Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Our Battle with Infertility and the Story of Our Success

     I have debated for a long time on whether to share online our struggle with infertility. However, I have gotten a few emails and facebook messages from people asking me a few questions on how we were finally able to successfully get pregnant. So I figured why not share. If you know me personally (I say this because a few of the emails I've gotten were from people who I do not know but follow the blog) then you know I am the queen of too much information. I'm a pretty open book! I have no problem answering all the crazy questions people ask. And believe me when you are pregnant, especially I think with twins, people ask you some pretty crazy (and personal) questions. When we were trying to get pregnant I used to ask pregnant women and friends some pretty crazy questions as well. Jason would sometimes have to remind that not everyone is as open as I am and may be a little shocked at the questions I asked.
     So anyway as open as I am I really debated what to share online about our road to pregnancy. It's not that I care to share our experience, it's just that I didn't know if people would be like "woah honey.....TMI!" So if sperm counts and ovulation cycles scare you......then do NOT read on! haha!
Sooo here we go....

     As a teenager I had multiple ovarian cysts and was later diagnosed with endometriosis (Endometriosis is a female health disorder that occurs when cells from the lining of the womb (uterus) grow in other areas of the body. This can lead to pain, irregular bleeding, and problems getting pregnant).

     I was immediately put on birth control pills to regulate my cycle and help prevent the cysts and control the endometriosis. I also had a laproscopic surgery to clean out the scar tissue that was wrapping around the outside of my uterus and ovaries. I remember being at a doctor's appointment around 8th or 9th grade and a doctor explaining to me and my mother that this condition could cause problems with me getting pregnant when I was older. I didn't really think much of this....I mean who does when they are 13 years old?

     By the time I went to college I really didn't have anymore problems. no more cysts or pain. I just kept taking the birth control and everything seemed fine. By the time Jason and I were married and ready to start trying for a baby I had been on birth control for almost 15 years! I met with our local OBGYN and he told us to get off birth control and let my body learn to cycle by itself. (keep in mind I had never really had a regular birth control free cycle in my life. When I started birth control to control the endometriosis and cysts at such a young age I wasn't even really having a period.) After a month or two off the BC pill we bought an ovulation predictor kit and got serious about trying. The first month was perfect. I ovulated right on time! I thought holy cow this may work the first try! Yeah I was a little naive. We of course were not pregnant. The next month we again used the ovulation predictor kits, but I never ovulated. Almost 50 days later I also had not started a period. So I'm thinking, hey maybe we just missed the ovulation on the sticks and we are pregnant! Many at home pregnancy tests and a blood test later I found out no, I wasn't pregnant. So back to the doctor we go. I started prometrium to make my body start a period. The next month was the same ovulation and no period. Again another trip back to our doctor who again put me on prometrium and suggested I start Clomid (a drug used to induce ovulation.) Clomid was pretty rough in terms of side effects. We tried about 3 rounds unsuccessfully with Clomid. At that point I was pretty discouraged and asked my doctor what else we could do.
Sitting at yet another doctors appointment. 
     We began a series of tests. I had a hysterosalpingogram to see if scar tissue from my endometriosis was blocking my fallopian tubes and Jason had a sperm analysis. Both came back normal. So next step was to combine the Clomid medication with an IUI (intrauterine insemination).

    Basically they took Jason's sperm, put it in a small catheter, and inserted it directly into my uterus when my ovulation predictor kit said I was ovulating. The day we had this done was a disaster! Funny now looking back, but at the time it was pretty chaotic. Our OB has two offices in our area. When I called to schedule our IUI I called the office closest to our home since Jason would be making his "deposit" at home and then we would drive directly to the office to have the procedure done. So the day we were scheduled we arrived at the office to check in and hand over Jason's, well,.....little a plastic specimen cup. The receptionist then informed us that we weren't in their system as having an appintment that morning. I FREAKED! I told the poor lady I had a brown bag full of sperm and I needed someone to PLEASE get it inside me before it spoiled!!!!!! And what the heck did she mean I didn't have an appointment! She then calmly told me my appointment was at the other office (about 20 minutes away) and that if I got in the car and drove straight there everything would be just fine. So there we were, Jason was flying down the highway and I was holding this little cup of sperm between my knees trying to keep it warm while we drove. Jason dropped me off at the door and I ran inside with this little cup and shoved it to the receptionist when I walked in to the door.

     So needless to say the IUI didn't work....yeah shocking I know. Ha! At this point I began investigating reproductive endocrinologists and got a referral to one. We met with him and even though his office was about two hours away...we LOVED him! His plan was to do three months of timed intercourse with injectable medicine. Basically use much stronger drugs that I inject into my stomach or thigh, monitor the eggs/follicles growing in my ovaries with ultrasounds 1-2 times a week, when my ovaries were ready use another injectable medication to make me release one egg, and then go home and well, ya know,  give it the ol' fashion try.

     I actually didn't mind the injections. And I felt better on the stronger injectable medicine than I did on the Clomid. I'm told this is because Clomid is a more synthetic drug and the Follistim injectable medicine, although stronger, is more like the hormones naturally in your body. Not sure if this is true, but all I know is I felt like less of a hormonal mess on the injectable meds and didn't have the night sweats and hot flashes on Follistim.

One of the many beautiful bruises I had over the course of  our fertility treatments
Again we were unsuccessful with the timed intercourse cycles. Next step was the biggie....IVF (in vitro fertilization). This means I would be taking MANY more shots. 
Yep this is the amount of meds used for just one IVF cycle! 
     So I started the injections and was going to Evansville for sonograms almost every 3-4 days to monitor if my body was responding to the medicine and growing little eggs in my ovaries. And yes I definitely responded to the medicine. Between my two ovaries there were 54 eggs forming which is a ton! That was a bit uncomfortable, my abdomen was bloated and tender. I felt like I had two boulders in my sides! I wish I had a picture of one of the sonogram pics of this. My ovaries were so huge they were touching in the middle of my abdomen. It was pretty strange looking. So now it was time to head to Indianapolis which is about 5 and 1/2 hours from our home for the IVF procedure. 

    That morning we arrived at the facility, Jason had it pretty easy. He made his deposit in his little cup again and then his job was done. I was up. They put me under conscious sedation and brought me back to the procedure room. They used an ultrasound guided needle and withdrew all the eggs that had been growing in my ovaries. I do not remember a thing! Evidently I was Chatty Cathy during this though. The doctor told Jason I kept apologizing for how nervous I was and talking about how I am such a planner and how with this fertility stuff nothing was going according to my set plan. I cringe every time I think about what the heck came out of my mouth to that poor doctor. He said I eventually fell asleep during it so hopefully I didn't say anything too stupid. He was probably thinking maybe we don't want this crazy girl to procreate! 

     When I was brought back to the recovery room Jason was waiting for me. I was still a doped up mess and it took two nurses to get transferred onto the recovery room bed because every time they told me to scoot over onto the other bed I just sat there looking at them with a blank look on my face. Again I don't remember any of this. I remember at one point waking up and asking Jason how the doctor said it went. He was like, "Um, Ashley you have been laying there talking to me about it for the last five minutes." 

     Anyway 17 of the 50 something eggs they retrieved were mature enough for them to inject with sperm. They took Jason's best and most normal swimmers and with a tiny needle injected each of the 17 eggs with a single sperm in a petri dish. A few days later we went back to Indianapolis. Only 7 of the eggs had survived those few days after they were joined with Jason's sperm. They graded them and the two best were chosen to be placed back in my uterus. The remaining embryos were frozen for us to use in the future if this procedure didn't work or when we were ready to have more children. (The next day we found out they were only able to freeze two of the embryos because the other remaining ones did not survive the next day). 

Here is a pic of the embryos before they were placed back inside me.

Madeline and Mason's first baby picture!!!

 This time Jason was allowed to go back in the procedure room with me and I was given medication to help me relax, but not put alseep. So this I actually remember. This part was surprisingly quick and painless. We were able to watch the doctor place the two embryos into my uterus on the ultrasound screen. It was pretty exciting. We stayed in a nearby hotel that night and I was instructed to spend the next two days on the couch and in bed. Besides a little cramping that day and the next I felt pretty good. But now was the tough part.....the wait to see if we were pregnant. 
Before heading in to the procedure room.
And after the IVF procedure and all loopy.

Jason suited up for the embryo transfer. 
     The two week wait to find out if you are pregnant is by far the hardest part of fertility treatments. I'd take three shots a day any day over having to wait those two weeks. I was convinced it didn't work. Everyone warns you that IVF rarely works the first time and with the many disappointments we had over the past year, I was sure we would be back at the doctor giving it another shot.

     About 10 days after the procedure Jason said let's take an at home pregnancy test. It was a Wednesday night and we weren't schedule for our blood pregnancy test until Friday with a followup blood test on Sunday. I was a little surprised. Throughout the many months of trying I was always the one wanting to take the tests and Jason was always like "no Ashley just wait. Its too soon for it to read." So why all the sudden did he want to be the eager beaver and take an at home test??? So reluctantly I agreed. I thought for sure it would say no. For one thing it was a little too early to tell and I was also convinced the IVF hadn't worked. But Jason, the forever optimist, insisted we try. And to my surprise......

And yes I took three tests to be sure!
It worked! We were pregnant. We didn't tell anybody that day and went to the blood test on Friday which came back positive as well. The follow up blood test on Sunday showed the same. The levels had risen significantly as compared to the Friday blood test so we were most definitely pregnant! 

I plan to post the video of how we told our family soon. It was such a great day!
     About a week or two after the pregnancy test we had our first ultrasound with our Reproductive Endocrinologist. The doctor walked into the room and said "how many do you think we have in there?" I told him I didn't care if he told me there was a mix up in the lab and there was a litter of puppies inside me...I was just so happy to finally be pregnant! He of course looked at me like I was a crazy person and then laughed and said he doubted that was going to be the case, but he had a feeling that both embryos took and there would be two. I wasn't convinced. Although I secretly had hoped for them both to have made it (being the pessimist I am) I was sure there would be just one. 
     So the ultrasound began and sure enough two little sacs were on the screen! I, however, was still holding my breath. I waited a few seconds longer and heard the doctor say "there is one little heartbeat......and there is the other heartbeat!" Jason of course burst into tears! And the doctor walked over and started rubbing his shoulders! haha! I was like wait a minute here....why are you rubbing his shoulders?! It was sweet though. To say we were happy and relieved was an understatement. 

The first ultrasound pic of the twins.

     And so that's our not so little story of how we finally became pregnant. Sorry if any of you are cringing because of my over-sharing (I warned ya!) And I hope this helps any of you who have emailed me with questions with your own struggles. My best advice would be to 1) Find someone outside of the medical community who has been through these things that you can ask questions. It was so nice hearing others real life experiences and getting their take on things. And if any of those woman who were there for my million questions are reading this (you know who you are), then again I say thank you for your help!  2) Don't give up! I understand needing a break from the roller coaster that is fertility treatments, but I have to say I am so glad we kept at it. 


  1. Thank you so much for sharing! My husband and I want to have kids but we know it can be a long journey, especially since I have PCOS. But reading about your dedication and success makes us realize there are tons of options and to never give up. Thanks again for sharing!

  2. Like Megan, I had PCOS. Back in the late 70s it was called Stein Leventhal Syndrome. I tried the Clomid, got pregnant and lost them all. I went to a specialist at Barnes, Dr. Ottolini, (the past mayor's son) and he checked me out and found nothing that would keep me from having a baby (at the time I had one born in 77). Those were rough times...I boycotted all baby showers of my friends and would walk out of a store if I saw a baby. It really hurt not to be able to have a sibling for my daughter (and we had had no problem getting pregnant the first 6 months. I gave up. In September 1984 I started LPN school and was apparently pregnant then (never had regular cycles). Michael was born in May 85. We figured one girl, one boy, we're done. Not so much. 1 week before his vascectomy (I had had 2 C sections, I had had enough surgery) #3 made its presence known when I was being checked for a bladder infection. My last 2 are 18 months and 18 days apart. I am so happy that you and Jason are getting the best gifts from God as you will make phenomenal parents. Thanks for sharing your story. It gives such hope to those who are trying to be parents. I'm also happy that technology has advanced in 30 years to allow more options for infertility. They were not doing any sonograms when mine were born; in fact, they did an XRAY to determine that my eldest was breech and thus needed a C section.

  3. I am glad you shared Ashley! Even though I've known you through this process and the struggles you were having during this time, how the hormones were making you crazy, and inner battles, you never shared the depth of the struggle. WE all know by now I cry easy! I wear my heart on my sleeve and reading this made me cry, knowing I had talked with you the day you had to stay overnight in Indy, but you didnt tell me that's where you were!(just that you were home and resting!) Or the Sunday you sent the picture saying you guys were pregnant...I was convinced it was twins and you never actually told me the Dr said it was likely!!! (little stink!) I love you guys and Im SOOOOO HAPPY AND EXCITED! I CANT WAIT TO MEET MADELINE AND MASON!! :) :) :)

  4. WOW what a great story! I have a friend I met on our honeymoon that shared this site with me and makes me feel like there is hope :) My husband and I have been trying for 16 months and still no luck! You have a wonderful story!! Congrats to you!!!

    1. Thank you! Who is your friend? Do I know her?? Just curious :)

  5. Wonderful story. A mutual friend suggested I read your blog, as my husband and I have been struggling with infertility for the past year. Like you, I was told while a teenager that it would be very difficult to get pregnant due to extensive Endometriosis - it isso true that you don't realize the 'severity' of the situation at that age. This has made me much less apprehensive about the next steps. We are currently deciding if we want to bother trying IUI or just go right to IVF - my husband also has male-factor infertility, which makes the decision that much more stressful. Tomorrow I will finish my LAST dose of Clomid and I can't wait - six months of being ompletely miserable is more than enough for me!!!
    Thank you for sharing, and congrats!!!

    1. HI Diana! Good luck! Doing an IVF cycle was not bad at all. Clomid I hated though. I felt like a monster! Hope it all goes well. Keep me posted!

    2. Thanks, Ashley! I have a few questions about the entire IVF thing...would you consider answering these and talking to me about it? If not, totally understand! Let me know! Thanks!!!

    3. Of course! Send me an email so we can get in touch.

  6. You may not remember me, but we worked together in St. Louis during college. My husband and I have been TTC for 11 months and I just started on Clomid. I've been following your blog (it's hard to look away when ppl are pregnant and or have babies) and I was curious about what, if any, fertility treatments you had taken. I appreciate your open/honest sharing. I'm also an open book, which has become somewhat problematic while TTC. If one more person tells me to relax and stop stressing about it, I may be having my first kid in jail. :) I have Lupus, which means I had to stop taking my lupus medication (not safe for a fetus) while TTC. So, while I'm trying to relax and stop stressing, my health situation is deteriorating. I'm also really nervous about multiples, especially since I think one will be exhausting enough (again the Lupus thing). I was also on BC for nearly 15 years before we started... It makes me feel more normal knowing you went through the same things! Congrats!

    1. Of course I remember you! Glad to hear from you, but I'm sorry to hear what you are going through! Good luck with everything. Clomid can make you feel pretty crummy. I actually felt better while taking the injections instead of Clomid. Hope it works out! Dont' give up and keep me posted!

  7. I just came across your blog and am really enjoying it! I too struggled with infertility (unexplained). After TTC for 13 months and with the help of 2 IUIs with Clomid,my husband and I are expecting our first child (due July 4th, 2013). Congratulations on your pregnancy and keep up the awesome blog!!

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  9. Hi Ashley! I just saw your comment on my blog and your Instagram. Congratulations on this amazing journey!! I love that we are only a week apart with our twin pregnancies and can't wait to read more!