Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Long Road to Motherhood

A few weeks ago, I read a blog post from one of my blogger friends - chronicling her sorrows about difficulties with conceiving a child. It's not the first blog I've read that has been filled with despair. Each time, I promise them - or myself - that I'll share my story. It's difficult. It's emotional. I could never bring myself to do it. Until now. If the road to becoming a mother is bumpy, it's best to have someone riding shotgun.

So I brought my notepad outside to write while surrounded by my ultimate inspiration. I laid on the ground and watched my girls playing with the sidewalk chalk. It made me smile and I realized how lucky I really am.

This is my story...
In 1994, a year after we got married, my father-in-law suffered a heart attack. On the long drive from Iowa to Alabama (where he was hospitalized), DH and I discussed starting a family. It was a casual thing at first, figuring it would happen when it was meant to. We didn't get pregnant, but at the time, it was a good thing. We had the opportunity for DH to accept a job in Los Angeles and I doubt we would have taken such a risk if we had another mouth to feed. So we accepted the job and moved.

We were trying but it just wasn't happening. In 1996, my brother emailed us a trivia question and said we needed to call to get the answer. The email simply said "A N U S". I quickly deciphered it to mean "Aunt N Uncle soon". (Turns out it meant Aunt Nicole Uncle S.) It was a difficult call to make, that's for certain. I doubt they had any idea to what extent I was torn between excitement for them and total hopelessness for me. Although my family knew we were TTC (trying to conceive), I had never shared the full extent of my situation. Between family and friends, I had heard all the comments "You're too young to have kids." "Just relax." "Get drunk, that always works." My heart was broken every time I received another birth announcement in the mail. It just was easier to keep to myself.

By 1997, I finally decided it was time to consult a physician - during my next annual exam. He prescribed clomid...like every other OB/GYN on the planet. Like any good patient, I followed my doctor's instructions. He was the doctor so I had no reason to question his treatment plan. I had no idea that my OB/GYN was wasting my time, money and emotional well-being. Answer this. What types of sites were you surfing back in 1997 or even 98 or 99? I would venture to guess not blogs or even advice columns. The only 'support group' I found was at ParentsPlace - a division of iVillage. There were so few of us that we even had a gift exchange at Christmas one year. Information was scarce and details (about treatment options) were very limited.

After a year and a half of clomid - which included various types and levels of progesterone support, I was encouraged by my ParentsPlace friends to get a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE). I stopped the clomid and waited. My doctor was offended and not very helpful but eventually submitted the paperwork. If I had known then what I know now, I wouldn't have spent more than three or six months on clomid. That's one of the basic things that people learn now - Clomid has diminishing effects as each month passes. I'll spare the medical details behind the ineffectiveness of it. But I wasted over a year not realizing that I had no chance of getting pregnant. Each month I would be crushed, broken and hurt when my period would start and I would grieve for another failed cycle.

When I finally got a referral, the RE performed tests and informed us that we were pregnant. That brief break from Clomid was enough for my body to recover back to normal. Unfortunately, in December 1999 I miscarried. Believed to be primarily due to undiagnosed and untreated hypothyroidism. All the weight I had gained was because of my thyroid. I blamed it on stress and clomid. My RE insisted I take some time off for my body to heal; when it was time to start again, I was told he was retiring.

This time, I was referred to Dr. Tina Koopersmith. She started us easy but moved into Gonal-F. I never realized how difficult it would be to measure and prep for an injection at exactly the same time every evening. That meant any destination at that time of day would be my mobile lab. Airport, mall, restaurant to list a few. I looked like an addict getting ready to shoot up, but I didn't care... I had my priorities.

All the Gonal-F shots were subcutaneous in the thigh, while the HCG shot was intramuscular in a small area on the backside of my hip. The Sub-Q shots were doable and I figured out a system that worked well for me. As painful physically as the HCG shot was, it was far worse emotionally for DH since he was saddled with the responsibility of administering it to me.

In May 2002, we were on what we figured would be our final cycle because it was just too difficult and was causing me a great deal of mental anguish. I was bitter. I was angry. And I was taking it out on the person who mattered most to me in the world, my husband. If this cycle, which included Gonal-F and an Intrauterine insemination(IUI) didn't work, then we would not have children.

On June 4, 2002 - After approximately 8 years of trying, countless dollars, daily temperature charting, ovulation predictor kits, a year and a half of clomid, enough arm pricks for bloodwork to turn me into a fountain, a very painful Hysterosalpingogram, a difficult uterine biopsy, months of daily thigh injections and related HSG shots, progesterone suppositories and creams, home pregnancy kits, blood sweat and lots of tears, Dr. Koopersmith called to inform us we were expecting. My father-in-law's birthday is June 3rd and his anniversary June 5th so we felt it was a gift that we get this call on the 4th. Unfortunately, my FIL had passed away the prior December.

I had a high-risk pregnancy but after some problems during labor, delivered a healthy, happy Miss M. When my doctors recommended I start birth control, I proudly explained "I paid for this one. I'm not going to pay NOT to have another. If it happens, I'll be happy."

In the fall of 2003, we asked the doctors to start our referral paperwork so we could start the process all over again. My physician would not process it until they confirmed Miss M didn't have health issues. One day in January 2004, a few weeks shy of Miss M's first birthday, I informed DH that Miss M was going to be a big sister. We were in shock - no fertility treatments. An awesome and easy pregnancy, about 30 minutes of labor and a healthy Miss K was in my arms.

It was a long and painful road but well worth the journey.


  • feefifoto

    What a warm, wonderful story! I went through most of what you did, and more (IVF, GIFT, blah blah) but it was soooo worth it. Sometimes I still can't believe I've been lucky enough to become a mom.

  • Flutterby

    What an absolutely beautiful family you are!

  • WillThink4Wine

    Thank you for sharing this heartfelt journey! I also went through fertility, for about 15 years. While I was able to get pregnant, I was unable to carry a pregnancy beyond the first trimester. I finally gave up when I was 38 years old. I couldn't put myself through the emotional roller coaster anymore. I now revel in the joy of my neices and nephews. I'm very glad to see your beautiful girls!

  • Jenn

    My friends went through this too, and like you she got pregnant the second time all on her own without help from the doctors. I'm glad everything worked out for you both!

  • Rachel

    Wow. What an amazing story.
    Beautiful little blessings they are, too.

  • Missy

    Thank you for sharing this. I know that a lot of people, myself included, take the ability to get pregnant quickly for granted, and we really have no clue what it is like to have fertility issues. What a journey!

  • shot in the arm

    Yes my friends brother took all those photos. He's pretty involved in what's going on in D-port. He's always posting on when city meetings are, trying to keep others involved or at least getting them thinking about things. He wrote a few things about the Fej zoo.

    Your brother is pretty funny and lucky. I've always wanted to sky dive...maybe one day.

  • Michele

    Nicole, thank you so much for telling your story. We're on a second cycle of fertility treatments since the first failed and we're both thinking this is the last time so hopefully we'll be as blessed as you guys. Your girls are beautiful : )

  • Lisa

    WOW--what a story and wonderful ending! I could not imagine trying for 8 years. You are blessed to have two such lovely girls!

  • Nicole

    I want to thank everyone how has commented. I try to provide a personal response to each comment but since time is sensitive right now, I at least want everyone know that I appreciate the fact that you left your thoughts.

  • Michele

    Nicole, can you send me an email. I can't find your email address. Also, my queen of discounts, do you know any place I can get discount tickets for Sea World San Antonio? : )

  • Heather

    Thanks for sharing your story. We are so lucky now to have this wonderful network of women to share experiences, advice, and heartbreak.

  • shot in the arm

    Yea I looked into Bzz when you mentioned it on here ages ago. The Aveeno is the first campaign I've done. It's nice to be able to try products. The container you talked about sounds great. I will have to look those up!

  • averyopenbook

    I loved reading this post and getting to know you a littlr better.
    btw I have moved here

  • Angie

    I can totally relate. We went through all of that, two IVF cycles and still no baby. We adopted our two in the end.


  • Sonny Amou

    Great post, the tag says it all, brutally honest indeed.

    Good story, good-looking family! I trust you're all dodging the floods in Iowa. My old college campus got completely drenched.


  • Whiney Momma

    Wow, what a story. It is amazing what people have gone through. I am sure you are enjoying the fruits of your perseverance!

  • Danielle

    Thank you so much for sharing. I am sitting here with tears in my eyes reading about your amazing journey.

  • Trish @ Another Piece of the Puzzle

    I appreciate you sharing your story - it is nice to get to know you better and I am so glad you ended up with 2 beautiful little girls.

    My SIL spent several years pursuing various treatments to have her twins and then got pregnant by surprise when they were only 13 months old!

  • Liz@thisfullhouse.com

    Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your story!

  • Amy

    Your story is so heart warming, Nicole. I have been thinking of sharing mine, but was not sure. Yours may be the push I needed.

  • shot in the arm

    Well I have tried to play Guitar Hero on the Wii and can NOT do it. Too many buttons and things to look at and do. But the DS version only has 4 color buttons and then you strum using the stylus. There is Star Power on the DS version as well, and you can either 'yell' into the microphone area or you can press A or B buttons. :) Brain Age and Brain Age 2 are the most popular games we have. Now they have come out with Brain Challenge, Brain Voyage and a few others. Plus Crosswords is out and I really would like to try that. The games I often forgot to recommend to parents are the Storybook Interactives...there are 3 of those but I don't know how good they are.

  • Kristin

    Very beautiful family.

  • hoping for a child

    i don't think i could have survived so many years of disappointment. thanks for sharing.