INFERTILE MYRTLE

June 17-21, 2015

My college roommates and I go to Myrtle Beach every year for our annual girls trip and reunion. It’s a weekend of sunshine, drinking, yoga pants, and eating. It’s a weekend to just destress. We stay at my girl friend’s family condo – literally just 50 feet from the sand. Usually it’s a 4-day weekend of eating and drinking like crap, and getting sunburned while reading smut magazines and catching up on what’s going on in each of our lives.

For the sake of any male readers out there, I’m putting this up front: I’m about to talk about periods. My period specifically.

Thankfully, I wasn’t on my period for this trip. Sand plus tampons don’t go together. End. Of. Story. My period literally ended just a coupe days before. However, something weird happened with my last menstrual cycle and I was not sure if it would happen again. In May, just a few days after my period ended, I had these really sharp shooting pains. I couldn’t really breathe because the pain was so bad and I felt super nauseous. All I could do was cry because the pain was so bad. The pain was definitely in my ovary area and consistent for a couple days to the point where I had to take an Advil or Ibuprofen every 3.5-4 hours. It was so bizarre. I had never had a painful period in my life. Usually my periods were light, pain-free, and hormonal-free. I’d say 11 out of 12 times in the year my husband can never tell if I’m on my period – emotionally speaking of course. So, I just brushed that pain off and thought maybe this is what other women mean when they say they get “cramps” during their periods when not on birth control.

Well… it happened. Again. I woke up Friday morning on my vacation – early. Like 630AM early screaming in my head every curse word I could come up with in my vocabulary. I swear a lightning bolt literally just struck my ovaries. I consider myself to have a pretty high tolerance of pain, but lets be honest, this type of pain is NOTHING I’ve ever experienced. I began hyperventilating, and curled myself into fetal position. Again, the pain was coming from my ovary area. I couldn’t breath. All I could do was cry. Suddenly, I bolted it for the bathroom. Next thing I know I’m vomiting up nothing but my stomach acid. I walked towards the other bedroom of the condo hunched over and woke up one of the girls to see if she had some sort of pain medicine. THANK GOD she had Advil. I took it, but then 10 minutes later I found myself bolting it to the bathroom again only to vomit and dry-heave nothing. It took about 45 minutes before the medicine kicked in, but for those long 45 minutes all I did was cry… and cry… and cry in fetal position. I thought for a few minutes that maybe the girls needed to take me to the hospital. The pain was truly indescribable.

I had no idea what could cause this pain. One of the girls (hilariously) suggested maybe I was ovulating. (YEA. RIGHT.) Another one of my girl friends suggested maybe it was my appendix. We had no idea what was occurring, but we were so close to a trip to the hospital.

For the rest of the trip I took Advil every 4 hours because I could feel the pain coming and I didn’t want to not enjoy this trip at all. But truth is, I was miserable this entire trip. I tried so hard to hide it from the girls so I wouldn’t spoil their weekend or have them worry about me. Not only was I miserable with this pain in my ovary area, but I was miserable trying to hobble around with this stupid boot on my foot. The boot was the most annoying thing ever, and here I am trying to walk on the sand with a stupid plastic boot on my fractured foot.

This ovary pain wasn’t normal. I decided that as soon as I get home, I’d call my OBGYN first thing Monday morning. The pain was obviously coming from my ovary area so I didn’t bother calling my primary care. Plus I noticed a pattern with these two cycles that the pain was just a couple days after my period ended. A part of me is hoping that this pain really is nothing and maybe this is normal with a menstrual cycle without birth control. But another part of me is hoping this is our answer as to why JM and I have been unable to conceive.

INFERTILITY ETIQUETTE

There are a ton of articles out there on what to say or not to say to someone dealing with infertility. It’s pretty obvious there are people out there who have never taken the time to google this information. Therefore, I decided to compose my own version of what the etiquette should be when a fertile person is dealing with an infertile person. These things are what have bothered me the most over the last two years. And, if you are sitting here thinking “have I said that?” the answer is yes – most likely you did at some point to some couple close to you in your life.

First and foremost, I know that whenever any of my family or friends tries to offer their words of wisdom for my struggles with fertility, they have my best interest at heart. I also know that no matter who you are, you are trying to be helpful and supportive. But truth be known, these words of wisdom suck and are unintentionally hurtful. Nobody knows the pain of infertility than the couple actually going through it.

Dealing with infertility is a very sensitive issue for any couple. The emotions can range from feeling like a failure one minute, to worrying about the future the next, to being optimistic, to feeling hopeless. You never know when a “baby challenged” couple could be worried about money and insurance bills, or what part of a fertility treatment process they are in. The emotions and hormones are running high. You just never know. A couple going through this is at the most emotional and vulnerable stages of their relationship.

Since many of you may not understand or be aware of what can be unintentionally hurtful to couples dealing with infertility, I have put together the following list to help out.
(1) Don’t Ask. Ever. Don’t ever ask when a couple is going to have kids, when they plan to have kids, or why they haven’t had kids yet. One day, you may ask that question to the wrong couple. And future grandparents, stop begging for grandbabies because you don’t know what your own children could be going through if they aren’t open about their sex life to you just yet.
(2) Please, no advice. Trust me. A infertile couple isn’t listening to your advice no matter what you say. And quite frankly, your advice to “stop trying” or “just relax” or “go on vacation” doesn’t help at all. Have you ever said to someone battling cancer that they should “just relax”? I doubt it, and honestly those aren’t the words that should be said to someone with the disease called infertility either. Infertile couples need to focus on themselves and their own situation, and ultimately we have our doctors to help us with our specific situation.
(3) If you’re pregnant, don’t complain. (Unless you want to get bitchslapped.) There are women out there who would die to have a pregnant belly, who want to feel morning sickness, and who want to feel fat. I can’t tell you how many of my pregnant friends have complained about being pregnant…. right to my face…. knowing JM and I are having baby making issues. Think for a minute about what you are saying before you say it, and don’t tell me you have “prego-brain” as the excuse.

(4) Don’t tell us we could always adopt. Adoption isn’t even in our vocabulary – at least not until we’ve exhausted every option with our own egg and sperm first. And, don’t offer this as a suggestion to an infertile couple before any infertility treatments are performed yet. Adoption is a huge decision. I don’t know about you, but do you have $40k just laying around to adopt someone else’s child? In the end, adoption or deciding not to have children is a decision the couple makes together. End of story.

(5) If you find out you’re pregnant or a mutual friend is pregnant, please put it in an email and be ultra sensitive about it. To be clear, it’s not that someone struggling with infertility can’t be happy for others, it’s that they consider themselves failures or can’t show the joy instantly. I don’t hate any pregnant woman, I just hate her uterus.  I’ll never forget when someone called to tell me they are pregnant just as we were starting all of our tests. Not only did they deliver that news over the phone, but they had the audacity to tell me they weren’t even trying – knowing full well JM and I have been trying for a year. Think people. Think. An email from this person would have allowed me the time to appropriately process the news and deal with my feelings privately.

(6) Don’t ask us if we’ve tried X, Y, Z. Nothing is more annoying than when people ask an infertile couple if they’ve tried this test, or that test. The answer is “yes.” Baby challenged couples are trying everything possible as directed by their doctors and as directed by their bank account and insurance.

(7) Stay away from the phrase “It will all work out.” You might think this is comforting, but honestly – we know you have nothing better to say. These words are actually quite hurtful. When I tell people I’m unable to get pregnant, people always respond with “it’ll happen,” or “you’re so young” or “your day will come.” You know what? Stop. And just let us know you’re praying for us.

(8) Don’t underestimate the devastation of each cycle. Every cycle that goes by every month, many hopes and dreams (and dollars) were tied to that cycle – in addition to blood and tears. Understand that your infertile friend or family members need time to mourn the lost opportunity of getting pregnant.

(9) Stop asking about it. Some days are harder to talk about it than others. It’s best to let the baby challenged couple pick their own moments to discuss their situation or struggles and how they are feeling. Sometimes that couple needs a distraction and it’s the last thing they want to talk about.

(10) Finally, don’t ever voluntarily tell your friend of a friend’s fertility success stories unless the infertile couple specifically asks. I’ll never forget when I told one of my girl friends that I didn’t want any advice, words of comfort, or sympathy, but just to know that we had found out our first attempt at an IUI failed. Her response was to tell me one of her friend’s first IUI attempt worked AND that she just got pregnant a second time naturally. Well, $#!T ON ME. We infertile people don’t care, don’t want to care, and seriously, now is not the time to tell me how others successfully got pregnant. Don’t ever offer to share a fertility treatment success story unless we ask for it.

Since I covered all the “Don’t’s” I think I should also cover the “Do’s.” There is only one rule for the Do’s….. Do be supportive. That’s it. Nothing else. It’s simple. Just let your infertile friend know you’re there for them, happily offer any distractions, bring them a meal the day they find out a fertility procedure didn’t work, take them to get a pedicure or grab dinner, and just let them know you are praying for them. Fertility challenged women don’t always want to talk about their fertility issues and quite honestly, we prefer not to sometimes just so we can avoid the possibility of crying.  We “baby challenged” people just need love, support, distractions, encouragement and a ton of prayers (if that’s your thing). Being supportive is really the most helpful thing you can do.

A NON-ATHLETE EARNS “DAS BOOT”

May 19, 2015

The last word someone would describe me as is “athletic.” Sure I used to take tap, jazz and ballet back in grade school and high school. And, I played right-wing forward position in field hockey during high school, too. But I’ve never been one to want to work out or want to go to the gym or want to play sports. I tried. I tried my hardest, but I was never the best.

I got myself a gym membership a year ago and started taking gym classes like zumba, yoga, and various aerobics classes. For once I actually found myself enjoying it and I could see the changes in my strength. When I officially started all the infertility testing, I convinced myself that maybe I need to shed a few pounds and get in better shape. Maybe these few extra LB’s were effecting my fertility. So, I started going to the gym at least 3-4 days a week in February. I also decided to try out this ridiculous class called HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training. This class literally kicked my ass. It was the most insane thing I’ve ever tried, but after trying it twice, I was hooked. I started doing HIIT 2-days a week and yoga one day a week. If you don’t know what HIIT is, it’s this class where you do a high intensity cardio or strength exercises for 20 seconds, and then you rest for 10 seconds. The class goes on like this for a full hour. Sometimes the instructor stacks the exercises where you do 6 minutes worth of high intensity switching the type of move or exercise every 30 seconds in that 6-minute set. I began to quickly develop this love/hate relationship with burpies. HIIT is…well, intense. 🙂

I got so hooked to this class and going to the gym 3-4 days a week I decided to participate in my gym’s “March Madness” competition. We had to complete 25 gym classes in the month of March. There were set rules – like we had to take 5 cycle classes, 10 cardio classes, 5 strength classes, and 5 body and mind (think yoga) classes. Long story short, I did it. I had never been so damn proud of myself for completing 25 classes in 31 days.

In April, I started to notice my right foot was bothering me a bit – especially during my HIIT class. It was tender after all the classes to the point where I started icing it in the evenings. Then in the beginning of May, my foot would start to get a little swollen after HIIT. It wasn’t until I found myself barely able to do jumping jacks when I said to myself “self, you need to get your foot checked out.”

I was dreading going to my foot doctor. The last thing I wanted to hear is it’s broken or fractured and I need a cast or one of those damn clunky boots. I love my foot doctor, but man does she bitch at me for wearing stilettos all the time for work. I find myself literally wearing different shoes to her office on purpose just so I don’t have to hear her comment on my stilettos. My foot doctor took some x-rays and puts the photos up on the brightly lit board. She didn’t have to say anything. It was obvious to me that I had a fracture clear as day.

I got exactly what I didn’t want… das boot. Thankfully it was only an ankle boot, but it was a boot. So not only am I dealing with infertility issues right now, I now have to deal with a pretty bad stress fracture. Another thing to stress me out right before summer.

My foot doctor said I could still go to the gym, but I could only use the bike and elliptical. I couldn’t do any classes until the boot is off and she clears me. She told me that I should expect the boot to stay on for at least 6-8 weeks. Immediately I run through my head all of my summer beach plans I have lined up already. I’m going to have to go to the beach with a boot. I leave my doctor’s office and what do I do next? I head straight to the gym. I decided to do the elliptical in the cardio cinema room for 30 minutes. I was bored out of my mind. These next 6-8 weeks are going to be pure torture. All that hard work I put into HIIT was going to be lost and it will be like starting all over again in a couple of months.

RUNNING A RACE

February – May, 2015

While I was busy getting my initial blood work tests and HSG done, JM was directed to do a semen analysis. I should never doubt how supportive my husband is, but I was mentally ready for him to push back on wanting to get his swimmers tested. Hearing anything bad about your swimmers is probably the last thing any man wants to hear. Ladies, let me tell you – if your man does not want to get his swimmers tested, then he is a coward. I couldn’t be more proud of JM wanting to figure out if there could possibly be something wrong.

JM was all in. He was ready to find out if there was anything wrong with him since clearly everything is fine with me. I was so proud of him, but yet in the back of my mind I’m convinced that he’s the one to blame why we can’t get pregnant. Yes. I said it. Blame.

Mid-February, JM went in and gave the fertility specialists a sample (which costs a whopping $150 because insurance doesn’t cover it!) and in less than a week we got the results in. JM’s swimmers were not swimming to win a race. Okay, perhaps I’m exaggerating a little bit. But that turns out it’s the only issue – they aren’t as fast as they should be, but overall everything else about his swimmers were fine. My OBGYN recommended JM go see a urologist who specializes in fertility. So, that’s what JM did. To make a 4-month long story very short, from February until May JM went to a few appointments, got his swimmers checked out again, and as it turns out he’s rated an A-. Pretty darn good.

NOW WHAT?!

Of course, this left us in total confusion. So, my hormones are fine. My tubes are completely open. And JM’s swimmer’s are an A-. What did the urologist advise? “Just give it some more time and come back and see me in 3 months if you still aren’t pregnant.” I, on the other hand, wasn’t buying it. There has to be something wrong. “They” say, that 90-something percent of couples are able to get pregnant within the first year of trying. At this point it has been one year and three months and we’re still not knocked up.

THE PRETTIEST PICTURE

February 16, 2015 – $365 later – I was able to get my first set of blood work tests done shortly after our infertility consultation. Thankfully, all of my hormone levels were completely normal. First test for Jane = Success.

I was also able to get an appointment in for my Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) really quickly and nice and early before work. The exam was rather… errr…. interesting. You’re laying flat on this exam table, the doctor injects a dye into your woo-ha and then uses a balloon to push the dye through so it flows into your fallopian tubes – or at least that’s what you hope and want to happen. You can watch this all happen on the TV monitor at the same time. It’s fascinating, really. This was the first exam I ever did where I could see my inner lady parts. I mean, I have an idea what it’s supposed to look like by textbook photos, but never seen my own.

Thankfully all of the dye circulated through my tubes – meaning my tubes were completely open and normal. After the procedure was done, I said to the nurse how cool it was to be able to watch that on the screen. Her reply back to me was, “your picture is one of the pretty pictures I’ve ever seen.”….. Insert awkwardness here. Or perhaps that was a bizarre compliment? Whatever it was, I’m just thankful there is nothing wrong with my tubes. Second test for Jane = Success.

Obviously with my two tests being normal, the answer was obvious – there has to be something wrong with my husband and his swimmers. Clearly that’s the answer.

STORKS ARE BITCHES

At my annual OBGYN routine check up in July 2013, I informed my OBGYN that JM and I plan to start trying around the new year. I decided to go off birth control right around Christmas in 2013 to let my cycle start getting back to “normal.” JM and I decided – whatever happens, happens. We didn’t want to actually plan to “try” for the first 6 months. If it’s July 2014 and I’m still not pregnant, then we’d actually “try.” Like, time everything kind of try.

Month after month after month, the river still ran red, and we were disappointed and thought back to high school sex education classes, where they can’t tell you enough how it only takes one time. Turns out that wasn’t true for us. HIGH SCHOOL SEX ED TEACHERS – YOU LIED TO US!

July came around and we decided to actually “try.” I purchased the 100 pack of ovulation strips off amazon.com (highly recommend them BTW), and every month I knew exactly when I was ovulating. Still the river ran red month after month.

Finally January 2015 came and I dreaded doing what infertile couples dread doing…. I called my OBGYN for an infertility consultation.

Fast forward to the end of January 2015… we had our consultation, we got referrals to get JM a semen analysis, and a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) and blood work for me. I made a promise to myself to start working out more than I already am, to start eating better, and to start praying harder.

I also made a very tough decision to change career paths in my company.  I was managing a team of 20 highly skilled, highly educated personnel the last couple of years.  I recognized the stress it was causing me and thought maybe if I eliminate some stress in my life, it will help me get pregnant.  At the end of January, I accepted a job as an analyst in my company and resigned as a program manager. I had a ton of mixed emotions about this decision, but I knew taking on an analyst position it would allow me the flexibility to go to doctor appointments during the week and I wouldn’t have to worry about putting 20 others before myself.  Selfish? Perhaps. But as a woman in a leadership position, it took a lot of bravery and courage to recognize that it was time to put my family first over my career. I was okay with that and knew I could always go back to managing one day.

Looks like we’re in for quite an expensive and unknown ride 2015. Cheers to the New Year. Storks are bitches.

ABOUT ME… ABOUT WE

That’s us. My husband, JM, and I are trying to start a family. We’re fertility challenged. Apparently the fertility gods were off duty the 40 weeks I was cookin’ in my mother’s belly and totally forgot about me. So here we are. A family of two. Still. Actually wait. We’re a family of 3 – can’t forget our beautiful little furbaby. It’s hard, really darn hard. And, quite frankly, I want to punch the next female that tells me they are pregnant or bitch out the next pregnancy announcement posted on Facebook.

JM and I adopted the best damn goldendoodle in the world, had what we consider an over-the-top fairytale wedding, went on our dream honeymoon, bought the perfect colonial white-house with a bright red door in the suburbs, paid off my college loans, and finally got our careers to the point where we were financially ready to have a child. Okay Stork Gods, we’re ready – exactly February 2014. Little did we know that what should be a fun and free experience – hasn’t been exactly fun or free for us.

Before JM and I got married, we had the typical “how many kids do you want” talk. He wants 4. I want 2. Here we are begging to just have 1. Never did it occur to us we should have had a conversation addressing “what if we can’t have kids” before getting married.

I don’t want this blog to read like a, “empty womb, open heart” or “baby dreams unrealized” type of blog. That is not me … or at least I try not to let that take over and be me. And though I support those women in their grieving and coping process who write blogs like that – because JM and I are also going through that – I’m not as interested in writing entry after entry on all the dirty details of failed baby making.  But guess what, it’s going to read like that anyways.

I need to raise awareness to those who have no clue what we’re going through or what other people who battle infertility go through. This blog may not leave anyone feeling better or more hopeful about infertility. I want to raise awareness to you all – awareness of the struggle of infertility, awareness of the silent disease called endometriosis, and most of all I want to laugh at myself at some point! People who struggle with this disease need to speak up. The US government and health insurances need to recognize that infertility is a major disease and they need to start paying for it. Everything about infertility is hard, so why can’t we take a minute to step back and appreciate the humor in what we are going through? Emotions. Emotions are what prevent us from laughing at what we’re having to go through.

So what will this blog give you? Honesty. The ugly truth. Again, I’m here to raise awareness, and I’m here to be honest. I will say things that we “baby challenged” people are always thinking and what we’re going through. Sure, I’m probably going to be ashamed of the things I’m going to blast out in the open – for even some of the closest people in my life to read – but I want to give you all validation. I may even offend some of the closest people to me, but this is life. Realism. The blunt cold truth about our infertility journey, our struggles, our marriage, and my health.

I welcome you to subscribe to my blog so that you can receive updates and alerts any time I post something new. I’m behind on documenting my journey, but as you’ll soon learn we’ve been incredibly busy. Most importantly, JM and I aren’t giving up.

– Jane