Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How Infertility Has Changed My Life

Infertility/subfertility is really awful.  Everyone has a cross in their life, and this tends to be one of those more private crosses.  I am not saying that it is worse than others, because how can you really measure agony?  However, when a burden must be carried silently, with little help from loved ones, it can feel heavier.

I realize that when people are diagnosed with cancer and they have their CarePage or blog that they share with their families, they are only sharing a small amount of what they are struggling with.  Also, in those situations, they are often dealing with life and death issues.  I will not lie to you, though.  In the past, I did think about how nice it would be to share the sadness I experienced with IF with my loved ones in the way that some people with cancer share their journeys.

Instead, my journey is largely silent.  Over time, I let my guard down and shared aspects of this cross with some of my close family and friends.  Mostly, I conveyed the facts.  "I'm trying [insert treatment here] this cycle."  "I'm having surgery."  "My surgery went well.  The doctor found [this]."  Etc.  Sometimes, I would mention that it really sucked.  I rarely went deeper than that.  I realized that they probably didn't want to know the extent of my gut-wrenching sadness.  I longed to tell them some good news for once, so I often minimized my pain.

During these past few years, something has been happening within me.  It has occurred at a snail's pace, but now, looking back, I see the difference.  God has increased, and I have decreased.

I remember asking for this very thing in my prayers.  In moments of great confidence, I remember even thinking that I didn't care how He brought it about.  "Help me give you my life, God."

So, I have been allowed the privilege to walk beside Jesus for a little while--helping him carry his cross by shouldering this yoke.

I still have a long way to go, but my life has improved so much because of infertility.  I know some of you also have similar experiences with your faith.  You would never choose this cross, but in some ways, you may be very thankful for where it has taken you.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Do You Think I Had Endometriosis?

It doesn’t really bother me that much that the testing of the tissue samples came back as inconclusive (well, “not endo” for one sample and “maybe endo” for another).

I am pretty sure I had it.

In high school and college, my periods ruled my life.  Before the days of Aleve, I would wake up in the middle of the night, writhing in pain, after my Tylenol wore off.  I’m not sure why I didn’t try Advil.

Well, I can’t remember when Aleve hit the market, but when it did, it changed the game.  I could sleep through the night without waking up in pain.  I religiously took Aleve every 12 hours, because if I didn’t, I could not function.

One time, I had to run a mile for my Fitness for Life class in college.  I was out of shape, but also on my period.  It was the first time I experienced Aleve failing.  I think it was due to a combination of my physical activity, dehydration, and my period.  Well, I barely hobbled the track.  After I was finished, I pretty much collapsed onto the ground in pain.  My teacher was concerned, and asked if I was alright.  “Cramps,” I said.   “Water and stretching should help,” he said.  “Not those kind of cramps,” I quipped.

Well, afterwards, I spent what seemed like an hour in the locker room, alternating between laying in the fetal position and pacing up and down the locker-lined aisles.  One girl finally asked if I was okay.  I told her I had cramps.  I can’t remember if she expressed understanding or not.

One day in college, I forgot to take my medicine between my classes.  In the middle of a lecture, I started to feel pain.  I thought, “I’ll just tough it out.”  Yeah.  Instead, I left the classroom, went to the bathroom, took the medicine, and walked around the building in agony.  I ended up back in the bathroom, but never back to the class.  The teacher sent a classmate to check on me, which was embarrassing.

Nowadays, since my lap surgery, my period pain is manageable without medicine.  I still feel twinges every once in a while.  One time, I thought the pain was progressing and I would need to pop a pill, but then the pain diminished.

Before the surgery, I had agonizing pain.  Now I do not.

I think I had endometriosis.

Do you think I did?

Also, is it going to return?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Infertility in the Blogs

I came across this blog post regarding Catholicism and infertility on Ignitum Today, and I thought I would share it.

I especially like what Pope Benedict XVI is quoted as saying regarding treatment for infertility:
 “The Church pays great attention to the suffering of couples with infertility, she cares for them and, precisely because of this, encourages medical research.  The human and Christian dignity of procreation, consists not in a “product”, but in its connection with the conjugal act, an expression of love of the spouses, their union which is not only biological but also spiritual”.
I am so glad that the Catholic Church has been able to advance some really good science (Naprotechnology) even in the midst of sub-par medical care that is IVF.  Naprotechnology actually searches for the underlying health problems that cause sub/infertility and works towards a cure.  IVF is very similar to the Pill, in that it oftentimes is used to bypass fixing medical problems. If it weren't for Naprotechnology, I wouldn't have gotten to the bottom of some of my health problems.  I am so very thankful for the Catholic Church standing firm for what is right and good, even when it is not fast or easy.  I am thankful that even in the midst of our trials with infertility, my husband and I have rarely felt that we were doing something that was unnatural or forced.  If we are to help bring more children into this world, I don't want it to be because we have "forced" God's hand.  I don't want children to spring forth from us removed from our marital embrace, which is quite literally a renewal of our marriage vows.  Naprotechnology is an example of the good that science can offer.  Because of the Catholic Church's steadfastness, all women--Catholic and non-Catholic alike--can benefit from the fruits of some very good science.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

No More Brown Bleeding!

Wow!  That is a disgusting title!  But the nuisance seems to be gone.  I'm not sure if its absence is permanent, but it never showed its ugly face last cycle, so I'm hoping this cycle will give me more of the same.

Yes, bummer, that this cycle has started...  I took it pretty hard at first.  I'm glad it started after church and when DH was around and DS was well-occupied.  I lay my head in hubby's lap, and he stroked my hair for 15 minutes, while the fireplace crackled and classical music softly played in the background.  The second song that came on was "Ave Maria," and I began heaving all over again, knowing that even though our hearts ache, God is there.

I recently read 33 Days to Morning Glory by Father Michael Gaitley, and I still haven't done the Marian Consecration.  I don't know why.  But, I know that Our Lady is there for me and does want to lead me closer to Jesus.  I felt that her song played during my lowest moments today for a reason.

In other news, besides no more brown bleeding, which is due to the 21-day course of antibiotics that DH and I finished a few cycles ago, I have also begun LDN.  I HAVE had some pretty vivid dreams and what seemed to be lots of interruptions in my sleep cycle.  Fortunately, I think that has tapered off somewhat.

Oh, yes, I also had my adrenals and thyroid hormones checked again, and although the numbers look better than they did at the last round of testing, they are on the borderline of being problematic.  I start taking (instead of licorice root) tomorrow.

Now I have pretty much exhausted the plans my doctor outlined after my surgery, so I'm not sure there's much else to try.  My husband and I decided that if we haven't conceived by the end of the year, we're going to start seriously looking into adoption.

Monday, August 20, 2012

IF "Therapy"

Recently, one of the other IF bloggers was talking about how doing art projects or other craft projects helps her to deal with her sub/infertility.

I find that creating is therapeutic for me, too.  I mean, I've always enjoyed doing that kind of stuff.  I am not particularly gifted in painting or drawing, but I do enjoy it the process of it.  I also enjoy sewing and knitting.  Although I realize that procreating isn't truly the result of my husband and I "making" a baby (because God "makes" people), we clearly play a big role in the process.  That's one of the reasons I think sub/infertility is so devastating for many; the urge to help in that creation process feels squelched.

Fortunately, I can flex my creative muscles with those artsy projects.  Additionally, I can completely overcompensate for my seemingly lack of procreative results by keeping a huge garden!  Last year, I began to joke with my husband that I felt the garden helped me deal with my frustrations of us not being able to "reap our harvest" with children.  He was like, "I know, hon."  So, it was that obvious.  Interestingly enough, the previous owners of our house also struggled with sub/infertility and later adopted a child.  One of the things that attracted me to this house was the large yard, flower gardens, and vegetable/fruit garden.  I wonder if they chose this house partially for the same reason.

Do you engage in any creative activities, such as art, knitting, sewing, jewelry making, gardening for your IF "therapy?"

Friday, August 3, 2012

St. Philomena Novena

Today is the first day of the St. Philomena novena.  She is the patron Saint of many different "hopeless" cases, and one of them listed is sterility.  Expectant mothers and those having problems with children have also called on her for help.  I have copied and pasted the novena prayer from D.rew M.ariani's FB page for your reading convenience.  Here is an alternative novena prayer from EW.TN's website, as well.

~ ~ ~

Today begins the powerful novena to the martyr St. Philomena and it ends on Sat. Aug 11th. If you have a special need, ask this miracle worker to help.

Novena Prayer to ST. PHILOMENA

O FAITHFUL VIRGIN and glorious martyr, St. Philomena, who works so many miracles on behalf of the poor and sorrowing, have pity on me. Thou knowest the multitude and diversity of my needs. Behold me at thy feet, full of misery, but full of hope. I entreat thy charity , O great Saint! Graciously hear me and obtain from God a favorable answer to the request which I now humbly lay before thee ...

(Here specify your petition.)

I am firmly convinced that through thy merits, through the scorn, the sufferings and the death thou didst endure, united to the merits of the Passion and death of Jesus, thy Spouse, I shall obtain what I ask of thee, and in the joy of my heart I will bless God, who is admirable in His Saints. Amen.

Saint Philomena, Powerful with God, Pray for us!


St. Philomena has been successfully invoked by her supplicants in every sort of need, such that she has become another patron of "hopeless" and "impossible" cases, like St. Jude or St. Rita, but she is known to be especially powerful in cases involving conversion of sinners, return to the Sacraments, expectant mothers, destitute mothers, problems with children, unhappiness in the home, sterility, priests and their work, help for the sick, the missions, real estate, money problems, food for the poor and mental illness. But truly, as her devotees have discovered, no case, of whatever matter, is too trivial or too unimportant to concern her.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Something Better

Our Sunday plans to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, the only approved Marian apparition site in the U.S., were foiled when our son fell ill on Saturday afternoon.  We were attending a family reunion in Green Bay and were so close to the shrine!  I had been anticipating this trip for months, and the last time I planned on visiting a shrine (for Padre Pio), events precluded us from attending that one, as well.  I had it in my head that we were FOR SURE going to make it to this one.  I prayed for God to get us there, too.

I am not sure if it was God's plans for us to miss the shrine or not; however, I did feel His support along our journey.  Sure, I was disappointed, but I was definitely more worried about my son.  He had just recuperated from a previous illness, and we were concerned about his fever and loss of fluids.  Thankfully, he is doing much better now, which is a huge relief.

DH and I have been run ragged with everything that's been going on (my surgery, his work schedule, DS's illnesses), and this didn't make us feel well-rested...but we did have some very good bonding moments while driving a vomiting child home...and later waiting three hours to see a doctor.  I also had an a-ha moment.  I probably read this somewhere, but I think God reminded me about it:  Although it is really awesome to go on a pilgrimage, especially to someplace where Mary or Jesus appeared, it is even better to have the real thing.  What is more important for me is to have a true relationship with them.  Furthermore, I can come into the real presence of Jesus every day through the Mass or Adoration (exposed or in the Tabernacle).  It's quite exciting to remember that you don't need to go far to be in the presence of Jesus--body, blood, soul, and divinity--just your local Catholic Church.  How blessed we are!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Infection, Reproductive Immunology & Naltrexone

I wanted to thank "Life From Inside the Wheelbarrrow" for recently putting a link to her past post regarding IF and infection up on the Yahoo Catholic IF Group.  I have read through it a couple times now, because in addition to my concerns about having a food sensitivity, I wonder if I also might have an infection. I find out the results of my bacterial culture in about a week.  It will be a bit longer to find out about the fungal culture results.

I have also found some interesting information on "Rise and Shine and Give God the Glory" 's blog regarding the connection between infertility and immune problems.  I've started reading through the information on a website of one of the doctors she mentioned.  I couldn't find a website for the other doctor, Dr., but I did see that "This Cross I Embrace" had visited her.

Lastly, I found an online brochure about Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN).  My doctor has mentioned this drug a couple times due to my sometimes horrific PMS.  I have had some tail end brown bleeding (TEBB) in the past, too.  Oh yeah...and fatigue--I was previously diagnosed with adrenal fatigue.  LDN is supposed to help with all three of those symptoms.  I think my PMS and the TEBB are better since I started taking Progesterone.  I have been taking Licorice Root for the adrenal fatigue (cycle days 1-10), which has seemed to help, as have other measures to decrease fatigue.  Interestingly, I have read that TEBB can also be a symptom of infection...  I know I just need to wait and take it day by day (and test by test), but sifting through all of this information is exhausting.  It also makes me think, "How far am I willing to go before I say enough is enough?"

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wondering About Diet

After reading Sew's blog entry about what healed her, I did try a non-strict Paleo diet for a few weeks.  It was very difficult to sustain.  The first few days, I got a headache (maybe from restriction of carbs?).  I felt hungry all the time, and it was nearly impossible to find suitable choices when eating out.  Oh yeah...and I lost about 5-8 pounds, which was alarming, because I really don't think I should be losing weight.  (Maybe I wasn't eating enough fat/oils?)  Therefore, I eased up, and eventually I was back to eating as I did before (minus the milk).  I did notice that I felt "better" while on the diet.  I am not sure if that's because I have a sensitivity to a food group I cut out or if it's because I was eating more fruits and vegetables--maybe both.

Anyhow, I am going to get tested for food sensitivities soon, as per my doctor's recommendation.  This test looks at 96 general food groups, so that seems fairly comprehensive; although, I really have no idea.

Something that has been going through my head a lot lately is that when I conceived my now five-year-old, it was during Lent.  I had given up all sweets.  I wonder if that helped me conceive?

Also, this is off the subject, but I have been reading a lot about the role that infections have in sub/infertility.  Several people have commented on this in the Catholic Infertility Yahoo Forum, and since I just had my lap/HSG, I'm waiting to hear about the results from the culture (bacterial?  fungal?).  Anyway, another thought that keeps going through my head is that when my husband and I conceived the first time, he was on antibiotics, because he was sick.  I wasn't on any, and those probably weren't the right kind of antibiotics, but...what if?

I feel like I am on the right track here.  Maybe these steps won't result in another pregnancy, which would be crushing; however, I will still have the consolation prize of much improved health (I hope).

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Treatment Update & Surgery Results

I need to update my timeline, but I wanted to give a personal update about my treatments.  I completed three rounds of the Neupogen protocol, and it appeared (via ultrasound) that I ovulated with all three trials.  Before the third trial, my doctor and I talked, and we concluded that it seemed that there may have been a piece missing from our puzzle.  With my history of painful periods (and endometriosis as a huge question mark in our minds), we went ahead with an HSG and laparoscopy.

Preliminary surgery results show no classical signs of endometriosis, although some suspicious tissue samples were taken and sent in to be tested for endometriosis.  One Fallopian tube's pressure was elevated during the HSG, so my doctor passed through it several times, with the end result being that the pressure is now normalized.  Also, I have subtle micropolyps in my uterus.  A sample was taken and will be tested for infection.  With the signs of possible inflammation, my doctor mentioned that I should look into food sensitivities, as well.

I am recovering at home, and it seems the worst of the pain is over (thank you, God!).  Ladies (and gentlemen?), thank you for accompanying me on this strange journey.  I am so glad I am not alone!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Grieving & Journeying Together

Even though each infertile couple's journey is completely unique, there are similar aspects that touch each case.  I recognized several of these aspects while reading a recent blog by a man whose marriage has been touched by sub/infertility.  I'm sure most everyone in the Catholic sub/infertility world has seen this article, as it was featured on "Faith and Family Live!"  However, I wanted to echo gratitude for this young man's courage in sharing his experience with sub/infertility.

The author, Dr. Timothy O'Mall.ey, is definitely a gifted writer, and I appreciated his eloquence.  I found the following excerpt regarding his experience with prayer particularly beautiful:
In fact, words often still hurt too much to utter; I at times have no energy to utter in prayer; all I have left is an imitation of the very silence I hear in response to my petitions. 

Another selection I could relate to was this one:
And as my will was stretched out, I found new capacities for love available to me.  A new awareness that the “calling” of infertility has made me aware of the lonely, the vulnerable, the needy, and allowed me to perceive the true gift of a human life.  
Although reading about another's struggle with a similar cross doesn't make it go away, I do find healing from it.  A common aftereffect is that I don't feel quite as alone.  While I realize I am never truly alone, it can be difficult to remember this in all occasions.  Sharing tribulations with other human beings and learning from their thoughts and experiences is what I like best about this Catholic sub/infertility Blog-o-sphere.  I look forward to sharing Dr. O'Mall.ey's blog with my husband.  I hope it enriches your life, too.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Letting Go

Well, to make a long story short, this cycle, with its multiple ultrasounds and injections and countless hopes and prayers, has ended as the others have: with sadness and a sense of loss.

I even had a faint positive on a pregnancy test, but it seems this was possibly due to the hCG trigger shot.

Sometimes I wonder how much longer I can go on like this.

Then I realize that I can't go on in this fashion another day.

The reason it is an unsustainable path is due to the fact that it is my path.  Even though I am using only licit means to try to achieve a pregnancy, I am doing so with the presumption (still...<sigh>) that God will most likely give me this baby that I want

It's hard to think about how there may be no more children for my husband and me.  But, how could I possibly know this?  I simply cannot.  No one but God knows what the future holds, so I need to give it over to Him--again and again.  It seems surrendering once or twice...or a handful of times is not sufficient. 

Father Michael Gaitley, in his book Consoling the Heart of Jesus offers thought-provoking and comforting words for me in this time of darkness:
Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life.  The same holds for all other things. 
Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.
Even though I will probably continue to desire having more children, because I was made to have this desire, I should not prefer fertility over subfertility.  I should prefer what God thinks is best for me...especially when it concerns what will lead me onto the path of holiness.

This is a lot to ponder.  It is good, because it brings me some peace.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Break Over. Next Step--Neupogen!

I just had a BIG break from fertility treatments and blogging.

We are planning on picking up with Napro again next cycle.

My doctor wants to do a couple trials of Neupogen, so I am trying to gather information about that.

If you have tried it or have any info you can share about it, I would appreciate your input!