The health changes I experienced in 2013 were beyond my wildest dreams. Looking back I am truly amazed at all that has happened. That being said it was a very painful and challenging process. And one of the hardest parts was that it was out of my control. God knew what I needed. Even if it took heartache to get there.
There is so much to share. I’m not even sure how to capture it all. So I’ll go through the year one month at a time. This is my story of a year of healing. There was no magic secret. No one thing I did to cause change. But I did learn a lot. Today I’ll share how the year went. And soon I’ll be sharing everything I learned in the process.
I started 2013 quite unhealthy. I was nursing a 20-month old (quite draining on an already undernourished body…with no break from fertility treatments to pregnancy to almost 2 years of nursing). I was sleeping about 5-6 hours a night, always interrupted. My diet was quite restricted. Although I was gradually trying to add foods back into my diet after almost a year trying GAPS, I was still scared to eat. I exercised daily, more than I should for the state of my health. And it was always cardio. I was stressed both physically and mentally. I knew I was not healthy. I knew I wanted change. But I didn’t want to give up control.
I decided to see a new doctor. She ran tons of tests. The results? I had lots of food intolerances, candida, high cortisol, low mineral levels and heavy metals. She had a laundry list of foods to avoid, supplements to take, etc. If I wasn’t stressed enough before, now I was more anxious than ever. But I took the supplements and adjusted my diet once again to see if it would help. I started a rotational diet to try to eliminate some food intolerances. It was not easy.
But I kept going. I wanted to be healthy. In the back of my mind I knew I wanted to prepare my body for another round of IVF and hopefully another pregnancy. It was the thing that kept me going.
In February I made a big change that would have a huge impact on my health for the rest of the year. I had been diagnosed as hypothyroid in 2006 and had been on Synthroid ever since. After research I took it upon myself to get my doctor to prescribe me Armour Thyroid instead, a natural form of thyroid hormones. I was very hopeful that it would be a good fit. I started at a very low dose since I was on a low dose of Synthroid.
I also stopped nursing. I wanted to give my body 3 months of break before starting fertility treatments again. It had been 6 1/2 years since I had given my body a break from fertility treatments, pregnancy or nursing. And I wondered why my body was undernourished. Sheesh.
In March I gained a few pounds. It was my body’s response to not nursing anymore. I also had bloodwork done to check my thyroid and my reproductive hormones. I was curious where I was at. My thyroid levels came back pretty normal. My free T3 was actually a little high. I now know that is a sign of adrenal problems. But my doctor said they looked fine. So I figured that was taken care of and the switch to Armour was a success. And I didn’t give it another thought.
Unfortunately my hormone levels were not so normal. Both my estrogen and progesterone levels were basically the same as that of a 10 year old girl. Non-existent. Not good when you’re wanting to get pregnant. But I knew we were doing another round of IVF regardless (which doesn’t require my body to do anything on its own). So it was one more thing to think about down the road.
In April life was fairly normal. I was still sticking to my rotational diet. I was trying to make gradual health changes like getting more sleep.
We also had our consult with the fertility doctor and got our schedule and medications.
May is when life started to get crazy. And the journey that I never dreamed I’d be on began. I started my progesterone pills to induce a period and start the IVF process.
A few days after starting we received a letter from our fertility specialist. He was ill and had to retire immediately. And that was that. What now?? We were hopeful about things to come. We were just getting started. And now what?
Thankfully we have two endocrinologists here. So we had to immediately get in to see a brand new doctor. He was able to squeeze us in to his schedule so we didn’t have to stop and wait. But he knew nothing about our history/our story. And it added a lot of stress for me.
The following week I started my estrogen pills to prepare my uterus for the IVF transfer. Little did I know that the simple act of taking a pill would be the start of both my heartache and my healing. I had done this before many times. Take estrogen, then progesterone, then do the transfer and wait. But this time it was different.
Within days of starting the estrogen pills I started to gain weight. I had done enough research to know a little about estrogen dominance. So I figured it was just a temporary thing while I was on the high dose of estrogen for a few days. And my weight did go back down a few pounds after decreasing the estrogen and starting progesterone. So I figured that was it.
A few months later I went back and read the information that comes with the estrogen pills. It specifically says your thyroid medication dose may have to be adjusted when taking them. But my doctor never even asked about my thyroid. And I was on the new medication…and would later find out I was not on the correct dose. All of that combined was the perfect combination for what was to come.
On June 1 we transferred our 3 remaining embryos that had survived the thaw. That was it. Our last chance. Over the next two weeks I waited and rested. I felt awful. But I had been down this road before. I knew that the hormones I was on made me feel like I was pregnant. So symptoms didn’t mean much.
On June 11 I had my first pregnancy test. It was positive. We were overjoyed and relieved. Our final chance had worked. Our family would be complete. And we would be done with fertility treatments forever.
On June 24 we had our first ultrasound. It was too early to see a heartbeat, so there wasn’t much to see.
On June 28 I had pain and spotting. I had another ultrasound that was inconclusive. Another hcg check showed that my levels were barely rising.
On July 1 I had my final ultrasound where the doctor confirmed that it was a blighted ovum and not a viable pregnancy. I stopped the hormones and waited for the miscarriage. I expected it to take a week or two for things to complete. And then I’d work on healing.
What I didn’t expect was that the bleeding continued into early August. Over a month. It was pure torture to be reminded day after day after day of what would not be.
In addition I continued to gain weight. At a check up to make sure things were ok I asked the doctor about the uncontrollable weight gain. His response was that I was probably eating more or exercising less than I realized. Not much of an answer. More like a brush off.
What the doctor should have told me was that my thyroid was messed up. But he just dismissed me with no answer. It took me almost 5 months researching and experimenting on my own to figure it out.
One very positive and critical step I made during July was that I started tracking my daily basal body temperature. Little did I know that one simple thing like checking my temperature each morning would be key to assessing my health and becoming pregnant. I knew body temperature related to health. But I didn’t know about its relation to hormonal cycles.
In early August the miscarriage finally ended. In hind sight I know that the extended bleeding was due to my messed up estrogen, progesterone and thyroid levels. Again, I had to figure that out on my own.
I had a lot of bloodwork done to check for any autoimmune issues or genetic reasons for miscarriage. It all came back normal. I also had my estrogen levels checked. It was now up to 42. It was in the normal range.
Part way through the month I had more spotting due to my fluctuating hormones.
My weight was also still going up. By the end of August I decided to stop weighing myself. I couldn’t handle watching it go up day after day. And I was hitting a low emotionally. I wasn’t pregnant. And now I had no energy and had gained over twenty pounds. I also had severe swelling in my legs and constant pain when I stood for more than a few minutes.
At the time I figured the swelling, water retention and weight gain was my body’s response to years of disordered eating. So I just waited. I figured it would work itself out in a month or two.
By September I had one goal – getting healthy. I thought it was possible to heal my body and get my reproductive system working again. I was studying anything I could find about balancing hormones. I was still checking my basal body temperature every morning to monitor how things were going. And to my amazement the first week of September I ovulated on my own for the first time in ten years! I felt a new sense of hope.
Although this was so exciting I was still very swollen and in pain. My weight continued to increase. And I was very worn out.
In October I started seeing a chiropractor for the first time. I have had scoliosis since I was a teenager, but never did anything about it. I thought it might help balance my body to deal with that. So I started to go to the chiro twice a week.
I was charting my temperatures and trying to predict when I might ovulate again. This was almost impossible to do since nothing was regular about my body. But about 4 weeks after I had last ovulated I thought I might have ovulated again. So I had my hormone levels checked.
I was very disappointed to hear that my estrogen was 47 (about the same as before) and my progesterone was 0.6…still non-existent. In other words, I didn’t ovulate. And my hormones were still very low.
So I kept researching and kept checking my temperature. Two weeks after I had thought I ovulated…I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had ovulated again. It wasn’t just a one time fluke. My body was really trying to work. Although not on schedule yet.
Again I had my hormone levels checked. To my great joy I got much better results. My estrogen was 121. And my progesterone was now 15.4! In the normal range for after ovulation. My body was actually making hormones!!
By November I was getting excited that I was on the right track. I had ovulated twice. My cycles were a little longer than normal, but not too bad.
On the down side my weight was still quite high. I still had a bloated abdomen, swollen legs and pain every day. I was still tired. I knew that something still was not right. I had experimented with my diet. But that didn’t seem to make a difference. I wasn’t eating any more than I used to. I was still exercising daily. But nothing changed.
I read and researched and read and researched. Finally. God gave me the answer I had been looking for. It was my thyroid. I don’t even remember what I read or what made me think of it. But I figured out that I was on the wrong dose of Armour Thyroid.
I called my doctor and she said it was ok to increase my dose. I started increasing it immediately and hoped I’d notice a difference.
With all of my research I also realized that I had been taking the medication incorrectly the whole time. So I started making sure I was taking it properly – chewing instead of just swallowing the pills, at least 4 hours apart from any vitamins and splitting my dose into two parts so I would have some in my system all day.
I also figured out that millet is one of the strongest goitrogenic foods…which are horrible for people with thyroid problems. The gluten free bread I had been eating daily had millet as the first ingredient. So I stopped eating it. All of these changes combined started my body on the right track to finally feeling better.
On the other hand I was discouraged that I had gone over a month and not ovulated again. My cycles were getting longer instead of shorter. I started to worry that things were getting worse instead of better with my reproductive system. But I kept charting my temperatures and tried to predict when I might ovulate.
The last week of November I thought ovulation was coming. My body temperature was good. All the signs were there. So for the first time in our 10 years of marriage my husband and I decided to actively try to conceive.
We knew it was not likely to happen. Especially since we have both male and female factor. But we figured it wouldn’t hurt to try. So we gave it a go for the week before I thought I would ovulate.
On December 1 I did ovulate. I was just excited to actually ovulate again. And was happy that we would be able to try to conceive over the next few months with an actual chance of it working, although very slim chance. We knew that even if my body was working we still had the male factor that was a big unknown.
I also talked to my doctor and increased my Armour dose again since I still wasn’t seeing major signs of improvement.
Life was super busy. So I was going, going. By December 12 I was excited that I had not started my period yet. That meant I did not have a short luteal phase. One more step in the right direction to getting my body healthy. My cycles were not regular, but when I did ovulate at least things seemed normal.
Around December 13 I expected a new cycle to start. But the day came and went with nothing. December 14 I was sure things would start any time. But the day came and went with nothing. I decided to give it one more day. I had ovulated on December 1. So surely by the 15th things would start. But the day came and went with nothing.
December 16 I woke up with a still very high body temperature (actually my highest ever for post-ovulation – 99.75!). And I got to do something I never thought I would do. I took a home pregnancy test. And it was instantly positive. I was in complete shock…and so was my husband. Could this really be happening?!? I don’t even remember how long it took me to stop shaking. The rest of that day was kind of a blur.
I called my OB that day to get a blood test to confirm. To my complete amazement my hcg level came back at 611 (higher than the normal range for 4 weeks pregnant). I was also shocked to hear that my progesterone level was 25.4…on the high end of the range for the first trimester of pregnancy.
Not only did we conceive on the first try. But my hormone levels were more than adequate to sustain a pregnancy. No pills, no shots, no procedures, no nothing. I didn’t have to supplement progesterone. My body was doing it all on its own. This is what “normal” pregnancy is like? It didn’t feel real since I wasn’t going to doctors and giving myself daily shots.
Two days later I had another hcg check to make sure the levels were rising. This time it was 1352. Perfect. Everything looked good. But I’ve been down this road before. I know there is a lot that can happen early on.
I hoped and prayed and did my best to trust that this was God’s plan. This was God’s little miracle for us. And I knew that He was taking care of this baby. And that God would get all the glory.
Yes, I went through a LOT this year. Yes, I had to go through a lot of struggle. Yes, I had to keep pushing myself day after day. Yes, there were a lot of small steps I made that added up to big change.
But none of it was really my doing. It was not in my control. It was only by the grace of God that this little miracle was created.
On December 31 I had my second ultrasound. And I saw the most amazing sight. A tiny little baby with a tiny little heartbeat. What a way to end my 2013.
I have been waiting years to write a post like this. I had always hoped I could share a story of real food, real healing, real hope and real faith. And now it has finally come. 2013 was my year of trials, perseverance and miracles. God is good.
Be sure to come back soon and see what all of this has taught me about health and healing. I’ll be sharing what I learned in 2013.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21