Infertility does not define who I am, however, I would be remiss and the story of me would be incomplete without the mention of it, because it is a large part of who I am.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with my story, I'll give you a bit of background (please note this is discussing infertility, so there may be some information included that may not be comfortable reading for some people). The Hubs and I have been married for 8 1/2 years. We began TTC (trying to conceive) 7 1/2 years ago. We started out like any normal couple and tried, tried, tried. After a couple of years of trying, we began to wonder if something was wrong, but we were in the midst of moving to the US from England (I'm from the US, The Hubs is English), so we didn't panic too much about it. Once we were settled in the US, we began to think about it a little more. At my annual check-up the first year we were here, I asked the nurse doing the check up about it. She stated she thought I might have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) but she wasn't sure. She told me we should keep trying and give it another year. So we let it sink to the back of our minds again for a while.
Early the next year, I had some serious abdominal pains and had to have my gallbladder removed. During the routine surgery to remove the gallbladder, it was discovered that I had a cyst containing more than 2 litres of fluid (yes, you read that right!) sitting on my right ovary. The cyst was removed during the surgery as well and, in my two week follow-up appointment, I asked the surgeon if it would affect our chances of getting pregnant. He stated it should not, as he had only removed a cyst, but that if we continued having problems, we should probably see my doctor.
Call us stupid, but we waited another year before we saw my doctor for help. We thought for sure that it would happen on it's own, but when nada continued to be our answer every month, we decided something needed to be done. So, in 2008, we consulted with my OB/GYN. She diagnosed me with PCOS and Insulin Resistance and started me on a regimen of Metformin. We continued this pattern for several months in an attempt to regulate my cycle (which had been sketchy at best up to this point). Finally, she prescribed Provera to kick-start my cycle and prescribed Clomid to increase our chances of getting an egg that could be fertilized. Four months of this brought nothing but negative news. After the disappointment of these negative cycles coupled with The Hubs losing his job, we decided to have a break for a few months. We continued TTC with natural supplements (Soy Isoflavones) for the ensuing months with no success.
We eventually (when The Hubs became employed again) returned to my OB/GYN to give it another shot. This time, she prescribed Femara to increase the likelihood of us getting pregnant. This, too, was a complete bust with the added complication of completely screwing my cycle up. We finally opted for/talked my OB/GYN into a referral to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE).
Our first visit with the RE resulted in orders for tons of bloodwork, a physical exam and an ultrasound. The results? I have Type II Diabetes, Hypothyroidism, PCOS and Endometrial Hyperplasia. In addition to this, it came to light through the notes from my earlier surgery that, when removing the cyst from my ovary, the surgeon had also removed my right fallopian tube (it had been embedded in the cyst)! While I'm aware the tube could not have been saved, my problem with this was that I was not informed of the removal! This seemed incredibly remiss to me, so I called his office to ask why I had not been given this information. I was told "He probably didn't know." When I asked how this could be, seeing it was in the pathology report and he got that 3 days after the surgery and saw me two weeks after the surgery, I was told "He probably didn't read that far down." I feel this was criminal, however, the surgeon is employed by the hospital for which I work, so there is no action I can safely take without the risk of losing my job. Once again, the universe had succeeded in screwing me over.
Back to the RE. The big concern at that time was the hyperplasia, due to the increased risk of cancer. Throw in a D&C to clear out the affected tissue, six months of medicinal therapy (Megace) and an additional six months (we are currently in the fourth of those six months) of additional medicinal therapy (Provera), along with our RE's refusal to do any fertility treatment until I lose weight (which he never thought to mention until January when we had been seeing him for nearly a year and a total amount of weight loss for which he won't give me a number). Essentially, we are in the great waiting game.
In addition to our medical history, we also have a failed adoption in our past, but that is really too painful for me to talk about these days.
That's our background. But what that doesn't touch on is what the emotional side of infertility is like. It doesn't tell you the tears we've cried. It doesn't mention the tension our marriage has been under at times. It doesn't discuss the depression we both feel. It doesn't take into account the emptiness we feel or the longing we have or the holidays we endure being the only childless ones in our circle of family and friends or the hopelessness we feel when we think about the possiblity of us ever becoming parents.
Infertility is the most painful thing I have ever experienced. I would never wish it on anyone, even my worst enemy. It is so difficult to see parents who take their children for granted (and we've all seen those parents) when we would so happily trade places with them. Infertility is a soul-destroying disease. It hurts everyone it affects. Even those who come through it with their long-fought for children in tow never forget the pain they experienced. Once you've been through infertility, it is a part of you. It's there. It doesn't go away. If you let it, it'll eat away at you. It'll take hold of your life and it will be the only thing you can think about. It will destroy the things you love. You simply have to find a way to get through it without allowing it to take you over completely. That's what I'm working on now.
April 24 through April 30, 2011 is National Infertility Awareness Week. Please get involved! If you know someone suffering from infertility, give them your support! A simple hug and an "I'm here to listen if you need to talk" will go so much farther than you could ever imagine. Don't know anyone suffering from infertility? You can still help! Make others aware of NIAW. Chances are, someone you know is suffering, they may just not be telling anyone. 7.3 million Americans alone (not to mention those in other countries!) suffer from infertility. 1 in 4 women is facing it. Please let those in your life know they're not alone!