances of healthy embryo implantation for by screening for extra or missing copies of chromosomes and defects that may lead to genetic disorders.
I had 4 eggs retrieved, but only 2 were fertilized. After the Biopsy, we were down to only 1 good one. We put everything on this one little bean, but sadly, two weeks later, my pregnancy test came back negative.
ROUND 3 – 2 EUPLOIDS, 1st ATTEMPT
It is now 2017 and we are on the next IVF treatments. The pressure from family, friends and even strangers were growing and not helping. This has been such a hard topic to talk about. Only a handful of people knew about our struggles. I felt like we were keeping this deep dark secret, this shame of not being able to have a baby. Meanwhile, I was reminded all the time to “don’t wait too have a kid”. I hated hearing, “when are you going to have kids?”, “you know, you’re not getting any younger”, “don’t you want to start a family?”, “don’t think about it and it’ll happen”, “you should go on vacation and relax. It’ll happen then!” Really?! If only it was that easy! Oh and the constant pregnancy and baby announcements on social media, I felt like I was drowning! All I could think was, “you have absolutely NO idea what I’m going through or what I’ve been through so just @#$% off”.
Before starting another set of needles and pills all over again, I went through an ERA Biopsy (Endometrial Receptive Analysis, $1500). It is a genetic test that evaluates whether the endometrial lining is properly developed to accept an embryo and to find that
We transferred the first and the best of the two, but sadly once again after that two-week mark, my pregnancy test came back negative. Now, I was really hitting a low. I had done everything that I could think of! What went wrong? I was struggling so much with this state of unknown and needed answers. After this unsuccessful attempt, our Doctor could only think of one reason why this attempt failed. There must be a deeper underlining issue with my immune system because everything we did was right and everything was looking positive.
We ran a special blood test to test for certain cells in my immune system. This test alone was $500! There were four different issues that they test for and the results came back positive for everything! Not a good sign. The major issues: (a) Cytokine cells, a form of Natural Killer cells were
What did this mean for me? It meant that my body doesn’t allow the foreign material produced by my husband into my system. Ultimately, no matter how many times we would try to conceive even through medical assistance, my body would reject the embryo and kill it. But at the same time, the cells that fight to protect the baby are too weak. Wow! Some news eh? So now what? Apparently, in order to resolve this difficulty, I would need to go through another set of extensive treatments in a form of blood transfusion called LIT (Lymphocyte Immune Therapy). This is where they take a small dose of my husband’s blood sample (WBC) and inject into my body every few weeks. It was every 4 weeks; however, in between every two weeks I would also have to take Humira, another injection to resolve the issues with my cytokine levels. It was now the end of 2017 and we were going into the New Year. I felt exhausted mentally and physically. With all the medications I was going through the past several months, I felt like it really took a toll on me. I needed a break. We asked our Doctor if we could wait until the spring to do the FET and he was totally fine with it. He encouraged us to take a break and rest and said that 3-4 months would be perfect. It would also allow time for the medication to circulate.
ROUND 4 – 2nd EUPLOID
Since it had been a year since our last FET, I decided I should do another ERA Biopsy just to ensure my window of implantation was at the most up to date and accurate as possible. March came around, we did the ERA Biopsy and figured the FET would happen in April. Unfortunately, the lab messed up my sample. Ugh. That meant I had to wait until my next menstrual cycle (April) and my FET would be delayed until May. Fine, no biggie. Just one month delayed. So we scheduled our FET cycle for the month of May. However, the week I started cycle monitoring, my Grandpa passed away. The emotional distress from this affected my body greatly. My estrogen and LH levels were not reaching where it needed to be, so my Doctor made the call to cancel our FET. Good call because I don’t think it would have worked considering the emotional stress I was going through at this time. So we waited until I was feeling better. It took awhile. I was grieving for months.
It is November 2018. My Doctor says my body is at it’s optimal state and that it would be the perfect time to do transfer our final frozen embryo. I felt really good about it this time, but I tried my hardest to control my emotions by staying neutral and reminded myself not to put too much pressure and expectation on this little bean. I start the cycle monitoring once again, but this time I had to do a different kind of blood transfusion, called IVIG (Intravenous immunoglobulin). Similar to the LIT I did late last year, but these are blood samples from donors. You’ll see in the photo below the bottle looks almost clear that’s because the ‘blood’ is a sterile solution of concentrated antibodies extracted from healthy people that
The day came for the final FET, my bladder is full of water and I am sitting in the waiting room just waiting and waiting for the doctor to call me in. About 40 minutes later, the doctor calls me in. Not my doctor, but that’s okay. You can’t ever expect it to be your doctor all the time that’ll do the procedure. I get onto the bed, spread my legs up and rest my feet on the handles. As the doctor is preparing for the transfer, she tells me some bad news. Our euploid only expanded 25% after thawing. Note: It should expand 100% and all of my previous ones did just that. So this was a bit disheartening, but she was still hopeful and said the embryo will have a better chance at expanding further inside the uterus anyway. So we proceeded. Well, the two-week mark is here and I go in for a pregnancy test. I receive my results at exactly 3pm that afternoon from my nurse coordinator and sadly, it was a negative result yet again. I couldn’t hold back the tears. I completely broke down. I stayed home in bed, in my pajamas sulking all day. I had done EVERYTHING! It was supposed to happen for us this time, but our bean didn’t want to wake up. Honestly, I did not think I would recover from this round, but I am. Slowly.
After having a long and serious discussion with the hubs, we decided to take a break from Western medicine and instead, we are looking to Eastern medicine and a more holistic approach. It’s time to try something different. Both the hubs and are seeing a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor in Ajax for acupuncture and herbs. Yes, you read that right – my husband too! It does take two to make a baby 😉 He and I need to be on the same diet. The first step to this diet is taking this ‘detox’ herbal tea to cleanse my body of all the toxins (as in all the western medication that I put in my body).
We are following the TCM’s instructions to the T and will see if this approach works for us. She claims she can ‘fix’ all my issues including the immune deficiencies! I choose to believe and hope that this works. There are five main aspects of personal health when taking the holistic approach; physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual. Out of the 5, my constant battle is finding that emotional balance and trying to maintain a positive attitude all the time. It’s a work in progress.
WE ALL HAVE A STORY
I share all of this with you because our fertility struggles have been an extremely lonely journey with a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions. So I hope this will help bring the topic to light more and we can all have a more open and understanding conversation about it. You never know what someone is going through, there are so many of us battling silent battles. Everyone has a story. So always be kind to one another!