A Thousand Thanks

My mom and pops at my wedding.

My mom had a stroke on Monday night. She is fine, but has limited use of her left arm. The doctors say it should be as good as new with time. They ran a bunch of tests and found no cause. Apparently this is common in Stroke Land. They suspect it’s not caused by her cancer, but from the stress of having cancer. Fun, right? They’re discharging her from the hospital today and they cleared her to travel to Philadelphia tomorrow. She insists on still coming to Thanksgiving, even though we assured her we would go up there instead. I think she’s crazy, but I will honor her wishes. All I care about at this point is that she is ok. I’ll do whatever she wants and needs. Plus, when Rightwood says she’s doing something, it’s best not to mess with her.

I guess all I want to say to you guys is this: hug your loved ones extra tight tomorrow. Because every moment you have with them is a gift.

Happy Thanksgiving. I know I’m extremely thankful this year.

Sweet Endings

If you read my previous post, you know that last week began with a so-so doctor visit and a lot of angst. I wanted to share how my week ended up being pretty great despite that blah beginning.

Here’s a list of awesome things that went down at the end of the week, in chronological order:

1. Make New Friend: Check

On Thursday I got a package from the blogess behind Journey Through Infertility. Do you see all of that stuff?! She sent along everything that helped her during her fertility journey (she is now pregnant with a little girl)—a zillion books, meditation CDs and even a yoga DVD! I was crying like a big old sap as I unpacked everything. I still haven’t sent my one sister her Christmas present from last year (I know, I am a jerk), and someone I’ve never met took the time to gather all of these things and send them to me. Oh, and she included a five-page letter. A letter! She said the contents of the package were mine on the condition that I pass them along to someone else who needs them when I don’t anymore. How great is that? I can’t wait to pay it forward. Getting this package felt like a giant hug.

2. Sample Sale!

I work at a fashion company and every few months they hold sample sales for employees. Everything is dirt cheap. You can fill a bag of clothes, shoes and accessories for $50, and the home items go for $1, $3 or $5, depending on size. I love sample sales. And when I say love I actually mean I’m obsessed. It’s the closest thing in my adult life to the Christmas mornings of my childhood. My friends and I line up an hour and a half early and wait in anticipation. We peek through the windows at all of the stuff lined up. We plot our strategy. When they open the doors, everyone runs in and starts filling their bags as fast as they can. There’s not really even time to look at what you’re putting in your bag—you just have to grab it like a maniac. Yes, it is insane and gluttonous. And yes, I always feel a little gross afterwards from all of the frenzied greed in the air. But it is so much fun.

3. Bette Effing Midler

So I don’t know if you know this about me, but I am in love with Bette Midler. My fascination with her began when I was a mere 12 years old and has been going strong ever since. Don’t ask me why. I have no idea. But I mean, what’s not to love? Yesterday after the sample sale, one of my childhood dreams came true. I saw Bette Midler. In the flesh. She was giving a keynote at a women’s health symposium. Again, I have no idea what she was doing at a health symposium. Mere details. She spoke for about an hour and I had a goofy smile on my face the entire time. Holy crap. It was—dare I say it?—divine.

4. My Sweetie Got Certified

Tim found out this morning (ok, well I woke him up at 4:26 a.m., begging him to check his scores) that he is now a National Board Certified Teacher. Basically this means that he can teach anywhere in the country without needing to certify in each state. Getting nationally certified is an extremely competitive and rigorous process. Tim spent the entire last year gathering data, videotaping his classes and writing essays for his portfolio. Plus, he had to take a mammoth test. This is a huge accomplishment for him and I couldn’t be prouder.

So all in all, it’s been a kick-ass four days. I still don’t know what I’m going to decide regarding my fertility journey, but these recent events pulled me out of my angst in the most wonderful of ways.

Let’s Get Luteal (Visit With The Spesh: Part III)

It’s been way too long since I’ve talked about my ovaries. I know you’ve been waiting in anticipation, so I won’t leave you hanging any longer.

First things first: this visit was not as awesome as the last two. The doctor was an hour behind and rushed and short with us. I know she doesn’t need to be our best friend or anything, but since fertility is such a sensitive and intimate subject, it’s upsetting to me when doctors are anything less than friendly and focused.

I showed the doc my data for the last three-and-a-half months and all looked well. Except: the luteal phase. The luteal phase is the time between when you ovulate and when you get your period. Ideally, it should be around 14 days, but no less than 10. Mine were about 8, on average. The theory is that if your luteal phase is too short, an embryo might not have enough time to implant, even if the egg is fertilized.

Thanks to this great book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility, I had suspected this luteal phase business was a problem way back when, long before I saw the specialist. But I was hoping that since I had recently stopped taking birth control pills at the time, my body would regulate itself after a few months. Obv, it didn’t happen.

The doc gave us three options:

1. Do nothing for three more months. I could still get pregnant despite my short luteal phase.

2. Have my cycle monitored for a month to provide the doctor with more accurate data. This would require an ultrasound every other day from day 12 ’til whenever I ovulate. Then take no further action for the next two months.

3. Have my cycle monitored for a month and take a progesterone suppository for three months. Not enough progesterone after ovulation often causes short luteal phases, so the suppositories would hopefully take care of that. This third choice is the one the doctor was leaning towards.

At the end of this three-month journey, if I’m still not pregnant, she wants us to try Clomid, which is a medication that makes you ovulate earlier. It also has many side effects, including a 5-10% rate of multiple births. 10%? Um, that’s one in 10. That’s kind of a lot. And sure, twins would be sweet. But twins also mean a potentially more complicated pregnancy and that is scary stuff.

She also emphatically said to not take the herbs my acupuncturist prescribed me. I am particularly bummed about this because I really wanted to try them. In the end, though, I don’t feel comfortable going against her super-strong recommendation. She says the herbs aren’t regulated or tested, and I see her point, of course. But Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years. It’s got to be doing something right, no?

So that about sums it up. I found myself crying in the car after this visit. Part of it was probably because of the rushed manner of the doctor, but I don’t think that’s enough to justify tears. Tim asked me if I could pinpoint why I was so upset, and at the time I really didn’t know. But now that I’ve had some time to think, I’ve arrived at this conclusion: short of doing nothing, either option we choose means I am officially starting down the scary road of fertility treatments. And even though I can get off that road whenever I want, it still feels like I’m choosing a path and I’m committing to following it.

Also, while Tim and I can talk to death about which option to choose, ultimately the final-final decision comes down to me. Because it’s my body. And right now that feels like a lonely place to be.

What will we do? I don’t know. They always say to listen to your gut on these things, but right now my gut is a jumble of confusion. They also say that doctors don’t know everything and you don’t need to listen to them all the time. And this is true, but doctors also have the benefit of knowledge and experience that I don’t, making it really tricky to know when not to follow their advice.

Should I do something or do nothing? Should I be patient or proactive? Am I starting down the road to fertility treatments too soon? And finally, do any of those other things matter if there’s a healthy baby at the end?

These are valid questions, but right now I have no answers.

Stop It Right There

Don't even think about it.

I’ve joked or hinted about this before, but I don’t think I’ve ever really laid it out there: I struggle with anxiety. Like, a lot.

I spent quite a bit of time last winter being anxious about all sorts of things. While I was happy in my new marriage, everything else felt a little off. I was unhappy with my job. I was worried about an enlarged lymph node in my groin. I wasn’t getting a period. I was drinking way too much and eating too little. And because I was too skinny for my body type, I felt uncomfortably cold all the time. So what did I do about all of that? I threw my energy into calorie counting to make sure I maintained my slim physique. Naturally. It seemed logical at the time. I basically focused on that one thing and let all of those other concerns grow into big, giant monsters. I was the epitome of passive.

Then I don’t know what happened. There was no ah-ha moment, no light shining down from the sky, but one day I decided that enough was enough. I called a therapist and set up an appointment, I visited an acupuncturist and I made a vow to go to yoga more often. I got a biopsy of the questionable lymph node (it turned out fine). I saw a specialist about the missing period. I took charge of my life again. Phew.

But what scares me is how quick I got to that bad place and how hard it was to leave. Anxiety totally had me pinned and hog tied before I even realized something was amiss. Anxiety is a sneak. All it takes is one unchecked thought to start a spiral of badness.

Which is why I must be vigilant. I need to stop the anxious thoughts before they get out of control. There’s many ways I attempt to do this. Sometimes it’s as simple as visualizing a stop sign when the first thought creeps in. Sometimes I read a book. Or go to yoga. Or snuggle with my dogs. I’ve by no means perfected this nip-it-in-the-bud technique, but I’m getting better. Because I’m not going back to the place where I was last winter. I refuse. There is too much wonderful life to live.

So here’s my question to you. What do you do to stay calm when things feel overwhelming? Do you have any tricks up your sleeve? I could always use a few more in my arsenal.