Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I'm Hurting, But I'M HERE

Who wouldn't love a weekend away at a golf resort, especially when there's a massage and facial on the books? Anyone right? Well, anyone who isn't the slightest bit affected by being the ONLY COUPLE at the whole resort without a family in toe. I swear I am not exaggerating.

I really do feel bad for whining. My husband took the time to turn one of his golf tournaments into a nice weekend for us. Knowing this, my MIL even bought me a birthday gift card to their spa to use while there. I had all these grand plans to lay out at the pool and bake in the sun and just BE. We promptly realized upon our arrival that the pool was completely overtaken by swim diapers and cannonballs, but managed to squeeze into the last two chairs available and eek out an hour of sun.

Saturday it rained for most of the day. While hubby golfed, I busied myself walking around indoors and sitting in their Serenity Room reading my book, The Fault in Our Stars.

Great read by the way, if you can find inspiration from a young woman's cancer/love story, albeit a fictional definitely moved me! Honestly, if I could have spent the entire weekend in this room it probably would have been less painful emotionally.

Leaving our hotel room there would be a happy little family holding hands and crossing our path. Stepping off of the elevator, another with a packed stroller would enter. Rounding the corner, there was a pregnant woman resting in a chair and rubbing her belly. Approaching the hostess stand for dinner there was another family of four, including a two year old with bright blonde hair and the world's cutest pigtails. Even choosing to eat dinner in the bar area, I still somehow managed to have another pregnant lady and her friends situated right behind me talking about the pregnancy, "Have you decided on a name? Ohhhh, that is so sweet!" Just the tip of the iceberg, but you get it.

We decided to venture out on Saturday afternoon to get away. I think my husband was quite aware I was having a hard time with the resort experience. We decided to go see a funny movie, The Heat, and grab some lunch first. It's been a loooong time since we've been to the mall, but this is where the movie was. We decided to grab a bite at California Pizza Kitchen beforehand. I really wish I would have taken a picture, because the scenery was just soooo over the top. There were literally NINE strollers parked in a row outside the entrance. Yes, I counted. It was like a baby biker bar for goodness' sake! Even my husband (who never makes these sort of comments) says, "Ok, this is just ridiculous." He was right. It truly was. Sage word of advice for anyone planning to spend the weekend in the Barton Creek area of Austin, TX....FAMILIES ONLY! And also, malls probably aren't the safest place to frequent either if you don't want to get run over by a stroller.

The Heat was hilarious luckily, which saved the day momentarily before returning back to Romper Room Resort. Thank God (I mean my MIL) for my massage and facial the next day too. I was in desperate need of pampering by that time. You know when you get so frustrated you just want to throw your hands in the air and say to heck with it? That is what I did. Evidence below...

Chocolate, sugar, and dairy; All whipped into a deliciously fertility UNfriendly dish. A girl can only take so many dietary restrictions before she caves! Somehow, Reese's peanut butter cheesecake just makes it all better.

I realize there are MUCH bigger problems in the world than the fact that we are having issues starting a family of course. I also realize that I was at a golf resort experiencing the emotional side effects of infertility, and not in a homeless shelter somewhere. I am continuously giving thanks for ALL that we do have, and especially that we have each other. There just always seems to be a "special" place in my heart reserved for this intense sadness and emptiness that never goes away. I can't help feeling hurt when our dream of a family is still hanging in the balance.

I woke up Monday feeling completely defeated and extremely depressed, so much so that I finally made the long overdue call to a therapist who specializes in infertility. This wasn't an easy call to make, but I know I can't do this alone anymore. My husband is amazing YES, but it also shouldn't lie solely on his shoulders to be my sounding board and support me(us) through the ups and downs on this crazy rollercoaster. My first apt. is next Monday, and I feel better already knowing I have someone professional to talk to about all of these unwanted emotions.

No doubt I am hurting, but I AM STILL HERE. I am still trying to make it through this hard time with some semblence of who I once was. I am trying to minimize the scars that will be left behind once this infertility journey has ended, God willing. I am certainly not giving up by any stretch of the imagination.

This weekend made me think of a sermon that Joel Osteen gave recently called "Stay in the Game."
He brings up an example of a professional basket ball player that attends the big game with a broken hand and bruised ribs. A reporter asks the basketball player, "How are you feeling today?" The basketball player responds, "It's a little painful, but I'd rather be in the game in pain than watching from the sidelines."

Pastor Osteen reminds us that God will give us beauty for our ashes. We all have wounds, but we can't allow it to sideline us. We need to shake off the self-pity and discouragement and get back in the game. Sometimes in life, we have to play in pain. God is in the business of helping those who keep getting back up, even when times are tough.  It's easy to stay faithful and determined when things go our way, but it's when we can still show up during difficult times that God really takes notice. Our attitude should be, "I may be hurting, but I'M STILL HERE." I really LOVE this sermon...

That message is going to be forefront in my mind as I work through each emotional obstacle that comes my way. I will keep it in my back pocket for the times I feel defeated. No doubt there will be more, but I will not just complain and do nothing. I may be bruised and bandaged, but I am doing my very best to continue showing up and doing something about it. I will not be sidelined, and I will not give up.  I'm hurting, but I'M HERE.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gratitude (In Pics)

Things I'm grateful for right now...

1) Another fabulous acu session- I've switched my sessions to Monday from now on, which will be a great start to each week. 

2) +OPK- After 24 OPK's taken over the course of 11 days, I finally got my + immediately following acu yesterday. We've been babydancing every other day leading up to ovulation, day of + OPK and through 2 days past + OPK. Even though it's annoyingly late as usual (CD22/23), I am just so thankful I'm O'ing at all. I really feel like the break from meds this month has given my body a chance to re-balance naturally and I'm back to "my normal". Our bases are covered, and now all we do is wait.

Soooo tired of peeing on sticks, but alas...
Not so sure if FF is correct with a CD22 ovulation. +OPK at noon on CD21.
EWCM still there on CD23 at 9 AM. BD'ed twice within 48 hrs. of +OPK. :)

3) Funny license plates- Speaking of BD...It just so happened I was behind this truck and it made me laugh out loud! This guy must be quite the stud to put "BD WOLF" on his license plate, am I right? Please let me know if there is another meaning other than the one I'm thinking mind is clearly stuck in babydancing land. Ha!

4) Yellow roses in bloom-We have three bushes growing outside which have been blooming all summer long. I also bought some long stems for my kitchen last Friday, and they are opening beautifully.

These are the only flowers I don't kill in my yard apparently.
I heart Costco. 2 dozen roses for only $12.99!

5) MTHFR Support- After lollygagging on this for quite some time, I finally went out and bought an additional bioavailable folate supplement. The folate in my prenatal is also bioavailable and I eat tons of folate rich foods, but my acu felt it was important to cover my bases further with some additional supplementation in this area due to my MTHFR. I found this one for only $20. The last thing I want to mess around with is my ability to convert folate when I'm TTC and once I become pregnant, so I feel better taking it for insurance purposes.

2000 mcg methylfolate should do the trick.

6) Kale salads- I've been hooked on these lately. I use kale, romaine, Boar's Head everroast chicken breast, shredded parmesan, dried cranberries, sliced almonds and Newman's Own honey mustard.


7) Snuggle cats and fat cats- The black and white one (Triscuit) is my little sidekick and the fat one (Jazzy) is the most adorable cat on the planet. She is kind of skiddish though, so I've been secretly bribing her with licks of Ben & Jerry's peanut butter banana greek frozen yogurt from time to time. It seems to be working, because she's warming up to me and letting me pet her more....only took 8 years.

She is so lady-like covering the important parts.

8) Another room de-browned- Yep, I've been painting again, and it's all Houzz's fault for inspiring me! When I started hunting for colors, never did I think I'd end up with light chartreuse, zebra print towels, and magenta orchids in our master bathroom, but that is what ended up coming together. I was going for BRIGHT and FUN and think I achieved it. I'm so tired of decorating for "resale value" and so I just went for it with something totally different.

New artwork/reminder over Le Toilette

Also did new curtains, pillows and lamps in our living room. This is only the 2nd room to get curtains in our house, and what a difference it makes. Hubby also steam cleaned in here. Nothing better than new decor and clean carpets!


9) Pampering and relaxation time- Getting my hair did on Thursday, which is grossly overdue. Then, Friday-Sunday we have a weekend staycation in Austin planned. Hubby is signed up for a golf tournament at Barton Creek Resort, so we're making a weekend out of it. I got a very generous birthday gift certificate from my MIL last month, so I will be putting it to good use with a massage and a facial on Sunday before returning home. I cannot wait!!!

Barton Creek (in hill country just outside Austin, TX)

10) My AMAZING husband- For all that he does, day in and day out. Every single time I wake up next to him, I am thankful to God that we found each other. He is the peanut butter to my jelly, and I simply could not have been blessed with a better soul mate.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I'm in love...

with my new acu! Today's appointment with my new practitioner went above and beyond what I ever expected, and I am SO happy I made the switch.

Talk about an initial consult! My session ended up lasting 2 hrs. 45 minutes in total, and it included a treatment for the last 45 min I think? I lost track of time while on the table, because I was in such a relaxed state I fell asleep. Ahhhh, I love that feeling of leaving so relaxed that you don't even want to turn the radio on during the ride home, because your whole body and soul are just so at peace you don't want to interrupt the feeling.

I know I was whining about compiling my paperwork yesterday and all the feelings brought to the surface. My apologies for the off color day, but I am happily back on my positivity horse now. So glad I brought all the paperwork too. Clearly it didn't get stuffed into a file somewhere, and it was obvious that my new acu, Sarai (pronounced Sarah) had actually taken the time to read through it.

What impressed me most was that she actually knew about reproductive immunology and knew exactly what ANA, MTHFR, Anti-Cardiolipin Antibodies, and Protein S deficiency are. In fact, I mentioned nothing of any concerns over a possible "immunological issue," but she is the one who looked at my test results and says, "It seems you may have a bit of an immunological issue going on here." Well hallelujah! It was a breath of fresh air that she knew enough about endocrinology and immunology to make the connection and bring this point up in the first place. Remember, my RE still doesn't agree that I might have any immunological response significantly related to the blood clotting issues, so it's just nice to have someone else notice the same signs I'm seeing right off the bat and bring it up as a plausible factor in our infertility....or more specifically implantation failure.

Sarai let me know that my treatments will be aimed at addressing immunological concerns as well. It is important to point out though, that while she and I both agree there is something amiss with regards to a possible immunological cause in my case, neither of us is convinced that the ever changing and "experimental" protocols being used by many RI's  out there are necessarily fool proof either. There are plenty of women who open the big fat expensive can of worms that is reproductive immunology and continue to miscarry or have failed IVF's, just as there are also women who swear by it. It's just still somewhat "iffy" at the end of the day in many people's opinions, which is why it's so controversial.  I have no doubt that this field will be growing by leaps and bounds in the coming years, and I really look forward to all that will come to light with more double blind peer reviewed research.

Anyhoo, Praise Jesus for an acu who is educated on the topic and realizes it could be playing a role. We'll work a lot on balancing my kidney energy, since that is where the immune system is rooted, and I am severely kidney yang deficient anyways. I've known I'm yang deficient for some time, but again, it was nice to receive validation that at least I have been working in the right direction with my previous acu treatments. We will continue using that as part of the foundation of our treatments together, as well as working to improve blood deficiency, spleen and liver Qi...and whatever else pops up along the way that needs addressing.

The most surprising part of the session was how much time she spent talking about the emotional aspects of this journey, and how important it is to keep my heart and mind in the right place.
We talked about how I am really working on staying in a place of peace and contentment and how I've recently felt like I was finally receiving that peace that was lost for so long. No, it's not perfect 24/7 (yesterday I wasn't feeling 100% content), but overall it's an improvement. I'm OK with where we're at, even if it's not exactly where we'd like to be.

In the coming days, I'm going to be working even more on redirecting fear and worry by rephrasing any negative comments I'm tempted to make. So, for example:

Instead of saying, "I am just worried my lining won't be thick enough for an embryo to implant."
I'll say, "It will be so awesome if my lining grows to the perfect thickness this cycle."

Instead of saying, "What if this cycle doesn't work? Then what?"
I'll say, "It will be such a blessing when we finally have success and can bring home a healthy happy baby."

Don't poo poo on it folks. I do wholeheartedly agree that small changes like that to our vocabulary can make a huge difference, not only in mood, but also in the type of energy you attract back into your life. So, for now I'm going to work on catching myself when I begin making statements driven by fear or worry and simply rephrase them into positive statements. It's a habit like anything else really.

What a great reminder!

I pretty much have everything else down as far as my acu's recommendations: anti-inflammatory diet and clean eating, daily exercise and restful sleep, high quality supplements, balancing energy with acu, and listening to my intuition. I am instructed, however, to replace my regular Prenatal DHA with a more potent fish oil of at least 2000 mg/day. This will help to reduce inflammation even further. Getting back to my daily quiet time is also a must. I need to work a little more on the emotional and spiritual aspects during this process, and that is what I intend to do.

Best part about the new acu? It is literally a 1 minute drive from my RE. That means that day of transfer it will be easy breezy to swing by for a pre-transfer session. So, now let me go ahead and practice some of my positivity statements...

I am hopeful that I will regain balance and that my body will be better able to focus energy where it's needed most. I will have a more robust lining, improved blood flow, and a more peaceful state of mind. I know that no matter the outcome of this natural cycle, I will be content. I'm confident I am doing all that I can to give us the best chance of conception possible. If we do need to do an FET following this cycle, I know my mind, body, and spirit will be in the very best place possible as we embark on our next steps. Ultimately, God is in control and our time will come.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Case of the Grumpy Cat Mondays

I knew my stupendous mood wouldn't last forever, but one month isn't too shabby I suppose.  I am ever more convinced that I have seasonal affective disorder but don't want to sound like some sorta hypochondriac. Perhaps it's just sheer coincidence that it's crappy with a 100% chance of sucktasticness outside today? Seriously, what up sunshine?!

I was perfectly fine this morning. Woke up all bright eyed and bushy tailed. Man, I've been sleeping soooooo good lately, and it's been such a rare treat! However, once I began filling out the stack of paperwork required for my new acupuncturist (who I see tomorrow for the first time) I quickly felt my heart sinking back down into the pit of despair I've been avoiding so freakishly well.

Oh Grumpy Cat...sometimes you are the only one who gets it!

Don't get me wrong, I'm super excited to be seeing a new acupuncturist in prep for our upcoming FET next month (and also while we try naturally this month on our "break"). I just wasn't prepared for the forced re-examination of failures; 20 pages in total, consisting of health history, medical history, women's fertility history, and electronic fertility charts. It's impossible to compile all of that and not be affected by the overwhelming vastness of it all, especially since I know it's a mere sliver of what my real medical fertility file looks like.

It's just crazy to think how much we've already put into this. 2 years ago exactly I sought help for the first time from my OB/GYN and was handed a script for Clomid. 1 year ago, I mourned the passing of what should have been the due date for our first baby 7/7/2012, which instead miscarried. I should actually be 8 months pregnant right now as well, and would have been due 8/12/2013 with pregnancy #2 if it hadn't been ectopic.

As if that's not depressing enough, it's been a whopping 4 years + 7 months since I stopped using birth control. No, we weren't trying with a well-timed concerted effort during that first 2.5 years before seeking help, but we weren't not trying either. At least we learned early on that "just relaxing" clearly didn't work for us. I've been through one OB, two RE's, a clinical nutritionist, and am about to see my 3rd acupuncturist tomorrow. Let's not forget the hematologist, the genetic counselor, the clinical geneticist, and the rheumatologist I've seen on the side. I have read every book, charted my cycles religiously, done fertility yoga, meditated for hours on end, and spent enough $$ on OPK's, supplements, acupuncture, herbs, and organic food to feed a small nation in Africa. And yes, I've also gone on vacation and done plenty of "relaxing" too.

I know there are families out there who have tried longer than we have. I never lose sight of others' struggles or ALL of the blessings we do have in our lives.  I am just so freaking ready for this journey to be over.  I really feel in my heart that God would not let us go through all that we have and not give us the desires of our hearts eventually. What happened to "God helps those who help themselves?" Who cares about the $22K we've already spent on medical expenses out-of-pocket in this first half of 2013 alone. What about our sanity?

Honestly, I want a happy ending more for my husband than I even do for myself anymore. He's about to begin his MBA next month, and it won't be easy. It would just be the biggest blessing in the entire world if we became pregnant this month or next and he could focus on school without having the joyous side project of our fertility treatments...and working full time on top of it all. His job offers zero fertility coverage and zero tuition reimbursement as well, so there's that. I am continually impressed by his ability to juggle everything and foot the bill for it all, and still find ways to treat us as a couple.

Since giving up my fitness career, I've admittedly felt pretty helpless and lost at times. I'm actually going to start substitute teaching once the new school year begins again. We aren't starving by any means, but even if it only pays for groceries anything extra helps. I haven't subbed since 2004-2005, before I became a full time teacher back in Orlando. The thought of going back to teaching middle school on a full time basis right now is about the last thing on earth I want to do, so I'll just start with subbing.

Modeling is a definite no go for me right now and so is personal training, since they aren't exactly going to optimize my fertility. Acting jobs are so few and far between, and it's impossible to block out dates weeks in advance while doing fertility treatments. I can't commit to dates that far out during treatment cycles, and I'm over the whole cattle call/rejection cycle of the industry anyways. Plus, with subbing I'll still be able to keep my Friday volunteer shift at LIVESTRONG, which is also important to me.

Until then, I'm focusing my energy on getting my mind and body ready for what we hope to be our miracle FET next month. During my fresh IVF cycle (with acupuncture) my lining was 9.8 mm, and during my FET lining (without acupuncture) was only 8.1 mm. No telling if it was due to the different meds protocols, but hopefully going back to acu will give me a much needed boost in that area.

We've decided that as long as my lining looks promising for the FET, we will be transferring 2 embryos this time around. Dr. Vaughn says it will raise our chances from 35% transferring one embryo to around 50% transferring two. At this point, I do not put much stock in statistics, but it does make sense the chances are a little higher, so hopefully we'll win the coin toss this time.

We are of course trying on our own this month while the IVF lab is closed. God willing, I will actually ovulate and do so in a normal time frame! CD13 is today. I'm already peeing on OPK's and waiting for the elusive smiley to make an appearance. I'm probably at least a week away from that knowing my body. Whatever is meant to be will be, but it sure would be nice if a miracle happened for us this time around and saved us from continuing to travel this bumpy road. Right now, I just want to see that happy face. Bring it Mr. Smiley!

Hopefully the new acu will be fantastico and help me break out of this temporary drop in mood. Writing this blog has already helped me feel a little better, so thanks for reading if you made it this far. I appreciate having you all as my sounding board. :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Not Pregnant? Redecorate & Laugh a Little!

Sorry for the long absence peeps. My name is Emily, and I have an addiction to Houzz. Yes, I have literally spent hundreds of hours on there the past few weeks drooling over decorating ideas. If you haven't checked it out, just a warning; It is awesome, but it is addictive!

More on that later, but first let me get our FET cycle update out of the way... We are not pregnant. I knew in my heart a couple days before the blood test that it just didn't work. I don't care what any doctor says...the "boob-o-meter" is one of the most accurate tools ever to assess pregnancy or lack thereof.  I held out a tiny sliver of hope until the end anyway, hoping that maybe I was one of the few women who end up pregnant with zero pregnancy symptoms, but alas I was not.

Want to know something crazy though? I didn't even cry. Not once. In fact, I did not even let it ruin my mood. I've been in a great mood and have not cried in about 3 weeks, and yes I am proud of that new personal record.

When our first IVF cycle failed in April, I was admittedly a complete disaster. What was so different this time around? Why was I handling it so well? It totally baffled me.

-Maybe it's because I didn't test at home this time, driving myself crazy seeing negatives?
-Maybe since the FET requires less fertility meds, I was less emotional?
-Maybe it's because my husband was in town this time?
-Maybe I love my husband too much to make him see me cry so damn much?
-Maybe spending less time on infertility forums & visiting Dr. Google has been good for me?
-Maybe I'm totally exhausted from 2 years of this crap and am starting not to care anymore?
-Maybe I just don't have anymore energy to give to worry, defeat and sadness.
-Maybe I am finally receiving something I've prayed for... inner peace no matter the outcome.

I think it might be combination of all these things. I'd like to believe that it's not just sheer exhaustion or an "F-it!" attitude, and that I'm actually finding some real peace with our situation. I've been praying a lot about being content, no matter where I'm at in life.  Feeling contentment is new to me. I don't know exactly where it came from, or how long it will last, but for now I'm just staying grateful for the fact that I truly am content, even amidst infertility and continued defeat. All I know is that it feels pretty good to get bad news and not feel like it's the absolute end of the world.  I only hope that I can continue to feel this way and that the severe depression I've felt at other times during this journey doesn't ever return. A girl can dream right?

Speaking of dreaming, all the hours I logged into Houzz inspired me to transform our master bedroom into "serenity". Consider it a consolation prize to myself for not being pregnant. Hard labor is very therapeutic for me, and I just love seeing the finished product. Plus, our entire home is freaking beige, and I couldn't take it anymore!

Before: Beige, brown, and boring
After: Soft, romantic, and serene

A couple other views, because I am obsessed with before & afters...

Full disclosure: This room is larger in person than it appears on camera, and painting this monster totally kicked my ass.  Gotta give props to the hubs too for being open to the color (and hanging the curtain rods); You know you've married the right man when he allows you to paint the master bedroom purple! My back is cursing me loudly right now, but it was so worth it. I was going for a romantic, spa-like vibe and think I achieved it. Also re-did our upstairs bathroom in an effort to banish more beige...

Before: More beige and white. Yawn.
After: Pale blue mosaic pattern

I love printing pics we took on vacay and using the
frame matting to write the date & place.

I'm hoping that creating more peaceful spaces with also help me stay in a peaceful place more often. Laughter certainly won't hurt either.  A friend sent me this video and I just had to share it with you all. Oh My Gravy! If you need a good laugh, pleeeeease make sure you watch this...

Must watch! YouTube video by Krissy Chula

Seriously THE FUNNIEST commentary I have seen in a long time! Thank you Ms. Chula for making me smile :) We can all use a good laugh, and this one hit the spot for me!

Thank you also to everyone who has continued supporting and loving us in this journey. It means to world to receive comments from those routing for us. We still have 4 frozen embryos, and we aren't waving the white flag by any means. We will be on a forced break for July (due to a scheduled closing for our IVF lab's maintenance) but we'll be going forward with another FET in August. Until then, we'll just be doing what we do best...enjoying each other and finding things that make us smile to pass the time.