The rest of our hospital stay.

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind. I’m sitting here writing listening to the soundtrack of my breast pump churning and wheezing and the little peanut is across the room cooing in her Rock N’ Play (which has been a Godsend since this child won’t sleep in many other places). I’m hoping that her little chirps are just indicators of sweet dreams and not the signs of her waking as I’m not even close to being done everything I intended to work on this afternoon.

Plans.

Go.

Out.

The.

Window.

When you have a newborn.

I mean, I knew that. People told me that.  But – I still thought my child might be different.

I can’t believe she has been out of my body for more than two weeks. Three weeks ago, I would have struggled to recall what life was like before my big belly. I didn’t remember what it was like to be able to paint my toenails, or shave in the shower, sleep on my stomach, or savor the rich taste of a glass of merlot. Now I’m struggling to recall what those tiny kicks felt like, or the weekly drives to the doctor’s office for my nonstress tests, or the round fullness of my pregnant belly.

I miss it SO much, sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong: I love that she is lying across from me. I love her tiny noises, the way her mouth curls up into a smile randomly (and then uncurls just as I grab my phone to take a picture), or the way she purses her lips with milk dripping from the corners when I pull her away from my breast.

I love how she wags her head and shakes her fists when she doesn’t get food fast enough: it’s like she is already demanding a space for herself in the world…asserting her needs…helping me to understand life on her terms.

But its not the same as when she was inside. She’ll never be as safe and secure. I’ll never be quite as full of life. We’ll never be physically connected ever again. And that made me just a little sad when it all finally set in.

The first night home from the hospital was hard.

Well, the hospital itself was hard.

Hadley was born at 7am, and I didn’t get to hold her until about 6pm that evening (I think…everything was a blur at that point due to the sheer exhaustion of having been awake for almost two days straight with short cat naps in between). They wheeled me in to see her in the NICU for the first time around 9am, I think. I watched her through the glass dome of her incubator and was only able to hold her hand and push her pacifier back in when she began to cry (which made ME cry). The soundtrack of our first official meeting was the bubbling noise of her CPAP machine, and all of the beeps from the monitors she was hooked up to. She had a tiny bruise on one hand from where they tried to insert an IV but failed (and she had one to match on the other hand once they finally removed her IV).

I asked if I could hold her and the NICU nurse scolded me: reminding me that she needed that time in the incubator and that the doctor would tell me when I could hold her.

That was so hard. She was MINE – just mine – for nine months. I knew her rhythmic kicks and she knew my heartbeat. And all of the sudden she belonged to a NICU nurse and I was simply a visitor.

I had a really tough time with that entire experience. I felt like I didnt know my child when she came home from the hospital and it hit me like a ton of bricks when I finally considered how traumatic her departure from me was after her birth.

My labor was so fast and intense and she came rocketing into this world quicker than I had a chance to process. Then she was whirled away to be measured and assessed while I delivered the placenta and got stitched up.

I was so bone tired that I didnt really process what was happening:

That we didn’t get to delay her cord clamping to give her a few extra minutes to build up her iron supply.

We didnt get skin-to-skin right away to give us a chance to bond and get to know each other.

I didnt get to feed her right away to help us bond and help my milk supply to come in faster.

I really didn’t “meet” my daughter until much later.

I joked that they could have taken my baby and given me back another and I wouldnt have known the difference.

That sounds horrible, doesn’t it? What mother doesn’t instinctively know her baby. But I felt like I didn’t. And that made me very sad.

I know everything was done in her best interest. I know she is healthy and more importantly – alive – because of the efforts of that medical staff. But it was still hard and emotional.

Before she was released from the NICU, I was able to see her four more times. That evening around 6 they allowed me to feed her after a lactation consultant visited me in my room earlier in the day for a lesson on breast feeding and pumping (thank God for that woman because breastfeeding is harder than it looks….more on that, later).

We went back with both sets of our parents later that night and again in the middle of the night to breastfeed. We went back for one final visit the following morning to feed her and give her a bath. I thought I knew how to bath a baby, but apparently there was more to it than I knew (like: wash the face first and dont use the same part of the cloth to wipe their eyes twice).

Around 4pm that next day (Sunday as I would later learn…what a blur of a stay) they brought her back to my room. She was all bundled up in the standard hospital blanket with a purple knit hat. I still wonder who made that – it gave me some comfort that she was adorned with something cozy and personal during part of her NICU stay.

They let us know that night that her bilirubin levels were high (which means that she had some jaundice) and they recommended phototherapy which commenced on Monday and earned us an extra day in the hospital. Fortunately, they allowed us to “room in” with Hadley so we didnt have to leave her and we were all able to go home together on Tuesday.

If you’ve never experienced phototherapy for a newborn: it looks cool but is actually torture. She had to lay on the equivalent of a bright tanning bed with foam goggles and she had to be naked (sans a diaper) and be swaddled down to the surface of the light board.

She hated it and cried hysterically all day, which led to us frequently picking her up to feed and comfort her which led to an extra 12 hours with the light when they came to re-test her later that night. In the middle of the night she was pretty much over the whole ordeal and cried hysterically at which point I said, “screw it” and swaddled her (against the rules since her swaddled skin wasnt exposed to the light). She slept soundly for two hours at which point I woke up in a sweat, terrified that I hadn’t heard her in two hours (the longest we’d gone with silence before that on the light treatment was about 20 minutes) and I was to find her not breathing. Both she and my wife (who was sleeping on a cot next to her) were sound asleep. Evidently the swaddle session helped her to reset and I was able to get her to sleep for the rest of the night without any major issues. No more two hour stretches but I think she slept for an hour at a time which was great.

I was super nervous for her morning blood test after basically removing her from the light for two hours, but I wasnt torturing the kid any more than she needed to be: we all needed that sleep and she desperately needed that comfort after the rough start to her life.

Fortunately she passed both that as well as the following blood test and we were discharged that afternoon.

That Monday (the day of the phototherapy) was HARD. I didnt leave the room all day and it rained so it just left me feeling very down. It was also tough because we had almost hourly checks from various hospital staff throughout our weekend stay, but that stopped on Monday when I was discharged and just “roomed in” with my daughter. The peace was nice, but when you have a newborn (especially a sick one) it is nice to just talk to other people. It helped me maintain sanity and normalcy: even though I didn’t know any of the staff particularly well.

When I got home from the hospital I cried a lot the first few days. I thought I would transition gracefully into motherhood: I’ve wanted this my ENTIRE life. But everything made me cry. Signs of my pregnancy like the big U-shaped pillow on the bed that had been my best friend for the prior two months. Or the look of my deflated belly in the bathroom mirror complete with stretch marks that I hadn’t really seen as they were on the underside of my belly prior to Hadley’s birth. It looked like a basketball that had been used too hard in its final game and was now deflated – sitting on the sidelines.

Even the sight of Hadley’s bedroom made me sad. We decorated it in hopeful anticipation and having her home was so scary: I didnt know what she wanted or needed in those first few days, and everything was so overwhelming.

I also wasnt making enough for her to eat which was nerve wracking, and likely was related to the fact that I didnt feed her for the first 12 hours of her life. I’m still struggling with breastfeeding, but I think that warrants it’s own blog entry.

Despite all of these challenges and the hecticness with which her life started, the love I feel for this child is indescribable. Even though I get so overwhelmed when she cries (mostly because I never truly know the reason), I know that the reasons are so basic: food, sleep (or lack thereof) and comfort. That’s basically it. She is so innocent and full of possibility and hope and I want to keep that alive in her forever. I want to meet any need that she ever has before she has it. I want her to see the world as beautiful, and kind, and loving. I want to ensure that she never knows hunger or pain or heartache. I want to wrap her in my love every day for the rest of her life.

I guess that’s what  being a parent is, right? Loving and supporting your child through everything, and taking the bad moments on the chin: knowing there are more good ones to come.

If that’s not it: let me know when you figure out the secret, will you? 😊

In the interim: some pictures of our little love:

 

39 weeks: almost at the end.

When I last left off writing, I was getting ready to go into battle with a giant mosquito and a serger. Bug lovers….cover your eyes for this part:

The mosquito met an untimely demise. Hey, it was either me or it, and I’m not savvy (or fast) enough to go find a jar and somehow manage to catch it and slide a paper underneath it and release it outside. And anyway: I don’t want any mosquito born illnesses either. So I squished it with a fly swatter and that was that.

The serger made out better. I threaded it in about 10 minutes, and quickly whipped up a knit receiving blanket, followed by a baby hat and finally a pair of pants.

Alright, so I made the blanket that day, the hat a few days later, and the pants about a month and a half after that, but I did it. whalepantshatblanketI am hopeful that the pants will fit well and plan on making more. It was a pretty cool pattern I found from a website called Baste and Gather and the pants are called “Baby Got Back” as they have an extra panel in the rear for babies with larger cloth diapered booties. I have heard that some pants fit poorly with cloth diapers so I’m excited to try these!

(P.S. the whale pattern that is going one way up one leg and the other way down the other is um…intentional. Yes, I meant to do that 😉 )

http://www.basteandgather.com/blog/free-sewing-pattern-baby-got-back-leggings-for-cloth-diapered-babies

I then made another set with a head band, knot cap, and a big receiving blanket to match a set I had seen online for about 4x the price. I thought it would be cute for photos in the hospital as I’ll have a somewhat-matching navy blue bathrobe to wear in the hospital. We still aren’t sure if babes is a boy or a girl, but are ready to go with a little bow just in case. I figured a BLUE bow would somewhat be breaking stereotypical gender norms, right?

bowhatblanket

 

So we are at Week 39. Overall, I’ve had an uneventful pregnancy (which is just fine by me since the rest of my life has had enough events for me AND baby). After the shower, I started to get nervous that some symptoms that showed up would be staying for the remainder of the pregnancy (I had some pretty severe pain in my left rib at one point, heartburn, and some back pain while sleeping) but everything ended up being mild and short lasting. I feel like one of the luckiest pregnant women. I am actually really sad that its almost over.

Tomorrow will likely be the last full day with baby inside. They are inducing me tomorrow evening due to the single umbilical artery (the recommendation is to not exceed your due date with this diagnosis and since I’m due on Sunday the latest they wanted to have the delivery is Friday – hence a Thursday evening induction).

I’m feeling a decent amount of pressure. I had a doctor’s appointment this afternoon and they did a membrane sweep along with my standard cervical check. I’m hoping that helps to bring on labor without the drugs: I’ve heard that pitocin inductions are much more painful than regular deliveries.

Doctor said that I’m 80% effaced, a little more than a centimeter dilated, and that baby’s head was pretty low. In fact, both he and the doctor who checked me last week said they could touch the baby’s head during my cervical check. I’m not sure if that’s normal or not, but I can totally feel that pressure when I walk or sit.

This baby has been so chill throughout my pregnancy, though. They move regularly enough for us to feel comfortable that they are safe (though we did have a “scare” or two that was quickly quelled by our doctors and a brief kick count), but I haven’t had anything crazy. I’ve heard of women being woken up in the middle of the night. This baby has done that maybe three times this entire pregnancy. The kicks are usually pretty gentle and always make me smile.

I don’t know if I’ll feel differently after delivery, but I really think that after we complete our family (which we are still discussing how/when we want to) I’d like to be a surrogate for another couple who can’t have their own baby: particularly a gay couple if I can. I think it would be something wonderful that I could do with a body that seems to tolerate pregnancy relatively well, given the hardships we’d encountered to get here.

I had no gestational diabetes, my blood pressure has been excellent, I’ve felt great, I didn’t gain a TON of weight (though I did increase six pounds from last week to today which is odd given my overall weight gain of 40 pounds) and I just think it would be a cool gift for another couple. Again – may feel totally different in a few days after giving birth, but it’s a thought for sure.

In the meantime, I’m thrilled to meet this babe and absolutely terrified of labor. I don’t tend to tolerate pain well, and I’m just so afraid that I’ll chicken out and not be able to go through with the vaginal delivery. Women have told me that you find strength that you didn’t know you had during the labor process: I just hope that is true for me, too.

We finished the peanut’s bedroom. I’m attempting to incorporate some minimalist concepts into our lives, so even though we already have a lot of baby “things” as a result of our shower, we’re really trying to minimize any other nonessentials that we bring in to keep down the clutter and focus on things that really make our lives better. I’m happy with the neatness of the room and am hopeful that we can keep it this way as baby grows. I love to watch YouTube videos featuring minimalist lifestyles – some of it is a bit too advanced for me, but I love incorporating as much as I can. I welcome any suggestions that any of you may have! Would also love any cloth diapering tips if any cloth diapering mamas follow me here.

(please ignore the backpack and items on the floor. I was packing the babe’s hospital bag and really just wanted a quick picture before I finished this blog.)

babysroom

 

I really need to get better with my updates. Wishing you all well and I can’t wait to update this blog with a birth story and vitals on the baby after tomorrow.

xoxo

Baby shower, birthing class, and new crib (oh my).

I’m sitting in the glider in baby’s room side-eyeing the brother 1034D serger that is sitting on the desk across the room like the evil villian in a super hero movie just waiting for me to make my first move.

(Can you tell I’m dramatic? In all seriousness, though, new projects are HARD for me to start. I sew regularly – nothing fancy – and I really want to use this to make a few blankets and cloth diaper inserts that I found patterns for online, but I’m so intimidated by the threading and can’t figure out how to even slip my fabric underneath. I felt like I had maybe hopped up to Level 200 sewing, but feel like an novice all over again with this machine).

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(The offender in all its evil glory)

I’m going to commit to figuring it out and at LEAST sewing a test piece after I finish this entry. Hold me to it, blogging world. Make me show you the next time I post.

Anyway, our families threw us a beautiful baby shower two weeks ago at a local pizzeria. Unlike our bridal shower, it was very casual. Everyone dined on pizza and salad at their leisure along with wine, the best cake ever (from my family’s favorite local bakery) and homemade Italian cookies made by some of the women of my wife’s family.

We got to catch up with many people we hadn’t seen recently and got lots of great advice from both new and experienced mamas.

I have to say: there wasn’t a single moment when I felt like we weren’t every other couple in America who was getting ready to welcome a baby. No one asked how we got pregnant, or who the donor is, or anything that you wouldn’t typically ask a straight couple. Overall, the only people who seemed comfortable enough to ask us those questions throughout this process anyway have been close friends and family – so I’m not entirely sure why I was expecting that.

Despite being wonderful, it was an exhausting and slightly overwhelming day and four hours felt like it passed in 45 minutes. We didn’t really get any photos with any of our guests (or even as a couple with the exception of a few candids as we opened gifts) but my wife snapped this one afterward. The pose was intentional as we took the same one with my sister when she was pregnant with my niece. I want to put them side by side in a frame and get one made for each of us.

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I wish I had a photo to share of the baby’s room after the shower. My wife – a self proclaimed neat freak – was almost hyperventilating when all of the boxes and bags were unloaded after the shower. Fortunately, I’m a master organizer and it only took me 5 days to get everything unboxed, sorted, and put away. We are so fortunate to have such generous friends and family and – aside from clothes – really have everything we need for most of the first year of baby’s life. We also bought quite a few of our big ticket items ourselves (many via a local yardsale site, and others from Babies R’ Us as they wrap up their final days before closing). I actually just ran out last night to get a second convertible car seat (we have one infant car seat and two bases, but only thought to get one convertible car seat initially, which is silly as you can’t take it from vehicle to vehicle easily). It was a $300 Chicco Nextfit IX and ended up being $150 as it was marked down 50% at BRU.  Our other carseats and stroller are Britax (which we selected due to the superior safety ratings, but BRU didn’t have anymore Britax models and we read great reviews about this Chicco) and we have a wonderful neighbor who works for emergency services and is trained in carseat installation who offered to help us set everything up.

One of our FAVORITE Babies R’ Us finds was our highchair (which we registered for and promptly removed from our registry when we found it at Babies R’ Us). It is a Stokke Tripp Trapp High Chair (in the Walnut color) and it was initially $250 and we found one left at Babies R’ Us for $100 at the beginning of their going out of business sale. I couldn’t believe it, and can’t wait to try it out. It is designed to grow with baby and turn into a stool and even a child to adult chair once the tray and baby set (that we received as a gift from a relative) are removed.

We (mostly me as my wife already does a good job with this) are trying to be minimalist in our approach to baby gear and find items that can be reused and not tossed out, donated, or sold (though we are open to the last two when necessary). I really pushed her past her comfort zone when I insisted on cloth diapers and she is extremely skeptical but excited after seeing all of the cute patterns and different diaper designs. Since I’ll be home for the first three months, I’m going to have to work really hard to keep up with the laundry and prove that we can do this. I’m fortunate that if I sent anything up with enough solid evidence for my wife, she’ll usually support me, but I absolutely have to respect how neat she is and work hard to stay on top of the maintenance of the diapers so she doesn’t get overwhelmed and throw in the towel. Plus they’ll save us a significant amount of money, which we can use in other ways for this baby.

Our childbirth education class was last weekend: we were the first of four couples to arrive and were greeted by our instructor as we stepped off of the elevator to look around for our conference room. My wife was carrying the two bed pillows that we were instructed to bring and the woman asked if we were each expecting. When we said we were not, she asked if we were a couple, to which I responded, “Yes, but it’s just me who is pregnant. She’s just carrying.” Then I realized how awkward that sounded before I added…”the pillows, not the baby.”

Fortunately, the awkardness didn’t continue throughout the day, and the class was actually very pleasant (albeit terrifying at times) and we learned about breathing and relaxation techniques before touring the state-of-the-art hospital including the birthing rooms and postpartum wing of the hospital. It was kind of surreal standing in the room in which we would soon be welcoming our baby (or one just like it, at least).

While we were in class, my brother-in-law sat at our house and waited for our crib to be delivered. We arrived home to the delivery folks putting it together (an unexpected but much welcome surprise!) and we were able to put in the mattress, launder the bedding, and dress it up afterward. The finished product (which is a deep navy blue but is looking very black):

 

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(yes, yes, we know. Pillow and bear come out of the crib before use. Also: don’t mind the messy desk next door. It’s getting cleaned up and moved). 

The entire process of getting a crib was quite an ordeal (Long story short: We ordered our first crib from a company called Evolur via Amazon. It was slated to arrive in 5-8 weeks. About 4 weeks in the order was cancelled due to no inventory. Why they took the order in the first place is beyond me. The Amazon rep generously offered me free shipping if I wanted to order another crib on the spot while I was on the phone with her, but I had to explain to her that I did hours of research and couldn’t pick a crib on the spot, plus I already got free shipping as a Prime member). Then I wrote a long letter to Evolur basically explaining how disappointed I was and asking if they could double check their inventory. They didn’t find it necessary to even acknowledge my email. So I wouldn’t recommend furniture orders from either.)

The story has a happy ending though, and we are thrilled with the crib we DID get (not from Amazon or Evolur).

We’re waiting for our changing table and a toy box we’d purchased from that same local Yardsale site, as we hired a woman to paint them for us to match the crib. Once those arrive, we can finally start to put everything back together.

In the meantime, we have an ultrasound on Thursday, and I always hate to say this when people ask, but I really feel great overall. I get a bit of heartburn here and there, had some rib pain earlier in the pregnancy, had some nausea in the first 12 weeks, but nothing serious and nothing lasting. I would say the hardest part of this entire pregnancy (aside from the SUA diagnosis and routine fear about baby’s general wellbeing) was having two colds and not being able to breathe at night.

I do get a tad restless at night sometimes and have to pee pretty much all the time, but other than that I feel great and so incredibly fortunate. I’m sure the tough times are ahead, but I’m trying to enjoy every moment leading up to them (and we DID have our share of heartache throughout our IVF process and with our first pregnancy so I’m feeling extra fortunate for a calm 2nd and 3rd trimester so far).

Okay. Back to battle with that serger (and a VERY large mosquito that I just saw wandering around baby’s room before I lost sight of it and retreated from the room with my laptop before closing the door behind me). I guess I’m up for two wars this morning.

Wish me luck…

The week is here!!

We each had checkups yesterday (ultrasound and bloodwork…the new usual) and got calls from our nurse in the afternoon about next steps.

My wife currently has follicles averaging between 9 and 15 (millimeters? I don’t know what the unit of measure was, but 9 and 14 were the numbers they gave us) and they said that the necessary size for retrieval is between 18-23. (Side note: after reading as many blogs as I have, I really thought by this point that I’d have the IVF lingo down pat, but I still feel like I’m struggling to remember the terms every day!!)

They anticipate her going to retrieval on Tuesday at the earliest, and Thursday at the latest. As long as the embryos develop as they are supposed to, my transfer would be about five days after: so sometime between Saturday and Monday of next week.

My ultrasound and bloodwork went well – I thought my estrogen level of somewhere around 260 was high, until my wife told me that hers were over 800. We’ve made a competitive joke out of who has bigger follicles, higher estrogen levels, and more shots – but I told her that if this goes the way it is supposed to, I’m totally okay with her levels being higher right now.

Our doctor was on vacation during our last appointment, but the nurse who did our ultrasounds and bloodwork noticed a small pocket of fluid in my uterus – she asked if I was still bleeding (I wasn’t – it stopped over a week ago) and she said that perhaps it was mucous (gross!) and when our nurse called me later with my results, she said that she isn’t too concerned but that they’d evaluate me the same day as my wife’s retrieval and if the pocket is still there, they’ll watch it closely but continue on with our plan and have me start the progesterone that evening.

Last week, my wife and one of the only friends we have clued into this process (the one who is also part of the IVF club) went to pick up our sperm and drop it off at the clinic. This woman is a saint: she’s struggling on her own IVF journey, and she willingly took off half a day from work with my wife (since I don’t have the ability to do so right now) and accompanied her around town with what is essentially a gigantic icicle capsule that is the current home to our tiny vial of sperm, and she was greeted by messages of “congratulations” and “hello Mrs. ____” (they thought that she was me at the clinic and the sperm bank since it wasn’t the office we normally go to for our clinic, and I’d never been to the sperm bank).

We were hoping to save $200+ by picking up the sperm ourselves, but my wife ended up getting a $70 parking ticket outside of the cryobank’s office, so I suppose that $130 and a bunch of hilarious stories will have to suffice.

Next up is a 10am appointment tomorrow, during or shortly after which we will be advised on which day my wife’s retrieval will be. Either way, SO CLOSE!

Keep sending us your positive vibes, prayers, or whatever you use to send love out into the world – because we can use them and will be so grateful (and of course – back at you all as well!)

You get what you need.

So we made the last payment on our IVF treatment without any real pomp and circumstance (thank goodness!)

When I arrived at my appointment yesterday, they took my credit card and I felt it heave and sob a little as I handed it across the desk, but I patted it on it’s shiny silver back (or was that its belly?) and reminded it that this is all for a good cause (at least….we hope. Pray for us.)

Anyway, I had my bloodwork and ultrasound and was advised that everything is progressing perfectly. My uterine lining was thin (due to the lupron), I had no mature or dominant follicles (normal for this stage in the “cycle”), my estrogen levels were within the appropriate range,  and I had no cysts (which the doctor said can sometimes result from the drug). Long story short: we’re looking good, so far! I started estrogen last night, which couldn’t have come at a better time as I had been relatively asymptomatic the entire time I was on the lupron aside from the last two days or so. I had bad headaches, felt lethargic, and really grumpy. I honestly thought it was stress, but I definitely think it was the lupron after talking with one of the nurses at our clinic. She said that I should feel better once the estrogen was reintroduced, and sure enough – I woke up this morning feeling like a real person again!!

Follow up appointment is scheduled for Friday, and my wife will have her baseline visit that day as well and start her injections either that day, or shortly after. We should be ready for retrieval in roughly TWO WEEKS with transfer shortly thereafter! My wife is picking up the sperm from the cryobank tomorrow and delivering it to our clinic (which is costing her 1/2 a day at work, but is saving us roughly $200!)

When I called the bank to set it up today, the woman asked which of the seven specimens we ordered I would like to pick up. I was like, “um…aren’t they all the same?” To which she replied, “oh yes, all from the same donor, but they were collected on different dates.” I told her to pick the one that looks like it has the highest likelihood of getting me pregnant. I was totally kidding and expected her to laugh, but she remained serious and probably thinks I’m clueless to how this entire process works. Oh well.

In the meantime, I mentioned in a prior post that my wife and I were going to casually glance at houses….and by casually, I totally meant stalk an open house for our dream home a few blocks away two Sundays in a row. (I didn’t want you to judge me – we have a lot on our plates and adding “buying a home” to that list is ludicrous, and possibly a little irresponsible, but we decided to look anyway). This home is absolutely perfect for us – it is a perfect size (bigger than what we have now, but relatively small overall, with a decent size back yard and close proximity to an adorable little downtown area with shops and restaurants that we already frequent and love walking to when we can). We’d be upgrading from a two bedroom condo that is working for us now, but will force us to get rid of a lot of furniture for a baby (which we will totally do, but would prefer if we could just have another bedroom).  The location is so prime and would be absolutely perfect for taking lots of stroller walks, park visits, farmer’s market shopping trips, and winter walks when it’s too much work to get in the car and drive in the snow.

BUT…..

After we crunched the numbers, it would be too tough to swing the monthly mortgage payment after we factor in what it will cost us for daycare. That is: if we are fortunate enough to get pregnant. We want to be completely prepared and feel comfortable. We’re comfortable now, but not loaded – and, I mean, isn’t everyone just a few paychecks away from being broke if they were to loose their job? I don’t want to live like that.

I just really want that house.

poutyface

Guess that goes back to my last post. Life isn’t always fair.

I got to spend last Saturday at my sister’s house, which is definitely too small for me, definitely in too remote an area for me (I need close neighbors – if I can’t throw a stone from my door and hit their house, they live too far), and definitely not anything like I would want for myself. But when I was there this weekend, sitting between piles of laundry, after stepping over the toys that litter the floor, and knowing I had to leave early because their spare bed got the boot when the guest room was converted into a second nursery to make room for my other niece, it was perfect. I scooted some laundry off of the rocking chair, and settled in with my chubby little niece snuggled up on my chest, and we fell asleep together: in the middle of the chaos, in the house that isn’t perfect, listening to crickets chirp, drowning out the resounding quiet of their little dead end street in the woods. I woke up to my other niece shuffling into the room wearing my shoes and cracking herself up as she de-toyed the shelves and reorganized the floor. And it was amazing. And that will always be amazing. And I was grateful. And I loved every moment.

(But I still really want that house.)

Which reminds me of the lyrics to a song:

You can’t always get what you want 
But if you try sometimes well you might find 
You get what you need

Hopefully life finds that my wife and I may not need a house at the moment, but we do need to be moms…..

The countdown is on!!

Way back in January, my wife and I discussed starting the journey to a baby around August/September. Back then, I felt such an intense ache for everything to speed up – for time to pass more quickly, even though I knew our year was jam packed with life events and activities that would keep us more than occupied throughout that span of time.

Little did I know that my job would throw us a wrench and add in a LOT of unexpected traveling, so this time seems to have passed even MORE quickly than we could have anticipated, but I’m still no less eager to get started.

Throughout this time, we’ve gone back and forth with the insurance company, pored over donor websites, and thought long and hard about how we would proceed: IVF? IUI? At-home attempts? After talking to some new friends and old, reading numerous blogs, watching numerous vlogs(?), and doing extensive research, we decided that no matter the cost: IVF was our chosen path forward. That being said, we are submitting one last formal request for insurance company coverage (especially after learning that my wife has polycystic ovaries which could potentially make this process slightly more challenging) and we are awaiting the results of that request – we will hopefully know with certainty on Tuesday.

Regardless, we cannot be too upset as our clinic worked with us to put together a multi-cycle package that will give us two attempts to get pregnant (assuming, fingers crossed, prayers, good wishes, and positive thoughts) that we walk away from her egg retrieval with more than one viable embryo for less than we had initially thought we’d pay for one (via co IVF – if you’ve read the other posts you know all of that drama). We also picked up all of the meds for our first round yesterday and after copays, we walked away spending a whopping total of $250 and change (which seems like a lot, but for IVF meds is AMAZING!!). We are counting our blessings and considering ourselves immensely fortunate.

IVF MEDS

(This doesn’t include a ton of stuff that we elected to not remove from the fridge for the photo)

Yesterday, we also had our nurse consult during which we learned how to administer the many shots we will soon have to give each other (well, mostly give ourselves but there is a big, bad intramuscular injection that my wife has to give me in the butt….I’m sure there is a good joke in there somewhere that I will appreciate when I look back on this one day, but I’m honestly just a little terrified of the needle at this point!), and discussed the timing. Initially, the nurse asked me to call on the first day of my next period to schedule my baseline blood tests and ultrasounds, but after learning that I was on day 4 of my current cycle, she snagged the ultrasound tech, and got everything done while I was there, and sent me on my way with instructions to begin birth control immediately, which is how my cycle will ultimately be synced to my wife’s. We’re now waiting on her period to start, as well as for a call back from the clinic to get a sonohysterogram and mock transfer scheduled so they can make certain that there are no issues with my uterus, and so they know exactly how they will be implanting the embryo when we get to that date (which should be sometime toward the end of next month if all continues to move according to the plan we assembled with her, yesterday).

Our nurse was kind of amazing – we were with her for almost four hours, discussing every detail of the process and getting my testing and ultrasound done (which was an unexpected surprise!) She encouraged us to call with any question or unknown symptom we may encounter throughout this process, and made us feel so comfortable. Her kindness and warmth was a stark contrast to the head finance honcho (we’ll call her Denise for the purposes of this blog) who we had the displeasure of meeting with again yesterday. We thought we made progress with her the last time we saw her a few weeks back, and she was just as ornery as ever and seemingly forgot everything we’d discussed during the last visit. She is the sole reason why I feel very confident that we will not be seeing any coverage by the insurance company, but either way – we’ll be happy to be finished working with her (hopefully very soon!)

The ultrasound tech confirmed that everything looked good, and found a total of 21 egg follicles (to the 18 the doctor found the last time) and although that isn’t super pertinent to our current situation, it just reassures us that we should have a smooth journey to baby# 2 should we elect to conceive via IUI. We ordered what we were advised by the clinic would be more than enough donor sperm (7 vials) to pursue this round of IVF, plus several rounds of IUI in the future.

So, folks: we are ready. We’ve never been praying so hard for an expeditious period (as well as good news from the clinic on a date to do the mock transfer in the very near future!) and we’ll be getting this party officially started.

partygif

We got the goods.

So today was kind of a momentous day.

After Friday’s appointment with the doctor, we spent the evening checking out potential donors (I mean, let’s be honest: we’ve been looking at donors for the past few months, and finally got serious on Friday) and narrowed our list down to a short few. We then purchased a subscription to view more information on the cryobank’s website, and – through process of elimination and our most most basic gut instincts – found the donor we pretty much knew was “our guy”:

  • His ancestry is a combination of parts of each of ours
  • His personality is similar to both of us, and he seems like someone we would generally respect and appreciate as a human being (which is important, should our future children ever want to get in touch with him)
  • He is open to being contacted one day (which we felt was really important)
  • He’s intelligent

We also found out after reaching out to our clinic today that my tests from last week came back and I am CMV negative (which I NEVER thought I would be as I’ve done a lot of reading on it and was exposed to a lot of the things which are thought to be linked to CMV as a child) and fortunately – so he is, which made our lives a lot easier as it is suggested that CMV negative carriers utilize CMV negative donors. We also found out that my AMH level is 4.4, which the nurse said is above average and makes sense considering the follicle count that the doctor advised us of last week. So I have a green light should we elect to conceive baby#2 via IUI. So I placed an incredibly expensive order for sperm that will be stored until we are ready to proceed (we didn’t want to risk losing out on this person since we felt there were so few individuals who met all of our criteria: and this guy did, and THEN some!)

I really wanted to tell someone, but we are staying tight lipped about this process until after we successfully conceive, so for now…our dog knows all of the exciting details (and we hope she won’t tell).

We then got the disappointing news that our clinic appointment – which was supposed to be tomorrow – got pushed out by two weeks (to be fair, they were ready to meet with us next week, but I’ll be traveling again). So we now have to wait for any additional info about the costs of the actual procedure (including how much all of the medication will cost as we still don’t know which medication we’ll be taking and are supposed to better understand all of that during our appointment) and I’ll have to come up with ANOTHER excuse to duck out of work for two hours, as the one I had given my boss for tomorrow won’t work again in two weeks. Ugh.

Part of me thinks I should tell my boss now, but I am also another few days away from learning more about the fate of my current role, so I don’t want to say or do anything that will affect my ability to keep this job beyond this year.

So many things to think about, but at the moment: we rest, and celebrate overcoming another big hurdle today, and patiently wait another two weeks for the next step in this process.

Wishing you all good luck wherever you are in the process!

Silver linings.

My apologies in advance – this isn’t my best or most descriptive writing, but things are now transpiring so fast and furiously that I am just trying to get as much of the detail transcribed as possible before I forget.

So the last few weeks have been rough. Work has been stressful, we have gotten bad news after bad news about how much this IVF treatment is going to cost, and my wife and I have just felt like a grey cloud has always been lingering close by (which is kind of partially true since we’ve also had a lot of rain).

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with the manager of the IVF Finance team for our fertility clinic (I don’t know if that’s her exact title, but you can gather what her role is…) and she seemed kind of argumentative, and my wife and I were speculating that perhaps she wasn’t the biggest fan of same-sex couples. Nothing she said or did was blatantly homophobic – it was just a feeling we got. So, we went into yesterday’s meeting with the doctor (and subsequent meeting with her)…guns blazing, if you will.

Before we get to her: the appointment with the doctor was…interesting. He provided us the results of my wife’s bloodwork and internal ultrasound, and dropped a slight bomb on us (I say “slight” as we’re still doing research on exactly what this means for us). He advised that she has polycystic ovaries (we had previously known that she had benign cysts, but the term “PCOS” never came up before). He explained that she showed approximately 50 egg follicles and an AMH level of 10.9. He further explained that I was showing approximately 18 follicles – which he said is a very healthy number – and that although my AMH test was not yet finished, that there should be no problem with my ability to produce eggs should I need to now, or in a few years.

He said the fact that she has polycystic ovaries means that she is at an increased risk of “overcooking them” (his words). He said she’ll have to be monitored more closely once she starts the medication that will help her to get the eggs ready to be harvested, as she could be overstimulated if not. He said that he is not concerned, and simply wants to keep a closer eye on her.

On my side, everything looks good. The only major concern that we have is the fact that my work travel schedule is expected to continue into the near future, and when I am away (which is expected to be 4 days at a time going forward), I won’t have a way to manage the injectable medications (which – he confirmed – will be going into my rear). He said that he could put me on an injectable for 7 weeks, and then switch me over to a vaginal form of the medication at that point, but that there is no way of getting around the injectables for the first 7 weeks. As it stands right now, I’ll be traveling once more the second to last week of July, and then twice in August (evenly spaced out). After August, I’m hoping it drops down to a monthly or EOM cadence. My wife said she could take off of work for a week and come with me for one trip, but coming every other week would be really challenging – even with the flexible job she has. I would consider telling my boss, but my company went through a huge change this year and I just started working with her back in February. I work at a satellite office we have (a 2 hour direct flight from our headquarters) but there has been a lot of pressure over the last few years to transition my role from that office to our corporate headquarters, and so far I have successfully evaded it (although the question was raised again about 2 months ago). I am fearful that if I explain that I am trying to get pregnant, that they will start to look for someone who is willing to do my job in the state where they want the position to be located. I was hoping that by this point in the year, things at work would be more settled, but every day seems to bring new big challenges and “what-if’s”.

So, aside from the injection dilemma (which I would love thoughts on if anyone has any!!) and the PCOS diagnosis (which – again – we are still unsure is truly an “issue” or not), the meeting with the doctor went pretty well. He recommended we move forward with a consult meeting with one of the nurses at the practice who would help us identify the best day to start, and would help us get our medication ordered so we can begin to figure out if any of it is covered. That meeting is scheduled for Wednesday of next week, so in the very near future we should know a lot more about how things are going to proceed as well as the timeline.

After we wrapped up with the doctor, we sat down to a meeting with the woman in charge of finance. She works out of an office that’s about an hour from us, and told us when I spoke with her earlier in the week that she’d be making a trip to “our” office to go over everything. Before she came in, I could hear her talking to another couple (husband and wife, from what I gathered) and her told of voice seemed pushy and cold. My heart started racing and my hands started shaking. I was ready to argue.

On Thursday night, I  sat down and mapped out all of our questions in a word document (which I subsequently printed). On it, I made a table with two columns: one for the regular IVF multiple cycle package that they offer, and one for the co-IVF “package”. I mapped out the costs, services mentioned in each, and made separate boxes for the differences: both cost and service. At the end, it came down to an approximate $8000 difference once you factored in that added value (an additional frozen cycle transfer, cryopreservation of embryos, and anesthesia primarily) of the multiple cycle package that they offer to women who are using their own eggs/bodies.

When Ms. Pushy entered the room, I pulled it together and smiled pleasantly and thanked her for taking the time to meet with us. If this meeting gets hostile, I reasoned to myself, it won’t be on my accord. My wife is the stoic type and she’ll interject as necessary, but she knows that I am very direct, relatively articulate, and thorough with all of my facts – so in situations like this she usually lets me loose to do my thing, and backs me up when she needs to.

So we commenced the meeting discussing the “pre authorization request” that she told us our insurance company requires prior to treatment. I explained that we were told by several representatives of the insurance company that there is no required pre-authorization, and she told us that they ALWAYS require it for our particular insurance company or they won’t get paid. I asked her if that was a routine procedure, why we would have gotten back paperwork after our first visit that said, “No prior authorization required for IVF or IUI” (word-for-word). I slid the paper across the table, and she looked up, narrowed her eyes, and spit out, “well we’ll just call that a mistake.” She handed me the “sheet” that needs to be filled out, and after taking a look at it, I realized that it isn’t a prior authorization, rather, it is form that we have to sign acknowledging that we meet the criteria under the mandate for an egg retrieval (which we are happy to sign as we do believe we meet the criteria of not being able to get one another pregnant). I told her that I thought our confusion was around the name of the form, as I was told that no prior authorization was required and that this technically wasn’t a prior authorization, so I thought we were all on the same page, and at that point, she started to smile (just a little!) and we seemed to turn a corner. I then explained to her that – in the event that the insurance still doesn’t pay the claim (which it very well may not) – that we wanted to discuss the self-pay options and the huge discrepancy in cost/service between the multiple cycle package for a woman carrying her own embryo, and the co-IVF package. I tried explaining my calculations and she told me “I lost her” at which point I showed her the table I typed out the night before, and highlighted the overall differences in the packages and she said, “you know, this is all really new for us. We’ve had co-IVF couples before but this isn’t something we are completely used to. I actually helped create the co-IVF package, you know.” I explained that I understood that, and certainly didn’t expect to pay the SAME as someone who was carrying their own embryos (due to the additional paperwork and monitoring) but that I also couldn’t justify an $8000 difference. She took another look at everything and said, “Listen: I can do a multiple cycle package for you.” (at this point, my jaw was beginning to look like the grand canyon and I just about had to pick it up off of the floor).

She said that it would cost more for the synchronization of our cycles since we are a couple, but that she’d honor a package. In fact, she said they have higher packages with money back guarantees if any of this goes wrong and offered to get us prices on those as well!!

Even though the conversation was headed in a more pleasant direction at that point, I was still ready to defend us. When she said that, I didn’t know what to say. I was still waiting for her to take it back. When she looked down at the papers again, I looked at my wife and snuck her the biggest smile I think I may ever had. The price dropped down to only $500 more than than the package that a heterosexual couple would utilize.

Lesson learned, here: ADVOCATE, ADVOCATE, ADVOCATE!!!! I don’t think I would have gotten the same answer if I hadn’t made that comparison table and mapped out everything piece-by-piece, so do your homework. It’s worth it.

So at this point, we are going to meet with the nurse and determine our schedule, see if the medications get covered, and then pursue coverage of the egg retrieval with the ins. co. If that goes well, we’ll continue to try to get everything covered (even though we were told it would not be) and if it gets pushed back, we now have a much more reasonable amount to fund out of pocket, which we don’t think will completely drive us into bankruptcy.

By the end of the conversation, all three of us were smiling. My wife said afterward, that she sensed that our prior assumptions about the finance lady were correct, but that during that meeting – either my attention to detail or passion for our cause won her over. I don’t know – maybe she’s been having a bad week, and the fact that our case was more complicated made it worse – either way, I don’t feel that sense of bad energy when I think about the practice and I am getting excited to take the next steps forward in this journey.

Fingers crossed, prayers, positive wishes (whatever you have!!!) that the good news continues and that the insurance company pays for the two visits I had this week, and the medication we order next week (I would ask for the same for my work situation, but don’t want to be too greedy :))

Hoping everyone else had some good news this week, too. If not, you have my thoughts/prayers/crossed fingers and positive wishes.

These dreams go on when I close my eyes…

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.

Planes, trains, and….insurance companies.

I really do need to be more consistent with writing. Sorry in advance for this novel…

The last few weeks have flown due to my work schedule. I had been flying out to our corporate headquarters every other week for a big project I am involved in, and was bummed really excited to find out that the last trip was cancelled due to another big meeting taking place over the same time which would have pulled a lot of people away from the project I am working on, so I have had a glorious three weeks soaking up my wife’s company. Every weekend we have had formal plans: a college graduation, our niece’s first birthday party, a wedding, and this past weekend two days of birthday festivities for different family members with a family dinner at my parent’s house in between. Tomorrow we are headed to a baseball game to celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday, and then Sunday I fly out again for the week. During the week, we are usually so tired between our weekend plans and work, that after dinner (which my wife – who has a background in culinary arts – prepares every night without hesitation or complaint) we just lay around like sloths until bedtime. I wish there was a way to put those lazy moments on slow motion: when the dog is curled up on our feet, we’re watching one of our favorite shows, and don’t have any plans, because as lazy and comfortable as they are, they seem to zip by more quickly than anything else we do.

Since we have been so busy, we both took off on Tuesday and extended Memorial Day weekend out to four days, and took the train into the city so we could have lunch and meet with the financial coordinator for our fertility clinic – who works out of one of their larger offices and just consults for the small facility we go to in the suburbs where we live.

We are still hashing out of this insurance nightmare, but at this point, I think the value in sharing our experience outweighs my fears that any of this could somehow be used against us because: A.) I know in my gut that they are wrong, and B.) if someone else has gone through this, I’d love their insights.

Basically, my wife’s employer is based in a state that has an infertility mandate which dictates that all employers that meet a certain size and a few other criteria, are required to offer infertility coverage as part of their overall insurance benefits (which her employer does).

Back in February, when we first started this whole process, I called the insurance company and was told by a representative (after filling her in on our relationship as a same-sex couple and what we were trying to do) that we had full fertility coverage with no apparent exclusions due to our sexual orientation. Good, check. We then met with the first fertility clinic (that we elected not to utilize) we were told by the clinic (who does a preliminary review of benefits with the insurance company to advise you of your coverage) that we had full fertility coverage for IUI and IVF with no apparent limits and no prior authorization required. They remarked how amazing our benefits appeared to be and how lucky we were for having them (which didn’t surprise us, as my wife has pretty great health insurance coverage across the board). They said they did not see any reason why we could not pursue co-IVF (a situation in which I would carry an embryo created with my wife’s eggs and donor sperm so we are both connected to the process). Good, second check.

These benefits were confirmed – in writing- by the second fertility clinic – who also remarked how amazing and extensive our benefits were. (Third check!) They had a special IVF representative reach out to us to start discussing the particulars, and she recommended just to be doubly sure that there won’t be any issues, that we touch base with the insurance company and inquire about whether or not there are any exclusions for same-sex couples. At that time, I placed a phone call to the insurance company for another unpaid claim that my wife had from a year ago for a completely unrelated issue (which we ended up having to pay for out of pocket, but that’s another story for another day), and the representative kept me on hold for about 45 minutes for that issue, and another 45 for the IVF exclusion question. When she returned back on the line the last time to confirm our coverage, she explained to me that we did not – in fact – have full coverage, and that our coverage complied with the state mandate ONLY (something that was never mentioned when either clinic inquired, and something that was NEVER said to us on the phone – even though we were aware of it due to our own research). The representative apologized and said that unless we could demonstrate that we had “tried” to conceive for one year by having unprotected intercourse. I said, “you do realize that isn’t possible, right?” to which she continued to apologize and genuinely seemed sad to share that news, but kept reassuring me that there was nothing she could do. We would not – she informed us – be getting coverage for IVF, IUI, or any diagnostic testing or treatment related to either because we had not been able to demonstrate a year’s worth of straight sex. (barf)

Now, that’s all good and fine – state has mandate. State is being discriminatory (more than likely because it hasn’t caught up with the times, but still). Insurance company is following state to pay out as little money as possible. I get it.

HOWEVER: my wife and I are friends with a lovely heterosexual couple (the wife works in the same office as my wife and use the same said insurance), who are currently experiencing infertility issues themselves. They had been “trying” for about 6 months after they got married (and heck – maybe longer before…that’s really none of my business) when they started seeing a fertility clinic. They told my wife and I that the clinic determined their issue to be a blocked fallopian tube and their recommended course of action was some type of surgery or IVF treatments, which they have been subsequently advised by the insurance company would be covered (at least, that’s what they told us and I really don’t see why they would lie about that). They haven’t yet started their treatments, so I don’t know how this will shake out, but they told us that they got confirmation of coverage for their IVF treatments (and I’m fairly certain that they submitted no videos or spreadsheets of their bedroom action…), but their diagnostic tests were covered – that I know for sure.

To be fair, my HSG test was apparently processed and paid out by the insurance co (we thought we’d test the waters), but we are still waiting on my wife’s internal ultrasound and blood work to be paid (which she had done before my HSG test), so it’s a little strange that it hasn’t been paid, yet. We haven’t yet tackled the reverse tests (the HSG for her and the ultrasound for me) because I’ve been traveling EVERY SINGLE TIME I’VE HAD MY PERIOD FOR THE LAST THREE MONTHS (can you tell that really irritates me?) and if I’m not home to make sure she does things – she…doesn’t do them. To be fair, she’s amazing with so many things (such as making dinner) so I can’t complain – but I’m definitely the “let’s get shit done” boss lady in our house. Doctor needs calling? I’m on it. We got overcharged at the grocery store? Give me the receipt, I’ll go complain. Car needs an oil change? I’ll do it. (haha, just kidding…but I’ll totally make the appointment to have someone else do it).

For what it is worth, the reason why we are each doing each test is because the clinic *thinks* the costs will be covered (again – see above. We’re cautiously optimistic), and suggested that if perhaps they find a genuine concern (such as the blocked tube) we can use that as leverage to pursue the same coverage for IVF, EVEN THOUGH the law is clear and says that the diagnostic testing is only paid after you demonstrate the 12 months of “trying” (which neither us, nor the other couple appear to have done). If they are going to balk and offer the coverage because of a different issue, I think that OUR different issue is just as important and should be considered coverable as well.

Soooo….all I can think, is that between the difference in messages once we pointed out our situation, and the stories we’ve heard from our friends, it feels like discrimination to me. In addition, the financial lady kind of scolded me when this all first went down, because she thought my final call to confirm the exclusions may have caused them to scrutinize our case and “realize” they have a legal loophole to exclude gay folk. My problem is: if you aren’t routinely scrutinizing ALL cases (such as our friends’) then don’t scrutinize ANY.

So we took the train into the city to meet with finance lady face-to-face (who I actually adore especially after she started out the meeting telling us how much she admires how much we are advocating for ourselves and encouraged us to “never stop fighting”) and she said that while she believes in our cause, she also doesn’t know if we will get any meaningful movement or payout from the insurance company in the time we would want to start pursuing treatments (basically now as we’d hoped to try to have our first – hopefully only – pregnancy attempt in August). Her recommendation was to pay out of pocket, which we can likely afford if we finance it (but it will make moving out of our condo and into a bigger home a bit tough in the foreseeable future). She provided us with all of the out-of-pocket estimates a little over a week ago when we spoke (I literally talk to this woman all the time – I feel like I should know her birthday so I can send her a gift), and we made peace with the fact that they have a package that is approximately $12K when all is said and done which includes one egg retrieval, two transfers, cryopreservation of any additional embryos, and ICSI (injection of the donor sperm into the eggs to form embryos).

After we rehashed all of the insurance company info during our face-to-face visit, we asked a few questions about that package so we could finalize our expectations as far as the cost (as there were a few small things we weren’t sure about) and she advised us, that the packages they offer are for transfer of your own embryos into your own uterus (so, not co-IVF/reciprocal-IVF). I’m thinking, “Um, lady: I really like you and all, but you KNEW we were lesbians when this all started, and I told you like 10x that we wanted to do IVF particularly as we wanted to go through the process TOGETHER. Why the $%@^ did you think I wanted to do a regular old round of IVF?”

So she said she didn’t realize that, and pulled us out their co-ivf package paperwork (a crappy sheet of paper with a list of all of the treatments instead of the beautiful brochure which highlighted the IVF packages in neat, detailed columns, with photos of cute babies and happy couples on the cover), which is basically 1.5 times the price (around $15k when all is said and done). Ok, so the clinic is doing extra paperwork because we are talking two people instead of one, but…IT’S THE SAME PROCEDURE!! HOW DID WE JUST SUDDENLY JUMP ANOTHER 3K? AND, now the sheet of paper loosely defined as a “package” covered a single round of “fresh” IVF, one retrieval, and no cryopreservation (we are waiting on a call back about the ICSI as she didn’t seem to think that was included in that “package” either as it wasn’t on the page). So in addition to the crappy price, it covered about 1/2 of the items.

Now, I started to tear up in front of this woman (who shouldn’t have been surprised as I called her and began ugly cry hiccuping the day I found out that the insurance company wouldn’t cover any of this), but held it together and didn’t full out sob…for now.

So we took their paperwork, and said our goodbyes, and agreed to touch base in a week or two after we had time to digest things, and she gave us a few other suggested options (asking the doctor if they can honor one of the packages for us as a kind gesture, etc.).

We then left and had dinner at a local market (Indian food for me, which is like…my favorite cuisine ever. And chicken and waffles for my wife…who hates anything remotely spicy and flavorful Indian food. And then we found donuts because…

  1. They are my favorite.
  2. We were near a really spectacular donut place
  3. We kinda had a rough day.
  4. Donuts. Do we really need another reason?

So that kind of made things better.

The next day, I called a lawyer recommended by a friend from college, as I am curious if there is ANYTHING we can do, so I am currently waiting on a call back. The receptionist listened patiently to my story and as I got to the part about being required to have heterosexual sex she gasped, and by the time I mentioned our friends’ situation, she interrupted me to shout, “OH FOR [HEAVEN’S] SAKE, THAT’S DISCRIMINATION!” Which made me feel so…not crazy and almost kind of vindicated for calling. Even if we have no legal recourse, I at least felt like a human being who was worthy of feeling enraged at the situation. Bless that lady’s heart. Fingers crossed for good news…

I am really trying to persuade my wife to pursue IUI instead of IVF but she feels really strongly that she wants to have a biologically related child (she was literally floating the first time we officially heard that IVF was a covered benefit), and she doesn’t feel particularly inclined to carry (and also had some past health problems that make her a little wary of it as well), and I am not quite as committed to the biology aspect but have wanted to experience pregnancy for as long as I can remember, so this just feels like a perfect fit. She said she would consider each of us independently carrying, but she would want to do it first as she is very concerned that by the time we have baby #2 (God, willing), her ovaries will be shriveled up like raisins, her uterus will turn to dust, and she’ll be incapable of getting pregnant (or something like that), so she is insistent that if we do that – she carry first (which is super selfish of me, but would be really disappointing as I have literally held my breath all year for the moment we can get started as I really want to experience pregnancy). I don’t know – IVF is just so ideal. It is the closet we will ever be to a baby that is OURS (raised in my body – feeling my heartbeat and warmth, and sharing my wife’s amazing DNA).

Anyway, I have so much more I could write, but this is probably already obnoxiously long, so until next time.