Quinlan's Conception Story
Our struggle with infertility started immediately after we got married, five years ago. My husband and I had known each other since we were eight years old and had been a couple since we were freshmen in college. When we got married at 26, we decided not to wait to have children. My regular gynecologist told me to go see him if I didn’t become pregnant in three months. I thought that was a little overcautious and waited eight months.
When I finally did go back, the doctor tested my husband’s sperm, which was fine, and immediately put me on Clomid. This should be easy, I thought. My cousin had waited 18 months to see her doctor and got pregnant after her first month on Clomid. We started picking out baby names.
After three months my doctor added the pill Parlodel to my Clomid regimen. This wasn’t quite as easy as it had uncomfortable side effects that made me feel nauseous and constantly stuffed up. But it was little enough to do to get pregnant.
Three more months went by, and my doctor decided to do a D & C, laparoscopy and a HSG. These were much more invasive than anything I had done so far, but still not as terrible as some stories I had heard. Finding nothing irregular, my doctor waited two more months to see if the HSG had forced open blocked fallopian tubes and then called me in to talk. He said there was nothing more he could do and that he wanted to refer me to a reproductive endocrinologist in Boston.
For the first time, I was scared. My husband and I made the appointment. After that first appointment I made a new discovery: nothing my husband and I did would be private anymore, and there would be no romance involved in any of this. Our dream to have a baby was to become nothing more than a series of scientific experiments, involving dozens of people we barely knew. Before we even saw the doctor we had to fill out a seemingly endless questionnaire asking us all about our health, hygiene habits, hobbies and entire sexual history, including positions, levels of satisfaction and any other minute detail they could think of asking. Then there were complete physicals. My husband’s sperm was tested again, his and my tests were reviewed very carefully. I was given a basal body temperature chart and instructed on how to fill it out. They said to mark down any type of medication or alocoholic drink we took, and to mark every time we had “relations”.
My husband would often quipp before appointments, “Can’t you just check off a few extra times to make others jealous?” It was one of the few ways he tried to make me laugh and forget how sad I was becoming. We were told to return a month later, and to have relations before the appointment so a post coital test could be performed.
We saw the doctor at the next appointment. The good news was, my husband’s sperm was excellent, “superior quality” in fact. Also, the post-coital test was fine; my mucus was not killing off my husband’s “super sperm.” I, on the other hand, had a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. At that point the tears started; the problem was me. I was the reason we didn’t have a baby after almost a year and a half of trying. My guilt and grief were so overwhelming I didn’t hear a word he said as he described what PCOS was. I was a special needs teacher and hearing the word “syndrome” was enough to devastate me. I managed to gather myself together enough to hear that treatment was going to be much more invasive, involving daily hormone shots, early morning blood tests and vaginal ultrasounds. I was also going to have to be late for work several days a week for as long as I pursued treatment. My doctor wrote a note to the principal of the school where I taught explaining my situation, and fortunately I was also protected under the family and medical leave act.
We gathered a handful of prescriptions and were told to call on day two of my next period and come in on day three for initial blood work and ultrasound. “What if it’s a Saturday?” I asked. The answer was that the infertility business runs 365 days a year, including weekends and holidays; it’s dictated by my body’s individual response to the medications, which meant we now had to be available and within driving distance to the clinic every single day, as long as we were undergoing treatment.
Our ride home was pretty silent. I was overwhelmed and angry. My whole life I had dreamed of becoming a mother, it just wasn’t fair. My husband was supportive and trying to be upbeat. At least we lived in Massachusetts and our health insurance would cover the expenses. We stopped at a bookstore and I bought every book I could find on infertility, high tech conception and PCOS.
The more I read and learned about the science of conceiving a child, naturally or artificially, the more amazed I was that ANYONE ever becomes pregnant. For the first two cycles of ovarian stimulation and timed intercourse I was the model patient. I did everything I was supposed to do. I learned how to give myself subcutaneous shots in the thigh and abdomen without flinching. I learned to deal with, and hide, the mood swings, bloating and other side effects. I encouraged my husband to jab a three-inch needle into my hip every night, stating that it didn’t hurt at all. To this day he maintains that was the worst part of the whole ordeal.
Having a baby had become an obsession. The necessity of my treatments meant that it had to be dealt with everyday; temperatures, shots, blood tests, ultrasounds, these things could not be ignored or placed in the background. But it was more, much more than that. It consumed almost every waking thought I had. It was all I could talk about to my husband, but refused to discuss with anyone else. When he begged me to talk about it with my girlfriends or mother, I stated it was none of their business, this was something that belonged to only us. It was my grief and my shame; my failure at being able to do something that was natural. I didn’t want anyone else to know that I was defective.
By then my third friend had called to tell me she was having a baby, after only trying one month. When I hung up after talking to her and putting on a great act of congratulations and happiness, I collapsed and sobbed for hours. I didn’t go to work for two days.
My husband demanded that I talk to someone or see a counselor. He was not going to do any more treatments until I was in a better emotional state. I agreed, terrified that he would actually stop, and made an appointment. It was there that I was finally able to admit my deepest fear: that my husband was able to have children and I was not. He could leave me at any time and go find someone else to have his children. I had no idea how much it hurt him to hear me say that. His response was that he loved me, and had since we were children. If I couldn’t have a child then he couldn’t have a child. He would be satisfied if the rest of our lives it was just the two of us. His biggest fear was that I was becoming so obsessed that I would choose having a baby over him and our marriage.
We took a four-month break, began telling close friends and family, and began looking into adoption. The costs were astronomical considering our health insurance was paying for all my medical treatments, and I couldn’t yet give up my dream of having a baby. Also, the outpouring of love and support and understanding I got from those I told helped me to start healing, and come to terms with my feelings. It seemed everyone I told knew someone else who had been through this.
Meanwhile my doctor said that he wanted to try IVF with me. We agreed. The day of the egg harvesting I was so excited, there was no way this could not happen, and my ultrasound had shown almost 30 eggs of the right size. When I came to (from the harvesting), the doctor told me they had harvested 25 eggs and to call back in two days for fertilization results. I was so confident I called from work. A lab tech answered the phone. “I’m sorry,” she said, “None of them fertilized.”
My doctor could not tell me why. Just that it was “one of those things”, and we could try again in two months. We did. This time I called the lab from home and knew the news was bad when all they told me was that a doctor would call me back. This time, not only had they not fertilized, but all 18 were immature. Actually, they had all been immature before as well. The doctor again had no answer; according to the eggs’ size and my estrogen levels, they should have been fine. He wanted to call in a consultant.
It was hypothesized that maybe my insulin resistance due to PCOS was affecting the eggs in a negative way. They wanted to try me on glucophage for a few months and then do a Natural IVF cycle, where they use less medications to stimulate ovarian growth and try to only grow and harvest one healthy egg.
The first cycle I had blood drawn and an ultrasound at 3:00 p.m. The follicle was there and all my hormone levels were at their optimal level. Since it was only one egg, I was at my doctor’s office and he would aspirate the egg, without putting me under. It would take just one prick through my uterus with a 1″ diameter needle to get the egg. It took 30 minutes to prep me for the procedure. When he turned the ultrasound on, the egg was gone; he still pricked me four times to try to see if it was caught in the fluid.
We did this three times, and every time it was the same. The last time my doctor cried right along with me when we turned on the ultrasound and saw the empty follicle. At our follow-up appointment he recommended a book to me: Sweet Grapes. It’s about living life as a childless couple.
My counselor convinced us to revisit adoption or look into donor eggs. I immediately said I could never use the eggs of a family member or good friend. I knew myself well enough to know that I would never feel comfortable around that person. She volunteered to help us find someone. I also put our name on the waiting list at the local clinic. I was told that the wait for an anonymous donor would be at least 24 months. Meanwhile, a co-worker told me about a couple who had been raising their two-year-old grandson and wanted a better life for him, and were looking for him to be adopted. We made contact.
While we were slowly getting to know “Cole,” a friend said she had a friend I didn’t know who was willing to be an egg donor. We accepted and she began going through all the testing and initial medical and psychological screening. I was informed that she passed everything with flying colors. Two months later I heard she had decided not to do it, but had never contacted anyone at the clinic to tell them. We began putting all our hopes on Cole. He was an adorable toddler, and his grandparents wanted him away from his drug-addicted mother who had abandoned him. They wanted a whole new life for him. The court date to terminate his mother’s rights was in two months.
My husband was offered a new job for a CPA firm on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. It had always been our dream to move back there, to our original home, but we were still looking for a donor and New Hampshire health insurance would not cover the medical costs. It was already November, and I felt uncomfortable leaving my special needs pre-schoolers in the middle of the year. So my husband moved to New Hampshire and I moved in with my parents, going up on weekends and vacations while he worked and renovated the house we bought.
Two more potential egg donors dropped out, and Cole’s court date kept getting re-scheduled. I tried to stay positive on both fronts. June came and we made the decision that I would come to New Hampshire, we could just afford to COBRA our Massachusetts health insurance for one year.
I quickly found a teaching job, and Cole was coming up to stay with us on weekends. Then in late October we got the call that Cole had been given back to his biological mother. We have had no contact since. At work the next day, I was telling some teachers everything that had transpired over the past several years and that I was now ready to give up on having a child, and would save money to pursue an overseas adoption.
Two days later one of them approached me. She said that she had felt so sorry for me the other day and had immediately gone home and online to research egg donation. She had then called her family and boyfriend and asked them what they thought of it. She had their support, needed the $3,000 we would give her, and felt I deserved to be a mother. Also, she would not be returning to our school the following year, but relocating back to Massachusetts. If we wanted, she would be our egg donor.
On March 2 she went in for an egg retrieval. They harvested 18 eggs and 16 fertilized. On March 5 I was implanted with two of them – the rest were frozen for future attempts. On March 14, my pregnancy was confirmed. I am now days away from delivering our son.
Medically I have had a dream pregnancy (aside from serious morning sickness the first trimester). My husband did have to give me intramuscular injections of progesterone every night for the first 16 weeks. Otherwise I have had no complications, and no uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms such as stretch marks, heartburn, leg cramps, or varicose veins. I have only gained 15 pounds, and an ultrasound last week showed him to be extremely healthy.
However, it has been a pregnancy filled with fear and uncertainty. I think that no matter how short the time is that you suffer from infertility, those feelings never really go away and the pregnancy seems somehow, not quite real. I was afraid every time I felt a twinge or cramp and afraid when I felt normal. It took a long time to get used to not taking my temperature or shots every day. And it wasn’t until I began feeling him move consistently and began to look pregnant that I relaxed and allowed myself to realize I am really going to have a child.
My husband and I are overjoyed at his impending arrival and are still going to use the name we settled on four years ago when I first began taking Clomid. Our marriage is stronger than ever, for everything that we have been through and Quinlan’s birth is so highly anticipated by everyone who has suffered the ups and downs with us. Sometimes I look back and remember all the time, pain and tears that were involved in his creation and wonder if I would do it again. Then I feel him move inside of me and know I would – in a heartbeat.
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