Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Timeline

The Timeline (Bah-bah-baaaah!)
Here is the timeline of our trying to conceive.  I know it's a little wordy, so feel free to skip.  But it's here for our own reference and for those that might want to know our story, and to encourage those who may also be having difficulty.  I put a lot of hyperlinks to explain medical jargon that has become commonplace to us, but not-so-commonplace for those who have never dealt with this issue.  If anything is still confusing and you are curious, feel free to ask!  We're pretty open about all this.

April 2010 This is where it all started.  We began "trying".  And as everyone says when they first start "trying", we weren't "trying", but we were going to "see what happens".  Whatever that means.  We didn't tell anyone because we wanted it to be a surprise. 

October 2010 6 months later, Amanda told her sister.  It was no fun to keep it secret anymore, and it was way too hard to keep a secret from her sister!

November 2010 Amanda's periods became so painful she couldn't eat or work.

December 2010 We stayed home for Christmas because Amanda's pain (both physical and emotional) had gotten worse.

January 2011 Amanda went to the GYN (gynecologist) for painful periods and to discuss concern over not being pregnant.  Doctor prescribed Progesterone cream for the pain and told her to come back after it had been a year.  Amanda went to urgent care for pain in her back that wouldn't go away.  Doctor told her to take ibuprofen.  (P.S. she HAD been taking the maximum dosage of ibuprofen for months already.  Thanks a lot, urgent care doc!)

May 2011 Amanda went to the GYN for an exam (it ended up being a different Nurse Practitioner, because apparently Amanda's doctor moved), during which something was found.  The doctor ordered an ultrasound to explore what she had found during the exam.  Doctor prescribed narcotics for pain with periods. Amanda also told the doctor about her back pain, which the doctor said should be treated by a chiropractor. (P.S. Amanda had already been doing that.  Thanks a lot, GYN!)

June 2011 First ultrasound found a 5cm cyst in left ovary (Amanda looked it up on Google; the size of a kiwi!  Amanda and her sister fondly referred to it as her "kiwi" from there on out".  Waited 6 weeks for next ultrasound.  Went to see GP (general practitioner) about digestive problems and back pain, which the GYN had said were not related to the cyst.  Doctor performed tests for parasites and kidney stones, both negative.

July 2011 Second ultrasound found that the cyst had not resolved itself (had to call the doctor for that info, since she didn't contact us).  Back pain was unbearable at this point.  Amanda had been unable to sleep for months because of it.  Boo.

August 2011 The GYN referred Amanda to a surgeon, who suspected she had endometriosis and would need surgery.  3 days later she had laparascopic surgery to remove the cyst.  The 45-minute surgery turned into 3 1/2 hours.  The doctor determined that she had Stage 4 endometriosis, and that the cyst was larger than originally thought.  She had a lot of adhesions on her organs and intestines.  He was not able to fully remove all of the endometrial lesions and adhesions. 

September 2011 Amanda was put on a 3-month long treatment of Lupron Depot to treat the rest of her endometriosis.  Due to the damage to her reproductive system, the surgeon highly recommended seeking treatment with a fertility specialist. He also emphasized that while there is no cure for endometriosis, pregnancy has been found to put it into remission in many cases.  We had our first visit with the fertility doctor to discuss options and make a plan.  Doug was tested; results came back fairly normal.

December--January 2012 Birth control to ensure that the Lupron was out of Amanda's system.

January 2012 HSG (hysterosalpingogram) that was fun.
February--March 2012 Used OPK (Ovulation Predictor Kit) to try naturally one more time.

April 19, 2012 First IUI (Intra-Uterine Insemination), failed

May 15, 2012 Second IUI, failed

June 6, 2012 Had a hysteroscopy and in-office HSG.  Met with doctor about IVF (In-vitro Fertilization).  Set up a schedule.

June 9, 2012 IVF medication arrived.  Amanda started her first injection of Lupron, which she will continue daily until around the end of July.

We will continue the IVF process through July.  Hopefully we can keep you updated as we go.  :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


"Smile, because you have someone who loves you and wants to start a family with you.  And that is something some people will never have."

That is how a fertility doctor concluded a recent informational meeting that we attended.  What he said is so true.  Given our circumstances, it's easy to focus on the negative.  But the fact is, given the choice between having a baby or spending the rest of my life with my husband, I would choose my husband.  Because we are best friends.  Because he has been there for me through thick and thin.  Because even when our kids grow up and move away, it will be just the two of us again.  I need to choose EVERY DAY to be THANKFUL for what I have.  And to trust in God's plan for our life.  And to choose hope.

Happy anniversary, Doug.  It's been an amazing 8 years!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Invisible Struggle

February 2012
Last month, I went to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned.  I settled into the reclining chair as the hygienist clipped a bib around my neck.  We made small talk as she examined my teeth and prepared them for cleaning.  Then the conversation turned where it inevitably always ends up.

"Do you have kids?"
"No, not yet." I replied.
"Do you WANT kids?'

Do I want kids?

Does she have any idea what she is asking?
Does she know how long we have been trying?
Does she know I recently underwent surgery to treat the cause of my infertility?
Does she know how many nights I cry myself to sleep, how many times my husband has held me as I cry uncontrollably, how many emotional breakdowns I have had, that come out of nowhere?
Does she know that I have underwent hormone therapy to treat my condition?
Does she know that my husband and I have a two percent chance of conceiving naturally?
Does she know that I WANT kids?  That I ache for a child with my entire being?

The pain for me is so real, both physically and emotionally, that I am taken aback to discover that outsiders have no idea what is going on with me.  From my perspective, it seems that my disease is visible to the outside world, that it can be identified by strangers.  But it can't be seen.

Someday, I hope to be able to pull out a wallet with a long accordion-fold of pictures to show every person who asks, "Do you have kids?".  Until then, I'll remember that that painful question is not intended to harm or poke fun.  It's just small talk.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Backstory

December 2011
Hi my name is Amanda.  I’m 26 years old, and I’m medically infertile.

My husband Doug and I were high school sweethearts, and I’m pretty sure at least a couple of people thought we must have been pregnant when we got married because we were so young.  We both went to college and got degrees, all the while choosing to put off a family in order to be financially ready.

When we both had graduated and started our careers, we began trying to have a baby.  We had been married for 6 years at this point, and had endured as many years of that question, “When are you going to start a family?” 

We tried to time it perfectly so we would have a baby sometime in May, because I am a teacher and wanted the whole summer to bond with my baby.  I had heard that it can take up to 6 months for birth control to get out of your system, so we even planned for that.  I look back and think how silly it was that we were trying to orchestrate every detail of family planning.

Every month was disappointing, and the negative emotions increased with every negative pregnancy test.  In addition, my periods became more and more painful, until I had to take time off of work and even avoid family gatherings around the holidays due to the pain from my cycle.  I saw my doctor, who put me on a Progesterone cream in hopes that it would help with the pain.  It didn’t.  I started having excruciating back pain on a daily basis.  I thought perhaps I had a kidney infection and went to Urgent Care, only to be told to take ibuprofen. 

I followed his advice for 9 months, and finally got fed up with it.  I was taking 2400 mg of ibuprofen a day for 9 months, and doctors didn’t seem all that concerned.  I finally got an ultrasound, where they found a cyst on my ovary.  My doctor told me to wait it out.  All the while, I couldn’t sleep, eat, or function, and fell into a depression.  She was convinced that my back pain was unrelated to the cyst, so I went to my family practitioner to endure tests for kidney problems, parasites, pulled muscles, etc.  She gave me muscle relaxers and narcotic pain killers.  Nothing provided an answer or relief. 

In August, I was finally referred to another gynecologist who immediately diagnosed me with endometriosis and scheduled laparoscopic surgery three days later.  I couldn’t wait for the surgery; the pain I was feeling was so intense.

When I woke up from my surgery, I was in a fog.  I knew right away that my pain was gone.  Then my doctor started telling me about what he found.  I had Stage 4 Endometriosis, the most severe kind.  My organs were so scarred up and moved around from the endometriosis that he couldn’t even get rid of it all.  He said I will most likely need surgery on my large and small intestines because of the scarring, and I will need a hysterectomy in the future.  It was, and still is, a very emotional time.

Our doctor has not said that we can’t have children, but he says our chances of conceiving naturally are very low.  I am currently on hormones to treat my condition, and will have to always be on treatment, unless we are “aggressively” pursuing pregnancy, meaning with the help of an infertility specialist.  Furthermore, he has advised us to try to get pregnant in any way possible, because it can potentially treat or eradicate my condition, for which there is no cure.  So we are faced with the fact that we are having great difficulty conceiving, but it also may be the only way for me to find relief for my condition. 

In the meantime, it is a daily journey.  Some days I feel fine and other days I will begin weeping at the slightest mention of a baby.  I’m learning to deal with the insensitive comments from others.  I’m learning to “rejoice with those who rejoice” when yet another friend makes a baby announcement.  I’m learning to lean on God who is my strength.  And most importantly, I’m learning to be thankful for the many things I have been blessed with, in particular my husband, Doug.  He has been with me at every appointment, with me through every sleepless night, and always comforts me. While this has been hands-down the most difficult trial we have faced, our marriage is ultimately stronger because of it.   And we are convinced that God loves and cares for us, and we know that whatever the outcome, God’s plan is the best plan.