Operation Make Baby Sonne, Part Two, Preliminary Testing:
So, here we go again. Operation Make Baby Neuhaus-Sonne failed, but we don’t give up around here. Jacob and I are officially husband and wife, we’ve had our dream honeymoon, and now we’re back to business— the baby-making business—because while the old-fashioned way is fun, it just doesn’t work for us.
Jacob and I really wanted to get the ball rolling. To kick things off, I’ve switched fertility doctors (reproductive endocrinologists or RE). This wasn’t because the first was doing anything wrong, but because I needed a doctor to fit my personality, my goals, and the speed in which I like to get things done. In other words, I’m impatient. I’ve been waiting for years and years; I just don’t want to wait any longer. What I’ve taken away from my previous doctor is to always get a second opinion and to never let a doctor steer you in a way that makes you doubtful or uncomfortable.
Before the wedding, Jacob and I decided to take a much-needed break on trying to conceive. Clomid was useless and my RE wanted me to focus on losing weight (as if I haven’t been focused on that goal, day in and day out, for the past three years). If I had to hear that man suggest losing weight one more time, I was going to scream. An endocrinologist, of all people, should know the struggles of a girl with PCOS and hypothyroidism. My own body is my enemy. Too much of this hormone, too little of that one. One day my levels are normal, the next they’re shooting through the roof or they bottom-out completely. This causes my weight to fluctuate month to month, or week to week, like crazy! If it were that easy to drop the pounds, I would have been successful by now. Don’t you think that if I could just decide to lose weight and magically drop 50 pounds, I would? How about instead of suggesting I lose weight, you help me find and treat the cause of my hormonal/medical problems?! Ugh, this guy. Regardless, I’m always focused on eating healthily. It’s a top priority in my life. However, I know I need more fitness in my life. I make excuses a lot in this area. I could do more. I’m working on it. Yikes! Sorry…. Rant over.
Besides the constant weight-shaming, the doctor change has much to do with a family friend’s offer to help me get in to see one of the more successful fertility and PCOS specialists in the Chicago area. I’m so thankful for the opportunity and the new lease on hope! Upon meeting my new doctor, she gave me a hug and made me feel like part of a family. Her words conjured hope and her confidence was not feigned. I immediately knew I had made the right decision.
My new RE is knowledgeable and down to business, yet she is warm and inspirational. To me, there is no better combination—a really successful and experienced practitioner who has the ability to treat their patient like an actual human being!! Who knew those existed? Not once did she mention my weight or make me feel like I wasn’t already trying everything possible. Not once did she make me feel like my infertility was my fault. What a breath of fresh air! After viewing my records and medical history, she was actually hopeful. Basically, because Jacob’s swimmers are not a problem and the fact that my uterus and tubes are perfectly fine, we just have to focus on getting my ovaries to cooperate. She explained it very simply by saying, “They’re just sitting there, waiting to do their job… But since no one is sending them the proper signal (hormones), they don’t know what to do with themselves. Your ovaries need to be taught what to do.”
We then discussed a plan of action and a timeline. As soon as possible, after all the proper testing is done, I will begin a course of Femara (letrozole). This is a drug used in place of Clomid, which didn’t work for me. I will take it for five days. After that, I will begin injectables (probably Follistim) and be continually monitored for follicle growth. If I develop only one or two mature follicles, we will continue by using a trigger shot of HCG and perform an insemination. If I over-stimulate and produce many mature follicles we will cancel the IUI, perform an egg retrieval and convert my cycle to IVF.
After creating this master plan, I had a baseline ultrasound and a whole bunch of blood drawn (12 huge tubes, to be exact). In addition to normal blood testing, I opted for a genetic panel to see if I am a carrier for certain genetic diseases. If I end up being a carrier, Jacob will have to be tested in order to fully understand the probability of our offspring inheriting the condition(s). If it comes down to it, they will be able to choose embryos that would not be affected by the genetic conditions. SCIENCE!!
The very next day one of the nurses called me to discuss the blood test results (not the genetic panel—that will take a few weeks). All of my hormones were surprisingly in normal ranges, except for my thyroid (TSH—thyroid stimulating hormone). Of course!! The normal range should be a level of 1-2. I was at 42!! While the number is high, this means that my thyroid is extremely underactive. I have to get this in check before I can proceed. My meds have been increased, so hopefully that will do the trick. I also had a low level of vitamin D, which is weird because I supplement with vitamin D every day. We increased that dose, as well. Hopefully, I can get these two levels in good ranges before July 23rd. This is when I will have a saline sonogram. If my uterus and tubes check out on the 23rd, we begin the cycle!
I haven’t figured out the financial aspect of possible future treatments yet, and this is a daunting element to say the least, but I’m hoping for the best and taking this all in day by day. The goal is to be successful with IUI (intrauterine insemination—a procedure costing hundreds of dollars) and not have to do IVF (in vitro fertilization—a procedure costing around 25k). We will address that hurdle if and when we get to it.
Inside I am freaking out. This is exactly the direction I was hoping to take with my new doctor. However, just because this is what I want doesn’t make it any less scary. Some parts of the master plan come with significant risks (surgeries, going under anesthesia, possible infections, organ damage, blood loss, or ovarian hyperstimulation). During the past two weeks, since my initial visit, I have been weighing the risks against the possible outcomes. In addition to being pretty scary, the percentage of success is not all that encouraging. Fertility treatments are far from being an exact science. We could go through all of the steps, all of the physically taxing procedures, and the emotional roller coaster and still end up disappointed. While all of this is a huge gamble and can seem pretty frightening, I believe that I will be able to do whatever it takes to become a mother and create a family. I believe I am strong enough, with the love and support from Jacob and all those around me, to get through what could possibly be one of the most physically and emotionally trying periods of my life.