The Weird New Normal and Other Updates

We’ve been on lockdown here in Philly for three days now. In the two weeks preceding that, all of the usual hysteria that’s been experienced around the globe due to COVID-19 happened here as well.  Like countless others, I’ve been working from home and regarding every person I encounter with a level of suspicion and a very wide berth (six feet, to be precise). Even though I’m not usually one to ‘document’ my life online, I’m making an exception with this post.

Today I had a tele-medicine appointment with Dr. Ruby. It was my first time meeting with a doctor electronically. I’m so thankful that God has provided humans with the know-how to create technology such as tele-medicine so that such things are even possible. Anyway, I’d contacted Dr. Ruby because I got my period 13 days ago and it still hasn’t stopped. I’ve been getting kinda worried (and inconvenienced) by the constant bleeding. Dr. Ruby believes my never-ending period is related to a new thyroid medication my endocrinologist prescribed me last month. I was prescribed this medication in an attempt to corral my uncontrolled Hashimotos.  I’ll update if the plan Dr Ruby suggested today actually works. I pray that it does.

As for whether the meds worked to control my thyroid, well I’m far too wary of going to LabCorp to have blood work done to find out. Jake is a nurse and works primarily with geriatric patients.  I can’t take any risks, such as going to the lab, which could potentially endanger him and his very vulnerable patients, unless absolutely necessary. In the scheme of things, my thyroid function is apples to the oranges that is coronavirus. So for now I’ll stay put and just have to trust that my new thyroid medication is doing what it’s supposed to do. Lord willing, I can find out later whether it actually did!

I’m just gonna pause here and lament that these are such weird times we suddenly find ourselves thrust into living in: today I met with my doctor via FaceTime. Tonight my infertility support group is meeting on Zoom. Tomorrow my bimonthly counseling appointment is being held via Skype. Last Sunday we “went” to church in our living room, also via Zoom. People keep throwing the word around, but it is unprecedented indeed.

As I continued to follow my fellow CNBC friends on Instagram, I feel a bit of relief that I’m not the only one who is oddly grateful to not have children at this moment in history. My family and friends with very young children incur the added difficulty of being cooped up together 24/7 while still having to provide entertainment, schooling, discipline, etc. around the clock. This all while trying to be “at work” at the same time… That’s been tough for some of my friends and family members. While I can’t emphasize, I can certainly sympathize with that situation being a really hard, frustrating, and map-less lifestyle.

And I’m a bit ashamed at those in the infertility community who are giving parents flack for ‘complaining’ for it being difficult to have their kids home right now. Parenting is hard stuff; parenting when you’re kids are 100% always home with no means of escape must be extra, extra hard stuff. When did it become martial law that, post-infertility, no one may ever complain about kids being tough to raise? Anyway, I am just grateful for my quiet home. As an introvert, staying home doesn’t bother me in the least; I actually prefer being home.  Jake is at work a lot because nurses are needed right now, so I find myself home alone often which can be kinda lonely, but overall I’m good with it.

I’ve set up my office in a separate space in the house, which helps to differentiate being ‘at home’ verses being ‘at work.’ Since my employer is deemed a ‘life-sustaining’ / vital function, I am still blessed to have a job, unlike many of my colleagues who’ve unfortunately been laid off this week. Boss has been understanding about my reluctance to return to our physical office next week, as he plans to do. For the foreseeable future, I’ll keep working remotely, even if Boss isn’t thrilled about it. We’ll manage.

Home is now also my new gym! It’s been a huge adjustment. I’m one of those people who goes to the gym at 6:30 every morning like clockwork. Suddenly life in that respect has been turned upside down! I tore my plantar fascia (ouch. like so much ouch I can’t even begin to say…), so running—which I love to do—is out of the question for the next twelve weeks. For the duration, I am wearing a really sexy gigantic walking boot while I heal, and modifying YouTube videos in my basement workout space so I don’t turn into a ball of fatty mush. Those workouts, coupled with taking Puppy on like 8,000 walks a day, is my new fitness regime.

And hey—if you’ve read this far, then kudos to you! This has been one of my most ramble-esque blog posts ever. Blame it on being cooped up and restless. I hope all of you are staying healthy and #covidfree. Know that you, all my (in)fertility friends, remain in my prayers.

Peace. ❤

The Infertility Support Group for Moms

I’ve been attending an infertility support group since last spring and every woman there has kids.

It’s such a contradiction in terms that I’ve decided to leave the group.

Here’s how it started: Last May-ish I was googling IF support groups and found a newly-formed group near me that meets twice a month. I was stoked because the other (legitimate) IF support group “near” me is like 20+ miles away and just… no. I’m not making that drive, not gonna happen. So I started attending this new, closer, unofficial group.

I say ‘unofficial’ because the group isn’t on resolve.  It was started by three women who attend the same church and all discovered, simultaneously, last Mother’s Day that they each suffer/suffered from infertility. So they banded together and decided to form a support group.

There’s no format or goal or anything to the group: basically, we just meet at Starbucks or a bar or some random place and hang out. Although guideline-less, I still appreciated the heart behind the women who formed the group. The group is open to the public, but I’ve slowly come to learn that no one else in the public, except me, stuck around very long.

Here’s the problem (aside from the fact that they’re all mamas): the three core group members all knew each other beforehand, whereas I just met them. So right out the gate I’m the outsider, and I’ve sometimes felt like one, too. Of those three women: #1 has adopted two bio siblings and is also currently fostering-to-adopt a third baby; #2 also adopted two bio siblings, then went on to not only have her own baby, but also was a surrogate for her sister and essentially birthed her own niece; and #3 is currently pregnant with her third (bio) baby.

Yeah. It’s like that.

Meanwhile, I’m at group like, “My dog is pretty awesome!” (which, incidentally, he totally is), while they almost constantly talk about their kids. It’s unsettling for me, and lately I’ve been wondering why I even go to group at all. It’s not like there’s much—if any—actual infertility support happening in this infertility “support” group. I usually leave feeling worse and more even infertile than I did when I arrived.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Marixsa, no blog post needed: just leave already!” And you’d be correct. The only reason I’ve stayed with the group is because there’s not another group near me.  But at this point, I kind of think that no group is better than this group.

It’s not that the ladies are mean or are purposefully overindulging in kid talk in front of me (I hope). They often encourage fostering and/or adopting to me and will listen if I speak up about my struggles. But foster/adopt isn’t something Jake and I feel any proclivity toward. Nor is it a fix.

And I get that: the fact that most of the group has resolved via adoption doesn’t change their struggles with infertility. Adoption didn’t fix or cure their infertility, nor did it take away the pain of their miscarriages, etc. (really, the group should advertise itself as some kind of quasi infertility-post-adoption meeting). However, their void of being non-mamas has now been filled.

But for me, the non-mama void is still ever-present. And I’m trying so hard to move past that void, but moving “past” it is hard. Nor is moving past it linear. The road is fraught with uncertainty—and that, right there, is not only where I need an infertility support group but where I could likewise offer some [fumbled] version of support to another person. Problem is, there’s no one in group for me to offer it to.

Just as I’ve learned to disregard when people aphorize “Never give up!” when referencing infertility, I’m also learning that quitting support might just me the best support I can offer to myself.

Today I sent a text to the group leader telling her a (gentler version) of this post. I feel a bit of loss for leaving, but overall I know it’s for the best.

 

***UPDATE:**** Right before publishing this post, I checked resolve’s website, aaaand guess what? There is a BRAND NEW infertility support group that meets 10 minutes from my new home! They’re meeting next in two weeks’ time, so please say a prayer for me that this group will be better than ^^.  I love when God meets a need and opens a new door.

Reinvigorated

A strange thing has happened: after our most recent loss, and despite its disappointment, Jake has been the one to step up the game of what seemed to be our rapidly-ending TTC sojourn.

Throughout all these years of TTC Jake has, of course, also wanted for us to have a child.  He was a good sport, too: he was game about letting me change his shaving cream, deodorant, shampoo because of scary chemicals; he stopped putting the laptop directly on his lap and thereby causing his swimmers harm; he never gave me a hard time about spending a small fortune replacing every “unhealthy” item in our home with its TTC-friendly counterpart (of which there were many).  He often accompanied me to doctor’s appointments.  He administered all my IVF medications (perk of having a husband who’s also a nurse!).  He was there for me emotionally throughout everything.  Despite all of these things though, I still felt like something was missing on his end.

Throughout our sojourn, I’ve always sensed a slight distance from Jake about TTC stuff.  I don’t mean he was outright disinterested—more like the heavy lifting was up to me.  I didn’t resent him this, but I did feel a bit lonely in my TTC endeavor.  Sometimes I felt as if Jake was just humoring me by going along with my ideas/requests/suggestions (okay, demands) to improve our chances of conception.  Even after our second and third miscarriages, these nagging feelings lingered.  This past year as I’ve begun embarking on the process of accepting childlessness, Jake didn’t resist as much as I’d (secretly) hoped he would.

But now Jake is different.  Our most recent loss seems to have reinvigorated (or just straight up truly invigorated for the first time?) his desire to have a baby.  He has a newfound pep in his step about TTC. Example: the other day, I found him reading my copy of It Starts With The Egg.   He was all excited to add some new supplements to his diet to help with conception (his idea).  He wants us to buy a bigger house so we have room for a child.  Stuff like that.

I’m not complaining!  Not in the least.  I’m happily surprised by his change in perspective—I wasn’t expecting it.  Even though it didn’t last, Jake has been encouraged by the fact that I got pregnant all on my own last month… well, not all on my own ha!  That’s the first time a pregnancy has happened naturally for us since our first loss way back in 2002.  Seventeen years is a very long time to not get pregnant.  Not that we tried all seventeen of them…  But I digress.

Despite my inching toward accepting life as CNBC, Jake’s newfound enthusiasm is rubbing off on me.  I feel sad, yes, that we have experienced another loss, another “no,” another failure.  It hurts and isn’t fair and all that stuff.  And I’m still sticking my toes into the water of accepting life CNBC—that hasn’t magically ended because of a few weeks’ of his attitude change.  At the same time, I don’t feel nearly as alone in TTC as I’ve felt for a long time now.  Having a partner who’s equally (or more so!) invested makes a big difference in my level of determination and outlook.

I’ve made it no secret on this blog that my determination for TTC has been majorly on the decline for awhile now; as in, declining to the point of near-nonexistence.  But now, a glimmer.  A ray of sunlight in the storm.  A reinvigorated approach.  I thank God.

Life Update

nostork

It’s been five months since my last post.  I’ve been meaning to post here but, life.  Today I brushed the dust off this site and realized, “Crap! Almost half a year’s gone by!”  I may have broken a personal (non)blogging record by waiting so long.

Anyway, quickie update. I’m just gonna post the highlights, forget about editing it (I agonize over editing and end up erasing much of what I’d written), and go about my day.


Here’s the highlights:

TTC:  My eight-year foray into TTC Land is drawing to a painfully slow crawl.  For instance, I have become completely unreliable about using my fertility monitor and OPKs—some months I do, other months it feels like an exercise in futility.  I haven’t BBT temped in one year now and have no plans to return, either.

I sought out a new doc earlier this summer about my intermesntrual bleeding, ongoing ovary pain, ongoing infertility, blah blah blah.  As per usual, he was utterly unhelpful.  At the end of the appointment, he said, “I’ll see you next year.  Unless you get pregnant—then call me.”  I wanted to smack him.  I left the appointment feeling all of the usual deflated frustration that accompanies each fruitless medical visit I’ve been to.  I won’t be calling him again.  Ever.

Pregnancy: Today my period is four days late.  Maybe that has something to do with suddenly inspiring me to update here, some subconscious reaction?  Don’t get excited, people: I actually (foolishly?) took a pregnancy test this morning, which is something I never do.  It was just the one line.  I sat there on the toilet seat at 5:00 a.m. holding that single-lined sucker up to the light at every.possible.angle, but still it remained negative.  And the couple of times I fished the used test from the trashcan (because we all do that, no?) it was just as negative as the first time.

Today I’m reminded of why I never take HPTs and hate them so very, very much—I really dislike the feeling associated with negative pregnancy tests.  A lot.  It brings back some bad crap.   At least a period saves me from the feelings that HPTs arouse.

Why is my period four days late?  Who knows!  My cycles are normally predictable and regular to a fault.  Just one of those months, maybe?  Or maybe I’m getting near menopause?  Sometimes I think that might not be all bad…

 

Surgery:  I have decided not to plan any more surgeries for the time being.  I can’t seem to find a doctor worth his or her salt, so all future surgeries are on halt.  Also, I’m tired of having surgeries.  It seems that surgery has never done anything to alleviate my endometriosis symptoms, so why bother having it done?

 

Boobs:  This morning I had my third mammogram and boob ultrasound!  I woke up last Thanksgiving to horrific one-sided breast pain and it never left since.  I’ve had a slew of mammos and u/s since that time, and but all the docs ever find wrong with my mammaries are benign cysts.   Lots and lots and lots of benign cysts—seven at last count just in one boob alone! Two of them look “complex,” so the docs monitor me every six months to keep an eye on them.  The docs tells me that the cysts are most likely inflamed, which probably accounts for the pain.

It goes without saying that I am grateful for this report.  “Only” boob cysts are good(ish) news!  At the same time, it’s also extremely frustrating, because breast cysts are so random and elusive: No one seems to know why they happen, when they happen, why they only happen to some women, why they sometimes hurt and sometimes don’t, why they get inflamed, and whether they will go away and/or come back.

The doc offered to aspirate the cysts at my next follow up, which is basically all they can do for breast cysts.  Aspiration does nothing to prevent the cysts from returning/filling back up with fluid.  I think I’ll pass on that one.

Also, side note: boob smooshing hurts.   So does cyst smooshing.  Being a woman is often a painful endeavor.

Childlessness:  The doozy of all updates!  Jake and I are hanging out in some kind of no-man’s land of fertility.  Most months, we try for a baby; each month, we fail.  But it’s become a kind of “expected” fail.  Don’t get me wrong, the accompanying disappointment of failure is always real each month, but it’s briefer and less intense.

We are moving on in our own way and accepting our life as Childless Not By Choice.  It’s not all bad.  I’ve been reading books on the subject, which definitely help me to feel less alone.


Whelp, that about does it.  This is perhaps one of my most boring posts to date, so kudos to you if you’re still here reading it!  I’ll try not to let another five months slip by before updating again.

Peace.

“There’s Nothing Wrong”

I hope you all had a wonderful summer.  Although I took a blog break, I’ve still been stalking everyone else’s blogs this summer and commenting here and there. I guess this post means that I’m back… for now! 

Although I can point to a reason [endometriosis] for my thus-far lack of babies, my unexplained non-period bleeding persists. I’ve been blogging consistently about intermenstrual bleeding for two years now.  I know you’re all bored stiff by it.  So am I. I’ve visited umpteen docs in that time, none any better than the other, who’ve performed procedures (cauterization), run tests (biopsy), and cut me open (laparoscopy) to try fixing the issue.

No-go.  Still, I bleed.  Like clockwork, each doc unhelpfully informs me that, “It’s just your hormones,” “Nothing can be done,”  or, my personal favorite, “You’ll have to find a way to learn to live with it” (like, what do you think I’ve been doing these past two years?!).  None of these docs actually test my hormones, mind you.  They just give me the same old canned answers out of, I don’t know what…  noncommital laziness, perhaps?

This summer I visited my GP because my pelvic pain has been worsening and the bleeding is taking over my life.  My GP (Dr. Cooper for today’s pseudonym) is a totally awesome chick, and visiting her is like chatting with a girlfriend who also just happens to be a super smart doctor.  I had high hopes she could help.

After patiently listening to my side of things and asking well-thought questions, Dr. Cooper developed an attack plan: I’d have a much-needed updated pelvic ultrasound and my hormones thoroughly tested. After reviewing my results and some careful cogitation, she’d refer me to another doc worth their salt.  I liked her plan: simple, yet effective.  The prospect of answers and relief was very enticing.

Other than showing that I have a uterine fibroid, my ultrasound was unremarkable. Same with my  blood work. All was in order, save that my Sex Hormone Binding Globulin Serum (or “Sex Goblin” as Jake and I like to call it) was off the charts because of my still-uncontrolled thyroid.  Much as I’d like to blame him, my misbehaving Sex Goblin isn’t responsible for all this bleeding and pain.

To my dismay, Dr. Cooper referred me to Dr. B.  Yes, the very same Dr. B. whom I long-ago fired because he had the personality of a potato.  Aaaand the same Dr. B who also no longer practices medicine; I guess Dr. Cooper missed that part of the story.  Another dead end.

Still, I bleed.  Unresolved.  It’s slowly driving me crazy.  And isn’t that the worst way to go?

White. flag. waved.

 

Clearblue Fertility Monitor Review

As promised, here’s the skinny after wrapping up my first cycle of using my new (well, new-to-me) Clearblue Fertility Monitor.


Background

A fertility monitor is more advanced than ovulation prediction kits.  A FM measures and compares both luteinizing hormone and estrogen, as opposed to strictly an LH surge. The FM is also more sensitive and accurate.  And, a bonus for me—there’s no test/control lines to squint and analyze. Huzzah!

Using a fertility monitor is easy enough (although I still recommend reading the entire instruction booklet. Considering the financial investment of the monitor, you’d better believe I read that booklet cover to cover!).  You simply power the monitor on first thing every morning of your cycle to determine two things: 1. Whether the FM wants to be fed a test stick; and 2. Whether your personal fertility chances that day are low, medium, or high.  You POAS (must be FMU), insert the cleanly capped stick into the FM, and wait five minutes.  The display then shows one of the following:

  • 1 bar = low fertility.
  • 2 bars = medium fertility.
  • 3 bars = high (“peak”) fertility, replete with a pic of a tiny egg.

If your cycle ends in a BFN, pressing the monitor’s only button (aside from the power button), tells it that a new menstrual cycle has begun, and the whole process repeats.


First Use

A FM learns your individual cycle over time. I hope this means that it requires less test sticks over time too, because I went through ten of those suckers this cycle alone ($)!

After receiving my monitor in the mail and giving it a thorough cleaning, I reset its internal computer, which you should do when buying a used one.  A reset means it knew nothing about my cycles, and we started out our very intimate relationship as strangers.  The FM asked for its first test stick on CD6 and required daily testing until it was finally satisfied on CD16.

The FM provides not one but two days of high or “peak” fertility. Unlike OPKs, the positive window for the first peak day lasts 24 – 36 hours (as opposed to 12 – 48 hours for OPKs).  I liked this narrower window because it really helped me to pinpoint the exact day I was the most fertile.


Convenience

20180611_074244
The actual fertility monitor. 

Clearblue’s fertility monitor is palm-sized and discreet.  There’s no wording or other markings on the monitor itself that could give away its function to someone who stumbles upon it.  This makes me feel comfortable traveling with it or leaving it in the cabinet when guests use my home restroom.  However, I have an older model; the newer monitor pics I found online look very different than my monitor, pictured above.  The monitor could also easily slip into my pants pocket or purse, if needed.

And, as mentioned above, the most convenient part is not having to interpret test lines!


Fertility Monitor vs. Ovulation Prediction Kit

Eventually, I may reach to the place where I replace my OPKs with the FM.  That said, I took no chances and still used Wondfo OPKs my first cycle.

I began OPK testing on CD10 and received a positive on CD11.  Conversely, the monitor begin testing on CD6 and gave me the first of two positives on CD12. Clearly, one was wrong.  But which?  I wonder—absent blood tests and a few dates with an RE—how to know.  I wish I’d bought this monitor during my days of visiting infertility docs, as it would’ve been handy to know which test was right!  One day’s difference might not sound like a big deal to an outsider, but, since the ovulated egg is only solidly good for twelve hours, that one day can make or break a cycle.

To be safe—and much to Jake’s delight—-we took no chances and TTC’ed on CD9, 10, 11, 12, 14, and 15.


Consensus

20180611_074354
Clearblue advises that you not interpret your results based on the test lines.  But I still do anyway, because I’m fanatic like that. 

Being that I’m gearing up for cycle number two, the monitor failed in that I didn’t get pregnant.  It’s not entirely the monitor’s fault though: all it can do is advise me the best day to have sex.  It’s no miracle worker.

I completely forgot to reset my monitor on CD1 this month, mostly because I stowed the thing away weeks ago and am not yet in the habit of resetting it monthly.  However, if you’re forgetful like me, there’s a way to override the FM’s computer and catch it up to your current cycle day.  Good work, Clearblue, for making an option ‘B’ for women like me who space out on these kinds of things!

VERDICT:  I think I’ll keep using the monitor for the next few months.  When/if I: (a) stop TTC, (b) get tired of buying test sticks, or (c) get pregnant, I’ll either resell it online or give it away.

Overall rating: A.

Opting Out of M- Day

It’s fast approaching. That day of the year. The one that fills me with a special kind of pain: Mother’s Day.

Reminders of MD are unavoidable, as everywhere I turn advertisements oh-so-helpfully remind me of its impending arrival: “Don’t forget mom!”, “The perfect gift!”, “She’s worth it!”   It’s epidemic.

All my life, MD has been the one day that I yearly want to kick in the nuts.  See, I never knew my mother.  And the person who later became my so-called stepmother managed to scar my psyche in myriad ways against the concept of mothering…  but that’s entirely too much crap to cram into a blog post.  Toss in six-plus years of infertility and three miscarriages and here’s the result.

This is only pain talking.  Deep pain.  Real pain, not to be mistaken with bitterness.  Just sayin.

The last several years I purposely avoided church on MD.  Then last year on MD—fueled by some unexpected bout of starry-eyed over-enthusiasm—I attempted to attend church.  I lasted exactly ten minutes, congratulating myself on my valiant strength in the face of adversity all the while.  That is, until I encountered a fellow parishioner who’s five years younger than me and has four children.  Wearing matching mommy-and-me dresses, she and her youngest toddler paraded through the church hallway holding hands, smiling, and basking in compliments on how adorable their matching garb was.  Yep: that was the catalyst.  Jake and I ducked out before service even began.

I won’t make that mistake again.  This year I’ll resume skipping church; avoid restaurants; stay away from the grocery store; flee Facebook like the plague.  Instead, I’ll hang at home with Jake, Puppy, Netflix, and a pint of almondmilk ice cream.  Maybe even pop a painkiller, because this is the third consecutive year that I’ve had my period and monster cramps on MD weekend.  *insert extra gut punch*

Sometimes you just need to protect your heart.

happy_mothers_day3