Our infertility journey began like most couple’s, we had tried for a year but with no success, so we subjected our bodies to a barrage of tests intended to identify the cause. What we discovered was surprising…
I had a unicornuate uterus diagnosed through an HSG test and confirmed with an MRI. This very rare uterus abnormality (something like .025% of pop) meant that my uterus had only one “horn” or side, luckily I did have two ovaries. Basically, it was unlikely that I could get pregnant when my cycle was on the left because there wasn’t a fallopian tube nearby. Our fertility doctor explained that although it’s linked to infertility, we didn’t have any other risk factors. We were young (under 30) and healthy, so the recommendation was to try for two years before any intervention. Armed with this information, we confidently continued to try for about 9 more months before impatience got the best of us.
We returned to our fertility doctor and were advised to begin with IUI, knowing that my abnormal uterus would affect our treatment plan. First and foremost, under no circumstances should we try to get pregnant with multiples. Women with a unicornuate uterus have a higher risk of miscarriage in the first trimester, but more importantly, the smaller uterus could lead to preterm labor. I was prescribed a very low dose of hormones to control the stimulation and monitored closely to ensure that only one dominant follicle formed on my right ovary.
We were thrilled to become pregnant on our third attempt at IUI!!! Everything was going perfectly during the first few weeks - no nausea, normal energy, no spotting. We were completely blindsided at my 9 week ultrasound to discover there was no heartbeat. It’s still painful for me to think about those moments of complete and utter despair. I underwent a D & C procedure a few days later. During the weeks following our loss, we decided that we would continue with IUI as soon as the doctor would allow it. Emotionally, I was not ready even though my body was physically. I was a wreck each of the three times we found out I had not become pregnant from the IUI. So after 6 cycles of IUI with only one unsuccessful pregnancy, we were ready for a different plan, IVF.
I remember feeling so excited to be starting IVF, thinking that it was the silver bullet. Boy was I wrong! Our first cycle of IVF was a shocking disappointment. After weeks of shots, appointments, ultrasounds, and sleepless nights, the doctor only retrieved 8 eggs, 4 were fertilized, and only one made it to blastocyst and could be transferred. I did not become pregnant. I was only 30 at the time, in the world of infertility I was very young and we were all scratching our heads with confusion. When we were ready to begin the entire process again, our doctor recommended a different protocol and explained that they were going to treat me like I was 45 and it was their last chance. The additional hormones and stimulation worked and we were left with 3 embryos (still a lower than expected outcome). Since we didn’t want to risk becoming pregnant with multiples, we were advised to transfer one embryo at a time. The first two embryos were unsuccessful. By the third transfer, we had lost complete confidence in the process. Here, we were left with our “runt” embryo. The lowest quality embryo we would try, and, of course, when our faith was being tested the most, it happened, I was pregnant! My first trimester was rough and I was elated. As long as I was feeling exhausted and nauseous, I knew I was pregnant. Due to the risk of preterm labor, I received additional monitoring and to the shock of everyone I made it to 39 weeks! In December 2010, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
Knowing we wanted more children and weren’t getting any younger, we celebrated our son’s first birthday with shots, the fertility kind. To our amazement, I got pregnant from the first embryo we transferred and carried to 39 weeks again, delivering a baby girl this October. Her middle name is “Hope” because it was the only thing that sustained us through all the heartache.
So that’s one part of our story. The other part is the emotional journey you go on through infertility. I recall having moments of absolute peace, thinking it will happen when the time is right, and moments of red, hot rage. Looking back now, I’m still amazed at our strength through such a dark time. I can honestly say that not a day goes by when I don’t think about our struggle and the struggles of others trying to conceive. I have been changed by it. I remember reading an article where the author provided a metaphor that has stuck with me. She describes very poetically how you have to cross a river carrying your own tears. The outcome of her own journey through infertility is not what I hope for those trying to conceive, but the metaphor does shed light on the amount of sorrow people silently endure in starting a family. I think I cried enough tears to fill the Amazon river. Our two miracles prove to me every moment of every day that every tear was worth it.