24 April 2012

My Infertility Story {Don't Ignore Infertility #niaw}

This week, April 22-28, 2012 is National Infertility Awareness Week. Last year I posted the story about my struggle with infertility on my short-lived other blog. Because so many of my readers here are new, and because I feel that Infertility is an important topic that shouldn't be ignored, I'm sharing my story again.

Infertility affects about 1 in 8 couples of child-bearing age. There are so many causes of infertility, many of them unknown. It could be from the husband. It could be the wife. It could be a giant question mark and no one knows the answer. A couple may have a baby no problem and experience secondary infertility. Some may get pregnant at the first intervention; other spend years and thousands of dollars on extensive treatment. Most often you have no idea you will experience infertility until you do.

I have a beautiful, wonderful daughter. She's seven, and she's my only child. Y'all know this, because I can't stop shooting my mouth off about it (or her). Even in the moments where I'm so tired of her; where I can't catch my breath because she is driving me crazy, she is my miracle. She's the child I wanted since I was a little girl dressing up my babies; and she is the child that, for awhile there, I never thought I'd have. Here is my story.

My husband was married before. He and his ex-wife experienced four miscarriages. After the fourth one they did some testing and discovered she had a chromosomal deficiency that caused her to miscarry after 12 weeks. She would never be able to carry a baby to term. My husband decided to have a vasectomy, to ensure she would not get pregnant and miscarry again. I think he did this partly to save his (already in trouble) marriage.

Fast-forward a few years and he is divorced and we start dating. I don't remember exactly, but I believe it was our third date when he told me about his vasectomy. I still remember the warm sun on my face and the hot sand beneath my feet when he told me. In all my youth and inexperience, I said, all matter-of-fact, "Well that can be reversed, right?" and in my head, thought, no problem. {Ah, the naivety of youth.}

(To be clear: I would not have changed the course of my relationship with my husband, even after going through all we did. I loved him already that warm day at the beach, and I love him even more today.)

About six months after we married, he had his vasectomy reversed. This was not covered by insurance and cost $5,000. It was a lot more painful than the actual vasectomy; it was a much more involved surgery. The best advice his doctor ever gave us was to bank some sperm, just in case. Vasectomy reversals have a nasty habit of scarring over, thus rendering the reversal useless. A few months later we moved to Arizona and banked sperm. At the same time they did an analysis and found his little guys were swimming, although they had "morphology" issues. (Basically, their heads were soft and might have a hard time cracking the egg, so to speak.) Phew, we thought. The reversal worked, we can start trying.

After six months we knew we might have a problem. Nothing was happening. Normally, they make you wait a year (especially for a woman my age; I was only 26). Since we knew the deck was stacked against us we went to the fertility doctor to get checked out.  He did some tests on me, a dye test and some exams and said everything was fine. He reviewed my husband's sperm analysis that was only six months old. We decided to try an intra-uterine insemination (IUI). For you laymen out there, that means the turkey baster.

I went through the month taking some sort of drug; I don't remember which one now. We got all ready, did the "harvest" shot and went in on Easter Sunday to be implanted. My husband dropped off his sample, we left for an hour and went back for the procedure (they had to get the little guys all ready). I'll never forget that woman's face when I walked back into that clinic. There was no sperm. His vasectomy had reversed itself. We would not be getting pregnant that day, nor through any "easy" method. I still remember the grief I felt that day; it was one of the worst days of my life.

The next step for us was in-vitro fertilization, or IVF. Thank goodness we had banked that sperm because without it? The doctor would have had to use a long needle and remove a cross-section of my husbands' you-know-what to get sperm out. {Shudder}

IVF is a long process. You take birth control pills for one month to get your cycle in sync. Then you start daily shots to stimulate egg growth. I was prescribed Follistim. It came in a pen, so I just had to dial the dose and shot myself up in the thigh. I don't remember any horrible side affects from the Follistim. The Lupron, however, was a different story. Lupron keeps your body from ovulating. It produces hot flashes like you wouldn't believe. (I've had hot flashes since I was a teenager and these didn't even compare. I've heard them compared to the hot flashes experienced during menopause.)

I'll never forget my trip to the pharmacy to pick up my medications. They came to me in a paper grocery bag (the large size) and cost me $2,500 after what the insurance would cover.

During the first two weeks of your cycle when you're doing IVF you're going in for blood work and ultrasounds every day or every other day. Then, when the time is right for ovulation collection, you take a shot of hCG that causes the release of your eggs in a specific window of time. The egg harvest is done under twilight sleep. Most women I'd been chatting with on the IVF message boards had been getting 10-15+ eggs for harvest. I got seven. Two of the seven eggs never fertilized. Because of the morphology issues, we had to do a procedure called ICSI, where the doctor takes the individual sperm and injects it into the egg.  (Can you say cha-ching!?)  After all that work, all I had to show for it were only five chances at a baby. (Mind you, this is after expecting to have all these little embryos to freeze for next time, if the first time didn't take. It makes it a lot easier and cheaper when you've already got frozen.)

After a few days we went back in to the clinic to have our embryos implanted in my uterus. Such a romantic place to get knocked up; me in an exam chair with my legs up in stirrups, a strange man down at the baby end while my husband sat next to me an held my hand. All I can say is, thank God for the Valium they had prescribed.

It turns out, of the five embryos, three were "C" grade. One was a "B" and the fifth was a "superstar." We implanted the two best embryos.

For three days I was on bed rest. I could come downstairs in the morning and go up at night. I could get up to pee and that was it. After two weeks (the longest two weeks ever) we went in for a blood test to check for pregnancy. My husband came home from work early to wait for the doctor's phone call. We sat on pins and needles waiting for that call. Finally when it came we got the best news of our lives: we were pregnant. We were so happy.

Even though we didn't want to tell anyone (my husband's past experiences cautioned us that waiting to tell your news is a good thing), we called our families. One of the things that IVF takes away from you is the ability to keep pregnancy secret. Everyone you are close to knows about your doctor appointments, your shots, your bed rest. You've had to take off work and had to explain why or you've gone to a dinner party and had to excuse yourself during dinner to give yourself a shot. Dealing with infertility not only takes away the romance and joy of getting pregnant but it takes away your privacy as well.

But did you know that the first test isn't a necessary an absolute positive? We had to wait two more days for another test to be sure. We did all the waiting again and got another positive result. We were finally pregnant!

Then came weeks of progesterone shots to my bottom (given by my dear husband) as well as cream insertions, and even more weeks of hoping nothing would go wrong. With his past history, we were a little skittish. But, thankfully 10 days shy of nine months after that romantic doctor's visit, we had our beautiful baby girl.

We were so happy that it had worked for us. In some ways, I consider myself extremely lucky. I only had to have IVF once and I got pregnant. I've known women who have done countless IUIs and several rounds of IVF before (if ever) getting pregnant. But getting pregnant the first time around makes you wonder. Would it happen that way again? Or, because I was successful the first time would it be harder the next time around? When you know that there is no way you're going to have a baby without such an extensive procedure, you think about what it would take for a "next time."

That day we got the call that yes, we were pregnant? I think in that moment, without even talking about it, we knew we wouldn't be doing it again. I know, for myself, if that call had been a bad one? I don't think I could have handled it. I think that feeling I had on that Easter Sunday would have paled in comparison to a "no, you're not pregnant" phone call. I knew I never wanted to feel that, ever. Because where do you go from a "no"? Do you do it again and mortgage your house? Charge it on a credit card? We spent about $15,000 on our IVF, and that was with some insurance coverage. How many times can you spend that much money before you say enough? And if we had decided to go for it again, and it hadn't worked, would I have become obsessed and wanted to keep going over and over? These are questions I still ask myself.

Having an only child when the choice for more was taken from you is a hard one. But, as much as I often long for another baby, it was the right thing for us. We are a happy family of three.

And I think I'm okay with that (for today anyway; it's an ongoing process).

Anyway, it doesn't matter. I have my miracle; my superstar.

Don't ignore infertility. Infertility affects so many people. It's a disease that makes something that should be very private something very public. Chances are, if you haven't experienced it, someone you know did. That mom on the playground who gives you a stiff smile when she sees your baby. The woman in the grocery store line, childless, whose gaze seems to linger on the baby in front of her. Or even the mom with two or three kids, who has to watch every last penny because her doctor bills are so high. Do you have a story? I'd love to hear it. Share your story with someone today. Help someone realize that they are not alone in their fight to have a child.

When I was going through the whole process, Resolve helped me. It can help you too.
For a basic understanding of the disease of infertility, click here.
For information about National Infertility Awareness Week, click here.
For information about support, check out Resolve.org.

Thanks for reading!

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At April 24, 2012 at 6:12 PM , Blogger CookieCrazedMama said...

What an amazing and brave story! Your daughter is beautiful AND a blessing!

At April 24, 2012 at 6:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You and your family are amazeingly brave! I can't imagine going through the emotional side of things! And through all of it you had beautiful little girl! Makes every minute in life a little more special!

At April 24, 2012 at 6:21 PM , Blogger Robin @ Bird On A Cake said...

I enjoyed reading your story. One of my favorite quotes is "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." We all have different trials that define us in some way. I am so glad that after all your difficulties, you got your beautiful baby girl! :0)

At April 24, 2012 at 6:23 PM , Blogger Karen - Trilogy Edibles said...

Oh hun, hugs! You're to brave to share and applaud your strength. Your daughter is beautiful, just like her mum!

At April 24, 2012 at 6:48 PM , Blogger cupsbykim said...

Dorothy thank you so much for sharing this. God had a plan for you. He has a plan for all of us, whether it's 1 child or 15 children, He knows his plans for you. I haven't experience infertility myself, but I have experienced the loss of a child. Although I think of that loss often, I too have to remember that God planned each moment of that experience and I accept that I will see him or her again some day. ((Hugs))!!

At April 24, 2012 at 6:48 PM , Blogger Cara @ The Boys Made Me Do It said...

What an inspiring story! Thank you for sharing!

At April 24, 2012 at 6:56 PM , Blogger Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust said...

Thank you so much Karen. :)

At April 24, 2012 at 7:35 PM , Blogger Hayley said...

This is such an amazing and inspiring story, one which I heard a little about on our walk :) you're so lucky to have supportive family, friends and a husband who all were in this with you through this extensive, stressful process. And thankfully, it paid off with your adorable, inquisitive, awesome daughter who will be receiving cake batter muffins over the weekend! I'm so glad you shared this story with me and the world because people need to be aware of options and know they're not alone in this. You're awesome, Dorothy!

At April 24, 2012 at 7:37 PM , Blogger Jocelyn said...

What an amazing and inspiring story!!! Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us!!! God does have a plan for all of us! He never gives us more than we can handle!!! Your sweet little girl is a superstar!!!

At April 24, 2012 at 7:47 PM , Blogger Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust said...

Thank you Hayley! That's so sweet of you. I'm so open about most things (cue chuckles and comments like, "no, really??")because if I can help one person, I've done something. :) Thanks again friend!

At April 24, 2012 at 7:49 PM , Blogger Joan@chocolateandmore said...

Dorothy, you are such an amazing woman. Thank you for sharing your story with the rest of us. The love you have for your family shows in every post you share and all three of you are a blessing. Hugs my friend.

At April 24, 2012 at 7:56 PM , Blogger Jenny @ The NY Melrose Family said...

Thank you for sharing. It means so much to hear your story. It's a roller coaster ride for sure.

At April 24, 2012 at 8:08 PM , Blogger Brianne @ Cupcakes & Kale Chips said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. We are currently trying for our second, and though, so far, we haven't had to go to IUI or IVF, just the cycles of fertility drugs, blood tests, ultrasounds, etc. are stressful. I give you a lot of credit for your strength and bravery. I've already told my husband that IVF is out for us, and I am on the fence about IUI. I just don't think my body and mind are up for it.

At April 24, 2012 at 8:15 PM , Blogger Addicted to Recipes said...

Thanks Dorothy for sharing your story. There are so many of us who have had fetrility issues, it's sad that more of us don't talk about them. Thank YOU for putting it front and centre. You have a beautiful family!

At April 24, 2012 at 10:52 PM , Blogger Kristin said...

What a beautiful story! Your honesty is so refreshing, Dorothy :)
I'm so glad you and your husband got your superstar!

At April 24, 2012 at 11:06 PM , Blogger Olah Momma! said...

I could not stop reading this story. And I am so happy it ended happily, with your beautiful, healthy girl. As opposed, I got pregnant so easy, but labor was hard (was in CS and 24-hour labor). Children are such a blessing!

Hopping by and following your FB, SU, twitter and Pinterest.

My recent posts:
Crafting >> http://olahmomma.com/blog/game-called-math-improvised-math-flash-cards
Cooking >> http://olahmomma.com/blog/sesame-garlic-spinach-stir-fry

At April 25, 2012 at 6:27 AM , Blogger Mrsblocko said...

I too was diagnosed with infertility due to endometriosis. We also found out that one of my fallopian tubes had fused itself to my intestines rendering it useless. After being given many doses of drugs that made the pain from my endometriosis ten times worse, the doctor discovered I was only ovulating on the side where the tube was sealed shut. The same fertility specialist told me that if I were to some how miraculously get pregnant, my uterus was so scarred from the endo, the probability of the fetus finding a good place to attach was next to nothing.

After my two best friends had "Whoops" we weren't even trying pregnancies, I was physically and emotionally drained. So we gave up and I went back on birth control to manage my pain from the endo. Several months later the pill wasn't doing a good job of pain management, so I went off it. My miracle happened that same day I decided to go off the pill. The doctors were baffled.

A lot of people ask if we are going to have another. We made the choice to just have the one. I wasn't sure if lightning was going to strike twice and I couldn't live through the emotional roller coaster of the monthly wishing and hoping.

My daughter turns 7 this summer and we are so blessed with our wonderful miracle.

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I think infertility is more common than people think.

At April 25, 2012 at 7:16 AM , Blogger Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. What an amazing miracle! I understand choosing not to ride that roller coaster again, way too emotional. I'm touched that you shared your story today, thank you again. Infertility happens way more than anyone realizes, unless they know someone touched by it. xoxo

At April 25, 2012 at 7:22 AM , Blogger Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust said...

Ouch, 24 hours? And I thought mine was bad! Thank you so much for visiting and reading my story. It means a lot to me that you did. :) xoxo

At April 25, 2012 at 7:48 AM , Blogger Lisa @ Sweet 2 Eat Baking said...

Aww bless you. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story. I'm so happy that the IVF worked for you first time but my oh my, I can't imagine the stress and strain this had on the both of you emotionally. I heard that vasectomy reversals only have a 50/50 chance under 6 years of having the procedure and thereafter it is very, very low.

I recently watched a TV program here in the UK called Embarassing Bodies where one fella had a vasectomy with a previous partner and had moved on, like your husband and was ready to try for a baby. He'd already had a reversal but it failed and he had no sperm what-so-ever. It was very interesting to see the procedures he went through. They managed to extract some sperm from his testicles with what looked like a giant and very frightening needle. I'm not sure whether his partner did IUI or IVF (I don't recall it mentioning) but they managed to get pregnant also. Brought tears to my eyes.

I also used to frequent (and for a long time was admin) a parenting message boards and there was an infertility section. Sadly, it was an active section. Infertility is a lot more common that believed by many people. I'm so happy that it worked for you and you have your sweet little girl. Thanks for sharing.

Sweet 2 Eat Baking

At April 25, 2012 at 8:26 AM , Blogger Aimee said...

What a very sweet, honest story! Praise God for your superstar little girl!

At April 25, 2012 at 8:41 AM , Blogger Something Swanky said...

I actually did read your story on your blog last year! I was so touched then, and I am again now. And I so admire your perspective and attitude. You wrote this just perfectly and beautifully-- I hope it reaches a very large audience!

Also (and I know this is probably inappropriately lazy, sorry...) because I've gotta get off the computer ASAP, I'm not going to go post this comment on yesterday's post, but: THANKS for the feature! Excited to be the most clicked-- that's never happened!


At April 25, 2012 at 8:42 AM , Blogger Something Swanky said...

In fact, if you don't mind, I'm going to share this on my personal blog today!

At April 25, 2012 at 11:40 AM , Blogger Rae said...

Thank you for sharing your infertility story. I too have an infertility story. I was diagnosed with PCOS. We tried 14 months of clomid and then skipped right to IVF. We got 7 embryos and implanted two. We were blessed with our daughter. We were able to freeze the 5 remaining embryos. A little after our daughter turned one we did the frozen transfer and transfered two embryos. This time we were blessed with twin boys!

At April 25, 2012 at 1:11 PM , Blogger Ellen said...

I take a page from your book today, Dorothy. Amazing strength and resolve...And, not to mention, a whole lotta LOVE. :)

At April 25, 2012 at 1:18 PM , Blogger Macaroni and Cheesecake said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. It was so encouraging!

At April 25, 2012 at 1:35 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It takes a great deal of strength to share your story with the world and I admire that. Your daughter is beautiful and speaking as an only child coming in the middle(I'm number 4) of only children 6 generations long on my dad's side not one of us disliked it! We aren't sure about my grandson yet because he is only 11 days old but the rest of us enjoyed being only children. Some of us (like me) chose it and some of us (like my parents) did not but until the discovery of rhogam shots - of which my mother was a trial participant - it wasn't possible.

Your story was very compelling and very tramatic for you - but your daughter is the proof of your and your husband's love and devotion!

At April 25, 2012 at 1:58 PM , Blogger Trish - Sweetology101 said...

What an amazing story...I cheer for your superstar and you. You have a great family of 3. I too have an only child - somewhat as a result of medical "stuff" but in the end it is our choice and I LOVE how it is, because that is how it is supposed to be. Hugs.

At April 25, 2012 at 2:13 PM , Blogger Angi said...

What a touching story Dorothy. You are so blessed with and amazing husband and AWESOME daughter!

Any man that would go through all that to fullfill his wifes life-long dream is a KEEPER in my book!

At April 25, 2012 at 3:17 PM , Blogger Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust said...

Thank you Ellen, that means a lot to me. :) Thanks so much for reading!

At April 25, 2012 at 3:19 PM , Blogger Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust said...

Thank you so much! I am an only child too, and I never had an issue. Jordan, well, she would love a sibling. So that makes it harder, I think. Thank you so much for reading today, it means a lot to me that you took the time. :)

At April 25, 2012 at 3:20 PM , Blogger Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust said...

Thank you Trish! Most of the days, I feel that way too, that it is how it is supposed to be. I just hang on for those days when the other days hit. Thanks so much for reading today, it means a lot to me. :)

At April 25, 2012 at 3:31 PM , Blogger Tracey @ The Kitchen is My Playground said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Dorothy!! I, too, have had a very LONGGGGG struggle with infertility. We are in the final stages of completing a contract with a gestational carrier (surrogate), and hopefully (sooooooooooooo hopefully) will be able to say soon that we have a 'little bundle' on the way. It's all an adventure, right? :-)
Tracey @ The Kitchen is My Playground

At April 25, 2012 at 3:34 PM , Blogger christy said...

What about your other 3 babies? The ones you didn't implant? I have always wondered what happens to them

At April 25, 2012 at 3:53 PM , Blogger Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust said...

There are a lot of options for the embryos that aren't implanted. Adoption by other couples, destroying them, or donating them to science (or the other option is to keep them frozen, but that gets expensive). Ultimately, we decided to donate ours to science; the other options just didn't feel right. They were not good quality and there was not a very good chance of them surviving, and we would have had to do a fresh cycle. Thank you so much for reading!

At April 26, 2012 at 2:50 AM , Blogger Debra Kapellakis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At April 26, 2012 at 2:52 AM , Blogger Debra Kapellakis said...

I feel joy for all three of you.

At April 27, 2012 at 4:01 PM , Blogger Mrs. Williams {Persnickety Plates} said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. We've been told there's morphology issues too but it's not something you hear about often - usually it's the woman's side. We haven't decided what we want to do yet but I really did appreciate reading this.

At April 29, 2012 at 4:48 PM , Anonymous Kate said...

I cannot even imagine going through that experience. I'm fortunate to have 3 healthy, happy girls although I did suffer 2 miscarriages as well as an ectopic pregnancy. The process of having a child is the most joyful thing but can be one of the most emotional or painful things as well. I admire your bravery as you went through the process of having your daughter. You have a beautiful family! Thank you so much for sharing your story.

At April 30, 2012 at 6:53 PM , Blogger Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust said...

Thank you so much for reading it. It means a lot to me that you did. I cannot imagine the pain of having a miscarriage. You're a strong woman! Thank you again for reading!

At June 1, 2012 at 3:27 PM , Blogger Heather Kinnaird said...

what an amazing story!

I have never been able to get pregnant, but because of this - we have two amazing children through adoption that I couldn't imagine my life without

At June 9, 2012 at 11:14 AM , Blogger Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust said...

So many babies need homes, that was going to be our next step if the IVF didnt work.

At August 1, 2012 at 12:36 AM , Blogger Vanessa Gonzalez said...

Life is tough, but you (and I) have been rewarded with beautiful miraculous daughters!

At August 1, 2012 at 6:42 AM , Blogger Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust said...

Yes, we have! :) Thanks for reading!


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