Today R2M brings you a story that will resonate with any reader who is waiting. Waiting can test a person on so many levels, especially their ability to be patient. I looked up the definition of patience today. It is the capacity to tolerate or accept delay without getting angry. Patience is a tall order for anyone but a great goal to have during any waiting season. Thank you Caitlin for the interview, for being honest about the struggles involved in waiting, and for sharing your story with other readers who are feeling a lot like you did. Congrats on your new blessing due this April! I know she will be worth the wait! – Traci
An Interview with Caitlin:
Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
“My husband and I have been married for 7.5 years. We have a 5-year-old son and had custody of my little sister (12 years younger). My husband and I had both been married previously with no children from those relationships. I had tried for 2 years with my late husband, but Nick had never tried for kids with his ex-wife. At about 2.5 years into our marriage we adopted our son, who was 5 months at the time.”
When did you start to worry you may not be able to have children?
“I had never used birth control since I knew from about 17 that it would be difficult to get pregnant on my own. I have suffered with ovarian cysts my entire pubescent life. I had surgery at 17 to remove a cyst on my left ovary and the doctors told me that due to significant scar tissue I might need assistance to get pregnant. At the time, being 17, I didn’t think much of it till I started trying with my late husband. He and I had never gone to fertility specialists though. We tried on our own and before we could get to that point, he had passed.”
Did you ever suspect there could be other factors outside of your cysts that were keeping you from having kids?
“So from the time Nick and I were married we never used birth control. About a year into our marriage I had surgery to remove my left fallopian tube due to yet another cyst. At the time of the surgery they didn’t know if they would need to remove both tubes, but luckily it was just the one. Nick was deployed during this time, so we had a year off from trying. When he returned we continued trying as usual and met with a fertility specialist due to my surgery. They ran the usual tests on both of us and we were told that everything looked good for me on the right side with the one tube. Nick however, had a low sperm count and low motility, which we were unaware of till then. The doctors told us if it was just male factor infertility or just female factor infertility we probably could get pregnant on our own with a healthy partner.
But since we both had a fertility issue, it made our chances 1% for getting pregnant on our own with NO assistance. The average healthy couple has a 20-25% chance of getting pregnant with each ovulation. So of course we were upset, but I think it still hadn’t sunk in yet.”
Did you start exploring other options after you realized both you and your husband had fertility issues?
“We then PCSed to Hawaii about a year later. Nick specifically reenlisted for Hawaii due to Tripler’s infertility clinic. Its only one of 3 that the military had that offered in vitro. So once we were in Hawaii we saw an infertility specialist and started Chlomid. We did about 3 months of that but because of Nick’s training schedule it was hard to nail him down during ovulation. Plus the clinic had a long wait (3+ years) for in vitro, so we played the cards we were dealt.”
Waiting can test a person on so many levels, especially ones ability to be patient. Can you share a certain experience that challenged you to be patient?
“Between training and deployments, we didn’t see much of each other the entire 18 months we were stationed in Hawaii. We tried when we could. Chlomid’s side effects were something else. I felt insane between hot flashes and emotional roller coasters, it took a toll on trying. We ended up PCSing to Alabama from Hawaii for Nick to attend school. Fort Rucker had ZERO specialty clinics; they didn’t even have a hospital. So everything was referred off post. Due to his extremely demanding school schedule and me having some health (gastrointestinal) problems we didn’t pursue the fertility issue while in Alabama other than trying naturally. We were in Alabama for 17 months. Once we PCSed to Washington, Nick deployed again for 9 months. During this time, my doctor REFUSED to send me to the infertility clinic because my husband was not home yet. I was trying to get a jump-start on the appointments because I already knew all the testing and wait that comes along with a new doctor. Once he was home, we were referred, and of course started all the testing yet again. We learned Nick’s sperm count had raised on its own, which was amazing, but it was now on the lowest side of a normal count, so still an infertility factor. There was also no change in my diagnosis, which was expected. So once again we started fertility medication. This time they started us on the lowest dose of Letrozole. I guess the clinic here likes Letrozole over Chlomid due to less side effects and a higher chance of a singleton birth versus multiples, which of course brings its own complications in to a pregnancy.”
Walk us through the fertility treatments you went through.
“We did two months on the lowest dose of Letrozole and we also came in for ultrasounds each month to see how the medication was stimulating my ovaries. It wasn’t, so we upped the dose. We did two more months of that. On the second month we had one follicle on my right side (the one with the Fallopian tube) so we were signed up for IUI. We were sent home with the medication Ovidrel (ovulating medication) in the form of an injection. They taught Nick how to inject me because our IUI was scheduled for a weekend and of course all the medications needs to be perfectly timed. We traveled to Seattle for our IUI and paid the fee. We did our two-week wait and the test was negative. Another disappointment. During our two-week wait, Nick had to go back to Alabama for more training. He was gone for 5 months this time. Once he was home we met with the doctor again for my next dose of medication to repeat every month. Every month we would have that ultrasound to see if or where we had follicles. For the next two months the follicles were on my left side. Nick and I chose not to do IUI on those months because we felt it was a waste of money since there was no tube for the egg to travel down. During this time, the doctors decided to up my medication to the max dose of Letrozole, they also added an injectable medication, Gonal-F, and then the Ovidrel to make me ovulate.
So each month I would call the infertility clinic to tell them my cycle started, I would go to the lab for the routine pregnancy test that I ALWAYS knew would be negative, I’d wait for them to contact me saying it was negative and that they called in my medication to the pharmacy. I would then start 5 days of pills 3x a day during my cycle, then the day those finish I would start 3 days of injections. Then I would head to the clinic to have them measure my follicles and see which side they were on. If it was on the right side they would either give me the injection of Ovidrel to make me ovulate or send me home with the injection and tell me when to take it.
We finally started getting follicles on my right side regularly once they started Ovidrel. We had decided to move off post to a larger house this past spring. Well of course during our moving week I was ovulating, with 3 follicles!!! We just couldn’t pass those odds up. So again after getting the green light from my doctor and doing my injection I took a break from moving and went to do IUI. Again we paid the fee and started our two-week wait. And again, negative.”
I can’t imagine the emotions you felt. Did you ever feel like giving up?
“By this point I was just drained. I was so sick of seeing the negatives and feeling like I was trying and trying for NOTHING. I felt like my body had let me down, that I had let my husband down as a woman. This is what our bodies were made for and mine couldn’t seem to do it. I honestly think I was becoming depressed. It got to the point where I questioned wanting more children (other than our son of course). I thought maybe I was being punished for something. All these people around me were getting pregnant with ease and it was SO aggravating. It especially hurt to see those who didn’t want kids, who couldn’t care for them or weren’t even trying to get pregnant given this gift. I grew bitter. I started running as a stress relief and it did help. I thought to myself ‘well if I can’t physically have kids, I’m going to have the best body I can have that I wouldn’t be able to if I had children.’ I hated seeing all the announcements, but what hurt worse was the ones complaining about every little pregnancy symptom or something their child was or wasn’t doing. It literally drove me nuts.
I withdrew completely from relationships. It caused a rift with my husband and I because one of these constantly pregnant women happened to be my sister-in-law. They hadn’t tried for any of their 3 kids. My husband wasn’t the most supportive during most of this. He kept saying ‘it will happen’ or tell me that we could do in vitro in a few years when we saved the money. He just didn’t understand how much of a failure I felt like and why in the world other people constantly getting pregnant bothered me. Which of course made a bigger wedge between us. Who the hell wants to have sex then? Not me!”
When did things start looking up for you?
“Due to moving and me stopping work we didn’t have the funds to do IUI for a little while. We continued medication every month and timed intercourse. Every month it was negative. So my cycle came in August, we started our medications and went in for our ultrasound. This time we had 2 follicles on my right side. To my surprise my husband said lets go ahead and do IUI. If you know anything about Nick he is a huge penny pincher and that’s putting it nicely. There was no room in our budget that month for IUI so I wasn’t expecting a green light. I was excited.
Then I remembered that my body fails me, why was this any different? So that weekend we had my son’s 5th birthday party and had our IUI scheduled for Tuesday. My husband went to give his sample during his lunch break at work. I then went up 2 hours later for the procedure. Every time before the IUI they give you the ‘stats’ of the sperm to see if you would like to proceed since you are paying for it. This time my husband’s count was 3 times what it had been in the past IUI’s. I was shocked. His other numbers (motility etc.) were higher as well. Still, with the count being 3 times higher and the rest of the numbers being higher he was still in the VERY low end of normal. Plus the doctors had told us that with IUI we only had a 10% chance of conceiving, which if you remember, is still lower than normal healthy couples naturally conceiving.
I got excited again and I remember the nurse saying, ‘well maybe this will be the one.’ I was quickly brought back down to reality because remember, my body fails me month after month, why get my hopes up? I went home and went about my routine. I tried to stay as busy as possible during my two-week wait. I was starting school full time soon and my son started kindergarten the next month so we had lots of things to look forward to. About 9 days into my two-week wait my boobs started getting sore; which is common considering my period was starting soon. So I took a test, it was negative. The next day I was having a girl’s night and of course they were asking about the IUI and if I tested. I had said my boobs were sore and they of course jumped on the ‘oh you know what that means’ bandwagon which I have heard for years and years. It gets really old. I dismissed them since I tested and it was negative.
The next day our power went out due to an insane windstorm here in Washington. My husband and I were doing a puzzle on our dining room table when I went to the restroom. I decided I had nothing better to do than to test again. This time I used a digital pregnancy test. It blinked for what seemed like forever. I figured it would say ‘Not Pregnant’ I would throw it in the trash and not even mention another disappointment to my husband. It said ‘Pregnant.’ “
How did you handle the exciting news? What’s next?
“I was shocked. I yelled for my husband and he refused to move, he just yelled ‘what?’ I wasn’t going to yell that news to him so I came downstairs and told him. He thought I was messing with him, so I showed him the test. I made him take me to the ER for a blood test to confirm. We were finally pregnant! It was then confirmed again by multiple blood tests through infertility to make sure my levels were rising. We told our son and immediate family. Everyone was thrilled but I could not get over the anxiety of a possible miscarriage. My husband was excited, but he kept saying he didn’t want to get his hopes up. I felt a million times better when I had my first ultrasound and heard the baby’s heartbeat. That’s when it became real for my husband. We then held our breath again till the first trimester was over. We are currently 18.5 weeks pregnant with a baby girl. It still feels surreal. I don’t think it will sink in till I can feel her kicks. Soon!”