Maxing out the credit cards

Today I purchased one fresh cycle of IVF + ICSI.  It cost $13,200.  (This does not include medication, which they say will be $3,000 – $6,000.)  I split it between 3 credit cards.  We have about half saved already, so we will pay that off, transfer the remaining balance to a credit card with a no-interest promotional period, and pay it off slowly over the next year.

Ryan asked “Does this mean there is no turning back?”  Well, not really.  If we happen to get pregnant naturally, the whole thing is refundable.  If we change our minds, we lose a $500 deposit, but that’s all.  Both of us have a healthy dose of cold feet and feeling slightly nervous, but not like last time.  As big a commitment, decision, and purchase as this is, we know what it’s like to not have the option.  In this life you get one lap and you’re done, and I know taking the IVF plunge is part of my journey.

We are on the Kaiser calendar for the week of July 30th.  My next step is to call on the office on the first day of my next period, which should be May 20th.

Onward!

Good News + Good News

I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday for a saline sonogram and trial transfer – essentially giving the doctor a chance to go up the hatch and make sure everything was as expected.  I had 9 follicles on one side, 12 on the other, and my lining was 6.8.  I have no idea what any of this means, but I am including it since I hear so many infertility blogs reference these things. The doctor tells me I passed this part of the process with “flying colors” and everything looks great.  We did expect my reproductive health to be a non-issue, but good news is good news so I will take it.

However, as a couple facing male-factor infertility, the big unknown was Ryan’s appointment today.  He drove the 3+ hours in rush hour traffic to visit the clinic’s man room full of nudie mags and produced a sample to put on ice.  The plan is for him to do this a couple times prior to IVF so there is something to fall back on should his fresh sample not be sufficient the day of.  One of the possible diagnoses the andrologist mentioned is that Ryan may have a system that fluctuates wildly in sperm production.  Some times it’s not good, but sometimes it’s really, really bad.  It’s been all over the place – though always low – and there’s no telling what you get.  I asked the doctor to please examine this sample before freezing.  After all, we’ve been this far before only to hear the shocking news that Ryan is incapable of producing viable swimmers.  So… can we please be sure that won’t happen again? I have been worried this will happen again.

We just got the results, bless this Dr. for sending them just an hour after the appointment, and we have count at 1.5M and motility at 17%.  This is HUGE, people.  Last time I want to say count was under 100 (not 100K or 100M, but 100) and motility 0%.  The puritanical diet is paying off!! Dr. says this will be fine for IVF with ICSI, and it will be frozen and waiting for us.

So much peace of mind! Having a decent, usable sample on ice means we at least won’t face the devastation of a cancelled cycle last minute.

I have to praise God for this one.  It has dawned on me recently that God may be using my infertility struggles for his glory.  After all, if there were no infertility in the world, God wouldn’t be able to really show his power and his strength and prove true all that positive scripture about how he cares for us and will make the childless woman a mother of children.  Life can’t be perfect if Jesus wants to step in and do some great work.  So if that’s what this battle is all about, this public display of grief and disappointment, then so be it.  Because I know God will deliver us, and he wants to be sure others know, it, too.

He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord! Psalm 113:9

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

 

Reluctantly Waving My NIAW Flag

NIAW

A blog I read recently challenged those fighting infertility to “be brave” and “out yourself” by leaving the #NIAW on social media this week.  I rolled my eyes.  Infertility is the LAST thing I want to draw attention to.  I write an anonymous blog.  I kept my infertility a secret until we were told we were “untreatable,” at which point I was forced to confess our diagnosis, and while I’m happy a second opinion ok’d us for IVF, I find myself bitter that I had to make public all my issues in the process.  I don’t like being pitied or talking about my feelings.  Infertility is not a cause I want to fight; it’s a club I want out of.

I do understand awareness is unbelievably important, and I know infertility is a growing issue and knowledge base.  I am so thankful for the information out there on the web, and owe my sanity to the blogging sisters sharing their war stories and testimonies.  So I do support NIAW, but from the sidelines, as a closeted, reluctant participant, hoping to quietly step out a side door one of these days. 

I tip my hat to you, infertile community, but that’s all.  I don’t invite a lengthy heart-to-heart where we stay up all night and talk about our feelings.  I don’t want to cry on your shoulder (but you can cry on mine if you have to, just not in public, please) and I don’t want to say out loud that we share this ugly common ground. But nonetheless I tip my hat to you, because I know your hurt and shame and deepest, most searing disappointment.  I know you aren’t asking for much, and I know how hard your marriage and your bank account have been hit.  I know you put these things aside every day and go to work, show up, and do what is expected of you in life, even though you don’t get to realize the most basic of expectations. I tip my hat to you, because you are fighting the good fight, and you are not alone.

I like to think if I pass you in the street, today or on any other day, we will make eye contact, nod, and continue walking by.  At a baby shower or gender reveal, or when the millionth person is announcing that millionth pregnancy, I like to think we’d see each other across the room, silently make eye contact, and nod.

Maybe this sounds miserable to you, because you need a lot more support in life, and want to talk it out and feel all the feelings and have community around you, and that is a-okay.  Everyone is different.  This blog, however, represents my journey, and how I prefer to acknowledge NIAW and this ever growing battlefield.  You see, I know you and I are both capable and strong and will find the resources and the roadmaps to keep going.  I don’t need your phone calls or your hugs along the way.  But I do feel a wave of relief when you tip your hat back to me, because we are in this together.

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7

T-3.5 Months

Mondays are always NUTS at my job, and it’s really inconvenient that I need a good day or two to get myself back into work mode.  There is a ton on my to-do list, far too much for the next 3.5 hours, but instead I’m blogging.  And for the record I’ve already online shopped, facebooked, zillowed, texted, and read all the advice columns I can find.

So this blog has been silent lately mostly because there has not been much to tell.  Ryan continues to feed his body clean foods and steer clear of alcohol.  He hasn’t been perfect, but he’s lost 20 lbs!  This has been good for me, too, since it’s teaching me how to live the clean-eating healthy lifestyle.  If all goes as planned and we have a kid, I want that kid to have the best in utero health and the best education growing up on how to feed it’s body.  The hardest part for me has been staying away from sugar and desserts.  Red meat, fried foods, potato chips, none of it really calls my name.  I love fruits and vegetables and whole grains. But I really love chocolate, frozen yogurt, cake and pie even more.

Anyway, I’m supposed to start my period in a week, which is maybe why listing off desserts sounds like a good idea.  Once I do, I’m supposed to call Kaiser and schedule a “trial transfer/ saline sonogram.”  Then, assuming all goes well, we sign up for the IVF schedule in the last week of July, and pay $13,200 up front for one cycle of IVF with ICSI.

Perhaps as we get closer to it we will feel more nervous, but for the time being Ryan and I are cool as cucumbers.  It’s been a looong road to get to this point (and we’ve gotten farther than this in that other cycle in Fall 2015), so we just aren’t ready to let our emotions go haywire. What’s another few months?  What’s another unexpected delay?  We’ll get the when we get there.

We FINALLY sold our house.  It took us 4 months and 3 escrows, and miraculously the owners of the new house patiently waited for us that whole time.  We moved in two weeks ago, and are surrounded by lumber and tools and sawdust and heinous wall paper, but it’s totally ok, because the construction zone won’t last forever, and we have the most serene, jungle-like back yard.  In the mornings I can hear the creek and the birds chirping through the bathroom window, and it’s pure and utter peace.  Ryan and I are still looking at each other in disbelief.  We half way expect someone to show up and say “Wait a minute, that was a mistake, this transaction needs to be reversed.”  How we traded in our urban 900 sqft, 100-year-old Craftsman for a 3bd/2ba Ranch with a sprawling, totally private backyard is beyond me.

We had to wait for it, and it was hard.  But it was good for us, since our waiting muscles are really strong right now.

Microblog Monday: February infertility

The doctor told us we are a go! But first must “eat like a monk” for 4-6 months.  This is more for Ryan’s sake than mine, and he has taken it very seriously, probably the greatest indication that he wants this.  I am still eating like it’s the holidays.  We have two date options: early June or late July.  We haven’t decided yet.

The buyer on our house backed out, though we are still on the market, still in contract for the new place, not giving up on our dream.  It kind of feels like infertility all over again, getting so excited when someone comes to see it, thinking “this might be it! After today everything will change!” But the longer time drags on and no offers roll in, we start to wonder if our house will ever sell.  However we are no strangers to waiting, and so we wait.

My sister Leah announced her pregnancy yesterday.  Ouch.  Forgive me for saying that.  Of course I am happy for her and would never in a million years wish hardship or infertility upon her and her husband.  Most of me sincerely celebrates this exciting news.  I suppose it’s mostly “ouch” for the way she did it – she dropped by unannounced when I was having a tax meeting with a family friend. I would have preferred her speaking with me alone, giving me a chance to speak about it and honestly process my feelings. It was the tail end of a long, tiring weekend and was hard to hear, and I felt very put on the spot.

I am learning a lesson about the vault I’ve kept of this infertility journey full of grief and tears.  I’ve made it clear to my family I don’t want to talk about it, and they have respected my request.  However, with Leah’s announcement, I would have liked to hear from my mom or sister Alexis.  I wondered if they would call to see how I was doing or if I was ok, if the big family news was hard for me, but they didn’t.  These are the boundaries I have set, and I see now maybe they weren’t the best.  I will rethink going forward.

IVF Doctor 2.0

Statistics say those fighting infertility will not have success with their first doctor.  If that makes me a statistic, I’ll take it.

Ryan and I visited the Kaiser IVF clinic in the SF Bay Area this week.  Why Kaiser?  I suppose we were both ready for a more corporate, big business approach to Ryan’s bent-neck sperm.  The first doctor, a small, local office, turned us away because she wasn’t sure IVF would work.   Since then, I’ve read some reviews stating she tends to back out of tricky diagnoses to keep her numbers up, and specifically isn’t well-versed with male factor issues.  Perhaps we just got the wrong doctor the first time? A larger office must naturally have more resources, more institutional knowledge and more cycles under their belt.  For a second opnion, we felt comfortable casting the net wide in the expansive network that is Kaiser Permanente.

The Good News:  We both liked the doctor straight off, he was personable, relatable and easy to talk to.  He told us Male Factor is one of the easier to treat diagnoses in the infertility world.  He said as long as sperm are moving, regardless of shape or morphology, IVF with ICSI usually works just fine with a healthy egg.  I distinctly remember the last doctor saying “They have a bent neck and swim in circles.”  Ryan has 0% motility, but obviously, under the scope, some were moving.  Also – this new doctor doubts whatever is up with Ryan’s swimmers is genetic.  He thinks it was a one-time thing in Ryan’s development along the way.  He also heard out our ethical concerns and shared what couples in the past have done.

The Bad News:  The doctor could not help us immediately, and told us first we need to go have an in-depth appointment with the Kaiser urologist.  Ryan already had a phone appointment with the urologist, but now we have to go in person and let Ryan get the ol’ physical exam and give another sample.  Any chance of moving forward with IVF depends entirely on what the urologist says.  Another downside is this office is a solid TWO HOURS AWAY.  In bay area traffic more like 3 hours.  And should we move forward, there isn’t much I can do to be treated locally, and will have to somehow schedule in regular time off and drive all the way there and all the way back a number of times.  Also, we have insurance through Kaiser, but IVF is not covered.  And during our appointment we learned this would run us $15,000-$17,000 including drugs.

But there is More Good News:  Kaiser apparently has the best of the best Urologists in the nation right here in the bay area, and Ryan likes him.  If anyone can fully understand our scenario, get Ryan to relax and open up and hear out all our questions and concerns, I have faith in this guy.  Also?  We sold our house – for more than expected – and suddenly there is easily $5 or $7 G’s we can set aside for our IVF fund.  If we don’t use it? Bathroom remodel.

That Valiant Efforts post of mine is mocking me.  For so long I’ve felt stagnant, like all my efforts at life just don’t get anywhere.  And suddenly the house sold.  We have positive encouragement from a  fertility doctor.  Ryan booked some cases with a new doctor now that he lost the last one.  I mean, I will move forward with trepidation, as usual, but it kind of looks like the dam is starting to leak and perhaps break away….

Valiant Efforts

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained” only applies when you’ve gained.

Obviously.

When you venture and things fall flat on their face, it’s hard to look back and say “Boy that failure was worthwhile!” Luckily, we (ahem – I) don’t seem to ever learn.  My years on this earth are numbered, and so I continue to wake up each morning and embrace new things, new avenues, a second try, even at the end of a year that seems marked by the absence of gains.  It’s not a failure by any means, but just a lot of work that got me nowhere.

2016 kicked off sad and depressing, facing a childless existence, and trying in vain to get used to that.  I pursued therapy, books, prayer, let time do it’s thing, and today?  Nope.  Still not used to it.

April brought a very real possibility that my husband’s job would move us out of state.  We gripped our grieving, tired hands to that sparkling new future, and jumped in feet first.  We traveled back and forth so much, wining and dining his potential clients, that Ryan’s company got him a temporary apartment.   Business didn’t pan out as expected.  We moved out of the apartment around Thanksgiving.

In November Ryan and I attended an adoption agency orientation.  It was a long road to get to this point – and through lots of prayer, research and gentle conversations with Ryan, I went into it feeling so optimistic.  We spent the following 2 days arguing and crying, and long story short, I learned with absolute certainty that Ryan does not have the heart for adoption.  And much like infertility and IVF, a couple cannot walk the treacherous adoption road unless both are 100% mentally, emotionally and physically on board.

On December 1 we put an offer on a house and – hurrah!! – had it accepted! We SCRAMBLED to list our 100-year-old craftsman that we’ve lovingly poured our time and money into over the last 5 years.  We live in an area where it’s pretty common to sell in a day, for over asking price, and our agent assured us it would be a quick weekend sale.  Well, here we are on December 29th, 3 days away from falling out of contract on the new house unless SOMEONE MAKES AN OFFER PLEASE. It’s not over yet, I know – and at least I can say we tried.

We are talking about IVF again.  The adoption debacle sliced open all kinds of old wounds.  Ryan wonders if perhaps God’s plan is for us to remain childless, since he can’t reproduce and can’t get on board the adoption train.  I wonder if perhaps God’s plan is for us to fight a bitter battle until we find our miracle, because I just cannot find peace in my heart at the prospect of childlessness.  I got blood work done (again – everything normal, again),  and Ryan goes to Kaiser for more tests tomorrow.  We have a referral to Kaiser’s IVF clinic in the San Francisco area, a long drive for us, but neither want to go back to Dr. Mean who told us we had no chance.  It’s just a second opinion, really.  Can’t hurt to hear another expert’s assessment of our unique situation.  Maybe it took us a year to work up the nerve to do it, but better late than never.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.