“The Grumpiest Cat in the Whole Wide Grumpy World…”

… that’s what I always tell my beloved kitty, Grumpy Cat.  Some of you may remember that Jake and I adopted Grumpy Cat (“GC”) not quite two years ago, after our other cat suddenly passed away. GC was 13 years old when we got him; we chose a senior kitty so he’d have happy golden years. We would give him the highlight of his twilight.

On a recent Friday night Jake and I found ourselves rushing GC to the pet emergency room after he became gravely ill. It didn’t take the vet long to find the cause: kidney failure. lymphoma. anemia. Jake and I were stunned. Our cat had cancer and kidney disease? How could we have missed the signs?

After a long night in the ER during which Jake and I resigned ourselves to another pet loss, the vet was surprised and encouraged because GC began gaining strength and improving. So we took GC home—laden down with medications and instructions—with the possibility that he might pull through. He could have more time, more life, and quality life too.

With plenty of prayer and round-the-clock care—which included 6 different medications and daily subcutaneous injections of hydration—GC began improving and getting stronger. We were so encouraged!

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Recovering kitty.

But there must have been a kitty respiratory virus lurking in the pet ER, because GC came down with a nasty respiratory illness mere days into [what we thought was] his recovery. He stopped eating.  Couldn’t groom. Couldn’t walk. Lost a third of his body weight. It was bad.

Back to the vet. More medications.

For days, Jake and I literally did everything for GC, including assist feeding him with a feeding syringe. To avoid facing reality, I became obsessed with keeping GC clean and groomed and making sure his convalescence room was super tidy. Dignified.

But soon Jake and I had to admit that we were fighting a losing battle. It was time to say goodbye.

We arranged for a veterinary service to come to our home to humanely end Grumpy Cat’s suffering. I petted and hugged and cried all over him. So did Jake. We softly sung Jesus Loves You to him (“little cats to Him belong; they are weak, but He is strong“).  He fell asleep peacefully in his kitty bed while I held his head and whispered love to him. Then the final injection was given. I both heard and felt GC breathe his last.

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Our last morning together.
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Shortly before the injections.

We read Ecclesiastes 3:18-21 aloud after his passing:

18 I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals.
19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless.
20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.
21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”

I’m so heartbroken, but I take immense comfort in verse 21.

His paw prints are etched deeply into my heart. I’m so thankful to have adopted and loved GC. It was a privilege to have shared in the last few years of his life.

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2017 blog review.

I can’t be the only person who’s thrilled to see the end of 2017, amiright?  It wasn’t a good year for me like at all, both in Fertility Land and in my offline life.  I’m usually not the kind of person who classifies entire years as either ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but 2017 was just straight up rough.   I’m still kind of stunned that I came out of it intact.

I’m clinging to hope of 2018 being worlds better!  So far it has been better, except that our elderly kitty, Grumpy Cat, fell ill this past weekend.  But God has been so very good and gracious in the situation, and I’m 100% believing that GC is in His excellent hands and will be okay.

Now that that’s out of my system, I thought it’d be fun to look back over my blog in 2017 and see what all went down. I’m like the worst at checking the stats to this site; I’m forever forgetting to look at that kind of thing!  I pulled the year’s stats and was surprised at which posts were most popular.  That’s how it is in the blog world I guess: some of what I though were my worst posts fared excellently.  Other posts that I [humbly] believed were pretty good, tanked.

Anyway, here’s a look back at the Top Five posts of 2017:

#5. Back at Square One:      an unforgettable ER visit and continued frustrations about IM bleeding

#4. Infertility and Job Interviews:     recounting a job interview gone very wrong

#3. Conceiving to Conceive:     post-surgical hope for a pregnancy

#2. Surgery Recap: Part 2 of 2:     entirely too wordy—and far too detailed—post-op musings

and

#1. Hysteroscopy #: Arcuate Uterus:    a 2016 post all about weirdly-shaped uteruses (or is that ‘uteri?’)

I’d like to think that this here ‘lil site has helped someone else struggling with fertility and endometriosis in 2017.  WordPress helpfully gave me this here map…:

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… so I’m ever hopeful it has reached another person and helped her along her way in life, encouraged her, or let her know she’s not alone.

And rather than seeing this new year as twelve more tries at a baby, I am instead choosing to focus outwardly in 2018: What can I do this year to help others?  How can I be a blessing to other women? in my community? at my church? to my family?

Believing good things are in store this year, for myself and all my IF friends.

Peace.

 

 

REPOST: Year in [fertility] Review: 2017

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**originally posted on December 15, reposting today because, well, 2017’s end is imminently looming. Praise God for a new year!**

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.

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.