Infertility Awareness Week

This week is Infertility Awareness Week.  I feel like I’ve been making all of my readers aware of infertility for quite some time now.  I try to be honest, open, and transparent about our infertility struggles, because I know we are not alone.  This week, however, you may see more people sharing about their struggles because of the awareness week.

Last Tuesday we received word that none of our embryos survived to our planned Day 5 Transfer.  We were sitting in our hotel room, waiting to head the 3 miles to the clinic for transfer when we got the call that there was no need to come in.  I had worried that this would happen, heck, I had even suspected it.  When you’re used to the only kind of luck you have being bad luck, you learn to anticipate the worst, but hope for the best.

It’s a very weird feeling to grieve for something you never had.  To grieve for potential little lives that could have been your babies.  It somehow seems different than the grief you feel when you get your period each month after hoping that your efforts were fruitful a couple weeks prior.  You’ve put so much time, effort, energy, and money into the pills, injections, invasive tests, travel expenses, and then in one phone call, it was all for nothing.  You feel somehow like your grief shouldn’t be as bad, because at least you didn’t get pregnant and then miscarry, and you don’t want people to think you’re being unreasonable for the sadness you feel in your heart when it doesn’t work out.  Not just sadness for yourself, but also your spouse, who is also grieving and feeling the same sense of loss you do.

So I took a few days to grieve.  To just be sad, to cry, to feel sorry for myself and my husband.  And then you have to figure out if it’s worth doing it all over again and maybe not having any different result.  For some people, that answer would be a definite yes.  Some people feel the pull to be a parent at all costs–emotionally and financially.  Some people would feel incomplete without a child in their life.  But then there are some people, like Eddie and I who are also content as just a couple.  We would love a child, we would welcome a child, we would kick ass at parenthood, but we don’t necessarily feel deeply empty inside because we haven’t reproduced.  So we will take the time to decide what is best for our family, whatever answer that may be.

But for now, being a family of two is pretty great, and I wouldn’t trade my mister for the world.  He’s been an amazing sidekick, not just through this journey, but through our entire life together.  I definitely got the best.

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We’re getting there!

I went this morning for my follow-up ultrasound after being on Estrogen for about 12 days.  They want to see an endometrial lining of at least 8 and I was at 10.4mm, so that is excellent news!  They also drew blood, so as long as my progesterone level is good (they want to see it low to know I haven’t ovulated on my own this month already) then we are a go for a transfer in the next week!

As long as the labs are good, fertilization will happen in the lab on Thursday and I will begin my progesterone injections, then we will watch our little embryos for a couple days to see what they are up to.  Depending on their progress, we will either transfer on day 3 (Sunday) or day 5 (Tuesday).  We may have ourselves a little Easter Egg Embryo!  After the transfer, we will have a waiting period where we hope and pray that our embryo implants and then we hope to hear the positive news that we are pregnant!

I truly never thought I would actually have a baby.  I mean, I wanted one, and I hoped it would happen for us, but I had accepted that I would just be the kick ass aunt rather than the kick ass mom.  And I realize nothing is a sure thing.  There are a million things that have to line up for us to actually get our baby in our arms… but this is the closest we have ever been to actually making that happen.  It seems totally unbelievable!

Please continue to think happy thoughts for us, and we are hoping that our 2017 luck is changing for the better!

We have a timeline!

(I started this before the zombie finger situation arose, so I’m just now getting around to finishing and updating at the end!)

Eddie and I went to MFS on Wednesday to have some testing done.  I had to get infectious disease labs (Eddie will have his done at our home clinic because his insurance doesn’t cover MFS for anything) and also had my uterine cavity study.  As it turns out, I have a cervix that doesn’t like to cooperate, so Dr. Reuter had a challenge getting the catheter through.  The test took about twice as long as it normally would have because she had to try several different styles of catheter.  She said this is one of the reasons they do this study, so that when they go in for the real thing, they know what they are working with!  The test wasn’t too bad, a little uncomfortable and crampy, but as it turns out, my uterus is in good shape for growing a baby!  No surprises, no cysts, nothing out of the ordinary!

While I was having that, Eddie got to do his part down the hall.  We had to pay out of pocket for that, which was $115, but that should be the only thing he will have to pay for at MFS–the rest will fall under my case.  We will get the results of his analysis within a week, but we don’t anticipate any surprises there either, since he had this done a couple years ago and was A-OK.

After our testing, we met with the nurse to discuss what happens from here.  They were very pleased with my weight loss, and I am now less than 15 pounds away from where I need to be for the IVF transfer.  Eddie and I were amazed to hear that within 6 weeks or so, we could potentially be transferring our embryo!  In about 3 weeks, once my next cycle starts, I will start on 2 weeks of oral estrogen.  From there I will get an ultrasound to see how my lining looks.  If it looks good, they will fertilize in the lab and let it grow for 5 days.  Then they will pick the healthiest embryo and we will transfer it into me!  From there I will have to be on intramuscular injections of progesterone oil (this is the part I am looking forward to the least), and then our two week wait begins.  After two weeks we have a blood test to check for pregnancy, and our hope is that the stars will align and we will be expecting!!!  Nothing is a sure thing, of course, but we have hope!

Edit: So this week is the week my cycle should be beginning.  I heard from MFS today that on day 1 I call them to schedule a day 2 ultrasound/blood work.  It’s a bit inconvenient to travel 4 hours round trip to get a quickie ultrasound and lab draw, but we will do what we have to do!  On day 2 is also when I will begin my oral Estrace (estrogen).  I’m expecting a call from the pharmacy that provides the fertility meds sometime today or tomorrow, so that we can get them shipped out and paid for.  I have no idea what the cost is going to be, which makes me a little nervous, but we will do what we have to do!  If you feel compelled to help us out with any part of our journey, there is a link to our fundraiser in the top right corner of the blog!

I’ve got about 10 pounds to go before I’m at my goal weight for transfer, and now that the stressful times have hopefully leveled off, I’m hopeful that I can get that taken care of in the next few weeks!  I’ve joined a weight loss support group that meets weekly, and having the accountability and support has been great!  Plus their scale is more friendly than mine at home is, so that’s a plus too:)  Anyway, that’s the update for now, more to come!

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…