Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Check Your Fluids

Late last night Eric and I arrived at the Griffin Ranch in Lindale, Texas, after two days of traveling. We were pretty exhausted and all of our toiletries and gadgets were packed away in our luggage. After digging out my toothbrush and face soap in preparation for the nightly ritual of teeth brushing and face washing, I crawled into bed in my parents’ guest room and fell sound asleep. I awoke this morning with one of those “OMG (gasp)! I-know-I-forgot-to-do-something” feelings. Can you imagine my look of disappointment when I discovered I had forgotten to strap on my Ov Watch?

Upon removing the watch from its container, the words, “OV Day 1” shouted out from the display. Hmm… How does it know? Does it have ESP? Could it read my body chemistry from across the room, inside the plastic case in the overnight bag? Is it just a glorified cycle calendar counter? Or is it a useless piece of crap? Questions flooded my one track baby making mind. Nevertheless, there it was in big, fat digital letters. I could sit there, continuing to silently interrogate an inanimate object or simply accept the message as an opportunity.

Note: Squeamish, prudish or ultra-conservative readers who are uninterested in the physical attributes of various bodily fluids may stop reading here and pick this blog up again with tomorrow’s post because it’s about to get “juicy”(I know you’re probably going to keep on reading, but hey, can’t say I didn’t warn you).

Riddle me this, Batman-- What’s clear and stretchy and slippery all over? Cervical mucus (WHAM!).

Despite my revulsion at the term, “mucus”, this slimy goo is actually one of the best ways to determine ovulation. It must be in the category of “undiscussables,” like that “not-so-fresh-feeling” the girl from the ‘80s Massengill Douche commercial lamented about to her mother. No one ever chatted me up about cervical mucus (puts the word secret in this secretion). I had to learn about it on my own, at the ripe old age of 34, from the world wide web (Thanks, Al Gore).

At peak fertility, cervical mucus resembles the consistency of raw egg white and is pliable enough to be stretched about an inch or two between the thumb and forefinger. This viscous nectar provides a hospitable environment for the sperm on their race to reach the egg.

Good thing I learned about this method of detection on the internet, as it confirmed the message displayed on my Ov Watch, even though I had forgotten to wear it. So, we strayed from our every-other-day-baby-dance plan to take full advantage of the moment. If you made it this far, sprinkle some baby dust our way!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Baby Boogie Beats

Annie and Eric's Conception Playlist

Let’s Get it On- Marvin Gaye
In The Still of The Night- Boyz II Men
Your Body is a Wonderland- John Mayer
I’m Yours- Jason Mraz
Sexual Healing- Ben Harper
Truly, Madly, Deeply– Savage Garden
Stir It Up- Bob Marley
Night Swimming- REM
Shameless- Garth Brooks
Your Man- Josh Turner
Forever My Lady- Jodeci
Let’s Stay Together-Al Green
Crash – Dave Matthews

Got any suggestions? Leave a comment!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Boerm To Be Wild

After two and a half years of marriage, I finally took my husband’s surname. I suppose I had resisted it up until this point because I associated it with a loss of my identity. Like Beyonce, I, too, like to think of myself as an independent woman. And, after 34 years the name Annie Belinda Griffin began to grow on me a little.

The thought of relearning my own name seemed embarrassing as well. Several times in the base hospital I have sat in the waiting room, staring off into space as the nurse called for “Mrs. Boerm”, only to jump up on the fifth or sixth call, dumbfounded and proclaim, “Oh, that’s me!”

All along I have promised to change my name, but the timing just didn’t seem right. When we found out we would be moving from Alaska to South Carolina I had to apply for a new teaching certificate, and I didn’t want any confusion among the bureaucrats who approved my credentials. Then, I didn’t want it to affect my direct deposit, because the simpletons in payroll might be too perplexed by my new moniker to put all the pennies into the correct bank account.

Have I mentioned that it’s hard to pronounce? Of German origin, it should be pronounced “Burm”, like “germ” (as my dear friend Silvia pointed out), but Eric was raised pronouncing it “Borm.” Here in the South, it comes out as two syllables, like “Bor-em”—a great name for a teacher! Mrs. Bore ‘Em.

But now that we are planning on having some little Bore ‘Ems, I feel compelled to join the pack. So, it’s official! We’re all on the same team now, and I don’t feel any different. My identity is still intact. Like Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Friday, June 25, 2010

Operation Fertilization

I awoke this morning to the message, “Fertile Day 1” on my Ov Watch. Timing is critical when trying to conceive, since the delicate egg is only fertile six to twenty-four hours. Thereafter it begins to disintegrate a la Mission Impossible. Luckily, Agent Ov Watch is on our side, engaging in a little espionage so we can concoct our plan of attack.

This clandestine operation involves Agent Eric infiltrating the femme fatale every other day, as his amphibious attack squad can abide in the safe house for up to five days before termination. These sleeper cells are waiting for their target to reveal itself. Once the elusive ovum’s location has been determined, the game is afoot!

Operation Fertilization is underway. This message will self-destruct in five seconds…4,3,2,1!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pins and Needles

Today I went to my first fertility acupuncture appointment at Re-Soul on the peninsula. That’s Charleston talk for “downtown”. The streets are narrow and parking is sparse, but the view of the harbor and the rainbow colored mansions was breathtaking. Amy Jo, my acupuncturist and herbalist, was an awesomely caring individual who spent about an hour talking to me and gathering information about my health, cycle, habits, emotions and the like. She took my pulse and examined my tongue, then briefed me on her synopsis of my well-being.

According to Amy Jo, I have a yang deficiency in my liver and my kidneys need to be regulated. She advised that I discontinue drinking coffee, not just for fertility reasons, but to eliminate tension and migraines. Normally, I wouldn’t take this kind of advice so calmly, but coming from this long legged, red headed, nose-pierced, well-manicured beauty it seemed to make sense. Then she made me into a human voodoo doll by sticking twelve thin needles painlessly down the sides of my vertebrae. She left me there to cook while her iPod played in the background. It even played some of the same songs I have on my iPod, so she must be cool (I’m secretly hoping she becomes my new (second) “bestie”.)!

I drifted off into a relaxing sleep for a bit; then she returned about twenty minutes later. Next she burned a moxa, or incense, on my back. It heated up my midsection, and left a little pink mark on my back. As the moxa burned, she explained that she had created a recipe of powdered herbs for me to mix with water and drink three times per day. She demonstrated how to mix it up and had me shoot some right there. It didn’t taste great, but it was bearable. On the way home I felt utter tranquility beyond any peace I have ever felt. It was amazing!

Eric and I leave to go on a three week vacation on Sunday, so she gave me enough herbs to get me through the trip, and my next appointment will be a couple of days after we get back. The initial session cost $120 and the herbs were $25 per week. Surprisingly, I think I’ve even convinced Eric to try it! His main concern is where she will stick the needles!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

You Are What You Eat

I’m no stranger to diets. In fact, I’ve tried just about every fad diet there is: Atkin’s, South Beach, Cabbage Soup, Hollywood, grapefruit, starvation (college), cigarettes and coffee (college) and Weight Watchers. Last week, Eric and I started a different kind of diet—a fertility diet.

It’s basically like a Daniel Fast with lean meat and full-fat dairy. The first rule is that everything needs to be organic so we don’t corrupt our bodies with any unnecessary chemicals. You can find organic food in most grocery stores, but I prefer Wholefoods. It seems a little expensive at first, but organic food is pretty pricey everywhere and they have the best variety.

Veggies, especially peas, broccoli, kale, red pepper and pumpkin are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and just all around good for you. Yams are specifically recommended for fertility and some even say eating them increases the chances of having twins. Both fruits and vegetables have free-radical fighting anti-oxidants, especially blueberries and strawberries. The brighter the color, the better! Citrus fruits, like lemon and oranges provide the body with folic acid, which is great for preconception. Also encouraged on the fertility diet are “clean” fats, like olives, flax, nuts, seeds, and avocado. Lean meat is permitted in moderation. This is a blessing to Eric who almost lost his mind when we did the Daniel Fast earlier this year. He is definitely a carnivore!

This diet also advocates full-fat dairy. I am used to drinking soy milk, which isn’t allowed, so I was a little bummed until I remembered that ice cream undoubtedly qualifies as full-fat dairy. Cheese, yogurt, and whole milk make the cut, too. Buttermilk falls into this category, as well, if you are one of the few people who can choke it down. I happen to love it with my grandad's cornbread, but I'm pretty sure the cornbread is off limits, so I'll exchange it for eggplant, which is a popular fertility combination in India. Women there eat eaggplant and drink buttermilk daily when they want to conceive. I couldn't find any details about why this works, so it may be folklore, but I'm willing to try it.

Here’s the bad news—Caffeine constricts the blood vessels, reducing the flow of blood to the uterus, which can prevent eggs from attaching to the uterine wall. That means I have to limit my coffee consumption. I almost cried when I heard this, because I like coffee even more than ice cream (but only because it has fewer calories). No trans fat is permitted, so Eric had to say goodbye to his beloved Krispy Kremes (a tear may have been shed). In addition, no refined carbs, preservatives, alcohol, smoking, or illicit drugs. That, we can handle.

This diet doesn’t guarantee pregnancy; in fact, it’s pretty close to what we usually eat. It does give us peace of mind that if and when we do conceive, our baby will have a healthy start.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mother Naure, May I?

One Thanksgiving I played hooky from the traditional family gathering, opting instead to accomplish one of the items on my bucket list—witnessing the miraculous monarch migration in Michoacán, Mexico. Unfortunately, I was stricken with pneumonia upon my arrival. On the trip I encountered one mishap after another, making it a miserable vacation, but a riveting story (for another time). To reach my destination, I traveled by plane, train, charter bus, chicken-bus, pick-up truck and finally by foot. A Mexican farmer was my guide, directing me up the mountain to the sweet spot, where the only sound was the flapping of millions of butterfly wings. I coughed, hacked and wheezed my way up the mountain, periodically pausing to rest. Noting my failing health, my guide wandered off the trail for a bit, returning with a handful of green leaves. He motioned vigorously for me to rub them on my face.

“Not the face!” I silently gasped. Uttering a hesitant, “No, gracias,” I nudged the foliage away. But he insisted, explaining in Spanish that the leaves contained healing properties and were commonly used in his village as a natural botanical remedy. Dubious, but not wanting to offend, I took the leaves and scoured my face with them. When we reached the summit it seemed my malady had lifted. Whether it was the leaves or the surreal experience of the butterfly migration is a mystery. At the time I was just thankful I didn’t end up with a hideous rash covering my face.

For thousands of years nature’s bounty has supplied medicinal herbs and botanicals to cure what ails us. In our current venture to conceive I am trying an herb that is known for enhancing fertility. The ironically named chasteberry (vitex angus castus) is associated with reduced prolactin levels which influence Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and estrogen in women. Studies also reveal additional benefits, such as PMS relief and clear skin. Luckily it can be found in both a capsule and a tea, so I don’t have to rub it on my face!

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Woman's Prerogative

Yesterday I ranted about pill pushing doctors and the medicalization of infertility. Today, however, I marvel at the wonders of modern medicine. My dear friend texted me this morning to alert me that she was on her way to the hospital to deliver a precious baby girl. It wasn’t too long ago that this couple was weighing their options to determine if they should move forward with IVF. One human gestation period later, they are parents at last! And wonderful, loving parents they will be!

What a blessing, facilitated by fertility doctors and the Lord Almighty! Praise God!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Soap Box

Last October Eric and I drove across state lines to Savannah Reproductive Center to meet with a fertility specialist for consultation. The moment the doctor found out my age he acted as if it were doomsday. You would have thought my uterus would turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight on my thirty-fifth birthday (Up yours, buddy, I’m hott (which can likely be attributed to NOT having children, thank you very much)). To my surprise, less than ten minutes into the appointment visions of laparoscopy, Clomid, and IVF were dancing around in his gigantic head.

This over-eagerness to push pills and perform procedures is all too typical in this era of the medicalization of society. Frankly, it ticked me off. I imagined he would analyze our diets, chart my cycle, ask in-depth questions about our medical histories-- perhaps suggest a few “positions” (bom chicka wah wah). Rather, he skipped right to the money-makers. I left that office having agreed to things I wasn’t comfortable with…things I knew nothing about.

Those of you who know me would concur that this is strikingly uncharacteristic of me. I get this inquisitiveness from my father (shout out to dad on Father’s Day), who my mother has recently limited to asking only 3 questions on any particular subject. Just today Eric noted that I missed my calling as an investigative journalist. Move over, Becky Oliver, here comes Annie Boerm.

With a smidgen of probing, I stumbled upon the following statistics: A healthy, fertile couple stands only a 20% chance of conceiving each month, 5 million Americans experience periods of “sub-fertility” and half of those eventually go on to get pregnant and have healthy babies. Experts say that a woman’s fertility peaks in her twenties, but many women in their forties continue to remain fertile.

It is my personal belief that Dr. Bighead was attempting to perpetrate a fraud against this 34 year old woman. Yet another way our culture aims to make women feel “less than.” We’re not skinny enough, tall enough, nose isn’t thin enough, nails aren’t manicured enough, hair isn’t silky enough, teeth aren’t white enough, skin isn’t glowing enough, bikini area isn’t hairless enough, clothes aren’t stylish enough, purse isn’t expensive enough, and let’s not forget --bOObs aren’t big enough. The quest to be “enough girl”, all glamour-pussed and supermodeled out is utterly exhausting.

I’d be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t buy into some of these lies, but let it be documented that I resent them. Similarly, my antipathy toward this doctor, his injections, and implantations swelled over time. Perhaps my expectations of his services were somewhat grandiose. I recognize that fertility doctors truly help many couples who have actual medical conditions that prevent them from conceiving naturally, and for that, they should be appreciated. But in our case, it just seemed like another instance of fast food pharmacology.

Needless to say, I never returned to Savannah Reproductive Center, and don’t intend to. As for me and my man, we prefer the holistic approach-- vitamins, herbs, acupuncture, massage, and a miracle!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Let's Get Fiscal!

There’s more to getting pregnant than the baby dance. In the midst of researching prenatal vitamins, fertility diets, fecundity gadgets and conception concepts, it suddenly dawned on me that this isn’t all about the physical. If Eric and I are going to add another member to our family, we’re going to have to get fiscally fit, too!

To steal a phrase from Dave Ramsey, sometimes we have “too much month left at the end of the money.” (Can I get an amen?) After a mini-mantrum, Eric begrudgingly agreed to sit down together, financial statements in hand, and analyze our spending habits.

Now, to be perfectly honest, we don’t “want” for anything. We eat organic groceries, wear designer clothes, drive shiny vehicles and host fabulous parties (if I do say so myself!). There’s no coupon clipping around here. As Eric once so eloquently put it, “We have all the luxuries a Tech Sergeant and a Literacy Specialist can afford.” But after a little googling, I discovered that raising a child in this day and age costs an estimated $340,000! Cha-ching!

Subsequent to scrutinizing our finances by color coding our purchases, it was decided that we waste a small fortune on lattes and eating out (we might own shares of Starbuck’s and Chic-fil-A). Thus, we are determined to tote our own thermoses, pack our own lunches and limit our dinner consumption to the dining room. By the way, I’m so glad we went to eat sushi YESTERDAY!

Will these cut-backs earn us the equivalent of a new Ferrari? Doubt it, but ya gotta start somewhere!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sayonara Sushi

Tonight Eric treated me to Zen Asian Fusion for a farewell dinner. No, I’m not going anywhere and neither is he. It was a somber occasion, though--my farewell to sushi dinner. High levels of mercury in fish and shellfish can lead to infertility. Regular consumption of these aquatic creatures can cause methylmercury (a common ingredient in spermicides) to accumulate in the bloodstream over time leading to reproductive toxicity.

Shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel have the highest mercury levels, while salmon, tilapia, catfish, calamari, and caviar are on the low end. Shrimp and oysters have almost non-detectable mercury levels. That’s a tad bit comforting, especially since we live in a Charleston, with a seafood restaurant on every corner (and given that oysters are an alleged aphrodisiac, they might come in handy later)!

Experts say it’s all about moderation. Women trying to conceive who limit themselves to two six-ounce servings of low-mercury fish should be fine, but I’m going to play it safe, since I probably already have about 2,300 cc’s of mercury pumping through my veins due to my sushi addiction.

I also have to lay off the edamame (and soy milk) since soy can lead to decreased FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone). Soy boosts testosterone levels, so my better half can have all the edamame his little heart desires, but I can assure you he won’t go near tofu.

All of this begs the question, “How in the world do Japanese women get pregnant?” Perhaps my dear friend Kimie can answer that one. The good news is that sea vegetables actually boost fertility and enhance the female libido, so when I get a sushi hankering, I’ll have to substitute with seaweed salad (which I LOVE).

So for now, so long spicy salmon. Cheerio, chicken of the sea. Adios, edamame. You’ll be missed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Take Your Vitamins, Say Your Prayers

I started taking a multi-vitamin tonight. Not the yummy-Fred-Flinstone-tastes-like-candy kind of multi-vitamin; a prenatal multi-vitamin. A couple of years ago, when I was still on the pill, I took prenatal vitamins the size of horse tranquilizers because someone told me they would make my hair and nails grow. Turns out that’s a myth. The ones I’m taking now are by Stuart Prenatal. They’re fit for a princess- petit, pink, and engraved with hearts!

According to all of the sources I’ve consulted, vitamins are an integral part of preconception. Not only do they supply much needed folic acid, but taking B6 before getting pregnant can help alleviate nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Too bad the potential side effects sound so unappealing: headaches, intestinal cramps, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, heartburn, muscle aches, pains, nausea and vomiting (Can you say “contradiction”?), fatigue, gas, belching, metallic taste, ringing in the ears, insomnia, yellow-orange discoloration of urine and loss of appetite. Woohoo! Can’t wait to ride that train.

Eric and I also made a pact to add this to our nightly prayer list. In the past we threw it in when convenient, but recently we decided to go ahead and bug God about it a little more often—at least for the next 89 days. We can’t ignore the “Your will be done” caveat, because both of us feel sure He has a plan for our family. It might not line up exactly with our plan, but we’re still going to ask and hope that we receive.

In the meantime, we would be grateful for your prayers as well. So tonight, before you go to bed, take your vitamins and say your prayers! XOXO

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Watching and Waiting

My biological clock isn't the only thing ticking around here. My new OV Watch Fertility Predictor is more sporty than fashionable, but luckily I only have to wear it when I sleep.

This device was recommended to me by two of my closest friends, Valerie and Emily. It's a watch-like device that is worn for at least six hours each day, starting on days 1,2, or 3 of a woman's cycle. According to the package it uses a "patented biosensor [that] detects the chloride surge 3 days prior to the estrogen surge, 4 days prior to the LH surge and 5 days prior to ovulation, making it an earlier predictor of ovulation than any other chemical surge during the month."

In plain English, this means no more peeing on sticks, which I'm pretty happy about. Knowing when these 4 days prior to ovulation are gives us a cummulative 80% chance of conceiving, compared to only 5% on the actual day of ovulation.

This handy contraption isn't cheap. It costs $100 for the watch with a sensor that lasts one month. Additional sensors can be purchased later in sets of 3 for another benjamin. A small price to pay when weighed against the potential benefits. I figure if I can justify buying a $300 pair of jeans, I can certainly justify this!

I slept in it for the first time last night and it was very comfortable, virtually unnoticeable, except for the impression it left on my skin the next morning. In fact, it was WAY more comfortable than sleeping in my Rich and Skinnies (of which I am neither).

OV-Watch Fertility Predictor Starter Kit with 1 Month Supply of Sensors

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

There Is No Try

As I was walked through the mall last week an aggressive Israeli kiosk vendor selling Dead Sea skin care products practically bowled me over in an attempt to slather me with her moisturizing youth creams. Obviously unaware of a little concept known as “cultural sensitivity”, this audacious woman had the nerve to inquire about my age as she grabbed my hand and began to massage my fingers with her mineral-rich salve.

“Thirty-four,” I whispered discretely. She stared back, mouth agape. Seeing this as a prime opportunity to withdraw my hand from her clutches, I began to retract, but she clamped down firmly and continued massaging, working her way up my fingers to my wedding ring. “Married?” she queried. “Yes,” I retorted, dumbfounded. “Children?” she continued.

“Who the hell do you think you are—my new bestie?” I wondered. “No.”

“Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m really in a hurry,” I lied. She quickly began spewing off product information about the mystical healing properties of the ointment that now enveloped my forearm all the way up to my elbow. “No, thanks!” I asserted, yanking my arm away and scurrying off towards Dillard’s shoe department in astonishment.

It isn’t every day that I encounter strangers who so abruptly pry into my personal life. But I have to admit the overarching themes of this tête-à-tête are typical of those in conversations with just about everyone I encounter in my daily life.

When people find out that I am thirty-four, married and childless, they want to know why. The rest of the dialogue goes something like this…

“Well, my husband and I have been trying to have kids for a while now.”

“Stop trying. All you have to do is relax.”

“We haven’t been trying, trying. We just haven’t been not trying—if you know what I mean.” (insert blush)

Quite frankly, I’m exhausted by this c’est la vie attitude toward reproduction. Tomorrow begins the 90 day countdown to my 35th birthday, and my clock is ticking. I want a baby. Let me rephrase that-- we (my adoring husband, Eric, and I) want a baby!

Yoda, in his infinite wisdom, said, “Do or do not…there is no try.” Since we’ve been trying for two years to no avail, one might conclude that we are reproductively challenged, but we refuse to buy into that theory. So, for the next ninety days we intend to do (it). We will make a baby, and we’ll do it without the assistance of modern medicine.

We’ll do everything, from acupuncture to zinc and you’re invited to come along on this miraculous carpet ride (pun intended). Join us as we explore fertility and chronicle our adventures in baby making.