Optimistic at Age 42
Every fertility journey comes with its unique ups and downs. Find out how one patient and her partner kept a sense of optimism while navigating a number of fertility challenges as they try to conceive their second child.
Beginning the journey
My story begins about a year and a half ago when I was monitoring my menstrual cycle, hoping to start trying to conceive. I monitored for a few months using an ovulation kit, but didn’t see any “peak” period. I spoke with my nurse practitioner about the issue, and given my age (41) she referred me to Dr. Cheung at Grace Fertility.
I met with Dr. Cheung and shared with him that 10 years ago I didn’t have a menstrual cycle for a year. I recall consulting with an endocrinologist at that time and he told me I probably had a sensitive hypothalamus. Dr. Cheung thought that was a reasonable assessment.
“There were moments of lightness, but generally an agitated tightness about the issue.”
He further explained that my cycle could be likened to a plane that takes off, climbs into the sky, and then runs out of fuel. Another explanation he gave was: “the system is quiet”. In terms of my lab work, every day of my cycle looks like Day 3. FSH 5.8. LH 2 estradiol < 100. Progesterone 2.
It is what it is, but I moved frequently between feeling hopeful about change, disappointed, and frustrated, and then pretty much resigned. There were moments of lightness, but generally an agitated tightness about the issue.
It’s out of my control. I have done my part, I keep saying. My nutritional intake is excellent. I exercise regularly. My weight is in the normal range. I have consulted a naturopath, and followed her recommended supplements. I have worked with several different acupuncturists and even tried a 2-month plan of acupuncture 3 times per week. The relaxation was lovely, but it had no impact on my cycle. Arg!!
Giving fertility drugs a chance
Between February and August 2013 I took Clomid. The first time I took 100mg and had what I now understand to be a “super ovulation” cycle. We reduced the dosage to 50mg, but I had no pregnancies other than one chemical pregnancy.
I was ready for IVF after about the third round of Clomid, but my partner wasn’t quite there. I’d say this is a normative difference between men and women, as the woman is thinking about fertility more and receiving much more information about her cycle and chances of pregnancy than her partner is.
“I recall taking a deep breath as I clicked on “my eHealth” application. Holy crap it’s positive. Wow this is amazing. I felt so intensely grateful and happy.”
He suggested testing one day early, to find out what was happening. I had been practicing mindfulness meditation all along so I pulled on my inner resources and kept turning my heart up towards the sky, trusting that pregnancy was possible. I did my bloodwork one day early and then went to a yoga class to help with the wait. After the class I recall taking a deep breath as I clicked on “my eHealth” application. Holy crap it’s positive. Wow this is amazing. I felt so intensely grateful and happy.
Looking for a heartbeat
For the subsequent few weeks I enjoyed the thought about being pregnant and what may lie ahead. I say “may” as I had been adequately warned that pregnancies at my age, and with that initial bleeding, could only be thought of as tentative. However, truly, I was excited and indulged in thoughts about where our new baby would sleep, and which renovations we might need to undertake.
“I felt a tight, heavy feeling in my heart. He kept looking and looking, but no smile.”
At week 7 of my pregnancy we went for the first ultrasound. The week prior I had started to feel a bit anxious, because I didn’t feel different in any way. No signs of pregnancy. No nausea. No fatigue. No tenderness. My partner joined me for this ultrasound, his first and my… well I had lost count.
As Dr. Cheung examined my lining, he seemed somber. I felt a tight, heavy feeling in my heart. He kept looking and looking, but no smile. After a few minutes he said “I can’t detect a heartbeat”. He suggested coming back in 3 days, but I knew it was over. This pregnancy wasn’t going to continue.
Three days later, no heartbeat. I took a medication to induce a miscarriage. First dose, nothing. I knew I needed to take the second dose, but I was afraid of what might come. My sister’s friend had unfortunately gone through several miscarriages and she let her know that I was welcome to call. So I did.
“It happened fairly quickly after that, and really to be honest quite painlessly. I had one phase of intense cramping, and then it was over. I “birthed” a gestational sac, which I placed in a sterile container.”
I told her my story, and she started to cry. She apologized many times and said although she ended up with a healthy pregnancy in the end, and that her child was now 3 years old, she felt intensely sad. She kept crying. Clearly she was re-traumatized. I moved into counseling mode. I’m a psychologist, so this happened quite naturally. Then after a little while, she said “just take the drugs… just take them”. She was right. I had to take the second dose and see the miscarriage through.
Dealing with loss
It happened fairly quickly after that, and really to be honest quite painlessly. I had one phase of intense cramping, and then it was over. I “birthed” a gestational sac, which I placed in a sterile container. It was a weekend, and I had been instructed to bring the materials to BC Women’s. But where? That was unclear to me, and unclear to the admitting desk attendant too.