Month: August 2013
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Everyday Miracles

When the husband and I relocated to the Toledo area two years ago, I found myself living in a brand new city, surrounded by strangers (and some built-in friends and family), and starting a brand new job.

The very first person I met on my first day of work was my new boss, Lisa.  I could never have known that day how much she would impact my life, or how much her life had already been impacted itself.  I could tell immediately that she was a wise soul, but I wouldn’t know until later how much her life had been touched by infertility, loss, illness, and struggle.

Lisa became so much more than just a supervisor to me; she became a mentor, a friend, a confidante.  She was someone with whom I could be completely honest about my personal struggles, and someone who really understood and sympathized because she had been through it all herself.  She was an amazing support system for me almost instantly, which is one of the reasons why it was so easy for me to make time for fertility treatments while getting established at a new job.

After time, I found out that Lisa was sick.  She was suffering with a chronic illness called gastroparesis, which caused her debilitating nausea and excruciating pain on a daily basis.  She missed chunks of time at work, and was hospitalized almost weekly, sometimes for days or weeks at a time.  Her life was hell, and she was a complete angel to me…

It was incredible to me that a person who had suffered for years to conceive her daughter, and then received that miracle only to be thrown immediately into chronic illness had enough compassion left in her for other people, but Lisa was one of the sweetest people you’d ever met.  She had a smile for everyone, and was well-known for her shopaholic tendencies.  I began to rely on her to keep me afloat on days when I just wanted to curl up and die; I knew that I might be having a little sad-uterus pity-party, but that she was struggling with pain and illness and somehow still had it in her to encourage me to get up and try again.

I think that if it hadn’t been for her, I would have run out of determination a year ago after the miscarriage.  Lisa talked me through that whole process, and was one of my biggest cheerleaders as I returned to work and took the world by the balls.  She was my inspiration as I tried to get my head  and body right, to get myself ready to fight again, just like she did every day.

One day though, things for Lisa got worse.  She would be out of the office for a week.  Then two.  Then she’d be back for a day or two, and then she was in the hospital for three weeks or four.  Her doctors recommended not one, but two completely experimental procedures to attempt to alleviate her symptoms, but though they helped for a short time, nothing was working…

By early this year, Lisa was no longer working.  She was sick and in pain daily, and in and out of the hospital with regularity.  The doctors were not optimistic about her chances at controlling her illness, and things were looking bleak.

At Easter, she landed in the hospital while visiting some out-of-town relatives a few hours from home, and was soon in the ICU.  At one point, Lisa was being prayed over by the hospital chaplain.  Things were dire.

This is when a doctor she had never met decided to run a very common test, just in case something basic had been missed in the past.

That doctor’s intuition was right, and it literally saved Lisa’s life.

Her chronic illness had been misdiagnosed. 

She had her gallbladder removed immediately, her body began to heal itself, and she is a completely different person today.

I had dinner with Lisa last week, which never would have happened when she was sick because she couldn’t actually eat food, and it is still amazing to me to see the transformation in her.  In the past year, she had gone from a hopeful, colorful person, to a deflated version of herself, and back again.

She’s almost as good as new today, and that, my friends, is a miracle.

Lisa’s story gives me hope, perspective, and the courage not to give up.  It’s also an excellent example of why we should always advocate for our own health, even with the doctors and professionals who are supposed to do that for us, and who are only human as well, and therefore may also make mistakes from time to time.

Lisa never gave up, and now she has her life back.  She is back to shopping, and laughing, and spoiling her miracle baby rotten, but one thing hasn’t changed:

She is still keeping hope alive for everyone whose lives she has touched.

If you want to read more about her story in her words, you can visit her new blog here.  I promise you’ve never met a more spirited, determined, and joyful person, and that all comes across through her words.

Miracles don’t just impact the recipients… Sometimes just being in their presence can change the lives of those who experience them, the same way my life has been impacted by Lisa’s miracle.

If you’re struggling – whether it’s fear, depression, infertility, illness – don’t give up.

Don’t ever, ever give up.

 

 

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Dr. McStabby and the Path to Enlightenment

On Saturday, I had a consultation with a new acupuncturist-slash-Master of Traditional Oriental Medicine (MTOM); one who specializes in treating infertility, as well as complementary Eastern treatment with Western medicine.

Much of the two-hour appointment was what I expected, having seen a local acupuncturist and TCM practitioner back in February and March.  There were some aspects, however, that I certainly did NOT expect.

First and foremost, for a practitioner with nearly twenty years of experience working with infertility patients, my expectation was that Dr. McStabby would be, like… old.

He wasn’t.  Or at least he didn’t look old.

He’s young (or young-looking at least).  And easier on the eyes than the old dude I was expecting, I might add!

So that happened.

Don’t fret, though; I can control my (tragically low) libido, and he’s married to his partner at the practice.  His wife is the (perfectly beautiful [and perfectly fertile]) naturopathic doctor who he works alongside in an integrative medicine model.

After getting my bearings in the presence of the new doctor, I was escorted to the office to fill out a little paperwork while he attended to another patient.  The fact that he even has Saturday hours makes my hour-and-twenty-minute drive a little easier to manage.  The fact that he doesn’t work on a schedule for his own convenience, but a schedule that revolves around his reproductive patients, is so amazing to me.

That’s two points for Dr. McStabby!

Once the paperwork formalities were out of the way, we started to chat about my charts; he asked me to bring in every chart I had.

Oh goodie!

PS, I have FOUR YEARS WORTH, so that was fun.

Mainly he just looked over the charts for my non-medicated cycles, so that narrowed it down a bit.  He noted that I naturally have a longer follicular phase, and a shorter luteal phase, and then we talked more about the big list of questions I’d filled out before I came in.  Most of the questions on his list were the same as those that were in The Infertility Cure, so I was comfortable answering them and providing details when prompted.

We talked a bit about my period, my digestive habits, my diet, and my sad, low libido.  He asked about the husband, and I provided him with a copy of his most recent semen analysis – to which he said, “Oh wow.  He’s just FINE, isn’t he?”

Ha.  Yes.  Yes, he is.

After we had discussed pretty much every single function my body had performed for the past five years, he got down to business.  Dr. McStabby started talking about how he wanted to get me back to a natural state since I’d been on meds for sooo many cycles in the past, and therefore, I’d be taking an herb every single day to start getting my hormones regulated.  He also said that my periods shouldn’t be so difficult, and gave me another herb that I’ll take CD1-3 only each cycle to help be sure the blood was flowing clearly out of my system and not backing up or stagnating, like some theorize can cause endometriosis.

He talked more about his chosen treatment path and methods, and things were all sounding very familiar.  Then he referenced his mentor…

He studied under Dr. Randine Lewis, the author of The Infertility Cure.

Hot Doctor also referenced Jill Blakeway and Sami David, authors of Making Babies (which I just finished!), as colleagues of his who he has deferred to when he’s had a particularly stubborn reproductive issue with a patient.

So, in the first half hour I was there, I learned that my new Acu-Doc has an extremely flexible schedule, knows his business when it comes to diet and nutrition, values continuing education and informed patients, and has worked with the three authors/doctors who spurred me down this path to begin with.

Game, set, match.  You’re a winner, Doc!

I felt pretty good about the consultation at that point.  Not only was this doc legit with his experience and studies, but he seemed to take a personal interest in my case.  I’ve so often felt like “just another chart” to the scores of doctors and nurses I’ve seen in the past, but this guy was different in his approach, and that alone made an impact.

We also talked a little bit about the emotional aspects of infertility.  Acu-Doc commonly refers patients to see a therapist to help out with some emotional blocks that they may have built up.  He said he would be happy to refer me if I so chose, but for now I should just work on making myself aware of how much of the emotional baggage we carry as Infertiles can cause depression and pent up anger.  He recommended the abdominal massage (that I already have scheduled, thankyouverymuch!), and said that many find the process to be an emotional release for them, as women tend to bury their emotions in their abdominal regions.

Then we talked about stress.  “Infertility causes infertility,” he said.  What he means is that the stress of infertility can wreak havoc on our minds and bodies.  Obviously it’s’ not a simple thing to just let go of stress, but working to lower the levels of stress in one’s life can make a big difference.  My job is sometimes stressful, but that can be managed.  My home life is not stressful at all, minus the infertility aspect and all that comes along with that.

Dr. McStabby said that he’d like me to continue charting my temps for this month and next month, and then in October, he will probably ask me to stop cold turkey.

*sound of me picking my jaw up off the floor*

There’s a method to the madness, he says.  Don’t worry, he says.

Then he says this:  “The other thing I want you to do is going to be a little scary, but you need to trust me.”

…Uh oh.

“I want you to just…”

OH MY GOD, DON’T SAY IT.

“…just stop trying to get pregnant.”

OH NO HE DID NOT.

“I know that sounds counterproductive, given what we’re trying to accomplish here, but I think intimacy with your husband needs to be a bigger priority.”

*sound of me running down the stairs to the basement of the building to retrieve my jaw*

I mean, he’s right about a lot of that.

Do I purposely plan SexyTime around ovulation?  Yeah.  Am I ever really in the mood after ovulation?  Not really, no.  Is that all hormonal?  Probably not.

Do I perhaps have a bit of a mental hangup (read: control issue) related directly to peeing on sticks and checking my cervical mucus?

Yup.

So, I get it.  He’s trying to get me – the marriage, really – back to a more organic point.  He conceded that because the husband does some crazy shift work, that timed intercourse really is probably the best way to make this happen, but that hormones and pheromones can help that process along just as well, if not better, than OPKs and ultrasounds.

He also said that he is confident that I will be pregnant.  It’s not a matter of if, it’s just a matter of when.

God, he was so confident.

I didn’t even know what to say to that.  I’ve heard “there’s no reason you shouldn’t be pregnant within X amount of time!” soooo many times, and been disappointed many times over.  Something about the way he said it though…

He believes it.

It’s hard not to buy into that kind of belief, you know?  I might be a sucker, but I believe it, too.

At that point, we moved into an acupuncture treatment room, and I was given what he called “a very mild treatment” because I’m in my luteal phase.  My future treatments will primarily involve the follicular phase, but for the first month, he’d like to see me probably once per week just to help my body get back on track.

The treatment was perfect.  No pain, which I was anxious about because of past treatment experiences, and all in all very relaxing.

I left feeling relaxed, with my little tubs of herbs and a bottle of vitamins for the husband to take, and went on to have lunch with some good friends who live in the area.

Not a bad little Saturday, honestly!

So that was Acupuncture 2.0, and I’m feeling pretty good about it.  I’ll be seeing Dr. McStabby quite a lot over the next month, and I’m looking forward to seeing some results in how my cycle reacts within the next couple of months.  I’m also looking forward to hearing more statements like “…if you’re not pregnant by then, we may add this to your treatment…”

I’m feeling good.  Confident.

This is the path I’m supposed to be on, and for the first time, I’m sure of that.

This all feels right – like something that’s been falling apart for years is suddenly starting to come together.

And who knows?

If Acu-Doc’s “just stop trying” advice rings true, I may have to rename this blog after all…

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Guilty Pleasures

I’m becoming concerned that I may be the only one who does this one thing… or at least, the only one who’s still trying after

ALL

THIS

TIME

who still does this thing.

It’s sort of embarrassing.

It’s just… my thing.

It’s maybe a normal thing for any of-age woman dreaming of having a family of her own, and totally a normal thing for someone who’s expecting to become pregnant soon.

For a nearly five-years-deep infertile who alternates between hope and hopelessness on a month-to-month basis?

Probably not healthy.

Either way, it’s my thing.

My guilty pleasure.

And I think I should admit it to all of you…

*deep breath*

Here it is:

Every month, regardless of natural, medicated, or completely wonky cycle, I calculate my approximate ovulation date.  Then, once I’ve ovulated, I enter this information into a due date calendar – you know, on the off-chance that I actually do get pregnant – and that’s where the madness starts.

Let’s say I got pregnant this month (hahaha)… My due date would be May 14th; just a hop, skip, and a jump from Mother’s Day!  How sweet is that?

I’d round out the first trimester in early November, which would be an amazing time of year to start sharing with the general public news of our impending bundle of joy.  We’d know the gender by Christmas, and it would make the holidays so special.

I wouldn’t need to make one single New Year’s resolution, because I’d have everything I’ve ever wanted.

I could have maternity photos taken around Easter, and what a cute theme that would be what with all of the eggs and bunnies and baby chicks.  Oh, I can just see it now!

Oh, and don’t forget the pregnancy announcement itself – I would love to have early fall photos taken at the end of September or beginning of October, maybe in a pumpkin patch.  Maybe a graphic designed to announce our “little pumpkin” sent to family and friends, or posted to Facebook… I don’t even care how cheesy that is.

And don’t even get me started on my baby-naming dreams.  I have lists, people.  LISTS.

*sigh*

Almost every month, I allow myself to wallow in these lovely, pastel-colored pipe dreams.  And, without fail, every month those dreams are stomped, deflated, and left for dead until the next ovulation rolls around.

Am I the only one who does this?  Is it a sick fascination brought about by endless hoping for pregnancy and too much time spent on Pinterest?  Is this a subconscious way for me to keep hope alive, or a way for me to escape from the reality of the situation, sticking my head in the proverbial sand?

I have no idea if this is normal, and I have no clue how to stop it – or even if I should stop it.

All I know is that I have these black and white dreams, and every month, I give them color.

Every month that color gets washed away, and I get to start fresh the next month…

Whether that’s healthy or not remains to be seen.

I guess at least I’ll always have a pocketful of creative ideas for my friends and family members who find themselves expecting their own little bundles. 

Oh, you’re having an Easter-time baby shower and need theme ideas?  I’m your girl!

Maybe one day I’ll be able to use one of my grand ideas for myself…

Maybe.

One day.

 

I would never… but still… HAHAHA!

 

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Eastward Bound

Hello, my lovelies!

I wanted to give you all a quick update on how Plan G is coming along (because I know you’re all on the edge of your seats.  Ha.).

First, as far as diet goes, I’ve been doing very well.  I’ve never been terribly disciplined in general about things like this, and expected to struggle more with these changes; however, so far so good!

I’ve been almost completely gluten, dairy, sugar, and soy-free for 16 days, give or take.  I say almost completely, because it’s hard to eliminate foods that may be contaminated with gluten, and since there’s no proof that I have Celiac Disease, I’m not going that far.  I eat gluten-free products as often as possible, and I avoid anything with wheat ingredients, so I’m probably like 98% gluten-free.

I’ve been really good at avoiding dairy, with the exception of butter in some dishes.  I tried a little shredded cheese on my baked potato yesterday at lunch, and felt like crap afterward, so I can see that avoiding dairy is a good thing for me.

Sugar is so hard to give up.  I crave it.  I want to rip open eighty-nine Pixie Stix and pour them down my throat.  I haven’t done that, though.  I’ve found ways around the sugar cravings.  I eat fruit, staying with the recommended options for the Spleen Qi diet and away from tropical, high-sugar content fruits like bananas and mangoes.  I also eat a lot of nuts, and throw a few raisins in for that salty/sweet combo I love so much.

I’ve managed to steer clear of white sugar altogether, as well as the dreaded high fructose corn syrup.  I do put a tiny bit of honey in my tea sometimes, but the cinnamon concoction I drink most of the time has a natural bit of sweetness, so I’m not derailing all of my progress when I have it.

Soy is also surprisingly hard to eliminate.  I’ve stayed away from soy for years due to its estrogenic properties, but looking closely at food labels is an eye-opening experience.  There’s soy in pretty much everything!  Preservatives, oils, fillers… All from soy.

I don’t whip myself if I ingest a food with a soy ingredient, but I also don’t consume it regularly.  I figure that’s probably good enough.

I’ve been concentrating on “warm” foods and beverages, following the Spleen Qi dietary recommendations.  It’s not all that difficult, as I prefer warm drinks and warm foods anyway, but I’m finding it hard to drink enough water without being able to add ice.  It’s taken almost two full weeks, but I think I may have trained myself to be able to drink room temperature water in larger amounts.  Blech.

I’ve also been taking PILES OF PILLS.

Supplements, mainly, and some herbs and vitamins.

I’ll post a detailed list soon, but the basics include my regular prenatal, Maca root and royal jelly twice daily, l-arginine, CoQ10, B-12, B-6, and fish oil all daily, and vitamin D3 three times a week.  I also just started taking Vitex, although I’m concerned that I might be taking too many things… I’ll find out soon enough.

After finishing Randine Lewis’ The Infertility Cure, I started putting much of what she endorses to work.  All of the dietary and supplemental changes I’ve made have been directly because of her book, and I’ve also adopted her recommendation of femoral massage.  Femoral massage is a technique recommended to certain body types to help increase blood flow to the pelvic organs by compressing the femoral artery for a short time, and then releasing it.  I do this twice daily from CD3 to ovulation.

Another recommendation I’ve decided to try is Maya Abdominal Massage.  It’s an interesting concept, and there are many who praise its benefits, though there are not a terribly large number of practitioners throughout the US.  Oddly enough, there’s someone right here in the Toledo suburbs that is experienced in Maya Abdominal Massage, and I have an appointment set up with her in early September, during a time which should fall toward the end of Aunt Flo’s visit.  This was the recommendation made by the masseuse, and I’m inclined to believe that she knows what she’s talkin’ ’bout, Willis.

Wow, that’s a lot of changes in a few weeks!

But wait!  There’s more!!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, probably because of Dr. Lewis’ book and other books and articles I’ve read lately, that I should get a more thorough workup from an Eastern medicine practitioner.

You may remember that I tried acupuncture and Chinese herbs previously, but only lasted about a month before I stopped both altogether.  I believe it was a combination of not feeling like my acupuncturist had much experience with infertility (read: none), and feeling the pressure to move forward with medicated cycles.  It was also highly expensive, as I was having acu treatments once per week, regardless of progress.

Despite all that… maybe TCM and acupuncture deserve a second chance.

I have been doing research for a while now, and found Master of Traditional Oriental Medicine in the Detroit suburbs, a little over an hour from here.  He operates an integrative medical center with a naturopath and holistic doctor.  Even better news is that he’s open on Saturdays, so I have a consultation set up with him in just a few days!

Here’s how I know this guy is good:  First of all, he has been doing this for 20 years.  Just infertility, for 20 whole years.  Before that, he was the staff acupuncturist at the oncology center for a large local hospital system.  Secondly, I emailed the office to have them contact me to schedule an appointment, and he called me himself, less than 30 minutes later.

We talked for maybe 10 minutes, and he said that he’d read in my email about my infertility journey so far.  Color me impressed that he actually retained five years worth of info crammed into one short email!  He asked me a few questions, and then he said something that I’ve been speculating about for years:

“Most of my patients with unexplained infertility turn out to have an issue in the follicular phase.  For you, it seems like it might be too long, causing egg quality problems and causing the endometrial lining to be out of sync, possibly even causing a Luteal Phase Defect.”

Then he said this:

“I am confident that I can get your follicular phase straightened out with very specific herbs and acupuncture once per month in the follicular phase only.  I know without even meeting you, I’m that confident.  When you come in on Saturday, I’ll fine-tune a program for you, but my track record with women that have the same symptoms as you has been excellent.”

And then:

“Rest assured that this process will improve your fertility.  Have faith, and be confident.  I do, and I am, and you should too.”

Well jeez.  How can I not think that this guys knows his stuff with confidence like that??

I’m excited about these next steps.  More excited than I’ve been in a long time.  I haven’t even really wanted to say this out loud, to be honest, but I have such an overwhelming feeling of confidence in this process that I probably should share it with all of you.

I think this could work.

I think that this natural approach could tweak my body back into alignment.

I think – no, I believe – that what I’m doing will make a difference.

I even believe that these changes, treatments, and steps in the Eastern direction may be my ticket to motherhood.

You guys…

I might not need to have IVF.

There’s a chance…

This might work.

This could be it.

Stick around…

2013 might be my year after all!

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Review: Teamotions Brand Loose Teas

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I’ve been meaning to do this for a while – starting a series of reviews of products or services I’ve used for the benefit of others who may be researching whether they will be a good fit in their infertility journey, or in life in general.

Here we go!

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Can we take just a minute to talk about the power of tea?

Yeah.  You heard me.  Tea.

It’s amazing, and I love it.  Black, green, white, red – just steep it and serve it!

There’s something comforting about drinking a hot cup of tea (or a cold glass of iced tea, for that matter!), and there’s something I can’t describe – the comfort of a special morning routine, maybe – about having that moment to yourself to breathe in the steam and aromatics from the beverage you’re brewing just for you.

It’s peaceful, and some days it’s the only peace I can find for myself; having a moment of peace each day can be vital for someone who is struggling with infertility, loss, and the everyday stresses that come along with TTC.

Anyway, not being a coffee drinker, I’ve loved tea for a long time, but last year after my miscarriage, I discovered this company, Teamotions.  They have created specific teas and herbal blends that help assist your body and mind in recovering from different types of stress – grief, loss, tension, exhaustion, etc.

The teas contain adaptogens, which are non-toxic, natural substances that create a nonspecific response in the body.  Basically, they assist your body in doing what it naturally should be doing, and they do it without medication or hormonal treatment.  Adaptogens are our friends!

Besides being an amazing company that participates in many charitable events and whose foundation came from the devastating loss of two dear babies, the teas themselves are well thought out, and most importantly, DELICIOUS.  My favorite is the Achieve Clarity, which is a vanilla Earl Grey (that, sadly, I can’t have right now because it’s caffeinated.  Boo.), and the husband loves the Enjoy Rest, an apple cinnamon chamomile.As far as ease of use, I will say that these are loose teas – not your grocery store tea bags.  If you want to brew a proper cuppa, you’ll need to have a tea strainer or small pot with a straining insert.  You can also buy reusable cloth tea bags in your local home goods store or online, if you want to simplify your life a bit.  As for me, I am a loose tea user from way back, so I have several pots at home.

Here’s my routine:

When I get up in the morning, I fill up my electric kettle and get some water boiling, which only takes a minute or so.  I choose my tea (I have them all.  I’m that obsessed.), and scoop the recommended amount into my tea strainer.  Once the water is hot enough, I’ll pour it over the tea and fill the pot, put the lid on, and let it steep while I get ready for work.

Just before I leave, I pour the hot tea into a big metal travel mug that will keep it hot for the better part of the morning.  Sometimes I add a teensy bit of honey or a splash of almond milk, but the teas themselves are really delicious on their own, too.

That’s it!  Not difficult, and well worth the extra three minutes of effort every morning.  If you’re unsure about brewing your own loose tea, there are directions on every canister and on the Teamotions website.

And if you’re concerned that you may not have the right equipment, everything you need can be purchased on their website, in your local Bed Bath & Beyond, or in a specialty mall store like Teavana (that place is like heaven…).  You don’t need an electric kettle if you have a glass measuring cup and a microwave, and you don’t even need a special tea pot and strainer if you have a fine mesh sieve.  Just place the tea in the bottom of a bowl, pour the hot water over top, let steep for a few minutes, and then strain through the sieve into your mug of choice.

I should mention, and I hesitate to even include this, the only factor that may be a detriment here:  the cost.  These teas are slightly more expensive up front than what you may be used to paying in a grocery store.  For example, a box of twenty Tazo green tea bags goes for around $8 on Amazon.com, which means you’re paying roughly $.40 per cup.  With Teamotions, a canister costs around $15 and brews 32 cups, costing you around $.46 per cup.  You will also probably pay for shipping to get the tea to you, and you may choose to invest in products with which to brew the tea, which would add to the cost overall.

The nice thing about loose tea is that you can usually get two brews out of one teaspoon of loose tea.  I don’t usually have time to do this during the week, but in the evening and on weekends, I frequently brew a pot of tea, drink it all, and then pour another pot of hot water over top of the once-used leaves to brew them again.  It’s a slightly weaker pot versus the first one, but still good nonetheless.  If you do this, you can stretch that canister of loose tea so that it’s a less expensive option in the long run!

Teamotions costs significantly less than loose tea from Teavana, and far less than loose tea from Republic of Tea, even if you factor in the shipping cost.  It may be pricier than your grocery store Lipton bag, but really you’re getting what you pay for here (and for what I’ve gotten from this brand, the price is extremely reasonable).

If you’re looking for something special to add to your daily routine, a way to relax in the evening, or just something yummy to drink that’s not terrible for you, I would highly recommend checking out this brand.  You won’t regret it!

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Advocating For Things About Which I Know (Almost) Nothing…

When it comes to politics, I’m Jon Snow.

Yes, sweetie, that’s where baby Direwolves come from…

There are a lot of things I know a little about, and there are a few things I know a lot about.

Politics is one of the things I know I should know more about, but I’m afraid to admit that I just don’t.

I know nothing.

For me?  Politics = Football.

I know I learned about this in high school, but it just didn’t stick for some reason.  Maybe if politicians wore tight pants and bent over a lot, I could feign enough interest to at least eat a hot dog whilst watching politicians politick it up, or whatever it is that they do in this mythical “Capitol Hill” place.

Alas, the part of my brain that could be called upon to comprehend the passing of bills and laws (or even remember the old Schoolhouse Rock songs about which) has been taken over by knowledge of all things Infertility.  Sorry Congress, ain’t nobody [with aging ovaries] got time fo’ ‘dat!

Recently though, these two topics have found a way to intersect, and miracle of miracles, also draw my interest.

In May of this year, a New  York senator introduced the Family Act of 2013.  There’s a lot of politicky wording involved and I’ll admit that I glazed over several times while trying to decipher the fine print, but RESOLVE has broken it down so that my hormone-addled brain can understand it easily:

What is the Infertility Tax Credit Bill?

The Family Act, S 881/HR 1851, is a bill in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives that would create a tax credit for the out-of-pocket costs of IVF and fertility preservation for those diagnosed with infertility. It was introduced in May 2013.

This sounds amazing, amIright?

The catch is that in order to get this thing passed, we need to get more attention directed its way.

THIS, my lovelies, is where you come in.

*looking at you shrewdly while steepling my fingers in a Mr. Burns-esque manner*

I need YOU to write a letter to your US Senators (there are two!) and your House Representative asking them to support this bill.  It’s super easy, I promise.  If it weren’t, I would have lost interest already.

Here’s whatcha do:

First, read this whole thing.  It’s not long, I swear.  *cough*that’swhatshesaid*cough*

Then, go to this site to email your Senators.  There’s a form letter already written up, but if you throw in some personal details about your infertility struggle and expenditures, or those of someone about whom you care greatly, these letters will have more of an impact.

After that, go here to email your House Rep.  Again with the personalization of the letter – we want this to appeal to the heart these politicians have, despite the rumors that they are very Grinch-y folks.  That’s simply not true (not always, anyway).

Awesome!  You’re almost done!

Last thing you do?  Share this process via email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, or whatever way you can think of to get the word out.  There’s even a spiffy “share” toolbar at the bottom of this page to make your life easier.

So that’s it.

If you followed the steps above, you just helped make an amazing impact.  Not only did you participate in POLITICS (ohhhmigosh breathe), but you are now an advocate for the Infertile Masses whose biggest barrier in building their family is a financial one.

Everyone should have the right to try every path they wish to parenthood, and just because someone lives on a very tight budget shouldn’t exclude them from having children of their own.  This bill being passed could go a long way to helping that dream become a reality for so many, the same way that the adoption tax credit has helped many be able to bring children into their family that way.

So again, I implore you – please do this.

For the sake of everyone getting a fair shot at a family.

For the chance to make a big difference in so many lives.

For the chance to make new lives a possibility.

Please.

For me.

For you.

For the rest of the barren, broke, and buckled-down-optimists among us.

One minute of your life could mean the fulfillment of hundreds of thousands of dreams.

And really, politics aside, that is the American Dream… isn’t it?

Right.

So you’ll do it?

Eeeeeexcellent…

We shall show our appreciation in the form of a 2015 Baby Boom.

Thank you.

And you’re welcome.

Status

The Most Worth-It Thing

Most of you have probably heard that late-night TV host and SNL alum Jimmy Fallon and his wife Nancy recently announced the birth of their daughter, Winnie, via surrogate.

In fact, a lot of you probably heard it from me.  I’ve kind of been posting it all over Facebook.  I can’t get enough of the story!

It’s not that they had a baby that interests me… people do that all the time.  It’s not even that they used a surrogate, which is fine – good for them.  And, shockingly, it’s not even the name and how they chose it that draws my attention (although I do love to hear a good name story!).

The part of this story that’s really resonating with me is that they, as a high-profile couple, struggled with infertility for years, and are now being publicly open about it, and in that, giving hope to others who are also struggling.

No, they’re not the first famous couple to be open about their struggles, and I know there’s a lot we can address here on the flip side.  We could dissect the situation down to details, like the fact that yes, they tried for a long time, but they had the money to do that because they’re rich and famous.  And yes, they kept quiet about it while it was going on, but again – they’re famous.  This might have been the only privacy they were able to have in the situation, and to only be open about it after the fact doesn’t make it any less meaningful that the struggles occurred.

We could tear this whole thing apart, and miss the greater good that’s being done here…

I feel that we should really applaud Jimmy and Nancy, and others like them who are in a place to speak out about the trials that so many of us face on a daily basis.  They could use their fame-platform to say anything, and they choose to bring awareness to the infertile masses, and put a face on a common issue that’s too often seen as taboo.  They’re doing it in a very casual manner, but it’s garnering lots of appreciation in our sub-fertile little community.

By giving a few interviews and saying a few loving words about his new family, Jimmy is shining a light on infertility, fertility treatments, and third party reproduction, and on how commonplace those really are.  He’s saying to the whole world that there are so many that have to fight for a family, and that there’s nothing wrong with taking that fight as far as you’re able to succeed.  He’s saying that there’s no shame in getting help to build your family, and that people from all walks of life sometimes have to walk this same path to parenthood.

More than anything, though, he’s saying in his interviews the encouraging words we hear all the time, but because he’s been there in the trenches like we have, they mean something.

He’s offering us all a little hope, and that’s something we can use some help with from time to time.

 

“We tried for a long time — five years

I know people have tried much longer but if anyone out there is trying and losing hope, just hang in there. 

Try every avenue, try anything you can do. 

You’ll get there .

You’ll end up with a family. 

It is the most worth-it thing.”

Status

Spleen Qi and Me

In my previous post, I outlined my plan for changing my lifestyle, according mostly to the standards set in Dr. Randine Lewis’ The Infertility Cure.  I’m still researching the many different facets of this new lifestyle, and have realized that I will be constantly tweaking things to make it work for me, but I’m ready to give some further details on what will probably become my focus, at least for the rest of 2013.

For now, because it’s the biggest part of what I’m doing, I will let you in on the dietary changes I’m making.

The Spleen Qi Diet

Based on the questionnaire in Dr. Lewis’ book, a little of my own research, and the “diagnosis” given to me by my acupuncturist back in February, my main ailments in the Eastern world are a deficiency of Spleen Qi and Kidney Yang.  I also apparently have some small involvement from Liver, Blood Stasis, and Cold Uterus.  These Eastern diagnoses are related closely with Western diagnoses as well, and Dr. Lewis’ previous life as an RE helps her to be able to tie the two together for people like me who need a little science with their voodoo.  🙂

Some of the symptoms outlined in the book that pointed me toward these diagnoses were not things I would have thought had anything to do with my reproductive capacity.  Things like “Are you always colder than others around you?”, “Are your feet cold at night?”, and “Do you typically have low blood pressure?” were part of the questionnaire.  There were also myriad other questions about my digestion and the appearance of my tongue.  Strange, but the inquiries led me in the right direction, toward an apparent problem with my Spleen Qi (pronounced “chee”) and Kidney Yang.

Now, that’s not to say that there is anything physically wrong with these body parts of mine in the Western-medicine sense, but according to Eastern philosophies, certain deficiencies in the body can cause all other systems to derail.  “Nourish the soil to grow the tree” or something like that.

If you think about it that way, it makes a lot of sense.  If your whole body is not running optimally, then a lack of energy or blood flow in one area could be pulling energy from another area.  Since reproduction is not a vital process for survival, the body can pull energy away from the reproductive system to keep the other systems functional.

According to my Eastern diagnoses, I need to alter my diet to help battle the Cold and Damp caused by deficiencies of Spleen Qi and Kidney Yang.

Sooo… what in the world does that mean?

Basically it means that I need to avoid certain foods and dietary habits that may be inhibiting my body from doing what it wants, and needs to do.

Apparently certain foods encourage Cold and Damp.  Sugar and dairy, for instance, encourage Dampness.  Certain foods and drinks, like salad and iced beverages, encourage Cold (um… duh.).

So what do we do?  According to the Chinese philosophies, “What is cold, heat.  What is dry, water.  What is damp, dry.  What is hot, cool.”

Pretty to the point, those ancient Chinese physicians, eh?  If you’re making a big pot of soup, you don’t want to slow down the cooking process by throwing an ice cold smoothie in there, I guess.  Metaphors are fun.

For me, this means that I’m avoiding cold drinks and salads, citrus fruits and tomatoes, dairy and sugar, alcohol, caffeine, fried or greasy foods, and raw foods.  One other food I’m starting to leave out of my diet is gluten.  It’s going well so far, but I know that it will get complicated from time to time.  It’s a lot of pressure to even say “gluten-free”, so I’m just taking that part one day at a time.

I’m drinking a lot of tea – not that it’s much of a change from before, just different types of tea and herbal blends – and that is supposed to “warm” my system, which helps with digestion and blood flow.

I am loving this Good Earth cinnamon tea; it’s caffeine free, and is naturally a little sweet.  It tastes like drinking Big Red!  I’m also testing out this Traditional Medicinals ginger tea… Hoo-boy!  Ginger is STRONG.  I like the way the tea feels after I drink it, but getting it down tastes like drinking chemicals and pepper.  I might only have that one occasionally.  Cinnamon and ginger (along with nutmeg, cardamom, and clove) are “warming” dietary inclusions, so I try to cook with them when possible as well.

I also get to include lots of foods that I love in my diet.  I’ve been able to eat more root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, potatoes, and parsnips, and I can have grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats.

Last night, I made polenta for the first time!  Not bad!

Proteins are encouraged, but in small amounts, and always organic if possible; the hormones used in most meats is one of the bigger reasons for hormonal imbalance today.  One thing I’m excited to start cooking with is lamb.

Many fruits are discouraged because they’re either “cooling” dietary items, or because of the high sugar content; I love bananas, but they are out for now.  I can still have yummies like peaches, cherries, and other berries, though it’s better to have cooked fruit than raw fruit for digestive purposes.

There’s a lot to this diet, and if you want to read a more comprehensive list, there are good ones here and here.  The biggest thing with the Eastern philosophy is to not let a lifestyle change so dramatically affect your day-to-day that it causes you stress.  These changes need to be implemented for at least three to four months to see a real difference, so it’s important that you ease yourself into these changes, and not get stressed out because of them.

Stress, in Chinese medicine, is actually a physical ailment.  It can, and does, have an impact on many systems in your body, and there are many, many different ways to battle stress from the Eastern perspective, including acupuncture, massage, acupressure, and breathing techniques, just to name a few.

While I’m making these changes, I’m also trying not to be too hard on myself.  Last weekend, I had a few adult beverages.  Yes, alcohol is a no-no, but hey – they were gluten free!  At lunch today, I ordered hot tea, but all they had available was caffeinated; I drank it anyway because, hey – I’m warmin’ up my uterus, y’all!

Ya win some, ya lose some, right?  One tiny dietary misstep isn’t going to derail the whole train.

So there.  The long, detailed dietary plan that’s just one piece of getting my “soil” nourished so that my “tree” can grow.

Or whatever.

It might sound like voodoo, but if it helps me feel better overall, and possibly gets me pregnant, then I will do it.  I already like a lot of what I’m doing, like drinking warm beverages and eating warm foods; I don’t know if you know this, but I shiver like a chihuahua in rooms where most people are comfortable with the temperature.  Maybe in time, I’ll notice even bigger changes…

I’ll get into specifics on the rest of what I’m doing soon, but until then –

Namaste, dudes and dudettes.

May the Spleen Qi be with you.

Spleens are cute! Who knew, right?

Status

Plan G

Yes, Plan G.

Because Plans A through F didn’t quite pan out…

I figure that since my last medicated cycle was in May, and since then, I’ve been planning on having a surgery which has now been un-planned, I should probably update you all on what exactly it is that I’m doing with my reproductive life.

First and foremost, I’m going back to nature.

Nothing is structurally wrong with my reproductive system that any doctor, nurse, intern, or ultrasound tech can see, so that leads me to deduce that whatever IS wrong with my reproductive state, likely got there by some fault of my own.  Whether it’s environment, diet, lifestyle, or some combination of those, I am starting out by working to get my body into the best reproductive shape possible.

Most of my Facebook friends who have had their kids already are now posting nonstop about their Couch to 5K, ColorRun, or Zombie vs. Vampire Mini-Marathon training.

I don’t run, per se, but I am going to start training.

I’m training my ovaries to respond, my uterus to be hospitable, and my overall endocrine system to just plain GET IT TOGETHER.

That leads me into the Phases of Plan G.

*cue the Rocky theme music now*

Phase One – Information

  • I’m currently devouring every book about infertility and natural ways to improve fertility that I can get my hands on.  Most of it is information that we all have known since our first Clomid cycle,  but there are some juicy little tidbits in the “Natural” sections of some infertility how-to’s.
  • Thus far, the best book I’ve picked up has been The Infertility Cure by Dr. Randine Lewis.  Dr. Lewis started out her career as an RE, and through her own battle with infertility, found her way toward Eastern medicine, acupuncture, and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).  I’ll post more on this topic later, but let’s just say that this approach seems to make the most sense to me and my situation, and for someone with Unexplained Infertility in general.

Phase Two – Diet

  • Based on the reading I’ve been doing, and based on information I received during my first acupuncture consultation, I’m going to rearrange my diet to accommodate the particular deficiencies I seem to have.
  • I’ll go into more detail in a future post, but the majority of the changes are in the temperature of the foods I’m eating and drinking, followed closely by inclusion foods and beverages which promote a “warm” system, while excluding “cold” foods and drinks.
  • Interestingly enough, I’m finding that many of the foods my particular type needs to exclude are already foods which I’ve found that I don’t tolerate well, or which cause sickness or reaction.  Some of these foods are dairy products, citrus fruits, and tomatoes.

Phase Three – Supplementation

  • I’ve been taking prenatal vitamins for five years.  FIVE YEARS.  While I will continue to take a basic prenatal daily, I’m also going to try some supplements about which I’ve read some decent research.
  • A future post will go into further detail on research findings on the usage of Maca Root and Royal Jelly, but for the sake of giving you complete information, these are the two that I’ve recently added to my regimen.
  • I’m also taking, as I mentioned, a daily prenatal vitamin, a high quality fish oil supplement daily, vitamin B12 daily, and vitamin D3 twice a week.

Phase Four – Relaxation

  • I know, I know; relaxation won’t get you pregnant, but stress can, and often does, have an affect on egg quality.  It’s not much, but I’m committing to taking my lifestyle down a notch where possible.  This won’t be possible in the workplace, but I’ll do what I can to de-stress at home.
  • Ideas on relaxation and stress reduction include, but are not limited to, monthly massages (or more frequently!), yoga, meditation, spending more time actually talking and hanging out with friends, having a beer now and then, and reading trashy fiction under a blanket with hot cup of tea regardless whether the laundry is done or not.

Phase Five – Activity

  • This is where things get controversial.  I don’t exercise.  Like, at all.  I don’t play volleyball at the beach, I don’t do crunches when I wake up in the morning, I don’t go to Zumba class with my girlfriends before our morning mimosas (who actually DOES that?), and I don’t run unless something is chasing me.  Or unless there are bees.  I freakin’ hate bees.
  • I’m thin, and don’t need to – and really shouldn’t – lose any weight.  That’s why exercise is hard for me.  I need to work up a sweat without burning too many calories.  Not so easy, is it?  That’s why this whole activity thing is Phase Five, and not Phase One.  I need a little time to research my options on low-impact, low-calorie-burning exercise that can be done somewhat conveniently, because if it’s inconvenient, I’ll lose interest.

Phase Six – Existence

  • I’m going to live my life.  On purpose.
  • I’m going to make a concerted effort in my friendships, familial relations, work relationships, and marriage.
  • I’m going to put the husband and me first instead of putting Infertility ahead of Us.
  • I’m going to make more phone calls (texts, emails, carrier pigeons) than I receive.
  • I’m going to work to live, and not live to work.
  • I’m going to take back as much of what Infertility has taken from me as I possibly can.
  • I’m going to use the things Infertility has given me – hope, strength, resolve – to push myself further in life.
  • I’m going to pursue my other dreams; the dreams that I forgot about when I found out my family dreams might not come true.
  • I’m going to learn be Me again.

 

So that’s Plan G.

Obviously the whole Six Steps to Pregnancy! thing only works for those who don’t need all six steps (well…and crackheads), but this is what I need to do right now.

Not being in the throes of a medication-frenzy leaves me open to a mad case of the crazies, so having purpose each day really helps.  And hey, if those purposeful steps happen to improve my health and well-being, then even better!

Oh, and if they actually help to improve my reproductive capacity…?  Well then my book will be out in nine to twelve months.

Watch out, Dr. Lewis… If Plan G works, there might be a new author in town.  😉

 

Status

Sadism: A Day in the Life of Aunt Flo

I have a full understanding of the fact that having one’s period is part of a natural reproductive cycle, but considering the fact that my reproductive cycle seems to be anything BUT natural or reproductive, I like to imagine that having my period is less nature, and more wicked little sadistic fairy that looks like Helena Bonham Carter, sprinkling a healthy helping of misery over my life for a week each month. 

This is her story.

*****

5am.  Rise and shine!

It’s important to get an early start on a day like today.  The early bird catches the worm, and all that.

No worms today, though.  Today we need to be sure our girl here wakes up in a pool of her own blood.

Oh!  You know what?  Just for kicks, and because I haven’t had my coffee yet, let’s throw in some stabby, electric-shock-to-the-uterus, drop-to-your-knees, curl-up-in-the-fetal-position cramps.

And let’s start those… ohhh… about five minutes before her alarm goes off, because we all know how valuable those last few minutes of sleep can be…

Ahh, she’s up.  Time for a shower, dearie!  Yes, go ahead and get in… the hot water will help the cramps.

Perfect.  Now that she’s got a head full of shampoo, cue the diarrhea.

Today is going to be just lovely for us both, I can tell!

*****

You may think that I’m doing all of this to be a spiteful bitch, but you’re wrong.  I care.  A lot!  I even went as far as to show up three days early this month, because the last time I took a long weekend, she spent thirty bucks on pregnancy tests and then spiraled into a week-long funk when my inevitable visit finally did occur.

I do this because she needs to know that this is how nature works.  Sure, for her it seems like she’s being punished, and sure, sometimes I get a kick out of waving my wand and causing a tampon malfunction at a most inopportune time, but honestly, she needs me.

Because of me, at least she knows that she has a nice, healthy endometrial lining.

And that it sheds.  PROFUSELY.

You’re welcome, sweetie.

*****

Okay, back to today’s activities.  It looks like our girl has managed to make it through her shower, dressed herself, and has applied enough makeup to cover a little of her fatigue.

Oh, honey.  Khakis?  Well okay, but that’s going to be a problem later.

Alright, almost out the door.  Just one last sip of juice and.. what’s that?  Oh, she thinks I don’t get the irony of taking a prenatal vitamin on a day like today?  Well, I do, and she’s going to pay for that.

I’m going to wait until she gets to the busiest intersection in town before I make her puke up the entire contents of her stomach.

God, I love my job.

Oh!  I almost forgot!  I need to set the Bleed-Through Alarm!  I think once every hour and a half should do it, wouldn’t you say?

What, you think that’s too much?  Naaah.  Our girl here is tough.  And besides, she needs to learn not to wear khakis, like ever.

*****

Where were we…?  Oh right.  Our girl just tossed her cookies all over Cherry Street.  It looks like she’s now making a stop into a grocery store.  She probably ran out of feminine hygiene supplies.

I keep those companies in business, you know.

Hmm.  She’s got her shopping basket full of tampons, overnight maxi pads, heating patches, Pepto Bismol, and Midol.  She knows me so well!

Oh, she’s quick!  I need to move fast if I’m going to make sure that Peg, the kindly and sympathetic middle-aged cashier, is to go on break, and to be sure that whatever Frat-Boy-on-Summer-Vacation that’s working the morning shift is there to cash out her embarrassingly obvious purchase.

At least she didn’t buy a giant Hershey bar this time.

Oh wait… So predictable.  Tsk, tsk.

*****

Ah, so she’s made it to the office.  I don’t know why she thought heels were a good idea today, but I guess I’ll have to teach her yet another Menstrual Fashion Lesson.

Cue the lower back pain.

And random bouts of dizziness.

Right abouuuuuuut… Now.

Although Midol makes my job a little more difficult, here at her place of employment, she’s away from the true enemy – The Heating Pad.  A little pain reliever and anti-bloat medication won’t put a dent in my beautifully orchestrated Zombie Lurch each time she tries to run to the bathroom.

No, sir.  This ain’t my first rodeo.  I’m an artist!

*****

Well, we’ve made it to lunch. 

Ah, wise choice.  She’s skipping out on sustenance for fear of triggering any more of my creatively timed Digestive Pyrotechnics.  As if that would stop me…

I think it’s time to call in the reserves.  Afternoon Fatigue, this is a job for you.  I want her curled up in her office chair in absolute misery.  The bags under the eyes are a nice touch!

Ha, she thinks caffeine will make a difference!  How about fatigue plus jitters?  Let’s throw a little anxiety about those khakis in for kicks, too.

I told you she’d pay.

*****

Home at last.  See how she makes a play for her sweatpants and the dreaded Heating Pad?  That’s not going to work for me.  I’m not above shorting out that wretched device, but for today I’ll settle for inspiring her husband to bring home Chinese instead.  That should trigger some gag reflexes at least…

Oh, better yet, now they’re fighting!  Perfect!

*****

Ah yes, off to bed.  Early, too.  As if that will help her get any more rest tonight.  She’s barely eaten all day, and her life force has been quite literally draining out of her since she woke up.  Of course she’s feeling tired and fatigued, but the caffeine-mainlining act she’s been performing today will come back to bite her the second her head hits that pillow.

You should probably sleep on a towel, sweetie.  Trust me.

Only six more days of this, and then I’m on vacation till next month!

Sweet dreams, dear. 

I’ll be back before you know it…

 

 

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