I grew up in a big family surrounded by many cousins and a little sister. I also babysat every one of my younger cousins and I earned my very first paycheck babysitting my friend's younger siblings for an entire Summer. I think it’s fair to say that my motherly instinct has always been very strong. That said, I never felt the urge to form my own little family.
I spent most of my young adult life trying to figure out what I wanted to become and settling into my career. Then, the universe put Jason on my path and everything changed. In October 2014, I remember raising my cocktail glass with my girlfriends during my 33rd birthday dinner and cheering to “one last party before I get pregnant", naively thinking that I'd become pregnant within a few months. Besides, I was young and in a committed relationship for 4 years, it seemed like the perfect timing for us.
Fast forward to July 2016, after our first miscarriage, we decided to request a referral to the fertility clinic to seek medical advice. I remember questioning my past life decisions as if they were at fault. After months of testing and waiting, we finally received our diagnosis: unexplained infertility. Turns out, both my husband and I are very fertile on our own, but not together, and there is simply no scientific explanation for it.
The doctor proceeded to explain to me that I was now more at risk for miscarriages and poor egg quality given my age. She then registered us for the funded IVF cycle offered by the province and advised us to try Intrauterine insemination (IUI) during the 13 months wait time for the funded IVF cycle. After a few consultations, we enthusiastically decided to proceed with the hormone protocol for an IUI. We thought surely with a little help, nature would follow its course, and we’d get pregnant. We held onto big hopes and thoroughly followed every single piece of medical advice. Over the next few weeks, I watched my body change due to hormone treatment and after many follow-up appointments, our IUI was unsuccessful. We were deceived but still hopeful.
In November 2017, our name was picked earlier than expected for the funded IVF cycle. We thought to ourselves “what have we got to lose, let’s try this”. We stepped into the IVF universe with big hopes and expectations, as well as a major lack of knowledge. We agreed on a more aggressive hormone protocol and proceeded with the treatment. From that moment, our lives completely revolved around IVF; it became what we dreamed of at night, what we talked about during the day and what we thought about during any other spare moment in between. Our schedules only consisted of medical appointments, pharmacy visits and a mountain of blood-work. What started out as a fun and hopeful experience, quickly turned into the biggest struggle of our lives.
My very fertile body responded positively to the treatment, so much so that I ended up producing 42 eggs, had an excruciating egg retrieval procedure, which in turn resulted in all our remaining 7 fertilized eggs to be frozen because my health was greatly affected, and I became high risk for Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHS). In March 2018, after what seemed like such a long recovery, we were given the go ahead for our first frozen embryo transfer (FET). The excitement was surreal and the moment of the transfer itself, completely mesmerizing. And so, off we headed into the dreaded two weeks wait period until we would find out if the little embryo implanted. I was told to act as if I was pregnant; move with caution, avoid certain foods and heavy lifting. After merely 5 days of patiently waiting, I secretly took a home pregnancy test and to my surprise it showed a positive result. Given our track record, I was so afraid to put my hopes up but was unable to hide from my husband. We then tested every second day until our blood-work and it remained positive. Once the nurse confirmed our pregnancy, my husband and I promised each other that we would enjoy this news and try as hard as we could not to let worry and doubt take over. We happily shared the news with our close friends and family, and slowly started fantasizing about our little family of 3.
On March 20th, exactly 6 days before our ultrasound and on our 7th week of pregnancy, the nausea felt worse than usual. I felt progressively faint and light headed. I contacted my clinic and they instructed me to go to the closest hospital ER to get assessed. Panicked, I contacted my husband and we made our way there from work. After a few tests, some iv fluids and a phony ultrasound, I was sent home and told to rest. The next day, I felt worse. I stayed home and asked my husband to stay with me. I then sent my results from the ER to my clinic in case they needed it. The very next morning, the clinic asked us to come in for an urgent ultrasound. And so, out we went again. This time, the fear and doubt were too strong, and completely took over our mind.
After a quick but in-dept ultrasound, the nurse and doctor confirmed that our embryo had passed away on week 5 even though the placenta had grown to week 7. We had suffered from a blighted ovum commonly known as a missed miscarriage. I was a little surprised because everything seemed fine at the ER two days prior…Once the tears passed, we went back home to miscarry with medication. This process was traumatising, to say the least. (It is very hard to wrap your mind around the fact that you’re experiencing your first contractions to expulse dead tissues out of your body.)
Throughout this entire process I’ve felt the need to speak up, to be completely transparent about our feelings and to share our journey. I want to encourage and welcome dialogue around infertility and wish to diminish the stigma. Our journey through infertility is undoubtedly both physically and mentally challenging but we consider ourselves very privileged and lucky to live in a province and country where we have access to so many resources, and a funded program.
I wanted to share our story to expose a little bit of our reality but also, to communicate a message to all extended family and friends that know of or are related to people struggling with fertility issues: don’t be afraid, don’t avoid the topic or us, and if we cry, just offer your shoulder or a hug, you don’t need to say anything, and better yet, ask how we wish to be supported if you feel uncomfortable. But most importantly, don’t ignore us or distance yourselves from us. Come for a visit or ask us to go out. This process is very isolating as it is, and it gets very lonely. We need all the love we can get!