2018 Infertility Recap
In this blog post, I summarize the past year’s infertility ups and downs. If you have followed along since the beginning, this post will be a refresher. If you are a new reader, think of this post as the CliffNotes to the past year and a road map to past posts.
Last night while lying in bed (at 10 PM on New Year’s Eve), Cory and I reminisced about all of the vibrant and growth-inspiring things that happened during 2018. We traveled to New York City and Breckenridge. Cory started grad school in clinical mental health! We saw 10+ amazing shows. (For you interested theater nerds out there, we saw: Waitress, Totally Awesome 80s Ski Town, USA, Passing Strange, Phantom of the Opera, Sleep No More, Dear Evan Hansen, Secret Garden, Into the Woods, Bye Bye Birdie, She Kills Monsters, Les Mis, A Christmas Carol, Twist Your Dickens.) Cory quit an unfulfilling job and started working as a teacher at my hospital. We remodeled our master bathroom.
And then there was my surgery. And my diagnoses. And the grief. And then the acceptance. And the fertility appointments…so many fertility appointments. And then IVF once…twice. And the creation of three embryos.
And then the start of this blog. The birth of Embrace Your Unicorn and this amazing, supportive community.
As Cory and I reflected last night, it started to make sense why we both have been feeling overwhelmed and tired and anxious lately. A lot has happened. A lot of heavy (and wonderful) things have happened this year.
Before starting a new chapter in our infertility book, I wanted to recap all that has happened in 2018. As a chance for you new readers to get caught up in one fell swoop (what does this even mean?!), and as a chance for you OGs to reminisce with us. Thank you for staying close by our sides during this year of infertility ups and downs. Thank you for your words of support. And all the unicorn gifts. I see you out there supporting us, and I am so grateful.
Chapter 1: Girl and boy meet.
Girl falls for boy. Girl and boy get married (September 2017).
Chapter 2: Girl and boy try to make a baby.
For six months (October 2017-April 2018). The “old-fashioned" way. With high-tech cycle-tracking apps and digital ovulation predictor kits. You know, the way our grandparents did it. Fun was had. Stress was felt. Conversations about precise ovulation dates were frequent. But no luck. No baby.
Chapter 3: Girl becomes a unicorn.
Welcome to Chapter 3. My diagnosis story (May 2018).
My body writhed and twisted in the hospital bed in the emergency room. The pain had subsided for a few minutes. During the pain, the world was a blur. Eyes squeezed shut, it dominated all of my senses. 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. These devil-inspired ovarian cysts and torsion led to an ER visit and a unicornuate uterus diagnosis. It was the worst physical pain of my life. It turned into the worst emotional pain of my life. Here’s how my infertility roller coaster story started.
In April 2018, after six months of trying to get pregnant, my OBGYN put me on Clomid, a (usually) harmless ovulation-stimulating medication. I took Clomid and wished upon a star every night that this magical medicine would work. Meanwhile, I kept militantly tracking my morning temperatures, obsessively peeing on ovulation predictor kit (OPK) sticks, and carefully monitoring my body for any new pregnancy signs. One night close to the end of this Clomid cycle, I woke up at 1 AM, hot and soaking wet. Hot flashes. After drying off and changing my shirt, I quickly turned to the Internet for answers. I opened up a new search: “are hot flashes a sign of pregnancy?” The first thing that popped up read, “Hot flashes are indeed a pregnancy symptom.”I silently rejoiced, smile spread wide across my sleepy face. Before I could get too excited, my rational self recommended a follow-up search: “Hot flashes and Clomid.” The first thing that popped up this time read, “Clomid does have some side effects. The most common side effect is hot flashes.”Damn. With a tug-of-war-feeling in my heart, I tried to fall back to sleep. But my thoughts raced on:
What if I never get pregnant? What if I am pregnant right now? Should I have had that glass of wine last night? What if it hurt the baby? I wonder if I’ll have morning sickness like mom did. What will I do if I have to puke at work? I bet I’m not pregnant. I’m definitely not pregnant. I’m going to be so tired in the morning. Fall asleep. Fall asleep. Fall asleep!
After an hour of mental spinning, I turned to YouTube and the stress-reducing effect of any Jimmy Fallon clip, and finally drifted into a restless slumber.
The next few days, I had all the early pregnancy symptoms (which also happen to be identical to PMS symptoms). Tender breasts. Increased appetite. Fatigue. Mood swings. But deep in my gut, I knew I wasn’t pregnant. I just felt it. And I was right. Our Clomid cycle did not result in pregnancy. Aunt Flow rang the doorbell at my house on May 19, announcing another unwelcomed visit. Unfortunately, quietly hiding behind the door and peering through the peephole, waiting for her to go away like an annoying solicitor, didn’t work. She barged right in, carrying a picnic basket of cramps and zits, with a side of disappointment and hopelessness.
Just four days later, after Auntie had packed her basket and left, I had another surprise visitor: pain. The pain radiated from my lower right abdomen around my side to my lower back. As if one Clomid-inspired devil wrung my insides like a wet towel while another stabbed me over-and-over with a red-hot fire iron. Cory helped me choke down a couple bites of toast and take some meds. But it didn’t help. Now I was writhing on the bed, moaning, screaming. When I started to plead with God to take the pain away, Cory knew we needed help. We headed to the ER.
Needles and IVs and blood draws. CTs and ultrasounds and MRIs.
After reviewing my MRI, the physician assistant came into my room and told me, without warning, that I had a “uterine abnormality” and that I was probably “infertile” because of it. BOOM. In the middle of my writhing pain, she decided to punch me in the gut with this diagnosis, a diagnosis she was unqualified to make and news she was inept at sharing. Tears and screams and more tears.
The worst of all was being sent home at noon with continuing raging pain.
I was discharged from the ER in a wheelchair, unable to walk. In the lobby of the hospital, children stared at me – the moaning, writhing, crazy lady – as I waited for my mom to get the car. My pain was at an 8/10, and they sent me home.
At home, pumped full of Hydrocodone and Naproxen, the pain raged on. Cory tried everything he could do to help me feel more comfortable. He brought me piece after piece of dry toast to try to help me keep something in my stomach. He carefully helped me take small sips of Gatorade. He rigged together a haphazardly balanced entertainment system near our bed, with at TV set on top an upside down Home Depot bucket (we don’t normally have a TV in our room). Best of all, Cory discovered the new season of Jane the Virgin had been released on Netflix and put that on for me. And you know what? I didn’t care. No, I couldn’t care. I knew I was in bad shape when I couldn’t even muster the attention to watch Jane, Rafael, and Petra’s weird love triangle unfold.
I writhed and twisted. I screamed so loudly our neighbors probably wondered if they should call the police. I paced back and forth in our room, hoping to walk it off. Nothing helped. So at 9 PM that night, we returned to the ER.
Traditional IV pain meds didn’t touch the pain. I was administered a dose of Ketamine, a “dissociative anesthetic” that induces a trance-like state. (Some people even use Ketamine recreationally to achieve the feeling of “derealization” – a feeling that one’s surroundings aren’t real.) The pain wasn’t gone, but I was.
And I loved it.
I was awake but didn’t care. It was the first feeling of peace I had all day
Around midnight, I was admitted to the hospital for pain management and possible surgery the next day. My ovarian cysts that became hemorrhagic (read: exploded) and were so heavy that my ovary started to rotate like a twisting a water balloon. My doc drained the cysts and untwisted the ovary during surgery the next day. It had twisted on itself three times, significantly reducing blood flow. The ovary was “ashy” in color, per the doctor, signifying potential death. Thankfully, once she untwisted it, it regained its normal coloring and function (white, by the way. Did you know that ovaries are naturally white!? I didn’t). She saved my ovary. Relieved me from pain. And discharged me from the hospital a few hours later.
Chapter 4: Girl grieves.
It took me a month to heal from the surgery and several more to grieve my new diagnoses (June-August 2018). In a flash, I went from being a woman who was healthy and probably fertile to a woman with a unicornuate uterus, low ovarian reserve (AMH: 0.54), and endometriosis. I went from hopeful that I would become pregnant any month now to anxious that I would never have biological children. I entered into a world of doctor appointments, late-night Internet researching, and expensive and invasive infertility treatments.
It was too much to handle.
I started this blog in July 2018 to help me process my grief. Through sharing my story, I slowly learned to accept my unicornuate uterus diagnosis. I also started the blog to help others to embrace their metaphorical "unicorns," the things in life that they’re learning to accept. Guest writers share their stories about embracing their “unicorns.” Embrace Your Unicorn is a blog that uses the sharing of one’s story as a gateway to catharsis and to cultivate awareness, compassion, and community.
Read more about why I decided to start a blog here:
Why should I embrace my unicorn (unicornuate uterus)?
Read more about how it felt for my mom to grieve by my side in her guest writer post:
Guest Writer Wednesday: Feeling helpless? Maybe I can help
Chapter 5: Girl and boy do IVF.
In September 2018, we completed our first IVF cycle. Because of my poor egg quality, we only had one genetically normal embryo from the first round of IVF (better than none!). And because my type of uterus has a 37% miscarriage rate, we decided to do a second round of IVF to try to get a couple more embryos just in case. Watch the video my brother-in-law, Aleks, made about our second day of IVF shots during our first cycle!
Read more about our first IVF cycle here:
A Reflection on Time: An IVF update for my future self
I reflect on the simultaneously speedy and slow passage of time during the IVF process (and life in general)! I write a summary of recent IVF happenings to my future self.
I share a frustrating update about my follicle count and size during this IVF stimulation phase. I remind myself to breathe and stay here because the future is unknown…no one knows the end of my story yet. I also share a beautiful poem by Lynn Shattuck.
A Christmas Hangover
Seven days of IVF stimulation medications down…only a couple more to go! Today I share an update on how the IVF stimulation phase has been going for us, including details about my IVF medications, symptoms, and plan for egg retrieval!
Egg Retrieval Update
Our egg retrieval was this past Saturday (9/8/18), and today I’m sharing how the trigger shot and egg retrieval went. I’ll also share our initial results. We are now entering the “hurry up and wait” phase of IVF as we wait in anticipation for the results of our embryos as they continue to develop!
Day 5 Embryo Update
The embryologist threw me off guard with an early morning phone call with our day 5 embryo update. I spent the rest of the day processing the news, Googling definitions, and trying to make sense of this phase of IVF.
Genetic Testing Results
In this post, I share the results Cory and I received from our two embryos’ genetic testing. I talk about what comes next for us in the IVF process.
Chapter 6: Girl and boy do IVF…again.
We finished our second cycle in November 2018, resulting in two genetically normal embryos! We now have three frozen embryos awaiting the next steps.
Read more about our second IVF cycle here:
IVF Round 2: We Start Today!
Our second IVF cycle starts today. I give a quick update about my first ultrasound and an overview of how I’m going keep my headspace calm and collected over the next two weeks.
IVF Round 2: Egg Retrieval Results
Our egg retrieval was yesterday (11/17/18), and it didn’t go so great. Fewer eggs retrieved and more reaction to the anesthesia. Even though our results weren't as stellar as round 1, Cory and I are incredibly grateful that we were able to do a second round of IVF with all the emotional and financial support from our friends and family!
IVF Round 2: Day 5/6 Embryo Update
Today, I start by sharing what happened on Thanksgiving Eve. The story is a perfect metaphor for what IVF feels like to me. And then I share our Day 5 and Day 6 embryo updates!
IVF Round 2: Genetic Testing Results
We received our genetic testing results of our two embryos from our second round of IVF yesterday. Results below!
Chapter 7: Girl and boy wait.
All through the holiday season of 2018, Cory and I waited for my doctor’s recommendations regarding next steps. Should we do one more egg retrieval to try to get at least one more embryo, or should we move ahead with a transfer (i.e., placing an embryo in my uterus)? Following additional uterine evaluations mid-December, my doctor recommended that we move forward with a transfer! The transfer is tentatively scheduled for the last week of January/first of February 2019 (right around my 33rd birthday!).
Read more about my uterine evaluations and the doc’s recommendations here
IVF Update: Next steps?
My last IVF update was in early December when I let you all know that we got two genetically normal embryos from our second round of IVF! A lot has happened since then, including an endoscopy (for my acid reflux), a hysterosalpingogram (HSG), a Trial Embryo Transfer (TET), a doppler ultrasound, an office hysteroscopy, and a follow-up meeting with Dr. Bush to determine next steps!
Chapter 8: Girl and boy become parents.
Even though the future feels uncertain, I am certain about one thing for sure. Without a doubt, Cory and I will become parents, one way or another. Though IVF or adoption or fostering, we will create a family. Our baby is out there, and I can’t wait to meet our little unicorn-pookins!
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Bio: Hi! I’m Kristen and this is my blog. Learn more about me here. You can also follow me on Instagram (@embraceyourunicorn) or in my Facebook group called, you guessed it, Embrace Your Unicorn!