The Reality of Infertility- My Endometriosis Story (Part 2)

Kunbi O / Wednesday August 30, 2017

Welcome back and thanks for reading the first post. This has been so therapeutic to get out and I am relieved to share my truth with you. So where did I leave off? Yes, we moved to Pennsylvania and found a fertility clinic near our new home. I was actually very excited about this, because it meant for sure that we would finally have our baby- whatever the doctor said to do, we were going to do. Dr. Sobel my RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist) was insightful and caring. He wanted to start things off with a comprehensive blood test for genetic markers and any conditions we may have missed. This was followed by a Hysterosalpingogram – an X-ray of my Uterus and Fallopian tubes for any growths or blockage. Everything came back fine except for…my eggs. This bad news came in the form of a blood test called AMH.

The AMH (Anti-Müllerian Hormone) is a hormone secreted by the cells of the developing  egg sacks in your ovaries. This hormone reflects the number of eggs maturing in the ovaries on their way to ovulation. It basically let’s you know what’s going on in your egg tank. It is the strongest indicator of a woman’s ovarian reserve (OR) – the ovaries’ ability to produce good-quality eggs. My AMH level came back at 0.7, a low number (as you can see above) for someone my age. I was 29 with the egg reserve of a 40 yr old. This was apparently, a side effect of my surgery – an unfortunate loss of eggs from the damaged endometrial tissue scraped from around my right ovary.

Dr. Sobel’s recommendation was simple- IVF.

* Please note: Before we headed down the IVF road, we tried a fertility booster called Clomid (a hormone you take to boost your egg production and fertility). It clearly didn’t work so I’m skipping it.
  • Operation IVF

I want you to completely understand where our minds were as we prepared for our first IVF cycle in 2015. Based on the news of my diminished ovarian reserve, we felt time was not on our side and it was time to go with the sure-fire answer to all our problems- IVF. Since I was otherwise healthy, we had very little doubts when it came to the success of this IVF cycle. I mean it was simple math- I’m 29, they’re going to give me the hormones, pick some great eggs and put our baby (or babies into us)- voila! We were so excited that we told our parents and our siblings and even 1 or 2 friends about our upcoming procedure. They in turn were equally excited and even offered to help with the expenses. Between our parents and our amazing siblings we had enough money to get this baby-making show on the road. Nothing was going to stop this train, NOTHING!

  • IVF Cycle 1 (2015)

I injected myself  twice daily with the egg-stimulating hormone protocol of Follistim and Menopur. We went in for regular checks to see how the egg sacks were growing before we could get a date for egg collection. It was during one of these regular checks that I found out that my right ovary (the one with the endometriosis) had become non-responsive. My left ovary on the other hand was thriving and trying to carry the team. There was no time for me to feel sorry for myself and we were honestly just grateful that at least one ovary was working.  A couple of days before egg collection, we went for our final check-up, the results were abysmal. I had just one egg responding to stimulation… ONE. My doctor sighed and said “Adekunbi , I have to be honest with you, this isn’t a good cycle, I don’t think we’re going to be able to continue”. Since it would be pointless to do IVF on just one egg, Dr Sobel recommended that we convert the cycle into an IUI ( Intrauterine insemination) – where they directly place the sperm into the uterus to fertilize the egg. All was not lost since we would still be doing a manner of assisted reproduction and I felt, maybe this was God’s will after all. My hopes were high and my spirit unbroken. We still had a fighting chance.

Two weeks later, on Thanksgiving Day, my period came.

  • IVF Cycle 2

In January of 2016, we kicked things off again with renewed strength. Yes, the 1st time was unsuccessful but my doctor had reviewed the steps and had a new plan- a more aggressive process very popular with endometriosis related IVF called the Microdose Lupron Flare Protocol. This cycle would in a nutshell, “kickstart” your system before introducing the stimulation hormones into the mix. This way your body is steadily building the eggs and grouping them together for a higher egg retrieval rate. You can read more about the protocol here.

On the day of egg retrieval, we were just TOO excited to have made it this far. We said our prayers and I was sedated and sent off for the procedure.

I woke up to good news. They were able to retrieve 6 eggs all of which were mature. How amazing! My little left ovary spurned 6 eggs! All we had to do now was wait 24 hours to find out how many of those beautiful eggs fertilized. In a healthy young woman of my age, this number should be high so we were hoping for at least 4 fertilized eggs out of my six. I barely slept that night out of excitement at the thought of an impending pregnancy so you can imagine how disheartening it was to hear that only 2 out of the 6 eggs had fertilized. We were told not to worry as all it takes is one egg to make all our dreams come true.

Three days after the egg retrieval, we transferred two healthy looking embryos and went home with high hopes. I was officially PUPO (Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise)! All the embryos needed to do now, was implant themselves in my uterus and begin to grow. To help with implantation, I took daily injections of progesterone – the most painful thing in the biggest syringe I had ever used. But it was all for a good cause. As long as I was pregnant.

  • The Two Week Wait

If you ask any woman trying to conceive what the hardest part of a cycle is, she’ll most likely say the “Two Week Wait”- that period between ovulation and  the pregnancy test when you’re left alone with your doubts and paranoia. Well, in a woman on progesterone supplements, this two week wait is even worse. You see, progesterone has many side effects, one of which is that it mimics early pregnancy symptoms: sore boobs, slight pinching cramps, increased fatigue – the whole nine yards. Simply put: pregnancy symptoms + not knowing if you are pregnant = mind f*** !

10 days later, my period came.

  • Darkness

You guys, we were SO sure it had worked. SO sure! The disappointment, the sadness, it’s a place I have avoided going back to for a year and a half now, because it was truly the lowest point of my life. The point where I was sure I didn’t want to live anymore and I wanted to wallow in pain somewhere and disappear. This feeling of failure and loss is something I would never ever wish on the worst of my enemies. I was broken. My husband was broken. My siblings were broken. Our parents were broken. It was dark.

For four months, neither of us dared mention the word baby in our house. It was impossible to even wrap our minds around our sadness. I cried every night, every day. My husband, who everyone knows to be tough as nails, shed painful tears, it was gut-wrenching. There was nothing anyone could say to change our reality. At this point, I had lost count of the negative pregnancy tests and was sure it would never, ever happen. To top it all off, IVF- our last resort option had failed. I was broken. 

A month before my 30th birthday, I finally called my doctor. He told me to come in and we could figure out the next steps. But before we did that, he needed to have a conference with the other doctors in his group to try and figure out why nothing was working. You know things are bad when even your doctor tells you he needs to think. That’s where we found ourselves after our second cycle failed. The big discussion here was why only 2 out of 6 eggs fertilized. The endometriosis expert of the practice gave me a call to breakdown what exactly went wrong and explained that endo has many layers, one of which is its effect on a woman’s eggs. Apparently in some women (like myself), the endometriosis hardens the shell of the egg, causing the sperm to have difficulty in penetrating it. Like really WTF? I had NEVER heard this before and it was devastating to say the least.

The only solution was to try and combat the endometriosis all over again by numbing my body’s ovulation with a higher dose of the hormone – Lupron (a popular endometriosis treatment). What Lupron does is silence your body by preventing it from producing it’s monthly estrogen, thereby avoiding a period and a flare of the endometriosis. Basically, it sends you into a menopause like state for a short period of time. This came with awful side effects like significant weight gain and wild hot flashes (LORD) – just in time for my 30th birthday LOL. I spent the whole month of May a shell of my regular self and just focused on trying to be happy. I put a permanent fake smile on my face and carried on like a zombie. Life moves on around you even when your heart stops.

Three months later, it was time to try again. {Read part 3 here}