IVF Positively Scary

I broke today.

Today was roughly 36 hours before I was scheduled to take my blood test to see if I am pregnant after our first round of IVF.

I found out recently that the drug that women are put on following implantation – progesterone of some sort – can delay or prevent a cycle from starting naturally. I had somehow become dependant on the idea that my body would naturally let me know either by my cycle showing up or not if I was pregnant. I’m lucky in that my body has always been reliable that way about giving me bad news.

When I realized the first time I might know that I was not pregnant would be from a nurse calling to tell me the results of blood work, I broke down and did what I said I was not going to do and took a home pregnancy test.

I was absolutely convinced that this was going to be negative. Absolutely.

It was positive.

I know this is the part where I’m supposed to be unbelievably excited, grateful, happy and overjoyed. Instead what I felt was sheer uncontrollable terror.

The problem is after a miscarriage, after a death in the family, after cancer, after celiac (okay not so much celiac) after so much loss it’s hard to believe anything good is going to happen. And, I still can’t bring myself to pin my hopes on this.

We still need the beta test results. I may be pregnant, but it could be a chemical pregnancy and we’ll get to week 7 and there will be no heart beat. The baby could easily die in the first trimester. The baby could still die in the second and third trimester. I know two women personally who had late term still births. And, as I write this one friend’s daughter who is only a couple of weeks old remains hospitalized.

There is a terror in me about loosing again. Wondering why I even tried again if I can’t face losing again. IVF is in some ways a lottery. The odds of success are less than 50% in most cases. We haven’t beaten those odds yet.

Infertility, miscarriage and death have taken away from me the ability to be hopeful and joyful about an early positive on a pregnancy test.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to celebrate this moment. When we get the beta numbers? When we hear the heart beat? When I feel the baby move? When I’ve given birth? After my child graduates? Or, has their own child.

I’ve spent my time on IVF forums and I see the women there excited and supportive of the women who do and do not make it. I feel selfish and parasitical not to be overjoyed at this moment that so many would love to have. But it’s not that simple for those that have lost. I know there are so many women who have gone through this multiple times. I can’t imagine the strength that takes.

I did manage eventually to move past the panic attack with big help from a couple of friends. For the next few week, at least, it’s one day at a time.

Recipe Review: Asian marinated beef spare ribs

I was lucky that when I was diagnosed with celiac disease I had already been on a rather severe elimination diet for about a year. This elimination diet excluded: grains, refined sugars, dairy and soy. For me, the easiest way to survive these restrictions (and ‘easy’ is not a good word here) was to learn the paleo diet.

It’s an odd dietary turn for me as a former vegan. I undeniably feel much better eating what is predominantly a paleo diet. However, I believe this is an individual thing.

Going paleo has not been the easiest thing ever. It’s been particularly hard for my husband who loves all things pasta, cake and sugar. So I was really glad to find some recipes he absolutely loves.

We registered for a slow cooker for out wedding – how traditional of us. Best kitchen appliance ever! If you don’t have one – go get one. It makes cooking super easy and amazingly tasty.

I haven’t cooked a lot of meat in my life, so when I tried this recipe for the first time and the bones literally fell out of the meat as I was taking it out of the slow cooker I was really worried. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything quite so tender in my life.

Except for grating the ginger this recipe is super easy to make. I use wheat-free tamari instead of coconut aminos. It goes great with roasted kale which I do with beats and garlic.

Ingredients

  • 4-6lbs Grass Fed Beef Short Ribs
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 3 tablespoons Coconut Aminos
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon siracha (or other hot sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • salt and pepper, to taste

http://paleomg.com/asian-marinated-crockpot-beef-spare-ribs/

Board Game Geek: Arkham Horror

arkhamhorror_2_big_bigAlthough we had never played Arkham Horror it had such amazing reviews from friends and online that we put it on our wedding registry. That an my husband is a huge Lovecraft fan.

Some of our gaming friend agreed to teach us with their set. Which, after we saw all the fiddly pieces, was a big time saver not to break out the new set.

NOTE: Must go by many ziploc bags. 700 pieces!! WTF!!

It’s a beautiful board and everything seems to make intuitive sense when you have someone who can explain the game well, as we did. There are however a zillion things to keep track of in terms of the doom track, monster track, when gates explode, the various ways you will probably lose the game, the semi-possible ways to win the game and the things each character can do and how they can help others.

We were lucky, we got a ‘mild’ elder god we also chose to have both the psychiatrist and the doctor as player characters which helped with the not-going-insane-and-dying bit. Also, thanks to friends who have played before we went with the goal of sealing the gates which worked out in our favour but it was really close.

For a first run we didn’t do the play in character bit. I think that might have been impossible given the sheer amount of things to remember – oh, yeah, the sliders – and just staying on top of the turn order.

I’m absolutely sure that the first time I run this game I’ll screw up the rules a few times. It was super helpful to have someone teach them… and bowls… get bowls for this game.

Celiac

CeliacBecause, what I needed was another diagnosis.

To be fair at least this diagnosis answers some questions in my life. I enjoy food. I’m food adventurous and might qualify as a foodie if I was inclined to use that term, but I’m not. Unfortunately, I’ve always existed with a certain amount of digestive problems. After 30+ years I had accepted that I was generally going to get mild to moderately and sometimes severely sick after eating.

After Sean passed I did a number on my digestive system by not eating for about two months and then discovering that you can’t simply start eating solid foods again after not having done so for a long time. Initially I was put on a the BRAT diet, and I reacted badly to it. Then I was put on a rather extreme version of an elimination diet which started off as clear liquids and after the first 12-weeks of working my way onto some solid foods basically became a paleo diet.

Paleo-Diet-2I should be very clear here that it was not prescribed as a paleo diet, however when I looked online for recipes that worked for the diet most of the recipes that fit in that category were from paleo blogs.

At the risk of sounding like the next prophet of paleo (which is not my goal), I felt much better on the paleo diet.

I initially decided this was because I was not eating dairy. In the past, even though I knew I had a mild milk allergy you would often hear me say but sometimes cheesecake is worth it! And, so for may years I attributed my digestive upset to cheating on my milk allergy. What always eluded me was why I would sometimes get very very sick after a meal with dairy and sometimes not at all.

Despite being fairly consistent with my new elimination diet I was still getting sick on a relatively frequent basis.

For hardcore paleo people this is where I’ll admit I was still eating things like soy sauce or using gravy because the diet I was put on wasn’t really paleo it was: no grains, no dairy, no soy, no refined sugars, yes vegetables, yes lean meats, yes fruits, yes nuts. I wasn’t really told anything about gluten or label reading at this point.

Food binned

All of the food we had to bin after finding out that I had to read labels for gluten content.

After almost a year on this diet and seeing some improvements but still having some problems I came across the term celiac disease, which was also linked to infertility. I asked my doctor to be tested. She agreed, although she cautioned that I may not have a positive result since the recommendation for Celiac screening is to be tested prior to removing gluten from the diet and my elimination diet would have removed most gluten from my diet.

The good and bad news is I’m definitely Celiac, and a very sensitive Celiac at that.

What is Celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a medical condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by a substance called gluten. This results in an inability of the body to absorb nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health.

Canadian Celiac Association

This explains a lot about my digestive problems over the years. I currently have some limited information based on what my doctor had available, using the Celiac disease sites and speaking to others with the diagnosis. I’ll get more information in July which was the earliest available appointment for a GI specialist.

What are the risks of having Celiac disease?

For a long time I viewed my digestive discomfort as a irritation, but not a serious problem. If left untreated however it can lead to some very serious problems.

In the short term there is the gas, bloating, stomach cramps and pain that I thought was simply ‘normal’ after eating and might be attributed to over eating. The words ‘comfortably full’ were not in my vocabulary.

Eventually you start to do sever damage to you intestinal track and start exhibiting signs of malnutrition, despite consuming the ‘right’ foods and vitamins.

You may also develop auto-immune disorders. It’s important to note that allergies are auto-immune disorders (something I didn’t know until recently).

In the long run you may need to have a portion of your intestines removed, and are at a substantially higher risk for colorectal cancer.

230px-Coeliac_pathWhy did you think you had Celiac disease?

WARNING: Gross factor, if you don’t want to read about disgusting symptoms skip this part and move on to treatment.

One of the barriers to me getting tested for Celiac disease was not wanting to talk to anyone about my digestive problems. I already had established a habit of minimizing my food intolerances socially through things like but sometimes cheesecake is worth it! And, I felt like talking about what was going on with me digestively was definitely (TMI) too much personal information and would make me sound like a hypochondriac.

The first and most prominent sign is that I felt somewhat sick almost every time I ate. I felt my best between meals and when I had not eaten for some time. I almost always planned to be home shortly after dinner since I knew eating out would usually make me sick.

On the mild end there was gas. Lots of it. GasX and the like really didn’t work. It also didn’t seem to be related to beans (yes, I tried beano), and cutting my dairy intake didn’t really resolve the problem.

There’s also bloating and severe cramping. The cramping would sometimes be much worse than even my worst menstrual cramps (sorry guys, I don’t have a better analogy).

In recent years I’d started to get a lot of diarrhea, to the point that i was very worried about having an accident.

Then I started getting the bloody-diarrhea, and that’s when I called the doctor. I guess “blood down there” is my line for when to go to the doctor.

I really wish I had known a lot more about Celiac much earlier on. I wish I knew that it wasn’t normal to feel sick or that gassy, bloated or cramped after a meal. But I didn’t. At least now I know why I had these symptoms.

celiac-dietWhat is the treatment for Celiac disease?

There is no cure for Celiac disease but it can be controlled by a strict adherence to a gluten free diet. As I recently found out this means reading a lot of labels. Things I never expected to have wheat in them do. Like soy sauce, or more surprisingly broth.

Why the fu*k does broth have wheat? This one bothered me for a long time until a friend that’s been very helpful in accommodating this new dietary restriction discovered that wheat is used for colouring in broth. Personally, I’d prefer to have my broth a little less golden yellow and not have to pay the extra $1.50 for gluten-free broth. Yes, yes I can make my own.

What is a Gluten Free Diet?

Avoid the following things:

Nutrition labeling can help. However, nutrition labels do not need to list all of their ingredients, only the major ingredients. For people like me who seem to react to gluten levels that may be below 20 parts per million I’m likely to encounter foods that may have trace amounts of gluten but are not included on the label. If you can find food that are marked as being prepared in a gluten-free facility these would be best.

Does this mean you can now eat rice, corn, soy, beans etc?

This is probably the most common question I get from friends who have been seeing me through this process. The short answer is: not yet.

It’s likely that some of the allergies I’ve developed over the years (pets, milk, pork, maybe soy) are a result of the Celiac disease and may get better with time.

At the moment I need to wait until I am in the care of a GI specialist who can help me with re-introductions to some of the foods that have been excluded. I’m hoping I’ll get many of them back but realize it will be a long process. They will likely need to be introduced one at a time with wait periods in between. They were also excluded because they’re considered “hard to digest” foods so I may have trouble re-introducing them.

So, what can you eat?

Again, without sounding like an add for the paleo diet, almost everything paleo has worked out for me.

Here are some recipe blogs I love:
Everyday Paleo
Paleo OMG
NomNomPaleo

I’ve had some suggestions to return to a vegetarian / vegan diet. I will be the first to admit that when I did try to eat vegetarian / vegan for the better part of my life, I did it mostly wrong. I was more of a starch-a-tarian than a vegetarian. That being said, I find the heavy reliance on soy (which I don’t seem to react well to) and many grains including wheat to be difficult for me to navigate around. Although not impossible it’s just a lot more work to modify recipes.

Here is one great vegan-celiac blog I like ( recommend subscribing by RSS because the blog itself is sorta weird to navigate):

vegiac

What’s next?

Hopefully this is it for medical curve balls this year. I’m glad I have a diagnosis and I’m learning to navigate a gluten-free lifestyle. I’m looking forward to getting a doctor that will hopefully have more information on Celiac disease and help me with the re-introduction of some foods.

Board Game Geek: Uchronia

uchroniaOur informal board game group decided to play Uchronia this month. It’s a card-based strategy game where you compete with each other to build, and through building accumulate victory points.

As a first play-through I found it confusing for the first couple of rounds, but then as soon as someone got their first building it made sense really really fast. There’s a lot of moving parts at first, you have your hand which will allow you to take different actions: production, exploration, draconians (screw people over), trade and construction. You will discard cards during your turn into the forum which becomes a stock people can pick up from. Then you need to keep track of your stock vs. your activities and figure out how to pick up extra actions vs. saving for construction and watch out what special powers people are picking up as they pick up buildings.

uchronia 1851Once I figured it out this was an extraordinarily fun game. Because of the variety of buildings, advantages through constructing buildings and variability of player combinations and cards and forum it’s likely to be a somewhat new game each time. Definitely one I’m considering buying.