Waving the White Flag (for now, anyway)

It was around this time last year I started this blog. And for a while I was pretty good at keeping up with it. Because things were happening, and I wanted to both “let it out”, and document the journey.

I haven’t posted in months.

So here’s where we stand.

We quit the doctor’s appointments. The medicines. The treatments. (Still getting the bills, though. I think I finally got the last one yesterday.) That was my husband’s call- he was just done. And now that I’m even a few months out from it all, I can more clearly see how exhausting it all was. 

Emotionally (although I can’t totally quit that part, let’s be honest). The stress of a failed natural cycle is so much less than that of a treatment cycle. And the absence of medicines and extra hormones clearly plays a role. Oh, I still cry. I still ugly cry even sometimes. But as a whole- I feel like I’m more emotionally stable. Hopefully my husband and closest friends would agree…

Physically. I don’t know how to describe this one. Maybe it’s 90% attributed to the nicer weather we’ve had now that Spring is here, making me feel more energized. Maybe it’s my commitment to that gluten free diet I started 6 months ago (that’s GOT to be it- surely I’m not just senselessly missing out on so many donuts!). I mean I’ve lost 5 pounds! I wore a dress last week that a year ago required Spanx underneath! Or maybe it’s that I’ve finally found that perfect combination of vitamins and supplements in my ever growing routine (insert eye roll…)

Financially. Ok this one is a slow process. The year of testing and treatments really added up (thanks for absolutely nothing, insurance!), and took a big toll on our bank account. I’m so thankful we’ve been able to keep up, and I know our costs pale in comparison to what some take on with more aggressive treatments. But it’s going to take us while to fully recover in this area. As a planner and overall worrier- I struggle with that immensely. Deep breaths, Ash… Moving on.

But here’s another totally huge reason we have taken a step back (and now even stopped trying completely): VACATION. My extended family planned a big cruise vacation about a year and a half ago. And it’s route- straight into Zika Country (cue horror movie scream track). I struggled with the idea of a break. For a long time. Actually up until the final payment was due last month. I know a lot of people would have advised us to cancel the trip. But we don’t do big vacations often. In fact we haven’t done a BIG vacation since our first year of marriage! That means our 4 year old has never seen the ocean. She’s never been on a plane. Heck we even had to get her a passport for this! Do you know how old I was before I needed a passport?!? (Yeah, yeah, the laws have changed since then, but still)

We knew we could continue to try for months and months and may still never get pregnant. But our little girl won’t be little forever. My cousin joining us on the trip will soon be in college- her brother just a few years behind. And they only see us every few years because they live so far away. The bottom line- the family that we have Right Now? Needs a freaking vacation.

So until after our trip and until we’re confident of being Zika-Free, we’ve waved the white flag in terms of trying to conceive. And will buy our weight in bug spray…

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Choosing to Let Go (daily)

“Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place” (Just Be Held, Casting Crowns, 2014)

(Listen to the whole song:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIZitK6_IMQ&sns=em )

No idea how many times I’ve heard this song, but this week it’s really hit home for me- and I’m making it my anthem for this new year. After 29 months of disappointment and heartache, I’m trying harder than ever to let go. Constantly reminding myself that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be and will have exactly the family that God has planned for us.

The best thing I can think to do going forward is to keep my heart open to new. A new year. New focus. Getting back to the happier version of my self. Being better. Accepting that none of this is the plan I envisioned for my family. Accepting that God is in control, and this is His plan. I believe whole-heartedly that this desire I have is from Him, and will be fulfilled- though it (clearly) isn’t the timeline I would have chosen, and may not even come about in the way I would have ever dreamed. 

God’s plan for our family is different than mine, but it is far better. 

This week we’re headed into our 3rd IUI. In my heart of course I’m hoping that “the 3rd time’s the charm”, but we also had to sit down and seriously discuss the possibility of it not.

With no help from insurance (pretty sure I’ve expressed that frustration before…) these cycles are not cheap. And anyone who has spent some time with Google knows the odds are far from a sure thing. After an emotional dinner conversation (my husband’s very favorite kind of discussion…) we made the decision to stop fertility treatments if we haven’t achieved pregnancy after a 4th IUI. It’s both terrifying and liberating to have an end in place like that.

 I have no idea what is ahead for us this year- but I know if I just let go and focus on trust, He will carry us through. Giving us the strength to press on if things don’t go our way, and guiding us into new territory if we are led down an entirely new path.

Crash and Burn

So if you didn’t guess it from the title, my first IUI was not successful. I knew the odds, knew that being that much more invested would make the fallout even more intense.

But perhaps I underestimated…the hormones.

Holy. Flipping. Cow.

I was weepy even before my period showed and dashed my hopes and dreams. Cried multiple times during Fixer Upper (I’m a die hard Chip and Jo fan, but it’s not normal for them to move me to tears).  So the next morning when the confirmation of failure appeared, I can’t honestly say I was surprised. And strangely enough- no tears at that moment!

But THEN. The Pharmacy.

The only thing more frustrating than this whole “journey” has been my monthly fight with the pharmacy to get my medicine on time. I should probably switch pharmacies, in all honesty. But they’re big and carry the meds I need, which isn’t always the case with fertility meds…

In the past my insurance (another source of unending frustration!) has refused to pay for some of the pills. It’s always a fun (sarcasm) surprise as the level of coverage seems to vary. One month they covered all but 2 pills. So I paid out of pocket for 2 pills. 40-something dollars each. 

Annoying, but pennies in comparison with most fertility drugs.

The following month my dosage increased (same drug, just more of it). The entire quantity was covered this time and I paid a whole $5. 

This month, same dosage as last. Called to see if it was ready and was informed that insurance was requiring a prior authorization from my doctor. For the exact same thing that was no issue 4 weeks ago. Quote from the rep, “insurance companies have the right to question your medication at any time, ma’am.”

I laughed. 

Of course they do.

Knowing that a prior auth. takes up to a week and I needed to start the medicine in two days, I called the Nurse (speed dial 1, if phones still did that) to see what options I had, if any. She said she would try splitting the prescription so I was filling 2 smaller quantities and hope it was approved that way. Otherwise I would have to pay out of pocket for the entirety (about $1000) or sit out a cycle to give time for the authorization to go through.

I was devastated. The only comfort after a failed cycle is the hope of a new one. Take that away (and at Christmas even!) and I couldn’t even handle it. Throw in the fun of CD 1 hormones… I was not anywhere near emotionally stable.

I sobbed. And I mean SOBBED. Ugly cry so hard I honestly almost vomited at one point (no joke!). I’ve NEVER done that before.

I took a few hours to calm down and then gathered the nerve to call my good pals at the pharmacy again. No one knew how to help me. I’m not exaggerating when I say I was passed around to 4 different people (explaining the situation over again each time) before I finally got some help. FINALLY. A competent rep read through the chart and was able to get the first half of the prescription filled. For $5. 

Back on track. Stress level: normal once again.

She promised the second half would be ready tomorrow. My fingers are crossed.

So here we go again. 

I rewarded myself and my leveled out hormone levels with some Retail Therapy with my favorite shopping buddy this morning.

  

  (If all those little red tags don’t make you excited- we can’t be friends)

And of course, new socks for the procedure coming up.

  

My first date with…a high-tech turkey baster

Yesterday we completed our first (hopefully ONLY) IUI. The process was simple, but from the outside looking in, super weird.

Earlier this week I had follicle scans that showed 3 dominant follicles. Hooray for Lefty finally deciding to show up after months of inactivity! 1 follicle on the left and 2 on the right. Best response I’ve had so far on Letrozole!

Thursday came and it was time for my trigger shot. This was the first time I’ve ever had to give myself an injection. I don’t have a fear of needles- but putting one in yourself really bumps up the intimidation factor! 
I called Jason in to help. He couldn’t do it- was too afraid he would hurt me. Ugh. Thanks a lot. So I put him on “keep our child out of sight while I muster up the nerve to stab myself” duty.

  

After staring at it for a few long minutes and WAY overthinking the whole thing- I went for it. 

And sure enough, all the internet stories were right- it wasn’t bad at all! I could totally do that again! (But at $150 a pop- lets hope not!)

Check that off the list of concerns.

Next up- Jason’s sample. He laughed awkwardly every time I would bring this up, claiming I was WAY more worried about this than he was. 

Go figure.

But seriously, we live too far from the lab to collect at home and bring it in…he was going to have to give it there. In the little room. Like you see in the movies or whatever. 

I thought of everything too- told him if he wanted I would look at hotels close to the lab…(which is kind of hilarious- but at this level of desperation…well…nothing seems like overkill).

He assured me it would be fine.

So Friday morning he got up early and headed to the lab, stopping for an egg McMuffin on the way, of course (have I mentioned I recently went Gluten free?!? Maybe that’s why that detail stands out so much to me). 

By 8:30 my worries had crept back in. What if he couldn’t give a sample? That happens, I know it does. Should I have gone with him? Maybe I should text him…but I don’t want to add any pressure… What if, what if, what if.

Then at 8:45 he’s back home. All was well, he took the long way home. Thought about stopping at The Container Store on his way home, but it wasn’t open. That would have been great- he’s out shopping while I drive myself crazy.

A few hours later, it’s my turn. “Text me your SSN because I’ll need it at the lab!” I remind him on my way out the door.

20 minutes later- still no text. 

Ugh. Seriously?? I send a reminder text. 

5 minutes later- I’m getting off the exit for the lab. Still no text. Time for phone call. I mean really, how hard is that? Why doesn’t his sense of urgency match mine in this situation?! Try to hide the frustration in my voice… “Okay I’ll send it right now!” Thank you.

I get to the lab and sign 17 different forms confirming that what I am picking up did indeed come from MY husband. They hand me the lab results and a bright red thermos containing the goods, and we’re on our way. Me and my 63 million (way to go babe!) precious passengers.

  

 (Terrible sun glare…sorry…)

I get to the OB-GYN’s office and get all ready for my doctor. She comes in and comments about my “great response!” to the meds this cycle. The entertaining part was when she added, “that was kind of my own concoction, the way we did the medicine this time! I’ve never done it that way before, but it worked!”

Happy to be an experimentation in ovarian stimulation, if it gets me a baby!

She opens the sacred thermos and brings me the vial and the paperwork to confirm (for the 30th time) that the sample is correct. It still is (or course I understand the seriousness of all this- they HAVE to have all these checkpoints-no “Jane the Virgin” storylines here!). She assures me that Jason’s numbers are great, and I watch as she sucks up every last bit of the pink fluid (yep, pink!) into the little tube (i.e. Sophisticated turkey baster, as Jason likes to think of it).

She explains the process. The nurse compliments my socks (they were new, of course. When you are paying your doctor to attempt to impregnate you, you buy yourself new socks for the occasion. Obviously.)

As she gets started, Doctor says “you might be able to feel this go through…can you feel it?”

Yes. I have to tell you- at that moment I was flashing back to my horrid HSG experience. That was the last time anything was in my uterus and I’ll tell you- she wasn’t happy. The pain wasn’t nearly as intense, and was much shorter-lived, but I could definitely feel cramping. It was just a weird feeling.

And then, just like that, it was done. Doctor said I could just chill on the table for the a few minutes, and did I want my phone, or a magazine? What better way to kill some time but to get the latest social media updates?

So 15 minutes later I was up and out the door. Funny, the way everyone in the waiting room stared at my bright red thermos (which I had to return to the lab) as I walked out. I can only imagine their thoughts:

1) Really? You had to bring your coffee to your OB-GYN appointment?!?!

2) What on earth did they give her THAT for?!? 

3) (perhaps the more knowlegable/experienced) Ew.

I’ll admit, people staring generally make me uncomfortable, but I was actually hysterically giggling inside over these. Go ahead, everyone. Stare at my bright red thermos. 

Oh, infertility. In between the tears, frustration, and broken hearts, we jest.

So now the waiting. I’m supposed to wait til day 34 to test. 34. It’s only day 16 now! 

No choice but to remain hopeful. We’ve done all we can, and went into this with the best odds possible for our situation.  Trusting God for the rest. 

Lucky Number (twenty)7

…or so I hope.

Since my last post I’ve completed a few cycles of Femara. I’ll say that when it comes to side effects- Femara is SO much gentler than Clomid was. While the hot flashes still exist- they seem to be much less frequent and less intense. My ovaries don’t feel like they’re about to burst at ovulation time. And since the Clomid was thinning out my lining and (ahem) drying me out (sorry!), Femara has both of those back on track. 

The not-so-great news? Well, while Clomid got me that second line on the first attempt (even though it didn’t last), my response to the Femara has been fairly mediocre. Last month I finally had 2 follicles, but the second wasn’t as big as desired.

But nevertheless, the plan for Cycle #27 gives Femara one last go. Kind of a weird dosage this time (7.5mg days 3-6, with 10mg days 7-9), but I’m hoping it will give a better shot at things.

The big kicker, though? This month we’re adding in a trigger shot and doing IUI.

That’s huge. 

[Disclaimer: Not in the world of infertility. Not at all the Major League stuff of treatments. More like, Double A stuff. (My husband would be so proud)]

But for me, its huge.

Because it’s the end of the road, really.  We’ve already made the decision not to take this any farther. We have no fertility coverage (do NOT get me started on insurance!!) so all of these expenses are out of pocket. A couple more thousand dollars is manageable, but $15,000 (at the very least) isn’t… We have a wonderful little girl that is proof it is POSSIBLE for us to have a child naturally. For our family, more invasive treatments just don’t seem like the right choice. So we have agreed not to go beyond a few attempts of IUI.

Yet it still terrifies me to think that this path we’ve been on for so long has an end in sight. That the end of this road may not result in the dream I’ve hoped and prayed for so long. 

My sweet daughter wants a little sister so badly. She picks out clothes when we go shopping and tells me “Mommy, I’m going to get this for my little sister” And somehow I manage to not completely fall apart in the middle of Target. (And yes, for what it’s worth, I’ve explained that a little brother is equally likely)

Can I really close the door on this? Honestly-I’m not sure I can. I know I won’t lose the desire for another child, so what will my life look like when I’m not actively pursuing that? The thought rips my heart out. 

So here on Cycle Day 2, I’m a mess of emotions (and hormones). Meds start tomorrow. I’m excited, because of the change of plans. I’m trying to be hopeful, because of the “extra boost” this plan will provide. I’m nervous, because of the unfamiliar territory (even though I’ve read every article ever written on the subject). And I’m praying like I’ve never prayed before that the end of this road isn’t a dead end.

Truly Caring: Lessons and Goals

Infertility is such an emotional struggle (understatement?), but I think if we allow it to affect us in even the slightest of positive ways- it can make us really understand and appreciate empathy. These past few years have showed me who my really true friends are- the ones who came along side and provided support, even when I’m a wreck and, well, not so fun to be around.

 In all honesty, we’ve kept our journey pretty quiet so far- only a few close friends really know we are in the middle of infertility treatments. Actually no one that I know personally (except hubby) even knows about this blog!  It’s not so much out of shame or embarrassment – just generally the topic only comes up within those relationships that go beyond small talk. I don’t typically offer up too much info when an acquaintance asks “so do you think you’ll have another baby?”

That being said, though, I still feel like I’ve come to recognize different levels of caring even within the small circle of those that know. You realize the true friends are not just people who say they care or “feel sorry” for what we are going through, but the ones who really SHOW UP. There’s such a difference between saying you care once and actually showing it! I’ve realized how much I really need my good friends and how much it means to have their comfort, concern, listening ears, distractions, and encouragement. It could mean meeting for coffee, sending a thoughtful card, or just keeping track of appointments and remembering to ask how things go and how I’m feeling. Little things, really.

 All of this has taught me look for opportunities to be that person for others who are going through something difficult. After all, I know I’m far from the only person around experiencing hurt. It could be a miscarriage, a death in the family, a serious illness- at some point everybody needs to be shown that somebody cares. 

And I get it- life is busy. Work, kids, keeping up with housework and laundry and everything else- it’s so easy to get wrapped up in my own stuff. And I know everyone else is the same way. I think we hear about people, even those we would consider friends, going through difficult times and we think, “oh man, so sorry to hear that” and genuinely have those caring feelings, and then our own life calls and we go on with our routines and before we know it, we’ve missed the chance to really do anything about it.

So I want that to become part of who I am. I want to be a person that truly cares and acts on it. To send a card, an encouraging note, a small gift to bring a smile- to just do something. And even more than that- to continue to care. To remember what it’s like to feel like the rest of world moves on, but you’re stuck. That people’s pain doesn’t just go away in a week. True caring remembers. I know that truly caring will look different depending on the relationship and situation, but there’s always something I can do. 

  

  So maybe that lesson is a silver lining to all of this. That this mess has helped me recognize a need to be more of a blessing to others. And as I sit waiting on what I’m convinced will be the end of another failed cycle…I’m grateful for a silver lining. 

A Blah Day

Not all the time, but every once in a while, you just can’t keep the hope up. Too many odds stacked against it, too much experience to back up the negativity, just too much infertility.

You have a day where you feel like your dream will never be reality. And not because it’s so far-fetched to be possible for anyone-nope, just impossible for you. Its a completely ordinary wish you hold on to, and yet, it seems completely eternally unlikely.

And because it seems so hopeless, you just feel like…blah. 

You’re unhappy. In a funk. Angry, maybe, even just a little. Jealous, of the rest of the world, to whom it comes so easily. Lonely, despite knowing there are countless in the world going through the same thing. Annoyed, by those who have no idea what this is like, and never will.

It’s enough to keep me away from Facebook (and even worse- to get mad at myself when boredom wins out and gosh darn it,  I’m reminded once again why I should’ve stay away). To make me not want to go places I know I’ll be faced with it head on. To avoid certain people that just being around can trigger painful reminders.

To just sit on my couch and spend hours online reading stories of others who had these same kinds of blah feelings, and DID go on to receive the “impossible” dream. And also stories of people who still haven’t, and maybe even felt blah for much longer, or even felt it even more “impossibly”.

Sigh. It’s part of the journey, yes, but not a good day.

So then I stop and do some Fertility Yoga, because THAT’S probably the answer…

Blah.