“This is an Easy Fix!” and Other ‘Fertility’ Doctor Lies
Michelle is a 33-year-old teacher from Texas. Her story in her words:
The love of my life and I married at 28 and 22. I couldn’t wait to start a family with him. Motherhood was what I hoped and dreamed of since childhood. When my friends would talk about what they wanted to be when they grew up, I always found myself saying, “If I can have children, I will…”
We agreed to be married two years before trying to conceive. Even then, I was worried I would have problems getting pregnant. I tracked my cycles online, took my temperature every morning, peed on ovulation predictor strips. After six months of “trying” I scheduled an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist.
The doctor looked at all the data I collected. He ordered blood work and ultrasounds. He thought I had PCOS. He said:
“This is an easy fix! I wish everyone that came to my office was such an easy case. You will be pregnant in 6 months.”
Treatment and Tests
We did two IUI cycles of clomid. The first time I had one follicle; the second time I had two-ish. Time to move on to the next thing.
“Injectables will work,” they said. “Before we start, we need to check out your tubes.”
The Hysterosalpingogram came back showing only half a uterus and one tube. Could be a septum, could be a birth defect called a unicornuate uterus. A laparoscopy later it turns out I’m a unicorn with a tiny half uterus, one tube connected to an ovary. One ovary with no tube. A few endometriosis spots and some bowel scarring. But the doctor says I can still carry a baby.
We take time to heal and start the injectables.
Step 1: Spend $1,500 on gonal-f injections.
Step 2: Stick yourself in the stomach for a week and do it with a smile because this will work!
Step 3: Go for an ultrasound to see what’s happening. Nothing. Is. Happening…
Step 4: Blood work! Again – Nothing. Is. Happening.
They begin to realize this is not working, something bigger is wrong. I’m 26, and the hard-core meds aren’t working.
“If I was looking at your chart, I would think you are in your 40s.”
More blood work. Miniscule AMH level. Diminished Ovarian Reserve. Premature Ovarian Failure.
“You don’t have enough quality eggs. And you are only 26. Donor IVF is your best route. By the way, that starts at $20,000. Better start saving.”
It doesn’t bother me too much I will never have a child that is biologically “mine.” As long as I carry a baby, it will feel like mine, right? My sister steps up as a donor, what an angel! I am thrilled we can “keep it in the family.” A year after the crappy egg news, we start the process.
Everything goes well. We see lots of doctors: a psychiatrist to make sure sis isn’t crazy; maternal-fetal medicine doctor to make sure it’s a good idea to transfer two embryos to a half sized uterus; a geneticist to see what my husband and sister are carriers for. We spend a small fortune. We want everything to go perfectly. I don’t want to have any regrets or make any mistakes.
We get 12 eggs from my sister at retrieval. Three days later it’s down to four embryos. I’m worried but try to stay positive. We transfer two embryos. Lots of waiting. Walking on eggshells. Hoping. Praying. Making deals and promises with God.
I pee on a stick a few days early. There’s a faint line but the blood work is a low positive. We check back in two days and the level is down. I am miscarrying.
My life is over.
Many, many, dark days and dark thoughts. What a waste. All the money. All the time. All the HOPE. I hate myself. I hate my life. I. Will. Never. Heal.
After many months seeing a psychiatrist and counselor, I try to heal and learn to be a person again. Still, there are many unanswered questions, especially the big one: why didn’t it work?
Almost a year after our failed IVF, we meet with the doctor to talk about why. It was difficult. I didn’t know what the next step would be. We still had two frozen embryos. Doctor says he thinks the IVF wasn’t successful because of the decreased blood flow of my unicornuate uterus. I’m confused because all the doctors said my tiny uterus wouldn’t affect things. Doctor says sometimes you never know until you try. He says the best chance of success would be a surrogate.
So, I can’t have a biological child. And I can’t carry a baby. Pregnancy and motherhood is slipping through my fingers.
After some time, we decide to move forward with adoption. I read books and researched adopting internationally, but the timeline and price was crazy. We couldn’t bring a baby home less than a year old. We would literally “pick” out our child and not be able to bring her home until several months later. We research domestic adoption. We tell friends and family we are looking to adopt, as many books recommend. A few months go by, no leads. We look at agencies and are disheartened by the outrageous price.
We decide to research a surrogate. It’s outrageous as well. The only way we could make it work is if a friend or family member became our surrogate. Our oldest niece, 21, volunteers. We wait for the time and money to be right for all us. Our niece and her daughter move in with us for the process. We go through lots of appointments (and shots) together. Everyone is hopeful and excited. Her lining and blood work is perfect. Two years from our first IVF, we transfer two thawed embryos to our niece.
Years of waiting and hoping … the same thing that happened to me happens to her. We get a low positive that goes down two days later. Early miscarriage.
After the bad news phone call, I’m sad but not broken. This time things are different. My husband and I are closer than ever. We have grown and evolved through the painful years into a strong, confident couple. We decide not to adopt.
It was hard telling people we were done. Most understood, but it was still hard. It’s so awkward and sad to be the one receiving the condolences for the loss of something I never had. It was difficult to get through but I tried to focus on the intentions of our loved ones, even when they said what I thought was the wrong thing.
I will always miss our unborn children. I’ve loved these potential sons and daughters my entire life. I imagined what they looked and sounded like. I hoped they would have my husband’s personality and the beauty of my mother and sister. I wanted to teach them about our family heritage and tell them the stories my grandma told me. I wanted to see them grow and have lives and children of their own. I wanted to live to be 100 so I could see all my grandchildren have children.
I get a painful hole in my stomach when I think of never having grandchildren for my parents and in-laws. I feel the loss of my fertility and potential motherhood is like mourning those who passed away from a terrible illness. I will always miss them, but I am so happy they are at peace.
I feel happy I am now at peace and won’t have to go through the emotional roller coaster of fertility treatments. No more shots. No more bad news. No more getting my hopes up only to be shattered once again. Even though we failed, we tried.
I am not “over” what I went through. I will never be the same. I will always have good and bad days. I will always mourn motherhood. But, I know what I do have in this life. I focus on how fortunate I am and how many people love me. My sister gave me her eggs. My niece tried to carry our baby. My husband, my rock, stood by my side through the most difficult and dark time of my life without flinching.
If you experienced questionable practices from an IVF or egg freezing clinic, please contact us at info (@) reprotechtruths [dot] org.
WOW! I can really relate to your story in many ways. Our journey was a little different but it ended the same way. We were very young when we started trying. After 9 difficult years of trying, we were done. And we were too tired and sad to adopt. I wanted a baby with my husband’s smile after all. And I wanted to be pregnant desperately.
I was still easily young enough to have a baby, if I was an average girl. I am not.
We are married 32 years now and not a day goes by that I don’t mourn the loss of our children. There were supposed to be six of them.
I believe God’s plan is best. I will just have to wait to hear the reasons.
Thanks SO much for sharing. It’s still a comfort to hear of others out there.
Thanks for bravely sharing your story, Michelle. I too will always miss my unborn children, a visceral pull most don’t want to hear or accept. Bearing witness to someone else expressing this brings me a lot of comfort and makes me feel less alone.
Thank you for sharing your story. I too can relate to years of endless IVF/ART procedures, none of which worked. We did nine IVF cycles, four of them with donor eggs, only to experience three miscarriages. I am glad your family was supportive. Unfortunately I experienced an almost complete lack of empathy from mine, except for my wonderful husband. My girlfriends were similarly lacking in understanding and sympathy. I’m still not resolved about the whole issue, I feel as if we haven’t decided whether to pursue fostering. But I am exhausted and not sure I have the capacity to go through any more. It helps to read what other women have been through. Thank you