Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor day!

Another summer is done! No complaints here- we had a lovely summer and I am kind of itching to get back into school.  I have a full class this year- 8 students! We had four kindergartners pop out of the woodwork, and they will be joining my already awesome group of 4 (one moved at the end of the school year and one was moved across the hall, as I normally have 6). We are going to be super busy, especially since we are rolling out a new curriculum.  Lots to learn this year, and this first month is sure to be a doozy.

B had a rough end to summer at work.  His boss passed away and her son took over the office.  He has done an awesome job though, and hit a higher quota than ever before!  I am so proud of him and the way he has powered through all of these changes.  He is so much stronger than he often gives himself credit for, and I am glad I have him in my life, even when we disagree on chores :P

But as it is Labor Day weekend, or rather, the end of Labor Day weekend, it is time for me to be grateful again.  I am often grateful in my day to day life, but a moment today humbled me.  B and I received a generous gift that will help us meet our goal even faster.  We were so excited when we met the IVF goal earlier this month, but still knew we had a bit of a way to go to hit the $3500 in meds that are left (we bought $1150 of the meds at the end of last year with my FSA and will be putting the $1228 left from my FSA towards this cost), as well as the ICSI portion of $2400.  That means we are still looking at about $4700 left to save at this point.  And there are still some rebates for meds that we should be receiving which will be less than $300, but believe me, every.cent.counts. and I am absolutely NOT complaining!

So grateful is probably an understatement.  B and I were shocked, as it was very unexpected.  And the awesome people wanted to give this gift on Labor Day because, well... they hope I'll be having my own "labor day" sometime next year.  I won't lie.  I cried.  Those were the first tears I have allowed myself over IVF in the last year.  But I am proud to report that they were happy tears, not tears of desperation.  I cannot even find the words to express how wonderful it is to cry happy tears over all of this, especially with waiting so long after our last attempt. Thank you for this wonderful gift... the money means everything, but the love in which it was given means even more.

So, enjoy these last few hours of Labor Day... I know I am cherishing every last moment.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Endless Summer

It's never really endless though, unless you are working hard on saving money for something you really, really want!  B and I have had an amazing summer thus far, and I am finally ready to get back on track with everything here.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my summer "off" this year, and feel confident in everything I (we) have accomplished.

School ended well, and we immediately left for our annual trip to HHI (that we have missed the last two years due to saving for IVF two summers ago and buying our house last summer- all in all, good reasons to miss vacation, but still sad for us!).  We had an amazing time with my parents and brother, SIL, and nephew.  It was well worth the two year wait, though we are hopeful we won't be missing vacation again in the future! After vacation, I went right back to work with Summer School- ESY.  I had a lovely summer working with my favorite people and children.  We had some wonderful visits with friends and family and even did some more work on the house! Our guest room and guest bathroom have been repainted (thanks for the help mom and dad!!), and we are having the furniture refinished for a more updated look.

So, onto the IVF front.  In July, I met with my doctor again, and we came up with a plan after an ultrasound revealed another cyst had formed on my right ovary.  Previously, the cyst on my right ovary led to laparoscopic surgery to remove it (back in 2008), so I have been pretty worried about that stupid cyst. The doctor wanted me to do Day 3 blood work and a saline sonogram somewhere between cycle day 5 and 15. So I had my blood work done last week, as well as my blood draw for the HIV test (relax, we get it done every time I have IVF, it's just a precaution). Then yesterday, my mom joined me for my saline ultrasound as moral support since last time the pain was pretty intense.  I won't get into the fun of a speculum, ultrasound wand, and catheter shooting water up your hooha, but it was a BLAST! The really cool part was watching everything on the computer screen, even mom was impressed!

The doctor declared my uterus looked perfect- finally some good news- and then took a look at my ovaries.  The cyst is still there, but is shrinking, so she is confident it will not cause any issues with starting IVF.  YAY!! I had a bunch of follicles on the right ovary, while the left side was chilling this week.  Under medication, the left side always seems to pop up for action, but on a normal basis, it is lazy as crap! All in all, the appointment went really well and we are very pleased with the outcome.

On another note, we have fully funded our account for the IVF portion.  B and I were so excited when the last payment from ESY came in and we were able to put the money in our IVF savings fund.  We still need to save up for the ICSI portion, which is another couple thousand, but it feels great to know that we are paying for everything completely out of pocket and not charging anything or creating more debt.  This is HUGE for us, and I am very proud of how hard we worked to make this happen.  So, hopefully, in a couple more months, we will be planning our next round of IVF and paying for it free and clear!

Thank you to everyone who has continued to follow this blog, even though I have been slack as my left ovary.  I am working on more posts, though many may not be about IVF because I truly do not want to be defined by this struggle.  There is so much more to me and my family than this journey, though this journey has been a huge part of our life.  I really appreciate the responses and even the comments about why I haven't updated!  I'm sorry, and I will do better! Have a lovely Tuesday and best wishes to everyone.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Money and Organization- Great Combo!

Since we had this beautiful three day weekend, I decided it was time to reorganize my files and paperwork. When decorating our Living Room, I knew I wanted a organize our paperwork in a way that was attractive, but not necessarily in a filing cabinet (unless I could find a nice wooden one instead of the stock metal cabinets). I found the perfect complements to our overall design from The Container Store (help me if one ever comes here!  For now, it is a safe distance away).  I had originally picked up some items from the Bigso collection in Turquoise on a trip with my bestie, and I loved them!

Desktop File
Pencil Cup
Letter Sorter

After realizing that one file box was not going to meet our needs, I decided another stop at The Container Store was in order, but I couldn't wait for our next trip to DC!  B said to go ahead and order whatever I wanted, so I did, but I was able to get free shipping and used a coupon to make my order total more palatable (of course, all of this was bought before the big spending freeze).  So, I perused the site, and decided to add a little fun with a new print from the Bigso collection, that went well with the pattern of the curtains we bought from Target and the muted colors of our rug. So I few more desktop files and a set of paper drawers were soon on their way!

Desktop File
Paper Drawers

Living Room with our Bigso collection

(Excuse the crooked rug- my cats love moving it!)

Anywho, back to my reason behind the post tonight.  With the first file box, I sat down one night and diligently labeled all my hanging folders and organized all my paperwork.  Then I shoved anything that didn't have a folder and all the paperwork that arrived at our house after that night into the new desktop files.  I took part of Sunday to reorganize everything and get our files in order.  It was a long task, but I was so happy with the results!  Throughout my organizing, I kept coming across paperwork from various treatments over the years, as well as all the receipts from our 2 rounds of IVF.  We've had several people ask us about the cost of IVF recently.  Since B and I are really focused on saving for our next round, as well as paying down debt from previous rounds, I figured it would be nice to do a post about our actual costs with IVF.

Thus, this post (with a completely uncompensated plug for The Container Store- I just love my stuff!).

We have been very lucky with our choice of fertility clinics.  The Jones Institute is world renowned, and the pioneers of IVF.  Although we haven't been lucky enough to be successful yet, I know they are doing everything they can to help us achieve our goal.

One of the best things they offer is a payment plan for the IVF.  We have had to put half down prior to the process beginning, then once the transfer and all have been completed, we make a payment every month for 6 months.  The initial cost for IVF is $6830.  Since B has major issues with his "boys," we also have to pay $2420 for ICSI- IntraCytoplasmic Sperm Injection (something to help give our chances a major boost by getting rid of the weakest sperm and utilizing the best).  This brings the initial total to $9246.  Jones then divides that total in half and we pay $4623 up front, and have the other half broken into 6 payments of $770.

But we aren't done yet!  Then you have to add in the medications for each cycle.  Those can range from $3000 to $5000, with very little price breaks or help from insurance.  Oh, all that stuff up there ^^? Yeah, none of that is covered by insurance.  Nothing, Nada, Zip.  That is all out of pocket.  The medications?  I am thankfully able to pay for part of them using my Flexible Spending Account (FSA) which just means it is divided up over the year from my paychecks from a non taxed account.  I am very grateful for that.  Since we didn't do IVF last year, I was able to pay for half the meds out of last year's FSA, and plan to pay for a good chunk of the rest of the meds from this year's FSA.

So, now we are at $12,246 (if we had the low end of meds- which hasn't happened yet!) to $14,246 (using the high end of meds).  We fall somewhere in the middle of the two estimates, but I don't have the exact med total in front of me.  Then we add in a check for $400 to pay for the anesthesiologist that puts me under for the retrieval portion of the IVF.  You have to pay that the day of retrieval, or the price doubles to $810.  We always have our check ready!

Since we have never had more than 3 eggs removed from me that lasted, we have not had to get into Cryopreservation or monthly storage fees, but those are also added costs that may or may not be in our future.  The Cryopreservation is $1000 and the monthly storage fee for the frosties is $60.  Pretty much a drop in the bucket compared to everything else! We have always said we will cross that bridge when we come to it, but we are confident that push come to shove, we can meet those payments easily.

So, in the last 3 years (just with IVF, I am not even counting the money we utilized before then), we have put $26,000 into starting our family.  And we are hoping to toss another $13,000 into that mix before the end of the year.  Yep, we have basically paid for a college education just to HAVE a child. (and after looking at college rates for my Alma Mater- I recognize we only paid for a year and a half of education there- WHOA! It did not cost that much when I was there!).

Our biggest hope and prayer is that this next round of IVF works.  I'm not sure what our steps would be if it fails again, but I know we have choices, and we will give all of those choices the thought and research they deserve.  We would also love for some embryos to be preserved so we could try again at a quarter of the cost of full IVF to add another child to our family, but I promise, I would be over the moon with just one!

Anywho, I hope I broke down the costs of our IVF a bit better for those who were wondering.  It's not an easy road, emotionally or financially, but I am confident I am traveling this road with the right person.  We may not have a child to share our love with (YET!), but we do have each other, and that's pretty damn good :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Post Mother's Day

I chose not to post on Mother's Day because it is never an easy day for me.  The last two years have been even worse for me, but I try not to dwell on the sadness.  It's definitely easier to be sad and let the grief and loss overwhelm you, but just because something is easier doesn't make it right. So, this past Sunday, I decided to do the right thing, focus away from the sadness, and set my sights on making this Mother's Day special for my mother and for my family and friends.

We had my parents over for a lovely Mother's Day "Lunner," yes, that is lunch and dinner.  B was awesome and made the whole meal from scratch for my parents and I to enjoy.  We wanted to keep things low key, especially as this Mother's Day fell on the 5 year anniversary of my Nana's passing.  It was a bittersweet day for my mom, and I wanted to make sure it was enjoyable for her.  I think we succeeded!  I am very grateful to B for treating all of us to such delicious food and for keeping the day as stress free as possible for me (no easy feat!).

I am also grateful for so many of my beautiful friends that took a moment to think of me, even though I am not a mother (yet).A family member of one of my kids (who doesn't know about our infertility) wrote a beautiful note about me being "mom" to six kids.  A sentiment that was later shared by one of my dearest friends here.  Both brought tears to my eyes, and I had to take some time before responding.  And one of my dearest friends from my old online group just sent me a simple "I love you, friend."

Those comments meant the world to me.  I don't want to be pitied, I don't want to be ignored.  Those beautiful words... they kept my spirits high, and a smile on my face.  And for that, I thank my wonderful friends and family.  Y'all are what keep me chugging along, through the good and the bad.  The laughter, tears, frustration, and happiness... that all comes from those around me. So, for my Mother's Day this year, I just want to say... Thank you.

Happy Mother's Day to all who are mothers, in heaven and on earth. In hope and in prayers.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Breaks Give Perspective

I had to take a break from writing out my innermost feelings.  I take a lot of time to put my thoughts out there, and after re-reading my previous posts, I was very sad with myself.  I have really tried to stay as positive as possible throughout this whole process, but my posts on here seem so bitter and down.  That is not how I want to portray myself. Or our journey.  Sure, our situation sucks.  No one wants to be infertile. But believe me, being the "bitter infertile" is even worse.  The pity, the eye avoiders, the topic avoiders... it's hard to be yourself when people are trying so hard to ignore the elephant in the room.

I promise, I live a normal life.  Yes, I want kids, as does B.  But it is not an all consuming thought.  We have our moments or weakness; some worse than others, but we smile and move on.  Every pregnancy announcement, every baby shower, every birth... yes, it make slow us down a little, but it is never about taking away from anyone else's happiness.  It is a moment of remembrance of our loss or of our inability to have what so many create so easily. But we always recognize the joyous occasion for others, and cannot wait to be able to share that moment with everyone soon!

My goals the last few weeks have been few, but they have been very poignant to me.  Almost a turning point in my life and how I am living it.  Positivity has been the main priority.  Positivity in everything I do, everyone I see, everything I say.  Sure, I have already failed several times, but the point is to keep moving forward, keep thinking in a positive manner.  The more positive I can be, the easier it is to be thankful for everything I have in my life.  I have been working on losing weight, eating healthier, and staying positive.  I am proud of losing 8 pounds, adding a ton of fruit and veggies into my diet (and ridding myself of too many sweets- save a few Easter treats- in moderation, of course!), and cutting out the dead weight in my life.  It is tough to make those changes, but oddly enough, it was easier to let go of those around me who are not supportive of my life in general (absolutely nothing to do with infertility) than it was to keep working out every day!

B and I have also created a wonderful budget.  Now, truth be told, I have been trying to implement a budget in our house for several years *thank you,* but somehow it never took.  Moving past that, I am very proud of the commitment B made to cutting out our debt, unnecessary spending, and creating multiple savings accounts (including our BabyFund!) to help us reach our goals. He created a wonderful spreadsheet that we share through Dropbox (awesome invention- we share documents between computers and our phones to help us keep track of all of our expenses) and we made a commitment to stay on top of our spending.  We have already put a nice little chunk of change in our main savings account, as well as a tax fund (because we get hit with paying taxes every year, despite claiming zero!) and our BabyFund.  And we have made paying of some stupid credit card debt a main goal.  We are both also pursuing other means of income.  B has recently tried his hand at designing t-shirts, and I have been doing a little freelance work through, as well as banking my homebound paycheck (I work with one of my previous students in his home twice a week whose health is too fragile to attend school- love my sweet boy!), and selling items on eBay and through our local yard sale pages (Thank you Tifferny for your help with that!).

Budgeting, saving, healthier lifestyle, and staying positive! That is how we are spending the 2nd quarter of 2014 (and 3rd, and 4th!).  We are hopeful to start IVF #3 later this year, and I am proud to say we are doing it on our own, and without outside funds.  We were so grateful to our friends that contributed to our gofundme, but as you can see, I took that campaign down not too long after I started this blog.  It didn't feel right to me when we started it, and I just couldn't put our burden on everyone else.  We are POSITIVE we can make this happen with non monetary support from our friends and family! (but a hug or an "I'm thinking of you" is always welcome :) )

What changes are you making as we enter the Marvelous Month of May?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Alternative Ideas

I've talked with many people and researched for hours (which practically makes me an expert!) about alternative forms of help: herbs, supplements, acupuncture, meditation, etc.  I am always curious to learn new ways of healing and personal betterment, but I have yet to pull the trigger on most of them.  I have pretty much tried every herbal and vitamin supplement that claims to help IF. Unfortunately, I have never seen the changes that they say I will and usually fall off the bandwagon after a few months.

At one point I had a ridiculous regimen of Folic Acid, Zinc, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitex, Maca Root... And B was given several to take, as well.  Unfortunately, nothing seemed to improve either of our issues, and the expense, as well as the craziness, quickly led us down a different path.  I now take a prenatal daily, as well as DHEA, Iron (for anemia- a family condition), and Synthroid (for low acting thyroid).   All of my pills were recommended and prescribed by my doctor, so it is not just from my thorough Dr. Google searches!

Acupuncture has intrigued me for quite a long time.  I know several ladies that combined acupuncture with IVF and received wonderful results.  Whether acupuncture helped or not, I can't say, but it doesn't seem to have hurt anything!  I would love to try it during my next (and hopefully last!) IVF treatment, but I have to do some research with my health insurance, as well as find someone I trust to stick me with needles.  I have heard that it is not really painful, and allows for amazing relaxation.  Who knows, maybe it will really help calm me in every day life.

Meditation seems like such an easy, low key way to help calm my mind and thoughts, yet I have not tried that either.  I find it hard to carve out time in my day to just sit and clear my mind.  I know I have plenty of time to meditate, I'm definitely not booked with tons of activities, yet I still struggle to find a few moments of peace.  A while ago, I found THIS website with some free meditations on it.  I downloaded the trials, but have not taken the time to listen to them.  Much like Scarlett, tomorrow is always another day for me, but it never seems like tomorrow happens!

What are some techniques you use that is not considered the "norm?" Beyond the doctor regimented medications and schedules, what have you found that helped you to conceive or to refocus your energies every month? If you have done anything that I have listed, what were your experiences with it?  I'd love to hear from those of you following along at home!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Calming the thoughts

What do you do to ease your mind and relax? I am a huge reader and love to listen to music.  Whenever I need to quiet my mind from all the fun of IF, I grab a book (or my Kindle!) and clear my mind.  It's a wonderful escape from real life for me, and I always emerge with more positive thoughts and a happier mindset.

Music is my other calming device.  When we had our first IVF, I brought my iPod along and listened to a random smattering of music. Obviously I only put music I like on my iPod, but the mixture was rather eclectic, and at times, a bit much for trying to stay chill while laying on the hospital bed.  For our 2nd IVF, B and I sat down and compiled a list of songs we both enjoyed and created our "Baby Love" play list.  I listened to this play list while I waited for my retrieval and transfer, as well as afterwards, to keep my mind focused.

Since we have been focusing on other areas of life in the last year after our loss, I decided that I didn't just want to listen to my playlist only at the hospital.  I've since incorporated it into my every day life.  Every night I turn my play list on, and fall asleep to the music that means so much to B and I.  Some of the songs have obvious meaning for the list, like our wedding song, "Crazy Love."  Other songs have silly meanings, like "Closing Time," which actually has several memories attached to it (including us rolling with laughter in "Friends with Benefits").  We have our personal band favorites, like Pearl Jam and DMB (of course!), and some newer to us favorites, like Joshua Radin (I absolutely adore him and do not understand the lack of popularity with his music!).

The list is slightly changed from our 2nd attempt, but it is finely honed into a wonderful music experience that truly calms me and brings consistent smiles to my face every night as I drift off to sleep.  I imagine this play list will continue to grow, and hopefully, one day soon, will be instrumental in the birth and subsequent life of our future child(ren).

So what do you do to calm yourself? How do you relax and chase away the IF blues?

One of my fav cd's: