Our Infertility Journey

I decided to dedicate one entry to detailing our infertility journey – mostly because I think I have many friends and family members who are not sure of everything that we have done or where we’re at, and since I’m not great with spoken words it will be a lot easier to give the details this way.  (P.S. This is going to be a LONG entry.  You’ll probably need popcorn, maybe a beer, and you’ll probably need to take occasional breaks!)

Lenny and I have both always wanted to have children and after dating for almost six years, we felt ready to start trying right after our wedding.  The first few months were pretty normal, we just figured it would take a couple of tries.  By the time Thanksgiving rolled around we started talking about how exciting it would be to be able to tell Lenny’s family in person while we were in New York.  At Christmastime I was six days late – five negative pregnancy tests later I started and there was a little more disappointment than there had been in months past.  Lenny agreed that we’d give it three more months and if we weren’t pregnant by March we would see a specialist, just to make sure everything was okay.

March rolled around and we made an appointment with a doctor that a co-worker of Lenny’s had recommended.  When we called his office though, he was booked for two months; so we saw his associate, Dr. M.  Sitting in Dr. M’s waiting office was strange (“are we really here?” thoughts rolling through our head); we waited about 45 minutes before being called into his office.  He sat behind a monstrous desk, talked a mile a minute, and asked us the most personal questions I’d ever been asked.  After our “conversation” he assured us that with our history, ages, and health there was very little to worry about but he ordered a few labs and a sperm analysis just to make sure.  He also asked us to start using ovulation tracking tests since we had only been timing before that.

After a week when we hadn’t received the results to our tests we called the office.  “Oh, Dr. M is on vacation and won’t be back for 10 days.  He’ll call you then.”  So Lenny asked if she could just give us the results and we could discuss them with him when he got back.  She told me that all of my tests were normal and everything looked fine and she read Lenny his sperm analysis numbers.  Not being the type to wait almost two weeks for what those results meant, Lenny and I did some research and were able to figure out ourselves that his numbers were not very good.  Two weeks later Dr. M called and wanted to schedule a follow-up appointment with us.

Sitting in his office he said there was no easy way to give couples the news that things were not perfect, yada yada yada.  He thought it would be helpful if I went on a medication to stimulate my ovaries and regulate my ovulation.  Nearly all women take chlomid for this purpose but Dr. M prescribed me Femara – a drug used to treat breast cancer in postmenopausal women but that was also being tested as an infertility treatment.  He said with a laugh that he was sure we’d be pregnant before our three month follow-up.  In addition, he recommended Lenny see a good friend of his, a urologist, Dr. U.

A few weeks later we met with Dr. U.  He examined Lenny (I’ll leave out the details of  the exam that I was in the room for!) and he found that Lenny had a vericocele vein.  It has not been proven that this is directly related to infertility, but there is a higher percentage of vericocele veins in men with infertility than those without.  But he wasn’t ready to do a vericocelectomy just yet (to repair the vericocele vein), instead he recommended he try a vitamin called L-Carnetine for three months while laying off of the hot tub use and biking.  For three months we “patiently” waited to see if there would be any change. P.S. We didn’t like this guy either, he was good friends of Dr. M and accepted only cash payments so they weren’t trackable.

In May, and with no pregnancy, we went back in to meet with DR. M and Lenny had another test – his numbers came back lower than the test before.  Dr. M took me off of Femara and we decided to meet with a new urologist, Dr. T, in June to get a second opinion on Lenny’s vericocele vein and our infertility. We really liked him, and he ended up being the doctor to perform Lenny’s vericocelectomy later in the year.

In the meantime, we had had about four other appointments with Dr. M; I hated Dr. M’s office.  We had to wait at least 45 minutes every time we had an appointment to be seen.  Any time we called the office you HAD to leave a message and they would call you back when they felt like it.  The nurse was not nice, Dr. M was not personable, compassionate, or sane in my opinion (on another note, he has since left that office).  We sought out another clinic and schedule an appointment for a second opinion with Dr. R.

We met with Dr. R in July and I loved her.  She was compassionate, saw us at the actual time of our appointment, and didn’t rush us.  After our appointment, she sent us a handwritten note saying she was looking forward to working with us and helping us to build our family.  I was sold.  At that appointment she was upset to discover that I had been on an infertility drug for three months without ever having been given an HSG; she did an ultrasound that day and immediately scheduled an HSG for just a few days later.  The HSG examines the uterus and the fallopian tubes to make sure everything is clear and looks okay.  Luckily, that all came back normal as well.

Dr. M had felt that Lenny’s results were too poor for us to be candidates for IUI (i.e. artificial insemination) which is why he had sent us to the urologist.  Dr. R, on the other hand, thought that his results were border-line acceptable for IUI, so we scheduled our first IUI attempt for August.  I started on chlomid that month and in the middle of August we went in for our first IUI.  Lenny’s sample used for the IUI was so poor that a few days later they called back and told me to not even come in for my bloodwork, there was little chance that I was pregnant.

After that experience Lenny decided to have the vericocelectomy to repair his vericocele vein even though it was not required by the doctor.  My emotions and hormones were running wild and I was swamped at work, so I decided that we would take September and October off from trying (although I can 100% attest for the fact that it is nearly impossible to completely stop trying because you can’t stop thinking about it).  Lenny’s surgery was scheduled for the end of October.

**As a side note, at this point we had been trying for 14 months, had spent a few thousand dollars (maybe a little more), and I had taken too many pregnancy tests to count.  Looking back, I was in a really bad place and had lost myself (mentally and physically).  We didn’t have anyone to talk to besides each other, especially since we weren’t telling our family all of the details yet (really, we had told them next to nothing…) and my two closest friends were pregnant.  Most of that talking was actually fighting or arguing or crying and we were both drained.  My job was pretty stressful (fall was the worst time for us) and Lenny was having second thoughts about how quickly we actually needed a child.  We were both hurting and just didn’t know what to do about it.

In October Lenny had his surgery and they actually found five vericocele veins once they were in there so they repaired all of them.  The doctor seemed hopeful that this would make a big difference; we needed to wait three months for a follow-up appointment to see if it had helped.  During that time we went through our second year of holidays without the news we had hoped to deliver and I was suffering from depression and anxiety (most of which I am now learning is associated with the drugs I was taking!).

In January I became sold on the idea of becoming licensed foster parents, after attending a conference and speaking with individuals who worked for DCS and another organization that placed children in foster homes.  Lenny hesitantly agreed because at that point he was willing to do anything to improve our relationship.  We made a few calls only to discover that we were pretty much “not needed” as regular foster parents.  Our county just happens to have a high number of available foster parents and a low number of children in need.  However less than 10 minutes away is a county that I worked with for three years which I knew was in incredible need of more foster parents.  The only way we could foster those children, though, was to become therapeutically licensed, meaning we would work with children with extreme needs (abuse victims, mental or physical handicaps, etc.).  We started trainings in January.

In February Lenny had his three month follow-up appointment; the results were that there had really been no change in his sperm quality, quantity or shape, which was disappointing news to say the least.  However the doctor reassured us that we should come back at the six month mark because he had often times seen remarkable changes between the three month check-up and the six month. 

One night, as we were driving back from visiting my family, Lenny and I came up with the idea for a non-profit that worked with families struggling with infertility, to help people just like us.  We needed support, we needed resources, and we needed information – and we couldn’t find it anywhere.  Granted there is a lot of information on the internet, but a lot of it is negative, irrelevant, and/or hard to filter.

Just a week and a half later I left home for three days and headed to southern Indiana for a leadership retreat in the middle of no where with 19 strangers.  I have been accepted into a group called The Journey, and this was our first meeting.  I had no idea what to expect or what to bring or what to do… but you’ll hear me talk about The Journey in other posts – this one is already too long to expand any more than that!  The most important thing to know was that this was when I came to fully accept what we were going through, when I realized I needed to change and start caring about myself and Lenny again (and not just about getting a baby!) and when I knew that I needed to start the Indiana Collaboration for Families with Infertility (ICFI).

March, April and most of May flew by.  We met with Dr. R one more time in April to talk about IVF, which we could see might be one of our only options if his results did not improve at the six month mark.  We also went to Italy in May, which helped us to relax and reconnect.  It’s also where we decided that I would put in notice to leave my job with College Mentors for Kids; where we were with our marriage and our infertility we couldn’t afford for me to continue working with that organization (there were many other factors that played into this decision, but again, too much already to delve into this).

At the end of May, when we returned from Italy, we met with the urologist and Lenny’s results had still not changed.  In June we scheduled a consultation with yet another doctor – the one that had originally been recommended by Lenny’s co-worker.  We decided that when we were ready to take the next steps (IVF) we would most likely go with his office.  In addition, this was the month when I jumped in head first to starting ICFI.    This is also the month when Lenny and I had a life-changing discussion.

Shortly after Lenny’s follow-up appointment with his urologist, we were sitting on the screen porch with a bottle of wine when he confessed that he wasn’t ready to take the next step.  He said he wasn’t sure he was even ready to be a father, let alone ready to invest the thousands and thousands of dollars it would cost to pursue IVF treatments.  There were a lot of tears but no yelling or fighting.  I felt that if we were not willing to take the next step than we had to take a break completely – no ovulation tests, no tracking, nothing to do with getting pregnant.  That night we came to a mutual decision that we were going to stop trying for a while and just enjoy life.

So…. this has actually gone even longer than I anticipated so I will write about our New York doctor and where we’re at now, tomorrow.  🙂

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