Anniversary Celebrations and IVF #7

An update before we start:

The 2 embryos transferred following IVF #6 did nothing but die. No one is surprised, least of all me, but I thought we’d better clear that up. As I said last post, I suspect endometriosis is a bullshit disease that doctors invented so that they could charge to cure it.

But, guess what?!? Today is our 2nd anniversary! Our 2nd anniversary of medically assisted baby making! What do we have to show for it?

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On our 2nd anniversary, we are celebrating: debt, destroyed relationships, demolished career plans, wasted youth, shattered lives, enhanced cynicism, etc

Even if this anniversary was worth celebrating, we are both too sick to. Chloe is in the middle of her 2nd IVF cycle (our 7th overall) and I am taking some crappo poison so that I can potentially get some of her embryos shoved up my cunt.

…And we both have the flu. It’s fun times in this household.

You might remember that on Chloe’s first IVF attempt, she got 2 5 day embryos of the same quality. They were morulas, not ideal but ‘OK’. The doctor refused to transfer both of them (because you really need to be cautious that you don’t give your extremely infertile patients too much of a chance at getting pregnant.) We had a bit of a fight about it but, of course, the person paying for the IVF (aka: me) gets no say whatsoever.

The one they did choose (at random) to transfer stuck for a few weeks and died. The spare went in the bin… which I am still furious about. Quite apart from the fiscal aspect of it, it is wildly unethical to dispose of what could be a human life. To deny 2 infertile people an embryo that they have gone through hell to get and could become their child is a severely fucked up move.

C decided she wanted to go with the same doctor for her second attempt. I despise the guy, but it’s her cunt and her choice what sort of human shitball she lets in there. So, at the negotiation meeting, we came with terms:

  1. If there is one embryo, it goes to C.
  2. If there are two embryos, one goes to C and one to me.
  3. If there are three embryos, two go to C and one to me.
  4. If there are three embryos, two go to C and two to me.

We have these in writing and the agreement recorded via audio. So, if an embryo gets wasted, I will be suing.

Of course, C has an AHM of 4 or 5 so the idea of getting 4 passable embryos is laughable. Getting 5 eggs total is pushing it. Still, the arrangement serves its purpose in that it protects against that horrendous doctor making more $$ out of our powerlessness.

About a week now until the human shitball rapes my wife. I will try to update. Wish us luck.

Next Stop: The Health Care Complaints Commission

Every time I tell someone about my experiences with IVF Australia and, more specifically, with doctor #1 (a.k.a Dr Douchbag), they have been incredulous. How can a doctor be that hopeless? That completely ignorant of the ramifications of his incompetence?

During our 6 month wait for donor sperm, (ex)friends (who turned out to be uberfertile, thus necessitating the discontinuation of the friendship, see TBH, I do hate uberfertiles) were going through the process at the same clinic (although, luckily for them, with another doctor). They were surprised that we had effectively been told to fuck off for 6 months. Their doctor had commissioned further tests like fallopian tube blockages (kinda relevant if you’re told you’re doing IUI) and had ordered fertility testing for both members of the partnership. Why not, when you’re waiting up to 10 months for sperm.

At the time, I believed there was nothing wrong with me, so I didn’t make a fuss. I just thought everything would be fine, although the complete lack of attention did strike me as odd.

I should have seen the warning signs. But, I just thought doctors knew what they were doing.

(What an idiot, right?)

I believe
My attitude to doctors, back when I was an innocent young fool.

A few months ago, a lawyer friend to whom I tearfully (and very drunkenly – no way I will talk about this shit otherwise) opened up to about this hell exclaimed,

“Oh my God! If you want to sue them, I’ll help you!”

(Lawyers, right?)

I reluctantly rehashed the experience to my psychologist who immediately recommended I make a formal complaint to the Health Care Complaints Commission.

So, that is what I am trying to do.

No one should have to go through what we went through. Furthermore, no queer couples should have to go through what we went through and I do firmly believe that has been a part of it. I honestly don’t think we would have been treated like this if we were a heterosexual couple. I don’t think doctor #1 had any interest in helping us get pregnant. A lot of his behavior was beyond ambivalent and was downright hinderous.

We should have been given our medical results. My concerns should have been taken seriously. Every other doctor we encountered seemed to see there was something very wrong. The more I read about others’ experiences in this, the more unfathomable it is to me that a doctor could tell a 27-year-old that after 3 IVF cycles, altogether yielding a *total* of one (pretty poor) blastocyst, that “there’s nothing wrong – do another cycle”.

What. The. Actual. Fuck?

Two weeks ago, I was reduced to tears after fighting IVF Australia for my medical records (and being denied them – no surprises there).

Last week, I cried my way through 2kg of IVF paperwork, looking for written proof of my story. They don’t like to give you much to go on. They don’t want any irrefutable evidence of their culpability. So, in addition to the buried memories that stack of paper unearthed, the exercise stirred a pesky voice that whispered:

“No one will believe you. You can’t fight them. They’re bigger than you.”

“Why did you ever trust them? You brought this on yourself. If you hadn’t have been so naive, they wouldn’t have taken advantage of you.”

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I’m not even exaggerating. It is 2kg. I weighed it. One day it will make a nice bonfire.

I can’t help but think that this is all my fault. Although physically, I now have a medical condition (endometriosis) to blame my barrenness on, I blame myself for my lack of action. Perhaps I should have stormed into the doctor’s office and demanded the results of my tests and then researched what the hell they all meant. What if I had called bullshit sooner and stopped blindly going along with more and more and more IVF? What if we had gone to two fertility clinics simultaneously, then maybe one of them would have been competent.

I don’t know how I am going to get through this, but what choice do I have? It’s not fair that I have to spend my days reliving this horrible experience. I never deserved it in the first place. It’s not fair, but the alternative is to lie down and take it and I WILL NOT be doing that, even if it kills me.

Some days I can’t believe it hasn’t.

For further reading on this thrilling topic, see my 2017 complaint to IVF Australia here:

One Year of TTC

Bad Hope

Here are the facts:

  • I’ve had the offensive parts of my insides peeled off.
  • Medically, I *should* be fertile (sure haven’t heard that shit from doctors before).
  • I’m expected to do that fucking IVF crap again.
giphy (1)
So now I’m fertile, am I?

Had the answer been the same shit, again:

*blah blah blah* *perfect health* *blah blah blah* *should be able to get pregnant* *peak fertility* *blah blah blah*

… there would have been an end. There would have been a closed door. I’m healthy, I’m infertile, and this is the end of the story. At least I have my health.

Ironically, the fact was that I was not completely healthy. Now that, apparently, I am, further medical intervention is sensible.

Sensible. Another life destroying, money wasting nightmare is a sensible choice for my wife and I.

A sixth fucking round of IVF is apparently sensible.

The one thing this crap is not is sensible.

This morning I was considering the topic of this post. These recent events have left me with a corrosive feeling in the pit of my stomach, and the only name I can find for it is hope.

Hope?

Hope is the wrong word for it, though, because hope implies something positive. Hope implies optimism and cheerfulness. This is not that. But what can you call poison hope like this? It’s a hope that feeds an addiction. It’s hope that drives to destruction. It’s the hope of a substance abuser that just a bit more of _____ will make everything better. Or the hope of a problem gambler that today has got to be a lucky day. It’s the hope of denial and it’s very bad hope.

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Wisdom is knowing that the light is actually your house burning down.

It’s the force that drives us to do a 6th IVF cycle, even when we know deep down that it will just make things a lot worse. It will open up a half closed wound that grows more tender with every opening, and takes longer to heal. What drives people to do 10 or 20 rounds of IVF? Not common sense. Addiction and bad, toxic hope, that’s what.

My nerves rankle as I watch myself heedlessly shovel money into the pockets of fertility shysters. I know it is an addiction and I know it is time to stop. But… I’m twenty-fucking-eight. I have more than a decade left of watching people my age have kids. I’m twenty-fucking-eight and most of my friends haven’t started trying for kids. The unfairness of the situation drives the addiction as well. How can we give up yet? Sure, it’s been almost two years of fertility treatment. Sure, it’s been 5 rounds of IVF.

But what if the next time is different?

I could ramble on ceaselessly about fertility addiction and my experience with it, and about the bad hope propelling us towards cycle 6. However, I recommend this blog post; Child at heart: A brief look at ‘IVF addiction’  as a very good summary of various views on the topic and a source of further reading. I really couldn’t have said it better myself.

To quote a quote (I feel like a lazy undergrad) from the blog:

“If someone told you that you should bet $12,000, $15,000, even $20,000 on a horse that has a 5% or less chance of winning the race, you’d tell them to get lost, that’s crazy…Yet, IVF patients that go in for multiple rounds of IVF, beyond two or three are doing exactly that. Most clinics have pulled out all the stops, applied all the tricks they know by the third IVF cycle. If it still isn’t working, either the clinic is incompetent or IVF is not the right solution for that patient”.

And here we are on number 6. FML.

The Middlo

I made my mother take me to hospital. Wifey was busy at home. If there was nothing wrong with me, it was supposed to only take a few hours.

On the way to the hospital, she asked gently,

‘And what are you having done?’

‘I dunno.’

It sounds like a teenagerish thing to say but it was mostly accurate. I hadn’t elaborated on the medical situation. TBH, I was a bit annoyed at one of her assumptions when I had asked her to take me to the hospital for planned surgery day #1.

‘I had that surgery when I was your age. They inject dye into your fallopian tubes and look at them and then your wee is blue!’

I nodded, resisting the urge to query why on earth myself or any legitimate medical professional would be interested in the state of my thoroughly redundant fallopian tubes. I have never used them. I will never use them. I don’t even know if they exist and they would have been just as useful to me if they didn’t.

Having been denied the chance to explain once, I did not bother again. Then, having major doubts about the surgery going ahead, I didn’t even commit to mind what I had been told of the surgery months before.

We got to the hospital and I was taken to the little check in room to be questioned.

‘What are you having done today?’

Suddenly the answers of, ‘I dunno’, ‘Just wasting my money’ or ‘Just wanted to know if there’s a reason I can’t have kids’ seemed… inadequate. I wrenched a couple of words from the archives of my mind.

‘Hyss-ter-o-scop-ee and lap-er-o-scop-ee’, I enunciated slowly, adding quickly, ‘did I say that right?’

Apparently, I had sounded out the words correctly (phew). She must have seen my title (Dr) but she didn’t ask me if I was a medical doctor. That must have been *quite* clear. Hopefully, I had avoided looking like a complete dullard who shows up at hospital with no idea what they are doing there.

I was sent to get changed, put on silly stockings and some shitty thread-bare dressing gown. I was thankful that my period only lasts 48 hours, as I had to get naked and I did not want to explain that I was bleeding everywhere. Just like always, my little trickle of blood that started on Thursday morning was over and I didn’t have to negotiate nudity and some elaborate blood catching apparatus.

I lay in bed with my mum waiting for the doctor to arrive. As he had never worked at the hospital before, they suggested that I look out for him as they wouldn’t know what he looked like. 12 o’clock ticked by (at which the surgery was supposed to begin) and he still wasn’t here. I was getting pretty stressed by this stage, having paid my $7k, collected my worthless promises, and gotten all dressed up. What if the surgery got called off again. What if he just never showed up?

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Where the fuck are you, doctor?

I was so excited when he did show, I think I said something like,

‘You’re actually here!’

He didn’t seem concerned about being 5 minutes late. I was ready, after all, and, probably, so was he. We both had to sign a consent form (which was good because I still didn’t really know what was going on.)

‘So you know what’s happening?’

I nodded confidently. Again, ‘you’re going to see if there’s anything wrong with me’ sounded very childish.

‘And do you have any questions?’

‘I do’, my mother interjected. ‘Can you just tell me what is happening? She hasn’t actually told me anything.’

So, for my mother’s benefit but secretly for mine, doctor #3 explained the basics of a hysteroscopy and laparoscopy for the purposes of excising endometriosis. If I didn’t have endo, doctor #3 would take biopsies of everything and the whole thing would be over in less than 40 minutes and I would be free to go home in a few hours.

Fun fact: endometriosis is easiest to spot right after a period as the blood is fresh and it ‘lights up’. Timing, it seemed, was perfect.

‘And you think she has endometriosis?’

‘I am quite confident she has endometriosis.’

‘I’m not.’ I scoffed under my breath.

 

Just the Starto

A month ago, I mentioned I was about to have surgery to *hopefully* find out why this pregnancy thing is so unreasonable a prospect for my 28-year-old-purportedly-perfectly-healthy body.

https://cluckydykes.com/2018/03/10/waiting-for-endo/

That surgery didn’t happen. Doctor #3 is from a different state and there was a delay in finding a hospital in my state for him to operate. The details are not important. Suffice to say, I prepared for some very expensive, possibly useless surgery and organised my life around its occurring. The cancellation left me depressed for all the reasons that the fertility industry destroys my spirit.

Promises broken, misinformation, and complete disregard for how this circus effects my life. (The fertility circus, in my case, being an immensely consuming 3rd job that I do not have the time nor the emotional energy to endure.)

So, when the nurse called me the week after #surgeryfail with a *real* date for my surgery, I politely asked her to email me the details.

fertility fuckwits
Dealing with the fertility industry.

With no email forthcoming (*gasp*), I resigned myself to the fact that I had exhausted every fertility treatment option available.

As a same-sex couple, there is a total of 2 companies in my state that will treat my wife and I. We had tried both. We had tried 3 doctors. We had gone through 5 IVF cycles (the full stim cycles, not the stick-a-frozen-embryo-in-and-call-it-a-cycle IVF cycles that uberfertiles love to whinge about). Almost 2 years had elapsed since this nightmare started. That qualifies as trying, surely. So, I decided, if they contacted me about the surgery, I would go ahead with it and *theoretically* discover why I’m barren A.F. If not, I would put this baby business to bed.

The surgery was, after all, an expensive exercise in regret evasion. Wouldn’t I regret not knowing why I can’t have kids? Isn’t that knowledge worth $7k? (Don’t answer that – I realise most answers will not be like mine.)

Last Wednesday afternoon, I got a phone call from the same nurse asking me to send the consent forms back. I still had not received any emails or follow up phone calls regarding this supposed surgery date and the whole thing reeked of fertility industry incompetence (FII). If she wanted something signed she’d better email it to me. But she had, she insisted. Problem was, she said, most of her emails went to people’s spam folders. (Perhaps Gmail has a fancy filter to protect infertiles from FII.)

Dubiously, I checked my spam folder and there they were; 3 emails related to the surgery, dating back 3 weeks. Surgery was scheduled for Saturday, less than 3 days away. So, I just said I’d do it.

Why not, hey?

knowledge is power
The pursuit of knowledge can be used to justify many stupid decisions.

“For a 28-year-old to have had 4 IVF cycles and no freezable embryos is unheard of” and other things doctors say

“For a 28-year-old to have had 4 IVF cycles and no freezable embryos is unheard of,” says doctor #3 to me this afternoon.

He’s heard of it now, though, as have I and, if you’re reading this, so have you.

Am I really the only one or is he just trying to make me feel like a special snowflake? I don’t mind being a special snowflake. I suppose if I HAVE to be a medical oddity, being the amazing-late-twenties-lady-with-nothing-wrong-with-her-but-who-absolutely-can’t-get-pregnant isn’t the worst option. It’s surely better than the lady-in-a-coma-for-no-reason or guy-with-the-mystery-flesh-eating-virus.

I might, however, had I been given the option, opt for an illness that did not require me to spend $50k on revealing myself to be a medical oddity. I bet guy-with-the-mystery-flesh-eating-virus didn’t have to do that. Lucky rich bastard.

Maybe, given that I am such a miraculous medical oddity I’ll get journal articles written about me and I can weasel my way into being one of the minor authors on the paper. Then, being that the article is about the misadventures of a true maverick of infertility, it will be vehemently cited and my h-index will skyrocket and set up my academic career for future credibility and, thus, greatness. Or something.

Dr 3 also tells me that, given my past monumental failure in the field of fertility, there is a 70% chance I have asymptomatic undiagnosed endometriosis.  Neither of the first 2 doctors have considered the possibility of endometriosis so it seems strange to me that Dr 3 thinks this has such a high probability.

Dr 1: “Only 20% of IVF stim cycles result in frozen embryos”. So, following that logic, the probability of me having 4 cycles and zero freezable quality embryos is 0.8⁴ which is 41%, a statistic which would hardly be considered “unheard of”. Contradictory? Welcome to the wacky world of fertility doctoring.

Dr 1: “An AMH of 7 in a 27-year-old means you probably won’t be able to have kids after 30. You’ll have to do IVF and freeze some embryos.” This was a justification for not starting the fertility nightmare with the simpler, cheaper and less invasive IUI treatment. It was also articulated prior to the comment above which really begs the question of why IVF was recommended given the improbably of producing freezable embryos in the first place. According to Dr 3, this statement is utter bullshit, both for the notion that people with slightly below average AMHs will ‘run out’ of eggs by the tender age of 30 and also that a single AHM test can predict, with that level of accuracy, what ovarian reserve is in the first place. It’s a guide, he tells me, as to how many eggs to expect and not a measure of quantity. I did another AMH test 6 months ago (a year after the first one) and it was 11… meaning that I had more eggs after a year and 3 rounds of IVF. It doesn’t seem worth basing that much on AMH.

Dr 1: “There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re completely average. It’s normal not to conceive after 2 IVF cycles.” He said this after 3 cycles. I told him this and he insisted I was mistaken. Because why would *I* count them??

Dr Douchbag
Keeping notes on your patients is for chumps.

 

The moral of the story is; the only certainly in infertility is that most of your doctors will contradict each other, be fuckwits, be men, lie to you or simply not give a shit about you.

Maybe, if you’re a medical curiosity, you might be interesting enough to warrant a shit being given about you and your reproductive capabilities. Maybe. I hope. Fingers crossed anyway.

Our TTC saga – Part 1: Trying to try to conceive (TTTTC)

When we started on this journey, we had no idea what we were doing. We had no friends to ask or reasonable sources of advice beyond what the fertility clinics deign to provide. By fertility clinics, of course, I mean the very few private fertility clinics who are licenced to provide donor sperm to couples like us. So here’s a timeline of our experiences. I hope it will help other couples like us shed light on the whole process (or, perhaps, frustrate the crap out of them).

We chose to go with the artificial insemination route for several reasons:

  1. Legally, in Australia, if the pregnancy is brought about by a doctor who both mothers have been referred to (by another doctor) then the resulting baby’s birth certificate can bare both mothers’ names. This was very appealing because:
    1. We would both have legal and parental responsibility for the child, no questions asked, from the time they were born.
    2. It saves the stress and cost of the non-birth mother having to adopt the child later. It may even work out cheaper in the long run.
  2. We didn’t have a sperm donor so donor sperm was a better option. Fun fact: it is actually cheaper to buy donor sperm from the clinic than it is the BYO sperm donor. Or course, if the sperm donor is intended to be the baby’s father, then it’s pretty much free to BYO sperm. Go figure!

June 2016:

We had always talked about having kids but Chloe and I actually started to do something about it! I had finished my PhD in January and gone back to work full time in February 2016. I had applied for a few post-docs overseas and a job in Melbourne, Australia. I hadn’t got any of the jobs but, I didn’t really mind. I had a pretty good job already and that’s pretty lucky for any newly graduated PhD student. Chloe had a job too and our home and work places were all within a 6km radius.

I don’t know how it happened, but somehow we threw out the idea of me getting a post-doc overseas, moving far away and having a great adventure. Both of us were so keen to nest that it was hard to find the motivation to shake up our lives at that point. Our families were in our city, or close by. We were 27; a bit young, but not too young to have kids.

It was time, we decided. Time to nest and make babies.

July 2016:

Although we had our wedding in March 2016, we were finally able to hand in the paperwork to have our relationship ‘registered’ in July. In the state of NSW, Australia, they allow same-sex couples to get registered, which basically means you pay money to have a certificate. This certificate essentially means that you’re de-facto. We decided to do this for some weird reason (it’s expensive and practically useless since most couples living together are considered de-facto in Australia). I guess we didn’t want to give anyone an excuse to treat our relationship as being less than any other, if we could possibly avoid it. Having an official document to prove we were a couple seemed like a good back up for a lot of life maladies.

What we didn’t realise (because we are still the only couple I know to get ‘registered’ in NSW), was that, if my wife wanted to change her surname to my surname (which she did, because it’s a far superior surname :P), she’d have to change it before we got registered because, if she changed it after, we’d have to get registered again in her new name. Yet another reason why Australia should just get on with legalising marriage equality… you can get married and THEN change your name without getting remarried!!

The day we finally submitted the registration paperwork was the same day we went for our first doctor visit. We went to my GP. I had never come out to my GP (he was fairly new GP) so it was a little nerve racking for me walking in there with Chlo and announcing, “Hi. We’d like to have a baby. Together.” I wasn’t really surprised that he had never had such a request before. But, he’s a great doctor and asked us what we needed. We had done enough research about the process to know to request a referral to a fertility specialist who we knew would be able to refer us for a dose of donor sperm and the IVF clinic. We got our referral and were on our way. (My GP, BTW, was super excited and requested that he be my doctor through the pregnancy and our future baby’s doctor).

Now, a word about choosing a fertility specialist: if I were to do the whole thing again, I would have done my research into the fertility specialist above all else. The IVF clinic, when I enquired about what to do told us that they had one fertility specialist in our city. Our choice to use this doctor came down to an issue of travel. Do we travel for 10 minutes or do we choose to travel for 2-3 hours? It seemed an easy choice at the time. We were told to get a referral for the fertility specialist in our city and so we did. Interestingly, a couple of friends of ours who lived very near us were going through the same process and the same clinic a few weeks after us. They were told by the fertility clinic that there was NO fertility specialist in our city. I wish I had have been told that too. Worth mentioning too that our FS was just a referring FS, not actually part of the IVF clinic. My advice: stay away from doctors that are not part of the clinic and will not be part of the treatment. Also, read reviews on the FS in question (this particular FS has several bad reviews online, which should have been a flashing red light, but I just didn’t Google it!)

August 2016:

We went to a donor sperm information evening hosted by our chosen IVF clinic. I thought hosting an info session like that meant that they were pretty involved with helping same sex couples conceive. How did we choose the IVF clinic? It was a choice of two in the state (NSW) and I chose the one that seemed least homophobic. Seriously. I think I made the wrong choice in hindsight.

A few days later, we paid to go onto the donor sperm waiting list. We were informed the wait for IUI quality sperm was 8-10 months and the wait for IVF sperm was 2 months. Our friends, who were a couple of weeks behind us in this process were told there was a 6 month waiting list for IUI sperm. Go figure.

Spurred by these hopeful developments, I started looking to buy a family and doggo friendly house J We had our first fertility appointment the same day I took Chloe to see a house I liked. It was the first house I had looked at and the first one she had looked at. We went straight from the house to our appointment.

Our first appointment with the only person in Wollongong capable of proclaiming people worthy of donor sperm. It was anticlimactic. He referred me for all the standard tests: pelvic ultrasound, blood tests.  He said it was good we were starting young. That would make it a lot easier.

I bought that house, or, at least, had my offer accepted.

September 2016:

I went and got all those tests. It didn’t seem much point hurrying because we were preparing to wait almost a year for donor sperm. But, I got them anyway and called up the doctor’s office to see if I had to come in and get the results. The receptionist told me they were all fine and to come in once we were at the top of the donor sperm waiting list. So we waited.

November 2016:

Wifey and I moved into that kid-and-dog friendly house 🙂

December 2016:

My mother met a woman who had gotten pregnant using donor sperm and IVF. Apparently, she didn’t have to wait at all for her sperm. “Why don’t you go to IVF Australia? You won’t have to wait for sperm and B says they’re really good.” Out of two possible choices, we had gone with IVF Australia, gaining us a 8-10 month sperm wait. Thanks for the advice.

February 2017:

The compulsory time-wasting money-grubbing counsellor sessions at the clinic.

“Have you thought about who’s going to work and who’s going to take care of baby?

“Have you considered that baby things cost money?

“Do you know about maternity leave?

Anyone who gets to this stage and hasn’t spoken to their partner about who’s going to take care of the bloody baby is a nincompoop. So, counselling was pretty pointless because any person who has been waiting to do IVF for 6 months has ACTUALLY THOUGHT ABOUT THE RESULTING BABY! But the IVF clinic got $400 and we were approved to continue along the baby making road.

Mostly, I think these counselling sessions are for people who have to deal with surprise infertility and all the rubbish that goes along with that. Lesbians are immune to this, being already quite sure that they are not going to make a baby naturally. There’s always surprises for everyone, though.

Whining and complaining and waiting for IVF #4

We’ve been taking an involuntary break from IVF in which we have changed sperm donors, changed doctors and formally complained about our old doctor and general treatment by our IVF clinic.

In response to the letter I published in a previous post (One Year of TTC), I had a skype meeting with the medical director of our illustrious IVF clinic. Wifey C didn’t want to be a part of this meeting because:

a) she hates complaining and will avoid it at all costs.

b) she thought this meeting was simply a time wasting attempt to appease us, through pretending to take our concerns seriously and thereby, making us shut up and hand over more money.

c) she doesn’t like thinking negative thoughts about all this IVF stuff in general. She gets through life by being optimistic.

On the other hand, if there’s one thing I have gained from IVF, it is the ability to be assertive. I don’t know why or how, but my brain has done a total shift. I used to be shy and terrified of people thinking badly of me. Now, I legitimately do not care. I will tell people if I am dissatisfied. I will tell them if I think they’re wrong. I will happily share my opinions, popular or not, with gay abandon.

This is a nice life skill, but I wouldn’t pay $30k for it. However, at least I’ve got something to show for this shit show.

I wasn’t really sure of the purpose of the meeting. It could be, as Chloe thought, just an elaborate way to make me feel that my concerns were heard and, ultimately, a waste of my time.

It probably was that. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that, as part of the appeasing process, I was offered what equates to a $5000 discount on cycle number 4. I.e. we’ll be paying straight couple prices!!

And, if Chloe ever suggests to me that something is not worth complaining about, I am going to bring up the time my complaining saved us $5k.

 

After cycle 3, a date with Dr Douchbag

I had an appointment with our regular fertility specialist booked for the day after my scheduled pregnancy test. It makes me feel better to do everything as quickly as possible, especially after failures. The waiting and wondering makes me crazy. Being proactive makes me feel like slightly less of a failure.

(I was there by myself because wifey was at work. She’s a customer service manager and can’t take time out for appointments as easily as me. The perks of being a researcher mean that I can literally work anywhere, any time. Customers, on the other hand, only get serviced during preordained time slots.)

In the waiting room, I was sitting opposite a couple of girls my age. (If they weren’t a couple I will eat my hat.) I wanted to politely inform them that I knew what situation they were in and what their options were and that they really ought to go get themselves a competent doctor who will actually be treating them and not a shoddy-middle-man doctor who will be palming them off to another doctor and won’t think too much about them or even remember who they are.

I didn’t say that. It seemed a little forward. Besides, I was waiting too. Why should they believe someone who doesn’t practice what they preach?

They went in to their appointment. They came back out. They seemed happy enough. I wondered if they’d have more success than me. Statistically, they will.

Dr D called my name.

He began with the standard:

“Remind me who you are.”

Not to worry, mate, I’ve only been your patient for a year. You’ve only cost me twenty-something grand, you’ve only denied my wife and I medical records and information for the past year. I suppose you do that to all your patients, though, right? We’re not worth remembering. We’re probably not even worth keeping a file on.

I didn’t say that. It seemed unnecessarily argumentative. So, I answered his question with the facts; my name, my wife’s name, our medical history and why I was fronting up to his office on this particular day.

After ascertaining, from me, the sketchy details that I had gathered from miscellaneous lab-techs, nurses and doctors regarding my last cycle (he doesn’t bother to look these up – the clinic’s website, a task which, he has told me, is too hard), he concluded that the cycle was successful because there was one embryo that didn’t die before 5 day transfer. Hooray! Success!

When I pointed out that 90% of my 3 day embryos die before they become 5 day embryos, and that this is statistically very high for a 27-28 year-old, he told me there was nothing wrong with that, because, of course, there was one embryo this cycle that didn’t die within 5 days of existence.

I pointed out that I had more IVF cycles under my belt than 5 day embryos. That didn’t seem a very ‘successful’ track record.

He told me I’d only done 2 IVF cycles, because the first one was cancelled.

I wonder if this denial of the facts is how the IVF clinic generates better statistics.

I wonder what qualifies an IVF cycle as being ‘cancelled’. If you have eggs collected, eggs fertilised, show up for an embryo transfer, pay for that embryo transfer, are taken into the procedure room… I wonder if that is still a cancelled cycle. Seems like a very late cancellation to me. I would have loved it to have been cancelled several thousand dollars earlier.

Anyway. That’s an issue for another time.

“I’m writing up another cycle, and I’m going to put you on a different drug this time,” he says, handing me the paperwork.

“What drug?” (I feel like I have probably read about all of them by now.)

“It’s called, ‘Menopur’.”

…Which is the same drug he’s prescribed for every single one of my cycles so far and which I have told him on several occasions makes me really sick.

He can’t even keep note of what drugs he’s prescribed previously. So much for learning from past cycles. Perhaps he has shares in the Menopur company.

During this consultation, I asked 6 times for basic fertility test referrals for C. He told us last time that I had to do a third cycle before he would allow her to have any tests. After I refused to leave until he gave them to me, he finally handed them over.

Also, I asked to be sent for additional tests given that:

  1. It’s been a year since the first set of tests.
  2. I’ve had 3 failed cycles.

Nope. He won’t let me go for any more tests until I do a fourth cycle. A fourth cycle just the same as the first, second and third.

Because, if you blindly do the same thing again and again and again, the outcome will change.

That’s the definition of insanity, right?

 

One year of TTC

Today marks 1 year of us trying to make a baby.

One year ago, today, the weather was just like this, bright, sunny and warm. The perfect Australian winter day. It was a Saturday so we were both off work and we went for our first doctor’s appointment and obtained our first referral. One year ago, today, we celebrated the milestone by having friends over and drinking wine.

We were optimistic AF. Now, this is definitely not the worst first year of baby making in existence, but it has been a pretty shit time. Between me being sick as a dog every second month and metaphorically setting fire to large vats of borrowed money, it has certainly been the biggest challenge our relationship has ever faced.

On the plus side, I’m pretty sure I illegally married the most calm, tolerant and kind woman in the world and I couldn’t be more in love with her.

As a pessimistic summary of the past year, below is a letter of complaint I recently sent to our IVF clinic. (Names omitted). Writing it did make me feel better I suppose. I don’t suppose it helps in any other way. Unfortunately, being that we require donor sperm, we have the choice of 2 fertility clinics in our state i.e. within 1000 km of us and our lacklustre doctor is the only one within 80 km.

To whom it may concern,

My wife and I wish to raise several complaints regarding our experience with [IVF clinic]. We have been trying to conceive using donor sperm as we are both female. We attended an [IVF clinic] sperm donor information session on 10/8/16 and joined the sperm donor waiting list on 15/8/16. We were told that the waiting list for IUI quality sperm was 8-10 months while the waiting list for IVF quality sperm was 2 months.

Soon after this we consulted with Dr ____. Dr ____ implied that I would not have much difficulty falling pregnant due to my age (27) and lack of health issues. He referred me for fertility tests and informed us that I would be doing IUI using donor sperm. At that time, my wife and I intended that I would be the biological and gestational mother.

After going for the prescribed tests, I called Dr ____’s rooms to see if I would need to book another appointment to discuss the results of the tests. I was told by Dr ____’s receptionist that all the tests came back fine. My AMH was a little low but it was nothing to worry about. We would need to make another appointment when we reached the top of the donor sperm waiting list.

During the next few months, my wife and I attended the compulsory counselling sessions at the Kogarah clinic where we discussed IUI and general parental readiness. We also did extensive research on IUI in preparation.

A few weeks before we were due to reach the top of the sperm donor waiting list, we attended another appointment with Dr ____. We were abruptly informed that my AMH test result was so low that we should be doing IVF in order to freeze embryos now as I may not have any eggs left “by the time [I’m] 30”. Needless to say, it was very stressful for my wife and I to suddenly discover this after being led to believe that I had no fertility issues whatsoever.

We were, and continue to be, extremely angry that we were not informed of any fertility issues and were thus kept waiting for IUI quality sperm for 6 months. I could have started treatment last year, had I been told my correct and complete medical information when I attempted to find out the results of my fertility tests. Because of this, we were also denied the ability to discuss infertility and IVF with the [IVF clinic] counsellor, which greatly increased the stress we felt at this time. Additionally, we had very little information or knowledge about IVF, given that we had been told it was a far off possibility.  This again made the situation very overwhelming for both of us.

My next complaint pertains to our treatment following the first IVF cycle, when we came in for our first embryo transfer. My wife and I both had to take the entire day off work and travel for 2.5 hours to reach the clinic. When we arrived, we were charged $500 for the embryo transfer before being sent to another waiting room for additional waiting. Finally, a nurse took us into the procedure room and told us that there were no embryos to transfer. To get to that point in the process and be told the entire cycle was a failure was very upsetting. It would have been very nice to receive notice of this before we left home, or while we were on the way to the clinic, or even before we were charged $500 for the non-occurrent transfer. After asking for our money back we did, however, receive a refund.

My final complaint relates to Dr ____. After our second failed IVF cycle, I requested that he refer my wife for the standard fertility tests, given that I had had so little success up to that point. My wife and I felt it was important to understand our options in order to maximise our success in whichever way we needed to. Dr ____ repeatedly refused to refer her for tests until I underwent a third IVF cycle. Once again, I feel that Dr ____ is denying us relevant medical information. As a couple trying to conceive, do we not have a right to fertility information about both of us?

As an additional, more general comment, in nearly all cases in which I have been speaking to a new contact at [IVF clinic], they have assumed that my partner is a man. Given that same-sex couples do not seem to comprise an insignificant portion of your clientele, it would be lovely if your staff could keep this in mind and use gender neutral language if the gender and/or preferred pronouns of a partner are unknown.

I look forward to your feedback on our grievances.

Regards,

N