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Rachel's Story
updated Feb 7, 2010

I thought that marrying young would guarantee my being a young mother – something I’d always dreamed of. When we started trying to conceive, I would count down the days (and sometimes the hours) until my next period was expected & it was frequently late – sometimes two weeks late. Every time I got my period, I saw it as a new beginning, a new opportunity to finally become pregnant. But I didn’t. It was only after an entire year went by that I even made an appointment. It was so clear to me that nothing could be wrong. I was young, I was healthy...

Most of the tests were fine, but about two months into the testing, I got back one of the results. I knew it was bad. It was my 22nd birthday and I stood at a pay phone to call the doctor to give him the results. He explained them to me and said he was very pessimistic. I stood there crying and then I gathered myself together as best I could and went to work. I wasn't able to think of anything else the whole day.

I was 22 years old, six-thousand miles away from my parents, and I was battling very real fertility problems. I felt very isolated.

I went to the library, trying to gather information. I read everything I could get my hands on. And while I was there, I peeked at some information about emotional aspects of infertility. The article I came across was so powerful that I photocopied it, took it home and read it over and over.

It talked about the things you commonly hear like, “oh, just calm down and you’ll get pregnant!” and “My friend adopted and she got pregnant right away.” and then pointed out that if you said you had a brain tumor, people wouldn’t tell you to “calm down” to make it go away. I kept that in mind while I heard people’s uninformed and hurtful comments – as if I was somehow either responsible for or making too big a deal out of my infertility. I felt that discussing the details was an unnecessary invasion of my privacy and was able to reassure myself that my situation was very real and that none of my feelings were exaggerated or ridiculous.

My emotions were very different from my husband’s. In retrospect, I don’t remember his ever sharing his emotions, but I do remember his not understanding anything that I was going through. My pain had to do with letting go of a dream and my frustration at an unknown future I felt I had little or no control over.

We tried various medications (some I had suggested to the doctor), none with any results. After the medications, we started IUI (intra-uterine insemination) and signed up for adoption. I hated the IUI, found it painful, torturous, and not particularly hopeful. After a few cycles, even the doctors gave up and let us move on to IVF (in-vitro fertilization).

We went to visit my husband’s grandmother who tapped my stomach a little too hard (I felt as if I’d been punched) and said about the only word she knew in English, which was “baby”. Double-punching. At the time, she already had more than ten great-grandchildren. Believe me, my baby was no big deal for her and a very big deal for me. I smiled and nodded. I didn’t speak her language either.

With my cycles being as far apart as they were, everything took a long time, so it was only after over 2-1/2 years of “trying” that we had our first IVF attempt. Our doctor recommended a medical center two hours away from our home. It would have been OK, except for that we only had one car and it usually wasn’t available to me. They let me do most everything nearby and I only had to be there a few times – this was an advantage in terms of traveling, but throughout the treatment, I didn’t feel that I had any support – they barely knew who I was.

It was finally time for the egg retrieval. There were about 13 eggs, but only one was fertilized and even that didn't split properly (it was 3 cells when they transferred it). We came back two days later for the embryo transfer. I started to bleed before I was scheduled to have the pregnancy test. It was part of the procedure, so I went anyway and the test came out positive. I didn’t actually think that I was pregnant and when I called to give them my results, the nurse brushed it off saying “Oh, that number’s too low.” And then hung up. I had to call back to understand that what had caused the test to be positive was actually the shots that I had gotten in order to support the pregnancy (had there been one).

Some of our friends were already having children. At first, I was cool about it, but as time went by and I felt like having a baby wasn’t going to happen for me, it got harder and harder. I stopped going to baby showers. I only went if they were really good friends. I had trouble smiling and being happy for other people.

Our best friends provided tremendous support. Calling and asking how things were going, taking a real interest both in my emotions and in the process. Even the failures were easier because of them.

It took another six months to start the next treatment. Despite all our previous failures, I started each treatment with an optimistic attitude and the feeling that I was a part of modern medicine. I actually found it both fascinating and exciting.

We switched medical centers to one that was nearer our home, which turned out to be a much better experience. I remember walking down the hall thinking of Kevin Costner's line in Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves: "so it begins..." I too was starting my journey.

I learned to give myself the injections, so I didn’t have to run around as much. 15 eggs were retrieved and 4 were fertilized. They transferred all of them (this was back in 1992). 18 days after the transfer, I discovered I was pregnant. I continued to give myself daily progesterone shots for an additional 10 weeks. My daughter was born a little less than 4 years after I started trying to conceive. I was 24.


My daughter and me, just minutes after her birth

Having a baby left me just as infertile as before and I wasn't willing to let go of my dream to have a big family. The technology was improving and the next cycle also led to 4 embryos. None implanted. The treatment after that was phenomenal, leading to 8 embryos. We transferred 4 and froze 4. Another failure. Then, surprisingly, the frozen embryos led to a healthy twin pregnancy. I was just 27 and mommy to three children… and still infertile.

My marriage, which probably had been strengthened by the infertility – we had had a common goal – basically fell apart shortly after the twins were born. I kept trying, but finally realized it was hopeless. I also felt the dream of ever having another child fading away. I forced my husband to let me try again. The twins were already 5. I got pregnant on the first try, but there was a big hematoma in my uterus and my early beta HCG levels were poor and didn’t double properly. The embryo grew normally and survived until the end of the first trimester and then the hematoma washed it away. After all of the bleeding I’d had, it was partly a relief to know it was over. Coming home from the hospital to my very unsympathetic husband let me know that something else was over too. Less than six months later the divorce was final.

I am now remarried. Shortly after I got this site going we celebrated the birth of our beautiful daughter, Abigail, born on March 14th, 2005. (See Abigail's birth story). Amazingly, another fantasy of mine became a reality - I had always fantasized about wheeling a stroller while being very pregnant. When Abigail was less than 5 months old, we learned we were expecting again! Our daughter, Nomi, joined us on March 25th, 2006 (read about Nomi's birth on the fertility blog). In June 2007, we learned that we were expecting again (yes, it was planned :-)) - Our February 23, 2008 due date came & went... and then the chance to have a February 29 baby... and then ended week 41 and even week 42. Finally, after 42 full weeks I went into labor spontaneously - you can read the birth story here.

My infertility journey is over. We made the decision not to have any more children - obviously not a very difficult decision when there are 6 kids in the house - and 3 of them are still very small. Infertility will always be close to my heart, but it doesn't hurt me anymore. It ended well for me, and it's easy for me to accept that it was all part of G-d's plan for me.

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When I was pregnant with Nomi, before I started my real blog, I kept an amnio blog as we waited for the results of the amniocentesis.

 

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