Thursday, April 29, 2010

Off to a Weekend of...Distraction?

My little brother is graduating from college this weekend.

He's not quite finished with classes, but I guess he's close enough to walk in the graduation ceremony. He's gotten through college the same way he's gotten through most things life. In a very laid-back manner. I won't disclose how old he is at this point. He's pretty brilliant, but pretty much the opposite of me when it comes to drive and motivation. I could  learn a lot about relaxing and going with the flow from him. And yes, he could stand to learn a thing or two from me. But I spent 18 years of my life trying to be his mom, and it didn't go over too well. So now I just try to be his friend. And since I married a guy that my brother happens to get along with really well, I think he's also started to respect me a little more. I guess he figures I must be at least a little bit cool if I could catch a guy like Pete.

Pete my husband, that is. My brother's  name also happens to be Pete. Yes, it's confusing and annoying. But neither is willing to go back to being Peter. They armwrestled once for the honor of keeping the name "Pete," and my husband actually won, though barely. But the rest of us simply couldn't get used to calling my brother Peter after calling him Pete for so long.

My brother has actually turned into quite the handsome young man. If you happen to know any eligible young ladies in there early 20s who live in Ohio, well, he's on the market and quite eligible, in my opinion. I don't have a good recent picture of him, but here's a  picture of our family from back in the 80s sometime.

We were so cute! That was probably our family picture that we sent back to family in the States for Christmas or something. Notice how we're strategically posed in front of a very exotic, Filipino-looking vehicle. I have many memories of getting these kinds of pictures taken. Squinting into the 95-degree humidity and trying to keep a natural smile, which is a hard thing for a kid. We don't perfect the art of calling up the natural-looking smile on command until sometime in middle school or high school. Maybe it's posing for prom pictures that does it for us.

Anyway, it should be an interesting weekend, as we are staying in the house that my brother lives in with three other college guys. I'm preparing myself to suppress the mommy-voice inside me all weekend.

I was happy to hear that we actually get our own room. I was expecting that we'd be on a mattress on the floor in the room with my brother, which would make any attempts at catching my fertile window very interesting, if I happen to ovulate in the next few days. (No, it hasn't happened yet. Still waiting.) But I guess my brother wasn't really anxious to sleep in the room with the married couple, so he's sleeping on the couch. He just warned us to treat the mattress nicely. Hehe. We're getting pretty good at quickies these days, so I think we should be okay.

So yeah. I'm hoping the distraction of the weekend will be what my body needs to finally ovulate. But I'm actually feeling a bit more peaceful on that front. I'm just trying to trust that it just took a while for a follie to start growing, but once it started, it's been right on track and healthy. That's what I'm telling myself.

What are your plans this weekend?

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Scaredy-Cat's Meow

What if my biggest infertility fear is not that I will never be a mother but that I will never be seen as a mother? By others?

What if the fears that keep me up at night in this gut-wrenching process are ultimately fears of what others will think in the coming months and years as we still haven't had children? Fears that as all our friends become parents, they will think themselves superior to us? In the same way that those who are...well, less innocent look upon the virgins in the world. As those without the privilege of a certain special knowledge. To be pitied.

I am afraid that I will always be a pregnancy virgin. Unwillingly excluded from that special knowledge.

Ever since I can remember, one of my biggest fears in life has been that I will be excluded. Excluded from the athletes because I am not athletic. Excluded from the popular crowd because I am not outgoing or witty enough. Excluded from the married group because I am still single. And now excluded from parenthood because my eggs don't know how to come out of their follicles in less than a month.

And so I've always been good at fitting in. At observing enough details of the group around me to seem like I belong. I honed my skills at fitting in when I was eleven years old and my family moved from a small town in the Philippines, where I was homeschooled and belonged to a safe, inclusive community of homeschooled expat kids, to a suburb of Philadelphia, where I began attending a large public school. I didn't know how to dress. I hadn't seen any of the movies that my fellow sixth-grade classmates had seen. I had no clue what music and bands were popular. I feared I was the ultimate girl-who-should-be-excluded.

But because I wanted to make friends and fit in so badly, I learned how to pretend. It's a survival skill for kids who live cross-culturally. I would nod my head and say, "Yeah, I've heard of that movie." Laugh along with the jokes that involved quoting a line from last night's episode of Friends. I was always aware, always attuned to the details of conversations around me, always putting puzzle pieces together to try to figure out the culture of American preteens. I learned to pretend I had the insider knowledge. And never, ever, to be the clueless one to whom other kids would pose the incredulous question, "How could you possibly never have seen an episode of ER?"

I nearly had a panic attack in seventh grade when my English teacher asked us to write down our favorite band. Was I supposed to have a favorite band? I wrote down the name of the only band I could think of at the time. Smashing Pumpkins or something like that. I had no clue what songs they sang, but I knew they were on the radio sometimes. And at least semi-cool. And I knew I did not want to be that girl who admitted that really, her favorite musician was Rachmaninoff.

Without realizing it, I had begun to live to be liked and included. I thought everyone lived that way. It was an anxiety-ridden way of living, but really, what else mattered if no one liked you? If the only kids who let you hang out with them were the kids who had been snubbed from every other coterie? If you were always labeled as the cluelessly nerdy, formerly homeschooled missionary kid?

Around my sophomore year of high school, I distinctly remember having a conversation with my mother that left my little fear-based world shaking on its foundations. She told me in no uncertain terms that it actually was not okay to live to please other people. That the approval of others was too small and restrictive of a purpose, and that it would leave me empty, even if I became the most popular person on earth. At some point, I needed to be willing to live the way God wanted me to live without worrying about what others would think, or whether they would include me in their groups. Exclusion--or perceived exclusion--was not the worst tragedy that could befall me.

I cried when she explained all this to me. I couldn't conceive of a world in which acceptance and inclusion weren't the end goal. I couldn't conceive of myself as someone who didn't live for others' approval.

I like to think I have grown since then. I like to think that I am more secure in who God made me to be. That I am better at loving and including people without caring as much if they really love or include me back.

But I find myself here, struggling with one of the biggest IFs of my life. Infertility. Feeling like the twelve-year-old girl who wasn't cool enough to sit in the back of the school bus. Excluded against my will. Clueless about what it would feel like to be pregnant, give birth, be a mother. These are not things I can simply pretend to understand, the way I pretended to know that JTT was Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

I'm unable to turn off the constant question in my head: what if I never get pregnant? The pain of living childlessly sounds unbearable to me right now. I long for a baby, a child, to be a mother. But as I delve more deeply into what I really fear, I realize that beneath the fear of childlessness is a deeper, darker fear that I will be forever excluded from the pregnant club.

And what if that's really my greatest infertility fear? Exclusion? Does that mean I long to belong to the pregnant club more than I long for children? That I long for others to admire and respect me more than I long to be a parent?

I believe that fear is a choice. That even though I can't turn off the scaredy-cat voice in my head, I can choose whether to dwell in the fear or to move forward in courage. I believe this in my head. I really do.

But so far, I have felt powerless to tell that voice to shut up. I vacillate between fear and courage not based on my decisions but based on the latest bloodwork, cycle, news, pregnancy announcement, physical symptom. What if I could believe in my heart that fear is a choice?

And what if I could really live for something greater than my fear of exclusion?

For more information on infertility, please visit Resolve. If you're curious about National Infertility Awareness Week, travel here. And, finally, to learn more about my inspiration for this post, visit Stirrup Queens.

Day 34 and Counting

I kept putting this post off because I keep hoping for a positive OPK, so I can jump on and give some good news. But still no positives, and still no temperature rise. However, my boobs have been pretty sore for the past few days, and I feel like I have a large follicle or two ready to burst. So, like I said, I keep expecting that dark second line every day. I will actually be pretty impressed with my body if I get it tomorrow day 35, as that's exactly when I got a positive on my last natural cycle.

I did have another lovely appointment with my darling acupuncturist Katy on Saturday--despite the fact that I was never able to really relax on the table for some reason. She was also a bit surprised that I hadn't ovulated yet, but she said that perhaps this could be my body's normal cycle. What will be more telling, in my opinion, is whether I get a normal-length luteal phase this round. My very first cycle after the pill (which was, like, a 150-day cycle or something insane like that), my LP was 9 days. I've been on progesterone suppositories every cycle since then, since my progesterone keeps measuring low. But Katy wants me to go all natural this time and see what my body will do with all Yang-warming herbs and needles. I'm a little nervous about that--I mean, what if an egg gets fertilized but then gets sloughed off too early because my period comes too soon? But I'm inclined to do what she says. Maybe, just maybe, my luteal phase will do what it's supposed to. Is that too much to ask?

I have to keep reminding myself that chinese medicine is not an instantaneous fix. It takes several months to really work for most people who get pregnant with it. My body has been off-kilter for a long time, so it only makes sense that it will take a while for it to, on-kilter. I'm choosing this route because I'm young and really have no objective reason to be as anxious as I am to get pregnant. And besides the fact that an RE would be astronomically expensive for us, which would interfere with all that we have planned for ourselves in the coming years, I also don't mind the idea of being able to avoid the insanity of medical fertility treatments.

But I do mind the idea of waiting longer to join the pregnancy club. More on that is coming soon...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I Am Eeyore. Hear Me Whine.

I had several great ideas for posts today, but I think the best I can do is start one of them and save it in draft form. There's no way it's getting finished before I go to bed tonight.

Instead, this is what I have for you.
Take that adorable sheepish smile off his (or her? what's with the pink bow?) face, and that's where I am today. Ready to run away and quit this whole trying to conceive thing. If I could find a world in which pregnant women did not exist, I might be able to pull it off. But I'm afraid that world went extinct a while back and I'm left in this fertile breeding ground.

I have no good reason for wanting to quit. I haven't even been to an RE, for crying out loud. As far as I knew, there's very little that's actually wrong with me. And no reason that I shouldn't be able to get pregnant on my own within the next year.

But after the 16th negative OPK in a row (I don't even start until CD14), and after checking my cervix only to find lots of gloppy but little stretchy, I just feel like I can't take the unending suspense any longer.

And what does Ceejay like to do when the going gets tough? Quit. I've never claimed to be a tough person, so no, adversity does not just make me want to dig in and try harder. It makes me want to escape.

It's not just a matter of waiting to ovulate. It's also that I fear that until I get my cycles shorter, I have very little chance of conceiving. I know many women have conceived with long cycles. But since my mid-luteal phase progesterone levels have been below 5 each of the three times I've had them checked, I feel like there's something fundamentally wrong with my cycles. And that it won't be fixed until I start ovulating sooner.

Of course, it could be that my luteal phase issues are actually somewhat separate from my slow ovulation issues, right? I'm sure they're both connecting to my hypothalamic amenorrhea. But maybe my ovulations have been fine in their reluctant slowness, but I just don't produce enough progesterone? And we can attribute the thus-far lack of success to the low progesterone?

The thing is, I just can't shake the feeling that the low progesterone is tied to my long cycles and thus indicative of a fundamental ovulation problem. Therefore, this cycle is already doomed since I'm on day 30 with no ovulation in sight. And since my body is showing no signs of speeding up (this is my fourth natural cycle where ovulation has been past day 30), I'm doomed forever.

This is right about where I start thinking more seriously about adoption because I'm so certain a pregnancy isn't going to happen.

The really stuffy/sneezy/runny/itchy nose I have right now isn't helping. I don't have seasonal allergies, and I'm not sick. But every few weeks, my nose randomly goes into mucus-producing overdrive. It lasts a miserable day or two and then subsides. And I simply cannot figure out what the cause is. Any ideas? A good dose of sudafed will usually kick it. But I care too much about my cervical mucus right now to risk drying it up with decongestants. So suffer I will.

That's it. Finished with my eeyoric whining. And yes, I did just coin that word: eeyoric. I kind of like it. Feel free to spread it and popularize it wherever you live. Until next time!

Update: Since Josey & Kelly just asked really good questions, I guess I should clarify where I am for my new followers, so you understand what my whining's all about at least a little better. I am fairly certain that I will ovulate at some point this cycle, so it's too early to give up and try to force a new cycle with provera. I have taken provera before when I hadn't had a period in months, and it actually didn't work for me--no period. I think it would work now, since I have gained weight and am actually cycling, but, like I said, I still probably am on my way toward ovulation, slow as it's going. As for the RE--no, I haven't seen one yet. Our insurance covers zero percent of all things infertility-related--not even the visit with the RE. My OB has worked with me some--at least through the basic bloodwork and ultrasound. But for right now, I'm going the traditional chinese medicine route with acupuncture and herbs, hoping it will get my cycles back on track eventually.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Welcome ICLWers!

I'm excited to participate in my second ICLW! I had a lot of fun in March, so I'm ready to roll with my comments again.

Unfortunately, I don't have much time today to put up any kind of clever intro post for myself. Right now, I'm on day 29 of my cycle and waiting for ovulation, feeling a bit frustrated with my body at how slowly it moves. But I do think ovulation is coming soon. My biggest clue? I had two zits suddenly show up a couple of days ago. I know most women break out near their period, but for each of my cycles since I went off birth control (which has only been a measly 5 cycles in 9 months), I have a zit or two show up within the week before ovulation. I'm clinging to these zits as a sign of hope.

Anyway, if you want to learn more about me, check out my timeline, my first post, or my last ICLW intro. Hopefully I'll get a chance to post something more exciting soon. But for now, back to my work email I go.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Coaxing the Shy Egg

Thank you all for your lovely comments on my last post! It feels nice to have my writing affirmed. Writing is such a personal thing, at least for me. To have someone read something I've often feels more intimate than having a conversation with that person. So it's nice to be complimented.

That said, this will be a much post. I did want to give a brief update on where I am in my cycle, and, more importantly, what I'm waiting for.

Today is day 27 of my cycle, and my egg(s?) is still resting in her little follicle. I've decided my eggs are just shy homebodies. And slow on the uptake. Which is ironic, because I generally move rather quickly in life and am not super shy, though I may have some homebody tendencies.

Fertility friend's algorithm has decided that I did ovulate about a week ago, which is really annoying since I know I didn't. My temperatures did even out and then rise by about a half a degree. However, the reason for said rise was not ovulation but rather that I have apparently been successful at warming my formerly cold uterus, at least according to Katy, my acupuncturist. So my formerly very erratic temps are now much more even and a tad warmer on average. I guess those nightly heating pads, daily herbal teas, and biweekly acupuncture appointments are doing something, even if they haven't convinced the egg to come out of her shell yet.

My temps have been going down a bit again, accompanied by random patches of fertile cervical mucus. And lots of baby dancing with my ever-happy-to-oblige husband.

But this has not occurred yet:
In case you can't tell, this is a picture of a human being released--ovulation. Found at New Science. I know my husband is going to gag when he sees this, but I think it's pretty cool.

I've found during the past few cycles that right about now seems to be one of the hardest times for me. Waiting for that elusive egg release. Wondering why it could possibly be taking this long. Analyzing every little sign and symptom, wondering if it's a sign of impending ovulation. Staring at my cervical mucus and trying to stretch it between my two fingers repeatedly. And the long series of negative OPKs with second lines of various shades, but not quite dark enough. To be honest, I think I over-interpret more during this part than during the two-week wait, as I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that any symptom I have post-ovulation could as easily be PMS as it could be pregnancy.

Go, eggy, go. My fallopian tube really isn't that scary, I promise. And there are lots of friendly little spermies waiting to make your acquaintance, if you'll just get your guts up and get out there.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Life as Story

Chris Brogan has started a conversation on his blog prompted by a new book put out by Donald Miller entitled A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life (whew, that was a lot of links in one sentence!). I have yet to read this latest of Miller's books, but it has been on my list since shortly after it came out. I do, however, know the premise of the book based on an interview with Miller that I happened to read a few weeks ago. This book is essentially about what it was like for him to write one of his earlier books, Blue Like Jazz (which I have read and enjoyed). About the strange tensions that arise when one is trying to put one's life into story form. And what happened in his life after that book sold over a million copies.

I feel compelled to participate in Brogan's conversation about what story means to me because the concept of story is one that I've thought about a great deal, and one that has played a crucial role in my life in several ways. It's also a concept that I've realized plays a large role in the way I think about the difficulties I encounter in life. Difficulty number one (at this time) being my thus-far inability to get pregnant.

I could edit my thoughts on this subject into a nice, coherent post with an introduction and satisfying conclusion. I'm pretty good at that after six years of writing literary analysis essays that require such things. But I've decided instead to use the fact that my subject matter is story as an excuse not to write this in a nice, linear, story form. Because the truth is that when I'm asked what the importance of story is in my life, my mind goes in several directions. And I want to explore those without having to tie them up with a nice storybook bow.

Not because I don't believe such a thing as a perfect story exists. I do, in fact, believe that we're all living in a Story far grander and more perfect and linear than we can imagine: the grand and beautiful story of each of our lives and also of the whole history of the universe. But that's just it: we can't imagine what the story is like, how it's going to end, and even how it's developing right now. It's too big. We get glimpses of different pieces and elements of it--in our lives, in literature, in art. But not the whole. So, for now, I'm trying to be content in that cloud of unknowing while appreciating the glimpses of the Story that I see all around me.

So a few ways that story is important in my life, and then, because this is an infertility blog, how it affects the way I experience infertility.

Story as Fiction
I was raised on story. And I don't mean TV shows, but actual stories. Fiction, primarily. As a family, we didn't own a TV that actually received any channels until we moved from the Philippines to Philadelphia when I was 11. Instead, we read. I know that sounds terribly cliche and cutesy, but it's true. I almost always had some book I was reading through with my dad. For many years, I would lay in his bed and read to him as he fell asleep for his afternoon siesta. Something that took quite a bit of patience on his part, I'm sure, since I was still learning to read at that point. Once we moved back to the States, our tradition became that he would read to me each evening as I washed the dishes (we didn't own a dishwasher). I was so in love with reading that my parents actually had to limit how much time I spent laying on the couch with a book--to force me to do something--anything--else.

I don't want to go into the philosophical meaning of the story, and how reading a good story (or any story, really) affects our lives as humans. Fiction is profoundly meaningful, uplifting, and beautiful, and a good story helps us to discover what it means to be human. I'll leave the rest to CS Lewis, a fellow English major who has probably written more articulately than almost anyone about the implications of story. But I truly believe that being raised on a steady diet of beautiful stories is, in the deepest sense, a huge part of what made me who I am today. And nothing else can really compare to the feeling I get after finishing a really great work of fiction. Great literature feeds my soul more than any other form of art.

Story as Life
Though I have yet to read Miller's book, I think I can relate to at least some of the issues he explores in it--the tensions that arise in editing one's own life. In the Christian world, we have this tradition of getting people to give their "testimonies." Giving one's testimony involves standing up in front of a group of people and essentially telling your life story--particularly focusing on the Christian elements of it (ie, how you became a Christian, how God has worked in your life, etc).

The opportunity to "share my testimony" is a (ahem) privilege I've been given multiple times. And it seems like it gets more complicated each time I do it. Because I feel the need to somehow find a theme--some common thread that has run through my life thus far. Something I used to struggle with and how God has helped me to change. But any theme or thread I choose ends up feeling reductive. That's not all there is to the story.

I also always feel like I'm missing something--like there's something to my story that I can't yet see, even after a major episode or chapter comes to completion. For example, a few years ago I went through a few months of major insomnia that then led to major depression. I can definitely understand what happened and why it happened better now than I did while I was in the midst of it. I can even list a few good things that came out of it, like the fact that I don't stress about insomnia now nearly as much as I did before because I've seen that I can survive and come out the other side. But really, I don't understand why the insomnia led to depression. Why I suddenly felt like there was no hope in the world, like my apartment was a prison, and my bedroom a torture chamber. Why I suddenly had major doubts about God. And I can't really list that many good things that came out of such an awful experience. It was too miserable. I know good came of it, but I'm unable to fully articulate what that good was. But if I were sharing my testimony, I would need to at least find a lens through which to tell that story that left my audience with a sense of hope and meaning. And all the while, I would know that the lens was faulty and imcomplete.

Infertility as Story
As I'm going through the struggles and ups and downs of trying to conceive, I often think about how I will tell this story as part of my testimony in the future, when I'm through it. Every time I ovulate, I spend two weeks thinking about how perfect the story would be if this were the one. How I had just finally reached a place of peace or surrender about the whole thing, and that's when God finally intervened. Or how the timing of this due date would clearly be the best timing, and we will thank God for making us wait.

I want to jump ahead to the next chapter in my story. To skip through this one, because it's hard, and I'm not enjoying it. And while I'm sure I have more I could learn from it, I think I've learned a lot. I'm ready to start the learning that will come through pregnancy, childbirth, and being a parent.

Or I think about how my story would read as a novel. Some major editing would have to take place, I can tell you that. Because so far, I'm missing most of what makes a good novel. I've got the nuance and complexity and character development, but, let's be honest, a good novel does need a few themes, even if they're hard to perceive on the surface. And trying to make a biography read like a novel usually ends up sounding forced and reductive.

This is why I stick to reading fiction.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Most Misused Verse in the Bible

I realize I haven't been offering many personal updates on this blog recently. The reason for that is simply that not much is going on in hoo-ha-ville--at least not much that is manifesting itself tangibly. I'm around cycle day 20 today, but my cerv-myu (as Pete calls it) has been pretty boring, so I'm not expecting the big O anytime in the next few days. I will consider it a major victory (and evidence of chinese medicine's efficacy) if Little Miss Eggy decides to free herself before CD 30. My last natural ovulation took place on CD 35 or 36, and the one before was on CD 33.

But I do have some perhaps more interesting news to report from Subculture-ville. You may or may not have picked up that I do, in fact, belong to this strange breed of people we call evangelical Christians. To be honest, I'm hesitant to admit that because of all the connotations those two words put together may have in your mind and your experience. But as much as I would prefer to focus on how my beliefs are "not a religion, but a relationship," and tell you that I'm a "follower of Jesus" instead of a Christian (these are well-loved phrases among those of us who wish to separate ourselves from the negative stereotypes surrounding evangelical Christianity), the fact is that I have grown up in the evangelical Christian subculture and remain firmly planted there to this day. I just like to think I'm not as arrogantly judgmental as the Christian church is characterized as being. Though, I think if the truth were told about all of us as a human race, we're all pretty judgmental. Some of us just choose more socially acceptable criteria for judging--and are better at keeping our mouths closed--than others.

Anyway. That's not at all where I intended to go with this post. I just felt the need to preface what I'm going to say with an admission of where it comes from.

In this evangelical Christian subculture, one of our favorite things to do is quote Bible verses to people. Are you battling fear? Memorize and hang onto to Joshua 1:9: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Are you having trouble loving that person who sits next to you in church? Cling to 1 Peter 1:22: "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart." We have an obsession with the Bible (and rightly so, seeing as we believe it's the word of God), and that obsession often turns into us picking and choosing verses here and there that we think might help or comfort someone. With mixed results, of course.

This is a particularly popular thing to do for people who are hurting. We don't really know what to say when someone shares their latest sorrows or struggles with us, and we often end up turning to the Bible. Again, with mixed results. I've had a few times when I've come crying to a friend or family member, and, in the context of a meaningful conversation, they've quoted a verse to me that came from a place of authentic pain in their lives, and the verse has become a lifeline for me. I've experienced others who respond to me with a quick verse that feels like a punch in the gut. Like what they're really saying is "If you really trusted God, you wouldn't be so upset about this."

One of our favorite verses to quote, in times of pain or otherwise, is Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.'" It's a great verse, really. God is speaking to the Israelites, who are in captivity and going through a lot of tough stuff, and telling them essentially that he hasn't forgotten about them.

But, like good Christians, we like to take that verse and quote it to anyone and everyone. High school graduates heading off to college. College graduates looking for a job. Single people looking for love. Families struggling to make ends meet.

Infertiles hoping for babies.

We like to think that the "you" in that verse is a universal you, and that "welfare" means what we want it to mean: good grades, jobs, marriages, babies, prosperity of all kinds.

We forget that this verse comes in the middle of lots of horrible suffering that the Israelites are going through and will continue to go through for quite a while before it ends. That God's perspective on welfare is a little different than ours. That "future" and "hope" both have to do with...well, the future. As in, what comes after the present.

Chris Blumhofer over at Relevant has written a great article about what this verse is really saying, which is what got me thinking along these lines in the first place.

Ironically, in certain subcultures among the evangelical subculture, this verse has almost become an inside joke because of how often it is misused. I guess we have found another criterion for judging other Christians--their Biblical interpretation skills (or lack thereof).

I am very fortunate that I haven't had anyone quote Jeremiah 29:11--or any other of the plethora of similar verses in the Bible--to me with regards to my fertility issues. I guess this would be the spiritual equivalent of those who tell the infertile woman, "Just relax and it will happen." Not so helpful.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Nutritional Revelation of the Day: White Rice Is Okay

Ever since I was 19 years old and lost 30 pounds through dieting and exercise (and, incidentally, first launched my poor body into no-GNRH land), I've been really interested in nutrition. I spent countless hours that summer making use of my parents' newly acquired high-speed internet and researching how to lose weight. I'm not sure if I was even using Google yet. Nutrition science is one of only two scientific fields that I believe I could actually endure studying (the other being food science--Alton Brown style).

My understanding of healthy eating has significantly evolved since that time, fortunately for me and for everyone who eats the food I cook. At 19, when I weighed in at 140 pounds (I'm 5'4") and decided some of that needed to go, my only point of reference for "healthy eating" was the low-fat craze of the 90s. The sudden will to lose weight coincided with a sudden desire I felt to learn how to cook, and my mom just happened to own Moosewood Restaurant's Low-Fat Cookbook. And so this was the first cookbook I ever really cooked out of, as my mother was more than willing to let me experiment on the family (especially since I quickly proved that I had a knack for cooking). For most of that summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I consumed almost zero fat. Seriously. I had no problem with sugar--I would still drink the occasional soda and fat-free dessert--but fats of all kinds were banned from my lips. If you want to lose fat, then stop eating it, right? (On a side note, I am very thankful that the Atkins diet hadn't really gained steam yet. I don't know if I would have survived that one, and my family would not have been nearly such good sports if they were served hamburgers with lettuce instead of buns.)

By the end of the summer, when I hadn't had a period in four months, I realized my eating might be a little out of balance. I had also lost more weight than I had even planned--I was down to 110 and still losing. In an effort to add a little more balance to my life, and as a result of a little more internet research, I decided to focus on calories instead of fats. My mother insisted that women need to eat some fat, so I figured that focusing on calories would allow me to eat a little of every food group and still keep it all under control. (If you haven't gotten this already, you should know that control is a key word for me.) Fat just happens to contain a lot of calories. So I started counting calories. The first day I counted, I got to the end of the day and realized I had only eaten about 800 calories all day. Can you say sub-clinical eating disorder? No wonder my body had stopped ovulating.

Thankfully, I did ease up on myself a little over the next six years. I maintained my weight (106 pounds), but allowed myself to consume the occasional piece of pizza or cookie. Basically, my diet focused on veggies, whole grains, and healthy meats and dairy. Fats were a necessary evil and a waste of my daily allotment of calories, but I consumed a few. A little 1% milk here, a tablespoon of olive oil in my salad dressing there. I thought I was balanced enough, and since my OB had gifted me with unlimited prescriptions for the pill to force my body into having periods, I had no clue how my hormones were doing. I decided to believe they had figured themselves out after I had settled into my new lifestyle.

Fast-forward to last summer, when I went off the pill and realized I still had lots of work to do. Through much angst and soul-searching (and, of course, googling), I finally admitted that my body was still starved for fat. So I loathsomely reintroduced full-fat dairy, cream, butter, cheese, 80% ground beef, etc to my lips. After I got over my long-held fear of fat, it was actually quite liberating. And I was surprised to discover that after gaining 10 pounds at the beginning and getting my cycles back (reluctant as they are), I've maintained my weight fairly easily without feeling like I'm restricting myself.

So now I have all my eating rules all reconfigured properly, right? Veggies of all kinds? Good. Whole grains? Good. Healthy fats? Good. Meats? Good (a rule for which my husband is eternally grateful). Any kind of white, refined carbs? Bad. So no white breads or pastas or white rice. These have become my biggest no-no now. Heck, I even grind my own wheat and make my own bread (sometimes) in order to get as much nutrition as I can out of my sandwiches.

But this latter point, about the white rice, has always bugged me. I religiously substitute brown rice for white when cooking at home, and I usually ask if brown rice is available at Asian restaurants when we go out. But I've been to China twice, and never have I seen a grain of brown rice there. The Chinese live on and swear by their white rice. And the Chinese way of eating overall seems brimming with wisdom and health. They have 4,000 years of uninterrupted history behind them, so I guess they've figured out how to eat well. So why are they stuck on white rice, when we in the West have figured out that brown rice is clearly better?

I found my answer today as I was sitting in my acupuncturist's office, waiting for my bring-on-the-ovulation session, and picked up a book called The Asian Diet. I read through the first chapter quickly and got to the second: "Grains." The second paragraph began with this: "Of the grains, white rice is the best." I nearly fainted into the couch at that point. White rice better than brown? How can this be? Is one of my food rules being threatened yet again?

The author went on to explain that we in the West have mistakenly lumped white rice in with white breads, white sugar, and white pasta as food "devoid of value." It's true that whole foods and whole grains are definitely more nutritionally valuable than their refined counterparts, but white rice should apparently still be considered a whole food. Brown rice kernels come in their outer germ layer, which we think is better because it contains more nutrition and fiber. But this author argues that our bodies can get just as much, if not more, nutrition out of white rice than brown. Because the germ layer is so high in fiber, it actually sweeps the food through our bodies for us to be able to effectively digest all the nutrition in the rice kernel. At least that's my understanding of his explanation. Might I remind you that I was an English major, not a nutrition science major. Please don't judge the poor author's science based on my explanation.

The argument only makes sense in light of what he has put forth in the first chapter--that the Asian diet works because it gets our bodies to digest food properly. The average Chinese apparently consumes 25-40% more calories a day than the average American (which seems hard to believe), but they obviously weigh less on average. They simply eat a more appropriately balanced diet, which helps their bodies to digest food more efficiently and maintain a healthy weight and overall well-being.

I'm not totally sure if I buy all those claims. I need to check the book out for myself and read the rest of it. In any case, his claims about white rice answer a lot of questions for me. Maybe next time I make jambalaya, I won't go to all the extra work of converting the recipe to work with brown rice instead of white. And I'm thrilled with the idea that I could eat risotto without feeling guilty and angry that brown arborio rice doesn't exist.

My husband was as thrilled to hear about the white-rice-is-okay revelation as he was to hear the more-fat-is-good revelation. He loves his white rice, and even though I've gotten really good at making brown rice that is just as sticky and fluffy, he insists it just isn't the same. Now he's hoping I find an article or book somewhere that argues that white flour is actually just as good as whole wheat flour.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

In Light of Easter

Even though I haven't been very good in recent years at taking time to really contemplate and appreciate the significance of Easter when it comes around, I decided I should at least do some sort of Easter-related blog post. It is, after all, the most important holiday in the Christian calendar. The day when we celebrate the fact that the sufferings of this life are not all there is; that Christ died to defeat evil and suffering in the world. We're simply waiting for the final end to come. These are truths that have been particularly meaningful to me as I struggle with the pain of infertility. We are infertile because our bodies are broken and imperfect, but our broken bodies are not the end of the story.

I know I'm getting my holidays a little mixed up here, but I thought I would take the opportunity presented by Easter to focus on things for which I am thankful. Because when I think about my future hope, I also think about the many tastes of that hope I get to have now--ways that beauty, life, and wholeness show up all around me in the midst of the suffering, brokenness, and pain. I'm fairly certain this is a common blog post genre--the thankfulness list--but its commonness doesn't undercut its value, in my opinion. So here's mine, in no particular order.

  1. Pete. I hope this is fairly obvious from anything I've said about him on this blog, but it must be said. I could spend pages listing the specifics here, but I'll try to be brief. He's fun to be around. He takes time to understand and enter into my emotional ups and downs, and he challenges me to pull out of it when I'm stuck in woe-is-me land. He's incredibly fun to hang out with. He likes theater. And finally, he has awesome sperm.
  2. My parents. I firmly believe that I have the best parents on the planet, hands-down. They weren't (and still aren't) perfect, but they're actually willing to admit and talk about ways they messed up. After my brother and I were both out of the house, they picked up and moved to Africa to do non-profit work. I love that they have their own thing going, so I don't feel like they're living just to visit me (and waiting for grandkids). I'm also able to talk to them about our infertility issues more easily than anyone else, because they're sympathetic, caring, but also hopeful. They encourage me to trust God without minimizing the pain I'm going through.
  3. Children. I know it's ironic, but I actually really enjoy hanging out with kids, which I get to do as part of my job. Sure, it's hard to hang out with them when I'm feeling particularly depressed about our own situation. But most children over the age of about 2 are simply fun to be around (I'm not a big baby person). They're surprising, hilarious, sweet, and they seem to have no limits on the love and affection they give away.
  4. Food. I adore food. I absolutely love to cook, bake, think about food, serve food, learn about food...pretty much everything but clean up after the food has been consumed. And Pete does that part.
  5. My teeny garden. Not because I enjoy gardening. In fact, I really dread it and have to make myself do it. But at least now I can say I have tried with some success. I even managed to grow cauliflower last year, which I learned soon after planting it was supposedly one of the hardest plants for home gardeners to grow. But by some miracle, it grew nicely in my dirt. The carrots...well, we don't need to talk about them.
  6. Books. I love them. I spent six years of my life studying them, and I still find my appetite for reading is not satiated, nor is the pleasure I find in losing myself in a good book at all diminished. 
There's a lot more I could say here, of course. I could get uber-spiritual and list all the ways infertility has helped me to grow closer to God and be a deeper person. Or I could name the friends and church community that really mean a lot to us. And I could definitely mention how thankful I am for the wonderful support system I've found on this thing called the world wide web--all you guys. Finally, I could say how thankful I am for the fact that Christ died and rose again to give me hope and the ability to be thankful. I really am thankful for all those things, but I don't want to lead any of the less sentimentally-inclined of you to start gagging on the saccharine. I'm approaching that point myself. So I'll stop at the even number of six for now. And hope that each of you can find a minute this Easter, whether you celebrate it or not, to reflect on your hope and gratitude.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Join the Blog Hop!

I can't write much right now because I'm typing on our netbook, and the small keyboard aggravates a chronic sore wrist I have. I know, I'm too young to have carpal tunnel. But it hurts. So that's my excuse. I'll try to write more later or tomorrow. Also, I'm just on CD 10 right now and not expecting anything to happen any time soon, so there's no news to report from my uterus or cervix. We do have some good news from hubby's testes: we finally got his semen analysis results back, and everything checked out beautifully on his end. I'm quite proud of his little soldiers. They are prolific and mostly forward moving and normally shaped.

I did want to make a quick post because I am participating in Busted Plumbing's bloghop. If you want to join, your first hop should take you to her blog to follow her directions!

MckLinky Blog Hop