At the ripe age of 25 I married my wonderful husband in 2010. We met while attending a private liberal arts college that raised its tuition rates each year we attended. He brought a large chunk of debt into the relationship mainly from student loans.
After celebrating our first year of marriage and our first year of living in our new home, I decided it was time for me to dive into my husband’s student loan accounts. It was at this time I learned how bad things were with the loans. I learned that the loans were and had been on an interest-only plan that my dear husband did not realize he had been enrolled in at the time. It was at that time I re-examined the budget. We cut out or trimmed everything we could without going to the extreme cheapskate level.
Putting kids on hold for the future
Since having kids would mean either one of us not working or full-time daycare, we knew that we would need to put starting a family on hold until we paid off the loans or came close to having the loans paid off. For the next few years we focused: didn’t go on vacation, had eggs on Thursday for dinner, rarely went out to eat, visited only family as visiting friends that lived elsewhere would bring about additional expenses, and counted every penny. Fast forward 2 years and 2 months, the loans were paid off. With good budgeting and commitment, we managed to pay off his student loan debt years sooner than I had planned.
Time to become parents
By November of 2013, all student loans were paid off. We were feeling great. We decided to wait until February 2014 though to start trying to have a family, as we wanted to get through the holiday season with little additional stress and give my body time to get off of birth control. We even bought each other one very nice gift thinking it was the first and last time we would be able to do so and feel good about the decision.
From February 2014-July 2014 we were not successful in the having children department. We didn’t think much about it, as we were both 27 going on 28 and knew it was normal for a couple in their late 20s to take up to a year to get pregnant.
Why are we still not pregnant?
Then in July 2014 we learned my husband had cancer, testicular. While fertility was not our main concern, my husband did take the correct steps to ensure we would have sperm frozen just in case. From July 2014 to November 2014, our focus was on surgery and rounds of chemo. Today he is a proud survivor.
Fast forward to July of 2015, after being chemo-free for 8 going on 9 months we decided to see a fertility specialist about our chances of getting pregnant naturally. Having had close friends and family go through the fertility struggle, we were already very aware of what may be in our future. By this time we were both 30, so our time frame for easily getting pregnant was becoming smaller compared to when we first got married.
It was at this time we learned that IVF was our only way of conceiving, and the hope of that changing in the future was unknown. It takes many testicular cancer survivors up to 5 years to fully recover. We were hopeful and full of enthusiasm though when preparing for our new journey into IVF.
The IVF journey
Our first round was a fresh cycle with 20 eggs being retrieved, thirteen embryos created and three embryos getting to the stage needed for transfer. We transferred one embryo on Labor Day weekend 2015 and waited. We waited enthusiastically, having laughed through every shot up to that point.
My IVF guru and closest confidant has shared that the emotional impact of IVF is similar to the emotion that a nonterminal cancer patient and caregiver go through. Having done that with my husband, we tried to approach the IVF process the same way we approached testicular cancer…laughing and sharing the process with others.
Two weeks later we were elated to hear that we were pregnant. Our optimism had worked. Over the next few weeks, I would go to the doctor for weekly monitoring appointments where we would learn that the pregnancy was progressing, but always slightly behind where it needed to be each week. Once I graduated from Shady Grove Fertility I requested to see a high-risk OB-GYN, as the embryo had been between 7 and 5 days behind the whole cycle and blood had been found in my uterus.
At 10 weeks, at the start of November, we went to the high-risk doctor. It was at this point that we learned that the pregnancy had ended. I had a missed miscarriage, meaning the fetus has stopped growing a week prior but my body didn’t know it and therefore I did not naturally miscarry. The miscarriage was emotionally hard and in some ways forever changed me.
While we were devastated, our optimism kept us going and we wanted to get back on the IVF bandwagon as soon as I was physically able to do so. In January I began cycle two, a frozen cycle. This cycle ended soon after with a negative pregnancy test. While it was not always easy, we continued to stay optimistic as finding out 2 weeks later that the cycle would not result in a baby was better than finding out 2 months later.
After moving into the new home in the spring and my husband starting a new job, we decided that we should start IVF round three during the summer. We went into round three, a frozen cycle, trying to stay optimistic but more cautious than ever. We were approaching 1 year of IVF, 2 years of his cancer diagnosis, and 2.5 year mark since being financially ready to have kids. Halfway through the cycle, days before transferring the final frozen embryo, I learned that my cycle had been canceled. My body managed to do what it was not supposed to do during an IVF FET cycle, ovulate. So we rebounded once again and tried to stay hopeful that it would work out. I kept busy by finding house projects to complete and walls to paint.
One year of IVF down, how many more months and years to go?
Fast forward a few weeks to Labor Day weekend, 2016, 1 year after our first transfer. With an extremely full bladder, we transferred the last embryo. If the embryo attached and the pregnancy progressed, it would be the little embryo that could. If it did not, we were going to Hawaii for Christmas.
Having had success and failure, I would often compare feelings and “signs.” After waiting 2 weeks, we learned the good news that I was pregnant. I wish I could say there was a sign each time there was a success, but the “signs” were never the same. Each week we went to the doctor and asked the same question though, “Are you sure it is going well?” Each time we were told the same thing, this looks MUCH better than the first round.
Today I am progressing through the second trimester, one hundred and sixty-four shots later. Still cautious. Still worrying before every ultrasound/sonogram/test result, but still optimistic. When I think back to the last year, my optimism came from a place of necessity. Being negative and pessimistic just never seemed like a good time.
My advice to others
If I had one piece of advice to new fertility fighters it would be this: Don’t be afraid to talk about it, even if others don’t ask or don’t get it. Know that the experience will be hard. The experience is emotional. But the experience has the possibility of giving you the greatest gift.