Why am I talking about fertility on this blog? Well infertility has also featured in our journey to becoming parents. Our story is nothing compared to so many woman (and men) who have and continue to battle their way through the heartbreak of infertility and what it brings.
Our journey starts in 2007 when I was first diagnosed with a condition called ENDOMETRIOSIS.
I had suffered from this painful condition since I was a teenager. Doctors would fob me off saying how common it was for women to have painful periods and that my cycles would sort themselves out in a few years. That didn't happen. I was in agony and now I have had children and gone through labour I can honestly say the pain that women with endometriosis go through is not unlike contractions women have when giving birth. I would be curled up in the foetal position screaming in pain for at least 1-3 days per month. Being the researcher I am, of course I self diagnosed myself (and my identical twin sister) early on with this condition. However doctors weren't so sure because why would they believe a 16 year old? Both my sister and I were given many different pain medications to try, none of which worked and most had terrible side effects which were at times worse than the pain itself.
Finally at the age of 18 I got up the courage to demand a referral to a gynocologist. She listened to my story and immediately said it sounded like I had endometriosis. The relief at having someone acknowledge the pain I had been going through for years! She booked me in for a procedure called a
laparoscopy which is done while you are under a general anaesthetic. When I woke up she said she
couldn't find evidence of endometriosis, so I had something called dysmenorrhea - which basically means "painful periods" and gave me a script for strong pain killers. I remember being really disheartened as there had to be a reason why myself and my sister were crippled with pain each month. I mean, surely we couldn't just be two people who just had low pain thresholds? I knew that vomiting, fainting, back pain, IBS and contraction like pain wasn't normal!
Because my sister and I are identical she didn't have a laparoscopy performed by the same gynocologist because she said the chances were low that she would find it in her given we had similar symptoms.
Years later, my sister, sick of still suffering, saw a different gynocologist and one that came highly recommended. He performed a laparoscopy and found it and removed it! I knew that there was no way that her symptoms could be due to endo and mine due to "nothing" so got myself an appointment
with this fabulous gynocologist who would later become my obstetrician. During my laparoscopy he
found endometriosis on the outside of my uterus on both sides, and removed it.
The change was huge - both pain and symptom wise, and I can tell you it was very upsetting that it hadn't been found and dealt with years earlier.
This brings me to November 2007. After the removal of endometriosis we were advised that if we wanted children that we should not put it off for long, even though I was only 24 at the time. Endometriosis is commonly associated with infertility as can cause blockages and damage.
We waited a few months and proceeded to try to conceive (TTC). I always thought it would be endo that would create issues when conceiving but it wasn't to be the issue. I was quickly diagnosed with another and very common fertility problem - Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS affects approximately 1 in 5 women. Some will have no trouble falling pregnant and others will have great difficulty. I am lucky that my gynocologist is very proactive, after 6 months of TTC
and lots of tests it was clear I wasn't ovulating and when I was it was very irregular - not helpful when trying to have a baby! After lots of discussion we were told about the fertility drug "clomid", which would hopefully make my ovulate therefore giving me a much greater chance of conceiving!
Before starting this drug I needed to have a bloodtest to see where I was in my cycle. To our surprise we found out I was pregnant! We were overjoyed but that was short lived as I went on to suffer a missed miscarriage which resulted in a D&C at 10 weeks.
Months later as my PCOS was in full swing I started my first cycle of clomid. We were very fortunate that I fell the first cycle on it and 9 months later after a horrifically scary pregnancy that started off very similar to Ava's, Ella was born screaming! When we started TTC a sibling for Ella I told myself I wasn't going to stress myself out again, but it's hard when you have a 3 month cycle with no hope of conceiving and can see the months stretching out before you, where a fertile person will have at least
12 cycles in a year, I was only having a couple and some of those were annovulatory anyway. I saw my gynocologist after about 5 months and started clomid and conceived on the 2nd cycle with a higher dosage. 9 months later with a much smoother pregnancy thought not without its scares, Oliver was born!
We knew (well I knew, my husband may have needed some more convincing) that our family wasn't complete. My PCOS was quite out of control for awhile making weight loss extremely difficult, but once I was put on the right pill it began falling off with exercise. It was also at this time that after having some tests done it was thought by doctors that I was possibly about to start early menopause - scary when your only in your 20's! My egg reserve was very low and hormones out of control. After more tests and talking to my specialist it was recommended that if there were to be any more babies now was the time we needed to try and make it happen, so try we did! Clomid was used month after month, dosages put higher and still no success, we were referred on to a fertility specialist for more help, had needles added to the clomid cycles (pregnyl) and tried some more. We were on the last cycle that the fertility specialist would allow before taking a break for more invasive tests to be done when I fell pregnant with Ava - on a cycle that was looking extremely bleak with hormones not cooperating and a second lot of clomid added in later in the cycle.
I remember feeling so glad that our journey with infertility was over now I was pregnant with our 3rd child. I wanted to put that all behind us.
When you are staring down the barrel of two different conditions (endo and PCOS) both of which cause fertility issues and then also given the label of unexplained infertility later on, it can take the joy out of making babies! We are incredibly fortunate to be able to access incredible specialists and the associated costs that come with fertility treatment. My fertility is just another part of our story, our journey to creating our very much wanted family which I even spoke about at our wedding 10 years ago in my vows.
My heart goes out to women who are childless, and not through choice. The loss that they feel is huge and should not be underestimated. I won't even to pretend to understand their pain. My journey pales into insignificance when next to these courageous women and the decisions that they must make and face.
I've had people say " why try so hard? You obviously weren't meant to have babies, just be thankful for the ones you have".
1. Easy for them to say.
2. They are so worth it.
This is the longest post I have ever written, and deeply personal. However, if it helps encourage someone else to continue to push for answers, or ask for treatment then it will be worth it.
Ella Georgia was worth it.
Oliver Noah was worth it.
Ava Grace was definitely worth it.
I prayed for this child and the lord has granted me what I asked of him. 1 Samuel 1:27 (NIV)
#fertilityweek #breakingthesilence #endometriosis #pcos