My Infertility Timeline and 10 Lessons Learned
So I don’t really have a plan for this post, but I’ve had incredible responses to my previous blog posts about my miscarriage and post-miscarriage feelings as well as PCOS awareness so I feel some kind of responsibility to myself to continue to publicize my situation, even though it can be tough and oftentimes words fail.
Here’s a rough timeline of what has happened so far for those of you who don’t know:
2011 - Senior year of high school, my first experience with an ovarian cyst rupturing, to continue 1-3x per year for the next three years. Periods every other month
August 2013 - married the one and only Ben Camp
Late 2013 - came off birth control which had been regulating my periods and controlling cyst growth when they discontinued Loestrin and I was an emotional wreck switching around trying to find a new one… naturally avoided pregnancy for appx one year.
Late 2014 - moved from Provo → Las Vegas and started really TTC for the first time.
Spring 2015 - went to my ob/gyn with infertility concerns and was brushed off, told to come back in a year before any testing could be done
April 2016 - came back. Got prescribed Clomid 50mg to begin on day 5 of my next menstrual cycle after blood tests came back inconclusive
May 2016 - MIRACLE pregnancy
June 2016 - heartbeat check… no heartbeat #worstdayever
July 3 2016 - natural miscarriage
August 2016 - 1st round Clomid - unsuccessful
September - November 2016 - rounds 2 & 3 of Clomid, hyper-stimulated, cyst-filled ovaries, no pregnancies.
December 2016 - started Metformin, a diabetes drug with some speculated benefits for treating PCOS - worked up to 3 pills a day
early 2017 - still not ovulating according to basal body temperature tracking/ovulation strips
March 2017 - first fertility appointment with Dr. Fisch at Green Valley Fertility Partners… FINALLY someone who could take me seriously and give it to me straight. Learned tons about my body, my current situation, and my realistic odds. Made a game plan and felt good. These are my notes from our first meeting!
March 31 2017 - HSG test. Basically, had a catheter inserted through my cervix with a small inflatable balloon to hold it open in order to inject dye into my uterine cavity and take an X-ray to see if my tubes were blocked. They had the hardest time inflating and inserting the catheter and I had terrible cramping and anxiety the whole time, but it was worth it because once we got the results I finally found out that I had a “hostile uterus” as Meredith Grey would say, the whole time and it was no wonder I couldn’t carry a successful pregnancy. I had a uterine filling defect and would need surgery to see more/remove it.
April 2017 Back at it with the birth control to minimize cysts so that my ovaries wouldn’t resemble a chocolate chip cookie or a wiffle ball anymore. One of the lowest stress months I’ve had, for the first time in a longgg time sex was not a job *TMI*
May 2 2017 - Surgery to remove uterine polyps. Sorry if you didn’t want to see this, but here’s a picture of my insides before and after the surgery. Those bumpy looking things growing on the side of my uterine wall in the top picture were not supposed to be there. They had been taking up their own blood supply, inhibiting successful implantation, and most likely caused my miscarriage. They put me under, cut out those suckers, and cauterized the site in less than twenty minutes and I was on my way. Thankfully, recovery was short and relatively pain-free.
May 14 2017 quit Metformin on doctors orders and re-started Clomid (round 4) Zika scare after my trip to Mexico. nbd.
May 19 2017 first acupuncture appt. At this point I’m willing to try it all!
May 23 2017 Day 11 ultrasound to see how I was responding to the Clomid, doc was not impressed with my 11mm follicle and thin uterine lining. He prepared me to not get my hopes up this cycle for ovulation (follicles should be 20+ mm for successful ovulation).
May 30 2017 Day 18 ultrasound and follicle had grown to 19mm, yay! Weird that I still hadn’t ovulated so late in the game though. More acupuncture.
June 18-20 2017 Started my period and a new round (5) of Clomid, still at 50 mg days 3-7
July 5 2017 Day 17 ultrasound, no big follicles, free fluid in uterine cavity. Doc guesses I had ovulated extremely recently and on more of a normal schedule.
TODAY - I am pushing through the hardest time of every month… 2WW aka the two week wait…
While the past three years have been the best in my life in some ways, in other ways they have honestly been the worst. Infertility has definitely been my biggest trial thus far. It has stretched me in ways that I did not think that I could handle, but I have thankfully yet to snap. Throughout this journey I have gained strength from all of the many, many women who have similar stories as mine and their positivity and I think that by writing this I can maybe identify with some of those women going through the same things as me and just say to them that “Hey, you’re not alone.” The tunnel might be a long one, but there will be a light at the end.
1.) Don’t delay seeing a specialist.
I literally spent years managing my PCOS alone and thinking that that was going to be good enough. I was too naive to even consider that my gyno was in over her head and blindly followed her instruction even when it didn’t sit right in my gut and I felt slightly disrespected in the office. The minute that I sat down with an actual fertility doctor with real knowledge and experience the game completely changed. My very foggy picture of my fertility situation was instantly clarified. I wish I would have gone a year sooner!
2.) Lean on your husband
Maybe it is just me, but I have found that I oftentimes forget that there are two of us in this thing. Since “I am the problem” I feel like I carry around a heavy load of guilt and have to take the full burden upon myself. Like I am the only one allowed to hurt. I convince myself that I am going through this trial all alone, when in reality Ben and I are EQUAL PARTNERS and in a way experience everything together. He hurts just as I do, and sharing our mixed emotions with one another really lightens the load and helps us to grow closer. Ben has been the best person for me when I am the most anxious or miserable, to remind me that everything is going to work out the way that it is supposed to. He has never once made me feel like any of this is my fault. Every day I am grateful for him and how much we have grown together.
3.) Stay busy, calm, and happy
One of the first things anyone will tell you when TTC is to RELAX. Well, easier said than done! The mere thought of minimizing stress increases my heart rate nowadays. I have found that rather than trying to “relax” all the time it’s easier for me to fill my life with family and friends, studying, housework, exercise, vacations, books, whatever can temporarily take my mind off of the source of stress and help me to maybe unintentionally relax a little because my mind is in a better place.
I have been extremely cliche and taken up yoga more than ever before. It has been a lifesaver. I read The Secret and started lightly practicing setting intentions and visual meditation. I sleep in for as long as I can whenever I can and I constantly remind myself that I am young and generally healthy without many other worries in my life.
Even little things like getting my nails done, laying out in the sun, listening to music that I like, going out to eat, or watching weird Netflix documentaries brings me a little bit of happiness and I’ll take whatever I can get!
4.) Self diagnoses based off of late night Googling are not reliable
I can not even begin to tell you how many hours I’ve wasted laying in bed on my phone convincing myself that I am sick, pregnant, not pregnant, or whatever. I have been lost in the black hole of infertility forums more than once and was obsessed with tracking every single little symptom that I had on multiple different apps. I finally realized that the world wide web was hurting me way more than helping me and I would advise any of you to think carefully about your mental health before trying to be your own doctor.
5.) Make multiple plans for the future
When I first started trying to get pregnant it seemed like every month was the end all be all and that if I wasn’t able to conceive that month I would be doomed. Three years teaches you that that simply is not true. That being said, making timelines in my head with a Plan A and Plan B each month has helped me find peace in the process. I always say to myself that if I were to become pregnant this month then this and that could happen and I can look forward to those things with hope and excitement. But more importantly, I say to myself that if I do not become pregnant this month, I will try this or that differently, and plan to fill my time with things that keep me positive and shift my focus in a better direction. While I hope that I can get pregnant on my own in the next month or two, I still subconsciously prepare myself for IVF, or maybe even adoption one day.
6.) Practice gratitude
There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. Counting my blessings daily has helped me to keep a positive outlook on life and remain a generally happy person. Life itself should be enough. Family, friends, stable jobs, new houses, etc. are all extra and there is so much to be grateful for regardless of whether or not I have a baby yet. I also remind myself constantly that it could ALWAYS be worse. Practicing sympathy and showing love for others through their personal trials minimizes my own.
7.) Don’t play the compare game
I'm ashamed to admit that both my husband and I have struggled at different times with looking at another couple and saying to ourselves “Why don’t we deserve what they have?”. Jealousy has only made things worse for us, it just isn't worth it to hold onto negative feelings and buy into the idea that "deserving it" has anything to do with it. I have learned that everybody’s stories are wildly different. While my trial might be not being able to have a baby right now, someone else’s might be having one unplanned, or any number of other unrelated struggles that we cannot see on the surface and that I probably wouldn't be willing to trade for. At the end of the day I trust that God has a plan for me and that it will all work out. Strengthening relationships, building friendships, and being genuinely happy for others is loads better than tearing up at every Instagram pregnancy announcement.
8.) Trust the order of your life
Sacrifice usually precedes blessings. The life experience is all about being tried, tested, and transformed. I have learned that everything in life has it's opposite and that without some bad things happening to us we would not fully understand or appreciate the good. If the blessings came first, how would we grow? Maybe I've needed all of this time to work on my own self in order to be a greater, more patient, loving mother in the future.
9.) Grow through what you go through (I'll let the quotes speak for themselves)
10.) Keep faith
For me, my faith is my number one priority in my life. I am constantly reminding myself that God has a plan for me and my future family and that whatever comes is meant to be. I also believe that family is the most important thing there is and that giving up on that is never an option. The way that we respond to times of hardship says a great deal about our character and trials give us the choice to either be strong or weak. Choose strength. Even if it's a daily choice to get out of bed and try again that is putting positive energy into the universe and I believe that you will get back what you put out, eventually, even if it's in a way that you weren't expecting. My life is not completely my own and my preferred timeline might not be what God has planned. Accepting that is hard, but a constant striving to be patient, understanding, and faithful has comforted me time and time again.