Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Six Degrees of Separation

Recently I scheduled a brunch with all of the ladies who had a hand in connecting Haile with me and hubs. I cannot wait for all of us to come together and share our stories about this journey. I want each of them to know what angels they are and how by simply spreading the word, they have turned what could have been a terrible situation into a multitude of blessings.

It turns out there are six of us. Haile of course, her mother, her mother’s best friend who told her friend from church who happens to work with me, who happened to tell one of my wonderful friends who also works with us and has been personally vested in my infertility journey, who told me. There must be some truth to that six degrees of separation theory. Many of the great things that have happened in our lives, are a result of someone knowing someone. Jobs, spouses, relationships, …much of those stem from introductions, referrals or simply answered prayers. God has so many angels on earth, He works through us, he uses us as messengers. There are no mistakes or coincidences. Next time you have a little voice in your head, telling you to speak to someone, or to do something, act on it. If one of the 6 people didn’t trust that, I wouldn’t have known about lamb chop.

Haile is 21 weeks along, we went for the 20 week scan last Friday and have confirmed it’s a boy! Haile will be gifting us a son, my heart is so full. We got a CD copy of the ultrasound with pictures and video of lamb chop moving around. He was sucking his thumb during the ultrasound, and this video clip melts my heart. He is laying on his side, hands in prayer in front of his face, then he takes them and moves them to the side of his head like fetal pose. Be still my heart.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Why Don't You Just Adopt ?

So many times over the course of our journey people would ask if we had considered adoption or straight out tell us we should adopt. Well Infertility 101 covers why it's probably not the best thing to say to anyone going through infertility. Yet I understand why from an outside perspective that might seem like a logical move. Keyword logical. That removes all emotions..yet there is no way to go through infertility without experiencing a wide range of emotions. Yes, treatments become very mechanical and mundane from time to time, but we must remember the driving factor. Our desires to be parents..our love for children ...our hope to experience pregnancy - feel our babies kicking and growing inside us. It's a paradigm shift which includes grieving when you discover your baby isn't going to be created the way it is for 85-90% of the population. You don't just go "oh well, let's adopt". If only it were that easy. Actually if I knew then what I know now, maybe I would have let go of part of the struggle, but it was the exact same struggle that has taught me how great God is when we relinquish control. However, I had to know what both sides of that spectrum felt like, to come to that realization. For the record, One felt like crap, the other truly amazing! Can you guess which was which? ;)

So back to adoption- I would like to speak about how equally challenging it can be to fertility treatments. Most blatantly is the financial aspect. Adoption itself cost more than any single infertility treatment. When you have to consider finances in the tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes treatments seem like the wiser investment. Not to mention that desire to have a child that is genetically yours, it's a tough dream to let go of. Today, it doesn't matter as much as it did 4 years ago. But the truth is - it matters, and it matters to many (read most) of us. And until you are faced with the possibility of that not happening, you can never truly know how difficult it is to accept. Yes there seems to be lots of judgement in this area by those who have children that are genetically theirs. Also with treatments, you have the opportunity of getting more than one chance with minimal additional costs. If they are able to harvest and fertilize enough eggs then they can often be stored (frozen) for another try in the future. So you can literally double your chances with a good cycle.

Adoption is not only crazy expensive, it's also not guaranteed just like fertility treatments. Once selected, the birth mom can change her mind along the way or even after the baby the is born, and in some states, even after the baby is handed over and sent home with the adoptive parents. It takes a major leap of faith and a great amount of risk when pursuing adoption. And just for clarification, legally you are not buying the baby, that is against the law. The expenses incurred are lawyer fees, medical expenses for the birth mother and some living expenses related to the pregnancy. All of that is paid for by the adoptive parents. There's also some other fees such as a home study and court costs, background checks. All covered again by the adoptive parents. Fortunately for us, we have the best possible set of circumstances. The adoption is private, meaning we are not using and adoption agency, which is cutting the cost tremendously. So much so, we wouldn't be able to afford this otherwise. In addition, Haile has medical insurance coverage for her parents. That means her medical expenses will be standard co-pays and deductions. She lives at home still, which basically eliminates any cost of living expenses. We truly have an ideal situation on our hands, and I feel so very blessed for this divinely orchestrated scenario. I'm not sure that it would be happening any other way.

Adoption is not always as simple as it sounds. There's many risks, and hurdles to overcome, some financial, some emotional. Just know that if you ever wonder why some people don’t “just adopt”…it’s just not that simple. I am an open book, that is willing to share it all, but not everyone is. Not everyone feels comfortable saying they prefer or want a child that is genetically theirs. Not everyone likes discussing finances and how expensive it is, because it seems so minuscule, the money, in the grand scheme of things…but the truth is, it's stressful sourcing the funds, there’s tons of sacrifices made and quite honestly it's money that would be much better spent on the child’s education, not just trying to attain a child. When this is all said and done, we will have spent more than 50k trying to have a baby. That stings, it hurts the pockets for a couple that just got married and is starting a life together. Especially knowing the cost for others is what?! a nice dinner and a glass of wine (if your lucky)?! Trying to pay the bills can be hard enough for couple juggling regular expenses, plus medical expenses from treatments. We don’t all have celebrity size incomes where we have unlimited access to resources. And for the record, International adoption is not a cheaper route either. That requires international lawyers and travel expenses that surmount local adoptions. So please know that this is not the simple road, it’s not an easy fix. It’s actually very complex. I am just thankful that anything is possible through Him.
Sunday, July 14, 2013

Feeling Physically Attacked

About a week ago I had my annual physical. I don't use allopathic medicine for much, but I do see where it has a time and place in my life. Surgery, blood labs, medical procedures, there are simply things naturopathy cannot replace.

 Each year I get my base blood labs redone. I was particularly interested in this years because I have lost so much weight over the past year (90 lbs) that I was hoping to see a few numbers drop, primarily my thyroid levels and CRP (C-reactive-protein). Over the years the thyroid levels have been controlled by the same dosage of thyroid medication, and I am very pleased to report that my current prescription dosage is being cut-down by 1/3. Yay me! Also my CRP levels, which were once in the teens (which is levels seen in cancer patients and those fighting disease) is now below 1. The number should be zero, so it's not perfect, but it's astoundingly better.

 I have cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and liver panel levels that match my healthy life style, very proud of my diet and the work I have done to create those results. I have always tried to control the things I can, heck, I have tried to control the things I can't, but I think I try even harder to fix what I can knowing there a health issues I have that nothing I do changes. It's frustrating sometimes which makes good test results even more meaningful.

 Unfortunately, my labs were not entirely perfect. My naturopath suggested I have them rerun a test that was actually taken by mistake late last year prior to my IVF cycle. There were required tests I had to take, so they could treat me properly should there be certain conditions. Autoimmune disease is a whole different ball game when it comes to IVF, and therefore they follow different protocols. During that time leading up to our IVF cycle , I had tests run by my primary physician because we did our IVF cycle abroad, in Barbados. Some how the doctor or lab made a mistake and tested me for something called AMA (M2) It's a Anti mitochondrial antibody. Here is a quick explanation of this antibody/test:

 Clinical Information Antimitochondrial antibodies (AMAs) are detectable by indirect immunofluorescence in >90% of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), but this method also detects AMAs of differing specificities in other diseases. The mitochondrial antigens recognized by AMAs in patients' sera have been classified numerically as M1 through M9, with the M2 antigen complex recognized by AMAs in sera from patients with PBC. M2 antigen is comprised of enzyme proteins of the 2-oxoacid dehydrogenase complex that are located on inner mitochondrial membranes. Included in this group of autoantigens are the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex, and 2-oxoglutarate dehydrogenase complex.

 Reference Values (My Results were 5.20) Negative: <0.1 Units Borderline: 0.1-0.3 Units Weakly positive: 0.4-0.9 Units Positive: > or =1.0 Units Reference values apply to all ages.
 Interpretation Positive results for antimitochondrial antibody (AMA) of M2 specificity are highly specific for primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), and false-negative results are rare.

When I first had the test taken in error, we had them retest me just to be sure they were my actual results, because they were positive and I needed to follow up if it was indeed my test results. The second test came back positive again.

 My doctor then sent me for an ultrasound and referred me out to a GI after the ultrasound didn't reveal any abnormalities aside from small changes to my gallbladder (which should have been expected after a considerable amount of weight loss). My spleen and liver both looked healthy. The GI ran some more liver panel tests which revealed a completely healthy liver. So we had an anomaly to some extent, because I was basically testing positive for PBC, yet my liver tests all showed normal. The GI recommended I get a liver biopsy to either diagnose or rule out PBC however that wasn't completely reliable because if it was early stages of PBC and they biopsied a healthy "part" of the liver it could be a false negative, so it actually wouldn't rule out PBC completely. I opted out of the biopsy, it seemed to invasive for me, plus we had our IVF vacation booked and scheduled and I didn't want to jeopardize that timeline for the procedure.

 Fast forward to today, 10 months later. A third positive AMA test. Now I feel like I can no longer ignore the test. If a person has PBC and catches it early on, it can prevent the need for a liver transplant and extend their life expectancy. However if it goes untreated, the prognosis isn't nearly as good. I may need a liver transplant down the line and/or it can ultimately kill me. As a soon to be mother, I find myself taking this a bit more seriously. Not that I wasn't before just that if we have a child on the way, I need to be thinking of them and doing everything in my power to live as long as I can. That desire already existed, it just becomes increasingly more profound.

 So I have spend many hours this weekend researching other options for less invasive tests that are equally reliable. One test that I have found is called a Fibroscan. It has been used in many other countries for many years now, however it was just approved in the US a few months ago. I am currently on the hunt for specialists who use this technology and will be moving forward with the testing ASAP.

 I believe my first signs of health issues surfaced in my teens. I was hypoglycemic and I would suffer from low sugar episodes and pass out. Later on in life, I found I was hypothyroid. I have been treating that for years, however over the years, I learned the hypothyroidism was actually a symptom of something else, not an actual diagnosis. Through homeopathy I learned that I have Hashimotos hyperthyroidism which is a result of autoimmune disease. I also learned that this same said autoimmune disease was not only attacking my thyroid, but also my internal female parts, thus my somewhat recent diagnosis of endometriosis. I discovered the endo during an exploratory laparoscopy in search of infertility diagnosis. In addition to that I also have psoriasis and gluten intolerance which are also forms of autoimmune disease and reactions in my body.

 Now that my body has also decide to attack my liver, well I can't help but to feel physically attacked. It's very strange when your own body attacks it's own healthy cells and while there are things you can do to minimize it, there's nothing you can do to stop it entirely. Everything I have been diagnosed with, there is no cure for, so it's considered chronic illness.

 Some days I wish I could turn back the hands of a time and place where my body cooperated wit me. It worked for me, rather than against me. I realize much of what I have encountered has led me to great things, I live a healthier lifestyle than I ever have. We have a little one on the way via adoption. It's not entirely a bad thing. In a strange way, some of these illnesses could have saved my life. I get that, I know that. However, I am not going to feel bad for feeling defeated some days. Like all of my efforts are useless and my body is just going to keep "winning" with all of these attacks. Some days, on an emotional level, I feel attacked, but I can overcome that. The truth is everyday, I am being physically attacked. I just wish I could make it stop.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Letter for our Little Lamb-Chop

Dear Lambchop,

It hasn’t even been two full months since we learned about your existence, yet it seems like a lifetime ago! As the days grow closer to your arrival into the world, I find myself eagerly anticipating meeting you. I don’t get to spend much time with you right now, I wish you were growing in my belly for the mere fact that I would get to be with you every moment of everyday…..but I accept that’s not how our story was written and you are exactly where you need to be right now, in your momma’s belly.

Your momma and I spend time together whenever we can. I take her to all of her doctor appointments and we sometimes get together just to hang out. This friday we are going to spend the afternoon together. I adore your momma, Haile. She is such a sweet girl, with such a beautiful soul. She is so pleasant to be around, I love talking with her and laughing with her. She is a tiny little thing, and just the other day, at 18 weeks pregnant, she just started showing. She sent me a picture of her belly and I can finally see you are growing in there! We will confirm your gender in just a few more weeks, on July 26th! We cannot wait, so we can pick a name and nursery colors!

 We are quickly approaching the middle of the
summer months, we have been spending time settling into our new home, working on small projects. We just moved in two months ago and still haven’t completely unpacked. Your daddy had settled into the “office” on the first floor when we discovered that we were going to need that space as your nursery! One of my dreams of becoming a mommy was decorating a beautiful nursery for our baby. It’s so hard to believe that after 4 years, our dreams are coming true! I had almost given up hope at some points, but I just kept leaning on Gods promises to us in the scriptures, and I kept my faith. I knew that somehow, someway, He would make our hearts content. Sometimes it’s really hard trusting, we grow impatient, disappointed, sometimes sad….but if you just keep believing, your dreams will come true!

You are expected to make a grand entrance on December 9th. Your original due date was December 25th, but after seeing a scan at another doctors office, they officially made Dec 9th your due date. It’s hard to believe that this Christmas we will celebrate with you in our lives. I feel like we waited so long for the news of you, yet in hindsight, it won’t matter how long we had to wait. Just knowing that you are growing everyday and preparing to come into our lives has me smiling all day long lately.
Only 4 more months til we will meet our sweet little baby! Keep on growing strong. Enjoy your time in your mommas belly….soon you will be taking your first breaths in this insanely big world we live in and your journey will begin, as our continues to unfold. I can tell you this little one, life is filled with so many blessings and surprises. There’s been so many friends and family who have been praying for you to come into all of our lives and cannot wait to meet you; me, the most of all ! ;)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Silver Lining

I was thinking the other day about how concerned I was for our child should Frank and I conceive. I have crappy genes….autoimmune disease. Everyone wants a healthy baby, that goes without saying. Unfortunately, we don’t all get them…some of that has to do with disease, illnesses and the rest...good ole genetics.

Autoimmune disease poses many risks, it can lie dormant for many years and all it takes is one bad move and then the flood gates open. For me it was a couple things. It was the MMR vaccination and having my mercury fillings removed both within months of each other…mercury poisoning….which triggered my auto-immune system response…..and then it was a 8 year battle with my health. In hindsight it’s ironic that me preparing for conception was what ultimately prevented me from conceiving. I was at a pre-pregnancy check-up when the doctors ran tests and said I was not vaccinated against rubella and needed to be. This was long before I took control of my own health and stopped listening to everything I was told to do….so like a good patient, I went and got vaccinated, no questions asked. MMR is measles, mumps and rubella, the combo injection contains mercury. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, right?  What many of my naturopath doctors believe is that the mercury exposure is what set-off the autoimmune response in my body. My father’s side of the family has a history of both autoimmune and cardiovascular disease, which is likely where it was passed down from.

So I was concerned, that if we conceived, if I would be able to vaccinate our child. For reasons that are obvious, I didn’t want to create a response in our child similar to mine, where they would be dealing with health issues for years to follow. And I didn’t want to deal with school systems, governments, or people who think one size fits all when it comes to medicine, or who felt I was a bad a parent for choosing not to vaccinate my child. I do not have problems with vaccinations necessarily, I have problems with the mindset that they are ok for everyone, following the same protocol in every single child with no regard to medical history. Malarkey!

So it might not seem like a big deal, but I am somewhat relieved that with our adoption,  we no longer have to worry about my crappy genetics!  Yes, we will get a medical history of the birth mom and dad, and it certainly doesn’t mean they do not have the same or similar crappy genes as me, but for a moment, when I realized I wouldn’t have to be concerned about my genetics being passed down, well I felt a small sigh of relief and realized there was a silver lining.