Baby Showers

Where has the time gone?  We moved into our new house a few weeks ago, and this home has consumed almost all our time ever since!  It takes a lot to put a house together, and of course life is still moving ahead full speed, so we often have to stop in the middle of projects because a friend needs our help with something, there’s a birthday party to attend, family coming in town, one of us gets sick, there are a gazillion wedding/baby showers for me to attend, and I’m working with my mom to plan my sister’s baby shower.  And all of this during Lent, which naturally takes a lot of our attention as we prepare for Easter.  It’s been chaotic, but it’s definitely a fun chaos.  :)

 

That leads to my next point:  planning my sister’s baby shower.  This is my one and only sibling and she is pregnant with her first.  I always knew I would love my nieces and nephews, but I guess I never imagined how exciting it would actually feel to be an aunt.  I mean, this baby is not mine, yet I feel so attached to her already.  It’s a very strange feeling, because, on the one hand, I have not seen my sister’s baby belly in person since she lives almost 700 miles away, so her pregnancy almost doesn’t seem real–it’s something we talk about, but it feels so distant to me–but on the other hand, I often find myself thinking about my niece, wondering what she will look like, what her personality will be like, how my relationship with her will unfold over the years, etc.  I love planning parties and I love babies, so dreaming up ideas and buying decorations and gifts for this shower has been so much fun!  In fact, just last night, my mom and I went to Target together to shop for gifts for a wedding shower we’re both attending this weekend, and while we were out, we just couldn’t help but go through the party supplies and baby clothes.  Who doesn’t love to look at those precious little clothes and socks and shoes?!  They are just too sweet.

 

For those of you suffering infertility like me, I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that I left Target last night feeling an empty space in my heart.  And even this morning I woke up feeling a little gloomy.  It’s hard to push those “what if’s” and negative thoughts out of our minds when everyone around us is having babies.  I have SO many pregnant friends right now.  I’m thrilled for all of them–truly–but it sure does hurt.  My husband and I thought for sure we’d have 2 kids by now, yet here we are still awaiting the allusive big fat positive.  Looking at clothes for my niece had me wondering if I would ever have children of my own for her to play with when they visit us.  Actually, I had been thinking about that all weekend.  You see, on Sunday, we had our goddaughter all day.  We took her to mass with us and then went over to my mother-in-law’s house for lunch.  Our goddaughter is the MUCH younger cousin of my husband (she’s 9 months old), so we took her to my mother-in-law’s house so she could spend some time with her grandma who was over there for lunch as well.  Then, my MIL’s cousin came over with her 2 children (ages 3 and 1).  Watching those 3 precious children play together in the living room was heart breaking for me.  I know it seems ridiculous, but I couldn’t help but wonder if we would ever have children to add to the group.  And if we do have children, what if it’s too late.  What if our kids are the ones left out because there are no kids their age in the family?  I’m the youngest of 2 in my family, and my sister lives so far away, so our kids won’t see each other on a regular basis anyway.  And my husband is the oldest in his family, but he’s much older than his siblings, so they won’t be getting married and having kids anytime soon.  So that leaves our goddaughter and my husband’s second cousins.  What if they are way older by the time we have kids (if that time ever comes)?  Our kids will be too young to play with them and too old to play with my brother and sisters-in-law’s kids.  I know–I’m really thinking way too much about this, but if you have ever struggled with infertility, you can probably relate to these silly fears.

 

On top of that, when we had our goddaughter Sunday, several people asked us after mass if we had adopted.  I hope that means they don’t think poorly of us.  I know it shouldn’t matter what others think of us because God knows our hearts and He obviously knows of this cross we bear, but I am constantly wondering what people at our church think of us.  Surely people wonder why we still have no children after being married all this time.  Do they assume we use birth control?  Do they assume we don’t want children?  What do they think?!  And it’s always so awkward having get-togethers with friends, because we are literally the only couple without at least one child.

 

I’m still praying and hoping all these pills I take will do something soon.  Last month was really disappointing.  I’m still taking all the meds for my blood clotting disorder (see here), and I’m still taking the progesterone suppositories at the appropriate times, and I’m now back on Letrozole (in addition to my daily maca powder shakes) to increase my chances of a strong ovulation, yet, despite all that, I didn’t ovulate last month!  Maybe it was the stress of moving, but you’d think with all I was doing to make myself fertile, I would have ovulated.  My husband told me, “It’s just one month,” but for me it’s more like, “It’s ONE MORE month!”  One more month with zero chances of achieving a pregnancy.  One more month of waiting.  One more month to mourn.  I’m so ready to leave all this infertility junk behind us.  I sure hope the Lord answers our prayers soon.  When we first got married, I never could have imagined the struggle and despair we would have to endure, but I know deep down that it’s for our own good.  As St. Teresa of Avila said, “We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials.”  I’m certainly not comparing myself to the saints whose trials were far greater than mine, but I do believe all our sufferings in life are for our refinement, so for that, I am grateful.

 

 

 

How the Culture of Death Effects Me Personally

You may recall the insurance drama I’m currently dealing with from my last post.  2 weeks ago, after I had written my appeal for the insurance company, I called my doctor’s office and spoke with the woman who handles all their insurance claims (from here on out I will refer to her as “Insurance Gal”).  I explained the situation, told her I wanted to appeal, and asked if my doctor would write a letter for me explaining his reasons for ordering the gene analysis (in which I tested positive for a genetic mutation of MTHFR) and then the insurance company denied my claim due to a lack of “evidence” for me needing this test.  Long story short, Insurance Gal called me back the next day and told me she had found the error and their office would be paying my lab bill.  Apparently they accidentally ordered the same test twice.  Easy mistake since I had my estradiol and progesterone levels checked 3 days in one week, and the gene analysis was supposed to be tacked onto my list of labs on just one of those days.  So, their mistake; they’ll pay for it.  Fast forward 2 weeks.  The lab had already taken money out of my bank account to go toward the first payment, and I still hadn’t been reimbursed.  I called the lab today to ask about it, and they told me I still owed $largesumofmoney.  I explained my doctor’s office’s blunder and that they should have already paid the bill, to which the lab rep responded, “yes, they paid the bill you’re referring to, but your insurance company also denied this gene analysis.  They wouldn’t cover either of them.”  What??  I thought this was taken care of and the bill is due today!

I immediately called my doctor’s office to speak with Insurance Gal, and she was also confused, thinking we had already cleared this problem up.  It turns out, this situation can mostly be attributed to the Culture of Death (although one could argue stingy insurance companies don’t help either).  Dr. Gosser ordered this gene analysis for several reasons: family history of blood clotting, unexplained infertility (despite being tested for everything but endometriosis–but I don’t have symptoms that fit endometriosis, so why would we do surgery to check for that?), and previous miscarriage.  All of these things point to a possible mutation of the MTHFR gene, which he was right–I do have a mutation of this gene.  To add to the reasons, my sister (my only sibling) is pregnant with her first child (I’m going to be an aunt for the first time!), and she also tested positive for the same gene mutation.  Interestingly enough, she does not have the same mutation as me, though.  There are 2 copies for this gene.  I have a mutated copy of one, and she has a mutated copy of the other.  That more than likely means we received one bad gene from each parent.  That’s an even BIGGER reason to check me for the mutation.  Unfortunately, the only way the insurance company will agree to ordering this gene analysis is if a person has a history of miscarriage.  Well, now that we know I have this mutation, I more than likely have had many miscarriages I never knew about, because they would have occurred very early in the pregnancy–right around the time you can start testing for a pregnancy.  However, I did have one known miscarriage back in March of 2012.  I had 2 positive pregnancy tests, but very soon after those tests, I experienced bleeding and went to see my doctor at the hospital.  They quickly checked the HCG levels in my blood, and then the nurse came into my room and told me I was experiencing a “chemical pregnancy”.  She explained that many people consider chemical pregnancies an early miscarriage, but really it just means there is no baby, because that embryo probably had trouble implanting, which is why I was now bleeding it out.  Their office doesn’t consider a lost pregnancy as a true miscarriage until they’ve seen an ultrasound of the baby and know it has successfully implanted in the womb prior to the bleeding.  I left the hospital that day really struggling, wondering if we had truly been parents or not.  Even now I hesitate to mention that miscarriage, because the nurse’s words come back to my mind and I realize she’s right–we never saw a baby on a screen or heard the beautiful wooshing of his/her heartbeat fill a room.  But then I remind myself that doesn’t matter.  Life begins at conception.  By the time we miscarried, our baby would have had a heart and a circulatory system, and he/she would have been developing the neural tube which would later become a brain and spinal cord.  How can you not consider that a baby?  Granted, it’s not a very developed baby, but a life nonetheless.  Because that doctor and that hospital support and contribute to the Culture of Death, my insurance company has refused to cover the gene analysis I recently had, which could be the key to opening my womb and allowing for a healthy pregnancy (hopefully many healthy pregnancies).  How, you ask?  Because even though they told me I was miscarrying (loss of an embryo, or as I like to call it, a baby), they did not put it in my medical records since they didn’t consider me far enough along in their books.  They just wrote that I had another failed month at achieving pregnancy.  Therefore, my medical records show no past miscarriages, and so the insurance company sees no reason my current doctor, who proudly supports life, should have ordered that test for me.

I am beyond blessed to have such a pro-life and pro-family doctor now.  He’s part of an authentically Catholic practice, a place where Christian charity is on display in each and every person who works there and where you regularly hear the staff and patients talking about church, family, prayer, etc.  In fact, I had an appointment with Dr. Gosser last week, and at the end of my appointment, after we had gone through all the medical stuff, he set aside his notebook and started talking to me about the power of prayer, specifically novenas that some of his other infertility patients have prayed just before finding out they are miraculously expecting their first babies.  He seemed to tear up a little when he told me, “I can’t imagine my life without my children.”  He also reminded me of Hannah, from the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel.  Hannah was barren, and she wept and grieved over not being able to have children with her husband.  She asked the Lord to remember her, and to hear her prayers, and to give her a son.  If God would just give her a son, she promised she would give that child back to the Lord.  Dr. Gosser said, “And then my favorite verse comes up.  It says ‘and God remembered Hannah’.”  (You can find Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel 1.)  He told me, “Please don’t give up hope; don’t stop praying.  I really believe God will remember you and will bless you in His time, just like He did Hannah.”  What an amazing doctor!  I have never once had anyone in the medical field talk to me on this kind of level.  I am truly blessed to have found a doctor out there who isn’t ashamed of his faith, and who not only supports, but promotes a culture of Life.  God bless Dr. Gosser.  If you live in the St. Louis area and are suffering infertility or frequent miscarriage, or if you are a Catholic looking for a pro-life OB-GYN, then I highly recommend Dr. Gosser and his practice, St. Gerard Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Anthony’s Medical Center.  We need more doctors like him, who promote Life instead of Death.

Progesterone and an Insurance Nightmare

Back in November, I wrote to you about my lab results, which finally revealed what has been making pregnancy so difficult for me.  (More on that later.)  What I didn’t have a chance to tell you is that a month later, I received a call from the doctor’s office that the lab had not sent them all of my test results.  It turns out, I also have a progesterone issue (no surprise there since I’ve had to take pills to up my progesterone levels for 2.5 years).  My previous doctors, especially the Reproductive Endocrinologist I saw for a year, took blood samples to check my progesterone levels every single month 9 days after I ovulated.  On medication, my number was always high enough to support a pregnancy.  However, because I only had one known miscarriage, those doctors never checked the stability of my progesterone levels as my cycles came to an end.  Since no one had ever checked that, my new doctor thought it wise to test my progesterone and estradiol levels 9, 11, and 13 days post ovulation (this was back in November, but the lab didn’t send the results of those tests until December).  On day 9 post ovulation, doctors like to see a woman’s progesterone level at 15 or higher (or some doctors say 16 or above), and that number should stay about the same (or go higher).  Here were my numbers from November: 14.1, 12.8, and 6.6.  As you can see, I didn’t even hit the mark on day 9, and my number drastically fell as the cycle went on.  (Surprisingly enough, 14.1 is MUCH higher than it was when we first started seeing doctors for infertility.)  The rapid decrease in progesterone as a cycle comes to an end is a major cause of miscarriage (although my number on that particular month didn’t even get high enough to support the start of a pregnancy).

So what does that mean for me?  I now take a 200 mg progesterone supplement for 10 days starting 3 days after ovulation.  The nurse told me I need to take the pills at night shortly before going to bed, because they cause fatigue.  Fatigue is an understatement.  I take the pill at 9:00 pm every night that I’m supposed to, and I don’t even go to sleep until around 10:30, yet I wake up EXHAUSTED and stay lethargic and sleepy all day.  I’m talking exhaustion so bad my entire body aches.  It is the most miserable feeling.  Not to mention, I take it at 9:00 and am practically falling over by 9:30.  I don’t know why my body responds this way to the progesterone, but it is TERRIBLE!!  The first cycle I took it, I kept telling myself that it would be worth it when I had a big round belly housing our first child, but that didn’t happen.  And now I’m taking it again and I feel completely exhausted again.  I’m not very happy about it either.  The nurse assured me that I should see great improvements in my PMS while taking these supplements, and that’s how we’ll know if the dosage is correct (although if the dosage were correct, wouldn’t I get pregnant?).  But of course things are never that easy for me, or so it seems.  The nurse was certainly right about one thing:  my PMS symptoms changed.  In fact, they were far worse than usual!  One symptom even brought great concern to my husband and me, so I contacted the nurse, and she was totally stumped.  She spoke with the doctor and he seemed stumped, too.  So their advice?  Try again this cycle and see if that was just an anomaly or a new problem that comes with the progesterone.  Sigh.  Why can’t this be easy for me?

Anyway, to top it off, I not only have to worry about birth defects and miscarriage due to my genetic mutation/blood clotting disorder, but now I have to worry about my hormone levels causing a miscarriage even into the 2nd trimester of a pregnancy (if we ever get to that point).  The doctor has guaranteed me I will be on progesterone supplements throughout my entire first trimester if I become pregnant.  In addition, we’ll have to monitor my hormone levels throughout the pregnancy, and we may even need to do progesterone shots at home to maintain a healthy pregnancy.  I just pray that I will learn to place all my fears in God’s hands, because that’s really all I can do (and follow the doctor’s orders, of course).

Now, as promised in the beginning of this post, more info on my lab results.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you may remember all the issues I used to have with our insurance when we lived in Alabama.  It turns out Illinois is not much better.  I received a letter in the mail today stating our insurance provider’s “Medical Director” has reviewed my claim and does not believe my doctor had enough evidence to support him ordering the gene analysis for me; therefore, they are denying my claim.  Get this: They sent me an overview of my claim back in November saying they had already paid the lab in full (after my copay) for all of the blood work I had done that month, including the gene analysis.  What does this mean?  I was very confused reading this letter since they already paid for that service.  How can they deny it after they’ve already paid for it?  So, I called my insurance company and asked the representative to look up my file, read the letter, and explain it to me.  She informed me that AFTER paying the lab for their service, they wrote the lab a letter asking for their money back for just the gene analysis, which they gave them.  She told me I should be expecting a bill for *a large sum of money* in the next week or two from the lab.  I asked her to explain how and why they would do that, and she said after they paid for it, their “Medical Director” reviewed the claim once more and he didn’t feel my doctor had enough reasons to order the gene analysis for me.  In fact, he said there was “insufficient published scientific evidence in peer-reviewed medical literature” to support this intervention for me.  I told the insurance representative, “But the doctor was right.  I tested positive for the genetic mutation.  And there is definitely scientific evidence in peer-reviewed medical literature to support people with this mutation seeking treatment, because if left untreated, this can result in birth defects, stroke, heart disease, etc.  So if my doctor was right and I tested positive, then shouldn’t insurance pay for it?  I mean, they obviously thought they should cover it originally, because you paid for it and then took the money back and said you changed your minds.”  She told me it doesn’t matter that I tested positive, because their doctor believes that test shouldn’t have been ordered for me in the first place.  Therefore, they will not pay for the test itself or for my medication.  ???  I really don’t understand that.  My doctor was right!  And coincidentally, they didn’t change their minds until AFTER the test showed my doctor was right and I filled my prescription twice!

If you can’t tell, insurance companies really irritate me!  I’ve been dealing with them for far too long.  My heart races every time I see a letter from them in the mail–seriously!  They say they are here to help people, and they are very happy to take our money every month (and our insurance is not cheap, let me tell you), but as soon as something is actually wrong with you, they don’t want to pay for it.  That would cut into their profits.  Grrr.  I guess insurance companies are businesses like everybody else.  My plan is to appeal their decision, but naturally, the insurance rep told me I shouldn’t waste my time because people rarely win and I would be better off disputing it with my doctor’s office and trying to get them to pay for the lab.  I am not doing that.  It’s not their problem.  I already spoke with them, and they checked my insurance benefits before ordering the tests, and my benefits say all labs ordered by a doctor are covered in full after a copay.  And with all I pay for this insurance, I certainly shouldn’t be the one to pay for the lab, especially since my benefits package says all labs ordered by a doctor are covered by my insurance!  The woman told me I have 180 days to file my appeal and then I shouldn’t expect a decision to be made for about 2 months after they receive my appeal.  I know how this works.  Maybe we’ll have an answer by next January after I’ve already forked over the money for the bill, because the lab won’t want to wait around for their money.  This has already happened to us before.  Our previous insurance in Alabama told us they would pay for genetic testing and even strongly encouraged couples to have it done before having children.  I didn’t want the testing done, because I don’t care what we are predisposed for–I would still choose life no matter what could potentially be wrong with my children.  But, the nurses convinced us to do it, because she told me these horror stories about families who had children with severe birth defects when they didn’t even know they carried the genes for these defects.  She told us we would be much better off to have a warning so we weren’t so shocked.  Looking back, I wish I would have asked her to stop talking and refused the testing, but I didn’t.  We had the testing done, and then we spent an entire year fighting the insurance company to pay for it like they told us they would.  In the end, mine was covered and we had to pay well over $500 for Choi’s and then they covered the rest (which makes me mad to this day because they told us before we had the testing done that it would be covered in full!).

As you can see, I’m quite frustrated after dealing with the insurance company today in addition to the fact that I am truly exhausted from those darn progesterone supplements that may not even be working.  But, despite all my frustrations, I am still truly thankful to have insurance and medicine.  I am blessed, even if these blessings can sometimes be frustrating.  :)

Advent

Yesterday marked the first day of Advent.  I sincerely hope you do not bypass this important season to jump-start your Christmas celebrations.  There will be plenty of time for the joy of the Christmas season later, when it actually begins on Christmas Eve.  During this time of Advent, we prepare for the coming of the Christ; therefore, it is actually a vital penitential season.  We should be examining our hearts, making good confessions, removing anything from our lives that separates us from God or hinders our spiritual growth, and adding devotions to our lives that will prepare us for eternity.  When we think of a penitential season, most of our minds immediately go to Lent.  I once heard a great comparison between Lent and Advent:  Advent prepares us to live with Christ; Lent prepares us to die with Christ.  During the season of Advent, we await the coming of our King.  We prepare for Christmas, when God Himself comes into this world in human flesh–one of us, yet at the same time, fully God.  Please don’t skip over this season.  You wouldn’t have important guests come into your home from afar without preparing your home for them first.  Similarly, spend these 4 weeks of Advent preparing your heart to receive Christ Jesus.

This is a great time to meditate on Christ’s 2nd coming and the preparations we should be making for it.  I saw on the Fisheaters website that Jacob Michael, a Catholic apologist, wrote his reflections on the secularization of Christmas, which often begins the day after Thanksgiving and comes to an end on December 25.  He wrote:

…what Christians do (or should be doing!) during Advent and leading up to Christmas is a foreshadowing of what they will do during the days of their lives that lead up to the Second Coming; what non-Christians refuse to do during Advent, and put off until after Christmas, is precisely a foreshadowing of what they will experience at the Second Coming.

We Christians are to prepare for the Coming of Christ before He actually comes — and that coming is symbolized and recalled at Christmas. Non-Christians miss this season of preparation, and then scramble for six days after the 25th to make their resolutions. By then, however, it’s too late — Christmas has come and gone, Our Lord has already made His visitation to the earth, and He has found them unprepared. This is precisely what will take place at the Second Coming, when those who have put off for their entire lives the necessary preparations will suddenly be scrambling to put their affairs in order. Unfortunately, by then it will have been too late, and there will be no time for repentance. The Second Coming will be less forgiving than the Incarnation. There will be no four-week warning period before the Second Coming, like we get during Advent. There will be no six-day period of grace after the Second Coming during which to make resolutions and self-examination, like the secular world does from Dec. 26 until Jan. 1.

So, what do we do for Advent to prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming?  There are many ways to recognize Advent as a season separate from Christmas and to encourage spiritual growth.  I love the idea of making a Jesse tree with children.  This is a tree that displays the genealogy of Christ.  You can make the ornaments with your children (or for yourself if you don’t have children) as a craft.  This is a wonderful way to teach children Bible stories (or to remind yourself of important people from the Bible).  Essentially, you put up a small tree (or branches or a felt tree, etc.), and each day leading up to Christmas, you add an ornament representation of a person from Jesus’ lineage.  It culminates with the Christ Child at the top of the tree on Christmas Eve night.  With each ornament you place on the tree, you should read the Bible passage that tells that particular character’s story.  Here are just a few examples of how your tree might look:

Jesse Tree 2

from jenwa.blogspot.com

from jenwa.blogspot.com

Jesse Tree

Advent calendars are another great way to recognize advent.  You can either buy one or make your own.  I also highly recommend using a pretty Advent Wreath with candles as the centerpiece at your dinner table in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  There should be 4 candles–3 purple and 1 pink.  You can buy them individually from just about anywhere, or Hobby Lobby sells Advent Candle Packs for just a couple of bucks.  You can easily find daily or weekly Advent readings to go along with each candle lighting.  The wreaths are beautiful AND they are an easy way to keep yourself focused during this chaotic and commercialized season.  They are a double win.  Again, you can either buy a wreath or make your own.  Finally, you can decorate for Christmas bit by bit throughout the Advent season so that everything reaches a climax on Christmas Eve night and is lit up for the very first time.  Maybe put up your outside lights on the Feast of St. Nicholas, December 6.  Then, you can put up your tree the Saturday before Gaudete Sunday, which is the 3rd Sunday of Advent (the pink candle).  On this Sunday, we are officially past the halfway point in Advent, so the day takes on a lighter mood to encourage us to persevere in our penance and preparations for the coming of Christ, which is almost here!  On the last Sunday of Advent, you may wish to put out your Nativity, but don’t put baby Jesus in the manger until Christmas Eve night, and hold off on the 3 Magi until Epiphany comes in January.

Speaking of St. Nicholas Day…  I highly recommend you begin celebrating his feast day, whether you have kids or not.  What’s more exciting than waking up to candies, nuts, and fruit inside your shoe?!  :)  It really is a fun feast day.  Have everyone (adults included!) leave their shoes outside their bedroom door on the night of December 5.  Fill their shoes with goodies such as chocolates, nuts, candy canes, clementines, and small toys for them to awake to the following morning.  Tell your children the story of the real St. Nicholas who was known for secret gift-giving to the poor and orphaned.

from nestfullofeggs.blogspot.com

from nestfullofeggs.blogspot.com

from anaturalnester.blogspot.com

from anaturalnester.blogspot.com

If your family recognizes Advent as a separate season from Christmas, what do you do during this season?  And if you don’t do anything for Advent, then please, re-read the quote above from Jacob Michael and ask yourself: why not?

Lab Results

The results of my recent blood tests are in!  My progesterone and estradiol levels were perfect post-ovulation, so we know I’m “fertile” now, which I continue to credit to the maca root powder–I can’t recommend it highly enough.  If you do not ovulate on your own or have a hormonal imbalance, add 1 Tbsp of maca root powder to a shake every day, and I’m telling you, you will start ovulating without the meds.  (Word to the wise, put it in a shake with peanut butter.  That’s the only way to mask the awful taste.)  It worked for me, and I know it works for many, many women out there.  Anyway, back to my lab results.  Fortunately/unfortunately, I tested positive for a genetic mutation of MTHFR, which means I have a blood clotting disorder.  I’m glad to finally have a definitive reason for my infertility that is fixable, but what I’m about to say next is why I consider myself unfortunate.  We know for certain I miscarried once, back in March 2011; however, since trying to conceive more than 2 years ago, I’ve had several late periods along with negative home pregnancy tests.  My doctor believes those may have been early miscarriages caused by this blood clotting disorder.  So all this time I’ve been told I was infertile, when in reality, I may actually be suffering recurrent miscarriages.  What happens with this blood clotting disorder is the woman conceives a baby, but when the baby implants in her uterus, a small blood clot forms at the implantation site, causing the baby to detach and miscarry.  The thought of that is quite depressing, but I hope we will find ourselves having successful pregnancies and healthy babies soon now that we know exactly what is wrong with me.

I will be starting a pill regimen tomorrow to treat this blood clotting disorder.  I will be taking 81 mg of aspirin 1x /day, 100 mg of vitamin B6 2x/day, and a prescription called Full Guard 2x/day.  Full Guard is a combination of high amounts of folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and iron.  You may be wondering why my “meds” are actually high doses of B-Vitamins.  The MTHFR gene causes your body to produce an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (say that 3 times fast!).  This enzyme assists your body in producing amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.  The exact detailed science of all this is a little over my head, but I know this process requires your body to absorb folic acid (vitamin B9) to make the amino acids.  So, long story short, when a person has a mutation of this MTHFR gene, their body either does not produce the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase enzyme or it produces an altered version of that enzyme.  Without that enzyme, the body does not absorb B-Vitamins the way it should.  Like I said, I understand that much, but how that causes blood clots is beyond me.  However, I am relieved to know about this before having children, because I learned that if left untreated, this mutation can cause neural tube defects, such as spina bifita and anencephaly.  Those are pretty severe birth defects, so I am incredibly grateful for a doctor who finally discovered this genetic mutation so that I can “fix” it.  Not to mention, this is beneficial for my own health as well.  This mutation causes blood clots; blood clots cause stroke, heart disease, etc.  The aspirin I take should thin my blood just slightly, preventing blood clots from forming, and the other supplements will pump my body full of the B-Vitamins I have trouble absorbing, helping my body to maintain a safe and healthy pregnancy.  The nurse told me if/when I become pregnant, I will have to continue taking the pills until the doctor feels it is safe for me to discontinue them.  However, because I will have this blood clotting disorder forever, I will need to start the pill regimen again after the baby is born.

God is so good to us.  We have waited for more than 2 years to learn what is wrong with me that prevents us from having a baby.  He has been faithful to us all along the way.  I really believe great blessings will be coming to us soon.  Thanks be to God!

All Souls and Gratefulness

I’m so behind on posting, but I’ll try to catch up on everything in this one post.  Last Friday was All Saints Day, the day we remember those Christians who have gone on before us and who are now in heaven praying for us and worshiping the Lord, especially martyrs of the Church.  The day after was All Souls Day, the day we remember our loved ones who have passed away.  There are traditions all over the world pertaining to All Souls Day.  Folklore says God allows our loved ones to come and visit us on this one day every year.  That idea is what most of the All Souls Day traditions revolve around.  In Poland, people leave their windows open on this day to encourage the souls of their loved ones to come inside.  In Mexico, people bake all kinds of desserts decorated with brightly colored skulls and eat meals in the graveyards of their deceased relatives (Dia de Los Muertos).  Popular desserts for Dia de Los Muertos are sugar skulls and Pan de Muerto (bread of the dead), a sweet bread with “bones” on top.

CIMsugarskullsclose pan de muerto 1

In parts of Europe, people often eat Split Pea Soup (“Soul Soup”) on this day, and in Italy, many people bake Ossi di Morto (bones of the dead), which are simply almond cookies in the shapes of bones.

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We decided to start some new traditions for our family for All Souls Day this year.  We awoke early to attend a Requiem Mass at our church.  We attend an oratory of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, which only offers the Traditional Latin Mass based on the 1962 missal, so they still do formal requiem masses, which is an eerily beautiful thing.  This was our first requiem mass.  The church was dark with a large “casket” in the front covered in black cloth surrounded by tall gold candles, the priests donned black vestments, and even the acolytes were clothed in black and gold attire.  We attended high mass, yet there was no musical accompaniment to the beautifully ominous Gregorian Chant.  This requiem mass was a great way to keep things in perspective.  Life is so short.  Are we living holy lives?  What will happen to us when we die?  Are we ready?

Later that day, we came home and decorated chocolate cupcakes I had made the day before (based on this recipe, which is vegan and incredibly delicious!  I used the frosting recipe at that link as well–also delicious).  They turned out super cute, and the whole time we were decorating them I was dreaming of one day doing this with little ones.  I think it would make a great project for kids!

Choi's cupcake designs

Choi’s cupcake designs

My cupcake designs

My cupcake designs

Finally, we ended our day with this yummy split pea soup, which I had put in the crock pot that morning before we left for mass.

This weekend, my husband and I went hiking at Hawn State Park in Missouri.  This was our second time there (our first time being YEARS ago with my parents), and I think this is our favorite hiking spot.  It has a little bit of everything.  Beautiful tall pine trees, clear water streams with an occasional waterfall, dirt paths, sand paths, and rocks you have to climb up and over to continue on the hike.  They have short trails and long trails (one trail that is a backpacking trail because it takes so long to get through it you have to stop and set up camp along the way).  It was such a peaceful, gorgeous day!  We couldn’t have asked for better hiking weather, and the colors of fall filled the woods.

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Today has been a typical Sunday with church, lunch, and rest.  This morning’s sermon really spoke to me, too.  Earlier this week, I had an epiphany.  I realized that I’ve been viewing infertility all wrong.  Well, maybe not “all” wrong.  I mean, I’ve had my moments.  For example, I’ve written before about redemptive suffering and how when I start to feel sorry myself for being barren, I try to shift my focus by praying for unwanted aborted and abandoned children.  But aside from that, I tend to be very selfish in the way I view our struggle to conceive.  God knows what He’s doing.  I mean, maybe our infertility is a coincidence, but I came to the realization that more than likely, God is using this affliction for a greater good.  Maybe bearing the cross of infertility is our way of doing penance for past sins.  Maybe God has allowed this suffering to bring us closer to Him.  Or maybe He has allowed this so our focus would shift and we would start praying for aborted babies or abandoned or orphaned children more frequently and with more urgency.  I don’t know with certainty the purpose of this affliction, but I truly believe God has a bigger purpose for us in allowing us to suffer infertility.  I feel that today’s sermon affirmed my recent epiphany on the subject.  Our canon spoke about gratitude.  His background for the topic was based on gifts we’ve received over the years from our family and friends.  Sometimes we get a gift that we have wanted for a long time and we are incredibly excited and thankful that this person gave it to us.  Other times, we receive a gift that we don’t particularly like, but we are still grateful for the thought and motive the person had when getting this gift for us, and therefore we genuinely thank them for it.  I remember when I was a child I was so bratty!  I hated getting clothes for Christmas.  I could have cared less about new clothes as a kid, so I didn’t understand how people saw that as a “present”.  I just wanted toys.  I used to separate out all the clothing box shaped gifts at Christmas and open them last, because I knew I wouldn’t like them.  My parents would say, “Hey, why don’t you open one of those gifts?”  When I opened it (and it was inevitably clothes), I would say something to the effect of “Ugh!  Clothes again!”  Yeah, I was a brat.  Anyway, the fact is, I should have been grateful for those presents.  Sure, I didn’t like them, but I needed those clothes, and the adults in my life knew that.  Our canon reminded us this morning that we may not always like the gifts God gives us–we may not even realize they are gifts (as may be the case with my infertility)–but we ought to be grateful for them, because He knows we need them.  Maybe my barrenness is leading me to holiness.  It certainly causes me to fall to my knees often, to pray for the most vulnerable of the world more frequently, and to seek the Lord’s will with more fervor.   Our priest said, “If you are not grateful for His past gifts, why would God give you more?”  He told us gratitude isn’t just a feeling we have when we get something we like.  It’s an attitude, a habit we form.  We must always be grateful for the gifts God gives us, especially if we hope to be blessed further.  That doesn’t mean I can’t pray for God to open my womb.  Infertility may be a gift in the sense that God is using it to make us holy, but if He were to miraculously heal me and bless us with children, that would obviously be a gift as well.  So, my goal is to try my hardest to look at infertility like I now look at those gifts of clothing I received every Christmas and birthday as a child.  I may not particularly love the gift itself, but I ought to be incredibly grateful for the thought behind it, because God knows what I really need and He means well for me.

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Sunday!  I’ll be writing more soon.  This week, I have my blood drawn on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to check my progesterone levels and see how quickly they drop as my cycle comes to an end, as well as to test for a blood clotting disorder.  I’ll keep you updated as I acquire my results.

New Specialist

Thursday was my first appointment with a new specialist.  This doctor specializes in NaPro TECHNOLOGY, which I’ve discussed on here before.  If you’re in the St. Louis area, I highly recommend this OB-GYN (and yes, he is a regular OB-GYN even though he specializes in NaPro, so you can go to him even if you are not infertile).  His name is Dr. Brian Gosser; he’s at St. Anthony’s Medical Center in South County.  I loved him!  He is hands down the BEST doctor I’ve seen since we started trying to conceive a little over 2 years ago.

First of all, he is super laid back and incredibly kind.  He’s the kind of person you feel like you’ve known for a long time even though you’ve just met.  He sat with me and talked to me like he had all the time in the world, which I really appreciated.  In fact, we talked for 45 minutes!  My favorite thing about him is we share the same faith–he is also Catholic.  He and his wife have 8 children, and he seems really proud of his family.  Also, he had a diagram of the woman’s reproductive system all ready as though he always draws his patients a visual of what he’s talking about, which definitely helps make things clearer.  As a side note, I’ve been told he’s VERY natural childbirth friendly, which doesn’t really surprise me since he was so intrigued when I told him about maca root powder helping me ovulate without medication–so intrigued that at the end of the appointment, he brought it up again and asked me to spell it for him so he could research it in case it was something he may want to tell his other infertile patients about.  :)  I love when Western doctors seek to understand and even use Eastern medicine in their practices!

Anyway, enough about this amazing doctor and on to what he told me.  As my regular readers may recall, I went to Dr. Gosser because practitioners of NaPro TECHNOLOGY work to find the underlying cause of everything rather than treat a list of symptoms as my other doctors have done.  I told him all the tests we’ve had done and what the results were.  I told him about my regiment at the Reproductive Endocrinologist office with regular ultrasounds, blood work, etc.  I told him about our failed attempts at IUI as well as the miscarriage we suffered when I was on Clomid at the beginning of this long journey.  I told him I just don’t understand why I haven’t had a healthy pregnancy yet when it seems like everything is perfect!  At least we know everything appeared perfect when I was seeing the RE.  At that time, I was on Letrozole to balance my hormones and help me ovulate, which worked REALLY well and didn’t halt my body’s mucous production like Clomid had done.  My ultrasounds showed no scar tissue anywhere, healthy ovaries and uterus, and showed lots of healthy follicles at the right time in my cycle each month.  I’ve had a normal HSG in the past, so we know my tubes are open.  Choi has had several semen analyses, all of which were above normal and super healthy.  Each cycle, when my follicles reached a certain measurement, I received an HCG injection to stimulate ovulation, which worked every time.  I did fail a post-coital test, but that’s why we tried IUI, which would have bi-passed any issues with my immune system attacking sperm.  Our rounds of IUI went well every time.  YET, I never conceived.  How could that be?

Dr. Gosser told me that it seems like everything should be functioning properly with my reproductive system, and I’ve already been tested (multiple times) for thyroid problems and similar disorders, all of which were normal.  So instead of referring me to IUI again or any other fertility “treatment” like that, he told me we were going to try to fill in the blanks, as few as there are.  He told me that 3 things came to his mind.

Number one, my progesterone levels were checked by my former OB-GYN and RE each cycle about 7 days after ovulation.  But neither of those doctors checked to see how my progesterone levels dropped as my cycle came to an end.  A common problem seen in women with recurrent miscarriages is progesterone levels dropping too fast after ovulation.  What happens is an embryo is implanting itself in the uterus, but because the progesterone is dropping too quickly, the lining of the uterus begins to shed even with the embryo attached.  This leads to miscarriages early on in the pregnancy.  The reason I was never checked for that is because I’ve only had one miscarriage (that we know of).  So, to be safe, Dr. Gosser is having my progesterone levels checked on days 7, 9, and 11 post ovulation to see how quickly my hormone level drops.  (I’m just now coming to the end of my current cycle, so it will be several weeks before I’m post ovulation again, but we will test for that in this upcoming cycle.)

Number two is a blood clotting disorder.  He said this is a new topic of interest to infertility specialists, so not many studies have been done yet; however, there is research out there that indicates women with unknown blood clotting disorders (because they don’t normally manifest themselves until we age, which is why many old people develop clots or heart disease even though they never knew they had a disorder) cannot conceive due to the disorder.  It’s still not clear exactly why these disorders prevent healthy pregnancies, but there does seem to be a relationship between the two.  He told me that in his personal experience, about 95% of the infertile women he sees whom he’s already checked for every other obvious and sometimes even not-so-obvious fertility problems with no success in finding a cause for their infertility end up having a blood clotting disorder.  He did tell me that once treated, not all of them conceive, but a big enough number do that he thinks it’s worth looking into.  Coincidentally, he didn’t even know that some people on my dad’s side of the family had blood clotting issues and/or heart disease.  So, who knows?  Maybe this test will show something we didn’t know before.  I’ll be checked for that with my first blood test for the progesterone levels next month.

Finally, if those other tests indicate nothing, then Dr. Gosser recommends I undergo the laparoscopy (surgery) to check for endometriosis.  I do have several symptoms of endometriosis, but because my HSG and ultrasounds never showed any scar tissue or warning signs for endometriosis, my previous doctors didn’t want to check me for it since it requires surgery.  Dr. Gosser said he would have done the same thing, but since we’ve tried everything else, this will be one of the last things to check for.  He said if I have it, it’s obviously a mild case; however, even women with mild endometriosis (even so mild that they have NO symptoms) can suffer infertility because of it.

Naturally, I’m hoping the rate of my progesterone dropping at the end of my cycles or the blood clotting disorders will be the cause of our long wait for a baby, but at this point, I’m willing to do whatever surgery or test necessary to get to the bottom of this and finally be able to build our family.

If you are struggling to conceive, whether it’s been a mere 6 months and you’re just starting to feel concerned or whether you’ve tried everything going as far as IVF to conceive and still haven’t had a baby, then I highly recommend you see if there are any doctors in your area that specialize in NaPro TECHNOLOGY.  It’s awesome, and I know I love my new doctor!