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Friday, December 18, 2009

Good news.

On Tuesday I went in for my blood tests. (In case you don't know what I'm talking about, the back story is here.) On Thursday my doctor called me back with the results. In addition to testing FSH, I was also tested for LH, estrogen, and prolactin blood levels. My FSH and LH were both in normal ranges for a woman who is at the pre-menstrual stage of her cycle, so that's good. My estrogen was low and my prolactin was high. But both of those results are explained by the fact that I'm breastfeeding. When you are breastfeeding, your body can send hormonal signals to the reproductive system, basically trying to prevent another pregnancy, and it appears that is what's going on with me. (The evolutionary purpose of this is that if a mother already has an infant to care for, another pregnancy too soon may overtax her body. Also, the infant has the greatest chance of survival if the mother's efforts can be focused on it rather than diverted into another pregnancy. For all my fellow evolutionary biologists out there...or anyone else who cares. Prolactin, by the way, is also referred to as the "mothering hormone". It's thought to be the primary ingredient in the hormone cocktail that causes a mother's intense emotional response to her baby. When I explained all this to Brian, he said, "So your tests say you are uber-mom." Yep, pretty much.)

So the doctor thinks that my estrogen levels have been pretty low ever since Mira was born (aka, for as long as I've been breastfeeding). But despite that I was still having normal periods. And then, he suspects, I missed an ovulation. The missed ovulation in combination with my low estrogen has caused my body to have a "reproductive hiccup".

However, aside from the missed ovulation (which is actually pretty common and can be caused by anything down to simply stress), my body is behaving perfectly normally considering that I gave birth 10 months ago and have been breastfeeding since then. So my doctor wants me to keep an eye on my cycles over the next few months to make sure that the missed ovulation was an anomaly rather than something that will be recurring.

Really, the only bad news (and it's not even really so bad) is that, because of the hormone levels caused by breastfeeding, my reproductive system is not really primed to conceive another child. That doesn't mean I'm completely infertile or that I shouldn't try to get pregnant. It just means that it might not happen right away, as I'm less fertile than I normally would be if I weren't breastfeeding. And the worst case scenario (again, it's really not so bad) is that I might not be able to conceive again until after Mira is weaned. But even that is unlikely.

Brian and I have decided to stop contraception and just... let it happen, if it does. We'd still like to have another baby, but after this little scare, I'm not feeling any sort of rush. So I'm feeling pretty freed by this. As if to reinforce my newfound tranquility, I heard a segment on the Dr. Laura show today that seemed to speak to me. It was a call about a woman whose friend was struggling with fertility issues while the caller herself was newly pregnant. She was concerned about her friend's response and wanted Dr. Laura's advice on how to break it to her. Part of Dr. Laura's response was addressed more to the general listeners than to the caller herself: she said that sometimes it feels like the universe has done us a disservice, has reached out and struck us down for no reason we can imagine. And sometimes when that happens it is easy to take out your aggression about the perceived wrong-doing on those around you. She said that in instances like that we should stop and think about what we have rather than focus on the things that we can not have. Take a second to list and really think about the things and people you cherish in your life and you may realize that you are hurting those people you love by pouting about the one thing you can't have, an act which is selfish at its core. And if you find yourself doing this, then you should say to yourself, "Self, we have to stop doing this. Let's just be sweet and gracious from here on out and 'hug what we have' rather than dwell on what we can't." So I'm taking that message to heart and "hugging what I have". Now excuse me, I have to go give my husband a big kiss. :D