Two Years and Counting

Needles and yang and qi, oh my
March 31, 2008, 3:47 pm
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I had my first acupuncture appointment today. My initial reaction is that it was not nearly as weird as I thought it’d be. I had filled out about 12 pages of paperwork for her before the appt—everything from medical history to whether my hands or feet sweat. We went over those checklists and my cycle charts for the first half hour or so. The charts were particularly helpful to her. She said she can tell the most from temperatures throughout the cycles. So those days when I forget to temp aren’t very helpful to her. She said there were key days that she would have loved to know what my temp was, but I’d forgotten to take it. But from the days I did temp (which have been most days), it looks to her like my high temps don’t stay as regular as she’d like. I ovulate and my temp rises, but it doesn’t stay steady—there’s quite a bit of dipping and rising again (even though the nurses have said my progesterone levels have been good). She’s going to try to correct that so that the high temps are higher and stay high the entire luteal phase. She also said because I ovulate late (around day 17 or 18) and tend to have an 11 or 12 day luteal phase, she’s going to work on making my follicular phase shorter so I ovulate earlier, therefore making my luteal phase longer.

She also commented on my “yes” checkmarks in the area of coldness. I tend to get cold easily, have cold hands and feet, and generally feel colder than the people around me. I usually think this is just because I’m a small person and don’t have much insulation to keep me warm, but she said it has to do in part with my kidney yang deficiencies. (I’m not even going to try to learn all this yang-qi-yong lingo.)

So, after the discussion, she said, “I know what I’m going to do.” She took me back to the treatment room and told me to take my shoes off. I laid down on the table with a pillow propped under my knees and a heater at my feet (to add warmth to my yang, or something). She inserted only about 9 needles—2 in my scalp, one in my forehead, two in my abdomen, one on each wrist, and one on each foot. And amazingly, they didn’t hurt. I could feel them going in, but it wasn’t pain, just a tiny prick. Then she turned the lights off and left. I was hyper aware of everything I was feeling, nervous that I’d start feeling dizzy. I have a tendency to get dizzy sometimes, and I’d overheard a lady in the waiting area tell another lady that she was really dizzy after her session and didn’t want to get in the car and drive. That freaked me out a little. But no dizziness for me. I just felt different twinges and vague aches through the 25 minutes. And not bad aches—just small aches here and there at the needle points, especially the one in my forehead. Every once in a while, I’d feel what felt like energy coursing through a certain part of my body, like my foot or my arm. That was strange. Towards the end, my body felt kind of heavy, like it was melting into the table. Then it was over. She came in and removed the needles, I sat up and felt remarkably fine. Not really tingly, not dizzy. She said she’d see me next week, and that was that.

Even now, I don’t feel anything particularly strange or different. I have a slight headache, but that’s probably due feeling kind of sinus-y the last few days. I have another appt next Monday. Since she said this should make me ovulate earlier, I’m wondering if it’ll affect this current cycle. If it does, it could mean that I ovulate before even seeing her next week.

Again, I’m trying to find the balance between being hopeful that this will work—or that God will work through this—and not getting my hopes up too much. I’ve read a lot of accounts of people getting pregnant the first month they try acupuncture, but then again, I also read plenty of accounts of people getting pregnant after just one IUI, and obviously that didn’t happen for us. Here’s hoping though.


March 25, 2008, 2:08 pm
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Just a quick update. IUI #3 officially didn’t work, so we’re looking ahead. My plan is to call the acupuncturist this week (as soon as I can get up the nerve) to make my first appointment. I’d like to have a few sessions before our next IUI. If the 4th IUI doesn’t work, I’m not sure what our next step will be. I’d sort of like to sit on the sidelines for just a little bit and take a break. Two or three months of not living in two-week increments sounds wonderful to me. But we’ll see. M and I haven’t really talked about that part yet—it’s just what’s in my mind.

I’m hopeful about seeing the acupuncturist. I feel like she may be able to do some good for me. I’m a little nervous about the diet changes she may suggest, as I feel it may be a little (or a lot) expensive. But I’ll take it one step at a time.

In the midst of my up-and-down hopefulness, I’m aware of the fact that I will not be having a child in 2008. I will be pushing 30 if I happen to get pregnant in the next few months, but it’s more likely that I’ll be at least 30 when my first child comes. (My apologies to those of you who have already reached and/or passed the milestone of 30. I’m not trying to stick my thumb on any bruises at all. This is just where I am in my life.)

This is not what I imagined starting a family would look like for us, but I have to remember that this is not God’s Plan B for us—it’s his Plan A. This is where we’re supposed to be, even if I don’t understand it and would prefer it to be another way.

Lately, I’ve been made more aware about how things look with the benefit of hindsight. Things that have happened in my life that I just didn’t understand at all at the time, things that I thought were just the worst possible thing, all tend to look much better with the perspective of several years. Boyfriends I broke up with, boyfriends who broke up with me, jobs I didn’t get, friendships that faded over time…looking back on them, I can say without a doubt that God’s hand was there and he worked things out perfectly, even if it hurt at the time. If things had gone exactly how I wanted them to instead of how God planned for them to be, my life would be very different now…and not in a good way. So I’m thankful for God’s sovereignty and am looking to him to make this present situation shine with perfection so that one day, when I look back on this time in my life, I’ll be able to see God’s hand in it and see how wonderfully he planned everything.

More on acupuncture
March 20, 2008, 1:00 pm
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As is usually the case in the couple of weeks after the iui, there’s not much to report. I have a few symptoms, but they’re most likely stemming from the HCG shot, as I’ve already felt the cramps that signal the impending period.

Upon the recommendation of a few people here, I’ve been reading through The Fertility Cure by Randine Lewis. It’s been really interesting so far. I can’t say I’m totally on board with all of it, but the philosophy behind Eastern medicine (she refers to it as TCM—traditional Chinese medicine) is making sense to me. Instead of putting a synthetic substance into your body that mimics whatever hormone you’re lacking, be it progesterone, estrogen, FSH, etc, it seeks to bring the body back into balance so that the body produces the hormone itself naturally. It’s like looking for the source of a headache and fixing whatever is out of whack rather than just treating the symptoms with Tylenol.

In the past few years, I’ve noticed a desire to go with more natural routes, whereas before, I wouldn’t really think about alternatives. I cook pretty healthfully, and I try to cut out artificial ingredients when I can. I’ve switched to cane sugar instead of refined white sugar, and I use Smar.t Balance peanut butter that’s full of Omega-3 and no trans fatty acids instead of good ol’ Jiffy that’s delish but has all the hydrogenated stuff. I buy Kashi crackers and cookies when I can (mostly when they’re on sale) because I feel like they use natural and whole-wheat ingredients, I try to snack on fruit and cheeses and things rather than processed foods, and I buy Egg.lands Best eggs, because they’re fortified with Omega-3, and the chickens are vegetarian fed, which for some reason makes me think they’re happier chickens. I haven’t switched to all organic foods because it’s just too expensive to buy all organic, but if a product I need to buy has an organic version on sale, I’ll grab it.

All that to say, after reading about how what we put into our bodies has such a big effect on how we feel, and after trying to make better food choices, I’m now finding myself wanting to be more natural in other areas as well, which may be why I’m looking more favorably towards TCM these days. Again, it’s not just the acupuncture itself, but it’s the philosophy of “fixing” the body naturally. I’ve already sworn off birth control for good because I don’t like the idea of putting something so artificial into my body again (that, and it caused wild hormonal fluctuations in my body once I got off of it), and I’d also like to continue down the path of not using any meds to get pregnant. If I’m not pregnant now, we’ll most likely do another unmedicated iui next cycle. After that, however, I’m not sure what our plan will be. I don’t know if Dr. H. will want me to try a medicated cycle or two. I’ve decided that if it comes to that, I’ll want to take a few months off and try TCM first, instead of the meds. I think regardless of whether she suggests Clomid for me, I’ll want to try acupuncture after our next iui. Or, I suppose I could even try it in conjunction with our next iui.

Most of what I’ve read in The Infertility Cure talks about acupuncture (and the related diet moderation and herbs) helping with specific diagnoses like a luteal phase defect, abnormal periods, thin uterine lining, anovulation, etc. I haven’t been diagnosed with any of these things, which is why we’re in the “unexplained” category. However, she does mention that you can have an imbalance in one of those areas that’s slight enough to not show up on medical tests or in blood work, but it’s there and can be throwing the body’s natural processes out of balance. These can be corrected through TCM. There are checklists you can go through to see what your particular imbalance might be. There were two areas that I definitely fit into (kidney yang deficiency and spleen qu deficiency, if you want to know), and to think that TCM could possibly correct some of the specific things I experience makes me willing to try it. Even if it doesn’t help me get pregnant, if it were to “fix” some of the other things, like being cold a lot of the time, having cold hands and feet, waking up at night to go to the bathroom, worrying/overthinking, I think it’d be worth it.

(And for the record, I know that worrying or over thinking is a woman’s job sometimes, especially when dealing with IF issues.)

Drinking Deeply
March 12, 2008, 1:51 pm
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I posted this today on my other blog, but thought I’d post it here as well, as I hope it will serve as encouragement to you all.

Someone I know is going through a pretty tragic time in her life, yet she’s approaching it with so much grace and strength, it’s pretty unfathomable to me. I’ve never experienced a death close to me—all my grandparents are still alive, I’ve never lost a friend, my family is in mostly good health, etc. I don’t know how I’ll handle the death of someone close to me. If ever I think about it (which I don’t usually, but hearing her story makes me thinking about it a little) I tend to think that I’ll probably need some sort of therapy to help me move through it. Especially in the case of the unexpected and sudden death of a parent.

This post isn’t about death, though, it’s about life and how beautiful it can be despite the possibility of it ending. This friend has a website through which she’s keeping her friends and family updated on the situation. Today, she wrote this: We will not give way to fear of the future, but with deep confidence that God will meet us there, we embrace the present. We plan to laugh a lot, love a lot, and drink deeply of God’s beauty. I believe that is God’s heart for us….for you.

I don’t think I’m that encouraging to people at any point, much less when I’m going through my own personal trial. She’s been such an encouragement to those close her, and to those who are just reading the story through the website. Her words are incredibly uplifting to me, and it helps me put my own trials in perspective. Today is what matters. Not to sound trite, but none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Yet, for many of us, the thought of tomorrow is what furrows our brow and tenses our shoulders.

Another friend and I were talking last week about worrying. While she said she tends to worry over her past and has trouble moving on, I confessed that my worries always lie with the future. I worry about things that haven’t happened, that may never happen. Some of them very well may come to light, but I worry about them before their time. I make tomorrow’s troubles today’s. That’s something I’m really working on overcoming. I want to embrace the present and all of its goodness, not fearing the future and what may or may not be. There’s so much beauty and life and richness in every day—I need to focus on those things and not let my mind wander into realms that aren’t promised to me, realms that I have no business trying to figure out before their time. Lord, help me let go of my future and trust you to take care of it, and me.

March 11, 2008, 3:12 pm
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Today I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the kindness of people. First off, my IUI was this morning, and everything went well. Dr. A. did the procedure, and he was just so kind. When he walked in, he said I looked familiar to him, and I said it was because he did my IUI last month. He said, “Well, I guess that one didn’t work, did it?” I said no but maybe this one would.

As before, the procedure lasted all of 10 seconds and was virtually painless. When he was leaving the room, he said, “I wish you the best of luck.” He just sounded so genuine, even though he does those procedures every day and to so many women. It made me feel like the doctors and nurses in this program really want their patients to get pregnant, and for reasons other than the fact that successful pregnancies are good for their statistics.

They let me lie there for about 20 minutes, then that was it. The nurse at check-out said I didn’t need to make any other appointments, which I’m questioning now. They usually schedule me for a progesterone check a week after the IUI. I called and left a message after I left to make sure I didn’t need that test. My levels have been fine every other time, so maybe they’re thinking it’s unnecessary.

At lunch, I decided to make a call to my insurance company. The financial dept of the doctors’ office is nice enough to figure out most of our IF-related insurance for us, but they haven’t been able to find information on whether or not initial testing and diagnosis is included in my lifetime maximum for IF treatment. I was dreading the phone call because typically phone calls to customer service reps aren’t a walk in the park. The girl I spoke with put me on hold for a little while after I told her what I needed. While I was listening to the canned advertisements on the hold line, I was expecting her to come back on and say, “I’m sorry I can’t help you with that.” (Honestly, the last time I called BC.BS, the lady basically could give me no information about coverage and said I needed to call someone else, but couldn’t tell me who.) This time, when the lady finally came back on the line, she actually gave me some helpful information, then said she’d mail me the coverage benefits. As we were getting off the phone, she said, “I really hope everything works out for you.” I was so surprised to hear that.

About 20 minutes later, my phone rings and it’s the customer service girl again! She called to say she’d been looking for my coverage information since we got off the phone but couldn’t find what I needed, and she wanted to let me know so I wouldn’t expect it in the mail. She told me what to tell the doctors’ office to help them find the information. I just couldn’t believe she went through the trouble of finding my number to call me back. Sometimes life can surprise you.

And so begins the two week wait. Hopefully I’ll be able to fill it with enough things to keep me from obsessing over twinges and feelings. Although I will say it’s nice to know from the get-go that the HCG shot can sometimes fool you into thinking you feel pregnancy symptoms because of the hormone itself. It won’t fool me this time.

(Speaking of the HCG, I’m happy to report that my hip wasn’t sore at all yesterday after the shot. Last month, I was almost limping by the end of the day, but yesterday, nothing. Maybe the nurse was more skilled in giving that shot. Kuddos to her.)

IUI#3 tomorrow
March 10, 2008, 9:35 am
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So, that high temp ended up being a fluke. I must have just been really warm under the covers or something. It went back down the next day, thankfully.

I’ve started the doctor visits in preparation for IUI#3. I actually started yesterday when I was scheduled to go in for an ultrasound. I hadn’t had a positive OPK yet, but they say to come in on day 15 even if you haven’t surged. If you have to come in on a weekend, they want you to be there by 8:00 because the lab is only open for a short time. I got there a few minutes after 8, feeling bad that I wasn’t exactly on time. It wasn’t until I got back in the lab area to have my blood work done that I realized it wasn’t 8:00—it was 9:00! I had totally forgotten about the time change. I apologized profusely, but they were so nice about it. I don’t even think they would have said anything to me about it if I hadn’t realized it on my own.

When I had the ultrasound, she saw that the follicle wasn’t yet mature (which is what I suspected since I hadn’t surged) so she told me to come back today.

I went in this morning, making sure I was ON TIME for my 7:30 appointment. Today I was in and out in just under an hour. The ultrasound showed that the follicle was “definitely mature” and that my lining looked great. Next, I went into the nurse practitioner’s office where she gave me the lovely HCG shot. I mentioned to her how bad my hip hurt last time, and she said that’s definitely a side effect. At least this time I’ll be expecting it.

So that was that. M has to be there at 7:30 in the morning, and I’m to go at 9. One of the male doctors will be doing the IUI, and I appreciated that the nurse asked me if that was ok. It was a little bit of a surprise last time when he walked in the door (he was the on call doctor), so I’m glad this time I’ll be prepared.

I feel like this month in particular I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about how God’s plans are always good, and that he is good to us in every instance of every day. I’ve been reminding myself of this constantly, and I believe it’s helped. I’m praying of course this is our month, but I’m also praying that I’ll be content whatever the outcome.

In limbo
March 7, 2008, 10:49 am
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M and I have been on track to have our 3rd IUI sometime this weekend. Things were looking fine until this morning, CD13, when I saw that my temp had risen fairly significantly, over the coverline. Since I’ve been charting my temps, I’ve ovulated on CD16 or 17, and as late as CD19 one month. I’ve told the nurses that I don’t need to start the OPKs on CD9 like they tell most people, because it’d just be a waste of money for me to start that early. Instead I start them on CD12. I did my first one last night and it was negative. Lo and behold, the temp rise this morning. So, I’m left wondering if it’s because I was buried under extra blankets last night (I got really cold for some reason last night) or if I ovulated extra early this cycle, even with a negative OPK, and we missed our chance for the IUI.

Strangely enough, I’m not overly concerned about it. It’s not because I don’t care or that I wouldn’t be frustrated if we missed our chance at the IUI, but because I’m getting very tired of trying to decipher all the bells and whistles of this whole process. Figuring out what every little cramp and twinge mean, why my temp was extra low or extra high today, why I ovulated 48 hours after my trigger last month, why I always feel cramps a week before my period starts, etc etc etc. I’d rather not spend my day analyzing those 3 numbers on my thermometer and what they may or may not mean.

All the magic of this supposed-to-be beautiful process has pretty much slipped out the gate and I feel like I’m left with the technical, medicinal, sterile aspects of it. We’re working on making the rest of the month as special as it can be, but the week and a half around mid-cycle feels pretty clinical and stale. And to think that my body may have done something totally out of the ordinary and tripped us all up feels sort of someone stuck their thumb on an already tender bruise and pushed down on it just for kicks.

Deep down though, I know that’s not it. It’s just my knee-jerk reaction to it. It may not have been a true temp rise. I won’t know that until tomorrow morning. If it is though, I’ll be reminding myself that God is GOOD in this and every instance in my life. He’s not good sometimes and not at other times, he’s good ALL the time. If we missed our chance for the IUI this month, maybe he’s just telling me to not put all my eggs and hope in the IUI basket. Although, I must say I feel pretty confident that I’m not putting my hope in these IUIs. I’m not feeling too confident in anything getting us pregnant these days except God miraculously making it happen.