Well, this week has been . . . hard. Draining. Exhausting. Completely and unexpectedly difficult.
My HSG on Tuesday did not go as well as hoped. I think I had a sense of this beforehand, because I was really quite nervous for a few days beforehand. By the time I actually was on the table at the hospital, I was on the verge of tears and was struggling to take deep breaths and remain calm and focused. The nurse could tell I was struggling and offered what encouragement she could, telling me that most women have no problems and that the procedure can even remove blockages and increase fertility as a result. I knew she was right, but I couldn’t shake my feeling of fearful anticipation.
Once my OB-GYN arrived, everything happened pretty quickly. It took a few tries for him to insert the catheter – which was, by far, the most painful part of the procedure – definitely not something I want to repeat. Once it was in, though, I was mostly ok. Then the radiologist came in and turned on the x-ray machine, and my doctor started inserting the dye into my uterus. I was able to catch an awkward view of the screen underneath the radiologist’s arm, so I kept my eyes glued to the image of my uterine cavity appearing in fluorescent white, fully expecting the dye to spread outwards through two narrow tubes before spilling into my abdominal cavity.
What I saw, though, was . . . nothing. The dye stopped. It didn’t spread. The doctors adjusted the machine, repositioned the catheter, injected more dye. Nothing. I had cornual blockages in both fallopian tubes. I was broken.
At this point, the tears began to flow. Slowly at first, then more quickly as the doctor began to explain what this might mean for me. I don’t think I will ever forget how I felt, lying there on the table in my hospital gown, tears streaming down my face, as my OB-GYN told me how shocked he was, then quickly began trying to reassure me that “this doesn’t mean you will never have children. There are things they can do.” Those are words that I never thought I would hear, and they are still ringing in my head, four days later. They were meant to be comforting, and I know they are true, but I never thought I would be in a position to need that type of reassurance.
So, here is what I know: It is possible that my tubes spasmed in response to the test, and they are actually open. We can’t know for sure without doing more diagnostics, but we do know that this is a possibility (it happens in about 15% of HSGs). It is more likely that they are truly blocked. In this case, our options depend on what type of blockages I have. In cases with minimal adhesions, it is possible to open up the tubes, generally through laparoscopy or tubal cannulation. From what I’ve read, tubes generally become re-blocked at some point after these procedures, but it does open up a window. The downside is that women who have had surgery to open their tubes only have about a 20 – 40 percent chance of naturally conceiving. The risk of ectopics also increases, to about 30 percent. After a second surgery to unblock the tubes, the odds of conceiving go down to about 5 percent. If the damage is more extensive or if opening the tubes is not successful, our only option for having biological children will be IVF.
I know that we still have options. I know that IVF is usually quite successful for people in my age group, although I also know that it is incredibly taxing physically, emotionally, and financially. I know that my tubes may actually be clear, or that they may be able to be healed. However, none of this knowledge changes the difficult emotions I have been grappling with this week. I have felt like I have been moving through each day in a haze. I have been constantly on the verge of tears, unable to focus or think clearly, as I have stumbled through my regular responsibilities and activities. I have stayed up too late and woken too early, struggling to calm my mind enough to sleep. I have been lost and heartbroken, grieving my fertility and what might have been.
These emotions have been difficult to process, but I think it is important for me to allow myself to experience them. Over the last couple of years, our struggle has taught me that it is ok to simply feel what I feel. There is no right or wrong when it comes to how we are affected by loss and grief. It doesn’t do me any good to feel guilty about my sadness, reasoning that there are people who have it much worse than I. Likewise, it doesn’t do me any good to judge others for struggling when their losses seem less serious than my own. We are each on our own journeys, and we all struggle in our own ways with our private griefs.
Today, I am feeling a bit more optimistic about the future. As we sat in the temple last night, I felt an overwhelming reassurance that we will have a child. I don’t know when or how – whether this child will come to us naturally or through IVF or through adoption – but I believe we will be parents someday. It doesn’t necessarily make the daily ups and downs of this process any easier, but it does give me some measure of comfort, something to hold on to and to help me through the darker moments.
We will be meeting with a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) on Monday, which in and of itself is a small miracle and a sign to me that God has had a hand in all of this. There is normally a two or three month wait to get into this clinic, but they had had a cancellation right before I called and were able to get me in right away. I am intimidated at the thought of diving deeper into this world of infertility, but I know it is time. We are praying that the consultation will go well and that we will be started down the right pathways that will lead us to having our own little one in our arms someday.