Infertility Awareness Week and My Journey to Conceive

Maternity Pics 5 days before the girls were born. Photo Credit: EA photography

 April is infertility awareness month so I thought this would be a good time to share a bit about my journey to have my girls. Heads up, this might be TMI for some people- sorry!?

My husband (Tim) and I started trying to get pregnant about two years after we got married. We put it off because we wanted it to be the ‘perfect’ time. By perfect, we wanted at least one of us finished school and at least one of us working a steady job. We planned that if we started at a certain time we could roughly guess when we would likely be pregnant by… I laugh at the naivety of this now. What’s that saying? “Want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”. As it turned out, Tim was in his third year of law school and working full time when our girls were born- certainly not ideal!
We got started trying and I did not think much of it that nothing happened after the first few months, but by month 5 and 6, I started to get a little antsy. 
Around the 6 month mark I went to my family doctor and asked for some pre-screening fertility tests for both Tim and I.
About a week after completing all of the tests, my doctor’s receptionist called to inform us that “everything looks great”. Hmmm, now what? If everything looks great why are we not getting pregnant? Maybe it was because I was stressing about it so much? Maybe it was because we needed to eat healthier or exercise more? These were just some of the helpful suggestions people gave us.
I decided to try alternative medicine to see if that would help. Both Tim and I drank Chinese herbs every day (if you have not tasted Chinese herbs, let me tell you- they are not for the faint of heart) and I did acupuncture several times a week. We spent a fortune on alternative care, ovulation strips and pregnancy tests. I am not even joking when I say I would buy them by the case. 
After a year and a half of trying on our own and with the help of alternative medicine with still nothing we decided we needed to do more. At this point a walk-in doctor that I was seeing for something else said that enough was enough and that we needed a referral to a fertility specialist. We waited several months for that first appointment.  The first appointment was A LOT. Not only was there the physical exam that I had not anticipated (I will not go in to details- no one needs to hear about that), but then the worst part came. The doctor asked me if I remembered the numbers for our test results. I told him I didn’t but that “everything looked great”. He wanted to see them for himself so he pulled them up on his computer to take a look. I can still see the drastic change in his face as he looked at his screen. Finally, he looked up and asked who had told me that everything looked great. I told him my doctor’s receptionist had called and told me that A YEAR AND A HALF AGO. ?
He broke the news to me that everything was not great and that we would likely never get pregnant on our own. We could have had the best nutrition, seen the best Chinese medicine doctors or Naturopath and none if it likely would have made a difference.  The anger and grief that rose was so intense I could hardly breath and I could feel my eyes start to well up. I just wanted to get out of that office as fast as I could. Unfortunately, Tim had not been able to come with me to that appointment so I got to my car as fast as I could and immediately called my mom and burst in to tears. We cried for a while together and she said 2 things that helped me. 1. That I had a right to be mad and to grieve and 2. God had a plan and that this was just step 1. 

I can still see the drastic change in his face as he looked at his screen. Finally, he looked up and asked who had told me that everything looked great.

Going home and breaking the news to Tim was awful. We were both so angry, how could the doctors have made such an incredible error that cost us so much of our money and time trying to conceive. We went through the anger and grief and decided we just had to move on from it. I have to say, throughout our whole journey Tim was a rock. He would remind me to stay hopeful and would remind me that one way or another we would be parents. 
For the next visit to the fertility doctor we went together and made a plan. Here is how the rest of our fertility journey unfolded.
Step 1. Just take some hormone producing medication for a while and still keep trying the old fashion way. We did this for many months and still no luck. 
Step 2. We moved on to the next least invasive procedure and tried Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). After three failed cycles of that the doctor said it was time to move on to something else.
Step 3. Time to start Invitro-Fertilization (IVF). We did a specific type of IVF called Intra – Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) which was relatively new at the time and thought to increase your chances. We ‘put in’ 2 fertilized eggs and waited… the long wait.
Step 4. I am out for a coffee with a friend and I get the call from the fertility clinic to tell me that I am pregnant… but that I need to get to the clinic asap because my levels were too high. You can’t even imagine this call. My story is not the ‘I peed on a stick then ran out excited to tell my partner’. Never the less, it is my pregnancy story and I still remember that call and my friend Barb’s reaction, love, excitement and support.
Step 5. Get levels sorted and then start getting sick. Like, round the clock sick.
Step 6. Go for check-up and learn that part of why I am so sick is that I have too little ones trying to grow inside me! 
Step 7. Pretty good pregnancy (the all day/night sickness only lasted 3 months)
Step 8. At 33 weeks, my girls decide they have had enough and want to come out. We had the girls via emergency caesarean. They were tiny. Lucy was 2 ½ lbs and Zoe was 3 lbs. They spent three weeks in the neonatal intensive care so they could grow a bit more and learn how to eat on their own (without a feeding tube) before coming home.
Step 9. Bring home twin babies with severe reflux and fake it till you make it!!!
Step 10. Graciously accept any and all help and be grateful for the journey that brought these amazing humans in to the world.

Look at that happy dad!

He would remind me to stay hopeful and would remind me that one way or another we would be parents. 

Unless you have a similar experience, it is tough to know what to say or what not to say to someone who may be having fertility issues. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, I often wished that people I spoke to while on this journey had tips to navigate supportive dialogue. 

So, guess what? I’m including tips below. Check them out:

What to Say/Not Say to People Who May Be Struggling with Fertility Issues

1.    If you know a couple that does not have children, please do not ask them why or when they plan to have children. For many reasons, this question is inappropriate. For all you know they could have been trying for years or may have already had many losses. Or, they simply have chosen not to have children and likely do not want to explain to you why they have made that choice.
2.    Please keep your encouraging stories to yourself. I know people believe they are being supportive by telling stories about their cousin’s friend’s neighbour who had trouble just like you conceiving and then just like that got pregnant after a weekend away, but these stories are very rarely helpful. Instead just listen and acknowledge how difficult it must be.
3.    If you have a ‘moral’ or ‘ethical’ opinion about fertility treatment please only share this IF asked directly what your moral or ethical opinion is.
4.    Know that being around other pregnant women and new moms is TOUGH! I quietly went and cried in many bathrooms in these situations. 
Sometimes people struggling with infertility find it difficult and sometimes even traumatizing to be with people who currently have what they so desperately want. HERE is a great article on this topic on the difference between envy and jealousy. 
5.    Know the difference between depression and grief for your loved ones struggling with infertility. Don’t assume they are depressed, often what you are seeing is grief and grief is normal. For a great article on the difference between grief and depression click HERE

The girls now…looking oh so grown up!
For more information on fertility awareness you can go HERE

To all the people out there who have walked this journey or are walking it now, we see you. 

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In sisterhood,

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