Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Journey

Trying to get pregnant is an emotional, humbling and, well, bitter experience.

I wanted to go off topic today, and talk about my pregnancy journey. For something so common, fertility issues are still a hush-hush topic.

While my journey wasn’t as long and emotional as some, it still took a year of nonstop effort. I went off the pill in May 2010 and got my first positive pregnancy test this May.

Here’s my story, cycle-style.

Cycle 1
My dedication to “the task at hand” started instantly (big surprise, right?) – aside from a daily prenatal pill and iron supplement, I started temping each morning. When the period waiting game started, I just knew I was pregnant, because I had all the “symptoms.” I wasted a lot of money on pregnancy tests that first time around, and when I started my period – it was a shock to the system.

Cycle 2
To help make this cycle, “the cycle,” I borrowed a friend’s Clear Blue Easy Fertility Monitor, which is one amazing gadget and totally worth the hefty price tag if you can’t borrow one. While temping/charting let you know when you ovulate after the fact, the monitor gives you daily updates on your status.

So when this 6-week cycle wasn’t the one either, I formed a new game plan and stayed optimistic.

Cycle 3
In addition to the temping and monitor, I added fertility acupuncture to my list to try to bring my cycles closer to 28 days. I signed on to a 12-week process – 2 times a week for the first 6 weeks, and once a week after that. While being poked with needles (and acquiring some nasty bruises), I just knew this would work. With the insane amount of money I was spending on all of this – it just had to.

Cycle 4
While I maintained everything I was doing in cycle 3, something in me started to change this cycle – I started getting extremely emotional about my lack of pregnancy. It’d been 6 months and nothing. This is also the cycle that the annoying jabs family made about “wanting to be a grandparent, etc” started to really get to me. It got to the point where I stopped going to certain family events based on how I was feeling that day.

I had my yearly, with my amazing doctor. We talked about my 6-week cycles and several options. I also did my first progesterone blood test, which came back great. So my first possible issue was crossed off the list.

When I got my period, I wasn’t surprised. It got easier to expect nothing – that way it wouldn’t be so disappointing when nothing happened. Little did I know, this would be the last time I ovulated until the cycle I got pregnant.

Cycle 5
I came into cycle 5 with new energy. I was now temping/charting, using the monitor, doing acupuncture and taking FertileCM, Mucinex and green tea. (TMI time – cervical mucus, aka CM, plays a big role in getting you pregnant, because it helps guide the sperm where they need to go. FertileCM, Mucinex and green tea all help build your CM supply).

When I didn’t ovulate on my usual day, I started getting worried. When CD50 hit, and still nothing – I called my doctor and we decided force-quitting this cycle and starting a fertility drug next cycle was the way to go. After 10 days on Provera, my cycle ended at 68 days.

Cycle 6
It was now January – a new year, a new game plan. I took the fertility drug, Femara, for CD3-7 and just prayed something would work.

Education time – The 2 most popular fertility drugs are Clomid and Femara. While they both induce ovulation – they work in different ways. Clomid adds even more estrogen to your system, causing you to ovulate. Femara, does the opposite – it temporarily reduces your estrogen levels – causing your body to produce more, which also creates ovulation. The other 2 differences are that Femara doesn’t thin uterine lining and the risk for multiples isn’t as high (3% instead of 10%).

That being said, Femara still has a long list of side effects (but any drug originally designed for cancer patients, probably will), so I still had my fair share of fun (and hot flashes).

I also joined several fertility drug support groups to educate myself further, and then just waited.

Even though I knew I didn’t ovulate, I went back in for another CD21 progesterone test, which came back negative. At CD35 I started my period. I had experienced my first anovulatory cycle.

Cycle 7
This time around my Femara dosage was twice a strong. When I failed another progesterone test, my doctor and I decided that Femara wasn’t for me and more testing needed to be done. By this point Brent had already had his "man" testing, so we knew the issue was me. After CD35 and still nothing I decided to force quit this cycle as well.

Cycle 8
Back in December, I started thinking I might have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). So when my CD3 blood work came back, and I was officially diagnosed – I was not surprised.

I like referring to PCOS as being too fertile to function. You have all these eggs, but because of extra testosterone/insulin imbalances in your body – you get off course. For those unfamiliar with PCOS, let me start by saying it’s not diabetes (but if you are a diabetic female, you probably have PCOS) – it’s very much so the square and the rectangle.

PCOS isn’t something that goes away. It’s a condition I will have for the rest of my life.

My side effects include: irregular cycles, weight gain after going off the pill (and difficulty losing weight), dandruff, new hair growth, and oily skin. So yes, the most attractive and feminine condition to have. Basically, this means whenever I’m not pregnant or trying to get pregnant, I will be on birth control pills to keep my symptoms hidden.

Anyway, back to the story. I was put on Metformin to help manage my PCOS. Unlike the fertility drugs, this is something I take twice a day, every day. While the medicine made me super sick at first, I finally got used to it – and I’m excited to say it worked.

When I finally ovulated, it was a day of celebration. My 6-months of limbo was over. I was on the correct path! And then another cherry got added on top, because I got pregnant.

I wanted to share my story, because getting pregnant isn’t always easy. In high school you’re pretty much told if you have sex, you will get pregnant – the issue is that no one really corrects that lie. So it’s definitely a surprise to discover you really only have 3-5 days a cycle to get pregnant, and even if you’re doing everything right – you only have a 20% chance after that. With those odds it’s amazing women get pregnant at all. But they do, and they can. So if you’re trying, don’t give up hope.


  1. My sister-in-law tried 8 years to get pregnant, but now has the most precious daughter. I'm sorry to hear it was such a frustrating struggle, but very happy for you now!

  2. Sorry that your journey was this trying. My friend experienced the same as you as she has PCOS. She didn't get pregnant for almost 3 years and now after the birth of her first, she has has 3 more, easy peasy.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story, Ashley. I'm going to be very honest: when I read your pregnancy announcement, my first thought was "Great, now I cannot read her blog anymore." We're in the 2ww of cycle 13, but we have a snowball's chance in hell in conceiving this month. After extensive testing with the reproductive endocrinologist, we have a multiple-factor infertility diagnosis, and IVF with ICIS is most likely our only option.
    Obviously, like you, I know the pain of struggling with IF. I'm really glad that you put yourself out there to talk about this "taboo" subject, because people really take their fertility for granted - which makes it all the more painful for us.
    I'm sorry for your struggle, but I am very happy you have a happy ending. I want to share this link with you and your readers, in hopes that it makes the journey a little easier for those of us that struggle to become parents:
    And lastly, congratulations!

  4. Jenny – That's one of the reasons why I wanted to post this. Pregnancy announcements are extremely difficult to hear when you're trying, especially when it happens to someone in their first cycle. I've definitely grown very bitter toward "those couples," and totally get where you are coming from.

    I'm so sorry that IVF is looking to be your only option. I've had 2 friends go through the IVF process (one of them is actually being induced on Tuesday)! Best of luck to you.

  5. DH and I are on month 15 and still waiting. I am ovulating on my own but still nothing. We are now trying for a second child after having a "surprise" first. Secondary infertility is baffling.

    At least you have a happy ending. It was all worth it.

  6. Oh my gosh Ashley! First of all, congrats! Our due dates can't be that far apart (I'm due Jan. 2). Secondly, thanks for sharing. I cried when I read this, probably because I can relate so much. I too struggled with fertility, and got the lovely PCOS diagnosis. I share all your sentiments exactly. It was a real punch in the gut to find out that I have through-the-roof testosterone levels -- it made me feel incredibly sexy after already struggling for a long time to not get pregnant and not feel like a woman.

    My path to achieving pregnancy after the diagnosis was different from yours, but I am so glad it happened for both of us after the struggle. Now my greatest hope is for each of us to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby when all is said and done.

    I shared my fertility story on my blog not too long ago for the exact same reasons as you. Here's the link, if you're interested.
    I'd also like to post a link to this post within the story of my own fertility journey. People need to know they are not alone. Thanks again, and congrats!

  7. Congrats again! It's so much more of a miracle knowing what you went through. And while I don't have any children myself, I am constantly surprised how many people struggle to conceive. We're raised thinking that it will happen if you look sideways at a boy and then so many people have to go through so much to be parents. I also have a friend diagnosed with PCOS who is struggling to get pregnant. But you made it! I'm so happy for you and Brent.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story. While I have not had fertility issues, I have a few friends that have been struggling for awhile, and it's so hard to see them go through the roller coaster of anticipation and let downs. I agree that women (and men) need to be able to openly talk about these issues. A couple of years ago I wrote about my miscarriage (, and I was amazed at how many people contacted me because they had felt similar to the way I felt but they were embarrassed to talk about it. If we can get the communication open on these tough subjects it will be much healthier for those who have to face these struggles.

  9. Congrats and thank you for sharing your story. Just as Jenny mentioned above I was afraid this was going to be yet another blog that reminded me that we still aren't pregnant. I was diagnosed with PCOS last month after 7 months of trying. I begin fertility meds at the end of this month and hope to have a successful outcome as well. Thanks for explaining your journey since, as you know, this diagnosis can leave one feeling very alone especially when friends are getting pregnant almost on demand all around me. Congrats again!

  10. Congrats, Ashley & Brent! My daughter and hubby were blessed with both MFI & PCOS. Their daughter will be 3 months old on Saturday.

    Back when I was getting pregnant, the only choice was adoption or living child-free if you suffered from infertility. I'm glad you got the opportunity to benefit from the advancements of science. I am a huge supporter of

  11. This was such a brave post. I'm so sorry you had a struggle and so so so glad it had such a happy ending.

    I had a friend who made a deliberate decision to put off having children for a few years (her husband was deployed at the time.) People would constantly bug her about when they were going to have kids. She said she promised herself she would NEVER do that to another couple because...who knows, they could be facing some difficulties getting pregnant, and that's NO ONE'S BUSINESS ANYWAY.

    So happy for you. Email if you'd ever be interested in sharing a version of this journey on my blog. :)

  12. Visited your site for the first time today and was expecting to read about one of my passions- decorating! And then I ran across this! This is exactly what I needed. I was diagnosed with PCOS 10 years ago and have been on birth control ever since. I will start trying to have kids in about 2 years, and haven't even tried yet at all, but still stress and worry and feel like I have to come to terms with the fact that I may never have children. Which kills me. My job is getting women set up with prenatal care so it's something in my face everyday 8 hrs a day! My friend who has PCOS has also told me she went on Metformin and got pregnant right away. I am hoping that either I can get pregnant without it or get pregnant with it!!

    Thanks for your post. I am so happy you are pregnant! Congratulations!!! YAY!

  13. Thanks for your encouraging words. I needed this today.

    I have been blessed w/a daughter thus far & w/her she wasn't planned but now 2nd time around we are ready & planning, but nothing is happening :-(

    However staying +!!!! Congrats :-)