Saturday, April 25, 2015

Faces of Infertility: Kris's Story

In celebration of "National Infertility Awareness Week", I am featuring stories of infertility this week. These are all guest posts that I hope will put a real face on this devastating disease. Please spread the word and share these stories!

I’ve dreamed of being a mom for as long as I can remember. In college my friends thought I was crazy because school always came very easy to me and when things would get tough I would want to quit. It was so hard to stay committed to studies when I just didn’t see myself doing it in the future, all I could envision was taking care of a house full of babies. In 2001 my husband and I married and talked of having a large family of both biological and adopted children one day. By 2003 baby fever was setting in. We lived on a street in military family housing where 6 out of the 12 or so families on the street were pregnant, and when those babies came along it was hard not to want a baby of our own. At 23 I never in my wildest dreams imagined infertility would be something I would have to deal with. I was young and healthy, so getting pregnant should be a breeze, right?

Two years later, in 2005, we were still not pregnant and couldn’t understand what was wrong. We went to an OBGYN who didn’t ask any questions, handed over some Clomid pills and told us this should do the trick. My first cycle on the Clomid was a success and we were elated when I had a positive home test and we learned we were finally pregnant. At 6 weeks, while on a business trip in Chicago I began to bleed. I didn’t know what was happening so I went to the clinic at the convention center where my conference was being held. The nurse there was concerned and I was taken by ambulance to the local hospital with an escort from my company. At the hospital the doctor confirmed I was having a miscarriage. My husband was miles away, unable to do anything at all and I was going through one of the worst experiences of my life with a complete stranger by my side. I am still thankful for the compassion of the escort who was so kind to sit and try to comfort me when I was scared to death, numb from pain, and all alone. My husband arranged for me to fly home the next day and getting off the plane and seeing him there was devastating. I felt like a failure, I had lost our baby. Guilt wrecked me with questions of whether or not it was my fault, had I done something wrong, was it the trip, etc…

I went to the OBGYN who told me it was ok -- that miscarriage is a common thing and we could continue to try on the Clomid pills. That we should be successful soon because we responded so well to the first round of Clomid and it worked right away. We proceeded to do eight more rounds of Clomid in back to back cycles over the next nine months. Each time hopeful, only to be devastated by negative after negative on pregnancy tests. I was depressed, I was angry, I took it out on my husband and we struggled. After the eight failed rounds the OBGYN gave up and in 2007 referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist. Hope had been restored. This new doctor would be able to help us, he had to.

I was terrified of the infertility clinic, I hated needles, passed out when I got shots and thought having an IV or blood drawn was a fate worse than death. I was a hysterical mess sitting in the chair having vial after vial of blood drawn and I remembering thinking to myself I can’t do this. The blood draws were the least of my worries I was soon to find out. The doctor also wanted to do a hysteropingogram, where they take X-rays of my uterus and tubes while injecting them with dye to ensure they are not blocked. That came back clear. Blood work all came back clear. Semen analysis came back clear. The doctor knew what he was doing though, he knew the right questions to ask. When I told him my periods were regular he knew to ask me to define regular. When I told him my periods were normal he asked me to define normal. He explained to me he thought I was the poster child for endometriosis and he recommended having laparoscopic surgery to determine if he suspicions were correct. I thought he was crazy. I thought he was trying to take my money and didn’t know what he was talking about. Periods were not supposed to be a walk in the park, and every one had pain with them, right? That is what I thought. I was scared to death but out of options and so I agreed to the surgery. The doctor was right, I had severe stage III, borderline stage IV endometriosis. We thought we had it all figured out! We finally had a reason!

The plan after cleaning out all the endometrial tissue was to attempt a clomid/IUI cycle. I thought for sure it would be a success now that we had the endo cleaned up and my body was healthy and ready to carry a child. I was wrong. It failed and that was one of the hardest negatives yet. We tried another Clomid IUI, negative. Now we were running out of time. My doctor had told us with each failed cycle comes a period and with that comes the possibility of endometrial tissue settling outside my uterus where it didn’t belong and an increased chance I would need another surgery. He told us he was cutting us off at three failed IUIs. Basically with each failed cycle my chances of getting pregnant decreased. We also learned my husband was being deployed and would be leaving before we could complete the third IUI. The timing was awful. We froze a semen sample to do the final IUI with and when the time came that one too failed. Once again I was alone, he was on the other side of the world and my depression grew worse fearing we were running out of time and chances. I took medication to stop my period so my endometriosis could not get worse while my husband was gone.

When my husband returned from deployment we jumped right back into trying and now looked at IVF options. We were still considered “unexplained infertility patients” because even after the lap to clean out endo we were not successful, so the IVF was a gamble just as everything else had been. We gave it a try and by now I was becoming a pro at shots and blood draws. We learned how to have my husband give me four shots a day and a time or two I even had to do one to myself.  We transferred three great looking embryos and were hopeful that this would finally be our time. The first IVF cycle was a success and we soon learned I was pregnant with one child. I was scared I would lose it but the constant monitoring kept me sane and reassured. When I was five months pregnant my husband had to leave for a year long, unaccompanied tour in Korea. He was able to fly home for three weeks for the birth of our son in 2008. Four years after we started trying to grow our family we finally had a baby to show for it. It was the happiest day of my life.

When my husband and I were finally reunited after his Korea tour we began trying again for more children. We still had no answer as to the cause of our infertility and no idea if it was still an issue or now that my body had been pregnant and carried a child if it would be able to do it on its own. About three years after my son was born we began seeking the help of a reproductive endocrinologist in Germany, where we were stationed at the time. I was thankful for having been through the IVF experience before in the USA so I was not so alarmed by going through the process in a different country, with a different culture, with language barriers. I missed the comforts of American medicine more than once during the procedures. We attempted a fresh IVF cycle, followed by two FETs. We ended up transferring a total of 8 embryos and had nothing to show for it. Not a single embryo took. I was devastated. To make matters worse the military denied our humanitarian request to remain in Germany longer to continue medical treatments. We were being forced to move and we were being sent to a tiny Portuguese island in the middle of the Atlantic where there are NO fertility treatments whatsoever. The assignment was a death sentence in my mind.

The silver lining of our assignment at Lajes was that for the purpose of adoption, the Portuguese government will consider American military families stationed there as residents, therefore making the adoption of a Portuguese child completely free! This was amazing news! We completed all the requirements, home studies, etc… and on Valentine’s Day in 2013 we received a letter notifying us we were approved and officially on the waiting list for Portuguese adoption.

I had started to accept that I would not have any more biological children and began to sell all my maternity and baby things I had been carrying around for so long. On a Monday on May I sold the last of my maternity things to a friend of mine and that Friday I got the surprise of my life when I learned I was pregnant again, naturally! The joke was clearly on me! I was terrified of losing the baby, scared of the limited medical care on the island, and a mental wreck because I had finally come to terms with not having more biological children and I was happy with that idea. Everything worked itself out, and due to the limited medical care on the island I flew to Germany alone in December at 36 weeks to wait for my due date. I spent Christmas away from my family, which was difficult but worth it when my healthy baby boy was born this January. Last month we had to withdraw our name from the Portuguese adoption list because of the amount of time we have left on the island. We do not have enough time to finalize custody before we will be reassigned this August. It was a little disappointing, but if this journey has taught me anything it is that you can never be certain what the future holds. You can plan, you can medically intervene, you can pray, but in the end His will is all that matters. The road to get us here makes me appreciate my babies even more as I know what gifts they truly are.

(Please note that all parts of this article are the opinion of the guest writer and not necessarily viewpoints that I personally share)

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