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Day 12 (Round 2 of IVF Stims): Perseverance

Day 12 (Round 2 of IVF Stims): Perseverance

(Entry written prior to posted date).

 

One of the biggest stressors for doing IVF is the high cost. Most of us who scrape together enough money to do it need to get it from different sources. I was lucky enough to win a grant to pay for a big chunk of of the cost. I was also very thankful that my Mom could help me with the upfront costs and medicine that I am slowly paying her back with. I also have some on my credit cards only due to last minute unexpected costs. Those unexpected costs were due to me needing more medication due to my eggs not responding very well. IVF Medicine is incredibly expensive, especially when your eggs don’t cooperate and barely grow.

 

I feel like I am in a constant battle. I get angry sometimes, as anyone would when they shell out this much money with no guarantee of a baby. But still we try. We continue to see if “just this next time” it will work. I knew someone whose adoptive mother had 15 miscarriages before she finally gave birth to her one and only child. She went through those miscarriages during the 1950s and 1960s, when the topic was very taboo and treatment was not advanced like it is today. Imagine having that many miscarriages with no explanation because they didn’t have the technology to determine the cause for all her losses. This woman told me she believed her adoptive mother was the most resilient person she ever knew and she said, “there is something to be said for someone’s perseverance despite all the obstacles.” That word, perseverance, really stuck out in my mind, and it’s something I’ve been striving for ever since.

 

But in order to persevere with infertility treatment it all comes down to the fact that your perseverance will cost you. Some may say, “Just continue to try naturally and it will happen” they do not understand that this too has a cost. For those of us that have recurrent miscarriages (like I do), there is definitely a cost to this. Sometimes surgery is needed afterward to clear the uterus. If the uterus isn’t cleared completely there is a chance that this will cause even worse infertility issues due to embryos not being able to properly implant due to remaining scar tissue. This remaining scar tissue can cause embryos that do implant over it to not get sufficient nutrients, which can lead to further miscarriages. Resolving this issue includes costs for things such as ultrasounds, sonohystogram, hysteroscopy, and repeated hysteroscopy if the first one did not clear everything. All of those ‘what if’ scenarios I just described actually happened to me, and it ended up costing me more than a round of IVF. So hopefully you can see why I chose to pursue IVF. It increases the odds of success and helps you to avoid costly surgeries after miscarriages. If you have recurrent miscarriages IVF might be the best treatment option for you. Ask your doctor about treatment options and expect further testing to be done in order to narrow down the best treatment for you. I needed more testing to learn that for sure two of my losses were due to chromosomal abnormalities. Because of this testing and the results we decided the best option for success was IVF.

 

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Taking a break from shopping to enjoy the view of Seattle.

 

Despite the reality of the costs, you still need to live a little. Today Mom and I went to the Pacific Place Mall. I’ve become a master at window shopping, instead of actual shopping. Most of the time I am content with window shopping. I ended up spending right around $60, which is the highest amount I’ve spent on clothes in a while. I’ve gotten into the habit of avoiding clothes shopping for a long time. Much of my clothes I wear at home and occasionally out and about have holes in them. But If you look past my well-used clothes due to a tight budget you will see someone who is doing anything and everything to persevere.

 

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View of Downtown Seattle from skywalk at Pacific Place Mall.

 

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Day 11 (Round 2 of IVF Stims): How to Get Travel Discounts for IVF Treatment

Day 11 (Round 2 of IVF Stims): How to Get Travel Discounts for IVF Treatment

(Entry written prior to posted date).

 

The irony of IVF medication is that it makes you look totally pregnant. It has all the same appearances of pregnancy but instead you become a human water balloon. I bloated so much in such a short span of time that it was painful sometimes. I’m already a big girl so imagine the discomfort I felt when there is extra water added to my belly, thighs, and even my face. My glasses were even fitting tighter on my head. No one seems to talk about how your face gets bloated too. When I looked at my pictures from the other day I thought the photo was distorted. My cheeks were noticeably bigger. I appear to be taking on the physical traits of a whale. I think whales have a majestic, serene quality to them, as they glide through the ocean waters and call out to each other. Instead here I am angrily flopping around in bed as I cuss at how uncomfortably big my stomach has become.  I sometimes grab my stomach in dismay and say “Oh my God” under my breath.

 

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The Bloat is Real. Way more bloated this second round of IVF.

 

I knew I was going to be bloated, like everyone in the online IVF boards were saying, but good lord this is too much. It was pretty shocking to look in the mirror and see my gut looking fully pregnant. One thing I didn’t even think to do was to measure before and after IVF meds, the difference would probably be quite mortifying.

 

 

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Even my face is bloated. I felt my glasses frames getting tighter by my ears. What…the…hell?

 

 

The IVF process tends to mold us into more resilient people. Look at the lengths we go to to create a family. Although I did whine throughout the process at times, I am also learning a lot about myself too. Some of the ways I’ve grown through this process include learning to find humor in hard times, being open to new experiences, prioritizing what is really important to me, and time-managing the s**t out of my day. When you have to give yourself five shots during a specific window of time each day you start to get into a perfectly sequenced routine.

 

My best advice to those of you who have to give yourself multiple shots in a day is to be prepared, and do your shots in a certain order at the same time. I always did mine in the same order each time so I would try to avoid mistakes, minus my one major mistake with the Omnitrope. Hey, nobody is perfect, but if you can find a way that helps you streamline the whole process it will be so much easier on you. I also kept all my medicine in my one suitcase, although some might find it more helpful to have everything spread out on their counter. I was traveling at the time and I didn’t feel comfortable having all of my expensive medicine spread out in my hotel. I always zipped up all my medicine in my bag if it didn’t need refrigerated. Also if you are given a window of time to take your medicine try to make a habit of doing it in the earliest part of that window. It’s better to be earlier in the window than try to make a mad dash back to your place to frantically give yourself multiple shots. You are more likely to make mistakes if you do not give yourself enough time to prepare.

 

I wanted to share a couple other things I’ve learned along the way, one of which I learned just today. Because this cycle is lasting much longer than anticipated I needed to extend my stay at the hotel. The girl at the front desk of the hotel knew that I had received several deliveries from a pharmacy because I had very specific instructions to call me immediately when they arrived because I needed to refrigerate the medicine. So when I went to pay for another week at the hotel, she offered me some advice I hadn’t even thought of.

 

She said to me, “You are here for medical reasons, correct?”

“Yes” I said. I had mentioned before I was having a procedure but didn’t go into details.

“That’s too bad that we didn’t know that for your first week you had booked. But we can apply the medical discount for you for this new week.”

“Really?” I said surprised. “How much is the medical discount?”

“Twenty percent, if you book through us directly.”

 

If you have to travel to do IVF ask if it’s possible to get a medical discount on your hotel and airfare. Just because you think you are getting a good deal on your hotel and airfare by booking through a website like Kayak, Priceline, or Travelocity does not mean you are getting the best deal possible. Call your hotel and airline directly and ask them if they do medical discounts and what the percentage discount is as well as the policies. Do the math. If the percentage you’d save is more doing a medical discount then go for it, if not then book with the cheaper option online. I managed to get both the hotel and airfare medical discount. I wish I had known about it before with my first round of IVF, but I’m thankful I learned about it by the time I had my second round.

 

Thank you for reading.

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Fertility Wars: Return of the Cyst

Fertility Wars: Return of the Cyst

November 1st is the last day for the Thanksgiving contest. Winner will be announced soon after.

 

So if you are a Star Wars fan you might appreciate the title of my blog today. As I stared at my ultrasound today it was obvious that my cyst had grown to epic proportions. It loomed large on the screen. A big black ball of “f**k my life.” Same crap, different day. I’d really like to learn more about the science behind these little bastards because being told there’s nothing I can do about it doesn’t sit well with me. This means I will need to change my flights around and my hotel, right during peak season for Thanksgiving. Fabulous.

 

As you may remember, I had a cyst I dealt with before. Although I’ve been told cysts are normal, I can’t help but wonder if in the future these little guys might morph into cancer. I really need to learn more about them. On a somewhat related note, I was watching a show on Netflix called “Haunted” where people give real life accounts of paranormal experiences. Kurtis and I have been watching lots of scary shows lately for Halloween. In the show this woman was convinced that she was abducted by aliens. During her several dozen abductions she believed the aliens were doing medical tests on her. She was convinced her cysts, fibroids, and endometriosis were caused by the aliens. Cue major eye roll and guffaw here. Lady, you may not realize it, but there are so many women out there with the same issues. Surely not all of us with reproductive issues are having our vajeens experimented on by little green men. But then again maybe that’s what they want us to believe. Bum bum buuuuum!

 

The other day we had an unexpected knock at our front door. It was the weekend and I was being lazy around the house. I went to the back bedroom to put on a bra (hey, it’s the weekend!) and Kurtis asked through the door who it was.

 

“Planned Parenthood” I thought I heard a woman’s voice say.

“We don’t have any kids” Kurtis said.

 

By that time I came out from the bedroom he was laughing a little.

 

“Who was it?” I asked.

“Planned Parenthood” he laughed.
“Really? What did they want?”

“I don’t know, but I told them we didn’t have any kids.”

 

We both saw the comedic irony of the situation and started laughing to the point where we were having full on belly laughs with tears. It’s so damn funny that these people are knocking on our door when we’ve been doing everything short of kidnapping to have a baby. God has a messed up sense of humor sometimes. I was laughing hard also because Kurtis’ response didn’t entirely make sense. I asked him what the woman said to him and he said, “nothing, she just walked away.” I’m sure they’ve dealt with way more awkward situations than that. She was probably walking away thinking, “Why the hell are those people laughing so hard in there? They sound like lunatics. Probably drugs. I should walk faster.” Drugs indeed, fertility drugs that is.

 

I had another big laughing fit a few weeks ago over cheesecake. Yes, cheesecake. Let me preface this story with the fact that my body seems to be incredibly sensitive to my progesterone-only pills and my mood swings are all over the map. Everything from wanting to cry for no apparent reason, to laughing just a little too long over silly things that aren’t really that funny.

 

I decided to try out this local pie shop for the first time. I picked up a miniature cheesecake and good Lord, it was the most divine and magical cheesecake of my life. I was in love! The following week I decided to get it again on my Friday as a reward for my busy week. I went there but they were closed. Then I went the next day, closed again. And again a third day, still closed. You’d think by this point I would have checked their hours. Come to find out their hours are pretty limited. The fourth day I finally was able to walk through the doors and I gushed about how sublime their cheesecake was and how I was ready to buy more. “Oh, I’m sorry we ran out yesterday.” I settled for a pumpkin pie instead and told myself that I would soon be back for the cheesecake again.

 

I was re-telling this story to my husband and for some reason I found the set up to the story and the ultimate let down to be incredibly hilarious. I’m laughing each time I say, “So I went back again…” I was laughing so hard I had to lean on the counter to keep myself upright. Kurtis’ expression was that of “what the hell is so funny?” Maybe what struck me as hilarious is that this damn cheesecake is symbolic of what I can’t get from life. First world problems, right? But do you see my logic? The cheesecake could represent anything that I want really badly but cannot have (i.e., a biological baby). Now you get it? Still doesn’t make sense? That’s okay, it makes sense to me. Perhaps there is even greater symbolism that can be gleaned from the fact that when I returned later I ordered a pumpkin cheesecake, because again, they had no regular cheesecake. Maybe the pumpkin cheesecake represents our future child using an egg donor, hence the pumpkin in the mix. My quirky little cheesecake story might only be funny to me, but I think the real lesson learned here is that I really want that f**king cheesecake. So the quest for cheesecake continues.

 

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The Big Picture

The Big Picture

Many parents will tell you they sacrificed so much for their children. Many women going through IVF will tell you they have already sacrificed greatly for the hope of having children. Sometimes I feel those of us who struggle with infertility issues are already mothers-in-the-making. We know what it takes to give up our time with our partners to put in extra hours at work, working weekends when we could be spending time with them. The time away from visiting with our parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. Time away from social gatherings where we connect with friends. Often we develop a one-track mind and it becomes all about making the possibility of a child a reality. What will it take? What will we give up? It all comes down to time and money.

 

But one thing I’ve learned through this process is that I don’t view this the same way most people do who do not struggle with infertility. Yes, the sacrifices are great, but what I’ve already gained is so much greater. Loss and struggle are some of the best teachers in life. I’ve developed a fierce commitment to my goal and I’ve grown in many ways. When I was feeling lost and confused I learned the value of intense research for solutions. When I was feeling disconnected from everyone and couldn’t bear to talk about my pregnancy losses, I learned to opened up and realized many of my friends, family, and a massive online community went through the exact same things I had. Being able to not only relate to others but put all of our research together, weigh the options, and together help each other out with the end goal in mind of “how can I best help this woman fulfill her dream of having a baby?” Sometimes it’s as simple as suggesting a certain test be looked into their doctor hasn’t tried yet, or a financial option they hadn’t even considered. Rallying together as a group and helping each other achieve our dream of motherhood has brought me such a feeling of connectedness that I never in my life experienced.

 

I’ve learned to speak candidly with my husband about how I feel, and to truly listen to what he is feeling too. Learning to compromise together, whereas when left to my own devices I would have steamrolled ahead with my own big plans. Being able to stop and consider his needs when planning for our future has been incredibly important. I told him how I made the decision to take on some temporary debt in order to have a shot at having a child. That temporary debt could have gone towards paying off the condo and moving into a bigger house. We’ve always talked about paying off the condo early and getting a nicer house, so it was a big deal to postpone this for a bit. I knew this would be a huge sacrifice but I also knew that if we wanted the opportunity to have our own child I needed to do IVF now. My timeline for fertility is significantly less than the average woman, but I have many years to plan for moving into a house. Shifting timelines for everything was a sacrifice, but that’s all it comes down to, simply shifting timelines. We compromised and agreed that we would focus on knocking out my medical debt these next few months before our FET (frozen embryo transfer). Being able to get past our emotions, talk about it, and come up with the best solution together has helped us both become more mature as a couple.

 

I’ve also learned to endure incredibly devastating losses. My first pregnancy loss was the worst for me emotionally. I was in bed for two weeks and was incredibly depressed. But after a total of four losses I’ve learned to be more resilient. I now have many people I can turn to for support and have developed a concrete treatment plan. I now have answers as to why some of the losses happened and a hopeful solution too. Now it’s just a matter of doing the treatment plan of IVF with PGS, the one step I have left for our first round is traveling back down for our FET.

 

I’ve come a long way over these past 2.5 years of infertility. I’ve learned one of the best ways of dealing with my situation is to focus both on what I need to do today as part of my treatment plan, while also looking at the big picture. The big picture for me includes doing a visualization. In that visualization I pull away from the current moment and look at my life and these struggles far  into the future. Being able to see myself in the future, and ask myself did I do everything I can and are there no regrets? There is a sense of comfort I get from looking at the big picture. Where does that comfort come from? I know that I am doing everything I possibly can in order to make my dreams come true. And who wouldn’t be proud of that?

 

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1 Day After Egg Retrieval: Major Money Saving Epiphany

1 Day After Egg Retrieval: Major Money Saving Epiphany

(Entry written prior to posted date).

Who knew one of the annoying side effects post-retrieval would contribute to an epiphany that would change the course of events for me. I believe I’ve hit my ultimate record for the number of times I had to pee in a single night, it was in the range of twenty times. It was as if all the retained water weight during my stimulation shots was now leaving my body. But good God, that was just friggin’ excessive! I got zero sleep last night.

 

But the good news is that while I was awake all night I was doing my usual perusing of infertility forums online. I stumbled on a weirdly worded response to a question someone posed about how to save money on IVF treatment. The response was something to the effect of “do two IVFs in a row. That’s how I did it. Saved a lot.” What the hell did that mean? Two IVFs?

 

Then it hit me. Although this response was thoroughly confusing to me at first, it started to register with me. I asked myself, “What if they meant they did two egg retrievals before they did their first FET (frozen embryo transfer)?” Could that be what they meant? Then I remembered the phone conversation I had with my two-cycle discount program, she said, “The program ends when you have a ‘take-home’ baby.” So that meant if I gave birth with this first cycle the program ended.

 

It was the middle of the night and I posted a question in some of the Facebook IVF groups I’m on, asking whether anyone was doing my specific discount program and if they did two egg retrievals in a row before their first transfer. Some of the first women who responded to me said that I could not do it. They even went so far as to tell me, “It’s in your contract if you actually read it. It’s bolded and everything.” But I was looking right at my copy of my contract and nowhere in it did it say anything like this. The contract echoed the same thing the woman with the discount program told me over the phone, “program ends with ‘take-home’ baby.” But several hours later I checked if anyone else had responded. Now there were more answers, and about half of them were saying that it is actually possible to do two egg retrievals back to back with that program.

 

First thing that morning I called both my discount program and my clinic to pose this question. The answer would change the trajectory of everything. “Yes, it’s possible.” From what I gather, it depends on the clinic or possibly your diagnosis. Some clinics seem not to allow women back-to-back egg retrievals for the discounted price while others do. So what are the benefits of me deciding to do two egg retrievals back to back as opposed to jumping right into a FET?

 

  • Doing the second cycle would definitely be included in the cost if I did back-to-back retrievals. If I did the FET right after the first retrieval and had a live birth my contract would end, which would make me lose out on an entire IVF cycle I had pre-paid for. In other words, I will be saving thousands of dollars if I do back-to-back cycles with my discount program.
  • My AMH/Ovarian reserve is very low and time is of the essence. The sooner I can do several egg retrievals the better.
  • Increasing the odds of giving potential children from this first cycle their siblings from a second cycle.
  • Take advantage of my flexible work schedule (on-call work) I have now and go ahead and do these egg retrievals. Most other jobs would not be as flexible.
  • I’ve met my out-of-pocket maximum for the year so any ultrasounds ($600 each), blood draws, and consultations with my local doctor would be covered entirely.
  • The only thing I’d have to pay for is the IVF medicine, plane tickets, and hotel to travel out of state for my IVF cycle again.

 

All I can say is I am over the moon I had this timely epiphany. For some reason this idea didn’t occur to me. Maybe it was the fact I was up all night and thinking non-stop about my next steps. I had my plans practically set to return the following month to do the FET. I could have missed out on a second IVF cycle had I not considered this more. But this epiphany changed my timeline for everything. Now I am starting to make plans for when I will come back for the second retrieval for this year.

 

Today was a beautiful day out. Mom and I went to the Space Needle and the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit. What an amazing day! It was so nice to get out. I was surprised I was doing so well the day after surgery. We did lots of walking around and spent a good part of the day just hanging out up in the Space Needle. I loved seeing the rotating glass-bottom floor. Pretty cool stuff.

 

 

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So the day overall was great. But I had a crying meltdown moment later on at the end of the night. Mom got a message from a relative asking if the doctors were optimistic about me having a baby. Mom mentioned their question to me. This seemingly benign question threw me into a fit of tears. The combination of my out-of-whack hormones post-surgery coupled with the reality that my odds of success are very low just made a blubbering mess. Poor mom didn’t know what the hell was wrong and I couldn’t articulate it quick enough because in the moment I didn’t know why I was crying. It was a pure emotional response.

 

Then Mom started crying. So there we were both crying, frustrated, and I’m still trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with me. I hear mom crying in the bathroom, blowing her nose. She seemed upset that she couldn’t console me.

 

Then she comes out and says half angry and half crying, “That stupid maid!”

“What?” I said, still sniffling but starting to calm down.

“The toilet paper! She didn’t give us any! I can’t believe this!”

Then I start to laugh hysterically. The way she said it was so comical to me.

 

This was either the second or third day in a row that the maid didn’t give us toilet paper. The one day we did manage to get more toilet paper we asked the front desk guy and apparently the wimp of a man couldn’t manage to get more than one roll from her. “She wouldn’t give me two rolls” he sheepishly said to me. So this toilet paper Nazi of a maid now has my mom crying even more. Mom heard me laughing and then started laughing too. We managed to scrape together some leftover restaurant tissues from our takeout meals and some tissues she had in her purse to get us through the night. No way in hell we were stepping outside our hotel room door because that part of town turns into a scene from Mad Max with all the anarchy that happens when the sun sets.

 

After we stopped crying and laughing I explained to her how I thought I started crying because of the hormones and the fact that my situation has never been considered optimistic. I think once I explained it to her it made more sense my reaction. I think there is a big difference between being optimistic versus staying positive. I am staying positive, which is a choice. But I would not say I’m optimistic because the reality is my ovarian reserve is incredibly low and it would be a miracle if I had a single biological baby in my life.

 

So today I had a whole range of emotions. Thank you crazy hormones. But I am thankful to have learned two things: 1) I can save a lot of money by doing two back-to-back egg retrievals, 2) If you hide the toilet paper in your room the maid will think you are out and give you more. Solving life problems from big to little. I feel pretty accomplished today. I will end this post with a happy note of my results from this egg retrieval thus far:

5 eggs retrieved

4 fertilized

1 embryo survived and will go through PGS testing.

 

Yahooooo! So incredibly happy to have this bit of hope to move forward with. Praying that this little embryo does not have the same chromosomal issue that causes me to have recurrent miscarriages. Hoping and praying this little one will make it past the testing.

 

 

 

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