First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage. Right? As it turns out, not for everyone. This nursery rhyme didn’t quite play out for me as I recited it as a young girl. As a child and young adult, I witnessed the pain of infertility through my mother’s experience. My mom was diagnosed with unexplained infertility after giving birth to two children without any challenges. A generation later, I have my own infertility story to share.
I was in my mid-twenties when I met and married my husband. During our courtship, we agreed to wait a few years before we begin to have children together. In June 2012, I stopped taking birth control and hoped for the best. The next month, I started to experience severe pain. One evening, the pain grew in intensity, so I decided to go to the ER. It all happened so quickly. One moment I was in the ER complaining of pain and the next I was going into surgery. I didn’t know how much my life would change that day.
My Infertility Story
In my groggy state after the surgery, the doctor shared her findings. I heard endometriosis, scar tissue, fallopian tubes- and saw my mom’s face go from curious to worried. My mom, a nurse practitioner, understood the medical terms, and without any anesthesia, could also comprehend its weight. That wasn’t the case for me. I dozed off again and this time when I woke up, I was ready to be discharged.
At my follow-up appointment, my doctor of nine years told me IVF would be my only chance of conceiving. I don’t think it hit me then. I had too much on my mind. In just a few months, I was going to join my husband in Houston. The much-anticipated relocation to Houston was now top priority. The plans to get pregnant would have to wait until September when I arrived in Houston.
My doctor wasn’t happy with my denial. She lovingly yet sternly told me to find a doctor immediately after I arrived. The first doctor I went to looked at my transferred records and the results of the hysterosalpingogram, an incredibly painful test to determine if your fallopian tubes were blocked. He echoed the words of my doctor from Ohio. You cannot conceive without IVF. At this time, I was 30 and everyone was hopeful. They kept reminding me how time was on my side, and this was the perfect time to get started. I just wasn’t ready and willing to go the IVF route. First, we couldn’t afford it and the thought of taking on credit card debt to pay for a ‘maybe’ baby made me sick. There was no guarantee IVF would work, and I’m not a risk taker. With the second doctor’s opinion of my failed reproductive system, I ran to the internet for alternate and affordable options.
Exploring Our Options
My research brought me to a clinic with board-certified doctors who claim to reverse infertility. The good news was that my insurance covered many of the procedures and we had Health Savings Account to supplement what insurance didn’t cover. This process introduced me to Creighton Model Fertility Care System (CrMS) and the NaProTechnology. I had to undergo surgery that promised repair of my fallopian tube. I was hopeful. Not only were they more affordable for us at the time, but they also had data that proved their success.
The weight of the diagnosis of infertility fell when these new doctors couldn’t help us conceive. By this time, I had taken over 100 pregnancy tests. I was obsessed and hopeful. I learned so much about my body and my reproductive system. I cried so many tears but somehow not enough to drown my sorrows. My husband did his best to console me, but I was the one broken (a lie I no longer believe).
After several weeks of praying, we decided to go the route of IVF. For the next 3 years, we saved enough to pay for one round of IVF. The process was exciting and tedious. The first visit to our doctor was tough, and I was overwhelmed by the amount of information shared with us and the whole process. Everything was looking good. You have great eggs, she said, and although you have some fibroids, your uterus is healthy and should be able to carry a baby full term without complications. Your age is on your side.
The day of the egg retrieval came, and we were both excited. I shared our choice to go the IVF route with a few friends and our immediate family members. One thing about pain and suffering is that you get to experience first-hand the love of God through the people in your life and even strangers. The retrieval was a success. We had agreed to freeze the embryos.
A few days after the retrieval felt some pain but although that was to be expected, this didn’t feel normal. I called my doctor’s office, and the nurse told me to go to the ER if I experienced fever, extreme pain, or any other unusual symptoms. The night of December 26, 2015, I woke up to a soaked bed and the worst pain I’ve experienced in my adult life. When I got to the ER, I was admitted immediately because my fever was 104 and it was obvious I was in excruciating pain. The last thing I remember was calling my girlfriend who lived minutes from the ER. When I woke up, I had been admitted into a hospital room where I would spend the next three weeks fighting for my life. Breathing was painful, I couldn’t get up without help, and I certainly couldn’t sleep without pain meds. I remember many specialists coming to talk to me. Infectious disease, lung, and heart specialists made rotations to figure out what was wrong with this 33 year old woman on the floor with patients two to three times her age. The first week was like solving a mystery for the doctors. They knew I had an infection in my lungs, but they just didn’t know what it was. So, as they put it, they decided to give me the Cadillac of antibiotics to fight it.
A Happy Ending
As I lay on the hospital bed watching one doctor after another come in with less information than the one before, I would see them read my chart and then their puzzled faces. This went on for two weeks. With no real explanation of how I got sick, I was wheeled out of the hospital on January 15th, 2016. It was the perfect Houston day, and I was delighted to be out of the hospital. Recovery at home was long and hard. With a PICC line in my arm, caregivers came to our home to continue the antibiotics and nurse me to health. In July of 2016, my fertility specialist finally agreed to continue the IVF process that was delayed by the infection and in May of 2017, I gave birth to my miracle baby boy.
Eight years after my infertility story, I am grateful for it and for my baby boy. I’m grateful for health insurance, and for the provision to pay for the procedures. I’m grateful for my friends and family who stood by and with me in prayers and deeds. I am especially grateful to God for speaking clearly to me during this season. My heart and faith grew leaps and bounds.