Today I’m venturing from our typical food posts to talk about how we conceived our sweet Baby Spice, Isla.
For those of you who have followed along for years know that around the time we got married in 2013, I started experiencing a lot of anxiety that continued to take parts of my life from me. It took me a few years, and many failures to figure out the right course of action, and to be able to heal. I talk about that in this blog post here.
I always wanted to be a mom. There was a time in my life after many years of babysitting where I didn’t think I wanted to have kids, and then I met Bill, and I just knew. This was the guy I wanted to have a family with. First we started a blog, then we wrote some cookbooks, then we got engaged, then we got married, then we thought we’d have a kid, but instead I stopped being able to eat because I was so nauseated from constant anxiety. The more I did to get better, the worse I got, and I was crushed. I knew I needed to heal before I could be a mom, and that was my mission. I didn’t want to be a mom with severe anxiety. It felt like it was my responsibility to resolve this before being a parent.
Once I was in a place where I felt like we could start trying, I thought it would come easy. Everyone in my immediate family has gotten pregnant on the first try. There have been a few accidental babies, and my aunt was even conceived and grew with an IUD hanging out with her in the womb. My cycles were regular and healthy, I knew when I ovulated, I take really good care of my body, and so does Bill. From the time we started trying I kept telling Bill I was worried it wouldn’t work. I even said I was scared we would have to do IVF. He looked at me like I had 3 heads, “what would ever make you think that?” “I don’t know. I just feel weird about it, and I’m worried.” Part of me had made up this story in my head that because conception came easy to everyone in my family, it had to go wrong for someone, and that would be me.
A few months into trying, I started working with Meg the Midwife. She had posted that she had some slots open for fertility clients, and I took her up on it. I’m notoriously a really good patient, and do all the things. Following protocols isn’t usually an issue for me. She retested my hormones, helped me with some diet tweaks, and suggested a few supplements, and some meditation for fertility. One of the things she suggested I do was get an HSG to make sure my tubes were open. I did that, and all looked perfect. Bill got a sperm analysis, and that looked great too-super sperm. Okay, cool. Things should be good, right? Still nothing.
I started seeing a fertility acupuncturist in town, and she was the meanest person ever. Seriously the worst. She was someone that should never be treating emotionally fragile women. Anytime I had good news to share about my cycle, she wouldn’t acknowledge it. She just looked down at my chard with a stink face, but had many things to say if she thought something was wrong. She required payment up front for multiple sessions, and after the first session my gut kept telling me that she was not someone I should be seeing, but I stuck with it because I had just paid her way too much money. She put the needles in extra deep because she said it was more effective, and told me I could scream if I wanted. Umm, what? The sessions were discouraging, and stressful, and I finally walked away before my package had ended, and took a break from acupuncture. I love acupuncture, but it was going to take some time for me to feel good about going again.
Right around a year of trying, I decided to make an appointment at The Midwife Center, just to see if they had any thoughts. I was seen by one of my favorites, Emily. I took my labs, and sat down and talked to her. She kindly told me that there really wasn’t a whole lot she could do, and said she thought it was time I had more extensive labs done with a Reproductive Endocrinologist. I told her I didn’t think anything was wrong, and I was afraid we would get stamped with “unexplained infertility”, she told me that there’s lots of women that come to TMC who have babies after being told they have “unexplained infertility”. I am not a crier, and I hate crying in front of anyone except for Bill, but this was an area of my life that made me really break down easily. I could barely speak without crying, trying really hard not to cry, while she rubbed my leg, and then gave me a hug. Midwives man, they are just the best.
We left with puffy eyes, and ready to call the local clinic. I first tried Reproductive Health Specialists, who were my first choice, only to find that they didn’t take our health insurance. Devastated, I made an appointment with the fertility clinic at our women’s hospital. We did all the tests, and ultrasounds, and all of our results were perfect. On paper we were perfect. We were stamped with “unexplained infertility” and the fellow told me we had 3 percent chance of conceiving on our own. This infuriated me. I didn’t cry, I got really mad. How can someone so healthy, with perfect labs, and regular cycles have 3 percent chance of conceiving? I actually said back to her, “You’re telling me there’s nothing wrong, but I have 3 percent of conceiving?” My doctor suggested we try a medicated IUI. I wanted a baby so badly that I started my first round of Clomid right after I lost my grandmother, and we were moving into a new house. For what it’s worth, I don’t recommend this. Ever.
My first cycle on Clomid went really well. I was so excited that I felt good on it, that it really made me feel encouraged. This wouldn’t be so bad, I could do this whole fertility treatment thing! We were staying in a family friends’ guest house, all of our belongings were in storage, and we were waiting to close on our new house, but I didn’t feel sick or crazy, so I was really optimistic. My ultrasound looked amazing, I grew 3 big follicles on the lowest dose of Clomid, and had two runners up, so if I remember correctly, my doctor had me trigger ovulation a day early because she couldn’t risk me ovulating 5 eggs (it’s been so long at this point that I don’t remember all of the details). We had to sign a paper saying we knew that there was a potential for multiples, and the nurses said I looked great and were really hopeful for me.
Our first IUI was unsuccessful, and I was crushed. 3 big follicles and a great sperm sample, how could it not work? Then I found out that my doctor wasn’t even going to see me to discuss what could have gone wrong and next steps, they were just going to fill my prescription and try again, so I asked to be seen. My doctor came in, and I started crying again (ugh, seriously?) and started asking about IVF, knowing my fate. She looked at me and said “Why are we talking about IVF, that’s not for you. I did 10 rounds of IVF for my son, and I had problems. You are great, I have high hopes for you.” I didn’t believe her.
We took the next month off, because my grandfather was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and we needed to go visit him. Did I mention this was the worst time ever to be trying fertility treatments? I am happy to report that my grandfather shocked his oncologist with a clear PET scan after a year of high dose vitamin C IV, and ozone therapy, when they told him he would be in the ICU within 6 months-yay Grandpa!
I was still hopeful it would happen on its own during the month we didn’t do treatments, but it didn’t. The next month we tried treatments again. Again I responded really well to Clomid, and it looked like we had a really promising cycle. The end of October I got the faintest positive, and it never got darker. I went in for a blood test, and my HCG was too low to be a viable pregnancy. They told me it was still the trigger shot in my system, but that didn’t seem right to me, because it had been so many days past the trigger shot. It should have been out of my system, I took the test when they told me to, because thats when they said the HCG from the shot should have been out of my system.
I was really upset again, and losing my faith in this clinic. For some reason, I went on the website of the clinic I originally wanted to go to, and saw that they were merging with UPMC in October. Oh my goodness, they were now taking my insurance! I called them, talked to one of the nurses, and told her I was unhappy with my care at the womens hospital. She said it sounded more like I was experiencing a chemical pregnancy, rather than the trigger shot still in my system, and they’d happily take over my care. I set up an appointment to be seen, and they miraculously had a slot open for me right away, which is unheard of. I thought for sure I wouldn’t be able to get in with them for at least a month. Around this time I also found a new acupuncturist, Daniel at Way Wellness, and his energy was so soothing. He’s a true healer, and being in his care felt really good. Things were starting to feel like they were falling into place.
Hope radiated through this fertility clinic. There are quotes from parents on the walls, pictures of babies that were conceived there, and a painted tree with all of the baby names and birth dates, that you can see on the wall in the hallway while you are having bloodwork done. You are constantly being shown hope as you walk through the building, and while you wait for exams and scans. All of the nurses were warm and friendly, and you could tell they really wanted this for you. I felt good here. I liked coming, and didn’t dread it, but instead was excited for each appointment. They got me set up for another IUI. This one felt heavy, because it was number 3, and usually after 3 the success rate declines, and most doctors suggest moving on to IVF after 3 IUI’s. This cycle I was really starting to feel the effects of the Clomid. For Thanksgiving, my aunt started making Grandy’s stuffing with out me, and I had to leave her house I was so upset. I barely made it out the door without crying, and sobbed for over an hour, over stuffing.
Again my ultrasound looked great, and there was so much hope, and yet, another negative. Bill and I sat down after this and had a long talk. For the first time I felt ready to move on to IVF. I stopped resisting it, accepted that this was our path, and we both decided this was the direction we wanted to go. It felt right, and I didn’t feel upset about it anymore. Bill sacrificed his birthday for a meeting with our doctor to discuss IVF. She was willing to do more IUI’s for me, but we agreed that since I was already doing so many alternative things to help, and I had gone through 3 medicated IUI’s, that if I wanted to move on to IVF, I could. I always thought fertility doctors were eager to jump to IVF, but that’s actually not the case. They don’t want that for you, if at all possible. They want you to conceive in the least invasive way possible. After we met with our doctor, we sat down with the IVF coordinator, and got set up. This was really happening. I was nervous, and excited, and ready to get going.
Tomorrow I’ll be back to share how our retrieval cycle went, and the things I did to stay grounded through the whole process. IVF isn’t for the faint of heart, and my heart goes out to those of you who have had to endure multiple rounds. Sending so much love and hope your way.