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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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national infertility awareness week

Another Marathon, Metaphorically (NIAW 2015)

It’s National Infertility Awareness Week, and I’ve been slacking on posts this year.

I’d be lying if I said a successful cycle didn’t lessen the sting of infertility, but even though I hardly write about it anymore (mostly because I am just not sure how at this point in my life) doesn’t mean that it isn’t still part of me. Yes, I write probably too many posts now about parenting, twins and toddlers because that is where I am right now and that was what this blog was meant to be about. Still, I can’t let the week go by without addressing it somehow.

I’m essentially re-blogging a post I wrote 3 years ago – an analogy that, as a runner, helped me explain infertility to those who might not understand. Running has been and is such a big part in my life that I find the analogy still fits.

I’ve finished two marathons.

It still feels weird to say that out loud. That, twice, I’ve trained, run 26.2 miles, and crossed the finish line. A feat I once related only to “crazy people” (well, that’s still appropriate) and people who run way too much (oddly now also appropriate).

When I started this blog, it began as a week by week training log for my second marathon, as I was preparing to do it mostly alone. A journey to the finish line. It also began as a place to log my fertility journey, as I was starting to feel more and more alone. Another journey to the finish line.

Infertility is a marathon.

At the start of the race, the excitement is palpable. We have all trained for this. We got up at the chirp of the alarm (and in my case, after several smacks of the snooze button) and regardless of the weather, regardless of mood, regardless of (most) illness, we ran. We ran 12, 16, 20 miles on a Saturday for no reason other than this day, this opportunity to run this race, cross this finish line, accept this medal, and feel this incredible accomplishment.  We skipped movies and drinks and went to bed early. Months of runs, hundreds of miles. We are ready.

Adrenaline begins pumping right from the beginning, the first few miles a breeze. A thousand or more people in your exact situation are running with you, some a bit faster, some a bit slower, but it doesn’t matter. You’re all in this together. Even if you lose the people you started with, there are still plenty around to match pace with, plenty of energy left to get yourself there.

Discomfort begins to set in as the miles add up. The number of people begin to thin. You begin to realize just how far 26 miles is. You start to wonder what you got yourself into, and start the ipod search for your most motivating songs on your playlist. If you didn’t know you could run 20+ miles already, you might consider dropping out. But ultimately the vision of the finish line, the medal, the feeling of victory keep you going. Somehow, something pops up at just the right time that keeps you from declaring defeat – a random cheer from a stranger, a particular song, knowing who is waiting for you at the finish line.

Pain sets in around mile 20. The end feels so close yet so far away. Your body starts to scream at you. The group of a thousand you started with has dwindled down to 3 or 4. The slight envy you once felt for the faster runners has turned into full out jealousy. You know you’ve trained harder than most of them. Seriously? How are you all finishing before me? You begin to feel every step, every pound of the pavement. Any change in terrain is physically difficult to recover from. Curse words are becoming more regular.  None of the three hundred Ipod songs are gonna do it, and even taking in half a Gu (an energy gel for distance runners) every mile doesn’t seem to be doing a darn thing. You hurt, you’re tired. You’ve gotta be the only one hurting this much. The finish line, though only a few miles away, feels like it’s never going to appear. The warnings that the true test is after mile 20 suddenly make sense.

Somehow, though, through combination of a force of will, stubbornness, training, and the few out of the group that stuck with you, you cross mile 26. And suddenly, though there are only a few runners left in the immediate vicinity, the crowd gets larger. You suddenly forget how sore you are because you can SEE the finish line. Somehow, you muster the energy to finish strong,  because suddenly you hear your cheering section, the crowd clapping, the announcer calling your name.  Somehow, you finished, and you feel incredible.

Also, you still hurt.  But despite it, you kept running.

When I first stepped foot onto the pavement my first run, (which was like, halfway around the block before I couldn’t breathe anymore) – I never imagined myself running a marathon. In fact, even after my first half marathon several years later I thought to myself “who wants to essentially do this twice? No thank you!”

When I first imagined myself with a family, in my house with my white picket fence (though I’d really prefer a privacy fence at this point in my life), I never imagined it would be a problem. I didn’t even know what infertility was.

I’m still waiting to cross the finish line.

In retrospect, I survived marathon training one run at a time, one week at a time, one long run at a time. I survived the race, particularly at the end, one mile at a time. It still hurt, in fact, it hurt quite a bit. At the end my calves were so sore I literally hobbled to the car.

But I’d do it all over again. I’ll remember that day and who was with me for the rest of my life. All of the pain and exhaustion was absolutely, positively 100% worth it.

One day at a time, one mile at a time, I await the day I can say that again.

This post was created as part of The Analogy Project, started in order to help others better understand the infertility experience.

National Infertility Awareness Week – Another Marathon, Metaphorically

As part of this years theme “resolve to know more”, I dug up an old post I did awhile back as part of an analogy project in order to attempt to explain what infertility feels like.

I’ve finished two marathons.

It still feels weird to say that out loud. That, twice, I’ve trained, run 26.2 miles, and crossed the finish line. A feat I once related only to “crazy people” (well, that’s still appropriate) and people who run way too much (oddly now also appropriate).

When I started this blog, it began as a week by week training log for my second marathon, as I was preparing to do it mostly alone. A journey to the finish line. It also began as a place to log my fertility journey, as I was starting to feel more and more alone. Another journey to the finish line.

Infertility is a marathon.

At the start of the race, the excitement is palpable. We have all trained for this. We got up at the chirp of the alarm (and in my case, after several smacks of the snooze button) and regardless of the weather, regardless of mood, regardless of (most) illness, we ran. We ran 12, 16, 20 miles on a Saturday for no reason other than this day, this opportunity to run this race, cross this finish line, accept this medal, and feel this incredible accomplishment.  We skipped movies and drinks and went to bed early. Months of runs, hundreds of miles. We are ready.

Adrenaline begins pumping right from the beginning, the first few miles a breeze. A thousand or more people in your exact situation are running with you, some a bit faster, some a bit slower, but it doesn’t matter. You’re all in this together. Even if you lose the people you started with, there are still plenty around to match pace with, plenty of energy left to get yourself there.

Discomfort begins to set in as the miles add up. The number of people begin to thin. You begin to realize just how far 26 miles is. You start to wonder what you got yourself into, and start the ipod search for your most motivating songs on your playlist. If you didn’t know you could run 20+ miles already, you might consider dropping out. But ultimately the vision of the finish line, the medal, the feeling of victory keep you going. Somehow, something pops up at just the right time that keeps you from declaring defeat – a random cheer from a stranger, a particular song, knowing who is waiting for you at the finish line.

Pain sets in around mile 20. The end feels so close yet so far away. Your body starts to scream at you. The group of a thousand you started with has dwindled down to 3 or 4. The slight envy you once felt for the faster runners has turned into full out jealousy. You know you’ve trained harder than most of them. Seriously? How are you all finishing before me? You begin to feel every step, every pound of the pavement. Any change in terrain is physically difficult to recover from. Curse words are becoming more regular.  None of the three hundred Ipod songs are gonna do it, and even taking in half a Gu (an energy gel for distance runners) every mile doesn’t seem to be doing a darn thing. You hurt, you’re tired. You’ve gotta be the only one hurting this much. The finish line, though only a few miles away, feels like it’s never going to appear. The warnings that the true test is after mile 20 suddenly make sense.

Somehow, though, through combination of a force of will, stubbornness, training, and the few out of the group that stuck with you, you cross mile 26. And suddenly, though there are only a few runners left in the immediate vicinity, the crowd gets larger. You suddenly forget how sore you are because you can SEE the finish line. Somehow, you muster the energy to finish strong,  because suddenly you hear your cheering section, the crowd clapping, the announcer calling your name.  Somehow, you finished, and you feel incredible.

Also, you still hurt.  But despite it, you kept running.

When I first stepped foot onto the pavement my first run, (which was like, halfway around the block before I couldn’t breathe anymore) – I never imagined myself running a marathon. In fact, even after my first half marathon several years later I thought to myself “who wants to essentially do this twice? No thank you!”

When I first imagined myself with a family, in my house with my white picket fence (though I’d really prefer a privacy fence at this point in my life), I never imagined it would be a problem. I didn’t even know what infertility was.

I’m still waiting to cross the finish line.

In retrospect, I survived marathon training one run at a time, one week at a time, one long run at a time. I survived the race, particularly at the end, one mile at a time. It still hurt, in fact, it hurt quite a bit. At the end my calves were so sore I literally hobbled to the car.

But I’d do it all over again. I’ll remember that day and who was with me for the rest of my life. All of the pain and exhaustion was absolutely, positively 100% worth it.

One day at a time, one mile at a time, I await the day I can say that again.

I do want to add now, though, that even though we now have our two kids, I’m not sure there is ever really a “finish line” in infertility, because no matter what the outcome, it is always with you.

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.

 

Twelve Percent (NIAW)

National Infertility Awareness Week kicked off a few days ago. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows infertility is something I feel passionate about. The fact that its the same week I start my maternity leave is just ironic.

Twelve percent.

On a normal basis inclusion in a somewhat special, different or elite group would excite me.

Graduating in the top 10% of my high school graduating class. And above a certain grade point average in college and grad school.

Percent of people in the US who have run a half marathon: 17% (though not 100% sure about this stat, it was harder to find) (source)

Percent of people in the US who have run a marathon: .05% (source)

Graduating at the top 10% of my high school class isn’t really as relevant anymore, but I have to say that it feels satisfying knowing I’ve done something that only .05% of others have done.

Percent of couples who suffer from infertility: 12%

I got included in this group, too.

I read back through several old blog posts I wrote during our IVF cycle, and doing so brought back many memories of worry, anxiety, hope and fear. And this was during a time where we were given the best odds of achieving a pregnancy, meaning that I had the most hope of any other attempt and yet still felt mostly fearful. It is difficult for someone who has not been there to understand, and I get that, because I remember some comments I made while younger and totally uninterested in children at the time, and just how insensitive they would have been to the wrong person. I, too, am guilty of saying stupid things. I won’t deny that.

We finished the nursery recently, and as it was being put together I spent a good deal of time resting, sitting in the glider and looking at everything in awe. I felt amazed and grateful, like I couldn’t believe it was in our house. That this monster belly houses two babies. That the constant jiggling I feel is their movement. I remembered what we went through to get here.

Around 90% of couples are able to get pregnant on their own within the first year. The rest who haven’t then usually begin to seek treatment. Many are unsure where to start. I got a bit of a jump on our situation because I had always had irregular cycles and asked for some testing during  a routine visit. My hormone levels were all normal, but it was discovered that I had a blocked tube. Nevertheless I was told “you only need one”. One didn’t work. We sought out a fertility specialist and discovered that due to testosterone replacement therapy, hubby had no sperm. And that the chances of recovery were not guaranteed. Several months of further testing lead to some sperm but only enough for the mack daddy: IVF. A VA hospital endocrinologist put him on a regimen of other hormones which did at one point raise his count to within normal limits nearly 8 months later. But then my blocked tube issue got in the way. We set up and postponed two IVF cycles before diving in, trying and hoping for a miracle naturally in the meantime.

It never happened.

There were hundreds of days counted, ovulation sticks used and prayers sent up. Hundreds of runs used to rid myself of the frustration. Many conversations about whether my desire to have children or my relationship was more important because it became such an obsession. Much bickering when not enough attempts were made during that critical window allowing us to have the best chance. Depression.  Tens of thousands of dollars. Damaged and nearly damaged friendships. 3 years. Jealousy. Lots of jealousy.

Thousands of tears.

And in the end we were lucky. We needed only one IVF cycle. So many attempt cycle after cycle without success and continue to push through. It is a feat that I cannot imagine. We may be nearing the light at the end of the tunnel  but it doesn’t mean we come out on the other side unscathed. This 12% is not a group I would have elected to add to my list and yet that is how it happened.

Pardon my mouth when I say this: this shit is no joke. And if you happen to know someone going through it, just keep that in mind.

We will never forget.

For more information (if you are going through infertility or just want to learn more), visit Resolve’s website. They can probably  manage to explain it without the use of curse words. 🙂

NIAW: Dont Be Sally – A Lesson in Infertility Etiquette

Disclaimer: I have not personally been on the receiving end of all of the comments below. This post is meant to bring awareness, but is also meant to be a tongue-in-cheek post. This is not meant to make anyone feel badly. This is written with the understanding that these comments are intended to be helpful. If I have insulted you, I apologize. However, I am blunt. I will not apologize for that. Here’s the thing: I get that you can’t know our situation unless we tell you. But once you do know, please just try to be sensitive. Just like you wouldn’t want me telling you to just relax when you find out you lost your job or say that “your loved one is in a better place” after suffering a loss.

Every infertile knows a Sally. (name not chosen for any particular reason)

Every infertile has a list of suggestions or comments that make us cringe. I personally rate them at three levels:

1. Eye roll – the mildly annoying but forgivable. These include:

  • “Just relax and it’ll happen” – yeah, tried that
  • “Oh my gosh if I even LOOK at my husband I get pregnant” – great for you
  • “Just get drunk and it’ll happen” *cough* tried that *coughstumble*
  • “Take a vacation and it’ll happen” – first, you have to take a vacation at the right time of the month, and if you happen to be like us and trying to save for an IVF, we can’t afford the vacation. Trust me, we WANT a vacation! (and may be able to get both thanks to IVF Vacations!)

2. Huge sigh – the moderately annoying but forgivable if its understood it came from the right place

  • “Just adopt” – I GET where this one comes from, and unless you’ve had any education on what adoption entails, it seems like a fair suggestion. I’ve considered adoption and in fact would like to adopt in the future. Just not right now. Adoption, however, is extremely costly, time consuming, and overwhelming. You have to go through a home study, a background check, answer questions about your relationship etc.  There are no match guarantees. They can fail just like fertility treatments. On top of that, you really have to be READY in mind, body and soul before taking that step. Just try putting yourself in our shoes – if the children you gave birth to never existed and someone said this to you, would you be ready?
  • “Just do an IVF” – although this is our current plan, sometimes I want to say “Ok great, you willing to give us 15k?”
  • “Take mine for a day – you’ll reconsider” – really? REALLY?
  • “Just be glad you get to sleep in” – I wake up at 6am on weekends anyway. Plus, come on!

3. Death stare  – did you seriously just say that?

  • “Maybe you aren’t meant to be a mother”
  • “Maybe that’s just the way it’s supposed to be” – I’m sorry, who died and made YOU God?

So back to Sally. (conversation is fictional)

You’re at a gathering, glass of wine in hand (thankfully), when Sally,who is more than likely no more than an aquaintence, walks up and starts a conversation. It begins honest enough. She introduces her husband and you introduce yours. You talk about how you met. She shows you pictures of her kids (probably on her Iphone – who has wallet pics anymore?) and then asks the infamous question – “so, do you have any kids?”

I’m an open person, so I typically respond something to the effect of “we’re trying, but haven’t had much luck”.

“Oh my Gosh!” Sally says, “if my husband even LOOKS at me I get pregnant. I mean, I was barely off the pill and BOOM!”

You stare, unsure of how to respond. She continues.

“You know what you should do? Just drink that wine and go get it on! You’ll get pregnant in no time. Just relax!

At this point I usually offer more detail – it’s been several years,we have a condition, etc.

“Oh, well why don’t you just adopt? Or do IVF? Technology is so crazy these days”

Insert short blurb about expense and stress of IVF and adoption here.

Oh, well don’t worry, you’re young, just enjoy being able to sleep in. It will happen when its meant to. In the meantime, you can take my kids for a couple of days – you might change your mind then! Maybe you are meant for something else – maybe this is the way its supposed to be.”

By the end of that conversation Sally has been on the receiving end of 3 eye rolls, 3 huge sighs and 1 death by stare.

Don’t be a Sally.

Death by stare is no fun.

For more information

April ICLW and National Infertility Awareness Week

Greetings ICLW’ers. I think its fabulous this months’ ICLW coincides with NIAW.  I love ICLW because it forces me out of my familiar blog shell to find other fabulous blogs I might have missed otherwise.

In our case , we will hit 3 years TTC this August (ugh). We are dealing with mild PCOS and male factor. DH is currently giving himself shots 3x a week of HCG, FSH and LH in hopes to improve sperm count. At this point we have enough (sperm) for IVF, which is something we’ve planned and put off a couple of times already due to other circumstances. At this point, we are seriously considering an IVF Vacation, because at least if it doesn’t work, we get a 2 week tropical vacation. (albeit the most expensive vacation ever)We are still trying to find out some details, but think that this is probably the way to go, even though it would postpone it for a few more months.

I wrote a semi awareness post a few weeks ago when I participated in the Analogy Project with my post Another Marathon, Metaphorically. I’m going to attempt to write several posts during this week including the theme “Dont Ignore Infertility”, however, I’ll probably end up with writers block with my luck.

Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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