“It wasn’t until I had to talk about everything I had been through out loud that reality set in. I questioned my faith, I was SO angry with God, and was tired of always coming up short. I was frustrated about my rapid weight gain, though I didn’t do anything differently than when I weighed 80-100 pounds less, aside from getting older. I felt angry, Iost and confused, and that my trials made no sense. It didn’t dawn on me until after I found out we were expecting and started sharing that this does happen, it’s not rare and I am not alone. Secondary infertility is real!
My first pregnancy I was a 24-year-old mama. That was 2009.
Seven months after delivery, I was expecting again. That resulted in an early second trimester loss. It was brutal. I got up to use the restroom because I was cramping horribly. I was bleeding but it wasn’t bad. I thought I could go back to sleep and sleep it off. Not the case. I was home alone with a 10-month-old baby. It was New Year’s Eve, going into 2010. I called 911. I said to the operator, ‘I am miscarrying, alone, I have a 10-month-old baby in the house. The front door is unlocked, the dog is behind the gate and I am upstairs, in the last door on the right. Please send help. If I stop talking, I am about to black out or I will die as I am losing a lot of blood rapidly. Please hurry.’ I don’t remember speaking to her after that. Paramedics arrived, and I was transported to the hospital. I bled so badly they could not examine me and rushed me to emergency surgery where I had a D&C and blood transfusions. I thought I would lose my life that night as I lost so much blood and was suffering seizures.
I wanted to see no one. Not even the pastor my parents sent to see me in the hospital. No one. I was bitter, confused and enraged. My husband (fiancé at the time) was not able to be there.
The loss, pain, self-blame, guilt and brokenness from that pregnancy, resulted in not wanting to try again for 3 years. I was afraid of a repeat or worse.
Along came another pregnancy and baby girl, in March of 2013. It was four years and four days after my first live birth. It was easy to get pregnant and an easy pregnancy.
We had discussed the possibility and desire for another child 2-3 years from then. Here comes the struggle.
My husband and I were 50/50 about expanding our family. I knew if I wanted this, I had go get healthy and prepare my body as best as possible. I noticed I had rapidly and steadily started to gain weight. I’m not saying 3-5 pounds per month. I’m talking double digit rapid weight gain. And in my mid-section. And no matter what I did to rid of it, I kept packing it on. Something wasn’t right. I expressed my concerns to my PCP and got the standard, ‘You are young. You are fine. Just eat correctly and exercise more. You’ll be fine. Your labs came back normal,’ etc. Except, I wasn’t fine! I know my body, and it wasn’t fine. I couldn’t stand the image peering back at me. The lack of energy I was experiencing. The anxiety and depression I felt. I would still receive the kind compliments and the ‘You’re beautiful. You are not fat,’ words of encouragement from my friends. They told me to love myself and that I’m my own worst critic and to knock it off. And I love them for that.
First, I started with the Mirena IUD removal, which I still attribute to my cysts and problems. That was 2015. I switched to Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo to ‘regulate’ my cycles. From there, I started taking the prescribed weight loss medications. You know, the Phentermine, Belviq, Contrave, Qsymia. I stopped the Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo in 2016. I was tired of the hormones and just wanted to be ‘normal.’ I argued something was wrong for 16 long agonizing months!
I started noticing that my 28-day cycle wasn’t so regular. Each month I was waiting longer and longer. And then I was going 3 months or more. But sometimes I didn’t notice as I was a busy wife and mother. I attributed it to stress and the weight gain to being spoiled by some awesome people that bring treats to work and cater our lunches.
I expressed my concerns to my OB whom finally after some push from me, proceeded with labs. This was summer 2017. Also, a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist for amenorrhea (absence of menstruation). Usually, its 35 years and younger you actively try for a year. 35 years and older you actively try to 6 months. Well, I’m persistent, annoying and refused to take that for an answer.
I knew the problem was me and not my husband, as we have two older children together. I was excited to finally get answers, but anxious for the diagnosis. What if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear? Something I couldn’t easily fix? What if I was broken and couldn’t be fixed? Then I was angry with myself for getting angry when I was already blessed with two beautiful children. And I was demanding more? Was I being selfish? So many struggle to conceive the first time and here I am, wallowing in my self-pity. Was it ok to feel this way? What should I be feeling? How far do I push this issue for a resolution? When is it enough, and too far, and to just accept what is? That it may not be meant to be.
Finally, the day came for my appointment. It was July 2017. I sat there with my husband across from the Reproductive Endocrinologist. And he said 4 letters I did not expect to hear… PCOS. You have secondary infertility. Wait… what!? Then of course the ‘why, how, where, what caused it, how do I fix it, and how long have I had it’ all flooded my mind. My other two pregnancies were so easy. My cycles always normal. What do you mean? Are you absolutely, undeniably sure!? I just wanted to be back to normal. I left that day with a plan and medications to get back to ‘normal.’ Lab orders to have done and contact provider with results. I was put on Metformin 1000 daily. Let’s just say, no one warned me to take with food and I spent the first 2 days with intestinal cramps sleeping on the bathroom floor. I felt so dehydrated and like death. The flu was more forgiving! Along with this, I was taking Femara 7.5mcg cycle days 2-5. All this to help the cysts and ovulate.
Well, I hadn’t responded as well as they had hoped in the allotted time frame. The medications to cycle didn’t work. They introduced Provera for ovulation. Most women start within 7-10 days or less of completing this medication. Unfortunately for me, that didn’t work either.
Time to come back in for injectables. This was September 2017. I would need to move onto FSH injections as I have not ovulated on the maximum dose of letrozole. I was scheduled to start Gonal-F (trigger shots) and do what they call TI (timed intercourse). I would do the same process and medications as a couple doing IUI/IVF without the procedure at this time. Only, we knew I was able to get pregnant, we were just having more difficulty with conception this time.
Then came the fear of how far in a financial hole would we become? How many cycles are too many before we take a break or give up? Our insurance only covers so much. How will we make this desire to become normal and parents in the process, affordable?
Prior to starting these, and with my career background and knowledge (I’m a certified medical assistant in an internal medicine and multi-specialty clinic), I decided to take a test to ensure I didn’t in fact ovulate, and wasn’t miraculously pregnant.
This was October 24, 2017.
To my surprise, the medication to start a cycle did in fact work, despite the desired range levels and lab results saying failed cycle. And bonus… I was indeed expecting!? We took my labs too soon and I ovulated outside of the normal cycle window. They were creating and regulating my cycle to that of a regular 28 day.
I just wanted to be ‘normal.’ Another baby, though a welcomed blessing and burning desire, was not in the forefront of my healthcare plan that soon. I didn’t think it was a realistic expectation after so long. What a true surprise and welcomed blessing.
I was shocked! Excited and elated. Then that turned to fear. I had taken oral medications to ovulate. What if those impacted my baby and pregnancy in a negative way? What if it was another loss, or worse… a baby that delivered to term but poor quality of life? My RE assured me I would be fine and the medications will actually help sustain the pregnancy.
This meant many appointments with maternal fetal medicine. From my first scan, to diagnosis with PCOS and starting this process, I had a large ovarian cyst measuring the size of a golf ball. They had discussed removal, but ultimately this was scrubbed due to pregnancy and being measured incorrectly. And it was shrinking.
We went to date the pregnancy and to my shock this is what I saw with abdominal ultrasound — a 9 week, 4 day old fetus. Due date June 28, 2018.
At 22 weeks, we were headed out to dinner in Wilmington, North Carolina. On our way to our destination, we were hit by a vehicle that had attempted to cut through 3 lanes of traffic to reach the bank ATM parking lot beside us. They never looked and never saw our vehicle. Thankfully, after a long night of observation, we were all ok. My baby is a fighter! Fought to be here and fought to stay.
We are ones who are very in tune with signs. My husband went to get dinner in town, and overheard a couple talking about baby names. They said, ‘You know what would be a cute name?’ and stated my son’s name. My husband claims this is how he knew all would be well from here on out. It was his sign.
April 8th, around 30 weeks, we announced to our friends and family the gender of our baby.
He is here, he is beautiful and oh so loved! He was born June 9, 2018, at 7 pounds 15 ounces, completely healthy. Elated and relieved were an understatement to the feeling in the room that day.
We are now a happy, thriving family of 5. I am still in awe to say those words. I never thought I would get to say those words aloud. I just stare in pure amazement at my children. My heart is so full.
Throughout my journey I gained more friends and patience, renewed my faith and trust, and what a greater blessing than God and a baby?! That, I believe, was God’s plan. That his child had strayed from the path and needed to trust and believe again and find her way home. That I needed to be a testimony of hope and faith, and share a message of hope, perseverance and humility along the way. Hope has a way of sneaking through the cracks into our heart. Let faith be that guiding light!
And when I pray for me, I pray for you too! May you be blessed!”
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