Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Journey Starts Here...

So here we go! (warning: LONG POST!)...

My name is Heather and my husband and I have decided to try for our 2nd child. I have a 7 yr old little boy who is the most amazing blessing! I also have 4 stepchildren who don't live with us but I love as if they are my own. My first was conceived by accident so we had no idea that conceiving again would be so difficult! I'd like to share with you my journey in hopes that it will encourage others who are struggling not only with fertility but with other medical conditions that doctors tell you will make that 9 months pretty tough!

When I was 17, I began having severe back pain. Episodes that would last for 3 or more days of excruciating lower back pain, leaving me nearly immobile for long periods of time. I had no idea why I was having back trouble but assumed it was because I am tall. (6' to be exact) So to me, the fact that I grew so fast as a young teenager probably caused some issue with my discs and vertebrae being stretched too fast and in a short amount of time.

Well, 3 years later, the shock that I was pregnant at 19 overshadowed all my back trouble. I actually never thought about it the whole time I was pregnant, I somehow didn't have much back pain at all the entire 9 months. But, following the birth of my son, it all started up again. I was told I had Degenerative Disc Disease and all 3 bottom discs in my spine where deteriorating. DDD is a condition that most people encounter in their 60's and older due to gradual wear and tear and the natural aging process. Being told I had this at 21 years old make me think, if it's this bad now, how bad will it be when I'm much older? So that started my endless rounds of physical therapy, injections, and trips to every spine doctor in our area. Just to hear the same answer from all of them: "You are too young for surgery, wait a few years, do more therapy, technology is advancing fast and we want to wait on new procedures".  So it became something I just had to live with for now. Not fun but I've found exercise, acupuncture, and facet injections help alot.

Fast forward to last year when I noticed my middle toe was swelling and hurting like crazy. I thought maybe I'd been bit by something and it would go away but it only got worse. Spreading to the toes next to it and eventually all of them but one on both feet and my ankles. I saw multiple doctors for this as well, none of them had a clue what it was. I finally ended up at the rheumatologist...diagnosis: autoimmune disorder. Which one? We don't know yet. I realize that sounds crazy but apparently the nature of autoimmune diseases is such that symptoms are random and pinpointing which disease I have is pretty difficult. They know it is in the realm of Spondyloarthritic, which consists of either Psoriatic Arthritis (but I have no psoriasis), Crohn's, Ulcerative Colitis, and Ankylosing Spondylitis. Of these, my suspicions are either Ankylosing Spondylitis (due to my back issues) or Crohn's. Either way, my doc said I was considering having any more children, I better do it now.

So here we are, after all of this crazy mess, trying to have a baby! ....Only to find out, on top of all of my other medical issues, I have PCOS. It's a disease that so many women of child-bearing age fight with when it comes to fertility. PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome...meaning the ovaries produce too much testosterone and cause cysts to form. Even without cysts, PCOS still causes hormonal imbalances that make conceiving naturally very difficult.

A little back-story to my PCOS...I had the Mirena IUD for 5 years after I had my son, then got another one 3 months after having the first removed. During the first 3 months of the second IUD, my autoimmune condition was triggered. After having the IUD removed, my arthritis in my feet subsided completely. We still don't know if that was because the IUD was removed or if it was the medications my rheumatologist prescribed working. After researching the IUD extensively, I'm almost certain this was what caused my PCOS and autoimmune condition to be triggered. One, because any foreign object in the body can cause the immune system to malfunction, and two, I never had hormone problems or any abnormal periods before the IUD. Only after having it removed did my periods become ubelievably long (some as long as 17 days!) and heavy. After many trips to hormone doctors and my obgyn, PCOS was the final diagnosis, even though I have no cysts.

So that's my story in a nutshell (a rather large nutshell lol). While I know that 9 months will not be the bliss that many moms encounter, I am looking forward to it! My family is very worried about me due to my back problems and the fact that this will be my husband's 5th biological child (the financial burden..etc.) But, we have done alot of thinking and alot of praying and we feel that every child is a blessing and the chance to give our little boy another brother or sister to grow up with will be worth it. I hope that from here on out, I am able to encourage you, share as much as possible that may be useful to you in your own journey, and share my faith with you as well. Because no matter how big the mountain, God is bigger! Without a doubt, I know He will help us get through this journey and come out on the other side with an amazing blessing! And I know that He can do the same for you :-)

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