Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Good and the Bad

I'll start off with the Good.  I'm so thankful for your thoughtful comments on my last post about knowing when to stop TTC.  I haven't responded to all of them—taking some time to process them and work has been crazy—but I truly appreciate your taking the time to stop by and comment.  The comments warmed my heart.  Hearing from friends I hadn't heard from in a while, reading some of your thoughts about stopping...I'm constantly amazed at the warmth and thoughtfulness of bloggers and other commenters, most of whom I've never met in real life.

A Woman My Age asked if I'd considered alternative therapies for my pain, such as acupuncture.  I did weekly acupuncture sessions for about a month after this surgery.  I got amazing pain relief during the sessions but unfortunately the pain always returned in full force a few minutes after I got up from the table.  I considered continuing the sessions in case they were helping in ways I didn't comprehend.  I asked my main doctors whether I should continue acu treatments; they're both pro-acupuncture in general.  My pain doctor said she expected the pain relief to last beyond the session, and since it wasn't lasting I should stop.  At $90 a session, I was a little relieved.

This week, I'll be starting physical therapy and biofeedback at the recommendation of my pain doctor.  I'm curious to see what PT will recommend.  I don't know much about biofeedback but I'm willing to give it a shot.  In the midst of all of this, I've also been half-heartedly meditating.  My therapist wants me to do it daily but I'm having trouble committing to it.

Also in the Good category is that my RE (reproductive endocrinologist) gave me some good news this week.  She did a regular ultrasound of my unbelievebly screwy uterus and things actually looked good.  Before the most recent surgery, there was a pucker where one side of my uterus seemed unnaturally drawn to the other side.  I think it was scar tissue, adenomyosis, something of that nature.  The pucker is now gone.  I'm breathing a small sigh of relief, not a huge one yet, because the real picture of how I'm healing will be a 3D sonogram.  Not sure when I'll feel good enough to do one.

Which leads me to the Bad.  I'm still feeling shitty.  The pain feels like it's here to stay, regardless of my doctors' reassurances that I will get better someday.  Instead of hurting in the uterine area, it mostly hurts under my ribcage, which totally weirds out my RE.  The pain doc still acts blase (accent over the "e"—don't know how to do them in Blogger) about it all, like she sees uterine surgeries resulting in burning upper abdominal pain all the time.  She increased my gabapentin dose, which seems to be helping already.  She also gave me a great answer to my question about how much activity I should be doing.  She said resting too much was more of a concern than being too active, so I should try to be active within reason.  So that was actually a Good buried within the Bad.  I'm glad to be given the green light to being more active.

Blogging and commenting has had to take back seat lately as projects at work keep piling on.  I'm a medical writer, and I've been lucky lately to be writing about oral hygiene.  Sometimes it's much worse—chronic diseases, diarrhea, or...oral contraceptives.  Fortunately the oral contraceptive project got put on hold because I did not enjoy writing about the magic of conception.

Anyway, I'm here and reading your posts even when I'm not able to comment much.  Hope you're all having a good weekend!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Body's Saying "No"

I'm not sure how much more TTC I can take.

I'm tired of feeling bad.  We can't seem to stop messing with my reproductive organs and I'm afraid we're screwing up my body.  Hormones, surgeries, uterine balloons...whatever we've done that's so pissed you off, Body, I'm sorry.  I know you want to get on the Pill, calm down the endo, and forget about having children, but I don't think I'm ready to stop.

I've felt bad enough with all the post-op pain lately that I often forget why we're doing this.  A baby seems like a fantasy, like I'm kidding myself to think I could possibly ever have one.  It's not helping that I'm not sure when I'll feel better and my uterus will cease to be messed up, both of which need to occur before we try again.

To check the architectural/healing status of my uterus, I need to have a 3D sonogram during the early part of a cycle.  Although Aunt Flo came a few days ago, I'm skipping the 3D sono this cycle.  My doctor and I decided it would decidedly not be a good idea since my uterus is still pissed off from the last procedure.  We can hope that I'll be feeling good enough to have the 3D sono next cycle, but who knows.  It might be a couple more cycles until we can TTC again.

Trying seems very abstract after being TTA so long.  And like I said in a recent post, being TTA is freeing.  I desperately still want a child but haven't been forced to focus on getting there.  I'm living my life.

But I want my life back in full.  I want to be healthy and active again and doing my normal activities.  I'm tired of having to constantly plan around pain.  I'm tired of surgeries and doctors.  I'm tired of having my clinic on speed dial and knowing the nurse line options by heart.  I want yoga, walking, cooking, and everything I normally do.

I'm sure my struggles so far are a small price to pay for the chance at having a child.  The thing is, I don't know how much longer this will go on, and I don't know how much more my body can take.  Our bodies don't have long to be on this planet and I want mine to be as healthy as possible.  What if I'm irreversibly damaging it by going under the knife time after time?  What if my nerves, damaged by endo, are getting so pissed off that they will act up the rest of my life?  What if the hormones I've taken cause the endo flare to end all flares?

I won't even go into how I don't know how much more of trying my heart can take.  But I don't.

There's also the question of how my body would behave with a pregnancy that lasts beyond 7 weeks, the time both of my miscarriages were diagnosed.  I think we've established that my uterus is cranky, to say the least.  Am I setting myself up for a pregnancy full of complications?  Will I be in pain and on bedrest for 9 months?  My two short-lived pregnancies were probably farther on the crampy/twingy continuum than most, but not awful.  But I haven't experienced anything beyond 7 weeks.  How in the world will my pissy uterus deal with an actual fetus? 

Blah.  I know I need to talk to my doctor about my fears but we're in survival mode currently, just trying to get past this painful post-op time.  Communications with my doctor involve plans for the immediate future only.

A part of me, the part with feelings, isn't just in "making it through the day" mode, though.  Tomorrow is my due date for my last pregnancy.  I've been reflecting on the tiny little baby we saw on the ultrasound screen, perfect except for not having a heartbeat.  We found out a few weeks after my D&C that it was a girl.  I miss her.  I wish I was worried about labor and delivery now and not when to stop trying.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Volunteer Petunias

My pride and joy
I'm a beginner gardener and had no idea what a "volunteer" plant was until a couple of years ago.  Perennials came back each year, annuals didn't, and that was that.  Until the petunias I planted as annuals came back the following year.

Apparently being lazy and leaving the dead (or dormant) petunias around, unkempt and dead-looking all winter, has its advantages.  The seeds sprouted by the old plants can stick around over the winter and become beautiful petunias in the spring.  These are called volunteers, as I understand it, because they aren't guaranteed to come back as new plants but do anyway.

Tell me these aren't the most beautiful flowers you've ever seen.

Flowers around my mailbox

I adore them.  I regularly stand and stare at them; I am totally the weirdo gardening lady. But what's not to love with these plants?  They're beautiful.  They're hardy. I deadhead them sometimes and give them some water in the scorching summers, but mostly I leave them to shine on their own. 

The original petunias I planted were white but the volunteers are pink; I'm told that flowers revert to pink in the wild.  I'd very carefully picked out white flowers for this bed; pink was not part of the plan.  After we got this house, I looked at tons of landscaping books and had grand plans of color-coordinating foliage and flowers.  I'd have a bed with cool colors, maybe another with reds and yellows, but certainly nothing clashy.  After I came to terms with my lazy gardening approach, I realized that getting abundant flowers of any color is a victory, so the potentially clashy petunias will be left alone.

I'll sign off with a few more photos from my garden this spring.  Maybe my color scheme is pink and pinker.  

Azaleas planted by the builder

Camellias.  I planted three of these last year after they'd bloomed and hadn't
known how pretty the flowers would be.  Love them!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What I'm Doing On My "Trying to Avoid" Vacation

Note:  In fertility/infertility circles, "trying to conceive" = TTC and "trying to avoid conception" = TTA. 

Taking time off when you're trying to conceive can be good.  Regroup, relax, stop thinking about planned sex.  Give your body a break from fertility medications.

I've been on a medically-induced break for months.  Months and months.  Since my second miscarriage last September, actually.  First it was waiting for the hCG to leave my system so we could do the repeated pregnancy loss panel.  Then it was waiting for test results.  Then uterine imaging times eleventy, surgeries, blah blah blah.  Waiting indefinitely is a cruel thing to put a mid-30's infertile through.

However.  I'm trying to see the positive side of time off as we look toward yet more months of waiting to try again.  There are definitely positives.

1.  I'm drinking all the coffee I want.  Not really, because I get super jittery after 1.5 cups/day, but that 1.5 cups is a beautiful, life-affirming elixir each morning.  I was drinking one cup a day before I knew I was pregnant last time, but guilt was involved.  There is zero guilt right now.

2.  I'm drinking wine sometimes.  I don't drink often because of heartburn.  Alcohol is a major culprit, along with citrus fruits, cheddar cheese, anything with tomatoes...the list goes on.  But when I'm prepared to deal with the gastric side effects, I can totally drink.

3.  I'm not taking my temperature.  I half-heartedly kept charts for a few months after my last miscarriage, but that's gone out the window.  My doctor has records of all the cycle-disrupting hormones I've been taking for the last few months.  I'll let her do my only record keeping for a while.

4.  I'm off people's "baby bump" watch list.  When people know you've just undergone surgery, they tend to assume you aren't currently pregnant.

5 . I'm not having timed intercourse. Typical conversation when we're TTC for the umpteenth month in a row: "Should we do it before or after we watch Project Runway?" "Eh, let's just do it and get it out of the way." We haven't had to have that conversation in quite a while.

6.  I'm not failing a test every month.  You can't fail when you haven't tried.  Sure, I still feel like a broken woman with a Franken-uterus, but the sense of failing an all-important, life-changing test every month is gone.

7.  I'm eating what I want.  Back to consumables.  Lunch meat?  Sure!  Soft cheeses?  Bring 'em on.  Iffy leftovers?  Eh, won't kill me.  All the stuff I worry about when I'm trying isn't even close to being on my radar now.  One could argue that I could keep doing my normal activities—coffee, soft cheeses and all—and get pregnant safely. But I know better than to try. I'm a worrier and it's better for me to skip the Intro to Kick-Boxing class when I'm TTC. It's not worth the worry that I'm going to harm my developing ova/blastocyst/zygote.

8. I'm not living my life in 2-week increments. No follicular phase freak-outs. No two-week wait. No mental breakdowns when Aunt Flo arrives involving crying in the bathroom, eating giant cookies, and spending money.  (Of course, I've exchanged follicular and luteal phases for pre-op and post-op weeks, but I'm trying to be positive here.)

Of course, I desperately want to be TTC again.  I want a chance of being pregnant.  Even the hope roller-coaster sounds good about now.  But I'm going to try to enjoy this break since I don't have much choice in the matter.

Post-op pain update:  Pain still very much present but I'm seeing incremental improvements.  My yoga muscles are atrophying and I'm not dumb enough to even try to stretch right now, so I'm still lying around a ton.  Getting some amusement out of ordering my husband around.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Open-backed Surgical Gowns and Other Issues

Right before my first post-miscarriage D&C, the nurses had me walk from the pre-op area to the OR in an open-backed surgical gown.  Down a hallway, past other patients and healthcare providers, holding the back of the gown closed so I wouldn't show my butt to everyone.  It was completely humiliating and not what I needed while I was losing a baby. 

I've had lots of surgeries and procedures, especially recently.  I realize we have to tolerate certain indignities for the sake of efficiency.  And I'm all for a point.  I want the kind of efficiency that means a nurse will at least make sure I've tied the back of the gown correctly.

My husband took me to the ER two weeks ago as part of this whole post-op pain drama.  That was an eye-opener.  At first I thought the patients waiting with catheters in their arms must be in especially bad shape, but after getting an uncomfortable catheter of my very own, realized it was par for the course.  Going to the ER means you get to sit around with a catheter.  There's no mistaking the patients for the caregivers.

One of the most surreal parts of my ER experience occurred when a nurse handed me a urine cup while I was still in the waiting room.  She instructed me to provide a sample using the public bathrooms.  Not wanting the 100+ person audience in the waiting room to know I was providing a pee sample, I used my purse to transport the cup to and from the bathroom.  I know, ew.  Of course, my efforts to hide the cup were in vain, anyway, because I had to do a very public hand-off to the nurse in front of everyone. 

I'm not blaming individual nurses or even managers.  But it sucks.  I'm trying to retain some of my dignity through this whole stirrup-filled infertility odyssey, but I'm starting to feel like I've lost it.

Navigating work with post-op pain has been embarrassing, too.  I am so grateful for the outpouring of support I've received, but am having trouble just accepting it.  I've been shuffling around the hallways in obvious discomfort.  I start the day sitting at my desk and within an hour, am working from a couch in an unoccupied office because sitting up is too painful.  People fuss over me and bring me extra pillows.  Coworkers kneel next to the couch to discuss projects.  I hate it.  I know we're all sick sometimes and it's not a sign of weakness, but it's not the person I want to be at work.  I want to be vibrant and efficient and strong. 

The gabapentin I'm taking is definitely helping the pain.  It's just not helping quickly enough to suit me.  I'm adjusting my expectations of how long this recovery will take, but sometimes I want to pitch a temper tantrum and insist this all ends now. 

If you haven't headed over there already, stop by Cristy at Searching for our silver lining to offer your support.  She's going through her second miscarriage after an FET.  She is one of the kindest bloggers I've come across and I can't believe she's going through this again.