By blog contributor, Marie Biddle
Part 3: The Clinical
Why does the waiting room of a fertility clinic feel like the lobby to death’s door? No one looks at you directly. No one smiles. No happy laughter while looking through a magazine. Not even soothing elevator music to calm the nerves. I guess a place of heavy hearts, hope and disappointment keeps you looking down. It makes it feel more clinical, less human. “Is there a Shane or is it Shawn?” the nurse inquired. “Its Shann Marie actually,” I said.
What a great way to start our first appointment…they couldn’t even get my name right. A monkey could get Andy’s right. I wish they had led with his, but oh well. We walked back to the first hour of our 3-hour appointment. The first hour was to get our medical history and learn about the clinic. The second hour was taking bloodwork and waiting. The third hour was meeting with the doctor. The first two hours went by quickly and then back to the sullen waiting room to wait for the doctor. When we were escorted back to the doctor’s office, the first thing I noticed about his office was the fertility statues…everywhere! It was a little creepy, and hard not to laugh. Maybe he wanted us to rub them? Take one home as a momento of the day?
“Egg & Sperm”, courtesy Wellcome Images
We were to start the testing right away. I was to take Clomid immediately and the Hysterosalpinogram was scheduled for the next week. I was a little excited since I knew people who had gotten pregnant with twins by taking Clomid. I’d take triplets, twins…anything! A common side effect of taking Clomid is making one a little crazy in the head; luckily I couldn’t feel any of the effects. To this day, Andy still says differently.
The Clomid challenge proved fruitless. My FSH levels were high instead of normal or low, which proved that my ovarian reserve was diminished. In other words, my eggs were not good. The hysterosalpinogram (or as I liked to call it “shooting dye through a tube”) turned out fine. My fallopian tubes weren’t blocked and looked to be in good shape, despite the state of my eggs. Kudos to my fallopian tubes. At least something in me was still functioning in the fertility department.
Andy looked good all around. He just had to go into a locked room for 5 minutes. Test complete. His sperm were all healthy and in tip top shape waiting for an egg to fertilize, while my eggs were apparently too old and dusty to make their way down the tube.
The next test was the oddly dreaded post-coital test. I’ll spare you the details. However, I found it odd that the nurse called me so quickly at work after we left the office, “Um, is this Shane?”
“Its Shann Marie. I go by Marie,” I said annoyed. “Your test results came back (long pause) and they are very abnormal. There wasn’t one sperm left alive,” she explained. “What? Not one?!” I said shocked. “I’m really sorry. The Doctor wants to move straight to you having an Intrauterine Insemination.” With a quiver in my voice, I told her I would call her back. As I sat collecting myself I realized that my ability to make a baby the “normal” way was not a go. I’d hit a brick wall and it felt like I slammed into it going 100 mph.
The next few months turned into the same process over and over. Three times over to be exact. The doctors office became a revolving door. I was there at least once a day, checking my blood work to see if I was ovulating, timing out my cycle and handing them over yet another small chunk of our savings. $1500 a cycle. We would do the IUI and then wait two weeks and see if it worked. Our whole lives were on a calendar that no one knew the future of. We knew that an IUI cycle was just the gateway to having IVF done, so we prayed that we wouldn’t have to move forward with the big guns.
Image courtesy Malingering
I started to feel like a number on the appointment books, and just a vessel whose blood held the key to my ability to have a child. I felt like our doctor wasn’t that invested in “US.” I never saw him after our first appointment and only the nurses and I started to become concerned with his statistics as a fertility doctor.
When we finally decided that yes, we needed to have IVF done. We were told to wait until my next cycle, and on day 1 call and come in ASAP. We would start the fertility drugs to pump up my ovaries and sign our lives away for the following 3 weeks. The first check would cost about $7K, with no guarantees.
I headed for Utah for a little R&R with friends. I needed to bond with my girlfriends, hold their babies and discuss my impending IVF cycle. Andy needed his own time to gather his thoughts, make sure our financial future would be ok and to have a little “man time.” It was a good few days away for both of us. My cycle started while there, so I hurriedly got on the phone and called the clinic. I left message after message. No one responded. I cried as every day and minute ticked by; it was one more day away from getting pregnant. Two more days and no response from the nurse. I was done. They didn’t have our money and weren’t going to.
I had two friends during this time that were using another fertility doctor in the area and were having more success than I was. I quickly called his office, explained our situation and was told to come in the next day. We sat down with him and handed over our file. “Can you please fit us in this month? Please?” I begged in desperation. “Not a problem” he said. Luckily I was just at the right time in my cycle where we could still start the drugs and be on schedule for an retrieval just a few weeks away. The game had begun.
I did the same running from home to doctor for blood work and an ultrasound to see how those little follicles were looking. He increased my drugs little by little as my ovaries weren’t producing any more follicles than normal. Each day one new shot was added. Each day, I hoped the ultrasound would show a few new follicles but the sizes were never quite good enough and some not even there at all. Finally after almost 2 weeks of shots he told us,“I’ve set a bomb off in your ovaries and you are not responding. Let’s see if the retrieval proves successful.”
Retrieval day came. We were both nervous. Vocal and silent prayers were given. Andy went into a room with the nurse (OK, not like it sounds) to get the best sperm sample they could and I was put into a sound sleep for about 20 minutes.
As I came to in the recovery room I heard the woman next to me talking to the nurse, “I had 20 eggs this time?” I thought, “Maybe I had 20 eggs too and he was wrong!” The nurse parted my curtain and walked in. “How did it look; how many do I have??” I anxiously said. “You had 2, and one might not be viable,” she said quietly as she looked down. “Well, it only takes one,” I said through muffled tears.
Tip: Check out stats of potential fertility doctors and ask for a tour first!