Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Big Brother

          For those of you who don't know much about my family, I have an older sister, an older brother, and as my previous posts have explained I also have a younger sister who was adopted. There are quite a few years between my older sister and I and my older brother and I, so when we were growing up we were all in very different developmental stages. When my mom was pregnant with me she talked about how my sister really wanted a baby sister, but then I was born and didn't really enjoy doing girlie things. I was pretty rough and tumble and wrestled with my brother and got dirty and all the typical Tomboy things little girls do. (Luckily I am in to some girlie stuff now, so my sister did get the little sister who she could do girlie stuff with after all, it just took a while!)

         Since there is over ten years between my sister and I, she went off to college when I was only 7, which meant my brother was the only one left for me to follow around- and boy did I ever! Ever since I can remember I wanted to do everything he did- I played t-ball because he played baseball, I went to every football game he played in because I wanted to be near him (and I got free piggyback rides from all his friends), and I started going to church because he did and I wanted to do what he did. Like any little sister, I know my following him around was probably annoying, but he didn't complain too much. Even when he was the most popular guy at school and wasn't home very much, he still made time for me and we did little things that I don't really do with anyone else. For example, my brother used to love video games and some of my favorite memories are watching him play his games and both of us laughing so hard we cried. I loved watching him play, but I realize now that I loved how he made me feel, which is something I still love to this day. My brother is one of the only people that I know who makes me feel better about myself by just being himself... if that makes any sense.

          And feeling better about myself has definitely been my focus over the last couple of months. Throughout all of these hormonal ups and downs there have been times when all I want to do is talk to my big brother. Some days I would call him bawling my eyes out and I know that was hard for him to hear, but he was always so encouraging. Just like when I was little, he would say, "it'll be okay kiddo" and it was. I didn't have to give him specifics for him to know I was essentially dying emotionally. I know if he could've helped more he would've, but unfortunately he was a few thousand miles away... until about 4 weeks ago.

          Four weeks ago my brother took the lead pastor position at a church only 6 hours away from us! So this past weekend we went to go visit and boy was it perfect timing! Even though we didn't have too many "deep" conversations, he got to see what Skyler and I have been going through. One night I was telling my sister in law everything we've been going through and my brother was watching t.v., but he was listening the whole time. I know it's kinda weird to hear about your sisters personal issues, but with Skyler there I think my brother really got to see the battles we fight every day and how we need help to fight those battles from those closest to us. After that night, and during the rest of our visit, some things changed. Instead of giving me the quick hugs like he usually does, my brother would hold me tight, pouring all of his love into me through his strong arms. He made me laugh and lifted me up with his words, higher than he ever had before. He may not have solved any of our long standing issues, but he did help more then I can explain. He helped build me up and helped heal my spirit, just like only a big brother can.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Here we go again...

So we finally saw our infertility doctor. And after wards I had mixed emotions… but I’ll start from the beginning so that everyone can understand what the process was for us.
When we first arrived to check in, all the girls up front were really nice and helped us through all the paperwork we needed to fill out. We only had to wait for about 5 minutes, which was very nice. And instead of having a nurse bring us back to an exam room, Dr. “T” came and got us from the waiting room himself and took us straight back to his office to talk about our situation and my diagnosis. When we got back to Dr. “T’s” office he briefly looked over my chart records from my other doctors, glanced at my medicine list, and shuffled through my labs that I had just gotten done. He asked a few questions, but I lead the conversation about our past experience and what we have tried thus far to get pregnant. I know he is a busy man and that he has a protocol to go through with new patients, but I felt like he wasn’t totally listening to everything I was saying. When he asked about Clomid, I flat out said, “We have tried doing Provera and Clomid for 3 rounds and by the end of round 3 I was experiencing major depression symptoms and started to have suicidal thoughts.” Just like my nurse midwife, at the mention of suicidality, Dr. “T” took off his glasses and then started to listen to me. He apologized for the side effects I had experienced and said that he would try his best to not have to put me through that again. Dr. “T” then said, “So you want to get pregnant right? Well I’m pretty sure we can help you achieve that dream and work with your biochemistry to best meet the needs of you and Skyler.” That’s all we wanted to hear. We wanted him to hear us and to validate that I wasn’t a hard case. And in all actuality while he was looking at my chart he didn’t once say he was worried about any of my blood work or that I was “the hard case”.
After talking in his office for about fifteen minutes, Dr. “T” then asked if we could do an ultrasound to make sure that everything was okay to continue treatment. We had mentioned that some doctors didn’t think that PCOS was the right diagnosis for me. Upon doing my ultrasound, though, Dr.”T” showed Skyler and I exactly why I definitely had PCOS and explained why my ovaries looked the way they do and how my cysts are caused by immature follicles that aren’t releasing eggs to be fertilized. After doing a quick ultrasound Dr. “T” then asked how I wanted to proceed. He explained that I would need to go back on some of the meds, but that we could alter it to use more natural versions. So instead of taking the synthetic progesterone to induce a period I could take the bio-identical version of progesterone which does the same thing. And instead of taking Clomid, I will be taking Letrozole which does the same thing but usually doesn’t have as many side effects.  Skyler and I were very happy to hear that and that he actually listened to the seriousness of what happened over the last few months.
Dr. “T” finished up my ultrasound and then explained to our nurse what he wanted to do. He then looked at Skyler and I and said, “Thank you both. We’ll work on this together and figure out what is going on.” The nurse took us back to an education room at that point to talk about all the steps I will have to take on the new medicine. The best thing, though, is each day is totally mapped out for me. They told me when I needed to start the progesterone, what cycle days I need to start the Letrozole, and what days I should test to see if I’m ovulating. Unlike the directions on ovulation tests, which say that you should start testing the day after your period ends, our nurse said that we should not start testing to see if I ovulate until day 12. If we test before then we will most likely get a false positive. If I don’t ovulate by day 16, though, then I will need to go into the office to get a shot of hcg that will definitely make me ovulate. During this whole process I also have to go in for two procedures ; one to see exactly how prepared my uterus is to hold an embryo and to make sure I don’t have any polyps or anything like that. The other procedure will be to see if my fallopian tubes are open and if a mature follicle is available. Our nurse who explained all of this to us was so patient and answered every question we had. She also talked about the prices openly and what to expect with the medicine and the procedures. She then asked about the symptoms I had in our first 3 cycles and after hearing everything we went through, she looked at me and said, “Why in the world did you stay on all of that?!” I then asked her if she thought Dr. “T” felt optimistic about us getting pregnant and she said that she thought he was. She said I am going to be closely monitored and that I have the support of all the staff who have been doing this for years.
After our visit I was pretty emotional. Like I said at the beginning of this post, part of me felt like Dr. “T” hadn’t really spent as much time as I hoped for with us, but Skyler reminded me that I had brought everything he needed and that most of his questions were probably answered before we even sat down. Skyler told me that most patients aren’t as well prepared for the first visit like we were and that even though Dr. “T” didn’t appear to sit with us for that long, he was able to catch on very quickly and Skyler felt very comfortable with him. I think I was also emotional because we have to start this whole process over again. I get so discouraged about how much time this all takes and how nothing is ever guaranteed. What does help is that I have guidance this time. I know exactly when to test, and I can call for support at any time.

So here we go again. I started the progesterone today and over the next 3 weeks I will start the medicine to ovulate and go in for my procedures. All we can do at this point is continue to pray. To continue to pray for patience, hope, support, love, and a healthy pregnancy.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hormones, Laundry, and Fish Tanks- Oh My!

         We see our fertility specialist for the first time next week. We will possibly see the one person who could change our lives forever in just a few days. In knowing that our appointment is coming up, both Skyler and I have so many questions. What is really going on with me? Are there other medical conditions besides the PCOS that are hindering us from conceiving? Where do we go from here? Will I need surgery? How much will all of this cost? Will I ever be able to get pregnant?  It seems like every day I have new questions come up, and for the most part so does Skyler. Yesterday during lunch we talked about what we wanted to get out of our first visit. And like the wonderful man he is, Skyler said, "All I want to know is that you're okay. I want him (the doctor) to say that you're not a hard case, that he's seen whatever is causing our infertility before, and that he has a good idea on how to help us."

         And I think that's what we've always been looking for, help. As I reflect back over the past several years I am amazed at all the help we have gotten. Like we've said before I have an amazing medical team who is always there for us, day or night. I have an amazing support system in Skyler and family and friends. And I know that the help we will receive from our infertility doctor will just reinforce the support we already have. But... there is always the unknown. There is always the "what if's" that come up without any warning. What if he can't help us? What if the recommended procedures are too expensive? What if I have to go back on all those crazy meds? And so on. The only thing that has changed, though, is the "what if's" don't cause me as much anxiety as they used to. Through this whole experience I continuously learn that I am not in control. I have free will, which is nice, but ultimately my roadmap for life has already been designed, printed, copywritten, illustrated, and hardwired into me... I just need to remember to follow the directions instead of trying to find an alternate route that I'm not supposed to be on.

         The rewards for staying on the path that God designed for me have begun to unfold, almost on a daily level. In trusting in Him we have begun to see great strides and changes in my health, but also in the health of our marriage. Going through something as life altering as infertility can either make or break a relationship. I know for a fact that some of my hormonal outbursts on Skyler have pushed his buttons, but he never alters. He is always my rock- the one person in this world who I want to help me pick up the pieces when I feel shattered. Case and point- last weekend I was super hormonal and picked a stupid fight with Skyler about laundry and fish tanks. (I know they don't sound like they go together, but in this house they do!)  Like most disagreements, I wasn't really upset about laundry and fish tanks and at the end of it I ended up crying in Skyler's arms saying over and over again, "I'm scared."  Which sums up how we both feel: scared. Scared of the unknown, scared that we don't have control, scared that there might be something else wrong with me, scared that we could be parents one day, scared that we may never be parents, and scared that there may never be a answer.

         Whatever is meant to be will be, however. And no matter how scared we are or how many "what if's" come up, we are ready to tackle whatever is thrown at us. It's easier to tackle the unknown, though, when happy surprises come along: like a positive ovulation test- the first natural, non-medically induced test that has ever been positive for us! Those happy surprises are what keep us going and keep reminding us to stick to the roadmap.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

I will fight for you

             There tends to be a huge difference between hearing the phrase, “You’re not alone in this,” versus knowing you are not the only one in this world going through an infertility journey. A couple of weeks ago my mom recommended that I get the Kindle book Perseverance by Kristin Peck. It’s a very short read, but is an honest look at how hard it is to deal with infertility. In her autobiographical tale of her own infertility, Kristin talks about everything that women facing this journey go through; From those crazy old wives tales to IUI (inter uterine insemination) to IVF (in vitro fertilization) to adoption and surrogacy.  In reading this book I couldn’t help but put myself in Kristin’s shoes, especially since our first appointment with an infertility specialist is in a couple of weeks.
                With our appointment getting closer and closer each day I can’t help but think about what the doctor might say is the problem. We’re 90% sure that the issues are because of my own hormonal imbalance, but until we get there we don’t know what else could be hindering the process. Like I’ve said before, we were pretty sure that we would have to pay for all infertility treatments out of pocket, but when I got the call yesterday that we would definitely be paying for everything out of pocket, I felt defeated yet again. Like I told Skyler, it just feels like I try to be the healthiest version of me that I’ve ever been, but there always seems to be something that hinders the process.  If 1 in 8 couples are facing infertility at some level, why wouldn’t health insurance help support couples in some capacity? Like Kristin talked about in her book, she trained for a triathlon and was doing everything she could think of to be as healthy as possible. The same is true for me and so many other women I know going through infertility.

                After getting the news yesterday that we definitely have to pay for everything, I cried out to God to heal my heart. I then opened my Bible app on my phone and my daily verse came up, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent,” (Exodus 14:14). Talk about an eye opener! I do ask God for healing every day, but sometimes I forget that God already knows what is going on in my life. He is fighting for me even when I can’t fight for myself. He knows exactly what I need and I don’t even need to ask for anything.