Tag Archive | infertility

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 + Crisis = Chaos!!!

frustrated teacher

Every once in a while; I am reminded that I am not in control of things.  I mean that no matter how hard I try to get things right, completed, or moving in the direction I want them to go in, there will always be forces and factors that I have no control of.  My most recent reminder came from our furbabies.  The four of them were outside playing and when I brought them in, I was greeted with a bloody surprise.  My oldest and most energetic furbaby’s head was covered in blood.  I kept myself from freaking out and got the other three into their crates so that I could examine her.

Before I could determine the severity of her injury I had to wipe down her fur to remove any blood and identify the location of the cut.  I was lucky, there was only one cut, and despite the amount of blood, it was small and it wasn’t gushing.  I grabbed the paper towels and applied pressure; after five minutes the bleeding had stopped.  Then; because life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, my princess shook her head.  In an instant, my home looked like a CSI crime scene.  I ignored the blood spatter, and applied pressure a second time. blood spatter

Again, once the bleeding stopped, my sweet oversized princess shook her head.  My house was covered in blood and it was time to call the vet.  After a quick call to let them know I was coming, I had to get something over my dog’s ear to stop her from bleeding.  I remembered that when it was raining out and on the rare occasion my grandmother could not find her “rain hat” she’d use a plastic grocery bag.  I quickly ran to our bag storage and pulled one out.  I tied it around my sweet girl’s head, making sure that her eyes and nose were not covered by the bag.  With her new “rain hat” on, we hopped into the car and ran off to the vet.

In addition to a 79lb German Shepherd wearing a plastic bag on her head, the situation was made even more comical thanks to my attire.  You see, it was about quarter to ten in the morning and I was in my full miscarriage uniform: sweatpants, hoodie, socks, slippers, no bra, and thoroughly unkempt hair, and thanks to the situation, I had some tasteful blood spatter to complete the ensemble.  Yup, I was totally stylin!

When I got home I remembered that I had a lunch date that afternoon.  There was no way that lunch date was going to happen, so I called my relative and left a message on her answering machine explaining what had happened.  I figured she’d be home and maybe was doing something that wouldn’t let her get to the phone.  It was an hour before our lunch date and since it takes about 40 minutes for her to make it to my house, I figured she’d get the message and call me when she did.

woman scrubbing

I proceeded to spend the next hour spraying our walls, cabinets, and doors with disinfectant and scrubbing the blood off of everything.   About an hour after I had made the call, there was a knock at my door.  She hadn’t gotten the message and was expecting to go to lunch.  “Okay; no problem,” I thought.  I’ll have to tell her what happened, and say that we can go to lunch as soon as I finish with cleaning the blood off the walls and change clothes.

“We’ve had a slight emergency,” I explained.  “Everyone is okay, Princess is at the Vet’s, they’re taking care of her, and there’s some blood that I’m still cleaning up.”  Well, her jaw hit the floor.  She didn’t know what to do or say.  She had brought up a few snacks for my husband, dropped those on the counter.  She then told me she thought I needed to be alone and rest, and got in her car to go home.  She left swiftly, despite my assurance that I did not need rest, I only needed to get the blood off the walls.  She was not interested in hearing what I had to say.  So, with me in the middle of a miscarriage, with blood all over my walls, this dear old relative of mine decided to turn around and go home, leaving me to deal with everything by myself.

despair

I’m aware of this person’s limitations; I just figured that for once in her life, she might be able to put someone else’s needs ahead of her own.  But I guess if she can’t grab a rag and help a woman in the middle of a miscarriage scrub blood off walls, she’s pretty much committed to her role as the center of her own universe.  I can’t control other people’s behavior, the only thing I have control over is my reaction.  I’m working on this!

So, since she didn’t offer to help or do anything other than ditch me, I was shocked when she called that evening to see how I was doing.  I am gifted with sarcasm and snarky humor, and I try to keep it in check.  However sometimes, I just can’t help myself.  When she asked how I was doing; I told her how shocked I was that she cared, as she obviously didn’t seem to care at the time.  She was shocked by my boldness, but I was totally out of tact at that moment, having been left to clean up the blood and retrieve my Princess from the vet by myself.

angry woman

I was further shocked when she told me that she only did what she’d want someone to do for her.  Then, she went so far as to say she had no idea I’d want her help cleaning up because I didn’t ask.  Obviously the repeated statement, “No, I don’t need to rest, I need to clean this up” did not let her know how important it was to me to get the blood cleaned up.  Honestly if seeing me in blood covered clothing with my walls splattered with blood and my home looking like a scene from a CSI drama isn’t enough, I don’t think words would have done anymore.

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!

Miscarriage–Honoring the Child We Lost, Part I…

At the moment, I’m in the middle of a miscarriage.  This is quite honestly the most heartbreaking time of my life.  There’s nothing anyone can do.  Our baby had already passed away when we went for our ultrasound.  At the moment I’m experiencing cramping, and spotting.  It gets worse by the day, which in this case is a good thing.  As much as my heart aches for the loss of this child, I dread hearing a doctor say that it won’t happen naturally and I have to undergo a D&C.  As I grieve the loss of our child, I’d like to share some beautiful memories  of my brief pregnancy with you.  Thank you for sharing this experience with me.

Love, Catherine

The day we learned we were pregnant…

It was a Wednesday, the dreaded and blessed peak plus 17, the day that we NaPro ladies wait for.  It had been 17 days since my identified peak day and despite a few hours of what could have been implantation bleeding, followed by days of very light brown spotting, I had not experienced a period.  My husband, Frank woke me at 5AM, the time he usually wakes for work.  He was aware of what day it was and wanted to be there when I took the test.  I tested without expectation.  We’d gotten countless negatives in the past and even once good old AF decided to show up mid test taking.  I tested and I waited.  When I saw that faint blue line make the plus sign on the test I was in heaven.  We had done we had successfully conceived, we were going to be parents!

IMG_0530[1]

I ran into our bedroom and said, “Congratulations Daddy, it’s positive!”  We were so happy!  NaProTechnology had worked!  My body was healthy enough to conceive naturally.  God had answered our prayers and blessed us with a child! I was aware the test would fade at some point, and I wanted to preserve that moment forever, so I snapped a quick pic before I tossed it.

 

Next, I needed to call Dr. Carpentier, but since it was 5:30 in the morning, I thought best to call once his office opened.  I couldn’t go back to sleep, I was so excited.  I stayed awake in a state of bliss until about 7:00 when I drifted off.  I woke again at about 9:00 thinking it was a good time to call Dr. C.  As I got up and dragged myself out of bed, the phone rang; it was Dr. C calling with the results of my peak plus 7 blood work.

mobile phone

 

I was amazed that he called me at the very moment I intended to call him.  He had just received the results of my peak plus seven blood work, in his words: “Like 12 seconds ago”.  I wanted to hear the results, but I couldn’t hold my joy any longer.  I blurted out:  “I’m so glad you called.  I was just getting ready to call you because it’s peak plus seventeen, I tested this morning and I’m pregnant!”  He responded “YOU GO GIRL! Can you get to my office today?  We’ve got a lot to talk about!”

 

Even though it was a Wednesday and his office closed at noon, he was willing to wait till I arrived.  I got dressed, fed the furbabies, packed up my chart, prenatal vitamins, and hit the highway to make the 90 minute drive up to his office.  This was really happening!  My leave of absence had paid off!  I was pregnant and blessed to have an amazing doctor who would do everything he could to support our pregnancy from the moment we got a positive test until delivery.

 

Conquering Food Allergies, the Next Step on This Journey…

The next baby step on this road from infertility to conception is getting my food allergies under control.  At my second appointment with my Naturopathic doctor, I learned that I have food sensitivities to apples, almonds, bananas, corn, dairy, oats, potatoes, and wheat.  These foods are causing inflammation throughout my body and wreaking havoc, and most likely are related to our inability to conceive.

food allergies

Considering that I had cut grains out of my diet more than a year ago; this new list pretty much limits me to eating: meat, fruit, vegetables, water, chocolate and wine.  When I cut grains out of my diet I increased my intake of both dairy and potatoes, so seeing both of them on the list stuck a knife in my heart, not to mention my stomach!

There are two possible ways to deal with this: I could spend time lamenting about all that I have to lose; or I could focus on all that I have to gain by eliminating these foods from my diet, knowing full well that my tolerance of these foods may improve once my body has time to heal.  I have one goal, to become healthy enough to conceive a child and be a mommy.  When we started down this road my husband and I agreed that we would both do whatever it took to become healthy enough to conceive.  This is something I have to do.  I know that if I do not, it may very well be something I regret or at least wonder about for the rest of my life.

Thanksgiving table

Tastiness, and culinary desires aside, it is time to learn to live life anew.   Please don’t think I’m a Pollyanna. There were lots of groans, and some serious mourning of all the delicious foods I was about to eliminate from my diet.

coffee

Yesterday, while I sipped my morning coffee, complete with organic cow’s milk,  I decided to try a day without all these foods  (with the exception of milk in my morning coffee b/c I hadn’t yet purchased coconut milk).  I didn’t do anything crazy like chart my symptoms, or even pay particular attention to what was happening to my body throughout the day.  I had the opportunity to deliver another sample lesson for another potential job, so I started my morning as I might on any other grain free day: with grain free toast, and coffee wtih milk.  After the interview, I came home did a few things and felt lethargic.  Rather than fight the fatigue as I might have if I were working, I decided to be good to myself and see if a nap might help.  I woke up feeling sluggish and didn’t have much go for the rest of the day.  I didn’t feel like myself at all.  That was how I felt when I was working, not when I had been so well rested and healthy as I’ve been on this leave of absence.  I kept my word and did not consume any of the foods the Naturopath identified as allergens for the rest of the day.

Later that evening as I was talking with a friend who understand food allergies very well,  it hit me, I felt like I went through withdrawal yesterday!  I spent the afternoon super tired, and didn’t have any go.  I have been reading Grain Brain By Dr.  David Perlmutter and he talks about our brain reacting to foods that cause inflammation similar to the way it reacts to narcotics, with a high followed by a withdrawal period that produces cravings, moodiness, lethargy, and an overall feeling of blech.  That has how I spent my afternoon yesterday.  Then after supper, which was completely allergen free, I felt great.

 

This morning, I awoke and I’m feeling pretty good.  I have more energy than yesterday and I’m in a pretty good mood.  Having never been a morning person, this is pretty cool.  If I can feel like this every day, staying away from the allergens will be totally worth it!

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….

I’m not giving in to the infertility blues!

As I begin a new cycle, I’m tempted to go to that dark place where despair, inadequacy, frustration, and doubt lurk.  Like many women living with infertility, I’ve been there a few times before; regardless of how many times I’ve been there, it’s not a place I’m going today.

despair

There’s no magic reason, no drug or therapist that is responsible for this choice, it’s just me.  As I look at my situation, I have much to be thankful for. Thanks to a NaproTechnology, we have the best chances we’ve ever had!  For the first time that I’m aware of, my body reached the optimum zone for fertility: my estradiol level hit 399 before peak day, optimum ovulation requires it be between 300 and 400; my peak plus seven estradiol level was 116 and my progesterone was 28.  I couldn’t ask for more in terms of chemistry.

And yet I’m not pregnant.  Wish I knew why!  There are some things we’re not meant to know and of course, everything comes in God’s time.  I may very well be like my grandmother (and her mother before her) and give birth after 40.  Who knows what God has planned for me?

baby steps to big dreams

It’s tempting to allow the thought that God does not have motherhood in his plan for me, but I’m not going there, not till I have to.  I will enjoy every beautiful day that is filled with my husband, Frank, and our four beautiful fur babies.  I will appreciate my students for all the joy and richness they bring to my life.  I will appreciate the irony that I have more young women without mothers in my class than ever before, I will be the confidant they need because it gives me purpose on this journey.

I’m not out of hope yet.  My doctor defines that as completing 12 cycles at optimum levels without conceiving.  One down eleven to go.  That’s eleven more tries, eleven more months for my body to get healthy enough to nourish another life.   I feel that I owe it to my body, mind, and soul to give this all I’ve got.

This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  I’m not going to quit or even entertain the thought that motherhood is not in my future.  Why?  Because I’m surrounded by an amazing supportive network of friends, coworkers, church family, even some biological relatives, and of course my amazing husband.  They’ve been my cheerleaders, carried me when I couldn’t get through on my own, and offered innumerable prayers on my behalf.  Their encouragement keeps me going.

friend meme

It would be so easy for them to focus on their own tiny circles and just inquire now and then.  Yet their support is steadfast.  I am blessed to have them in my corner.  During those times I have ended up giving in to despair and allowing myself to feel the letdown of a new cycle, they’ve pulled me out and reminded me what I’m working towards.

Knowing the effects of stress and negativity on the body, I’m not giving in to them.  I refuse to do anything that could make me less healthy.  I’ve given up grains, dyes, artificial foods, changed my lifestyle, and I can see the physical manifestations of these changes.  The evidence that my treatment is working increases by the day.  I won’t do anything to jeopardize that.   I firmly believe that I am on my way towards motherhood and better health.  Nothing, not doubt, stress, negativity, nor despair will jeopardize that.