[I mark each birthday with a reflective post of what I’ve learned and who I’ve become: see the last two. For my 37th, I’m sharing my on-going experience with infertility. Discovering the lack of what one assumes to be a life ‘right’ is a terrifying situation to deal with.]
I was a late bloomer, with my periods starting just before I turned 18. Subsequently, my periods were irregular and long, with 32 to 47-day cycles. I thought it was awesome at the time. Freedom with more time spent blood-free! I never considered there could be a downside or reason behind it.
I’m also prone to light-headed dizziness when I don’t eat regularly. In extreme cases, sugar or alcohol can completely unbalance my body, leading to hypoglycemic attacks. I had my first one at age 22, during a family celebration for my cousin’s high school graduation. After drinking wine during a celebratory toast, my head filled with a loud buzzing with tinny reverb, muting real-world sounds. I panicked as my sight inexorably blurred out, despite rapid blinking of wide-open eyes. The world slid sideways into a painfully bright neon, day-glow oil slick, and then dulled into darkness. I broke out into a cold sweat – so heavy that within seconds, my body and clothing were soaked as if I was dunked under a shower’s full blast of water – and collapsed. Thankfully, my mom was nearby, and eventually brought me back through a combination of getting my head lower than my legs (forcing blood circulation) and temporarily stabilizing my blood sugar with some Saltines.
[Fast-forward to now.] I spent two years beliving Kaiser’s misinformed reassurance that my reproductive system was perfectly healthy and normal. Growing doubtful over time, I sought out a second opinion. In February, an infertility specialist observed the same exact ultrasound results as Kaiser, and diagnosed me with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, and potential oligoovulation. As it turned out, my irregular periods and hypoglycemic attacks were indicative of PCOS. I wish I had known this far earlier – having that knowledge of my conditions would have changed my life-planning decisions
The past seven months have been defined by strict diet restrictions, a gauntlet of blood tests, and a daily ~20 pill regime, all of which have sent my emotions plummeting and shockingly engorged my midsection. As I have been undergoing my first IVF cycle these past few weeks, daily shots and medications continue to keep my system unsettled. As I write this, eggs have been retrieved, fertilized, and are now being incubated. Every few days, I’m updated of the narrowing number of viable candidates. My fingers are crossed that I’ll make it to the next stage of embryo implantation, but I’m worried.
This journey has been much longer, emotionally taxing, and physically challenging than I could have imagined it might be. It’s easy for me to commit and act with determination when I know the beginning-to-end process required and the estimated return on investment. In contrast, fertility assistance just may be the most undefined, uncertain process that I’ve gone through. There are so many considerations and variables at play, it’s hard to see even a few days into the future. And results are never certain. So all I can do is maintain optimism and am hopeful of ideal results.
So what does this mean? How could my experiences relate to you?
First, realize that the story of your body’s health and well-being is a lifelong story in the making. As my body developed, it was giving me subtle signs as to what was going on. I just didn’t think anything of it. I felt healthy, strong, confident, and self-empowered. I fully believed I was in control of my destiny.
But could your body be sending you subtle signals that perhaps you should pay attention to? Small, seemingly unimportant and unrelated things? Things that don’t even come up on the radar from general health exams? Or things that general-practice doctors say are nothing to worry about? I had two identical fertility appointments, with identical ultrasound results. The general Kaiser ob-gyn diagnosis was that I was fine. The infertility specialist diagnosis was that I was not, and in fact, would need to make immediate life changes to stave off Type II diabetes.
If you do notice signals that potentially could be symptoms of something larger, is it worth investigating? Pay attention to your body, especially when the unexpected happens. Spend the time to understand your body when you are younger, to better prepare yourself for future goals later in life.
Consider how having that additional knowledge could help you set life expectations. Does a different lifestyle or career make sense? Would you approach certain situations differently? (Does freezing your eggs, such a ‘brave new world’ concept, become a real consideration?) What are your major life goals, particularly those which are bound by your body’s natural capabilities?
If you do discover something that drastically changes your expectations, as I did… don’t panic (Okay, it’s natural to panic. I certainly did. But don’t let it overwhelm you for too long.). Look for sources of support to emotionally ground yourself with. A network is great, but having even just one person is critical for your sanity. Try to keep yourself open-minded upon realizing that your initial expectation is no longer an option. Stretch yourself to identify alternative opportunities and take the time to deeply consider them. And most importantly (as much as I struggle to do this myself), do not give up hope. Stay encouraged that you will find a path to take, even if it’s not the one you initially expected or wanted.
This is, by far, my most sobering and introspective birthday. I have only one birthday wish. As always, I reflect and learn. And deeply hope that my story helps others identify or face their unique challenges. Thank you so much for reading this.
- ~$5K of vitamins, supplements, and medication to get my body into the best possible condition for IVF
- $11K of IVF medication (shots, pills, etc.)
- $16K for the IVC procedure
- $TBD for embryo freezing
… for a grand total of $32K and counting. For those of you fortunate enough to get pregnant naturally, you just saved yourself the equivalent of a nice car, or a round-the-world trip. You should feel lucky! 😉
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I am so sorry. I can’t imagine how hard and heart breaking this whole experience must be. I have had close family members that have had to deal with this issue and it is so hard to stand by and watch. I really hope you find something that works for you.
I can’t even imagine!!! I have some serious health issues that would make getting pregnant nearly impossible, not to mention risky. Both for myself and a possible child. The insanity of that, plus being a little older before I got married, and marrying a man that already had children, made it wasy for me to decide to not have any biological children. If that were to change for some unknown reason, I’d be looking at everything you’re going through and then some! I can only pray that your treatment works and you get to hold a babe of your own in your arms one day soon!
I hope you find what works for you. I have always been curious if I have this especially after being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I have all of these issues although I am not trying to get pregnant. The doctors never know what to tell me other than take a pill. I stopped taking all of their pills and have been using a special diet to help me get healthy without all the meds. I wish you the best and thanks for sharing your story.
I am sending you many blessings and prayers. I was also diagnosed with PCOS as a teenager but it was after my first child. I truly thought I was done and didn’t consider how hard it would be after I married and decided I wanted more children. Thankfully my path didn’t have me on too many medications but I understand the struggle, frustrations and emotional ups and downs that can be involved. Thank you for being willing to share your story in such an open way.
I am so sorry to hear of your struggles to get pregnant. My cousin tried for years and
several of the same meds she never found out why. Recently she was able to adapt a beautiful baby boy. I hope you are able to get a positive soon and that the meds work.
I hope you will conceive soon and have luck with the IVF! I can’t imagine the struggle, stress, etc that you must be going through. Hugs to you and best of wishes!
I’m so sorry you’re struggling. I struggled too. I had to have surgeries to get pregnant, surgeries to stay pregnant and shots to keep myself pregnant. Ugh it sucks. In between I lost 5 babies to miscarriage and had 7 surgeries. I am on the other side. I have 2 babies and one adopted baby and I love them all. Hugs from someone who’s been there and done that. Hope you get that sweet baby of your dreams.
So sorry to hear about all your struggles. I can’t imagine how you feel having to deal with this everyday. The meds alone would freak me out! Hang in there. I wish you the best!
I wish I could give you a hug, Laurie! I know it is super tough. I have friends and even my sister who went through the same situation as yourself. It may sound hard to believe, but like other ladies have said, when you let go and take a break from all the medicines and procedures, it might just happen naturally. God works in mysterious ways. All the best to you and your hubby, and have a wonderful birthday!
Infertility is a serious problem and sometime the solution is very simple. My sister tried for 10 years, spent too much money and gained so much weight. She finally gave up, took a break from all medicine and went on vacation. Guess what happened, She went back home with positive result. Hope you will conceive soon, maybe you can take a break and not stressing so much like my sister.
I have a friend that is going through this right now. She is finally pregnant and it took a while and a lot of money and a lot of heartache. I lost my first child due to a miscarriage and I thought that was heartbreaking so I can only imagine how this is.
Infertility can be so hard, and is similar yet different for everyone who goes through it. I hope this IVF treatment goes well for you, and if not- stay strong! Even though you are going through such a hard time right now you have a wonderful attitude and outlook!
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What a difficult and taxing experience for both you and your husband! I’ve had friends who’ve struggled with infertility and PCOS and seen the effects of it on their marriages and psyche first hand. I wish you all the best when it comes to your journey!
I was never really aware of infertility until I had a baby of my own and now my heart breaks for those who suffer from it. I’ve noticed within my friends those dealing with infertility handle it differently as well, so I agree it’s a very personal and unique journey. One of my best friends is having her IVF transfer to try for baby #2 tomorrow and I’m so hopeful and excited for her – she conceived her first child on her first round of IVF – but she’s open and will talk about it with anyone whereas another friend of mine undergoing IVF treatments doesn’t want people to know about it and doesn’t like talking about it.
When I was in my teens, I used to have very light periods and there are months that I was blood free. I was pretty happy with it, but I didn’t realize this will take me longer to conceive when I got married. I have two grown kids now with a very big age gap. It may have taken me a long time to conceive, but I am thankful that I did. Good luck to you. I hope you conceive soon.
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