1427 days . 60 doctor's visits . 44 blood draws . 32 ultrasounds . 41 injections
4 IUIs . 1 IVF/ICSI . 1 FET . 5 pregnancy tests
To summarize what this fertility journey has been for me feels like a nearly impossible task without writing a full-length book. I’ll aim for a concise version here but since I am a writer you might as well settle in...
Our journey started nearly four years ago when my partner and I decided to try growing our family. We knew that this could be a bit of a process. To begin with, we had social/situational infertility (2 uteri and no sperm!) and, as I have always been the one who wanted to carry, my suspected endometriosis to contend with. We researched fertility clinics and even though there were a couple of clinics in our city, we chose to work with a doctor 1hr and 35min away which meant many early morning road trips over the years. We started testing and preparing with our fertility doctor in 2016. Over the next 3+ years we did 3 IUIs (1 chemical pregnancy), a laparoscopy, a 10 month IVF/ICSI and FET process, an 8 month medically-induced "menopause," as well as plenty of complimentary and conventional treatments for endometriosis in between cycles. (see glossary at end of the blog for explanation of acronyms, if needed)
Surviving medically-induced "menopause" (an intense treatment for endometriosis) with relative ease reinforced one of the primary lessons that I had been learning on this journey: that I am stronger than I imagine and able to handle whatever comes as long as I stay grounded. For me, grounding has meant prayer, yoga, meditation, gratitude, connection with creation, good nutrition and sleep, and the support of my close-knit community. With the many unknowns and uncertainties of infertility, finding those things that I could be certain about and were within my control was an immense gift and source of immeasurable peace.
Over the past four years I have spent more time on a break, preparing for a cycle, than actually cycling. This has been at the root of much frustration and many tears, especially early on. Unlike many couples, we simply couldn't try month after month and given the financial realities of fertility treatment we knew that we had a limited number of chances. Fortunately our doctor was very conscientious with our resources, using extended breaks as preparation to give us the best possible chance at pregnancy and calling off cycles that didn't look absolutely perfect. One of the mantras that came to me during a yoga practice one day is, “I can go slow and still get to where I am going” (insert The Tortoise and the Hare fable here). I know that these breaks have been an important part of my fertility journey, giving me time to process grief, rekindle hope, find the strength to keep going, and keep living my life well.
“No matter what happens, this will be my story,” has been another one of my mantras. I have needed every step to count, not just the happy and successful ones but also every tear, disappointment, and loss. They’re all essential to my sacred story and have been an important part of my healing and growth. I do not believe that everything happens for a reason but I do believe that everything can be restored, transformed, and integrated. While I would never choose the hard parts of the journey, they have certainly helped me to become a more compassionate and resilient person.
Learning to “live in the wait” rather than “waiting to live” has also been an important lesson and was behind my decision to dive into fertility coaching training. It felt like a bold and courageous move to sign up for the course even before I knew how my own story would end but it was the inspiration of my fellow fertility sisters who were making brave decisions every day that helped me take the leap!
There have been so many other lessons learned and I've tried to articulate some of them through this blog. All of this brought me to the fall of 2019. I emerged from the Lupron Depot ("menopause") treatment with a renewed hope. The waiting continued as my medicated cycle in September and natural cycle in October were cancelled. I had initially hoped to do another natural IUI cycle in November but finally decided to go with the medicated cycle as recommended by my doctor.
Finally getting our positive test has felt completely surreal and has also introduced a whole new realm of things to worry about. The fertility journey has been excellent preparation for handling all the unknowns that come with pregnancy and, I imagine, parenting as well. Staying grounded in the truth of the present moment, surrendering what is not within my control to the Spirit of Creativity and Mystery, trusting the process and my ability to navigate the hard stuff, and living a life of gratitude, have become essential to my day-to-day thriving.
We are so grateful to have had this opportunity to grow our family. While it has felt like a struggle at times we also know that it is a privilege to even be on a fertility journey. We are grateful for our medical team, community of support, and fertility sisters who walked this four year journey with us. We are grateful for our faith that has sustained us. We are beyond grateful for this little miracle of new life!
Glossary of Terms
IUI (Intrauterine Insemination): When a washed sample of sperm is placed into the uterus with a catheter around the time of ovulation
IVF (In Vitro Fertilization): After using medication to stimulate the ovaries, eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and fertilized in a lab to create embryos which are then returned to the uterus or frozen for future use
ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection): During an IVF cycle, an embryologist uses a needle to inject sperm into an egg
FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer): The process of transferring an embryo that was created during an IVF cycle into the uterus with a catheter