Disclaimer: I am long-winded and tend to ramble. This is by no means a medical opinion and I do not claim to be a doctor. It is simply a story of a girl who loves a boy and together, they want to create the miracle of life.
The thing about addiction is that it is all-consuming. It overwhelms you, your thoughts, your daily activities. It becomes a part of who you are. It is the highest of highs and the absolute lowest of lows. I’m talking the euphoria of walking on top of the clouds and the ethereal happiness that somehow transcends this world. It’s the highs that draw people back to the very driving force of the addiction. The highs are what we “live for”. But, why does addiction always carry a negative connotation? It’s always alcohol, drugs, pills, sex…but why? Why not pie? You may get a little plump and need some extra cardio, but weirder things have happened. Or, in my case, hope?
Webster defines hope as “to cherish a desire with anticipation”. A desire with anticipation – a wish for something – a yearning for a specified outcome. When you hope for something, a particular outcome, and it continues to be unfulfilled – that’s a low I can’t even begin to describe. Especially when it happens again and again and again. But the highs that come with hope – the excitement, the possibilities, the dreams – that’s what keeps us coming back even after the lows. Even if there’s no end in sight, HOPE pushes you to continue.
Infertility is something so many couples struggle with, yet so few talk about. It’s like the scarlet letter of relationships. When your body can’t do what it was created for, the single most important purpose of a woman’s body, the fear sets in. Along with a slew of other emotions. It is the most difficult thing Chris and I have had to cope with as man and wife. Throughout our journey, I have been blessed with some amazing influences and confidantes. It’s these unexpected people in my life that have made the difference between my falling apart and continuing to push towards our dream. I am hoping that sharing my story will not only fill the gaps for my family and friends, but also that it might bring a little comfort to another couple. That it might bring a little hope to their hearts. I can’t promise my story (or yours) will end how you want it to, but I can promise you will learn a lot about yourself, your strength and you might find some unsuspecting support along the way. It’s a long and difficult journey – one with lots of highs, heart-wrenching lows, but a lot of hope.
Chris and I’s story starts about 2 years ago when we decided we were ready to start our own family. We wanted the baby-making to be fun and exciting with minimal pressure. 1st step – come off the pill. I made my annual appointment at my OB and had the “family planning” discussion. My OB was getting towards retirement so I made appointments at other practices. We were in no rush – so we took our time finding the right doctor. About 6 months in we realized my cycle had become more and more irregular to the point where it was non-existent. My body had also changed – I put on weight and started breaking out like I was going through some sort of brutal adult puberty. All things I chalked up to coming off the pill.
We had decided on my new OB and met with Dr. V to talk about those changes and plan for pregnancy. After running multiple tests and vaginal ultrasounds, I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). We were told that because I’m young, it shouldn’t interfere with getting pregnant. Dr. V decided to give us a little extra push to kick-start my cycle.
I started on oral fertility meds. I took 1 medicine to kick-start Ruby and another to help with ovulation. Our plan was oral meds, ultrasounds to monitor follicle development, trigger shot, timed intercourse, positive pregnancy test at home. We were excited and hopeful. This was it – we only needed a little extra to get things going. We finally had some answers and a fool-proof plan to get us our babe. I was only 27 years old – how could this not work?
This went on for several months, each cycle ending with a negative test. The excitement around test-time started wearing off and I became more apprehensive. With each negative test comes new heart-break, a new crushing of your hope and you lose a little piece of your spirit. It never got easier. There’s the build-up of excitement imagining a tiny embryo inside your belly, the nervous excitement as you pee on the stick and the giddiness as you wait for the results. Then comes the crushing blow of that stupid little stick that held so much hope for you. Around the holidays, fear and panic started setting in as we realized this wasn’t working – we didn’t need a doctor to tell us that. We met with Dr. V for one last try. This time looked like our best shot - follicles were on point, I felt good, and it was my favorite time of the year.
We made it through Christmas surrounded by family, love and happiness. We shared with our families what was happening, filling them in on the process. We needed some extra prayers. Everything seemed to be coming together and it seemed like the right time. We couldn’t wait to get home and finally see that little plus mark on the stick.
It was negative.
Dr. V had done everything he could do. He was surprised. He had never had a couple so young that he was unable to help. He suggested we meet with an RE at a fertility clinic to discuss specialized treatment for infertility. We were heart-broken.
We knew what we were working towards. We knew, above all, we wanted to be parents. We want our own child. We knew that whatever it took to get there would all be worth it in the end. We knew that whatever came next would work.
Bring on the RE. We met with Dr. T in January and immediately scheduled a saline ultrasound and full blood panel. At this point, we didn’t want to waste any more time. We decided to move forward with an IUI (artificial insemination). Turkey-basting” as my father jokes. In gearing up for the actual IUI procedure we had more oral meds, ultrasounds almost every other day to measure follicles, trigger shot, IUI and progesterone supplements after the IUI. Test 2 weeks later with blood work. We always tested early before blood work because we wanted that to be an experience we shared. That moment when we turn the stick over and see the plus sign together…
March 1st – Our 1st IUI.
|Waiting for our 1st IUI|
March 15th blood work confirmed the worst – it didn’t work. I got the call sitting at a nail salon with my sister-in-law while we were getting manicures for the St. Patty’s Day downtown celebration. I fought back tears the entire way home. The floodgates opening only when I saw Chris. This was SUPPOSED to work. We are young. We only need a little help. This was our plan.
I was devastated, confused and questioning everything we were doing. It was one of my favorite celebrations of the year, so I cleaned my face, hugged my husband a little tighter and put on my green drinking mustache. If I couldn’t have good news that day, I might as well have a green beer.
After a lot of research and consulting with Dr. T – I started acupuncture to prepare for our 2nd IUI. Acupuncture is supposed to increase the chances of success with fertility treatments and I would have tried anything at this point.
April 4th – 2nd IUI + acupuncture
I went to acupuncture every week leading up to test day
|Hopeful - IUI #2|
April 18th – When I went in for bloodwork that day I lost it with one of the nurses. All the tears, all the fears, all the hope came crashing down on that poor lady. The at-home test the day before had been negative so I already assumed the worst and I thought I had prepared myself for the worst. There is something so vulnerable about being so exposed and putting the hopes of your future in others’ hands– relying so heavily on these doctors and nurses to fulfill your dream, putting all your faith and trust in their hands, the results of your test from their voice. I asked about the chances of blood work telling a different, more desirable story. I asked about the chances of a 3rd IUI being successful. I asked about how other women cope with this. I got the call at 11:15 that morning at work. “Hi Whitney, unfortunately…” – I don’t remember anything past that. It was one of the saddest days of the last year and a half.
Chris and I had a very quiet weekend and took some time to be with each other. No words needed. Just tears. The occasional hand-hold. Warmer hugs. Deeper kisses.
We had told ourselves that if this did not work, we would move on to IVF. I was having a personal struggle with this choice. I never actually thought it would come to that. That was plan D – it wasn’t really in the plans because A, B or C would definitely work. It seemed like we were playing God and interfering too much with a process that should happen naturally. It seemed so cold and medical, lacking all the excitement of a typical pregnancy.
Enter one of those unsuspecting influences. Around this time, I had lunch with one of my girlfriends whom I had known for the last 4 or 5 years. I knew she had her own struggles with starting a family, but I didn’t know the extent or the details. Our mutual friend convinced me to reach out for support and guidance. I was at a breaking point after the last failed attempt and needed to talk with someone that could breathe a little hope back in me. Meeting her for lunch has been one of the best decisions I’ve made throughout this process. We had the most honest, open and personal conversation about our experiences, emotions, other friends, expectations, fears, and hope. We talked about how scared I was to do IVF – how it feels so intrusive and against God’s will. How, to me, it feels so unnatural. She gave me a few bits of advice I won’t forget:
- 1These choices all seem so overwhelming and monumental in the moment, however, once you are holding your child it won’t matter how you got to that point.
- 2It’s a means to an end – don’t forget what you want in the end.
Two very straightforward and logical pieces of wisdom that I’ve remembered every day since. I cannot forget why we are in this journey. A means to an end. There will be an end and we will be parents.
You would think I was OK moving forward with IVF at this point. I was not. I needed one more chance. Third time’s a charm. I wanted to give my body the chance to do what it was meant to. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well, I never said I wasn’t a little insane… We talked with Dr. T about switching from oral meds to injections with an IUI – to change things up. The doctor and nurses pushed back because PCOS + injections = increased chance of hyperstimulation and multiples. I’ve never taken NO for an answer, and I certainly wasn’t going to start that day. So, I took matters into my own hands, and at the recommendation of my girlfriend from lunch, I reached out to her doctor on a hail mary. I emailed Dr. Meyer after arguing with Dr. T’s office all morning. Ruby was getting ready to start and I didn’t want to miss this cycle. I didn’t want to sit around for an entire month questioning my decision. To my surprise, Dr. Meyer responded (almost immediately) and was going to squeeze Chris and I in the next morning.
The only thing my hormonal self could do was cry. I am not a super religious person and have always felt more comfortable praying in the comfort of my own home, my own bed, than in church. In this moment, I felt a prayer had been answered – someone was listening. I prayed for a sign that I was doing the right thing, making the right choices. This was my sign.
Chris and I met with Dr. Meyer the next morning. In that 45 minutes, we decided to switch practices and start working with the team at Carolina Conceptions, we decided to move forward with injections and 1 last IUI.
Injections are no joke. I didn’t think the emotional and hormonal rollercoaster could get any higher or lower, but it does. It’s like injecting yourself with a daily personality. Which Whitney will come out on the other side: cry at anything Whitney, bitch Whitney, annoyed Whitney, depressed Whitney, optimistic Whitney, bossy Whitney? My poor husband – it’s like he wakes up every morning and spins a Whitney wheel to see which wife he gets for the day. Some days I think he’d trade me in for “not talking today Whitney”. Not to mention the discomfort of sticking 1, sometimes 2, needles in your belly every single night. The burning of the ganirelix. The bruising at the injection sites. And then we remember, it’s a means to an end.
We also discovered during this time that Chris doesn’t really like doing the injections. And, by “doesn’t really like” I mean he gets so freaked out that he paces, turns pale and takes a couple of practice swings with the needle before stabbing me. Luckily for me, my PA sister-in-law lives 100 feet away. Kristin has been part of this journey almost since it began. She wasn’t just a supporter and cheerleader anymore, but an essential part of my daily routine. Shot by shot, we filled my belly with meds to help us make a babe. Even in the car, in the middle of a semi-hurricane, on the way to the beach – she gave me hope.
May 9th – our 3rd IUI + acupuncture
|Our final IUI Attempt|
Hopelessness sets in. That euphoric excitement at the possibility of being parents, of being pregnant, of decorating a nursery, of picking out names, of going to t-ball games and dance recitals comes crashing down to the reality that is. You cannot create life on your own. You cannot make a baby. You may never have your own baby. What then? I’ve seen the flyers around the doc’s office about “coping with child-less living”, “choosing gestational carriers”, “all you need to know about adoption”. Is this really what’s in store for us – child-less living?
The thing you need to know about me if you don’t already, I’m a “prepare for the worst case scenario” type person. My husband is an optimist. I think our world is ending and he reminds me that it’s one more battle to win the war. It’s one more hurdle to cross the finish line. He reminds me that it will help us appreciate each other and our future child more than we would had we not journeyed through the land of infertility. We needed this. I needed this to be more appreciative. Appreciative of my husband, my life, the people in my life…
I’ve always been a bit of a selfish person and I’ve always gotten what I wanted. Until now. So as a woman, this experience has been humiliating and as a person, it’s been humbling.
With the devastating news of the last failed attempt, we had some important decisions to make. To IVF or not to IVF?
And so our journey continues. We went in for the IVF counseling and medication classes. We did all the blood tests. We learned that Chris does not react well to seeing my blood drawn. Down he went at the lab at Carolina Conceptions. Of course, my “worst case scenario” personality kicked in and I panicked. I wasn’t far behind him and before lunch we had already become legends in the office. The first couple to both pass out during a blood draw!
Chris and I just finished the daily injections for our 1st IVF cycle (with the help of Kristin). We had to start them in Wilmington at the wedding reception of good friends. We snuck off to the bathroom, mixed the 5 vials of hope, lifted my dress and into my belly went our 1st dose of hope for this cycle. At a celebration of love, we began this new adventure with renewed spirits and a sense of excitement that’s been unmatched. Though some of the wedding guests probably had their own ideas of what was happening in that bathroom - baby-making of some sort…
|Right after our 1st injections for our IVF cycle|
My belly is sore at the injection sites and my ovaries swollen to the point where I am uncomfortable and nauseous. We are exhausted financially, mentally and physically. But, I am in the euphoric high of my addiction. I am excited for the possibilities. I am dreaming of my future child. Tomorrow morning is our egg retrieval surgery and we will know by the afternoon how many possibilities they were able to retrieve. We are doing a fresh cycle so our transfer will be either 3 or 5 days after surgery and then we wait. The waiting is the hardest part…
The doctors will warn you of the expense. They will give you your options. They will tell you about the side effects: mood swings, pain, severe cramping, dehydration, burning with the shots, and the list goes on.
What they don’t tell you is how it strengthens the love between you and your husband. I love my sweet husband more today than I did the day I married him. His uncanny ability to make me laugh when I all I want is to cry and be the strength I need to keep going when I want to throw in the towel is an indication of the father he’ll be to our children. I admire and respect him more today than I did the day I married him. It’s not an easy journey and we aren’t perfect. There is no right way to handle this struggle. We fight and say things we don’t mean. But, there is no one in this world I would rather have by my side through this than him. Chris is my rock. He keeps me laughing, he keeps my dreams of motherhood alive and most importantly, he keeps me hopeful.
They don’t tell you about the support you’ll receive from the most unexpected people. Friends of friends that you don’t know will show you pictures of their IVF miracles. The random notes of encouragement and sweet treats remind us that we are loved by many. The spontaneous lunch dates with manis help me de-stress and focus on the positive. I have found some of my best friends and much needed strength through my friends at work. No one, other than Chris, knows the multiple hormonal personalities of me better than those women. They have been through every single step with me. They have been there every single day with open ears and empathetic hearts. They have celebrated the milestones with me, comforted me through the devastation and heart-break, and pushed me to make hard decisions despite my valiant efforts to be indecisive. They have helped me find strength I didn’t know I had. These girls have been the support system I needed to survive the unknown. Even though infertility might not have affected them personally – they make me feel normal.
Some advice: step back and take inventory on the people in your life. If they don’t make you happy, if they don’t make you laugh, if they don’t bring you joy or they don’t challenge you to be a better version of yourself – don’t waste your time or breath.
We ask that you include us in your prayers tonight and tomorrow morning– the more prayer warriors we have with us the better chances of realizing our dream.
So, as we sit here and pray on the eve of one of the most important days of this journey, I am hopeful.