Free Fertility Book

I am excited to share this link to a free Kindle copy of a book published by one of the many acupuncturists I have worked with on our journey to have the Miracle Toddler and Baby Azulito.  

Link: https://goo.gl/iZ2bQ7

The free offering is only available until Friday, November 6, 2015 so act fast if you’re interested, folks. The book will be available for sale after that point. 

The book is entitled “Being Fertile: 10 Steps to Help You Overcome the Struggles of Infertility, Get Pregnant and Create a Happy, Healthy Family”.  I have not yet read it and receive no financial benefit for sharing this opportunity. (And I didn’t sanction the excessive use of commas in the subtitle, obviously.)

By way of background: Dr. Spence Pentland and his partner own Yinstill in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I found him to be a compassionate and caring practioner and generally nice guy (who clearly hasn’t finished last ;-)). I didn’t stay pregnant under his care but I would be happy to seek his care again if I needed to see someone in that area. 

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As the Baby Turns – 32w1d and Counting

The fun continues!

Baby Azulito/a has officially turned into head-down position. That may be mostly pointless considering that unless this placenta previa and risk of placenta accreta situation resolves itself, I will be having surgery to deliver this baby but I understand that in Chinese Medicine having baby aligned vertically is important regardless of the delivery method so I’m counting this as a blessing. At least until the baby turns again (which could happen, the little one hasn’t been the most compliant with plans to date).

At yesterday’s OB appointment I was reminded that I’m at risk of having an emergency hysterectomy following the baby’s delivery if my imperfect placenta does not release from the wall of my uterus (or has invaded it, which can be difficult to determine on ultrasound with certainty, I’m told). I know that my OB has to make sure that I understand that this is a risk but I could have lived without the reminder. It is much easier not to worry about something when the last time it was mentioned is more than 3 months ago. The risk of this happening is not great – which is awesome – but the fact that it is a risk at all brings me to my knees every time I think about it. Plan: Do not think about it. And no visits to Dr. Google.

I have been coughing so hard from the respiratory flu I contracted (thank you, LP) a few weeks ago that I’ve pulled muscles and am now experiencing the equivalent of bruised ribs on both sides (worse on the left). This was confirmed by my OB yesterday as being just that and not something more serious, thankfully. Still, the coughing gets me up every night and has worn me out most days. My kingdom for some cough syrup or a good sedative.

I’m now 32 weeks which means about 5 weeks to go. Yesterday I discovered that the scheduled caesarean was mis-scheduled for almost 39 weeks. I felt and heard the panic in my voice as I challenged the date at my OB appointment. I barely contained myself from bursting into tears with my OB. He immediately acknowledged this was not in accordance with his instructions (his instructions were 37 or 37.5 weeks), said he’d have the surgery rescheduled and left a note on my chart instructing the staff to call me with the correct date. The risk of going to 39 weeks is stillbirth, of course, and my anxiety over that has been at an all-time high this past month so I really did not need that emotional kick in the cajones yesterday. I have yet to receive a phone call and I will be calling tomorrow if I have not heard by then. Call me distinctly unhappy about this hiccup.

In other news, I have our next follow-up and first biophysical profile (BPP) ultrasound with the Perinatology (Maternal Fetal Medicine) Clinic at our local women’s hospital later this morning (very soon, in fact). I am praying that baby Azulito/a passes that test with flying colours because more worries is something I can live without. I am also scheduled to speak with the Pediatric Urologist about those enlarged kidneys, what they could mean, how any medical issue with them might get diagnosed after delivery and what treatments could be required if they are not simply “large normal” or don’t resolve on their own as everyone hopes.

The LP is in trial today so I’m going it alone at these two medical appointments (same with yesterday’s little chat about placenta accreta, hysterectomy and messed up delivery dates). This is probably better for him in the sense that he is able to stress and worry less when he is not face-to-face with these realities but I do wish things were otherwise and he could be with me. My nerves feel jangled.

On that note and how to unjangle: Later today, I will be seeing an energy healer whom I’ve never met before. She’s trained in Reiki, Yuen Method and Trilotherapy. If any of you have experience with the latter two practices, I’d love to hear from you! My long-time TCMD and acupuncturist recommended I see this woman after I admitted to being at a breaking point last week emotionally from being sick with the flu, sick with morning sickness that has debilitated me despite the drugs lately, and being scared of this baby not making it out of me alive. She suggested it did not seem to be something physical in origin but energetic or spiritual. I’ve been warned that this healer is “a little out there”. We shall see. It cannot hurt. I hope.

Finally, tonight the LP and I are going on a date (!?!) to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. When we got married, I wanted to go to Italy and be married with two witnesses and nothing else. The LP wanted a big wedding. We did the latter and the deal was that by our 5th anniversary we’d make that trip to Italy that I wanted (I really wanted to get married on the Amalfi coast. Cliché perhaps, I know, but call me romantic and in need of an exotic honeymoon). Well, that’s not going to happen. This is our fifth and we are so in debt as a result of the past two and a half years of trying to have a second living child that a trip to Europe is out of the question. Maybe for our tenth?

It’s weird to think about the fact that we’ve been together for over 8 years… almost 9 years though officially only eight and a half… we have been through so much, suffered so many heartaches and heartbreaks. We each wear many scars from our prior lives and from the wounds that came with forging a life and trying to build a family together. I started trying to get pregnant before we were even married… wow. It has been a rather lengthy and complicated journey. Ten pregnancies later, here I am… praying that baby Azulito/a comes home in our arms, safe and sound, in another 5-ish weeks and celebrating five years of marriage to my soul mate.

Excuse me whilst I wipe away the tears.

It will be a busy day. Wish us luck. Please.

Hello, Spirit Baby! Long Time No See…

I started this blog after our third miscarriage in 2013.  That was my 6th pregnancy (5th loss).  Sometime between pregnancies 4 and 6 I started reading about spirit babies and the idea that when we lose a pregnancy, the soul or spirit of the lost baby does not “die” with the fetal tissue.  I was quite enamoured with this idea and still like thinking that our Miracle Toddler is the repository of the first soul we ever loved in 2010  and lost in early 2011.

The LP and I have chosen to believe that the soul of our first baby together (my first pregnancy) is alive and well in the Miracle Toddler.  This brings me great comfort, as my first loss was for a long time the hardest one for me to accept and survive.  I suspect that’s true for many women who suffer as I do from recurrent pregnancy loss.  The first one shatters our innocence, even if we knew the risks of miscarriage going into the pregnancy.

All of this is a meandering way of saying that I started and named this blog with my belief in spirit babies firmly in place and my hope that IVF would bring our spirit baby/ies home alive and kicking.  Along the way, with three more miscarriages under my belt (so to speak), my hope and faith have taken a serious beating.  Suffice to say I have considered throwing in the towel on more than one occasion.

Lately, the journey to have another living child has been less about spirits and more about numbers, finances, lab tests, research and investigations into my apparent immunological issues.  My heart left the equation and it’s been either cerebral and pragmatic or intuition-driven.  Our beloved spirit baby, Azulito (named little blue because that  is the primary colour in which s/he communicates with me), has been quiet and I have not had the courage, will, desire or je-ne-sais-quoi to insist on any direct communication.  As I said, my heart left the equation.  And with it, for a time, did Azulito.

That changed yesterday at my acupuncture appointment.  I had a lot to tell my acupuncturist – I’d made two appointments for the second opinion she encouraged me to consider getting, I learned that the geneticist would not see or help me, I’d finished the course of Prednisone, I’d finally ovulated (a couple of days late and with much breast tenderness – thank you, steroids), our current RE refused to work with a reproductive immunologist and preferred to transfer my care if that was the path I chose – and she ruminated a while then made some observations and suggestions that have resonated deeply with me.  I thought I would share them in case they assist anyone else facing similar circumstances.

First, she commended me on trusting my intuition (my gut, not the panic in my chest) to bite the bullet and commit the LP and I to flying to New York to see Dr. Braverman and not to go ahead with another FET next month during the presumed “immune quiescence” that our current RE said should follow the Prednisone course.  Then she said that I will need to tap into my intuition even more in the coming weeks and months as I receive opinions from specialists (Braverman and current RE among them) who will have their own world views and will offer opinions to which they themselves will by nature be rather heavily committed.

To do that she suggested I must work on developing and trusting my intuition. She recommend I start with a book that has been around forever but contains useful exercises (without which the book is of very limited usefulness – she didn’t say that but I read between the lines).  The book is Practical Intuition by Laura Day, for anyone who is interested.  I have ordered it as it was not available locally.  I will post an update after I have read and done some of the exercises but if anyone has already read it and has any thoughts or insights, I would love to hear them.

With that book I ordered one by Sarah Ballantyne, The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body, thanks to a recommendation I got here on my blog (thank you, whereareyounumber2).   I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here but a few weeks ago the LP (who ordinarily eats like a 15-year old, sugar, simple carbohydrates and dairy were the mainstay of his entire diet) decided to try the Whole 30 plan, which as best as I can tell is essentially a Paleo approach.  I said I’d join him so I cut out even the non-glutenous grains I was eating and have tried hard to cut out sugars.  I was already off dairy due to the crazy allergic reactions I’ve been having since that miscarriage #3 in 2013 and wasn’t eating much sugar to speak of.  I am interested in the read and some new recipes so I figure it was time to invest in another book!

Back to yesterday’s revelations.  In addition to the sage advice about developing my intuition because I will need it more than ever in coming weeks and months, my acupuncturist suggested that I probably already know from my experiences leading up to the birth of the Miracle Toddler and my parenting since then that our little ones have lessons to teach us and parenting is as much about what we learn from our children as what we teach them.  Sometimes the hurdles in meeting them is about learning lessons we will need to work with those little personalities once they arrive.

Shazam!  That rung true for me and I hastened to recount one early session in which I was communicating with Azulito using the techniques and questions suggested in Spirit Babies: How to Communicate with the Child You’re Meant to Have by Walter Makichen.

During the communication I recounted, I asked Azulito why s/he had chosen us and what we could do to facilitate him/her sticking around to become our next living child.  Azulito showed me a classroom with a teacher writing on a chalkboard (how old school, right? Azulito apparently doesn’t know about smartboards).  The message was clear and a single word resonated in my mind after that communication: Education.  I did not know if the message was that we were to learn from Azulito, that Azulito was to learn from us, that we could provide Azulito with the formal eduction s/he wants, some combination of these possibilities, or some variation that had not yet occurred to me, but of one thing I was certain.  Azulito chose us because of education.

As I was telling this story and my interpretation to my acupuncturist, I saw flashes of that electric blue light with a halo of bright yellow-orange around it that I know to be Azulito.  Yes! Yes!  It was as if Azulito were shouting in my head “It took you long enough!”  This poor spirit baby is waiting around for me to make these connections.  I have been thinking for some time – before the DE FET in May in fact – that I’m missing something, but I do not know what.  When those Azulito-lights flashed behind my eyes, I felt as though the light came on and I could imagine Azulito saying “finally, you are on the right track.”

I am so glad Azulito is back.  And I hope I finally am on the right track this time.  Time will tell.

Surviving Survival Mode to Embrace My Inner Wisdom

I saw my original acupuncturist, who is also a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) on June 14th. Let’s call her Dr. Gratitude. Dr. Gratitude, the LP and I worked together from 2010 to 2012, which period saw me through my first two pregnancy losses and the birth of our Miracle Toddler.

When my menses returned in early 2013 and the LP and I earnestly began trying to have a second living child, Dr. Gratitude was on medical leave and, later, maternity leave. Despite that, we stayed in touch and she followed our efforts with my current acupuncturist, to whom Dr. Gratitude referred me when she could not help us last year.

After 5 pregnancy losses between 4 to 10 weeks with my own eggs since early 2013 and then a very early pregnancy loss with a perfect donor-egg embryo in May 2014, Dr. Gratitude announced she was returning to work, though in a new location far from my home. I wrote her an e-mail explaining my history over the past 17 months, describing my fear and suspicion that my immune system is acting up and interfering with my ability to stay pregnant, detailing the meds and supplements I had been on and the protocol that our current RE has proposed for our next frozen embryo transfer (FET) with either one or both of our two remaining donor-egg (DE) blastocysts. She advised me to stop all but a few of the supplements I was on and supported my decision to follow an anti-inflammatory diet and continue avoiding gluten and dairy in my diet (I have also limited or eliminated processed sugars from my diet though I never ate much sugar to begin with).

At my June 14th appointment, I was relieved to see Dr. Gratitude. My body, however, was in Post-Recurrent-Pregnancy-Loss-Stress-Disorder mode, apparently, because Dr. Gratitude noted that my heart was beating irregularly, beating three times then pausing. After observing my pulses and other TCM markers and speaking with me during the appointment, Dr. Gratitude noted I am occasionally in “survival mode” (or what I call Post RPL Stress Disorder mode; if it were up to me, that would become a new diagnosis in the DSM-5).

Surprise number one for me at this appointment was that I did not even know I was stressed when I first sat down with Dr. Gratitude. But of course I was. I am stressed every time I face someone who might have some influence – positive or otherwise – on our efforts to have a second living child. I am stressed every time I am reminded of my loss history, the countless unknowns (starting with “why is this happening?” and “can it be fixed?”), and the risk of more loss or, worse than more loss, the possibility that we will never add another child into our family no matter what herculean efforts are engaged.

Surprise number two was Dr. Gratitude suggesting that the LP’s sperm may be a contributing factor. This has been brushed off or ignored or dismissed by every doctor we have consulted and the two REs with whom we have done IVF (own egg and more recently donor egg). The LP has had a number of SAs (semen analyses) but never has it been considered that he could be responsible for any part of our recurrent pregnancy loss (and particularly the secondary recurrent miscarriage) woes. He’s never even had a DNA fragmentation test, though I did ask about this with our first RE. The LP is considered a “proven male” because he co-produced our Miracle Toddler and two (now adult) children with Wife #1.

Dr. Gratitude acknowledged that because we got three blastocysts out of 6 donor eggs earlier this year using the LP’s sperm via ICSI, if there is a problem, it may be one of quality and not virility per se. We also talked about the possibility that the epigenetic changes effected in my body during my pregnancy with the Miracle Toddler may have left me rejecting babies, at least male babies, and possibly reacting to the LP’s sperm. I told Dr. Gratitude that I have requested a consult with Dr. Braverman, a Reproductive Immunologist in New York, who is a leader in that field of research and treatment but so far no return call (despite the promise to respond within 48 hours to such requests). I also told her that I do not know whether I will undergo the testing necessary to make these determinations because of the costs associated with them.

To be truthful, there is another reason I am reluctant to undergo the tests; I am reticent to be told there is nothing wrong that can currently be diagnosed by Western Medicine (or at least Braverman or one of his co-horts, including another RI with whom I have considered consulting) because then where do I go and what do I do? I suppose I could do what I had decided we would do next – try the immune protocol our current RE has recommended, perhaps with a couple of tweaks I’d like to ask him about, and see what happens. But will I be able to convince myself that it will work in the face of one “normal” diagnosis after another? Do I want to spend my money on more testing or other attempts to have this elusive second child we so desperately long to bring home? There is a finite amount of money to go around and I need to keep that in mind going forward. As matters stand, I have a substantial loan that will take me years to pay off in relation to the money we’ve already spent since last year on this journey.

Dr. Gratitude does not believe that our recurrent losses are simply, as Western Medicine has repeatedly told me, a product of “old eggs”. Segue to surprise number three. She wants to help me with my immune system and support any pregnancy we may be able to achieve, but she believes that my own eggs (or some of them – it’s inevitable that a good chunk of them will not produce a viable pregnancy at my age) and my body could sustain a pregnancy with proper supports (one of which is progesterone supplementation). In fact, she said that if the LP and I want to try to conceive “naturally” during this break we are taking right now, she would be ecstatic and ready to support us if a pregnancy resulted. She also said we could do this after our next transfer if it is not successful, barring some unforeseen development.

For context, I should note that Dr. Gratitude has always been conservative in voicing her views and stating her opinion or advice unless she is confident it is well-grounded and will do no harm. For her to say this was huge and she acknowledged that, noting that of course she supports us choosing to stick with DE as well, she simply wanted us to know her views and have options.

Surprise number three was a bit of a shock, to be honest. I had pretty much given up on my eggs. Interestingly, however, I had lamented shortly before the appointment to the LP that I wished we could just have a baby of our own making and not need the remaining DE embryos (though I added that I knew that was so near to impossible as to make it inconceivable).

The LP and I don’t know what we will do. He is afraid of me getting my hopes up. I am afraid of that, too. We are both averse to inviting more loss and suffering upon us (though there are no guarantees with my eggs or donor eggs in that department, it would seem). He says he would be unhappy about us having spent so much money on DE if we could have had another living child without the expense and all I’ve been through already to chase that dream. I do not share that feeling, but I do understand and respect it.

In fact, if someone said “if you pay more than $30,000 as the price of admission to having your longed-for second living child, only to discover later you need not have done so”, I would call the bank for a loan. I would do it in a heartbeat. Perhaps that is my survival mode voice speaking? I don’t think so, it feels like a very grounded decision to me. It feels like a no-brainer. But of course life does not work like that. And for us, infertility – heck, our relationship – has never worked like this. Every happy ending for us has involved a number of hurdles and significant risks of losing out on that happy ending. Our love and our journey to grow a family have entailed many heartbreaks and much suffering. We are older, wiser souls because of it, but we know better than to expect an easy path to anywhere we long to go.

Perhaps one of the most important things Dr. Gratitude said to me at our recent appointment was that I need to learn to listen to my body and what my intuition – as opposed to my panic, my survival mode – is telling me and where it is guiding me. She suggested when I’m considering a decision (such as testing, protocols, transferring one or two, etcetera), I should observe whether the feeling and direction is emanating from my belly (my intuition) or my chest (my anxiety – the survival mode me). If it’s the latter, I need to work through that. If it’s the former, I should trust myself and the direction in which my intuition is suggesting we travel.

That sounds easy enough. It is not and will not be easy. But I am prepared to do my best to follow that advice, as I have already been doing in some respects for many months now. It is a little daunting to think I am in charge here but if I look back at the past 17 months, I see that I have already come a long way toward believing my inner voice and the gut feelings I sometimes cannot explain.

Maybe that is exactly what our spirit baby, Azulito, has been waiting for?

I sure hope so.

To Break or Not to Break?

This is a question rolling around in my already-saturated mind lately.  Do we take a break before our next natural frozen embryo transfer cycle or do we press on in either July or August and hope whatever experimental protocol we and the RE ultimately settle on works? 

In case you’re wondering, I don’t count June as a break so much as my recovery and re-grounding month.

An online friend yesterday said she thinks I could use time to grieve and heal from the 6 pregnancy losses we have had in the past 16 months and suggested I consider waiting – up to a year – before doing another transfer.  My response was “it’s either game on or game over”, in large part because I have been waiting since 2009, when we first started planning our trying-to-conceive journey, and although we had one blessed success story in early 2012 after our first two losses, I waited a year to try again after our living child’s birth and it’s now been almost 18 months of more waiting… and grieving… and waiting… and grieving.

Recently, my first acupuncturist, who is also a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCMD), announced she was returning to practice after an extended medical/maternity leave.  I immediately signed up for an appointment on her first day back and emailed her my history, some of which she knew as she referred me to my current acupuncturist (who is not a TCMD but has been amazingly supportive, kind and giving) and has gotten occasional updates on my “progress.”  Yesterday she (the TCMD) emailed asking me how much time I would be willing to give myself before undertaking another transfer. 

Semantics matter.  The question was not how long would I wait, but how much time would I give myself.  My honest answer was “I do not know”, but I did say that if there was (in her professional opinion) a significantly greater likelihood of success if I waited beyond July or August as we originally intended, I would seriously consider it.  I have not stopped thinking about her question.  How much time will I give me?  I don’t know.  I would wait until this Fall.  I would be unhappy about it, at least at first, but I would do it if she could convince me that it would give us a much better chance.  I see her on June 14th, so we will see what happens.

Maybe the friend and TCMD are onto something?  Not about the year – I won’t wait that long, it’s just not in my make up and I won’t consider it not because I think it’s bad advice per se but because I cannot live in limbo another 2 years (one to wait, one to gear up, cycle, possibly succeed, possibly have to try a second time, carry to term hopefully, and birth a second living child).  But what about giving myself some time to restabilize and rebalance body, mind and spirit? 

Part of my difficulty in waiting into 2015 to try again is that I have already turned down an opportunity to advance my career significantly this year expressly to jump on the IVF and then the DE IVF rollercoaster. There are big advantages for me and my family (more money, more freedom and fewer hours at work required with the promotion, for instance) and for this reason alone I don’t really want to keep putting it off.  I also need to rely on others (some of whom already went out of their way earlier this year to support me in getting that promotion at the end of 2014).  Then of course I spent so much time away from work since January, it is no longer a possiblity for this calendar year.  I try not to think I’ve let any of my champions or sponsors down.  None of them know why I’ve been away and my work performance has been far under any I’ve ever had in my career and I don’t work in a profession in which sharing what’s going on will do anything but damage my present and future career prospects.  So mum’s the word.  So to speak. (Ouch.) 

Of course, the job is only one piece of it.  There are so many other sacrifices, which many of you know well so I won’t dwell on them.  The job is simply conspicuous, a tangible reminder that significant portions of my life are on hold and have been for the past 18 months (really the past 4 years because building our family became my number one priority in 2010 and the ranking of that priority has never changed, the energy and money required to keep pursuing the objective has simply continued to increase incrementally and sometimes exponentially).  I cannot keep holding open my heart indefinately.  I need to know there is an end to all of this so I can take my life back.  Or make a new one.  Whichever.  I need to know I will have a whole life again within some foreseeable period of time, not an elusive “someday”. 

For my own peace of mind, I need to know that there is an end to this rollercoaster ride.  There must be a finish line and whether we cross as winners or losers in our attempts to have a second living child, I have a need to know that I will cross that line, this journey will then be over, I can find peace in and make peace with whatever outcome awaits on the other side of that line.  I want and need this for me, for the LP, for our Miracle Toddler.  In short, I need this for me and my family. 

Today, I know this.  I do not know how much time I will give myself yet.  But the question is on my mind.