Our Infertility Journey (1.12): Do men always get the easy infertility jobs???#GivingTuesday

My nerves were intense, evidenced by the slight tremor in my hands. Annoyed that I was letting myself show any signs of vulnerability, I shoved them under my thighs. I was tough. A needle into my ovaries couldn’t be that bad, right? So what if I would be awake! The Ativan and pain meds would take the edge off. They had assured me that anesthesia wasn’t necessary (nor was it an option).

How long would they make us wait? The clock hands seemed to be stuck in the same position that they had been in when we entered the waiting room. I wasn’t as nervous about the procedure as I was about the outcome. The unknown mocked me. I despised my inability to control ANYTHING. I couldn’t will my body to create more eggs, to respond more favorably to the stimulation medications, or to stop hyperstimulating. All that I could do was wait and hope for amazing news.Young woman stroking her belly becouse of bellyache

At least Dave was at my side today. Over the past several months his presence at my appointments had been hit or miss-most of the time miss. As a doctor in training he didn’t have the luxury of frequent time off. I understood, but I still hated it. I had to accept that we were not making a baby TOGETHER. I was making a baby with needles, doctors, nurses, labs, and countless medications. This was one more frustrating reality, added to my list of things that I was powerless to change.

His presence today was absolutely necessary. An egg without sperm is just an egg! The door opened and Dave’s name was called. It was time for his contribution. Back to the male suite he went to squirt into a cup once more. If only my role were that easy. I felt a twinge of jealously and anger but quickly willed myself to dismiss it. What good would a pity party do? No, I had to stay focused. I needed to be positive. But, in the midst of my positive thinking I still couldn’t dismiss the recurring thought that it wasn’t fair! Maybe he wasn’t propping his feet up all day long, but he certainly wasn’t feeling the full effect of infertility. relaxing

I was starting to feel groggy by the time that Dave returned to the waiting room…with an extra spring in his step. The Ativan was kicking in. The door opened again. It was my turn. Once in the procedure room the nurse told me to change into a gown and to remove everything except for my socks. Dave was given a blue paper jump suit and booties to put over his clothes. As I was stripping he was zipping up. The room was frigid. Icy. Sterile. I shivered as I covered my head with the blue surgical cap. My legs were shaking.Woman Having Eggs Removed As Part Of IVF Treatment

The nurse arrived to start my IV line. My first poke of the day felt like a tickle in comparison to what was to come. As I slipped my feet into the stirrups, I took a deep breath and braced myself for pain. My bladder was overly full and I couldn’t help thinking how horrible it would be to urinate all over the floor. The ultrasound smashing against my abdomen didn’t help the situation. I was about to celebrate as the abdominal ultrasound was removed, but before I could utter my thanks, the vaginal ultrasound probe appeared. This probe was unlike the others…equipped with a special needle that would poke through my vaginal wall, reach over to my ovaries, puncture each individual follicle, and then apply vacuum suction to remove the eggs. Great…a torturous version of the traditional vaginal ultrasound probe! I hadn’t thought it possible to dislike an ultrasound probe any more than I already did; my opinion quickly changed.

Each time suction was applied the tube was given to the embryology lab technician who then confirmed if an egg was present or not. If present, a number was called out, adding to the tally. I felt like a contestant on The Price is Right. I kept guessing how many eggs we would get. I held my breath with each needle poke. My heart sank each time our count stayed the same. Would we have enough? Would they fertilize? I squeezed Dave’s hand and asked for more pain medication. The procedure was painful…if I hadn’t mentioned that. I felt every needle poke. The pain meds took the edge off, but puncturing the follicles located along the wall of the ovary definitely hurt the most. I held my breath, clenched my jaw, and prayed for it to be over quickly.Nurse Aiding Egg Retrieval Proceedure In Theatre

The narcotics running through my IV made my head and my body feel sluggish and heavy. I forced myself to listen for the final count…9 or 10. Not huge, but still good! We were done. I tried to wiggle over to the recovery gurney, but my body was too heavy, weighted down by the narcotics and Ativan. I couldn’t talk. Opening my mouth took too much effort. I felt myself being lifted and then wheeled down a hallway toward recovery.

Eight hours later I awoke, sore and nauseated. The narcotics had knocked me out, changing what should have been a 1-2 hour recovery time into a day long stay. As I slowly opened my eyes, I found that I was alone. I looked for a balloon, flowers, a card. Nothing! It may sound silly, but I had specifically told Dave that I wanted a giant balloon at my bedside. I’m not sure why it was so important to me, but it was. Other than his presence and some sperm, it was the only thing that I had asked of him for the retrieval. He had forgotten.Crying woman

Actually, he had gone back to work after I made it to the recovery area. Yes, I had been asleep, but I still wanted his presence at my side. Instead, I was surrounded by an overwhelming sense of aloneness. It was only a few minutes before Dave walked through the door. The first thing out of my mouth was, “Where is my balloon?!?!” I was livid. After everything that I had been through, I wanted some extra compassion and gratitude, something to say, “Thank you for everything that you are doing to get us pregnant.”

Dave really is a considerate and amazing husband, but even he will say that he fell short on this occasion. He left my bedside once again, but this time he returned with a giant monkey balloon, a children’s book, and a matching stuffed animal. The name of the book was, “I Love Monkey”. It was the silliest looking monkey I had ever seen with a flat face, the tiniest feet, and little striped socks. When he said that he had bought it for our baby to be, I couldn’t help but smile and forgive him. While his infertility role was not as physically or even emotionally challenging as mine, living with a wife pumped up with hormone injections was probably not the easiest job either. He too was learning as he went.Sad woman is talking to the phone in bad, in home.

I was back to work the next day; feeling very sore but hopeful. We were in the process of making beautiful embryos! We waited expectantly for the phone to ring. How many embryos would we have? What would their quality be? We waited and we waited. Finally, the call came.



Our Infertility Journey (1.2): Another Bump in an Already Bumpy Road

dating and relationships concept - stressed man with man outsideAfter a thrilling day working in the dermatology clinic looking at skin cancer and warts, I checked my phone for missed messages. A text from Dave simply said, “Call me when you get a chance.” So, being the loving wife that I was, I gave him a call…5 hours after he had sent the text! Dave’s phone went straight to voicemail, but I didn’t have to wait long to find out where he was. My phone rang. It was the Emergency Room.

Dave quickly calmed my panicked state of mind by letting me know that he wasn’t dying, but he then sheepishly informed me that he had seriously injured himself that morning. No, not to worry, he didn’t damage his male parts (Although, that would make this story even more intriguing). No, he had ruptured his pectoralis major tendon, the tendon that attaches your chest muscle to your arm. He had been doing declined bench presses in the gym during a quick break from rounding on patients in the morning. In the middle of his set, something popped, electricity tore through his arm, and his weights came crashing down. Sadly, the tear was so complete that he was able to diagnose himself by simply feeling that the muscle was no longer attached. He now had a case of “saggy boob syndrome.”

You may wonder why this had any impact on our fertility or why I should even include this in the story. Well, now our primary medical focus was no longer on infertility but on his shoulder. After a stat MRI confirming his injury, Dave was scheduled for surgery to reattached the muscle to the bone with bone anchors. It was a grueling recovery. He was in an immobilizing arm splint for six weeks and was only allowed to lift something as light as paper and pencil for three months. The recovery included hours of physical therapy and hours waiting in the ortho office. Because his dominant arm had been damaged, he was unable to do most things for himself for quite a few weeks (I even remember changing the tire on my car while he watched.)Honeymoon couple romantic in love at beach sunset. Newlywed happ

Needless to say, trying to make a baby is a little tricky when you aren’t supposed to move your upper body… at all…and you are in a fun arm contraption that starts to have a lovely aroma after just a few days. So, baby making efforts were pushed to the back burner. Months later, with his arm finally on the mend, Dave decided he was ready for surgery number 2…his varicocele. After all that he had been through, this surgery now seemed minor. The operation went smoothly, but we had to wait another three months before we could repeat the semenalysis. We held onto the hope that Dave’s sperm counts would top the charts. But, instead of chart topping numbers, the count was at an all-time low.

dating and relationships concept - stressed woman with man outsiI felt defeated. Our chances of getting pregnant on our own were now next to none. It was my turn to become the infertility patient, and the thought turned my stomach. The fear of the unknown crept over me. Would I ever be a mother? What would it take, and how much was I willing to give?

From The Mom in Me, MD



Our Infertility Journey (1.1): Who’s to “Blame”

A man and a woman on a pierCrumpled up in a ball on the sofa, I stared at the television with heavy eyes. I was exhausted, but I had that strange high that sleep deprivation brings. Although I had been up for 36 hours, my adrenaline high had yet to fully fade. I had delivered several babies, coded a patient in the intensive care unit, and admitted over 20 patients overnight. I could never go right to bed when I made it home. My body longed for sleep, but my mind wanted just a few minutes to unwind. My usual routine on post-call days was to hit the sofa for an hour of mindless TV before trudging up to bed.

Lately I had been following the reality television show, Giuliana & Bill. On this particular post-call day, the show revealed that G&B’s only option for having their own child was to pursue In Vitro Fertilization. My heart sank for them, and then I thought of myself. What if that was our only option? What if we really couldn’t get pregnant on our own after all? I tried to shake the fear. I dismissed it as emotional irrationality from exhaustion. But, the next morning after a good night’s sleep, that same sickening feeling lingered in my stomach. What if?

My husband is an eternal optimist. I love him to death, but sometimes he doesn’t just see the glass half full, he believes that it’s overflowing! When he started to question if something was wrong with our ability to conceive, I knew that the sick feeling in my stomach was more than just paranoia. It was time to get some answers.Three Hands Pointing

Dave had been diagnosed with a varicocele in college. Many men have these harmless dilatations in the blood vessels in their groin, and they are usually nothing to worry about. In general, they don’t lead to infertility if they are small, but larger varicoceles can potentially heat up the testicle, leading to damaged sperm. Countless hours of standing in the operating room with gravity as his enemy had caused Dave’s varicocele to become rather large and uncomfortable. Because this was the most obvious issue contributing to our baby making struggles, he decided it was time to get it reevaluated. Part of this evaluation included a semen evaluation.

This was Dave’s first journey into the uncomfortable world of infertility. Our medical center had one small room for sperm collection (aka male masturbation station). The idea just seemed dirty, but it guaranteed the most accurate specimen. After uncomfortably waiting his turn for the room and accomplishing his mission, Dave transported his own sample to the lab where his swimmers were scrutinized for quantity, quality, and movement. Now we waited.

I remember Dave’s voice of concern laced with optimism when he called me with the results. His genetic components were great, his sperm movement was great, but…his count was incredibly low. I tried to sound positive, masking my dismay. I didn’t want him to feel worse than I knew he already did, but the sickening feeling in my stomach was so strong that it made me want to throw up. Something was wrong! Although my mind was racing in a million different directions, I managed to ask, “So, what now?”unhappy heterosexual couple

The plan was to repeat the count just to make sure that it wasn’t a lab error. When the repeat number was worse than the first, I was devastated but optimistic at the same time. Varicoceles could be surgically corrected! And, the urologist told us that we could still get pregnant on our own; It would just be more difficult. We decided that surgery was worth a try, and we didn’t want to waste any time. But, before we could schedule the operation, I received a call from the emergency room that changed everything!

From The Mom in Me, MD