The unicorn rides an emotional roller coaster
I laid there in the hospital bed in the emergency room. The pain had subsided for a few minutes. During the pain, the world was a blur. I writhed and twisted. I moaned. Eyes squeezed shut. The pain dominated all. Now, after receiving IV pain meds, the pain was finally muted. I took a few seconds to breathe deeply. It was as if all of my sensory systems immediately came back online. My vision became clear again. I could make sense of sound. I could feel how clammy my palms had become. Inhale...exhale. I turned to my right and looked at Cory. I turned to my left and looked at my mom. They saw the fear in my eyes that said it all, “Oh God, is the pain coming back?” A sudden twinge of pain. “Please God, make it stop.”
This nightmare was my reality on May 22, 2018. It was the worst physical pain of my life. It turned into the worst emotional pain of my life. Over the next few blog posts, I’ll re-tell the details of this day. For now, I want to provide a big picture overview of our fertility journey from May 22 to today.
During this ER visit, I was diagnosed with a unicornuate uterus, a uterus that didn’t fully develop in utero. The ER doctor told me I was probably "infertile." BOOM. Gut punch.
The next day, my OB-GYN told me to disregard everything the ER doc said, and that I was most definitely "not infertile." Figurative sunshine peaked through the looming storm clouds.
Fast forward two weeks to our initial consult with a world renowned reproductive endocrinologist (RE). He basically re-confirmed the "infertile" diagnosis. He highly dissuaded me from carrying a baby with my unicornuate uterus. He practically scared us out of our seats describing the complications: high miscarriage rates, pre-term delivery. You name it, he said it. However (confusingly), he did say we could start with a round of IUIs. Think medical grade turkey baster into my uterus (pardon me for the visual – admit it, it was partly your imagination’s fault too). If an IUI didn’t work, the doctor explained, then we would move onto in vitro fertilization (IVF) with a gestational carrier (someone else would carry the baby). After his intimidating statistics about unicornuate uteruses, I immediately knew I would never be able to carry a child. I instantly ruled out IUIs. I'm a speech language pathologist, and I spent the first years of my career working at Children's Hospital Colorado. I saw the consequences of prematurity and developmental disabilities. The possibility of that for my child was too overwhelming, so I immediately ruled out me ever carrying. Cory and I were absolutely shocked to receive confirmation that I would be unable to carry a baby safely to term. My dreams of "growing" a child inside of me shattered. I was so overcome with grief I couldn't feel. I was numb, blank. So we did what anyone in that situation would do: head to the closest Mexican restaurant and order the largest margarita on the menu. ;)
I spent the month of June recovering from my surgery and picking up the pieces of my broken baby dreams. I am completely Type A, so naturally my grief manifested in obsessive researching and planning. I created Excel spreadsheets and Word documents. I even created a PowerPoint called "How to Buy a Baby" with all my ideas about how to fundraise, apply for grants, and finance a child. I could not fathom how we would afford it all. It angered me to think that we would have to even think about money when deciding on how to build our family.
My internal world was a spinning tornado of sadness from the loss, despair at the lack of options, and anger at the injustice of our situation. Cory and I quickly learned that IVF with a gestational carrier would cost around $70,000 with a volunteer surrogate and would cost over $100,000 with a surrogate found through an agency. These numbers were dumbfounding. I researched adoption as a more affordable alternative and found that domestic infant adoption averages $25,000 and international adoption is even more. There were days I did no research at all and completely checked out - it was too much to hold.
That brings us to now. Just three days ago, Cory and I went to another highly respected RE for a second opinion. He immediately told us that we can absolutely try IVF in my uterus.
This new doctor was angered by the first doctor's recommendation of an IUI or IVF with a gestational carrier. He knew the first doctor well and explained the rationale behind the first doc's recommendation: apparently, the first doctor's clinic was recently bought out by a group of venture capitalists. He deduced that the first doctor did not recommend IVF in my body because I was a riskier case, and I might "mess with his statistics" that he needs to report to his backers.
To know that I spent four weeks of my life mourning the loss of my ability to carry a child due to a skewed recommendation from a money-motivated doctor makes me feel so disgusted. June 2018 was the hardest...the HARDEST month of my life...all because of this first doctor's filthy recommendation. (I'm obviously still processing this...still very acute...fresh wound.)
Immediately after receiving the recommendation to do IVF in my body from this second doctor, Cory and I met with his amazing IVF nurse. She recommended a list of supplements I should start taking, discussed a tentative timeline for when to start egg stimulation, and provided us a folder of new reading material. I was taken to get preliminary blood work and an ultrasound done. Within two hours, I had gone from thinking of myself as an infertile, never-going-to-be-pregnant woman to a fertile (with help), possibly-will-be-pregnant woman. Within 120 minutes, my world had flipped right side up. I wasn't (totally) broken.
This weekend, nearly six weeks after my initial diagnosis, was the first time I have been able to bring myself to Google "unicornuate uterus." This morning, I've read promising things. Scary things. I read one thing written by this awesome blogger named Alyssa who also has a unicornuate uterus and recently gave birth to a healthy baby boy in March. Her story hit me so deeply and made me cry. The kind of cry that only comes from feeling so understood and validated...from feeling hope after walking through the driest of hope-deserts for weeks upon weeks.
There is still so much I have to learn. I have only barely started to think about the IVF process. Cory and I have only approached the base of this towering mountain, and we have miles and miles to hike until we reach the summit (if my body allows us to reach it). I hope someday we get to meet our own little baby.