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I’m cystic, baby.

22 Aug

The other major bit of news from my appointment was the results of my ultrasounds and bloodwork.  Despite an inconclusive ultrasound, my absent (going on 7 months, baby) periods, slightly-high hair growth and elevated testosterone are enough to diagnose me (more convincingly, this time) with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

Awesome.

So although my doc seemed in a real rush to get me out of her office so she could move on to the nice long queue of patients in the waiting room, she did actually provide me with way more information than I had gotten in my initial teenage-years visit to the walk-in clinic. That time around, I was basically told that my blood was normal but, um, well, you have PCOS anyway and you have to go on birth control and that will solve all your problems and make you menstruate liquid gold like clockwork each month.  Or something. Needless to say, this time around I was ready for some answers.

First off, apparently it is bad to not get periods. I always kindof sensed this, but didn’t really have any idea WHY. I figured it was not conducive to pregnancy because it indicated you probably weren’t ovulating, so that wasn’t good for those in the conception phase of life. But other than for fertility reasons, did it really matter? Apparently it does. Doc informed me that every month I go without menstruating is one more month that my uterine lining is building up, getting thicker and nastier. Gross. And that the more that happens, the greater the likelihood of developing endometrial cancer at a young age. Yuck. She said that most women who get endometrial cancer get it in the 40s; it tends to show up in PCOS-sufferers in their 30s.

Okay, so that sucks. Clearly I do not want CANCER. But how do I make Aunt Flow flow? She gave me two choices:

1) Birth control pills (surprise, surprise)

2) Progesterone pills (Provera… or whatever the generic name is)

I went with the latter. Although the Pill does provide some additional benefits that the progesterone does not (makes your boobs bigger, reduces acne & hair growth, conveniently balances out hormones that otherwise are going haywire 24/7… you get the drift), it also makes you infertile. And it also contaminates all those little fishies in the oceans that can’t have babies anymore because of all the weirdo hormones in the water system. Etcetera.

Anyway, after a heart-wrenching search all over town in an overly-emotional state, I finally got my greedy little hands on 1 cycle’s worth of the generic version of Provera. I have to take one tablet every day for a week and then I guess that tricks my body into believing it has ovulated and therefore needs to think about shedding that endometrium. Woo. Hoo. And after all the effort it took to secure the pills, I have already screwed up my dosage schedule by forgetting to take one last night and having to do it this morning instead. I’m hoping that doesn’t make the whole cycle for nothing. We’ll see. Either way, I basically need to force myself into a period once every three months, so I will likely end up doing a few more cycles of this while we sort out our fertility goals/situation.

But THAT, my friends, is a tale for another day.

Sounds ultra.

26 Jun

So I finally picked my bum up and walked it down to the hospital for my bloodwork and ultrasound to confirm PCOS.  It was my first ultrasound, and it felt really weird.  I felt like I was in a movie, you know, going for my first ultrasound and expecting to see a fetal heartbeat or something.  Tears of joy or whatever.  Instead it just looked like a horror movie – a storm of black and white and static-y shapes in my empty womb.  I have no idea what the ultrasound showed – the tech (nurse?) just told me, “I’ll forward these to your doctor.”  Um, ok.  She also made a comment about my bladder being mostly empty.  That’s a new one.

In addition to the Kodak moment baby-finder ultrasound, they did an internal one.  I didn’t have a chance to say, “By the way, I have vulvar vestibulitis, so I might have a hard time with the insertion…”  She just threw a condom on, some lube and POPPED it in.  It didn’t hurt, exactly.  Just a bit uncomfortable, but I guess that is probably a normal sensation when someone sticks a piece of technology inside your vagina.

So I was all set to go see my gynaecologist a couple weeks later to get the results of these tests and discuss what my next step is in addressing my reproductive health.  Appointment was made, and I was eagerly awaiting the date.  And then, I got a new job.  Which starts on the same morning as my appointment.  And is the type of job where you can’t do things like miss the first day.  Anyway, the end result is that my doctor is booked up COMPLETELY until mid-August, so I have to delay my appointment by another month and a half.  Lame.

I guess that makes this the no-update update.

That Other Reason I’m Not Using Contraceptives

4 Jun

I know, I know, I’ve gone on and on about it already.  But I had to mention it, because it represents a big shift in my perspective on “family planning” (whatever that means).  As you are all likely aware by now, I have fertility issues.  I’ve been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and am in the process of confirming that diagnosis with some tests and a second opinion.  Regardless of the label, the reality is that when I am unmedicated (read: off the Pill) I only get five or six periods a year.  This is likely genetic, as my mom has similar symptoms and had to use fertility drugs for her pregnancies.  So, no periods mean no ovulation.  No ovulation means no babies.  And if my chances of getting pregnant are significantly reduced, then I just don’t know that I really want to eliminate them for so many of my most ‘reproductive’ years.  I am at my PRIME right now, ad I still can hardly muster an ovulation.  Do I really want to stop the process completely?

I get why people want to wait to have kids.  I really do.  I felt the same way, in fact, for a long time.  I thought it was crazy to get pregnant before being married AT LEAST two years, if not more.  I still kindof feel that way, because I want my marriage to be as strong and established as possible before the upheaval that is pregnancy and parenthood.  I want to be a more mature, wise, in-control person so I don’t drive my husband crazy or have a meltdown.  And yet the fear lingers.  That deep, dark infertility fear.  I don’t want to wake up ten years from now, biological clock screaming it’s alarm bells in my ears, and realize that I am absolutely DESPERATE to get pregnant.  I don’t want to be desperate.  I don’t want to drive myself insane with fertility treatments that become increasingly drastic as I become increasingly infertile.  I don’t want to be filled with regret thinking of all those years I spent ‘protecting’ myself against pregnancy only to discover that I have missed my chance.

And a little bit, if I’m begin totally honest, I want to get pregnant.  Even though mostly I don’t.

On Unprotected Sex: The Newbie Perspective

29 May

I will begin this post by a grand pronouncement: My husband and I have officially consummated our marriage.

Of course, it was consummated in our hearts long ago, but now it’s LEGAL.  We’ve only managed to pull it off once, but we did it with no form of contraception.

And this leads me to the point of this post, which is not losing my virginity (because that is something I think I am allowed to be privately happy about without vomiting the details all over the Internet!) but about our choice to forgo “protection” at this time.  Why have we made this insane decision when we are a) broke and b) not actually wanting to have kids just yet?

Well, it’s complicated.  There are a bunch of reasons why I stopped taking the Pill in the first place, and you can read about them in earlier posts.  But there’s more to it than that, and a lot of it has to do with a fundamental shift in my thoughts on conception, pregnancy, birth, and family.  The big idea is this:  birth is not something to be controlled.

There is something wrong with the way we see pregnancy, with the way I have always seen pregnancy.  It is like the bogeyman.  It is the killer of women’s liberation.  It is a ball and chain.  It is scary.  It is too “feminine” in all the wrong ways.  It is rooted in the body, not the mind, and so it must be kindof silly.  That is, women who ARE pregnant are silly.  As are women who WANT to be pregnant.  It is the thing we threaten teenagers with to drive them to abstinence.  It is like hellfire and brimstone.  And our bodies are the sources of all this badness, so they too must be bad.

Consider the way we talk about reproduction, because our language betrays our underlying beliefs.

Take as a starting point the ubiquitous term “birth control.”  Birth control?  Has there ever been anything more mysterious, more out-of-human-hands than the formation of new life?  Sure, we have SOME SAY in it, obviously.  But we can’t force a pregnancy to happen.  We can’t force a baby to live.  And, despite our best efforts at controlling conception, we often mess up and end up with unwanted or unplanned pregnancies.  The idea of being in control of this enormous force in our lives is appealing, especially in our highly individualistic culture.  But let’s not kid ourselves.   Somewhere inside you, in some secret place, tiny things that you can’t even see strike each other and create a spark of life.  We are not really in control of all this stuff.  And do we want to be?  The phrase “Birth Control” does, afterall, have an unsettling similarity to a few other phrases in our society; “pest control” comes to mind.

There are the categories of birth control.  “Barrier” methods don’t sound very loving.  I don’t need to separate my husband’s body from mine with a barrier.  I don’t need to destroy what his body has made with spermicide.  Spermicide sounds scary and toxic, like DEET.  But these aren’t mosquitoes we’re talking about here.  I don’t need “protection” when I have sex with my husband.  Sex with my husband is inherently safe, because it is with him.  It is always “safe sex.”  I am not afraid of him giving me diseases and I am not afraid of having a child with him (of course motherhood is scary, but not in a way that I need to be SHIELDED from!).

So we’ve abandoned the condoms.  I have a pack of unopened pills sitting in the medicine cabinet.  I’m not dogmatic about all this.  I GET why people use contraceptives.  There’s no judgement here!  And I also recognize that if I were a regularly-ovulating woman I might be MORE afraid and less laissez-faire about the whole thing.  If I thought that pregnancy was likely rather than vaguely possible, that might change things.  This is just a part of my slow uncovering of how I feel about my reproductive health, about my body, about my relationship.  In a few weeks, I will end up back at the GYN’s office, getting the results of my PCOS testing.  She might tell me to go back on the Pill, and right now, I can’t say for sure what I will tell her.  But probably it will start with, “Well, before I do anything, I should probably take a pregnancy test…”

And we’ll just go from there.

I’m off the charts.

26 Apr

And not in a good way!

Despite the super promising progress I’ve been making with treating my vestibulitis over the past couple of months, I have not at all been encouraged in the PCOS department.  My cycle has lasted over two months so far and I guess I’ve lost my motivation to keep charting.  It’s been a few days since I’ve recorded anything.  When I stopped taking birth control, I was so pumped about being off it, about figuring out my body.  Now I am ready to just start taking it again to make things simple.  I know this is not a very constructive attitude, but it is what it is.

I will not, however, start taking the Pill right away, as I have to get blood work and an ultrasound done before my next OBGYN appointment in June.  I need my system to be artificial-hormone-free to get proper results and confirm what exactly my ovaries are doing down there.

I’ve read on several blogs about people who start out doing treatment for their pelvic pain issues (vestibulitis, vulvodynia, vaginismus… pick your poison) but then get discouraged and give up.  I never understood that – I mean, I am committed to resolving my vestibulitis and have done, without fail, everything the doctor has ordered.  But now I think I get it.  Sometimes, when it seems like nothing is happening, when it seems like there is nothing you can do to really change the situation, it is just too tiring to keep thinking about it every day.  To keep pursuing something that you feel you will probably never have anyway.  In my case it’s a normally-fuctioning fertile body.  For some people it’s a healthy and pain-free sex life.  Maybe what I should be writing about is how I’ve realized the importance of sticking with a treatment and following it through… instead what I’m writing about is that I GET why you might not want to.  Because I’m with you there, me and my ovaries.

Fertility Awareness Month… er, Method

25 Feb

As part of my ongoing quest to take control of my sexual health and figure out what the freak is going on (yes, I just typed “what the freak”… is that a problem?) in my body, I have started charting my cycles.  This is my first go at it, so I am still a little shaky on some bits (Cervical position?  Wha????  I’ve been feeling up there, but for real, it doesn’t seem to be moving around too much…), but overall it has actually been pretty fun to record things and see how my cycle is progressing.  Of course, the whole experience of noticing fertility signs is pretty novel for me, since I have been on the Pill so long and have therefore been totally not-fertile for years now.  So when my cervical fluid looks like it’s supposed to, I get all excited.  Woo!

For those who are unfamiliar with the practice of charting your cycles, here is a brief run-down.  You can use this method as a means of birth control or as an aid to conception.  In my case, I am not using it for either, since I am not having intercourse!  It is still awesome for actually figuring out what your body is doing and for pinpointing where any fertility issues may be coming from.  For example, it can help you figure out whether or not you are even ovulating, since some women get bleeding even if they never release an egg.  But I digress.  The basic practice of charting is to record your waking temperature (using a basal body thermometer), cervical fluid, and cervical position.  You can also keep track of things like stress, illness, exercise, etc., that may affect your cycle length.  By keeping track of your body’s symptoms, you can determine whether or not you are potentially fertile at any given time.  This lets you time intercourse for either avoiding or achieving conception.

For a very clear, very helpful description of this method, I would highly recommend checking out Taking Charge of Your Fertility (link to the right).  The book is affordable and a really good reference.  I understand my body’s processes so much better after having read it.  The website is great too, as it has useful forums and free pdf charts that you can print out and use yourself.  And no, this is not a sponsored post, and I don’t get any kick-backs if you buy the book after reading this!  In fact, I paid $0.50 for my copy at my friendly neighbourhood thrift store, because that’s how I roll.

Anyway.  Charting rocks my socks off so far.  It feels really good to finally have a clue when it comes to my cycle.  I don’t know if I will be able to stay off of birth control pills in the future, as that depends on how things play out with my PCOS, but I am really hoping that *when* I start having intercourse, I will be able to use this as my method of birth control.  And of course, if I have trouble conceiving in the future, knowing this method will cut out so many wasted months of not knowing what my body is doing and will help to time things out for maximum effectiveness.  Ha.

Moral of the story: Read the book and love your awesome body.

“mission impossible” or “how to be an okay human being and go off the Pill”

25 Jan

So, as we all know, I am not having intercourse.  I say “intercourse” because “sex” includes a whole lot of things, most of which I AM DOING.  Just so you know.  But intercourse is sadly off the table.  The awesome thing about not having intercourse (check out my positive language!) is that it has given me the perfect opportunity to stop taking birth control.  This is important because:

a) in a couple of months, once my hormones have returned to “normal” (whatever that means in the context of my crazy body), I can confirm whether I have PCOS and figure out my next steps

b) I have read that vestibulitis is sometimes actually caused or exacerbated by the Pill, so going off of it might provide some relief

c) I have also read anecdotal evidence that birth control pills may contribute to anxiety – I have anxiety like nobody’s business, and I’d really like to know if I am eating pills that make me worry

The downside of going off the Pill is, of course, the adjustment period.  Here I was, feeling pretty darn good about myself.  I’d stopped taking Marvelon for a couple of weeks with no negative reactions, and I was getting a littly cocky.  A wee bit over-confident.  Thinking, “Pshh, I can handle this.  My body is SO OVER this contraceptive business.”  Yeah.  Right.  Say hello to Week 3 of no birth control, where my emotions take on a life of their own.

As if the no intercourse thing was not enough, I had to turn all psycho-rage on my poor husband.  And what have I been so angry about, you may ask?  Um.  REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS like him being TOO AFFECTIONATE.  Yeah, that was a shining moment in our marriage.  Or then there was the time he was WRITING HIS THESIS instead of washing dishes.  You know, that kind of totally unreasonable behaviour.  I mean, seriously, how can he expect me to be nice to him when he is doing stupid stuff like attempting to love me and complete a Master’s degree?!?!?!

*cough*

So, let’s just say I am praying that “slow to anger” stuff and hoping it works its way into my heart and hormones.  Because for real, I am tired of being controlled by this illness.