Carry Me Up This Mountain

This journey drags on and on…to the point that I no longer can envision the destination.  I only see the next mountain and plan my steps to carry myself up that mountain.  The cycles pile up…I’m thinking 60 or so now…the IUIs fail…  My cycle was stable for 3 years, and now it’s gone haywire again.

At least the hypochondriac in me has a name for the problem.  When I was able to sit down across from my doctor and tell him that I’d had three cycles under 20 days in the last two months, he was able to tell me what was happening.  I wasn’t ovulating.  Well, that made complete sense.  And I was so thankful.  Thankful to have an answer and not just wondering and fear at what could cause so much bleeding.  Seriously, WebMD will tell you that it’s about 10 terrifyingly worse things than anovulation.

I believe this (anovulation) is what was happening to me in college…and I weighed about the same then that I do now.  So I’m not sure if my weight is a factor or not…I was so young…

But the doctor is confident that this and all the other problems can be solved with IVF/ICSI.  So I guess that’s the next mountain.  IVF.  I called the pharmacy and clinic to find the prices and I’ve come up with a number: $14,000.  It seems like a crazy gamble.  But that is a normal price for a car…would I rather have a car than a baby?

I’m thinking about telling more people about our problems so that I can crowdfund a bit.   I’m not sure if it’s worth it or not.  It’s such a risk.  What do you think?  The number seems unreal…which is maybe why I’m not feeling too much anxiety.  IVF is my next mountain, and I have to get over it before I can move on with my life…whatever comes after.  So I’m praying that God will guard my heart and mind as I climb to find whatever views are waiting for me at the top.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Phillipians 4:6-7

It’s Not God’s Fault

It’s been awhile since I’ve written.  Mostly because I’ve been too ashamed of myself to even utter the truth of my heart anonymously.  You know those five stages of grief?  I feel like they’re a never ending merry-go-round.

The denial stage happened for the first two years.  That was hard, because my subconscious kept finding ways to grieve, even if I didn’t know consciously what was happening.  I tried to sabotage my marriage, to leave my husband, to dream about a completely different life, to immerse myself in fantasy worlds online that pulled me away from reality.  I removed myself from all social media so I wouldn’t have to be confronted with the reality.  I did the same with family.

The next stage was definitely depression, although I know they’re not supposed to happen in that order.  This one needs no description.

Recently I’ve been dealing with anger.  And I know it’s silly, but there is one realization that has changed this for me.  I still get angry.  I think maybe I’ll always be angry.  But the simple knowing, and I mean REALLY KNOWING that we live in a sin-cursed world is what is pulling me through this.  It’s ok to be angry at sin.  I know we need to understand that Jesus was perfect, so his anger was perfect, and ours probably won’t be…but that’s what I need grace for.  I’m going to be angry at this sin-cursed world from time to time.  And I think it’s ok.  Things here are just broken.  And it’s not God’s fault.  It’s ours–humanity as a whole, and sometimes myself specifically.  So I guess what I needed was to really know that God isn’t on the hook for my infertility.  That God isn’t the author of evil.  ((Which of course I knew mentally, but emotionally was quite concerned about.))  I just really hope that information helps someone out there, because if you’re anything like me you struggle with this.

I also went through bargaining/hypochondriac phase, which I still feel is lingering about.  There’s some kind of horror that grips you when you realize that there could be some other problem you have that hasn’t been diagnosed.  You feel so out-of-control, and you just want some peace of mind.  You just want someone to look at you and say that, NO, there is nothing else wrong with you.  But that can probably never be accomplished.

I would really like to get to the acceptance phase.  All I need to accomplish this I think is to be able to stop crying at every church/small group gathering, and to be able to participate in a community again.  I’m so ready to move on to this phase.  Any advice would be quite welcome.

“…the Lord had declared that ‘everything that he had made…was exceedingly good’ (Genesis 1:31).  Whence, then comes this wickedness to man, that he should fall away from his God? Lest we should think it comes from creation, God had put His stamp of approval on what had come forth from himself.  By his own evil intention, then, man corrupted the pure nature he had received from the Lord; and by his fall drew all his posterity with him into destruction.  Accordingly, we should contemplate the evident cause of condemnation in the corrupt nature of humanity–which is closer to us–rather than seek a hidden and utterly incomprehensible cause in God’s predestination.” John Calvin, Institutes

I’m Hoping for Parasites

If I google “eosinophilia” one more time–I think I might break the internet.  For weeks I have been ill with a mysterious illness that has sent me to the ER, three doctors, and one CAT Scan technician.  The medical terms probably won’t mean much to you, but here is what my google search history reads:

“femara side-effects”, “colestid side-effects”, “severe stomach cramping”, “gall bladder symptoms”, “GI cocktail”, “acid reflux and stomach pressure”, “gallstones”, “biliary colic”, “paleo and gallbladder disease”, “acute cholecystitis”, “epigastric pain”, “dicyclomine”, “high fat diet”, “giardia symptoms”, “celiac disease”, “hiatal hernia”, “IBS diagnosis”, “gastritis”, “bacteria in urine”, “squamous epi cells”, “creatinine”, “alkaline phosphotase”, “urine ph levels”, “bladder cancer”, “autoimmune disorders”, “polymyalgia rheumatica symptoms”, “ankylosing spondylitis”, “cushing’s syndrome”, “adrenal fatigue”, “hashimoto’s syndrome”, “helminths”, “hepatitis C”, “esophageal varices”, “kidney disease”, “low osmolality”, “liver disease, “eosinophilia”, “GGT test”, “ascites”, “liver damage and dietary supplements”, “autoimmune hepatitis”, and on and on and on…

I hope you didn’t read all those terms…to put it succinctly I’ve given myself a mini-medical education while laying in bed for the past 9 days.  Too fatigued to do anything other than watch about 20 Bollywood musicals and google test results on my phone, It has been hard to think of much else.  The abdominal pain never really goes away, and sometimes I wake in the night in terrible pain.  Almost none of my 15 or so tests thus far has given any useful data.  All I know is that my BUN/Creatinine Ratio is a bit low, I briefly had an elevated Alkaline Phosphatase test that went back down to the very tip of the regular range, and a sky-high Eosinophil count (1785 absolute count per microliter) that is impossible to ignore and must be the clue to my illness.  The CAT scan without contrast showed nothing.

So–here are the diagnoses that seem most probable to me after my monumentally inadequate medical self-education:  I have PARASITES or…I have some kind of autoimmune disease.  I’m not terribly happy about either diagnosis–although presumably I could be rid of parasites and not an autoimmune disease, so I guess I’m hoping for PARASITES.

There’s a sentence I’d never thought I would hear myself say.  I’M HOPING FOR PARASITES.  The sad thing is that an autoimmune disease would actually explain my diminished ovarian reserve–and maybe if treated I could slow down the decline of my ovarian reserve?  Or maybe it will just make my RE say that I can only become pregnant through IVF.  Or worse–surrogacy.  I don’t know what I would do.

Originally I thought the symptoms were pregnancy symptoms–in my first two week wait of my first IUI cycle, pregnancy symptoms were something I welcomed:  nausea, diarrhea, insomnia…it turns out that those things can be progesterone side effects.  And supposedly I had loads of progesterone from multiple follicles, so yay!  But now I’m beginning to wonder…am I actually allergic to progesterone?  If I’m allergic to progesterone, my own self-made progesterone, how could I ever hope to be pregnant?

I’m trying not to think about it too much.  After about a dozen tests my GP gave up on me and said I had to talk to a specialist, who I won’t see until Tuesday.  I’m praying for answers.  I just need to know what’s wrong so I can start to fix it…however I can.

“And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.  And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.  He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified.  But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid.”  And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded”  Mark 6:48-51

God, I don’t know what time it is, but I really hope it’s the fourth watch by now.  I need you in this boat with me.  Jesus, please come sit in my boat.  I’m tired.  I’m sick.  I’m losing hope.  Thank you for taking care of me.  Thank you for my multiplicity of great test results that prove that there are at least some things that aren’t wrong with me.  Please give me the energy to resume my life with this pain–or without pain if it pleases you.  Whatever you do, just please come and sit in my boat.

Leaving Peace & Follicles

I feel strangely numb.  After two weeks of hormone-intensive drugs I feel…quiet.  As though somehow the hormones created a feedback loop with my inner turmoil. However, now that the turmoil is gone, there is no more feedback.

Tomorrow we have our first IUI.  I have three nice follicles; two on the left and one on the right.  We still don’t know if the right fallopian tube is working (probably not since it didn’t show on the HSG test), so we are just betting on the two left follicles.

But I can’t seem to bring myself to get excited about any of it.  I can’t get my hopes up.  Because I know that if it succeeds, that’s God’s plan.  And if it fails, that’s God’s plan.  And if it succeeds, but then I miscarry, that’s God’s plan.  And if it succeeds but then my child dies at birth, that’s God’s plan.  As you can imagine, this train of thought could go on and on…

Somehow my soul has come to accept this as truth, but at the cost of my heart.  I can no longer be excited, because I don’t know what to be happy for.  I don’t know how to be without a wish.  So, I am numb.  Maybe numb is the wrong word.  Could this be peace?  I’m not sure; it’s not especially enjoyable.  It’s more like resignation.  Is that peace?

But as my emotions have quieted I can actually stop to enjoy this journey, even though I don’t know where it will lead.  This abatement of extreme emotion has brought an appreciation for the mundane facets of this infertility journey:  quiet conversations with my husband that are so much closer than before, comforting him in his grief and anxiety, planning a lovely Valentine’s getaway after our IUI in the morning, intimacy with friends who want to share the journey with me, my furbaby pressing close to me every time he senses my mood might be shifting to the dark side, energy and weight loss from our pro-pregnancy Paleo lifestyle change, allowing my husband to administer an Ovidrel shot to me while I held a pillow over my head, and so much more…

I’m not sure that this is peace yet.  Perhaps it is the beginning of peace.  There seems to be a shadow of foreboding hanging over it all…

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  John 14:27

God, thank you for whatever this is–peace or numbness, or whatever.  Maybe it’s strength.  Maybe it’s shock, or denial, or depression masked as apathy.  I’m not sure what it is.  Thank you for what seems like peace.  Would it be ungrateful of me to also ask for joy?  Could you help me to feel joyful in this world where I have no control or safety?

For now, this quiet is good and I am thankful.  Please consider my request though, Lord.  I could do so much with joy again.  No matter what I’m going to keep walking my path until you turn me aside to another.  Please be faithful to me. Please don’t forget me.  Please show Yourself to be the God I know You to be.

 

Made Perfect in Weakness

I couldn’t stop sobbing.  On the kitchen floor.  Although, some might say it was more like howling.  Whatever it was, it wasn’t very pretty.  It wasn’t something you brag about to your friends, or even admit to people around you.  It was dark, despairing, terror-filled sobbing.  My husband was too upset about all of this to even comfort me; he begged me to stop crying.

What started it?  My search for a reason.  Why am I infertile?  Why are my ovaries failing prematurely?  What’s wrong with me?  Is there some other terrible illness that is going to inflict itself upon me?

I searched the internet and came up with two possible answers:  thyroid autoimmune disorders (like Hashimoto’s disease) or a fragile X genetic premutation (linked with autism, POF, and a debilitating elderly disease).  Why was this so terrifying to me?  Because my mother has Hashimoto’s and my brother has autism.

My doctor told me we should definitely test for both things.  Somehow his validation of my internet search results made me more terrified.  The thoughts raced around in my head without pause.  I was being tortured by them.

I was also on letrozole–a medication to help me ovulate in preparation for my upcoming IUI.  I would like to blame the medication for my hours of horror-ridden sobbing, but I’m not sure it’s that simple.  I’m not sure I can.  They were MY thoughts.

I feel like I’m at the end.  Like any sort of terrible thing could happen to me, and it would be perfectly expected, perfectly allowable.  The truth is that I have absolutely no control over any of it.  I am completely nothing and completely weak and completely broken.  I walk around in a daze trying to remember what it felt like to be me.  I can’t remember anymore.  But I know that my strength is gone,  I’m just going through the motions.

I lost my voice from the sobbing.  I can’t sing.  I can’t even cry out anymore.  My throat is swollen and painful.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  II Corinthians 12:9

God–I am so shamefully weak and destroyed that this is your chance to show off–this is your chance to show up with your perfect strength.  I am nothing.  Please, please, please, please, please…I don’t know what to ask for, but I pray that you would fulfill your promises to me.  Don’t leave me here.  Please take me somewhere better.

Please mend my spirit and give me the strength and joy to glorify you.  Because I don’t have it on my own.

 

A Tiny Little Seed

How I learned about my infertility.

I have a tiny seed.  A few tiny seeds left to me.  That’s what the doctor said.

My first response was confusion.  What does it mean that my AMH level is .92?

I listened to the voicemail from the doctor again.  It’s time to pursue aggressive treatment.  It’s time to do IUI.  It’s time for drugs.  But why?  What’s wrong with me?

At this date, I still haven’t spoken to the doctor about it.  I still don’t understand all the ramifications.  All I know is what hours of scouring the internet, podcasts, youtube, even peer-reviewed medical journals, has told me:

  1. My ovaries are aging prematurely and I will probably go into menopause very early.
  2. Modern medicine knows no cure.
  3. Some people, however, have turned it around.
  4. IUI might work or it might not.  IVF might work, or it might not.
  5. It could be caused by an autoimmune disease, or it might be caused by genetic factors, or the cause might still be unknown to science.
  6. The people who have turned their fertility around did it through diet, supplements, acupuncture, and persistent pursuit of answers through their medical professionals.

But what’s really troubling me?  Why do I spend hours scouring the internet?  Because I don’t want to stop and face reality–I’m in denial.  The truth is that my body decided to skip the most fruitful time of my life.  My body decided:  no children, no vivacious youthful womanhood, no entrance into the sisterhood of mothers–instead I am going to skip all that and go through menopause at the same time as my mother.

It feels like I lost two decades of my life.  I have no friends going through menopause–all my friends are becoming mothers.  I am losing part of myself that I will never get back.  Who will I be on the other side of menopause in my early 30s?  Who could I possibly be?

All I know is that I’m not ready to lie down and die yet.  I’m not ready.  I’ve already spent two years hiding from this diagnosis of infertility in a pit of depression and self-destruction that drowned out my despair.  But I’m not done.  I will not go silent into that good night.  I’m going to fight, I’m going to struggle, I’m going to persevere.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Romans 5:3-5

I don’t know if I’m ready to rejoice yet, but I’m ready to claim that promise of hope.  The hope that does not put me to shame.  And that means no more despair.  No more sitting around thinking that God left me here to struggle on my own.  The truth I know is that I have to plant the seed, I have to water it…but only God can make it grow.

So God, I’m going to be planting a lot of seeds.  I’m going to plant every seed I can find, and I’m going to water them faithfully.  Not because I have faith in my watering abilities, or in the seed’s ability to grow–because both are marred by sin.  God, I don’t know how you will do it, but please don’t let my hope put me to shame.  I’m waiting for you God.  In the meantime I’ll be watering.  You know where to find me.