Category: Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Part 4: Letting Go

This is the fourth post in the series telling you about my past. Please check out: Part 1: Where it all Started; Part 2: Exercising Excessively; and Part 3: Not Getting Your Period is Normal?

Yesterday, I left off with telling you that I had reached my breaking point. Josh and I were meeting with the doctor at the fertility clinic. He worked out of Edmonton, which is about an hour and a half drive for us, so we our appointment through video conferencing this time (kind of like Skype). The doctor was encouraging us to consider in-vitro fertilization to get pregnant. As I mentioned in my last post he warned us that it could take 2 years for my body to heal naturally so that I could conceive. In-vitro was not something that we were willing to consider. We really felt that if we were supposed to have kids, we would conceive naturally. I have nothing against in-vitro, and we may have considered this as an option down the road, but at the time it wasn’t for us.

So … my breaking point. We only had a five minute drive home from that appointment. That was all it took. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I had been doing everything that I could to try to balance getting my periods back so I could get pregnant, with staying fit and thin. I was failing at everything. I gave up. I gave it all up. All of these things that I wanted so bad, that had become idols to me. These things that I was putting first in my life, and that I gained my identity from.

Maybe you are spiritual, and maybe you are not, but it is my experience that sometimes we can’t make it on our own (sounds like a Coldplay song!). I needed God big time right about now. I had been trying to control my life and everything in it myself, and it wasn’t working, I was making such a big mess of it. I was trying to control my body to get its’ periods back. I was trying to stay active and fit, but I was slowly working out less and less trying to get pregnant. I wanted to be thin, but I couldn’t control the binge eating. I had to give up the control to God and trust Him to do what was right with my life.

As hard as it was and as much as it hurt, I gave up and gave in. On that five minute drive home, I told God He could have me, my life, and all the problems I was facing. I would give up exercising if that was what it took. I couldn’t commit for two years just yet, I wasn’t ready for that. I was ready to commit for six months. For those six months I would trust God to take control of my life. I wouldn’t worry about getting pregnant. I wouldn’t work out. I would work on listening to my body and getting back to being healthy. I would eat what I wanted to when I wanted to (I am still working on this one!). After the six months passed I would reevaluate and go from there. I could’t imagine not being active for more than six months. I decided to take life one day at a time.

That first week of not working out was hard, but the second week got easier. I got used to my new normal pretty fast. I didn’t obsess as much about getting pregnant, which was pretty huge. I had stopped taking the Estrase and Prometrium pills that doctor had given me to force me to have a (fake) period. I was learning to relax and just be in the moment. Then, something amazing happened. At the end of that first month of not exercising at all, I got my period naturally.

I couldn’t believe it! It seemed too good to be true! I didn’t want to get my hopes up that I would start cycling naturally, so I put them back in God, and trusted he would do what was best with my life.

Not too long after I got my period, we had another video conference scheduled with the fertility doctor. This appointment was booked to review Josh’s test results and discuss our options for in-vitro fertilization. Josh’s test results came back showing some problems. The doctor told us that it would be very difficult, or even impossible for him to father a child naturally. In-vitro fertilization would be our best option.

I was crushed all over again. Just when things were starting to look up, we were delivered this horrible news. Josh was so positive through the whole thing. He reminded me to trust God. One scripture that I held onto during this time, that I think I have mentioned on the blog before is: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” -Psalm 37:4. My heart’s greatest desire at this time was to be a mother. I was trusting that God gave me this desire and that he would fulfill it in His timing.

After I got my first period, I had started taking my basal body temperature every morning and charting it. I was doing this to see if I could tell if my body was ovulating or not, based on the change in temperatures. It was my first month of charting and I didn’t know for sure, but it looked like I was ovulating on the chart. Still, over a month had passed and I didn’t get my period again. I think it had been about six weeks since the last one, and I was starting to wonder if maybe I was pregnant. I didn’t get too excited. I had taken so many pregnancy tests that turned out negative. I didn’t have it in me to take another one and hear bad news.

One morning, Josh and I were fighting about something. I can’t even remember what it was about. I was already in such a bad mood, I figured I might as well try taking a pregnancy test since my day could hardly get any worse. I peed on the stick, set it on the counter, and almost forgot about it. When I thought of it, I went back to check on the results, and this  happened:

positive pregnancy test

 

I was pregnant – naturally! The first month after getting my period back. The second month of no exercising! When I put my trust in God He came through for me, even when doctors told us that it wouldn’t happen. I love that during our last meeting with the doctor, while he was telling us we wouldn’t conceive naturally, we were already pregnant!

I caught Josh just as he was leaving the house for work in the morning. We were still fighting and he didn’t really want to have much to do with me at the moment. I told him my news and we just hugged each other and cried (or at least I did!). We were going to have a little miracle baby!

 

embrace after wedding

 

 

Thanks for reading! I plan on writing a follow-up to this post, talking about where I am now in relation to eating habits and exercise. I also plan to discuss my experience with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea in more depth, including what I did to get my period back!

 

 

My Story: Not Getting Your Period is Normal?

This is the next post in my super long series about my past. Please check out Part I: Where it all Started, and Part II: Exercising Excessively, before you read this.

Please note that I do talk about eating disorders, dieting and other disordered eating habits, as well as excessive exercise in this post. If this is something that may be triggering for you, please refrain from reading. Thanks!

The last time that I got my period was January 26, 2010. I think that date will be stuck in my head for a long time. This was when I decided to stop taking birth control pills to see if it would help with my depression. It did help, a lot, and I decided not to go back on them. When February came and went and I didn’t get my period, I didn’t think much of it at the time. Well, actually I thought it was awesome. When March passed, I thought I was pregnant. I was so excited. We were planning on having kids eventually and this little scare made me realize I was getting close to being ready. I took countless pregnancy tests, all showing up negative. Still no period.

I ended up going to my doctor, who told me that I probably wasn’t getting my period because I was thin. She told me that women that don’t have a lot of body fat have a hard time regulating their periods, and not to worry about it until I wanted to get pregnant. She thought that I could try gaining some weight to see if that would help if I really wanted to. I didn’t want to gain weight and my husband and I were planning to wait a couple more years to have kids, so I didn’t think much of it.

I told myself that everything was okay, but as months and months passed, I started to feel like something was wrong. I decided to quit doing intense exercise videos at home (after a short but intense couple months of doing Insanity Asylum). I also went to the gym and met with a personal trainer. She took my body composition and came up wiwth a pretty intense workout program for me at the gym that I never actually followed. She wasn’t concerned about my low body fat percentage – afterall that was the goal of most her her clients right?

I was starting to feel pretty confused. I couldn’t shake the gut feeling that something was wrong, but according to my doctor and this personal trainer, not getting your period is not a big deal. Deep down I knew it was from exercising so much and not eating enough, but I wasn’t ready to change my lifestyle yet. Especially if the professionals I spoke with told me that it wasn’t something I needed to change.

Baby fever was slowly starting to set in, even though my husband and I weren’t really talking babies yet. My close call made me realize I wanted to be a mom. I went to a different doctor to get a second opinion. He told me I was “living the dream” and that if I really wanted my period, I should go back on birth control. I went back on the pill for one month and realized that this wasn’t what I wanted and wasn’t solving my problem. I stopped taking the pill and got a referral to a gynecologist. By this time I had had countless blood tests and everything was appearing within normal range. The gynecologist reordered even more blood tests. One time in the clinic they ended up withdrawing 11 vials of blood. I hate needles, I think I almost had a panic attack! The gynecologist also had me do a progesterone test. When this didn’t bring on my period, he felt safe telling me that I probably had hypothalamic ammenorhea and that I should gain a few pounds.

I don’t think that anyone who has suffered from an eating disorder, or who has struggled with dieting, should be told to gain a few pounds without any direction. I was suddenly caught between a rock and a hard place . All my life I had been eating to be skinny. I didn’t want to gain a few pounds, but I wanted to get my period back. The next year was a whirlwind of me eating all the things to try to gain a few pounds and then feeling guilty for eating everything in sight because i still wanted to be skinny and had a diet mentality. It was so hard.

I spend the year dieting, and binge eating. Josh would go out in the evening and I would be left at home. I would tell myself I could eat a piece of toast with honey because I needed to gain weight and it would be delicious. then I would eat about 4 more pieces and proceed to eat everything I could find in my kitchen. Then I would feel guilty and diet for the rest of the week and then start the process all over again. I would binge eat until I literally couldn’t fit anything else in my stomach. I felt sick, my stomach was so sore, I had so much shame. It was awful.

I had planned to only gain about 5 pounds, but now I was gaining more than i wanted to. To help fight the weight gain, I started working out even harder. Then, when I worked out harder, I told myself I needed to eat more, and the viscious cycle continued. This was such a hard time in my life. I was afraid to be alone because I knew that I would binge eat. My body was so used to starving that when i gave it the chance to eat, it wouldn’t stop until i was in so much pain emotionally and physically. The eating was completely uncontrollable and I was becoming miserable.

One of the best things that I ever did was come clean to Josh. It was so embarassing. He had always thought I was such a healthy eater. I told him the truth about my binge eating, and about my dieting past. He was shocked and had no idea. It felt so good, and such a load was lifted off my shoulders. Josh tried to keep me accountable, but more than that, he was there through it. He would tell me it was ok when I binged again. He loved me no matter what I did and he prayed for me to get better. He would wait until late to go out with friends, and tuck me in bed before he left. Usually this really helped, often I was too tired to get up and binge eat after he was gone.

Telling Josh was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t make my problem go away. I would still find myself dieting, and then bingeing regularly. By this time I had gained a lot of weight and still hadn’t gotten my period.

In 2013, 3 years since I got my last period, my doctor ended up referring me to a fertility clinic. After doing all the blood tests all over again, I took an estrogen test to bring on my period. The fertiltiy clinic doctor confirmed the diagnosis of hypothalamic amneorrhea, but this time he offered the further explanation of it being exercise-induced. The doctor thought that the best thing I could do to get my periods back natrually would be to sit on the couch with a remote control in my hand and do absolutely nothing. He said that the most exercise he wanted to see me do would be to go on slow, romantic walks with my husband.

This may not sound so bad to you, but tell this to someone whose whole identity is built on exercise and being active. It tore me apart. If I couldn’t exercise who was I? I couldn’t go backpacking and on long hikes with Josh anymore (this was our favorite thing to do together!) I couldn’t work out, I couldn’t even go ice skating. My doctor told me that if I wanted to start ovulating naturally, to expect the proess to take up to 2 years. Two years? Was I willing to let go of all forms of exercise for that long? I wanted a baby so bad. I wanted to stop binge eating so bad. This literally was my breaking point. I needed to let go of my identity in being active and my goal of being thin. I had to set it aside for something greater; being a mother.

Please stay tuned for the next part in this series!