The Actual Consult

My husband is an amazing man who always seems to know exactly what I need. I didn’t tell him about my morning cry/spiritual awakening, but he knew I needed to enter the clinic that afternoon with him. He arrived at the hospital parking lot before I did (as usual) and waited for me to walk in together. We interlocked our arms and looked at each other with a “Let’s Do This” smile and nod. He actually said, “Let’s do this. Leroy Jenkins!” as he chooses to do adding humor to even the darkest of moments. (If you don’t know that reference, you should definitely google it for a laugh). We found our way down the winding hallway and outside a large wooden door. There was nothing special about the door- it didn’t even have the name of the clinic on it, just the suite number on the side.

The waiting room looked like any other waiting room: chairs, sofas, a TV, and a receptionist behind a glass-sliding window. “Put your name and time on the log, please.” She could probably tell that we were new the way we looked like deer in headlights, observing and taking in the new surroundings. We sat down facing the other wooden door- the one where the nurse comes to take you to your magical destination. I glanced around the room. There were a couple other couples there, and even what appeared to be an older mom and her daughter waiting with us. One lady, sitting by herself, had a binder. I wondered to myself, “Should I have brought a notebook for notes?”

My husband was talking about something… whatever was on the TV or in the magazine he was perusing. I only half listened, as I was too deep inside my head at that moment not knowing what to expect. There weren’t any pictures of babies or families hanging on the walls- like you’d see at most OB offices. A woman in scrubs showed up at the door and called my name. I didn’t hear her, but my husband tapped my lap and looked at the door. As I stood up, he grabbed my hand and gave it a small squeeze to say, “Let’s Do This!”

We were seated in a consult room. It was a room just big enough for the round table and 3 chairs, and had a window. The sunlight was refreshing. The insurance guru for the clinic came in with a large binder. “A nurse and doctor will be in to talk about all of the medical stuff. I’m just here to talk about what your insurance covers and the legal forms.” There were A LOT of forms. We had already filled out our medical history and other questions online before the visit, so I didn’t think there’d be this many actual forms to fill out and sign. Turns out, they like to make sure you know 100% that they cannot guarantee you a baby. It doesn’t matter how many treatments you go through. Even if it works, it could take years, and unfortunately for some, it doesn’t seem to work. I could feel a pit in my stomach. After what seemed like an hour of review forms and signing, she left and the nurse came in. We did a basic review of what we’d been through- miscarriage, trying for a year, not being successful, semen analysis, family history- basically a rundown of our combined medical record. She let us know the protocol for all new couples to the clinic and tests that had to be done before choosing a treatment program. There was a gambit of tests to choose from. I HAD to do the genetic testing to rule out being a carrier for certain diseases, as well as a screening test for all of the major diseases (including HIV/AIDS), and then lots of abbreviations that stood for specific tests for my uterus. I don’t think I’d ever really thought of tests for my uterus before, but man, were there a bunch to choose from. We basically agreed to all of the necessary tests, and declined the tests my husband could optionally do. She left after more form signing and told us the doctor would be in shortly.

Now we were about 2 hours into our consult when the doctor arrived. Instantly, after she walked into the room, she greeted us with a smile on her face. Her happiness made me calm. We did a brief review of our situation (again) and she told us all of the treatment options that we would most likely have to choose from. She reiterated what we’d heard from the 2 people before her: we, however, cannot guarantee you a baby. My husband started crying. I have seldom seen him cry. She stopped mid sentence and comforted him asking if he needed a minute. He said, “I keep hearing that we will not have a baby. I’m not seeing any hope.” She looked at him and said, “Listen, you’re both relatively young, and your tests don’t show me any reason why you can’t have a baby.” That was what he and I both needed to hear. I had come in thinking “I can’t have a baby.” Now it changed to, “There is no reason you can’t have a baby.” I don’t know if she knew it, but her words were life changing.   She continued to discuss possible options for treatment, and left after we felt incredibly comfortable with the entire process.

The insurance guru came back in letting us know that she couldn’t get an answer from my insurance company about if they would cover even the basic diagnostic tests. She said my husband’s would, if that was an option to switch at all. However, she worked out the costs for the tests and initial treatments without any coverage. We were still feeling positive- we had learned that there really wasn’t any reason to fear the darkest extreme. We signed more forms, basically saying we would pay for any care received, and she left. We were now 3 hours in.

After a while, the nurse came back in and took me to a separate exam room. While inspecting my uterus with her magical trans-vaginal probe (this will become a common thing to expect at all future visits), she exclaimed, “Oh wow! There’s a lot of eggs getting ready in there.” She made a mention that I had some similarities to PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), without actually having the syndrome. I, for a slight moment, had a sense of relief with thinking that we could have found the reason- and therefore could fix it. Alas, we would learn later that my tests would reveal I didn’t have PCOS, and I became categorized as “infertile- reason unknown.”  I felt like it had taken us a year to get here, and I was looking for immediate answers. Little did I know, our journey was only now beginning- our infertility journey.

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The Consult

After months of waiting, it was finally the morning of our fertility consult. The consult wasn’t until the afternoon, so my husband and I both went to work that day. The days leading up to the consult, I had done some research on adoption/fostering options just in case. I never really processed the idea that we might not be able to have children together and have to adopt until the morning of our consult. Of course it didn’t hit me before my husband excitedly left for work, or even when I was showering as I did every morning. It’s as if the idea was a leaf, gently falling from a tree, and finally landing right as I was putting the final touches on my makeup. I rarely wear makeup, but today was different. I wanted to look my best and needed some faux confidence for the meeting that afternoon. I guess, in hindsight, I knew I was uneasy, but it didn’t hit me until that moment.

The conversation in my head (while staring at the mirror) went something like this:

  • I’m so excited to find out what we can do.
  • Finally! Someone to help us know why we haven’t been successful.
  • I wonder if they can tell me why we couldn’t carry the first time.
  • Wait, what if they tell me I can’t get pregnant?
  • What if they tell me I can’t carry a baby full term?

Then the thought “What if they say, we can’t have our own kids?” Wow, that escalated quickly. In that single moment, as quickly as the thought came, I had a flood of tears.

The funny thing was, I didn’t even know I could feel this way. A few months before meeting my husband, I had decided that I wasn’t going to have kids. I wanted to work with orphans and help them, instead of my own children. In fact, I used to pray as a child that I would not have kids. This was actually a prayer I said… repeatedly… to God. I had literally prayed for infertility for many, many years.

In that moment, I finally realized why I had been researching adoption/fostering. Secretly, I was afraid I couldn’t have kids. That I was broken. Something was wrong with me and there was no way for me to now experience my new heart’s sole desire. What a horrible time to actually come to this realization- I was now running late, and I was doing that ugly cry. I mean, real, soulful, deep crying that I didn’t think would ever end. I suddenly felt alone, vulnerable, and it was too quiet outside of my head. I decided to turn on some music to at least numb my brain from thinking so much. I turned on Pandora and the song “I Need You” came on. I found the words to be expressing exactly what I felt in that moment. Lord, I truly need you. I need your wisdom, your guidance, your grace, your mercy, your love. Something reaffirming that he has me in the palm of his hand. There was a line that stuck out to me “When I cannot stand, I’ll fall on you.” I realized in that moment, I couldn’t stand (I was crouched over holding onto my counter- I told you, it was a deep, ugly cry). I found the song and played it 5 more times. The first time I was crying because I needed God. Around the third time, I realized I needed to trust in God. By the end of the fifth time, I wasn’t crying anymore. I was actually praising God for being everything I need. I decided I would just fall on him, and let him carry me through the day. This became one of the songs that I would use (and even my husband who doesn’t listen to Christian music) to get through my infertility journey. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a strengthening of me, my husband, our relationship, and our faith (individually and together). That deep cry became my beautiful beginning.

Fertile Shmertile

I would say that everyone in my family is extremely fertile. My mom is 1 of 9 children, and they all (except for one) have 2-4 children each.  Most of these children (my little sister included) were “surprises” to their parents.  Once I became sexually active, I told myself it would be incredibly important to use contraception seeing as my family is so fertile and I was blessed with what you may call “child bearing hips.”  This was one reason I was so surprised it took my husband and I 6 months of active trying to become pregnant.  I even made him do a semen analysis, which we didn’t get the results to until after we found out we were pregnant for the first time.  However, even 3 months after the miscarriage, I didn’t feel like my body was the same again.  I told myself that my body still thought I was pregnant and that is why I was having such a hard time.  I followed up with my original OB/gynecologist (GYN) and he had me do an US to ensure I didn’t have any extra tissue in my uterus.  To his (and my) surprise, everything was normal.  He said “I bet you’ll get pregnant again here in the next couple of months.”

So we waited…

We were active in our trying, and month after month were disappointed when that angry red monster would show up.  I never wanted to buy pregnancy tests because I felt it might jinx things. My family is incredibly superstitious, so we didn’t even tell people were were trying because it might jinx it. During this time I was following up with my GYN with lab work to make sure there wasn’t something we were missing.  Another 4 months had come and gone with no luck.  We were now 7 months post miscarriage.  My GYN said there were more tests, but recommended going to a fertility specialist because they had additional equipment and procedures they could perform.  This caught me off guard.  ME?  A fertility specialist?  I thought that was for older women, or men with problems, or women with severe issues.  I’ve just been trying to get pregnant for a year without any success.  That can be normal, right?  I’m sure I’m super fertile!  I took the two recommendations for fertility clinics and went home thinking of how I would bring this topic up to my husband.  Remember him?  He’s the guy I forced to get a semen analysis because surely he was the problem.

That evening, I told my husband that the GYN recommended two clinics for diagnostic testing, just to see what was wrong.  He was excited, and I was relieved.  He saw it as a step moving forward; a step to take to be closer to getting pregnant again. Now there was something we could do!  My husband and I (along with being planners) are thorough researchers.  After researching, we discovered one clinic was closer than the other, but all the reviews for the other one seemed better.  We went with the more scientific method- I called both clinics and would see which one would call me back first.  That is how we found our fertility specialist. In hindsight, it’s hilarious, because I take more time in reading yelp reviews for a restaurant than I did “researching” for a fertility clinic.  I guess that’s what makes the journey more fun, though.  Oh and what a journey it will be…

I’m a planner… but I didn’t plan this

I grew up with pretty educated parents, in a very “affluent” family.  I was encouraged to have goals, and set plans, starting at the young age of 5.  I had goals written on my mirror- not just everyday plans- a 1 year plan, a 5 year plan, and a 10 year plan.  All of these plans I ended up bringing into fruition, including my big goal of getting into the college of my dreams as a young 17 year old, straight out of high school.  However, I never really knew what to do once I completed these plans.  I got to college and realized I was all planned out.  Somehow I managed to get by, but never really started planning again.

Luckily, only 10 years later, I met my husband, and he was a planner!  After 8 short months of dating he proposed and we started planning- our wedding, our dream home, and when we would have children.  Before we even walked down the aisle, we had names picked out- one for a girl, and one for a boy, just in case.  He prided himself on the fact that we were the only couple from his social circle to get married before having a child or “bun in the oven.”  As our wedding neared, being a planner, I went to my gynecologist for every test in the book- just in case. She said we were A-OK, but warned that I might want to stop my birth control 3 months prior.  However, that was 1 month before our wedding, so I started taking prenatal vitamins, and got excited thinking of a honeymoon baby.

6 months later… As anyone that had been TTC (trying to conceive) for 6 months without any progress, I decided it was time to give up.  My husband and I went for a Valentine’s Day massage and actually ended up buying a puppy- like I said, we were mostly planners.  One week later, I missed my period, and finally another week later, I decided to take a pregnancy test.  For the first time, I watched it instantly turn positive, and celebrated at 4 am (my first morning urine, of course).  That day I called my gynecologist and told her I had a positive at home test, so I went into her office and left a sample of urine.  A day later, I got the call- “You’re definitely pregnant!”  When I texted my husband, he texted back “This is the best day of my life.”  Having some knowledge of possible miscarriages in the first 3 months, I didn’t allow myself to get excited, but instead focused on the new puppy we had at home.

One week later… I was still spotting.  I started spotting during the time of my expected period, and it just never ended.  However, the blood started changing from a brown color to a bright red color.  I knew what this meant.  I called my new potential OB, and let them know. They didn’t seem concerned, and told me if it was “more than one pad an hour” to go to the ER.  I called my gynecologist.  She had me go take a Beta HCG test, and said she’d repeat it in a few days.

A few days…  I was doing a class presentation, and I felt a sharp pain.  I called the new OB’s office & let them know it was more than just spotting now.  They told me it was time to rush to their office, to make sure it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy.  “How far along are you now?” “About 6 weeks.”  “Come in, and we’ll do a scan.”  I left work abruptly leaving a voicemail for my boss, me… the planner.  My husband, who never missed a day of law school (even when he had a kidney stone), met me at the OB’s office.  “Empty your bladder, and then pee again.”  During the vaginal ultrasound, the tech said “How far along are you again?”  “6 weeks,” I replied.  “Hmm… looks like 4 weeks.”  I knew that meant it had stopped growing, but my husband was optimistic that it meant we were just off on our timing.  I think I became at peace in that single moment, but my poor unsuspecting husband was still holding out hope.

I will never forget that night.  It was the season finale of “How I Met Your Mother.”  My husband and I sat together to watch the episode *spoiler alert* and at the very end, it shows Lily’s 2nd positive pregnancy test.  I cried.  I cried harder than I had ever cried before.  Harder than I cried when my dad passed away.  I cried as a bewildered husband stared at me, wondering what in the world was going through my mind.  The next morning, I learned what it meant to soak through a pad in only an hour.  I had the most horrific cramps I had ever suffered in my life.  I crawled into my bed in the fetal position (how fitting) and cried… I was home alone, and I truly mourned the thing I had been dreading from the moment I saw that positive pregnancy test.  I received the most comforting call from my gynecologist that day, letting me know that my HCG had dropped so much, that they didn’t think the baby would make it.  I felt a moment of relief… knowing it wasn’t my worrying, but truly something else that caused this.  In all my time of planning, I had never planned this.  I prepared for it, but never really thought it would come to fruition.  The entire time, all I could think about was my husband’s previous text message, “This is the happiest day of my life…” I couldn’t even fathom how this was all the part of the master plan.  All I could think that entire day was, “I didn’t plan this.”

The Birds, The Bees, and Needles

We all know about the birds and the bees, but that didn’t work out for my husband, myself, and 1 in every 10 couples.  Infertility is a way more common “disease” than we talk about these days, and this blog is a simple recount of our journey through infertility.  I read so many blogs and viewed numerous IVF journeys (only positive ones) through our journey, so I’m hoping this blog will help someone as those others helped me.