Life Rafts

Thursday, August 19, 2010
Sometimes I come across a quote or an article that rings so true to me, I cling to it like a life raft. Right now I am reading "The Infertility Cure" by Randine Lewis and in the beginning, there is a passage from the author that brings tears to my eyes. Not tears of sadness, but because there is another person out there who so deeply understands this situation (and that person just happens to be both a doctor and an acupuncturist, who also struggled with infertility). Here it is:

"I can't know the pain you may have experienced in your quest for conception - the disappointment, the frustration, the hope and the hopelessness of each negative pregnancy test. Perhaps you, like me, have felt the heartbreak of conceiving and losing a child. Perhaps, like me, you have given the power over your own body to doctors in the hope that somehow they will make everything better. I don't know why we have been chosen to undertake such a painful journey, why we must go through such struggles to bring our own children into the world. But I do know that when we look into our babies' faces, they will never have to wonder if they were really wanted. Ours are the children who, no matter how they came to us, will look at their parents and know, from the deepest place in their heart, how much we cherish them, and how we labored to give them life. And in that there is no greater security and no greater gift."

I also think I love this so much because it makes it seem like there is a reason behind it, that its not just senseless suffering. Maybe we were destined to have this struggle so that we'll be better mothers, so that our children will grow up knowing that they are cherished every single day. Today, I am grateful for life rafts.

The Truth

Sunday, August 15, 2010
I've heard it said that when the universe is trying to give you a message it starts in a whisper, then turns into a shout, and eventually beats over the head if you still aren't listening. (I think it was Oprah who said that, who seems like a cheesy person to quote for some reason, but she said it and I like it, so let's roll with it).

The universe has been trying to give me a message about getting my mental health in balance for quite some time now. And when I say mental health I mean things like extreme guilt over situations outside my control, beating myself up for things and berating myself for others (my inability to get pregnant, for example). The messages started with my acupuncturist, then with some books she suggested, then with other books and a few movies that just came into my life, and now with people telling me things at the most inexplicably random times. I won't get into the messages in detail because I feel like this post is "out there" enough as it is, but its very safe to say that the universe is about to bludgeon me to death with one particular message: Tell Yourself The Truth.

It's a hard thing, the truth. It's slippery. Not always easy to define. What is true for one person can absolutely not be true for another. But the point is - I need to start telling myself my truths. Is it really true that I will never have a baby? Probably not. Is it really true that I am somehow broken or damaged? Maybe, but not beyond repair. Can I absolutely know its true that my "good eggs" are drying up by the minute? No. Is it true that if we don't get pregnant this month, I am a failure? No. Is it true that my inability to get pregnant is punishment for something I've done? That I am a bad person? No, it's not.

So instead of filling my head with all of these negative and seemingly untrue thoughts, what if I started to tell myself the truth? What if I stopped making a bad situation worse by being so damn hard on myself? It's a lot easier said that done, that's for sure. And if any of you know of that magic switch where I can turn off all the negative crap that goes through my head, by all means, do tell. But for now, maybe I'll start with a few things I know to be true...

The truth is, infertility is not a punishment.

The truth is, I should cut myself some slack.

The truth is, I am afraid.

The truth is, there are just as many reasons to believe we will get pregnant.

The truth is, I am really sick of taking prenatal vitamins with no "natal."

The truth is, I am tired of all the worrying.

The truth is, sometimes it feels like the wanting will swallow me whole.

The truth is, letting go of my negative thoughts feels like freedom.

The truth is, getting pregnant isn't solely my responsibility.

The truth is, there is no reason to feel so much guilt.

The truth is, I can't force this.

The truth is, there are lessons to be learned in this situation.

The truth is, I can't wait to be someones Mom.

It's Not You, It's Me

Monday, August 9, 2010
There are some big changes looming in our life right now - mainly, a cross country move out East. It's something we have both wanted for quite awhile and while we're both really excited, the logistics of the move are going to be a little outrageous (to say the least). Logistics like putting our stuff into storage twice, living at my parent's lake house until we find a place of our own, etc. I mean, why do things the simple way when you can complicate the hell out of it, right?

And of course, this means that I am leaving behind my circle of doctors and ((tear)) my acupuncturist. While we're living in limbo for a few months until we settle in the city where we want to be, I am going to be sans any kind of medical professional. Part of me thinks this sounds like a little piece of heaven...I just get to live my life for a few months! And then the other part of me is currently sitting in a corner, wringing her hands and rocking back and forth, muttering about losing precious time.

As we all know, stress is cryptonite to a reproductive system. And one of the top three stressful events in life? Moving. When it looked like we were going to move in June, a move that ultimately fell apart and we had to unpack all our things without setting foot out the door (which, really, could be a means of torture better than most I've heard of) my ovulation cycle basically just shut down. So I am already preparing myself for the havoc this could wreak on our hopes of having a baby anytime soon. Because you know, why live in the present when I can thoroughly stress myself out about things that haven't even happened yet? Ugh.

All of this led to a long conversation with my acupuncturist last week, where she suggested that instead of stressing myself out more over the next few months, we just stop actively trying for a little while. And instead, I focus on making myself as healthy as possible - eating really well, exercising, etc. for no other reason that to achieve a higher level of health and to treat myself kindly. Translation: back away from the BBT chart, loony tunes.

So again, part of me thinks this sounds like freedom. Breaking up with my basal body thermometer? No peeing on sticks? No wearing watches to bed? Not hounding down our "optimal" time each month like the reproductive Sherlock Holmes? Ahhh. But here is the thing - I know myself well enough to know that the feeling of freedom will only last so long. Eventually my frightened, panicky self will take over and convince me that we're wasting time, this is crazy, and I am already looking down the barrel at 40! (I am 30)

I've already gone back and forth a hundred times and have yet to reach a conclusion about what feels "right" for me. After a long talk with my husband, who was in total agreement that I release my death grip on my thermometer, he asked if I wanted him to just go take it off my bedside table and put it "somewhere safe for the time being." My reaction? I imagine it equates to someone taking away the last fix from an addict. In my defense, he does lose things a lot...

Some Background

Thursday, August 5, 2010
I realized early on that there are different schools of logic when it comes to fertility, and based on a lot of research and some really strong gut instincts I decided that an Eastern Medicine approach was the right one for me. Don't get me wrong - I am grateful for Western Medicine and it absolutely has it's time and place (I still employ it on a regular basis). But the thing is, the Western way of doing things has never really served me in terms of dealing with chronic problems. In my experience, most doctors treat the symptoms and the specific problem rather than getting to the root of what is causing the issue in the first place. Case in point - I have a rather severe case of asthma. For most of my college and immediate post-college years, I was stuck in a vicious cycle of getting sick, having an asthma attack, taking steroids to control the asthma that basically annihilated my immune system, which made it easy for me to get sick again, so I had another attack, so I had to take get the point. No one ever thought to do anything different, even when I begged for relief.

About two years ago I sought out the help of an acupuncturist. Those needles were a hurdle for me, but I was desperate. When I sat in the office and listed my litany of medical issues, for the first time in my life someone looked at me and said, "that all makes sense." Eastern Medicine views the body as one large connected organism, and when something is off in one area that means the rest will suffer as well. The way Eastern philosophies were explained to me resonated so deeply that it gave me chills. It has been a long process and honestly, it took me a little while to trust in this new way of thinking. But I've been seeing the same acupuncturist for two years now and I am happy to say that in that time I've had one asthma attack (as opposed to 5-6 a year) which I overcame without the need for steroids. In my world, that is a big deal.

So last year around this time when we realized we were ready for some babies in our life, I of course told my acupuncturist. My husband and I started trying and as I've mentioned, got pregnant pretty much right away. But as I've also mentioned, that was apparently the end of that. In my quiet moments, I still know that this Eastern approach is the right one for me. I've seen too many results in my own body to question its success. And when I went to my OB/GYN in June to start a conversation about infertility, because we decided it was time for baseline hormone level testing and the like, it just didn't feel right. Granted, it could just be my doctor, but I don't feel like she really listened or was receptive to my concerns. It felt cold and sterile. And then when I found out that my seemingly amazing health insurance (which covers acupuncture) won't pay a dime for as much as a band-aid if the word "infertility" is mentioned, I took that as a sign to stay on my path. Use the doctors for all the testing and to find out what's wrong, but when it comes to solutions try it the natural way first. There is a time and a place for Western interventions, yes, but this isn't it.

I am writing this mostly as a reminder to myself, to take a deep breath and remember that I have choices. I decided on this path. There are options. 90% of the time I know this is the right choice for me. But those other 10%, when my ovaries have stopped working and entire reproductive system seems to be on strike, and my lizard brain (as Martha Beck describes it) is shouting, "OH MY GOD! SOMETHING IS REALLY WRONG THIS TIME! GET YOURSELF TO AN ULTRASOUND MACHINE, STAT!" I have to actively remind myself to tune out the fear. God the fear. Sometimes I think it will swallow me whole.

Houston, We Have a Problem.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010
As of this month, we've officially been trying to have a baby for one calendar year. It most definitely hasn't been twelve consistent months (the first pregnancy and miscarriage in themselves meant four solid months of no trying) but it is a painful milestone nonetheless. And on top of this loveliest of anniversaries, I haven't ovulated since May. It seems my ovaries, after 29 years of doing their job, have picked this time in my life to take a little hiatus. An ovarian siesta, if you will.

So of course I have researched and googled and pulled out my own personal library of books that now take up an embarrassing amount of space in our house. (Speaking of the books - I wonder at what point some of us could actually be given an honorary obstetrics degree? Because seriously, I know more about this crap than I ever cared to know. I am pretty sure I could draw an outline of the basic female anatomy and give a list of the hormones involved in a reproductive cycle in five minutes flat. That has to count for something).

Anyway. The "answers" I found to my current lack of ovulation, much like the answer to the majority of fertility problems, is that it could be a lot of different things. And the best part? I haven't even missed my normal ovulation window yet. I am just not seeing the symptoms that I am gearing up to ovulate (and naturally, my friend the smiley face is alluding me once again) so I've already jumped ahead at least five days and proceeded to torture myself into tears. The answer I keep coming up with the most is that stress can lead to annovulation, which is such good news. Because not ovulating doesn't stress me out at ALL...I'll just remain calm and take a few deep breaths, and all will be well with the world. RIGHT.