My husband Trey and I were wed in August, 2010 at the ripe old age of 20. We dated for 6 months, were engaged for 8 months, and had been friends since Jr. High. Trey was in school to become an LPN and I was starting my own photography business. We lived on our own, in a small starter home with our cat and dog. Our only debt was one car payment, which we later sold to be debt free. In our minds, and in everyone else's, we were doing things "the right way."
Trey was raised with all of his grandparents and great grandparents nearby, while I had only one Great grandparent who passed away when I was little, one set of grandparents nearby, and one set of grandparents who were at least 12 hours away for most of my childhood. We both knew that we wanted our children to grow up with their grandparents around, and since all of ours were still alive and kickin, we knew they would be some of the lucky few to be blessed with great grandparents as well. We decided that shortly after the wedding, we would start casually trying to have kids. We're 20! How hard could it be?
The weekend after our wedding, my mother had a heart attack 3 hours away from home. A month later, my grandpa passed away unexpectedly. We realized life isn't nearly as forgiving as we had thought, and there was no guarantee our children would have the family that we had hoped for. So we decided to put a little more attention into our efforts. We started looking into pre-prenatal care, getting our lives, our finances, and our bodies ready for the challenges that come along with starting a family.
We should have known it wouldn't be easy. My own parents were married 4 years before I was born, with one miscarriage before, and it was another 14 years before my only sister was born. One cousin on my fathers side had fertility issues, and underwent several In vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatments before deciding to adopt, while another tried to conceive for nearly 10 years before resorting to IVF. Even though we knew, it still came as a shock that we were having trouble, because infertility is something that "will never happen to me."
Throughout this time, several friends fell pregnant, as is normal and expected with our age group. It became more and more difficult to deal with emotionally, to the point that I would see a pregnancy announcement on Facebook, unfriend them, and then sulk at home for days at a time. It felt like we were reaching for this unobtainable goal while everyone else we knew was just stumbling upon it by accident. Around September, I got a job offer to photograph newborns in a local hospital. This sounded like it would be the perfect cure for my baby fever, I would be around babies ALL THE TIME! It was great at first, but I was working in a low income state run hospital. I know everyone's circumstances are different - but some days it seemed like I would go room to room just to meet parent's who were almost disappointed to have a newborn. How could anyone be disappointed? You've brought this wonderful life into the world with infinite possibilities in front of it, and you're disappointed? There were several days where I would lock myself back in the office and sulk because of how horrid people seemed to be. Eventually, I quit my job, I just couldn't take it anymore.
Life went on, we continued trying, and our optimism faded more as we were disappointed month after month. Our family and friends started questioning why we hadn't had children yet, at first we told them we weren't ready - but the reaction to that was discouraging. Either we heard back "Oh good! You're too young anyway" or, "Well you'll never actually be ready, just jump into it!" So, we started being honest - we are trying, it's just not happening. Which brought on more advice and opinions than we even knew existed:
Stop trying and it'll happen
You're doing it wrong, try something else (thanks!)
Drink pineapple juice
Wear boxers, not briefs
Wait, when the good lord decides it's time, you'll have one
Eat a lot of protein
If you were meant to have kids, you'd have them by now.
Wait, it'll happen when it's time
Are you sure you even want kids?
Maybe there's something wrong with you
Keep Japanese fertility dolls on your headboard! I knew a girl who had 3 of them and got pregnant with triplets!
Take this vitamin
Don't drink Mountain Dew
Maybe the two of you just aren't meant to procreate. Are you sure you're meant to be together?
Drink this ridiculous concoction that I just made up, every morning
Get a massage just before having intercourse relaxing and visualize sperm and egg connecting
Don't take medications that cause ovulation, your body will become dependent on them and you'll never ovulate on your own
Take birth control, then skip a few pills.
Eventually, we would start to believe some of these things. I started questioning whether we really were meant to have children together. One person told me "don't try so hard, you'll push your husband away. Men don't like being stressed out and forced into situations like yours, this is your problem and you need to deal with it alone." I started thinking, what if I am forcing Trey into this? He said he wants children, but what if he's changed his mind? The thoughts kept coming, and spinning together until they had almost created an alternate reality, that had no hint of truth to it. At one point I overheard a friend of Trey's telling him, "I wouldn't deal with it, I'd have left by now." Then the dreaded thought I had been avoiding came to the front of my mind, what if my husband does want to leave me? With that, my already unstable emotions crashed. Immediately, I started accusing him of this, because what's happening in my head seemed to be reality. While he did his best to reassure me that none of those things were even remotely true, it still lingered in the back of my mind for quite a while.
Together, we came to the conclusion that we should seek real medical help, and not just webMD ourselves into yet another false reality. In August of 2011 we scheduled an OBGYN appointment with one of the best doctors in our area, with high hopes that she would be the answer to our problems. Our first appointment in November was fantastic! Dr B immediately diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which is caused by insulin resistance. The worst part of PCOS is that it is more prominent in women who are overweight, can worsen with weight gain, causes weight gain, as well as the inability to lose weight. So, here I am, stuck in this seemingly endless loop of needing to lose weight to cure a condition that prevents me from losing weight. Before I could sink into yet another pit of despair, Dr. B prescribed me a diabetic medication to help regulate my insulin, and told me it would help in removing and preventing the formation of cysts on my ovaries, and potentially help me lose weight. She also did a series of tests to make sure there were no other underlying causes, as well as a uterine biopsy to rule out cancer or any other abnormalities. I expressed our desire have children, and she said our goal would be to get me healthy, and then get me pregnant. Wonderful! That's exactly what I want!
Over the next few months I had a few more appointments with Dr B, including ultrasounds, blood tests, and routine follow ups. All was encouraging until a devastating appointment in January. Dr. B had no idea who I was, asked me if I was on birth control, and when I told her no, she snidely asked "Well do you WANT to get pregnant?" I left her office in tears. My biggest fear with going to a doctor was that we would be judged for wanting children so early, and I felt like it had just been confirmed.
Trey and I talked about everything, and decided to discuss what was happening with my cousins, who had gone through fertility treatments a few years before. Up until this point we had kept our concerns close to home, so telling others was incredibly difficult. One cousin recommended that we go and see the Reproductive Endocrinologist that she used, so we called the following day and made an appointment with Dr. Reshef. Trey and I both worried that we would have the same problem with Dr. R, we're only 22 at this point, and we know we're 'too young' to have infertility problems.
However, Dr. R was a God send. He was completely understanding of our problems, both physically and emotionally, and was optimistic that we would figure this out and we would get pregnant together, no matter how much work it took. Dr. R's goal was to produce a healthy pregnancy, that would result in a healthy baby. Immediately, we knew he was in this with us for the long haul, and was willing to help us. Again, we did several tests, and Dr R. decided our best route would be Clomid. One pill a day for 5 days, after day 6, start charting my Basal Body Temperature (BBT), and on day 10 start taking Ovulation Predictors (OPKs). If no period by day 28, come in for an ultrasound. Easy.
Something that should be known: Clomid causes puberty level hormones. It's like being 16, and on 4 periods at once. I'm surprised Trey didn't throw in the towel with that first round. I remember crying in the kitchen because I wanted to make dinner but my red skillet was dirty. I have 4 other skillets, but the RED one was dirty. (I may have also dropped said skillet in an upwards direction towards the vicinity of Trey's head, but that's neither here nor there). Despite the drastic range of emotions I was experiencing (and subjecting Trey to), we stayed optimistic. Every blog, thread, and message board I read said "If you're showing symptoms the Clomid is working!"
The Clomid didn't work. We gradually upped the dosage and tried 3 more times, did regular ovulation tests, and we continued charting my basal body temperature (BBT) every morning. I'm not a morning person, so somedays this meant Trey was taking my temperature while I was in a half-sleeping stupor. On rounds 2 and 3 we did mid-cycle ultrasounds to see if I had follicles forming (which ideally produce eggs), as well as a Post Coital test (PK test) to make sure that everything was 'going swimmingly.' We had already been advised by Dr. R that after our 4th round, we would have to take a break.
With our 4th round of Clomid (on the highest dosage possible) Dr R. suggested we do a Lutenizing hormone (LH) Trigger shot to force my ovaries to drop an egg. Since I was clearly producing promising follicles at this point, it only made sense. While shots terrify me, it's just a shot, totally worth it if it will help us get pregnant. The shot was worse than the Clomid. I was a hot mess, I cried over everything. No one liked me, everybody hated me, It'd be best if I'd just go eat worms. I CRIED AT WORK LISTENING TO GOOD CHARLOTTE. Clearly, I was 14 again.
On day 12 post ovulation, I decided to take a pregnancy test before bed. I know, I know, you're supposed to wait til day 14, and test in the morning, but I was antsy. I took a test and it was POSITIVE! Woah! I must be super pregnant if I got an early and very clear test like that. Trey and I couldn't believe it. We were going to be parents! Everything we'd been working towards was here. The next morning I woke up to an unexpected visit from Aunt Flo. We were devastated.
When I still wasn't pregnant after the LH shot and 4th round of Clomid, we took a well deserved break.
That one month was the weirdest mix of emotions. I was glad that we weren't stressing about conceiving, but I also felt guilty, what if this had been our month? What if we missed it?! After months of having ultrasounds every 3-4 weeks, I was concerned because I didn't know what was happening with my body. Was my lining thickening? Was I growing follicles? If so, which ovary was doing it? Unknowingly, being over aware of my body had become an obsession.
In May we went back to Dr. R to do our next round of Clomid. He prescribed me the highest dose of Clomid again, since it had worked before, another LH shot, and said we could do an IUI (Inter Uterine Insemination/Implantation) if I ovulated. Come on Ovaries work your magic!! With charting and Ovulation Predictor Kits I found out I was about to ovulate on July 3rd. Happy Birthday to Trey! We did the IUI on July 4th, 2013. The hardest part of the IUI was the waiting. It was completely painless, and took less than 20 minutes. But the waiting took for.ev.er.
Over the next 2 weeks Trey and I talked about what we would do if the IUI didn't work. We were convinced this was just like everything else, and we would have to do it again. The downside to that, is IUI's aren't cheap. We started looking into other options, and realized I could do Bariatric Surgery, lose weight, and that would help cure my PCOS. There are so many success stories out there about women who literally find out their pregnant the week they hit their goal weight. So we had our minds made, if this IUI didn't take, I'll do Gastric Bypass. I set up an appointment with a Bariatric Surgeon for a week after our next appointment with Dr. R (because I just KNEW the IUI hadn't worked).
I called Dr. R's office on Monday to schedule an appointment for Thursday (day 14 after our IUI, the first day I could find out if I was pregnant) and religiously took pregnancy tests everyday that week. Every test came up the same - negative. I even had one that the test line didn't show up! Was it that apparent that I wasn't pregnant?! The day of my appointment I had a faint pink line...almost unnoticeable, in fact, I thought maybe I was imagining it. I took the test to work with me in my purse to see if it got darker throughout the day. (I know, weird). I went in to my appointment on my lunch break and did a blood test to check my HCG levels. The nurse said she'd call me by 3pm. At 2pm I told Trey I was going to call, obviously it was bad news since they hadn't called me yet. Dr R's nurse called me at 3:30 that afternoon, apologized for taking so long because she had gotten busy...ok...come on! What are the results? "Well, you're definitely pregnant ...." She went on for a few minutes, but I still have no idea what she said. I'm pregnant! I called Trey immediately and told him the good news. Ain't nobody got time for cute "you're going to be a dad!" surprises when you're doing fertility treatments, so a phone call would have to suffice.
We told our parents and close friends immediately, since they were all well aware of what we had been doing. And waited the 'traditional' 12 weeks to announce publicly. At the present moment, we're still undecided if our journey to baby number two will be kept hush hush or if we will bring everyone along for the journey.