Sunday, December 8, 2013

Control Issues

When our last IUI failed this past January, my husband and I had to seriously examine our next steps.  Over the course of the last few years we had discussed our openness to adoption and IVF.  We are open to both.  My first choice is adoption, but my husband has expressed a strong desire to go for IVF before seeking out adoption.  Before this detour of our life began I would have tried to reason my way into having him see things MY way and I probably would have listened to what he had to say, but ultimately would still have been dead set on following the plan I thought was best.

Over the past year I began to recognize that I had some major control issues and have taken steps to rectify this.  One of these steps is to follow my husband's lead more often and  notably on the IF front.  To that end, when the IVF grant we applied for this summer was not funded, I asked him how he wanted to proceed.  He suggested we see what we can save over six months and see where we are at that point.  Six months gives a recovering control freak like me a lot of time to analyze.  During this time I have made great strides, great backslides, and found a place that still finds us without children or knowledge of what is around the corner but is filled with more peace (most of the time).

IF is not something I would have volunteered to endure, but I have to admit (in my mature moments) that there are things about this journey that I needed...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Health Care Debate

This post is not going to be a diatribe lauding praises for or expressing angst regarding the Affordable Care Act.  Rather I want to reflect on how IF is viewed by the health insurance community.

We, like many couples facing IF, have decent health insurance in many areas.  Our insurance covers diagnostics related to IF and if I was diagnosed with PCOS, Endometriosis or the like, it would help cover treatment.  However, once a diagnosis of Unexplained Infertility bubbled to the surface, we were cut off from insurance to assist us in fulfilling our dream of having children.

I can see both sides of this issue:

The Argument for Not Covering IF Treatments such as IUI & IVF:
  • These costly procedures do not serve as preventive care.  
  • Not becoming pregnant will not have a detrimental impact on my physical health.  
  • Even my mental health has withstood the storm with the support of my faith, family, and friends (in THAT order!).  
  • Technically it does not improve my current health in any way, shape, or form.
The Argument for Covering IF Treatments such as IUI & IVF:
  • It's not fair that other people can get pregnant and I can't and nobody can tell me why!  How do you like that for a scholarly argument:)?
  • These treatments are medical and compensate for something my body is seemingly unable to do

From a very simplistic viewpoint with very basic research, the evidence clearly speaks to why IUI & IVF is not covered by many health insurance companies.

That being said, I can't help but think there has to be a more affordable means for the nearly 10% percent of the population for whom assisted reproductive means would benefit.

What would it take?  Do we who live in the shadows with our IF need to speak out and create advocacy related to this topic?  Does there need to be more funding for research that would lead to more affordable means or increased rates of success that would not making me feel insane for taking a $15,000 gamble with 50% or less chance of return?   

Or, to play the devil's advocate...

Is it just utopian thinking that everyone who feels so inclined should have access to means to reproduce?  Should others be burdened with costs (through their insurance premiums) simply because my husband and I want to become parents?

Clearly I have more questions than answers on this front and would love to hear opinions from others.

So, what do you think?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"You don't have children..."

We have been very blessed in that very few people have asked THOSE questions of us or made THOSE comments to us.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  The ones where people with children (be them small or fully grown) make comments or, what they consider, good natured jokes towards those of us who are without children.

We have never been pressed as to why we do not have children or been reminded that we are not getting any younger.  We have not been provided unsolicited advice such as "just relax" or "I had a friend who adopted and bam the next thing they knew they were pregnant, so you should try that".  However, in two separate conversations yesterday I was met with the words "You don't have children so you wouldn't know..."-ouch!

This is such a rarity that I should be able to brush it off, and for the most part I have.  However, in some small way I am transported back to 5th grade.  When I was in 5th grade Benetton bags were THE thing (see pic below). 

In my house growing up food, shelter, clothing, etc. were never in question, but name brand anything was virtually nonexistent.  For months I watched as girl after girl in my class sported their new bag.  At school as we would unpack, pack up, and walk home each day I felt like an outsider until I had scrimped and saved birthday money, Christmas money, and quarters from the couch in order to buy the least expensive Benetton bag on the market.

Now, let me be clear, in the 20+ years that have passed since 5th grade I have evolved into a mature adult and have no desire to "keep up with the Jones'" be it in regard to material items or otherwise.  However, after the second dose of "You don't have children so you wouldn't know..." I definitely felt a kindred spirit in 5th grade me.

If only IVF could be financed through birthday money, Christmas money and quarters from the couch-sigh...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Age is Just a Number (or so they say)

Here I sit one week shy of my birthday.  Age can be such a central focus for us...

At 13 you become a teenager.
At 16 you can drive.
At 18 you can vote and are legally an adult.
At 21 you can legally drink alcohol

The above examples are cut and dry, but there are others that are much more dependent upon the community and/or generation in which you live...
  • Graduating college
  • Staring a career
  • Buying a home
  • Getting married
  • Having children
As a teenager I saw the timeline for my life as follows:

At 22 I would graduate from college and begin teaching.
At 23 I would get married and buy a home.
Somewhere around 28-29 I would begin having children.

The first prediction was accurate.  The others, not so much.  I met my husband at 25, got married at 30, purchased our first home at 31 and the age at which I will begin to have children is clearly TBD.  As time went by I did not stress (too much) about most of these timelines, but as many of us know time can be the enemy when living with IF.

The birthday that lies ahead is THE birthday.  The one that changes the statistics.  The one that, at the start of this journey, was so far away I didn't think would possibly become an obstacle because, while something told me we might have some difficulty getting pregnant, I never in a million years thought we'd be here.  But here is where we are.

I guess the good thing about statistics is, while they have minor things on their side like science and probability, statistics don't know me and statistics don't know my story.  Here's to hoping I can make the statistics shut up and allow me to enjoy me birthday in peace.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Not Yet

Despite my wonderful husband's loving decree that "this was it", this was in fact not it.  And so began cycle number 37ish (haven't actually been counting beyond the first year).

Strangely I am was not overly sad despite my resurgence towards a spirit of hope.  It just was what it was.

This is going to sound bizarre, but I am still not sure what hope is supposed to look like, sound like or even feel like at this point.  I equate it to a little kid who has asked for a toy for Christmas and 37 Christmases have passed without that toy appearing under the tree.   At first it was frustrating, then it was disappointing, then it was depressing, and now it just is. 

In place of the requested toy there have been other gifts--a renewed sense of faith and emerging sense of direction, a stronger marriage, time to devote myself to a job that I love-- to name a few.  It hasn't been all rainbows and lollipops, of course.  There have also been a few lumps of coal--cramps, acne, and envy of pregnant friends and colleagues seem to top that particular list.  Tis the season, I suppose.

I was speaking with a colleague this week who had lost his mother (who was well into her 90s) and at some point in our conversation the term "season of life" arose.  I used to see this season of life (aka IF)  as the season of waiting.  When I viewed it that way it felt like I was putting my life on and that everything else was secondary to waiting to having or adopting a baby.   I was constantly wondering if God was saying "no" to our request for children or "not yet" and felt until I had an answer I just had to wait.

In the last few months I have restructured my priorities and have actively tried to stop playing the waiting game.  Interestingly, during this time I feel the answer I had been awaiting has come.  And while I am still wrapping my head around what hope looks like, sounds like and feels like, I think I know have a sense of what peace feels like.  Not surprisingly-it brings much better feelings than the waiting game every did.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Club

For the first year of our journey, the only people who knew we were trying to conceive were my mom, my brother and a very close friend.  To my knowledge I had only one friend who had any struggle with getting pregnant .  Only 1 needed Clomid and after taking it for a few months was pregnant.  Everyone else I knew, friends and family, were able to get pregnant simply because they wanted to (or in some cases by accident).  I felt alone and during this time reached for empathy from message boards and blogs.  Knowing there were others in our shoes was helpful, but for me was not the same as knowing someone in our shoes.

As we began to explore the world of diagnostics and treatment I began to open up more with people at work.  There I discovered were men and women who had previously walked or had recently walked in our shoes.  These fellow educators were no stranger to IUI, IVF, drugs and other aspects of IF that those in mine inner circle were happy to listen to me drone on about, but didn't "get it".  The role I play at work is supervisory and while I get along well with these fellow educators I hesitated to 100% accept their invitations to talk whenever I needed to in the name of professionalism.  Additionally, all of these men and women were "on the other side" and had one or more children to call their own.

At about this same time, we decided to find a church and through church joined a small community group.  As I am sure God had planned, our group included a couple struggling with IF.  Their struggles are in a different vein in that they have experienced multiple miscarriages, but for the first time I was able to commiserate with a fellow IFer in person, over wine, whenever I needed.

Over the last year I have come to discover a few more friends who are walking their own IF journey.  I generally think of clubs as organizations people choose to join, but for some reason or another the words "Welcome to the club" comes to mind.  While this is not a club I ever would joined of my own volition I can say with certainty that I have discovered the following about the members of my local chapter:
  • They are tough as nails.  Even through their tears, there's a sense of hope and perseverance.
  • They are always willing to lend a listening ear and to share their perspective.
  • They are willing to answer any questions if it helps another on their path.
I am glad to have them in my life.  This stage of life would have been much bleaker without the club.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Waiting Game

I was at a doctor's office today.  A not-so-patient patient became agitated and went up to the receptionist to make the her aware that the appointment had been scheduled to begin at 9:50, she had gotten there 5 minutes earlier, and now it was 10:20 with a look that said "Now what are you going to do about it?".

I imagine the receptionist wanted to point out to her:

a.  I am not the doctor.
b.  I have no control over his schedule.
c.  You do realize you are in a doctor's office, right?

The not-so-patient patient ended her brief, but passionate, rant with a haughty "Well, that's not right.".   In retrospect I have been in the not-so-patient patient's shoes.  For the better part of three years I have become frustrated with the waiting game that is infertility.  First there is the bane of women TTC everywhere--the dreaded 2 week wait.

I can download an entire book to my Nook in less than 10 seconds.  I can make a nutritious dinner for two in less than 10 minutes.  I can travel from my home on the east coast to Hawaii in less than 10 hours.  However, it takes 14 days for my body to decide whether or not it is pregnant.  In our instantaneous society this part of the wonder of the human body feels unforgivable.

Sperm meet egg.   Egg meet sperm.  Congratulations you are now a zygote--get comfy.  Two weeks-really?!

When you multiply these 14 days times the 36 months we have been playing this waiting game, I just calculated and I have spent nearly half of the last 3 years waiting (Note:  For those of you who are good at math, I know you just rolled your eyes and said duh:). 

For a healthy part of that year and a half, I have been an agitated not-so-patient patient.  In reflection, I imagine that great receptionist who art in Heaven would love to point out to me:

a.  I am well known for my perfect timing.
b.  I will be the first to celebrate with you when it is your turn.
c.  You know I'm God, right?!

When you put it that way the only way I have left to say is "Well you got that right" and while the waiting game continues I can almost feel my haughtiness melt away.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How do you cope with hope?

I am by nature a glass is half full type of girl.  I believe in self-fulfilling prophesies and that if there is a will there is a way.  IF has tried its best to knock that kind of thinking right out of me.  There have been times IF has won and I have just assumed that pregnancy is not in the cards for us and there have been times when I have turned my thoughts to verses such as May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

But mostly there are the times that I don't know what to think or feel.  It has been awhile since I have shed tears over our plight or really felt anything other than "Yep, seems about right" when the cramps begin to roll in for a new cycle.  In reflection that mindset indicates a lack of hope and acceptance of our current state.  I now recognize that this defensive shield serves as my security blanket because until now I didn't think I could go back to that crushing feeling of defeat month after month.  I guess this defensiveness is best summarized by a word we all know well-fear.

I was never the little girl who thought there were monsters in my closet or the teenager who backed down from bullies, but I, for whatever reason, have morphed into a woman who is scared of what I may not become-a mother.  Admission is the first step right?  Well then I admit it's time to shed the blankie of nonchalance.  In order to do that I have to put my big girl pants on and re-introduce the word hope to my head and to my heart.    This will be easier said than done...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

What Am I Doing Here?

I was in second grade when I decided I would become a teacher.  I had received a “Teaching Kit” as an 8th birthday present and, while I cannot explain how, it solidified that plan.  Most of my work from that point revolved around caring for, educating, and doing my best to improve the lives of young children.  My first paying job was a babysitter, which  as a grew older translated to working in daycare centers and summer camp, when I was not participating in classroom observations or conducting student teaching experiences.  Upon graduation from college I took my first teaching job and over time recognized a passion for educational leadership which I felt would have a lasting impact on children beyond the walls of a single classroom and resulted in a Master’s degree in School Administration and a principalship.
            I cannot say with as much certainty the path that led me to my desire to become a mother. All I can say is that being a mother was never something I considered to not be an option.  I grew up as one of four children surrounded by a close extended family.  It never once dawned on me that my turn to become a mother may not come; however, that sense of certainty began to change in late 2010. 
As with all other aspects of my life, when my husband and I decided we were ready to have children, I was ready to hit the ground running.  My cycle was regular from the word go; however, months passed without success. Everything I read explained that it can take a healthy couple up to one year to conceive, and so month after month we waited expectantly to see if this was the month only to be systematically reminded every 26-28 days that it, in fact, was not our turn. 
            Exactly one year after we began to try to conceive, I set up an appointment and we began to undergo diagnostic testing.  Test after test showed nothing irregular, and so Clomid was offered as a possible solution.  Three months of Clomid resulted in only one late cycle which ended at day 31 with nothing but a negative pregnancy test and a lot of tears.  After the third cycle of Clomid we sought assistance from a well known RE. 
Additional testing  showed some numbers in the lower end of the normal range, but no irregularities which led to a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility”.  As a result, over the next year we explored treatment in the form of IUIs, Fermera and Ovidrel, undergoing a total of three cycles (March 2012, June 2012, and  January 2013).  For each of these the numbers and timing were what they should be, so with each one our hearts were expectant to just be crushed when my cycle arrived like clockwork on day 28.
After the third failed IUI, we were told that we could undergo a fourth IUI or move down the path to IVF.  We have chosen the latter.  However, without insurance this path is going to take time as we save for the possibility of achieving a dream that many of our friends were able to achieve with barely a second thought.
For reasons that are not fully clear, God has granted us with a lot of time to think.  As a result, I am going to use some of this time to reach out to fellow travelers down this less traveled road.  Many of the blogs I read are from women who have traveled down this road, but have reached their destination.  I guess I feel it is my turn to step out and to be a voice for those of us whose destination is not yet in sight.  That is the short story long of what I am doing here.