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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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.

 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time…

… of the month: ovulation day! ** Obviously. It’s way too soon for The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, although the stores don’t seem to know that and are already peddling their holiday wares. Sending a shout out to this all-important monthly milestone and the many accouterments that go along with. There’s a lot of bad in the world these days. Why not celebrate the little things?

Women (i.e., me) with one ovary really do ovulate every month! Like a person with one kidney, as soon as an ovary is removed the remaining ovary takes over the work of both. I’m amazed how God saw to it to design the human body with these capabilities. While it might be overtaxing to my lone ovary to be doing all the egg releasing itself during these last 13 years, I’m just grateful it’s still doing its job.

Here’s what a typical month looks like for me at ovulation, in pictures:

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One of my most-used apps. The shooting uterine pains I could’ve done without though.

 

Baby making makes you good at math.
Recently added to my fertility routine. I recommend consuming by disguising them in smoothies (wheatgrass) or stirred into coffee or chai tea (maca), because these supplements taste pretty nasty on their own.
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Fortunately, bromelain and selenium come wrapped up in foods that actually taste good! Here’s my monthly pineapple purchase, accompanied by a handful of Brazil nuts.
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The battalion of my supplement army, lined up and ready for battle
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Trust, but verify.

Let another two week wait begin.

Peace. ❤

 

** The most wonderful day of the month actually occurred 4 days ago.  I delayed publishing this because it seemed too trite to post during either the hurricane or on the anniversary of 9/11. 

The Fertility Demarcation Line

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In only a few short weeks I’ll be turning 35. In defiance of this age that’s so crucial to the fertility-challenged, I’d started drafting a post all about how 35 could bring its bad self on, how some obscure number wouldn’t suddenly make my eggs all like, “Oh snap, we’re expiring soon!”, etc.  I was all set to publish my post too.

But then, a trigger.

While sitting in church on Sunday morning our pastor invited a couple to come up front with their baby for the baby’s dedication. *Insert gigantic GULP here.* I was caught totally off guard that there’d be a baby dedication that day. If I’d known, I probably would have come in late.

I felt a swarm of conflicting emotions. On one hand, I was happy for this couple. But I was also envious of them. I felt sad for myself… then guilty for entertaining a pity party, especially in church of all places! Several people at my church know that I suffer from infertility. If I left the service while the baby was being dedicated, surely people could guess why. But if I remained in my pew then there’d be the inevitable glances at Marixsa:  you know—the “barren one”—to see how I was “holding up.” Or at least that’s what my pride told me.

Somehow I managed to stay put through the ooohs and the awwws and the laughter that ensued when baby protested to our pastor carrying her around. My heart felt like it was being squeezed. I kept my gaze straight ahead and unsuccessfully fought back tears. In vain, I wrestled against the pangs of grief that my own babies never lived long enough to be dedicated, or even that anyone besides Jake and I know their names. Then I felt rotten for being so selfish during a special moment in the lives of my fellow parishioners.

And so it goes. Infertility’s reminders come during the places and times when we least expect it.

All day afterward something continued to gnaw at me, long after the baby dedication had ended. I finally figured out what it was: 35 looming large on the horizon. That—despite putting my best foot forward, remaining optimistic, and trusting that God will give us the desires of our heart—I’m struggling with this arbitrary line in the sand of my fertility.

By Sunday night I was full fledged upset about turning 35. Once that birthday happens, all the protocols change: my clinic would automatically transfer two embryos instead of one (though I don’t have any embryos anyway). I’d be an elderly primigravida in my doc’s notes and not just your run-of-the-mill primigravida. Any pregnancy I may achieve will be considered a geriatric pregnancy. Geriatric? Me? No way.

I plan to keep pressing on for now. But at the same time, I’m starting to slowly investigate the possibility of one day facing life as permanently childless/child-free/whathaveyou, which is something I’ve never been brave enough to face before. Which then begs the question: When do you stop trying?

It’ll be six years of TTC this June. It gets tiring. At what point does the anxiety of TTC and the putting things on hold “just in case I’m pregnant” get vanquished for good? When do I begin to plan for a future that will just be Jake and I? When do I accept what plans may be for my life?

On the other end, where does my faith come in to play? Faith: the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Isn’t that precisely what this situation calls for? Believing in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? I’m either all in or not in at all. I want to be all in, in faith.

If that means continuing to make baby faith purchases along the way, then I’ll open my wallet. If that means swallowing the hurt at baby dedications then I can do it, by focusing on the fact that it’s just not my turn…yet… but someday it will be. If that means continuing trying to conceive despite the odds, then hello temping and ovulation tests.

Not that it’s not still difficult in the meantime. Because it sure is!  But nothing’s worth it if it’s easy… The hardest fought battles bring the sweetest victory… And so on.

What a number a number can do to us.

 

 

 

Conceiving to Conceive

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It’s so strange to be having a normal cycle: I almost don’t know what to do with myself. What is this for-real cycle that I seem to be in? The real test will be when (well, if) I ovulate this cycle—which is scheduled to happen this weekend—because ovulation has been so hit or miss for me this past year. What else is a girl to do, except to order another 50-pack of cheap Wondfo OPKs and continue temping for a temperature spike? The concept of no intermenstrual bleeding, on-time ovulation (without weird luteal phase lengths), and the same 20% chance of pregnancy as the Fertiles have is kind of mind-blowing. And exciting!

My first period post-op arrived right on time, and I ended my surgery cycle on a much-needed positive note of a normal 27-day cycle. My period itself was not so normal, as it came in fits and starts and lasted less than three days. I experienced far less cramping than usual (hooray!); in its place though I had scary insane uterine pains. It was as if someone were mercilessly jabbing at my uterus with an ice-pick and it lasted all day long for several days. The ice-pick stabs began to retreat on cycle day 3 and I haven’t had to take any narcotic pain meds since then.

As for recovery, all continues to be well (stabbing uterine pains aside). I ended up being allergic to the surgical glue which was used to close my incisions.  I’m basically allergic to nothing, so I was totally not expecting this. The allergic reaction is ongoing and unrelenting: think raised, angry red bumps, swollen skin, and ceaseless itching. Hydrocortisone cream has been my newest BFF; we go everywhere together these days. Although I’ve removed all of the surgical glue, only the passage of time will clear up the allergic reaction… which cannot happen fast enough.

So yes, it’s an unfamiliar feeling—in a good way!—to be entering into a cycle right now knowing that I could conceive this month as a fact. Not as a slim chance or as a shot in a dark: an actual, bona fide chance! No more ambiguity, no more wondering. No more trying to ignore the deep down sinking feeling that something, somewhere is physically very wrong and my efforts are probably for naught. I’m still adjusting to the idea that my pregnancy chances are now normal… It’s been a long time coming.

Normal chances or not, a pregnancy now would be still a miracle of sorts in my book, since there remains the matter of my somewhat inhospitable uterus for an embryo to contend with: (1) I have a moderately arcuate uterus, which increases the risk of a second trimester miscarriage; and (2) Dr. Din is pretty positive that I have adenmyosis going on in my uterus, in addition to the endometriosis outside of my uterus (I’m not sure what this means for me going forward?). Oh yeah: and the risk for ectopic pregnancy is much higher following procedures that unblock the fallopian tubes, so I’m not yet out of the woods. I don’t mean this to sound pessimistic. These are just real hurdles I may encounter, and I have to be aware of them, both feet in.

In the meantime, I’m back on the bandwagon full steam ahead:

  • Stocked up on Brazil nuts… a whole 2 pounds of them
  • Daily red raspberry leaf tea (during follicular phase only)
  • Basal body temping
  • Timed intercourse
  • Ovulation prediction strips
  • Pre-Seed lubricant
  • And so on and so forth

I’ve also added these guys to my already extensive supplement list (prenatal vitamins, Vitamin D, Vitamin C/Ester C, CoQ10, DHEA, L-Arginine, and baby aspirin), which is probably a post for another day:

  • Serrapeptase
  • Mineral supplement
  • Migravent (unrelated to fertility; this is a mineral supplement that’s supposed to help reduce the frequency of migraines. I average 1 migraine every 2 weeks, which usually puts me out of commission for an average of three days. We’ll see how this does…)

 

It feels good to feel normal. I’ll take it for as long as it lasts.

Peace.