Eric and I were married in 2003 when I was 26. For many reasons, we wanted to wait on having kids – I had just finished my MBA and he had joined the military, spending 14 months in Iraq. We were moving all over the place and very focused on our careers. I could safely have been classified as a workaholic – long hours at work punctuated by lots of Starbucks, sometimes five Grandes a day, and wine-fueled dinners to help “relax”.
In early 2009, Eric had left the military and gone to graduate school, and we settled in DC. I was 33 and we decided we’d better get on with having kids. I was pregnant within the first two months of trying. Still working and stressed as ever, I cut down to one grande a day and stopped drinking alcohol.
My eight-week ultrasound went well – we saw the heartbeat and everything seemed on track. At my eleven-week ultrasound though, the radiologist looked funny. I didn’t really know what I was seeing, so I was shocked when we were told there was no longer a heartbeat. Just one day later, I woke up writhing in pain and miscarried that night in one of the most painful experiences of my life.
Though we were sad, we were determined to try again. For the remainder of 2009, we “tried,” doing our best with Eric’s crazy travel schedule as a consultant and my new job. Nothing happened.
In early 2010, we decided to get serious, and I began to research fertility. I bought all the books and joined Fertility Friend online, began timing my cycles by tracking my temperature religiously every morning and using ovulation predictor kits. Still nothing happened. By November, my OB suggested referring me to an infertility clinic. Though I had told myself I would not do “those crazy shots,” I was so frustrated at that point that I made an appointment immediately at Shady Grove Fertility. Thankfully, we have good insurance that covered multiple treatments.
After a couple of months of testing it was determined that nothing seemed broken: it was unexplained infertility, a frustrating diagnosis. In January 2011, we were underway with our first intrauterine insemination (IUI) cycle. I was convinced that this would do it. Not only did it not work, but Clomid made me a crazy person. We switched to injectable medication for the second IUI, which also didn’t work. Again I was frustrated and growing more impatient – why was it taking so long?
We sat down with Dr. O’Brien, who explained calmly that we could either continue with IUIs since our insurance covered up to seven IUI cycles, or switch to IVF. I decided that the odds of IUI success were too low, and we were moving to IVF. We were now into “those crazy shots” big time.
Our first egg retrieval was disappointing – only five eggs. Although my infertility knowledge at the time was nowhere near where it is now, I knew that more eggs was better than less. Dr. O’Brien assured me that five eggs was good – we would surely get some embryos and maybe even have some to freeze. We waited nervously, and then… success! There was a viable embryo at day 5, which was transferred. Two weeks later we learned I was pregnant, thank goodness.
The joy, however, was short lived. From the start, Dr. O’Brien was unhappy with the growth of the embryo, and at week 8, we knew that the pregnancy wasn’t viable. For the first time in the journey, I began to doubt that we might succeed. Nonetheless, the workaholic in me pushed forward. We just needed multiple tries, I told myself. Following a D&C, I began another IVF regimen the very next cycle.
IVF Cycle 2 was even worse. This time, my body violently resisted even the high doses of drugs, with barely any follicle growth. We abandoned the cycle for an IUI. Nothing. Defeated and nearing the end of 2011, I decided at this point to take a break. Clearly something was not working, and I had spent a whole year on this “project” with nothing to show for it.
Finding Alternative Medicine
After some major soul searching, I decided to make some major changes. I poured myself into fertility research, focusing on both traditional and alternative medicine. Thankfully, I was already at a top notch fertility clinic, but the “alternative” side of my treatment plan was sorely lacking. I was still an exhausted workaholic who drank too much coffee and wine, and chose my meals mostly for efficiency and convenience.
I decided to finally walk into the Wellness Center, and began acupuncture. She recommended some pretty major changes to my diet and lifestyle. I also saw my primary care physician, who ran some basic blood work and discovered deficiencies in both Vitamin D and B12. I began daily yoga for fertility, stopped drinking caffeine and alcohol (with surprisingly little pain), overhauled my diet, and requested a two month leave of absence from my job, which my boss thankfully granted with minimal resistance.
Somewhat rejuvenated, I began my third IVF cycle in the spring of 2012. I felt much calmer and saner, not getting up at the crack of dawn to do monitoring before an 8:00 a.m. work meeting. The follicles grew well and we ended up with 7 eggs and 5 growing embryos. Things were really looking up… until we got bad news again. At Day 2, only two embryos were left, and we would be doing a Day 3 transfer. Well researched at this point, I knew I would prefer Day 5. I held onto hope, but neither embryo took.
This time, though, I handled the news in stride. I returned to work the following week, still not pregnant, but remarkably calmer. I began to cut the hours I worked, and surprisingly performed better on the job. I stopped sweating the small stuff. I calmly began working on a new plan, scheduling a consultation/second opinion with a fertility doctor in Colorado, who had written one of the books I had read. My doctor’s team graciously agreed to continue to do the monitoring locally if I choose to see this out-of-state doctor.
Then – as I made preparations to continue treatment – I realized I was feeling nauseous. The following Sunday morning, I dared to take a pregnancy test, which confirmed what I already knew. We were pregnant. I immediately emailed my nurse at Shady Grove Fertility – could they please do the early monitoring and blood work for this “spontaneous” pregnancy? Yes, they could, and this time, the news was much better. After several rounds of monitoring, I finally “graduated” from Shady Grove Fertility!
My Happily Ever After
I am writing this as I watch my beautiful daughter’s little red head on the baby monitor. Despite all the challenges getting there, I had an easy pregnancy and delivery. I cannot imagine a different end to my journey, nor would I want one. She is eight weeks old now, and I cannot imagine loving anything more.
I can honestly say that I am grateful for my journey – I learned a lot about myself and am a calmer, more balanced person than I would be if I hadn’t gone through it. Our marriage is stronger, and we were truly “ready” to welcome our beautiful child into the world.
My Advice to Other Patients
Although it sounds silly, I always use the “Lord of the Rings” analogy. I tell them – you are Frodo. You will get to that big mountain with your little ring – you may have to encounter the giant spider, the big swamp, the crazy gremlin and a whole host of other challenges, and you will feel very alone at times – but you will get there. Know that the journey might be long, but don’t give up. If you want to have a child and you are willing to do whatever it takes, you will have one, and it will all be worth it.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please speak with one of our friendly New Patient Liaisons by calling 888-761-1967.