So, how does someone begin a new blog on a new topic? Should I start at the beginning of my journey when I was first diagnosed with PCOS or begin with today and make references to the past? Or….begin with a discussion on how I should begin?
Perhaps a little back story is in order to explain how this blog came about…
I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) at the age of 22 after gaining 100 pounds in a year! My mother is the one who actually suggested I might have it after struggling with my weight. I went to the doctor to confirm the diagnosis. The only information I received was that I would have trouble conceiving. Fast forward 7 years to when my husband and I decided to start trying to have children. During those 7 years, I continued to struggle with my weight, got married, finished college, started a career…so on and so forth. I got married to my husband at 24 but like many couples these days, we decided to wait to have children. This is a decision that I have questioned over and over again since we started trying to get pregnant. At 29, we finally decided to start trying and so our obligatory year of attempting to conceive naturally began. One year later after no success, my OB/Gyn prescribed Clomid and then sent me on to a Reproductive Endocrinologist. My first actual appointment with the RE was while my husband was deployed and my doctor raised a concern with my weight and the higher possibility of my contracting Ovarian HyperStimulation Syndrome (OHSS). He said even a 10% weight reduction would help substantially to allow me to take the fertility medication needed for an Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). Because my hubby made me promise to take care of myself while he was away, I decided to hold off for a couple of months to lose weight.
A week later after a period that lasted longer than usual, I noticed large clots. The idea that it seemed similar to what I have read about a miscarriage popped into my head. Even though I thought it was crazy, I googled miscarriage symptoms to investigate. The symptoms seemed to fit! I was sure that it was just coincidence, after all, I’d been trying to conceive for over a year, there is no way I could have gotten pregnant without realizing it, right? Wrong. I took a pregnancy test and it was surprisingly positive! I couldn’t believe my eyes! I didn’t know what to do. I was so excited to finally get that positive test, but also devastated because it was pretty obvious I was miscarrying. I was baffled and had no idea what to do, so I called a friend and asked. She told me to get my butt to the hospital, duh! Since my husband was deployed, I couldn’t let him know what was happening nor did I want to explain it to him in an email, especially since I wasn’t exactly clear on what was going on myself. I called my mom in Denver to let her know what was happening as I was driving to the hospital. She let me know that she had experienced the same thing before I was born, going into detail on her experience and the conversation was oddly reassuring. A blood test quickly confirmed I was approximately 6 weeks pregnant, but subsequent exams and tests led to the diagnosis of a threatened miscarriage, which just means I was probably miscarrying.
Two days later, I received a call from my RE (The Emergency Room let him know what happened) and he wanted me to get blood drawn for an HCG test and go see him. He let me know that my HCG dropped substantially and it was pretty clear that I was miscarrying. To be on the safe side, he had me continue to get an HCG test once a week for the next few weeks. My levels dropped slowly, but then on the third week it doubled! My doctor told me that it looked indicative of a new pregnancy (He was well aware my husband was deployed, so he was accusing me of cheating, but it’s not exactly unheard of in the military, so I let it slide). After reassuring him that there is no way it could be a new pregnancy, he told me that sometimes there are twins where one is attached to the uterus but the other is ectopic and then a miscarriage occurs and one remains either in the uterus or Fallopian tube. His next instructions were for me to go see him while he was on call in Labor & Delivery on the weekend…(I know, right? Adding insult to injury!). He did another HCG test and said that while my HCG levels rose slightly it wasn’t enough to confirm a viable pregnancy. He said it was most likely ectopic. He wanted an ultrasound to confirm. During the ultrasound, I kept begging the technician to give me information, but she told me that she couldn’t tell me anything. After confirming the results with her supervising doctor, I begged her again and she told me that there was a gestational sac in my uterus but it didn’t look normal. It was completely empty and oddly shaped. After returning to labor & delivery, my doctor told me to treat it like a normal healthy pregnancy, but to go back and see him in three days. When I mentioned the concerning information I received from the ultrasound technician, he told me he had fired people for less and blew off the rest of my concern. He continued to give me information on what to avoid while pregnant, like a heart rate over 140 and to not lose any more weight. I should have listened to my gut instinct to be concerned, but I wanted a healthy pregnancy so bad that I ignored it!
I was over the moon! It looked like I was actually getting the chance to be a mother after all! I immediately went to the grocery store and bought all healthy and organic food to eat. After all, I wanted my baby to have the best nutrition possible. I even called my husband’s command ombudsman to have my husband woken up so I could tell him he was going to be a father! Unfortunately, I regretted that decision after my next doctor’s visit. As requested I returned to the doctor three days later for a follow-up ultrasound. My doctor turned the screen towards me and showed me where the gestational sac was beginning to collapse. He apologized and suggested a D&C for the following day. Unwilling to believe this news, I told him I wanted to wait a bit for the sac to pass on its own. He told me he didn’t want to wait too long because it could lead to infection and cause problems with future children. Holding out hope, I did not back down and scheduled a follow-up appointment for two days later. At the next appointment, the sac had completely collapsed and after seeing this on the screen, I was ready to proceed with the D&C. I was devastated. Once was bad enough but two miscarriages? I scheduled the D&C for the following week and flew my mom to San Diego to be with me since I was alone. It should be noted that I may not have been pregnant with twins. The tissue from the D&C was sent to pathology and my doctor told me that the results confirmed it was fetal tissue (well, duh!). He said that it may have just been retained tissue from the first miscarriage and there was no way to know. Either way, it sure felt like two whole miscarriages to me!
Two months later after I completed a full cycle post-D&C, I was ready to attempt another IUI. (With frozen sperm since my husband was still deployed at this time). My husband wasn’t crazy about this idea since he didn’t want me to have another miscarriage while he was gone, but I was eager to take advantage of my perfect post-miscarriage cycles to try and conceive again. Unfortunately, this IUI was unsuccessful. I followed my husbands wishes and held off from trying again until after my husband returned from deployment in August. I hadn’t lost as much weight as I wanted to so I held off on returning to my doctor for another IUI. After all, I had conceived naturally already so I felt there was a good chance I may be able to do it on my own again….but again, I was wrong. When visiting my OB/Gyn for an annual checkup in December, she let me know that my RE was being transferred to Japan and she went out to get him. She told me that even though losing weight will help me conceive, that I shouldn’t put off my fertility treatments to do so. I wish I could have heard that sooner instead of constantly thinking that my RE would continue to judge me and cause me to body shame myself. Once she brought him in he told me he was moving in March and I had time to do one or two IUI attempts prior to that. He said they didn’t really have a replacement for him in the OB/Gyn clinic but his patients were being referred to the Infertility Clinic (on a side note…I HATE the term Infertility Clinic..Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive children. If that were the case there would be no point in having a clinic!) The down side to that is there is a wait to get into the clinic.
At the beginning of my next cycle, I went to my doctor on day 3. He saw no signs of cysts so prescribed Clomid and Gonal-F for me. Instead of taking the Clomid on the usual CD 3-7, he had me take it from CD 5-9. Then on Day 11, I took my Gonal-F injections. Two days later, I returned for my follow-up ultrasound to see if my follicles were ready to be released with the HCG trigger shot. First, he took a look at my right ovary and found one follicle that was too small at a mere 11 mm (18-22 is ideal), then the left ovary had a follicle measuring at 15 mm. He mumbled a few insincere apologies and said they weren’t big enough and left the room so i could get dressed. Now, for my previous IUI, I had the same issue so I wasn’t worried, because he had just had me take another injection of Gonal-F and then return two days later for the trigger shot. When he came back in he said he could try that to get the left follicle to release the egg, but he had never seen an IUI work on only one egg before. Knowing that most people get pregnant with just one egg, I decided to forego the irritating side effects of the injection and opted to try naturally with the medicine I had already taken. He also told me these words that I will never forget, “You are not responding to the medication and are no longer a candidate for IUI. I am referring you to the infertility clinic for IVF.” While that statement seemed so cut and dry, he was essentially telling me that although I expected to be able to do a few more IUIs that I now only have one more hope of conceiving naturally and its with IVF. The infertility clinic currently has a wait list of up to 2 years to get IVF done. Now, I could go to a civilian doctor and have IVF done much quicker, but it is $15,000 to do that! If I go to a military doctor, it is only about $4-7,000.
Now, if you’re noticing a theme of my Reproductive Endocrinologist telling me the wrong things then you are correct. Two days later the infertility clinic called me to schedule an appointment. The person I spoke with told me that I was scheduled to continue IUI treatments. I knew it! I knew there had to be other medicine and combinations that I could try to get pregnant without resorting to IVF just yet. After all, I did conceive naturally just one year ago, right?
Well, that brings us current with my journey to obtain that delayed baby carriage. Incidentally, my husband and I are also trying to adopt through the county, but that is another story for another day….