The beginning of our fertility journey was unremarkable in the best way. In September 2018, after a few poignant episodes of This Is Us and a long conversation about our hopes and fears, my husband and I decided we would start trying to get pregnant.
The months leading up to our start date were full of excitement. We collected nursery room images for our Pinterest board and talked about baby names. Ever the Enneagram Type 3, I meticulously followed the advice I’d heard. On the recommendation of a friend, I downloaded an app to track my period and ovulation. I began taking a prenatal vitamin in October and went off birth control in December. By the time January rolled around, I felt ready.
Trying was fun at first, but it quickly became stressful. Then I became stressful—coordinating trips and events around that pivotal ovulation window, operating our house like a drill sergeant to ensure we were “on schedule” at all times. While my husband, known as my polar opposite, was laid-back, I struggled to stay level-headed.
In June, I started to suspect something was seriously wrong. For people under 35, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests waiting out a year of trying to conceive before exploring fertility options. Given my personal and family history of fibroids, I decided to get checked out sooner than that even though I was only 31 at the time. A transvaginal ultrasound revealed that I had three fibroids in my uterus even though I’d had a myomectomy to remove nearly 20 fibroids two years before. The good news, however, was that none of them was in a position to make conceiving difficult.
If we didn’t get pregnant during my next cycle, my doctor recommended my husband and I have our fertility tested. His results came back fine. Mine, however, were more complicated. I ended up having a hysterosalpingography, or HSG test, which is an X-ray procedure used to get a better look at the uterus and fallopian tubes, ACOG explains. A tube was inserted into my uterus, and a contrast dye was administered to gauge its shape and size. After the dye was released, the provider asked me to rock side-to-side. The goal? To get the dye to spill from my uterus into my fallopian tubes and prove that the tubes were clear for a sperm and egg to meet. I did as was told, though I winced in pain and held back tears.
The provider informed me there hadn’t been any spillage, and I asked if that was good or bad.
“It’s not good,” he replied. “Your doctor will take a closer look and call you with your results tomorrow.”
As promised, the doctor phoned the next day to break the news: My fallopian tubes were blocked or damaged, preventing the sperm and egg from meeting. (I later learned that this was most likely due to scar tissue from the fibroid surgery.) But, sitting at the kitchen counter with my phone pressed against my ear, all I heard was that my body was faulty. I was officially part of the 11% of women in the United States who have experienced infertility.
Because both of my fallopian tubes were blocked, the doctor strongly encouraged in vitro fertilization, or IVF, wherein an egg and sperm are combined outside of the body and later implanted into the uterus. This is one of the most common forms of assisted reproductive technology, but it requires a series of tests, procedures, and medications. Suffice to say, this is not how my husband and I expected to become parents. We hadn’t emotionally planned for this, nor had we budgeted the roughly $ 20,000 we would need for IVF treatment.