Announcing to the world my period has arrived

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

First things first, I don't know how many people read my blog.  And more so, I don't know who reads my blog.  Fair warning regarding this entry, I mention Aunt Flow the crimson wave shark week my period quite a bit.  If it's awkward for you, you should stop reading after the next sentence. Then educate yourself on the total normalcy of menstruation and realize this really shouldn't be that taboo of a topic.

For our last IUI, my period came 11 days post-IUI.  This time, it came 13 days post-IUI.

Those two extra days in my luteal phase gave me so much hope.  I took a pregnancy test at 12 days post-IUI, and it was negative - but I held out hope.  I scoured the internet for stories of women who tested negative on day 12 and still wound up being pregnant.  Each forum I read and each bathroom break I took without my period making an appearance increased my hope exponentially.

So much so when my period started late last night, I couldn't even tell Ian we weren't pregnant before breaking down.  The remainder of the night and most of today has been me struggling to control the urge to sob.  Last night, I didn't do so well.  Today was better.

I don't know how to explain the disappointment in the time immediately following the realization our second IUI didn't work.  But I can tell you it's some sort of terrible mix that includes loss, inadequacy, and heartbreak.  I allowed today to be a sucky day and feel whatever residual emotions I needed to feel. 

The thing about infertility, when you are emotionally, physically, and financially capable of pushing forward, is that you can't dwell in these moments too long if you want to take advantage of your next cycle.  I need to refill my Clomid prescription so I can start taking it again in two days.  I need to call my fertility clinic to set up the next follicular scan.  I need to call the out-of-state pharmacy to refill my Ovidrel and ship it to me.  More importantly, I can't continue to exist in the mindset of "I'll never be able to carry a child."  I need to believe it will happen.

Thankfully, Ian is far better at being optimistic and believes it will happen.  He doesn't need to convince himself.  He moves through the emotions of infertility differently.  My period starting doesn't drag him as far into the depths of despair as it does me.  And having this opposite, more hopeful partner is such a blessing in this season (well, all seasons really).  When I asked him if he wants to do another IUI this cycle, he said, "Yes, definitely."  When I asked him to get me pity party pizza and a Cherry Coke, he did.  And when I asked him if he would ever want to live a child-free life if all of this doesn't work, he said, "Not unless it's because we move to Africa and start an orphanage."  When I'm too debilitated to do much of anything, he's the one who keeps us moving forward. 

In an effort to move myself forward, I'm ending this sucky day by writing this blog because it's cathartic.  It's nice to say "out loud" that my period started and it sucks.  Because, scientifically, somehow simply typing that makes it suck a little bit less and that's kind of neat.

I want a baby, but I drank a little.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

It's been four days since our second IUI.  I've drank three of those nights.  I know this isn't great, and I normally don't drink that often.  But Thursday was our anniversary (4 years!), I had margaritas with a girlfriend on Friday, and last night Ian had a work party.  

For most of this "trying to get pregnant" journey, I've done everything I could to get pregnant.  I didn't drink, I tried my darnedest to eat healthy, I had acupuncture, I took prenatal vitamins.  And it's not that I'm throwing all those things out, but this time I'm just trying to live my life.  I think part of the depression of infertility stems from the obsession of doing everything right.  It steals my joy and and then devastates me when, even though I did everything right, it still wasn't enough.

But anyways, like I said, we did our second IUI.  Ian's motility was low, but his count was so high that it didn't matter.  I did a round of Clomid during cycle days 3-7, I had zero side effects this time - so I was afraid I wasn't responsive.  Then I had my follicular scan on cycle day 13, nothing was "ready" on the right side, but I had one mature follicle on the left measuring 18.5mm.  In all honesty, I have a relatively regular cycle and seemed to be ovulating normally before all this, so I don't know that the Clomid is doing anything for me.  I keep hoping it will give me more than one mature egg, but as long as I keep getting at least one, it's not hurting to take it.

I took Ovidrel that same evening and went in for the IUI on cycle day 15.  This is earlier than I normally ovulate (when tracking with ovulation tests, I tested positive anywhere between days 16 and 19).  Which makes me wonder if naturally, I have some level of luteal phase defect - but I have no clue and Googling is zero help.  I brought this up to the nurse who did our first IUI because I had my period about 12.5 days after I took the Ovidrel the first time, but she said that wasn't abnormal.

Fingers crossed for a different result this time.  We have so many people praying and sending out positive vibes for us - if you're one of those folks, know that we love you and appreciate you so much.

How and what we're paying for fertility treatments

Saturday, October 15, 2016

I think the one thing everyone can agree on is that fertility treatments aren't exactly cheap.  Insurance doesn't often cover the expenses, and if you have insurance that does - consider yourself lucky!

As we started this process, I've searched everywhere for the costs of fertility treatments and the costs vary.  There are different programs for different processes and different clinics charge different things.

I know we've just started our journey (side note: typing that word feels so cheesy, but I really can't think of anything else to call it) so the expenses are not nearly what others have experienced.  Regardless, I'm a fan of being informed and want to do what I can to inform others.

With that said, I'll try to keep this post continually updated with our experience.

Procedures we've paid for (diagnostic work, initial consult, IUI):

Ian's initial sperm analysis back in February - $140
My hysterosalpingogram - $222.55 (this is what my insurance didn't cover)
My initial consult at NFC (which included blood work and an ultrasound) - $35 co-pay
Ian's initial consult at NFC (we had different insurance at the time) - $225
My mid-cycle ultrasound to look for mature follicles x2 - $20 co-pay, $40 total
Ian's sperm collection for IUI x2 - $240, $480 total
My insemination x2 - $206 (my insurance ended up covering the first one, surprisingly)

Medicines we've paid for:

Clomid x2 - ~$16 at CVS, $32 total
Ovidrel x2 - $99.50 at Glen Rock Medical Pharmacy, $199 total
Doctor suggested prenatal vitamins - ~$50

Regarding Ovidrel, I found a rebate and ended up getting about $10 back.

Thankfully, for the majority of these first round of expenses, I've been able to take advantage of my Glow First grant.  What is Glow First?  It's a program through the Glow app for people trying to get pregnant.  Essentially, you pay $50 into a pot every month (for up to 10 months).  If you get pregnant, you pull out of the pot, but leave what you've invested.  If you're not pregnant at the end of 10 months, the pot is divvied up among the remaining participants for them to use as a grant to help pay for fertility treatments.  My company paid the $50/month on my behalf, and I ended up with a grant of $1500.  Of the expenses above, we've been reimbursed by Glow First for $1312, and still have another $188 to use!

Total out-of-pocket payments so far: $298

If you know of any discounts or assistance programs, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Our first IUI failed

Thursday, September 29, 2016

I didn't even get to make it to the point when I could have taken a pregnancy test.  My period came 11 days after the insemination.  You should wait at least 14 days before taking a test.

I tried to guard myself, truly.  I tried to stifle my hopes.  But they were sky high and didn't want to listen to my rational side.  The day before I got my period, I PMSed hard.  I found myself sobbing on the couch when my husband was at his basketball game.  I can't even tell you what started the pity party.  But I sure can tell you what kept it going.  I knew my emotions were a product of my PMS, and I knew that my PMS was a product of the impending start of a new cycle.  And that moment, every month, is always the most devastating.  It's the vicious cycle I mentioned in my first post about infertility.

The second day of my cycle (in case you're wondering, cycle day 1 is the first day of a woman's period), I went to the Walgreens clinic and received another MMR vaccine to take care of that "not immune to Rubella" issue.  Let me tell you, babies and kids have every right to cry after that vaccination.  Compared to the flu shot I also received, the MMR one hurt like a bitch.

As we're trying to explore our options, Ian and I went to an introductory informational session about Bethany Christian Services.  Let's start by saying the average wait time is about 2 years, and they are working with 25-35 families at any one time with, at most, 5 birth mothers with an adoption plan.  Also, do you know how expensive it is to adopt an infant domestically?  Well, it's expensive - $26,000 to be exact.  I know infant adoption isn't cheap, but I still experienced a bit of sticker shock.

Now, let me explain that I think that our child would be worth every single penny of that $26k, but Ian and I talked about adoption as an alternative to IVF (if it gets to that point).  NFC has a flat rate fee schedule for IVF, which is $9050.  It doesn't include medications, which can easily be an additional $3000 - but I'm still leaning toward IVF.

The one really positive thing that came out of that session was being introduced to the idea of embryo donation and adoption.  If you can't tell, I like to think 5 steps ahead.  If we get to a place where embryo adoption becomes a serious contender, I'll be sure to write more about it.

The silver lining to not being pregnant and having to take a month off from trying (on account of the MMR vaccine) is that I can drink.  This is really only a good thing because I have a work talent show I impulsively signed up to perform in. And I'm definitely going to need a slight solid buzz to go through with it.

We'll start trying again in mid-October, so until then...

Our first IUI

Sunday, September 11, 2016

To pick up where we left off, I had just started taking clomiphene citrate.  All went well during those five days.  The only side effect I had was slight cramping in the evening.

This past Thursday, I went in for an ultrasound.  It showed I had one small-ish, maturing follicle on my right side, but a pretty good sized, mature follicle on my left side.  Oh, and my uterine lining was on point.  So we scheduled our IUI for Saturday morning at 11am.

On Thursday night, at 11pm, I gave myself a shot in the stomach.  If you should know anything about me, it's that I love TLC (the music group, not the TV station).  If you should know anything else about me, it's that I don't handle medical stuff well.  Once, I passed out in a parking lot after a routine blood draw.  And another time, my husband had a hand injury and I had to lay down on the floor to not pass out as he and my mom bandaged him up in the bathroom.  The fact I gave myself a shot in the stomach felt like a pretty major feat.  The shot was Ovidrel, which essentially tells your body to ovulate 36 hours later.

On Saturday morning, Ian went in to give his sperm sample.  I know there are specific numbers associated with the results, and I forget what they were - but they seemed pretty good.  Then about two hours later, I had the IUI.

In the process of getting prepared, I asked about our blood test results because we hadn't heard anything.  First, we found out that I'm not immune to rubella.  I fall into the equivocal category.  I had to sign a waiver that said I understand the risks associated with potentially catching rubella while pregnant.  The risks are big, but I'm hopeful that if I haven't had rubella in 31 years, I won't get it in the next 9 months potentially.  If this IUI doesn't work, I'll get the MMR vaccine again on my next period.

Next, we also found out about our antisperm antibodies (AsAb).  Ian was totally fine.  I was at 38.8 U/mL which feels like a big deal.  The sheet said anything less than 60 was fine.  But asking our doctor about it is another thing on my list if this IUI doesn't work.

I have yet to find out about my Anti-Mullerian Hormone results because somehow the test wasn't ordered or the blood wasn't submitted or something went awry.  They took a bit more blood from me after the IUI to get those results.

All in all, the IUI experience was a-okay.  It was quick and painless, which is how I like most of my medical procedures to be.  I felt incredibly hopeful about this IUI, but the whole AsAb thing has damped my hope a bit. Which is probably for the best as the likelihood of an IUI resulting in a pregnancy is about 10 - 20% in my case.

And now you're all caught up.  Next up, we wait.

Our first steps to fertility

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I've blogged nearly every major story in my life.  I kept a blog through high school and college, which (probably for the better) no longer exists.  I blogged during my stint in Africa and my few weeks in India.  And, well, I guess that's it.  So I've had three major stories?  That doesn't feel quite accurate.  But now that I'm sitting here thinking about it, social media, specifically Instagram, has created a blackhole of my adventures since I've had it.

Back to the topic, I anticipate this "journey" being a very major story in our life and I want to document it.  And I know other people are going through the same challenge of not being able to conceive naturally, so I hope in some way it may serve as an encouragement or resource for those folks if they stumble upon this blog.

Since my last post, I've had blood work and a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) completed.  The blood work looked at my hormone levels, all of which came back normal.  The HSG is where a doctor fills your uterus and fallopian tubes with a contrast dye and takes an x-ray to make sure your tubes aren't blocked.  Mine were good!

After we completed those steps, my doctor recommended we start working with a fertility clinic.  She mentioned the Sher Institute and the Nashville Fertility Center.  For a story that will be saved until a later date (and for the proximity), we chose the Nashville Fertility Center.

On Thursday, we had our very first appointment with our doctor at NFC.  She was great, and they don't waste anytime.  It took about two hours.  A nurse took some basic vitals for me (weight, blood pressure, etc) and general information about our situation.  Next, we had a consultation with the doctor.  She went over the results of my tests or labs or whatever medical term I should be using and Ian's sperm analysis.  Then, I had a transvaginal ultrasound.  The HSG showed my tubes were open, but not much else.  The ultrasound allowed our doctor to look for any fibroids or cysts within my uterus as well as count the numbers of egg follicles in my ovaries, and probably some other things that I don't really know.  She essentially said "Everything looks good, but your ovaries are a little small."  And I replied "YOUR OVARIES ARE SMALL."  Just kidding, I didn't do that.  Finally, they did a round of blood work on us.  They'll look for antisperm antibodies in both of us, as well as my Anti-Müllerian hormone level to get an idea about my egg reserve.

We ended with talking about the next steps.  Without the results of our blood work, our doctor put us in the "unexplained infertility" group.  That diagnosis is both incredibly reassuring as it means we're pretty normal, but also a bit frustrating as we can't pinpoint exactly what the culprit is and so we'll just try whatever we can.

The first "whatever we can" consists of a couple fertility drugs and an intrauterine insemination.  I'm taking clomiphene citrate (generic version of Clomid) on days 3-7 of my cycle.  Because I normally have an LH surge around days 16/17, I'll go in for a follicular scan (another ultrasound to look at my egg development, I think) around day 15.  Then I'll take a shot of Ovidrel to trigger ovulation about 36 hours later.  Finally, we'll do the IUI when I ovulate.  

Even though I seem to ovulate regularly, these drugs will hopefully create more viable eggs and more clearly pinpoint my ovulation.

I took the first dose of clomiphene citrate today.  I know a few folks who have had IUIs without success.  To practice the power of positive thinking, I've been browsing the internet or Instagram for #iuisuccess stories, as the odds still won't really be in our favor.  But now, I'm encouraged at the number of babies who represent that hashtag.  

And that is where we stand today.  So as you read this, say a little prayer or send out a positive vibe for us if you wouldn't mind - we'll take all the help we can get.

A year of infertility

Monday, July 4, 2016

I've always wanted to be a mother.  And I've officially had baby fever since...

"When did Matt & Liz get married?" I ask Ian.
"Ummm, I don't know.  Was that 2014 or 2013?" he replies.
"2014," I say.
"Ummm, was that August...September?" he asks.

Let's say fall 2014 is when I officially had baby fever.  It was so bad by Christmas that my sister's boyfriend bought me baby clothes and aspirin disguised as "Baby Fever Reliever".   Ian and I had planned on waiting until April 2015 to start trying, but we decided it'd be ok if I stopped birth control in January and use the very effective method of pulling out to prevent any potential pregnancy.  (Note to you new-to-sex folks, pulling out is NOT an effective method of pregnancy prevention.  Unless you're us, in which case it is.)

In April, we officially decided we would just go for it.  I thought it would happen.  We'd have sex throughout the month and I'd get pregnant.  It didn't happen in April and it didn't happen in May and it didn't happen in June.

Being type-A, which I hate admitting, and trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant don't really mix all that well.  I tracked my period and attempted some natural tracking methods.  I started to get a little frustrated/anxious/worried as to why we weren't pregnant.  When you find yourself in this situation, you'll find that's exactly the opposite of how you should be feeling to get pregnant.

For a couple of months, I bought absurdly expensive ovulation tests.  And it turns out, my luteinizing hormone spikes!  That felt kind of normal, and we made sure to have sex when the first stripe was darker than the second stripe.  Obviously, we still didn't get pregnant and I was over spending stupid money on these tests.  I went on Amazon and bought 100 of them for like $30.  Thank God for Amazon, am I right?!

I did those tests for another three months.  Every month I had an LH spike.  Every month we had sex.  Every month I got my period.

Those are the months when you start openly talking about trying to get pregnant.  And when you just want some good old-fashioned empathy, you instead get a lot of advice that is something to the effect of "You just need to relax."

No advice is more unwelcome.

We took a month or two off from really trying.  Sometimes, you just can't give it the ol' college try. When we started intentionally trying again (February 2016), and it still didn't happen, I asked Ian to get a sperm analysis.

I wanted it to be his fault.  I wanted his sperm to be weird and dysfunctional.  I waited until I was married to have sex, and I began to realize I had subconsciously felt like I deserved to have a great sex life and an easy pregnancy.  (Side note: how I got such a wonderful man to marry my prudish ass, I'll never understand).  I get God doesn't work like that, but now is not the time to get into the spiritual tailspin this whole situation has put me in.

As it turns out, Ian's sperm is normal!  And we're continuing to try and get pregnant.  Every month I get (ir)rationally emotional about not being pregnant, which in turn makes me realize that I'm PMSing, which makes me even more emotional.  It's a really vicious cycle.

So here we are, over 18 months off birth control, 14 months of TTC (trying to conceive, for those of you that aren't familiar with fertility lingo) and infertile.

Up next, tests and imaging for me.  I'm sure I'll keep you posted, because writing about this ish is pretty cathartic.

We almost bought a house this weekend

Monday, May 9, 2016

Ian and I have known for a while that someday we'll want to get a bigger house.  We have a cozy (read: small) house in the heart of East Nashville, and it fits us fine.  There are three functional bedrooms and a tiny bathroom, as well as a kitchen and living room.  And while it's small, it's affordable and we've made it ours.  We've added a deck, a fence to the backyard for our dogs, painted some walls, and added some fun art.

We came to the realization two weekends ago that we could afford something bigger right now.  We found a home we both loved, but an offer had been accepted as we looked at it.  So we put in a backup offer and furiously looked at more houses everyday.  We finally found one in the neighborhood we wanted that checked off so many of our boxes (more space, a garage, fenced in yard, open floorplan, and the list goes on).  We told our agent that we were prepared to make an offer and signed the papers.

Then I had a meltdown.  Minutes after we sent the paperwork to our agent, I found myself uncontrollably sobbing in our bed.  Actually admitting this makes me embarrassed.  I think it was a mix of a few things - I felt so foolish for being so indecisive, we would be depleting our entire savings, we didn't really have a good reason to move, and we'd be leaving the only home Ian and I have known as a family.

Needless to say, I immediately texted our agent and told him to pull the offer.  We also told him to the pull the backup offer as well.  While I mourned a little the loss of much larger house with amenities we don't currently have, my spirit was quieted.

I have an almost constant, permanent dialogue with myself about what it is to be content and satisfied with what's in front of me.   It's unnerving how quickly I can convince myself that we need a home over twice the size for the two of us and our pets.  But it's also reassuring how something unspoken can just as quickly force me to reevaluate questionable decisions.

Ian and I talked a lot about new houses this weekend, and someday we will look for a bigger house, when we have more money saved and can really justify the purchase.  But for now, this 900 square foot box divided into 6 rooms is more than so many have and more than enough for us.

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