Friday, February 27, 2009

Something New to "Bee-lieve" In

Yes, I am currently consumed with researching ways to improve my egg quality. I have recently spent hours combing the internet, seeking the wisdom of Dr. Google to take me to websites that will somehow share the ultimate secret to how I can get pregnant. I have read medical studies and gone through fertility clinic sites, visited forums and browsed through what feels like a million and one posts. And in all of this research, I think have actually found something that I am really beginning to get excited about:

Lemon jellybeans? Nope. Werther's Originals? Wrong again. Those, folks, are Royal Jelly capsules. What the heck, you may be asking, is Royal Jelly? Royal Jelly is an extremely nutrient-rich product that is said to improve fertility. It is a milky substance, generated by bees - the pollen that is fed by the worker bees only to the queen bee, whose job it is to produce lots and lots of infant bees. It's rich in amino acids, vitamins and enzymes, and can be considered nature's fertility drug. Royal Jelly helps the queen bee lay millions of eggs and live a much longer life than the poor old worker bee. Dr. Randine Lewis, a reknowned Traditional Chinese Medicine practicioner who specialized in infertility, recommends supplementing one's diet with Royal Jelly to improve fertility (read article here), and several other write-ups on the Net could be found, expounding its virtues. I even found my way onto a forum where several women posted stories of their success with Royal Jelly - several of them having tried to conceive for 2+ years, and many of them having conceived after taking Royal Jelly (one of them naturally!)

So I popped into my neighbourhood health food store to pick some up. Being rather ignorant to what exactly I was looking for, I asked the elderly store owner for help. He directed me to a bottle that contained 45 gelcaps, and I asked him how I go about taking them. He looked at me like I was on crack!

"Why, with water of course!" he replied with a smile, "Or if you want, you can even take it with food!"

I felt rather stupid at that point, and explained to him that I had read that Royal Jelly was like a honey that people eat by the spoonful (...damn internet...). He told me that that was how Royal Jelly was sold in the UK, but in Canada, he has only seen it sold as capsules. Good enough for me, as I had also read how foul-tasting the creamed version was.

I took my little bottle home, opened her up - and was shocked to see how HUGE the capsules are! I swear they are about 2 cm in length. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get it down my gullet - but with enough water, that little baby washes down like nothing!

And so begins my relationship with yet another fertility treatment. On top of the acupuncture and Chinese herbs, I will be taking Royal Jelly for the next couple of months, from Day 1 until Ovulation. I also intend to add Coenzyme Q10 to my diet - and DH's diet as well - as I have read that this mineral is also tremendously useful in improving sperm and egg quality. Thankfully, we are taking these supplements in good time - apparently, you need to give it at least three months before benefits may be seen. I can't wait - I just know that my next IVF cycle will yield much better results. I have to "bee-lieve" that.

P.S. A special "hello!" to the ladies who wished me a happy blogoversary! Thanks for reading and for your support! :)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Happy Anniversary!


I missed my one-year anniversary. I began this blog one year ago yesterday - crazy how time flies. I just went through some of my entries and I have such mixed emotions...sadness at all of the things that have happened...pride at our ability to weather the storm...disbelief at our lack of progress...hope that there are better things to come.

And here I am, one year later, without much to report. I am currently on CD26, waiting for my little friend to arrive. I am well into the "acupuncture groove", with my weekly appointments and my evening elixirs (Chinese herbal teas). My acupuncturist is sincerely trying hard to help us conceive naturally - she figures that we need to "try really hard" (her words) in March, because we will have had a couple of months of treatment and we should be seeing the effects. It's also the last month that I will be drinking the teas, since she feels that I should have all of the herbs out of my system before we start our next IVF cycle (so if we cycle in May, I need to stop the herbs in March so that I have April to "recover").

I am trying to read anything and everything that there is to read about the antagonist protocol and estrogen priming (which my RE doesn't know much about but promises he will learn more about to see if he can apply it to my situation). I swear I can be licensed to practice as a fertility specialist, with all of the reading that I have done. Do you think there's a market for "infertility consultants" anywhere?

Sadly, my RE has requested another HSG. For those of you familiar - do you feel my pain? I can't believe that I have to have another one done. I made the executive decision, however, not to have it done in March, since we are going to "try really hard" to conceive naturally. I don't want anything to interfere.

I have an ultrasound for an antral follicle count on March 10th. I was a little suspicious of this - I had read that antral follicle counts should be done at the beginning of a cycle (cycle days 1-4), but the radiologist's office was booking appointments six weeks in advance! How the hell was I going to time my appointment to coincide with my period?!? I called the fertility clinic (left FOUR messages before hearing back...but that's another rant...) and they have told me that antral follicle counts can be conducted at any time (um, okay...) if the technician is a good one. Then I was told that in my case, it's not going to matter much anyway (gee, thanks).

And finally, because I haven't had enough testing conducted, I have to go for another series of blood tests for HIV, Hep B and Day 3 FSH. Wow. Looking forward to it.

Well, that's the update. A pretty lame one, I know - but whaddya do? It is what it is.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lost and Found

Not sure if you recall, but one of my earliest posts was about how the harsh reality of infertility can sneak up on you at the darnedest of times. This happened yesterday, whilst I was on the elliptical trainer at my gym. There I was - happily pumping away (and meeting my target heart-rate!), when one very pregnant woman entered my visual field. There she was, looking all perky as hell, giggling with a girlfriend who she happened to run into (and who happened to be two ellipticals down from me...)

"What are you doing here?!?" gasps Disbelieving Girlfriend.

"Trying to make it come out!" laughs Perky Preggo, as she hops up and down.

Following a few minutes of lighthearted banter, she starts walking the track that surrounds the cardio equipment. This meant that every five minutes or so, I saw here walk past me, all big tummy and protruding belly button. And each time she passed, it hurt. A deep, raw, searing pain.

This threw me into a bit of a melancholy state, and I started thinking last night about all of the things that I have lost due to our infertility.

I have lost my innocence and naivete - my belief that we'd just "get pregnant when we wanted to" is actually an embarassing joke to me now. When I was first married, I very proudly proclaimed to anyone that asked that we would be starting a family right away. Fast forward two and half years and those babies have yet to naive could I have been?

I have lost the element of surprise. I'll never get the chance to surprise my husband with a positive HPT, wrapped up in a pretty box. I'll never get to see the look on my parents' faces as I surprise them with the news that they will be grandparents. Instead, my husband and my family wait with me at the end of each and every cycle - with baited breath - to see if maybe this time things have worked out...

I have lost my capacity to share in other's good news. Not all good news, of course. But good news about babies and pregnancies. Even though on a cerebral level, I know that I don't have all the info about what that person went through to get pregnant, on the self-pitying, self-indulgent level, I somehow always conclude that it was easy for them - so why does it have to be so hard for me?

I have lost my sense of "real time". See, my days pass by according to my cycles. I don't really think in terms of conventional time anymore - weeks? Months? Years? Pffft. Now I think in terms of "DPO" or "CD 12". And more recently, with being on the waiting list for IVF, I think in terms of the number of periods I call in to the "Period Hotline". Actually, time flies much quicker on the Infertility Calendar...

I have lost my ability to plan. My time isn't mine anymore. A vacation during Spring Break? But what if we are called to cycle? Have a glass of wine with my girlfriends this Friday? Nope - I think I may be ovulating. A trip through Asia this summer? What if I'm in the early stages of pregnancy? DH and I have put our lives on hold waiting for what has thus far been incredibly elusive...

Sigh. Yes - I know. Quite the one-woman pity party, isn't it? But all was not lost - though I was terribly sad (no tears, however!), I did attempt to cheer myself up by reminding myself of all the things that I have found through the infertility journey.

I have found an inner strength that I did not know I could possess. In all of my darkest moments, I have surprised myself by being able to bounce back and stay the course. I cannot lose sight of our goal - and can never lose hope that we will achieve it.

I have found out just how much I love my husband. Of course, I always knew that I did. But the support he has given me throughout these past two years erases every petty argument we have and irritating habit that he possesses. He is the reason that I have been able to make it through all of these disappointments. He is loving. He is optimistic. He is encouraging. He is incredible.

I have found the courage to undergo some of the most invasive medical testing and procedures I have ever endured in my life - more than what I had ever anticipated. With every needle and every ultrasound, although it has felt as though I lost some of my dignity in the process, I have found myself surprisingly adaptable and most definitely brave. Yay, me!

This infertility thing. It taketh and it giveth. But I guess in the end, it will make me a better person.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm Feeling Antagonistic...

Today was day that I couldn't wait for...and also the day that I was (mildly) dreading...

We had our follow-up appointment with our RE today to talk about what went wrong and where we were headed next. DH and I had so many questions to ask - but mostly, we wanted an assurance that we could try IVF again and continue to try until we got pregnant.

Our RE is an interesting fellow. Not the warmest, but friendly enough. Knows his stuff. Answers our questions. I never really thought that he was pessimistic - until today. Unfortunately, we didn't receive the best news.

It was confirmed that I have serious egg quality issues - not premature ovarian failure, as I had originally self-diagnosed. That would have meant that I wasn't ovulating at all and my menstrual cycles would have stopped altogether. I am still producing eggs - but they are rotten. It would appear that I have used up all of my good eggs. All that's left are the crappy ones that no spermie wants - how sad for them.

Anyway, the RE started talking about success rates - turns out that a couple like us only has a less than 5% chance of conceiving naturally with this condition. And - get this - with our last cycle, we only had a slightly higher than 5% chance of conceiving with our little Nemo, given his quality (which today we learned, wasn't that great...contrary to what we were told on transfer day...) So things don't look good. But (to quote the doc) we should try everything we can so that we can say we tried this next cycle, we are going to be on the Antagonist Protocol.

What on earth, you may ask, is that?!

Based upon his explanation and what I have learned from Dr. Google, the Antagonist Protocol is short, eliminating the initial suppression stage. Instead of going on suppression drugs at the start of a cycle, I start stimming almost immediately. This precludes my ovaries from "going to sleep". Then, once my follies are big, I take a suppression drug called antagonists in order to prevent premature ovulation. This protocol involves close monitoring, since I fire up the ovaries right from the get-go and there is a risk of missing ovulation. Truth be told, I am concerned about using this protocol, since I have read that it results in few follicles. However, the plus side is that it improves egg quality. I can only hope.

Sigh. In the meantime, we continue to try au naturel. My trusty Clearblue Fertility Monitor showed a peak reading today - yippee! Time to make a baby.

Yeah, right.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Miracles of Modern Science?

Okay, wow.

Talk about an eye-catching headline - "60-year old Calgary woman gives birth to twins"!

This news, coupled with the recent story of a California woman (already a mother of six!) who had given birth to octuplets, makes me shake my head. Can these events be considered miracles of modern science, or examples of extremely poor judgment and unethical behaviour?

Infertile women all over the world are likely reeling from these stories - I myself have very mixed emotions. From what I understand, the 60 year old fellow Calgarian has been attempting to conceive for 43 years - I just can't imagine the heartache. But as hard as it is to give up the dream, at what point does the realization sink in that as a 60 year old, the capacity to provide for children is quickly diminishing? What will happen to those boys when their parents are too old to be active with them, or (God forbid) do not live a long enough life to see them through to high school graduation? What impact will this have on the boys' social development, as the reality of having elderly parents begins to weigh on them? At what point does one say "Enough is enough"?

As an individual who has been fiercely private about my battles with infertility and infertility treatments, I have to admit that one reason for this privacy has been the stigma that still surrounds it all. It is my perception that the general population lacks any real understanding of the intricacies of fertility drugs and treatment - I know that I was certainly ignorant to it all before I began my battles. And situations like this do not enhance awareness one bit - if anything, it creates false understandings and can perpetuate grossly negative judgments about people who need and undergo fertility treatments and the medical professionals that provide them. What a shame.

Sigh. It's too bad that these are the reasons that IVF is making headlines. Wouldn't it be infinitely better to read "Provincial IVF funding implemented across Canada" in your local newspaper? Now that's what would be newsworthy.

Okay - stepping gently off soapbox now...

On the personal front, I am currently on Day 12 of my second cycle "AFIVF" ("After Failed IVF"). My acupuncture sessions have been going rather well - I am with a new doctor, and this cycle, she has introduced Chinese herbs into the mix. I am going on a wing and a prayer that these sessions will improve my egg quality and ovarian functioning - she assures me that they will. She is also encouraging us to try and conceive naturally whilst waiting for our next IVF cycle...and DH is certainly having fun with that little sidebar!

By the by, hello to all of my friends. Sorry I haven't posted much - but there hasn't been much to say. Still praying that our little Miracle of Modern Science will show up soon.