PCOS, Infertility and Me

I am a busy mother of three beautiful children. You would probably never guess that most of my adult life was spent battling infertility. The fact is, infertility played a major role in my life since before I was even born. My parents were unable to conceive for nearly a decade before they had me. They tried every treatment available at the time, and suffered for years before I was born. Infertility was my legacy, and when I reached puberty and found myself dealing with irregular menstrual cycles I was not surprised.

Starting early

I met my husband in college, and we married when I was 20 years old. Afraid that we would face the same struggles to conceive that my parents had, we decided to start trying to conceive within our first year of marriage. I spent years taking pregnancy tests at random intervals and being horribly depressed every few months when I would start a period. As I watched friends have babies, the pain and emptiness grew in my heart. Mother’s Day became the saddest day of the year, and it became increasingly difficult to focus on anything but how much I wanted a child.

Although we were technically infertile after one year of unsuccessful attempts to conceive, our health insurance didn’t cover fertility treatment. After five long years, we saw a specialist and I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). At least I finally knew why I was not ovulating.

Over the next four years, my husband and I tried every treatment we could afford. We tried herbal remedies and ovulation charting. The doctors put me on Clomid, a fertility drug, for a full year without success. We tried using Metformin to treat the insulin resistance that usually accompanies PCOS. I went through test after invasive test, and my husband was thoroughly tested, too. My doctor, a reproductive endocrinologist, finally said that our chances, statistically, were less than one in one million of ever conceiving without in vitro fertilization (IVF).

In vitro fertilization

I put my career on hold and took a new job paying barely more than minimum wage at the same hospital where the fertility clinic was located. It was a strategic move, because the new job came with insurance coverage for fertility treatments, a rarity even today. I immediately signed up to try IVF and a couple of months later I was taking shots to make my body produce as many eggs as possible.

We became pregnant on our first IVF attempt, and although I lost one of the babies in the first few weeks of the pregnancy, I remained pregnant with twins. We had no embryos left over to try again, but that was okay. We were happy to be having even one baby, much less two! Our twins, a boy and a girl, were born early but healthy, and to us they were absolutely perfect. After nearly a decade – the same amount of time it took my parents to have me – our family was finally complete.

Surprise, surprise

When our twins were five years old, we got the surprise of a lifetime. We were pregnant again, on our own, this time after five more years of infertility. The big difference was, this time the years were not really filled with dashed hopes or devastation because we truly believed that without IVF we stood no chance of conceiving again. We’d given the last of our baby things to the crisis pregnancy center just months before we found out we were expecting again, but we were happy to start over with our miraculous baby girl.

The years I struggled with infertility helped shape the woman I am. I find great joy and satisfaction in being a mother, and I value my time with my children perhaps more than I would have if parenthood had come more easily. I have enjoyed working as a mentor for other women with PCOS in my state, and have provided direction and support for friends who faced infertility. Looking back and seeing some of the good things that came out of my years of suffering might be the biggest surprise of all.

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