Factor V Leiden

Yesterday was my 29th birthday. Normally I get pretty excited about my birthday and I've never understood people like my husband who don't want their loved ones to make a big deal out of it.

I mean- please! By all means: make a big deal. ;-)

But I met yesterday with mixed emotion. I was happy and grateful for my 29th year, excited to see what my 30th year will bring, but also somewhat sad. More and more lately I have been feeling the ache of empty arms. Arie is growing older, kindergarten is approaching, and I am filled with such intense longing for another child. Already suffering from infertility, my biological clock is ticking louder and louder as I age and I fight against the fear that it will never happen.

Even so, I am comforted to know I'm doing everything I can to realize my dream of carrying a baby and I am in the best of medical hands.

After my failed embryo transfer my doctor ordered a long list of blood tests. When I went to get the blood draw the nurse actually stopped in her tracks and said, "Woah. It's going to take me a minute to enter these into the computer." I bet there were close to a dozen vials by the time she was done! I've now had every infertility relevant blood test I could have.

The results came back last week and revealed something new: I have a genetic blood clotting disorder! I got the news via voicemail and I admit I fist pumped when I heard it. I knew there was something we were missing and I am so happy we found it! I'm beyond grateful to my doctor who tested me for this disorder after my first failed FET; I've heard so many stories of women who suffered multiple miscarriages before their doctor ordered this test. While we don't know if this genetic mutation caused my failed FET (he didn't think so, but there is not enough research on the topic to know for sure), we do know that there is a possibility that if I had become pregnant not knowing about this mutation I could have lost the babies, even late into the pregnancy. I am so thankful we found this issue now so that when I become pregnant in the future, we can prevent any issues that would stem from it.

There are two forms of this mutation: heterozygous (one copy of the mutation: less severe) and homozygous (two copies: more severe). I have the less severe one. (Biology class was not my favorite in high school so apologies if I am explaining this poorly.)

I'll start taking a low dose of aspirin right away and when I do become pregnant I will have to take a prescription blood thinner called Lovonox. In the case of our next frozen embryo transfer, I'll actually start the Lovonox a few days before the transfer.

 I feel like we finally have the full picture of our infertility woes, at least as much as modern medicine can reveal. There have been a few points along the way on this journey when I have been amazed by and grateful for the medical care I am able to access: this is one of those times. Outwardly my body gave me no signs of trouble. Even with charting my basal body temperature, I had no reason to believe anything was amiss. It was so frustrating to not understand why I wasn't getting pregnant! Three diagnoses later (diminished ovarian reserve, endometriosis, and Factor V Leiden) I can say there is a certain relief that comes just knowing what the problem is. Right now modern medicine can't cure any of my diagnoses, but I am thankful that we do have a way to treat them so that I have hope of carrying a child. I thank God for the continuing work of dedicated doctors and scientists who seek to find more answers and, someday, cures. It truly is amazing!

I know I'll get some questions from women wondering if they should be tested for FVL. Of course this is a question for your doctor but from what I understand if you have had multiple losses, are of European descent, or have a personal or family history of blood clots it would be worth looking into. At fist I thought I only fit into the "European descent" category but have since found out about a family history of clotting I didn't know about!

I'd love to hear from you if you have experience with Factor V Leiden or other clotting disorders. You can leave me a comment below or on facebook so others can gain from your story or if you prefer send me a private message on facebook. Thank you in advance!



'Tis the season!

Have you ever gotten sick- say with a stomach bug or flu- and suddenly realized how much you had been taking your health for granted? Find yourself throwing up in the toilet bowl, thinking of all the things you could have been doing with your day if you weren't too weak to get off the bathroom floor? Curl up in bed, shivering with fever, wondering why when you were healthy you weren't absolutely skipping through each day, singing the praises of good health and capability?

I certainly have! It's a lesson that I recently re-learned when I was mostly couch-ridden in November from the pain of my progesterone shots. Suddenly the most basic tasks became huge chores and my standards for parenting, housekeeping, and everything else were significantly lowered. I temporarily went from thriving to surviving. It was only for a short time and I had lots of help from my husband and friends so I had no reason to complain about my situation, but it did renew in me a zest for living! I spent a lot of time marveling at people who live with chronic pain and became sharply aware of how much I take for granted.

(I also spent a lot of time wishing I had deep cleaned my house before I was stuck on the couch.)

Now that I'm back to my usual self and the Christmas season is upon us, I've determined to not lose sight of that lesson and to carpe diem every day. Okay maybe not seize every day-let's not go overboard- but certainly seize the season! Though I am certainly sad that I am not pregnant this Christmas like I dreamed I would be, I am so grateful to have my health, my family, and my faith for the holidays. I'm determined to enjoy all three this season!

John, Arie, and I welcomed the season like most families: by trimming our tree! Arie is such a fun little boy to do this kind of stuff with! As John and I brought boxes of ornaments and decorations up from the basement, Arie's body bounced up and down, hands clenched, little squeals of delight escaping from his lips. John and I watch his reaction and grin at each other, marveling at our little boy and wondering how we got so lucky to be his parents.

I love the ritual of re-discovering our special ornaments. Our tree tells a fuller, longer story each year as our marriage- and we- grow older. We hang the kitschy penguin John and I bought on our honeymoon in Niagara Falls almost seven years ago; it's hollow stomach holds a black and white engagement picture, one my dad took in 2006. There are six metal brown stars in a box from The Pottery Barn; I remember how excited I was to receive a gift card to this expensive store in the first year of our marriage. I picked those stars and an adorable silver twig-like reindeer that sits on our hall table. They are still my favorite pieces of Christmas decor! On our tree we also hand an ornament that looked like a Tim Horton's coffee cup (a tribute to my homeland!), a red owl that I bought as Arie's "first Christmas" ornament, and two "Burden Family" ornaments with the year we became a family marked in celebration: 2012. They always make me smile.

This year we hung a few snowflakes on our tree as well: one impressed with to pairs of tiny baby figurative baby feet, given to us by our church in memory of the two embryos we lost last month. We also hung two big, beautiful, sparkling snowflakes that John bought me a few weeks ago: a symbol of the two embryos we have waiting, frozen, and the hope and prayers we offer for them this Christmas.

When we were done, I took a moment to admire our work and my heart is flooded with the hope I feel each Christmas.

My sweet reverie was soon interrupted by a soft crunching sound. I found our cat Jasper under the tree, chewing on the branches! I shouted at him to "get out of there" and Arie joined me, delighted by both the permission to yell while inside and to be "in charge" of someone for once in his life... even if it is the cat! Yesterday the bottom fifth of the lights on our tree went out. I'm really hoping our cat didn't chew through a wire. (I promise to check it: fire safety and all.)

Next on my "seize the season!" list was a walk in a winter wonderland. Saturday morning proved the perfect opportunity to enjoy a winter hike since our sun finally showed itself after a long week of hiding.

We took off to a wooded trail, relishing the sound of crunch snow underfoot (me), picking up sticks and acorns along the way (Arie), and even sighting a woodpecker high above (John)!

Finally, we got a head-start on our holiday baking. We are hosting my family for Christmas this year (yay!) and with that full house for three or four days (eight adults, one child, a cat, and my dog-nephew) I anticipate chomping through our fair share of cookies. Arie and I spend an afternoon in the kitchen mixing and baking three dozen each of sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies, and oatmeal raisin cookies. Turns out Arie is actually pretty good with a rolling pin! Our goodies are packaged up and waiting in the freezer for a later December date.

On Sunday we began our advent activities (we're doing the Jesse Tree this year and- of course- a chocolate calendar!). Still waiting on our list is a Santa Breakfast at Arie's preschool, a car ride with hot chocolate to see Christmas lights, wrapping all our gifts (already purchased- yay!), mailing Christmas cards, and enjoying a Christmas ballet with John's mom. Seizing the season!

Did you get your tree up yet? What festive events or traditions are you looking forward to?

Happy, hopeful advent to you.



Five ways to strengthen your marriage during infertility

I wrote this post for our local Bethany Christian Services blog on the topic of infertility and marriage.

Infertility is hard on a marriage. There are many elements of the journey that can threaten to tear couples apart: feelings of guilt, inadequacy, blame over the cause of infertility, disagreement about treatment options, financial stress due to the cost of treatments, and the all-consuming nature of infertility treatment. Though the challenges of infertility can not always be avoided, they do not have to tear you apart! They can be used as opportunities for you to grow closer and stronger as a couple. My husband John and I began our infertility journey four years ago and while we have not always done it well, we have found ways to grow closer and stronger through it. Based on our experience, here are five suggestions for keeping your marriage strong during infertility.



There's a word in my Dutch cultural heritage that people use to wish someone perseverance through their suffering or hardship. I remember my mom using the word at a funeral visitation: solemnly, compassionately, looking into the griever's eyes and delivering the solitary word:



It was nearly impossible for me to imagine finding any kind of strength on the other side of a failed embryo transfer. I knew the odds. I knew it could fail. I knew we could lose our precious embryos. I didn't know how I would endure it.

Yet here I am on the other side of that loss, finding strength. Growing stronger.

I find myself looking at this chapter of my life with great surprise; a sort of third person perspective where I scribble in the margin, "Wow! Resilience!" with an exclamation point because who would have thought this desperate and scared little soul could have survived such a crushing blow? It's been two weeks since that heartbreaking phone call, yet already I am healing. Already my strength is being renewed.

I can only attribute this to the supernatural power of Christ Jesus in my life. I feel as though I am learning in a new way the truth of this passage from 2 Corinthians 12, "I pleaded with the Lord to take [my hardship] away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest on my. That's why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 

I am so weak right now. Physically and emotionally I am dry. Yet spiritually I am being filled. It's an incredible paradox. In my prayers I say to God, "I'm so scared to try again. I'm terrified that I will never conceive." He answers me with words from scripture: 

Yesterday John and I met with Dr. Colbert again. Having practiced reproductive medicine for decades now, he knew the concerns of my heart. Sharing our faith, he was able to speak the truth to me. "You're doing everything right. You've done everything we've asked of you. You let us worry about the rest. You let us figure this out. It's in our hands." Then he corrected himself, "Actually," he said, "it's in the good Lord's hands. We're doing everything we can. It's not for you to worry." 

God has given me this message five times over the past few days from a unique mix of people: the message that I'm not doing anything wrong. This is not my fault. This is in his hands. It's a message I didn't even know I needed to hear, but a message that has allowed me to find the strength to heal from our loss and move forward with our treatment. 

When I am weak, I am strong. 

Moving forward, I am going to have some labs done to test for a number of blood clotting disorders that can interfere with implantation. With the Thanksgiving holidays coming up here in the US, I'm hoping to get the results back early next week. 

The transfer schedule at our clinic is all booked up through the new year, which allows us to take a welcomed break from treatment over the holidays. I'll likely start the medication regime for our next transfer in January and have the transfer scheduled in early February. 

I want to leave this post with a word to those who are suffering the pain of infertility and embarking on the holiday season- a season marked by baby-filled family get togethers, invasive questions, the obvious passage of time that has left you still waiting, and the guilt of being sad when you "should" be joyful. I know how can sharply these things can puncture our vulnerable hearts. Here's my word to you: 


May you find in Christ a strength that surprises you. A reason to hope, a place to rest, and a faith that endures. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...