Expecting our Little Brother in November!

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's not Always Easy

Okay, I PROMISE I will eventually write about my Mother's Day and the wonderful revealing of our awesome news, but this is what is calling me today.

When I posted on Facebook about the pregnancy, I felt almost as if I was deceiving people--everyone is so surprised--it is so sudden and unexpected--but for me it doesn't feel like that.

For me it feels like I climbed a mountain and now I'm on my way back down--it feel like something hard earned, something that was built with time and experience--it didn't surprise ME, it wasn't sudden for ME, it was a long hard journey.

So I have to write a little bit about our quest to get pregnant. I will try not to be too long-winded.

James and I got married in October of 2006, and about six months later, in April 2007, we started trying to conceive. Like many people, we were under "high school health class illusion". Let me debunk some of these common myths right now.

"It only takes one"--FALSE. Your sperm count needs to be a MINIMUM of 20 million per ML. Furthermore, those 20 million need to be SWIMMING (motile), NORMAL (morphology), and FAST. If your sperm count is much less than this, not only will it be difficult to get pregnant, but some of the common interventions, (clomid, intrauterine insemination), might not be an option for you.

"You can get pregnant at any time during your cycle, even when you have your period"--FALSE. There is only about 3 days (5-7 at the most) that you can get pregnant during your cycle. If you don't have sex during one of those 3 days, your chances are very low.

"You can get pregnant even if your partner pulls out"--TRUE and FALSE. If the vast majority of the ejaculation is not getting deposited at the cervix, it is true that your chances are not very good. However, most men don't have the self-control to pull out completely before ejaculating, so it is POSSIBLE (though highly unlikely) for some of the small amount of semen to cause pregnancy.

There are also a number of misconceptions surrounding trying to conceive in general. You always hear the stories about people who "it only took once", or "we got it on the first try", looking at their virile husbands adoringly. You don't really hear the stories of people (like us) who it took years, literally, to have one child.

So to get back to the main story, when James and I starting trying to conceive, we were under the illusions of high school health class and the societal skew, and we thought it would happen right away.

But we didn't "get it on the first try", or on the second, or the third. To be honest, our (my) reasons for wanting a baby at that point were not good ones. I was scared of starting a career--I wanted a way out. So after about 3-4 months of trying with no luck, I sort of thought to myself: "I need to face myself, maybe this is "happening for a reason", etc . . . so in July or so, we decided to wait a while before we started trying again.

And things got better for us, and I got a job, and in January of 2008, we started "trying again". Now, I knew more, I was charting my cycles using Fertility Friend. And we tried. And my cycles looked normal, I appeared to be ovulating. And we tried. And we tried.

During the summer, James got a semen analysis done. Guess what? He IS amazing and verile. Remember our previous sperm count conversation? Need at least 20 million per ML? He had 160 million per ML. And 60% of them were motile. He was off the charts virile in almost every way. And so we tried some more. But still we weren't getting pregnant.

Finally, in July of 2008, I got my first positive pregnant test. We were in France at the time, visiting Ophelie--I couldn't believe it. We were pregnant. But you know what? Two days later my period came.

Some time after this, I started to undergo testing with my doctor. We did an Heterosalpingram--ie, we poured dye into my uterus to see if my tubes were open and my uterus looked normal--and it did.

I started working as a Middle School teacher in the fall, and we decided to put any more testing on hold for a little while so I could focus on school. And still we tried, but now it had been over a year--our hearts didn't hold the hope it once did--trying felt different. I stopped thinking as much about it--but still my heart ached.

In January 2009, we started to see a specialist, a Reproductive Endocrinologist. He tested me for everything--tested my hormones on cycle day 2 and on cycle day 21, everything looked normal.

Somewhere in here we went to visit Lauren in Glasgow, I guess in February, and I again had a chemical pregnancy (early miscarriage). At the time, I was too distracted with work and the trip--I hadn't charted that month, but my period was a week late and on the trip I was emotional and exhausted. When my period finally came, it seemed like a relief from the endless PMS. It wasn't until later, looking back at my charts, what was normal for me that I realized what must have happened. And still we tried.

But at least now we had our doctor--he finally recommended a Laparoscropy--surgery into my stomach, where he could look at my uterus with a little camera.

So in April, on my week break from school, we reported to the surgery center, and I had to take off my wedding ring for the first time since James had put it on my finger several years before. I trembled in my gown, and was led into a room where I promptly remember nothing else until waking up.

And finally we had a diagnosis. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome--cysts on my ovaries that were preventing my eggs from fully developing before they ovulated. The symptoms of this are excessive body hair, irregular cycles, and being slightly overweight. I had none of them, save the body hair, ;-) My hormones (the blood tests we'd done earlier) didn't show it either. But pictures don't lie, and I could see them for myself--my ovaries looked swollen and weird--I wasn't able to see the individual eggs like on a normal ovary.

There were a number of options, but some would cost us. In CT, only diagnosis of infertility is covered, not treatment. If we went down certain avenues, we would end up paying for every doctors visit, every test, every treatment, out of pocket. So we first went with trying the medication Glumetza, a form of Metformin. It is a diabetes medication that is used, off-label, to reduce the effects of polycystic ovarian sydrome. So, in the middle of May, we started taking it.

And in the middle of June, I got my second positive pregnancy test. We were both worried and excited, and I wanted to get my levels tested to make sure everything looked okay--especially progesterone, which is responsible for keeping your period away. But I got the test on Friday, and we wouldn't be able to go for our first appointment until Tuesday, after my period was already due. I was worried, so I started to use progesterone cream. See, in all this time I'd done a lot of my own research and studying, and had a lot of resources now at my disposal.

So when they did finally test me, everything looked good! I was really pregnant, and by then I'd even missed my period. James and I started to think that this might really be happening.

But the next week rolled around and our beta numbers (HCG) which measure the pregnancy hormone, were not going up fast enough. They did an ultrasound at 6 weeks, and found only a sac. We did a confirmation one the next week--still just a sac--it was a blighted ovum.

Again I found myself taking off my rings in the surgery center, for a dilation and cerclage--taking out the "false pregnancy". Again I shook--this time even more violently, in my robe. Again I woke up, this time crying, unable to dress myself, for being overwhelmed.

And now, suddenly, it was July--and we had to wait before we tried again. But time passed, and we did try again, and with the medication. I had yet another suspected chemical pregnancy in October--by now I was used to it--recognized the symptoms . . . and still we tried.

Finally in November, I came across a number of articles pointing out the parallels between polycystic ovarian syndrome, diabetes and gluten intolerance. I had suspected for a long time that my relationship with gluten was too close for comfort--I craved it in a way I craved no other food. But I never thought I could give it up. But the stars aligned and after attending the Thanksgiving Yan Xin Qigong Event, I suddenly decided. I was being gluten free. And it was that easy.

And within a day or two my cravings stopped. And after a week I realized that my normally bloated, round, stomach had magically flattened. And I started to think there might be something to this. And that very first cycle, I got my third positive pregnancy test--but again, my period came the next day--chemical pregnancy number four. And the very next cycle, wouldn't you know it, I got pregnant again. But the pregnancy test was so light that I couldn't help but doubt, and--chemical pregnancy number five.

And in February--again, the very next cycle, I got pregnant again. And I was lucky because I already had an appt with my doctor on the very day that I got the positive test. And we tested my hormones right away--and I INSISTED on progesterone suppositories. My progesterone always measured on the low end of normal but something was clearly wrong as my period seemed determined to come regardless of me being pregnant.

And I started taking the suppositories, and I kept taking the Glumetza, and I kept being gluten free.

And that is this babies' story. So it's not always easy for everyone. Me and this baby fought for each other, tooth and nail, and it was a well-earned battle to announce it on Facebook. It wasn't a surprise, or sudden, or shocking. I earned this.


Alyssa said...

Thank you so much for sharing your whole story. I'll admit, before I went through my m/c, when I saw someone announce a pregnancy I immediately assumed it was "easy" and "quick". Now I know the pain and frustration some (a lot) of couples go through. We never know the whole story, and I wish people would be more open about it so others can have a better idea of what it might take to get pregnant (and stay that way).

I admire your strength through this whole ordeal. If there's one person I know that completely deserves to have a happy & healthy pregnancy and baby, it's you!

DNineMoons said...

I'm so sorry it's been so hard for you my dearest cousin :( - I couldn't be happier for you now that you finally have what you've wanted for so long. It's been a long road, but you're finally there!! I can't wait to meet this little baby :).

justadrienne said...

Thanks cousin. :-)

justadrienne said...

And Alyssa. :-)

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