When first embarking on our journey to conception, my partner of 10 years and I spent many hours searching the Internet and reading books about the process. Although it was helpful to learn about the basics, none of that research prepared us for this difficult journey. We have found the best sources of support and information are our friends who have been through the process. Our friends all have different experiences with conception. The problem is that lesbians trying to conceive are different from straight people, but no one lesbian’s experience will be like another’s. This may be why the medical field does not have a more cohesive approach to lesbian conception. I would like to share my experiences and recommendations for those who are just beginning the research-stage of this journey.
DISCOVERING FERTILITY ISSUES
The first five months of trying to conceive consisted of an initial visit to my regular OBGYN to tell her of our intentions, developing a plan, and five unsuccessful un-medicated inseminations. During these five months, I used a digital monitor to tell me when I was ovulating and insemination timing was based on that. We used frozen donor sperm from the local sperm bank and I was inseminated by a nurse practitioner at my OBGYN office. Our nurse practitioner did not seem at all concerned that we were not successful after five tries and encouraged us to try for at least a year before seeing a specialist. This just seemed odd to us, so we decided to see a specialist anyway.
In 3 months with our specialist, we have found out that I was not ovulating, even with a regular period, and that Clomid is effective in helping me to ovulate. I have had a number of blood tests and today, an HSG test to confirm that my “plumbing,” as my doctor calls it, is in good shape. This is all great news, but I am not pregnant yet after two medicated attempts. My doctor is confident that it will happen soon and wants us to continue with medicated IUIs for a couple more cycles before discussing in-vitro fertilization.
TO TEST OR NOT TO TEST?
If we could start over again, I’d begin by calling the specialist right away for testing. This may be controversial, however, I think it makes logical sense to make sure you are actually able to conceive before having a milliliter of $500 sperm shot into you and paying a nurse practitioner $120 for the pleasure of doing so. For some it may be worth a few tries without the testing, but I would much rather have paid a little extra up front to be sure the sperm had a chance of meeting an egg. We quite literally threw away $2500. We could have stayed home and had sex with each other and had the same chance of getting pregnant in those five months. Aside from the financial drain, five months of hoping and then being let down is quite emotionally draining. This is where I believe doctors and clinics need to improve. If sperm were free and enjoyable to obtain, I would have no problem with trying for a little while before seeing a specialist. However , casually trying to conceive with expensive donor sperm without knowing your health may not be the best first step financially or emotionally.
HOW IT FEELS TO USE CLOMID AND SIDE EFFECTS OF HCG TRIGGER SHOT
We definitely continue to ride the rollercoaster, but can’t help but feel optimistic about our chances at this point. I am now on Clomid, which helps me produce multiple mature eggs (detected by regular ultrasounds) and I “trigger” to induce ovulation before the insemination. I have not had any noticeable side effects from Clomid. However, I have come to dread the HCG trigger shot, which helps to precisely time ovulation so that the egg and sperm will likely be there at the same time. Aside from the cramping and headaches, it causes me to feel extremely bloated and also causes temporary weight gain. For two weeks after the trigger, my weight goes up 8-10 pounds. It does go back down eventually, but squeezing into a pair of dress pants with an extra 8-10 pounds is not good for the self-esteem. I am a professor and spend three hours at a time standing in front of college kids, who at some point, based on boredom or lack of endurance, will check me out from head to toe. Feeling fat is just not conducive to my profession, which is why one of the best things about getting pregnant will be not having to do the trigger anymore. Even though I have side effects, the trigger is the most helpful part of this whole process. Frozen donor sperm do not live very long, so the timing is crucial.
PLAYING THE WAITING GAME
After mentally getting past the first five wasted months, we are very happy and excited about our chances. We live in Ohio, in a liberal city, that by all accounts appears to be very accepting of same-sex conception. Our OBGYN, reproductive specialist, and the sperm bank all appear to treat us as they do the other patients. We have many gay friends who have children in the local suburban school districts who all report very positive experiences with teachers and with straight parents. Although we would love to get off this rollercoaster as soon as possible, we are so glad that if we have ride it, at least we have a lot of support. Next up, medicated try #3.
Kate and her partner live in Ohio, where Kate is a university professor. She blogs about her journey to lesbian conception at Emotional Journey TTC, where she hopes to help others who encounter similar issues on the way to lesbian motherhood.