“So, you want kids, right?” my then-boyfriend of one month asked me.
“Would you stop dating me right now if I said no?” I replied laughing. Dan, my current husband of two years, could have assumed I wanted kids-- I had spent some time working at Pittsburgh’s Children’s hospital prior to becoming a physician assistant. He was a former camp counselor for kids, and is, well, still pretty much a kid at heart. My mom essentially set us up on a blind date in June 2014 and I knew a few weeks after that he would be by my side for life.
I had my IUD removed soon after our wedding at the end of summer 2016. I called my gynecologist’s office five months later because my period still hadn’t returned. The nurse who took my call suggested I try basal body temperature (BBT in the TTC world) which I did religiously for three months without a pattern, without a return of AF (Aunt Flo).
By my next annual gynecologist appointment, the words came tumbling out of my mouth, choking back tears with frustration… that we had been trying for a year, and the number of pregnancy tests I had taken was astounding. I had to take one before every time we’d go out because I didn’t know where I was in a cycle I didn’t have. As an over achiever, taking the same test over and over again, and continuing to fail that same test no matter how hard we “studied” was maddening. How could I repeatedly fail a test so many times that other accidently managed to pass?
My gynecologist gave me three options: 1. She would refer me straight to an RE (reproductive endocrinologist), 2. Order an HSG (hysterosalpingogram, to check to see if the fallopian tubes are blocked), or 3. Start my cycle with Provera (progesterone) and then 5mg of Letrozole days 3-7 with a Day 21 progesterone level to see if this started ovulation. At this point in our journey I was not ready to accept the help of an RE… I was only 29 years old at the time! The HSG sounded scary. I opted for number three.
As any woman who has taken Provera can tell you, it makes you extremely emotional. As my husband can attest, there were several occasions where I ended up crying because I didn’t know why I was crying. On day 21, after my five days of Femara (days 3 through 7) my progesterone level was 3. This indicated ovulation probably did not take place. When I get the call of my blood work, I went into study-mode.
After this results, he suggested we try “hybrid IUI”. This meant femara days 3-7 and gonadotropin injections daily starting on day 7. On day 9 and 11 a vaginal ultrasound was done to measure the follicle sizes. When they are the size they like, they tell you when to give the trigger injection and about 36 hours later you go in for the IUI (intrauterine insemination). I remember the nurse telling me when she sent the prescriptions to the mail order pharmacy that if I was unable to pay for these medicines, there was a pharmacy in Kansas that would accept payment options. I felt like I was in way over my head. Payment plans for medications? Fortunately, health insurance helped defer a lot of the cost.
After this results, he suggested we try “hybrid IUI”. This meant femara days 3-7 and gonadotropin injections daily starting on day 7. On day 9 and 11 a vaginal ultrasound was done to measure the follicle sizes. When they are the size they like, they tell you when to give the trigger injection and about 36 hours later you go in for the IUI (intrauterine insemination). I remember the nurse telling me when she sent the prescriptions to the mail order pharmacy that if I was unable to pay for these medicines, there was a pharmacy in Kansas that would accept payment options. I felt like I was in way over my head. Payment plans for medications? Fortuneately, health insurance helped defer a lot of the cost.
Two days later a huge box arrived. Inside was a Styrofoam cooler with bottles and ice packs and needles (and the tiniest, cutest, little sharps container I’ve ever seen). I felt overwhelmed. I felt like a failure. I felt like I was hiding a horrible secret. I felt guilty.
Me, the overachiever who studied her way into everything and anything I had ever wanted now had to rely on all these medications to help me do what every other woman’s body, every other female animal’s body did just fine, no help, every day. I kept wondering why this happening to me when I was taking care of my body so well with healthy eating, exercise and I hadn’t ever smoked.
I chose to view this “hybrid IUI” as a science experiment and that felt better. Realizing that the secrecy was what was making me feel guilty I “came out” to all my girlfriends and female family members. They were all completely supportive. Our plan was to try this for three cycles then move to IVF if it didn’t work.
On day 12 I was to trigger at 10pm. This was a Saturday night. At the end of a wedding. My sister-in-law, a nurse helped me reconstitute my Pregnyl in the women’s restroom. Many of the women entering (it was right at the end of the reception) knew exactly what we were doing. So many hugged me, said they would say a prayer for us, told me how happy they were to be moms and how worth it this would be. I was glowing in the positivity- I had all the good vibes.
The IUI itself is uneventful, painless and a little awkward? Like you’re getting a gyn exam with the speculum, and then you lay there for 10 minutes and go home. I did it in the middle of the workday and went back to work.
The TWW (two week wait) was long, as I know you ladies likely understand. Since I had done the trigger injection to start ovulation, I couldn’t test until at least 12 days after as the trigger is hcg and would have caused a false-positive reading. I took a test 13 days after my trigger and a very faint BFP (big fat positive) appeared. I wasn’t totally sold on it since I did the trigger so I tested again with FMU (first morning urine) the next day and it was darker so I knew it was true… hard work pays off!! The experiment was a success!
Telling everyone I was doing the injections, and especially my crowd in the ladies restroom who assisted in the trigger knew exactly when I would know so I couldn’t keep it from them without lying (this gave me bad vibes feelings). Plus, I figured, I might need support if things go awry. My other sister-in-law (shout out to @kmorr12 a previous TTC warrior!) had two miscarriages at this point so I wasn’t so naïve.
REs usually have their patients come back for an ultrasound around 7.5 weeks to confirm viable intrauterine pregnancy before “releasing” you to your ob/gyn for further obstetric care. All I remember from this appointment after the ultrasound was my RE telling me “no heartbeat”. He told me to go home and rest. He told me it looked like things stopped growing at the 6 week mark.
For 8 days I walked on eggshells. I waited for excruciating pain. My gut felt like there was a ticking time bomb inside, not the child we had tried so hard for. After those 8 days, on a Saturday I called my RE’s office and told them I couldn’t take it any longer. The doctor on call (who was not mine at the time) called me back and gave me options 1. D&C, or 2. Medicine. I opted for medicine as I was early on and heard D&Cs could cause scarring making it even more difficult.
It took two rounds of Cytotec (four pills inserted vaginally which induce labor essentially) a week apart before I had passed everything.
They told us we could start the process again when my hcg was low enough. We went to California for a wedding and a mini vacation. By the time I came back it was low enough, but the nurse told me they ran my progesterone too and it indicated I had ovulated—all on my own! I spent the TWW anxiously awaiting AF- I hadn’t had my period without medication for years.
When it didn’t come I took a pregnancy test before I called the nurse to tell her I hadn’t gotten it yet. POSITIVE. WTF?! We did it on our own? We were elated. Rest, they said. Don’t try so hard, they said. Stop stressing and go on vacation, they said. We did and accidently it worked!
At the six week mark I started bleeding at work, without pain. I called my RE’s office and they got me right in. Sobbing I entered the office and went straight back to the ultrasound, bleeding through my scrubs so much that the tech was nice enough to bring me new ones. I was assuming the worst, but my RE came in and told me, “Everything’s fine kid, you have a heart rate of 109, measuring exactly six weeks, go home and take it easy”.
I returned eight days later for my scheduled 7.5 week scan only to hear for the second time, “no heartbeat”. I asked for medication immediately right away as I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting again. This was August 2018. He told me there is a bloodwork protocol for recurrent pregnancy loss but I had to wait my my hcg to be negative for two months before proceeding with it. After I had all the tests, all fifteen odd tubes of blood they could possibly take, all has come back normal. It was such a struggle wishing that something was or wasn’t wrong with me to offer explanation or reason to change something.
The week after I learned of my second miscarriage I found an amazing therapist (shout out to @southhillswellness) who has helped me learn more about myself (I highly, highly recommend therapy for anyone, going through anything- it’s life changing). I fell into a new job, which I love. I have supportive and loving family members, friends, and my ever-understanding, strong and optimistic husband. Currently we have switched doctors in the practice and staying hopeful (most days).
I have found that for me, talking about my miscarriages and journey is what helps the most. I have bonded with more women (family members, coworkers, patients, my dental hygienist, random girl at the bar that one time, and now The TTC Tribe) through sharing my story and hearing theirs. It’s comforting to know you’re not alone and that other women have lived through the heartbreak as you have.
I still mourn the loss of the life I thought I was going to lead. I will never be a blissful pregnant woman, full of excitement. As a type- A personality with a color-coded calendar, it still feels like failure on some days, like I didn’t plan my life well enough or something. I’m hoping the struggle we are enduring gives us more strength for tomorrow. That is my hope for all of us.
You can follow Megan's journey on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/roser721/