I’m not a Zombie, I’m pregnant!

I’m not a Zombie, I’m pregnant!

zombieSometimes I have to remind myself that I am not a zombie, I’m just pregnant. Though often you wouldn’t know it, given that I look half dead most of the time.

The 1st trimester has been rough. And although I’m nearing my 12th week (this Sunday!), my early preggo symptoms are still sticking around. Though hopefully, not for long!

I guess going into this, I always imagined pregnancy to be this beautiful, glowy, magical time where you wake up looking fabulous and voluptuous. But, I think most women have hidden the fact that for the first 3-4 months, they looked and felt more like the undead than a yummy mummy.

Because as of 2 months ago, I haven’t been out of stretchy pants or a t-shirt, or looked more haggard and sick. I feel only partially human. And that’s on a good day.

So when my mom tells me to “enjoy your pregnancy!” I’m thinking the best part of it right now is when I’m passed out.

My husband asked me if I felt pregnant the other day. To be honest, I haven’t had much time to really figure out what it feels to “be pregnant”. Because I guess the morning sickness, fatigue, heartburn, and back pain is what it feels to be pregnant. So I guess I am “feeling pregnant!”

I can only hope that these 1st trimester symptoms will wane and be a distant memory in a few weeks. But for now, I will continue this rant about how shitty I feel, and how unglamorous pregnancy is.

I love my little bean that’s growing inside me, I’m just waiting for the day where I feel human enough to start appreciating life again.

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Struggles in the 1st Trimester

Struggles in the 1st Trimester

stinky faceI was so busy last year being laser focused on getting pregnant via IVF that I never stopped for a second to prepare myself for the eventuality that I could possibly get pregnant!

So now that I am 9 weeks pregnant and very much into my 1st trimester, I’m finding myself totally treading water just to stay afloat with this whole pregnancy thing! I never prepared myself for what it would feel like to be pregnant, and all the things I’d experience pretty much the moment I found out I was expecting.

So here’s a list of all the unexpected struggles so far in my 1st trimester.

1. Crazy bloating, gas, and indigestion

I had bloating and gas prior to my embryo transfer due to the extra progesterone I was taking, but now that I am pregnant, that bloat and gas has been compounded with indigestion! Food seems to sit in my gut and just party like it’s 1984. And with it is perpetual gas and bloat. I hear this is something that’s here to stay, but I was unprepared for the fact that pretty much 2 weeks into being pregnant, I could no longer fit my stretchy jeans and have had to buy new stretchy pants for daily wear.

2. Nausea and morning sickness (or all day sickness)

This is common to most pregnant women, but it doesn’t suck any less when it happens to you. Mine started when I was about 6.5 weeks along. It started fairly strongly and was triggered mostly by smells and food. Luckily though, I can say that I’ve only actually vomitted a hand full of times and what I have now is just nausea that comes and goes throughout the day.

My mom forewarned me though that some women have debilitating morning sickness. She, for example, had hyperemesis gravidarum aka uncontrollable vomiting. She lost 20 lbs in her first trimester and was bed ridden for a month. Hearing this, I am extremely glad I am only fighting a moderate bout of morning sickness that is often cured by lots and lots of sleep! Sleep seems to be, for the most part, the cure to fend off nausea the next morning. If I have a rough night, I can be assured I’ll have a rough day with nausea. But a good nights sleep usually means I feel little morning sickness. So my remedy right now is to focus on getting enough sleep (not easy to accomplish!)

3. Unimaginable fatigue

Nobody told me I was going to be this tired! No amount of sleep seems to make this fatigue go away! I started getting fatigue very early on and am now sleeping at least 9-10 hours a night with an hour or two nap mid day. And yet, I am still perpetually tired and crawling into bed at 9:30pm every night.

Going out to buy groceries or have dinner with friends is like a full body and mind workout. I am simply exhausted.

4. Back and hip pain

I was not expecting back or hip pain to come so early. But pretty much a few weeks in and I was getting terrible back pain. It felt like my back had lost all its strength and had become a wet noodle. I couldn’t sleep in my, now too soft bed, and have instead bought a temporary firm foam mattress to sleep on. I also got a Snoogle pregnancy pillow to support my back and encourage side sleeping (which I still have to get used to).

After a week or so of sleeping on a firmer mattress and doing some light yoga stretches, the bulk of my back pain subsided. However, a few days back I started getting a weird hip pain on my right side. It starts in my buttock and radiates down my leg. The pain is almost imperceptible during the day and I have no issues walking or sitting. But when it comes to bedtime, the pain starts up and persists throughout the night. It was making sleep painful again. So yesterday night I rigged up an extra pillow around my hip to give it extra support against the Snoogle and also added another pillow to my foot so that it would not dangle. Basically I am fully cradled by the Snoogle and extra pillows now and finally, an almost pain-free sleep. Slow progress as I learn how to deal with all the new aches and pains that come with pregnancy!

5. Managing water intake

Water simply tastes nasty! And drinking most fluids makes me feel sick. I’m also super sensitive to temperature and flavor of the beverage. It must be either super cold or super hot. Anything in between and I’m gagging. I tried lemon in my water but that didn’t work long. I’ve transitioned to mixing juice with water, which is a bit better. Though most liquids are still a bit repulsive regardless of the mix.

So I’m finding myself struggling to get the recommended 8 glasses of water a day. I am lucky if I get 6 these days with the sensitivity I have to drinking anything.

6. Food and smell aversions

This one is closely related to the nausea and morning sickness. At 6.5 weeks, almost all smells turned me nauseous. Pasta sauce, the car, dishwashing detergent, my body wash, Parmesan cheese, broccoli, almost everything made me gag. It was awful! I also found I was now completely turned off with raw tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, orange juice, certain cheeses, and a number of other foods that I previously loved. Even the thought of some of the foods would make me nauseous.

So from that point forward, I’ve been very selective with the foods that I’ve been eating. Mostly staying away from saucy dishes, and opting instead for dry, salty, or blander fare. Toast with peanut butter has become a staple for me. But luckily, although many cooked foods make me sick, I am ravenous when it comes to fruits. So I am opting to eat more of that since it seems to do ok for me.

At 9 weeks though, I am finding my palate is somewhat returning to normal. By no means does it mean I can eat or smell everything, but slowly, smells are becoming a bit more tolerable and I am a bit more accepting in a variety of foods. So I’m hopeful that by week 12, I’ll find my appetite back in full force (and I can’t wait for it!).

7. Nasty Meds!

And finally, the oh-so-nasty meds all IVFers must endure! It’s not enough that prior to being pregnant you’re suffering daily injections, tablets, and suppositories, but once you are pregnant, that regime of drugs continues (well minus the injections – thank goodness!).

But I have been on twice daily Estrace and 3 times a day vaginal suppositories for over 10 weeks! I don’t mind the oral tablets but after 10 weeks of suppositories, I’m pretty much done with them forever and ever! They are gross, nasty, disgusting, annoying… but Oh-so-essential! So I endure them, but with a lot of disdain.

WARNING – TMI ZONE UPCOMING:

Early on, the suppositories actually made me spot pink/brown. It freaked me out because I thought all was lost. But the nurses reassured me that the suppositories were the culprit, scraping my now very delicate insides.

So after reading up on this online, I found a commenter who suggested lightly wetting the suppositories. I tried this and within days, the spotting stopped. I guess just a little bit of water helps it dissolve and soften. But it still leaves a nasty discharge regardless. Ew.

Luckily, I am on my very last week of meds and I’m counting down the tabs left! I can’t wait!

IVF Success!

IVF Success!

It’s been more than 17 months since my last update and so much has happened since my last post. Most importantly, after 4 years of actively trying to get pregnant, I finally got my BFP! In the 4 long years of working towards this dream, those 3 little words appeared only as a mirage. It was always a beautiful almost mythical idea that I dreamed of, but never truly thought I’d see. That is until Dec 22, 2014, with the help of IVF, I learned that I was pregnant. The news floored me. Even after hearing it, I did not believe it because I was so accustomed to mourning failure that I didn’t understand what it meant to finally have success.

But success did not come easily. In July 2013, I started alternative therapies including acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). I changed my diet, exercise regime, and was on weekly acupuncture therapy. The hope was that with alternate therapies, I could regain hormonal balance and some regularity to my cycles. After 5 months or so of therapy, I was clearly improving, with somewhat regulated cycles and what seemed like clear ovulation spikes. But, I was not pregnant.

Although, I felt healthier than I had ever been, eating and exercising regularly, and acupuncture healing my stagnant energy, I did not get pregnant. This was when my TCM doctor suggested that I look into Western medicine’s Assisted Reproductive Therapies (ART) like IVF. At the time, the notion of IVF felt like a last ditch solution. I felt then that I could get pregnant, but was fearful of such invasive therapies like IVF. So, I pushed it off.

But I wasn’t naive to my situation and I knew that I likely needed a little more help than just TCM alone. So I sought out my family doctor and asked for Clomid. Many years previous, I had seen a fertility doctor who prescribed me Clomid. But at the time, when I learned I had PCOS, it broke my heart and I completely rejected the idea of trying any drugs or therapy. Fast forward and I was back in the doctor’s office asking for the drug that I had previously whole heartedly written off.

Well, Clomid didn’t work. In fact, it made it worse. My cycle on Clomid was exceptionally long and I clearly did not ovulate. It was a bust. This was when I decided to seek out my fertility doctor once more and get on with it. The following 4 months or so, I tried 2 cycles of Letrozole with IUI without success and was scheduled to try Superovulation. However, at our meeting with the doctor, we learned a lot more about IVF, ICSI and CCS and decided that given the dramatic difference in success rates between Superovulation and IVF, that it was more beneficial for us to go straight into IVF, which had a 70% chance of success vs Superovulation which had a 15-20% chance of success.

So in Oct 2014, we started the process of IVF. We opted to do the “full meal deal” so to speak with ICSI and CCS included in our IVF protocol. I started with a priming period, then followed the injection phase for about 2 weeks. A trigger shot was given and the clinic retrieved 20 eggs. We were thrilled. 20 eggs was a good number and so we were confident that going through this whole IVF thing would be smooth sailing from there.

Well, it was not as smooth as we had hoped. We had gale winds and thunderstorms the rest of the way through. It was the worse roller coaster of emotions I’ve ever had to endure and the physical pain of the injections pales in comparison to the mental anguish of the weeks to follow.

Although we had 20 eggs retrieved, 18 were fertilized via ICSI. By day 3, our 18 dropped to 9. A dramatic drop off that I was no prepared for, though still a good number, we thought. By day 5 though, we were left with 6, but the embryologists said they had to wait another day before they could be biopsied due to their size. At first I didn’t quite understand what they had meant, but in retrospect, I now understand that the day 5 blastocysts were growing slower than normal and were not large enough to be safely biopsied for the CCS DNA analysis. At that point, I still felt confident that with 6, we would be left with 4 or so to be biopsied the next day, but when day 6 came along and I got the call about the eggs, I was floored to learn only 2 had survived. My heart sank into my stomach and it felt like all our hopes were dashed in those 6 short days.

With only 2 blastocysts to biopsy, what were the chances than any of them would be normal? I cried and cried and cried, but the tears seemed pointless. It would be a week or so before we would get the CCS results for our 2 surviving blasts. I prepared for the worse. I told myself it would be likely that none were normal. And I convinced myself that this was likely the end of the road. And I relegated myself to this conclusion.

6 days passed and the results came in – earlier than I had expected. Early that morning, I received the call from the clinic and I couldn’t help but feel entirely weak just picking up the phone. But the geneticists was kind and she did not dispense with any unnecessary pleasantries. She just came right out and said “They’re both normal!” Uh WHAT!? I about dropped the phone and myself on the floor. Those words were not ones I had practiced hearing the last 6 days. I didn’t even think it was possible that both could be normal. The odds simply did not appear in our favour. But there it was, my remaining 2 beautiful embryos were spectacularly normal! I cried and cried and cried, though this time, the tears did not feel so futile after all.

And so with 2 precious little embryos awaiting us, we did our first frozen transfer of a single normal embryo on Dec 11, 2014. The coolest part was seeing our little embryo shown on a tv inside the procedure room just prior to transfer. It was bizarre to see a seemingly amorphous blob of cells that would be, or rather, could be, our future child. And all the work, heartache, sweat, and tears in the last 4 years was to create that tiny cluster I was seeing now on the screen. The whole idea seemed a little loopy.

But there it was, and in 10 minutes or less, the doctor had put that magical bundle of cells inside me. I was now carrying my most precious cargo.

You would think though that relief would sweep over you once the transfer is complete. It does not. Now it is the constant worry, the constant anticipation, the constant symptom detection, the constant fear that consumes you in the two week wait. And although I only had to wait 11 days, versus 14, it felt like the longest 11 days of my life.

Not only did I have terrible bloating, gas, and back pain, likely due to the progesterone I was given, but ever twinge, ache, or cramp freaked me out. My mom prescribed absolute bed rest. And me, being naive and gullible at this very delicate time thought even a little walking could possibly disrupt the tender process of implantation. And so I sat at home doing nothing, feeling anxious, and growing exceedingly squirrely in the process.

In retrospect, all the fuss was probably not necessary. I would have not prescribed bed rest or house arrest (as I now refer to it) because it made the 11 days worse than ever. I realized half way through that fresh air was needed, moving my body was vital, and that the terrible back ache I was developing was only worsened by well doing, nothing.

But Dec 22, 2014 finally came, the day of my Beta HCG blood test. I went in early that morning for the test with every intention of finding out the worst. After all, I had never gotten a positive before, why would this time be any different? So by the afternoon on the phone with the nurse when she said “Congratulations!”, I had a moment thought “For what?”. I was pregnant. Or rather, I AM pregnant.

And so after 4 long years and a whole lot of science later, I am so excited and relieved to report that I am almost 9 weeks pregnant with an expected August 2015 arrival of our little cyborg baby. 🙂

 

Anxiety, Mental Health and Infertility

Anxiety, Mental Health and Infertility

I have an anxiety disorder. I’ve had it most of my life and its probably one of the factors contributing to my infertility – my constant stress and anxiety has impacted me physically. My TCM doctor said that years of constant stress on the body can most definitely play havoc on the balance of the body contributing to many physical ailments including infertility.

Lately, though I don’t really know exactly why, I’ve been having bouts of sadness mediated by a constant low hum. It’s like everything around me is a blur. I can’t concentrate, I’m feeling tired, my anxiety is heightened, and a general tone of sadness hovers over me. I don’t know why.

Sometimes I wish I knew what it feels like to not suffer from a mental disorder – to feel normally positive instead of constantly negative. I wonder how wonderful it would be to be able to look at life as half full rather than half empty. And to be in the moment feeling truly content about anything in life, it needn’t be big or small. Because, to be honest, I don’t feel those moments very often.

As I’ve said before, infertility is so much more than just the inability to conceive. It’s a psychological battle that tests the very basic part of you, the self. And although I’ve come to accept it, it would be a lie to say that dealing with myself on the daily basis has gotten easier. It hasn’t.

Though I must attribute much of my anxiety lately to my job. Frankly, I’m ready to move on and yet the prospect of where to go after has got me in a bind. The need for change, and now the need to manage my fertility treatment (and all the emotions it brings along with it) has perhaps led me into a darker place than I like.

Acupuncture Round 2 & TCM Medication

Acupuncture Round 2 & TCM Medication

Today was my second session of acupuncture and it was progressively better than the last. Although the initial poking was still unpleasant, I was able to relax a lot more after all the needles were put in.

My TCM doctor started me on my herbal medicines today and also suggested I take vitamins B complex, D, E, and Coenzyme Q10. I researched a bit about these vitamins and they all seem to do various things, which to be honest, I don’t really know exactly what. In any case, I’m sure taking them can only benefit me.

In addition to vitamins, I have a powdered form herbal medicine I’m to take twice a day in tea format. So far, my first dose has been surprisingly palatable. It tastes like a sweet licorice-y tea. Not as medicine tasting as I had expected.

Also, starting tomorrow morning, I’m to track my temperature so we can track whether ovulation happens. But I’m actually using Ovacue instead to track my electrolytes, which is more reliable than temperature anyways in detecting ovulation. Though, to be honest, with an irregular period, even Ovacue is confusing to read given all the dips and rises. In any case, until next week.

The silence of infertility

The silence of infertility

tabooI’ve only told a few people in my life about my infertility: my mom and dad, sister-in-law, my cousin, and three friends. That’s it. All of them have been supportive, but infertility is such a personal thing that most people don’t know what to say at all.

The most common response is, “Give it time, I’m sure you’ll get pregnant”. Then there is “There’s lots of treatments out there, you’ll get pregnant!”. My mom’s favorite, “You just need to relax and it’ll come.” Or “It took me a year to get pregnant, but it happened!” And although I appreciate everyone’s intentions, none of those words make me feel better. Though, perhaps the worse of it all is the silence that comes with telling others about your infertility, because they simply don’t know what to say at all.

And I really can’t blame them. If I was not going through this journey and a friend told me they were having difficulties, I too may choose one of those things to say, because that’s what you say! And most likely I wouldn’t mention it again if it wasn’t brought up, because infertility is such an intimate topic. I too would be silent.

Let’s be frank, infertility is a taboo subject. Nobody really knows how to broach the topic and talk about icky things like ovaries, sperm, or vaginas, and even less about the malfunctioning of it. It’s definitely not a topic of choice at a dinner party! But infertility is so much more than just issues with pregnancy, it’s about all those tormenting feelings about the self. It’s about coming to terms with the state of your body, and accepting the path ahead.

And I know the feelings about infertility are different for every couple, but I do wish that I had family and friends who would simply be open to talking about it, without giving motivation, trumping hope, or prescribing remedies. Because although I appreciate people telling me that “Keep trying!” or “It will happen! Just give it time.” or “Maybe you can relax more, and it will come.”, I much rather have a friend simply hear me out on the hardships and feelings while going through this journey. Someone to simply say, “How does it feel?” Because in all honesty, going through infertility is like wading through a wide open field of fog – you really have no idea what is ahead of you, if the next step you take is getting you anywhere closer to your goal, or if what you’re doing now mean anything at all tomorrow. It’s a crap shoot. You basically put all your good intentions and hard work into the process without knowing what the end result will ultimately be.

And that is why motivation means little, trumping hope feels false, and prescribing remedies often aggravating. But having supportive people there to listen to how a treatment went, or how you’re feeling about the process, is the kindest way to approach the topic. It doesn’t judge, it doesn’t prescribe, and it doesn’t put false hope in something nobody knows the end result of.

Earlier this morning, I had a good talk with mom, who echoed my feelings towards this journey as a path to wellness, not a path to fertility. That my goal with TCM treatment is to get healthy, rather than to get pregnant. The mindset is so important. And having her be a supportive ear in that meant so much to me. And although she still reminded me to relax, I took comfort in just talking about what I was doing and how it made me feel.

// This post was inspired by the How Not to be a Jerk About Infertility blog.

No Dairy, Red Meat, Bread, Sugar Diet

No Dairy, Red Meat, Bread, Sugar Diet

Today I begin my no dairy, red meat, or bread/wheat/rice diet. My TCM doctor explained that I needed to cut out as much dairy, red meat, and sugars (which includes refined carbs like bread and rice) from my diet as possible. I’m not adverse to cutting out red meat (which includes beef, pork, and lamb), but the idea of not having any dairy products or a minimal amount of bread or rice is daunting.

I can eat some rice, but would have to opt for brown or wild rice – no more white rice for me! In terms of bread, it is advised that I try to minimize eating any kind of gluten type of bread. And dairy products should most definitely kept to a minimum, which means NO MORE CHEESE (OMG!).

I just looked into the Paleo Diet, which actually follows these restrictions, but Paleo doesn’t allow even oatmeal. I do not eat eggs normally, so having eggs for breakfast, for example, would be out of the question. And if I can’t eat yogurt, or breads and cereals for breakfast, what other foods could I have first thing in the morning? So I’ve opted to include steel cut oats into my diet, regardless of whether it is part of the Paleo diet or not.

I’ve found some very delicious recipes for Steel Cut Oats, and just tried the fresh blueberry one today – YUM! I am also replacing all my milk with Almond Milk. I read it is more nutritious than soy milk, as it is naturally full of vitamins and minerals which are often added into products like soy milk because they lack it naturally.

The TCM doctor also advised limiting sugars from my diet as much as possible, so sweets and juices should be kept at a minimum. Limiting sweets will be fine for me, as I don’t eat much of that anyways, but no fruit juices will be more difficult. I guess it’s lemon water and non-caffeinated teas for me from now on!

So moving forward, it will be an interesting challenge to eat with these restrictions, but I’ll try my best and not punish myself if I ever do want a sweet or some bread here and there.

If any of you have great recipes that fit into this type of diet, please do share! Would love to hear from those also who have had a modified diet to promote fertility. What did you find helped?