Acupuncture

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What would you do, if what you’re already doing isn’t working?  Do you continue to do what’s not working or do you find alternatives or supports to help you?  Those were some of the questions I faced.  I had to ask myself these questions because that was reality for me.

Since the clomid cycles were not successful in achieving pregnancy, the next step was to obtain a referral.  So, I contacted my new OB/GYN and we reviewed the plan.  Oh, the “new” OB/GYN…I felt comfortable having the last OB/GYN help me through the rest of the process.  While waiting to hear back about my referral, I figured…this “western” medicine is not happening, we should try something else.  Hence, I went to acupuncture.

Acupuncture was not a replacement for modern medicine or “western” medicine, at least not for us anyway.  Acupuncture is something I consider complimentary to modern medicine, that helped provide more understanding and different approaches to an already complicated situation.

I went to acupuncture without consultation or a recommendation from my doctor.  I did not ask because at that point I thought….this can’t hurt our chances!  Why not try it?  Some of my friends advised me to see an acupuncturist but no one in particular.

My husband did the research and I made the call.  I set up my first acupuncture appointment!  He came with me to check it out.  Plus, I was nervous and didn’t want to go by myself.

If you ever have the opportunity to participate in acupuncture, I would recommend it!

At first, I was definitely skeptical!  I didn’t know what I was getting into nor did I realize the effect it would have on me.  I was a little freaked out because I wasn’t familiar with it, meaning I had a general idea but not the specifics.  I knew I was going to be poked with needles and thought it might hurt a little.

My first appointment was about 2 hours.  I read and signed consents.  Then I tried it out…I was invited to one of the rooms and asked to remove either all of my clothes or to remove my clothes from the waist up.  I laid on my stomach, put my head in the rest area provided at the end of the massage table, and covered myself with the sheet.  The massage table was covered like a bed, with a sheet to protect the table and a sheet to cover me.  When the acupuncturist came in I was asked questions pertaining to my history, infertility, and reviewed some of the things I could expect.

Next, the sheet was lifted to uncover only my back and arms.  My back was lathered with lotion and I moved on to cupping.  If you’ve ever done cupping you may have a different perception than me.  The fact is, I never saw the cupping process because my head was always face down.  I heard and felt cupping.  My husband, however, has witnessed cupping being performed on my back.  So, he assisted with my explanation of this.  Cupping helps the blood flow in your body.  It involves small glass cups that are placed on your back.  Prior to that, a cotton ball is lit on fire and swirled inside a glass cup, which creates smoke.  The cup is then placed on your back.  You can tell it’s on your back because the glass becomes like suction cups to your skin.  The skin surrounding the cup is sucked up into the glass cup.  The smoke removes the oxygen from the glass cup creating the suction effect.  The cup was moved around my back in a particular manner.  At times it stayed in a specific area for a few minutes.  It was at those times that I got a hand and foot massage.  Oh, I almost forgot.  While I was laying on my stomach there was also a pillow by my ankles holding my feet up a little off the table.  This probably sounds really weird and possibly harsh.  I hope I’ve explained this well enough for you to understand.

I had a least 3 cups on my back.  I have to admit, the first time I did cupping it was sore, and for good reason.  After the cupping was complete, the cups were removed.  My back was really tense.  That was also apparent when the acupuncturist did a back pinching thing.  I don’t know what the exact name for it is, but it hurt.  It starts at the tailbone.  You push the skin toward the spine and pinch it.  Alternating hands (thumbs & index fingers), you pinch the skin up following the spine, until you reach the neck.  It seemed to take forever, probably because I was in such pain.  The pain was due to the tightness of my back.  After the pinching thing, I got a back massage. When that was done, the sheet was lifted a little.  I was asked to turn over and lay on my back.  When I was ready, the sheet was draped over me.  Don’t worry, the acupuncturist was very modest about it and the sheets were not sheer.  The pillow by my ankles was returned to that spot and another pillow was placed under my head and neck area.

It was now time for the actual acupuncture!  I was instructed to breathe a certain way while the needles were being placed in specific areas.  If you don’t know anything about acupuncture or Chinese medicine, know that there a hundreds of points on the body.  I can’t tell you all of them, just know there are a lot! Lol!  One of the purposes of my first appointment was for the acupuncturist to assess how my body works and then identify the best way to help me.

My first experience with the acupuncture needles was not at all what I expected.  I knew that they were different from needles used to draw blood or give shots like TB, which are hollow.  I remember in high school a teacher had acupuncture done to her as part of the lesson in class one day.  It was mostly around her face and I was not bothered by it.  Anyways!  I was surprised that I couldn’t really feel the needles.  There were a few times that I felt a very brief pinch but that was it.  Since I was laying on my back I didn’t see where most of the needles were placed but I did feel them.  I remember lifting up my hand and seeing one between my thumb and index finger.  It was so thin I could barely tell it was there.  If it wasn’t for a thick cylinder metal piece at the top, I don’t know if I would’ve be able to see the needle.  The needles were about 2-2 1/2 inches long.  When the needles were in their proper places, I was instructed to close my eyes and rest for 20 minutes.  Just as a side note, I did not have needles coming out of every acupuncture point.  The needles were strategically placed.  The acupuncturist set a timer and then came in to remove the needles at the completion of the time.  I was instructed to take my time getting up and dressed, then meet the acupuncturist outside.

I got up, got dressed and we went outside to talk with the acupuncturist.  She gave me further instructions about a diet, book & article to read, as well as additional things I could expect in future sessions.  I still have the handouts I was given.  I thought the session went well considering it was my first time.  I scheduled another appointment for the following week.

As I write about this experience I realize that there are SO many things to share about the topic of acupuncture.  One post isn’t going to be enough!  Oh dear.

Anyways!  When I went home after the appointment I didn’t notice anything different until it was time to take a shower.  I saw the marks on my back from where the cups were.  My back wasn’t covered in marks, there were maybe 4-5.  They looked like bruises that were perfect circles, scattered around my back.  Lol.  It took a few days before it was gone, which I expected because of all the tightness in my back.

Acupuncture usually consisted of cupping, massage, acupuncture and rest.  My first appointment was the longest.  The typical appointment after that was about an hour, complete with validated parking.

Ok.  I had this thing…for 2-3 days after acupuncture, I would wear my hair down to cover my neck area.  I didn’t want people to think I was being abused.  Lol.  I don’t know why because I wasn’t being abused.  Well, a few months into treatment, a day or two after acupuncture, I made the mistake of going to Wal-mart with my hair tied up.  I forgot what I was shopping for but I remember walking pass the sewing section & noticing this tall, African American looking guy following me.  He looked like he was in his 40s. I didn’t know why he was following me.  I tried not to make eye contact and walked a little faster but, he caught up to me.  He said, “Excuse me, what is that on your back?”  It was then that I realized why he was following me!  I laughed to myself.  He spotted a mark from the cupping.  It was on the middle back of my neck, right above my shirt line with about half of a circle visible.  I explained to him how I got it.  He seemed surprised, nodded while explained, ok with it, and then walked away.  Thinking about that experience makes me laugh.  Hope you got a good laugh too! 🙂

Next post: More Acupunture


My Research & Self-Diagnosis

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Ok, as promised I’m finally going to share what I my body was really experiencing.

Remember now, I still felt like there was something wrong with me…I just didn’t know what it was until I started reading.  I did clomid and simultaneously searched for answers.  So often you hear others say, “Everything happens for a reason” or “Things happen for a reason.”  That just ate at me.  My reasons were a little different.  I was looking for WHY…why is nothing working, thinking that would solve my problem.  Knowing the cause of such difficulty brought temporary relief.

I borrowed a couple of books from my local library and began to read intently each moment I could.  I would come home from work and just read, sometimes getting a late start on dinner.  I would read late into the night, well late for me, often times going to sleep way past my bedtime.  I felt that educating myself on the topic would broaden my perspective on the whole process and increase my understanding…so I didn’t look like a deer in headlights.

As I read, I noticed a lot of the books were similarly structured but their explanations were very different.  I would only read through the IVF chapters and then skim through the rest.  I didn’t want to read about adoption, surrogacy, donors and the sort.  I knew that was not the direction I wanted to go, nor was I prepared to pursue those options (& still not).


Book 1: “Having a Baby…When the Old-Fashioned Way Isn’t Working”

I read a book by Cindy Margolis, a former model.  She experienced multiple IVF cycles and had a surrogate help her have 3 children.  The junk part was that after reading the book, I found out she and her husband are now divorced.  I find it interesting that they separated because they both contributed to the book and expressed their thoughts.  As she shared her story she emphasized that they went through this process together and how important it is to have supportive family, etc.  I thought…that sucks!  I’m sure there’s a lot more to the story.  To some degree I was unable to relate because I didn’t have the same concerns she shared.  I did however, understand how she felt.  She expressed feeling awkward around friends, thinking that it was her fault that she was not pregnant, and strong desire to have a baby.  She told her story and expressed the idea that it was not her fault and she was not going to let it bring her down. I’m glad I read it.

The book I found to the most informative and helpful is “What to Do When You Can’t Get Pregnant” by Daniel A. Potter, MD & Jennifer S. Hanin, MA.

Book 2: “What to Do When You Can’t Get Pregnant” (2005)

This book is truly amazing!  It’s so easy to follow!  I opened to the first chapter (page 1) and read this, “Nearly 15 percent of reproductive couples (men with female partners age 20 to 45) suffer from infertility.”  So, although I felt SO alone in my journey…I was in fact, not at all lonesome.  I didn’t like the term infertility because it sounded like I was unable to have a baby…ever.  I was wrong, of course, about that term.  The book explained, “Infertility is a medical condition.  A condition so misunderstood that it touches both genders equally.  A condition so common that it affects 80 million people worldwide.  In this country, infertility is growing at an alarming pace.  Over 16 million Americans have been diagnosed as infertile, and experts believe the actual number is easily triple that” (pg 2).  I really had no clue that there were so many people dealing with this!  I was somewhat relieved but I still didn’t know what was going on with ME.  Of course, I was only at the beginning of the book! Lol!  I continued to read and obtained more interesting facts.  The book also describes the menstrual cycle, including fertilization.  I found this to be much more complicated than I thought!  See, although I was still keeping track of my menses the chances to become pregnant each month was much smaller than I thought.  The book contains a few illustrations as various processes are described and explained.

I found the answer I was looking for when I made it to chapter 4, entitled “What Your Doctor Might Find in You.”  I began to read about endometriosis…and a light bulb went off in my head.  It’s like the book was reading my mind.  Lol!  Here is what I read (on pg 64-65)…I’ll apologize now, it’s kind of lengthy.

“Endometriosis is a progressive disease where the tissue lining your uterus (endometrium) implants and grows in your abdominal cavity. …When you menstruate, the foreign tissue in your pelvis also bleeds (since it’s actually uterine lining), causing irritation and inflammation that can lead to scar formation and distortion of your pelvic anatomy.  This anatomical distortion can cause infertility.  Strangely enough, severity of symptoms seen with endometriosis doesn’t correlate with severity or stage of the disease.  Some women have little or no pain from severe endometriosis, while others experience immense discomfort before or during their period from mild disease.  Symptoms of endometriosis include the following:

  • Extremely painful menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), especially if this condition develops after years of pain-free periods
  • Discomfort during intercourse (dyspareunia)
  • Pelvic, back, or side pains before or during periods
  • Rectal pain or painful bowel movements, diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal upsets during menstruation
  • Frequent and painful urination during periods
  • Infertility

The book continued, “How Common Is Endometriosis?”  Endometriosis is one of the most common gynecological diseases, affecting more that 5.5 million women in the United States and millions more worldwide.”  The book also mentioned some suggestions and treatment options to help alleviate the pain, but clearly stated that there was no cure for endometriosis.

I TOTALLY believed I had endometriosis!  I remember telling my husband, “I think this is what I have!”

I thought everyone had cramps, until I read the book.  I had been experiencing painful periods for a while but my cycles were pretty regular.  I experienced 4 of the symptoms the book mentioned – extremely painful menses, pelvic & back pain, painful BM, and infertility.  This was my WHY!  I realized that all these symptoms were hindering our attempts to become pregnant.  As I thought about my self-diagnosis, so many more things began to make sense!  I thought, no wonder clomid didn’t work, even with the IUI.  Speaking of IUI, I said I would talk about the sperm being “washed.”  Here is the explanation provided by the book, “What To Do When You Can’t Get Pregnant” (pg 100).

“Why Wash Sperm?  Semen is mixture of sperm cells, seminal fluid, and debris (dead sperm, white blood cells, mucous, and fat globules).  You probably didn’t realize it, but semen contains prostaglandins that cause menstrual cramping.  While sperm behaves fine in the vaginal environment, if your doctor injects raw sperm directly into your uterus, you would experience severe pain.  So the goal of sperm washing is to separate healthy sperm from toxic seminal fluid.  One method of doing this involves a specialized lab tech who layers sperm on top of a nutrient medium and spins it in a centrifuge.  Spinning forces sperm cells to the bottom of the tube.  Once spun, he draws this purified sperm into a syringe so your doctor can inseminate you.”

I hope this makes sense!  It made sense to me.

Anyways!  Getting back to my self-diagnosis…I’m going to explain the symptoms I had.

  1. Extremely painful menses – Having cramps everyone month was a given.  The pain was really inconsistent each menses.  I think maybe a handful of times, total, I didn’t have any pain.  Otherwise, I had very painful menses.  Most of the time I just tried to take the pain, but I couldn’t handle it all the time.  I preferred not to take anything for the pain and I wouldn’t unless I had to.  It was SO bad at times, I had to take an OTC pain reliever.  The pain was very sharp, intense, and constant.  It’s not the funnest thing in the world, that’s for sure!  For me, the majority of the pain lasted for at least 1 day and sporadic pain the next day.  When I refer to my menses, I’m talking about years of pain, …before I started (& during) this journey.
  2. Pelvic or back pain before or during menses – Ooh, this in combination with #1…not good.  One of the BEST purchases I ever made was…a heating pad!  Most of the time, I experienced horizontal lower back pain near my tailbone.  Using the heating pad helped minimize the pain.  It also helped me sleep better at night.  This usually lasted 1 day, sometimes 2.
  3. Painful BM, constipation, etc – I think this is pretty self-explanatory.  I didn’t know before reading the book that this was such a problem for me.  I just expected it every time I got my menses.  I didn’t take anything for it but I did do some deep breathing to relax.  This lasted the entire time I bled, which was about 4-5 days.  I don’t have any good suggestions for this.  Just recognize that it’s a symptom.
  4. Infertility – Uh, this was quite obvious to me.  Becoming pregnant wasn’t happening for us so I understood this to be a factor in our inability to conceive.  I’ll talk more about this when I get to the referral.

I was never asked about my symptoms from any OB/GYN nor did I divulge all kinds of information.  I was pretty much just asked: how long I bleed and how many days my cycle lasted.  I’m not saying it’s anyone’s fault…but when I got my referral, it made a big difference.

I really hope this helps you understand what I was going through and the all frustrations I had.  I received tremendous understanding and knowledge reading the books.  I’m glad I did.  My research didn’t end there.  I still read about it and other related topics.  Knowing more allows me to make better decisions and understand what to expect.

Next post: Acupuncture


Costs

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You may be wondering, how much does all of this cost?

Well, it sure isn’t FREE!  Here is the break down of the costs as well as other things to consider, if/when you experience this type of infertility treatment.

1. Exams

  • For Day 3 exams, I paid a copay of $15.

2.  Clomid Prescription

  • Each clomid prescription cost me $15.

3.  Ovulation Predictor Kits

  • Ovulation kits cost about $15 for a pack of 7 test sticks.

4.  Intrauterine Insemination

  • My cost for this procedure was $120.

TIPS:

~You don’t HAVE to buy the name brand OPK.  Read the box before purchasing it!  Some kits come with more than 7 test sticks.  I’ve bought some that contain 10 test sticks.  Prices vary from $13 – $25+.  Most of the OPK come in the English and Spanish languages.

~With the OPKs, make sure you know how far in advance the OPK will predict.  For example, I have an OPK from CVS pharmacy that says, “Predicts ovulation 24-48 hours in advance.”  This is important because depending on the brand you purchase, the # could be different.  If you time it right you can save on OPKs…you need to know your cycle.  I knew Day 10 when I was instructed to start the OPK, was too early for me.  So, I used the OPK on Day 12.  I’m not saying this works for everyone, I’m just saying – Be SMART, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

~The IUI has an additional Exam cost.  So, I paid a copay for the exam PLUS the cost of the IUI.

 

Ok, keep in mind that I did 4 clomid cycles, 2 of them with IUI.

1st cycle = Exam ($15) + Clomid ($15) + OPK ($15)  = $45

2nd cycle = Exam ($15) + Clomid ($15) + OPK ($15)  = $45

3rd cycle with IUI = Exam ($15) + Clomid ($15) + OPK ($15) + Exam ($15) + IUI ($120)  = $180

4th cycle with IUI = Exam ($15) + Clomid ($15) + OPK ($15) + Exam ($15) + IUI ($120)  = $180

Grand Total: $450

You can see how much this treatment would cost if I/you continue to do it.

 

MORE TIPS:

~Pregnancy Tests: If you purchase pregnancy tests, that’s an additional cost that is usually more than $15…depends where you purchase it from.

~Vitamins: During this entire process, it’s essential that you take a pre-natal vitamin.  I don’t know any OB/GYN that wouldn’t recommend it.  However, this is of course, another additional cost.  You can purchase pre-natal vitamins in a lot of stores.  The price ranges I’ve seen are usually anywhere between $7- $13.

~Seeing the Phlebotomist: The costs listed above do not include any blood work you may be asked to do.  You may be asked to take blood tests to check your PROGESTERONE levels and ESTRADIOL levels.

~Insurance Coverage: Medical insurance companies always seem to have the “fine print” stuff…READ IT!  Reading this information will help you understand (& not necessarily agree with) what your insurance will & will not cover.  In my case, reading the “fine print” helped me understand that my portion for the IUI would be 20%.  Of course, it does not tell you the total amount of the IUI procedure…they just expect you’re going to pay the 20% no matter what.

~Finances: In relation to the previous tip, ASK your OB/GYN about the approximate cost of any of the medications or procedures that you may be recommended to take or complete.  If you receive a general answer like, “It depends on your plan or coverage,” request a more specific number.  It’s like the commercials for pest control…they usually offer free estimates.  Lol!  I would pursue the financial aspect of the process, especially if you don’t think you can afford it or you are currently having financial challenges.

I hope these tips HELP you gain some insight into the reality of how much low-cost fertility treatment can be.  Yes, this is the “low cost” treatment.  Injectable medications and IVF cost WAY more than taking clomid.  That’s probably why doctors suggest these types of treatment first.

I was going to include some of my RESEARCH in this post but it’s going to be way too long!  I’ll save it for the next post!  That way I can separate the costs from my personal research.  The research was really helpful for me.  The research is really good and I’ll give you more insight into my “self-diagnosis”.  Lol!

Next post: Research & My Self-Diagnosis


Clomid with IUI

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I forgot to mention that prior to starting any clomid cycle, my husband and I attended a workshop offered by the Pacific In Vitro Fertilization Institute.  It was FREE!  Basically one of doctors provided handouts in a lecture type setting using a powerpoint program.  The workshop was held at Kapi’olani Medical Center.  It was an hour presentation and then a brief Q&A.  Parking was also validated but I think we paid $1-2.  I believe it is by reservation only.  We went on our own, meaning we were not referred to the workshop.

Check out the website and click on the seminar tab located on the left column.  You must reserve a seat in the dates available online.  They also have ads in the Midweek.  I remember reserving 2 seats for us and receiving a call to confirm our attendance.  It was very well organized and there were probably about 10 couples there.  I hate to say this but we looked so much younger than the couples that attended.

Anyways!  The workshop was only about In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).  It was very specific and informative!  So informative, it freaked me out!  After attending the presentation I knew I was not going to do that (IVF).  In fact, I was relieved that I wasn’t at that point in the process.  For me it seemed very invasive.  I simply just wasn’t ready for that type of treatment.  Hence I was open to doing the clomid cycles.

Alright, getting back to Round 3 of Clomid with IUI.

So, hopefully I gave you a good general idea of what the process entails.  It’s not very different but it is more involved, for both you and your husband.  When my OPK was positive, I called and scheduled an IUI.  I really had to explain and convince the person over the phone that my OPK was positive.  I felt like that person didn’t believe me.  As soon as my IUI was scheduled, I was reminded of the specific timeline of the appointment, which I had already received in written form.

When you drop off the semen sample to the lab (prior to your appointment) it is “washed”.  Basically the semen is cleansed and put into a tube.  I’ll talk about this when I talk about some of the books I reviewed.

I arrived for my IUI and the appointment was about 30 minutes total.  I spent more time waiting than anything else.  The nurse took my weight and blood pressure then walked us to a room.  My husband & I waited for the OB/GYN to perform the IUI, at least five minutes.  When he came, he showed me the tube that contained the sperm and asked me to verify the information on it.  There’s a label that should contain your name and your husband’s name, birth dates, and other pertinent information.  You should NOT be looking at a tube that has someone else’s name on it…other wise, that’s a problem…for obvious reasons!  Lol!  I confirmed the information and he proceeded with the IUI.  The IUI was very similar to an HSG test.  The exam table is the regular one complete with stirrups, but it is lowered.  The OB/GYN put the speculum in and then the catheter.  The tube is then connected to the catheter and the sperm travels through the catheter to the cervix, where the sperm are released.  It didn’t hurt and was not in any way painful.   The IUI itself is only a few minutes long.  Like I said, waiting before and after the IUI is longer.

Anyways!  When all the sperm is in the cervix, the IUI is complete.  All the tools are removed (catheter and speculum) and you wait.  I was given a pillow to put behind my back and I was instructed to lie on my side at a 45 degree angle for 10 minutes.  A timer rang and I switched sides.  The purpose in doing this was to use gravity to help the sperm reach the egg.  After the second 10 minutes were done, we left.  After the IUI is done, you probably will not see or have the opportunity to talk with the OB/GYN.  For me, the IUI was conducted at a different office, and my regular OB/GYN was not located there and did not do the IUI.  So, if you have questions…ask them before or during the IUI.  Also, the OB/GYN will probably talk you through the procedure.  If they do not, ask them to tell you what’s going on as they do it.  It should not be a surprise to you and it’s important to be informed of what’s happening, especially with YOUR body. 🙂

Approximately 14 days/2 weeks after the IUI, expect your menses.  If no menses, take a pregnancy test.

By doing the IUI, I hoped my journey would take the pregnancy path.  Well, Round 3 of Clomid with IUI did not result in a positive pregnancy test.  Unfortunately, I got my menses.  It was so disheartening, disappointing, and stressful for me.  I was so over it.  I was ready to give up.  Nothing was working.  I wanted a referral.

Since it was Day 1 again, I scheduled and went in for a Day 3 exam.  I was still over it when I met with a fourth OB/GYN.  Ya, I met a different OB/GYN each time I was prescribed clomid.  (That was really frustrating.) Except this time, I was different.  I was determined to move to the next step.  As I explained the plan to the OB/GYN, I was informed that taking clomid with timed intercourse or IUI would be less effective the longer I did it.  So, logically, continuing with clomid didn’t seem the best way to move forward.  I don’t know why, but I decided to give it one more cycle.  Everything was all clear, and I got my 4th prescription of clomid.  I also decided my plan was changing.  I was not going to take clomid for 2 more cycles.  This was going to be my LAST prescription of clomid and if it didn’t work, I was getting a referral.  So, off I went with my clomid.  In my heart I knew it wasn’t going to work, but I did it anyways.

And I was right!  Round 4 of Clomid with IUI proved to be unsuccessful.  I also had a different OB/GYN perform the second IUI.  The process was the same…using the OPK, scheduling an IUI, doing the IUI, and then waiting.  Waiting is definitely a crazy time.  There were so many scenarios that ran through my mind…all the what ifs, good and bad.  For example, I thought if I did get pregnant, I could have a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.  I also thought about morning sickness, additional tests I would be asked to take, how it would affect my work.  The list goes on and on.  All of theses thoughts are very realistic and very pertinent, but not always helpful.  I think it can be detrimental at times because the thoughts don’t allow your body to relax.  It reminds me of that moment on a roller coaster right after you’re locked into the ride.  There’s no going back.  It’s nerve-racking.  You’re excited, yet unsure of what to expect.  To help ease my mind and body I constantly distracted myself by keeping busy with other things, unrelated to my thoughts.  See, if you have time to think, that’s what’s going to occupy your mind…well it did for me.  In order to limit my mind from going on a tangent, I mastered some of my talents, exercised, etc.  It was temporary but effective.  Prayer was also very effective.

From very early on in our efforts to have a baby, I quickly learned that I had little to no control over the outcome.  I thought I did, but I didn’t.  I constantly conducted (and still do) self-reflection.  The purpose of my self-reflection was to see how my thoughts, feelings, and actions were affecting my behavior and attitude toward this entire process.  I also find this to be helpful in other aspects of my life.  So, from there I tried REALLY hard to adjust my behavior and attitude to obtain a new perspective on my experience.  Simply changing my thoughts and actions did not (& do not) alone change my behavior.  I needed more strength than that.  I prayed everyday, many times throughout the day.  I needed to stay focused on the important things and not let my thoughts or other influences bombard me.  I recognized that I was getting impatient, frustrated, and ultimately stressed out.  I needed help to have faith in God.  So, praying alleviated my stresses and I received the peace and comfort I so desperately craved.

When my menses came and I knew I was not pregnant, I was much more overwhelmed than I portrayed.  I put up a front that I was ready for the next step.  In reality, moving forward in the process and getting a referral meant that I would have to accept what was really happening with my body.  I didn’t want to face what I knew was coming…IVF.  I kept telling myself I wasn’t ready…I didn’t want to be ready.  I wanted everything else to work so I didn’t have to experience IVF.

Next: Costs & Research

Promoting Positive Attachment

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Hello!  Think of this as a commercial break or advertisement in between a show, except better! Lol!

I recently attended a workshop on Promoting Positive Attachment.

I want to share some of the information with you!  This may seem a bit odd coming from me…but I think it’s important and pertinent to mothers everywhere.

Below is an eight and a half minute video entitled, “Brighten Baby’s World”.  It talks about attachment between babies and their caregivers, baby blues, and other interesting facts.  It’s a good video made in Hawaii by Small Boat Productions, LLC in partnership with GBA (Good Beginnings Alliance).

Resources:

The Parent Line is also another great resource for families!  It is available Statewide!

Oahu – (808) 526-1222

Neighbor Islands (toll free) – 1-800-816-1222

Also, if you or any one you know has experienced Post Partum Depression (PPD), PLEASE refer them to :

PPD Support HI – www.PPDsupportHI.org  (Also provides support in the areas of: miscarriage, infertility, new moms, and pre-natal)

(808) 392-1291

Open 8am – 8pm, daily

Dads are also welcome!

 

Next post: Clomid with IUI


Clomid…Round 2

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You’ve probably noticed that I use “I” & “we” interchangeably.  This experience is something my husband and I have gone through TOGETHER!  I apologize if it confuses you!

I felt impressed to seek information and knowledge through reading, so I did.  In my research I went to the library and borrowed a few books.  While reading the books, I searched specific terms on the internet.  I will discuss some of the books I read on upcoming posts, not this one.

When my menses arrived on Day 29, I was so bummed.  I tried not to be pessimistic about it.  I just shook it off and told myself… I was being unrealistic in thinking it would work on the first try.  I wanted it to work on the first try but it didn’t and there wasn’t anything I could do to change that.  Was it worth getting all worked up over?  No, but I was still bummed.  It took a lot of personal energy to jump into the next cycle.

It was Day 1, again.  I followed the same process and called to schedule my Day 3 exam, except this time I met with a different OB/GYN.  Meeting with a different OB/GYN can be a common occurrence when taking medication such as clomid.  Everyone’s menses comes at different times, which can mean your regular OB/GYN may not be available on Day 4 to perform the exam.  It was annoying because I had to explain the entire process up to that point.  Nevertheless, I complied.  Everything was all good and I was prescribed clomid for the second time.

Round 2 of clomid brought the same outcome…not pregnant!

My menses arrive on Day 28 and so did a flood of emotions.  It was harder than the last time because I had something to compare it to.  It was really an emotional roller coaster.  Actually, I think it was more like a huge wave, crashing on the shore in slow motion.  I was flabbergasted.  I just shook my head in disbelief.  I couldn’t believe it didn’t work, again.  I was skeptical and began to doubt the success of the medication.  I thought…what would be the outcome of the continued use of clomid?  Would I really become pregnant using this medication?  I purposely talked with friends I knew were prescribed clomid and it was successful for them.  I found out from a friend that after 6 months of consecutively using clomid, her OB/GYN recommended that she take a break from the medication before starting it again.  I think her ovaries needed to rest.  So, I anticipated that I would be required to do the same.  I even assumed that since it worked for my friend, it would work for me. (Don’t do that!  Don’t assume.  Lol!)

I again scheduled and went to my Day 3 exam where I met another OB/GYN, yup, a third one.  This time was a little different because the original plan was taking clomid 2-3 times and trying to conceive on our own, and then taking clomid 2-3 times with IUI.  I again explained my situation, prior experiences, and plan.  I had to be my own advocate because I was the only one who knew what the plan was.  I didn’t want to be persuaded to take clomid any longer than the 4-6 months as planned.  I was adamant about that because for me the processes was already taking too long, not to mention it was testing my patience.  Well, I received my third prescription of clomid with some additional instructions for the IUI.

Reluctantly, I continued…Round 3 of clomid with IUI.

For Intrauterine Insemination, often referred to as IUI there are a few extra steps.  Here is what the Clomid cycle looked like with IUI:

Day 1: (of your menstrual cycle) You call the the clinic for an examination on Day 3-4.

Day 3-7 or 4-8: You take Clomid.  The dosage depends on you.  Mine was 50mg.  It is a white pill about the size of a dime, maybe even a little smaller.  You take it the same time every day for 5 days, starting the day of your exam.  So, be sure to set your alarm.

Day 12:  Start using the ovulation predictor kits to test the LH surge.  When the OPK is positive, call the clinic to schedule an appointment for IUI.  The hours of operation were provided.  The appointment was under my name, I believe it’s always under the woman’s name.  My husband needed to drop off his semen sample two hours before the scheduled appointment.  The sperm also needed to be what they call “fresh” meaning within 1 hour of ejaculation.  As the patient you are also responsible to consider travel time, including traffic.  The appointment will most likely be scheduled for 1-2 days after you call the clinic.  I believe it’s 24-36 hours after your OPK was positive.

Day 27-28: Expect your menses.  If no menses, take a pregnancy test at home or at the clinic.  If your menses occurs, you start back at Day 1 again.

It was draining, emotionally and physically.

My feelings were so complex.  As much as I felt motivated to continue, I also felt frustrated.  I thought there was something wrong with me.  I began to feel alone in my experience, like no one could possibly understand.  Feelings of doubt began to creep into my mind as I contemplated why.  Why was it so necessary that I experience all of this?  I blamed myself.  I felt like it was all my fault, that I was the problem in the equation.  After all, I was technically considered infertile and the semen analysis revealed no concern there.  By the way, being referred to as infertile does not necessarily mean that you can’t have children ever.  It’s the term used for couples that have been unsuccessfully trying to conceive for at least a year.  We were way past that time frame.

Next post: Clomid with IUI


Step 3 – The Clomid Experience

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Welcome back!  Congratulations for making it this far! Lol!

Ok, on to Step 3.  Clomid was definitely an experience for me.  A lot of things happened during this portion of my journey.  I’m going to have to explain this entire process, personal feelings, and my research in a few posts.  One just isn’t going to cut it! 🙂  I hope it will be easy to follow along.

Here is the typical cycle of clomid…that I went through.

Day 1: (of your menstrual cycle) You call the clinic for an examination on Day 3-4.

Day 3-7 or 4-8: You take Clomid.  The dosage depends on you.  Mine was 50mg.  It is a white pill about the size of a dime, maybe even a little smaller.  You take it the same time every day for 5 days, starting the day of your exam.  So, be sure to set your alarm.

Day 12:  Start using the ovulation predictor kits to test the LH surge.  When the OPK is positive, you have intercourse every other day for at least a week.

Day 27-28: Expect your menses.  If no menses, take a pregnancy test at home or at the clinic.  If your menses occurs, you start back at Day 1 again.

On Day 1 of my period, I called the office and scheduled an exam.  Day 1 of your menses is a flow of blood, not spotting.  Calling and scheduling an appointment should not be difficult.  It wasn’t for me, so on Day 4 I went to the exam.  You remove your clothing from the waist down, obviously and the OB/GYN checks your ovaries by pushing down on your skin with their hands.  They also check by putting their finger or portion of their hand into the vagina (with gloves, it’s required and sanitary).  I experienced both, simultaneously.  It doesn’t hurt but it can be uncomfortable.  I believe the exam lasted maybe 3 minutes at the most.  It’s really brief when everything is good and normal.  One of the purposes of the examination is to make sure your ovaries are not enlarged.  The OB/GYN will inform you if your ovaries are good and then prescribe clomid for you.  So, I got my first prescription of clomid…with a plan.  The plan was to take clomid for 4-6 cycles, or about 4-6 months.  I do not profess to be the most patient person, but I could handle the plan.

I’m sure if there are concerns during the exam, the appointment would be longer.  Also, I think your OB/GYN would stop the medication if there are concerns.  I’m not exactly familiar with that because I didn’t experience any complications with the medicine.

Ok, getting back to the clomid experience.  For me, using clomid was a very simple process, but quite structured.  I was informed that taking clomid would increase our chances of becoming pregnant, to about 25%.  I was enthusiastic about the increased success rate and that it was still considered a natural method of conceiving.  Oh ya, I forgot to mention…my OB/GYN requested that  my husband take a semen analysis to rule out any male factors in the equation.  We soon found out that the semen analysis was good and not a factor in our journey to conceive.  As I was saying, I was glad about our chances and that we were moving forward in the process.

I thought, given all the results of the tests that were completed…clomid was going to work.  In fact, I expected to be expecting.  Lol, that sounds funny.  Wouldn’t you, if your OB/GYN told you everything was normal?  My husband and I followed the clomid cycle to a tee.

We waited until Day 28 to see what would happen.


ALL the Results

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As you read in the last post, I completed all the requested tests.  Keep in mind that I had already taken the blood test and used the OPKs the previous month/cycle.  I knew the progesterone level result and I was not pregnant.  When I was contacted with results of the HSG, I already knew what the OB/GYN was going to tell me.  (The radiologist told me to act surprised!  So, I did.  Lol!)  I just didn’t know what the plan was.

A follow up appointment with my OB/GYN was scheduled.  At my appointment I was told that the results were all normal and becoming pregnant was promising.  Well, since we were trying to conceive naturally and that wasn’t happening, I was recommended to take Clomid to help increase our chances.  We discussed the process of Clomid and that it would help with ovulation.  We were open to it, so we gave it a try.

Yet, I was puzzled.  Things just didn’t jive in my head.  I still didn’t understand why it was so difficult for us to become pregnant.  I couldn’t grasp the idea that for no apparent reason, I wasn’t pregnant.  I started to wonder…I had a feeling there was something else affecting my ability to become pregnant.  I knew what wasn’t wrong, which was helpful…but I didn’t know what was wrong.  I was uncertain about what was really going on.  Of course all these thoughts were only in my head & in a number of conversations with my husband.  I didn’t share it with my OB/GYN.

As I reflect back on this time, I should have said something.  Maybe I would have skipped a step or two…maybe not.  It’s too late for should’ve, could’ve, would’ve stuff.  The fact is, I didn’t.  Partially because I didn’t know what she wanted from me.  She was the professional and I trusted her expert opinion.

I advise you to share additional information with your OB/GYN, more than they ask for.  For example, if you’re asked about how long your period lasts or how often it occurs, BE HONEST.  If you experience cramps, tell your OB/GYN everything about your cramps.  If you have mid-cycle bleeding, let your OB/GYN know.  Your OB/GYN needs to know what you are really going through.  If they don’t know it limits their ability to help you.  I understand that this may not always be the case.  You may have told your OB/GYN everything and you feel you’re not being heard or not getting anywhere.

It’s easy to say what I could have done now, because I know now.  But when you’re in the moment experiencing it, it’s much harder to recognize.  Hence the phrase: hind site is 20/20.

So, forward march on to Step 3…Clomid

In the meantime, I started my own research…I wanted to know why.

Next post: The Clomid Experience


The 2nd HSG

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Sticking to the written instructions I was given, I did the following:

  • Between day 9 – 18, I had to use the OPK (Ovulation Predictor Kits) and have intercourse every other day.  Sounds fun?  Well, it’s quite structured and may seem kind of crazy but those were the instructions.
  • Between day 18 – 22, I went to the lab and did blood work to check my progesterone levels.

I had to postpone my next OB/GYN appointment because my HSG test didn’t go as planned and needed to be rescheduled.  So, I waited and when my next menses arrived, I scheduled my 2nd HSG.

Like I said (in my previous post), I needed a plan for my 2nd HSG.  I thought about the first experience and did not want a repeat of that.  So the 2nd time around my husband & I decided we would fast.

Fasting is going without food and drink for 2 consecutive meals.  In other words, you skip breakfast and lunch and just eat dinner.  Fasting should be done with a purpose in mind and with faith in God.  We asked certain family members to join in our fast, namely our parents. Fasting also includes and involves prayer, which is an essential part of my life.    The purpose of our fast was the HSG test.  We prayed and hoped the Lord would help the doctors perform the test successfully and with minimal pain for me.  There were other prayers offered as well.

The day arrived for my 2nd HSG test.  I was calm and knew everything would be ok.  My mom came with me to my appointment and relaxed in the waiting room.  I returned to the same room and went through the same preparatory procedures.  When all the tools were ready, the OB/GYN was called.  He, yes he, introduced himself, explained what he was going to do and some of the things I could expect.  (He sterilized the area.)  As he put the speculum in he kept me informed by talking me through every step of the process.  He asked how I felt and on his first attempt, got the catheter into cervix.  Once there, he inflated a very small ballon like object which was connected to the catheter.  Inflating the balloon was like plugging the drain when you want a bubble bath!  You don’t want anything to escape.  The tip of the catheter  is where the dye was released.  It looked like a really small cotton swab on the TV to my right. At this point the speculum was removed.  When ready, a clear (I think it was glass) bottle that contained the dye was connected to the catheter.  The dye traveled through the catheter, into the cervix and to the fallopian tubes.  About three bottles of the dye were put it and at least 2-3 x-rays were taken.  I experienced very minimal cramping with the dye.  After all the necessary images were taken and the equipment was returned to it proper places,  the radiologist chatted with me.  He told me what the process would be for finding out the results.  Basically, the radiologist would review the x-rays, write up a brief report, and send the report to my OB/GYN.  This would take a couple of days and then the OB/GYN would call me with the results.

That was pretty much the end of the appointment, so I thought.  The radiologist reviewed the x-rays and told me the results while I was still lying on the metal table.  It was just what I wanted to hear…the test was good and my tubes were open.  Hooray!  I felt relieved, grateful, and blessed.  Everything went smoothly, with hardly any pain, and I got the results.  My/Our prayers were answered.

In this post I included a brief introduction about fasting.  I know some of you may not believe in God.  I, however, will not deny the power and presence of God, especially in my life.  Spiritual strength and guidance is a necessary ingredient in my journey.  Just because it is not mentioned in every post, it is always there.

Next post:  ALL the results


Still on Step 2

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Before I dive into the details of the HSG, I’d like to make a side note.

I really appreciate your encouragement, support, and positive energy! 🙂  I know some of you may not believe this, but I’m a pretty private person.  I don’t feel the need to share my life stories with anyone and everyone!  You may be thinking in disbelief, “yeah, right.”  But it’s true.  Writing this blog is quite the adventure for me…an important adventure.  As I’ve traveled this journey, I’ve learned a lot.  I realize that infertility is not a popular topic of discussion in many settings.  Nor is it always comfortable for those who experience infertility, to talk about it.  In upcoming posts, I will explain and hopefully clarify some of the feelings I’ve had throughout this journey.  Thank you for allowing me to share my journey with you.

Alright, back to the HSG test!  When the OB/GYN arrived, she introduced herself while she sterilized the area then put the speculum (which was also cold, it’s metal) in.  She slided the catheter into the vagina and pushed it up toward the cervix.  However, she couldn’t get it where she needed it to go.  She tried a number of times by pushing it and maneuvering it in the area between the vagina and cervix.  She took the catheter out and tried with a different catheter.  I believe there were different sized catheters available to the OB/GYN, as needed.  Even with a different catheter, she was unable to complete the HSG test.  The OB/GYN’s attempts to get the catheter to my cervix caused bleeding.  It was painful.  I figured it was temporary, which it was, so I just took the pain.  Since there was bleeding, she put a flat rectangular-shaped pad underneath me to soak up the blood.  It was not a lot of blood but it hindered her attempts.  She tried at least one more time without success and then decided I should reschedule my HSG test.  She removed the speculum and recommended I rest a little before I got up.  So that was it!

I was grateful and relieved the OB/GYN stopped the HSG test.  When I stood up, the radiology assistant (sorry, I can’t think of the appropriate title) felt really bad.  She apologized and asked if I was ok.  I told her I was fine.  She gave me a pad for additional blood and I changed.  On my way out she apologized again and gave me a $5 off coupon.  I was surprised and thanked her.

On the drive home, I felt good physically but my mind was full of thoughts.  It never occurred to me that I would have to do the test again.  I went in for my appointment with a purpose and expected to come out with an answer about my fallopian tubes.  Instead, I had a bunch of questions in my head.  My main thoughts were, “Why was there such a problem doing the test?” and “Is there something else going on?”  I didn’t have an answer to either of those questions.  What could I do?  Nothing really, I had to wait until my next cycle (between day 7-12) and do it all over again.  I was worried.  How would it go the second time around?  What would the results be?  I was not confident I could cope with the results.  It was frustrating but I decided to be patient and let it go.  I needed a plan for the next HSG test.

Next post: The 2nd HSG