i survived my HSG

It turned out to be not too bad.

I had heard such a range of stories and experiences of the HSG, ranging from the worst pain imaginable, to it was no big deal. I definitely felt jitters not knowing what to expect or which side I would fall on. I also read that if you are too anxious or tense your tubes could spasm causing severe pain, and making it look like your tubes were blocked when they weren’t. I had no idea if that was true, but nevertheless I then became anxious about being anxious.

But it turned out to be ok. I spent the entire procedure focusing on breathing, staring at the weird floral lighting on the ceiling, and relaxing as many muscles as I could under the conditions. The nurse’s last name was the same as my maiden name, so we joked about that, and the doctor proceeded to call us half-sisters for the rest of the exam. It helped to keep me relaxed.

I definitely felt cramping, but the cramping was tolerable. The whole procedure was similar to my saline ultrasound, but with the cramps turned up a notch. The doctor was not my regular RE, which made me nervous, but was personable and gentle. He told me that everything looked good – my tubes were clear and there was no sign of scarring. “She did a great job,” he said once the procedure was done. I just looked at him, not knowing did he mean me? The nurse? “Your doctor,” he clarified, “She did a great job with your surgery. No signs of your septum at all.” He sounded impressed, and that gave me comfort.

I feel so relieved to have done this and have it over with. The peace of mind has helped me feel so much calmer this cycle. Everything is looking good, and now I just need to work on that elusive thing called patience.

As the doctor was leaving, he said to me, “Your story is mighty familiar…my daughter had the same surgery and I’m now the grandfather to an adorable redhead. I know it will happen for you too.”

I thanked him as my eyes filled with tears. I know he’s right. I hope he’s right. 

To read more about the gritty details of the procedure, click here.

my baby will decide

I’ve always been a girl with a plan. I like lists and schedules and thinking things through and knowing what will happen ahead of time. And even though we know it’s futile, I approached baby-making the same way.

I got married when I was 31. We moved to Los Angeles after the wedding, and shortly after, I turned 32. I insisted I find a job before we started trying to get pregnant, which I did a few months later. I stopped birth control, and waited 3 cycles to load up on prenatals and folic acid, and to make sure I would receive full maternity benefits from work. And then we started trying.

I was determined to become pregnant by 33. Which I did. But I lost the baby 6 weeks before my 33rd birthday.

I then became determined to have a baby before turning 34. I became pregnant again, with a due date 6 weeks before my 34th birthday.

But I lost that baby too.

I then thought, ok well at least I’ll be pregnant again before I turn 34.

I turn 34 in eleven days and that’s not happening. So now I keep thinking, as long as I’m pregnant by the end of 2014, as long as I have a baby before 35….

These are self-imposed arbitrary deadlines, and they cause me so much stress and heartache.

I had a meltdown in therapy last week. About how I’m dreading my 34th birthday. About how I never wanted to get this old before having kids. About how my fertile years are slipping away. About how sad I’ll be if I’m not pregnant by Christmas. About how much I’m trying to make this happen for us.

She looked at me and pretty directly and said, “Alexis, you have no control over when you will have a baby.”

How could she be so mean? How could she say something so hurtful?

And even though the tears that followed were an involuntary reaction to those words, I knew she was right.

I fantasize all the time about letting go. Could I just trash my ovulation sticks, my basal body thermometer, never pay attention to what cycle day it is, or when my period is due? Could I ever just not care about when this actually happens? I know my therapist is nudging me in that direction. She wants me to acknowledge that this is out of my control, and to let go a little. She wants me to stop putting all my hope and desperation into each current cycle, and have faith that eventually, it will happen.

But how do you climb out when you’re in so deep? Every little bit of this is so loaded. I would just be pretending to not know the cycle day, or that I wasn’t anxiously awaiting the verdict at the end of the two week wait. Because I’m too scared to let go. Too scared that if I don’t try to control it in some way, it will never happen.

“The greatest suffering I see from people,” she told me, “are those that cannot accept the reality of their situation.”

I know that despite however much heartache it causes me, I’ve accepted that we’re fighting this battle. I pushed and advocated for our care every step of the way, even when doctors have written me off or rolled their eyes. I’ve accepted that we’ve needed help and that we had medical issues that needed to be fixed. And after the second loss, even though I was told over and over to “just try again,” and I wanted so badly to do exactly that, I accepted that it wasn’t the solution.

But what I still have trouble accepting, now that we’re fixed and primed and ready, is that I still have no control over when this baby will come. That every plan, every bit of effort, obsession, and desire, makes no difference.

And so I tried to think of it another way.

My baby will decide.

My baby is waiting for that perfect time to emerge. Waiting for the right time for its journey from zygote to the little human in my arms.

My baby is forcing me to get strong, to learn about perseverance, and patience, and faith. My baby is forcing me to learn when to exert control and when to let go. When to be assertive and when to be passive. When to perfect the art of equanimity and when it’s ok to meltdown.

My baby is waiting so that the joy of his or her arrival will be that much more overwhelming. Waiting so after all these tough lessons, I will be that much better of a mom.

cyst check and next steps

My cyst was smaller, but not small enough. We were told to continue sitting this cycle out, and I was instructed to remain on pelvic rest.

Disappointing, but I’m ok. I’m back on my feet.

Sometimes it takes me a few days. I need a few days to crash, and cry, and embrace all my despair in the form of dramatic sobs and refusing to get out from under the covers. My helpless husband stays by my side, trying to cheer me up by enticing me with fro-yo or by bringing me surprise bouquets of flowers. But he knows. Once I’ve had my monthly tantrum, I always find it a little easier to pick myself up, accept reality, and move on.

And so I’m moving on. But since I’m always a girl with a plan, I had to come up with something new to keep myself calm and help me believe that this next cycle will be The One. As my therapist has pointed out, so much of my hope is attached to action. When I’m forced out of action, and I have to just sit and wait and lessen my control grips, I start to spiral downward. Downward to that negative place that eats hope and smacks down positivity. Which is why this cyst and sitting out this cycle hit me so hard.

And although my therapist continually encourages me to make peace with sitting and waiting and acknowledging that I have no control, I tend to resist it.

My next action item is to do an HSG, which I requested today. I’ve had every single infertility test out there, except this one. Because I’ve gotten pregnant, and an HSG checks for blockages in the fallopian tubes that would prevent a pregnancy from even occurring in the first place, my doctors have brushed it aside and told me I didn’t need it. Which is probably true. But I was also told I didn’t need a saline ultrasound, which is the procedure that led us to discover that I had a large uterine septum and likely the cause of my losses.

After two miscarriages, a D&C, and a hysteroscopy I need some reassurance that every bit of my reproductive track looks pristine. I tend to lie awake at night wondering, has any scar tissue developed from the hysteroscopy I had 5 months ago? Is there some weird thing going on in my tubes, that’s going to now prevent me from getting pregnant again? Has the chaos of the last two years destroyed anything or broken anything in there? I know this last bit makes no sense, but still, I lay, and I worry.

The HSG will answer these questions and hopefully give me some serenity and confidence to continue moving forward. And as an added bonus, I wouldn’t mind the extra fertility boost that the HSG is known to give, as that lovely dye paves the way for a smooth ride for that sperm and that egg.

I know there are horror stories out there about the HSG, and it probably seems a little crazy to beg for this unpleasant procedure. But I am a worrier. I love to fret. I develop irrational fears. Repeat pregnancy loss makes all those tendencies ten times worse. And so if there’s one thing in this process that we left out and didn’t check, it will haunt me day after day.

Peace of mind is a precious thing. I’m willing to let someone shoot dye through my fallopian tubes and uterus just for a little bit of it.

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:


  • 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.

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?