Where are you now in your fertility journey?
What led you to Pacific NW Fertility?
After getting married, my husband and I focused on travel first, and just enjoying our time together. But sure enough, the clock began ticking, and before we knew it, we began to 'try'. After a couple months of nothing, we decided to get a little smarter about it. We began tracking my cycles to find out when I ovulated. Well, that was the beginning of the next twelve months of our lives. I first visited my primary care after a couple months of testing for an ovulation cycle and seeing no spike (we did it all- peeing on sticks, basal thermometer temperature, trying to just 'feel' when it happened... and nothing). After she heard that she thought it was best to refer me to PNW Fertility. I remember the moment I walked up to the doors (which we would come to know well over the course of the next year). A wave of pure positivity came over me, and I made a decision right then that this place is what would give me answers, give me power, and give me hope. I had no idea at that moment what it was that was causing me to not have 'normal' cycles, but this place was my key to the future, and I knew it standing outside those doors.
Describe some of the ups and downs you have experienced in your fertility journey:
Our physician (and the oh-so joyful and positive nurse!), who didn't take long to diagnose me with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). They took one look at an ultrasound of my ovaries and realized I had about 50 follicles in there. (Of course, hearing this, our first thought was, 'WOW! That's SO many follicles! Why are we having trouble?' Well, none of them produce eggs, they explained. From there, they explained that I was otherwise perfectly healthy. That this was a hurdle to get over, but we would tackle it together, step-by-step, peeling the onion until we got to the center... The first step was Timed Intercourse, which is as simple as it sounds. We would take a pill to magically make me ovulate, then go home and 'make babies'! We tried this for a couple months.. agonizing months where you wait and wait, and nothing happens. With my PCOS, I rarely get a period, so instead, we would rely on going back in to Julie and Catherine to find out if anything took. Months of 'nope' provided us the next onion layer: IUI (Inter Uterine Injection).
Now, I think it was right about this point that I was left with a choice to make. I knew that this was hard. I knew it could get even harder. However, being the type A project-management centered person I am, I saw this as something entirely different: I was on a mission to not just get pregnant, but to find out all there was to know about these things that so many women go through. I had learned by this point that PCOS, and the other common fertility issues, are everywhere. But no one talks about them! If you walk down a street, probably dozens of people around you also struggle with these same things, but it's somehow unspoken for the most part. So I made my mission knowledge, and spreading of that knowledge. I was on onion layer two, and I didn't plan on stopping there!
IUI presented a bit more intense of a treatment. We would be given medications to force my body create an egg. We would closely monitor this progress and egg growth, and once a (hopeful) egg got to be large enough, they would give me a shot (Clomid) to make me ovulate that egg. At that point, they would turkey baster (street terminology of course) my husband's sperm sample into my uterus to hopefully introduce the two and form a little bambino. Sounds so simple right? Well... that didn't work either. Month after month, we tried IUI to no avail. It was then that I decided to look at my benefits through my employer. While I was among the few that had fertility treatments covered, there was a limit of IUI treatments. I could only try it three times. And we had already done it three times. I called Catherine, in somewhat of a panic. I knew this moment may come, but now that it was here, I realized... this is the final layer of this dang onion: IVF.
This part of the journey was actually a bit crazy, but a bit more interesting. My husband was finally much more involved in this part. He became my at-home nurse! He learned quickly, at Julie and Catherine's teaching, how to inject his wife with needles. Twice a day. All over her body. I can't say the needles were fun, but each prick felt like progress (or at least that's what I told myself). We pricked and pricked, all month long, and waited to find out if there were eggs growing in those 50 follicles. Sure enough, Catherine congratulated us on the fact that we had DOZENS get big enough. We were thrilled! Step 1 of IVF, done. Next was the 'harvest'. Our docs then put me under, went in and grabbed all those plump eggs, and proceeded to inject my husbands sperm into each one (this was an extra step added in due to him having a slightly lower 'motility' - meaning they didn't swim too fast). The next five days, admittedly, were the hardest of the entire journey here. The lab at this point incubates these fertilized eggs in hopes that they will each grow into viable embryos. They check in on them to evaluate their progress every other day. So we got calls every other day.
Day 1 - Our potential babies (Dozens!) go into the incubator Day 3 - We get a call from PNW that something like 25 survived! [Queue celebration!] Day 5 - We get a call that only three remained. THREE. [Queue worst day ever.]
Catherine informed us that they would take the remaining embryos and incubate out to Day 6, just in case any of them made enough progress to be deemed viable embryos. Luckily, another five made it, so we got to freeze eight. We had eight beautiful little embryos frozen in a freezer until we wanted to pull the trigger on IVF. (We had some unexpected life things happen around then that made us hold off on actually implanting one until later.) We felt safe, happy, and so so hopeful about the implantation.
Rounding the curve: A couple months later, we called Catherine up, realizing that we needed to do IVF - NOW! My husband's brother is in the Peace Corp in Africa, and he gets a small window of time off that coming summer. If we were to have a baby old enough to plane travel during that window... we did the math, and that meant we had to get pregnant NOW! Luckily, PNW jumped into action. We caught the window of opportunity by just DAYS, and we began the regular process to bring us to the day of implantation. We watched on a little screen as they pushed a small tube into my uterus, and out floated a tiny speck. That was our baby. Our please-oh-please baby. We went home and waited. And waited. We attempted to remain in our normal daily life, and a weekend soon after, we were on our way down a long country road, driving to a friend's family cabin for a day by the river. I had a cooler of food, beers, and of course O'douls... we knew the call would come today. We were trying to prepare ourselves for both ways this could go. I tried to give myself a consolation prize: I hadn't been drinking waiting for this all to pan out. If the call was a no, I could have a yummy IPA while sitting in the river. If the call was a yes, well... that's the prize- A BABY!
As we stopped at a construction sign in the middle of this road, the phone rang. Catherine said, "we wanted to see the HCG level from your blood draw double since last time, so basically it needs to be higher than five. Yours is at 136." Me: "Um... what does that mean?". Luckily, we had it on speaker, and my husband helped my shocked brain process this. 136 is WAY HIGHER than 5. Catherine: "You're pregnant!"
I have never enjoyed an O'douls so much in my life than that day.
Today, we have a healthy 9 month old boy. He was two days late, born on April 28th, 2013. Everyone tells us, almost every day, the same thing: "He's SO happy! Is he always this happy?" And our answer is that yes, he pretty much is. We must be doing something right, but I know for a fact that one thing we did right was trust PNW Fertility. I put our situation in their hands, and they did not disappoint. We came to know and love those people, those faces, that knew us by name when we would walk in those glass doors oh so often. They helped me see the light, and brought me the one thing that would change me and my husband forever, in the most lovely of ways.
How has dealing with fertility issues changed you as a person?
Fertility changed the way that I think about health. I realize now that your body can have things go on that you have no idea about. It's my job to find those things out. It's my job to test my limits, ask questions, read and research, and know everything I can. Then, from there, make educated decisions. This knowledge is not only power, it's the future of a family.
What advice would you give to your best friend if facing fertility issues?
I have recommended many people to PNW. One of which has a healthy baby boy as well now. Fertility is so taboo for some people. I feel like most people would rather dig their head in the sand and just keep 'trying' and failing. They never ask questions, they never seek answers, and they remain disappointed. I challenge everyone that reads this to do the opposite: There are most likely reasons for your struggles. All you have to do is talk to the right people. They will take it from there. It doesn't mean you're less, it doesn't mean you're undeserving. Even the opposite: the first thing I put in my baby's baby book was a pasted in sheet of paper showing that we were pregnant, from PNW Fertility. Below it I wrote, "Mom and Dad worked HARD for you." We deserve it even more, I say. Because the baby that comes from PNW Fertility and their crew of helpers is one loved baby. That is a pretty amazing legacy to be able to tell that kid someday.
Is there anyone in particular on the staff at PNWF that you'd like to commend?
Julie, Catherine, and the front desk staff that made every day we came in there easy and enjoyable.
I can't say enough about their (the doctors and staff at Pacific NW Fertility) level of expertise. I truly believe my success was due to the experience of the staff. Their confidence, communication, and highly systematic approach were key to ensuring the process was a success.