Leaves

Leaves make me sad.  Things tend to go to hell in a handbasket (or more) in the Fall.  I’ve NEVER liked Fall.  Even when I like Fall, I’m wary of Fall.  And for good reason.

Do you see this picture?  I suppose I look happy.  I’m not.

By this time in 2007 I had suffered two consecutive miscarriages.  I was starting to panic.  I was starting to lose it.

This photo also reminds me of our last good day with Alfred, the first dog my hubby & I had together.  We were playing in the leaves that day and with our baby girl.  Life seemed complicated then, but things were good and we knew it.  Alfred died soon after.

Leaves surround me now and make me remember the wonderful things I’ve lost this time of year.  And I’m thinking of a student (and friend) with two young daughters who just lost her husband.  Another loss in the Fall.

These losses also remind me of the many blessings of my life.  I prayed and prayed for another baby . . . and lo and behold I have had 3 more!

Silver linings abound.  Blue skies lurk behind the grey menacing clouds.  If i were more of an optimist, I’d always be looking for those silver linings and blue skies.  However, the wicked past has taught me that the grey menacing clouds return, perhaps more frequently than I would like.  Does the blue and silver merely tease me?  Or does the grey remind me to be thankful for the brilliance of the others?

I continue to ponder this . . . this chiaroscuro that is life.

 

Snowflake Therapy

Imagine!  I’m just not in a birthy place these days.  I’m hanging on by a thread, actually.  I have a full time job, four young children, a husband who’s working two jobs, and have been sick for over a month!  So, reproduction . . . and all that involves is on the back burner . . . the very far back burner of a very large hot untouchable stove . . .

I am a ball of stress, so I’m thankful for a few moments of deconstress (LoL!) time.  I’m just about as addicted to Pinterest as I am to Facebook.  So, I’ve been pinning all sorts of things.  Here’s a link to my HBA2C board, for instance.  The holidays make me feel very crafty, but of course, I’m having to prioritize my crafts.  That means putting away the more complicated projects, and focusing on a few that give me a lot of bang for the time buck.  My oldest daughter and I are enjoying making snowflakes today.  Great stress buster, actually!  You can HARDLY screw these up.

Here are a few links to get you started:

Here’s How About Orange’s 8-point flake:

And here’s my simplified “take” on it:

To do this I followed Bon Temps’s folding instructions and eye-balled Orange’s template.  Really, it’s not that hard to do, and my 6 year old is having fun making her own snowflakes her own way! ;)  And my 4 month old is just hanging out watching Mommy and Big Sis.  (She’s such a love!!)

Blessings this holiday season!!

Recurrent Miscarriage: My happy endings

I am somewhat pleased and sad to know that my post about Pregnancy Hormones and Miscarriage is consistently one of my top posts.  I wish I could hold everyone who comes by looking for answers.  I remember being there.  It’s still a healing wound that opens up from time to time.  I still grieve that I’ll never know those souls I lost.  Or do/will I?

Nutshell background:

After an uneventful first pregnancy that produced my 6 year-old daughter in 2004, I suffered three consecutive first term losses.  Getting pregnant has never been my issue; staying pregnant was becoming a real problem for my body and my psyche.  The last straw, the one that nearly killed me, was the 10-week loss, and the OB standing over me as I woke from the curetage telling me my uterus was too thin to ever consider a vagina birth, and this same OB wanting to put me on Clomid to treat my losses.  This OB had also refused to test my progesterone levels, saying that even if they were low she’d not treat for low progesterone.

Here’s what I had to do:

  • Change providers – I’m in a small town, so no one is super specialized in this area, but I at least found a doc willing to work with me; he had also dealt with infertility personally
  • This OB did ultrasound to check for PCOS (which he thought he found in me) and HSG to check for uterine abnormalities
    • PCOS markers may include u/s, but that’s not the only determining factor, so I ruled that out myself
    • The HSG showed an abnormality, alright; the OB thought it was a double uterus
    • I decided it was time to find a specialist
  • I found a yahoo group that supports women with Mullerian Anomalies (double uterus is a type of MA)
    • This group has an anonymous consulting doc who looked at my HSG film and believed the anomaly to be either a septum or bicornuate uterus shape
    • This group had a fantastic resource – a database of recommended reproductive endocrinologists and repro surgeons
  • Because I have family in Denver and was planning on being in Denver the Summer of 2008 for a voice science research program, I chose a RE in Denver.  Tough stuff when you’re essentially ‘out of network,’ but thank God we ponied up and did it.
    • The RE looked at my film and didn’t think it was a MA; he was sure it was a fibroid
    • SHG confirmed his suspicions
    • Extensive blood work revealed . . . LOW FRIGGIN’ PROGESTERONE . . . actually, really really crappy luteal phase progesterone (I am still so angry with the OB who refused to test my progesterone; I still blame her for that loss.)
  • The RE also recommended a myomectomy to remove the fibroid
    • He wanted to do it laparascopically which means cutting through connective tissue and the fundus to reach the fibroid
    • I didn’t want the integrity of my uterus further compromised and requested a hysteroscopic myomectomy instead; he agreed
    • Folks, do your research so you can advocate for your needs!!  I can’t stress this point enough!!!!
  • Thank goodness we did the hyst myo because instead of a regular fibroid, he found adenomyosis which he attributed to the PREVIOUS CESAREAN!
    • Hyst myo turned out to be the best way to remove as much of the adenomyosis as possible
    • Otherwise my uterus looked normal, no thin LUS, cesarean scar wasn’t even visible
  • This RE had a drug protocol that worked to address my progesterone deficiency
  • 3 months later my local OB examined my uterus via ultrasound and said that I was healed and ready to TTC!
  • I also made sure that the RE confirmed that the integrity of my uterus was not compromised from the surgery; my OB was nervous about ‘letting me’ VBAC

My happy endings:

I naturally conceived twins in 2008.  Luckily, I was in Denver over Christmas, and the RE was involved with my early pregnancy care.  My HCG levels were abnormally high, and an early early ultrasound revealed twins.  I enjoyed an easy term pregnancy (39 weeks!) with di-di twins!  My twins are such a blessing – can’t believe they’re almost TWO!

I became pregnant again in October 2010.  God has a sense of humor for sure.  I followed (more or less) the same treatment plan for low progesterone.  The first week of my pregnancy was stressful because I was having a hard time getting ahold of my OB and who had different ideas of how to treat low progesterone that conflicted with the RE’s protocol.  Can you believe this RE’s nurse was still supporting me through this stressful time . . . 2 years later?!  I was able to e-mail her and call her and they were willing to oversee my meds for the 1st trimester if I couldn’t get it worked out with my OB.  I had to ‘correct’ my OBs script a couple of times, and thankfully he was compliant.

Again, you have to advocate for what you need.  Right this minute.  Trust your intuition.  Know that infertility and pregnancy loss is more ‘art’ than ‘science’ at this point.  Know that there are widely disparate ‘camps’ when it comes to treating infertility and loss.

Currently, I am 37 weeks pregnant with my Happily Ever After baby.  May you find a way to yours!

Supplementing Pregnancy with Progesterone

It amazes me that OBs can still be resistant to testing for progesterone deficiency and treating it.  After two consecutive losses and a clean blood panel, I begged my OB to test my progesterone levels.  I was pregnant again.  Not only did she refuse to test, but she also said that even if I tested low for progesterone, she wouldn’t supplement.  Her “brilliant” idea to treat pregnancy loss was Clomid!  (You can read tons of stories about women taking Clomid and suffering miscarriages as well as being blessed and challenged with multiple gestation issues.)

I lost that baby at 10 weeks gestation.  It died a few weeks earlier.  I was devastated and so angry.  I’m still angry at that nutjob OB.  For numerous reasons I transfered to a more compassionate OB who had been through infertility with his wife and also seemed to enjoy thoughtful discussions with his patients.  Although he misdiagnosed my problem, he supported me in seeking a second opinion with a reproductive endocrinologist (RE).

The RE discovered low low low progesterone.  The RE also found adenomyosis in my uterus that was distorting the shape of my uterus.  He believes that my cesarean caused the adenomyosis.  He removed as much as he could.

I received the all clear to TTC and quickly became pregnant again.  (Becoming pregnant was never my issue.)  I began supplementing with progesterone via 17-hydroxyprogesterone shots.  An early ultrasound discovered that I was carrying twins.  (Recall the one OB’s suggestion to give me Clomid?!??!!!!!!!)

I continued the progesterone injections and weekly progesterone tests during the first trimester of that pregnancy.  My progesterone levels seemed ok on their own, but it was prudent to continue especially since specialists don’t know what a good level of progesterone is for multiple gestation.  After three consecutive losses, I carried my twins to term. :)

I accidentally became pregnant during my September 23, 2010 cycle.  I suspected it almost immediately after conception, so I began early testing.  By CD 28 I tested positive for pregnancy.  I contacted my OB’s office (my previous lovely OB died the day he cleared us to TTC in 2008) on a Friday, and was frustrated that it took until the end of the business day on Monday to get a script.  In the meantime, I contacted medical friends and even the RE’s nurse.  I was amazed that she got back to me and was still willing to advise me . . . 2 years later and from out of state.  What a blessing.

Your typical OB isn’t always well-equipped to deal with early pregnancy issues.  My OB recommended 100mg oral progesterone.  I double-checked this with the RE’s nurse, and she did NOT recommend this treatment.  My SIL also told me some sketchy stuff about oral progesterone supplementation.  The RE’s nurse said the best thing to do is either go back on the shots or do 200mg prometrium vaginally.  Since prometrium is so accessible and doesn’t require a stick in the bum, I went that route.  I also want readers to know that it took a while to straighten out the script, but by Tuesday I had what I needed thanks to a lovely independent pharmacist, the RE’s nurse, and the OB’s office following through with exactly what I requested.

I just want to offer this information up for those who are struggling to make sense of their losses.  Really, if you think you suffer from low progesterone and/or a short luteal phase, you need a medical script for progesterone supplementation.  It is unlikely that natural supplements will do the job . . . maybe for marginal progesterone?

Someone on one of my advocacy lists said that taking prometrium vaginally seemed “iffy” to her.  I must admit that irritated me, but she doesn’t know anything about me or how seriously I consider my health decisions.  Had I not been directed to this reproductive endocrinologist in 2008, I would probably not have my twins or be 16 weeks pregnant with my fourth and final baby.

Flashbacks

2007 – 2008 were really tough years.  I suffered three consecutive pregnancy losses.  I nearly lost myself.  I look back on those years and shudder.

I was driving down the road the other day and couldn’t get these losses out of my mind.  I gave birth to twin girls in August 2009, but this doesn’t mean that I don’t still grieve for those lost souls.  Ugh, I don’t like thinking about it.

Perhaps these losses are on my mind because I had that evil Mirena IUD taken out last month.  My cycle has returned.  I had my first real menses since 2008.  The blood reminds me of all I have lost and all I have gained.

I’ve just ovulated.  The lovely CM and pains of mittelschmerz remind me of all I could lose and all I could gain.

My heart craves another child.  My body begs to be useful . . . and to be complete . . . and to bring my childbearing years full circle in the comfort of my own home with my husband and perhaps a midwife or doula.

Positive Thoughts On the Cesarean Section

One of my ICAN friends posted this on Facebook today:

BirthCut Calling all C/S mothers! I am looking for positive cesarean birth stories! I am also looking for any tips about the actual surgery and/or recovery you may have for cesarean mothers. And, well, anything else you may have — art, videos, etc etc. Thanks!

Interesting thought.  Do I have anything positive to say about my cesareans?  Actually, I think I do:

DECEMBER 2004

I was exhausted from the flu – vomiting and pooping everywhere.  The illness forced my body into labor before we were ready.  Although I arrived at the hospital at 9cm dilated, my baby quickly got stuck.  I don’t know if I could have pushed her out.  I was so utterly exhausted.  I pushed with everything I had and it still wasn’t enough.  By the time I had the cesarean I was incredibly thankful for the “convenience” of modern medicine.

I did recover quickly physically.  I don’t recall feeling poorly for long.  And I still felt like superwoman . . . for a while, anyway.

AUGUST 2009

Pregnant with twins which meant that I was “risked out” of homebirth and birth center birth.  By 37 weeks both twins were breech.  When my Baby A broke her water in the middle of the night, I knew she did it with her feet.  I was so disappointed because the LAST THING I WANTED was to go through major abdominal surgery again.  I had learned so much about my body . . . I learned that my miscarriages were likely influenced by the presence of adenomyosis (caused by the first cesarean in 2004) . . . I knew that if I were to get pregnant again that a VBAC after 2 cesareans would be nearly impossible unless I wanted to try it alone . . . I know that these abdominal surgeries are risky in my line of work (I’m an opera singer).

I had considered bucking the system since breech is a variation of normal, depending on who you ask.  I thank God for guiding me elsewhere, because my precious Baby A would not have likely survived a vaginal birth.  She was entangled in her cord, and the cord was wrapped around her legs.  Both girls presented double footling breech.

Although I am still in pain 5 months later, and have yet another scar, and have yet another saggy somewhat sensation-less flap of skin above my scar, and have found my singing to be anything but stellar due to my weakened core, I am thankful that a cesarean was available to me.

I don’t recommend a cesarean unless it is really REALLY necessary . . . sad that probably half of the cesareans that are performed in the United States are likely not necessary.  A cesarean is considered a morbidity because of its seriousness – it’s a MAJOR abdominal surgery.  However, there are situations where a cesarean may be prudent or necessary.  When the technology is used appropriately, it is indeed a blessing.  To learn more about c-sections, visit Childbirth Connection and ICAN.