Contemplating IVF

My husband’s surgeon, the one who had messed up his hernia operation (which led to his azoospermia) had told him a few weeks back that it was wise not to waste time and plan on IVF-ICSI as soon as possible. Apparently, a friend of his underwent the procedure and became a dad.

I had once told him earlier “Supposing we do go for IVF, how can we be 100% sure that it’ll be our child? They can use anybody’s sperms for better results”. My husband was like, we could always get a DNA test to confirm . I had argued back “And what if the DNA test comes negative? Will we throw away the child in that case ?” He had replied with “Point to be noted”

So, when my husband told his surgeon about this doubt, he had replied that IVF is now a booming million-dollar industry. They give you absolute guarantee of the baby being your own and conducting a DNA test for surety. If somebody assures you with this level of confidence, there leaves little doubt of mishaps occurring. If they were to resort to fraud, their entire business would go down etc etc.

My SIL’ s IVF twins are often sick and I had gone to my in-laws place last month for 3 weeks as they were being admitted in one hospital after another for severe diarrhoea, infection etc. IVF kids have lower immunity than ones conceived naturally, so extra precautions have to be taken when it comes to them. In the end, I was totally exhausted, both physically and mentally, and couldn’t wait to come back home.

Anyway, coming back to us, my husband brought up the topic of IVF twice during different occasions. He tells me there is no harm in giving it a try. But at this point in time, I’m totally adamant against it. It feels unnatural and weird and involves so much immodesty with dozens of people having to see your privates that I cringe at the very thought of undergoing all that. Neither do I fancy dozens of hospital visits and stays nor being shot with hundreds and hundreds of syringes. I want my body to produce hormones to nurture my baby naturally, not fake injected hormones.

As someone who covers completely, the exposing aspect of IVF is something that completely goes against my set of beliefs. My husband was deeply moved when I explained my reservations to him and prayed that the Almighty grant me children naturally seeing my passion and desire to hold on to my convictions.

Ramadan is coming soon, I will just hold on to my faith and pray for the time being. I’ve been patient for so long and have already experienced a world of hope, defeat, and mourning — all while being unsure of what the future holds. If sabr (patience) was easy, Ibrahim (AS) wouldn’t have turned his son’s face away from him when he was about to slaughter him. Sabr will break you, wreck you, make you want to scream out loud, make you want to leave everything, but for His love, I will keep going!

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Depression

Growing up, I had often heard about “depression”, but did not realise the full impact of its blow until it actually hit me.

Infertility has hijacked my life. Not only is infertility emotionally and physically exhausting , it has managed to drain me mentally too. There are some days when I feel I have come to peace with my situation, but there are other days where I do not want to get out of bed and deal with life anymore.

There are weeks when I purposely isolate myself and avoid attending social get-togethers . I know I would be surrounded by pregnant women or mothers with children if I were to go and someone will definitely begin questioning me how long I’ve been married, shake their head sadly when they find out, ask whether I’m undergoing any treatment , enquire which doctor I seek treatment from or just give unwanted advice when they don’t know the entirety of my situation. So, instead of such outings refreshing me, they make me depressed for days after because people can be so insensitive and insulting.

I also get frustrated more than normal and lose my patience easily – on my husband. I have trouble concentrating on things I once enjoyed – like reading and sewing and I cannot remember things. My heart constantly feels heavy and burdened.

What really irks me is other young mothers constantly complaining about their kids, how demanding they are, how tired they get …blah, blah, blah and telling me how lucky I am to be single and free. They think it’s cool to post silly parenting memes as statuses and pics on social media. It angers me that not only do they not appreciate the blessings which they’ve been granted freely, but they feel they have the right to judge how happy I am when they haven’t got the slightest idea about how much pain and depression I’m suffering from as a result of infertility.

My husband and I had gone on a holiday to Kerala, a southern state in India for 6 days earlier this month. It was our first real, well-deserved holiday in 5 + years. 3 months after our marriage, in September 2013, we had gone for a 3 day visit to a hill-station nearby. We had never been anywhere since and I would always taunt him for not taking me anywhere. It was a relaxing and comforting time which we thoroughly enjoyed.

My husband had been looking for another couple to accompany us, but, my only condition was that the other couple not have any kids. Most people our age have kids and it’s not fun travelling with them when we do not have kids of our own. Kids delay schedules, wail and be cranky, especially if they’re hungry or sleepy, and you have to be extra patient, offer to hold & babysit them & be nice to them out of formality. That sort of takes out the fun out of our holiday, so, I was adamantly against the idea. The couple who travelled with us didn’t have kids too, both were divorced formerly, the woman apparently had been previously married for 4.5 years to her paternal uncle’s son who divorced her just because she couldn’t conceive. Sad times. In many societies today, the worth of a woman is determined by her ability to give birth. If she is unable to conceive, she’s seen as cursed or ill-fortuned , an object of pity and scorn. Some even go as far to declare that it is God punishing her.

The medicines which I had taken from the hakeem got over last month. My husband has ordered and started yet another course. The hakeem had told us we just need to complete one course and we’d have good news at the end of the month. Forget good news, our news seems to be getting worse and worse each passing month. I started spotting madly this month, 10 days before my period was due in a similar pattern which I do before getting af. There needs to be a clean period of 15 days between 2 menstrual periods in order to be considered as haydh(menstruation) or it’s considered as istihadah (illness) in our faith. During haydh, you cannot pray or fast, but during istihadah, you must. I prayed till 15 days were over, then I stopped praying. However, 3 or 4 days later, the spotting ceased and was replaced with slightly coloured discharge. I got my hopes up that this could be implantation bleeding and I finally could be pregnant. So, I did ghusl and began praying again for a couple of days. However, soon after, I noticed bleeding similar to the type I get during my periods and the time of my period was also right, so, my hopes were once again dashed. I became majorly depressed. I again spotted for 6-7 days before the actual flow started. Af is still going on. It seems like I’ve been bleeding forever and I just can’t wait for it to end. I also had terrible unbearable, headaches on most days.

I’m confused what the bleeding earlier was for, there’s something definitely wrong with my hormones, my husband thinks it might be that his sperms are being produced now, but the anti-sperm antibodies (apparently, the hakeem said I have them!!?!) in my system could be rejecting them as the bleeding took place only the next day after we were intimate. He told me to wait this month to see how the cycle goes and that he would get his fresh report done again and also book a gynec appointment for me.

2018 passed away without any change…will 2019 bring glad tidings for us ?

Pregnancy Dream

I had a lovely dream yesterday.. In the dream I was expecting, and no doubt,  my husband and I were simply ecstatic. It was a miracle, and we were totally unprepared for the surprise. Nonetheless,  we were both over the moon as our earnest prayers had been answered.

Scene changed.  I was with my family.  Even though I’d recently discovered I was pregnant, the first thought on my mind was to go shopping for khimars to wear over the abaya. A khimar refers to a very long piece of cloth that drapes all the way from the head to the hands. At present, the veil I wear isn’t particularly long, it just comes below my chest. Obviously, I wear the niqab (i.e. a garment which covers my face), so my body is fully covered either ways,  but if I wish to hide my bump,  a khimar would be essential.

When I woke up, I wondered what it would feel like if my dream actually came true. It’s said that a mother doesn’t just carry her child in her womb for 9 months,  she carries him/her in her heart for her lifetime. How would it be to experience motherhood?

My husband had a second course of the same medicine which the hakim had given him before, he was asked to do a semen analysis after completing the course. He was willing, but I told him to do it after a couple of months as my heart is too weak to take another disappointment. I’m just surviving on hope and prayers, for now.

Lots of people I know recently had babies,  so, it just makes me immensely sad that I have been denied this divine gift of nature. How great it would be to be in total command of your own body,  plan a family whenever you want.

Many times,  my husband and I discuss how different our life would have been if he had not undergone the hernia surgery which led to him getting azoospermia. He calls it the biggest mistake of his life. Unfortunately,  there’s no reverse surgery for it. There’s a very complicated process with very low success rate,  so no andrologist recommends it. The only option left for us is geeting IVF with ICSI done,  which I’m not particularly keen of, at the moment. Not before we’ve exhausted every route of alternative medicine.

The Almighty has said that there’s a cure for every disease,  and if the right medicine is taken, the disease is cured by the will of God. So, I’m constantly on the lookout for an effective , non-invasive cure for azoospermia and also, my messy cycle.

Earlier this week, I spent a couple of hours shopping online for cute outfits to gift my neice and nephew.  I felt happy and sad at the same time doing that. On the one hand, it was very exciting to chose outfits from a wide variety for the little munchkins,  it felt really satisfying but I was internally sad that I didn’t have any babies of my own so that I could shop to my heart’s content and dress them the way I wished.

I had purchased a cute frock with little pajamas a couple of years earlier which I’d kept in my suitcase. I’d saved it for my own daughter as I had fallen in love with it,  but now, with a heavy heart,  I’ve decided to gift it too,  as I don’t know when I’ll be the bearer of any good news. If I do have a baby girl,  then,  I’ll buy new clothes for her.

So, my infertility journey continues. Ultimately, it’s only God who can turn things right from wrong… I just need to keep holding on.

A wound that never heals

Coping with infertility seems like suffering from a wound that never heals – the rawness of the wound makes you feel like you’re in constant discomfort and pain. There’s a void and emptiness in my life which I feel only a baby can fill.

On the days I have af , I feel particularly down & miserable. It’s like another month of my life passed by in failure. I panic internally because my biological clock is going tick-tock-tick and that my egg supply is getting over. Inspite of all the odds against me, I look forward to witnessing a miracle each month. And I’m greatly disappointed when I don’t.

My sister had a son last week – her 4th son in 8 years. MashaAllah. Apparently, she had a dream long back where she saw herself posting her status as “Mom of 5 boys”. She lost one son by miscarriage at 5 months a few years back. So, her dream did comr true finally.

My inlaws came here last week with my SIL and the twins but they went back in 4 days because my SIL felt her kids became sicker after coming here. She’s a little unstable minded and threw a huge tantrum that she wanted to go back. Everyone tried their best to reason with her, requested her to wait for a couple of days, to consult a pediac here, but she remained obstinate. So, my inlaws had no choice but to pack up and go back to their native place over 250 kms away.

Coming back to my infertility journey, all around me, I see women of my age having babies or little kids. The major portion of their talks revolve around their kids. I feel like the odd one out in social circles and group chats. Even when they complain about their kids, I can feel a sense of pride and joy coming from somewhere deep within them. It’s like they wouldn’t trade their kids or motherhood experiences for anything in this world. And I want that too.

My husband is taking medicines, my hormonal cycle is still messed up as ever, and in my weak moments, I find myself repeatedly questioning “Why us?”. Why do we have to be the “1 in 10”? Why couldn’t we have been like a normal, fertile couple? Why did God choose to test us with infertility?

On some days, I’m hopeful and remain positive but on others, I become negative and wonder whether my condition will ever change. My faith fluctuates between high and low.

Maybe God is making me wait to grant me something much greater than what I’m asking him?

Life goes on…

I spent almost a month at my in-laws’ place after my SIL was blessed with twins and came back to my home, sweet, home last week after Eid. It feels heavenly to be back home with my hubby. No heavy workload, no endless days, no sleepless nights, not having anyone to answer to, no expectations to live upto – just pure freedom . My in- laws are planning to come to my home pretty soon to stay for a month or so, but, till then, I can sit back and relax.

My husband is in touch with the doctor who had messed his hernia repair and had consulted him after he was diagnosed with azoospermia. They visited some andrologists together who all suggested that ultimately, getting IVF with ICSI done was the only solution. Last month, that doctor got some natural medicines from a well-known naturopath in another city whose treatment is very effective and has shown positive results in tons of patients including a famous govt. minister who had children in his mid-forties by taking his treatment. He had assured my husband that the medicines would work and to get his sperm count checked again after the medicines were over. The medicines were for 20 days. In the dutation, my husband had to refrain from consuming any sour foods. My husband took the medicines religiously, and while I was here, I specially prepared food without adding any sourness, like lemon, vinegar or tomatoes. After a few days, I had to go to my inlaws place, but my husband was very careful of his diet for the remaining days. He underwent a semen analysis again after 20 days, but unfortunately, the results were the same – his sperm count was still ZERO. He consulted his doctor who consulted that naturopath who said the dosage of the medicine must be increased, but since, there was no progress at all, we’re not too keen on pursuing the same route.

Another famous hakim visited a nearby village today and my husband consulted him. My husband did bot have to state his problems, the hakim diagnosed his condition accurately in just 5 seconds after examining his vein only. He has prescribed some medicines for 1 month.

My husband and I are desperate. We’re willing to try all alternative medicine routes and exhaust every avenue possible we can as we know there has to be a cure out there somewhere. We firmly believe in the hadith that God has decreed a remedy for every disease except death. We just hope and pray that we’re able to discover the pathway for the right cure soon.

I’m not too keen on jumping to IVF at the moment as I’m hopeful of conceiving naturally. After observing the condition of my SIL who had IVF done versus other women who manage to conceive naturally, I can safely say that the two cannot be compared. There’s a hell of difference between artificial and real stuff.

My heart cries and bleeds with pain and hurt and loneliness when I see other couples cuddling with their babies or little ones. I feel like the deprived one amongst the blessed lot. It seems like the most difficult thing to hold on to faith hoping your prayers will be answered one day. Yet it’s also the only thing that keeps you sane and alive.

New Arrivals

My SIL who had IVF done last year gave birth to twins via C-section last week – a boy and a girl. Everyone was overjoyed at the new arrivals. Though they arrived a month early ( which isn’t unusual for twins) they were healthy and their weight was also good – 2.4 & 2.6 kgs.

It’s baby season right now- lots of people I know have just given birth to babies or are going to deliver soon. There’s a saying here that July-Aug-Sep is a prime season for giving birth. Perhaps, because they’ve been conceived during winter when couples tend to snuggle close to each other, hence, more intimacy??

I have to go to my in-laws’ house soon for a few weeks to help with the household chores, cooking & chores involving newborns. The last time I was around any newborn was almost 7 years back when my sister had given birth, but my mom used to handle all the work then, hence, I’m totally clueless. I just know that newborns are needy and need lots of time and attention. In India, they use cloth diapers for newborns instead of disposable ones, hence, they have to be washed and dried. What a disgusting task – washing pee and poo by hand. Secondly, the new mother is fed a variety of traditional, healthy & complicated dishes to recuperate faster, so, a lot of time is spent in the kitchen preparing food for her. Thirdly, there is a constant flow of visitors and guests who come to see the newborns , so, you have to sit with them, entertain them, serve them drinks and snacks. I can expect sleepless, tiring nights and days ahead…without my husband.

‌I had visited my SIL in the hospital on the day her babies were born. She had kids after 4.5 years of marriage, so, everyone who visited her not only asked her how many years had passed since her marriage, but they also enquired when I got married. Since I’ve been married longer, I got plenty of pitying & sympathetic looks for being barren. A few kind ones prayed that God grant me a child soon. But, I felt extremely miserable and depressed when I returned. So, I’m just bracing myself to get judged and trashed by relatives and strangers alike for being infertile. In my society, it’s a massive curse if you’re married and childless. You’re considered deprived, unfortunate and ill-fated. Despite my deep internal pain and agony, one thing I’m extremely grateful for is that unlike other infertile girls whose in-laws pressurize, taunt, criticize and blame them for not being able to conceive, my in-laws have always been supportive and open-minded.

‌My husband and I have decided not to tell anybody – not even our parents and siblings that he has azoospermia. Apart from doctors who we seek treatment from, obviously. Islamically, spouses are meant to be like garments for each other and one function of a garment is to cover up flaws and defects. It’s not a secret that we’re suffering from infertility but it’s our private business how we chose to deal with it, so, I’ve convinced him that there is no point in letting others know our exact condition. Friends and well-wishers will pray for us either way, revealing our condition is not going to make a major difference in their lives.

‌Last month, I had bleeding for 17 days, this month, I’ve begun bleeding again. I try my best to remain stress free, but it seems like I have more abnormal days than normal ones. I’m currently taking unani medicines for removal of chocolate cyst. It’s a three month course, of which 2 months are almost up. I have tried every sort of medicine for my hornonal disbalance from allopathic to homeopathic to ayurvedic to unani to naturopathic to simple home remedies, but the problem only seems to get worse as months pass by. I think I will have to visit a different gynec once again and get tests, sonography and hormonal reports done all over again.

‌For the time being, I guess I will just have to remain patient and hope for a positive outcome. If it’s dark in your life right now, be patient as the sun always rises. If it’s light right now,  be thankful but know that the sun must also set. Praise your Maker for both the night and the day, and know that He never sets.

A Dead End

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve updated my blog.  Nothing has changed for us. Our situation is the same. We’re still infertile. In April, we discovered that my husband has azoospermia. He has consulted 3 different andrologists since then. He has obstructive azoospermia…i.e. sperms are being produced in his testicles but are unable to reach the ejaculate because of an obstruction. Like I’ve mentioned in my previous blog entries, this has been caused because my husband had undergone a hernia repair surgery before marriage.

A very complicated duct repair surgery can be performed to repair the blockage,  but its success results are very poor,  so,  his doctors have ruled out this option completely. They have all recommended going for assisted reproduction…IVF,  more specifically,  ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection ). ICSI is performed in severe cases of male infertility.

ICSI is very similar to conventional IVF in that gametes (eggs and sperm) are collected from each partner. The difference between the two procedures is the method of achieving fertilisation. In conventional IVF, the eggs and sperm are mixed together in a dish and the sperm fertilises the egg ‘naturally’.
ICSI involves the injection of a single sperm directly into a mature egg.

According to doctors, we will never be able to conceive naturally. However, we have not yet given up hope. Before thinking of IVF,  we’re looking at alternative medicines and treatments to treat his condition.

I also suffer from severe hormonal disbalance,  my cycle is a mess. It seems like out of 30 days a month, I have bleeding for 15 days. Earlier I would get spotting for a few days before the actual flow began,  nowadays,  it takes more than a week for the flow to begin. I’m at my wits’ end,  I dont know what to do. Sonography reports show that my follicles are forming and maturing naturally. I’ve taken allopathic, biochemic,  homeopathic,  ayurvedic and unani medicines to treat my hormonal disbalance but to no avail. Rather, the problem seems to be getting worse and worse as days pass by.

As a Muslimah,  you can not fast or pray during those days of the month and the  maximum duration of a menstrual cycle (according to the Shariah) is 10 days and 10 nights. If it lasts beyond that,  it is considered an illness. You have to take a bath and begin praying and fasting normally after that time period. Earlier, my menstrual cycle would get over in 6, 7 or maximum 8 days, spotting and bleeding all included. Nowadays , it goes on and on and on. I’m tired. I want to be normal once again.

Every year after Ramadan, I only had to make up 6 or 7 and sometimes, 8 fasts but this time,  I have to make up 10 fasts. It’s weird how little control I have over my body. It disturbs my spiritual life,  it disturbs my mental health,  it disturbs my physical well-being, it disturbs my love life.

Our faith is the only thing that keeps us holding on during these troubled times. Confusion and doubt overtake us but we know Our Lord will create a path for us when there seems no way and He will open the doors even though there is no key. He brings forth dawn after the darkness of the night,  so He Alone will remove our obstacles and bring about the best solution for our worries. He is Al-Fattah … The Opener of Ways.