Saturday, September 29, 2007

Appreciate what you have.

I work with several people who have problems of varying degrees with their kids. Mostly adult/teenaged kids, plus some young grandkids.

This past week, they've been ranting about their kids. A lot. I have heard, no less than a dozen times, "If I knew then what I know now, I never would've had kids." All I hear, day in and day out, is how awful their kids are, how much they've ruined their life, and how miserable they all are.

I guess it's all about perspective. But I just want to slap them. I mean, if you want to bitch about your it necessary to do it to someone who, at press time, can't have kids?

That's all for now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Emotional Rant.

The next person that tells me to stop trying, and to “just relax and it’ll happen”, is seriously going to get a fist in the teeth and a boot up the ass. I don’t care if that’s what worked for your friend, or your cousin, or you, or anyone else.

It. Doesn’t. Work. That. Way. For. Everyone.

September marks four years that we’ve been trying. Ok, minus the sixish months he was gone on deployment…so three and a half years. We didn’t even really start out trying…we just figured we’d let nature take its course. Well, apparently nature has decided to take the scenic route, because nothing’s happening. After a year, it’s an annoyance. After this long, it’s stressful…it’s frustrating…it’s maddening. Having a baby at all truly seems like a surreal, foreign concept now. Everyone keeps encouraging me that it’ll happen eventually. Yeah, maybe it will. But with each passing year, I have my doubts. Sure, I’m being pessimistic…but I haven’t exactly had cause to be optimistic about this, have I?

Every cloud has its silver lining, right? I guess in some ways this has had some positive impacts on my life. It’s made my marriage stronger – this is one of those things that either makes or breaks your relationship, and we’ve only become closer after going through what we have (Eddie, you rock). And had we never encountered fertility problems, I never would have started going to my acupuncturist, which means I’d still have problems with fibromyalgia and shit like that.

But even with all of that in mind, it doesn’t make the infertility issues any easier.

Having a baby is just basic human biology. It’s so easy, teenagers do it. All the time. Some couples decide to have a baby, start trying, and within a couple of months, she’s pregnant (SHE…not THEY…nothing gets under my skin more than “we’re pregnant”. Sorry, bub, if you don’t have a little alien playing trampoline on your bladder and making you puke up anything that isn’t Saltines or water…YOU are not pregnant. SHE is. But I digress…). It’s just something that’s taken for granted. You get married, you have kids, and life is dandy.

Everyone worries when they’re having a baby. Will you be a good parent? Will you screw up your kid? It’s just part of life. I just wish someone had given me a heads-up about what it’s like to try to have a baby after you’ve already lost one (or two…). Not that it would have made much of a difference…but I had no idea that when you get pregnant after a loss, there’s a deep, core-rattling fear of losing the baby again.

About 2 weeks ago, I was certain I was pregnant. I had to be. The symptoms were all there, and I just had this gut feeling. I have never been so certain that a test was going to be positive. At the same time, I was terrified. Completely and utterly petrified. And that pissed me off…because we’d been trying for so long, and what? Now I don’t want it? Quite the contrary…I want it, but I’m so scared of losing it again. I knew that a positive meant at least 3 months of not breathing easily, not until we’d made it through the precarious first trimester…a milestone that usually means the risk of miscarriage goes down significantly. It’s not gone altogether, and it still happens…but once you pass 12 weeks or so, the odds are in your favor.

I remember last year when I got a positive test, I was, briefly, terrified. I mean, after three years of trying, an actual baby had become a distant, abstract concept…I kind of felt like the dog chasing the car…I’d spent so much energy chasing it, I never thought about WTF I was going to do if I actually CAUGHT it. Then I caught it. There it was: the positive test. Holy shit. Now what? Wait, it’s REAL? There’s no turning back? What if I changed my mind? Of course this momentary panic was just that: momentary. The reality of it (as well how it would be making its exit in a few months…) was still rather jarring, but panic gave way to excitement.

Even then, I was never 100% convinced I was pregnant. The reality was just…I don’t know, I just couldn’t get it through my head. I took four home pregnancy tests in the space of 24 hours. It had just been out of my reach for so long that I couldn’t believe it. The reality was finally sinking in…and then I miscarried.

I suppose where some people would seek comfort in a god at this point, I found comfort in my atheism: I found a certain comfort, a certain amount of peace, in realizing that it was just a biological event…I wasn’t being tested, I wasn’t being punished, it was not some wicked cosmic joke…it just was. For me, that made a difficult event a little easier to swallow. It was still devastating, but realizing it was nothing more than a biological accident, not a deliberate part of a divine plan, was surprisingly comforting.

It’s been just shy of a year since that miscarriage, and almost three years since my first. Finding myself looking down the barrel of possibly being pregnant again was no longer the surreal, thrilling feeling while anticipating the test result. It was that paralyzing fear that goes straight to the core. I was CERTAIN it was positive….and that scared me to death. For the first time since the miscarriage, I was possibly pregnant…and the positive result, in my mind, meant a repeat of last year. Another miscarriage. Another month of physical hell followed by the months of depression and constant reminders. And I truly wasn’t sure if I could handle going through that again.

In the end, it was negative. Seeing the single line where I’d expected dual lines made me pause and exhale with a kind of relief I never before imagined: not the relief that I wasn’t pregnant, but the relief that I was no longer heading down a road towards an imminent miscarriage…a miscarriage that may or may not have happened, but seemed all too inevitable to me had the test been positive.

Once that momentary relief had passed, it was replaced by anger. Absolute rage. I was frustrated beyond words…I had been so certain. Finally, I had thought, four or so years of infertility might be paying off. But no… we’re back to square one. I just want to throw up my hands. Actually, I want to throw a lot of things right now.

We’re running out of options as far as treatments. I refuse to take the Clomid/Provera route again. No way. I would rather remove my own left eyeball and then eat it. Without ketchup. I’m not comfortable with IUI or IVF…and even if I was, I doubt we can afford it. Seriously…who has upwards of $20,000 to drop on a medical procedure that very possibly won’t even work? Nevermind my aversion to artificial hormones – which very likely play a significant role in why we’re having problems in the first place. So, even if I wanted to go back to the traditional medical route (which I don’t), there really aren’t many options left.

My acupuncturist was reassuring this morning. He thinks some of the symptoms I’m having indicate that my body is changing somehow…healing from all of the problems it’s had for the last several years. He sees some positive changes, and has a plan of attack for the next few months. So, I’m sticking with the acupuncture route. I think even if I sought out other fertility methods, I would still keep going to him…he’s made a tremendous difference in my health in the last year and a half.

Emotionally, I don’t know where I am right now. Part of me wants to throw in the towel and call it a loss. The stress has been exhausting, the uncertainty completely consuming. Four years is a long time. I hear people talking about trying for 5, 10, or more years…and I don’t know if I can do that. I know I’m a strong person, and I can handle a lot, but at what point is it time to just say “Enough”?

All around me, I’m watching couples have babies, watching their babies turn into toddlers, watching their toddlers grow into kindergarteners. When I first started going to the iVillage boards in 2003, some of my friends were pregnant with or had just had their first baby. Those babies will be starting kindergarten next year, and some already have one or two younger siblings. Some of the other women were dealing with fertility issues as well, but now their signatures are full of baby pictures and pregnancy tickers. While I rejoice whenever I see an announcement that someone is pregnant, part of me just wants to cry. I’m so happy for them…but I can’t help but feel envious.

Anyway…there it is. Another lengthy rant. There isn’t really much point to it…I just needed to get it off my chest. I don’t know what the future holds for us, or how many more years we’re going to flunk Applied Biology 101 before we finally get it right…but maybe there’s some hope. If nothing else, I have a husband who is a saint through all of this, tremendously supportive family and friends, and a midwife and acupuncturist worth their weight in gold. So…we’ll see.

If you’re reading this, and you’re a parent…go hug your kids.

And if you’ve made it this far, well…um…this is the end. So…you don’t have to sit through it anymore.

A Different Approach.

As mentioned in the previous blog, I decided to take a stab, as it were, at acupuncture. At my midwife’s recommendation, I called. Given all the health problems I’ve had in my life – fibromyalgia, migraines, anemia, female issues, etc – I can honestly look back and say that calling him was a pivotal moment in my life.

Eddie and I first met Bryon on a Saturday morning in March of 2006 at his clinic, which would rapidly become a very familiar place. He took my medical history, looked at my tongue (tongue appearance is very important in Eastern medicine), and we discussed treatments. As it turned out, my fear of the needles was not warranted: though they occasionally sting, I don’t even feel most of them.

It turns out that my heavy, painful periods were a symptom of endometriosis. While going on the pill was a great temporary reliever of the pain, it was not a good longterm solution, and likely contributed GREATLY to my problems. Ironically, not ONE doctor had EVER given more than a moment’s consideration to endometriosis, in spite of the fact that I had CLASSIC symptoms of moderate-severe endometriosis. I was never checked, never tested, it was simply never considered. SIGH.

Fortunately, this was something Bryon could help me with. Over the next few months, my periods started to regulate. They were still painful, but nothing like before. He gave me herbs, acupuncture, and nutritional advice. Late that summer, I noticed I was feeling really good, and actually had for some time. My back wasn’t hurting as much, my joints weren’t sore, my knee was being cooperative. Come to think of it, I didn’t feel like I had fibromyalgia anymore. I mentioned this to Bryon, and he said, as if it was the most obvious answer in the world, “that’s because you don’t HAVE fibromyalgia anymore”. 12+ years of chronic pain? GONE. HOORAY!

But the celebration wasn’t over yet! In September, my period went MIA again. Oh well, nothing new. 2 more weeks went by, still nothing. So, I bought my 4,000th (or so) home pregnancy test.

It was positive.

Holy. Shit.

After trying for three years, getting pregnant has become a distant, abstract concept. Something I was pursuing, but couldn’t imagine actually catching. For a fleeting moment, I felt nothing but complete and utter panic. Who wouldn’t? But that rapidly gave way to elation (and a brief thought of “oh shit…I got it in, now I have to get it OUT…”). After trying for so long, the requisite 12 week waiting period before telling friends and family went out the window.

A week later, the bleeding started. I spent 3 days on total bedrest at the recommendation of my midwife and acupuncturist after visiting both of them. Some say I should have gone to the ER, but really, there wasn’t anything they could do either. I will say this about both the midwife and acupuncturist: Without them, my sanity would have been toast at that point. Eddie was at sea for the first time in 3 years, and I was panicking. Bryon was especially a life saver. I will never, as long as I live, forget him sitting and just talking with me…not as my care provider, but as another human being empathizing with me and trying to ease my fears.

Eddie came home on the 13th. On the 14th, I did go to the ER because the bleeding had not subsided. It was a terrible experience and just cemented my decision not to go there previously.

I miscarried on October 15th, 2006. We were devastated. Friends, family (well, MY family, anyway…), and co-workers were exceptionally supportive, and when I returned to work on the 19th, I was met with hugs and encouragement. The 20th was my birthday, and also the day Eddie went back to sea for another 3 weeks. Happy birthday to me. Blech.

Eddie was gone for 3 weeks, then back just before Thanksgiving until the first week of January. He left for a 6 month deployment. Obviously our attempts to conceive were on hold for a while.

My periods went haywire again, and when I started a high-intensity exercise program, that didn’t help. But I was hellbent on getting healthier, so I continued exercising and continued my acupuncture.

That brings us to the present.

Now that I’ve briefed (ha!) you on the facts, the blog will probably move forward focusing more on the emotional aspects of all of this.

Hopefully, 2008 will be The Year of the Baby.

A Semi-Brief History of the Reproductively Challenged

This blog entry and the next 2-3 will likely be among the longest entries, as I have four years worth of history to get through. I will keep it as brief as possible, but it’s still going to be lengthy.

We enrolled in “Applied Biology 101” in September of 2003. I went off the pill, which I had faithfully taken for the past 5 years. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this, since my primary reason for being on the pill was not actually birth control: it was horrendously painful periods. Ugh. Oh well…I reasoned that I’d only have to deal with it temporarily, because I’d get pregnant eventually.

My mom had difficulty getting pregnant with my brother, and eventually resorted to Clomid, but she had had problems with her system prior to that anyway. Mine had functioned like clockwork…painful and miserable, but with no signs of problems. Well, ok, no signs of problems ASIDE from the pain and heaviness, but I’ll get to that later. So, I assumed that I wouldn’t have the same difficulties she had. I’d heard that it sometimes took 6 months to a year to regain fertility after going off the pill, so I wasn’t in any hurry.

I wouldn’t say we were actually “trying” at this point. More like not “not trying”. We were just going to let nature take its course. We weren’t in a hurry anyway.

Two months into this, we made a rather life-altering decision: We had originally planned for Eddie to get out of the military, and we would move from the Seattle area to Northwestern Oregon because of Seattle’s prohibitive cost of living. However, after looking at the job market in Oregon, and doing some thinking, we realized that the military was still the best bet for us. We also found out he’d been given some erroneous information about his re-enlistment status (ie., that he no longer had time to look at orders, that the window was closed, etc). At the last minute, we made the decision to stick with the military. On December 7, 2003, he re-enlisted for 4 more years in the Navy, and was reassigned to Norfolk, Virginia.

On December 26, 2003, we drove out of Washington and headed east.

In the midst of moving across the country, finding a place to live, looking for a job, and all of that chaos, my periods stopped. At first, I naturally assumed that it was stopping for the most obvious reason: I was pregnant, of course! I bought the first of what would be many, many home pregnancy tests. Looking back, we should’ve bought stock in EPT. 20/20 hindsight, right? The test was negative, as were the subsequent two. A couple of weeks went by. Then a month. Still nothing. I tested again. Negative.

At this point, though I still wasn’t in any kind of a rush to get pregnant, I started to worry. Something wasn’t right. I decided to go to Planned Parenthood and get a pregnancy test, just to be sure. That was also negative, so they recommended that I go see an OB. Fine, I thought. I needed to find a doctor in the area anyway.
I found a list of OB’s in my area that were covered by my insurance, and found a group practice not far from my apartment. I called, made an appointment, and went in the following week. This was the day I met Dr. Satan.

The concise version of what happened is that Dr. Satan came into the room, where I was lying on the table half-dressed, and immediately started telling me that my periods had stopped because I was fat. Bear in mind, I’m not thin, and I was heavier then than I am now, but I was by no means as fat as he made me out to be. He told me that if I stopped eating so much and started exercising once in a while, I’d lose the weight and my periods would come back. (Nevermind that the rather rapid weight gain I had experienced in the previous couple of months may have been a symptom of something else…) And, he added, once I DID get pregnant, I was only going to gain weight, so why start out like that?

The internal exam that followed can only be described as humiliating and painful. Let’s just say it involved a metal speculum – with a slightly sharper edge than the nice round edge of a plastic speculum – that wouldn’t go in, and Dr. Satan using his body weight to MAKE it go in. Wasn’t pretty.

I went home in tears, and fortunately Eddie was unable to drive at that point, so he wasn’t able to go back to Dr. Satan’s office and beat the crap out of him. I wound up at the ER a few days later because I was still bleeding a little and was in a lot of pain. Unfortunately, the only doctor available was a male, but he was an absolute saint about doing the exam. Still, I have never been comfortable getting examined by a male doctor since that time.

Eventually, my period returned. Then disappeared. Then returned. At one point, I went 6 months without a visit from Aunt Flo. Ladies, don’t envy me. It was miserable. M-I-S-E-R-A-B-L-E. PMS, it seems, snowballs from month to month. You know that crappy feeling you get right before it starts? Imagine if it DOESN’T start, and that feeling carries over to the next month….then gets worse…still doesn’t start…next month…etc. For 6 months. LAME.

By the latter part of 2004, it was getting old. I went to another OB on the recommendation of a friend. I was terrified of going, which pissed me off to no end…I’d never had a problem with getting annual exams, but ever since Dr. Satan, I was way freaked out. The exam did go well, and she recommended an ultrasound to check for cysts.

Because it was an internal ultrasound, my Dr. Satan-inspired fear kept me from getting it done right away.

In January of 2005, we were in the midst of moving into our new house when Aunt Flo made a visit. Or so I thought. The pain and the bleeding were exceptionally bad. I called in sick to work. Without going into detail, it became clear that this was not a period. I was miscarrying.

Fortunately, I had been unaware that I was pregnant, and evidently it was pretty early. Still, it was an emotional blow.

In August of that same year, nearly 2 years into this epic, I started getting a really obnoxious pain in my lower right side. It was consistent with symptoms of appendicitis, so we went to the ER. They found nothing, and recommended I go see my OB. Joy. I figured now was as good a time as any to get that ultrasound done, since I’d put it off for the better part of a year.

I saw my OB again, and was promptly read the riot act for not coming to see her when I miscarried. I’m not sure what she thought she could do – I knew the signs to watch for as far as infection and hemorrhaging, so it wasn’t necessary. But, anyway, it was in the past. She couldn’t explain the pain in my side (which had not subsided), but thought it might be ovarian cysts. She was certain I had poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

I came in for the ultrasound. It was clean. No cysts. In our discussion afterward, she said that “sometimes women don’t ovulate, and we don’t know why.” As far as she was concerned, the best plan of attack at this point was Provera.

This is where things really went south. I asked her point blank about side effects of Provera, especially in comparison to Clomid. Mood swings? No. Excessive cramping/bleeding? No. Headaches? No. Sleeping problems? No. She said that I might experience some bloating, but otherwise, the side effects were minimal. She wrote out the prescription, and sent me on my way.

I filled the prescription that night. The insert listed all the horrific side effects it could have, but the inserts always list everything from bleeding cuticles to having your ruptured spleen come out your nose, so that the pharmaceutical companies don’t get sued…so I didn’t think anything of it. After all, my doctor told me the side effects were minimal.

She was wrong. I’d go so far as to say she lied to me. It was HELL. Joint pain, nightmares, insomnia, massive headaches, inability to concentrate, and the mood swings…dear lord, the mood swings. I knew something was wrong when I had a complete and total emotional breakdown on the interstate. Something was very, very wrong. Then the depression kicked in. Terrible, terrible depression.

I did some reading online. As it turns out, the symptoms I was experiencing are not only associated with Provera, they are COMMON. Further, there is a blatant warning that Provera is counterindicated for patients with a family or personal history of depression (I have both), and that patients with a history of depression MUST be monitored VERY closely by their doctor while taking Provera.

I called and asked to speak to her. She didn’t return my calls. There were no appointments available. Finally, I reached the end of my prescription (I was afraid to abruptly stop taking them), and Aunt Flo showed up with a vengeance. I called in sick to work for 2 days, which is very, very unlike me. During that time, I left half a dozen messages telling her I needed to talk to her ASAP. I needed to know what to do, because I was completely losing it, and I was NOT going to take another round of Provera…but I needed to know if there would be more problems if I didn’t continue taking it. She never returned my calls.

Eventually, I got in touch with my doctor back in Seattle, and she assured me that discontinuing the Provera would not be a problem, and recommended I avoid hormones (well, DUH…).

I was done. No more doctors. It was time to seek alternative treatments. I had long been open to alternative treatments – my osteopath had worked wonders on my back pain and such, etc – but hadn’t really considered them for this. A friend had told me that acupuncture was used to treat infertility, but my phobia of needles kept me from looking into it. After the Provera, my rational mind said: Look, the worst that can happen is “that needle hurts…take it out.”

A friend recommended me to a midwife. My midwife then recommended a local acupuncturist.

This is where things start looking up. Stay tuned…

Flunking “Applied Biology 101” since Sept 2003

I suppose it doesn’t make a lot of sense to start blogging now, after 4 years, but better late than never, right?

For those not familiar with me, I’m Lori. I’ll be 27 soon, and my husband, Eddie, is 26. We have been trying to conceive since September of 2003. Obviously, since it’s September of 2007 and we still don’t have any kids, we’ve been failing. Miserably.

When we first started discussing the thought of even having a baby, Eddie was on deployment. We had just gotten married in December of 2002, and he was shipped out January 13. What was supposed to be a routine training exercise turned into an 8 month deployment. During this separation, I decided to start doing some reading, because I knew NOTHING about pregnancy, birth, or anything. NOTHING.

I discovered the iVillage message boards shortly after Eddie went on deployment, and have been visiting them ever since. I spend most of my time on the debate boards, and looking back, I can honestly say that my views about pretty much everything are dramatically different now than they were back then. Much of that will become apparent in as this blog evolves. I also read, read, read, and ended up with a monstrous collection of books about all things baby, from conception to kindergarten. The clueless was, at last, clued in (well, as much as one can be by reading, observing, talking to other moms, etc).

By the time Eddie got home in September of 2003, we were ready to have a baby, and I went off the pill. Neither of us had even the faintest inkling of what lay ahead.

Before I get too involved in this blog, I do want to extend a sincere thanks to everyone who’s kept me relatively sane through all of this. You’ve been immensely supportive through all of this. You all know who you are – the ones who have sent me encouraging e-mails, let me cry/bitch/vent, offered hugs or cyberhugs when I desperately needed them, who cheered with me when things were looking up and cried with me when the bottom fell out, and have been rooting for us since day 1 – you guys rock. Seriously.

And a special thanks to my husband. Eddie, you rock. I can’t imagine staying sane if I was going through this with anyone but you. Our marriage and our love have only gotten stronger through all of it. I love you, babe.

So now you know who we are. This blog may be at times funny, at times sad, at times full of the kind of language that would get a kid’s mouth washed out with soap. There may be some TMI now and then, though I try to keep the gory details to a minimum. With this topic, it’s kinda hard to avoid some mention of unmentionables. I apologize in advance.

Please feel free to e-mail me or to leave comments. If you’ve been there done that, or something resonated with you…I’d love to hear from you.