Tag Archive | surgery

Adivce for Those in Miscarriage Land

When we learned our baby had passed away it was as though we were instantly transported to miscarriage land, the place where our worst nightmare became reality.  We were distraught.  In between the agonizing pain there were moments of numbness which were a Godsend.  Not feeling anything at all was preferable to feeling as though we had been rubbed with sandpaper inside and out.

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There we were in miscarriage land with no knowledge of what to expect.  Our NaProTechnology doctor shared an overview of what might happen, explaining that it would be like a “double period.”  He did his best to share a brief overview of what might happen.  He expected that I’d bleed for a week or two and within 6 weeks my HCG (pregnancy hormone) levels would reach zero.  We’d have to wait three cycles before trying again. And then we’d resume our prior course of treatment.

He referred me to a local gynecologist who explained the three possible options to me.  I could either let things happen naturally, take a drug that would induce the expulsion of the contents of my uterus or have a D&C.  I chose the natural path.

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The next phase of my journey included many things that my doctors didn’t tell me.  Maybe they didn’t know, maybe they thought it was best I discover them on my own, maybe they thought it wasn’t their place to share them.  Thanks to some amazing friends who helped me along the way, and my therapist, I’ve managed to make it through this without losing my mind.  I’ve put together the most helpful information I can.  Some are things I was told, others are things I picked up along the way.  If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll answer them as best I can.  Or find answers if I can’t answer your questions on my own.  You are in my prayers!

If you find yourself in miscarriage land, disoriented and not knowing where to go, here’s some information you might find useful…

*There is no flight plan for miscarriage. No natural pattern. (I was shocked to learn this)  As long as your HCG levels continue to drop week by week, you are okay.  Unless, like me, you are three months into a natural miscarriage, and need a D&C.
*You have to decide what is right for you. You may chose to have a D&C because getting this phase over is of the highest importance to you. You may want to take medication which forces your uterus to contract and expel its lining; you also have the option wait for the process to occur naturally. It takes a long time, and it is often frustrating, but it will preserve your fertility without side effects.

*This will put strain on your heart, mind, and spirit in ways that are indescribable, find some way to express yourself as you go through the process. This may mean hiring a therapist, picking up an interest or passion that has gone by the wayside, or delving deeper into something you already enjoy. Keeping your feelings locked inside you is the worst thing you can do, it will cause you to hurt even more than you are hurting now.

crafting woman

*This will last much longer than you expect it to. And just when you think it’s gone, you will find something that will trigger your feelings and bring you back to that place of indescribable loss. However terrible the anguish, pain, and sorrow you feel during these times, they will pass. They will become less frequent, and you are allowed to have fun in between!

*People may criticize or comment on the way you are going through this process. Screw them. Don’t waste your time or energy explaining this to them, they don’t have to understand to be your friend.  They just need to be your friend.  If they don’t get that, it’s okay for you to move on without them.

Lost and Confused Signpost

*People will not know how to respond to your loss. You may want to tell them something like this, “There’s nothing anyone can do to make up for the loss we are experiencing. We don’t expect that you will say the right things, or do the right things, just being our friend, and being there for us is all we ask”

*People may ask how you are feeling. I found this particularly offensive. I wanted to say, “Seriously my child died, let me tell you about the particular level of my own private hell I’m experiencing today.” I found it better to say, “I’m as okay as I can be” or “I’m hanging in there”

*There is no wrong way to go through this. You have to do what is right for you. Try to lean on those whom you know you can count on. It’s okay to accept support from friends, family, and even weird NaPro Bloggers like myself. No one should go through this alone, it doesn’t make you heroic if you try to keep a stiff upper lip, but you will have those moments where you have to put your grief in a box to get through the day.

angel baby

*It’s okay to honor love and remember your baby daily. Every life, no matter how brief, leaves an indelible mark on this world, especially on the heart of a grieving mommy and daddy.

You are in my prayers.  If you have questions, or just need to talk you can reach me by commenting below or going to my facebook page.  You are not alone in this.  Love, Catherine

Reflecting on a year of infertility part III

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

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

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

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

weight loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflecting on a Year of Infertility Part II

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read Part III

Reflecting on a year of infertility Part I

Napro II

It’s been almost a year since I first heard the dreaded word.  A nurse who thought she was out of earshot told a doctor, “Your patient is a little upset about her infertility, but she hasn’t really been trying very long.”   That’s how I learned my diagnosis, by overhearing a conversation I should not have heard.

It was like someone had reached in and ripped out my uterus and rendered me broken.  That’s how I felt, just broken; like the Barbie after her head popped off, something that just couldn’t be of much use in its current condition.  I’ll spare you the story of how much I cried.

I held it together in the office and asked what my options were.  I was told that before IVF, IUI was successful, but first we needed to have some tests.  It was an SA for my husband, Frank; and an HSG for me.  We were both pronounced pretty normal.

We went full steam ahead with IUI.  It wasn’t something we were excited about, but it was something we were willing to deal with to get a baby.  We were told we had a “good chance”.  The unfortunate part was all the drugs they pumped me full of during the treatment.  I got 50mg of clomid on days 5-9 and had two follicles, but they were small.  I also got two hundred mood swings, and was pretty psyched that my head did not do an exorcist style spin.  After turning into a screaming banshee, the HCG shot made me feel as if I were getting the flu, I was sure I was pregnant.  HA!  AF came and went.  My doc told me that I had some unfortunate side effects and should try again.

I got 100mg of clomid on days 5-9, then the HCG, which made me even sicker than the first round.  My cycle started to get weird similar to the way it was when I was in my teens.  I asked the doc about it, could the abnormalities in my cycle have something to do with our failure to conceive.  I got a “maybe but we really can’t be sure, every woman is different.”  I’m surprised that I didn’t ask him which cereal box he pulled his degree out of!  But, I was desperate and the treatment he was giving me was all that I knew existed.

Round 3 wasn’t much better.  I was more ill than in rounds one and two.  As the day for the HCG shot approached, I just knew I couldn’t do that to my body again.   I never made it to the HCG shot.  I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t put my body through such agony again.  I called the nurse and asked what my options were.  I was crushed when I was told that IVF would be the next logical step.  That seemed so illogical.  IVF would mean pumping me full of even more of the drugs that seemed to be slowly killing me.  There was no way that I would consent to that.  My heart told me that no good could come from feeling that way.

My friend, Jordan, mentioned that she was a NaProTecnology patient.  She had endometrosis and was scheduled for surgery.  She explained the differences between NaPro and the way my doctor had been treating me.  As a result of her treatment she felt better and was healthier, while I had never felt more ill in my life during my treatment.  What did I have to lose?

I started charting my biomarkers using the Creighton model fertility monitoring system.  My charting consultant agreed that I needed to see a NaPro doc asap as my chart showed some serious abnormalities.  I know I’ve written similar posts where I elaborate on how awesome Dr. C was during our first phone conversation–I’ll try to keep it brief.  I immediately started taking vitamin D3, magnesium, and a B complex vitamin.    I was feeling better before my first visit. Click here  to read Part II

Time To try again:

NaPro chartAfter my surgery, I was almost relieved that my doctor made us wait two cycles before we began trying to conceive again.  I didn’t experience the two week wait.  I was actually happy to get my period.  It was exciting to watch the changes in my chart and compare pre-surgery abnormality to post surgery improvements in health.  I didn’t have any more bleeding mid cycle.  I had less brown bleeding before and after menstruation, my cycle length decreased from 37 to between 24 and 28 days.  All because of one surgery! I was in heaven.

Then it was time to try again.  Ug.  I know that without the anticipation and let downs, we’ll never have a chance of conceiving.  Still, trying again meant that we’d be let down month after month until we achieved.  Because we’re using NaPro technology, we’re not using the good old give it a try and see if it happens method.  NaPro isn’t artificial reproductive assistance, but it’s not your grandma’s wait and see eitther

D3I am taking various supplements to help my body ovulate and be an ideal environment for a baby to grow and develop in.  I take 8000IU of vitamin D every day, 500mg of B6, and 500mg of magnesium.  I get my blood drawn every other day before ovulation to check my estradiol levels, then a peak plus 7 blood draw to check my estradiol and progesterone levels.  Dr. C. had me on hormones before my surgery, but I’m not taking them anymore.  He thought that my body would be able to function normally after surgery.  Both my chart and the lab work confirm that he was right.

It’s pretty awesome knowing that my body is getting healthier.  I’m healthier than I’ve ever been in my life.  I have no fatigue, no pain, I should be grateful!  Truly, I am.  But no matter what, I know that I won’t experience that feeling of completion and fulfillment until I hear my own baby’s cry.

It’s Our Day! Celebrating Infertility Survival Day!

I’ve been living with infertility for nearly two years now and I still feel like a newbie.  Every time I turn around, there’s infertility warriorsomething new to learn.  I never knew we had our own day!  Why shouldn’t we?  We deserve one!  I love that it’s called Infertility Survival Day and not something froo froo.  We are warriors combatting illnesses within our own bodies! These are illnesses that threaten our health, wellbeing, and our overall pursuit of happiness.  Shame on our doctors for not finding these before we show up at their doors inquiring as to why we are unable to conceive!  We are not accepting excuses, we will not accept anything other than real answers and treatment tailored to our individual health needs!  Heck yeah, we are surviving this!

So how did I celebrate today?  Okay, I didn’t.  I didn’t even know about it until about 1:00 when I checked Facebook after Church.   After which I went out into my garden and started clearing away leaves, and debris that had been deposited over the winter.  I’ve been working on this for the last few weekends and I’m about ¾ of the way done.

About half an hour into my work, I took a break and sat on our front porch with my husband, Frank.  He asked about my health, having observed an improvement in my mood and my ability to tackle projects around the house lately.  He was right.  I hadn’t thought of that.  I know that I’ve been feeling better, there’s no denying that.  But thinking back on how I used to feel before surgery reminded me that the same gardening I did today would have knocked me out only a year ago!  Something as simple as planting two flats of flowers would have rendered me useless for the rest of the day!

clearing leaves from the gardenBut today, I worked in my yard, and I still have energy to prep my meals during my grain free power hours this evening!  This is huge for me.  I am able to live and enjoy life again!  And, may I say, I hope the doctor who told me that my lack of energy was caused by depression is happy to learn that she was wrong when I tell her it was caused by endometriosis at my annual appointment over the summer!

Sorry for that little rant, but I can’t help but feel a bit of vindication in knowing that I will be able to share this with her face to face!  But; back to the garden.  I’m going somewhere with this…

It occurred to me that my work in the garden today is rather metaphorical.  While I was clearing away debris to allow for the growth of new life, I was caring for my garden in the same way that my NaPro surgeon and NaPro doctor are caring for me and my fertility.   Think about it… The endometriosis was growing in my abdominal cavity and was around my tubes, ovaries, intestines and colon, virtually strangling me from the inside.  Thanks to Dr. C and Dr. B. I’ve been freed from that strangulation and my body is now preparing to nurture new life.  It seems that I celebrated our day without even knowing it.

 

I had my laporoscopy, now what?

A laporoscopy is considered noninvasive surgery, and in truth it was noninvasive.  I was up and around and back to work in two weeks.  Yay for Dr. B!  He is the best NaPro Surgeon on the east coast—eh, I think he may be the only one.  Regardless, my recovery time was quick, my stitches healed within a week.  I was back to work within 2 weeks.  Standard recovery time with another surgeon is anywhere from four to six weeks.  So yeah you could say NaPro Technology wins with recovery time from surgery as well as results!

gianna center

You would think that all would be well to try again since I recovered so fast, but not so.  Dr. C. requested that we wait for two cycles after surgery to allow my body to heal.  This was difficult for us as a couple since I felt the best I had in literally years.

The only change after surgery was that I got tired faster than I ever had.  It took a while, but I was back to my normal energy levels about three weeks after getting back to work.  And by week four, I was less tired than before surgery.  I was able to get through the day without pain medication, my mood had improved and, I just felt like myself again!

I got lots of questions from friends and family.  They asked: “How could you have this for so long without knowing it? How did you recover from your laporoscopy so quickly?” And my favorite,  “How long before you can get pregnant?”  I wish I knew the answer to the first and the last questions, but I don’t.  I know it will take between nine and twelve months for my immune system to get back to normal, but I can feel my health improving day by day.

Recovering from the laparoscopy:

The laparoscopy was successful.  They removed endometriosis from my abdominal cavity and a polyp from inside my uterus.  Typically, the recovery period after a laparoscopy is between 6-8 weeks.  Thanks to Dr. C, I was connected with the Gianna Center and  my NaPro Technology surgeon, Dr. B, whose typical recovery time is much shorter.  And thanks to my friend, Jordan, who had experienced the same surgery before I had, I knew to expect that my recovery period would be much shorter, more like two weeks.

gianna center

I’m not good at sitting still, I’m much better at being active.  No matter what it is, I need to have a plan, a to do list with items to check off marking my progress.  For the first few days of my recovery, I kept busy by taking care of myself, making sure I took my advil on time to keep the stitches from pulling and itching.

That worked till we got back home.  I was in much better condition than we expected.  Because Frank would have to return to work immediately, I scheduled different friends and family members to come by during the day to help me let the dogs out and give me a hand with anything I might not be able to do for myself.  Turns out I didn’t need as much help as we thought I would.

My first day home I didn’t have energy to do much, I was grateful that I did have my friend coming by to help me with lunch and for some company.  Thanks to the company of good friends and the support of my husband, Frank; the first week of recovery passed quickly.  Although I had just had surgery, I felt fabulous, better than I had felt before surgery.  Other than the pulling from the stitches, the only side effect I experienced was fatigue, like napping in the middle of the day fatigue.  Since I wasn’t doing anything –other than feeding the dogs—I attributed this fatigue to my body’s need to repair itself after surgery.

My recovery went as smooth as we expected.  After a week, I was able to cook dinner and fold laundry, laundrythought I was forbidden from carrying the laundry basket upstairs.  Within two weeks I was back to work.  I no longer looked like a corpse, as I had on some days before surgery.

The medical report confirmed my health was good.  A friend of mine who is a nurse came by to hang with me on her day off and pronounced that in week one I looked at just about where one of her patients was in week four after a laparoscopy.

This might be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway, if you are going to have any type of procedure related to infertility, I highly recommend a NaPro technology.  If You don’t know where to find a NaPro doctor, I’d be happy to help.

Surgery, the moment I’d been waiting for:

As my surgery approached, my body decided to make sure that I followed through with things in case I might back out at the last minute.  My pain intensified by the day.  In early October, I needed Advil during three or four days before menstruation.  By late December, I was taking 6 per day from ovulation on; and this was keeping the pain dull, not keeping it away.  At my pre-surgery appointment with Dr. C. he told me I could increase the dose to 12 a day if I had to.  That kept the pain away for a while, but it was back in January.  Two days before surgery, I was taking 12 Advil to keep the pain dull.  My body was not giving me the option to back out.

My husband, Frank, and I made the four hour trip to the hospital and arrived at my pre-op consultation.  I had an ultrasound and was SURGERYexamined by the surgeon.  The ultrasound showed that my uterus was very thick at some parts.  My surgeon was suspicious that there might be something else going on besides the endometriosis.  I was scheduled for a laporoscopy to remove the adhesions, a hysteroscopy to look inside my uterus, and an HSG to make sure my fallopian tubes were clear.  Dr. B, my surgeon, said that he’d check into the reason why my uterus looked so thick on the ultrasound during the hysteroscopy.  Dr. B also suspected that I might have PCOS due to my grain allergy and weight gain, he said that he’d be able to get a good look at my ovaries and see if they were enlarged, as that would be a sure sign of PCOS.  He explained that if they were, he could wedge them, thus reducing their size and helping them function more normally.

I was psyched, well as psyched as a woman can be when she knows she’s going to be cut open in 14 hours, can’t have dinner, and must spend the evening doing a bowel prep.  As queasy as you just felt reading that last sentence, I assure you, I was equally thrilled about the whole thing!

neg pregnancy testThe morning of the procedure, we made the trip to the hospital and checked in.  They asked that I take a urine test just to make sure that I wasn’t pregnant, apparently the ultrasound the day before wasn’t enough.  Didn’t they know that infertility was the reason I was there in the first place?  I laughed, gave them their sample and got myself into that awesome hospital garb they gave me.

Once I was dolled up in my hospital gown, no skid socks, and surgical blue hat, a nurse explained what would happen during and after surgery and then started an IV.  I was terrified.  I mean, I was in a strange state, with people I had never met before, and I was going to let them cut me open all because it would make me healthier and might let me conceive.  Yeah, that’s how bad I want to be a mom.  IVAnd since the hormone treatments had nearly killed me, I was ready for them to open me up, and work their surgical mojo.  I remember being taken into the Operating Room and scooting onto the operating table.  I remember the anesthesiologist loading my IV with the good stuff, and then that’s about it.