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IVF Info Session

At our fertility clinic, anyone thinking of/planning to undergo IVF is required to attend an IVF session. It was scheduled for 2 hour, 45 minutes, but only lasted 2 hours. Originally, I expected it to be us and 2-3 other couples. Then I learned that it would be approximately 75 people. I was a bit floored by that because they run these sessions every 2 weeks and when we booked ours we had to book 2 months in advance because that was the first availability. I live in a big city, one of the biggest in Canada, but I was still shocked by the number of people looking into IVF. I was also kinda surprised about the number of younger couples. Even though I know that infertility affects young couples too (obviously!), I expected that most of those couples found success in other treatments rather than needing to turn to IVF.

To start, one of the 6 REs at the clinic gave a talk on the process, success rates, risks, etc. Given all the research I’ve done and what our RE already told us, most of it was review. I took a few notes though  and thought I’d share them because they may be of interest to others as well. I learned that sperm has no influence on the embryo until day 3. So if there’s an issue with the sperm, you wouldn’t know it right away. That’s one reason why waiting until day 5 (if possible) to transfer can make a difference. At my clinic, their general rule is to transfer two embryos if you’re doing a day 3 transfer and only one if you’re doing a day 5. They stressed that their goal is a healthy singleton birth because even though twins seems like a really cute idea and a way of getting the most “bang for your buck”, it is still considered a pregnancy complication. And there’s the possibility that embryos could split, so if you transferred 2 hoping for twins, you might end up with triplets or quads. The average number of eggs retrieved is 12 and they aim for 10-12. It’s common to not get an egg from every follicle though and some eggs won’t be mature, so they often stim you for more knowing that there will be natural attrition. Once the eggs have been retrieved and combined with the sperm, they check on fertilization 18 hours later and then the embryologist will call with a report. Something else that was really interesting is that there’s a new test called the Harmony test. Apparently it’s only been available in Canada for 2 weeks (longer in the US). It’s a non-invasive alternative to amniocentesis. Since the amnio can cause miscarriage, many people opt not to risk it (and some people just don’t want to know if there’s a problem – something I can identify with). Now, with the Harmony test, you take a blood sample from the mom. They have discovered that enough cells from the baby transfer to the mom’s blood to get a conclusive result for chromosomal disorders (e.g., Down Syndrome). Although other prenatal tests are covered under the Canadian health care system, this one is not. It’s $800.

The doctor spoke for an hour and then we heard from a pharmacist (there’s an onsite pharmacy at the clinic), psychologist (a counseling session is included in the fees for IVF), and nurse. At first I expected the pharmacy would have pricey meds since they specialize in fertilization and people would be more likely to go there for ease, but it turns out they offer better prices (and we were welcomed to call around). The reason why they can do this is because, unlike most pharmacies that do not stock fertility medications, they order large quantities which reduces the cost to them. Also, because they have longstanding relationships with the drug companies, they sometimes get deals, which they pass on to the patients. They will also teach you how to inject, free of charge, if you order from them. They will teach you if you order elsewhere, but then there’s a fee. They will even courier meds to out of town patients with no courier fees for the patient. The pharmacist encouraged us to submit all meds to our insurance company even if our plan says no fertility medications (like ours). She said that not all of the medications are specifically fertility meds so some would be covered.

As for the psychologist, I’m a bit of a harsh critic being a psychologist myself. She seemed a little “fluffy” for my liking, but her talk made me cry regardless because it made me reflect on all the feelings I’ve been experiencing and I also reflected on what J has been experiencing. Once the tears stopped, I couldn’t stop them. I wasn’t sobbing but my cheeks were soaked. I was trying to wipe at my eyes without being obvious. Kinda embarrassing because I don’t think others were crying (but I didn’t look since I wanted to avoid having people notice I was). Anyway, the psychologist said a few things I’ve already heard/thought of, but it was nice to hear them from someone else and to know that most others in the room could probably relate. She pointed out that research shows that the stress of infertility is akin to the stress associated with the death of a loved one or being diagnosed with a terminal illness. A big difference though is that the stress of infertility is typically not visible and many people keep their experiences private. One in six couples in Canada will experience infertility. So it’s not rare, yet we don’t talk about it much as a society, so people feel isolated. The grief model has been found to be the best model to describe the experience, but people find it harder to share this kind of grief. In my own experience, it makes it harder because many people (i.e., those who haven’t dealt with infertility) do not recognize it as a grief experience. I have felt grief each failed cycle because there was a build up of hope only to be crushed by despair when pregnancy didn’t happen. And I have truly grieved, but then it starts again and a new grief cycle begins.

The nurse spoke last. She said that the first day of monitoring (blood work) takes place on day 4 of stims. Blood work and ultrasound also take place on Days 7 and 10 (and possibly more). At our clinic, blood work is done on a first come first serve basis. They start at 7:45 am and the doors open at 7:30, but people are often lined up outside of the clinic before the doors even open. Pregnancy tests (beta) are usually done 16 days after the egg transfer. That seemed late to me because I have read 11 days later for those who do day 3 transfer and 9 days later for those who do day 5 transfer. Something that was definitely new and important to learn was that when the nurse calls to offer you treatment, if you accept that verbal acceptance is the start of your IVF cycle. Payment is due the following week and if you agreed impulsively only to realize 5 minutes later that you won’t be available that cycle, you’re charged a $750 cancellation fee. So you’d better be sure when you say yes! Luckily, you can ask to call them back so you can check your schedule and with your partner, and if you’re not available due to prior commitments, you can request a specific month. She said a lot of teachers request the summer.

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Stagette Shenanigans

Two Saturdays ago, I hopped in my car with a bride-to-be and two bridesmaids and headed to the quaint mountain town of Canmore, Alberta. We met up with several other lovely ladies. We were ready to party in style and celebrate our friend’s impending nuptials (note: a stagette = a bachelorette; apparently this term is not used in the US though). We stayed at a beautiful lodge, went for a great dinner, and played games while indulging in some adult beverages before heading out to a bar with a live band. I was in charge of the games and jello shots. I decided to turn to Pinterest to try a few of the many, many things I have pinned. Here are some pics of the jello shots and one of the games I made because I’m kinda proud.

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Lemon and pink lemonade jello shots served in lemon rinds (source)

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Cinnamon heart (i.e., fireball with cherry jello) shots and champagne jello shots (they no longer make sparkling white grape jello so I made my own from frozen white grape juice, club soda, and Knox gelatin – source)

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He said/She said – circle the mustache if you think the groom gave that answer and the bra if you think the bride gave the answer. I did a lot of hunting for clip art and formatting.

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The next day we headed into Canmore to get breakfast and a street was blocked off for a little winter carnival

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Kids were cross-country skiing and being pulled in sleds along the street. So cute!

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Nominated for my 2nd Liebster Award

Awhile back I was nominated for a Liebster Award. At that time, I did a little hunting and saw that it is an award for up-and-coming bloggers with less than 30 followers. In the time since my first nomination, I have almost doubled the maximum number of followers (craaazy). Considering that the Liebster Award appears to be less of a formal award and more of a nod of appreciation from fellow bloggers, I don’t care too much about the rules. So I am touched that I was nominated a second time in this post Liebster Answers | Journal of a Subfertile. I will gladly answer the questions she posed, as I loved reading her own responses.

1.  What TV show, magazine, or book do you LOVE but would never tell anyone about?

Well I don’t keep much secret and I just posted about a “guilty pleasure” book series – The Righteous by Michael Wallace. Twilight would be a guilty pleasure too. I guess my real guilty pleasures that I will gladly fess up to are all the teen shows like The Lying Games, Switched At Birth, Degrassi, Vampire Diaries, and 90210 (but I am ready for it to be canceled!).

2. Do your friends or family know about your blog? Why or why not?

My mom knows I write a blog, but she doesn’t know the website. My husband has checked it out before, but he’s not an avid reader. Four of my close friends have told me that they regularly stay up-to-date with the posts (thank you girls!!!) and a few other friends have read some of it. I told the friends I did because I figured they would appreciate it for what it is and not judge me for it. I have been pleased that it has brought out their support even more. I have not told everyone because I think some people just wouldn’t understand and if too many people knew about it, I couldn’t be as open as I currently am.

3. Are you a morning person or a night person? What about your significant other?

I am an evening person. I am not a night owl and I love to sleep in. I am most productive though if I get up and get moving at a fairly early hour. J is a night owl on weekends, yet he is still up pretty early. We say he needs much less sleep than I do.

4. What’s your favorite piece of furniture?

Our zebra ottoman. We ordered it custom made because we wanted either a zebra area rug or ottoman.

5. What really gets you going in the morning?

Chatting with my coworker. I don’t drink coffee and I have cut back on diet coke, so talking is what helps wake me up.

6. Dogs, Cats, Neither, Both (Other)? Why?

I am allergic to cats and not that big a fan anyway. I like dogs, but I’ve never had one. Maybe someday. My fave would be a Boston Terrier I think. And I always said if I had a dog his name would be Hendrix.

7. All things happen for a reason. True or false? Explain.

I don’t think all things do. I don’t see the value in a child’s death or senseless crimes. Maybe they make you appreciate what you have more, but to me it’s not an acceptable reason. I remember someone telling my friend’s mom that everything happens for a reason when my friend’s brother (age 21) died. I would not be comforted by that, especially when the pain was so fresh. But I do catch myself thinking certain things may be fate, such as when I met J and the fact that he knew his career would be in Calgary, and meeting my friend Andree (who has type 1 diabetes) not too long before J was diagnosed with type 1. Sometimes I think that maybe we haven’t conceived yet because our baby isn’t ready for us yet. But that might be more of a defense mechanism than anything.

8. Best underrated movie of all time? Why?

Hmmmm . . . . I’ll just say Van Wilder since I watched it countless times during my undergrad! Also, The Little Princess with Shirley Temple. The part in the hospital makes me cry EVERY TIME!

9. What was the worst moment of your best vacation?

Well first I have to decide what my best vacation was . . . . I’ve had some great ones, both for the places seen and the people I was with. I think I’ll have to pick my honeymoon to the former Sandals Dunns River Villagio, which is now the Jewel Dunns River I believe. Even though it’s probably my 3rd favorite resort we’ve ever stayed at, it obviously holds major sentimental value. I’m going to say the worst moment was on our last night after my sunburn really set in and I think I had heat stroke. I had no energy and felt sick so I couldn’t fully enjoy our last night and putting a heavy backpack on my shoulders the next day was painful!

10. What is one thing you’ve learned about your significant other because you’re dealing (or have dealt) with infertility?

I’ve learned that he is really motivated to be a parent too, and not just driven by my desire or a sense that being a dad was inevitable someday or something he should do. I also learned that he can be my rock and that he loves me extremely deeply.

11. What do you find is the best way to destress after a tough day?

I wish I could say exercise or something healthy, but I park my butt on the couch and get lost in tv shows. It helps to veg out and get into others’ lives or story lines while putting my own issues temporarily aside.

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On to the next one . . .

I finished Gone Girl last week. It’s different for sure, but compelling. It’s hard to root for either side, but I did find myself aligning with one character by the end of it. I think I picked sides based not on who I liked best, but on which character I hated less. I’ll say that the end was unsatisfying. It was an interesting approach, and I can appreciate it for that, but I wanted a specific outcome and didn’t get it. Overall, I enjoyed the book because I wanted to keep reading to find out the next piece of the puzzle and what would happen next.

I am now reading a book I can’t exactly tout as great literature, but it’s a light read and guilty pleasure. It only cost $3.51, which is pretty telling. It’s called The Wicked (book #3 in the Righteous series) by Michael Wallace. I found the series randomly during a search in the Kindle store. The books all revolve around polygamous cults (think Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints). I studied religious studies as my minor in university and I find secretive societies on the outside of the mainstream society (e.g., gangs, cults, organized crime) fascinating. I also like book series. Back in the day, I loved The Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley High, The Boxcar Children, and The Last Vampire. In recent years, it’s been Harry Potter, Twilight,  Hunger Games, and Shades of Grey. I love being able to get wrapped up in the characters and knowing there’s more to come. The Righteous books are a quick read and that’s what I was in the mood for right now.

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Brooklyn Berry Designs: The Cost of IVF for Families in Alberta – #ABHC4IVF

Brooklyn Berry Designs: The Cost of IVF for Families in Alberta – #ABHC4IVF – A blog post from a woman in Alberta who conceived twins through IVF. Her twins were born prematurely and the costs to our health care system far outweighed the costs of IVF. Had IVF been publicly funded like other health treatments, the health care system would likely have saved money overall. I’ve read this same argument before, as it’s the viewpoint Quebec adopted when deciding to fund IVF. We all know that money talks when it comes to the government, so hopefully they will wake up and realize that this is a smart financial decision!

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What brought you? Was it my milkshake?

Nope, apparently it was the Joys of the Dildo Cam post. I went to my stats and “dildo cam” is by far the most searched for term that brings people to my blog! My guess is those poor suckers weren’t expecting to find an infertility blog and my hope is that the picture of the dildo cam wasn’t enough to satisfy what they were actually craving. One part funny, one part creeps me out.