After 2 years of trying, drugs, surgery and told “IVF is your only option”, we did it – we have conceived naturally.
Let me start from the beginning of our fertility journey.
I started the pill a few months before Joel and I were married in 2008 (I was 19 and he 24).
We decided soon after we were married that we would both work hard and save all our pennies to take a year off and travel Europe. We left in April 2010 (on our second year Anniversary). I took the pill with me overseas, but run out in September of that year.
When I stopped taking the pill, I expected everything to return to normal and we would begin to plan having a family – nothing could be further from the truth.
Basically, I didn’t have a period after the first month. Pregnant? Took the test: negative. No period after the second month, another negative pregnancy test. This went on month after month until we returned back home, to Australia – end of January 2011. I booked a doctor’s appointment and was quickly judged as the doctor (not my regular one) announced that he thought I probably picked up an STD while “sleeping around” in Europe. Oh man did this get me fired up! I dropped my voice, raised my left hand and said that I was married and have only ever been with my husband. He back peddled saying that I was so young etc. I hightailed out of there and left my situation for another couple of months – taking a pregnancy test every few weeks, all negative and driving me crazy.
Finally in March 2011, I booked another appointment with my GP. She was great, and immediately ordered me to have an ultrasound. When I went in for the results, I was so nervous and scatter brained that while she was showing me the pictures from the ultrasounds, I even asked “how many ovaries do I have?”. Both Joel and my doctor turned to me with look of shock, and I couldn’t believe that those words came out of my mouth! What was I thinking? Obviously I wasn’t… it is probably the most embarrassing moment of my life.
Anyways, she recommended that I go and see a specialist because she could see cysts on my ovaries but it’s not her specialty and she cannot diagnosed. She said that it could be Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). I just nodded (still recovering from my previous embarrassment) took the news and left. No questions asked.
I had never heard of PCOS until this moment. Naturally I went straight to the computer and started researching like mad what it could all mean. Hearing the symptoms of PCOS (overweight, excessive hair growth/loss, acne etc), I immediately counted myself out. None of the symptoms described me, apart from the absent period.
I was still putting it down to the pill – the drug must still be in my system and it’s just a matter of time before I kicked back into rhythm. I put off booking the specialist appointment for a few weeks. Finally when I called up, I was told I would have to wait until December (7 months) before I would see the specialist. I booked the appointment, but was so devastated that I would have to wait so long.
I am not a patient person, or at least I wasn’t. That’s certainly something that I have learnt over the past couple of years, and it’s a valuable lesson that I needed to learn.
I had the appointment booked with a specialist, but when I got to thinking about it, I realised that we have a family friend who is a fertility expert. So, I did a little bit of wiggling and was able to get an appointment with him for October.
Months went past and I have no idea how many pregnancy tests I did – all negative of course.
When October came, Joel and I went in for the appointment and the specialist took one look at the previous ultrasound pictures and diagnosed me with PCOS. I was a little shocked. In my mind I had convinced myself that I didn’t have it. He explained to me that there are 3 main diagnosis points that they look at: 1. Overweight 2. Cysts on Ovaries 3. Absence of Periods. If you have at least 2 of these symptoms, then you have PCOS.
At least in this appointment I felt more comfortable and asked heaps of questions. The specialist explained what the process from here would be; first I would start on Clomid (an ovulating inducing drug) I would do up to 3 rounds of this and if I am not successful, then we would look at surgery.
I was so convinced that my first round would be successful. So, excitedly, I started on 50mg of Clomid and we followed the instructions to the tee. I had a blood test to see if my progesterone had responded and whether I could be pregnant. The test came back extremely low so they ordered for me to take a second the following week. The results came back the same and the doctor insisted that I increase the dose for the following month to 100mg. I was shattered, I had convinced myself that I was feeling pregnancy symptoms and that we had finally done it.
The next month, I started on the 100mg, still hopeful but putting all my eggs in this one basket (so to say). I had another blood test after the cycle, still extremely low progesterone. I was then ordered to increase the next round to 150mg.
This was definitely the worst round for side effects. I felt drunk all the time, seeing ‘stars’ in my side vision and one night when I was at home, I started reaching for things that weren’t there. My best friend was like ‘Jena, what are you doing?’, I responded that I was swatting the flies, but she explained that there was nothing there. I really didn’t feel any hope for this round and when the results came back that my progesterone still hadn’t budged, I wasn’t really surprised.
I was called in for an appointment and the specialist explained that we were going to have to go ahead with the surgery now. He explained that he was so sorry, and thought that this would be a ‘quick fix’. I was booked in to the Laparoscopy and Hysteroscopy for early January 2012, which made Christmas a little bitter sweet for me.
Joel did the sperm test – results indicated that he is a super sperm husband, of course.
The surgery day came and I went under – my first time with anaesthesia and it was fine! I woke and didn’t even know anything had happened. I felt fine and was told that my anaesthetist is great and uses a really good mix. I had something to eat, and finally Joel was able to come and see me. He had spent the morning (while I was under) pacing the halls and when he started to tear up, decided to catch up with a friend for a couple of hours.
I walked back to the car and as we were driving out of the parking lot I looked down and there was blood pouring down my lap. One of the 3 incisions had burst open. We were at the first round-about and Joel just kept driving round and round saying ‘what do we do? What do we do’, I said that I think we should go back to the hospital. Joel rushed in and got a wheelchair, I managed to get into it and made it inside the hospital doors before I fainted. I came too pretty quickly and was shuttled back upstairs to see my doctor again. The glue hadn’t taken, and my belly incision had split. So, he had to put a little stich in, which was fine. I stayed for a little longer as they just wanted to monitor me, and finally was able to leave.
The surgery was on a Thursday and I was back at work the following Monday. I have a hard time taking time off. The day after the surgery I was up and about making breakfast, lunch and dinner for Joel and I. Walking heaps to try and move the air bubbles out of my body. Joel was an amazing help, lifting me in and out of bed and bringing me anything I needed. I recovered pretty quickly and like I said, was back at work by Monday.
The surgery was done to ‘golf ball’ my ovaries. To burn off the cysts to hopefully help the release of an egg, and we would have a window of 6 months before they would grow back. By the way, at this point I still hadn’t had a period since coming off the pill. The surgery was supposed to initiate the release of an egg, meaning I would have a period 2 weeks later.
I had another blood test, and two weeks later, there was still no period. The test came back saying that my hormone levels were volatile and to start the triple dose 150mg of Clomid again. I had high hopes for this round. Surely, after everything I have gone through it would work for me? Like each cycle, I did the blood test and waited for the results.
The doctor rang, but didn’t give me the results and instead asked me to come in and see him pretty urgently. Could this be good news? I had a bit of a ‘down’ feeling in my stomach though and tried not to feel any hope.
He sat us down and explained that my most recent blood test indicated that my hormone levels were still extremely low and unchanged - I guess we had expected this news. The specialist then when on to explain our options and indicated that IVF would be our best and only option to concieve.
I just nodded my way through the appointment fighting back the tears as much as I could. When we got to the car, the tears flowed and Joel and I clung to each other saying 'I can't believe this is happening to us'. It was the quietest car trip I have ever expienced. When I turned to Joel and asked what he thought we should do, he simply said 'we've always said we wouldn't do IVF if we were presented with that option'. Luckily we had always discussed IVF as a no-go zone, so choosing the path we wanted to take wasn't too hard. At the time we felt that we still had time on our side (as I was still only 23) and might still fall naturally over the next 10 years or so.
We called the doctor and informed him that we would now take a break, for at least the next 2-3 years.
Needing relief and release, Joel and I drove out to the ocean, stripped nude and ran into the waves. It was like a re-birth and from that moment we claimed our lives back. You can get so bogged down with lifes setbacks that you live day-to-day with nothing to look forward to. We booked holidays, spent more time with friends, got out everyweekend and talked and dreamed about our future, just the two of us. Of course adoption was on the cards, but not for another 10 years or so.
While I knew we had given up, I still felt the need to do something. So I looked into it and found an old wives remedy for healing cysts - 1 tblsp apple cider vinegar and 1 tblsp back strap molasses. I started to take this awful tasting remedy every day and within 3 days I had a hormonal migraine, something was happening! Not only that, but the pain that I had suffered for so long suddenly stopped. No more searing pain when the cysts burst or that constant dull throb. I just kept taking the vinegar and molasses everyday for the relief.
Joel and I started to plan holidays, trips and went ahead with indulging ourselves with whatever we wanted. I finally got the tattoo that I had always wanted done and Joel his sleeve. As time went by, we really did forget about our struggle to fall pregnant and always talked positively about adoption, many years down the track.
During the winter months we planned a weekend trip to the snow where I got a period! I couldn't believe it and was so unprepared. It was great news and I felt like a woman again - my first period in nearly 2 years and it was natural.
Of course this was great news, but I honestly had thought we'd missed our chance. Who knows when I would have another cycle. Thinking I would keep an eye on my body, but not obsessively, I absently tracked what happened the following month.
We were off to the snow again, this time for a full week, so I was mostly looking forward to that. But, one night before we left I noticed a 'pop' from my right ovary that I hadn't felt before and felt that I could be ovulating. Obviously I seized the moment.
Joel and I went off to the snow, thinking nothing of it and during the week we were there I was having these cramps like I was expecting my period again. Upon coming home, there was still no sign of my period so I took a pregnancy test - on the off chance. It came up negative, again. But I didn't really believe it this time. I waited a few more days and took another - it came up negative right away, so I just left it thinking I was crazy. But I went back and checked it a couple of hours later and there was a second line - positive?! I ran upstairs and told Joel, but that I'm not 100% because of the time lapse. He got straight up and rushed out the door to grab another test.
When he came home, I took it the test and had that dreadful 2 minute wait. When I went in to check the result, it just took one glance and I came out screaming and leaping saying that ‘we are pregnant!’. Then we simply sat on the couch together and cried.
Thus ended the journey of heartache and now we are expecting our little girl in early May 2013.
I put it down to the tblsp each of Apple Cider Vinegar and Back Strap Molasses and 'giving up' - the combination of these 2 things healed my body.
Thank you for bearing with me on this post. I promise they will never be this long again :-)