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Susan's Story

I was almost 40 before I ever in my life tried to become pregnant. I wasn't in an optimal financial and relationship situation to have children, but I knew that I had already waited too long. After six months I went to a fertility clinic because it seemed like the proper thing to do. My tests came back and they were poor at best: AMH* was 0.00, a second AMH test was done with a result of 0.07. I had an ultrasound and the first thing the doctor said we she saw my ovaries was "oh my". My ovaries were extremely small and the antral follicle count was 1 (and I think the poor doctor just said one because she couldn't bring herself to tell me it was zero.) After vainly searching everywhere on the internet, I was struggling to find any experiences of women who had levels even close to that low. There were stories of women with AMH of 0.2 and a follicle count of 4 who were being told this was seriously low.

My doctor said that I was very nearly in menopause and it was unlikely I would even be menstruating within a year. She said that I could try IVF but that there would be a very low chance of success. It was unlikely I would even get past the first stage of producing enough viable eggs. But if I was to try, it was recommended that I do so immediately, because she felt that even a few months might make the difference.

After looking up what I could on the web, I started acupuncture and DHEA** supplements, although it is recommended that both treatments are done for four months prior to IVF. Other than that, all I could do was wait until my next period and decide if I should start on the IVF drugs at that time. I started taking my temperature to see if there was any ovulation pattern.

Prior to this, my periods were erratic at best. Anywhere between 13 - 26 days. I was now at 33 days and not only had I still not had a period, but my temperature pattern was completely flat. I was convinced that I wouldn't be able to start IVF because I had already stopped menstruating. Any time I felt a bit warm I was wondering if it was a hot flush and went searching the intranet for "what does a hot flush feel like". My libido was gone and was feeling for any cervical fluids at all. I took my first pregnancy test at 34 days and it was negative but at least now I was seeing a rise in my temperature. I took my second pregnancy test at 38 days and was still negative. I wondered whether it was bad for me psychologically to continue taking pregnancy tests at all and maybe I should throw them out because I can't keep thinking I'm pregnant when I'm in menopause. I promised I'd only take one more test if I didn't menstruate by the next week.

I took the last test at day 45 and it was positive. I remember sitting on the toilet, weeping like a fool, with my hand shaking so much as I stared at the two pink lines that I was getting drops of urine on my leg. I felt like calling the doctor up right away and telling her that I was pregnant and what did she think of that! And she would jump up and down and tell me how miraculous that was and what a wonderful person I must be to have somehow managed to conceive naturally without actually having any eggs and could I come in please so they could do a case study on me.

The reality was a bit different -- I called for a doctors appointment but they said that I needed to wait until about 7 weeks. No fanfare. Those 3 weeks of waiting was a time of reflecting on whether or not I was just imagining things. That maybe it was a false positive. Or that it would miscarry before I would even get to my first appointment.

I went to see a colleague of the first doctor. He looked through my chart and congratulated me on having beat the odds. Then it was up on the table for an ultrasound to see if it was actually real. By this time I wasn't really that fond of ultrasounds and was concerned that he too would say something like "oh my". But instead his first words were "You do seem to have done a good job. Over here is the embryo -- you can see a hearbeat already. And over here is the other one." And he pointed to the second blob of fuzzy dark-grey pixels on the screen. Twins.

I'm not really sure if I have a point to this story at all. I recall reading about other people's "they never thought they'd get pregnant and they did" stories and just thinking: Bitch. I didn't feel inspired or more hopeful at all, just jealous and resentful. Because for all of the stories of people who managed to get pregnant, there were hundreds of quiet people who didn't. I would read other stories about women who have been trying for seven years and have spent a mortgage on IVF and have had five miscarriages and know the trip to the fertility lab better than that to the grocery store and I would sit at my computer and cry and cry wonder if I could make it through even one tenth of that. I'm not sure if acupuncture or DHEA did anything, since I had only 3 weeks of acupuncture before testing positive, and only one week of DHEA. The best explanation of heard so far was "sometimes ovaries manage to spit out a few eggs before finally shutting down."

*AMH - anti-mullerian hormone - see more information here.

**DHEA - dehydroepiandrosterone - see abstract from Human Reproduction about a study performed by David Barad and Norbert Gleicher showing their findings of the beneficial effects of DHEA supplementation on ovarian function in women with diminished ovarian reserve.

 

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