Month: April 2014

National Infertility Awareness Week

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1 in 8 Couples.

7.3 Million Americans.

Prior to our infertility joyride, I was oblivious to the struggles that so many people face.  People that I know, people that you know, neighbors, teachers, co-workers, rich people, poor people, celebrities, politicians, people that already have kids.  I promise you, someone you know has gone through this.

Once I started talking ‘fertility’ with people, I was blown away at how many people had gone through treatment to conceive their own children.

So why is everyone staying so secretive?

There is definitely a stigma attached to infertility.  For me, there were many reasons I kept our details private.

  • I didn’t want people to feel weird talking about their own kids.  Just because it’s harder for us to get knocked up, it doesn’t mean I’m not happy for my friends who have experienced pregnancy, babies, etc. Am I jealous that it was easier for them? Of course.  Am I spiteful? Absolutely not.
  • The unsolicited advice.  While I know it comes from the heart, all the “just relax”, “it will happen”, “try a bottle of Jose Cuervo” comments reeeeeeeeeally start to make me want to punch people take their toll.
  • I don’t want sympathy.  I don’t want people feeling sorry for us, or viewing us differently.  Or thinking that it was my fault, or my husband’s fault.  It is what it is, and we’re good with that.

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If you know someone dealing with fertility issues, the best thing you can do is let them know you’re part of their support team.  Be compassionate and understanding.  And if you haven’t been through it yourself, please don’t offer advice.   Or suggest adoption.  Just don’t.

In the short life of my little blog, I’ve already discovered a number of people I already knew that are also battling right along with me.  We’ve also gained the support of strangers that are genuinely excited for us and are cheering us on.

By speaking up, I have already gained more support than I ever could have imagined.  And it’s a wonderful feeling.

So, on that note, Happy National Infertility Awareness Week!

We’re headed to…

Drumroll please…

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The beautiful island of BARBADOS!

The reactions we’ve received when telling people the news that we are traveling to to Barbados for IVF have been all over the map. If someone had suggested it to me in the beginning, this would have been my response:

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Denver is home to some of the nation’s (if not the world’s) top fertility centers.  Conceptions Reproductive Center (where we had a consult) and Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine are very highly successful clinics that people travel across the globe to visit.  I’ve read countless blogs and forum posts from women who have spent a fortune on plane tickets, hotels, and other travel costs just to be a patient at one of these centers.

Which originally made me feel crazy for wanting to explore other options, when I had famous doctors in my backyard.

The facts were that while these fertility clinics were insanely successful, they were also (in my opinion) ridiculously expensive.  Like $30,000 plus.  They also seemed to lack some serious bedside manner.  I understand- they’re in it for results, and to them, you’re a number on a form.  But I felt that there had to be something more.

So, the research began.  The months and months of reading, e-mailing, calling, comparing, and investigating all of our options.

Originally we considered Europe.  There are a ton of very reputable fertility centers in places like Spain, Greece, and the top contender, Czech Republic.  The best part? Their IVF procedure costs were more in the $3000-5000 range.  We could stomach that.  I corresponded with a few clinics, but I just wasn’t getting the “vibe”.

It probably sounds nuts, but I wanted the “feeling”.   Like when you find your wedding dress, or the perfect house, I wanted my gut to help me make the decision.

One day, doing my usual browsing, the stars aligned and I found Barbados Fertility Center (BFC).  Their success rates were great.  Their prices were amazing.  They’ve won tons of awards for their high standards of patient care. Plus, we are only required to be in Barbados for 2 weeks (as opposed to the 3 weeks required by most European clinics).

I e-mailed them, and the next day was greeted by one of the nurse coordinators.  She sent me a ton of information, to include a mock timeline of what my IVF schedule would look like.  I answered a list of questions for her, and sent her our medical history.  Very soon after that,  she had me scheduled for a telephone consult with Dr. Juliet Skinner (BFC’s medical director).

A couple weeks later, we had our phone consult.  To say Dr. Skinner impressed me is an understatement.  She is so knowledgeable, to the point, and actually taught me a few things (even though I pretty much have a doctorate in Google Infertility research).  On top of that, she is nice.  She was compassionate and understanding of what we’ve been through, and I felt (for the first time) that the doctor I was speaking to actually cares about us.  She spent over 45 minutes speaking with us, answering questions, and left us more excited and optimistic than ever.

That night, after a short discussion, we sent the e-mail to BFC saying “We’re in!!!”

The next day, I was sent a couple different schedules to choose from, a list of tests we needed before we go, and my prescription list.  I was able to order my prescriptions from a pharmacy in the UK (Howard at International Pharmacy is amazing!) at a fraction of the cost.  My medications alone were around $3000.  (In the U.S., we were looking at at least $6000-7000.)

We booked an amazing travel package (and free upgrade to an ocean front suite) for much less than we expected.  Barbados starts their slow season in May, so they are doing a program called Island Inclusive where tourists are provided with $200 each in spending money.  Another sign that we chose the right place!

We get to spend two weeks on a beautiful Caribbean island, where our only concern will staying on schedule with my medications and getting to the clinic on time.  No work, dogs, housework, traffic, or other stressors that come from the daily grind.  An escape  to focus on what’s most important.

29 days to go!

Check out a few of these links for more information:

http://www.barbadosivf.com/

http://ivf-abroad.org/popular-locations-ivf-abroad/

http://globalivf.com/

https://www.healthmattersinternational.com/barbados-medical-travel.asp

http://www.patientsbeyondborders.com/hospital/barbados-fertility-center

 

 

 

 

 

IVF Lesson #1

Yesterday, I had another test at my Reproductive Endocrinologist’s office.  This time, it was a Saline Infusion Hysterosonography- and yes, it was as fun as it sounds.  Most of these tests start with a pregnancy test (oh, the irony) and involve snooping around my lady parts to make sure everything is in order.  This test was a little more critical, as the results determined if our IVF dates could be confirmed.  If anything was to show up on the test (cysts, polyps, or fibroids, none of which I’ve ever had) it would have potentially delayed treatment.  The doc gave me an “all clear” and said my uterus was looking beautiful! What a compliment…

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I can safely say that the amount of appointments I have had at my RE’s office in the last couple of years far exceeds all other medical appointments of my life- combined.  I’m a regular here.  Anything fertility related requires a significant amount of monitoring and testing.  So I’ve gotten to know the place.

Before my appointment, I spent about 40 minutes in the waiting room.  The RE’s office shares a check-in desk with the Radiology department.  Something I notice every time- the people, mostly females, in the RE waiting area look perfectly healthy.  Sometimes there are couples, sometimes people are by themselves, but almost always, the RE patients are put together, seemingly normal people.

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And then you look over the the Radiology side.  Most patients are much older in age, and a lot are in wheelchairs.  Yesterday, there was a man with a walker (with a seat) that had his oxygen attached.  His daughter was there to keep him company, and they laughed together while they read magazines.  A woman was there by herself, and when her name was called, it took her a while to stand.  She eventually made her way down the hall, but she struggled to walk.  There were two women together, one of them had a knit beanie on.  She removed it at one point, and exposed her bald head.  A sign of illness.  All of these people are fighting battles with their health.  And the world can tell.  Their wounds are exposed.

Those of us on the RE side? Our battles are secret.  The second we walk out of that hospital, nobody knows that we are fighting a battle of our own.  Infertility has a dark side, and nobody seems comfortable talking about it.  Myself included.  My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for 5 years, and hardly anybody knows.  Because it’s easy to hide.  Even as shitty as infertility is, I’m learning things and I truly feel that I’ll be better in the end for having gone through it.

To me, this was a reminder.  Everybody is dealing with something.  On the inside, outside, a family member, loved one, pet, or anything important to them could be hurting.  It’s not fair to assume anyone’s life is easy.  Give people the benefit of the doubt.  If someone cuts you off in traffic, is rude to you, or does something that would make you think “That guy is such a &#$@*!!!”…there might be a reason.

It could be me, keeping my sunglasses on and not saying “thank you” when you hand me my Starbucks.  I’ve been crying all morning and have to go to work and meet deadlines when all I want to do is lay in bed.

It could be my husband, who neglected his graveyard shift sleep just to talk with me long enough to make me feel better, and then had to arrest someone for abusing their child or driving drunk with their kids in the car.

We aren’t assholes, we’re just going through some stuff.  And everyone, at some point, goes through some stuff.

 

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How We Got Here

Obviously, one doesn’t just up and decide that IVF is the solution to their problems.  Here is a recap of how we got here:

2006. The husband and I met in June.  Our first official date (after I asked him out!) was the 3rd of July.  It was, as far as dates go, pretty awesome.  It even ended with fireworks over the ocean- how’s that for cliché? We dated pretty casually, as I was only 20 and had just moved to Honolulu.  My plan was to have fun and play the field.  Meeting my husband less than a week after arriving in Hawaii really screwed up those plans…but who can resist a man in uniform?

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Randall was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in December 2006.  His plan was to return to Texas and enroll in college.  However, once he met me, he also made some unexpected life decisions and ended up extending his time on the island (which is huge, because he could not wait to get off that island).  We ended up moving in together in early 2007.

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2007. On our one year anniversary, July 3rd, we returned to the same table at the same restaurant as our first date.  During the fireworks, he gave me my anniversary gift- a locket with “Forever” engraved on the back.  He then told me he had one more thing, and reached into his pocket.  I could not have been more surprised when he pulled out a ring! Being engaged at 21 was never in my life plan.  But that’s what I get for trying to plan.

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Post engagement, we were already living together, and I was on birth control.  Until one day, we just kind of decided to quit using it.  We were planning on getting married anyway, and it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if we conceived.  We weren’t “trying” to get pregnant, but we certainly weren’t doing anything to prevent it.

2010. A few years later…the wedding.  August 14.  Pretty much immediately following the festivities (once the hangover subsided) we started paying much closer attention to my cycle.  I downloaded apps that helped us track my ovulation.  I used ovulation predictor kits.  I layed upside down for hours.  I took care of myself as if I were pregnant, cutting out sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.  After a couple months of not getting pregnant, I (for the first time) really started to worry that something wasn’t right.

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Things got busy.  Randall was offered a law enforcement job and was busy with the academy.  I was working tons of overtime at work.  On top of that, we were both going to school full time.  And trying to regularly go to the gym.  And keep the house clean.  And have a social life.  There was never enough time. Looking back, it seems like those years flew by.  But even as busy as we were, we watched the calendar religiously.  Every. Single. Month.

2012.  It was time to do something, talk to someone.  I made an appointment with the Reproductive Endocrinology office for a consultation.  After speaking with us, they seemed equally surprised that at our age, and the amount of time we’d been trying, we’d had no luck.  They immediately prescribed Letrazole- a stimulating hormone that produces more than one egg during ovulation.  We tried the Letrazole for three months at a dose of 5mg.  The side effects were minimal, and I responded really well to the drugs.  I was producing multiple follicles each month, just like I was supposed to.  We were cautiously optimistic.  All three months, no luck.

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2013.  After taking a couple months break from the drugs, we were ready to try again.  This time we decided to pursue IUI (intrauterine insemination).  I took the Letrazole again in a higher 7.5mg dose.  This time, the side effects were much more noticeable.  Weight gain, headaches, and the general feeling of golf balls in my ovaries.  Not fun.  Each month, once my follicles looked ready, I gave myself a “trigger” shot of HcG that would tell my body to open the gates and let all of the eggs out.  Exactly 36 hours later, Randall and I had to return to the doctor where his sample was “washed” (leaving all the best swimmers) and inseminated directly into my uterus.  Sounds foolproof.  We were, again, so very hopeful.  We did the IUI protocol three times with no luck.  And those negative pregnancy tests were the hardest to take.  So many emotions: sadness, anger, grief, and terror at what the future holds.  The doctor didn’t have to tell us what we already knew.  IUI wasn’t working.  If IUI doesn’t work, there’s really only one option left.  IVF.

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2014.  Our first consult with an IVF doctor.  I wanted to throw up.  I felt like I was sitting across the desk from a cheesy car salesman, telling me that their starting price of $20,000 (before medications) was competitive for what I was going to receive.  Yeah, no.   We had two more consultations before we decided where we were headed for IVF…and we couldn’t be more thrilled!