01 October 2014
Let's Talk About...Fertility
That timeline passed several months ago.
I've wanted to write this post for a while now, but couldn't quite muster the full resolve. Putting things on the internet is permanent and makes me feel vulnerable. Discussing something as private as fertility issues on a forum as public as a blog scares the crap out of me.
But, here we are. Let me start from the beginning.
About a year ago, Tiho and I decided we were ready to bring a baby into the world. I have irregular cycles, so we assumed it would take at least a few months of trying. We agreed to casually try for six months in order to avoid putting too much pressure on ourselves or the process. During that time, I was charting my cycles to track ovulation. Come June, we still weren't pregnant and I'd only had three periods since December 2013 (that means I'd only ovulated three times in a seven-month timeframe, and therefore, only had three chances to conceive).
I knew something might be wrong but was secretly hoping that traveling to Europe after a busy school year would help me chill out and jumpstart my cycle (my body/cycles are majorly affected by stress). Moreover, many well-meaning people who knew we were trying to conceive kept telling me to "just relax and it will happen." Lo and behold, I got my period on our last day in Paris. According to my charts, I hadn't ovulated since my previous period, which meant it was an anovulatory cycle: essentially, the past two months of trying were in vain (I never had a chance to conceive because I had never ovulated). I cried hard at that realization. It was one of the first times in the process where I felt that something could be legitimately wrong. I resolved to make an appointment to get checked out upon our arrival back in New York.
In July, I sobbed in my OB's office when I informed her we were trying to have a baby and it wasn't working. I tearfully told her that after a lot of online research and careful tracking of my own symptoms, I was pretty certain I might have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, commonly referred to as PCOS. After several blood and hormone tests as well as a sonogram to check my ovaries, it was confirmed that I did indeed have PCOS.
endocrine abnormalities. Resistance to insulin increases the body’s blood sugar (glucose) levels which effects normal ovulation by preventing the body from releasing an egg, or, limiting the maturation process of the released egg. This directly affects fertility and the ability to conceive. You can read more about PCOS here, here or here, but what I just explained is pretty much exactly what's happening in my body. The good news? It rarely results in untreatable infertility, meaning it is very likely I can get pregnant on my own without the assistance of fertility drugs: it just will take awhile (my doctor told me that for my specific case, it really all comes down to timing. If a "normal" couple typically conceives within six months, my timeline may be double or triple that).
What happens now? Since August, I've drastically changed my diet (cutting out gluten & refined sugar) to help regulate my blood sugar abnormalities. I also stopped eating dairy to decrease any inflammation in my digestive tract. My doctor put me on a low-dosage of a medication that controls the presence of glucose (sugar) in the blood. It is commonly prescribed to women with PCOS who present with insulin resistance like I do. Maintaining my stress levels goes hand in hand with all of this, which is why I've placed emphasis on regular yoga, meditation and a decreased workload. For me personally, over-scheduling and/or lack of sleep is a significant stress trigger. I just had my first acupuncture session this week to explore whether alternative medicine can play any part in treating my PCOS (I believe it can). I am not opposed to modern fertility drugs and will certainly embrace them if I'm unable to regulate my cycles and conceive naturally in the next few months.
I am doing my best to remain optimistic and enjoy life. 95% of the time, I'm at peace with everything and in a good mental place. Of course, there are bad days plagued by sadness or anxiety, something I'm sure anyone dealing with infertility or other medical issues will understand.
The thing is, I know in my heart that we will conceive: I've never for a moment doubted that. I now believe that this baby will come when he or she is meant to come. It's not going to be within our "perfect" timeline, but I'm learning that I need to be okay with that. I don't have ultimate control over anything: none of us do.
I choose to share all of this here because I've found tremendous support from people in my personal life who know what's going on. Keeping it all inside isn't healthy, and part of the journey for me is learning how to rid my body of toxins (both physically and emotionally). Especially now, I find it cathartic to talk about my own struggles openly instead of battling them privately.
Thank you, as always, for listening.