April 24-30, 2016 is National Infertility Awareness Week.
This is my infertility story.
I had no inkling that I would struggle with infertility until we started trying to conceive in early 2011. After going off birth control my period was nowhere to be seen. My OB was very proactive and after 6 months, we began doing fertility testing. Bloodwork, ultrasounds, HSG dye test, semen analysis, etc.
My unofficial diagnosis is PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) although I only have 1 of the 3 signature symptoms. Fortunately, I responded well to my first dose of Clomid and 11 months after we began trying to conceive, I was pregnant. Because I was able to get pregnant so quickly with just a bit of assistance, I never really embraced the “infertile” label. We hoped that it was just some glitch that we overcame and that next time things would be just as easy. Spoiler alert: not so much.
2015 sucked. Clomid didn’t work this time, and it made me feel absolutely crazy. I’d be fine one minute and in the depths of depression the next. After three failed rounds of Clomid with our OB, we moved on to a fertility clinic. They reviewed our history, ordered a couple of new tests, and we moved on to another drug in hopes it would make me ovulate: Letrozole. Letrozole worked great, but timing intercourse with ovulation was proving to be too much pressure so we soon opted to try IUI (intrauterine insemination). This meant more blood work, more doctors appointments, more vaginal ultrasounds and more examining semen underneath a microscope. Really sexy process I tell ya! We did it month after month after month after month and despite conditions looking ideal and putting the egg and the sperm in the same place at the same time, they refused to get friendly with one another.
In the summer, we took a break and I opted to have an exploratory laparoscopy to investigate if there was an anatomical issue preventing me from getting pregnant again. The doctor removed a small amount of endometriosis and a couple of months later we managed to get pregnant on our own, but after a few days we sadly discovered it was a chemical pregnancy. Back to the roller coaster we went. There were lots of conversations about how much further we were willing to go emotionally and financially and ultimately we accepted that we likely were only going to have one child. We talked to our fertility specialist and decided to give it a couple more tries. And finally, possibly thanks to a little help from acupuncture, it happened. A new year and two pink lines.
The theme for National Infertility Awareness week this year is #StartAsking.
Three of the best things we did during our struggle with infertility involved asking.
- Asking for testing early on when things were clearly not right.
- Asking for a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist when we weren’t having success with the OB’s protocol.
- Asking our friends and family for support.
Asking for support meant being open about what we were going through, and when you’re open you are likely to get lots of encouragement but also some less than helpful comments. When you are open about your struggles in anything, you will often be surprised by how many other people you meet that have walked a similar road, and these people are priceless. I hate that so many of my friends have struggled with infertility, but I am so thankful I have them in my life to vent to, ask questions, and commiserate over how much infertility totally sucks. Last year’s theme for NIAW was “You are not alone.” We are so thankful that we did not walk this path alone.
When I was reading through the NIAW list of things that we need to #startasking, the one that stood out to me the most was “start asking those who have resolved their infertility to stay involved.” I don’t know that I would call our infertility “resolved” per se. In all likelihood I am still infertile, and we do not plan to go through infertility treatments again, so a third child is not likely to happen for us. However now that our attention has shifted away from infertility, I know we can’t just pretend that it didn’t happen, or that it’s no longer a part of our lives.
That’s why I wanted to write about National Infertility Awareness Week, because I know others out there are wondering if it’s time start asking their OB to do some fertility testing, or start asking for a referral to a fertility specialist, or thinking it’s time to open up to friends and family and start asking for support. It is not always easy to ask. You might think “oh I’ll give it more time” or “oh my problems aren’t that bad, I don’t need to see a fertility specialist,” or “oh nobody wants to hear about what’s going on with my reproductive system.”
I want you to know it’s OK to ask. Asking can open doors.
In Kansas City, we are fortunate to have the Kansas City Infertility Awareness Foundation. On their site you will find a list of local resources including all of the fertility specialists in our area. They also run a monthly support group and an annual Family Building Conference.