I’ll assume you’ve read part one of this story, and just dive right in!
When No News Feels Like Bad News
The entirety of those two years of trying was frustrating in large part because nothing was found to actually be “wrong.” If there’s nothing wrong, it’s difficult to fix, you know? The exception to this would be that my maternal family history included endometriosis. Mom, aunt, grandma. All of them had babies, though, so it was a lingering annoyance, but not suspected as the ultimate culprit.
Advil Just Doesn’t Cut It
As I approached my HSG appointment/ordeal, forums and blogs told me I should definitely take some Advil ahead of time. Just to dull any cramping that may result. Well, Advil and I are besties, so I felt pretty confident this would do the trick. I took 4, 200mg pills about 45 minutes before going in (this is the amount I’d have to take on my period, too, because the pain was so bad. Every. Four. Hours.).
What actually happens during an HSG? How do they actually tell if your tubes are open?
Well, basically you get to lay on a table in the most vulnerable position a woman can be in, get your cervix clamped in place, then a catheter shoved into your uterus so they can flush a special dye through the cavity and, hopefully, through your tubes. While the dye is being pushed, they simultaneously take X-Ray images of the abdomen to see where it flowed to. For me, it went all up in everywhere it should, and my tubes were clear.
However, Advil failed me that day. I’m still not over it.
My gosh those cramps were awful. During, and after the procedure. Mostly during, though. Not totally unbearable, but I was definitely squirming on the table. The pressure was unreal. Again, I’d do anything for my baby, even if it’s a “dream” baby.
With the procedure a “success”, we were also led to believe that there was cause for hope, as many women become pregnant within 3 cycles of an HSG, because it “clears things out.”
Face Palm – Awkward
The only other test remaining, with results that could potentially dampen the mood, was Sean’s semen analysis. Oh my gosh. I hate that word. We’re gonna say “SA” from now on.
Shortly after the HSG, the two of us went in for his scheduled appointment. Holy awkward. Basically, you have two options for this test. You can provide a sample ahead of time to bring in, so long as it stays at room temperature, and isn’t older than 45 minutes. Or, you provide the sample in the office.
Well, we live more than 45 minutes away from the office so lucky us got to go the office route.
When we arrived, it was super early in the morning. Just before work was the only time they had something available, so it was about 7 or 7:30, I believe. The nice thing is the office was quiet. I think we were the only patients there, actually.
What I didn’t know going into it was that many couples just send the husband to the appointment – he does his thing, and then they call later that day with the results. Wife goes to work or stays home or whatever.
Well, that’s not something either of us was a fan of, and we said “if we’re making a baby, it’s still going to take the two of us.” So, they ushered us to a teeny, tiny room with a big chair, a cabinet full of inappropriate materials, and a TV/DVD player for their array of recommended viewing materials.
Who on earth’s job is it to select that stuff??
First thing I saw when we walked in was a pin-up calendar of a naked woman and I literally (no exaggeration) ripped it from the wall and threw it in the trash. If we’re going to have a biological child, we do not need another woman’s body involved. Never have I been so uncomfortable in all my life. Not only because pornography offends me to the core, but because when she left, I knew it was with full awareness of what we were about to do in there. It felt like we didn’t actually have privacy, at all. It kind of saddened me, because other couples don’t have to go through this kind of embarrassment, usually.
So, when all is said and done, we booked it out of there. Bleh – so weird.
Later that day (might as well have been three weeks. Waiting is AWFUL.), we got the call that everything was perfect. Nothing to worry about in any way.
What a weight that was lifted! Sean and I hadn’t even discussed much about what we would do if it turned out it was his part of the equation that wasn’t working. When it did enter my mind, I prayed so hard that it would be me, so he wouldn’t have to carry that. I just felt…protective over him. I did not want him to have any reason to even be tempted to buy into the lie that it would make him less of a man.
With two positive tests under our belts, we were ready to try with renewed hope for the next three months. Who knows, maybe the HSG will have cleared out whatever was in the way, and we’d be proud BFP post-ers in no time.
No such luck. Wasn’t happening. We were now just over 2 years into it all, with no answers.
This was an interesting mind game. You desperately wanted an answer, but didn’t want an answer. If you have something wrong, you might not be able to fix it. But you might be able to! If there’s nothing wrong, great! But then why hasn’t it happened?
Well, we were at July by this point, and I was over it all. I wasn’t at peace with it, I was just exhausted. I was so sick of temp taking, ovulation testing, fertility diets, and so on. I wanted to take a break with tracking everything. Just live for a little bit, without the forums, the research.
And so, that’s what happened. I won’t say we stopped trying, though. I just stopped analyzing every last little thing. I stopped “symptom spotting” for pregnancy signs, didn’t bother with my BBT. I didn’t set a time frame on this deviation, either. The last we’d heard from the doctor was that we could try exploratory surgery on me, to check for cysts, endometriosis, etc. This was reluctant advice from the doctor, though, because she was concerned that surgery would only produce scar tissue, and could make “it” worse.
Another option would have been IUI (Intrauterine Insemination. Injecting sperm into the uterus after confirmed ovulation. Helps when there may be tubal blockage, or slow moving sperm), which is grasping at straws when you know your tubes are open and eggs are happening. The final, ultimate option would be IVF.
At this point in the journey, IVF freaked me out. For many reasons.
-First, holy gosh it’s expensive. With no infertility coverage, how on earth could we do that?!
-Second, I didn’t want to destroy any extra embryos that may have been created, and didn’t want to give them away. So, unless we told the doctor he could only remove two eggs to try and fertilize and then put back, extra embryos would be a “risk.”
-Third, it’s expensive. I already said that? Well, it is.
Then What Happened?
Living life as normally as possible was so much easier now that I was emotionally stable. The holidays were still bitter sweet, but not traumatic. I looked forward to the cool weather, scarves and boots, apple cider, and decorations. My friend’s sweet babies were here, and the best. A new normal had settled in, and we were just taking it a day at a time.
Then, in November, I started being woken up with middle body pain, at the level of my lower back. Really dull, but persistent. Every night.
I chalked this us to potential ovulation cramps (I always got them), and ignored it. Advil helped, so I just kept trucking.
By the end of December, the pain had begun to show up during the day, as well as night. It was as if the pain “grew”, and I got to where I could barely stand without wanting to double over. It was so intense. My body wanted to be bent in half to alleviate the pressure, and Advil stopped helping.
I called my doctor, because I truly had no clue what was happening. They weren’t able to get me in until the end of January, of course.
Finally, the appointment day arrived. I explained everything to her, and she ordered a transvaginal ultrasound right then and there. Guess what! I couldn’t seem to grow babies, but I could grow ovarian cysts!
These puppies were enormous. I had one in each ovary. Yes, in. They were what you call “endometriomas” and are absolutely disgusting. Full of blood. Directly related to endometriosis – so there was our non-surgical confirmation.
One cyst was 10cm, and the other was 6cm. I have no idea why my stomach wasn’t actually bloated out from how huge they were. They were taking up every inch of my abdominal cavity and clearly the reason for my middle body pain.
The only option, given these types of cysts don’t go away on their own, was surgery. Laparoscopic (go through the belly button). My doctor didn’t feel comfortable doing the surgery and referred me to a RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist).
More unfortunate than their size and existence, was that I couldn’t get in for surgery until March! Panic actually did set in at this point because oh my gosh I can’t work with this pain, let alone sleep!
More unfortunate that the last paragraph was that she prescribed me Oxycodone. Well, first Tramadol, but that didn’t do a darn thing, so then Oxycodone.
Ya’ll, I had to be on that stuff for over a month. Plenty of time for my body to get addicted, little did I realize.
To be honest, it was a relief that she found something. It wasn’t the ultimate answer, as the cysts were very likely not there the entire almost-three-years, but it was still something we could fix. So, with happy pills and a surgery date scheduled, we waited.
Surgery, my first, came and went. The doctor was amaaaaazing. Saved my ovaries (something we feared may not be possible), and I had barely any scarring.
Recovery would have been super had I not contracted a stomach virus while at the hospital. I know. Abdominal surgery, and then stomach virus? Match made in h*ll.
What made it even worse (how is that possible, right?) was that my body began withdrawing from the pain medication I had been taking for a month. Yep. I started shaking uncontrollably one night, then for weeks I had insomnia, headaches, chills, depression (despite my meds!). I asked the doctor if it could be withdrawals and he confirmed my suspicion.
I hope I never ever have to take that stuff again. It works magic, but that withdrawing business is no flipping joke. I have an immense respect for recovered drug addicts, if they go through anything like what I did.
Though we knew I had endometriosis, the doctor shared that they really didn’t find much in my abdominal cavity during surgery. The growth of endometriomas is still serious enough to categorize me as stage III or IV (yikes), but it’s fascinating to me that the rest of me didn’t look like a war zone. Endo is funny that way. You can have terrible symptoms, but very little endo, or almost no symptoms, and then one day learn you have incredibly severe endo (perhaps through surgery for another reason).
The other observation the doctor made was that my fallopian tubes looked a little inflamed. He said that rather than overreacting and removing them, he wanted to leave them in place as it could be related to the enormity of the cysts that were in there.
So, I recovered at home, and began hoping, again, that getting rid of the cysts would do what we needed. I didn’t fully jump back into tracking, but did spend a few months taking my BBT, to make sure ovulation was still happening after surgery. It was, thankfully.
At this point, we’d passed the three year mark. Recovery took a couple of months, so we were up to summer time.
A number of other changes were going on for us in our life around then – new jobs, new church. It was a really positive distraction, and much needed. Again, we settled into a new normal, and weathered the negative tests (when I even bothered to take them anymore) as best we could. I was glad to be out of the phase of constantly crying all the time. That was a huge improvement.
Life Goes On
Other people’s lives were also going on. For example, my two besties (they don’t even know each other!) were pregnant again. Less than a month apart. I handled this quite a bit better than the first time around. I also knew I’d done it before, and was in a better place to face it again.
This is terrible (though has helped me in its own way), but I actually only truly grieve and struggle with pregnancies when it’s going to be a girl. I know, terrible. I just want a baby girl so very much, that when someone shares they’re having a boy, it’s quite a bit easier to swallow. That is not to say baby boys are any less precious – or that I don’t love my friend’s sons (they’ve both had one of each, now). It’s just that the girl pregnancies were the more difficult of the two to handle. Maybe you know what I mean. If not, don’t judge. Seriously. If you haven’t been there, you can’t say.
Summer faded to fall – yay because I adore fall, and life was quite good. At this time, I really didn’t even expect to be pregnant as each month came. I stopped testing, ignored “symptoms”, and just focused on other things. I became a Guardian ad Litem and focused serving needy children. We became really plugged in at our church.
Are You Serious?
One year from the time I began feeling nighttime abdominal pain, I began feeling a little off. Not nearly as much pain, but something wasn’t right. Sex kind of hurt, and there was bleeding afterward. Not a lot. More like spotting, I guess.
So, I made an appointment with the specialist. We did another pesky transvaginal ultrasound. Gosh darn it – my fallopian tubes were enormous. “Are you serious?” I actually laughed out loud on the table with the ultrasound wand still in me.
And so, with de ja vu, we scheduled another surgery. March, again. Leading up to it, there was real concern that my tubes, or at least one of them, might not make it.
Basically, the reason a doctor might feel the need to remove one or both inflamed fallopian tubes is because there is a high risk of tubal pregnancy. If a sperm and egg meet and don’t travel to the uterus before implanting, and it happens in the tube, mom can die – so can baby. So, it’s a really tense and tricky call to have to make.
Our doctor, same as the last surgery, was so great. Really someone we felt that we could trust, who didn’t make rash decisions, and was so empathetic. So, as I was being wheeled back to the OR, one of my last coherent thoughts was that I felt at peace. “Whatever happens, happens. If I wake up with one less tube, or no tubes, we’ll figure it out.”
This would be a good time to share that I had experienced an epiphany a few months prior, regarding IVF.
I woke up one night and couldn’t fall back asleep. I began praying and suddenly the thought came into my brain that “embryos in my body, or from my body in a lab, are not my babies. They’re the Lord’s, first.”
The clarity and peace that followed was another life changing development. Why? Because I had experienced a shift in my perspective with regard to IVF. Now, if we ended up facing IVF as our only option, and had extra embryos, the idea of allowing them to be adopted landed very differently for me. If you’ll recall from earlier, I was previously averse to embryo adoption because they were “my” babies. The idea of someone else having one of “my” babies brought out very hostile and protective feelings. With this new worldview, I felt completely free knowing I could rest in the knowledge that God would care and love those babies more than I ever could and they would be His before they would ever be mine.
With this new perspective, surgery, with the potential outcome of being unable to naturally conceive, was less devastating. The thread of hope that we may still be able to see it happen through IVF was very comforting.
Brave New World
I woke up from surgery eagerly searching the recovery room for my husband’s face. Bless him. I could tell he was feeling some mixed emotions.
Before I continue, I need to say this. I do not believe a kinder, more attentive or precious man exists than my husband when it comes to me. I don’t know if it would be possible for someone to feel more cherished and beloved than he makes me feel. I’m safe with him in all ways, and he makes sure I know it daily.
Okay, sorry. Got teary for a minute there!
So, husband has some mixed emotions going on. I can see he’s happy I’m awake, but needs to tell me something. I beat him to the first words. I asked “did he take them?”
“Yeah babe. He had to…”
Well. Great. That’s great. I’m fine. It’s fine. Okay. Okay, yeah. Okay. IVF it is.
These were the lightning fast thoughts that ran through my head. Then I thought, “oh gosh, make sure he knows you’re not sarcastically thinking all that! It really is going to be okay. Like, wow. Praise the Lord, I’m not imploding!” And then I stopped just internalizing all of it and shared my brain with him.
The crazy thing? It really was okay. Supernaturally, I believe, the Lord dumped buckets of peace over me and they’ve not stopped pouring since then.
This brings us up to speed. It’s fall in the south, finally, and life is truly good. We have plans to try our first round of IVF in the spring. TBH, though spring will financially be more feasible, I also want to be nice and pregnant next Christmas so I can have one of those silhouette Christmas tree pictures, myself!
Let me just also say that it has been such a gift, not being able to naturally get pregnant. What? Yes. But let me explain, lest you think I’ve truly lost it.
The wondering, every month, is gone. Just under four years (as of March 2017) of riding the hope-despair cycle is finally over with. I can live, truly. Being with my husband is just being with my husband. No agenda! It’s so incredibly liberating.
My struggle, now, is correctly placing my hope in the Lord, not IVF. Whew, that’s tough. I don’t even mean to do it, but it happens all the time. My prayer is that I would find contentment no matter what happens. I pray I come to a place of peace with whatever role the Lord sees fit to put me in.
If you’ve actually read this entire story, that probably means you’ve been in these shoes. Or, you are in these shoes, or, you know someone going through it.
Infertility is not for the faint of heart – even as a friend to someone experiencing it. Infertility has wrecked marriages, broken relationships, destroyed lives. I’m truly thankful to have come this far without those consequences. If anything, I feel stronger in my marriage, and closer to the Lord through it all.
Pray for me, if you think about it. Feel free to email me, if you just need another human who gets it.
Moms, hug your babies. Savor the late nights and yucky diapers. Revel in your makeup free face and un-done hair. So many of us are craving those very things. If you’re pregnant, and uncomfortable, tired, feeling huge – those are valid, and understandable. I only ask you take a moment to consider this story before complaining. Or at least consider your audience.
Those of you in my boat – I’m thankful I’m not alone, though I wish I could make it all go away for you.
Thanks for reading,