Strength in Numbers
January 20, 2012
We only tried Clomid once, even though my doctor would’ve allowed me to do it up to three times. Looking back, maybe we should’ve given it another try before moving on to more aggressive treatments—I know plenty of people for whom it worked. It was entirely my call—but making a call like this is a major gut check. What did I know? That's why being your own advocate and doing your own research is imperative. You need to make educated decisions, and you need to ask your doctor a lot of questions (you can imagine the interrogation I give mine). Leaning on your friends for support can be helpful, too, but you have to realize that their issues and experience with this are not the same as yours.
According to what I’d learned, women with unexplained infertility who are over 35 have a lower success rate with Clomid than their younger female counterparts.
We older gals really get the short end of the stick, don’t we?
I wanted to try IUI next (intrauterine insemination)—that’s very often the next step after Clomid, and not quite as aggressive as IVF, which I was not ready for at the time. IUI can increase a woman’s chances of getting pregnant by up to 48 percent, versus using Clomid, according to Redbook’s definitions of the most common infertility treatments. Plus, time was not on my side (have I mentioned that yet?)…I didn’t want to waste any more of it messing around with something that A) was making me act like a crazy person (when you have a job and a family to tend to, acting like a crazy person isn't very productive), and B) was simply not working for me. We found out through doing Clomid that I ovulate very late in my cycle; needless to say, it didn't help us get pregnant on that first try.
Since I have a lot of friends who’ve been through this in one form or another, I turned to a very small few of them for moral support and advice in the beginning. But you really can’t compare one person’s experience to another’s. No two women are on the same path or protocol, and no two women react the same to the drugs and procedures. I happen to be very sensitive to the medications, which is why this process has been exceptionally difficult for me.
Take, for example, one of the initial exams they do to evaluate you before treating you for infertility: It's called an HSG (or hysterosalpingogram), an x-ray done during the first half of your cycle to help identify any structural abnormalities in your fallopian tubes or uterus. In layman's terms, they inject a dye into your uterine cavity through your vagina and cervix to check for any blockage, using a catheter. Sounds super fun, right? I was so squeamish during the exam, I think I made the doctor more nervous than I was.
I was told this was not a big deal, though, and I’d experience some minor cramping afterward…well, the cramping was more than minor for me, bad enough that I had to leave work early (I actually thought I'd be fine to go to work afterward, what was I thinking?). And I also missed a good friend’s baby naming that night, which I felt terrible about.
Turns out, that would be the first of many missed functions because of feeling crappy from these fertility treatments. I think there's a guilt factor to all of this, too, especially when you're going through secondary infertility. You're making a choice to put yourself, your husband and, most importantly, your child through something very physically and emotionally painful. This effects everyone around you, including your friends and family members.
But enough about the guilt. I could talk all day about guilt...
Even if you take two women who've had the same infertility problems and been on the same exact recipe of drugs, they'll tell you two totally different stories about it. One friend of mine, who happened to go to the same doctor at FCI, did Clomid a total of six times—she got pregnant after the first three tries but, sadly, miscarried. The doctor allowed her another three attempts with Clomid—she had zero negative reactions to it. No random hysterical outbursts or feelings of anger and depression. She’s one of the lucky ones…Clomid is what ultimately helped her get pregnant again.
It's easy to feel isolated during all of this because no two women have the exact same makeup—even if your problems are the same, the solutions could be very different. It's great to have a supportive network, as I do, but you can't rely on other people's experiences alone to get you through yours. One of the things that helped me decide to even go down this path was that I knew a dozen or so women who'd done this. You find strength in numbers, sure, but you have to see this as your own individual journey. Otherwise it could make you even crazier.