I previously wrote about our first journey of TTC. Although we never conceived, we do have a son through the gift of adoption and he’s amazing!
He’s actually so amazing that we started to think about how to build our family again pretty soon after we brought him home. Of course we weren’t ready to bring home another child, but we knew we wanted more children. We always talked about having at least 3 kids and with infertility a part of the picture, you definitely have to plan a lot in advance.
We figured that when Little Piñata was around a year old we would start being active about conceiving or adopting child #2. When we started the adoption process in the fall of 2011, we did it with the plan to adopt now and pursue fertility treatments later. So, this spring we decided to take a second chance with our RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist). We thought we would request 3-4 IUIs and if that didn’t work out, we would start the adoption process again in the fall. We haven’t ruled out IVF with ICSI out entirely, but it’s out of the question financially for us right now (about $15,000 per cycle at our local clinic). Adoption is also VERY expensive, but there is a federal adoption tax credit that helps immensely. And with our agency you don’t pay any big fees until the child is placed in your home, which means you don’t owe thousands of dollars until you have a child, while IVF is a much bigger risk for us.
We were going to head back to the local fertility clinic (which I think should just be called the IVF clinic), but when researching on the internet I randomly found another RE in our area! It’s combined with an OB Clinic and is more geared toward lower income families as they don’t have a lab for IVF. We decided to start there when we found out that the IUIs are about half the cost as at the IVF clinic, and that consultations with their RE were less than $100!
The RE there is one of the kindest and sweetest doctors we have ever met. He is close to 70 years old (maybe even in his 70s), so he was really interested in getting to “the root” of the problem. He said he would pass us along to the IVF clinic if that ends up being what we need, but when he was trained IVF didn’t exist, so he’s really trained in bloodwork and hormones and trying to fix the issue that way. We were pretty pleased with this since IVF isn’t an option for us anyway, and figured we might as well try! After some blood tests, Mr. Piñata’s bloodwork showed extremely low testosterone and pretty high DHEA-S.
Now, we already knew that Mr. P’s testosterone was on the low side because of a visit to the urologist back before we brought home Little Piñata. But that doctor told us there was nothing to do about testosterone and to not worry about it. He also used ultrasound to detect two microscopic varicoceles, and recommended not doing a varicocele repair surgery because it’s painful, often not covered by insurance, and usually related to count, motility and morphology all together, and not Mr. P’s situation of just having low morphology. So he doubted the surgery would even help with his morphology. With the prognosis not great for the surgery and with nothing to do to help the low testosterone, we moved on.
However, this new RE was very interested in these numbers and confident he could boost Mr. Piñata’s testosterone and morphology numbers. He drew us some interesting pictures to help explain the process of sperm production, but in the end I think we understood it that:
- DHEA-S is an androgynous hormone.
- The high level of this hormone is telling Mr. Piñata’s endocrine system that it doesn’t need to keep making testosterone because it already has enough androgynous hormones in its system.
- The use of a very low dose steroid will imitate the presence of cortisol, inhibiting such a high production of DHEA-S.
- With less DHEA-S in Mr. P’s system, his endocrine system should start making more testosterone.
- Higher testosterone should help the sperm to form better, and improve the morphology number.
Whew! This new RE is confident that we should see great improvements with Mr. P’s testosterone levels and morphology numbers. We, on the other hand, are not so confident. After all the natural practitioners we saw back in 2011 that were confident they could help us, we’ve gotten used to getting our hopes up only to continue to not conceive. But, we figure that at $10/month for his tiny dose of steroid, we might as well give it a try. Our original visit with this RE was in April. It took a few months for Mr. Piñata to feel a difference in his testosterone level, but him noticing a difference is great news! Now we just wait the 70-90 days for the sperm to be produced and he will get another sperm analysis. Then we will decide if the numbers indicate a good chance of pregnancy with IUIs, or if we will update our home study and pursue adoption again. We know we will adopt again at some point in the future. But, we just aren’t 100% sure of what the timing will be yet.
It’s interesting that I’ve called this post our current journey of “TTC.” Because even though we “do the appropriate thing” at the appropriate times of the the month, it doesn’t mean we really feel like we’re trying to conceive. To me that implies that we’re really anticipating a positive pregnancy test and that’s just not the case. We would LOVE a miracle! But, we’re not holding our breaths at the end of the month either. I think that will be a really, really difficult part about pursuing treatment. If we do decide to do IUIs, it will be extremely difficult to not get our hopes up every month. And who knows, maybe we really could conceive. But, it just seems so out of the realm of possibility. I feel like it’s more likely that I would stumble upon a unicorn with a Leprechaun at the end of a rainbow rather than get pregnant.
You may also wonder why I’ve shared such personal details about our story on the internet for all to read. And I have to give a gigantic thanks to Mr. Piñata on that one. Even though we are dealing with male fertility issues, he has been 100% supportive of telling our story in public whenever the situation is right. He wants people to know our journey and our struggle, and so do I! He is no less of a man because his sperm parameters fall outside of “normal.” Just like the woman with PCOS or missing fallopian tubes is 100% woman! It’s hard in a world culture that attaches so much significance to your reproductive abilities. Ever heard some one say, “OOooo… Twins! Good for your husband!”? Those comments just perpetuate the myth that our ability to procreate has something to do with our worth. And it sure doesn’t! So, if our story helps just one couple feel less alone or encourages one person that they are strong, awesome and worthwhile no matter what their fertility struggle, then it’s completely worth it to be vulnerable.
We don’t know what the future holds for us and our family, but we are confident that however God chooses to build our family, it will be wonderful.
If dealing with IF have you ever tried a new RE that gave you new hope? Have you felt like your RE is trying to get to the root of the problem? What are your success stories with fertility treatments? I’d love to hear your stories too!