For the first time in a while, hope was alive with us again for a brief, fleeting moment. Our first IUI was planned for May (2018), but quickly got postponed to June since my husband would be away with work and would possibly miss the insemination day. Sort of need him there as he plays a semi-critical role. However, I still called in May to report my day 1, and to pay our $850 for a sperm wash. Yes, that is really a thing. And yes again, you have to repay that amount with EVERY IUI at our fertility clinic. Every clinic has different fees, different prices, and each plan is specifically catered to what each couple is going through so this is just our personal experience.
So with our sperm wash paid, we waited until I got my next cycle in June, before I could call again and begin our first fertility treatment. June 8th, I started my cycle and drove down to Ottawa to pick up my gonal-f (follicle stimulating hormone) injection pen (the local pharmacy’s don’t carry it on hand and couldn’t confirm it would be in on time) and it wasn’t something I was going to risk and then have to delay another month.
On cycle day 5, I had to administer my first injection. I really was not nervous at this point – I don’t have a fear of needles and the injection is a pen form, which seemed a lot less daunting than a syringe. All was well until it came 5 o’clock in the evening and it was time for my first injection. I prepared the pen to 62.5 IU, and wiped the spot on my abdomen slightly below my belly button where I was going to administer the hormones. I picked up the injection pen and held it close to my stomach, when I suddenly panicked and realized I really can’t do this.
For 20 minutes I cried, holding this needle close to my stomach, hoping to work up the courage to just stab myself and get it over with. Robbie decided that maybe it was best if he tried, but I knew the moment that he held the injection pen like a dart, I felt all the more terrified at him using me as a human dart board, so I snatched it back. I even talked about driving into work to get one of my nurse friends to administer it. Eventually I said maybe if you weren’t here I would be able to do it.
I sat on the chair and told myself you have to do this if you ever want the chance to be a Mama. So I picked up that pen, took a deep breath, and slowly slide it into my abdomen, administered the dose, counted to 10, then pulled it out. In the exact moment when I had the needle in, I thought oh god this really isn’t bad. Excitedly I proclaimed to Robbie “I DID IT.” Robbie was very skeptical and accused me of disposing the dose (but I had the prick of the needle mark to prove I wasn’t lying). It brought about a new admiration for diabetics who have to do that daily.
The following three days, at same time in the evening, I administered my injection, this time with much ease. There are a lot of symptoms of taking the follicle stimulating hormone, but I only ever experienced extreme fatigue this cycle. To the point where I could crawl into bed after work around 10:30 pm and sleep until my alarm would wake me up at 12:00 pm the next day. Then on occasion, I would sleep from 12:30-1:45 and get up so I could leave to go back to work for 3. It was so exhausting, I have never felt so physically drained before (all you parents out there are probably like just you wait until you have kids).
Saturday morning (cycle day 9), Robbie and I woke up earlier to be in Ottawa at 9 am for our first ultrasound to monitor and see how many follicles I have and how large they are. Prior to our appointment, I had to get blood work completed to make sure I don’t have a surge (aka if my body is ovulating or not). To much surprise I was surging and already had one follicle at 21 mm! We were so excited that my injections were working and that I had actually produced a large follicle! The whole plan of approach was to have have multiple follicles (2-4) stimulated so that they would all be of a good size, but I had only stimulated the one follicle and the rest were left in the dust – but I didn’t care at this point. I HAD A VIABLE FOLLICLE.
My overall follicle count was 12 follicles on my right ovary (also the home of my 21 mm), and 8 follicles on the left. Aside from the 21 mm, all other follicles were less than 5 mm. But I didn’t care because my body on drugs (fertility drugs – as close to doing drugs as I’ll ever come) had produced a viable follicle and had at least managed to produce 20 follicles, 11 more than what my body could do naturally. I was so ecstatic. I couldn’t believe the difference in the ultrasound, my usually bare ovaries were overflowed with follicles (on screen they just look like giant black craters). We eventually have come to calling our largest follicle our “maybe baby.”
They sent me home that night with Ovidrel, a one time injection, to help mature eggs be released and we were scheduled back to the clinic the following morning for our insemination day!
The Big Day:
I woke up multiple times that morning with such intense ovulation pains, something I honestly can say I have never felt so strong and powerful before (I asked my nurse later and she said its probably because my body hasn’t been used to creating large enough follicles to feel them).
We were awake at 4:30 am (after an early day the morning before and than working until 10 pm, this early morning hurt a lot). I woke up, got out of bed, took Buck for a quick walk while Robbie got a few more minutes of sleep. This whole morning was so surreal. Infertility treatments give you this feeling of euphoria, this sensation that on this day, the entirety of our life can change. I took Buck for a walk, thanking and being grateful for all I have. Grateful that I have the worlds most supporting husband, grateful for technology, grateful we have the finances to do so and grateful for the opportunity to become parents.
We had to be in Ottawa for 7 am for Robbie to give his sperm “donation” (I always say donation because hes donating it to me for a good cause and it makes me laugh). A nurse calls Robbie’s name, and I yell have fun! as he walks down the hall just to be sure to embarrass him ever so slightly. During this time, I sit in the waiting room thinking about how today is the day we could be parents. I repeat to myself over and over: we are fertile, we are worthy.
Some time later, Robbie submerges to state that was probably one of the most uncomfortable moments of his life and makes a remark that is definitely not PG or blog-friendly. But he does say this, that the whole time he just wanted to get out of there so that he didn’t have to think about how many other men have given “donations” in that room but he also said he didn’t want to be too fast so that the nurse would think oh his poor wife. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing in the waiting room after that.
Our actual IUI wasn’t scheduled until 10:30 am, as they had to process the sperm wash, a procedure I’ve come to learn is when they take a gradient, and the small percentage of the sperm that make it to the top are the chosen ones for insemination, as they are the stronger swimmers and have less abnormalities. So in the mean time, we head to Starbucks and talk about how today is the day that could change our entire world. It was so refreshing, sitting there with my husband planning out details of our life when we would become parents, a conversation we haven’t had in a few months because it just felt to raw and uncertain to talk about.
The actual IUI was relatively simple. I laid on the bed, feet in the stirrups, holding Robbie’s hand, and our nurse came into tell us our sperm results. This nurse handed us this little vile with about 1/4 of a tablespoon of “donation” and asks you to make sure that the vile in front of you has all your husbands information. I am telling you point blank – I have never re-read so little information so many times because its very nerve wracking to think about how easy it would be to swap samples.
Robbies samples came back AMAZING. I’m going to tell you the numbers because it is simply fascinating to know and the whole point of this blog is to raise infertility awareness but also tell of how wonderful our bodies are. His overall count was 100 million, with a 72% motility. The after wash count was 28 million and a motility of 96%.
The IUI itself only took about 5 minutes if that, a small catheter is placed in the uterus, and the sperm is released. Simple as that. It wasn’t painful at all, just a bit of discomfort that was very short lived. You lay there for 15 minutes just to rest afterwards and then you are good to continue on wards with your day. At this point I was PUPO – pregnant until proven otherwise. After this, I just had to take progesterone suppositories daily starting two days post-IUI (how lovely, I know) until our pregnancy blood work, which was scheduled for July 4.
The first week post-IUI, I kept positive, continuing to say that I was PUPO, but the following week, I just knew it didn’t work. Not in a negative way, I just knew my body and I just knew I wasn’t pregnant. I didn’t take any pregnancy tests – instead we opted to wait for our blood work. After all the hormones, you will actually get a false-positive test, and I just didn’t want to get my hopes up and watch the positive fade away.
The day before our blood work, I got my period and I just cried. I was right, I just knew it hadn’t worked. This time around hurt more because we had our hopes so high and all looked well – I had a great egg, I ovulated, Robbie’s sperm was excellent, it seemed like a sure thing. Until it wasn’t.
Due to the hormones, I have to take a month off before we can do our next IUI cycle to let the hormones get out of my system and my body to regulate itself. The nurse said to call my next period, so that we could start again but only to call IF I could do our IUI that month. So we waited for August to come around.
We lost the battle, but we will win the war,