Holy! I started this blog 2 years ago, wrote twice… then never opened it back up again!
In the last 2 years, I met the love of my life; we eloped in January of 2019, finished school & started my own Nutrition and meal prep business (www.mealsbylisa.ca) and started teaching at Elevate Spin.
The biggest hurdle thrown my way has been trying to have a family. We’ll be getting pretty raw moving forward, so if this subject is triggering for you – I totally get that, and maybe don’t continue reading.
I honestly read Chrissy Teigen’s blogpost about her loss, and I just sat with my thoughts and started writing. I think bringing awareness to everything fertility/loss related is so important.
We started trying right away and got pregnant in early March of 2019, which ended in a miscarriage. This was my second miscarriage – but since my first was over 3 years ago in a previous marriage – the doctors couldn’t confirm it was consecutive or just bad luck twice in a row. I was referred to the Ottawa Fertility Centre (OFC) anyways (usually, you have to be trying for a year before the referral). We went, we had all the standard tests done – both my husband and I, and everything came back normal. Great, keep trying on your own for 3-6 months, come back if nothing happens. Ok, sure.
6 months later, nothing. So we went back, a little frustrated, and a little discouraged, but hopeful because now we’d be working with the clinic. We were diagnosed with Unexplained Infertility. Literally, find me a more frustrating diagnoses… In Ontario, the government will cover one cycle of fertility treatment, however the waitlist is 1-1.5 years. Neither of us wanted to wait, so we decided to pay out of pocket for treatments. The first treatment we decided on was IUI (intrauterine insemination), it’s essentially less invasive than IVF (which most people have heard of). I did Gonal-F injections (a follicle stimulating hormone) everyday, the idea is to almost make the woman ovulate twice – or with more than one egg at ovulation, for a better chance to meet up with sperm. Depending on your test results before you start treatments, the drugs/hormones will differ woman to woman. You’re basically getting blood work and ultrasounds every few days to check your hormones and your uterine lining. Once those results are where the doctors want them to be, the male partner has his date with the cup, and they basically “clean” the sperm and find the “best” ones/best swimmers, etc. I take a “trigger shot” to force me to ovulate at a specific time, then you go to the clinic and pretty much have a very intimate date with a turkey baster. Side note on how uncomfortable I felt. Your ovaries are SWOLLEN. Your follicles are bigger, you’re just uncomfortable in general. For reference; I was teaching at Orangetheory Fitness & I couldn’t bend down to demonstrate the exercises, nor could I teach spin. Plus the hormones make you feel like a lunatic.
Then you wait. The two week wait. #tww IT’S AWFUL, and… the IUI didn’t work. We were devastated. Then we had a decision to make; do we do this again or go straight into IVF (in-vitro fertilization). IVF has a bigger chance of success (plus a bigger price tag). I’m not a big fan of Western medicine; before going to the clinic, I probably hadn’t taken antibiotics in 8 years. I really believe in my immune system and eating well to fuel your body and allow your body to be a healthy host to sickness; preventative maintenance. It’s a personal choice – you do you. SO – going to the clinic, and taking all these drugs/hormones, was an emotional/mental decision for me as well as everything else.
Weighing all this, I basically said to my husband that if I was going to go through this, and have to take hormones and meds, I’d rather go right into IVF next time since it had a higher percentage of success rate. I’m taking hormones/drugs anyways – let’s just do it all. He’s been the ultimate pillar of support – and supported this decision as well.
Insert Covid shutdown in March of 2020. We were literally NEXT on the list for IVF. We were just waiting for day 1 of my period, then we’d call, pick up everything, and set up the appointments. But, Covid… Nothing we could do – just more waiting.
Then, by some miracle… I got pregnant in April of 2020. We were OVER THE MOON. I called the clinic (I was still a patient so I was allowed to go in for treatments/tests, but they weren’t doing new cycles with the shutdown). I went in for blood work one morning, and got a devastating call in the afternoon. The nurse said my HCG (basically the hormone that indicates pregnancy) was really low. She called it a chemical pregnancy, and said I would probably get my period within the next 24 hours. It’s like… the embryo implants for a hot second, so your HCG goes up – giving you a positive pregnancy test and pregnancy symptoms, then it decides, “nah – I don’t like it here” and detaches. Honestly – this was one of my worst moments throughout this process. I do not wish this on anyone. We went from the highest high to the lowest low in seconds. I would rather multiple negative tests than the false happiness of a false positive. Since then, I have not taken a pregnancy test or an ovulation test – I just can’t. I was also late for my next period in May, more than a week late, but I WOULD NOT take a test, so I just waited. Then Aunt Flow made her appearance again.
I started acupuncture throughout the shutdown. For me, it’s helped immensely. I find it calming, and I feel like I’m doing something. Fertility has taken over my life and I’m not in control of anything. And if you know me, you know that’s a struggle for me. (High 5 to the Type A’s out there!). So acupuncture, it at least makes me feel like I’m doing whatever I can to improve the situation, besides exercising and eating well.
THE CLINIC OPENS!
June 2020. There are 2 parts to IVF; the egg retrieval & the embryo transfer. The retrieval and the lead up to it are the worst, the transfer is no big deal. You’re basically being loaded up with hormones to stimulate as many follicles as possible, but big follicles; they want 16mm minimum. For IUI, Steven had done all my injections (bless him). For IVF, I had to learn to do them myself because there were multiple throughout the day. Two were like a pen, just remove the cap, set your dose, and go. And one was an actual needle; I had to measure out the powder, mix in the liquid, stir, make sure there we no air bubbles… and go! Pre-fertility journey; HATED needles. Now; meh! Your mind is a marvellous thing. Back to follicles; when they did the retrieval I had over 30 in total, and 23 retrieved because they were over 16mm. (Do the math, 16mm X 23…. now think about how bloated and uncomfortable you are because of that… and just… hormones in general). The retrieval itself is intense. I was pretty sedated and don’t remember much, but I remember the screen. You can actually see them pierce through your ovary with the needle and catheter and suck out the follicles. The piercing is the worst part, and they have to do the other side – but you’re pretty high. On the same day of the retrieval, my husband had another date with the cup. They get my eggs from the follicles, and make embryos with them from his sperm.
They tell you to not have sex for 2-3 days leading up to it, so there’s sperm build up. We rolled the dice. We thought… there’s so many follicles in there, even the ones they don’t take, maybe we’ll have triplets. Ahem – didn’t happen. lol. We took a chance, gambled, and lost, but that’s ok – it’s a decision we made together. So, from the retrieval & sperm, we had 9 embryos! WOOOO… or so I thought.
Because of the high amount of follicles, I had a lot of fluid build up. Fluid build up means a risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), it’s basically quick weight gain, abdominal pain, and the fluid can travel to your lungs, etc. While I adamantly disagreed with the doctors about this, they refused to do the embryo transfer the same month as the retrieval. They wanted to basically let my body heal, have a normal cycle, then do the transfer in a month or so.
My biggest issue with this was a.) I didn’t believe I had any of these symptoms, and b.) it’s an extra $2500.00! There are multiple times throughout this process where I have felt like just a number, and that this is a money making scheme. Don’t get me wrong; 95% of the staff have been AMAZING. They’ve answered my questions, they’ve called me after I’ve sent an email, they’ve sat & cried with me, etc. They’ve also let me take my mask off and just have and absolute shit fit. Very appreciated. But still, this is my whole life. EVERYTHING has been put on hold – this is it. Everything we have, and everything we are goes into this, and sometimes I think doctors may need a reminder of that.
Back to our 9 embryos, they all had to be frozen since we weren’t able to transfer that month. They need 5 days of growth in their little petri dish home before you can freeze them, then the nurse calls with the number of embryos that survived the growth period. Two. Two? TWO?!?!?!!? Yes. Two. Meaning 7 little embryos didn’t make it to day 5 to be frozen.
After that sunk in, we just waited for my period. It came. I called. I went for more blood work.
August 2020: I started taking estrogen vaginal suppositories 3x a day (Yes. You read that correctly, it’s as lovely as it sounds.) I did this for 10 days, then they check the thickness of your uterine lining. Ideally, they want it over 8mm for a transfer, but they’ll go at 7mm. I couldn’t get past 6mm. So in addition, they started me on estrogen patches that I had to change every 48 hours. Insert emotionally fragile human here. We had rented a cottage on the water in White Lake at this point, so I was feeling pretty relaxed and zen. EXCEPT, you can only be on estrogen for 30 days – if your lining doesn’t thicken up, the month is a waste, and you hope for the best for next time. When I found this out – I kind of lost my mind. I did some research, found trials and women who had a thin lining and got pregnant and carried full term. My point I wanted to make was we were paying out of pocket, this is my body, if I want to go ahead, I should be able to. I felt the same way with the OHSS – if I want to take that risk, I should be given the right to do that. I sent an email to someone on the board of directors, someone called me that day and told me that my husband and I would have the final say. (Thank you!). By some miracle, my lining started to thicken (it only ever got to 7mm), so we started progesterone injections. THESE ARE NOT FUN. Of all the injections, these are the worst. The nurse drew circles on my bum/lower back where Steven would have to do the injection. They’re intramuscular so the needle is almost 2 inches long. Honestly, they’re brutal – but I felt really bad for Steven. He had more of a hard time with these than I did. 5 days before transfer, we started these. If the transfer was successful – we’d have to continue them until I was 3 months pregnant.
The transfer is literally less than 15 minutes. No anesthetic, no meds. You go in. They confirm your name and your partners name about 10x (I get it, they want to give you the right embryo, lol). You lie on the bed, legs up, the embryologist shows you your little embryo on the screen, then they go in with the catheter and air basically pushes the embryo in, and the doc puts the tube right near the thickest part of the lining – hoping the embryo latches on. You wait a little. You pee. You wait a little longer. You’re free to go!
Spoiler alert: NOT SUCCESSFUL.
Two week wait. The first week, I was hopeful, the second week I felt like my symptoms were going away. I was still hopeful outwardly, but I honestly feel like in my gut – I knew. Intuition is a weird thing.
So now what? Obviously we’re upset, devastated, emotional, in a rage, etc. But I needed a plan. I work best with a plan.
We had one embryo left, but I was worried about my lining. I wanted a biopsy of my uterine lining to make sure there was nothing wrong. I called, and this is what MY DOCTOR told me, “the protocol is to wait for multiple embryo transfer failures before we do that test.” It’s probably for the best that I was in public when I took that phone call. I DON’T WANT MULTIPLE EMBRYO TRANSFER FAILURES AND WE ONLY HAVE ONE LEFT, IF IT FAILS, WE HAVE TO PAY AND START ALL OVER AGAIN.
Fast forward. I got my way. We got the biopsy done (it was also covered under OHIP – insert eye roll here). The biopsy results came in normal. While yes, I’m happy there is nothing wrong, I’m still very uncomfortable with the fact that my lining doesn’t seem to thicken up.
In addition to acupuncture 2x a week, I also started to work with a Naturopath as soon as our embryo transfer failed. She’s working with me while I work with the clinic – she’s changed a few of my supplements, and is currently going through all my blood and test results.
We’ve decided to go ahead with our second embryo transfer. And that’s kind of where we are now. They’ve changed the protocol this time around and I started estrogen suppositories and patches at the same time, right at the beginning of my cycle in the hopes this will kickstart my lining to thicken up right away. Because I’m on way more hormones right from the beginning this time, it’s definitely hit me harder. I’m tired all the time. I’m irritable. I’m irrationally emotional – crying is a very regular occurrence. You understand why (because of all the hormones) but you can’t help it, sometimes I laugh while I’m crying – do what you gotta do. We don’t have a date for the transfer yet – some time this month. Fingers crossed. Prayers to the universe.
A few people have asked about pricing, which I don’t mind sharing;
– My husbands insurance covers the fertility drugs, so I don’t have costs on those, but they’re a definite add-on if you don’t have coverage, probably around $5000.00
– These are estimates, every blood draw, appointment, ultrasound, etc. has a fee associated to it; so if you met with the doctors or had more/less blood draws than me, the prices will reflect that.
-IUI around $850 per round, plus the cost of drugs.
-IVF around $10,000, plus the cost of drugs. This includes your egg retrieval and an embryo transfer; whether or not they do one.
-Frozen embryo transfer; $2500 per transfer
-Even if you are doing an OHIP covered cycle, you will run into tests that aren’t covered. I would allocate at least $2000 for that.
-Everything else; some insurance plans cover Naturopaths and some don’t. Ours only covers a certain amount, same with acupuncture – which we burned through pretty quickly. If you are looking into extra, non-traditional ways to support yourself through this – allocate anywhere from $2000-$5000.
-So yes, between February-November 2020, we have spent just over $20,000. Is it outrageous? Yes. Would I do it all over again for this future family I dream about everyday. YES.
Two worst tests:
-Uterine biopsy; it’s like a pap-test, but they use tweezers to pluck bits of your lining out of you. Yes, I said pluck. No, there isn’t any anesthetic. It sucks.
-HSG (hysterosalpingography); a thin tube goes through your cervix for an x-ray and releases an oil based liquid, the liquid travels through one fallopian tube, then the next. If it hurts, it’s a good sign because it means your tubes aren’t blocked. The worst part is once they finish the first tube, you know the level of pain and they have to do it again for the second tube.
A note on hormones. I already said they make you feel like a lunatic, but I really can’t stress this enough. At this point I’ve been on hormones 4 out of the last 9 months. It’s this weird sense that you know you’re irrational and overly emotional, but you can’t do anything about it. You feel dumb & foggy, and again, you know why… but you’re still upset and mad at yourself for feeling this way. Not to mention mad at your body for having to go through this in general, and the overall feeling of shame. When I’m on hormones, I need a nap every single day. On days when I’m not working (thanks Covid) I can sleep for 12 hours and still be tired. You’re just in a constant fog. I can’t stress enough how dumb you feel.
I love working out. I love the high it gives you. Steven and I got married on a CrossFit cruise, LOL! I loved working out with my husband and actually giving him a run for his money. I love being a strong woman. Looking good naked is a definite plus, and I’m not going to deny that – but there’s more to it than that. This time last year I was doing a “100 burpees a day” challenge with my boss, I was practicing hand stand pushups, and I could actually do unassisted pull-ups. I know that one day I’ll get back to all that, and I know why I’m doing this – but I definitely still have moments where I’m just pissed off about it all. I know what’s going to happen when I get pregnant and if this weight gain/body change/brain fog had been a result of pregnancy, I would accept that. I mean I’d probably definitely have my moments, but still… I’d be growing a human – the ultimate goal. But the fact that, here we are… 2 years into trying, and 9 months into hormones, and still nothing – it’s upsetting. And I’m ok to sit with that for a little while.
Some people have asked me how to support a friend going through this. Just be there. Send something or drop off a coffee (decaf). Don’t ask “how are you” all the time. Sometimes our mind has good moments and we’re not thinking of fertility, and if you ask “how are you” at that moment – it brings us right back there. Understand that they may not be able to be a good friend right now. I’m not making excuses, it’s just the truth. This has changed my entire life. The way I look at things, the way I react, the way I watch TV, everything. I have a hard time in large crowds or groups of people right now because there’s this looming sadness all the time. It’s always there. You’re never not thinking of this. Understand that they aren’t trying to be mean if they can’t go to your baby shower, but for their mental well being, it’s better that they don’t. This has changed me as a person. I’m proud of who I am and how strong and resilient I am, but I have realized that I am going to have some really bad days, and crying is a part of that.
You also need to pull up your big girl panties sometimes. I would never wish this on other people, ever. Pregnancy announcements are hard, but I am still so genuinely happy for my friends. It’s a weird balance. I’m so envious because I want that for myself – but I’m still so happy for them. I also want to be included, I don’t want people to walk on eggshells around me because of their good news; I don’t want to take away their happiness and joy; that’s not fair to them. This is where boundaries come in. I knew one of my girlfriends and her husband were starting to try for a baby, I told her the same thing I wrote above… I also asked her that when it happened for them, she tell me in private and not in a group. She did just that and honestly, I’ll never be able to thank her enough. She sent me a private text message before she made a huge announcement. I was genuinely so happy for her and her hubby – but it allowed me time by myself to process. When she did make an announcement I was able to share in the excitement and not shake in shock, and cry for myself that it STILL hasn’t happened for us. You’re not trying to make everything about yourself, but you literally cannot NOT think about it. It’s impossible.
If you’re going through this, do what you have to do for you. Set boundaries and be ok with changing them whenever you need to. Understand that you may lose friendships over this – there are some people that will just trigger you and you can’t have them as a part of your life, it may be for just right now, or it may be forever. You have to decide what’s best for you. Tell someone what you’re going through, besides your partner. You may not feel comfortable being as open as I am, totally fine, but you need you tell someone, especially at your workplace. Sharing this has been cathartic for me. Because I’ve been so open, I’ve met women and couples who have gone through similar struggles and it’s made me feel normal and not so alone. I’ve changed acupuncture clinics (Martin, at Oaktree – bless him, and the intimate details that man knows about myself and my period, lol). I wouldn’t have met him, or found Oaktree if someone hadn’t read about what I was going through and suggested him. Meditate. Even if you think it’s stupid. Do it anyway. Insight timer is an app that has guided ones, someone soothingly talks you though it – you really do need to find a way to quiet your mind and your thoughts sometimes. Therapy. Go, talk, cry, scream, laugh, repeat. Patricia is the therapist at the Ottawa Fertility Centre and she’s great. She’s sarcastic and honest, and she’s a great fit for me. I’m also really into healing stones & crystals. I have them all over the house, and on the full moon I put them in my window sill to recharge (thank you Amanda!) – my husband doesn’t get it, but he loves me through it and just smiles. I have a fairy stone that I take with me everywhere, it’s in my bra ALL THE TIME, or beside me on the podium when I teach. I lost it for 2 days and I had a breakdown (thanks to Brooklyn and Grace who stopped what they were doing and helped me look for my rock, lol) – it’s just become a lucky charm for me. Surround yourself with a support system. My husband, friends, family, and Elevate Spin have been everything to me through this. Jess B/H., Jess T., and my mom – I love you. If you’re in a job or with people who can’t understand or don’t support you – you need to leave. You need a system of people you can fall back on when you can’t support yourself, and you will have a lot of those moments. I had a boss tell me to “not talk about it because it makes people uncomfortable” …I don’t work there anymore.
Don’t ask people when they’re having kids. You really never know what’s happening behind the scenes, and honestly – it’s none of your business, even if you are family. If you’re a person who asks that question, I guarantee you – you’ve sent someone to their car bawling their eyes out. I know, it’s not intentional but there is a lot of weight behind this question. If someone tells you about their fertility struggles, just listen. Don’t make suggestions unless they ask, we understand if you’ve never been through it. Don’t ask if we’ve thought about adoption. We’re aware of all the amazing babies out there who need a loving home – we don’t need the reminder.
If you’ve made it this far; kudos to you, and thanks for reading! My only hope for this post is that it can shed a little light on this topic, and maybe make someone else feel less alone if they’re going through something similar. If you have any questions at all – shoot me a message.
The last thing I’ll say is to be your own advocate. Do your research; be prepared with questions for your doctors/practitioners, and don’t let them rush you. They may have a quota to meet that day, but that’s not your problem. Make yourself heard. If something doesn’t feel right, say something. Switch doctors, switch clinics if you have the option, and trust your gut. Always.
Send me all your prayers, good vibes, energy, love, positive thoughts, etc. as we go into this next transfer – they are always appreciated. I’ll be having a nice long chat with this little embaby in the hopes that they stick around.
To whatever comes next; smile, sweat and chase the sunshine.