Category Archives: Infertility

Plastic white stars and shiny crescent moons

As I make the rounds of my favorite blogs, I see mention of different herbs, essential oils, magic green smoothies and other witches’ brews that can help with infertility problems. I’ve asked before, how does this or that interact with these medications I’m taking? Does it enhance or negate the effects of Metformin or d-Chiro Inositol? Does it enhance or negate the effects of Femara/Progesterone/HCG at strategic points of my cycle? Does it help or hurt PCOS? Do you take them all month? The 2 to 2.5 to 3 weeks (depends on the month) before ovulation? Only after ovulation? What exactly should be done here?

Inevitably, the answer is “ask your doctor.” Like a doctor will prescribe you essential oils or herbs, or even know what the interaction will be. I’ve been told to find a Naturopath. Looked for one, and found one 5 hours away. Not practical.

While browsing around amazon the other day to buy some Pre-Seed (yet another tool in the toolkit that isn’t sold anywhere within an hour of me), the “also bought” section showed some pre-conception tea. It is a mix of herbs, red rasberry leaf, red clover, nettle, alfalfa, chamomile, oatstraw, peppermint and dandelion leaf, and I thought I would try it. Since starting yet another Whole 40 (you know, for Lent), I can’t really drink anything other than water. Caffeine is a no-no, juice is a no-no, awesome, dark, full-bodied beer is a no-no, pretty much herbal teas and water are it.

It shipped out, and the same questions came over me. What if this month we actually succeeded? Should I start drinking it yet, or wait until the 2ww is over? Will it mess up my blood results? Is it going to taste awful?

I don’t know yet. I decided to wait.

But I did get the package, and in it, along with the loose leaf tea, came this:
“This baby dust is Special and is being sent to you hoping it will help your fondest dreams come true.”

Dafuq is that? I know, it is something cute little 20 somethings who decide they want a baby, come off the pill, wait 3 months, try some hippy yuppy crap, and conceive in the next cycle find totes adorbs.

If only I’d known. If only I had realized the power of plastic white stars. Of silver and blue shiny crescents. Of glitter. BABY stamped out of blue and pink. Why, these past 7 years would have been totally different! We would have had to move into bigger accommodations twice over to handle all the babies spewing out of my vagina. 8 shots a month, half of them in oil which leave giant welts on your ass…and that’s just in the trying stage? Why no! The glitter is specially formulated to provide all you need in the hormonal department! A vaginal ultrasound every month to make sure that your ovaries aren’t being overstimulated by the high doses of Femara? Nope again. The twinkle off the stars will peer deep into your abdominal cavity and make sure only one egg is released at a time.

Ugh. I know it was intended as a nice gesture. It just utterly failed in this house.

I have some good news

No, I’m not pregnant.

But, that is what you immediately thought isn’t it? And now that I had to go and burst your bubble, you are a bit disappointed, aren’t you? And no matter what news I tell you now, it won’t hold up to that bit of excitement you had when you thought I was pregnant.

Never mind. I’m not telling you what the good news is. It will be anti-climactic and disappointing for you.

But just think what that little exchange did for me. You got to bring me down and remind me of my failures. Of the children I have lost. Of the months and months and months of charting and trying and dieting and crying. So, even if I was going to tell you “Good news! I just got a raise!” (I didn’t) or “Good news! I finally figured out how to get my chickens to stop eating their eggs!” (I haven’t) or “Good news! Boobock is finally sleeping through the night in his bed!” (he isn’t) I now get to think of my dead babies. And feel like I need to apologize to you for bringing the mood down.

Bravo. Bra-fucking-o.

I’ll try not to be so selfish next time.

cover photo

Nope, not ready yet

I was supposed to get a tattoo tomorrow. Some of my sisters want to get one, and so we scheduled it so we could all get them together. I don’t currently have one, and I never thought I would get one, as “I don’t like anything that much that I might not like it in the future.” But you know what I will never not like? My family. My husband, my three sons, though only one is with us.

After I miscarried in March, I was a wreck. For weeks, all I could do is cry. One night, staying up late, I found some inspiration in some tattoos. There were two especially that I liked, and I knew that my sister K could draw it for me.

I sent her facebook messages all night as I refined my thoughts, as she blissfully dreamed.

Here was the first I felt drawn to:
flowing image

I loved the flowing lines, and especially the top left and bottom middle. Just simple lines, not especially detailed, but I felt drawn to it. That was going to represent Boobock and I. I also asked her to add DH to that as well.

I then found this one:
heart - foot

I mean, that exact one is kind of crude, but I liked the foot on the heart. I liked the idea, but wanted the style to be like the top one. I would want two of these, one for each baby I lost. And to definitely show that there were two of them, both of the hearts needed to be right feet.

Then, we needed to think of if I have another baby, another like the top, or if I miscarry again, another like the bottom. That would be hard, though. A design that would look good as is, or adding one or the other.

And…no angel wings. People don’t become angels when they die. They hopefully become saints, but never angels. Angels are separate beings created by God, not dead people.

I thought of adding a phrase to this as well. It turned out that the image was so powerful that it didn’t need a phrase, but I still love what we came up with:
May God hold you in His arms until we gather as family.

I sent her all this late into the night, and then she started drawing. She sent me different pictures on her phone, and eventually came up with exactly what I wanted:
cover photo

I love it. I look at that and see DH and I holding Boobock in our arms. We are surrounded by love. Our two sons we never met are forever a part of our family, though we never got to hold them. We have room for more, if God so chooses to bless us (and if my body can get with the program), but we know that even if we can get pregnant, there are no guarantees. In our arms or surrounded by them, I am still their mom. And we are still family.

And when the final picture came through from my sister, I felt peace. Designing this and dealing with all the symbolism really and truly helped me cope with our latest tragedy. After she cleaned up the lines a bit and framed it, she gave it to me. Looking at it has calmed me over the past 6 months when I needed it most.

And so, tomorrow is the day. My sister A asked me if I was going, and I said yes and asked her for a bit more information, as to where and what time. As I was driving home, I started thinking about the picture and how I was going to explain to the tattoo artist exactly what everything meant, the symbolism that was so perfectly rendered by K, and I got a heavy feeling in my chest. A nagging feeling about…something. I tried to shrug it off, but over the years, I have made big mistakes when I ignore that feeling, so I decided to explore it. The feeling I had was “are you sure you are done?”

No! No, I don’t want to be done! I need to continue to feel hope that we can have another child. I am not ready to give up. I am not ready. I got this overwhelming feeling that if I tattoo that permanently on my body, that we are done. Even though we designed it to allow additions. Even though ink in your skin does not mean anything other than you had someone inject ink into your skin. No. I can’t let those fatalistic thoughts creep into my head.

And as my eyes started brimming with tears, I had to call someone. And so, I called my sister J, who had put this whole tattoo party together. I felt so badly. She is only 18. She doesn’t need to get unloaded on by her 36 year old sister about things she hopefully will not ever have to contemplate. I started telling her how I was feeling, and how I was so sorry for her going through all the trouble to get us all appointments and all, and I was backing out. I really started crying then. I mean bawling. About the symbolism of it all and trying to explain what I was feeling, and oh, I just felt awful.

But after making the decision, I felt peace. Peace that not getting it now is the right decision. That there may be time still and to not lose hope. And I still have the picture, framed and signed and made with love, and that is good enough for now.

Pregnancy facts about me – #2

On facebook in December 2013, there were many pregnancy stories going around. “5 pregnancy facts about me” or “20 pregnancy facts about me”, etc. Most of them started with morning sickness, or the happy lack thereof, and ended with 12 hours of labor, or a C-Section, or some other happy ending. Mine is much, much different. I compiled 20 at the time…but more will be added to that list, since my pregnancy facts – or infertility facts, as the case may be – are still accruing. I’ll be doing one “fact” per post, in a recurring fashion. The roundup of this entire series is here: Roundup

2) I was lucky that during my first pregnancy we got to see an ultrasound early, at 8 weeks, since I was an older mom. I miscarried 2 weeks later. But I have an ultrasound picture and I was able to hear the heart beating.

Oh, happy day, we finally got pregnant! After getting laid off from my job in 2009, I was finally home full time, without the 3 hour drive one way, and 4 days away from my husband. Less stress, more time together, boom, pregnant 2 months later.

We, or I, decided to go to a local doctor instead of driving an hour to a larger hospital, or 3 hours back to the doctor in Wichita. I got my first appointment with the doctor, and explained a bit about my PCOS. She hadn’t ever heard of it. That was a bad sign, but I didn’t change doctors. She saw that I was on Metformin, and told me to quit taking that, as I didn’t actually have diabetes. I shake my head at her abject incompetence.

I started telling people that we were pregnant after around a month. First just close family, then more and more people. We were so excited! I just couldn’t wait to hold this little person my husband and I made. I had a lot of time to help DH on the farm, as the company had laid off so many people that they had to give us 2 months notice first. Since I was in a sensitive position that could have caused havoc, I was let go immediately but they still had to pay me for that time. They also paid out my vacation, and then I got some unemployment when all that was done. Of course, I was looking for a job diligently, but hadn’t found anything yet.

I scheduled an appointment to have an ultrasound done. Because I was “older” at 31, they decided to do an ultrasound at 8 weeks instead of 10. DH went with me, and we got to hear the baby’s heartbeat and see the little bugger. It was magical. I was so happy. Oh, the plans we had. I am very thankful that DH decided to go. I didn’t know how many times he needed to go to the doctor with me, but he went to the first appointment and also went to this one.

We got a picture printed out of the ultrasound. I called him my little peanut. That picture is still up on our refrigerator.
ultrasound of Christian

I had little morning sickness and just got a bit tired. I have since learned that because of the small amount of hormones I produce, I don’t get morning sick very often. I felt fine and helped DH around the farm. Walking and lifting and driving and bouncing and all that. Everyone assured me that was fine, just don’t wear myself out.

I finally got an interview for a job on June 12. I went to it, and DH came with me so he could do some errands in Beloit. I had a great interview, we went out to eat and came home. Things were looking up! A new baby, a new (potential) job – which I did actually get, happiness and butterflies and rainbows. I was still under the mistaken impression that if you got pregnant, you automatically got a baby after 9 months. I had no idea what was coming next.

How the Whole 30 is affecting my sleep

I have always had a hard time falling asleep. When I say always, I mean, at least since before 2nd grade. I don’t remember exactly when before 2nd grade, but this happened in a house that burned down when I was in the 2nd grade…so it happened before that.

My mom told me to go take a nap, and I said something like “I’ll go lay down but I won’t be able to sleep.” I wasn’t being obstinate. I wasn’t trying to get out of a nap. I just knew that when I laid down to sleep at night, I laid there and stared at the ceiling, and couldn’t sleep, so why would the nap be different?

It is awful to not be able to go to sleep. Everyone else in the world is gone to you, and you have to keep the light off or you bother your sister sleeping cattycorner from you in your room. Well, I actually didn’t do that. I read. I read and read and read and read, and when she yelled at me to turn the light off, I would say things like “just one more chapter” but that was a lie. I have actually read until the sun came up before, but that was much later, in college, when I didn’t have classes on Fridays so I didn’t need to sleep so I could get up, I thought. I read because laying in bed starting at a dark ceiling sucks.

Screaming at yourself to “Go to sleep already!” is counterproductive, to say the least. The worst is when you knew you had a big day the next day, knew you needed to go to sleep, and finally glance at the clock and it shows 2:30. So you get up to take a Tylenol PM, go to sleep, and then feel drugged the next day because you didn’t get 8 hours for the effects to wear off.

What was/is the problem? I don’t really know. Probably hormonal, as most of my problems are.

I admit that since I got married, it is better. I don’t know if it is hearing his deep, slow, constant breathing that comforts me? If he puts his hand in the middle of my chest, like on my sternum, (or I grab his hand and put it there after he is asleep and I am having trouble falling asleep) and it is just laying there, that also helps. Yes, weird. I don’t know why that helps but it does.

I’ve done relaxing techniques where I tense my toes for 10 second, then relax them for 10 seconds and don’t let myself move them again, then up to my arches, calves, whatever muscles are around your knees, quads and hams, etc, right up to your face. Sometimes that relaxes me enough to go to sleep, but not always.

One change I have made over the years is to put blankets up over the windows, under the curtains, to make it pitch black in the room. We shut the bedroom door, there is no bright alarm clock, and there is no light at all in there. That did make a big difference once I decided that it was time to go to bed.

But my real problem is that it doesn’t occur to me to go to bed. I am not tired, I am not “wound down” whatever that means. I’ll look at the clock and it will be 10:00 then 11:00 then 12:00 then 1:00 and I’ll think, huh, I better go to bed. I have to get up in the morning…which is the attendant problem of not sleeping.

‘Cause once I do fall asleep, a bomb could go off and I wouldn’t wake up. Again, a problem I have had since I was young. Dragging me out of bed for school was not pleasant, I assure you. I am not ashamed to admit that I had to have my mom call me to make sure I was awake before for school/work. Not all the time, but if I was going through stretches where I was having an especially hard time falling asleep/waking up, I would ask and she would do it for me. I have missed 6:00 am basketball practices because I slept in. I have been late to work, late to church, not signed up for things I would like to do because I knew I couldn’t get there in time. The only time I remember getting up in the morning and being excited about it was my wedding day. I was up by 8:00 that morning with no alarm and popped right out of bed. See how twisted I am that getting up at 8:00 was a stellar day for me?

I haven’t got into the Coffee Addiction problem, thank goodness. I think it was because I was always rushing around too much in the morning to get ready to stop and make a pot. No time, you see, cause you gotta get ready to go, rush, rush, rush, because you slept too late. I was going to say “pushed snooze too long” but most of the time, I didn’t even hear the alarm to snooze it. It would just go and go. Drove my sisters crazy.

So what has changed since doing this Whole 30 this time? I don’t know if it is because of the food or because of the weight I am dropping (down 50 pounds since a year ago last April, thank you very much) but if the eating is causing the weight to drop, maybe it is both, huh? Lots of the weight has come from the belly area, as I have dropped two belt notches in the past few months, and isn’t Cortisol the hormone that both makes you put on belly fat and guides your circadian rhythm?

Well, yes, yes it is: Cortisol — Its Role in Stress, Inflammation, and Indications for Diet Therapy

I haven’t really put these things together until right now, this instant, when writing this. I suspect I have always had an adrenal problem, I knew I could never sleep and could never wake up on time. I gain weight easily and lose it very slowly. I am infertile. Well, looky here (from the article linked above):

Blood Sugar Imbalance and Diabetes
Under stressful conditions, cortisol provides the body with glucose by tapping into protein stores via gluconeogenesis in the liver. This energy can help an individual fight or flee a stressor. However, elevated cortisol over the long term consistently produces glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels.

Theoretically, this mechanism can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes, although a causative factor is unknown.1 Since a principal function of cortisol is to thwart the effect of insulin—essentially rendering the cells insulin resistant—the body remains in a general insulin-resistant state when cortisol levels are chronically elevated. Over time, the pancreas struggles to keep up with the high demand for insulin, glucose levels in the blood remain high, the cells cannot get the sugar they need, and the cycle continues.

Weight Gain and Obesity
Repeated elevation of cortisol can lead to weight gain.2 One way is via visceral fat storage. Cortisol can mobilize triglycerides from storage and relocate them to visceral fat cells (those under the muscle, deep in the abdomen). Cortisol also aids adipocytes’ development into mature fat cells. The biochemical process at the cellular level has to do with enzyme control (11-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase), which converts cortisone to cortisol in adipose tissue. More of these enzymes in the visceral fat cells may mean greater amounts of cortisol produced at the tissue level, adding insult to injury (since the adrenals are already pumping out cortisol). Also, visceral fat cells have more cortisol receptors than subcutaneous fat.

A second way in which cortisol may be involved in weight gain goes back to the blood sugar-insulin problem. Consistently high blood glucose levels along with insulin suppression lead to cells that are starved of glucose. But those cells are crying out for energy, and one way to regulate is to send hunger signals to the brain. This can lead to overeating. And, of course, unused glucose is eventually stored as body fat.

Another connection is cortisol’s effect on appetite and cravings for high-calorie foods. Studies have demonstrated a direct association between cortisol levels and calorie intake in populations of women.3 Cortisol may directly influence appetite and cravings by binding to hypothalamus receptors in the brain. Cortisol also indirectly influences appetite by modulating other hormones and stress responsive factors known to stimulate appetite.

Immune System Suppression
Cortisol functions to reduce inflammation in the body, which is good, but over time, these efforts to reduce inflammation also suppress the immune system. Chronic inflammation, caused by lifestyle factors such as poor diet and stress, helps to keep cortisol levels soaring, wreaking havoc on the immune system. An unchecked immune system responding to unabated inflammation can lead to myriad problems: an increased susceptibility to colds and other illnesses, an increased risk of cancer, the tendency to develop food allergies, an increased risk of an assortment of gastrointestinal issues (because a healthy intestine is dependent on a healthy immune system), and possibly an increased risk of autoimmune disease.4,5

Gastrointestinal Problems
Cortisol activates the sympathetic nervous system, causing all of the physiologic responses previously described. As a rule, the parasympathetic nervous system must then be suppressed, since the two systems cannot operate simultaneously. The parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated during quiet activities such as eating, which is important because for the body to best use food energy, enzymes and hormones controlling digestion and absorption must be working at their peak performance.

Imagine what goes on in a cortisol-flooded, stressed-out body when food is consumed: Digestion and absorption are compromised, indigestion develops, and the mucosal lining becomes irritated and inflamed. This may sound familiar. Ulcers are more common during stressful times, and many people with irritable bowel syndrome and colitis report improvement in their symptoms when they master stress management.5 And, of course, the resulting mucosal inflammation leads to the increased production of cortisol, and the cycle continues as the body becomes increasingly taxed.4

Cardiovascular Disease
As we’ve seen, cortisol constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure to enhance the delivery of oxygenated blood. This is advantageous for fight-or-flight situations but not perpetually. Over time, such arterial constriction and high blood pressure can lead to vessel damage and plaque buildup—the perfect scenario for a heart attack. This may explain why stressed-out type A (and the newly recognized type D) personalities are at significantly greater risk for heart disease than the more relaxed type B personalities.6

Fertility Problems
Elevated cortisol relating to prolonged stress can lend itself to erectile dysfunction or the disruption of normal ovulation and menstrual cycles. Furthermore, the androgenic sex hormones are produced in the same glands as cortisol and epinephrine, so excess cortisol production may hamper optimal production of these sex hormones.5

Other Issues
Long-term stress and elevated cortisol may also be linked to insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid disorders, dementia, depression, and other conditions.4,5

Check, check and check, huh? I guess this will be a topic of conversation at my next doctor’s appointment.

But what exactly prompted me to write this now? Well…I was tired last night. At 10:30. Wut? I was tired “early” the night before, too. I got up this morning before my alarm clock. These are not normal things for me. These are…scary things? Out of the ordinary for sure.

I think that eating the way I have been, with meats, vegetables, fruit, vinegars and spices, etc., has done something extremely positive other than decrease my waist line. Hopefully the rest of the list I had to check off from the article above is reset the same way.

Have you had your morning coffee yet?

“Sorry, I haven’t had my coffee yet.”

“Don’t talk to me yet. I haven’t had coffee.”

“More…coffee…(stumble stumble).”

“Oh jeeze. That was a dumb mistake. Sorry. Must need more coffee.”

Do people hear themselves admitting an addiction every morning and lusting after dark, roasted acidic beans, usually with enough sugar and cream to actually be making a shake? Is that ok with everyone? It bothers me. I mean, what would really happen if there was a Columbia embargo and there was no coffee to be had. Would the entire country stop producing anything of value and go on a week long tantrum ending with the Great Coffee Raid, involving Navy Seals, an aircraft carrier and drone strikes? Maybe. But then we would be in such coffee withdrawal people would be hiding in their beds with raging headaches and depression, so the embargo would probably continue to be successful.

Not having your morning coffee is not an excuse to be careless, though some seem to think it is. It isn’t an excuse to be rude or snippy either. This is especially true if you wait to get to work before getting your fix. You drove to work, presumably. That whole time in your car in traffic, was one eye barely open, the other clenched tightly against the bright morning sun, playing the freeze out game to keep yourself awake? That sounds like a very unsafe way to be driving.

I once worked with a man who drank straight black coffee all day every day from the same small, white plastic cup with a small handle, too small really for his large hands. He never washed that cup, and it was stained beyond any salvaging. 10-12-14 cups a day of just coffee, no water, no breakfast, I don’t think he went to lunch either. That cannot be healthy. Was he self medicating in some way? Addicted so badly he couldn’t function otherwise? In this particular case, probably self medicating, as he had other serious health and mental problems, enough to make him quit a job he really enjoyed.

If you can’t wake up in the morning, why is that? Are you getting enough sleep? I admit, I am the worst at going to bed at a decent hour. I have trouble falling asleep, always have, and I have gotten it in my head that if I am going to stare at the ceiling all night, might as well do something else. I also have trouble waking up. The hormone cortisol is responsible for our sleep/wake cycle, and since I have whack hormones, of course my sleep/wake cycle is also messed up. Strange side note: 3, 5, 7 and 9 days after I show signs of ovulation, I take a subcutaneous HCG injection on my leg, as HCG is yet another hormone that I don’t produce in enough quantity. Those nights, I always have to get up in the middle of the night to urinate, and no other time in the month do I have to do that. Are hormones responsible for slowing kidney function not working as well these nights due to the injections, and allow the kidney to keep pumping out waste throughout the night? I don’t know. I’ve never heard of that side effect before, but it is consistent monthly with me. Cortisol levels should drop before bed, but if they don’t, it is tough to go to sleep. Adrenal problems could exacerbate the problem, or may be caused by it – hormonal problems are never a one way street, but instead a feedback loop of doom. If falling asleep is a hormonal problem, relaxation and calming routines or actions before bed time helps. So does sex, in my experience. If it isn’t a hormonal problem, maybe just, um, go to bed earlier.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against you drinking coffee. Your life, your choice. (Though it does impact insulin, so those with diabetes/insulin resistance/PCOS should probably stay away.) I enjoy a cup myself, every once in a while when my guard is down and I am in the midst of sabotaging myself, with a packet of Splenda and one of those little cups of French Vanilla creamer. Is it really a choice, though, if you can’t function without it? Is it really a choice if when you don’t have it your body goes through physical withdrawal for days at a time? That doesn’t sound like a choice. That sounds like an addiction you should get help with, not proudly proclaim and use as an excuse to be foggy headed and rude.

Motivation and results

At work today, I overheard a conversation between two men about losing weight. (Hey, if you don’t want people to hear your conversation, don’t have it in a room full of cubicles.) One guy had just started running, and the other was asking him about how it was going.

The new runner said he had lost about 30 pounds so far, and was feeling pretty good about his increasing speed and results. The non-runner listed a bunch of excuses, such as he doesn’t have time, he has never been a runner, etc. The new runner replied “I hate it. I hate running. But I love hunting in the mountains, and last time I went, I was so winded I couldn’t enjoy it. I enjoy that week of hunting so much that I’m willing to wake up before the rest of my family and go for a run every morning.”

This guy is motivated by hunting. Hunting! I mean, good for him. Whatever does it for you, and he found what does it for him. I compare that to my motivation, and I feel kind of … disgusted with myself.

My motivation is to have another baby. Yet I find myself recently sabotaging myself quite a bit. I started a Whole 30 in July and after two weeks found myself eating buffet Chinese and even a Blizzard from DQ by the end of the month. What in the world? Am I not ready? I better get ready, toot suite, as I am rapidly approaching 37. My ovaries are not getting any younger and I have extremely low estrogen and progesterone levels. I am scared it will never happen, and then what? I am also scared it will happen and I will lose another baby. And then what? Can I handle that? I would have to, I guess.

I mostly concentrate on food and not much exercise, currently. I am not able to run as my knee grinds and hurts much too much at my current weight to make that effective. I mean, I could power through it. I have the ability to do so, but mechanical problems such as I have with my knee shouldn’t be pushed through. Pain is there for a reason. Maybe after losing another 40 pounds or so (I’ve lost about 40 since April 2013). At the end of the year last year I was doing a HIIT program that I could do in the house, and I had worked up to about an hour workout. I find myself now spending too much time in the garden or making excuses about how hot it is, and I know I need to start again. Why don’t I?

The bad part of being motivated by having another baby is that there is only one metric of success: getting (and staying) pregnant. Early in my PCOS journey, there were measurable changes with cycle length. As I lost weight, my cycle went from 35-45 days, down to the normal 28-29 days. Every time my ovulation day moved back a few days towards normal, that was a success. That was concrete evidence that what I was doing was doing some good. Now that I have that down, there is no other measurable metric. Scale and a BFP are it.

My Na-Pro Technology doctor, at my last appointment, said there is still hope and that she has seen women get pregnant with the low estrogen levels I have. But she snuck in there for the first time that “even if you don’t get pregnant, we have gotten you more health.” Excessive estrogen can cause some types of cancer, and long cycles with estrogen dominance that women with PCOS have higher rates of those cancers. She said by getting my cycles down to “normal” that I have decreased that risk. But. Is she letting me down easy? Is she trying to prep me for life after “not possible to have another?” What happens to any motivation I have then?

Pregnancy facts about me – #1

On facebook in December 2013, there were many pregnancy stories going around. “5 pregnancy facts about me” or “20 pregnancy facts about me”, etc. Most of them started with morning sickness, or the happy lack thereof, and ended with 12 hours of labor, or a C-Section, or some other happy ending. Mine is much, much different. I compiled 20 at the time…but more will be added to that list, since my pregnancy facts – or infertility facts, as the case may be – are still accruing. I’ll be doing one “fact” per post, in a recurring fashion. The roundup of this entire series is here: Roundup

1) I have had PCOS since right out of college, or maybe forever, but since I wasn’t trying to get pregnant and I didn’t want to get on the pill, no doctor would help me. At least 5 refused to try any other option besides the pill, so I was not able to do anything about it until right before we got married.

I have PCOS which has myriad side effects. Mine include weight gain which contributes to hormonal imbalances, hormonal imbalances which contribute to weight gain, infertility, excessive male-pattern hair growth, sometimes pain while ovulating, sometimes no signs of ovulation, along with other symptoms.

In high school, I was very athletic, a 3 sport athlete, and I think I had an over-abundance of adrenaline. I was intense. Like, INTENSE. Playing defense in basketball, I would simply overwhelm opponents with a flurry of hands and arms to steal the ball and I could just go go go. I was also very strong, which working on my parent’s farm and shingling houses in the summer with my family made me “cut”. People on other teams accused me of being on speed and steroids, and were serious. One girl who moved in to our town when I was a Junior asked, in all honesty, if I was an American Gladiator. Of course, she wasn’t that bright, but still… I honestly think that the hormonal problems started then, with extra adrenaline and extra testosterone. I also had very bad acne in high school, another side effect, and I took antibiotics every day for about 4 years straight, used Retin-A the entire time, and fought and fought and fought it.

But I didn’t get the weight gain most women get, probably because I was so active. This continued through college, where I was a two sport athlete, basketball and track. 3 hour practices in basketball and being a middle distance runner where you have to train both long distances and sprints don’t allow for much weight gain, and I really didn’t have to look after my eating all that much to stay in shape.

After college, I went to grad school to study theoretical algebra. That was intense, and involved me sitting on my butt staring at incomprehensible signs and numbers with my forehead on my hands until they could be logically comprehended, and beer drinking on the weekend. Lots of beer drinking. 2 years of that, and I graduated with my M.S. and a healthy appreciation of dark craft beers. Thus I was on the road to bad habits and health.

After I got my first job, I remember distinctly having intense pain when ovulating, but I didn’t know what it was. It was a sharp, intense pain in my lower abdomen that seemed to go away when I pressed on it with my hand. My right ovary seemed to have it worse than my left. I specifically remember (this was 13 years ago, so some of this is in long term memory storage, which can be fuzzy) two instances. Once, the pain was so bad, I went to the emergency room. They couldn’t find anything wrong with me after a colonoscopy, but never even thought to look at my ovary. I didn’t either, but then again, I wasn’t a doctor. The pain eventually went away, and I was released, and thought nothing of it after that. Another time, I was at home visiting my family and it started to hurt. I stood up from the couch with a grimace, and pressed hard on my ovary area, and I looked up and saw my Dad’s face. He had caught my grimace of pain, saw where I was pushing, and unconsciously pushed in the same spot on himself. I think he was trying to figure out if it was appendicitis or something, but he actually never said anything to me. I am guessing that each time, this was a cyst popping.

Another sign things were wrong were long, unpredictable periods. I never knew when they would start again. They were long, 35-45 days apart, but never consistently. I didn’t know how to track when they were coming so they were always a surprise.

During the time I was working at my first job, before I met my husband, I went in for my yearly well woman exam annually. The doctor would see the excessive hair growth, I would show confusion on when the first day of my last period was, they would see weight gain, and they would try to prescribe me the pill. I didn’t want to take the pill. I had moral and religious objections to it, I wouldn’t remember to take it every day, and it seemed like a bandaid to something that was wrong. Taking the pill when you have PCOS may stop some symptoms, but it does not cure anything. It is hiding a disease but isn’t curing a disease.

Because I wasn’t actively trying to get pregnant, and because I didn’t want to take the pill, the medical establishment just ignored me. When I said “no” to the pill, they stopped trying to help, shook their head and wrote me off.

I went through at least 5 doctors in the 5 years I was at my first job. Not one tried anything other than shove the pill at me.

I was active during those 5 years at my first job. I played volleyball most of the year 3 times a week, biked during spring, summer, and fall, once doing a 100k (63 miles) in one day, and ran…sometimes. Not often. I wasn’t eating well, most of the time bar food and dark beer, but I was active. I shudder to think how much time and money I wasted, and how much damage I did to my fertility in this 5 year stretch. I also had a bad breakup during this time, and instantly gained weight. That really started the bad feedback loop of weight gain and hormonal problems.

After I met my husband and moved to my second job, I started thinking heavily about having children. We wanted to have a family, and when I told him about all my problems, he was supportive in trying to find a doctor that would help. I found a doctor in Wichita that didn’t scoff when I said I didn’t want to take the pill. She put me on Metformin for the first time, and did an ultrasound to confirm PCOS. The first time ever! I was 29 at the time. Already past prime fertility for “normal” people, let alone someone with PCOS.

At this point, after about a year, I decided to go snow skiing. My then-boyfriend-now-husband didn’t want to go with me, so I took my brother. It was a company sponsored bus, and 3 days of skiing in Colorado. On the second day, I tried to avoid some snowboarders, got into some ice, and cartwheeled down the mountain. The back of my ski hit the mountain and just destroyed my knee. Ok, it wasn’t destroyed, but it did tear my ACL, MCL, and meniscus. Oh, that was awful. Pain, pain pain. I have a high pain tolerance, and I wasn’t screaming, but I was holding it in. The ski patrol had to take me down the mountain (head first on my back. That was awful) and to the medical shack. They didn’t believe that I was severely hurt, but my brother could tell. They finally took my blood pressure and it was ski high. They finally believed that maybe there was a problem. We had to wait for the bus to go back to the hotel, and then wait for an ambulance to come get me to take me to the ER. They kind of patched me up, gave me a prescription for pain medicine, and let me go. No pharmacies were open, so I had to wait overnight to get anything other than OTC. I then promptly took 2 on an empty stomach, and started throwing up. All the way back to Kansas. My poor bus mates.

I had to wait a month for the swelling to go down before I could have the surgery. I then had the surgery, and did the 6 weeks of rehab, but it never was strong again. It always hurt. Always. Two years later, it still always hurt. I went to a chiropractor for something else, and he adjusted something…and the pain went away. The first time in 2 years, it didn’t hurt when walking out of that office. Of course, that wasn’t permanent, but at the time it was hopeful. I still have problems with it hurting, and it has affected me and my activity level ever since.

So, bad eating habits, now restricted movement, and a weight-gain/hormonal-imbalance feedback loop. I gained a lot of weight, and my cycle was more and more erratic. I gained weight before the wedding, I didn’t lose it. Stress has an influence on your hormones, and wacky hormones like mine react to it badly.

When talking to the priest before we were married, he interviewed each of us individually to get a feel for if there was any undue influence, or any reason that we shouldn’t get married. I remember that the priest asked if there was any reason I could not or didn’t want to have kids. I said yes, I had PCOS, it was possible I was infertile but we didn’t know, and that my fiance knew all about it. Father was concerned, I could tell, because infertility is very hard on a marriage. Very hard. He was happy with my explanation and that I was open with it with my fiance, though. I think some women would try to hide that from their fiance’s, and that is a terrible thing to go into a marriage with…a secret that intense.

We did get married, and I kept my job in Wichita. My husband farms, so he couldn’t move with me. So my commute was 3 hours one way. I worked it out with my boss to work 10 hour days M-Th, getting in a 9:00 on Monday so I didn’t have to leave so early. I had an apartment for awhile and then moved in to a co-worker’s extra bedroom for a while. I did that for our first year of marriage. It sucked. No other way to say it. Suck suck suck. Finally, the blessed day came when I was layed off. Yes, a day for rejoicing. After a year of living away from my husband most of the week, I could finally just be with him. I was layed off in February and got pregnant in April. I was 31.

Pregnancy facts about me – Roundup

On facebook in December 2013, there were many pregnancy stories going around. “5 pregnancy facts about me” or “20 pregnancy facts about me”, etc. Most of them started with morning sickness, or the happy lack thereof, and ended with 12 hours of labor, or a C-Section, or some other happy ending. Mine is much, much different. I compiled 20 at the time…but more will be added to that list, since my pregnancy facts – or infertility facts, as the case may be – are still accruing. I’ll be doing one “fact” per post, in a recurring fashion. The roundup of this entire series is here: Roundup

20 Pregnancy facts about me. Probably TMI. You were warned.

Pregnancy facts about me – #1
1) I have had PCOS since right out of college, or maybe forever, but since I wasn’t trying to get pregnant and I didn’t want to get on the pill, no doctor would help me. At least 5 refused to try any other option besides the pill, so I was not able to do anything about it until right before we got married.

Pregnancy facts about me – #2
2) I was lucky that during my first pregnancy we got to see an ultrasound early, at 8 weeks, since I was an older mom. I miscarried 2 weeks later. But I have an ultrasound picture and I was able to hear the heart beating.

3) The night before I miscarried I felt a slight cramping but didn’t know that anything was wrong. My husband and I went to bed with his hand on my belly with my hand on top of his. My baby died with our hands over the top of him, at 10 weeks. It was a boy.

4) I am starting to cry right now.

5) Another year passed with no idea what was wrong and no idea why I couldn’t get pregnant. My cousin Crystal was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and went to a specialist in Omaha, and Aunt Karen found a book in the hospital describing the Creighton Fertility Method and Na-Pro Technology, which is a form of Natural Family Planning with Dr. backup. The first time I went to my Doctor I had a 45 minute appointment and she was the first doctor to really listen to what was wrong with me and give me hope. She also loaded me up with information and pills and shots and charting and other things that were all consuming and takes time and dedication every day. But it was something, and it gave me hope.

6) We tried for another year after finding my doctor. Melt downs, crying, and throwing hissy fits were pretty normal. I was very jealous and very fragile. It didn’t matter if I didn’t want to feel jealous, it was a feeling that I had. I didn’t want to feel sad and empty either. I especially didn’t want to feel guilty. But that is how I felt. People try to tell you that these are bad feelings to have, but you can’t help it.

7) I was trying to schedule a surgery to do an ovarian wedge section with the same hospital in Omaha that Crystal went to, and when I got my paperwork in, they called me. But I was 3 days late, so I took a blood test at the hospital (couldn’t take a POAS test because of the HCG shots I take 4 days a month interfere with the test and could show false positives) before I called them back and I was positive! I called my husband first thing, and we had to go to Salina immediately so my Doctor’s assistant could show him how to give me progesterone shots. She was worried he wouldn’t be able to handle giving me shots until we told her he was a farmer. She didn’t worry any more after that. I was supposed to get 2cc of progesterone in oil in my upper hip twice a week and blood tests every 2 weeks to monitor the progesterone levels. She said many people were able to stop these painful shots after 13 weeks.

8 ) We didn’t tell anybody until after 10 weeks was over. At 13 weeks, I told everyone I knew.

9) At 13 1/2 weeks, I was working at home and sneezed. Blood went everywhere. I thought I was miscarrying again. My husband rushed in from the farm and we drove to Salina. The pickup’s governor tops out at 99mph, by the way. I was panicking but halfway there I resigned myself to losing this baby too. My most freverent prayer I have ever prayed was “Please, God, no.”

10) We got to the hospital and into the ultrasound room. I didn’t want to sit down because every time I did I could feel more blood coming out. If I stood still, nothing came out. The ultrasound tech was very calm, and very deliberate, and found a heartbeat. We both bawled. It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. Except for my first one’s. Let’s call it a tie.

11) I had a subchorionic hemorrhage. There are two chorions, the inside one holds the amniotic fluid and the outside one protects the inside one from my body (of course this is my lay interpretation). The two somehow developed a blister between them and it popped. The inside one held, but my doctor told me to go on bed rest for 10 days. We drove home, I stood up to go inside and a great big clot of blood started coming out. I got to the toilet and a clot as big as my hand came out. I thought I had lost him. I pawed through it looking for … something. I don’t know what. I was crying and panicking again after this horrible day and all I could find was a great big blood clot. My husband finally grabbed me by both arms and made me look at him and told me it looked like a blood clot after you shot a deer, and it didn’t look like last time. (I hadn’t thought of it until that moment, but he had come back home when I was going in to surgery the first time to make sure that there wasn’t any placenta or anything left over in me. He cleaned up our baby. He made sure I didn’t have to deal with that when I got home. Of course he then came back up to get me after that. He never told me what he did or how he got through that. The only time he has ever hinted about it was this night when I was panicking.) We went back to the hospital the next day, and our baby was still there, little heart beating away.

12) I stayed on strict bed rest for 10 days and finally went back to the doctor. The 1″ blister had shrunk to 1/4″ and I was cleared to go back to work. After that first night, I hadn’t had any more bleeding. We needed some groceries, so we went to Walmart and I needed to go to the bathroom. Another big clot of blood about the size of a golf ball came out. We had to go back home and then back in again the next morning. Things were still good.

13) I got a personal heartbeat monitor and made my husband use it on me a lot. I couldn’t find the heartbeat, and would try for like 10 minutes and couldn’t find anything. he could find it in less than a minute.

14) Things were going well, but my progesterone levels were all very low. I had to continue taking the progesterone shots all the way through the 38th week, even at the end taking pills as well as the shots. Did I say these shots were painful? Well, they are in oil, and if you don’t warm them up enough and don’t massage them after and don’t put a hot pad on them afterwards, the oil stays in one spot and you get great big welts. We could only put them in the upper hip (right above my ass cheek) on either side, so I had big bruises and welts the entire time. It started messing with the nerves, too, so it felt really weird to run your hand across them. This also explains why I had the miscarriage the first time. I didn’t have a doctor know anything about PCOS and she didn’t prescribe me any progesterone at all, and my body didn’t produce enough to sustain a pregnancy (progesterone = pro-gestation)

15) At around 30 weeks, we learned that he was breech. Upside down and not interested in flipping around. I tried the crawling around on my hands and knees thing, the flashlight down under my bellybutton thing, the rubbing clockwise to try to encourage him to turn thing. Didn’t work. We scheduled for the Doctor to do an external version procedure, where she would try to turn him by pushing on my belly. I wanted to do it because nothing else in my pregnancy had gone to plan, and by God, my body could at least do one thing correctly in this whole mess. The night before I was very agitated and couldn’t make up my mind. I talked to my older sister and Mom and finally my husband (he had been talking to me this whole time but I wasn’t really hearing him) and we decided to call it off. I called the hospital and canceled, and immediately a great big weight came off my shoulders. I think someone, God, my guarding Angel, someone, was telling me not to do it, and when I finally listened, I felt immediately calm and knew I had made the right decision.

16) We scheduled the C-section 2 weeks early. We were supposed to stay at Mel and Russ’s house the night before, but a big storm came through and knocked their power out, with more on the way. I didn’t know what to do. I was nervous and panicking and could not make a decision. My husband kept asking me if we were staying or going, or what. I finally told him “I can’t make this decision. You have to decide.” And sat down and waited for him to decide. We went and stayed on their couch, even though it was still raining and they didn’t have electricity. We didn’t want to get caught on K-18 because around Lincoln it was flooding that spring, so that is why we went the night before.

17) When we were getting ready to go in to the operating room, I asked my husband if he was going to watch. He said no, why would he do that? He was up by my head, holding my hand, and then we smelled the cauterizing tool doing its thing. It smelled like a branding iron. He glanced over the screen, and immediately was immersed in what they were doing. He got to see it all. He was great. He took some great pictures when the baby was just coming out. And the cord was up over Boobock’s shoulder like a purse, so if we had tried to turn him, we could have hurt him badly. Thank you, God, for shaking me out of my pride and doing what was right! The nurse took him and cleaned him up and I made my husband stay with the baby the whole time while I was still getting stiched up. I got to hold him a bit but I was still lying flat on the operating table, but he got to hold him until I got out into the other room.

18) The operating room nurse was the best and showed me how to get Boobock to nurse. She was completely awesome and I wish I could have told her how much I appreciated her help.

19) I think I am such a strong advocate of nursing on an intellectual level because I know all the good it does for the baby, but on a deeper level, because that is the only damned thing my body could do correctly. The only womanly thing that I could do by myself and that I didn’t need help with.

20) We’ve been trying again for 9 months now. If I was normal and could have gotten pregnant like everyone else, I would have a baby right now in my arms. We are doing the same steps, I’ve lost 35-40 pounds (depends on the day), work out 6 times a week, and doing blood tests etc. Oh, you want to hear the etc? Every day, I take 3 tablets of Metformin, a prenatal vitamin, DCI (a B vitamin supplement that normal people make on their own but people with PCOS don’t) and Fish Oil. 7 Femara tablets on the 3rd day of my period. Charting every day, testing mucous levels and trying to determine if they are fertile signs or not. Sex every other day for 5 days when the almost non-existant mucous tells you to, no matter if you want to or not. HCG shots 3, 5, 7, and 9 days after signs of ovulation. Progesterone pills days 3-12, but this month I am starting progesterone shots on days 3, 5, 7, and 9. Blood test on day 7. Cry on day 14. Start all over again.