Our Infertility Story

I tried to write this blog post several times over the last 10ish months and also wrote it in my head at least a million times. But I just couldn’t bring myself to share it until I had my baby in my arms. A part of me still didn’t believe that we were really getting a baby after all we went through even after seeing her on the ultrasound machine and feeling her move. Even as my belly grew bigger and bigger and bigger. Even when I went on maternity leave from work for a year.

But now I’ve had a sweet sweet baby girl in my arms for 12 weeks and sometimes I still have to squeeze my eyes shut super tight and wonder if this is real or not. But I finally feel ready to share this story. 

And, today (February 19) is also the one year anniversary of our IUI procedure which gave us Olivia, so it seemed like the right day to finally share this. 

**

In January 2015, after 10 years, I stopped taking birth control. We weren’t quite ready to start trying for our family yet, but I wanted my body to get ready. As some of you may remember we went on an amazing trip to Maui in April 2015 and that is when we officially started trying.

Since stopping my birth control in January I hadn’t had a cycle. However, we knew that sometimes it takes the body time to get regulated, especially after so long on birth control. We were trying to be patient. In May of that year I started having other symptoms – terrible hot flashes and night sweats. Basically like I was going through menopause. It was awful.

After multiple visits to my family doctor and blood tests to try and figure out what was going on I was referred to an OBGYN in the fall of 2015. The OB sent me for MORE blood tests and in November 2015 I was given the diagnosis of Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) and referred to the fertility clinic in Kelowna. The way they come up with this diagnosis is based on hormone levels. My FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteinizing Hormone) levels were at post-menopausal levels.

We were still living in Kamloops at this point so this clinic was about a 2 – 2.5 hour drive away from us. We were referred in November 2015 and had our first appointment at the end of January 2016, at that point they tested my AMH (Anti-Mullerin Hormone) level, which gives an estimate of remaining egg supply. A normal range is 1.5-4 and my number was 0.08. Translation: at the ripe ‘old’ age of 27 I had very, very, very few eggs.

The recommendation from the fertility clinic was to move directly to donor eggs. They didn’t believe there was any point in even trying with my own eggs.

I’m sure you can imagine how devastating this news was. We decided to take a few months to process. Only a month after this appointment an amazing career opportunity was presented to me and we decided to make a big move. The fertility stuff was placed on the back burner for awhile.

During the summer of 2016 we were finally ready to start trying and I started my first cycle of medications with the goal of trying an IUI. After 6 days of injections my hormone levels indicated that nothing was happening so we canceled the cycle. Well, 12 days after my last injection my body was showing signs of ovulation and I got blood work done and sure enough the tests indicated my body was recruiting follicles and about to ovulate.

This seemed promising so we headed into another round of medications right off that cycle. However, my doctor was pretty sure the high estrogen / cycle starting so late after stopping the medications was just a coincidence. And sure enough, after another round of medications my estrogen was still super low and our second cycle was canceled.

At this point we decided to take a break and regroup. I requested a referral to a clinic in Vancouver. The Medical Director at this clinic is one of the most renowned IVF doctors in Canada. I was so excited and felt sure she would be able to help me. I was putting all my eggs in one basket (pun intended).

After waiting over the month for a phone consult I ended up devastated. Once she heard my very high FSH numbers I was basically written off. I was told that no amount of drugs could make my body make an egg and when I told her about success stories I had read and heard about online she said they were hard to believe… I remember I ended that call feeling so defeated.

This was in early October and I spent about a month moping. Mid-November I had a skype appointment with my old doctor from Kelowna and they agreed to try one round of IVF with me. It would begin in February as I wanted to spend the next 3 months taking my vitamins and getting my body as healthy as possible. I have a whole list of vitamins and supplements I was taking daily after doing lots and lots of research. I won’t list them all here but if anyone reading this post is in a similar situation and wants to know just leave me a comment and I’ll email you directly 🙂

I tried to put the infertility stuff we were dealing with out of my mind for those three months and just enjoy life. In December we traveled to Kauai, Hawaii for Christmas. While it was a wonderful holiday it was definitely tainted with sadness. I had decided that I would make this one last attempt to get pregnant with my own eggs and if it didn’t work I would spend the rest of 2017 saving money and getting in the mindset to move forward with donor eggs.

When we returned from Kauai I went on the Whole 30 program (to this day I have no clue if this had anything to do with us conceiving or not, but I think it’s important to note that I followed Whole30 strictly from January 9 – February 9, 2017). On January 24, out of the blue, I got a cycle on my own.

After 11.5 days of injecting myself with hormone medication four times per day my estrogen was still extremely low and the cycle was canceled. I was heartbroken but ready to move on. I did ask to go for follow-up blood work one week later just to see what was happening considering what had happened the previous summer. My doctor seemed skeptical, but agreed.

One week after my last injection I went for blood work. I remember I almost skipped it. What was the point? But I went anyways just to close the final door on this journey. Because of living in a remote community my clinic didn’t receive the results until the next day. What do you know – my estrogen was high. High enough to indicate my body was creating a follicle. I made plans to travel to Kelowna. The next day I used an at-home ovulation kit (one of the fancy, expensive ones) and it indicated that my body was at ‘peak ovulation’. Eric and I flew down to Kelowna at the last minute and spent the weekend in a hotel.

It turned out I had one follicle. And it wasn’t even that big – only 16 mm. I still remember when I ovulated because I felt some cramping in my right side that night. The next day the follicle had collapsed and they told us we could do the IUI if we wanted but they weren’t sure it would work. We opted to do it, we’d already spent so much money traveling down there and on all the medications, what was an extra $400 for the procedure?

I spent the next two weeks in agony waiting for the day I would go for my beta test. I was scheduled to go on Tuesday, March 6 and that Sunday night I couldn’t wait any longer so I dug out an old home pregnancy test I’d had from when we very first started trying.

I started shaking when I got a positive. I continued to be on edge for the entire first trimester and most of the second. As mentioned above, I honestly had trouble believing it was happening until I held our baby in my arms.

That small follicle became our healthy baby girl. Against all the odds, it worked. I still can hardly believe it myself.

The total cost of conceiving our baby (including the first two failed cycles and all costs associated with travel i.e. plane tickets, meals, hotel, car rental etc.) was just shy of $12,000. Luckily our extended health benefit plans through work covered the almost $6,000 worth of medications. The other half was travel, procedures and appointments and was paid for out of pocket because as great as our healthcare is in some ways, it does not cover appointments or procedures related to infertility.

So today is Olivia’s day. One year ago today, against all odds, she was conceived. And I will spend the entire day feeling immensely grateful for that.

She is perfect.

14 Comments

January 24

Not only was yesterday Olivia’s 2 month ‘birthday’ it was also a significant day because one year ago on January 24th is when the cycle started for me that would allow us to (finally!) get pregnant. I know I have hinted many times on the blog about our infertility journey and I’ve always planned to share the story. I’ve written it in my head so many times but have never been quite sure how to start it as it’s a long one, so for now I will start here.

The treatment plan I was going on required the start of a menstrual cycle, if you don’t have regular cycles, or really any cycles at all like me, you can use hormone therapy to make one start. However, my body started this cycle on it’s own which was unexpected. It was only my 3rd or 4th natural cycle in two years.

Of course then there was the logistics of getting the (very expensive) medication to me. I live in a very rural community and the fertility clinic I was working with was over 1,000 kilometres away and local pharmacies did not keep the expensive medication required in stock. The plan was for my clinic to rush ship the medication to me.

Here was the part, that looking back, I feel was more than a coincidence. I was supposed to start my medications on January 27, 2017 and I also just happened to be flying to Vancouver that day for work. I was frantically emailing with my clinic and a clinic in Vancouver about how I could get my medications once I arrived there. I had a 2 hour gap between meetings and I was going to have to take public transportation to get to the clinic on the other side of the city to pick up my medication and then give myself the first dose in a hotel room that night. To say the logistics of this was stressing me out is an understatement.

That morning I arrived at the airport and my flight was delayed. A little unusual for the early morning flight but not unheard of. Finally we boarded and started the 1.5 hour trip to Vancouver. I was still turning the logistics of getting the medication over in my head. We flew for 30 minutes when it was announced that our flight was heading back. What?! Turns out there was a mechanical issue and they needed to turn around. We weren’t going to be able to get on another flight until that evening and by then we would have missed the meeting we were flying down to attend so our trip to Vancouver was canceled.

I went home and started my treatment plan at home, as originally planned, that night.

I guess it depends on your perspective and outlook on the world. Some would view this as a simple coincidence. It happened to work out in my favour in the end, and that’s great, but there was also a good chance it wouldn’t have. I could have went to Vancouver and dealt with the stress of getting my medication and still gotten pregnant or I could have stayed home and started my medication and not gotten pregnant. However, I can’t help but look back on this and think that it was meant to happen.

And this was the very first step to holding this adorable little girl in my arms.

More to come.

11 Comments