Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Surgery Update

Got good news today following surgery. Dr. S found one band that *may* be scarring – he sent it to pathology for testing as he wasn't totally sure. He also found another area of possible retained "products of conception" and cleared that. My tubes are open. Hopefully I will get a decent period in a couple weeks. Then next month we will do an ultrasound series to make sure I am ovulating and to check the growth of my endometrial lining. If everything looks good, hopefully we will be cleared to TTC again sometime in November. Thank you ladies so much for your thoughts and prayers. I am humbled to have so many amazing women praying specifically for me – especially since I don't even know most of you in person!

I am feeling good now, just very tired. Not much pain at all. When I got transferred back to outpatient, I found out that they gave me Tramadol in the recovery room – the same pain killer they gave my cat following his surgery this summer! I told my husband that if the pain got too bad, maybe I could dig into the cat's left over stash. Ha ha!

Isn't it crazy to look at surgery pictures? In my untrained eye, looking at my pictures, I would say there was only one where everything looked good and smooth. In all the other pictures it looks like there is all sorts of tissue out of place! Of course Dr. S explained all the pictures to my husband but he can't remember what anything was, except for the one that shows the suspicious band of tissue. Guess I'll have to wait for my post-op.

Also, I have a good Catholic story for you ladies. We were down in GA this weekend and our priest friend wasn't able to come over to give me anointing. So on Sunday my husband was insisting that we ask the local priest to anoint me after mass. I was chickening out since it wasn't my priest and my parents and in-laws were at mass with us and would have to wait through it. But he and my mother-in-law insisted. They got to work before mass tracking down someone to ask for the anointing. When they got back to the pew, my mil told me that she added my name to the prayers for the sick to be announced during the Prayers of the Faithful. I was a bit embarrassed, especially having my parents there and also knowing that we probably knew some people outside of my family that would be at mass. By the time the petition came around, I had forgotten about it and my mind was wandering. Then I heard my name and looked over to see my husband and mil snickering. I thought they were laughing because the lector had butchered both my first and last name. But once the prayers were over and before the music started, the music minister (who put my name on the list) got on the mic and said, "There was one mistake in the Prayers of the Faithful. (Insert my name) should have been listed under prayers for the sick." I looked over at my husband and asked, "Did they say my name under prayers for those who have died?" Sure enough they did! I was hoping that wasn't a foreshadowing, but here I am alive and well! And we did end up knowing some people who were at mass – hopefully they didn't freak out thinking I had died!

So things are looking up and hopefully my cycles will get back to normal soon. I have learned so much over the past two weeks and have decided that I will never again have a D&C unless it is medically necessary. It really is crazy how that one procedure can ruin a woman's fertility. It is really not worth the risk. If you are interested in learning more about Asherman's Syndrome, click here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

More Prayers Needed – Different Reason

Here I am begging for prayers again! I am going to have a surgery on Tuesday with Dr. S. This is a long post – feel free to skim.

Most of you know that I had my third miscarriage in July. Because I was just about to leave on a big family vacation to the beach, I opted to have a D&C. This was my first time having a D&C and it may have been the worst decision I have ever made. Everything seemed to be going fine. I had signs of ovulation about a month later, and about two weeks after that, when I would expect my period, I had two days of very light spotting. This was accompanied by pelvic pain and the need to pee a lot! I kept telling my husband that I felt like I had fluid swirling around in my lower abdomen. It was really uncomfortable – even to walk. I thought that I must have had an anovulatory cycle accompanied by a bladder infection based on the symptoms. So, the following month I took my temperatures a few times to confirm that I actually ovulated. I had signs of ovulation and the temps corresponded. But last week, I was out of town and got hit by all the same symptoms. I was helping lead a day and a half workshop and kept having to run out of the room to hit the bathroom and
I was popping ibuprofen the whole time! I knew then that something was wrong.

So, I consulted Dr. Google. I kept typing in my symptoms and a website for Asherman's Syndrome popped up every time. No, no, no, I thought – I went onto all the regular message boards, but was not finding anyone describing what I was going through. So, I finally clicked on the Asherman's website, went to their list of symptoms, and realized that they were describing what I was going through. Asherman's Syndrome is scar tissue in your uterus that is most often caused by an overly aggressive D&C. The potential side effects are devastating – diminishment or complete loss of a period, permanent infertility, miscarriages, high risk pregnancies (placenta previa, incompetent cervix, and worse!). It can also cause endo because if your cervix or uterus are scarred shut, and you are still building an endometrial lining, it cannot be passed from the body during a period – instead it flows back into your abdominal cavity. I started googling Asherman's and every website said the same thing, "rare disorder, rare disorder, rare disorder." I feel like I am being totally broken down. Everything that we have done up to this point means nothing if I have a serious case.

As with endo, there are varying stages of Ashermans. I am lucky to have figured this out early, as many women take years before they realize what is going on and by then the disease has caused permanent damage. Treatment would be by hysteroscopy. You then have to have repeat diagnostic hysteroscopies or HSGs to determine if scar tissue has reformed. If it continues to form, you continue to have surgeries. I will also likely have to go through hormone therapy to try to build up my endometrial lining so that it is thick enough to carry a baby. Whether it will grow back and how much it will grow back will be determined by how bad the D&C damage is. I am hoping that since I am seeing spotting and I really feel like I have fluid in my abdomen during my times of spotting, that I still have a pretty good endometrial lining.

It has been an emotional past couple of days since I came to this realization. I am feeling alternately overwhelmed, defeated, and hopeful. I feel like God is telling me to have Hope. As most of you know, we decided to name our third baby Hope. The name had come to me sometime between my 2nd and 3rd miscarriages. I always thought I would have a third miscarriage – I don't really credit this to intuition as much as to the fact that any woman who had had two m/c's in a row and has not been given any real explanation for it will anticipate the same result with her next pregnancy. When I got pregnant, I really couldn't imagine that I was going to carry to term, I didn't want to talk about the pregnancy, even with my husband. This Sunday, we were saying a rosary and at the very beginning, we were praying for faith, hope, and love. I started pondering Hope and wondering why God had placed that name on my heart for my third baby when I knew I was going to miscarry. Not only did I miscarry, but losing that baby is causing me this horrible disease. Then I realized that THIS was the reason God led me to that name. That He does not want me to despair about what might happen, but to have Hope. So I am trying to ponder that right now when I am feeling down.

Monday night I emailed Dr. S to tell him I was suspecting Asherman's. We were scheduled to see him on Thursday to review a slew of blood tests I had after my m/c, but I knew that this would completely change the conversation. First thing the next morning, I got a call from the surgery scheduler in his office who told me that Dr. S had received my message and wanted to know when the date of my last period was. As I was opening up my chart on the computer, she explained that Dr S had a surgery cancellation on Tuesday morning and that if I began my "period" on the 15th or after, that I could come in for surgery. Well, I look at my chart, and my spotting and pain began on the 15th! I had imagined that it would be at least December before I could have surgery due to my travel schedule and Dr. S's surgery schedule. That would have meant two more months of pain, period backflow, and scar tissue growth. My husband was supposed to be in New York Monday and coming home Tuesday, but he was able to rearrange his schedule so that he can be with me on Tuesday! I have been a bit concerned about having Dr. S do my surgery because although he is a talented surgeon, he is not an Asherman's specialist. But I feel like God has been leading us in this direction and providing many signs that this is the way for us to go. This morning I got one more sign. I had emailed my friend to ask for her prayers for Tuesday. She wrote back to assure me of her prayers and said that about a month ago she had called her church to ask that they say Mass for us this Tuesday, the Feast of the Archangels. Our first two babies were named Michael and Gabriel, so this feast day means a lot to us. I had not even made the connection and to know that a mass will be said for us that morning is amazing! Also, we are at "home" in Georgia this weekend visiting family and we are asking our good friend who is a priest to anoint me. So, please pray that my surgery will go well on Tuesday and that my fertility will be completely restored. Surgery is 8:00 am and I should be able to come home that day. Recovery should be much easier than the lap. Thank you to everyone in advance for all of your support and prayers!!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Faith Like a Child

About a year ago, my father-in-law was telling me about the poem Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson which he had read often growing up. I recently read it for the first time, and although I didn’t do a close read, one line stuck out to me. “All which I took from thee I did but take, Not for thy harms, But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms.” I have often found myself reflecting on that statement and recently added it to my homepage. Last weekend I mentioned it to my husband and he told me how it reflected God calling us to come to Him as children.

That got me thinking. We all know the bible verses about having faith like a child. What could I learn from children that could apply to the IF journey? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Persistence: Kids are famous for their persistence. We have all been talking with a friend and watched their child tugging at their shirt saying, “Mommy, mommy, mommy” until their mother stopped the conversation to attend to them. No doubt we did the same thing to our parents. Kids know how to get the attention of their parents. They don’t realize that it may seem rude to ask for attention over and over again. We may feel like we have already put this before God enough and that He knows what we seek without us even telling Him, but God wants us to continue to ask Him for the desires of our heart, not to bury them deep down and hope He gets back to us someday with the answer we want. Think of a child that wants a puppy. The child will think of any excuse to bring up the topic of the puppy. Anytime it comes to his mind, he will blurt it out. We can do the same.
2. Fearlessness: When we are children, we are often more daring than we are as adults. I know that I loved jumping off the high dive at the pool when I was young, but these days that would totally freak me out. And you can forget about me jumping feet first into cold water! As we age and mature, we come to understand more about the risks we face and we sometimes let fears rule us. I know that I have had to learn how to face some of my fears in this journey. I was petrified of all GYNs and had to force myself to make my first appointment just a few months before we started TTC. Now I can bet that I’ll get a physical at almost every doctor’s appointment and I’ve had to do countless ultrasounds and other procedures. Surgeries, drugs, side effects, injections, lifestyle changes. We’ve all had to face something that we were scared of and things that made us uncomfortable in this process, but we are willing to do these things to get our desired end result. We know that it will be worth any sacrifice we make today.
3. Trust: As children, we trusted that our needs would be met. We would have full tummies and warm beds. We couldn’t go out and get a job to pay for these needs – we had to rely on others to provide them for us. In the IF journey we have to learn to let go and trust that God will take care of us. If we are meant to have biological children, we will. If we are meant to adopt, we will. If we are meant for a childless life, God will help us to accept that. And throughout this whole process, He is showering us with the grace we need to handle anything that may come our way.
4. Being Out of Control: Children are often ruled by their parents. They don’t have cars. They can’t stay home by themselves. If their parents say, “we are going to the store,” the child must go. If the parent says, “no, you can’t go play at your friend’s house right now,” the child must obey. So too, we have learned that we don’t really have control over our fertility. Although we try to do everything we can to help it along, ultimately we can only do so much. We have to give in to being out of control. Sometimes our parents had to tell us no. We didn’t always understand why – we still may not understand why our parents said no to us at times. But those no’s have shaped us into who we are today, as much as the yes’ we received. Those no’s have helped make it easier for us to bear the “no” we are hearing from God right now. Hopefully, one day we will find that God wasn’t really saying no to us. He was really saying “not yet.” Only time will tell.
5. Innocence: One of the first things I think of when reading “have faith like a child” is innocence. Although we are now adults and have learned things we wish we never had to know, we still maintain innocence. Compared to God’s infinite knowledge, our knowledge is so finite. We cannot presume to understand His ways. I have often thought that I will never understand miscarriage. Even when I get to heaven, I feel like I won’t understand why God would allow this to happen. Or why God would allow the child abuser or teenager to become pregnant and not the caring adults who have the means and the love to support a child for life. But that is thinking on my terms, using my knowledge and understanding. How innocent those thoughts must seem to God.

A few final things we can learn from children, maybe God doesn’t mind if we continually ask Him, “Are we there yet?” and “Why, why, why, why, why?” And don’t forget to ask your Mother!

“He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.’” Matthew 18: 2-4
“And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.’ Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.” Mark 10:13-16

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.’" Mark 10:27
Reflection Questions
1. What does the quote from Hound of Heaven say to me?
2. Which points listed above do I identify with most? Which can I learn from the most?
3. What other things can I learn from children?

Like A Child - Jars of Clay
Dear God, surround me as I speak, the bridges that I walk across are weak
Frustrations fill the void that I can't solely bear
Dear God, don't let me fall apart, you've held me close to you
I have turned away and searched for answers I can't understand

They say that I can move the mountains
And send them crashing into the sea
They say that I can walk on water
If I would follow and believe with faith like a child

Sometimes, when I feel miles away and my eyes can't see your face
I wonder if I've grown to lose the recklessness I walked in light of you

They say that love can heal the broken
They say that hope can make you see
They say that faith can find a Savior
If you would follow and believe with faith like a child

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What I Didn’t Expect

I never thought it would be so hard to get pregnant.

I never thought it would be so hard to stay pregnant.

I never thought it would take this long. I'd turn 30 without having any children. I'd worry about how few kids we might have instead of how many we might have. I'd feel so out of control. I would be this far in the process and still feel like there is so much more to explore. This would consume so much of my time and energy.

I never thought my first doctor would refer me to an IVF clinic. I would see four doctor's and still no take home baby. I'd be in tears leaving a doctor's appointment. I would drive so far to see a doctor. I would feel like I knew more than my doctor. My doctor would hug me. My doctor would pray with me. I would want my doctor to prescribe injections. I'd get so used to disrobing for strangers.

I never thought I could talk about my miscarriages so nonchalantly. I would associate Thanksgiving, Tax Day, and 4th of July with losing babies. I would be told I had to have three miscarriages in a row before any testing could be done. I would actually have three in a row. My babies would meet God before I would. You could work with someone five days a week and have no idea that they have had three miscarriages since you've known them. I never thought I was so good at keeping secrets.

I never thought I would learn an NFP method other than sympto-thermal. A 70-year old widow would teach me Creighton. Words like uterus, ovary, and cervix would slip so effortlessly off my tongue. I would talk so openly about my cycles and fertility issues with women I had just met. I'd call PPVI to order a perforated condom. We'd rent a room near a hospital for the sole purpose of using a perforated condom.

I never thought having blood draws would seem like no big deal. I'd be on a first name basis with the lab ladies. I'd actually like the "mean" blood lab lady. The ladies at the lab would pray for me. They did female ultrasounds in places other than on the stomach. My ultrasound tech would hug me. I'd get kicked out of an ultrasound room because my bladder wasn't full enough.

I never thought my insurance file would be so thick. My co-pays for blood labs would be so low they wouldn't even bother to bill me. I'd have "female" surgery. We'd have to drive through snow and ice storms to make it to my pre-op appointments and surgery. I'd do a bowel prep in a hotel room. I'd wonder how many other women had done bowel preps at that same hotel.

I never thought I'd know what HCG, PCOS, CrMS, D&C, MTHFR, LUFS, and PAI-1 stood for. My hormones were messed up. My cycles weren't really regular. I had endo. So many seemingly unrelated things affect fertility. I'd be on so many medications and supplements. I would have gone so long without trying acupuncture.

I never thought this was something my husband and I would face in our marriage. There would be a section of my bookshelf dedicated to infertility. Sex would sometimes feel like a chore. We'd adopt a cat to fulfill our desire to nurture something. I'd still be working for my company six years later. My sister would face the same struggles.

I never thought I'd have a negative pregnancy test. I'd have so many negative pregnancy tests. I would go to the grocery store and buy a pregnancy test and tampons at the same time. A positive pregnancy test would fill me with so many conflicting emotions. My prayers after getting a positive pregnancy test would change from "Thank you God" to "Please help us get through this God."

I never thought I'd have a blog. I never thought the blog I never thought I would have would be about infertility. I would share some of my inmost thoughts and feelings on the internet. I would meet in person anyone I met on the internet. This post would get so long.

I never thought I'd sulk at baptisms, baby showers, and kid's birthday parties. The sight of pregnant women would make we want to cry, throw up, or cuss. I'd be jealous when other people announced a pregnancy. Seeing friend's Facebook pages would make me feel so sad. I would dread Mother's Day. I would feel like bursting out crying in public with no apparent provocation. I'd dwell so much on other people's comments. When I heard kids singing, "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage" I would want to yell out, "Yeah right!"

I never thought I would cry during a homily. Seeing young families at church would upset me. Prayer would be so hard. My prayers would go "unanswered" for so long. God would withhold this gift from us. I'd question God's plan. It would be so hard to place this in God's hands.

I never thought it would be this hard to get pregnant.

"Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure. And part from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches." II Corinthians 11:24-28 (IF doesn't sound so bad now, does it??)

"We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…" II Corinthians 4:8-9

"Grace and favor you granted me, and your providence has preserved my spirit. Yet these things you have hidden in your heart; I know that they are your purpose." Job 10:12-13

Reflection Questions

  1. What did you not expect on this journey?
  2. How has the Lord helped you handle unexpected situations?
  3. How have you grown in faithfulness and trust in God?

An Irish Prayer

May God give you...
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.