Yes, it’s really happening. We’re having another baby! To say it was a journey to get to this point is an understatement. And before I share the details of our 3-year struggle to get pregnant, I wanted to address what some of you will be wondering off the bat—why is she just talking about it now?
Trust me, so many times I sat down to write a post about our infertility but something kept me from putting it out there. The truth is I struggled with sharing something so personal that had such an uncertain outcome that I felt the need to keep this one close to home. And past that, I felt conflicted over how much energy, money and time we would put into having another child when we already had one that was healthy and happy. It always just felt like a jumbled mix of emotions in my head and I’d become paralyzed every time I sat down to put it on paper. I had zero clarity to sum it up. One day I’d feel one way, the next another. I was in a constant state of being bewildered and confused as to why it wasn’t just “happening” for us. I guess I didn’t know how and where to start articulating what I was going through emotionally and physically. But here I am, the light at the end of the tunnel and I couldn’t share the news without the story of how we got here. If you are struggling and reading this, I hope it helps you in some way to know that you’re not alone.
Rewind a bit… when Todd and I got married we had been dating for years and knew without hesitation we were ready to start a family. Heck we threw the dice on our honeymoon! I remember feeling a sliver of frustration when 4 months rolled by and we weren’t pregnant yet. I got serious about it and saw my doctor, picked up an ovulation kit and took my temperature. For about 2 months I tried that and then got lazy and too busy with work and travel and took a break. That’s when I got pregnant with Elin. I wasn’t doing anything special or eating anything in particular just living my life. What followed was an easy, smooth pregnancy, a quick labor and a healthy baby. I was 31 when Elin was born and couldn’t wait to do it again.
In our perfect world we wanted Elin to have a sibling not too close but not too far away in age. Two to three years felt like the perfect distance in our grand plan. Sometimes I laugh thinking back to how much time and thought I put into imagining the perfect month to get knocked up as if it were like ordering a pizza or planning a European vacation. Knowing that it didn’t happen overnight with Elin we decided to start trying when she was about a year and a half. SURPRISE! It happened on the first go. My reaction was that of shock and slightly terrified about handling two babies, pursuing a career that had felt neglected since becoming a mom and making it all work in a 1,000 square foot cottage on a busy street. Gulp. I also had the most insane sense of sadness that I was going to be missing out on Elin’s babyhood, which probably plagued me the most at first. Two and a half weeks from taking the positive test (I must have been around 7 weeks) I miscarried… on Mothers Day 2016, which became a whole separate head game in itself every year that followed. I cried and had the most insane cramps and bleeding for a day but overall I strongly felt that it wasn’t meant to be. After miscarrying I had this sense of relief that I was given some extra time to do a few more things before having another baby, travel being the biggest since Elin had reached an age where it was overall easier and so fun. Again in my perfectly planned timeline I wanted to be pregnant in 6 months, having babies that were roughly 3 years apart.
This is when things really started. We casually tried every month for 5 months while diving into the plethora of trips we planned—New York, Australia, New Zealand, Sun Valley and Lake Tahoe. The more months that passed the more frustrated and impatient I became. I started using an ovulation monitor and charting my cycles. A year after the miscarriage, still no luck, I started taking Clomid, which terrified me because it increases your chances of twins. It’s the first thing your doctor will recommend when things aren’t happening. It also makes your body think you’re in menopause (so you over ovulate), which invites all kinds of fun things like night sweats and migraines. I loathed it. After 5 months of Clomid we moved onto a local fertility specialist in Santa Barbara who recommended trying an IUI with Clomid. We did two IUI’s with a standard dose of Clomid and had zero luck.
Todd and I shared the same headspace in that we didn’t see ourselves going as far as IVF (at that time). We had one healthy baby so there had to be an easier solution. We were in denial in a way and were both convinced there was an answer, an obvious problem standing in our way that we could remedy—although every test labeled us both “normal.” And then there was the factor that someone close to us in our family went through endless IVF procedures and never resulted in a full term pregnancy. We saw them struggle and it left us with little faith in the process and a hard reality that it doesn’t always work. Those thoughts mixed with the fact that we didn’t love our doctor we decided to take a step back. At the same time I was diving in deep with every Eastern medicine and fertility-diet book I could find and feeling convinced I could figure it out holistically.
For the next year I went on to see four different homeopathic doctors, took a bazillion different blood tests, saliva tests, gene testing and a few others I’d like to block from my memory. I tried vitamin IV’s, weekly acupuncture, v-steams (google it), a grocery bag of supplements, Chinese herbs, Platelet-Rich Plasma injections, lymphatic drainage, changed my diet drastically cutting out gluten, sugar, caffeine and alcohol… and the list goes on. I was convinced that we would find something, anything that would explain why my body wasn’t working. I was literally on a mission and what felt like a race against a clock. This is where I wish I could go back in time and shake myself. I was so fixated on the fact that there was something wrong with me that I became a bit of a hypochondriac. Having never visited a naturopath doctor before, I went to a couple not-so-great ones that in retrospect wasted my time and money while exacerbating this idea that there was something wrong with me. I felt so defeated and lost each time they’d recommend some new test, diet adjustment or supplement that I felt further and further away from the idea of being pregnant. I was so down in the dumps and felt completely out of touch with friends who were pretty much sneezing and getting pregnant.
I finally reached a point of being fed up with trying so many things, having so many appointments and restricting my diet so intensely that I told Todd I wanted to try IVF. The fear of it not working was still there but I became more motivated to just move on with my life. I went into autopilot in a sense and thought, let’s try it once (meaning one retrieval) and then be at peace with the fact that we gave it our all and have our beautiful Elin to raise.
Here’s the twist of fate part that I will always be grateful for. Todd and I took Elin to the park randomly one Saturday and Elin made friends with two little boys around her age. Their mom and I started chatting and clicked right away. I almost felt like I had known her my whole life in a weird way. About 20 minutes into our conversation we ended up talking about siblings and how we hadn’t had any luck with getting pregnant with a second. She immediately shared her struggle to get pregnant with her first and how they did IVF with an amazing doctor in Thousand Oaks named Dr. Hubert. I called the next day and they squeezed me in the following week.
Right away I felt like I was all-in with this doctor. It was a polar opposite feeling and experience to the fertility doctor we had previously seen in Santa Barbara. He had way more experience, the office felt like a well-oiled machine and the nurses were incredibly comforting and helpful through the entire process. I also relaxed with all the crazy diet restrictions I had been trying and placed my trust more in the science of IVF. Not that I wasn’t still eating healthy, taking vitamins (D, Pre-natal and Ferritin) and going to acupuncture religiously, but I let myself eat what made me feel good. Even if that meant eating french fries or chocolate cake.
We did the egg retrieval in February, which fortunately was very successful. The process was overall pretty easy, with shots in my stomach everyday leading up to the retrieval—not fun at first but I got the hang of it. The crazy uncomfortable bloating afterwards was the most miserable part but it was short lived and totally worth it since it resulted in 9 healthy embryos. We gave ourselves a month between the egg retrieval and our first transfer. We did a transfer in April and I swear I held my breath every week after that and was preparing myself for unfavorable odds. But we kept getting the best news and then heard the heartbeat, which I will never forget.
I am officially 22 weeks pregnant now and feeling little kicks and movement which is the best reminder everyday that baby is growing in there. We have no explanation as to why it wasn’t happening before, no red flags or off numbers, which still puzzles me but makes me insanely grateful for all the life nudges we got go for IVF. Like every life struggle that can feel so dark, you end up coming out of it a different/better person with a new perspective. For that I’m grateful for the things I learned about myself, friends that are true friends and health (physical and mental).
For those struggling with infertility, here’s what I found to be the most useful (or did), but heck, take it with a grain of salt because I have no scientific proof that it aided in our success of getting pregnant.
Acupuncture. I’ve always been a devoted fan of it (because of my migraines) but it also helped me with stress. I always feel more relaxed after getting it so I went religiously throughout this entire process. My doctor did encourage it and my acupuncturist insisted I come the day before my embryo transfer and the day after.
Find a doctor you feel good about. Among the friends I’ve talked to who have done IVF, there was a similar story of switching doctors and then having success. I can’t explain it but our first doctor I questioned SO much and felt like he was just going through the motions. When we met with Dr. Hubert I immediately felt like I trusted him, his practice and felt a newfound sense of hope. It was like my attitude and energy changed when we walked into his office.
Try holistic approaches but don’t lose your mind or money on them. I cringe a little thinking about the money I spent so freely because I was so desperately wanting something to work. I gave what should have been 3 months of my time about 2 years and way too much money with absolutely nothing to show for it. Even the endless blood, hormone, saliva and urine tests only gave me a few moderate suggestions like take a vitamin D supplement or an omega (ground breaking!). Then there are the “certified nutritionists” and naturopathic doctors that convinced me so thoroughly that I needed to take X,Y or Z supplement and eat this type of food to conceive which would end up making me feel worse and cause digestion issues etc.
I took Ubiquinol CoQ10 the months leading up to my egg retrieval. I was taking it mostly for energy but apparently it can help with fertility. I don’t think we could have had a better outcome with our egg retrieval and this came up a lot in conversation with other friends who were trying to increase their number. It’s worth looking into and reading about but make sure it’s something your body needs and will respond well to.
Talk to people who have experienced infertility. This was a huge one for me. When I reached a point of being super frustrated I ended up talking about it more openly, even with strangers. The question came up all too frequently “are you going to have more kids?” which totally bugged me in the beginning but after awhile I became so numb to the topic and would respond with an honest answer that we were struggling. And I swear I can’t even count on my hands how many people would respond with their own struggle or experience with IVF. It changed my tune completely just being able to talk with more people that know what it’s like to be in the trenches of infertility. I’m convinced it shifted my energy for the best from being resentful to just accepting it all. It also led me to our amazing doctor.
Visualization. Who knows if this worked but a friend who had IVF success told me about a visualization practice she did every morning and evening the days following her embryo transfer. There’s no right or wrong way to do it but you close your eyes and focus all your energy on your uterus and visualize being pregnant. The science behind this shows that you increase blood flow and it can support implantation. I did it religiously.
The money. Oof, IVF is a lot of money. It was one thing we stressed over before even getting to the point of deciding to do it. But a friend gave me some great advice that took some pressure off that element. Capex MD does financing loans just for fertility and will work with most doctors to approve funds on a speedy timeline. It’s definitely worth looking into.