Thursday, October 31, 2013

who are we?

It occurred to me that perhaps I should introduce myself, since you already know the functionality of my thyroid gland and pancreas.  My name is Jen and as I've previously stated, I work in a microbiology laboratory in a busy hospital.  And before you say anything, bacteria is cool and you know it.

My face looks like this:

See the glasses?  It means I'm smart.  Just kidding.  The glasses mean I can see things that are far away.  I like to read and write.  My favorite show is and possibly always will be, Friends.  I'm married to a guy named Eddie who also wears glasses to see things that are far away.

His face looks like this:

He doesn't have his glasses on in this picture, probably because he has his contacts in.  Or possibly he just can't see the things that are far away right now.  Neither can I.  Eddie has a degree in history from UNC, where I also attended college.  His favorite show is not Friends.  He likes basketball in any variety, but most especially in the form of the New York Knicks and UNC Tarheels.

We just recently bought a house in Greensboro, North Carolina.  It looks like this:

I love having a house.  It's great to be able to let the dog out without a leash and not worry about cars, people and other dogs like at an apartment.  Being able to plant flowers and herbs and tomato plants that never, ever actually give us tomatoes is awesome.  There is a nifty planter behind those bushes in which I planted impatiens and caladium.  Ed pulled the bushes out of the ground so we can actually see the planter now.

Bailey is our five year old goldendoodle.  She ate two entire loaves of bread last week because, although she is a known counter surfer, Eddie consistently forgets to put the bread on top of or inside of the refrigerator.

Here she is spying on the neighbors at our old apartment.  She's very nosy.

Sundrop is an eleven year old cat... His hobbies include sleeping, eating and occasionally accosting Bailey and biting her in the jugular.

They are avidly watching me eat a snack in this photo.  They don't know it, but they won't get any.

Maddie is our newest addition.  She is a six month old kitten who enjoys stealing my hair rubber bands and pooping in the bathtub.  She's a brat.

This is her in her king-sized bed.  It's also Bailey's regular sized bed.

Our feathered family member is Poppy, a ten month old Quaker parrot.  She is a very sweet bird and says things like, "Pretty bird!", "Hi!", and "Hello!"  Sometimes she shouts, "Doin?!" which is the end of the phrase, "Whatchu doing?" that I have been trying to teach her.  She's also an experienced whistler, much better at it than I am.

It gets a little crowded in here now that we have four animals.

So that's us!  We're messy, loud (at least the bird is), fun, fun-loving and mostly, happy.

testing, testing... 1, 2, 3...

     A month ago I initiated a boat-load of testing to find out why I kept miscarrying.  I met with an infertility specialist and she explained all of the myriad reasons why this possibly kept happening.  For those of you who don't know, I am a microbiologist and in general a science geek, so the doctor and I spent a happy half hour discussing genetics and coagulation and thyroid issues.  She told me the tests she was going to order - genetic screening for me and Eddie (determining whether or not we are cousins - just kidding), a coagulation screening panel, thyroid testing and diabetes testing.  She also wanted to test my anti-mullerian hormone level, which would tell the approximate age of my eggs, which apparently, might not be 31 as I had thought.  This was news to me - I'd been taught in middle school sex ed that females are born with all the eggs they will ever have.  Since I'd been born 31 years ago, it stands to reason that my eggs were also born 31 years ago.  Apparently this might not be the case.  She also wanted to do a saline sonohysterogram to check the integrity of the lining of my uterus and the overall shape to see if there are any abnormalities that would cause improper implantation.
     The doctor went on to explain that 50-70% of couples who undergo this type of testing will never get an actual diagnosis or reason as to why this is happening.  I did not like these odds, but felt that we had to have the testing done because what if the issue was something we could fix?
     Eddie and I went to get our blood drawn after my doctor's appointment.  The vampire-disguised-as-a-phlebotomist drew a staggering twelve tubes of blood in a rainbow of colors from me and a single green top tube from Ed.  She actually told Eddie that he would be fine but, "I'm going to drain your wife!"
     Two weeks later we had our answer.  Or rather our lack of answer.  Our genetic screen came back normal (as my brother-in-law said, "It's a good thing you guys are genetically normal as you are certainly not normal in any other way).  My thyroid gland works like a well oiled machine.  So does my pancreas.  My coagulation system is something to be proud of, clotting my blood at the perfect rate - neither too fast, nor too slow.  My eggs are as youthful as the month of May, my uterus the perfect basket in which to house them (or at least the embryo).
     This news was met with mixed reactions from me.  On one hand, it's good to know that I have nothing really wrong with me.  On the other hand, something HAS to be wrong with me!  It is not normal to have three miscarriages inside one year.
     According to my doctor we had a few options.  Option 1.) Keep trying.  It will likely happen eventually.  (I did not like this option.  It was the reproductive equivalent of Whack-a-Mole.)  Option 2.) Use of a low dose fertility drug to make me ovulate multiple eggs, with the hope that at least one would survive.  (I was more interested in this option.)  Option 3.) IVF with pre-implantation genetic screening.  (This is the fall-back, safety net of options - expensive and hard on the body.)
     I decided to go with the low dose fertility drug.  I will start Clomid with my next cycle and by all accounts will turn into a hot flashing, exposed hormone with pseudo-homicidal tendencies.  Good luck, Eddie!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

it was supposed to be easy...

     All my life, I've operated under the impression that having kids is quite simple.  (Not the actual act of childbirth, mind you.  I'm not quite that naive.)  Step 1.) Find husband.  Step 2.) Have sex with husband.  Step 3.) Nine months later, pop out a beautiful baby.
     For me, step one was only marginally easy.  I may have had a minor panicky thought around age 26 or 27 that I might never get married.  That I might end up the one all my friends' kids would call Aunt Jen, and who had a lot of cats.  Or worse - birds.  But I did find a guy who, quite surprisingly, really, wanted to marry me.
     Not surprisingly, step two was also easy.  Step two, subcategory A - actually orchestrating a meeting between husband's spermatozoa and my ovum, could have presented a far greater challenge, but the meeting went off without a hitch and Presto!  Pregnant.
      I was enthralled with the idea that my uterus had a function, other than every 29 days causing me untold pain and suffering and generally behaving as if it was in the throes of end-stage Ebola virus.  It was incubating a human, one that would ostensibly grow into said beautiful baby.
     At almost ten weeks, after we'd announced to everyone and their uncle's step-cousin that we were expecting, I started cramping and bleeding, went to the hospital and was told, in no uncertain terms, that this was a miscarriage.  I was completely devastated and felt (perhaps unnecessarily) embarrassed that we had announced to all and sundry about the baby not three days before, and now we were left with nothing.  It was all erased, like a roll of film you'd accidentally exposed to light.
     As of now, this has happened two more times.  I, perspicaciously, didn't announce to one and all either of the following times and only told a few close friends and our families about my pregnancies.  This way I didn't have to untell quite as many people.  It has been difficult and trying and quite nearly soul-destroying.  
     When I see women who have been impregnated when their husbands have barely sneezed lightly in their direction, and then nine months later they pop out their own beautiful baby, it becomes maddening to me.  I've feared greatly for the safety of our computer because when I see a six week old embryo on an ultrasound picture, proudly displayed on my newsfeed, I want to shriek with the unfairness of it all.  I also want to tell the uninformed woman that six weeks is way too early to announce and that you might be setting yourself up for a terrible disappointment.
     As I have experienced these miscarriages and the trials and tribulations of reproduction, people come out of the woodwork with similar stories.  Suddenly people everywhere have had miscarriages and now that I was part of the club, they made this known to me, whereas before they never mentioned it.  It seems as though infertility and repeat pregnancy loss are taboo subjects that shouldn't be discussed in polite company.  I don't think this should be.  One out of every five pregnancies ends in miscarriage.  It's not anyone's fault that they have fertility issues.  Things happen and life is hard, but no one brings these things on themselves.  Part of the reason I'm writing this, aside from the act of writing being therapeutic to me, is to bring this issue to light.  Granted, probably only five people will ever read this, but maybe one of the five (one in five, remember?) will benefit from my experience and not feel so alone.