Kevin and I were married after 4-1/2 years of dating and purchasing our first house together. We had a beautiful wedding on July 21, 2007 with about 100 of our family and friends in my hometown. That November, my dad was diagnosed with GBM, a stage 4 brain tumor. On one of the 5-hour trips back from visiting him, Kevin and I started seriously discussing starting a family. I wasn’t sure if my dad had much time and it broke my heart to think that he would never meet his grandchildren. However, my dad began recovering and it wasn’t until nearly a year later that I went off birth control and we started trying to get pregnant. I remember the first month I thought for sure I was pregnant, only to get a negative test. And that began the first of many negative tests I would receive for 5 years afterwards.
We continued trying for the next year, until we went in for a consultation with my OBGYN. He agreed to run a few tests to determine the cause (including ultrasounds, blood tests and an X-Ray where they test your Fallopian tubes by inserting iodine). To my fear, no cause was found and I was diagnosed with the widely used “unexplained infertility”. So we decided to try intrauterine insemination (IUI). The first time the semen was injected, my body reacted immediately with a horrible gut ache and I spent the next 30 minutes in the bathroom and the rest of the day in bed, only to be told by the nurse that it must have been coincidence with some food poisoning. When it happened again the second time, I began to seriously question their process.
My doctor began insisting on surgery to check for endometriosis. My pre-surgery appointment was scheduled, but after thinking it through further, I cancelled the appointment. We sought a second opinion from a service called Best Doctors that allowed us to send my files and interview with a doctor over the phone. Some suggestions were given on alternate causes to look into and the doctor agreed endometriosis was not a strong concern for infertility.
We then learned of the infertility clinic in town, and we began seeing a specialized doctor. The process and the information were night and day from my previous experience! Since the new clinic focused only on infertility, I received more attention to my needs and was equipped with more information. My new doctor was also not concerned by endometriosis, and we set a plan to begin another cycle of IUI.
Around this time, I began seeing both an acupuncturist and chiropractor, hoping these alternative techniques would help kick start my body in the right direction. We aligned my spine and straightened out my neck to help reduce my headaches. We worked on my chi, I studied my basal temperature every day, cut out fruit juices and ate more strawberries. I took several bottles of herbs and burned a charcoal stick. All the appointments and instructions became draining. I was also working in more exercise since I learned that would help circulate my blood and reduce stress. Somewhere in the middle of this, my 5 year old german shepherd passed away from lymphoma. I was heartbroken that my future children would never meet her to snuggle with her beautiful coat or feel her warm kiss, and we decided to take a break.
After 5 failed IUI attempts, we consulted with the doctor on our next options. We learned more about IVF and even attended a workshop with other couples in our situation. I began to seriously doubt my ability to ever get pregnant. I thought about options including a surrogate, adoption, and just giving up altogether. IVF was expensive and was not covered by my insurance. There was an option that would give us money back after up to 6 failed attempts so we would have money for adoption. With all the information gathered, we put the plan in the background while we figured out our financial plan.
Months went by until September 2013, (a month after a major leg injury on the second day of our vacation kept me in bed feeling like my body had completely let me down on top of the infertility) when we finally agreed to start the process. We applied for loans: roughly $25,000 for 10 years. We held off on signing them, but the appointments were scheduled. Meanwhile, I changed jobs and to my surprise found out my new company had benefits for IVF! We finally felt like things were falling into place.
Up to this point, my comments have been primarily factual. The image below is a page from my IVF binder from the infertility clinic. In such simple words, it sums up the feelings of monthly rejection, helplessness of not being able to control the outcome no matter how hard you try or pray, and feeling financially like you have just bought a lottery ticket for $3,000 with a 12% chance of winning and when the results are announced, you feel even more worthless.
I am still not sure where I found my courage looking back. I know that at the time, I didn’t feel like it was much. The IUI cycles were the most difficult. All the lead up of injecting hormones and appointments start to give you hope, but when the test comes back negative, I had a splitting moment of giving everything up. And then a couple days would go by, Kevin and I would talk, and I would regain my strength. His persistent confidence that everything would work out both aggravated me and kept me going. Not once did he waiver from believing that we would have a child of our own some day. How does a person maintain this belief after 5 years of rejection? I had spent the first 4 years feeling ashamed, not wanting to share our experience with anyone. Slowly over time, I came to realize that all I could do was follow my dreams by any means possible and there was nothing to be ashamed of in that. I started opening up to my closest friends and family and that helped give me some peace.