I Skipped My First Baby Shower…And I Don’t Feel Guilty

In the infertility world, we talk a lot about doing what’s best for you to make it through this crazy journey. This was the first time I truly did what was best for me no matter how anyone else felt about it.

I skipped a friend’s baby shower. I never thought I would be one of those. But I am. I was, and I don’t feel bad about it.

March was our first IVF. The ultimate result was a fail. Our embryos didn’t make it to blastocyst (stopped growing on day five), and I was caught of guard and a little depressed. OK, a lot depressed, but that’s a story for another post.

Up until this point, I would say I was pretty positive

Insert our friends and their pregnancy.

This is a couple we have done a lot of things with: Date nights,Birthday Parties, Game Nights, Cookouts, Weddings, Critiquing other friends’ girlfriends/boyfriends. We even got engaged within a few weeks of each other, and married in the same year.

We did a lot together…except get pregnant. Of course they have no idea about our struggle. When I first heard the news about the pregnancy, I had that mixed feeling many of us know all too well of happiness and despair. Excitement and panic. Joy and pain. (no sunshine or rain)

Once we got the announcement around the holidays, I started stressing about the shower. I knew it was coming because we saw one of the grandmas-to-be at another event, and she told me the date they had in mind for the shower.

I went back and forth in my mind about going, months before it even happened. Eventually, the invite came and it got real. It was a co-ed shower, so both hubby and I were invited. He was an emphatic “Yes”. I was still undecided.  I felt bad, but I had to pop his bubble a bit and ask him if he was prepared for questions about us having a baby. We had just found out about or failed IVF cycle a few weeks before and were still processing. I know men handle this differently, but they do have feelings. I didn’t want him to be caught off guard when someone asked and he was triggered. I had to remind him its a little different now, and that he may feel some time of way when someone says “You two are next!” I’ve become an expert. He’s still a rookie in these type of interactions.

He said he’d be fine. The real question was if I was going to go.

“Put me down as ‘yes’ for now, but I’m not sure.”

The weeks passed, and finally we’re at the week of the shower. I was still on the fence. We needed a gift, so of course I volunteered to stop at Target after work to pick up some items off the registry.

I always like to give books as part of a baby’s gift. I like books, and I want to create little readers. Plus, reading is great bonding time with parents and kids. I went into the book section, looking for some of my favorites; The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Green Eggs and Ham, but I’m always looking for new books.

That’s when I found Wish. I vaguely remembered someone on Instagram mentioning the book. I opened it and started to read…and started to cry in the Target. In the children’s book aisle.

The plot:

As an elephant couple embark on a life together, thoughts of children are far away-at first. But as the desire for a child grows, so do unexpected challenges. And it’s only after thwarted plans and bitter disappointment that their deepest wish miraculously comes true.

So there I am, reading this sweet book, and tears running down my face. That decided it: I. Wasn’t. Ready. Cute onesies, bibs and blankets are one thing, but an amazing children’s book about how Mommy and Daddy had to suffer and fight to have you: Waterworks.

I knew If I couldn’t read that book and keep it together in a Target, the chances of me making it through a shower were slim.

I went home, wrapped the gifts, and told my husband I wasn’t going.

“What do you want me to say?”

I didn’t have to think long because I did have an out. I had a meeting, then a little fellowship afterwards.  They didn’t know that I could leave or skip it all together if I wanted. Perfect! “I have chapter meeting, and it’s an important one.  I won’t be done in time to  ride down with you.” (They live about a two hours away)

Hubby went, and by all reports and pictures posted to Facebook, the shower was great.

As for me, I did what I wanted that day, and I felt not one drop of guilt. I’d rather have people slightly disappointed that I wasn’t there, than for me to be uncomfortable, on edge, wrestling my emotions, and recycling one of my canned responses to when we’ll have kids or why I ‘m not pregnant.

At some point, you have to choose you. Sometimes that looks like selfishness, being disengaged, or a party pooper to others.

But if they only knew the real story…….

 

 

If you’re interested in purchasing Wish by Matthew Cordell, for you or a friend, you can do so  here.

 

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8 Things You Need to Know about your IVF Protocol that No One Told You

Hi Maybes!

I’ve been a little quiet because…..I just finished my first  protocol for egg retrieval. We’re going to freeze and transfer in a few months once we get this thin lining resolved.

Updates on my cycle soon to come.

Having just finished the whole processes of stimulation and retrieval, I feel like there are things no one told me,practical things, that I never knew, so I’m going to share a few things I think might be useful to know before your start.

Step. Your. Sock. Game. UP
Seriously. You will be in the stirrups more in these 10-12 days then you probably have been in all of your adult life. Give yourself a boost of confidence. Give your doctor and staff something fun to look at. Keep them guessing.  Wear fun socks. Trust me on this.

Drink A Lot of Water

Why? Because you will have blood drawn every time you go in. Every. Time. You’ll feel like a pin cushion. If you’re like me (and hopefully you’re not), and have small and hard to find veins, drinking lots of water will help you a lot. Even if you’re a standard blood draw, being well hydrated makes your veins plumper and easier to find. It will make this part of the appointment go a little bit smoother.

My arm on day one of monitoring…
One of my arms on the last day of monitoring.

Give yourself an extra 5 minutes your first dose day

When taking your injections , its important that you dose at the same time every day, or as close as possible.  On your first day, or your first day adding a new medication, give yourself an extra five minutes, especially if its something like Menopur, that has to be mixed by you.

It can be a little cumbersome sorting out all of your needles and viles, mixing, and measuring. Add in at least a one minute pep talk to yourself the very first day to hype yourself up to stab yourself with a needle.

On that note….

PM dosing

The needles for the injections are not that bad

They really are thin, tiny needles. Unless you have a real fear of needles, you’ll be a pro at jabbing yourself after about three doses. Except for the trigger shot. THAT needle is longer, and a little wider, but it goes in your butt, not your tummy, and is intramuscular, going into muscle, so it needs a little more length and needs to be a little wider. Its all relative, because non of these needles in more than a few millimeters across.

For this process, a little tummy fat is a good thing!

Many of the stimulation meds are given subcutaneously, meaning under the skin. Usually you have to pinch an area of skin/fat on your abdomen. If you have a lil extra there, it will be a good for these purposes for this.

You can’t be Shy (because you may have to do your shots in a public space)

If you follow me on Instagram, you saw me post about my first public dosing. Long story short: I had the bathroom all to myself, them someone came in. With her nosey self, she lingered around, taking forever to wash her hands and re-applying her lip stick oh so meticulously, to see what I would be doing since by that point I had my supplies laid out. After a while I just said “F it! She gon’ learn today ” and proceeded with my shots.

I had 2 more times I had to dose in public restrooms. Fortunately, there was room and shelf (or shelf like) space in the stall where I was able to have more privacy. Except for the lady at the road stop that was telling me her whole life story from the other stall….

Bloat. All of the bloating. And Gas

I’m telling you because I love you. After a few days of stimulation meds, you will be a little bloated, OK, a lot bloated. And gassy. You’ll feel the pressure and heaviness of those enlarged ovaries (which is great!), but it makes you feel very bloated and full.  Your injection areas will be a little swollen as well. Its uncomfortable, but manageable.

 

Your mind will be a little foggy. You will have emotions and moods

This is commonly said, but I wanted to clarify. For me, it wasn’t the violent, quick, up and down mood swings, it was little things. I cried about something every day the first five days. Things that would usually just annoy me, made me really pissed off.  Things that wouldn’t bother me at all made me upset. It’s like PMS turned up a little. There were times in the middle of an emotional moment, I said to myself “why am I crying?” or “What is wrong with me?” I was very on edge.

The fogginess, I imagine is similar to what pregnant women call “pregnancy brain”. I just didn’t feel like myself. I forgot a lot. I felt like I was operating out of body a lot of the  time. It was just a general lethargy and sluggishness I fought through pretty much every day once things really go going. Some of it may not have been the meds, but also the overwhelmingness and newness of starting my first IVF cycle, and all that it meant. Just know that you will be in a strange head space, rather its med induced or not.

*Bonus Don’t call new people you meet by the name brand of one of your meds

This seriously happened to me, but I didn’t say it to his face. A group of my friends and I had just met some new people, and later I was trying to remember one guy’s name. It had a “V” and an “L”  in it somewhere. I said this with all seriousness:

Me: What was his name? Vivelle? Oh wait, that’s my estrogen patch.

 

 

 

Girl! You LookGood! (But at what cost) Mystery of Fibroids Pt 2: Beauty Products

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Whatever you do, who ever you are as a woman, you use some type of beauty products every day: Make up, relaxers, nail polish, lotion, hair spray, wax, powder,deodorant…..

But most of these items contain chemicals that can be dangerous to our health with long term exposure, even in small doses.

Talcum powder has been in the news a lot lately because of questions of cancer in women and in workers who mine talc. (Find out more here.)

Most women already know about formaldehyde and the possible link to cancer in nail polish, and other beauty products, like the Brazilian Blowout that was popular a few years ago. (here)

The question is though, do any of these beauty and health products cause or contribute to fibroids?

I’d like to preface this by saying that I am not a scientist. (though I was good at biology in high school, if that counts for anything) I’m just a woman with a little bit of time, and access to great wifi who wants answers, and wants to share the answers with you.

Let’s start with the mother of beauty products for many Black women: The Relaxer

For those of you who may not know:

A relaxer is a type of lotion or cream generally used by people with tight curls or very curly hair which makes hair easier to straighten by chemically “relaxing” the natural curls. The active agent is usually a strong alkali, although some formulations are based on ammonium thioglycolate instead.

-via Wikipedia

A relaxer is applied to “new growth” every 6-8 weeks to straighten the roots.

You can also watch this clip from Chris Rock’s Good Hair, where he explores relaxers, their frequency in the Black community, and an experiment with a chemist. Prince jokes aside, its a great way to gain an understanding of relaxers.

 In the last few years, many black women have decided to “go natural”, ditching perms and opting to wear their hair in its naturally curly or kinky state, or using heat to straighten instead of chemicals. Many women made this choice because it seems healthier, and part of that is the possible link to relaxers and uterine fibroids.

The rumor that relaxers, and other Black hair care products, may be linked to the higher rates of uterine fibroids in Black women has be circulating for a while. But is there any truth to this?

The most often sited study is this 2012 American Journal of Epidemiology study. The study is ongoing, and surveys 59,000 Black women 21–69 years old. The participants from around the country are asked to update their medical information and complete a survey every two years.  The study tracks various items, relaxer usage being one of them, by sending additional questionnaires for those who have been diagnosed with fibroids, and confirmed via ultrasound or other means. For the relaxer/fibroids portion, the researchers premise was: “Hair relaxers are used by millions of black women, possibly exposing them to various chemicals through scalp lesions and burns.”

Hair relaxers (straighteners) have been used by millions of US black women, often for long periods of time (6). Hair relaxers can cause burns and lesions in the scalp, facilitating entry of hair relaxer constituents into the body (714). The main ingredient of “lye” relaxers is sodium hydroxide; no-lye relaxers contain calcium hydroxide and guanidine carbonate, and “thio” relaxers contain thioglycolic acid salts (15). No-lye relaxers are advertised to cause fewer scalp lesions and burns than lye relaxers, but there is little evidence to support this claim (16). Products may also contain hormonally active compounds (17), such as phthalates, which are not required to be listed separately as ingredients and are often reported under the term “fragrances” or “perfume” (18). Cosmetic products are not subject to premarket approval by the Food and Drug Administration, and a complete list of ingredients is not mandatory (19), making it unclear what types of chemicals they contain. However, because the vast majority of hair relaxers list “fragrance” as an ingredient, and 100% of popular fragrances tested in a 2002 study were found to contain phthalates (18, 20), most hair relaxers likely contain these chemicals. In addition, some hair relaxer products directly list phthalates as one of their chemical ingredients (21).

 We’ll get more into phthalates later….Trust me. You need to know about them.

But the basic question is are Black women being exposed to harmful chemicals more and are the being absorbed quicker into the body via scalp burns?

Their conclusion:

In this large population of premenopausal US black women, we observed increased risks of uterine leiomyomata in association with ever use of hair relaxers, duration of use, frequency of use, and total number of burns experienced during use.

There’s a lot more to this study, and there are other studies out there, if you want to learn more. Please read the full study linked above as well as these articles/studies:

Journal of Women’s Health

Scientific American (a Black woman scientists take on some of the research out there)

Now if you can still hang with me I’ve got more. This is a long post, something I try to avoid, but its necessary sometimes.

Lotions, Shampoos, Soaps, Make Up

Above, there is a mention of phthalates.

What the f*** is a phthalate? (Pronounced phthal·ate )

I’m glad you asked.

Phthalates are a sort of plastic, and it is used in all types of  products, from CDs and toys to nail polish and hairsprays, and literally everything in between. Phthalates make plastics more flexible and durable. In beauty products, it is used to  make things less stiff and prevent cracking. On a label, phthalates are usually listed as: phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP, or fragrance.

This chemical can be found in many beauty product we often use like body washes, or perfumed lotions, deodorant, (basically anything that has a smell to it), and nail polish. The use of phthalates in cosmetics is banned in Europe, but still 100% OK here in the US. This chemical is so common in so many daily products (not just beauty products), that many of us have detectable amounts of the chemical in our body, and, they can be passed on from mother to child.

But phthalates are not alone.

They have a buddy: parabens

Parabens are often used a a preservative in cosmetic products, such as shampoo, toothpaste, lubricants (ex: KY Jelly), shaving gel, and spray tan solution. There is often more than one type of paraben in a product. Parabens on a product label are usually listed as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or benzylparaben.

Parabens and Phthalates: Best Buds!
Parabens and Phthalates: Best Buds!

Phthalates and parabens do not need to work together, and they may not always be in products together, but very often when you see one, there is the other.

Now what is it about Parabens and Phthalates that is so bad? Well, they are both endocrine disruptors.  Endocrine Disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system, and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. (National Institutes of Health)

The ednocrine system is what produces hormones. Any system in the body controlled or affected by hormones could be impacted.

Getting the connection? Fibroids linked to increased levels of estrogen, natural hormone production possibly being interfered with by chemicals……

The problem is these two are in pretty much everything we use, including various beauty products. Many women are exposed to these chemicals at high rates, having them absorbed into the skin, daily, weekly, monthly via lotions, body washes, shampoos, nail polish, combined with their broader use in food packaging, plastic toys, toothpaste, and many other daily products. So there can be no conclusive evidence that these beauty products alone cause or contribute to fibroids, as they are so plentiful in our modern world, but as women, we are willingly exposing ourselves to higher doses.

 So do these products directly increase uterine fibroid risk, I side on yes, but not the beauty products alone.

Solution:

Look for products free of these chemicals. Organic and natural hair care and beauty lines. This might mean putting out a few extra coins, but it may be worth it in the end.

I use natural shampoos and conditioners, and I try to use natural oils and butters (shea, coconut) on my skin. Soaps have been a little more of a challenge for me, and I have not at all transitioned to “natural” makeup brands, though I’m a big fan of Shea Mositure products, including their foundation.

Sulfate free Shampoos

Three Top Paraben and Sulfate free Shampoos and Body Washes

Natural Make Up and Skin Care

What about all of the other things we do to beautify ourselves?

Waxing: 

Pretty harmless as long as your esthetician knows what s/he is doing, like using clean sticks and not double dipping. There are instances of STDs being spread due to bad practices. Otherwise, waxing is pretty safe.

Waxing Dangers

Manicures:

We all know nail polish can contain harmful chemicals like our buddies mentioned above and BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole). The curing process of a gel manicure, which requires time under a UV lamp, can create a new risk.  Prolonged exposure to UV light is known to increase the risk of skin cancer. (Think tanning beds)

If you can, find an organic nail polish (IDK how good they are or where you would even find organic polish, but apparently it is a thing)
Also, if you’re into gel manis, but sunscreen on your hands up to an hour before you go in. If they have you wash them, bring it with you to re apply.
Bottom line: You expose yourself to a lot of chemicals that may have negative effects long term, but there are ways to lessen  the damage.

7 things to know before getting a manicure

Gel Nail Safety Tips

Conclusion:
Chemicals are bad. They can cause or contribute to health problems, including uterine fibroids, but we can’t really avoid them in our day-to-day lives.

Make smart choices and eliminate or limit your exposure to these chemicals if you can. There is a risk for cancers, fibroids, birth defects, and a host of other issues associated with many of these chemicals.

Be BeYOUtiful, but don’t make yourself sick for it.

Happy Birthday, Prince (Even Though I Know You Did Not Celebrate Birthdays)

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Since April 21, 2016, I have been in a weird place. A sad place. A celebratory place. A place of remembrance. A place of discovery. I told myself (and my hubby) that after today, I will make an honest attempt to move on. Its hard feeling like you lost someone you knew so well, that you really didn’t know, and didn’t know you.

Prince Rogers Nelson would have turned 58 today. He was  is my favorite artist of all time. Please indulge me as I go off topic a little for today’s post as I give my tribute to him on the anniversary of his birth.

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You may remember last year on mother’s day, I went alone to a Prince concert.  Not only was that my way of escaping the infertile mother’s day blues, it was fulfilling a dream of mine since I was six years old: see Prince live in concert.

 I’m not a fan because I  thought he was sexy (though he has had his phases where, I can’t lie, he was lookin’ fine). I love Prince for his artistry and creativity. Even as a kid, I was just drawn to the music.  At six years old, I didn’t know what a “sex fiend was”, but I loved the way the music sounded and felt. When I was 9 or 10, I asked my Mom if I could go to see Prince in concert (it was 1988, Lovesexy tour). Of course the answer was “No”, but what 10 year old asks with all sincerity to go to a Prince concert? Me. When I decided I wanted to be a creative when I was around 13 or 14, I really started to appreciate him on another level. By high school I was fully immersed in all things Prince. Reading books, buying up CDs new and old, examining and dissecting lyrics. He made it OK to be different. When I was  a teenager, I was that kid that stepped juuuust outside the box. Enough to not be the same (because I never, even to this day want to be the same as everyone else),  but not enough that people thought I was strange. Just kinda weird. When I was in the 10th grade, I had this hat that was…different. I can’t explain it with words. But I loved it, and it was me. One day, a security guard at school said to me: “That is the ugliest cute hat I’ve ever seen.” It was the best compliment to me. It made me love the hat even more. That’s the confidence Prince gave me: I could wear ‘ugly-cute’ things with pride.  I mean, it takes a certain amount of confidence, and zero-f**k giving to be a grown man rocking 4 inch heels, wear eyeliner, and pants with you ass cheeks out. Prince made me OK with who I was.

Young Prince lookin good1 If I were 14 and not all of 1 or 2 when this poster was out...
Young Prince lookin’ good!
If I were 14 and not all of 1 or 2 when this poster was out…

Going through teenage angst, and the uncertainty of my 20s, and feeling like I didn’t quite fit in, even with friends all around, his music gave me a place to feel comfortable. When I  needed creative inspiration, he provided it. When I was in love, or when I was heartbroken, he had a song that somehow  expressed exactly what I felt in my soul. He was a friend I never met in person . An inspiration. He was everything I wanted to be as an artist.

He introduced me to new sounds of music. Because his music was everything from R&B, to Rock, I began to appreciate forms of music I might not have otherwise. He helped me expanded my mind and my world.

And, I can’t lie. I think I learned about kissing from Prince. When I saw Prince kiss Apollonia in Purple Rain, I just knew when I got older and got a boyfriend…that’s how it was gonna be. (well…..)

What was portrayed as arrogance and weirdness: not wanting to talk to people, being so tightly in control of his image, being a perfectionist: I understood. He was (I’m almost positive) an introvert. Introverts in general have little to no patience for small talk, or being “fake”, and keep their world small, keeping those they trust and like most close.

Prince through the years
Prince through the years

But of course, Prince was not perfect, and was, after all, human.  Prince comes with a story of loss that does relate to infertility. In 1996, he and his first wife Mayte Garcia lost their son to a rare genetic disorder just one week after birth. Mayte recently admitted to losing a second pregnancy to miscarriage not long after. The pain of those losses seems to  have taken a huge toll on their marriage. Its a reminder to us, that while we have a lot of emotions and feelings about not conceiving or losing a pregnancy, we’re not in it alone. Our partner also experiences disappointment, fear, loss, and heartbreak.

Prince was not afraid to speak his mind. About the record industry. About God. About Chemtrails. About Black Lives.

He gave anonymously to libraries, music programs, and schools. He quietly donated money to the family of Travon Martin. He stood up for Black empowerment.

He was a Philanthropist and humanitarian.

As much as I, and all of the Purple Army feel like we knew him, the truth is we didn’t know all of him. We knew the parts of him he allowed us to know. The recent medical examiner’s report released June 2, 2016 lists the cause of death as accidental. Cause: overdose of Fentanyl.

I struggle with this, as he was known to be a clean eater. A vegan. Not a drinker or smoker, or into drugs. But after years of doing splits, leaping off of speakers and pianos, and wearing four inch heels, I’m sure his body paid the price. Even after hip surgery, I’m sure some level of pain persisted. My understanding of chronic pain is not much, but I know that it can be debilitating.

If he did become dependent on painkillers to perform, it doesn’t change the way I feel. If anything, I have empathy. Both Prince and Michael Jackson were so in love with music and performing, and wanted perfection, that they pushed themselves to the extreme limits. Literally wearing themselves out.  Possibly not only numbing the physical pain, but emotional and spiritual pain from the past as well.

 

I fully expected Prince to be walking out on a stage with in full swagger and guitar strapped around him when he was 80 years old, still tearing it up. We just can’t believe he’s not here. I know I can’t

Picture credit: Billboard 2016
Notes, flowers, and more left at Paisley Park Picture credit:
Billboard 2016

Since April 21, the world has been mourning and celebrating: Dance parties, tribute bands, memorials, Facebook groups, Instagram pages, and movie marathons. People are fully taking advantage of the temporary leniency and distraction of his attorneys, posting concert footage, rare interviews and music on YouTube (They are back on it now, and videos are coming down with the quickness) Then of course, there was Madonna’s tribute…

 

It remains to be seen if BET will live up to their claims in the shadiest promo that’s ever been shown. (See what I did there Prince fans) Today they announced some of the artists scheduled to perform in the BET tribute.

We shall see….

 

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The point is, today, I want to say Happy Born Day Prince Rogers Nelson!

Artist. Humanitarian. Visionary.  Businessman. Teacher. Performer. Human. Friend. Alexander Nevermind. Jamie Starr. The Kid. Camille. “That skinny mothaf***a’ with the high voice”. Christopher Tracy. The Artist. Genius.

You’ve given us all so much. I know you are with God, and you will live forever through your music and philanthropy.

Peace and Be Wild.

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Welcome 2 The Dawn

But Why? The Mystery of Fibroids Part 1: Estrogen Dominance

 

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By now we all know that up to 30% of all women will be diagnosed with uterine fibroids by the time they’re 35 , and up to 80% of all women will be diagnosed with uterine fibroids by the time they’re 50. African American women suffer more severe symptoms, they grow more quickly, and happen at a younger age.

The real question is ‘Why?’

Is it genetics? Food? Environmental factors? Cosmetics? Estrogen dominance? Some combination of these?

When I was first diagnosed with fibroids, I wondered “how?” How were there so many? How did they grow so large? How did I not know? What caused them?

Now, three years later, there is no sign of them (thankfully) at this point. What’s changed? I haven’t had a relaxer since 2005. I haven’t been on birth control since about that same time. But, my diet  and exercise routine now is actually worse than it was prior to 2013.

I took some time to dig into some factors and theories regarding uterine fibroids. There’s a lot more to dig through than I thought there would be, so I am breaking this into a series, with each possible cause getting its own post.
First up: Estrogen Dominance

 

Estrogen dominance: A condition where a woman can have deficient, normal or excessive estrogen, but has little or no progesterone to balance its effects in the body.

Estrogen dominance is more of an imbalance, in the sense that usually its not that someone’s body is making an abundance of estrogen (though that could be the case), just that the balance of estrogen and progesterone in a woman’s body is off.

Our Hormones in Blance (graphic courtesy of fibroidelimination.com/)
Our Hormones in Balance
(graphic courtesy of http://www.fibroidelimination.com/)

Before I go deeper, let’s first review some basics of a woman’s biology. You’ll need the review to get a full understanding of Estrogen Dominance.

As we all know, women have menstrual cycles. A cycle starts the first day of your period, to the first day of the next period. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long, but can vary form woman to woman.

The two main sex hormones in women are estrogen and progesterone. They work together to maintain balance in our body at all times. 

Estrogen regulates menstrual cycles, promotes cell division, and in puberty, the development of breasts, growing pubic hair, etc.

Progesterone maintains the health of a fetus. It protects us against the  effects of estrogen by stopping further ovulation the second half of the menstrual cycle if a woman is pregnant.

Estrogen is highest in the first half of your cycle. It reaches highest levels during ovulation, then drops and progesterone rises. Progesterone is released during ovulation. Some testosterone is also released around the time of ovulation. If you do not get pregnant, you have a period and everything starts all over.

 

Now that the review is out of the way, let’s get little more into ED.

Because our bodies need estrogen and progestoreone to maintain our body’s reproductive cycle, it is important that they stay in balance.  They counter each other. If/when that balance is upset, even on the smallest level, there can be problems.

How do you know you have a hormonal imbalance of any kind? Some symptoms of hormonal imbalances may include:

  • Irregular Periods
  • Sleep Problems
  • Acne
  • Foggy Memory
  • Digestive issues
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid Weight Gain/Loss
  • Vaginal Dryness
  • Headaches
  • Breast Tissue Changes
  • Loss of Libido
  • Infertility

 

Some symptoms or conditions thought to be the result of Estrogen Dominance specifically may include:

  • Fibrocystic breasts
  • Endometrial (uterine) cancer
  • Polycystic ovaries
  • Uterine Fibroids

 

What causes the imbalance?

Several possible things:  Low progesterone levels/production,  chronic stress, synthetic estrogen (birth control pills, HRT [Hormone Replacement Therapy]), as well as environmental hormones and hormones found in food(diet)

 

Some hormone levels naturally drop with age, so as we get older, hormone imbalance of some sort is inevitable. So if our progesterone levels decrease, and our estrogen does not decrease at a comparable rate: Estrogen Dominance.
Of course, taking any hormonal birth control or HRT will alter the body’s balance. Birth control is made to fool our bodies prevent a true period. These two factors seem like obvious reasons for the body to be out of balance.

But what about food and environment?

In foods and the environment, we are exposed to Xenoestrogens.  Xenoestrogens are are a type of xenohormone that imitates estrogen. They can be either synthetic or natural chemical compounds. (Wikipedia)

With so many processed foods, genetically modified foods, pesticides, hormone injected meats, and foods with soy (which is a known natural xenoestrogen) its no wonder that our hormone levels are affected by what we consume. There is a big movement for less additives, and preservatives in foods: clean eating. It makes sense. With so many additional chemicals on and in food, the long term affects can’t be good for us. Does ingesting so many additional hormones from meats and chemicals in foods not initially meant for human consumption hurt us? I’m sure is doesn’t help. Do they contribute to an increase or decrease of hormones? Its very likely.

On the same road as food is environmental factors. Many of these, we have very little to no control over. Many environmental chemicals are also xenoestrogens. Many of which are found in daily beauty products (Post number two in the series). The main culprit is plastics. Remember the whole BPA in plastic bottles thing? The compound is found in everything from drink can coatings, to DVDs, to water bottles. It can disrupt or mimic natural hormones.

 

So what can you do?

You need testing to determine your hormone levels, which can only be done by your doctor. They will be able to determine if your levels are within the range of “normal”.

Outside of medical intervention, things can be done on your own to help balance your levels.

Changing the diet is the biggest thing, and probably the hardest for many. Let’s face it: fruits and grilled veggies are very tasty, but sometimes, a big ol’ cheeseburger and fries just tastes and feels sooo good.

Modifying diets to eliminate or greatly reduce soy, meats such as beef, and processed foods decreases exposure to additional estrogens or estrogen-like compounds. Of course, increasing exercise and being more active will also help.

There are various diet programs out there geared towards fibroid elimination. I don’t make it a habit of publicly endorsing programs/people/things that I haven’t personally tried on this blog. I would say if you’re going to try one of these programs, do your research.

Beware of your plastics use. Try not to warm up items in the microwave in plastic containers. The warmed plastic molecules can possibly seep into and contaminate your food. This is in very, small amounts, but over time, this could increase estrogen in your body. Don’t drink out of bottled water bottles that have been sitting in a hot car (same principal as microwaving in plastic), and try to buy water bottles (and bottles for babies for that matter) that are labeled BPA free.

 

There is really a lot more to say on Estrogen Dominance, its part of the reason this post look literally months for me to get up. I kept researching and trying to figure out what to write and what to leave out. At the same time, I kept discovering more stuff!

I hope this was a good first step to learning more. I definitely recommend taking the time to do more research on your own. You can start here:

butternutrition.com/estrogen-dominance-hormonal-imbalance/

www.ecopedia.com/health/estrogen-dominance-how-food-affects-men-and-women/

www.drlam.com/blog/estrogen-dominance-part-1/1704/

 

Next post in the series: Beauty Products and Fibroids

I’m talking relaxers, lotions, nailpolish, makeup, hair glue…..errthang.

 

So a Woman Thinketh, So is She

 

It is Mother’s Day. Again. Last year for Mother’s Day, I unplugged, and I was able to lift my spirits and cross off a major bucket list item by going to see Prince in concert. Alone. It was one of best days EVER!

This year, Prince has passed away, I am still sad about it, and I skipped going with my Husband to brunch with my Mother In Love (Law) because I just wasn’t in the mood. She doesn’t yet know about our struggle, and I just didn’t feel like pretending I was in a good place. I sent my card with my husband.

Instead, I’m home with the cat, listening to Prince, and blogging, which is perfect.

Of course, this week, I’ve been thinking about and dreading Mother’s Day, like many of us Maybe Mamas do. The past month or so, a lot of things have happened on the road to possible motherhood. In April, I had a final hysteroscopy to check out my uterine cavity, to see if the balloon used in the November procedure helped in minimizing/preventing scar tissue. A few days before I went in, my husband and I had a conversation where I questioned if I even wanted to have kids at all. I went on about how our time would not be our own, how all the moms I know (with kids under 5) are so boring now. They’ve completely lost their sense of self. All the money we’d now have to spend on the child’s needs, how uncomfortable and unpleasant pregnancy seems….
But in the next breath, I answered my own question: “But I guess, if I didn’t want to have a baby, I wouldn’t spend all this time and money making sure I could”

“True”, hubby responded.

Let's be real for a second, this ish does not look fun.
Let’s be real for a second, this ish does not look fun.

So I really started thinking: What do we tell ourselves to make this all hurt less? I’ve come to realize my main coping mechanism has been a denial of sorts. I’ve tried to convinced myself that I don’t really want to be a mom. I see all the negatives in parenting: The screaming toddler in Target, the sleeplessness, the projectile vomiting, constant worry if you’re doing right by your child.  Never having a life. These things are real, and a part of motherhood, but that’s not all that it is.

I truly have come to terms with the fact that I may never be a biological mother, or a mother at all. I think that is part of the infertility journey. Keep hope alive, but acknowledge all possible outcomes. What I have done over time is beyond that.

I’ve tried to shield myself from disappointment and hurt by trying to convince myself it doesn’t matter. Motherhood is not something I really want.

Its like Cinderella when when she realized she wasn’t going to the ball, despite doing everything her step mother said she had to do. She did her best (for all of 5 seconds) to convince herself that that Ball was going to suck, and she wasn’t missing anything.

"Oh, well, what's a royal ball? After all, I suppose it would be frightfully dull, and boring, and completely... completely wonderful."
“Oh, well, what’s a royal ball? After all, I suppose it would be frightfully dull, and boring, and completely… completely wonderful.” ~Cindy

But the reality is, I do want to be a mother, and its painful to think that I may never be. Some days, its too much to think about, so I don’t. The best I can do is try to convince myself that like the Royal Ball, Motherhood sucks. Except, much like Cinderella, I’m not doing such a great job of fooling myself.

 

I chose the title of this post based form Proverbs 23:7, which most people interrupt as a verse cautioning us to be mindful of our thoughts, as they become who we are. Reading the whole verse, and the verses before and after, and other translations, that’s not what is meant at all.

The verse is referring to a person who says one thing out of their mouth, but doesn’t mean it. They invite you to come over, eat and enjoy, but inside, they’re hoping you don’t. The full scripture:

Do not eat the bread of a miser,[a]
Nor desire his delicacies;
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
But his heart is not with you.

Now, I’m no “miser”, but I am being insincere with my words when I say I don’t really want to have a baby. I say I’d much rather just O and I be the “cool auntie and uncle”, that way we have our time, money (and my body) to ourselves. The ultimate proof that its all bs is not the myomectomy, or the three procedures I’ve undergone to remove scarring (and recently endometriosis), and the months of hormones I took to try to restore my uterine lining. Its not the research I’ve done on adoption. Its the consult we had this past week with a fertility doctor, and the tests we’re about to take, and the IVF journey we are about to start. Someone who doesn’t want it would not bother with any of this.

So on this Mother’s Day, I give myself the gift of acceptance, and permission to feel and experience all of the emotions that come with this journey. Some days are hopeful. Some days are depressing, and that’s OK.

Its OK to want something that seems just out of reach, and its OK to feel the creep of that green-eyed monster when it seems everyone else but me is enjoying that which is illusive: Motherhood.

I want to give this gift to you too. My sisters in this battle. Give yourself permission to feel how you feel, today and everyday.

 What have you been telling yourself?

…But She Refuses to Go Down

Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.
-Mike Tyson

Sorry Rhonda! Visual of a Life Mouth Punch
Visual of a Life Mouth Punch. 

 

I would like to say before I get started that this post has been in draft for about 4 days, so it wasn’t inspired by Rhonda Rousey’s loss. Today was the only day I could edit and add graphics, and well, the images from the fight were  perfect for the post.  No shade to Rhonda.

Here we are. Going through life, making plans and setting goals. For many of us, we visualize ourselves with a job in the career path we want, maybe even starting our own business. Buying a home. Saving money. Losing weight. Some of us are so detailed that we have age milestones for each goal: Buy a house by 28.  Be department director by 30. Get married before I’m 40.
But if you’ve lived life at all, you know that these plans can indeed be put down by a quick life punch in the face.

Life has dealt all of us several blows I’m sure. Some didn’t land, so you walk around thinking you’re the champ of winning at life. There were a few that landed, but didn’t really hurt too much:  ‘You call that a punch, life?!’
There were probably a few sneak punches that you didn’t see coming, and they had you stunned for a few seconds,  but you managed to shake it off.
But then there are the real power punches that damn near take you out: A parent dying. Losing your job. Divorce.
Infertility is definitely one of those mouth punch situations.

wpid-screenshot_2015-11-13-06-58-40-1.png

 

So, do you drop to the mat and give up, or shake it off and keep going?
What’s the new strategy?

Black and Married with Children posted a great piece about handling the disappointment of not having children by a certain age when you thought you would.  The post is geared towards single women, who can have children (as far as they know), but other circumstances have stopped them or prolonged the process. It really doesn’t matter, because the advice is useful regardless of the reason for having your motherhood dream deferred, or taken.

The key points are:

  • Grieve the Loss
  • Release the Dream
  • Redefine Motherhood
  • Embrace Your New Reality

The bottom line is don’t let this thing keep you down. Feel the pain of it all, allow for the moment of shock, then shake it off and get back in the fight. There are still many more rounds to go. If it kicks your ass, demand a rematch.

 

Check out the full post from Black and Married with Children here

Doing Big Things!

 

For all of the years I’ve lived in the DC area, I’ve never been to any official, (or unofficial for that matter) CBC events. Why? I don’t know. Probably the same reason I’ve never been to a HBCU homecoming: I just haven’t. Howard is right down the road, and I have several friends that are HBCU Alumni. There’s no excuse. Yes, I know my Black Card may be in question for never experiencing homecoming. I’m accepting all invites, since it is homecoming season if anyone wants to help me rectify that situation.

This year, I finally made it to CBC, and not just to party. The White Dress Project, a non-profit that advocates for uterine fibroid research and education, held two events and raised the profile of the organization and fibroid awareness.

 

Congressional Briefing (minus Me) Photo Credit: White Dress Project Facebook
Congressional Briefing (minus me)
Photo Credit: White Dress Project Facebook

On Wednesday, a few members of the WDP, along with several medical professionals, participated in a congressional briefing on Uterine Fibroid Education and Awareness hosted by Rep. David Scott of Georgia.

This was really the highlight and the most important part of being at CBC. I had on my schedule, and planned to be there, but unfortunately I had to cancel out at the last-minute. I was definitely in my office with the pouty face because I had to miss it.

This briefing was a major step in getting the cause out there and helping to earn support for officially designating July as Fibroid Awareness Month. Mr. Scott already introduced HR RES. 268 at the end of the last legislative term, “Supporting the designation of July 2015 as Uterine Fibroids Awareness Month”.

The next day, the DMV Leadership of the White Dress Project hosted an event. Part social, part informative. The ladies gathered health professionals, including a therapist, an OBGYN, and a surgeon, who happened to be my surgeon Dr. MacKoul, to answer questions, talk about the epidemic if uterine fibroids, treatment options, and how to deal with the emotional effects of living with fibroids.

 

White Dress Project DMV Social at CBC (I didn't realize we were not doing the silly faces anymore...) Photo Credit: White Dress Project Facebook
White Dress Project DMV Social at CBC
(I didn’t realize we were not doing the silly faces anymore…)

The really great thing about the event was not only meeting other women affected by fibroids, but hearing everyone’s stories. Being able to relate to taking hormones, or having to pee every five minutes, or the literal and figurative weight that is lifted once the fibroids are removed. To see how everyone bounced back, and in spite of possibly having fibroids re-appear, or questions on fertility post myomectomy, the  determination to move forward, and excitement of these ladies to educate others and advocate on uterine fibroids was amazing.

I was so excited to meet new women, and finally get to meet the White Dress Project founder, Tanika Gray, because……

 

I will be working with the White Dress Project as an ambassador, working to raise awareness and  get Fibroid Awareness Month recognized on a State level!

 

We Can Wear White
We Can Wear White

 

I’m so excited about this opportunity!  Please stay tuned for more updates, posts, and events on my journey with the White Dress Project.

 

Just like a Felon

I know I’m late, but the new thing I love is podcasts. I’m addicted.  Serial. The Read. Freakanomics. I even sub to a wedding planning pod cast. They’re entertaining, informative, and they help me get through my long commute home,  so I’m always looking for a new show to subscribe to.
I recently started listening to Death. Sex. Money. , which describes itself as  “A podcast about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.”  Since I newly discovered this series,  I’ve been catching up on past episodes. So far, an excellent pod cast and quickly becoming a favorite.

Today’s catch up episode was from April 25, 2015. An interesting interview until the subject uttered this sentence: “I think people without children should not be allowed to vote”

 Insert record scratch.

There are so many great side eye GIFs out there, selecting one was difficult. But the Dowager wins today.
There are so many great side eye GIFs out there, selecting one was difficult.
But the Dowager wins today. Me when I heard his “joke”

The person speaking was W. Kamau Bell. Comedian, blogger, and former talk show host. Now to be clear, I know that it was said in jest, because, he is a comedian. However, I still found it not funny and incredibly insensitive.  I was offended, and actually a little shocked. I don’t think he was trying to be an asshole, but that’s definitely how he came off in that moment.

I admit, I don’t know a whole lot about Bell, and I wasn’t very familiar with him before his talk show, Totally Biased. I know he’s a comedian. I’ve liked most of what I have seen from him, which is why I picked that episode to listen to. I  wanted to learn more about him. From what I have heard  from him in the past, and even in that particular interview up to that point, he is an intelligent and aware individual.

So why then, even as a joke, would he say something like that?

What he was trying to say, in a horrible,  inconsiderate way, is that parents see the world differently than they did prior to becoming parents, and make most, if not all decisions considering the lives of their children, knowing even the smallest decision affects their lives. I get it, but the premise is still a little off.

Now, it’s really not my thing to be the comedy police. As they say “everything ain’t for everybody”, so if I don’t find a comedian (or comedienne) funny,  I just don’t listen to their comedy or watch their shows (I’m looking at you, Kathy Griffin and Martin Lawrence. Black Card revoked for Martin,  I know). However,  some things, to me, are universally not funny: racist jokes, violence against women centered jokes, sexual abuse jokes, etc. I say all this to say that I’m not bashing Bell as a comedian,  or even as a person. I am simply saying that he is representative of what the world thinks of us child free women, and men: We are some sort of selfish, not-fully-formed, adult-type person.

Yes. Being a parent changes you. I don’t think anyone would argue that point.  And yes, I’m sure as a parent,  your decision making shifts. But the implication here, is that somehow, by not being a parent,  you are incapable of making quality,  well thought out,  long range decisions.  Which then implies that by not being a parent,  you are some how less of an adult.
I haven’t even gotten to the sheer insensitivity this shows towards the 1 in 8 couples who literally can’t have children.

So even as a joke, he’s essentially saying that because someone consciously chooses not to, or is unable to procreate, They should be denied a civil right? Cut out of a crucial function society. No better than a felon to him I guess. (BTW, I am not someone in favor of felons losing their right to vote once they have served their time)

So the soldier who cannot have children because of the injuries he sustained in Afghanistan, and his wife shouldn’t have a say in choosing the person who shapes the foreign policy of this country? You know, because he has no ideas or insights about such things because he’s not a father.

The couple that has spent thousands upon thousands of dollars just to become parents doesn’t have a stake in the healthcare system here in this country? I mean, they only have been navigating through it for years. What could they possibly know since they don’t yet have any children?

“Its just jokes.”  “Why are you going so deep with it?”  “Calm down.”  You might be saying.

I get it, he’s a comedian,  and a new dad, so its just for fun, and he’s experiencing the world in a new way right now.  Cool. But I should hope those two things don’t instantly render you insensitive or arrogant.
For so many people,  that was just a flippant,  funny thing to say. But for the couple who just suffered a second miscarriage, or is on the fourth round if IVF, its painful.
To the women and men who have made the choice not to become a parents, it’s down right insulting.

To Kamau I say:

Come on, bruh.

In the words of one of my podcast faves, Crissle, Words mean things. Even as a joke, words can be painful. You as a Black man should know this.  Choose your words wisely.

Being child free, rather by choice or circumstance, does not invalidate ones humanity or adultness. For those who are childless by circumstance, that type of statement can be painful.

If you have an issue with my child free status, take that up with God.

Update: Per Kamau’s twitter I stumbled upon this conversion. Looks like he stands by his “joke”, which is unfortunate.

Listen to the full podcast episode here.

You Are Not Alone-Step Up and Speak Out: National Infertility Awareness Week

wpid-screenshot_2015-04-19-19-19-16-1.png

It’s that time of year again: National Infertility Awareness Week!  The theme this year: You Are Not Alone. ( Cue the Michael Jackson music)

To know me and this blog is to know this is my mantra.  Infertility can be very isolating. When you look around and everyone has a kids, or is pregnant, or asking you about getting pregnant, you begin to feel this sense of separation. I’ve said here a few times that there is a feeling that you’re not a complete woman. Your body is betraying you every. single. day. How do  you explain your situation or answer people’s questions without drawing pity, which you definitely don’t want, or those awkward “just relax” or “keep trying” responses? So, you decide it’s better to keep it to yourself. Who needs that extra drama?

You want to talk to your best friend, or your mom about it, but how can you really? They don’t truly understand. They mean well and love you, and  they want to support you, but its a hard thing to relate to. My best friend has 5, yes 5 children! (who are awesome by the way) I keep my fertility struggle conversations with her to a minimum. Not because she doesn’t care. Not because she is uninterested (she asks for updates all the time), but because how can she understand? Trouble getting pregnant is a foreign concept to her. She is the exact opposite of infertility.

I was watching Teen Mom (the new episodes with original girls) the other day, and one of them went in for a wellness exam. The doctor was listening to the baby’s heartbeat, and asked if she could feel the baby moving. I started crying. Why? Because that is an experience I may never have. When you have those types of moments, who can understand that rush of emotion other than someone else who is or has been where you are?

But think about it: 1 in 8 couples are facing infertility. So, you are not alone. The next time you’re at church (mosque, synagogue), at a family reunion, dinner party, on the train, at the mall, in the hair salon, running a 5K, know that at least one more woman (or man) in the crowd is struggling with fertility.

I know it can be emotionally draining.  I know it makes you vulnerable. I know sometimes you just don’t want to be bothered. But….

Share your story. There are women that need to hear from you. They need the support and assurance that they are not alone. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. You don’t have to tell the world, just be there for one person. That can make all the difference.

Start a support group at your church or community group.

Be there for someone who is struggling with infertility

Post an Infertility article on your social media platforms

Even better:

Post about NIAW on social media. Share a link to NIAW  and Resolve.

 

I will be honest, what has helped me a lot is having someone to talk to, really two people.

I have a co-worked that had a myomectomy about 4 weeks before I had mine. We started talking about our fibroid battles, and found out we have similar fertility issues. We share articles, random facts, advice from doctors, and sometimes, just our frustrations.

I also have a friend who is about 10 years older than me, but she had infertility issues and had two wonderful sons via IVF. This was in the 90s when it was still a weird and strange thing, especially in the Black community. Her support and advice has meant a lot.

Then of course, I have this blog. I know my presence isn’t big, and its not the flashiest or most consistent blog out there, but to know that people visit or follow my blog, and I am doing my part to help someone make it through; providing information, telling my story, and maybe providing a laugh or distraction, makes me happy.

So Maybe Mamas, You Are Not Alone!

Share your story this week and beyond.