After a year of messed up periods following the loss of our third pregnancy, I finally decided I wanted answers. Thanks to quarantine, I was able to go to the midwife on my lunch hour and figure out why the hell my body wasn’t working right. At the beginning of self-isolation, I began walking every day because I was out of shape and wanted my body to get stronger. I wasn’t focusing on diet at all, but I did decided I wanted to start running again. I set the goal of running of a 5k for my 30th birthday at Disney World, so I started training. When I went to the midwife I was pleased I’d managed to already lose some weight and was feeling better. My wonderful midwife, Dee, wanted to run a battery of tests to check for PCOS again, my vitamin D levels since I’d been taking the prescribed vitamin D for a few months, as well as thyroid issues.
She called me with the results two days later…I was officially diagnosed with PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome). My male androgens were all within the normal ranges, no sign of insulin resistance (yay!), thyroid was great (Double yay! Though I’ll continue to be monitored closely for this due to a family history.), and my vitamin D was the best it’s ever been. However, my AMH was sky high while my LH was low and my cholesterol was high. The AMH shows ovarian reserve, or how many eggs you have left in the bank. Women with PCOS have very high AMH typically and low levels of LH (the hormone that causes you to ovulate). High cholesterol is also a little known symptom of PCOS, a lot of women with the disease also struggle with cholesterol no matter what they eat or do. And my low vitamin D? Also a symptom of PCOS.
Dee wanted me to come in for an ultrasound to check my ovaries for cysts (eggs that prepared for ovulation but never released) so they could officially put PCOS on my record and move forward. I went the next week and I did indeed have ovarian cysts chilling out in there. I was diagnosed with “hidden” PCOS, meaning the form I have is relatively mild compared to others. I don’t have the excess facial or body hair, I do have some slight scalp hair thinning but not bad, I can lose weight pretty well if I exercise and watch what I eat, I don’t have insulin resistance, and my male hormone levels are normal. I also had managed to get pregnant naturally three times with no interventions. Our next step was a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE).
My husband and I sat and talked about my diagnosis and what it meant for our fertility journey. We agreed that we would do whatever it takes, a line Captain America says in one of the Marvel movies. That became our mantra and, every time we hit another roadblock or new issue, we’d say “whatever it takes”. So, off I went to meet with the RE. He was on top of it and came in with a plan for us to jump straight into IUI cycles (Inter-Uterine Insemination…think high-tech turkey baster) with medication. The plan was I would wait for my period to come, call their office on the first day or first business day afterward, take Clomid (an ovulation inducing drug) days 3-7 of my cycle, come in for an ultrasound to check for follicle growth cycle days 10-12, do an HcG trigger shot 36 hours before the IUI was scheduled to take place, then show up the day of where my husband would do his part then I’d get into the stirrups and be inseminated. Sounds easy, right?
Wrong. My period wouldn’t show, so I had to take progesterone for 10 days to jumpstart it and it showed on day 9. Then we could finally begin! The Clomid wasn’t mad, I was a little moodier than usual but I didn’t have the crazy side-effects some people have. Then came the injection. I don’t like needles. I won’t watch them stick me to take blood and I hate shots but do them because I have to. Because of my control issues, I was not about to let anyone give the injection to me other than a registered nurse. Those are in short supply at my house, however, so that only left me. The ultrasound had revealed two follicles, one on each ovary, and had to do my shot between 4 and 8pm on a Wednesday. My husband was at work and I was insanely nervous. I called my best friend, iced the injection sight (my upper thigh) for 30 minutes, then put on “Wait for It” from Hamilton and prepared my supplies. I washed my hands thoroughly, swabbed the area with alcohol and let it dry fully without blowing on it, and prepared the injection by flicking it then squeezing the air bubbles out. I was ready. With my best friend on FaceTime to make sure I didn’t die, I waited for the chorus of the song and went for it. The needle was all the way in and…I didn’t feel it at all. I quickly injected and pulled the needle back out. Done. It was done. I was shaking but I felt like such a badass! I recapped the needle, labeled it with #1 and the date, then put it into my sharps container (a mason jar with a lid). Our IUI was 36 hours later and it wasn’t bad at all. Felt like a pap smear and was over very quickly. I was a little crampy afterward, so we laid in bed with movies and had pizza for lunch.
IUI didn’t work. I got my period exactly 2 weeks after our procedure and I was gutted. But I had to keep moving forward, so I called the RE’s office and prepared to start the entire process over again. Our RE had said I would definitely get pregnant with my history and once my PCOS was being managed, but he did say it could take up to 3 cycles. This time, I only had one follicle on my right ovary when I went in for my ultrasound. It was a bigger follicle than either of the two the cycle before, but I only had one. I was a little disappointed by kept telling myself it only takes one. I had named my ovaries during the first cycle and Rory (right ovary) got a “good job!” while Lory (left ovary) got a “you’ll get ’em next time”. That made the RE chuckle and I’m still proud of that to this day. The day of the IUI, my husband had the best sperm count ever: 146 million AFTER WASH!!!!! The morning was a total cluster. They hadn’t told us we weren’t in the same office as our first IUI, so we had to race across town to the hospital office which pushed everything back almost an hour. When we finally got into the room for my part, the intern who was doing the procedure couldn’t get the catheter through my cervix and kept jabbing it for a few minutes. This felt about as pleasant as you would expect. Finally, the RE told her to stop and did it himself. He jammed the catheter through my cervix, injected, then was out in under a minute. I yipped and told him as he was leaving “no offense, but I really hope we don’t have to see you again”. No worries, he didn’t take offense because that was not the first time a woman has said that to him. I cried as soon as the door closed because it had hurt. My husband was shocked because I had been so tough up until this part, but he had also known something was up when I kept grimacing and breathing through the pain. We went home to do our ritual of movies in bed and pizza and I truly thought we’d be back again the next month.
Almost two weeks later, I was starting to feel a little weird. My breasts were so tender the shower and sudden movements hurt, my dreams were insanely vivid, my nose was stuffy, and I was getting tired really easily. I was determined I would not take a test until exactly 2 weeks after the IUI, but the symptoms were too strong to ignore so I decided to take one right before my husband had to go to work and not tell him if it was negative. It was 3 days before my period was due which I knew was a little early to test. I peed in my testing cup (y’all know you’ve been in the trying to conceive/infertility game too long when you have a dedicated testing cup for urine) and dipped a First Response Early Results test in. As soon as I sat it on the counter something weird happened…I saw the test line pop up almost before the control line. There were two lines. Two. Lines. I had a positive pregnancy test!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I ran out of the bathroom and yelled for my husband who came running. I showed him the test and we both started crying. We’d done it; I was pregnant again after a year of nothing. I immediately called the midwife for a blood test and the RE’s office to let them know. Our first blood draw was 75 and our second four days later was 431. The pregnancy was viable!! They scheduled us for our first ultrasound on September 21st when I’d be 8 weeks and 3 days along. The day of the ultrasound, I didn’t sleep the night before and I had a big panic attack around 6am because I was sure it was all ending that day. Our first two losses were missed miscarriages where there were no signs of miscarriage, but an ultrasound revealed no heartbeat (12 weeks for Sayre and 8 weeks for Aurora).
We went into the ultrasound room at my midwife’s office and I refused to look at the screen, I was so afraid it was going to be bad news. Then the ultrasound tech said “There’s baby! And there’s baby’s heart fluttering away!” My head has never jerked to look at anything so fast before in my life. There was our baby in profile with a little light flickering away. Our baby was alive and had a heartbeat. We both cried, yet again. The tech was wonderful and kept playing the heartbeat for us so we could record it. Coming in at 170 beats per minute and measuring at exactly 8 weeks 3 days, our baby was textbook perfect. I’d had some brown spotting at 6 weeks and on and off the week leading up to the ultrasound, but they couldn’t find anything wrong with the baby that would be causing that. Probably old blood from having my cervix jabbed repeatedly during the IUI just now working its way out.
And now here I am, almost 9 weeks pregnant with a baby with a strong beating heart. I feel nauseous on and off throughout the day, really tired, have insanely vivid dreams, food aversions are becoming a thing, and I crave ramen noodles. Now we just have to get through our 12 week appointment. But I’m trying to focus on every day as it comes, way easier said than done for me. For now, my baby is alive and we’re okay.