While National Infertility Awareness week has come and gone, many couples continue to struggle with infertility. The staff at Utah Fertility Center understands the medical challenges associated with infertility and offers many treatment options to overcome them.
At UFC, we also understand the emotional difficulties that accompany this journey. Hope and encouragement are key ingredients of our practice.
But it is our patients who truly inspire us with their experiences. Those patients who are willing to share allow others to relate to their challenges and feel less alone and more optimistic.
The following blog was written by a Utah Fertility Center couple who felt compelled during Infertility Awareness week to share their story. We hope you will be as touched by their journey as we are.
by Alexandra Bailey
This post is not an easy one for me to share. I have always been very private about mine and my Husband’s struggle with infertility. This may be one of the hardest posts I have and will ever write. It consists of some of the darkest days for me. This year, the theme for National Infertility Awareness Week is “You are Not Alone”. This theme motivated me to share my story. To show others who may be going through similar struggles that they are not alone!
infertility is defined as: “The inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after 12 months of trying to conceive.”
About 6 years ago my husband and I decided we were okay with the idea of getting pregnant . We decided we didn’t want to “try” to get pregnant, but instead we would “not prevent”. We had only been married about 2 years at the time and we didn’t feel a rush to get pregnant right away so we decided to just have fun with it. About 6 months passed of “having fun” with it and I still wasn’t pregnant. I began to get a little frustrated with the whole situation. Attending shower after shower for friends and family having babies began to get a little harder each time I attended. I was SO happy for them, yet i began to feel a little itch of jealousy. I was beginning to go through what would later be a major inner battle. Was I a horrible person for being a tiny bit jealous of their joys?
After talking a bit about it, we decided to try a little harder to get pregnant. I began taking my temperature every single morning to determine my “ovulation schedule”. It seemed like I was ovulating…my temperature was spiking at the same time each month….yet each month came and went and I still wasn’t pregnant. I tried so hard to not let it show that I was frustrated and upset. Yet, I felt like a complete failure. This is what I was created for! I was put on this earth to have kids and be a mother.. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME!?
We continued trying to get pregnant, staying pretty quiet about it all. I felt a small amount of shame in admitting that we were having trouble. I was in denial a little bit and was embarrassed to go see a doctor about the trouble we were having- It wasn’t really trouble was it? Nothing was wrong with us….it was just taking us a little longer than normal couple.
It had been about 2 years since we decided that it was time for us to start a family. It seemed that everyone around me was announcing a pregnancy. My heart broke with each one. I was so confused inside. I was so happy for my friends and family but my heart was hurting uncontrollably. I remember finding out a friend was pregnant and having to shut myself in a room for a few minutes to put myself together. “What is wrong with me? I am a horrible person. Why am I crying on their happiest day?” I started to become my worst enemy and my self esteem started to get pretty low.
My sweet husband stayed positive and encouraging the whole time. I did everything I could to keep a happy face and not show the rest of the world that my heart was breaking. I loved my friends and family and I was SO excited for them. Why was I feeling so horrible inside? I never shared with anyone that we were having trouble getting pregnant. Whenever people would ask when we were going to have a baby (which seemed to be multiple times a day) I would always shrug and say, ” I don’t know! We are enjoying life right now! No Rush.” I thought if i told myself that lie, maybe it would become reality. Maybe I would stop caring. I could make my self stop wanting a baby so bad.
The time came that my husband brought it up to me that maybe we should seek help. I was in denial. I knew nothing was wrong with either of us and we were just timing something wrong. Finally, dragging my feet, I said we could ask someone about it. We brought our case to a local family doctor. My husband’s libido and drive in life had been down for a couple of months, so we decided that could be some of the problem, We were given a lab order to have my husband do a sperm count. When we got the results back our world was crushed. Both of our hearts dropped completely out of our chests. His sperm count was zero. Nothing…. How is that even possible? He is healthy…why is this happening? We couldn’t wrap our minds around it. Were we being punished for something? Why was this happening?
After finding out this news we decided to take the next step that the doctor recommended. The doctor decided Testosterone Injections could be helpful. We were excited to be heading somewhere in a good direction.. or any direction at all.
My husband faithfully gave himself testosterone injections every few weeks. His drive and libido both seemed to be coming back. I was so excited! But, I was not going to let my hopes get too high. I didn’t want to admit that I was excited… I was not about to show my excitement and jinx something. After about 6 months of this (It had been close to 3 years of trying now.) we decided another sperm sample would be good. Again…we were crushed. Nothing. Not one sperm in the whole sample. Where do we go now?
We saw 2 different urologists one, not knowing what to do…the other put my husband on antibiotics thinking it could be a prostate infection causing the problem. The urologist suggested we go see an endocrinologist. So we did. We were going to try anything possible.
We made an appointment with the endocrinologist who told my husband that he was a “Very Interesting Case”. We had been told earlier that year that a testicular biopsy could be a good option to get the the bottom of the problem. The endocrinologist decided he recommended we go through with the biopsy and recommended a name of a urologist closer to our home.
After the doctor suggested we visit a urologist we made an appointment immediately. In the mean time, my husband continued giving himself the testosterone injections every few weeks. When we met with the urologist he reassured us that the plan of action to take a Testicular Biopsy was the best route.
The process was excruciatingly painful for my husband. He was completely awake with only a small numbing agent to try to ease the pain. All I could do was sit in tears as he stayed so strong during an extremely painful procedure. I felt myself go pale watching him practically be tortured in front of my eyes in the procedure room.The doctor didn’t seem to know quite what he was doing. Especially when he said, “This is a little different than I am used to….normally I do prostrate biopsies. It’s pretty much the same though.” Not comforting. When we got done with the procedure we were sent home. The answers would come soon. We were on our way to having a baby, I was sure of it!
We waited patiently for the phone call and eventually we lost patience and called them. They diagnosed my husband with “maturation arrest” Which means his sperm developed to a certain point then stopped maturating completely. The conversation went about like this, “Oooh…wow…yea sorry this doesn’t look good. Looks like it is maturation arrest…yea…you should probably start looking into adoption. Thanks, have a good day!”
We were devastated. My heart ached for my husband who had dreamed for years about having a baby of his own. My heart ached for myself. I would never be pregnant. I would never feel what it felt like to have a baby kicking inside me. I made my self sick thinking of all the questions I used to think of. Thinking what would the baby look like? Would it look like him? Would it look like me? Those dreams were crushed. I cried daily for my self and for my wonderful husband, who did not deserve this. For about 6 months we looked into our options. Both of us feeling that something wasn’t quite right.
We eventually told our parents and close family members. I remember sitting in my Mom’s living room, telling her we probably wouldn’t be able to have kids of our own. She sobbed. I sobbed. My husband held me in his arms and hugged my mom. He was encouraging and told me everything would be okay. I know he was dying on the inside. But he stayed strong through it all. The pregnancy announcements kept coming and I went deeper and deeper into my bitter despair. I was grateful we rarely got announcements face to face. It was normally over text, e-mail, phone calls or social media. If it was in person, they would have seen what an awful person I was. (Or so I thought).
I put on a happy face every day, and really I was happy. My life was fun! We traveled, we went to late movies, we went to dinner whenever we wanted. I was not weighted down by a baby like my other friends and family. We could do whatever we wanted. We were free to come and go as we pleased! But, my insides were in torment. I was heart broken. The heavy feeling of loss weighing on me constantly.
Through my husband’s work we came across the number for a world renowned fertility clinic only a few hours away from us called the Utah Fertility Center. We quickly made an appointment with the well known Dr. Foulk. Of course, being that good of a doctor the wait was quite lengthy to get in. But I was excited! He was surely going to have answers for us.
foulkThe day finally came (about 3 months wait) when it would be our turn to see this highly recommended doctor and see if we had any possibility of having a baby. We arrived to our appointment double prepared. We printed off every lab, every test, every injection we had ever been given. My hands were shaking as they called us back to the Doctors office. We sat in anticipation in the doctors office trying to joke casually with each other about the picture of the Doctor with President Bush on the wall.
When the doctor walked in I awkwardly introduced myself and tried to make a few jokes to ease the tension I was feeling. Dr.Foulk was calming, sweet and extremely reassuring. He sat for about 5 minutes in silence reading each lab report carefully. After reading he set the papers down, looked up at us and smiled. I braced myself for heartbreak as the doctor began talking. He said, “Well guys….I’m 97% sure I can get you pregnant with your own child! And, Tyler, congratulations…for the past 2 years you have been on the world’s best form of male birth control…Testosterone!”
My heart jumped and leaped and did 3 back flips I was so excited I could hardly listen to the explanation of why my husband didn’t produce sperm in the first place. He explained it to be a “pituitary gland issue”. The pituitary gland is the part in the brain that basically works with hormones to create sperm. (There is MUCH more to it then that…but I could never explain it correctly…so that will have to do!) See picture for more details.
The next plan of action was to put my husband on some heavy duty hormones to reset his body and get it producing sperm. It would take 3 months for his body to produce mature sperm. After 3 months we would meet again and see where we were. We still didn’t want to get our hopes up, and told ourselves it could still fail. So, back to injections for my husband. Except this time, it was daily. One big shot in the belly every single morning He was such a trooper. He never once complained, moaned or groaned. I eventually got brave enough to where I could help him with his injections.
After 3 months we went back to the Utah Fertility Center. Again we sat in the doctors office, staring at the same picture of President Bush and Dr. Foulk. Earlier that day, my husband had to give a sperm sample and we were about to find out the results. Dr. Foulk walked in, asked my husband to come with him and shut the door behind him. Right then and there I began to cry in his office. This was it. I knew it. It failed. He didn’t want to tell Tyler that the hormones hadn’t worked in front of me, I was sure of it. After a few minutes they walked back in. Tyler looked a little misty and Dr. Foulk looked interestingly mischievous.
He asked me to join him in the lab and look into a microscope. I looked in with tears in my eyes only to see the most beautiful sight. A million little swimmers going crazy in a Petri dish. I could NOT believe it! I gave Dr. Foulk a huge hug with tears streaming down my face. We all hurried back to his office to discuss our next steps.
We decided it would be best to have me take clomid (a pill to help with ovulation) to ensure that I was ovulating consistently then to really up our chances (since it had been so many years)we would try Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). We would do a vaginal ultrasound (sorry TMI) that day, I would go on my medication, return for another ultrasound and to the Insemination. Sounded Easy Peasy.
When it came time to do my next ultrasound we were ecstatic!! We would find out that I had perfect little eggs ready to meet their other half! We went to one of Dr. Foulk’s partners who was a little closer to our home. We went in for the ultrasound. (These ultrasounds are called follicle scans. They are to ensure that you are going to ovulate or that you aren’t going to hyper ovulate). Well to make a long story short I was Hyper Ovulating. Meaning- the clomid bumped up my eggs to around 10+ eggs. The doctor gave me strict orders to use protection or completely abstain from intercourse until my next cycle.
I was devastated again. I had become so impatient. I HAVE BEEN TRYING FOR 4 YEARS AND NOW YOU WANT ME TO STOP???!!!! I have a million eggs ready to be fertilized! But, her words rang in my mind “You better not have sex…unless you want to be the next octomom….or Tyler and Alexandra plus 8!” My father-in-law, who is a doctor, told us this was very serious and extremely risky and to take the doctors orders seriously. I still remember him saying, “Alex’s body would probably not even survive having triplets if something like that happened.”
To make a long story short ( I know this is a really long story) We went back after a month and tried again. We were ready this time. My medicine had been cut in half and we were ready to go! The follicle scan looked good and we were prepped for the procedure! We woke up at 3 am the night before to stab my stomach with a needle then went in the next day for the Intrauterine Insemination. Without all the gory details….it failed. We weren’t pregnant again.
I was done. I didn’t want to try anymore and I definitely didn’t want to spend anymore money. We told the doctors office we were going to take a break and we would call them when we were ready. Tyler was producing upwards of 2.5 million sperm now and I knew I was ovulating. Dr.Foulk had fixed us and we wanted to try to take it into our own hands for a while. The office recommended tracking my cycle with ovulation prediction kits. So we did….
Two weeks later I prepped myself for my cycle to start. Any day now it would start…..it is only a day late…I am NOT going to get excited for atleast another week…. That afternoon Tyler and I were talking on the phone while he was at work. He asked me casually when my period was going to start. I told him it was supposed to start yesterday..but not to get excited. He told me to come right away to his office and we would do a pregnancy test. (He works at a hospital.) I got there and ran to the bathroom to take a pregnancy. I hid it in my coat pocket as I ran back to his office. We stared at it for what seemed like 2 million years. “2 Stripes…2 Stripes….wait….doesn’t that mean??? No, that isn’t right…. 2 Stripes…Um babe the box says that means pregnant…” We couldn’t believe it. I peed on at least 4 more sticks only to get the same answer. I was pregnant!!!
We were beyond blessed to have your sweet, miracle angel, Camden in November of 2013.
Now, pregnancy will never come easy for us. We will always have to go through injections each time. My husband’s sperm count is most likely very low or zero without the injections. But we are hopeful and excited that we will probably be able to have more kids in the future. I am eternally grateful for Dr.Foulk and his amazing team at the Utah Fertility Center for all they did to help us. Without them we would have never known that our issue was resolvable. Without them, we would probably never have had a baby of our own.
If you are having fertility complications don’t be afraid to seek help. Don’t wait. Infertility is considered to be 1 year of trying without success if you are within reproductive age. Don’t give up hope. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.