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I thought getting pregnant would be "easy," but conceiving with PCOS was like a full-time job

I thought getting pregnant would be "easy," but conceiving with PCOS was like a full-time job

9 min read

Kristyn Hodgdon and her husband Dan live in Long Island, NY with their two-year-old boy/girl twins who were conceived via IVF. After struggling with infertility, Kristyn turned her pain into passion and co-Founded Rescripted, a tech-enabled holistic care platform for fertility patients. Rescripted is changing the narrative around fertility and burning the word "normal" when it comes to what a family is and how one comes to be. They're rescripting fertility, together. Join the conversation on Instagram at @fertility.rescripted.

When Kristyn started trying to conceive at age 27, a previously unknown PCOS diagnosis threw her into the stressful world of fertility treatment and challenged her beliefs about parenthood. After conceiving her twins through IVF, Kristyn has dedicated her life to supporting others on their fertility journeys and remembers her own here.

I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but right after getting married, I was just excited to enjoy newlywed life with my husband. At the time, I thought getting pregnant was going to be easy: “If you have sex, you’ll get pregnant, if you’re not on birth control, you’ll get pregnant” — that message was pretty much the extent of my education when it came to my reproductive health, so I wasn’t in any rush.

When my husband and I were ready to start trying, I stopped taking birth control pills. My periods were irregular as a teen, so I had an inkling that my cycle might become irregular again without synthetic hormones, and I was right. About two months after stopping the pill, my period hadn’t come back. I made an appointment with my OB-GYN who told me to give it three more months. When my period still didn’t return three months later, my doctor ran blood work and performed an ultrasound before confirming that I had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

On trying to conceive after a PCOS diagnosis: “My doctor’s suggestions kept changing so fast”

After my PCOS diagnosis, my OB-GYN told me the next step would be going to a fertility clinic to explore medications that would help me ovulate. When first starting out, I had been so confident in my fertility that I was certain I was already pregnant just one week after stopping the pill — and somehow, months later, I found myself at a fertility clinic when I hadn’t even really started actively trying to conceive yet. Still, the reproductive endocrinologist reinforced the idea that getting pregnant would be “easy” for me, especially since I was only 27. Needing fertility treatment so suddenly was overwhelming, but I figured I would get results quickly. ”You’re so young,” the doctor told me. “You’re going to be fine. We’ll just give you a few rounds of Clomid so you can ovulate, and then you’ll get pregnant.”

So I dove headfirst into taking Clomid pills and timing sex around my fertile window. I didn’t get pregnant after that first cycle, so for the next phase, I took two cycles of Clomid and started intrauterine insemination (IUI). When that didn’t work, we switched to Letrozole pills since Clomid gave me terrible mood swings — but I still didn’t get pregnant. After having only taken oral medication to stimulate ovulation, we next tried Gonal F injections plus IUI and, again, I didn’t conceive.

It felt like my doctor’s suggestions kept changing so fast, but I continued the increasingly complicated process. I feared that PCOS meant it could take years for me to actually get pregnant, so what would happen if aging started to affect my egg quality? I wanted to conceive as soon as possible, so I committed to treatments — but my mind needed to catch up with what my body was enduring. I didn’t fully realize the emotional and physical toll of fertility treatments — or the amount of time they require — until I was experiencing them. IUIs alone felt like a full-time job, with almost daily trips to the fertility clinic for blood tests and ultrasounds to monitor my hormone levels and capture exactly when I was going to ovulate. It drained me. It was all-consuming. It also showed me how much I wanted to be a mom because I wasn’t giving up.

The decision to move to IVF: “It’s like a full-time job”

Eight months into my journey with medications and IUI, I hit a breaking point. I had been told that I was so young, that I would be fine, that it would be easy, and I couldn’t handle the disappointment anymore. “Can I just do in-vitro fertilization (IVF)?” I asked my doctor. My insurance covered it, and I wanted to get pregnant as fast as possible. I had already started Gonal F injections anyway, which are the same injections used during IVF. About one year after my first visit to the fertility clinic, I began IVF treatment.

Just like IUI, IVF felt all-consuming. On multiple mornings each week, my mom or my very supportive husband drove me to the doctor’s office 30 minutes away from our home in Long Island. If my husband drove and had to work that day, he’d drop me off at the doctor, then drop off the car back at home and take the train to work. When my appointment ended, I’d hop on the train to go to my book publishing job in Manhattan, often uncomfortable and donning band-aids from numerous blood draws. After work, I would have acupuncture treatments to help with IVF or go to another appointment for an ultrasound. It felt like I had nine million physically taxing medical appointments on top of my 40-hour work week.

On talking about fertility treatments: “I was sick of telling people bad news”

I threw myself into my job as a distraction, but infertility was always on my mind. As a talkative, bubbly person, I used to decompress by seeing friends, but infertility made me want to isolate myself. I was so sick of telling people bad news when they asked how treatment was going. Staying home and burying myself in work helped me avoid spiraling thoughts like, “What if I’m never going to be a mom?” At the time, I didn’t know anything about fertility communities on social media, so I didn’t know that there were so many people in the world who felt just like I did. I didn’t actually want to keep to myself about infertility — I just needed to find someone else who had been through it, too. When I learned that I had one cousin who experienced infertility a few years before me, it was deeply validating. She was a lifeline who taught me that it was okay to grieve. So many well-meaning people gave frustrating, unsolicited advice like, “Just relax, and it will happen when it’s meant to,” but she understood the helplessness I felt firsthand. She told me that it was important to acknowledge all of my feelings, even the negative ones.

Getting pregnant with twins after a failed embryo transfer: “I carried fear and anxiety with me throughout my pregnancy”

My PCOS may have disrupted my ability to ovulate, but it also meant I had high AMH levels and high egg reserve levels. So, after one IVF cycle and two frozen embryo transfers, I finally had good news. With treatment, I released 45 eggs and ended up with 12 embryos. However, I didn’t genetically test my embryos because that wasn’t covered by my insurance and I couldn't afford the $6,000 cost out-of-pocket. My doctor told me that since I was under 30, the chances of chromosomal abnormalities were slim anyway, so I moved forward without genetic testing. But then my first embryo transfer failed. I chose to use two embryos during my next transfer to improve my chances of conceiving, even though twin pregnancies can be more high-risk. Soon after, I got the phone call from my fertility clinic. I was pregnant with twins!

You might think seeing two pink lines on a pregnancy test would take away all of the heartache and worry that infertility had caused me. But I learned that infertility conditions you to expect bad news. After a year of failed treatment cycles, I was so convinced that pregnancy and parenthood just weren’t in the cards for me. So, when I finally got that phone call, all I could think was, “Well, there’s no way this is actually going to work out.” I carried that fear and anxiety with me throughout my pregnancy, and right when I started to feel confident and excited, I went into preterm labor at 27 weeks.

Nothing on my path to parenthood was easy, but a miracle let me make it all the way to 37 weeks before giving birth. I delivered my first twin vaginally but needed a C-section for my second twin, and I hemorrhaged during the procedure and again 10 days afterward. The second time, I was rushed to the ER, feeling the most terrified I’ve ever been. But I survived and my twins are healthy, and I find myself appreciating my body more because of what it endured and what it gave me.

On starting the Fertility Tribe, and the “triggering” nature of social media

Infertility is so hard to understand if you haven’t been through it yourself. I wanted to write about my IVF journey and my experience with infertility because I couldn’t find the stories I needed. I believe in the healing power of words and had so much I wanted to say, but I didn’t have the time or energy to create while undergoing treatments.

So once I was finally pregnant, I started writing the stories I didn’t have time for during treatment. The Fertility Tribe (now called Rescripted) began as my personal blog, but a year and a half ago, it became a larger editorial project where different people can discuss their different routes to parenthood and the ways infertility sticks with us even after we have kids. Similar to the Modern Community, we’re also a community that exists outside of social media (where celebrity pregnancy news and friends’ birth announcements can be triggering) and we help folks meet others with the same diagnoses in their area. We uplift each other in support groups, guide each other through treatment anxiety, and let each other know we’re not alone.

Considering baby number three: “It’s like I’m starting my infertility journey all over again”

Working with a fertility community is incredible, but I’m also constantly exposed to stories of what could go wrong and find myself catastrophizing. My husband and I are considering baby number three, and I’m still working through some of my remaining medical fears and PCOS frustrations. After giving birth to healthy twins, I didn’t get my period for nine months, then got the most painful period of my life. My doctor suggested I go back on birth control to manage my PCOS, and I felt so defeated. It’s like I’m starting my infertility journey all over again, so I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In these moments when I feel uncertain about the future, I have to remind myself how grateful I am for everything that my family and I have gone through to be here. Occasionally, people remark how chaotic life must be with twins, but it doesn’t feel stressful to me because the alternative is not getting to be their mom.

If you want to be a parent, and you work really hard and do everything “right” to become a parent, it feels shocking when you can’t achieve that. We’re taught that hard work equals results, so infertility challenged everything I’d held as true. I often see articles about getting pregnant “naturally,” even with PCOS, and I’ll wonder why that doesn’t work for me. But then I remember: I survived the toughest experience of my life, so when the path inevitably gets difficult, I’ll stay focused and never sweat the small stuff. I’m a completely different person after the challenges I faced to conceive my kids. I’m more resilient, not just as a woman, but as a parent, too.

Edited by Rachel Sanoff

Fertility could be top of mind or on the back burner for now — but it has the power to impact everything. We’re sharing your stories to both celebrate and create space for the many ways we navigate our careers, relationships, and finances in relation to our reproductive health. If you have a story to share, get in touch.

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