Posts Tagged ‘infertility’

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Laura Bush on infertility

July 16, 2010

I bought my mother-in-law a copy of Laura Bush’s new autobiography, Spoken from the Heart, as a birthday gift. Then I waited a couple of weeks to give it to her, so I could read parts of it first. Happy birthday to me! My mother-in-law loves Republican politicians.  I have a thing for First Ladies of any party.

There were several interesting threads about infertility. Laura Bush’s mom suffered from recurrent miscarriages– many of them later term.  Laura was the only child that survived, and she said she often daydreamed of having (living) siblings.  Laura and George Bush tried to get pregnant for a long time before the twins were conceived. They were pursuing adoption with an orphanage in Texas, and she had started doing “hormone treatments” — I have no idea what that meant in the early 1980s. When Laura did finally get pregnant, she was so afraid of losing the babies (in part because of her mother’s experience) that she did nothing to prepare. She was on bedrest in the hospital for a long time at the end of the pregnancy, and friends set up the nursery for her while she was in the hospital. Because of concerns that she might have a miscarriage, doctors did some procedure where they stitched her cervix closed —  that was prior to the hospital stay. Whoa, kids –do they still do that?

Laura Bush writes well, and I particularly enjoyed this description of infertility. I read this on the plane enroute to Kansas (where my in-laws live) for the 4th of July and just cried …

For some years now, the wedding invitations that had once crowded the mailbox had been replaced by shower invites and pink-or-blue-beribboned baby announcements. I bought onesies or rattles, wrapped them in yellow paper, and delivered them to friends. I had done it with a happy wistfulness, believing that someday my time, my baby, would come. George and I had hoped that I would be pregnant by the end of his congressional run. Then we hoped it would be by the time his own father announced his presidential run, then by the presidential primaries, the convention, the general election. But each milestone came and went. The calendar advanced, and there was no baby.

The English language lacks the words to mourn an absence. For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend, we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful some not. Still we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only “I’m sorry for your loss.” But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?

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Worth the wait

February 19, 2010

I am at work and should not be blogging, but I just wanted to post at least a partial update, since everyone asked! We got home late last night and I was too exhausted/enthralled-with-Evan-Lysacek to post. I’ll write more this weekend…

First of all, I *heart* Dr. Stegman. Never before have I seriously contemplated sending a doctor a thank-you note after an exam. But I really want to send him one. (seriously. Is that acceptable?)

The appointment was scheduled for 2 pm. We got there at 1:30. There were a lot of disgruntled people in the waiting room, so I could tell things were running late. I was not too worried since we did not really have anywhere else to be– thank goodness we had cancelled the play. The time in the waiting room — and there was a lot of it — went surprisingly quickly. I made lists, replied to emails, read,  and BEST OF ALL, we met “Finding Joy in Every Journey.” (Thanks so much, E!)

This is how we spent most of the afternoon…

The waiting room is actually more pleasant than three of the four recent waiting rooms where I have passed the time.

You’ll note that we sat under the display of baby pictures. That way we did not have to look at them the whole time. (They are very lovely, but you know what I mean.)

By the end of the day, we were the only ones there…

With all that space, I thought we should do some yoga or practice our dance moves.

My main concern was that Dr. Stegman would be so over-it that he would not have time/energy for us. That was definitely not the case.  We saw Dr. Stegman at 4:30. We left the office at 7 PM!! The building and parking lot were dark and empty. Now you see why I want to send the man a thank-you card.

He did not quite spend the whole 2.5 hours with us — there were several times of waiting once we were in the examining room too. But still, that is more time and effort than any doctor has ever invested in me.

On the drive there I asked my husband what we should ask Dr. Stegman. He came up with two questions:
1) Why aren’t we pregnant?
2) What are you going to do about it?

Ha! Too bad for Dr. Stegman — those three hours in the waiting room gave me waaay too much time to come up with other questions. But every step of the way, he was willing to entertain my EVERY question and give me more explanation than I needed, really, for all my concerns. He is so detailed, kind and patient.

I’ll write more about the exam, etc., especially for those of you who will be going to see him soon (G!).

The long and short of it for me is that he suspects endometriosis, so I will likely return to Pennsylvania for surgery in the next couple of months. All last year I had imagined I would have surgery by fall 2009 (with my previous doctors). But then they kept trying different things and putting off surgery. People said I had no clear signs of endo.  I was getting used to this idea and thinking the surgery might never happen …   So it is somewhat surprising to contemplate that I may have surgery as soon as next month. But after the exam, I am convinced I could have endometriosis (more about that in the next post). So I do think it is the way to go.

I’ll have to spend two nights in Pennsylvania, and he said I should count on taking a week off of work. (though I think I might work from home part of the time?)

I don’t know whether I am excited or sad.

I could have the surgery as soon as next month, if I can get in his surgery schedule — which I suspect  would be difficult but he seemed to think it was possible. If so, that would put me about 2.5 weeks before I am supposed to hike the Grand Canyon. Is it possible to go on a hiking/camping trip 2.5 weeks after a laparoscopy? Dr. S said it would only take about a week to recover, but it did not occur to me to ask about more physically strenuous endeavors…

Thanks, everyone, for your encouragement. More to come…

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Weathering the storm

February 12, 2010

As everyone knows, DC was walloped with two big snow storms in the past week. I love snow, even this much of it, but there was little that was lovable about this most recent blizzard. The winds were terrible, you could barely see across the street. The snow was not pretty — it blew in mounds rather than gracefully outlining branches. And a lot of people had a lot of problems : roofs falling in, cars stuck, power out, etc.

But for us, things were actually fine. I worked all week — some from home and some from the office. Our power is on. Our roof is still standing, we think. We can walk to a grocery store. We made delicious dinners every night. We shoveled sidewalks and built a snowman and snowcat.

Today or tomorrow is cycle day one for me (temperature dropped today, but the, err, more obvious sign of CD1 has not started yet). I’ve been med-free for a couple of months and appear to be back to my same old normal cycle — ovulation on day 18, new cycle 11 days later. The one change was that I had abundant cervical fluid, more than I can remember having in months — so I was hopeful maybe mucus and  acupuncture would be the magic ingredients. And those abdominal pains — maybe I could imagine they were implantation, not wacked out ovaries?

Alas, no.

I have weathered many a disappointing CD 1. I like to think I am getting used to it. I resolved long ago to stop crying for three days at the sight of my period — that sort of behavior was just not sustainable. But it still kicks me in the gut every now and then, unexpectantly.

This is, unfortunately, one of those months.

This morning,  I just could not bear the sight of my box of tampons. I started crying as I took one out of the box. In fact, I am literally crying again now just recounting that awful memory (of an item of personal hygiene. yes, it is silly. shudder to think!).

I thought I had come to accept the initially shocking news of a pregnant family member… but I got angry about it all over again this morning at the sight of those supplies. How quickly it happened for them. How long I’ve waiting.

How many boxes of supplies have I been through since that “last box of tampons” I bought two years ago — so hopefully, so naively?

So there I was: cycle day one, barren, 32.5 years old, tampon in my back pocket, crying, getting ready to walk through unshoveled sidewalks to catch the bus to work.

My cat, bless him, was sitting on a radiator in The Room That Would Be The Nursery.  Poor guy is on the heater, in the sunshine, desperately trying to get warm. I go to pet him and look out the window at our back garden. It is under two feet of snow. There are icicles as tall as me on my neighbor’s back deck.

It seems impossible to me that in a few months the snow will melt and the garden will be full of life. Herbs growing, tomatoes sprouting, flowers beginning to bloom.

This always happens to me: I always have trouble imagining another season when I am in one. I remember sitting by the pool one day last summer, scorching in the heat and thinking, “In six months, I will wear a sweater.” And it just BLEW MY MIND.

It’s pretty silly. Seasons happen every year. Summer is hot, winter is cold — but when I am in the middle of one of them, it is just impossible for me to imagine the other.

And yet, spring does always come.

The winter has burrowed deep in my disposition. I feel like I am on a treadmill of cycle day ones. Every month just as barren as the last one. Nothing changes. It seems like it will never end. I always have trouble imagining another season when I am in one.

And yet, I have to remember. There will be a spring. I don’t know when. Or how. But it will come. With cherry blossoms. And one day I might look out that window with a crying child in my arms and think about the day when it seemed like the snow would never melt.

But for now, I shall endeavor to enjoy the winter … drink hot chocolate and build a snowman…

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My cat stepped on my ovary, and other medical oddities…

February 4, 2010

So, have any of you experienced post-ovulatory pain in the general area of your ovaries?

I am quite certain I ovulated last Saturday-ish (positive OPK on Friday, followed by a temperature shift on Sunday). This was right in line with the predictions made at my otherwise useless RE visit earlier that week. At that appointment, the doctor did an ultrasound (my first! but ah me, it was a little depressing because in the movies it is always to look at a BABY, not a dysfunctional womb). He said my uterus thickness and follicle (on my left side?) indicated I would ovulate in about four days. All signs would indicate that I did in fact do that, on day 18. I had a slight pain on my lower left side day of ovulation.

So, now the weird thing is that after all this and after a significant temperature shift, I had twinge-y pains on my left side for a couple of days. Then a break, and now twinge-y pains on both sides. Not a sharp pain. Kind of sore …?? I think it is in the general area of my ovaries — it’s basically in the area where my legs and abdomen form a right angle when I sit. And to add another quirky element to this story: it didn’t hurt at all last night, then when my cat walked across my lap he stepped on that area on the left side and it hurt, like he was hitting a soft spot.  w-e-i-r-d

Today I have twinge-y/sore pains on both sides.

Anyone experienced this? Any idea what it could be? First I thought maybe my ovary was sore (snuh?) from it’s big job of ovulating — which, might I remind you, Ms. Ovary, is what you are supposed to do every month. It’s your job. But I don’t get the pain on both sides — days after ovulation. Am I imagining it? Could it be cysts? Can you have a temperature shift and all the signs of ovulation, but never actually do it?

I should perhaps also note that given my bloodwork, etc., no one has ever considered me a PCOS case.

Mysteries…

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Other delightful surgery

January 19, 2010

So apart from being infertile, I also have problematic teeth. You may recall my visions after a recent dental appointment of being an an old, barren, toothless woman, batting around my empty house, dentures rattling, kicking up dustballs.

yee-haw!

After several other diagnostic appointments since then, I am finally addressing the most problematic of the teeth tomorrow morning, when I will have the first of three procedures to extract and replace this tooth.

Basically, I clenched my jaw so much while sleeping that I cracked my bottom molar.  Lovely, yes. I did not realize this problem and ignored it for, oh, a year or so. (too busy dealing with infertility appointments to go to the dentist!) So now the tooth is irreparably harmed.  I will have it pulled out tomorrow and get a bone graft to replace the damaged jaw bone.

In a few months, they will put a tiny titanium rod in the newly restored jaw bone. My husband and I will be titanium rod buddies — he got a large one in his leg last year when he broke his femur.

Then about six months after the lil’ rod goes in, they will put a new toothlike thing on top, so that I can happily chew for the rest of my days.

Insurance doesn’t really pay for any of it. It’s awesome.

I am astounded by how much I may pay in the next year to restore this little tooth.  I am considering chickening out and just going toothless, but my dentist insists that such a reckless decision would endanger my other teeth. And I would miss the chewing.

So, on the downside: I have to have a surgery tomorrow that I do not want. It will hurt. I will have a gaping hole in my mouth. I might not be able to eat crunchy foods for a long time. I feel like a moral failure for having a messed up tooth — like I did not listen to the brushing and flossing campaigns enough.

I’ll get nitrous oxide, a.k.a. laughing gas, during the surgery. (I deemed full sedation too expensive.) Apparently, under nitrous oxide, I will be aware of what is going on, but I just won’t care. Sounds nice, eh? Maybe I can convince them to give me a take-home barrel for rough times at work.

The upside: As much as I am dreading this whole thing, I have to remember that I am so lucky to live in a country where people can put this much effort into restoring one little tooth. I mean, seriously! It’s almost embarassing, compared to the health care in other parts of the world. Not to mention  Haiti — who am I to complain about one little tooth? And I am very grateful to have the personal resources that I can fix it, even if it hurts my wallet.

But alas, I can’t help but to mourn a little. Farewell, tooth. It’s been a good 32.5 years. I will miss you.

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Downtrodden, or The “Sick of It” Post

January 13, 2010

I am used to the disappointment of cycle day one. It’s the only experience I know. I have had some 20 or so disappointing encounters with cycle day one and nary a pregnancy in the bunch, so my period is what I have come to expect every month.

But it still kind of blows.

Today I am bleeding and crampy. My uterus hurts. I an sick of my stupid period, sick of dealing with infertility. I have spent heavens knows how long today staring in the toilet to try to figure out if I have clots or not (do stringy goopy things count?). It is not my favorite way to spend the day.

It feels particularly hard today. I’m not sure why — I think it is because of other disappointments in my life right now. I am dealing with low-grade wintry depression anyway, and the onset of menstrual flow certainly doesn’t help. I had been doing pretty well emotionally for the last few months. But now I just want to crawl in bed and stay there.

One could say that I am having my annual identity crisis. What am I doing in life that is meaningful? What could I be doing to actually do some good in the world? What can I do for Haiti, besides crying and praying and sending some aid money? What I am *supposed* to be doing in life — besides working, chasing lawmakers, enjoying my husband and desperately dealing with my infertility?

I am sick of my job and don’t feel like working. To be honest, I get this feeling every January — I think because the Christmas holidays make me feel like doing everything BUT work, and January starts a new really busy, not very fun period at work.  Then I have an added layer of anxiety: it is time for my annual review. I am unsatisfied at work and don’t feel like I am doing a great job. I don’t know where to go next.

It’s dark outside, and the slight holiday weight-gain that I accept each year as part of fully enjoying Christmas is not so pleasant now that I am no longer eating cookies. I want to train for another marathon, but I don’t want to send my apparently-fragile reproductive system into more confusion. Yet, athletic goals seem like one of the few things I can control.

I am sick of this. I am sick of the constant infertility juggling. I am sick of the long list of medical phone calls and bills I have to deal with every week. I am sick of CD1 and CD 3 and P+7,9,11.

I feel like nothing will ever change.

On top of that, next week I start the first of 3 or 4 procedures to remove and replace one of my teeth. I am not sure if it will hurt more to pull the tooth, replace it, or pay $4,000 for it. (my money is on the money, if you know what I mean)

I am sick of all the medical expenses, sick over the thought that I’ll likely spend thousands and thousands of dollars on health-related expenses this year. In an effort to make myself feel better about the economics of it all, I tried to convince myself that my coworkers probably spend as much on beer as I do on medical bills each month.

But even for my heavily-imbibing office, there is no way they can do that.

Outside of work, almost every woman I know has a baby. It is hard to make social engagements.

I often comfort myself with thoughts of adoption, something my husband and I were interested in even before we were married. But today was one of those days when I read things that scared me (in this case, a web site from a very bitter birthmother and another from someone absolutely overwhelmed with paperwork).

This weekend I will go visit dear friends (in another state) who just had their second child. I am really nervous because I am so down about infertility right now, and they have no idea how to relate. They are wonderful people who want to relate, they know we’re dealing with infertility … but it is just so far removed from their personal experience. Their first baby was conceived the first month they tried. The second was unplanned. My friend says God must have a lot of trust in them, to send them that second baby while the dad was in grad school, etc. Does that mean He does not have trust in me?

How do I respond? Do I just fake it all weekend? Do I try to explain it to my dear friend? How do you tell a woman who delivered her second child a few weeks ago about the pain so deep in your heart?

I am sick of it all. And sick of being sick of it.

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Endometriosis survey (very scientifical)

January 13, 2010

So, I know one of the signs of endometriosis is bad cramps. And clotty periods. But what kind of cramps are we talking about here? And what kind of clots? (err, if you don’t mind me asking)

I’d like to conduct an informal survey in my comments here: do/did you have endo? What were your cramps/pains like? What other symptoms did you have? Clotty periods — if so, what do you mean by that? Or did you have no symptoms at all?

I’d really appreciate seeing your input!

I am just trying to figure out what I should be on the lookout for.

My period started today — oh joy! — and I have my typical first-day-of-period cramps: uncomfortable but not debilitating. I assume these do not qualify as possible signs of endometriosis … although I know you can have endo without the signs. I have also, honestly, never really paid attention to the consistency of my menstrual flow and whether it was clotty or not. I used tampons and did not really notice. So, I am trying to be more in-tune to that now, which is charming … but I am not exactly sure what I am supposed to be looking for.

Hopefully, when I see Dr. S next month he’ll go through all the possible endometriosis stuff with me, and schedule a lap to look for endo, just in case. But in the meantime, I’d like to be more aware.