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Journey To the Finish Line

PR's, 4 children, hopes and dreams; I'm always running after something

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IVF

Thinking Back

About a year after the move to South Carolina, my ex husband and I bought a house in a city about 45 minutes from Charleston. It was in that neighborhood that I met my first friends that weren’t automatically associated with the military. These women eventually formed a Bunco group who met once a month with a built in excuse to drink wine, chit chat and scream like kids on a roller coaster after a good roll.

Naturally, I was no longer in the group once we moved, but not too long after I moved back, this time by myself, I was welcomed back in. Many of the members have changed since then, but the atmosphere has never really shifted.

Friday night, after I left my wet flip flops in the foyer and grabbed a plate of food, I joined 3 others sitting at one of the tables. One of the women is a fellow mother of twin toddlers (hers are nearly 2). Unless you count the handful of outings I’ve taken with only one baby, I have zero experience as a mother to a singleton. Still, I know that motherhood to twins is a different experience entirely and enjoy having someone to share stories with from time to time. The most common (and unknowingly loaded) question I find that I get (from singleton and twin moms alike) is “do twins run in your family?”

I was very open about our road to parenthood as we traveled it and now is certainly no exception. The majority of the time, and in this case, I say “no, we went through fertility treatments.” Typically, I get a few questions or a short side story about a friend of a friend who had an IUI. On more rare occasions, the person has experienced infertility herself. There is always an instant bond with these people, because you know that they too have walked a lonely road that is very difficult for someone who has not walked it to understand.

In this case, the fellow twin mom not only had zero experience with infertility, she conceived with an ease that makes every fellow past and present infertile drool. What made her different, though, was her interest. Many are interested in the science behind the procedures. Fewer ask about the emotional impact. Even fewer REALLY ask.

Part of our groups conversation involved the experiences of pregnancy: morning sickness, bed rest, stretch marks, discomfort. When I first joined this Bunco group I was not yet ready to have children, so I didn’t have much to contribute. While trying initially, these conversations interested me. As we sunk further and further without any luck, they became painful. Even now, with 2000 pictures of my beautiful twins in my phone, when someone asks if twins runs in my family, it stings a little. It stings because I’ll never forget how painful those conversations sometimes were and how alone I felt. I’ll never forget feeling like I saw pregnant.women.everywhere. I’ll never forget how bitter the experience made me feel for a long time. How annoyed I felt when someone would complain about a pregnancy I would give my left arm to have and sometimes forced me into another room to shed a few tears before I could compose myself.

Fellow twin mom, taking interest, began asking questions not only about the IVF procedure itself but about how it felt to go through it. She said she had a friend who has had difficulty conceiving and, incidentally, been acting differently lately. She asked me if I thought being around her might be difficult for her friend, if she maybe felt bitter about the fact that her ability to conceive had been so easy. I was honest when I told her that was possible.

She was shocked. She told me she had no idea. That she meant absolutely no harm. This time, I understood.

I think I speak for many when I say that one of my biggest complaints was what felt like the lack of understanding from others. In hindsight I suspect it was more a lack of information than understanding. Through no fault of their own, people just have no idea. Truth be told, before I was ready to have a family, I didn’t either. In fact, I recall responding to the news of an acquaintances miscarriage with “at least she knows she can get pregnant” (not to her, thankfully). To this day, knowing what I know now, I am ashamed by that comment. I didn’t even want to type it out.

This post has sat unfinished in my drafts for two days because I am not sure how to finish it. I guess the experience brought some new understanding into the minds of others. When you’re in the throes, it’s so difficult to see the good natured side of some of the things people say. It seems, though, that many are really good intentioned. I was. Little did I know (at the time), though, the impact those words could have had. I, like fellow twin mom, meant no harm.

From inexperienced, well intentioned but likely insensitive, to the person on the receiving end of well intentioned but possibly insensitive comments, to someone who has now been on both sides being asked about someone else’s experience, it seems like, in a way, I’ve come full circle.

And I feel just as confused as ever.

*If this offends anyone still struggling, please accept my apologies. This was really just may way of trying to sort out my own thoughts and feelings about this particular issue.

 

National Infertility Awareness Week – The Cost of Infertility

I’m putting a couple regularly scheduled posts on hold this week (except for my weekly twins update) in order to participate in National Infertility Awareness Week. This years theme revolves around the idea of “resolving to know more”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, fertility treatments are not cheap.

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) lists the average price of an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle in the U.S. to be $12,400. (ASRM does not qualify if this includes medications.) We sought to find the price of intrauterine insemination (IUI), one IVF cycle using fresh embryos, and the additional charges for intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) (where offered) from a cross section of clinics throughout the U.S. We called and e-mailed clinics that did not list prices on their websites, and discovered that some clinics generally do not give cost information over the phone (but they did for this story). When clinics do list the prices on their website, the information is clear and easy to understand, without many exclusions or disclaimers. RESOLVE encourages all clinics to post updated pricing on their websites.

  • Average cost of an IUI cycle: $865; Median Cost: $350
  • Average Cost of an IVF cycle using fresh embryos (not including medications): $8,158; Median Cost: $7,500
  • Average additional cost of ICSI procedure:$1,544; Median Cost: $1,500
  • Average additional cost of PGD procedure: $3,550; Median Cost: $3,200
    (Note: Medications for IVF are $3,000 $5,000 per fresh cycle on average.)

Several interesting trends in clinic pricing have surfaced:

  • In areas with few infertility clinics, prices, on average, are higher
  • High cost of living does not equate to high treatment costs
  • IUI prices ranged from $275 to $2,457—a huge differential. Some prices quoted include medications, blood work and sonograms; others do not—hence the huge price differential.
  • ICSI prices across the country are within $500 of each other—$1,000 to $1,500.

Our total cost, including initial docs visits, tests, medications, one IUI and one IVF cycle was 17,000+. And many spend much much more.

(Info taken from the resolve website.)

Finances aren’t the only expense though. To give an example of this I’m going to resurrect/link back to one of my old posts written before we started our IVF cycle on The Cost of Infertility.

 

Giving Yourself A Raise

As I sit and stare at the blinking cursor in front of me, my nearly 1 year old twins play among a mass of toys on our family room floor. My son crawls around with a toy hammer in hand and with each forward motion you hear “bang, bang, bang”, while my daughter lays on the floor babbling a conversation that it seems at least she understands. Even a year later it still feels unreal to use the words “son” and “daughter” as I often feel like I should be talking about someone else’s kids.

I have only had a handful of jobs in my life. I didn’t work much as a teenager as I was fortunate enough that it wasn’t a requirement. I did some babysitting. Between my senior year and freshman year of college I worked retail for Carlton Cards. During college I worked part time at the dining hall to have spending money. Graduate school was a full time job in and of itself, and since graduation I’ve worked as both an adult and pediatric Speech Pathologist. I consider myself a hard worker – I’m honest, organized and have decent (hey no one is perfect) time management skills. Everyone appreciates being rewarded for hard work, and almost nothing is more exciting than a raise.

During the infertility battle I swore I wouldn’t moan, groan or complain one iota, I begged and pleaded with God and life to grant me this job. I promised I’d take every sleepless night in stride. I promised I’d happily give up just about anything if I could just have a family. Three years, a failed insemination and a successful IVF later, I was finally granted the job of “mom”. I often hear mothers describe it as one of the toughest jobs in the world. In fact, this video saying the very same thing has gone viral recently. I was asked recently what I do to reward myself or “give myself a raise”, so to speak, after all my hard work as a mom.

As it turns out, I become a mother and began eating my words. I have moaned, I have groaned and I have complained. Maybe its because of my history, but I find it difficult to feel like I need to reward myself as a mom. I sometimes feel guilty for complaining about the difficulties that come with the job. I feel as though my reward should come in the form my son and daughter who I wished for with all my heart. This isn’t to say I don’t do things for myself, however when I think of rewarding myself for a job well done, motherhood is only part of the equation. I am also a wife, a friend a Speech Therapist and a runner. Interestingly, just as I feel there are several pieces to the equation, I also vary in what I find to be my favorite type of raise or reward. Often its curling up with a good book, browsing the Target shelves alone or with a friend, or a cup of coffee. Sometimes its a run, a date night or a piece of cake. Sometimes its a compliment or time to blog. Other times you just can’t beat a pedicure. And there are plenty of times when all I need is for one of my babies to reach for me or call out “mama”.

What’s your favorite way to reward yourself for your hard work (mom or not)?

*This post was written as part of a campaign by raise.com, a site where you can either buy discount gift cards (with free shipping!) or sell unwanted gift cards to others.*

This Week in History

I’m staring at the cursor on the computer screen, albeit a bit distractedly, because out of the corners of my eyes are two pairs of tiny hands and feet.

Last year those hands and feet looked like this

Miles and Abby are the cute ones
Miles and Abby are the cute ones

Last year I blogged the transfer decision I made on my valium induced high to transfer two embryos. The two embryos that turned into Miles:

Its always a good day for a chomp chomp alligator
Its always a good day for a chomp chomp alligator

And Miss Abby:

Hi, I'm pretty
Hi, I’m pretty

Last year I wrote a post about Bryan and I, and how we met, because our anniversary happened to be the day after the transfer. I wrote about how I knew he was going to be a great father and I couldn’t wait to make him one. We didn’t do anything for our anniversary that day because he was working out of town. I don’t remember what we said to each other. I do remember not so patiently wondering what the result of our IVF was going to be (I know this is quite shocking to all of you). When I think back on last year I remember feeling a big mixture of feelings. I anticipated good news as much as I dreaded bad. I wondered how we’d afford more treatment, how much longer it could take if it didn’t work. I felt incredibly thankful we could afford it in the first place and that I had such a great man by my side who stuck with me despite all my craziness. I felt a bit empty, like something (or someone(s)) was missing.

This year as I type and watch the babies play, squeal and blow raspberries I again feel a mixture of things. I feel grateful for my family. I feel humbled by motherhood and the journey we took to get here. I feel excited for whats to come. I feel pain for those who are still trudging along in infertility. I think about last year and I feel how I felt then. I feel serene, at peace. It’s an interesting mix.

This year we have another low key anniversary day planned. We both work so there isn’t much time for anything fancy anyway. We are going to leave work, pick up the babies and go to dinner at Red  Lobster for no other reason than its close by and Bryan wants all you can eat shrimp. Sure its kinda lame, but we are going to celebrate our 3rd year of marriage together – all four of us.

As a family.

Our family
Our family

This year, I feel full.

An Ode to Rollercoasters (metaphorically speaking)

The roller coaster ride does not end when you find out you are pregnant.

The last few weeks (and probably still for the next upcoming few) have been a mix of emotions including (this list is not all inclusive) joy, anxiety, worry, peace, happiness, fear, panic. Not to mention that I feel a little between two worlds with this blog right now – hovering between the realms of infertility and pregnancy. My intention has always been to keep writing about the journey no matter where it took us, pregnancy included. I just haven’t quite figured out how to do it – how to share the pregnancy journey while staying sensitive to those still battling. I’ve started to read blogs and be completely at a loss for words as to how to comment because I simply do not feel like I truly belong in either category.

At times I find myself thinking about a future baby shower, a growing belly (which, by the way, is already pooch-y), feeling the first kicks. Then I begin to panic when I wonder if we are equipped mentally and financially for TWO babies. (must.buy.two.of.everything! must.save.all.the.money!). Then I tell myself to stop getting too far ahead when we could still lose one…or both, and then I begin to picture the worst case scenario. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I am thankful for mild symptoms because it allows me to put it out of my head for bit when I’m making myself crazy (other than the constant eating and trips to the bathroom, anyway).  But other times it makes me worry something is wrong. And I think about blogging but stop myself because I don’t want it to sound like I’m complaining. Or that I am not thrilled. I am not trying to complain. I AM thrilled.This is just the way it is.

ADD brain doesn’t help – a couple days ago I put gas in my car and forgot to put the cap back on. Luckily Bryan was with me, noticed, and fixed it before I drove away with the gas cap dangling in wind.  I can now totally appreciate the fact that my gas cap is attached (I have NEVER done this before either!)

So to you, crazy emotions, An Ode:

Hooray, I am pregnant!

Holy shit, there’s two!

Man, I sure am hungry

Can I steal a bite from you?

Oh my can we afford this?

Don’t think too far ahead

The thought of something going wrong

It fills my heart with dread

The though of little heartbeats, though

That fills my heart with glee

I promise I’ll enjoy this

Just as soon as I go pee

A Watched Phone Never Rings

A watched pot never boils.

A watched phone never rings.

I almost had a heart attack today when I didn’t get a phone call about my 3rd beta when I usually do. Thank goodness I was done with work for the day at 1230, because by then I was already practically staring blankly at the computer, glancing at my phone every 5 seconds (with a ringer on HIGH, by the way, so it isn’t like I’d gone deaf).

I left work and drove home, but left the radio off and my phone directly in my lap. You know, in case I’d gone deaf.

By the time I got home at 1:00 there was still no call. I started to panic a little, but thought surely no news is good news? If something had gone wrong, SURELY she would have called.

I dozed on my couch for 40 minutes. With my phone right by my ear. (again, deafness)

At 1:40 I called them.  The nursing staff usually leaves at noon and so I was starting to wonder, and knew there was NO WAY I was waiting till Monday to find out what my number was. The lady at the desk said my nurse happened to be the one on call and she would call me back.

I waited.

I played words with friends.

I took my dog to his vet appointment.

I stared at my phone A LOT.

I WILLED it to ring.

It didn’t.

DAMMIT.

I drove myself and my dog home.

And then it finally rang.

They had been slammed all day.

Third and final beta came in at 8,273

I think the clinic is taking bets on twins. And we will find out Thursday!

2nd Beta, ICLW and Thanks

I don’t have a good coherent way to piece all of this together so please forgive my disorganization:

If you are visiting from ICLW, welcome! Our infertility resume includes male factor and PCOS. After 3 years, many hormone injections, a planned IVF, a postponed IVF (x2), and a canceled IUI we finally bit the bullet and went through with the IVF. (If you’re interested you can read about our TTC Timeline or IVF cycle). Three days ago we got our first EVER positive pregnancy test, followed by a 1st beta of 408!

It still has not completely sunk in yet.

Today was my 2nd beta and I have to say I was more nervous for this one than the first. At least with the first I already knew it was going to be positive (thanks to my stick peeing), but this time there was no checking first. After what felt like forever, my nurse called (and  my phone didn’t ring! BAH!!) and left a voicemail saying my labs were great, and my level was 778. (a doubling time of 51.5 hours, for those crazy like me)I go back for one more blood test a week from today and then we will schedule an ultrasound (!!).

For those who are unfamiliar, a beta is your hcg level, and they typically like to see it double within 48-72 hours. Well, I thought it was 48 hours and so when it came in slightly low I was worried at first, but some casual obsessive Googling brought me down to earth when I realized it was48-72 hours.

So we are still looking good and I couldn’t be more relieved. It’s going to be a long week until the third test.

On a mostly related note, I wanted to add that I had my worries about creating a public blog almost a year ago. It isn’t common for people to share pregnancy news so early, especially in the infertility world. But I created this space as public and decided I wanted to keep it that way. This experience, for me,  is about the good and the bad and so I am going to share all of it. I have to say I was overwhelmed at the outpouring of support and congratulations yesterday, both from the blogosphere and beyond. I had people messaging me saying they were silent followers obsessively checking for updates and were so incredibly happy for us. I feel incredibly blessed to have had this much support and want to thank all of you for being so fabulous!

That is all 🙂

B Day

Today is probably the first (and likely only) day I’ve ever been excited about being at the dentist. I mean I’m sorry, but who enjoys being jabbed in the mouth with sharp objects?I always brush my teeth right before but I always have this fear that I’m going to have bad breath even though they all wear masks. Then my teeth feel sensitive all day. And trying to keep your tongue out of the way? And why do I always get a million nose itches in that chair? Ok, I digress.  But today when I got there, the lady told me that I was due for some bite wing x-rays. And I got to say:

“You can’t, I am pregnant”

I made it till about 10pm Tuesday night until I caved. I failed to mention that, for a reason that I still can’t explain, I had the urge to look at that test again Monday morning – a full 48 hours later. And there was a second line. Now, I am full aware that tests can’t technically be read for longer than 10 minutes after, but I also knew that positives tend to STAY on the tests, and while it was a faint line, it was clearly there. There was no squinting or moving to better light required.

At first I thought maybe it was an evaporation line, and that oddly gave me some comfort that the negative test I took wasn’t really EVER valid to begin with. I felt  like I was back to square one. But Tuesday evening in my weird attempt to distract myself (I had purchased a book that day and apparently decided Googling random pee stick pictures would be a better form of distraction…), I starting Googling pictures of people who had posted successive pictures of tests to see the line getting darker.  You know what I noticed? Their several day old tests looked a lot like mine.

That was it. I couldn’t wait anymore. And it just so happened (ahem) that I had to use the bathroom.

I used an Answer test first, preferring to dip rather than actually pee ON the stick, because I would totally pee on myself. (Though I’m not sure how having a cup of pee on any household surface is any less gross, really) The test line showed up before the control line did. Shaking, I hauled my butt upstairs for my digital, because for some reason no one, including myself, can believe a test now until you get the one that clearly tells you “pregnant”. I yelled at my dog for getting underfoot (what? he might spill the pee!) and held that thing in the cup for what felt like the longest 20 seconds (seriously? 20 seconds? is that some kind of torture?) and waited for the little hourglass to turn into something.

And then there it was, the word that I sometimes never thought I’d see – pregnant.

I stared at them both, for awhile. And then I realized that the test line on the first test was actually DARKER than the control line.

I was totally knocked up. I called Bryan. I called my best friend. I called my mom. Not telling anyone this soon be damned – I waited too long for this. I briefly debated running outside and screaming, but didn’t particularly want the police at my house.

I slept maybe 5 hours Tuesday night.

It was definitely easier to get through work knowing at least I had a positive test. My nurse called me about 11:45 and asked me how I was feeling.

“Fine” I said

“Are you feeling pregnant?” she asked.

“Maybe??…..”

The beta test was definitely positive. She said they like to see a number over 75-  and my number? 408

Holy hell.

Tomorrow I go back for a repeat blood test to see if the numbers are doubling. Even when you get good news, its still a waiting game. Since I’ve been public about all of this from the get to I debated on waiting until at least tomorrows number, but decided that I refuse to give in to the anxiety, and take things one day at a time. We still have a few hurdles to get over, and I know that.

Today, I am pregnant. And damnit, I’m going to enjoy it.

What post isn’t complete without a pee stick picture?

‘Twas the Night Before Beta.

‘Twas the night before beta

In my small bathroom drawer

The pee sticks, they mocked me

Of that I am sure

With a hope for an answer

To be found before bed

And the visions of a “pregnant”

That keep dancing in my head

I swear that I hear them

They are talking to me

“But surely, my friend

Can’t you eek out some pee?

Put some lines in our windows

Will it be one or two?

While you pace in your room

Not knowing what the F*ck else to do?”

Shut up sticks, I refuse” I say

Clenching them with my hand

“Stop taunting me or I’ll throw you

Into that small trash can”

Stow them back in my drawer

Out of mind, out of sight.

“Have fun getting to sleep

On this long restless night”

*Still holding out – can I make it to tomorrow?

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