castor oil packs

In an act of desperation I got my RE to agree to see me on CD11, right before I ovulate, to check my cyst to see if by any chance it has decreased in size. If it has and it’s small enough, my RE said perhaps we would be ok to try naturally and salvage this month. I know it’s a long shot. But I now have 7 days to hope and pray that this little sucker shrinks. I went to my acupuncturist and through my tears begged her to jam a bunch of needles into my ovaries. She obliged, more or less, although without much reassurance that it would be my miracle cure. As I left my session she told me to spend time visualizing the cyst shrinking, and then gave me the advice I hate the most, to think positively.

So I decided to consult Dr. Google, to search what I could do to dissolve an ovarian cyst naturally. I really was looking for information to help get rid of an existing cyst, rather than a 3-month program on how to avoid them in the first place. And so I stumbled up on this information from Natural Fertility Info:

There are two natural therapies that have been used time and time again to help the body break down the cysts, reduce their size and may help them to disappear all together.

Systemic Enzyme Therapy: Systemic enzymes contain a special enzyme that breakdown tissues in the body that are not supposed to be there. It also eats away at the cysts reducing their size or eliminating them over time. With ovarian cysts it is important to also make sure you are reducing the estrogen coming in your body and actively getting rid of excess estrogens; this can be done with the estrogen metabolizer DIM and progesterone.

Castor Oil Pack: Castor Oil Packs are an ancient therapy that helps to cleanse and heal the body where they are placed. The castor oil has a drawing power that clears the body of excess tissues and toxins. Castor oil packs stimulate the lymphatic and circulatory system. The lymphatic system removes toxins and waste from the area stimulated by the castor oil pack. The promotion of circulation by the castor oil pack will also bring in fresh oxygenated, nutrient rich blood to the reproductive organs, including the ovaries. This is vital to reducing and dissolving ovarian cysts. Do not use during menstruation.

My RE is very conservative about allowing any holistic supplements. She made me get off my maca root, evening primrose oil, probiotics and royal jelly supplements when I initially saw her citing that she didn’t know how they would interact with the medications she prescribed. I’ve been disappointed about that since I’d rather take a holistic approach to balancing hormones and improving egg health in addition to western remedies. But since that’s the case, I decided to skip the systemic enzyme therapy, although it sounds like it has a host of benefits, including breaking down scar tissue and having an anti-inflammatory effect.

So that left me with castor oil packs. I don’t know if my RE would approve, but given that this month is a bust anyway I feel I don’t have anything to lose. I remembered a friend of mine who struggled for three years to get pregnant telling me about castor oil packs, and how it can aid fertility. Castor oil packs may be able to support ovarian health, fallopian tube health, uterine health, egg health, and help you detoxify. However it’s important not to use them after ovulation when trying to get pregnant. 

I made my first pack tonight. Here are the instructions I followed:

Materials

  • One flannel cloth (preferably un-dyed and unbleached)
  • One bottle of Castor oil 
  • Plastic wrap cut one to two inches larger than the flannel (can be cut from a plastic bag)
  • Hot water bottle or heating pad
  • Container with lid
  • Old clothes and sheets. Castor oil will stain clothing and bedding.
photo

preparing my materials

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Place the flannel in the container. Soak it in castor oil so that it is saturated, but not dripping.
  2. Place the pack over the affected body part.
  3. Cover with plastic.
  4. Place the hot water bottle or heating pad over the pack. Leave it on for 30-45 minutes. Rest while the pack is in place.
  5. After removing the pack, cleanse the area with a diluted solution of water and baking soda.
  6. Store the pack in the covered container in the refrigerator. Each pack may be reused up to 25-30 times.
trying to envision my cyst shrinking!

trying to envision my cyst shrinking!

Over the past few days I’ve made peace with sitting out this cycle, and using this time to take a break from the stress and emotional upheaval that this roller coaster causes. But sometimes I just can’t stop myself from making a last ditch effort before throwing in the towel. You can’t blame a girl for hoping and trying, consulting Google, and then smearing oil all over her belly just in case it can work a miracle, right?

and then there was a cyst

I’ve managed to hold it together at all my RE appointments. I’ve taken hard news in stride, discussed my losses without even a lip quiver, and remained composed and upbeat through all my appointments. I have a good poker face that I’ve relied on for years to keep my emotionally private self, private. So even though I constantly want to cry when I’m in that office, I’ve always waited until I get home to let out the rage-filled tears of frustration.

But then there was today.

After our failed IUI last cycle, my husband and I discussed at length how to move forward. We had jumped quickly to IUI because we had one month left of 100% infertility coverage until my husband left his job. The IUI would be free….so why not? Even though we’ve been getting pregnant naturally on our own, after the trauma of the last year and a half why not be as aggressive as we can and maybe cut out a few months of heartache?

But it didn’t work. And now we had to decide whether to continue doing IUIs and pay out of pocket, or go back to the natural way. Part of me didn’t want to give up the momentum of the IUIs, thinking it had to work in the next few cycles. But it was hard to justify that out of pocket expense when we had gotten pregnant on our own.

But then we got a little gift….as my husband was looking through his exit documents from his old company, we discovered that his health insurance wouldn’t end until the last day of the month following the month of his last day of work. Meaning we had 100% infertility coverage until the last day of September. Meaning we could do another free IUI.

This news lifted me and made me feel so optimistic about going forth. We had a great weekend celebrating my husband’s 34th birthday, and I was able to bounce back from the disappointing BFN of a few days prior. I spoke to my doctor and we discussed what we’d do differently, knowing now how I respond to the medications. Because I responded so quickly, I would go in for a cycle day 2 scan and start monitoring follicle growth earlier. She would switch me to Clomid. And we would try to grow a few more follicles with a more aggressive dosage.

I arrived this morning for my scan with the same familiar butterflies in my stomach, but I felt so optimistic about this cycle that I pretty easily talked myself out of the nerves. I laid down ready for the exam, and a few moments after that lovely wand took a tour of my ovaries, the resident doing my scan pointed something out on the screen to my doctor.

“You have a large cyst on your right ovary, so we need to sit this cycle out,” the doctor explained.

Thud.

She asked if I was having any pain in that area, to which I had no idea. Between the cramps and stomachaches I get from the progesterone, the fertility meds, and my period I’m used to having a painful party in my stomach. To the point where I’ve stopped paying attention and hardly feel anything anymore.

She went on to explain the cyst was twice the size of my ovary, was probably from the Femara, and then said a bunch of other things that I couldn’t take in because I was too busy focusing on not crying. She told me I should avoid any kind of jarring exercise or sex until it was gone.

And then that moment came when I just knew no matter how much face scrunching or quick blinking I did, the tears were on their way and there was no turning back. And these were not dainty, controllable tears. I had a total meltdown in the office. To the point where I had doctors, nurses, and residents offering hugs, tissues, and sympathetic looks.

“IT’S JUST TAKING SO LONG!!!!” was all I could really get out between the tears.

What do you do when you need to get your ugly cry face out, complete with loud heaves, uncontrollable sobs, and dramatic gasps for air, but you’re in a public place? When you know you need a good hour or so before you can realistically compose yourself? You run out of there immediately and forget to book your next appointment or pick up any of your paperwork. And when all the rampant tears start coming out the second you step outside, you stop caring that you look like a disheveled maniac.

At least that’s what I did.

If we sit out this cycle, the very earliest we’ll see a positive pregnancy test is the end of October. Thirteen months after our last positive test.

I want this year of my life back.

when will you ever show me something good?

when will you ever show me something good?

 

how do you move on from disappointment?

I am feeling much better today.

After yesterday’s news of our failed IUI I felt like a hockey puck getting slammed against every difficult emotion I’ve ever experienced in the last 18 months. I was reeling in pain, sadness, frustration and feelings of loss. But the prevailing emotion, more than anything, was just complete disappointment. And when I say disappointment, I don’t mean my favorite TV show is being canceled kind of disappointment. Or finding out your husband ate the last of the ice cream when you thought there was still some left kind of disappointment.  Or even the flight for my vacation got canceled kind of disappointment.

I mean shatter your heart and knock you to the ground kind of disappointment.

And so I thought a lot about disappointment yesterday. What it feels like, what it does to you. How it makes your heart feel, what it does to your head and to your thoughts. How it crushes you because of how badly you want a different outcome, how much your heart screams for it, but there is nothing you can do about it.

I thought about the effect it had on me yesterday. Disappointment made me feel like my heart was breaking into a million pieces. It made me feel like I got the wind knocked out me. It made me feel like my strength had dissolved, and I no longer had any stamina left.

Disappointment made me feel helpless.

And after experiencing too many disappointments, I was starting to feel bitter, jaded, cynical and hopeless.

As I felt each one of these things while crying over our negative result, I thought to myself, I know it’s in these moments you are supposed to show what you are made out of. It’s that cliche: it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. I know this is my moment and I have a choice of how to react. But was I capable of reacting with strength, positivity, and faith? Was I able to take it in stride, dust myself off, and know that this is just part of the process? I really didn’t know. And at many points yesterday, absolutely not.

But oh, it feels so bad to be in that place. I knew I was suffering from the crushing blow of disappointment and all the accompanying emotions, but I was so tired of it. I needed to be out of it. And although the thought of throwing in the towel and letting go of all this briefly fluttered through my mind, I knew I couldn’t. So I started to wonder, how do you recover from disappointment?

I could try ignoring the bad feelings. I could try going on about my day, with that chronic ache, and hope that eventually the feelings would fade. I could continue to cry and try to process my emotions and schedule an extra session with my therapist. I could keep writing, and connect with the other amazing bloggers that I knew would understand painfully well. I could try and find comfort in their sweet empathetic swaddle of support.

And I did try a little of all of these things. And a lot of it helped. But what I found the most helpful, after I acknowledged all the complex emotions I was feeling and the trauma that surrounds it, was to think about the next cycle. To discuss our next plan. To accept that we may not have a May 2015 baby, but maybe we’ll have a June 2015 baby?

I spent a long time talking to my doctor, reflecting on this past cycle and discussing what we could do differently next time. We discussed the pros and cons of different options. I called our new insurance company to inquire about every little detail of our infertility coverage. My husband and I talked about what do next, and whether we should try a natural cycle or proceed to IUI #2.

Doing this helped me to cut down on some of the helplessness that the disappointment left me with.

It helped heal my heart a little because I started to focus on hope again.

It gave me back a little bit of my strength and stamina that the disappointment ripped away.

I still have the achey pain, but my energy is turned towards next month. I actually felt grateful for the chance to try again. So many of the same emotions I felt after my miscarriages surfaced yesterday that I almost was tricked into thinking that’s what I was going through. But that’s not what this is. We don’t need to discuss termination options, or sit out a cycle while my body recovers from the loss. We don’t have to wait endlessly while the miscarriage passes. Sometimes I even think, maybe this cycle would have resulted in loss, and I was just spared? 

It still hurts, and I’m still disappointed. But I’m hoping. Maybe next month.

photo copy

tears and cocktails

My IUI failed.

I decided I would test early this morning before my 8am beta. So, per usual on the mornings I’m going to test, I couldn’t sleep. I woke up before 4am, needing to pee, knowing I needed to save the pee to test, and instead tossed and turned until I couldn’t take it anymore. I shook my husband and said, “it’s time.”

Negative.

That single line against the stark white background was a punch in the gut. I let out a slow, whiny, “nooooooo….” before crawling back into bed and letting the tears slowly creep down my cheeks.

I-can’t-do-this-anymore, I-can’t-do-this-anymore, I-can’t-do-this-anymore, maniacally swirled in my head after I laid back in bed. Every emotion that I’ve felt during this entire journey smacked me in the face. It didn’t matter how “braced for disappointment” I was during my 2ww. It didn’t matter that this was just our second month trying since the last miscarriage. I was devastated.

I laid awake for a few more hours. I stared at the ceiling. I stared at my phone. I tried holding my husband, then tried cuddling my dog. Every so often I’d cry softly into the pillow. At 7am my alarm needlessly went off, and I got dressed and left for my blood draw. At 3pm I was standing in the middle of BevMo buying wine with my husband when I got the call from the nurse. Her apologetic tone when she said my name was all I needed to hear. I hung up, flustered, choking back tears, and muttered “get whatever you want I don’t care about wine”, to my husband and sat and waited in the car. 

Later in the day, in an effort to lift our spirits, my husband and I decided to get a happy hour cocktail in an outdoor park in Beverly Hills. I tried to let the sunny LA weather soothe my heavy heart. I tried to be tough and forward-thinking. I tried laughing.

But the cocktail tasted terrible to me.

I resented the alcohol.

The drink I ordered was called The Fortuna. “Oh!” the waitress said, “Let me tell you about this drink! It comes with a wakamomo peach! It looks like an olive but it’s not, it’s sweet! You are supposed to make a wish before you eat it! Don’t forget to make a wish!”

Please don’t tell me to make a wish when I’m on the brink of crying, a lump lodged in my throat, tears ready to glisten my eyes. When I’ve already been wishing so hard, everyday, for that one thing. When I just found out my biggest wish did not come true….Ok fine, I’ll eat your peach, and I’ll wish again and again. I’ll never stop wishing.

the cocktail i never wanted to be able to have.

the cocktail I never wanted to be able to have.

Later when I went to the restroom, I ran smack into the ultrasound technician from my OB’s office. The woman who has repeatedly given me devastating news. I had run into her once before in Trader Joe’s, a few weeks after my second miscarriage.  I hid in the cereal aisle before she saw me. I couldn’t face her. I couldn’t see her and not be reminded.

“I know you!” she said to me today.

“Yeah, I’m a patient of Dr. Brown’s…” I replied hesitantly.

She looked at me for another second, nodded, and walked away.

Did she remember? Did she remember the three times I’ve been in her cold, dark room, with tears streaming down my face? Did she remember when I could barely speak, could barely look at my husband, could barely even put my pants back on after hearing the news? Does she remember hugging me, trying to console me when I was inconsolable?

I remember.

I will always remember.

to test or not to test

I’m currently 12 days post IUI and I haven’t cracked yet. I still have yet to sneak into my bathroom and test in advance of my beta on Thursday morning. I keep debating when I should, if I should. I make the decision to do it and then I change my mind, feeling too hesitant and anxious.  And so I’ve come to one conclusion.

I have FOPOAS. 

Fear Of Peeing On A Stick.

That little stick has so much power over me. It can rip my heart out of my chest, sending my tear-streaked face down another dark spiral. Or it can quietly offer the promise of joy. That double line will stare back at me and whisper, you’ve been through so much, but the end of your heartache is near.

I stare at my unopened boxes of pregnancy tests and silently ask, are you going to be kind to me? I try to tap into my psychic powers and visualize which result it will be. But despite my attempts at reading the future and sweet talking those sticks into making a deal with me, I’m too afraid to know the answer.

One thing infertility and pregnancy loss has taught me is how to prepare for disappointment. So much so, that I experience preemptive depression during my two week wait. A subconscious progression from enthused and positive during the days leading up to ovulation, to slowly feeling more and more demoralized during the two weeks that follow. I start to doubt, start being afraid to think too positively, start being afraid of the let down. I become consumed with the idea that it’s another failed cycle, and quickly the sadness kicks in, the frustration, and the early depression. 

It’s in those moments I’m most tempted to test.

Those moments where I start to feel like I am going crazy. My knack for bracing for bad news and the added progesterone hormones create a perfect storm of torment and tears. I rationalize that no matter the news that the test brings, I can’t feel any worse. I’m already feeling this way because I’m so certain it will be negative. But maybe, just maybe it will be positive. That tiny sliver of hope that we all cling to as our life line. Just maybe, I’ll take the test and it will be positive, and I will be relieved of these horrible feelings.

But still, I don’t test.

I worry the most about ambiguous results. Is it the trigger? Is it not the trigger? Is it too early? Maybe it’s not too early?

I worry about dragging out the pain of a negative result longer than I need to. If I test at 10DPO and it’s negative I will cry, even when I can rationalize that maybe it’s too early. And then I’ll spend 4 days feeling terrible and upset, only to get another confirmed negative through the beta, and have to relieve all those feelings over again.

And often, it’s my good moments that keep me from testing. The times where I feel okay and hopeful, and I don’t want the feeling ripped from me just yet. 

I will force myself to test before I get the call from the nurse with my beta results. I will prepare myself for either outcome. And if it’s not the news we want, we will pick up and try again, like we’ve done so many times before.

And in the meantime, I’ve made a list of my consolation prizes if I am not pregnant.

  1. Take a bunch of friends to Disneyland with our new passes and ride every roller coaster over and over again.
  2. Drink lots of wine. I haven’t had wine since my post BFN binge last cycle and every time I get a waft of that lovely liquid I miss it so!
  3. Drown myself in boba, my delicious caffeinated sugary treat that I feel too guilty to touch most of the time.
  4. Take a long, scorching hot bath, preferably while drinking wine and/or Boba.
  5. Repeat #1 – 4 until I am no longer crying!

hopeful but damaged

Flipping the channels the other morning I landed on Live with Kelly and Michael. I paused for a moment, thought about watching, then changed the channel.

That show reminds me of the waiting room at my RE’s office. For some reason, every time I’m there it’s playing. As I wait to get called into my appointments I stare at the TV screen; only half watching because my nerves are usually too much of a distraction to focus on anything.

Seeing that show flash on the screen in my living room, I immediately was flooded with how I feel when I’m sitting in that waiting room.

Hopeful but damaged.

I sit in that room with all my wounds and scars. I take deep breaths to steady my heart beat and eliminate the pit in my stomach, driven by the expectation of bad news. I wearily eye the others sitting in the room, wondering what they’ve been through, and what’s ahead. I wonder if they’ve cried the same tears I have and carry the same dented baggage that I do. I wonder if their perfect composure belies the struggle that they’ve been through too.

But the waiting room also offers the entry to answers and to making our wishes come true. I’ve grown so attached to my doctor. I wish that when we finally do get a viable pregnancy, she could hold my hand through every ultrasound and at the end be the one who delivers my baby. I never want to leave that office. I find comfort there.

Sometime I just feel like people think that you have a miscarriage and you’re sad for a little while and then you’re over it, I cried to my husband once in a moment of self-pity.

But it stays with you! I continued through my tears.

It stays with you. I feel damaged sitting in that waiting room. I feel weathered and sensitive and like I’ll never be the same.

Sometimes I want to scream, just because I’m smiling does not mean I’m ok! Just because it’s been 8 months does not mean I’m ok!

There is a gaping hole in my heart, and it’s still so raw. And it can’t close because I still want this so bad. And everything around me reminds me of it.

I’ve gotten better at coping. And pretending. And managing my emotions. I can feign happiness at a pregnancy announcement, I can hold your baby and tell you how happy I am for you. I can even press ‘like’ on all the baby pics that flood my Facebook feed. I’ve learned how to shut down a part of myself when I need to. I can go numb. I can momentarily force myself to forget the pain.

But privately, it all comes out. I never escape unscathed. Nothing that I compartmentalize and pretend is ok ever just goes away. It always finds me. Finds me in the form of a tightened chest and a stubborn knot in my stomach by day, and then pillow smothered sobs by night. Or sometimes it’s a slow build, where I tell myself over and over I’m fine, until finally it swallows me and I have no choice but to let it out.

I feel traumatized.

I started out with so much happy faith and expectation, but was greeted with blood and loss and uncertainty and heartbreak and having to say goodbye to the babies I would never meet. And ever since, I spend my days fielding a land mine of triggers. This journey is so painful because we can’t hide from what triggers our trauma and our pain. We can’t hide from baby strollers and our best friend’s pregnancy announcement and our 2 month old nephew.

We are forced to face it every single day.

After my miscarriages, I was surrounded by expressions of concern and care and I felt like I could openly grieve. And I believed that all these empathetic faces around me really understood my pain. I’ve been lucky in that sense, and would never undermine just how much love I’ve felt from friends and family.

But time goes on. And I’ve been forced to keep living with that same amount of pain. My family and friends can’t scoop me up every single day, can’t give me a constant swaddle of affection and support. And I know people stop knowing what to say, as days turn to months, and months turn to years. And that’s when isolation starts to creep in, and the silent grief. Because the pain lives on.

And as we try to conceive once again, with faith and hope our only fuel, we ache. Every negative pregnancy test brings you back to that feeling of loss. You spend two weeks wondering, hoping, and imagining you are pregnant. Day dreaming of what that would mean. Loving this possible baby to be. I often rub my belly and leave my hand there, subconsciously  trying to transport the love in my heart to my womb. Please be in there, I plead. And with a trip to the bathroom and a three minute wait, it’s all over. 

My mom often tells me that after her brother had a baby, she got the baby bug in an intense way. I just had to have you, she’s told me, gushing, giving me hugs. Less than a year later, her wish came true, and I was born.

Imagine that feeling, I said to her, that longing, that feeling that if you didn’t have a baby now, you would explode. Now picture almost two years and two miscarriages later, with no baby or pregnancy to show for it….That is what I’m going through.  That is what I’m experiencing.

Miscarriage stains everything around you. It spoils the joyful path to pregnancy. It leaves you unable to feel happiness for friends you love who have growing bellies. It causes you pain when you hold someone else’s baby in your arms. It even takes a silly show, like Live with Kelly and Michael, and taints it with its loaded association. Bringing you to that place…where pain still lives but yet you’re hopeful. Hopeful and damaged.

not how i imagined i would conceive a child

Yesterday I went to my RE’s office for a CD10 scan to take a look at how my follicles responded to the Femara. My doctor was surprised to see already a 22.5mm size follicle (and a 16.5mm follicle) and let me know it was large enough that we should do the trigger shot right away and do the IUI the next morning.

Apparently my follicles are just as eager as I am to get this show on the road.

As I have an automatic stress response whenever I’m in my RE’s office, I was feeling incredibly nervous to find out how my body had responded to the meds.  I expected no mature follicles, or too many mature follicles, or a bunch of new cysts, or anything that would lead to canceling this cycle. So I felt giddy and relieved that we would be going forth, and going forth so quickly (the end of the 2WW would be that much closer! went through my mind immediately).

I was thankful we were able to administer the trigger shot in the office, with the nurse’s guidance and obvious expertise. For whatever reason, she told us she was not allowed to give the shot, and that responsibility still fell on my husband. I‘m not afraid of needles, but in the hands of an amateur I panicked, and grabbed onto the nurse’s shoulder and closed my eyes.

anxiously holding the trigger needle right before my husband jabbed me with it.

anxiously holding the trigger needle right before my husband jabbed me with it.

My husband hid his fear and successfully injected 10,000 units of HCG into my belly.

We returned this morning to the office excited. The nurse admitted me and took my blood pressure and pulse. “Blood pressure, 92 over 62, pulse 72. You’re all about the twos today!” She turned and with a sly smile said under her breath, “Maybe it’s a sign…”

My husband and I just looked at each other, giggled nervously, and muttered “Uhhh….”

Of course at this point I’d be thrilled with two.

The actual procedure should have been simple, but because of trouble with my cervix was longer and more uncomfortable than I expected. My husband also spent about 10 minutes asking for proof and reassurance that they hadn’t mixed up the sperm samples, a thought that crossed both our paranoid minds about 5 minutes before the procedure and caused instant panic. Once convinced, he then proceeded to ask for a high five from everyone around us after they told us the count. 40 million. My doctor said they usually hope for at least 5 million. 

So now it’s done, and now we wait. I had been feeling positive and hopeful, but snapped back into my often pessimistic reality with my doctor’s last words.

“Don’t be crushed if it doesn’t work. Sometimes it happens with the first IUI, but often it takes three or four tries. I tell all my patients that. I just don’t want you to be crushed if it doesn’t happen.”

Oh yeah. This might not work. But there’s no way to avoid feeling crushed, and burdened with disappointment. I wish it was as simple as someone telling me not to be crushed, and that would help me avoid that terrible pitfall. But it’s unavoidable.

I think I’ve accepted that.

And I still hope.