Infertility – The Infinite Loop of Hope and Heartbreak

Eloise Edington  |   28 Mar 2022

Anyone experiencing infertility or fertility problems knows that the journey to parenthood can be an endless cycle of hope, disappointment and drawing on diminishing energy reserves.

We know that going through fertility treatment requires a positive yet realistic outlook, which can be difficult to have when trying to conceive with no success. That’s why we created our free Fertility Squad app (download it here). Within this bustling fertility community, we support one another through the highs and lows of building a family.

Like many in our fertility community, Erica and her husband have gone through years of TTC and fertility treatment.

Here, she shares their story. (You can follow Erica’s story on her Instagram, too.)

I met my husband when I was 17 and he was 18, and we were completely unaware of the ride we would embark on as a couple. We dated for seven years before we got married, and it was always our plan to have a family. So, shortly after we got married, I came off the oral contraceptives I had been taking for nearly a decade… My husband was 26, I was 25 and we felt ready; we were married, settled in our careers, and had a house and a dog.

For the first few months, the world of fertility seemed largely straightforward. I cycled between 32 and 36 days, and I was optimistic that we would be pregnant within the year. However, that short stint of consistency was followed by a 63-day-long cycle, a 92-day-long cycle, and a cycle that lasted over 100 days (I stopped counting). One visit to my family doctor later, and I was quickly referred to our local ObGyn.

The following year was filled with fertility tests to determine why my cycles were so wildly irregular. I had extensive blood panels done, pelvic ultrasounds, a hysterosalpingogram (landing me in the ER because I went into shock from the pain), an MRI, a hysteroscopy, and a laparoscopy. I think back on that year now, and I see myself as a lab rat; I was poked, prodded, anaesthetized, and I felt like I was spinning on a hamster wheel most of the time. But we wanted answers, and we wanted a baby, so I put my head down and did what the fertility specialists told me to do.

At the end of it all, I was gifted with a four-letter acronym to explain my fertility problems: PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). With this answer in hand, our ObGyn moved us along to the next level of intervention – a referral to a reproductive clinic three hours away. As our names slowly made their way to the top of the waitlist, our ObGyn started us on Letrozole, which is a drug that regulates menstrual cycles and induces ovulation. We were hopeful we wouldn’t even make it to our first appointment with the reproductive endocrinologist… we were so naïve.

Our first appointment with the clinic was in September 2019. We started at a low level of intervention, and we completed multiple cycles of Letrozole while tracking follicle development using pelvic ultrasounds. These were frustrating months because my body was doing anything but cooperating. When the dose was too low, not a single follicle would develop. When the dose was too high, 5-10 dominant follicles developed, greatly increasing the risk of multiple pregnancies, and ultimately making it unsafe to try to conceive. We added an Ovidrel injection to the concoction so that we could time intercourse more precisely. On our second cycle using the injection, we finally fell pregnant, and we were ecstatic. I truly believed we would meet our baby nine months later. I bought my husband a “Hockey Dad” mug and tiny baby shoes, and I shared the news with a few close friends and family members.

It was surreal to be at this point in our journey. Unfortunately, I started bleeding just prior to the six-week mark, and we lost our first pregnancy. While this loss was devastating, it also provided us with renewed hope… we knew we could get pregnant. In total, we completed 18 cycles using this method, which spanned a period of two years. We conceived and miscarried in two of those opportunities.

After a blunt consultation with our fertility specialist, she told us we should seriously consider IVF. Though we never thought it would get to this point. We still really wanted a baby, and we were losing steam with the other methods that we had been trying to get pregnant. We crunched numbers, had important discussions with each other and our family, and committed to doing an egg retrieval in July 2021. Honestly, other than the pain of the egg retrieval itself, the physical aspect of IVF felt easy for me; I could handle the injections, I liked the procedural approach, and it felt like we were so close to our little one. We were blessed with tremendous results from our egg retrieval: 13 beautiful embryos.

Even better, I was healthy enough to undergo a fresh embryo transfer of one of those beautiful babies. Though it felt too good to be true, like the stars were too perfectly aligned, we were pregnant again. I spent my time with my hand permanently glued to my belly and dreaming of names and nursery colour palettes. My husband and I truly felt like this time would be different, and we were hopeful that we were on our way to holding Baby Houde. Unfortunately, hope is a tricky thing, because while it moves you forward at the moment, it sets you back when it lets you down. We miscarried at five weeks.

Going from such a high to such a low was incredibly difficult for my heart and body. There was a shift in me, and I know my husband felt it too. Though I likely wasn’t ready, we jumped into a frozen embryo transfer as quickly as we could. The details seem unimportant now, but the transfer failed, and though we didn’t lose a pregnancy, we did lose one of those beautiful embryos that we had worked so hard to create. After this setback, I knew I needed some time to repair some damage that the last 3 and a half years inflicted. We took three months off from treatment, we focused on our health and connected to our loved ones, and we planned an exciting trip to Las Vegas. It was liberating, rejuvenating, and necessary. However, as the new year approached, we always promised we would come back to the table to discuss our family. Ultimately, we decided we weren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet, and we decided to tackle another frozen embryo transfer.

The preparation for this transfer was long (36 days) because my body refused to cooperate (as per usual). The medication’s side effects were intense, and I was in perpetual torment that my body was going to fail me; that I was going to fail myself, my husband, and our marriage. But, five days after our transfer, that second pink line made its appearance for the fourth time in my life. We were pregnant, again. Though we remained heavily guarded, it was impossible not to still feel jolts of hope and excitement. Again, I caught my hand wandering to my belly, and my husband’s hands wandered to that same spot at night while he was asleep.

I wish I was ending this story differently, but for now, our narrative remains the same. We lost that pregnancy after just five weeks, and it feels like I may have lost all my momentum, too. We are officially four years into TTC and we have experienced four pregnancy losses. We are blessed to have ten embryos still sleeping soundly on ice whenever we are ready.

However, the question now becomes when will I ever be ready to risk such heavy heartbreak again?

Only time will tell.

Thank you, Erica, for sharing your story. From all of us at Fertility Help Hub and from our readers: we wish you the strength and energy to continue your journey, however that may look.

If you have a fertility story you wish to share, please get in touch with Editor, Holly, through the Fertility Help Hub Instagram. We can’t promise to publish every story we receive but we’d still love to hear from you.

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