Trying to conceive

Canadian Infertility Awareness Week: A long road

For Canadian Infertility Awareness Week, we asked five incredible, strong women to share their infertility stories.

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Photo: iStockphoto

Our fertility journey started soon after we were married, during the summer of 2008. It was no secret that we wanted to become parents, and we started trying to conceive almost immediately. But I had always had irregular menstrual cycles, so we took some proactive measures and made a doctor’s appointment very early on to make sure we were on the right track.

We were given the usual spiel, “These things take time—give it a try on your own for a year and then we’ll go from there.” We waited for eight months before contacting our family doctor again; I was then referred to the chief OB/GYN in Peterborough, who ran a series of tests. During the same time, my husband, Jay, was asked to provide blood and semen samples as well.

At this point we just thought we were covering all of our bases—that we’d be able to move forward easily once we had the answers. This wasn’t the case, and it would take two years to finally see a positive pregnancy test.

Read more: Fertility treatments: Our reader survey >

The test results for both my husband and me returned with some abnormalities. We were referred to Mount Sinai Hospital’s Centre for Infertility and Reproductive Health in Toronto. My husband, after giving two more semen samples, had to undergo a needle biopsy, in an attempt to get a better picture of his number of sperm and their motility. This was not as successful as we’d hoped, and my husband eventually had to undergo surgery in order for the doctors to retrieve an accurate and usable semen sample.

I was diagnosed with having PCOS. This means that my hormone levels are imbalanced, and I do not ovulate regularly, which makes conceiving naturally that much more difficult.

So, with all of this information, our next question was, “Where do we go from here?” In order to optimize our chances of getting pregnant, IVF (in vitro fertilization) was the recommended route. We were also encouraged to go one step further and use ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), instead of routine IVF, due to the low number of sperm retrieved from my husband.

During the fall of 2010 we started the process. I went for weekly, followed by daily, blood work and ultrasounds at Mount Sinai, driving in from the east side of Peterborough each day. I started the drugs, slowly getting better at injecting the needles into my stomach. We were able to create four strong embryos and planned on transferring two embryos during our first attempt. Our hope was that we would increase our chances of getting pregnant, knowing that there was a chance we would conceive twins (and we were OK with that, and maybe even looking forward to it).

On Thanksgiving weekend 2010, the embryo transfer took place. We both remember every moment as clear as day. And then we waited… again.

Read more: An in-depth look at infertility >

Two weeks later, I went for blood work at the lab around the corner from my work. Later that afternoon, on pins and needles, I received the phone call from one of our nurses at Mount Sinai: “Amanda, we have the results of your blood work, and we’re excited to tell you that it was positive. Congratulations, you’re pregnant! Your estimated due date is July 4, 2011. We’ll see you in a few weeks for your first ultrasound.”

Two weeks later, we ventured back to Mount Sinai and entered the room for our ultrasound, where we found out that we were expecting twins. However, the heartbeat of one of the twins was significantly lower than the other, and unfortunately, within the next month, the second fetus was absorbed back into my body, leaving us with a sense of sadness but also extremely happy that we still had one healthy baby growing nicely.

As most would expect, our pregnancy journey should continue on to July, when we would welcome a healthy child into our family. But, this was not how things happened, and our adventure took another drastic turn in February of 2011, when I was 22 weeks along. I started leaking amniotic fluid and, after rushing to the hospital, we were told to prepare ourselves for the loss of our child, because babies born at this stage in pregnancy are not considered viable. I was lucky enough to continue on with my pregnancy on bed rest until I was 27 weeks along. But, at 27 weeks and 6 days, I was airlifted to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto and, after an emergency C-section, our 2 lb., 10.5 oz. son was born.

Read more: I had an emergency C-section and I loved it >

It was 93 long days in the NICU until we could bring our boy home and start our life together as a family, but we did what we had to do to make the most out of a very difficult and trying situation.

Now anyone would surely think that our adventure has ended, but it hasn’t. When our son was about a year old we decided to start talking to the doctors at Mount Sinai about the timeline for baby number two, as it had been suggested during my C-section that I might have a bicornuate uterus.

I underwent more testing and found out that I had a septate uterus, meaning that my uterus was separated into two sections—this also meant that our son would have grown in only one half of my uterus, possibly explaining why he arrived 13 weeks early. I needed surgery, which turned into two surgeries due to the septum wall being thicker than originally surmised. The second surgery was successful: The wall was removed and I now have a full uterus. Hopefully this means, when the time comes to try for a second child, we should have a much smoother road ahead of us… fingers crossed.