A Teacher’s story of IVF and having a child #NIAW2016

IVF – three tiny initials for such a long, expensive project.


Molly headshotI’m Molly, blogger at Blogging The In-Between and a writer for Finance for Teachers. While I write the “A Teacher’s Day In The Life” series, I also have a more painful story to tell – but one that has a good ending. IVF is a hard process to go through and Dave asked if I would be willing to write about it so all readers could fully understand it.


 

Our doctor recommended IVF after my fourth miscarriage.  All our previous fertility treatment attempts (Clomid, Bravelle, IUI) had failed without a pregnancy between them. My miscarriages had all started as natural pregnancies, oddly enough.

As getting pregnant naturally, or even with other methods, wasn’t working, the doctor thought IVF was the next logical step for us.  She thought I’d make a good candidate.

And so it began.

My final miscarriage happened shortly after Father’s Day 2014 (June 15th) and the post-IVF pregnancy test was scheduled for August 7th, so my WHOLE summer was nothing but IVF.  It was the longest summer of my life.

The decision to pursue IVF was followed by a whirlwind of activity, but it was nice to focus on something other than the fact that we had just lost another pregnancy.

The nurse at the fertility clinic recommended acupuncture alongside the treatment, so I made an appointment (June 28th).  The acupuncturist recommended using The Plan Diet to prepare my body, so I started a three-day cleanse as well.

 

Picture2I also had to order a bunch of meds and fill out a pile of paperwork.  My husband’s face paled at the office as the nurse went over the schedule, overwhelmed with what we were about to put my body through.

 

Meanwhile, I continued to prep my body for its impending hormonal onslaught – baby aspirin, folic acid, prenatal vitamins.  It also meant seeing the acupuncturist regularly and not drinking any alcohol.

 

My family and I go to a lakeside cabin every year for the Fourth of July.  Normally, it’s very fun and relaxing and a time we both look forward to.  However, this year, David and I signed our lives away on the screen porch, pouring over every detail and answering questions like “What happens to the eggs if you get a divorce?” and “Who gets the eggs if you die?”.  It wasn’t very “vacation-y”.

I remember feeling like the burden of responsibility fell solely on my shoulders. The drug schedule, the amount of drugs and all the other requirements were up to David and me. It felt like if I didn’t do EXACTLY what they said, if I moved wrong, ate the wrong thing or had a sip of wine before remembering I couldn’t, it would all be for nothing.  I have a very vivid memory of talking with my aunt about how difficult it was to stay on track with my pre-IVF diet while we were at the cabin.  It was crazy strict, and the only reason for it was to track what foods could be causing some inflammation in my body, which may or may not be one of the reasons why I was having a hard time keeping a pregnancy.  I told her I felt like if I had a piece of cheese or a burger, I would mess everything up.  Tearfully, she looked at me and told me that wasn’t true.  It was nice to have someone listen without trying to fix it.  It was nice to be seen and validated.  It’s difficult to see truth amidst the hate you have for your body.

Picture4When we got back from the cabin, the heavy stuff started. I can’t even remember the specifics of how many shots I gave myself and how often – I think I blocked it out.  I do know that towards the end of the process, I struggled to find a place for the needle that was not already bruised.  I also know that they’re not exaggerating when they say your ovaries will be the size of  grapefruits.

The things we’ll do for a baby.

Financially, we were very lucky.  My district has a good policy through Blue Cross Blue Shield, so a lot of the expenses were partially covered.  I had to pay a percentage of the medicine and tests.  In total, we spent around $1000 for IVF, which is approximately 4% of the cost.  Our insurance didn’t cover freezing the eggs or the cost to maintain them. The cost for this was approximately $1000 up front and then $500 every year after that.  We also paid $70 per visit for the acupuncturist.  A portion of this was reimbursed by BCBS, but we ended up paying $500.

 

Picture3You can’t possibly know the amount of medicine, or the extent to which you are expected to break your body and all its natural tendencies for IVF until you’re in it.

And you do it, almost without question or even pause to consider what this might do to you – physically, financially – because you want a baby, because you NEED to be a mother, because your heart is breaking over a dream it can’t attain.

You do it.  You do it all.  And the hope is so tangible, you can literally taste it, feel it, smell it – the impossibly soft skin, the baby lotion, the sweet kisses…

 

You have to sign a million forms about how you understand IVF can result in multiples.  And then you have to sign another form about how you understand the doctor recommends no more than two.

They talk about it like it’s some huge PROBLEM, as if you’d mind having more than one at this point, as if you care about the potential danger.  All you can think is “I hope so!  Give me ALL the babies!  I’ve waited so long, I deserve 2 or 3 or 4 for 1!”

As we got closer to the retrieval, it got more and more uncomfortable.  Sitting hurt, walking was slow.  You have to go in every day so they can draw your blood to check your levels and so they can do an ultrasound to measure your follicles.

Picture5You feel like a pincushion.  And invaded.

The day of the retrieval was incredibly nerve-racking.  They put you out though – twilight.

Another needle.  Another medication.

They wheel you to another room, away from your support system and make small talk while they set up.  Then it’s nighty-night – let’s see how many eggs we can grab.

I camped out on the couch, sipped Gatorade, and watched “The Killing” on Netflix.

More needles.  More drugs.

In my retrieval, they ended up getting 20 eggs, but only 10 were mature enough for fertilization.

When they do the transfer (where they put the fertilized eggs back in), you get to take Valium and they let you watch the procedure on a TV monitor.  “Take a picture – this is an important day!”

Then you go home and wait.

More needles.  More drugs.

 

“DO NOT STOP.”

 

I took a home pregnancy test (HPT) the morning I was supposed to go in for my bloodwork.

 

It was positive.

 

I went to the doctor, gave them more of my blood and then hung out with my mom and my sister until they called with the results

They said my hCG level was 18: inconclusive.  (An HPT will be positive at as low as 10.)

I had to go back in two days to check it again.  If it goes up, all is well.  If not, the babies weren’t surviving, most likely due to improper implantation.

Negative. Negative. Negative.

I miscarried during freshmen orientation and our in-service days for the start of the year.

I was devastated, but had to put on a brave face for the onslaught of back-to-school conversations that ensued.

“So!  When are you guys going to start having some kids?!” To say that that stung would be a severe understatement.

The icing on the cake: none of the embryos survived.  None.  Guess I won’t have that financial woe to worry about.

I hate that my IVF experience wasn’t a more positive one.  I don’t really know how I feel about it to be honest.

 

I was very, very angry. Heartbroken.

 

I didn’t schedule my follow-up appointment until almost two months later.  I was too mad.  They had some suggestions.  I registered for a marathon and told them I wasn’t interested in their suggestions.  I needed a break.

I did continue acupuncture, though.  I believe that and essential oils helped get my cycle back on track quickly.

I found out I was pregnant – naturally, no meds needed – on October 17th 2014.

Maybe IVF helped beef things up in there.  Who knows.

Financially, this was no small thing for us.  I know we were very lucky with my insurance, but, at the time we decided to proceed with the IVF, we were still paying off doctor bills and ER charges from the previous year’s miscarriages.  We owed the fertility clinic $500 from the other fertility treatments we had tried.  They made us pay that before they’d even let us make our appointments for IVF.  It was a lot of money all at once that we were not planning on.  That alone made it stressful.  We were so desperate for a baby, though, that we didn’t care.

 

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Even though IVF didn’t bring us our precious Baby Girl, it did teach us a valuable lesson.  We didn’t know why I was having such trouble carrying a pregnancy to term.  All of the tests the doctors did to try to figure it out came back negative.  Pursuing IVF and the other fertility treatments, while ineffective for us, did allow us to cross that off the list.  At least we tried those options.  IVF wasn’t our answer, but I know it is the answer for many couples struggling to add to their family.  My heart is with those walking this road, and I pray God gives you the peace and strength to endure the journey.