July 16, 2011 I had an epiphany while out of breath, midst runners-high, feeling strong and healthy, and overlooking a beautiful expanse of snowy peaked mountains. I was officially ready for motherhood.
I have always known I wanted to be a mom; to feel the stretch of my skin, the eruption of little kicks from inside my belly, dirty diapers and spit covered maternity shirts, peanut butter smears on couches, chalk drawings on sidewalks, the endless questions of "whys", pretty dresses or cool cargo pants, and all the ups and downs of all things Mommy. For many reasons throughout my life, which I won't go into here, the choice to go forward with baby making was just not a good decision. Opportunity knocked but for one reason or another I knew it wasn't time to bring that little bundle into the world I was living in. I listened to my gut and said, "not yet."
I met my husband in 2009 and was married by 2010. During the years 2009 and 2010 I ran mountains. Big mountains. I slept in, stayed up late, focused on things that made me happy such as crafts, running amazing races, getting to know my wonderful husband better and falling deeper in love doing it. I had a great time and felt the most free and the most loved I have ever felt in my life (not including parental love, of course, which I had in abundance). For the very first time in my dating career I felt accepted and adored for exactly who I was, faults and all. There was no push to change me, no jealousy over my running adventures, no criticism of any kind. Just lots of laughing, happiness, and pure soothing love. I felt the same towards him; he was perfect. He was "my kind of crazy".
We discussed children and he was definitely on board but we both decided to wait a year before revisiting the notion of parenthood. I wasn't ready quite yet.
2011 came and I started thinking about it more often, however I still felt I wasn't ready. Then, during the Leadville marathon as I was climbing up Mosquito Pass I paused and surveyed my progress. The land was breathtaking. Things were so beautiful to me at that moment, even midst agony at nearly 13,000ft elevation, and the words just overwhelmed my thoughts,"I am ready."
I contemplated the idea over and over in my head. I didn't need to run any more races (although I wasn't about to give it completely up; just temporarily) and everything I loved other than running I could still do with a child. The prospect of Cowboy and I being held responsible for the growth and development of a little person was somewhat terrifying (what if we really fuck this kid up?!), the sleeping thing (or rather lack of...I love my sleep) was going to suck, and there would have to be a few adjustments to our household, but overall I knew I was ready. I was filled with a new sense of accomplishment and happiness as I trudged on towards the summit of Mosquito Pass.
"I am ready!"
I came home that night, exhausted but cheery. We had discussed the timing of all this as I was on birth control pills. Cowboy had recommended (and I happily agreed with him) to not tell him when I went off the pills. No pressure for either of us and just not make a humungous deal over it. It would be more of a great surprise when I did become pregnant. I thought that was a fine plan...until month after month of periods amounted to me becoming frustrated and having intense feelings of sadness. I will not say depression here because I don't believe I was ever depressed. I am emotionally pretty resilient to hardships. I am a natural born optimist and stubborn when it comes to achieving set goals. I cried, sure, but it was just being in the moment of sadness then wiping the snot with the back of my sleeve, sucking it up and saying, "okay let's try try again." Our original "fine plan" became a terrible one because it left me and only me knowing what was going on and having to deal with my sorrow and frustrations. This was supposed to be a team thing and suddenly I was on a one-man team. Not cool.
I broke down and told him that I had been off the pill for several months. I had maintained my silent oath all the while his parents came to visit and never let out a peep I was currently sans birth control, partially hoping to find out I was pregnant during their stay (yay fun!). However, I couldn't be quiet any further. As I hung my head in sadness, Cowboy wrapped his arms around me and told me that we were both big dummies to have constructed that "fine plan".
Now that we both were in the know, we continued to try month after month. Again, no success with not even a suggestion as to what could be wrong. I kept putting off month after month seeking medical help; I was most definitely in denial of my infertility. Being at the cusp of advanced fertility age, we finally made an appointment with a doc who referred us to a fertility specialist.
We went to Conceptions in Lafayette and met with Dr. Bush (yeah I still giggle over the name. Seriously it's like having a Urologist name Dr. Weiner). We were warned he was somewhat dry in the personality category but he was known to have great results. Truly, he was quite professional, explained everything in layman's terms, and not as dry as I expected. I think I had worked him up to be a major jackass (hey we were there for the great statistics not the attitude) and set the bar pretty low so he couldn't help but excel. Overall I was happy with him and his staff. We were preliminarily diagnosed with low ovarian reserve (low egg health/count) and agreed to try Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI). Our diagnostics were a little less than stellar the first round but for IUI #2 everything was excellent and our timing was perfect.
Still no luck.
Exasperated, Cowboy and I regrouped. Dr. Bush had recommended to try up to 3 IUIs. We decided we were wasting time and money through failed IUIs and ready to move onto the next step: In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF). This is where they take my egg, his sperm, and combine them for fertilization in a petri dish. They let it grow a few days then put it back in my uterus to make a baby! This is truly the simplest explanation for something that is anything BUT simple.
**if you are going through a similar situation, I highly recommend reading the book: "The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Infertility". It explains everything in detail, all tests, expectations, statistics, and real-life stories.
We received our IVF "itinerary" from the doc, the do and do-not-do rules, the list of meds, and a detailed schedule. Basically, he told us, don't make any travel plans from now until several weeks after you are pregnant.
"Deal!" I said.
I'm going to skip over the financial aspect of IVF as I don't deem it pertinent info here but just know it is not a walk in the park and you are expected to pay it all up front. Be prepared to take out a loan unless you have been saving specifically for this for a few years. It ain't pretty but you do what you have to do to reach your dreams.
We went into IVF with full gusto; we had a new sense of excitement and purpose. After over a year and a half of frustrations, struggles, and high hopes followed by low lows we had pressed the reset button. I got ready to tackle my biggest challenge yet. The next few weeks I worked out like crazy for both mental and physical therapy. I wanted my body to be ready for this.
The box full of medications arrived and I spread them out in amazement. Mostly injections of some form or another with a few pills thrown in for good measure.
I started with birth control pills to prevent cysts from forming and stop premature ovulation. My body was now completely in the hands of my infertility specialist. I (surprisingly) was very happy and agreeable with this. "Just tell me what to do and I'll do it," kept running through my head. "I'll do whatever it takes."
I won't sugar coat it: not everything was pleasant and enjoyable. I had to go for DAILY blood draws and vaginal ultra sounds. I had a hysteroscopy (they thread a scope up into your uterus to take a look-see) where I nearly passed out, and a trial embryo transfer (more catheters in my uterus)...basically my lady bits were on display to nearly a village of people. Between my lab draws and the injections into my belly this was what my body started to look like:
very bloated belly from the hormones and injection bruises
Each injection I just kept thinking positive thoughts: this is one more injection closer to the end, one more poke towards the final goal. Yes, I feel bloated and uncomfortable and slightly loopy but it is just temporary. This too shall pass. I kept a pretty good head on my shoulders through the entire thing by thinking forward. Imagining our little roly-poly and the craziness of parenthood. The hardest part was being put on major restrictions: no running (gasp!), no working out (nothing more than a walk due to the high risk of getting twisted ovaries- bad bad thing), no caffeine, no decaf (not even herbal teas), no alcohol (no biggie since I really don't drink), and no chocolate. It so happened this was exactly the month that I had friends (not many people knew what we were going through) from all over inviting me to really fantastic trail runs and races. Oh geez! This was tough but again, I kept my mantra of "one step closer".
The meds were to stimulate my ovaries to produce multiple follicles, hopefully meaning multiple eggs to be fertilized. Each day became more and more uncomfortable. I ended up maturing 12 follicles!! It was so cool to see all those follicles on the ultrasound. It hurt to button my jeans or wearing anything remotely tight. It hurt to go over bumps in the road while driving, or sitting for lengths of time. My UnderArmour Storm pants became my best friend.
Cowboy was Amazing through this whole thing and pampered me like a queen. He went to every single test and doctor's appointment even though he worked the night before and could have slept in. Not one peep of complaint did he utter. To make it easier on me, he gave me my injections- two in the morning, two at night. He was a pro at it. He would rub my back when it hurt or gently (oh so gently) rub my bloated belly. He took long walks with me to help my stir-crazy self, all the while talking about the baby we were going to have and the fears and joys we were going to experience as new parents. He let me sleep in and cooked meals when I was too exhausted. He was a trooper for sure.
Eventually it came time to harvest those eggs. I was put under (propofol and fentanyl) while they retrieved my eggs through a needle aspiration via my cervix. I woke up groggy and was wheeled to a really nice post-op suite. Cowboy was waiting for me and helped me get settled onto a heating pad and into bed. There was a lot of pain initially but the heating pad helped a lot. Cowboy settled in next to me and called my mom to let her know I was doing okay.
Not long after I was sitting in the truck on our way home. Cowboy decided to take me on a slight detour though: Krispy Kreme!!! I haven't had a donut in years...and now I was allowed some coffee! OMG it was heaven. Total and absolute heaven. We got there just as the 'hot and fresh' light came on so we got two donuts for one. I got my favorite: Chocolate covered white cream filled. LOVE....
That weekend we found out that out of the 12 follicles, 12 eggs were retrieved, 8 were able to be fertilized. Then came the waiting to see if they survived the few days of maturing that was needed before freezing them. A few days later we found out that four eggs remained to be frozen, the other four didn't make it. We were sad but still elated that we had four! They were then biopsied and sent to cryo-preservation (freezing the embryos). We had chosen to send the biopsies off for genetic testing.
A few days later (not-so-patiently waiting) we were told that we had three genetically good babies!! The fourth, sadly, had a defect in the 21st chromosome- i.e. a Downs baby. The odds of that embryo coming to full term was extremely low.
So, now with three beautifully genetically perfect babies chilling out we are back onto our IVF schedule. I have one month off where I get to do whatever my heart desires and then we start a new round of medications and injections. Cowboy has been practicing his Intra-Muscular injections for the progesterone in oil they will have me on (not fun) and soon enough we will be ready to transfer a little embryo or two back into my body and pray that it sticks! As soon as I got the green light a few days ago, I have been running all over the place and lifting weights at the gym. This body is going to be one strong vessel for our little guy or girl (s)??
**it took me a long time to write and post this; to decide to "put it all out there". Although I love blogging, I do like my personal space and privacy. I didn't want to share this very personal experience, however, looking back I realize that while going through all this I thrived on reading other people's experiences of infertility via their personal blogs. It helped to read what others went through and what they would have done differently/same. It made my journey less stressful and made us a bit more prepared to endure everything. Therefore, I felt hypocritical not to share for the chance I might help someone else out there. I kept details to a minimum on the tests and such (this has been quite a lengthy process) so if you wish to know anything more in depth, please feel free to private message me or just ask me in the comments section***