When Dreams Come True — My Infertility Miracle

In 2007 my husband and I began our journey into parenthood with no idea what we were in for. Like most couples, we didn’t expect it would lead us down the road of infertility. After I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), we went through years of fertility treatments until my body finally gave out in 2010, and we were told conceiving a child of our own just wasn’t possible. The news was devastating, but eventually we accepted it and moved on. We began exploring our options for adoption, but after almost two years of research and prayer, we simply didn’t have peace in knowing that was God’s ultimate plan for our family. Read more

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The Healing Process – Part 2

My prayers have changed through infertility, and have been a big part of the healing process.  In the beginning I simply prayed for a baby. After time passed, and no pregnancy occurred the pain really set in.  I found myself becoming angry and bitter, and my prayers turned more into questions and pleas.  Many were simply asking God why, and pleading with Him to grant me this one desire.  My biggest struggle with not conceiving was wondering why God would give me such a strong desire if He never planned to fulfill it.  It seemed like everyone around me was getting pregnant, but I continued to be barren.

The truth is wanting to become a parent can be the most exciting and most difficult time in a couple’s life.  Everyday there seems to be a different emotion.  First you’re excited, then you’re sad, then you’re frustrated, then you’re angry, then you’re depressed, and then you’re simply just tired…. at least that’s how I’ve experienced it.

So as I went through the process of each phase, a new way of praying seemed to go with it.  Looking back now I can see how my prayers went from selfish to finally just desiring whatever God wants.  I first prayed for a baby.  Simple, straight to the point, thankful, and excited about the future.  Then as time passed, and I had to go through fertility treatments, I prayed for wisdom, clarity, a short treatment process and of course a positive result.  But as the negatives continued I then moved to more direct prayers.  I started to just honestly spill my guts.  I told God how I felt, why I was becoming angry, and pleaded with Him to let me conceive.  Everything would physically line up perfectly, but as I continued to be barren I let God know I was not happy with Him.  I pleaded that He grant me my desire, and asked Him why He was allowing me to be in such pain.   Then as time passed I finally grew depressed and tired.  I finally got to the point I just couldn’t carry the heartache around any longer.  As we continued our last IUI cycle I prayed that God would just make my desires His, and if He didn’t want me to have a child then to just remove the desire from my heart.  If becoming a mom was not for me, then I didn’t know why He would allow me to want it so badly.

During that last cycle I stopped ovulating.  The doctor continued to increase the dosage of my daily FSH shot, but still nothing happened.  Finally after about a week I began developing back pain.  As the dosage continued to be increased, the back pain continued to increase.  Finally one night I came home from work, sat in a chair, and could not move.  I couldn’t get up to call my husband, I couldn’t take our dog out for our regular walk, I seriously could not move.  When my husband walked in from work, he could tell something wasn’t right.  He got me to the couch, we searched the internet for answers and talked about what to do next.  We decided I’d head to the doctor the next day, but ended up at the hospital.

I was admitted immediately for testing, and after a pregnancy test, x-rays, and a number of other tests I was told they didn’t know what had caused it, but I had sprained my back.  I hadn’t done any heavy lifting, and we determined it most likely was caused by the medication.  One of the very rare side effects is back pain, and though it only happens in like 2% of all cases, it does actually happen.

So this is what I consider to be my non-birth story, and as I can see it now, an answer to prayer.  Most women get pregnant, go through regular doctor visits/examinations, experience contractions, head to the hospital, give birth, and finally welcome a child. For me, I went through the doctor visits/examinations, experienced the worst pain I had ever felt, headed to the hospital, and left knowing I would never become pregnant.  I remember laying in the hospital bed, looking over at my husband, and finally just laughing.  I told him if this wasn’t a sign that the fertility treatments weren’t going to work then I didn’t know where else to look.  I left the hospital with a little slice of peace, a little slice of sadness, and even more curiosity as to what would be happening next.

It amazes me how many times God answers our prayers in a way that we don’t expect or when we expect it.  I’ve learned for me, He usually allows me to go through a process of revealing only glimpses of His plan one step at a time.  Then once I finally reach the answer, I can see how each step was preparing me for what He had planned all along.  I know now that by going through the fertility treatments, they were actually preparing me for the final answer of no.  He used them to bring me peace about not conceiving a child.  I still don’t know what the future looks like in terms of adoption, but I know He’s given me the strength and peace to just enjoy the blessings in my life today.  I had prayed for contentment years ago, but again, it’s only been in His timing and by walking the road in front of me, that He’s finally granted me that answer.  My desire to be a mom’s still there, and really a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about being a mom.  But that desire just reminds me that He’s still working, and allows me to release it back to Him.  It’s still an ongoing process, but I find comfort knowing that He’s taken me this far.  I don’t know when that next answer will come, or what it may be, but I do know that no matter what the future brings He’ll continue to be with me each step of the way.

My Score Card – Medications & Procedures

So I haven’t really gone into much detail about what treatments I’ve been through so I thought I’d give you a brief summary for inquiring minds.  I understand everyone’s different, and whatever choices you make regarding treatments are entirely up to you and your spouse.

Medications:

The Pill – I was originally placed on the pill to regulate my cycles before ttc.

Clomid – I started at 25 mg a day and reached the max at 250 mg a day.  Typically one takes Clomid days 3-7 of a cycle or days 5-9.  I have gone through the process of trying both options.  The first was starting at 25 mg and working my way up to 250 mg days 5-9 with my OB/GYN.  Then I tried days 3-7 with my RE, again starting at 25 mg and working my way up to 250 mg.

Metformin – My RE had me take 1500 mg a day my entire cycle.  I did this for 6 months before adding in Clomid (as mentioned above) on days 3-7.

FSH – I injected FSH into my stomach alternating sides while going to the RE each morning for blood work and a vaginal ultrasound. (Sorry guys, ultrasounds are not all the same.)  Then depending on the size of my follicle, my dosage was increased until the follicle reached proper size.

HCG – I injected HCG into my buttocks once the follicle was proper size in order to ovulate.

Provera/Prometrium – I’ve taken both of these which are both Progesterone.  I have taken them both orally, and the “fun” way.

Tests:

Too many rounds of blood work, physical examinations, vaginal ultrasounds, and regular ultrasounds to count.

My husband also got his full set of tests done.

HCG – For those of you that don’t know this is having a dye injected into your tubes to be sure they are clear.  For those of you that haven’t done this, be sure to take the heavy dose of Advil (or other pain medication).  I forgot, and paid for it.  I’m also blessed with being allergic to the dye, so I got to take 8 Benadryl pills before the test. Talk about being loopy.

Procedures:

Tracking my temperature

Ovulation sticks

Tracking my mucus

Charting for ovulation

3 IUIs (I began a 4th IUI cycle, but my body quit responding to the FSH…more about that will come in a future post.)

The Diagnosis – PCOS

Since I was going to be off the pill due to side effects from medication we decided it was time to become a family of 3.  I had been on the pill for nearly 7 years, and had always thought when we were ready to get pregnant it would simply just happen.  I remember being told in 6th grade that sex was evil, and if you did it once then you’d end up pregnant.  I’d almost like to go back to that teacher and say she was wrong, but I know that wouldn’t change anything.  I’d also like to go back to the doctor that said an irregular cycle was nothing to worry about, but again, what’s the point.  On one hand it amazes me that people just sugar coat things until you’re faced with reality, but then I wonder if I was in their shoes, what I would tell a girl so young… probably the same thing.

So I was off the pill for 7 months and still did not have a cycle.  At first I thought I was lucky and our first month just waiting for my cycle to come had worked.  Then when I wasn’t pregnant, and a few more months passed, we started to wonder if something was wrong.  Finally after 7 months I went to the doctor.  She took the usual look around and said everything looked good.  She was impressed with the fluid I had produced, and said I was either ovulating or had recently become pregnant.  She had me schedule an ultrasound for two weeks so if I wasn’t pregnant then we could move on from there.

So the two weeks passed and still no cycle.  I went to my ultrasound appointment, and all was confirmed….I had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).  Both of my ovaries showed an amazing amount of cysts, and my blood tests confirmed a hormone imbalance.  I learned that I hardly (if ever) ovulate on my own and I would need medical assistance if I ever wanted to get pregnant.  Though many with PCOS are overweight and have high blood pressure, I didn’t have those problems.  Instead I easily maintain a healthy weight for my height, and my blood pressure has always been on the low side.  So treatment for me were two prescriptions.  The first was Provera to induce my cycle, and the second was Clomid to help me ovulate.  I was told to take Provera for 10 days, stop, and then my cycle would come a few days after that.  Then once my cycle came, I was to take 25mg of Clomid days 5-9 of my cycle.  Throughout the cycle I was to take my basal body temperature each morning before getting out of bed, and use ovulation sticks to confirm when I was ovulating.

All of a sudden getting pregnant was a complicated science.  My husband and I agreed that we’d go ahead with the meds, and I took them just as I was told.  My cycle came with Provera, but Clomid wasn’t working.  After another month passed with no cycle, my Clomid dosage was doubled.  I took Provera again to bring on my cycle, but Clomid still wasn’t working.  Each month I wouldn’t ovulate so my Clomid dosage was increased.  Finally after 6 months of trying I had reached 250mg of Clomid, and was still not ovulating.  Since 250mg is the most a person should take, my doctor referred me to a fertility specialist.

I often feel like we were robbed of trying for a baby naturally.  We went straight from waiting for my cycle to come; to having charts, doctors and medications all part of the routine. We were immediately out numbered by tests, medications, charts, doctors, and nurses… and  just trying to get pregnant on our own was never  an option.  And thinking about it all now makes me realize it’s been both a blessing and a curse.  I hate that we got robbed of just enjoying each other without much stress, but I’m glad the process didn’t drag out longer than it did and we didn’t have to wait for intervention.  There are so many couples out there that just don’t know what’s happening, or don’t have the option of being tested due to the financial stress of it all.  Instead for us, we were blessed with great insurance and because my cycle wasn’t coming, we could be tested much sooner than most.

Moments of Darkness

For a while I experienced black out episodes that came and went as they pleased.  I tried eating regularly, adding more water to my diet, but nothing seemed to help.  Since I could usually tell when it was about to happen I decided to just deal with it rather than going to the doctor.  I figured I would much rather manage brief moments of darkness than endure a bunch of tests.

I quickly learned that if I placed my hand on a nearby wall or table then when all went dark I could quickly recover…usually without anyone even noticing.  It worked for a while until I completely passed out one night.  My husband and I were eating dinner in the floor while watching TV when I got a sharp pain in my chest, couldn’t speak, and then lost consciousness.  He caught me as I began to slouch over and started yelling my name.  After a moment, I opened my eyes and saw my very concerned husband’s face.  He told me what had happened, and said we should probably head to the hospital.  I told him I was feeling fine so we agreed that I’d just lie down for a while and then see how things went from there.  He got me some water, settled me on the couch, and kept a constant eye on my every move.

A few weeks (and black out episodes) later I decided it was time to get checked out.  I walked over to the hospital near my work to finally get some tests done.  I figured if I had to endure the doctor then I’d rather go to the ER and get everything checked out in one day.  They tested my heart, my lungs, and did a cat scan on top of a whole list of other items.  But after everything was over they still didn’t have an answer.  I was referred to both a cardiologist and a neurologist for additional testing.

A few months passed and the results were finally in.  I had epilepsy and an irregular heartbeat… or so they said.  I was given prescriptions to take daily, but after looking at all of the side effects my husband and I opted for a second opinion.  Thankfully we have easy access to Johns Hopkins (and my insurance covers it) so we decided to go to the best.   I was able to get in pretty quickly, and see one of the top neurologists in the world.  He ran a series of tests, and took his time talking with us.  He asked if I had changed anything since going to the neurologist, and the only thing different was that I had stopped taking my birth control pills.  We had found that the epileptic  medication would negate the pill so we just decided it was time for me to stop.

The doctor said that after comparing my previous tests to the ones he ran that everything looked good.  He could see in an older scan what a doctor might have thought was epilepsy, but after comparing it to the new scan it definitely wasn’t.  He suggested I continue staying off the pill and not to take any other medications.  He said that from what he could tell there was a good possibility my episodes were caused by the pill and low sodium.  He recommended that I drink an occasional sports drink which is high in sodium, and let my body go back to its natural state.  He suggested that once the pill got out of my system I would probably return to normal.

So I followed his orders and he was right on the money.  It took less than two months of being off the pill and drinking an occasional sports drink to bring me back to normal.  I had stopped all medication, and was feeling much better.  I can’t say for sure the pill was the cause, but I do know that when I stopped the episodes stopped as well.

The Truth Behind Infertility

There’s no way to truly describe how frustrating, heartbreaking, and painful dealing with infertility is.  I’ve heard people say they understand because it took them six or so months to conceive, but honestly if you haven’t endured going through infertility treatments and tests then I must say you have been blessed.

A friend of mine just found out this wouldn’t be her month, and my heart truly just breaks for her.  I wish there was something I could say to change things, but I’ve been in her shoes and I know that there’s not.  When you’re trying to get pregnant it feels like the world is against you.  You dread going on sites like Facebook and Twitter because you just know there will be a new pregnancy or birth announcement.  It seems like no one has a care in the world, and the only dark cloud is hovering over your head.  You find yourself becoming bitter at someone for being blessed with a child because they have exactly what you want.  You see your friends complaining because they can’t drink or don’t feel well, but yet they get to have a baby growing inside them.  You begin counting how many of your friends have become pregnant, how many pregnant bellies are in the store or even walk by during lunch.   And the more you put yourself through all of this the harder it all becomes.

I know because these are all things that I am guilty of.  My time trying to conceive has lasted longer than a friend’s marriage.  I’ve had other friends get married, get pregnant, and have their baby all while I continued to wait.  I’ve had multiple friends be surprised with a pregnancy, and now one of them is pregnant again…this time with twins.  And I know it can all be very overwhelming.

For a while I just wanted it to end.   I wondered what I did to deserve all of the pain.  I dug up all of the skeletons in my closet, repented of all my sin, and requested forgiveness of a friend.  I changed my diet, took medications orally, inserted medications where the sun doesn’t shine, injected my stomach and butt with medications, endured daily doctor visits and literally stood on my head.  I did everything I could think of, but nothing worked.  Time would pass, and each month there would be another negative.  I wondered why.  What was the purpose of the pain?  The wonderment turned to frustration. The frustration turned to bitterness and the bitterness turned to anger.  I wondered why God would give me such a strong desire if He had no plan to fulfill that very desire.

But the truth is now, being through it all, I think I actually know.  Of course I don’t know His ultimate purpose in it all or how things will end, but that’s ok.  I know now that He has always been with me, and through everything He was using my desire to mold me for the better.  I’ve learned to cling to God in ways I’ve never held on to Him before.  He’s seen me through my darkest hours, my brightest days and has continued to be by my side.  I may not have felt it, but He has always been right there…fighting for me.

You see, through it all He just wanted me.  As much as I longed for a child, He longed for me more.  He wanted to pull me out of the trenches, but I refuse to relinquish control.  It literally took my body shutting down before I realized what I was doing.  I was trying to control it all rather than just trusting in Him.  I’ve learned that I can make everything line up perfectly, but if it’s not what He wants for me at that very moment then there is nothing I can do.  It’s not my fault that I can’t get pregnant; it’s just that I need to trust in His plan more than my own.  Through infertility He grew my faith.  He showed me that faith is not always knowing why something happens or how something works, but it is trusting that He has a greater plan for my life, and knowing that I just need to let go.  I’ve learned that it is only by letting go that I am able to find peace, and that no matter what lies ahead, He will walk me through it, but I must continue to keep trusting in Him.

10 Reasons

In honor of my husband’s birthday I thought I’d post 10 reasons why I think infertility has brought us closer as a couple.

10.  He has always been honest with me even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear

9. He let me deal with things as I needed rather than pushing me in any one direction

8.  He voluntarily went through fertility testing so we would know exactly what we were dealing with

7.  He prepared my injections even though he absolutely hates needles, and everything about them

6.  He let me yell at him when I just couldn’t hold my frustrations in any longer

5.  He would always want to know what the doctor said, how an appointment went, and what things meant

4.  He would get excited when we thought it was our month, and would hold me when we found out it wasn’t

3.  He cared for me when I physically couldn’t care for myself due to side effects from fertility meds

2.  He has always loved me even when I was truly an unlovable person

1.  He has always wanted whatever God wants for our family no matter what His answer may be

I can honestly say that I am blessed with the best husband in the world.  When I mentioned starting this blog to him he didn’t seem to bat an eye.  He said if it was something I thought I should do, then I should just make sure I did it well.   Talk about an amazing, and selfless man.