This time last year, I was having a lot of nightmares about our wedding. When brides before me used to say they had “wedding nightmares” I envisioned burning churches, wedding serial killers, or some Stephen King iteration of the big day. My nightmares were less dramatic, albeit slightly more terrifyingl: several times I visualized a grey and lifeless version of our venue, void of family and friends: they couldn’t make it, they forgot, they didn’t want to come…the list went on. Sometimes we sent the invitations out with the wrong date. In one dream, our guests came but there was no one around to help us get ready so it was basically an ordinary day with family and friends – no white dresses, no makeup, no DJ.
Don’t get me wrong: I recognize that those things don’t make a wedding. Our wedding was the pictures we took, the laughs, the hugs, the dancing, the food and drinks we enjoyed with our favorite people in this world. But, the DJ and the makeup may have helped to add that magical touch.
So the day came (and so did our guests) and we got married at a venue on a lake surrounded by about 120 of our family and friends. We are both Catholic and although we don’t go to church EVERY Sunday, our religion has played (and continues to play) a significant role in both of our lives. Although we knew that we would never marry in a church, we attempted to incorporate elements of our faith, and the year before – we attended an Easter vigil ceremony at which my wife’s sister-in-law was baptized as an adult. The church had a beautiful candlelit ceremony during which the candidates for baptism lit the candles of the church members nearest them, and the flame was passed on until the darkened church was filled with the light from about 200 candles. It took my breath away. My mother-in-law helped us to write a poem about the light my wife and I were sharing, and how it lit up the room in much the same way that its bearers lit up our lives, and we re-created the church scene in our secular venue, surrounded by people – many of whom didn’t understand our relationship in the past, or perhaps even now – but loved and supported us in spite of it, and in some cases because of it. And the day was perfect. Not at all grey. Not at all empty.
Now that the wedding is in the rear view mirror, the nightmares involve sad baby-less dreams. Last night I dreamed that we had arrived at our “implantation day” (I guess we fast forwarded through everything else) and the doctor casually inserted some sort of catheter-like device, pushed something out of it, and told us to come back the following day for a check up. It felt rushed, and impersonal, and…kind of grey. Can something feel like a color? Does that even make sense? Needless to say, we weren’t pregnant when we went back for our “magical 24 hour later” appointment and the doctor couldn’t seem to understand why we were upset.
I think this dream have been prompted by a rather disappointing visit I had with the doctor earlier this week for my internal ultrasound. Unlike my HSG appointment, I didn’t feel quite as rushed and was taken much sooner (not surprising since I was at the office at 7am). After stripping down and waiting on the table with a white paper gown over my lap, nervously sweating despite the chill that the air conditioning left in the room, I was relieved to see the doctor come in (and – even though I am accustomed to having female OBGYN doctors – I wasn’t a fan of the extra lady who had to accompany him in, but it is what it is). Before he started the procedure, I double checked (I really need to stop doing that) that he would be getting a “good” read on…well..whatever he was trying to get a read on, since I wasn’t come in on Day 3 of my period, and he stopped, looked really confused, flipped his notepad, and said, “well, wait…what day are you on then?” I reminded him that he suggested that I come in during the “first half of my cycle” (his email to me which was confirmed by his nurse when I called) and he asked what the plan was to get pregnant, and I reminded him that we wanted to use my uterus, my wife’s eggs, and a donor. “Uh, yes…” he started, nervously as he flipped through a few papers on his clipboard. “That’s perfect then”. He mentioned something about counting my follicles and checking the lining of my uterus, and then uttered my most loathed words at such an appointment, “now if you’ll just move down and put your legs up here..” as he motioned to the stirrups.
I hate internal exams. I hate the speculum only slightly more than I hate that little device they use at the dentist office that scrapes the plaque off of your teeth and makes your gums bleed while it emits a noise that is reminiscent of nails on a chalkboard. I REALLY hated the HSG test (which combined that plus an injection of dye that felt like it was made out of needles), but the internal ultrasound: not bad. Not bad at all.
So he showed me my uterus and said it looked good, and said that between both ovaries he counted about 18 follicles (I still don’t know exactly what it means and if that’s good or bad, but he sounded happy so I’m guessing it’s not awful), and he said that we could likely use my eggs or my wife’s without any issues. He then took some measurements of my uterus (or the lining – I mean, I don’t know how people can see a baby on those things let along a solid grey uterine mass that just looks like white noise on an old TV) but he then said, “If we get you pregnant, this is where the baby is going to go.” Hold on. Wait a second. Slow down. Dear Sir…I know this isn’t guaranteed and all, but I’m going to need you to demonstrate a LITTLE more confidence than “if” we get you pregnant.
So there was that.
And then after the appointment, I met with the clinic’s financial person (who I learned is a general financial adviser? consultant? Not sure on her exact title) and the lady we worked with at their other location was the IVF-specific adviser, and I explained to her where we left off and she stopped and asked what I did for work and suggested that I look into advocacy work as she was moved by my passion for our cause. She offered to follow up with the insurance company and triple-check that everything we’ve been told is correct, which was a fruitless effort as she called me back about 2 hours later to inform me that there is now some kind of form that has to be signed that verifies that we understand the stipulations of the state fertility mandate and that we are seeking care anyway (or something like that). Keep in mind that back in February/March, TWO CLINICS verified our benefits and said that we didn’t even require prior authorization let alone a formal document that had to be signed, so I’m calling BS here, but I’m honestly getting tired of fighting.
I think that’s why I ended up having that dream. So after all of that, the IVF adviser’s boss (so, if you’re following this blog…at all…is the boss of the woman from two entries back who we met with in the city) called me to confirm that we truly wanted to sign this form and confirm some of the specifics of our care, and I asked her point blank, if she thought that we were correct in pushing this given the experiences of our friends and the fact that the insurance company has given us so many different answers. She hesitated, and said she wasn’t really sure what I meant/wanted, and that our friend’s case was different because they had a medical need for IVF, despite not having demonstrated the “attempts” required by the mandate. (I would argue that we – too – have a medical need…I mean, we have no sperm, lady!) but she went on to say that if someone had a damaged tube (or something like that…I was kind of annoyed at this point so things began to blur) or low sperm motility, pursuing a less costly method of pregnancy such as IUI first would be fruitless, and thus – would warrant coverage due to the mandate. I was now livid, and feel kind of sorry because my frustration was misdirected at her, but I asked if a heterosexual couple in which the man had low sperm motility would automatically be granted IVF coverage over being required to pursue a sperm donor (which is much less costly for the insurance company although shitty for the couple) while we wouldn’t be entitled to IVF OR IUI coverage – even if we go out and buy our own sperm – she said, “yes, I believe that’s correct.” WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. F&$K.
So I stopped arguing at that point, because it felt pretty pointless. It would have been nice if she ended it with, “I get it. It sucks. I’m sorry.” but she went on with some clinical bullshit, so I told her we’ll just have to sink further into our research on self pay options, and hung up.
I also found out (which may be common knowledge but it wasn’t to us) that although we have a separate prescription company, that those companies typically verify benefits with the insurance company before offering coverage, so we would also likely be denied coverage for any of the required medication which we are being told will be another 3-5K or so (please share your secrets for securing them less expensively!!)
So it was a rough week, and it left a sour taste in our mouths about both the doctor and the billing team at our clinic, and depending on what the outcome is of our consultation with the doctor on Friday (during which we were supposed to be discussing our next steps forward) we may elect to check out another clinic before deciding who to pursue treatment with.
At this point, I just feel kind of sad and alone about this entire process (aside from my wife – who has been amazing and supportive but equally sad and frustrated with this process). I wonder if I am wanting something that is unreasonable or unfair, and if not – if it even matters as it now appears pretty clear that we won’t get what we want.
We plan to forge ahead with the self-pay options, but even that is frustrating with the differences in the co versus regular IVF packages (which we are discussing with the doctor on Friday).
So I was feeling pretty bummed about all of this, and then the dreams kind of freaked me out a little bit, and as I was sitting down to write this, the song “Dreams” from Heart popped into my head. In all likelihood, it was because I was thinking about ACTUAL dreams, but I like to think of it as some kind of positive sign. One night, a few years ago, my dad and I were driving and that song came on the radio. He smiled nostalgically and told me that it came on often when he and my mom would drive to her doctor’s appointments when she was pregnant with me, so maybe it’s my mind’s way of apologizing for it’s midnight shenanigans and letting me know that it thinks that this will all work out okay.
Yeah. That’s what I’m going to go with.