Posted by: Sarah | July 29, 2009

Slaying The Dragon Of Infertility

Ever had a false positive on a pregnancy test?  It’s like a cosmic practical joke.  As if God yelled, “Just kidding!”

I come from an exceptionally fertile family.  One of my aunts had five kids.  FIVE!  My grandmothers had 4 (my father’s mother) and 8 (my mother’s mother).  My mother had two, without any problems.   But, they all started 10 years before I did.

Apparently, I should have just gotten knocked up in high school.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I lost a lot of weight.  I lost about 100# in my last year of high school.  This was wonderful, some of it was maturity, some of it was trying to figure out how to eat more healthfully and taking over the cooking from my mother, who’d never seen a piece of fried chicken she didn’t like (hey, who doesn’t?).  But then, I tried to lose MORE because, while that’s a lot of weight, I really did need to lose more to be truly healthy.

The scale didn’t move.

About the same time, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis and put on birth control to control it.  (And that’ll be another blog about my adventures in trying to stay on THAT.)  I forgot the Endo, since The Pill pretty much took care of it and I wasn’t sexually active.  So, despite my working out regularly, walking all over campus as much as possible, and while eating poorly, I didn’t really eat a LOT.  (We’ll ignore the midnight trips to IHOP for a milkshake on movie night and the two oatmeal cookies and Diet Coke for breakfast.)  But I ate salads almost every week night, and tried to choose the least calorically offensive items while living in the dorms. I should have gained some weight, but not as much as I did.  I got some well-meaning lectures from a few sorority sisters who really were trying to help.  I will freely admit to being nutritionally ignorant but I was doing my best, so I didn’t really take offense.  By the time I graduated, my self-esteem was in the toilet and I’d begun to emotionally eat.

My 20’s continued in much the same pattern.  Tired of the gain, and still blaming myself, I put myself in a self-designed physical fitness program with timed goals for running with sit-ups, push-ups and weightlifting thrown in.  I did lose about 50#.  I slowly halved about everything I ate and tried to eat more salads (no dressing, no cheese, only oil & vinegar, salt & pepper for flavoring).  My efforts stalled.  I could not break that plateau.  I tried running more; I tried cutting back on the food.  I tried eating more…. Nothing.  I was down to a 10 minute mile and running three miles every other day to running three days on, one day off.

My doctor said I was depressed.

The car accident that nearly broke my back ended my running career, so I never did get to see if I could go faster.  But that’s a tangent.   While I was in physical therapy, I watched what I ate, but after three years and no ability to exercise, that’s tough.  The weight slowly crept back on.  Tim proposed and I began a year long quest to drop weight for the wedding.  I bought an exercise bike and worked my way up to 90 minutes a day and again lived off salads and grilled chicken.  (OK, we had the occasional pizza and beer night, I’m only human!)   I hit yet another unbreakable plateau.  We got married, he joined the Army, I moved in with my parents, regained some weight which didn’t help my back, re-lost the same weight….  He was discharged, we bought a house.  I started eating better again and working out daily.   This time, I lost no weight.

Another doctor told me I was depressed from the pain from the car accident, here, have some Prozac/Wellbutrin.  I spent about a year on those pills before I got tired of feeling like I was touching the world through woolen mittens.

Now, during all this, about a year after we married, Tim and I decided to go off all birth control.  I was allergic to condoms anyway, and for some reason The Pill had stopped working on controlling the Endometriosis, so it was kind of pointless to continue on it.  Nothing.  Not till about Oct of 06.  I had a false positive on a home pregnancy test.  At least they think it was a false.  Or it was very early miscarriage.  The Endo had gotten worse.

My  migraines at this time started lasting a month at a time.  I started to feel utterly overwhelmed again and make stupid mistakes at work.   I couldn’t argue with Tim without crying.  Relations with my mom and dad got even worse.  I started to ache all over, especially when I was tired or cold and I was cold and tired ALL.  THE.  TIME.   Severe dry skin infested my lower arms and calves.

Then, my mother got into a car accident.  During her X-rays, they found odd lumps on her thyroid.  She did some familial research and come to find out, my grandmother (her mother) had had her thyroid removed in 1952 for cancer, but she’d presented with the same sort of lumps on her thyroid as my mother did.  I told my current doctor and she said, “Then let’s get you tested!”  In the meantime, my mother had already undergone the tests; the lumps on her thyroid had grown till they were affecting her voice and her ability to swallow.  She went in for surgery to have it removed then biopsied.

Cancer.  Of course.  (She was declared cancer-free after a round of radioactive iodine, a treatment that hadn’t yet been invented in 1952.)

Meanwhile, my own tests had come back with the same lumps on my thyroid as my mother and grandmother and my thyroid tests came back with my TSH levels dangerously low.  Like barely-registering-on-the-scale low.  I got a little scared.  I was 20 years younger than either of them when they started having thyroid trouble.  Was I going to get cancer 20 years earlier, too?  My doctor put me on replacement hormones for the thyroid hormones I wasn’t making any more.  Within 6 months (you have to level up slowly so you don’t go from hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism), I felt like I was 18 again.  I even started running again (being careful of my back) and dropped 20#.  I am no longer depressed, the Endo isn’t as bad and I have energy for the first time since I was 18.

Course, right now, I’m seeing a new doctor who is switching me to a synthetic hormone that’s more easily regulated while I’m pregnant (if that ever happens).  But until she gets me back up to a livable level, I get to relive the symptoms of two years ago:  muscle aches, lump in my throat, aching feet, dry skin, and extreme fatigue.  I’ve cut my calories back, though, so let’s hope during this transition I don’t gain back the 20# I’ve lost.  I’m seeing a reproductive endocrinologist, too, that as soon as I’m on a stable hormone level, I’ll be taking Clomid.

I haven’t slain this dragon, yet.  But she’ll be dead, finally, when Tim and I have our first child.


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