Family, Infertility

Happy Birthday To Me!

This has been my best birthday month, ever.

My husband and I have talked often about living a slower pace of life, living near water, and cutting back on expenses in order to put away more money. We have schemed and dreamed and tried to figure out how we could make it possible, but it always seemed like something got in the way of us accomplishing this. On Monday, March 16th, my husband recieved word at work that his company wanted to promote him to a new position – in a new state. He will be making more money, we will be living in a significantly cheaper area than where we are now, and we will be living in a coastal city! This move is essentially giving us everything that we have asked God for – and just in time for summer! The move has been a whirlwind, though. My husband was asked to begin his new position immediately, and we have been living in hotels while he works and we look for a place to live. I cannot believe how quickly things are moving, and yet I sometimes feel that things aren’t moving quickly enough! I am so ready to finalize our living arrangements, get out of these hotels, and for consistently warm days in which I can spend some time at the beach! But as in all things, I will patiently await the day when we are settled into a home and laying around on the hot sand! This has been God’s first birthday gift to me this year!

God’s second birthday gift to me comes with a trigger warning. If you are struggling with infertility and are having a low day, this next paragraph might be something you’ll want to skip over.

If you’re a regular reader here, then you’ll know that infertility is something my husband and I have dealt with for nearly 5 years. We have prayed constantly for children and have, for the most part, not lost hope that parenthood will – one way or another – be in our future. After two doctors told me that there was nothing more they could do to help me, we began working with a system called NaPro Technology in order to diagnose and solve our infertility. We began that program in September of last year, found a new doctor who gave us hope for a diagnosis and a solution, and have faithfully followed the program for the past six months. On March 17th – one day after my husband found out about his promotion – we found out that we are pregnant. Yes, we are pregnant! It came as such a shock, because I never expected the progesterone treatmeants to work on the first try!

I am only six weeks along, and I know that most people do not share their news this early. However, I am sharing because I want to honor and respect life – instead of waiting until that life is a certain age, I want to celebrate the fact that there is life that has been created and lives right now. But I also want to remember that even as I celebrate the gift of life that I am humbled to carry, there are so many people who are still in the depths of their pursuit of parenthood. Please join me in continuing to pray for those who are still waiting on their miracles! Please remember to continue to pray for those who have lost their miracles! Please pray for those families who are in the process of adopting or fostering! And please remember to pray for the safety of those babies who are on their way into the world, and for the families who are waiting to meet them!

Infertility

5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Infertility

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me that she and her fiancé were wondering about what types of things they need to consider (medically speaking) as they get ready to plan a family. As we chatted about all of the different medical concerns that are part of the world of infertility, it got me thinking about the things that I wish I had known before my infertility journey began. Things that, perhaps, could have helped me to waste less time in my search for a resolution. If you are under 35 years of age, a doctor will not generally see you for infertility until you have tried to conceive for at least one year. If you are over 35 years of age, you may be seen for infertility after 6 months of trying. But when you want a baby, and month after month yields only negative results, six months to a year can feel like an eternity! Our first official year of trying was, for me, a living hell! I kept feeling like there was something more I could do to help our situation, yet I could not get any official medical advice because we had not been trying long enough!

But there are some things you can do during – or even before – your first year of trying to conceive (TTC) that will help speed up the process when you are ready to grow your family. Although I am not a doctor or medical expert, I do want to share some things that I have learned along the way that could help anyone who fears the potential inability to conceive. Please remember that these are my thoughts and experiences, each infertility journey is different, and you always need to consult with your doctor before making serious decisions about your health. Here are five of the things that I wish I had known, before we began trying to conceive.

I wish I had known that hormonal birth control can actually harm future fertility.

My friend and I discussed the sad hilarity of the fact that when you are in high school, your sex-ed class scares you into believing that you can get pregnant at any time! The result is that there are millions of women who think it is easier to get pregnant than it actually is, causing them to use forms of birth control that could actually (temporarily or permanently) prevent them from becoming pregnant in the future!

The truth is that you can only get pregnant in the days leading up to and the day of or right after ovulation. Ovulation happens when your ovary releases an egg into your fallopian tubes. The egg only lives between 12 and 24 hours. Your partner’s sperm, on the other hand, can live between 3 and 5 days! Therefore, the best time for conception is 5 days before ovulation, the day of ovulation, and the day right after ovulation. Knowing this would have helped me, because I would have just kept track of my cycles – instead of using harmful birth control pills that may have contributed to my problems with infertility!

I wish I had known how to track my cycles.

If you know how to read your body, then you may suspect infertility long before you are at the point where you want to try for children. It is helpful to learn what the different types of vaginal discharge indicate. If your menstrual cycles are too short (21 days or less from the start of one period to the start of another), this may suggest hormonal deficiencies or luteal phase defect. If there are more than 35 days from the start of one period to the  start of another period, this may indicate that you do not ovulate, or that you ovulate irregularly. Keeping track of whether you spot or bleed between periods, and of whether your periods are heavy, painful, or irregular can help also. In my case, my short (24 day) menstrual cycles were indicating a progesterone deficiency – something I probably could have taken care of long before trying to grow our family. By using information gained through discharge observations, awareness of menstruation, and through charting your basal body temperatures –  you can become familiar with your body’s patterns and find potential concerns to resolve before you begin trying to conceive. And by having an awareness of any potential concerns, you are better able to advocate for yourself when you are finally able to see a doctor.

I wish I had known how many different aspects of your life can be related to infertility.

There are some obvious factors of infertility – like past sexual trauma, sexually transmitted infections, or past abortion – but there are some more subtle factors as well. Do you clean your cat’s litter-box? Do you eat a lot of soy products? What kinds of products do you use to clean your home? These subtle factors will not affect everyone who is trying to conceive, but these are things that a person who is TTC should be aware of.

I wish I had known (earlier) about a good infertility support group.

It wasn’t until three and a half years into our infertility journey that I found any sort of support and/or infertility resources. I am so grateful for my group of gals who are a wealth of information and have really helped me to make good medical and life-habit decisions. Having a support group also helps you to sort through all of the various aspects of infertility – the emotions, the medical testing, the insurance questions, the “let’s try this and see if it works” diet, exercise, and intercourse ideas. There will be so much symptom-spotting and bodily changes that you go through as you try different medicines and treatment plans. There are so many questions that you will have about different diagnostic procedures and surgeries – and you can glean from the experience and wisdom that the women in a support group will be able to give you! If you are facing infertility – don’t do it alone! The knowledge you gain in a support group may actually help you to get pregnant faster!

I wish I had known how expensive infertility-related tests and treatments would be!

If you think you may be facing infertility, now is a good time to check with your insurance to find out what they do (and more likely what they don’t) cover. Since infertility is not considered to be “life-threatening,” insurance companies do not always cover infertility related costs. In addition, we live in a culture where pregnancy is seen as a “disease” or something to be avoided – as opposed to being the natural state of a healthy, sexually active woman. Insurance companies, for the mots part, have taken on the attitude that pregnancy is to be avoided (notice that most insurance will cover birth control, but not the costs of helping you achieve a pregnancy). Search for an insurance plan that will help cover your infertility costs, save money like crazy, and/or live in one of the fifteen states where at least partial insurance for infertility is mandated! In my experience, though, even in a state where infertility coverage is mandated, all of your expenses still may not be covered!

Here is a list of some of the tests you may need for an infertility diagnosis:

  • Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) / Hysteroscopy (to check for tubal blockages or uterine deformities).
  • Pelvic/Transvaginal Ultrasounds.
  • Bloodwork to test hormonal levels.
  • Postcoital testing (to test how seminal and cervical fluids react to one another).
  • Laparoscopy/Endometrial Biopsy (to diagnose, remove, and test endometriosis/endometrial lining).
  • Semen Analysis.
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone tests.
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone Levels test (to check egg quality).

Not all women will undergo each test, and this is by no means an exhaustive list of the different types of testing available. In the meantime, while you wait to begin TTC – learn to pay attention to your body, eat well, exercise regularly, drink enough water, and avoid toxins to be in the best shape for the beginning of your TTC journey!

Baby dust to you!

If you struggle with infertility, what are some things you wish you’d known beforehand?

Uncategorized

Everyday Paleo!

We are making great strides, so far.

We still have alot of non-paleo foods to get rid of in our house, but I’ve begun learning some paleo recipes for when we make the complete transition. So far, our breakfasts and dinners have been mainly paleo, with the occasional “eat it to get rid of it” non-paleo side dish.

I’ve been using the cookbook “Everyday Paleo” by Sarah Fragoso and I have to say, I absolutely love it! Originally, I was going to pick a different cookbook, but at the last minute my husband vetoed me and chose “Everyday Paleo,” and I’m so glad he did.

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The book has an easy layout with an introduction to the paleo lifestyle, recipes that are categorized either by food group (seafood or poultry)and by meal (breakfast, snack, etc). Afterward, the book has fitness tips – complete with pictures – to help on the journey of staying in shape!

It’s a great book and I am really enjoying learning from it. I haven’t had the book for a full week yet, so I have only made three meals: chicken and mushrooms with basil cream sauce, ground beef hash, and chicken piccata.

They have ALL been delicious!

A book like this is definitely making our transition easier, which is important as I will likely want to adapt an anti-inflammatory diet in order to increase my chances of fertility!

Do you have any favorite paleo cookbooks?

Christianity, Infertility

My Favorite Infertility Scriptures

Recently I was in a conversation in which someone asked what each person’s favorite scriptures for infertility were. I have plenty of favorite scriptures, but I passed on answering the question because I hadn’t ever thought about favorite infertility scriptures. In general, I don’t like taking scripture out of the context in which it was written and randomly applying it to my life! At the same time, I know that the Bible carries truths that can be used by anyone, in any situation, at any time. So I thought (not too) long and (not too) hard about the scriptures that have resonated with me the most through these last few years of infertility, and – if you are currently sinking in the gaping abyss that is barrenness – I hope that these several scriptures will encourage you, too!

Psalm 13

“How long, Oh Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has dealt bountifully with me.”

When you have been trying to get pregnant for years, and women all around you seem to be able get pregnant simply by washing the dishes with their husbands, you start to wonder “How long shall my [infertility] be exalted over me?”  This psalm reminds me of Rachel in Genesis, when she said to her husband, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” It can be that way, sometimes. And that’s normal. But this Psalm reminds us to trust in God’s steadfast love. No matter how badly you feel, God hasn’t forgotten you. And it reminds us to rejoice in His salvation. Ultimately, our lives are not about us. They are about Christ and His mission to restore our world. Whatever tragedies happen to me in this life seem so insignificant when I think of the fact that I will live eternally in a perfect world. And I’m grateful to Jesus for making that possible!

Job 1:21

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.”

A huge question that humanity has always asked is why bad things happen to good people. Job had just received the news that all of his children, servants, donkeys, sheep, and camels had been killed, stolen, and burned in ludicrous freak accidents and random invasions. He had literally lost everything he loved and everything he owned in one short afternoon. But Job was a good person. God Himself had referred to Job as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” The truth is, no one can escape tragedy. Even Jesus faced tragedy as He was crucified. And yet, Job’s response to his loss is that he is going to praise the Lord. I honestly can’t answer the question of why infertility happens to wonderful people who would make amazing parents, while those who do not want or respect their children are easily getting ‘knocked up’ all the time. But I love the example that Job sets. God’s way of doing things rarely makes sense to us. Nevertheless, He is an all-knowing God and He knows what He is doing. In the end, God restored Job to a position that was better than the one he’d had before. And whether in this life or the next, God will do that for us too.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17

“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”

When I think of all the different types of illnesses in the world – and specifically illnesses that relate to or cause infertility – I think about the body wasting away. I often feel like my own body is wasting away. I used to have so much more energy, I used to be able to stay up late at night, work long hours, play sports, and take long walks (or runs!) without getting tired. These days, I don’t get through half a day without a chest pain, or a muscle spasm, or an ache somewhere on my body. I feel sad for friends of mine whose younger years were filled with so many medical issues that they were unable to carry children and are now past the point of ability (or desire) to do so. I sometimes feel guilty for having hope that I will one day carry my own child, when it seems so unfair to those who’ve never had that opportunity. If I get pregnant, how would that make them feel? But, when we focus more on what we cannot see (our inner nature), we realize that we all have our challenges that can help strengthen us. And these “slight momentary afflictions” are not the end of our stories. The hardships we face as infertiles – and in life in general – are preparing for us an “eternal weight of glory,” if we can learn to have the right attitude. God will redeem our stories, regardless of whether or not they end in pregnancy. So, don’t lose heart.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.”

Paul (the author of Corinthians) is the King of making sentences longer than they need to be, but this passage is simply a reminder that when we go through various challenges in our lives – we are supposed to use our experiences in order to help others who are going through the same thing. Our world is so heart-broken. There are so many people with so many different types of challenges and traumas – and we can’t do something about everything. But we can do something. At the heart of the gospel is the story of a God who suffers in order to lighten our burdens. And we can live out that example each day as we suffer on the behalf of others, using what we have suffered through as an opportunity to lighten the load of another person.

Psalm 37:23-24

Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when He delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand.”

It’s a lot of responsibility to think that, with everything you are going through already, you have to find the emotional energy to continue to trust and worship God, focus more on the whole of His story than on your personal pain, and tap into your sufferings in order to help someone else! Actually it’s impossible to be able to do all of that consistently. Sure, you’ll have your good days, but you will have bad days. You will have fits of extreme envy. You will be angry. You will feel spiritually dead. You will have pity parties. But if the Lord delights in your way, though you stumble, you will not fall headlong. He holds you by the hand. You don’t have to be perfect. He already is.

I hope that one or more of my favorite infertility verses has encouraged you in your journey to parenthood! Comment below or on Facebook to share your favorite infertility (or general hard-times) verses with me! I’d love to hear it!

Family, General, Infertility

Injection Day!

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I have had such an up and down week since last Thursday, when I began this cycle’s round of testing and treatment.

The first portion of my medical instructions for this cycle included daily bloodwork and transvaginal exams that began at the end of my follicular phase. The experience was pretty uncomfortable, and extremely suspenseful as I waited each day to see whether or not I would ovulate. The biggest concern of this past week revolved around the fact that there was some confusion about the development of my dominant follicle. I’d been told that it had grown from 1.4cm, to 1.7cm, and then to 2.2cm! As my follicle grew, I felt confident that it would soon rupture (a good thing!).

While in class on Tuesday morning, I got a phone call from my doctor saying that my follicle had actually not grown to 2.2cm, and that for the past few days it had remained at 1.7cm. This was the last thing I wanted to hear. I feared it would mean that I wouldn’t ovulate, or that something was wrong with it to have caused it to stop growing. It’s bad enough that I have low progesterone and (potential) endometriosis. I didn’t want to find out that I had ovulation issues as well.

Thankfully, ovulation did happen and I was able to stop going to my daily exams. The woman who performed my transvaginal exams assured me that my follicle had grown to 2.2cm, and that there must have been some confusion in the paperwork they’d sent my doctor. I don’t know what happened, but I am glad that portion of this cycle is over! The next set of instructions was to start my progesterone injections.

On one hand, I was excited for these injections. My doctor hinted at the possibility that I could be conceiving and losing my children without ever knowing it, because of how low my levels of progesterone are. I’m praying that, if I do concieve this cycle, these progesterone injections will be enough to allow implantation and save my child’s life.
On the other hand – the needle is huge! I’ve never had a shot with a needle as big as the needles we are using. And being an avid “googler,” I have seen some pretty scary  progesterone injection horror stories!

So, how did it go?

A friend of mine sent me an instructional video to watch as hubby prepared to give me the injection. Using the video and the written instructions from our doctor, we prepared and drew up the progesterone into the syringe. I laid down on my stomach, shut my eyes, and expected to feel the sharp jab of a large needle entering my skin. But instead of me, it was husband who ended up yelling “Ouch!”

He had accidentally stabbed himself, trying to get the cap off of the needle. In his defense, those caps were really difficult to get off!

After washing the blood off of his finger and changing needles, we started over. He stuck the needle in so quickly that I didn’t even feel it going in! Afterward, he spent the next two and a half minutes injecting all of the progesterone into my skin. The injection actually hurt more after the shot than during. The entire left side of my rear and left leg was numb for over two hours afterward, and almost immediately after the injection I began to feel sleepy and subdued.

I let hubby massage the progesterone into my skin, walked around our apartment for a bit, and then laid down with a heating pad. It might be silly, but I read somewhere that pineapples help with implantation – so I bought a pineapple and have been eating it all week.

Hey, I need all the help (and hope) I can get!

Despite the busyness of being monitored, tested, and injected this cycle – I am happy to finally be doing something. For too many months, hubby and I had been blindly trying to concieve with no idea of what could be wrong or what to do about it. I am so grateful for my new doctor and for her aggression in helping us get to the bottom of our infertility.

All in all, I’d say my first progesterone injection was a success!

What was your first progesterone injection like?

Christianity, General, Religion

Purim Sameach!

One of the most entertaining aspects of my studies on various faith groups is learning about all of the different traditions and holidays that are part of each faith culture. When I was eleven or twelve, I used to go to the religion section of the library to look for books that explained how the holidays of different faiths were practiced. Sometimes, I would even go to the children’s section and look for books that explained – to children of a particular faith – why they believed what they believed and how celebrated their holidays. It was around this time that I discovered the Jewish holiday of Purim, celebrated today at sunset! Tonight, synagogues everywhere will be filled with people celebrating their deliverance from a plot that was intended to wipe out their entire people-group.

The story of Purim can be found in the book of Esther.

Esther’s given name was Hadassah, and she was a Jew living in Susa – a city in modern day Iran. As a child, she was orphaned and taken in and raised by her older cousin, Mordecai. Meanwhile, the royals were experiencing a little trouble in paradise. King Xerxes was upset with his wife, Queen Vashti, for her public display of disobedience to him during a banquet he’d thrown. King Xerxes wanted to set an example that wives everywhere need to obey their husbands, and so he divorced Vashti and began looking for a new Queen.

Esther, along with all of the other beautiful young women in King Xerxes’ 127 provinces, was sent to the king’s harem in Susa in order to compete in the ultimate episode of “The Bachelor.” Hadassah donned her new name, hid her Jewish identity from everyone, and found favor with those she encountered at every turn. Eventually, she caught the attention of King Xerxes.

While Esther was vying for her spot as Queen, her cousin Mordecai discovered a plot that the King’s most trusted advisor, Haman, had created to exterminate all of the Jews in King Xerxes’ realm. Mordecai urged Esther to use her influence over King Xerxes to thwart this plot. Esther was hesitant, but Mordecai convinced her. What is probably the most quoted line from the book of Esther comes from Mordecai’s plea to her, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). Esther was convinced by her older cousin and after three days of fasting and prayer, approached, unsummoned, the throne of the King (for which the consequence would be death), with a plan to reveal Haman’s plot. As the story goes, Esther eventually reveals Haman’s plans to get rid of the Jewish people, and that she herself is a Jew. King Xerxes becomes angry with Haman and has him hanged.

But the details of Esther’s story may extend further than what’s recorded in the Bible. According to Jewish tradition, it is suspected that Esther had a much harder life than the Bible lets on. Mordecai loved her, perhaps, but it may also be true that he was sort of an over-controlling “helicopter parent.” It is also said that King Xerxes was more an abusive than romantic husband. Again, he may have loved Esther, but with the way that women were treated at that time, it would have been perfectly acceptable for a King to rape and hit his wife for no other reason but as an outlet for his personal stresses and frustrations. And, running 127 provinces from India to the Upper Nile region was probably the source of a whole lot of stress! We also don’t know whether or not King Xerxes and Queen Esther ever had children! If not, I’m sure that was reason enough for marital rape and abuse in those times. Esther risked sacrificing her life by approaching the King to warn him of Haman’s plans, but she also may have sacrificed the type of life that she probably dreamed for herself – a decent, hard-working husband, sons to fill her home and give her validation as a woman, and the ability to live simply, working and worshiping as she pleased.

But as Mordecai wisely said, “…you have come to royal position for such a time as this…”

Queen Esther may have been the Queen mentioned in Nehemiah 2:6 as well, in position to convince King Artaxerxes (after the death of her own husband) to allow Nehemiah to go and rebuild the Temple. Although the book of Nehemiah appears before the book of Esther in the Bible, we do know that the Bible is not put together in chronological order. A little light research informed me of the possibility that after King Xerxes died, he was succeeded by King Artaxerxes and Queen Esther acted as the Queen Mother. When Nehemiah, the king’s cup-bearer, asked King Artaxerxes to go and rebuild the Temple – a Queen is mentioned as being there, in on the conversation, and I wonder if Queen Esther had anything to do with the Temple’s rebuilding as well. If so, Queen Esther didn’t just save her people – but helped to restore the traditions of Jewish worship that had been destroyed and forgotten as well!

On a personal note, I have always felt a deep connection with Esther. I have always aspired to live my life in a way that protects and rescues others, and she has been my favorite Bible character ever since I learned of her story. If I had to say that I had a role model or if I were asked that famous “if-you-could-have-dinner-with-one-dead-person…” question, my answer to both would be Esther. I’m delighted to have been compared to Esther on more than one occasion in my life, and I’m always excited around Purim to celebrate someone who so selflessly endangered her life in order to protect and restore the lives of others.

There is so much to learn from the story of Esther, and I’d encourage everyone to read it!

Happy Purim!

General

Going Paleo?

For the last four months, I have been going back and forth about transitioning to the increasingly popular Paleo diet as a means to improve my health (and possibly my fertility). I’m not normally one for keeping up with all of the latest trends and fads, but I think I need to really buckle down and try this one out. In fact, I have tried going Paleo before.

It lasted two days.

I just don’t have the discipline. There is a lot of preparation that is required and with everything that I generally have going on – I tend to feel overwhelmed and let the lower priorities on my list kind of slide. Before quitting my job, I also didn’t have the time. I spent most of my day at work, and the rest of it at school. I do love to cook, but there were some nights where my husband was lucky if I had the energy to make him a sandwich for dinner. Now that I’ve quit my job, I worry about having the money to eat fresh, whole, and organic all of the time. We aren’t huge fast-food eaters, but we’re very guilty of purchasing cheap microwaveable meals that aren’t much better for us than if we’d stopped at Wendy’s.

But I need to get it together. For years I have dealt with health issues that I suspect may be due to a slight gluten intolerance (can gluten intolerance be slight?). Now that I have proof of my soaring estrogen and plummeting progesterone levels, I can’t help but think that perhaps my diet is partially to blame. And my (potential) endometriosis could definitely be better managed if I were on an anti-inflammatory diet like paleo. There’s really just no reason for me not to try it. When you know better, do better.

I need to do better.

So I will be completely transitioning to the Paleo diet over the course of this month. I am going to get rid of (eat) all of the non-paleo foods in my house and not replace them. I am going to start stocking up on fresh, whole, and organic foods and learn the recipes for more paleo meals. I am going to come up with a system for when I get hungry in the middle of the day and need snacks that don’t need to be cooked or refrigerated. And by the time my birthday rolls around (the second to last day of this month), I will have transitioned into complete and utter paleo-ness.

I’ve heard plenty of success stories from people who have tried things like the Whole 30 and other paleo support plans, and I am hoping to see an increase in my energy levels and an improvement in the way that I feel on a day to day basis. I’ll need all the accountability I can get, so don’t be afraid to check in on me from time to time to make sure I’m doing the right thing!

And I hope and pray I will have the discipline to see it through, this time.