Time to Pause & Breathe

This girl needs to take a pause.

It’s taken me awhile to follow up here. I was pretty shaken with the outcome of the last transfer. I wanted to talk to my IPs first before really deciding what to do. My IPs took awhile to respond to me, and when they did – my heart broke even further. When they returned home after the transfer, they found IFs parents both in the hospital. His mother is doing somewhat better, but his fathers health is rapidly failing.

They still took the time to write me a lovely letter. I’ve often said that having international IPs works perfectly for me, but this has been a time I wished that they were closer. I want to be able to do something, to sit and grieve with them, to actually talk through what the future could hold without the constraints of email. English being their second language as well, I wonder sometimes about how what I write is interpreted.

In their email, they gave me their blessing to move on. We discussed possibilities when we were in Toronto together, and I know they had no plan to go through another retrieval. We were all hopeful for a few embryos to come out of the last retrieval, but out of the 25 retrieved eggs, there was just the one viable embryo.

In my response back to them, I let them know that I have no plans to move forward with surrogacy … however … if they decide down the road that they would like to try again, or try with an egg donor, then I would still love to be their surrogate. I just don’t have the heart to re-match with another couple, or to go through all of this again right now.

We have a lot going on here right now as well, a move that I am woefully under-prepared for – I really need to start packing … yikes! The end of school & the boys birthdays, etc. And I’m kind of looking forward to going back on my arthritis/ psoriasis meds, and maybe spending a summer without having to wear sweaters to cover my arms.

And taking the time to just … breathe.

Struggling

I think that for the most part, I try to present a happy face to the world. My “I’ve got it together” or my “I can handle this” face. I answer “How are you?” with “I’m fine” or “I’m good” … is being ‘fine’ even a thing? Could it be any more non-committal?

Lately, I don’t feel so fine. Or good. I do know that I’ve discussed the struggles I have with auto-immune issues here before, my struggles with my psoriasis and arthritis.

But basically the quick(ish) re-cap being that I had blood tests for food intolerance about 7 years ago, and was able to reverse my symptoms by cutting out those intolerances after having my 2nd child. Fast forward to baby number 3 and it wasn’t going well, so I opted for medication, which cleared up my symptoms. I had to go off that medication for surrogacy. It’s been about two years now, more or less. And I’ve been symptomatic the whole time.

Some more details …

The arthritis comes and goes – or at least goes to a point where it’s at an ‘everyday’ level that I don’t really think about. The psoriasis never goes. Which means I’ve spent two years in long sleeves and pants, in lots of foundation, in bangs, in scarves, in a lot of different cover ups to keep it hidden from the world.

I did 10 months of cleanses and avoiding my intolerant foods prior to my first transfer. I kept going, with no clearing up, because I thought “if I stop, it will get even worse”. I’ve tried on and off since then, but really struggle with finding the motivation to stick with it.

Psoriasis on me is very red skin, covered with scaly dry skin, in spots and patches – my forearms are always covered in large patches, so are my shins, my lower back, my right side, and usually my forehead. I get occasional flare-ups on my face, in my cleavage, and other spots here & there. It’s one of those things that people stare at – lots of people don’t know what it is … and sometimes they physically recoil from it. Close friends and family have seen me in short sleeves, or without makeup. And there are people who believe it isn’t a big deal, & I shouldn’t bother covering it up. I hear them … but until you’ve seen the look in people’s eyes as they see it & take a step back from you like maybe you’re contagious … it’s hard to understand it from my perspective. So I cover up. You should see my cardigan collection! But they aren’t a lot of fun in the heat, and frankly I’m ready to spend a summer in t-shirts.

My latest attempt to get it under control is cutting out all my intolerant foods, and all grains. I had cut out all nuts, beans, seeds etcetcetc as well, but I found I was lagging from not enough protein & not willing to eat meat three meals a day. So I’ve added hemp seeds to my morning smoothies, and some almonds/ almond butter when I feel like it.

Now the absolute injustice (in my eyes) is that making a drastic change, supposedly for the better, still flares up my symptoms. So my arthritis is flared up in my hands, and my psoriasis on my face … and it’s seriously bumming me out. It really taxes my will to follow through with this when I currently feel worse.

The combination of that, and the hormones (I’m back on meds for the next transfer) … well, I feel like the whole thing is messing with my head. I don’t usually consider myself a vain person, but this is delivering me a beating in my female pride. Like a look-at-myself-in-the-mirror-and-cry kind of beating. I don’t know how much of that is fuelled by the on-again-off-again hormone protocol that this has required, or if it’s just honest feelings.

I wouldn’t change doing this for anything, don’t get me wrong. I’m still committed to this surrogacy journey, and my amazing IP’s. I’m just taking a moment to acknowledge my challenges.

I did something I never do the other day, because I was really struggling and felt dragged down … so I went semi-public. I follow this group on Instagram called effyourbeautystandards. It’s all about throwing off the societally accepted version of “beauty”, which I think is a great thing – especially raising kids in this day and age. I posted a picture of my face without & with makeup on, tagged that group, with the hashtag #effyourbeautystandards.

Why? I needed to just let go a little of the hiding … of the feeling like I need to cower in shame so that no one has to see me. It felt pretty liberating, and there’s some very supportive souls out there, who said some very encouraging things to me – which fed my soul. I still feel a little “look at me, pay attention to me, feed my ego” over it – but I needed something in that low point, and I always tell my kids – you are entitled to your feelings & ask for help if you need it.

So I’m still struggling, but a little bit less than I was. I’m still trying to sort out which of my feelings are mine, and which ones are chemically generated/ altered by the meds.

I’m struggling with this post … part of me desperately wants to erase it all and type “I’m fine!!”. And I will be fine. I will be good. Great. Sad. Mad. Scary-hormonal… and a whole bunch other emotions. Hopefully not all in the same hour, but you never know. And so the ride continues.

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Some News!

I’m super excited to have some news! We are scheduled for transfer #2! Yipeeee!!

The clinic messaged me yesterday with my new protocol. We don’t have an exact transfer date, it’s a little trickier when you are transferring fresh embryos rather than frozen ones. It will depend on how the retrieval goes with IM, and how the embryos grow once they are fertilized.

I start with the Lupron shot on February 3rd – I so love that one! I slept so amazingly well on that medication. The lining check is scheduled for March 5th, and that’s usually the last step a few days prior to transfer.

In the meantime, I have put myself on a new eating plan, which is supposed to help calm the inflammation associated with auto immune disorders. It is called Auto Immune Protocol, or sometimes Auto Immune Paleo. It’s pretty restrictive – you can basically eat meat, vegetables, fruit and coconut products. There’s an emphasis on bone broths (I’m working on this), organ meats (yikes…), and fermented foods (this I can do!). The gelatine from bone broths, and the probiotics from fermented foods are both supposed to heal the intestines, which is where a lot of auto immune issues apparently start. I’m on week three, and all the cleansing and avoiding my ‘intolerances’ over the past couple years seems to be serving me well – it hasn’t felt like a huge adjustment so far, even though I was way off the rails into poor eating habits for the last few months. Even the initial detox off of sugar went fairly smooth.

Right now the biggest challenge is getting a good balance of protein, good fats, and fibre. That, and the diet has kicked off my symptoms – mostly the arthritis. I’m hoping is just that “healing crisis” that I’ve heard about, and that I’ll come out the other side feeling better.

Hopefully more updates to come as we start to roll along again!

Let’s Roll

I really can’t believe how fast this is all going! For the last 16 months or so, I’ve watched my surro sisters in our support group go through the process – match, screen, transfer, test, conceive or not (& often at that point it repeats – transfer, test, repeat). All the while, I have been on the sidelines, matched, screened & waiting. Endlessly waiting, or so it seemed.

My experience also became the experience of those close to me. Many of the people who are following my journey don’t know anyone else who has gone through this, and so their perception of this process is filtered through my experiences. This means that I get a lot of comments of “Seriously?! Already?!!” as things happen. “You’re transferring already??

I’ve seen surrogates due dates be close to the one year anniversary of matching with their Intended Parents. My experience with the first IPs was definitely the exception to the rule. Generally, these people have been waiting so long, they want to get rolling on the process!!

My current IPs gave me the choice of when to transfer. Once the screening was complete, they asked when I felt ready to go. They are the farthest thing from pushy, and so willing to work with me (in fact, follow my lead) – rather than set an agenda that they want me to follow. I don’t want to be in charge of their journey, not by a long shot. However, to be asked and listened to, and to have my perspective considered, really makes me feel valued.

For my own reasons, I was ready to get going as soon as we could. The emails went something like this “Whenever you are ready to get started…” “I’m ready now, are you ready now?” “We’re ready now” “Let’s roll!!”

While I remain aware that not all transfers take, and I may end up waiting yet again (they only have one embryo ready to go – if this transfer isn’t successful, then they would need to retrieve more eggs, and create more embryos. I don’t have experience with this part of it yet, so I’m unsure of the time frame on that process). However, I’m 37 now (no spring chicken per both my mother & my doctor), and I’ve been off my medication & symptomatic with my arthritis and psoriasis for almost a year and half now. I still really want to do this, but I want to do it now. (And we now how much the Universe likes to line itself up with my wishes, yes? Haha)

Assuming all goes smoothly, I will be back in Toronto for the transfer in less than two weeks! Fingers crossed and positive thoughts, please!

Progress?

As it turns out, I’m not crazy.  Either that, or my cover is really good!  Thankfully, things finally progressed with the psych evaluation.  

The ‘maybe I’ll do it, or maybe I’ll ignore you for weeks on end’ therapist got the boot.  Thank goodness, because I was so mad at this faceless person who had been stringing us all along, that it may have impacted our interview.  Instead, we dealt with a new woman, who was just lovely, and the mother to two children born using surrogates!   

The interview was close to 2 hours long, and it felt like a combination of an interview and a chat between friends.  I suspect that is a sign of a good therapist!  I didn’t feel put on the spot at all, but elaborated naturally on my answers because she was so easy to talk to.

After all the lead up to finally getting this done, it wasn’t some huge event.  It was a positive experience for me, and for my husband.  He had his own interview with her, although quite a bit shorter, and reported that it was a positive experience for him as well.

The other big thing for me has been letting go of the timeline that I had been holding in my head.  I should know by now that life rarely goes according to plan, and that I don’t have control over that!  The only thing I can control in that situation is my reaction.

 I was getting really hung up on the fact that things were moving so slowly.  I was taking it very personally.  Part of my reasoning for that was because I am anticipating some further clearing of my symptoms when I get pregnant, and I am definitely looking forward to that.  Also, I have had this in my head for quite some time now that I wanted to do this.  So now that I finally am, it’s like “Come on people, let’s get on it!  I am not getting any younger here!!  I’ve decided to do this, and have no idea why you are not all falling in line with my expectations.”  Ha!   

At this point, we are looking at transferring in October, which is a few months later than I was originally thinking.  I had a high blood pressure reading a few months back, and although it’s the first time I’ve had a high reading since I was pregnant with my first child, 9 years ago, they want to ensure it now stays down.  Which is another benefit to all this healthy eating!  I am down 25 pounds, and 13 points on my blood pressure.  I’m telling you guys this, along with some family and a couple friends, but I am trying not to become “obnoxiously obessive weight loss girl”.  Do you know the one?  Who can only talk about what she is eating, and how many calories are in every bite she {or you!} put in your mouth?

{As an aside, though, all those people who claim that just eating healthily causes weight loss, and there are no need for fad diets?  They just may be on to something!  Funny that.}  

The Universe likely has it’s own plan for why things are happening at the rate they are, and so I am now {getting close to being} content with letting things unfold as they will.  After all, it’s just my own energy that I waste in trying to fight against it, and in being frustrated about it!

 

 

 

Slogging Through

I feel sluggish, slow, sore … sorry for myself … a whole bunch of not-so-happy things lately.

I also feel whiny saying that.  

The cleanse and overhaul of the eating plan, meant to manage my arthritis and psoriasis symptoms – well, it doesn’t seem to be working.  It may still (and I plan on persisting) but I’m feeling a little low lately.  Words of encouragement appreciated!

Things are better with my IPs, which is great.  I feel like things are getting back to how they were – we chat and keep in touch every few days.  It never occurred to me, prior to starting this journey, what kind of relationship that I would want with my IPs.  Apparently, I’m a little more high-maintenance than I thought I would be!  

On a happy note, my birthday is in two sleeps, and they sent me an absolutely beautiful card and a gift card.  How sweet is that?!  The gift card will go to replacing the food processor I murdered with my in-roads to healthy eating (apparently, it did not appreciate being crammed to the top and expected to process.)

My inspiration for staying on track with this healthier eating, aside from *fingers crossed* finally getting these symptoms under control, is this: Hungry for Change.  If you have Netflix, I really recommend watching it!  Not to sound like an advertisement 🙂

Oh, and it’s three sleeps until my next test, a sonohysterogram.  After that, the only thing left to “pass” is the screening with the psychologist.  My IPs obviously don’t think I’m nuts, or that test would have been a lot earlier in the process….

Cleansing

“You’re easy!” 

Not usually flattering words, but since it was coming from the Naturopath, I let it pass.

This was her response when she said “Will you do a cleanse?”  and I said “Sure!”.  She looked at me a little sideways (I’m sure she wasn’t expecting enthusiasm as a response to that question) and outlined what my next weeks meals would look like.  Actually, make that “meals”.  Because actual meals – without the quotation marks – might be overstating it.

Two days of fruits, veggies and 2 protein bars.  Three days of protein shakes (a special “medical food” to help with inflammation) and one cooked green veggie in the evening.  Two more days of fruits, veggies and 2 protein bars.  Me “Sure!”  (insert incredulous look from ND – I’m guessing she usually encounters some resistance).

I know, you are dying to know what a “medical food” shake is like!  Let me clarify that “medical food” doesn’t have any redeeming taste or appearance characteristics, and if one more person asks me if I am drinking a mustard sauce … well, it may be time to brown bag it and let people assume I am one of those housewives.  (I’ll throw on some leopard print and smear my lipstick for effect.)

So I am on day 4 overall, day 2 of the shakes.  Mmmm.  Last nights dinner was a bowl of steamed broccoli.  

The week prior, I had cut out dairy, wheat, gluten, eggs, sugar, etc.  I wake up in the morning and I can move my hands, pretty much pain-free!  It’s feeling pretty worth it right now (psoriasis also seems to be clearing up).  Not to mention, my jeans feel a little less snug *insert happy dance*.  

I have to think that this is making my body a more welcoming place for the little embies they want me to grow.  I struggle with “willpower” to keep up a restrictive diet, so I am focusing on the positive aspects that make me want to keep going 🙂

(Oh … and I have to do dry brushing and warm salt baths — I actually highly recommend this as a pre-bed routine!  Super relaxing.)

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