The journey which brought me to the doorsteps of IVF was what I think to be a strange one. I had gotten pregnant twice during my early twenties; I got two abortions. As a result of my fertility..which was then a problem, I thought I would have no problem getting pregnant at the age of 30 when I decided to try.
When I got my two abortions I was married. I had married at 19 and when I got pregnant I knew I couldn’t make the guy a father, even then I knew he was too immature. We were also in no position financially to have children. We were living on our own in a one bedroom making minimum wage, living pay check to pay check. I had been raised to do better for my children than my parents had for me. I had also been raised to understand that if I decided to have a baby it would be with zero financial support from my parents, I couldn’t do it. I was also finishing up my BA.
We eventually got divorced. I went on to get an MA and real estate license. I also met a great guy that I eventually married. This time was definitely different. I was 30 years old when I married, older and wiser. This time I had dated my husband for six years before marrying. The first time, I had known him for six months.
All throughout my 20’s I said I would never have a kid until I was 30. Interestingly enough I went from 0 to 60 in terms of wanting a kid when I turned 30. I like to think it was because I had accomplished everything I had wanted to accomplish. I had a Graduate degree, a real state license, and my husband and I had acquired three properties by the age of 30. Now what? Having children finally felt like the natural next phase of my life.
At this time my husband and I, I’ll call him David, had been living in a one bedroom beach condo we had bought for six months. It was great, except that it was an hour and a half away from David’s job which meant he was rarely home. Wanting children completely changed my priorities. living near the beach was no longer practical to me if it meant that in an emergency the father of my children would be two hours away.
I proposed we move back to the neighborhood where his job was and buy a house. Refusing to sell any of our three properties at the time, David said we would have to rent for a year before we could afford to buy our ideal house. We rented a shitty two bedroom house in an OK part of town since it was a year long plan. I knew I would hate each minute of it, but I had been the one to push to move to the beach and now I was pushing to move back..I would have to bite the bullet for a year.
By this time I was starting to truly understand what waiting to have a kid past the age of 30 meant for a woman socially if she was not busy with a career. I was working part time but found it nearly impossible to make friends. As someone who had to move schools a lot as a kid, and someone who did not have the traditional college experience (I was working full time while I was getting my BA), I had reached the age of 30 with very few friends. When I had moved to the beach I had made a Meetup group for local women and it had actually been pretty successful. I had made a handful of great friends who were just like me: 30ish, childless, and finding it hard to make friends. But then I moved away again.
I realized that unless you’re too busy with a career to care, it was nearly impossible to make friends in your 30’s without a kid. This made me want one even more. My husband and I had agreed we would try to get pregnant once we bought a house in a year. But I didn’t want to wait. My husband works a lot, and I was getting tired of being so socially isolated. I decided suddenly to take out my IUD and try to get pregnant.
“You can get pregnant now.” My nurse said.
I went home excited. I was pressed for time though. My husband is MIA January through April because he is a tax accountant and that is his busiest season. In other words, I ideally want to time my pregnancy around this time unless I want to be giving birth alone. I am even more limited because I care greatly about the child’s astrological sign. In other words there are really only five months in which I would want to give birth.
When I got my IUD out, I had a week to get pregnant with a Scorpio, a November baby. I would not want to have a baby in December as it was too close to January so if I didn’t get pregnant I would have to wait five more months to get pregnant. Unfortunately I bled heavily for about two weeks after I got my IUD out. Still, I tried to get pregnant. While I knew my chances were slim since I was bleeding and my body was clearly adjusting, deep down I hoped it would happen. I paid close attention to any physical changes in my body. As the weeks went by I felt my breasts grow and my nipples get tender and I thought, Woo hoo!
But then I got my period. I knew something was wrong. I can’t tell you exactly how I knew but I knew. It wasn’t coincidence that I didn’t get pregnant. Something was wrong with my body. Considering I got pregnant twice by accident, I felt something was up.
I embarked on a health quest and got serious about utilizing and understanding my health insurance. I would have 5 months to figure out was wrong. I pushed my husband to pay for PPO insurance for me because I was serious about finding out what was wrong with me. I began by researching symptoms I had.
There was a positive to not getting pregnant. I had been struggling for years to get my IBS under control. It had left me largely unable to even work. My IBS symptoms started to get serious around the age of 21, same with my brother. I really didn’t understand what IBS was until I was about 25. From the age of 25 to about 30 I struggled daily with trying to find the right remedy for my chronic constipation which I have suffered with since I was a baby. Prior to trying to get pregnant I was doing giant enemas every single day. While the immediate relief was profound. It also dehydrated me and left me weak and irritable. Eventually I was needing another enema by the end of the night to dull the pain. I didn’t know I was wiping my system clean of any helpful probiotics and I was drying out my colon, causing a vicious cycle. I had run into a doctor that told me enemas would not affect a baby as it was all external, at the same time, he said, I should try to get pregnant soon because I was not healthy. I was taking a huge risk trying to get pregnant knowing my constipation would only worsen. I knew daily enemas were doing more harm than good and was aware that it was likely affecting other parts of my body. Nurses would be shocked at how low my blood pressure was. And once when I was drinking I fainted because my blood pressure got so low. I had to make a change.
I went to a Gastroenterologist who gave me a medication called Linzess. At first I was in heaven. You take Linzess on an empty stomach first thing in the morning and half an hour later you are running to the bathroom to release. It was crazy. It felt like it was mostly water and it was ALOT. But at least it wasn’t an enema..a step in the right direction. Still, I wanted to eventually be free of any medications considering Linzess is not safe to take during pregnancy. Finally my gastroenterologist suggested just using Milk of Magnesia. I bought a bottle of Philips Milk of Magnesia and took a good amount (75% of the cup) By this time I had become obsessed with making sure I had a huge bowel movement first thing in the morning. Without it I would feel sluggish and irritable throughout the entire day. MOM worked but I could feel there were some sort of other side effects. Linzess was a pill and it didn’t contain any fake sugar and emollients like MOM. Still I figured I had better get used to it and figure it out if I was going to get pregnant. Over the next few months, there were times I would over do the MOM and add things like Calcium dulcosate and Senna tea to facilitate a bowel movement. I ended up getting kidney stones. My pain was very mild compared to what other people experience but it was a wake up call that I needed to figure something else out. Over the next few months I moved on to Magnesium pills. I finally figured out if I take two at bed time and one first thing in the morning I’m 99% good! I still have to do enemas every now and then but it doesn’t compare to what I WAS doing.
There was still the issue of WHY I didn’t get pregnant. I knew there was very likely something wrong with me hormonally. I thought perhaps, my years of enema use and year long bout with alcoholism and bulimia could have messed up my hormones enough to keep me from getting pregnant. I began googling my symptoms. I had always suspected I had hypothyroidism, which my Dad was diagnosed with later in life. I have a had a bald spot since I was about fourteen years old..not normal. Since then my hair goes through periods where it thins in spots and grows back, mostly around my hair line. I have also always suffered from low energy/fatigue, irritability, and weight gain. I gain weight very easily, I have a sluggish metabolism. You wouldn’t think so by looking at me, I am 5’3 115 lbs. But the reality is I CANT eat much, I get full very quickly and I digest very slowly. If I choose to over eat I suffer with cramping and gain weight really quickly. My body fat has always been centralized around my stomach area too, no matter how fit I get my stomach is always jiggly. Googling resulted in signs pointing to hypothyroidism and possibly PCOS. I immediately asked for bloodwork at the doctor to determine if I was hypothyroid..no everything was normal. Then I went to a dermatologist to address my bald spots. He was such a good dermatologist. “We need to test your hormones” he said. “I did” I told him. “They won’t test for things like DHEA when they test for hypothyroidism.”
Sure enough my DHEA levels were sky high. I was scared. “What does that mean?” I asked him. “Well it could be a sign you have an infection in your body, sometimes DHEA levels go up after drinking.” I had stopped drinking as much I had used to. I went home to do more googling. Results kept leading to PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I shuddered to think I had something scary sounding like that. According to medical websites, in order to be diagnosed with PCOS you need to have at least three symptoms, such as hair loss, obesity, ovarian cysts, excess facial hair, brittle hair and nails, irregular or absent periods, weight centralized in the abdominal area etc. Well I had bald spots, hair loss, brittle nails and hair, and weight that tended to be in my abdominal area. I went to an endocrinologist to ask him to run more blood work testing for PCOS.
“you don’t have that” he told me. “you’re not obese.” “You don’t need to be obese,” I insisted, “You need three of the symptoms, and obesity is just a tendency for women with PCOS.”
“I’ll test your female hormones,” he said.”
My results were all normal.
“I had high DHEA though” I pushed.
“That can be because of the time in your menstrual cycle.”
I wasn’t convinced.
I did more research online and found that often you will need to push your gynecologist to do an ultrasound of your ovaries to check if you have cysts to finally determine if you have PCOS.
I made an appointment with a gynecologist.
“I want an ultrasound of my ovaries,”I told him, “I think I have PCOS.”
“You don’t have PCOS, you’re not obese” I was told again.
“Ok well I want an ultrasound to make sure.”
“Do you have irregular periods?”
“No, my periods have always been regular” I told him
“Right, You don’t have PCOS. But if you want an ultrasound I’ll give you one” he said dismissing my concerns.
I layedd down and had the ultrasound wand inserted. The lights in the room were turned off and the doctor moved the wand around as he stared at the glowing screen on the ultrasound machine. Suddenly, he stopped moving the wand, and zoomed in on whatever was on the screen, he was squinting.
“Who told you you have PCOS?” he asked me.
I was astonished at how little he had listened to me.
“No one,” I said,” I think I have it, WHY?”
“I see 7 cysts on your right ovary and 4 cysts on your left.”
I was in shock. Eleven cysts??? I went from being told by two doctors that I didn’t have PCOS to finding out I had eleven cysts??? What the fuck??
As victorious as I felt in having diagnosed myself and being smarter than two old self-important male doctors, I was astonished by the news of my diagnosis.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“Nothing. We can put you on birth control to try to regulate your hormones and we just have to watch your ovaries very carefully to make sure your cysts don’t grow.”
“Grow!?” I asked, “What happens if they grow?”
“well they can burst” he said “and it can be very painful, but don’t worry yours are very very small. the biggest is a half centimeter. I see some women with cysts 7 centimeters big.”
This did not put me at ease.
I went back home, dejected. And went straight back to googling. Turns out PCOS could be the reason I didn’t get pregnant. Apparently this is due to the fact that women with PCOS typically have irregular periods, making timing ovulation difficult and they may not even ovulate when they get their period. PCOS is caused by an imbalance in hormones, no one knows exactly what causes this imbalance. It is widely believed it is due to several factors such as genetics, diet, toxins in our foods, stress, weight, vitamin deficiencies etc.
Luckily I had been tracking my periods with an ovulation tracker for the last few months. My cycles varied between 29-32 days. Not SUPER regular but predictable. I had read that vegetarians tend to develop hypothyroidism and or PCOS as a result of vitamin deficiencies. I had stopped eating red meat at the age of thirteen and became a full blown vegetarian at the age of 25. I had long suspected that my baldness had to do with a vitamin deficiency.
After lots of research I decided to incorporate foods and supplements that were supposed to be good for PCOS: Salmon (lots of iron, zinc, and vitamin D. Hair loss can be caused by zinc deficiency), spinach (good for hormones and producing shiny hair), walnuts and Brazil nuts (regulate hormones), and most importantly lowering my sugar intake. I have to admit I have always had an affinity for sugar. There is lots of information out there about how sugar intake is correlated with PCOS. Insulin resistance can mess-up your hormones and cause PCOS. I made a pledge to lower my sugar intake and focus on eating actual FOOD when I was hungry. I had developed a habit of reaching for sugar when hungry, since unlike other people I couldn’t reach for pizza (vegetarian and lactose intolerant).
I also began a regimen of acupuncture once a week and chiropractic care once a week. I also made it a point to make the time to meditate at least once a day; I wanted to lower my stress hormones. I made it a point to eat at regular intervals, every four or so hours. In my early twenties I had developed a bad habit of periodically starving myself which would make me insane, very likely raising my testosterone. Six months later I went back to the gynecologist to get another ultrasound to check on my cysts.
The doctor kept moving the want\d around.
“I don’t see any cysts on your right ovary. But you have four on your left and one grew a little.”
I couldn’t believe it. I knew I had done a lot of work fine tuning my diet but I couldn’t believe I had gotten rid of seven cysts!!! yes, I still had the four in my left ovary, and one had grew a half centimeter, but I had gotten rid of 7!
I had read so much online indicating that you can’t get rid of cysts, they’ll just grow. I felt vindicated for all my hard work. About this time I decided I would try to get pregnant. I decided I would use a sperm donor because my husband has Aspergers (thats a story for another day). I did some research and found a fertility clinic in Los Angeles, CA that was highly rated. I decided to go with IUI, the cost was $2000.
They put me on Clomid to make sure I ovulate and I was instructed to buy two vials of sperm. Each vial was about $900. I went in and had an ultrasound done and everything looked good. I was told to come in a few days after my period for an ultrasound to determine when I would be ovulating so they could inseminate me. I was to be inseminated the day before ovulation and the day of.
When I went in for my ultrasound I was excited to know when I would be inseminated..after all I had been waiting and waiting to get pregnant. It was July and I had planned to be inseminated in July in order to get pregnant with a Taurus baby. My Childs astrological sign is super important to me. Im positive that the astrological differences between my parents and I made it hard for us to get along. All throughout July I had researched Taurus children and what it would be like to have one.
The doctor chatted me up a bit before my ultrasound then inserted the wand.
“Huh,” he said ,”looks like you already ovulated.”
I was speechless. I knew this meant I had missed my window to get pregnant. I would have to wait two more months t get pregnant with a child that was astrologically compatible with me.
“Were you testing for ovulation?” he asked me.
“Uh..yes. It was positive this morning.”
“Well it looks like its fresh so I’ll go ahead and inseminate you.”
I hesitated. Each vial was $900 and I knew if he inseminated me there was a very low chance I would get pregnant. After all, the initial plan was to inseminate once before ovulation and once after. But I said nothing.
“Lets think positive thoughts!” he told me.
Despite my disappointment that after all this planning I had already ovulated, I decided to be positive and hope for a pregnancy.
I went home and did some googling. After ovulation, your egg lives for 5-24 hours. This did not seem promising, as there was no way for my doctor to know how long it had been since I had ovulated. Was it possible that the doctor knew I wouldn’t get pregnant and inseminated me so he could collect the money?
The $2000 included 2 inseminations, and I had received one. As time went by I again misinterpreted my period symptoms with pregnancy. I even went for a blood test to see if I could get an early result, it was negative. The doctor had told me to test for pregnancy on the 29th, it was negative and I got my period the next day. I was pissed. $2900 down the drain and I wasn’t even sure if it had truly failed since I had already ovulated.
I called the nurse at the clinic, irate, and went off on her about my feelings. I explained that I thought it was irresponsible for the doctor to have inseminated me knowing I had already ovulated. I got a call back from the financial director offering me my money back (which was nice) but basically telling me my accusations had pissed off the doctor and I wasn’t welcomed back. Long story short I got my money back but I still lost $900 on the donor sperm.
I had inquired about IVF with them. $12600 not including medications and other random stuff you need after which basically amounts to 15k.
I was so upset about all this my husband agreed to pay for IVF. I couldn’t justify paying this much. So I began doing research about IVF abroad. The most popular destination as of now seems to be Spain. Comparatively, IVF is around $5k in Spain. In the Czech Republic it is about $3k. As tempting as it was to go to the Czech Republic, I was disheartened by the slowness of their responses via email. Further research proved that some women had had experiences in which they arrived and the staff spoke little English. Considering I would be traveling abroad alone, I did not want to risk going somewhere where I didn’t speak the language. Spain was also tempting because I speak Spanish, but they were also pretty slow at getting back to me and the reviews regarding success rates were mixed everywhere.
Finally, I stumbled upon IVF in Puerto Vallarta Mexico. I had found a clinic online called LIV Fertility Center in Puerto Vallarta. This was appealing to me because it is a short flight from Los Angeles and it is also in paradise. The reviews for this clinic were glowing. Their nurse was super responsive with me, going back and forth with me via email and immediately scheduling a phone call to discuss my case. The cost with LIV was $7600 with medication and includes a guarantee, which means they will continue doing IVF for you until you have used up all your embryos. It also includes airport transfer and a in house massage!
Prior to settling on LIV I decided I would try to get pregnant the natural way with my husband, yes, in spite of his Aspergers. We only had sex twice but again I hoped it would work and it didn’t. Basically, I still don’t know if I can get pregnant naturally. It was unsuccessful, so I went ahead and began setting things up with LIV.
They required a non refundable $1000 deposit and they asked I start birth control on the first day of my period and stop taking it the 21st day. My accommodations for a month cost $2000. I decided to stay at some higher end condos on a golf course. I wanted to make sure I was walking distance to the clinic.
The plan as of now is to show up on the second day of my period to start simulation. After that they retrieve the eggs, fertilize them, and plan for the transfer. Apparently my dominant follicle on my right ovary ( a result of PCOS) could be a problem once I start stimulation, as it may have to be aspirated otherwise it will absorb all the medications, but we will see. I leave in three days. I’m scared and excited. Wish me luck!