My Struggle, My Victory

My_Struggle__Victory So…my name is Nicole. It’s my real name…not my first name…or even my middle name (lol!)…but it is one of my given names, so yes, this is the real me.

I married at the age of 31. Though not quite a grandmother, I wasn’t a spring chicken either. So, you can imagine that I had BABY on the brain from the get-go. In my mind, since I’d already had a wait for marriage, there was absolutely no way I would have another wait for a baby. Hmmmmm… how wrong I was!

Before I go any further, I have to backtrack to earlier that year, some months before my wedding. I was diagnosed with multiple fibroids, and had surgery (a myomectomy) to remove them. The procedure was performed by my longtime Ob/Gyn, and it was a smooth, hitch free procedure.

Anyways, at the end of my first month as a married woman, I was convinced I was pregnant. Name the pregnancy symptom; I had it. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world…you get married…you get pregnant…easy. You can only imagine the shock I felt when I got a negative test result. Ah well…it was only the first month. On to the next. The next month, the symptoms were even more pronounced than the last month. I was fatigued in a way I had never been before. But shock, horror! Another negative. Alarm bells started to ring in my head.

By the fourth month, I was already mega paranoid. Everybody thought I was being silly after such a short period, but something in me knew there was a problem. My body just wasn’t acting right. I started putting on an inexplicable amount of weight. My hair started to thin. I just couldn’t explain what was going on with my body.

So, at the end of the fourth month, just because it was free using my medical insurance, I registered at a popular hospital in Onikan. My first day there…a nightmare! I got there at about 9am, but didn’t see a doctor till well after noon. I met a most unfriendly, elderly female doctor who asked me about 2 or 3 questions, before promptly dispatching me away, with a flimsy recommendation for me to see another Consultant later that week. I went back as scheduled, and was booked for a hysteroscopy. This indicated that my uterus was clear, but there was some blockage with my left fallopian tube. I was then prescribed a shot of hCG, which was meant to bring forth ovulation. Typically, ovulation is expected between 38 and 40 hours after a single shot. I was so confident when I got this shot. I was DEFINITE that this would be IT!!! But nope…Grandma Red had other plans and showed up in her full glory exactly as scheduled. I was shattered and heartbroken. My husband recommended taking a break from trying to conceive. I gladly did.

Dazed and confused, I stared at his scribbling. My husband was to come for sperm analysis, and I was to have a 3-day dose of progesterone injections, coinciding with my ovulation.

So, we went on holiday, and I was able to neutralise my mind…to an extent. By September, month 10 after marriage, I returned to the Onikan hospital. This time, I insisted on seeing the Professor himself. That proved almost as hard as getting an appointment in Aso Rock. I eventually got a Saturday morning appointment, and after a bit of a wait, was finally able to see the man. What a disappointment!!! I was in there for 5 minutes, maximum!!! I felt like I had been on a conveyor belt. He asked a few questions, scribbled a bit, and practically shooed me out of his office. Dazed and confused, I stared at his scribbling. My husband was to come for sperm analysis, and I was to have a 3-day dose of progesterone injections, coinciding with my ovulation. My husband, who still did not understand my panic after less than a year of marriage, scoffed at any such invasion of his manhood, and promptly refused to be tested. I, on the other hand, put myself through 3 incredibly painful progesterone shots. The recommendation for progesterone was a welcome one for me as I suspected I had some form of hormonal imbalance. I refused to even think of PCOS…after all, it was only for fat people, right? My weight gain wasn’t that bad, was it?! And my periods were still timely, which meant I must be ovulating, right?? I educated myself about estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiency, and everything I read was like they were speaking to me directly. This was it!! I had a hormonal imbalance!! And the progesterone shots would definitely work wonders for me! Pregnancy, here I come…or so I thought!

I educated myself about estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiency…and everything I read was like they were speaking to me directly.

The 2-week wait before the pregnancy test dragged on forever. But it finally came. I went to the hospital late one evening, after work, and had my blood drawn. My negative result was delivered to me by a grouchy, irritable doctor, very annoyed over having been woken up to attend to a patient. As I walked away from the Onikan hospital, my heart broke into a million little pieces. I knew I would never return there again.

So, tail between my legs, I went back to my original Ob/Gyn, and told him of my Onikan misadventure. He immediately scheduled me for a laparoscopy and (yet another) hysteroscopy. Hmmmm! During the process, it was discovered I had a lot of scar tissue from my myomectomy, but he was able to clear these. However, the left tube was shown to be partially blocked. My husband reluctantly submitted himself for semen analysis, and his result came back perfect. As my right tube was fine, and I had decent ovarian function, my doctor placed me on clomid from the 2nd day of my next cycle, followed by about 10 days of Humog shots. This was to ensure I would ovulate from my good tube. My scans were perfect… I had a number of good eggs. My doctor even joked about me having triplets. I had the hCG trigger and was sent home to my husband. About 2 days after I was supposed to have ovulated, I started having these intense lower back and abdominal pains…so much so that I had to be rushed back to the hospital early one morning. Apparently, I had overstimulated and produced quite a bit of fluid in my abdominal cavity. But after a while, the pain left and I still had hope that it was going to be successful. Alas, it wasn’t and my period came 6 days early, 10 days after ovulation.

The overstimulation pretty much proved something I had been denying to myself. PCOS! Further scans showed that indeed, I did have polycystic ovaries. Even though I didn’t have the typical syndrome per say, and might not have been totally anovulatory (evidenced by my clockwork cycles), there it was. PCOS. Who woulda thunk it?! My doctor told me not to worry, and to take a break the next cycle. He assured me that some women do get pregnant the month after clomid. So I did just that. I felt so many twinges and knew I was ovulating from my good side. I had such high hopes… but no… my period showed up, right on time.

Oh gosh. How my body mastered the art of deception. During every 2ww, there was no symptom in the book I did not have. Name it, I had it… nausea, check! Sore books, check! Lower back pain, check! Creamy cervical mucus, check! Stabbing pain in boobs, check! Unusual skin break out, check! Metallic taste in mouth, check! Sensitive gum/teeth, check! I have had e.v.e.r.y symptom in the book… and just when I was able to get over the fear of believing, and just start to think I just might be pregnant… my heart would get broken all over again.

I felt so many twinges and knew I was ovulating from my good side. I had such high hopes…but no…. my period showed up, right on time.

I was so lucky to be blessed with a husband who loves me so unconditionally and who was so supportive, even through all that! But even with the best of husbands, can anyone trying to conceive a baby really explain the persistent fights that happen, especially during ovulation???!! Oh boy!!! My hubby and I could be like Siamese twins all month, but come ovulation time, we would become like cat and mouse. Fights over everything, and nothing. Some months, I would watch my ovulation go by like a freight train. And the many couples I have spoken all affirm this to be the case with them as well. My deduction is that this is caused by the strain of planned sex…nothing more than that. Losing the spontaneity of sex can cause a strain on even the best of marriages.

Anyways, in my 20th month of trying, my doctor advised we rest the clomid for a few cycles as my ovaries seemed a bit swollen. Even though I knew it was the best advice, I was so irritated with him for not being aggressive enough. I also made up my mind, then and there, that I was going to go assisted.

So, off I went to another popular fertility clinic. I had a wonderful chat with their medical director, who was very nice and patient, and took the time to answer all my questions. My initial plan was to discuss IUI, but after I had explained my situation to him, he explained that IUI would only improve my chances marginally, and it might be best to go straight for IVF.

Whilst preparing to commence treatment at the clinic, I came across an advert for yet another fertility clinic. I called the listed phone number, and spoke to the Administrator.

I started treatment there…got my drugs, was shown how to inject them (considering my needle phobia at the time, it was only God who gave me the grace and ability to overcome this), and was sent on my merry way. I had a Nurse assigned to me, who would check on me half-heartedly, but that was about it. I had a few scans, my ovaries responded well to the stimulation, and they were able retrieve 12 eggs from me, with 9 fertilizing. By this time, I had read every single thing there was to read about IVF, and I insisted on having only blastocysts (day-5 embryos) transferred. So 5 days after egg retrieval, I had 3 embryos transferred. However, my dear embryos, which had been doing excellently up until day 3, were suddenly not developing the way they should have. On day 5, instead of having 3 blastocysts, I had only 1 blastocyst and 2 morulas (what the embryos are supposed to be on day 4). And dare I forget to mention the conveyor belt scenario again, for both egg retrieval and transfer. On both days, there we were, dozens of women, sitting haplessly in our flimsy, white hospital gowns, being rolled in and out of the theater. Very wham, bam, thank you ma’am kind of scenario. Anyways, I went home after egg transfer, and spent every day after that obsessing… and obsessing…and obsessing some more. I knew every symptom to expect (and promptly experienced it), I knew everything that was supposed to be happening to my embryos at any given time (and vividly imagined it), I named each one of my darling triplets…in fact, I had even instructed a friend travelling to the States to buy my maternity wardrobe. And then the day before I was scheduled to test, I started spotting. In a panic, I called my husband and instructed him to bring back DIGITAL pregnancy tests home. He did. I tested. And there it was in black and white…€œNot Pregnant€. I died inside. I was shattered.

The next day, I went back to the clinic for my blood test, and got the confirmation. The IVF procedure had failed. The very next day, my period came with a vengeance. I was broken. I was lost. I was a wreck. Oh my gosh, I thank God every day for my dear husband who stood by me…who comforted me…who wiped away my tears. As I type this, I can feel the pain as strongly as if it was yesterday. Heartbreak like that, I had never experienced…ever! And then to add insult to injury, on the day of my follow-up meeting, to discuss what went wrong with that cycle, my so-called Nurse, left me in the waiting room as she noisily screamed and jubilated with another of her patients whose scan had just shown she was carrying quadruplets. I left the hospital feeling like the scum of the earth. A few days later, when the pain had ebbed a bit, I sent a stinker e-mail to their Administrator, complaining about the appalling way I had been treated, especially by my Nurse. Their Administrator immediately invited me to her office, and in between being patronizing, she also tried to imply that the procedure failed due to some problem on my part. She asked if I’d had a hysteroscopy. I told her I’d had it twice before. Her response was that none of these procedures was performed by them, so her recommendation was that I get scheduled to undertake another hysteroscopy with them. I left her office in a daze…feeling like such a failure.

For the next few weeks, I drifted around like a ghost. I searched the internet looking for counsellors, but found none. I even confided in a colleague, whom I wasn’€™t even very close to, just because I knew her sister had also had both failed and successful IVF cycles, and hoped she would be able to counsel me. No such luck. I held on to God with my entire being, because He was the only one I had. My two best friends were lovely and tried their best to comfort me…but they didn’€™t understand. They hadn’€™t walked that road. Even my Mother… who was grieving perhaps even more than I, could only help me so much. Because none of them had experienced it, they just could not give me the consolation I needed.

I’m sure my Ob/Gyn had a good laugh when I found my way back to his clinic, in Lekki Phase 1. He listened patiently to my story, explained to me the reasons he thought it best for me to take a break the last time we saw, and proceeded to plan for another cycle of IVF. So 3 months after my failed procedure at the Ikoyi hospital, I commenced medication for Cycle number 2. The difference was clear!! Even though I administered the daily down regulation shots myself, the nurses at Lekki hospital administered the daily stimulating shots. My scans were more frequent, and my Ob/Gyn (bless his heart) patiently answered all my questions and gave me so much paternal support. All this while, my mind was 50-50. After the first disappointment, I was only too aware that there was a chance it could, or couldn’t ,work. After stimulating for about 11 days, I had my trigger shot. My egg retrieval process was a dream. No conveyor belt system. No battalion of other women waiting their turn. It was just me in the theatre, in the able hands of my doctor and his team. They retrieved 30 (thirty!!!) eggs, of which 16 fertilised. My doctor was quick to make me realise that transferring them as quickly as possible was best, so 2 days after egg retrieval, I had 4 embryos transferred. I chose not to go home that night, and instead spent 3 nights in hospital… only getting out of bed for toilet breaks. When I got home, I took things easy…watched lots of comedies…laughed a lot… and just generally chilled out. 11 days after egg transfer, I bought some home pregnancy tests. The next day, I tested…and got the first positive of my married life.

testOh my gosh!!! Oh my golly gosh!!! Words really cannot explain how that moment felt. It was 4.30am, but I woke my husband up, to tell him the good news. We were over the moon! Finally, it was over.

Two days later, I started spotting, and in a panic rushed to get a blood test, which showed that I was still as pregnant as ever, with a healthy HCG reading of 111. Two days after that, I had my ‘official’ test at the hospital, and got my ‘official’ positive result. Two weeks after that, at my 6 week scan, my doctor saw 2 beautiful sacs. The next week, at my 7-week scan, they heard 2 beautiful heart beats. 30 weeks after that, at exactly 37 weeks, I was delivered of the most beautiful twin girls in the world!!!

So that’€™s my story… that’s my happy beginning. I still have 9 beautiful frozen embryos, and could possibly have some of them transferred in the near future…still undecided about that. Here’€™s hoping anyone who has read this, and is walking that same road, will soon have a happy story to share.

Infertility is bad enough…but in Nigeria, it is HELL FIRE. We cannot afford to just look the other way. If our stories can help or support anyone, please let’s reach out and lend a helping hand. I have walked that road, so I understand. If you want to get in touch with me, you can do so by making a post in the Community section of this site, or by sending me a private message, via my profile here. I’€™m here for you!

God bless you on your journey!!! HE really has been good to me!