It All Falls into Place

When everything aligns, there is magic. Or at least the appearance of it. These photos are all symbolic of how the magic happens, sometimes due to luck, sometimes intense planning, other magic moments are the result of chemistry and temperature, or hard work and saving. Try pushing the button that says, ‘yes, we will pay $750 to buy your single-use shot of sperm’… making yourself feel confident in that click is a feat of magic in itself.

I am ready to head into the clinic tomorrow to start monitoring for a REAL DEAL cycle (a miracle after the past five days of uncertainty). I captured the moon.

I pressed send on that order button and bought our sperm.

I am crossing many things off my To Do List.


I am going to eat some pizza and key lime pie. Both pies, totally different, equally delicious. I am all the good, tasty things that I want, and working out to keep it all in balance.


I am being upstaged by a tiny chihuahua named Daisy. I sometimes look at small creatures and wonder 1) how they can exist and be so mini. 2) why a common reaction to small adorable things is to want to squish them and make high pitched sounds.

Sometimes the simplest moments are the most surprising when they happen, they can be challenging to capture, while other seemingly simple tasks represent the biggest leaps of all. Like the click of a button. The cycles of the moon. The science of cells dividing successfully over and over again to create a tiny human. Or dog.

I’ve got friends in high places

My uncle joked that he may not be the handy, ‘I can hang drywall and fix the house’ type of man, but he has a real leg up when it comes to fertility and reproductive health. It might seem weird to have your mom tells you to ‘call your uncle,’ trying to console you via telephone, when your three-years-long fertility plans seem to be unraveling.

In our case, my uncle (who will remain unspecified and unnamed), is kind of a big deal in the world of North American reproductive technology. This never seemed like something I’d need, but for the same reason I always felt better checking in with Aunt Donna or Brenda, our family’s nurses, when I had hurt or potentially poisoned myself, calling my uncle actually seemed like a perfect option as shit was hitting the fan over the past week.

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Having him confirm and clarify some things was such a relief. When I told him that Nurse N had said ‘Nobody gets pregnant using donor sperm,’ he said ‘That’s absurd’. That’s just what I needed to hear. He then gave us some stats. Maybe you already know this, but I didn’t and hearing it out loud made me feel way better.

*an average couple at 20 years old, trying to get pregnant through intercourse, has a 20% chance of conceiving

*at 35, with IUI, my odds are 15% (not significantly lower than a fertile twenty-something). It gets harder to conceive as you approach 40 and beyond.

*over a six month session of IUI treatments, the odds for someone in my situation are 75%  for a pregnancy

*if we move on to IVF my chances are about 35% per cycle/attempt

What does this mean? It means, “shut up, Nurse N” and stop crying, Alison, pull yourself together. To be fair, I only cried once for about ten minutes, lol.

I also found out that my uncle is a fertility superhero, answering all the fears and questions I had,  but also saving this cycle! Even though he can’t prescribe the meds for me, given that his license is not for my province, he was able to figure out what my closed-clinic would have put me on and to refer me to one of his colleagues in-province who can make sure I don’t miss my dosage and miss the entire cycle. This was the major concern: if my clinic is closed, I miss all the pre-procedure care and monitoring, as well as my prescription.

Now, here is where it gets weird: following the good news regarding my uncle helping to keep this cycle on track, I also had a very bizarre phone call this morning (in the ‘how did this all work out/happen?!’ sense). All the things I was told ‘could not happen’ due to the closure seem to be unfolding in entirely the opposite manner. I called the sister clinic, ONE Fertility, to ask about my post-HSG symptoms, as well as to confirm if I should still ship my sperm to them.

*They assured: My symptoms are normal.

*Next, they have my paperwork and CAN receive the sperm. The cost to receive and process it is $100, on top of the $75 to Outreach to ship it. Okay, no prob.

*For the $3000 IVF cycle/year the sperm will get stored there and is covered in that initial cost. Woah. Holy crap this is a lot of money. But, I think that is a quote specific to IVF and not necessarily for IUI, which is cheaper.

*The Burlington clinic also, miraculously, has orders from my doctor to monitor me during this cycle… even though that’s exactly what I was told couldn’t happen. So either Nurse N arranged this and didn’t call me to tell me (again, every time my persistent phone calls seem to pay off, because without those randomly timed calls, I wouldn’t have KNOWN that our clinic was closing, or that the other clinic would, contrary to what we were told, take me on during the interim). I’m also a little suspicious that somehow my omnipotent uncle called my doctor and made this happen (I’ll go with that version for now, because my childhood memory of my intimidating uncle makes this seem likely)

*I have a prescription phoned in for my meds, via my uncle’s contact.

*I can send the sperm to Burlington clinic. It will be there, ready to go ahead for this cycle and the clinic is expecting my call on the first day of my period to set up monitoring. What?

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HSG – Candidly.

Browsing the internet (ironic right now), is not the best way to assuage your fears – when you think you might be having some kind of reaction following your HSG procedure.

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Mine was on Wednesday, five days ago, and it was pretty simple. I learned that my cervix is on an angle and that means it needed to be grabbed (like calf-roping) during the procedure… (called an HSG) which involves a catheter being inserted up through the cervix, so they can pump a solution into your uterus and up into your tubes; this lets them see that your tubes are open and that if you were to insert ‘specimen’ you are more likely to have open pathways for the sperm to travel.

One bit of good news: the results were good.

My tubes are awesome. Doctor says so. It looks like everything is ready to go. I found all this out a few days ago. Even got a selfie.

The procedure was uncomfortable, (see speculum above, lol) and now it has occurred to me that I should probably be annoyed at potentially having to do this multiple times, due to our whole plan heading sideways – thanks to the clinic’s unannounced vacation; I realize this might all have been for naught.

Today, I’ve been looking at message boards and discussion groups online, looking into the symptoms and side effects. The results I’ve found are very polarized. I’m monitoring symptoms, sans doctor to ask about it… because I have brutal cramps and bleeding. But this didn’t set in for four days. Now I am waiting to see if the cramps and symptoms are more than average… because the normal symptoms are the same as the warning signs of infection. As long as I don’t get a fever, I should be okay.

The worst is when the dangerous symptoms are just more pronounced versions of the normal side effects… how much is ‘regular’ bleeding?

We also have some good outcomes: I contacted my uncle, a doctor who is prominently positioned in the fertility world, but not in my province. I chatted with him about my experience and we may have some really great solutions ahead for us. Also, the sister clinic reopens and I might get some answers about my cycle-on-hiatus…

Keep your fingers crossed! I’ve really loved the support this blog and its readers have provided. I will try to get a more upbeat entry together for next time.

 

The duck-duck-goose of fertility clinic experiences

Just like ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’…Except not fun. Refer back to yesterday’s entry, which I wrote to keep from crying, in self-pity, about how many setbacks we’ve had. I actually turned to Allia and admitted: I like to watch Grey’s Anatomy, because when I feel like things are really devolving for us, I turn to my friends on Grey’s and their lives are total shit. Calley almost lost her baby in a car accident, then there was a plane crash, Lexie died and Arizona lost her leg. And Sloane dies, too. Spoiler? Sorry, not sorry. I’m well aware that things are not so dire. But they feel like we are getting the poo-covered end of the stick, over and over. We are employed, healthy and love each other. But the baby train is off the track.

So, here we are again. Charm is on vacation. How charming. My final call, after waiting to see if N would call back to let me know she had somehow solved the problem created by yesterday’s news… was to a voicemail that simply said: Charm will be closed for summer holidays. Fuck. Off. And they won’t be back until two weeks from Monday. The other clinic, where the procedure is to happen, is not accepting patients while they are away, but I will call them on Monday to ease my stress about whether potentially they can inseminate without the pre-procedure monitoring.  T

hey monitor for follicles, hormone levels, etc. But… N let me know that I could be induced to surge… so, if they can check to see that there is an egg (or two) and can force a surge,… why, when it’s not my fault the cycle can’t be monitored, can’t I just come in once they are back and do what we can to salvage the cycle? These are questions that can’t be answered. So, let me tell you a story:

Once upon a time Allia and Alison wanted to have a baby. They laughed recalling all the straight men in their lives who had creepily/not creepily (?) joked about offering to ‘help them’ get pregnant. They began their journey by signing up with a local, recommended clinic, to monitor their bodies (which – after years of not worrying at all about accidental pregnancy) seemed to be wonderfully fertile – and able to conceive… except for one small (or whatever size you’re into) problem.

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Our first clinic was called ISIS, terrible name right? But we liked the doctor there; her name started with the word “Good” so it seemed serendipitous. We thought, since it was close to my work we might actually be able to make things less stressful, given that we only have one vehicle and Allia commutes an hour into Toronto for work. This clinic, ISIS, is paired with another one 45 minutes AWAY… That’s okay on a weekend, but not when your commute to work is an hour and they don’t guarantee appointments at hours early enough to avoid having to take a half day each day of monitoring. But…it’s fine. Or is it?

After accepting her administrative fees, a few months in, and one miscarriage later, they tell us that the clinic is going to be closed for six months, diverting all patients for all procedures to the clinic that is completely the wrong direction to salvage a work day. Then there is the fact that this massive clinic treats everyone like cattle, which wasn’t what we had signed up for. Also, it was super annoying having to explain to a rotating list of attendings and nurses that we are gay, what our process has been thus far, and highlighting all the fun details of the numerous miscarriages that we had had.

There is nothing quite like telling people over and over about the worst moments of your life, when it’s already in your chart and you are trying not to lose your job by missing more time than you have to. So, could we just hurry this up a little?

Then… that clinic lets you know it is rebranding (fine), and merging with another facility which will make it even busier and less personal. This, after they already have your money and you are just… done.

So we took a bit of time, and found a clinic (our current one), which was a satellite for a Larger clinic (ONE Fertility), only to find out (again) that it’s closing. We worry that again, we are losing the close, relatively convenient location. But wait… they are being bought by one doctor who is going solo,… we can stay!!! So Charm Fertility is Born, re-born? in the same building as the old ONE satellite. But… duh, duh, dunnnnnnn…Charm Fertility, where we are now… is just about to close for vacation. So, here we are. Again.

Unable to actually get pregnant because all the people who are supposed to be making that happen are, with our worst possible luck, flying the coop and leaving us with an empty nest…. not the kind you get after 20 years of raising them.

Seriously? Seriously. 

I know it’s supposed to be a predictably unpredictable journey to have Children.  But how much more complicated can it get?

Yesterday, (I had to wait a day for my rage tears to subside), we finally pinned it down. Made the call to the sperm bank to order the goods.

Here is how this went.

1) Decided on the donor from Xytex.

2) Called to see about ordering three units.

3) Must get Canadian company to order on our behalf.

4) Called the clinic, Charm Fertility, to find out where the the units should be sent.

5) Nurse N. called back and a number of the things she said were a concern.

-She didn’t know how many units we should order, because she thought 750 sounded expensive.

-Or that it must be enough for multiple tries.

-Then she told us that in the six months she’s been there she has ‘never seen anybody get pregnant using I donor.’ But then added: One single woman she knows has been trying for months.

-Additionally, she also told us that in spite of me just having an HSG two days ago, which I was told I needed, they are going to be closed for two weeks starting on Monday.

6) So, 6… they are closed for two weeks.

7) It was only when I asked how that would impact my cycle that she explained all the cycles and monitoring and procedures are on pause. I asked why we were not informed about the closure, and she said we must not have been into the clinic, but everyone at the clinic is apprised of our plan.

8) Based on the timing of my cycle this means that the entire summer is a write off, because I will start my period midway through their vacation, which means I will not be able to do a procedure at the end of July, having missed the mandatory monitoring.

9) Nor will I be able to complete one in August before returning to full time work which is next to impossible to book off because (well, high school teacher).

10) My monitoring will start in the last week of August, then I will be back at school by the time the insemination is supposed to happen, which is exactly why we set aside an entire summer to try to begin this process.

Some questions: Why were we not told? Why aren’t they backfilling the jobs so people can continue this very important process? Why can’t we go to their sister clinic, or be transferred, when my psych evaluation, seminar, consent and the actual procedure will happen there? Why did I go for a hospital procedure two days ago when it was completely unnecessary given their closure? Why can a clinic, our second now, collect your money but not tell you they actually can’t provide the service you’ve discussed with them? Why doesn’t anyone communicate?

I don’t even want to add numbers to this list of frustrations (which won’t even include the fact that as a lesbian couple, everything is inherently more expensive, annoying and seemingly unfair, because the price just skyrockets with the assumption that you aren’t having sex with a man who might be donating for you). And…This isn’t the first time we have been set back months by their disorganization.

We first signed up with them and waited to get an appointment to sign consent to be on the waiting list for IVF. Then at the appointment, for which we book the day off work, we were told we couldn’t sign until we had attended a seminar, which hadn’t happened and it wouldn’t happen until six weeks later. There was NO foreseeable way for us to have a baby that would not have involved seeing this psychologist and attending the meeting/info session, etc. So why did we only hear about it when we were there to sign forms we couldn’t possibly sign without the other two steps in place?

So …we attended the seminar, and found out that before we could make another appointment to sign her paperwork (this is when we were switching from Allia to me for potential carrier), we needed an interview with a psychologist, for which we had to wait weeks for the appointment. Then we had to reschedule another day off work to come in to sign the papers we should’ve been able to sign almost 8 weeks before, just to get on the list to wait potentially two years to get IVF.

How many months of our lives will be just spent waiting due to administrative incompetence? It’s not like it’s life or death or anything? Just life or no life. And with all our past hoops and pitfalls, is it too much to expect that the stuff you can control would just roll out smoothly for once? Did I mention that this is the second, technically third clinic?

So what does a gong-show of a fertility journey look like? Maybe I’ll tell you one day, maybe tomorrow.

 

Just Your Average Day: the Kind Where you Might drop a few Grand

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What are you up to today?

Oh, me, nothing much… just a little online shopping. I’m chatting with Nanette from Xytex in a chat window.

Hi, Nanette! Yes. This is Alison from Canada. Just wondering if you have three units of Carter’s* sperm that you could put on hold for me? (name changed for privacy) And how much does shipping cost?

No? You can’t place orders via the international helpline? Understood. Yes. Okay, for sure. We’ll call Outreach, your Canadian suppliers. Thanks so much. You have a great day, too.

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Unwashed units are $700. Washed are $850. The American ‘product’ can’t get shipped to us or our clinic directly. It has to go through Outreach, an intermediary. This is fine. But trying to work out… how much to buy, when to buy, how to hedge your bets to guarantee you get enough of the stuff from the right donor… but not so much that you’re stuck with lots of expensive, unused product…, how much the shipping costs, where to ship it, and how to put it on hold til you can get answers to all these questions…

These are the days of our lives, currently.

But, it’s all pretty amazing. But expensive. Some people just get a bottle of wine.

Let’s say you get 3 x $700 (USD) units. You ship it (depending on the clinic, it’s $60 – $75 to get it to ONE Fertility). The bargain shopper in me was super excited to hear about the flat rate shipping… so if we get all these units, they are the same price to ship (and you get a discount if other people are also shipping to your clinic… like a Groupon).

Though the last thing you want to be about your future offspring is frugal.

The other costs:

-$260 USD to access the Xytex site for 90 days

-Again for the next 90 days because we were preemptively looking

-Buying the product at $700 a pop

-Shipping $60-75

-Admin fees at the clinic

-Storage fees

-Thawing fees

-Freezing fees (if we have embryos via IVF that need freezing)

-Washing, if you get unwashed

-Fertility drugs ($3000 – $6000) some of which might be covered by my drug plan IF it’s the right versions of the drugs

-Procedural costs (TBD)

-We are on a waitlist for IVF and will have about $6,000 of the 10,000 covered for our first try… not including drugs

-While we wait, we are going to try IUI and, in the swirl of numbers, I can’t even remember how much that costs (even with subsidization from the government) … which is grimly funny, as I’m getting to a point where ‘oh, it might be $600 or $6,000, I can’t really remember’ is my mindset. It’s like I’m some fabulously wealthy socialite contemplating buying a new handbag from a capsule collection and I’m so rich that I don’t even need to wonder if I can afford it; except it’s the exact opposite. The numbers are just so staggering that I don’t know what they are, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out; all I know is that we will be spending an amount I don’t want to think of, even with our awesome ‘Canadian Healthcare’ and my private insurance via my job… it’s definitely feeling like a not-perk of being a lesbian.

I just bury my face in delicious food, and we keep looking at adorable baby photos of potential donors and reconvene every so often to affirm our choice: this is the one. He looks like a kind, charming, sweet person. He’s the one.

A Long Social Media Discussion on Gender and Raising Babies: Sparked by an Article on Buzzfeed