Archive | July 2013

Spotlight illuminates what’s missing for this infertile girl…

Sometimes infertility makes me feel like a starving person sitting in front of a rotating dessert case!  It seems that everywhere I turn I’m surrounded by the babies others are blessed with, and while I am nothing but happy for them, I can’t help but feel this mix of heartache, jealousy, envy, and fear.  What am I afraid of?  Secretly, I’m afraid that I’m doing all this and nothing is going to come of it. dessert case

It seems that everywhere I turn I hear the word baby! People going on vacation with their children, baby showers, cousins “So and So” are coming to the party with their new baby, television reporters calling this year “the year of the baby”.  Princess Kate and her baby boy…Millions of grown human beings with jobs, lives, bills, etc. await the naming of one baby…Seriously? I feel as if I’m in the middle of an SNL sketch.

Earlier this week, while at the gym, I was chatting with a friend of mine who is also a fellow NaProTechnology patient.  Having friends who understand this experience makes it so much more bearable.  We commiserated over not having answers and needing to know that we are doing everything that is humanly possible to make motherhood happen.  To quote her, “At least if it doesn’t happen, I’ll know it’s not because I didn’t do something, it’s because God wants something else for me.”

Being around people who don’t or can’t understand is what is hardest for me.  They are kind enough to ask about improvements in my health but don’t understand why I won’t share all the details with them.  The answer is simple, because it’s my business and if they knew what they were asking for cluelessthey’d probably stop asking.  Although, I would love to see the look on someone’s face if I ripped out my Creighton Model Fertility Monitoring Chart and started to explain every little detail!  Can you imagine the look on someone’s face as I explained the stretch of my CM and how it’s related to the hormones reported from that day’s blood draw?

Sarcasm and humor aside it was a heck of a day for me. I spent the day with a relative.  We had lunch, we did some shopping, and over both, there were times where I wanted to hide, scream, and burst into tears.  At first I didn’t want to be rude, so when she asked how things were going since my surgery, I replied that I am in deed healthier than before.  She mentioned a relative of hers who is trying to lose weight but can’t.  I suggested that she go for allergy testing because my inability to lose weight was due to an allergy to grains.  She asked if she could refer her to my doctor.  I explained that Dr. C. doesn’t take everyone, so unless she’s trying to conceive and can’t, she’ll need another doctor.  And we were right back on the subject of my uterus again.

After much prodding, I explained that I have endometriosis and ovarian dysfunction and these things take time to treat!  I wish they could make me good as new again because I’d be pregnant by now if that were possible.  I wish I could have excused myself and gone home.  However, we rode there together, in my car, and despite my need to hide, I was stuck.

Despite trying to divert the conversation to things other than babies, children, and anything related to family, I endured questions and suggestions about possible maternity leave should I get pregnant.  There were back handed compliments saying that I’ll be a good mother someday, if I can get pregnant. She wishes she could have had more than one child… but didn’t before her first marriage ended.  How will Prince Will and Princess Kate do with their new baby?…What will they name the baby. ….

Finally I had enough.  I listened politely throughout all the Will & Kate stuff, but when the conversation came back around to me, I needed to express myself.  I was polite, respectful, but I stood my ground when I said:oh no you didn't

“I don’t think you understand.  For me it’s not a question of when I get pregnant.  It’s if I can get pregnant.  My odds of getting pregnant are only 60%.  That’s good but there’s still a fair chance that I’m doing all this to be left without a baby at the end.  No amount of stories about a friend who got pregnant after so many years of trying make a bit of difference for me.  This is the reality I’m living with, and for anyone who hasn’t been in my shoes it’s impossible to understand.  When people constantly bring up babies and starting families, it’s very hurtful to me.   I know you mean well, but all you can do is pray. ”

I wish people would understand.  I wish they knew that talking to me about other people’s babies is like talking about bathing suits to someone who has had a mastectomy.  It does nothing but remind me about what I cannot and may never be able to have.  Would they ever point out someone’s beautiful hairdo to someone who is going through chemo and wears a wig?  Not at all.  But somehow when someone is living with infertility some people think they are being supportive by continually raising the issue but what they are really doing is rubbing salt in wound that will not heal.

Reflecting on a year of infertility part III

I tend to be long winded; I actually started blogging to have an outlet to express all that was going on throughout this journey through the muck of infertility.  I was pretty sure that my husband, Frank, and my close friends were getting tired of hearing all that I had to say about what was happening.

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Here’s a quick recap: My NaProTechnology Dr diagnosed me with endometriosis and an allergy to grains.  I had surgery to remove the endometriosis and was back to work in two weeks.  I am so glad that I chose to make the drive to New Jersey and have my Surgery at the Gianna Center at Saint Peter’s Hospital.  I was back to work within two weeks and was told to wait two cycles before trying to conceive again.

While I waited for my body to heal, I observed some amazing changes in my chart.  My cycles became more regular in length, there was less pain associated with menstruation, and when I say less, I really mean that I went from a 10 to a 1.  I had less bleeding at the end of my cycle and the bleeding that used to happen mid cycle completely disappeared.  I still had some unusual tail end brown bleeding, which my doctor suggested might clear up as my body healed.

Since we had been told not to try to conceive, there was no pressure to wait for a positive, there was no disappointment.  I just enjoyed observing the positive changes in my body.   The weight I grained before Dr. C figured out my grain allergy was slowly coming off, I was starting to recognize my body again.

weight loss

Menstruation happened with minimal pain.  The once crippling cramps and abdominal pain that began two to three weeks before menstruation were replaced by two days of abdominal discomfort.    This reduction in pain was due to taking an OTC medication called pycnogenol, a natural anti-inflammatory derived from French maritime pine bark.

Things were going great, my pain was down, I felt better overall, but my weight loss had stopped.  I cut out chocolate for a week thinking that I might be overdoing it with sweets.  Even then I didn’t lose an ounce.  Something was up, it was time to hunt for grains again.  I had been trick by grains hiding in kielbasa, bullion, flour blends, and even shredded cheese.  But I was almost certain I had eliminated them all.

Still I had to try and see if there were a few I missed.  I went through my cupboards and fridge but everything in there was grain free.  I checked the chocolates I was eating, thinking there might be corn starch or corn oil that I had missed; still nothing.  It wasn’t until Sunday night when I was loading up my medicine case for the coming week that I thought to check the medications I was taking.

rice flourMy vitamin D3 was grain free, as was my magnesium, my glucosamine, my kelp tablets, my B6 and my B complex, and my prenatal vitamin.  It was down to the pycnogenol.  And there it was, hidden inside a tiny 100mg capsule, rice flour!  The capsule was smaller than an average pain relief pill, there had to be less than ¼ teaspoon of rice flour in there!  However much there was, it was enough to nix the weight loss.

I got back on vitacost and ordered a brand of pycnogenol that did not contain rice flour.   Of course the brands that were grain free cost three times as much as the other brands.  I decided to see how I felt without pycnogenol.  Big mistake.  For a moment I forgot all of the pain that endometriosis was, but it only took one cycle without pycnogenol to remind me.  While it’s true that I was feeling great after surgery, a few weeks off the pycnogenol and that all changed.

It took my husband, Frank, to convince me that my body and my health were worth the extra money.  So, I ordered the new pyconogenol and within two weeks the pain was gone.  Let me tell you, the expense was worth it!  If you are living with endometriosis, please ask your doctor about pycnogenol, it allows me to live almost pain free.

Making grain free bread without a bread maker…

I’ve been making grain free bread for nearly a year now.  There have been lots of mistakes, or rather many of my loaves of bread were more similar to bricks than to actual bread.  As a result of all this, I now have a recipe that tastes like it’s made from white flour and requires a minimal time commitment from me because it’s made in my bread maker.   Now that I’ve got a recipe that works well in my bread maker, making grain free bread is no longer a challenge; it’s just a part of life.  One which I really couldn’t live without!

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Unfortunately, not everyone has a bread maker.  But, everyone with a grain allergy should be able to make affordable grain free bread regardless of whether or not they have a bread maker.  A blog follower named Liz asked how she could use my recipe but bake her bread the conventional way.  Good question!

After some research through my old high school cook books, some of the bread maker cook books I derived my recipe from, and the manual that accompanies my bread maker, I felt like I was ready to go.

Ingredients:

1 ½ c Milk or Almond milk

¼ c olive oil

4 eggs

1/4c honey

3c of my grain free flour blend *(insert link here)

1 Tablespoon yeast

2 ½ teaspoons xanthum gum

1 teaspoon salt

When making bread using conventional baking techniques patience is necessary, and since most of you know that patience is not my virtue, this was a good opportunity for me to learn some.   Thanks to some help from my kitchen timer and the resources I used, it only took one attempt to get it right!

Here’s what to do:

Heat milk to between 100 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. (I microwaved the milk in a 1 quart glass bowl for 1 minute). Stir in honey.  When honey is dissolved, sprinkle yeast over the top.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Whisk in olive oil and eggs.

Doesn't look like much, but this yeast, oil, milk, and honey mixture is the base of my grain free bread.

Doesn’t look like much, but this yeast, oil, milk, and honey mixture is the base of my grain free bread.

In a separate bowl mix remaining dry ingredients.  Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients ½ cup at a time.  If you have a stand mixer, I highly recommend you use your dough hook on setting two or 3 while doing this.

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After dough is well mixed, knead for 10 minutes on medium/ low speed.  If you don’t have a stand mixer, it may be difficult to knead the dough on a floured board initially.  You may want to continue stirring the dough in the bowl until the xanthum gum gives the mixture a dough like consistency.

Once dough is kneaded, place dough in a greased loaf pan until it doubles in size.  My dough took about 1 hour to rise.

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Bake dough at 300 degrees for 1 hour.  To check for doneness, insert a knife into the center of the bread.  The bread is done when the knife comes out clean.  Slice bread when cool.

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Stuffed Turkey Cutlets Wrapped in Bacon….

 

When I first started cooking without grains, I quickly learned that almost all marinades, sauces, and even some spice mixes contain grains of one form or another.  For me that was a major let down, as I work long hours but enjoy homemade meals.  Not to mention that restaurants use grains of one type or another in their marinades, sauces, gravies, even in their au-jus which is supposed to be just natural juices!  It took a while, but I learned to make my own creative seasoning blends.

no grains

Who knew condiments contained grains? From corn syrup as a sweetener to wheat as a thickener, most condiments contain one grain or another!

Despite my ability to make perfectly fine every day dinners, once in a while I want a “different” type of meal.  If you’re responsible for most of the cooking in your home, then you understand how nice it is to try something different that even you as the “chef” weren’t expecting.

So tonight, when I looked in my fridge, the idea of seasoning turkey cutlets with one dry seasoning blend or other was nearly nauseating.  Although I have found a sauce or two that doesn’t contain grains, I still wasn’t in the mood for something smothered in sauce.  I started to daydream about what I might want to eat if I were out at a restaurant in the days when grains were not off limits.

I immediately thought of stuffing.  It has been so long since I’ve tasted the buttery, savory, grain goodness of stuffing.  I tried to make grain free stuffing a few times, but that didn’t go so well.  ­I decided to give it one more try; if it failed I could cover it in one of those sauces hanging out in my fridge.   I kept thinking along the lines of what I might want if I ordered this in a restaurant.  For a homemade meal, stuffed turkey cutlets would be fine, but I would never order that in a restaurant, I’d want the cutlets covered in some kind of sauce or something else that was packed with taste.   Since I already decided against one sauce or another, I had to come up with something else to add pizazz to the turkey cutlets.  As I thought about what I could cover the cutlets with, the answer hit me: BACON!  Who doesn’t love bacon?  Stuffed turkey cutlets wrapped in bacon; that is something that I would order off a menu!IMG_0441[1]

 

 

 

 

So here’s what I cooked up:

Ingredients:

8 thinly sliced turkey cutlets

1 ½ slices Grain free bread

1 Tablespoon butter (softened works best)

1 cup organic chicken broth

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon Italian seasonings

½ teaspoon thyme

½ teaspoon rosemary

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

8 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a small bowl crumble bread slices to make crumbs.  Add softened butter to crumbs and stir in broth.  When breadcrumbs are thoroughly moistened add seasonings.  Let stuffing rest while you rinse and dry turkey cutlets.  Place two tablespoons of stuffing on a turkey cutlet and roll so that cutlet surrounds stuffing.  Wrap stuffed cutlet with bacon.  Repeat for all remaining cutlets.  Bake for 35-40 minutes depending on thickness of cutlets.  Enjoy the amazing grain free goodness!

One bite and my husband, Frank, was sold!  It takes a lot for him to try grain free food.  I hope your family enjoys these as much as mine did! :-)

One bite and my husband, Frank, was sold! It takes a lot for him to try grain free food. I hope your family enjoys these as much as mine did! 🙂

Reflecting on a Year of Infertility Part II

 

(Fair warning, this is one of those posts that’s a bit more medical than others.)

naPro poster

My first appointment with my NaProTechnology doc was in October.  It was so different from other doctor’s appointments!  Dr. C, my NaProTechnology doctor, listed to what was going on with my body, he said that what told him was substantiated by the data on my Creighton Model Fertility chart.  I learned so much about what was happening with my body that day.  I learned more than I had ever learned in an hour (and that includes what I learned in Grad school).  I was diagnosed with endometriosis and a grain allergy during my first visit.  I felt like a deer in headlights when Dr. C said I needed surgery.  How could he know?  How could he be so sure?  He explained that my chart plus my history screamed endometriosis.  Without giving you a life story, here’s what I was dealing with:

  • Long cycles that had consistently gone between 30-50 days.
  • Pain that began two to three weeks before menstruation and steadily increased in intensity until about 12 hours before menstruation.
  • Mood swings that began 2-3 weeks before menstruation and increased in intensity till menstruation.  At times they hung around till I was done bleeding.
  • 7-14 days of red bleeding plus brown bleeding before and after menstruation.
  • Weight gain and bloating that began more than a week before menstruation.
  • Constipation that began a week or two before menstruation and got worse the closer I got to menstruation.
  • Breast pain and increased breast size beginning more than a week before menstruation.  Sometimes it was so painful that it woke me up at night.
  • Extreme fatigue bordering on exhaustion for more than a week before my period.
  • Contracting Mononucleosis.  Apparently that was a sign of how weak my immune system was.
  • All of these symptoms lessened during the 15 years I was on the pill and then returned within 12 months of being off of it.

Dr. C said he didn’t know why other doctors had missed this.  Knowing what I know now, I don’t know either.  All I know is that I went to a NaProTechnology doctor looking for answers and I got some.  I was excited and I was terrified.

I couldn’t say yes to surgery before discussing it with my husband, Frank.  He is my rock, he is my everything.  He has been so supportive on this journey.  He agreed that I needed surgery for my health, never mind that it improved our chances of achieving a pregnancy.

We wanted to have the best experience possible with the procedure, so when we were given a choice of surgeons we explored both options.  The first was the best available surgeon in our area, but he was not a NaProTechnology surgeon.  The second was a NaProTechnology surgeon who was about 4 hours away.  After a visit to the first surgeon’s office and a phone interview with the NaProTechnology surgeon, it was an easy choice.  I chose the NaPro surgeon.  It was an easy choice.  Even though I met with the first surgeon in person, he made me feel like a number, like to him I was just a uterus that happened to have a face attached.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he’s good at what he does, but it felt like I was patient X whom he had treated a thousand times before.  By contrast, the NaProTechnology surgeon listened to me.  He told me what he would do during surgery.  He explained that there were many possibilities of what he might find and then explained what he would do in each situation.  He treated me as if I were a unique person, I felt as though he really wanted to help me, the person, not the uterus with a disease.

Maybe I’m being overly dramatic, but let me just add, that the recovery time with the first surgeon would have been 4-8 weeks, and my NaPro surgeon said his patients typically returned to work within one or two weeks.

It took a while to get a surgery date. Between the phone consult and the day of my surgery my pain increased tenfold. Two days before surgery I was taking 12 advil, and that was barely keeping the pain dull.   We booked a hotel room and drove 4 hours to the Gianna Center, my NaProTechnology Surgeon’s office.  I had an exam and an ultrasound.

I have to stop for a moment and tell you how awesome my surgeon is.  The guy is as close to Luke Skywalker as any human can be.  His office and surgical techniques are state of the art.  First it was an ultrasound, then he wanted to do an exam.  Since we were in the ultrasound room where the lighting wasn’t good he pulled out a speculum.  I’ve seen plenty of speculum before, but this one was different, it had its own light source.  You thought I was kidding when I told you he was Luke Skywalker?

Surgery was scheduled for the following day.  I was nervous and excited.

Click here to read Part III