My Story of Eczema, Infertility, and Miscarriage

There is one thing that eczema, infertility, and miscarriages have in common…

All three can make you feel very alone and very tortured physically and mentally. I’m sharing my story with you because I think it’s SUPER important to change attitudes on child loss AND, inform people about the link between inflammation, autoimmunity, and infertility.

Bear with me first though- some confessions.

First, you’ll note as you read through this that I started writing it in December. I started but couldn’t bring myself to finish it, let alone publish it. I was afraid and still broken.

Second, because of the inspiration of some of my superwoman friends and colleagues in the health space, I’ve been able to process my traumas and gather the courage to share this with you all. THANK YOU to Anna Cabeca, Brie Wieselman, Christine Faler, Jaime Ward, Jenn Fugo, Jessica Drummond, Jolene Brighten, Keesha Ewers, Sheri Fox, and Steph Gaudreau.

You ladies all inspire me. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I have so much gratitude for having you all in my life. We don’t tell people often enough how much they matter to us, so I want to let you all know.

Third, there are some very raw and vulnerable moments, so you might cry reading it as I have writing and editing it.

My Story

Miscarriages SUCK and are still taboo in our culture. This is really unfortunate because those of us who have suffered in the dark know what a lonely, hellish place they can be. NO ONE should have to suffer in silence when they’re dying inside. And sadly, no one can really relate unless they’ve ever suffered the loss of a child. It leaves you with a hole inside that never goes away.

[Initial thoughts from December] I’m doing something I never do right now. I’m attempting to write this in the throes of many emotions. On one hand I’m extremely happy because my little sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy. It’s a pretty exciting time for our family this year since I had my little girl almost 5 months ago.

On the other hand, I’m feeling very sad. Alone. Gnawing pain.

Because today is the anniversary of my first miscarriage. That was one of the hardest days of my entire life.

Worst day ever.

Looking back, it taught me many lessons about life, autoimmunity, and eczema. But that doesn’t make it hurt less.

On Christmas day two years ago I was trying to act like it was a normal day. I should have been extremely happy to watch my almost three year old open his presents and have family over.  I was in the kitchen prepping Christmas dinner, but deep down inside I knew something was very wrong.

I was wearing a shirt that said “joy” and I couldn’t have felt further from that. I knew deep down that I was probably having a miscarriage. I went through the day thinking, “things like this happen… women have spotting and cramping and they still have healthy babies.” I was in complete denial.

I made it through dinner and went to bed, but I couldn’t sleep. I had a sense of impending doom that would not leave. And like many women, I tend to labor in the middle of the night. The cramps got worse and then my worst nightmare was realized. I was definitely having a miscarriage.

If you’re far enough along it proceeds exactly like a labor. I’ll spare you the details because it was HORRENDOUS as I’m sure you can imagine.

The experience is seared into my brain. I wish it was a foggy memory but I can’t forget. I remember sitting on the bathroom floor just sobbing and feeling so alone. My husband was there but I don’t think he knew what to do. I just sat there for what seemed like an eternity.

Eventually, I laid back in my bed next to my husband, but I felt like I was the only person in the world.

I couldn’t go to sleep so I went downstairs to our couch, laid in the fetal position and cried for 4 hours. Literally to the point I was nauseous and had no tears left.

The next several days were a blur.

I was largely catatonic. My sister was one of the few people I told and she came over and brought me flowers which I really appreciated but it still felt unbearable. I’ve had a few low moments in my life but I don’t think I’ve ever truly felt depressed.

I was quite depressed after this. I was numb. Thankfully, I had my son because if I didn’t I really don’t know what would have happened.

I got pregnant again in March and was cautiously optimistic. Things seemed to be progressing fine. I made it past the 8 week mark and was breathing a minor sigh of relief since that is when I had my first miscarriage. But then at 12.5 weeks, I had another one.

This one was different. Still agonizing, but I felt like I knew what to expect and went through the motions.

Almost like an out of body experience.

Again, I’ll spare you the details. And again, I really only told my sister and super close friends.

I suffered in silence.

I don’t want that for you.

It’s the worst feeling in the world.

And, it’s the opposite of what you should do.

For mamas that’ve experienced any loss, you know your world will never be the same. There will always be a hole in your heart for your little angel. As time goes on it hurts a little less but it will creep up on you when you least expect it and that empty, hollow feeling can return.

Mother’s Day will never be the same, even if you have children. The two Mother’s Days since I’ve had my miscarriages have been filled with both love and sadness. Last year when I was pregnant was particularly hard. I was sad and silently hoping that everything turned out fine because I didn’t know if I can handle another even more dramatic loss. I cried A LOT on Mother’s Day in a mix of hormones, fear, and grief.

Rainbow Baby

Thankfully, my story had a happy ending. My amazing and beautiful rainbow baby was born in August of 2018. She’s such an amazing little girl. She’s been so sweet and so happy from day one. People comment on how smiley and what a good demeanor she has.

I don’t take for granted how incredibly blessed and lucky I am because I know that there are women out there that won’t get that chance.

Women’s health, fertility, pregnancy, and birth are sacred. We need to support each other through the good and the bad. We need to make a long-term commitment to each other not just in the days and weeks after a birth or a loss, but in the months and years that follow. Because these moments become the fabric of Who We Are and intertwine us all together. They form the blanket of support that we need to give one another.

So, I want you to know, I am here for you.

And those ladies I thanked above- they’re in your corner too. They are all in the health and functional medicine space too- many are women’s health specialists- but all are darn awesome women.

A few of them (you know who you are) are probably why I was able to get pregnant and keep the baby to term.

Together, we ran a bunch of tests on me. My hormones were low across the board (thyroid, adrenals, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. I had dysbiosis from stress and previous birth control pill use (that’s another long and horrible story).

The likely culprit for my losses began as STRESS. Long term stress. That stress depleted my hormones, damaged my gut, and caused food sensitivities, nutrient depletions, and my eczema.

You need progesterone to maintain your pregnancy and I couldn’t make enough. Had enough to get pregnant, but not enough to stay pregnant. This is a big problem for women today. We’re all depleted from the stress and abuse we put our body’s through.

So, I got to work.

The Fix

Since my hormones were a mess I got on compounded, bioidentical DHEA and progesterone. I also upped my dose of compounded T3/T4. I knew I needed to get my hormones going in the right direction quickly and this was the best way for me, especially since I’ve had reactions to other types of hormone support in the past.

I went on an AIP rotation diet to calm my system down and start to heal my gut. Then I did 8 weeks on a dysbiosis protocol for pseudomonas and staphylococcus (using herbal blends, monolaurin, and rotated probiotics) with liver support. I followed that up with 3 months of gut terrain rebuilding and immune support. I also did some work on resolving past traumas too.

In all, this process took me 8 months, but then….

I missed a period and found out I was pregnant even though I wasn’t actively trying.

Again, mixed emotions.

I was so happy, but so scared. I went through 75% of the pregnancy scared. Loss traumatizes you in ways you can’t imagine. I was super paranoid and had been before.

I took progesterone for the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy- 4 weeks longer than was recommended because I was that worried. It worked…and you know the rest of the story.

I had my beautiful rainbow baby.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t scars and wounds that surface from time to time.

So, I need my tribe, which now includes you.

I’m here if you need me, because I want to help mamas be healthy, clear eczema, get rid of autoimmunity, and have healthy babies.

That is my mission.

And, we have to support each other. As women we need to have a voice and not stay in the dark.

It took me a couple of years to come out and share this, but I’m so happy I did. Because if I help even just one mama get through her dark time or resolve her root causes to have a healthy baby, I’ve accomplished my goal.

I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day 2018 no matter your circumstance. Earth babies and angel babies all count!! It’s okay to feel both happy and sad too. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

If you know anyone that could use support, please share this with them. I really wish I had reached out for more help or someone gave me a little nudge to get more support. If they aren’t ready, just be there for them through the process and step up when called upon.

You CAN Do An AIP Elimination Diet While Breastfeeding

Many people wonder if you can do an elimination diet while breastfeeding (and working, mommying, friending, and wifing… that’s wife-ing not wifi-ing)???

The answer is YES.

If you’re on our email list, you know that I decided to give myself the gift of health this year. The only thing I asked for as a gift was new sneakers (thanks hubby!). At this point in life, experiences with family and friends and my health matter much more than material objects.

I felt like my health needed to be more of a priority since the longer I nurse my 8 month old, the more some of my deficiencies and imbalances seem to becoming apparent.

I have news for all of the pregnant and nursing mamas out there, regardless of how perfect your diet, supplementation, and lifestyle are it’s super difficult not to become depleted in some way after you have a baby and are nursing.  This is a very metabolically (and MENTALLY) demanding time in a woman’s life, so we need to support ourselves accordingly.

And like we always tell our clients, you can’t take care of your family or be present in your life if you’re not taking care of yourself. So…. What was I waiting for??

Questions and plain old procrastination!!!

Contrary to what people probably think- I often have the same initial questions as you all do even though I’m a trained practitioner. I was concerned about my milk supply and if any treatments impact the baby or my milk content.

Yes, it is true (I’m being 100% honest).

Why?

For the same reason we as practitioners don’t recommend treating ourselves. It’s really hard to view yourself objectively. It’s easy to second guess, dismiss, or blow things off when you’re the only one analyzing yourself.

That’s how I got to my elimination diet.

I planned on doing all of this after I weaned my sweet, little babe. But all of my practitioner friends said a resounding, “HECK, NO.”

Truthfully, my immune system has been challenged since the baby was about 4 months old. I’ve had several viruses in that time. I usually get that many viruses in a year… not 3 months.

I also had a little eczema patch develop on my eyelid a couple months ago that I haven’t been able to completely clear.

So…..

Time to look inside (hello root causes)!!

On the advice of my observant and smart friends (read: persistent!), I ran some basic serum labs and things looked a little off.  According to my CBC (complete blood panel), my immune system seemed overwhelmed and my thyroid was less than optimal even though I take a compounded T3/T4.  My immunoglobulin levels were also off.

What are immunoglobulins you ask??

When you hear people talk about IgG, IgE, IgM, and IgA, these are your immunoglobulins. These are antibodies produced by your white blood cells that help you fight foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, and parasites (or foods if you have a leaky gut!!). In Functional Medicine these are important because they give us an idea of what is going on regarding infections and autoimmunity.

My IgM was high which generally signifies acute infection. This wasn’t surprising since I’ve literally had viruses piggy-backing each other.  Ugh.

IgG is the most abundant and typically higher when you’ve been sick, especially as time goes on, but mine was low. Not a good sign.

The low IgG is telling me a couple of things…

My body has been fighting a battle against respiratory pathogens (and possibly foods, my own tissues, and/or some gut stuff). IgG is the immunoglobulin that can enter tissues making it important to fighting battles in your body. It binds pathogens and toxins directly. Mine being so low means that my ability to fight off infections and handle toxins is impaired. No Bueno ☹.

The writing was on the wall.

This was all the motivation I needed to get myself into action.

I knew if I didn’t do anything I’d keep getting sick, have potential eczema flares, and not have enough energy to be a good mommy/wife/worker/friend.

The Action Plan

  1. AIP Elimination Diet. I knew I need to clean up my diet. For me, this means going the Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) route since we tend to follow a Paleo-ish diet in our home. Normally my diet looks something like this:

– No gluten.

-Occasional dairy outside of regular use of butter and full fat cream in coffee.

– Rice, quinoa, or corn only 1-2x per month.

– Occasional legumes.

– Otherwise, we mostly eat meat, fish, fowl, veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, and eggs.

AIP is a good place to start on an elimination diet, especially now that there are studies showing the benefit for autoimmunity. It also naturally takes out highly reactive foods.

I wanted to make it easy on myself (unlike my previous autoimmune rotation diet) because I’m spread pretty thin these days with an active little one.

I’m eliminating nightshades, nuts, seeds, coffee, all dairy, all grains, and eggs for 4 weeks. Simple enough. There are so many resources out there on the internet now, but I really like Whole 30 and Against All Grain since they have modifications for AIP.  I’m adding them back in one at a time over a 3 day period and watching for any reactions.

  1. Ramping up anti-inflammatory and immune supporting supplements. I’m taking a super concentrated fish oil at 4x dosing (I take 2 caps at breakfast and dinner). I’m using a variety of probiotics specific to my past needs since I haven’t tested my gut yet****. Notice I said YET.  I’m also using a mushroom blend that has reishi, maitake, coriolus, and shitake. Lastly, an immunoglobulin product.

Immunoglobulin products such IgG (usually dairy based) or IgY (usually egg based) help support the gut and immune system. Many people get nervous when they find this out, especially when they’re doing an elimination diet because of the dairy or egg source. The truth is that most people can tolerate these, except those with an IgE allergy or a severe sensitivity.  I’m using this twice daily.

  1. Adding in LDN. LDN, or low dose naltrexone, was recommended to me a couple of times in the past when colleague friends analyzed my labs. I always put it on the back burner trying to fix other things first. This time I decided to listen since my immune system needs some real help. LDN works by increasing your body’s internal opioids (think endorphins) and supporting the immune system.

Midterm Results

The diet has been easy to follow because I’m not over complicating it. I make batches of meat in the slow cooker (beef, chicken, pork, or buffalo) to have throughout the day or my husband will grill meat or fish. I always have big containers of greens for salads and use Primal Kitchen salad dressing so I don’t have to make it (good for marinade’s too). Last, there are always roasted veggies, plantains, yams, and sweet potatoes on hand. I’ll have berries or pears as a treat.

I’m 3 weeks in and feel good. I have more energy and my sleep seems to be more regulated outside of the baby waking me. I had been waking myself or unable to fall asleep. No new viruses.

My milk supply has remained consist too!!! YAY!!!!

My patch of eyelid eczema is almost gone too. I noticed the eczema fade after 1.5 weeks and I attribute that to both the LDN and diet because I had started the supplementation before and that was helping but didn’t have the same effect. (Note: NOTHING topical was helping it ☹). It’s mostly dry skin and a few tiny bumps which is encouraging.

What’s Next?

I’m so encouraged that I’m going to do another experiment that I’ll let you all know about next month. This one will be exciting (and scary for me). But you know my philosophy- I’d never ask a patient do to anything I couldn’t or wouldn’t do.

Stay tuned!! And, reply in the comments about your experiences with elimination diets.