Next Steps

I saw my OB-GYN yesterday and was reminded why I like him so much.  He not only remembers me, but he remembers my husband’s name without having my file with him despite the fact that he’s never met my husband.  Also, he walked into the exam room yesterday and immediately told me how sorry he was for our loss and shared with me that he and his wife have suffered 5 miscarriages over the years.  He shared very kind words of encouragement with me, and then told me something really amazing.  He and his wife recently went on a pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal during the 97 year anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima.  He told me it was the most incredible experience of his life and shared some about it with me, but then he went on to say that he and his wife took our prayer intention with them on this pilgrimage and specifically prayed during their time there that Choi and I would conceive.  The week he returned home from that trip is the same week I called to say I had a positive pregnancy test.  He seemed really excited to tell me that at my appointment yesterday.  And I was thrilled he shared that with me.  Who am I that basically a stranger would be thinking of me and praying for me on this pilgrimage?

And he’s not the only one.  A friend of ours from church told us that he had asked a priest friend of his in Italy to take our intention with him if he were to go on pilgrimage to a particular shrine in Florence.  That priest never made it, but he passed the request on to a seminarian who took our intention to the Infant Jesus on his visit to this shrine.  Again, someone I have never met or spoken to.  This person’s special prayer for us was also right around the time we conceived.  I am incredibly humbled by the generosity and universality of God’s Church.

So back to my appointment yesterday.  I brought a list of questions with me, which my doctor answered and none of the things I brought up was really a concern or problem.  But we did discuss my heart arrhythmia.  When I spoke with one of the nurses last week, she told me that my doctor told her they need to keep an eye on my heart, because he was worried about how that might affect my pregnancy.  So she concluded (and told me) that based on what my doctor said to her about his concern even before my miscarriage, that my heart arrhythmia was probably the reason I miscarried.  Well, when I brought that up to my doctor, he said that’s not what he meant when he told her that at all.  He said my heart rate would not have directly impacted the baby, and it really wasn’t a concern for the 1st trimester.  When he told her that he was worried about how my heart rate would affect the baby, he meant later in the pregnancy.  Having such a high heart rate for MONTHS and then adding on to that extra weight, he was worried that would put too much stress on my body, which would in turn put stress on the baby.  Of course if that happens, there is a risk of pre-eclampsia, pre-term labor, etc.  He was not worried about me miscarrying because of it and even said he is certain that was not the cause.  In fact, he reviewed all my blood work, etc. and, as I said in my previous posts, he was surprised I miscarried, too, because everything seemed to be going very well; however, he said in cases like this, it was probably just an issue with how the egg and sperm came together–not even necessarily a chromosomal problem, but he said conditions have to be just right in order for the union of sperm and egg to be truly healthy and to survive.  He said as perfect as the conditions need to be and as fragile as this tiny new life is, it’s an absolute miracle that anyone gets pregnant and carries a baby to term.  Of course we can’t know for sure the cause of the miscarriage because I did not want a D&C.  If I had had a D&C, they would have tested the placental tissue for a cause of death.  Also, my doctor’s office keeps the remains of miscarried babies they extract through D&C and have a funeral for all of them several times a year.  In a way, I wish we had that opportunity, but at the same time, I stand by my decision to avoid a D&C if at all possible because it takes much longer to heal from (I only have to wait 1 full cycle to begin trying again, whereas if I had the D&C, I would have to wait about 4 full cycles to begin trying again) and from what I’ve read can potentially cause some damage that makes it harder to get pregnant again in the future.  Technically, I’m still not in the clear, because my HCG level hasn’t come down far enough yet, but I’ll have my blood drawn again this week and I’m praying it will be fine and I can avoid the procedure.  Anyway, my doctor seems hopeful we will get pregnant again and this time carry the baby to term.  I’m still worried about how long it may take for me to conceive again–it took us a year the first time, and I miscarried, and then it took 2 more years the 2nd time, and I miscarried, so….  That being said, he is right.  We now know what is causing my infertility and what caused the first miscarriage, and I am being treated for both, so the odds really are in our favor.  It’s just frustrating to feel so close yet so far away.  And nothing is guaranteed.  We’ll just keep praying and keep trying.

Meanwhile, yesterday was also our 10 year “dating” anniversary.  We’re going on 4 years of marriage, but we’ve been a couple for a full decade now.  As I wrote on facebook yesterday, we enjoyed most of our teen years together, became adults together, learned to be good husband and wife together, and, God willing, will grow old together.  Choi has been my best friend for so long that I can’t imagine a life without him.  We are incredibly blessed that God deigned for us to start our life together so soon.  We basically grew up together in the sense of maturing, navigating the “real world” together, choosing a life path together, going through all those major life moments together, etc.  We got our driver’s licenses together (literally–my dad took us both to the DMV because Choi’s dad worked so many hours he couldn’t find time to do it), we graduated high school together (albeit at different schools), I got to go to Vietnam with Choi and his dad the summer before college, we chose a college together and moved away from home together (we didn’t live together–we both lived in different dorms–but we moved together), we helped each other choose a major, we found a new church to attend during college together, we grew in our faith together and became Catholic together…  The list could go on.  I am beyond blessed to have this man as my husband.  I don’t want to say anything too cliche, so I’ll leave it at that.  Despite the lot we’ve been given in terms of growing our family, I know I am blessed.

Miscarriage Update

I went to the lab to check my HCG level Wednesday.  It was still at 56, which is significantly lower than at the start of the miscarriage, but not quite low enough.  A negative pregnancy is under 20, so that’s where I need to be in order to avoid a D&C.  My doctor is allowing me one more week, though.  If my HCG level descends to a non-pregnancy level, then we can talk about our next steps, and if it is still not quite low enough, I’ll have to have the D&C to avoid infection.  I’m all about doing things the natural way, so I’m hoping to avoid a procedure.

I have an appointment with my doctor on Monday to discuss what may have gone wrong and to talk about what we will do when we are able to start trying again.  I’m off all meds this month (except for the medications I need for my blood clotting disorder), and my doctor says once I’ve gone through a complete cycle and my body has had time to heal, I can start taking the medications and we can start this whole thing over.  Seeing as I’ve only been pregnant twice in 3.5 years of marriage, you can tell I don’t get pregnant easily, so who knows how long it will take this time, if it ever happens again.  But I’m choosing to be positive this time around.  I am still completely dumbfounded as to why this pregnancy ended, because my labs were coming back perfect, I felt amazing, I was taking such great care of myself and taking every precaution my doctor told me to take, etc.  However, that actually gives me more hope than I’ve had during this whole journey through infertility.  My last pregnancy ended almost as soon as it began, which we now know was most likely due to the blood clotting disorder.  But this pregnancy appeared healthy.  So that tells me that there is a chance I could one day conceive and have a healthy and normal pregnancy with a beautiful baby as the end result.

My emotions have been up and down this past week.  When the spotting began last Tuesday and my doctor told me it was probably normal first trimester bleeding, I was not convinced and was truly shocked, because like I said, my doctor kept telling me that he was really hopeful for me as my pregnancy seemed to be very healthy.  But Wednesday night, when the cramping began, I just knew that was it.  I didn’t even cry during the ultrasound when there was no heartbeat and the baby was already gone.  Before I went into that dark little room, I knew that’s what we would see on the screen.  I had been praying the whole way down the long hall from the ER to the ultrasound room that we would see a healthy baby with a strong heartbeat, but I already felt different.  It may sound strange, but I didn’t feel pregnant anymore by that point.  And I was right.  The next morning was the actual miscarriage.

I felt guilty and ashamed when this whole thing first happened, and sometimes I still do.  I’m the reason we’ve had such trouble conceiving and I’m the one who was expected to sustain a life inside of me, and I failed.  Telling my husband that I thought I was about to miscarry again was the worst feeling of my life.  He had been so excited and so sure that this time everything would work out.  But last weekend, he told me as disappointed as he is, he is still happy we had the experience of a healthy pregnancy, as short-lived as it was.  And he’s right.  We laughed and smiled and dreamed together in those few weeks after we learned I was pregnant and the excitement brought so much life into our home.  I have never felt such joy before, because there was more hope in my heart than I had felt in a really long time.  I have to admit, I am really missing being pregnant.  I know most women complain about their first trimester and just wish for it to be over, but I was having a wonderful experience.  I felt great!  I never felt sick, I was eating super healthy which gave me more energy than I expected to have, although I quickly became a daily nap taker.  I was able to continue exercising, which many women just don’t have the energy to do for a while when they are first pregnant.  And I was so incredibly happy.  Terrified something might go wrong, yes, but happy.  I don’t know how to put this in words, but when I was pregnant, I felt life in me.  I literally felt a presence in my womb–I don’t know how to describe it, but something felt different.  In fact, I would feel very uncomfortable if something was too restrictive on my lower abdomen.  For example, I got to the point where I was either constantly loosening my seat belt in the car, or I would just put my hand through the belt around my lap to keep it from squeezing me too tightly.  My nurse said that feeling was normal.  I miss that.  I miss the feeling of having a life inside of me.  Maybe that’s a really silly thing to say, but that’s mostly what I’ve been feeling down about this week.  I was really enjoying pregnancy.

Anyway, I’ll write again after my appointment Monday.  I have several questions to ask my doctor and hopefully he’ll have a good plan for what we need to do next in the hopes of attaining a healthy pregnancy again soon.

I also want to say thank you for all of you who left such kind comments or who emailed or facebooked me with condolences.  Your prayers truly are appreciated.  We are very grateful for the support you all have shown us, whether we know you in person or are acquaintances through my blog.

And quickly, on a totally different topic, I’m sure many of you have heard of the priests attacked in their church in Phoenix a few days ago.  Please remember Father Terra (the priest who survived), the family of Father Walker (the murdered priest), and the parishioners and community, including the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the traditional society of which these priests are a part, in your prayers.  And of course, may Father Walker rest in peace.

ABC Article

Father Z Post

What was Supposed to be a Pregnancy Announcement

It seems my body has failed me again.  I wrote yesterday of a situation I was trying not to worry too much about, because I know these things are mostly out of our control, but the devastation is the same nonetheless.  I had the surprise of my life learning I was finally pregnant again after all these years of trying (I say again, because my long time readers will recall I suffered an early miscarriage a little over 2 years ago).  Here’s my story:

 

I started having pregnancy symptoms the week before my period was to come.  Naturally, I wrote them all off as something else.  Extremely painful and full breasts–well, maybe that’s a new sign of PMS for me this month.  Lots of women experience painful breasts before their period comes.  Craving creamy foods more than I ever have in my life–probably from stress.  Frequent urination (and I mean FREQUENT!!)–it’s been pretty hot around here lately; I’ve probably just been drinking more water than usual.  Missed period–I’m sure it’s just a little late (even though I know the exact date I ovulated and my period ALWAYS comes exactly 16 days after).  I refused to get my hopes up, because every time I do, I end up upset in the end.  Well, that same week, I started experiencing shortness of breath a LOT!  I would often feel like I needed to take a really deep breath and couldn’t.  After a week of that, my husband suggested maybe I start monitoring my pulse again because of my heart arrhythmia.  So, I spent an entire Monday checking my resting heart rate every hour or so, and it consistently stayed between 110-120–way too high.  I called my general practitioner since I don’t see a cardiologist here yet, and they had me come in the next morning for an EKG.  To all our surprise, the EKG did not show my arrhythmia acting up.  It just showed I was in a state of tachycardia, and that was that.  Well, because my period was so late and I knew I would be at the doctor’s that day, I decided to take a pregnancy test that morning.  The first line showed up, and I turned my back on the test while I brushed my teeth, knowing it wouldn’t turn up positive.  I put my toothbrush away, turned around, and grabbed the test to throw it away when suddenly I had to do a double take:  2 LINES!  There were 2 lines!  The test line was faint, but it was clearly there.  I even tried setting the test on the sink again and walking across the bathroom to see if I could still see both lines and I could!  I yelled for my husband to come, and he came in and said, “What’s wrong?  What happened?”  I turned the test screen around for him to see and all I could say was, “There are 2 lines.”  He teared up, and I immediately told him, “Ok.  Enough of that.  Don’t get too excited!  You know these things never work in our favor.  I could miscarry this week (which is what happened our first time seeing 2 lines on a pregnancy test).”  So, because of that, and because the doctor saw nothing on my EKG, I mentioned the positive home pregnancy test.  He smiled and said, “Well that explains it all.  Women with your heart arrhythmia often have a much higher heart rate during pregnancy.  We should expect your heart rate to stay between 100-110 throughout your entire pregnancy.  I’ll check your HCG level, progesterone level, and go ahead and check your red blood count, check your thyroid, and do a liver panel just to be sure, but I think this explains everything.”  Long story short, my OB-GYN had them check my HCG level 2 days later to make sure it doubled, because I was at an increased risk of miscarriage due to my blood clotting disorder, low progesterone, and history of miscarriage.  I was so relieved when the nurse called me several days later to say my HCG had doubled, my progesterone was at a normal level all on its own, and I seemed very healthy.  My doctor told me to continue taking my progesterone suppositories through the first trimester as a precaution since my progesterone was only barely in the normal range, and we scheduled my first ultrasound for June 9.

 

These past few weeks, we have been absolutely terrified as we waited for June 9 to roll around.  We became very hopeful, though.  I was eating healthy and had even cut sugar out of my life almost completely as soon as I learned I was pregnant.  I wanted to do my best to make everything perfect, to give our baby the best chance at life possible.  I ceased all strenuous activity since my doctor recommended I take it easy until that first ultrasound due to my increased risk level.  I only went on 2 30-minute brisk walks every day and did lots of stretching.  I feared more than that would be too much on my body.  I told myself I would not take anything to chance.  I would do everything in my power to make this a healthy pregnancy.  I stopped lifting heavy things, I bought tons of stuff to make green smoothies with in case I became nauseous and had trouble eating regular foods, and I listened to my body–if I felt tired, I stopped whatever I was doing and laid down to either put my feet up and rest a bit or to take a nap.  If something seemed too strenuous, I asked my husband for help.  I did everything I possibly could for this baby.  And because of that, my husband and I started to hope, to dream.  We discussed baby names and designed a play room in our heads.  We told our families, and even though we swore them to secrecy, they blabbed to numerous family friends, and honestly, we weren’t that upset.  It was exciting for people to finally be happy for us rather than for them to feel sorry for us.  We dreamed of holding our baby for the first time, pondered whether it would be a boy or a girl, which we were set on finding out the day of delivery when the doctor would yell, “It’s a _____!”  We started working out plans for how we would visit my niece who is to be born sometime around August 1 as well as when we’d visit our old friends in Alabama–our original date for that trip would be impossible as I would be just 2 months from my due date.  We foolishly dared to dream and hope.  How stupid we were!  After all we’ve been through, we should have known better than to get our hopes up for something we both knew probably wouldn’t work out.  I mean sure, we had no reason not to hope–my HCG level had doubled in 2 days like it’s supposed to, I was on progesterone supplements, so I didn’t need to worry about my progesterone dipping on me, I was healthy and had many signs of pregnancy, etc.  What did we have to fear?  Well, everything.  My body has continued to fail me time and time again.  I don’t know why I thought this time would be any different.  We got our hopes for nothing.  We should have waited to get excited until after we saw the heart beat.

 

Tuesday evening, I saw brown blood for the first time.  It wasn’t much, but certainly enough to scare me.  I thought it might be a one time thing, so I waited for a couple of hours before finally calling the exchange to get my doctor on the phone after hours.  I told him the spotting had been continuous, brown bleeding, no cramping.  He said it was probably normal as this happens to many women and brown always means old blood, so he said to double my progesterone until my ultrasound on Monday.  However, the next day, the spotting was much worse, although it was still brown and still not going through pads.  Until that night.  When the spotting began Tuesday, the doctor told me to go on a sort of bed rest until Monday’s appointment.  No heavy lifting, no exercise, lay down as much as possible, etc.  So, I picked my husband up from work yesterday and took him grocery shopping with me so he could carry all the bags.  While we were in the grocery store, I started feeling mild cramps.  I was worried, but didn’t say anything to him for a while, because I was hoping it would go away.  Lots of women say they have some mild cramps off and on as their ligaments stretch in the 1st trimester.  But the cramps didn’t go away, and by the time we had finished dinner, my lower back was throbbing in pain.  I couldn’t get comfortable no matter how I sat.  Finally, when I started seeing tissue in my urine, we decided to go to the ER.  They took my blood, and I was lucky enough to be called back for an ultrasound within an hour.  I prayed the whole way down the hall, begging the Lord to spare my child.  We have prayed for this baby for so long, and we had been so excited and hopeful that this baby would be healthy, I just couldn’t bare the thought of what might happen during that ultrasound.  Sure enough, no heart beat like we had expected to see.  In fact, no baby at all.  Only a gestational sac.  She checked my fallopian tubes, ovaries, everything, and she couldn’t see anywhere the blood might be coming from. The ultrasound didn’t look good, though.  At this point in a pregnancy (just short of 7 weeks), we should have seen a tiny peanut with a fluttering heart.  I was devastated, but tried to keep my cool.  Did I mention I was alone?  They wouldn’t let my husband in the room.  While I waited for someone from the ER to come back to get me, the ultrasound tech received a call that my HCG level came back at 800-something.  She said, “That’s hopeful, right?  It should be getting higher.”  I didn’t tell her that it should have been MUCH MUCH higher by this point based on what my previous levels were 2 weeks ago.  Hours later when a doctor finally brought us back to explain everything to us, he basically said it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy, but things didn’t look well for us, although only a 2nd blood test on Friday would say for sure if I was miscarrying or not, because the HCG level would continue declining rapidly if I were.  We went home exhausted and terrified, praying with all our hearts that God would have mercy on us and let our baby live.  But by this morning, there was no doubt what was happening.  Severe cramping, terrible back pain, and very heavy red bleeding with large clots–I’m miscarrying.  We lost another baby.

 

We were so incredibly foolish for being so hopeful and excited for this pregnancy.  My body always fails.  Although I honestly don’t understand why this time.  I was taking all my meds for the blood clotting disorder–I haven’t missed a single dose!  I was taking the progesterone suppositories every night around the same time.  I was eating right and taking care of myself.  I felt great.  So what went wrong?  What did I do?  I can’t seem to figure it out.  It was the perfect storm for a healthy pregnancy.  So why did my baby die?  Choi kept telling me if God gave us this baby, then we have to trust that He has a plan for this child and that everything will be alright.  But I reminded him that God doesn’t just give–He also takes away, and in our case, it seems like He takes away a lot more frequently than He gives.  This suffering is too great for me.  Why would God finally answer our prayer of 3 years and then rip it away from us?  Maybe I am not worthy of such a precious gift.  That’s certainly the way I feel.

 

I called my nurse this morning to tell her all that had happened, and she agreed that we don’t need a 2nd blood test to know this is a miscarriage, especially after how the ultrasound went.  So she talked to my doctor, and he said I should call next week when the bleeding is coming to an end and we’ll schedule a lab to check my HCG level.  When he is certain of a miscarriage, he prefers to check the HCG level after the miscarriage to make sure it comes back as a negative pregnancy, because that indicates everything was expelled naturally and I won’t need a D&C.  The nurse was very surprised, too, because it seems like I was doing everything to make for a healthy, successful pregnancy.  I have an appointment to meet with my doctor June 16 to discuss what may have caused the miscarriage and what our next steps should be, although the nurse said he had already spoken to her before of his concerns with my heart arrhythmia.  He said my pulse is way too high, and that could have a negative effect on the baby.  That may be the only explanation for my miscarriage, but how can we fix that?  The meds used to slow a person’s heart rate cause severe birth defects and still birth.  So what will my options be?  See what I mean?  My body always fails me.

 

I titled this post “What was Supposed to be a Pregnancy Announcement” because before learning we were expecting, we had pictures scheduled for this Saturday.  When we found out, I spoke with the photographer and asked her to come up with a cool announcement idea we could do at the shoot.  We were so excited.  The pictures would be done Saturday, our first ultrasound would be Monday, and then as soon as she was finished editing our photos, we could use them to make our big announcement.  We were hoping we would get to do it next week, but instead, we’ll be making phone calls to announce our loss.  It seems motherhood has slipped from my fingers once again, and at this point, I’m wondering if I’ll ever get it back.

Fear and Control

Why does it seem like God is constantly reminding me just how little control I have in life?  I am in a situation right now that has me worried sick, and what makes it all the worse is that there is nothing I can do to control the outcome of the situation.  It is totally and completely out of my hands.  My priest recently told me that it is useless to worry about things in this life, because in this world, we find that just about everything is out of our control.  We would waste our lives if we worried about everything.  It would be much better for us to just place our fears and worries in our Lord’s hands and leave it to Him.  Why is that so difficult?  I guess it’s because the things we worry about are the things we care about.  We fear the outcomes because it may hurt us or people we love.  But we really can do nothing more than pray.  So pray I do.

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.  :)