In the meantime, Scott had his 3rd SA and it was more along the lines of what they show in movies... at least it wasn't an embarrassing experience for him! However, the results came back at 0 again, so off to the urologist we went.
Reproductive Urologist consult
In April of 2013, Scott got an appointment at the reproductive urologist. Met with urologist; Scott had to do a 4th semen analysis (poor guy!!), blood work, and an ultrasound.... Found out he had varicoceles (varicose-veins in the testicles, causing blood to pool, making it too warm for sperm to develop) AND a chromosomal disorder called Klinefelter Syndrome, which causes very low testosterone levels. Surgery was recommended to remove varicoceles, which he did in May. From there, we had to wait 4 months to check for sperm, and again at 6 months to check. Both times still showed zero, so Scott had to get sperm mapping done (aka a needle biopsy, which involves 18 needles in each testicle to take a sample and check for sperm in different sections. It's a quick procedure done right in the urologist's office, and takes about 1 hour. Only downfall is it's only local anesthesia, so I was nervous for Scott about that one (and all mankind will be cringing as they hear of that). The Dr. said some guys don't feel a thing, but others feel everything... no way to tell really. Ugh.) and he handled it like a pro even though it still haunts him from time to time.
After all that, it was determined that there was truly no sperm production and that using donor sperm would be our only hope for me to experience pregnancy.
Choosing a Sperm Donor
For us, we wanted to at least try to experience pregnancy if we could before moving to adoption. We are not opposed to adoption in any way but I've always wanted to experience pregnancy and Scott supported this 100% and was totally on board. We decided to get an anonymous sperm donor and did so through one of the online cryobanks our RE office suggested. I left all the donor decisions up to Scott. It was his area and it was a way he could be involved so I loved giving him ownership of this. Choosing a donor is a strange experience. I've never done online dating but I imagine part of it could be similar. You get to narrow down donors by a huge variety of traits (ethnicity, hair color, eye color, height, weight, etc.) and see lots of information like medical history, interests, college degrees, etc. It's quite involved and you can be as specific as you want. We clearly wanted a donor who matched as many of Scott's traits as possible. Being Irish, German, and Italian is a hard combo so I think we ended up with 2 out of the 3. Also blonde hair and blue eyes was a must, so we feel we hit jackpot with ours. Although we will never meet him, we are forever grateful for his selfless act of wanting to help others grow a family.
Once we had the golden sperm ordered, we were cleared to start IUI. I had had a saline sonogram AND an HSG prior to make sure my uterus & tubes were clear and looked like they would work/hold a pregnancy. So off we went on IUI cycles. We did 1, had such high hopes, and the pregnancy test was negative. We did another one and, to our surprise, got a positive!! We were on Cloud 9 and told our immediate fam right away. It was Easter weekend of 2014.
Exactly a week after finding out we were pregnant, I miscarried. We were in Disney for the weekend, celebrating my dad's 60th birthday with a surprise weekend, and my heart was being simultaneously broken... in the happiest place on earth. The irony was crappy. I was cramping and bleeding and crying my eyes out half the weekend. My poor family was very supportive and wonderful, but Scott and I were crushed. We gained our first angel baby that weekend and I'll never forget his/her original due date~ 12/27/14.
After taking a few months off for my hormone levels to balance out, we jumped back into IUI cycles again. We did another 2 cycles back to back in the summer of 2014, both of which failed again. We took a few months off since it was driving me insane emotionally and interfering with school. The early morning trips to the RE before school was becoming too much. I was driving 100 miles before 8am when I had to pretend nothing happened and be a teacher for the day. We started up again with our final 2 cycles in the spring of 2015. Both failed again, even though we were now using injectables and had more follicles than before. It just wasn't in the cards for us.
I don't think most people try IUI 6 times, but our insurance covered most of it. All we had to pay were small copays for each visit and the full cost of sperm. I guess all in all, it was still just shy of $1,000 each month/cycle, but compared to IVF it was affordable so we kept trying. I also had no reason to think it wouldn't work. If sperm was our issue and we now had varsity swimmers on board, what was the problem? Everything kept checking out fine with me, but something wasn't clicking. We finally threw in the towel and decided to make the big jump to IVF in the summer of 2015.
We did a fresh embryo transfer 5 days after egg retrieval and transferred one perfect embryo. We had such high hopes that this was finally it... but it wasn't. The test was negative, despite the perfect embryo, perfect uterine lining, and me being in great health. The Drs couldn't explain it and we chalked it up to chance and/or possibly being too hyped up from hormones in the stimulation process. Even after going through 6 failed IUIs, you'd think I would be prepared for this... but I swear each negative test and failed cycle only hurt more and more. I was crushed. The Dr. wanted us to take a month off and try again on the next cycle with a frozen transfer.
On November 9, 2015, we transferred 2 embryos. To our surprise, we found out on November 18th that we were pregnant!! Our beta was 282!! The numbers rose wonderfully over the next few days (745 then 2,714) and at our first ultrasound we saw 2 sacs... TWINS!!! At the next ultrasound in early December, though, only one had continued growing. We lost Baby A but Baby B stuck around. We were bummed to lose 1 but were over the moon to have something!!! Baby B evolved into the nickname "Baby Bee" and we are currently 27 weeks pregnant, due in July.
Male Factor Infertility (MFI):
Living with MFI is not easy... It's talked about way less than other types of infertility that affect women. Women open up more easily than men. If men don't talk about their struggles, others don't know they exist. Therefore, we've gone through the last 4+ years not really knowing ANYONE in our situation. Everyone else got to try with their partner in one way or another. Even those couples using egg donors still got a different experience out of it than we did. If we were in need of an egg donor over a sperm donor, it would be Scott's child biologically but I would get to carry it, so I would feel more involved. Scott doesn't get to contribute to the gene pool and doesn't get to experience all the physical and emotional connections I do. It doesn't seem fair. It's just different. We feel alone all the time and no one truly understands our situation because it's something people talk about less, even though we know it exists.
Scott has been a trooper through this whole ordeal. He's been involved in every single way he can be. He's been there every step of the way with me. He was there for every injection (often recording them for me and playing the music). He mixed all the IVF drugs that needed prep. He took care of me after egg retrieval. He did EVERY SINGLE PIO shot for weeks, and became a pro at it. He's been to every single appointment with me since Bee has been on board. Even if it's a quick 5-min checkup with the OB, he's there. He puts his hand on my belly. He talks to Bee sometimes. He has felt a few kicks. He plays music for Bee. He's such an amazing dad already and I know he will continue to be wonderful moving forward. But it still hurts sometimes because we don't really have anyone to talk to about it all. We do, but not in the way that we need. Therefore, maybe we can become a motivator for other couples. Maybe because we are constantly sharing our story with others, we will help others to come out and speak their story too. We need the outside world to realize it's ok to be dealing with any type of infertility, but especially male factor infertility. Sperm count doesn't make you a good dad, love does.
|A recent comment Scott made on IG about opening up & sharing your story.|
|Being part of a #NIAW Q&A challenge for #StartAsking|
|Scott's answer to his Q|
But no, our struggle is not over.
We will never forget where we came from. We've been through so much and yet we aren't done. If we decide to try for another baby in the years to come, we will have no choice but to visit the fertility clinic again, dish out more money, and start up the constant madness of another FET cycle. Early morning Dr. visits before work (an hour drive at 5am, rushing to get in line to be one of the first patients when they open at 7am), blood draws, injections, procedures, fear, hope, anxiety... it's all just a fraction of it. We have no guarantee of it working again. Hopefully it will, but you never know. I'll also likely be over 35 by then, putting us automatically in the "high risk" category at the OB.
I don't even want to think of trying again for a while, not because of all the dark feelings and anxiety it stirs up, but also because it's not fair to Bee. We fought for 4 years for him to come into our lives and now all I want to do is be fair and enjoy time just the 3 of us for a while. No stress of another child over our heads. No taking away from time with him to worry about a new cycle or child. It's not fair. He deserves all of our love and attention for a long time, and we plan to do that.
Our struggle also does not end here because we will have difficult conversations ahead. When we someday share Bee's story with him (yes, we plan to be totally open and honest with him), we expect some difficult emotions and conversations that will be tricky to navigate. There are no right answers on this stuff; it's not something we can truly prepare for. We'll just have to take it as it comes. We fear that someday he will rebel against us or place blame on us for making him different than his friends. We won't have much info on the other half of his genes other than the profile from the cryobank. We can only hope that's enough. Hopefully by showing him how much we wanted him, and how much we love him, and hopefully by being decent parents, it won't cause heartbreak. That's another bridge to cross when the time comes, but I can't help but think of it on occasion. Sure, it happens less and less now, but it's still there. Most of our friends won't have to have that conversation... ever. Most couples who beat infertility don't have to have that conversation because both their genes helped to create their child. Our struggle is far from over. We can only hope for the best and fight it as we do everything else- one day at a time, and together.
Thanks for reading our story. I hope it offers some comfort in that you are not alone. There is an army of us fighting hard day in and day out. Pregnancy after infertility doesn't mean it's over and I don't care. It means I won't take anything for granted and I know you will someday get your miracle too. Keep fighting. Keep shining. Reach out for help. Seek motivation and inspiration. There are so many of us out there blogging our stories that you can always find someone's story to relate to. Your time will come and you will be amazing parents. Don't be silent, it'll only hurt more in the end. Share your story. Speak up. Start asking. Raise awareness. Let's fight together...
**If you want more info on any piece of our journey, it's broken down by month/year in timeline form on a page header on the homepage of my blog. Click here, Our Journey
**If you have Qs and don't want to leave a comment, feel free to email me or find me on Instagram.