Fertility

Pineapple for Fertility – Why is Pineapple the Symbol of Fertility?

Eloise Edington  |   24 Oct 2020


There are so many amazing IVF and fertility warriors out there within the TTC (trying to conceive) community – something I (Eloise) wish I had known about and had the support from at the time I was seeking fertility help. For this reason, we thought it would be helpful to chat with Erin (AKA My Beautiful Blunder), to hear about her story and personal struggle. Sharing real-life experiences can really help to feel more connected and less alone – we all know that trying to conceive (when it isn’t happening) can be heartbreaking.

Over to Erin Bulcau…

www.mybeautifulblunder.com

The Infertility Struggle is Real

We know what infertility means and how it can affect both men and women in their journeys towards having a family. But how often is infertility intimately talked about, and in a way we can all relate too? There are many fertility blogs, articles, doctor’s statements, inspiring quotes – you name it. They all do the noble job of trying to remind us and give us hope that positive outcomes can happen.

Sometimes your body just won’t ovulate (anyone else sick of the sight of ovulation predictor kits?) or, a man with a low sperm count or azoospermia (lack of sperm), infertility is the devastating end result. They also tell us that this is ok and that there is always a way, whether it be IVF, sperm and egg donation or adoption. But Erin Bulcau, author of My Beautiful Blunder Blog, will tell you that this is all well and good but the journey is frighteningly personal and, despite knowing otherwise, sometimes it’s just NOT OK and that is allowed.

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My Journey With Infertility

Nick and I got married when I was 25. We knew we wanted kids and, while we thought we would wait a couple of years, the summer of 2010 brought the baby itch. We started trying to conceive. I came off the pill and I wasn’t getting a period. Being the instant gratification personality that I am, I booked an appointment with my OB after a couple of months had gone by. I sat there waiting for her to come in and, while this should have been an exciting moment in my life, it was absolutely terrifying. Little did I know what lay ahead. She explained to me that I don’t seem to ovulate on my own, in which case I would need fertility help with treatments to conceive a child. I was shocked! I didn’t know anyone who had to do this, let alone at 26! So she referred me to a specialist and we made an appointment.

I thought fertility treatments were only for older women…

I remember sitting in that waiting room for the first time. I felt embarrassed. I felt like I didn’t belong there. I thought fertility treatments were only for older women, not me. But there we were waiting to see what we needed to do.

The Fertility Specialist

The RE we met with suggested we first try IUI (Intra Uterine Insemination) with the help of fertility drugs to stimulate my ovaries. Apparently, I had A LOT of follicles but they weren’t maturing and therefore not releasing. We started off with Clomid, a drug to help stimulate your ovaries. That didn’t work, so we moved on to a more invasive method of injecting my stomach, day and night, with Menopur. This would hopefully help the follicles grow and mature. Then, with another injection, a few would release. Sure enough this method worked. We did what is called our “trigger shot” and my follicles were on their way to being released. We came into the fertility clinic for them to inseminate Nick’s sperm in me with a long syringe. There we were, pregnant until proven otherwise. I remember lying on the exam table for 20 minutes after they inseminated me thinking how I would NEVER want to tell anyone about this. I already felt bad enough making Nick deal with this, so there was no way I would ever be sharing it.

We are pregnant!

Two weeks later I got my blood drawn to see if this had worked. I have a very bad relationship with pregnancy tests because, up until then, they were all negative. I used to pee on the sticks three or four times in a row thinking I must have done it wrong. This time I just waited for that blood test. I didn’t want them to call me. Since Nick was at work, I made them call him. I stayed in our apartment all day, pacing and not being able to think about anything else. Then Nick suddenly came barging in with a huge grin! He picked me up and said “We are pregnant!”
Now that I felt safe, I called the doctor and they informed me that my first beta reading was very high. They said that could possibly mean multiples but we would wait for the first ultrasound in a few weeks.

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Triplets!

I bled A LOT the day before my ultrasound. The nurse said to just lie low but not to worry, it was normal. I couldn’t sleep that night, obviously. We went into the fertility clinic and had our first ultrasound. With my legs wide open and my heart pounding, worried we had miscarried, the nurse looked up and said, “Congratulations you are having TRIPLETS.”

We were again, in shock – thankful we were all ok, but triplets??? Immediately following the ultrasound we were called into the doctor’s office to discuss it. He told us that my life, along with the babies’, would be at risk if we decided to carry all three. He said that he recommended that we should consider a reduction.

There is a fertility clinic in LA you can go to. You just have to do this before 9 weeks.

Our hearts sank. How on earth could we make this decision? How would I survive knowing that our lives were at risk if we moved forward with three?

We knew what we had to do and it was the most traumatic decision of our lives.

I was 26 and Nick was 31.

Triplets to Twins

We drove to LA and stayed in a little hotel close to the clinic, since we had to be there first thing in the morning. We went in and the physician told us that she would be aborting the embryo that was easiest to get to. We didn’t know the genders or anything of that sort or if any of them were normal embryos or not. We just shook our heads and said ok. I closed my eyes for most of the time. She said I would bleed out the remains and to take it easy for a couple of weeks. We were very quiet on the way home. We didn’t tell anyone for years.

As hard as that was, I knew and still know we made the right choice. I carried my twin girls to term and birthed them vaginally! They were perfectly healthy except that Eliana was tiny, since her umbilical cord was very thin. She needed more nutrients to get a little fatter, so she stayed in the NICU for 11 days. Those were some of the hardest days of my life. I felt so guilty bringing one baby home and not the other. I was exhausted from being a new mom, driving to and from the NICU daily to feed and be with the other twin. But we did it. She came home after 11 days and has been the strongest, spunkiest child since.

Related Article – Baby Loss – Dealing with Grief and Saying Goodbye

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More Troubles

Over the following months, we found out I had a hernia from the pregnancy and that my stomach muscles had torn. We decided I needed to have that fixed so that my back would stop hurting and I could regain my strength. I had diastis recti and hernia repair surgery in December 2011, six months after the twins were born. I don’t remember much as they say you forget trauma, but I wasn’t allowed to pick up the babies for six weeks. Thankfully I had stored enough milk (since I was producing 22oz every 3 hours) to last them for an additional three months post-surgery.

Trying IVF

Life went on. We were beyond grateful for our girls. But when they turned six, we knew we had to try for another baby. We stayed hopeful and tried to conceive on our own during the summer of 2017 and, sure enough, I ended up back at the fertility clinic for help. This time we would be jumping into IVF (In-Vitro Fertilisation) right away. I was elated. I thought IVF meant I would be pregnant in four months! I would get to choose the gender and we would have this baby by the end of the coming summer. I was very wrong.

Related Article – ‘The Things No-one Told Us About Infertility

We paid for this first round. Unfortunately, here in California insurance doesn’t cover fertility treatments. It cost almost $30,000 per round, meaning from egg retrieval to transfer was what we had to pay up front. Forms were signed and we were on our way. We had our first egg retrieval and they collected eight eggs. Only three made it to full embryos and, after sending them to get tested (PGS testing to make sure they were normal babies), we only ended up with one. But we only needed one, right? So, hopeful and (honestly) naïve, we transferred the one in December 2017. This transfer failed. We were back to square one and devastated.

I felt so guilty that we had spent so much money and time

We tried again: signed the forms, paid up front and went through another retrieval and transfer. We had the same results. We transferred one embryo, along with one other that was not normal but could potentially grow to be (termed a mosaic embryo). They too failed. I didn’t understand. I felt like I had all the pregnancy symptoms. But that’s the thing with IVF. You are on so many hormones and fertility drugs that your body almost mimics pregnancy symptoms. It was such a mind game. I started to feel very depressed. I felt so guilty that we had spent so much money and time going back and forth to the doctor, doing shots, blood-work and exams for nothing. I had taken so much time away from my twins (or so it felt) and I couldn’t handle that guilt.

After trying an IUI and having it fail, we decided to take a break. We needed a break financially, mentally and physically. We were disconnected as a couple and my mind couldn’t focus on anything other than IVF. We took the summer off to cleanse my body. I started fertility acupuncture treatments regularly to help with my fertility and I trained to become a yoga teacher. We traveled and I was as present as I could be with my girls.

September 2018 came quickly. We switched clinics because we weren’t happy with our old one and tried for our third egg retrieval and third transfer. This time we decided not to test our embryos. We had three and thought, due to the controversy of testing, we would take our chances. We were pregnant! It worked!! I remember crying on the floor of my closet – so many tears of joy and relief. We didn’t tell the girls right away. We waited until six weeks to tell them, once we saw a heartbeat. They were so excited! They cried and we could not stop talking about that baby. A couple of weeks later, it was time for me to “graduate” from my fertility clinic and onto the OB. “I’m sorry, Erin, but the baby has stopped growing.” My world collapsed. We had miscarried. I remember holding on to Nick’s shirt so tightly as he held me up so that I wouldn’t fall out of the bed. I couldn’t even pull my pants up. How would I continue about my day? How would I tell the girls? But we did. They sobbed and we had to explain that the baby had died in my tummy. The guilt ate me alive.

Related Article – Baby Loss Awareness – What Not to Say to a Woman Who’s Had a Miscarriage

IVF – The Endless Journey

I bled for about three months straight. I was told to take Misoprostol, which is a pill to induce miscarriage. I was told to catch any tissue that came out of me and save it for testing. I had to do this twice. The second time I took the pill, I bled through four sets of pyjamas and my sheets. I couldn’t walk the next morning as I had lost so much blood. The bleeding continued, not as severely, but for three months until finally the doctor discovered more tissue in my uterus. Yes, still from the miscarriage. I had to have a D&C. I couldn’t believe it. I was angry that this went on for so long because I couldn’t move on! But I went into surgery and felt a sense of relief when it was done.

The tissue didn’t show much. In fact, we don’t really know why I suffered baby loss. The doctors just assumed the embryo was abnormal. We tested the remaining two embryos because I wasn’t about to have another miscarriage if I could help it. One came back normal; we transferred that one and it failed.

I wasn’t sure if I could keep going. We were now two years in – three retrievals, four transfers and a miscarriage. But Nick knows me too well. “I think you’ve got it in you to do one more retrieval.” So, we did. We got three PGS normal embryos, the most ever! We transferred one in August in such high hopes – and it failed. I was miserable and so confused. I had a pelvic MRI done and a biopsy on my uterus. They also found some inflammation and something called adenomyosis. I was on medication for that for three months. This killed me – it meant more waiting. December 2019 rolled around and it was time to transfer again. I mean it should work now, right? We had“fixed” my uterus!

Playback – Instagram LIVE on PGS Testing

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Keep Going

Another failed transfer. I had one embryo left. I didn’t even know if I could go through the transfer process again! The heartache of more baby loss, the physical and emotional pain etc. I knew something had to change. I became my own advocate. I asked to speak to another doctor in the same clinic. I liked him and we connected so I asked to switch. I learned that this is MY journey. I need to be happy and confident in my process and having the right doctor was a huge part of it. I also told him I wanted my uterine lining to be thicker. In the past, the doctors had always insisted on it being 7-8mm for transfer, but this time I said no. I said I wanted it to be at least 9.5. I checked my vitamin D levels, rechecked my thyroid and we were on our way to our seventh transfer. I felt the most positive and confident (and informed) than I had ever felt in the past. I knew this would work – and here I am sitting, here writing this with my almost 20 week old belly sticking out.

The warriors go through all this because they are capable of coming out the other end.

IVF was a roller-coaster. It almost broke me, it hurt my marriage at times and it took over my life for 3 years. But it also made me and my marriage stronger than ever. It made my little family closer. It made my girls compassionate and it made them grow. It made me humble and patient. But most of all it made me into who I am today. I wouldn’t wish this trying to conceive journey upon anyone, but I also know that, had I not gone through it, I wouldn’t be where I am today: not only pregnant with our little girl, that third baby that I knew was meant to be one day, but it led me to growing into my own skin, to feeling powerful. It has made me realize how incredibly strong I am and I only hope that my girls will see that one day. Life is crazy. It’s so unpredictable and I truly believe that the strongest ones, the warriors, go through all this because they are capable of coming out the other end.

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How Do I Feel About Infertility

No one has ever asked me how I feel about it.

I think the answer is clear, it’s not great. It’s not fun and it’s been a long road. But for that to make sense I feel as though it’s important to dissect some of those feelings that come with infertility and IVF.

Let’s start with how I feel about my marriage. Well it was hard. The first year of IVF was especially difficult because neither of us understood what was going on or why it wasn’t working for us. I felt guilty like I was defective, like it was my fault we were going through this, spending money and losing babies. I think my husband felt bad too. He wanted to fix me, to fix the situation, to make me happy and not see me cry so much. We both felt guilt. We argued a lot. We didn’t know how to be a team and we let our sadness and frustration out on each other.

But after our long break, we regrouped and started to work as one. We no longer felt sad for each other but just felt sad in general. We cried together. Well I did most of the crying but he became a support system rather than someone I felt bad showing emotions in front of. We grew closer and we are now the strongest we have ever been. We learned that no matter what, we had each other and our twins. We had been through so much since the IUI, nine years ago, the reduction from triplets to twins and now three years of IVF. We have been through so much baby loss, seen things I know many couples haven’t had to see, and, for those reasons we are so deeply bonded.

So, infertility was hard on my marriage. But because it was hard it forced us to grow closer and learn how to work as one. I’m grateful for that if nothing else – our little family has become a very strong force!

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Guilt

So on that note, let’s elaborate on guilt. I have twin girls who just turned nine. That means that for the past three years I have had to drag them through this fertility journey with me and, let me tell you, that is the worst feeling a mother can have. The guilt of exposing her children to something they probably wouldn’t have seen or known about had it not been for my infertility. For a while, the girls knew I was going to the doctor. They knew I was getting check-ups and as much as I told them I was ok, they thought something was wrong. Last year, once we saw the heartbeat at six weeks, we told them we were pregnant. They cried. Not because they were happy about the baby but they were relieved that nothing was wrong with me! I felt like the worst mom. How could I let them live in fear like that?

Two weeks later we had to tell them about the miscarriage. Aside from feeling like the walls were caving in already, now I had to explain to seven year olds that the baby died in mommy’s tummy. We all cried for many days together. Again, pure guilt. What seven-year-old knows about miscarrying? I don’t think I even knew about it until I was in my 20’s! I didn’t know how to act. I was devastated from the baby loss but I also needed to be a mom to these amazing girls of mine. The guilt piled on daily.

There were many days when I went into my closet and shut the door so that I could cry over a loss, bad news or just infertility itself. I didn’t want them to see me so sad but I felt really depressed, which only led me to feel worse because of what I might be doing to them. Was I doing the right thing? Was it right taking time away from them, from my family, from our daily lives; letting my mind be preoccupied with IVF and the next steps rather than ice-cream and dancing, and playing? How on earth do I handle that?

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A Reminder To Keep Fighting

I chose to keep fighting. I knew one day it would work and we could all move forward. Well it did. I know one day I will also get to explain it in more detail to the girls and I hope that they don’t feel any anger or loss of innocence because of me. But that’s something that weighs on me every single day.

To add to that, people can be so insensitive. Sure, it’s up to me to block comments and looks from friends and family, but it’s hard. “At least you have your twins”, “Why don’t you just stop trying and focus on the girls?” As if I hadn’t thought of this myself, as if the guilt of losing any kind of time with them doesn’t already shatter my heart every single day. But, believe it or not, people have said this to me for the past three years; friends, family and acquaintances. After a lot of fertility coaching, my answer is always this: One doesn’t have to do with the other. Wanting to grow my family shouldn’t mean that I don’t thank my lucky stars every day for my girls, it doesn’t mean that I don’t think I’m very blessed. It just means I want to have another baby, that’s all and that’s ok. But no matter what I say to them or myself, the guilt still eats at me.

So, infertility is a beast. It’s tiring, it’s unfair, its long, it’s painful and its stressful. It takes over your life, your mind and your everyday routine. It’s a full-time job and yet no-one acknowledges the emotional pain that comes with it. No-one sees more than just you taking pills and injecting yourself to have a baby. No one sees you cry in the closet, no one sees you lose your mind with every appointment. No one sees the guilt that fills your heart, no one asks how you feel about infertility and no one reminds you that you’re doing amazing.

But you are.

Related Article: – Secondary Infertility – ‘Opening Up The Conversation’

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