Friday, September 30, 2011

Class is in Session

At the moment, I am verklempt. Yup, verklempt. Apparently, I speak Yiddish during overwhelming times such as this. The box I have been waiting for has arrived today...the medicines! The pic includes all the meds I will be taking in the next month. Yes, all this in ONE month. Yikes. (I blurred out some of it so my address couldn't be seen bc you never know about creepers!)
I had the IVF class last week. I met with 2 RN's and went over all the meds I'd be taking, when to take them and how they will be given. I have a sheet of paper filled with all the instructions. Both of the nurses have been through infertility treatments (or at least they said they were), and this was oddly comforting. Although I don't like to be ignored, I also don't enjoy pity parties. These women were receptive, informative, encouraging and eased the worries I had and made the copious amount of information comprehensible. I honestly think it helped that they had been in my shoes before. Because I can't seem to enter a doctor's office without taking off my pants or being stuck by a needle these days, of course I had a lab draw while I was there. The meeting made me feel competent about the next month's activities.
Shortly after my meeting, I got in contact with the specialty pharmacy the clinic uses. You have to use a specialty pharmacy because your neighborhood Walgreen's won't be stocked with these meds. They overnight the meds to your house (how convenient!) so this gives you enough time to scrape yourself off the ceiling after they tell you the total cost of the medicines. We had leftover HMG injections from our previous cycles, so this saved quite a bit of cash. Despite this "savings" we still dropped over $1,800 for the rest of the medicines. You heard me right. Yowza. I think we're lucky(?), because our insurance paid for a portion of all the meds with the exception of the Follistim. The Follistim came in at a staggering $1671! Ah!! Talk about sticker shock...
Anyway, the meds have arrived. A nurse called me today from the pharmacy and went over each of the meds, side effects, etc. This was a nice touch. The main side effect for each of the drugs is "emotional instability." She warned me I may have frequent mood swings. Oh boy. I am seriously considering locking myself in our bedroom for a few weeks. I've been on meds before that have made me "emotionally unstable" and it was a harrowing experience to say the least (Poor Collin). I need a cocktail, but since I'm quitting cocktails (and caffeine) I can't even find solace in a brandy old fashion.
All of this makes me feel guilty. It's not fair to put Collin through this...I dislike that his wife has a wonky uterus. I wish there was something I could do. Life is just not freaking fair. I could think of a lot of things to do with $1800 and none of them include shoving needles into myself.
Anyway, the countdown has begun. 8 days until we officially start our first (and hopefully last) IVF cycle!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Split Personality Disorder

I survived the IVF class :) It actually made me feel confident about moving forward with the whole process. I'll write more on it later. Today, however, I am frustrated. I worked over the weekend at both hospitals and somehow at both the topics of pregnancy and babies kept popping up. I was once again asked the bothersome question, "When are you having kids?" Aside from wanting to burst into tears, I used my usual response of "someday." What am I supposed to say to this!? "We've been trying to have a baby for over 3 years and I've had one tragic miscarriage. Thanks for checking." I know most of my co-workers have no idea what is going on with my infertility issues and it's an innocent question, but it's infuriating, heart breaking and frustrating all at the same time. One of my co-workers is pregnant and she continuously talked about her baby, finding out the sex, etc. While I am happy for her, part of me just ached inside the whole day. I feel like I have split personalities sometimes; there's a facade of the "Outside Amber" that is carefree, fun and full of energy. This is the person most people know me as. But, there is also the "Inner Amber" that a lot of people do not even know exists. This person is emotionally fragile, constantly dealing with infertility and confused. I always stay composed in these situations and no one has any idea what is going on in the "Inner Amber's" thoughts. I discretely fire off a text to Collin for support during these baby filled conversations. He always knows what to say to make me feel better. (What would I do without this splendid man?)
Since this post seems to be complaints (the next one won't be so negative!) I also have to admit, and anyone going through this can relate, logging on to Facebook can be like navigating through a mine field. Don't get me wrong, I adore Facebook, but I am so tired of people complaining about how "horrible" it is to be pregnant, having morning sickness, feeling swollen, being exhausted or how they dislike feeling tired because their child woke them up at night. I swear, every time I log in, another person announces their pregnancy. Ugh! The blocking feature has become one of my favorite tools! If you announce you're pregnant on FB, I am very happy for you and your expanding family! However, if you start the unwarranted pregnancy rants or repeatedly post sonogram photos, for my own sanity, I have to block you. I even have one of my sister-in-law's blocked. (Granted she and my brother are completely callous, but that's a story for another time)
Anyway, anyone going through a similar situation, how do you deal with the questions of "when are you having kids"?? Do you feel like you're keeping part of yourself hidden??
I've tried to open up and let the "Inner Amber" out before, but I have found people just don't understand. They say the wrong things and it doesn't help me feel better, so I just don't talk about it typically. Below is a list of things to say/do and things never to say/do to someone going through infertility, along with smart ass comments I'd like to say. I can't take credit for this list nor all the comments, my friend Google provided them and I added a bit here and there. But, nonetheless, I've heard all of these throughout the years... (I know you ladies going through this have probably heard them all too!)

NEVER say:

You need a vacation, then you'll get pregnant.
If that were true, we'd have around 8 kids by now....

I can't believe you sought medical treatment. Seeking medical treatment just shows you are spiritually immature and you don't trust God.
So do you usually comfort cancer patients this way as well?

Have you tried praying about it?
Now why haven't I thought of that before?

[in reference to our miscarriage]
Well at least you know you can get pregnant!
Wow, thank you for minimizing my loss of my child to just a test run to see if pregnancy is possible. Yeah, I appreciate that.

It's all in your head. If you stop thinking about it, it will happen. ("Just relax")
Infertility is a real medical issue. I have endometriosis which is a biological reproductive disease and causes my infertility. But yeah, thanks for implying that I'm mentally unstable enough to cause myself to not have kids.

You must be having lots of fun trying!
Oh yeah, it's a blast when there's all this pressure on both of us, and then you're poked and prodded to get test results and you're asked all kinds of questions about your sex life to a doctor you've never met before. LOADS of fun. Wish we started sooner.

You should adopt, then you’ll get pregnant right away (or the "you could always just adopt")
I would never ever ever use adoption as a method of getting pregnant. How absolutely terrible for the adopted child!!! Besides, check your facts. There is no correlation between adoption and having a biological child. The percentage for getting pregnant after an adoption is exactly the same as the percentage of getting pregnant before adoption. Also, there is no way to "just" adopt. It takes years, thousands of dollars, and it's something we have no intention of pursuing.

My husband just looks at me and I get pregnant
Good for you.

Here, you can just have one of my kids
The next time someone says this to me, I might just grab their kid, hop in my car and drive off, just to prove what a heartless comment that is.

Things could be worse
For me, this IS the "worse." My feelings are valid.

You're still young

I'm well aware of my age, thank you. I'm also well aware that my endometriosis makes conceiving a child more and more difficult with each passing year. Three years is a long time to try to conceive...

The following are comments that we truly love and appreciate. But because I get so embarrassed, I don't usually know what to say...but please know that if you're reading this and you have either done or said these things...we love you so much for it.

How are you?
Is there anything I can do? (not likely, but the fact you care enough to ask means the world)
Can I get you some tissues?
I'm here if you want to talk about it
We are praying for you/can we pray for you?
And the actions...
a hug
crying with us
a card in the mail
remembering that while I do not have a child in my arms, I AM a mother and my child is in heaven...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

When You Want to Slap the USPS

need to be cleaning the house or doing one of the other 7 things on this weeks "to do" list before work, but I had to share these pictures!! Somehow I was inadvertently placed on some kind of expectant mother mail list. I get magazines, coupons, and/or pamphlets at least once a week. Sometimes, depending on the day and the news I have gotten that day from a MD, these things make me curse, cry, tear them up, roll my eyes, shake my head or any combination of these things. They always end up in the garbage can one way or another. Never have I received one of these pieces of propaganda and been happy about it. They seem to serve as a slap in my face as a reminder of what I don't have. I adore getting the mail. Seriously, I really like it. Call me old fashion, but it's fun when you get a little card or other piece of mail from someone you care about. These baby items have made me a bit apprehensive about getting the mail until today. I opened my mailbox and got excited when I saw a box inside. I pulled it out and read that it was another piece of baby propaganda. Great. I'm already feeling tense about my IVF class tomorrow...why not freak me out a little more?! However, once I opened the box I couldn't help but laugh hysterically! Formula? Really?! WTF am I supposed to do with this? Can it be fed to dogs or cats? It doesn't expire until 2013, so I'm going to take it as a sign of the things to come...

To Attain or Not to Attain

Numbers. Infertility is a numbers game. Cycle day, follicles, eggs retrieved, embryos transferred, mg of meds, vials of injections, follicle size, cost, time of appointments, success rates, cervical lining measurement...well, I think you get the picture. Probably the biggest number looming over most people's heads is the cost. Don't get me started on how absurd medical insurance can be...

When it comes to cost, one interesting aspect of IVF is a program called Attain. Attain is a shared risk program. There are 2 Attain options: 1. You pay one flat rate ($21k) and are able to have up to 3 fresh IVF cycles and 3 frozen cycles; if none of these are successful you are refunded 70% of your cost. 2. You pay one flat rate ($14k) and have 2 fresh and 2 frozen cycles. You can't automatically be accepted into the program, you have to have all your medical paperwork submitted and the company decides if you're faulty uterus is worth the risk. Sounds like some kind of bizarre sorority doesn't it? We thought this sounded like a solid option for us. It helps to ease the pressure of each cycle.

But then came the onslaught of the numbers...the Attain program does not include medications or additional monitoring. The two of these sum up to a neat estimate of about $5k per fresh cycle. A frozen cycle is a clearance cycle and only costs $3k. (Side note-sad when 3k sounds like a clearance deal, but compared to the alternative, sadly, it is) An a la carte IVF cycle costs about $17k for the total package deal (meds, monitoring etc).

And then came the emotional onslaught of numbers...I have been told I am young when it comes to IVF (a lot of the population that attempt this are in their 40's) and I am an ideal candidate for success (when medicated, I can produce a lot of eggs of a decent size and there was that one pregnancy so I CAN get pregnant). The clinic is 1.5 hours away. We've been at this over 3 years. We are both drained from all the appointments, monitoring, needles, stress, and disruption to our lives. Do we want to endure up to 6 cycles of this? That could take years to get through them all!

I've done research on this to see what other people think/have done. (Side note-how did people live before the internet?!) The information available goes both ways...some people say it's a waste of money (if you get preggers on the first IVF cycle that's quite a bit of green gone!), but then again, who the hell cares what it costs to have a child? Can you put a cost on it?! Spending $21k up front plus an addition $5k per cycle sure seems like a lot of money....we're not desperate for a child. A child will not complete our lives, but it would be a fabulous blessing. What to do?

Decisions, decisions. We weighed out our options and decided we were emotionally and financially more comfortable with the a la carte IVF option. We are both avid planners and thrive from direction in our lives. However, we've learned sometimes those plans, no matter how well thought out and organized, sometimes just cannot come to fruition. Screw the planning! There is no telling what will happen in a given day, week or month so I'm adopting the one day at a time philosophy. This was a very difficult decision (these days our lives seem to filled with these), but we hope and pray we have made the right decision. My very wise grandmother once told me to make a decision and to move forward; don't think 'what if we would have made the other decision' because you didn't make the other decision! You made a choice and you need to stand by it, accept it and move forward with that choice. It is one of my favorite pieces of advice from her! Moving forward, I am hoping, hoping so much my heart feels like it may explode sometimes, that this works on our first try. In the meantime, if anyone knows where I can get my hands on one of those trees that money grows from, please let me know ;)

"One day at a time--this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful it will be worth remembering." --Ida Scott Taylor

Monday, September 19, 2011

Another Weekend Bites the Dust

Weekends seem to fly by! I cannot believe September is halfway over already...
I've been debated on whether to grow my hair longer or keep it short so I let it grow all summer. Although I have always wanted long hair, it just doesn't work on me. I made an appointment with my hilarious and talented hair dresser, E.C., to chop it and darken it for the fall. I feel like I have a new perspective on what's been going in our it was time for a change in my look as well! I'm tired of keeping quiet about our infertility issues. I must admit blogging has been an amazing release! I feel free.
We went on a date Saturday night to Ruth's Chris Steak House. DELICIOUS!! It's a chain restaurant and I would definitely recommend it if there is one near you. After filling ourselves with amazing food and drinks, we headed home to fill out our anniversary journal. Our anniversary was in June *Happy 5 Years!!* but we have been so busy we haven't had time to sit down and spend a few hours together reflecting over memories from the past year. It was a peaceful night filled with "us" time. We have had a fantastic year filled with friends, family, traveling, camping, a job promotion, new experiences, health, love and laughter. We've both worked very hard over the years to make our dreams a reality. There seems to be only one thing missing, but we are both hopeful that this is our year!! 29 was always the age I thought was perfect for starting a family (you know, back when I thought we could choose when we wanted these things to happen). Anyway, here's to this year being our year!
On to a fresh week! I am working a lot of hours the next 10 days. I am spending my one day off this week attending an IVF class on Thursday in Chattanooga. Unfortunately, Collin has to be in Atlanta on Thursday so I will be flying solo. I'm looking forward to the class because I am a planner (it's a 1:1 meeting with a nurse to get a full IVF schedule), but I'm a bit apprehensive because I have to drive there, attend the class and drive back by myself. There are so many unknowns with the whole process right now, it will be helpful to have exactly what our plan will look like on paper.
A special thank you to everyone who has written me emails, messages on here or sent FB messages. I'm behind in responding to everyone, but I wanted to say a quick thank you. I am very thankful for all the encouraging and understanding messages you have sent. They all mean a lot to both of us.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Stay Classy Knoxville {Unless You Have a SHG}

Who cusses in a physician's office? Apparently this girl.
Let me explain. I was originally supposed to have a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) performed pre-IVF cycle. A what?! Doesn't matter...basically the most uncomfortable x-ray you could imagine. I Googled this procedure and let's just say I was thankful they prescribe Valium for it. Collin was originally going to be in Germany when I had to have it done, but I decided I could put on my big girl panties and get through it on my own.
The IVF MD, Dr Scotchie (how fun is that name?) decided I could get a Sonohysterogram (SHG) instead; a much more tolerable procedure per my Google search. Collin was NOT going to be in Germany after all. I was scheduled to work the night before and night of my appt, but my understanding boss let me get out of the shift after my SHG. WINNING!
Appointment day. I got lost on the way there. I've been going there for 3 years (and living in Knoxville 4 years) and I got lost. Traffic was horrible and I thought I'd try out a new short cut. Bad idea. I ended up by Collin's work and had to call him for directions.
We both arrived in the office and waited for my name to be called so we could get this over. We waited 20 minutes and I started to get restless. We waited 30 minutes and I started to get crabby. We waited 45 minutes and I thought I might scream. We waited 60 minutes and Collin was wondering if it was too late to hop a plane to Germany. *bless his heart for his patience!!*
FINALLY! My name! I get in the ultrasound room...the nurses don't even have to tell me how to prep for the ultrasound anymore. Been there, done that. Dr Doody comes in and I assume the position. At the risk of keeping this PG, let's just say it was extremely uncomfortable for my prudish self. After 2 attempts of trying to find my cervix he commented that I was “too tense.” Really?! I responded with “well, this isn’t all that comfortable.” After 2 more attempts of cranking a speculum every which way (or so it felt) he asked if I could use the restroom to empty my bladder in attempt to make this easier.

I got up and ran down the hallway with a paper sheet barely covering my ass. The office was closed, we were the only ones there, but still….classy. I thought I was going to lose it in the bathroom…I felt the tears coming on. I just wanted this over…

Back into the anti-prude position and back at! After a few more attempts with the nurses assistance, he found my cervix. Next thing I know, I am experiencing unbearable pain and I felt the urge to kick Dr Doody in the face. Since this wasn't a viable option, I dropped a JC bomb under my breath and tried to breath. I looked over at Collin in my desperation and thought I mouthed an F bomb to him; much to my surprise, Collin later told me it was indeed an audible F bomb. Classy.

We finished up the procedure, which thankfully, resulted in a “normal” uterus. Ha! “normal” although seemingly hostile because we’ve been working over 3 years trying to get that thing knocked up and she resists every opportunity!

After the procedure, Dr Doody apologized for the pain. He had to use a more rigid catheter to get to my cervix since it takes an odd angle to get to it and the catheter apparently was inadvertently flung into my cervix. I now know what it feels like to have a catheter flung into a cervix and I wouldn’t recommend it.

The fun loving couple who appears to be sophisticated and yuppie-ish on the surface surprised the MD and RN by dropping a few curses. I think I had every right to cuss given the circumstances. Maybe not my classiest move, but what’s a girl to do when a catheter barrels into her cervix?

It was not a fun procedure, but it's over. Nothing a few ibuprofen, phone call to my mom, foot rub from Collin and a Land Shark couldn't fix.

Thus concludes the final test pre-IVF. Let’s do this thing!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Where do I begin?

June 1, 2008. I reflect back on my life prior to this date quite a bit; we were adventurous, innocent, happy and naive to how cruel life can be. My grandparents came to visit. I was about to start a new job at Peninsula as a Case Manager. Collin's job was going well. We were out of the cabin and living in a nice apartment. Life was good.
I became quite sick I landed in the ER at Parkwest and was admitted to the hospital for four days with a diagnosis of an Ileus (aka bowel obstruction). Amongst the round of tests in the hospital, I underwent an abdominal CT and an ultrasound. Turns out I also had a dermoid cyst on my left ovary. We felt resilient. We thought this was a problem we could tackle. Surgery did not seem like a big deal...
We were introduced to Dr Doody, a Reproductive Endocrinologist, who was to perform the surgery to remove the cyst. At the post surgery appointment, we found out I had Endometriosis and a septate uterus. We walked away from the appointment armed with knowledge and hope.
I had surgery to remove tissue from the Endometriosis and remove the septate. At the post op appointment, we were informed I had Stage III Endometriosis (out of IV). Dr Doody asked us what our thoughts on having children were...we laughed. Kids?! We were not ready for kids...were we? I was 25 and Collin was 28. We were too young! We just started living life...we had too many vacations to take and fun to have before we were ready to have a family. We walked away thinking the MD was a bit zealous.

*2009* Holidays came and went, we went to 3 friend's weddings, traveled to Mexico and rolled into 2009 with a refreshing outlook on our lives. We were ready to jump head first into starting a family. We'd always talked about having kids "someday." This was our "someday." We were ready! We were excited. We discussed so many "what if's", names, and eagerly anticipated where our lives were taking us.
We started out taking Clomid and ovulation predictor tests; once I got a positive on the test we were going to go to Dr Doody for an IUI (intra uterine insemination...yup the turkey baster route). Seemed easy enough. One month passed. Never a positive ovulation test. Increased dose of Clomid for the second month. Never a positive ovulation test. Month 3 a higher dose of Clomid. I woke up one day dizzy and with blurred vision. I was stumbling and running into things like a drank 5 brandy old fashions. Turns out Clomid can cause permanent vision damage. That was the end of Clomid.
Spring turned into summer. Through this all, I was juggling school, clinicals and work. Summer was a short semester so it meant school and clinicals 5 days a week plus work to top it off. I was on so many different drugs during this time...if I put down every detail of every test and every drug I was on you'd probably want to check me into rehab. I began to lose myself. The drugs made me feel insane. I was moody, tired, angry, and damn difficult to be around at times. We decided it was time to take a break from our "someday."
Fall entered the picture along with injections. After 13 shots administered by my patient, loving husband over 15 days and 5 ultrasounds (the throw your feet in the stirrups, internal ultrasound type) we went in for our first IUI. 2 weeks later, I WAS PREGNANT!! We were elated! Sure we had been through a lot, but it was worth it! Our "someday" had arrived!!
I did blood work every other day to check my progesterone level. We had an ultrasound. We saw our baby's heart beat. We walked out of the office with our heads in the clouds.
You can only imagine how many times I had been to Dr Doody's office. Every nurse, manager, NP and assistant knew me and Collin by name. I was tired of going to the office. Our last appointment with Dr Doody came, an ultrasound at week 8. I was then going to see a regular OBGYN. FINALLY! No more Doody! Well, it turns out I had miscarried. I have never felt so awful in my entire life... It was a very dark place for Collin and I. We had worked so hard for this and it was taken away in an instant.
We got through our loss together. He was strong when I was not. He held me when I couldn't move. He was my shoulder to cry on. He was the only person who understood what we had gone through to get here. We decided to take time off from the grueling work of our "someday" again. We were battered, weak, exhausted and losing hope. I was graduating in the spring. Collin was busy with work. We decided to concentrate on "us" for a while.

*2010* Spring came again. I graduated, got the two jobs I wanted and we treated ourselves to a trip to Negril, Jamaica. We came back refreshed, invigorated and renewed with energy and hope. We started injections in June; my loving husband gave me 17 shots over 15 days and I had another 5 ultrasounds. We had our second IUI an waited the unbearably long 2 week wait. I knew it wasn't our "someday" before the pregnancy test had to tell me with it's one pathetic line. It was unsuccessful...
We regained the strength and patience required to undergo another round of injections in November. After 9 shots and 2 ultrasounds this cycle got cancelled. I had too many egg follicles and at the risk of becoming the next Kate Plus Eight, we had to abruptly stop.

*2011* Eager to start again, we did the holiday trip to Midwest and came back to work on our "someday" yet again. Collin shot me up with 9 shots in the hip and I had 3 ultrasounds before we were ready for another IUI. We waited the 2 weeks again, fully anticipating two lines on the pregnancy test. They never came. Another failed cycle. We were surprised, bitter and confused.
After meeting with Dr Doody to discuss our options, it was recommended we move on to IVF. It was not a surprise, this wasn't working. We were tired of the injections, tired of the endless appointments, tired of the hope, the pain, the waiting. We got information for 2 IVF clinics, one in Chattanooga and one in Nashville.
So here we are today, prepping for our first cycle of IVF. We've been to hell and back. We've experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We've done it all. We've made it through and we're still smiling. We're still hopeful; hope is the only thing you you have sometimes when everything else fails. We're still standing side by side and hand in hand. I have an incredible husband who has been my everything when I could be nothing. I cannot express how much I love this man and how thankful I am for him. He is the love of my life. He keeps me going when I am tired of fighting. He makes me smile when I want to cry. When we started on this long journey we had no idea it would bring us to this. We had no idea it would be this difficult, this time consuming, this emotional or this expensive. Here we are, ready to take on whatever life has to bring us. We're braving it together. I know I can do anything and go through anything with Collin by my side.
As hard as this has been to write (rustling up all these memories brought on a few tears), please don't feel sorry for us. We are happy and have an endless list of blessings. We're just asking for your thoughts, prayers and support as we venture on this new journey. We have no idea if we'll ever get our "someday." We have no idea what life has in store for us, but we need and want you all to be a part of our lives always.