How We Afforded IVF

Woof. For us, the financial aspect of infertility was probably the most stressful. We have easily spent $15,000 at this point and that is cheap compared to a lot of couple’s expenses. It’s hard to spend that kind of money only for a chance of becoming pregnant. There are no guarantees unless you go to a clinic that offers those programs and it’s still a gamble. They’re generally more expensive up front, so if you get lucky and get pregnant on your first shot, you’re out a lot of money!

We took a year off to save up the money for IVF because the money is due upfront and we also wanted to use that time to get in the best health that we could. Here are some of the ways we raised money:

  • GoFundMe. We had some awesome friends (Katie from BurritoBuzz and her husband) who asked us if they could set up a GoFundMe account for us. This was an amazing gift and it helped us raise a good chunk of money without having to do a lot of work. This was great too, since our goal was to also raise infertility awareness.
  • Garage Sale. We had a massive garage sale. It was huge. My mom and I cleaned out her basement and we also had a lot of people donate items for us to sell. I advertised it on a local buy/sell/trade page and that really helped. A lot of people who stopped at the sale also wished us well with IVF and that was very sweet.image
  • Cookie Fundraiser. This one might not be as feasible for everyone, but I went to culinary school for pastry arts. I worked at a bakery and they offered to let me make and sell an item at the bakery, and the profit would go to our clinic for our IVF. I chose to make giant triple chocolate chip cookies. I did the work off the clock, but it was definitely worth it!
  • Pinched Pennies. We had a lot of game nights at home. We’re homebodies anyway, so this wasn’t too hard! We didn’t make ourselves miserable, but by cutting back on a few “extra” things here and there, you can save a lot of money. Most of our friends understood and were happy to have cheap date nights with us!
  • Apply For Discount Drug Programs. Our clinic provided us with forms to apply to both First Steps and Compassionate Care discount programs. They’re income based IVF drug discount programs. Our nurse also suggested writing a cover letter and we were offered 25% off from both companies and these discounts are good for one year.

I’ve made friends with people who have gotten loans specifically for IVF/infertility treatments with low interest rates, so that’s another good option! There are also grants you can apply for. Another idea is to open a credit card that offers no interest for a certain amount of time. I’m a firm believer that if there is a will, there is a way!!

With all of these tips, we raised a huge chunk of the money that we needed for IVF. We couldn’t have done it otherwise. I know a lot of people never get to pursue IVF strictly due to the enormous cost, so I hope that this might give you some options before giving up!

Baby Dust!

– Chelsea

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Finding My Tribe

Let’s take a moment to flashback to my life about 18 months ago. My husband and I had been trying to conceive for over a year and had recently started seeing a reproductive endocrinologist (RE). We had just finished our first (and only) IUI and it didn’t work. Unhappy with our current doctor’s bedside manner, we sought another opinion at the same clinic. We got the news that IVF would really be our only option to try to have a biological child. Other than that, we were looking at a less than a 5% chance, even with the
IUIs. Needless to say, my husband and I were feeling a little overwhelmed. We were also feeling pretty alone. Infertility and IVF aren’t things people talk too freely about, at least not yet anyway. I’m praying this is something that will change soon. Instead of Googling and reading outdated baby forums to get opinions/real life information, I began searching hashtags on Instagram. What I found was more than I could have ever imagined.

Little did I know that there was a huge trying to conceive community on Instagram. Women sharing their journeys in hopes of giving and receiving support and advice from other women going through the same things. The good, the incredibly bad, and all the nitty gritty details that doctors don’t tell you. Since I was very open with our struggles, I at first didn’t understand why most of the accounts were strictly IVF/infertility related. Not many women use their personal accounts for their trying to conceive accounts. Then it occurred to me that most of my “real life” friends might not want to see my posts about sperm, ovulation and PIO complaints. So I jumped on board and made my own “baby Instagram” as I so lovingly call it. I searched hashtags and would follow people going through similar situations as ours.

imageI cannot tell you how much this outlet has changed my life. You wouldn’t believe me, and it kind of sounds crazy, but these women have become some of my best friends. And not that I don’t have amazing friends, but it’s hard to relate to something like infertility if it hasn’t personally affected you. To be able to 100% share and feel with these women is amazing. I have a team of hundreds of cheerleaders! Just today, I had the honor to meet 21 of the women for a lunch. It was amazing. The strength and love these women have for each other is something I have never experienced before.

We do trying to conceive gift exchanges (lots of pineapples themed gifts), we lift each other up, cry with each loss, offer advice, prayers and understanding, and we always have each other’s backs. I’ve found multiple friends who actually go to the same clinic and even see the same doctor as me! What a small world! I know meeting strangers online sounds weird, but I’ve only had positive experiences. If I could change one thing, it would be that I found these women sooner. They have honestly changed my life.

This post was really just a chance to brag about my awesome tribe and encourage you to find yours! If you’re trying to conceive, check out some Instagram hashtags and see what you think! I can promise you it’s a great outlet. And you can be as private or open as you want. Some women never post photos of themselves and that’s totally cool! It’s up to you what to share or not. I’d love to post the picture of all my girls today, but like I said, some girls are more private, so I won’t be sharing to respect their privacy.

Baby Dust!

– Chelsea

Should I Ask For Help When Trying to Conceive?

How long is too long to TTC without a doctor’s help? Obviously I am no doctor, but if you’re asking yourself this question, maybe my opinion will help ease your mind!

A simple Google search will probably lead you to an answer like these:

  • 1 year of trying if you’re under the age of 35
  • 6 months if you’re over the age of 35

Your OB/GYN might also stick to those guidelines. This might be very good advice too; I normally like to assume that doctors know what they’re talking about more than I do. For me though, I made my first “family planning” appointment with an OB/GYN after about 8 months of trying.

I did this because I wasn’t having regular periods. It’s extremely hard to chart your cycle when you don’t cycle (and a lot of wasted pregnancy tests.. and man, they expensive!). So my husband finally convinced me to go. They ended up offering us help and treatments right off the bat due to this. Turns out not having periods is very unhealthy and can lead to cancer. So if you’re reading this and haven’t had a period in over 90 days, please go see a doctor whether or not you’re trying to conceive.

I can’t say whether or not you’ll be offered help before a year, but I can say it doesn’t hurt to ask and be proactive. Especially if you truly think something is wrong. I’ve learned in this infertility journey that it really pays off to be well informed and to advocate for yourself. But you also need to trust your doctor and if you don’t, you need to find a new doctor that you can trust. There’s nothing wrong with going and asking for help! You’re not alone and needing a little help is nothing to be ashamed of. ❤

– Chelsea

Egg Retrieval Tips and Tricks

My husband and I recently went through our first round of IVF. Eventually I will be writing about the whole process more thoroughly, but I had a good friend have her egg retrieval surgery today, and as I was giving her some advice, I realized I should write all this down while I’m thinking about it!

Leading up to your egg retrieval surgery, you’re on a lot of really fun hormones and shots! We call this ‘stimming’ in the TTC world. I think the average length of stimming is around 8-10 days, but I’ve personally known girls who have had to stim for up to 15 days! Not fun. I was lucky and responded quickly to my drugs and only had to stim for 8 days.

Since egg retrieval is a surgery, you can’t eat or drink before the procedure. Because of this, they generally try to do retrieval early in the morning. The whole process is fairly quick. I suggest wearing sweatpants or something comfortable and easy to get on and off (honestly, after stimming for so many days, you’re probably bloated and sore and happy to wear sweats where ever you can!). My IVF nurse had me bring a snack so I could take pain medication right after surgery for the ride home but more on this later.

I was most anxious about the IV, and I have no clue why. I’d been giving myself multiple shots a day for days. But for me, that was the worst part! Before I knew it, I was waking up in recovery. I think the whole procedure took maybe 15 minutes.

I’ve only been through this once, so I’m sure there are more experienced people who may have different advice, but here is mine:

  • You will (obviously?) need someone with you to drive you home. If you’re doing IVF, that will be your husband/partner most likely because the clinic will need their “sample” that morning to fertilize your eggs! It’s conception day!
  • Dress comfortably! I put on only enough makeup to look human, and wore my comfiest clothes.
  • That being said, wear your hair down. You have to wear a scrub cap, and it’s much easier and more comfortable to lay down without a ponytail bulge in there.
  • BRING A DRINK FOR AFTER! Holy crap was my mouth dry afterwards. No one warned me of that! It was insane, like having to put water in my mouth while chewing so that I could swallow.
  • Don’t bring a salty snack. See last bullet point. I took pretzels.
  • I took the day of retrieval and the following day off from work and highly recommend it. Obviously you can’t work the day of retrieval, but the next day is still hard. I was still taking pain medication as needed.
  • The heating pad is your friend, use it!
  • Don’t delay taking stool softener. I never said this was glamorous. Constipation and trapped gas are painful after surgery, and you’re already in pain.
  • Treat yourself well! Your body just went through a lot. Relax and let someone take care of you. My husband stayed home both days with me and he was awesome. I even got pizza after a nice nap the day of retrieval! I love pizza!
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Me looking fabulous after egg retrieval, and so excited they were able to get 10 eggs!!

Like I said earlier, I have a lot more to share from my IVF experience, but these are just a few random things I learned about egg retrieval that I think are useful! To anyone who may be going through this soon, baby dust to you!

– Chelsea

How To Be There For Your Infertile Friend

So your friend opened up to you and shared that she’s having problems getting pregnant. (And if you’re a good friend, this will happen. Infertility is way more common than you probably think). Your first instinct is probably, ‘Crap! What do I say? What do I do to help her?’ As a member of the infertility club, I’m here to give you some tips and tricks! Things I wish the people around me had said or done.

Disclaimer: We know infertility is hard to understand if you haven’t experienced it first hand. We also know it can be super awkward to talk about (sperm, vaginas and sex, oh my!). The fact that someone is telling you about their infertility struggles just means they need a trusting place to vent!

Let’s start with some things to do:

  • Listen! We need someone other than our husband/partner to talk to!
  • Listen well! There’s nothing worse than having to re-explain procedures and diagnoses over and over. Try to pay attention and actually understand what is going on with your friend’s journey.
  • Do some quick research. A quick Google search will give you more than enough information to fully understand your friend’s upcoming IUI, or HSG test. Your friend will be thrilled you spent the time to try and understand!
  • Unexpected friend mail is the best! Snacks, bubble bath, fun socks (for all those dates with the stirrups), even just a simple card! All are amazing and all are appreciated.
  • Just being aware. Certain social events and holidays are hard. Being understanding and aware of these triggers is huge. Don’t be hurt if your friend doesn’t come to your baby shower. She’s still so happy for you! She’s just sad for herself.

Here’s some things to try and avoid:

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  • Giving advice. Unless you’ve gone through the same things, try to just not to give advice. We know you’re trying to help, but it doesn’t help. Trust me, we’ve tried it all. Duh, temping sounds better than painful procedures and spending thousands of dollars. But that doesn’t work for everyone.
  • Telling other people about your friends struggles. Just don’t. That’s so rude and we aren’t in high school. Not everyone is as open about this as I personally am.
  • Comparing your 4 months of trying to her years of trying. Again, not the same, and not kind. It’s ok that you got pregnant easily. We wish we could too!
  • Complaining about your kids/messy house/lack of sleep. We are dying for those things.
  • Tell her about adopting. We know! This not only makes adopting look easy (which it isn’t, and it’s not for everyone), it also makes her feel guilty that by following her biological instinct to reproduce, she’s being selfish. You adopt! Adopting shouldn’t be the sole responsibility for infertile people.
  • If you become pregnant, don’t avoid her or purposely not tell her. That’s hurtful. Also telling her in person is a little much. I suggest a thoughtful text message explaining that you wanted to share, but wanted to be respectful. Again, if she’s a good friend, she’s going to be happy for you. Just sad for herself.

These me are just a few little tips and tricks I’ve experienced along the way. It’s hard to go through infertility and I’m sure it’s hard to know what to do or say to a person experiencing it! It’s even been hard at times for my mom and I. She was super fertile, and just doesn’t always know what to say. And that’s ok! Just having the support is really what we need most.

– Chelsea

 

Infertility Sucks

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Negative-Pregnancy-Tests

It does. It really and truly does, and it is so much more common than you would ever imagine. About 1 in every 6 couples will struggle with infertility. On this page, at the time of me writing this, there are about 170 followers on the Burrito Buzz Facebook page, so statistically about 26 of the followers will struggle (my husband and I follow the page, so that leaves 24, which is crazy!). Infertility is generally defined as a couple trying to conceive for 1 year without medical help and not becoming pregnant. Infertility can also refer to women who struggle to carry babies to term, or who suffer from repeat miscarriages. It sucks.

I will tell you our story so far, and I will also try and keep this brief! I could write/talk for hours on this subject. I’m Chelsea! (Not the Chelsea that is a regular blogger here). I am a good friend of Katie, and she has been a HUGE support system for me! So when she mentioned me doing a guest blog, I was thrilled!  If there is one positive to this whole infertility bull crap, it is that I have the opportunity to spread the word on this taboo (and not covered on most insurances, although it TOTALLY SHOULD BE, I DIDN’T CHOOSE THIS) subject!

My husband and I have been married for a little under 2 years. I’ve been off birth control since January 2014, and we’ve been actively trying to conceive (ttc) since April 2014. Right around the time we started actively trying, I noticed that I wasn’t getting my period (or a positive pregnancy test). Sounds like a dream, right? Except to get pregnant, you need to ovulate, and if you ovulate you will have a period (unless you get pregnant). I spent months tracking my basal body temperature; which involves needing to have at least 4 consecutive hours of sleep, and taking your temperature first thing in the morning, and tracking it on a graph to try and pinpoint when ovulation occurs, I kept a legal pad full of peed on cheapo ovulation strips from Amazon; to try and track when they would get darker, meaning I was close to ovulation, and tracking my cervical mucus (not going into details on this one… lol). We never had luck, and I was driving myself crazy. I vividly remember crying on my bed like a crazy person about my luteal phase not being long enough, and so on and so forth. It was normal for me to go 60+ days with no period, and it was torture… constantly taking tests… constantly getting negatives. I was in denial that I needed medical help, because this is what my body is made for! My husband finally convinced me that I should go see an OB/GYN, so I made an appt. It was more of a “family planning” “pre-pregnancy” type appointment. I can’t remember all the specifics and on what timeline (I’m really good at repressing things!) But the term PCOS was thrown around, we decided to get hubby’s sperm analyzed (which costs $150… crazy…) and we decided we wanted to try a fertility drug called Clomid, to see if it would help me ovulate on my own. I was never actually diagnosed with PCOS at this clinic. And they also told us that the sperm analysis wasn’t that bad… there were a few things a little low, but the count was fine, and even a small percent of millions and millions of sperm, is ok. Cool. We believed them and felt good. This Clomid should work fine for us! Each month you’re on these drugs involved multiple doctors’ visits… blood work, internal ultrasounds, fun! First month I was on a 50mg dosage. I went in for my first follicle study, to see if I had any eggs that might ovulate. NOTHING! I was told it wasn’t even worth our time to “try” that month, and I was given a prescription for a drug called Provera to make me start my period so we could up my dosage of Clomid and try again next month, and add in a ‘trigger’ shot to force me to ovulate ($120 a pop for a shot). Clomid is terrible and makes you a crazy person, btw. The hot flashes are seriously the worst, and if going through infertility won’t make you super emotional, Clomid will. We did three more rounds, 1- 100mg and 2- 150mg… each month sounded hopeful. I was responding to the drugs fine, and producing multiple nice sized follicles, but still no BFP (big fat positive).  Somewhere in there I also had a tube test done to see if my tubes are open and clear ($900). From reading online about the tube test procedure, it seemed pretty easy. Similar to a pap, but they insert a tiny balloon and inflate it to open your cervix, then push dye through a catheter to flow into your tubes while your lay under an x-ray machine. I’d been though a lot already, so this seemed easy! WRONG! The typical test takes less than 5 min. This dude was all up in my business for AT LEAST 10, with a long probe, moving my insides around to try and get this balloon to my cervix… it was awful. Apparently I have a tipped uterus. He finally said that he couldn’t get the balloon where it needed to be, so he was going to do the best he could. Right tube looks great, left he couldn’t get the dye to flow correctly, SO WHO REALLY KNOWS. I cried… on the table, in front of this stranger who was just rooting around in my vagina for the last 10 min. I cried the whole way home. It didn’t seem fair to go through all of that and not have any real answers on one whole side of my tubes!  It was at this point our doctor suggested us taking the next step and seeing a specialist, a Reproductive Endocrinologist.  Taking Clomid for long periods of time can be very harmful to your body and start preventing pregnancy, and increasing your risk for different cancers, plus, we weren’t getting anywhere, so we decided to make an appointment.

I have a friend who went this same fertility clinic, Reproductive Gynecology, and she loved the doctors and ended up pregnant! So I was actually pretty excited. I had been doing plenty of research, and we both knew what we wanted our next step to be, and IUI (artificial insemination). We went to our first appointment and we were immediately crushed. It took everything in me to not break down in front of our doctor when she told us that the sperm analysis was actually pretty bad, and with my possible blocked tube, and possible PCOS, IVF was really our only option. We. Were. Crushed. This is not what we had planned, nor do we have that kind of money. IVF is crazy expensive. We aren’t that infertile. Life isn’t fair. I expressed to her that we really wanted to try an IUI first. They still cost $1000, but compared to the $15,000+ that IVF costs, we thought it was worth a try. 7 vials of blood, 5 days of a different fertility drug, another ‘trigger’ shot, and $1000 later, we were doing our first IUI! We felt so hopeful! It was exactly 1 year to the date that we started trying, and that had to be a sign! We got to the hospital SUPER early so hubs could do his thing with the cup in the room with the porn, and they could “wash” his sperm to remove any impurities/any of the bad disfigured sperm. We roamed the hospital and got some coffee. I had read that IUIs take better when you have a super full bladder! 2 hours later, I was inseminated and we were on our merry way. 2 weeks later, BFN (big fat negative) UGH! This same doctor then tells me she would like us to do 2 more IUIs before moving on to IVF, and we decided to get another opinion. This is the same doctor that told us an IUI wouldn’t likely work for us… now you want us to spend another $2k doing them when we could put that money towards IVF??

I LOVE OUR NEW DOCTOR. He is great and I love him. I hope he can get me pregnant! He informed me that I do indeed have PCOS. FINALLY someone actually bothers to actually diagnose me! He also gave us our odds, which no one else had bothered to do! They are in no means good odds, but it’s nice to hear! Only a 1-2% chance that we will ever conceive naturally, 5% with an IUI (ummm what? And this b*tch wanted us to do that 3 times?!?) and a 50-60% with IVF! We NEVER thought we would end up here, and we also NEVER thought we would be able to afford IVF. Before I have people commenting about adoption.. we know! I’ve actually already gotten info and been in contact with an agency. Our plan is to do 1 round of IVF (plus any FETs if we are blessed enough to have multiple embryos to freeze). Unfortunately adoption is also crazy expensive…and some days I still wonder if we should just skip the IVF and move on to adoption. But I really want to be able to experience pregnancy. And right now I am young and healthy. Adoption will always be an option for us, but IVF won’t be. So since about May of this year, we’ve just been taking it easy, and it is GREAT! Infertility sucks. It is hard on your body, your relationship, your social life, your wallet, your sex life. IT SUCKS! It’s nice to take some time off and be normal. Currently we are just working REALLY hard to raise money for our IVF (which is hopefully going to happen late spring of 2016!!) and doing our best to eat REALLY well, and take lots of vitamins that are suppose to help. We’re talking all organic, grass-fed, cage-free, (gluten and dairy free for me… YUCK), cutting back on caffeine and alcohol (until we completely cut out both at 3 months out) and about 8 vitamins a day. We want to be as physically/emotionally ready for IVF as we possibly can be to give it our best shot!

I’ve found an AWESOME (and I truly mean so awesome I could cry) support system in the form of an online Instagram community of other girls TTC all over the world. They are all so awesome and so dear to my heart. I am actually meeting some of them from Ohio this coming weekend! It’s so inspiring to see girls go through this and get to the other side! We have been SO BLESSED! I cannot even describe. We are passed the ‘poor us’ stage, and are making the best of the situation we are in! I love being able to be a spokesperson for this, and the love and support and connections we’ve made make us believe this is all happening for a reason. This is how it is suppose to go for us. I can only pray that IVF works for us and that it brings us our family that we are SO anxious to have! Katie started a GoFundMe for us (which is SO AWESOME and I’ll never be able to express to her and her husband how much it means to us), and my workplace (I’m a pastry chef) is doing a cookie fundraiser where all the proceeds will go directly to our clinic in our name to help pay our IVF bills. ❤ If you managed to read all this and are struggling with something similar, PLEASE feel free to contact me! I know how lonely it is. I know how every pregnancy announcement brings you to tears. I know that it isn’t fair. But you aren’t alone ❤ ❤ And if anyone wants more information on our GoFundMe, or “Baking for Baby Phares” fundraiser, let me or Katie know! Also, feel free to follow my journey on Instagram  @making_baby_phares

-Chelsea Phares, Guest Blogger