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Infertility and Miscarriage

Infertility and Miscarriage, Pregnancy

What I wish I would have known about the first trimester…

December 18, 2014

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I spent a lot of time reading (okay, obsessing and worrying) about what was normal vs. not normal during the first trimester. After two miscarriages I was extremely worried that my symptoms weren’t normal or our baby wasn’t healthy. Understandable, yes, but healthy? Absolutely not!

Since a lot of my symptoms weren’t textbook “normal” I thought perhaps some other moms-to-be could use a little reminder that what the books and websites say don’t necessarily hold true all the time. They’re simply generalizations. You can have a less than textbook pregnancy and still be carrying a very healthy baby.

Here are a few of my pieces of advice based on my experience:

What the Books and Websites Say
Morning sickness is good! It’s a sign that you’re baby is healthy and you’re hormone levels are rising appropriately.

What I Say
This was one of the greatest fears and sources of worry for me with all 3 of my pregnancies. I hated every time someone told me that morning sickness was a sign my baby was doing well, especially when I didn’t feel sick! I remember laying on the couch 11 weeks pregnant with this baby, praying to God that he would give me morning sickness so I could feel reassured that our baby was healthy.

The truth? Morning sickness didn’t hit me until around 12 weeks and eased up around 18 weeks, and even then it wasn’t very bad. I threw up only a handful of times, and looking back I should have been thankful for how good I felt through the first trimester. I wish people would quit saying that morning sickness is a good sign, because every pregnancy is so different!

What the Books and Websites Say
Cramping, lower back aches and other pains can be a sign of miscarriage in the first trimester! Be afraid!

What I Say
While that’s certainly true, that extremely bad cramps can be a sign of miscarriage early on, I think that you need to be in tune with your body and not jump to conclusions. Prior to getting pregnant I struggled frequently with cramps and stomach discomfort, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me that those same discomforts would follow me in pregnancy. Also, with my two miscarriages I never experienced severe cramps or any unusual symptoms, so it’s really hard to make broad generalizations.

What the Books and Websites Say
Bleeding/spotting during the first trimester may mean you’re going to miscarry.

What I Say
Yes, that’s certainly true, that bleeding can be a sign of miscarriage, but I wish I had known how incredibly common it is to spot during early pregnancy. It probably would have given me a bit more perspective and calmed me a bit. I have had a couple good girlfriends spot during the first trimester and they went on to deliver healthy, happy babies. I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep an eye on these type of things, but my hope is that women don’t freak out like I did!

What the Books and Websites Say
You should only gain about 5 pounds during the first trimester.

What I Say
This was something I was totally unprepared for! I gained more weight in my first trimester (around 11 pounds) than I did in my second trimester (only about 6 pounds) and wasn’t textbook at all in this regard. I worried that since I gained so much in the first trimester it would mean I was going to be off-the-charts my entire pregnancy, but your body truly does know what it is doing. Trust your body and trust that as long as you aren’t going crazy with the junk food and ice cream, your body is doing exactly what it needs to do to nourish baby.

Mommas, do you have anything else to add to this list?

Madison

Infertility and Miscarriage, Uncategorized

Getting and Staying Pregnant: What We Did Differently

October 2, 2014

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I realize that I’ve posted quite a bit about pregnancy-related topics lately. Hang with me if pregnancy posts drive you crazy, because I have some great recipes coming to the site later this month! Since opening up about our difficult journey to baby, my inbox has been flooded with questions about doctors and medicines and acupuncture. I’m always happy to answer each question individually via e-mail, but I wanted to put it all into a single post as another resource for women traveling the same journey.

Before I launch into what we did differently this time around, I want to say that I was a bit torn about sharing this post. First, despite the fact that we’re now past 16 weeks, I have no idea what the ultimate outcome will be of this pregnancy. Second, I strongly believe that the baby I’m carrying is a miracle and a result of so many heartfelt and sincere prayers. I don’t ever want to steal away from the miraculous nature of this pregnancy in favor of condensing it down to a science. We truly have no idea what “did the trick” but believe that God worked through some of the many medical resources available to us.

1. A Daily Baby Aspirin
After our second miscarriage, one of the first things our doctor suggested was for me to start a daily baby aspirin regimen. Aspirin isn’t typically recommended for pregnant women, but in some cases it has shown to have benefits for women who have difficulty conceiving or staying pregnant. Although my blood tests came back negative for any clotting disorders (a common cause of recurrent miscarriage) my doctor said sometimes a small dose of aspirin can prevent small clotting issues that may go under the radar undetected.

2. Acupuncture (a lot of it!)
The week after our second miscarriage, I started going to weekly acupuncture treatments at a practice specializing in pregnancy and fertility at the recommendation of a family friend. Thankfully the treatments were 80% covered by insurance (!!) so it was affordable and extremely enjoyable. I went every week for two months leading up to getting pregnant and every week through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Now I’m going once every month until the end of my pregnancy, when I will resume weekly treatments.

I can honestly say that the acupuncture helped tremendously with recovery after miscarriage compared to my previous experience and helped my body get back on track right away. It also helped my stress levels and most of the time I found myself falling asleep during the treatments. Additionally, my acupuncturist prescribed me several herbal supplements that I took throughout my cycle and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

3. Lifestyle Modifications
My acupuncturist also suggested several lifestyle modifications that I followed during the first trimester, which included eating organic, grass-fed red meat to help build my blood supply and focusing on exercises that were “nourishing” rather than depleting to my body. That means lots of walking, swimming, yoga and Pilates and avoiding running, high impact cardio and other intense workouts that would deplete my body.

4. Changing My Vitamins 
Almost everything in my blood panel came back normal except for the fact that my doctor informed me I tested positive for MTHFR, a common (but rarely tested for) genetic mutation that inhibits my body from properly processing folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) and B-vitamins, which are key nutrients in pregnancy. My doctor didn’t think it was a big deal or cause for concern, but after doing more research on my own, I talked with her about prescribing me Metanx, a prescription-grade form of natural, active B-vitamins. She agreed there would be no harm to me taking them and wrote me a script. I also switched to a MTHFR-friendly prenatal that would work well for people with and without MTHFR.

If you’ve been diagnosed with MTHFR, I would highly recommend you doing a little research of your own. I started with this website, and this one, too. Or, you can always e-mail me. I’m happy to chat!

5. Added Progesterone
Although I never tested low for progesterone in my second pregnancy (we didn’t test with the first) my doctor and I decided to err on the safe side and supplement the pregnancy with progesterone during the first trimester. She prescribed twice daily progesterone suppositories that were a total pain to take, but worth the peace of mind knowing I was doing everything I could to help this baby grow strong and healthy. I stopped taking the progesterone at 12 weeks, which made me nervous, but my doctor assured me that it was perfectly safe.

I have had this post written in my “drafts” folder for a long time, but I got another e-mail this morning from a friend with questions about getting pregnant, and it gave me the push I needed to hit “publish.” If you have any questions or I can be of any other help, I’m happy to chat!

Madison

*I am not a doctor or medical professional. This is simply what worked for us, but as always, please consult your medical professionals about any lifestyle modifications and medications when trying to get pregnant. 

Infertility and Miscarriage, Pregnancy

Choosing Not to Fear (11 Week Update!)

August 13, 2014

madiandjoe

*First note of business: I’m terribly sorry for the lack of recipe posts lately. Just when I thought I was starting to feel better, I got hit with another round of morning sickness that has prevented me from making almost anything worth blogging about in the kitchen. I’ve been on a steady diet of sandwiches, smoothies and cereal, but I’m looking forward to *hopefully* feeling better soon so I can start cooking with more regularity! 

We are, with this little miracle baby, inching closer and closer to the end of the first trimester. Can you believe it? Because I certainly can’t. Standing in the kitchen two nights ago after our 11 week appointment, I was brought to tears thinking about how close we came to throwing in the towel on this pregnancy and moving forward with the D&C. But, despite everything we were told we are, by the grace of God, still here, moving forward day-by-day with the pregnancy our doctors said wouldn’t happen.

At our 11 week appointment on Monday we were able to hear our baby’s heartbeat on the doppler for the first time. We heard the heartbeat on the ultrasound a few other times, but for some reason using the doppler felt more real. And while those good appointments really do provide peace of mind, I find that the peace and reassurance is fleeting. Here I sit, two days later, wondering if everything is okay inside, praying continually that our baby’s heartbeat would continue to beat strong and that he/she would continue to grow and develop normally.

Part of this I’m sure is just a normal part of any pregnancy. What mother doesn’t worry a little bit? But as I was telling a friend last week, being pregnant after two miscarriages is not for the faint of heart. There is a deep fear, based in past experiences, that easily sneaks into everyday life if you’re not constantly on guard. Heck, even when I am constantly looking out for those negative, fearful thoughts they still creep back in.

This pregnancy in particular, with it’s rocky beginning and the fact that it’s a pregnancy after two failed attempts, has been one of the most challenging and trying journeys. Of course I’m trilled to be pregnant, but when the worst case scenario has been reality in the past, it’s hard to walk through the day-to-day with ignorance or bliss. Each day of this pregnancy has been stepping out in faith, trusting that God’s plan is higher than my plan, and that He has planned for our little family to come together in just the right way.

I wish I could say that I’ve conquered my fears, but it’s a daily battle that I’m waging. Reminding myself that it’s out of my control and that the best I can do is take it day-by-day are two things that I’ve found to be the biggest help when my mind starts to wander. Although it’s scary to admit that I’m out of control, once I’ve accepted it it’s remarkably freeing.

Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” 

Madison

Infertility and Miscarriage, Pregnancy

Today I’m Thankful

July 18, 2014

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This week we went for a follow-up appointment at my OBGYN office for, you guessed it, yet another ultrasound. I’m thankful for so many opportunities to see our little one, but I’ll admit that the ultrasounds make me nervous and jittery and filled with all kinds of anxiety leading up to the appointment.

We were blessed, and maybe still a little surprised, to see another image of a healthy little baby, who is starting to look more and more like a baby every week. The ultrasound tech, who we’ve come to love, pointed out the head and showed us the spinal cord and the little flickering heartbeat. We even saw our baby move for just a second. Crazy! The little jellybean was measuring right on track, once again, with a heartbeat that had gotten quite a bit faster from our last appointment.

So now we’re entering into uncharted territory, and I find it a little scary. Entering into our 8th week soon will be the longest we’ve ever made it with a pregnancy (though we didn’t find that out last time until the 12th week). Most of the time I feel a lot of peace, much more peace than I’ve felt with either of our two previous pregnancies, which I find strange and wonderful. But sometimes I find my mind grasping onto old memories, feeling fearful of what we’ve experienced in the past, sometimes convinced that we’ll experience that same fate yet again.

I’ve been praying a lot lately, for other women who are on a difficult fertility journey, for our little baby’s heart and that it would continue beating, that our little one would love the Lord and would be a living example of the miracles that God does in our lives. I’ve found so many opportunities in the last few weeks to talk about my faith in a very real way, something that I will admit I was never all that great at in the past.

This week my doctor sat down with me after our ultrasound, all our various scans printed out on a sheet of paper, and said that she was unable to explain how what we saw at 5 weeks turned into what we saw at 7 weeks. You could tell that science was failing her in explaining what had happened, and she seemed very cautious about this pregnancy. And believe me, I get it and I understand her questions. If I didn’t have faith myself, I’m not sure how I would explain it, either. But instead of feeling cautious and fearful, I’m diving headfirst into the scary waters of the next four weeks. Sometimes those four weeks feel like a mountain! Sometimes I wonder how I’m going to get through the next four weeks, with all the uncertainty and questions and our scary past. But when I think about our God, who cares for us and looks over us, knowing exactly what we need, I find a little more peace. One day at a time, Joe and I are stepping out in faith, trusting to walk down a road not knowing where it leads.

Our doctor offered to do another ultrasound next week, the day before we leave on vacation. I decided to pass, not wanting to risk ruining our vacation in any way with bad news, so we are going to have our next ultrasound two weeks from today, on August 1st. We’ll be about 9 1/2 weeks at that appointment. I can hardly believe it!

With two ultrasounds that have been positive under our belt, it might seem like we’re doing good and it’s smooth sailing going forward. But may I continue to ask for your prayers? If anything, I feel like the next four weeks are going to be the biggest hurdle of all, and the hardest path to walk down. Your continued prayers for the sustained life of our very loved baby would be greatly appreciated.

Madison

Infertility and Miscarriage

Praise Be to God

July 10, 2014

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Last night was  a restless night of sleep. As much as I wanted to go into a deep sleep, I kept waking up, tossing and turning, wondering what the next morning would hold. Would we see our little baby on the ultrasound, healthy and heart beating? Or would I be sent to surgery immediately after and spending the rest of the day recovering on the couch, piecing together a broken heart?

I want to be clear that whatever the outcome was going to be today, that it doesn’t change the fact that our God is a good god who loves us and knows what is best for us, even when it’s scary, hard and confusing. This isn’t just, “God gave me what I wanted, so I’m going to give Him the praise.” No matter the outcome, we would be praising Him all the same. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t desperately praying for a miracle that went against every bit of medical advice we were given just a week ago.

It was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve experienced in my life, to hear the ultrasound tech tell us, “I see a baby,” followed by, “Oh, my gosh, I see a heartbeat, too!” Our little baby was there, heartbeat flickering on the ultrasound, measuring 6 weeks 3 days, exactly on track with my calculations. See that little zig-zag on the bottom of the ultrasound picture? That’s the heartbeat!

We have a long way to go, and if I think about it too hard the next 5 1/2 weeks seem incredibly scary. We’ve heard a healthy heartbeat before, only to have that good news followed by heartbreak weeks later. The next few weeks we will continue to be monitored closely. I think this baby is going to have more pictures by 12 weeks than most full-term babies! And although the road seems long and paved with uncertainty, I am trusting in God’s plan. And I would appreciate more than anything your continued prayers as we go into uncharted waters in the weeks to come.

But for now, praise be to God! Know that if you lifted up a prayer for us in the last week, I believe with every fiber of my being that you had a hand in helping this baby get this far. God heard us, and He answered our prayers today! I know it doesn’t always work out that way, but Joe and I are both rejoicing. Thank you for your support, your prayers, emails, comments, texts and general love. We’ve felt so supported and surrounded, knowing that when we are too weak or weary to pray, others are praying on our behalf.

Madison