the dreaded diagnosis

part of the recovery from my uterus surgery involved taking estrogen and {later} progesterone for various amounts of time.  i decided that having the surgery was a good opportunity for me to allow my natural cycle to return, so i stopped taking birth control shortly before the procedure.  a friend told me about a book, taking charge of your fertility, that helps you learn how to track your own cycle through charting {a natural solution to pregnancy prevention or attainment}.  i became obsessed {not in a good way} with charting.  i often woke up hours before my alarm clock was supposed to go off thinking it was time to take my basal body temperature and afraid i would miss it.  eventually my sleep started to deteriorate earlier on in the night too.  however, charting helped me figure out that we have a bigger hill to climb post surgery, and ultimately confirmed my RE’s findings {or should i say my RE confirmed my findings}.

as previously mentioned, my cycles did not return to a set schedule post surgery. the first few months, i chalked it up to my body being confused from oral hormones and the absence or birth control.  but after three weird cycles and two ugly charts, i finally started to scratch my head.  the temperature shifts you are supposed to experience post ovulation were either nonexistent or too short, if i did ovulate it was always post day 22 of my cycle {14 give or take a few is normal}, and my cycles were usually about 35-40 days long.  weird.  thankfully i already had a RE.  i went to him with my concerns and he decided to follow me for a cycle to see if he could pinpoint the problem.  he started with a cycle day 3 screening {a fun test consisting of an internal ultrasound while menstruating and blood work for those who are interested}.  and he ended with a cycle day 3 screening {the same one to be exact}.  apparently my test results coupled with previous findings gave him all he needed to know.  the diagnosis?  polycystic ovaries, also affectionately known as PCOS.

have you ever googled PCOS?  my search results were pretty scary.  in addition to posing threats to your fertility, it comes with less than desirable symptoms like obesity, male pattern hair growth, and acne.  i was petrified, and i have to admit that i can still get a little shaken every time i notice another “mustache” hair or when my weight fluctuates up a pound or two.  almost six months post diagnosis and eleven months sans birth control, i somehow think it’s possible for my body to disown me and completely change overnight.  while this is highly unlikely since i still resemble my old {healthy} self, the fear is real.  thankfully my RE told me that i’m a PCOS variant, meaning that while i do not have all of the more noticeable external symptoms, my ovaries and hormone levels need a little help.

my RE prescribed metformin to help, which i have been taking for over six months.  it has helped some in shortening my cycles, but my luteal phase is still only about 7 days {it should be at least 10}.

what i love about this part of the journey is that a friend reached out shortly before i received the polycystic ovaries diagnosis.  she knew that i had surgery, but had no idea that i was still experiencing irregular cycles.  we met one evening to swap reproductive issue stories.  i shared all about my uterus surgery, and she shared about her struggles with PCOS and getting pregnant.  everything she struggled with sounded rough.  i remember thinking “thank God that is not me.”  ha.  turns out, it is me.  i have no doubt that God allowed that friendship to blossom into one where we could share details as personal as those about our reproductive health because he knew that one day she would help me.  this friend was an amazing resource for me while i navigated the first few weeks of my diagnosis and treatment with metformin.

God places the people that are in your life for a reason.  sometimes i feel silly opening up about my {in}fertility issues.  but doing so allowed at least two different friends to help me with tracking my cycle and adjusting to new treatment.

that’s all for now.  more of the journey to come later.

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uterus: the before and after

i was on the fence about sharing the x-ray results from my HSGs, but it’s part of the story, so here it goes:

option 1:

Before

this is my unaltered uterus, the uterus i was born with.  apparently when in utero, a girl fetus’ uterus starts as two separate cavities that eventually fuse together to form the uterus.  what you are looking at above is a uterus that never fully fused {see u-shaped dip in the middle}.  with this option, i was told that i had a 30-40% chance of recurrent miscarriage and only a 60-70% chance of live birth, almost assuredly with preterm complications.

option 2:

After

option 2 is the post-surgery view.  given no other complications {and there are, that’s what this blog is all about} my miscarriage rate becomes normal and drops to 10-15% and my delivery rate is expected to be that of the “general population.”  the only potential “complication” is the need for a c-section due to my uterus having more space horizontally vs. vertically, but i’d take this risk over the others any day!

that verse again

lately, God has been showing me a theme.  whether it be through my daily readings, lifegroup meetings, or sunday school lessons, the same verse {or a similar verse with the same exact message} keeps appearing.  i know He is gently reminding me that i don’t need to fret about my {in}fertility drama.  i know that, through Him, it will all work out.  now, my job is to {do what i can to help myself and} leave the rest up to God and trust Him.  here are the verses:

for with God nothing will be impossible {Luke 1:37}

but He said, “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God” {Luke 18:27}

but Jesus looked at them and said to them, “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” {Matthew 19:26}

i love the context of Luke 1:37.  the details proceeding this verse are about two amazing conceptions, conceptions so extraordinary that only God could fathom them and set them into motion.  the first is the conception of john the baptist, who was born to the barren elizabeth and her husband, zacharias.  not only was elizabeth barren, both elizabeth and zacharias were old.  according to the Word, their baby bearing years were a distant memory.  but an angel brought zacharias a message that his prayer had been heard, that elizabeth would bear a son, and that this son’s task would be “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” {Luke 1:17}.

and then there is mary’s conception.  the immaculate conception.  whether you believe it or not, who hasn’t heard of this conception?  mary, pure, was engaged to joseph.  an angel appeared before mary and told her that she would conceive {through the power of the Holy Spirit} the Son of God.

and behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father david. and He will reign over the house of jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. {Luke 1: 31-33}

i don’t believe it to be coincidence that God keeps showing me a story detailing His sovereign power in the context of conceiving and bearing a child.  i truly believe it to be a message from God for me.  a message that, indeed, it will all work out.

saturday date night

every friday and saturday are date nights for me and hubby.  we work hard and want to take advantage of having no dependents {babies or doggies} while we can.  after a long week at work, it is so nice to let someone else prepare the meal and do the cleaning!  most of our date nights are not extra extravagant; we usually just grab a quick bite at our {my} favorite local salad place or panera.

last night we decided to mix things up a bit.  we added an activity to our date night agenda.  i have a creative side, and i’ve wanted to paint holiday themed pottery since last fall.  it started with a pumpkin candy dish, but hubby wasn’t on board.  after several months of talking about our next pottery painting opportunity, i must’ve worn hubby down because he agreed to paint a valentine’s candy dish with me.  here are two pictures of our unfired, unglazed heart-shaped candy dish:

Valentine's Pottery

Valentine's Pottery 2

it was definitely a joint effort.  we both actually really enjoyed it and look forward to seeing the finished product!  there’s even talk of going back for an easter dish ;-)

after pottery, we went to a local “southern” pub and enjoyed chicken wraps and zucchini fries.  date night was made complete with a birthday shopping trip to the mall for hubby and a late night grocery store run {we like to avoid the crowds}.

happy sunday!

waiting

as i mentioned here, i wouldn’t learn the results of my uterus surgery until roughly three months later.  the same test used to diagnosis the septum (a HSG) is the same test used to see if the procedure was successful, and it’s pretty invasive.  apparently all of the cutting and reshaping is not to be messed with for awhile.  i originally thought i only had to wait two months {interpreted from the wait time of two cycles}, but later learned that a cycle means one period to the next.  so one period – to the next period – to the next period, which is two cycles, is really more like three months.

i was {translation: made myself} miserable for those two cycles.  my reproductive organs were not cooperating with me {can you blame them? my uterus had been cut and reshaped after all}, and my periods were not normal.  due to my irregular cycles, the follow-up test got delayed.  because the test is invasive and involves radiation, it absolutely could not be performed if there was a chance i was pregnant.  i skipped a period right around the three month mark when i would be able to have the follow-up HSG.  so what does my RE do?  he tells me to wait.  i love to wait.  absolutely love it.  after several weeks of waiting, my RE orders a pregnancy test.  i was not pregnant {no surprise there, but sure wish i would’ve been}.  two weeks later, still no period.  so my RE ordered another pregnancy test and an ultrasound, which showed that i was nearing ovulation and indeed not pregnant.  i was finally able to schedule the HSG.

my RE’s office called with my HSG date, june 19th.  hubby was going to be out of town on business.  {not} awesome.  my RE is cool because he performs the HSG himself and does not outsource it to the local hospital, but this means that scheduling is probably not when you want it and you have to take what you can get.

i’m pretty sure i didn’t sleep the night before {at least not great}.  early that june morning i got back in the same awkward position {legs in the air and strapped into something that resembled giant ski boots, lying on the x-ray table}, waited for my RE to funnel some tools to my uterus and to inject dye, and voilà i’m looking at a monitor with real time results.  my first thought was ‘it looks slightly better, but not all the way, guess i’ll need round two of surgery.’ but then the dye kept filling up my uterus and suddenly i saw a picture that looked a heck of a lot better than the one i saw five months prior. after the test was complete, my RE spoke some of the best words i’ve heard in my life: ‘your uterus now looks normal.  if i didn’t know you had surgery, i would think you had a normal uterus.’  music to my ears.  pure music.

God heard my prayers about having children.  He let me know that we had to take care of a little anomaly first.  He worked through my doctor to heal me.  God is amazing.

i was on top of the world on june 19th {and for several weeks after}.  i was convinced nothing could ever bring me down.  God is so merciful and loving.  i was and still am so thankful that He allowed us to learn about this problem and fix it before it became a bigger problem.  i remember telling myself to hold on to this feeling and never let it flee.  i wanted to feel this joy every day.  the joy of knowing that my heavenly Father is there for me and cares for me.  the joy of knowing that He can and does heal.  i wanted to take this joy and hold on to it and never experience a trial again {or at least never feel like i was experiencing a trial again}.  but i’m human.  as time went on, my joy faded {especially as God allowed me to learn more about my reproductive system and allowed me to face more trials}.

the devotional jesus calling by sarah young pretty much got me through 2013 {in between awesome sermons and sunday school lessons}.  this daily devotion is written from the perspective of Jesus talking to you.  even as i write this post i find comfort looking back through this devotional and reading its perfect little nuggets.  here is the devotion for May 14:

I AM A MIGHTY GOD. Nothing is too difficult for Me. I have chosen to use weak ones like you to accomplish My purposes. Your weakness is designed to open you up to My Power. Therefore, do not fear your limitations or measure the days demands against your strength. What I require of you is to stay connected to Me, living in trusting dependence on My limitless resources. When you face unexpected demands, there is no need to panic. Remember that I am with you. Talk with Me, and listen while I talk you through each challenging situation.

I am not a careless God. When I allow difficulties to come into your life, I equip you fully to handle them. Relax in My Presence, trusting in My Strength.

Luke 1:37; 2 Corinthians 12:9

there are several reminders in this devotion that i love and i cling to: nothing is too difficult for God (Luke 1:37 appears again), talk with God, God allows trials but he also helps us through them.

for with God nothing will be impossible {Luke 1:37}

but he said to me, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” therefore i will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me {2 Corinthians 12:9}

how it all began

this is the story of how the journey started.  this journey began with a prayer.  a prayer for God to show me and the husband the right time to embark on the journey of parenthood.  not this past summer, but the summer before (maybe late july or early august), i started to pray about big life events that i knew were way in the future.  life events like finding my “dream” job {they call it work for a reason}, upgrading to a house, and having a baby.

as long as i can remember (we’re talking playing baby dolls with girls from the cul-de-sac here) i’ve always known that one day i wanted to be a mom.

i began to pray a prayer that went something like this: “Lord, please show me and husband the right time to have a baby.  and when that time comes, help our baby to be healthy.”  within a month, two months tops, i found myself in my doctor’s office for severe cramps.  mom had endometriosis, and my ob/gyn suggested several times i could be following in her footsteps based on medical details i will spare you from reading.  so naturally, when the cramps came two days before the flow started, i called my ob/gyn.  i made an appointment to discuss laparoscopy.  if i was going to pursue this surgery, i was going to pursue it while the insurance benefits were beneficial {happens every fall for me after a calendar year of being human}.  instead of being quick to put me under and scope away, {old} ob/gyn suggested she perform a few simple in office tests first.  a few weeks later, i had an ultrasound with a tech that clearly had an eye for shady uterus situations.  i knew when the tech asked me if i had an appointment with my doctor afterward that something was up.  sure enough, i learned that i had a possible septate uterus.  i spent the rest of the afternoon (possibly the next few weeks) in shock.  eventually i prayed.

several months and several tests later, i had a confirmed diagnosis of a septate uterus via MRI.  yes, i said months, several of them.  they felt painfully long, agonizing.  and because of that, i eventually found a new ob/gyn.  but that’s neither here nor there.  so with my referral in hand, i finally had an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist.  new ob/gyn assured me this matter of a shady uterus would be handled promptly, that RE would not delay.  music to my ears after three months of waiting to confirm the anomaly and hoping old ob/gyn would shuffle papers a bit quicker than she did.

husband and i show up to the appointment on a thursday afternoon two januaries ago ready to kick the septum to the curb.  instead, we learned that i needed another test {because the ultrasound, SIS, and MRI clearly were not enough}.  so i had an HSG.  it was awkward and uncomfortable, but definitely a cool experience as i could look up at the monitor and instantly see that {at least in my opinion} my uterus was in need of a repair.  “so here we go, let’s schedule this surgery” i thought.  wrong.  RE sent me away and said i’d likely have a few miscarriages first, but eventually my uterus should get the picture and stretch out a bit.  i left the doctor’s office in shock {again}.  if you give me a problem, give me a way to fix it.  that’s how i find comfort in life’s storms, knowing there is a way out {there is always a way out with Jesus, even if that way out is not during our earthly life}.

thankfully RE sent me an email just a few hours later (seemed to me as though he was rethinking his original {passive} plan).  he  noted a few {less than desirable} stats and ultimately said the surgery decision was up to me.  husband and i had been praying since the first ultrasound many months prior, but we really started praying.  and we enlisted anyone we felt comfortable enlisting to help.  i prayed for guidance.  an email, phone call, and office visit later, i was signed up for surgery.  hysteroscopy and recession of septum to be exact.  but not for another month.  {i know this is only my second post, but can you tell i’m inpatient?}.

finally, on a friday in march, i had the procedure.  i had several surgeries prior to this point (2 eye muscle surgeries, 2 wisdom teeth removals, 2 heart surgeries, a colonoscopy and an upper endoscopy), so i can safely say that recovery from this uterus surgery was not fun and not a breeze.  i bled.  i had a balloon catheter in my uterus.  i took hormones.  i had cramps.  killer cramps (much worse than the cramps that lead me to old ob/gyn five months earlier).  five long days after the surgery, the catheter came out, and i was sent home to wait for two cycles {which i later found out really meant three months} to see if the surgery worked.  RE warned me that it was not uncommon to need multiple surgeries for a septum. so the waiting began…

looking back, i know God heard my prayer.  He knew then and knows now that I want to be a mom.  He was watching out for me by allowing me to experience that miserable menstrual cycle.  He allowed me to learn of an icky uterine anomaly that needed a little fixing before we could embark on our journey to parenthood.  He listens and He answers prayer.  He may not always answer the way i imagine or in the time frame i prefer,  but God has His plan {the most important plan} and He knows what’s best.

and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose {Romans 8:28}

“for I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” {Jeremiah 29:11}

a blog is born

today is the day, the day “tales of an empty womb” is born.  i’ve been thinking about blogging about this leg of my life journey for quite some time, but finally decided to today.  before just a few hours ago, the thought of pouring my heart out via writing  seemed therapeutic, but i was afraid to pull the trigger.  why?  because sharing details as personal and intimate as those about my reproductive organs and functions over the internet seemed a bit unnecessary to me.  but God has placed it on my heart to write about these {in}fertility things.  selfishly, i know sharing this chapter of my story will be beneficial to me (i get excited thinking about all of the prayers that will be sent up on my behalf, and sharing updates with friends and family will most certainly be easier this way), but i hope He can use my story to help someone else.  someone navigating the {in}fertility roller coaster, someone in need of encouragement, someone who needs to meet Jesus, anyone really.

today this blog is private.  maybe tomorrow i will get the courage to open it up to the world wide web.  my ultimate goal is to be able to share my posts on facebook (it’s a goal for obvious reasons).  while on the surface these stories appear to be about me, they are really about Jesus, and I just need to remember that.  there is so much i want to share about Jesus.

i look forward to the day when i can post news of a tiny miracle growing inside of me.  i know that day is coming.  but for now, i will begin sharing my {in}fertility journey and the amazing ways Jesus has met me in this place.

for with God nothing will be impossible {Luke 1:37}