It has been almost two years since my husband Gabriel and I have been trying to conceive. After about six months with no BFP (big fat positive) we consulted with an infertility clinic. Thus began a round of tests, tests and more tests. My hormone levels were ok for my age (I was 40 at the time) and my tubes were clear which was great news while Gabriel's sperm analysis was somewhat troubling. We were encouraged towards infertility treatments.
Our first experience with these treatments involved the use of Clomid which I refuse to consume again because it turned me into the "Wicked Witch of the West" with a bad case of crying fits (those of you who have experienced Clomid can relate), a shot, annoying ultra-sounds and timed intercourse. Needless to say, it didn't work.
Due to two poor semen analyses Gabriel was referred to an urologist who told him that a recurrent varicocele (varicose vein in a man's testicles) had returned. Surgery might help, but might not accomplish anything and due to our age we should probably not waste any time and just do IVF. I was not happy with that doctor's pessimistic and doubtful attitude.
Around this time we switched to a different infertility clinic that a doctor I was seeing for back problems, who was also going through her own infertility journey had referred me to. Despite the diagnosis from the urologist we were encouraged to try another IUI and went ahead with it. This involved Letrozole (a much nicer medication than Clomid), ultra-sounds, a shot in my stomach and laying spread-eagled with my feet up in the air and butt slightly elevated while a nurse inserted a tube into my vaginal canal past my cervix to deposit my husband's sperm. He held my hand the entire time.
The IUI accomplished nothing except stress, heartache, disappointment and cost almost $1000.
After some discussion my husband and I decided to go ahead with varicocele repair. Gabriel was thrilled to do his part, whatever it took, to have a baby with me. He's such a wonderful man. I truly won the lottery.
The varicocele repair meant we would have to take a break from fertility treatments to give him time to recover. While men produce sperm every single day, it takes 76 to 90 days for them to mature and benefit from any changes after surgery, changes in diet, or treatments. After three months of waiting Gabriel went back to the surgeon for a check-up. Another semen analysis was done and while there was some improvement, which we were happy about, it wasn't what we had hoped for. This just meant we had more work to do.
By this time it was already June of 2019 and we had lost valuable time, but it had been necessary. Soon after Gabriel's check up I started my cycle and as required called the infertility clinic to put them on alert. The nurse encouraged me to try another IUI but before making any decisions I called Gabriel. We agreed to move forward with the treatment and soon I was scheduled to go in for baselines to check my hormones and an ultrasound to see if any follicles were maturing. Sure enough, I was good to go and began medications to help mature the follicles and get as many as we could.
The day arrived for me to have another ultrasound to determine if I was ready for a trigger shot. Unfortunately, the tech who examined me ignored my requests for "Gently please, I've experienced trauma in the past." and left me a complete mess once she was done knocking around my uterus like a blundering jock on a football field. It took me a little while to compose myself enough to speak up and in the end I wound up talking with her assistant because she had left the room before I was calm enough to talk. The assistant promised to speak with her and I left, still shaking inwardly.
The following day was trigger day. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. The UPS guy did not read the instructions on the package and since no one was home did not deliver my trigger shot to the apartment complex office but took it back with him, leaving me a note that he'd try again the next day. I spent over an hour on the phone franticly trying to get UPS to come back so I could take the trigger shot in time, but despite my best efforts, tears, cussing and yelling (not my best day) I did not succeed. The infertility clinic had my back though, and I was able to get a trigger shot for them for almost three times the amount with a promise that if I brought in the one I had ordered they would apply the funds to payment for the IUI.
My husband came home for lunch to administer the shot to my stomach and I spent the rest of the day trying to relax. UPS did come back later that evening to deliver my medication and I left it by the door so we wouldn't forget it when we went to the clinic the following day. I finally went to bed and eventually fell asleep. The next morning I woke up groggy, still stressed and wondering if we were about to waste more money on yet another treatment that wouldn't work. "Stop it! Be positive", I told myself before Gabriel and I left for the clinic.
At the clinic Gabriel checked us in and handed off his sperm sample (they let him do it at home) while I made myself comfortable in the waiting room. Soon I looked up to see him looking at me with a puzzled expression on his face. We were supposed to bring the medication to the clinic to get credit towards the IUI but had forgotten it. As I told him that I had left it at the door a look of dismay spread across his face and he told me he had thrown it away in the dumpster that morning.
My cortisol level shot through the roof and I muttered something not too nice. Gabriel took it in stride without blinking an eye or loosing his calm composure. He simply went to the lady at the check in desk and told her he would be right back. Seconds later he was out the door and I was left to pray that the garbage company hadn't already picked up the contents of the dumpster.
Twenty minutes passed while I prayed, fretted and ran to the bathroom three times. Apparently high levels of stress make me pee, a lot. Eventually Gabriel returned with box in hand, the contents undisturbed. What a relief.
Eventually we were called back to have the IUI administered. The wait is always excruciating even after your name is called, so we waited in a room talking and trying to joke while I continued to run to the bathroom every fifteen minutes. Who knew a bladder could hold so much liquid!
After what seemed like forever our nurse came to the room with a big smile on her face. Gabriel's sperm had shown more improvement and she was as excited as we were with the news. This time she asked Gabriel if he would like to do the honors and administer the catheter with the sperm. Of course the answer was yes, and I relaxed a great deal more on the table with him inserting it past my cervix than a stranger doing it.
Once again the IUI didn't work. We scheduled an appointment with my doctor and she told us that IVF with ICSI was our best bet. The price, however? Astronomical and it had a slim chance of working. By the time we had a baby in our arms we might wind up spending twenty to sixty thousand dollars. I left that day feeling defeated and very discouraged.
Taking matters into my own hands, I decided I needed a break from infertility treatments. The whole experience had left me feeling stressed, exhausted, drained and heartbroken after every negative pregnancy test or start of my cycle. Gabriel wanted to keep trying on our own, but I was reluctant. In addition to the stress of the infertility treatments, my mother had been fighting multiple myeloma for over a year and her battle against cancer had been an additional source of stress for me. I just needed a break from all the heartache.
Browsing the internet one day I discovered a natural fertility website and soon was reading about natural methods to improve fertility. I had always been a supporter of more naturopathic methods of maintaining health, loved herbs and preferred Eastern modalities of healing over Western. I was delighted to discover their website. I devoured every article I could that day and determined within myself to begin implementing more natural, holistic methods for conception. Realizing that I had felt limited by my meager choices of infertility clinics in Birmingham, Alabama I hadn't thought outside the box to find other solutions that fit me better than what my city had to offer.
Over the course of a few days I came up with a three month plan (a woman's eggs take anywhere from three to six months to mature) that was more suited to me and involved a herbal fertility detox to cleanse myself of the medications and balance my hormones, a radical change in diet for both Gabriel and I, and supplements for both of us meant to improve sperm and egg quality. I also decided to implement a stress reduction program of my own making, started practicing fertility yoga, switched to gentle forms of exercise such as walking over the harder, more intense workouts I enjoyed, focused on more self-care and began getting acupuncture treatments. Eventually I was feeling much better emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally even though the monthly reminders that I wasn't pregnant when Aunt Flo came to visit continued to be a source of grief.
One day an ad popped up on Facebook for an infertility clinic located in Syracuse, New York that advertised a much more financially feasible IVF than the other clinics I had been to and researched. Visiting their website I discovered that CNY Fertility in Syracuse had multiple locations and to my delight incorporated Eastern and Western medicine in their treatment plans. Excitedly I told Gabriel and we decided to schedule a phone consultation. The only problem? They were so popular that my consultation was scheduled three months out for November 2019. In the end, the wait was unimportant. I would continue my fertility plan and we would persevere in our attempts to conceive naturally with God's help, of course.
November arrived and so did our consult. We had a wonderful conversation with a nurse practitioner at the CNY facility in Atlanta. She patiently answered our questions, gave us recommendations for priming before IVF, and scheduled me for a round of tests to give a better picture of my fertility at 41 years of age. Included in these tests was a saline sonogram to make sure I had no cysts and that the lining of my uterus on a particular day of my cycle was thick enough for implantation of an embryo.
Instead of driving to Atlanta for the sonogram, I scheduled it in December with the first clinic I had been to for infertility treatments. They were happy to accommodate me and I felt comfortable. On the day of the sonogram Gabriel and I were shown to a room with yet another table with stirrups, a big screen, a monitor and other equipment. I undressed in the adjoining bathroom and put on the gown as instructed and sat on the table to wait for the doctor that would perform the test. Soon the nurse came in, along with a man and a female doctor. I went white as a sheet, felt my heart begin to race and the room fade while I crossed my legs together in a protective action and dug my fingernails into my husband's hand all the while painfully aware of the man. I heard myself ask him, "Are you going to do me?" and immediately mentally kicked myself while I tried to clarify what I was asking. No, he wasn't going to administer the test and since he saw that his presence made me upset he decided to step towards the door out of my sight. It didn't matter though, he was still in my peripheral vision and I could not relax. I had never seen a male nurse, doctor, or tech in this infertility clinic so I was unprepared for him to show up. In the end, the poor guy offered to step out of the room and I quickly said, "Yes, that would be much better, thank you." I felt so bad and looked at the doctor telling her that I had experienced trauma before but it wasn't his fault. My voice trailed off as she told me it was ok, they were aware that situations like that occur. After letting me breathe and relax for a few minutes we proceeded with the test. My uterine lining was perfect! No cysts.
During this time I had liked the CNY Fertility Clinic's Facebook page and occasionally would listen in to the founder of the clinic, Dr. Kiltz when he went live to chat with ladies going through IVF and answer their questions. One day he gave out his personal telephone number and I wrote it down. I really wanted to call him and ask him additional questions about priming but felt strange about calling him on his personal phone. One Sunday I decided to go ahead, and texted him with a couple of questions. To my surprise he called me back about an hour later, but since I was teaching a Hebrew class at the time I texted him that I was unavailable. Not a problem, he asked me what would be a better time and promised to call back then.
Hours later Dr. Kiltz called back and soon he, Gabriel and I were talking about priming and he answered all our questions. I was impressed and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that CNY was the right place for me. We ordered the additional supplements Dr. Kiltz recommended and would have ordered the medications for Gabriel but before doing so I received news that my mother had passed away. Again, our IVF journey was put on hold because I needed to focus on mourning my mother.
In April we decided to continue and Gabriel ordered Pregnyl (HcG) and Clomid. He would need to be on these for at least three months before I proceeded with retrieval.
It is now the end of May. Sometime in June I will begin priming with Omnitrope, a medicated human growth hormone, to improve my egg quality even further. By the time I have finished priming with Omnitrope Aunt Flo should make her monthly visit and at that time I will start stimming for retrieval in July. This is all very exciting and I'm praying for the best possible outcome, healthy fertilized embryos, successful implantation and a BIG FAT POSITIVE that sticks!
As per the title of this blog entry, I would like to share some things I have learned on this journey.
Take it easy, breathe, and practice self-care on a daily basis.
Don't be afraid to separate from toxic people.
Don't feel guilty staying away from pregnant women or babies. You are on a journey and don't need to be reminded that you aren't there yet.
Don't put blame on the other person. Remember that if everyone is trying, the best solution is to love and support each other. United and together you can do more than separated by fault finding.
Make sex fun. Forget you are trying to have a baby on the right day. Pressure doesn't work for men and it doesn't help women either.
Be grateful for everything you do have. Start a gratitude journal to remind yourself and help your mood.
Explore your creativity and maybe pick up painting, sculpting or other art form. Having a creative outlet can be lifesaving sometimes.
Pray, meditate or practice your spirituality in ways that bring you joy.
Take care of your health and be willing to make dietary changes for the benefit of your future baby. Act as if you are already carrying a child in your womb.
Find a coach who keeps you focused, helps you get rid of limiting beliefs, and looking towards the future in a positive manner and/or join support groups of other women going through the same journey. It helps!
Have I learned more than the above? Yes, definitely. These are some of the things I believe are most important. Additionally, in a future blog post I will recommend some supplements and herbs. Keep in mind that you should talk to your doctor about any herbs since they can be contraindicated when taking medications. The general rule of thumb is to stop taking most herbs two weeks prior to starting medications, but a doctor trained in this area, like Dr. Verdiales at the CNY Atlanta location, can provide you with more information.
Start Fertility Massage - I have an upcoming course in which you will learn the method along with acupressure points to help increase blood flow to your uterus and prep it for implantation of an embryo. For more information please email me and I'll be happy to provide you with details.
Get and read It Starts With The Egg * by Rebecca Fett who underwent her own infertility journey and wrote a book to help other women with increasing the quality of their eggs. It has been a lifesaver to me and I recommend it to anyone trying to conceive.
Try Broad Spectrum CBD oil. At the start of this journey I learned how important adequate sleep is for men and women trying to conceive. Gabriel was never able to sleep the entire night through and typically woke up after four or five hours of sleep. This was not enough! Although I will write more about CBD oil in a future post, suffice it to say, this was the only thing that I found that helped Gabriel sleep through the entire night, averaging seven to nine hours of undisturbed sleep. We use Broad Spectrum CBD oil from CBD Distillery* and I love it.
That is it for this post. I will be updating regularly after I start priming with Omnitrope and sharing my journey. If you are going through a similar journey, please feel free to reach out as I am happy to lend a listening ear. Sometimes all we need is for someone to listen and hear us.
Some pictures of us, top left to right: Seattle, Washington on our first date, The Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle, Washington, Gabriel in Shelton, Washington, Leaving Shelton Washington Gabriel thought he would pose by the Cannabis sign, Purim Party at Knesseth Israel Congregation Synagogue in Birmingham, Al, Visiting the Grand Canyon, Gabriel at a nearby park in Birmingham, Al, and Visiting Lookout Mountain Gardens in Chattanooga, Tn
Sarah Rezonzew is a Holistic Healh & Life coach specializing in online and in person coaching, helping people achieve growth, attain their goals and obtain balance in the areas of health, spirituality, career/finances and relationships. Her website offers resources and courses dealing with these four areas and subcategories such as weight loss, fertility, joyful living, personal development, personal growth, healthy communication and more. You can reach her by visiting her website Your Next Best Life or by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links at no cost to you.