23 April 2012

Ally's Story

My lovely friend Ally was wonderful enough to agree to do a guest post about her experiences with infertility. Ally is the friend who referred us to the UFC. It really saves my sanity to have someone I can go to and say, "We have a 27mm follicle!!!" and she not only wont look at me like I'm a freakshow but will match my enthusiasm, congratulate me, and comment about it being a huge follicle (no really, we frequently have these conversations). It is so nice to have someone to vent to with "I hate my stupid fallopian tubes" and I know she can empathize (except I think if she could punch any part of her reproductive system in the face it would probably be her stubborn ovaries). What a blessing that the person I was matched with as a roommate freshman year can so fully understand the daily stresses, heartbreak, frustration, excitement, test of patience and the whole myriad of emotions that come with this experience. So without further ado, here is Ally's post...

Hi everyone! I’m Ally and Jess asked me to do a little guest post for Infertility Awareness Week! Before I get in to our little journey, I thought I would introduce my family and I. First of all, Jess and I were college roommates until we both got married and now that we have families, we still only live a couple minutes walk from one another. We have been through a lot together and it has been nice to have such a close friend that understands all this infertility stuff.

My husband, Leigh, and I got married in August 2008. I graduated from BYU with a degree in Early Childhood Education that December. Leigh will graduate in a year from now in Business Administration from BYU. I worked as a preschool teacher for 2 ½ years at Head Start, but now stay at home. We have two beautiful girls, Kendal and Lyla, that were born at 31 weeks 5 days on May 19, 2011. They are our little miracles in so many ways.

Our story: We waited until our one year anniversary to try and get pregnant. We always knew I would more than likely have difficulty getting pregnant because of my irregular periods. Right before we got married I had a Nurse Practitioner that I worked for explain that I had Polycycstic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

PCOS is a condition that is caused by hormonal imbalances and results in small cysts in the ovaries along with some other unpleasant side effects—acne, lots of hair on the face, gain weight easily, hard to lose weight, insulin resistance, and an irregular menstrual cycle. I’ve been lucky enough to have all of these symptoms (boo!). The hormonal imbalances cause the follicles in the ovaries to grow, but not usually quite big enough to be released (ovulation). Instead of growing to be released, the follicles turn into small cysts. Basically, PCOS causes infertility because you are not ovulating like the average woman does. My body probably ovulates on its own 1-2 times a year. PCOS has other complications including higher miscarriage rate, increased risk of endometrial and breast cancer, and increased risk of obesity (and the complications that go along with that—diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure). PCOS is the leading cause of female infertility and about 5 million women in the U.S. currently have this condition (4%!).

Growing up my family doctor was aware that I did not have regular periods, but he always said it was because I played sports and that I should just take birth control pills to have a period every month—which I, personally, think messed up my body even more. In August of 2009, I went off of birth control and started charting my basal temperature in hopes I might know when I was going to ovulate. In January 2010, after 6 months of trying and not even getting a period, I went to an OB-GYN that confirmed I had PCOS. He put me on clomid in hopes that it would stimulate my ovaries. With each cycle I would take the clomid days 5-9 and get my blood drawn to test my progesterone levels on day 21 (to indicate whether I ovulated or not). The clomid dose was increased from 50 mg to 100 mg to 150 mg each cycle, but my ovaries did absolutely nothing. The doctor was even surprised that nothing happened after 3 cycles. He referred me to a fertility specialist in the city we were living, but we were moving to Utah at the end of that summer so we decided to wait until then. I spent the summer (2010) researching my different options here in Utah and decided on Utah Fertility Center (which I am SO glad that we did because they are fabulous).

In September we had our consultation. They were so informative and had a plan of action all ready for us; we left feeling really optimistic and excited. They told has that PCOS is a common condition that they see at the fertility center and they were sure we would be able to get pregnant. My cycle consisted of clomid days 3-7 and then starting on day 9 I started taking Bravelle, an injectable drug that stimulates the ovaries. Initially they thought I would go in on day 12 and be ready to ovulate, but that was not the case. The nurses and doctors referred to my ovaries as “very stubborn”. I don’t know how many shots I injected in total, but I had about 1-2 doses a day from day 9 until day 21. I went in every couple days for an ultrasound to see where the follicles were at. We were lucky enough to have two follicles big enough, which meant two eggs. I took the HCG shot on day 21 and had an IUI the next morning (the IUI was not necessary, but after spending lots of money on medication, we wanted to do everything possible to up our chances of becoming pregnant). On November 8, 2010 we found out we were pregnant! We were SO excited and surprised that it happened the first cycle. I took a home pregnancy test the night before the blood test and my husband was preparing himself to comfort me and didn’t even know what to do when I said it was positive. We were/are extremely grateful that our first cycle was the one. At 6 weeks pregnant I was experiencing some bleeding and went in for an ultrasound, everything checked out fine—but they were able to tell us that we had two gestational sacs, but they couldn’t see a fetal pole in one of the sacs, but it was too early to tell if it was empty or not. We went in at 7 weeks for a scheduled ultrasound and two fetal poles were present. Those two little follicles/eggs were now babies, twins!

Some people may think we had to wait a long time to get pregnant, others may think our journey was easy. And, looking back and hearing other’s stories, our journey really is a miracle and for that we are very grateful. It really was difficult and a huge trial in my life at that time. It still is a huge trial. PCOS is not something that affects me just when I want to get pregnant, even though that is probably the most emotional effect. While I was trying to get pregnant I was always asking “Why me?” But, I truly understand now why Heavenly Father has His own timing and that we are given trials that we can endure. We prayed daily for these two miracles and we were extremely blessed. I took great comfort in reading about women in the Bible that also went through infertility issues—this is something that isn’t just in our time. I learned a great deal from the strength of these women. I, also, took great comfort in talking with people that had/were struggling with infertility. We were lucky to have families that were very supportive and continue to be to this day. I am so grateful for the advances in modern medicine that made it possible for me to get pregnant and to hopefully have more children in the future.

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