(mis)Adventures in Reproduction: Diagnosing Bad Luck

Surprise! I’m still not pregnant (nor have I been since the chemical pregnancy in April). Here’s what’s happened in the past three months:

RE or REally not impressed

My Obgyn broke up with me saying, “There’s nothing more I can do for you.” I’m not sure what she had really done for me to begin with so I only feel slightly rejected instead of broken-hearted. As a parting gift, she referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) otherwise known as a fertility specialist. I went back and forth on whether I should actually go. What, exactly, could this RE do that my OB hadn’t already done (except charge me $50 per visit instead of $25)?

After talking about it with some online friends, I decided that a consultation couldn’t hurt and I had my, now rather large, medical file sent to the specialist’s office. I went to the first appointment with just a little glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe I would be getting some answers soon.

At the first appointment, the doctor reviewed my history and bloodwork results from the OB. She refused to speculate on possible causes of the miscarriages until she had the results of about 22 blood panels and a saline ultrasound — all of which had to be done on very specific cycle days. I walked out of the office after that initial visit with lab orders (for myself and my husband), prescriptions, and directions about how to prepare for my ultrasound.

With each test, I grew more excited, sensing a discovery was just around the corner. “Today’s test is going to show something! I just know it.” I imagined sitting in the office, getting the results and exclaiming “Well that explains it! And you say all I have to do is take these magic pills and it will all be ok? Why didn’t I do this sooner?”

The follow-up appointment didn’t exactly go like that. Instead, it went like this. Doctor: Well, I’ve reviewed the results of every test and everything is well within normal range. I have no explanation for your multiple losses other than to say it’s simply bad luck.” Me: Did you just say my diagnosis is bad luck?” Doctor: Well, that’s not a diagnosis, but yes. There’s nothing wrong that we can see.” Me: “So that’s it? That’s how this ends?”  Doctor: “That’s up to you. I have a treatment plan.” Me: “You have a treatment plan for bad luck?” Doctor: “The plan is to get you pregnant as many times as possible and hope that one sticks.” Me: Stunned silence followed by tears and lots of nose blowing.

As a side note, my husband was with me for that appointment and he said the doctor looked truly shocked that was sobbing. Does this not happen frequently in this office? Hormonal women getting hopeless news on a nearly daily basis and the doctor is shocked that I am sobbing? Anyway…

I walked out of the office that day faced with choices that range from $400 per month to $4000 per month. Keep in mind that all of these choices are aimed at getting me pregnant as many times as possible and “hoping that one sticks.”

I’ve decided to not pursue any of the choices made available to me; not Clomid, not Femara, not IUI (inter-uterine insemination), not IVF (in-vitro fertilization). I’ve decided that reproducing really shouldn’t be this hard. And I have no idea where that leaves me or what’s left to do– except to write a break-up letter to my RE.

So that’s the update. I plan to finish out the summer with my own treatment plan: an endurance mud-run race this weekend, plenty of wine drinking on summer terraces, perhaps a cocktail of natural fertility boosting supplements, and reckless baby-dancing with my husband — you know — just in case one sticks.

Life After Miscarriage: How does this story end?

It was November 14, 2009 when I took my last birth control pill. My husband and I decided that 2010 was the year we were going to have a baby. I went to the OB in December for my yearly well-woman visit and talked to my doctor about our plans to try to conceive. She wrote me a prescription for prenatal vitamins and said, “It takes most couples your age six to eight months of trying before the they are successful. Just have fun.”

We continued to use protection until January and in our first unprotected cycle were blessed enough to get pregnant. I was that woman: the one whom women who have been trying to conceive for years, want to punch in the uterus.

Here I am, a year later, a year after stopping my birth control pill, one unsuccessful pregnancy later wondering, “What the hell happened?”

I know I’m being a whiny little…ahem. I know there are women out there who want to punch me in my uterus and say “At least you were able to get pregnant once. That means you can do it again.” I know that I have no room to complain because we haven’t been actively and unsuccessfully trying for more than 12 consecutive months and therefore, I’m not technically infertile.

But I do wonder, what if my first pregnancy was my last pregnancy? How does this story end? Is it happily ever after as so many people try to reassure me? Or is it simply The End? How do I know if I’m on the last page of the last chapter or if I’m just in the middle of the book?

My mom is the kind of person who reads the end of the book before she reads the beginning. If the end is worth it, she’ll go back and read the rest. I wish I could skip ahead to the end of my story to see what kind of ending it has.

Life After Miscarriage: Who is that in the mirror?

There are days — and thankfully fewer and far between — when I look at my reflection and I don’t know who is staring back at me. I’m surprised by how “normal” I look.  I don’t mean that to be funny; it’s just that if what appeared in the mirror was a reflection of what was going through my mind, or my heart, then it would be ashen, bruised, exhausted.

My best friend gave birth a week ago. I was looking through her pictures and saw life in her eyes, color in her cheeks and a joy that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen on her face. It’s the kind of joy that’s in your eyes and in your soul. Unmistakable. More than just a smile. What’s funny about joy is that you can recognize it immediately. But pain—well that’s a different story.

That’s because pain hides behind a smile and behind, “I’m good.” Pain hides behind normal. Pain won’t show up in the mirror.

You can hide pain and you can fake joy. I’ve gotten pretty good at both. It’s an exhausting existence though. Also exhausting is the battle between joy and pain when they exist in the same space. When I look at my friend’s pictures, I am simultaneously caught in her joy and suffocating from pain. It leaves me craving and dreading. Thirsty and saturated. Full and starving.

I want to celebrate and love and at the same time it feels treacherously deceitful to my feelings.

I pick up the phone to call her because I want all the details and I want to hear how she is, and how the baby is. I want to gush and God, I miss her.  But every time I pick up the phone, I freeze. My heart skips a beat and I’m reminded of what was lost and I can’t breathe. Joy. Pain. Joy. Pain. Joy. Pain.

I will call…soon. But at this moment in time, this is how I show love and joy:

Welcome to the world Aiden James and my sincerest love and congratulations to your wonderful parents.

Life After Miscarriage: Recovering from Surgery and More

In February, I had planned to spend a day or two in the hospital in October. Funny how things work out. Or don’t.

Walking into the hospital, my husband and I both realized that had it not been for the miscarriage, we could have been walking that same sidewalk at the same time but for a very different reason. “Right around this time, right?” my husband said. “Yeah, it should have been any day now,” I replied as I stared at the Maternity sign that hung just below the Registration sign.

As I laid in pre-op, my hands folded over my flat stomach and hubby by my side, I was surprised by how unemotional I felt about the fact that I wasn’t there to have a baby; that if things would have turned out differently, we would have been giggling nervously in anticipation of our newborn.

Without a crack in my voice, I recounted the details of my miscarriage to the pre-op nurse who asked three times if I had a dilation and curettage. “So they never went in and scraped?” she asked, adding hand gestures as if I was suddenly going to remember that I had a D&C when in fact, I did not. “No. It was a missed miscarriage and I took Misoprostal.”

“So they never went back and looked inside? They never cleaned you out?” For heaven’s sake lady, are you trying to get me to crack? Once we cleared up all the details and she determined I was healthy enough for anesthesia, the conversation turned to my People Magazine and how healthy Michael Douglas looked as he stared from the cover.

Just like that, my eight-month-long saga, one that I’ve told many times and in various emotional stages — my story – was nothing more than clinical pre-op details. Not worthy of People Magazine, just a medical chart.  And you know what? I felt the same way. I felt so far removed from my miscarriage story, even in spite of the obvious irony of being in the hospital so close to my due date.

The surgery gave me permission to be the patient with the ovarian cyst instead of the patient who had the miscarriage. Describing my miscarriage, I was describing someone else. That was her story. The person having surgery – that was me – and boy was I glad to be me for once.

I’ve gone from, “I just had a miscarriage,” to, “I just had surgery.” It’s less emotion to reconcile with. This is a much easier place.

I’ve gone from dealing with a pregnancy loss to dealing with an ovarian cyst. For right now at least, I get to be the person recovering from surgery, not the person grieving from a miscarriage or trying to conceive after a loss. The best part? I. Feel. Free.

For months, I’ve grieved over losing my pregnancy and obsessed about becoming pregnant again. Isn’t that I what I’m supposed to do? Isn’t EVERY conversation supposed to be about my miscarriage and getting pregnant? Isn’t the white elephant ALWAYS in the room? Isn’t the world revolving around ME? I’ve felt like there was this unwritten expectation that I will get pregnant right away and that with each passing month I didn’t, I was letting the world down. I’ve felt like it’s wrong of me NOT to obsess over becoming pregnant again.

I’ve been looking for a way to let go without feeling guilty. I’ve been looking for an out. I’ve been desperate for a rest but didn’t want to admit that I was tired. Of course, now that I’ve had surgery, I don’t have to. For the next month, I don’t have to think about my temperature, or charting my way to conception. I don’t have to neurotically pee on sticks, or obsess about my cycle day.  For the next month, I get to focus on healing. That feels good. I think it’s what the doctor ordered back in April but I’ve decided to finally fill the prescription.

Life After Micarriage: Cyst Be Gone

Tomorrow is the day! I decided to have the surgery to remove this thing growing on my ovary. In honor of tomorrow, I wrote the sucker a letter.

Dear cyst,

It’s time we parted ways. You’re a little too attached to me. I mean, you’ve grown to roughly three times the size of my ovary. You are basically the size of a large Grade A egg. I would keep you around but unfortunately, I’m not competing in a state fair for the largest organically grown product. Tomorrow, you will be surgically removed, and you are not invited back. Thanks for playing. –Emily

Ah yes. The size of an egg – at least that’s what my Google image search for 7cm revealed. I’m horrified and, morbidly curious. I mean – I can’t grow a baby but I can grow a fluid-filled globe the size of key lime? That got me thinking…

Anyone that’s familiar with literature on pregnancy knows about the comparison of embryos and fetuses to foods. So here are some other comparisons: a large date, a small tomato, a red potato, a large strawberry. See, it’s not just the pregnant women who get to have all the fun!

My husband wants me to bring it home in a jar. I tried to explain that the surgery doesn’t exactly work like that. Thanks to the wonders of science, it will actually be sucked out through my belly button. Well, maybe not my belly button but some small incision near there. Either way, it’s not going to remain intact enough to store in a jar and put on display.  And even if we could keep it in a jar, it wouldn’t match with our pillows and couch.

Life After Miscarriage: The Enemy Within

There is no easy way to put this so I will just come out and say it. There is a 7 centimeter cyst on my right ovary.

 I got this news in the same room that I found out my baby’s heart was no longer beating and from the same person who told me that I had a missed miscarriage. God. I hate that room.

 I sat in the waiting room for about 35 minutes between getting the ultrasound and speaking with the doctor. I watched the ObGyn coordinator call newly pregnant couples to the back for their first appointments. There was one couple in particular – a husband and wife by the looks of it. The woman was just glowing with happiness. God. I hated her; I hated them.

 I overheard another woman scheduling her next appointment. The receptionist said, “Oh! Your 20-week appointment! That’s an exciting one!” God. Get me out of here.

 By the time I finally got to speak to the doctor, I was nearly in tears. She came in with nine images of my ovaries and said, “It’s pretty big.”

 I have a couple of options to deal with this thing. I can do the old ‘wait and see’ and hope it shrinks on its own. I highly doubt it. This cyst is big enough to have its own passport. I can take birth control pills to shrink it. Something about that option sounds counterintuitive to getting pregnant. Or, I can have surgery.

 The surgery is laparoscopic, outpatient, and fairly straightforward. I watched a video of it on You Tube. I almost vomited but I think that’s because I’m a bit squeamish. It didn’t really look that bad at all and apparently, there is no real recovery time. Aside from the risk of completely losing the ovary if the doctor makes a wrong move, and of course, death…I don’t really have a reason not to get ‘er out.

Questions After Miscarriage: Where Do I Find Support?

Between social mediums like Facebook and Twitter and websites like Craigslist and MeetUp, connecting with people who have similar interests and experiences has never been easier. Don’t believe me? Head on over to Meetup.com and try this experiment. Search for “working moms.” There are more than 3000 groups worldwide that meet under that topic. Now try “stay at home moms.” More than 4000 groups meeting!

Try this same experiment with “pregnancy loss” and you’ll likely receive the same message I did: “Sorry, no matches found for ‘pregnancy loss’ within 100 miles of your zip code.” Well I’ll be darned.

Not having luck with finding local support groups, I decided to head to a bookstore to look for books about coping with pregnancy loss.

The woman at the service desk in Barnes and Noble looked nice enough and I thought I could trust her with my secret so I said, “I’m looking for books about miscarriage.” I waited for her to grimace or flinch under the weight of that awful word. I had imagined her look of pity. Instead, I got nothing. I might as well have asked her where I could find the dictionary section.

She led me to the back, far corner of the bookstore. I followed her thinking, “How appropriate. A corner where I can browse through my tears for the perfect book on how to cope with the loss of my unborn child.”

The section also had books about other taboo subjects like menopause and anxiety. We were able to find exactly one book. One. “Really?” I asked. “There’s no other section? Maybe near the family planning area?” She offered to go check the inventory while I stood there and scoured the shelf thinking maybe she missed it.

For all of the information on conception and pregnancy, there is a fraction of information available on the topic of miscarriage. A search for pregnancy books on Amazon yielded nearly 24,000 results. A search for miscarriage books yielded 901.

The woman came back and said, “I can order one for you.” I declined.

At home I logged into my local library website, something I was avoiding because I have overdue fines from the prenatal yoga DVDs I checked out and was late returning. The library carried a small selection of books (more than I thought they would considering it’s not a well-funded or large library). “Oh good,” I thought, clicking on the first title.

“Due on May 13,” flashed on the screen.

“What? Whaaaat?” I clicked on the next title. “Due on May 13.” The third title: “Due on May 13.”

The library had 3 books and they were checked out! There was a woman, somewhere in my locality, who had checked out these books. Where is she? Who is she? Will she be my friend?

Desperate for a connection, to hear from other women who have been through this experience, I continue to search for local support groups and to lurk on online pregnancy loss boards. I have what seems like thousands of questions. When? What did you do? How long did you? What did your doctor say? What were your HCG levels? How long did it take you to? How did you? Who did you? What did she say? What about?

I don’t know where I’ll find my answers, or my comfort for that matter. It just seems that I shouldn’t have to look so hard.

Join us on Facebook!

I post new, pregnancy related news stories on Facebook every day. We’d love to see you there! :) Click here to visit Pea in the Podcast on Facebook!

Mommy on the Move!

You may have noticed I have been absent, of late. In the last month, I have resigned from a company at which I worked for ten years, packed up my stuff and my baby’s stuff, rented a U-Haul and taken several trips in my loaded Escape, as well, and moved five hours north to the location of my graduate school! I started classes two weeks ago, and have been living between two distant cities for two weeks. With a three year old lol.

I thought I could do it all, and keep blogging regularly. Turns out I couldn’t, but I’m back! Tonight I’ll talk about a blood test that may be able to predict whether you’re at risk for postpartum depression. This is excellent news, and I’ll tell you why. Come on back for that!

In the meantime, my daughter and I are getting settled into our new, adorable home, and I am figuring out this new life of mine, as a mom and as an individual.

As you might expect, this move has not occurred without the occasional stumble.

In several shows at Pea in the Podcast, I talk about the importance of having a support system. Every mom needs one. Whether it’s your family, a close circle of friends, or one you create through mommy groups, people you hire like postpartum doulas, or your local baby yoga class, a support system is essential.

I don’t really have one yet in North Texas.

So on Monday, as I prepared to go to class and leave my daughter with her father’s cousin (for the first time) I heard the sad news that her sister’s husband had died. She would — of course — be with her. But was was I to do with my baby? I immediately decided I would bring her to class with me. After all, I’m getting my Master’s in Child Development! Why would they mind a three year old in the room lol?

Thankfully, though, my daughter’s father had a friend — who also knew my daughter — who was willing and able to watch her.

Support system building begins! We’re having lunch tomorrow. :)

On a side note, I got very lost trying to find her house, and was late for class lol. Ah, the joys of living in an unfamiliar city! Oh, and the joy of being me. I get lost just about every time I get in the car. It’s sad, but true.

I was concerned that this move would be hard on my daughter. She’s already experienced the separation and divorce of her father and mother. So as we went to look for apartments, I explained that she would get to pick our new home. I liked our first choice, and so did she, so I asked if she picked it. She said yes, and for the next several weeks told everyone, gleefully, she had picked our new home, and did a good job, because mommy loved it. She’s still thrilled that she “picked” our home. :)

One day my daughter asked why we were doing this…this move. I said, simply, mommy wanted to spend more time with her girl, so she was going back to school to do something she loved. She thought about it for just a second, then said…

“That sounds like a good idea.”

That sounds like a good idea. Since the moment I conceived it, it sounded like a good idea to me, too. A good idea for me, and most importantly, a good idea that would improve and enrich the life of my daughter, Aidan Kate.

If you have an idea that you think might make you a happier and more fulfilled mommy, go for it! A happy mother is more in tune with her kids, and her kids are happier, too.

So now I’m settled in a ready to get back to blogging. Yay!

And remember, you beautiful moms-to-be, your pregnancy week-by-week audio shows are up at Pea in the Podcast. Dr. Laurie Swaim and I accompany you on your pregnancy journey, updating you week by week on what’s going on with your body and your baby.

You can also listen to a variety of podcasts about your pregnancy, preparing for your baby, and what you need to know to be ready when your miracle arrives.

Get on over there, mamas! :)
-Bonnie

Babies!


A friend of mine JUST had a baby. She is perfect and beautiful and YAY! Another is going to give birth any minute. At home! You go, brave girl.

Of course, this gives me serious baby fever. But then when don’t I have serious baby fever?

The pic above is my baby and me on her birthday. What a day.

These exciting births have reminded me of how much I enjoyed doing the Pea in the Podcasts for new mommies. After my little one came, I couldn’t believe they were going to send her home with me without a very large handbook. If this will soon be you, or someone you know, why not give the podcasts a listen or pass them on? Hopefully they will ease your/their terror a little, although nothing could possibly alleviate it completely.

Here they are:
Caring For Your Newborn
Baby Boot Camp

Now…off to find some sort of medication to cure this baby fever….

-Bonnie