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A Fork in the Road of Infertility

When I am asked to introduce myself, my mind immediately goes to an image of women all sitting around in a circle, a glass of wine in one hand, the other nervously wrapped around their waist. Their eyes are trained on me as I stand, take a swig of wine, and blurt out, “Hi my name is Risa, and I’m infertile.”


I see no other way to start out with an introduction now without including this.

Hi, my name is Risa. I am a wife to an incredible man — married for six years now. I am a sister, a daughter, a nurse. I am a photographer (kind of), a gardener, a cook, a reader and a dreamer.

I am infertile. I guess. At least, that’s what’s the doctors tell me.

But I wasn’t always this way.

My husband Chris and I were married when I was in the middle of my nursing education. I was on birth control the first year of our marriage, terrified I was going to wind up pregnant in an already stressful time in my life.

“I missed some pills this month,” I would huff to my husband tossing a condom at him, “We need to use backup. I can’t be pregnant this month, I have an anatomy test.”

In hindsight, I realize how hilarious this all was.

We agreed, responsibly, that I could go off my pills a month before I graduated, in May of 2009.

After a couple months of … well, nothing, I went out and bought some of those ovulation predictor kits. The ones that show you a little smiley face after you pee on them, giving you permission to go and get lucky.

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After a year’s worth of digital faces mocking me, along with a whole lot of stark-white pregnancy tests, I started thinking, “Hot damn, I think something is wrong.” I made an appointment with my OB/GYN, who poked and prodded, hemmed and hawed and asked me a lot of questions about my sex life and menstrual cycles. (I had some questions of my own, like: "Um, should I be doing it more?" and "Well, I kept getting those smiley-faces on the tests. That’s good, right?") He pronounced me relatively healthy with a bit of low progesterone and sent me on my way with a prescription for Clomid, a medication to make me ovulate, to be used with timed intercourse. Having spent so much time researching side effects, I was disappointed when I couldn’t use the medication as an excuse to be a raging lunatic to my husband.

Needless to say, Clomid didn’t work. All eight cycles.

In December of 2012, to my dismay, and the recommendation of my OB/GYN, we made an appointment at a fertility clinic. I will never forget the feeling I had, sitting in the waiting room, about to be called in to face the fact that getting pregnant wasn’t going to be as easy as everyone else made it look.

Our doctor reviewed my records, noting there was nothing glaringly obvious preventing me from having a baby, and started us out with rounds of IUIs (intrauterine insemination). “Man,” I said gleefully to Chris, “We don’t even have to have sex anymore!” Each cycle, I would take the pills, go in for ultrasounds as my follicles grew and, when the optimal time came, I would self-inject a medication into my abdomen to force ovulation. Chris would come into the clinic to give his semen sample via masturbation or scare tactics, and we’d go back several hours later to do the IUI.

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After the third round of IUIs failed, we once again found ourselves meeting with the doctor in April of 2013 to discuss the next step. With tears in my eyes, he leaned toward us from across the desk and, in a gentle voice, said, “I think we need to move on to IVF.”

If I thought IUIs were intimidating, it was nothing compared to what we faced next. IVF is not for the faint of heart. When the giant box full of syringes, needles, patches and vials showed up at our house, I felt my mouth go dry. Thousands of dollars worth of medications to help me do what my body just wasn’t wanting to accomplish. We had fights with the insurance company on coverage, we had several tears, mostly mine, when it came to the multiple daily injections. I had to take a ton of time off work for all the monitoring appointments. Through it all, I faithfully blogged about it every step of the way.

We ended up retrieving 10 eggs, only one of which developed into an embryo which was transferred to me June 30th, and resulted in the first and only pregnancy I have had to this date. On July 8th, I watched the digital test read as pregnant and on July 12th, our fifth wedding anniversary, we found out we lost him at four weeks. Our Adam — too early for a heartbeat, let alone a gender, but nevertheless, my baby, the baby in my heart I knew was a boy.

Adam was the reason for us to start again in September for IVF #2. My doctor put me on a different protocol and changed up the medications. At this retrieval, we got 8 eggs and this time Chris’ sperm was actually injected straight into the eggs, as there was the possibility my eggs were letting in more than one sperm. Transfer day unfortunately only gave us one embryo to transplant once again. This was the first time I really felt the depression start to sink in. This cycle wasn’t like the first, and the optimism wasn’t there. I knew in my heart this cycle wasn’t going to work.

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May of 2014 brought us the start of the third and final IVF. The last cycle where my doctor would give my own eggs a chance. The new protocol gave me hope this one would be successful. However, only 5 eggs were retrieved and only one embryo was transferred. We found out at the end of May that it didn’t work. I had to face the fact that having a biological child was not going to happen for me.

There is a grieving process I have to go through now. The loss of a child that is genetically mine, a biological sibling for the baby I lost. As a woman who wanted to carry a child, it is a crushing blow to face. Throughout all this, there was always a next step. Clomid and timed intercourse led to IUI, which then led to IVF. But now there is a multi-pronged fork in the road. I stand at a crossing and face numerous paths. There are options, which I am thankful for. At this point in time, we are approaching the unknown world of egg donation.

Infertility has changed me in ways I could never imagine. Have I become bitter? Maybe a little. Perhaps the biggest change has been opening up our lives to the world, connecting with those going through this same thing. I am now realizing after all these years, that I can share my story. Not to be pitied, but to show what it truly means when I say the words: I am infertile.

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