Hello! It’s been literal years since I’ve made an update to this site, but given all the fertility drama we’ve been through this year, I wanted to share a bit of my story in the hopes it may help someone else.
The early days
For a refresher, Burjis and I got married in Texas in June 2017 and promptly zipped off to live in the Bay Area to work for a major tech company and travel the world. By summer of 2019, we were seriously talking about trying to start a family and I had my copper IUD removed. In September 2019 we traveled to France and eventually Turkey to attend our amazing friends’ wedding, thus marking the beginning of “trying to conceive” (TTC). Now, a quick google search will tell you all about the birds and the bees, and when is the best time to get it in to maximize your chances of conception. Even from this first month I was already tracking my cycle via fertility apps and knew more or less when I was expected to ovulate.
Well, the first couple of months yielded no success. We weren’t worried at this time, because we knew that something like 80% of couples conceive within the first twelve months of TTC. Most fertility clinics won’t even see you for a consultation until you’ve passed that year mark, and at the time I had Kaiser insurance which is EXTRA by the book about things like that. Still, I decided to use the ovulation pee sticks (actually called ovulation predictor kits or OPK) to make sure we weren’t missing my most fertile days. My cycle has always been super regular and predictable, but it can still be impacted by things like stress or lots of travel, and I had plenty of both. We did miss a couple of months of trying due to our conflicting work travel schedules, so that is something to consider working out if you think you may be in a similar boat.
When shit hits the fan
Somewhere around December, I had gotten checked out due to some pain I was having and found out I had an ovarian cyst on my right ovary. Because it was less than 5mm in size Kaiser wouldn’t do any intervention, under the premise that it would likely go away on its own and likely wasn’t affecting my fertility anyway. Well, in early March 2020 (yes, as the world was starting to crumble) I did one last business trip to Singapore. I was of course tired after the 17 hour flight from SFO, but checked into my hotel, had some breakfast, and went straight to the factory. It was soon after lunch that I started to get some intense pains in my abdomen. I couldn’t stand up. I was sweating profusely. I tried to use the bathroom and only experienced more pain. At this point, I thought that I had gotten food poisoning at lunch, so I took the Singapore Uber equivalent back to the hotel to sleep it off. After a few hours though, the pain was only worse and I started vomiting. I called ISOS (which is by the way, a godsend if your company offers it) and they advised that I needed to go to a hospital and recommended a few local ones.
I checked into the ER, slumped into my chair and awaited my upcoming CT scan. When it was finally my turn and I was on the table with my feet heading slowly toward the machine, I started puking again uncontrollably. They finally were able to take the image, and confirmed that there was some fluid present in my right tube, but I would need to stay the night and see the specialist in the morning. She confirmed the next day that my right ovarian cyst had indeed grown bigger since December and had caused ovarian torsion (the ovary rotating and twisting the attached tube), which had in turn caused the cyst to rupture (hence the fluid). It would need immediate surgery. In Singapore. I tried to see if I could wait until I got home to take care of it but 1) she would not clear me to fly and 2) lol – I could not even walk to the elevator let alone get to an airport. Within the hour, Burjis’ flight to Singapore was booked and I was wheeled into surgery and placed under general anesthesia for the first time in my life.
I woke up with a raging sore throat from the breathing tube and three laparoscopic incisions from the surgery. I found out later that she was able to remove the cyst and successfully saved that ovary in the process (which apparently is a miracle in situations as severe as this one). We spent a week in Singapore to recover before I was cleared to fly. All the gods conspired to make it a fantastic week – we saw all the sites (one Uber at a time) and everything was still open but ridiculously empty because of those early COVID days. But I digress. Our biggest concern at this point was how this will affect fertility. We were told many people get pregnant after this surgery as the body returns to normalcy and the “blockage” is removed. We left Singapore hopeful for what was to come.
When you thought it couldn’t get any worse
So we’re back in the states and back to our regularly scheduled programming (except, you know, the world shut down). One day in May 2020 the wildest thing happened … we got a positive pregnancy test! We were so excited and this affirmed in our mind that the cyst was the culprit of all our problems. I was doing a daily pregnancy test to make sure the line would continue to get darker, but a few days later it was evident that the line was barely visible anymore. We were devastated after we had come so far and had started to imagine a little life growing. We would come to learn this type of early miscarriage is called a chemical or biochemical pregnancy, which means the embryo implanted in the uterus but for whatever reason stopped growing and the pregnancy goes away on its own. Many women experience this phenomenon but don’t even know it – it often just exhibits itself as a late period, and if you weren’t testing regularly you would never know there had been a pregnancy at all. At this point, we decided to schedule an appointment with my new OB/GYN (I had changed from Kaiser to regular PPO since we moved to Texas) and explore what our options would be from here.
Continued in Pt.2 …
- Start tracking your cycle using an app before you are TTC, so the data on when you are ovulating is more accurate. This is especially important if your cycle isn’t super regular. I used Flo and Ovia apps as well as the native Apple Health app, but there are tons out there.
- Get fertility tested as SOON as you are thinking about TTC. Odds are you won’t have a problem, but if you wait until you’ve been trying for twelve months to figure that out, you’ll be kicking yourself that you wasted a whole valuable year.
- Ovulation predictor kits (OPK) coupled with cycle tracking apps are the best way to get started on your TTC journey. You can buy a pack of like 100 of these on Amazon for like ten bucks. Because I am a crazy person, I would usually test morning and night of every day in my fertile window until I got a positive.
- Always listen to your gut when it tells you something is wrong. I ignored mine when I was told my painful cyst would go away, and it caused an unnecessary international surgery and likely a large delay in our overall TTC plans.