College, or “that” phase in your twenties, has nothing on the number of people that are between your legs during fertility treatments. It does not matter if the cause of infertility is male, female, both, or unknown. From the infertility diagnosis, to medicated cycles, to monitored IUIs to IVF and FET, the monitoring and majority of the blood draws are performed on the woman, resulting in a parade of people taking a look inside you.
Following our first three IUIs it was time for me to leave the country for four months. This had become a minor setback, one we had become accustom to. During that time, I tried to focus on something other than fertility treatments. Mostly, finding bad guys, enjoying my new co-workers, enjoying the new scenery and drinking awesome beer. Unfortunately, it seems that at least for me, no matter where in the world you are, no matter how far back in your mind you push thoughts of fertility, your struggles seem to find you.
During the four months I was out of the country, the only thing penetrating me was the icy cold on my afternoon run. Each month, I still found myself disappointed when my new cycle started. Cycle Day 1 served as a painful reminder of my inability to conceive. Cycle day one and the occasional crying in the car aside I was able to enjoy most of my time in the country I called home for four months.
In true dual military fashion, I returned to the states to find that my husband was now on temporary duty out of the state. By this time I was a pro at both, being alone and the IUI process. Since my husband was gone frozen sperm remained on the menu. Who could have ever known, that a body fluid I once avoided at any temperature, I would be so delightful to have frozen, washed, and kept warm between my boobs? Normally we would continue a treatment for three months before leveling up to a more aggressive form of treatment. IUIs were the one exception. This was primarily because my husband was out of the country, so we had to work with what we had, which for us meant an RE and eight vials of frozen jizz. Moving on to IVF without him seemed unnecessarily difficult, and he was returning in three months anyway. Not to mention I figured that if we were going to attempt a new treatment I might as well use fresh sperm in the process.
The three additional IUIs meant we opted for three more months of Follistim shots, given each morning directly into the stomach, blood draws every few mornings, a nurse with an assistant shoving an ultrasound wand inside me to measure my follicles, a trigger shot, boob sperm, insemination and a two week wait that would end in tears. Every once in a while the Reproductive Endocrinologist would have a group of residents on rotation. On these days the nurse would come into my tiny room and ask if the residents could observe the measuring of follicles or insemination process. Normally I agreed to this because hell, at this point, what’s one (or five), more people between my legs? The nurse explained to the young students that my uterus was significantly inverted, making it more difficult than usual to obtain measurements. The residents then beheld the wonder of my barren, backwards uterus by probing, measuring, or injecting me with sperm. I must pause here to remind anyone going through this process that a sense of humor and lack of modesty are useful traits when coping with fertility treatments.
As IUIs seem to do, each of the three additional IUIs failed. Unlike previous IUI failure I found that my disappointment had to hope. After all, the next step we were pulling out the big guns. We were moving on to IVF. In my mind IVF was the most aggressive but sure fire way to get knocked up. How could it fail? Medically they could find no reason why we were unable to conceive. This procedure put sperm in direct contact with an egg, grows it for three days, than put the newly formed blastocyst it back in my uterus to grow. The embryo then only had one job, grow. How could it not work?
I knew that IVF got this!