WAIT - how we found love and learning in the limbo of Infertility
Warning!: Lots of words ahead...
I have been asked by several friends, on behalf of themselves, or their loved ones, to share our journey from infertility to parenthood. Disclaimer: this post is not intended to be used as medical advice... this is our story and we just hope this information leads you to a qualified professional who can guide you in your journey to true wellness and provide you with direction and HOPE.
It hadn't occurred to me early in our marriage, that we might be required to WAIT for the opportunity to become parents. I was married young, I was 21 and Parker was almost 22. We assumed we would enjoy marital bliss for a couple of years and then proceed with bringing on the babies. We wanted a big family, I was so envious of the stories my husband (the middle of 5) could share with his siblings... those memories of their shenanigans. I was so far removed in age from my siblings that I was raised like an only child and longed for their companionship in my home.
I remember praying with Parker 2 years into our marriage about whether it was the right time to REALLY try for a baby... and I will never forget that warm feeling I felt, the answer was YES. We were so excited and giddy and thought that the confirmation we received in prayer meant our family would expand any day now. God had different plans for us, and His plan was so so much better... except for the part where I am supposed to be a 20 something with loads of energy while raising my boys, but... He was so much wiser than that.
So, let's get into the facts and the open book I intend to be, because this struggle was not just for us! I strongly feel we experienced what we did for ourselves AND for others. So... I had regular cycles, they were painful and I hated them, but they were fairly regular. I assumed that because my visitor came every 28 to 30 days, that I was ovulating. I was totally wrong! I assumed that it was normal to have painful periods, as so many of my girlfriends did, that was also incorrect. I also assumed that because my husband was big in stature, super manly and could grow facial hair with ease that he couldn't possibly have any hormonal issues, we were wrong...again!
I visited the 1st of a few Obstetricians, they asked about my cycles, did a pelvic exam and pap smear and said everything looked good, just keep trying. So, we did, we timed, I checked temperatures (had no idea what I was doing really), and we kept "trying". A year later, I visited another Ob/Gyn and they probed further... asked about my cycles and finally heard me on the pain I had and scheduled a few tests. We did an HSG (Hysterosalpingogram) and had those hopes that maybe that X-ray dye would blast any cob webs out of my fallopian tubes and we would be golden. We discovered that I indeed had adhesions in my fallopian tubes and that my Uterus was septated, meaning it basically splits into two internal cavities after the cervix and this septum could be vascular (meaning covered in the Endometrial lining of the Uterus w/ good blood supply to support a pregnancy if implanted there) or could be non-vascular and not a good environment for implantation. We scheduled a Colposcopy (small camera goes through the cervix and investigates the inner lining of the Uterus) and a Diagnostic Laparoscopy (surgery where a camera and small instruments investigate the pelvis via small incisions in your navel and Abdomen aka belly. Thankfully, the Colposcopy revealed that my Uterine septum (tissue creating the separation into 2 cavities) was indeed covered in Endometrial lining like the rest of my Uterus and should in theory be able to support the implantation of a pregnancy. The Diagnostic Laparascopy revealed that I had Endometriosis and adhesions throughout my pelvis had matted my tubes in positions that made them less than ideal to function properly. The OB/Surgeon did his best to carefully remove as many adhesions as he could, which he felt had allowed my right Fallopian tube to be fully functional, but my left side was still questionable, as it was a little worse for the wear. Following that surgery, however, I had a renewed sense of hope that structurally, I was more functional and maybe this was the solution!
Fast forward many more months of "trying" and we still weren't pregnant. The next recommendation was to try rounds of the drug Clomiphene to encourage the development of more potential mature follicles during ovulation. They joked with us about the slight increased chance for multiples, and we had another surge of hope. After several rounds... still no pregnancy! So, I visited an OB that specialized in infertility. He ran several more tests via bloodwork, asked a few different questions and when he was done I had a new diagnosis... Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)! He recommended I begin taking a prescription typically taken by Diabetics called Metformin, as PCOS includes insulin resistance as a symptom and this drug had been shown to help "condition the ovaries" I was told by this specialist. The more I read, the more I didn't like what I was to expect in the form of side effects and I was hesitant to even start! I had a nagging feeling.... there HAS to be a better way. No one thus far could explain why I had these diagnoses stacking up on me!
In the meantime, I was also battling excessive fatigue and dry skin which seemed abnormal to me... I requested that my Thyroid hormones be tested and was also diagnosed with under-active Thyroid, which down the line would be further characterized by the autoimmune version called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and critically low Vitamin D. I began taking Thyroid replacement hormone and supplemented Vitamin D and did start to feel a major improvement in my fatigue... more diagnoses, but more hope as I thought maybe THAT issue was what was holding us back!
Side bar... we are now at least 6 or 7 years into praying for, desiring, longing for a baby! My husband is a student and we are realizing that financial restrictions are going to keep us from doing much past what Insurance will cover... so it would be a long road to saving money for either IUI, IVF or what we leaned towards the most... Adoption! So, we figured we would save what we could and keep doing whatever we could to improve our health. We had at this point watched just about every married couple friend of ours meet their first, their second and in some cases their third child at this point. We had attended baby showers and baby blessings galore... we had cried more tears of disappointment than we could count. I perform Ultrasound at a large hospital for a living and I had witnessed more teen pregnancies or meth abuser pregnancies than I could imagine... I had scanned premature infants in the NICU that were fighting for their little lives because their mother had abused herself during pregnancy and therefore threatened their well being. I had also witnessed caring and conscientious couples experience pregnancy loss and would cry for them after they left my exam room. I had many conversations with my Father in Heaven seeking peace and understanding. I felt hurt, angry, forgotten at times... but that was just when I was listening to the taunting of the adversary, aka the enemy, aka the devil. He is real and is the father of all lies and he can be quite convincing at times. However, when I would set aside my pride and humble myself, I could not deny the love I felt from God. My Savior had suffered for my sins, but also my sorrows, and when I allowed myself to feel it... I WAS comforted, I WAS given renewed HOPE and I WAS encouraged to keep seeking for more truth, to not give up and to know He was leading me.
So, we turned to a friend who was a fabulous Chiropractor for a little insight. He was performing salivary hormone assays, just a little cheek swab and off to the lab it went. He assessed both Parker and I and then some more enlightenment. Parker had low testosterone and I had low Progesterone and Estrogen dominance. Who knew!? The first semen analysis looked grim... supplementing pharmacy grade testosterone is actually counter productive for male fertility and so it was recommended that P try daily Clomiphene which encourages the elevation of testosterone and sperm production. Within a month, he was looking GOOD in the fertility department, but was having to begin frequent Liver and Kidney function tests because of the ill effects that regular usage of Clomiphene can have on those organs... WHAT!? No bueno! As for me and my estrogen dominance, the only recommendation my doctors had for me was to try Clomiphene myself again. I felt so frustrated!
This entire time I kept thinking... there has to be a better way to not potentially put our health in jeopardy to achieve a healthy pregnancy. It just didn't make sense. No one could answer why these symptoms were mine to enjoy, no one could explain the root cause... Even Google told me "The cause of polycystic ovary syndrome isn't well understood, but may involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors."
So, I did more research and continued to see our Chiropractor because at least he kept me feeling good! My research led me to see an acupuncturist that was instrumental in really helping me understand my cycle and fertility. She was a great teacher and I finally understood what to look for when taking my basal body temperature and she saw that the "saw tooth" pattern my body temps were creating on the chart were indicative of ANOVULATORY cycles. Y'all... my period came every 28 to 30 days and here we are 9 years down the line of seeking the help of medical professionals and not ONE of them suggested that I might not be ovulating at all... EVER! I found acupuncture very soothing and did feel some changes in my body, but I knew that I was desperate and hungry to become a mother and so I looked for other ways I could support the work we were doing to help create balance in my body WITHOUT the harmful side effects of pharmaceuticals that had proven to be less than helpful anyway.
I was referred to another Chiropractor that specialized in Kinesiology and whose wife did muscle response testing and orthostatic blood pressures, etc. (advanced nutritional analysis) to determine organ systems that weren't functioning optimally and used the body's own biofeedback to determine supplementation that might benefit those organ systems most effectively. I had to go with it... it was different... and as open as my mind was, this was new and I needed to understand why and how it worked. It was from this lovely couple that I learned the ROOT of my issues. My Liver, despite my clean lifestyle free of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, etc., was overburdened and toxic. I knew in my medical studies that the liver is the primary detoxifier for the adult body and its function is crucial to our overall health, including PROPER METABOLISM AND FUNCTION OF OUR HORMONES! It is possible that there was a genetic component to my unhappy liver, but also years of Tylenol and Advil usage to combat painful periods wouldn't have helped, in addition to environmental factors and poor nutrition! I was advised to clean up my diet, give up gluten, detox my liver gently and support my Thyroid, Ovaries, and Adrenals with whole food supplements. It was then that I also realized there were NATURAL ways to encourage my body to increase its own production of Progesterone to counteract Estrogen dominance and encourage my body to ACTUALLY OVULATE! I read and studied anyway to support these natural bodily functions that had been compromised. I learned about Xeno-hormones, particularly xeno-estrogens which are a group of man made laboratory synthesized chemicals that are hormonally active agents that differ from phytoestrogens (estrogenic substances from plants), and can be divided into pharmacological estrogens and agents that have an unintended detrimental estrogenic effect. I realized these lovely xeno-estrogens were in my skin care and hair care products in the forms of sulfates and pthalates, in my house cleaning products, bug repellents, and pesticides around my home and in my FOOD! My eyes were opened and I realized that there were so many attacks on my system coming from without and within and that I needed to clean up any and all of the things that I could control!
I replaced my hair care, skin care and make-up with safe xeno-hormone free products. I switched to more natural enzymatic and essential oil cleaners for my home. I cleaned up my diet and when I could afford it, I ensured that especially my protein sources were free of hormones, I avoided dairy and especially SOY. They even provided a natural supplement to support P's testosterone production without sacrificing his Liver and Kidneys that he switched to. This was a solution I could truly buy into. Even if we couldn't get pregnant, we would feel better. I lost weight, I felt more energy, and I felt an even more renewed sense of hope.... then it happened! On my 3rd month of following this regimen and naturally supplementing to encourage my own progesterone production I decided on a whim to take another one of those blasted tests that normally left me broken hearted... only IT WAS POSITIVE!!!!!!!
I continued to supplement to support my progesterone daily at this point to ensure I didn't miscarry due to Low Progesterone (one of the most common causes for early pregnancy loss and pre-term labor), I continued to be regularly adjusted by my traditional chiropractor and my Chiropractor/ Kinesiologist. I continued to use my whole food supplements as pre-natal vitamins and 39 weeks later met my miracle baby face to face!
My prayers were answered, but only after a trial of my faith and after diligent open minded searching. I presented possibilities to the Lord, and He directed my paths. I recognized when He placed people in my path that had learned something of the truth that I needed to hear. I put in my work and He made up the difference. It was 11 years of learning and growing and I wouldn't trade any of it. It has lead Parker and I to where we are now. He is now less than 2 months away from graduating with his Doctorate of Chiropractic which will enable him to bless the lives of others the way we were blessed! I am now carrying our 4th beautiful baby boy in 5 years! My dream of a large family was not taken from me and although it is still very much in my heart to adopt, these miraculous biological children we have been blessed with have not given us much time to see that plan to fruition, just yet. I have a renewed faith in the amazing creation that my physical body is from a loving Heavenly Father. I was able to carry and birth these blessings and appreciate and love a body I once hated! That has been such a gift!