Specialists…and the time we almost burned a pharmacy to the ground.

[Picking up from the last post] …Again with no answers, some more trauma, and nothing to lose, we made an appointment to see one of their doctors.

This appointment was terrible! The doctor we met with was oddly abrasive and had no patience to answer any of our questions (a lawyer and a teacher…we had questions!).  His suggestion to us was something like this: “Do NOT try IUI, it will never work.  Just start IVF as soon as possible. Don’t worry about the cost. You’re a lawyer you can afford it. And you’re obviously not from Upstate NY, you seem like a Westchester type of guy.  Pay for what your wife needs.”  Our favorite part of the whole meeting was the very beginning though when he said: “Sorry guys, I didn’t get a chance to look at either one of your medical records prior to the appointment because the PDF was scanned upside down on my computer screen so I couldn’t read it.”  bookAdditionally, Melanie would like to note that he said she was healthy, and upon asking her weight (remember, he was unable to read the upside down records), told her, “Well, you carry it well.”  Yup.  Thanks for that.  Awesome.  Now, the financial pressure and snap judgment about who we are was offensive, to say the least.  But the medical record thing was ridiculous. We were looking at this guy and thinking, “if he doesn’t know that he can just print the records out, and turn them right-side up and read them or if he doesn’t know how to rotate a PDF document on his screen, how is he ever going to help us?”  We agreed to do nothing with the CNY facility and later in the week asked for them to transfer our medical records to Boston IVF, who luckily also has a satellite office in Albany, NY.  It took a real FIGHT just to get them to transfer our records.  What a joke some of these places can be!

By the time we had the miscarriage, restarted trying to get pregnant with Clomid and failed, had the bad appointment with CNY, and then got our medical records transferred to Boston IVF, it was March of 2017.  It had been more than 2 years since we first started trying for this elusive baby. stork-e1519606708408.png

We had our first meeting with the doctor at Boston IVF in April of 2017 (we think).  And right from the start we could tell she was wonderful.  Our initial interview was fantastic and very informative.  It had been a year since we last went through the basic fertility tests, so they asked that we re-do them.  So I had to go to a new masturbatorium (this one outfitted with a 60 inch flat-screen and a Roku of porn, pretty cool, I’d say) and Melanie went through her whole range of testing.  The results were in again……”UNEXPLAINED INFERTILITY.”  But we already knew this, so at this point the question we had for the doctor was, how do we come up with a medical plan that makes sense scientifically when we don’t have any data telling us what is wrong? And we both loved her response, because it was so freakin’ honest.  She said: “Look, this field is developing, it doesn’t have all the answers, I have two procedures that I can do for you guys, IUI or IVF.  After that, the medical field has nothing else to help you, and no other technology to measure what is wrong.”  So knowing that we still knew nothing, we were (at least) equipped with an honest answer and a doctor we personally loved.  So we just told her to tell us what she recommended and we would do it so long as we could afford it.

Her first recommendation was to do three rounds of IUI (covered in full by insurance), because, maybe whatever our un-observable problem was would be fixed by inserting the sperm higher in the uterus. So we did it.  Twice.  Coupled with Clomid 3 times.  2 & 3 aren’t the same number…and there are two stories here.  I’ll tell you about the Clomid first.  

Remember when our original OBGYN said he could prescribe up to 150mg?  Well, our RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist…or specialist, really), told us the same thing….however, being an RE, she could presecribe up to 250mg.  Let’s start with 100, though, since it worked the time we got pregnant.  I responded well to the Clomid.  The follicles looked good, the IUI was unsuccessful.  Second round: 100mg, because I’d responded so well the last round.  Unsuccessful.  Third & final round.  It’s only prudent here to mention, we had a consult with her after the 2nd round and she said most of my results were borderline, low, or just above average…I was constantly riding the wave with my blood levels, so IUI most likely wouldn’t be successful, but we could try a 3rd time and she would up the dosage.  Sure, why not.  I had already grown accustomed to sweating all day and night, so let’s increase the side effects (please read as, I would suffer any side effects if it meant carrying a pregnancy and delivering our baby).  150mg.  The prescription would be called in the next day (a Friday) and I was to start it Saturday night between 7 & 9 pm (everything is timed in Infertility Land).

We’re going to split this story up…1 Saturday afternoon.  150mg of Clomid.  2 perspectives:

This is where the infertility s**t (and rage) gets REAL

Melanie:  I got a call from CVS on my phone while I was driving, and because I don’t answer the phone while driving (mostly because my mother raised me well…thanks, Mom), I let it go to voicemail.  Plus, CVS automated messages aren’t worth answering.  Yeah, yeah, my prescription is ready for pickup.  So Mike and I are out and about and swing by our local CVS to pick up the Clomid.  We go to the drive-through window and buzz the pharmacist.  I tell her my name and date of birth, she leaves, and then she comes back to the window.  What happened next felt like an out of body experience. rx The pharmacist, whose name I know but am choosing not to type on the Internet…let’s just call her H…told us that she couldn’t distribute the medicine because it was a higher dosage than the last time.  We say, we know this, the 150 is the correct dosage.
She tells us, “While yes, that’s what the prescription is for, I tried calling the office to confirm it yesterday at 6pm.”  I (calmly, while death-gripping the steering wheel) tell her, the office closed at 4.  And it was sent over yesterday morning.  I then ask, “What were you hoping to achieve at 6pm?”  What I later thought of, was,
If this was such a concern, why didn’t you leave a message with their call answering service????  I then tell her, what anyone suffering through infertility, following a miscarriage, wants to tell a stranger in a small town.  “I’m infertile and the other doses haven’t worked.  I need this medicine and I need to take it tonight to try and have a baby.”  To which she tells us, “I don’t feel comfortable giving you this much.”  Mike, my hero, then leans across me and yells, “Listen.  My wife is a teacher.  I am a lawyer.  We are well-educated and in need of medicine to try and conceive a child.  Are you telling me you can’t or won’t give us this medicine?”  And she says, “I’m telling you, I’m making a professional decision not to give you this much Clomid.”  At some point I yelled at her, I’m not going to sell the extra Clomid on the streets! I need this amount to try and have a baby.  But no, she would not budge.  She was overriding a specialist, after NOT calling during business hours and NOT leaving a message for the on-call service after hours!!

OH NO YOU DIDN’T.  You’re overriding our specialist????  Who, once again, can prescribe up to 250mg….you’re making that decision, when we have a time-sensitive dosage to take?!?!?  

I drive away from the drive-through, park, and sob.  Why does even this have to be so damn hard?  As I google my dr’s office so I can call the answering service, Mike gets out of the car.  I get through to the answering service, leave my name and number, and am told I’ll receive a call within an hour.  I call my parents’ house phone at this point to tell my mom what’s happening, and my dad answers…my mom was out, what was going on?  He assured me everything would work out, not to get too upset, and that he was glad Mike was with me.  SO. WAS. I.  The pharmacist, however, probably was not.  Here’s where Mike can take over:

Mike: My memory of this incident is still clouded with rage…but here’s my recall of how this went down:  We pulled up to the drive-through window of the CVS, and I was reading an article on my phone about the college football playoff potential matchup.  As usual, I was not paying any attention to what was happening. Then at some point I hear the tone in Melanie’s voice change form pleasant to sad, and even though reading about potential CFP playoff scenarios is important, I put my phone down and listened into what was happening.  This is when I hear something like “I’m not able to dispense this amount of dosage to you Mrs. Carroll, because it’s above our normal dosage guidelines, and this dosage level can lead to severe side effects.”  At that point, I unbuckled my seat belt and leaned over Melanie and said, “are you not dispensing the medication because of CVS rules or in your professional discretion?” To which she responded, “it’s my professional opinion that this dosage is not appropriate because of the potential side effects, and because I haven’t had a second confirmation from your specialist, I can’t dispense.”  street sideTo which I said “Look, my wife and I are educated people, she is a teacher and I am a lawyer, we had a meeting with our specialist where she explained the risks associated with this dosage, and we understand the situation, and we’re not going to go be Clomid drug dealers on the streets of Saugerties.    To which she said something along the lines of “I understand sir, but I am not going to dispense this dosage amount.” To which I said “Do you consider yourself a doctor?  Because you’re not a doctor!  You’re pharmacist! And it sounds to me like you’re practicing medicine without a license!”  **Note: when we got home, we looked it up, and had she not dispensed our time-sensitive medication, we could have filed a suit against her under the ADA…know your rights and advocate for yourself, people!!** Then I got out of the car and stormed into CVS and starting screaming at another person who greeted me at the pharmacist front desk and told me “I had upset the entire staff and should calm down.”  To which I said “You have upset my wife who has been trying to get pregnant for over two years, and you are insulting our intelligence, and you cannot override the prescription of a reproductive specialist who has prescribed time sensitive medication because your staff wants to pretend to be doctors.”  rmThen all of my years of education climaxed into creating a super-douche bag who “requested to know his due process rights” and wanted to speak with the “regional manager”
and “to please provide me with the NYS Dept of Health complaint form for pharmacy disputes.”  Literally making all of that up on the fly in pure rage. In the middle of my tirade, the medicine was dispensed to me.  Not because of anything I did, but because the pharmacist finally got a hold of the nurse on-call after hours at our RE and they confirmed the medication was correct. Crisis averted! And screaming at people really made me feel pretty good about the whole thing. Now back to Melanie.

Meanwhile, a nurse practitioner called me back, told me she’d already called CVS and approved the dosage.  She said, “The pharmacist, H, or however you say her name, seems less than nice.” To which I said, “You’re telling me!”  She told me it was ok, get the medicine…and maybe consider a different pharmacy moving forward. Once again….You’re.Telling.Me.  This, I think, is what Mike looked like as he left CVS that day, Clomid in hand:

fire

Part B of this story is that our schedule seemed to be on track, I was going for monitoring, thought I had a couple more days, and was told (shockingly), my body was moving faster than expected and I could trigger, and plan on a 10:30 IUI in 2 days time.  Um, that couldn’t work.  Why?  Oh, 11 months prior, I bought tickets for Hamilton for me and Mike, and it was the only thing that I was looking forward to.  No, really.  The only thing.  Since the doctor was pretty sure the 3rd IUI wouldn’t work, we triggered and had the green light for timed intercourse, rather than a mid-morning appointment that wouldn’t get us to the matinee show on time.  I hemmed and hawed over so many things during our battle against infertility (because really, a journey most people head out on willingly…and we are constantly fighting against this invisible beast), but I knew if we missed Hamilton for another failed IUI, it could destroy the joy and spirit within me.  I know this seems dramatic.  I KNOW it does.  But Mike and I felt confident with our decision, and we loved our day in the city to see Hamilton together.  In a way, I think it’s what we needed.  It reminded us of life beyond (and really, amidst) infertility.  For those of you who think this was stupid, you’re probably (not) thinking of this line from the show: awesome.jpg


After our third failed test we met with our doctor again, and she was able to shed some light on what we were experiencing.  She was able to observe through our 3 Clomid cycles that Melanie’s AMH levels were just below or JUST at/above average on each of her cycles, and as the doctor explained, this meant that she believed Melanie had a “low ovarian reserve,” and that as a result, it was unlikely that we would ever get pregnant on our own.  She said that the one time we did get pregnant was more of a fluke than an indicator of a future possibility.  She recommended that we move onto IVF.  At this point, we felt a bit relieved, in the sense that we finally had an idea WTF was happening!  We said to ourselves: “OK, so Melanie’s eggs need a boost, and maybe the IVF stimming process is what we need!”  So we thought we’d consider IVF, if we could do pick the right time to do it, and we could figure out how much it would cost.   

angry cat
First we looked into cost: At our facility $12,500 for IVF medicine and procedure. $1,000 for freezing, $2,500 for a frozen transfer.  Now for two people who are trying to get out from under their student loans, save some money, and want to move sometime in the next year or two, we felt like, SHIT! But at the same time, we couldn’t let that dictate our chances of trying to have a family.  So we checked our insurance plans to see if there was any chance of coverage. We found out no chance to cover the surgical procedures ($6,500) but a slight chance that the medication would be covered ($6,000), because as our nurse told us, “More often than not,  your insurance will cover the IVF injections.”   Now this seemed crazy to us, but we decided, we’d cross our fingers and hope this was the case.  Also, we have this amazing health insurance plan through Melanie’s school, where they pay our entire deductible and we only owe for co-pays after the deductible has been used up, until reaching out of pocket max (Melanie is $40 away from her max…and it’s February.)  So we agreed to pay $6,500 for the procedure and hoped the medicine was covered.  And to our pleasant surprise, IT WAS!  So while we paid a good amount of money, it’s not as bad as it could be.   After we crossed this financial hurdle, it was around November of 2017.  We decided we’d wait until after the holidays (Melanie’s favorite time of year…our anniversary, her birthday, Christmas, saying one hell of a good bye to the sh** storm that was 2017, etc.) were over to start IVF.  Mike’s usually not very busy in February and Melanie could do IVF around her February break time, so we decided we’d start the stimming process at the end of Jan/beginning of February.  

So that is where we find ourselves now.  Waiting, once again, for results.  Hoping for positive news on Tuesday.  And although Melanie has said she won’t POAS (pee on a stick) before then, if the Beta level is good (please let it be good), she’ll definitely POAS to see those two pink lines again.waiting still


Thanks for reading this far, if you are, still, in fact reading.  Mike told me today he didn’t realize people could leave comments on the blog, so if the spirit moves you, please don’t hesitate to reach out with a reaction or a question.  If you’re going through infertility, I hope it helps knowing that there are good and bad times for everyone on this rollercoaster ride.  That, and feel free to drop a line to talk about what you’re going through, too!  And if you’re on the other side of infertility, I leave you with the origin story of The Infertile Turtle, as told by Mike:

We were telling our friends about all of the stupid shit people say to couples who don’t have children/are struggling with infertility, and I mentioned to Melanie that she should carry around a small turtle hand puppet, and when someone says something stupid you should take out the hand puppet and say “the infertile turtle says you’re an idiot.”  We all had a good drunken laugh about it…but it has become a nice way to vent and a cathartic experience.  [Plus, some day our child(ren) will know how much we wanted this.]

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Pulling the goalie

We have 2 more days until our Beta test, which will determine just how PUPO I am.  Hopefully I won’t be (U)PO.  With any luck, I’ll just be P.  And hopefully Mike and I won’t go crazy by then, waiting for the blood test and the subsequent results.  

How to pass our time, then?  Well, I thought we could blog about what got us here?  What brought us, day by day — kidding, not that specific — major piece by major piece, to less than 48 hours until we have pregnancy test results from our first round of IVF.  This blog post is just like our embaby, a little bit of Mike and a little bit of Melly.  Mike wrote our friend an email (actually, a Facebook message), and Melly went back through it, adding some details along the way.  We work pretty well in tandem…anywho, without further delay…

We starting “not defending” against pregnancy back in February 2015 (looking back, we are shocked by the $$ we preventing pregnancy through the years for no reason!).  Mike was in the beginning stages of looking for a new job, and because he’d be quitting his job at the law firm he was working at in Poughkeepsie, in order to claim his life back (no more billable hours), February seemed like the right time.  Plus, he was going to work as an in-house attorney at a company that provided paid paternity leave.  The timing made so much sense, and we figured we’d be pregnant in 3-6 months, and we’d have our first baby before the end of 2015.  LOL!

Mike:  We tried to get pregnant naturally for about a year.  We did all the timing, and temping, etc., but nothing worked. Never a positive pregnancy test from February 2015 – March 2016.  Sometimes I look back on that period and think it was the most painful part of the whole process.  We were so hopeful (and really naive) at the beginning. I think that every month when Melanie either got her period or we had a negative pregnancy test, it hurt pretty badly.  Around April of 2016 we decided to go for infertility testing.  So I entered the masturbatorium (which is both a real and amazing word) and Melanie went through the invasive poking and prodding that is required to gauge a woman’s fertility.  Our results were, to us, crushing: “UNEXPLAINED INFERTILITY.”  I had plenty of swimmers and Melanie ovulated on schedule and her tubes were clear, and her urerus without polyps or issues.  Plus, she HAD a uterus, so things were looking good!  How confusing for us.  So after a year of disappointment, and a slew of testing, it felt like we were just not meant to have children on our own, and we had no idea why. Melanie’s gynecologist, a sweet Asian man, who I often joked was providing us with his Eastern magic,  suggested that we continue trying to get pregnant the old fashioned way, while also using the fertility drug Clomid.  So feeling like we had nothing to lose, we started what was supposed to be a 3 month cycle of Clomid pills and timed natural conception….but as you know, with infertility, nothing ever goes as originally planned.

We decided to start the sex/Clomid combination in June of 2016 when school ended for Melanie (Melanie is a teacher).  The first month, Melanie took 50mg of Clomid.  Her doctor told us that he, as an OBGYN, could prescribe up to 150 mg, but for anything higher, we’d need to be working with a specialist.  The Clomid, he hoped, would rev up the follicles to produce a heartier egg.  What actually happened, was what the label warns you about.  The side effects of Clomid were pretty bad for her.  Terrible hot flashes (when he says terrible, he means, TERRIBLE!!!  I was drenched, slept as close to the AC on max as possible, and couldn’t have Mike or our goldendoodle, Charlotte, anywhere near me at night…it was super pleasant, and I felt really well-rested), nausea, and irritability (of which I tried to steer clear).  The results in June were more of the same, negative pregnancy test.  But then in July, on our second round of Clomid (this time 100mg), Melanie had a positive test.  It was the best thing ever. We were over-the-moon about it, given how long we’d been trying.  Melanie put our 2 Mets hats (year, yeametshath, we know…) on the dining room table with an infant Mets hat she bought that day to tell Mike.  It was sweet.  And now, seeing it isn’t as sweet.  But we kept it, because we want our baby to wear it someday.

 

About 3 or 4 weeks later (7 ½ weeks pregnant), friends from NYC were planning to visit us (a summer and fall getaway for many a friend who enjoys the Catskills).  Friday morning, Melly woke up with some spotting.  The doctors were not concerned.  It was brown blood, and without back or shoulder pain, they thought it was just old blood, but offered to do an ultrasound, if we’d like…we liked that option.  So we went in, for what we were told was an early ultrasound…we were, in fact, told not to expect much, as it was so early.  But the ultrasound tech showed us a black sac and said we had nothing to worry about.  Take it easy that weekend, but no need for bed rest or concern.  Great.  Old blood.  No need for concern.  

Still pregnant…so, we’d tell our friends that we were pregnant.  Even though it was early, we decided it made no sense to hide the news, since it would be uncharacteristic of Melanie not having a few glasses (or a bottle) of wine with everyone.  So we told them.  Later that night, around 11:30 pm, Melanie went to sleep.  She was feeling tired, so Mike stayed up, played beer pong on the back porch with a good friend, and together, they told his wife old stupid high school stories until she chose sleep over high school memories (Good choice! Smart choice!).  

Mike: Then about 2 hours passed by, and my dog ran onto the back porch, and she started barking and jumping and howling at us.  She typically doesn’t leave Melanie’s side, so I knew something was up, and I followed Charlotte (that’s the dog) upstairs where I found Melanie in the bathroom having a miscarriage.  All four of us (thank god my friend’s wife was sober) (what a kick in the gut when your DD can’t drive) drove to the hospital in Rhinebeck per her doctor’s advice, due to fever and vomiting and pain level, and we spent the night at the hospital while Melanie got painkillers and dealt with the effects of the miscarriage.  I think we got back home that morning at 5:30 am. Crazy night, to say the least.  

twolines
A day or two later we were at the doctor’s office, to have another blood draw, confirming that her levels were lowering on their own — in hopes of avoiding a D&C.  Her 3rd blood draw was stagnant, and Melanie was worried to say the least, but then her repeat test bottomed out.  The miscarriage (physically) was over.  The emotional toll it took still isn’t over (says Melanie).  Adding insult to injury, a day or two after the miscarriage started, Melanie received a phone call from her OBGYN’s office, confirming her 8 week ultrasound the next day.  Oof.  Talk about pain.  

A few months later, when Melanie’s doctor thought it was OK for us to start trying to get pregnant again (and after he told Melanie for the 10th time that mowing the lawn that week had not caused the miscarriage…in fact, he told her that short of going to Chernobyl, there was nothing she did to cause it…and seeing as she had not traveled to Chernobyl recently… we started sex/Clomid again.  He prescribed the 100mg again, as it had worked the last time.  And I think we were both hopeful it would work again.  The 2nd time we’d cycled with Clomid, we got pregnant, so it should work again quickly!  Ha ha ha.  So foolish.  We tried that for 2 more months. No success.  At that point, we were referred to the CNY Fertility Specialists in Albany.  Again with no answers, some more trauma, and nothing to lose, we made an appointment to see one of their doctors.