Thursday, July 24, 2014

Failing at Fertility Flub-Fighting

Oh, the fertility weight paradox. Being at a healthy weight supposedly increases your chances of success, but being (especially a frequent-flier) in infertility treatment pretty much makes being at a healthy weight impossible. Well, ok, there are those insanely inhuman ladies who can manage to make it through multiple rounds of IVF AND stay slender, but I feel like that's not the norm. Especially if you are plagued with PCOS.

PCOS by itself makes the battle of the bulge difficult. Your body is predisposed to put on poundage, especially in the midsection. Which is where I am constantly fighting my battles -- I have nice legs, I have decent arms, and I appreciate my boobles quite a bit. I don't even mind my butt so much. But the spare tires are killing me slowly.

It's incredibly frustrating to witness this slow creep, probably now also in part due to advancing age and the march towards 40 when it seems your metabolism slows exponentially each MONTH. I have to work so much harder to make the scale budge, or make my pants looser, since sometimes the scale doesn't budge as much as I'd like but my body does seem to get slimmer.

It's even more frustrating to know that I am being sabotaged at every turn by infertility. I did SO WELL earlier this year, when we were on our break before our cycle in April, with eating well and exercising well and dropping some poundage. I lost 12 whole pounds, but better than that, I felt good about my body. All I want is to feel good in my clothes and feel healthy and strong. My belly isn't going to disappear entirely, it's been with me since puberty (thanks, PCOS), no matter how little I weighed (120 lbs? running a zillion miles a week on the track/cross country teams? hello, belly). But it would be nice if it wasn't so...voluminous right now. But, with the fertility ride in full swing, that is a virtually impossible task. Case in point:

- After incredible happiness-producing return to a decent weight, cancelled cycle sends estrogen soaring, ovaries to bursting, exercise is near impossible for weeks.
- Due to disappointment and disgust in body's inability to perform reasonably at this task that's supposed to be instinctual, perhaps eat more chocolate and/or french fries than is necessary.
- Once exercising is back on the table, try for nice long sweaty walks after school instead of a nap because school is exhausting. Tried running, between my evil knees and the still-angry PIO injection sites/nerve damage, too painful to reap any benefits.
- Promptly sprain ankle. BY WALKING.
- Exercise off table, but try to eat reasonably. Problem: I love good food. Other problem: husband enjoys curvy me, so it's not like I'm getting encouragement on that end since womanly curves are apparently like oysters and rhino horn powder in my house.
- Ankle slowly becomes less ouchy, resume walking and some 20-minute yoga thanks to Rodney Yee and Muriel Hemingway.
- Hysteroscopy. Ban on exercise for two weeks after.
- Oh look at that, now stimming begins. Walking is on the table, but quickly becomes more of an old-lady shuffle as my ovaries swell up with eggles again (although more reasonably this time).
- Stimming lasts nearly two weeks. Other than 1 mile shuffles and some downward-dogging in the privacy of my home, not much happening on the exercise front. I am however having wheatgrass and lots of veggies and lower sugar intake which has to count for something.
- Post-retrieval--exercise ban for two weeks. Abdomen swollen and painful, even old-lady shuffle is too much. Told that "my shape has changed" at school, with the added caveat of a chuckled, "But whose hasn't at this point in our lives?" and I die a little inside.
- Negative test -- I am devastated, despite so many negative tests that should sort of "train" me for accepting such news with more grace, less ugly crying/staring morosely at the wall for an hour/howling at the unfairness of it all. Feed devastation with ice cream, pulled pork, and booze, in no apparent order. Although, this time I have a reasonable two glasses of wine on Negative Day, and a reasonable number of margaritas on Friday, (instead of...more) and I applaud myself for my personal growth.
- Several days after negative test -- pull my shit together. At Friday's margarita-and-guacamole-feasting (a weekly thing for us as we LOVE our Mexican restaurant, the food, the people, the booze), our friend/server mentions she has a Zumba class Mondays and Wednesdays at 8 am. Sure, it's 35 minutes away from me, but it's free the first time and $5 after that, and no signup or commitment, and a friendly face, and I'll probably never see any of the other ladies anywhere so if I make a massive idiot of myself... who cares? I say I'll try it and then commit to doing a yoga/yoga-and-pilates/yoga-pilates-weight training/yoga-dance DVD every day until I can't exercise again.
- Totally keep up on the DVD thing, but 7:15 comes too early on Monday to go to Zumba.
- Wednesday-- go to Zumba. Holy guacamole, it is high-impact and sends me into an anaerobic state. But I love it. I am smiling. I am sore almost instantly. It's a Zumba Toning class, so half is traditional dancing (or my approximation of dancing since sometimes I have rhythm and sometimes I just stop and stare and laugh because my body is not capable of moving that way), and half is similar moves but with dumbbells (I am actually good at this part). Asthma rears its ugly head on the car ride back and I sound like I smoke five packs a day for the rest of the day, but it felt gooood.
- Continue the dvds, miss Monday's Zumba again, go Wednesday but have to wear my ankle brace because my joints are angry with me. Getting older sucks.
- No asthma! Still sore but I made it through without ever mentally screaming WHEN WILL THIS BE OVER? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STOP JUMPING!!! I love this Zumba nonsense! I will be slimmer and buff in no time!
- In the days after second Zumba class, my knees swell up and climbing stairs hurts. We are going to Maine on Friday, so I have to take it easy or there will be issues with the hiking/ocean rock scrambling/walking pretty beach-rose-lined coastal streets. I am frustrated that my body is uncooperative even in this arena. You can't even EXERCISE right, bitch! I unkindly yell at myself.
- Feel badly about hating my body for being so inept. Continue berating my reflection in the mirror, though.
- Enjoy lots of walking on vacation. Don't do any yoga or pilates toning moves, but scramble rocks and walk something like 20 miles total while on Vinalhaven and swim/tread water in the pool in Damariscotta and feel pretty good, actually.
- Until I start Lupron. I was already on the Levoquin, but the combination of the two has me feeling like the ground shifts beneath me and I am tired, headachy, dizzy, and do not feel so great. Luckily this is at the tail end of things and doesn't kick in fully until we get home.
- Now I am in a haze of migraine, exhaustion for no apparent reason, hot flashes, dizziness, and general "I feel like shit"-ness. And I'm on Lupron for a total of 30 days. Luckily the Levoquin stops on August 1st, which I think will make a difference. My pharmacy prints coupons on the backsides of the printouts. I received 10 sets of coupons this time because there are so many side effects and warnings about this antibiotic. Including the dizziness, including the photo-sensitivity (oops), including a possibility of tendon swelling. Goodbye, Zumba.

See how impossible this is? See how the siren song of takeout would call pretty darn strongly after feeling so shitty all day? See how come all my photos from Maine are from the shoulders up? (Except for one incredibly unflattering photo that my MIL posted on Facebook and thankfully did not tag me in and I refused to like or comment on it, because we were sitting on a bench in the Botanical Gardens and HOLY JABBA. You could play a fun game of "count the rolls." Horrifying, but I hope just a really bad angle and that that's not what things look like all the time.)

I want to love my body. I want to not insult it every time I catch an unflattering angle in a mirror, or a car window (actually, NEVER judge yourself against a car window reflection, they are the fun-house WORST), any reflective surface at all. I want to not have getting dressed an exercise in "what fits today?" and not feel like I need to invest in a bunch of muumuus. I know I'm being hard on myself. I am size 12, and a size 12 is not ginormous. But I am at the high end of 12 right now, and I feel lumpy, and I am proud to say I am down from my cycle weight which was the HIGHEST IT'S EVER BEEN, but it's this sliding scale of what makes me happy. When I started this, I weighed in the upper 150s. Then I crept up to 160s, and really, low 160s is perfectly healthy for me. I swear my boobs weigh 20 pounds alone, so that's fine, because much lower than that and I look a bit comical. But then I kept creeping into the 170s. And, during the cycles, I crept into the 180s, a set of numbers I NEVER EVER EVER wanted to see. I am just shy of 5'6", and 180s is too much for my frame. Plus, vainly, should I become pregnant I do not, DO NOT want to see 200s. I mean, if it happens it happens, but I don't want it. I would be happy to hit 172 by the time I go for transfer. 160s feel like a dream in the mist, something once attainable and now just impossible. You saw my timeline. How am I supposed to accomplish this when I have these 2-4 week bursts when I can truly exercise regularly? Especially when I am whispering abuse to my body all the time?

Then, I had an online experience that made me feel even more badly about myself. I visited facebook and saw one of a zillion "Be a great mommy" posts that flood my feed. I read them because somewhere in this swamp of sadness I really do believe that I will be a mommy sooner than later, and why not read up on what's facing mommies today? But this one, about wearing your bathing suit proudly and playing with your kids despite being unhappy with your body and how it looks in said swimsuit, killed me on the inside. Because the argument is, YOU SHOULD LOVE YOUR BODY. IT GAVE LIFE. THESE LUMPS AND SAGS AND STRETCH MARKS ARE A BADGE OF HONOR, FOR CREATING AND SUSTAINING LIFE. THESE VEINS ARE PURPLE AND POKY BECAUSE OF THE AMAZING LIFE-GIVING ABILITIES OF YOUR BODY. Well, fuck. All I can think is, my body has all those problems (minus the sag, miraculously my boobies, while bodacious DDs, are fairly perky, something I know won't last but nyah nyah it's all I got), the lumps, the stretch marks, the newly forming varicose veins, and I CAN'T MAKE LIFE. I get to have the post-baby body without the motherflipping baby. I get to feel bad about myself AND have no kids to frolic in the pool with. My body's aesthetic failings are not a badge of honor, they feel kind of like a dishonorable discharge. I have no upside. I mean, other than my husband's obvious appreciation of my wobbly bits. Which is a big plus, although it is awfully hard to hear "You look so beautiful" and not translate it into "You look fat to the rest of the general public." It makes me sad. Really, really sad.

The cycle goes thusly: Work Out/Eat Great in prep for a cycle ---> during cycle unable to exercise, drugs make you feel crappy, take solace in ice cream ----> negative test, drown sorrows in food and/or booze, feel frustration at body's failings of every kind ---->start over with new cycle. How do you NOT gain weight? Even with the yoga and the pilates, difficult work that is great for toning, I feel my metabolism needs more aerobic stuff to burn that stubborn fat. And on the drugs that just isn't happening.

Sigh. And all this, so that I can HAPPILY gain weight and watch my flubby belly turn hard and fill up with the amazing growing baby that eludes us at every turn. If I was flubby because of baby weight lingering, I think I could be happier about it. There'd be a purpose, a payout. But right now, it's just further physical evidence of failure. Logically I know I'm doing the best I can. I know that I need to be kinder to myself. But it's kind of hard when you know you look heavier, and when, for instance, your family used to say "You look great!" when you came to see them and now that is notably absent. Like secretly they're thinking, "wow, you've put on some pounds!" and know they can't say it. This could be shallow and vain on my part, but it would be really great if people still said "you look great" even when you're obviously struggling with pudge and it is an incredibly uphill battle not likely to change. I don't know why I care so much if other people say that, but I didn't notice it until there was a palpable absence of it, which feels kind of stabby. I know I'm heavier, even though my pants size is the same (because I absolutely refuse to have to get 14s... although at some point that may not be possible to avoid any longer). It's a daily reminder of my body's inability to get anything right.

Well, boo hoo hoo, this turned into a bit of a sad sappy post, and I really didn't intend it to be. I just want my body to cooperate. I want it not to reject rigorous exercise with swollen creaky knees, I want it to not plague me with migraines as I go through the Lupron Mini-Menopause prior to the frozen. I am trying not to dread the PIO. Which historically puts me up at least 7 pounds without even trying. I do have some time when I'm on estrogen and Lupron (and then just estrogen) where I can hopefully feel better and get more exercise in, maybe even one last Zumba class. I am trying for a DVD every other day, giving myself permission for a break when the Lupron/Levoquin cocktail has me feeling like maybe I should be praying to the porcelain god although I can't really have any alcohol right now. So unfair to have the feeling of a bad hangover without the good time the night before. If anyone has any kind of mantra or anything that could help me try to love my body even though I am apparently so very angry and disappointed in it at all possible levels, I would love it if you'd share. I could focus on the parts that are strong and make me happy and try to overlook the failings of, say, my midsection, my intestinal tract (ugh celiac), my lungs (ugh asthma), my reproductive system (fail fail fail)... I could repeat, "I love my legs. My strong, long, muscular legs. I love my arms. My decently strong, somewhat muscular arms. I love my upper back, my strong, strong upper back. I love my butt -- my round, narrow, bubbly butt. I love my heart, my strong, pumping, life-giving heart. I love my brain--my excellent, smart, tricky brain." There. I feel a little better already.


  1. Ah if navigating the emotional landscape of infertility isn't hard enough...I wish I had some inspiring words to share here, but I don't really. I just hope your body cooperates soon! Oh, and whatever coworker told you "your shape has changed" needs a kick in the pants. Seriously!?!?

    1. Thanks, Kelsey. I think everything is just magnified by the feeling of betrayal I have with my body for failing at pretty much everything, most of all the biggest thing it is supposedly MEANT to do. Yeah, I did not appreciate that comment for sure! It was not meant to be hurtful, but it caused a lot of hurt. :( Here's hoping August is when it all comes together.

  2. Again, you nailed it! Bam. I am 60 lbs lighter than when we started this journey, but it's not good enough. I've gained back 15 lbs since April and I hate myself for it. I wish that we didnt' have to worry if the extra weight was the difference between a positive outcome or a negative one. But most of all, I wish we could just eat chips and guacamole together, balancing the bowls on our big ol' pregnant bellies.

    1. Thanks, Aimee--it really does stink how hard treatment makes losing weight, which is harder when your body has decided to program it to hang on with gritted teeth to every last ounce! OMG, pregnant guacamole and chips sounds so much better than REGULAR guacamole and chips, which is making me hungry right now. I think I would eat celery out of a bowl balanced on my pregnant belly and feel like it was the best treat in the world. Soon, I hope... soon for both of us! Enough already!

  3. This. This is so frustrating. And I am right there with you. When I lost a bunch of weight in my 20s, it just seemed to melt off (with diet and exercise, for sure but I could cheat regularly--monthly? weekly? with Chinese food or pizza, and the pounds just came off), now, in my 30s. OMG, it takes forever. I can feel my clothes fitting better, but still--just 1 pound every two weeks. It makes me want to eat, well, pizza and chinese food. And then with treatment, I feel like it's 1 step forward, 2 steps back. Because the forced breaks and the wallowing in self-pity just seem too much to overcome. I just try to tell myself that I really will feel better if I eat vegetables and move my body. But, the first time I read this I think I was eating a donut. The second time, a chocolate bar. Sigh.

    1. I KNOW! It's so cruel. That 1 step forward, 2 steps back phrase is perfect. I used to be able to work out so I could eat what I want, but now it doesn't quite balance the way it used to (and I'm so tired and crappy feeling from the meds that motivation is hard). Plus when I go whole hog and decide to work out a lot, I inevitably injure myself in some way. WTF, body? And I eat my vegetables and fruits and move my body, but the cream cheese frosting wins every time. That and the couch. Mmmm, donut. (Plus, you would think with all the hoopla about losing weight going gluten free, my celiac ass would be slender. NOT SO, because ice cream, chocolate, frosting, etc is all gluten free and so is CHEESE.) I feel your pain! Oh for the days when I could eat a whole can of Pringles and never see it on my hips (or just oh for the days when I could eat Pringles, as they aren't GF). Those 20-somethings have it good!