At long last, after over a year of trying:
It was a little unreal to finally see the positive test result. I’d left a specimen cup with my urine and the test stick with my husband, thinking we’d do the test together when things calmed down with our son. But then I saw my son running around, holding the stick flashing Pregnant and couldn’t quite believe it. I started thinking, “But I didn’t tell my husband how long to dip it, so what if he did it wrong?” But then once my husband came into the room, it hit me, and I started crying tears of joy. Much to my toddler’s confusion.
We’d done two cycles of IUI (insemination), then decided to go to the next step, which was an ovulation medication. My fertility doctor decided to start with Clomid, because he said it had better rates of success for unexplained fertility compared to letrozole, the other alternative under consideration for me. Clomid causes you to ovulate more than one egg, so the way he described it is that rather than just having one egg per month, this gives you the chances of 2-3 months. Especially in someone like myself who’s apparently been ovulating but it’s just not taking, the chances of multiples is low. So even if the Clomid works as intended and you get 2 or 3 eggs in a given month, it’s not like you’ll necessarily end up with twins or triplets. When they did my ultrasound prior to ovulation, there appeared to be 2 dominant follicles developing.
Because it was around the holidays, the scheduling for doing the insemination was more tricky, so we just decided to time intercourse on our own with the help of the ovulation predictor kits I already had. And frankly, aside from timing things, I’m not sure there was much of a point in the IUI for our particular situation. The most beneficial use of IUI is for men with poor sperm quality, because the process concentrates the sperm with the best quality for insemination. It was kind of a relief for us not to have to go to the office, for my husband to use the “collection room,” and that whole bit. It’s certainly necessary in many cases, but adds to the stress of it all.
The fertility office had me confirm with hCG levels, so at least very early on, the levels were going up appropriately. They also like to check progesterone levels. It’s not something I order routinely for my patients, but the levels can also suggest whether it’s a normal pregnancy or not.
At 7 weeks, I had an ultrasound which confirmed a viable pregnancy. Just one baby. Phew! So far so good, even though I know it’s still early.
With WZW’s pregnancy, I started feeling nauseous right at 7 weeks, and it peaked from 9 to 12 weeks. This time, at 5+ weeks I started to feel it. That gross feeling in my stomach, where I’m not sure if I’m hungry or what. I have to remind myself not to eat too much at one time, because then I’ll feel worse. And if I get overly hungry, then I feel desperate for food, so that’s not a good feeling either. Like they say, eat small amounts frequently. Not always the most practical, though, as you get busy with work and such.
I’ve been eating mostly carbs. Since I don’t feel great as it is, it makes me want to eat less healthy. I feel like snacking on crackers and chips. Last time I started wanting sandwiches in the 2nd trimester, but this time I’ve started feeling that now, mostly because I want the bread.
Despite this fun nausea (and fatigue), I’m very grateful that I was able to conceive on my first round of Clomid. I was prepared for it to potentially take a lot longer, and perhaps require the IVF route. I really think my stress levels are what affected my fertility. I cut down my schedule several months ago, and it’s made a huge difference. I knew I was burnt out and stressed out, but being on the other side of it magnified how bad it was.
Supposedly the research on stress and fertility is mixed, meaning there isn’t definitive evidence that stress affects fertility. In fact, when I was having a difficult time and seeing a therapist, she reminded me of this with the best of intentions. That may be the case, but I strongly believe there is a correlation between stress and infertility. Maybe it doesn’t happen for everyone, and there are women who conceive despite war and famine. But it makes sense to me that given the significant suck of resources that pregnancy is on a woman’s body, our bodies would avoid it if already under stress. From early on, we feel exhausted, can’t eat normally, and our immune systems are compromised. Why would you want to be put in that vulnerable state if you’re in a stressful situation already?
On the Chinese medicine side, they definitely think stress affects fertility. Part of the purpose of acupuncture is to help relieve stress to aid in fertility. The acupuncturists say that it takes about 3 months for the eggs to mature, so the interventions can take at least that amount of time. I told one of the ladies that I was planning on going to part-time in November, and she said she thought I’d conceive in February. Well, I ended up cutting down my schedule in October, and I was pregnant in January. While there are many reasons for infertility, for someone like me who had “unexplained infertility,” I think stress was the factor for sure. And my aging ovaries didn’t help, either.
The other thing that happened is that as I got less stressed, I began to lose a little weight. I lost about 5 lbs in the course of a month or two without trying. I wasn’t stress eating as much, so the extra few pounds came off easily. Maybe the other thing that helped is that in Chinese medicine, they advise you to eat hot foods. If you must eat a salad, then at least balance it out with some hot soup or tea. So I started drinking a lot of broth, which is very comforting with the cold winter weather. I think it also helped me avoid snacking as much. That wouldn’t have happened in the summer, though, because I can’t imaging wanting hot broth when I’m already feeling warm.
I have to say, the first trimester is tough because you feel nauseous and tired, but it’s too early to tell people you’re pregnant. So it can be a pretty miserable existence. I’m starting to see patients that are around the same gestational age as me, and I wish I could say to them that I understand what they’re going through. Like really understand. But that will have to wait a bit. Despite the nausea, I’m really grateful it happened and am cautiously excited about what’s to come.