Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Our Infertility Journey

Infertility is something that everyone struggles with just a bit differently.  I don't think it sits well with anyone and there are always awkward silences when it is talked about.  It was something that I knew was coming for quite some time but reality sunk in in November of 2013.

I have Total Situs Inversus.  What's that, you say?  It means my organs are a mirror image of yours.  Yes, my heart is on the opposite side of my body, and no, I do not hold my hand differently for the Pledge of Allegiance.  Those are two questions that I get asked every time someone learns about this birth defect/disorder.  I'm not even really sure what it is considered.  Anyone that knows me or my family also knows that I have a sister, who would be two years younger that me, that had this and also Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.  She passed away when she was two days old while in surgery to help fix her heart.  That's an entirely different blog in itself.  Although I have this, it isn't something that they definitely link to why my body doesn't work quite like it should.

In November of 2013, one week prior to my emergency stomach surgery, my mom and I traveled to Iowa City so that I could have all of my "systems" looked at to make sure everything was okay.  This wasn't something that had ever been done and since I had "womanly" issues it was something that was recommended by my gynecologist.   To make my body work properly, it was easily fixed with birth control.

My heart and body checked out perfect.  The specialists told me I should ever have to worry about complications due to my organs being reversed.  I opted out of seeing the GI doctor because I hadn't really ever had serious stomach or intestinal issues.  Shoulda, coulda, woulda... Needless to say, I should have had them send me down to that wing of the hospital that day.  I ended up being rushed back to Iowa City via ambulance one week later to have all of my intestines taken out, straighten out, and put back in through an 8 inch incision in my stomach.

During these appointments though, I learned that my body doesn't make its own estrogen, therefore, I was diagnosed as pre-menopausal.  This immediately explained the hot flashes that I had been having since high school.  Like full blown, soak my clothes every night in sweat, need to sleep with the windows open, shed my clothes at any point of the day kind of hot flashes.  The Dr. also informed me that after looking at all of my blood work, that I would definitely need help getting pregnant.  It shouldn't be impossible but was going to need to come see them when Gavin and I were ready to start a family.  I was a little crushed.  My dream of a perfect little family instantly became something that I may really struggle to have.  The fact that she said it was possible helped, but nonetheless, it wasn't something anyone really wants to hear.

They suggested I stop taking my birth control to see what happened.  They typically do a cycle of BC to help women get "regular" before attempting to get pregnant.  I stopped and so did my period.  Therefore, trying to get pregnant virtually becomes a guessing game.

Gavin proposed in December.  We got married in August, and we made the trek to Iowa City on October 13th to find out what the process would be to even get this business started.  We knew that we wanted to start our family immediately, although we had our honeymoon planned for December.  The doctors told us it could possibly take several months to "jump start" my body since it hasn't ever really worked like it should.

We decided that we would go the IUI (artificial insemination) route first and the other medications that typically come before this would most likely not do a thing for me.  We (more me than him) decided that we would get started right away if it could possibly take a couple of months.  After being trained how to give myself shots and setting a schedule that was more paperwork than I even know how to file, we headed down to the pharmacy to pick up our meds.  $1200 later, we were walking to the parking garage, somewhat in shock, broke, and with a box of 10 viles of meds.  Ya, you read that right--only ten.  In the end, our first cycle was cancelled due to overstimulation.

We had to take a couple of weeks off to let my body rest.  We returned in at the end of November to start cycle number two.   It started off much the same and were headed down the same path of having too many follicles growing.  My body simply would do nothing or go way overboard with the slightest med changes.  Dr. Graf, who I adore, pulled us into a room after this ultrasound and gave us several options.  We could cancel this cycle, take a month off and try another in which she wasn't sure would even work due to how my body had been responding, or crash into an IVF cycle.

IVF is short for inVitro Fertilization.  This means they surgically remove eggs from mature follicles.  Fertilize the good eggs in a petri dish and then return a three to five day old embryo back in.

This appointment was quite possibly the biggest whirlwind of my life.  After Gavin and I had the chance to discuss our options, we decided to go the IVF route.  It didn't make a whole lot of sense to go through another cycle when the doctors were pretty sure it wasn't going to work. (They had taken us to their "Tuesday Team Meeting" several times now where all of the doctors in the office weigh in on what they think should be done.)  After we had made the decision, we had about 20 people filling in and out of the room.  Insurance had to be contacted, the IVF team had to accept us into their schedule, a new med plan had to be made up, meds had to be picked up, oh, and we had to come back down for an all day meeting the following day.

Now, I am a teacher.  Being gone is A LOT of work.  I had already missed plenty of afternoons for the two cycles we had done.  It ended up being more than normal due to it not working.  My kids were confused and it was just stressful for all of us.  Throw in this wrench and now I've missed Tuesday afternoon, will miss all day Wednesday, and come to find out, I'll be gone Thursday afternoon as well.  Our Wednesday appointment included meeting with a financial person to fill us in that IVF is crazy expensive.  Like $16,000 without insurance.  We also found out that my school carries the "Cadillac" plan for infertility coverage and therefore would cover a lot of it.  Thank goodness.  I had more blood work, shots, and another ultrasound.  We were walked through how the whole process would work and were told to do my "trigger shot" Thursday night.

Our retrieval went well.  This process required me to be put under and they were able to fertilize 9 eggs.

On day 5, transfer day, there were six that were still growing and were of high enough quality to either transfer or freeze.  We had previously decided with the doctors that we would only be transferring one embryo.  So on Saturday, December 11th we had our transfer.  This doesn't ensure that I would get pregnant as they can't actually embed the embryo in the uterus but it was the first time that it could even be possible.

I began the dreaded progesterone shots in my hip.  These are done with a 2 inch long needle that Gavin had to do.  The progesterone was in an oil so not only was the needle long and scary, it was thick and stung going in.  Small price to pay for the end result!  There were a couple of times that he would have to do it twice due to it bleeding.  I felt bad for him as he would be nervous and shake and then feel bad for shaking.  He was a trooper though!

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