Although our “TTC” journey has yet to lead us to conception, I thought I would share bits and pieces of where we started and how we got to where we are now. We are so grateful to be parents through the miracle of adoption, but took a lot of steps along the way to try for biological children as well. This post ended up being longer than I intended, so I’ll split it up into a couple of posts. Plus, there’s the plan for how to build our family in the future, which involve both adoption and at least TRYING to conceive.
I always wanted to be a young mom, and from the time we got married we had becoming parents on our mind. However, we weren’t exactly financially stable then, but I had a job I really loved, so we pushed getting pregnant to the proverbial back burner. So, even though we got married in December 2007, we didn’t really start trying to conceive until December 2010.
By April 2011 we had yet to see a positive pregnancy test and I knew something wasn’t right. I had never been on the birth control pill and we used Natural Family Planning as our previous form of birth control so we knew exactly when I was ovulating. We also figured it should happen pretty soon since we had age on our side (26 & 28). So, per the advice in “Taking Charge of Your Fertility,” we decided to start looking into things sooner than most people might.
We decided that a sperm analysis was the best first test to take. It’s nice you can pretty much take care of 50% of the equation with one simple (yet awkward) test. If there is one piece of advice I’d give, it would be to not hesitate to get a sperm analysis if you’re concerned. They’re just about $100 and give you A LOT of information.
In our case, we found the issue right away. We had male factor infertility and I was devastated. Mr. Piñata’s numbers weren’t abysmal, but they were pretty far outside the normal parameters. We found out on a Friday and had a consultation with the RE on Tuesday. All I really heard when my OB gave us the results over the phone was that the lab summary was “little to no chance of natural conception.” It was a total sock in the gut to both of us.
When we met with the RE, he suggested that Mr. P go to a urologist to check for a varicocele (essentially varicose veins on the testes). He also wanted to do basic tests on me to be sure we weren’t dealing with both male and female infertility. He said we were young and that he was really confident about him being able to help us get pregnant within 6 months, so we left feeling much more positive!
However, everything was so cost prohibitive. The HSG to see if my tubes were clear was almost $800. A visit to the urologist would be hundreds more. An ultrasound to see how my ovaries and uterus looked was about $250. Even the consultation we had just had was at least $200. It was discouraging to say the least. We had absolutely horrid insurance (high $4,500 per person deductible with no co-pays) and were overwhelmed with the costs. Our diagnostic work went toward our deductible, but his intended treatment of IUIs would run us at least $1,000 a month, completely out of pocket. He also told us that our success rate per cycle was about 10%.
We did more research online and discovered a lot of natural fertility remedies. I had already started acupuncture for anxiety, and heard so many miraculous stories of acupuncture helping for fertility so we started there. A friend of ours also gave us a recommendation for a family friend that was a nutritionist who did herbal remedies and electro-dermal screening. The nutritionist said she had a 90% success rate of infertile couples getting pregnant! We thought that was a whole lot better than 10% per cycle, so we decided to try the natural route.
At the same time we started talking about adoption. We had always said we wanted to adopt 2 children after having 2 biological children, so we began researching. I love being busy, so researching the difference between international and domestic, different agencies and costs was therapeutic to me. We knew we were very early in our journey to begin discussing adoption, but we figured if we always planned to adopt eventually, maybe God’s plan was for us to adopt first and conceive later. So, we spent the summer of 2011 getting very, very healthy, going to acupuncture and taking herbs and homeopathic remedies (she found a plastic toxicity in Mr. P’s system), and also looking into adoption. It was the summer of “Mission: Parenthood or bust”! :-)
After 3 months of natural remedies and lot of supplements, Mr. Piñata returned to get another sperm analysis. It takes sperm 70-90 days to develop and mature, so we needed to wait long enough to see if what we were doing had actually helped. And it did!! His total count more than quadrupled! His sperm count was always in the normal range, but now it was SUPER high! His motility doubled as well! So, he had lots and lots of fast swimmers! However, his morphology was just 1% (using the Kruger Method and not the WHO standard, which is not as strict). This means that when looking at 200 of the sperm under a microscope, the lab only considered 1% of his sperm to meet the parameters of being “perfect” or “normal.” Most labs state that that number should be at least 4%, and the average/preferred number for men is more like 10%-15%. (Isn’t it crazy to think that it’s totally normal and ok for 90% of sperm to be shaped incorrectly?) We were so overjoyed about the other numbers and were told that morphology was the least important, so we decided to proceed with 3 IUIs before pursuing adoption. IVF was not an option for us financially, so we finally had our official “plan” in place. I was very ready to get pregnant and was super hopeful since we had seen such an improvement in two really important areas.
We went into that first IUI with so much hope and anticipation. We thought that with high count and motility and the help of the IUI bypassing the cervix, we had such good chances! When my period started just 11 days after the IUI, I was so devastated. In hindsight it was foolish to put so much hope into that first IUI, but we were naively hopeful nevertheless. This devastation combined with how difficult it is to find clear information about morphology numbers (seriously, every clinic, every urologist, etc. has a different answer about morphology), and how overwhelmed we were feeling about the cost led us to quit treatment at the fertility clinic and to instead pursue adoption. Many would consider this foolish, but it just felt “right” to us. Part of the confusing part was when we found that many other fertility clinics would recommend going straight to IVF with ICSI with morphology numbers like my Mr. Piñata’s, so we didn’t want to continue to spend money on treatment that wouldn’t likely work, and then not have that money to help pay for an adoption.
It’s absolutely crazy to think that we were disappointed by our failed IUI at the end of August, and by October were beginning the home study process! But, after putting treatment behind we were feeling ready to open ourselves up to God building our family however He chose. Even though we were working on our home study, we continued our natural remedies until February. It wasn’t until then that we finally decided that what we were doing just wasn’t working and we needed to 100% put our focus on adoption. Even though our home study and profile were finalized in December (yeah, we went crazy fast), there was part of us holding on to hope of natural conception. Since we were never told it was impossible and all our natural practitioners told us we had really good chances of improving numbers enough to conceive, we never really lost hope.
But thank goodness we never did conceive because Little Piñata was born in May 2012 — much sooner than we ever expected to bring home a child! Even though he is not our biological child, there is no doubt in out minds that he belongs in our family and that is is OUR son. :) You can read about the miraculous story of how we brought him home in a previous post.
What about you all? If you have been diagnosed with infertility did you try any natural routes? Did they work? Is anyone else a fan of acupuncture? If it weren’t so expensive we could continue to go for all the physical and emotional benefits!