Friday, December 14, 2007

And one more thing

Allyouwhohope asked about the hormone treatment I've had, and I talked about the continuing T3 and HCG treatment in the last post. But I realized that I didn't mention the new treatment! After a couple of cycles went by post-surgery with no sign of a baby, the doctor prescribed femara (letrozole), which stimulates ovulation. He prescribed femara, rather than clomid, because it has fewer side effects. The ultrasounds I had didn't indicate any ovulation problems, but this is intended to sort of help things along and to help regulate my hormones (which were messed up from the PCOS, but have been much better since the HCG injections). I only have to take a single dose on cycle day 3. From what I've read online, if it's going to work, it will work sooner rather than later. So, stay tuned . . .

Monday, December 10, 2007

What now?

Here's where things stand now. I had the surgery over the summer, so it's been a few months now. I still have a blood draw on the 7th day after Peak day in each cycle. It's sent to the Pope Paul VI Institute, where they test the progesterone and estrogen (estradiol) levels. On the first day of each cycle, I call in to do a cycle review. A nurse calls me, I report on the chart for my previous cycle, and she takes the information to discuss with Dr. Hilgers. Then, she calls me back with instructions for the new cycle. So far, there haven't been any big changes. I'm still taking the same thyroid hormone and injections of HCG (done toward the end of my cycle to stimulate production of progesterone and estrogen) that I was taking before the surgery. I'm also on an antibiotic regime to eliminate brown bleeding at the end of my period. And we're waiting. The surgery went great, my healing has been totally normal, and so now we'll see what happens.

Usually, I'm pretty upbeat about the whole thing, which is not to say that I don't get sad. The kind of care that I've received at the Pope Paul VI Institute and my local doctor's office has been amazing. That's been a huge factor in feeling at peace about where things are. I keep hoping that this will work out and/or that adoption will work out so that we'll be parents someday (sooner rather than later, I hope).

And I do feel like God is part of all of this. When we started learning about NFP, I felt like it was the right thing to do. And when I started learning about NaPro Technology (Dr. Hilgers' approach to treating women's reproductive health), I felt deep down that God had led us here. I feel like following church teaching by rejecting contraception in the first place led us down a path to our best chance for having a child. It's hard to express. It's not that I feel like we get a gold star or that this is somehow a reward for "being good" or something like that. It's more the idea that the way we've been led on this path has opened my eyes to the truth of what the church teaches about NFP. I really admire Dr. Hilgers and the other doctors and nurses and medical professionals and researchers who have taken a leap of faith. Their approach to medicine has been a real risk--they are running counter to the conventional medical approach of their time. But taking those risks to be true to their convictions has resulted in these amazing results. So . . . what I'm trying to say is that following their convictions about what was true and right has led to results that are truly good and that uplift rather than degrade their patients.

I also feel like God has used this experience to soften my heart. I felt something similar the first time my heart was really broken. I was just out of college and the guy I thought I was going to marry abruptly broke up with me. I was very angry and very bitter (and very mean to him, too) for a long time. But I also felt much more empathy for others' pain than I ever had before. With infertility, it's been a bit different. In the abstract, I always knew I wanted to have children. But it wasn't until we got married that I felt an emotional desire for children. At this point, I'm just amazed by how beautiful children are. The emotion of the whole thing seems to affect me most when I'm at church, either at mass or at a choir practice. I think it's just that I'm probably most open and vulnerable then. I tear up when I see parents and their children bringing up the gifts at mass. And when we sing particularly moving hymns (particularly one we sang last year during Lent about the Blessed Mother's relationship with Jesus) in choir, it takes an effort not to wind up in a teary lump! I'm really grateful (because I know it's not through any virtue of my own) that I'm still truly happy for my friends and family who announce a pregnancy or adoption. I know it's not from me because I'm not talking about a behavior I can control, but a feeling. So, I'm really grateful that God's keeping me from feeling bitter and angry.

This weekend was an interesting one. We went to mass on Saturday for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. I really like the Marian feasts. And the gospel reading about Mary's visitation to Elizabeth is a good one for someone dealing with infertility (All You Who Hope has a great post about this, including the relevant passage). So, that was great. Then, on Sunday, we went to one of our favorite masses (we tend to hop around to some different parishes, depending on our schedule). It was a really beautiful mass. At the end, there was a fundraising talk, and I was really touched by the appeal and the good work this group is doing.

So, I was already a little choked up when all of the expectant mothers were called forward for a special blessing. And it just got to me. I've used Christmas as a marker for time passing, and of course the family gatherings and Christmas cards are part of that, too. I remember thinking when I was single, "next Christmas, I'll have a boyfriend to bring home for Christmas" or "next Christmas, maybe we'll be engaged." Without really realizing what I was doing, I was thinking, "next Christmas, we'll have a baby" . . . and then when Christmas came closer, "maybe we'll be able to announce that I'm pregnant in our Christmas cards this year." I was OK in mass, but in the car, I started crying, and I cried all the way home. Nine months ago was the only time I remember crying about the whole infertility thing. So, I guess I was due for it!

What I really need to do is to concentrate on doing what we can to give us the best chances of having a child, and then focus on the present. I find myself living in the future. It's a weird thing, but I keep thinking that I'm a year older than I really am, and I know that it's because I keep calculating "OK, if I get pregnant this month, I'll be this old when the baby's born." And then subconsciously, that's the age I think I am. I did the same thing when I was finishing school and interviewing for jobs. I actually told an interviewer who (totally illegally) asked my age that I was a year older than I really was. When I realized what I said, I couldn't exactly correct myself without looking like a complete idiot, but I said it because I was thinking, "OK, by the time I finish my degree and start working, I'll be this old," and that became the age I thought I was. Weird.

So, it's way too late, and I've spent way too long writing this incredibly long post. If anyone makes it all the way through this one, thanks for indulging me!

Friday, December 7, 2007

After the Surgery

I realized that in that last post, I made it sound like I felt just fabulous after the surgery! Not exactly . . . Of course, having a 5-inch incision in one's abdomen is painful. :-) But after a couple of weeks, I was down to just taking Tylenol for the pain. I was able to climb stairs (one at a time) after leaving the hospital, but I wasn't allowed to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for a couple of weeks. Even after that, I was really careful! I tried to do plenty of walking, and I did do some work on my computer at home. If I did too much, I'd start to feel more pain or just feel really tired. Over the six weeks, the bruising and swelling slowly went down, the pain lessened, and my stamina increased. Every once in a while, I would feel kind of guilty, like I was malingering or something. Then I'd do too much and end up sleeping a whole lot! Exactly six weeks after the surgery, I went in for a half-day of work. Some of my coworkers were going to meet for breakfast, lunch, and happy hour after work as motivation for us all to stay on track working on our projects. I made it in for lunch, but didn't last till happy hour, and I spent a lot of time sleeping for the next two days!

So, it took me a while. Once the pain from the incision was reduced, I started to have some internal discomfort off and on. I was glad that the nurse had warned me about that, so that I wouldn't freak out about it! For instance, the first cycle after the surgery, I had quite a bit of ovulation pain off and on for a couple of days--which makes sense. I mean, really, removing a chunk from an ovary should probably cause a little pain the next time the ovary tries to do something!

One of the best things I did was to sign myself up for a dance class in the fall. It started about eight weeks after the surgery. The class met for two hours, twice a week, and I was almost 15 years older than most of the other students (and about 10 years older than the teacher, for that matter!). That class totally kicked my butt! I hadn't taken a dance class like that in . . . oh, probably 15 years! But I was so out of shape, and this gave me a way to make myself get some exercise in a fun way. Of course, after the first two-hour session, I couldn't form sentences for the rest of the day . . . but in the end, it was really good for me!

At this point, I'm doing really well. Things have healed nicely. The weird thing (to me anyway) is the sensation of my skin between the incision and my belly button. It's a weird combination of soreness (kind of like a bad sunburn) and numbness. At first, it covered that whole area of skin (the whole width of my incision, and all the way up to my belly button), but it's slowly decreased, so that now, it's just an inch or two in the middle of the incision, up to my belly button. I guess it takes a while for the nerves to heal!

So, if anyone's still reading after all of that . . . :-) I hope it's helpful to somebody! When I first started reading blogs about infertility, I couldn't find anyone who had gone the NaPro technology route, and I would have loved to hear someone's experience with all of this stuff. When I registered as a patient with Dr. Hilgers, I received a copy of their book, Women Healed, which includes the first-person stories of many patients. It covers lots of different conditions they treat (like PMS and post-partum depression) in addition to infertility. I think I read the whole thing the day I received it. But, being me, I wanted even more detail! So, I figured I'd write about my own experience in the hope that someone else might be looking for the same information and my story might help.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Infertility Stuff, Part 10

I feel like this is really dragging on . . . (10 parts already?), but it is good to write it out so one day when it's not so fresh in my mind, I'll remember . . .

So, I set about arranging things so I could take six weeks off work. Fortunately, I work in education, so summer is the slow time. A wonderful co-worker took on my major assignment for the summer. Aside from that, the biggest thing was telling people at work and otherwise involved with my life what was going on (I didn't go into detail, but I did tell them that I was having surgery for endometriosis). I was surprised by a couple of things--first was how kind and sympathetic people were, and second was how many of the women I talked to had had similar experiences. It's amazing how common this stuff is and how little we talk about it.

And, before I knew it, the time for the surgery rolled around. This time, I only needed the standard pre-surgery tests (urine sample, blood test, that kind of thing), since my previous surgery was so recent. And then I was in the hospital again!

I have had surgery a few times now, but never one that wasn't intended to be an outpatient surgery. Knowing I would be in the hospital for at least two nights was a new thing.

This time, the sedative took effect much more quickly than when I had the laparoscopy. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the recovery room, trying to open my eyes and let the nurse know I was awake. They moved me to a regular hospital room (I found out later that I was in the general OB area, which was why I heard babies crying at night). The first day, I wasn't allowed to eat anything or even to swallow water. The extremely nice day nurse gave me little sponges on a stick with a glass of water and said I could suck on them. I had plenty of visits and phone calls from family to keep me busy for the short amounts of time that I was awake! The night nurse came in at 11pm and had me sit up on the side of the bed, and she sat next to me and talked to me while I did.

I knew that the doctor's protocol is for patients to get up and walk about six times the day after the surgery (Mr. X and I read the textbook section on my surgery very thoroughly!), so I was ready for Day 2! The next morning, I was allowed to have liquids, so I had a liquid breakfast (very interesting--juice, jello, and stuff--tea which had clearly been made in a coffee pot--I hate coffee!), and then the new day nurse disconnected me from the IV and machines (including the catheter--yikes!). The doctor came to see me every morning (maybe this is normal procedure for surgeons, but I didn't expect it and it really impressed me), and he said the surgery had gone perfectly (what a great thing to hear your doctor say!) and that I should be up and walking around.

I approached the "walking around" from my typical overachiever standpoint. I walked like crazy, shuffling up and down the hallways in my slipper socks. I walked at least six times for at least 15 minutes each time. The result was that I was totally exhausted and hungry by the time evening rolled around! The night nurse let me have a few crackers, even though I wasn't due to start real food until the morning.

The morning rolled around, and the doctor said that if I tolerated food all right, I could go home that day. I ordered breakfast, and by the time it came I wasn't feeling so good. I managed three teeny bites of an English muffin before it became very obvious that I wasn't tolerating food well! After a little while, the nurse called the doctor, who ordered medication to stop the nausea. Within a few minutes of that shot, I fell asleep in the middle of a conversation. When I woke up, I was starving! I asked the nurse for some plain toast before I attempted anything more adventurous, but I was fine. The doctor decided that I should stay overnight, and I even managed to take a shower on my own.

The next morning, I was able to leave the hospital. We still had to stay in Omaha for a few more days before heading home. We camped out in our hotel (same one--we just didn't eat at the restaurant where Mr. X got food posioning the first time around!) and watched lots of movies.

I was feeling really good. I kept wearing my compression stockings just in case (and they were really comfortable, anyway!), and the only things that really bugged me were the heartburn from the ibuprofen I was taking and the weirdness of sleeping in one position! It was painful to move between positions, and the mattress was kind of hard, so I would be woken not by pain from the surgery but from hours of lying on my hip on a hard surface! By the time we left for home, we had bought both an egg-crate mattress pad and one of those memory-foam mattress pads. (Our guest room is more comfortable than it has ever been!)

Eight days after the surgery (and five days after leaving the hospital), we saw the doctor. He said that everything looked great with the incision, the surgery had gone very well--all the bad stuff is now gone--and that I was clear to go home. And, boy, were we ready to go home!

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