Who knew that becoming pregnant and having a baby was so complicated? Frankly, not me! I exercised regularly, was relatively fit and in good shape, my period was regular, and I was 35. I mean in this day and age having a baby at 35 is the average age to conceive. Seven months after our wedding we found out I was pregnant! It hadn't taken effort and it just happened. It wasn’t like we were trying and it wasn’t like we weren’t. No biggie really. 8 weeks later, I had a miscarriage. I was devastated. I had taken for granted that the ride would be smooth and easy. We had conceived and 9 months later our baby should be born…right? Wrong. I was emotionally, physically and mentally destroyed. I didn’t know how I would get over this, but time heals. Eventually, I felt better and I was ready for us to start trying again. We tried for 6 months but month after month without failing there was my period right on time without missing a day! I couldn’t understand what was taking so long. Finally, in March 2018, almost a year since I had conceived prior to the miscarriage we decided to see a specialized fertility doctor. The first challenge was trying to get an appointment. The doctor we decided to consult was one of the best-known names for sub-fertility issues in Sri Lanka. Either way, trying to get an appointment was almost impossible for the next few weeks. I realized we were not the only people having issues in this department. Due to the delay in getting an appointment with this doctor, we decided to consult another sub-fertility specialist instead of waiting.
When we go for the appointment we are first ushered into a small booth separated by a curtain from the rest of the people in the waiting room to speak to an assistant/junior doctor who takes down our details. Everyone in the waiting room is privy to all the information I shared with him including the fact that I had a miscarriage something that is deeply personal and private. I was not happy with this process. I understand the “main doctor” doesn’t want to waste his time taking down mundane details and the need for efficiency, but what about my need for privacy? I just shared some of the most intimate details of my life while a room full of strangers could have been listening. Finally, we go in to see the doctor who consults with us and requests us to come to his private fertility clinic for a 12-day scan and the rest of the procedures. We turn up at his specialized clinic, it is jam-packed with people. My husband can’t wait to get the hell out of there. I convince him we have to go through with this. We go into the room for the scan and I am lying down on the bed, separated by a curtain in a room that is not large. On the other side of the curtain, the doctor speaks to another couple. My husband and I can hear everything he is telling them. How is any of this okay? This is an appointment with a gynaecologist it’s not like someone reading out a blood test result to you! The lack of privacy is appalling to me. The doctor finishes with the couple and comes over to do our scan. After which we are escorted to the table for him to speak to us while the next lady is told to lie down on the bed and prepare for the scan. The doctor was nice enough but it all felt mechanical. He was going through the motions, we were just another couple with fertility issues, just another face among the 80-100 patients he sees per day. If he saw us tomorrow he would have no clue who we were, nor remember any of the medical histories we had shared with him. My husband didn’t want to continue with him he was just not comfortable with the whole process, I, on the other hand, was desperate and insisted we at least give it a shot. To cut a long story short he put me on some fertility medication that was supposed to stimulate my ovaries. Two months of being on the medication, going for scans and other things only to find out that the medication actually resulted in thinning my uterine wall and decreasing my chances of getting pregnant! What the heck?
We knew it was time for a second opinion. We went back to the original sub-fertility specialist who I was trying to get an appointment with and failed. It was still impossible to get an appointment with him! Since I happen to consult at a leading private hospital in Sri Lanka I sent the doctor a note through a nurse and requested an extra appointment hoping he could squeeze us in. We saw him as the last appointment that day at 9.30 pm. He was sitting holding his chin in his hands looking exhausted. However, despite his exhaustion, he spent time with us, patiently answering my husband’s numerous questions and told us what our next steps could possibly be. When we shared with him the fertility medication the previous doctor had put us on and that my body had reacted negatively, he says that that is a medication he doesn’t prescribe due to it having negative results for some patients!
By this point, I had done a test to assess my egg count essentially a really important part to get pregnant. To my dismay, we find out my egg count was low average when compared to what it should be for my age. The doctor lays out our options on the table, it was the first time IVF came up. He drew out the number of days, the number of injections, the two weeks of rest I would need to take, the intensity and the invasiveness of the whole procedure. My first thought was there was no way I can do this. I asked for other options. He said we can try a few rounds of IUI but not to wait too long before moving on to IVF. Ugh, stupid biological clock! Michelle Obama was not kidding!
We go home and discuss the options we have been given. IVF is a big decision. We wanted a second opinion. We go back to the original doctor we had seen initially. He too recommended IVF. In your journey of infertility one thing, you will quickly realize is how EXPENSIVE it is. After discussing our options we decide to try one round of IUI first before taking the big leap straight into IVF. Before we did any other fertility treatment I just wanted a month’s break from all of this. This was mostly to help prepare both mentally and physically for what was to come. In September, we did the IUI which is basically the insertion of sperm directly into a woman’s uterus. Leading up to the procedure you will undergo scans and tests to make sure the egg has been released so it really increases your chances of fertilization. The cost of the IUI was Rs. 15,000. The IUI was not successful. Our next step was IVF and finding a good time to proceed with it. 3 months later we commenced with IVF. Honestly, I think it was more daunting thinking about the IVF process than when we were actually in it and doing it. I’m not going to lie it is extremely invasive, expensive and time-consuming. I had a high dose of hormones due to the low egg count. I had two injections per day given directly into my stomach. Funny thing, the bigger injection wasn’t as bad, the smaller second injection hurt like crazy. It’s amazing what you learn to adapt to when you want something so badly. Eventually, the injections became a part of life as did the dark purple and black bruises that started appearing around my naval. On January 1st 2019, the doctor did our egg retrieval, he was able to get 7 eggs, not great but not horrible either. Of these 4 were mature and ready to be fertilized. Of the 4 eggs that were fertilized with the sperm 3 fertilized successfully. If you are considering IVF, one of the things you will read about is the rate of attrition, meaning you may start off with a high number of eggs but actually end up with only a few that get fertilized. It can be quite disheartening. But what I tried to keep in mind is that we only needed 1 good one. There is some research to indicate that the chances with a frozen embryo can be better. We went ahead and implanted 1 fresh embryo and froze the rest. We did this because my hormone levels were good and the doctor felt it was okay to implant at least 1 fresh just to give it a shot. Two weeks later we did the dreaded blood test. It didn’t show a significant increase in my HCG levels that would have indicated I was pregnant. Basically, it didn’t work. We met the doctor and discussed the next steps which were basically to go all out and try implanting 3 frozen embryos so as to give me the best chance of conceiving. But first he advised us to give it a couple of months to get in to a regular period cycle before going ahead with it. I was relieved about the break and felt more relaxed than I had in months. During our “2 month break” we ended up conceiving naturally! For us, it was nothing short of a miracle. I now have a beautiful 2-month old baby! If you have been here, going through something similar, I understand. It is hard, no two words about it. The reason I decided to write about my experience here locally is that there was no one I could talk to who could tell me about their experience here. If you are someone who is just experiencing this in your life, I wish you all the best. It worked out for me, eventually. I hope it does for you too. Infertility is so common although people may not talk about it. Just know, you are not alone.