I have had a few people ask me to blog about various parenting topics and I feel like in order to do that I need to start off with the journey that brought us to parenthood. Some people get pregnant very easily. Others have their own hurdles to leap over to get there. My husband and I are part of the latter. Our journey starts way back in November 2013, one month after we said: “I Do.”
A couple of months before we got married my husband and I were sitting on the couch in our townhome and he mentioned to me that he noticed a lump on one of his testicles. He didn’t think much of it at the time and put it off as maybe just a random lump from some trauma. What trauma? I have no idea. I don’t have testicles so I am not sure what kinds of trauma they might experience on a daily basis, so I just went with it. But then he noticed the lump got larger. We got married in October 2013 and later that month he went to the doctor. A few pricks here, a few tests there, a couple scans here and there it was. That C word that had already caused us such heartache when my brother, who was also my husbands best friend, passed away in early 2013. Cancer. Testicular Cancer to be exact. How could this be happening to my husband who I had never even seen get anything worse than a hangover? We were definitely putting our vows to the test pretty quickly. Fast forward to the week before Thanksgiving and he was going in for surgery. He needed to have his testicle removed as step one to rid the cancer from his body. If you’re wondering… yes, I did ask his surgeon if I could keep his testicle to put in a jar and keep it on the mantle to show my friends that I had him by the balls. No, that is not a joke. I told my husband I was going to ask and I don’t think he thought I was serious. I was. Joke was on him. The surgeon laughed and said “no” but he did take a picture of it after removing it so we could see what it looked like. If you want to see what a testicle looks like, just ask. We still have that picture. I’ll spare posting it here.
Chemotherapy started after the first of the year in 2014. The first week was five full days. Weeks two and three was treatment on Mondays, rest Tuesday through Friday. Week four was recovery week then we started all over the next month. It was trying and difficult. I spent many days crying and wishing he did not have to go through this torture that was wreaking havoc on his body. We had a lot of ups and downs those few months. A lot of those downs came from my husbands’ cabin fever, as not being able to do his normal activities and go out in public (due to low cell counts) made him antsy and agitated. But we made it through. Day after day we went to the hospital to pump my husband with the drugs that ultimately saved his life, so in the end, it was all worth it. I would do it all over again if needed to keep him here by my side.
I discuss this as far as pregnancy goes because chemotherapy can leave a person sterile. We already knew that we wanted to have a family someday but we didn’t know we were going to need to make those big family-planning decisions so quickly after getting married. With the chance that my husband’s remaining testicle could be left sterile, we needed to discuss what our options were for having children in the future. We made the decision to have his sperm frozen until we were ready to start trying. That way if the worst case scenario did happen, we had the frozen sperm to fall back on.
Fast forward to 2015 and that will to try was upon us. His doctor said that we should give it a good six months of trying naturally with tracking my cycle. Six months came and went. Each month was more depressing than the last. I remember seeing people on Facebook announcing their pregnancies and getting so depressed and thinking, ‘why not us’? I knew that was selfish and that we had underlying issues that could lead to our inability to conceive, but it still didn’t seem fair. Why was it so hard to attain something we were trying so hard to achieve. My husband decided to get tested and it turned out that his motility was down from before his treatments. What does that mean? Sperm motility is the movement and swimming of the sperm. Basically, he had loads of sperm (go honey!) but it just couldn’t reach the mothership. Our choices were this: keep trying naturally, his sperm might eventually get back to normal (keyword: might), or move forward with fertility treatments. Honestly, I had already waited and tried long enough that I didn’t want to keep trying for another year or two or three. We moved his frozen sperm to NCCRM where I had chosen to do fertility treatments and went from there.
picture of the tank I transferred his sperm in. Buckled in for safety!
We met with Doctor Mulvaney and decided on a plan: IUI (intrauterine insemination). One cycle of Clomid, come back to check my follicles, then wait for the smiley face on the ovulation predictor to let me know when we would come in to do the IUI. We would try IUI at least three times before moving onto IVF. We also made the decision to try with fresh sperm initially instead of using what we had frozen, just because fresh sperm is, well, fresh!
The Clomid worked like a charm. Three huge follicles on one side and five smaller ones on the other side! We were sent home to track my cycle and wait for ovulation day. Test once in the AM and once in the PM. We were going out to dinner and I figured I might as well test before we go out. BOOM. Giant smiley face. Called the doctor and I was set for IUI the next morning. We arrived at NCCRM on January 9, 2016 (it’s kind of cool knowing the exact day you conceived!). My husband was whisked back to a room that he described as one of the most unwelcoming rooms he has ever been in. I guess it did not matter though because he got the job done. We were told they needed time to wash, clean and test the fresh sperm to ensure it was viable. Ding Ding. We had millions and millions of sperm. Hooray! They loaded up the syringe and in went the tube into my cervix. Quick, easy, and only slightly painful. But then we were back to the waiting game. Two weeks until I could take a pregnancy test. Two whole weeks. You know when you are heating something up in the microwave that you cannot wait to devour and it seems like those 45 seconds last ten minutes? That is what those two weeks felt like. Those days between the procedure and taking my first test moved like microwave minutes.
right before our IUI procedure
Day 13 came and I couldn’t wait any longer. It had snowed the night before, which if you live in NC you know that means it actually just iced. The shine outside from everything being covered in a thick white ice was beautiful. I took the test and there it was. Those two pink lines we had waited and hoped to see for so long. I took another test twenty-two hours later and there was no denying it then. The next day I took a digital test and there it was. Pregnant. Hallelujah! I went for bloodwork on January 24th to confirm the pregnancy and my HCG was at 199. Still kind of low, but definitely pregnant. Went again every two days and on January 28th my HCG was 806. I was very pregnant. Very very pregnant. At six weeks I had my first ultrasound and there was our baby. Our little squish. We could see the heart beating but it was still too soon to hear it. He looked like a grain of rice. The wave of emotion that came over me was overwhelming. We made it.
So, in the short trimmed down version, that is our journey to conceive. If you’re going through fertility struggles, stick with it and do what you think is best for you. Keep an open mind and weigh all your options. Make choices as a team since that is what will need to happen when you’re parenting, and this is the first step in that direction! Our marriage was tested quite a bit on our journey and I honestly believe we came out stronger. My husband was, and still is, my rock and never let me falter in my belief that we would one day be parents. Do not let a doctor or nurse push you in a certain direction that you do not want to go in. We were told more than once we could keep trying naturally be we knew in our heart of hearts that IUI was our best course. Don’t stress and stay positive. You are not alone. Infertility has a way of leaving you to feel very isolated. It is a dark road that typically holds more downs than ups, and it definitely tends to feel like you’re alone in your struggle, but remember that you aren’t. No one knew we were going through IUI except one set of friends. They had gone through IVF and although their journey was more intense as far as needles, procedures, and cost, it was beyond comforting to have someone to talk to about my worries and troubles that actually understood what I was going through. I guess the saying ‘misery loves company’ is true. I made the tough decision not to tell my parents because I knew how excited they would get and that would have overwhelmed me more than I already was. My mom, with the best of intentions, would have kept checking in on me and I just wasn’t ready for that on top of what I was already going through. I explained this to her when we went over immediately after my appointment to tell them the good news and she was completely understanding. It was my journey to share with whom I wanted, and honestly, it made the announcement to them so much more special, memorable, and hilarious. So with that, I will leave you with the video of us breaking the news to my parents on January 24th, 2016.
Note: my mother is a really fabulous woman who sometimes uses the “F” word. All judgment can be left at the door 🙂 She is also going to be mortified I am putting this video out for the world to see, again, but it makes me laugh and smile the biggest smile every time I watch it.
this was what we put inside the box they opened!