Journey to the Center of the Uterus
By: Kathleen Puls Andrade
The first words of advice I received about ensuring conception were from a reporter who was reviewing a show I was doing at the time. We had hit it off over the phone and we started talking about fertility issues. Her advice? Put my legs over my head after having sex. Wow! Apparently it was pretty easy! So, off I went to have some sex and some “me time” with a pillow under my butt and my legs hiked up into the air. A half hour later, I put my legs down and hoped for the best. We had to do it again…and again…and yes, again. They say it’s fun trying, but honestly, it wasn’t. It became a chore and my poor husband. He was a trooper! I’d push him down and say, “Get it up! Right now!” Not as easy as it sounds.
So, I did it again…and again…and a few more times until we realized that this wasn’t exactly working. So, off to the gyne we went. Well, I went. There wasn’t a whole lot my husband could do…other than watch…which would be weird. Anyway! I went and my gyne ended up prescribing Clomid, which I took for about three months. Nada. It might have made me a little nutty but I really can’t remember. It’s been a while. I do remember wanting to lash out at various people but it might have been the progesterone suppositories. Meh. Same difference. And going to this particular gyne wasn’t fun. I don’t know what it was but the staff really made me feel like I was a pain. I really didn’t want to continue with that hospital so looked for somewhere else to go. It was time, anyway.
Actually, it was time to go to the big leagues…the show…the Majors. It was time to do the turkey baster. The first real IVF doctor we had was an enigma. She was nice enough but I couldn’t call her a people person. Still, she was the head of the program so we thought she’d be pretty good. The first order was for the hysterosalpingogram, or HSG. I’m sure that you’ve heard of that one. You know, when they insert a balloon into your uterus, inflate it, and listen to you swear…out loud…loudly. It was just a little uncomfortable. But she barely acknowledged that. I think I had more sympathy from the Intern. And don’t believe the hype. One or two Advil will not suffice.
But, there was good news! My fallopian tubes were not blocked! Although she did mention that I had a small uterus. I’ve since learned that I have an “infantile uterus”. The size of a baby’s, apparently. An outdated term but apt. But I guess it could still hold a baby. They do stretch after all.
So, on to the Intrauterine Insemination. I had three. My husband had the most important role in this step: masturbating into a cup. The nurse called him in for his first “session”. We were pretty new to this so I asked, “Should I come too?” She said, in her dry Chicago way, “You shouldn’t have to.” Ugh. How embarrassing! But, he was successful, albeit not entirely stimulated by the surroundings. I guess that’s what the copious amount of porn is for. That room is sterile! Ooh…bad choice of words?
The IUIs went smoothly, with the exception of one. The IVF nurse had a hard time getting the catheter with the sperm into my uterus. The doc breezed in, adjusted the speculum, slid the catheter in, and breezed out…with barely a word to me. I saw her in the hallway some time after the procedure. I waved, said “Hi Dr. So and So”…and she didn’t recognize me. I think she only recognizes her patients by their vaginas. I was one of those vaginas.
On to the Bigs.
The Clomid and the IUIs didn’t work. We had to move on to In Vitro Fertilization. By this time I’d been pretty well entrenched in Fertilityland and when one cycle ended, I couldn’t wait for the next one to begin. It began to feel like an addiction…an addiction to the process. I had had polyps removed, scar tissue removed, estrogen suppositories, Viagra suppositories, shots with giant needles, knots on my butt, and I couldn’t wait for it to begin again. And it was to a certain extent. There was always one more thing to try, one more procedure, one more chance. And the hormone roller coaster was starting to get to me too. But, all in the name of building a family! So, onward and upward.
My old IVF doc left the program. Seemed as though she had a little burnout going on. But the new guy was a pretty nice guy, all business, but a nice guy. I tried everything I could to get him to laugh at my silliness but he didn’t crack. He was professional to a fault, which bothered me and comforted me all at once. And he tried just about everything he could think of to get me pregnant. He finally showed his personal side to me while doing a water sonogram. (He put water in the uterus to find out what’s going on in there.) I mentioned to him that I had just gotten back from Mexico, where it was really humid…like I’m sure it was, down there. Ha! Not really. He starts talking about his own disastrous trip to Mexico…in my uterus! I just did not know how to take this! What do I say? What do I do? I was thrilled that he finally opened up to me. I felt we were bonding over my narrow cervix. I had had issues with the narrowness of my cervix before and it seemed to be worse this time. He ended up shaving it to make the insertion of the embryos go a lot smoother.
Oh yeah…that time with the embryos.
If I didn’t know any better I’d swear they were messing with me. I was going in for the embryo transfer. You know, after you do the egg extraction and they fertilize the eggs with your husband’s washed sperm? Again, his one and only job, a very important job, is to masturbate and give them sperm to wash. Nice! So, we went in and they got me all doped up on Valium and put me on the table with the stirrups and inserted the speculum (my favorite part!) and started with the catheter. He raised the table. He lowered the table. He asked me to move my hips up, down, and around. Nothing. That catheter wasn’t going in any further than it wanted to. Must have been a sign. He called in the ultrasound tech to help guide the catheter. Legs up, hips down, a little to the left, a little to the right…all of this through a Valium haze. The embryologist was giving me sympathetic looks while everyone else was trying to figure out why this wasn’t working. My husband was trying to comfort me by kissing my hand, wiping my forehead and telling me that it’ll be over soon. After a few more attempts, the embryologist pointed me out to Dr. S. Tears were silently running down my cheeks as I was trying not to say, “For the love of God, please stop poking my cervix!!”
…put the bed back to its original position
And then somehow he managed to figure out how to get those potential babies into my uterus.
Oh yes, there was one time when I did get pregnant! I think it was the time after the cervix-poking incident. Or the time before…it’s been a while so I’m not entirely sure anymore.
We did the whole shebang and Donna, the flat-voiced IVF nurse, called me and told me that my numbers were up! The numbers are what we “IVFers” live by. They’re supposed to double every other day and mine had doubled! I had to go in for an ultrasound and a follow-up blood test to monitor my numbers and, of course, the worst part is the wait. It’s really interesting how you just know when there’s something happening in there and I could definitely sense that something was in there. So, I went to shop for new computer speakers and was at the customer service desk when Donna called with the results. And that’s when she told me that my numbers were down. “So, that means I’m not pregnant anymore?” She confirmed that this was indeed the case and how sorry she was and that I could call for a follow-up if I wanted to.
So, I got another pair of speakers. And then went out to my car and started it up to go home and broke down in tears. That, as they say, was that.
Eventually, after trying two donor egg cycles, I realized that I couldn’t do it anymore. I had to get some help to discover this. One of the most valuable things I learned is that no one will tell you when to stop. There’s always something else you can do to try and get pregnant but you have to figure out what you can and cannot take –physically, spiritually, and mentally.
It didn’t work out for us. And we decided we didn’t want to adopt. And, it’s ok with us. Not perfect, but it’s ok. We have several nieces and nephews and they’ve become our kids…that we can hand back. Ha!
I’ve mourned over and over and I just can’t mourn anymore. I have to move on and be happy with the way things are. I think my husband still has some mourning to do but we’re doing ok. We love each other. We appreciate each other and we laugh so much, which is so important. I believe that humor is the great healer and we’ve found so much to laugh about in our experiences.
Now we just have to convince our nieces and nephews to take care of us in our old age. Ha!
To read more about Kathleen visit her site