All posts tagged infertility

The Brighton Method: The Secret to Having an Extraordinary Child

Do you know what it takes to have an extraordinary baby in a toxic world?

Do you know what it takes to have an extraordinary baby in a toxic world?

Is there a secret to having a healthy, happy child, free from autism, birth defects, and other problems? Is there a way to optimize your body and mind for ultimate fertility?

The Brighton Method, developed by Dr. Roy Dittman, claims to have these answers and more. He’s combined years of research and experience in the new book Brighton Baby: A Revolutionary Organic Approach to Having an Extraordinary Child – The Complete Guide to Preconception & Conception.

As a woman who struggles with endometriosis and is always looking for ways to improve my health and enhance my fertility, I was lucky enough speak to Dr. Dittman about his expertise and fascinating new book Brighton Baby.

Who is Dr. Dittman?

Since earning his doctorate in Oriental Medicine and his masters in Herbology, Dr. Dittmann served as Official Team Doctor in the Olympics, and was featured in a “Doctor to the Stars” article in Vogue magazine in 1997. As early as the late-1980s, Dr. Dittmann forewarned health professionals and the public that our existing diet and lifestyle trends would lead to an exponential rise in autism, ADD, birth defects, and infertility. He is committed to educating couples on how to protect their future children’s destiny.

What was the inspiration for The Brighton Method? Tell how your background let you to developing it?

Dr. Dittmann explained that the inspiration to pursue a career helping women and families achieve better pre and postnatal health occurred when he was a child. Around age ten, he accompanied his father to protest conditions for agricultural farm workers in California. While doing so they came across a shack that housed various people and children who were grossly deformed, very possibly due to their exposure to pesticides. This had a deep emotional impact on him and in that moment he decided to pursue a career in the perinatal arts and sciences. I asked him what perinatal means and he explained that it’s the period of life from one year prior to conception and several years after. He eloquently elaborated, “We can call it science all we want, but it’s just as much an art and a gift.” Furthermore, he said that science, including all of the studies and research we now have access to because of the internet, can be very abstract, so Dr. Dittmann has made it his life’s work to hone that research into practical science.

“There’s a disconnect with the public because the mass media spins the information in a way that isn’t accurate and most studies are on mice in sterile environments studying one isolated ingredient. The majority of the studies being cited in articles about health are not realistically applicable to our situation as human beings.”

He used the example of a study of lead toxicity and exposure to heavy metals on mice. Expose 100 rats to one type of heavy metal in the study and only one mouse out of 100 might die. Expose the same group of 100 rats  to two or more heavy metals, and all 100 mice die. These heavy metals create a compounding effect. As a result, birth defects, both obvious and subtle, are increasing. But yet, it took years for the U.S. government to crack down on lead sources. Luckily, lead toxicity has improved because of improved manufacturing methods and stringent regulations, but it and other heavy metals are still cause for concern.

Dr. Dittmann explained that the majority of the human brain and character is formed during conception and gestation, and then by a child’s first birthday almost 90 percent is complete. In today’s toxic world, there are too many opportunities for the brain’s delicate development to be disrupted. “We are exposed to lots of toxins due to industrialization and these toxins and heavy metals and radiation are ending up in our food supply. They are much worse for a developing embryo or fetus than they are for adults.” It’s his goal through Brighton Baby to educate parents to be how they can combat these environmental stressors, while also addressing genetic propensities.  He emphasized that he expects women to be most receptive to the information in his book, but that it’s equally important for the male partner to take proactive steps to protect his sperm from damage. As a result, he hopes that by educating women they’ll share this information with others, most importantly their future child’s father, so that both people work together as partners in health.

I read that you had a son with autism, but that you were able to eliminate or improve his symptoms. Can you elaborate?

Dr. Dittmann explained that his son is now 20 years old. When his wife was pregnant, Dr. Dittmann had just learned about the devastating effects of heavy metals. He tested his wife when she was 8 months pregnant.. The test revealed high levels of aluminum and other heavy metals. This really made an impact on him. He believes that because he caught this heavy metal toxicity early and had most of the metals out of his wife and son’s system early on, he may have prevented his son from developing full blown autism. Instead, his son was diagnosed with Asperger’s and sensory integration disorder. Sensory integration “is the neurological process that organizes sensation from one’s own body and the environment, thus making it possible to use the body effectively within the environment.”  Even as a perinatal specialist, this discovery opened up Dr. Dittmann’s eyes to the powerful effect of toxins on the developing fetus.

What are some of the factors that negatively impact a woman’s reproductive health and her chances of conceiving a healthy child?

As mentioned above, Dr. Dittmann feels strongly that parents be screened for heavy metals. Even if you’re not ready to have a baby, it’s good to know now if you have heavy metal toxicity so that you can begin taking steps to cleanse your system. The program in Brighton Baby can help you do so. So, how does one get tested for heavy metal toxicity? The most effective and economical method Dr. Dittmann recommends is hair mineral analysis. He emphasized the need to utilize a trained clinician to interpret the results. Additionally, Dr. Dittmann works with couples who want him to develop the ultimate plan for them according to their unique profile. After 30 years of work in the perinatal field, his patient’s (when they strictly follow his program) do not have morning sickness, caesarians, preeclampsia and many of the other conditions that accompany gestation and child birth. If people follow his program before and during conception, he believes that together they can greatly minimize overt and subtle birth defects. Following The Brighton Method, the method set forth in Brighton Baby, provides couples with a roadmap to having an extraordinary child. For couples that want to take the method to the next level, Dr. Dittmann is teaching a 7-week webinar series and training health professionals in The Brighton Method.  It has been his experience that almost every child born today has some kind of birth defect, whether it’s a learning delay or allergies. Optimizing perinatal health can make all the difference.

 You mention that improving sperm health is of the utmost importance to healthy conception, what’s one way couples can do that?

Dr. Dittmann said that there’s a way of clearing the prostate of infection, inflammation and congestion  using herbs and a special prostate health diet. He also recommends reproductive massage. Various helpful foods and herbs are recommended in his book. Additionally, he recommends increasing consumption of DHA and liposomal glutathione through high quality supplements. With its anti-inflammatory properties, glutathione is considered a “key antioxidant” in the functioning of cells and protects the sperm cells from damage.  DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is a primary structural component of sperm. Since our diet has become deficient in DHA, sperm counts have been dropping. Dr. Dittmann also emphasized the importance of eliminating heavy metals, which is of course covered in Brighton Baby.

 What are the top lifestyle changes you recommend for women hoping to get pregnant in the next year?

Dr. Dittmann recommends the following exercises to prepare the woman’s body for pregnancy:

  1. Strengthen the core and pelvic floor to bring circulation into the reproductive area. Kegel exercises that you can do on your own, coupled with Ashtanga yoga and Pilates (including my beloved barre classes!) are excellent options.
  2. Strengthen leg muscles using trampolines, squats, and weighted exercises.
  3. Focus on maintaining a well-rounded fitness program that includes both cardio and strength training.

In addition to this fitness advice, Brighton Baby includes information about herbs, acupuncture, and manipulation strategies to improve a woman’s cycle and prepare her body for pregnancy. Dr. Dittmann further emphasizes the importance of probiotics to strengthen the immune system and includes a detailed plan in the book.

 March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. As you know, this condition can cause subfertility which is something that I and many have struggled with. What are some things you can recommend for people struggling with this condition?

Dr. Dittmann covers endometriosis in Brighton Baby as it is one of the many conditions that can interfere with conception and a healthy pregnancy. Endometriosis, he says, is often caused by chronic inflammation triggered by hidden irritants from both the diet and environment. He goes into great detail about feminine hygiene and keeping the vaginal flora healthy and free from pathogens. He asks that even if women don’t have these problems that they be proactive in preventing them. The use of suppositories, such as micellized vitamin A, can help deliver special nutrition to the cervix. In Brighton Baby he also discusses the need for prebiotics to feed your vaginal and gut probiotics so as to further empower the immune system thereby improving diseases like endometriosis. He also strongly recommends an organic diet, as pesticides are estrogenic and therefore exacerbate estrogen dependent disorders like endometriosis.

What types of things can couples hope to gain by reading your book Brighton Baby?

Dr. Dittmann has so much confidence in The Brighton Method that he asserts that if both mother and father do The Brighton Method together for at one least year prior to conception that their child will be free from birth defects, unless there is an underlying medical condition that needs to be addressed separately. Not only that, but they will have an extraordinarily healthy child. Doctors, nurses, and other professionals have seen the difference in babies born from this method.

In the coming weeks, I will read and review Brighton Baby. To purchase your own copy or to sign up for a free webinar with Dr. Dittmann click here.

 

 

Fertility Journey – Part 3 (Not So Traditional Chinese Medicine)

“First of all,” Dr. Chang of Southern California Reproductive Center said to us a few months ago, “We’ll need to improve hubby’s sperm quality.”

We sat in a luxurious office in Beverly Hills. This is where the wealthy and powerful come to make babies and I’ll be honest, I was intimidated. The lobby was like a fashion show, full of beautiful, well-dressed women of all sizes of skinny eying any new addition to the waiting circle like she was a cart of free handbags. The stares went beyond outfit and jewelry assessment, however. They were obvious attempts to determine the most important questions: “What is wrong with this woman’s fertility profile? How is she any different from me?”

Despite the glances from these perfectly polished ladies, ages ranging from 25 to 45, there was a silent solidarity. We were all in this together. We were here because we wanted a baby. We were here because we hadn’t been able to make one on our own. Any judgments passed would cycle back to that truth. No one was better or worse than anyone else.

“How do we do improve his sperm?” I asked the lovely Dr. Chang, who sat behind a monstrous wooden desk, morning light streaming in from a wall-sized window. Dr. Chang’s office was almost as large as our bedroom. Yeah. Books on pregnancy and prenatal nutrition sat on side tables and lined shelves. Pictures of babies, smiling happy success stories, were everywhere.

“There are many, many ways to do that,” Dr. Chang said smiling, “Some of which, will also apply to you wifey.” This stunning Chinese woman with flawless skin and Tori Burch pumps, higher than I’d ever seen a doctor wear, was about to begin her treatise on Sperm and Fertility Health 101.

1. Proxceed. Though she gave us a list of sperm specific supplements we could buy including Vitamin C and L-Carnitine, she highly recommended a supplement called Proxceed. She said it would dramatically improve hubby’s stuff, but that the process would take time. We’d see some improvement after the first month, then three months, but major improvement would come after six. Six months! It would take half a year to rejuvenate the little swimmers? Dr. Chang explained that sperm take 71 days to regenerate. This was especially disappointing because when I visited Amazon to locate this Proxceed business, I discovered that the sperm juice doesn’t come cheap. While individual boxes were available for around $40 a pop, I took heed to Dr. Chang’s advice. Real improvement would take time, so I ordered a 6-month supply.

2.Little to no alcohol. For working adults in a metropolitan city, I am convinced that drinking is as much a part of life as breathing is, only much more fun. You drink margaritas at beach birthday parties. You drink bottled beer, draft beer, imported beer while watching games. You drink Bloody Marys and Mimosas at brunch on Sundays. You drink Martinis or mixed drinks at subdued work happy hours. You have a glass of wine or three with dinner, never astounded when you’ve polished off a whole bottle.  We may sound like alcoholics, but the truth was, until 3-months ago, we drank. A lot. Few weekends were escaped without some semblance of a hangover, some worse than others. If the man of the house needed to quit, I would too. After all, how could self-induced headaches, dehydration, and day after nausea, the kind where even drinking water makes you gag, be good for anybody? At 30 and 31 respectively, it was time to stop partying like college kids.

So why exactly was alcohol that bad, aside from the obvious?

Drinking for me:

A 2009 Daily Mail article claims that “Giving up alcohol and caffeine [for women] is as good as IVF.” Whoa there, Daily Mail. Really? I read on.”Dr. Derbyshire said the odds of conceiving fall from 60 per cent in women who have one to five alcoholic drinks a week to 30 per cent for those consuming more than ten.”

Then there was the Danish study of 430 couples that found a decrease in pregnancy rates for those consuming just 1 to 5 drinks per week. Because this research was from 1998, I googled on.
I found a startling article on Pubmed titled Alcohol’s Effects on Female Reproductive Function that said the following:
“Mild–to–moderate alcohol use affects female reproductive function at several stages of life. It has been shown to have a detrimental effect on puberty, to disrupt normal menstrual cycling and reproductive function, and to alter hormonal levels in postmenopausal women. In addition, alcohol use can have implications for bone health.”
While fertility and conception were not directly mentioned in this study, I made a connection. If mild-to-moderate alcohol use could disrupt the menstrual cycle then it could disrupt any number of factors necessary for conception (which include a healthy cycle). Overall, I decided to take Dr. Chang’s advice, little to no drinking could help us both.

Drinking for him:

Research on how alcohol’s affects sperm quality come in a mixed bag. Some say not so bad, but most recommend that men who are trying to conceive starkly reduce their alcohol intake.

One study, which evaluated the effect of alcoholic consumption on IVF success, said that for every additional drink the man consumed, the risk of conception not leading to a live birth increased by 2 to 8 times. This was true for beer drinking as well. Since it was looking more and more likely that we’d need IVF, this just further corroborated Dr. Chang’s advice.

“Are you sure he has to quit drinking?” I asked her, seeing the look on hubby’s face in the chair next to me. He looked like someone had just told him his childhood dog had been run over by a car. Whiskey and/or Scotch, up to a few glasses a night at least four evenings a week, had been quit the obedient pet. It didn’t snarl or bite  at Mr. Business Man, it just helped him forget the troubles of loan closings and interest rates. Luckily, hubby never got out of control, or neglected his responsibilities as the result of drinking, but regardless it would have to go.

“Absolutely sure,” she said, “I’m going to be the mean Chinese mom here and say it loud and clear. No drinking!” It was easier for her to impose an all or nothing rule, she explained later.

3. No bike rides, hot tubs, or tight shorts. Basically anything that heats up the testicles or applies pressure can damage sperm quality. We’d been hot tubing it up AND going for long bike rides all in the same day. Luckily, however, the tight shorts weren’t a problem. My hubby’s more of a boxer kind of guy. But of course we’d miss our long treks to the beach along the Los Angeles river bike trail. I had faith that soon enough we’d be back at it, hopefully towing a kid behind in one of those awesome stroller things.

4. Exercise. Because Scotch and Whiskey would no longer be in the picture, Dr. Change agreed with me that exercise would be the most ideal from of stress release. But she cautioned hubby not to over do it, a recommendation that many online sources corroborate. Livestrong says that, “Medium intensity is the key when you’re trying to conceive. If you approach it like training for the Olympics, you’ll make the problem worse. Pick an exercise like brisk walking, jogging, swimming or running and do it for 30 minutes, three to five days out of the week.”

5. Diet. While my husband has a fairly diverse palette, his tastes usually gravitate to burgers, steaks, and mashed potatoes. It’s rare to see him order a salad when we’re eating out. It’s like an act of God to see him eating fruit. But, of course, this was another thing we’d have to change. “Eat lots of fruits and veggies,” Dr. Chang instructed. I had told him all this before, and he’d certainly improved since we got married, but there was still work to be done. I have since learned that the key is ranch dressing. It makes every salad better as far as the Hubster is concerned. 

6. No smoking. Just about everyone on planet earth, except for maybe some remote places in Africa and South America and mountainous China, knows that smoking with kill you. What we didn’t realize is that its poison reaches far beyond the cardiovascular system.

Smoking for me:

When Dr. Chang was counting my egg follicles (8 on the left and 11 to 12 on the right) she was astounded that I had so many. Why the surprise? I had admitted to her that for about three years I smoked cigarettes, then for many after I smoked socially. She made me promise I’d never let my daughter do the same. “Absolutely horrible for your fertility,” she said.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) in their fertility fact sheet says:

“Components in cigarette smoke have been shown to
interfere with the ability of cells in the ovary to make
estrogen and to cause a woman’s eggs (oocytes) to be
more prone to genetic abnormalities.”

My follicle counts and hormones actually looked pretty normal (a very positive thing in helping determine IVF success rates) despite the Newport Lights of my youth. She surmised that my healthy eating habits and lifelong commitment to exercise, combine with genetics, had helped offset the damage that smoking caused.

Smoking for him:

Dr. Chang was clear on the subject of smoking. “No more cigars,” she said, “Sorry.” While the ASRM puts forth this startling, but pretty well-known, statistic:

“Men who smoke cigarettes have a lower sperm count and
motility and increased abnormalities in sperm shape and
function.”

THE RESULTS

About a month ago, we decided it was time to test his sperm again. He’d been drinking Proxceed twice a day for about 35-days along with the other lifestyle changes mentioned above. I am THRILLED to announce that his motility and morphology improved from 5% healthy sperm overall to 20%! He’s just 10% away from the normal range. Woohoo! We also found out that his counts are some of the highest that Dr. Chang has ever seen! We hope that by the time we either start trying again or proceed with IVF in January, that the additional months of the magic juice, combined with healthy living, will make us that much more fertile.

Not drinking was hard at first (much harder for hubby) because most social situations involved our hard partying friends and old habits die-hard. We were forced to gravitate toward mellow Sunday dinners, rather than Saturday nights of bar hoping. But since then we’ve both enjoyed better sleep, better skin, and less fat around the middle. I’m enjoying eating my calories, rather than drinking them (baked apples are my favorite!). All the while I’ve been my husband’s exercise and healthy eating coach (he still loves his burgers though). And of course hot tubs and bike rides are a thing of the past.

Whether it’s the Proxceed, the sobriety, the exercise, or all three, I’m pleased that Dr. Chang’s advice has already gotten us results. Though there’s no baby (yet), we’re both feeling happier and healthier than ever.

 

 

Fertility Journey – Part 2

My husband’s sub par semen analysis results alone don’t completely explain why I haven’t gotten pregnant. After all, men with abnormal counts, morphology, and motility are still able to naturally impregnate their partners.  So in order to truly understand what is preventing conception, we’d now need to explore my uterus. Fun.

“Because you have a history of painful periods,” Dr. Collins, my regular OBGYN said, “Let’s have you obtain a hysterosalingram to see if there are any tubal blockages.”

Hysterosalpingogram? What the heck was that? I wondered if it was painful. I had had ultrasounds, pap smears, basic physical examinations, but this was nothing I’d heard before. The unknown toyed with my imagination like a cat with its kill.

“Does it hurt?” I asked sheepishly. I pictured a mad-scientist type doctor cackling above me as he prepared some surgical implement in a fire pit, embers glowing like the innards of hell. An active imagination and fear of pain are a horrible combination.

“It can,” she answered honestly. “You’ll typically feel some cramping when they flush your uterus and tubes with the solution.”

Flush my uterus! And tubes! With what solution!? How the heck were they going to do that!? The term “flush” implied a burst of pressure, a cleaning out. I was happy keeping any flushing to the toilet. But like I do in any moment of perplexity, I took to the web in a fury, determined to better understand what I was in for.

What is a hysterosalpingogram?

According to WebMd, a hysterosalpingogram or HSG is:

An X-ray test that looks at the inside of the uterus and fallopian tubes and the area around them. It often is done for women who are having a hard time becoming pregnant (infertile).

During a hysterosalpingogram, a dye (contrast material) is put through a thin tube that is put through the vagina and into the uterus. Because the uterus and the fallopian tubes are hooked together, the dye will flow into the fallopian tubes.

Don’t you just love how they put “infertile” in parenthesis above, as if not popping out children on demand is a baby making death sentence. WebMD needs to get it straight. Just because someone is having a hard time getting pregnant, typically known as subfertility, does not mean that they never will. So there. Infertility refers to an “inability” to conceive, as in it ain’t gonna happen. Subfertility, on the other hand, is the more accurate definition for most. Merriam Webster defines subfertility as: “the condition of being less than normally fertile though still capable of effecting fertilization.”

Despite any challenges we face, I’m not jumping on the “infertile” bandwagon just yet. I’m feeling quite capable thank you very much.

The HSG and Pain

I expected the worst when I arrived at Wilshire Imaging Center on a Wednesday afternoon.

A petite Filipino nurse led me into a room that resembled an alien spaceship’s experimentation laboratory. She instructed me to lay atop the table underneath a gigantic X-Ray device that was fixed to the ceiling. The doctor (or head alien) would be in shortly, she explained.

“Is it that bad?” I asked, as she prepped a menagerie of implements that I assumed were meant for me.

“Nah,” she answered. “Just feels like menstrual cramping.”

MENSTRUAL CRAMPING!

To some menstrual cramps are a mild annoyance, but to me they’ve been debilitating in ways that are hard to understand if you haven’t experienced them. I’ve missed work, school, major life events. I’ve writhed around on the bathroom floor twitching from pain. I’ve been rushed to the emergency room. Once, I was even carted away in an ambulance. To say I’ve lived in fear of period cramps is an understatement, so when the nurse said I could expect a similar sensation during this procedure I wasn’t comforted.

Yet, I’m happy to announce that my HSG paled in comparison to any menstrual cramps I’ve ever felt.

A mousey male doctor quietly explained the risks of the procedure before he instructed me to lay flat on my back while he inserted a tube through my cervix. I began taking deep nose to mouse breaths, as if I were relaxing in the last pose of yoga class, savasana. This helped. Moments later, he instructed the nurse to send solution through the tube, while he looked up at a monitor above my head.

Though I did feel a small push of pressure as the liquid filled me, it was in no way similar to the agony of my monthly flow. This was it? I almost wondered if he was doing it wrong. According to stirrup-queens.com, “Some women experience only mild discomfort, while others experience severe pain.”  Lady Luck had rolled the dice in my favor for a change.

“What do you see?” I asked. I knew if I didn’t inquire that I’d have to wait a week to discuss the results with Dr. Collins. I’m a very hands-on-let’s-talk-about-it-now kind of patient.

“Please be advised that this is not my final impression. You’ll have more thorough results in my report.”

“Sure,” I acknowledged. “I won’t hold you too it, just keep me posted ok?”

“Ok,” he answered. I felt another gentle pulse as more fluid spread inside me. “I now see that I’m not able to pass through your left tube.”

I detected a mild, but distinct disappointment when he said this.

“But your right tube,” he said, “is perfectly clear.”

“How can I fix the blocked one?” I asked him.

“You’ll have to discuss that with your OBGYN,” he said professionally.

His vague answer to my question told me everything I needed to know. Fixing, in some capacity, would indeed be required.

The Results

“Combining your husband’s sperm analysis with your blocked tube you are excellent candidates for IVF,” Dr. Collins explained several days later. She made our status sound like we’d just qualified for a home refinance or a free trip to Disney land, rather than a heart breaking expensive medical procedure.

Aside from the expense, there were emotional and ethical implications surrounding IVF as well. I pictured my test tube baby, a grotesque creature growing rapidly and then shattering its glass incubator. The cat was playing his games again. And what of survival of the fittest? You know, super sperm meets super egg and baby genius is born. Perhaps we weren’t meant to have children. Perhaps we were better off broken.

“But why IVF?” I asked, not satisfied. “I have one tube open after all.” There had to be more to the story.

She explained that I may eventually get pregnant on my own, but the various factors made it closer to unlikely. There’s no telling how often the open side produces a mature egg. Also if one tube is no good, it’s common that the other can contain damaged cilia which make it virtually impossible for an egg to reach the ideal position for fertilization. One blocked tube implies overall damage to the entire uterus apparently.

So what caused my blocked tube, I wondered? My research and further discussion with the docs indicate that they can be caused by pelvic inflammatory disease, other infections, and endometriosis. Considering a lifetime of horribly painful periods, I was sure endometriosis was to blame in my situation.

Endometriosis might as well be renamed The Worst Thing Ever. Wikipedia explains that endometriosis affects to 6 to 10% of women and often results infertility. Great. Not only do I have up to 20 more years of pain ahead of me (provided I go through menopause around age 50), but I may also never experience the joy of having a child. It just keeps getting better, people.

Yet Dr. Collins didn’t seem too concerned.

“You’re both very healthy despite these issues,” she said. “You may need a little help, but I have no doubt you’ll have children.” She smiled, gave me a referral for a fertility clinic, and sent me on my way.

Strangely, I left with more relief than I expected. It felt good to know that we both played a part in the problem, that we weren’t alone in our malfunctions. It also became clear that this would be a process, not something that would happen overnight. Being the instant gratification kind of girl that I am, this was half the battle.

Changing our Lives

Though we are two tall, educated, overall healthy adults, who floss regularly, it seemed likely that many lifestyle changes were on the horizon. Would we need to give up caffeine and alcohol? Exercise more or less? Change our diets? What about our spending habits? Would we be able to afford IVF?

Since learning that we’d need to work with a fertility center to pave the wave for baby B, we’ve undergone quite the metamorphosis. I’ve found and continue to find answers to all of the above questions. There’s so much great information out there. In part 3, I’ll discuss how we improved hubby’s sperm quality, the blood test for endometriosis and my pending surgery. There may or may not be a baby at the end of this obstacle course, but it’s still a worthwhile race. A 54.8% chance (the typical IVF success rate of Southern California Reproductive Center) is better than no chance at all, don’t you think?

 

 

Fertility Journey – Part 1 (The New Abnormal)

As I stripped down for the lovely Jules of Queen Bee waxing on Culver Blvd. I noticed her checking me out. It wasn’t my exposed thighs she was gaping at, however, but the gauze and band-aids at both of my inner-elbows. “What happened to you?” she asked. This was my first time with Jules, but I’ll admit I was eager to share the details of how I had spent my afternoon. I’m the type who likes to get it out, as evidenced by this blog post. This doesn’t entirely stem from a need to be understood, but also a need to understand. If a half-naked girl stood before me, bruises that resembled track marks peaking from behind glaring white bandages, I’d be dying to know what ailed her. You get what you give, so I was ready to dish it. “Well, let’s just put it this way,” I answered, “You’ll be the second woman today to touch my lady parts.” “OBGYN?” she inquired. Nothing fazes a proprietor of the Brazilian Wax. “Nope. Fertility specialist. And they took 6 viles of blood!” I answered, getting on her torture table cautiously, as if my tentative movements might encourage her to go easy on me. It’s safe to say that I am more afraid of my monthly waxing ritual than of the more invasive medical procedures that are sure to mark my next three months. Hormone shots in the ass? Sure! No problem. Hair being ripped from my nether parts? GASP. (Though the Queen Bee staff are far and away the BEST I’ve ever had). “Tell me everything,” she replied. And I knew Jules would be my waxer at Queen Bee from then on.

Trouble in Make a baby land

Jules got the short version of all of this, but the details of how we ended up at Southern California Reproductive Fertility Center are a bit more complicated. The Oxford Journal section on Human Reproduction says that if you have been trying to conceive for more than 6-months you may be considered sub fertile. More specifically, this means that  “Most pregnancies occur in the first six cycles with intercourse in the fertile phase (80%). After that, serious sub fertility must be assumed in every second couple (10%).”

For us, almost a year has flown by. I’ve been able to mark hubby and I’s trying time by the beautiful happenings I’ve seen unfold on Facebook. Bump pictures, labor and birth announcements, and newborn baby pics were reminders that oh yeah we were supposed to be making one of those! And the celebrity bump pages in every gossip rag, who’s not pregnant in Hollywood right now? Further hammering the point home, two particularly close friends have given birth in the last month or so and I’ve had the privilege of hearing about the ups and downs of new motherhood: Their breast-feeding woes, their sleepless nights, their changed bodies. It’s frightening and exciting in the way that only things so tightly intertwined with the purpose of life can be, like falling in love, getting married, and of course, being pregnant and having a child. Just thinking about these events can make your gut tickle with anticipation, delight, and awe-inspired fear because through them your life can change forever in deliciously painful and meaningful ways. Gulp.

So it wasn’t until baby making didn’t happen that I realized how much I really want it to. I was ambivalent about having children before, as if I were making the choice between two drab paint colors for my guest room.  “Maybe. Maybe not,” I’d tell people nonchalantly when asked about having kids. Then to others, “Only one please.”  While later sharing my anxiety with the hubster, “I mean, do we really want the responsibility? Little brats try to put their fingers in light sockets and stuff.” I could picture our unborn three-year old son buzzing with a blue electrical current, hair frizzled out like a cartoon. I could picture all kinds of horrific scenes that involved kidnappers and rare childhood diseases and… So I, we, just tried not to think about it. We planned not to plan, to “see what happens” and to “let nature take its course,” without dwelling on the horrors of parenthood. The expense. The weight gain. The crying. The aforementioned neurotic nightmares. We wouldn’t let fear stop us from trying, but we felt it was best to leave it up to chance.

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And then something changed, as somethings are apt to do. The part of me that was unsure about being a mother disappeared. I began to realize that the fears and sacrifices of parenthood would be totally worth the reward of seeing 1/2 me and 1/2 him combined into one NEW person. One that we could love and nurture and help grow into a productive, hopefully proactive, member of the human race! Around that time our friend’s babies were born and it was clear that nature’s course wasn’t flowing in the direction of a positive pregnancy test for us. “Something is wrong,” I told my doubtful, doctor avoid-ant husband. The calm man that he is tried to reassure me. Had we been doing it at the right time every month? Had we been trying long enough? Should I be standing on my head after intercourse? Yes. Yes. and No. Later, however, I tried the head standing anyway just to appease him, while secretly hoping that this pose would be the magic baby bullet. (Baby and bullet probably don’t belong in the same sentence, so forgive me).

Our unfruitful trying time, coupled with my borderline obsessive compulsive internet research, made me come to terms with the fact that further exploration was needed. To me exploration should be reserved for long hikes in the Sierras and wandering through unfamiliar towns in search of the best coffee shop. Adventures into the great unknown of my uterus are not my idea of a good time. Since tubes and dye and x-rays would be a part of the medical profession’s mission to unearth the jewel of fertility from my va-jay jay, hubby and I agreed that heshould be explored first.

The Great Mystery of Spermatozoa

The Free Dictionary defines spermatozoa as: “The mature fertilizing gamete of a male organism, usually consisting of a round or cylindrical nucleated cell, a short neck, and a thin motile tail. Also called sperm cell, zoosperm.” Zoosperm? Really? Can you imagine if I shouted that out during baby dancing? “I want your Zooooosperm!”  But seriously these mature fertilizing gamete are half the battle when it comes to making another human being. According to the University of Iowa, “in 50 percent of all infertile couples, a male fertility problem plays a role in the couple’s inability to conceive.” To me this statistic seemed like common knowledge. After all, it takes two to tango and we are no longer medieval pawns trapped in a culture where delivering one’s spawn, specifically a son, would instantly elevate a woman’s status from threatened to respected. Unfortunately, however, the vilification of women for fertility problems continues to be an issue internationally.

It wasn’t my plan to discuss this here, but I can’t resist. “When a Kyrgyz couple remains childless,” the Institute for War and Peace Reporting explains, “it is generally the wife who is encouraged to seek fertility treatment. Husbands commonly reject suggestions they might be infertile, and some even remarry in the hope of having a child.” Yikes. How would you like to be dumped because you can’t serve up a baby at your husband’s command? Talk shows in the middle east must put Jerry Springer to shame. Reason number 5,000 than I am grateful to be an American. Yet, even in modern lands like the UK women are blamed for a failure to procreate on demand. One article from 2008 titled, “Why women can be blamed for their own infertility,” would probably cause a riot if it were published today considering the 2009 spike in social media use.  The author says, “Although male infertility is on the increase, and men must consider the role their lifestyle plays, too, many women simply need to relax a bit more.”

The article may make some decent points about stress, drugs and alcohol use, but this statement reflects an ideology that is still prevalent in western society. On several occasions, friends and family members have told me, “Just stop worrying about it so much.” I wonder how many women out there trying to conceive have heard these same words, only to find out that their partner could be to blame? Or that there really is an underlying medical condition? That they were right to worry? In our case, being “right” never felt so bad.

Rather than spending paragraphs explaining how our general practitioner’s office sent us clearly abnormal sperm analysis results on a Friday (right before closing) without an explanation or a phone call, I’ll simply tell you one 1/2 of the Case of the Missing Brooker Baby was solved that weekend. Apparently hubby’s sperm are wacky looking and sleepy, with only 5% rapidly progressive. Rapidly progressive sperm are those that “[have] more fertility skill due to their capability to reach the oocyte and to penetrate the membrane. Normally [these] are the ones selected with the swim-up procedure for [artificial insemination].” While 78% of hubby’s sperm also have a mid-piece defect, hours of research revealed little more than his sperm may not have the energy they need to make it to my eggs.

My weekend of crying and freaking out, was completely warranted unfortunately. The following Monday, we received an emotionless email from my husband’s doctor (we will be switching by the way), with a list of urologists she recommended. She didn’t explain what we could expect. She didn’t assure us that these things could be treated. She simply sent the email with no regard for how Friday’s results might have made us feel. Combining this information with my concern that I may have endometriosis, a condition I’ll get into in a later blog, we were shattered. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine explains that, “A totally normal couple at our ages (30 and 31) has about a 20% chance per month of getting pregnant.” What then are the odds when you’re abnormal?

Abnormal is the New Normal, but only if you’re a sitcom

This fall the New Normal debuted, a show about two gay men who engage a surrogate to help them realize their dream of having a child. Hilarity ensues as the media does its best to portray healthy homosexual relationships and blended families. NBC talks about how this show helps demonstrate the “reshaping” of the American family as we know it. I haven’t watched yet, but I’ll admit I’m curious and I appreciate anything that can help legitimize same-sex unions. Love and let love, I say. Unfortunately, my life and the lives of so many others struggling with fertility issues cannot be compartmentalized into a 30-minute slot of well-timed jokes and perfect hair and make-up. The journey to having a child has only just begun for us at the realization, two weeks ago, that we were not the new normal at all, but instead her underpaid and less-celebrated sister – Abnormal. Yet, once we stopped feeling sorry for ourselves we snapped into problem solving mode. Can we improve hubby’s sperm?” we mused, researching Walnuts, and Maca Root, and Pynogenol.  “What if something is also wrong with me?” we wondered, perusing articles on infertility and endometriosis. The questions keep coming like cars down the 405, but the answers have been more difficult to obtain. Join us on our journey as I explain what happened at the urologist in Part 2, then talk about my HSG, a procedure to view the inside of the uterus and fallopian tubes, in Part 3. My goal is to be a resource to others, while I attempt to sort out my issues with infertility and potential motherhood through fertility treatments (fingers crossed). Abnormal may not be the new normal as NBC would like us to believe, but it’s our normal. And here’s to discovering the blessings that working with Southern California Reproductive Center and being abnormal might bring.