No Guarantees!

People talk about how wonderful it is to experience natural childbirth.  How it will change your life. No one really talks about the process of becoming a parent.  How much time and effort is actually involved in the process. And no one speaks about the level of persistence and the amount of time required to actually get pregnant.   For my wife and I, our journey to becoming parents began ten years ago.  

Not unlike other people, we wanted to have children the natural way.  We figured one-part her, one-part me, a little flour, and some sugar; put it in “the oven” for nine plus months and pull out an adorable, perfectly baked, chunky little muffin whose toes you just want to soak in butter and eat with a spoon.  So we tried for several years from the time we went on our honeymoon in 2010. Unfortunately we just couldn’t quite pull off that blue ribbon recipe.  

We discussed our situation with each other and decided to try a more scientific method for having children.  At this time I was 41 and she had, well, less years on this planet than me, and we, obviously, weren’t getting any younger.  My wife bought an ovulation kit and we started the systematic measuring of time between menstrual cycles. Tick-Tock! Not just days but hours as well. Tick-Tock!  There were days when we had to perform multiple times. Had to!  Tick-Tick-Tick-Tock!  We, well she, tracked her cycles down to the second.  Tick-Tock! She knew the exact calculation of days until the best possible time.  Tick-Tock! It’s just that over the short amount of days, (Tick), we began to feel very rushed as time moved forward, (Tock).  

We tried your typical Western medications and some natural methods that were less expensive than seeing a specialist.  But nothing seemed to work. At some point during 2012 my wife scheduled an appointment with Dr. Michael at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Surgery in Bloomfield Hills to get a professional opinion.  This, for me, was embarrassing. Not super-embarrassing, but the kind of feeling you get when you get off the elevator on the wrong floor. Sure, you step out with confidence but then it hits you that you’re on the wrong floor and immediately you begin to feel like you are a few clowns short of a circus, so you casually look back and forth until the doors close, in an attempt to hide the fact that apparently you just don’t know what you’re doing.  I mean, seeing a doctor to do something our bodies should, by nature, know how to do. Who does that? Well – apparently we do. 

First the doctor checked my wife for any “irregularities”.  After multiple tests inflicted upon her, he told us she suffers from PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and was also insulin resistant.  PCOS is where multiple non-cancerous cysts form on a woman’s ovaries. It’s actually quite common. Of course I had never heard of this before.  Due to these complications, we were informed she would have some difficulty getting pregnant and there could be “complications”, which didn’t exactly explain anything.  Seriously, it’s getting pregnant, what is there to it? People do it all the time, and, by accident even. You know, Prom, Tequila, a little wham bam thank you ma’am. Easy right?  So why couldn’t we get pregnant? 

Dr. Michael spoke to us about other, more expensive, methods stating, several times, there were “no guarantees.”  So we continued trying with the fertilization medicines to see if those would work first. One of the methods we tried was where my wife had to give her self injections in her stomach.  For me it was disconcerting to watch her jab that needle into her belly each time; however, with some luck, she became pregnant after several sessions.  

We were elated and immediately told everybody we knew.  We celebrated with our families and boasted about it on Facebook.  This was awesome! We were going to be parents! After all our trying and praying and waiting.  Woo-hoo! We received tons of congratulations through social media, phone calls, and text messages.  Everyone was so nice about our success. It was a great couple of weeks – until her stomach began to ache.

My wife was working nights at the time.  While she was at work, she began menstruating and she noticed blood spotting, which is possible in the first months of pregnancy.  But, she also felt a sharp pain in her side. She left work around 2:00 a.m. or so, to come home earlier than normal.  Once home, she decided to take a bath. While in the bathtub she was stretching and noticed another really sharp pain in her side.  At this point she almost passed out from the pain. So she got out of the tub and collapsed on the cold tile floor. 

About an hour later she started feeling better and got up to go make something to eat, thinking her blood sugar might have been low.  Finally she came to bed around 3:30 a.m. Still sleeping, I was unaware of anything regarding her situation. When she laid on the bed her shoulder began to hurt.  Fortunately she knew this was a sign of a possible tubal rupture because she either read about it or was told by the doctor that this was a possibility and what some of the symptoms were.  More than likely if it was a tubal rupture, she had internal bleeding. As far as this goes, blood in your veins, good. Blood in your body, not so good.

She woke me up, told me, and I immediately got dressed.  I have to admit that I was scared to death because without knowing all of the ramifications I didn’t know how much time we had.  It took a bit to get her into the car but, without further hesitation, we rushed to the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor.  We lived in White Lake so it took some time to get there and I remember the worry I had on the drive. She was in pain and I couldn’t do anything to help her, so I prayed silently to God, to make sure the love of my life would be ok.  I don’t recall exactly what I said, but I do remember being selfish and telling Him that if it was between her and the baby, I didn’t care about the baby. My wife is my world. Enough said.

By the time we arrived at the Emergency Room she was in great pain from the blood going into her body and from the slowly exploding fallopian tube.  To me, her pain would be like having someone push a knife into your abdomen, slowly, over a long period of time and each bump the car had gone over was like a slight twisting of the handle.  She said “it was horrible.” They performed an ultrasound but weren’t able to do anything to help her for several hours. In retrospect I believe they assessed her fairly quickly; however, at the time it wasn’t fast enough.  We did explain to them what we thought the situation was so they responded as fast as they could. They gave her morphine for the pain, but they couldn’t do much else because she had eaten and anesthesia could cause nausea during an operation, which would further complicate the situation.   

They checked her for the pregnancy right when we arrived but found that her “numbers” were already dropping rapidly.  I don’t pretend to know what “numbers” are, but I know based on most scores, higher is better except when it comes to blood pressure or cholesterol readings.  For the rest of the hospital experience I remember only bits and pieces because I was there alone. I know that it had been too early for me to wake family up but I also knew she was in good hands so the fear of losing her was pretty much gone at this point.  Unfortunately, I stayed the rest of the night there by myself. Alone. I had never felt so alone. It’s ironic that in trying to increase the size of our family we could have quite possibly caused it to become smaller. A reality I didn’t want to face, especially alone in the waiting room.  I recall crying to myself in the room and I also recall being angry over the situation and wanting to break something.   

By the time the doctor had come out to see me and explain that they had to remove one of my wife’s fallopian tubes I wasn’t thinking straight.  Before my wife came home that night I had gone to bed around 11 or 12 so I was only on about four hours of sleep and didn’t quite comprehend what that meant for us overall.  Her personal care physician had told her that her tubes were fine. Her PCP performed a test on her involving some type of dye and a balloon. They blew the balloon up inside her uterus and watched the dye flow through the tubes.  The pregnancy, however, did not “flow through the tubes.” This pregnancy happened within the tube. The embryo caused the tube too rupture so they removed both the tube and the baby. There was no option to save the fetus.

The medical community calls it an ectopic pregnancy miscarriage.  All I knew was that my wife was pregnant and now she wasn’t and it would be even harder to get pregnant again, since the female body switches the side it allows pregnancy to happen in every other month.  We finally went home sometime that next day. My wife was a mess and I wasn’t much better. I was always taught that a man holds in their feelings to be strong. That’s how I grew up. But I wasn’t as strong as I needed to be.  Again, enough said.  

We were together in our shared sorrow and misery and we had just jumped over another roadblock on a journey we never would have imagined being on; although, at this moment we didn’t know where this would eventually lead us.  Of course it took more time for us to get over this major setback. We eventually did. Again. For the most part.  

In 2013 we started the insemination process with Dr. Michael.  This was, by far, my most favorite part because of my contribution to this whole thing.  I know you can’t read the sarcasm in that statement, but believe me, it’s there. We had to schedule appointments around my wife’s ovulation schedule again.  So my contribution was supposed to be the fun part of this whole operation; however, I’m not sure if it was as much fun as it should’ve been because I had mixed feelings about the whole process.  

How would you feel going into your doctor’s office, which was always filled with either the women who worked there or female patients, knowing what you had to do there?  I was literally paying a doctor so that I could come into his office and masturbate in one of his rooms. This was something I could actually do in there for free, if I wanted to get arrested.  Well, as far as I was concerned, EVERYONE knew what I was about to do. I was going to choke the chicken, flog the dog, bash the bishop, whack the pud, do the dirty deed, you know, go on a date with Rosey Palmer and her five sisters in a little 6 by 8 room.  Seriously, as are those statements, this was also slightly disturbing.

Insemination and in vitro fertilization were, for me, the same process.  I would go into the office and do “my thing”. The difference between each was in the doctor’s processes and the cost to us.  Insemination was just my sample shot into my wife with a turkey baster. That’s how it was explained to me. The process for my sperm was that they had to “wash” it and then check it for viability.  In my head I reverted to a two year old and made a few disgusting jokes, to my wife, for how the washing process was done (swish, swish, swish…don’t swallow). I thought they were funny but she didn’t seem to appreciate my humor; however, at $4000.00 a pop for the insemination process, I needed some angry humor to get through this first phase.  I found out later this part was actually way more intense than I could have ever imagined. Not as crazy as the in vitro steps were though. Unfortunately the two insemination processes we went through didn’t work so we moved on to the next, more expensive, phase.

The in vitro fertilization process was the most invasive.  They gave my wife the means to have a bunch of eggs produced during her ovulation cycle.  We could only afford to do this two times. The cost for each cycle was just over $10,000.  We had explained to the doctor that we needed to take out a loan since we blew our savings on the first processes we went through and the other “incidentals” that came up with them, not to mention we had just purchased a new house the year before taking the last of the money we had saved.  In short, we were broke. From this point, almost literally, all of our eggs were in one basket. The first time she produced 36 eggs and the second time just 11. They took the eggs and the washed sperm and put them together to create multiple embryos. A genetic sampling process happens which will decide who the survivors are and of those survivors who will be used.  

All of this really defies the laws of nature and this seems to go against how God intended things to be.  Seriously, nothing about this process says “this is normal.” Again, not one bit of this was guaranteed to work.  The first time we only had two or three survivors out of 36. After insertion, my wife took a pregnancy test which read positive, but this time we decided to keep it to ourselves.  We didn’t want to inform anyone because we didn’t know what would happen and wanted to be sure, unlike last time. Five weeks in she had a miscarriage.  

We were devastated, but we had one more opportunity.  With the tubal pregnancy she was pregnant for six weeks so this, much more expensive process, didn’t last as long and in my simple mind I thought if you pay more you should get more.  However, it appeared that our overall “numbers” were trending in a downward fashion again. When we were ready we went back for our last time. I went in and did “my thing,” but this time her part was different.  

The doctor requested to see both of us during my wife’s visit.  I had already felt this wasn’t a good thing and my wife had her reservations as well.  He greeted us with as much enthusiasm as he typically did. We entered his extremely large office and sat at a small round table as he began explaining to us that none of the sperm, or eggs, survived the processes this time.  My wife was already in tears and I became upset because she was upset.  

With our backs physically to the wall at the little round table he explained how the process had failed and how we have our “issues” but, and this is the part that almost made me jump over the table and feed him his stethoscope through his sphincter, we “…should come back and keep trying.”  He must have said it three or four times. “You need to try again and don’t stop trying.” I could feel my ears turn red yet at the same time my throat was closing up. I could feel the tears welling which made me even more angry.  

Sure, in his world $10,000 isn’t a lot of money.  But for us, this was it. We had already explained this to him in our initial consultation months before!  He should have remembered! I wanted to kill him! My wife was crying, and again, I needed something to break!  We just spent you $28,000. We didn’t have any more money to spend on this “no guarantees” quack doctoring! And he made it quite clear.  There were “no guarantees”. I put my arm around my sobbing wife and exited his office. We drove home in complete silence. This was going to be harder to recover from than anything we had already been through in the past.

Eventually we did go through an inner healing process to get past this major setback.  We have each other to get us through the tough times. We decided to look at our other options so we looked into the invasive and confusing adoption process and eventually settled on foster care.  On February 10, 2017 we became foster parents to an adorable little 7 month old baby girl. She just celebrated her third birthday this past July and her smile brightens our lives each and every day.  And that is guaranteed!