Infertility: #FliptheScript on A Series of Unfortunate Events
Written by Tamikia (USA)
I come from a pretty large family. My mother had six kids, her mother had six kids, her sister had seven kids. My father’s brother had 14 kids with his wife! All of my older siblings, except the oldest, have children. Rumor has it, my grandmother (on my mom’s side) managed to get pregnant at 54. She didn’t give birth, but still, she got pregnant at 54! I knew growing up that I came from a very long line of Fertile Myrtles. Most, if not all, of these women were technically obese before getting pregnant and I found out later that the uterine health on my mother’s side wasn’t so great.
I feel like I did everything right. I was responsible while dating and in relationships. I went to school, I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, started my chosen career, and later completed my Master’s Degree in Software Engineering. I always wanted to be married and, unfortunately, only fell in love once with someone who at the end of it all decided he wanted to marry someone else. So, I waited patiently to have someone introduced into my life with whom I could find love.
Around the end of 2006, I received a pelvic ultrasound due to complaints of painful periods. I was found to have two polyps outside the opening to my left fallopian tube and a perceived 4cm pedunculated fibroid. It was on the outside of my uterus so the only way to get to it would be through abdominal incision. It wasn’t causing any issues, so it was left alone. However, my research told me to keep an eye on it’s growth. If it grew too quickly, that could be a sign of cancer. The polyps were removed via hysteroscopy. It was after this diagnosis that I found out that most of the women on my mother’s side of the family has had uterine fibroids/polyps and/or ovarian cysts.
Fast forward to 2010, a year in which I was at odds with my management at work. My cat of 16 years passed away of renal failure, my grand-aunt passed away the day after, and a month and a half after that I was informed that my sister was murdered. Spending two weeks in Philadelphia (where I’m from) trying to be involved in the final arrangements, managing witnesses for the investigators, not getting information from the informed family members, while strangers on the street received quicker answers, and having to leave the house to de-escalate a verbal altercation I had with my sister that almost became physical, this only scratches the surface of the level of stress and drama. Returning home to Florida (where I live now), alone, to my now one cat and no significant other, I’m left to grieve on my own with no shoulder. I fell into a depression with extreme insomnia. It was starting to affect me at work and I decided that I needed to take a personal leave of absence. Well that poor relationship I had with management only exacerbated the issues and I finally ended up out on a 12 week medical leave. On my sixth day of leave, only about three months after learning of my sister’s death, my grandmother passes. THIS is where my story of infertility begins.
The events leading up to and including my grandmother’s death put a great deal of stress on me. So much stress that I didn’t even realize that my cycle was a month and a half late. I had to travel to North Carolina for my grandmother’s funeral and my cycle started right before I left. It was unusually heavy, so after some research I tried to slow and manage the bleeding by taking ibuprofen. I guess it worked, but not very much. When I returned home, the bleeding had only gotten worse. I decided that I would see my gynecologist (GYN) if I was still bleeding heavy on day 10. I only made it to day nine as I started to drop golf ball sized blood clots and I was starting to also feel very faint. He was able to get me in quickly. I had to endure a very uncomfortable intravaginal ultrasound where I was told that my endometrial lining was “very thick” (even after 9 days of heavy bleeding). I was prescribed Norethindrone to stop the bleeding and essentially reboot my cycle. I had a recurring bleeding episode and was also prescribed the same medicine with a different dosage to make my cycle start on time. I had to take this medicine as needed for almost two years until my cycle regulated itself again. Coincidentally, it was also around the same time I found a new position at a new company. I guess even though my management changed after my medical leave, I must have been experiencing post traumatic stress, associated with the company, that was affecting my body more than my ability to function at work and in life.
In 2014, I decided to move forward on my journey to become a Single Mother by Choice (SMBC) in 2015, after my 35th birthday. I wanted to get healthy as I could, so I worked on my weight dropping 30 pounds. December 2014 I decided to forgo my trying to conceive (TTC) journey until after my 36thbirthday for a bucket list trip to Italy. January 2015 I started to notice blood clots in my stool occurring in the days preceding my cycle. After noticing it again in February, I went to see a Gastrointestinal Specialist who ordered a pelvic ultrasound and a colonoscopy, both of which occurred in March. No cause for the blood clots were found, but that little pedunculated fibroid found in 2006 had now grown to be 12cm. Not only that, but my endometrial lining was 21mm. I followed up with the GYN who was more concerned about endometrial cancer than this large grapefruit sized fibroid. After an inconclusive biopsy and a hysteroscopy, I was diagnosed with simple hyperplasia. Fortunately, it’s reversible, but I had to go back on the Northindrone in a much higher dose, for an extended amount of time. Just six weeks later, the hyperplasia was gone, but now I had an even BIGGER problem.
When you research fibroids, most of the information will tell you that they feed off of estrogen. However, in some cases, fibroids can also have progesterone receptors. Northindrone is a form of progesterone and the time I spent on it in both low and high doses caused my fibroid to grow. My 12cm (March) fibroid grew to 17cm (October) and three smaller fibroids (about 2cm each) were now present. All fibroids were removed in an open (vertical incision) myomectomy on November 30, 2015.
Having recovered from surgery, enduring the loss of another sister (due to illness) and gaining 35 pounds, I finally started the TTC process in my SMBC journey. The preconception hysterosalpingogram (HSG) found a completely blocked left tube and while my right tube was open, it had mild hydrosalpinx. No one can be certain on what cased the damage to my tubes, but the polyps and huge fibroid likely have a lot to do with it. This is certainly not what I expected of my reproductive health at age 37, never having been pregnant. Getting pregnant was supposed to be the easy part, even though I was attempting with frozen donor sperm.
Despite my job being based out of Illinois, one of 15 states with mandated infertility coverage, I had to pay out of pocket for my three unsuccessful medicated (with letrozole and gonal-f) IUIs. Insurance denied payment due to the condition of my fallopian tubes, even though my right tube was open. I even tried home insemination twice, unsuccessfully. I’m headed to in vitro fertilization (IVF) now, which was approved by insurance, but my reproductive endocrinologist is insisting that I lose more weight. In the last eight months, I’ve lost about 28 pounds, only eight more pounds to go! That’s easier said than done when you have developed insulin resistance over the years. This process along with other stressors in life has also aggravated my long-time controlled hypertension issues.
Planning to start this journey, I was trying to get healthier, but through a series of unfortunate events, I have become infertile and this journey (holding hands with life in general) have now made me appear to be less healthy. It’s extremely difficult/stressful, and expensive (even with the help of insurance). You put your body through so much in the HOPE to bring a baby home. It is all consuming! Before I knew it, I became this recluse that tracked almost every fertility data form (Basal temps, cervical mucous, ferning, urine strips, etc.), only watched YouTube TTC journeys, lived in forums and Facebook groups, and isolated myself from my friends because my only topic of conversation was TTC related. It wasn’t until I put myself on a TTC Fast this past February that I was able to regain a sense of myself again. I almost slipped back into depression where I would have given up. I had to Flip the Script and remind myself why I started this journey.
What I want most in life right now is to be a mom. If it takes losing eighty more pounds, then that’s what I’ll do. I’m not sure how my IVF journey will turn out. I don’t know what it feels like to have a positive pregnancy test yet. I imagine it to be one of the happiest times in my life. I also know that it is just the first of many hurdles to holding my baby(ies) in my arms. My time is coming and I cannot wait to fall in love at first touch!
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