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Four months of this experiment have now come and gone!  This has seemed like the fastest month by far, probably because this lifestyle change has become a habit that I don’t think about it as much as I did in the beginning.  I just keep a general framework in my mind and try my best every single day to work within it.  I am spot on for a few days and then I may not get the chance to exercise for 2-3 days in a row.  Instead of trashing the whole endeavor, I just start right back up and make up for lost time.  It’s making good choices most of the time that makes the difference.

‘Tis the season for all manner of diet blunders, but I have been successful in resisting the temptation to fall off the wagon.  I enjoyed Thanksgiving without so much as an added pound, which I did, not by turning down the delicious meal, but by remaining moderate in my food choices and continuing to work-out, even when out of town.  I used to be fairly frustrated about the fact that I have not lost many actual pounds, despite lots of effort, but I now know that each pound lost is backed up by lean muscle gain and is stable, meaning the scale does not fluctuate wildly anymore.  When I lose a pound now, I’ve really lost it.  Because of this, I no longer feel like a slave to the scale or a rigid diet that cannot include an occasional treat (within reason).  I trust myself and my body.

My supplements have changed quite a bit this month with the addition of D-Chiro-Inositol, myo-inositol, and a weekly prescription of Chinese herbs.  I have not been taking any of them long enough to report much change yet, but I am very hopeful.  I sincerely wish that I could report today that I have recorded an ovulation, or even gotten a spontaneous period, but more time is needed it seems to get those kind of results.  Here’s a link that details my supplements and all of the changes that have been made along the way.

Despite feeling impatient at times in regards to my progress this month, I generally feel such gratitude for the positive changes this experiment has made in my life and for my husband and baby as well.  I look great, but better than that, I feel great too.  My interest in life is filled to the brim and I feel my creative juices flowing again.  I periodically catch myself smiling, almost giddy with happiness and excitement for the year ahead of us.  I am feeling more confident about being able to handle the responsibility of having two children.   I am actually just starting to feel ready to be pregnant again. This goal, I am confident, will be met in 2011.

So, I guess we should take a look back at the original success criteria for this 6 month experiment, noting my progress since last month:

1) Ovulation and Menstruation – It had been a while since my last period, and I began experiencing some signs of Estrogen Dominance (constant fertile cervical fluid, ferning on ovulation microscope every day).  I started an oral natural progesterone supplement called Progon B, and 8 days later I started spotting and got a very light period lasting about 4 days.  I have since started Chinese herbs and acupuncture to stimulate ovulation, but no rise in basal body temps. yet.  This goal is still a work in progress, but I have never felt closer to this goal than now since it was with Chinese herbs that I was able to regain my cycle back in 2006. Very hopeful to see what the next few weeks bring.

2) Stable weight and body measurements –  I am wearing clothing that I have not been able to in many years.  I once had a pretty remarkable wardrobe from my fashion design days in NYC, and thankfully I kept some of my more timeless pieces.  The clothes not only fit, but they look really good.  This thrills me to no end!  The big news is that I now have a waist!  I have not been able to wear anything that accentuated it in many years.  I actually pulled out a belt and wore it over a dress for the first time in as long as I can remember.  I have been fighting a puffy Insulin Resistance belly since childhood.  I still weigh myself most days and I hover around 112-113.5 lbs with very little fluctuation.  This goal has been met and exceeded!  See my body measurements below.  Despite not losing many more pounds, my measurements keep going down.  YES!

3) Little or no acne – Similarly to last month, I have had some success and failures this month in regards to my acne.  Myo-Inositol has helped me fight the urge to pick at and scrutinize my pores, but I have since screwed with the dosing too much and so the jury is still out as to if it can help my OCD-type preoccupation with my skin/acne for the long haul, enough to make a lasting difference in my face.  I was hoping that I would know something more by the time I wrote this, but I’m still not sure enough to make any grand declarations.  Hopefully the picture, and my face, will become clear enough to make an accurate report.  This goal is still a work in progress.

4) Stable and positive emotions – I’ve had some resumption of some roving anxiety that I have suffered with in the past on several occasions this month (likely low blood sugar from new supplements), but for the most part I have felt very even keeled and happy.  I feel confident and much more take-charge than maybe ever before.  I’m not shying away from things that used to intimidate or scare me.  I’m ready to take on more responsibility in my life.  This goal has been accomplished yet again!

Body Measurements:

1) Natural waist:
a- 27″ on 10/7
b- 26″ on 10/23
c- 25″ on 11/23
d- 24″ on 12/22

2) Lower abdomen (around fattest part of tummy):
a- 32″on 10/7
b- 29 1/2″ on 10/23
c – 28 1/2″ on 11/23
d- 27 1/2″ on 12/22

3) Lower hips (around largest part of butt):
a- 35 3/4″ on 10/7
b- 35″ on 10/23
c- 33 3/4″ on 11/23
d- 33 1/4″ on 12/22

4) Individual thigh circumference (around thickest part of one thigh):
a – 20 3/4″ on 10/7
b – 19 3/4″ on 10/23
c – 18 3/4″ on 11/23
d – 18 1/2″ on 12/22

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Time is healing.  That much I know.  It’s been about 3 1/2 years now since we lost our first miracle baby at 20 weeks.  The first year was excruciating.  For most of the second year, I was pregnant again and feeling cautiously optimistic, but still fearing the worst.  The third year I was finally a mama to a living child, and the world felt right again.  The loss does not occupy my every though like it once did, but I do still think about her.  A lot.  When I feel too far away from her, strange little things happen to remind me that she existed, that she has a soul, and like all living things, she is never truly gone.

Yesterday, as the sun started to set, sadly early these days, I was watching Nick Jr. with Jude and a little cartoon came on that accompanied Bob Marly’s 3 Little Birds.  We started swaying and dancing to the music as we sat together on the sofa and I saw a bright little reflection flickering on Jude’s face.  As I looked more closely, I could see that it was my first baby’s initials, reflecting off the pendant that I had made to commemorate her life.  I wear this necklace every day and I’ve seen this happen a few times before, but today, as the sun flooded through the windows, the refection was on my son’s beautiful baby face while the song played, “don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing, gonna be all right”.  These are the memories I want to have about my first child.  It’s taken over three years to make a happy memory about her and I cherish it more than anyone could ever know.

Why am I writing this?  It’s awfully personal for this forum, but I have recently seen where people are coming to my blog from in my refer stats and I know there are a lot of you with PCOS that are dealing with miscarriage and fetal death.  You see countless articles online telling about how PCOS causes poor egg quality, but what that really translates to is A LOT of miscarriage and fetal abnormality, resulting in death.  But what that really, truly means is that there are many, many women with PCOS who are walking around broken-hearted – and it’s a particularly deep and lasting kind of heartbreak because of the preceding infertility struggle.  Losing a baby that you sacrificed everything to conceive is the worst kind of injustice.

I wrote my story so Cysters may know that the worst of the pain does heal, but you will never forget about the child you lost.  This is what I have learned about loosing a child…they are always with you in spirit..that bond is never, never broken.

I am really enjoying my new and less structured approach to this experiment.  I am finally starting to experience a little balance that I’ve been after.  “Letting go” of control is the central theme in so much Eastern and spiritual teachings, but this concept has always been a challenge for me.  I intensely start a project with bull-dog determination, holding myself in contempt of my goal at all times.  Obviously this gets old fast and within a few months, I revert back to an easier life.  This time however, I’ve kept all of the tenants of this experiment, but just turned down the flame a little.  What I’ve discovered is paradoxical.  I stopped posting everyday, and the traffic to this blog has flourished.  I’ve been exercising every other day, rather than 6 days a week and I’ve lost weight!  I’ve incorporated more fat (organic pasture butter and some raw whole milk) and beneficial carbohydrates (such as oatmeal more regularly) into my diet and I’ve lost yet more weight.  The yoga pants that used to slide down my hips when I was breastfeeding are doing the slide yet again.  I think this proves that stressing and fussing excessively over something only crowds out the inherit growth and potential within it.   This is shaping into a plan that I can stick to for life, I sincerely hope.

I had a little daydream today while I was laying beside Jude as I was trying to get him down for his nap.  I’ve recently had some inner turmoil regarding the notion of having another baby.  Part of me never wants to go down that path again because it’s such a hard one, from start to finish, and then you actually have to raise the baby that comes at the end of it!!  The other part of me cannot see myself with only one child.  I still have feelings of longing and jealousy when I see pregnant women.  This conflict in my mind really troubles me.  As Jude fell asleep and I was looking at his beautiful little face, I remembered so distinctly how he looked when they handed him to me after birth, about what an absolute sacred and spiritual moment it was. A calm came over me and I suddenly felt the debate in my mind melt away.  I knew right then and there that I will have another baby someday.  I’m not going to stress about how or when, but I know it will happen.  I put this issue to bed along with my child – for now…

Jude had a really good day today, better than I’ve seen him in several weeks actually.  He seemed to be pain free and attempted lots of verbal communication and ate well.  The daily struggles with him really stress me out and take their toll on us all, so these respites are very welcome and exciting.

Sadly, I’m breaking out again despite taking care of my face before bed.

It was a cold and overcast in Austin today, but that means nothing to a toddler when they want to play outside.  I’m actually going to need cold weather gear this year because I will be sitting outside in the cold for hours and hours this Fall/Winter.  I always feel better for doing it though – a little sunshine and communion with nature.  It’s good for the soul and my poor, neglected kitty loves the company too.  Off to find a hat and gloves that a toddler will actually keep on his head and hands.

Exercise – The Trainer’s Edge: Integrated Strength Training with Jeffrey Scott, about 40 minutes with 3 lb. weights.

Mind/Body – Had a very nice Epsom salt bath with Clary Sage and Lavender essentials oils.  I even got a whole chapter read as Jude took a long nap today.

Diet – 114 lbs.

Breakfast – black/green/spearmint tea with milk, 2 fried eggs, 2 chicken breakfast sausages, 1 scoop cottage cheese

Lunch – Half a portion of oatmeal with butter, cinnamon, agave nectar, milk, and a tablespoon of almond butter.  Had it with half an apple and about 1/2 cup of cottage cheese.

Dinner – leftovers: coconut milk braised chicken and veggies over lentil pilaf
Snacks – 1/2 plum and handful of raw almonds, green/spearmint tea with milk, red grapes with a handful of almonds

Writing from the backyard today while Jude plays.  It’s a wonderfully cool morning in Austin.

I have had an interest in the whole spirituality/self-help book genre for many years now, and I particularly found these books to be helpful and comforting in the grief filled days following the loss of our precious first baby and the many months of infertility following.  I’ve been revisiting a few of these books lately, enjoying a chapter as I soak in the tub after my work-outs, and I’m struck at how different they read in my now, post-Jude’s birth, life.  I have read the Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer three times now.  The first time while I was still working in an office in NYC and having work conflicts.  The second time was when we were trying to conceive again after loss.  I just finished the book for the third time, and this round I read it with this experiment and my PCOS health goals in mind.  I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a good place when reading it and it seems to have better soaked in, like I was finally ready for it.  I think it’s natural to seek guidance when going through a hard time in life, and those are the times that I reach out for my books and self-care aids.  Then once I am over that problem, I kind of forget about it all.  This is the first time in my life that I am incorporating all of my tools (books, meditation, exercise, being outdoors, whole/clean eating, aromatherapy, etc.) in my regular, old, non-crisis life.  It feels like adding the right accessories to an outfit – the perfect and beautiful little additions that makes life worth living.  These are the things that keep a Mommy from blending right into the Elmo colored background.

Exercise – The Trainer’s Edge: Integrated Strength Training with Jeffrey Scott, about 40 minutes with 3 lb. weights.

Mind/Body – Just as I was reclining in an Epsom salt bath, Jude bust into the bathroom crying and looking for me.  He was content to play in the bubbles for a while, so I got a little more soaking time, but my me time was pretty short today.

Diet – 113.5 lbs (lost a few from my cold)

Breakfast – black/green/spearmint tea with milk, 2 fried eggs, 2 chicken breakfast sausages, 1 scoop cottage cheese

Lunch – chicken/veggie soup with multi-grain crackers

Dinner – leftovers: salmon croquettes, asparagus, roasted leeks/fennel/beets, lamb stew

Snacks – 1/2 plum and handful of raw almonds, green/spearmint tea with milk

I’ve now completed the second month of my PCOS experiment.  Building on the momentum I started during the first month, I’ve made even more progress.  Beginning at about the 6 week mark, I began to start actually looking forward to exercise and I know now that I can call working-out a habit.  This has fulfilled a lifelong goal of incorporating regular exercise into my life, something I have never been successful with ever before.  On the odd day that I am not able to work-out, I really miss it!

My body has continued to get firmer and smaller, despite not losing any additional pounds.  I can easily see and feel muscle definition in all muscle groups of my body.   I can now safely say that it IS possible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time and not have the scale budge at all.  Some online sources say that women could never build muscle fast enough to have this happen, but as we all know by now, women with PCOS are different!  See my body measurement comparison below if you don’t believe me.   I only started taking my body measurements on 10/7/10, a little over 2 weeks ago, so my results are not complete for the month report, but I will measure monthly for the remainder of this experiment.  I was astonished by my preliminary results though!

One of the biggest developments has been in regards to the way my abdomen looks and feels after meals.  My post-meal bloat had really improved during the first month, but this month things have gotten even better.  I can eat a full meal without my stomach swelling at all or appearing thicker.   I would often look pregnant after eating before starting this experiment and this would adversely affect my self-esteem on a daily basis.  This problem is completely gone and I’m going to wager a guess that it’s because I am healing my insulin resistance since central weight gain is a common symptom.  See the reduction in my waist measurements below.

The other most pronounced change that has happened this month is an almost complete recovery from my daily bouts of hypoglycemia.  I read an interesting article on inCyst.com that finally explained to me how my hypoglycemia is related to PCOS.  I had always thought that Cysters were supposed to be fighting high blood sugar and so my own low blood sugar was a mystery to me.  Here’s a little excerpt from the article.  “One of the first things that happens with PCOS, before you develop full blown insulin resistance, is hyperinsulinemia (elevated insulin levels).  This extra insulin is always in the blood, which means you may have more of a tendency than average to experience drops in blood glucose.” Now that I know how it all works,  I feel an even greater sense of accomplishment that I have taken a step in reducing my increased risk for diabetes.

I have continued to feel stronger emotionally and my ability to handle stress well has increased more this month.  I am able to handle many tasks at once and juggle the demands of being a mom with my own health and wellness needs.  It’s been a very difficult month for my son and without this experiment to keep me on track, I might have thrown in the towel a handful of times.

Let’s take a look back at the success criteria for this 6 month experiment, noting my progress:

1) Ovulation and Menstruation – I have not detected ovulation yet based on taking my basal temperatures each morning.  I have had major ovarian twinges and sharp pains a few times this month along with other ovulation signs and symptoms, but for some reason, my body just cannot do it.  I’ve also had a few days throughout this month where I have had some very light spotting, but no period.  I’ve never had any sort of spotting before that was not associated with my period, so this is quite unusual.  We are still actively trying to stimulate ovulation at acupuncture each week along with taking my supplement regimen to regulate my cycles.  This goal is still a work in progress.

2) Stable weight and body measurements – I have maintained my weight (within a 1-2 lb. fluctuation) the entire month and my body measurements have only gone down, which obviously I don’t mind.  My mid-section is not bloated and I have been able to wear the same size (or smaller) clothing throughout the month.  This goal is more than accomplished!

3) Little or no acne – Last month I was experiencing quite bad hormonal chin acne for the first time in my life, but after my acupuncturist added B6-Niacinamide to my supplement regimen on 9/28/10, that has stopped.  I am still breaking out like usual on various areas of my face though.  I wrote an acne blog post earlier this month, on 10/10, where I talk about all of the natural remedies that I’m experimenting with to help my acne.  I will be updating that post with more in depth progress in a few weeks.  Again, I think I will probably not see major improvement in my acne until I have a regular cycle, and that might still be a while.  This goal is still a work in progress.

4) Stable and positive emotions – Considering what a stressful and complicated month it’s been, I have come through on the other side of it as strong and confident as ever.  This new found positivity is gaining momentum and I’m able to have a good day even when things are not technically going well externally.  I still need to work on occasional angry and bitchy hormonal outbursts, but I have faith that these will resolve completely before long.   I am going to call this goal accomplished for now!

Body Measurements:

1) Natural waist:
a- 27″ on 10/7
b- 26″ on 10/23

2) Lower abdomen (around fattest part of tummy):
a- 32″on 10/7
b- 29 1/2″ on 10/23

3) Lower hips (around largest part of butt):
a- 35.75″ on 10/7
b- 35″ on 10/23

4) Individual thigh circumference (around thickest part of one thigh):
a- 20 3/4″ on 10/7
b- 19 3/4″ on 10/23

When I started working with my first acupuncturist in 2006, I was experiencing anxiety and sleep problems (in addition to amenorrhea and other PCOS issues).  She suggested soaking in a bath with a few handfuls of Epsom salt (around 2 cups) and 25 drops of lavender essential oil.  She explained how the Magnesium contained in Epsom salt would absorb through my skin and help calm my nerves and help me relax.  And the lavender is a powerful relaxation aromatherapy essence and is good for hormone balancing.  I gave it a try and could feel the difference right away.  It elicited such a relaxing feeling in me that the bathtub is where I started doing my daily meditation and down time.  Gradually, in conjunction with ongoing acupuncture and Traditional Chinese herb tea, I was able to overcome my daily anxiety and I began to sleep soundly again.  I’ve gone back to this therapy many times over the years and it never fails.  I mix it up some days with other essential oils.  Clary Sage and Geranium are referenced all over the internet for female hormonal balancing.  I have a nice little variety to choose from daily.

Interested to know more about Epsom salt, I just found a really interesting website sponsored by the Epson Salt Council explaining all that Epsom salt can do for the body.  Now that I am working out almost every day, it seems to really help with muscle soreness.  I’m also amazed to see possible health benefits for those suffering with PCOS, including improving insulin sensitivity.  No wonder it makes me feel so good!

Researchers and physicians report that raising your magnesium levels may:
•    Improve heart and circulatory health, reducing irregular heartbeats, preventing hardening of the arteries, reducing blood clots and lowering blood pressure.
•    Improve the body’s ability to use insulin, reducing the incidence or severity of diabetes.
•    Flush toxins and heavy metals from the cells, easing muscle pain and helping the body to eliminate harmful substances.
•    Improve nerve function by regulating electrolytes. Also, calcium is the main conductor for electrical current in the body, and magnesium is necessary to maintain proper calcium levels in the blood.
•    Relieve stress. Excess adrenaline and stress are believed to drain magnesium, a natural stress reliever, from the body. Magnesium is necessary for the body to bind adequate amounts of serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the brain that creates a feeling of well being and relaxation.

http://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org/about_better_health_through_soaking.htm

I’ve been doing my PCOS experiment for exactly a month now (started on 8/23/10) and, wow, have I made progress!  I’ve lost and kept off a couple of pounds and have reduced accumulated body fat.  Since losing weight is not the main goal of this experiment, the most important accomplishment is maintaining my 115 lbs. with very little fluctuation, a problem I’ve had for as long as I can remember.  I’ve tightened and toned muscles all over my body and increased my endurance for exercise and weight lifting tremendously.  I’ve trimmed girth from my mid-section and I can now see muscle definition in my ab area.  I no longer have a constant and big, bloated belly and can wear more of a variety of clothing styles because I am not always hiding it.  My facial hair, while not a big problem for me, is not growing anymore and has become a non-issue.  I am stronger emotionally with a generally more optimistic frame of mind.  I am having way more good days than I have in some time.  My mind no longer routinely dwells on sad and negative thoughts.  I no longer have many carb or sugar cravings and can function well on a lower carb/glycemic diet with few blood sugar lows.

Let’s take a look back at the success criteria for this 6 month experiment, noting my progress:

1) Ovulation and Menstruation – No progress yet, but too early to tell.  I started a medically induced period a little over two weeks ago, so it’s not quite time for one yet either.  We started ovulation induction at acupuncture on 9/14/10 and I began taking Ovatrophin PMG (for 10 days) the same day.  I’m still currently taking the Ovatrophin PMG, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the next few weeks.  This goal is a work in progress.

2) Stable weight and body measurements – I would eventually like to lose a little more weight, but I’ve picked a healthy weight and have maintained it now for weeks.  I rarely have any bloating in the mid-section anymore.  I declare this goal accomplished for now!

3) Little or no acne – If anything, my acne is worse than ever.  I think long term hormonal balance will have to be achieved before I get success here.  I have a long way to go yet in meeting this goal.

4) Stable and positive emotions – Aside from a few isolated incidents here and there, I have made extraordinary progress here.  I am going to call this goal accomplished for now!

I know that true healing cannot take place without having depression, stress, and anxiety in check.  It’s easy to get too busy with the needs of a child to take a daily breather and reconnect to source, God, whatever you want to call it.  However, when I do, I always feel better for it and feel open for healing and change.  One of the main ways that I reconnect is to have a short relaxing bath during Jude’s nap time where I can lay back and quietly meditate.  When I am feeling particularly stressed or anxiety ridden, I use Bach Flower Essences, a few drops under the tongue.  I also find reading to be a good stress reliever.

I record my daily Mind/Body connections in the Daily Status/Progress section.