infertility

Oct 7th 2014 12:44:48 pm

(or, Making a Baby is Harder than I’d Hoped)

kiss

My background:

I guess I already had a feeling that I wasn’t the most fertile woman in the world. Travis and I have been having sex… for a long time. (We’ve been together for 16+ years.) We are smart and careful, so we doubled up on birth control (bc pill & condoms) for a long time. No reason why we should have gotten pregnant and we didn’t want to. We both went to grad school, moved across the country, bought a tiny house, had jobs, started a business. I went off the pill when I was 27. We kept using condoms most of the time and sort of decided to see what happened. Maybe I should have been more concerned that nothing happened. But then we moved to NY, lived (and ran a business) in a tiny apartment, trained for marathons, had fun. I don’t want to be the cliched “modern” woman, but even though I really want children, I thought I had more time. I probably should have been more concerned when my cycles shortened to 25 days, but the doctors said it was normal. I’ve never missed a period in my life. I’ve never been underweight. My body has never failed me. I thought I was as healthy as possible. But I guess I also knew I was pressing my luck. We all think we can wait forever.

In the end, my fertility struggles were very minimal compared to what many other women face, but I want to share my experience just in case it helps any other women to be proactive about their own fertility. Plus, it is so easy to forget things and I want to have my thoughts written down for my own personal record.

firstbabby

Starting the process:

So… 2012 was a huge running year for me… no time for pregnancy! But after completing the Goofy Challenge and Bermuda Triangle Challenge in January 2013, Travis and I decided to get down to the business of trying to make a baby. We weren’t entirely diligent at first, but by April I was tracking my cycles and focusing on fertile days. I started using ovulation kits in July to pinpoint my most fertile days. Still nothing was happening. I hated taking the pregnancy tests just to get a negative result and I also hated not knowing what I could plan for the future. Could I run a marathon in November? Or should I not sign up? Could I train for an IronMan? Or should I devote more of my energy to focusing on baby making? Should I apply for a new job? Should we plan that big trip to Europe? It felt like everything needed to be put on hold until we knew whether or not a baby would be coming in the near future…

Fertility check-up:

Since I wasn’t getting pregnant as quickly as I had assumed it would happen, I decided I should go get things checked out. On September 11th, 2013, I had my first appointment with a new Ob/Gyn, Dr. Flagg at Spring OB/Gyn. I really liked her (she graduated from KU Med just like my brother and sister-in-law!) and she suggested I start a “Fertility Check-list” of tests and screenings. It consisted of blood tests looking at my hormone levels at different times during my cycle (FSH, AMH, TSH, Prolactin, and Progesterone), a genetic screening, a pap smear looking for any STDs or other problems, and multiple ultrasounds at different parts of my cycle to observe ovulation. (Plus, a sperm check for Travis.) In all, I think it consisted of five or six separate doctor’s appointments over two months. Looking back now it doesn’t feel like it was so bad… BUT at the time I felt like it was a HUGE hassle and very invasive. Luckily, I have not experienced many health problems in my life, so any type of medical procedure seemed very tough at first. Blood draws and trans-vaginal ultrasounds are not exactly fun, especially when you are doing them nearly every week. Not to mention the time I had to take away from work to get to all of the appointments. My work and life schedule is very flexible, but I remember thinking that anyone with a high powered job would never be able to fit in all the tests!

Every one of the tests came back with great results… except the AMH (Anti-Müllerian Hormone) or “egg timer” test. It is supposed to help doctors determine the size of your egg supply. (It also could indicate a possibility for early menopause. Great.) My number (.72) came back so low for my age that Dr. Flagg suggested I make an appointment with a fertility specialist. Her high level of concern made me worried. But she also told me not to stress over it too much. Ha! She also suggested acupuncture. Yuck. I was not interested in acupuncture, but I took her advice anyway. There are some medical studies that show some correlations between acupuncture and increased fertility, so I felt I should give it a try. I wanted to make sure I was doing everything possible to increase my fertility chances. I didn’t want there to be any one thing that I could look back on and say “if I had just tried that maybe things would have worked.”

I took any and all fertility advice… some of the things I tried:
(FYI: I 100% believe in modern medicine and believe it is the #1 thing that ultimately allowed me to get pregnant… these other things were just supplements to my medical care.)

  • accupuncture – I went to multiple appointments at two well-reviewed (and expensive) places, here and here. I know many people find acupuncture helpful, but I did not enjoy it. I also couldn’t shake the feeling that it was a scam when they were constantly trying to up-sell me herbs. I stopped going when the practitioner told me my surgery would probably not work and that I needed to increase my acupuncture visits to supplement it.
  • reduce running and strenuous exercise – My doctors told me that running was fine as long as I kept it under 45 minutes, 3 times a week. My medical chart was marked “excessive exerciser” since I had been doing much more than that. I cut back considerably, but had a hard time giving up such a huge hobby. I still ran the Brooklyn Marathon in November. (The acupuncturists told me to cut out all exercise except yoga and let my body focus its energies on reproduction.)
  • yoga – Everyone suggested yoga to help with stress. I made a point to start going, but it is not my favorite…
  • rich foods – Both the acupuncturists and the doctors suggested eating whole milk and full-fat dairy products, eggs, organ meats, bone broth, and dark green leafy vegetables — anything with lots of iron and/or nutrients. I think that the dietary recommendations didn’t hurt, but they would probably be more beneficial to someone who is malnourished or underweight. That being said, I am still drinking whole milk!
  • no more toxins, i.e. coffee & alcohol – it was hard to give these two up and it took a while for me to reduce them to zero…
  • vitamins & supplements – I started taking CoQ10, Royal Jelly, and a DHA/Omega3 vitamin in addition to my regular pre-natal.
  • voodoo fertility ring – Ok, so no one actually suggested this, but I bought a glass ring in New Orleans that claimed to enhance fertility. At best, it is a benign tourist trinket. At worst, I am co-opting a religion that I know little about… but still… I haven’t taken it off for over a year!
  • “baby make-cation” – So many fertility guides recommend reducing stress as a fertility tip, and taking a “baby making vacation” is the ultimate step! I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but this one actually worked for us!

Fertility specialist help:

I have already talked about the difficulties of finding a doctor in NYC here. This is a huge city where many women put off having children for a long time… which means that fertility doctors are in HIGH demand. In November, I called one of Dr. Flagg’s recommended fertility doctors, Dr. Noyes at the NYU Fertility Center. Her office told me she didn’t have ANY appointments until March of 2014!! That was almost another six months of waiting! Gah. But in a miracle of miracles, the office called me back and said they had had a cancelation in early December and could I take the appointment? YES!

In the mean time, I had a final appointment and ultrasound at Spring Ob/Gyn… and they found a “structure” in my uterus. I guess it was something that they had noticed before that they thought would go away within a normal cycle, but it didn’t. They couldn’t tell me what it might be, but they suggested I make an appointment for sonohysterogram after I met with the fertility specialist. So many appointments! I was feeling overwhelmed, isolated, and sad. Thank goodness I had a close friend going through similar struggles at the same time. We would meet weekly to discuss our updates.

surgerySurgery:

Thankfully, this is where the story starts getting good pretty fast… The fertility specialist, Dr. Noyes, immediately diagnosed me with a small uterine polyp at my first appointment. She said that even though it had mostly been too small to see in ultrasounds previously, it was probably preventing pregnancy for over a year. She booked me for surgery to remove it on January 14th, 2014.

I had never had surgery in a hospital before, so I was a little nervous about the general anesthesia… but it all went exceedingly well. I had almost no pain during or after. My period in January was a long and tough one, but otherwise I had no major side effects. At my check up appointment in February, Dr. Noyes said that my “fertility was enhanced” and that despite my low AMH number I should continue trying to get pregnant naturally until the summer. If it didn’t work she wanted me to start on a hormone protocol in May or June. I really didn’t want to do the hormones! Technically, I was diagnosed with infertility since I had been actively trying to get pregnant for a year without success. Boo.

Making a baby in Europe:

A lot of things lined up that allowed Travis and I to take our amazing month-long European vacation in April. It was an awesome experience. We had a wonderful, very romantic time… BabyJ was made the old-fashioned way somewhere in Italy. It almost feels too good to be true. I had decided not to track my cycles or use any type of ovulation kit while we were on the trip… we’d just have fun and see what happened! We had a lot of fun. I really can’t believe it worked. I feel very fortunate and thankful.

europelove

Thoughts:

Reciting the facts of my brief, but scary encounter with fertility problems makes it all seem quick and matter-of-fact… but when I was actually going through it, it was all very upsetting and difficult. Going in for medical tests and then waiting for the results (which for all you know could be really bad news!) is very stressful. I felt isolated, uncertain, scared, and sad for a lot of 2013. I talked (and cried) with Travis and a few of my close friends a lot, but otherwise, I guess I didn’t want anyone to know I was struggling. For my family, I didn’t want them to worry. And I kept thinking, “Hopefully, I’ll have good news next month. I’ll tell them the whole story then.” I guess I was also afraid of being judged for making what felt like the terrible decision of waiting too long to start a family.

Despite all the tears and fear, from my current perspective, I actually feel thankful to have gone through the experience. It greatly reinforced my desire to have children, and it has made me very mindful of and grateful for my current pregnancy experience. It also gave me some insight and compassion for the major struggles women can face when trying to start a family.

I wanted to share my experience for two reasons:

1- To prompt women who might be concerned about their fertility to be really proactive and go see their doctor asap. Medical stuff can be sucky, but it can also fix most problems! The sooner you start investigating the problems, the sooner they can be fixed! I was pregnant within seven months of first going to see my doctor.

2 - To show that people go through tough stuff, even if you don’t know it is happening at the time. During the last year I’ve known friends who have had major surgeries, lost loved ones, received a cancer diagnosis, had their children receive a cancer diagnosis, etc… so many things that are so much more difficult than what I experienced. And yet, many of them didn’t want to share their struggles with the world either. Don’t assume that anyone’s life is perfect. Everyone is facing tough stuff of some sort and could use some kindness.

ultrasound

I am so thankful and thrilled that my pregnancy is going well so far. BabyJ seems strong and healthy and I can’t wait to meet him! I don’t want to take anything for granted.

If you are going through fertility struggles, let me know if you have any questions. I am happy to discuss any details!

1 Comment » Categories: Family, Feeling Sad, Health, Pregnancy

march malaise

Mar 19th 2013 09:12:16 am

The first day of spring is tomorrow… but you’d never know that in Brooklyn. It snowed yesterday! It is rainy, cold, and overcast today. The cloudy coldness is bringing me down, but I really can’t place all of the blame on the weather. I need to make some changes, to my life and to my attitude.

My spring cleaning goals:

  • running – Running is discouraging. It is not fun, not energizing, not empowering. It is only discouraging. I know that it is my fault for over-doing it — three marathons in two months, plus the NYC Half on Sunday, was NOT smart — but my bad attitude is deeper than merely being burnt out. I have this unrelenting feeling that running is completely unfair and no one understands how difficult it is for me. Boohoo. I shouldn’t have such angry feelings about a freakin hobby. I am scaling back. I plan to only run two days a week (with Team in Training) and cross train a few days a week. I usually enjoy exercising, but I need to find a new activity that makes me feel fit and powerful, not sluggish and discouraged.
  • food – I have already been on a bit of a health kick. (Flax seed oatmeal with raisins and bananas for breakfast this morning!) But I want to stay committed. I have not quite decided how I feel about Mayor Bloomberg’s “soda ban”, but I know that for myself, I will always limit my refined sugar intake. I’ll never say that I am cutting out any type of food completely because I want to be a flexible and adventurous eater, but I certainly don’t need sugary beverages or processed junk food. I plan to cook at home more. Healthy dinners and lots of fruits and veggies!
  • swap-bot – Swap-bot is my constant companion and an unrelenting source of never-ending work. I don’t mind. I’ll keep working on it forever if users keep swapping… but I need to reframe my focus. I want to work harder on improving the site for ALL users, not just tread water trying to put out all the many tiny daily fires. I have said this before and I still believe it: art + community = a better world. I want to work more purposefully toward the goal of fostering creativity and friendship around the world via Swap-bot. And I want to make the site look and function better. There is a lot of work to do.
  • self – I plan to focus more on my own feelings and desires. I want to stay home more. Work on projects that improve my quality of life. Watch some tv. Make a quilt. Take it easy. I love socializing (probably too much) and I know it sounds crazy for someone who works alone everyday at home to want more time to myself, but I do. I love going out with friends, but I love hanging out with my husband more. I need to rest and recharge and remind myself that my priorities and ambitions may be different than others, and that is totally ok.

Once the sun comes out, I am sure I will be feeling more upbeat. Until then, I am going to take it easy on myself and do my best to foster my own happiness. What changes do you have planned for spring?

6 Comments » Categories: Exercise, Feeling Sad, Food, running, Swap-bot, Thinking, Work

vicky

Feb 15th 2013 12:40:10 pm

Someone very kind and special to me passed away last week.

I was lucky to have known Travis’ grandmother, Vicky Johnson, for nearly half of my life… and I will miss her for the rest of it.

Vicky was always sweet to me. Remarkably so. One small example: When I transferred to Graceland University my freshman year of college, she sent me a long, hand-written letter describing her experiences there in the 1940s. I was touched then, but now, in retrospect, that gesture seems incredibly kind and welcoming. I was just some 19-year-old girl dating her grandson then. She had no way to know if we’d last… or maybe she did.

Vicky made me feel loved. I hope I did the same for her.


Vicky painted the flowers you see above. She was very crafty and I have kept all of the handmade greeting cards she sent over the last few years.

Travis and I are on our way to California for VIcky’s funeral tomorrow. It will be good to see family.

1 Comment » Categories: Family, Feeling Sad

mantra

Dec 17th 2012 04:49:00 pm

Recommitting myself to the few things I know to be true. I will be brave. I will be kind. I will promote peace. I will spread love.

2 Comments » Categories: Feeling Sad, Thinking

the only NYC Marathon to ever be cancelled

Nov 6th 2012 02:13:13 pm

This was the top I was going to wear while running the NYC Marathon on Sunday. The race was cancelled due to controversy after Hurricane Sandy.

I have a lot of conflicting and sad feelings about the entire situation. I wanted to run the NYC marathon for the second time because I love this city. I am ok with the cancellation, but there were a lot of hurtful things said about runners in the past week that really discouraged me.

Of course, my running team has been helping out after the storm. We are a charity organization, after all. We’ve given money, food, gear, and more than 100 Team in Training runners (who had raised 2.2 MILLION dollars for cancer research while training for the NYC marathon) went to Staten Island on Sunday to help the recovery and clean up process. We will continue to help.

A few related links: Some thoughts on why the NYC Marathon could have been good for the city. | My friend Carmen sums up the roller coaster week. | If you want to volunteer to help Hurricane Sandy recovery in NYC, check out NYCservice.org. | I’m hosting a “Swap-bot for Sandy” hurricane relief donation drive. Our site members have already donated more than $700 for the Red Cross. Join us!

7 Comments » Categories: Feeling Sad, New York, running, Team In Training

hurricane sandy

Oct 31st 2012 12:32:06 pm

Travis and I are feeling very fortunate. We made it through Hurricane Sandy in Brooklyn without any trouble — we had power, cable, internet, food, water, etc throughout the storm — but the rest of New York City and the region was hit hard. The subway system is still down. Power is out in many sections of the city. Fire, wind, and water destroyed many homes and businesses.

This is the view from our window in Park Slope right before the storm hit on Monday evening. Just a little cloudy and a bit of rain.

The view from our window late on Monday night during the storm. Pork Slope stayed open until midnight!

This incredible photo is from The New York Times building during the storm on Monday night. You can see the power outage in lower Manhattan on the right side of the photo.

Leaves and debris are everywhere in our neighborhood, but overall, Park Slope is ok. Life seems to be getting back to semi-normal this morning in our neighborhood…

Travis’ Appnexus offices are still without power, so he is working from home with me. We are working to keep our businesses running as normally as possible, but we are also thinking about ways to help those in need… here are a few links to ways we can all help:

It is going to take a long time for the city to recover, but so far, the NYC Marathon is scheduled to go on as planned on Sunday. It is strange, but with all of the worries over the hurricane, I almost forgot about the marathon. If it happens, I will run. I am not in a celebratory mood, but the marathon is a small way to show and celebrate how strong and resilient NYC is. I guess we’ll see what happens…

5 Comments » Categories: Brooklyn, Feeling Sad, New York, Photos

15K

Apr 30th 2012 08:03:03 pm

I haven’t been sharing as much about my marathon training this season, but I am still at it. I’ll be running the San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon with TNT in less than five weeks, on June 3rd.

Look at that beautiful team! The Brooklyn Summer Team in Training crew headed to New Jersey on Saturday to take part in the Clinton Township Country Run 15k. It was a fun road trip and a great day.

I had a good race. I ran a 10:29 min/mile pace, which is not my fastest race pace, but a strong tempo run pace for me for 9.3 miles. I was happy with my run.

BUT… I was third to last of our team to finish and very near the back of the pack of total race participants. I am always in the second half of finishers in all of the races I run, and this 15K was a small race with under 400 runners, so I am cool with my place and time. BUT!! I am mad on behalf of all of the back-of-the-packers out there.

Our last team finisher maintained a very solid, sub 15 min/mile pace and had a really good run, yet the race organizers were already taking down the mile markers before she (and those runners behind her — because there were plenty) reached them!!! How discouraging! Most races allow for at least a 16 min/mile pace, and I think even that is restrictive. It frustrates me that this community-focused race couldn’t wait for all of the finishers to go by before cleaning up!

Everyone is different!! Not everyone is born an elite or even talented runner. We all run at different speeds and are at different points in our training. I will never run a 7 minute mile. No matter how much I train, I will never be fast. I have been working hard for two years straight and my race times have barely budged. That doesn’t matter. I must exercise and I enjoy running. And I like running road races. I compete with no one other than myself… and I think that is plenty.

Race organizers should state their time and/or pace limits and stick to them. No closing up shop before all of the runners are in. TNT is great about that. Our teams cheer in every last runner. I think that the broader running community could work harder to adopt the same attitude.

It takes a lot of courage to do something that you are not the best at. We should celebrate all effort. Running is running. Plus, no matter how speedy and skilled we are now, we are all going to be in the Masters division someday… I think we will be glad when we are older and (probably) slower that we helped to foster a supportive and encouraging running atmosphere for all speeds, body types, skill levels, and ages.

6 Comments » Categories: Feeling Sad, running, Team In Training, Travel

violence and guilt

Dec 7th 2011 09:00:51 am

This is a sad story.

The tragic, gruesome news of the awful murder in a Lululemon store in Bethesda in March and this piece about the bystander effect, have had me thinking about a past murder…

During college I worked for an art magazine run by a couple who I thought at the time were quite demanding, but who were actually very kind, helpful, and supportive. Their office (seen above) was located next door to a bank in a tiny strip mall in the wealthy suburb of Leawood, Kansas. I worked for them every summer. They were in the long process of moving their office and home from Kansas to New Hampshire, and I often manned the office while they were traveling back and forth. There were other part-time workers off and on, but I was often alone.

Generally, I opened mail, answered phones, scanned images for articles, designed ads, and shipped out back issue orders… on June 18th, 2002, I think I was working on organizing the subscription database. I remember I was doing something dull that day, and I remember that day specifically because about 100 yards away, in broad daylight, a 19-year-old girl was raped and murdered in the maintenance shed of the neighborhood pool.

Of course, I didn’t find out about the murder until I left work in the evening and went home to my parents’ house in the next suburb over. Benjamin Appleby, a convicted felon with a pool cleaning business, had strangled Ali Kemp while I was busy checking addresses on a computer screen in our office across the street from the pool.

I was a 21-year-old college senior. Ali would have been sophomore at KState. We were both diligently working our summer jobs. We didn’t know each other.

For a split second after learning of the murder, I thought, “it could have been me,” but I’m actually strangely defiant when it comes to NOT allowing criminals to scare me or dictate my behavior, so I didn’t actually ever feel scared. Not even when I had to return to the office alone the next day.

I did, and still do, feel guilty. I had never been in that pool in my life and had no reason whatsoever to go into it that day, but what if I had? Could I have prevented the crime? Why couldn’t I have psychically felt a disruption in the force and told the bank security guard to go check things out?

I actually had thoughts like that for a long time… I guess I still do.

It was such a random crime. I don’t have the exact numbers but I would guess that the city of Leawood has less than one murder per decade. It took the police three years to catch Appleby. He was arrested in Connecticut in 2004, and in addition to DNA evidence, I think he eventually confessed. He is in prison.

Perhaps each of us will either knowingly or unknowingly be in close proximity to violent crime at some point in our lives. I was not a true “bystander” during Ali Kemp’s murder. There was no way that I could have known that a crime was being committed. However, if I ever am a witness to violence, you can be sure that I will not stand by. I will take action.

No Comments » Categories: Feeling Sad, Thinking, Work

valleys

Aug 15th 2011 10:02:39 am

Peaks and valleys. You have to have the valleys in order to enjoy the peaks, right? Well, I have been in an enthusiasm valley for the last two weeks…

Travis got me those colorful flowers on Friday to lift my spirits. He says he likes to get sunflowers because they remind him of Kansas. Very sweet.

A lot of my bummer mood has to do with my marathon training. I still feel like I haven’t made any progress and the workouts seem harder than ever, even when I try to take it easy. It is frustrating. Everyone seems to have some sort of solution for me, but basically it all comes down to, “just run faster.” Like as if that hasn’t been my goal all along… I haven’t been a fun person to run with lately. One of my patient and kind Team in Training coaches really summed it up: I need a WIN. I need to have a success that I can feel good about in order to fire up my enthusiasm again. I hope it happens soon.

Work has been very similar… working everyday to get as much done as possible, but never quite accomplishing enough. BUT, the awesome news is that Swap-bot members are pretty great. Many have been helping us with our Team In Training fundraising in exchange for a little swag pack of Swap-bot goodies. I am mailing out 30 more packages today! wow!

It rained all day yesterday, so I just stayed in, rested, and tried to be kind to myself. Hopefully, this week will be an enthusiasm win!

7 Comments » Categories: Feeling Sad, running, Swap-bot, Team In Training

it’s not so bad…

Jun 7th 2011 03:50:17 pm

I am feeling discouraged today. The internet feels especially negative lately.

Let’s see if I can scrounge up some positives…

Leftover strawberry-rhubarb pie made by my friend, Lauren
“Super Bass” by Nikki Minaj
“Antiques Roadshow” went to Eugene, OR, and found a $500,000 Norman Rockwell painting!
Tonight is the kick-off for the fall Team In Training season – and Travis is training this season!!
List me a few more in the comments…

Off topic: Should I spring for HBO so that I can watch True Blood and Game of Thrones? Or, just wait it out and get ‘em on Netflix?

4 Comments » Categories: Art, Crusher, Feeling Sad, music, Team In Training, Thinking

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Hello.

I'm Rachel. I run websites and run marathons. I live in Brooklyn and write about art, crafts, design, food, fitness, fashion, my daily life, and New York City.

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