Saturday, January 30, 2010


DH is officially gone as of yesterday morning. I cried a little after dropping off (after our early morning quickie) but was generally feeling pretty good yesterday. I woke up with really sore boobs, which has been my surest sign of ovulation each time so far (as in, twice). My OPK was really close to being positive, just not quite there. The only thing not lining up was my morning temperature of 97.4, but when I took it only 10 minutes later (10 minutes of laying in bed), it was 96.6, so I figured there was just something weird going on. I was 90% sure I would ovulate today, which would be perfect timing with our BMS yesterday and the day before.

Then I woke up this morning. My boobs were fine. And my temp? 97.4. Again! How could this be? I lay in bed for almost an hour trying to muster the energy to get up. And I spent most of my morning feeling like there was no way in hell I would make it through the next few weeks. All my hopes totally dashed. Why would God do this to me--give me so many great signs yesterday only to dash them all today? And you should know something about me. I don't do well alone. I don't know if it's just me or if it's everyone, but I find it nearly impossible to focus on anyone but myself when there isn't anyone else around on whom to focus. No source of distraction.

So most of this morning was spent somewhere between prayers and tears. Since I've cried just about 10 times this week, I'm guessing the increased estrogen is somewhat to blame.

And praise God for my parents, who have been my only human conversation all day today. I got to talk to them online from North Africa, where they currently live. My mother is one of the most wonderful human beings on this planet. So is my father. She is good enough to ask me almost every time I talk to them how things are going with my body, and my dad is good enough to be interested in the girly details. They both pray for me like mad. I'm getting teary eyed just sitting here thinking about them. I've heard enough horror stories from other infertiles about their relationship with their parents to know how incredibly blessed I am to have parents who have never pressured me and have always gently encouraged me--in a non-condemning way--to focus on God instead of myself. They were just what I needed this morning.

I've made it through the afternoon with much less drama and am headed off to actually interact with more people for a few hours tonight. I will say, though, that nights are pretty much the hardest part of being home alone. I have enough trouble with sleeping as it is, with my bedmate around to help me calm down if needed. Alone, it's pretty much a miracle if I can get to sleep without any sleep medicines. So maybe it's better that I don't get pregnant this time around, since then I'd have to come off all those meds.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ups and Downs

It continually amazes me how filled with ups and downs this whole infertility journey is. And not just little hills, we're talking the Andes. Of course, that's partially the nature of who I am--I am not one of those emotionally steady people, like my mom or my husband. No sir. No steadiness here. Fortunately, I have lived long enough to know this about myself and realize, whether I'm on the peak or in the valley, that, for better or worse, my current emotional state will not last long. This self-knowledge helps. A little bit.

After feeling pretty great all week, I suddenly crashed yesterday. Admittedly, only a small part of my crash had to do with IF. More of it was related to how frustrated I was about my seemingly chronic sneezy/stuffiness, the boredom I'm feeling with my current job, and the fact that my husband is leaving tomorrow for 12 days, leaving me alone with my emotional instability.

My sudden high temperature this morning did not help at all. Here's the latest irony of infertility for me: during the follicular phase, my moods are the inverse of my temperatures. During the luteal phase (especially at the end), my moods echo my temperatures. I was feeling pretty good about my 96.9 yesterday morning. But 97.8 this morning? What the heck? If I had had a positive OPK yesterday, all would be well. But no positive. And I think it's highly unlikely that I totally missed my surge. So I'm starting to think the big O may still be a ways a way, and probably too late for DH's swimmers to make it.

To top that off, there have now been two girls who joined our hypothalamic amenorrhea forum after me who have now gotten their BFPs. I'm so, so elated for both of them. But now I'm officially one of the more veteran members on the board. It's kind of a weird transition, and it makes me even more ready to make the transition to the vets board with them. I just have to keep reminding myself that I joined the board and made the necessary changes much earlier than most of them, so all of them have still been TTC longer than I have. I am in no race!

Yet again, I am losing all my earthly sources of stability--promising signs of O, health, busyness, my husband. All I've got left to make it through the next few weeks is God. Thank you, God, for being far bigger than all these.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Countdown to Loneliness

The sense of peace I've had over the past week has really been amazing. I prayed for it for so long that I had essentially given up and figured I would be anxious until our situation was resolved. But there I was on Saturday, madly preparing food for DH's tapas birthday party that evening, and rejoicing! Praise God, it's a miracle!

Saturday night's huge affair was followed by another evening of entertaining, since we had three college kids over to our house on Sunday night. So all in all, a fun but completely exhausting weekend. I paid for it yesterday as I woke up with a stuffy nose and feeling completely wasted. I came home from work after a couple of hours and just laid on the couch the rest of the day. I'm pretty sure I had a fever and still did this morning, but I dragged myself to work, not wanting to take up more sick days (and pretty sure I'm not contagious). I'm actually a little concerned, because I've been having recurring episodes of really stuffy/sneezy nose that have been getting worse each time, and now are accompanied by the fever. I just had an episode last week, and here I was with another one this week. I hope my body can kick out of it.

In other news, my egg-white CM has returned! I was kind of amazed by how much I had today--and how clear and stretchy it was! Of course, I had about 7 days of ewcm leading up to ovulation last time, so no guarantees that anything's coming soon. But a girl can hope.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Place Where You Hurt the Most

I was just reading Scott Grant's sermon from last week and came across this line: "The place where you hurt the most, then, may be the place where you have the most to offer." Lord, I can only pray that one day you will use the pain I'm going through now for the benefit of someone else.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Part I Hate

If nothing else, I have learned through my experience so far that infertility basically revolves around waiting. You get short bursts of activity and news--a positive OPK, temperature rise, AF--interspersed in the midst. But mostly, you wait. You wait for AF to finish. You wait for any sign of ovulation. You wait for your temperature to go below 97 degrees--and then above 98 degrees. You wait for your cervix to rise. After BMSing, you lie on your back, waiting for the spermies to find their home. Of course, it all culminates in the dreaded two-week wait, as you agonize over every twinge and temperature rise or dip, frantically googling "first signs of pregnancy."

I think some fertile women get a small taste of what this is like in the last couple of weeks of pregnancy, when their huge belly is getting intolerable and they feel like they're going to burst if the baby doesn't come soon. A few of my friends who have gone through this have been very anxious about how long their babies would take to decide to come. When they've complained to me about it, though, all I can think is, at least you know you're baby IS going to come, and very soon. Not that I'm not sympathetic. I'm sure I will feel exactly the same way when I get there. But waiting is one thing when you're certain that a good outcome is on its way. It's a different thing entirely when coupled with uncertainty.

Right now, I'm waiting for O. My temperature was a little lower this morning, but still not below 97. No sore boobs, no ewcm. The waiting is worse this time around than last time, though, because I have the pressure of DH's upcoming trip looming ahead on 9 days away. 9 days! I keep telling myself that things could start happening any day and very likely within the next 9 days. But if they don't... I'm really not sure how I'm going to make it for 11 days without DH to put me back together.

I have still been trying to focus on the sense of peace I glimpsed yesterday. Really, there is nothing I can do to change what's going to happen, as fatalistic as that sounds. From a scientific perspective, there are things I can do to increase my odds. But in reality, God's going to make it happen when he knows is best, and all the supplements in the world can't change that. I've been having a lot of trouble trying to keep these two competing concepts in my head with respect to TTC. So I've taken the tack of focusing on God's control and his love for me. I think that's a better place to be than the frantic attempt to optimize everything.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Accepting the Miraculous

Yesterday, having succumbed to my addiction to googling infertility-related questions, I came across someone else's blog that hinted that having a long follicular phase (in other words, delayed ovulation) can compromise egg quality and thus reduce your chances of achieving a BFP (pregnancy). I was dismayed, and suddenly had something new to worry about. By having the long cycle that I do, I already have way fewer chances than most people to get pregnant. Am I now supposed to believe that even when I do ovulate, my chances of pregnancy are worse than most?

Along with that came the growing realization that I will probably never have a normal reproductive system. I think I have still been operating under some illusion that suddenly, my body will just snap out of it and I will be normal, with normal (ie really good) chances of getting pregnant. I had at least hoped that after struggling for a first pregnancy, I could conceive easily for the second. But I'm coming to realize that my hypothalamic amenorrhea is likely here to stay. I'm definitely recovering, but getting pregnant will probably never be easy for me. One would think I would have accepted this by now, but it's still been hard.

And on top of that, my body's signs of ovulation have been backing off the past couple of days--back to creamy CM and high-ish temperature. And completely un-sore boobs. DH leaves in 10 days. For most people, 10 days would be plenty of time for ovulation, but for me, I'm cutting it really close. So now I'm imagining how devastated I will be if I ovulate several days after DH leaves--and no one will be around to pick up the pieces. Enduring the two-week wait would be hard enough with him gone, but at least I would have hope in that situation.

Lots of suck. But, at some point this morning, I came to a realization. Getting pregnant will in fact be a miracle, no matter when or under what circumstances it happens for me. It will be a miracle that I don't actually deserve and over which I had very little or no control. I have been trying to figure out my odds and preparing myself for every possibility. But God is the only one who will determine when I get pregnant--not my weight, not my OPK's, not our furious love-making. This seems a pretty simple revelation and is a truth that I have known all along. Somehow, though, it sunk in more this morning. I don't know what happened. But I feel just a little less stressed about it. I can't actually do anything to determine when I get pregnant.

To return to the question that got me started on this whole thing--whether a long follicular phase compromises my odds or not--I don't think it actually does. One of the wise women on our HA forum assured me that we HAers simply take a long time to grow our little eggs. The quality would be compromised if they grew and were ready to go but then took a long time to pop out. Ours pop out when they're ready, it just takes a while for them to get there. Or something like that.

I'm definitely still hoping for more egg-whites and lower temps tomorrow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Why Does This Bother Me?

The question I have been dealing with a lot in the past few weeks is why all this is bothering me so much. When Pete and I first began the TTC journey, I thought I would be fine with waiting if things took a while. After all, there are distinct benefits to being child-free--and not pregnant. That was only seven months ago. Seven months is hardly anything to be concerned about. And we have even less to be concerned about than most because we've only had one honest go at the baby-making thing, since my body has been so sluggish.

So why all the angst? Yes, part of it is because I project things into the future and fear the worst--that we will keep trying and trying and never actually achieve a pregnancy. But I realized this weekend that this kind of irrational fear is only a part of my emotional turmoil. I'm actually pretty good at putting that out of my mind and talking some sense to myself.

When I get the most upset is simply when we hear news of another couple that's pregnant. There is something deeply ingrained in me that sees everyone else only in comparison to me. Whenever another couple gets pregnant, I feel like an 8-year-old whose friends have decided to start a secret club and leave her out. I feel like my friends who have gotten pregnant and have had babies have some secret knowledge from which I am excluded. I also feel like there's some race going on to have kids, and I've missed the starting line.

All this leads to me being unable to really rejoice with my friends when they get pregnant. And I hate that about myself. I have struggled and prayed and wrestled so many times over the past few years, longing to be free to really be happy for the announcements. Instead, my heart sinks every time I hear another one, and my initial reaction is that I don't want to talk to them. Or if I do talk, I want to tell them about what I'm going through.

So there it is. The ugly truth about my self-centered heart. Usually the struggles of infertility are portrayed as being mostly about the longing for a child. For me, the longing for a child is coupled with--and often dwarfed by--the envy and anger at all the fertiles out there.

On a practical side, I'm on CD 22 of what will be my third natural cycle. I got really excited a few days ago because I was having lots of signs of ovulation, but they seem to have subsided a bit now. DH leaves on a 12-day trip on January 29, which will be CD 33 for me. CD 33 is when I ovulated last time, so I'm really, really hoping and praying that my cycle is at least the same length and ideally shorter this time. As usually, nothing I can do but wait and see.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Introduction: My History with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

I've decided to start blogging my way through my journey towards motherhood. Partially so that I can reference this in the future, and partially for others out there who might stumble across my blog and find it a comfort. Or those who might know nothing of infertility but would benefit from a glimpse into its twisted depths (which would be most people).

I'm currently 26 and have been very happily married for three and a half years. My husband is a graduate student, working on his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. I have spent the past few years working full-time, getting my MA in English Lit, and then working full-time again. Ironically enough, I work with kids. I just turned in my thesis last December, and my husband and I had decided that our ideal timeline was for me to be pregnant and due sometime this spring, which we figured would put us in a semi-decent financial position and give me a secure job to potentially return to after maternity leave, should I choose to do so. So, I officially went off the pill last June, and we started TTC on July 8, our third anniversary.

Let me back up a bit. Back in high school, I used to weigh around 130 pounds at a height of 5'4". Not really overweight, but I have a small frame so it was actually a bit overweight for me. I got up to 140 the year after high school and decided things needed to change. So, starting that April, I embarked on an all-out weight-loss campaign. This was back during the low-fat craze (pre-low-carb craze), and so my method was to cut out almost all fat from my diet and exercise every single day. Looking back now, I can say I was bordering on a sub-clinical eating disorder--I was so restrictive and obsessive about it. Over about 4 months, I lost about 35 pounds, getting down to 106. And though I gradually loosened up on the eating and exercised over the next 5 years, I stayed around the same weight.

But. My period stopped coming. The last one I had was in April of that year, before starting the weight-loss crusade. After 6 months, my mother convinced me that I should see my OB about it, and I did. She basically said I had nothing to worry about, really, and just put me on the pill. I was 19. I tried going off the next summer because I didn't think I really needed to be on it, but still no period. At that point I started to get anxious about potential fertility problems, even though I had no idea why. My OB assured me there was nothing to be concerned about and just told me to get back on the pill.

Fine. By then, I was seriously dating the man who would become my husband. So I just stayed on the pill through the first 3 years of marriage. Always in the back of my mind was a fear about whether we would be able to have kids, but I kind of pushed it off and just hoped that since I was more moderate with my eating (or so I thought), I wouldn't have any problems. I include this because it gives a little more background on the anxiety of my fertility journey. Basically, ever since I was 19, I haven't been able to see friends get pregnant and have babies without an impinging feeling of fear. About a year and a half ago, we found out that my younger sister-in-law, who had been married less than a year, had gotten pregnant accidentally. I admit with great shame that my initial reaction was extreme anger. Why couldn't she figure out the birth control thing? Why did she have to upstage us? We should have had the first grandkids, if she and her husband could only figure out the planning-ahead thing (which, pregnancy aside, they really do suck at). I couldn't believe that was my reaction and I worked through it with God and my husband, but there it was.

So, back to last year. Took my last pill June 23. Lived in ignorant bliss for exactly one month, hoping good ol' Aunt Flo would show up right on time and I would have nothing to worry about (or else be pregnant). On July 23, nothing. Tried to hold back the anxiety, but didn't make it very long. I eventually started emailing my OB, and she ordered a bunch of bloodwork. Everything was actually fairly normal, so we tried progesterone for a week, which she guaranteed me would cause a period. Nothing. Well, lots of cramps. But no blood. More bloodwork and an appointment which included an ultrasound. She finally diagnosed me with hypothalamic amenorrhea, which means my brain wasn't sending the signals to my body to ovulate. She referred me to an infertility specialist. I found out the appointment with the specialist would cost $516 out of pocket and went right back to my OB. No way could we afford that much just for an appointment, and clearly any treatments would cost much more.

Meanwhile, lots of freaking out and crying.

Also meanwhile, I stumbled across the Hypothalamic Amenorrhea discussion board at FertileThoughts. Finally, some answers. There are actually a lot of other girls out there with HA! And most of them have been able to get pregnant! Their answer? Gain weight.

Ouch. At that point, I could hardly stand the idea of gaining weight. I was quite attached to my size 0 body. But, slowly but surely, I began to accept that I just needed to do it. So, I started gorging myself and gained 7 pounds in one weekend! I made it up to 115 and kind of camped out there for a while, hoping I wouldn't need to gain more. My OB had taken pity on me and done some of her own research on HA, even contacting  her RE (reproductive endocrinologist) friend to ask for advice. She suggested that we start with clomid. So DH (dear hubby) and I talked it over and decided to start a cycle of clomid right around the beginning of November. I picked up the prescription at the pharmacist and waited--and prayed that something would happen naturally.

Though I had been pretty religious about checking my CM, CP, and temping every day (these are infertility code words for cervical mucus, cervical position, and taking basal body temperature), I had basically given up that anything would happen and stopped reading into them. Then, about a week before I was planning to start the clomid, I noticed that my boobs were really sore for a couple of days. Then, all of a sudden, my BBT shot up from the upper 96's to the lower 98's. I had ovulated! I couldn't believe it! I got my progesterone tested just to be sure, and the ovulation was confirmed. My period showed up 10 days later. I was ecstatic! I couldn't believe my body had done its thing on its own after six years!

DH and I were more prepared with the BMSing (baby-making sex) the next cycle. I ovulated on day 33 and endured a gut-wrenching 2-week-wait, reading into every symptom and doing everything I could to think about other things. I had gotten progesterone suppositories from my OB to lengthen my LP (luteal phase--time between ovulation and period, which should be around 14 days but had only been 9 for me the first time). I had just about the worst pms I've ever had, but I was holding out hope that the awful cramps were a sign of a little fertilized embryo getting cozy. In the meantime, we spent Christmas break with my in-laws, hearing about little else than my adorable niece. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. But that's how it felt. I guess I expected a little more sensitivity on their part since they knew what was going on. But really, I don't think anyone who hasn't gone through infertility has much of a clue how it feels, so I can't expect them to simply not mention their cute granddaughter ever around me. That would be even weirder, I suppose.

After 18 excruciating days (and three or four negative pregnancy tests), my period finally showed. Even though I knew we only had a 25% chance, I think I had been so worried about ovulating for so long that I felt like once I finally ovulated, the problem would be solved. So many of our friends seem to be able to get pregnant on the first try, so when we didn't, I was crushed yet again. Yet again, intense negative emotions for no rational reason.

And here we are now. I'm on day 18 of my third natural cycle. The emotions of all this are just killer, and there's no way around them. I trust that God is sovereign and that he loves me, but I fear how much suffering he's going to take me through. DH had been reminding me to take this one day at a time, and to focus on all the many things I have to be thankful for--that I was diagnosed so early, that I found the HA message board, that I only had to gain 10 pounds, that I'm cycling. But it's hard not to focus on the fact that with a cycle as slow as mine has been, I only get half as many chances as anyone else. So this could be a long journey, folks.