“I’m sorry – We are going to have to cancel your cycle.”

Let me start this by saying I am one of the world’s least patient people. My little world consists of constant checking of to-do lists and planning things WAY too far in advance. This mindset has served me well in most aspects of my life, until we decided we wanted to try and get pregnant in the middle of a global pandemic. 

My wife Erin and I got married in 2018. We always knew we wanted to take a year or two to enjoy life as newlyweds, so when discussing our plans to start a family we decided on 2020. We met with our Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) in January 2019 so we could start our checklist with the goal of starting the IUI process right on time. Over the course of the next year, we took our time checking all of the pre-treatment boxes (saving money, choosing a donor, completing pre-treatment labs and testing etc.,)

We completed our first cycle of IUI in February 2020, right on time. It did not work. We were disappointed, but at the same time we had realistic expectations regarding the success of IUI. We knew most couples have to cycle through 4-6 times, so we were ready and anxious to proceed with round #2. When I reported my cycle day one in March, there was only sixty cases of COVID-19 in the United States. We live in the Kansas City Area and the virus had not made it to our area of the country yet so we had no concerns of getting delayed at the time. Our physician wanted to do a small procedure on me prior to our second IUI cycle to make sure my uterus was ready for implantation. They wanted to schedule this mid-cycle, which for me ended up being March 19. 

In those two weeks between cycle day one and March 19, cases rose to over 13,000 with nearly 200 deaths in the United States. The county was starting to enforce wearing masks, sports and concerts were cancelled and many local restaurants were closed. I work for a large hospital system in the Kansas City area and I knew the pandemic was beginning to get worse in the area. Our corporate office closed forcing many administrative staff to work from home, most elective surgical cases were beginning to get cancelled and our hospital system was beginning to limit visitors in our buildings all in an effort to decrease transmission rates. I knew the inevitable was coming but part of me was still in denial. Part of me hoped that the RE clinic could squeeze me in for my procedure prior to shutting down, but that of course did not happen. We were told that my procedure along with any future IUI cycles would be on hold for the foreseeable future. My initial reaction when my procedure was cancelled was disappointment. I understood the need for the postponement given the current circumstances but I found myself wondering if 2020 was going to be “our year”. We had planned the entire process down to to each detail and I felt as though that was slipping away. 

So instead of being disappointed, I got busy. I was able to throw myself into work as our team was busier than ever with various projects to help physicians care for their patients virtually. I was grateful for that as it gave my mind a break from thinking about when our next cycle would be able to continue. When I wasn’t working, I found myself obsessively checking the ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) website for recommendations, specifically for fertility clinics. Each month passed and I grew more and more impatient and frustrated. 

In June, I was finally able to have my procedure done. I had to receive a COVID test, and Erin was unable to come with me. Erin dropped me off that morning and sat in the hospital parking lot during my procedure awaiting a call from the physician. A few hours later her phone rang with good news that we would be able to proceed with our IUIs in 6-8 weeks. We were elated and hopeful that good luck was coming our way in the next few months. 

For the next four months we attempted IUI after IUI, all failing. We were upset, and I was tired of waiting. I kept trying to justify our emotions with the statistics. Subconsciously, I thought we would be the ones that would get lucky on try #1 or #2 – so each negative test upset me more and more. At this point, it was the end of October. Each month I was doing the math on when our estimated due date would be, and when the test was negative I would do it for the next month. It was almost the end of the year, and we were still trying – my mind kept going back to the original postponement. Without that delay, it would only be July. 

All year, I found myself struggling with my to-do lists and goals. Getting pregnant was the first goal for the year but we also had our other goals. We would work on our other goals during the delay and throughout our IUI cycles but I just felt like we couldn’t get anything accomplished. I grew increasingly frustrated, upset, angry even, as the months went on because I couldn’t check the pregnancy box. 

The last few cycles of IUI, Erin and I would talk about the process almost constantly. She always reassured me that even if it felt like we weren’t getting anywhere in this process, that we were. We learned more and more about the process each month, what worked for us and what didn’t. Ultimately, we decided to increase our chances for success and proceed with IVF. We are mid-cycle right now and awaiting a frozen embryo transfer in early March. 

I am grateful for the last year, despite its many challenges. I am grateful for more time home with my wife, for the few extra months of quiet, for the lessons learned about the process and the lessons learned about myself. 2020 has come and gone and we still are on this journey. I find myself more calm than I was a year ago. I am not sure if that is because I’ve exhausted myself trying to control an uncontrollable process, or because I’ve learned to roll with the punches. I’m sure time will tell which of those it is. 

Read Allie + Sam’s story of how covid affected their journey as well.

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