Confronting The Passage Of Time At The Melrose Diner

Tim and I sit in the Melrose diner. Pictures of horse-drawn carriages and clip art signs advertising pies cover the chrome walls. Our booth is leftover from the middle of the last century, its maroon panels aged by time and sunlight and decades-old cigarette smoke.

I order an omelet with no cheese, hold the toast. My mug of decaf comes within seconds, along with a bowl of half-and-half cups. I open one and then hesitate. I hold it in my hand and watch the cup steam until our waitress comes back. I ask if she has any non-dairy creamer, even though I know it’s a ridiculous request in a place like this.

I wonder what the consequences will be if I add the creamer. I’d given up dairy and gluten months ago because it did not agree with my body, but now I hold onto this abstinence like a talisman. These days, my head is an endless game of if/then. If I don’t touch a drop of dairy or a speck of wheat, then I will get pregnant. If I stray, then I won’t. The rational part of me says this is not quite right, a little too extreme, but then another part says, but what if it’s not? How do you know?

I drink the coffee black.

Grey-haired couples dot the booths around us. They sit at the counters and talk to the servers. They exchange gossip, tsk-tsks and an occasional bark of laughter. They order their own regimented meals, the same ones they’ve been eating for three decades: a lone pancake on a plate, one egg over hard, a small cranberry juice.

We’ve arrived at the diner after an early morning doctor appointment. “Likely what happened,” the doctor had told us just a few minutes earlier, “is that you were pregnant for a very short time, maybe a day or so, and then you miscarried.” His back was turned to us as he said this, his fingers clacking on the computer keyboard. “We’ll never really know, though.”

This doctor, his hair white from years of medical experience, is the hotshot at our clinic. He won Best Philadelphia Doctor in his field a million years running in a handful of magazines. Arguably, he’s the best of the best. But all he could really tell us for sure is that he doesn’t know.

Before our meal arrives, I walk to the restroom. I stop to look at myself in the mirror. Though I’ve just turned 37, I feel as old as the couples out there with their reedy laughter and their one pancake. I trace the wrinkles around my forehead, my eyes, my mouth. My face is thinner than it used to be. My hair is not quite as shiny. I can’t help but wonder if my insides are the same—if my eggs are weathered with time, chromosomally abnormal, unfit. I imagine my body rejecting them one by one, like skipping stones sent out across a still pond.

 —

Back at home, my daughter is learning how to ride a bike. Her chubby legs barely look strong enough to support her big toddler belly, let alone a bulky metal frame. She is freshly two years old. Her hands are like tiny white starfish, her eyes blue points of light. Every time she laughs, my heart fills with a bittersweet mix of joy and desperation. I want to capture her unruly curls, her jumbled sentences, and the feel of her hand as she strokes my face and says, “Gentle, mama.” If it turns out that she is my only one, my only baby, time should at least slow for us, right?

She is unsure on the bike at first. Her dad steadies her, his back in a deep arch, as she steps and wobbles. She makes a few rounds around the house like this, smiling at her grandparents and me when she passes by. Then Tim releases her and she’s off, her hair like flames in the late morning light as she moves away from us.

Hope, Round 2

Mom, go get me another baby!
Mom, go get me another baby!

Last week Tim and I went to see a fertility specialist.

Is anyone getting déjà vu here? Yeah, me too. Looks like I have come full circle, arriving at the exact point where I began this blog two-and-a-half years ago.

Except it’s not really the exact point. A mom died, a baby was miscarried and I welcomed a little girl into the world. Things have definitely changed.

But I digress. Since the miscarriage I’ve been having some cycle weirdness. (I originally went into more detail here, but Tim was like, “Whoa, dude, that is waaaaay too much information.”) It’s been six months since the miscarriage, so I figured I better get myself checked out.

We saw the same doctor as last time. She was equally lovely this time. The first thing she said when we walked in the room was, “You guys look like you’re aging backwards.”

After exclaiming, “aw, shucks,” I explained the situation with my bod. She said my problem was probably due to progesterone. The short explanation is that if the body doesn’t make enough progesterone when it’s supposed to, it can’t sustain a pregnancy. The doctor sent me home with a prescription for progesterone supplements and told us to come back in two months. If Lettie’s sibling has not been conceived by then, we’ll start fertility testing.

I left the appointment feeling pretty good. The doctor didn’t seem worried, so neither was I. Gradually, though, the anxiety crept in. What if I have premature ovarian failure? What if I have endometriosis? This quickly spiraled into, holy crap, I have to wait two months to find out any of this? Are you kidding me?

In January, I visited a tarot card reader. She told me, among other things, that I wasn’t going to get pregnant at all in 2014. Awesome, lady. Thanks. She said that instead of focusing on expanding my family, I should focus on sinking into the life I have now. I think sinking in is great advice, for me or for anyone. I love my life. I want to enjoy every second of it. And I certainly don’t want to pass up the good I have in front of me because I’m busy stressing out about possible futures. That’s just dumb.

But I also know that I’m not going to stop wishing for our fourth family member. Because I want Lettie to know the love of a sibling. Because I have a big ole heart with so much more love to give.

I need to find a balance.

The truth is, I’m finding it harder to feel positive this time. I’m older than I was the last time around.  Everything in the fertility world takes time, and that’s the one thing I feel like I don’t have enough of. I know I still have a few more years until my fertility technically plummets, but it’s already been almost a year since we first began trying for baby number two. I blinked and that time went poof.

I’m going to do my best to cool my jets, though. I’m walking proof that everything happens when it’s supposed to. I met Tim six weeks before my mom was first diagnosed with cancer. I gave birth to Colette three weeks before my mom died. I was magically given the greatest gifts of my life just when I needed them most. I’m not trying to say that I need to wait for a tragedy to have another baby. Let’s pretty please hope that is not the case (Okay, universe? Okay?!). I’m just trying to say that I need to chill the eff out and have faith.

So here’s the plan: Take a deep breath.

Sink into my life just as it is now.

Believe that everything will unfold exactly as it’s meant to.

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.

Visit With the Spesh: Part II

The Fat Experiment continues.

Miss hearing about my ovaries? Lucky for you, I have another update. Get ready for a barrage of too much information. 

Tim and I went back to the fertility specialist last week.

What did she say? It was pretty much good news all around. My latest round of hormone tests came back normal, which means I don’t have to get a brain MRI. Score! Tim’s swimmers are all normal as well. Double score!

She did an ultrasound and some blood work to see if I’d ovulated yet this month (isn’t it crazy how they can tell that?). The ultrasound came back inconclusive and the blood work showed that ovulation was a no go. This was a downer, as it had been several weeks since my last period. Even though the doctor warned me not to expect a regular period after not getting one for four months, I was bummed.

But! Thanks to these handy-dandy things called ovulation predictor kits, I discovered that I did ovulate a few days after the visit. So while I’m not totally back on track, I’m definitely heading in the right direction. A small victory, but a victory all the same.

Before you start to get worried: I promise I will not share with you every time I ovulate. Gross. This is a special case, though, as it was the first time since the Great Fat Experiment began.

Anyway, the doctor turned us loose for the next three months, instructing me to a) keep eating the fat and b) track my cycle. At the end of the three months, we’ll reconvene and assess.

And that concludes the latest edition of Ovary Digest. Until next time…

Visit With the Spesh

Me with my new best friend, almonds!

Last week Tim and I went to see a fertility specialist.

I’ll go ahead and begin my very first post with some over-sharing. Prior to this specialist visit, I hadn’t gotten a period in months. Four months to be exact. This has been a source of great frustration and angst for me. Tim and I are ready to have a baby, oh, like, now, but that’s not going to happen without the ole monthly cycle. I stopped taking birth control pills in October. Since then, I’ve had a few regular periods, one very late period, and then they just disappeared altogether.

I went to see an OBGYN after a couple of months of this no-show business. The doctor ran some basic hormone tests, seriously freaked me out by saying I might be in early menopause (sayonara, dream of having children), and sent me away with a prescription called Provera. Provera is basically progesterone in pill form. You take it for five days, and once you stop, the progesterone withdrawal is supposed to bring on a period. It didn’t work. Boo.

Luckily, my hormone tests came back normal, so early menopause was out, along with a variety of other scary things (sigh of relief). But still, no period. Hence, the specialist referral.

Now, onto the visit: From the moment we stepped into the office, I knew we were in good hands. The receptionists were friendly. Friendly. This is rarity in my experience. Maybe it has something to do with living in a city, I don’t know.  When I walked back to get my blood pressure taken, etc., a woman passed by and smiled at Tim and me. A real, genuine smile. Even though she was wearing a breezy summer top and not an imposing lab coat, I knew this was our doctor, and that made me very happy. After a few minutes, we went into this woman’s office and she asked both of us a million, billion questions. The whole session felt very personal. She explained everything thoroughly and was careful and considerate of our feelings. Tim and I loved her. After a stretch of bad doctors and OBGYNs, this was a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Her diagnosis? I’m not eating enough fat.

Wait, what? You mean, it can really be as simple as that?

I had lost 20 lbs for my wedding last August and kept it off for a year (more on that in another post). She said that, even though I am a normal body weight for my height, I am being too careful about what I’m eating, and the lack of fat is causing my body to go into self-preservation mode. She ran some more blood work and instructed Tim to get a sperm analysis, but seemed confident the fat was the problem. We have another appointment with her in a couple of weeks to go over the results.

The day after the visit, I got my period. For the first time in four months. A few weeks ago, Tim and I went on vacation and I ate my face off. I came back from that vacation 6 lbs heavier. So I think it took that extra six pounds to get my body working again. Seems like pretty good evidence to support the doctor’s theory.

I’m going to continue to diligently add more fat to each and every meal. And hopefully this is the beginning of a new era, an era where my period comes every month on schedule. An era that will hopefully bring about what I want most in the world right now: a pregnancy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go eat some celebratory almonds and avocados.