Angel of Mine

Nearly 7 months have passed and it still doesn’t feel real. Today, April 29, would’ve been your birthday. Instead of being in a hospital holding you in my arms, I sit here with tears in my eyes and a heaviness in my heart. I’ll never get to know who you would’ve turned out to be. I never got to see a sonogram picture or hear a heartbeat. I had many vivid dreams that you were a girl and while I never got actual proof of that, I know you would’ve been the most adorable baby anyone had ever seen. I hoped that you’d have your daddy’s blue eyes & light hair to go with the same outgoing, fun personality that we both have. I may not have had confirmation of your gender but I had a beautiful name in mind, should you have been the little girl in my dreams. You weren’t around long, but you changed your mommy & daddy’s life, as they knew it, forever. I may not know much for sure…but I do know that you were loved more than you can imagine.

Today marks the end of National Infertility Week. I am 1 in 4. This is by far the hardest blog I’ve ever written. I’ve made the attempt to type everything out & share this story several times over the last few months but I just couldn’t bring myself to write finish it. However, I know how isolating this feels and if sharing my story can help even one person out there to know they aren’t alone…it’s worth the pain it takes to write. After all, with experience comes knowledge & knowledge should shared.

I don’t cry as much these days but I still feel a sadness & emptiness inside. It’s a heaviness that’s hard to describe. I don’t have as many “bad” days and that may be due, in part, to the face that I’ve also come to realize that God may have, in fact, “known better.” As the weeks and months went by, I continued to feel physical pain in my lower abdomen which got progressively worse. After seeking help from two different doctors and having numerous tests, they found a polyp in my uterus which had to be removed via hysteroscopy. While there isn’t any way to know for sure, my doctor believes this could have led to my loss. I try to take comfort in knowing that my little one could’ve been harmed had it not happened. I also know that had it not happened I wouldn’t have investigated…and gotten answers to my on-going health issues.

Let’s back up. Throughout high school, I suffered tremendously every month. I had pain so bad that I would be doubled over in the nurse’s office, often leading to my going home. After high school, I had an episode of pain so bad that the college I was at in upstate NY thought I had appendicitis and rushed me to the ER. It wasn’t appendicitis and I was sent home. A few days later I went to a gynecologist who found cysts and after several tests, diagnosed me with PCOS. I was put on birth control and my symptoms were pretty much under control thereafter.

This past summer, despite birth control and all logic…I got pregnant. I was really scared. Not about having the baby…but about carrying it. I suffered a miscarriage in my early 20s, while on the birth control patch (why was that a thing?!) and combined with my age and PCOS…I knew it was a recipe for a repeat. Still, I did what I could to take care of myself. The pee-stick tests were all coming back negative (aside from one that had a very slight pink line) and a very early sonogram didn’t show anything. Why didn’t I go for a blood test? I don’t know. I thought a sonogram would be better…just in case I wasn’t actually pregnant. I was wrong. I had severe morning sickness and an adversion to coffee (of all things). I was also starting to get a little pooch and my boobs…well, they came back to life in the most painful way. I should’ve had the blood test to get the confirmation and extra care that I probably needed. I won’t lie – that has weighed heaviest on me. I genuinely thought that I was doing the right thing but maybe had we had the full confirmation, I could’ve been under a doctor’s care sooner & prevented what happened. I know that’s ridiculous and that ultimately these things can’t be prevented. Still, when you go through this type of loss you have feelings of guilt & genuinely blame yourself. It takes a long time to come to grips that there was really nothing you could’ve done.  Hell I still have days where I wonder if I could’ve done something different. That helpless feeling doesn’t make the situation any easier – it actually makes it worse. No one talks about that…but it’s real.

The reality of pregnancy was sinking in and I was getting really excited about this little one. Despite being so sick that I could barely eat or function normally, I knew it would be worth it in the end. Little did I know that the end..and my worst fear…would come just 8/9 weeks later. Early October came…and so did the bleeding. At first, it wasn’t a lot of blood so I didn’t think too much of it but within hours I was all but hemorrhaging. Knowing how the hospitals around me are..I waited it out a little. I figured if the bleeding slowed down, I’d be okay. The blood was extremely heavy, soaking through pad after pad. Still, I waited a little while. It didn’t totally slow down but within a few hours, it slowed enough to where I didn’t think that I needed to go. What I knew for sure was that it wasn’t a regular period by any means – especially when I saw the grayish mass. I knew what was happening. I was losing my baby.

A sonogram and blood test a couple of weeks later confirmed it. The weeks and months that followed were some of the hardest that I’ve ever had to go through. I put on my game face and went to work every single day but the minute I’d get in my car…I’d be inconsolable. Thankfully, I had a great support system/partner by my side through it all. I truly don’t know how I would have made it without him. The whole situation was hard on both of us, for very different reasons. The holidays, which came about a month later, were especially hard on me but once New Years came I made up my mind to not bring this sadness into 2018 and to give the guy…and myself…a break from it all.

Throughout this whole ordeal, I was experiencing dull to moderate pain in my lower abdomen. I didn’t think much of it, figuring this is what happens after a miscarriage sometimes. However, as the months went by, the pain got worse. I sought out a new doctor who, after 2 sonograms, told me I needed a hysteroscopy to remove a polyp in my uterus. Once removed, they would biopsy this polyp for cancer. That word completely shook me. We went ahead with the procedure and I was a nervous wreck. First I lose a baby…now a cancer scare. A couple of weeks later, I had another sonogram and follow up for my results. Thankfully, it wasn’t cancer. However, the pain persisted and while I do have cysts (common from my PCOS), they shouldn’t cause this much grief. My doctor sent me to another gynecologist who specializes in pain management, specifically that of pelvic pain & endometriosis. After a very thorough consultation and examination, she determined that I most likely have endometriosis. She even told me that my “appendix pain,” something that I’ve suffered with since the age of 18, was one of the most common and classic symptoms of a person with endo. She put me on a hormone treatment, which is essentially birth control but with progestin instead of estrogen. She also put me on a regimen of Aleve to manage my pain better. It’s her hope to prolong the surgery, or laparoscopy, as long as we can.

As far as the loss goes, I have been getting better everyday but now that the actual due date is here, I’m a mess all over again. Truth is, this shook me more than anything ever has. With every passing day and sharp pain that I feel, I worry that I may not be able to have babies at all. The doctors all feel otherwise, stating that getting pregnant is the hardest part and clearly I didn’t have that issue. However, I’m more concerned for my ability to carry the baby to term. There’s no way to even determine that…and it kills me. We’ve come so far in so many ways with medicine but we’re so behind in others. Women can suffer numerous losses and not have an explanation why…just because everything “looks good” or “shouldn’t be a problem.” It’s horrible.

Losing a baby at any stage of pregnancy is by far the hardest thing a woman has to face. What people don’t realize is that you form a bond with that baby immediately. Your body starts to change. You start making these plans and daydreaming about what your baby will look like & grow up to be. Then, in the blink of an eye, it’s over. Sometimes it feels like a bad dream that I can’t wake up from.

To anyone reading this, please know that you aren’t alone. Your feelings are valid – you aren’t crazy. Despite what you may think or feel…this really isn’t your fault. Most people, including your partner, can’t understand how this feels and while they may try to be supportive, it doesn’t make it better. Above all please remember, you don’t have to “get over it” until you are ready. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! The healing process differs for everyone and its no ones right to dictate how long that should take. Allow yourself time to be sad but don’t stop living. I have gone through the motions for months, living my life the way I always have. I know that one day things will feel normal again – and I look forward to that day for me…& for you.

Stay strong ❤

-Gina

*In loving memory of my angel baby, ‘Baby R’, and all of the other angel babies watching over us in Heaven*

The Ugly Truth Behind PCOS

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I am 1 in 10. I have a condition known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS. For many years, this was an unheard of & unspoken illness. While the internet can sometimes be the bane of my existence, it’s provided a lot of insight and comfort recently. It’s so helpful and awe-inspiring to see so many others in the same struggle. It’s had a terrible impact on the last 15 years of my life but before I get into my story, let’s shed some light on what PCOS actually is.

PCOS is a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels. 1 out of 10 women have this illness. Despite this ratio, experts believe that more than half of women with PCOS don’t even realize they have it. Women with PCOS have slightly higher levels of testosterone and androgen in the body than normal for the average woman. Despite the name, you may not necessarily have ovarian cysts. Symptoms can sometimes present themselves at the onset of a girl’s period; however, many won’t notice anything until they’ve gained a significant amount of weight or have trouble getting pregnant. In some cases, women don’t find out they have PCOS until after they have their first child. The most common symptoms are irregular periods, heavy bleeding, excess hair growth, acne, weight gain, male-pattern baldness, darkening of the skin, fatigue, and headaches. PCOS is also linked with chronic inflammation, which can leave you feeling achy, fatigued, and it contributes to weight gain.

Along with the myriad of symptoms, one of the biggest issues with PCOS is how it affects your ability to become and/or stay pregnant. In fact, it is the leading cause of female infertility. Between 70 and 80 percent of women with PCOS have fertility problems. This condition can also increase the risk of complication during pregnancy. Women with PCOS are twice as likely as women without the condition to deliver their baby prematurely. They’re also at greater risk for miscarriage, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes. However, hope is not lost. Having PCOS does not mean you will be incapable of becoming pregnant naturally; it just may take longer than others. Losing weight and lowering blood sugar levels can improve your odds of having a healthy pregnancy. Women with PCOS can also get pregnant using fertility treatments that improve ovulation.

There is no cure for PCOS; however, there are several medications and treatments your doctor may suggest. Medications such as birth control & metformin are often prescribed to reduce symptoms and/or regulate your period. Fertility medicines may also be recommended for those trying to become pregnant. Your doctor may require regular tests and follow up visits to be sure that the treatment/medication is working properly and to adjust if necessary. Some doctors may also recommend supplements, including berberine, folate, B12, vitamin D, and inositol. Regular exercise, healthy eating, and weight control are also key treatments for PCOS. Unfortunately, it can be more challenging to lose weight and to maintain weight loss with PCOS. Some recommended foods to avoid are foods that are high in refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and muffins, sugary snacks and drinks, and inflammatory foods, such as processed and red meats. Many women with PCOS often have higher than normal insulin levels. Doctors advise that just a slight weight reduction and increase of exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, seek help from your OB/GYN as soon as possible. The sooner you get help, the sooner you will be on the path to feeling better!

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MY STORY:


I am 1 in 10. Everyone has a story…this is mine. After suffering every single month throughout high school and falling very sick during my first semester of college, I sought help from a gynecologist. She diagnosed me soon after with PCOS at the age of 18. From then on, I was put on various birth control pills (and even that godawful…and pointless…patch) to try and regulate things. It has been mostly under control, except for my weight fluctuating like crazy, my face randomly breaking out like a teenager, and my period doing whatever it damn well pleases.

I do not have kids yet and am otherwise convinced that I won’t be able to have them. I have suffered two miscarriages – one in my very early 20s and another one recently.

I’ve recently come off birth control and I’m hoping to not go back on it. I’ve been on it for 15 years, barring a few months here and there where I was giving my body a break or where I didn’t have insurance. While it is helpful for many of my symptoms, it tends to stop my period and cause a bunch of other issues…which I don’t need. I plan on taking it day by day to see how my body reacts and if all goes well, I won’t go back on the pills. The goal, as always, is to feel good & live a better, healthier life.

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If you or someone you know is struggling, please know you are NOT alone. Feel free to contact me anytime through social media or via email – I’m always available to lend an understand ear.

Stay strong & stay in the fight

xoxo

Gina