A journey through infertility & loss (Part Two)
Where we last left off, I was about six or seven cycles into trying to conceive, with the only change being the progesterone support. But I seemed to be having additional health issues that had started creeping up at the same time (weight loss, hair thinning, bad acne, extreme fatigue, etc.). Super not fun. For a while, I had been trying to eliminate toxins from my life - personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies, plastics, as well as any processed food. I had also been contemplating doing a Whole 30. For years, Kevin had been telling me how suspect he was of grains and how much better he always felt without them. He was the first person I ever heard say that. But through my research, I began finding that there was a lot of evidence to support his experience. I also had thought I might have an issue with dairy so for a while I had given up milk, with some positive results. The Turning Point
In March 2015, I completed my first Whole 30. It was phenomenal. It changed my entire outlook on health. After a week or so, I felt healthier than I had in a LONG time. My skin was clearing up, I had more energy, and random aches and pains were going away. I decided that I would continue a paleo diet, with limited forms of good, FULL-FAT dairy (none of this unhealthy low-fat crap that society tries to push on us). Soon after, I started a Napro-instructed ultrasound series, long-distance from my napro doctor. I had many fights with the radiology department to follow the protocol properly, but eventually found out I ovulated normally. This also came right after a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Anne in Quebec City and St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal. So while I was completely shocked to find out that cycle that I was pregnant, I had plenty of gratitude to go around for our team in heaven.
Unfortunately, this pregnancy seemed doomed from the beginning. I started lightly bleeding at five weeks and then had an early ultrasound which showed a heartbeat, but a very slow one. The next few weeks were filled with anxiety, desperate prayer, and more appointments. Miraculously, the next ultrasound showed a bit of a stronger heartbeat, but I was bleeding even heavier and the baby was measuring small. Through the care of Mother Olga and a wave of grace, we knew what we would name the baby if we were to lose it. And shortly after, on July 2nd, I miscarried. It was painful, heartbreaking, and isolating. We called this child "Giovanna Raphael," meaning "gift of God who heals." That name could not be more on-point. Healing and grace followed, as well as clarity for many other big obstacles in our life at the time.
We decided the next day that we would move to Minnesota. There were many reasons for this, but one being I knew my health would not get any better in the Northeast. And finding the quality care that I was looking for, despite all of Boston's world-renowned facilities, was proving extremely difficult.
Taking things slowly and growing in patience
Our next year was in Duluth, MN. We knew this wasn't a permanent placement for us, but it allowed us to have a much slower pace of life while I worked from home (still for my company in Boston), grew to be an expert in all things paleo, and took more time dedicated to my overall health. However, I still was not pregnant, and I began to have chronic abdominal pain as well as even more painful periods (which I didn't think was possible).
In the spring of 2016, I was speaking with a friend in the area who had endometriosis and she mentioned a surgeon down in the Cities that performed her surgery. She gave him high praises and said he worked at a Christian clinic. I reached out to the Blessed is She Midwest community and just asked real quickly about Napro surgeons in Minnesota, and within minutes I had like twelve women all recommending the very same doctor. So I called and made an appointment. All I can say is that God works in His time and it is so perfect. I was fortunate to have great flexibility with my work at the time, so driving down to the Cities (2 1/2 hour drive each way) for a bunch of appointments was not a huge inconvenience.
Upon meeting this doctor, I immediately knew why he received such praise. I was so grateful God lead me to him. During our brief appointment, he listened to me with profound compassion and affirmed everything that I was saying. He was certain that I had endometriosis and that surgery was the option for me. There are some doctors that would lead me to be skeptical with going right to surgery, but not him. I trusted him. And he scheduled my surgery for three weeks later. Now, we had no idea how we were going to pay for this since I didn't have regular health insurance, but truly, God provided and by His mercy we did not pay a dime.
The Turning Point
That April, I had surgery in the Cities. The doctor did in fact find endometriosis on my uterus and both ovaries, and there was scarring blocking BOTH of my fallopian tubes (meaning without surgery, pregnancy would never have happened). He successfully removed all of it and unblocked the tubes, and I knew that my life was changed.
The next few months, we still struggled to conceive, and I was still having pain. I was confident in the success of the surgery, but had a feeling I was going to need deeper support to improve my overall health. And I was certain that it wasn't going to be fixed with medications. So I declined the option to start getting HCG injections or other fertility-supporting drugs, and continued to work on things naturally. We ended up moving to St. Paul that summer and I began seeing a naturopathic doctor. She did a bunch of blood testing, and a few things came back that I suspected. The big one being that even though I was eating a paleo diet, there were actually other compliant foods that my body was reacting to: eggs & nuts (sad face! some of my favorite foods).
I did notice almost immediate improvement in abdominal pain after removing those foods. She also gave me an expansive and strict supplement regiment. For many months we continued working together, updating my health plan as needed, and finding out that one of the major problems seemed to be my liver. She said that wasn't uncommon with endometriosis patients. And it seems like this will be an ongoing issue that I have to work through, but man, did we make progress.
The Final Piece
In January 2017, my NP suggested I start seeing a Mayan Abdominal Massage Therapist. And I was like, "say what?" But I did. Because I trust her. And as soon as I did, I was all like, "this is the holy grail of fertility assistance." This therapist immediately identified a plethora of issues going on, and went to work. And lemme tell ya, it was not pain-free. AT ALL. BUTTTTTTT but but but but. After four massages (which also included osteopathic medicine, targeted at my liver), we conceived!
And now we have a baby. As I mentioned in the previous post, everyone’s journey is different. My story is not to give instructions to those hoping to conceive, but to demonstrate that it sometimes takes a variety of approaches, all complementing each other.
But the most important piece is that it takes trust. And I was not perfect in that department. But there were times in prayer that I really had to surrender and say, “thy will be done.” Because nothing is guaranteed. We never deserved children. And I’m aware that we may only have one (although we pray for many more!). But I am incredibly grateful for this one. And also for the journey. Not only has there been so much fruit in our marriage and indispensable knowledge of my health, but it’s done wonders for my relationship with the Lord. And everything in life should be directed towards the pursuit of holiness, right? For that, I’m confident that both the struggle and the joyful result have been God’s providence.