Chris came home from his deployment in January of 2002. We were planning to start trying for a baby of our own. I was charting my cycles so we would know the best times to try. (For more information on this, check out Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler) The first month, Chris had to be gone during my peak fertile time. The cycle after that is where everything went really wrong. I waited and waited and waited for my morning temperatures to show that I had ovulated, but the cycle stretched on for months. After six months of the same anovulatory cycle, I saw a doctor. Eventually I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS. We also got on the (long!) waiting list for the infertility clinic. I was 19. We waited a long time, but somehow, we got into the clinic several months sooner than we expected, and we began the infertility treatment process. I did two rounds of Clomid, a pill that is supposed to encourage ovulation. I never showed any signs of ovulation, even on the highest dose. I was starting to feel very desperate, because by this point we have been trying to get pregnant for almost 18 months. Chris was also leaving on another deployment soon.
I remember one certain appointment really well. It wasn't actually an appointment, because I walked in and begged to be seen. Chris was leaving in two days and I still hadn't ovulated that cycle. I thought we would have to wait another six months to keep trying. I was given a pelvic ultrasound and was informed that I wasn't even maturing any eggs. Nothing could be done right now to help. But we were given a little ray of hope. We were given the name of another fertility clinic in town, a civilian one, with cryofreezers. We could go there, and have Chris' sperm frozen for use while he was gone. There was only time to get one vial before he would have to go on deployment. And we would have to pay out of pocket. So far, we had been very lucky and our insurance had covered everything. We could never have done any of this otherwise.
Somehow, we found the money and went right over to the clinic. We took care of that business, then went home so he could pack. He left two days later.
And was back two days after that. Something had happened and the deployment was pushed back a week! This gave us time to collect two more samples, one of which was able to be put into two vials. This gave us four chances! It was the best we could possibly ask for.
The day Chris left for good was also the day I gave myself my first injection. I was at Debbie's house, and I was very nervous about doing it. The needles are small, and they go into the fat on the belly. But putting a needle into your own skin for the first time is very nerve-wracking. I used ice and numbed up my belly. Then I shut my eyes, decided that was a bad plan, opened them again, and did it. Really it wasn't a big deal. Over time, I got really good at injecting myself. Somewhere along the way I figured out that the ice actually made it more painful, so I didn't use it anymore.
One thing I wasn't expecting was the constant blood draws. Once I started the drugs, blood had to be drawn every day or two to check my estradiol levels. This is a tricky balancing act. Too little medication, and I don't mature any eggs at all. Too much medication, and I could hyperstimulate my ovaries, a very painful and dangerous condition. Fortunately, I never had to deal with this. After each blood draw, I would get a call to let me know how many vials of medication to take that day. Usually it was one or two, but sometimes it was three or even four vials. Once my estradiol levels hit a certain level, I also had daily pelvic ultrasounds so we could actually look at the eggs. We needed to know how many there were and how mature they were. (Okay, you can't actually see the egg on the ultrasound. What you look at is the follicle, the capsule the egg is in.) Because we would be doing intrauterine insemination (IUI) not IVF, my eggs would never leave my body. This can raise the chances of supertwins significantly. This is why it is so important to know how many eggs are going to be released.
Once the eggs were mature, and we were pretty sure there were three or less eggs, I would get a "trigger" shot, to finish up the maturation process and cause the eggs to be released about 36 hours later.
I got this shot with the first cycle and had my first IUI two days later. During an IUI, they take the thawed and washed sperm and inject it into the uterus with a syringe attached to a long tube that is placed through the cervix. It is a mostly painless process, except for the clamps the hold the cervix in view. Those hurt!
Then I waited. Unfortunately, there still isn't any way to determine if you are pregnant much before you expect your period. I didn't have to wait long. I started bleeding 8 days after the IUI. Eight days is not long enough to allow a fertilized egg time to implant. So now we have problem two.
I couldn't start the next cycle right away due to cysts on my ovaries. I had to use birth control pills for a month to shrink them. Then I could do cycle two. About this time, I moved from our apartment into a nice townhouse on a cul-de-sac. A neighbor kindly advised me not to drink the water because everyone who moves into that cul-de-sac gets pregnant. I didn't believe her, really, but what could it hurt? I made sure to drink the tap water!
The second cycle was much like the first, except I had to give myself the trigger shot, which is a much bigger needle and goes into the thigh muscle. Scary! I managed somehow. Then, during the waiting phase, I was also given progesterone to lengthen the luteal phase, or time between the IUI and my period. I went 10 days this time, which is borderline long enough, but definitely not ideal.
Once again, I had to do a month of birth control pills between cycles. I was very stressed and depressed, so when I was invited, I decided to go to Seattle to visit a friend. I started my third round of shots while I was in Seattle. I was still very depressed when I got back, and I saw my general practitioner and got put on an antidepressant. It helped a little, but I came to the decision that this had to be my last cycle. At least for now, probably for good. This time I started bleeding again at day 8. I was devastated.
My grandmother invited me to go one a drive to Texas with her, a last minute thing, mostly to get me out of the house. As was usual at the end of a cycle, I had a blood pregnancy test drawn, because I couldn't take the birth control pills until it came back negative.
We were in the middle of the New Mexico desert when I called for the results. When they told me I was pregnant, I couldn't believe it. My wish had finally come true.