Infertility Journey: Our Long Road to Pregnancy

Infertility Journey

“Infertility Journey: Our Long Road to Pregnancy” | myMindBodyBaby

Seems so easy.

First of all, for something that seems so simple (sex = pregnancy) it sure can get complicated quickly. Secondly, didn’t it seem like pregnancy lurked around the corner of every non-parent-endorsed party in high school? Infertility wasn’t even in my dictionary back then.  Then, you start trying to get pregnant and you realize there is actually only a very small window of time you can conceive.

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Uh – wait a second, those are NOT great odds.

Let’s look at some stats!
– The average couple has a 20% chance of getting pregnant each month
– In general, 70% of couples will conceive within 6 months of trying to get pregnant
– 85% of couples will conceive within a year of trying

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But what about that other 15%?

In Canada, statistics estimate infertility at 16% or #1in6. You’re considered to be having infertility issues if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a year (under age 35) or for 6 months (over 35).

Let’s get started!

We didn’t start trying for a family right away. We were married relatively young and we had things to do! Places to see! Careers to establish! Plus, I’m somewhat of a planner. (I can see my sisters rolling their eyes right now). Ok – you got me, I’m a total planner.  Therefore, when we did start trying it was timed so I could be in my new job for precisely one year before breaking our super exciting news. Seemed ideal! Perfectly planned.

Wait, what about my plan!?

Month one, no double lines. Second month, nope. Third month, nada. I started to do a bit more research.  Came across the scary word “infertility” and the stats mentioned above. Ok, it hadn’t been a year yet – not time to panic. We started to look into what else we could do to help our efforts. I added in some meditation, ensured my exercise routine was appropriate and we paid closer attention to our diet (check out Michelle’s post which includes my husband’s “Nuts for Nuts” trail mix snack).

Ok, fast forward to the one year mark. Our additional efforts were not working. Panicking.  Are we looking at infertility?

Urgent: new plan required.

I knew my family doctor was going to refer us to a fertility clinic, however, it didn’t make hearing it or the word “infertility” any easier. Barely holding back tears, I left the appointment. Walking into the fertility clinic that first time felt like I was observing someone else. Was this really us? Were we really here?

We’re not going to be one of those couples.

I accepted we had to seek medical help for infertility, but we were not going to have to do IVF. We’d do a couple of tests, have a few ultrasounds, and that would be that. Bam. Pregnant. I’d heard stories of people who just needed to have their tubes checked and somehow that opened the baby-making gates. That would be us. For sure.

“Unexplained Infertility”… the diagnosis – or lack thereof.

We did all the tests, the months of monitoring. Then came the “diagnosis”. UNEXPLAINED INFERTILITY. Wait… what? How can we “solve” this if we don’t know what we are trying to solve for? HOW CAN I PLAN? I figured we would determine something was wrong, take some drugs and then, helloooo stork! Nope.

“Our first threesome.”

I cringe as I type that. This was my husband’s attempt at an infertility joke, trying to lighten the mood during our first round of IUI. The doctor looked at us blankly. I laughed nervously while sending “no more bad jokes” eye lasers at my husband. Just get this over with.

Yeah, not happening.

After our third failed attempt at IUI, I met with the clinic’s infertility counselor. We talked about what we had tried so far and the other options out there. In my gut, I knew IUI wasn’t going to work for us. She asked if we were ready to stop trying altogether. It was then I knew we were going to become one of those couples. The IVF ones.

The Infertility Quad-fecta: Emotional, Physical, Mental and Financial Stress.

It is intense. Gearing yourself up for those nightly needles. Waiting for the next appointment to see how your body is reacting to drugs. The worry and mental anguish. The expensive drugs. The pricey additional options. ICSI? Genetic testing? Frozen storage? And on top of all that you’re expecting to go about your day to day as if everything was otherwise normal.

Cue Snatum Kuar.

Umm, who? I can’t remember how I found this lovely little ditty, but it became my go-to for daily meditation. I would retreat to our little workout room at home, light a candle, turn off the lights and go through a series of breathing and yoga moves I’d strung together to try to manage the quadfecta stress. Because infertility stress is this horrid loop. Stress can impact fertility, infertility causes stress. Repeat. Repeat.

In addition to meditation, I researched what type of exercise I could do during the various phases of IVF to help manage my stress without negatively impacting the process.

The Big Day

Retrieval day. Semi dark room, legs awkwardly splayed in the air, and what feels like way too many people staring at you. Awake, but under sedation, they insert what looks like a knitting needle up inside, pierce through your vaginal wall and grab the follicles out of your ovaries. I felt Every. Single. One. And, apparently, I respond way too well to the drugs (this, we learned, isn’t a good thing…). So they were attempting to retrieve 44 follicles.

A numbers game.

Of the forty-four follicles, nineteen were retrieved. Twelve of them were mature, all of them fertilized. Nine survived to day 3. Two made it to day 5.

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How did we get from 44 to TWO?

Apparently 44 isn’t a desirable number. It’s too many. I was overstimulated from the drugs and made too many follicles – which isn’t a good thing. Instead of your body utilizing its limited resources on cultivating a decent number of strong follicles my body went into overdrive and made a crapload of mediocre ones. My ovaries were the size of large oranges, my belly, unfairly, looked like I was 5 months pregnant and my hormones were all out of whack.

Well, this isn’t ideal.

Despite this non-ideal physical state, the decision was made to do what they call a “fresh transfer” – placing a 5-day old blastocyst back into your ravaged body. Less than two weeks later, crushing disappointment. My period.

One little guy (or girl) left.

We met with the doctor for a “post-game analysis” and discussed why our first attempt may not have worked. My husband and I mentally, and physically regrouped and two months later we transferred our last remaining embryo.

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The horrendous two week wait.

Two weeks of waiting, praying, meditating and gentle exercise to get healthy blood flowing to my good ‘ol uterus. I had calculated almost to the minute as to when a pregnancy test should be able to give us a result. Woke up at 3 am and couldn’t wait another minute. Peed on the stick… and… nothing. Ok, maybe I was too early. Dejectedly, I threw away the test and went back to bed, convincing myself I had just tested too soon.

Surprise, surprise!

In the morning I was running through the mental math as to when I should test again, and for some reason I decided to pull the test back out of the garbage. Wait a second – it was POSITIVE! Rookie move. I hadn’t waited long enough! Tripping over my feet, fumbling for the phone I called my husband in hysterics. WE ARE PREGNANT!!!!

On Cloud Nine… for a moment.

We were beside ourselves. Our immediate family, who were in on our struggles, was overjoyed. Until things started to go south. My HCG levels weren’t as high as they should be. There was a heartbeat around 7 weeks, but not as fast as it should be. It was a week before Christmas and things were not looking merry.

Back-Up Plan

One of the theories as to our struggles was that a varicose vein in one of my husband’s testis might be contributing to our challenges. We had been concurrently pursuing this line of investigation while proceeding as planned with the frozen embryo transfer. When we got the call with a surgery date we decided he should proceed with the operation, even though we had just found out we were pregnant – it would be our back up plan, or maybe it would make things easier to get pregnant for baby #2. You know me, I like a good plan.

Let me just insert this wire in your neck.

The surgery, booked two days before Christmas, was a scary one. He had to have radioactive fluid injected into his bloodstream and a wire threaded down from his jugular down to the testicle. He felt it pass through his heart, his kidneys, and go down, down, down. The surgery was out of town, and I sat in the hotel room terrified something would go wrong with the procedure, while deep down knowing I was on the verge of a miscarriage. Awful. It was awful.

Mike after surgery for a potential cause of infertility.
Mike post-surgery at the hospital.

Deck the Halls… or not.

Needless to say, it wasn’t a jolly Christmas. My husband was recovering from his procedure and then the day after Boxing Day an ultrasound confirmed our embryo hadn’t survived. Subsequently, my body wasn’t miscarrying it as it should and drugs were recommended to help expel the “products of pregnancy”.

Devastated.

We were heartbroken. Crushed. That was our last remaining embryo. Were we going to give up? Or go through that all again? We were advised that it would take three months for my husband’s “boys” to get back up to full power after his surgery. Then the doctors wanted us to try on our own again. Maybe our issues had been resolved. So after three months, we dutifully tried again. And again. Month after month. Nothing.

Let’s Go Round Two… Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots

Back at it. But with a new game plan. New medication regime. Avoiding overstimulation would be important. We would not do a fresh embryo transfer. Genetic testing would be requested. Digging down to our toes, we gathered our remaining strength and courage. We could do this!

Lyndsey at the infertility clinic.
Lyndsey before her second round of IVF retrieval.

The second round went much better. I knew what to expect, I responded more appropriately to the drugs, and I relied a lot more heavily on stress coping techniques.

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One Shot on Net

Despite all of our efforts, we were left with only one genetically viable embryo in the end. One shot. Our doctor kept repeating the mantra – “all it takes is one!”. But the odds didn’t seem promising.

And yet…

Another dreaded two week wait. Again, I broke the rules and peed on a stick at home (once more at 3am…). This time all the wiser, I knew to wait the required amount of time… and… TWO LINES! My husband had heard me creep out of bed and found me sobbing tears of joy on the bathroom floor. This time, I knew in my heart that this was for real. I said out loud, “…he is COMING! Our baby is finally coming!”.

Walking on Sunshine

This time all the tests looked good. Great HCG levels. Strong little heartbeat. Now, we had infertility PTSD and were subsequently terrified basically the entire pregnancy. But all for naught, as everything went smoothly.

And baby makes three.

At 38 weeks, Bronsen Arthur Gary Clabby joined us on July 26, 2016. In a packed delivery room (Mike, both my sisters and my parents – births in our family are quite the party…), Bronsen shot into this world (yep – he couldn’t even wait for the doctor!) and literally punched his tiny fist into the air – “Hello, world – it’s me, Bronsen!”.

After our battle with infertility, Bronsen makes his debut!
Lyndsey with Bronsen in the hospital.

Celebrate good times, come on! ♪♬

The tears flowed, the camera phones snapped. We were the happiest we could be and he has brought us endless happiness ever since. It was a rough road, but he was worth every bump and detour.

Growing our Family

Believing we would need to go the IVF route once again for a second child, I met with my REI and planned the timing to start another round.  Day 3 (the third day of her cycle – when fertility clinics usually start monitoring or investigations) rolled around and I dutifully went in for an ultrasound and blood work to kick off the process once again.  The ultrasound took a lot longer than I anticipated, and the doctor asked a lot of questions in the follow-up meeting.  She asked if I could be pregnant.  I looked at her like she had 3 heads.  Me?  Pregnant?  On our OWN?  Have you looked at our file?!

The call that came that afternoon was completely shocking.  We were pregnant.  I called my husband and his first questions was “HOW?!”.  We were in utter disbelief – and continued to be until we welcomed our second son on May 28, 2018.

Trying Again

We weren’t sure if we should “press our luck” for the third time, but after much discussion we gave ourselves a timeline to try for baby #3.  If you’ve struggled with infertility you know the endless months of “what if” can be a nightmare.  While we had two amazing children, we were still scarred by our journey to get where we were.  If we weren’t pregnant by our deadline that would be it.  Well – miracles happen.  Three times apparently for us.  We recently welcomed our daughter, Adalyn, on June 9, 2020.

Don’t give up hope. xo

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