Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pray, Love: Birthdays, Control Issues and Dogs

As of the stroke of midnight, we are two months away from Lily’s 4th birthday. She is chomping at the bit, I am excited about planning and Doug is looking forward to a cute little party while praying we don’t get too carried away. I come from a family of birthday people, where we make a big deal every year and sit around and comment on each gift as we open them all one by one. Birthdays are a big deal whether you are eight or 88, but there is a special kind of excitement in those single digit years. 

For the past three birthdays, I have had the luxury of controlling Lily’s birthdays. 
The first year, of course, she had no opinion. She was just pleasantly surprised when she had new toys wrapped up in paper and completely ecstatic when we plopped a giant hunk of cake in front of her face. 

The second year she had preferences, but at almost two her concept of time was not unlike that of an armadillo. I wanted to celebrate her love for Minnie Mouse and make it fun for me, too. She showed up for the party and, for the most part, she liked it. Always a bit eccentric, she hated opening gifts, but was totally on board for the cake.  

The third birthday brought a little more of her involvement, but I was still making the big decisions. I knew I wanted a circus theme, so I spent lots of time playing up the circus we attended and crafting a party around the thing she had been trained to love. I spent the months leading up to these birthdays making one-of-a-kind invitations and decorations, having more fun planning the parties than an adult really deserves.

Four is different. Four is really different. I spent the latter part of the summer up to my old tricks, working on convincing my very strong-willed child that her favorite things just happened to match the things I had pinned on my Pinterest board. Some may call it manipulation and I am really okay with that. I had a great idea for a train birthday party after she fell in love with the trackless train ride at her end of school party. I had grand dreams of train whistle favors tied with pretty ribbon, a little bit tomboy with a touch of femininity, little sandwiches shaped like trains and birthday pictures on an old caboose. I even spent time in the hot Texas summer riding around with her on local trains and she loved them, but not enough to trump her idea of a dream birthday party.

My daughter, you see, has fallen madly in love with “Tangled”, the Disney movie telling the story of a very tough Rapunzel who knocks people out with a frying pan and swings through the air using her hair. What little girl wouldn’t love that? She wants a princess castle moonwalk, a tower cake and lots of friends there to help her celebrate. She also wants to release floating lanterns into the sky and, although I am reasonably sure my explanation of drought conditions and the danger of setting the town on fire are above her head, she seems to understand that the lantern release is not part of the plan.  I think it’s going to be a great party and I guess it’s now time that I get on board with what Lily wants; it is her birthday, after all. I mean, I did the hard part of actually giving birth, but I have no 19-hour labor story to use for leverage. Easy C-sections don’t count.

Letting go of party planning is not easy for a control freak like me. Thinking about the control I will be relinquishing over the rest of her childhood and adolescence is even more overwhelming. I love being a mom and I love having things just so, but I have to remind myself that the object of this whole raising kids thing is to have a mature child who can leave the nest as a confident, independent adult. It’s a daunting task, but I will just keep relinquishing a little control at a time and setting the boundaries where they matter.

I can let her have a Tangled birthday party while drawing the line at releasing lanterns containing actual fire into the skies of drought-stricken Central Texas.

I can let her choose her clothing while teaching her it is entirely inappropriate to wear pajamas and cleats to church or school. Note: I do reserve the right to drop certain pieces of clothing off at Goodwill at 3 am if the teaching becomes too challenging.

I can let her choose her favorite flavors of juice at the store while teaching her that the artificially fruit-flavored drinks are a waste of calories.

I look back at the best memories of my childhood, and many of them involved my parents setting boundaries while allowing me to make decisions and feel independent and strong. Quite honestly, it was a lot like the invisible fence where the dog wears the special collar and won’t go past the invisible boundary while not fully understanding why. Then one day I did not need my special collar anymore. I knew the boundaries and I appreciated them. Sure, I forgot my training a few times and nearly was hit by a car or two, but the training was always there. I hope I can do the same for Lily.

And only after midnight can we jump from birthdays to control issues to the numerous ways humans are like dogs. You’re welcome.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Testing, testing, 1-2-tee-tee

I went in to this weekend with no firm plans, but the intent to go and do whatever in the world I pleased. I now have plans, and I am planning to be at home. 

Today I went to en endocrinologist for a follow up from my pituitary adenoma diagnosis earlier in the week. I saw an endocrinologist I had previously seen for PCOS follow up and he is a really great doctor. My reproductive endocrinologist had checked labs on the pituitary hormones that fall under his scope of care and that included FSH, LH and prolactin. My medical endocrinologist needs to check my Adrenocorticotropic hormone, which we will call ACTH from this point on because typing it out hurts my fingers.

I know I have probably complained in the past about fasting labs. I abhor fasting labs. I can deal with not having food in the morning; it's the coffee deprivation that makes me cranky. Anyway, the positive thing about the blood draw for ACTH is that it does not have to be done while fasting. The negative? It is preceded by a 2 day urine collection. The neutral? I will also be doing a saliva sample as part of the testing.

Lily is pretty excited about the urine collection. As soon as she walked in the door, she began going through my urine collecting swag bags. The shovel is her left hand is not in any way connected to this urine collection.

Despite Lily's excitement about the supplies, there are a couple of drawbacks for me.

1) The urine must stay cold. I repeat, the urine must stay cold. I will be storing the urine in my refrigerator. Now, I am not perfect housekeeper. There is actually a cake in a Pyrex dish in my refrigerator right now that has been growing the next miracle drug/mold for longer than I would like to admit. That being said, there is something about storing urine in my refrigerator that really grosses me out. I am that person who flushes the commode with my foot and touches no fixtures in a public restroom. My grandmother taught me to cover toilet seats with paper when I was 3. I am going to have urine in my fridge, right next to the coconut milk. Yuck.

2) I can't really go anywhere. I will be doing two separate urine collections, each for 24 hours. I am planning to pack a cooler for church so I can bring my urine with me. That sounds so sick and wrong. I do want to note that my cooler will be in the car, not sitting next to my purse and Bible. Anyway, being confined to my house for a weekend is huge for me. In case anyone has not met me, I am an extrovert. The last time I did a personality test, I was considered an extreme extrovert. I will do my best to stay home, but if you see me walking through the outlet mall carrying a little igloo cooler, don't judge.

Did I mention that I don't have to fast for the blood draw? 

I am looking forward to knowing more about my pituitary function and am thankful for amazing doctors! If nothing too crazy shows up in these tests, it looks like we will be able to start injectable FSH and LH next month in hopes of giving Lily a sibling who can share in her excitement of urine collection jugs.

I will leave myself with one last thought:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
Philippians 4:6 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

And the MRI Results Are In....

When my doctor's office called on Thursday and told me my MRI results were in, I was beyond ready to find out what they were. They did not tell me the results over the phone, as they usually do when a result is completely normal, so I figured there must have been something found. On the other hand, they did not ask me to immediately come in for a consultation, so I figured my brain would not be exploding at any given moment. They scheduled me to come in the next Tuesday, which happened to be today, so I went home and began the feverishly searching Google for updates on my demise.

My doctor probably thought I was pretty smart, because today I was pretty much an expert in the pituitary gland and its role in the endocrine system. I have slept thousands and thousands of times since my last biology class, so the free Google refresher course was pretty helpful. Of course, Google has a way of leading a person to health message boards, which are notorious for people who thrive on sharing their peculiar medical conditions. Sure, I read about a few average cases, but who isn't intrigued by the pituitary tumor wrapped around the carotid artery or the woman who became blind when a pituitary tumor pressed on her optic nerve?

So anyway, on to the results. Today I found out that I have a 6x6x7mm tumor on my pituitary gland. It is an adenoma, benign, and there is no way to know how long it has been there. The gland itself is about 1 cm in diameter, the size of a pea, so my 6mm tumor is a little more than half the size of the gland. My tumor is not perfectly round, but it has what seems to be a very awesome tail to keep things more interesting. I am thinking of the tail as a mullet of sorts, just to keep a little party in the back. The symptoms associated with it have been with me for at least 15 years, but it seems it is medically impossible to conceive a child with a pituitary adenoma large enough to inhibit FSH and LH production. Since I did conceive a pretty awesome child 4.5 years ago, it would make perfect scientific sense for this tumor to have formed after Lily was conceived. We'll never really know, but I have dealt with amenorrhea and an annovulatory system since I was about 20 years old. Figuring that in, there is no "logical" explanation for how we got Lily, but I am so glad we did.

It might sound a little crazy to be thankful for a tumor diagnosis, but I am actually pretty pleased with it. No, I am not a hypochondriac. I generally have to be convinced I am sick. I have thrown up in some very public places in attempts to convince myself and those around me that I was perfectly well.

Really, though, finding what is actually going on is a wonderful thing, and here are a few of the reasons why:
  1. I will not be having my ovaries drilled. As excited as I was about marching into the surgery center wearing a "Drill, Baby Drill!" t-shirt and carrying a "Let My People Drill" poster, I am pretty relieved that I will not be undergoing surgery. I am bummed that I won't be getting those days of relaxation that follow the surgery, but avoiding anesthesia and the pain of recovery is a pretty good trade off.
  2. I found out this pituitary adenoma has affected my prolactin levels, making them very low. This might sound dramatic, but one of things that caused me the most anguish was breastfeeding. I had read hundreds of pages in books, spent an entire Saturday in a pricey breastfeeding class, went through three lactation consultants, rented a hospital grade pump and tried every home remedy known to man. I just did not produce much milk. Instead of sleeping while my baby slept, I was pumping away to no avail. To be honest, I had always been able to achieve pretty much everything in life I had worked for, and there had been few things in life I was willing to work as hard for as breastfeeding. I kept trying and trying and prayed that no soul would ask me how it was going. According to my medical records, my prolactin levels have been off for a long time. I am finally letting myself off the hook on my breastfeeding failure, and it is pretty cathartic.
  3. The size of my tumor is pretty significant, but not so much that they will be cutting through any tissue to take it out. It is large enough to cause some major hormonal upheaval, but small enough that I won't need surgery. Every time I dodge the surgery bullet I am pretty happy camper.
  4. I finally know why I don't ovulate. That is huge. Knowing the "why" provides a path to the "how." My physician has a laid out some great options for us. After I follow up with an endocrinologist (my genius doctor is a reproductive endocrinologist), I will receive injectable gonadotropins to induce ovulation. My condition is rare, but my doctor has a 100% success rate in dealing with it.  
Most importantly, I have answers and I am so thankful for them. I have spent a lot of time in prayer during this time of trying to conceive a second child, and prayer naturally leads me to scripture. I have had the "barren" women of the Bible on my mind and heart and have found such empathy with them. Even as a child, reading their stories gave me a heavy heart, but during this time in my life I have begun identifying with them in even greater ways. I can feel their sadness, but most of all I can understand their unanswered questions. Even when I was vaguely diagnosed with PCOS, I knew there were some answers to be found in modern science. I could see my ovaries on an ultrasound screen. I could hope to benefit from modern medicine. I had answers and understanding of the complex reproductive system, while women like Sarah and Rachel and Hannah had to rely solely on the unseen. Because I have the blessing of modern medical science, I suppose I will never know how I would have handled my infertility journey without it. Of course, I do know one thing; my faith has made all the difference in my outlook and for that I am eternally grateful. I don't know what the future holds, but I know God's will is perfect. Tonight I take comfort in knowing that and in reflecting on a scripture that has led me through the best and worst of times.

"For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pray, Love: If I were an MRI, where would I be?

I learned a few new things on Monday.

1) I can be still for 30 minutes.
2) I am not claustrophobic.
3) The MRI machine was not quite relaxing enough for that nap I've been wanting.

I went in on Monday morning for the MRI of my pituitary gland. Depending on the results, I will either undergo my ovarian drilling (most likely outcome) or treat the pituitary issue before the ovarian drilling. All in all, it was the normal medical procedure experience.  I had the eccentric waiting room people, the daytime TV exposure and had to go to the bathroom several times despite fasting.

There was a guy listening to various covers of "Seven Spanish Angels" at a very high volume in the waiting area. I still prefer Willie and Ray to anyone else. I did make eye contact with the wrong person during the Elvis Presley version and we did, indeed, laugh out loud. As would be expected, the guy with the music was oblivious.

Everyone was so friendly, but each reminder that this was a brain MRI was a lite disturbing. It sounds much better when you say we are "scanning the pituitary gland". They all worked very efficiently, so much so that I only caught part of The Price Is Right in the final waiting area. I don't see a lot of daytime TV because my job does not really allow that so this might not be news to anyone, but Drew Carey is skinny! 

Before I went in for the MRI, I had to run to the restroom. It would seem like having no food or drink that morning would have kept me from needing that potty trip, but I am thinking the gallons of water I consumed the night before was catching up to me. They directed me to the restroom and, seriously, give a girl a warning that when she turns the corner there will be 3 completely sedated people on gurneys in the hallway. I almost didn't need the restroom. Freeeeaaaky.

The gentleman doing my MRI was awesome, so much that I took down his name so I could pass along the compliment. It was not a bad experience at all and I never pressed the panic button. Most importantly, I was completely still for 30 minutes. This is a huge accomplishment.

I waited 24 hours for the results, then 48 before calling for results.

Oh, wait, they can't find my MRI. 

I am guessing this huge brain of mine completely baffled the machine. The other possibility is that someone was using the computer to  play on social media and deleted my MRI to make room for some of those dirty bathroom mirror self portraits. There is also the possibility that they will find it tomorrow. 

Tomorrow we shall see. If they don't find it, I will schedule a new on ASAP. Once we have results, I can go in for my surgery and get the ball rolling. Let's get to that ovarian drilling!

All in all, it comes down to the perfect will and timing of God, and perfect works for me.

"Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord." 
Psalms 27:14 NASB

Friday, August 2, 2013

Pray, Love: Slight Change of Plans

What a change a day can make! I will still be undergoing in the ovarian diathermy, but it looks like we will be waiting 2 weeks.

I have always worked to be a bit of an overachiever, but sometimes I really outdo myself. I met with my OB/GYN/RE today and he had spent a lot of time studying my labs. He found that my luteinizing hormone (LH) and my follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) are very low and based on these findings, it seems that we will be taking a slightly different approach.

Basically, PCOS can originate from two different factors. In the end, you have much of the same result as far as the effect on the ovaries and reproductive system. Because the factors causing the PCOS differ, the ways of treating the two types will differ also. About 95% of women with PCOS have peripheral factor PCOS, where the syndrome is ovarian in origin. The other 5% have central PCOS, where the amenorrhea originates from a central endocrine problem triggered by the hypothalamus and/or pituitary gland. My labs reflect a central origin and I will need to have an MRI to take a look at my hypothalamus and pituitary gland before I have the ovarian diathermy.

We will still move forward with the diathermy and injections in two weeks unless something really crazy shows up on the MRI. It will set things back a couple of weeks, but all in all it does not have a huge effect on our timeline.

Here are a few things I learned today:
  1. Although the central factor PCOS is much more rare, my doctor actually has a higher success rate in helping couples dealing with this type of infertility.
  2. I won't be getting that nap.  
  3. I am a little resentful that I had to do a pre-op phone call and tell someone how much I weigh. I have to do the call again in two weeks and will have to utter my weight again. Not cool.
  4. People in waiting rooms are annoying. I was sitting in the waiting room with a couple obnoxiously speaking in a high volume whisper tone. My very loud 3 year-old's inside voice is quieter than the whispers these people were letting out and I had to work hard to maintain my composure. Suppressing your laughter for 30 minutes is very difficult. They got up and were replaced by gum popping couple. It was sort of like a SNL sketch, but much, much longer.
  5. My new injection regimen will consist of FSH and LH, increasing the chance of multiples. Fortunately, my doctor will scan me daily during the injections to make sure we aren't getting too productive.
  6. With the new likely diagnosis, my doctor is even more baffled that we have Lily. I am not sure how it can be scientifically explained that I ovulated for what might have been the only time in a 15 year period. I do know that I was earnestly praying and that she came at a time when we had significant loss in our family and she was a perfectly bright spot. What a special girl!
Thanks again to everyone for the prayers. That means more than you can ever know! I really struggled with the idea of making our infertility struggles public because I have never been the type to freely share my burdens with others. I had a couple of reasons for sharing. First of all, people naturally want to know if you are wanting another child or trying to have another child. I don't find it offensive when people ask, but when you reply by telling them you are struggling with infertility they naturally feel like they inserted their foot in their mouth. By being more up front and open about our struggles, I can save people that awkward feeling. The second reason I decided to share this struggle was to ask for prayers, because "the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." (James 5:16) Thanks so much for taking the time to pray for us!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pray, Love: And We Are Drillin'


Ovarian Drilling.


I remember when I first started researching PCOS and infertility and I came across a thread on a message board covering the topic of ovarian drilling. I cringed, mainly because that is what I do when I give any thought to medical procedures. The cringing only increases when that procedure has a barbaric word like "drilling" in the name. It sounded like an archaic procedure and one I would never have to worry about. After all, we are in the 21st century and have so many less invasive techniques available. Drilling. Why on earth would I let someone drill holes in my ovaries?

So anyway, I am having it done on Friday. By Friday, I mean the day after tomorrow.

About a month ago, I was sitting across from my incredibly intelligent reproductive endocrinologist discussing my pregnancy with Lily, from the ease of conception to the ease of being pregnant. We then began discussing the much bigger picture. I had ovulated one time in six years. I gave Femara a shot and only ended up with a whole lot of little follicles. I am not getting any younger. He sensed that I love information and he began sharing the history of PCOS diagnosis and let me watch really cool slide shows about FSH and LH production. He began telling me about an old procedure used 80 years ago where a doctor would take out a piece of the ovary of a woman with PCOS for diagnostic purposes and the woman would end up having regular ovulation. Over time, the surgery has become much more sophisticated but still has very desirable effects, particularly for women who have dealt with PCOS since the onset of puberty and for women who have not responded to drugs such as Clomid or Femara. The procedure is now done as an outpatient procedure, it is laproscopic and they use lasers to drill the holes. They also call it ovarian diathermy now, which sounds a lot better than drilling. In the end, there are still holes, but I sure do prefer the word diathermy. The success rate, when combined with some FSH injections, is high. I'm in.

I was planning to have it done later in the month of August, but at an appointment on Tuesday I found out there was an opening for Friday, 8/2. I took the opening and am hopeful and prayerful that this will help us complete our family.

To break it down without the use of acronyms like PCOS and FSH and LH, here are the key reasons I am doing ovarian drilling:
  1. Doug and I desperately want another baby and my doctor feels like this is a great opportunity for success.
  2. Lily needs a sibling. She is constantly bringing imaginary siblings into our lives and they have names like "Buh-LIE" and "Lore".  She has chosen one of her baby dolls to be her baby brother and from time to time she tries to get him in trouble. She also attempts to make us feel guilty for neglecting our plastic baby. She will make a great big sister some day.
  3. I need a nap. The way I understand it, I get to rest for like 3 days following this procedure.
  4. I've always been a little curious about general anesthesia and how it would feel to be under. If I end up on YouTube while coming off the anesthesia, anyone responsible will not get to hold the baby I am hoping this surgery helps produce.
  5. Ovarian diathermy has other medical purposes for me as well, so unlike most fertility treatment, this procedure is covered under insurance as an outpatient surgery.
  6. I hear you get pictures from the surgery and, although my child is adorable, my Facebook needs something more exciting on the wall.
  7. I have always avoided surgery like the plague, but the prospect of this helping us conceive a child makes it to great to pass up. Hannah was willing to promise God she would take her little boy and let him serve in the tabernacle, away from her, for the opportunity to bear a child (I Sam. 1 &2). What's a little drilling in comparison to that huge sacrifice?
I am going in on Friday and hope to have a smooth procedure, a speedy recovery and the positive outcome we so desperately want. Please keep us in your prayers as we take our next step in our journey to completing our family!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Love, Work: Treasure

It is Monday morning, 1 AM, the annoying alarm on my iPhone set to 5:45 AM, my adorable husband sleeping like a rock.

I can't sleep.

I could blame it on the relaxing Sunday spent with my family as Doug and I celebrated our 6th anniversary; he gave me some really sweet material gifts, but that afternoon nap was the best of all.

I could blame it on the hormonal craziness that is raging in my brain courtesy of the pills I am taking to ready my body for treatment for infertility.

I could blame on the action packed Monday coming my way. I would ordinarily be lying awake making a to-do list in my brain and looking forward to the challenges.

I could blame it on the late-afternoon coffee that followed my afternoon nap, but let's be real; I drink late-afternoon coffee on a fairly regular basis.

I think I will go ahead and blame it on the actual culprit. A four-day weekend is drawing to a close and I am not quite ready to get back to reality. We celebrated the 4th with cooking out, eating watermelon, watching fireworks and spending time together as a family.  I enjoyed a wonderful holiday weekend. In my pre-mommy days, these long weekends left me refreshed and ready to conquer the world.

I had a little taste of life at home, with leisurely summer days spent with Lily. We read books. We ate outside. I slammed this big ol' 34 year-old body down onto a slip 'n slide and possibly sustained internal injuries. I made delicious meals without any temptation to open a convenience food. It was everything working moms dream of in their stay-at-home fantasies.

Sure, I realize that staying at home full-time is VERY different from a long weekend spent playing, but I don't want to let go of the joy of those days. The beauty of it is that I don't have to let go of the joy. As my mind races with memories of a great long weekend, I am reminded of  scriptures that never took on their full meaning until I became a mother. I remember Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her memories of his childhood.

"But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart."
Luke 2:19
What would the joyful moments of life be without our memories? The smiles and giggles are always with me and I treasure them, pondering them in my heart.
And now I can sleep....

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Pray, Love: Just One More...

I was blessed with an idyllic childhood in a Christian home in a small town with a wonderful family. One of the greatest blessings of time spent growing up was my brother, Kyle. I was three weeks shy of my second birthday when Kyle was born and, since he was walking at 9 months, he was part of nearly every childhood adventure in my memory. We were siblings, but best of all we were friends. Our personalities were as different as night and day, but we loved being together. We fought a lot and could argue about almost anything, but we never stayed mad at one another for more than a few minutes. He helped me be a tomboy and I helped him be kind and sensitive. We were (and still are) quite a pair.

When I visualized the family I would someday have, I always visualized a kind, caring husband and two children just close enough in age to be close friends. I hit the jackpot in the husband department (oh, yeah!) and I have an amazing little girl who keeps me on my toes and rolling on the floor in laughter. The only problem? I just want one more.

Doug and I had been married almost a year and a half when we decided we wanted a baby. A few months later we were pregnant and so excited about being parents. We fell in love with Lily the moment we found out she was on her way and feel blessed every day to have such a happy, healthy child. We also knew we wanted at least one more and, not long after Lily’s first birthday, we decided we were ready for another child whenever God felt like we needed one. We hoped we could have our children two or three years apart so they could be close in age and play together. Time passed, and we realized we were not going have children two years apart. We tried to look on the bright side; maybe our kids would be three years apart and Lily would be old enough to be a helper and understand more about having a sibling. More time has passed, and now is Lily is three and a half. We are still looking on the bright side; it looks like we won’t be paying college tuition for two kids at once.

Sometimes it makes us sad, but in ways that are a bit unexpected. I find myself very sad as I long for a family of four, but I don’t find myself sharing that with others. I feel guilty for feeling sad. Every time I begin to dwell on our secondary infertility (the term for infertility experienced by couples who already have a child), I feel like I should count my blessings and treasure the extraordinary child I have. I think of friends who are still struggling to become parents for the first time and I think of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, who pleaded with God for just one child. I find my sadness is mixed with twinges of guilt, as if I am not fully appreciating the gift I have been given with the child I am watching grow before my eyes. I find myself on the verge of grief, but do not feel I deserve the right to grieve. After all, I have one really awesome kid.

Secondary infertility is fairly common, but still not well understood by most folks.  Many people just assume that if you have been able to have one child, then it makes sense that you would be able to have another. Some people assume you only had a desire for a single child. A few people make snide comments about parenting a single child, insinuating that you really don’t know what real parenting is about until you have two. Everyone seems to want to know when we are going to have another one. We’d like to know the answer to that question, too.

I managed to bury the sadness deep inside for a long time. I would tell myself how blessed we were to have Lily and that someday, when the time was right, we would blessed with #2. The defining moment when I recognized my own sadness over the situation occurred when I was reading Lily her bedtime stories and, out of nowhere, she said, “Mommy, I want a sister!” She thought about it a second and said, “Or I want a brother.” It was obvious she didn’t care which; she just wanted a sibling and I, more than anything, wanted to be able to provide her with that.

Until recently, I had once again managed to bury the sadness and the desire. We still had that desire to have a second child, but had only dabbled in fertility treatment. We decided to put our house on the market, forcing us to make the third bedroom an appealing space. Until that point, it was the storage room for all things baby. When Lily would outgrow something, it would go in that room. We had her nursery furniture, clothing, toys and everything else a couple would need to completely spoil their baby. I insisted we set the room up as a nursery to show the house so it would showcase the size of the bedroom. Somewhere inside, though, I made that decision because I could not bear the thought of moving the nursery furniture to storage. The crib and changing table and rocking chair mean so much more to me than showcasing a spacious room; to me, they represent a hope and a dream that we pray for daily. They represent just one more.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pray, Love: Finding Jesus

It was just after midnight and I was almost in bed when I heard Lily crying for her Baby Jesus. Lily names her babies after very important people in her life. We have babies named after her daddy, her great-uncle and her cousin. We have a baby bearing her first name, Lily and one bearing her middle name, Anna; not surprisingly, those are her prettiest babies. We also have a Baby Jonah and a doll who alternates between the names Doll and Jacy. The father to all these babies is a brown bear named Coco. For the record, there is no baby named Alison. Baby Jesus, however, has been a major player since her first birthday, when he simply went by the name "Da-Da".

It only took me a second to remember the last place I saw Baby Jesus. He was in the backyard, on the trampoline, next to her favorite pair of shoes. I put on my shoes, walked to the back door and flipped on the porch light. Nothing. The light was out. It is worth noting that Doug called me at work a few weeks ago to inform me that, during a sprinkler head repair, four (4!) snakes had been found in our backyard. I was so not excited about the trip to the trampoline, but my poor child was crying for her one and only Baby Jesus and I really wanted some sleep. I stood at the door, peered out at the trampoline and decided to make a run for it. Since I was a kid, I have had a theory that I don't let a lot of people in on; if you are running through a field of snakes, a high-knee sprint makes you practically invincible. On my trip out to the trampoline I nearly busted my chin with my right knee, but I am completely free of snake bites tonight. Baby Jesus was damp and cold, but Lily fell asleep the moment she curled up next to him.

I should not be surprised that my child can not keep up with her beloved babies. I had a similar problem. I was 5 years old when the Cabbage Patch dolls were a must-have item. By must-have, I mean that people were rioting in toy stores and waiting lists were put in place to control the crazy mommy mobs. My mom wanted me to have a Cabbage Patch Kid, so she went to great lengths to make sure I had one. It still had the "new smell" the day I took it outside to play (as any mother would) and ditched it in the backyard. The phone rang at our house and a kind neighbor on the next street over was calling to let us know her dog was using a Cabbage Patch Kid as a chew toy. I still have the doll. One of her arms is still hanging on by a single stitch, she has tooth marks on her eyes and some hair is missing. I wouldn't call her a collector's item by any means.

Should finding Baby Jesus on the trampoline at midnight really come as a surprise to me?

Because I tend to sit and think and procrastinate at bedtime, I could not help but think about the love of a parent. We love to give our children the things that make them happy. We will do almost anything for them, including running high-knee sprints through the backyard at midnight or going into a toy store war zone just to make sure they have a special toy. As I thought about this love, a scripture I have read my entire life took on a whole new meaning.

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. 11 Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
Luke 11:9-13
The love we have for our children bigger than we can imagine, but it pales in comparison to the love God has for each of us. We should ask, seek and knock with this in mind, knowing that God's love is greater than anything we could ever imagine. Our heavenly Father wants to give us the greatest gifts, gifts that are far beyond trinkets to make us happy. He wants to give us the gifts that bring us joy, peace and eternal life. Ask. Seek. Knock.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Love: Personality Plus!

I LOVE personality tests. When I picked up one of the teen fashion/love/whatever magazines growing up, I always loved taking the quizzes. That carried over into my college years and in my communication major I had the pleasure of taking a lot of quizzes about myself. I now realize that, while knowing about my own personality is important, it is so much more important to know more about the personalities of those I love.

A lot of time and money has been spent on personality research with varying results; however, it is almost universally understood that different personality types have different needs. Those needs make it so much more important to know about the personalities of those we love. If we know their personality type and know what their needs are, we can make a conscious effort to give them what they need when we interact with them. I am always most interested in introvert vs. extrovert, especially considering I grew up very close to my introvert brother and then married an introvert. I am off the charts on extrovert, so opposites definitely attract!

A friend of mine posted a helpful quiz on Facebook today (thanks, Kimberly!) and I thought I would pass it along. It is a personality quiz based on the Myers-Briggs (an abridged version) and can tell us so much about ourselves. Here is a link to the test:

Once you have identified yourself or others in your life as introverted or extroverted, the information below should be helpful!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Pray, Love: Every Good and Perfect Gift

"No, mama! I want the big present!"

This was the request of my 3 year-old daughter just seconds before she threw herself onto the floor in a fit of jealousy over her daddy's Valentine's present. I had picked her up from school as soon I finished my work day, then headed home so our family could exchange Valentines. She had a card, a small box of candy and a little gift bag containing something from Mommy and Daddy waiting for her on the coffee table. I had small box of candy, a card and a small jewelry-sized box waiting for me. Doug, however, had a big gift bag and a big box of candy to open and Lily just could not get over the fact that she did not get to open the big gift.

When the crying finally ended and she took a little time to cool off, Lily finally opened her gift. It was a necklace that she loved, complete with Hello Kitty holding a heart. Daddy's gift, on the other hand, was an iPod/iPhone/iPad dock, something she had absolutely no interest in possessing.

It's easy to look at the tantrum of a 3 year-old and laugh, particularly about the fact that preschoolers judge packages by size rather than content. I rolled my eyes and told Lily just how silly she was acting, but when I thought about it later I realized that I do the exact same thing on a much larger scale.

Jealousy is a spiritual poison, a catalyst for hatred and discord. Jealousy motivated Cain to murder Abel. (Genesis 4:1-8) Jealousy caused Joseph's brothers to justify selling him into slavery. (Genesis 37:18-36)  Jealousy drove Saul to hunt David in an attempt to end his life. (I Samuel 18:8-9) Jealousy prevents me from being the Christian I am called to be. Jealousy keeps me from appreciating the many blessings in my life, blessings that flow daily.

I look at those around me and sometimes find myself wishing I could trade blessings with them. I see their gift all wrapped up, and the package is bigger and prettier than the one I'm holding. I have a mature moment where I ask God to help me overcome the jealousy I am feeling, then I spend the rest of my time and energy being envious and pretending to be happy for them. I think the temptation of jealousy is greater today than ever before. We have social media at our fingertips and we love to post our blessings for others to see. We begin to build up certain expectations for our own lives based on the "pretty gifts" we are seeing in someone else's life. We become discontented. We become ungrateful. We become jealous. We become ineffective in the kingdom of God.

Why do we doubt God's wisdom in giving us these gifts and blessings in our lives? He knows just what we need and he gives us what is good.

"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" Matthew 7:11

God tells us he will give us the things we need, but so often we are begging for something different. Just as I knew the contents of Lily's gift bag, God knows the blessings He is giving us; God's blessings are exactly what we need. I pray I can do a better job of being thankful for gifts given to me, knowing the contents are as perfect as the Creator who has given them.

"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." James 1:17

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pray, Love: Being Still

Still. Quiet. It's that special time of day when my husband and daughter are in bed and it is just me, reflecting on the day. I am so tired after a long day, but this quiet time is something I will gladly take advantage of in lieu of sleep. I spent years running from the quiet, but now I savor it.

This by no means makes me an introvert. I have taken the Meyers-Briggs personality type indicator many times beteween trainings for work and college classes. I have experienced some changes in some of my ratings, but I am always off the charts on the "E". The first indicator rates you as either an extrovert or introvert and my sky-high score as an extrovert leaves no doubt that I love people. I get my energy from being with others, my husband and daughter included, and I am a person who really needs people.

That being said, I am so thankful to sit in this quiet house and spend time in reflection and thought. I will give thanks for a Godly, hardworking husband. I will give thanks for an adorable child with a giant smile and sweet personality. I will give thanks for the caring family with which I have been blessed. I will give thanks for the faithful congregation of the Lord's church where we worship. I will give thanks a job I love, where my hard work is rewarded with a fullfilment in the work we do. I will be thankful for the quiet, a quiet that I have spent the better part of my life taking for granted, even hating at times. I will give thanks for God's word, for the wisdom it holds, and for the recollection God gives me of his word so that in times like these I can think on the things that matter.

"Be still, and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:10
Being a mother has brought me so many blessings. My heart has grown larger than I ever knew possible. My time has grown more valuable than I ever expected. My plate is more full than I ever imagined it could be. My life has more moments of joy than I realized could be fit in to a day. For me, motherhood has taught me to appreciate the "be still" part of that scripture. When I am still, I know God's blessings, providence and guidance. When I am still, I remember the blessings. When I am still, I know He is here in our midst. When I am still, I know that nothing in this world is as important as my relationship with Him, and that everything will fall into place when I am still and I know God.
My quiet time ends and I head off to bed with a clear mind and a full heart, ready to start a new day after a little bit of rest. I peek my head in for one last reminder of why those hectic days mean as much as the still and quiet and say one last prayer of thanksgiving for a full life. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Eat: Low Carb-friendly Taco Soup

There is so much conflicting information out there about PCOS, but one thing most everyone can agree with is that a diet low in simple carbohydrates can be helpful. This is a favorite low-carb recipe for our family! It doesn't hurt that it is one of the simplest recipes in my collection.
Taco Soup
  • 1 lb lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup water + water as needed
  • 1 Taco Seasoning packet or 3 TBSP of your favorite taco seasoning (Here's my favorite!)
  • 2 cans Ro*tel tomatoes
  • 2 cans black beans
  • 1 (16oz.) package of frozen green beans (or fresh if you have them on hand)
  • Shredded Cheese (optional)
  • Diced Avocado (optional)

1. Brown meat with onion and garlic until meat is brown and onion is translucent.

2.Drain, if needed, then add taco seasoning and 3/4 cup water and cook over medium heat until water is nearly evaporated.

3.Pour the meat mixture into a large pot, then add the tomatoes and beans. If needed, add a little water to cover. Cover and cook on medium heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Top with cheese and avocados, then enjoy!

This soup freezes well and reheats well. If carbs are of no concern to you, adding corn and tortilla strips or chips to the soup will make it extra tasty!

PCOS: Polycystic Pinterest Board

I have started a Pinterest board with various PCOS educational items, nutritional tips and other articles of interest. I would love for you to follow my board!
Alison's PCOS Pinterest Board

Love: Don Williams, Pop, Mi-mommy and Me

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.'
Berthold Auerbach

Overwhelmed, exhausted and yearning for the long lost carefree days of my childhood, I sped down the interstate. I turned on the radio, hoping to take a mental break en route to yet another stop on a very busy work day. I was looking for music, but instead I tuned in just in time for a commercial break; the commercial break, it turned out, was just what I needed. It was an advertisement for an upcoming concert with Don Williams at the historic Paramount Theatre and my mind began moving in a direction far from the stresses of the daily grind. I reached into my purse and pulled out my iPod, then put Don Williams on shuffle.

The music of Don Williams always takes me back to another place and time, a world without worry or insecurity or deadlines. Don Williams takes me back to two of the most important people in my life, two people who always made me feel safe, important and fearless.

When I heard Don Williams sing, I found myself in the backseat of a white Mercury Grand Marquis riding along with Pop and Mi-mommy, my maternal grandparents, to eat a catfish lunch and do a little shopping. They played Don Williams to get a rise out of me and I pretended to hate every song to get a rise out of them. As the years went by, I would pretend to hate the music even more and they would become more and more amused at my disdain for Don Williams. I would turn up my nose and they would turn up the music. Spending time out with them involved so much more than listening to country music; I always ended the day feeling like I could do anything in this world because my grandparents told me I could.

I found myself sitting on the carpet at my aunt’s house on Christmas Eve, 1992. I was opening my gifts and I kept eyeing the cassette-sized package from Pop and Mi-mommy. I had been asking for George Strait’s Pure Country album for months and I was pretty sure that underneath that paper was a cassette tape containing the songs from my new favorite movie. I saved it for last and I looked up and saw my grandparents grinning from ear to ear, eagerly waiting for me to open it. I ripped the paper, only to look down and see Don Williams’ face staring back at me. Disappointed, I looked back up at Pop and Mi-mommy and watched their grins become laughter, then looked back down at my “Don Williams” album only to realize they had taped a Don Williams insert over the Pure Country tape. I joined in the laughter, not understanding until much later just how much blessed I was to have grandparents who were vivacious, jovial and so in tune with me.

I found myself dancing in my seat to the familiar intro of “Tulsa Time” and couldn’t help but imagine Pop driving along some highway somewhere across the USA, looking forward to being home with his family. He spent most of his work years as a pipeline welder for Local 798, based in Tulsa, OK. He traveled all over the United States to work the jobs that would best provide for his family, just waiting to set his watch back to Tulsa Time, which also happened to be the time zone in which his entire family resided. He worked very long days in dry deserts, humid coastal areas and even north of the Arctic Circle on the Alaskan Pipeline. He set such a wonderful example of work ethic for all of us and like so many other gifts given to me by my grandparents, it took years for me to realize what an impact it would have on my own life.

I found myself becoming more relaxed, the stress melting away, as I heard the opening lines of “Lord, I Hope This Day is Good.” I thought of the faith of my Mi-mommy, a great example of a Christian wife, mother, grandmother and friend. She trusted in God and His wisdom always seeking to live a life pleasing to Him. In the process, her faithfulness led her children, grandchildren and husband to Christ. Her entire being was wrapped around her faith in God and she spoke easily and freely of spiritual things. She was prayerful about every aspect of life and always asked in faith; her example will always be with me and I know that when I ask God for a good day, He is there to help me through.

By the time I reached my destination, I had listened to more than twenty Don Williams songs. I couldn’t stay in another time and place forever because I had appointments to make and deadlines to meet. I did, however, bring something back with me. I came back to the present feeling important, fearless, confident, upbeat, vivacious, jovial, faithful and ready to work hard. Although my Mi-mommy passed away nearly 4 years ago and my Pop is journeying through the foggy night of Alzheimer’s Disease, the memories I have continue to bless my life. Thank you, Pop. Thank you, Mi-mommy. Thank you, Don Williams.

Friday, February 1, 2013

PCOS: Let's do this!

Hi, my name is Alison and I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). There, I said it.  I have PCOS.

Until recently, only my husband, mother and maybe 2 close friends had any idea that I struggled with PCOS. It's not that I am ashamed to have PCOS, but stories of cyst-covered ovaries and infertility elicit sympathy and I have a serious complex about sympathy directed toward me. Perhaps I have a psychological problem or some childhood trauma buried deep inside, but I doubt it; it feels more like good, old-fashioned pride. I hate for someone to feel sorry for me. Oh, sure I like to feel sorry for others. After all, I grew up in a little corner of the world where Texas and the South collide head-on and I love to feel sorry for other people. "Oh, bless her heart," and "I sure do hate to hear that" roll off my tongue with such ease. I just don't want to have any heart blessing directed at me. My life is, for the most part, an open book, but only a handful of people know about my struggle with PCOS.

I started my period at age 13 and vividly remember the mixed emotions that came along with that. On one hand, I was excited to grow up. On another hand, I was moody and did not yet understand why. On yet another hand (I get as many hands as I want because I am talking about female hormonal issues), I was pretty upset because the night before my womanhood began I had talked my mom into this really cute Guess skirt and had plans to wear it church the next morning and I was extremely paranoid about this whole period thing. Everything seemed to go by the book, but 28 days later I was without a period. My periods came when they pleased, but I don't think I ever had more 4 in a year. I was in great shape, very athletic, but not so lean and muscular that amenorrhea should be a problem.

At 16 I took my first trip to the OB/GYN. Before long I was having ultrasounds and labs done to see just what was causing the irregular periods. I remember hearing something about polycystic ovaries, but I was not particularly worried. After all, I was not sexually active and only having to deal with periods and all that comes with them only a few times a year seemed like a winning idea. When I went to college, I began gaining weight. Along with the weight came a new PCOS symptom. I suddenly had acne, a problem I had managed to avoid in my high school years. I went on birth control pills throughout my 20s to trick my body and keep these symptoms in check and did not think much about it at all. My OB/GYN made it sound so simple. He told me to take the pills to keep things going, then some day when I was ready for a baby he could give me another handful of pills and we would be good.

I married my husband, Doug, when I was 28 on 07.07.07 and we did not want a child right away. I went on birth control for nearly a year and a half and stopped taking the pill in October 2008. I had my "period" from the last pack of pills during the first week of November and then waited for another period to creep up. By early February, I had still not started and decided to see my OB/GYN to ask for an injection or pills to induce a period. She told me we would need to wait 6 months following the last course of birth control to induce a period and sent me on my way.

On the morning of March 20, 2009, I rolled over in bed and my breasts were very sore. I decided to take a home pregnancy test and received a positive result. I drank about a gallon of water and took another test an hour later. It was still positive. I remember calling my doctor's office to get in for a blood test and answering that awkward question about my last period. Um, November? I was about six weeks along when we found out and on November 18, after a very uneventful pregnancy, I gave birth to Lily.

I packed on weight VERY easily when pregnant. I was unable to produce much milk (another PCOS symptom I later found) and was not able to exclusively breastfeed, so I hoped I would manage to have a period. I did not so we induced one with pills when Lily was 4 months old. I dieted, exercised and couldn't see to shed any weight.  When Lily was a little over a year, I stopped the pill and continued to try to lose weight with no success. I am writing this blog post two years later and I have not had a natural period since giving birth. In fact, in the 5 1/2 years I have been married, I have only ovulated once. On the positive side, our success rate on fertilization is 100%!

After about 6 months of dealing with infertility after Lily, I found a fabulous new doctor who helped me work on getting to the bottom of my problem. He showed me ultrasounds of my ovaries covered in "string of pearl" cysts and studied my labs carefully.  He referred me to an endocrinologist and I have learned so much about PCOS since then. I was prescribed Metformin, a drug generally used to treat diabetes and spent about a year and a half on Metformin and was actually able to drop a little weight with the help of that drug. Just recently, I started more in depth research about PCOS, hormonal imbalance and the processes of the body and have decided to take a more natural approach. This is where I will share my journey.

Doug and I would like to add another child to our family and I would like to do so as naturally as possible. I will combining exercise, nutrition and natural supplements in an attempt gently coerce my body to have a regular ovulatory cycle. If you are reading this, I hope it can help you in some way. All I ask of you is to pray with me as I embark on this journey!