Our secondary infertility story: Part 11 – A typical cycle on fertility medication.

This is part 11 of my secondary infertility experience. I’ve been documenting it throughout – since 2015. After we finally received the news that we are finally expecting a little one in early 2018, I feel ready to share the stories that I had kept inside for so long. I hope that they will help others to feel not so alone. I also hope to give family and friends some insight into what was happening at the time, as it was hard to talk about (or just seemed like a shit topic at social gatherings).

You can catch up on the first 10(!) instalments here: 

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10

I thought I would share with you what most of my 2016 was like. This was the year I commenced medicated cycles. They were supposed to help me ovulate really well and hopefully increase our chances of conceiving. This was probably the toughest time for us emotionally. I really struggled as I saw little to no progress. In fact, in hindsight, I realise that doing these drugs actually messed my cycles up more but I guess I just wanted so badly to believe that eventually it would work for us, saving us from IVF or other more invasive procedures.

I have already mentioned my first round on the medication Clomid and how that didn’t work out so well, but I thought I’d delve a little deeper into what a typical medicated month was like for me/us. I got used to the routine more or less, but now looking back, I realise just how full on it was. No wonder I felt like shit. No wonder I withdrew from the world a bit lot. No wonder it felt like crap when certain people decided that actively trying to be my friend and having my back throughout was too hard (now I see it as a blessing – I was set free and learned a lot about who I want to surround myself with). I spent a lot of the year depressed. Only I didn’t realise until I literally felt the fog lift off me on a random Monday morning, as I was driving out of a car park in town. I remember feeling a wave of lightness come over me. In an instant I realised what had been happening. I suddenly knew that how I felt in that car park was how I should have been feeling all along. My circumstances had not changed at that point, but luckily my mental health began to improve. The shit times were still utterly shit, but I was glad to be able to feel the good times again. To notice the sunshine. To feel happy when I was with my closest friends.

I guess I had been able to get through it – perhaps it was some kind of high functioning depression – because I had to stay strong and keep trying for my family. I had to look after my son while he got through his first year of school. The amount of times I stood at that classroom door at the end of the day, having received bad news or gone through yet more emotional upheavals, wanting to get home and cry my eyes out in private. The amount of times the most lovely school mums chit chatted and asked me, “How’s your day been?” and I just managed to squeak out, “Oh yeah, you know…alright! How was yours?” while trying to will the tears to stay inside and not escape. I wanted to make a good impression. I didn’t know anyone well enough to share the details of my life like that.

I now know that was not fucking normal. There’s normal sadness and tiredness from dealing with tough stuff and then there’s what I was going through. I probably should have got help if I’d actually been able to figure it out. I guess it just became so ‘normal’ to me that I accepted that I thought it was who I was now.

So here’s what a normal cycle on medication looked like for me…

Early on in my cycle (usually near the beginning of my period), I would take medication 5 days in a row. I took Clomid first, then was given Tamoxifen (a substitute when Clomid wasn’t so readily available due to some kind of supply shortage). Then I had one more Clomid cycle towards the end of the year before deciding to move onto more intense treatment (eventually IVF).

Day 8, I would have a blood test. I think it was to determine a baseline of sorts for my oestrogen and progesterone levels.

Day 10, I would go in and have a vaginal ultrasound. Yep. I had one of these every month. It was not pleasant. Especially when the doctor would more often than not tell me that nothing much was even happening in my ovaries and that my medication probably wasn’t helping so we’d have to up my dosage for next time. It felt like I had to endure that indignity for nothing time after time. It was tough because it felt like I was having to give up and start planning the next cycle before the current one was even finished. Brutal.

Day 21, I’d have a blood test to determine if I had indeed ovulated or not (it would be compared to my day 8 blood test results). My doc would often tell me I hadn’t but I suspected my cycles were just too long for the dates he had me tested a lot of the time. I never felt fully confident in these results. If I had ovulated in that time frame, I would retain a little hope.

Day 27, I would have to have a blood test to check if I was pregnant. This was particularly tough because I sometimes would have a super long cycle on the medication so I felt like it was probably way too early to tell if I was pregnant anyway. Other times I would spend the whole day just hoping I’d get a positive phone call but it never came. I’d have to wait ages before my period would arrive and it felt like hell. Some cycles it felt like I was getting the bad news 3 times over before they even finished. Once after the scan, once after the second blood test and another time after the negative pregnancy test. Actually, make it four. Because getting your period is the ultimate last nail in the coffin. Absolutely soul destroying.

PMS would arrive with a vengeance and I’d feel so defeated and angry. While some women would hold out hope that it could also be early signs of pregnancy (WHY DO PMS AND PREGNANCY SYMPTOMS HAVE TO BE SIMILAR), I had given up. I would try to find the positives but it was often a time of internal struggle.

I’d have a ridiculously heavy period, be house bound for a few days at a time (really difficult on the Little Mister’s school days etc) and try to start thinking forwards. Trying to find hope in the next cycle. Also, devouring chocolate and wine kind of helped too.

Then everything would start again and I’d never know exactly when each step would occur until my medication commenced each (increasingly erratic) cycle. That is why I probably seemed flaky and unreliable and maybe even uninterested in social events. I was stuck in a crazy time of my life where I felt like I couldn’t commit to anything ahead of time. I never knew what could be around the corner – more intense treatments/procedures, a possible pregnancy, important doctor’s appointments or even my period and a necessary time to just work through my sadness. It really got me down. To those who worked around me, who stood by me, I am so grateful and I will always remember your kindness even if to you it was no big deal (because that’s the kind of awesome person you probably are).

In hindsight, I probably should have got off the merry go round a lot quicker than I did. Stood up and said, hey, this medication is doing jack shit. I’m really struggling with my mental health and if we haven’t conceived or seen any dramatic difference in our circumstances then maybe it’s time to move on. See another doctor and look into IVF. I think I was just so beaten down by everything and scared and unsure that I procrastinated. At least I knew that by the time we made the big move, I was more than ready to do something different.

Please don’t think that these kinds of treatments won’t work for you just because they didn’t work for me. Many people have experienced positive outcomes from using these medications. I was just not one of them due to my own specific circumstances x

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