Well, it seems those twists and turns in life I spoke of earlier aren’t going away anytime soon. Not long after I wrote my last blog (below), telling you about my new mission to get preggo, I was officially cleared of having any anatomical problems that would interfere with having a kiddo…more confirmation that my obstacles are primarily hormone related. This was very good news as far as I was concerned.
My doctor put me on progesterone hormones for a week. Hubby and I took a “last hoorah” weekend trip to Vegas, and two weeks later I received some very good news…”You are pregnant!” We couldn’t have been happier, and I was honestly in shock at how fast it had happened. Just a few weeks earlier I had no idea on what it would take for me to conceive and now I was already pregnant?! WOO HOO!!!
I know many people wait much longer to share the news, but I just couldn’t contain myself. A couple people I told seemed rather surprised that I would share this news so soon. “What if something should happen?” or “It’s still really early. You should wait.” Yes, the early stages of pregnancy are fragile, but this was the most exciting news I’d ever received IN MY LIFE. I proceeded to shout the news from every social media rooftop on the planet. For me personally, I felt that even if something were to happen to compromise the pregnancy, that it would all be part of the process. I mean, why wouldn’t I want to share any unfortunate aspects of my journey with people too? This is not the 1950’s and I am not one to try to mask the truth, no matter what it is.
And with that, just as quickly as we were greeted with the fantastic news of becoming pregnant and telling the world, we were then met with not so good news. About a week later, I received a call from my doctor who was concerned about my hormone levels. I wasn’t shocked due to my history thus far. She put me on progesterone supplements to bolster my levels, since ample progesterone is very necessary to provide the proper environment for the developing embryo. Not but a few days later, I went back to re-test, and received a very somber phone call from the fertility clinic. “Unfortunately, we received the results of your testing, and now your HCG has dropped. I’m so sorry.” It was the kind of “I’m so sorry” that no one ever wants to hear.
For those of you who don’t know, HCG is the hormone that is present during pregnancy and which is supposed to increase exponentially every day in the first several weeks of pregnancy. If HCG levels off or begins to decline in a pregnancy this early, it is a sure sign of an impending miscarriage. At first, I didn’t react in a way that you might think. Rather than getting emotional, I began asking the nurse a whole line of analytical questioning to determine why this had happened to me. If something was wrong, I wanted to fix it. I needed to know what exactly happened, so that I could prevent it in the future. Miscarriage can happen for a number of reasons: Genetic error (mismatching of chromosomes), Abnormal hormone levels, Structural problems or disorders (woman’s anatomy), Blood incompatability (Rh-), Immunologic disorders, Environmental toxins, and Age. However, no matter what question I asked to determine WHY this happened to me, the answer was still the same….”We just can’t tell for sure.”
I was shocked to learn that up to 25% of women in their 30’s and more than 50% of women in their 40’s experience miscarriage. Many times, this happens during a first pregnancy, and the same woman goes on to have multiple successful pregnancies. I was also shocked to personally hear the stories from at least half of my own friends and family members who have experienced miscarriage themselves! Well geez people, why am I just now getting the memo on how common this is?! It’s like this very hush hush thing that no one wants to talk about, and understandably so. I guess I just have no shame, and feel that if it’s something that affects so many people, why not talk about it more?
Exactly as the nurse predicted, I did unfortunately miscarry just days after receiving that somber call. During this time, my rational line of thinking about the topic went completely out the window. I was feeling really sorry for myself, and having quite a few “It’s just not fair!” moments. I felt like I had failed, was somehow damaged, or that maybe I’d done something wrong to make this happen. There are a lot of things, both physical and emotional, that were happening in my brain and body, and it’s just very difficult to control your moods when something like this happens. There was a 72 hour period where I would just burst into tears out of the blue with no real trigger or for any apparent reason. Thank God for my husband, who is there 100% of the time to catch me when I fall. I don’t know what I would do without him. I love you Matt!
By day 3, I got tired of feeling sorry for myself. I woke up and went to the gym, only to see a personal friend of mine (my former hairstylist) crying and pleading on the national news for the safe return of her daughter, who just happened to be the same age as me (33) and who has gone missing in FL. The missing woman, Michelle Parker, mother of three, is still currently nowhere to be found. To hear a story like this, and to see someone I personally know on tv in this fashion, was more than a wake up call to me, and I hope it can also be a wake-up call to you. I had absolutely no right to feel sorry for myself one second longer, and my wallowing was immediately replaced with hope and prayers for this other woman. I haven’t stopped praying for her and her family since. My problems pale in comparison to what others out there are going through.
I began to appreciate all of the positives in my own situation and resolved to focus on what was going right instead. And so, I proceeded to pick myself up and dust myself off for good. I surrounded myself with uplifting music and distracted myself with a funny book. Special thanks for Tina Fey for writing the book Bossypants! Staying busy with work and having family in town for Thanksgiving has been a good distraction as well.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned the past few weeks is that there are always going to be things that don’t go our way. You never know what cards life is going to hand you, but I guarantee no matter how bad you think you have it or how sorry you are feeling for yourself, there is someone out there with a problem bigger than yours. My circumstances haven’t been ideal along this journey to motherhood, but at least I now know that I do have the ability to become pregnant, something I wasn’t even sure of before. That in itself is something to be thankful for! It’s helping me see how to turn something that could be a TRAGEDY INTO TRIUMPH. I have officially moved on from this rough patch and am determined to stay positive and keep looking towards the future. After all, no one ever reaches their destination by looking in the rear view mirror!
As always, thanks for reading, and I will let you know how it goes for baby making Round 2. Ding Ding!
If there is one quote I always come back to it’s this one; ”Life is what happens when you’ve made other plans.” Life is filled with an endless supply of unexpected twists and turns. Isn’t it funny that just when you think you have it all figured out, something can happen to take you a completely different direction? It’s not always something bad or unfortunate that happens either. Many times it can be a very good thing.
A little more than 3 years ago that is what happened to me. After completing and winning the 2008 Body-for-LIFE Challenge, my life did a complete 180, and in a very good way. What a lot of people don’t know is how unexpected the last few years of my life have really been. Right after I completed the challenge I began working as a corporate fitness trainer full time, before I ever knew I had a chance of winning. My husband and I were getting ready to move from California to Texas. We were done with apartment hopping and wanted to have a place to settle down and start a family. I was 30 years old at the time.
We bought what we call our “starter dream home” after a one-weekend visit to Austin and proceeded to do just that. I used to joke saying that I’m not going to be pregnant climbing 3 flights of stairs with groceries in some apartment somewhere, and having a real home seemed like the last piece of the puzzle to put in place before starting a family. Within the same month of purchasing our home, I received news that I’d won the BFL Challenge. We were content to say the least.
If life hadn’t continued to present unexpected opportunities, I think that starting a family right away would have just naturally followed. However, only a couple months later, life presented another unexpected turn. I was standing at a self check-in machine at the Columbus, OH airport when I was approached by a talent agent from Wilhelmina Modeling’s fitness division. Fitness modeling is generally not an easy trade to get into. The route that some men and women take to get into fitness modeling can be long and extremely difficult. Obviously, I knew at the time that this career move wouldn’t exactly be conducive to being barefoot and pregnant. My husband and I discussed the pros and cons, but I felt that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. A couple weeks later I signed a 3 year contract with Wilhelmina and began working as a fitness model.
During this time I was continuing to practice my usual healthy lifestyle…or so I thought, but I knew I was continuing to lose weight. I chalked it up to the fact that I had more muscle now and that my metabolism had become more efficient. My body fat % fell into the teens, and my body started to change in other ways. My monthly period became non-existent, which I knew was a red flag, but I also knew it was a common side effect among female athletes. I continued to justify it. After all, I was an athlete, so this could be considered “normal”. I looked and felt like I was in the best shape of my life. I was constantly being asked “What do you do?” by others looking to improve their health and fitness, so the occasional comment of “Do you even eat?” didn’t really phase me. I mean, I wasn’t starving myself by any means. I was eating constantly!
What I didn’t take into account was the fact that although I was eating the same, in all actuality, my activity level wasn’t the same. Looking back, I realize and must confess that I was in a bit of denial about how much I was actually doing. I would do my workouts as usual (which were extremely intense), but if I jogged a 5K later in the day with a client for their workout I wasn’t counting that as my own exercise. “My heart rate was barely even raised,” I’d say. Demonstrating exercises during training sessions or doing drills with a client wasn’t MY workout technically right?
I would answer emails while I climbed the stepmill at the gym. It’s pretty easy to lose track of time when you are tackling a stuffed inbox. I figured if I was getting work done, my feet may as well be moving! Rest days were becoming less frequent as well. I was starting to plan vacations with my husband around things where I could be active constantly, like intense hiking trips through Yosemite. I’d justify throwing in longer workouts leading up to the trip as “training” for a specific hike. It was structured training of course. I certainly don’t suggest trying to complete a 20 mile hike through Yosemite, if you haven’t done something to prepare for it, but the point is that I was honestly just doing too much.
Newsflash! If you are a female who exercises religiously, with body fat in the teens, and haven’t had a period for 3 years, you might be doing too much! There can be other causes for some people, but for me, I do believe that has been the case. I know, it seems ridiculous that I let that little tidbit of info. become so conveniently ignored for so long, but I just didn’t miss that unpleasant time of the month each month, and besides I had other priorities. My doctor warned me about a year and a half ago that if I ever wanted to have children, I’d need to take a step back and “put on some fat.”
I haven’t stopped thinking about that dr. visit since. Now, with me being 33 and hubby being 35, we felt the time is right to start an exciting new chapter in life. For the past 3 months, I’ve been undergoing a lot of testing to determine what is going on with my body. Between ultrasounds, histerosalpingograms, and a whole slew of blood work, the cause of things being thrown off seems pretty cut and dry in my case. I needed to gain weight and stop exercising so much.
The female body can be extremely sensitive to weight and body fat with regards to hormones. Even for someone with a healthy weight, such as myself, low body fat % can cause reproductive issues. Just as having too much fat can cause estrogen to be too high, carrying too little fat causes estrogen to be too low. Normal levels of estradiol in women under 50 usually ranges between 50-400. Mine tested at 12. Twelve! I about fell out of my chair when I heard those results!
So needless to say, I have been following doctor’s orders to take a step back the past few months in order to gain fat and give my body the rest that it needs to get things back on track. It’s been a slightly hilly journey thus far, physically and emotionally. For someone whose motto has always been, “Go hard or go home,” and who’s spent the last 3 years strutting a size 0/2 it can be a little strange to now be buying a size 4/6. Practicing restraint at the gym has been challenging for me, but something I know is necessary to give my body a rest. As for the eating, I won’t lie….it’s been a nice break to relax quite a bit on the eating front. After all, fat = estrogen! Haha!
It goes without saying that this is kind of a personal topic and I contemplated whether or not I’d share it with many people. However, I think it’s really something that needs to be put out there. I personally know a lot of fitness minded women who are quite possibly putting themselves at reproductive risk by doing too much. I've also personally received many emails from women with eating disorders, which is another common cause of infertility. I have no interest in judging anyone, but just wanted to share my own experience in hopes that it might spark a reality check in someone else out there who might be ignoring the same red flags that I did. And although men may be dealing with different issues, the message is still the same. I strongly encourage you to be completely honest with your doctors and get tested if you feel there is anything that is off course. Listen to your body!
As for me and where to go from here, I’m certainly not leaving the world of health and wellness. My love for healthy cooking, passion for policy change, and vision for a healthier future are not going anywhere I assure you. My priorities are just shifting. I’m putting the 6 pack abs on a little hiatus for a while and focusing my energy on other exciting new projects in health education, public speaking, acting, and other creative avenues.
Hopefully sharing my own journey will continue to inspire and help others in the same way it has up until now. I will let you know how it goes in the baby making department and would love to hear from you along the way!