My test results were back. I was in the car on my way home from work, returning a call from an unsaved number. The voicemail said it was urgent and to call back as soon as possible. I pressed the correct number to speak with a nurse then waited on hold for what seemed like hours.
The nurse finally picked up and read me the report. She said both of my fallopian tubes were completely blocked and filled with fluid – That is where the pain was coming from. There was nothing in her voice to hold on to, no sympathy, no emotion at all.
I knew it wasn’t her job but panic was starting to rise in my throat and I desperately needed her to tell me that I was going to be fine. Her steady, even tone implied she was not going to say that. I tried to calmly ask what I was supposed to do next; she told me that surgery was necessary. She told me to see a reproductive endocrinology specialist because the best option may be to remove the tubes completely.
I managed to thank her and hang up.
I’d been complaining about pain for years. I’d been on birth control because my periods were so painful. Sex was painful too sometimes but I simply thought I just wasn’t doing it right. It was when I got off of birth control to try and have a baby that I realized something was wrong.
I’d had at least three pelvic and intravaginal ultrasounds, looking for cysts or fibroids, with unremarkable results each time. Those ultrasounds, the instrument poking and prodding around inside me, would cause sharp pain that the sonographer called “slight pressure”. My knuckles would be white from holding onto the railings. I definitely knew the difference between pressure and pain. Since my ultrasounds showed nothing abnormal, I was told that everything appeared fine and yet, every few months I’d go to my gynecologist with more complaints of pelvic pain.
Finally, she looked at me with pity, patted my knee and told me not to worry – I would conceive eventually. She seemed to believe I was making the pain up because I wasn’t getting pregnant. I insisted that something was wrong – I was there because, in addition to not getting pregnant, I was in a pain. She decided to write me an order for a pelvic X-ray and told me to come back.
This is the test that changed everything for me. An HSG test is when an X-ray is used to view your pelvis while a dye is inserted into your uterus via a catheter. The purpose is to see whether or not the dye will pass through the tubes and reach your ovaries (the way sperm is supposed to).
I remember feeling so violated, lying there with my legs in the ‘frog’ position, with three other people in the room. I had to turn slightly while they snapped images of my pelvis, trying not to fall off of the cold exam table was even more distressing. The radiologist didn’t tell me what the X-ray meant, he only told me that my doctor’s office would be in touch.
When I hung up with the nurse, I cried and cried. I made it home and broke down in the driveway, gasping for air. Although I was relieved to finally get some answers, I was smacked with the reality that I was infertile. For 14 months we tried to have a baby, we talked about baby names, nursery decor, child care, and all the things people talk about when they’re trying to have a baby. I lost 25lbs, I stopped drinking caffeine, I ate healthily and I tracked my cycles. But every month, bright red stains signaled that I wasn’t pregnant. There were even a couple of months when my period came almost a week late, only to crush my hopes a few days later.
For the first two weeks after receiving the news, I fell into a depression. I didn’t want to get out of bed, I showed up to work like a zombie on autopilot just trying to get through the day. I didn’t want to go to baby showers or birthday parties – I didn’t want to be around babies or children. I just wanted to sit in bed and cry. Being a newlywed I am often asked when we’re going to have kids of our own and I’d usually laugh it off. I didn’t even tell my family right away, I wanted to fully grieve on my own.
We are scheduled to see the fertility specialist together in a couple of days, it took nearly a month to get in as new patients. I am terrified. I’m sure he is too, although, he never shows it. I am unsure what to expect but I know that laparoscopy is the best way to really see and diagnose what’s going on. I don’t want multiple surgeries because the risks of ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages are higher – but I seem to have no choice.
At first, we argued about the cost of treatment which is very expensive. We argued about whether we should consider adoption or whether we even wanted kids. I began to feel alone and realized arguing wasn’t going to help at all. We need to stick together through this if we want to make it to the other side – this is the kind of nightmare that tears a marriage apart. Finally, we sat down, told our families and decided that we would do whatever is necessary to take the next step. Whatever that might be.
This process is going to take time and money. If we pursue fertility treatment, it will cost nearly an arm and a leg. IVF is when they will take my egg and my husband’s sperm, fertilize the egg then implant the fertilized embryo in my uterus. An article on the cost of IVF outlines it like this:
“On average, nationally, a “fresh” IVF cycle costs $12,000, before medications, which typically run another $3,000 to $5,000. In a “fresh” IVF cycle, eggs are harvested transvaginally after a closely monitored period of ovulation-inducing medications and then “mixed” with fresh sperm. One or two of the best-looking of the resulting embryos are then transferred to the uterus via a thin catheter.
The PGD step of the process meant we were looking at another $3,000 to $6,000. Altogether, conservatively speaking, about $20,000 … for each attempt to have a healthy child utilizing a procedure that is successful (most optimistically) about 40% of the time, depending upon factors such as maternal age and the specific medical circumstances of the parents.” – Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy, Forbes
The saddest part of this whole thing is, no one prepared me for this. No one told me how humiliating this is or how much it feels like failure. No one could have possibly explained to me what I’d be going through. I haven’t been saving 20k for fertility treatment. Each day I am learning to come to terms with it and not to panic. I’m moving forward and not allowing myself to be overcome with grief. The financial issue will be taken care of one way or another, I try not to focus too much on it.
I have to remember my marriage comes first. Trying for over a year to get pregnant caused a lot of ups and downs in our relationship. Friends and family members who got married around the same time we did were starting to announce their pregnancies and it was starting to really affect me. I wanted to be happy for them, celebrate with them, but in reality, it tore me apart. Why were we having such difficulty? Why weren’t we being blessed? I would get so caught up in my own feelings that I was ignoring how perfect my life already is. My husband would gently remind me that our family is already complete, just me and him.
Most importantly, I have to remember that I also, come first. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about doctors, it’s that you need to be your own advocate. I need to fight for what my gut is telling me. I also need to take care of myself – when you have depression you have to force yourself to shower, to eat and to be social. I have help with this – We go out to eat, we invite friends over and we enjoy each other’s company. He’s been so sweet lately, trying to do his best to make me happy and I do my best to show him I appreciate it. Right now, we’re just taking it one day at a time.
As always, thank you for reading,