Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Infertility :: Our Diagnosis {Part 2}

Yesterday, I shared Part 1 of our infertility story. It really was only the beginning of what was ahead...

Infertility Testing
Though we were certainly disappointed with the official infertility diagnosis with my OB/GYN {and many tears were shed}, it was somewhat of a relief, because we were more than ready to begin the process of finding answers. I knew before I met with my doctor that we were infertile; now that she acknowledged it, we could move forward to find the problem. We waited a full year to hurry up and wait some more...

We went through several months of testing, attempting to pinpoint the problem{s} and exploring what our options could be. An infertility diagnosis is heartbreaking in and of itself, but this testing phase of finding out results and wading through our options was just as hard {if not harder}. My initial tests {overall health, ovulation, etc} came back fine. So we were referred to a urologist {the best in DFW} to begin testing on Mike. Let me just say: introducing a third {or fourth, depending on the number of doctors involved} party into an intimate part of your marriage is one of the strangest things I have ever encountered. We have had to have fairly frank exams and conversations regarding {what we consider} private things, with essentially strangers. Necessary in order to identify the issue, but not super fun...

Male-Factor Diagnosis
While we wanted to find answers, I don't think that we were quite prepared for the answers we received. In August of 2014, we were told that, due to a genetic male-factor issue, we had less than a 1% chance of conceiving on our own, and that there was nothing we could do to improve those chances either. So essentially, there was no "fix" for the problem. No lifestyle changes, no medicine, no surgery. Our only option to have our own genetic children was IVF with ICSI, a procedure where the best sperm is selected and injected directly into the egg, and the resulting embryo{s} are transferred to the uterus in hopes of implantation. Even with this option, the doctor was not quite convinced that it would work because of the genetic concerns.

This news rocked my world in ways I was not prepared for. I had been doing my research and had already started praying about the types of infertility treatments we might attempt. I was not prepared to not have any options. In the infertility world, IVF with ICSI is one of the most extreme and often the last stop on the infertility treatment train. We basically skipped ALL other options {medication, IUI, IVF}, and went straight to the most expensive, most invasive treatment.

While I tried to be brave in the doctor's office, I just couldn't stop the tears from flowing. Mike was devastated as well, but he had to be strong for his wife, who was falling apart in front of him {and in front of the doctor. and the intern}. I remember the doctor handing me a tissue and asking me if I needed a minute, but I just felt numb. I remember walking back through the waiting room {I'm sure the devastation written all over our faces}, but I don't remember much of the car ride home.

We fell on our knees before the Lord and wondered what His plan in all of this was to be. We had some reservations about IVF with ICSI, but I wasn't quite ready to give up on my desire to experience pregnancy. We have spent the months since seeking the Lord's will for our family.

Female-Factor Diagnosis
Even though we had our official diagnosis, we wanted to be absolutely sure that I could even carry a pregnancy before we moved forward on anything. In September/October 2014, we met with a reproductive endocrinologist {RE}, and I had an HSG test {a fancy x-ray for my reproductive organs}.The HSG showed what my doctor diagnosed as a hydrosalpinx, or a blockage, in my right Fallopian tube. She said it was most likely scarring caused by Crohn's inflammation, and that she would need to do a laparoscopy to remove it. 

In January 2015, I had the laparoscopy, and they ended up finding a larger problem. There was no hydrosalpinx after all, so my Fallopian tube was just fine. Instead, they found stage IV endometriosis and an ovarian cyst the size of an orange. So our less than 1% chance of conceiving was actually nil with my endometriosis. Thankfully, they were able to remove it all, and I should be ok for another 6 months or so before I start seeing the endo flare again. But at least now we know exactly what we are dealing with.

This diagnosis was a little out of the blue. My doctor wondered how I could not have known something was up {as endometriosis has some severe symptoms and, hello- I hid an orange-sized cyst in my belly!}, but she concluded that my Crohn's symptoms and endometriosis symptoms have just been overlapping. And because I am always in some pain of some kind, I didn't really have anything new to bring up with my doctors. I just thought it was all normal for me. It is likely that I have had endometriosis since I was in high school. I went on birth control at that time because my cycles were so debilitating and painful. And since I stopped taking birth control when we started trying to conceive, it has been allowed to flare, which ultimately led to the cyst.

The more research I have done on endometriosis, the more I have realized how auto-immune disease affects so much. Some research shows that women with endometriosis are 80% {!} more likely to also be diagnosed with IBD {hello Crohn's}. So now I am even more convinced of the genetic links and predispositions for Crohn's Disease.

So What Now?
We covet your prayers. When we were first diagnosed, we were devastated at what it all meant for our little family. The heartache and the disappointment are still there, but the Lord has allowed us to process and is slowly bringing healing and peace, something that I believe is only possible in Him and requires a daily dependence on the Spirit. 

We are carefully weighing our options before the Lord. At the end of the day, we want to be obedient to our Savior, even if it means letting go of our dreams of experiencing pregnancy and/or being parents to biological children. That sounds simple, but typing those words is incredibly difficult, and my keyboard still floods with tears at that thought. That's such a big dream to turn over. I really want to be a mom and experience pregnancy, now more than I ever thought I would. And I have had to face the reality that I might not get to...but somehow I still have to trust the heart of my Savior and believe that He is still good to me.

For now, we wait and we pray for our miracle baby. Whether that baby comes through fertility treatments or adoption, he or she will be no less of a miracle for these two hopeful infertiles.

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