Year in [fertility] Review: 2017

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Somehow—in a blur of time and events and dates—another year is quickly drawing to an end.  I’m kind of stunned to find myself writing about 2017 ending, and so soon it seems!  And I’m kind of [read: very] disappointed to find myself still blogging about fertility stuff as we move into another year.  Even so, I’m immensely grateful for God’s goodness and protection during this year.  Fertility issues are just one part of the whole of my life.

So for those and myriad other reasons I can’t write here, I’m okay and moving still toward a deeper peace.  I continue to have moments of anger, frustration, and sadness about our inability to conceive.  Some days I can’t sense the light; I can’t see how this infertility will ever resolve; I feel my faith weaken.  But, overall, I am sustained by God’s peace and a strong sense to continue to wait patiently… although I’m notoriously impatient.  Character is being built here.  The process is uncomfortable.

As I look back over the year, here are the highlights of 2017 when it comes to our TTC sojourn, good and bad:

  • SUCCESS: A successful laparoscopy in March that opened my Fallopian tube and cleared away lots of adhesions.
  • SUCCESS: Ovulated 12/12 month this year.
  • SUCCESS: Normal cycle lengths 12/12 months this year, ranging from 24 to 31 days long.
  • SUCCESS: 11/12 luteal phases that were 14+ days.  Goodbye, luteal phase defect of 2016!
  • FAIL: My average 2017 ovulation cycle day was CD12, usually falling on CD 9 or CD10.  Hello, too-short follicular phases.
  • SUCCESS: Diagnosis of mystery bleeding.  Finally!
  • FAIL: Diagnosis, but no cure for mystery bleeding.  Intermenstrual bleeding continues.
  • FAIL: Why, in my mid-30s, do I still have monstrously painful periods?  I thought that period pain decreased with age?  (Actually, when I think back to my teen years and early 20s, my current period pain looks like a walk in the park.)  I still have to take prescription painkillers and spend a day or two in bed each month.  So, this mini-rant counts as a fail.
  • FAIL: Perhaps the biggest fail of them all: still not pregnant.  Yeah…

Our 2018 fertility plans remain open-ended.  Jake and I are in preliminary talks about going another round with IVF.  I’m quasi open to it; he’s much more cautious.  We totally cannot afford IVF and if we do decide to do it, I’ve no idea where the funds will come from. Like I said, it’s preliminary.

I’m in the process of changing my health insurance over to  Jake’s plan.  I found a clinic that—believe this?—SPECIALIZES IN ENDOMETRIOSIS (huzzah!).  And when I say specializes in, I mean that endometriosis is ALL THEY DO, all day.  The entire office is dedicated to patients suffering from endo.  Once my insurance has been squared away, I plan to make an appointment.  I so need a doctor who will actually help me, and I’m hopeful that this place will be the answer.  It’s an hour away and 90% of the drive involves major congested roads but I don’t even [mostly] care.

Even though it’s two-odd weeks til the new year, I’m pleased to see 2017 on its way out.  Never liked the odd numbered years as much for some reason.  I’m ever hopeful that 2018 will usher in new beginnings in our fertility sojourn.

Peace.

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Am I Doing Enough?

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I’m ending a multi-day bout of online infertility “research” feeling guilt-ridden.  Am I not doing enough to get pregnant naturally?  Each website contradicts the next: drink green tea, but avoid all caffeine.  drink warm drinks, but not hot or ice cold drinks.  eat fruit, but don’t eat raw food (should I be cooking my fruit??).

I’m overwhelmed.  Am I unwittingly turning my uterus into an inhospitable icy wasteland that shuns helpless embryos?  Am I causing my body to be nothing more than a land of inflammation and zig-zagging insulin levels?  Am I making endometriosis worse by drinking this cup of coffee?

Oh yes, coffee.  That vice I was all starry-eyed to give up last month.  Only today—on CD 11—am I finally putting my money where my mouth is.  Well, technically it’s still a work in progress: I had one cup of half-caff early this morning.  Currently I’m sitting at work staring at my office mug and resisting a very strong urge to brew my daily second cup of joe.

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My coffee mug, sans coffee.

An OPK sits nearby on my desk, waiting to be used on my next pee break. The perks of having the office to myself this week = leaving random OPKs on my desk and blogging from my office at 11 a.m.  Fertility consumes me even here.

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Just another day at the office.

When I read websites, articles, and books—which I do in abandon—about how to get pregnant, I walk away from them feeling like a selfish monster who isn’t doing everything possible to “prime” her body for pregnancy.  For optimal egg health maybe I should live off of seeds, quinoa, wheatgrass, and room temperature organic water.  Maybe I’m not trying hard enough.

The honest reality could be that the damage has already been done.  Look, I’m all for natural approaches to fertility and not heading strait to IVF; it works for many women.  But the fact is, I lived below optimum health for years…  YEARS!  Like, I ate crappy foods, barely exercised, and liberally drank alcohol.  I unknowingly basked in BPA, phthalates, and parabens.  So did Jake.

But here’s a fundamental difference: whatever damage Jake may have done to his swimmers by engaging in these activities isn’t forever.  Presto—his body just makes new ones, so his now-healthy lifestyle means his sperm are healthy too!  But I don’t have that luxury, my body isn’t making any new eggs.  Are a few years of progressively healthier living enough to undo a lifetime of exposure to Bad Things?  I wonder.

All of this culminates into excessive feelings of guilt.  Ate a piece of cake?  Ninety days until my eggs recover from the insulin spike!  Had a cup of coffee?  Just trashed my chances for conception this cycle!

While the rational, even-keeled part of me understands that balance is key to all things in life, another part of me—the part borne from my fertility “research”—tells me that I’m just making excuses.  That I’m too selfish to want to give up X, Y, and Z for my baby-to-be.  What kind of future mama am I anyway if I can’t sacrifice everything possible now?

Then I take a step back and remind myself that my life, my times, our season, our miracle—it’s all in God’s hands.  Not that that absolves me of responsibility to live right and do all that we can to achieve a pregnancy… because it doesn’t.  I usually dislike the expression, “Let go and let God, ” but right now it rings true.  I don’t want to make TTC into an idol.  I’ve done everything I know to get pregnant (or have I?? guilt, guilt, guilt….).  At some point, that needs to be enough and let faith step in.  At some point.  At this point.

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Visiting the ART of Infertility Exhibit

A free, month-long art exhibit in Philly all about infertility?  Too good to be true?  Nope: actually true! As soon as I heard there would be an IF art exhibit near me, I was interested.

Philadelphia’s Jewish Art Center is hosting this exhibit, called Cradling Creativity, during the month of November.  It’s sponsored by my former clinic, among others. Awesome, amiright?  I mean, how often is infertility awareness made so public?

Usually art eludes me and I don’t go out of my way to visit art museums or the like.  I have this idea that I’m somewhat artsy, but I delude myself: if asked to sketch a person, I’d draw a stick figure so that hardly counts.  But I can still appreciate others’ artistic endeavors—even the abstract ones that I don’t always understand.

Yesterday I met up with Tanya, the blogger behind The Sky and Back—who’s as lovely in person as she is online—to check out the exhibit.  Our meeting was a long time coming.  Even though we’re both IF bloggers in the same city who use[d] the same clinic, we’d never actually met!  Any gal who’s been TTC long enough knows that special kindred connection we share with one another.  Sometimes you just need to be in the company of a friend who gets it.

There was no one else at the exhibit except us. I’m sure the JAC wanted a better turnout too, especially on a Saturday. Maybe we just got there at a bad time. While I was waiting outside and before we went in, a couple of tourists noticed the sign for exhibit, exclaimed something among themselves about it being “weird” and went about their business. I can hope that it was an off day and that the exhibit has helped open others’ eyes about the real impacts of infertility on its sufferers.

I leave you now with some pics, since I only photographed part of the exhibit.  I just realized… I hope I’m allowed to post these!  I think so, since the artist’s names are alongside the paintings so they’ll get their fair credit.

Enjoy!

 

 

Mug Exchange

This year I participated in my third TTC mug exchange (a monumental effort seamlessly executed by fellow blogger Chelsea at Trials Bring Joy).  Each year I’ve been matched with a wonderful partner: women who are kind, gracious, hope-filled, and who—unfortunately—emphasize with this sojourn called infertility.

This year’s mug exchange was no different.  This year I was matched with a lovely mug partner who lives in a neighboring state. While our routes to mamahood are taking different paths and our medical diagnoses are very different, we still walk side-by-side dealing with the same struggle.  Although she’s not a blogger so I can’t link to her site, I hope that she’ll take it up as an outlet and a means to connect with other IF women.

I was so blessed to come home yesterday after being away all weekend to find this package awaiting me!

I got a handmade mug, pineapple socks, a 60-day devotional written by fellow blogger Caroline (In Due Time), and a huge book of fertility facts.

Now I regret not posting pics of the last two years’ mug exchange; but trust me, they were just as good.

The women who make up the online infertility community never cease to amaze me.  There is strength in numbers. 

Ecc. 4:9-10.

The Final Holdout

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I’ve given up a lot in my efforts to have a baby. Foods like alcohol, sugar, and dairy (really, dairy is cruel anyway so that wasn’t much of a thang) have long gone by the wayside.  I’ve spent a small fortune replacing everything plastic in my kitchen and every personal care product I own for their healthier counterparts.   I’ve thrown away perfectly shower curtains and cleaning products. You name it, I’ve either done it or bid it adieu.

But there’s one final holdout, the thing I love so dearly and view as my sole remaining source of joy, the last reminder of my “before TTC” life that I can still enjoy: coffee.

Does it matter to my fertility that I’d finally switched to organic coffee this year (coffee apparently is laden with pesticides; research is so annoyingly eye-opening)?  Does it matter to my fertility that, even after going organic, I went a step further and began buying organic, Swiss-water-processed decaf?  That I mix the two so my coffee only has half the caffeine as regular coffee?  Alas, it seems not—nary the faintest of BFPs have appeared.

So here and now I’m making a pledge. And I’m posting it so it emboldens me to actually stick to it, which is the real challenge.  If the TWW in which I’m currently in the throes ends in bloody defeat, then I will go caffeine-free.

That’s right: If there’s a CD1 in the coming weeks (though I earnestly pray there won’t be), then I will eschew my cherished java.  The goal is to get through an entire cycle without it.  What happens after that cycle remains to be seen.  One day at a time and all.

I mean, it’s not like I’m absolutely downing pots of the stuff daily. I have 2 or 3 daily half-caffs, which translates to 1 to 1.5 cups of regular coffee, or about 300 milligrams of caffeine. Too much?

The consensus on caffeine/coffee and fertility is muddy. Some studies say that moderate caffeine reduces fertility, others claim it makes no difference. Even other studies say that any caffeine is harmful to fertility. Who to believe?

I get that this post might sound trite.  I mean, it’s just a beverage, right?  Is it really worthy of a blog post?  Perhaps I wasn’t clear: I really LOVE my coffee!  If I could pen my feelings to coffee, It’d go something like this:

Coffee, my beloved friend.  We’ve done so much together you and I, experienced the ups and downs of life side-by-side.  You’ve given me gumption on many a tough morning, helped me stay awake to study before grueling exams, been the medium over which many a good conversation was had.  Through it all, you’ve been there.

I love coffee to the point where I cannot imagine a day without it, let alone an entire cycle.

But what if it’s been the culprit all along?  Like, forget the medical side of infertility. What if caffeine has been preventing our BFP?  What if something so seemingly easily preventable was keeping my body from conceiving?  What if the answer was there in front of me all along?

Update to follow.

 

In the Trenches

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The blogs of those women who’ve had their miracle babies either grow stagnant or else morph into parenting blogs. I unfollow many infertility-turned-mommy blogs. To some women they’re a source of encouragement, but I’m not in a place where I can handle baby/parenting posts in my newsfeed. It’s not personal: we’ve all been there at one time or another.

It seems like most of the IF blogger women I’ve befriended have resolved, and I feel isolated. I begrudge no one her happiness in overcoming infertility. I also realize that many suffer from survivor’s guilt, and aren’t sure how to reconcile these two starkly different worlds. They don’t want to inadvertently cause pain to those of us in the trenches. They feel like they can’t relate anymore. And in a way, they can’t relate:  these women have moved from fellow infertility friends to “the others.”  Mothers. The connection that once bonded us together is lost, and our sojourns take differing paths.

While it can be daunting and lonely to realize I’m still in the thick of things, I keep a peace deep inside that it will ultimately be okay. If nothing else, the long experience of infertility has taught me to seek God in a different kind of way. It’s happened gradually. And I don’t mean seeking God in a “gimme” entitlement attitude, or as a magical genie to grant my personal requests. Instead, it’s caused me to search deeper for answers into what His plans are for my life. I’m learning to be content whether or not His plans include children. I have peace.

While I’m believing Him to make me a happy mother of children, if it doesn’t happen, that’s okay too. I don’t believe infertility is His perfect will for me, or for anyone. But it is something He’s allowed me to experience for purposes that I may not realize this side of heaven. Although the pain of childlessness isn’t assuaged by this, it does become more manageable. The impossible demands that I place on myself to get pregnant are truly above my pay grade; I hold no power. But I do maintain faith.

The point of this post? That I’m still here, still walking among these trenches, still awaiting my miracle, and still awaiting yours, too. When I come out on the other side, I promise not to make this a mommy blog. I will not forget.

Photo Walk: Newtown, Pennsylvania

*Note: Non [in]fertility post. I need a break from the madness.

This month I participated in my first ever Photo Walk. After learning about Photo Walks from fellow endo warrior Lisa over at Bloomin’ Uterus, I just knew I had to sign up for one. They’re free, open to anyone, and held in cities, towns, and countries all over the place. A Photo Walk is a group of people who meet up for a couple of hours to take photographs of an agreed upon area. Attendees can take pics with fancy cameras, digital cameras, old school cameras, cell phone cameras… there’s no real rules.

Now I’m no photographer, and all I can claim as a bona fide camera is a decade-old digital model, but I do love taking pictures. So I figured why not?! Someday sooner than later though I would like to buy a nice camera. I really enjoy photography and definitely want to develop it into an actual hobby (see what I did there?).

My Photo Walk location choices came down to either Philadelphia or Newtown, Pennsylvania, which is a tiny suburb about 40 miles north of the city. I chose Newtown since I live in Philly and kind of see it all the time. I’d only been to Newtown once before and remembered it as being very charming and quaint. An afternoon of strolling and photographing far away from the hustle and bustle sounded lovely.

When I arrived to meet with my fellow Photo Walkers I was slightly disappointed. There were a dozen of us and, at 35, I was by far the youngest person there. (Silver lining: no babies or preggos!)  Our walk guide handed us maps of the historical area where we’d be photographing and off we went exploring, cameras in hand!

A few people—the professional types with their fancy lenses and camera bags—dropped out after only a few blocks. I have to admit, I too bailed halfway through because my group was moving so slowly and everyone seemed vaguely uncomfortable. But I did get to see several historical spots, meet some nice people, and enjoy an overpriced almond milk latte from an adorable cafe. That said, in the future I might sign up for a walk in a bigger city after all; maybe even stay for the entire walk next time.

Here’s some pics from my Photo Walk. You can click on any pic to enlarge it. As you can see, for reasons unknown even to myself I seem to have a penchant for taking pictures of doors… And if you look really closely, you might even catch a glimpse of yours truly (unintentionally) reflected in one of them.

Enjoy!