I’ve been sitting on a secret. It’s kind of a big one. I’ve struggled with keeping it, but ultimately, I stand by my decision as it kept others from suffering, and allowed the husband and me time to process and deal with some things… So, without further ado, here’s my confession. ***** Back at the
Soooo… Here we are.
Five years deep.
Five l o n g years of trying, failing, struggling, treading water, and just… waiting. Waiting for our turn, waiting for our two lines.
Waiting for our family to happen.
Year One was the picture of a happy-go-lucky newlywed with all the time in the world.
Year Two saw me attempting to combine Clomid with crinolines, in a sweaty scene straight out of a TBS sitcom.
Year Three had me unhappily (and soberly) awaiting the results of what would be yet another failed IUI cycle.
Year Four ended full of retrospect, acceptance, wisdom, sadness for what could have been, and an amazing amount of hope that Five would most definitely be THE YEAR.
Yesterday was the end of Year Five…
And today? You’d think today was the first day of Year Six…
…But today is actually the beginning of something completely different.
Some things have changed recently.
Actually, I don’t know if it’s more that things have changed, or that I have, but my direction has clearly been altered of late.
At my most recent acupuncture appointment, I spent some time talking with Dr. McStabby extensively about stress in my life, and the emotional toll infertility can take.
“Infertility causes infertility”, as Dr. Randine Lewis says. While I agree that infertility has been a major stressor in my life, especially in the past few years, things have improved for me recently in that department. I’m no longer as stressed as I used to be, and I think acupuncture and TCM has helped greatly.
But… so has time, honestly. We’ve been at this thing for a long time. We’re kind of getting used to disappointment after five years, know what I mean? It’s become so regular that it’s not like it’s a big shock any more.
We’ve been trying to get pregnant for our entire marriage, essentially, and the husband and I have put a lot on hold to pursue this life that we have been so desperate for. He and I talked recently, and at great length, about where we want to go from here… We finally had that talk that I’ve been afraid to have for a long time.
He is ready to get back to being a married couple instead of a TTC couple.
*cue deep sigh of relief that he doesn’t straight up want to divorce my crazy ass*
More than that, he says he won’t resent me if we can’t get pregnant, and he won’t resent me if I decide to hardcore pursue Western treatments again (although, I’ll be honest, the odds of that are slim). Basically, I have the husband’s blessing to move in whatever direction I feel comfortable, even if that is just varying degrees of backing off the whole TTC thing completely.
We may move onto just being a healthy couple who lets whatever happens, happen. We’ve both accepted that we may be that couple who doesn’t have kids. Maybe we’ll be the ones who can travel at the drop of a hat, or we’ll adopt (even more) furry creatures, or we’ll be the best gosh-darn aunt and uncle EVER. Maybe we’ll adopt a child someday, if the situation is right. Maybe we won’t.
And you know what? We’re okay with ALL of those situations. Truly.
At this point, IVF is not in our immediate future. We just don’ t feel right about some aspects of it at the moment. Part of the decision is financial, and part is just that I don’t feel like there’s anything physically SO WRONG that we can’t conceive on our own (and neither do any of the SEVEN doctors I’ve seen over the years…). I just cannot justify forcing my body to do something that it doesn’t seem ready to do. Maybe that will change someday, and maybe I’ll regret not going all-in while I still have some remnants of youth on my side, but honestly? It just doesn’t feel right to me today.
It’s a lot to process, I know.
One thing that’s stuck with me though, is a conversation I had with McStabby recently. He asked me, “Do you feel like you deserve a child?”
I was taken aback a little. I honestly had to think about it.
He asked because, in his line of work, he sees women who have certain emotional hang-ups that he suspects can prevent them from conceiving, whether it’s a past trauma, a lack of confidence in their marriage/family life/maternal skills, or something else. Regardless of his motives for asking, it’s a jarring question to be asked, for sure.
After a minute, I came to a conclusion. Yes. I do. I deserve a child.
Does that feeling mean that I will necessarily have one? No. Because life’s not always fair, and sometimes the harder we squeeze a handful of sand, the more of it slips through our grasp. Just because I believe that I deserve a child, doesn’t mean that I’m going to force my body to submit to my timing.
Soo… I don’t want to just come out and say that we’re taking the “Just stop trying…” non-approach, but in some ways, we kind of… are.
Wait, wait. Before you freak out and tell me I need to rename my blog, let me ‘splain.
We’re not saying “just stop trying and a BABY will magically happen”.
What we are saying is, “just stop trying so HARD and LIFE will happen… and whatever blessings come along with life, we’ll take those too. And if a baby happens to be one of those blessings? Even better. Icing. Gravy. Time for a parade.”
It’s a strange – and strangely freeing – place to be…
For the moment, we’re just kind of bobbing along. Living life. Being married people who don’t have to inject themselves with things or ejaculate into cups.
I’m still going to continue acupuncture treatments for now, and I’ll continue taking the herbs even if I stop the actual acu treatments, just for general health and balance; honestly, I like how I feel, even if I don’t like the taste of the herbal “teas”. Between the husband and I, the door is open for me to go back to the RE if I so choose (I would be interested in seeing if there have been any changes in my blood work in a year’s time), or maybe for a possible medicated cycle one day, but likely nothing more than that.
I’ll also keep working to maintain the healthy habits I’ve gained through TCM, but I will likely stop temping someday soon.
I KNOW. Don’t freak out, or I might freak out and lose my resolve on that
little gigantic decision.
I may never be able to ignore the quality of my cervical mucus, but my body temperature, the chemical content of my urine, and what’s in my underwear will no longer have complete control over my entire life.
So that’s where I am right now… I know I’ve been quiet here lately, and I wanted to provide a little update and insight into why that has been.
I do have some exciting things on the horizon, including my Resolve Peer Led Infertility Support group venture – which should start meeting this month (!), and being invited to attend Resolve’s Advocacy Day in Washington DC, where I will have the chance to speak with members of the House and Senate on the political issues surrounding infertility treatment and coverage in the US. The husband and I are also traveling to San Francisco for a wedding in late May, and are looking forward to that little getaway opportunity as well.
All in all, life is not perfect, but it is most definitely still a good life. I’m appreciative for all I have, including all of YOU, and I’m ready to focus on what I have, instead of beating myself up for what I don’t.
I don’t know exactly what this new outlook will mean for me, my life, and this blog, but I know I will continue to be here, rooting you all on, and hoping and praying for each of you, every day.
I’ll still likely be holding out some far-fetched hope that my own body will miraculously get its shit together, too. I mean, some things will never, ever, EVER change.
So that’s it.
Year Six isn’t really a thing. Like, at all.
This is just March, just a few years into a great marriage, just a drop in the bucket of a great life.
A life I’m going to be actively living again.
My hope for you is that wherever you are in your journey, whether your life is completely saturated with the details of TTC, or whether you too are at a bit of a crossroads, that you are able to slow down from time to time and appreciate what you do have.
My hope for you is that you live that little life of yours in a way that makes a difference, impacts others, and allows you to look back fondly one day, free of regrets.
My hope for you is that you live.
People often ask me how being treated with acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine differs from being treated in an OB or RE’s office… I usually respond by muttering something snarky about the amount of needle pokes, but truthfully, there are a lot of differences!
I’ve been thinking about and adding to this list for a while now, and I hope it helps someone who is just getting started on their infertility journey and is wondering what path to take, or someone who has been on their path for some time now, and feels that they need a change of direction.
Acupuncture/TCM vs. Western Medicine: The Good
Little to NO blood work with TCM vs. Lab blood draws 3-5 times per Western cycle
Acu appointments are as relaxing as lying on a warm massage table with soft music playing while taking a little nap vs. Stressful and sometimes humiliating “get in the stirrups for Dr. Dildocam” RE appointments
TCM practitioners practice open, honest communication vs. Doctors and nurses who sometimes hold your lab results hostage until you blow a gasket over the phone
No nasty drug reactions with TCM or acupuncture vs. Western meds that can cause hot flashes, nausea, headaches, and other even nastier side-effects like OHSS
Naturally guide your body to better all-around health vs. Forcing your body into submission with synthetic hormones
Less risk of multiple births vs. Some Western meds and treatments where multiple birth outcomes are commonplace, risking the health of mom and babies
Acu and TCM influence you to clean up your diet vs. Western meds which make you emotional, irrational, and generally like a narcoleptic T-Rex, eating everything terrible in its path. And then napping.
Acupuncture/TCM vs. Western Medicine: The Bad
Acupuncture and TCM are often not covered by insurance policies, forcing out of pocket costs vs. Infertility treatments with an RE, which are sometimes covered up to a certain point
Acu and TCM require patience, and seeing results can take 3 to 6 months with treatment vs. Western meds and in-office monitoring, which offer immediate gratification (and delicious lab results to obsess over!)
Acu appointments may happen as much as once or twice per week for the treatment period vs. RE monitoring which typically lumps the bulk of the appointments into the beginning of the cycle
Acupuncture and herbs can only do so much for someone with a severe case of whatever-is-causing-your-infertility vs. Western medicine’s ability to diagnose and treat – sometimes surgically correct – issues which Eastern medicine just can’t combat effectively
I’m not gonna lie: herbs taste gross when brewed as a tea, but some come in capsule form vs. Western meds which mostly come in pill form… Or as injections and suppositories, which are also not fun…
Acupuncture/TCM vs. Western Medicine: Your Choice
I realize that I threw a lot at you there, but it really comes down to this:
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine have been around for thousands of years. They are tried and proven effective for many, many situations and different types of people – especially for fertility.
While TCM can’t be expected to treat everything under the sun, the success rates for fertility, while hard to pinpoint due to erratic research information, are there. There are no (or very few) side-effects, you’re healthier and less stressed while you’re committed to the program, which helps to enrich your life in general, not just in the baby-makin’ department.
Western medicine is nothing short of a modern miracle with its ability to combine egg and sperm in a petri dish, and create life outside of the womb. There’s no substitute for what doctors and nurses can do in labs, but Western medicine also isn’t your only option. Your Ob-Gyn may not know what to do with you beyond a few cycles of Clomid, but that’s no reason not to educate yourself on the choices you have for your body and reproductive future.
If you have Unexplained Infertility, PCOS, or Endometriosis (and other fun diagnoses!) and are tired of feeling hormonal, defeated, and anxious, then Acu and TCM may be worth looking into.
If you’re struggling with a severe diagnosis, a physical abnormality like fibroids or a tubal issue, or are just not capable of giving three to six months to this process, then stick with that RE.
Stay with your RE, but find out if they will allow you to solicit the help of an experienced and fertility-specializing Acu/TCM practitioner during your Western treatments.
I truly believe that everyone can benefit from at least some aspect of this process, whether it’s the dietary and lifestyle changes, the herbs and supplements, or the acupuncture-induced zen relaxation.
I don’t think I’ve met one person who has seen an Acupuncturist for fertility that has regretted their pursuit of the Eastern path, whether it worked for them directly, indirectly, or perhaps not at all.
Is there anything that any of you might add to these lists?
What has been your experience with Acu/TCM vs. Western medicine?
Who has a success story – with either treatment option – or both! – that they can share to encourage others?
Who wants me to stop asking questions and just end this post already? 😀
…Fine. You win.
Happy Hump Day, y’all!
This post should be subtitled, Are You Bored Yet?
So, there’s not really much new around here to report. I feel a little bad about that.
I mean, for the past almost four years, I’ve been in a constant state of upheaval, immersed completely in the chaos of doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds, and fertility meds.
Now I just… am.
Honestly, I don’t know what to do with myself sometimes. For years, this blog – my whole life, really – has been all about infertility. I suppose it’s a healthy adjustment that I’m focusing more on my general health, my relationship with the husband, and my actual life, than on the shortcomings of my reproductive system, but still… it’s a big adjustment.
Because I don’t want anyone to think that I’ve fallen away from blogging about every twinge and poke in my abdominal cavity, and sharing every TMI moment in my life, I figured I should at least put together a small update on what’s been up with me lately.
First of all, you read about my recent experience with Maya Abdominal Massage, right? Well, I’m going to continue with that, once per month, for at least another two months.
I’ve also decided to start trying to get a relaxation massage once per month as well. All of this “extra” stuff that’s not covered by insurance can be expensive, so I’ve turned to Groupon for deals on the massage end of things. It’s not such a huge undertaking when you’re getting a reduced rate.
Acupuncture is going well; Dr. McStabby surprised me at the last appointment with an e-stim acu-treatment. Basically, he places the needles as usual – some in the legs and feet, a few in the arms and hands, and a few in the belly – and then he hooked up these little tiny electrodes to a few select points, primarily in my ankles and belly.
Now I know it sounds scary, thinking that there are electrical impulses being sent into needles that are puncturing your skin, but I swear to you, I didn’t feel a thing. If anything, that treatment was the most relaxing one I’ve had so far, and I even was able to fall asleep a bit on the table.
We talked before I left his office about herbs – I had run out of one of the daily decoctions I take – and he said that after I run out of one formula he has me on, which is apparently a sort of “reset” formula, he’s going to start me on a new blend that will really help “pump up” my egg maturation.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what this new blend will do for me!
However… I do find myself getting a little antsy sometimes. Still.
What can I say? I’m a creature of habit!
Every time I get that way, I have to stop and tell myself that this is the first full cycle I’ve been employing acupuncture and herbs. My body is still adjusting to the diet I started 6 weeks ago, and it will take some time to see results from that. It will also take time to see changes from the acupuncture and herbs themselves, and as I always hear/read, it can really take three to six months to see these expected changes.
Some days I feel like I did when I had my first Clomid cycle, so many years ago. I was certain that those five little pills would get me pregnant immediately, and I was highly disappointed when that, and the subsequent cycle, did not turn out as I had expected.
Now when I have friends who start fertility meds for the first time, I see that hope in them, too. It makes me a little sad, thinking how naive I was, and what a rough road these friends may have ahead of them. I always hope for the best, say a little prayer for them, and give them my most hopeful and encouraging smile while telling them what everyone always told me: you need to be patient; the first time isn’t always the charm.
Funny. After all this time, I still need to take my own advice.
And so, while I am very hopeful that acupuncture and herbs may be my miracle treatment path, I am still working on the learning curve. I have to tell myself every day not to chart my temps like I want to, and sometimes I give in to the temptation to analyze my temps when I know I shouldn’t. I have to stop myself from checking OPKs every day, and I know it will be the same with HPTs later in the cycle.
Obsession is not conducive to relaxation, and relaxation is conducive to conception. I keep telling myself that.
Sometimes, though, I think that the stress of forcing myself to relax might just kill me. Ha.
I’ve seriously Googled “relaxation techniques”, and contemplated buying a relaxation how-to book for my Kindle…
Clearly I need some help with this whole letting go thing!
And so, in the meantime, I’m working at improving my natural compulsive tendencies, while also working on my stress response. I try to remember to breathe deeply, and I try to take time for myself every day.
All the while, I try not to try too hard.
It’s all very… trying.
I guess the important thing is that while I’m working at not trying so hard, I’m still my same determined self. I am having a little trouble finding that happy balance – if there is one – between determination and acceptance, but I think that eventually I’ll get there.
Until then, I’ll keep blogging away, sharing any exciting news and probably mostly relatively sedate information I have along the way.
It’s not likely to be very intense around here any time soon, but I guess that’s just the trajectory I’m on. Frantic, impatient, compulsive, totally obsessive Tracy needs to take the backseat for a while.
It’s time for a more peaceful approach to readying my body – and my mind – for potential parenthood.
I hope you’ll keep checking in with me throughout, and I promise to post random craziness now and then, just to prove that I haven’t really changed that much.
Thanks for sticking with me, friends.
Since starting down this road to a more natural way of improving my overall (and hopefully reproductive) health, I’ve incorporated dietary changes, specific supplements, home care techniques like femoral massage, Chinese herbs, and acupuncture.
It’s only been three weeks with the herbs and acu-treatments, and about two months with the diet and lifestyle changes. So far, so good!
While reading The Infertility Cure, and doing some research on natural ways to help improve fertility, I came across a handful of articles on Maya Abdominal Massage, or Arvigo Massage.
The premise sounded interesting, and complementary with the TCM route I’m already on: The techniques work to restore the body to its natural balance by correcting the position of organs that have shifted and restrict the flow of blood, lymph, nerve and chi energy.
After reading more and researching practitioners in the US, I found that there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of them in the Midwest; however, there is one right here in the Toledo suburbs! Score!
I checked out the massage studio’s website and did a little review check on the practitioner, and once I was satisfied that I wasn’t going to be seeing a quack, I made an appointment.
By the way… I made this appointment almost a month ago. It turns out, should you also decide to book an abdominal massage, that reputable therapists recommend having ab massage done right about the time your period ends. They don’t want to massage too close to ovulation, too close to the first couple days of your cycle, or at all in the luteal phase.
Makes sense. No problems there. Appointment made.
I should note that I was sure to run this idea by Dr. McStabby, because his treatments are my top priority and I don’t want to disrupt anything he’s doing with some whimsical South American belly rub. He said that in his opinion, anything that increases the blood flow to the abdomen in my case is a good thing. He wanted to be sure the massage would only be done pre-ovulation, about which I assured him that it would.
The only word of warning I received from the acu-doc was that I may not like someone massaging my abdominal region. At first I thought he meant that I wouldn’t like the way it felt physically, which I admit was a concern, but he meant something different. He told me that many times, women tend to push their stress, anxiety, anger, and emotions down into the abdominal region, which is why we see IBS so much more in women than in men.
He said that men tend to only push emotion down to their heart, which is why we see outbursts of temper, fighting, and heart attacks more with men, and IBS, nausea, and nervous diarrhea more with women.
Acu-doc also said sometimes with abdominal massage, the manipulation of that area can cause some of those emotions to become… dislodged, causing a surge of feeling that might come unexpectedly.
Now that struck me as odd, especially as a girl who is so NOT a crier… but I still went ahead with the appointment.
Okay, so onto the actual appointment day…
I showed up to meet the therapist in my work clothes (because I’d just come from the office), but had brought a bag of other things like sweat pants and a tank top. I wasn’t sure how much I would be wearing or not wearing, considering the very different clothing requirements for a traditional relaxation massage where I’m almost totally nude, and my acu-treatments, for which I am fully clothed in comfy lounge-wear.
As it turned out, the therapist and I met for a bit before the massage started. We went over the pile of paperwork I’d done, the questions oddly similar to those asked by the acu-doc. She asked me specifics about my diet and digestion, and asked me for details on my miscarriage, which I provided.
After that, she left me alone to get undressed – the clothing requirements are exactly the same as a relaxation massage – and climb into a soft, heated massage table-slash-bed. Very cozy.
Once she came back into the room, I was made to feel very comfortable; the therapist said that this was the start of a relationship between her and I, and that I should not feel any anxiety in asking to be more comfortable within the studio. I was in control of the lighting, music volume, and temperature, and could ask for extra blankets or anything I needed to relax.
She also said that I could talk, fall asleep, or ask as many questions as I liked… which is nice, because I ask a lot of questions.
After we had talked a bit, she placed some heavy towels over my chest and shoulders, and over my abdomen, after which she pulled the bed sheets down to expose my belly, but nothing else. Before she did anything, she used her hands to feel for any hot or cool spots in my abdomen, saying that she can sometimes feel where trouble areas might be.
Once she started the massage, it was very gentle. She felt around for the locations of my different organs, pointing out where my anatomy was to me. I liked knowing where things are… It’s very different from your high school anatomy class when it’s your own body!
She asked me some really spot-on questions, too! She asked if anyone ever told me I had a tilted uterus, and I said YES. She said that not only is it tilted backwards, but it’s also tipped to one side, causing one of my ovaries to be sort of out of place as well. This coincides exactly with what every ultrasound tech who’s ever wanded me has said!
Again, very interesting!
She said a lot of her focus would be on bringing my uterus back to where it needs to be. She said that having organs out of place can absolutely cause blood flow and circulation issues, so once this is corrected, overall circulation in the body will improve as well. She did say that femoral massage, and acupuncture and herbs will be a big help in this as well.
So far, so good. I didn’t mind the feeling of someone massaging my abdomen, and it was actually a bit relaxing once I got past asking a thousand questions.
Some parts were weird, though. The therapist kept referring to my uterus as a “she”, and telling me that I could talk to “her” and tell her that I am trying to conceive, and that “she” would listen… Uhh… okay, lady.
She also did this weird rocking motion, sort of rocking my whole abdominal region, and said that it was actually the pulse of my body trying to “unwind” some areas that were all wound up… Again… very weird.
She also asked me more about my miscarriage – how long ago it happened, how many weeks pregnant was I, the details of the actual miscarriage, did I have a d&c, etc… She said she could tell that I need to make peace with the loss, and she did this weird thing where she put one hand above, and one below my belly button and sort of pressed down gently.
She said she felt like the baby was a girl… and I said, so did I.
Of course it was too early to really know, but that was always my feeling. At that point, I cried, even though I am NOT a crier. AT ALL. But maybe she was right about needing to make peace…
She did confirm what the AP said about women holding emotion in their digestive region. Funny, because every time I am super stressed or nervous, I have terrible diarrhea, nausea, and most of the time, vomiting. I lost 10lbs before my wedding, completely because of the stress of it, and I spent the morning of my wedding day running to the bathroom.
Maybe there’s something to that theory…
After that part, she went into a more thorough exploration of my whole abdominal area. She felt around the bottom of my rib cage, along my sides, and down as far as my pubic bone, taking stock of the locations of organs.
Another interesting thing: while she was massaging, she said she felt a few little bubbles pop, like bubble wrap, that she was sure were adhesions. I told her I’d always wondered if I had endometriosis, and she said that I might, but that she felt that she had broken up at least 3 decent sized adhesions with the massage.
Part of me doubts this is possible, but then again, who knows…?
Once it was almost over, she said that she felt I’d made great progress, and that my uterus had shifted a lot and felt like it wanted to move back to its natural location. She also said that my next AF may be a bit strange, maybe with more or fewer clots, or maybe some discharge that looks like coffee grounds. Apparently that’s completely normal, and just the body’s way of “cleaning house” and preparing for a healthy new start.
Just before she left the room, she taught me some self-care techniques to use at home. One was a way of breathing from the belly instead of the lungs, which I’m having a hard time mastering. Another is a way to keep better posture in mind throughout the day, so as not to compress the organs and give them room to do their thing.
She talked to me about water intake and said that the naturopathic way is to take in half your body weight in ounces each day; so if you weigh 150lbs, you should be drinking 75oz of water each day. She also said that chugging water won’t do you any good unless you really like to pee. The best way, apparently, is to take 5 or 6 glugs every half hour or so throughout the whole day.
She also taught me some self-massage techniques: one is just a very simple circular massage starting around the belly button and getting wider over the whole abdominal area. The other is a sort of “scooping” motion that starts right above the pubic bone and is said to help encourage the uterus to come back into position. That second one is not to be practiced after ovulation.
After that, she brought me some water and a peppermint patty (yay!) and left me to get dressed.
I have to say, I felt pretty good after the massage. Loose and less tense, in the way that you feel after a relaxation massage, only it wasn’t my shoulders… it was my abdomen.
Some of it was a little strange (okay, some of it was really strange), but I think you have to take the weird with a grain of salt. It was more good than weird, and I really liked the therapist. She was very warm and pleasant, and although I have a hard time wrapping my head around some of what she said, I do think it will be beneficial to keep seeing her.
She recommends once-a-month treatment for at least 3 months to see a real difference, and the cost was only a tiny bit higher than I’d pay for a relaxation massage, so I’m going to keep with it.
Will this help me conceive?
I have no idea.
Will it maybe help me to relax a little, encourage blood flow to my pelvic region, and make me feel like I’m actively contributing my own health and healing?
It might be a little weird, but I’m giving it a shot.
Like the acu-doc said: If you feel like it’s doing you some good, then it probably is!
If you have any questions about my experience with Maya Abdominal Massage, please feel free to comment below, or email me directly, and I would be happy to help as best I can!
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.
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.”
“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?
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…
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.
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.
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. 😉
Yesterday was my pre-op consultation for the diagnostic laparoscopy I have scheduled for late August.
Err… HAD scheduled for late August, I should say.
Yeah. My doctor and her bulldog assistant effectively talked me out of having the lap.
Well, they talked me out of having the lap with them, for sure. I haven’t made up my mind about the rest yet.
Before any of you get upset or start to demonize the good doctor, I can tell you that she’s coming from a place of honesty and realism. She talked to me for a long, loooooong time yesterday, listening as I rattled off the finer points of multiple studies on laparoscopies in women with unexplained infertility, and gently explaining to me that no matter the outcome of the procedure, the next logical step in our journey is IVF.
It seems as though there are only two choices with this doctor performing the surgery:
One, she finds mild endometriosis, and removes anything that isn’t attached to important bits of my anatomy, such as the bowel, ovary, uterus, or fallopian tube. Post surgery, the suggested treatment would be IVF if I didn’t manage to get pregnant on my own, which, let’s be honest, is not likely considering all of the other treatments I’ve tried that have failed, despite a good response.
Two, she finds moderate to severe endo, and leaves it alone. Removal of endometrial adhesions that are more deeply attached to organs and tissues is more dangerous than it’s worth, and she won’t risk my organs to remove something that is, in the grand scheme of things, not causing me a terrible amount of discomfort. Post surgery, the suggested treatment would also be IVF.
I feel cornered.
I really thought I was going into that consult yesterday to find out the gory details about the surgery, and to plan ahead for recovery.
I feel a little blindsided, and more than a little disappointed.
The thing I expected the least, though, was to feel relieved.
And I do feel that. Relief.
I really don’t want to have surgery. I don’t know if I want to have surgery more or less than I want answers, however…
Basically, Dr. F brought me gently to a realization that I’ve been avoiding for a very long time.
I may never know what’s causing my infertility, and I may have to move on to IVF without that knowledge. I may have to take the gamble, when all I want is to calculate odds and create the most level playing field possible.
I may have to just take the plunge.
Those, however, are decisions for another day.
Today, I’m going to relax. I have permission to stop taking Metformin, as long as my cycle doesn’t start getting wonky, which means that I can eat what I want, have a beer now and again, and gain some weight back that I lost during the Metformin Bowel-Voiding Frenzy that accompanied that first two months on the drug.
Today, I’m going to order some Maca Root and Royal Jelly, overhaul my diet and eat well, but healthfully, and give my body a break from drugs. I’m going to schedule a few massages, and maybe get back to acupuncture.
Today, I’m going to set up a dedicated bank account for IVF funds, and make sure that money makes it’s way in there every week.
Today, I’m going to keep in mind that my doctor, and every single other doctor I’ve ever seen, has told me that the broad majority of women with true unexplained infertility tend to get pregnant at some point… It just never seems to happen as quickly as they would like, and it oftentimes happens when they are not in an active medicated cycle.
Thankfully she didn’t tell me outright to “just stop trying”…
I may revisit the idea of the lap… I will probably send my medical file over to another doctor or surgeon to review for a second opinion – not because I don’t trust my doctor, because I do trust her – but because I think it’s always smart to have more than one set of eyes looking at your case.
I feel a little adrift today, but also a little relieved. I know that I don’t have all the time in the world to conceive, and that my eggs are probably getting crappier by the day, but today…?
Today I’m taking back my sanity.
At least for a little while.
My laparoscopy is a month from tomorrow, and my pre-op appointment with Dr. F, who will be performing the surgery, is on Thursday.
I don’t know what to expect from this appointment, honestly.
I also don’t know what questions I should ask…
So I’m throwing it out to youse guys!
What should someone scheduled for a laparoscopy expect from a pre-op appointment?
What kind of questions should the patient ask the doctor?
Do you have any pre- or post-surgical tips you’d like to share?
Please comment below!