You may already be familiar with the abridged version of our TTC Timeline which you can access here. I keep it pretty up to date and when I finally filled in the results of our last cycle, I realized how long the thing was getting. I thought it may not be a bad idea to do a detailed version of our timeline for anyone wondering or just for my own records & recollection. Why I want to recall any of this is beyond me, but for whatever reason, I decided to spell it all out.
Joe and I were married on September 24, 2011. I remember we talked about having kids right away and on our honeymoon I remember my period was late & I thought I might be pregnant already (jokes on me)! I had NO IDEA what was in store for us when it came to baby making. I started off by charting my cycles, I tried to temp, but it wasn’t working out so I quickly started using ovulation predictors within just a few months of us trying. I had been off the Nuva Ring since June so I wasn’t really worried about any residual birth control in my system.
We had been trying for about 7 months when, on April 1st 2012 we got into a bad motorcycle accident that left me with 5 broken bones in my leg, a major reconstructive knee surgery, & 8 months of physical therapy. It was really hard to try naturally because my leg was broken and partially immobile for many months, but we kept at it as much as we could. In August I had my annual exam and I told my gyno that we had been trying for just under a year at that time. She suggested that the trauma from our accident could be the culprit, but also said that we could do some general bloodwork to make sure that I was ovulating and all of my levels were where they should be. In November of 2012 I had the blood work done and all came back clear & normal. Joe did his first semen analysis (normal) that December and by January 2013 I was having my first HSG. My tubes were clear and I was happy and thought maybe that was all we needed.
By this time we had been trying naturally on & off for about 14 months. We tried again for about 6 months and by the time summer ended it was once again, time for my annual exam. By this time we had been trying for nearly 2 years. My doctor is a midwife so she was unable to prescribe me anything but had me make an appointment with one of the OBGYNs in the office. I never had such a terrible appointment as I did with her. She asked me why I was there and I told her we had been trying for 2 years and I thought maybe I needed to be put on Clomid. She looked at my charts and said, you’re ovulating so why would I put you on Clomid? I was so mad at her tone & her attitude, she asked me what infertility doctor I wanted to go to and I told her just to send me to the one that they normally use.
We had our first RE appointment in October of 2013 and 2 weeks later I had my first laparoscopy where they found very minimal (Stage I/II) endometriosis which they cauterized. We did our first IUI with Clomid in November 2013 a few weeks later which resulted in a BFN. We immediately jumped into a second IUI cycle but we used injectables instead. I ended up pregnant but it resulted in a chemical pregnancy (another word for early miscarriage) after 2 positive betas in early January 2014. We really wanted to try a 3rd IUI but even the lowest doses of the follicle stimulating hormone was making my body produce way too many follicles & we had to cancel twice, by this time it was April 2014. Typically for an IUI you only want 1 or 2 good size follicles, I was getting 18-20 so they suggested we move forward with IVF.
Because my clinic did IVF cycles in 8 week batches I had to wait about 90 days to have my first IVF cycle. In early July we started our cycle and we had 34 eggs retrieved, 21 fertilize, and 7 make it to day-5 blastocysts. We did 1 fresh transfer resulting in a BFN and 2 subsequent frozen transfers both resulting in BFN. With each cycle we transferred only 1 embryo.
By this time it was end of November 2014 and we were exhausted and heart broken by all that we had been through at that point. We took a break, regrouped, went on a mini-getaway, and came up with a new plan. We met our new doctor, Dr. Loret de Mola at Southern Illinois University in Springfield on January 20th, 2015 I had an endometrial biopsy and a hysteroscopy in early March. The results of my biopsy showed I was missing Beta 3 Integrin Protein which some doctors believe aids in embryo implantation. Because of this I had to be on a six week protocol of progestin so I was not able to do a cycle until July of 2014. Once again we waited months to have a cycle. This doctor put me on much lower doses of FSH because we figured my first doctor had way over stimulated me based on the fact that I had 34 eggs retrieved. Our new doctor wanted to see only 10-15 eggs. I was on the lowest does of FSH 50iu and the lowest dose of Menopur 75iu. I only ended up with 10 eggs retrieved and only 5 of them were mature. Only 2 had fertilized and we ended up transferring on day 3.
We were shocked by the differences in our cycles, but we thought maybe this would be just what we needed. Our cycle ended in BFN and we had no embryos to freeze. The doctor had us come in and he told us he believed that my egg quality was bad and that we should start thinking about donor eggs. He said that our embryos had a lot of fragmentation and there was a dark circle around my eggs which indicated poor quality. I couldn’t believe it. I was sooo heartbroken. He told us we could continue to cycle with him with our own eggs but he would not change anything about my protocol. Joe and I decided to stay as optimistic as we could, take another little break, and go back to our first clinic where we had frozen embryos. We weren’t ready to give up on my eggs or our embryos yet.
In September I decided to have a consultation with Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine. We were prepping for our FET, but I wanted to be proactive in our treatment plan so I made an appointment. I spoke to a doctor there that said she didn’t feel there was much of a concern about my egg quality. She said that they would do an antagonist protocol (which I had always done) followed by CCS or PGS testing of our embryos. Unfortunately at $21,000 a cycle due up front, we were not able to go down this road, but I was happy that egg quality didn’t sound like a concern to a doctor at one of the most world-renowned clinics.
We had our 3rd FET on October 29th, 2015 we transferred 2 of the 4 frozen embryos we had left with our first clinic. I was very optimistic that one of these two would implant. We were due for it; we had been through so much and had never even had a tiny glimpse of a pregnancy since December of ’13. Unfortunately, that cycle also ended in BFN. While we were in the 2WW we had made an appointment with another doctor that my SIL had used and who she had been successful with in Gurnee at Advanced Fertility Centers of Chicago, Dr. Sherbahn.
On November 11th, 2015 we met with Dr. Sherbahn who was also not concerned about my egg quality. He gave us some really good looking numbers & we decided to move forward with a cycle with his clinic & we decided we really wanted PGS on our embryos. We started stims right away and on December 12th, 2015 we had 16 eggs retrieved, 11 of which fertilized. We were very hopeful that 6-7 of the 11 would make it to day 6 for PGS testing. On day 5 we received a call that NONE of our 11 fertilized embryos had even made it to blastocysts. We decided to drop everything and drive to Gurnee that day and transfer 2 of the 7 that had progressed. They continued to let the other 5 grow, but none of them made it far enough to be PGS tested. Although we ended up with a positive beta, it was low and it never did double. We experienced our 2nd chemical pregnancy, it was the farthest we’ve ever come in 6 cycles of IVF.
As you can see, this post is extremely detailed and long. The length of this post alone symbolizes (at least to me) the amount time and effort we have put into trying to have a baby. We have NEVER been given a clear diagnosis and were even told by one of our doctors that they cannot find anything wrong and that we shouldn’t even be sitting here in his office. We have retrieved a total of 60 eggs, 35 of which fertilized, 9 of which were transferred, and none of which have resulted in a live birth. There are no other tests that we can run that have enough research backing them to be worth running, and the one type of testing that we really want, our poor little embryos cannot get themselves to.
With everything that we have been through, with the time, money (thank god for insurance), effort, sacrifice, tears, and heartache we have given to this journey, I am content with not having an exact answer as to why. I decided to give up on the why because I don’t believe it’s important anymore and I know that finding an answer as to why we can’t naturally conceive a child is NOT the ultimate goal of this journey, having a baby is. Now we may be facing a new challenge, how do we bring our baby into this world in a way that we didn’t expect to?
When I think back to our WTF appointment this summer with Dr. Loret de Mola I remember how mad at him I was for suggesting that we choose donor eggs, and what he said to me about biology and how it means nothing because that child wouldn’t exist without the desire we have for it and how I would be sustaining it’s life by carrying the pregnancy and I realize that he really was right. I truly believe that this might be the path that comes next for us. It has been at the forefront of my heart and my mind not just lately, but since this summer when it was first suggested to us. I know we still have more to learn in a couple weeks when we follow up with Dr. Sherbahn, but I have already prepared myself from the news he could be delivering.
Even with all the hardships we have been through, we do have so much to be thankful for and we are so very blessed. I think Joe and I have shown nothing but true grit over these last 4 years of TTC. We have been as graceful as we can be in the face of infertility and we have not let it tear us apart, but make us stronger and more resilient. I know that together, he and I can beat this, even if it’s not the way that we expected. It may be one of the biggest challenges we face, but if we can survive a motorcycle accident and get through building a house together, then we can get through this! :-)