Time TTC: Just over a year
Strategies: Clomid, IVF, Fertility Diet, Supplements, Pilates, Acupuncture
My fertility story
Infertility was never how I wanted to define my identity to the world. I have a loving husband, supportive family, health, happiness, success (damn, my life is almost as perfect as my Instagram feed). Needless to say, I have tons to be grateful for so over a year of trying to conceive shouldn’t be a big deal to me. My tear-filled episodes spent lying on the bathroom floor over negative pregnancy tests are nothing to the thousands of couples suffering 3, 5, 10 years of infertility. How dare I compare my ache to theirs? After five rounds of clomid, a couple invasive tests, and finally a diagnosis of Endometriosis (which is not good news, but at least an explanation from a great doctor and plans to conquer it), we moved forward to the next solution – IVF.
As much as I have wanted to continue living my daily routine with a positive attitude, slowly but surely life had become 1% flowy wrap dresses and lavish lunch meetings, and 99% needles, meds, pharmacies and doctors appointments while I clung on through the wildest rollercoaster ride of my life. My social appearances had diminished into moments of isolation, and my anxiety of facing the outside universe increased in fear that people don’t understand (which if you are about to start this process, beware that not even your mom will understand unless she went through it. It’s no one’s fault so do me and yourself a favor, and give her a break).
Let’s talk shots!
Although I’d stayed positive, naturally I felt a sense of brokenness in the quest for motherhood. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do the one thing that I’m supposed to do -bear children-? I knew I had to get over this overwhelming (and depressing) thought to make it through with a success story, so I shoved it aside and accepted that God had a different plan for me. I turned my self – administered injections that once terrified me into needles that empowered me each night. It sounds crazy but when you’re doing 3 daily (Follistim, Lupron and Menopur were the main go-to’s in my specific case), for 3 weeks, every night, same time, on the dot, you have to look at it this way. No, it wasn’t fun. But I reflect on the moments of my husband studying the pamphlet “shushing” me while I played my pump up Kygo Pandora jams in the background so he could concentrate to get the syringes prepped for stick time. Or the many times we had to leave dinners or events early so we could get home in time for our “nightcap” (aka injection) which will forever have a new meaning to me.
I often look at the videos I took to remind myself how far I’ve come (I documented a few so when my child is having a tantrum down the road, I’ll remember just how badly I wanted his/her screaming face 😉 ). They hurt (that Menopur was a stinger!) and sometimes even left welts and bruises on my abdomen…but each poke was one step closer to a baby, and for me, that was enough.
The egg retrieval
Sometimes I laugh at this one because in truth the only way to survive this period with sanity was to lighten up and chuckle a little. Along with three or so weeks of injections came visits to the doctor every. other. day. They want to ensure the injections are stimulating your eggs correctly and decide what meds to add, doses to increase or what not through blood draws and ultrasounds (during this time I obviously knew I wasn’t pregnant yet, but sometimes I thought if I saw one more empty uterus on the screen I’d lose it).
The doctor called us around day 16 of my cycle and basically said your retrieval surgery is tomorrow at 7:30 am. Take x and y shot at precisely 10:30 pm tonight and we will see you in the morning. Just like that, we dropped everything, prepared for the big day, and in we went. I remember the anesthesiologist being so nice to me. I’d never been put under before, and he made me feel like a champ. The next thing I knew I was awake and in pain until the nurse gave me morphine. I asked why so much pain from what I anticipated to be such a seamless procedure, and she said “well, they pricked your insides with a needle 32 times and retrieved 32 eggs…” which was a heck of a lot more than they expected. Hallelujah.Things were going in the right direction.
My doctor came to recovery and said that although the original plan was to freeze our embryos while they treated my Endometriosis, my uterus was “looking beautiful” from the past weeks’ meds so they were going to do a fresh embryo transfer in 5 days. It was the cherry on top.
The next few days were rough. Post egg retrieval bloating is no joke. I read about it but really didn’t think it would happen to me. I don’t have any indigestion or stomach issues in general and rarely get sick, so I thought if I rested, I’d totally be an exception. WRONG. I looked like a 5-month pregnant person (a pretty mean joke to play on someone who so badly wants to be pregnant if you ask me), and the way I felt was on another level. I could hardly eat because my ovaries tripled in size from the 30+ eggs (remember we usually have only one mature egg each month), and were squishing my stomach. I kept this procedure under the radar, but the few who did know spoiled me with visits, texts and flowers (one friend’s note said “congrats on your 32
I spent the next 4 or so days on bedrest, and miraculously felt normal the day of the transfer (so thankful I didn’t have Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome – which is quite common and from what I hear, excruciating). Initially, we planned on one embryo with the future frozen transfer, but after several conversations with our doctor, we decided 2 embryos was the best choice for this particular fresh attempt. We were ready.
The Embryo Transfer
We told no one about our fresh transfer. Since IVF takes some of the surprise
We listened to Coldplay as we drove down the empty road of hope to the Fertility Center where we met my acupuncturist for a quick treatment (she’s the best. She’s been my therapist, my safety net in this whole thing who I have released all my unfiltered worries, stress and sadness to the past months). Hunter got in his scrubs and met me where I was admitted. They took us into the OR so we could meet our embryos for the first time and
The 2 week wait
They say you are PUPO (pregnant until proven otherwise) post transfer so aside from hardcore rest, I had to eat and (not) drink like a pregnant person, abide all the rules and continue taking my 17+medications/vitamins/hormones. Thank god for the few people we had told – they carried me through the 2WW and I don’t know what it would have been like without them.
The 2WW was ending. I was on so much estrogen among other hormones that I was crying every other day. The kind of cry so deep you don’t know where it comes from. But it’s there, and although exaggerated, it’s real. What if it didn’t work? What could I have done wrong? What if it does work? Do I deserve it? I was so optimistic the first week, that I think come the second I entered the reality that it might not all be butterflies and rainbows and things might unravel differently than planned (duh, you’d think I’d know this by now), but I kept my head up. It was hard to resist my cabinet of at-home pregnancy tests, but I refused to be heartbroken over one more little white plastic stick. On the final day, Hunter took me to get my blood test and although there are always tons of couples in the waiting area, I particularly noticed two other women who were getting their blood drawn. I remember thinking I could be ending Part 1 of my journey, and they very well may just be starting theirs. I smiled at them, and I felt for them. I then stuck my needle-bruised arm out for my lab guy who by now was my buddy. He took what he needed, said “good luck,” and I walked away.
It takes a few hours to get the results, therefore Hunter and I spent the rest of the day attached to my phone.
We failed. Our first IVF attempt failed. One of the many things I’ve learned about the journey is to go through the motions and feel. I had to allow myself to cry, to be sad.
Finally, after a few more months and more treatment, our second IVF attempt (I won’t go into all the details again!!), was successful and we were pregnant and not with one but two babies! We screamed, cried, and went into total shock!
Where I am right now in my journey
What I learned from my fertility experience
I learned how to fight for something I love, practice patience for something that felt unreachable and understand physical, emotional and financial sacrifice for my children before I’ve even met them (I promise we’ll make up for that college fund, kids)! The reward I feel now is intensely overwhelming, for my once so empty uterus is now overflowing with life, and my once broken heart now pieced together with double the love.
What I would tell someone else going through infertility right now
I hope whatever it is you are looking for, you find your peace and patience. As my girlfriend always told me (and you suffering mamas, listen up!), “we don’t always know why God does things the way He does, but His way is always better.”
For those of you struggling in this hardship, you are not alone, and I hope that reading this has brought you some sort of strength or comfort. Feel free to email me directly (email@example.com) if you have any questions or want advice.
Find out more about Carly Kenihan by visiting her lifestyle blog or her Instagram channel.