In this blog series, I interview women and couples who’ve experienced infertility, turned to fertility treatments to help grow their families, and made it out on the other side with a baby or pregnancy. My goal is to help inspire and give hope to people going through similar situations and to spread awareness to those who may not understand all the emotions and intricate steps that fertility treatments entail. Today’s interview is with Lissa, 32, who went through an IVF cycle to conceive their baby that was just born in July! Click here for list of acronyms and slang definitions that may pop up in the interview.
Due to the sensitive nature of these extremely candid and honest interviews, there is a zero tolerance policy in place for any comments I find rude, hurtful, or inappropriate and they will be deleted immediately. Thank you for having an open mind and understanding!
Tell us about yourself and your partner
I’m 32 years old, Tom is 36. We live in Tempe, AZ (I was born in Arizona and always meant to move away but we ended up coming back!) I am an Implementation Manager at WageWorks which basically means I help new companies start using our WageWorks FSA benefits. My husband is a college ceramics professor & artist. Even though he’s really talented it’s hard to get a good university job, so I actually make more money. Because of that we decided he will stay home with the baby, so he’s only teaching 2 night classes. You can check out his pottery & art at tombudzak.com. We have 2 pets right now, a mini schnauzer/poodle rescue named Boba Fett and a mini lop rabbit named Squirrel. My hobbies include art (I have a degree in photography art Ed), playing trivia, travel, movies, reading, and crafting. I’m part of a group of friends called the Phoenix United Crafters Society, the PHUCS haha, where I learned how to knit, crochet, embroider, some sewing, etc.
How long have you been TTC and when did you have a feeling something wasn’t right?
We started TTC in November 2010, we waited a really long time (we started living together in 2003) because Tom wanted to finish his masters, then I wanted to finish my bachelors, then we wanted to buy a house. Both of us had been “accident” babies so we never thought it would be a problem lol. My parents got pregnant on their honeymoon while they were still in college and my husbands birth parents were high schoolers who ended up giving him up for adoption. After about 6 months of trying I started getting worried (because I’m a worry wart and also because after going off birth control I started getting weird spotting). I tried to get a doctor’s appt but because I was still young (in my 20s) no doctor would do any tests until we had been trying a year.
What diagnoses have you been given from your doctors?
Once we finally had been trying a year my OBGYN said I had a slightly low thyroid so I started taking a pill. She didn’t see much else wrong so we started on Clomid. My husband went to 2 doctors for sperm tests and was told he was alright. It turned out they were exaggerating though as he has a really low count and mobility. Years later our RE explained it to me and I was mad at those first couple of doctors! I think the first few doctors were like, well you still have sperm so maybe, but I wish they had been more honest so we could have gotten aggressive treatment sooner! I also once had an FSH test that was high, but took it again a year later and it was normal. So I don’t know about that.
So it sounds like the main issue was male factor infertility. What fertility treatments did your doctors recommend and which did you end up doing?
So we had several rounds of testing and I did 6 months of Clomid with no success. Once we finally got to a good RE he said we could try just putting my husband on a healthier diet and add vitamins and see if there was any improvement naturally. He also told us he thought an IUI would only have a 10-20% success and that IVF would have 40-50% success. We were in no way financially ready for IVF so we spent a couple years just trying naturally.
Were any successful?
The vitamins my husband took helped somewhat, he went from a count of 6 million to 10 million. However, the normal range is 20 million or above so it wasn’t really enough. We decided not to do the IUIs as I hated the thought of all that work & money for a 10% chance! After years of mentally & financially preparing we jumped in to IVF and were so lucky it worked the first round!
Are any of your treatments or medications covered by your health insurance?
When we started our ttc journey I worked for a company called Express Scripts which had some IF benefits. They covered testing (with copays) and then would pay $5000 toward any infertility treatment. Unfortunately the job was also really stressful and demanding. So it was a double edged sword as I didn’t want to do IVF while stressed (wine was my coping mechanism haha and I knew I needed to give that up). So I ended up leaving and found a new job at WageWorks. They only covered testing and a few of the medications. Everything else was out of pocket. Our RE had a flat rate of $10,000 for one round (didn’t include meds) so we went with that.
What’s the hardest part of dealing with infertility to you?
I would say there were two equally hard parts-the first was the loss of control. I tried so hard to plan my life (making sure to get married, finish college, buy a house, etc before having a baby), then it never happens and it was so sad & scary. I was worried we would never have kids and it becomes this thing where you think you’ll have to rewrite your entire life plan. I’m sure many people can have a full life without children (which is awesome for them!) but as we had been planning and looking forward to it for so many years it was tough. Every holiday, every birthday, everything hurt.
The second hard part was the strain it put on our relationship. Turning your sex life into a science experiment is so depressing. We had a really hard time with “doing it” on demand, it put so much pressure on both of us and almost broke us up. It also started to feel sad to try & have sex as it seemed like it would never result in making a baby.
What’s something positive you’ve learned throughout this entire experience?
I’ve learned that you really can feel better and heal. I had always thought that I was becoming a negative depressed person while ttc and that I would never be able to fix that. However, soon after I got pregnant I started feeling really happy. (Nervous about the health of the baby constantly, but happy). Our romantic life also improved 100%, it was such a relief to be able to never have to worry about having sex to make babies again! (If we ever do want another baby we will use our frosties). And even though our newborn is really, really difficult, I don’t feel any postpartum depression. I feel exhausted and frustrated sometimes, but still happy somehow.
Where did you turn for positivity and inspiration during your darkest moments?
In my darkest moments I will admit I usually would drink a bottle of wine and cry. I had a really hard time for several years. What I did do was plan 1-2 big trips a year, so we could travel the world and enjoy life without kiddos. In the four years we were ttc we went to London, Rome, Paris, NYC, Bisbee Arizona, and Oceanside California. It wasn’t great for our budget, but planning trips was a great distraction to me.
What advice would you give to someone about to undergo IVF?
My advice is to try and approach it with a positive attitude and understand that it may take a couple fresh & frozen cycles. I was incredibly lucky to get a BFP on the first try, but I was not expecting that at all. My doctor had prepped me that it may take 3 cycles or so, so I was not putting all my hopes onto this one. I think that really helped me stress less and be happier throughout the process. Also-bonus advice is work out whenever you can before starting stims! All the good endorphins help.
What’s something you wish people knew about infertility?
I wish people who were fertile or child-free by choice knew how to better comfort someone going through infertility. My family and friends would say all the terrible things like “just relax” “you can have my kids” or “God/the universe will give you a baby when it’s time.” Those phrases don’t help anyone. It would be better to just say “I’m so sorry you have to go through this, it’s not fair. Is there anything I can do to help?”