Journey to Baby #2

Two and a half years ago I decided to start a blog about our struggle with infertility. Our name, Meet the Hopefuls came from my infertile play on the movie title Meet the Parents. At the time, we were still working toward receiving an official diagnosis. We were completely naive in our understanding of fertility treatments. We thought a simple pill or better timing would allow us go home and get pregnant the good, old fashioned way. Initially, we told no one about what we were facing. In fact, if you’d have told me two years ago that one day I’d be more openly blogging about our struggles with infertility, I wouldn’t have believed you. Or I’d have thought sometime in the future I was going to completely lose my marbles. Nevertheless, I sit here with a stomach full of butterflies as I type our first non-anonymous blog post about our current steps in our building family journey. In moments where I lack courage, Chris says, “get your butterflies to fly in formation!” Bear with me as I harness these fluttery little suckers…

For our first two cycles of IVF we hid in a shroud of anonymity. Very few people even knew we were infertile. Even fewer knew we were pursuing fertility treatment. Even fewer knew about this blog and those who did were people we would’ve openly shared our feelings with anyway. Writing with anonymity felt safe and comfortable. We never censored ourselves. When people in real life made painful comments, we openly wrote about and processed our feelings in the blog. When we were scared, we our fears poured out of our fingertips and onto the keyboard. When we were devastated, we journaled our sorrows. When we got pregnant with Mason, we hesitantly shared our success. We shared all these emotions without a filter because so few people we knew personally were reading our raw emotions as they transpired.

This time things are a little different. For starters, having Mason changed us in a big way. He helped us heal from some of the heartache infertility put us through, and validated our experiences. Having Mason also made us less shy about talking about infertility. We’ve  grown so much by opening up about our personal challenges. Now, our family and friends know about our struggle. Most people are hugely supportive of us. After coming out of the infertility closet, we’ve learned how truly “not alone” we were all along. A surprising number of people in our lives have shared their stories of struggle, loss, and infertility with us too. They’ve told us how thankful they are for our transparency. We hope we’re making the topic of infertility less taboo by our willingness to talk about our experiences. On the other hand, some people in our lives seem to be scratching their head as to why we would share something so deeply personal. Everyone is different, and I hope on some level even our critics can respect our decision and pure motives in helping other people who, like we once did, feel lost, hopeless, alone.

While we’ve come a long way since our initial diagnosis, recently we’ve found many of those old infertile feelings and emotions coming back into play. It all started when we decided to start trying for baby #2. To state the obvious, in our case that doesn’t mean bow-chicka-wow-wow. It means email the nurse coordinator and ask her what the first steps are in starting another frozen embryo transfer. I know, super romantic. Shortly after reaching out to the clinic to get the ball rolling, it hit me. Even after having a baby, we are still just as infertile as ever. That’s right about the time I started noticing the pregnant women–they’re everywhere. We are involved in activities with other parents and babies and children. We’re in a sea of fertile people. Mason gives us the appearance that we fit right in, but at the core we never will.

Our journey to baby #2 quickly brought me back to our old stomping ground; the fertility clinic. My nurse scheduled me for a mandatory hysteroscopy, mock embryo transfer, and cultures, prior to starting our next cycle. The procedures went well. The HSC revealed that there are no polyps or fibroids; my uterus looks good after an emergency cesarean childbirth with Mason. The mock transfer gave my RE the information he needs to place our embryo in the best spot possible. Going under anesthesia this time felt different. When I was told to bring my advanced directive, my heart sank as I thought about my miracle son. Even if the chances of problems are slim, I felt guilty for putting myself in harm’s way when I have a child. Yet, if I want to give my child a sibling, it’s the only way.

Prepping for our third FET coming fall 2017!

Being in the clinic again made the memories come flooding back. I vividly remember sitting and waiting for our first appointment–we were interviewing a new clinic after a failed cycle at the clinic from hell. We were so apprehensive, guarded, and afraid. Yet, we moved forward because that’s the only choice you have with infertility. I remember going in for our egg retrieval with a full bladder, as directed, and how badly I had to use the bathroom! The nurse finally caved and let me pee–just a little bit–so I wouldn’t wet the waiting room chairs. I remember Chris getting in his hospital gown for his second MESA/TESE procedure, and the phone call that followed telling us there were millions of sperm that time around. I remember waiting for blood draws and beta tests and ultrasounds. I remember the agonizing wait to see the doctor the day the nurses suspected I’d had a miscarriage, and what a horrible sense of loss and emptiness we’d felt, only to yo-yo back to security when we found out Mason was okay. I found out my symptoms were due to a disease called adenomyosis I didn’t know I’d had all along. I remember the day we were discharged from the fertility clinic, and how exciting and scary it was to be released to a regular OBGYN’s care.

We have been through a lot in that little clinic. It feels strange to be back. in some ways we feel like we beat infertility–we went on to have a successful pregnancy and healthy baby. At the same time, infertility still holds us captive. We haven’t experienced these feelings for a long time, but they’ve been silently in the background all along. I wonder what our future holds. We still have three frozen embryos–two boys and one girl. We just learned this week that our girl is our lowest quality at a 4BB. All along we planned to transfer her next. And when I found out her quality, all the sudden I found myself bracing for the emotional roller coaster ride. Regardless of our feelings in the matter, we’ll stay on this ride until we’re finished with our family building journey.

Reflections on Infertility at 6 Months

It’s time for me to break the blog silence, and write again. In my last post, I mentioned it has been hard for me to write when I know others out there are still struggling. We are so grateful to be about six months through our pregnancy with baby “Casper.” We also understand our pregnancy might sting for some people. The hard thing about overcoming infertility is when you know other people are still dealing with that nagging pain and emptiness that used to feel way too familiar to you too. I have a friend who has been going through fertility treatments far longer than we have. She and her husband have experienced more loss and heartbreak than anyone should ever have to endure. They are wonderful people, and Chris and I want them to get pregnant so badly. And here we are moving forward, and watching them go through the process again. It’s unfair. It’s cruel. It’s a reminder of how we should never take what we have for granted. We pray for them, and for all those of you who are still struggling, everyday.

Our struggles with infertility have definitely shaped how we’ve approached sharing our pregnancy. For starters, Chris and I have not posted anything at all on social media about being pregnant. I remember how much those posts used to break my heart, and I’d never want to bring that pain on someone else. I’m still not back on Facebook, and have been away from it for almost a year.

Every infertility situation is so unique. Midst the joy, anxiety, and gratitude of my pregnancy, every now and then I think about the future. Of course, I find myself regularly wishing that “Casper” was already here, and wanting to speed things up. In those moments I have to remind myself to be thankful for this opportunity, this pregnancy, and this journey. I don’t want our baby to arrive a minute too soon. I want him to grow strong, so when he’s here, we can simply enjoy being the parents of a healthy baby boy.

In other moments, I find myself having the realization that this pregnancy is not a cure-all for the challenges we’ve faced. For a long time, during the phases of fertility treatments and ups and downs, I thought of pregnancy as the finish line. After becoming pregnant, I quickly realized infertility had left some pretty thick emotional scars, which resulted in being a fairly anxious mommy-to-be. Even despite meditation, therapy, positive self-talk, and affirmations I found myself being uncontrollably anxious in the beginning. We bought a doppler device so I could listen to our son’s heartbeat in these challenging moments. That little tool helped me so much in the first trimester. Now that I can feel our son moving, I have relaxed a even more. Every milestone helps me to overcome the tormenting fears of the past.

Our hearts are overflowing with the gratitude that this pregnancy is going smoothly. We met with a perinatal specialist in weeks 10 and 20 to double check on our sons growth and development. Both times I felt exceedingly anxious in the days right before our appointments. And both times, the doctor told us everything looks “perfect.” What a huge sigh of relief for Chris and me. Every bit of positive information about our son makes me feel more confident and secure in this pregnancy.

 

 

IVF #2: Progesterone is not my friend

 

Putrid grape-flavored lozenge

 
I’m just going to start off by saying, “YUCK.”

Today I had to ingest my first progesterone lozenges and they are beyond nasty. You know the grape-flavored medicine that everyone hates? This is so much more disgusting than that. For starters it’s a lozenge, so it lasts for what feels like an e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y. I have to take them underneath my tongue, and hold them there until they are completely dissolved. No joke, the dissolving process takes about 15 minutes. As it dissolves, the lozenge makes your mouth feel simultaneously numb and waxy. The first one I took this morning almost made me puke. I think partly that’s because I did it on an empty stomach. I don’t really have a choice, though. I have to take them about eight hours apart because I’m doing it three times a day. So this means bright and early when I wake up, midday, and before bed. Even after transfer, I get to do this until my 10th week of pregnancy. I’m already sick of it. Honestly though, I will do anything to become a mom. So if it means ingesting repulsive grape-flavored medicine, I’ll do it 100 years if necessary. If given the choice, I would much rather do progesterone in oil. I’m already doing estrogen in oil, so what’s another shot?!

Last cycle with a different doctor, I did Crinone suppositories for my progesterone and they were icky! TMI Alert: if you haven’t experienced the joy of  Crinone, let me just tell you what you’re missing. They contain a bio adhesive that makes them literally get stuck in your vag for as long as possible. I used to pass gigantic clots of glue every day. My husband didn’t even want to touch me while I was taking the stuff. And I don’t blame him! To call them gross is quite an understatement.  

 

Endometrin tablet and applicator

 
This time I’m taking Endometrin three times a day. I’ve only taken two doses, but so far I like them a lot more than the Crinone. The only downside I’ve noticed so far, is that they’re making me feel a little bit irritated down there. They are a pill instead of a gel, and you insert them with an applicator. They dissolve up there, and then they kind of slowly leak out throughout the day. Pantiliners are a must-have on this stuff. 

So far I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting headaches right after my dosages of the lozenges and the Endometrin. I feel little bit detached from my body after I take them for about an hour or two. I hope this is something I can adjust to, or that will eventually start to go away on its own, because it’s a distraction in the middle of my day. The headaches are not debilitating, so I’ll be able to manage for awhile. What’s 11ish weeks when you get a lifetime with your kid, right!? 👶🏼

IVF/ICSI/TESE #2: Tomorrow

The past 24 hours have been a complete blur. We received the sad news that Chris’s uncle lost his battle with cancer late yesterday. Chris has been such a pillar of strength for his family throughout his uncle’s treatment and hospice care. Today has been rough on him. We’re comforted by knowing his uncle is now in a much better place; free from suffering and pain. We haven’t been able to slow down to fully process this loss, as our plans with IVF are in full swing at the moment. 

I had my first trigger shot at 12:15 AM, and my second at 12:15 PM today. My first shot was an hCG/Lupron combo, and the second shot was solely Lupron. The nurses performed a blood test to make sure that my body was responding well to the hCG in the trigger. Everything looks like it’s on track, and going smoothly, and we’re very grateful for that. 

 

We hope all these little vials will aid us in creating the love of our lives!

 
Chris spoke with his urologist, who performed a blood test to see how his body had been responding to the Clomid and antioxidants. In the words of the urologist, he’s responded to the meds “ridiculously well.” Testosterone levels should be at about 1200, and Chris’s testosterone levels are currently at 1204. The urologist cautioned us that this cannot be a complete predictor for sperm quality, but we’re still incredibly encouraged by this news.

It’s a big day for us tomorrow. First, I will be admitted for my egg retrieval which will take place around 11:15 AM. Then, Chris will have his TESE procedure sometime around 1 PM. After that, the lab will be immediately performing IVF via ICSI. This is the most involved form of IVF, where the lab will directly inject a single sperm into each mature egg. Then, the waiting begins again. We’re ready for a weekend on the couch, watching movies, taking it easy, and being together. 
After five days, we will know how many embryos have made it to the blastocyst stage of development. These will be frozen for future transfer, as my body recovers from all the hormones. We’ve also opted to go with pre-genetic screening (PGS) of each embryo this round. This will automatically filter out the embryos that are not healthy, or fit to transfer. We’ve chosen this option as a way to protect ourselves from the pain of a loss, although PGS does not completely rule that out. We are sincerely hoping for the best, while simultaneously trying to keep a realistic perspective. 

Thanks in advance for keeping our family in your thoughts and prayers. 💗

Mr. Hopeful Opens Up

“It’s OK, Cornelius. You can cry.”

Earlier today, my wife and I attended our first peer-led infertility support group. She found the group on Resolve’s website, and it just so happened that today they were encouraging spouses, husbands, and partners to join in. The meeting itself was held in an unassuming two-story community center with ample parking, a neatly-trimmed hedgerow, and two long, deep trenches in the sidewalk from where my heels had gouged the concrete as my wife dragged me in the side door by my shirt collar.

Am I supportive of my lovely bride? Absolutely; I’d march straight down to hell and bite the tongue off the devil if she asked me to. But was I excited for the support group? Not in the least. It’s not that I’m not a social person, but I really don’t like being put on the spot. During our drive to the support group, I imagined myself sitting in the middle of a circle full of coffee-swilling strangers, being peppered by questions about my infertility. And for a knuckle-dragging Alpha-male like myself, exposing to strangers my inability to reproduce is leaps and bounds more embarrassing than showing up in my boxers would have been. Maybe I would have felt differently if I wasn’t the reason that we are doing all of this in the first place, but as it were I was perfectly content to keep my support group attendance in the same category as my vas deferens—ABSENT!

Now, to Quentin Tarantino this story and jump to the end, I walked out of the meeting 90 minutes later and delivered to my wife the four simple words that every woman in the world delights in hearing: “You were right, dear.” As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong about the support group. In no way was it like any of the support groups in Fight Club; nobody put me on the spot, there was no coffee, and I didn’t end up having to hug any strangers (no offense to strangers, I’m just kinda partial to my boundaries).

The truth is that the meeting was amazing in that it made me realize that there are other people out there who feel the same way that my wife and I do. Looking back, this sense of community shouldn’t have been as astonishing as it was, but I truly was caught off guard by how safe I felt the minute the talking started. As each individual and couple took turns sharing their story, I felt less like an alien and more….well, normal, I suppose. Those of you who are infertile can probably relate to the feeling of seeing children in public and feeling like an outcast, a misfit, and a failure. But when surrounded by others who are dealing with similar situations, I began to see that while there was a lot of sadness in the various individuals in the room, there was also a ton of strength. Each and every couple that spoke had clearly been tempered by the fires of loss and despair, and yet had bounced back up to try again (and, in some cases, again and again and again). My heart broke as many of the women burst into tears while talking, and yet I was encouraged by the compassion that everyone in that room showed. These may have been strangers, but they clearly had each others’ backs—and ours.

When it came time for us to share our story, my wife gave me an encouraging nod and I began recounting our journey, beginning with the phone call from our doctor on my 30th birthday letting me know that I had zero sperm. Interestingly enough, I sensed that I had more in common with most of the women in the room than the men, simply because the majority of the couples there were dealing with female infertility. I’d like to think that I gave the dudes some insight into how to hold their wives emotionally—primarily because I’ve got a bit of training in this regard, and also due to the fact that my wife has been such a complete and total rockstar throughout this process, having handled me in a very loving and empathetic manner and never once causing me to feel guilty or blamed for our infertility. One thing that was cool was that after I spoke, another husband in the room shared his story of infertility, and as he was talking I was reminded that I am not the only man on the planet who cannot have children the ‘natural way’. I understood what this guy had gone through, quite possibly better than his own wife in some ways because I could connect with the roller-coaster that we had both been on individually. Finding another person who had endured this pain and survived was strangely comforting, and I could feel the icy wall of isolation that I’ve felt for the past few months begin to melt away a tiny bit.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this experience. Previously, any sense of community that I’ve felt during this process has been limited to online blogs and awkward, wordless encounters with other patients in our IVF clinics. But to sit at a table (not a circle of chairs, mind you) and discuss the issue with other living, breathing humans who truly understand what we’re going through was a very good feeling. As we exited the parking lot, I was struck by a profound thought: every single person in that room who showed up to participate would make an award-winning parent.

I pray to God that each and every one of us gets that chance.

IVF #2: Upping the Ante

I’m a night owl. I’m definitely not a morning person. There is a direct correlation between my ability to get out of bed in the morning, and my level of excitement regarding the activity that is waking me. Take this morning, for instance. I knew I was getting out of bed early for blood work (my least favorite of ALL needles…but more on that later) and a transvaginal ultrasound. Neither of these tasks are appealing. So I hit the snooze button a few times, and eventually dragged my groggy self out of bed and on my way to the doctor’s office.

The interior of our new clinic looks like a posh hotel. Complete with swanky decor, modern furniture, and sparkly chandeliers we’re reminded of how much we’re paying just to be there. People travel in from all over the world to our clinic (which makes me feel pretty reassured about our selection) so the waiting room is a constant buzz of varying languages and brewing coffee. I honestly love the energy of the place. It makes me feel so much more at ease than our last clinic. There’s definitely still a little awkwardness, as I imagine you feel in any fertility waiting room. There are times when I see people sitting across from me, and I’d love to chat with them. We’re all there for similar reasons, wouldn’t it be nice to feel a sense of community? Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way (it sure seems so!).

After some great people watching, a nurse called me back for blood work. Let’s just call it like it is: I’m a sissy when it comes to blood work. I never complain, and I refuse to make a big deal out of it, I’m just not a fan. I’ve always averted my eyes when a nurse comes at me with a needle and a tourniquet. After all the needles I’ve stabbed myself with over the course of IVF, you wouldn’t think this would be an issue. There’s something different about putting liquid IN the body, versus taking liquid OUT. Today, I decided I’m going to conquer this fear. So I forced myself to watch the nurse as he performed the veinipuncture and blood collection, and guess what? It really wasn’t that bad. In fact, it made me wonder why I’ve been so afraid of blood work all along.

Our meeting with Dr. W was fairly brief. He performed the ultrasound, and I didn’t ask any questions. Part of me wanted to know how many follicles appear to be growing. The other part of me is worried to get my hopes up. I’d honestly rather just find out post egg retrieval so I know for sure. Dr. W said everything is coming along quite nicely, so for now, I’ll take that as a great sign.

We met with a nurse to go over changes in my medication. There are no changes with my Omnitrope, so I’ll continue administering the .25ml/day. However, starting tonight I’ll be doubling my Menopur dosage in the injection I named the Breaking Bad shot.That’s now four vials of Bravelle, two vials of Menopur for a grand total of 450iu of medication going into one shot! I can already barely inject this shot without feeling faint, and now I’m doubling the medication that makes it sting like hell? Oh, I’m super excited. Additionally, starting tomorrow I’ll be adding another shot, Ganirelix to the daily regimen, which I’ve read from other bloggers “stings like a bee.” Seriously, the things we’re willing to do, right? I hope this time it will all be worth it. ❤

IVF #2: Here We Go Again!

Blood draw this morning (hence the pretty, color-coordinated bandage) gave us the OK to start!

We knew it was coming, but somehow this second round really snuck up on us. We’ve been out of town for about a month (Chris was on business, and I tagged along), so our minds were pleasantly elsewhere. I feel like we are finally starting to get closure on the horrendous toll our first IVF cycle took on us. After everything we’ve been through for the past couple of months, I know a fresh start is a good thing.  

Speaking of fresh starts, so far I’m impressed with the new clinic we’re using. I did a drop in for a blood draw today to check my estradiol and progesterone levels. I walked in the door, signed myself in, and a nurse called me back in less than two minutes. I was out of the office and on my way in no time at all. They haven’t charged us anything yet, either. I was totally willing to take out the wallet and fork over the dough today, but they were super nice and said “No need to pay today, your blood draw will be included with your cycle.” Well, alrighty then.

My nurse called my medicine in to the pharmacy in a timely fashion (I didn’t have to remind her once). These details probably sound like very basic things to most IVF patients, but our last clinic was not nearly as courteous. It’s really nice to be pleasantly surprised so far this time around. 

In order to have (hopefully) better success this cycle, we’ve both been on some supplements for the past couple months. Chris has been taking Clomid and Naturally Smart to stimulate his sperm production. I’ve been taking prenatals, CoQ10, DHA, and folic acid. Tonight I start these bad boys:  

Dun dun DUNNN…birth control pills!

I should be starting stims at the end of this month. If I said I was looking forward to another round of stims, I would be lying to you. I still haven’t lost the weight I gained from our last round. I’ve been kindly referring to myself as “skinny-fat.” In other words, I’m a petite person who looks like she could probably stand to tone up and shed a few pounds. Am I going to stress over a little vanity weight? No. Will I be upset if I gain more? Likely. If I have a baby from this will I really care? Not a chance.  

About two months ago (on the day we found out our cycle failed), I deleted my Facebook account. It has been INCREDIBLY liberating. People keep asking me why I did it. The honest answer is I was sick and tired of baby announcements. I’m also completely fed up with Facebook being treated like a digital baby book–it’s like all baby pictures all the time. I’ll be the first person to admit I’m crazy-jealous when I see those pictures. But I also think it’s really excessive. If I’m friends with someone on Facebook, I don’t want to see 250 pictures a week of their newborn infant, as cute as he or she is. Some people really don’t know when to stop. So it’s nice to be away from that. When people ask me why I got off Facebook, I’ve been giving them a variety of reasons. Depending upon how close I am with the person, and whether or not they’re guilty of the aforementioned atrocities will determine whether I’m honest with my answer. 😉 Really though, Facebook was a waste of time, and let’s be honest, I was on there way too much. I’d rather see people face-to-face, and have real relationships with my friends. 

Another random musing, I find it interesting that it’s effortless to be happy for certain pregnant people, and really difficult to be happy for others. For me, I find it really varies upon the person, and how they approach the topic, along with whether or not I deem them to be “worthy” (subjective much? Yeah, I know). If people announce they’re expecting and they’re not married, and have an “oops,” I find that pretty difficult to reconcile. If they’ve been married for a few years, are responsible people, and break the news to me in a sensitive way, then typically I’m pretty cool with it. It doesn’t mean I don’t have my jealous moments, but I figure that’s normal. 

Overall, I feel like I’m finally starting to heal from our failed cycle. I moved on from feeling emotionally dead, and past the intense heartbreak that followed. Now I can go out in public and see parents and children together and not feel like my heart is about to burst. I’m not 100%, though. I am still finding it difficult to see baby bumps, and infants still pull on my heart strings. The scared part of me wonders if we never have a child, if these feelings of jealousy and hurt will ever go away. The hopeful part of me is holding tightly to the idea that this may be the last IVF cycle I ever have to do. 🍃

Mr. Hopeful: A Male Perspective On IVF

HandWrench

At 31 years old, my wife should already have a couple of rugrats running around. She should be tripping over little shoes as she walks in the door, finding discarded pieces of food in the backseat of her car, and cleaning sharpie marker off of our lampshades. Unfortunately, she’s not doing any of these things, and the reason why comes down to one little word:

Me.

If you wanted to get specific, I guess you could blame my genetics, but either way you look at it I’m the reason that we don’t have kids. Like Mayhem—the character from the All-State Insurance commercials destroys everything he touches—I’m the cause of all those massive IVF bills, the needle-inflicted bruises, and the river of tears that have been shed since this insane process was started.

Like many with Ostrich Syndrome (head buried firmly in the sand), I initially figured that the reason we couldn’t have kids was that our timing was off, or that we were under stress at work, or that the stars weren’t aligned or whatever. On the rare occasions when I did think that something was wrong from a fertility perspective, I was certain that it was on my wife’s side—after all, in terms of complexity, the difference between my system and hers is like the difference between a Ford F-150 (simple, reliable, easy to start in cold weather) and Sebastian Vettel’s Formula 1 Ferrari racecar (complicated, temperamental, and requiring monthly rebuilds). Besides—caution, TMI ahead—everything of mine down there functions just fine, and I would know if something were amiss. Right? Yes, of course. Back to the sand.

Fast forward a few years of unsuccessfully trying to have kids and my wife finally dragged my stubborn ass to the fertility doctor who, in a brilliant display of timing, called me on my 30th birthday with four words that I never thought I would hear directed at me:

“You have no sperm”.

Allow me to pause for a moment, dear reader, and explain the implications of this diagnosis on my manhood. I felt useless. Unmanly. Ineffective. Pathetic. Worthless. Nearly every male out there is programmed with an innate and primal desire to repopulate the world with his seed. Now, I’m not talking about sex, I’m talking about reproduction. Think of it as the ancient Spartans thought of it, the desire to have a couple of big, strong sons to grow up and ensure the survival of your lineage. Chauvinistic? Perhaps, but nonetheless difficult for me to reconcile. In a world where my fellow men were walking around with fully loaded M249 machine guns, I felt as though I’d just learned that I was carrying a super soaker. And that sucked.

(Side note: When my father found out that I was born with a permanent, irreversible vasectomy, the first thing he did was to call my one and only brother and urge him to have a son to “continue our line”. High fives, Dad.)

Naturally, the one person who snapped me out of this ridiculous way of thinking was the most supportive, coolest, and most loving human I know: My wife. She reassured me that I was one of the manliest men she’d ever met, and that my ability to reproduce was in no way a reflection of my character. She told me that I had a stronger sense of purpose in life than mere reproduction, and that she had never seen me back down from a challenge and knew that I wouldn’t back down from this one. In fact, she went on to affirm, so rare was my genetic affliction (1 in 30,000,000, or something like that) that it was actually kind of cool. My attitude changed. Suddenly, I didn’t feel worthless. I simply saw this as the card we’d been dealt, and I vowed to be strong as we tackled this issue as the awesome team that we are.

Believe me, being strong was not always easy. I cannot explain the absolutely overwhelming feelings of guilt that come from watching the person you love most on this planet stab themselves repeatedly in the belly with needles because of a deficiency on your part. That was a tough one. Having spent more than my fair share of time in a hospital bed (I work in a high-risk profession), I can say that it is tougher for me to be the person on the sidelines watching the one you love go through pain than it is to be the one who is hurt. No lie, I would have changed places with my wife during every one of her uncomfortable, painful, horrible procedures if I could have. As luck would have it, I got my chance in the hot seat when I went in for what can only be described as the most horrific surgical procedure I’ve ever endured (and I’ve had a bunch). The experience sucked, but once again I drew a lot of strength from my beautiful wife, who maintained a strong belief that all of the pain would be worth it in the end.

If you’ve read any other post on this blog, you now know that things didn’t turn out as we’d hoped. Not even close. We’re both still grieving the negative beta result that we received just a couple short days ago. Words cannot describe the gut-wrenching sound of a mother crying for her lost child. I’ve been through a lot in my life, but seeing my wife pull down photos of our embryo, seal them in an envelope, and lovingly place them in a filing cabinet with tender, motherly care caused me to come completely unstrung. Those of you who have been in this situation before understand. To those who haven’t, I truly hope that you never have to experience the feelings of loss and devastation that come with a failed IVF cycle. Even though I wasn’t the one who underwent the transfer, this feels every bit as real to me as I would imagine it does to my wife.

Fortunately, in times like these you find out not only what you are made of, but what your partner is made of. My wife and I have taken turns holding each other—both physically and emotionally—and even though things aren’t OK right now, we both seem to have the underlying sense that they are going to be OK. Although, to be fair, we have no idea at this point how they will get there.

Male or female, husband or wife, if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you are comforting your partner in the wake of devastating news, just hold them. Really. You don’t have to talk, you don’t have to fix, and you don’t have to promise them that things will get better, even though they may. Just hold them close and kiss them often.

You Are Not Alone

NIAW-CMYK

Four years ago, a dear friend confided that she and her husband were struggling to start a family. After a devastating failed IUI (intrauterine insemination) they decided the best thing for their family was to move forward with adoption. My friend had a lot of anxiety about the process, and was so eager to begin her journey into parenthood. While I did my best to support my friend, I admit I had no idea how difficult the situation was for her. My husband and I had never tried to have a child, and I thought infertility was extremely rare.

At the time, I asked myself what I would do if I were in her shoes. I remember thinking fertility treatments were costly, and seemed almost egotistical to me. It was silly even to ponder it–if we struggled with infertility, of course we would adopt. Sometimes when we think we have life all figured out, we get gain the opportunity to learn some humility. In fact, our own journey into the world of infertility began with a nice, heaping helping of humble pie.

Chris and I started trying for a baby at the end of summer in 2013. The first month we did not succeed, I thought our timing must have been off. So I read a few articles, and we tried again. The second failed month I was baffled. We tried harder. Again, we failed. I was already discouraged. I mean, in high school, hadn’t we learned that unprotected sex was a straight shot to pregnancy? Our phone rang, and it was Chris’s brother announcing he’d accidentally gotten his girlfriend pregnant. They were terrified. I remember thinking, “How was that an accident? We’ve been planning this out, and it hasn’t worked yet!” Little did I know, this was just the beginning of the journey.

After over a year of trying, we still had not made any progress. Family and friends had become pregnant and delivered their children within the time we simply tried and failed. Baby showers were starting to become torturous, and every pregnancy announcement stung. I remember our close friends telling us our time would come. It got to a point where I couldn’t get this advice anymore–it was simply too painful. Finally, we reached the breaking point and reached out for help from a reproductive endocrinologist.

After countless invasive tests, and blood work we were shocked to discover our problem was not just a quick fix. Chris has no sperm, a condition known as azoospermia. He was referred to a urologist for further testing. We were devastated. When we got the news I was rocked to my core. I lost my peripheral vision in a full-blown panic attack, and still had to drive myself home from work. The next few weeks I was living in a dark cloud. I looked around me, and all I saw were families. Every child I saw was a a reminder that I may never have the opportunity to be a mother someday. It was a lonely place to be. 

We all start somewhere. The fact is, when we first received our infertility diagnosis, I had never felt so alone in all my life. It is amazing how several months can change everything. In these five months, we have learned so much. First, we learned that men, like Chris, can be born without a vas deferens. Without this tube, it is essentially like a congenital vasectomy. We will have to use in vitro fertilization (IVF) to have a child. Second, we learned infertility is treatable. In the beginning, we thought we would never have a biological child. While we still have not proven that we can, we learned of treatment options that would allow the doctors to take sperm directly from Chris’s testicles. Third, we learned that science is pretty cool.  Although, there is still so much research to be done in the field of infertility, there are many people out there working hard to make a difference in the lives of others and enable people, like us, to become parents one day.

As we sit on the brink of the final phase of our first round of in vitro fertilization treatment, I can finally say with confidence: I am not alone. Why? This community is rock solid. When the diagnosis comes, there is a temptation to hide it, to feel shame, and to wish it away. However, there are so many people out there, one in every eight couples to be exact, who are going through similar pain. Their diagnoses may be different, but each of us share the common longing and desire to be parents. I have made friends in the blogging world who offer support every step of the way. I am also part of an IVF Support Group with over 6,000 members all going through the same treatment process I am. Who can feel alone with that many people sharing your journey?

I am not alone because I have an amazing partner. Chris and I are sharing this experience together. We may process the information at different rates, and have different coping strategies, but at the end of the day, we are a rock solid team. No matter where this journey leads us, we know we have each other. We are eager to see where this road will lead, but we are confident that we will be parents someday.

-Heather

To learn more about infertility visit Resolve: The National Infertility Association.

Click here to learn more about National Infertility Awareness Week

Over the First Big Hurdle!

We just got the call–drumroll please…

Of our fifteen eggs ten were mature and nine fertilized! That means they must have found more usable sperm. We are over the moon we are so excited! Thank you for all the great support you’ve been sending our way. We appreciate it! 

Come on 9 embabies! Mommy and Daddy are cheering you on. Sidenote: you can see in this picture where the anesthesiologist accidentally ruptured a vein in my hand yesterday. Well worth it!