Our Personal IUI Journey.

At the beginning of 2018, we were given the heart-breaking news that we would likely not be able to conceive a child naturally. I think we both assumed this was the case since we had been trying for so long without any success. This was the moment we realized that our journey to parenthood was going to be TOUGH.
Our doctor recommended the standard 3-6 IUIs. It was all that she (and most other doctors) felt comfortable doing. The choice of doing any more would be left up to us. As 2018 came to a close, so did our chapter with IUI procedures. We did 5 IUIs paired with 5 rounds of Clomid, 5 rounds of Ovidrel trigger shots, 4 rounds of Progesterone, 2 months of ovulation tracking, and received roughly 35 negative pregnancy tests.
Looking back on this time, I see things that I wish we would've known or been prepared for and things that we would've done differently. It's a really bizarre process and one that has truly changed me. Each month was a new learning experience and no two months were the same. We grew closer through this experience and "awkward" moments have become our new normal (more on that later). Overall, this process was unlike anything that I thought it would be.
When we first began the IUI process, it was very overwhelming and we didn't know what to expect. That is why I choose to share the details of our IUI journey. My hope in sharing our story is two-fold. First of all, we are dedicated to helping other people endure this journey. Infertility can be a lengthy, daunting, and lonely journey, but by bringing our brokenness together with the brokenness of others- true healing can happen. I am thankful for the resources and testimonies that I found throughout our process. It all helped me to have a better understanding of what to expect and helped me to push through. I hope that our story is helpful to others and reminds them that they are not alone. Second of all, we want to share our story to help others who aren't going through this. Maybe someone you know is going through infertility and you want a better understanding of what they're going through. We are here to help you and encourage you to be there for that person through it all. Infertility has been a hush-hush topic for far too long and it doesn't need to be.
Now, let's dive into the nitty-gritty details of our IUI journey. I've tried to be as brief and precise as possible, but there's a lot of ground to cover! So stay with me because I promise this is worth the read.
First and foremost, we went to the doctor for the first time in January of 2018. We met our new doctor (who will not be named for privacy reasons) and she shared that our time of trying without any success was cause for concern. We both had a few tests done and in February, we found out that based on those test results we most likely wouldn't be able to conceive naturally. Alex's sperm count was low and my ovulation was off.
Awesome, so what's next? We sat in her office and she began discussing infertility options- which was VERY overwhelming. Throwing around terms like IUI, IVF, Clomid, Ovidrel, progesterone etc. All words that were totally foreign to us at the time, now- we're pros. We had the option of starting with IUIs or moving straight to IVF. IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) is where they take the sperm and insert it directly into the uterus. IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) is where the egg and sperm are combined outside of the body and then placed back into the woman's body. We decided to begin with the IUI treatments because they were less evasive and seemed like an easier transition into this process. I made sure that I took a lot of notes during our appointments and I am thankful that our doctor gave us an "IUI Cheat Sheet" that broke down what needed to be done on each day.
In March, I was scheduled to have an HSG. Huh? What is that? Better known as a Hysterosalpingogram (pronounced Hystogram). Basically, it's an x-ray procedure where they shoot dye into the fallopian tubes to make sure there isn't any scarring or blockage to prevent the sperm from getting to the egg. A simple procedure, I thought, no big deal. I hadn't thought about it one bit until the day before my procedure and someone said, "That is SO painful." Great. We went to the Women's Hospital and I had the procedure done. It wasn't as painful as I was expecting, but...let me put it this way, it was no walk in the park. Thankfully, the x-ray came back fine and my tubes were looking good. If they had been scarred or blocked, we may have needed to skip IUIs all together and jump to IVF.
After that, we didn't have our first actual IUI until June. I wasn't kidding when I said it's a lengthy process. From here, I'll break it down into weekly sections. It will be a lot easier to understand.
Week One: The very first day of my period is crucial. I had to call my doctor's office and let them know that I had started my period. I also kept track of it on an app called Flo. The whole procedure runs based off of the first day of my period so it was a day I needed to remember each month. My doctor would then send in the prescription for Clomid and I was instructed to take it on days 3-7 of my cycle. Clomid is a fun little prescription that stimulates ovulation. It blocks the estrogen receptors in the brain, making the brain think that the levels are lower than they should be so that more is produced. Since I'm ovulating more than normal, you can assume what this does to my hormones. They don't call it the Clomid Crazies for nothing. I was highly emotional during Clomid days and it would really take a toll on my body. It was absolutely crucial that I would take Clomid on those specific days all in order. I didn't know this the first time we tried to have an IUI in May. I had skipped a day of Clomid and that completely threw everything off track and we had to wait until the next month to try again.
Week Two: On day 12 of my cycle, we had to go to the doctor's office for an ultrasound. Not a jelly on your belly ultrasound, but a trans-vaginal ultrasound. From this ultrasound they would measure the thickness of my endometrial lining- the thicker the better because that shows that my body is prepping for a baby. They would also measure both of my ovaries and all of the eggs within each ovary. The ultrasounds were a breeze, not painful at all. It was actually pretty cool because as the months continued on, Alex and I began to catch on to what we were seeing on the screen and we knew the measurement of the eggs before we even saw our doctor. A good measurement that we wanted to see would be between 19-22 mm. If they were slightly under that, 14-18 mm, we would have to go back every day for another ultrasound until they were within the correct range.
When the eggs were the proper size (usually day 13), we would get the prescription for the Ovidrel trigger shot and be instructed to do the shot around 9:30-10pm that night. The trigger shot was a PAIN to get from the pharmacy because not every pharmacy has them on hand. So we had to call around to different pharmacies in town and find one that would have it in stock. Once we found the shot, we had to immediately get it home because it needed to be refrigerated until use. When it was time to take the shot, Alex would clean the area with an alcohol pad and give me the shot in my stomach by my bellybutton. Each month, I tried to work up the courage to give myself the shot, but that didn't happen. I don't like needles so, eeek! That wasn't going to work. The shot forced me to ovulate and was always scheduled to be done within 12 hours from the IUI procedure. That created a better opportunity for the egg and sperm to meet at the right time. It wasn't painful and didn't make me feel any different.
However, we do have a funny story from our last interaction with the trigger shot. Based off of how our ultrasound looked, we were scheduled to have our IUI in the afternoon (versus the normal morning procedure) and we needed to do the shot at 10:30am- smack dab in the middle of our workday. We left the doctor's office at 9:30am and went on the hunt for the shot and thankfully found it nearby. Yet, since we both still had to go back to work, we had to do the shot immediately. Which means...yep. Right there. In the backseat. Of Alex's truck. In the CVS parking lot. This is what I mean when I say that "awkward moments" became our new normal. We laughed through the whole thing and it will always be a little golden moment of happiness we take away from this journey.
Day 14 is IUI day! A very time-sensitive and emotional day. We had to be at the doctor office at 9am for the sperm wash. The sperm needed to be collected before we got to the doctor's office and we had a sperm life-span of 45 minutes from collection to sperm wash. This was a moment every month where I felt extremely thankful that we only lived ten minutes from the doctor's office. The sperm wash lasted for about an hour and was a process where they washed the sperm and gathered all of the best swimmers for the IUI. We had the option to wait in the waiting room or we could leave and come back. Most of the time, we chose to leave and grab breakfast or coffee. And I would recommend this to others as well. We spent enough time in waiting rooms and sitting there nervously waiting wasn't what we needed to do on that day. When we came back to the office, we would wait until we were called back to our procedure room. When our doctor and nurse came in, we would begin the procedure. It's similar to a pap-smear except she would take the sperm and insert it into my uterus. The pain was minimal and felt like a mild period cramp due to the clamp on my cervix. OUCH! Month after month, Alex was in the chair next to me and holding my hand the whole time. The procedure itself lasted about five-ten minutes and afterwards, I would lay on the table with a pillow under my bum for twenty minutes before we left. Those twenty minutes felt like forever and looked different every month. Some months we would pray and sing along to the music in the doctor's office. Other months we would cry hurt and hopeful tears. The entire process from start to finish was about three hours and we always tried to plan something fun and relaxing for the rest of that day or weekend, depending on which day the IUI fell.
Week Three: The first week of waiting. It was hard not to think about it. I wouldn't drink alcohol or eat anything of concern during this two week gap and a few days after the IUI, I had to take two doses of Progesterone a day. Progesterone is a hormone created by the brain to aid in the development of a baby. Therefore, it was constantly on my mind and something I couldn't shake. I would think of the day we would take a test and how I would tell Alex if it came back positive. Yet, throughout this week, I would try to stay consistent with my devotions to keep my mind right. This is something I would absolutely recommend to anyone going through this. Prayer, devotions, and a strong Christian community got me through this time of waiting.
Week Four: The final week of waiting. This always felt like the longest week of the month. I would wait and wait until that final day when I could take a test. I found that this week was the happiest week of the month for me. I would anticipate the outcome of the test and plan different ways to tell Alex. The first three IUIs I was very hopeful and convinced up until the last minute that the test would be positive. The other two months, my hope began to dwindle slowly and I was sure the test would come back negative. I began to believe that I would never see a positive test. The heavy, emotional toll that comes along with this journey can't be described, nor can it be anticipated.
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels
Test day would come and I would take the test early that morning. I would take the test when Alex wasn't around, in hopes that it would be positive and I could find a special way to tell him. Yet, it never failed. The test would come back negative and I, instead, would muster the words to tell him that it didn't work. This was hands down, the hardest day of the month. Looking into the eyes of your spouse and seeing the hurt and pain doesn't get easier and has got to be the hardest part of this entire process. I would HIGHLY recommend using the pink line test versus the electronic "yes" or "no" test. One month, after the three-minutes was up, I ran to see the result of the test and it read "user error." The events that spiraled after that were stressful and heart-wrenching. Instead of taking another test, I was instructed to go to the doctor's office for a blood pregnancy test. Which made me wait two hours for an available appointment and five hours just to get the result. It was awful and I will never trust another test day to an electronic pregnancy test.
After I took the test and got results, I immediately had to call my doctor to let her know the outcome of the test. Some months I would have to take the test again the next day or I would go in to have a blood pregnancy test to be certain. But once it's been confirmed negative- it's more waiting. Waiting for my period to come. Within four days of the negative test, my period would come and the whole process would start all over again. If my period didn't come in time, there's a way that we could "make" my period come and by golly, I am thankful we didn't have to explore that avenue. We didn't have a lot of time to process a negative IUI. Since I never really knew officially when my period would come, we usually had a plan for the next month without knowing the outcome of that month's test.
August was the hardest month of them all. Neither of us handled the negative test well at all and we decided to stop IUI treatments for two months to take a break. And let me just say, those months were so very needed. For the first time in 2018, we didn't have to worry about appointments, scheduled sex days, prescriptions, or negative pregnancy tests. We enjoyed each other and the time when we felt like we could get back to our old selves.
This is the biggest piece of advice of all: if you're tired, overwhelmed with hurt, and feel like you need it: TAKE THE BREAK. You and your spouse have to work above all else. Your marriage is more important and you have to take the time to invest in yourself, your spouse, and your marriage. I am thankful for the two month break that we took. It helped us to re-connect and remember why we started this whole process to begin with.
As I look back over all of this, I see a lot of pain. I see a lot of hurt. I see a lot of crying. And a lot of yelling at God because I didn't understand.
But ya know what?
I also see a lot of happiness. I see a lot of laughter. I see a lot of growing. And I see a lot of change.
This process has changed us, challenged us, and completely consumed us. It's a process that we will never forget, for it is shaping us into the people that God wants us to be. I am thankful that this made our marriage stronger. I am thankful that this made us stronger individually. And I am thankful that God has challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone in order to grow. I am thankful for the baby that He is shaping and creating just for us. A child that will be a true miracle and testament of His faithfulness.
Our journey was far from over. 2019 held some pretty intimidating milestones in our journey to become parents and you can read about those in separate blog posts in the archive. 
This is our journey and I am proud to share it with you.
Photo Credits:
Featured Image: Jessica Lea Photography 
Prescription Image:  Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels
Needles Image:  Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels
Pregnancy Test Image:  Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels