Michelle T’s Story

My husband Johnny (31) and I (37) were married in April 2019. We first got pregnant in October of the same year. It was exciting and I couldn’t wait to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. I was continuing to go to the gym every day and was eating healthier. Things seemed to be going so well. Until they didn’t. 

One day around the 9-week mark after a stressful day at work, I started bleeding. We had an ultrasound which confirmed there was no heartbeat. The only time we’d ever gotten to see our baby on the ultrasound was when they were already gone. It was a traumatic experience that I don’t wish on any couple. I was told I would miscarry and was given information on what to expect. No true compassion from the provider came through during the instructions. The entire exchange was cold. 

The miscarriage was so painful and heartbreaking. Every time I went to the bathroom, I would find myself bursting into tears thinking of how I was flushing my baby down the sewer. 

My body never released everything naturally. I was given the abortion pill on two occasions and still, not everything would come out. I had to have a D&C procedure which is where the last fragments are surgically removed.

After the experience I blamed myself. Was I exercising too much? Was I not eating the right things? Was I too stressed? Did the beer I drank before I found out impact development? 

I had the support of my husband, friends, and family during this time. Some negative things did however come to light as well. We had people close to us blame our miscarriages on the fact that we did not get married in the church, and told us that we should consider adoption, they also voiced opinions against IVF for religious reasons. Luckily my husband shielded me from as much as he could to protect my heart (and frankly protect people from my rage). This was such an awful thing for him to have to hear from someone close to us. It made us both shut down to some of the people in our lives. We didn’t want to surround ourselves with negativity when what we needed were support and understanding.

I had gone to the gynecologist every year and each year I always mentioned that I was worried about my fertility. My mother went through early menopause but the doctor chalked it up to the fact that she had had me and my sister relatively early in life – whatever that means. My doctor would reassure me every year that everything was fine. Looking back, I should’ve pushed harder for testing rather than just accepting her empty words.

I had another miscarriage during the height of the pandemic. I was never able to medically confirm the pregnancy but I confirmed it through at-home testing. When I finally miscarried, it was the same experience as the first. I was never able to get bloodwork or ultrasound because everything was shut down which added an extra layer of frustration when it came to understanding what could have been the reason things went wrong.

I decided to lie and tell another gynecologist that I had been trying to conceive for over a year so that I could be referred to a reproductive endocrinologist because they won’t refer you until you’ve tried for 12 months without success. That lie was the best lie I ever told. Unfortunately, I was on a waitlist for a reproductive endocrinologist and would have to wait three months for an appointment. I would call daily to try to get someone else’s canceled appointment or see a physician’s assistant working under the main doctor so that I could get in earlier. It worked and after a month I got my first appointment. I had initial blood work done that uncovered that I had an extremely low AMH, coming in at 0.171 (median for my age should be 2.03) and an elevated FSH of 11 (median for my age should be 8). The doctors took weeks to get back to me about what my results meant. Which drove me insane because of course I googled everything. They also didn’t want to talk to me over the phone about my results but rather wanted me to wait a month until my follow-up appointment. From what I had read on my own I needed to move fast.

The doctors were overly positive while in the back of my mind I knew they were not giving me the real picture based on some of the medical journals I had been reading. They recommended the blanket approach they recommend to everyone which is to try some IUI‘s before determining if we should move to IVF. I knew that this was not the path I should be taking. I went along with their plan as my bloodwork kept coming back worse and worse each time. My AMH got to the point where it dropped to 0.04 and my FSH skyrocketed into the 60s. I was diagnosed with primary ovarian failure and told that IVF would likely not be a success for me unless I used a donor egg. I was so mad that they did not initially direct me directly to IVF in the first place before making me go through rounds and rounds of IUIs and essentially wasted my time and depleted my body. Not only was I in ovarian failure but I also developed a thin uterine lining which created new challenges.

I decided to completely envelop myself in research. Nothing else mattered to me other than figuring out how to have a child. Everyone in my life was very comforting while we went through our miscarriage, but when it came to the research portion I was on my own. I couldn’t talk to friends because they didn’t understand and it was exhausting trying to explain the real way the reproductive system works when it comes to hormones and timing etc. My husband thought I was going to drive myself crazy doing research (I did) and tried to get me to focus on working with a new Dr. who was much more focused on the statistics around my individual situation unlike my prior doctors who treated my situation with a one size fits all approach. My husband wanted to hear from the medical professionals before I ran into the room with my tinfoil hat, but I knew how dire things were being that I was the one experiencing things firsthand. I knew my own case more than any doctor. 

I met with several doctors and talked about IVF and how the success rate with my eggs would be less than 5%. As they pushed me into using donor eggs I had to reach out to my sister and make the ask to her. The first time I had asked her she thought I was blowing things out of proportion and said no. I was devastated and began spiraling about the idea of having to use a stranger’s egg rather than one genetically linked to me. At that point, I had just gotten my initial blood work so we didn’t have answers. This time however with the data she realized how desperate things truly were; plus she was sick of hearing me cry. Luckily, she agreed and some hope was restored.

I still wanted to try to use my own eggs. I started incorporating certain things that I learned from the book ‘It Starts with the Egg’. I also did some medical journal research and started implementing a supplement called NMN. The supplement was shown to reverse menopause in aging mice and resulted in their having healthy offspring. I also discovered that platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections were being used for ovarian rejuvenation. I found an IVF clinic in Barbados that offered the service along with the egg retrieval portion of IVF. My husband and I decided that we would have one round of IVF done in Barbados trying with our eggs and that I would have the PRP procedure done at the same time at a discounted rate as an add-on service. I went into this IVF round knowing that the IVF would not work. I just wanted the PRP treatment at a more reasonable rate than I could find in the U.S.; and that’s exactly what happened. We only had one egg retrieved which did not make it to the fertilization process.

When I went back to the states, I didn’t tell my doctors what I had done and they were pushing me toward IVF. I asked them if we could try an IUI one more time. The reason I wanted this one last IUI was because I wanted access to any data around whether or not the PRP treatment made any improvement. When you do an IUI they draw blood and do ovarian follicle imaging which is what I needed to see if this procedure worked so I could time my IVF accordingly. I was secretly working with an IVF doctor based in Colorado for an upcoming IVF cycle where both my sister and I would be stimulated and we would use whoever’s eggs were the better quality. That doctor prescribed me Omnitrope as a priming medication which I took for a few months leading up to my last IUI.

I went into my IUI completely jaded but somehow, I had managed to get four follicles. This was the most I’ve ever had that had reached the proper size. Usually, I would not get a big enough follicle or I would merely get one follicle that was always too small. This time two of the four follicles were the appropriate size at the time we triggered. When I went in for my IUI the doctor explained to me that there was a risk of twins (I laughed in infertility). I signed the paperwork acknowledging that it was a possibility but couldn’t help but be jaded about the entire conversation. In my mind, there was no way I was getting pregnant let alone with twins.

The IUI procedure was performed and I took a pregnancy test which turned out negative. Then a day later I retook the test and to my surprise it was positive!  I tried very hard not to get my hopes up and took each day one day at a time. Weeks passed and we hit milestone after milestone. All the while waiting for the other shoe to drop. Now as I’m writing this at 34 weeks pregnant I can’t believe I’m here. The other unbelievable part of this pregnancy is that I’ve had none of the typical pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness or food cravings. Everything has gone relatively smoothly.

The biggest takeaway from this entire experience is that we must be our own advocates. My doctors did not do right by me by not addressing my concerns. There was such a lack of listening on their part that I had to circumvent them the entire time to ultimately get the result that I wanted.                       

Doctors may have a degree, but they don’t care as much as you do about your outcome. Take matters into your hands and push for what you want. This is your one life don’t leave it thinking “I wish I would have…” 

Photo taken by Ashleigh Pisarcik.

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