It starts like much like a fairy tale. An Australian girl gets on a bus on her way to school and spies a handsome boy. Her heart is a flutter, but she is too shy to say even hello to this boy. Many years later they get married and decide to start a family. That was when the plot thickened. I have a unicornuate uterus (UU) and endometriosis and that has made starting a family difficult. Add in a dose of depression, and that is the cliff notes so far. The story isn’t over yet, we are still deep within the ‘resolving the plot twist’ stage.
We decided to wait until we were married before we started trying for a baby. This was something that meant a lot to my husband, Rob. For him, getting married signified a sentiment of preparedness for becoming a parent. Quite beautiful really, and something I had to accept. It takes two to make a baby and if my husband wasn’t on board, it wasn’t going to happen.
For nearly a year we tried to conceive naturally. I chose not to go down the road of ovulation predictor kits (OPK) or tracking my basal body temperature (BBT). We simply aimed to have sex every 2 days from around cycle day (CD) 10, to CD 21 depending how we felt. Prior to starting to try, Rob and I agreed that we did not want it to be a chore. We never forced anything.
It was my sister that first suggested we get a referral for ovulation tracking. She herself has polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and at the time was pregnant after a year of assisted conception. One day when talking to her ultrasound technician at her clinic, she discussed my situation and how she felt for us. The technician told my sister about non-medicated ovulation tracking. My sister suggested this to me, and subsequently we decided it would be a good move.
This was the best move we could have made. My general practitioner (GP) suggested I may have PCOS, and. referred me to a fertility specialist (FS), where we found out about my UU. Our FS told us straight away that I did not have PCOS, and suggested I have a routine hysterosalpingo contrast sonography (HyCoSy). Worst case scenario, my FS suspected that perhaps I had a blocked tube that needed flushing. It was a complete surprise when the doctor performing the HyCoSy sat me down afterwards and told me what he found. He said that I have a unicornuate uterus.
A Unicornuate Uterus is a genetic condition where the uterus does not form completely. The uterus begins as two separate horns that join together and form a full-sized uterus. My right horn did not develop properly. It isn’t connected to my right fallopian tube, and all that I have is a tubular left uterus. One MRI, laparoscopy and hysteroscopy later, my UU was confirmed. To everyone’s surprised I was also diagnosed with endometriosis.
We dove right into the world of assisted conception starting with letrozole. Since then I’ve done:
2 letrozole cycles,
1 Puregon cycle,
3 IVF stim cycles and fresh transfers, and
1 FET that resulted in a chemical pregnancy.
I have also had a second laparoscopy to remove the endometriosis.
At present, we are waiting for my next cycle to have an endometrial receptivity analysis (ERA) preformed. I am taking DHEA to restore the quality of my eggs to that of a younger woman. From there we will do another stim cycle, freeze any embryos we get, then do an FET. If that is unsuccessful, we will be moving onto a gestational carrier.
While all this has been going on, I have also been battling my mental health. Not long after I was given my infertility diagnosis I was diagnosed with depression. Unlike the other conditions, this one wasn’t a surprise. I knew it was there. I’ve been depressed before, so I knew all the warning signs.
The most concerning part of this current situation has been the self-loathing thoughts centralized around the idea that my infertility is because I am a bad person. I was raised being told that bad things happen to bad people. If something bad happened to me and I was upset about it, I was often told that it was because of something bad that I had done. Maybe I didn’t do my chores without a fight, or perhaps I was mean to my sisters. Regardless, I was told that bad things happened because I was bad.
This notion became deeply ingrained in me through out my life. If it wasn’t my parents reinforcing this belief, it was my Catholic up bringing. While the church teaches forgiveness, it also teaches punishment for those who do not repent. That last little note seemed to be what my mother would focus on. No repentance was enough. I still struggle with the difference between someone being a bad person verses bad behavior.
Often I’d lie awake at night filled with anxious thoughts. My heart would race as fast as my mind. The mind was reviewing every single indiscretion of my past. That time I lied about doing my homework or when I ended up broke at 21 and subsequently got my house mates and I evicted. Every single thing I have ever done wrong ate me up from the inside out. It was only fair that I am infertile.
It was my logical self, the one who knows that the world does not work that way, that decided enough was enough. Before we got too deep into assisted conception, I sought out a psychologist that specialized in fertility triggered mental health conditions. If seeking out a referral for ovulation tracking was the best thing I ever did, this was the second. Making that brave step towards self-love changed my life for the better.
Not much has changed, I am still trying to conceive, but I am in a better mental state than I was twelve months ago. My psychologist was a perfect fit for me. She got me onto Zoloft (an antidepressant that delayed the re-absorption of serotonin) allowing me to happier for longer. I am not ‘better’, but I am getting better. Some days are good, and some days are bad. That’s okay and I am okay with that.
My story may not be that dissimilar to yours. Infertility is hard on so many different levels. It is physically hard, but there is also a lot of emotional strain involved. Assisted conception has a lot of shame associated with it, as does mental health. Breaking the stigmas associated with these topics is my driving force and why I started my own blog waitingforourrainbow.com and my Instagram account: @waitingfor_ourrainbow. I share an open, candid and honest account of my journey, and those of others. No topic is off limits. If there is something that is topical in the TTC community, or for me personally, I write about it.
I’ve made a choice to air my dirty laundry with the hope that other women don’t feel alone. I do not want anyone to go through what I have been through alone. If my experiences can help just one person, then I have done my job. You are not alone.