I have debated for a long time about whether I wanted to include a post on my blog about the journey my husband and I have been on to achieve a pregnancy.
It's quite personal.
And some people may think that it's too much information.
But without the other blogs I came across during my research, I would have felt MUCH more helpless and alone. And my hope is, is that another woman will stumble across this post and find comfort and hope in hearing someone else's story.
Now, I will go ahead and include a disclaimer: men may find this post frightening as you will probably read way more than you ever wanted to know about the female body. It's nothing embarrassing, its just biology. I will warn you again when things get personal.
For now, let's rewind the clock back to June 6, 2009: the day Chris and I got married! We both had talked during our dating years of if we wanted kids, how many, and when we wanted to start trying. We both agreed not to start trying right away. Maybe wait a year or two - we didn't really have an exact timeline. We just wanted to enjoy life, our marriage, and take things as they came.
I was using the birth control pill when we started talking about when we should start trying. I knew from my last doctor's appointment that coming off birth control meant my body would have a lot of adjusting to do. My body would have to restart releasing the correct hormones on its own, and she said it can take several months for my body to re-regulate. With this in mind, we decided that I would stop taking birth control, and we would let nature take its course. I believe this was in November of 2010. We felt comfortable knowing that the chances of us getting pregnant right away were slim.
Getting a little personal...
My body had not been completely free of the hormones from the pill for 8 years. Knowing what I know now about how harmful those hormones can be, I never would have stayed on it for so long. I was FAR from having regular cycles. I never knew when my period would show up, which made it agonizing because it made me think I could have been pregnant each cycle. I can't tell you how many pregnancy tests I went through. The whole reason I starting taking birth control in the first place was because of my irregular cycles, so I guess I wasn't too surprised. Nonetheless, as each month passed, I became more emotionally consumed by not being able to get pregnant.
I had learned about charting your cycles from a huge book, called Taking Charge of Your Fertility, which I highly recommend. I had no idea there was so much I didn't know about my own body. It has in-depth explanations of how to achieve AND prevent pregnancy...naturally! No type of store-bought birth control necessary. I will spare you the details, but basically you track 3 different things daily and record them on a chart provided in the book. Certain patterns of these 3 things indicate ovulation and later, either pregnancy or an impending period.
I decided this would be a great thing to do to try to figure out what in the heck my body was doing. I brought months worth of my home documentation to my doctor, and she didn't even look at it. She just brushed it off and said she didn't have any concerns because I was still getting a period about every 5 weeks or so. Thanks. I had never felt so ignored by a doctor before. She said we needed to have been trying to conceive (TTC) for at least a year before we would look at another course of action.
Well, then my husband had to go to Officer Training for the Army and was gone for 9 months. So obviously, no attempts were made during those months. It set us back almost another year. Right after his training was up, we got orders to move out of state. We decided that once we got settled, I would make an appointment to be seen regarding fertility.
My first appointment was in the fall of 2012. I had to go to my PCM, or Primary Care Manager. All referrals to any other department (including OB) have to come from your PCM. I told her we had been trying for 2 years with no luck. She was happy to refer me to the fertility clinic. Of course, I had to wait like 3 weeks to be seen. Lots of hurry up and wait in the Army. 3 weeks felt like forever. Man, when you have baby fever, you have it BAD.
And getting more personal...
Finally the appointment arrived, and the nurse took down a lot of information about what my cycles are like. Lately I had been going between 40-50 days between each period, some periods with really heavy bleeding, and others with more "regular" bleeding. Sometimes I would spot, which I knew from my charting was actually breakthrough bleeding and was not a period. So definitely not normal things.
TMI about periods...
I had my own theory about what was wrong, in addition to my long cycles. Day 1-5 of a cycle is typically bleeding days. The average woman ovulates on day 14, and then day 15 to the return of the period is called the luteal phase. The luteal phase must be at least 10 days to give a fertilized egg the time it needs to travel down the fallopian tube into the uterus to implant. I was only hitting about 8 days. So I came to the conclusion that my luteal phase was too short, and that it's possible that I could have had fertilized eggs in the past that just didn't have a chance to implant. The hormone that is responsible for the length of the luteal phase is progesterone. At least that is what I understood from my book. And of course, I am no doctor, but cycle after cycle, it would take between 30-40 days and then there were signs of ovulation (sometimes even confirmed by ovulation tests) and then I would quickly get my period. I was convinced I had diagnosed myself.
So back to the appointment, the doctor began to talk to me about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and what the symptoms look like. PCOS can interfere with the ability of the ovaries to release an egg due to harmless cysts that form around the ovaries. She performed an internal sonogram to get a look at my ovaries, tubes, and uterus. And sure enough, there was a "string of pearls" around both of my ovaries. Clear as day - even Chris could see them.
I was not surprised. Someone very close to me also has PCOS, so I was already familiar with it. I was actually expecting her to say I had it based on all my symptoms, which includes crazy whacked out cycles and acne, something I have struggled with since Jr. High.
The doctor said she also wanted me to have an hysterosalpingogram (HSG...try and say that 10 times fast!) done to be sure there was nothing else going on. She briefly told me that it is an X-ray in which dye in injected into the uterus to get a look at the shape of the uterus and tubes more clearly. She also put in orders for Chris to do a semen analysis to ensure there were no problems with him.
Chris's results quickly came back all clear. It took me forever to schedule my appointment for the HSG - it has to be perfomed between day 7 and day 10 of your cycle. Basically after you've stopped bleeding but before ovulation has occured.
I did some research on the HSG the night before my appointment.
The procedure seemed pretty invasive, so I wanted to get more information about exactly what happens. I knew the internet was a bad place to go, but it was the only way I could get any info about it. I found a ton of women who had written about their personal experience with it. Almost every single woman said it was the worst, most painful thing they have ever had done. Some women even compared it to child birthing. Some got a prescription for Valluim to get them through the procedure. Some women said their doctor told them to take Ibuprofen before the appointment to help. All I could think of, is why didn't my doctor tell me about any of this?! I was so worked up all that night.
The next day, I had to go down to Radiology and cancel my appointment because I was still on the tail end of my period. So frustrated. That meant I had to wait another 40-50 days before I got my period to try again. My orders in the computer were only good for 30 days, so that meant I would have to call my fertility doctor to have her put them in again.
So I started the hurry up and wait again. We were both getting tired of waiting; we felt so helpless, like so much time was being wasted. I called my doctor, and fortunately, she had a solution so I wouldn't have to wait for my period to show up again. She prescribed Provera, a hormone that gives you your period. Basially, it is progesterone that you take for 10 days. Once you stop taking it, it creates a withdrawl, and you get your period. All I had to do to start Provera was to go in and take a urine pregnancy test in the lab to be sure you're not pregnant. I sucessfully got my period after 5 days of stopping the Provera.
And then...the HSG.
I was beyond terrified. Still.
Details...lots of details...
I was taken into an X-ray room to sign a bunch of papers. I had taken a urine pregnancy test in the lab a few days earlier; it felt so silly as I was still on my period, but the procedure CANNOT be done if you are pregnant. It was obviously negative. I put on the fancy gown and the doctor came in and explained exactly what was going to happen. Chris was not allowed to stay in the room, but I had a nurse who got to hang out up by my head.
I was all hot. And I could feel how hot my cheeks were. Usually when I'm nervous, I'm cold and clammy. Not this time.
I was on an X-Ray table, so there were no stirrups for my feet, so I had to do my best to keep my knees bent on the table on my own. PLUS I had to try and relax as the speculum was inserted. Then the doctor inserted a catheter with a foley bulb on the end into my cervix to prevent the catheter from falling out.
It was a little uncomfortable. My heart was racing.
At this point, the doctor took the speculum out, leaving the catheter in. He told me that this was the point where he hears screaming and cursing, and he said if I felt like punching something to let him know and we can stop.
Oh dear lord. My heart was racing, and the sweet nurse reassured me that I was doing great and that she was right there with me.
He began to inject the dye (he was very good about telling me exactly what he was doing) and I braced myself for what I was sure would be the worst pain of my life. Then he told me that he was going to take a few X-Ray pictures. He wanted me to tilt to each side to get the dye to flow into each tube.
So I did....
AND THAT WAS IT!!
He removed the foley bulb and catheter and he said "We're done!"
The nurse was ecstatic. "You did so great!!!!! Wow, you were awesome!!!"
I couldn't believe it. I SURVIVED AN HSG!!
It was virtually painless. Maybe it was all the adrenaline flowing through my body.
I was also able to get instant results. He showed me the images on the screen, and he said that both my tubes were clear and healthy. He pointed to a slight dip at the top of my uterus, and said that's something your doctor may want to have an MRI done to get a closer look. But overall, he said everything looked good and saw nothing that should interfere with fertility, including the dip in the utereus. I never knew how tiny the tubes are - they looked like squiggly little threads on the screen!
I was free to get dressed and get the heck out of there! So glad I researched on my own...I knew to bring a pad to help absorb the dye that would be finding its way out of my body. Most would just harmlessly be absorbed.
After my doctor had a chance to read the X-Ray, she did want me to have an MRI done. Once again, a pelvic MRI has to be scheduled around my period, so she told me to call her if my period was taking awhile to show up again.
Surprise, I had to call her. So I took Provera again; this time I got my period 3 days after taking the last pill. I had also never had an MRI before, so I was a little nervous, but at least there was no pain involved!
The MRI lasted about an hour, and I was the perfect patient - I didn't move at all! The results were sent over to my doctor. She called a few days later and said the MRI showed that my uterus had a different shape to it - a heart shape; she said I had a bicornuate uterus. Basically the top dips down where it should not. I came in for my follow-up appointment, and she said that a bicornuate uterus does not have any effect on fertility. It happens during organ formation as a baby - the uterus starts out as two separate halves that come together, and mine just did not fully complete the fusion process. She said that the only things we would have to keep in mind is that my future pregnancies will be at a higher risk for early labor, small birth weight, and breech, simply because there is not as much room for baby to move and grow.
After digesting that, she said that she would like to have me start taking Clomid, a fertility drug that forces ovulation. I was all for it. I know of many women who have achieved pregnancy using Clomid.
So finally, finally, after another year of testing and appointments and WAITING...we had an action plan!
I took Clomid as prescribed at the start of my next cycle. I decided to use ovulation tests because I was just so dang curious to see if my body could actually ovulate on day 14...and I did!! It was so exciting! We followed the doctor's orders and waited.
But I got my period.
I didn't even have a chance to take any test because my period showed up on day 26. A little early.
I was completely crushed. I tried to not let myself feel that way, because I knew it was out of my hands, anyway. Whatever God wanted for us is what we would get.
Of course, I got my period on Friday.
Right at the start of Labor Day weekend.
You have to start Clomid on day 3 of your period.
I immediately called my doctor, praying we wouldn't lose a whole cycle of trying due to a long holiday weekend. She called back that afternoon and put in the order for Clomid. I had it in my hands the next morning.
I am SO grateful for the staff who was working that day...this was the beginning of the series of wild events that led to our pregnancy!
So I then began Clomid round 2. My doctor said she wanted me to come in for a blood test on day 21 of my cycle. She didn't say what for and I didn't ask. Everything continued to go as planned. According to an ovulation test I took, I ovulated on day 16. We continued the doctor's orders and began the wait. I went in for the test on day 21.
I passed day 26, no period.
I passed day 32, no period, negative digital pregnancy test.
I tested like every day until I ran out of tests in my box.
I passed day 40, no period, still negative digital test.
What the heck?! I turned to the internet. Usually people want to know how soon a test will show up positive...I was searching for how late can a test show up positive for the first time. Some women said it didn't show up until a full week after your missed period.
I left a message for my doctor, and when she called back, she said the blood test on day 21 revealed that I did not ovulate this cycle. She put in another order for Provera and said once I get my period to call back so she could put in the order for Clomid. This time she would increase the dose on it.
I hung up and I was so confused. The digital test said I ovulated.
And then I was mad. All this time, I struggled on a daily basis as to whether or not I was pregnant and what was going on. Why didn't she call and tell me sooner? Why make me wait an additional 20 days and wonder and worry? She clearly didn't understand the emotional investment I had in this.
So once again, I took Provera.
I was bummed. Chris was getting ready to head to another round of training, and this extra 20 days we wasted meant we wouldn't be able to try this next cycle. His training was about 4 weeks long.
I ended Provera and had my period supples with me at all times, ready for it to arrive.
Day 3 went by, no period.
Day 5 went by, no period.
It can take up to a week for your period to show up, so I thought, ok...maybe on day 7.
Chris was all packed up and ready to go to his training in the next day or two.
IN HINDSIGHT, it was in these few days that I was experiencing slight pregnancy symptoms.
I just didn't know it yet!
I was aware of a few unusual things about my body, but honestly, I thought it just meant that something else was wrong with me. I didn't really directly attribute it to pregnancy.
Chris left for training the night of October 29, 2013.
I decided that about 10 days of not getting a period warranted one of two things: a pregnancy test, or a call to my doctor. I really thought that something was wrong.
But I decided to take a pregnancy test instead.
On the morning of October 30, 2013, I took a digital pregnancy test.
I barely had sat it down on the counter when I looked at it, and it said
I. COULD. NOT. BELIEVE. IT.
My mind was a jumbled mess. It didn't make any sense! How could this be?!
I immediately realized it wasn't meant for me to understand; this was God's plan all along.
I took a second test shortly after arriving at work. One with lines. I literally watched the positive line boldly show up as the urine soaked across the test.
I was ecstatic!
I was shocked.
I was so happy!
I was humbled.
And Chris had no idea.
Part 2 coming soon...