Posts Tagged ‘infertility’

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39 and counting

August 18, 2009

Well, here we are at cycle day 39, and my temperature this morning was a cool 97.1 degrees (very low for me).

I have had my share of 36 day cycles, but I think this one might be the Longest Cycle Ever. Plus, HOW MUCH LONGER WILL IT GO, since I never even had a blessed thermal shift? Can I just have an annovulatory cycle, be over with it and just start my period this week? Oh, I hope so. I just want to start over.

I am at the point of  infertility when I just want to get my period.

This could be my worst cycle ever. It’s not like I am a portrait of female reproductive health: my reproductive system has failed to perform its ultimate and most important function, producing a baby. But in the past, I have at least ovulated (or appeared to on paper), had a thermal shift and subsequently gotten my period. And all in less than five weeks! Not this time.

I can’t help but blame the estradiol. I am applying it every day, as instructed. This was the first cycle of doing so. I feel like it has been a big waste of time and $120. And it has the delightful side-effect of bloat, which is particularly charming in swimsuit season.

I never heard back from my doctor’s office about the blood test results (from my fabricated P+7 two weeks ago), even after a couple of calls. I called again and left a message today describing my extended weird cycle and asking if I should quit the estradiol. It certainly doesn’t seem to be helping anything.

I have not heard back. I am considering just quitting the estradiol on my own. Do you think I should? Or wait until I hear back?

(And for any delusional fans who are wondering if this could be the beginning of the long cycle I’ve been waiting for, no. I did pee on a stick on Sunday. Negative, not that I suspected anything different.  I don’t usually take HPTs, as it seems like adding insult to injury. But I felt like I had to go ahead and get the BFN confirmation, just in case my doctor’s office ever calls me back and asks.)

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Even my own email torments me

August 11, 2009

OK, seriously? As if living in a world of real-life pregnancies and babies weren’t difficult enough, even my trusty yahoo account is tormenting me.

The current ad on my yahoo email page is a big sidebar for Clearblue pregnancy tests. It features an image with four women looking at pregnancy tests. Three of them are shouting with glee, and one is saying “hmmm.”  I assume she is just wondering if she took the test too early. ha!

Interestingly enough, Clearblue does not picture any of these women huddled over in a ball of tears and anxiety. No one is staring at the tests with glazed over eyes, no one is plotting all the ways to destroy the evil big fat negative test stick.  Come on, Clearblue, how about some TRUTH IN ADVERTISING!?

Now, of course I can imagine why a  portrait of infertility’s despair did not strike the Clearblue ad wizards as a particularly good idea.  You think?

But do these women have to gloat about their pregnancy tests right there in my own private email account?! Take your stinkin’ positive tests somewhere else, ladies. Leave me in peace. ; )

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And the results are …?

August 7, 2009

I got my blood test last week, and I am VERY CURIOUS to know what the results are.

I am not on cycle day 28 and have yet to see a temperature shift. Actually, half the time my temps are lower than usual. And I am still having weird, unexplainable cervical fluid. I have a little surge of a small amount of clear, lubricative fluid every afternoon. I usually notice it if I go running or when I go to the bathroom at work. But then by the time I am home and want to, erm, act on it with my beloved husband … it’s gone. Only to return the next afternoon.

I’ve taken a couple more ovulation tests, just for kicks and money-wasting. Still nothing.

So, I called my doctor’s office today to request the test numbers (for estradiol and progesterone). And they said that my doctor is not in, and they need his help interpreting them. This to me has only one meaning: my numbers are weird.

Should I have just asked for the numbers anyway? I think I could do some interesting interpretations on my own.

Dr B comes back Tuesday, so I will call again then. I suspect that rather than balancing my wacky hormones, the estradiol is throwing things into a new realm of wackiness. Will he ask me to stop taking it? To take it at a different part of the month?
I still feel like we are just peeling away the top layers in the what-is-wrong-with-me onion, and it is soooo frustrating. I just want to speed things up a little. I first called me doctor to make an appointment last December and in some ways, I still feel like I am in the same place.

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Unexpected connections

July 21, 2009

lettuceYesterday I went for a lunchtime run on the National Mall —  not something I do all the time, but one of my favorite ways to invigorate my work day. On my way back to my office I stopped to check on progress at the People’s Garden at USDA. As I was examining the adorable tiny melons, one of the garden workers came up to me and asked if I liked the garden. I replied, “yes” … and before I knew it, this guy was telling his whole life story to me.

He is a very sweet man who has had some very rough times. (His birthday also happens to be the day after mine — a connection he loved.) He is autistic, was in a really bad car accident several years ago that caused several physical injuries and has had more than his share of financial and family troubles. He really wants to get married but has found it extremely difficult to meet women, in part because of his autism. He had one girlfriend, but she was a drug addict and, it seems, would sometimes even prostitute herself for drugs …?

At the start of our exchange, I just wanted to know if any of the plants in the garden had died, but as you can tell, it turned into a fairly lengthy conversation. I think he must have talked to me for at least 45 minutes. It meant my “lunch” break from work was VERY long, but the guy was so kind and so lonely, I thought listening to him was probably more important at that moment.

He repeatedly said he wants to live his life “as vibrantly as possible,” and mentioned a few times how it is hard for him to see healthy people, people who have everything going for them and never appreciate it.

He asked about my husband and if we have any kids. And then came the first time I have told a total stranger about my infertility. It just seemed right. I told him that although I appear to be healthy, I’m not. I’ve had a hard time in my quest to have a baby. To my surprise, he immediately lit up. He totally got it — he connected my story to the pain he sees in watching healthy people. We were together in feeling that no one seems to understand, and he noted how it must be hard for me to see people with kids. (it is, of course.)

I would have never predicted that my infertility could help me relate to a single 30-year-old man struggling with mental illness. But there we were, bonding next to the squash plants, united by the fact that we both have a hard road to walk down — albeit two very different ones. (and I certainly would *not* equate my road to his — his seems much harder).

There was a time last fall when I felt like my barren womb made *me* totally barren. I felt totally empty. I remember one morning when I was out for a run, I  had to stop and cry on the middle of the pathway. I was so sad and angry. I cried out to God, “I know you use things for good but what good can POSSIBLY come of this? This is nothing but bad!”

I do not think of my infertility that way anymore. My womb is still unproductive, but I am not barren.  I still have much to give, even if I cannot be pregnant. I am so grateful to have seen good come of my infertility — sometimes in the most unexpected places. I have found new ways to relate … to a lonely man in a garden, a woman at church who confided in me last weekend about her sadness over a recent miscarriage.  I have newfound compassion.

I think infertility has made me a more sensitive person (although admittedly, I used to be much better at throwing baby showers — perhaps my sensitivities have just shifted). It has given me a whole new understanding of waiting. And I think it will some day make me a better mother (O Lord, please hasten the day!).

Don’t get me wrong — the pain of infertillity is still there, and I personally don’t think God actually *wants* me to be barren. But I do think he can bless it … and already has. And for that I am grateful.

Now, how about a baby? (ha!)

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A call from my doctor

July 17, 2009

You may recall my confusion over when to take my estrogen supplements. I *did* get a call from Dr. B — that was three weeks ago now. Sorry,  I have been really delinquent in posting this update — in part because of travel and busy-ness. But in part because I just did not feel like writing it. The call was not particularly confidence-inspiring. I love Dr. B., as do many of my fellow bloggers. And I think I just felt bad posting how I really felt when I got off the phone: annoyed, hopeless.

With that charming introduction, the story…

I first got the conflicting messages about the estradiol on a Tuesday. The prescription said I should take it from ovulation until menses (and my husband and I distinctly remember Dr B saying that), but when I called back to get some clarification on the timing, the nurse instructed me otherwise. She said I should actually take it from day 1 until ovulation. I was confused, and a little angry that I just “wasted” two months doing it at the wrong time.

Wednesday June 24th was my birthday. I was already depressed enough about being 32 and childless, so I decided to ignore the issue for the day.  I called back the next day, and some kind soul told me someone would call me on Friday.

You can imagine my excitement awaiting that call. I usually keep my cell phone in my purse and basically ignore it. But on Friday I had it on me AT ALL TIMES.

In Real Life, I’m a reporter on Capitol Hill, and the House was voting on a major piece of legislation that day. I was staking out members of Congress in the Capitol. And while I was interviewing congressmen, I’d be wondering how I could ditch them if my phone started to buzz.

As it turned out, Dr. B called when I was back in my office that afternoon. So there were no hilarious hijinx with me trying to cut off your elected representatives so I could talk to someone who is frankly much more important to me, my doctor.

Anyway, the call! Dr. B was very nice, of course. He thanked me for taking his call. HAHAHAHA, like I would not have told the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee to hold so I could take it.

At first, he told me that I should take the estradiol from day one until ovulation to help build up my endometrial lining, etc. Makes sense.

But then after I told him I was a bit confused, because I remembered him previously instructing me to take it from ovulation until menses in an attempt to balance out my skyrocketing progesterone levels in the second half of my cycle.  (Just how much does my progesterone skyrocket, you ask? About 30 times higher than it should. Call me an overachiever.)

At this point Dr. B looks at my chart again, then revises the plan. “Right. Actually, I think you are one of those people that will have to take it every day.” My natural estrogen levels are pretty low throughout, and the relationship after ovulation is 90 percent or some-such, when it is supposed to be — what? one to three? Whatever it is, my progesterone-estrogen relationship is wacky. He also asked me what amount of estradiol he had prescribed for me (1 mg).

So now we have a revised-revised plan. Estradiol every day.

The good part: this makes more sense to me than using it during one half of my cycle or the other. I can see more clearly how this would help, especially with building up my lining, which I suspect might be a problem. It will cost more this way, but whatever — just another inconvenience and expense on the road of infertility.

My real frustration is how the whole thing went down, and the back-and-forth over the treatment plan. First I was told one schedule, then another, now a third — none of these variations were in response to new information. They were all based on the same test results from Feb.

I lost 2-3 months in the process. But worse, it makes me feel like they are just sort-of improvising — trying to come up with some treatment plan without a clear of idea of how or whether it will work. I feel like this is just an experiment until we can find out the next problem with my body.

To compound this feeling, a friend of mine went to see another doctor in the practice (Dr. L, for those who know her), and  mentioned my estrogen treatment plan. The doctor said, “Oh, we don’t do anything like that here.”

Really?! Then what are you doing with me???!

Sigh. I was a few days away from ovulation at the time of the call. I started applying the estradiol after ovulation — Dr. B said I could if I wanted to. But then I gave up after a couple of days because I felt like it was hopeless and further confusing my body.  I am currently at cycle day 7 of a new cycle, in which I started the daily estradiol. Here’s hoping the improvisation works.

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Mixed messages from the doctor’s office

June 23, 2009

divigelI am so confused.

When I saw Dr. B last month and learned about my ridonkulous progesterone levels, he prescribed an estrogen topical ointment for the second half of my cycle — an attempt to help balance out my crazy overachiever progesterone. He kindly gave me a few samples, which I used last month. I did not get pregnant, and I actually had what seemed like a slightly shorter luteal phase than usual. Bummer.

But I was hopeful that using it correctly last month might set me up for this month, my second month on the treatment. He also told me to get a P+7  blood draw in the second month to test how it was working.

This all sounded well and good until I came back to the blogosphere and could not find any of you with a similar treatment. To further confuse things, a friend of mine went to see a doctor (Dr. L.)  in the same practice and mentioned my treatment, and the doctor said, “We don’t do anything like that here.” What?

Anywhim, I love my (wonderful, Catholic) doctor and his practice, so I have tried to remain upbeat about it. I desperately want some anecdote of “I did the exact same thing and it worked for me!” But I just have to trust my doctor. I went to pick up the prescription today (day 14 — I usually ovulate around 17)… but now am even more frustrated and confused.

The first problem is not so much a *problem,* but an annoyance. The prescription was a bit expensive. My insurance company picked up a big fat $8. My “copay” was $60. (an aside: I will note that I am grateful to have insurance at all and probably should not complain … but I sure do pay a lot every month, and I wish they would help me out a little more.)

The second problem is a bigger deal: I don’t know when to take it.

Here’s how this came about: The box has a sticker on it that says not to take it when pregnant. I figured that probably only applies to people with normal progesterone levels, but thought I would call my doctor’s office just to make sure. Since, you know, the point of me taking the estradiol is to actually *get* pregnant (although I honestly have a very hard time believing it will happen). I know Dr. B told me to apply it from ovulation until menses … but what if — oh joy! — menses never arrives? when do I stop?

I left a message with the triage nurse, who called back shortly thereafter to say that the pregnancy thing should not be a problem, since Dr. B wants me to take it from DAY ONE until OVULATION. But I *know* that at my appointment he said *ovulation* until *menses.* My husband remembers this too, and I am pretty sure it is what he wrote on the prescription, which is now in nowhereland at the pharmacy.*

I told the nurse I thought it was from ovulation until menses, she said no.

Me: “Well, then have I been doing it wrong then? maybe next cycle.” Nurse: “sorry.”

I am so frustrated and confused! Which one is right? Should I call back *again* just to clarify? Am I going to be the crazy person who calls the doctors office twice in two days? Have we lost another two months due to miscommunication? Will I be in the country next month for the blood draw? How far will this put me behind in seeking surgery or the next round of diagnosis and testing? Argh!! Did Dr. B just tell me the wrong thing at first? This does not inspire confidence.

I will note that Dr. B is awesome. He is also the doctor for AYWH and several others in this circle, I think. I am a big fan. I just wish I could talk to him about this again — it’s so confusing! DR. B, ARE YOU OUT THERE READING OUR BLOGS? HELP! What do I do?!

*UPDATE: The Misfit gave me the brilliant idea to actually read the label on the box. It prints the doctor’s instructions as “take from ovulation until menses” …  not what the nurse told me to do. The intrigue continues!

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Diagnosis, test results, crazy numbers!

June 10, 2009

I had an appointment with my awesome doctor, Dr. B, a few weeks ago to go over the results of my various tests. To back up a bit, at our first appointment in February, Dr. B looked over my charts. My husband’s semen analysis looked good. My previous bloodwork looked good, but then again it might have been meaningless. My normal OBGYN had just ordered it for the day I happened to be in her office, not even asking what cycle day it was (it happened to be election day and cycle day 8). Dr. B wanted to see what my levels would be like on cycle day 3.  He ordered more bloodwork for day 3, a saliva test throughout one cycle and an HSG to see if anything was blocked.

I had already received the phone calls declaring the bloodwork and the HSG “normal.” I was very curious what he would say about the hormone panel from the saliva test. Would it show something was off? Was I just crazy?

Well, when he walked in the room, the first thing Dr. B said was: “Well, it’s not all in your head.”

My body appears to be doing OK with the basics. I’m ovulating (or I appear to be). My cycles are really long, but that does not concern Dr. B too much (I find the long cycles a little annoying, myself). The first half* of my cycle before ovulation looks pretty “normal.”  (*not really “half,” more like two-thirds — given the long cycles.) It’s in my luteal phase where things get wacky. My progesterone levels shoot up, apparently way above what any normal non-pregnant human should have.

And here I had wondered if I might have a progesterone deficiency. Ha!

The shape of the graph looked pretty good: my progesterone levels went up, stayed there, then dropped with my period. But the numbers on the y-axis (those charting my progesterone) were more than twice as large as usual, Dr. B said.

I guess I am just an overachiever when it comes to progesterone production.

Meanwhile, my estradiol is not-so-high, so the balance is all caddywampus. Dr. B thinks my progesterone is overwhelming my estrogen. And perhaps that is (one of) the reason(s) I am not getting pregnant. He said he can’t do anything to lower my progesterone, but he thinks it might help to raise my estrogen in an effort to put the two in better balance. So during my luteal phase, I’m applying an estradiol topical gel — which my sisters and I have lovingly dubbed “the lady cream.” Besides mucus enhancers, the estradiol is my only treatment right now. (not sure how I feel about that, but I am trying to just trust.)

Dr. B said if I do not get pregnant by, say, September, I should schedule a laparoscopy with Dr. L to look for endometriosis. I don’t have any of the painful “symptoms” of endo, but plenty of people have endometriosis with no symptoms. It’s the next thing to check off on the list.

I am assuming I will have surgery in the fall.

I called the office back last week to ask for a read-out of my test numbers, since there was not time to write it all down at my appointment with Dr. B. These numbers really are something to behold. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.

The numbers are all from a saliva test, and I don’t know if the scale is different than the blood test results (umm… I  hope it is? Does anyone know?). Regardless, I think you can see that things are clearly off-balance.

For your viewing pleasure:

Day 5 estradiol 4, progesterone 41 pg/mL

Day 9 estradiol 4 progesterone 43 pg/mL

Day 13 estradiol 2 progesterone 56

Day 17 estradiol 7, progesterone 76

Day 21 estradiol 11, progesterone 67

Day 23 estraiol 7, progesterone 120

(wait! it gets even better!)

Day 25 estradiol 5, progesterone 701

Day 28 estradiol 3, progesterone 734 (!!!)

Day 30 estradiol 4, progesterone 725

Day 33 estradiol 4, progesterone 165

Day 35 (really day 1 of my next cycle) estradiol 3, progesterone 46

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Panda, we feel your pain.

May 20, 2009

I just noticed this headline in the Washington Post:

Giant Panda Not Pregnant, Zoo Officials Say

I clicked on the story, and saw this photo. Poor Mei Xiang. I understand. This is sort of how I feel too:

panda mei xiang

panda mei xiang

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Adoptions on an upswing?

May 19, 2009

I had heard reports of adoptions decreasing, but I’ve seen a few stories recently that indicate they might be on an upswing. For instance, this story (with very good reporting, by the way) today in USA Today.

The article states:

“As parents struggle to raise children in a weak economy, a half-dozen large adoption agencies are reporting that more women with unplanned pregnancies are considering placing their babies for adoption rather than keeping them.

Many of these women are in their 20s and already have at least one child, says Joan Jaeger of The Cradle, the Chicago-area agency that placed Joie. She says 30% more women are inquiring about placing a child for adoption than a year ago.”

What I struggle with is my response to stories like this.  Is it good news that more women are putting their children up for adoption? Selfishly, yes. My husband and I are considering adoption, and the agency I met with earlier this month estimated a wait time of two or more years. But I don’t want to take a child away from a birthmother who wants to keep and care for it. And it is certainly not good news that women feel like they cannot afford to raise their babies.  Surely that is another sign of a broken world.

And yet, in all this brokenness … adoption can be a blessing to the birthmother, adoptive parents and the child. The USA Today story describes a single mom of three who became pregnant again and decided to give up her fourth baby for adoption. The baby is absolutely a joy and blessing to the adoptive parents, who had previously lost their biological daughter in stillbirth at 39 weeks. And while the decision was incredibly difficult for the birthmother, she thinks it was the best choice.  She doesn’t say, “if only I had a little more money…,” she clearly sees it as a good thing.

The birthmother, Renee, says: “My biggest concern is when people see a tear, they will see them as tears of regret and I have never been more sure of anything in my life that this was the absolute right decision, ever.”

The mom and the couple both come into the adoption with their own immense pain. And God meets them there, giving them new life and hope and redemption.

The really terrible news is that abortions are also on the rise. I do pray that more women would choose life for their babies — adoption is a great option for them!

Here’s the sad quote from the story:

“Our phones are ringing off the hook,” says Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation, which represents abortion providers. She says calls to her group’s hotline have nearly tripled in the past year, many from women whose families have lost jobs.

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Name it and claim it?

April 7, 2009

The first time my OB GYN used the word “infertility” around me, it sent me into a tailspin, followed by several months of depression.

I had gone in for my annual pap smear … which I had previously delayed for 8 months because I kept thinking I would be pregnant before I could get an appointment. Ha. I mentioned the waiting time to my doctor and asked for any advice. She casually said, “Keep trying for a few more months, get your husband checked out, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll send you to an infertility doctor.” I can still exactly picture the moment she uttered the dreaded word. She was walking toward the back of the room, her face away from me.

I was already upset that the whole baby-making thing was taking longer than I had anticipated. But at that point, I was just frustrated at the wait. Hearing that word sent my mind on a whole new path.  I was not ready to face that it might continue to take longer and longer and longer.  I was not ready to claim an illness. I was not ready to fight with doctors about IVF, to undergo tests and treatments. I did not want to learn about fertility drugs. I wanted to learn how to make homemade baby food.

I still don’t like the word “infertility.” The “in” prefix seems to indicate an inability and a permanence that I am not ready to claim. Nevertheless, more than  a “few more months” have come and gone without any signs of pregnancy, so clearly things are not functioning properly.  I made up a term to describe my condition: “suboptimal fertility.”

This afternoon I looked up the definition of “infertility,” and it has all the loaded-ness and sadness that I had suspected.

From Merriam Websters:

infertility: from Middle French and Late Latin; not fertile or productive ; especially : incapable of or unsuccessful in achieving pregnancy.

I’ll admit being “unsuccessful” … at least so far. But I don’t like “incapable.” I am hoping for healing!

Next I looked up the medical definition, and now I want to cry.

Definition: Infertility is the inability to become pregnant after 12 months of unprotected sex (intercourse).
Alternative Names: Barren; Inability to conceive; Unable to get pregnant.

I’m at the year mark now, so I can officially say I am “infertile.” I know a dictionary cannot diagnose me or condemn my fate, but I am a word person, and I don’t really love the fact that I now officially qualify as someone “unable to get pregnant.”

But strangely now, it is easier than it was months ago. I am mentally prepared to be in this for the long haul. I have a doctor I trust, who is working with me to try to figure out what is (or isn’t) going on. I know there are options that are no so invasive. I am already investigating adoption.

And even she who was called barren had a child. So maybe claiming the title of “infertility” can make it all the more exciting when I have a child too!

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