Monday, November 26, 2007

So much for NaBloPoMo!

Darn it! Well, at least NaBloPoMo made me post semi-regularly. But the combination of a business trip (what's up with a hotel charging $200 per night--group rate--for a room, and then charging extra for Internet access?), home renovation, and Thanksgiving was too much of an obstacle.

So--about 1/3 of the bricks around the fireplace are clean. We still have to remove paint from the rest, and we're going to break out the hard stuff to see if it works any better. We got the new carpet in--after staying up all night to get ready for it. We have family visiting for Thanksgiving, and we also had to get ready for painters who--get this--didn't come and didn't call! Not happy about that at all. Mr. X and I pulled two all-nighters in the same week to work on the house. Yes, we are crazy.

So, with all of that, blog posting took a backseat.

Oh, and we got rid of so much junk in the process! When we moved everything for the carpet installation, I had to unearth closets that still held unopened boxes from the move! As we put things back, we're ruthlessly getting rid of the stuff we don't need. I've made three trips to donate stuff in the last week, and since the carpet installation, we've gotten rid of another eight boxes of junk (mostly paper). Hooray!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Infertility Stuff, Part 9

The next surgery I would have to have was a laparatomy. At one point, someone referred to it as an "open abdomen" surgery. Basically, it would require about a 4-6 inch incision and the doctor would go in to remove all of the endometriosis, and also use the ovarian wedge resection procedure to take care of the PCOS. They were scheduling surgeries 4-5 months out, but those were not times that I would be able to take time off work. So, originally, my surgery was scheduled for . . . actually, this coming Monday! But in the summer I received a call from the Pope Paul VI Institute, which I assumed was going to be to confirm the surgery date. When I answered, the nurse said that there had been a cancellation for a date three weeks away! I jumped at the chance. So, we were looking at another trip to Omaha within a couple of months after the laparascopy.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Infertility Stuff, Part 8

After about four months, it was finally time for my surgery date! Mr. X and I drove to Omaha. I took a week off work--told my boss and a couple of close co-workers about the surgery, and also told my parents, but no one else knew.

When we got in, we checked in to the hotel and then went for my pre-op appointments at the Creighton University Medical Center. They did all of the routine stuff and we asked a ton of questions.

Then, we went to the Pope Paul VI Institute for the appointments there. We got to meet Dr. Hilgers, and he explained the surgery to us. The day after the laparascopy, we would be coming back to view a video of the surgery with him and hear his plan for further treatment.

Well, I'm a total wuss when it comes to bodily fluids. I can't watch surgery scenes, needles, blood, etc., on TV. So, I was really afraid that I would get queasy or faint when we watched the video of my surgery! Fortunately, they have a prepared video that shows clips of the various procedures that will be performed, so Mr. X and I asked to watch it. They gave us a little room with a TV and VCR, and we watched it alone--which was great, because then I wouldn't be embarrassed if I got squeamish! I was actually really surprised that it was fascinating and didn't freak me out at all. It was great to have such a detailed understanding of what they would be doing.

The next morning, we went to the hospital. The chaplain (a deacon) came in to talk with me, and--strangely enough--it turned out that he knew people I work with, and I knew people he works with. He was delightful, and helped to keep me calm until Mr. X could come and join me in the room. When the priest arrived at the hospital, he came and anointed me. I've never received that sacrament before, and it was amazing. The doctor came in and talked with us, and then they wheeled me away for the surgery.

When I woke up, I was back in the same little room I started from. The doctor had already showed Mr. X photos of my surgery! Once I was able to get up and go to the bathroom, they sent me back to the hotel with Mr. X. Actually, the first day was lovely. I was really sleepy, and we just hung out in the hotel room, watched movies, and dozed. Mr. X brought me food from the restaurant in the lobby. By dinner, I was starving and really wanted a burger and fries. So, he went down and brought back a cheeseburger and fries for me and salmon and steamed vegetables for himself. (This will be important later . . . )

The next morning, we went back to the Pope Paul VI Institute. By this point, I was feeling much sorer--both from the surgery and from the gas bubbles. We watched the video, which was really interesting. It turned out that I had both endometriosis and PCOS. And both tubes were completely blocked! With the selective hysterosalpingography that Dr. Hilgers uses, they were able to open my tubes completely--hooray! But because of the amount and the location of the endometriosis, I was going to need more surgery--boo!

I had really mixed feelings after hearing the results. I had really been hoping that he'd say something like "well, there was this one tiny little thing wrong, and I fixed it!" But at least I knew that I had the best possible care from the best possible medical people, and that the doctor had a clear plan for taking care of things. In the end, he said we would probably have a 60-75% chance of having a baby. So, that seemed like pretty good news!

We went back to the hotel to relax for the day. Unfortunately, Mr. X wasn't feeling great. You know how I said the salmon and steamed vegetables would be important? He had food poisoning!!! The day after my surgery!!! The poor guy! We were quite a pair. I don't think that's a day either of us ever wants to repeat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Infertility Stuff, Part 7

I was able to schedule a time pretty quickly to go to Omaha and have the ultrasound series. It actually worked out really well. Everyone at the Pope Paul VI Institute was great, and very patient with my millions of questions! I ended up getting lots of work done, since I only had to be there for a 15-minute appointment once a day for a week. It was very cool to see the ultrasounds and hear about how things were progressing. They also did a bone scan, which was fantastic. Osteoporosis runs in my family, so I was concerned, but my bones are looking good! I saw a lot of bad TV and movies and worked on my computer a lot! I also met up with some people I know in Nebraska, and gave evasive answers as to what I was doing there . . .

In the end, the ultasound technician could tell me that things looked good. All the organs looked fine, endometrium was good, and--best of all--I ovulated on my peak day, and the ovulation looked perfectly normal! The only bad news was that there was a slight possibility of PCOS--no huge cysts or anything, but what could have been a few small ones--and some fluid. Once I received the report, I took it to my doctor back home, and he said that the fluid might indicate inflammation and/or endometriosis.

When I got back, all we had to do was wait for the surgery. Of course, we continued the medical treatment, and we started getting into more specifics about adoption. We had settled on a country, started talking to adoption agencies (one agency called me at least once a week for two months!), but ultimately, it just was too much for us to pursue both the medical treatment and the adoption process simultaneously, along with everything else we were doing (like work!). So, the adoption stuff went back on the backburner for a little while.

Falling Down on the Job

Argh! I missed posting yesterday! I had to leave for a business trip this morning, and life did not cooperate with the whole NaBloPoMo thing. So I guess I'll have to post twice today . . . OK, I know that doesn't count, but I may do it anyway :)

The quest for paint remover continues. We've got two more to try (caustics--fun!), so we'll see how that works . . .

I think I'll continue the infertility stuff later, but now I need to get lunch and get ready for my first presentation!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Short Post

OK, this will be short so I get it in before midnight. Today we tried to strip paint from bricks. It didn't work so well, but the house is smelly now. (We used non-toxic stripper, so fortunately, the smelliness won't kill us.)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The House

We spent the weekend working on the house. How is it possible that we own this much crap? How?

We bought the house about six months after we got married. We did some stupid things. One stupid thing that we did was to move into our house the day before the lease ended on our apartment! Never again!! We did not get to clean the house at all before we moved in. While Mr. X worked with the movers at our old place, I drove to the new place with our dog. Movers make her nervous. She had started throwing up in the middle of the night. When the movers arrived, I took her out to my car, so that she wouldn't get more nervous.

She threw up in the car.

I cleaned the car, packed up, and drove the half-hour to the new house. I ran around, vaccuuming carpets. She threw up on the carpets. I cleaned the carpets.

That's about all we accomplished before the movers arrived.

When we moved in, things started going wrong right away. Things to do with water. Bad things.

So, we are getting ready to have new carpet put in downstairs. It has been a construction zone since we moved in. This weekend, one of our tasks was to empty the downstairs of the debris that has collected there in the I-won't-admit-how-many years since we've moved in. All I will say is that today I threw out a tiny shopping bag that contained, among other things, a half-eaten package of crackers from the day we moved in.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Infertility Stuff, Part 6

So, at that point, it had been about four months since I began seeing my new doctor and we got started with the Creighton Model. I started doing the injections toward the end of my cycle and taking the thyroid hormone.

We also started talking about adoption more seriously. Even before we were engaged, we talked about wanting to adopt children, so it wasn't a big leap for us. But I started reading a whole lot online about adoption, the process, the issues, etc. I had no idea about all of the issues to be considered. So, that was going on in the background, too.

Our Creighton Model practitioner wrote a letter for us, asking Dr. Hilgers (who founded the Pope Paul VI Institute) to review my charts. After a little while (a month? six weeks? something like that), we received a response. He said that my cycles were indicative of several possible issues, including PCOS, endometriosis, and/or uterine infection, and that I should make an appointment to have a series of diagnostic ultrasounds done (starting before and continuing until after ovulation, which would determine whether I was ovulating, whether I have any ovulation defects, and several other factors related to fertility), as well as surgery that would include a diagnostic laparoscopy (to look for ovarian cysts, adhesions, endometriosis, and other problems), a hysteroscopy, and selective hysterosalpingogram (which he does in a much different way than my HMO had planned).

It would be a while before I would be able to get on the surgery schedule, but since my work schedule made it difficult to take time off for the one to two weeks needed for the ultrasound series, I was able to schedule the ultrasounds for two months out, and the surgery for six months out. I was feeling really impatient, but was glad that at least it would only be two months until I would know a little more about the ovulation part of the whole process. So, I started to get ready to spend a week or two in Omaha . . .

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Infertility Stuff, Part 5

After the less-than-impressive handling of the blood draw and test results, we decided not to go with the HMO for the hysterosalpingogram. We were much more confident in my regular doctor and the Pope Paul VI Institute.

When the blood test results came back from the hormone series (the blood draws every-other-day for three weeks), my doctor told me that they indicated that I had PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). There might also be other problems (like endometriosis), but that couldn't be identified through the blood tests. My progesterone and estrogen levels also went up after ovulation (as they should), but dropped off much more quickly than they should. That made sense, given that I had a short post-peak (luteal) phase. And my thyroid tests showed that I might have very slight hypothyroidism.

So, he had me start taking sustained-release T3 (thryoid hormone)--the natural stuff, which I have to get at a compounding pharmacy--and giving myself HCG injections after ovulation (3, 5, 7, and 9 days after peak day). The HCG is intended to stimulate my body to produce more progesterone and estrogen.

I had to deal with my fear of needles pretty fast. I still don't like them, but I've gotten much faster at giving myself injections now that I've been doing it for more than a year! The first cycle or two, I would sit there with the syringe in my hand for about half an hour, trying to work up the nerve to just stick myself with it already.

Then, we got ready to get on the schedule at the Pope Paul VI Institute.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Infertility Stuff, Part 4

The day after my blood draw, I got my period. A couple of days later, the RE's office called. They said that my progesterone was so low that I hadn't ovulated and would need medication to bring on a period. Hmm. I think I beat them to that.

About two weeks later, I got a frantic call from the RE's staff. I had tested positive for the genetic disorder: I'm a carrier. It's a recessive trait, so Mr. X needed to come in, rightnow-rightnow-rightnow to be tested. And I should tell my siblings immediately. And put up a billboard while I'm at it . . .

We weren't too freaked out. I told my family, who also weren't too freaked out. And Mr. X moseyed on in to get tested. We figured it would be good to know if this was a possibility, because early diagnosis can make a big difference in life expectancy, and we'd like to do some practical things to ensure the best care possible if there were a chance that we could have a baby with this disorder. But, hey, not to in any way minimize the situation, but really--this is just one known possibility. Who knows what challenges will come with any child, whether the child is born with a special need, develops one later, or just comes with his or her own unique issues.

Mr. X's test results were supposed to come back in another two weeks. So we waited. And waited. Finally, I called the RE's office.

Oh, hadn't they called us? No? His results were negative.

Good thing we were fairly laid-back about the whole thing . . .

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Infertility Stuff, Part 3

We got a referral and made an appointment with the reproductive endocrinologist through our HMO, just to see what our options were locally. The appointment didn't get off to a good start. I had to drive about 45 minutes to get there. I was running a bit late, and the nurse was not amused.

When the doctor came in, he wasn't too interested in our perspective. Forget the knowledge we had, the accumulated charts, the questions--he had his prepared spiel. So, fine. We heard the spiel. He told us that as long as Mr. X was "making sperm," I was "making eggs," and my tubes were open, they could get me pregnant. Hmm. OK. Not exactly what we were looking for. What about diagnosing and treating the problem? Nope.

So, we already things were OK on Mr. X's side of things. He wasn't too impressed with the records of temperature shifts on my charts as evidence of ovulation. So, he recommended a blood test to make sure I was ovulating, as well as a hysterosalpingogram to check whether the tubes were open. He also asked whether we had any genetic disorders in our families. We knew of a particular genetic disorder that had appeared in my family, so they obligingly said that the HMO would cover testing me for the gene.

He was unimpressed by the mention of the Pope Paul VI Institute. He outlined a plan for treatment. If I wasn't ovulating, then he would prescribe Clomid. He might also prescribe progesterone (in fact, he offered to write me a prescription on the spot, if I would promise only to take it after ovulation . . . which showed surprising confidence in my ability to identify the post-ovulatory period of my cycle!) or some other hormones. The next steps would be intauterine insemination, then IVF. Hmm. Not the procedures we were considering . . . Possible signs of endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrom were not particularly interesting to the doctor, and there was very little mention of treating any of those issues. Just getting me pregnant.

All in all, he was just kind of dismissive. In fact, toward the end of the appointment, he replied to a question my husband asked by saying "I'll bet your wife will be pregnant within three months." Nice. Just a little patronizing when it had already been a year at that point.

So, we went home. We decided to sign up for the testing, on the thought that more information was better. So, we got instructions on scheduling the HSG, and I was told to go in toward the end of my cycle for the progesterone test, at which point they could also draw blood for the genetic screening.

I went on what turned out to be the last day of the cycle in which I was having every-other-day blood draws at my regular doctor's office. I had a blood draw at my doctor's office (done very quickly and painlessly by my doctor's assistant), then got back in the car and drove 40 minutes to the HMO to have the other blood draw.

I am not good with needles (though I'm much better after 18 months of infertility treatment than I was before!). I can't look at the needle while blood is being drawn, and I often chatter incessantly to the person drawing the blood to keep my mind off of things.

I got a new technician.

She had to draw a whole bunch of vials.

She described to me, in detail, what was going wrong.

When she finished, she put a wad of cotton on my arm and had me hold it while she put a pressure bandage over it.

She told me not to bend my arm. In fact, I shouldn't pick up my purse with that arm when I leave.

Then she asked if I wanted some orange juice.

I took the orange juice gladly. But the weird little blood-draw bay I was sitting in had all of these vials and other blood-test paraphernelia right there, and I was looking right at it.

So, I went out to the waiting room. I dropped a book, and a nice man picked it up. Then, I felt a little woozy and put my head between my knees.

Instantly, two nurses came running and got me into an exam room, lying down. My blood pressure was something like 90 over 50. So, the nurses aide had me lie there and kept monitoring me. I have low blood pressure anyway. So, I lay there and read my library book. My blood pressure slowly climbed. Then, on about the sixth check, my blood pressure was 84 over 48. Then the nurse's aide got worried. So, she brought in the nurse . . . who came over to my left side, looked at the big wad of cotton on my arm . . . put her hand on it . . and squeezed! Excuse me? Does it sound like good medical practice to squeeze the bandage of someone who just had a really nasty blood draw?

Anyway, it all turned out fine. Mr. X was away on a business trip, which is why they made me stay so long (I'd have to drive myself home). The nurse's aide had me get up and walk around, my blood pressure went up, and I went home and drowned my sorrows in ice cream.

Tomorrow, I'll write about the test results.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Infertility Stuff, Part 2

The fantastic Creighton Model practitioner fit us into her schedule for a special introductory session, since we couldn't make it to her next few scheduled group introductory sessions. We had to chart a complete cycle before we could start the next step of hormone testing. (Usually, it's two cycles, but since we had been charting using the Sympto-Thermal Method, the doctor figured we'd be quick to catch on.)

As a sidenote, we both love the Creighton Model. It's so systematic--in comparison to the Sympto-Thermal Method, we found the instructions for observations to be so clear and specific! (Of course, CCLI has been updating their Sympto-Thermal materials, too, and I'm really interested to see the changes.) It was tough for me to give up taking my temperature (in terms of trusting the method, not having to get up every morning to take my temperature--our schedules aren't that regular, and having to wake up at the same time every day was a pain), but once I saw how well it worked, I was sold.

So, we got going on the Creighton Model, and then my doctor started in on the NaPro Technology protocols. (Ha! "Protocols" just reminded me of 24. No sattelite coverage needed.) The first step involved having blood drawn every other day for about three weeks, then freezing the samples and shipping them to the Pope Paul VI Institute for hormone testing. It was so nice to have someone taking the whole thing seriously! And I love the NaPro Technology approach. NaPro Technology is an approach (created by the same doctor who created the Creighton Model) to reproductive health that takes a disease-based approach to infertility.

Well, of course, I thought, when I first heard of NaPro Technology (in an article in the National Catholic Register). What other approach would you take? People are designed to be fertile. If they're not, then there must be something wrong. Wouldn't the first step be to find out what the problem is?

We knew that my local doctor would be able to learn a lot from the series of hormone tests, but if medical treatment of any problems revealed through the hormone testing didn't do the trick, the next step would be to have surgery--through the Pope Paul VI Institute. Though that sounded great (hmm . . . a surgeon whose whole career has been devoted to this area of work, who has written a textbook about his methods, who created an approach to treating infertility that has far higher success rates than other approaches. . . um, OK, sign me up!), the distance and the worries about insurance coverage made us think that we should find out what our local options were.

So, we decided to check out the reproductive endocrinology department of our HMO. And then we found out what a different approach to infertility might look like . . .

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Infertility Stuff

OK, I decided I would start posting about the whole big infertility thing. So, to start at the beginning . . . Mr. X and I are Catholic, and as part of our marriage preparation we went to Natural Family Planning classes. It all made sense to us, and so we learned the Sympto-Thermal Method while we were engaged. I noticed right away that my charts didn't look so hot. I had a short luteal phase, among other things. So, we read Marilyn Shannon's book Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition, and I started taking lots of vitamin supplements. And I mentioned my concerns to my HMO doctor, who I really liked. She asked me if I wanted to get pregnant right away . . . well, no, not right away . . . So, she said not to worry about it. Not the most promising response.

The vitamin supplements seemed to help a bunch, especially with PMS symptoms. So, I figured that there would be no issue once we started using NFP to get pregnant. After all, no one in my family seemed to have had problems having children. But the months started going by, and nothing happened. Once it had been about nine months, I decided to change doctors. A while earlier, I had found a highly-recommended doctor who was seriously Catholic (as in no birth control prescriptions). We had been looking for a pro-life doctor, for a couple of reasons. First of all, we thought it would be good to support a doctor who took a stand, and secondly, it sounded like a good idea to have a doctor who would share our views and not pressure us to have an abortion if anything was "wrong" with our future baby. So, I went to this doctor to review my charts. I was kind of startled when he said that we seemed to be "experiencing infertility." Fortunately, by that point, I had learned that "infertility" didn't mean "sterility," but it still wasn't a term I envisioned applying to me. He was great, though. He really listened to everything I said, treated me as if I actually knew something about my own body, and really took his time with me. He recommended that we switch from the Sympto-Thermal Model to the Creighton Model. So, I started calling the nearest Creighton Practitioner to get us signed up to learn it . . .

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Where's the choir?

I showed up at church this morning (5 minutes late for choir!) and didn't hear any music. So, I ran down to the music room where we practice. Dark and empty. I ran back up to the church with the sinking feeling that it would be just me and the pianist today! Oops! And I didn't know one of the hymns on the schedule! I knew I'd be the cantor, but I figured we'd go over that hymn with the choir, and I wouldn't be singing alone on that anyway . . . It went fine, except for one little mistake I made in the psalm. Probably no one but the pianist would have noticed if I didn't try to change the last word (from "bless" to "day"--ended up "I will bleh--ay"--nice!). The inevitable mistake or two do tend to keep me humble, anyway. And trying to sing expressively actually makes me feel . . . I don't know, more emotional, more prayerful. Which is good! When I first started cantoring, I was so concerned about doing everything right that I didn't really experience the mass in a very reverent way.

So, this has been a riveting blog so far! Which is OK, since I'm sure no one's reading it. :) I've been sort of pacing myself, so I don't end up with nothing to say by the end of the month. But I think I should try to start getting into the "deeper" stuff tomorrow. So, for tomorrow, I'm going to start thinking about what I want to say about everyone's favorite topic . . . infertility! Yay!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Today and Tomorrow

The auditions actually went pretty well! They didn't ask for the hated song, thank God! And I made it to the semi-finals, though not the finals. That was OK, though. There were some fantastic singers in the semi-final, and the ones I thought would win made it to the final. I'm getting more serious about my singing after about 10 years of no voice lessons (all that stuff about school and starting a career sort of got in the way of the singing!), so it's good just to make it as far as I did. When you're just "picking up" classical singing after a 10-year break (preceded by one year of classical lessons), and one of your competitors is singing the big Queen of the Night aria (aria starts at 2:09 in the link) from The Magic Flute, it's OK not to make it to the finals.

So, tomorrow I'm driving my husband (who would like to be called Mr. X) to the airport well before the crack of dawn, and then I will come back for a couple hours' nap before cantoring at church. So, it will be an early night tonight.

Friday, November 2, 2007


So, I have an audition this afternoon (classical voice stuff). And I hate one of my three songs. And I'm getting over a cold . . . This will be interesting! I'll only have to sing two songs, so I'm hoping they don't pick the hated one. So, this is a short post because I need to get dressed up and leave in plenty of time so I can find the place!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Happy All Saints Day!

All Saints Day has always been one of my favorite feast days. When I was in elementary school, the fourth-graders dressed up as saints for mass and processed in to "When the Saints Come Marching In." It was a very cool thing, and we looked forward to being fourth graders to be able to dress up. Most of us picked a saint related to our name in some way. Of course, fights broke out over some of the more "popular" saints (and the more popular names of the day) . . . and I think that's why NO ONE was allowed to be the Blessed Mother. Too many Marys in class for the teacher to pick one . . .

I used to love reading this book called 60 Saints for Girls from the school library (I checked out 60 Saints for Boys, too, but in elementary school that wasn't nearly as interesting to me). I remember, though, having an argument in second grade when we had to do reports on our patron saints, and the teacher was trying to help Jennifer come up with a saint for her name. I was so excited to tell them that my beloved 60 Saints for Girls included a Saint Jennifer! But no one believed me, and Jennifer said "I think I'd know if there was a Saint Jennifer." Anyone ever heard of a Saint Jennifer? I couldn't find the book again, and it may have just been the author's translation of another name, but I still wonder!


I signed up for NaBloPoMo in hopes that I will finally start posting on my blog! Every day for a month . . . hmm . . .

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