Whew. Where. to. start? I guess with … I’m still not pregnant. But I thought I would share my infertility story for anyone else out there desperately wanting a baby. I call it “my” infertility story because while my husband and I suffer from male factor infertility (meaning the infertility issue is on my husband’s side) and he’s okay with me sharing everything, this post is from my point of view.
This is a pretty long read, so if you don’t want ALL of the details then here’s the (SPOILER ALERT) short story and then you can just go on with your day:
Not pregnant, tried for a year, saw a doctor, did multiple AFCs, did an HSG, all clear, husband’s sperm count is low with low motility. Husband started on FertilAid and a quarter dose of Clomid. Numbers went up. We’ve tried one IUI (intrauterine insemination) where I did Clomid and a trigger shot. Negative results. Going to do another IUI, if negative, will try IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). Done reading about all this? How about a recipe for Nutter Butter and Jelly Milkshakes instead?
My Infertility Story, Part 1
And now here’s the LOOOONG story which I will preface with saying how AMAZING my husband has been through all of this. He has gone with me to every appointment and we’re still very optimistic. I’m also very open about all of this. I attribute this to being the daughter of an alcoholic. At some point in my life, I simply decided to not be embarrassed by my dad. That’s not to say he didn’t embarrass me, he did, several times, but I just dealt with it.
And maybe if my husband and I were infertile because of MY body, I might feel differently, but it’s not like it’s my husband’s fault. I mean, it is, but it isn’t. He didn’t choose this and I don’t blame him. And infertility is a fairly common problem. Our doctor’s office? It’s BUSY! But not a lot of people talk about it. Especially male factor infertility. So I’m here sharing my thoughts so if the next lady needs to know she’s not alone, and that IUIs cause cramps, and IUI hormone meds might make you slightly depressed and not want to do anything but sit on the couch and watch TV, well then, she can read this and know that it’s okay to sit on the couch and watch TV all day. So here’s the long story with all the details and my thoughts:
My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for almost two years and in the last year it’s gone from fun “trying” to simply just … difficult. In the beginning, it wasn’t bad … there was just a lot of ovulation testing kits, or as I call it, peeing on a stick, to figure out when to have sex. Because, you know, there’s only like a TWO DAY window when you can get pregnant. But after awhile, when you have to run out to Target to buy more PreSeed and more ovulation sticks at 11pm, it gets tiring. Side note: you know you’re trying really hard to get pregnant when you learn what PreSeed is. Also, just get Amazon Prime.
So last July I chatted with my doctor who asked me to give her two more months of trying. I reminded her that I was 34. She said, “only two more months!” Okay, so more peeing on the sticks and scheduled sex. Fun! Those two more months resulted in nothing except more stress.
Then in September, we met with an infertility doctor who ordered tests, tests, and more tests! The blood lab printed out like 10 labels for vials of MY blood. The Mister’s blood test labels? Two! Two vials! Motherfucker! He got off easy. I wish I could say that I felt each and every vial as the blood tech swapped them out, but she was so good I hardly felt a thing. I mean, really, I’m glad that I can say THAT. I hate giving blood. I hate needles.
Anyhow, blood work came back fine except I have a vitamin D deficiency, but that’s no surprise, I mean, I’m so pale I’m almost see through! But it’s been shown that a Vitamin D deficiency affects fertility, so they gave me Vitamin D pills.
So then I had an AFC Ultrasound which isn’t a ton of fun. An AFC Ultrasound is a transvaginal ultrasound in which they measure the lining of your uterus and count your antra follicles which are resting follicles that turn into the one ovulated egg each month. So yeah, they put an ultrasound wand up into your hoo-ha and look around with it. This is not the regular ol’ “are you pregnant” ultrasound on the stomach. THIS IS IN YOU! The doctor at some point was talking to the nurse who was inputting data into my chart and she said, “Ok, I’m on the left ovary now.” And I thought she was talking to me and I yelped, “YEAH, I CAN DEFINITELY FEEL YOU OVER THERE!” It doesn’t exactly hurt, but it doesn’t feel good. (Well, that’s not true. It does hurt when your ovary is “hiding” and the doctor has to whip that wand around looking for it.) Also, this test is done on day 2, 3, or 5 of your period. Yeah, it’s a real good, invasive, and embarrassing time at the doctor’s office!
And not to brag, but I’m an AFC Ultrasound pro at this point! Undress from the waist down, ass on the edge, feet in the stirrups! There’s no more “Scooch down a little. A little more. A little more.” Nope. Pro! Also, when the nurses ask about my allergies, drugs, last menstrual cycle, I’m usually like, “whatever is in the computer is still correct since I was just here on Tuesday.” I say it nicely though. I promise.
By the way, my first AFC ultrasound came up with a cyst on an ovary and slightly lower follicles counts than they expected to see in respect to my hormones in my blood work, but at the next test there was no more cyst and lots of follicles! They said it was all normal and nothing to worry about.
Next up? The HSG test. Again, not fun. This test is where a radiologist uses a catheter to insert a dye into your uterus and fallopian tubes while they X-ray it. The initial cramping during the procedure sucks – the catheter irritates the uterus and can cause cramping, the dye creates a pressure. It hurts, but it’s not the end of the world. You also have to be in stirrups for the insertion of the catheter and the dye, then maneuver yourself back on the table until you’re under the X-ray. Not my idea of a good time, but it did show that my uterus was clear and the fallopian tubes are open! Woohoo!
So what’s the problem? My husband’s swimmers. Yeah, I do AAALLLLLLLLL those invasive tests, he goes and jerks off into a cup, they throw it under a microscope and boom, problem solved! WTF!?
I mean, I get it. No matter what, I needed to do those tests. Even with his sperm we need to know my side of the story. But it’s such a simple procedure that I wish we had done it MONTHS ago! It would have answered so many questions! My literal text message to a friend last August was “I feel like we’re wasting our time trying if something is wrong with one of us and we don’t know it.”
Brief aside. The Mister had to meet with a urologist to check on his swimmers. I went with him to the appointment and it was SO different from my appointments. First, there is NO undress from the waist down and here’s a robe. Nope. We were just shown into an exam room, doctor comes in and says, “Ok, drop ’em!” The Mister drops his pants, the doctor examines, he pulls out this contraption (which I swear looks like either a prehistoric Scientology auditing device – I mean, we are right next door to the Scientology building – or a geiger counter from the Nevada dessert) and then uses this scrotum stethoscope device to listen to his “ball sack heart beat” to make sure he doesn’t have a varicocele which are enlarged varicose veins in the scrotum which basically heat up the balls and affect the sperm. He doesn’t have this, but simply has low sperm counts with no swimming action. We honestly don’t know why. We’re trying FertilAid and a daily quarter dose of Clomid to see if this helps. But my point is wow, what a weird appointment, and so dramatically different than how I’m treated.
So what now? Now, we get to dive into the fun world of abbreviations! IUIs and IVF!
We tried an IUI a few weeks ago. IUI is intrauterine insemination. I went on hormones in order to release more eggs than usual, you know, give the sperm more targets to aim for! Then, on the right day, the Mister donates swimmers into a cup, they then wash the swimmers and separate the semen from the sperm, throw the sperm into a syringe, and then use it like a turkey baster to try to get me pregnant. It’s supposed to be an easy process, but it’s stressful. And it might be even more stressful because we were told that our odds are not good. But an IUI for us costs about $240 because it’s covered by insurance whereas IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) will likely cost us $18-20,000. Yeah, so we’re just shoving his non-swimming swimmers up into my uterus in a hail Mary attempt to save money. Or, so when we DO shell out $18,000, at least we can say that we did everything else to TRY to save some money. It’s all psychological at this point. I just want to know that I did everything I could to try to save money.
So here are my thoughts on IUIs. First, IUIs are a very early morning thing at the doctor’s office and they are first come (literally), first served. The man makes a deposit, the semen gets washed and waxed, then the doctor turkey bastes the woman. But at our doctor’s office, there’s only one deposit room. And some guys take 45 minutes. Not mine. Some guy there before us. Hogging the room. We were last to arrive, so we sat there for 4 hours … but we weren’t warned that it was going to be 4 hours. At some point, the Mister complained and we were offered a different doctor but they wanted to make sure I was okay with the new doctor … I was like, “I don’t even know the original doctor we were scheduled to meet and I don’t give a shit who shoots it up there. Just do it. I’m hungry, I want to go eat lunch.” After speaking to some of the other ladies in the waiting room, the lengthy IUI wait is common. I think if we had been warned, we would have been better about it, but what we thought would take 2 hours was actually 5 hours.
Second, I wasn’t warned about the cramps. Maybe some women can get an IUI and go back to work, but I never had menstrual cramps until last year (I know, I’m bragging, sorry) and they’re not bad at all. But these IUI cramps? HOLY HELL! The cause? The catheter can irritate the uterus or the semen wasn’t all washed away in the washing process and some semen was inserted into my uterus which could cause the cramping. And I can’t take anything for cramps because I’m allergic to NSAIDS (the good shit in Advil, Motrin, etc.) and Tylenol just isn’t going to cut it for cramps, so I just laid on the couch all day, ate In N Out, and watched Netflix. I also ordered shoes. Have you seen Ali Wong’s Baby Cobra over on Netflix? If not, go watch it now! (But no, not you Mom, or Mom-in-Law, no, no, you’re not the demographic. She’s pretty raunchy.) Anyhow, Ali joked about how she got a miscarriage bike, and well, I got insemination shoes. (Edit update: I experienced NO cramps for my second IUI).
And third, the hormones made me depressed. I can’t really explain my mood, except to say that I’m normally 99% “happy” – as in NOT depressed and not on any mood altering prescriptions. I would say 100% happy, but I really hate doing dishes. But after taking the Clomid, the trigger shot, and the Estrace (to thicken my uterine walls which had been thinned by the Clomid, it’s just a circular pattern over here in my uterus) I’d say that my happy percentage dropped.
(And let’s just take a moment to talk about those tiny blue Estrace pills. The pharmacist says to take them “vaginally” you say, “ok” and take them home, but then, when it comes time to insert one, you have to Google it because like, WHAT? That pill is tiny and where does it go and how far up? Yeah, there was definitely some cussing going on with those pills. Plus, they give you a blue discharge. Again, I ask, have you seen Ali Wong’s Baby Cobra stand-up show? Instead of being like Ali with her being like, “I slime you, I slime you”, I felt like I was slowly morphing in a Smurf.)
Anyhow, I just really wanted to stay in bed all day and look at my phone or sit on the couch and watch TV. I didn’t really want to go anywhere. I didn’t want to shower. I didn’t want to exercise. And I definitely didn’t want to eat right. I pretty much just wanted to eat cupcakes and pizza. And ice cream. And cheeseburgers and fries. And milkshakes. It’s gotten better since I stopped taking the meds, but they definitely affected me.
Also, menopause is going to be a bitch! One of Clomid’s side effects is hot flashes. While I didn’t have “flashes” of hotness, I ran hot ALL week. It was a pretty chilly week in LA while I was taking the meds and my poor husband wanted to turn on the heater and I was all, “What? It isn’t cold in here! Nope!” And sleeping when you’re hot is not fun. I had trouble sleeping that week.
Now the fun part? Once you find out you’re NOT pregnant, you get to start the process all over again! Which meant I was supposed to show up at the doctor’s office sans appointment at 8 am on a Monday morning in order to try to fit myself into an appointment to get my hoo-ha wanded for another AFC Ultrasound count. Instead, I decided to take this month off from fertility shit. We’ll try it again next month.
The funny part about all of this is that I really don’t WANT to be pregnant. I want the baby, but I hate medical stuff. I hate going to the hospital. I hate needles. I was already anxious about pregnancy. My birth plan? A hospital with drugs! I’m not fooling around in a kiddie pool with candles and a doula. (Which is perfectly fine for some people. I’m not judging. It’s just not for me.) If I could have a biological baby delivered by a stork, that would be AWESOME! So it just kinda sucks that we have to do all these medical procedures to just GET pregnant.
Anyways, I’m hoping my next update is shorter. I’m hoping it will read like this, “Did another IUI, it failed, but I got a second pair of insemination shoes! Tried IVF (with or without ICSI) and now I’m pregnant with twins.” Just putting that out there into the universe! Keep your fingers and fallopian tubes crossed for me! For both the shoes AND the twins!
And if you have any questions, please let me know. I am happy to answer any questions. Or if you have any advice, please give it!
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Want to read the rest of my story? Spoilers below: