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Infertility & Mental Health. Oh My!

Hi everyone, thanks for joining me for Episode 1!  I can’t believe this is actually happening and I have started my own podcast!!  Thank you so much for being here and taking time out of your day to listen, I do not take that lightly.  I am beyond honored that you are here.  And I am not going to lie, I am soooo nervous that I am taking this on but also EXCITED to start talking and see where this journey takes me.  I have a lot to say!  And…I also know many other people that have amazing stories to share on this podcast, stories that you will get so much value from. 

One of my mentors, Cathy Heller has said “Your mess is your message” and I truly believe that the challenges we have been through have been for this purpose – to help someone else that is going through what we did, or are still going through.  We are never alone in our struggles.

The first few episodes will be about our Hard Beautiful Journey.

I want you to know what it looks like for me and my family and where we have been to where we are now.  And from there, I want to keep you beside me, and me beside you as a source of support and a place to be real.  And a place to laugh.  If I have one mission for this podcast it is for you to laugh or at least be a reason to smile during your day.

There may be the occasional cuss word on this podcast and for that I apologize but I will try my very best to limit them!  For the purpose of this episode and probably other ones down the line, the word “Coitous” refers to S-E-X because my entire family is huge “Big Bang Theory” fans.  James even calls me Amy Farrow Fowler….not because I am a genius but because I apparently have a really good ping pong serve and the rest of my game is suspect!

So my very first question to you, my fine listener is….Have you ever bought something in hopes that it would magically help you in another area of your life?  Like a new pair of shoes, hoping they would bring you good luck at that job interview?  Well we bought something that still makes my husband and I laugh to this day and I can’t wait for you to find out what it is! 

I guess I’ll start with our infertility journey.  My husband James and I endured a very long infertility struggle.  Ours is actually mild compared to some but in our lives it was a painful journey with many lows, followed by unreal HIGHS with the birth of our 3 children through the assistance of In-Vitro Fertilization.  

My whole life I have been a high achiever…..and I mean ALWAYS.  Just ask my Mom and Dad.  Here is a photo of my bedroom growing up that clearly show all my awards, ribbons, etc. 

It was just IN me to want to win, get good grades, be the BEST.  There will be many stories told in future episodes about how that has helped me but also made situations in my life even harder to accept.

Like becoming a Mom. I couldn’t have a baby on my own. And TRUST ME when I say there was A LOT of trying!!

My extremely handsome hubby James and I got married back in 2003 when I was 29 years old.  We got married on a beach in Mexico surrounded by our families and a few of our closest friends.  We started trying to have a family immediately.  And I mean RIGHT AWAY!  Sorry Mom and Dad if you’re listening.  

My friend and bridesmaid was also trying to have a baby around the same time.  We talked non-stop about how great it would be to have our babies at the same time and that we could be on maternity leave together.  I was CONVINCED this was going to happen right away…..why would I think otherwise? No one in my family had issues having kids…..that I was aware of.

The first month I didn’t get pregnant was a shock.

Why was I so shocked?  I’m not sure.  I guess I truly did believe it was just easy and you get pregnant right away.  And remember, I was 29 so not a young kid with no life experience.  

For sure next month it will happen, don’t worry.  

Ok…..maybe next month it will happen.  And the months kept passing by. 

I was in the CPA program working on getting my accounting designation at this time so I started to think that the stress of working full time and going to school at night was part of the reason I wasn’t getting pregnant.  So I took a semester off – this is it for sure…..now I know it will work.  No stress.  That’s what “they” say to eliminate right?  RELAX, it will happen.  

James and I were playing very competitive slo-pitch at the time on a couple teams each. Maybe I shouldn’t be playing sports….is it causing too much stress on my body?!  Is the occasional drink I have after a game contributing to the issue?  The endless list of questions just kept getting bigger and bigger.

So……we got a dog!!

Our sweet KOBE would be our baby. That dog would fill the void. And boy, did he do a good job. For awhile, anyway.

Until one day I had a thought…..if we bought a MINI-VAN, that would surely be a sign to the big guy upstairs that we were ready.   OK people…..I know you are wondering…..How in the world did I convince myself AND James that we should buy a mini-van when we didn’t have a baby???  That is how convincing I am I guess!  But seriously, holy crap.  So we traded in our very nice looking SUV which ran perfectly fine for a red Dodge Grand Caravan…..that we also lost money on. I’m not kidding.  That’s how badly I wanted to have a baby. 

Well, after many months of no success, I was now resigned to admit the van wasn’t the help we needed.  But I was still unsure of what we could do.  So, I talked to my doctor.  And she used the word that would be a part of our lives forever…..INFERTILITY.  Excuse me, but what does that even mean?  Google was still fairly new at this time and I wasn’t even really sure how to use it, let alone research what the hell my doctor just said.  So she said all you can do for now is keep trying and once it’s been a full year of trying to conceive (otherwise known as TTC in the infertility world) then I’ll refer you to the Regional Fertility Program to meet with the doctors there.  But try and relax and enjoy being newlyweds.  Okaaaay.  Sure. 

Did I mention that I’m an impatient person?  No?  Yes, I’ve been known to be impatient.  Fertility struggles did not go well with my personality at all.  Some people can be more chill about it but it wasn’t in my DNA.  

I’m pretty sure it was May 15th, 2004 (one year to the day we started trying – and our 1 year anniversary) that I made the call to my doctor at 8:30am (when they open).  I needed answers.  

My doctor referred me to a gynecologists’.

One that specializes in fertility issues.  I remember sitting in the specialist’s office crying, asking what was wrong with my body and why could it not do what is so easy for others.

The specialist ordered some blood work and a test called an HSG, which is a long word that I still can’t pronounce. This is a procedure that uses an X-ray to look at your fallopian tubes and uterus. The test took about 5 minutes (in the hospital) and I went home the same day.  I was really looking forward to this test having answers for me.  But it didn’t.  Everything was hunky dory in that area so nope, that’s not the problem.

It was right around this time that I got the news from my friend (my bridesmaid) that she was pregnant!  I am not going to lie, I was pissed.  Like an angry hornet.  Not at her that is for sure….but with the situation.  It sucked.  And then another friend was announcing they were expecting, and then another, and another.  It was like they were baby making machines.  The more I heard these pregnancy announcements the more sad I became. 

So what’s the next natural step in an infertility journey?

You may think go on a romantic get away and have unlimited amounts of coitous with your hot hubby.  Nope, it was get another dog.  Obviously Kobe needed a playmate since we were at work all day.  That’s when Haley joined our family.  If we couldn’t have kids, we were going to be dog parents.  And we were amazing dog parents.  And yes, I for sure was one of those loons that said out loud that our dogs were just as much work as kids.  Because clearly I was crazy.   

Meanwhile we kept going with our lives.  I was still taking my CPA courses in the evenings while working full time and we continued playing ball almost every day of the week.  I tried very, very hard to not think about the fact that I wasn’t getting pregnant.  James and I did have so much fun during this time with our friends and I will never be sad about that.  

Then I turned 30…..and I experienced my first big mental breakdown.  Which scared me.  There were a couple of situations that highlighted something was not quite right with my brain.  The first was while I was sitting in one of my evening courses in the CPA program.  

Just as a refresher, by this point I had been taking evening classes for 7 years while working full time.  I had sat in a LOT of class rooms.  I remember sitting in class and I wanted to blurt out words, any words.  It felt like I was developing Tourette’s Syndrome.  I was physically holding my tongue in my mouth and pinching my mouth closed in order to keep myself from yelling out “this is stupid”, “you suck”, “what the hell am I doing here”….and on and on.  I was FREAKED OUT.  What is happening to me….why is this happening?  Sitting in these classrooms is hard enough and now I have to try and control my mouth?  

This started happening where I was working.  I was working for an amazing company in downtown Calgary.  Every Monday morning the entire staff (18-20 of us) sat in a boardroom and discussed what was coming up for the week.  I loved these meetings….until my brain started failing me.  The same urge I felt in the classroom was spilling over into these meetings.  When people were talking I felt like blurting out random words.  So for 1 hour or more, I would quite literally hold my hand over my mouth, breathe through my nose and swallow constantly to push down the words.  It was mentally and physically draining.  The second those meetings were over I would retreat to my office and be exhausted from the effort. It started happening while on elevators.  Our office was on the 30th floor so sometimes those elevator rides would exhaust me. 

I felt like I couldn’t keep going on like that.

I could feel my brain abandoning me.  That is NOT a good feeling.  So I reached out for help and made an appointment with a psychologist.  I met with him a few times over a couple of months and that is when he helped me realize that a big reason why this may be happening is because I was deeply unhappy with going to school for accounting.  I disagreed with him….no way, I have always wanted the career as an accountant and the corner office.  But then why was I crying almost every single day and hated going to the school at night? 

So instead of agreeing with him (did I tell you I am stubborn), I decided to take the rest of my program through the online courses they were offering.  In some aspects I felt free.  I could sit in my home office and do my assignments in peace and quiet and, when required, do the online group work.  I only had to go to the school to write exams which I was able to do.  However, I still cried almost every single day knowing that I had courses to complete.  

While all of this was going on with my mental health, we were FINALLY able to get an appointment with the Regional Fertility Program in Calgary.  Our appointment was on November 30, 2005 with Dr. Wong.  2.5 years after we were married we were finally sitting in an office with a doctor that was going to make our dreams come true.  Little did we know it was still a LONG ROAD…..

The typical first step in the infertility journey is to try IUI (Intra Uterine Insemination).  This is a process where I took a drug called Clomid which “supports the growth and release of a mature egg”…..then they collect James’ sperm (yep in a room filled with porn) and then wash it to collect the good sperm.  I was brought back in the room and they shot the sperm into my lady parts and all you can do at that point is hope that one of those suckers makes its way to the egg.

But let’s talk about Clomid for a moment shall we?

Being on Clomid is like having a giant tire tube put around your waist, feeling like you might barf and having hot flashes all at once.  Oh and don’t even THINK of looking at me, I will rip your heart out.    Mix this drug with my already fragile mental health and you can appreciate how much of a SAINT my husband is.  God bless him…

So we started round 1 of IUI, and no beuno….ok, I can handle paying for this again as it was a only a couple hundred dollars.  Onto Round 2 of IUI…..nope.  Round 3, zilch.  What in the actual hell is going on???  How is it possible there are 4M sperm shot into my body and not one of those suckers could find the egg?  Were they blind sperm??  Well it turns out they kind of were.  James had something called decreased sperm motility and decreased morphology.  In a nutshell, this means that many sperm had heads with no tails or just tails….not the full package.  There were many little swimmers that couldn’t really swim.  They weren’t blind but they couldn’t move very well.  So there went another whole year…..2006 was gone and still no baby for us.  But here’s where it got very sad and very happy all at once. 

My baby sister Denise & her hubby were expecting. Of course I cried, happy tears for them and very sad tears for us.  

Well the good news kept on comin’.

Dr. Wong advised us that he wanted to check me for endometriosis.  Because of the horrendous periods I had experienced from day 1, there was a very good chance there was scar tissue built up on my Fallopian tubes and uterus.  He recommended a laparoscopy surgery, which I had.  It turns out I had Moderate endometriosis.  All I remember about that surgery is the recovery.  It felt like I got shot in the shoulder by a shotgun.  The pain from the gas build up was IN-TENSE.  The only thing that made me feel better was watching The Notebook and falling madly in love with Ryan Gosling and wishing I was Ally.  Don’t lie, I know many of you felt the same way.

All of this poop was getting to be too much. It was now spring 2007 and I was in the last semester of the CPA program and needed one more class to finally be done this never ending road to becoming a BEAN COUNTER. One more class. I couldn’t believe I actually made it to that point without losing my mind completely. But I did it and I passed that last class and was finally done. It’s an accomplishment that I am still very proud of – because it showed me what determination and hard work can do.

Not long after finishing the program I get a phone call from my big brother Cory.  He has some big news for me but is scared to tell me.  He finally spits it out.  Him and his girlfriend are expecting not one but two babies…..twins!  Naturally, twins….and my heart was simultaneously bursting with happiness and dying from heartbreak.  And then my brother said something that I will never forget until the day I die.  He said, “If I could, I would give you one of our babies”.  We both laughed and cried at that idea!  But seriously, how sweet right?  Did I mention they were having twins naturally, with no intervention.  By this point, I really couldn’t understand how anyone had babies naturally.  It was a bloody miracle in my opinion.  

Fall of 2007 and Dr. Wong recommended we move on to the big leagues….In-Vitro Fertilization (or IVF).   My initial thoughts were, holy crap….this is where people go to make babies in a laboratory.  It was so sci-fi to me and didn’t feel natural.  

By this point I was angry, super angry actually.

I was angry at God, I was angry at myself and my body.  I was angry at James for his part which I couldn’t control but don’t tell that to a hormonal angry lady.  And FYI….when you’re angry at your spouse for not getting pregnant, the amount of baby making drops significantly, making it even more difficult to get pregnant naturally.  So there was that catch 22. 

What people don’t talk about very often is how hard infertility is on marriages.  It’s very rough.  You need to be getting busy with the coitous but at a certain point it’s not enjoyable anymore.  It feels like a job that you just keep failing at.  Remember the high achiever in me?  Well, turns out James is the same way.  So we both felt like failures.  

Anyhoo, we had to suck it up and realize if we wanted a chance at having a child we needed to do what the fertility clinic said and follow the protocol that they felt was best for our situation.  

I’m just now realizing that some of you may have no idea what In-Vitro Fertilization even is, so I thought it would be a good idea to summarize it:

Ok so now that you know how it all works…..it will help make our story more understandable….hopefully!

I was 33 and they gave me medication levels for my age and medical situation.  At my first ultrasound, I had ZERO follicles.  Not one, zero.  I think the doctors were shocked.  So they immediately bumped up my drug dosages.  A couple days later I went back for another ultrasound.  I think I had two.  Again they were shocked….and concerned.  So they bumped me up to the highest dose possible.  Which if you’re following along…..more drugs = more money = more crazy lady.  I was taking drug dosages that they typically give to women over the age of 40 and I was in my early thirties.

This is where GOD stepped in.

Normally I went to my appointments by myself, there were sooo many.  But on this particular day, James came with me to support me during my bloodwork and ultrasound.  He knew I was feeling very low about how bad my body was responding to the protocol. I had the tests as usual and when done, the doctor asked us to wait across the hallway for a meeting.  I knew it was bad. 

The doctor and nurse came in and let us know that even with the highest dosage of medication my body was not producing the way it should be and they gave us a choice of stopping the cycle and try again a couple months later or continue and be prepared for no eggs.  With no hesitation whatsoever, James looked at the doctors and said, “We’re continuing on and see what happens”.  I know for a fact I would have shut it down if he wasn’t there.

So we continued on….I ended up with 12 follicles of which 7 had eggs in them.  They give you this news while laying on a gurney in a recovery room with other ladies who just had the procedure done.  The lady beside me ended up with 22 EGGS.  What the hell?  And we were about the same age.  Also, we were told because of the sperm morphology issues it was in our best interest to use ICSI and Assisted Embryo Hatching. I guess you could say we used the full menu of services available at the fertility clinic.  

7 of those eggs fertilized into 4 embryos.  Two were then transferred into me, 1 “died” prior to the freezing process and one was placed in cryostorage for us to use another time.  

Watching your embryos put into your body via a TV screen while peeing ever so lightly onto a doctor was NOT how I pictured the conception of our children, but whatever, I was willing to have a baby however it was decided for us.

Once the embryos are transferred, you start the 2 week wait.

I am not exaggerating when I say the Two Week Wait for people going through infertility is the longest 14 days they will ever endure.  I took two weeks off work and quite literally laid horizontal on the couch every single day, all day, except to go to the washroom.  It made me nervous even going to the bathroom, I was afraid I would pee the embryo out.  Ask any woman that has gone through this and they will agree, it’s a real worry.  

We were in the process of building our new home at this time so didn’t even have our home to be comfortable in.  But thankfully we were gifted the opportunity to stay at a condo in Calgary for free while we waited for our house to be finished.  

My Mom and James’ Mom came up to Calgary to be with us for the day we were supposed to get the results.  I took a urine sample to the clinic and then went back to the condo to wait for the call. That morning while showering, I felt a “tug” in my stomach area and I can’t describe it any other way, other than a knowing, that something was different.

We were getting restless and thought maybe we should go to the mall to take our mind off of it.  We hopped into the red minivan (remember the baby van)…..James was driving with his mom in front and I was in the back with my Mom.  And my cell phone rang…..it was the clinic.  I thought I was going to pass out….legit pass out.  I answered it.  And the nurse gave me the best news I have ever heard in my entire life.  

YOU ARE PREGNANT!!!!

Whatever she said after that I will never know because I didn’t hear it.  None of it. I was too busy crying and looking at James and our Moms and thanking God for finally answering our prayers.  When we arrived at the mall and finally got out of the red van, I grabbed James and hugged him so hard and thanked him for not letting me give up, for fighting for this baby when I was too tired and heartbroken to keep going. 

A week later we drove that red mini-van to our new home and I went directly to the room that would now be our babies room and thanked God again for answering our prayers.

One of the values I hold highest in my life is GRATITUDE.

I have been practicing gratitude on a daily basis for about 2 years now and with absolute certainty, I know it is life changing.  So when I decided to start this podcast, I knew that I wanted to incorporate gratitude in every episode, whether it’s just me or if I have a guest.  There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for….in the hard times and the beautiful times.  So for today’s episode I would like to end with some of the things from this episode that I am grateful for:

Until next time, be kind and stay well.

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Date posted :

June 30, 2020

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  1. Marlys Kienzle says:

    Amazing Tiffany. Will look forward to many more sessions ????

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