IUI Attempt #2

And so we begin again! After the first failed IUI in September, we decided we would try one more cycle and then wait until January to try the next one if it didn’t work. October 2019 was going to hopefully be our lucky month! The feelings going into this cycle were a little different this time. We were more guarded with our feelings, a bit more jaded than before. The pressure was on to do everything we could to make this one work.

Similarly, to the first IUI, I took provera again to get my body to start a cycle, and on day 3, I started 5mg of Letrozole. We didn’t up the doseage, since we had a good cycle in September, and didn’t want to increase the number of follicles too drastically. Knowing that I ovulate on day 11, we scheduled the ultrasound and anxiously awaited the results. During the visit, we had THREE (!!!) healthy, large follicles! They were 18mm, 20mm and 23mm! We had never seen a more perfect trio of follicles and that hopeful feeling started slowly creeping up again! 

The doctor was happy with the results of the ultrasound and we scheduled the trigger shot and IUI for the next day! Typically, we scheduled all of our appointments for early in the morning, but due to work schedules around this particular cycle, the day 11 ultrasounds was in the middle of the day, around 130pm. This information should seem completely useless, but when we left the appointment at 2:05pm, I immediately called the sperm bank, only to be told that we missed the overnight deadline by FIVE MINUTES!! Somehow, both Lauren and I hadn’t seen the small print on the Cryobank website that explains that you have to place your order by 2pm. We left the appointment on such an extreme high, having the best result in an ultrasound yet, to immediate freak out mode when they told us we wouldn’t get the sperm for two days! We had always been told that the ideal fertilization window was 28-32 hours post trigger shot, and knowing we wouldn’t get it until at least the 40 hour mark was a hard pill to swallow. It felt like we had the perfect follicle waiting for us, but the cards weren’t falling in our direction.  After a good meltdown session, and realizing there was nothing we could do, we accepted our fate and waited until it was 40 hours post trigger shot to complete the IUI. 

Going in for the IUI, I was already preparing for the fact it wasn’t going to work. It had been too many hours in between, and I figured I already missed the window of time, but since we already ordered the sperm, we went through with the IUI. Lauren on the other hand was extremely positive, and had read online that sometimes the longer you waited, the better the result. Leave it to her to find the bright side! We got into the room, and this time when we looked at our sperm, it looked different…better! These little things were MOVING this time! I mean, wild! They were moving in every direction, super quick and efficient! I got a smidge more hopeful. 

We completed the IUI, and again, it was completely painless. This time, I laid there a little longer, 15 minutes, and then we both went back to work! The wait was on for the next 14 days!

I took it super easy the next few days after the appointment, and we decided to go on a little coastal getaway to try and keep our minds and my body relaxed. You try not to think about it 24/7 when you have the IUI done, but every single flitch or feeling you get, you wonder if it happened. You wonder if its PMS or are you pregnant? You think about every single thing you eat, how much caffeine you’re consuming, and how much you’re moving.

We did not cheat the system this time. We didn’t take an early test, regardless of how tempting it was, because we didn’t want to get our hopes up. But this time, it felt different. I felt different. I swore that I was feeling my body change, things that I had never experienced. Five days in, my boobs were extremely sore, which never happens, and I had a string of bad headaches. By day ten, I didn’t like the taste of coffee, which if you know me, must mean that I am dying. All these changes were telling me I was pregnant, but my heart was telling me not to get my hopes up.

Halloween 2019. It was day 14, and we got up bright and early to take the test. We took two separate tests, two different brands, hoping that one might give us a positive result by some chance. I peed on the stick, and we waited…

And waited…

And waited…

P R E G N A N T.

Clear as day. Eight letters and two lines that changed our lives forever. Laurens first reaction was “HOLY SHIT. I have to call Stew!” and immediately FaceTimed my sister. We screamed, hugged and cried happy tears that our second try worked and we were going to be mommies! 

I immediately called the doctor’s office and told her that we had a positive test, and scheduled the six week ultrasound and blood work to verify that it was in fact positive! I think a combination of things worked in our favor this cycle to get us a positive result. The myo inositol, the letrozole dosage and the extended time between the trigger shot and the IUI were, in my opinion, the different makers!

Now comes one of the hardest parts, keeping a secret!

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First IUI Attempt

September 2019. It was finally time for our first IUI attempt! We went in for our 11 day ultrasound to check and see how many follicles I had that were ready to go! This cycle we were able to get two healthy follicles that were large enough to be able to attempt our first IUI.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with fertility treatments, IUI means intrauterine insemination.  During this process, a small catheter is inserted and directly places sperm into the uterus, where it will hopefully have an easier time reaching the egg in the fallopian tube! This method typically uses less medication than IVF, as you are hoping that the sperm will reach and implant into the egg on its own. For me, I only had to take oral medications and one shot, the trigger shot, during this process.

At the end of my ultrasound, and it was determined that my follicles were big enough to try an IUI, so they administered my “trigger shot”. This shot contains hCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, which is a hormone that signals, or triggers, your follicles to rupture and release their egg. Typically once this shot is given, ovulation will take place anywhere between 34-42 hours. The trigger shot didn’t have any side effects for me, except for a sore injection site!

One of the harder part of doing these treatments, especially if you are trying to keep it low-key, is scheduling your life around these appointments. Once you begin, your life revolves around doctors offices, ultrasounds and follicles! You do not have the option to cancel or adjust appointments, because you only have a small window of opportunity to complete the IUI to leave time for optimal fertilization! This means leaving work on your lunch break, only to go back right after and try not to think about the fact that you just had the procedure that could potentially change your life forever! We decided to keep most of our journey to ourselves during this process to eliminate the constant questions and pressure of people asking if it was working. Anyone completing fertility treatments knows that feeling!

When we left the office, we immediately called Cryobank and had them overnight our donor sperm to the office. The cost was around $300 for delivery and it was guaranteed that they would have it to the office right when they opened! With this being our first cycle, there were so many questions and unknows about the procedure. 

How did it work? Was it going to hurt? How big was that catheter?!

We went in the next afternoon, and it was time to begin. We were so filled with emotions, knowing this day could potentially change our life forever! We went into the room, and our amazing nurse came in and explained exactly how the procedure works and what it would feel like. They thawed the sperm as soon as it came into the office and made sure it was ready for us. As soon as we checked in, they “washed” the sperm twice, which separated the healthy sperm from the seminal fluid and non-motile sperm. She asked us if we wanted to look at the sperm under a microscope and we both jumped up and ran over to it! The little poppy seed looking swimmers were moving, not too crazy, but they were swimming away! The doctor came in and approved that the sperm looked healthy enough to proceed!

We went back into the room, and they got the instruments ready. The catheter was extremely small (1.6mm diameter) and as soon as I saw it, I immediately felt a sense of relief seeing how small it was! The procedure itself took about four minutes and it was over! She inserted the speculum, then the catheter, injected the sperm, and was done! It did not hurt one bit, but felt more like the typical pressure of a routine pap. Once she was done, she had me lay flat on the table for 10 minutes, and we were done! 

There were not any extreme limitations after the procedure, and the only instructions were to not doing any exceedingly strenuous activity for a couple of days, but normal activity and exercise was completely fine. We both went back to work, and on with our day. It was time for the dreaded 18 day wait…

10 days later, we got antsy and took a pregnancy test! We knew that we were supposed to wait, but we were just so excited that we couldn’t wait! I peed on the little first response pregnancy test for the first time, praying to see two lines! 3 minutes later, and there was the lightest, slightest two lines, and we were so positive that it was positive! We tried not to get excited, but for the next 8 days, all we could talk about was baby related things. Nursery décor, names, strollers, you name it! On day 18, we took our confirmation test. It was very negative, followed by my period the next day. 

This is why they tell you not to take the test early. We got our hopes up, and they came crashing right down.

How did it go from being positive to negative? What did I do wrong? Was it the exercise or did I lift something to heavy to not let it stick?  

We knew it was only our first try and that it wasn’t going to be that easy, but it didn’t make it any less disappointing. I felt like I failed, like my body failed. I felt this enormous pressure, knowing that we had just used one of our eight vials, and we were only limited quantity here. All I could think about was that we only had seven left. Seven more chances. I felt like a pressure cooker of emotions, trying not to explode. That’s the biggest stressor when you use donor sperm, is that you don’t have unlimited access, like you would if you were a straight couple. We felt our emotions, talked though it, and picked ourselves up to begin again. You become so incredibly reliant on your partner during this time to help you on this emotional rollercoaster, and we were so grateful for one another.

We decided we would try one more cycle, and if it didn’t work, we would wait until after the holidays and try again. October came, and it was time for IUI #2.

Let’s make a baby!

My body has always been a bit of a struggle bus when it comes to health since my teen years. I have never been the epitome of a healthy person. Something has always been breaking or stopped functioning properly since I was a kid, but it just kind of became who I am. I’ve never dwelled on it, or let it get in the way of me doing things that I want. But now that we were ready to make a baby, it was a hard realization that it was going to take a bit of work to get it functioning properly in order to be able to conceive and nourish a healthy baby. 

When I was 14, I was diagnosed with PCOS, Polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS currently effects around 1 in 10 women, and is one of the leading problems of female infertility. The biggest indicators for me when I was first diagnosed was excessive weight gain, irregular periods, and insulin resistance. I gained an excessive amount of weight exceptionally quickly and couldn’t figure out why. As a teenager, you already deal with body issues, but this lead me to an unhealthy hatred of the way I looked. No matter how healthy I ate, or lack there of, or how often I worked out, I could not lose the weight. I was finally sent to an OBGYN who ran the tests and finally gave me the answers that I was desperately seeking. I had bloodwork done to check all of my hormone levels, and an ultrasound which showed that my ovaries were covered with small cysts. The first thing that she did was put me on birth control, to regulate my period, and metformin to help regulate the insulin resistance. I was 14, 240 pounds and a type 2 diabetic, and all I needed to do was lose the weight to manage the diabetes, but with PCOS this is insanely difficult to do. 

I hated Metformin. Absolutely HATED it. It is an extraordinarily harsh medication on your digestive tract, but it does help regulate your insulin. So for me, I sucked up the side effects and took the medication. I carried that weight with me for a long time, and it was a constant reminder that my body was not working. After time, the metformin stopped working for me, regardless of the dosage, and I chose to stop taking all of the medication. After YEARS, I lost most of the weight and got to more of a healthy weight zone. My insulin started to balance out, but my body never began to ovulate on its own,

It was always my best superpower that I was lucky if I had two periods a year, but I never thought long term that this was going to affect me. When they told me at 14 that I might have a hard time getting pregnant, I didn’t think twice about it, but at 27, it hits a little differently. At our first appointment, we started talking about the medication regimen that I needed to start again in order to begin to track ovulation and follicle health. We chose to start our fertility journey doing IUIs, Intrauterine insemination, and we would plan for IVF if necessary. 

April 2019: I started 5 mg of Provera each day, which helps medically induce ovulation, with the hope of my body beginning to regulate itself. Provera, is a 10 day pill, and by the end of the 10th day, you should start your period. After the first two months, I still wasn’t ovulating, so my doctor recommended metformin once again, which has been shown to help PCOS patients conceive, but due to my history with the medication, we chose against it. We decided to try and give my body some time with the Provera to see if it would balance out and begin to ovulate. By the third month, July, I finally had a positive ovulation test! 

July 2019: Once we figured out I was ovulating, it came time to start Letrozole! We chose to use one table of Letrozole rather than Clomid, because it tends to work better for patients with PCOS. I took 2.5mg of letrozole from day 3-7 of my cycle. We did an ultrasound on day 13 of my cycle, which is the day when the average woman ovulates, to check and see the quality and quantity of my follicles. We were crazy optimistic that there was going to be a plethora of follicles, but instead, there was only one small follicle, 14 mm, which was super disappointing. In order for our office to complete the IUI, my follicles needed to be a minimum of 18 mm big. The bigger the follicle, the better the chances of fertilization! We went back the next day to see if it the follicle had grown, but instead, the follicle ruptured, meaning ovulation had already occurred. You want to catch the follicles pre-rupture (meaning pre-ovulation), because you want to be able to time fertilization perfectly. Since there wasn’t much action happening in my ovaries, she recommended Myo/Chiro inositol, which is a herbal supplement to help balance hormonal and ovarian health. I took 8 capsules per day, which was double the dose on the bottle, but I trusted my doctor explicitly! We realized July wasn’t going to be our month, so on to the next. 

August 2019: Time for round 2! I took Provera, and then started Letrozole once again! This time, we upped the dose of the letrozole slightly, to 5 mg per day. We scheduled our day 13 ultrasound, hoping for a better outcome, but this time we discovered that my body actually ovulated somewhere between day 9-11. There was two ruptured follicles this time, but two was better than one! They were still measuring on the smaller side, 13 mm and 16mm, but at least there was more progress. I had been on the Myo/Chiro inositol for four weeks not, and it seemed to be helping!

September 2019: Round 3! I completed the Provera and Letrozole, and the wait was on! We decided to go in for multiple ultrasounds this month to try and find the exact day that my body ovulated. I went in on day 9, 10, and 11 of this cycle, and we decided that day 11 was my sweet spot! This month, we had two bigger, healthier follicles, 18mm and 21mm, so we decided to give it a shot, literally! It was time for the trigger shot and our first IUI!

On the next post…the process of our first IUI!

Where do we begin?

We always knew that we wanted to start a family. We would always talk about where we want to raise our babies, what dream vacations we would take them on, and even bought baby Buzz Lightyear vans many years prior to actually starting our family. In the very beginning of our relationship, it was always a dream, but seemed like it would be just that, a dream. There were so many unknowns that it made starting a family seem impossible. Gay marriage wasn’t legal, both of our families didn’t know about our relationship, and I knew that some of my family wasn’t accepting. It felt like all the odds were stacked against us. Growing up, neither one of us saw or knew families with two parents of the same sex, and when you’re a young kid coming to terms with being LGBTQ+, you sometimes believe that having kids could not happen.

Once we got married and spoiled ourselves with some well earned vacations, we knew it was time to get the ball rolling. We had heard that for some couples it happens in a month, and others it can take years, and we knew that we were in a place in our lives that we were ready to take on the challenges of raising tiny humans. For us, it takes a little more effort, scientific help and money to be able to have a baby. We had so many questions that we needed the answers to. 

Will our insurance help cover the costs of the treatments? How much will the entire process cost? Will it even work? All couples who struggle with infertility have these questions. The thing with fertility help, is that there is never a guarantee it is going to work. You might be shoveling out ten, twenty, even thirty thousand dollars, and still not get a baby in the end. This was a huge fear for us, and for any couple, but decided that there is no reward in life without taking risks. 

Most parents spend their money for the baby decorating the nursery, filling the closet with the cutest clothes, and splurging on the best stroller. And don’t get me wrong, we were planning on all of those things as well, but we had to literally buy our baby. We didn’t only have to pay for the actual process, but we had to find a sperm donor, and buy our sperm! We didn’t know how much this would all cost, or where to even begin, besides calling my OBGYN and setting up an appointment, hoping they would be able to guide us in the right direction. Going into the appointment, we were so apprehensive not knowing what the reaction of the doctor would be, and if there would be judgement that we would have to deal with.

Luckily for us, we have the best group of doctors that we could ever have asked for. The initial conversation was a breeze, and the doctor didn’t even bat an eye. Instead, she got extremely happy and got us pamphlets for sperm banks and talked us through the entire process. We were pleasantly surprised that they were able to do through most of the process in the office, rather than a fertility clinic, as long as we didn’t have to do IVF (Invertro fertilization). Since I am the one who wanted to carry, we had to make sure that I was medically able to have babies. I knew that I have PCO, Polycystic ovaries, which would make it that much more difficult for me to get pregnant, but our doctor specializes in patients with PCO. Any female who has any type of reproductive issues understands my fears, and the constant worry that your body is going to fail you. Add the cost of the sperm and procedures on top of that, and you have one nervous uterus! 

On to the next post…how did we pick our donor?