Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Infertility and PCOS
Now I'll be the first to admit that this is not educationally related. These are some things that have been happening in my life lately and explain my lapse in blogging as of late. I plan to be open and honest and hope that everyone who reads this will understand me, infertility, and PCOS a little better.
For those of you who don't know, PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome. This is a condition that covers a large spectrum of symptoms and problems. For me, it means infertility. (You can read more on PCOS here.) An average woman at any given time (according to my reproductive endocrinologist) has about 5-7 "cysts" (aka eggs) on each ovary at any given time. Why they have to call them cysts I don't know. But I digress. These 5-7 eggs are at various stages of maturity and every month one egg reaches its full potential and is released like normal. All is well in the world of womanhood. I, however, don't have that luck. I have about 50-60 cysts on each ovary. This means that I develop eggs but never to full maturity. An egg is never released and new ones can't grow because there is no space left. In layman terms, I don't ovulate. TMI? Probably.
As you can imagine this makes having a child very difficult. I definitely needed medical intervention if I wanted a baby. After talking to my OBGYN, my husband and I decided we needed to go to a specialist. We knew this process could take awhile and we wanted to get the ball rolling. We found a great reproductive endocrinologist named Dr. Johnstone. She took a thorough history and really listened to our concerns. This is where the fun begins.
Most women decide they want to have a baby, try for a few months and get pregnant. I knew right away this wasn't going to be me. If we could find a medication that worked to get me to ovulate, I still only had a 10% chance of getting pregnant. The tricky thing is with PCOS is that women respond to medications and treatments differently and sporadically. I was started on Metformin, with no results. So my doctor then moved me to Clomid. This gave me unbelievable hot flashes and after several months I couldn't do it anymore.
My doctor told me we really had one more option before we had to go to injections and more aggressive things such as artificial insemination and IVF. I was put on Femara. This is a drug that can actually be really dangerous if you take it while pregnant but somehow seems to help people get pregnant. I started out on one pill a day for five days. A month goes by and nothing. Then two pills a day, another month and nothing. Three pills a day, another month and nothing. Finally up to four pills a day (the highest she would go) and it seemed to work.
Now keep in mind that months have passed. At this point, it had been 13 months of ultrasounds (and not the fun kind on your belly), 33 separate blood tests, countless doctors visits, hot flashes, hormonal imbalances and tears. This struggle is heart-wrenching and soul-crushing in ways you can't even imagine. I had friends who were getting pregnant after a few short months of trying. I don't think a day went by when I didn't see a pregnancy or birth announcement on Facebook. Don't get me wrong, I was happy for those people. Really, truly happy. But it still felt like my heart was in a vice.
While on this topic, let me say this. Please, please, please be careful what you say to those who struggle with infertility!!! The top three things I heard while going through this process were: 1. Just relax and it will happen! 2. You can always adopt! 3. If it's meant to be it will happen.
Now I understand you are just trying to be comforting, really I do. I'm sure that before I dealt with this that I said similar things to others. PCOS is a disease. It's like cancer or MS. It's not something I can "relax" through and cure. I can't go on a vacation with my husband and get pregnant. I can't take a hot bath and forget what's going on. Don't you think that I am trying to do EVERYTHING in my power to get a baby?
Secondly, adoption is a great option for some. It really is. But saying this to someone who is struggling to have their own children is harsh. I knew I could adopt but that's not the point. I wanted to have that right of passage of carrying a child, MY child. I wanted a child that had mommy's eyes and daddy's black hair. I wanted to feel a baby kick in my tummy and be able to participate when other women start chatting about their pregnancy/birthing stories. I wasn't ready to accept adoption yet but it seems like everyone told me that I should. I knew that before I could be ready to adopt that I would have to mourn the loss of a biological child. That may sound weird or harsh to you but it's how I felt.
This post is turning into a novel and I apologize. I'll try to keep it brief! So after 13 months (which is still really short in infertility time), the Femara seemed to work. Another ultrasound confirmed that my eggs were maturing and that I would probably ovulate. Long story short, I was able to conceive my first child! I can't describe the joy of getting a pregnancy test back that was positive. I had to take some many during those months knowing that they would be negative and I almost couldn't believe it was real. I was VERY sick during my pregnancy but managed to give birth to a healthy 8 lb. 3 oz. baby girl. She is the light of my life and I couldn't be more grateful to have her.
Fast forward 18 months, (I'm almost done, I promise.). I decided that even though fertility is excruciating and that pregnancy about killed me that I wanted to try at least one more time. I knew I was tempting fate but I wanted to give my daughter a sibling. Back to the doctors I went. More ultrasounds, blood tests, ovulation predictor kits (which aren't cheap!) and negative pregnancy tests. The pills that worked before didn't seem to be working now. I began to mourn the loss of another biological child. People would tell me :"At least you have one!". That's very true. At least I did get one. But my heart still ached for one more. I scheduled an IVF appointment knowing that I didn't have the fight left in me to go through 3-4 shots a day, more ultrasounds and blood tests. I wept tears for a child that I would never meet.
Then, mid-January, a miracle happened. I started feeling nauseous and achy. I started having aversions to foods and smells. I couldn't be pregnant. I had just taken 3 pregnancy tests before I started my next round of meds and they were all negative. I waited a few more days and decided I had to know. My husband was out of town but I went to the store and got a test. Needless to say it came back positive! I have somehow defied the odds and with God's helped conceived again. I can't describe the joy I felt knowing that a little being was growing inside me.
So being super sick (again), working two jobs and having a 2 year old have made my life slightly complicated. However, I do know that I am blessed and that many people don't get to be where I am. I wanted to share my good news and little bit more about my story. I hope that if you are dealing with infertility you know that you are not alone. I understand the pain, confusion, despair and ultimately the hope that you feel. Thank you for reading my story and for your support of me and my products. Connecting with other people from all over the world makes my life more fulfilling than you could imagine!