Infertility and Assisted Reproduction
Personal Stories of Infertility and Pregnancy Loss
Yes, I know the title is unimaginative, but at least (on the other metaphorical hand) it does what it says on the tin. In other words, please humor me while I relate how I got to where I am today. Or to put it another way, I plan to write my personal perspective on why infertility sucks.
Because infertility truly does suck ass. Can I say "ass" here?
Many apologies if the answer is a firm "no." Shan't do it again, too much.
Anyway, to get back to the beginning.
My husband and I, like all good semi-traditionalists, got married and decided to have a baby. Not quite in that order, of course, hence the "semi", but you get the idea. We were in love, godsdamnit (can I say that, too?), and when you're in proper love the idea of having a baby with your partner actually changes from inducing a cold sweat at 3 a.m. to sounding kind of mushily sweet.
So I stopped taking the pill. We had lots of sex. It was even fun for a while.
Sadly however, I steadfastly failed to pop ovum, regained my horrific adolescent acne and simply bled in a random fashion. (And in a rare fashion, also -- I had about four periods in the first year. Which is a great saving on tampons but not much use in getting pregnant.) The polite name for this sort of problem is a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome—or PCOS. Ironically I had gone on the pill ten years previously for the same symptoms. Guess they hadn't gotten better in the meantime.
After a year of this, my spouse and I politely sought help. The first medico we saw told me I couldn't possibly have PCOS because I was thin (ha!) and to keep trying for another six months. Since it had already been over a year, we both said "bollocks" (can I say that?) to that suggestion and got a second opinion. Wouldn't you know it? PCOS! My husband got a little pot to rule out any swimmy gamete issues as a formality, where it sat on the shelf for a while. Because apparently he found it embarrassing to you-know-what for science.
Once I started the Clomid (a common first line treatment for ovulatory disorders), it would be smooth sailing anyway. Surely.
Well, no. The Universe had more up its sleeve in the form of discovering in the middle of the second treatment cycle my darling spouse's eventual efforts in aforementioned cup bore bad news. We actually had severe male factor infertility, too. Not only was I utter rubbish at making eggs, but the soldiers were lacking in significant ways.
And then, mysteriously, my period was late.
I peed on a stick, only because I had plans at the pub. After all, we'd just had the Big IVF (in-vitro-fertilization) talk. Sex leading to pregnancy? So yesterday.
It was positive. Hallelujah, praise be etc.
My betas were great, the early scans were good and I was released to my OB, relieved it had been so easy in the end. I began to get doughy in the middle. I ate for my nation. I was certified P-word. How lucky.
Our Nuchal Translucency scan showed that whilst our baby had ten fingers, ten toes, one nose, two eyes and was probably a girl, she also had no skull. Most of her brain was missing.
Our baby had anencephaly. Anencephaly is uniformly lethal at birth. There was no cerebral cortex so our poor baby, even if born alive, would have had no awareness, no anything. If the birth did not kill her, she would die of infection in the exposed remnants of her brain in the first few days.
The worst decision of my life was deciding when my miracle baby would die. I had the sucky and suckier choices of either terminating my pregnancy now, or going to term and delivering a malformed, dead child. There were only bad options.
I chose to terminate, and whatever your personal philosophy on such matters, believe me when I say it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I never thought that I, a good middle-class girl, would have an abortion. An abortion for a baby I wanted. So very much. I didn't want to do it, but I couldn't bear the alternative either. I had to go through three OBs and wait a week to arrange the procedure. That week was sheer hell. I spent it drunk.
I went into hospital pregnant and left empty, bleeding and unsure how I could ever do this again.
But I did.
We hoped we'd get lucky again and pursued five more clomiphene cycles. They didn't work. My body stopped responding to the clomiphene, and anyway, lest we forget, there was that whole Rather Dodgy Sperm thing.
So, after two years of trying to conceive, one dead baby, a risk of recurrence if I were to get pregnant again, and a whole lot of heartache, we turned to in-vitro fertilization with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (IVF with ICSI).
Our first cycle went well. For once, PCOS worked in my favor, and I got a swag of eggs on a mere sniff of Follicular Stimulating Hormone (FSH). We had great fertilization rates, thanks to ICSI manually banging the sperm into their destination. We had lots of good embryos.
We didn't get pregnant.
I bled before the beta.
So we did a frozen embryo transfer (FET) and I bled from a few days after transfer. I literally washed those embryos right out of my Ute Of Doom before they could even admire the decor, let alone think about hanging around for 40 weeks.
That REALLY sucked.
We did the only thing we could, another FET with a change of protocol. Then I almost completely failed to ovulate. After over a month of excessively personal Lady Business ultrasounds, more needle sticks than a junkie and a lot of chocolate consumption, I finally got to transfer. My progesterone was so very low we shoved it into my system by any and all available means. And orifices. And hoped for the best, because, well, what next?
I got my first positive pee-stick at a week post transfer. Um, holy shit!
My beta was over seven hundred at 13 days post ovulation (DPO). (I couldn't bring myself to wait until my clinic's 14 DPO; I would have strangled the phlebotomist if he'd refused my outstretched arm). That's fairly high.
Did I mention we transferred two embryos, rather against the advice of my RE?
Yes, to cut a long story short, at the six week scan there were two heartbeats. At the twelve week scan there were also two normal heads, and spines. Two brains, even.
Then I started contracting at twenty weeks, but that truly is another story. Suffice it to say I got away with it this time. I type this with twins complaining in the background that it, most emphatically, is dinner time.
Last revised: Aug 2009
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