Monday, September 18, 2006

A little bit of backstory

Well, what relevant information ought I to tackle today... Let's start with the PCOS, shall we?

PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome. I hit puberty and started to look like a cross between the bearded lady and a linebacker. My periods, when I had them, were all over the place. My mother took me to our family physician, who did some blood work and said all my hormonal levels were within the normal range, though unsurprisingly my androgen levels were a little high. Anyway, they told me I was fine and to consider myself lucky that I didn't have to deal with periods very often. Ha, ha, ha. Great. In their defense, PCOS wasn't well-described back then.

Flash forward to college. Fed up with the endless monotony of depilatory creams, tweezers, and creme bleach, I talked my parents into footing the bill for laser hair removal. It worked pretty well on parts of me and not so well on others. I also discovered SCUBA diving. I loved it immediately and spent a couple of years underwater. This, it turns out, is not only great fun but a tremendous amount of exercise, which is what my messed up, insulin resistant body needs to be reasonably fit. I lost 50 pounds and people from my freshman dorm started to not recognize me when we met on campus.

Then graduate school, which is how I wound up living in this city and where I met my husband. I read an article in a weekly news magazine about PCOS and it was one of those lightbulb moments. I have this, I said to myself. I have this. Well, of course I was right. We also discovered I have hypothyriodism on top of the PCOS. Years of symptoms started to make sense. I got on a low-carb diet and things improved even more. I was running for 45 minutes three days a week. I was finally attractive and fit. (And let me tell you, I was neither of those things for a VERY long time, and all claims of fitness were pretty thoroughly obliterated by my pregnancy.) I was terrified I wasn't going to be able to have kids, but we figured that was going to have to wait to be dealt with until after my husband and I finished graduate school. That took up most of our twenties.

At long last, finally we were both done. My husband got a good job and I started teaching a little at the college I teach at now. We decided it was time to try for a baby. In my mind this was going to take years of infertility treatments and thousands of dollars. Don't borrow trouble, says one of my more understanding OB/Gyns. (There were three in the practice back then. We've met Dr. Favorite already; let's meet the rest of them later.) Her advice-- start prenatals and metformin for a month, then quit birth control pills (which I had been taking since my PCOS diagnosis) and have lots of fun with the husband for three monhts. After that, my own hormones would probably kick in and spoil the ovulation party, and at that point we should come back and discuss further options.

So off we went. I was certain there wouldn't be any ovulating going on in MY messed up body. I'd seen those ovaries in an ultrasound. I had pictures of them. Bags of cysts don't make nice eggs and send them off into fallopiantubeville. 14 days into the first cycle-- boom. My temperature rose. And stayed up. For more than 14 days. Hmmm. Peed on a stick (okay, several sticks), and there we were. Pregnant. First time's the charm, right? Not so much. I miscarried at 7 weeks. We hadn't told anyone except my best friend J, so we were spared spreading around that particular bit of news. To this day few members of my family and none of my husband's family know.

To gloss over a very dark period, we grieved. But we had a valuable bit of knowledge. We had conceived once. It would surely happen again. And it did, three cycles later, again just with Metformin. Who knows, maybe I would have conceived without even that. Anyway, this was the one that took. We got to the end of the first trimester, and then we spread the good news around. We were through the dangerous part, right? I breezed right over a lot of descriptions of preterm labor and other complications in my pregnancy books. That won't happen to me, I thought. I've had my trouble. I imagine anyone reading this can see right where we were headed.

Anyway, that's the prologue to my pregnancy story. So, I'm not really infertile, though for years I thought I might be, and I still identify with a lot of what the IF people blog about. I took any and all pregnancies around me as personal attacks, etc. I won't describe my reaction when my brother announced his wife's pregnancy during this period. It's possible that I harbored some uncharitable thoughts when I miscarried during their pregnancy. I own a lot of books on infertility. I still worry that I won't be able to conceive again without the benefit of coming directly off six years of nice, synthetic birth control pill hormones that repressed expression of my unique cocktail of reproductive hormone soup. However, I realize that imagining problems which I might have had to face, or may face in the future, pales in comparison to what a truly infertile couple goes through. So, I guess I fall in a grey area in the middle. Neither infertile nor normal. I suppose I have a somewhat unusual perspective on both.

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