A calendar at last

I wish this blog entry started off telling the story of an unexpected positive pregnancy test.  Like my eggs were finally scared straight when the IVF meds showed up or one volunteered as tribute, and we’d have a baby on the way when we least expected it.  But, that’s not this blog post.  I think, in more reality, the reaction was more like an SNL spoof of Scared Straight:

scared straight

So instead of telling you a wonderful story of our surprise unexplained reversal of unexplained infertility, we continue on with our journey…which remains unexplained…and with little surprise.

We had a conference call with our injections coordinator/trainer on Monday to talk more in depth about our medication protocol, and yesterday, after being 4 days late (ah, just like the good old days of trying to get pregnant years ago, when I’d be 4, 8, 3 days late inexplicably…before Clomid, a miscarriage, more Clomid, and meetings with specialists),  I called our Reproductive Endocrinologist (we so fancy) to report the start of a new cycle.

And with that call, I started taking birth control.  Yes.  You read that right.  Birth control.  THAT’s the first medication I have to take to kick off our IVF game.  As far as I’m concerned, I’d like a refund for all of the birth control I paid for over the years protecting against pregnancy.  That’s probably one of my favorite jokes that Mike and I make: demanding money back for guarding against pregnancy, when we never needed defense in the first place.  But that’s neither here nor there (and sorry if that joke make you feel weird…humor is a big coping mechanism around here).  Why the birth control?  It will calm my ovaries and prevent follicles and eggs from growing and developing.  Then, when my ovaries are calm, the RE will take over and help stimulate and grow follicles, which will hopefully contain healthy, robust eggs, ready to be fertilized, transferred, and burrow in for a fruitful pregnancy.

So.  I started birth control last night and got a phone call this morning from Michelle, our IVF coordinator.  I’ll take birth control until the 25th, and then have baseline testing on the 27th.  I’ll have blood work and an ultrasound done and hopefully my levels, lining, and ovaries look good and ready to start.  If so, I’ll start my injections that night (this is the phase known as stimming, for stimulating growth).  I’ll start with 2 meds each night, and after 3 days of stimming, I’ll head back in for another round of blood work and u/s.  From there, dosages of the meds may change and I’ll go for monitoring more often.  At some point I’ll add in a third shot each night, to keep my eggs from releasing.  Then, when my doctor says I’m ready, we’ll administer a trigger shot 36 hours before retrieval, which will tentatively be on February 8th & hopefully an embryo transfer on the 13th.  This is all subject to change, but! for now we have birth control, our IVF calendar, and our meds (some that are chilling in the fridge & others that are in our someday nursery).

After reading countless blogs about IVF (thanks, Pinterest), I haven’t been TOO surprised by what our doctor or nurses have told us.  But today there was a new little tidbit…I can’t wear nail polish for the egg retrieval or transfer!  And I have to have the polish off at least 2 days off before the retrieval.  It makes sense, I suppose, as I’ll be sedated and have to wear a pulse-ox monitor on my finger, but it wasn’t something I had considered.  Among the various sacrifices we’ll (gladly) make for this to happen, unpainted nails is a very small (and silly) thing, but I was still surprised.   There are a few other things, but when the time comes, we’ll write about those.

Aside from  some mild disappointment in the face of (obviously? distantly? tragically?) hoping for the miracle pregnancy this past cycle, we’re excited to start our IVF cycle.  And even thought we have to wait a little bit more to start stimming meds, then wait for the retrieval, then wait for updates about the eggs, then wait for the transfer, and THEN wait for a pregnancy test, the waiting seems to be more bearable as we *finally* take active steps in this process…while we wait some more.

waiting trash panda

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time…

As we leave the Christmas season, some faster than others…our tree is still up because it is awesome this year.  Well,  that, and last year I think it came down before Christmas Day because of kitchen reno. Mike and I unpacked our car with thoughtful gifts picked out for us by family and friends, but without something we both want.  Something we hope for, talk about, pray for, dream of, and for which we make wishes.  You know, I have so many wishes for me and Mike.  Health, happiness, friendship, love, good jobs in which we can find success and pride, laughter (gosh I hope we always have a lot of laughter), wine…oops!  I guess I just wish Mike would re-fill my wine glass while I type out this blog, but that’s neither here nor there.  But something else I wish is that 2.5 years ago, I’d known that Elton John’s “Rocket Man” (and sooooo many other things) contain a message that are both helpful and heartbreaking.  Especially when you’re experiencing infertility.  As I drove home last week listening to the sweet vocals of Sir Elton John, I thought “You’re damn right it’s gonna be a long long time!”

Some of the other things that have struck a chord with me along the way:

a.) Co-workers!  Thanks for complaining about children and saying things like, “Just wait until YOU have kids!”  …cue my nervous laugh, small eye roll, and internal response, “ALL I DO IS WAIT UNTIL I HAVE KIDS!”  Don’t worry.  I don’t actually say it.  And it’s not their fault.  I know that.

b.) Christmas cards!  Man.  I love Christmas cards.  Ask Mike!  He’ll tell you that if there’s a day in December with no cards in the mailbox, my Clausometer falls.  But then, standing in your kitchen surrounded by families, babies, kids, all of which are incredible, happy, and beautiful!, was totally gut-wrenching.  This was our 3rd calendar year of, “Maybe by Christmas we’ll have a baby on the way…”

c.) MOVIES & TV.  Ok, if you haven’t struggled with infertility, you may not have noticed this, but now that we’re in the infertile pit of misery (Dilly Dilly!), Mike and I are hit with fertility issues everywhere we look!  I’m not talking about John and Kate Plus 8, some Duggan-Family based program, or any other TLC show that highlights families and babies…I’m talking ArrivalPatriots Day,  Friends, and most recently Fuller House.  **When Mike and I were reading through this blog entry, he said, “I mean, we could easily name 9 or 10 more!”  And maybe we will some other day.  But for now, these are the first 4 that come to mind.

-I won’t spoil Arrival, as it shouldn’t be spoiled.  I do recommend it, Mike and I loved it!  However, I did sit with tears streaming down my face.  I think this was the first movie we saw after our miscarriage (more on the later)…not like the next day, but it was the first time out to the movies and welcome back tears!

-Patriots Day.  As I recall, the issue of infertility really didn’t need to be in this movie.  Mike and I were enthralled by this movie (we both tolerate Wahlbergs.  Mark in movies…and Donny in Blue Bloods…oh!  There’s a show without infertility!  Although, now that I’ve put it out there, I’m sure it’s coming..ha! ) Anyway, story line about the Boston Marathon bombings, they’re hunting for the brothers, and then bam! Random side-story about infertility!  Crushed…because I wasn’t already crying about the horror of the bombings.

Friends.  I love it.  I’m watching it right now for what? The 5th time through? Who’s to say?  I read last year (and I have no way of fact-checking this, although maybe Mike can after his time on the Law Journal and all of those foot-notes…hmm.  Mike, after you bring me that glass of wine, I have another *small* task for you!) that the Friends women all experienced childbirth, fertility, and family issues in non-traditional ways on purpose.  Phoebe was a surrogate for her brother, Rachel was un-married when she got pregnant and had Emma, and Monica.  Monica struggles to get pregnant and later finds out that she can’t have children of her own…so she adopts.  Because of sitcoms glossing over major issues while still addressing them, I’m not sure why she couldn’t try IVF.  But I’m nearing that episode, if I get more insight (now that I’m relatively well-versed in infertile-talk), I’ll report back.  Anyway, I’m not sure if the writers/producers did that on purpose, or if some fan noticed it and created the theory.  But either way, I like it, I appreciate it, and I relate to some of it.

-This last bullet point could include some spoilers for you re: Fuller House consider yourself warned.  In Season 1 of the Full House spin-off, the audience learns that Stephanie, for some reason, cannot carry a child of her own…so she has accepted that she will not have children.  Fast forward Season 2, Stephanie is encouraged by Aunt Becky to pursue harvesting her own eggs and considering a surrogate, if at all possible.  Season 3: Stephanie is seen giving herself some hormone injections, gets a call about how many viable embryos she has after fertilization (Kimmy Gibler’s brother, Jimmy Gibler, is the father!), and she needs to find a surrogate.  Well, the hunt is exhaustive, and there’s no one.  DJ, who very much wants to be the surrogate can’t be because of her last delivery being so tough/traumatic (OK Netflix, who actually researched my life for part of this story line?? Mike and I laughed several times at the similarities to our own story!!) Shout out to my sister, here, by the way, who had a traumatic last delivery & I know would do anything for me that she possibly could–although, Stephanie Tanner and I differ, in that I do not need a surrogate.  I digress.  Kind of.  So following the “exhaustive” (think 1 – 2 minutes of story line) search and emotional conversations with DJ, Kimmy Gibler ends up being chosen as Steph’s surrogate!  What!?  Crazy!  Also great.  SO! Mike and I finished Season 3 today of Fuller House, which is really what I thought about blogging about all day today.  I was comforted by the inclusion of an infertile story line in FH.  I cried when Stephanie told DJ she wouldn’t be able to have children…I’ve had that same conversation with my sister.  I cried when Stephanie’s family rallied behind her with support for IVF/Surrogacy…Mike and I have received that same support.  And I cried today when Kimmy announced that she was, indeed, pregnant with Stephanie’s child.  When Stephanie said, “I’m going to be a Mommy!”…well!  Welcome back, water works!

But they were happy tears.  A lot of the tears I’ve cried over the past couple of years have been shed because of sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, helplessness, and loss.  But today?  Today my tears were filled with hope.  Hope and wishes…so many wishes.

Chandler

Not throwing away our shot(s)

…mostly because they cost over $4,000…that and the shots we got in the mail today are our best chance at having a baby.  That’s right!  Our meds arrived today.  Well, I guess my meds?  It’s a fine line, you know, when talking about fertility, pregnancy, miscarriage, etc.  Mike and I tend to use the royal we, so I guess more often than not, I’ll use we in this blog (don’t hold me to that, odds are I’ll flip back and forth).

Ok.  So.  What does $4,225.23 in medication entail?  Before I get to that, I should mention, we are not printing money in the basement.  Anyone who has ever heard of/about IVF before probably knows it involves a petri dish and a lot of money.  We’re really fortunate.  The fertility clinic that we’re working with is affordable, especially seeing as our insurance covers medications.  We paid $6,500 to our RE (reproductive endocrinologist) which includes all of the monitoring: blood work and ultrasounds, anesthesia, egg retrieval, working with Mike’s sample, embryo babysitting [seriously, this is HUGE! You wouldn’t believe what an embryo babysitter is going for nowadays 😉 haha I’m half-kidding.  Embryologists have to have Master’s Degrees or higher!], embryo transfer (given a successful cycle), and even more ultrasounds and blood work.

So…you’re saying $6,500 doesn’t include meds?  Right.  That’s what I’m telling you.  Luckily our insurance company accepted the claim for our medication…we blew through our deductible and will be paying co-pays for the rest of our insurance year (Oct. 1 – Sep. 30), but this  coverage is a huge deal.  I don’t think I’ll ever understand how insurance is billed, adjusted, and subsequently charged, but I know that out-of-pocket, we could have been looking at an additional $4-6k (some people pay up to $10,000+).  So this was BIG DEAL!  I got the phone call from our IVF coordinator on December 20th that our insurance was accepting the request to cover our meds and I felt like Christmas came early!  And a weight on my shoulders (and Mike’s) had been lifted–one that I’m not even sure I knew was there.

SO.  What was in the box?  twenty syringes, twenty 27 gauge 1/2 inch needles, alcohol wipes, a sharps disposal box, and, of course, the actual medication.  I will be using Menopur, Ganirelix, Follistim, Crinone gel, and then a shot of HcG to trigger ovulation when it’s time to collect my eggs.  You can google those drugs, or not, and when we actually start the protocol (in mid to late January…it’s all cycle based), I’m sure I’ll explain more.  Mike and I had a lot of fun stacking the meds as high as we could get them…both of us acknowledging that it was similar to (but way different than) Jenga.

Opening the box was pretty amazing (and a touch overwhelming).  There was so much hope in that box!  Here’s what could be the makings of our child(ren)…how incredible is that?!  As hard and confusing as this journey can be/has been, I am regularly amazed by and thankful for modern medicine…this is our shot.  And we’re not throwing it away.

IMG_4472

Why a blog?

In July 2015, Mike left private practice and we thought it was a good time to start our family.  Two and a half years later, we’d still really like to start our family, but infertility has delayed our plans…the best laid plans, right?  As we’ve navigated countless appointments, tests, samples given, samples taken, prescriptions, procedures, tears, and laughs, Mike has suggested I/we write a book, track what we’ve gone through and are going through…and so I thought I’d start smaller: why not blog a little bit?

So why start today?  Well, today I filled our IVF prescriptions: because that’s where we’re at.  Our chances of having a baby on our own are inexplicably low.  Why inexplicably?  Because that’s our diagnosis: unexplained infertility.  Great.  If you ever really want to struggle with an issue, try tackling something that is unexplained.  Really?  REALLY?!

…really.  How we got to this point is a series of blog posts for other days, but today the prescriptions are filled, the meds and needles have been ordered (because all of the IVF meds are mail-order only: your local CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid…they don’t carry these medications).  Looking at the calendar, it is estimated I’ll start “stimming” about one month from today, so it feels like the right day to start this little blog.

I’m hoping this blog helps us track what we go through as we start IVF, as well as give us a space to reflect upon and tell the story of what got us here today.  And this is a good space that family and friends (and maybe even some others struggling with infertility?) can see where we’re at emotionally, physically, and get some answers/insight when we don’t answer the phone, respond to texts, or cancel/not commit to/not make plans because the infertile life can be inexplicably hard.  I’m lucky, though, because traveling this journey with Mike has been filled with love and laughter alongside the tears and struggles.  And I’m keeping the faith (most days) that our luck is going to turn in 2018.

so it begins