Welcome to Ask An Infertile! I'm Melissa, and I created this blog because in my opinion there can never be enough resources and outlets on the subject of infertility, TTC, and pregnancy loss. I am hoping that this blog will because a place to get information about all forms of infertility. So many woman have questions, and what do we do in the 21st Century when we have questions? We Google it, of course! I know I do. So again, why this blog? Well, to answer that, I think I'd better start off by telling you a little more about me.
Today, I'm a 31 year old working mom to two incredible little boys, living in Indiana with my wonderful husband of 9 years and the worlds greatest grandma, my mom. In 2010, when my first son, Tyler, was 18 months old, my husband and I decided we were going to try for our second child, since we wanted our children to be fairly close in age. When we had started TTC Tyler, we became pregnant about 8 months after I stopped taking birth control pills, so while I didn't expect us to succeed immediately, I didn't think it would take a terribly long time. Six months or so, that was my guess, factoring in that fact that I hadn't been using any hormonal birth control since we'd had Tyler.
At the suggestion of my doctor, I started tracking my cycles carefully. I kept notes on my calendar and purchased a fancy little app on my smartphone. At that time, my cycles were a little irregular, though not alarmingly so. Sometimes it was 28 days long, but it could go as long as 37 days. One thing that became clear pretty quickly was that I wasn't sure when I ovulated. Over the next few months I tried various methods of predicting ovulation. I charted my BBT (basal body temperature). I checked my cervical position (I was terrible at that). I monitored my cervical mucus (ew). I eventually turned to using OPKs (ovulation predictor kits). For awhile, even these stumped me! The first brand I tried would turn positive and then stay that way for 5 or 6 days!
When I had been trying for about 7 months, I turned to the internet for advice and support. I found an online forum and I was suddenly thrust into the world of infertility and TTC on the internet. I was amazed that not only did others feel like I did, but A LOT of others did! I started making some incredible friends and following their stories. Suddenly TMI didn't exist! We talked about our bodily fluids, we talked about BDing with our SOs and DHs (that's baby dancing with our significant others and darling husbands). We took pictures of our peesticks and scrutinized them together, fiddling around in photo editors to try to see if that might be a line? We shared the disappointment of another BFN (big fat negative), gave each other advice, and on good days, shared in the excitement of a friends BFP (big fat positive). We offered sympathy and encouragement. Suddenly I wasn't alone in this strong desire to have a child. And that felt nice.
As nice as it was to have support, I was still getting frustrated. In April 2011, I visited my primary care "doctor", A, who is actually a Physician's Assistant. I'd been seeing her for many years and just absolutely ADORED her. She was her usual awesome self, listening to my frustration, letting me let those few tears fall. She even shared with me a little of her own struggle for children. She sent me on my way, asking me to try one more month of charting my BBT (I'd given up on it a few months prior), and telling me to come back for a referral to a specialist if I wasn't pregnant in May.
Just my luck, during that crucial week in May I was sick as a dog with a fever. Dutiful little patient that I was, I trudged into June, knowing I needed real data to bring back with me. On June 17th, I posted a picture of my negative pregnancy test, saying I just wanted to get my period over with and go back to see my doctor. Then a member of the forum said she thought she could see a faint line. Then another agreed. And another.
I should interrupt myself here with a note--I have TERRIBLE eyesight. I've worn glasses since I was a toddler.
Anyway, I hadn't seen anything on the test, but that really didn't mean much. A few girls edited my photo and yes, maybe that was the start of a line? Only time would tell.
The next morning, I dutifully POAS (peed on a stick). And there was a faint, but visible second pink line. It was the day before Father's Day, May 18th, 2011. It had taken just over a year, but I was pregnant!
But then, so soon after that exciting moment, I wasn't anymore. I spotted a little bit on Sunday, but my HPT was darker, which comforted me. Then I spotted a little more on Monday. On Tuesday, four days after my first true positive HPT, I took another test and the second line was barely detectable. I went to the doctor and had a blood test, then went home, put my feet up, and fought from assuming the worst.
Unfortunately, the next morning my worst fear was realized. My hcg level was already down to the point where they considered the result to be negative. The nurse actually told me I'd never been pregnant at all. I was completely devastated. I sat down and cried. I drove to work, crying. I worked, alternating between tearing up every time anyone said hi to me, to trying my damnedest to think of ANYTHING else. I ended up telling more people that I'd miscarried than had known I was pregnant in the first place. I felt totally cheated. And more than that, I felt an incredible amount of depression at the though that I'd gotten so close and now I had to start over.
Logically, I knew that this pregnancy had ended so early, there wasn't truly much more than a fertilized egg, some divided cells. But in my heart, that was the potential baby I wanted so much. That was another Tyler. Maybe a brother. Maybe a girl this time, a little sister. But that was ripped away, almost before I could even celebrate it.
I mourned my loss. I went back to see A, even armed with pictures of my positive tests. She assured me that, of course I was actually pregnant, but that the egg probably implanted later than usual and so my HCG level never got terribly high before it began to drop. She said that these kind of miscarriages are called "chemical pregnancies" and they are actually pretty common. An egg with chromosomal problems, or one that doesn't implant correctly will simply be expelled by the body, which senses that something isn't right. She said that often women don't even know they were pregnant with these. But she also recognized that to me, to any woman trying to have a baby, it was a loss, and it was okay, natural even, to be sad about it.
She gave me a referral to a specialist, a reproductive endocrinologist (RE). As a matter of fact, the same RE that had helped her get pregnant with her little girl. I called him and made an appointment for the next month.
The cycle after my miscarriage was painfully slow and, well, painful. I had heavy bleeding and terribly cramps, but it only last about 6-7 days. I was still using OPKs and instead of a positive result somewhere between CD 18 and CD 22, it was CD 28 before I got a positive result. I had heard that a miscarriage, even an early one, can mess up a woman's cycle. Yay.
On July 20th, my husband and I went to see my RE, Dr. B. I liked him immediately. He was very understanding and listened carefully, asking thoughtful questions. He said based on my history, I probably just needed a little "boost" to get pregnant again. And I learned that since I had one child, I was experiencing what is called "Secondary Infertility" meaning I hadn't had trouble conceiving my first child. I would later learn that my infertility is also considered "Unexplained Infertility" since a cause for me not conceiving easily was never discovered exactly, although there were a few minor things that I think contributed to it (shorter than average leutal phase, indications of late implantation, low progesterone). He also told me that although there would be times that I would be disappointed, to try not to be discouraged, because together we'd get through it.
First order of business when seeing an RE is a whole mess of tests. My husband submitted to a sperm analysis, which came back fine. I had a glucose tolerance test, and ultrasound, and several blood tests. Everything came back normal, so Dr. B prescribed me a pill called Clomid. Clomid is a fertility drug that can cause ovulation in someone who isn't ovulating regularly or can encourage a healthier ovulation in someone like me, who is ovulating, but not at the best time of the cycle (Later ovulation can cause the quality of the egg to be lower). During that time, I was also put on progesterone supplements during my leutal phase, since it was on the shorter side and my RE thought I might be getting my period before an egg had the chance to implant. I eventually did four cycles on Clomid. While I ovulated on day 15 or 16 each month, we did not get pregnant. Eventually, I had a test called a Hysterosalpingogram or an HSG. This is an X-ray test where dye is injected into the uterus so that they can see if there are any abnormalities in the uterus or fallopian tubes. My result was normal, aside from my left fallopian tube not filling. My RE attributed that to the cramping I experienced during the test.
During our final cycle of Clomid, we met with Dr. B again to discuss our options. We could try another pill, called Femara (Letrizole), which is similar to Clomid, but some people respond better to. Or we could switch to injection hormones, which are more effective, but carry a higher chance of multiples and, usually, a higher price tag. After checking with my insurance (which covers some fertility treatments and test, but not all), we decided we would start with Femara and save up money to try injections in a few months.
Month one of Femara passed with Christmas 2011 and a BFN. In January, we decided to do a more monitored cycle. Basically that meant that I would return to Dr. B's office for a second ultrasound (I had one every month around CD 3 to check for cysts and things) a few days before I expected to ovulate. At this appointment, they would check the lining of my uterus to make sure it looked thick and healthy, but not too thick and they would check my ovaries for follicles. They would also have me inject a medication to trigger a stronger ovulation, called an HCG trigger shot. This basically mimics the surge of LH (ovulation hormone) in the body, causing all mature follicles to release their eggs. On CD 13 my ultrasound showed good lining and two follicles that showed promise. The next evening, I injected $85 worth of medication into my muffin top (LOL) and hoped for the best. Oh, and a fun side effect of this shot? Since it contains the pregnancy hormone, you get a positive result on an HPT! I just had to try that out! I watched the lines fade, but I wasn't sure they had totally vanished. Finally, with doctor's orders to test 14 days after my injection, I was excited and terrified to see two pink lines! I rushed to the doctor for a blood test and was told that my HCG was 12.7. And I was told that was "probably pregnant". Luckily, I was able to return with confidence two days later for another test, encouraged by darkening lines on HPTs.
So that's my story. It took 19 months, an early miscarriage, four rounds of clomid, an HCG two rounds of femara, a trigger shot, many progesterone pills, countless ultrasounds and a lot of home pregnancy tests on OPKs, but I was pregnant. I was truly blessed to give birth to my second son, AJ, in October 2012.
So. Yes that was a pretty long story. Anyway, if you're still with me (please stay with me!), that brings us back to the present. My sons are 4 1/2 and 10 months, but I still reflect on my journey and how it changed me. I was "lucky", really. I've read so many blogs, heard so many stories that was much more arduous than my own. So many people are still struggling, have experienced grief and pain so far beyond what I had felt. And even as time passes, I still feel very drawn to this community.
During my personal struggle, I wrote on my personal blogger blog, but I also contributed to a blog on a popular website called Countdown to Pregnancy. I told my story, the same story as is written above, but with more detail. And when I finally became pregnant, I stepped away. But every once in awhile, I still get a notification that I have a new comment. I got one today. It was from a girl looking for advice. I responded and then I started thinking. I LIKED this. I was kind of GOOD at this. I may not have had the most harrowing story to share, but it was one that was related to and I really enjoyed sharing what I knew.
And so, Ask an Infertile was born. So to speak.
I don't pretend that this is a new idea. But as I stated way up there at the top of this very long post, there really can't be ENOUGH resources out there. So here we go.