29 December 2009

A Period is More Than Just a Dot

Shamefully, I have not finished the story of our anniversary trip to Ireland. The trip was most amazing, but it was a trip that did more than just add a stamp to our passports. It was while on this journey across the pond that Michael and I decided we would start trying for a baby. We marked June 2009 on our calendar as the last official month on birth control.

Now here it is, just days away from 2010, and still no baby. In fact, coming off hormone therapy in order to try to get pregnant has proved to be an alarming reality.

I was diagnosed with endometriosis back in 2005 based on pervasive symptoms from my late teens on through my early college years. My symptoms included incredibly painful abdominal cramps during menstruation (we're talking about pain that double doses of ibuprofen wouldn't ease), excessively heavy bleeding, and irregularity of hormonal cycles. I never could gauge when my next period would be. Sometimes, it would surprise me after only 2 weeks from the previous cycle. Other times, it would keep me in suspense for 6 weeks. It was torture.

A doctor I had visited back in 2002 had put me on birth control because of my symptoms, even though she wasn't the one to make the diagnosis. As if like magic, my menstrual pain went from a 10 to a 2, I no longer bled like a stuck pig, and I was finally like clockwork. I never foresaw my period as an anxiety-free event, but that is precisely what it has been for the last several years. The doctor who did officially write the word "endometriosis" on my chart in 2005 said hormone therapy had been working so well for me and saw no need to change the regimen. And every year, I re-upped my year's supply of progesterone.

But the symptoms I endured before the relief that came with birth control were no match for the one that still keeps me awake at night--infertility.

In the back of my mind since my diagnosis, I knew it would be something I might have to face when trying to start a family. I just figured that I would worry about it when the time actually came. Well, the time IS actually here and the worrying has begun. In fact, the words from my gynecologist earlier this summer is what started the worry within me: "A woman of your age typically needs at least 9 months to get pregnant just coming off of birth control."

Excuse me, but a woman of my what? My age? Since when did I enter the "woman of my age" category? And what's the cut-off for that anyway? I mean, women are having babies well into their 40s and even 50s these days. I'm 3 months shy of 28. I may be no spring chicken, but I thought if I started trying before 30, I would be golden.

And yes, I do realize that it's only been 6 months since leaving the Yaz in my past, but here is the reason why I'm 3.2 seconds away from starting my childhood nail-biting habit again: I haven't ovulated since mid-September.

I went back to my gynecologist yesterday for some tests and advice. He explained to me that there were many possible reasons that I may not be ovulating, such as stress (which I have more than I can handle at times), weight loss (I'm afraid to admit this one, but 5 good pounds are gone), or abnormal hormone production. The only way to know if the cause is biological is to have blood taken and tested. This morning, I had blood drawn. They will be checking my FSH, or follicle-stimulating hormone, levels (which regulates reproductive processes), my thyroid-stimulating hormone levels (which controls the endocrine function of the thyroid), and prolactin levels (which, even though is what controls lactation, can suppress ovulation and therefore inhibit FSH if levels are too high).

I find out the results next week. If my hormone levels are out of whack, my doctor wants to start me on a hormone that would cause me to ovulate. If it's because of my stress and weight loss, his answer is to take the metaphorical "chill pill" and increase my daily caloric intake. I'm hoping the root cause is stress. If so, I'll just pass off some of my chores onto Michael and have regularly-scheduled Ladies' Nights with my girlfriends, all in the name of ovulating and getting pregnant.

As for the weight, I think I should have my own reality show. "Biggest Gainer" doesn't sound as catchy as "Biggest Loser," but maybe it will help me earn my birthing hips.

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