Secondary Infertility, Dana's Story

September 24, 2019
Secondary Infertility, Dana's Story

When my son turned two years old, we’d been trying to conceive another child for nearly a year. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t already pregnant, since it was so easy the first time. Every month, I would build up new hope and excitement. Before the two-week wait was over, I would look up pregnancy symptom checklists online. I'd analyze every cramp or twinge, wondering if it meant I could be pregnant. But then my period would come, along with a new sense of loss. It felt like a never-ending cycle and took a huge emotional toll. For the first time in my life, I began battling bouts of depression.

I kept my pain a secret from friends, family and co-workers and tried to bury my emotions. The fact that I was so sad made me feel really guilty. I didn't think I had the right to experience those feelings, because I already had so much to be grateful for. At the top of that list: my wonderful husband, our amazing, healthy son and my health. I didn't feel like I could or should talk with anyone about my feelings, except for my husband. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful for the many blessings we already had.

My husband was supportive, but he was perfectly fine with us having only one child. He didn’t want to take any extraordinary measures to have another child. But I wasn’t okay with that. I could not shake the feeling that our family was not yet complete.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I couldn’t just stop trying for a second child.

Especially when the process of trying was completely kicking my ass. Maybe it was because my love and connection to my son was so pure and so deep from the moment he was in my belly. Maybe it was because I cherished every moment and milestone, even the tough and scary ones. I just didn’t want it to be the only time I would ever experience that intense joy of a positive pregnancy test, or that incredible feeling of finally meeting and holding the little person you were carrying and nurturing for 9 long months. I thought of the joy of the first time I noticed my husband's physical and personality traits in our son. And then there was all of those firsts - the first smile, the first laugh, the first time he calls you Mommy and the first time our parents held their grandchild. The list of things that I thought I might never get to experience again circled around in my head.

I also knew that my son would love being a big brother. Actually, I thought he needed to have a sibling. I could easily see myself smothering him and spoiling him with all of my best motherly intentions – because he was my one and only. I wanted him to experience that special kind of love that only siblings share. I even thought about wanting him to have someone that would share the emotional burden of having elderly parents - when that time came.

While producing a documentary television show, I interviewed two Chicago area parents. Their daughter was killed by a gunman while sitting in a lecture hall at her college campus during a mass shooting. I cried along with them as they recounted their memories of that day. But, I’ll never forget how much my heart ached when the mom said: “We will never be able to walk her down the aisle or become grandparents. I wish we had decided to have another child.”

I was thrilled for every one of my friends and family who sent a baby shower invitation or birth announcement. But emotionally, I couldn't help but wish I had that kind of good news to share. I couldn’t avoid the pangs of jealousy on those days I'd take my toddler to a friend’s birthday party where I'd see all of the pregnant moms and parents toting younger siblings. Those were the days I wanted to lock myself in the bathroom and cry. But, there was no time for that. I couldn’t run away and release my bottled-up emotions. I had to push it all down and focus on my son. So, I put on a happy face and carried on. All while the hole in my heart secretly ached. 

I finally decided to see a fertility doctor. After some basic tests the doctor said I had “unexplained infertility.” So, our options at that time were to keep trying on our own, or start fertility treatments. 

First, we decided to "try" harder. It quickly felt like a third job. We’d try every time the ovulation predictor test and calendar said it was prime time. But it wasn’t always a good time for us. Especially when you are busy parents and sometimes travel for work. I quickly realized, when you take away the spontaneity and feel like you have to have sex, even when you don’t feel like it – it’s not much fun. It all became quite stressful for both us and even started to impact our relationship. If Mosie Baby had existed then, there is no doubt in my mind that we would have tried the at home insemination kit first. I would have likely found out about Mosie during my many searches for information and support early on – and immediately ordered it.  It would have been the perfect tool to help with our “performance” anxiety issues. We could have gone back to having sex when we wanted to, not needed to. 

At the time, I felt so much guilt for being the reason we were going through all of this. When we finally decided to start fertility treatments, my husband was incredibly supportive – even though he didn't want to go this route. He knew it was important for me to try. So he went to every doctor's appointment, held my hand and tried to make me laugh, when all I wanted to do was cry. He would drive an hour to the clinic on his lunch break to give a specimen.  He also rushed home early to comfort me after our first miscarriage after a fertility treatment. The truth is, I wanted a second pregnancy for him just as much as I wanted it for us. As foolish as it sounds, I didn’t want to be the reason he didn’t have a bigger family.

I knew I was entering a dark emotional place and needed help to stop my mind from spinning out of control. I went to a therapist, tried meditation, prayed, and started reading all the books I could on how to become more spiritual. I even visited a psychic, looking for an answer to the question ringing loudly in my head: “Should I stop trying and just move on?”  In the end, I just couldn't shake this feeling in my gut that was telling me there was another beautiful soul destined to come into our lives. No matter how many miscarriages, doctors bills, arguments, or emotional breakdowns we had - I could not let it go.

After two years, I finally hit a wall. We were pretty much out of money and time to continue invasive fertility treatments. So, I decided to put all of my energy into our sweet little family of three, and come to terms with my new reality. 

But then there was a little twist of fate. We were introduced to a new fertility doctor, one who had a totally new plan and philosophy. He did some tests and found out I needed to double my folic acid intake, because my body wasn't absorbing that important vitamin. He also told me to take DHEA supplements for a couple of months to improve my egg quality. After that he suggested doing a round of mini-IVF, which uses a lower dose of hormones. We also got new medical insurance and found out that it would cover some of the expenses of IVF. So, we decided to give it one last shot. This time felt different. I knew it would be my last fertility treatment and my last attempt at having a biological child. And I was actually completely fine with that. Whatever the outcome, I was more than ready to move forward. We even started looking into adopting right before my last procedure, to see whether or not it would be the right next step for us.

When I awoke from the anesthesia after my last egg retrieval procedure, I quickly learned how much the odds were really against us. Only two viable eggs were available for insemination. Two. Even though the ultrasound showed at least 10 mature follicles. It was a blow. But this time I was mentally prepared for any outcome. After two years, five miscarriages, four failed IUI's, and two failed IVF procedures - I was comforted with the knowledge that I did all that I could, and now it was out of my hands. There was nothing else I needed to do, but look back on the journey that made me stronger and much more appreciative of every one of my blessings.

Looking back today, I wonder if Mosie might have helped us avoid all of those years struggling with infertility. But I am happy to know that Mosie Baby is out there for people today – who might not have to struggle like I did.

Another thing I wished I would have known back then – is that if you do need to move on to getting a fertility expert involved, you should always get a few different medical opinions. I only visited one doctor, before starting the cycles of IUI and then IVF. I later regretted that decision. Each doctor may have a different protocol, perspective and level of expertise to offer which may make a huge difference. 

So, how does my fertility story end? It turns out my gut (and the psychic) were right. My third and final round of IVF was a success. It was kind of a miracle. Only one embryo survived to be transferred into my uterus. We named it Nemo. One month to the day after my son turned four, he met his little brother. Our family was finally complete.

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Dana Drake Bio: Dana is an award-winning documentary television producer and the Editor-In-Chief of TalkingFertility.com. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two sons and their dog Leo.