Thursday, June 5, 2014

Organizing the Medicine Closet

When you're a teacher and it's summertime, you're at the pool. If it's raining, you're working on Pinterest projects. And that's just the way it is. 

So summer Pinterest project number one is household organization. Today I tackled the laundry room, my medicine cabinet, my spice cabinet, my makeup space and the bathroom cabinets. Yes, I'm a wild one. 

Push-pin boxes to save space
Laundry room/Pantry: My pantry is so tiny and is maxed out with food, so we use our little laundry room closet shelves for things like zip lock baggies, foil, plastic wrap, etc. I saw this idea on Pinterest to pin up your zip lock baggies with push pins to save space. I took it to the extreme and just started pinning everything to the wall. Whatever. It works. ;-)

 Medicine Cabinet:
If you're like me and have to take a bunch of supplements outside of a daily multivitamin, you probably have found that your medicine cabinet is overrun with bottles. I originally started out wanting to put my bottles in a 3m drawer organizer, but I couldn't find an organizer that would work right in the space and still fit all the bottles.. Instead I just labeled baggies with the vitamin and dosage and put the baggies into an organizer. Supplements done.


Now those boxes of medicine. Oh man, how I hate those suckers. They take up space and then once you dig through and find what you need, you have to open those difficult blister packs to get the pills out. I decided to cut the box's label and drug information out and put the pills inside there. Takes up way less space and I can still figure out what dosage to take later on. I wasn't motivated enough to open up all the pills, but if you wanted to, more power to you!

Overall After

I found a space saver shelf meant for dishes and decided this would be a good thing to use for my makeup, brushes, and face product. 

Hopefully the sun is out tomorrow so that I can do more exciting things with my time. :)


Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Price of Everything, The Value of Nothing

The time has come to finally face the giant that has been in the back of our minds since we first realized we were struggling with infertility. This week we looked IVF (In-Vetro Fertilization) square in the eyes and said, "We're not scared of you!" ... But we were bluffing. We're a little scared. 

Diagram of the IUI process
With our third IUI largely expected to fail in 8 short days, we knew it was time to take the steps to get ready for the big, culminating event of IVF. For those who aren't familiar with the world of infertility, IUI stands for Intra-Uterine Insemination which is a process where the doctors pick the very best time of the month for us ladies, pick the very best, strongest swimmers, and place them directly at the site of action through a catheter through the cervix. Tons of fun. 

I'm going to explain the reasons why doctor's think that trying naturally and IUI will usually not work with women with endometriosis. So if you're not interested, keep scrolling. 
Hey, guess what? Did you know that your fallopian tubes and your ovaries aren't connected? Well they're not. The endometrial growths on the outside of the uterus and ovaries are a very toxic environment. When the egg releases from the ovary on its way to the fallopian tube, it has to travel through these toxins. Doctors believe these toxins sort of poison the outside of the egg, making it very difficult for the egg to fertilize. Since IUI is a MUCH less expensive route than IVF, most fertility specialists will advise you to try IUI at least 3 times to give yourself every opportunity to get pregnant "naturally." 

These were the syringes and needles that we got to practice with at our class
So, with our 3rd IUI cycle about to come to an end with presumably negative results, we went ahead and signed up to take the IVF class which was last Wednesday. BOY, those nurses really know how to throw a bunch of overwhelming information at you in a short span of time. We spent 3 hours learning about the typical calendar protocol for a text-book IVF cycle, and also learned how to give myself shots in my arms, stomach, thighs and butt. So basically I'm going to be a human pin cushion for the next two months. 

It all starts with antibiotics,
condoms, and birth control pills. Ironic that the process that is supposed to give us a baby starts with two methods of contraception, but it's true. The birth control pills are to suppress your body from making eggs so that when the time comes to stimulate the ovaries, all the follicles (egg sacs in common vernacular.) will grow evenly. The condoms and antibiotics are apparently because men are gross and carry bacteria. I'm kidding. No, I'm actually not. It's really for that reason. 

Follicles on an ovary seen in ultrasound
After 3 weeks of suppression, I will go for an ultrasound to be sure that my ovary (I've only got one, don't forget) is a nice, blank slate. My awesome nurse, Kelli, will then teach me once more about how to measure out and mix the medicine I will need in the syringes. A huge box of oral medications, needles, syringes, and vials of medicine will come to my house and will have everything I will need for the cycle. I'll use those injections for about 2 weeks, coming in for ultrasound checks every few days, until the follicles are at the right size to take them out. (Called "retrieval.") The doctor is hopeful that I will produce 10-12 follicles, but it's a wait and see kind of thing. 

ICSI - Sperm being injected into the egg
At that time, they will put me under sedation in a surgical center and with a hollow needle will go in through ultrasound guidance and suck out all of the eggs that they can get...and that's about as delicately as I can put that, because that's literally what they do. Then, they will hand pick a good lookin' swimmer and that lucky guy will be injected with a needle directly into the egg. This process is called ICSI.

By the next day, they will be able to tell me how many of the eggs were successfully fertilized. From there they will watch the embryos grow for 3-5 days. Some will grow successfully, some will not. At 5 days they will bring me in and will put the best looking 1 or 2 embryos back into my body. (Called "transfer.") Once the transfer is complete, it's about an 8 day wait. Then I will do a blood pregnancy test to determine if the procedure was successful or not. 
Embryos in the IVF lab before transfer

So now you know what all IVF entails. What I didn't mention is that IVF is INCREDIBLY expensive. I have been so stressed out lately about the financial aspect of this -- what if it doesn't work? How are we going to make this work financially? We'll never be able to afford to do this twice. If we have to do IVF, we won't be able to do x, y, and z. etc. etc. I have been so consumed with thinking about the money that I haven't really stopped to think about the fact that this is so possible, and SO WORTH IT. Our dreams of being parents are almost within reach. All we have to do is be willing to step out in faith.

Today in church, our pastor was preaching a sermon on "golden gods." He preached from Ecclesiastes, where he read about Solomon, the wealthiest man in history. Solomon is suspected to have written the book of Ecclesiastes, although this has never been confirmed. In the book, he looks back on his life at all of the wealth and treasures and things he had acquired for himself and said that it is all "meaningless." Pastor Gunter also said, "We have come to know the price of everything, but the value of nothing." 
How silly to put a price tag on a baby. Yes, there is a monitary figure that we will pay at the end of the day, but what else could be a better use of our money? Instead of dwelling on the PRICE of IVF, we have to focus our attention on the VALUE of the end product. There is no limit to the value of a human being, the value of being a Mommy, the value of being a Daddy. So we are stepping out in faith, trusting that God will not only provide us with resources for this procedure, but also that God will open the storehouses of heaven and pour out his blessings on us in the form of our child. We are so excited about what the future holds for us. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Endometriosis Diet...My Own Personal Hell

I adore food. Seriously. Authentic tacos that come wrapped in foil. Burgers with bacon and goat cheese. Thin crust pizza with mushrooms and pepperoni. Chips and salsa. Juicy steak with goranzola butter. Pasta in any way, shape or form, always with garlic bread. Warm chocolate chip cookies, my mom's homemade ice cream, sushi, and did I mention garlic bread?

Now stop and think for a second. How many of these mentioned foods have sugar? How many have gluten? How many contain dairy? Red meat? If you take away these foods, what does that leave? Salsa without chips and sushi. So just call me Christina-San, because that's what I'll turn into after all the sushi that I'm getting ready to consume. It turns out that many dieticians and some doctors believe that cutting out red meat, caffeine, sugar, dairy, and gluten can seriously cut out the side effects of endometriosis. Foods that contain these things can lead to increased inflammation which can exacerbate the pain associated with endometriosis, as well as infertility.

So, my mission, should I choose to accept it, is to embark on a journey of fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit, and...sushi.

To be honest, I know virtually nothing about a gluten free diet except that my life is about to be void of my beloved garlic bread. You'd think that I'd know pretty much how to cut out dairy, sugar, red meat, and caffeine, but it turns out that some really stupid questions have arisen in my mind about these things. I mean, really stupid questions! Like...bacon. Do I really have to say goodbye to bacon? It seems like a red meat to me. But if I say goodbye to bacon, then do I also have to live sans pork chops too? Oiy! As it turns out, the United States Department of Agriculture classifies pork as red meat. (DARN!) However, many dieticians consider the very leanest cuts of pork, such as pork tenderloin, to be on par with chicken, and therefore acceptable. (YAY!)

Last week, on my slow decline back to normal food-reality after the holidays, the thought of cutting all of these things out of my diet simultaneously is a thought that almost brought me to tears.

Here's last week's progress....and a few confessions:

Let's start with the good news first. Red Meat: I cut out all red meat successfully without any slip-ups. I bought ground turkey for shell-less taco salad and bun-less burgers, and I had turkey bacon at Cracker Barrel instead of the real-deal, slap your momma, glorious pig bacon. (I'm still drying those tears.)
Caffeine, dairy, and the hard core facts: I limited my caffeine to one cup of coffee in the morning, and then switched to drinking only water for the rest of the day. And that's the way it's going to stay, people, because no one should live in a totally caffeine-free world. Really, it's for your sake, not mine. I limited my dairy to a couple of tablespoons of coffee creamer in my morning cup of coffee, and occasional cheese on salad.
Sugar: In the name of not being wasteful, I used up the last of my coffee creamer, which did have sugar. Okay, and if you're going to hound me, I had one tiny, harmless scoop of strawberry ice cream. (Whoops, that's diary too! Ugh, failure.) Let's focus on the positives, though! I passed up my husbands chocolate orange which I could have totally stolen off the coffee table when he got up to go to the bathroom. High fives all around.
Gluten: In my defense, I did a very poor job of educating myself on gluten before starting the week. I wanted to kind of ease myself into this, so I just tried to avoid the obvious things, like carbs. So my meals basically consisted of lots of vegetables and chicken or fish. Here's where I slipped up: I had a baguette with my tomato soup from Panera. I just couldn't resist. Here's what I passed up: My husband's bangin' good blueberry pancakes at Cracker Barrel that makes my mouth water just thinking about it a day later.

In summary...Week One: Red Meat Free
Weight Loss: None
Energy Level: Average

Okay, so next week! Let's be forward thinkers, shall we?  Next week my goal is to completely
eliminate gluten, sugar, and red meat, and continue to strictly limit my dairy and caffeine intake. I have already bought my sugar free coffee creamer, and the remaining strawberry ice cream is melting in the sink as we speak. I am going to thoroughly research the gluten-free diet tonight, do my grocery shopping for the week tomorrow, and hit the ground running.

My ultrasound for my second IUI is tomorrow, which means the two week wait is right around the corner. Let's see if a healthy diet can help with a big, fat, positive pregnancy test!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Mr & Mrs

Thanks, Pinterest! 

I got the letters at Hobby Lobby. The & sign was 15 dollars, which was a little pricey, I'll admit. BUT, I got the little letters for a steal of a price at 4 dollars a piece, bringing the whole project to 35 dollars. Not too shabby.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Ovaries, Endometriosis, and Polyps...Oh, My!

At the end of October, 2013, I went through the most anticipated experience of our trying to conceive journey thus far -- laproscopic surgery to diagnose and remove endometriosis. Though I haven't experienced the crippling pain most people associate with endometriosis, I have had many other symptoms that clued my doctor in to this diagnosis being a possibility.

I was nervous about the surgery -- what they would find. What they wouldn't find. The pain. The outlook on our fertility. There were so many emotions that went into this experience that it was difficult to navigate through them. I felt very at ease, though, with our doctor and his expertise in the area of endometriosis. If anyone was going to know what to do and how best to "fix" me, it would be Dr. Hill.

So I went through the surgery and two hours later I came out with the prognosis that I had waited a year for. I did, indeed, have endometriosis, in addition to finding out that I only had one ovary, a polyp inside my uterus, and an "undesirable endometiral lining." My left ovary, the only remaining one, was completely attached to my pelvic wall with endometriosis. There were also several patches of scar tissue on the outside of my uterus. Dr. Hill removed all of the endometriosis that he could find, detached my ovary from my pelvic wall, removed the polyp, and did a D&C to remove the endometrial lining on the inside of my uterus. He feels confident that one of the reasons for my infertility is from my ovary not being in an optimal spot to release an egg where it could be picked up by the fallopian tube. (Which was thankfully in tact and endometriosis-free.) When I left that day my doctor told me that I was as "cleaned up as I could be."
They frown on makeup during surgery. Something I greatly protested!

From there I had a week's recovery. We tried naturally to conceive the month of my surgery, which was unsuccessful.

Last month, December, we had our first round of Clomid and IUI. (Intra-Uterine Insemination) Though I had previous had three cycles with Clomid and ovulated successfully on it, my ovary was never in the right position to get the eggs to the fallopian tube. Now after the surgery, they were supposedly where they could be picked up and ready for fertilization. In addition to the ovary and eggs being in the right place, we had the added benefit of going through IUI where they take all of the strong swimmers and place them directly in the opening of the fallopian tube so that there are more sperm, and therefore higher chances of conceiving. I think we were both excited to be doing something different and felt like our chances were better post-surgery and with IUI, but it was unfortunately unsuccessful.

After 15 months of seeing countless negative pregnancy tests, one becomes sort of "numb" to the whole thing. I wasn't overly disappointed when our first IUI round failed, but every month has its own separate and individualized sting so I can't say I escaped completely unscathed.

Knowing that God has a plan and a reason for all of this is what keeps me going. He is requiring me to rest on Him entirely. This is a situation that is almost entirely out of my control, and so complete trust is necessary. This has been the lesson of 2013 for me, and one that I will continue learning the rest of my life. I thank God for His presence and His provision in my life, and I'm looking forward to the day when I can look back on this and see its purpose and worth.

Our plan at this point is to go through IUI with Clomid again next week. If it's unsuccessful, we will try one last cycle of IUI with Clomid in February. If that is also unsuccessful, we are pre-scheduled for our first Invetro Fertilization (IVF) round in March. It feels good to have a "plan" when I really can't "PLAN" anything. Eventually God is going to lead us out of the wilderness. Until that day, I just have to keep trusting in His unfailing love.

...And that's that!

Living Scripture

"17 In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field
    and the fertile field seem like a forest?
18 In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
    and out of gloom and darkness
    the eyes of the blind will see."

and again in verse 23:

"23 When they see among them their children,
    the work of my hands,
they will keep my name holy;
    they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob,
    and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. "

I want our little ones to come when the time is right. And when that time comes, I hope they have THESE DIMPLES!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Baby Love...You Got Me On My Knees

All of my life when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I could never really come up with an occupation. Of course there were times that I wanted to be a dolphin trainer at Sea World or silly things like this, but the only thing that remained throughout the years was that I wanted to be a wife and a mother.

Almost 13 months ago, Bobby and I decided we wanted to start a family. We were staring down some medical concerns which prompted us to want to get started faster than we had originally planned, but God worked right away to remove these boundaries for us. We thought the worst of our fear was over when it came to trying to conceive, however, month after month passed with no luck and even with the help of my OBGYN and a fertility medication, we still couldn't get pregnant. 

During this year of trying to have a baby, I had Nashville Fertility in the back of my mind, but months would come and go and we'd say to ourselves, "Let's give it just one more month..." The month would come and go with more disappointing news. Finally, when my OBGYN told us she had done all she could do, we knew it was time to reach out to the experts. 

In early September of 2013 we went for our first appointment to Nashville Fertility Center. 
Our first appointment at NFC - September 2013

We met with a very nice nurse who asked us both a million questions, and then met with our fantastic doctor who asked a million more questions and gave us about 2 trees worth of pamphlets to look over, but whose demeanor was such that we were immediately put at ease. After some time, an ultrasound, physical exam, and looking through all of my previous tests and paperwork, he told us that he had a strong suspicion that I have endometriosis. (In short, growths and adhesions on the outside of the uterus that impair the function of the ovaries and fallopian tubes.) 

The only way to diagnose endometriosis with certainty is through surgery where, if it is found, can be cut or lazered out. The outlook on fertility after the removal depends on the severity of the case. It is possible that we could go on to conceive naturally after the surgery, or we could be facing invetro-fertilization as our only option to have a biological child. In some very severe cases, some women are unable to have children at all. It all depends on what they find when they get into surgery, which in my case will be in a little over two weeks on October 28th.

While it's a scary situation to face an unknown outlook, it's also nice to know that there is a medical reason for this and that it is often treatable. It's also nice to know that the cause of our infertility is not simply "impatience." If I had a dime for the number of people who have told me, "You're just stressing out over it. Stop 'trying' and it will happen,"...well, I would have a lot of dimes. (By the way, that's probably the worst thing you could say to someone in our situation. Things I suggest saying instead include, "I'm going to pray for you." "I can't imagine how hard this must be for you." "You are strong, and I know you're going to get through this." "I don't know why this is happening, but know that I love you.")

I have felt the grip of infertility and have experienced it's all-consuming nature. It's the first thing on my mind when I wake up, and the last thing I pray about when I fall asleep. With every pregnancy announcement, my heart breaks a little more and with every passing month it becomes harder to hold on to God's promises. I know that God has a plan for our lives. I know that He is faithful. He will bring us out of this valley and one day, at the end of all of this, while it may not make total sense, it will be worth it.

Someone told me not long ago, "All of this struggle to get pregnant will seem like a distant memory when you're finally holding your baby that you've waited so long for." While I'm eager for the pain, frustration, and the feeling of impatience to go away, I'm not eager to forget this journey. I guess documenting these months is a sure way to preserve this stage in our lives so that we have it to look back on.