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CD1 again

Back to 26 days. Incredibly sore breasts after ovulation. Irritability, anger, depression and terrible mood swings. It’s a huge step back for me. What is going on?
This morning, after seeing my temp drop, I was so discouraged and sad. I sobbed all over DH in a way that I rarely do. Why did we commit to be here for the next two years, in a place where there are no fertility treatments available? What will I do when my brother and sister (recently engaged, not to each other) have children before I do? Why aren’t we starting to move towards adoption a little more rigorously?
By the end of the morning, my disappointed has faded and I’m enjoying the relief of feeling like myself again instead of like an insane b*tch. I’m just feeling somewhat sad and lost. I’m trying to remember that there were never any guarantees that life would be perfect – but I still thought it would be and am having a hard time dealing with the loss of one of my dreams. Faith means continuing to live well in the midst of crap like this, I suppose.

CD 13 today and I expect I’m about to ovulate. We’ve been doing VERY well-scheduled BD with Pre-Seed and lots of great CM. In my last post I was just at the end of my cycle and AF came shortly after. I was somewhat hopeful for the December cycle (the one where, if I had gotten pregnant, I would have known by Christmas). But I wasn’t too devastated when it didn’t happen, since I was on holiday in Kenya (the most relaxing holiday I’ve ever had!). There was one pretty silly thing that happened there though: we were holidaying with friends who have two kids; the woman (I’ll call her Mary) used to be a close friend but we hadn’t seen each other for years. She was using the calendar method (with observation of cervical mucus) to AVOID conception – and lo and behold, she became pregnant in December! I did the calculations and our cycles started on the same date. Not only that, but she used one of MY pregnancy tests (I offered it to her) and got two fat lines within seconds. Finally, she was trying to figure out how she had gotten pregnant and asked me about it, saying she thought it was impossible to get pregnant after having sex three whole days before ovulation! So I had to do a little fertility education. Sigh…

In cycle news: Over the last three to four months, my cycles have slowly been getting longer. As I’ve said in earlier posts, since we arrived in this country in February, I had gone from 27-day cycles to 24- and 25-day cycles – a clear sign of excess heat which is not good when you have endo. A few months ago (actually I guess it’s at least six months now), I started taking Vitex (500 mg capsule 1x/day) along with my regular load of supplements (PregVit, fish oil, and vitamin E throughout cycle, EPO, spirulina and bladderwrack before ovulation, B6 during LP). The next few cycles were 26 days. At first ovulation would come a couple of days later but the cycle length would stay the same (shorter LP); then ovulation stabilized around day 12/13 and LP at 13/14 days. And now my latest cycle was 29 days long! I haven’t had such a long cycle for years! I was quite excited about it (and needless to say, thought I might be pregnant). Now I’m trying to take comfort in having a “normal” length cycle, since that is a good sign that the endo isn’t progressing too much. I’m not sure if it’s related to the Vitex or the B6 (which I also started within the last 6 months), but I’ve also had less irritability and less sore breasts during the last few months. This month, I’m on a new package of EPO and have been having excellent quality CM. So, everything is looking better than it has in a while. We shall see… I’ve read conflicting testimonials about Vitex but I think it is really helping to normalize my cycles that seemed to have been knocked off kilter just after I moved here. In TCM terms, that means it’s helping clear excess heat, even though it is a warming herb. Go figure.

Recently I’ve been more open with friends about my infertility struggles, and last week I even included a mention of infertility in the newsletter we periodically send to family and church. Overall I’ve been very touched by people’s warm and caring responses – even one friend who wrote to say she was pregnant did so in a very sweet and caring way. I am convinced that for me, at this time, telling people is the right thing to do. However, there is one person whose response has really bothered me – that’s right, the friend who got pregnant over Christmas vacation. I’m trying to decide whether I need to write her an e-mail telling her how much her behaviour has been bothering me. We don’t live in the same country and won’t for a while – but we will likely meet again. She replied to my newsletter to give me the advice that I should go see a certain pastor here who has prayed for infertile women before. And the way she framed it suggested that it was just a matter of screwing up my courage. This is just typical of her very controlling nature that I’m finding really doesn’t respect my right to make my own decisions without being judged by her about my spirituality. She also feels free to mention my desire for a child in front of anyone, saying things like “oh, maybe ___ will help you get pregnant”. AND I suspect she’s even talked about it with her 4-year-old son, because he once told me while playing that he was getting a phone call from God saying I would soon have a baby. The thing is, she has always been this way, but when we were close friends about seven years ago, I just took it because I was a lot less mature and looked up to her, took her advice in most things. Since then I’ve grown up a lot, and feel comfortable making my own decisions, thank you very much. So should I e-mail her about it? When confronted directly, I know she is capable of realizing she’s hurting others and apologizing for it. And I want to avoid her telling details of my fertility to many other people. But at the same time, I also just feel like withdrawing – I don’t really want to put in the effort of continuing to maintain a friendship with her.

Anniversary

Today it is one year since my laparoscopy for endometriosis. After the surgery I was told my best chance of conceiving would be in the first few months. I came across an article reporting on a study that said 75% of those who got pregnant after a laparoscopy for endo were pregnant within 9-12 months after surgery. I don’t know how many got pregnant after surgery in the first place – but I held onto that one year, telling myself I would be pregnant by then.
Last week we moved into a new house. It is perfect for children. Three bedrooms, a yard, lots of room to play… During the house dedication people came from our church and prayed over the house. I wasn’t terribly comfortable with their loud, African-style authoritative prayers. The pastor said that he was sure that we would have a child while living in this house. During the prayer, another young woman had a “word from God” saying God would do a miracle. Honestly, I am more than a little skeptical about such claims. Even though I know God does answer prayers. I’m trying to just interpret their words as a way of saying “we like you and hope your life turns out well”. But I know they really believe what they’re saying. The way people express their faith here is so different from the way I do. There are so many guilt trips, so much yelling, so much anger against the devil, so much piousness. But I still can’t help wondering a little tiny bit whether God will answer their prayers. If he does, will I feel like their prayers were better than mine in God’s eyes? Because I have been praying for the same thing for years. Normally I know better than to even get caught up in these kind of thoughts… but I had to at least write it down so I can see how twisted it all is.
My best friend just got pregnant on her first IVF cycle. I am not devastated. I am happy for her. But I feel like our friendship has changed… and I don’t yet know how. Since all our communication is over Skype, we haven’t talked much yet since her positive result. I don’t want our friendship to change in its essence… even if I will occasionally need to withdraw for some space, especially just after getting my period.
I had resolved to stop drinking coffee and to live a really fertile life this month. But right now I’m drinking a cup, because it is so comforting. I am tired of all these behavioural changes made just in case I might get or be pregnant. My chances are so low anyway, what difference is a cup going to make?
This is a bit of a down post… really, there are other aspects of my life that are getting me down right now, it’s not all about infertility. But since this is an IF blog, I’m just trying to get this stuff off my chest.

Dr. visit

So we visited the doctor yesterday – unfortunately DH’s semen analysis results weren’t back yet, so it wasn’t that helpful. My hemoglobin levels are apparently normal, so I can stop iron supplementation. The Dr said that after having an ultrasound next week to check follicle development and as a follow-up after my lap, my best chance of success would probably be IVF. However, he also said it might still be possible to conceive naturally. Apparently they do IVF here but I am far from convinced that it is for me AND that I would trust the system here not to mess things up. I’ve read that stimulation drugs can really cause endometriosis to flare up – just not sure it’s worth it. In Canada they have alternative protocols to try to avoid this but in Africa? somehow I doubt it but I could be wrong. Does anyone know more about this?
I can’t really accept that IVF might be my only chance to conceive. But I guess I don’t have to quite yet. I’m on my 10th cycle post-lap; I’ll wait just a little longer.
In cycle news – I’m near the end of my second cycle taking Vitex; I’ve noticed bbs are much less tender during the luteal phase; other than that, I haven’t noticed any difference. I am hoping that Vitex will help my cycles to be a bit longer (i.e. later ovulation, currently around CD 10 or 11 most months). I’ll keep taking it for a few more months.
A friend has offered to carry some vitamins and supplements back to Africa with him next month – I have to get busy ordering these online so he’ll have them on time. Here, it is hard to even find a decent multivitamin, and pharmacies DOWNTOWN don’t seem to know what Vitamin B is. Unbelievable but true.

PMS!

The last two days I have really struggled with PMS irritability and anxiety. Heavy breathing, crankiness, ugh. I am so glad to feel better today. On bad days like that I feel that I’m being held hostage by my own hormones. Lying flat on my back and doing deep breathing/meditation for about 20 minutes helped – but it felt like the tight, anxious feeling in my chest was just coming and going with no predictability. And it’s only 7 dpo today! I’m trying to remind myself that there are other reasons why I might feel anxious these days, including a big transition at work, a lot of work-related fatigue, and lots of thoughts about adoption etc. So I’m trying hard to keep upbeat and positive, but it’s not always easy.

A new direction

I totally lost track of this blog due to our move to Africa. We’ve now been here five months already. Let me backtrack a little to catch up with fertility-related stuff.
The laparoscopy in November went fine. The surgeon removed all the endo; he found deep brown bleeding lesions (TCM terminology) on the connector thing (sorry don’t know the term) between the ovaries and uterus (not fallopian tube) and on the right ovary. He drained and coagulated the cyst. Recovery went fairly well – the first couple of days I felt like I was recovering really fast but then I kind of plateaued for a couple of weeks, able to walk around but easily running out of energy for work. It didn’t help that we had to move out of our apartment during this time. I’d say it took four weeks before I felt totally normal (i.e. going cross-country skiing with no problem).
My first period was only a couple of days after the surgery, and I felt no pain, which was totally unreal. This was first time in my life that I can remember not having pain during AF! That month, we really gave it everything we could. I started acupuncture and TCM herbs, which was really interesting, and I ate SUPER healthy. My acupuncturist diagnosed me with Spleen Qi deficiency, general Kidney deficiency, Blood Stagnation and Cold Uterus. In Western terms, she was worried about my slightly elevated FSH (9.1). I stopped eating cold food and added more protein (meat) since she said that for my constitution, despite the endo/Blood Stagnation, I really needed to warm myself and get more nourishment from meat. We BD’d every day from day 10 to 15. The acupuncturist thought we might have overdone it. She thinks since DH’s sperm is on the low side, it would have been better to do it every other day. That month, we also used ovulation tests, though they were a bit of a waste of money IMO (I have charted so long, I know exactly when I ovulate, and the tests just confirmed that I was right). Regardless, we did not get pregnant. Also, I had a lot of pain with my next AF. I was SO disappointed and angry with my body for letting me down. It was Christmas day when AF started, go figure…
The following months, I continued to take TCM herbs. We also traveled a lot, and eventually settled in Africa (in a large, busy and polluted city). The first month after we arrived, I noticed that my cycle shortened from 27-28 days to 24-25 days. I think I might have tipped over into Excess Heat (TCM again), but I’m not sure what to do about it. Now I ovulate on CD 11 instead of CD 13-14. It is frustrating because I don’t think such early ovulation can be helpful – something about the follicle not having enough time to mature.
Over the last months, I have started to feel more and more disappointed and sad each time another cycle ends. To the point where I think I might try to find a therapist (not an easy thing in this city). I have run out of TCM herbs, but am taking Vitex – I haven’t noticed any difference with the Vitex except that my bbs are not at all sore before AF, and I have no O pain anymore (I used to). But O is still on CD 10-11, and PMS is still awful.
So that’s my update. I am nearing the 9th cycle after surgery – apparently 75% of those who get pregnant after a lap for endo do so in the first 9-12 months after surgery. So I’m starting to feel like it actually might not happen. How does one come to grips with something like this?
Today, DH and I are having a “retreat” together – we just got back from a long work trip (we share a job) and I felt so tired, I just couldn’t face work for a few days. One thing we talked about is adoption – he is now at the point where he would like to pursue having a child – either naturally or through adoption. This feels really big to me. I feel a lot less hopeless knowing that he is now fully on this journey with me. We will eventually have a child one way or another.

One other thing that has happened is that I went to visit a Dr. here – he is a leading gynecologist in this city and he was clearly knowledgeable about the kind of issues I was facing. He offered to give me an U/S right around ovulation so he could track how my follicles were maturing – and DH will also get a new SA. It felt good having at least one medical professional who might be able to do something, though I’m trying not to get my hopes up (the options here are pretty limited in general, I don’t even know if they can do an IUI, although apparently he can do a HSG).

CD 7; herbs; upcoming lap

Unfortunately no pregnancy to report. I did make it to 14 dpo without a temp drop though, which is better than the last five months. 14 days used to be my normal LP, so hopefully the vitex that I took for 1.5 months has had a hand in that.

This month, we’re officially not trying, because my laparoscopy is scheduled for Nov. 5, right around the time when I would be getting my period, and I don’t want to worry about being pregnant at that time. Not to mention that with our upcoming trip to Africa, we can’t afford to delay the lap any further. The idea of taking a break actually feels surprisingly good.

These days I am a lot busier, what with a new contract that keeps me busy two days a week, plus teaching, plus thesis-related work, plus preparing a sermon for three weeks from now. It helps to be busy, but I still feel a general, light layer of sadness (kind of like a light grey blanket) draped over me a lot of the time. More when I get up in the morning. I was thinking about it this morning and realizing that this is not normal for me, but I have been feeling this way for several months now – probably since I got my endo diagnosis. I need to think about this, because I don’t want to get into a rut.

On a more positive note, I am excited about trying several different herbs after my lap to maximize my chances of conception. I’m seeing my RE next week and will run my plan by him just to be sure, although up until now he has said that he knows nothing about herbs at all (and doesn’t seem to believe they make any difference…). I’ll also ask a herbalist if I can find one. I’ve discovered a couple of great places where you can order organic herbs in bulk. Mountain Rose Herbs is one.  Closer to home, Herboristerie Desjardins is another. I’ll almost certainly continue taking Vitex throughout the cycle, EPO until ovulation. I’m also thinking about burdock (to help the liver clear the excess estrogen from the body), cramp bark and red raspberry (to tone uterus and help with inflammation), horsetail (to prevent the formation of scar tissue and keep existing scar tissue flexible), and echinacea for the immune system. By the way, this information comes from Mother Nature, but I have seen similar information on other websites. Have any of you had any results from using any of these herbs? I have certainly noticed less breast tenderness during LP, a longer menstrual cycle, and better CM since I started taking EPO and vitex a couple of months ago.

I am supposed to be writing a grammar test for my students, so I had better get back to that now…