Fertility Results

I am still numb and in shock a little, so this is just kind of matter-of-fact.

Emotions to follow in future waves, no doubt.

Last month we had eight vials of blood taken, four different kinds of tests, and a total of more than 40 blood tests done on our eight vials. It was something like that, anyway. We aren’t really very good at math.

It took a month to get it all done, because some of it had to be really specific timing, and some tests took two weeks or more to come back.

Two tests required fasting, which we are pretty much crankypants about, especially since we couldn’t do it on Sunday when we were already trying.

It would take two weeks to get all the results in, the specialist said, and then she would call us and tell us the results and which two treatment options were available based on our results. Then Nathan and I could talk about it, and if we wanted to proceed, we would call back to set up a meeting and we would get a treatment plan set up.

Only that’s not what happened.

She got the results, and called us, and instead of telling us what they were or giving us options, she told us we needed to have a meeting in person to talk about the results.

That never feels good coming from a doctor.

So we knew it was bad news, and bad enough she wanted to tell us in person and talk about it in her office.

We braced for today. We tried to be prepared. We knew a hit was coming.

It still felt like a sucker punch.

There are some good news-es that we got out of all that testing. Our platelets and all the other blood-ish details are picture perfect (I am “O-positive”). Our thyroid-ness is normal, neither of us have any STD’s (she said Mormons are boring), and neither of us are diabetic. There was also good news about everything working in our brains: all the signals going from our brains to our organs are as they should be and working properly.

In fact, in both of us, our brains are telling our bodies as loudly as they can that they should be doing all that reproductive stuff.

That’s part of the problem: our brains should be just whispering.

We always whisper to little tiny babies, so your brain should just be whispering to all those parts that make a baby, to all those parts taking care of the parts that make a baby.

Our brains are screaming.

That means your brains know something is wrong, so they are trying really hard to make sure the signal gets there. But it just isn’t working.

My results showed what we already knew: that my ovarian cancer treatments affected my eggs enough that there are not many that survived. The few there are good quality, so we still have a tiny, microscopic chance of a healthy pregnancy, but not enough of a chance that they can find and extract the eggs and hope to get any good ones. In fact, on that test, I got the lowest score possible.

These blood levels here, I call them babysitters. They are the babysitters around each egg, and when they are working hard nourishing and nurturing an egg to maturity, they send off a signal that everything is going okay. But when the egg is damaged or has already died, they don’t have to work hard. There’s no sweat. There’s no signal back to the brain that everything is okay. Because it’s not okay.

What this means is that there are not even enough healthy eggs for them to be able to extract any for in vitro fertilization. That is not an option for us.

Nathan was next, and he took a double hit.

First, that everything is normal except the shape of those that are able to swim – some are shaped funny, so they swim in circles instead of straight ahead. Now we know why Nathan just spins in circles any time he gets flustered!

They just aren’t shaped right. They are supposed to fit the egg like a lock and key, and these are not going to unlock anything. These guys have to swim five football fields, and only one is going to make it, and he forgot his keys.

This, it turns out, is what has caused our miscarriages: the combination of my damaged eggs and his silly, circle-spinning sperm, so that the embryo is not able to develop as it should.

The second thing Nathan found out is that there is a hormone problem happening that explains his fatigue and other things, but to treat this would for sure make him completely sterile. So that is something we will follow-up with his regular doctor, and decide on separately than the fertility issue… though obviously, it affects fertility. But not really, considering everything else.

This left us with three options:

  • Egg Donor Program: I am able to carry a child, but we cannot together conceive a healthy embryo. We could use a donated egg, have it fertilized in vitro, and hope it implants in me. This is *NOT* covered by my insurance, would cost a minimum of $25,000, and is discouraged by our church. Also, because of the funny shaped circle swimmers, it is “highly unlikely” that this would be successful anyway.

    Unlike our friends who have done in vitro with their own egg and sperm, this would use an egg from someone else, and the church handbook states that in a case like ours, this is discouraged, which is also consistent with the Old Testament within-the-tribe nature of covenants. We did not choose a regular marriage, but chose a covenant marriage, so must go by covenant rules if we are going to be faithful to those covenants. Here’s what Handbook 2, section 21:4 says:

In Vitro Fertilization

The Church strongly discourages in vitro fertilization using semen from anyone but the husband or an egg from anyone but the wife. However, this is a personal matter that ultimately must be left to the judgment of the husband and wife. Responsibility for the decision rests solely upon them.

  • Embryo Adoption: Sometimes when a couple cannot make their own embryo, they do in vitro with their own egg and sperm. When they do this, they make several to be sure one of them really works. Sometimes it works right away, so then a couple has “extra” embryos left over. The couple can use these later if they want more children, or donate them to other couples – like us – who cannot make embryos. Because the work to make the embryos has already been done by the first couple, this is free other than my own medicine I would take to tell my body it is pregnant so that it implants the embryo we are given. The cost of that is covered by insurance, and other costs would be the same as a healthy pregnancy – covered by insurance the same.

    This procedure is new enough that it is not specifically addressed in the church handbook, but priesthood leadership has told us it falls under the policy for insemination and in vitro, that it is strongly discouraged because it is an egg and sperm from other parents (see the quote above). We would not be disciplined for choosing this, but it is strongly discouraged.

  • Fostering/Adoption: Obviously, we had already decided we were called to do this before we ever had our first miscarriage. Our license is only waiting on Nathan’s fingerprints to come back from Arizona, and then we are good to go. It is interesting that we are prepared for this, and already have hopes for this, so that it does not feel as daunting when given this as a choice today. I think that with everything that has happened this year, this would have been too hard to hear knowing it would be a year wait to even get started in the process. I am glad we are already started, and glad we are almost set to go. Regardless of whether we choose the other two, this will probably be part of what we do for a season.

The first choice of in vitro is not really an option for us because of finances and church policy and embryo viability.

The second choice is a financially possible choice, but may not be an option because of church policy. We will talk with our Bishop and Stake President, spend some time fasting, and do a lot of praying. There is no rush, and it does not have to be a decision we make today. We can take our time to choose well and wisely. We know that Heavenly Father loves us, has a plan for us, and has given us certain promises. We trust His guidance no matter the direction, and know that we will have the most happiness if we do what He guides us to do.

This third choice of fostering and/or adopting is one we have already made, not because of miscarriages, but before they ever happened. We already know this is part of the plan for us, at least for a season, and so we are excited this begins soon. We really are so grateful we have already begun this process, so that today it feels like “hope” instead of “a million miles away”.

The fourth choice, not listed, would be a miracle baby from Heavenly Father sending out that one good egg that showed up on the testing. The doctors can’t just go in and find it, but if there was a miracle of it being sent out and all the timing be exactly right, then we could still have a good pregnancy. The statistics for this are impossible, but the doctor said “I am a believer, so I never say impossible.”

Edit: Many have asked us about progesterone. We know about that, but tests did not show that to be a problem. Also, that is for maintaining a healthy embryo, and our problem is being able to get a healthy embryo to start with. So our problem is not the progesterone problem, but thank you for checking.

We have time to let things unfold and continue to pray and research and talk about what is best specifically for me and Nathan. Here is what we know already:

  • We know that Heavenly Father loves us, has given us specific promises, and that keeping our covenants ensures eternal families.
  • We know that our one family rule is “Follow the Prophets”, and we will abide by counsel given to us by priesthood leaders. For us, this is an act of faith even if we do not understand why it is best or good for us. Maybe this is a way we “become like little children” (Matthew 18:3).
  • We know that through prayer and fasting, we receive personal revelation specific to our own family.
  • We know that it is willingness that is required, and obedience that is accepted.
  • We know that whether it is the challenge of caring for children or the grief of not being able to have them, the Spirit of God will comfort and teach us along the way.
  • God’s plan for our lives is a plan of happiness. Happiness is not dependent upon circumstances or the limitations of mortality.

These things we know are true.

These things are truths to which we cling, even while clinging to each other.

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Fertility Results — 4 Comments

  1. Emily
    My heart and love and prayers go out to you and Nathan.
    Thanks so much for sharing something so personal and painful.

  2. So heart-wrenching! I really admire your courage and faith. I know The Lord holds you in the palm of His hand, and will guide you and comfort you.