Dave and I met in 2010 at a house party that my best friend dragged me too. We were both pretty happy go lucky people, and thus started the best relationship I’ve ever had with someone. The years went on and we were always laughing and smiling and having fun. I often thought to myself, how did we get so lucky? We got married in 2015, and started trying for a baby after 6 months. Up to that point, things seemed to work out so perfectly for us and I naively thought that this would be the same thing. It didn’t happen that month, or the month after. But, I was a positive person, and it honestly wasn’t that hard on me (yet). I thought it would happen soon enough, and I imagined announcing it to our family on Christmas morning. Christmas 2016 came and went, and there was no pregnancy to announce, nothing even close. After another 6 months of trying, we finally went to see a fertility specialist. The initial tests showed that everything “perfect” (that’s actually what the doctor told us). Better than perfect, actually. I had a great egg count, and Dave’s sperm health looked good. Nothing to worry about. So, she scheduled me in to have an HSG, to see if my tubes were blocked. She even said that since this procedure could clear out some “debris” in the tubes, that many couples actually conceive naturally in the months following this procedure.
So, I was positive and hopeful once again. The thing about being too positive… you come down hard when it doesn’t work. Something I’ve learned along the way, and unfortunately, this forced me to become a less positive person, in order to manage my expectations. (I like the old me better, but unfortunately, she’s long gone).
The HSG showed that my tubes were clear, so at the next appointment we were officially diagnosed with “unexplained infertility” - the dirtiest word of infertility. I hated that word, it meant that there was nothing to fix – we’re we just not compatible to each other? I guess our luck was starting to end. So, we started down the path of fertility treatment, starting with IUI (which is thankfully covered in Quebec).
I still remember my first appointment to pick up my prescription for all of the hormones. For some reason, in my head, injecting yourself with needles was only for IVF (the real deal – and one that we would never have to experience – since we were sure IUI would work). So, when the nurse pulled out the needle and asked me if I needed a lesson in how to inject myself, my eyes welled up. This was the real deal. But I did it, and soon enough it became the new normal in our life. That night, I facetimed with a good friend of mine who was also going through this, and she talked me through it step by step. We found out right around Christmas (2017) that the first IUI was unsuccessful. So again, we had no happy news to announce at Christmas. Another 3 IUI’s, with nothing to announce. Test after test, staring at stark white BFN’s – it was heartbreaking. I guess we were graduating to the next level – IVF.
We decided to switch clinics and go private since IVF isn’t covered anyway in our province. And the first thing the new clinic told us was to test Dave for DNA Fragmentation. We got the results back in summer 2018 and it was bittersweet. Dave’s DNA fragmentation was at 55%, which is really bad. It meant that it was basically impossible for us to conceive without IVF. But, at least we now had a reason, after 2 years of unexplained. IUI never would have worked for us, and I was pumping myself with hormones unnecessarily for a year.
We did our first round of IVF in December 2018. We had 11 eggs retrieved, 9 were mature and 7 fertilized. From that, two made it to day 5, and we had a Fresh transfer on December 26, 2018. (are you catching on that Christmas is not really my happy time anymore?) The fresh transfer failed, and that was a tough pill to swallow. We naively thought that it would work the first time – surely there is only so much heartbreak the universe can throw at someone! We always thought of IVF being the last resort, and when that didn’t work, it was beyond devastating. But we kept moving forward, because there was nothing else to do.
We scheduled in our Frozen Embryo transfer of our remaining embryo for March 2018. We were feeling nervous but hopeful. The morning of the transfer, we got a call from the clinic. I knew something was wrong. Apparently our embryo did not survive the thaw, which I didn’t even realize was a possibility. If I thought I knew pain before, this was definitely the most my heart broke up until this point. I don’t know if it was the fact that I had somehow grown attached to this little embryo over the last couple of months knowing that a part of “us” was in some freezer a few kilometers away, but it broke me, especially with all the hormones pulsing through my body. It was the first time I felt that level of deep sadness, that I knew, I could never come back from. But the thing is… you have to.
We took a break after that. We changed our diet, started taking supplements to improve egg and sperm health, and to our surprise Dave’s Fragmentation went down to 43%. Still terrible, but at least it was moving in the right direction. Hope was starting to come back a little bit. After another 2 retrievals (and only getting 1 embryo from each), and a recent failed FET, we are learning how to manage our new reality. There will always be up’s and downs, good days and bad. Thankfully, we have been pretty open about our struggles from the beginning, and are so grateful to all of our friends and family who have been so supportive throughout this process. Another thing that has helped for me is always having a plan B, something that I can fall back on and start working towards if the next treatment doesn’t work.
We hope that someday soon, it will happen for us. We’re not ready to back down yet, and we’ll continue to fight for our family until we can’t anymore. Sometimes, I let myself imagine what it would feel like to see those two pink lines, and that split second of hope is what drives me to keep fighting. It will come, but until then, we try our best to be those happy go lucky kids we were when we met at that house party 10 years ago.