Focus on Fertility – eating well, and a breakfast recipe

Not being pregnant for the sixth month in a row has caused me to take a hard look at the things I have been and have not been willing to do in order to get pregnant. I do believe that a person should be able to live a more-or-less healthy lifestyle and continue on as normal, and become pregnant. But I think most people (or maybe I just mean me?) are in a little bit of denial about what a more-or-less healthy lifestyle looks like.

I eat vegetables. I eat probably more of them than many of my friends and extended family. I am not “overweight,” no matter who you ask (unless you ask that asshole who lives in my head and occasionally surfaces when I am jeans shopping or going to the beach with people who have never seen me in a swimsuit). So I was all yeah, I eat basically well. No changes needed. I plowed through the eating chapter in Fully Fertile making one small change – giving up pop – and carried on as I had been.  Also while ignoring the rest of the book, because it told me I had to get more sleep, so I was like, well, here’s where I give up.  

When I wasn’t pregnant last month, I revisited my eating and faced the fact that even though I ate sorta fine, there was definitely room for improvement.  I read the “pregnancy diet” in WTEWYE, and started thinking about nutrients. And, um, I am actually a little short, it seems. I don’t get nearly enough vitamin C or iron, or even calcium. I seem to have become some kind of crazy meat-eater, which is weird because I was a vegetarian for nearly a decade. I probably eat too much salt. And I drink alcohol daily. And (ahem) maybe a bit too much on the weekends.

So for the last few days, I have been diligently trying to get in more fruits and vegetables, and have been drinking milk instead of wine at dinner. I am a LOT more full after dinner now — the milk makes an enormous difference. I am mildly lactose intolerant, so the milk is a bit of a challenge after the fact. The intolerance started when I spent 8 weeks in the UK in college and the cafeteria in my dorm served this horrible super-pasteurized milk that can apparently be left at room temperature. That shit is nasty, and I didn’t drink milk at all for 2 full months, or even put it on my cereal. I came back, and all dairy, even yogurt or cheese, caused issues, and FORGET about putting milk on my cornflakes in the morning. I have gradually worked in all other kinds of dairy and now have no problems with them, so am hoping that my tiny glass of milk each dinner will re-acclimate my digestive system to lactose so that I can eventually grow into the full- sized version of my pre-London years. Even if not, some milk is better for the bones than none, and even though it is animal-derived, at least it is a good non-meat source of protein.

For me, healthier eating was not just a matter of what I added, but also what I subtracted. This meant less processed food, and much less alcohol. Yesterday I was congratulating myself on how little I had been drinking when I realized it had only been four days. Ahem.  But I am carrying on in that regard.

My dinners are almost all home-cooked, thanks to having three growing kids to feed, but I tend to grab both breakfast and lunch out, so this was clearly where I needed to make the effort to eat more home-cooked, nutrient-rich food.  I usually eat some kind of wrap from Dunkin’ Donuts or Subway for breakfast, since they are both in the basement of my office building, and soup, salad, or a sandwich for lunch.  My main challenge with eating breakfast at home was that I never had time to make anything, and I don’t really like cold things or sweet things in the morning. And I don’t really like eggs.  I know, weird. Thus, whatever I was going to eat had to be hot, savory, not too eggy, easy to heat up at work, and had to be made ahead of time.  And so, I present to you, my new breakfast (well, half of it, anyway):



Spinach-Feta Breakfast Wrap

(makes six)

2 Tbsp. Italian dressing
1 lb. frozen chopped spinach
1 tsp. minced garlic
4-5 eggs
5-6 egg whites (I meant to do 4 eggs and 6 whites, but I broke one of my yolks when separating, so I think I was 5 and 5.  Also I kind of lost count.)
splash of skim milk
a handful of sun-dried tomatoes (not the ones in oil!)
1/2 block of pasteurized feta cheese
6 whole wheat tortillas

Heat the Italian dressing over medium heat, and add the garlic.  Thaw the spinach and press out as much excess water as you can.  Add to the garlic when it’s simmering. Cut up the sun-dried tomatoes into strips with kitchen shears and add to the spinach.  Sautee until heated through and the tomatoes soften a bit. Remove from pan and set aside.*

Meanwhile, mix eggs and milk in a bowl until blended but not totally beaten.  Add to the pan the spinach was in, stirring until cooked but a tiny bit runny.**  Spread out 6 tortillas on the counter, each on a paper towel, and divide the spinach and eggs evenly amongst them.  Crumble/chop the feta cheese and divide evenly.  Add some pepper here if you feel like it.  I was lazy and did not.

Wrap each into a burrito, then wrap in the paper towel and then in parchment paper.  Stuff them all into a gallon-sized ziplock and freeze.  This whole process took me about 15 minutes on a Sunday night.  In the morning grab one and stick it in your lunchbox.  I put mine in a sandwich bag in case it thaws, but it’s so freaking cold in New York right now that it never has.  

To heat, pop the whole thing in the microwave for 2-3 minutes.  The water from the spinach will soak the paper towel a bit and it will steam inside the parchment paper.  For your trouble, you get:

1/2 serving of protein
1 serving of calcium
1 serving of iron
1 serving of leafy greens
1 serving of whole grain

I purposely made sure this was pregnant-lady friendly, so that I don’t have to think too hard about how to change it if I am pregnant.  I also plan to try some variations on this, with maybe some soy-breakfast sausage, different cheeses, different veggies, etc.  I think bell peppers, sausage, hot sauce, and pepper-jack cheese would be a nice combo to mix it up a bit.

*  Next time, I plan to try mixing the eggs and spinach together. I am thinking it will be less “one bite spinach, one bite egg” and more blended.  We shall see.

** I left the eggs a tiny bit runny because they cook up when you’re re-heating and can get a little spongy.  If you’re worried about food safety, I am sure you can cook them through without it being a huge deal.

one pink line, and the problem with maybe

This weekend, I got my period.  Again.

Friday, I was sure I was pregnant.  I planned to test on Saturday morning, because then we would have some time to revel in it before getting back into real life. How could I not be pregnant?  We used a different donor, the donor that we thought we were meant to have been using all along, but originally had not chosen because he was an open donor.  His numbers were much better!  I had the HSG test, and my tubes were clear.  My prolactin levels were down (still not in the normal range, but very close).  We timed it right, finally, for our two back-to-back inseminations.  I would surely be pregnant this time, lucky try number six.

There are lots of women who feel nothing, less than nothing, no pregnancy symptoms at all, before they are late.  So I could be one of them.

When I woke up Saturday, I knew I was not pregnant.  “Are you going to test?” my wife whispered.

“It’s going to say no. Give me just one more minute to hope.”  But I had to go to the bathroom, and eventually I couldn’t put it off any longer.  I set the test on the nightstand and put my head on my wife’s shoulder for three more minutes.  I was right.  It was negative.  I stared for a while at that blank, white space next to the one pink line before I got up and threw the test in the garbage. I crawled back into bed and cried, for kind of a long time.

This was the worst loss.  The other times, I knew it might not work.  I really, really thought this time would work.  I let myself read week 3 on Amalah’s zero-to-forty pregnancy calendar (and week 4, and 5).  I had a dream that I had a baby, and it was a boy, and BT was happy about it.  I avoided brie, and smoked salmon, and drank sparkling water, just in case.  I hoped.

On Sunday, I had the worst fucking cramps I have had in a decade, and got my period. I spent a good portion of the afternoon sitting on the couch with a heating pad, feeling sorry for myself.  I discussed Clomid with my wife and my sister, who is a consultant that works with pharm companies and knows things about drugs.  I talked with my wife about how long we would do this, and how hard it is on me emotionally.  We talked about Clomid, we talked about IVF.

The thing about not being pregnant, month after month, is that you start to think that it’s you.  I am starting to lose faith in my body’s ability to become pregnant without some further assistance.  I look at my lifestyle, and I think, maybe it’s because I refused to give up drinking.  Or even drinking coffee.  Maybe I should do more yoga.  Maybe I should not have skipped acupuncture. Maybe it’s all the late nights of work.  Maybe it was staying home to care for my son, and catching his cold.  And you know what? Maybe it is.  Or maybe it’s not.  I don’t really know.  I don’t know why I’m not pregnant yet.

In the end, we decided that we are going to try one more “natural cycle,” and I am going to really give it a go doing all the shit they tell you to do in books about fertility.  I am not going to eat crap that’s bad for me.  I am going to cut down to the four drinks a week they recommend when you are trying to conceive.  I am going to re-give up the second cup of coffee and the diet coke that has been sneaking back into my hands on the weekends.  I am going to do better with remembering both the prenatal vitamins and the B-6.  I am going to diligently try to get to bed earlier, even if that means no Downton Abbey for me.  If it works, so much the better.  If it doesn’t, then there are worse things than being super healthy for a month, and it will give baby a little head start on having a healthy mama, when I start the Clomid in March.

if we wanted Chlamydia, we’d ask for it

I have spent a lot of time over the past few days fretting about how my doctor proposed maybe considering Clomid for the next cycle if this one doesn’t work.  I think this one will work, right? There are a lot of variables that have changed:  new donor, HSG test, two inseminations this month (one today, one tomorrow, yay!), and ever-lowering prolactin levels.  Good for pregnancy odds, not so good for a controlled study, I guess.  Nonetheless, I feel like “considering Clomid” is hanging over my head like a dark cloud.

Yesterday, I confessed to my wife that I was worried about this.  I don’t want to try medication, yet, I told her.  It made the already-awful HSG test worse to have it popped on me while I was still bleeding on the x-ray table that we had to start thinking about fertility meds.

“Well, honestly.  I don’t think she needs to keep bringing it up.  If we wanted Chlamydia, we’d ask for it, right?” my wife said.


“What? What’s that?  What’s Clomid?”

“That’s the medication.  The medication is Clomid.  Chlamydia is an STD.”

“Oh, right.  Clomid, then.  Whatever, the logic still stands.”  The woman has a good point.

on pins and needles

The last two Saturdays, I’ve had acupuncture. I’ve chirped about doing this ever since I started thinking about trying to get pregnant, for a few reasons. One is that it’s supposed to work. There’s lots of evidence that acupuncture and other “alternative medicine” can help with conception. Please don’t ask me for any of this evidence, though, because I’m not a scientist. I just know that there have been official sounding studies that say it helps. The other reason is that it’s supposed to be really enjoyable. Someone I work with who had acupuncture said it was as relaxing as having three massages in a row. This seemed to be universal among my small circle of acquaintances who have had acupuncture.

So, when I found out I wasn’t pregnant last month, I finally sucked it up and made an appointment. You guys, I hated it. I was so surprised! Really. I thought it would be so relaxing and lovely, but I forgot about the fact that the acupuncturist sticks needles. Into you. Lots of them. And I am actually not super-crazy about needles. And yes, they are teeny tiny needles, but in some places they hurt.

Here’s the other thing. Apparently, I am burning through all my yang energy with my crazy lifestyle, which is giving me all these symptoms. It seems its not actually all that normal to have stress-headaches, as I call them, multiple times a month. The headaches are good, because the acupuncture is covered by my insurance (it covers acupuncture for treatment of pain), but not so great because of how they are headaches.

Because of my yang exhausting lifestyle, my treatments are more “stimulating”. Which means not exactly relaxing. Also, did I mention needles? I found a few of the places she stuck the needles were quite sore and achey during and after the treatment, which made it even harder to relax. For the record, the sensitive points were the top of my left foot and the back of my left hand. Abdomen, head, ear, face, and other places I would have expected to be more sensitive were just fine.

Nonetheless, after the first session, I went back for more. I’m glad that I did, because it was much better. I wasn’t so nervous about the needles, and the sensitive points weren’t quite so achey. It was snowing, and quiet, and I tried to welcome our little one in a casual sort if way. You know, no pressure, baby, but if you wanted to make an appearance this month, that would be cool with us.

Monday, we inseminated for the 5th time. The timing was good, the insemination went fine, and most importantly, I had my blood drawn and the prolactin levels are finally starting to drop. During the insemination, I did something without thinking that I haven’t actually done with any sincerity since about 11th grade — I prayed. I have no idea where it came from; I’m not even sure I believe in god. Most of the time I don’t. But I suddenly realized I was silently begging god for this baby. We will try so hard. We will love him or her so much.

I have a little hope, but I am not as optimistic as last month. Things aren’t different enough to make me think this time will work when last time didn’t. And it’s getting a little old being disappointed all the time. But with each day that goes by, I keep thinking more and more … What if? We will find out a day before New Year’s Eve. Maybe it will be a little late Christmas present for us.

Today, at our middle one’s fifth grade chorus concert, my wife gave my hand a squeeze during dona nobis pacem. I leaned in, and she whispered, “I hope you’re pregnant.” Yeah love. Me too. Let the waiting begin.