Our Infertility Story: A New Chapter, A New Dream…

I last left you sounding rather hopeless, which is a bit disingenuous as I wasn’t feeling nearly as dismal as I sounded. However, I did feel as though that part of our journey deserved some closure. It’s weird to feel both sad/wistful and liberated/hopeful at the same time.

I’ve stopped the fertility measures; no more waking at 5 am every day to take my temp, no more endless peeing on sticks to see if there’s some small chance that I’ll actually ovulate on my own. That’s all done. And, much to my surprise, I’ve felt free for the most part. I’m not saying that I’ve accepted the fact that my body is too hostile of an environment to foster life. I’m still a little mad…mad at the endo for robbing me of a normal body, normal cycles, normal biological functions. I’m mad at the PCOS for the insulin resistance, the uncontrollable cravings for sweets, the resulting weight gain. But, for the most part, I’m making peace with it.

I’m not going back on hormonal birth control until the endo pain gets bad enough that it’s necessary. My OBGYN told me that I would eventually need a hysterectomy, but I don’t intend to rush that if possible. And who knows…miracles are possible. It happened to Tedi over at Running With Infertility, and that was even after a couple of failed rounds of IVF. So I know it’s still possible, but I am accepting the fact that, barring some major divine intervention, it’s not going to happen that way.

So, what’s next, then? We’d already talked about adoption here and there over the course of the last year or so, but we really started doing our research about it in January this year. Since January and February were our last chances with the fertility treatments, we knew that, come March or April, we’d have to start taking action if we were going to pursue adoption.

And we are. We’ve begun working with a consultant and are getting ready to start that long, arduous, and expensive process. It’s no less frightening…the stakes are high and the failure has the potential to be devastating. But I do know that Joey and I feel a strong call to be parents, whether that be biologically or otherwise. And through some circumstances lining up perfectly, it looks like we’re in a position right now to make that a reality. And that gives me a new sense of hope.

We would appreciate your prayers. More updates to come.

Featured Image found here

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Sometimes the Answer is “No”

I seem to have this nasty habit of falling off the radar. Life just gets so busy and we’re in the middle of a lot of uncertainty, and I get worried that I’ll be too negative and no one will want to read anymore, so I end up piling up in my chair and playing on Facebook instead.

But in all the uncertainty, there’s at least one thing that’s become clear over the last several months: barring a complete and utter miracle, we will not have a biological child. The endometriosis and PCOS have just made my insides too hostile of a place to be able to create and sustain life. How shitty does that sound? My own body is too hostile to foster life.

All of the weight loss, surgery, shots, drugs, more shots, all for naught. All of the awkward scheduling, waking at 5 a.m. to take my temp, and peeing on sticks and managing to keep from getting any on my hand. All of the “taking it easy” for two weeks after the ovulation trigger shot, all of the progesterone cream, all of the pain, the six months of Lupron hell. All of it for naught. All of the prayers, tears, anticipation. All for naught.

I named the first egg after the Lupron was over. Called it “Peanut.” That’s what my grandpa called me when I was a baby. I begged God to let “Peanut” get to where s/he needed to go and to spring to life. I was certain that it would happen, that God would come through, because it always seemed that He had before…sometimes, literally, JUST in time, but in time nonetheless. I never named another one.

There’s no “in time” this time. No more treatments. We’re not doing IVF; we don’t like it on a theological level (no judgment to you if you did it or are considering it, though). We do still feel that we’re called to be parents, but we know that it will not happen biologically.

Sometimes, dreams die all at once…a tragic accident takes a loved one…you’re abruptly laid off from your job…a freak act of nature destroys your home.

Sometimes, though, they die slowly, over time, little by little, each month, each single pink line, marking the passage of time and highlighting a hostile body.

There will be a new dream, yes; I know that. But sometimes you need a little time to grieve the one that’s dying today.

My Endo Story: Part 1

Well, it’s been another long season of silence on the ol’ blog.  I look back at years past and regret that I haven’t kept up with things more than I have, but I also struggle with feeling like I’m navel-gazing too much and not wanting to annoy people with constant talk about myself.

I’m breaking that silence, though, and am committing to regular blogging, at least for the rest of the year, to chronicle a very important journey and hopefully help some other women along the way.

Two years ago (this coming May), Joey and I decided that we were going to start trying for a kid.  I’d never had even a hint of a maternal instinct, and for almost twelve years, we’d been perfectly happy being childless and parents only to our kitty, Shelli.  In fact, we weren’t even sure if we were ever going to want kids at all.  I dealt with the “when are you going to have babies?? Don’t you even want children??” questions with an eye roll and a proper sense of sarcasm, but didn’t think of it much otherwise.

Until one of my closest friends had her first son.  And it hit me like a ton of bricks:  I wanted a child.  Joey and I spent a few months talking it over and decided that the timing was right to start trying.

I thought it would be pretty simple (which, in retrospect, was stupid since I already knew I had PCOS and other health factors working against me), but month after month after month went by with no luck.  During the process, I worked on losing weight and getting my health in order, and I tried to keep a positive attitude despite feeling like I was constantly taking my temperature or peeing on something either to tell me if I was ovulating (usually not) or if I was pregnant (definitely not).  For the record, if there’s ever an Olympic category for peeing in a tiny cup, I’m taking home the Gold.

By the end of the year (2014), I’d gone to see my OBGYN and she suggested that we try a round of fertility meds.  I thought that would be it; everyone I’d talked to who had done them ended up pregnant after one or two rounds, so I was gearing myself up for this to work and to have a child by the end of 2015.

Except it didn’t work.  For those of you unfamiliar with fertility drugs, they usually ask you to come in during the middle of your cycle (a few days after you’ve finished the round of meds) so they can do an ultrasound and see if you have an egg that’s ready to go.  And I did not.  I did, however, have a cyst that was larger than the usual PCOS-type cysts. After another two or three ultrasounds (that’s a lot of getting a giant wand shoved up your wazoo, FYI), they determined that it was an endometrioma and wasn’t going to go away.  In June of 2015, my doctor recommended that I have surgery to get it removed, but I was reticent to do something that invasive when I “wasn’t having any problems” (or so I thought).  She was amenable to doing another couple of rounds of the fertility meds, just to see if we could “get lucky” (hehehe), but it was all for naught.

After reading scores of natural-living blogs, I tried what seemed like everything to “cure” myself of this endometrioma: diet changes, supplements, essential oils…nothing worked.  And I got pissed. I ready story after story of some “natural mama” who’d had problems conceiving, and after some coconut oil, castor oil packs, and a few essential oil blends, started popping kids out like a factory.  And here was me, oily, unsuccessful, and irritated, with this ambivalent cyst that seemed to be mocking me from inside my body.

I gave in to the idea of surgery in November of 2015, and scheduled it for the following January 6th.  I felt like that would allow me two more months to try and maybe get lucky and not have to get cut on.  I prayed fervently, and felt hopeful that God would rescue me and keep me from the knife.  I mean, we all read about miracles, right?  Surely He would make me one of those stories, and I’d be able to help other infertile ladies with an account of being rescued just in time.

No dice.

–to be continued–

I Just Binge-Watched “My Big, Fat, Fabulous Life,” and I Have Some Thoughts About It.

Today is Presidents’ Day, and thus far I’ve spent most of my day doing yarn-related things. I de-cluttered part of my stash, rolling loose skeins into balls, ripping half-done projects that would never be finished, cutting and tossing what couldn’t be ripped or was knotted and wasn’t worth de-tangling.  I also worked on a hat:

knitting, knit hat, dpns, wip, wool

For the record, a toilet paper tube is great for winding yarn into a ball. I’m not ashamed.

Fat Fabulous Life

I heard about My Big Fat, Fabulous Life a few weeks ago and to be honest, it wouldn’t have piqued my interest at all had her angle not resonated with me. Whitney Thore has PCOS and says that it led her to gain over 100 pounds during her college years (and another hundred since then).  I can relate; I put on 80 pounds over the course of three years, which sounds like a long time when I see it in print, but seemed to have happened in the blink of an eye.  And, just as with Whitney, it’s been ridiculously difficult to consistently lose weight.

mel over the years

(Above, top row, left to right: 2001, 2008, 2006, bottom row, 2011, 2013, 2014)

I can relate to her feeling of relief to finally have that diagnosis.  Yep, it sucks to have PCOS, but it helped to know that there is a legitimate medical issue and my weight gain is not just because I’m a lazy pig (here’s a Mayo Clinic article about what PCOS is, because I don’t want to butcher the science).  I’d say that knowing is half the battle, but that’s a load of crap since I was diagnosed in 2011 and gained another 50 between then and when I finally managed to take control of my health last May.

I can relate to feeling like you’re being stared at when you’re eating at a restaurant and you have something other than say, a salad or some desperately sad piece of chicken and steamed broccoli.  Feeling like people are laughing at you when you’re out running (as if fat people shouldn’t be exercising).  Never wanting to wear a swimsuit or go to a pool or the beach ever again.  Feeling invisible when you hear people talk about women who are “beautiful.”  I remember how much I struggled at the Monkees Convention knowing that my one and only chance to meet my idols was going to be as this fat, monstrous version of myself, and that amazing moment in my life was going to be forever immortalized in film with me at the biggest size I’d ever been.  It was depressing.  So, while I’m nowhere near 380 pounds like her, I know the pain and self-loathing.

I can even get behind her message of embracing who you are at the moment and recognizing that you can’t put your life on hold and wait to have meaningful moments until you’re “thin” or “fit.” If I’d done that, I never would have met the Monkees.  I sing at church fairly often and our services are televised; I’d never do that if I waited until I was “pretty enough” to be on tv.  I fully believe that we need to make the most of each day, since we don’t know that we’ll have tomorrow.

There were a couple of things about her story that didn’t sit well with me, though, and so I DVRed all 10 episodes of the first season and have been watching them in chunks (usually whenever Joey is out or otherwise occupied since he finds her personality grating and the entire concept of the show annoying).  I’d just intended to watch two or three episodes to get a better grasp on my feelings about the show, but (as Joey feared), I found her story compelling enough that I watched the entire series.  I finished it up today with the season finale and, quite honestly, it disturbed me.

It all boils down to personal responsibility for me.  I think that, too often, Whitney gives herself a pass on her current condition because of her diagnosis.  PCOS definitely makes weight gain easy and weight loss difficult, but ultimately, much of our health condition depends on our own decisions.  I recognize that her case must be different (or more severe) than mine; I didn’t gain 100 pounds in a year, and I’m not 250 pounds overweight. However, I also recognize that my extra 80 pounds resulted from my own lack of discipline.  We can’t use our diagnoses to give ourselves a pass on making good decisions.  She casually mentions that she is partly responsible for her weight gain, but there’s no real visible recognition of that or focus on making better food decisions (on the contrary; she gets irritated at her father when he suggests that she have an egg sandwich on wheat bread rather than a banana and mayo sandwich on white bread).  While she does focus on dancing to get back in shape, which is laudable, physicians indicate that weight is lost in the kitchen, not the gym, and her few weigh-ins during the course of the season bear this out for her as she doesn’t appear to have much success.

At the end of the Season Finale, Whitney learns that she’s been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, which should be surprising to no one.  What really gets to me, though, is the response she and her parents have.  Thus far in the episode, she’s house-shopping with her best friend/future roommate, but when she gets the letter with the lab results, her parents encourage her NOT to move out on her own so she can get her health in order. She’s 30 years old.  Thirty. Years. Old.  She doesn’t have diabetes; she’s got pre-diabetes, which means that her fasting glucose is over 100 and her a1c is outside the rate for a regular non-diabetic, but not high enough to officially diagnose her with diabetes (more about prediabetes here). Dietary changes can usually control and/or reverse the problem.  And a responsible adult would look at the situation, recognize that it sucks but that s/he is squarely responsible, and make plans to fix it/mitigate the damage.  But stay home with Mom and Dad just because you almost have diabetes??  That’s not a viable answer.  That’s not a mature decision.  How can you expect to succeed in taking control of your health if you believe that continuing to depend on your parents to take care of you is the proper response to being almost-diabetic?  Even if the whole situation was orchestrated for television (which certainly could be the case), it still promotes the behavior that leads to unnecessary dependence.

It irritates me on two levels; first, I’ve got a similar diagnosis.  I have impaired fasting glucose (which goes hand-in-hand with PCOS).  And, while I don’t always feel like a functional adult, I do know that I need to make good food choices (for me, avoiding carbs and gluten) to control the problem and keep it from becoming diabetes.  Somehow, I continue to manage working a full-time job, being actively involved in church, and being a wife while trying to get a handle on my health.  At thirty years old, she should be able to do the same.  Second, I think this is part of a larger societal problem of not taking responsibility for one’s own situation. Where on earth have we gone as a society that moving back in with one’s parents is the solution for a relatively minor (in the vast medical spectrum) diagnosis rather than making a plan and taking control of his/her health condition?  What happens in twenty years when Mom and Dad are in a home, or even worse, have passed away?  How are people going to cope when they haven’t learned the basic skills of self-sufficiency and the concept of personal responsibility?

Once I finally decided to take control of my health, I started seeing success.  I’ve lost 35 pounds by eating low-carb and gluten free, and I’m (mostly) successfully training for a 5K at the end of March.  I’m not going to “settle” for life as-it-is, and I consider every poor decision I make a victory for PCOS.  It’s a battle, and it’s fought and won by choices.