Thursday, July 31, 2014

"It's time for the EGG ROLL!"

 I recently purchased THIS:
Restoring Fertility by Drs. Brandon Horn, PhD, LAc (FABORM) and Wendy Yu PhD(c), LAc (FABORM)

Doesn't the cover - cased only in eco-friendly cardboard with minimal thus eco-friendly packaging - calm you?

The Amazon reviews on this 2-DVD set intrigued me, and I couldn't help but wonder whether this was the modern day version of snake-oil salesmanship:

"I was declared completely infertile by not one, but two fertility doctors. My FSH is 19 and AT BEST, they said I had a 3 to 5 percent chance on my own. They told me a donor egg was the only way to go and likened my ability of getting pregnant to a "false glimmer of hope"

"This is a wonderful DVD that really works to keep your cycle in balance. At 42, I got pregnant naturally by using this DVD everyday for a few months."

"My husband and doctor are more inclined to think it is a coincidence, but the fact remains that we had been trying to get pregnant for a year, and after doing this DVD every day for 2 months, I got pregnant. I decided to try yoga before moving on to any medical fertility treatments, and I did the DVD pretty faithfully for 2 months (I missed a few days here and there). I was still doing the video in the 3rd month until we got a positive pregnancy test."

These DVDs are highly touted on a few of the support boards I frequent. I was most intrigued by the fact that there is a separate set of exercises for each phase of your menstrual cycle.  The guy who put it together, Brandon Horn, has something of a name for himself in the world of traditional Chinese medicine and fertility. Plus he's operating out of LA (and I often think of California as ground zero for the confluence of aging zen mamas - as opposed to the rust-belt city where I now reside and view as mostly ground zero for the really tired and pissed-off mamas).    And his clinic is called the Lotus Center for Integrative Medicine and  isn't that a pretty name? "What the hell," I figured, "it's not like adding yoga to my summer of wellness can hurt." 

So, I entered into this thing totally prepared to write some snarky comments about hokey hippy-dippy yoga videos produced at Lotus Centers.  And yet, I honestly can't. Because these videos are actually (gulp) really good.

Niblet has some basic biological understanding of reproduction including the part about how the sperm has to meet the egg.  Because I won't lie to her, she also understands that some of my diet and activities are geared towards making my body healthy enough to carry a baby.  So she watched in rapt attention when I cleared a space on our living room floor and started the video on Monday night (in my Luteal Phase, if anyone's wondering).  On the screen were three ridiculously calm and only slightly crunchy looking yoga chicks (one of whom is Wendy Yu - herself a renowned TCM practitioner who helps women with fertility issues). They walked me through a series of breathing, movement and posses which at my stage in the cycle, are designed to create an optimal, warm, cozy environment for a fertilized egg to implant (I'm paraphrasing here, but this is what the voice-over was telling me).  As someone who used to regularly take yoga classes but fell off the wagon, I would describe the actual yoga itself as "yoga-lite"  - no need to be a human pretzel, or stand on your head.  This is more akin to hatha yoga flow for the yogi readers out there.  I was coma- relaxed when I was done with the 30 minute set.

Were there some mildly goofy and somewhat distracting drumbeats accompanying the routine?  Sure.  And the video is not slick at all, the studio space they're in is small and the production value is well, pretty minimal looking.  But I watched the introduction given by Brandon Horn - wearing a white jacket in order to optimize your trust of him - describing the whole point of the endeavor. And I have to say, I was pretty impressed with what I was hearing.  For one example, some of the poses in my luteal phase segment are designed to help move the fertilized egg along the fallopian tube and prevent things like ectopic pregnancies.  I think Niblet identified one of these movements herself with this rolling movement she now calls "THE EGGROLL!" where you lie on your back, grab your knees, and roll back and forth along your spine.  Living with a hinky tube myself, I appreciate this kind of reproductive forethought.

I'll be honest: If I can ever get successfully knocked up again, I am not sure I'll be able to attribute these DVDs or the specific diet changes or the ridonkulous cocktail of supplement to that success.  All of my snark aside, I really do believe in holistic approaches to mind and body wellness.  But there's also some peace to be had egg rolling with my kid and might I add the $39.99 I shelled out is a hell of a lot cheaper than going to actual classes or finding a TCM practitioner to guide me through specific routines.  So thumbs up y'all!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

staving off the feel-good blues

Yesterday I visited my acupuncturist, and our conversation went something like this:

A/P:  How are you feeling?
Me:  Pretty nice.  I've been taking my supplements....teaching more zumba.....trying to get my knee healed to dance again, I might try some pilates....enjoying swimming.... I got a massage last week....we're going to the beach soon.....
A/P:  Oh, so in other words you're living like a normal person.

You know, it's never occurred to me that the lifestyle was abnormal, at least until that fateful RE appointment in June when I learned just how badly my egg reserve sucked.  I think I had some basic understanding that ttc when you're a 40 year-old with three consecutive miscarriages under her belt is not for the faint of heart. But peeing on sticks, having hundreds of vials of blood drawn, getting scanned and poked and vaginally prodded on a regular basis, all of this was my normal. And then I was exhausted.

This calm summer, where I do things like order only somewhat goofy fertility yoga videos (more on this in another post, I PROMISE) and take nice long walks on sunny days, all of it feels sort of , I don't know.... indulgent?

I have a somewhat high-stress do-gooder activist job, I get paid to advocate for people who are struggling for economic security.  Part of that involves really absorbing the struggles that people are enduring in my City, whether it's single mothers who are trying to make ends meet or elderly workers who are exhausted and unable to retire.  But ultimately I do what I do because I love it, and as it happens professional empathy pays my bills.

Prior to my doomed pregnancy with the cancer baby, a ballet class or two a week was enough to keep me (relatively) sane and happy, even with this career choice.  Sure, I've been and always will be that person who cries easily.  I've been and always will be a little high-strung.  I've had and always will have a touch of OCD.  But seriously, there's nothing like carrying a succession of babies that will never breathe to suck the joy and calm out of life. And in turn, morph a relatively sane woman into a walking basket case.

Confession time:  you know that cynic who smirks when she sees facebook posts about wellness and zen and internal peace?  Yeah, that chick was me.  "How the hell can I think about my own inner peace when there's such a god-awful tumultuous world of suffering out there?" said the obnoxious, sanctimonious cynic.  (I should add that being raised in the Jewish faith and cultural tradition doesn't help matters on this front).  And then check it out, the universe gives quite the smack-down to the cynic.  "Oh, you think it's frivolous to  read about personal wellness?  Okaaaaay, here's some personal suffering.  You want to do something mundane, like have another baby?  Think again bitch!"  (OK, so the universe probably doesn't talk like this).

I'm sick of feeling existential guilt for doing nice things for myself. That kind of thinking stops right here, right now. Because I feel good and that is not indulgent.  It is awesome.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The double-edged boards

These past few weeks of reprieve have been good for me.  My supplement cocktail is in full swing (I carry a pill sorter and it's kind of embarrassing to admit that they don't all fit in there).  I have my gluten/sugar/processed-free meals sorted out.  I got a massage.  I am doing my nails and looking forward to a hair cut.  I am getting pretty fit and boosting my zumba class offerings this summer.  We're not timing intercourse, so with that stress out of the equation my marriage is in a pretty happy place now too.

But it's with this increased mental and physical health that I am able to look at some of my daily activities with a keener eye.  Today I developed some insights onto my support board habits on  Namely, I have an actual habit, and it's not necessarily a healthy one for me at this time.  Because sometimes the discussion threads themselves end up functioning as "triggers" to my sanity.  When I read women lamenting that they are 35 and "I am so old, time is running out" well, yeah, that's kind of hard to read when you're 40.  Or the fears often posted that "my children will so far apart in age" threads I see.  Yeah, those can cause some shitty feelings to stir up inside of me too. Because, well, I can't do anything the fuck about the fact that if I am ever lucky enough to carry a healthy baby into this world, Niblet will be at least 6 years old.

Part of the problem is that I'm on Too. Many. Boards.  From "Molar and Partial Molar Pregnancy Support," to "Recurrent Miscarriage Support," to the newly added MTHFR support (and these aren't even half of them).... the sheer volume of them sort of makes me feel a little freakish, just logging on. 

And then I realize that for all of the connectivity that the support boards offer to these clubs that one wants to belong to, the fact remains that we all come from such different places, with different expectations for our lives and happiness.  And that's absolutely okay.  We are connected by loss, we're not frequenting the boards to have conversations with ourselves.  The boards have been critical to my survival.  I mean, where else can I safely express my fears of seeing pregnant women or newborns without receiving judgment?  Add to that, so many of the women have become my friends and deepest confidantes.  We cheer each other on, we are virtual shoulders to cry on. 

But I am also seeing how I need to step back a bit, in the same way that I am easing back on my mission driven, scientifically precise reproductive habits this summer.  The boards have been something of a lifestyle choice for me for over two years.  Just as I've done with sugar and gluten, I need to kick the habit.  I am probably going to approach it the way I've done caffeine.  Drink much much less.  So, I will lurk a little, I will check in on friends, I will offer an insight or two if there's a matter that I have unique expertise on (e.g. diagnosis and treatment of Asherman's).  But in terms of the amount of time I devote, it will probably look like a hiatus. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer reprieve

So, I was recently introduced to a friend of a friend, another woman had a similarly rough go of reproducing. She gave me a lead on a local doctor who treats High-FSH patients.  Seeing as this woman (who is incidentally older than me) is now enjoying life with a beautiful baby, it would have been foolish not to follow the lead.

I just got off the phone with this doctor's nurse coordinator, who listened as I relayed my "complicated" fertility history, and stated  "I'm not surprised" when I noted exactly which local clinic saw me to the door.  She cheerfully said Dr. K would take me on as a patient, though I would have to wait a lengthy time for an appointment.

Barring aside an opening on their wait-list, I am scheduled to see Dr. K on September 15th.

I am surprisingly okay with this.

You know, honestly, there's a fair degree of relief to be found in not having to even think about more fertility testing or potentially even cycling during the summer.  No blood work.  No poking, no prodding.  No fretting over lab results.  No racing to the clinic or badgering my poor husband for sperm on demand. I can zumba to my heart's content and get a slammin' beach body.  I can go on vacation worry-free.  I can continue dutifully downing my vitamins and supplements, which now include DHEA in addition to the Ubiquinol, Vitamin D and folic acid-free prenatals.  More on that:

I recently read this book

 It Starts with the Egg: How the Science of Egg Quality Can Help You Get Pregnant Naturally, Prevent Miscarriage, and Improve Your Odds in IVF

While it is essentially a re-hash of many things I already know, it bolstered my confidence in a regimen of egg quality improvement based on diet and supplements.  This regimen takes three months to work.  I have just about one month down, so in many ways a September appointment is perfect timing.

I was just on a support board giving a woman who underwent a failed IUI cycle some advice to take a little reprieve, regroup, clear her head.  Maybe I was on to something.