It is not what you think; it’s fertility. In the 1950’s people didn’t talk about cancer or divorce. Today, people don’t like to discuss fertility. It’s a very personal journey a woman goes through. Like motherhood, she is judged, scrutinized and opinions are instantly formed about her decisions. I know because I went through it. Here is Episode 1 of my story.
You are not alone. I heard somewhere that one in three women have fertility issues. Hello, that’s over 30% of women! It is common and it is a medical condition. It’s not the black plague as some other generations or religions would have you believe. I believe, like with many other topics, talking about fertility is the only way that women can come together as a community and provide support for each other in a time of need.
So, here’s my story. My husband and I married when I was 23 years old. Soon after that we decided it was time to start a family. After six months of unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant I approached my OBGYN about the issue. He assured me that I was young and it would happen with time. According to him I had plenty of time and was instructed to start reading books about getting pregnant. Yeah, that's exactly what I wanted to do!
So, after six more months I approached him again and with a lot of encouragement he decided to begin the standard panel of fertility workup tests (blood work, hysterosalpingogram, semen analysis, ultrasound of my uterus, etc.). The test results didn’t show anything conclusive. I fell into the dreaded category of unexplained infertility. I showed some signs of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and my tubes could have been minimally blocked (the hysterosalpingogram should have cleared that out if they were), but there wasn't anything he could single out.
That being said, he referred me to a fertility specialist. Our first meeting with our fertility specialist was overwhelming. After going over a printed out checklist of treatment plans, risks, known side effects and insurance paperwork we felt like just a number the doctor was checking off. We decided to proceed anyhow. The first month of monitoring began – more tests and blood work. When my cycle started again it was time to begin our first round of treatment.
This is how it typically works. Call the nurse (never call the doctor) on day 1 of your cycle. Go into the office for blood work and ultrasound on day 2 through 4 of your cycle. Wait for the nurse to call you back with results around 3:30 pm. The nurse will without a doubt ask if you have a pen to write down medication instructions; you won’t and you'll call back again to verify instructions. The nurse will order medication from mail order pharmacy. Mail order pharmacy will call you to verify. Wait for FedEx to deliver such medication (and mess up delivery on a time sensitive package worth taking a second mortgage out on your house that needs to be refrigerated). Receive package from FedEx and unpack a huge box filled with syringes, disposable sharps container, medication vials, and alcohol swabs. Hope that your neighbors don’t go through the trash can or recycling and think you have a drug addiction. Begin self-injections.
On day 7 return for more blood work and ultrasound. Wait for nurse to call. Have pen and paper handy to write down medication dosage instructions. Continue medication for three more days. Return on day 10 for blood work and ultrasound. Repeat process with nurse. Nurse delivers promising news. Follicles have matured and it’s time for IUI (intrauterine insemination aka the turkey baster). Schedule appointment for IUI. Take trigger shot to force ovulation. Have IUI and begin the two-week wait. Google two-week wait symptoms every free moment that you have. Drain cell phone battery agonizing over two-week wait symptoms. Wait some more. Return on day 14 for blood test. Wait for nurse to call with results. Blood test is negative. Sulk and wait for cycle to start over again.
I repeated this process varying medication dosages, types and frequency for 9 months. At that point I switched to another doctor in the practice. We repeated the same process and had success on the first try! I could just jump through the phone and kiss the doctor (correction: the nurse. I have only met and spoken with the doctor once at this point). After a very long journey, Little H-Man was born a few days after my 27th birthday.
During those 9 months I underwent fertility treatments I chronicled my thoughts and emotions and saved those posts for a time when I was ready to share them with others. Check back soon for more stories in “The ‘F’ Word Series.”