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Still blogging and charting…

It makes me so sad that almost four years after starting this blog I am still blogging and still charting.  I’ve come to terms with Frank and I most likely never having a biological child.  I see the more than 200 hundred likes on my Facebook page, and my heart breaks for the 200 families who find themselves in our situation.  I wish I could be more helpful.  I wish medicine took us all seriously.

We’ve gone from wanting to adopt children who needed a home most of all, to admitting they would never be a part of our family.  The work we did identified their intense needs that CPS preferred remain unaddressed because documenting them made the children hard to adopt.

The responses of family and friends can often be its own challenge.  Yes, people mean well.  But most are rather unaware of how raw we are.  In attempts to cheer us up some have commented that things are, “so much quieter now,” with a broad smile.

I don’t expect them to know how deafening the silence of infertility and a failed adoption can be. However, when one moves a loved one to inconsolable tears, an apology usually follows.  Others just ignore things and let them go by without acknowledgement…cookie parties happen and we’re not included because we don’t have kids this year.  What should have been our baby’s due date, passes without acknowledgement.  The anniversary of our loss passes in silence.  There’s either silence or sadness.  Sometimes there’s numbness.

I still chart to monitor my health.  Right now charting is telling me that my endometriosis is most likely coming back.  We knew there was a chance.  The bright side is, another surgery would optimize my fertility again and make conception possible.

We’re also saving for a private adoption.  Since the children have left our home things haven’t gone back to normal as we might have wished, instead things from other realms have popped up: the death of a colleague; the death of a former student at the hand of another former student; friends and loved ones battling illness.  Not really the best time for a home study…but we’re getting things together.

Despite all this, I’m still in it.  I’m exhausted but I’m here…blogging…and charting…barely.  I don’t know if the exhaustion I feel is from all the loss and change, the new puppy who slathers us with kisses, or from endo as it takes a hold.  I’ve known this journey would be long…thanks for walking it with me.  Love, Catherine

Food Allergies & Our Ability to Conceive Part I

It’s almost a year after we conceived and our lives are forever changed. How could they not be? In one moment we were given everything we ever wanted, only to lose it a few weeks later. The weeks which followed our miscarriage were filled with the most raw, indescribable pain we had ever experienced. There was nothing we could do, we just held on while my body went through the process of losing our child. We were hopeful that things would happen naturally and at least I’d be able to avoid surgery. That was not to be. My body took forever for my HCG levels to decline. I ended up in surgery almost four months after the loss had begun.

couple grieving

Shortly before I learned I was pregnant I made an appointment with a Naturopathic doctor to investigate food allergies. Thanks to Dr. C, my first NaProTechnology doctor, I knew that I had a grain allergy; however I was suspicious that there might be other allergies which were keeping us from conceiving.

By the time of my first appointment, I was already pregnant. It was Christmas time, and we had received the best Christmas gift ever! There was nothing else would could ask for!

My appointment happened to be on Christmas Eve day, I went with the thought that good nutrition would be important during my pregnancy and whatever knowledge she gave me would make my pregnancy a healthier one.

At the appointment, my Naturopath, Dr. M, explained that there were two types of allergies: IgE allergies, the kind that result in anaphylaxis; and IgG allergies which are sensitivities and cause a high amount of inflammation in the body. When there’s inflammation in the body, conception can’t happen since reproduction is the first thing the body shuts down when it’s in distress.

She explained that by identifying the food allergies and removing them from my diet, my pregnancy would be easier, and my baby would be healthier. That was enough for me! My husband, Frank, and I had tried to conceive for almost three years; there was nothing that I would not do to ensure we had a successful pregnancy.

Pregnant woman rubbing her belly

I was a bit surprised to learn that there wasn’t any different in what she had planned for me than had I not been pregnant.  I still had to do the blood draws, identify the allergens, then return in two weeks to get the results and make a plan to get healthy. We celebrated Christmas and rejoiced in knowing that we would soon be parents. I ate even more than usual at Christmas dinner; as I wasn’t sure which foods would be off my plate after my allergy tests results came in.

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­­­­­­­­­­­­ Before I ever thought of visiting a Naturopath; I learned that I had an allergy to grains during my first visit with my NaProTechnology doctor in October of 2011. At first I wasn’t very sure about that, but since I had gained 24 pounds in a year, and no other doctor or nutritionist could explain why, I figured I might as well try to get grains out of my diet and see what happened.

It was hard, but I lost ten pounds, and found more energy than I’d had in a while.

Even though I had eliminated all grains from my diet, I still hadn’t lost the 24lbs of weight which I gained without any dietary changes. Deep down I wondered if I had missed something.

Since my, friend, mentor, and NaProTechnology sister: Jordan, conceived her baby after working with a naturopath, I figured it was one more thing I could at least cross off the list. If it worked, our prayers would be answered; and if not, we would know that we had done absolutely everything possible to make conception happen.

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 long list

After the New Year, my Naturopath presented me with the list of foods my body was reacting to; and I nearly hit the floor! I had been eating these foods forever! Because grains had already been eliminated from my diet, I was relying more heavily on other foods, and boy did my allergy results show it!

When a person is not allergic to a particular food, their sensitivity results will be below 2.0, any result above 2.0 indicates an allergy which is causing an inflammatory response.

My test results showed that I was allergic to:

  • Apples
  • Almonds
  • Bananas
  • Corn
  • Casein (the protein in dairy—good by cheese and butter!)
  • Egg whites
  • All grains except rice & barley (no wheat, no oats, no sorghum, no amaranth, quinoa, teff, or any other grains)
  • Potatoes
  • Soy

After the doctor scraped me off the floor, I didn’t know what to say. How could I be allergic to these foods and not know it?

Dr. M had also done another test, CRP, which showed that the high levels of inflammation in my body were actually putting me at a higher than average risk of a heart attack.  I also learned I had a genetic mutation which needed to be treated through diet and supplements.  I have two copies of the MTHFR mutation, one A and the other C.  Dr. M explained that my healthy habits of exercising 3x per week, and abstaining from all grains had helped us to get pregnant despite these defects.  But there were still some effects of these mutations, such as constant fatigue, which I did not have under control.

There was no way that I was going to stand for all that, I was going to learn to live without those foods and take the supplements she prescribed no matter what! After discussing my already grain free diet with Dr. M, I explained that I had already developed my own recipe for grain free bread, and that eating it made me feel normal. Although it contained eggs, she gave me permission to continue eating it if that was my one and only cheat.

She explained that my health would not improve over night, but by  following her treatment plan, we would decrease our chances of miscarriage, and increase our chances of having a healthy baby.

Counting My Blessings…

As we are once again about to embark on our TTC journey, I decided to write a blog post about all the blessings in my life that I am truly grateful for. Saying there are too many to count would dismiss the beautiful blessings that are in my life every day. So here’s a brief list of the blessings for which I give thanks every day!

cross

 

  1. Faith

This list would be incomplete without giving faith its rightful place here. I’m not talking denomination, how often worship happens, or where it happens; I’m referring specifically to faith in God. Notice I didn’t say my faith? My faith has been far from rock solid through all this. I have questioned God’s plan for me more times than I can remember. I have begged him to reveal his plan for me. I often find his answers to me coming from my mouth in conversation with other NaPro sisters and friends.

God would not have gotten us this far, only to leave us here,” was my response to Jordan my dear friend and NaPro sister just as she was finishing her year of TTC and wondering if she might never have a child. She conceived her beautiful daughter in her next cycle. What could strengthen my faith better than my own NaPro mentor conceiving her miracle baby? Later, during my pregnancy, when another NaPro sister and I were speaking about her miscarriages and whether she should continue to try to conceive another child, I said, “What if your losses were God’s way of telling you that you can one day hold a child in your arms? What if that was God’s way of encouraging you to keep going, when you were about to give up trying?” Faith in God, in his plan, and in his mercy have given me peace and a way to understand this journey.

 

crafting woman

 

  1. Creativity

Whether it is in the kitchen, in paper crafts, or in my ability to plan engaging lessons for my students, creativity blesses and enriches my life every day. The ability to create delicious foods from grain free ingredients has made it possible to remove so many allergens from my diet without sacrificing taste or enjoyment. Sharing this creativity with others has blessed me with delicious meals, good company, and laughter that is often absent when one lives with the ghosts of infertility and miscarriage. I am blessed to share this gift with others.

 

Woman packing up boxes

  1. The circumstances which have caused me to leave the various school districts I’ve worked for.

As I am about to leave my school district, I can’t help but be thankful for the circumstances which have led me to this decision. As a matter of fact, each time I have left a district, I have grown in ways I never could have imagined. When I left my first district to go to the second, I was happy: the money was better, it was a more secure job, and then in my second year there, I pursued a masters’ degree in a discipline which I never would have considered had I stayed in that first district. When the second district eliminated my program, it was the pursuit of that degree that made me the most qualified candidate for the position which my third district was advertising. After being let go from the second district, I made the decision to continue my studies beyond the typical 30 credit hours required for a masters’ degree. The additional certification I earned, coupled with all the grueling work I did in the third district are the reason that I am able to move on this fourth and hopefully final school district. Like infertility, these circumstances are not blessings which I would have chosen, but there’s no denying the way each and every one of these unexpected circumstances have blessed my life

 

  1. Infertility

Yes, you read that right. I consider infertility a blessing in my life. It’s not as though it’s a diagnosis or phase of life that I would ask for; but I understand its purpose in my life. Had we been able to conceive with all the challenges we had three years ago, I would not have been healthy enough to be the mommy that I want to be. I would have been constantly ill with stomach aches that I thought were “nerves” or “acid reflux;” my endometriosis would have continued to grow and may have resulted in a hysterectomy at some point. I never would have known about my food allergies or allergies to petroleum based products. This would have meant that I could pretty much count on some type of cancer later on in life; either from an immune system that was weakened by constantly fighting endometriosis, from a gut that had been terrorized by allergens for decades, or by an endocrine system that was worn down and malfunctioned due to the increased amount of insulin and other hormones it needed to produce to try and digest all the undiagnosed food allergens as well as it possibly could. I am a better person because of my infertility.

 

4 dogs

 

  1. My furbabies.

For just a few cups of kibble a day, I am blessed with the unconditional love and companionship of four amazing furbabies. All of them have their own personalities and different needs. There is never a dull moment in my life because of them. Their antics, unpredictable surprises, and ever wagging tales bless my life with purpose, the ability to be a mommy, and an endless supply of snuggles and kisses.

Friendly Medical professionals

  1. My doctors.

It cannot be easy to pursue NaProTechnology, NaProSurgery, or Naturopathy. Traditional medicine which prescribes the pill, IVF, and the FDA’s latest diet as gospel, has a prevalent hold on our medical system. It is because of their efforts that we were able to conceive our child. It must take such a courageous person to stand up and make a career out of such fields which are familiar to so few. These amazing people pursue their passions casting aside their time, wealth, and even their families.   It is because of their knowledge that I have transformed from an infertile riddled with undiagnosed endometriosis, an innumerable list of undiagnosed food allergies to a physically fit fertile woman who continues to improve her health with every bite she takes.

8 week ultrasound expect image

  1. Our baby

Despite our loss, the grief that we feel is an expression of the love which we will forever carry. Though our baby only lived in my womb for nine weeks, his or her brief life forever changed the world by making us parents. We take comfort in knowing that the loss of our child was in no way due to our actions but rather the result of a genetic anomaly called a blighted embryo. From the moment we knew we were pregnant, I have given thanks every day for the beautiful gift of our child.

 

women hanging out

 

  1. My supportive friends, family, blog followers, sisters in NaProTechnoloy, and all those who have supported me during this loss.

At first it may seem strange to lump of all of these different individuals together, but for so many it’s impossible to distinguish who is more family than friend, or who might be a friend who is family. The lack of lines in between these groups is a true testament to the unconditional acceptance you’ve given me. This network of supportive individuals includes so many people with whom I used to have nothing in common; and yet God brought us together as friends through graduate school, the gym, work, church, other friends, or here on line. The unconditional support, friendship, and persistent silent companionship of these individuals has made me feel as though I am never without a friend on this journey.

husband

  1. My amazing husband.

My husband, Frank, has been my rock, my soulmate, and the yang to my yin. He completes me. His support and patience are ever present. When I need cheering on, he is there; when my own strength cannot hold me up, he gives me his; when there’s a new grain free recipe to try, he will at least always take a bite! He makes me laugh, holds me when I cry, and never lets me take things too seriously. He’s the best, and I am a better person because of his love.

 

Miscarriage —The Day We Learned the News

The morning of our second ultrasound was almost like any other.  To begin, I was a bit nervous because we had been told our baby’s date of conception had been miscalculated by 11 days.  Our first ultrasound appointment didn’t go as we expected.

Instead of learning our baby’s heart rate, and leaving with a picture, we left knowing that our baby was in the right spot and that the baby was just “small” in comparison to the size of a typical 8 week old baby in the womb.  We didn’t know there was a heartbeat.  I had two choices:  fixate and worry myself sick for ten days; or try to take my mind off the situation.

distraught

There was no way I was going to let myself fixate and worry, I’d never forgive myself if something happened to the baby.  I’d always wonder if my intense worry had in some way caused it. So, I tried to keep busy.  I applied for jobs, interviewed, cleaned the house, and spent time with our furbabies.  The time passed with as little worry as possible.

On the morning of our second ultrasound, I took care of our dogs and played with them for a bit.  I couldn’t focus enough to work on a craft, so I watched TV and spent time playing and letting them in and out numerous times.  The last time I let them in, something was different.  My oldest furbaby, the princess of our house, came through the door with something in her mouth.  I thought perhaps she had gotten into the trash and had found something disgusting like a chicken bone.  I wish it had been something so banal.

dog with tail hanging out of its mouth

As I approached Princess, I noticed something was sticking out of her mouth, and it wasn’t a chicken bone.  It was a thin black tail!  At that point I turned into a 7 year old girl, and screamed!  She didn’t quite understand this, because mommy screaming is something that doesn’t happen in our house.  She misinterpreted my screams of terror as signs of joy.  Her response was to jump up at me with the tail still hanging out of her mouth, providing me with an even closer look at the disgusting, vile, thing!

There was a lot of commotion, more of mommy’s screaming, and finally she spit it out.  At that point I really lost it, because laying there on the floor in front of me was a dead black wet rodent!  I am not someone who stays quiet in the presence of rodents.  Simply put, I do not like them nor do I tolerate them.  When I was a teenager and the child I was babysitting brought his hamster out, I suggested he put it away before I taught it to swim.  I do not do rodents.  And there was one…dead…in my house!

I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to scoop up the rodent using our long handled dustpan and carry it out to the trash.  It took almost an hour before I could calm down.  On the bright side, I wasn’t freaking out about the ultrasound during that hour.  Just about the time I stopped freaking out, my husband came home from work, and we got ready to make the trip up to Dr. C’s office.

couple in car

We made small talk on the way up.  We talked about whether the baby would be a boy or a girl, and how relieved we’d be to hear our baby’s heartbeat.  We agreed that we had each been on edge a bit over the last ten days, so hearing the heartbeat would bring us both much needed relief.  I didn’t mention the rodent, I couldn’t bear to relive those moments.  Besides my husband wouldn’t have been able to drive with all the laughing he would have done.

After arriving at the hospital, we checked in at the radiology department and waited our turn.  The technician showed us to the ultrasound room and we got ready for the procedure.  We were so excited, and couldn’t help but ask about our baby.  She told us that before she looked for a heartbeat, she had to measure my uterus and ovaries.  After time had passed, we asked about the heartbeat again.  She explained that she wasn’t allowed to say anything.  Out of desperation, I asked for a picture, okay I didn’t ask, I begged in between the tears I was trying to hold back.    I needed to have a picture of our baby.  I needed to feel like a normal mom, I needed to leave with a picture of our baby.

woman having an ultrasound

We took our picture and headed up to Dr. C’s office with a copy of the radiologist’s notes.  We waited for our appointment and held hands hoping that the ultrasound would show signs that our baby was healthy.

After a few minutes we were led to the exam room and waited to meet with Dr. C.  The nurse who checked my chart and asked how I was feeling inquired about the baby’s heartbeat.  She reacted neutrally when we told her that we didn’t yet know.  The nurse excused herself and took the radiologist’s notes to Dr. C.

Male doctor talking to couple in waiting room

When Dr. C. entered the room, he told us he had just gotten off the phone with radiology, and that things were not as we had hoped.  Instead of getting bigger, the baby had gotten smaller.  The radiologist was unable to detect a heartbeat.  We should have seen a fetal pole, the beginning of the spinal column, but that had not developed.  At some point over the last ten days, our baby passed away.

I listened politely and felt my body go numb.  I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, this couldn’t be happening to us.  I felt so numb that it didn’t hit me at first, but after a few minutes, I started to cry.  These were the most painful tears I had ever cried in my life.  Our baby, the one we had dreamed of, the one we had charted for, planned for, and spent almost three years longing for, our miracle baby, had passed away.

doctor and couple

Words cannot describe the pain I felt at that moment, or the pain that would hit me during the coming week.

Always the patient caring practitioner, Dr. C explained what would happen over the next few weeks.  He explained that I needed to stop taking the progesterone suppositories, and that in a few days I would begin to bleed.  It would be like a double period, and should end within a few weeks.  He excused himself, so that we could have some time alone to process all this.

I don’t remember much about that time, I remember being delirious with tears, I remember Frank holding me and expressing his sadness.  I remember us trying to compose ourselves for Dr. C’s return.  We didn’t know what to say or do and we really needed to know what would happen over the coming days.

Dr. C was amazing.  He spent over an hour with us, sharing in our sorrow, sharing a story of his loss of a child, and confirming that our baby was already with God so that we didn’t have to worry.

After spending more than an hour with Dr. C, reviewing the options that were available to us, and making an appointment with a local surgeon in case I needed a D&C if the bleeding got too bad, we composed ourselves enough to go home.

supportive husband

I don’t remember much about that night.  I know we cried more than we ever had in our lives, I know that we called our parents to share the sad news with them.  They took the news as hard as we did.  They expected we’d call to give them the heartbeat and tell them everything would be okay.   None of them had ever been through a loss like this before and other than “let us know if there’s anything we can do” there really wasn’t much to say.

All I could do was ask for their prayers as we went through the process of losing our baby.  There wasn’t anything we or anyone else could do, we just had to let the miscarriage happen, and make sure that I stayed as healthy as possible during the process.

Miscarriage, Honnoring the Child We Lost-Part III

Here I am, a month after hearing the news that our baby had passed away.  There is no way to describe what has transpired, except to say it has been an unpredictable rollercoaster filled with ups, downs, and moments that I do not care to ever repeat again.  This is without a doubt the hardest most draining experience of my life.  In addition to the physical experience that is still occurring inside my body, there’s the loss of our child, the loss of the joy we had experienced, the loss of all we had hoped for this child, and the loss of all we had dreamed for us as a family.  We always knew that there was a risk that we’d lose the baby; but with Christmas coming right around our six week mark, we decided that would be the time we’d share the news with our immediate family.  This is the story of the most joyous Christmas I have ever had; thank you for allowing me to share this beautiful memory with you.  Love, Catherine

After learning we were pregnant, there was nothing in the world that could compare with the joy we felt!  Not only had my leave of absence been successful, but we’d be able to tell our families that we were expecting on Christmas, what could possibly be better than that?

We wanted everything to be so special for our families.  If they could only feel 10% of the joy we felt then it would surely be the most spectacular gift we could ever give them.  This would be the first grandchild for my in-laws, and my mom.  My dad has other grandchildren, but he’s a sucker for kids, so it’d be pretty special for him as well.  We decided that we’d surprise everyone and tell them on Christmas by presenting them with special gifts.

snow flake ornament

I spent almost two weeks pouring and painting plaster ornaments in the shape of snowflakes.  I painted them pink and blue and added some glitter for a great “pop” of sparkle.  On the back I wrote, “Miracles happen at Christmas, and 8 months after.  Awaiting baby Sterling, August 2014”.   I also put together a paper magnet with a poetic pregnancy announcement that read:

Good things to come as we await

Baby Sterling’s arrival date

Two little hands and two little feet, one sweet baby we are waiting to meet

With hearts full of love and heads full of dreams,

We patiently await August 2014.

 

Our families were beyond thrilled when we shared the news.  To say that jaws hit the floor would be an understatement.  There were tears of joy, screams of surprise, and so many hugs.  We knew how special this would be, and  made sure to arrive long before the other guests.   We made sure they understood how early in the pregnancy this was and despite wanting to share their joy with everyone on Christmas, they agreed to keep our secret.  As excited as we all were, we knew that there existed the possibility of losing the baby, and that if it happened it was something we would not want to discuss repeatedly with the extended family.

christmas presents

 

Everyone wanted to know when they could share the news, with all that we had been through we wouldn’t be waiting until the 3 month mark.   We did ask that they wait until January 6th,  the day of our first ultrasound; when we expected to hear our baby’s heartbeat and see our very first baby picture.

 

It was our best Christmas ever!  We had given our families a gift like they had never received before!  I had one of the ornaments on our tree and a magnet on our fridge, and was filled with hope and expectation each time I laid eyes on them.  Just watching the HCG levels climb week by week, watching my body change, and feel the ever growing pressure in my belly was truly amazing.  We waited with anticipation and excitement to share our news with the world!

 

We dreamed of how we’d tell our extended family and how excited they’d be for us.  We dreamed of next Christmas, when we’d have a 3 month old baby.  There was no limit to what we dreamed for the future of our baby and our family.  Of course, we prayed daily for our baby’s health.  Since I was on leave of absence at the time, I prayed hourly for our child.  Every time I felt pressure, or got unusually tired, I’d pray that these were good signs that our baby was growing and developing properly.

couple in car

On January 6th, we made the long drive up to Dr C’s office.  My husband, Frank, is known for his work ethic: for him, taking time off work is no small deed.  Despite his commitment to his job, there was no way he’d miss the ultrasound.  Together, we checked in to the radiology department at the hospital and were so excited to see the first picture of our baby, hear the heartbeat, and make that first guess as to whether our baby would be a boy or a girl.  We didn’t want to get our hopes up, but we couldn’t help it!

 

When it was finally our turn to have the ultrasound, the technician led us into room where the procedure would take place.  I undressed from the waist down and got ready for the procedure.  Having had transvaginal ultrasounds before, I was familiar with the routine.

woman having an ultrasound

The probe went in. The technician took measurements of the uterus, ovaries, and everything.  When we asked if we could see pictures, the technician told us that she “couldn’t say anything.”  When we asked about the heartbeat, her response was the same.

We were worried about an ectopic, or some other complication.  We remembered that Dr. C, my NaProTechnology doctor,  requested that she print out her notes so that he could interpret the results of the ultrasound at our appointment which followed the ultrasound.

 

While we waited to meet with Dr. C, we poured over those notes trying to find some meaning in them which we could understand.  Neither of us have any medical background, but we were able to decipher that it was not an ectopic pregnancy.

Male doctor talking to couple in waiting room

We waited patiently to meet with Dr. C.  Thankfully, he read the technician’s notes and contacted her at the hospital before he met with us.  When he sat with us he explained that the baby was smaller than expected.  Instead of being the size that a baby is expected to be at 8 weeks, it was the size that a healthy baby was expected to be at 6 weeks, 6 days.   Everything else was fine.  By his understanding, all that had happened was that we had miss-dated the time of conception and so our due date would be a little later.  The baby was in the right spot and everything else looked normal.  We made an appointment for another ultrasound two weeks after that, when the baby would be developed enough to hear a heartbeat and we would get our first baby picture!

8 week ultrasound expect image

We were thankful that the baby was okay.  Although we were disappointed that we didn’t get to hear the heartbeat, we didn’t get bad news.  As far as anyone knew the baby was just conceived later than expected.  My family is known for a propensity towards tardiness, so on the ride home we joked that this was an indication that our baby was taking after my side of the family.

Our parents were on pins and needles over the news when we shared it with them at Christmas.  They had barely been able to hold their tongues over Christmas and New Year’s.  That night we made calls and notified them that they’d have to wait another two weeks before sharing the news.  They were surprised to hear this, but like us they took it as a sign that things were developing normally.  They said they’d continue to keep us and our baby in their prayers and that they wanted to be informed the moment we knew what the heartbeat was!

Miscarriage, Honoring the Child We Lost-Part II

It has been more than a week from the day we were supposed to hear our baby’s heartbeat.  Unfortunately, that was not to be.  Instead of hearing the number of beats and guessing whether our baby would be a boy or a girl, we were told that our baby passed away.  This is the most devastating loss I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.  In this series of blog posts, I’ll be sharing some of the stories which I hoped to share with our child one day.  Thank you for walking this journey of healing with me…

weeping woman

My First Pregnancy Appointment…

After I learned I was pregnant, I had to vist Dr. C, my NaProTechnology doctor.  It was a Wednesday, which meant his office closed at noon.  Although he agreed to see me regardless of the time I arrived, I wanted to get there as soon as possible.  Oh, and I was on cloud 9– because after two and a half years of trying to conceive, surgery, months of vitamins, and charting every little detail day by day, I had become a mommy!

 

I packed my charts, pre-natal vitamins, fed the fur babies, and made it out the door as quickly as I could.  Needless to say, there were a few details that escaped me on the way up.  I thought I was being careful.  I used the Google Maps App to get to Dr. C’s office.  No matter how many times I go there, I can’t seem to remember which exit to take, so having Siri give me directions makes life easier.

mobile phone

Anyway, there I was 60 minutes into the 90 minute ride to Dr. C, driving from the primary highway on to the secondary highway, when bam! I got pulled over.  I was exceeding the speed limit and so was everyone else on the road.   I’m not so familiar with the area, so as far as I was concerned I was just keeping up with the flow of traffic.  The cop however did not see it that way.

I waited until he came to my passenger window and asked me if I knew how fast I was going.  Then I lost it, seriously lost it.  If you’ve ever had a five year old try to tell you something he or she is excited about, that’s pretty much what happened.  Instead of telling the officer how fast I thought I was going, I shrieked, “I’m sorry officer, I just found out I’m pregnant this morning I have to go to the doctor to get a progesterone shot so I don’t lose my baby!  See, here’s my chart, there’s my prenatal vitamins, I didn’t realize I was speeding!”  The poor cop had no clue what to do.  Apparently the response I gave is not one he gets very often.  He was silent for a moment, then asked who my doctor was and where he’s located.  Apparently he was satisfied with my answers, because he didn’t ask any more probing questions.  He did ask if it was an emergency.  I couldn’t lie, so I responded: “It’s not something that has to happen this minute, but I need the progesterone shot because I’m high risk for miscarriage, I don’t want to lose my baby!”   I was totally ready to show him the pic of my positive pregnancy test complete with time stamp, but it didn’t come to that.

progesterone shot

Thankfully, the cop let me go with a warning, and I got to Dr. C’s where I got the low down what was going on inside my body and the do’s and don’ts of pregnancy.  I learned that my immune system would fight the baby, as it recognized it as a foreign protein, but that the baby would be producing calming countdowns to counteract my immune system.  In addition to the typical no alcohol, no second hand smoke, and no caffeine, I was also told that I could not consume cold cuts or soft cheeses because of listeria, a bacteria which could be harmful to both my body and the baby.  I was told that fish was a must, but due to contaminants, fresh water fish were prohibited, as were shark, mackerel, and swordfish,  tuna was limited to only one can per week.

We talked a lot about the possibility of miscarriage, not because Dr. C thought it would happen but because being aware of possible causes would help to prevent it.  I was told that both caffeine and alcohol would not only harm the baby, but also increase the risk of miscarriage, as would not getting enough sleep.  It was also important that I continue my regular exercise routine of walking 3x per week for an hour at a 3.5 mile per hour pace. I could totally do all these things, because it was worth it, I would do anything on the planet if it meant I could be a mommy!

coffee

Bring on the restrictions and the decaffeinated coffee!  I was pregnant, my leave of absence had done its job, and I was going to be a mommy!   I was on cloud nine!  I knew it would be a while before we could officially announce that we were expecting to the world, but there were a few people who we just had to tell right away.

That night, I called Jordan and told her the good news.  It was because of her and the courage she had more than a year ago that pregnancy was even possible for us.  We both cried tears of joy as we talked about the coming nine months and how our children would forever be the best of friends.  We dreamed such amazing dreams as we talked,  and I told her how excited I was about being a mom.  “Catherine” she said, “You’re already a mom!”  That thought filled me with such love, joy,  and hope!  I was already a mom, loving my baby with every breath I took, nourishing it with every bite I took, and protecting it with every possible danger I avoided.  I was doing everything possible to take care of our baby; I was truly blessed!

Chronicles of a Stress Ridden Infertile Part 2

The back story…

It’s been determined that the major source of stress in my life is my job and that it is keeping us from conceiving.  Not okay! Time to make a change.  I’m officially on a two month leave of absence from work. Unofficially I’m looking for a job.  I don’t want to be out of work for two months, but I need a few weeks to regain my health.

What could be so bad you ask?  I’ve gotten this question a lot.  Okay, folks haven’t asked it directly, they’ve said things like, “Everyone is over worked these days!” or “Tell me about it!” and then glared at me like how dare I say such a thing!  How hard could it be?

Let me say first and foremost, I’m not comparing myself to anyone else.  The only thing I’m comparing my workload to is what is in my contract.  My contract binds me to a workday that is seven hours and fifteen minutes.

Typically, teachers work way more than that, no complaints there, it’s part of the job.  When I could work ten hours a day or an average of fifty to fifty five hours per week and feel like I did a good job and accomplished all that was set before me, I was happy.  Things have changed!

This year, in order to accomplish the tasks that were set before me, I spent 10 hours per day at work. Not much of a change there.  After going home and cooking dinner, I’d sit on the couch for another two hours grading or reviewing various essential documents such as individual education plans, or 504 plans which accommodate general education students with handicapping conditions like ADHD. This really isn’t a choice; I am bound by law to accommodate those plans in my instruction, planning, and assessment.  Since these things are not optional and we weren’t given time to do them during our work day, after school, on my own time it had to be.

Again, it wouldn’t be bad if I were able to accomplish all the tasks set before me, however, I never finished! Despite all the work I was doing, I was constantly behind, new tasks were constantly being thrown at me.  Whether it was a new grading program which was implemented with no training, data team meetings every week- for which I had to make sub plans, or the loss of our team time while still having to complete tasks that were previously designated to be accomplished during that time.

too much work

My body started to show signs of extreme stress.  How bad could that be? By itself each sign is no big deal, but ask my husband what it is like to live with a woman who was dealing with everything in the list below, and he’ll tell you it’s not a whole lot of fun!

  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping, including inability to fall asleep and wake well rested
  • A really cool twitch in my left eye
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Feeling exhausted all the time
  • Perpetual hunger from my stomach producing extra acid in response to circumstances
  • Mid cycle bleeding
  • Delayed ovulation
  • Low hormone levels

 

In short, the effects of stress negated all of the treatment I was receiving from my NaProTechnology doctor!  Not to mention that I virtually had no life outside of work!  We used to entertain friends on the weekends, or I’d spend hours in my craft room, or I’d decorate the house for the particular season we were in.  Not this year, I had time for none of it.

dinner with friends

Then, it hit, the event that held the mirror up to my face and made me see how ugly this had all gotten.  A dear friend of mine lost everything in a fire.  Thank God she wasn’t home at the time, but she and her husband lost all of their possessions, as well as their beloved fur babies.

When I heard about her devastation, I immediately wanted to do anything I could to help;  not that I could restore what she had lost, but I wanted to do something to show her I cared and that she was not alone.  I spent a Saturday afternoon cooking her food and bringing it to her, it was one small gesture that I know she and her husband appreciated.  The following week we had her over for dinner, again these are small gestures that say you’re not alone.  They’re things that I know she would do for me and which made me feel that in some way I was helping her heal from the trauma.

The back lash from these small gestures was monumental.  I spent all day on Sunday doing school work to make up for what I hadn’t done on Saturday.  And during the week that she came over for dinner, I fell way behind at work.  Obviously my job had taken over my life, but there wasn’t any way I could cut back.  There just isn’t such a thing as a part time teacher in our district, nor is there any way I could spend less time on my work and still make sure that all of my students’ needs were met.

Progesterone the Misunderstood Hormone…

Whether you have been diagnosed with infertility, you’re trying to conceive, or you just happen to be a woman; knowing what progesterone is and how it affects your body is an absolute must.  If you’re like me, you sat through years of health class looking at the diagram of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries, hearing the same thing year after year, and not learning much. female reproductive diagram

Let’s start with the basics, the stuff they should have told us when we first menstruated, oh so long ago.  During the first half of a woman’s cycle, the estradiol levels rise, the cervix produces cervical mucus which will allows the sperm to travel into the uterus and make their way to the ovaries, where they’ll fertilize the egg- if the ovulation is strong enough.

As estradiol levels rise, a follicle in one of the two ovaries matures.  Ovulation usually occurs within one or two days before or after estradiol levels reach their highest levels of the cycle. At the same time the estradiol levels are rising, the cervix is making mucus.  In the realm of NaProTechnology, the last day of the cycle in which a woman observes mucus is known as peak day.   Peak day typically occurs two days before or after ovulation.   Ideally, estradiol levels should be between 300 and 400 to have an “effective” cycle.

After peak day, your estradiol levels drop, not gradually, sharply.  Estradiol has had its turn, the post peak phase is where progesterone comes into play.  Once your estradiol levels drop and you ovulate, that egg will hang around anywhere between 12-24 hours if you’re lucky.  It could actually be much less.  It’s different for every woman and it’s often different for every cycle.

corpus luteum

That follicle that matured and produced your egg is now known as the corpus luteum, it is responsible for producing the progesterone your body needs.  Your progesterone levels generally reach their highest levels about seven days after your peak day.  If you are trying to conceive, your doctor may draw your “day 21” progesterone levels.  These can be misleading; if you’re not sure when your peak day is, the levels could be off by a few days.  NaProTechnology doctors rely on a peak plus 7 blood draw to assess a women’s progesterone levels, this is much more accurate for most women.

blood_tube

To conceive, your progesterone levels should be above 15, in a medicated cycle.  However, progesterone levels vary from cycle to cycle.  I’ve had cycles where my progesterone was 28 and others where it was 9!

If your body is not producing enough progesterone then pregnancy is virtually out of the question.  Not to mention that your body will continue to make estradiol in the absence of progesterone.  That means you’re at a higher risk for cancers.  During my laparoscopy / hysteroscopy / selective HSG, they actually found a large polyp which they attributed to estrogen levels going unchecked by progesterone.  The polyp was located right where a baby would have implanted.  Good thing we had it removed.  No wonder we were having trouble conceiving!

By the end of your cycle, if you haven’t conceived, your estradiol and progesterone levels will continue to drop and you’ll menstruate.

If your doctor determines that your progesterone levels are too low, you’re not out of luck.  Progesterone can be supplemented!

Once when talking with someone about supplementing hormones, I was asked “Isn’t that dangerous, isn’t that how other women have gotten cancer?”  The difference is in the details, in this case.  Like someone who has diabetes whose body cannot make enough insulin, a woman with low progesterone can supplement her progesterone levels to achieve optimum levels.  Because she is only restoring what nature intended to be there in the first place, there aren’t any risks of illness.  That’s the great thing about NaProTechnology, it only restores what should be there in the first place; it does not expose a woman to the risks that come when using Artificial Reproductive Technology.

NaPro pic

What is progesterone made of?

Progesterone is a hormone which is created by the corpus luteum, the remains of the follicle in which the egg matured.  Like many other hormones, your body makes progesterone from cholesterol.  Let me say that again, you need cholesterol in your diet to produce adequate amounts of progesterone. Yup, that stuff that you may have been avoiding is actually an essential nutrient for ovulation, and conception.

Cholesterol is found in dairy products made with whole milk, and other animal products containing fats such as butter, beef, salmon, etc.  This may explain why women who eat low fat dairy products have a higher incidence of infertility than those who consume dairy products made with whole milk.  Besides, it just tastes better!

cabot greek yogurt

I’ve correlated my diet with my peak plus seven blood draws and have noticed that when I consume Cabot Greek Yogurt with 10% fat, my progesterone levels are in the 20’s.  When I’m not on my Cabot Greek Yogurt kick, my levels aren’t so great.

If you are opposed to including the foods that contain cholesterol in your diet, you can also consume naturally occurring progesterone.  One food with the highest level of naturally occurring progesterone is the yam.  Yams are such a vital source of naturally occurring progesterone that many progesterone supplements are actually made from yams.

Are you surprised?  Stay tuned for more info about progesterone’s role in pregnancy…

Chronicles of a Stress Ridden Infertile Part 1

Here I am on a leave of absence from work.  How did I get here?  Well since I’m a teacher my summer was pretty low stress.  I still worked on curriculum, professional development, and special programs; but I wasn’t teaching.  My hormone levels were all in the effective ranges during my summer cycles.  Everything about me was well within normal ranges, then the school year hit and things changed drastically.  To put it simply it was as though I hadn’t even had my laparoscopy.  My estradiol levels only got into the 160s and since they need to be in the 300s for an effective ovulation, you could pretty much say that my reproductive system shut down due to stress.  I had mid cycle spotting, and my peak day didn’t even come until day 20!  Typically peak day should occur by day 15.  Stress was taking away our chances of having a child.

I didn’t just say “that’s it I quit,” instead I tried to talk with my principal and superintendent about the increase in our work too much workload, the changes in our work day, the fact that two of my classes had more special education than regular ed kids in them and there was no special ed teacher in the room with me.  All of this was stated multiple times.  Our superintendent said she had: “nothing but whiners” in our wing.  Every time I turned around we got more work to do with no time to do it.  They even took away our team time, meaning that our only time to communicate with each other about students and their needs was after school! My typical day meant that I spent 9-10 hours working on school grounds and then another two hours working at home after dinner.

After looking at my hormone levels, Dr. C. my NaProTechnology doctor called and said I needed to come in for an emergency appointment.  Since we already had plans to go away for the weekend, my husband, Frank, came with me.  Boy did he have a lot to tell the doctor.  He’s the one who pointed out the differences between my charts over the summer and during the school year.  It was Frank who also commented on the differences in my CM and its arrival time.  Dr. C had one thing to say about this: “There’s only one of us in this room who can get pregnant and it’s not me.”  I asked Dr. C. if it were possible to get a note for a leave of absence in case I needed it.  He immediately wrote me one after he confirmed that the only cause of the drastic change in my fertility could be stress.

I went back to my superintendent’s office and told her that I had been recommended for a leave of absence.  She was not happy.  To be fair, it’s tough to find someone with one my certifications at this time of year, and it takes the knowledge behind both of my certifications to do what I do.  Too bad.  Had she listened when I tried to tell her what the increased work load was doing to her teachers, we wouldn’t have this problem.  She asked that I give her two weeks to find someone who has the appropriate certification. She put out a call for long terms subs, and I sent an e-mail to my friends and colleagues asking if anyone knew a certified sub who would be willing to take the job.

Midway through the second week, I broke out in hives.  Considering I didn’t eat any new foods, I was pretty sure they were from stress.  The last time I broke out in stress hives was when I was about to lose my job four years ago, so knowing that it was indeed possible, I figured that  had to be it.  I popped a Benadryl, promptly made sub plans, popped another Benadryl and finally stopped scratching.  I became drowsy quickly and fell asleep just before the Sox won the World Series.  In New England, that’s just something you do not do!

substitute teacherWhile I was out of work the next day, I got an e-mail from a prospective sub.  The hives had subsided and I was only resting, so I decided to give him a call.  Since my husband and I had already decided I was looking for another job and had even begun applying, I explained to the sub that there was a possibility that this job might become permanent, he wasn’t sold but he was interested.

I returned to work the following day determined that my LOA begin ASAP.  I informed the superintendent that I had a possible candidate and she was quite surprised since she had none.  At that point I gave her his contact information, told her the date I’d begin my LOA, and got to making 5 days’ worth of sub plans which my contract requires me to do for any prolonged absence.

So why haven’t we conceived yet?

should shrug

I’ve spent the last year as a NaProTechnology patient.  I keep asking myself why we haven’t conceived yet.  Dr. C. says we’re just now approaching prime time for conception and that it should happen within the next year.  If you’ve been following my blog or facebook page, then you know that diligence, not patience is my greatest virtue.

Years ago, a friend of mine told me: “When God whispers in your ear and you don’t listen, sometimes, he smacks you upside the head until you do!” I can’t count the number of times I’ve reminded myself of that quote over the years. Once again, I am reminded of that phrase today!

Four years ago, I was laid off from a job that I was pretty miserable at.  I didn’t want to quit because I pink sliponly had one teaching certification at the time, I was nearing tenure, and I was raised to appreciate the blessings in my life, my job being one of them.  I didn’t recognize it at the time, but that layoff was a blessing!  I found another job before the school year was out, spent the summer writing curriculum and was pretty happy that first year.  I was taking two graduate courses, teaching full time, and I was happy with the situation.  Two years later, I finished graduate school and I was ready for some time off since I’d only be working full time.

We were one year into our TTC journey and I hadn’t yet had my first NaProTechnology appointment yet.  I’ll admit I was consumed with the thought of getting pregnant and I threw myself into my work.  Before I knew it I was up to my eyeballs with committee work, a stipend position, the new evaluation system for which our superintendent had volunteered our district. .

When I was diagnosed with endometriosis, I finally had a reason for the intense pain I had experienced for years, and eventually I had the laparoscopy.  After that I felt fabulous and I thought that so much of my stress before surgery was due to my pain.

frustrated teacherThe new school year began and although the first three weeks of school are usually full of housekeeping details that are part of setting up our school year, I couldn’t keep up.  Every time I turned around administration was heaping extra duties on us and taking away the time we needed to complete our work.  I was working 60+hour weeks and I still wasn’t getting all of it done!

I’m no stranger to hard work, heck I’ve gotten glowing evaluations for each year I’ve been teaching.  I know what my kids need and I make sure they get it.  Enough about teaching, this post isn’t about my career, rather it’s about how my current teaching job is affecting our chances of conception.

I knew things weren’t right, so I decided to talk to administration about how things are going up on my floor.  We’re all working hard, we all feel as though we’re not accomplishing the tasks we’re charged with, and we’re all feeling defeated before we begin.  Administration was of a different opinion, there were comments made about how we’re in it for the wrong reasons, and other ridiculous remarks.

While I was working like a crazy woman, and begging to get a break, my body was going to pot.  My chart showed evidence of a decrease in health.  I was bleeding like crazy.  Although I wasn’t bleeding heavily, I bled for 16 days out of a 28 day cycle—not at all normal!  My hormone levels were not what they should be, despite taking medication to bring them into the effective zone!  During the previous month, my estradiol levels hit 399, but during my first whole cycle after returning to school, I couldn’t even break 200!  I barely ovulated, if I even ovulated at all!

When Doctor C’s office got the results of my peak plus 7 blood draw, they called me immediately and said I had to come in the following Friday to see what was going on with my body.  Off I went to my appointment with Dr. C, this time my husband, Frank, had the day off and came with me.

We asked if stress might be to blame for the changes in my chart.  Dr. C inquired as to whether I was still on clomid, I was, and whether I had been taking the naltrexone, yes to that as well, and whether I was still on the antibiotics for mucus enhancement, yes again, and finally had I been taking the vitamin D, B6, kelp, Bcomplex, Magnesium, and pycnogenol, yes to everything.  Given that I was following all of my doctor’s orders stress could be the only reason for the decline in health.  It was time to do something about it….