Monday Morning Musings

We got our first denial letter on Friday for our fertility services.  I put it on the back burner and chose not to worry about it until today (not that there was anything I could do before today, but I could certainly worry about it–it’s my specialty!)  So today I started by calling Health Alliance to find out more information.  They informed me that they didn’t receive enough necessary information, so a denial was automatic.  She couldn’t tell me what additional information would be considered “necessary” so I asked questions about if I needed to provide this or that and I got a canned response of, “Anything you think is pertinent.”

So then the phone calls to MFS to see if they can guide me any further or resubmit for authorization.  They are very helpful, and Mary in their business office is good at what she does, so I know she’s on it.  I had to leave a message and was called back within 20 minutes.  How awesome, especially for a Monday morning!

My final call was to the bank to set up a safety net just in case we end up having to pay up front for things due to insurance being a butt head.  If push comes to shove, we will pay what we have to pay and then hopefully be reimbursed partially by insurance.

You know, when people have children, they would do anything for them.  They fight for them, they advocate for them, they do what they have to do for their children.  We are doing that too, we are just doing it before the actual child exists.  We won’t be swayed by these roadblocks.  We will have our family, one way or another!  I spend my career advocating for others–now it’s time to do it for myself!

In the event you feel compelled to help us fight our fight for Baby LaRosa, please check out our fundraising link!  The help friends and family have provided thus far is wonderful and is truly a blessing!  https://www.razoo.com/embed/6s018g?embed=tile

Next Steps & Fundraising

I feel like a lot has happened since our last appointment at MFS.  In reality, not much has happened, but it feels like we are making progress!  First of all, I am down almost 12 pounds toward my goal of losing 30.  This is great news!  For those that have been asking me what my “baby diet” (as I refer to it) is, basically I am just following a low carb/high protein diet.  Not like crazy low carb though–I’m trying to stay under 100 g per day, and get my protein as close to 100 (or more) as possible.  This is essentially the same diet I followed post WLS, but I am consuming around 1400 calories a day, which is more than I could hold after WLS.  And clearly it is working!  I’m also tracking everything with myfitnesspal’s app, which is super helpful.  I’ve lost my weight so far with just the diet modification, no exercise.  Obviously in the beginning, weight falls off faster, so I don’t anticipate that the remaining weight will come off as quickly as this first chunk did.

We have been in communication with MFS to discuss our fertility plan and our next steps to work towards that.  I will share more details about our fertility plan in the coming days/weeks.  I was instructed to call once my next cycle started, so that I could get scheduled for my uterine cavity study.  They like to do this around the second week of your cycle to have the lowest risk of infection.  Essentially this is like a dry-run of IVF.  They will insert a small catheter through my cervix, but instead of injecting an embryo, they will inject saline.  They will then use an ultrasound to get images of my uterus so that they know what they are working with.  They want to know that my uterus looks healthy and that there are no unexpected surprises.  While I am having that lovely test done, Eddie will also be there for an appointment of his own.  His will likely be a lot more fun for him than mine will be for me.  Yes, he has to provide a “specimen”.  When he did this a few years ago, he was able to do so from the comfort of our own home and then deliver it.  This time, no delivery is possible when it’s a 2.5 hour drive!  Additionally, we both will have urine and labs tested for their routine infectious disease screen.

As part of our fertility plan, we are required to also attend a one-hour counseling session at a nearby behavioral health center called The Cabin.  Basically we are just having a consultation to discuss how to best cope with the process of IVF and the feelings associated with that whole process.  It’s basically an appointment to equip us with tools to enhance our fertility treatment experience.  Because we are located in Illinois and they are in Indiana, we are able to do a phone session, but since we will be there next week for all of the above tests, we decided to just go ahead and schedule in person.  So next Wednesday will be a very busy day for us–testing/procedures in the early afternoon, then our counseling session in the late afternoon.  Things are moving along!

Some of you may have seen my recent fundraising post that I shared on facebook.  We started a fundraising site through Razoo, as their fees are the lowest of reputable fundraising sites we researched.  There are details on that page (linked below) about the costs we are facing and how we will use the money that friends/family so generously donate to us.  Please don’t feel obligated, but if you are inclined to help us reach our goals, you have no idea how appreciated it would be.  Several friends have already donated, and I want you to know that we intend to be very transparent about what we spend the funds on–they will be used exclusively for our fertility treatment and costs associated with that.  What a relief it is to know that next week when we go for our counseling session (a $120 fee), half of that will have been covered by our sweet friends who donated.  Additionally, our gas for the trip has been covered as well.  We are SO, SO appreciative and thankful.

It was a hard decision to make to create a fundraising page–sometimes people give the side eye when people create pages to raise money for things that aren’t terminal illnesses or great tragedy.  The best way we can think to share why we created one was simply put: we felt we needed to.  Sometimes people are willing to help, but all you have to do is ask.  And if we don’t ask for your generosity, then we likely won’t receive it.  Eddie and I have had a tough 7.5 years of marriage, health-wise.  for 6.5 of those years, Eddie was unable to work full-time due to physical injury/disability (though not deemed disabled in Social Security’s eyes, so no income coming in for him).  During this time, I was the sole breadwinner, working at our local mental health center.  If you know much about most behavioral health centers, their employees are not paid extravagantly.  We made this work for 6.5 years and did not ask for help.  We did what we had to do.  Thankfully, we are both able to work full-time now, and I also work a part-time job, but we both make very modest salaries, ones that don’t afford the luxury of having an extra $20,000 laying around in savings.  THIS is why we are asking for your help.  They say it takes a village to raise a child, but sometimes it takes that same village to make a child too!

If you feel inclined to donate to our fundraiser, I promise that you will know where your money is going.  I will be sharing regularly what part of our fertility journey you helped fund!  And if you’re not able to donate, we would love if you shared our story with others who may be in a position to help financially.  Thank you so much for everyone’s support, monetarily and otherwise!

Here is the link to our site: https://www.razoo.com/embed/6s018g?embed=tile

 

Hope

I wanted to share about my experience with the fertility specialist we visited last week.  I was so nervous going into it.  My previous experience with an RE (reproductive endocrinologist) wasn’t the best.  It left me feeling hurt and hopeless for a long time.  It made me not want to try.  But that is SO not the experience I had when we visited with Dr. Reuter and her staff at Midwest Fertility Specialists in Carmel, IN.

We left bright and early on Wednesday February 15 to head to Indiana.  They are on eastern time and we are on central, so we had to allow for an extra hour due to the time change.  We left at about 630am for our 10am (Indiana time) appointment.  It wasn’t a bad drive, one I suppose we will get used to over the next weeks and months.

When we arrived, I was impressed with how nice the facility was.  It was located in a medical building with many other types of offices on each floor.  The entire floor where MFS is located is dedicated to their services.  They do everything in-house there, from basic testing, to semen analysis, to IUI, to IVF, and even more!  Everything under one roof is pretty great.  The waiting room was very peaceful and accommodating, and every single staff person we encountered was absolutely amazing and kind.

Once we were called back, a tech took me to get vitals and then led us to a consultation room where we would meet with Dr. Reuter.  We sat in there for what felt like an eternity, but was actually only about 20 minutes.  I felt like I was going to either barf, cry, or both, the entire time.  Even though we were there, I still felt like it was going to be a waste of everyone’s time, I wasn’t totally convinced she would help us.

Eventually she came in, and it was clear that the delay was because she was reading our chart and previous test results, and considering what the best plan of action for us would be.  She was very prepared–she knew about our family history that we had taken time to complete for new patient paperwork, she knew about my weight loss surgery history and lifelong weight problems, she knew that we had tried to have a baby for a very long time without ever receiving a positive pregnancy test.  She was so prepared, and she was so kind and empathetic.

She discussed with us several options that she felt were the best chance for us to have a baby.  She disagreed with the previous specialist that simply trying oral or injectible hormones would be a benefit to me, but she also expressed that she didn’t think that would be a high-risk thing to try if we wanted to (unlike the previous doctor who said due to my weight it was too “risky” to give me the medication I “needed” to reproduce).  She believes that there is more going on with my body than just low hormone production, and that after 7.5 years of trying and never having a pregnancy that we should pursue aggressive treatment.  After several options that she presented to us, the choice was made for us to pursue IVF.

There are a few hurdles we have to get over before we can begin the process though, the first of those is within my control.  She is willing to do IVF, but their IVF table is rated for a certain weight, and I am about 30 pounds over that.  So once I lose 30 pounds, she is willing to move forward.  Other hurdles include insurance approval.  Our doctor and the facility is out of network, which means we will probably have to pay as much for one round of IVF and medications as we would if we bought a brand new car.  It’s not cheap.  On top of that, we will have a lot of gas money to spend going back and forth to Carmel for our testing and procedures.  Additionally, we will have hotel stays once the time comes for transfer because of the need to monitor things for a few days.  Dr. Reuter also did her part to educate and inform Eddie and I about the potential risks of pregnancy in someone my size.  She did her part to inform me though, and we believe the benefits outweigh the risks.  She is only willing to transfer one embryo at a time when we do the transfer due to the fact that I would be considered a higher risk pregnancy anyway; she doesn’t want to throw multiples into the mix and make the pregnancy even higher risk.  I respect that and understand it and I’m willing to compromise with her on that.  But it also might mean that we go through all of this and it doesn’t end up being a successful attempt.  That’s OK though, because at least she gave us something in this appointment that we hadn’t had before: HOPE.

So the next steps are to wait for pre-authorization from my insurance to move forward with some updated testing.  Eddie has to have a new semen analysis since it’s been 2.5 years since his last one (all was good then!), and they will do a uterine cavity study on me to see how hospitable my lady bits are for hosting a baby.  I will also be busting my tail to lose 30 pounds (9 down so far!).

Infertility is something a LOT of couples deal with, and until recently it was something that people went through silently, without much support from others, because it was something people were embarrassed about or uncomfortable talking about.  I feel like the more people that share and talk about infertility, the more we will realize we are NOT alone in this, and the more we will have support from those who love us.  Eddie and I appreciate all the love and support that we know our friends and family will provide in the coming weeks/months.  We couldn’t do this without you!

Try, Try Again…

Three years ago was the start of a tough time in my life.  Poppy died.  I had the enormous task of cleaning a house filled with 30 years of memories.  I sold that house.  We tried to have a baby.  I was told by the fertility doctor that she wouldn’t help me until I lost 30 more pounds (after losing 150 already).  I got a mass in my breast.  I had several mammograms at 30 years old.  I had surgery to remove the mass (not cancerous, woo!).  It was a whirlwind.  I gained a lot of weight.  And I’ve felt a lot of guilt.

I allowed these things to get in my way and I allowed them to be the excuses for my re-gain post WLS.  I accepted that I would continue to be heavy.  I accepted that I probably wouldn’t have a baby ever.  I figured it is what it is.  But I’m trying to convince myself that it doesn’t have to be.

We are going next week to a fertility specialist in the Indianapolis area.  I don’t know what she’ll say.  I don’t know if she’ll help us.  I don’t know how we will afford it.  But we are going to try.  I don’t want it to be a waste of their time or ours, and I hope it won’t be.  I know she will tell me I need to lose weight (yeah, like I don’t know that?), but I’m hopeful it will be a more positive experience than I had with the last specialist.

Time will tell…

Why I Think Marriage is Easy.

Before I met Eddie, I thought that relationships were supposed to be hard.  I thought that love wasn’t supposed to be easy, it was something you had to work for, and that in the end it would be worth it.  I’m here to tell you that’s not true.  Love shouldn’t be hard.  Love–true love–is easy.  Sometime LIFE is hard, but your relationship, and your love, is what is supposed to make the tough parts of life tolerable… not be the thing that you’re trying to tolerate.

When I met Eddie, I was skeptical that it could be this easy.  I tried to sabotage things.  I was used to a toxic past relationship where we fought, hateful, verbally abusive fights, but then we made up and just forgot all about the horrible things we had said to each other.  That relationship wasn’t love.  That was wanting the person to be someone he wasn’t, and being willing to forgive all the horrible things I went through, just because I wanted that fantasy.  Thankfully our engagement broke off and weeks later, Eddie strolled into my life.

He taught me what a real gentleman is like.  He taught me what it was like to be treated with respect, to be wanted rather than tolerated, and to complement each other and be a team instead of one person being “the boss.”  (Let’s face it, I like to be the boss… he still lets me think I am sometimes)

There has never EVER been a single fleeting moment where I wondered if it was worth it with Eddie.  It is always worth it.  There’s never been an ounce of doubt, of wondering “is this really who I want to be with?”  NEVER.  There is no one on this earth who knows me better, who knows what I’m thinking, who knows how I’m feeling, as well as he does.

Why do we work so well together?  I think there are a few things that we are really really good at, and having those things as a foundation has made our marriage into the strong one it is today.

  1.  Tell the truth.  When I first met Eddie, I told him I would rather hear the ugly truth over a colorful lie any day.  That even if I didn’t like the truth, I would want to hear it, because finding out I was lied to would make me less likely to trust in the future.  We have stood by this guide for our relationship since day one.  We don’t keep secrets from each other.  When you aren’t truthful with the one person who is supposed to be one half of your team, what is even the point?
  2. Compromise.  One person doesn’t have to be right.  Agree to disagree if needed.  Eddie and I have fundamental differences about our opinions on certain topics.  But we agree to disagree and still support the other person and their right to believe what they want to believe.
  3. Listen to each other.  Have an open mind.  Talk about things if they are bothering you.  Say what you mean, and mean what you say.  If something is wrong, don’t say that they aren’t.  Say what’s wrong and then do what you can to fix it as a team.  If you aren’t communicating (which means talking AND listening!) then that is going to make things difficult.
  4. Be a team. Have each other’s back, but also know that because you communicate and are honest, that you will tell each other when the other is out of line. Don’t just blindly follow your partner simply just because they are your partner.
  5. Forgive. Everyone makes mistakes. Apologize and mean it, don’t just apologize because it’s what you’re supposed to do. And also understand that the apology won’t necessarily make it all better on its own. Let your actions speak louder than your words. 

Do I think I have all the answers about marriage?  Certainly not. But I do know what a successful, healthy relationship looks like, and these are some of the things that we do that makes marriage be one of the easiest, but most rewarding things I’ve ever done.  When we travelled to Mexico in December for a friend’s wedding, we met her grandparents who had been married over 50 years. He may not have realized he was dispensing words of wisdom to us, but what he said stuck with us so much that we still look back on that advice fondly: 

Your relationship, that you can control. The other shit, who gives a shit?

 

Sister.

I have four biological half sisters and 3 biological half brothers.  But I was raised as an only child by my paternal grandparents, who ultimately adopted me when I was in 2nd grade.  I grew up only seeing some siblings a few times a year (usually holidays or birthdays), and some not at all, because they had been adopted out of the family.  It was just the norm for my life.  Being a sister wasn’t an identity I really knew much about.  I would talk about having siblings, but I didn’t grow up with that traditional relationship among siblings.

All I knew about being a sister was what I saw from my childhood best friend who lived four houses down the street.  She had a sister and mostly they didn’t get along (we were kids, that’s just how it is… now I’m sure they are great friends!)  So considering I didn’t have to deal with a crabby little brother or sister, or share my things, or do any other sibling things like that, I figured I had it pretty great!

In 1999, one of my younger siblings moved to Illinois to live with our father.  I saw more of her then, but not full-time at first.  Sadly, our dad passed away, and my parents (bio grandparents, remember?) begged my sister’s mom to let her finish the school year in Illinois.  So she moved in with us.  I did not like it.  I was 16 and had an 8/9 year old suddenly thrown into my life.  We were all grieving.  My mom wasn’t able to mother as well as she always had been able to because of her grief, so I ended up taking a surrogate mom role to Hope.  I got her up in the mornings for school, made sure her outfits weren’t too outrageously unmatched, took her to school, picked her up from school, helped her practice piano, helped her with her homework, and made sure she was in bed at a reasonable time.  This was not what I thought being a sister would be like!  It was hard.  The circumstances were hard.  For everyone.

After the school year, Hope went back home to her mom in Louisiana, and I went back to being an only child.  Through the next decade or so she would come stay a few weeks during the summer, but they were really just short visits, and not enough time to form much of a sister bond.  As she got older though, an eight year age difference became less of a stark difference and I think we both actually started enjoying each other as people, not just annoying each other as siblings.

The same has rung true for my other much younger siblings… as we have all aged, and as they have become adults, I’ve found more of a connection with them.  I never really felt “sister-ly” though.  I felt like I didn’t know how to be a sister.

Several years ago, after a traumatic experience where my Poppy (adoptive dad!) nearly died and I witnessed him receiving CPR, I began to see a therapist.  Right around this same time, three of my siblings who had been adopted out of the family (and into the same family) reached out to me and other family members.  I was over the moon!  I had waited probably 20 years for this to happen.  I hoped it would and it did!  But after finally getting to meet one another again (like for the first time!) I realized I felt like I was lacking somehow.  I felt like I didn’t know how to be a sister.  Wasn’t I supposed to feel this incredible bond and have these built in best friends?  I had all these expectations.  I talked about this with my therapist, probably too many times than she would have preferred to hear me talk about it, and I came to the conclusion, with her help, that it was OK that I didn’t know how to be a sister, that there are a lot of different types of relationships, and how things are now isn’t necessarily how they will always be.

Four years ago, my youngest sister, at a very young age, was expecting her first child.  Again, I didn’t know how to “be a sister” in this circumstance.  I felt like I was lacking, like I missed the day of class that was supposed to teach me all the wisdom that I was supposed to pass on, or show me how to be a good example and leave an impression on my siblings.  When my beautiful, perfect baby nephew was born (and I was there to witness it!), I felt something slowly inside me changing though.

It wasn’t overnight, but over time, I felt something awaken in me.  This attachment that I’d never felt before.  Of course I love all my siblings (even the one I’ve still yet to meet again since he was adopted years ago), but I guess what was lacking was this instinct, this powerful bond that I think I had always wanted from siblings, but never knew how to make happen.  And in the last few years, I think I’ve been slowly working on that within myself.  I won’t say that I have these amazing BFF relationships with all of my siblings–some of them I still see very rarely, but we try to communicate and keep in touch on a semi-regular basis.  And the ones who I have started to become closer with, well that is something pretty awesome.

I’ve gotten the chance to see different milestones in their lives, and be included in them just like a sister would be!  The birth of children, moving out of the house and supporting themselves, going to college, and I’m sure one day it will be them getting married.  It’s neat to see as they have become adults, some of the traits about myself that I see in them.  In Robin, I see independence; in Hannah I see determination; in Hope I see perseverance.  In my other siblings I see some of my personality traits too–sense of humor, willingness to help others, creativity, etc.  It’s very rewarding.

A couple months ago, one of my sister’s family members reached out to me asking if I could help her straighten her life out.  She was living in an environment where there were a lot of addicts, herself included, and that was going to make it very difficult for her to be healthy and successful, and he feared for her life.  Initially I thought “Why is he asking me to help?  What can I offer?”  And eventually the light bulb went off.  He is asking me because I am a sister.  I am a good sister.  I am the glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel for my sister.  So Eddie and I took the leap and invited her to come live with us in order for her to get clean and learn how to a successful, productive, happy person.  She’s been here two months now, and thanks in part to that, I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of this sister thing.

 

 

Five years

A little over five years ago my mom died.  When I think about how long five years seems, that seems like a long time.  That’s longer than one (typically) spends in high school, or in college… and that stretch of time seemed like an ETERNITY.  But the five years since my mom left… that seems like it zoomed by.

I typically will try to celebrate my mom’s birthday by doing something she loved to do–go to Red Lobster.  This year though, it wasn’t in the budget.  My day was still sprinkled with memories of her though.  I started the morning by picking Lilies of the Valley from my front yard.  I’ve never been able to do that before, I always had to go to my old house (where my in-laws live now) to pick them.  A few weeks ago though, Eddie dug some up and transplanted them to our yard!  The fact that I could go right out front and pick my mom’s favorite flowers was super sweet.

Later in the day, I ran into a cousin at the store… I haven’t seen this cousin in years… heck maybe even a decade.  I come from a suuuuuuper large family–my mom had 16 siblings, so there are literally hundreds of cousins.  We stopped and chit-chatted and caught up a little.  That’s something my mom would have loved, because family was really important to her.  She loved all her nieces and nephews and would have been tickled to hear that I ran into one after so long.

After work I stopped by Dairy Queen and got a Dilly Bar.  I figured since I couldn’t have Red Lobster, I would celebrate with ice cream that we used to get.  We used to go through the drive-thru on a hot summer day and get a dilly bar to share.  She would always let me bite off the little swirl on the front first!  So that’s just what I did!

When I got home, I helped Eddie do some work in the yard.  While I was working, a bird pooped on me!  He says it’s good luck apparently.  At any rate, my mom loved birds, and I watch them every day at our bird feeders (especially the cardinal couple that comes).  I see the boy cardinal far more often.  It seems like the female one is always just out of sight… she will make an appearance then hide in the trees.  The other day while sitting outside, I actually said “She doesn’t come around very often, then when she does, it’s so hard to see her.”  Since then I’ve been thinking about that in relation to my mom, and other people I’ve lost.  And I’ve made an effort to see them.  Like in all the little things I did yesterday to remember my sweet mom.  They are still there, you just have to look for them.