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Monday, April 28, 2014

The Good, The Bad...

So I have been on my new medicine LDN for a little over a month now, not too long at all. I had labs drawn last week to see if it was making any improvements on my antibody levels. Before I took the labs I had talked with people who have Hashimoto's and take LDN, they told me not to expect any changes the first month, especially since I was on such a low dose. They said it would take probably 2-3 months to see any difference on my labs. Every month that I have been checked my antibodies have always gone up, so I figured if it went up again this month it wasn't a big deal, I just have to give the medicine time to work. I will say I can tell it's working because I haven't been as tired, or forgetful. I didn't take it for several days in a row right before my labs because I ran out and I could feel the difference when I wasn't on it. So overall, I'm impressed with it so far.

I got my labs back today and my Tpo antibodies actually did decrease this month!! They didn't cut in half or anything, but seeing as they were going up each month, it's a small victory to me. Especially since I was told to expect zero results. The downside is my thyroglobulin antibodies did increase this month (boooo!) but I hadn't taken my LDN for about four days when I had labs drawn, and like I said,  I had just been on it for a month at a low dose, so I'm not discouraged at all about that. I do have an appointment with an endocrinologist in June, but I hope the LDN has shown more results by that point.

I took 1.5 mg last month, the goal dose is 4.5 mg. I went up to 3 mg for this next month (started it last Monday) and I want to see where I'm at after being on that dose for  a few more weeks, then increase to the 4.5 mg. I have seen improvement in symptoms going  up to 3 mg and I hope it just gets better! So the good results, one of my antibodies decreased, but one went up too...I don't count that as "bad" but I guess you could. I think seeing results of any kind so quickly is all the positive news I need after months of bad news!

I think it's really amazing to see God use a struggle you have to help others. It happens to me often  and it's what encourages me to keep going. To not give in, to always find another way. I think if I can help others get through the same struggles I've had then it's worth all the pain. Over the past several weeks I have had a few people contact me because they were recently diagnosed with thyroid issues. I am a reader/researcher by nature and I want to learn anything and everything I can about things that interest me. Over the past few months I have been reading books, websites, and talking to people about thyroid issues. I've learned a lot and I think it's so humbling to be able to use a difficulty in your own life to get others the help they need. Many of them struggle with infertility, what an amazing thought to know God used me to help someone accomplish their dreams of having a family. He wants to use all of us for something. To help others in some way, it may not be the same way as I can help someone, but that's why we each have our own unique story. As long as we have the right attitude and we look for those opportunities I believe God will always use us!

I heard this verse Sunday in church and it's one of my favorites. It went right along with what I've been focusing on lately too.

Jude 22 "And of some having compassion, making a difference."

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Infertility Etiquette (Part Three)

Well I really had plans to write this last part a lot sooner, but life happens. It actually worked out well anyways since this week is National Infertility Awareness week. What better time to let everyone know what you CAN do for those with infertility than now!

I saw something about the different "stages" of infertility and what these people need at each stage. I loved it so I have to share!

Stage 1- The Infertility Newbie- They are the optimist, they don't need a lot of support in their journey at this time. They believe the problem is temporary and will get resolved soon. They don’t feel broken, different, or an outcast. 

Stage 2- Long Term Infertile- They are very tricky and must be handled with great caution. This person feels alienated from society and carries great pain and angst in their souls. They might not show it all the time, but there is a very sensitive, raw spot in their souls that is easily bruised. 

Stage 3- Old Timers- They have been doing this so long it just becomes part of who they are. These infertiles have gone through the great angst and intense pain of the ‘dark years’ and have come out realizing that while infertility sucks, it is not all consuming. And instead of crying, they laugh. Because infertility is actually a comedy of errors, sometimes.

I can honestly say this is so accurate! I am to that "stage 3" of it all, but I still remember that raw, wounded feeling about halfway through and the naive feeling of the first year or so that we were trying. That middle stage is the hardest. If  you've been there you know exactly what I'm talking about, no explanation needed. If you haven't I say count yourself blessed. My friend just had a baby the other day (and he's perfect, by the way!) and it got me thinking..what if I could've never gone through any of this, just had kids right away, any time I wanted to? Would I want that? I know it may sound crazy, but I honestly decided that no, I wouldn't change any of it. I really do mean that.  I have grown so much and learned so much more compassion than I would have had otherwise.  I have learned how my smallest action, or passing comment can hurt others unintentionally. Plus, I believe we aren't as likely to take things for granted that we have to struggle and fight for. It's good when something comes easy, but when it's tough, that's where the real blessings are. With that said, here's what I say you can do for those friends/loved ones going through infertility.

1. Educate yourself. And not so you can suggest the latest fertility tips to them (ha!) Find out what infertility issues they are having and read up on them. This will help you to be able to show genuine interest and ask relevant questions. I'm not saying you have to spend days studying, but many of my friends have learned the basics of my thyroid and other fertility issues. They can ask questions about my levels and not be bored by my response because they have taken the time to learn what all of the "terms" mean. The fact that they think enough of me to learn about it means a lot to me. 

2. Let them know you care. Send cards, tell them you are praying for them, whatever it is that you can think of. My friend got me a picture frame with an ultrasound picture of her baby, the frame said "believe" on it. She wrote a note to me about how she couldn't wait until the day I replace it with my own child's ultrasound picture. Another friend knew I was having a bad day and brought me a card and my favorite drink. Those things made my day. It doesn't have to be anything big, just let them know you are thinking of them and praying. Most importantly, be positive! 

3. Remember them on holidays. This includes Mother's Day and Father's Day, but really it's any holiday. Holidays are always centered around family and it can be a painful reminder to couple about the children they don't have. Also, baby showers/births can be very tough for women to attend. Let them know you are thinking of them during these times. 

4. Provide Support. Be positive and supportive about their decisions. Refrain from being critical, you never know what you would do in their situation! Offer to drive them to doctor's appointments if they need it, ask if you can help out with anything, tell them you are there to listen anytime they need to talk. I was wanting to have a pity-party for myself the other day and I felt guilty for it, I messaged my friend and told her I was having a rough day. I told her I was feeling sorry for myself but I knew I shouldn't. You know, she told me that I have the right to struggle and feel bad and I need to work through it. She told me that she would have a pity-party with me and she would bring the chips and dip to the party. I laughed (which helped my mood) and I had a good cry and vented to her. It lasted maybe 10 minutes and it was over. I felt better and I had a new perspective. To me, that's the best support a person can get! 

5. Validate. When they do talk to you about their struggles, or negative emotions validate that what they are going through is serious. Don't brush it aside, or give some vague reassurance. Let them know you understand why they are having a hard time and that it must not be easy. If you brush off their feelings they most likely won't confide in you anymore. Even if you haven't gone through infertility and you can't empathize at least validate their situation. Also, "keep the faith" when they can't. If they are struggling with doubt and fear, that is your time to be bold and believing. They need to know someone is in their corner rooting for them, believing they will have children of their own.

6. Ask. Above all else, ask what they need. Every woman is different and they don't all need the same thing. Get with them privately and let them know you really want to be there for them, but you need help knowing what they need you to do. They will gladly tell you!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Infertility Etiquette (Part Two)

This is part two of the post I started yesterday, Infertility Etiquette. I hope this doesn't come across as a bossy list of do's and don't''s not intended that way. I just want to try to reach out and make sure everyone understands how to help their loved ones who are dealing with infertility. Those who haven't had trouble getting pregnant often don't realize it, but infertility has emotional and social consequences that a person struggles with daily. Whether it may be holding a loved ones' new baby, attending a baby shower, or hearing a new pregnancy announcement...all of these things bring up emotions and struggles in an infertile couple. It is so important that we try to be sensitive to them and help them through this trial.

I am going to pick up where I left off on my last post:

7. Don't tell them they can always love other people's children instead. I have nephews and a niece whom I love sooo much. I love being their aunt. I also have friend's with children and I love their kids too. It is nice to be able to watch these kids who are in my life and it's easier for me to do that without my own kids, but watching someone else's kids will never take away the desire to have my own child. A part of my husband and myself. It just isn't the same. To those infertile couples I say take advantage of this extra time and be a blessing to the children in your lives and their parents. But to everyone else remember, they are still your kids, they call you mom and dad. They go home with you every night, it's not the same as having your own kids.

8. Remember them on Mother's Day. It is often such a busy day that we often don't think about those women who can't be a mom. I have to be pretty real here, I dread this day. I mean really dread it. And it never fails, I always start my period on Mother's Day. Seriously?! What a great reminder that you are not a mom...ha. We always have a special time at church to honor all the Mother's and rightfully so. They deserve the special time for all their hard work and dedication, but its tough on those who don't have kids (not by their own choice.) It's one of those days that is a painful reminder and makes you feel excluded. I'm not saying Mothers shouldn't be noticed on this day, they should! Just don't get too busy to forget about those hurting. I also think about those who are single or have had miscarriages on this day too. Try to do a little something to let them know they aren't forgotten.

9. Be sensitive when you find out you're expecting. It's not that they aren't happy for you to be having another's one of those happy for you, sad for me moments. So please handle it with care. The best thing you can do for them is tell them yourself and tell them privately, but be compassionate. Then give them space to have their own reaction and work through it. They need that. I can assure you that they feel guilty for feeling upset/jealous or whatever they feel and they don't need a crowd watching them work through those emotions. Please don't put your friend in that position. I have friends who are seriously so considerate. And I love them for it, really. They will send me a text or tell me privately and I can just tell the compassion and understanding they have towards me and it helps me so much. They know I love them and I'm happy for them, but they also know this kind of news can be tough. The fact that they specifically think of me and my feelings means so much to me. Please, please do this for your friends, I can't put enough emphasis on this.

10. Don't be critical of how they handle things. It is so true that we have no clue how we would react if we were placed in a situation. I have learned I may think I would react a certain way, until I'm in that situation and that's not typically how it goes. Infertility is an emotional roller coaster. Women will go through feeling hopeful, hopeless, jealous, angry, and just plain hormonal. If you add fertility medications on top of that..oh boy. Try to be patient. Maybe you don't get why they had such a hard time attending a baby shower or coming up to see your new baby at the hospital. If you haven't had infertility problems you can't understand and that's me, we don't wish for you to know what it feels like. But remember, I said it's a grieving process, an emotional roller coaster. How would you treat someone who had just lost a loved one? You would have grace and understanding. You would expect that they would be going through many different emotions and you would be fine with it. It really is no different. If they decide to do treatments or decide to adopt, quit trying, struggle with feelings of anger, or feeling down, whatever it is and you don't agree, please hold your tongue. Until you walk that road you just don't know what you would do. Please don't add your doubts and criticism to their already fragile emotions. Love them through it and most importantly pray for them. Also don't talk to others about your opinion on their actions and decisions. How uncomfortable to know that your private life is the hot topic of your family and friends. Nothing will isolate a person faster than that! The general rule of "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" applies here.

11. Don't give advice (unless asked.) If it took you two months to get pregnant and you're giving advice to a friend who has been trying for 2 or 3 years, they are probably secretly wanting to strangle you. Not really, but I can tell you what's going through their mind might not be pretty. It's not that they don't appreciate your advice it's just that more than likely at that point they know more about the female reproductive system than you ever dreamed possible and they have probably tried everything! I know everyone wants to help and they mean well, but how much does a new mom REALLY like hearing everyone and their sister's opinion on her parenting/newborn? Not too well... When our reproductive systems are open to discussion and tips without our consent it's just not a fun time! Now if a person comes to you wanting to talk and asking for advice by all means go for it! But shouting out at the dinner table "have you tried such and such, my sister did that and got pregnant!" Well, it's just not a good idea. Trust me on this.

These are the main things I think of that by avoiding them, you can really help your infertile friends. On Part Three we will go over what you CAN do to support them.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Infertility Etiquette (Part One)

Almost everyone knows someone who is struggling with infertility whether they realize it or not. For several years I wasn't public with the fact that we were having problems, sure those who knew me well knew that we were, but I wasn't writing about it for all to read. :) We all know people who may be open about their infertility and others may be struggling and we have no clue. This post is for those couples...I told my husband if I can't help those around me understand how HARD infertility is and to help them to be more sensitive to the people they know with infertility, then we've gone through all this and missed it. Failed at a big part of how we can make a difference. 

Infertility Etiquette (Part One)

I am going to steal a little portion from because I think it sums up what I'm wanting to say better than I can write it.

Infertility is, indeed, a very painful struggle. The pain is similar to the grief over losing a loved one, but it is unique because it is a recurring grief. When a loved one dies, he isn't coming back. There is no hope that he will come back from the dead. You must work through the stages of grief, accept that you will never see this person again, and move on with your life.
The grief of infertility is not so cut and dry. Infertile people grieve the loss of the baby that they may never know. They grieve the loss of that baby who would have had mommy's nose and daddy's eyes. But, each month, there is the hope that maybe that baby will be conceived after all. No matter how hard they try to prepare themselves for bad news, they still hope that this month will be different. Then, the bad news comes again, and the grief washes over the infertile couple anew. This process happens month after month, year after year. It is like having a deep cut that keeps getting opened right when it starts to heal.
As the couple moves into infertility treatments, the pain increases while the bank account depletes. The tests are invasive and embarrassing to both parties and for all of this discomfort, you pay a lot of money.
A couple will eventually resolve the infertility problem in one of three ways:
  • They will eventually conceive a baby.
  • They will stop the infertility treatments and choose to live without children.
  • They will find an alternative way to parent, such as by adopting a child or becoming a foster parent.
Reaching a resolution can take years, so your infertile loved ones need your emotional support during this journey. Most people don't know what to say, so they wind up saying the wrong thing, which only makes the journey so much harder for their loved ones. Knowing what not to say is half of the battle to providing support.

 I will say that all of these things that I'm going to go over haven't happened to me. Some have, and others have happened to people I know.
  1. Don't tell them to relax and it will happen. I've touched on this before in another post. Infertility is most commonly a medical condition. Just like relaxing doesn't cure cancer, it also doesn't cure infertility. I know there are those few people who are just too high strung and maybe that is their issue, but find ways to help them relax instead of telling them to relax. Telling them will only stress them out more.
  2. Don't talk or complain about how fertile you are. Some of you would never dream of saying this to someone you know with infertility, but I've heard it many times. And again, what about those who aren't open about their infertility? You may not know if someone around you has infertility issues so please be mindful of what you say and to who you say it to. We are happy for you that you are so fertile and while we're sure you're just trying to make conversation, please don't say this. It's like those people who complain that they're too skinny and can eat whatever they want and just CAN'T seem to gain weight. If that girl wants to complain to her fellow "so skinny, can't gain weight" friends then I say good for her, but other people just don't love hearing about it. It's the same way with infertility, we are happy you're so fertile, but its kinda a painful reminder that we aren't.
  3. Don't minimize the problem. I can't tell you how many well-intentioned people have said things like "oh it's no big deal, it will happen eventually" or "be glad you can sleep in, don't have stretch marks etc" or "you can take my kid for the day, you might change your mind." I know people often don't know what to say so they say things like this, but these comments are anything but comforting. That's what this post is help you know what every infertile couple thinks, but is often afraid to say. These comments make an infertile couple feel like their struggles aren't a big deal. That isn't what a person needs. They need your support and encouragement and they need to know you see this as a valid issue. Oftentimes it's a health problem that affects more than just fertility and it should be taken seriously. 
  4. Don't say they aren't meant to be parents. Just don't. It's like you're implying there's some secret criteria to be qualified to be a parent. I have wanted to be a mom since I was young as I'm sure others have too so saying we weren't meant to be parents is hurtful. I believe the Lord has perfect timing and I also believe He gave me a desire to be a mom.
  5. Don't complain about your pregnancy to them. I know pregnancy is hard on a woman's body and it can be uncomfortable. If you want to talk about the many woes of pregnancy, go ahead. Just don't do it to a friend who can't get pregnant. I can assure you they would do anything (and have probably endured many things) to be in your shoes. They would gladly be throwing up if it meant they had a baby on the way. My friend is expecting and she told me she was privately complaining to her husband about something pregnancy related and he told her something to the effect of "I bet Ashley would love to have that!" (obviously I don't want whatever the issue was, but the baby that caused it!") My friend said she started crying because she knew he was right and that she needed to just be thankful. 
  6. Don't suggest adoption or giving up. It is a very personal thing to decide to give up on having your own children. It takes time for a couple to reach that point and not everyone reaches it at the same time. We are not to that point yet, but I've heard many people say its a grieving process and I'm sure that's true. When people start mentioning adoption or giving up before you are at that point it is very discouraging. I have been there. You know that is others' way of saying THEY don't think it's going to happen. Please don't do that to a person, let them reach that point on their own. It's hard to continue on when you feel like others have given up. Support and encouragement is vital. I will never, ever forget those people who have told me that they are praying and they know we are going to have kids. If I could hug those people a hundred times I would! Someone going through infertility needs more people like that. They have their own doubts and concerns weighing them down, please don't add yours to it. I will say once a couple has reached the point of adoption/quitting that is the time to step in and show your support in this area.