My Journey with Infertility

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My husband and I tried for two and a half years to get pregnant. We now have a set of beautiful twin fifth graders who are thriving. Let me tell you our story.

Frustration

At first, we thought our journey was going to be easy. I stopped taking my birth control pills and let my cycles return to normal (including horrible cramps). Month one went by with no success. Then month two and month three. At that point, I started to take my morning temperature so I could attempt to chart my most fertile days. Months four, five, and six went by. Every time I peed on that stick, though, I was met with a wave of disappointment and frustration so profound and heartbreaking that I found it difficult to think about anything else.

How could it be possible that other women could ‘accidentally’ get pregnant? What was wrong with me?

I was 33 years old at the time, so I felt extremely anxious about the timeline. As we all know, it becomes more difficult to conceive the older we get. However, medical advice for a woman of my age (if I remember correctly) was that if we were trying unsuccessfully for one year, we would then receive an official diagnosis of infertility. Then it would be time to seek professional help.

One year seemed like a long time to wait, but my husband and I persevered, month after disappointing month.

“Bob’s Your Uncle!”

Finally, after what seemed like forever, we visited my gynecologist for our first infertility consult. She listened to our story and reassured us we were doing everything right. She suggested we try a prescription medication called Clomid (clomiphene citrate) to stimulate my ovaries to produce more follicles (aka eggs). She told us she had some success treating patients with this medication and felt very positive that we would be preggers soon.

“We’ll just go forward with our plan,” she said, “and then… Bob’s your uncle! You’re pregnant!”

My husband and I had never heard that phrase before and thought it was absolutely hilarious. We all had a good laugh together and we left the appointment feeling very positive about continuing our journey.

[Editorial note: “Bob’s your uncle” is a phrase commonly used in Ireland, United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries that means “and there it is” or “and there you have it”.]

More Frustration

Fast forward a few months. After no success with a couple rounds of Clomid, we got the go ahead to see a fertility specialist. First, though, we had to check with our health insurance to see what services were covered. This is where things got even more frustrating.

Turns out, even though we lived in a state that mandated insurance coverage for fertility treatments, our insurance plan did not cover it. How could this be? How could our insurance company flout state law like this? My heart, my hopes, and my dreams for a family all seemed to be melting away. There was no way we could afford to pay out-of-pocket for treatment.

Well, to make a long story short, since the company my husband worked for (we were on his insurance plan) was headquartered in a state that did not mandate insurance coverage for infertility, the insurance plan did not have to offer that particular coverage. Luckily, the company did offer other plans, including one which was based in our state that did offer coverage for infertility. We would just have to wait another year for open enrollment in order to sign up for that plan.

Back on Track

After what seemed like another forever, we finally got to see the fertility specialist. I was now 35 years old.

The first step was to see if there was some physical reason why we weren’t conceiving. My husband had to produce a semen sample to see if his little swimmers were OK (they were). I had to get a procedure called a hysterosalpingography in which my uterus was inflated with water and a transvaginal ultrasound was used to see if there were any structural abnormalities that could be interfering with implantation. Other than a few small, benign fibroid tumors, everything looked A-OK. So we got the go ahead to begin our treatments.

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) was the first treatment on the table. After a month of taking medication to stimulate my follicle production (again), we were advised to abandon the cycle. My follicles were overstimulated, and the doctors feared a multiple pregnancy my body couldn’t handle.

Because of my “advanced maternal age,” it was suggested that in vitro fertilization (IVF) should be the next step. After waiting so long, my husband and I were eager to get started. After one cycle, which included multiple blood draws, oral medications, injections in my belly, and an egg retrieval procedure, we were ready go. I remember vividly the day we had the implantation. The doctor asked us how many embryos we wanted to implant. We picked two, hoping to get one viable pregnancy. For some reason, my husband drove like a maniac on the way home and I was afraid the embryos were going to fall out every time he slammed on the brakes!

I knew I was pregnant a week later when, on a walk, my body felt more exhausted than it had ever felt in my entire life. About a week after that walk, we went in for an ultrasound to see what was going on in my uterus. We saw two little specks. Both implantations were successful!

It was a long, frustrating journey. But looking back 11 years later, it was totally worth it.

Janette DeFelice
Dr. Janette DeFelice is a writer currently focusing on how the changing environment affects our health. She holds a Doctor of Medicine degree from Chicago Medical School where she taught clinical and diagnostic skills to beginning medical students, and a Master’s degree in Humanities from the University of Chicago. She also has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Her writing can be seen online at BeTheChangeMom, ChicagoNow, and Medium, and she’s very excited to have published her first novel, Delia Rising: A Ballet in Three Acts. She lives in Chicago’s west suburbs with her school-age twins, her husband, and a family cat named Clara Barton.

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