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a summer in brief

So last time I posted was after that miserable failure of an IVF in April.  Around that time I hit a point where it was no longer helpful to talk about my shrinking window, my crusty ovaries, or my dwindling hopes.  Voicing all this did nothing but give center stage to all the anxiety crowding around the edges of my mind.  I stopped blogging. We told our families that IVF didn’t work. (Those who asked. Mostly my family sucks and pretends I don’t exist, so we just let them figure it out.) But we didn’t tell any of them that it would probably never work, that my body just didn’t respond to the drugs anymore.  I just stopped talking about my reproductive system, except when I cried and grieved to my therapist about it, and in those periodic what the heck do we do now conversations with B. In general, it was too heavy to give words to.

Without any further plan, we took a break. We had family visits over the summer. We grew our little business. We got all obsessed with food allergies and got expensive tests done. We talked about adopting. We found out B is supposedly allergic to All Foods Known To Man. We started identifying friends and friends of friends who had adopted so we could get together and ask them about their experiences. We didn’t follow through.

We talked about doing that absurd aggressive IVF which had such slim chances of working. We saw naturopaths about the damn allergies.  Mine told me I needed to detox from all those years of fertility drugs.  I figured, what the hell, and I forced us both on a 3-week detox / elimination diet to kill the dual birds of allergies and toxins with the one Mediclear stone.  No coffee, sugar, alcohol, eggs, dairy, meat, gluten, tomatoes, almonds, soy, etc. etc. etc. made for a super boring summer, but I had minimal expectations for the summer anyway. We reintroduced the allergens one at a time. B decided that each of his reactions was attributable to something else – like how hot it was that day, making this whole exercise essentially pointless as far as he was concerned.

We visited our friends at their cabin on the Sunshine Coast. We drank. I learned to wakeboard. (This is major.) That weekend I finally dumped it all out on my friend that we were pretty much never going to have children. She didn’t say anything particularly horrible.  We jumped off the pier. (Also major.)

We came home, closed our eyes, and dialed up the fertility clinic. In the absence of being able to wrap our heads around anything else, we decided to do one more try with IVF.  We told no one. I think I kind of just wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening until it was over. I didn’t know how I was going to get through it this time, frankly, but I didn’t see any other way to move forward except to get this over with and out of my system. I had my orientation, started my inositol/coQ10/vitamin cocktail and waited for CD1 to call and schedule everything. Went to a double baby shower for two friends that are both on their 2nd since I started trying. Survived by subversively conspiring with H2 to wear matching black tees she got us as gifts when one of those friends announced. (We’ve started buying each other presents when other people get pregnant.)

The next week I suddenly became super chatty about my ovaries.  Had a picnic at the beach with a couple of girlfriends, threw back some gin and tonics and told them all about how I was doing to do one more shitty IVF before giving up completely. Next day another picnic at the beach with a friend who has endo (she comes from a family of endo sufferers, and her sister had just had her second failed IVF cycle that week).  We grieved together about never having babies that will look like us.

B and I took our staff out for drinks that Friday night and felt excited that our little crew was finally starting to feel like a team.  Got home and realized it was too late to call the clinic before the weekend to kick off IVF scheduling.  Also realized CD1 should have been yesterday.

And this brings us almost to the end of summer.  Hold up, I’ve got to pee.

 

 

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another kick in the gut

I haven’t written any updates in a while, as I’ve been taking my first self-imposed break from babymaking since November 2011.  I was going to write a post about how awesome it is to not take a thousand supplements and vitamins everyday.  To not have a single fertility-related appointment for an entire month.  To drink wine and not have guilt and to not have sex when you’re ovulating because frankly, you’re not in the mood.  And then to have fabulous sex a few days later just because of sex.  How you start to feel like a person again, rather than a mere vessel, and you find yourself making time for other pursuits, pursuits that make you feel a little more like you again.  This was going to be a whole post about that.  But then yesterday happened.

I was very much enjoying my time off, so much so that I was contemplating extending it.  I had in my mind that I would let my ovaries rest up for the holidays and would just enjoy personhood during that time.  If I felt like having sex while ovulating, I would.  If not, I wouldn’t.  There was a vague thought of doing IVF in January.  But I didn’t need to think about that now.  In the midst of this heady freedom, however, I remembered that my RE gets booked up months in advance, and I thought I had better call and set something up now for January.  Come to find out, she was already booked through January, but she had a cancelation yesterday.  So I broke my “no babymaking appointments” rule and headed over with my husband to talk about next steps.

My acupuncturist/doctor of chinese medicine advised me to get my AMH tested a while ago, based on the fact that my mom had her last period in her mid-30s.  I talked to my RE about this, and she said that it was unlikely to be an issue in my case, since I respond pretty well to fertility drugs.  I pushed the issue, and she obliged me and ordered the test.  I had the requisition sitting on my desk for months, expecting one of the IUI treatments to work and for the whole ovarian reserve thing to become a non-issue.  After my fourth IUI failed, however, I got the bloodwork  done.  This was over a month ago, so one of my first questions was if those results were in.  She hadn’t even checked.  I asked if she could please look and pull them up.  She reiterated that she didn’t think it was an issue, but when she did pull them up, she was visibly shocked.

My AMH level is 0.47 – which, if you’re not familiar with AMH levels, isn’t even inside the low range for a woman of my age.  She started to brush past it and talk about IVF, saying that since I respond to drugs well, this doesn’t really matter.  I stopped her and asked what this meant in terms of early menopause.  She just said flat-out, you will have an early menopause.  You probably have a year or two before you lose fertility.

I’ve had a handful of moments in my life where I’ve received news that kicked the world into slow motion.  This was one of them.  Clearly, this wasn’t a total shock to me, as I was worried enough about it to press the issue and get the test, but having that nagging base-level fear confirmed was like a punch in the gut.  Then we continued talking as if someone had not just taken a decade of childbearing years away from me with one sentence.

Suddenly turning 35 next month (which I was half-dreading, half-grieving) was a non-issue, since in reproductive years I’m already about 46. This of course also means I’m on my very last eggs right now, which from everything I’ve come to understand, is not a good thing in terms of the chances of bringing a healthy baby to term.

The plan now is to kick off the IVF process in January.  I’m realizing I don’t have time for this not to work, don’t have time for another miscarriage.  The window is closing, the stakes are getting higher, and the hits just keep coming.  The list of ways in which my body betrays me continues to grow.  The sense that I’m broken, defective is hard to shake.

The odds of my having a child (let alone children, as I had once hoped) are moving solidly into the “miracle” category…a place where I am uncomfortable leaving them, not because I don’t believe that God can do it…I just don’t know if he will do it.  I have no assurances to that effect.  I told my therapist recently that I know I will be able to move on with my life if this doesn’t happen, but at this point I just have no idea how.  I’m terrified at the thought of picking myself back up after losing all hope of this dream – having that door solidly shut, possibly very soon.  At the same time, it would probably take full-blown menopause to give me the closure I would need to ever be able to walk away from this, so in some sense, there is some comfort in knowing this process won’t last forever.  It’s a small comfort, though.

I’m trying to trust, but I’m finding it almost impossible.  I know that by entertaining worst-case scenarios, I’m only adding to my own torment, but I just don’t have that solid faith that I used to.  If I get my miracle, I’ll be like the guy who was dragged to Jesus on a mat by his friends.  I’m hoping it’s enough.


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juice, glorious juice

I bought a juicer at a Boxing Day sale last year and have – to my own great surprise and delight – been juicing ever since.

Right around 3 in the afternoon, that time when I start to crash, when I used to reach for a second caffeine of the day or grab some sugar to keep from slipping off into a comatose stupor, I now consume this:

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Ok – I consume half of it – when juiced, the above becomes this:

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Folks, it’s amazing.  You juice this stuff up and you feel like you can take on the world.  I work at home, so I have the luxury of quitting what I’m doing and taking the 20-odd minutes required to prep and juice these veggies and then clean the juicer.  I run one glass downstairs to my husband, who is usually on a call with a client and meets my arrival with a fist-pump of triumph, and then I drain my own glass, reveling in how awesome I feel before hitting the grindstone with renewed vigor.

It took a few weeks of juicing regularly for me to notice a difference, but now I’ve gotten to a point where I feel all wrong when I don’t do it.  And there are fringe benefits to juicing as well.  I used to shy away from buying vegetables in bulk because there’s only two of us, and I thought we’d never get through them.  Now, with the confidence that I can just throw things in the juicer if we don’t get around to cooking them, I’m a vegetable buying fiend.  I prep my refrigerated veggies in advance – washing the kale, and trimming and washing the carrots and celery and any herbs.  Non-refrigerated veggies (tomatoes, cucumbers, citrus, etc.) are all within easy reach.  With all these vegetables at hand, I’m far more likely to throw some extras into whatever I’m making.  As a result, I find that we also consume far more vegetables in our meals now that we’re juicing.

People often ask me what my favorite juice blend is.  Um, I kind of just throw everything in there based on what nutrients I’m going for.  In the beginning it was occasionally very untasty.  I have learned from some mistakes over time and now follow a couple of rules of thumb to maximize my juicing experience:

  1. Just because it can be juiced doesn’t mean it should.  For example, never, under any circumstances, juice an onion.  Trust me.
  2. Get the most bang for your buck.  I find that most of the juice I get from kale comes from the stalks, not the leaves, so I pull the leaves off for salads and cooking, and I use the stalks for juice.  Similarly, I use the leafy parts of the celery and the stems of herbs for juicing, rather than throwing them out.
  3. Waste not.  In the beginning, I saved the juice pulp to add to soups, sauces, and even baking.  I have since failed to be that organized, although I do fertilize my herb garden with the pulp still.  It seems oddly cannibalistic, but my herbs seem to love it.
  4. Buy organic when possible, and wash thoroughly.  I soak all my veggies in a bowl with room-temperature water and a little baking soda before scrubbing and rinsing them.
  5. Juice really needs to have a little bit of a kick for it to taste good.  For that I use the following:
  •  green apples – you can often buy organic granny smiths at a reasonable price if you by them by the bag
  •  lemon or lime – again, reasonable if purchased in bulk
  •  a good-sized hunk of fresh ginger
  •  sweet bell pepper

Juicing is time consuming, but it has become ingrained into our routine now, and it makes us feel amazing.  I usually catch every bug that goes around, but this is the first year on record that I have held steady despite everyone around me dropping like dominoes as the brutal Canadian cold season sets in.

Just FYI, here’s exactly what went into the afternoon snack pictured above (and a by-no-means-exhaustive list of the health benefits of these ingredients):

  • 1 bell pepper (for eyesight, immunity, prevention of birth defects, cancer prevention, and regulation of blood pressure)
  • 1 lime (aids with digestion, immunity, and prevention of heart disease)
  • 1 lemon (immunity, detoxification, antibacterial, and antiviral)
  • 1 good-sized hunk of ginger (about 1.5″ X 1.5″) (aids digestion, boosts immunity, reduces inflammation, and fights cancer)
  • 3 stalks of celery (anti-inflammatory with over a dozen types of antioxidants)
  • 3 carrots (for eyesight, beautiful skin, and detoxification)
  • 1 granny smith apple (for regulated blood sugar and a steady heart rhythm)
  • 1 cucumber (cucumbers have most of the vitamins the body needs in a single day, and they fight everything from arthritis to bad breath)
  • A handful of Italian parsley (folic acid and heart health)
  • A few stalks of kale (anti-inflammatory, helps prevent blood clotting, and has more calcium-per-calorie than milk)

This particular blend was completely fabulous.  And I will probably never die. **


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freaking awesome cranberry sauce

High praise for my own recipe, but I call it like I see it.  Ok, truth be told, this isn’t my own recipe – my mom found it on the back of a bag of cranberries somewhere when I was a kid, and we’ve been making it for Thanksgiving and Christmas ever since.  It’s packed with fresh oranges, whole cranberries, antioxidants and zesty, tangy goodness.  And it’s easy to make.  Almost foolproof.  I say almost because ever since the year that my brother kind of made it into a cranberry-orange slurpee, it’s been my job to make it.

It’s been years since I’ve seen that original recipe, since I just do it by feel now, but as I recall, it called for way more sugar.  Over the years I’ve upped the orange juice concentrate levels to cut down the refined sugar.  In all honesty, I think you could eliminate the sugar altogether, but I know my audience, and they are not ready.  Cutting sugar by adding more orange juice changes the consistency (making it a little soupier and less like the relish it was originally), but it makes it healthier, and I think it improves the flavor.  That tart-sweet cranberry-orange combo is a powerful thing.

As I said, I usually just feel my way through this, but his time I tried to pay attention to quantities for your benefit, so without further ado:

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INGREDIENTS

1 Bag Frozen Cranberries (600 g – or 21 oz)

3 Oranges (washed, ends cut off, and cut into quarters)

1 can (295 ml – or 10 oz) Orange Juice Concentrate

1/4 cup (or 60 ml) sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

Blend a few orange wedges (peels and all) and a cup or so of cranberries in the food processor then remove them and place them in a bowl.  Continue the process with the remaining orange wedges and cranberries until they are all thoroughly chopped (but not pulverized).  Then add the orange juice concentrate and sugar to the bowl and stir thoroughly.  (This time I just added the orange juice and sugar to oranges and cranberries in the food processor – which just makes everything a little soupier, if that is your preference.)

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This will make enough to feed all your relatives and give you some left over to spread on your turkey sandwiches.  You’re welcome.

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pumpkin pie recipe – vegan, gluten free, soy free

Last weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving.  Despite having been here four years now, it still feels like practice Thanksgiving, to be honest – a chance to hone your craft before heading down south several weeks later for The Show.  Canadian Thanksgiving is pretty much a standard 3-day weekend up here.  Participation  is elective and spotty at best – it’s kind of like how you wouldn’t know it was Columbus Day unless you saw ads for Columbus Day sales at your local RV dealer and were planning on getting away this weekend because you had a day off…but you’re not necessarily going to do anything Columbus-y.  (Especially not if you live in Berkeley, where if you are doing anything that weekend, you are celebrating Indigenous People’s Day as opposed to paying homage to that bumbling foreign oppressor…but I digress.)

Americans take their Thanksgiving far more seriously – a half day on Wednesday followed by a full 4-day weekend and the total shutdown of all stores – except the few grocery stores that stay open until around 11am to accommodate panicked shoppers who forgot shallots or cranberries or some such thing.  Then of course there’s the football and the frenetic preparations for the utter chaos that is Black Friday.

With the exception of football and Black Friday, my family is no different.  We all make it for Thanksgiving, and the food is epic.  We each have our areas of expertise.  Mine happen to be pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.  I have a pumpkin pie recipe that was handed down from my grandmother to my mother and eventually to me.  It’s been tweaked and honed over the years – tricks to get that crust to flaky perfection, the slightest adjustments to get the filling to the perfect balance of creamy goodness and pumpkiny spice.  Oh, yeah – and this is not that recipe.  Sorry folks.  That recipe will kill you.

I’m really taking a long time to get to the point.  This is the part I always skip anyways when I’m looking for recipes online….blah blah blah, it’s fall and you wanted to make something homey…we get it, skip to the ingredients.  So odds are you aren’t even reading this.  If you are, the point is that my husband’s family does make a big deal out of Canadian Thanksgiving – thank goodness! – and I’ve got some dietary restrictions this year.  Meh.  Normally, I don’t ask other people to accommodate my diet – I just skip things, or I break the rules and feel gross later.  It turns out, however, that my brother-in-law recently discovered that he is pretty much allergic to all things that you need to avoid on a fertility diet, which works out perfectly for me, since he very much is the sort to ask everybody to accommodate his diet.  So this year, we had vegan mashed potatoes, and vegan, gluten free cornbread and stuffing, and I made this pie.  I have to say, it was the first time I’ve ever finished a Thanksgiving dinner and not felt sluggish, overstuffed and yucky.  It was fantastic!

I adapted the pie from this Vegan Sweet Potato Pie recipe on my Endo Diet Pinterest Board.  Let me be clear: it’s not as good as the eggy, creamy, gluten-and-crisco-laden recipe that my family has handed down for generations – BUT – it was very good.  I felt that my pumpkin pie needs were met and was not tempted to drift over to the regular pumpkin pie that my mother-in-law brought.  Also, I remembered to take a picture this time – yay!

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I have made this crust before with regular flour, and it was really tasty.  This time, to make it gluten free, I used this, which I recently stumbled across in Costco and decided to give a whirl:

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I found the crust slightly more brittle and slightly less flavorful using this, but people who had not experienced the previous crust said that they thought the gluten-free crust was good.  So, perhaps better if you don’t know what you’re missing.

I’m just reposting the recipe here with all my modifications because it’s going to be easier than switching back and forth between two recipes:

INGREDIENTS

For the crust

1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 cup gluten free flour

1/4 cup coconut oil

2 tablespoons maple syrup

For the filling

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 14-oz cans pumpkin

3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 heaping teaspoon nutmeg

1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For the coconut whipped cream

2 cans full-fat coconut milk (chilled overnight)

1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Add almonds and rolled oats to a food processor and grind to a powder. Make sure you don’t overblend — you may end up making a paste. Place flour in a medium-sized bowl and add almond and oat mixture. Mix well.

2. Add the coconut oil and mix with a fork until it is thoroughly incorporated into the flour mixture.

3. Stir in the maple syrup; mix just enough to blend well and form a dough that will hold together when pressed.
Transfer mixture to a 9-inch pie pan and spread into an even thickness on the sides and bottom of the pan.

4. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Let the crust cool before filling.

5. While crust is baking, make the pie filling: in a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar and cornstarch until combined. Add pumpkin, coconut milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt and whisk until blended. Pour mixture into pre-baked pie crust.

6. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour or until edges are set and center slightly jiggles. Let cool on a wire rack at least 1 hour before serving.

7. While pie is baking, open the can of chilled coconut milk, turn upside down, and open. Pour out the liquid at the top; you’ll use the cream part, not the liquid.

8. Gently pour the coconut fat into a food processor and blend until whipped. Add vanilla and maple syrup and whip again until fully incorporated.  Refrigerate until ready to serve with pie.

Bottom line: Easy recipe with no super obscure ingredients.  Scratches the pumpkin pie itch without making you feel gross later.