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Danielle and Jay: Our Infertility StoryLast Updated: July 11, 2011
My husband and I have been trying to conceive for almost four years. We met in November 2002 and were engaged to be married approximately 18 months later. I married my best friend on July 16, 2005 in a traditional church ceremony. It was the happiest day of my life. We were so hopeful about our future. I had just been hired to serve as a full-time Elementary School Counselor in the school district where I am still working and Jay had a job as a Forklift Operator. Things were going well for us. We always knew that we wanted to have children. It was a topic discussed early in our relationship. Jay grew up with two older siblings and I had an older brother. We had nieces and nephews that we enjoyed spending time with and I worked in a profession surrounded by young children. I would have never guessed we would struggle with infertility. From November 2007 to the present, we have been through six IUI cycles with our regular OB/GYN and two IUI cycles with a specialist. We have also been through countless unmonitored trials with Clomid.
Approximately one year into our marriage we felt financially secure enough to begin trying to conceive. Because I had been on birth control for a number of years, I knew that pregnancy may take some time. We tried on our own with no success for about six months. After the sixth month, I contacted my doctor for a consultation. She said that due to my age (31-32), she would recommend a trial of Clomid. We did this for three months with the same lack of success. Each month was so upsetting because we felt as though this should be so easy. We never knew anyone that experienced this difficulty. It always seemed so easy for everyone else. I/We felt defective. Also around this period of time, I underwent an HSG that found normal results. My husband participated in a Semen Analysis that also yielded normal results.
During a routine follow-up appointment, my doctor presented us with the option of IUI. I remember being nervous about it but anxious to try something new. It had now been over a year since we started trying to conceive. I checked with our insurance company only to discover that they did not cover medication costs and only partially covered some of the treatment costs. Our insurance plan had a Maximum Lifetime Benefit of $2,500. We knew there would be some out of pocket expenses.
After careful consideration and prayer, we decided to proceed with the first treatment in November 2007. I have always been a healthy person, so I was not real fond of all of the blood work and ultrasounds required for this type of treatment but I thought, "if this is what I have to do to have a baby, I'm more than willing to do it." Up until this point in my life, I had never even given blood. The only surgery I ever had was having my wisdom teeth removed. Anyway, we were so hopeful that this would work and end our infertility struggle. We were devastated when the result was negative. It was also disappointing and difficult to inform our family and friends that we were not successful. Determined to beat this, we proceeded onto a second round of IUI treatment with Clomid and again we had no success.
On the day we were scheduled for our third IUI attempt (2/4/08), our regular doctor was called into surgery so another doctor was to complete the IUI. It was also on this day that we discovered that I was not taking the Clomid properly. Instead of taking the daily dose all at one time, I was splitting it into two doses. Although Dr. Bohonyi tried to hide his disbelief, we could tell that he was surprised that another doctor had given me incorrect dosing instructions. Dr. B was so nice and patient with us. I cried and he offered support and a hug before leaving the exam room. We left that day knowing that we had found a new doctor regardless of the result of this third attempt.
With new-found faith in Dr. B, we completed a fourth and fifth IUI cycle in March and April 2008. Each month my ultrasounds looked good and I was responding to the medication. I was the "Star Patient." We were utterly confused as to why these negative results kept happening. Each negative result was taking its toll on our depleted bank account as well as our emotional well-being.
Beginning in May 2008, Jay began to encourage me to go to counseling. I fought hard against it insisting that I was a counselor and didn't need counseling. I found myself becoming more and more depressed and my mood fluctuated like a wave pool. I'm positive that I was a nightmare to live with. My family and friends didn't know what to say to help me or do to make me feel better. I knew they felt badly for us but knowing that just made me feel worse. I felt as though I was letting so many people down. We had so many friends and family members that wanted this so badly for us, I felt even more pressure to "produce."
Reluctantly, I entered counseling in July 2008. Shortly thereafter, Jay began attending the sessions with me. Because of the stress of the infertility, we had forgotten how to communicate with each other. This was surprising to learn because our relationship had originally been established on communication. When we first met, Jay worked second shift, so we only saw each other on the weekends. We spoke on the telephone multiple times a day. We had nothing but communication to rely on. In the matter of two years, we had forgotten how to do what our relationship originally started on. It was also during this period of time that it seemed as though there was some sort of baby boom in my school district, at my gym and among my friends. There were pregnant people everywhere! I would talk to friends and they'd say, "I have to tell you something but you have to promise not to get mad at me." Friends and co-workers were expecting their second or third child. I'd hear stories about people who got pregnant unexpectedly. Students at school would tell me about how they were going to get a new baby brother or sister soon. Everyone was pregnant but me! It just didn't seem fair.
Following the fifth unsuccessful IUI in April 2008, we took a break from all medical intervention. Emotionally I could not handle it and financially we were barely getting by. We tried IUI one more time with Dr. B in August 2008 and for the sixth time we were unsuccessful. It was following this IUI that Dr. B recommended Shady Grove in Frederick, Maryland. We decided to at least go to the consultation.
We met with our Nurse, Allison and Dr. O'Brien. We were immediately welcomed and comforted in the fact that they knew about our struggles and were very familiar with Dr. B, his practice and experience treating patients with infertility issues. They explained everything to us. They explained diagnosis, treatment options, procedures, success rates, finances. Needless to say, we were overwhelmed but excited about the possibilities. We just knew Allison and Dr. O'Brien could help makes our dreams of parenthood come true. We opted to try IUI again but this time with injectable medication (Gonal-F).
My first IUI cycle at Shady Grove began in late October/early November. I had a friend at school that had just done an IUI cycle in the same office and had gotten pregnant on the first try, so I knew it wouldn't be long for us. We ordered the medication and went to "Injection Class" so Jay could learn how to give the injections. I began getting up at 4am two to three days a week to drive from our home in Pennsylvania to meet my father (who had just retired), so he could ride in the car with me to get blood work and ultrasounds completed. A trip to Frederick, MD from my home took about one hour and 20 minutes. After my ten minute appointment I'd drive back to PA, drop my dad off and continue on to school for the day. Despite being tired from the early mornings and commute, we were hopeful and confident that this would be short-lived because we would only need to do this once.
Out first IUI with Shady Grove was scheduled for a Saturday, so we needed to drive to the Rockville office, about two hours from home. All lab results and ultrasounds looked very good and our doctor performing the IUI was Dr. Greenhouse. I had never met him before but I thought, "Surely he knows what he's doing. His name is Dr. Greenhouse." We drove home that afternoon with me reclined all of the way back in the passenger seat so as not to "disturb anything down there." About seven to ten days later it was back to Frederick for a blood test. This time my mom went with me. I had a sinking feeling that it didn't work but tried to remain optimistic. Jay got off of work early to be home with me when they called. I was so scared to get that phone call. My stomach was in knots and I could barely breathe the closer it got to the time Allison said she'd call. It sounds funny but I knew it was bad news by the way the phone rang. I knew it was not the news we wanted. I just knew that we had spent over $3,000 on another unsuccessful venture into the world of infertility. My suspicions were confirmed when I answered the telephone and heard the tone of Allison's voice. You could tell by her voice that this is the worst part of her job. The blood test was negative. I was still not pregnant.
Our second and final IUI cycle with Shady Grove occurred at the end of November 2008. My memories of this cycle are not as vivid. I still met my dad every other morning at Sheetz for the drive to Maryland. I was still exhausted from all of the early mornings and long school days, but still hopeful this would all be over soon. The emotional and financial stress was taking its toll on me as well as Jay. The counseling was helping but was not the solution to our problem. Following the IUI procedure on November 28, 2008 and the blood test a week later, we were again waiting for the phone call. This time I told Jay he had to be the one to answer the telephone. I didn't think I could take hearing the pity and disappointment in Allison's voice. The call came. It was short. I was still not pregnant.
The only words I can use to describe how I felt at that time is distraught. I remember being able to feel every nerve ending in my body. I remember not being able to sit still. I remember wanting to run but not knowing where I would go. I remember Molly, our beautiful, loyal and compassionate Black Lab putting her head on my lap trying to comfort me as best she knew how. I remember feeling so out of control. I remember thinking, "I now know what a nervous breakdown feels like. Jay may need to take me to the Emergency Room." It was the worst feeling I have ever experienced. It is even difficult to write this because reliving it is almost as painful.
As a point of reference, my brother, Billy, died from complications of a motorcycle accident on August 31, 1992. It was the day before his senior year of high school was to begin. He was 22 years old. I thought that this tragic event would be the single most difficult thing I would ever experience. I quickly realized that this time in my life was so much worse than that. It may be hard to believe but the grief I experienced following his death pales in comparison to the grief I experience every month that I either get my period or the times we received a phone call from a nurse telling me an IUI was unsuccessful.
As you can guess, I have been diagnosed with Unexplained Infertility. At times, I have wished that the doctors could find something "wrong" so they could "fix it" and end this torture. On my low days I think we should give up and be thankful for those things that we do have. However, most days I know I cannot give up. I see how badly Jay wants to teach his son or daughter to play baseball and I know we cannot give up. I see the longing in his eyes when we go to our nephews' baseball games and know giving up and accepting defeat is not an option. I can't give up because I know how badly I want to have children. I want to experience all of the wonderful things a child brings to your life. We want to be able to raise a child to be a kind, compassionate and responsible child. I just know in my heart that we would be great parents if only given the opportunity. In addition, my parents want so badly to be grandparents. My brother was not married when he died, nor did he have children of his own. I see the joy in my parents' eyes when they see my friends' kids or their young niece and nephew. I know how they long to be grandparents. I know they will be fantastic grandparents if given the opportunity. There is a hole in all of our hearts right now because we want so badly for me to be pregnant. That hole would only be filled with a child.
Unfortunately this success has now eluded for us for almost five years. We met with Dr. O'Brien in October 2009 and discussed our next treatment option. She strongly recommended IVF with ICSI, a $15,000-20,000 option (not including the nearly $4,000 in medication). As a Forklift Operator and public school employee, we simply do not make enough money to pay for such a procedure. I even checked to see if we could borrow money against my retirement. As a PA State Education Employee, the only time I can tap into my retirement is if I retire or leave the profession. This is my professional calling. I hope I am making a difference in young lives. I simply cannot leave the career I know I was put on this planet to do. Due to the previous treatments, our credit card bills are too high to put more on credit. We have refinanced our house in an effort to save more money each month. We've put home improvements on hold and cancelled vacations. All of these sacrifices do not seem to be enough. We will never be able to save over $20,000.
It is funny to think that when we started all of this, I cringed at the idea of blood work and injections. Now, I would gladly welcome them. Our doctor feels we would be reasonably successful with this treatment option. As always, the only thing holding us back is the finances. If we could have afforded it, we would have chosen IVF years ago. We would not have suffered the way we have.
-Jay and Danielle
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