#808moms: My struggle to get pregnant a second time

Denise Ultrasound 9week

After more than 18 months of trying for a second child, my husband and I finally got good news. Above, my ultrasound at 9 weeks.

Frustrated, disappointed, depressed. It’s late summer of last year and I’m at my new reproductive endocrinologist’s office wondering what’s wrong with me. My husband and I have been trying for over 18 months and still no second child.

Unfortunately, I gained 50 pounds during my first pregnancy. I lost only 30 of those pounds through breastfeeding. Thank goodness for that! But with those extra 20 pounds of fat, my OB/GYN diagnosed me with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and told me if I wanted another child I’d need to start a fertility drug called Clomid to help my ovaries produce an egg every month. I was also prescribed a diabetes drug called Metformin used off-label for PCOS symptoms. Metformin has awful side effects. For at least an entire month, I have constant stomach aches until my body adjusts to the drug.

The treatment was unsuccessful, though. Fed up, I stopped the drugs and told my doc I’d attempt to lose weight since she felt that helped me get pregnant the first time. But, I struggled. I lost maybe 10 pounds doing Weight Watchers for a few months.

I also talked with some of the doctors I trust at my workplace, HMSA. One doctor recommended not doing any extreme weight loss and to just keep trying. Another said since I was 38, overweight with PCOS and have hypothyroidism (I had a goiter removed a few years back and take meds daily to make sure I have enough thyroid hormone), I should probably see a specialist to really see what my chances were.

Getting more help

I started seeing a reproductive endocrinologist in July. He first took a complete history. It made me realize that I have no idea if anyone way back in my family tree had a birth defect, if anyone in my family had a miscarriage or struggled with infertility. I wished these topics were less taboo to discuss and I really wished I had people to talk to about my struggle. I started reading blogs of brave women who talk about what they’re going through — the heartbreak, the success stories. I also have a few close friends who told me their stories or shared articles they had read. I was so moved by the support I got and owe these friends so much!

My ultrasound at 18 weeks. Getting pregnant a second time was a roller coaster ride.

My ultrasound at 18 weeks. Getting pregnant a second time was a roller coaster ride.

Early on, my specialist took an ultrasound, saw cysts on my ovaries and said I needed to get back on fertility treatment. He started me on the Metformin again. Yuck. Also, amazingly, one of the first things he recommended is going on the Pill.

Wait, I’m confused, birth control to get pregnant? He told me my treatment will start with a lot of diagnostic testing at first and he wants to be certain I don’t accidentally get pregnant through the testing. Also, unlike your average fertile woman, women with PCOS are helped with birth control as it forces the body to be tricked into having regular periods right before starting fertility treatment.

Feeling like a guinea pig

I can’t recall all the testing that was done because I spent so much time at that office. The doc was amazing, had great bedside manner, was really kind and was intent on a mission to help women struggling to get pregnant.

I remember a dye test done under imaging. My doc put dye into my uterus to see it flow through the fallopian tubes. One of my tubes didn’t accept the dye so that meant the chances of that tube working were smaller. At another appointment, he did a water ultrasound. Water was put in my uterus for an image, then he diagnosed me with a “thick lining.”

After months and months of trying, I finally told my doctor that I had a firm quitting time: Four more months of treatment, no more.

After months and months of trying, I finally told my doctor that I had a firm quitting time: Four more months of treatment, no more.

A thick lining isn’t good, he tells me. It could mean I’m more at risk for cancer of the lining of my uterus or that I have fibroid or polyp growth that needs to be removed to increase my chances of getting pregnant. He does a biopsy, and recommends surgery for a growth. Thankfully, only one benign growth was found. I had to wait another two months to heal, though, before I was able to re-start treatment.

Finally, I stop the Pill, continue the Metformin and because of my age (I’m a month away from turning 39 by now), he recommends a stronger fertility drug: Follistim injections. I have to inject myself a few days each month to help my body produce mature enough eggs to get pregnant. My abdomen feels like a pin cushion. The dose has to be good enough to make mature eggs because PCOS and immature eggs will increase the chance of miscarriage. Too much, though, and I’ll have multiple children. I’m thankful my specialist has a lot of experience.

Around that time, a friend told me about her own fertility ordeal and how she felt she became a better mom when she finally stopped trying and gave 100% to her only child. That was the best advice. So, I told my doc I have a firm quitting time. I only wanted treatment for four more months and I didn’t want in vitro fertilization (IVF). Having my hopes of a second child raised and crushed for so long was wearing on me and I didn’t want to be 40 when I gave birth because I didn’t feel my health was optimal. My weight was also creeping up because I was so depressed. After hearing my firm cut off date, my specialist jokingly said, “Whoa, not too much pressure for me.”

While I struggled through fertility treatments, I turned to friends and to the Internet for advice. Above, a full body view ultrasound at 18 weeks.

While I struggled through fertility treatments, I turned to friends and to the Internet for advice. Above, a full body view ultrasound at 18 weeks.

My little ‘gummy bear’

There’s no good news in the first month. Each of my ovaries produced a good mature egg but nothing happened. The doc raises my Follistim dose so the following month both ovaries produce two mature eggs. I start to worry we may have twins. I stare at my doc’s wall of success stories — so many babies — and start to slowly count all the multiples. There are enough that I’m a little worried. The doc says anything can happen but he doesn’t think I’ll have twins.

Then, two weeks later, a positive pregnancy test! A few weeks later, I take my husband to the first ultrasound. I can’t do this appointment alone. We both instantly fall in love with the tiny speck on the ultrasound with a strong heartbeat. I see the specialist weekly until, at the 9th week ultrasound, he declares “Congrats, you have a gummy bear!” I swear he’s right. The baby is facing us and does bear a strong resemblance to a gummy bear.

I can’t describe the high I felt knowing we were finally going to have a best friend for my spoiled little first-born girl. Immediately after my doc handed me the ultrasound picture, he warned me that I could still miscarry. I was almost brought to tears as he said that. But then again I’m a mom. I signed up for this roller coaster ride of emotions called parenthood.

#808moms is an occasional series from blogger (and mom) Denise Lau focusing on the triumphs and challenges of motherhood. Continue the #808moms discussion with us on Twitter and Facebook!

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