Mandi Pitzer, 37, went off birth control soon after she got married in 2014.
She tried tracking her cycle and scheduling sex, but still wasn't pregnant after three years.
She conceived the first time she used a home insemination kit.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Mandi Pitzer. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Before we got married, my husband Andrew and I were super careful about not getting pregnant. In the two years we were dating, I was on Depo-Provera, the birth control shot, and tracked my cycles using an app. We also used the pull-out method.
Once we had rings on our fingers we threw caution to the wind. Our friends were all having babies and it felt like the next step. Although we weren't yet actively trying to conceive, we thought I'd get pregnant quickly when we removed the precautions.
That wasn't the case. For the first few years, Andrew and I went about our lives as usual. We tried to make the most of baby-free time to travel and enjoy the early years of marriage. But as the months added up, I started to worry.
Most healthy couples get pregnant within six months of having unprotected sex, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The organization advises people under 35 to speak with their doctor if they've been trying to conceive for more than a year. Yet when I mentioned our lack of conception to my doctor, she wasn't concerned. I figured we had time.
I started researching assisted reproduction
After two years of not trying and not preventing, we got serious about having a baby when I was 32. We started intentionally having sex around the time I was ovulating. Scheduling sex took away some of the fun and intimacy, but it felt like something we had to do.
Yet, as we approached our third anniversary, I still wasn't pregnant.
I started to research assisted reproduction. Intrauterine insemination (IUI), a medical procedure where a doctor inserts sperm directly into the uterus, is a first step for many couples who can't conceive the old fashioned way.
IUIs result in pregnancy about 11% of the time. From what I read, when that doesn't work, patients often move on to in vitro fertilization (IVF), where an egg is fertilized in a lab, and then inserted into the body. IVF rates vary widely depending on the age and health of the parents: based on my age, our chances would have been about 47% each cycle.
Both of these procedures are expensive, especially if you lack health insurance.
IUIs can cost up to $1,000 per cycle without insurance, while IVF can cost as much as $15,000 per cycle. We had insurance, but we knew even with coverage, assisted reproduction would likely cost us thousands of dollars.
In addition to that huge cost, I had just watched my best friend go through fertility treatments and an IUI cycle. The amount of blood work, invasive testing, and medical appointments she needed seemed overwhelming to me. I was already processing three years of the stress of trying to get pregnant.
A home insemination kit worked on the first try
Then, I found something interesting in my research — Mosie Baby, a home insemination kit. At the time, I went with the first option that popped up on Google. Today, there are other companies offering kits like this too. The Mosie kit cost about $99 when I first used it, so it's a fraction of the cost of an IUI.
Unlike IUIs, which put sperm into the uterus, intravaginal insemination kits deposit sperm near the cervix, the entrance to the uterus. Research on these kits is limited, but shows they can result in pregnancy 25% to 70% of the time.
I sent Andrew a link to the kit and he replied quickly: order it. I was ovulating that weekend, so I overnighted a kit to our home.
Even though we'd been having sex for years, using the kit made us a bit shy. Andrew collected his sperm sample in another room. Then, he brought it into our bedroom, where I used the inseminator while lying in bed. It felt just like inserting a tampon and being at home was much more comfortable than being in a doctor's office. The kit came with two syringes, so we used the second the next day. Then, we started to wait.
On the first day I was able to take a pregnancy test I woke up very early. I peed on the stick and watched it the whole time. When the second pink line emerged, I couldn't believe it. I woke Andrew up at 5 a.m. and he sent a picture to his mom. Nine months later, we brought our daughter Everly home on Christmas day — a long-awaited present for us and our families.
Two years later, we used the kit to conceive our second child
We never used birth control after having Everly, who is now 5. And yet, after another two years we weren't pregnant. So, we ordered another kit. Mosie worked, again. Our second daughter Olivia is almost two, and our family is complete.
Trying to build a family was very stressful. I didn't want to feel like another number in the doctor's office. Being able to conceive our daughters in our bed — just with a little extra help — felt right for us.
Andrew and I are very private, but I've started sharing our conception journey because I think it's so important that people know about this option.
My moms — who have been together for more than 20 years — tell lots of their LGBTQ+ friends about how their granddaughters were conceived. In another timeline, this technology could have helped them. It can also impact people who don't have access to doctors or money to spend on fertility treatments.
Today we love taking Everly and Olivia to the park or going bowling with them. We've learned there's so much joy in those everyday moments.
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