1 in 6 stories

Amanda and Marc

Amanda and Marc

In January 2012 my husband, Marc and I had got the approval from the doctor to start trying for a baby. Little did we know this would just be the beginning of many doctors’ appointments. After 6 months of disappointment we decided to go back to the family doctor. She felt that with our ages (I was 22 and Marc was 25), that we should have been pregnant by then. Since that wasn’t the case she sent Marc to have a semen analysis. Our next appointment with her showed that the count was down and she felt it was best to send us to the nearest fertility clinic to get the proper help.

So we waited one month for our first appointment with the Reproduction Endocrinologist(RE). The doctor we met with told us we would have to complete a cluster of tests before any treatment could begin but was quick to tell us that we would need to do In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). She had also told us the costs accompanied with such treatment. Once all tests had been completed and Marc had been seen by an urologist, the verdict was his sperm count was around 100,000 which is very low. They were unsure of the cause especially because he has never smoked or drank in his life. They suggested trying Clomid, a drug to help the production of testosterone. We tried it for a few months and the results showed his sperm count had went down even lower.

It felt like as though we were at a drawing board of how would we afford this? Should we use donor sperm in hopes of increasing our chances? How could I not have my husband’s child? I had many nights I cried myself to sleep because I just couldn’t see how this would all work out for us. Marc had also told me how he felt about not being able to provide me with the child we both longed for. On one of the sleepless nights, I had stumbled upon a website that had many resources such as a blog, forum, and classifieds. I search the classifieds unsure of what I was actually looking for, more curious as to what was on there. I saw a few people who were looking into a shared cycle. I researched what a shared cycle was and found out that most couples would share the cost of purchasing the eggs, embryos or sperm. From there I was intrigued, I searched and then came across another couple on the other side of Canada pursuing another couple looking to donate eggs. Their proposal was to assist with the costs of IVF in for return the eggs that were collected were to be split between the couples.

After thinking long and discussing it with Marc, I felt this was a perfect opportunity. We could help another couple achieve their dream as well as our own! So I made our first start in the new journey, I called our prospective donor recipient. Talking with Natalie for the first time was an inspiration as she already had one child from a donor embryo and she was also very informative. In a way that made me feel as though we had be friends for a long time. It was a nice change and gave me a sense of hope. So we discussed my health, my family, our infertility issues, and my physical attributes. Natalie was willing to take a chance on me.

So the whole process started when we started looking for a clinic willing to do this special request. I had contacted the clinic I had already been tested at and it seemed they were not interested. My feeling to why we were declined was that they would be losing money by both of us sharing the costs instead of attempting it by ourselves. Thankfully one of the clinics out west was willing to do this as Natalie was already a patient there. This also incurred another expense for Marc and I as we would be traveling from Ontario. So next step was to talk to the doctor and psychiatrist to make sure I was suitable to be a donor.

I couldn’t believe how gentle the doctor had sounded over the phone and yet he was so confident. I felt like he wasn’t there for the money - he was genuinely there to help me and Natalie gain pregnancies.

I remember sitting and waiting for the psychiatrist to call and I felt as though I knew what to expect for the questions because Natalie and I had discussed quite a bit about the finer details. Questions included, ‘will this be an open or closed adoption?’, ‘How would we tell our family, would we tell our children’, and ‘How did we feel about Natalie and her husband donating the remaining embryos, or, if they were used for science or destroyed.’ Most of them I was prepared for but the one that caught me off guard was when she had asked if we would tell our children. At first, I was like, of course. Then I thought what if they had questions about them and I wouldn’t be able to answer them. My only thought was that I would tell them from the beginning by saying mommy gave a piece of herself to help another family and I figured if they heard it all their life that they would be fine with it as it wouldn’t be a shock when they asked as they got older.

Natalie had once told me a simple way to explain to family members if they were unsure, or, did not like the idea was just that if they thought of it as building a house and that I was simply supplying Natalie with the foundation and structure, her body would be taking care of the plumbing and electrical. Essentially it is her body that nurtures and develops the embryo. In the end we got the go ahead from the psychiatrist and doctor. This all happened in October 2013 and we were then scheduled for IVF in January 2014.

Everything happened so fast after those phone calls. Soon enough Marc was injecting me with hormones to make my ovaries grow an abundance of eggs for the upcoming IVF. We flew out west on January 17 for our first appointment, we had also asked my mom to come with us as well. Marc was only able to stay for a week and had to return to work, so having my mom with me was a blessing. So our first appointment entailed an ultrasound and bloodwork, this is when we first learned that there were only 10 eggs growing at this point. The doctor was disappointed and expected with my age, that I would have produced more.

After the appointment I was quick to notify Natalie and also had feared that she would change her mind at this point, but she had reassured me and said that there was a possibility in the next few days for more to grow.

Unfortunately after checking everyday by the January 24 I still only had 10 eggs that were mature enough to be removed. So we went ahead with the retrieval. I was relieved to have Marc by my side the whole time for the egg retrieval. I was sedated so I really don’t remember much that day. What I do know is that they successfully removed the 10 eggs. 5 of them were fertilized with Marc’s sperm and the other five went to Natalie to be fertilized with her husband’s sperm and to be frozen. Over the next few days we got update daily updates about how the embryos were doing. Only 4 embryos had successfully been fertilized. Marc was supposed to fly home on January 26th, but because of the fog his flight was delayed by two days, which was a miracle in disguise because I needed him there. I was potentially scheduled in for the transferring one of the embryos on January 27.

So with Marc by my side we went to the clinic anticipating the transfer, when we arrived we were asked to see the doctor and embryologist in the conference room. At this point we were then concerned something was wrong but the doctor had only wanted to discuss our options. We were left to decide whether or not we wanted to transfer one embryo that day, or hold out and they would continue to grow until day 5. It was such a tough decision: If we did it that day we would know that we had 4 embryos, but if we let they incubate longer we could potentially loose a few, but they would be the best out of the 4. So we opted to continue to incubate our 4 embryos to day 5. Marc then flew home the following day. The next two days were like walking on egg shells as I would await the call from the embryologist with their report. By day 5 we had lost 2 embryos. My mom and I headed over the clinic, but before we had left I had commented on my mom’s clothing as she had dressed up for the occasion. Her response was that she was going to be a grandmother. I drank all my water on the way to clinic, as they were using the ultrasound to guide the embryo transfer. Once the transfer was done they had left the image of the embryo up so we could take a photo of it and the image of the ultrasound still showed.

My mom was ecstatic when taking pictures of the ultrasound because there happened to be an air bubble on the screen and she believed the embryo was close to it. They then moved me to a recovery room and offered complimentary acupuncture. I remember my mom being intrigued with that as well since I had needs in my feet and head. The rest of the day I was to remain on bed rest and take the next two weeks easy until I did the blood work to find out if I was pregnant. On February 2 we flew home just in time to celebrate Marc’s birthday. The next two weeks had went by slow and agonizing as I didn’t return to work in fear it would jeopardize our chances. At that time I had been working in a cabinetry shop so I was on my feet all day, lifting cabinet doors, sanding, pushing/pulling carts and exposed to chemicals. On Friday, February 9th I was instructed to go in for my blood work to test my HCG level (Pregnancy Hormone). Since there was time difference from out west and Ontario, I had wait until 6pm to call to get results. When I finally gathered the courage to call, they hadn’t received the fax. The agony of having to wait longer killed us. Marc decided to take me out for dinner in hopes of distracting me but that didn’t seem to work. In my head I just kept telling myself I was housing an embryo, it didn’t mean I was pregnant. Who was I kidding - all I could think about was that I was potentially pregnant.

Saturday morning Marc insisted we just lay low that morning until we heard back from the clinic. It was 11 am when the clinic called. It was the nurse and she told me the test came back negative and to stop taking my medications, she had also asked if Marc was home with me. I don’t think I had ever cried so hard and with so many different emotions happening. I was sad it hadn’t happened, angry for why we had to go through this, bitter for anyone pregnant I knew, hopeless at the thought that this may never happen for us. Overall it just really hurt. For the first time I had even seen my strong husband hurting. We just held each other. (Even as I am writing this I am crying and Marc is working in the shop looking at me and wondering why I am crying!)

I remember calling my mom to tell her what the nurse had said and it was like she didn’t want to believe it. Almost as if the test should have been positive, since she had been with me for the embryo transfer. It took a while to get back to reality that Monday when I was back working. Let me tell you, it was so hard to even just drive to work! I was crying on my hour commute there. I was so nervous to have to tell people at the shop that it didn’t work because I really didn’t want to break out in tears but that was exactly what happened. Having to relay the message to family and friends was also challenging.

While all this was happening, Natalie was planning her frozen embryo transfer. In March, only 3 of her had eggs had been successfully fertilized by her husband’s sperm and were incubated for three days. When it came time to thaw the eggs for the transfer, only 2 were viable. From there she had transferred the two and later informed me that she did not gain a pregnancy either. She had told me that they should have used a donor sperm as there seemed to be problems when they were trying to fertilize the eggs. I was really hoping she would end up pregnant to give me some hope for when I went to do the frozen embryo transfer for the remaining one.

By March I felt as though I needed to make some changes for myself before I would go back and try my luck on my last frozen embryo. So I did some research and by April I had went gluten free, and in May I started attending Boot Camp. Leah, my boot camp coach, had included meal planning, so I was well on my way to eating clean. In August I felt so much better about my overall health: I had lost a few pounds and was committed to eating gluten free. I felt ready to try our luck at transferring our last embryo.

In September I flew back out west to try the frozen embryo transfer. The doctor was pleased with my changes and had high hopes for us conceiving this time. I had to do bloodwork before going leaving and it had showed that my TSH level was high, which in return meant my thyroid was under-active. The clinic was quick to prescribe me medications to put it at the correct level. All my other tests showed that I was ready to do the transfer. So off I flew on my own this time. It was much simpler. I pretty much showed up at the clinic and had the procedure done and opted not to have the acupuncture this time.

By the next day I was flying home to endure the long wait again to do the blood work. After the blood work had been done Marc insisted I stay with my mom as he had to attend to work and didn’t want me to receive the phone call from the clinic alone. Turns out my family doctor received the blood work results before the clinic did. So she called me to inform me that the HCG level (Pregnancy Hormone) was at 7. She really didn’t understand why it was so low, but she insisted I go for an ultrasound and go back for blood work in few days to see if the level increased. Later that day the clinic had called to tell me it was negative. I had argued with the nurse that the level was at 7 and she said that it’s still considered negative. It was an awful situation, it was like I had been given a false glimmer of hope. I still went for the blood work and ultrasound, which I knew wouldn’t show anything as it was too soon, even if I was pregnant. My HCG level had went down to 5, which then I knew the negative was true. I am not going to say it didn’t hurt this time, althought it was not as much of a shock as the first time. I was still left with all those awful feelings from before. So here were back at square one. No money to try anything else, and no pregnancy, or baby. We will let it be for a couple of months until we decided to get a referral to a clinic outside of Toronto, which specializes in autoimmune issues. In December, our referral was sent in and our appointment is in May 2015. I am getting eager, but unsure if this is right, or, the next step for us. I feel now it may not only be male factor, but both of us. I feel that there must be autoimmune issues with me as I have thyroid problems, gluten/lactose intolerance and now possible issues with embryos implanting.

It has been quite the ride so far. Sometimes I understand why I didn’t get pregnant at certain times as I was given opportunities to work on my interest with horses. I got my certification in equine massage and then got to go to Florida for three months in the winter to work with horses. For Marc, he got to purchase an auto body business. I feel as though none of that would have happened if I were pregnant, or, had children. I understand that we have a lot of time and we are young, as we have been told by others. It still does not change that desire to have children.

So this is where I leave you, my journey is still continuing, some days are better than others but I still have hope.

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