I wrote this post mainly for family members and those who have expressed a desire to follow our pregnancy and baby story as each new chapter unfolds. It's certainly been nothing short of an adventure thus far. We've experienced many unforeseen trials and tribulations but they have only affirmed that this baby growing inside me is one special little miracle. I also hope this can be a source of encouragement to those who are trying to conceive, or battling PCOS.
Fall 2014: A few days prior to our Thanksgiving celebrations, our family physician diagnosed me with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) - a hormonal disorder that affects 5-10% of women of child bearing age. Looking back to my teen years, I experienced an ovarian cyst rupture around age of 16. I woke up feeling excruciating pain one morning and couldn't stop vomiting, shaking, or feeling faint. I came down the stairs and my usual tan face was white and green. My dad was home with me and asked what was wrong. I simply cried out, "my ovaries" and then proceeded to faint right in front of him. That was my first ovarian cyst rupturing entirely on it's own. A super painful day that I almost forgot about until my doctor sat me down while reviewing my medical history. She explained that young women with a history of cysts are more prone to developing PCOS, but there are also genetic and other factors that come into play.
In order to confirm her diagnosis I underwent a series of blood tests, ultra-sounds, and thyroid examinations. Upon confirmation, she discussed what this would look like during my future child bearing years. Given my history, she said it would be highly unlikely that we would ever be able to conceive naturally. At this time she confirmed that my body was not releasing any eggs at all and hadn't been for over approximately 6 months or more. After all the tears she chatted with me about exploring In Vitro Fertilization with Matt while ensuring that we understood that children would definitely have to be a "planning process" for us. She also wanted me to set a personal goal before that time to experiment with various treatments to try and balance my hormones before we could move onto plan b. I was also dually diagnosed with anxiety and depression which she assured me was commonly linked within women with PCOS. I was hooked up with hormones and anti-depressants from that point onward. That equation created one of the roughest fall and winter seasons of my entire life. Poor Matt was a champion through it all while probably secretly wondering where the Amie he married went. That time definitely put our "for better or worse" to the test. I'm so thankful and blessed to have married a man that was able to pass that test with flying colours.
Spring 2015: I decided enough was enough with all the hormone treatments both natural and prescribed. Matt and I agreed that we both wanted a stress free summer so I went off the special birth control that was supposed to be balancing my hormones (against my doctors advice) and decided that if I was really and truly unable to conceive then it really shouldn't matter anyway. I also headed off to Guatemala and returned to Canada with parasites! I'm mentioning this simply because at the time I thought this was the most disgusting thing, but after conceiving I found a few articles online stating that sometimes contracting parasites can actually contribute to promoting contraception and implantation as the parasites force your body to change in order to combat them. By the end of the summer I was positive they were gone.
September 2015: The surprise of a lifetime! I'm pregnant! I actually had to text a photo of the positive pregnancy test (shown above) to one of my friends just to be sure. I was in absolute shock, especially since the idea to even take a pregnancy test came to me after chatting with that same friend earlier in the day after she told me she was pregnant and my mind kept thinking, "wow, i feel all of those things too, maybe I should take a test" and sure enough...positive! I naively assumed all was good in the world because I had actually conceived naturally. A few weeks later I experienced very painful cramping, comparable to the time my cyst ruptured as a teen. Matt rushed me to emerg and after emergency blood work and ultrasounds, the ER doctor took us into a private room to tell us that there was nothing inside the sac where the baby should be. She said this was likely a strong sign of an upcoming miscarriage that hadn't occurred yet but tried to re-assure me that It was still very early so the best decision would be to book a D&C procedure to essentially vacuum out my womb to clear it of the baby and anything else with the intent to start over again trying to conceive. Naturally this made me very stressed so we went home feeling very defeated. We spent the evening with both sets of parents chatting, praying, crying, and hoping that this news could somehow change.
We got the news on a Wednesday from the ER doctor so she told me to come in again on Friday prepared to have the D&C surgery. Since it was too soon to do another ultrasound, all they could rely on was my blood work cell count doubling which would tell them that if there was something inside alive and growing, and if it was good news then the blood work would show that it had doubled within a few short days. After waiting for what seemed like forever, the doctor called us into his office and explained that the blood had indeed doubled and after reviewing more of my history, the cramping and pain was likely caused by late implantation which didn't align with my period and ovulation timing due to the PCOS, but assured me that the baby just needed more time to show up on the ultrasound. A few weeks later I returned for an ultrasound and cried anxiously almost the entire time, in the end the ultrasound tech was delighted to finally show me our little lobster looking baby on the screen.
November 2015: Shortly after all of our good news and celebrations I ended up contracting a really bad case of bronchitis with early onset pneumonia further complicated by asthma. My current job has me coming into contact with individuals who are HIV positive, Hep C positive and so much more on a daily basis. I essentially work in a breeding ground for gems. Most of my coworkers during this season are constantly battling illness. Trust me, I wouldn't change it for the world, but my doctor and midwives have encouraged me to proceed with caution since I have a particularly weak immune system to begin with. The only downside is they will be running me through additional blood work throughout my pregnancy to ensure all is well and safe. After trying to slug through my illness I came to the point where I realized I needed to see a doctor again because the bronchitis lingered in my system for over a month. Once she said I had early onset pneumonia I knew I had to take it seriously so I was immediately treated with a round of antibiotics which didn't take, and then a second.
Somewhere in between the failed attempts I even fractured two ribs from my excessive coughing. Finally, as I write this after 3 weeks off work i'm finally starting to feel like myself again. I also forgot to mention earlier that I have 3 active cysts right now while pregnant. Initially this scared me but it's just a reality with PCOS. 2 are on my ovaries (one of the right, one of the left) and one is situated near the egg implantation site. My midwife told me that pregnancy hormones usually work overtime to weaken any active cysts so they should hopefully dissolve all on their own but further ultrasounds will let me know where they stand throughout the rest of the pregnancy. Whether this little one is a boy or a girl, it is certainly one tough cookie!! In fact, our most recent ultrasounds and sonograms show that it is one active baby! The ultrasound tech called it a little jumping bean because it didn't want to sit still for pictures because it was too busy doing flips. Baby also enjoys "swimming away" from the sonogram, but can be tracked down long enough to determine that it has a healthy heartbeat and is right on track for a late May delivery!
We are almost at the halfway point now, and will know gender in a few short weeks. We are hopeful that this pregnancy will continue in a healthy way with minimal surprises. Just the other day we felt the first "quickening" movements. I can't stress just how blessed we are. I am also thankful for the network of people we have around us cheering on this little miracle.
Any PCOS mommas out there, I would love your advice and tips moving into this next phase. Anyone else who wants more info please feel free to reach out to me. I know not all stories like this end positively, but there is always hope. I forgot to mention that our original plan if we had not conceived would not have been to proceed with IVF, but adoption. We still may do this one day. Keep in mind, that no matter how a baby gets to you, that process is a miracle.
There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.
- Albert Einstein