To Love a Rose: An Ethiopian Adoption Journal

Monday, August 29, 2011

It Never Gets Easier

My real negative pregnancy test from this morning.

It's only 10 DPO, but since most women who are pregnant get a +HPT by now and considering the unexplainable hives that continue to cover my body, I thought I'd take an HPT this morning...negative...again.  It never gets any easier seeing that blank whiteness next to the control line.

I knew there was no reason to get my hopes up.  Call me Debbie Downer, but I felt exactly the same as my last 26, I really should have known better.  I guess deep-down I did. 

Last night I ran into an acquaintance/friend.  You know, the type of person you enjoy being around; but circumstantially only see every so often at parties or through other mutual friends, etc.?  Well, I like this girl, I really do.  I saw her coming around the bend at T* and I were in the baby department getting stuff for an upcoming baby shower we're planning (yeah, fun times) and I guess I didn't put two and two together, because she already has two kids.  I yelled out her name and said, "Hey, do you have the munchkins with you?!"  To which she replied, "Yep, those two and of course the one on the way!"  She smiled and patted her small baby bump.


I don't know how many times I can hear, "Woops, we're preggo again." before I'm going to lose it.  Sometimes it seems like a terrible joke.  And, of course, I have to deal with the ever-present, "When are you going to have kids?  Don't you like kids? Don't you want kids?" questioning.  How ignorant and hurtful can people be?  Seriously, don't they ever think of anyone else's feelings and circumstances before they speak?

I know this is an angry-sounding post, but I suppose it's only because this is it.  This was our last cycle.  There won't be enough time to try again before the home study, and after that we cannot get pregnant or our adoption will be terminated. So,

I'm done.  For real.

Wow, hard to write...harder to fully comprehend.  I thought God would pull through at the last moment, I really did...  I've decided to quit going to acupuncture.  It's not that I don't love it.  It's not that I don't think it's helping - I do.  But it's not covered by our insurance.  It's $50-$86 a pop, and I have to go once a week if not more.  I cannot justify going to acu for fertility if I'm not even supposed to be getting pregnant in less than a month.  I've decided to talk to Dr. K (Dr. S's partner and my regular OBGYN) about going back on birth control after my colposcopy in a couple of weeks.  So strange to think about preventing with medication what I've been desiring for so long...

The topics on this blog are about to change drastically.  I'm sure I'll still write about PCOS and IF in general, but for my own sanity I need to start shifting my focus to adoption.  If you've been following along, thank you.  Your support and kind words have meant so much more than you'll ever know - really and truly, I am so grateful.  I know that God sent some of you to write things at just the perfect time to cheer me up and keep me motivated.  So, again, THANK YOU.

I am looking toward the future with a bit of trepidation, I have to admit.  I feel as though Mr. C and I have been through so much emotionally and beyond, I cannot imagine what the adoption realm is going to be like this time around.  I know how heart-breaking it was the first time, and we were only about 4 months into it then.  I am just praying for protection and wisdom and guidance every day for this adoption.  I do not want to be hurt again.

Mr. C and I have actually been toying with the idea of a domestic adoption - something we said we'd never do.  We found a lawyer in Arkansas who works on nothing but adoption cases; so, we feel like we would have someone on our side who really understands the entire process and can help protect us from potential harm.  We have some time to work things out, we have much to do before we can really start things up anyway.  So, who knows?

It's my dad's birthday today........I had this idea that I would be pregnant, and I was going to get him a "happy birthday grandpa" card.

Maybe next year...

Friday, August 26, 2011


No, not the swarming, buzzing, full of bees kind...And not the cute, 60's hairdo kind either.  Just straight-up, itchy, splotchy, nasty-looking hives!  That's what I've been dealing with for the past 3 days, and it's really no fun.  Here are some views of what I looked like one day one:

Mr. C and I had been in Iowa for our band rehearsals for the September 10th "hometown show" we're doing at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center in our hometown of Fairfield, Iowa (the same exact stage Mr. C and I got married on three years ago come October 18th).  So, yes, there's been a lot of stress in my life - my sister, W, who is in the band with me and our other sister, M, had a grand mal seizure just hours before our first rehearsal last week (the 15th).  Needless to say, it's hard to work on performing when one of the pivotal members of the group is stressed out, anxious, dead tired, and sore as hell from having a grand mal seizure.  We managed to get in three rehearsals while up there, but it's been a long road.

I have no clue if the stress of the past week and a half finally got to me or if I am allergic to something I unwittingly encountered while there, but on our way home to Missouri, I noticed that I was itching all over my body - everywhere!  I also started feeling super nauseated and had some *ahem* "loose stools" (gross, I know!).  I chalked it up to the fact that I was/am still taking the Chinese herbs for PCOS (I only have ONE WEEK left!  Can you believe it?!) and started my progesterone support cream on 4DPO.

By the time we actually got to our house, I was covered  my back looked terrible; because I had just kept scratching at the itchy splotches all day.  I started doing some research about first I thought maybe I had a food allergy that was acting up, but I hadn't eaten anything unusual at all.  It could have been the stress, but honestly, I didn't really feel all that much stress.  In fact, the next day I was so calm I felt I could fall asleep at any moment all throughout the day.  Then, I saw a link far down on the page of Go-gle that said "pregnancy hives".

Could it be?

But I doubt it.  I ovulated on CD19 (finally!), but with the Chinese herbs I'm on I'm not expecting too much this cycle.  Still, it would make sense.  There's really no other reason for these hives to keep popping up.  Plus, my mom had pregnancy hives way back when; so........maybe?

I hate things like this that get my hopes up.  HATE IT.  Because the past 2 1/2 years have only ever made me a fool for having so much hope and reading so much into things.  It's 7 DPO today, and I took a HPT - negative, of course, but that's what worries me too.  If it truly is pregnancy hives, wouldn't I be pregnant enough to get a +HPT?  That's why I'm leaning to the "negative" category.

I decided after today's -HPT that I would wait like a good girl, as I have these past several cycles, until 14DPO or beyond to test again.  If I make it that far without spotting/AF showing up, then it's probably safe to assume something's up, if AF does show up, no harm/no's nothing that I haven't had to deal with before.

Next month will officially be our last month of TTC.  The adoption begins in October, and we will celebrate 3 years of marriage.  Wow, time flies, it truly does.  It's so hard to imagine not TTC anymore...not taking my temperature every morning.  Not monitoring every little twitch and tingle my body feels...I have no clue how I'll actually feel when that moment gets here, but right now it's pretty surreal.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Exclusionary Exclusions

Photo courtesy Visual Photos.

Well, it's official...of all the girls that I became friends with on Soul Cysters, I am now the ONLY ONE who has not become pregnant. (Edit: I just realized that one other girl who blogs about IF as well was also from SC's.  So, technically, I am NOT the only one now...but one of two from SC's who are still waiting/struggling...)

The only one.  The only one.  The only one.

Still empty.  Still struggling.  Still stuck in place - treading water.

Dr. S told me while we were going through fertility treatments that I had a "good chance" and that "90% of all women with PCOS do end up getting pregant". the time, I never imagined I'd be the exception and not the rule.  I just assumed I'd be part of that lucky 90%, not the 10% that never succeed; but that's how it's shaping up.

The closer we get to October and the adoption starting, the more down-trodden I become - not about the adoption - it's just, I can't believe that this is it.  It's really over.  I have maybe a couple more cycles left, then we're "done".

It seems as though so many of my friends and acquaintances are pregnant right now - seriously.  It's not an illusion; it's really happening, all around me.  Some of these women are having their 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th child.  It's mind-boggling to me at times.  I feel as though life is whirling by without me.  I'm standing still.

In a way, it's really ironic.  I was always the over-achiever.  I got what I wanted by working super hard and being nice (which is not a front, I genuinely AM nice, really! :); but in this game of fertility struggles, being nice and working hard don't account for anything, nothing at all.

I have several friends who still live in Nashville, TN (where I went to college at Belmont University).  All of them are now mothers (or fathers).  Mr. C and I had thought of moving back many times, but there's a large part of me that never wants to go back.  Everything has changed.  I have changed (or not); so, where would I fit in there now?  I love my friends, but I see them with their mommy friends and play-groups - their lives revolve around their children.  Mine does not.  In fact, I know that many of their now closest friends are their former doulas and midwives or women they met through breast-feeding support groups or "mommy's day out" gatherings.

So, what would we talk about?  What would we do?  Where do I fit in?  I feel like we're being separated not only by time and space, but by something more primal - a mysterious understanding that I am not privy to...a club to which I don't know the secret password.  I have not been entrusted with such information.  I am the outsider.

Sometimes I think that adopting will change all of this - I mean, after all, I'd be a mother.  Beyond the utter excitement and joy of getting to parent a child, I would maybe be accepted by this elusive group of women.  But then, I know it will never be exactly the same...

Once, when Mr. C and I were visiting our Nashville friends for our first anniversary the husband of a dear friend made a comment that still haunts and hurts me to this day.  He quipped that our other good friend was amazing for breast-feeding as much as she did, and asked her how on earth she did it.  I jumped in joking that for women "it just came easy".  He whirled around quickly and said, "*hmpf* What would you know about it?"

Ouch.  Of course, at the time, nobody at that party had a clue that we'd miscarried.  I hadn't told anyone that we had already been trying (and failing).  They had no idea that we were already worried about the state of our fertility and the future ahead of us.  I'm sure he didn't truly mean to be hurtful, but if I think about it too long, I seriously tear up and even get a little angry.  That's why I try very hard to be mindful of what I say to people, no matter what, you never, ever know what they've been through or what they're secretly battling.  Although I know I fail daily, I want so badly to be kinder than most people have been to me.

On the other hand, I have a feeling that being an adoptive mom will open a whole world of acceptance to me and exclusions to others as well.  Just as I would not be able to be an active participant in a breast-feeding support group, others would have no clue how to interact with a group of moms discussing attachment issues or the up-sides/down-sides of open adoptions, etc.  And, I suppose this is only natural.  At the end of the day, though, my only wish is to be a part of the wider, collective which encompasses all mothers - no matter how they came to enter that club.

Until that day...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Happy 100th, Lucy!

I know it has nothing to do with PCOS or TTC or anything of the sort, BUT I just had to say "Happy Birthday" to a woman who has made me laugh...and cry (mostly because I was laughing so hard I started to cry!) - Lucille Ball.

When I was younger, I wanted to be an actress; and Lucy was the epitome of funny to me, a real class act, the grand dame of comedy.  Here was a woman who was breathtakingly beautiful (look at that picture above, folks!  red-heads don't get any lovelier than that! hot mama!) and funny as hell.  She was a smart and savvy business woman, and she boldly went where no [wo]man had gone before (hello, being the first woman to be pregnant on TV and the first to share ONE bed with her real-life husband and co-star instead of the two twin beds usually shown during that era, very ballsy, Ms. Ball!!!).

Lucy was one tough cookie, but she was sweet and sexy too.  She could fall on her ass and leave you rolling on the floor with laughter; but the next minute you would be awe-struck at how frickin' gorgeous she was.  Talent talent TALENT!!!!

I am so incredibly sad that I never got to fulfill my dream of performing (or just hanging out!) with my idol; but I think one day we'll have an awful lot of chatting to do up in heaven (after all, she's "got some 'splainin' ta do")!

So, here's to you, Lucy.  Happy 100th, were the funniest of them all!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Traditional Chinese Herbs for PCOS: From Theory to Real Life

NOTE: I feel a need to say, once again, that I am NOT an expert in the area of Chinese herbs or traditional Chinese medicine.  Everything outlined in this and the other blog mentioned below is from a study by actual, professional Chinese herbalists.  If you go to the original blog (link below) I have links that will get you to both the original study in Chinese and translated into English.

UPDATE 8/18/13: As I receive more negative comments about this post, I have considered removing it.  However, I want to state again that my purpose in writing this post was because it is MY BLOG about MY EXPERIENCES.  I have never claimed, nor do I ever claim, to be a doctor, Chinese medicine practitioner, or expert on this subject.  

The herbs and quantities and frequency of treatment, etc. were all prescribed to ME (and me alone) by MY practitioner.  If you are considering using TCM in the treatment of your PCOS diagnosis, PLEASE seek out your OWN practitioner and follow their personalized regimen for you. 

Last week, I posted this blog on a study done by two Chinese herbalists about the curing of ovarian cysts (PCOS) with traditional, Chinese herbs to be used alone or in conjunction with acupuncture.  I had already planned on doing the study if I wasn't pregnant; and, big surprise, I wasn't (although, it's very worth noting that I DID have a completely "perfect" 28-day cycle - woo hoo!); so I've jumped into the treatment this week.

Over the past couple of months, I had been compiling the needed herbs for the treatment.  It took a lot of digging online, but after a tip from a very helpful reader (thanks again, Meg!) I found Yin Jang Supply.  Yin Jang has an actual store-front in Denver, CO; but they sell bulk herbs (by gram or ounce) in their online store.  I was shocked at how quickly the herbs reached me too.  I did have to order one herb (can't remember which one it is at this moment, sorry!) from a seller on Amazon.

When the last of my herbs came on Tuesday afternoon, I decided that Wednesday (yesterday, August 3rd and CD 3) would be the first day of my treatment - day 1 of 30 - yikes!  In my mind, I knew that it wasn't going to be pleasant; but I have to admit, I could not have prepared myself for the special kind of nasty I was about to experience.

One day's worth of herbs - it's roughly 1/2 cup of ground herbs.  To be taken in three "doses per day, concocted in water", according to the study.
Now, one piece of advice, dear reader, please take the time to thoroughly grind your herbs when you get them.  Many will come in the rawest, dried form possible.  So, I suggest you do what I did and get yourself a cheap coffee grinder that you can reserve for your herbs only.  When I say raw, I mean RAW (but dried).  As in, the cinnamon (gui zhi) literally comes looking like little wood chips.  Seriously.  The stuff from Yin Jang is amazing, but is as pure as it in point:

Yeah, the herbs come in paper sacks; and you can see in this picture that the kun bu is completely intact - just straight-up dried herb.  The rest of the herbs came the same way; which is why a coffee grinder is a MUST!

After doing what I thought was a really great job of grinding all of my herbs, I made a plan of attack.  For some reason I had it in my head that it would be easier to just out-right eat these herbs mixed in with something like applesauce or yogurt than to "concoct them in hot water" as the study suggested.  Since applesauce is full of carbs/sugar, I decided to give plain yogurt a try.  I was naively optimistic.

As soon I dumped in what looked like a third of the daily dose into the yogurt, I realized I had made a mistake.  I could tell from the gooey, sludgey conglomeration that I would never be able to stand the obvious herbal putrification I had just created.  It looked like this: you can see, I made a mistake.

Nevertheless, I dove in and scooped up a big spoonful of the gritty mixture.  As I said earlier, no matter how disgusting I had imagined the flavor in my mind, nothing could have prepared me for the actual taste hitting my tongue.  It was nausea-inducing to say the least, the very least.

Mr. C was standing close at hand, his face contorting in mirror to mine.  He suggested I take one of the sugar-free pancakes I keep in the fridge for emergency breakfasts and smear the goo on it to help mask the taste.  Again, it seemed like a good idea in the moment...

My sugar-free pancake smeared with herby-yogurty-ickiness.
After gagging down nearly half of the pancake, my gut was retching.  I told Mr. C that I had obviously "done a bad thing" in not following the study's suggestions.  I decided to go ahead and dump out the remaining yogurt mixture and just make a tea out of the rest like the study said to do in the first place.

I took another third of the herbs and put them in a cup; then I boiled some water and poured it over-top.  I noticed at this time that I had really not done all that great of a job at grinding the herbs.  I had left many of them pretty chunky, actually; especially when you consider that you have to ingest this stuff.

You can see the chunky state I had left many of the herbs in as they float to the surface of my "herbal concoction".
Even though it was chunky, I drank it - all of it.  Again, I found myself nearly gagging.  All I could think was, "How on earth am I going to do this three times a day for thirty days?!"

I went back to the study and re-read the portion on how the herbal medicine was dispersed to the 50 test subjects.  I realized that I might have literally had a misunderstanding; after all, the study had originally been written by Chinese herbalists in Chinese.  As I was reading, it dawned on me that the process of "concocting the herbs in a tea" probably involved straining the chunks out of the hot water after they had steeped for several minutes - you don't leave tea leaves or tea bags in the water once they've been steeped.  So, maybe I was supposed to use the same technique?

For my last third of the day, I decided to steep the herbs for 10 minutes in the hot water, then drain out the chunks and leftover "goo".

Mr. C holds our reusable coffee filter over a 4-cup measuring container that I used to filter the herbal "tea".
Mr. C helping me strain out the herb chunks from the liquid tea.

Some of the left-over sediment from the steeped herbs (sorry, I had already dumped some out before I thought to take a picture, this is not even close to all of it!).  It looks (and kinda smells) like a blend of the contents of baby diaper and river silt.

After straining the chunks out of the tea, you are left with a fluid that looks very akin to muddy river water:

I have noticed that you end up with anywhere from 1 1/2 cups to a little over 2 cups of fluid after straining.

Next, I used one of my Whey Low D packets in my coffee cup and poured the "tea" on in and stirred it all really well.

Hoping and praying at this point that the Whey Low will help mask the earthiness of the herbs.

While it's not the tastiest thing I've ever drank, the straining and Whey Low really helped!  I was able to stomach the taste and get the whole 2 cups down - hooray!

Today, I've used the same technique; and I'm already through two of the three doses.  Even with the straining, the taste is equivalent to the way a cave smells.  It's very dark, bitter, and earthy (as in, dirt).  It's nasty, I won't lie; but I truly think it's going to be worth the results.

I've already noticed an extreme reduction in phlegm, and it's only day 2!  I've always had sinus and congestion problems.  As a singer, this has interfered many a time with performances and recordings.  Last night and today I have noticed a serious reduction in my post-nasal  drip and nasal congestion.  I usually have to sleep with Breathe Right Nasal Strips, Extra, 26-Count Box in order to make it through the night comfortably, but I had no need for them last night.

As I mentioned in the aforementioned previous post, it is suspected that an excess of phlegm in the PCOS woman's body causes build-up around the ovaries; which creates the waxy substance that coats the cystic ovaries.  It's pretty amazing that I'm already able to tell a difference in this area considering it's only been two days!

It's not going to be the most pleasant experience of my life, but I just keep reminding myself that this could heal my ovaries; which could help me have a baby.  I'd walk through fire for that gift; so, swallowing 90 cups (but who's counting, right? ha!) of nasty herb tea should be easy beans.

Even though I've painted a pretty bleak picture of this treatment, I think it's important to say that I'm sticking with it.  I'm not backing out.  It's not so terrible that I can't endure it.  I can, and you can too.  I strongly suggest you follow my advice and save yourself a bad experience trying to mix the herbs with food.  Don't make my mistake!  Follow the guidelines set out by the study, and I'm sure you'll start to see results just like I am!

Onward and Upward,

PS: I noticed that I had forgotten to include a picture of the pellet-like pills that the Pangolin scales were formed into in the last blog I wrote about the herbs needed for this treatment.  Since their purpose is slightly redundant in the overall scheme of the treatment plan, I will not be using them in the amount that I should; because I am not comfortable ingesting an animal product like this when I do know if it is ethically harvested, etc.  BUT, I still wanted to show you all what the pills look like in case you decided that you did want to include them in your own treatment: