Waiting For an Egg to Hatch: My Story of Infertility

For as long as I can remember, I pictured myself as a wife and mother. I never thought my life would be any different than that. Like my own mother, my older sister, and my friends, I just assumed that I, too, would eventually become pregnant and my life as a mother would begin. I had no idea that I would completely struggle to become a mother due to infertility, executing things I never, ever pictured myself having to do.

Two years into our marriage, my husband and I decided that it was time to start a family. What we thought was going to be a joyous time in our lives, turned out to be anything but that. We tried for over a year on our own to get pregnant and after a routine visit with my doctor, she thought it would be a good idea to try some drugs to help the process. After a few months with no luck on medication, I asked my doctor what was next. What were we supposed to do now?

What my doctor told me, and the path we ended up choosing, would be the beginning of some of the darkest years of my life.

She referred us to the reproductive clinic at the University of Iowa. I knew in my heart that something was wrong, and I had a feeling we were going to need more help then most couples. Having your doctor look you straight in the eye and tell you that she’s done all that she can do is never easy. Knowing that you need the help of a specialist is especially hard to hear.

Our first few visits to the clinic consisted of a TON of testing for both my husband and me. I cannot tell you how many times I was poked, pricked, x-rayed, given ultrasounds, etc. After several weeks of testing, our doctors determined that we fell into the category of unexplained infertility. I had no idea that unexplained infertility was even a thing, but the clinic told us that about 25% of couples experience some sort of infertility issue, with about 10% of couples falling into the unexplained category. The best and easiest way for me to explain what that means is that my husband and I are both completely healthy, there is nothing wrong with either of us medically, and we both are fully capable of creating a biological child.

I was happy that there was nothing wrong with us, but I was also very frustrated! After all of the testing we had done, I couldn’t believe that some of the best professionals in the field couldn’t give me a reason for why I wasn’t able to get pregnant.

I wanted them to be able to fix the issue so that we could just move on to happier times.

They told us that since we were perfectly healthy, we were prime candidates for IUI. We tried IUI for several months, but it was pure torture waiting every month to see if the procedure was successful. I felt like such a failure, and my husband had to console me every month when I was devastated to find out that once again I wasn’t pregnant. We were both grasping for reasons as to why this was happening to us. We were good people, taught children every day, and loved kids. Why couldn’t we have a child of our own?

After our failed IUI’s, we asked what other options were available. That’s when they began talking to us about IVF. Our initial conversations with our doctors about IVF petrified me. All I could think about was needles, surgery, and the money it would cost. I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally strong enough at that point to go through with it. After much thought though, we decided to go for it. I spent a good amount of time on the phone with our insurance company and discovered that they would pay for a sizeable chunk of it. We really had no idea what to expect, but I knew if I didn’t at least try IVF, I would always wonder, what if?

The clinic only does IVF procedures at certain times during the year. For our first attempt, their up-time was in the summer, which would be perfect for us. We had the whole summer off and could be relaxed and focused on what the doctors needed us to do. One of those things was to take the medicine my body needed to prepare itself. The day the box of medicine arrived from the specialty pharmacy that our insurance required us to use, I was in shock! The box was as big as a TV, contained a cooler full of medicine, and had more needles in it than I had ever seen in my life!

I was scared of every single thing in that box, and the idea that I needed all of it to become a mother was terrifying and depressing.

My first night of shots was interesting, to say the least. My husband and I tried our best to remember what the nurses had told us for how to do the injections. They had taught us at the clinic how to give the shots using a rubber ball. The ball was no big deal, but the thought of pushing the needles into my abdomen, thigh, and hip freaked me out.

My husband gave me the three shots I needed every single night at the time the clinic had assigned us. Some of the needles were large gauge needles and some were insulin sized. Some of the medicine went in smooth, but some of it also burned. Between all of the injections at home and continued blood draws at the clinic, I was a bloody, bruised up mess!

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A portion of the needles I used for my injections.

Finally, after several weeks of oral medications and injections, my blood tests showed that my levels were good and ready for the egg retrieval. During the egg retrieval you are put under, and your eggs are basically harvested out using a needle. Luckily you feel nothing as you are fully put under, but let me tell you, it doesn’t feel very good once you wake up!

We went home and took it easy until our implantation day. Just as we were finally starting to feel a little positive about everything, our doctors called. I will spare you the details, but let’s just say that our embryos were not growing and the ones that were, didn’t look healthy enough to implant. I cried and cried and cried. My husband cried and cried and cried. It was not a good day at our house, and it felt like a large gray cloud pouring rain was constantly following us around.

We ended up having the lab help our embryos become healthy and strong. There were two that were looking great that they could implant. We crossed our fingers and prepared ourselves for the implantation procedure. During this procedure you are wide-awake. Your spouse is allowed back in the surgical suite with you, as well as a few nurses and your main doctor. They had warm blankets for me and music to help relax us. I actually let out a little laugh when I noticed that the CD they were going to play said “IVF Mix” on it.

After our implantation procedure, we had to wait 15 days to see if it worked. After 15 days, we called the patient line only to find out that the implantation was not successful. My husband was such a rock for me during this time. I was so heartbroken that I actually felt an ache inside me. 

The pain was deep in my soul, and my heart was completely broken into 1000 pieces. I just wasn’t sure if it would ever be whole again.

We hadn’t told almost anyone that we were attempting IVF at this point. It was so hard to cope with our loss when no one even knew it had happened. We had chosen to be private about it all, but we struggled without our friends to rely on. We had our family and ourselves, but in hindsight, we could have used a support system much larger than that.

Soon we had a follow-up appointment at the clinic, and they told us that they learned a lot from our first attempt. They knew what they would do differently the second time around. I wasn’t sure if I could go through it all again, but we eventually decided to go for it once again. The clinic’s next up-time was going to happen about the same time my husband and I would be starting back to school. I immediately told the doctors that I would not be in the right frame of mind nor would I be able to relax and rest at the beginning of the school year. People that have not taught children have no idea how stressful the beginning of the school year is! I just didn’t think it would be the best time for me to begin preparing for IVF.

Their next up-time after that was in November, so we all agreed that would be the best time for us. Our procedure would take place right around Thanksgiving, so school would have settled down a little and we would have some time off for the holiday. When the date got closer, I decided that I should inform the other kindergarten teachers that I was going to be attempting IVF a second time. This time around I knew I wanted their support as I needed people that could help keep me in a positive frame of mind. I told my principal and luckily she was very understanding and knew that I would need to take some time off here and there for various appointments. It was a relief to know that if I needed anything, I had a few people at work to lean on.

This time around the shots were a little better. My husband had become a pro at giving them to me, and we often joked that maybe his calling was to be a nurse and not a PE teacher! I did end up having a bad reaction to one of the shots the second time around though. A softball-size area on my hip appeared that looked bruised, bright red, and was hard as a rock when you touched it. I went to school for several days with that darn thing and acted like nothing was wrong, but it hurt so bad just to walk around. I’m sure my students thought I was crazy as I had to crouch down and then turn to the side to sit down!

Our beautiful new house was not going to have a baby in it. A baby wouldn’t be sleeping in our spare bedroom that we had decided would be our nursery. We would not have great news to share with our families at Christmas.

My second egg retrieval took place on a Sunday and I went right back to teaching the next day. I treated it like any other Monday, but it was hard not to lean on all of my coworkers. Most of them had no idea what I was going through anyway, so I just kept my anxiety and stress about it all to myself. The implantation took place on Thanksgiving. Instead of being with our families eating a big Thanksgiving dinner, we were in the hospital praying for success. We just wanted to be parents and were tired of struggling to become just that. That day I apologized to the nurses for taking them away from their own families since they were missing the holiday as well. One nurse told me that today they were there for us, later they would be there for their own families. I couldn’t help but tear up as that same nurse held my hand when they wheeled me into the surgical suite.

To make a very long story short, we again got our results 15 days later. Our second try was once again unsuccessful. Our beautiful new house was not going to have a baby in it. A baby wouldn’t be sleeping in our spare bedroom that we had decided would be our nursery. We would not have great news to share with our families at Christmas. I went into a dark place after that. I have always been super hard on myself, but I had never felt this much of a failure in my entire life. There wasn’t anyone else I knew that had been through anything remotely close to what we had been going through. I had no one that could help me process it all and relate to my devastation.

After our second attempt with IVF, our doctors told us that we could be put on the donor embryo list. We did explore that option a little bit, but didn’t end up going that route. It was during that time that we were pulled in a different direction. We decided to explore adoption. I have previously written about our adoption in a few other posts and as you already know, this revelation was the turning point for me. Adoption was the light at the end of my long, dark, lonely tunnel. I knew in my heart that this was how we would become parents. And yes, we were finally able to become the family that we always wanted to be when our daughter was born the spring following our second unsuccessful try at IVF. The moment I held her in my arms, I knew that adoption was how I was supposed to become a mother all along. {Read our adoption story here.}

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My daughter and I a few weeks after she was born.

We took the longest and hardest route possible to become parents, but we are so much stronger because of it. After almost 16 years together and being married for almost 11 of those years, my husband and I have a bond with each other that a lot of other couples do not have. It made us better spouses to each other and now better parents to our daughter. There is not one single day that goes by that I don’t feel blessed to be her mother.

I use every minute I have with her to love her the way I always pictured I would love my child.

Next month our daughter will turn four years old. I can hardly believe that it’s been almost 6 years since we began our battle with infertility. I will always have hurt and grief from that time in our lives, but now after being a mother for four years, I focus on the blessings I have in the present. During that rough time in my life, I learned a lot about myself and it helped shape who I am today. No, I did not ever think I would have to experience the pain of infertility, but I also would not change it either, because without our unexplained infertility, we would not have our daughter. She is worth all of the pain that the needles caused and all of the heartache we felt. She is the little angel that we always prayed for and we couldn’t be any happier now.  

Every time she calls me mommy, my heart flutters with happiness and my soul feels full.


 

Melissa was born and raised right here in Iowa. Although she grew up in southwest Iowa (about as close to Missouri and Nebraska as you can get!), she has called eastern Iowa home for 15 years. She and her husband Eric live in North Liberty, along with their 4 year-old daughter Kennedy. Melissa attended the University of Northern Iowa where she earned her BA in Early Childhood Special Education and her MAE in K-6 Learning Disabilities. She currently teaches kindergarten for the Clear Creek Amana School District, where she has taught for 14 years. In her spare time, Melissa loves to be outside playing or working on projects in their yard, spending time with family and friends, and baking up goodies for her family. She also enjoys taking walks with their two dogs, plump beagle Lenny and shy dachshund-beagle mix Cooper. Life as a full-time working mommy keeps her very busy, but Melissa wouldn't have it any other way!

4 COMMENTS

  1. This was such a great story. I have a condition called diminished ovarian reserve which causes a whole slew of issues when trying to get pregnant. We did go the donor embryo route and I know we are so blessed that it took the first try!! After two years of trying everything you did, we will have our little baby this August. We are so excited and still a little in shock that it actually worked. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. Thank you Caitie and Brooke for the kind words and support! It is such a hard topic to write about and was a difficult piece to complete. All of the emotions of that time came back up to the surface, but it was a good reminder of how far we’ve come and how blessed our family is.

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