stepping stones

The plot is thickening in the B family household.

(that’s us, just to be clear)

So much so that I have no choice other than to follow the compulsion to write it down.  My hope is that I can serve a twofold purpose: 1) to keep friends and family (and anyone else who’s interested) informed of our situation, and 2) to put my story out there in case it can help another person get to the place they need to be.

It gets really confusing nowadays when I try to explain my situation to someone.  I start talking about genetics and fertility specialists and I see their eyes begin to glaze over.  That’s when I know I’ve left them somewhere below the stratosphere and I am talking waaaay over their head.  Heck, I’m mostly talking over my own head.

It’s hard to even know where to start, but the background is this: I’ve been married to my wonderful hubbie for 8 years, and in the past 6 years, we have had 5 miscarriages and 2 children.  We have a 5-year-old boy and a 2.5-year-old girl.  Two of my miscarriages were pretty late, at 16 weeks.  The others have been earlier (8 weeks, 5.5 weeks and 10 weeks).  I’ve had 3 miscarriages in a row since my daughter was born, which now puts me in the category of having “recurrent miscarriage” – a problem that only about 1% of women have (so they say).  After my third miscarriage, which occurred last summer, I went to two different fertility specialists in the Pittsburgh area.  Neither of them found anything “wrong” – which is good in the sense that it ruled things out, but bad in the sense that I can’t be treated or helped.

I wrote extensively about the spiritual side of last summer’s 16-week miscarriage, as well as my severe problems with postpartum depression/anxiety, on this blog.  You can check out the archives in June, July and August of 2011, if you’re so inclined.  This year, I want to talk about my utter frustration with doctors and what I have found in the way of help.  God’s faithfulness is apparent in both aspects!

The first specialist I saw was a doctor at the Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh.  His specialty was in Maternal-Fetal Medicine and High Risk Obstetrics.  He was very thorough and kind, and did a really nice job pretending he didn’t hear my then-4-year-old son when he blurted out “He looks weird.”  He tested me for a few factors that can affect pregnancy outcomes — to get boring and scientific on you, the tests were: 1) random glucose, HgbA1c (hemoglobin something or other), platelets, anticardiolipin antibodies, and lupus anticoagulant.  All I know is that these are tests for metabolic and clotting/autoimmune factors, and they were all normal.

The doctor explained that many pregnancies fail due to “random chromosomal errors.”  In fact, about 2/3rds of first trimester miscarriages are due to these sorts of errors.  So essentially, I was just unlucky, having lost three pregnancies in the first trimester at that point.  (Even though 2 of them were discovered at 16 weeks’ gestation, both of those babies measured around 13 weeks, which is still in the first trimester.)  The solution?  Keep trying.  Doc said I still had a pretty good chance of carrying to term – maybe only about 5-10% less likely to carry to term than the average woman.

That was in July 2011.  In December 2011, after talking to a friend, I decided to give Reproductive Health Specialists in Pittsburgh a call.  I was able to get in quickly and met with a very nice woman doctor who spent about an hour with me.  She knew the doctor I had seen first and said he did a very thorough work-up.  She did not wish to order any further testing, except for a sonogram to examine the anatomy of my uterus.

Uterus is such a funny word.  Go ahead and say it a few times.  Right?

Anywho, my uterus was fine, which ruled out anatomical abnormalities that could have contributed to pregnancy loss, such as the presence of a septum or other abnormality that could interfere physically with the development of a baby.  So that’s good, too.

This doctor’s recommendation was the same as the first doctor’s: keep trying.  Take your prenatals and keep trying, and chances are you will carry to term again.

Oh by the way, “Good luck!”  And, “Sorry about your luck!” … “It’s just so unfortunate that you’ve lost two babies at a really rare stage in the game and one baby before that, but keep trying!”  … Ha…  I suppose that little outburst makes me sound bitter, but I’m really not… I’m just poking fun at the very unfortunate nature of the situation, and cracking inappropriate jokes sorta makes me feel better!  In all seriousness, the doctor was very understanding and very nice, and reassured me that I am not alone.  She said that about 50% of women like me simply do not get answers.  She also spent some time talking about genetic codes and how very little we (as humans) know about them.  She mentioned that there is much about our knowledge of the reproductive process that is still “crude.”  Imagine that – humans don’t know everything!

So after I saw her in December, I miscarried again in February.  It was a very early one, and for that I was grateful.  (You don’t have much time to get attached to the idea, and recovery is non-surgical.)  I called her office back and told them what happened.  After consulting with the doctor, they called me back and told me her recommendation was the same.  Keep trying.

Here’s where I really start to see the Lord laying out all those stepping stones for me.  Yea, it’s not easy, and I can’t tell you why things have to take so long, but I just try to focus on His faithfulness to me in a very broken world.  But the next step for me was to go to an integrative medicine facility, Medical Wellness Associates in Jeannette, PA, where I met with a doctor who ordered several more tests for me.  I wrote about the findings here.

One thing that doctor found was the MTHFR gene mutation.  MTHFR is a genetic mutation that about 30% of the population has.  It stands for “methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase.”  Whatever.  All I know is that it affects the way we metabolize certain vitamins like folic acid and B12.  So my new doc put me on special forms of both of those.  It made sense that maybe I was losing babies because they weren’t getting the proper nutrients and maybe they had neural tube defects from lack of folic acid.  No one can say for sure, of course, but it’s certainly better to be on the forms of the vitamins I can absorb, rather than not be getting enough of them.

So all was well and good until I miscarried again in July.  I was 10 weeks along.

Here, too, the Lord provided a great mercy for me.  1) I already knew about having MTHFR; 2) I had begun doing some writing about my experiences and had ordered a book for research purposes; 3) the book came just a few days before I miscarried, so I had it at home while I was recovering.  The book is called Avoiding Miscarriage by Susan Rousselot.  Devastated by yet another inexplicable loss, and having my nerves fried from the trauma of it once again, I set to reading this book and quickly found inspiration to keep looking for answers.  It truly was a Godsend.

The long and the short of where I stand now is as such: I became convinced that I needed to find a reproductive immunologist.  I started by making several phone calls to the specialists I saw before, but this field is newer and most specialists fall in the category of endocrinology.  (Some endocrinologists do take a more progressive approach to immunological causes, but the ones I saw did not.)  I even went back to Reproductive Health Specialists, but was not encouraged.  If anything, I knew I’d gotten my answer about which doctor was not going to help me.

My sister-in-law also has MTHFR and was very supportive, telling me that she was treated for it, and she feels very confident I can have more children.  Talking to her was another kindness from the Lord, particularly because the doctor at RHS had so discouraged me.  But all was not lost and I got back in the saddle!

For the sake of space, I am summing things up tremendously, but I wanted to get this all down before I make my very exciting next step.  This week, I am traveling to New York City to see a reproductive immunologist, Dr. Jeffrey Braverman.  He is only one of a handful of reproductive immunologists in the country – and maybe the world, for that matter!

I did a preliminary phone consult with him today to make sure he thought he could help me, and he told me he felt confident he could.  He was reassuring, telling me that he sees women like me many times a day, and he will figure out what’s going on.  Looking at my history, he said he felt sure there is something immunologic going on, and not to worry – come to New York, and he will do all the figuring out.  This was the first time I’d ever heard anything like that.  For the first time, I’m starting to feel like I can relax a little and let someone else finally do the work for me!  Hopefully, this will mean no more pedaling without getting any answers.  No more hamster wheel.  Hopefully :)

This morning, I prayed to the Lord that He would guide me, and maybe even “this week” that He would bring me to the right doctor.  Once again, I am thanking Him!  (And am really looking forward to taking my son to the biggest toy store in the world :)  )  I will definitely try to keep posting.  I just know I am not the only one out there frustrated with the current lack of answers for recurrent pregnancy loss.  Here’s hoping this momma can help another momma out.

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Posted in miscarriage, pregnancy, suffering | 1 Comment

waiting in the dark

I attended a funeral yesterday for a beautiful, successful, straight-A high school student of my former school in Maryland.  My younger sister, who attends the school now, was devastated by this girl’s death; she described her as “the nicest person.”  Everyone knew her and loved her.  She played sports all year round – cross-country, basketball, lacrosse and others.  She was a stellar athlete, already making varsity teams in her sophomore year.  At age 16, she clearly had tons of friends and was always making people laugh.  And yet we gathered by her grave yesterday because she took her own life last week.

The community is completely undone.

When we went to her viewing, we could barely find parking, and had to squeeze our way through to get a glimpse of her.  For the funeral the next day, the church parking lot was overcrowded and cars were jammed along residential streets.  Inside, it was literally standing-room only.  Many people couldn’t even get through the doors from outside, much less into the sanctuary.  Teenage girls had “tattooed” their beloved friend’s jersey number on their hands or on the backs of their legs, and held one anothers’ arms in groups as they walked to the graveside.  My sister and I were some of the first to get to the cemetery site, and we watched and waited as hundreds of people kept coming and coming – there seemed to be no end to the masses of mourners.  It was like watching a slow river flow… except it was made up of silent, bleary-eyed people dressed in black.

I cried many times yesterday for this young girl, her sorrowful family, and this community of people that is wounded so deeply.  Having experienced suicides in our family, I am pained for the family most of all.  Losing a loved one to this kind of death throws all sorts of questions out there.  Most of them won’t be answered.  Mostly, those of us left behind just mourn that we couldn’t do something to save our sibling/son/daughter/parent from the suffering they were experiencing.  We would rather have given our eyes or limbs than to see that beloved one die.  It is one of the worst pains a human being can experience.

And yet, I wouldn’t ever want anyone to judge this young girl for what she did.  There will be moments, or even days, of feeling angry – yes.  But ultimately, we have to remember compassion.  We have to remember that a person must be in deep, inescapable sorrow to actually take their life.  If you’ve not walked in their shoes, then you don’t know what they were living.  If you haven’t ever struggled with depression, then you can’t begin to imagine how very dark and scary the world can seem.  Please, return to compassion for her – and return to compassion for her family.  Remember that they would have loved to do something for her if only they knew.

After a suicide in my own family, someone spoke the most unkind words that I’ll (unfortunately) never forget.  They implied that the family knew it was coming.  In essence, they were saying the family should have done more.  What an ignorant, insensitive thing to say.  Don’t EVER say anything like that.  If you ever hear anyone say something like that, gently remind them that they assume too much and that they don’t understand what really happened.  Because what really happened was a person in pain hid their pain and didn’t ask for help.  And what’s happening now is a family is blown to pieces and will always, always, always, for as long as they live, regret that they couldn’t stop them.  Don’t ever assume you know what could have or should have been done.  Just be there, and be silent, and learn to walk the road of sorrow with the sorrowful.

To the family, I wish I could say it will be all right, but those words are pretty empty.  I wish I could embrace them and make everything feel a little better, but that’s the job of the Lord, and His healing is something that comes day by day.  I can say it WILL get easier, but it’s going to take time – and maybe more time than you would like.  But it will get less raw, and the tears will stop coming every day after a while.  Grief is a shadowy figure that lurches close behind us, but he does begin to let up after a while.  And you also have a Savior who is greater than grief, and greater than pain.  Jesus died to take away the sting of death.  He died to reconcile us to the God who made us and loves us.  You may have lots of questions for God, but please don’t turn away from Him.  He loves you so much and wants to bring comfort to you. If all you can do is pray, “Help,” then do that.  If all you can do is read the same Psalm over and over, then do that… but let God in.  Look for Him… He is eager to comfort you.  His word is “living and active,” and is a living, healing balm.  If today, you can’t bear to talk to God or even think of Him, try again later.  He will wait for you.

“He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and made me cower in ashes;
my soul is bereft of peace,
I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, ‘My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.’
 
Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.”
 
                     Lamentations 3:16-20
Posted in feeling overwhelmed, suffering, the love of Christ | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

getting somewhere (part 2)

So I left off talking about my decision to try a gluten-free diet.  (See previous post here.)  I remembered one more “clue” that led me to my decision to try this.  One day, I was at an appointment with my physician’s assistant who prescribes my medication for me.  I asked her if she could tell me anything I could do naturally or nutritionally to help with anxiety, and one of the things she said was that some patients feel better on a gluten-free diet.

It’s like there’s all these doctors out there helping us try to feel better, but they each only have one piece of the puzzle.  It’s essentially taken all these months to finally gather enough pieces to start to see the big picture.

When I noticed how much better I felt off gluten, I really started feeling like I was getting somewhere.  Here I had struggled with anxiety off and on for months, and by making one dietary change, it disappeared.  I had never felt so in control of my own health!  It was the first time I’d been able to do anything that gave me hope I was moving in the direction of feeling better permanently.  Before that, I was helped by medication for the anxiety, but it still came and went.  And, I’d been given no treatment to end the recurrent miscarriages.

Feeling better off gluten truly solidified my belief that our overall health is intimately tied to what we are feeding our bodies.   Even the Berenstain Bears know this!  It’s like Dr. Grizzly explained in The Berenstain Bears And Too Much Junk Food, when Mama Bear took the whole family to the doctor because their eating habits were terrible.  (My kids love this book!)  Check it out (yea, I scanned it. Is that weird?):

Of course!  It’s so obvious!  “A system for food that lets us take in the nourishment that gives us energy and keeps all the other systems healthy.”  DUH.  How could our health, mood, energy, chronic illnesses, cancer, fertility, behavior, and everything else NOT be related to food???  Our brain gets nourishment from what we eat.  Our nerves are fed by what we eat.  Our energy comes from how our bodies metabolize what we eat.  Toxins in our bodies that lead to cancer and autism and chronic illnesses come from our environment, which includes our food!

So I stayed off the gluten for the full three weeks I had to wait for my results.  And when I went back for my results, they confirmed a gluten sensitivity.  (By the way, it is likely that a very large portion of the population has gluten sensitivity, but most doctors don’t know the  proper ways to test for it, and most people have no digestive symptoms.  But if you feel better off gluten, chances are you should probably not be eating gluten!  I not only experienced relief from anxiety, but also noticed I had more energy and less muscle aches.)

The Food Panel also revealed sensitivities to many other foods.  I was glad I had a leg-up on the elimination of wheat, because it was about to get even trickier.  As you can see on the results below, any black line that extends into the “Moderate” or “Avoid” columns denotes a food to which my body is sensitive.  So, for an indefinite period of time, I am to avoid dairy, eggs, beef, gluten, peanuts (oh noooooooo! my peanut butter!), soy, and mushrooms (never liked them anyway).  The idea is to give my body a break from these foods, then maybe (or maybe not!) add some of them back in once enough time has passed.  I was also given guidelines that would improve anyone’s health (though not your ease at the grocery store): Avoid sugar, MSG, preservatives, dyes and colorings, and high fructose corn syrup.  Try to buy organic if possible, and look into getting a water filtration system for your home.  … It helps to concentrate on what I CAN do and what I CAN eat.  But that doesn’t stop me from being at a loss many times!

The foods in blue are foods that are allowed.

Again, I see the Lord’s perfect timing in this.  There is no way on God’s green earth I would have been ready for this regimen back in September.  I had to get here in the right time.  When I did go to Medical Wellness Associates, I was already doing things like using coconut oil and sea salt, avoiding refined flour and sugar, and I saw the value of unprocessed foods.  It’s still been a huge challenge, but I was already in possession of the knowledge about WHY I had to do these things.

In addition to the food sensitivities my doctor found, the other blood tests came back with some new and helpful information.  I am still not sure why no other doctor screened for these things before, but it sure reinforced my idea that you have to be your own advocate.

1. THYROID

As I wrote yesterday, my primary care physician tested my thyroid and said it was normal.  I think he did a “TSH” test, which stands for thyroid-stimulating hormone.

My new doctor did a full panel on my thyroid.  The script for my bloodwork said “Thyroid panel- hypo/hyper: T4free, T4, T3, T3uptake, TSH.”  I couldn’t really explain what that means, but when the results came back, the T3 was too low.  My doc said it indicated an underactive thyroid, and prescribed some supplements to help get it back on track.  Avoiding wheat would also help the thyroid get back on track, because, according to him, wheat is “infamous” for disrupting the thyroid.

2. MTHFR GENE MUTATION

Yesterday I mentioned the MTHFR gene mutation and its role in folic acid uptake.  When I got my results, it turns out that I have one copy of the C677T mutation and one copy of the A1298C mutation.  Whatever that means, all I know is that I am positive for the MTHFR mutation.  So it’s possible some of my pregnancies ended in miscarriage because the babies were not developing well neurologically, due to folic acid not being available for absorption.

My doc gave me a special form of folic acid to bypass the problems this mutation causes.  Apparently, gene mutations such as this one are common in the population.  Genes have a lot to do with our predisposition for disease, as we know.  It would go without saying then, that they affect how a person’s body reacts to foods or environmental assaults.  One of the things they do at Medical Wellness Associates is gene testing as it relates to autism.  They can then formulate a specific dietary and supplement regime to help autistic children recover or improve.  Pretty amazing stuff.

3. VITAMIN D

My vitamin D level was low also.  One of these days, I’d like to read more about vitamin D, but I know it’s really important for lots of stuff.  How’s that for scientific?  Well, that’s what Google’s for, right? :)  In listening to my doctor, I did manage to write down that vitamin D is related to immunity, depression, heart disease, our bones, and dopamine levels in the brain.  A friend who also visited this clinic said his doctor related vitamin D to a hormone – its functions are that important.  It also has a role in fertility.

4. HEALING THE GUT

A fourth thing I came away from Medical Wellness with was the importance of the gut in regulating immunity and overall health.  My doctor put me on “Mega Probiotic” to help restore the bacterial flora in my intestines.  He said that my gut has been weakened by the constant barrage of offending foods, so we need to give it a break from them AND help it heal.  I recently read in Robyn O’Brien’s astounding book, The Unhealthy Truth, that “Scientists now believe that some 70 percent of our immune system is located in our intestines,” and so it is our immune systems that suffer when our guts don’t have the beneficial bacteria they need to thrive.

Now, you might think, “I am as healthy as a horse!  I never get sick, so I must not have any deficiency in my gut.”  And I would have thought that before too.  But I’ve come to see that immunity doesn’t just mean how well we fight off a cold.  The health of our gut also has to do with allergies, asthma, eczema, fatigue, brain fog, sleep disorders, bloating, gas, chronic runny nose or congestion, recurring ear infections, auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and vitiligo, and countless other health conditions.  I may not be saying all of this exactly right, since I am not a doctor myself, but I am convinced that our gut is like our “second brain” – it regulates that much!

In conclusion, I have finally found some explanation for the mystery of why my body has not been optimally healthy.  Nobody can actually tell me for sure why I have miscarried so much, but I believe these “strikes” have probably been working against me for a while:

Strike 1: Gluten sensitivity

Strike 2: Underactive thyroid (made worse by gluten)

Strike 3: Vitamin D insufficiency

Strike 4: MTHFR gene mutation, disrupting folic acid absorption

Strike 5: Questionable gut health, possibly affecting nutrient uptake

We all know there’s no crying in baseball!  And three strikes, you’re out… not sure what happens when you have five!  I hope, that by removing the “strikes,” I’ll get my health on course and hopefully have better pregnancy outcomes in the future.  I believe I’ve finally found a doctor who is extremely well-educated on the processes of the human body and how they relate to food, environment and genetics.

Finding the integrative medicine facility was HUGE for me.  All along, I’d had this nagging feeling that there must be something more to my health than what my doctors were looking for.  It felt like my nutrition and diet must have a role.  I had no proof.  All I had was intuition, or a gut feeling, or an instinct.  Ultimately, I believe it’s the Lord who gave us a natural ability to listen to our bodies, and I believe it’s the Lord who leads us down the right paths if we ask Him.  And I really see His faithfulness in leading me now that I am here.

Thanks for reading… I hope that this peek into my journey may be helpful to someone else someday… or at least provide an interesting story!

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getting somewhere (part 1)

Image

I have not blogged for a long time!  This is a hobby I have had to set aside for a while, but I really want to write down all that I’ve been learning in the past couple of months.  I hope that maybe my journey can help others out there suffering from infertility or miscarriage, and I also want to give thanks to the Lord for leading me to where I am now.  I am finally, finally, finally getting some answers.  And I believe that God led me to them just when I was ready for them, and not before.

Back in June, when we lost our baby at 16 weeks gestation, I began to feel like my miscarriages were more than bad luck or a fluke.  I had miscarried twice at 16 weeks and once at 8 weeks.  I experienced new anxieties, all tied up in the question, “How many more times is this going to happen?”  And I couldn’t shake the feeling that something more was going on in my body than my doctors had the expertise to find.  My own OB was almost speechless when this happened again.  He felt so bad.

A month or two after the miscarriage, I went to see a genetic specialist in Pittsburgh, at West Penn Hospital.  My OB had ordered a karyotype of my blood and my husband’s blood, which is just to say they looked at our chromosomes to make sure they were normal.  (It is purely a visual examination of the layout of the chromosomes to make sure they are all in the right positions and don’t contain extra material… here’s the Web MD definition.)  The karyotype was normal for both of us, which is good.  If we had been found to have any translocations or other abnormalities, the news may have consisted of information such as, “You are likely to have miscarriages 50% of the time,” or, “You are likely to give birth to children with mental retardation or genetic disorders.”  So having normal chromosomes was a very good report.

The specialist at West Penn tested me for about five other things that can cause miscarriage.  (Metabolic factors, blood-clotting factors, etc.  I wouldn’t understand the papers even if I looked at them now.)  All were normal.  Again, good news, but it left me with nothing to do but hope things would be better in the future.  He mentioned that 2/3rds of miscarriages in the first trimester are due to chromosomal abnormalities – and even though I was at 16 weeks, the babies sized at about 13 weeks, right on the cusp of the 1st trimester.

I was also having very severe bouts of postpartum anxiety, starting just a few days after the miscarriage, getting worse about two weeks later, and lasting for a total of two months before medication helped control it.  I wrote about this extensively before.  It was a nightmare, but God delivered me from that darkness, and I can say I am a different person because of it.  I often felt like my life was going to be awful forever… but it’s not, and I’m OK, and when I live my life every day and I realize how normal and happy I feel, I thank God that I am not in that place anymore.

By the way, why do you only hear about postpartum depression, but not anxiety?  The two problems are so inter-connected, I am surprised more people don’t discuss anxiety.  But anyway… off subject.

The whole summer passed, fall came, and then my friend told me about another fertility specialist in Pittsburgh, Reproductive Health Specialists.  I had heard of them before, but never called them because it seemed like they focused more on infertility than recurrent miscarriage.  But I decided to give it a try.  They saw me in December.  Again, no news.  They didn’t order any new bloodwork, but did order a sonogram to make sure my uterus looked normal.  It was.

I asked every doctor I visited if they believed something could be wrong nutritionally.  I wondered if they had any thoughts on the fact that I felt really sick with my babies I lost, but not sick with the ones who lived.  I asked if it was normal to feel really hungry all the time, and not be able to quell the gnawing in my stomach.  Sometimes it felt like I had a tapeworm or something!  I had this sense that my body was not getting enough nourishment.  Of course, every doctor told me it is fine to be hungry and sick, and that it’s a good sign to have nausea and vomiting.  (Unless you’re me – it seemed to be a bad sign for me!)

My doctor at Reproductive Health Specialists talked with me for a long time and explained that there is still so much we don’t know about conception and embryonic development.  She actually used the word “crude” to describe our knowledge and data on the subject!  While that could sound sort of hopeless, it actually comforted me.  It helped me have peace with not having answers.  She reassured me that I wasn’t doing anything to harm my babies, and that many women are like me.  Even though I am a rare case in my small town and in my doctor’s community practice, I am not unlike many women who come to her or who go to other places like Magee Women’s Hospital for help.  Many women, she said, just don’t get answers.

The doctors also talked to me about my thyroid, which tested as normal, and about progesterone, which couldn’t be a problem in my case because I lost my babies too late.  Progesterone problems tend to cause miscarriage earlier in the first trimester.  There were many other factors we discussed, but they ruled them out for a variety of reasons – one being that I’d had two healthy, uncomplicated pregnancies and given full-term births to healthy babies.  I also asked about a gene mutation called MTHFR that a friend told me about.  It affects folic acid uptake if you have it, so child-bearing women need a special form of folic acid to bypass it.  If this special folic acid is not given, the woman is more likely to have a baby with neural tube defects (spina bifida, anencephaly, etc.) or to miscarry.  For a reason I now cannot remember, I was not tested for the MTHFR mutation.  It may be that I had healthy babies, so they figured it wasn’t a factor.

ImageAre you bored of reading yet?

Well, here’s the part where it gets exciting.  At least to a science-loving person like me with a vested interest in not miscarrying again.

It’s funny how life pieces together sometimes.  Many things in life we wouldn’t choose, but they happen to us.  And it’s like having a big detour put up in the road you were on.  Taking the detour means you’re inconvenienced and you’re upset because it’s not the way you wanted to go.  Sometimes, the re-routing is terribly painful or dangerous.  Sometimes it just means using the bathroom at a different Sheetz.  Either way, your path is different and you meet people you wouldn’t meet otherwise.  But enough rambling.

I say all this because even as recently as February, I was still having minor problems with anxiety.  And I also had a very brief pregnancy that again ended in miscarriage.  My search for answers began again.  I would not have kept searching if these two things weren’t factors.  Different Sheetz.

So I ended up hearing about this place called Medical Wellness Associates.  It’s not far from home for me, but what’s going on there is revolutionary.  It is absolutely the answer to prayer I was hoping for!  All my questions about “something nutritional” and my curiosity about underlying causes to health problems were about to be answered.  The facility was founded by Dr. Martin Gallagher, who is a Medical Doctor as well as a Doctor of Chiropractic.  They practice what is known as Integrative Medicine, which essentially means they blend medical practices from many parts of the world, including Eastern (like Chinese) and Western (as in what we know as normal in this country.)  They treat patients on every spectrum of health – whether you’re just fatigued all the time, or have diabetes, autoimmune disease, cancer, or autism, they have approaches to health for just about every person.

So I met with one of the doctors in the practice, told him my story, told him my current symptoms, told him I was really interested in health and nutrition and that I was willing to try anything at this point.  (I should include here that I continued to read all I could about nutrition, and began making changes to get our family on a more whole foods diet.  I never got rid of the feeling that there was something in my body that needed attention and that the answers may be in food choices.)  My new doctor listened well, had lots to say, and made a few suggestions for tests to run.  I agreed to all of them, even an in-house food sensitivity test that cost about $250 out of our pockets.  It was well worth it to me to finally be on this track!  He also ordered a full work-up on my thyroid, a women’s hormone assessment, a vitamin D hydroxy test, and a test for the MTHFR gene mutation.

I left that day feeling so happy.  This place was right up my alley.  They approached health from a truly holistic standpoint, and were taking a thorough look at just me and what was going on in my body.  I had asked my OB if he could check hormones before, but he didn’t see the need.  I had asked my PCP’s office if they could have my vitamin and mineral levels checked, but it was clearly a very strange request and wasn’t something they were in the habit of doing.  Nobody could quite seem to dig deep enough to find underlying causes for problems that were plaguing me for many months and affecting my quality of life … and affecting pregnancy outcomes.

I had to wait three weeks for the results, and in the meantime, decided to give a gluten-free diet a shot.  I decided this for several reasons. One reason was I had read that anxiety and depression are linked to the gut.  As in, they are affected by what we eat and how healthy the bacterial flora of our intestines is.  I had also read that wheat is linked to anxiety and depression.  Now, I had no interest in going wheat-free when I first read those things.  But I had slowly come around in my thinking, plus I had recovered from the grieving stage of our loss and thinking about that change was easier to manage.  Yet another reason I wanted to try giving up wheat/gluten was that I DID often notice I felt strange sometimes after eating it.  Sometimes it could just feel heavy and hard to digest; other times I felt my pulse increase, like it did during anxiety, but on a less intense scale.

When I got home that day, I wanted to look up the articles I remembered reading about wheat and depression, and ended up finding articles about gluten sensitivity being linked to miscarriage and infertility.  What??  It was huge news to me.  Kind of like I was an investigative journalist who just found some dirt on a Congressman.  I really felt a sense of breakthrough – even though the information wasn’t “confirmed” by my doctor yet, it was right there on a few medical sites and written by more than one doctor.  I also bought Living Gluten-Free for Dummies and the foreword to the book, written by Dr. Alessio Fasano of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, mentions infertility and miscarriage as two of the long-term problems related to celiac disease (which is full-blown intolerance to gluten, the protein in wheat, barley and rye.)  While I was pretty sure I didn’t have celiac disease, I was starting to wonder if I at least had a sensitivity to gluten.

I kept a food journal and adjusted my diet so I wasn’t eating any wheat, barley or rye.  It was an experiment, and it had positive results.  I stopped waking up early in the morning with jitters.  I didn’t have any problems with anxiety.  If ever I broke from the diet, I noticed problems – like a stomachache or a jittery feeling.  It wouldn’t happen right away, but usually the next day — a delayed reaction, just like you would expect with a sensitivity.  (An allergy, in my understanding, would produce immediate discomfort.)

Well, I think I will end this post here.  I’ll have to do a Part 2, I think.  Thanks for reading – I’ll be back soon!

Sources:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2000/08/06/wheat-miscarriage.aspx

http://www.everydayhealth.com/blogs/the-/infertility-and-miscarriage-associated-with-gluten-sensitivity

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/07/04/can-eating-this-common-grain-cause-psychiatric-problems.aspx

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2.

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a dog might be easier…

I’ve given up getting much done today.  So now I blog, because this is just too funny not to.

While unloading the dishwasher, I hear my 2-year-old daughter downstairs growling (this is normal for her). My nearly-5-year-old son complains that his sister is hitting him. I go down, and they are both in the recliner, and sure enough, she is whacking him over the head, and growling.

Upon closer inspection, I realize she is whacking him with my Bluetooth.

Upon even closer inspection, I realize she has part of the Bluetooth earpiece in her mouth – the rubbery, fun-to-chew part.  The rest of the earpiece is hanging off the unit by a wire.

A dog, I think, would be easier. But certainly not as awesome :)  And I probably wouldn’t laugh if a dog did this.

Thank goodness I have some wine left!

 

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drowning in chaos

I know I am not the only one who has days (almost all of them?) where I feel like all I am doing is damage control.  I pull one child away from one mess-making scene and fetch something for the other child’s needs, only to run back to Child #1 and pull them away from another hazard.

I got home from the mall this afternoon, where I spent a leisurely 45 minutes by myself, returning two items.  My hair was styled, my make-up on, and I was wearing my favorite jeans, incidentally.  I say that random sentence because it’s a victory in motherhood.

Anyway.

Hubbie needed a shower, so I took the 2-year-old, who’s been fussy all day due to a cold, upstairs to change a suspect diaper.  She was complaining of poop but I smelled nothing; I figured I’d give her a dry one to make her happy.  And quiet.

So as she’s laying there on the changing table, it becomes apparent that her diaper is causing her a great deal of pain.  It was a stealth poop.  Very unsmelly, and very painful because it had gone unnoticed for an undetermined period of time.  It next becomes apparent that a quick rinse-off is needed to get rid of all the poo pieces I can’t remove without her ripping my sweater to shreds in pain.

Incidentally, I am also wearing one of my favorite sweaters.

As the poor child is shrieking at the top of her lungs, I hear my 4-year-old in the bathroom, trying to communicate something to me.  I still can’t understand why he hasn’t learned to come into the room to talk to me, nor why he still doesn’t know I can’t hear him over a 700-decibal, 22-pound toddler who is 30 feet closer to me than he is.

Next I get my daughter into the bathroom, start the warm water, snap her onesie up over one shoulder to keep it dry, and am not surprised to see my son, partially undressed, just standing on the bath stool, totally distracted from his pottying by the scene before him.  I rinse off Child A in the tub.  Child B tells me I need to please hurry because his “pee is getting red.”  Huh?

“What do you mean your pee is getting red?”  My styled hair is really getting in my face at this point.  “You mean it hurts?”

“No, I mean…” (phrase not understood due to rush of bathwater in my ears.)

As Child A turns back to being happy, I turn off the water and pull her out of the tub.  Child B says that his pee is getting everywhere.  Oh.  Now I get it.  He waited too long to use the pot again.  Pee is puddled under his feet on the bath stool and dripping on the floor.

I tell Child B that I can only clean one bum at a time and that he needs to just stand there and wait for me.

I carry the diaper-less daughter into her room and get her dressed, then return to the bathroom to come to the aid of Pee-Pee Peepersteen.  I am in full flight-or-fight mode, and am beginning to get that feeling like I’m only ever cleaning up messes.  Which, now that I write that, is a totally accurate description of that moment, and many moments like it during my days as a stay-at-home mama.  I’m beginning to feel like I’m carrying too much weight.  I just can’t adequately meet all the needs of the whole family.

As I return to the scene of the accident, I have my son step one foot out of his saturated footie-jammies, then command him to step down on to the dry bathmat next to the stool.    “Sit down, so you can get your other foot out.”  He sits, bonking his forehead on the bathtub.  He cries.  He tells me he can’t take his own foot out because he hit his head.  (I am not making this up.)  I stand there wondering if it’s really worth my frustration to make him remove his yucky wet clothes himself, then decide no.  So I take his other foot out of the other pee-pee saturated footie for him.  The crying ends as abruptly as it began.

Another rinse-off in the tub is needed; I make my son climb in and I pour warm water over his lower half.  Then I give him his towel, and send him on his merry way with the order, “Get your undies on, and find yourself some clothes.”

No sooner do I begin sending pee-pee clothes and the bathmat down the laundry chute, than I hear strange antics coming from inside my son’s room.  He has shut the door, and I hear him and his baby sister saying, “Ewwwww, groooossssss!!!  Hahahahaha!”  What in the world.  I holler through the door, my hands still all germy with pee, “What are you doing in there?!!”  He informs me that he’s checking out his here-to-be-unnamed parts of his body in the mirror and laughing at them.  Obviously the undies haven’t made it to their destination yet.  I holler at him again to get his undies on and get dressed “NOW!”

You’d think it’d be simple to wash my hands and just get in there already without some other chaos ensuing, but no, I am outnumbered and my husband is in the shower, and this is just the way it is with tiny humans in the house.  I wash my hands then hear my daughter wailing.  My son says something to the effect of, “Oh, I guess I am not that good at being a pony…”  I ask what happened and he tells me that his sister fell off his back while he was giving her a pony ride.  I am just having trouble believing this is my reality now.  Yep, there she is, laying on her back crying in his room.  She’s OK, I can tell, and her crying ends quickly, too.  And surprise, surprise, the boy is still wearing only his undies and hasn’t picked out his clothes yet.

As I head downstairs, carrying the small one, he calls out from his room, “Wait!  I wanna be the leader!”  Sorry, leaders don’t take this long to get dressed.  They probably don’t pee their pants either, but what do I know?

If I had to title this story, it would probably be, “Why We Had Leftover Pizza Instead of Real Dinner for Dinner.”

I had to just ask God to settle my heart after all that.  I was resentful and sort of angry, and really wanted to chug a beer.  And as I thought to myself, “I can’t believe this is my life,” God changed my thoughts to, “Yea, I can’t believe this is my life.  I have it pretty awesome, and I am the richest person I know.  Forgive me, Lord; it is a privilege to serve my family.  In it, I am serving You.”  Or something along those lines.

Happy drowning in chaos to you!

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turning 2

I saw a new look on my baby girl’s face last week.  I thought I knew all her faces, but I was wrong!  Sheer delight, awe, and a bit of shyness all mixed together when everyone started singing and I brought out her flaming piece of cake.  I hope I remember that moment forever!

It’s hard to put into words how life’s events change us.  Becoming a parent certainly changes you immeasurably.  Loss changes you profoundly.  We shy away from trials, and yet I have seen that God does something beautiful in them that can’t be created any other way.  You would think that it would be easy to love being a parent simply for the straightforward reason that children are a gift and life is full and rich with them in it.  And yet, it is loss, I believe, that has made me love parenting my children more.

As much as I hate suffering, I have seen God’s faithfulness to me and to His word.  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)  This verse is “head knowledge” for many of us in our Christian walk.  When I think about it now, after losing three babies, and I see all the ways God has woven His character into me (no boasting in myself!) through trials, this verse makes me praise God.  Only HE could bring good out of suffering.  Only HE can accomplish His purpose.  If I were walking this life out apart from the Lord, there is no way I could weave something eternally purposeful through hardship.  I am so glad He has saved me and is accomplishing His purposes in me and through me.  It is a gift to have even a tiny part in His work!

One day, my friend Dorah stopped by while I was having a hard day.  She kindly stayed for a while and we just talked and laughed at stuff.  I think I’ll always remember the way she encouraged me when I told her that I felt like I’d never be the same again.  She said, “Well, you won’t.  But you’ll be more like Christ.”

Thank you, Lord, for creating more love in my heart through loss and suffering.  I am humbled.

P.S. – If you ever meet someone named Dorah, don’t say, “Oh, like Dora the Explorer?!”  It’s just not as funny as you think.  :)

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