I’ve debated writing this post a thousand times, but after 21 weeks of pregnancy I feel like I have a story to share that may help others going through something similar. We had a long road to pregnancy, though not nearly as long as some, I hope this helps someone who may be dealing with similar issues.
We started trying to conceive (TTC) in April of 2013, I always knew it would either happen right away for me OR it would take a LONG time. Well, for us it was the latter. We were diagnosed pretty early in our TTC journey with Male Factor Infertility (MFI). We had tried for 6 months with no results, Jason’s parents had been told many years ago that they wouldn’t be able to have kids and had adopted two before having two of their own years later, so with that kind of family history we decided it wouldn’t hurt to get some tests done and see where we were at. If his results came back fine, we would proceed to keep trying for 6 more months before seeking more help, if not we would have a jump start on the process and know what we were dealing with.
Well, the results did not come back positive. My husband was diagnosed with Severe Oligospermia (very low sperm count) and low Testosterone. Barring any issues with me, our chances of conceiving naturally were slim; but we had some options. Since we were so early in the game (only 6 months in… though anyone who has tried to get pregnant knows how long those 6 months are!) we decided to try some lifestyle changes and see where that put us. Now, infertility is a funny thing; the whole process is a “hurry up, and wait” mentality. Make these changes soon, because it takes X amount of time to see a difference. So, my husband made some lifestyle changes, he stopped drinking, stopped having that occasional cigarette, started taking vitamins and trying to eat better. It takes 3 months to see any difference, so we waited.
While we were waiting, I talked to my doctor to see if there was anything we should be doing on my end, and she seemed confident that with my husband having severe MFI that if we could get his numbers up, we would have a shot at getting pregnant before needing to resort to any invasive (and expensive) testing on me. My cycles were regular, I was paying attention to them and everything seemed to be fine, so we would deal with this first hurdle and go from there. So we waited, and “tried” for three months (I put tried in quotations because our odds were so slim, getting pregnant wasn’t even really a possibility at that point) and went back to the doctor and ran the tests again. His Oligospermia had improved (marginally, though still very low), but his blood work was still off. Without getting into too much detail here about the nonsense that ensued, we basically went on a wild goose chase of tests (spending a lot of money we didn’t actually need to) to rule other factors out, basically with the idea of “keep trying” but we’re focusing on this now. This wasted a LOT of time and money, and if I could go back, I wouldn’t waste our time… However, along the way, this goose chase provided us and opportunity to seek a second opinion with a fertility specialist, we were now approaching the 1 year mark of TTC with a Severe MFI diagnosis and we hadn’t gotten anything done to help the situation except spend a lot of money to not learn anything new.
So we headed to the fertility specialist, who was amazing, he didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know (severe MFI, low Testosterone, our odds were slim), but, he did give us a no-nonsense answer about our fertility woes… Basically, the “wait and see” method we had been using the last 6 months wasn’t going to change anything, we saw the improvement we did the first time, and that was basically all there was going to be (most likely). He couldn’t magically make that go away, what he could do was offer us ways to work with what we had (in the form of fertility treatments) and he could help his low testosterone with a fertility friendly medication (traditional testosterone replacement therapy is a BIG no-no when TTC).
After that appointment I felt both relieved and depressed. I was relieved that we finally had a doctor that wasn’t sugar coating things and was actually able to help us, but depressed because the reality that we were coming up on a year of TTC and our journey was just starting, and we were looking at the long and expensive road of fertility treatments. At that point we had at most a 1% chance of conceiving naturally (barring any issues with me, we hadn’t even begun testing on me) so our only real option was IVF (in-vitro fertilization) since my husband’s count was still so low. IUI (intra-uterine insemination) wasn’t an option unless his numbers could double (which the doctor doubted). At the end of that appointment we decided to get him on the testosterone treatment and wait it out and just SEE if anything changed in 3 more months (some men who have taken it had noticed increased sperm counts) while we discussed our options.
IVF really wasn’t an option for us financially, our insurance doesn’t cover infertility or maternity/delivery so while we had some money saved up, we couldn’t really afford to do IVF AND to have it work. So we hoped and prayed for a miracle so we could at least try a couple rounds of the much more financially feasible IUI option. So we waited…
One of the hardest parts of TTC and infertility is the depression that follows it. I struggled HARD with not being able to get pregnant, wondering if it would ever happen, if maybe I just wasn’t meant to be a mother… I talked a bit about my depression and struggle on here during that time, but I never flat out said what the problem was. It was really hard to talk about, I had family and friends, but most hadn’t dealt with infertility. So I turned to message boards and support boards, and while it was helpful it was also that much more depressing because the reality of infertility is SO MUCH MORE complicated and painful than what
everyone no one talks about. It’s like turning to Google for medical advice, and while it’s helpful, it can also be a curse of sorts. I learned WAY more than I ever needed to about infertility and all the things that can go wrong, and about miscarriage and birth defects… but I’ve digressed. I’m bringing this up, because in telling our story, I’ve glossed over the sad and depressing aspects, because even though I know where we are now, it’s still hard to think about… But I wanted to touch on the feelings that are involved with infertility, and let anyone who may be dealing with this, that they are NOT alone and those feelings are 100% normal and I’m here if anyone wants to talk about it…
While we were waiting for the next 3 month wait to be over we were still trying, I started taking better care of myself (see the “Clarity” post a few post back) and I started to turn a corner from the dark depressed place I was in, I had accepted the hand we were dealt and I was ready to make the best of it. Along our TTC journey I had charted religiously, but after getting the MFI diagnosis it kind of fell to the wayside, I mean, when your odds are so slim is it really worth it? But on a whim I decided to pick it up again since I would most likely be getting testing done on myself before moving forward with fertility treatments; I felt I should have as much information as I could. So I’m charting, everything is going like it has every other month we’ve tried and then a few days before my period was due I wasn’t feeling great, my nose was runny and my throat was a little sore, normally someone wouldn’t take notice of these things, but when you are TTC every little symptom means SOMETHING (or so you think), I had been on TTC message boards long enough to know a good amount of girls had similar symptoms before getting a positive pregnancy test. Then my temperature on my chart (you take your temperature before getting out of bed every morning) went up…
Now, charting is a bit complicated, but simply put, after you ovulate your basal body temperature shifts up a little bit (only like half a degree to 1 degree), then right before your period it drops down again… Some women when they get pregnant get what they call a “triphasic” chart, which means instead of their temperature dropping or staying the same their temperature will actually go up even more after their body learns they got pregnant. So after one day of it going up I didn’t think anything of it, then it stayed high for a second day and I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t shake the feeling that MAYBE JUST MAYBE I was pregnant. Of course our odds weren’t good, we only had a 1% chance (at best). So I tried to talk myself out of taking a test, I posted about it on a message board asking them to talk me out of it, talk away my “symptoms”… But all they did was encourage me to take a test. Those who haven’t struggled with infertility don’t know the anxiety of taking tests, seeing negative after negative month after month is quite soul crushing and it takes a lot of energy to even be able to THINK about taking one and preparing for that kind of a crush to your heart. But I knew I would drive myself crazy if I didn’t and at least seeing it be negative would let me move forward. So I took a cheap test I got off the internet and immediately there was a shadow… not a line, but a shadow. THAT had never happened before, so with shaky hands I got out the “good” test (First Response tests are supposed to be the best) and almost immediately two lines showed up (two lines meaning pregnant!). It was THE MOST surreal experience of my life, even thinking back on it now makes me cry. But after 11 months of trying, 12 cycles and thousands of dollars in doctor’s bills we were FINALLY pregnant, on our own, against all odds.
We went back to the fertility specialist shortly after for my husband’s follow up visit, wondering if there was some miracle that had made our chances better; but nothing had changed in the MFI department (he responded well to the testosterone therapy though, so that’s a plus, he’s feeling better and healthier now), and when we told the fertility doctor that we had actually gotten pregnant he was blown away! This is truly a miracle, and I don’t take it for granted one bit. Even though we were able to get pregnant on our own and after only a year of dealing with infertility (others struggle for much longer and some are never able to get pregnant), another pregnancy is not guaranteed; we will still be dealing with MFI issues and will still have the same odds if we were to try again.
I don’t want to give anyone false hope if they are dealing with something like this, this pregnancy is a miracle and our odds of conceiving naturally were SO slim. IVF would have been our best choice if we could have afforded it, but know that miracles CAN happen and sometimes they take a while. Finding a good specialist, being informed about your options and getting help early can make all the difference in the world. I’m SO glad we were proactive and didn’t wait the typical “1 year of trying” to seek help, so if you are wondering when the “right time” is to seek help, do it as soon as you are comfortable! Getting a semen analysis is the easiest and cheapest test to get done to start the process! If anyone has any questions, feel free to email me or leave a comment below.