Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Initial Medical Update

I promised it, so here it is. I recognize that this may be too much information for some, and if that's true, that's totally fine. Just consider this your disclaimer. I promise to post about chocolate or sunshine or unicorns sometime soon.

So, the history: I know very little about my family history except that my mom had a hard time getting pregnant with us. She had one miscarriage, my twin was stillborn, and my brother was critically ill and they didn't think he was going to make it after he was born. Obviously he pulled through, but I know it weighed heavily on my parents, my mom especially who said the only thing she ever wanted to be in life was a mommy. I remember as a child asking her if she ever wanted more kids. Not in terms of "why don't I have a little sister" or anything like that, but just a curiosity question of what she wanted and why. She was very honest that, at one point she thought she did, but she had such a hard time and she thought that two was the perfect number because she only had two hands. Think that was a nice way of saying we were both a hand-full? Either way, knowing that is an important part of my story.

I started taking birth control while I was in college. Not because I was sexually active, but to regulate my periods and because I was having some issues we thought could be hormonal balance things like getting dizzy or passing out during my period. At one point I had one little cyst that apparently just went away on its own.

You may recall that I stopped taking birth control shortly after Jeff and I got married. At one point before we were trying (summer 2010) there was a period where I pretty much skipped a period and although the home pregnancy test was negative, we both kind of held our breaths until my period came. Not because we didn't want a child, but because I kept running through the "what ifs" in my mind. I realize now that I probably just didn't ovulate that month.

After that, we decided to keep an eye on things. I was relatively consistent in terms of cycles but didn't start officially charting things until about January of 2011. I didn't always run like clockwork, but was usually pretty consistent. I didn't go to the doctor at all between about January 2010 and October 2011, mostly because I didn't have insurance to pay for it! I knew starting a family was a priority so I didn't want to see just anybody, but wanted to begin establishing a relationship with a doctor who I wanted to care for me long-term. So at the point I saw him in October, I had been "officially trying" for 9-10 months. I appreciate that he took me seriously and went ahead and did some basic lab work to see if anything jumped out. He was very honest about what the diagnosis of infertility meant and that he hoped I'd show back up in his office in a couple of months pregnant. Unfortunately that didn't happen.

Instead, I headed off to summer camp. And while I was there, I started feeling some unusual cramping before the start of my period. Instead of in my uterus, which is what I was used to (and what you would intellectually expect) it was on my left side. I asked the camp nurse and when I showed him where it was hurting, he said it was an ovary or tube. At first it was just sort of twinges so I didn't think much about it. The second day I came into his office after lunch (as I generally did) but instead of sitting down to talk, I curled up in a ball and laid on the futon. Having known me for the better part of 15 years, he didn't ask how bad it hurt. Instead he took one look at me, got up and pulled out two aleve and told me to take them, go take a nap, and if I was still hurting in about 90 minutes to come find him. Thankfully the aleve and nap helped and at the end of the 90 minutes, I wasn't in pain anymore. Before bed I got two more aleve to take back to my room in case I needed them in the middle of the night, but I didn't. However, the next morning (about 10am) I was in severe pain, so I took my two aleve and soldiered through the day. By lunch around 12 noon, I was almost in tears I was still hurting so badly. He told me there really wasn't much else he could give me and I opted to go take a long nap where I was lucky enough to pass out for a while. When I woke up, I was still hurting, but not as badly and I went about my business. Thankfully this was the next to last day and there was enough going on to keep me somewhat distracted but not so busy I was miserable. Upon Nurse Buck's command, since I was still feeling some pain (although not nearly as much) after I returned home, I called my doctor's office the next week. Well, wouldn't you know it, he was on vacation, so I had to wait to get an appointment. When I finally was able to get in, the first thing they did was a transvaginal ultrasound, which to be perfectly honest wasn't the worst experience I've ever had! I get that it's not exactly fun, but it wasn't horrid either, but that is probably due in large part to the person who was doing it! The ultrasound revealed that everything was normal. The best guess of both nurse and doctor was that I'd had an ovarian cyst that ruptured, but my body had responded as it should and gotten rid of everything. There was no obvious reason for the lingering pain I felt, but it eventually went away completely. My next cycle was normal and there was no cause for alarm.

Not much else of consequence happened between then and my doctor's appointment in early November. At that appointment I was informed that I was in fact not pregnant (since I was late I was hoping) and my physical exam was normal. More bloodwork was ordered, and this showed that I hadn't ovulated the previous month, just as the doctor suspected and I probably wasn't ovulating regularly which is why things had been a bit off and slightly more unpredictable than in the past. I was told to get an ovulation predictor kit and use it. Then, when I got a positive test result, to #1 "do the baby dance" and #2 call the doctor so they can schedule more blood work to check hormone levels and see if that is where it's supposed to be. I can start using that kit next week and hopefully get some answers before the end of the month.

The doctor also told me to schedule an HSG or dye test to check my tubes, but that couldn't be scheduled until I got my period because it can only be done on certain cycle days. I was advised that I could schedule it right away or I could wait a few months and see what was going on with the ovulation thing. It's kind of a chicken and egg problem - if it's the ovulation, then the HSG won't show anything or be helpful until we get that fixed, but if I have a blocked tube I can ovulate all day long and it's never going to get me anywhere! I'm still not entirely sure what I want to do. At least some of the decision-making this cycle was handled by mother nature. The days of my cycle when they could do the test were Thanksgiving and the day after so I will have to wait at least another month. I should get my hormone results before I could schedule for next month, so that information should help me decide whether or not sooner is better than later.

So yeah, that's the current status of my reproductive system. You're welcome!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Special!

Hey friends! Still searching for the perfect gift but don't want to get out of your PJs? I don't blame you. I used to work in that madness and I don't get out there any more than necessary. Still, you can get a fabulous deal. From now until Monday (11/26) you can get From Your Freezer To Your Family E-Cookbook for only $5.00! If you haven't gotten one for yourself this is the perfect opportunity!

Seriously, this weekend would be the PERFECT time to do a couple of hours of prep and then have a freezer full of tasty and healthy meals that require SO little effort to cook during the crazy month of December when life is busy and junk food is easy and tempting. All you have to do is toss them in a slow cooker and they are warm and tasty and waiting for you when you get home from whatever it is you are doing!

Personally, I love being able to read it on my iPad or Kindle in the kitchen. If someone special to you is getting an e-reader this year, wouldn't this make a great little "stocking stuffer" or supplement to that gift? Or what about a great little hostess gift? Know any college students or young adults just starting out? Why not get them a slow cooker and this book? Amazon has some good deals on slow cookers, so you don't even need to leave the house!

So yeah, use the link above to get a copy (or three) of this fabulous book. It'll be the best $5 you've spent all year!

Friday Five - Leftovers

Today's Friday Five, in the wake of Thanksgiving, is about leftovers. Just this week my brother and I were both lamenting the fact that, now that we don't spend the entire Thanksgiving weekend with our extended family, we no longer get the fabulous sandwiches made from leftover turkey. I'm glad I'm not the only one in my slightly kooky family who misses things like that!

1. What has surprised you in this season of Thanksgiving? - I have been surprised by how bored I have gotten with my down time this week. It's been nice to get to make my own schedule but the appeal of doing nothing wore off after about 2 days!

2. Share a recipe or favorite way to use up all the extra food from a big holiday meal? Honestly, we usually don't have a ton of extras, just enough for a couple of days of sandwiches.

 If we have leftover ham I typically make Ham & Potato Casserole : 1 bag frozen hashbrowns, 1 can cream of chicken soup, 2 c. shredded cheese, 1 small diced onion, 1 melted stick of butter, 1 c. sour cream, and diced leftover ham. I just mix it all together and bake it at 350 for about an hour.

3. We have a Sunday between Thanksgiving and Advent this year. Are you wrapping up Thanksgiving, preaching about Christ the King, or having "leftovers" with someone else doing pulpit supply? Since I'm no longer in a church, I'm doing none of the above. I'll be on-call at the Children's Hospital where I work on Saturday until 8am so whether I even make it to church it all will directly relate to the night I have!

4. Do you give the holidays their due? Or are you tempted to rush past the fall festivities for a love of Christmas? Normally I love doing fall stuff, but this year my fall decorations never even made it out of the attic. We got the last of our decorations up last week (since we weren't hosting anything fall-related) and I've been done with shopping for a little while, so I'm looking forward to really sinking into the enjoyment of Advent and Christmas that I haven't had in several years.

5. Is there some THING, some TASK, or some ONE who gets the leftovers of your attention? The honest answer to this one is probably ME! I tend to throw everything out there for everyone and every thing else, and only take care of myself with whatever is left. This is something I've been actively working on for a while now, but I know I don't always get it right!

Sadly, I don't have any pictures of everyone together yesterday. I got lots of individual pictures of everyone, but we didn't get a whole group. Oh well!

Monday, November 19, 2012

How You Can Best Care For Me

*Disclaimer - This post is not directed at anyone or in response to anything that has happened either in the real world or in blogger land. This is all about me. In an effort to be more authentic to myself, to care for my own soul, and to "help you help me" I'm throwing this all out there. Please do not take this as a sweeping prescription for all people you think have something in common with me. If you see something you believe will benefit someone else somewhere else, then by all means use it. I'm all for spreading love! But note that these are specific things I know that I need/want right now and the only way to even begin to get those needs met is to put them out there, so that is what I am doing. Thank you and have a nice day!

1. Support comes in lots of forms, not just words. - Just journeying with me, reading this stuff makes a world of difference to me. Even if you don't leave me a comment and I don't know exactly who you are, just knowing that there are people who are concerned or curious enough to join me on this journey is helpful in reminding me that I'm not alone. If you do believe that words are the best way that you can show me support, please remember that often times, less is more.

2. Please let me control the flow of information. - I'm moderating my comments so that if there is something that I don't think is particularly helpful to others who might read this or contains information I'm not ready to share, I'm not going to publish it. If I don't answer a question or respond to something specific, know that I'm doing what is best for me at whatever point on this journey you may find me. It's not always a straight line or a steady progression. Also remember there are probably things going on you don't know about. If you have something long or complicated to discuss, please feel free to e-mail me. If you ask a question I want to answer but not here, I will e-mail you a response.

3. No pity-parties please - Not for me or yourself or anyone else. Yes, there will be moments when I feel like I'm up to my armpits in a pile of poo, but I am really striving to keep the perspective that the most beautiful gardens require the incorporation of some manure to help them grow. I have a nice pile of my own, I don't need anyone else's and when I do fall face first into it, I don't need you rolling in it with me because that'll just mean it takes longer to clean up!

4. There are a few phrases that are banned here, not just from readers but also from me. If you see them, please draw my attention to it, but please try to do so kindly!
  •  "I know exactly how you feel" - this is not supportive, this is disrespectful. It tells me you don't care about knowing my journey because you assume it is the same as yours and you are focused on you and not me. If that is where you are right now then so be it, but don't put that on me.
  • "Should/Ought to/Supposed to/Normal" - these are phrases I'm actively working to remove from my vocabulary and hearing them from others is not going to help that process. If I use them in a declarative statement (particularly if it involves the phrase "I know") please call me on it! 
  • "If you just..." - I'm going to leave the prescribing to my doctor. That's why I'm paying him!
5. Please ask questions!  - I can't promise I will know the answers about technical stuff because I'm learning as I go and I can't promise I will always be willing/able to answer some of the more personal stuff (at least when it is first posed) but I can promise that I will do my best. And if I can't answer your question, I will do my best to refer you to someone who can!

6. Please please PLEASE remember that none of this is universal truth or statements about anyone but me and it is not written for anyone but me. I did not create this blog to be about my fertility journey. I don't want it to turn into that. This is just a real peek into my life and my family and a particular journey we are on at this point. There is a dear woman in my support group whom I respect and admire more than I can say who told me that she probably would have forgotten some of the worst/hardest parts of her own journey were it not for having blogged about it as it was happening. I have found this to be true of other parts of my own life as I have gone back and read old journals from various points in my life. This is simply the most convenient way for me to do this and because I appreciate how others have been willing to share their journeys I am willing to do the same. If it helps someone else that is great, but it's not the point. 

Thank you for caring enough about me to also care about how you relate to me right now!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Holy Holiday, Batman!

What happened? How did I blink and my holiday diva-tude simply evaporate? I feel like I am SO behind. I want to blame it on someone/something but the truth is this mess is all on me.

I'm sort of on top of things. I pretty well know what everyone is going to get this year, it's just a matter of actually getting it. I think there's only one more true store purchase and a couple of orders that need to be placed. Everything has officially taken up residence in "Sandy Claus Workshop" (my office) and as soon as I can find my wrapping paper, that process can start. Despite all this, I don't feel a huge push just yet. But catch me the day after Thanksgiving and see if I'm running around like a crazy person!

At least decorating is already done inside our house. We decided to not be the most obviously crazy and save the outside decor for the weekend after Thanksgiving, but rest assured, if we needed to have it up within about 2 hours, we probably could!

In the meantime, I'm working on putting together an awesome Christmas party for my department at the hospital and everyone's partners. It should be a lot of fun! Stay tuned for more on this after the fact!

Spending the holidays with family has probably been one of the biggest challenges of our marriage (really our whole relationship) up to this point. It's not that we don't like being with both sides of the family. If anything, the fact that we do like being with them all makes it harder to try and figure it all out. Our "process" has arrived rather organically in the sense that we pick one or two priorities for each holiday and work the other things around those. They aren't always based on preference, but more often on circumstance. However, this year we were clear pretty early on about the fact that we wanted to be at our house on Christmas Eve and not have to rush somewhere on Christmas morning and we wanted to go to Jeff's big family gathering on Christmas afternoon. Since pretty much all our family is relatively close now (and the far flung ones get close at holidays) we figured it would be easy to get everyone together in the surrounding days, and normally it is. We had a little bit of a "challenge" in that my side decided to get a cabin in the mountains for a few days. We were invited but because of other commitments couldn't be with them the entire time. Thankfully it simply took a little bit of creativity and a little bit of luck and we were able to make it all work. Hooray!

Overall, I'm very excited about this holiday season. Sure, there are parts that are hard, but I think that is true for everyone.  I'm looking forward to seeing what this holiday season will bring for me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Five - Thanksgiving

I know it's been a while since I did a Friday Five, but I actually thought about it today so I figured I'd take advantage of that fact!

There is a really cute poem on the original post that you should read if you haven't. It's a nice little reminder we all need from time to time.

1. What is your cure for "the mulleygrubs?" - Get out of the house or out of my regular routine. Even if that means going to the grocery store to wander for a while and pick up a few things or take us out for dinner on a Tuesday instead of waiting for the weekend. Yoga also helps lots. I'm learning that the days I least want to go are the days I most need it!

2. Where will you be for thanksgiving? - With my mom's family in Montgomery. That's probably our one holiday constant these days!

3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family? - Turkey, Dressing, Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Roast Beef, Peas, Squash Casserole, Stuffed Celery, Deviled Eggs, and Cranberry Sauce. Not a super-huge spread, but as there's usually about a dozen of us, it's huge enough for us! It's all pretty traditional for us, there's rarely much deviation from the norm. The biggest thing to change regularly is the desserts, especially now that pinterest is around for inspiration. One thing that is different than most is that we save the ham for Christmas and have roast beef at thanksgiving.

4. How do you feel about Thanksgiving as a holiday - In theory it's a good idea, but in practice not so much. I like the idea to take time to gather with family before all the madness starts around Christmas time and I like the idea of being thankful for what we have, but I don't think it should be for just a single day or even a single month. I also don't think that a day of indulging in excess is the best way to do it!

5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for? - I'm especially grateful this year for the communities of Academy #34 and Hopeful Hearts, having my family nearby and friends we get to hang out with frequently. I'm also very grateful for all the chances I've had to grow and learn in the past year and the fruit of those journeys. I know good things are happening, even if I don't totally understand what they are!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Academy 34, Part 2

Once again I have returned from my retreat to and with the wonderful community of Academy 34 at Camp Sumatanga. This experience continues to change for me, with me, and around me. It's always wonderful, but each time in different ways.

The biggest difference for me in this second session was how comfortable things were from very early on. This truly is a wonderful community of people and while I doubt that a change of venue would change much it is always helpful for me to be back at that "place of rest and vision" and seems only appropriate that I have this experience in this place that has already been so formative for me.

I will be completely honest here - I know I was not as "fully present" throughout the whole week as I was last time. Some of it was the battle going on in my own soul over the fertility stuff that was unfolding while I was there (and let me tell you, hearing about expected babies and watching folks knit baby blankets and tiny leg warmers wasn't always helpful either!) but I also honestly don't believe I would have been able to make the peace that I have, and it's not much but it's some, without the love and support of that community. There is so much shame that goes with this, at least for me, that being open with people about this has been hard, but it has been worth it and I'm continuing to learn this as I daily feel myself wrapped in the love and prayers of this whole community.

The other "challenge" of the week is that I believe I was much more open to whatever was going to happen to and with me and whatever it was God had for me to receive early on. I didn't have to wade in slowly, easing myself down the steps of the pool. Instead, I flung off my shoes at a run, tossed my towel without caring where it landed, and took a flying leap off the diving board! The problem with flying leaps is that they often result in a painful and messy entry  into those deep waters, and that's pretty much what happened from me. I became very aware of some difficult truths early on and that made it hard to stay as open because I reached my threshold pretty quickly. I know I spent some time "distracting myself" (pinterest anyone?) as a matter of survival but I do feel a certain sense of guilt about that because I know those special times in that special place can never be recaptured.

Our faculty was amazing, as I have come to expect. I learned so much and was so incredibly blessed by the whole experience. It really does make a difference having them truly participate in the community rather than simply gracing us with their presence at lectures and being sequestered elsewhere for the other 22.5 hours a day! I'm glad there are smarter people than me who figured that out, but I guarantee it's a lesson I will never forget!

One new experience I had was walking the labyrinth. I know about labyrinths and I have played/worked with pictures and finger labyrinths before, but this was my first time actually walking one. My covenant group decided to do it together one day, and that was also a really special experience. As a whole, the experience of the labyrinth wasn't what I expected or what I wanted, but it was what I needed. I don't know that I would say I enjoyed it so much as I appreciated it, but I do look forward to the chance to do it again.

I also had my first "official" experience of working one-on-one with a spiritual director/ spiritual guide/ spiritual friend. My previous therapist did some measure of this and we had group spiritual direction as a part of my CPE residency (which I think planted the seed for this journey now) but I hadn't sought out that individualized experience until now. It was a very enriching experience and I think it is something I would like to add to my life a bit more permanently, but the process of finding the right someone for me may be difficult and I'm not sure it's something I want to do right this second.

I do have a new favorite saying - "Go, not in peace, but TO peace" which has found a special place deep in my heart. Because I think that is what this entire journey has been and continues to be about for me. Going to shalom, which is not only peace, but also wholeness.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's Official

I know I have written before about our unsuccessful attempts at growing our family but at that point 7 months ago, we were still very much at an in-between place. Since then some things have happened, but none of them have resulted in pregnancy. I'll do a more detailed "medical" update soon, but today I just want to talk about the emotions that have gone along with my infertility becoming "official."

In the 12-24 hours following my most recent doctor's visit, I went through all four of the major emotions several times - mad, sad, glad, and scared - without much rhyme or reason! The roller coaster ride through my mind was a bit crazy and trying to get back on that ride as I am writing this is making me a little nauseous just thinking about it, so consider yourself warned!

MAD - I was flat out angry at myself for being broken, at my body for not working the way I expected it to work, at my family because there is probably a genetic component to this, at my husband for choosing me, at myself again for being a bad wife, at God for this command to "be fruitful and multiply" and then for giving me a body that can't do it, and on and on. Still, this was probably the place where I spent the least amount of time!

SAD - I was terribly sad about the absence of concrete answers in that moment. I was sad about the hopes and dreams and plans I had stored in the back of my mind. I also found myself grieving the deaths of my parents in a new and powerful way because of their absence in all this and my inability to ask them about their struggles. There wasn't a lot of variance here in the topics, but there was definitely some dynamic change in how strongly I felt this emotion. I definitely spent time everywhere between "aw, shucks" to tears running down my face!

GLAD - I actually spent a great deal of time here, surprisingly enough. Because I finally had a name and plan for all this! I had professionals in my corner and I was reminded again about how good I feel about those I have chosen to journey with me along the way. I was glad to have an excuse to reach out to a new community in which I have found myself, and I was glad that I would soon have even more answers and even more concrete plans, even if they were a bit intimidating.

SCARED - I was probably most scared of the semi-unknown that was (and is) to come. I was scared of what the results of various tests would be. I was scared of the other tests and procedures that I knew were going to come. I was scared of possible treatments and side effects. I was scared of going through all of this and not having it work.

After I got the results of my tests back and it was confirmed that I'm "the problem" it was very hard. Even though I had a plan of action, the fact that it involved waiting an unknown period of time before I could even START doing anything was very frustrating and made me feel even more helpless. I have gotten a lot of great support from folks, no matter how much or how little I have shared, which has been a huge blessing.

I continue to experience all of these things to varying degrees. The fact that it's holiday time is also making it harder. The past couple of years, the thing that has really helped me is thinking "next year will be different because there will be three!" but this year I am simply lacking some of that hope. Last year, as a part of an ornament exchange, my "secret santa" who knew about my (then covert) attempts at growing our family got me a special heart ornament that says "Good Luck 2012" in both English and German, with the hope and prayer that 2012 would be our year to at least get pregnant. I'm really doubting that now. When we were decorating our tree (yes we've already done that) I hung it up, but it was definitely hard to do. Maybe I'll be surprised in the next month and next year we will have an extra stocking to hang by the chimney with care. But make no mistake about it, this journey is hard.

I don't know when we will have to take our next step, or really even what that step will be, but it is good to know I'm not alone in it.