I will warn you at the beginning of this it isn’t going to be much of a fun post. I am doing this partially selfishly in hopes that writing it down will help me move forward. This is at least part of the story of what Kelly and I have gone through over last 2+ years and where we are now. This is not something I have talked about much at all with anyone, Kelly has talked about a little more than I though.
Shortly after Kelly and I were married in March 2009 we began to attempt to have children. Kelly started by going off birth control as an obvious first step. She then went on to investigating potential causes for infertility issues due to diet, vitamins and other standard body issues. In this pursuit she determined she was allergic to gluten and certain forms of dairy. In order to improve our chances to get pregnant she drastically changed her diet and began taking supplements. She also went to acupuncture to see if it could help. While this was going on she was charting her temperature and using other techniques to try to increase our odds.
Almost exactly a year after we were married and had made almost zero progress with diet, supplement, acupuncture and other homeopathic remedies we began to pursue more traditional infertility treatments. We started meeting with the Fertility Center of Maryland after some recommendations in late March / Early April 2010. They immediately started by putting both of us through a battery of tests to try and figure out what is wrong with us. Much to Kelly’s dismay her tests were much more numerous and invasive than mine. This began a trend that continues to this day that they focus on Kelly more than me, something she is not fond of.
Shortly after starting this process I had the beginnings of my own health issues in May 2010. That however is a story for another post.
After much testing and theorizing Kelly was put on a course of drugs, both pills and shots, to induce / force ovulation. This was accompanied by a process called IUI or artificial insemination. This means that the doctors help my part of the equation get to the right place in completing fertilization. The IUI was done partially because I was determined to not be ideal in my fertility as well. Something that has never been investigated to Kelly’s satisfaction again because they seem to want to focus on her.
Only 2-3 of the 5 forced ovulation attempts resulted in theoretically viable eggs. Of those none successfully implanted as fertilized embryos. These attempts happened from the summer of 2010 until January of 2011 with pretty much zero progress. During this process and after Kelly continued to go through more and more tests to try and determine why things weren’t working out properly. There have never been any concrete answers.
After January 2011 we determined with the doctors that the next step forward was IVF. IVF makes what Kelly had gone through so far look like a walk in the park. Each attempt is about a 2 month process. The first month is somewhat shutting down ovulation mostly done via oral medication. All the while with at least weekly if not almost daily blood tests. The second month is much worse for Kelly (and wasn’t great for me). This is involves daily shots of 2-3 different medicines injected by me into Kelly, Kelly does NOT like needles. This was a pretty painful process both physically and emotionally all around.
The first retrieval happened in mid-May. This involved putting Kelly under anesthesia and surgically removing all the eggs she was forced to produce. Normally an ovulation cycle produces 1 egg and sometimes 2. Kelly produced due to drug intervention 22 eggs. They then took the 22 eggs and fertilized half “naturally” and the other half via a process called ICSI. ICSI is a process where sperm is manually inserted into the egg to almost guarantee fertilization. Seven eggs fertilized via these two processes. Two were returned to Kelly in hopes of a pregnancy and then the other 5 were frozen in case they were later needed.
While the retrieval / fertilization / return was happening Kelly suffered from OHSS or ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome. This caused her ovaries to swell excessively and then begin leaking fluid into her abdomen. This landed her in the hospital for several days. While there they had to drain the fluid from her abdomen and give her medication to help prevent the retention of further fluids.
After all of that there was no pregnancy and that was pretty heartbreaking. A few months later the frozen embryos were defrosted and attempted. This process for Kelly was closer to IUI than IVF, but still not fun in any way. Unfortunately this ended in the same negative result.
In late September / early October a second round of IVF was attempted. This time Kelly produced about the same number of eggs. Luckily she did not suffer the same fate of ending up in the hospital. This time ICSI was attempted on all the eggs. 11 successfully fertilized and were monitored. This time the fertilized embryos were kept in the lab for 6 days to try to find the best candidates. This ended up with 6-7 likely possibilities but none were “great”. The embryos didn’t blastocyst as they should have by that time. The 3 best ones were returned to Kelly in hopes that they would continue to mature correctly. We found out a week ago they didn’t. Also none were viable candidates for freezing so we don’t have any for further attempts.
With this result it pretty much brings to end our attempts to have a child of our own. Our insurance will only cover three attempts at IVF with no success. Also since we haven’t made much progress over the last 18 months there doesn’t seem to be a reason to continue. Further Kelly can’t handle emotionally or physically any further attempts. We have so far spent almost $10K dollars out of pocket in this process and the insurance companies have kicked in probably another five times that much easily.
In the last 6 months or so we have been investigating various forms of adoption. Ranging from foster care to international to local or national domestic. We have gotten pretty close to deciding on a national domestic adoption agency. As part of that process the agency recommended coming to terms with what has happened thus far in our family planning. This post is definitely a part of that.
One of the steps of moving on is admitting and embracing the anger felt during the fertility attempts. Often this anger is misdirected at totally inappropriate people. The main direction of anger is toward other people who are pregnant. There is a feeling of “why do they deserve to have kids and we don’t?” Like I said this isn’t helpful, but happens none the less. This is especially hard for Kelly and I due to our jobs I think. At least for me it seems like almost every week someone else is either having a kid, announcing they are pregnant or some other stage in between. I know I have felt resentment that all these people around me are having kids and I can’t. This thinking isn’t helpful and I hope I can move beyond it.
If you have read this far thanks and I hope I haven’t depressed you too much. I hope that sometime in the future Kelly and my fortunes with becoming parents will have changed for the better.