You assume you won’t have a problem. We were married five or six years before we started trying. My first clue I might have a problem was when I didn’t get my period for three months after going off birth control.
I remember a conversation Dean* and I had when we realized we might need help. We were in Boston, sitting in front of a duck pond, and we’re having this philosophical debate about whether we were going to be what I called a science experiment. And we disagreed. Maybe because it was my body—I didn’t feel we had to act as quickly as he did. I thought it would work its way out in time. And I did not like medicine.
But we agreed we’d go to the doctor. My gynecologist said, “Let’s put you on progesterone and Clomid to help you ovulate.” But I still didn’t. So we went to a fertility doctor. She was honest. She said, “You are going to have a problem. You’re going to need intense fertility treatments.” Dean was so overcome that he actually passed out.
And then I ended up being the bull charging ahead. I started making appointments, researching—everything an anal Type A personality would do when facing a challenge. It was difficult for me because I was always the hard worker who succeeded—if I wanted an A, or a promotion at work or to go on a trip, I planned and worked and got through it. That’s how I was going to face this fertility thing. But in reality, there was so much out of my control.
They think I was pre-menopausal. I’d already had hot flashes. My estrogen levels were really low. I was 29; it had never crossed my mind.
I was never a candidate for IVF because I wasn’t ovulating at all so they couldn’t harvest my eggs. IUI—Intrauterine Insemination—is relatively easy beyond all the drugs you have to take ahead of time. They take the sperm and insert it in me.
I was able to get pregnant with our daughter, Hannah, on the first try of IUI. It took 11 days of meds, shots every day, doctor visits almost every day so they could measure my follicles and see if I was going to ovulate. I still didn’t believe it until 20 weeks that she was actually going to be born.
The bigger story was trying a second time. When Hannah was six months old, I stopped breastfeeding so I could start fertility treatments again.
With Hannah, my FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) number was 13. The normal range is 5-9. When I was tested again before trying a second time, I was at 21. Which meant I was no longer a candidate for IUI.
But my doctor said, “We were successful once, it takes only one egg, let’s give it a go.” It was a glimmer of hope that she felt there was a chance.
She put me on twice the meds as last time. I gave myself shots morning and evening—four vials two times a day. Sometimes I had to give myself shots in the airplane bathroom. I was traveling 3-4 days a week, every week, to both Texas and New Hampshire. The medicine was flown in on dry ice. Just the logistical component of where I was going to be to receive a shipment—it was a total nightmare.
It took about 45 days of straight medicine and monitoring for one cycle. Then I’d go back a week later to see if I was pregnant. One cycle I remember, around day 38, I was still not ovulating and of course I was worried—what does such a long cycle do to the egg itself? Maybe this just wasn’t meant to be. It was one of those questions you ask yourself at night when things are quiet. As a woman, you’re making daily choices—am I going to have a glass of wine or not? Every time you go to the bathroom – will I have my period? It’s a constant thought process.
Each time I found out I wasn’t pregnant, I’d start the shots right away again. I’d immediately order the medicine and start the insurance process—we needed a new authorization code each month. I probably spent five hours on different days with the insurance company with each new cycle. I needed more and more meds each time; they denied every claim I had. I had to follow up each time with my approval number.
You don’t wake up and start your day. You think: did our shipment arrive? Dean knew our UPS guy really well; he knew his route. You have to sign for the medicine, so if Dean wasn’t home to get it, he’d chase down the UPS truck in the neighborhood. Thankfully, he had a flexible enough job he could do that.
There are so many logistics to the treatment process that it’s down to a science: blood work before 9am; it’s shipped out for analysis; results are back to the docs to interpret between noon and 1; and nurses start recording the patient voicemails around 3pm. It feels so impersonal but you have to get past that. You really don’t see your doctor as much as you’d think, maybe 4-5 times a year.
I didn’t know anything other than I just had to keep going forward. I have friends who know they need to reduce the stress in their lives when they’re going through fertility treatments. My approach was head down, move forward.
I’m thankful I had a child to distract me. I could look at her and say, “This is worth it.” At the same time, if I had to stare at my child all day and think about what wasn’t going right in my uncontrollable body, I would have gone crazy. To stay at work was the right choice for me.
After the 5th 45-day cycle, our doctor called us in for a come-to-Jesus meeting. We were exhausted, emotionally. We were looking to her for validation, to say, “This is all there’s going to be.”
She told us about a new, naturally occurring hormone that was showing good results in people with my issue, that this was one last thing we could try. I’d take a pill once or twice a day for two months, and then try one more cycle of shots and monitoring. She said, “If that doesn’t change your numbers, we’ll end this.”
Those two months, we did things we’d put off for a long time because we were always planning around the treatments. We went on vacation. It was liberating.
Then we came back and started shots again. I have a spreadsheet for all my test results—every day, every monitor. It was encouraging to see the feedback that this pill seemed to be working.
Even so, it had been about a year after we’d initially started trying the second time, and we resolved we were going to move on. We just needed to get on with our lives. We’d been wanting to build a home, so we made an appointment to look at lots.
While we were in the car with the real estate agent at 11am in the morning, my phone rang. I wasn’t expecting a phone call because I knew the process. I knew it wouldn’t be until 3pm. I figured they’d lost my blood or something. Dean and I had planned to spend time with each other that day; we knew we’d be getting results. We had planned to console each other.
We were in the backseat. He and the agent continued to talk while I answered. The nurse told me, “I just had to call you. I couldn’t leave it on the voicemail this time.”
I think I got the news and hung up. I was in total disbelief. I told Dean. And our agent was like, “Should I be here?” It was tears, all tears, in the back of the car.
We decided it was a sign, and we bought the lot we were looking at. It’s not a perfect lot. Of course, we were super worried about sustaining the pregnancy but by then we knew, what more can you do? You just jump in. We just jumped in.
Carrie and Dean’s second child, Justin, was born March 16, 2010.