I have been meaning to sit down and write this post for awhile. So many of you have taken the time to message/e-mail me about your own pregnancy journey and we have been able to connect on so many levels. For me, this has truly been one of the greatest gifts made possible by this online community. If you missed our pregnancy announcement, you can read that story here – it goes a bit into our journey and how we got to where we are today. Like I mentioned in that post, I felt as if there was so much I wanted to say about our IUI experience, and infertility in general, that I needed to make it its own post, so here we go.
Admitting it was time to see a fertility specialist…
Matt and I struggled to conceive for a little over a year before deciding to go the fertility specialist route. I was 30 at the time and while that isn’t old for “trying” my OB sat down with me around the 8 month mark and just had a candid conversation about starting to consider next steps. I instantly shut down and insisted on continuing trying naturally each month like we were, even though it was such an emotional roller coaster and something I struggled with silently (and not so silently with Matt). It wasn’t until I was on a bachelorette party late last spring where I spent some time chatting with our family friend (who had her twins with the help of IVF) that I started to seriously consider seeing a specialist. She asked me what my biggest fear about seeing a fertility specialist was and at the time I had no great answer besides feeling like “I failed” and giving in to needing help. After talking with her about her own journey, I stated to ask myself what is the worst thing that could happen with just scheduling an appointment and having an initial chat? I thought about this for awhile and it was just what I needed to put things into perspective for myself. Ironically, during this trip I also started spotting way before my period should have arrived (which was my constant struggle month after month) and broke down and called my mom and Matt in tears as it was one more month of lost hope. After returning home to NYC, I talked again with Matt and finally dug out the fertility doctor recommendations that my OB gave me months before.
Figuring out a fertility treatment plan…
After some initial research of fertility practices in the area, we landed on Dr. Alexis Melnick. As I mentioned in my last post, I could not recommend this practice enough. I never felt like a patient, if that even makes sense, but more like family. Once we had our first consultation everything just clicked and it was the first time since we started trying that I cried happy tears and truly was overcome with a sense of relief. I left feeling positive and hopeful for what was to come. We had some additional blood work and tests done (both Matt and myself) and still no real answers came back as to why we were struggling. We were experiencing what is referred to as “unknown infertility” — on paper everything looked fine for both of us, but for whatever unexplained or undiagnosed reason we were having trouble conceiving. Given this history, Dr. Melnick decided she wanted to start more conservative and move forward with a natural IUI. This means that I would not take Clomid or any other medication that would increase my egg production.
Stay off Google…
Before I dive into the IUI, when seeing a fertility specialist it is common to have an HSG test done which is also known as the “dye test” to check your fallopian tubes. DO NOT, DO NOT read things on the internet about this test. I actually listened to my doctor who told me this and only asked my best friend who had it done a few general questions. Afterwards, I was curious to see what the internet would say and gave it a Google and oh my word. People made it out to be the worst thing they ever experienced in their life. While yes it was slightly uncomfortable, it literally lasted under 30 seconds and you just breathe through it (think heavy menstrual cramps). I went in with the mindset of I literally would do anything for the possibility of becoming a mom and that mentality got me through it.
As for the IUI, she gave me the same “do not Google” instructions and to call her with any questions. Let me tell you she was right! I of course didn’t listen (was waaaayyyy too curious about everything and finding others so I didn’t feel so alone) and after one search promised myself I would never Google anything about an IUI again; you can truly go down a dark rabbit hole of forums, mind games and people only talking about the worst of the worst experiences. Instead, I went back and read other blog posts from gals I knew who went through similar experiences and shed their more personal/positive light on the situation, which is what I hope to do today!
Matt also has a better sense of what to believe (and not to) on the internet (and he doesn’t get so emotional ha), so sometimes he would research things and share only what was helpful with me.
Before I get into what we did leading up to our first IUI, I have to touch on the insurance part, which to be honest did me in emotionally. I am sure every experience is different, especially depending on your insurance, but you need to have a LOT of patience and persistence when dealing with insurance, especially when trying to get the approvals and documents needed to order the progesterone and trigger shot (the shot you receive 24ish hours before the IUI that boosts ovulation). I spent hours a day back and forth between insurance companies, the company where I had to order the trigger shot from, etc. and, to be honest, there were many many tears. I felt like no one was listening and everyone was just passing me off to someone else on the chain with false promises. I just want to be real with you all, because this process is such an emotional thing to begin with that it is okay to have days where you just break down and feel like you need to throw in the towel. Let yourself have those moments or days, but also don’t give up when it comes to dealing with these insurance companies! Your fertility doctor’s office should give you paperwork, explaining step by step what you need to ask for and approvals you need to get. Just try and take it one day at a time, follow up, right down names of people you talk to and get direct numbers when possible. If all else fails, get a little pushy and demanding!
Preparing for the IUI…
Matt and I decided if we were going this route and investing in it financially, we wanted to make sure we did everything to the best of our ability to help our chances. Not saying any of this was the magic answer, but I did want to share with you all an honest recap of everything we did, both before and after the procedure. About 10 days before our first IUI, Matt and I both cut out alcohol consumption (Matt also stopped drinking coffee during this period), he started working out, and really watching what he ate and I continued to exercise, but stuck with Pure Barre and nothing too intense. I had always been a healthy eater, but paid extra attention to making sure I was getting enough veggies, protein, etc. Matt also started taking a daily vitamin and tried to eat things that apparently help with sperm quality/production, like walnuts and asparagus. The night before we went out for an amazing oyster dinner (zinc in oysters is rumored to boost things in this department ha). These steps were probably completely unnecessary, but we did it anyway – our attitude was always, why not.
Leading up to the IUI there are a lot of doctor visits to measure your follicles, give blood work, and then finally the trigger shot to boost ovulation. I believe one week I was going in at least every other day because they want to time everything just right. So it can be a lot, but at least the office I went to was very punctual and accommodating when it came to scheduling.
July 14, 2018 will hands down be a day that Matt and I will never forget. We woke up nervous, excited, but trying so hard to keep emotions at bay and remain stress free. My peak ovulation day and the day of our IUI happened to fall on a Saturday, which with Matt’s schedule was perfect because I knew he would be in a better mindset than having to take off work or rush into work afterwards. When we arrived at the hospital in the morning, we checked in and shortly after Matt was called to go give his “donation.” Afterwards, the process of sorting through and picking out the best sperm takes about an hour, so Matt and I left and grabbed a bite to eat to take our mind off of things. When we came back it was time for the IUI and Matt was sitting by my side for every step of the way.
The procedure itself was FAST and not painful for even one second. I am talking less than a minute if I remember correctly (once again, can vary for everyone) and then I had to lie down flat for 15 minutes. This is where the procedure ends for most people, but where things got a little interesting for me. I am only sharing this because it is part of my story, but also exceptionally rare and something that has happened to me a few times in the past, so I at least knew it was a possibility. About 5 minutes into just lying and relaxing I started to feel my body go tingly and get hot and turned to Matt to let him know what was happening. We waited it out for a few more minutes before he went and got the doctor. In the end, I was having a vasovagal response, which means my body overreacted to a certain trigger and you become what feels like paralyzed for about 45 mins. My hands and legs clench so tight and can’t move, I can’t really talk and I get really bad sweats. I felt weirdly calm during the entire IUI, so I am still not sure what the trigger was. But like I mentioned, this is something that has happened to me in my past (sometimes when I worked at the hospital when watching certain procedures, during field hockey pre-season practice and my first day at work in the Big Apple when I worked in advertising for a hot second), so as scary as it was, it wasn’t a total shock..maybe just for Matt who was seeing it first hand for the first time hah. Matt did his best trying to make me drink liquids and keep me calm, but you truly just have to wait it out and let time pass. Like I mentioned, I debated adding this detail in, because it is so unlikely and I am not trying to scare anyone. More than anything, I was just concerned this episode would hurt my chances of the IUI working and that turned out not to be the case! So regardless of what happens during your IUI, remain positive and hopeful!T
We read that it’s best to relax after the IUI if possible, so I spent the rest of the day at home on the couch and honestly took the next two or three days to veg out and let my body relax.
The dreaded two-week wait…
For those not familiar, the two week wait is the period of time between a pregnancy attempt and when the pregnancy can be detected. During this two week wait I made some changes and did things that I had not tried in the year leading up to this. First, I decided to forego working out. Although it may sound silly, this was a really hard decision as I love going to Pure Barre as a stress reliever, but Matt felt very strongly that I should do this. Had I known I would get pregnant this cycle, deciding not to work out would have been the easiest decision ever, but remember we had been trying for a year, so deciding not to work out during this period could mean you cannot work out 2 weeks of each month.
During this two week wait I also conformed to EVERY “wives tail” for getting pregnant. These very well could all be complete myths and don’t actually help your chances at all, but we were really game to try whatever could help our changes! Some things I did included eating the core of a pineapple (spaced out over 5 days), drank whole milk (this was hard for me as I can’t stand it), ate Brazilian nuts and continued to avoid alcohol and caffeine.
I also was put on 100 mg of progesterone (a suppository) during the time (also, no where as bad as people on the internet make it seem, just a bit annoying having to wear a pad every day). Warning: the progesterone can really mess with your head, a total mind F* in my opinion! This is because its side effects generally mirror those of pregnancy symptoms, so while I felt like I could be pregnant through this period, I didn’t know if it was just the progesterone! It was so incredibly hard not to get my hopes up as every single month for the past year+ I would look for any and all pregnancy symptom before my period would come. I tried my hardest to not read into things and went in with the mindset of “I know the chances of your first IUI working (usually takes about 3) is rare, so whatever happens, happens”.
Each month this two week period feels like it never ends, but this month it truly felt like an eternity! I really did fell pregnant, but didn’t want to get my hopes up and be disappointed, yet again. After about 14 days, I could have taken a pregnancy test to find out if I was indeed pregnant, but couldn’t bring myself to do so (Matt thought I was crazy ha). But when you have an IUI you have to go in to the doctor for blood work no matter what, where they will determine definitively whether you are pregnant. Knowing that I would have to do this, I opted not to take the home test out of fear of being disappointed twice.
You all know how this story ends, but getting the call a few hours after the blood test telling me I was pregnant was the best phone call of my entire life! I will never forget where I was sitting, what I was wearing and the pure shock/happiness I felt all at once. Hands down, it was truly the best day of my/our entire life.
For the next few weeks I was on such a high, but also struggled for AWHILE (and up until lately still did) with living more in fear with this pregnancy than truly enjoying it. This is something that is hard for me to type, but want to put out there because I don’t think the fears of pregnancy and holding onto that pregnancy are talked about enough. I was so scared before every doctor appointment and would feel sick to my stomach going in until we heard “everything looks great”. Each week got a little bit easier, but I honestly don’t think it was until halfway through my second trimester that I fully could relax and enjoy this amazing gift without worrying about the “what ifs”. We stayed with our fertility doctor until we heard the heart beat (around 10 weeks – this varies for everyone) and then we were transitioned back to my OB. I was also on the progesterone almost through my first trimester and to be honest really struggled with stopping that as well and was scared to death as the progesterone helps everything “stick” and known to decrease your chance of miscarriage.
You are not alone…
I realize how fortunate we are that our first IUI was a success. I know this is often not the case (it tends to have more positive results after successive rounds), so I do feel like the lucky ones. But to all you out there trying month after month to get pregnant, please know that you are not alone and do not give up hope. Remember that the longer you wait for something, the more you’ll appreciate it when you get it. Looking back on everything now, the journey we went through honestly now feels like 1 second long. If I can ever be a resource for you on your pregnancy journey, please do not hesitate to reach out. You can e-mail, leave a comment below, DM me, whatever you need I am here…just remember, we are strong, incredible women that are capable of anything, somethings just take a little time, but don’t give up! xo