Kaitlin and her husband, Kyle, married young and decided to try to start a family a few years after walking the aisle. As their attempts to conceive proved unsuccessful over an extended period of time, Kaitlin’s primary care physician recommended that they visit a fertility doctor. This led them to Women & Infants’ Fertility Center.
After a thorough workup addressing both Kaitlin’s and Kyle’s reproductive health, Kaitlin was diagnosed with unexplained infertility. This diagnosis accounts for about 30 percent of all infertility cases, and it’s used to describe a situation in which a specific cause of infertility cannot be identified.
“They were very thorough with their testing, but they couldn’t put their finger on the exact issue that was causing our inability to conceive,” Kaitlin recalls. “It was nice knowing that they tested my husband, too. I did not think I was going to have to deal with infertility. It was so frustrating. I was only 26!”
Infertility emotions drove her off Facebook
Although an unexplained infertility diagnosis means that an underlying cause cannot be readily identified, it is often a very treatable condition. In Kaitlin’s case her doctor recommended intrauterine insemination (IUI), a procedure in which sperm is introduced directly into the uterus via a minimally invasive procedure.
IUI is often a first line treatment in cases of unexplained infertility. By placing sperm retrieved from the male in closer proximity to the egg to be fertilized, IUI can increase the odds of pregnancy. Kaitlin’s ovulation was monitored via blood testing to ensure that insemination occurred at just the right time.
“I was extremely emotional,” Kaitlin explains. “Social media made things difficult – I had to get off Facebook. It seemed like every time I logged on another one of my friends had gotten pregnant. Plus, since we’d been married for a couple of years we were getting the ‘So when are you having kids?’ question. People don’t know how heartbreaking that question can be when you’re struggling with infertility.”
Kaitlin’s first pregnancy from IUI treatment
Kaitlin vividly recalls the feelings and events leading up to her first pregnancy.
“It was a very scary time thinking the treatment might not work,” Kaitlin says. “The nurses were angels as far as I’m concerned. When I was getting bloodwork done and going through testing, they were there for me emotionally.”
After ongoing blood monitoring and three unsuccessful rounds of IUI, Kaitlin began to fear the worst. She explains, “Every time it didn’t work, I would ask, ‘Is this ever going to happen?’”
Finally, after a great deal of patience and facing the doubt and unknowns that accompanied each procedure, Kaitlin got pregnant following her fourth round of IUI. In May 2011 Kaitlin and Kyle welcomed their first daughter, Emily, into the world.
Leaning on others through setbacks and trials
“Every time we decided we wanted to try again, we’d go back and see the doctor again,” Kaitlin recalls.
After beginning again with ovulation monitoring and IUI treatment, they quickly found out they were pregnant. Unfortunately, they suffered a miscarriage. Kaitlin explains that she would not have made it through the turmoil of this without support.
“You have to have an outlet somewhere,” she says. “Seeking out someone to be in the trenches with you – having someone you can talk to about everything whenever you need to is huge. If you try to keep it all in, especially with the hormones, the emotions, the baby photos on social media…you’ll end up exploding at some point. It can be very stressful, to say the least. But keeping it all in and being ashamed about it only hinders the process.”
More treatment and a memento of hope
As they prepared for another round of IUI, Kaitlin was taking a commonly-used fertility medication that helps women ovulate.
“I was taking Clomid as part of the IUI treatment plan,” Kaitlin explains. “But this time we were able to conceive naturally without the procedure.”
Kaitlin attributes this welcome surprise to the effects of the medication. In July 2013 Kaitlin and Kyle’s second daughter, Maggie, was born.
Shortly after Maggie turned one, Kaitlin returned to the Fertility Center in hopes of achieving a third successful pregnancy.
“I was on Clomid and Ovidrel for the first few months of trying,” she recalls. “It was the highest dose of medication I had to take out of all three pregnancy attempts. I did get pregnant, but miscarried.”
“The third attempt was the most difficult of all of them,” she explains. “It was very stressful because the medications and IUI treatments weren’t working like they had the first two times.”
Again, Kaitlin relied on her support network to carry her through. A friend of hers was pursuing treatment at the Fertility Center during this same period of time. As Kaitlin faced the heartbreak of another miscarriage, they both dealt with the uncertainty of whether or not they’d get pregnant. They relied heavily on each other for support and encouragement. Today they commemorate this time in their lives with a tangible reminder.
“My friend and I have matching bracelets with the longitude and latitude of the Fertility Center,” says Kaitlin. “They will always be in our hearts.”
After the miscarriage, Kaitlin switched to injectable hormones, also combined with Ovidrel, right before undergoing another IUI treatment. This adjustment ultimately led to a healthy, successful pregnancy. At long last, the family of four became a family of five when baby Hadley arrived in October 2015.
Fighting “mom guilt” and embracing the journey
Now that she’s a mom – three times over – Kaitlin has to consistently remind herself that it’s okay to experience the full spectrum of emotions that accompany parenthood, including frustration and exhaustion.
“I feel many women who go through fertility treatment think that they don’t have the right to the natural feelings of parenthood – feeling frustrated with your kids at times. The stigma that’s out there is that you shouldn’t complain about something that you worked so hard for. But the truth is, kids are kids no matter how they came about.”
Going forward, Kaitlin and Kyle are trying to make the most of every moment, recognizing that time passes quickly in the hustle and bustle of raising three kids.
“As I’m watching them grow, I’m realizing that those people who told me that my kids will be 18 before I know it are probably right,” she says. “Time is flying by. It seems like only yesterday I was seeking treatment for my first pregnancy.”
Update from Kaitlin and Kyle
Kaitlin and Kyle’s family has grown once again! The couple welcomed baby Maeve in February of 2018. After their previous infertility struggles, they were surprised when Maeve was conceived naturally. Because she has experienced the full spectrum of fertility and infertility, Kaitlin believes she will be able to provide any and all advice if her children one day decide to have children.
“As a mom of all girls, I am thankful that if, or when, they go to have their own families, I will have the experience of every realm,” said Kaitlin. “I will basically be able to relate to them, no matter what they go through.”