Leap of Days, Leap of Faith

Leap Year: So we got gifted an extra day this year. The 29th. I didn’t really need or want an extra day, in February of all months, but I knew we were getting it anyway.

Somehow, the 29th arrived– and I also happen to be 1 DPO. I don’t know how I managed to ovulate this month–  I was shocked myself. As I mention in my About page, I have anovulatory cycles. My follies grow, but I often don’t get a strong enough LH surge to either register on any OPKs or to strongly release the egg on my own. Hence the Femara (Letrozole) and the trigger shots (Ovidrel).

And so certainly– this month– with my 30 mm cyst on my good ovary– I assumed I wouldn’t ovulate. And yet, on CD 18 this month– this Leap Month— I got a peak reading on my Clear Blue Fertility Monitor. A peak despite my anovulatory problems and my cyst. Wow.

Sometimes when you’re feeling the most down (like my last post) you get something to lift you back up.

Now, I know that there’s a low probability this month (and every month), particularly in light of the not using any fertility meds– and also because we were only able to BD on surge day (as in, not yesterday– although I get the feeling O day is often too late anyway). But to have a completely natural cycle produce an ovulation is that little boost of faith I need when things get tough.

Plus, the countdown is on. No, not that one, not the TWW. The countdown to see a new RE to get a second opinion. I want my labs and body looked at by a second pair of eyes because I want to know if we are on the best course of action– if we are doing everything we can.  Call me Type A– I just like to feel more in control. So, 8 days. Eight days until March 8 when I see someone I will call Dr Unicorn. Maybe she can be something rare and special and just the fix I need. Maybe between Dr Unicorn and my leap year ovulation, I’ll see enough natural miracles to make me believe.

Call it a Leap of Faith.

Agony and Hope

I’m struggling today. I can’t say for sure why– maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t gotten a positive OPK, or the fact that my cyst has been hurting on and off. But I feel like it’s something deeper, a sensation in my stomach that I can’t quite reach. That I can’t quite put into words.

I get the feeling Lillian is headed off the island. I know, it’s weird, considering I just wrote that post a few days ago. It’s little things I notice, like how she isn’t talking to me as much. Which is fine. It makes sense. I guess I’d rather just…know. But she may not even know herself, for certain. (I am overly familiar with her cycles). It’s her right to not tell me, she doesn’t owe that to me.

I guess I’m afraid to be lonely again. Or, lonelier than I have been. I haven’t really told anyone about my IF outside of my husband and Lil. It just seems to private. I’m too guarded.

A while ago, I pictured how I’d announce the “good news” to my parents, to my friends…back when I thought we’d get pregnant like your average couple. I don’t feel ready to have a conversation with people about IF.

A lot of my friends are single, or at least unmarried, and kids aren’t quite on the precipice for them yet. So I feel weird trying to tell them I’m having a hard time– physically but especially emotionally– with something they don’t even think about, don’t even feel the need for yet. It feels strange to say: Hey, that thing you don’t think about right now? The thing your life is devoid of but you don’t miss? The thing that your life is happy and full without? I feel like I need it, but I can’t have it. 

I don’t know. Empathy is rare, because how can you have it when you don’t experience the pain? I don’t want to give my big-hearted friends the opportunity to say something disappointing. They would never do it on purpose, but lots of people just don’t know or don’t understand they’re being insensitive. I don’t want anything to come between us. And honestly, sometimes its just nice to be out with people who have NO IDEA and who won’t focus on it. I can kind of just take a breather and forget.

Mr Upside is…such an UPSIDER! Which is great really. I’m so glad I married him. But I know he doesn’t feel the same agony I do. He really truly believes it will work itself out and that we just need patience. Which is great. But sometimes I just wish he would hold my hand and tell me it’s okay to be a downer.

I wish I could see the other side. I wish I could somehow know…Like if someone omnipotent just told me: just wait. Just wait 8 months, just wait 6, just wait a year and you will have everything. If I KNEW, I could just be more patient. But I’m in this tunnel, in the middle, with no light on either end. No understanding of when– if ever– I will get out.

I know this is an upside blog. But sometimes I have a hard time getting there. This is one of those days. I wish my cyst would go away, but I can still feel its mean presence. I wish I knew I could do trigger shots without getting cysts after the fact. I can’t produce a strong enough O on my own, so I don’t know what else to do.

I obviously have hope. There’s a lot to be grateful for and a lot to hope for. But sometimes I’m tired. Agony and hope.

 

Gratitude for a Friendship

Most women I know, once they started trying, got knocked up fairly quickly. I’m happy for them, sure, but let’s be honest– my own struggles cloud over congratulatory feelings and I end up with more jealousy, grief, frustration and sadness over these announcements. I often have to unfollow people on Facebook, once they post their first “coming soon!” announcement, first baby bump photo, first joke about nausea or cravings– it’s too much for me. I’m thankful Facebook has an “unfollow” feature, so no one is the wiser that I’ve blocked their posts from view.

But I do have this one friend…we’ll call her Lillian. She’s been trying for less than a year, but it’s still been a while– and so far, no luck. It’s been a real challenge for her, much in the same way it’s been for me. And while I in no way would wish this struggle upon a friend…there’s still a big part of me that’s so thankful to have her in this journey with me.

Lillian’s husband is best friends with Mr Upside. They introduced us around 5 years ago, when each of us had been starting to date our partners. Lil and I hit it off right away. We grew a friendship that existed not only in conjunction with our respective romantic relationships, but one that grew to be its own unique entity. Our friendship became something that existed without our guys– that was built on something independent from it. But our relationships were still a big part. We got engaged within months of each other, got married within about 6 weeks of each other– and were both bridesmaids in each other’s weddings.

I know our husbands love that we have each other– that we make a perfect foursome for couple dates and trips– and that we can talk to each other about things on a very real level. It’s always been this way, but since our TTC journeys began– which quickly became TTC problems– a new layer of intimacy grew, one that comes with being a part of this struggle together.

Lillian is the only person I talk to about my infertility– outside of my husband of course. I’m still not ready to be more public about this. So having her is quite honestly a godsend. We’ve discussed everything from fertility indicators and the joys of daily temping to meds and hormones. We’ve compared notes on our blood work results, sent each other articles and tips and researched fertility nutrition plans together. I know her cycles, I know her O days, and she knows mine.

One thing that makes me appreciate her even more is the sense of humor she maintains. It’s what allows me to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situations too. But yet, when things go wrong, we can go to each other and know that what we are receiving is not just sympathy but true empathy.

The most recent time I got my period, I was away on business. When I woke up that morning to AF, I sent her an email, and with just a few emojis and she knew exactly what had happened. Within a few minutes, she had sent me a sweet note and a Venmo payment to get a drink at the airport, on her. I smiled in my hotel room, knowing that while I didnt have a pregnancy, I had a very true friend.

The upside here is that we both know our fertility struggles have given us a closer and more intimate relationship than we had had before. It may be one built from disappointments and frustrations, pain and occasional tears, but it’s real and honest and something we both find precious. It’s truly a beautiful thing. I’m so thankful for Lillian’s parallel journey through life, and I am blessed to have her support and humor to take with me on my path.

I’ve thought about what happens when one of us leaves the Island of Infertility. There’s a little fear there about where our friendship goes. But I also know that it can survive an early departure. I’ll always be thankful for the time when we could share our difficulties and dreams. And if it’s she who leaves before me, I will miss her camaraderie but will warmly wave goodbye, will gladly support her joy as she tests the waters on the other side. I will be ever grateful that I have been, if only for a little while, a little less lonely, and will cheer her on as she blazes a new trail, as she paves the way for me to one day, hopefully, join her.

The Results are in…..

Anxiously checked my phone this morning, waiting to hear back from my Dr about the previously mentioned semen analysis. We know we’ve been dealing with issues on my end (meds and shots currently on hold after nursing a giant grumpy cyst), but we held off on the male factor until now. I don’t really know why, part of it was just trying to tackle the problem we already knew we had and trying not to introduce another.

But of course the time comes when you gotta deal with whatever the reality is of what you are facing. And so I carried in the cup..

Around noon I went to grab lunch with my coworkers and it was great to take my mind off things. I left my phone in my purse and enjoyed time in the sun, sitting on the patio on a warm February, with people I enjoy. When I got back to the office– I saw my voicemail– results were in–

Drumroll…

NO MALE FACTOR!!!!!

Mr Upside has a great — they reiterated great— sperm count. They said there is a tiny red flag about his motility– it’s a teeny bit slower than ideal, but it’s not any issue with the sperm itself. They said his count is high enough it probably won’t make much of a difference. Bottom line? There is no male factor. “We can stop looking at your husband and look only at you.”

It may not be easy to hear the problem rests solely with me– but, I’ve got to shake my pride aside and look at the big picture. The big picture is: I can’t tell you how relieved I am that we are dealing with only female factor infertility. I’d rather be dealing with no infertility problems, obviously, but tackling 1 issue is a whole lot better than tackling 2 simultaneously.

That’s my upside of the day. Be grateful for the issues or problems you don’t have to deal with, whatever those may be. Be glad for the worries you won’t have to have. (And take that, grumpy cyst!)

Marriage is Sometimes Hilarious

Marriage is a beautiful thing. We’d been together for almost 5 years, and lived together for 3, by the time we tied the knot, so we’d already been through a lot of ups and downs together. We knew each other very, very well.

Planning a wedding is full of love and beauty and frustration and stress– you prepare for months and months for the big day (11 months, for me) and try to plan everything to a T. Inevitably, something will go wrong though. A few things went wrong for us; for example, my wedding dress bustle. I wore my mother’s wedding gown, but had it altered–my mother’s dress was VERY long, so I took length off, but of course wanted to keep some of the train. So the lovely gentlemen who tailored the dress to fit me added buttons and showed me how to create the bustle, for dancing after the ceremony. So immediately after we said our vows, my bridesmaids and parents helped me get my bustle up and ready for dancing. My husband and I were waiting to enter the reception for our first dance. We hear our names announced, walk through the door–

–and upon the first step, my husband stepped on the hem of my dress and ripped the bustle right off. 

I heard it rip but just carried on. What else could I do? So Mr Upside and I just shared our first dance while trying to avoid tripping all over the train of my dress. The picture above is from our wedding. We couldn’t help but get our shoes snagged on the train a couple of times. But what do you do when you’re in a bit of a pickle? You laugh it off and keep on going.

Later in the night, my friends had to use safety pins to try to hold my train up, each time to varying degrees of success. But those are memories I look back on and laugh, because it made my wedding beautiful and special and funny.

The same thing is true in our marriage. Some days things feel perfect, others…not so much. I didn’t think that two years in, we’d be dealing with infertility, but we are. You don’t get to choose your struggles.

We went into marriage thinking having a baby would go..the traditional route. Full of love, passion and– privacy. And yet, this morning, I had to take in a cup of Mr Upside’s you-know-what for analysis. I’m also out of town the rest of the weekend, so this is how we said goodbye– with a semen handoff. I chuckled as I carried it through our doctor’s facilities.

That’s one thing I forgot to write in my wedding vows: I love you and will one day happily carry a cup of your semen down the hallway of a medical facility.  

Infertility is serious business. But sometimes you’ve gotta laugh. Happy Thursday! Find your funny moment.

The numbers game (FSH, AMH)

So here’s something you may not read every day: I love statistics.

I studied stats in grad school, and I play with them just about every day in my day job (which, by the way, does not involve trying to conceive). I love that statistics is a field of math, but one in which there aren’t necessarily clear-cut answers. I love the stories the numbers tell, and I love that some can be up to interpretation. I love thinking about building models that can explain things, and picking apart studies that think they’ve explained things. It’s a tricky field. You’ve all probably heard that line…yes, you know the one: lies, damned lies, and statistics. But I prefer this one: It is easy to lie with statistics– but it is easier to lie without them. 

But I’m having a tough time with numbers now. When it’s your personal life, things are a bit different.

I got my recent lab results back, my CD 3 baseline, and I’m a bit perplexed. So here they are:

Estradiol: 35

FSH: 8

AMH: 2.2

My doc just emailed them with a note that says “labs in normal range!” At first I was relieved. But, as is my nature, I couldn’t just leave it at that. I’m a researcher at heart. So I googled…then googled some more. And the only thing I know for sure is that I’m confused.

Some information I see puts me squarely in the normal range. Some of the rest puts me borderline. And still, some more put me in the “low fertility” corner. And believe me, I have put in way too much time looking up information. I calculated a conversion of ng/mL to pmol/L to read more charts.

Anyway, my doctor’s note included the range of AMH which went from .176 to 11. From all I can tell, .176 is a terrible reading. So what gives?

As a 30 year old, I think my FSH and AMH are slightly borderline. Or maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re fine, after all. That’s the thing about the uncertainty of cut-offs and statistics. Creating cut-offs for things that are, by nature, continuous and linear, is a strange business. I think I want a second opinion. I’ve been seeing the same doctor for a year, and I love her– I really truly do. But sometimes I feel like I’m going to go crazy in my own mind and a third brain in the mix can’t hurt…can it? I’d rather know my options sooner rather than later, and I’d rather find out bad news now. I’d rather know that I should be pursuing something else, changing course, or moving quicker than I am.

If you can’t tell, I have a tendency to go down rabbit holes. Let’s hope I can climb back out of this one.

 

Downside: Cysts.

I didn’t set out today to write a negative post. After all, this is supposed to be an upside blog right?

But that’s the thing about infertility. It can be unpredictable. It can hit you, like a brick or an iron hurled at your chest, when you least expect it.

I went in for my baseline ultrasound. CD 3, no big deal. I’ve been here before. Except this time, my Dr’s face sank as she scooted over to my left ovary. There it was, unavoidable. Glaring at me through the screen. A giant cyst.

Getting your period is always a massive disappointment when you are TTC. But by day 3, I’d picked myself up and focused on how best to prepare for the coming weeks, for more pills and trigger shots, for going through my cycle diet, for filling my fridge with kale, sweet potato, soups & bananas, for telling my husband “it’s go time,” for wearing socks and eating pineapple core and practicing just about every old wives tale there is. Just in case it works. Because you never know: this might just have been our month.

But the month I envisioned simply isn’t going to happen: I have a 30 mm cyst on my left ovary, and all treatments for this cycle have to be canceled. So, now there’s nothing to do but sit and wait and hope the cyst goes away. It it doesn’t, I might need surgery to remove it.

I’d love to tell you that I handled the news with grace and aplomb. But the truth is I cried, while still in my stirrups. Poor Dr. W had to comfort me while I was bleeding and crying all over her exam table.

So much for best laid plans, right? But I’m in my 30s, so I should know: expect the unexpected. And just try to hang on.

 

Submitting it for Amateur Nester’s last Tuesday Link Up!

AmateurNester

 

Smell the Roses

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.

I know this “holiday” gets a pretty bad rap. And some of it may be deserved. But, at the very least, perhaps we can use this time to take a pause and appreciate the relationships all around us. These relationships don’t necessarily have to be romantic. They could be familial or platonic friendship, or perhaps the love you feel for your cat or dog (or bird, or lizard).

I know that for me, Valentine’s Day 2016 is one of my upsides. I always like to celebrate, not with a fancy dinner, but with cards, flowers, and maybe Thai food with my husband. Sure, it’s a silly holiday, and sure, it’s less meaningful than our anniversary, but I enjoy the way we can use the day to pause and appreciate each other.

But there’s another reason I’m thankful today, too.

See, a few weeks ago, I was in Dr W’s office for my trigger shot. Before she pulled down the top of my pants to stick a needle in my bum, she was looking at my chart. “Oh,” she said, her fingers scrolling across the paper and pen marks. “Looks like on Valentine’s Day you’ll either get your period or a positive test!”

She said this excitedly. I looked back at her like she had two heads. Seriously? I thought. The last thing I want is my period and all the disappointment that comes with it– on Valentine’s Day.

“I know what’s going through your head,” she said. “But just think– it could be the best Valentine’s Day ever!” Sweet Dr W. She is always an optimist.

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day and I’m not pregnant. So why is there an upside? Because my period came a few days early. It meant cutting the interminable and excruciating #2ww (two week wait) short. It meant not having to go through the last 2 days wondering if I’m pregnant, debating whether or not to take a test, and kicking myself when I break down and get a BFN. It meant that I found out two days BEFORE Valentine’s Day, which means that I did’t have to wake up on February 14th with the bad news. I had time to process it. I nursed my wounds for a couple of days. And right now, I’m not so upset.

So we got to make the most out of VDay 2016: I made Mr Upside breakfast, he got me beautiful roses, we went on a long, beautiful hike, we cuddled with our cat, and now he’s about to take me to dinner– where you better believe I’ll be drinking all the wine I want. 

So happy Valentine’s Day, wherever you are, and whatever you’re struggling with. Take a brief pause and smell your own roses. My wish for you is that this day grants you the ability to see your silver lining, just as it has let me.

Upside 1: Getting to Know You(r Body)

I don’t know about you, but I have always loved The King and I. To be honest, the first version I saw was starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-fat, not the classic with Julie Andrews. But it came out when I was young, and quickly led me to the classic. Here she is, pictured above, singing Getting to Know You.

Which leads me to my first upside of IF: getting to know your own body. I know, it sounds weird, that you wouldn’t “know” a body you’re been inhabiting for 20, 30, 40 years– but the truth is that most women just don’t totally understand their reproductive processes or recognize the signs of their fertile days.

A year and a half ago I would never have been able to explain to you acronyms like: CM, BFN, OPK, CP, POAS, EWCM– the list goes on and on! But it’s not just the lingo that matters. It’s what it all stands for. It’s the fact that your own body is an extremely precise, well-regulated (well, some more than others), complex machine of cyclical nature.

Chances are, you’ve been hearing all your life that you can get pregnant ANY time you have unprotected sex. Chances are when you were in your teen years or early 20s, you spent a fair amount of emotional energy making sure you never let that happen. And while it’s true that for some women, pregnancy can occur at varying days of the cycle, the fact remains that it is extremely rare and extremely difficult to get pregnant outside of a window of about 4 days a month. Believe me, I have tried.

There was something innately exciting about the first time I saw my ovaries on the “big screen” (aka, ultrasound). When I saw the follicles, when Dr W explained how their sizes shaped up. Just as there is something profound about being able to guess your date of ovulation based on just the signs your body gives you. After going through (an admittedly pathetic- thanks, Texas public ed) sex ed, after getting not just a college degree but a graduate one as well, after 11 years of being on the pill, and despite thinking I’m pretty in tune to my own health– the truth is I knew none of the signs of ovulation, nor did I know how to guess my peak fertility day. It may not be for the squeamish, but checking CM and CP for me is always an interesting and intimate experience. It’s my own body, so why should I be shy?

I have always considered myself a proud feminist. But my total lack of understanding of my reproductive system, until recent years, held me back from “getting” how cool and fascinating the female body really can be. I have nothing against the pill– it kept me happy and healthy and unpregnant for more than a decade (there’s some dark humor in here about not seeming to need its help after all). But it also just masked my body’s natural processes, it put blinders on me, and its artificial hormones distanced my mind from my body to the point where I really never thought about it. I truly believe that the mind-body connection is real, and how can you have one if you are ignoring one of the most interesting components of yourself?

I believe that I know myself better. I believe that, despite periodic anger, frustration, sadness, and fertility treatments, I recognize and understand how to take care of the body I’ve been given. I know how to love and nourish it. I know how to exercise it. And importantly, I know how to forgive it.

Sure, you can get to know your own body without experiencing infertility. But let’s be honest: who is a better expert than the people who have been trying, reading the signs, exploring their bodies, and getting to know their organs on the “big screen”- for years and years? So that’s my first upside: I never truly knew my own body until my journey with IF. But now, my body and I are very deeply connected.

meditation-277889_640

A Beginning

First things first: hello. Thank you for stopping by. I hope you are very well.

Second things second: This is a totally new venture for me. I have only had one blog prior to this, about 10 years ago, and I don’t really know how to craft one so personal. But I felt like I had to. I wanted to find an outlet for the seemingly endless process of fertility treatments and monthly disappointments.

When I first got the label “infertility” slapped to my medical chart, I took to the internet to find support. I found a lot of solace and comfort there. And sometimes even hope. Honestly, there were days when hearing other women’s stories through YouTube channels or personal blogs got me through the day. But what was missing was my own space to talk and describe my own journey.

So, I am joining the INfertility community. Sure, it’s a club no one wants to join- but I’m glad it exists.