Monday, 11 April 2016

Living through Infertility

This past year seems to have passed in a complete blur… 
Our focus has been on trying to have a baby & unfortunately everything else seems to have fallen away, or simply skipped over.

We were told last year that our only option to have a baby was to have IVF.  I can also only be on certain medication for my Myasthenia Gravis as many of them cause major birth defects & we aren’t willing to take that risk.  So I cut down on all my medicine, pumped up the supplements & vitamins & started trying to have a baby.

We were married in October 2012 & knew that we wanted to have children right from then.  However we weren’t in a great hurry as we were in the dark about all the problems that my body was hiding.  We were trying, but not charting or checking ovulation & so on – we were just enjoying being married & getting to grow as a couple.

In 2014 when still nothing had happened, we decided to visit a special friend of mine that is a Homeopath & Chinese medicine practitioner that specialises in infertility.  In fact he has been able to get people pregnant that were not able to conceive with IVF!  I was filled with hope & very excited to get started.  A year of herbs; weekly acupuncture & consultations; & a healthy diet unfortunately did not bring us a baby.  It did get me feeling a lot better, seemed to bring my Myasthenia Gravis under better control as well as regulating my cycle.

I returned to my gynae who said that we needed to go for IVF.  I had blood tests that showed I had very few eggs left & they are a very poor quality.  This means that time is of the essence & we do not have time to mess around.  Yes I am only 27 now, but due to the years of medication & my disease, there are a lot more complications than a ‘normal’ person would have.

We went to a specialist in Durban for an initial consult & I left in tears.  He was so negative & uncaring that I felt like I was just a pay cheque to him & not a person at all.  He told me he doubted anything would work & he wanted to do an operation to remove my endometriosis – this would cost us R30,000 & I would be in the day clinic.  Firstly, this amount is astronomical & he wanted it paid in cash before he would operate.  Secondly, going under anaesthetic with Myasthenia Gravis poses a huge risk.  Anaesthetists do not like dealing with myasthenics as there is a chance we will not wake up.  After every operation of mine I have had to spend the night in high care & be monitored closely to ensure I am coping.  So the fact that he was willing to just send me home on the same day sent up red flags in my mind – how much does he really know about MG??

After discussing this with family & friends, my husband’s uncle suggested we try a clinic in Bloemfontein who has really good results & also charges a lot less than a private clinic.  I researched Universitas Hospital & found so many positive feedback comments.  Because this is a government hospital, fees are cut down to the bare essentials.  We made an appointment for the earliest available time & waited for the next few months for our time to come.  In the meantime I had to have an operation to remove my endometriosis, as well as my right ovary & tube which had become too badly damaged by my constant cysts & endometriosis.

It is a 12 hour round trip to Bloemfontein from Pietermaritzburg, but we were willing to travel if they were willing to help us!  I cannot begin to put into words how wonderful the staff are there.  Straight away we knew that we had made the right decision as we were welcomed with smiles & made to feel so comfortable.  They held a discussion with the professor of the infertility clinic, as well as support staff & came back to us with a plan.

In October we had our first round of IVF.  Now let me tell you, there is a lot that you are not prepared for!  You start injections on day 3 of your cycle – this is usually just one injection a day to start off with, & builds up to 4 a day.  For someone with a very real fear of needles, this is a terrifying prospect.  You have to go for an internal scan every couple of days to measure the growth of your follicles & to ensure the doctors are happy that everything is progressing as it should.  The hormones that are suddenly flooding your body wreak havoc on your emotions & I often found myself crying for absolutely no reason at all.  As your follicles grow, so the pain in your abdomen increases – imagine a bunch of grapes surrounding your ovary & this is what you feel like.  It aches, there is pressure & you start to feel quite miserable!
Then comes the retrieval…  You are under anaesthetic for this procedure, & they insert a massive needle attached to the ultrasound probe to aspirate eggs from the follicles surrounding your ovary.  It can hurt a bit afterwards, but nothing that us women can’t handle!
We then wait to hear how many eggs fertilise & how many continue to grow.  I had my embryo transfer 3 days after retrieval & this really isn’t bad.  They insert a tiny catheter & the embryos are transferred directly into your uterus where you pray they stay.

We were truly blessed with our first cycle to discover that I was pregnant!  Once little embryo had taken up home & was making itself comfortable.  I couldn’t believe it & our entire family was over the moon.
Unfortunately this was not meant to be & I miscarried at 10 weeks.  Never in my life have I experienced something so awful.  I would not wish it onto my worst enemy.
The positive side of this was that I had managed to fall pregnant, even though so many people had told me that this was not possible.

We tried again in March for hopefully a more successful round, & although everything went perfectly, it didn’t work.  Our little babies were not made for this earth & made their way straight to heaven.

Over time all of this stress & emotional uphill has broken me.  My heart is heavy & I can feel that my MG once again has control over me.  I am slurring my words; choking on my food; & can’t hold certain things.  I cannot crochet for long periods of time without my hands giving up, & I have trouble doing up buttons on my pants.  I am tired the whole time & I am starting to battle with walking long distances.

Unfortunately this means that I need to go back onto my stronger medicine for my MG & focus on getting my health back to where it should be, as well as getting emotionally strong once again.  This has not been an easy decision at all, as this means the end of our IVF journey.  I still get tearful thinking about it & my womb aches for a baby of our own.  The medicine takes a year to properly kick in & I would need to be on it for at least 2 years to get properly healthy once again – after which I would need to be off this for a year in order for all traces of it to leave my body before we could start trying again.  This means I will not have any eggs left.

Myasthenia Gravis is a constant battle that I am fighting & I just want to thank all the strangers, my family & some of my friends that have been so supportive throughout this trying time.  Infertility is a terrible thing & I wish more people would be open about it.  It is not something to be ashamed of, but rather awareness needs to be created.  People need to be accountable for their words, their actions & aware how something simple can be so devastating to someone trying to have a baby.
I have felt isolated during this time & have found myself withdrawing further as I cannot deal with certain people; & the way they treat me & my husband.

Please, be kind to one another.
Offer support.
Be the person you would want in your life.
And don't ever, ever give up!