Jennifer and Don
I had intended to send in our story in the spring ahead of Infertility Awareness Month in May, but thought better of it. While most of our family and close friends know about our journey, I wasn’t sure we were prepared for everyone we know and don’t know to hear our story. After having an especially challenging month and being reminded again that the journey of infertility is a long, painful, scary, expensive and very lonely path it, occurred to me that this is exactly WHY we NEED to share our story. We need to share our story to help others, to support, and let other people who are going down the exact same road know that they are not alone.
My husband Don and I met in the early 2000’s, we were friends for many years. During that friendship, I had learned that during a previous marriage he had undergone a vasectomy. We had never imagined our friendship turning into a relationship and ending in marriage, so it wasn’t really something we discussed at length. Some time during the summer of 2005 we started discussing reasons why we would or would not take our friendship to the next level and try dating. I didn’t want to blurt out, “Well I want kids and you can’t have any,” right off the bat, so I began dropping subtle hints about eventually wanting to start a family.
One afternoon, during a coffee date, he looked up at me from across the table and said that if I wanted to continue dating and building a relationship, he would undergo a Vasovasostomy, a.k.a. Vasectomy Reversal. He had spent weeks researching the possibility, the procedure and success rates. We learned that the less time between the actual vasectomy itself and the reversal, the higher the success rate. Having been about 6 years at that point, we knew we needed to act fast. 3 months later there was a ring on my finger and a wedding date set for early 2007.
On our 3 month anniversary we had our first appointment with the urologist who ultimately performed the reversal surgery in September of 2007. The surgery itself was deemed successful and we were given collection materials and instructions on where to take our first sample to test whether or not the reversal had worked. The day my husband was to collect and deliver the sample was our first experience at how disappointing, frustrating and difficult anything to do with infertility was. My husband arrived at the lab around 2PM with the sample and was told, “I’m sorry, we no longer perform that kind of test here, you will need to contact your doctor.” Anyone who knows what is involved in an SA test will know that the sample was now garbage and the day was a waste. Right away, we contacted the urologist office who said they were unaware of the test no longer being performed and they would call us back. 3 months later we followed up and were told by a second nurse they were still trying to figure it out. In 2007 fertility clinics weren’t on every street corner like they are now. They existed but; a) we didn’t know about them; and b) there were so few you didn’t drive past one every now and again. We waited a few more months and then followed up with our family doctor who then referred us to fertility clinic A. We finally saw the doctor there after about 6 months (now we’re at the end of 2008) who was finally able to test my husband’d sperm and the result was low/normal. The doctor recommended we try naturally for 6 more months using ovulation tools such as charting, and monitors before we underwent any significant treatments, especially since we had just spent $5k on the reversal a few years prior. Life got busy and those 6 months turned into a year and 6 months, but none the less we were not pregnant, so we decided to go back to see the fertility doctor. This time a new clinic had opened much closer to where we lived and we opted to switch doctors. Of course we now get to go through the all the investigative tests again, and assuming nothing had changed with my husband, we felt pretty confident going in that it his sperm would still be low/normal and that maybe we after a few IUI’s we’d be pregnant.
A few weeks after our initial tests, the nurse called to inform us that my husband’s sperm count was actually very poor and not low/normal as we had learned from the last clinic. We were asked to follow up with the doctor to discuss a treatment plan, and that was scheduled 4 months later (we’re now in 2011). During our appointment with the doctor, he referred us to a specialist downtown and asked that the referral be considered urgent due to our ages (He’s 50, I’m 31). Urgent in the case of a specialist was almost 8 months, bringing us into early 2012. We both took the day off work and spent the entire day at the hospital filling out medical history forms, seeing a medical student who took down our information, being passed from one waiting room to another and finally at 2:00 that after we saw the doctor. Thinking (no, assuming my husband would undergo a test that day because we were told over the phone that would happen) we were surprised (or perhaps not) to hear that because they were so far behind that day, the lab was closed and we should come back again to have the test done. That test was scheduled 3 months after our initial appointment (appointments and tests not covered by government health insurance), lucky for us they called that same afternoon with the results. The results were that 99% of my husband’s sperm were covered in anti-bodies, but the good news is with a special wash, they were 100% removed, and both the count and motility were considered in the normal range. A report sent back to our fertility clinic indicated that we were strong candidates for single IUI’s. After one unsuccessful IUI with a good sample and nearly 10 million post wash transferred, we went back the next month to try again, except this time we waited in the waiting room while all the other couples for the day had come and gone. We knew something was wrong, we should have been on our way home by now, but we hadn’t been called in yet and no one seemed to know why. Finally the doctor arrived and informed us that there were no viable sperm and our cycle was cancelled. He put my husband on 6 months of medication to improve sperm quality and motility and suggested we wait the full term before trying again. Still feeling pretty good about our chances, we started IUI #3, six months later. By day 18 of that cycle, I still hadn’t produced any mature follicles despite the medication used to stimulate and promote strong follicle growth; this meant cycle #3 was cancelled. We agreed to try IUI for a fourth time before reviewing our treatment plan with the doctor. IUI #4 seemed much more promising. 66 million post wash swimmers were transferred, my stress level was low, and we were happy and thought we really had a good shot that month. Wrong again, IUI #4 was over. During a review with our doctor, we decided it was time to pull out the big guns and try for IVF. Before the procedure, he recommended I do an AMH test to check my ovarian reserve. He guessed it was probably fine due to my age, but suggested because of my endometriosis history, it could be slightly low. Turns out, it wasn’t slightly low, it was in the middle of the low range. He said he couldn’t tell the quality of the eggs until he actually got them out, so we charged ahead with IVF (and we all know what I mean by charged, both literally and financially, but hey at least we got airmiles on our Visa right?, always look for a positive). We started IVF with a common protocol and were so excited that we were finally about to get the biggest chance at success we’ve had so far, but by day 8 things got less exciting. I still had only 5 follicles, and they weren’t maturing. By day 11, even with an added follicle stim medication added to my protocol, we learned that the one large follicle I did have was a cyst and that nothing else was growing. Cycle cancelled.
As those who have gone before us will know, fertility medication is not always covered by extended health benefits and for us, it’s minimal, we were out a few thousand in clinic costs and about $4,000 in drugs. We wouldn’t try again next month. What if it didn’t work? We’d be out another $6k or so, and the month after and so forth. IVF, unlike IUI isn’t something you can keep trying for every month or two. Where IUI costs compare to perhaps a small car payment, IVF costs, even if you don’t finish a cycle can be close to a year’s worth of mortgage payments. We don’t know what the next steps in our journey are, but we hope whatever the outcome is for us, whether we have a family or not, that we take something, or, two things away from this journey that are positive and that will enrich our lives. Those two things are helping people go through the same journey, having a baby, or, both.
Thanks for reading our story.