Thursday, April 30, 2009


Darn it, life has been interfering with my online activities again! I missed the second half of ICLW, and I'm so far behind on my blog reading that I may never catch up.

Ok, so I don't really have a good excuse. I've been reading a lot lately (I felt the need to re-read the Twilight series - I am officially obsessed), and writing too. It's a small fiction piece, just for fun. Oh, and I had a little visit from AF!!! This last cycle was only thirty days long, which is really encouraging.

The best part, though, is that my cramps weren't nearly as bad as they usually are. The first day wasn't bad at all - mildly painful, but no all-out contractions. The second day was worse (I actually woke up in the middle of the night from the pain), but my cramps faded within twenty-four hours. I think the TCM practitioner is on to something! I could definitley get used to this.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The "Break" Pedal

I keep jumping on and off the IVF rollercoaster. I must love a thrill, because I wait until the car is at the top of the hill, looking straight down at the ground, and then I pull the brake. Or maybe I mean break. In any case, I'm a mean tease.

So here's my latest IVF escape route: on Monday, I had an appointment with a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner (Dr. M). She considers herself to be a life coach more than anything else, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I am very attached to my Western medical heritage. I was pre-med in college, until I decided passing out at the sight of blood was an undesirable trait in a doctor and moved on to something else. I've stayed somewhat in the realm of science, though, and I struggle to wholly accept alternative therapies.

But, at the same time, I'm really drawn to TCM - especially in the way that Dr. M practices it. Her philosophy (and that of TCM) revolves around the body as a whole. The image I have is of the body as an ecosystem, complete with rivers, mountains and valleys. If a river is dammed up at some point, the riverbed will become dry and desolate in certain places, and other areas will flood. Instead of pushing more water forcefully through the river (which will cause more flooding and stress on the system), she works to remove the dam and restore balance. (Well, that's my mental picture anyway.)

On the whole, she was really pleased with the lifestyle changes we've made thus far. She had some additional suggestions, many of which revolve around the lack of protein in my diet. (I've done well removing things I have trouble with, like sugar and gluten, but I need to focus more on eating foods that nourish me.) She also pinpointed a muscle in my abdomen that may be contributing to my cramps and the pressure sensation I always feel in my abdomen. I've been following her recommendations this week, and the pressure sensation is almost totally gone. I can't remember the last time I could say that.

The consult itself took two hours; C and I were really astounded at how accurately she was able to pinpoint additional symptoms and lifestyle details that I hadn't mentioned. Everything she said just made sense. Plus, she struggled with infertility herself, and a lot of her practice is from personal experience. I'm going back in a month to start acupuncture, and I'm really excited about it. C still wants to do IVF, so if this doesn't work on its own, I may be open to a combination approach. But for now, where IVF is concerned - I've hit the brakes. Again.

And the really shocking thing - I'm not only ok with it, I'm happy about it.

ETA: I should clarify, C is also really open to this avenue. When I said he still wants to do IVF, it's true - but he's willing to try this first.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

April ICLW

Welcome, welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere! Come on in and make yourself comfy. Tea, anyone?

Here's a little back-story, for those of you who haven't visited before: I married my Prince Charming (let's call him C) four years ago, and was diagnosed with PCOS one year later, when we figured out my "machinery" wasn't working quite right. Nine Clomid cycles (yes, I did say nine, and no, we shouldn't have) and three IUI's later, not much has changed. We are gluten-free, sugar-free and still, sadly, baby-free. We had our first IVF consult nearly a year ago but have yet to do an actual IVF cycle. Every time we try to move forward, something happens to make me slam on the brakes. (Truth be told, I'm beginning to think it may be the other way around - I slam on the brakes and then look for something to blame it on.)

The past year has been rough for us, and has forced us to do some deep soul-searching. For a while life seemed pretty bleak, but I've had a string of epiphanies lately that have just felt right. I'm learning to surrender things I shouldn't hold on to, and to enjoy my life again - all while balancing my desire for a baby against the reality of not having one. I think of it as surfing in the tension between the now and the not yet. (I wipe out a lot.)

For my regular readers - I will try to post an update soon about my appointment yesterday. The cliff notes version is that it was very, very helpful. Another epiphany moment. But more on that later...dinner's giving off an awful lot of smoke. That can't be good, right?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Show & Tell: A "Tail" of Two Dogs

This will be a short Show & Tell - blame it on the rain, or the fact that it's Monday, and I already need a snorkel to breathe under my workload this week. Anyway, here goes!

Scottie FigurinesWhen I was younger, my family had two Scottish Terriers. They were wonderful dogs, and I grew to love the breed. Now that I'm older, I have a rambunctious Scottie of my own. The two figurines in the picture were given to me recently by my parents; oddly synchronous gifts, in light of the fact that they hate each other desperately and have not spoken in nine years.

My mother has had the figurine on the left for years, but felt it was time to pass it on. I wonder whether my dad remembered it, and if that triggered his purchase of the one on the right. In any case, I thought it was bittersweet that they both chose to give me the same gift, around the same time.

Don't forget to take a peek at what the rest of the class brought!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Reading the Signs

On Friday, I wrote about how certain recent events in my life have felt like pieces of a puzzle snapping into place. I can't quite see the picture that's forming yet, but there is an electric current underpinning each piece that makes me know they're related - even if they seem on the surface to be wholly and completely discrete. It's like the charge in the air before a thunderstorm; something is about to break (in a good way) - I can feel it.

Puzzle PieceThe Second Piece: I read four books in two and a half days. Sounds pretty unremarkable, doesn't it? I wonder if it would surprise you to know how completely depressed I have been over the past year? For many months now, it has taken all the power of my will (and a lot of God's grace) for me to do such basic tasks as cleaning and feeding myself. Compounding the issue was my desperate compulsion to keep from C (and the rest of the world) exactly how much of myself I had truly lost to the darkness inside me. I fought to look the part of the perfect Christian wife, but the moment I was free from prying eyes (including C's) I would curl up in a ball on the bed and daydream. Pretend to be somebody - anybody - else for as long as I could, until it was time to summon enough energy to resume my charade.

In the beginning, when we were still naive enough to believe that a few Clomid pills could take care of everything, I was sad but not desolate. Somewhere over the last year, I crossed a line; I embraced my grief and wallowed in it. The simplest things became chores of the heaviest weight. I stopped seeing friends, I stopped watching movies, I stopped taking walks. Nothing held joy for me any longer. I stopped reading.

From the earliest time I can remember, reading has been my best and first love. According to my mother, I started reading in earnest at age three - not reading picture books, but books that second or third graders would read. My parents and teachers, in keeping with some ancient authoritative tome on how to raise a nerd, eventually moved me up two grades. I started third grade at age six. Being so much younger than my so-called "peers" (in reality, I always felt far inferior to them) caused a lot of emotional trauma, and I jumped feet first into books, books, and more books. There was additional stress at home, and I retreated further into my literary haven.

So for me to stop reading - it was a death of sorts. I occasionally perused books on infertility, and I half-heartedly leafed through the oldest and most-cherished books of my personal library, but the old comfort was gone. Worst of all, I could not summon the desire to immerse myself in new reading material. On Thursday night, when I started reading Twilight, I had no expectations. But then I found that I identified deeply with Bella. Here was a character I could relate to - someone living in the tension between the now and the not yet.

And, for the first time in a year, I found myself completely oblivious to everything around me as I immersed myself in Bella's story. I devoured the first two novels, which had been lent to me, and set out Friday night to scour local bookstores for the next two installments. To put it so simply, for the first time in what felt like forever, I was excited about an everyday activity.

So, minor accomplishment though it may be, I read four books in two and a half days. And I loved every minute of it.

(As for the third piece - it's related to an appointment I have Monday afternoon. I'll post more on that later.)

30-Second Commentary on Life


I'm probably the only person in the world who hadn't read these books, so I'm not sure why I bothered with the spoiler alert - but, it seemed prudent, just in case. I love suspense and hate it when I find details out prematurely, especially in books. So, if you haven't heeded my warning but may someday want to read these books - stop right here!

What the FREAKING heck??? A human/vampire union can produce a child, but my sweet, stable, loving husband and I can't?!? While there are a few people whose pregnancies I can truly be happy about (I even visit exactly one pregnant blogger's bloghouse regularly - you know who you are!), I will admit to severe pregnancy jealousy in most cases. What can I say, I'm a work in progress. But can someone explain why I can't even read a bunch of cheesy, vapid teenage romance books without having a pregnancy thrown in the mix? I have spent the last forty hours or so GLUED to these books (I'm halfway through the last one), taking only minimal breaks for the purposes of sleep, and there has to be a stupid pregnancy at the end? Oh, please.

This is exactly like my last birthday, when C took me to a really expensive Japanese steakhouse. The place was packed out, and there was only one pregnant woman in the building - guess where she sat? At our table, of course. And guess what she talked about the WHOLE ENTIRE TIME? Her pregnancy, of course. I am used to these things...but I thought I would be safe in a teenage fantasy world. Guess I was wrong...and now I have to go see how the stupid book ends.


ETA: Hmmm, maybe I should have read a few more pages before I attacked the keyboard with my rant. Great discussion on being a genetic dead end...I feel better now.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Putting the Pieces Together

Have you ever had a week where you could just tell that the pieces were falling into place? As if you were assembling a jigsaw puzzle without the benefit of the picture on the box, pressing edges against each other with the faint hope that sooner or later, something will stick? That's rather how I'm feeling at the moment, and I'm reeling with the violent shock that comes as pieces which seem completely unrelated lock into place.

The First Piece: I turned over the unresolved IUI insurance issue to my husband. This is really a big deal for me, with much larger significance than I can put into words. C has been in denial for the past few years; he is only now grappling with the reality of our infertility. I've shared before about "The Ultrasound Incident" where C revealed that he didn't equate Clomid with fertility drugs - I wish I had understood at the time that what I mistook for a comment born of stress and exhaustion was really a glimpse into the depth of his denial. Infertility is a road lonely enough of its own accord, and I could not comprehend that C's seeming distance from the situation was truly just the path of his own emotional journey to acceptance.

I've been seeing a counselor for the better part of a year, to learn how to sift through the dangerous emotions that come with this territory, and C has recently joined our discussions. We have both made hurtful mistakes, and have now each recommitted to this process: C to providing support in the way that I need to receive it, and I to communicating my needs clearly to him. While I need him to be more involved overall, from researching our options to decision-making to just holding my hand, specifically I decided that I also need him to handle the insurance/financial quandaries as they arise. As soon as we had that conversation, the IUI insurance issue came to light. Good little control freak that I am, I grabbed hold tightly and held on for dear life.

I held on, that is, until we received yet another statement from the doctor this week, and I collapsed under the weight of the stress and...let go. I gave the billing manager C's contact information and asked her to contact him from now on. End result: at the most, we will have to pay thirty dollars. And so the first piece snaps into place with ease.

I'll share about pieces two and three later...I made the mistake of starting the Twilight series last night. Having finished the first book early this morning, I am now devouring New Moon. I have to finish the series before IComLeavWe starts! (If you aren't familiar with Mel of Stirrup Queens fame and IComLeavWe, I encourage you to click on the links and go meet the rest of the online ALI blogosphere.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Show & Tell: The Furry and The Not-So-Furry

For this week's Show & Tell, I thought I would share pictures of our own little menagerie. (Technically, I can't call them my "furbabies" because only one has fur.) The first picture below is of our Sphynx cats, Serenity and Celerity. Serenity is on the right (with the white on her face), and she is Celerity's mother. Contrary to what you may think if you saw the Friends episode where Rachel got rid of a Sphynx because it was so mean, they are really sweet, loving and social. Our house is not one where the cats hide under a bed when we have guests over; if there is action, these two want to be involved. We frequently describe them as dogs in cat-suits.

Celerity (left) and Serenity (right)
They aren't completely hairless; both have small tufts of fur behind their ears and on their noses. Their bodies are covered in a soft peachfuzz. They have really high metabolisms and are known to sneak food out of the sink, if there are any dirty plates lying around. Celerity in particular is a talented food thief; she once stole a stalk of asparagus off my plate when I wasn't looking. I had to chase her through the whole house to get it back (I wasn't sure whether asparagus would be okay for her to eat).

Celerity, the bad elf
We also have a two year-old Scottish Terrier named Riddick. C and I were concerned about how Riddick would interact with the cats when we first brought him home. He set the right tone by immediately laying down and showing submission to them. (For a Scottie, we thought that was pretty unusual.) Of course, once he settled in, we had a few "puppy" moments where he wanted to play and the cats weren't so enthused. I quickly lost my fear that he might hurt the cats, and instead realized that they could easily hurt him. (They aren't declawed.) All in all though, my fears proved unfounded, and now it's not unusual to see Celerity and Riddick curled up on the couch together.

Riddick after grooming
Serenity and Riddick hit a rough patch in their relationship early on - I was giving Serenity her weekly bath, and foolishly left the door open so I could hear if Riddick got up to anything he shouldn't. (Side note: since Sphynxes don't have fur to take the oil off their skin, they need weekly baths.) I was kneeling beside the tub, lathering the cat up, when Riddick came running in and leapt over me. He landed on the soapy cat, who went underwater and then bolted out of the tub and into the living room. Riddick took off after her. If the cats are dogs in cat-suits, then Riddick is a dog who thinks he's a cat. He tried to jump from the back of the loveseat onto the kitchen island; being sopping wet, he wasn't quite able to make it, but it was hysterical to watch.

Sweet Serenity
So that's our little zoo! Now go see what the rest of the class brought. Hope everyone has a Happy Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Of Fried Eggs and Hard Drives

Or do I mean fried drives and hard eggs? (Hard to fertilize, that is.)

This time last week, I was snuggled with a cup of hot tea, ready for my Friday morning blog-reading. Suddenly, the computer made a screeching noise and rebooted. And rebooted again. And again, and again, and again...and so began the saga of the fried hard drive. Thankfully, most of our data had been backed up recently, and we were able to retrieve the rest of it. I am now rocking a spiffy, brand new hard drive (minus a few essential programs I have yet to reload).

Fried Eggs

On the fried egg front, my last, tortuously-long cycle finally ended. (Insert frantic whooping and screaming here.) C is very pleased that the hormonally-crazed, fire-breathing dragon claiming to be me has at long last left the premises. Of course, due to the timing of the new cycle, I had to reschedule my long-awaited doctor's appointment. (And really, how else should I have expected that to work out? Typical.) I couldn't get in before next week, so Wednesday it is.

In the meantime, I am continuing to fight the good fight over insurance issues stemming from our last 3 IUI's. I can't remember if I've written about this before (I was pretty ticked; maybe too ticked to put it in words), but when I called to schedule my doctor's appointment, I was informed that my insurance hadn't paid on claims that were a year old. The insurance company says the claims were never submitted; the doctor's office says they were (but refuses to provide me with proof). We don't feel comfortable committing financially to IVF yet, if there is any possibility that we will end up being responsible for any part of these old balances. It seems that every time we try to move forward with IVF, something happens to slow us down! Coincidence or design, I wonder?

I could write a whole post on that topic all I will say for now is that I am really seeking God's will and direction. I am in the midst of one of those rare moments, where I can recognize that God's plans ARE better than mine - even if they don't look the same, and even if they don't include a baby at this moment. (Yes, I did type that just now, and yes, that is huge for me. As in Mount Everest huge.) Someone I greatly respect mentioned an interesting concept to me recently, in a conversation about contentment. I had asked how being content in my circumstances and trusting in God reconciles with desiring something different (in this case, obviously, having a baby). Her answer sparked a lot of thought on my part: she said I need to get comfortable with the tension between "the now and the not yet." And that is exactly the problem - how do I manage to live in the present, grieve for that which is denied me, and make God-honoring choices in my pursuit of that which I desperately want, all at the same time?

I don't have an answer, but I'm working on it. I guess it's all part of learning to surf the tension between what is and what I wish would be. For right now, though, all I'm planning on surfing is the web. I have a whole week's worth of blogs to catch up on!!

(Photo credit: taken by Jan Kratena and downloaded from stock.xchng.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Carrot Cake Recipe (GF/SF)

Here is the recipe I used to make the gluten-free/sugar-free carrot cake for C's birthday. (I did use blue agave nectar to sweeten it, but it is free of refined sugar.)

2/3 c. sorghum flour
2/3 c. tapioca flour
2/3 c. + 1/3 c. brown rice flour
2/3 c. hot water
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom*
1/4 tsp. ground cloves*
1/4 tsp. ground ginger*
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg*
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1-1/2 c. blue agave nectar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tsp. coconut oil
2/3 c. vegetable oil**
3 c. shredded carrots
1/4 c. chopped pistachios
1/2 c. buttermilk***

*Or, substitute 1 tsp. chai spice blend for cardamom, cloves, ginger and nutmeg.
**I didn't use this much, and the cake was a little too moist for my liking. When making this again, I will probably leave out the vegetable oil altogether.
***I didn't have buttermilk on hand, so I used 1/2 c. milk mixed with 1/2 Tbsp. white vinegar and left to sit for 5 minutes. (I love Google.)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three 8 or 9-inch cake pans with parchment circles and coat with nonstick spray. (Can also use one 9 x 13 pan - if so, spray with nonstick spray and skip the parchment.)
2. Combine sorghum flour, tapioca flour, 1/3 c. brown rice flour, baking soda, baking powder, cardamom, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.
3. Heat water until boiling. Add remaining brown rice flour and coconut oil to hot water; mix until a sticky, gooey mess is formed. (I microwaved the water in a Pyrex liquid measuring cup, and then mixed in the brown rice flour.)
4. Cut the brown rice flour and water mixture into the flour and spice mix until all particles are very small and approximately the same size. Set aside.
5. Combine eggs, vanilla and blue agave nectar with an electric mixer on high speed. If using vegetable oil, drizzle in here. Then stir in carrots and chopped pistachios.
6. Fold 1/2 of the flour mixture into the creamed mixture until nearly mixed together. Stir in buttermilk, then fold in remaining flour mixture until batter is just mixed. Do not over-mix.
7. Divide batter evenly among cake pans, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the cakes' centers comes out clean (approx. 35-40 minutes for 9-inch pans; 45 minutes for 9 x 13 pan). Transfer cake pans to rack and cool 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and cool completely.

1-1/2 pkgs. cream cheese, brought to room temperature
Butter, brought to room temperature (not sure actual qty.)
Blue agave nectar (not sure actual qty. - maybe 1/2 c.)

1. Mix cream cheese, butter and agave nectar together to taste using an electric mixture.
2. Refrigerate frosting until ready to use.