It’s been a little over a month since my laparoscopy.
The first hardest part of the surgery wasn’t the days after or the tiny little incision wounds (modern surgery is art), but the harsh “coming out” of anesthesia. For me, it was similar to how I imagine being thawed out after a thousand years frozen might feel. Jolting awake to pain and intense nausea were no fun at all, but the Cedars Sinai staff were incredible. A nurse stayed by my bed to regulate pain medication, bring me water, and assure me that no, I wasn’t dying (even though it felt like I was).
The second hardest part of it all, however, was getting the confirmation that I indeed have severe endometriosis. While I was in my drug induced coma, Dr. Collins was nice enough to visit my mom in the Cedars waiting room to give her an update. She brought pictures of the black grey growths that polluted my uterus and infiltrated my right ovary. The growths resembled “Little cigarette burns,” my mom said. Awesome, I basically have black lung in my womb. She also had pictures of the two cysts that were blocking my left tub. Contrary to previous lab results, BOTH tubes are healthy! (Finally SOME good news).
Though I was almost 100% sure that years of suffering and an elevated blood test made an endometriosis diagnosis likely, the truth still hurt. Would I have to take Lupron to conceive? How much worse or better were my chances of natural conception after surgery? Should I pursue invitro fertilization immediately? As usual, I was determined to find the answers, but wasn’t exactly prepared for what I uncovered. You can’t always get what you want, unfortunately. Finding out that my tubes are healthy is the only silver lining I’ve seen in a long time.
Both Dr. Collins and Dr. Chang informed me that my best course of action would be to try naturally for the next two months (January and February). According to Dr. Chang the surgery “optimized” my chances of conceiving without the help of reproductive science (imagine that, a baby growing inside me, not put there by Dr. Chang!). But, the window is small. Though no one knows exactly how fast endometeriosis grows back, it usually does. It’s re-growth would interfere with my uterus’ ability to provide the optimum environment for a fetus. If February isn’t our lucky month, then our first (and hopefully our last) cycle of IVF begins in March.
With that said, hubby and I have been getting busy. I’ve learned how to check my cervical position for signs of fertility (high and wet). I’ve learned how to read my mucous like I’m a gosh darn fortune-teller (you will live a long and prosperous life full of babies!). I’ve gone through more ovulation predictor kits than is probably necessary (testing three times a day so I don’t miss the precious and very telling lutenizing hormone surge). January’s cycle is almost over and I’m pretty sure I’m not pregnant (unfortunately), but here’s what I learned THIS month about the baby making process, endometriosis, and how to stay sane through it all.
1. Statistics DO improve with surgery.
IVF.com has an interesting article on the pregnancy success rates for women. Yet they’re only kind of encouraging.
“Pregnancy rates following surgery generally range between 35-40% for severe endometriosis to 55-65% with milder disease. Of those who become pregnant, 30 percent conceive within three months, 50 percent within six months, and 86 percent within fifteen months. There appears to be no difference in pregnancy rates with laparoscopy or laparotomy with laser or electrosurgical techniques. While long-term pregnancy rates may approach 65%, surgical studies that look at fecundity show monthly pregnancy rates as low as 3-6% per month following surgical treatment of this disease (versus 20% per month in fertile women).”
I say kind of encouraging because the last sentence of that quote is the one that disturbs me most. “3-6%” chance of getting pregnant in each cycle! I have a higher chance of developing breast cancer in my lifetime than I do getting prego each month. Ugh. And waaaaah!
2. Changing diet may improve long-term prognosis for endometriosis.
One study draws a hypothetical link between endometriosis, the environment, and genetically modified foods.
“Although the pathophysiology of endometriosis remains unclear, a growing body of evidence points to the implication of environmental toxicants. Over the last decade, an increase in the incidence of endometriosis has been reported and coincides with the introduction of genetically modified foods in our diet.”
You mean all that fake genetically modified soy-meat really could have been contributing to the problem? What about all that healthy whole wheat bread? Just as bad, according to Dr. Collins and the bestselling book Wheat Belly. Dr. Collins strongly encouraged me to cut out all wheat containing products [they cause inflammation], other genetically modified grains, and any low quality, highly processed foods. A follow-up to my blog A Week Without Wheat is coming soon! Eating healthy is hard work!
3. Treating your husband like a stallion on a stud farm is counter-productive.
So this one is probably a no brainer. Picture me standing in my bathrobe mid afternoon with an ovulation predictor strip in hand, shaking it wildly in hubby’s face, while he wraps up a business call (I forced him to work from home for the entire fertility window so he was easily accessible). Awkward and a little bit scary. There are some things that respond to pressure, but male anatomy and baby dancing aren’t among them. Next month I’m bringing sexy back ;).
4. Patience is the most important virtue.
This one is difficult, especially when you have a small 60 day window in which to conceive naturally. But, alas, inner-peace and Buddha and zen and stress-free might as well all be rolled into one word – patience. When you’re patient, you’re relaxed. You’re okay that things don’t always happen on your schedule. They happen when they’re supposed to happen, on a bed or on a fertility doctor’s table. Patience and babies belong together, now and when mini the Brooker finally arrives.
5. Mindset matters.
One of my favorite quotes is: “The highest fences we need to climb, are those we have built within our minds.” In that case, I’ve got several fences being erected at any given time. There might even be a moat with alligators in it, swimming around, gobbling up my most positive thoughts.
A British study of over 200 women reports that those with the highest levels of stress hormones in their system conceived 12% less than those with lower levels. While it’s pretty hard not to stress a little when the clock is ticking, I’m making a pact with you now to just let go. We’re doing all we can. I’m nurturing my body with healthy food. I’m getting the blood flowing every day at The Dailey Method. Hubby is taking his Proxceed religiously. So starting now, I’m letting go of the stress, the pressure, the doubts, and the angst. I will picture my friend the Skin Owl’s recent campaign, where she’s releasing a bunch of balloons into the sky, anytime I grip that which I cannot control too tightly. I will remember my most happy place, the Lanikai Pill Box hike on Oahu (pictured above). Goodbye balloons! Hello most beautiful beach in the world!
What have you learned on your fertility journey? How have you replaced stress with patience? To let go? I’d love to hear from you!