Monthly Archives: July 2009

He Says… The Cup

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com/urine_cup.jpgSo I have here a cup.

Which I must return to Boston IVF filled with a “specimen”…

Of my sperm.

 

Sigh.

He Says… Drink it Raw

http://www.fosterdairy.com/milking/images/milking/udder02.jpg

First nipple shot of This Place is Now a Home!

A few weeks ago Kate wrote about changing her (our) diet from non/low-fat dairy to include more full-fat dairy. The studies she had read about a possible link between low-fat dairy and infertility surprised me. Certainly this would be more well-known if it is true! I grew up with a low-fat diet, as did most people I know. Who in their right mind would drink full fat dairy? All that excess fat and calories are just unnecessary, right?

As most of you know, I am a videographer. Last month I started work as director of photography on a documentary about small farmers and food legislation with two local film producers. One of the big focuses of our documentary is the production and distribution of raw milk. I had never really heard of raw milk prior to this project (which, in case you haven’t heard of it either, is unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk… basically milk straight from the cow). Apparently the USDA and FDA try their hardest to keep this milk out of the hands of consumers. There are a few states where raw milk is legal to sell, but in most states it is illegal, or at least highly regulated, making it very difficult to obtain. Apparently in NYC there are Speakeasy-type establishments where people are illegally obtaining raw milk!

What I am finding, though, through working on this project are the HUGE health benefits of raw milk. Many milk drinkers who had digestion problems or lactose-intolerance switched to raw milk and were cured, drug-free (yes, apparently what most people think of as lactose-intolerance can often be more of pasteurization intolerance, but since no one can get their hands on raw milk, many don’t realize that). People have had serious allergies to all kinds of different things that have been cured by a diet of raw milk. We heard about an Amish community, too, that was experiencing widespread infertility problems, and were advised to switch to unpasteurized dairy. Lo and behold, many of the women became fertile as a result of the switch! So, is this some miracle drug? I don’t know… maybe. I have been drinking some as we have gone from farm to farm, and I have not turned into Superman yet, but there are some pretty remarkable findings. And what I am also finding is how important dairy fat is to us humans, especially women. WE NEED FAT. And it doesn’t mean we’ll be fat; quite the opposite, in fact. So Kate and I are slowly and reluctantly working our way UP the milk-fat chain. It feels strange and completely counter-intuitive… but it tastes so good!

(I DID bring Kate (illegally, actually) a ½ gallon of raw milk last week. A couple glasses and bowls of cereal did not immediately jump start her baby-maker, but it can’t hurt, right?)

She Says… Getting the Workup (Part 1)

I barely slept on Thursday night thinking about the uncomfortableness of the HSG and trying to imagine what it might feel like to have dye injected into my cervix. Friday morning I woke up ready to get the infertility workup over with.

I was not allowed to eat after 8pm because one of the tests they were doing was an insulin test, so I was totally hangry a little hungry by the time they took me in for my ultrasound. The ultrasound was ordered to get a good look at my ovaries to see a) if they were filled with cysts, which would confirm a diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and b) to check on how many viable eggs I have left to see what we’re workin’ with, provided everything else checks out. I told Benjamin he could come in for the ultrasound. It was my first one, and it felt a little exciting, even though I knew there wasn’t going to be a baby on the screen :)  So, the lab tech tells me to get undressed from the waist down and wrap a sheet around my legs. I hopped up on the seat and she puts my feet in the stirrups and asks me to scoot down to the end. I was expecting her just to rub the jelly on my tummy and watch the screen, so I was a little surprised about the nakedness/position. That’s when she said it: “So, have you ever had a vaginal ultrasound before?”. Ummm, a vaginal ultrasound? What about the regular kind that you see on tv when people are pregnant? Apparently those wouldn’t show much since there’s no baby in there yet, so they had to insert a light saber lubed up magic wand inside me to get a better angle. All in all it wasn’t too bad. She sort of pressed my insides around trying to get various pictures. Didn’t really hurt, just felt like pressure. I couldn’t see the screen, so I don’t know what she found.

After the surprise vaginal ultrasound I was taken in for bloodwork. Now, I saw how many tests were ordered for me, so I knew they were going to take a lot of blood. I’ve never been great with needles, but I’ve gotten a bit tougher in the last few years. I’ve gotten tougher — but I still tend to pass out. So I always warn the nurses. They put me in a big recliner so I wouldn’t fall on the floor if I fainted. I was very glad I had mentioned it when I saw just how many vials of blood they were going to fill! Yikes. Benjamin, always the helpful and caring husband whipped out his iPhone and said, “If you pass out, I’m totally taking a picture of you for the blog”. Thanks, honey. Thankfully he didn’t need to make good on that promise; I handled the bloodwork like a champ.

Then came the moment of truth. I went back out to the front desk and let her know I also needed to have an HSG. She looked at me quizzically and said, “But we don’t do HSG’s on Fridays!”. Ummm, ooops. I misunderstood the nurse when she walked me through all the procedures. Apparently you have to go in for a blood pregnancy test before the HSG… they want to be certain you’re not pregnant before flooding your system with dye. So she said I was done for the day, and someone would call me to let me know the results of the pregnancy test that afternoon. If it’s negative, I should call and schedule my HSG for next week or the week after. And three weeks after that I can have a debrief with Dr. P to go over the results from all the tests and create a plan of attack.

It was (negative — duh!), and so now I’m playing the waiting game. Again. I’ll call tomorrow and schedule the HSG, and then stress about it all over again. Fun fun fun!

She Says… Wheels are in Motion

Meeting Dr. P (our reproductive endocrinologist (RI) / infertility specialist) this morning was fantastic. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew the first meeting was an “initial consultation”, so we probably weren’t going to do any tests or reach any conclusions; still, they told me it would take about an hour, so I came prepared with temperature charts, medical records and questions. I wanted to be able to give him any information that might help him get to the bottom of my little problem.

From the very first moment, I liked him. He cracked a few well-timed jokes, but cut right to the chase. He started every topic by asking me what I already knew, which I appreciated. And he used diagrams and metaphors to explain everything that would be done, in sequence, so I will know what to expect when that time comes. He proceeded like he is sure we are going to get me ovulating and preggo soon, without invasive treatment. Yay for a confident and capable doctor! I felt like I was in great hands.

My gynecologist had previously done some hormone testing, and Dr. P spent quite awhile going over those results with me. While everything was “normal”, like my gynecologist had said, there were some subtle relationships between the numbers that actually gave some insight into possible reasons for my oligo- or anovulation (lack of ovulation). That, my friends, is the advantage of a specialist. Further tests are needed to rule out a few more things, though.

So, the doc ordered up a rull round of fertility tests:
- bloodwork (and lots of it)
– glucose/insulin
– genetic testing (cystic fibrosis carrier testing)
– HSG (hysterosalpingogram, or X-ray of the uterus and fallopian tubes after they are injected with dye)
– ultrasound
– semen analysis for the hubs (so he doesn’t feel left out!)

Ever the overachiever, I asked how soon we could get going. Turns out, we can start as early as tomorrow morning. So that’s what we’re going to do! Unfortunately, due to my unquenchable thirst for Googling, I’ve read some scary things about the HSG test. I’ve read that the dye really hurts, and the whole procedure is a lot more uncomfortable than the doctors and nurses let on. So I’m not looking forward to that. And, as someone who still has to tell the nurse that I tend to pass out when I get blood taken, I’m not really looking forward to that either. Nevertheless, I am pretty excited to get all these tests taken care of tomorrow morning and get the results!

Anyone ever had any of the above? How was the HSG?

She Says… A Jumble of Emotions

Our appointment with the infertility specialist is tomorrow morning. I’m feeling:

- Hopeful that he will be able to identify why I am not ovulating/having my period and fix it, quick!
Anxious that maybe it won’t be that quick after all.
Intimidated by how much I don’t know about my body.
Prepared — I have a food log, temperature charts, hormone test results, important period-related dates for the last 5 months, and relatively detailed medical history to take with me. Not to mention a list of questions a mile long!
Scared by the idea that we even have to set foot in a place with “IVF” in the name.
Frustrated that I couldn’t just have my period like a “normal” person after going off birth control.
Excited to get this whole thing over with and to get preggers!
Confident that I have made healthy choices thus far (even if my exercise schedule got a little too intense), and that as a young, healthy woman, there is a very good chance I’ll be able to conceive naturally very soon.

Wish us luck…

She Says… Yoga = Pregnant?

Quick little update: I went to my first “real” yoga class on Tuesday night (in place of the cardio kickboxing class that I normally do on Tuesday nights!). I’m trying out this cute little studio just a few blocks from my house. Couldn’t be more convenient; I like the idea of strolling down the street, yoga mat in hand.

First thought: It’s hot in here. The room is kept at 80 degrees, and it was a relatively humid day. At first it felt slimy and gross, and then I succumbed to being sweaty and it felt lovely. I was all noodley by the end of class.

Second thought: Man, there are A LOT of pregnant women here! Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many pregnant people in one place at one time. And no, it wasn’t a prenatal yoga class :) 

So, I’ m unsure about the causality, but I’m pretty certain there’s a correlation.

Pregnant people do a lot of yoga.
A lot of people who do yoga are pregnant.
Ergo, yoga = pregnant?

Yeah, yeah, the logic’s not quite there. But maybe some of the baby love in the yoga studio will rub off on me?

She Says… Calling it Quits

Don’t worry, I’m not calling it quits on making a baby or trying to figure out my ovulation issues; rather, I have come to the conclusion that I may have to say goodbye to my strenuous workout schedule. As I have spoken to various people (doctors, friends and family alike) about the fact that I’m not ovulating, the response I have heard the most is, “Maybe you’re working out too much”.

Now, if you knew me a few short years ago, you would have laughed at this being an issue — I can literally count on one hand the number of times I went to the gym during college. I was relatively active, but never athletic, or even especially interested in fitness. When I married Benjamin, however, I took up hobbies like bicycling and hitting the gym for group exercise classes, and I walk everywhere instead of driving (since we only have one car). Since then I have completed two century rides on my bike (100 miles in one day), dropped nearly 15 pounds, and gotten into a pretty vigorous weekly workout schedule. Recently I’ve been doing an average of about an 1 hour (to a 1 1/2 hours) of super sweaty cardio 5 days a week, and maybe 2 hours of strength training throughout the week. I run, take cardio kickboxing and spinning class, do yoga/pilates and lift weights. And here I thought I was doing everything right.

Turns out that prolonged strenuous exercise produces endorphins, which are powerful hormone-like substances produced in the brain that function as the body’s own natural painkillers, and can produce feelings of euphoria (runners high, anyone?). Endorphins block estrogen, and can result in a reduced estrogen level, especially in women who have recently lost weight due to exercise (umm, me). So, it’s possible that my super-healthy habits are actually reducing the level of estrogen in my body to the point of anovulation. Yikes. From that description, you would think I was an Olympic athlete or competitive body builder. Believe me, I’m not. I had heard that women athletes can sometimes experience amenorrhea due to their lifestyles, but I always thought it was because they got too thin, not because they were exercising too much. My Body Mass Index (BMI) is well within the normal range, so I hadn’t really considered that my diet and exercise schedule could be causing these issues.

While most people would be celebrating if their doctor told them to stop exercising so much, it worries me a little. I’m happy to put on a few pounds if it means I’ll see that little plus sign, but I’m not willing to let my current fitness level deteriorate completely just because it might possibly maybe kind of may have an effect on my ovulation. There are still a million things that could be affecting my ovulation that I haven’t even thought of. But, as with the full-fat dairy experiment, if there’s anything I can do on my own (naturally!) to get those cycles going, I’m willing to do it.

So this week my workouts will be strictly dog-walking. Oh, and I’m going to try out a yoga studio that’s a few blocks away from my house. I am not going to weigh myself or count calories or stress — I’m just going to trust that my body knows what it needs. And maybe it needs me to chill out a little.

She Says… The “I” Word

So, as I said yesterday, I have been playing phone tag with my doctor for the last few days. She told me to call her if I didn’t have a period in six weeks following the Provera Challenge. Since I am charting my temperatures every morning, I pretty much knew that I hadn’t ovulated, so I wasn’t surprised at all when I didn’t get my period. And now it’s the 5th week, so I decided to give her a call a few days early so I could get the appointment on my calendar. The early bird gets the worm (or the convenient appointment slot), right?

I was kind of surprised when, instead of setting up an appointment, she said, “I think the next step is for you to see an infertility specialist”. Uh oh. She said the “I” word. My stomach got tight. Wasn’t she the one telling me that anovulation following going off birth control was really very normal? Wasn’t she the one saying that ovulation can be easily restarted with Provera/Clomid? Wasn’t she the one who said my hormone levels and everything else were perfectly normal (“beautiful“, even?!) and that I was the picture of health? Why, then, was she seemingly washing her hands of me? Am I a lost cause?

No, of course not. She said she was happy to work with me, but that I might have a higher rate of success with an infertility specialist. But still, the idea of calling this “infertility” and needing to see a specialist hit me kind of hard. Frankly, I’m scared. I’m scared that maybe there is something wrong with me that can’t necessarily be fixed by a quick round of drugs and well-timed sex. I’m scared that I have just opened the door to something that will change Benjamin’s and my happy little life forever. I’m also a little scared that I’ll become one of those bitter women who are completely obsessed with getting pregnant and can’t talk about/do/think about anything else. I already have a blog about getting pregnant, for cryin’ out loud (although, to be fair, I thought the blog would be more about pregnancy and our family, and less about getting pregnant…)!

The reality is, though, that I’m only 26 years old. I’m in good health. I’ve never had any serious medical issues to speak of. There’s really no reason to believe that I won’t be able to get pregnant at some point. Not to mention that plenty of women have beautiful, healthy, wonderful babies after going to see infertility specialists. So, nothing to worry about, right?

Anyone out there seen one?

She Says… Balancing Act

Phew! Last night was a busy one. I forced myself to go to the gym after a long, busy day at work (trying to get back into my normal routine after our long weekend vacay). We were out of milk, so I stopped at the grocery store to grab that and a few other things on my way home. My walk home from the grocery store, usually about 12 minutes, took almost 20 because I was weighed down by purse, gym bag and a gallon of milk (2%!). Once I got home I was greeted by our labradoodle, Schnitzel, wagging his tail because he knew he was about to get a walk. Normally Benjamin walks Schnitzel while I make dinner, but Benjamin was shooting in Connecticut last night, so I was doing double-duty. I threw the milk in the fridge and headed back out with the dog (or should I say, was practically dragged down the street while Schnitzel ran ahead of me like a sled-dog).

On our walk I remembered I had to pick up our weekly delivery of vegetables (we are doing a community supported agriculture program (CSA), which is when you partner with a local farm and pay them at the beginning of the season, and they give you a portion of their fresh, local produce once a week). Once I picked up the box, though, I realized how difficult it was to carry the cardboard box full of veggies (maybe 10 lbs.?) and walk the dog (who weighs about 3/4 as much as I do). I was twisting and cursing and grunting, and I even rushed the dog through doing his business because I was having trouble balancing the box and the leash and the bag of poop.

And it got me thinking — how will I ever walk the dog and carry a baby? Or walk the dog and drive (is that what you say? drive?) a stroller? And the led me to other things, like… How do you bring groceries in with a baby in a car seat? Do you leave them in the house and go back out to the car for groceries? Or do you leave them in the carseat while you run in and out of the house with grocery bags? My guess is that you figure these things out pretty quickly. Because you have to. It’s a balancing act, I’m sure.

 

P.S. For all of our adoring fans (ha!) who want to know what happened in Richmond… nothing happened :)  We had a lovely evening with our friends, and when we went to bed I re-took my temp. I knew the reading would be different since it was late at night, but I figured if it had dropped back down, that was a pretty clear sign that the spike was an aberration. That it was, my friends. 97.6.

No matter, I’m playing phone tag with the doc now to start on the drugs next steps.

He Says… She’s Hot!

I haven’t blogged in awhile (I seem to start many posts that way), and I am going to be keeping this brief, but if you read Kate’s post from today you will see that she is having a possibly important temperature “spike”, so despite the fact that we are visiting friends in Richmond, and sleeping in their bedroom, I am going to try to “take advantage of the situation”.

That is what a babymaking couple is to do, right?  Plus she just had a couple glasses of wine!