The article was posted in September 2015 - but it wasn't the end of my journey. I am finally ready to open up and share the 'extended version' - the post-MBG article, if you will. I have included some of the original MBG post for the first portion, but as you read on - you'll see I added the story of how we finally wound up pregnant with this little miracle. I'm sharing this for a few reasons - not only because I receive multiple emails a month from women battling HA, trying to get pregnant, and wondering what worked for me - but because I want to shine light on how AMAZING the human body truly is when you respect, nourish, and care for it the way it deserves to be - as well as highlight the AMAZING work of fertility clinics. The RE we worked with throughout this entire journey helped us achieve our goal of getting pregnant, but also respected the fact that it was MY personal goal to try and heal my body, and do things as natural as possibe before we jumped into any form of treatment.
And now, my friends, the extended version.....
May 2014, at the age of 25, I had just gone off birth control in hopes of becoming pregnant right away. Because naturally – that’s how it always works, right?! I had my ‘withdrawal bleed’, then 3 months passed… and no period. I went to the Doctor; they told me I was fine; “It is post pill amenorrhea. No big deal.” A few more months passed without a cycle, and I began questioning things. I was thinking about the last few years of my life, which happened to be the most stressful and emotional years of my life. How so, you ask? My boyfriend and I had moved to a new city, gotten engaged, and planned a wedding in a mere 10 days so that my mother-in-law, whose cancer had severely spread, could attend. We lost her two weeks later.
On the day my mother-in-law passed away, I didn't know what to do. So I just started running. From that point on, I ran three to five miles a day. It was one of the most emotional times of my life; I was a newlywed, and yet I was mourning that immediate loss. In the midst of it all, I was finishing my master's thesis and we were moving into our new, first, home. Around this time, I started taking my “healthy” habits to a new extreme and I was down to 120lbs (back story - started at 155 when I was 20 years old and was down to 130lbs by the time I was 23 and had maintained it; all by eating well, cutting alcohol and becoming more active. In the past, when I first lost weight to turn my life around, my workouts used to make me feel great – I had a wonderful balance of fitness, health, eating better, but never really thought into it much. I was proud of bettering my health in the past….. but fast forward to being 25, and I was no longer getting that same feeling.
Surely my new extreme lifestyle habits were “healthy” and that couldn’t be causing my absent-cycle issue… right? Wrong.
What I didn’t realize was that I was using exercise as a way to cope. When my life was crazy and I felt like I couldn’t control anything else… what did I do?! I controlled my workouts and what I ate. Thoughts started filling my head at the 5 month mark of no period. I had been to a few Doctors and was told that my body is just taking longer to bounce back – and that I am ‘EXTREMELY HEALTHY’ and should KEEP working out. Though I wanted to believe this, I felt that there was something deeper going on… after all, at this point my body couldn’t even process dairy and meat anymore.
Through my own research, I came across ‘Hypothalamic Amenorrhea’ (condition where menstruation stops due to a problem involving the hypothalamus, which is the center of the brain that controls reproduction). What causes this? High levels of stress, excessive exercising, weight loss, not enough fat, going off birth control, disordered eating, etc. The moment I read up on HA, I knew this was it.
So how do I fix this? Weight gain. Eating more. Cutting workouts. Stress less. Anywhere I looked, that seemed to be the ‘cure all’. Are you kidding me? I had just spent all of these years working towards this body I now have – and you’re asking me to give it up?! I tried fighting the process for a while. Fall of 2014 I started eating more, cut my workouts a bit, and put on some weight. January 2015, I still had no sign of a cycle and was referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist. Test after test (after test) was done; hormones were slightly out of whack, but everything else was normal. I tried the Progesterone Challenge, twice, and didn’t respond either time. A few more months passed, and we decided to try ovidrel to see if it would help jump start ovulation .… and still nothing. I was officially diagnosed with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea in May 2015 and was told I may never regain my cycle. Fertility treatments would be my only option. I was 26 years old. Things had to change. I knew I had to reflect on what I wanted in life. I wanted to be a mother, to be healthy, to enjoy life, to love myself.
June 2015, I went all in and cut all forms of working out besides barre3, and light weights. I upped my food intake in hopes that my body would feel well nourished and safe; I was focused on bringing my cycle back naturally. I started doing things I wouldn’t have done before – hiking with my husband, coloring, spontaneous outings, and relaxing without feeling guilty. I had gained almost 20 lbs and was learning to trust in the process. I wanted to love on my body and have it love me back. I wanted to prove that I COULD regain my cycle naturally.
August 11th, 2015. My period came back. It was one of the greatest days of my entire life. All the hard work I had put in – it was worth it. I was overjoyed, elated… I called my Mom and we cried together on the phone. I texted or called all my girlfriends and HA sisters that had been there since the beginning; supporting me and cheering me on. Though I only had a light bleed for three days - it was absolutely fabulous. I had healed my body and I felt like a complete rock star.
On September 29th, my 27th birthday, I gave myself my first injection of Menopur (happy birthday to me?). We did a very low dose/non-invasive treatment to start out; only a half vile (37.5) of menopur, and I was monitored every 3 days. After the first three days, I went in for a scan: 3 follicles on my left ovary, all between 13-15mm, and my lining was at 5mm… SAY WHAT!? They were so excited how I responded, so they said do 4 more days of Menopur and come in for your next scan. Four days later… one 20mm follicle and a lining of 9.5. They were shocked and couldn’t believe how I responded to such a low dose. At that time they said I was done with injections and to trigger the next day and to do TI at home, then to start progesterone suppositories a few days after and then to test on October 22nd.
The two week wait… It was something I had never been able to experience before. I thought I’d be a basket case; over thinking and reading into everything. But I wasn’t; I was weirdly calm, collected, and relaxed. To be honest - I didn’t expect treatment to result in pregnancy, especially only with one follicle. I was just happy that I responded well and that moving forward, this really COULD work. So.… 11 days passed after I took my Ovidrel shot (~10 DPO).. and of course, I decided to test. Not to test for pregnancy, per se, but to see if the trigger shot was still in my system. I would have hated to test at 14 DPO and see a faint line, only having it be the trigger. Anyways – 10 DPO… faint line. I knew it had to be trigger, so I didn’t read into it. 11 DPO… no line; trigger was out. 12 DPO… a faint line (WHAT THE HECK, SERIOUSLY?!). 13 DPO.. darker line (Again... WHAT THE ACTUAL HECK!?).
Was this real life? Was I actually pregnant? Did this work?!
In all honesty, it didn’t feel real. I was happy but not overly excited yet, and I knew I had to call my Fertility clinic for my Beta test. My fabulous nurse was elated on the phone when I told her the tests were getting darker – so we scheduled my beta the next morning. 14 DPO – 8am beta… they told me results would be in by 11am and they would call and email with results. I asked them to please leave a detailed message with the results, as I wanted to wait until my husband and I were both home to listen to the VM together. I saw the voicemail come in at 11:15…. 4:30 couldn’t come soon enough. I rushed home that evening and my husband and I pulled into our driveway at the same time; perfect.. I didn’t have to wait any longer.
“Hi Anna… this is Leah. I just wanted to give you a call with some news…. THAT YOU ARE PREGNANT! Your Beta is 335, which is absolutely fabulous…”
I’m not sure I heard the rest of the phone call, as I dropped to my knees and cried in the kitchen while my husband started laughing, smiling, crying and just held me. It was an amazing moment. I knew I would have to go back to the clinic 48 hours from the time I had my first beta, so I called them back to schedule it. I was over the moon at this point – but knew I’d be even more so once I got those next results. 16 DPO – 8am beta… received the call 3 hours later…. 855! It felt VERY real at that point, and we were just completely overjoyed. This was most likely the first time my body had ovulated since before starting BC at 19 years old - and somehow it stuck. Treatment had worked, my lifestyle changes were worth it – as I can wholeheartedly say that I don’t think I would have responded if I hadn’t done the hard work myself leading up to this.
And the rest, my friends… is history. I sit here typing, at 34.5 weeks pregnant, and I feel pretty fabulous (most of the time). This has been quite the journey – the toughest one of my life – but I am thankful for all that I went through, and for everything I have learned. I have no doubt that going through all of this has made me a better person, and will make me an even better Mama to Baby P.
(photos by Kari Villa-Rivera Photography)