A Little Bit of Our Story
It took 2.5 years of trying to conceive (TTC) to get to this amazing point of being pregnant with identical twin boys! We feel absolutely blessed that we get two babies as a result of our hard work with the Utah Fertility Center. We did 3 timed intercourse cycles that required more and more pills and shots each time, but lead us to our first try at Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). We had one good egg we were counting on for this first IUI and not only did it fertilize, but it split to give us two babies! It feels like it was meant to happen that way :)
Over these last few years, and especially recently, I have received several questions on how our process was in getting help with getting pregnant, and I thought about sharing all of that but realized I wanted to save those specifics for ourselves and those close to us. It’s just a very vulnerable process that isn’t easy to share to everyone. But I don’t want to leave people hanging, because I do want to share in ways that can be helpful!
One thing that I found with each person I talked to who was about to go through the same fertility treatment process was a common element of unpreparedness because it’s full of uncertainty. Uncertainty about what the problem is, about how much it will cost physically AND mentally, and about the procedures and tactics. It would have helped me to have some tips going into it so I could feel a little more confident, a little less stressed, and a little more prepared. So I have thought of 10 tips over the last few months that can help others going through the fertility treatment process, based on our personal experiences. I truly hope this helps those who are experiencing it or who are about to, and that it gives insight into what the process was like for us.
10 Tips for Going Through Fertility Treatments
- Treat yourself after each appointment. I drove about 30 minutes each time to the fertility clinic to a city I don’t usually visit. So when I was there for appointments I would make it a special occasion or just reward myself with something fun. It usually was ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery or grabbing our favorite wings at WingShak. Sometimes I splurged on both if I had just received not so fun news from the doctor.
- Tell someone what you are experiencing. What a difference it makes being able to talk to at least one person about your feelings and the process! When I shared with certain people all the details of what I was going through, I ended up finding out comforting things like that they had experienced a miscarriage, or did fertility treatments too. I’ve also been able to see the other side of the situation where a friend going through fertility treatments didn’t tell anyone about it for a long time. I imagine that it would be harder on your journey to not be able to share fully these parts of your life or have family support and love during the hard moments.
- Encourage your partner to come to the big appointments. It helps not to have to explain things over again when you get home. It was hard for me to comprehend everything the doctor would tell me when I had emotions and even some physical discomfort happening during some appointments. So having to relay all of that information to my husband later made it so I couldn’t properly answer his questions, and it made me flustered and worried that I didn’t fully understand what was happening in our plan. Some appointments are very small like quick blood draws. However, other appointments bring with it a lot of information. We have found that when both of us attend the appointments, we are able to take notes better, double check that our concerns were addressed, and make sure we don’t miss any information. It’s also comforting to have someone there to help you take in the bad news. This picture below was taken right after we got some emotional news and I had been crying. We decided to cheer ourselves up with breadsticks at The Pizza Factory.
- Ask questions AND don’t be afraid to ask questions. The human body is confusing, right?! Especially when the body isn’t functioning as it supposedly should be. I learned a lot while listening to them explain things, but I felt more confident in my understanding when I would ask questions. Sometimes I felt stupid, and then I realized that: 1- I’m paying a lot of money to do this so I better make sure I’m doing it right, and 2 – It’s their job to inform me properly because they went to the 6+ years of schooling, not me. A good staff makes you feel comfortable and safe enough to ask questions.
- Film their instruction if it helps you. I was so so so nervous about my injections of Gonal-F. I hated needles and worried about all the specifics like measuring the right dosage, keeping things sterile, and making sure I’m inserting in the right spot. It was also going to be every day for a week, so I wanted to feel confident in it. We did about 3 cycles of timed intercourse while taking femara (letrozole) and a few doses of Gonal-F to give my eggs a boost. During these times I was able to have those shots in the clinic or had angel nurses in my neighborhood administer the shot for me. When we did our IUI, it required more shots and I felt like that would be too much to ask a neighbor to help me with so many times a week. So I decided I was going to do it this time after watching them do it so many times. To make sure I wasn’t so flustered, and for sure knew what I was doing, I filmed the nurse in the clinic giving me my first shot. She was absolutely fine with it! It was so great to be able to watch that at home as many times as I needed, and to even show my husband so he could help me!
- Avoid having to be so vulnerable in other parts of your life. Having so many doctors appointments about your body that isn’t functioning properly is such a vulnerable thing to be doing so often. When I would switch doctors I would have to explain why I was there all over again and it took an emotional toll on me that I wasn’t expecting. Unfortunately, all of these vulnerable situations are necessary in this getting pregnant process. So since I couldn’t avoid that, I would try to avoid situations in the other aspects of my life that would require vulnerability from me. Sadly, I found out this tip for myself when I left a dentist appointment sobbing… I was helping out a friend who was in dental school and needed to do some dental examinations, and it ended up being about 4 unexpected hours of analyzing my teeth and her making recommendations about taking better care of them and such. Of course, she had to make all those recommendations because she was being graded on it, and she didn’t mean to make me feel bad! But it was so hard to sit there for that long being told more inadequacies about your body that you could fix… So I avoided other doctor appointments like that during the hard weeks. Other suggestions: When doing date nights or spending time with friends, stick with activities you feel confident in to boost your self-esteem, or at the very least, to avoid it dropping. Sometimes that means avoid trying new things for a month or two. It’s also good to surround yourself with people you feel comfortable with or people who don’t force you to share.
- Be excited when it’s appropriate. When we got the phone call that my HCG levels were really high where they consider it pregnancy, we weren’t as excited as we probably could have been. I mean, we were so grateful to finally get that happy phone call of positive results, but we knew there was still a possibility of it not being viable the next week. So it was almost like we didn’t want to get our hopes up in case we were let down. It was understandable for us to feel like this because in the previous cycle, we did have this happen to us. But I also think it’s OK to celebrate it, even if it seems “too early.” When you go through this physically and mentally taxing experience, you should take every piece of good news as something to celebrate, or else you could be weighed down by the negativity.
- Listen to your intuition about your body. In our third cycle of timed-intercourse we had a situation where I had an egg that was just borderline a good size to proceed with a trigger shot and try to conceive. After having to come in every other day for a trans-vaginal ultrasound to get measured, we all decided we needed to make a decision: either go through with the cycle or start fresh. My uterine lining was quote: “perfect” to the doctors, so I felt strongly to proceed with our trigger shot. I just wanted to trust my body. but guess what? It didn’t work out. It didn’t result in a positive pregnancy test. Even though it was an emotional blow, it was OK because I trusted myself and trusted my body. Plus, we did make progress. This was where I had the high HCG level results but it ended up not meaning pregancy.
- Do fun things in between the medication schedules. We had an ugly sweater party we got invited to and instead of canceling altogether, I pre-mixed my shot earlier in the day and then we left the party early to go take the shot at the specific time. We still got to have fun instead of letting the process take over our lives. I learned early on that it’s important to keep your month flexible because the schedule could change at any time. I remember my second cycle receiving 3 new revised schedules because my body played by its own rules, haha. So you need to be open to postponing or canceling for how important time is in the process, but you also don’t have to cancel everything, or give up the fun things you do to escape from life’s struggles!
- Take breaks when you need to. It’s a rollercoaster. I specifically remember finding out the results of our first timed-intercourse (plus meds of course) cycle while in Park City celebrating our 5 year anniversary. It was a difficult situation because we had been waiting anxiously all day for the call of yes or no, and then didn’t get to process feelings of disappointment because we were trying to enjoy and focus on celebrating our marriage. It was only our first try, but I was pretty emotionally drained from it. Especially because on our last day in Park City I woke up with all the PMS symptoms; I was physically uncomfortable and immediately reminded I wasn’t pregnant. On top of that, because they have to act so quickly on the third day of your menstrual cycle, I was going to be thrown right back into doing the process all over again. So we decided to take a break until my next period. Plus, all of the dr appointments would have fallen on the week I was going to Disneyland with family, so I would have had to cancel on that… We both knew I needed that fun vacation so I went and didn’t regret it one bit. Your doctor will tell you not to take a break or too long of a break because they want to see you succeed. But I believe that taking a break from the mental load of this process is what helped us succeed. I was given time to just be me, and we were able to just be a couple. It was good for our relationship and our mental health.
Keep on keepin’ on
My 11th tip would be including a higher power in this struggle. We trusted God every step of the way. I remember the month that we decided to start trying was not a convenient timing. We were both starting new jobs and not quite ready yet, but I had such strong spiritual feelings that I needed to go off my birth control medication, so we put faith in trust in that feeling and started our baby journey. Our faith has been a light in the dark times, bringing us hope that in time we will be pregnant and get our babies. And look where we are now!
My heart aches for those who experience any kind of doubt or stress in trying to have children. Whether you were worried after just a few months off of birth control, or whether you have done IVF several times and several years have passed. It’s confusing, frustrating, stressful, disheartening and any other emotions you can think of. Fear of the unknown is something we all face in life, and so again, I do hope this helps someone who is facing the uncertain waters of fertility treatment.
What other tips would you add? Did you find these helpful in preparing to go through the fertility treatment process?