Thankful for PCOS

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada – so Happy Thanksgiving! I hope your weekend was full of food, friends and family. 🙂

When I first heard of PCOS, all I could think about was women with beards (cue panic attack!). It terrified me, but thankfully I had virtually no symptoms (except visibly polycystic ovaries diagnosed on an ultrasound). I dreaded the day I would wake up to my first, ruthless chin hair… living in constant fear of the inevitability of the symptoms – and with little knowledge about the syndrome, I had no tools to prevent any of them. (Spoiler alert: the day did come where I got my first chin hair, and the world did not end).

The further we got into trying to have a baby, the more severe my PCOS symptoms became. I went from someone without a single symptom, to someone with almost all of them at one time or another.

Here’s the tricky thing about PCOS – it has this way of completely un-womanizing you: making you infertile, emotional, and hairy to boot. I felt like an incomplete woman, an incomplete wife and a failure as a potential Mother. It, literally, took away everything that made me feel feminine (I was growing facial hair!! (although, it was significantly less than I feared)). On top of it all, I couldn’t even do the ONE THING women’s bodies are built for: childbearing. It was a very dark time for me, I was 100% disconnected from myself as a woman and my marriage.

Then it all began to change when I realized that somehow, in spite of it all, Mr. Big continued to love me as fiercely as always. Actually, he loved me more (enough for both of us) because I was too broken to love myself. The need to wax my chin did not even faze him, the extra meat on my bones didn’t turn him away and the lack of baby only made him sad for my broken heart. Absolutely nothing in his actions validated my harsh feelings towards myself, and slowly – very slowly – I came to see myself more as he saw me, and less as the cruel thoughts in my head.

Yes, I was growing facial hair. Yes, I was plumper than I’d ever been. Yes, I was emotional and irregular and annovulatory. Yes, I was infertile. But none of those things were the reasons Mr. Big married me. He did not marry me for my smooth face, my thin frame, my calm, normal periods (haha), or for my fertility. He married me because of the person I was underneath all of that – the person I was in my soul. The same person that my family and friends loved. The same person that my work appreciated, and my friends came to in times of need. Realizing that was what made me a stronger person. My body is just temporary: it will change with time, age and experience. But my soul – that’s permanent – and something I will carry with me always.

From there I realized how very lucky I am: Mr. Big is wonderful. He is such a good, kind, gentle man and I am so very blessed to have him. Knowing that he stuck by me through such a difficult time, and loved me when I was too hurt to love myself, showed me the kind of man he really is. It made me love him harder and more, which has – in turn – allowed him to love me harder and more. The thing about love is, the more you love yourself – the more open you are to be loved. The more he taught me to love myself, the more I was open to receiving love, and the more rich and full my life became. Realizing this is what has made our marriage stronger. 

Without PCOS, I am not sure either of us would have learned all that we have, and all that we continue to, on this journey. Every day it makes me a stronger woman and a stronger wife, and every day it makes him a stronger man and a stronger husband. It is also what has driven us down this adoption path that has been so very fulfilling, already.

So this weekend, while it is a time for Thanksgiving, I have to say I am particularly thankful for PCOS. At times I truly felt it was ruining my life, but it really was just taking it apart and rebuilding me as a stronger, better person…and for that, I am so very thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving – I hope you all find yourselves surrounded by love and peace this holiday!

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#FridayFavs – It’s September!!

Ah it’s September!! My most favourite month, that begins my most favourite season, that leads into my most favourite holidays.

In case you haven’t realized…I LOVE September.

  • I love the way the evenings cool down, and the mornings become crisp.
  • I love the way the leaves begin to change colour.
  • I love the way the grass and leaves crunch under my feet when I walk.
  • I love the reprieve from a hot summer (although, it wasn’t hot this year).
  • I love the entrance into Fall (my fav), and all it entails – Thanksgiving, Halloween and Christmas!
  • I love the first snowfall, when the season is new.
  • I love cuddling by the fire in the evenings, catching up on our TV shows.
  • I love the calm that comes from back to school/summer vacation over (I live in Cottage country = major traffic during summer).
  • I love hot coffee on cold mornings.
  • I love pumpkin farms, and Christmas tree hunting.
  • I love that our anniversary, and my birthday, are this month.
  • I love curling up under an afghan, by the fire, reading a good book.

I look forward to this season all year long. I just love it so much (the way most people probably love summer). So much fun happens in the Fall, and the early Winter, and I just can’t wait to get started.

How do you feel about September/Fall? What is your favourite season?

Vacation 2017 Recap

This summer we have not been able to carve out much time at all for Vacation (busy around the house!) – but we finally managed to squeeze 9 days at the lake with my in-laws.

Due to Mr. Big’s parental sit-ee-a-shun, the trip is always broken into two halves – the first half with his Mom and Step-Dad and two brothers, and the second half with his Dad and Step-Mom and two brothers.

Part #1 – With Mom (M) & Step-Dad (SD):

This relationship is very complicated – we love M & SD very, very much – but their life is VERY different from ours, and visits with them are often stressful and exhausting. Mr. Big was raised by his Dad (for very good and real reasons), which adds a bit of complication to this equation as his Mom has never quite moved on from that. Regardless, we all love each other very much and work hard to maintain as good of a relationship as we can.

  • Sat/ Sun: The trip started on a sour note – our flight was 1.5 hours delayed – which isn’t so bad except it was midnight, the airport was mostly closed, and the flight (when it finally boarded) was so packed that Mr. Big spent the entire time leaning forward to prevent squishing anyone with his Neanderthal-like shoulder span. Neither one of us slept a wink, but thankfully it was a short flight (2.5 hours).
  • Mon – Wed: We spent the next few days visiting with all of the family on that side, and their friends. It was nice to see everyone, but very loud and long days with lots of booze, heat and not much else. We really enjoyed getting to visit with everyone, though, and it was nice to finally see their house – they’re surrounded by the most beautiful country.20170823_183435
  • They live near a pen of Bison, which was really cool to see – we got really close! P.S: Bison are HUGE and smelly.20170823_150246

Part #2 – With Dad (D) & Step-Mom (SM):

  • This relationship is much more solid. We have a very close relationship with D & SM – and we always look so forward to seeing them. Mr. Big was raised by them, so hearing the stories of him growing up is so much fun. I also love to see him with his Dad and younger brother – they are like three parts of one whole, so similar and so content in each other’s company!
  • Thurs – Sat: We drove to their Lakehouse – a beautiful cottage on a quiet lake, perfect for relaxing! We spent these days lakeside relaxing and getting ready for their 25th Anniversary party. Check out this fruit tray we made:20170826_162754
  • Every day I got to wake up and sip my coffee to this view:20170825_092525
  • It was so relaxing and just what I needed! 20170825_092559
  • Sat/Sun: The 25th anniversary party for D & SM could NOT have gone off better. We surprised them with custom built Adirondack chairs, with designs on them for their beautiful deck. 63 friends came to the party and it was a beautiful, fun, gathering that lasted until the wee hours. It was the kind of party where everyone is respectful, kind and just has a really good time (complete with Tiki Bar and Margaritas!) – no drama of any kind (my kind of party!). They truly have the best circle around them – probably because they are the very best kind of people!
  • Mon: We were all weepy when we parted. We are so close to D & SM, and I hate that we don’t live closer…but we cherish every moment we have with them. I cannot wait to finally have children, so we can share such an amazing Nana and Papa with them.
  • Our flight home was WAY better. We paid the extra $100 for the Plus seating and were so glad we did – the seats were roomier, the middle seat was empty, and Mr. Big was thrilled with the unlimited snacks!

Overall, it was a really good trip. We made some wonderful memories with both sides of the family and had a blast. As always, we were sad to leave, but are very happy to be home.

Where we are now

In case you missed it: check this out first. 

Where are we now?

Well, we’re feeling relieved, and angry, and sad, and frustrated…in that order. But still, I don’t think there is an ounce of us that thinks we should dive into IVF.

To rewind – for some time (like, I’m talking 7 years or 2555 days or 364 weeks or 84 months or approx. 70 cycles) we have tried our best to conceive without too much medical/surgical intervention. Medical and surgical intervention is a beautiful, miraculous thing and I am so happy it exists – but for us, we have always known we would not do much in the way of medical/surgical interventions (for plenty of reasons: health, prognosis, side effects, anxiety/fear, finances, the fact that I have only one ovary/ fallopian and stakes are high if I have an ectopic or another cyst, etc.). This is the one thing we have consistently stuck by, and believed in, though out these rocky years.

We have tried pretty much every vitamin/ mineral/ miracle substance/ essential oil/ acupuncture/ massage/ work out routine / diet you can think of to help boost our fertility. We have tried BBT, CM charting and fert.ility fri.end. Mr. Big has not been in a hot tub or worn anything tighter than boxers in 5 years. We have tried prayer, meditation, Reiki and even human sacrifice (just kidding on that last one). We have tried “relaxing, and letting it happen” and we have tried “Sex three times/day, every day”. I have peed on every kind of stick there is to pee on and I have had enough of the fun and glamorous fertility testing (I’m looking at you, dildo cam wearing a little condom hat) to last me a life time. I have taken the ovulation inducing meds, the hormone replacements, the meds they give you to combat the side effects of the aforementioned meds, and – of course – the prenatals that are so huge they should be inserted, rather than swallowed.

And then, four weeks ago, we approached the point in our infertility journey where we need to move forward with IVF, or stop.

We spent countless hours and days thinking, wondering and worrying about those two options. Lots of things went through my mind: “if I REALLY wanted a child, I wouldn’t even consider stopping”, “I’m letting down my parents, my in-laws, my sisters, my nephews”, “Mr.Big should leave me and marry someone fertile”, “What kind of a woman am I when I can’t even do the ONE thing women’s bodies were *made* for?” , “If I were stronger, I would be fighting to the death for this”, “Maybe the reason I can’t have kids, is because I shouldn’t”, etc. etc….

Then, we finally decided to listen to our guts: it is time to stop.

The decision was not, and continues to not be, easy. Every day I go back and forth and wonder if I made a mistake, if we just try one more cycle… but I know if I don’t stop myself, everything that we DO have will fall apart. I love children more than anything in the entire world – but we know, inherently, that this is not the path we are meant to be on. We can feel it in our hearts, our minds, and our souls. The damage that is being done to ourselves is immense already (as you all know) and this is not the way we want to become parents.

We have battle scars. We’re both heavier, with more unhealthy habits than we had pre-infertility and our levels of self esteem are so low, they’re in a heap on the bathroom floor most days. Social settings – once fun and relaxing – are now awkward and uncomfortable because everyone in our life is a raging, fertile parent or parent-to-be. The questions and comments at these social events still bring me to my knees. I have one less one ovary and fallopian due to a “twisted cyster”, believed to be brought on by the med. cocktail I was on. I can’t remember the last time we went on a vacation (actually, have we ever??) because we were always afraid to book one in case I got pregnant and we didn’t want to worry about cancelling if I was sick/ high risk/ if the area had dangerous virus (like Zika)…so we just didn’t book anything. Our entire life was on hold, waiting for the day when our HPT would come up positive… for 2555 days our lives have been on hold.

I don’t know what the future has in store for us. I sure hope it involves raising and parenting children – but if it doesn’t, I can accept that too (that makes my throat burn just to type that…so maybe rather than “I can accept that too”, I should say “I will work to accept that too, should that be our path”). I am so blessed in that my sisters allow us to have an active role in our nephews’ lives, allowing us to be a part of so many of the things we would otherwise miss. Our lives are not void of the blessings of parenting, they’re just structured in a slightly different way.

Mr. Big and I are still in recovery mode, trying to piece our selves and our lives back together. I think we want to take a vacation (one that we’ve been putting off in case I got pregnant), and then we will sit down and enroll in some adoption and fostering classes and get thinking about this next phase of our lives.

 

Fertility Update

It’s been quite a while since I gave a little fertility update…so it’s overdue.

Here is a little background:

  • Started TTC 6 years ago, with zero success
  • After 1 year, diagnosed with “probably PCOS” – no blood markers, no insulin resistant, no visible cysts on the ovaries but a family history and horrendous periods and sent to the top PCOS specialist in the country
  • Determined to be annovulatory and tried 3 cycles Clomid, break, 3 cycles Femara, break. No BFP – just a myriad of awful side effects and an emergency surgery to remove a ballooned cyst that contorted and killed one ovary and fallopian tube. Post surgery – advised that IVF is the only option and referred to the regional fertility program.
  • Got almost to the actual retrieval, and panicked and cancelled it all. I was having horrific side effects from the meds, I was struggling emotionally and we were across the country from all of our family and support systems. Mr. Big agreed I needed a break, and in that time we packed up and moved back home to be closer to family.
  • Over the next year we worked on getting healthy, losing weight (60lbs, woot woot) and settling into our new house and new life – so glad we made this move! It was absolutely the right thing for us.
  • Around September of 2016 I started to get the itch again. We had been just “letting it happen” for almost two years without success…so I approached my family Doctor who was super supportive and we came up with a game plan. Since we have known fertility issues, we opted to try naturally for 6 months and then move on to an RE. Because so much has changed in my health, we will need to start again from scratch – but I’m OK with that. I had just turned 30 and felt like we have time to work from the bottom up…and I really hate any kind of fertility meds because I seem to get every side effect, so I wanted to avoid that if at all possible.
  • I had a bunch of blood work and tests, and they all came up great.
  • In March, we began our 6 months of TTC prior to RE referral. So far, no natural pregnancy…and despite that we’re not using any hormones, I am feeling like crap all around (as though I am using Clomid). Due to that, my Doctor orders some extra blood work which ends up showing I have Hypothyroidism (which is new, as I had my thyroid tested last year and it was all normal). So yay – Hypothyroidism (not). The good news is that it can sometimes cause a lot of the issues I’ve been struggling with, so getting this under control is good for my fertility. The bad news is it may make no difference at all… but that’s OK. It’s still worth a shot!

And otherwise, we are just waiting and seeing! 3 months of TTC down, 3 more to go before we get out the big guns.

People-y-ness

I am an introvert. I was born an introvert, and I will die an introvert.

For a long time I was ashamed of that. I was taught that being closed up / quiet and liking your own company was a weakness and a sign of being abnormal. It was something to overcome…so I tried, and I tried, and I tried to conquer it – at the very grave cost of my mental health – but I never succeeded. Finally (thankfully) I reached a point in my adulthood where I realized there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. Like extroverts, it is just a type of personality.

I like my own company. I find socializing draining and exhausting. Nothing rejuvenates me more than a quiet afternoon alone, doing my thing. All good things, right? Self acceptance for the win!

But then…I married an extrovert….

Now our social life is a constant balance between my needs and his. He fills his cup by being out around people, I fill my cup by being alone (or with him). He can spend DAYS visiting with family or friends, while I can barely tolerate 3-4 hours. He loves to invite people to things, I like to do things just the two of us. He gets bored if a week goes by without a socialization event – I would be OK with just one a month. His idea of a vacation is spending it at a crowded resort in Mexico laying on the beach. My idea of a vacation is a hostel in Scotland, touring the castles and eating local pub fair.

We are SO different. I often wonder how we could possibly be happy together…but we yet we are. His people-y-ness encourages me to be a bit more peoply, while my non-peopley-ness encourages him to be a little more content with his own company…I see it as a win both ways.

I can’t wait to see what we end up with for children…will they be extroverts, introverts or something in between?

I think Mr. Big and I are proof that opposites do attract – we complement each other while still being individuals. But I also know couples who are very similar and perfectly matched together – I think it really depends on the person and the dynamics of the marriage.

What about you? Are you introverted or extroverted? What about your spouse?

 

On Being Single

I am not single. This is a reflection after seeing a particular movie this week that I thought would be slap stick comedy but actually had an intellectual aspect to it.

Have you seen it? How.to.be.single?

I went with my sister and we have two VERY different love stories. It was interesting to talk about it after.

She met her husband in junior high and never dated anyone else. She lived at home until she got a surprise pregnancy at 19 and dropped out of college and took a retail job. Her husband worked (and still does) in construction. Then they moved in with her (now) husband’s mother. They got married at 22 and bought their own house. They had another baby at 24 and are currently hoping to have a third.

I didn’t date much in high school, but went on some dates in University. I went to school 1800 kms from home, so I lived on my own in a dorm for the first two years and then an apartment for the third. I made some great friendships. From there I moved to across the country and started my adult life in a city where I knew no one…I loved the experience. I got a corporate job that paid me well, so I got to have some wonderful experiences. While there I met a guy who I dated seriously, but it didn’t last. Then I met another guy, dated him semi-seriously, but again it didn’t last. 3 years post University graduation I met Mr. Big. We dated for 7 months, were engaged for 2 years and finally married outdoors at a small ceremony in the mountains. It was beautiful. We struggled with infertility for a while there, before packing up and moving home to be closer to my family and sisters. Still struggling with infertility.

The movie (SPOILER ALERT) talks about how to be single…and how part of the purpose is to figure out who you are while you’re single so that when you do find someone, you don’t get lost. They coin the experience of “finding a guy and rushing into something serious without ever knowing yourself” as “dicksand” (sorry, that’s what they call it). It’s like meeting someone you like and getting stuck in their quicksand and becoming who they want you to be rather than who you are.

As soon as the movie ended, my sister looked at me and said “I got caught in (her husbands name)’s dicksand.”

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how lucky I am to have had all the wonderful experiences I did have while I was single – and to have the opportunity to not only figure out who I am, but to develop that. While I miss, immensely, that I don’t have children yet – there is a perk to it too. Mr. Big and I have been able to develop strong sense of who we each are individually, and who we are as a couple. We’ve been able to do things, and see things, and have experiences that not everyone gets to experience. That’s not such a bad thing. (Don’t get me wrong, I am ready to stop any time and trade it in for bibs and diapers…but I also want to realize and acknowledge that good things come from this too).

My sister and her husband are happily married, have a nice home and two beautiful children. They work hard and they enjoy their life. Getting caught into his “dicksand” (I know, cringeworthy tem!) worked for her and she’s happy. But I am very thankful that I had a chance to become who I am as a single person and to learn to need only myself – before finding the person to share my life with. I just hope that the little versions come along before I’m too old and grey to enjoy them.

It was definitely a surprising food for thought movie! Did you see it? What did you think?