I’ve been thinking a lot about writing this post but it’s been conversations I’ve had with friends lately that convinced me I must write it. It may be a bit long-winded but I think it’s an important issue to talk about. People tend to suffer in silence with this but I think it’s important to get it out in the open. The F word that I’m referring to is fertility. I am by no means a medical doctor nor do I have any real medical knowledge. I am only speaking of my own journey with fertility/infertility.
If you follow along here at eyeseepretty.com, then you know that I am expecting a baby boy in October. My husband and I are thrilled not only to be adding to our family but because it took almost three very long and emotional years to get here. When we got married in 2002, I remember tons of relatives and friends asking us about when we were going to have children. At that time, children were on my mind as a distant possibility but we definitely weren’t even planning to think about them for at least five years. Fast forward to year seven when we started actively trying to get pregnant. I was surprised that it didn’t happen immediately. In my family, there seems to be very few issues with people getting pregnant. In fact some people sneeze in their spouse’s or boyfriend’s direction and boom! So I chalked up our experience to bad timing due to Pete’s work travel or my elevated stress levels.
After about a year and a half of trying, we decided to get some fertility testing and were referred by my family doctor to a fertility clinic. At the beginning I was not too keen on the clinic thing, I think I had some idea that I was going to be pressured into a procedure wasn’t prepared for or interested in. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My doctor listened to our concerns and spoke about the initial testing and options. My best advice is to find a doctor you are comfortable with and you feel is listening to your concerns. Meet with several if you must but it’s better to find someone who you trust from the start rather than switching part way through your treatments.
The initial testing generally involves both you and your partner/spouse and you can expect to be poked and prodded and feel a bit like a pin cushion but it’s really nothing more invasive than your annual physical. Depending on what they find, you may have to go for some additional testing like an HSG. After all the testing is complete (which may take a few weeks results), you’ll meet with the doctor again to go through options.
At this point, we found out that I had an issue with my ovarian reserve (it was lower than expected for my age group) and I was started on a round of fertility drugs and cycle monitoring. I’ll be honest, fertility treatments take both time and money. Most supplementary health plans cover a portion of the drugs (to a lifetime maximum) and many of the procedures (other than IVF) and doctors visits are covered by provincial healthcare (at least in Ontario). Expect to be at the clinic a lot. It’s definitely like a part-time job.
I tried several different medications (Femara, Chlomid and Puregon) but ultimately it was the Chlomid that worked for me. There are side effects to each drug, as there are with most. They made me slightly loopy and spacey and of course there were the mood swings. Picture PMS x 10! My poor hubby….
Fast forward eight very emotional months to January 2012, when we debated taking a break from the treatments. It was taking both a physical and emotional toll on my body and my mental well-being. I still took the drugs but decided to forgo the monitoring. Not sure if it was the relief after making the decision to stop the treatments that did it or just fate’s sense of irony, but that was the month that we got pregnant. I didn’t realize how stressed I was about it until I didn’t have to worry about getting pregnant anymore.
The more I tell my story, the more I hear other’s stories. Some women have no issue getting pregnant but can’t sustain the pregnancy. Others have no issues with the first or second baby but experience issues the next time they try to conceive. And, sadly enough, some women will never be able to get pregnant. One of the most frustrating things is that there is often no explained reason for infertility.
I hope that by telling my story, it encourages others to speak up about their experiences. Fertility or lack thereof is nothing to be ashamed of, as 1 in 6 Ontario couples struggle with infertility. There is currently a grassroots movement in Ontario to lobby the Ministry of Health to fund some cycles of IVF. Currently, Quebec is the only province in Canada that will fund IVF cycles. To learn more about this movement in Ontario please check out http://www.conceivabledreams.org/.