It’s hard to believe that another year has almost come and gone. Last year at this time, I was just getting over my second miscarriage and I was filled with so much hope that 2014 would definitely be OUR year. If we didn’t get pregnant on our own we would move to the next step, IVF. We thought that would most certainly do the trick considering our doctors felt we didn’t even need to do IVF. Welllll 3 painful and expensive IVF rounds later…still nothing. We’ve pretty much exhausted our options on my end. I still take my daily concoction of supplements in hopes that one day my eggs will actually cooperate with me, but other than that…I’m donezo “trying” to get pregnant.
While it has taken time to grieve the idea that I may never grow a child inside of me, I am beyond excited to be an adoptive mama! I feel like this is my calling. So now we just have to find our baby. We would like to find the birthmother on our own, but if that doesn’t happen we’ll sign up with an adoption agency in the new year. (I make sure to emphasize this because for some reason I get a lot of backlash from people who think adoption is our second choice.) Not the case AT ALL. We are open to ANY and EVERY option in becoming parent.
In the meantime, we are making one last effort on the conception end…this time on Gabe’s end. A few years back when we first began trying for kids, (before we knew there was an issue) I had Gabe get a semen analysis test. You know me, crazy and obsessive in most areas of my life, and I just wanted to make sure we were all good in that department. And we were. Gabe’s swimmers tested highly in all areas. Great job guys! With that checked off the list of potential issues, our doctors maintained that I was the problem. It’s my eggs that are misbehaving. My body needs to get “fixed.”
Fast forward to the day we discovered our 3rd round of IVF was a failure. (Ugh, such a horrible day.) Our RE casually threw out something about getting tested for sperm fragmentation. It was actually mentioned as more of an afterthought. Whaaaat? We’d never heard of this fragmentation before? What it is and why hasn’t anyone brought it up before?
Realizing we needed to dig deeper, our wonderful producers at The Doctors got us an appointment at The Turek Clinic. Dr. Paul Turek is one of the top urologists in the world specializing in male infertility. We wanted to find out if perhaps Gabe’s sperm was a factor in our infertility despite the fact that he had normal semen analysis results. After a very thorough consultation, Dr. Turek said he was actually impressed that we’re not pregnant. Meaning that ours is a very rare case of infertility. This is an excerpt about us from his website:
“Normal Fertility? When applied to fertility, the word normal is even more vague. Alexis and Gabriel are a couple that came to see me recently for fertility issues. Alexis is young, vibrant and in her early thirties. Gabriel is healthy as an ox and has had “normal” semen analyses for at least 3 straight years, well before they even started trying to conceive. As normal as any couple can be. Despite this, they are not parents yet. In fact, Alexis miscarried twice while trying to conceive at home and since then the couple failed three successive attempts at in vitro fertilization (IVF).” -Dr. Paul Turek, The Turek Clinic
So what did we learn from our consultation? Dr. Turek had 3 findings:
#1) Ok, back to the fragmentation. Basically fragmentation is damage to the DNA in sperm. If there is fragmentation, that could be the cause of why we’ve had 2 unexplained miscarriages and difficulty getting pregnant even with IVF. Less than 15% damage usually means you’re ok, 16 to 29% can mean a less rosy outlook, though still pretty good. If more than 30% of the sperm show fragmentation, we’re in trouble. Gabe’s fragmentation level is at 21%. Dr. Turek said Gabe falls in a grey zone. It’s not awful, but it’s not awesome.
#2) Dr. Turek also diagnosed Gabe with a minor case of Varicocele. Varicocele is an elongated vein (down there) that forms in 15% of adolescent boys that are skinny and active…totally my little Gabe. (Dr. Turek does a much better job of explaining Varicocele…obviously.) Connecting the dots, sperm DNA fragmentation rates can be higher in men with varicoceles and fixing the varicocele can lower these rates. “Fixing” the varicocele involves surgery. Yikes, poor guy. I told Gabe that the decision to get the surgery was totally up to him. I could understand if he didn’t want to, I mean who would? But thankfully Gabe decided that surgery is a really viable option to help us create our family. So Gabe’s going under the knife this Friday. Prayers would be much appreciated.
#3) Finally, Gabe could make a few changes in his lifestyle that could help our fertility chances. It’s kind of ironic because Gabe is one of the healthiest men I know and it’s still not enough. Essentially he’s supposed to do all the things I’ve been doing for the past 6 months to improve my egg quality. Limited caffeine and alcohol, more antioxidants, Paleo diet, supplements and no hot tubbing (do people still do that?) Oh also, did you know that men should take a prenatal pill as well? Yep! It’s all right here in Dr. Turek’s Essential Beginnings, XY.
Soooo, we forge ahead. Dr. Turek will perform the Varicocele surgery on Gabe this Friday. Is it the answer to our problems? We don’t know. It may totally fix the sperm fragmentation and we could be pregnant in no time. It also might not have any effect at all. We just don’t know and we won’t know if it made a difference for 3 to 4 months after the surgery. We’re hoping that Gabe’s surgery, combined with the lifestyle changes, combined with my efforts to improve egg quality might just be enough to get us a viable pregnancy.
We are so thankful to be working with Dr. Turek. Not only is he the best in his field, but he is also a huge advocate for male infertility awareness. When a couple has trouble conceiving, the woman usually undergoes a laundry list of tests to pinpoint the problem. The men typically only get a standard semen analysis test, though, which doesn’t really tell the whole story. Why is that? It doesn’t make sense. I wish that we had known all this 2 years ago. Maybe it would have saved us time and money and heartbreak? We had no idea that male infertility could be a concern for us (based on what all of our doctors had told us) and I’m assuming there are lots of couples out there in our same position. If that is you, I hope this helps.
Our time will come soon. Really the only thing I am certain of in this whole mess is that my desire to become a mother is stronger than anything infertility can throw my way. My faith is not broken. I won’t give up. I will always chase rainbows.