Wednesday, April 6, 2011

All the things I have always wanted to do but can't...YET!

I don't know how many of you watch the show Parenthood on TV, but I do and last night's episode struck a chord in me that opened the gateway of tears. In the episode, one of the women is struggling with secondary infertility. I feel for you, but you already have a child. Anyways, a hard thing to deal with nonetheless. She has trouble coping with the fact that she probably won't have another child and in essence takes it out on her current one by smothering the child with activities she wants to do with her. The woman plans all these "special days" with her daughter where they go to the zoo together, have special dates and she wants to teach her daughter how to golf so it can be "their" thing. At the commercial break the tears came. I have a list of "special days" I want to have with my children. I have activities that I want to do with them that's just "ours". My husband, I know, can't wait to hopefully have a son to teach sports to and watch Sportscenter with.

So of course that got me thinking. All the things I have always wanted to do with my children and/or husband, but can't yet, obviously. The first thing, you ask? I want to feel my baby growing inside me. I want to feel its first kick, move, hiccup. I want to have a life inside of me that I helped create. I want to share with them music that has always helped to calm me while they're still inside of me. I want to share with them every minute of my pregnancy when I get that chance. For me, I want to relish in morning sickness, getting fat and caving into cravings just every once in a while! I want to share in the entire childbirth process with my husband. I want to feel the very first time they lay our child across my chest. I want to hear the first time our baby cries. I want to be able to hold our baby for the first time and know that feeling of being a mother. I want my husband to have the satisfaction of being a father which he so desperately wants. I want to share in being a family.

What would I do with them? What wouldn't I? Walks in the park, play outside, board games, work on homework, eat dinner together, watch them play sports or do whatever they want to do for fun, laugh, cry, read together, go to the zoo, learn an activity together. The list could go on and on. Most of it would seem to be the daily activities that I would give anything for. I want the opportunity to be the only one in the world that can make them stop crying or stop hurting. I have always wanted to share with my children just how loved and wanted and appreciated they truly are. How much faith I had that God would give that blessing to me someday.

Every holiday these days I go through the same gamut of emotions. What would it be like with our kids someday? I want to share in frosting cookies, opening presents, hunting for Easter eggs, watching fireworks and trick-or-treating. I want the opportunity for their grandparents to spoil them rotten with an overabundance of love and gifts. My husband and I want to share in all the excitement and craft-making that leads up to each one. Well, maybe not so much the craft-making for him, but I'm sure you get the point.

On a happier note, I want to share in the new mom shopping and nursery decorating. Hello, who wouldn't want another excuse to shop? Baby clothes, items, and toys, not to mention maternity clothes! All my husband does is cringe when I get giddy about the thought of shopping for all those new fun things.

Most of all, I want to share in the bonding experiences of breastfeeding (if possible) or giving our baby a bottle. Looking in their eyes the entire time knowing their ours.  I want to share with my husband every milestone our kids will reach; first crawl, word, steps, tooth, day of school, etc. There's so much I want to do with my husband and future children.

Again I get asked why would I put myself through all of this? For each and every one of these reasons and so many more. Every shot, every painful experience, every negative is worth the chance that someday all of these things will be ours to share. I would love nothing more than to share this with our own flesh and blood, but if that's not in the cards for us, I am so excited to still share all of these moments with a child that we are blessed enough to receive through adoption.

All the things I have always wanted to do but can't all leads in one direction------>BEING A MOM, enough said.

Different Fertility Procedures

Yesterday I shared some acronyms common in the infertility world.  Some of those were different techniques to achieve a better success rate. I plan to explain those more in detail as well as discuss alternative options as well in this same post. I am not even going to attempt to discuss all the preliminary testing they would have you do before they consider you for fertility treatments. I will leave that for another post! I want to share all the information I have gained (even some in the last 24 hours!) for you to better equip yourself or a family member/friend that happens to be going through this.

First, I can explain in the most detail what I have gone through personally. I skipped Clomid, which is usually the first stop for doctors on the infertility train. Women can use Clomid, then try naturally or go through a procedure called IUI. Intra-uterine insemination is essentially what I like to call "turkey basting". They take the sperm and inject it right into the uterus allowing for less "travel" time and distance.  This helps with both male and female infertility. Most men will be tested as well before this happens to check for motility and count. Be gentle with your husband during this time, his pride is at stake!

From my experience, you can attempt IUI several times before there's nothing "new" they can try to get a success. They can change only so many variables in the equation before the answer will almost certainly be a no every time.  For me, that was trying new and sometimes higher doses each attempt. Instead of Clomid, I was on FSH or follicle stimulating hormones, gonadatropins, to create many follicles in my ovaries. Throughout the shots, they carefully monitor you by ultrasound and blood work to make sure the follicles are growing at a rate that they should and your estrogen level is rising as well.  After the follicles mature to a certain size, then they can make you ovulate by giving you an HCG shot to release the follicles (which hopefully contain eggs). After a certain amount of hours from your HCG shot, you go in for your IUI procedure.  After that, it's the usual two week wait to see if it worked.

After Clomid and IUI, the next step for me was IVF. In vitro fertilization can be controversial if you have certain religious beliefs. Some women choose not to go through this for medical reasons as well. It is extremely taxing on a woman's body, her emotions and not to mention the husband and their checkbook! This is more in depth than IUI. You go through the same follicle stimulating hormones, but this time tack on antibiotics for both you and your husband, a strict schedule and regimen you have to follow and paperwork to sign. It seemed nothing short of overwhelming when we first met with the IVF nurse in our doctor's office. They give you your timeline to follow: when to stop your pill, when to come in for your blood tests, order your meds, paperwork, semen analysis, sonohisterogram, trial transfer, when to start antibiotics, when to start your FSH shots, when to come in for check-ups (several times a week, near the end it could be every day), when to give yourself the HCG shot, when to come in for your egg retrieval, when to start progesterone shots, when to come back for your embryo transfer, when to be on bed rest, when to come back for your pregnancy test. By this time your head is spinning. But you can ask questions at any time, the nurse or doctor can go over and over that schedule with you until you understand it. Your husband will be there to help keep everything on track.  For me, the next IVF attempt will also include Lupron shots into the mix! Fun times! Just what I always wanted, more shots! I actually had a dream last night that my doctor was explaining that unfortunately for Lupron, the needles have to be bigger. Which thankfully, is not true. That's just how obsessed your mind and subconscious become about it. Add on top of all that stressful planning that your hormones will be through the roof! I plan to explain each step of IVF as I go through it starting in a few days with an MRI to check the size of my benign pituitary tumor.

Along with IVF there are several techniques the doctors can try to give you the best scenario for success. The ones we have done and will be doing again are ICSI and Assisted Hatching. ICSI or intracytoplasmic sperm injection is where a single sperm is microsurgically injected directly into an egg. They literally cut off their tails and put one inside each of your eggs. Pretty cool, huh? That helps the fertilization process significantly! Assisted hatching is when a small section of the embryo's outer "shell" is removed to improve the embryo's chance of attaching to the uterine wall. All embryos have to leave this outer covering prior to implantation anyways and they can help in that process as well. Mind-boggling, isn't it? Also hard to believe that with the help of all this you can still get a negative. That just goes to show how much of a miracle conception truly is. Even with all the science in the world, a greater being, in my case God, has to intervene and have it be on his terms.

There are alternatives if all of this sounds scary and too expensive. We all know insurance companies aren't the greatest at helping with fertility treatments even though Viagra is covered! Just recently someone handed me a brochure on a natural technique termed Naprotechnology.  Worth a shot if you want to try everything possible before turning to shots! It says that it uses the Creighton Model Fertility Care System to monitor various events and to telegraph abnormalities in the menstrual and fertility cycle. When your cycle functions abnormally this Naprotechnology identifies problems and treats them cooperatively with the cycle.  Now from just glancing at the websites it reminds me a lot of taking your basal temperature and "acting" when the time is right. However, for those of you out there who aren't sure exactly why you aren't conceiving, there might be something to this. Check out more at if you're interested. There is apparently a study being conducted that you might be able to get in on as well if you are serious enough about it. Couldn't hurt, right?

Another alternative which a lot of women swear by is acupuncture. Now that to me is WAY more needles than I would ever want to be subjected to all at once, but to each his own. Apparently you barely feel them if at all and it is very relaxing. So if you're not a strong believer it will get you pregnant, you might want to try it for a stress reliever during the process. This also couldn't hurt if you're not terrified of needles that stay in you for long periods of time. In all seriousness if you are interested in either Naprotechnology or Acupuncture I know two female doctors right here in Wadsworth, OH, that can help you!

The last alternative that I am somewhat familiar with is Bioidentical hormones. It seems to be the more homeopathic approach to fertility. More natural hormones and supplements as opposed to synthetic. Most of what I read talks about then being used to lessen the symptoms of menopause, but I have heard several people who have tried them in lieu of fertility treatments. If you would like to learn more, click here. But most importantly, do your homework.

With any of these approaches, you need to do what is the best fit for you and your husband. Do your research and make smart decisions.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The ABC's of Infertility

If you're new to the infertility world of acronyms, you may not know all of them yet. Don't worry, I don't either! The ones you will learn quickly are the ones that are the most common or that pertain to you. If you join some of the websites specifically for infertility you feel as if you need a dictionary just for infertility words to understand what everyone is talking about! Now picture being a family member or friend of someone dealing with infertility and having no idea what they are saying when they use all those acronyms. I found a website to help! A reference point if you will. I will share some of them here in this post, but then I will refer you out to the website so you can do your own research!

IVF - In Vitro Fertilization

IUI - Intra-uterine Insemination

This one I actually had to look up because I knew women were referring to their husbands, but I didn't know the first word
DH - Dear Husband

ICSI - Intra-cytoplasmic Sperm Injection

LAP - Laparoscopy

AH - Assisted Hatching

ER - Egg Retrieval

ET - Embryo Transfer

ART - Assisted Reproductive Technology

A sad one:
BFN - Big Fat Negative

There are many, many more for all the hormone therapies and different tests and procedures. Feel free to check this infertility website for information.

After joining a few different websites where you can talk to many couples going through the same thing and a lot even at the same time, it is nice to be up on the vernacular! I hope this helps those going through infertility as well as their family and friends.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I'm Infertile, Now What? Be Your Own Advocate!

I wish I would have stopped to ask myself this question. I wish I would have slowed down my thought process to allow my mind time to wrap itself around this term that had just been thrust upon me. I didn't, but you can. I didn't stop to think if my doctor was the right fit. I didn't stop to think that I had a say in my course of action. I let my emotions take over and the doctor "do what's best".  I'm sure you can tell by now that I am the type A, overly-anxious kind of person. My husband, the exact opposite. He evens me out, but he wasn't there the day the doctor said, "here's what we're going to do".  He might have been my only voice of reason and I'm sad I made the appointment when he had to work.  Otherwise, things may be different. I could have been a mom by now had I been allowed to be part of the process and have a say.

Don't let this be you. Have a say. It's your body, your money, your life. When the doctor immediately wants to "skip" over less expensive steps and won't explain why. ASK QUESTIONS. I didn't. I trusted the expert. Now, I'm paying for it all over again.

Don't get me wrong, my PREVIOUS doctor knew what he was doing. He was the best of the best according to most. That's why I ended up in his office in the first place. However, when I first ended up there I was a teenager, not knowing anything about my situation or that I should have a voice in the matter. If you remember back to one of my earlier posts, I decided to "trust" his expertise all the way through 4 failed IUI attempts and 1 failed IVF attempt. I did so in good faith that he was looking out for my best interests. Why wouldn't he? He was overburdened with too many other patients just like me. He didn't have time to answer every patient's questions. He was too busy performing miracles on a daily basis. Remember when I told him I had questions and he looked me straight in the eye and said, "that's why you're here". Then he turned around and walked out the door saying the nurses would answer any questions I had.  I should have noticed and said something when I felt something wasn't right. Doctors should answer your questions and take their time with you. You should not feel like a number.

Be your own advocate first and foremost when you find out this diagnosis. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Find out the exact reason (if you can) for your infertility. Is it you or your husband? Is it both of you? Is it in your brain or your abdomen? Do you need specific tests done to check for Endometriosis, cysts or blockage of your fallopian tubes? Find a doctor that will work with you, not behind closed doors to help you reach a specific course of action that you all agree upon. Don't let them skip over simple procedures that could end up saving you thousands of dollars.  Yes, they are the experts, but you know your body and you know your gut instincts. I should have followed mine.

If you end up having to take the route of IUI and IVF, make sure your doctor is up front with you about cost, medications, and most importantly your hormone levels during the process. Don't let them just tell you everything is going as planned. No, get specifics. Make them take their time to look and then explain it to you. You're the one spending the money. You're the one doing this to your body. You're the one wanting a family. Protect you and your potential family by getting all the facts throughout the process.

I was too shy at times to ask exactly what my hormone levels were. I wish I wasn't. I deserved to know. My husband and I were paying him. The least he could do was keep us apprised of the situation as it unfolded. During my IVF attempt I could tell something was off. I didn't feel as "crazy" as I formerly did during all of my IUI attempts. I should have asked why. It turns out that my estrogen level bottomed out. The embryos were never going to attach without the right environment. Of course when I asked my previous doctor why the IVF didn't take, he simply said, "you have poor quality eggs".  No, that wasn't the entire reason. Maybe part of it, but when I didn't have enough estrogen in my system to support an environment for the embryos to attach--that, my friend, is the complete reason it didn't work and you knew it or you would have if you would have slowed down and taken a closer look. I only came "privy" to this information after switching doctors. I finally got the courage to stand up for myself. I got a second opinion. I wanted a fresh set of eyes on my records because of how angry I had become at my previous doctor. Here was this "man" telling me I would have no trouble getting pregnant for 10 years and to "just come to him when we were ready". Well by the time we did depend on him to get us pregnant, he didn't stop and take his time. He could have stopped the IVF, saved us thousands of dollars and not wasted the cycle by just trying IUI one more time. WOW. Wish I would have known that at the time. I would have demanded it. If we would have saved thousands on that attempt, I wouldn't have had to wait another year to save up again to try another round of IVF. Thanks.

Now that I have my new doctor, he informs me of every step and WHY we are doing that. I have a say in the process, but I also know he won't keep information hidden from me. Make sure you know your doctor and are comfortable with him.

Infertility is a scary and stressful diagnosis, why would you want to be with a doctor that doesn't inform you? Doesn't take time with you? You have to feel comfortable with your doctor or that makes it all the more stressful (I now realize).  Know your diagnosis, check your facts and do your homework. Most importantly, be your own advocate. It's your body, your money, your future baby. Wouldn't you want to be as informed as you possibly could? I know I will be from here on out.