Let’s get scammed #8

I have not felt much like writing about this but I suppose I should tell the story of our 8th IVF cycle. I’m going to be sneaky and back date it. In truth, I started writing this a few months ago and just didn’t have the emotional energy to finish it.

It’s a long one, encompassing 5 months of dealing with a new company and trying a new thing (and being slapped about by incompetence and patronising staff). Here is it:

After finally accepting that IVF Australia are nothing but cheating, lying, incompetent scum, we moved on to clinic #3, the very last option in our state.

Clinic #3 was Monash IVF. We hadn’t heard anything, good or bad, about them but it’s not like they could be worse than IVF Australia, right? They don’t seem to advertise and, until recently, we didn’t know they were an option.

I had decided this time also to choose a female doctor. There are two reasons for this:

1. I work in science and I know from experience that -in general- woman are not taken as seriously and, this, have to be better at their jobs to get to the same point in their careers as men. Sad but true. The plus side of this depressing fact is that by choosing a woman, you can almost guarantee that she’ll be more competent than a man at the same level. I’ll pick a more competent doctor, given the choice. I also chose a doctor who had herself gone through IVF, which does seem like very helpful experience.

2. There’s just something… arrogant… about a male gyno. From conversations I’ve had with those morons over the years, I’ve frequently thought, “you really don’t know that?” and “have you ever spoken to a female?”.

For example, when my wife had her miscarriage, the doctor advised her that she “could take 2 ibuprofen, if the pain was very bad”. Now, she takes at least 2 ibuprofen every few hours for the first few days of her period, normally. So I questioned this. Doctor seemed amazed that someone would take more than one ibuprofen for a regular period. I sat there thinking, “has this (allegedly great gynocologist) ever encountered a menstruating woman??” Even I, with the most mild period pain of every woman I have ever discussed this with, will pop 2 ibuprofen at the beginning of my period, just in case.

The same doctor couldn’t fathom that the effects of progesterone could be felt by my wife when I was taking it. Yep, women pick up on each others hormones. Easily. Frequently. I learnt that in lesbianism 101.

Suffice to say, I went to a female doctor. When I had the first appointment, she pretty much told me that, based on my medical history and age, I wouldn’t have any issue getting pregnant. So I told her how that had gone for me. Again, my extreme infertility is unheard of. I’ve had every test available and, it seems, every treatment available, except one.

The only one left to try was an ultra long down regulated cycle. Basically that means you go through menopause for 3 months and then do a cycle. Apparently it’s supposed to be the “cure” for endometriosis because your body can’t make uterine lining outside the uterus if it’s not making it inside the uterus. Now, allegedly, my endometriosis is gone, thanks to the probably redundant $8000 surgery I had. However, in the IVF cycle I had after the probably redundant surgery, it was only weeks after the surgery, meaning that the benefit of having eggs develop free of poisonous endometriosis for 3 months was not realised (thanks Dr #3!!).

This is the reason I got fed up with the last clinic. Not only did the timing negate the effectiveness of the surgery itself but its proximity to the surgery also meant that my ovaries produced a third of the eggs they usually do. Of course, I didn’t know this at the time so I got screwed over by yet another doctor.

Anyway, ultra long down reg it was. This involved going to the doctor to have an injection once a month for 3 months. All up the doctors visits plus drugs amounted to a little over $200. Not an unaffordable extra, which really makes me question why it was not presented as an option before now. There is no particular disadvantage to several months of menopause (fertility speaking).

I chose to do the down reg portion over summer as I was told menopause makes you depressed and I figured it was better to avoid the compounding effects of menopause depression and seasonal depression.

In the end, it didn’t make me depressed (any more than knowing I was wasting my time, money and life paying evil corporations to make me sick would make a person depressed). I wish someone had told me how great constant hot flushes are at the height of summer. Fun times.

woman with eye makeup
“At least I’m not *super* depressed.”

After 3 months of menopause, I did another round of poison injections. After 10 days of injections, they told me to stop because my follicles were developed enough. I told them that every time some idiot doctor had cut a cycle short before 12 days the majority of the eggs were too immature.

Did they listen to me?

LOL. How would I know a detail like that?!? When I tried to argue the point (because, let’s face it, I am the expert in how my body responds to IVF) the nurse offered that I could drive 3 hours (a 6 hour round trip) to have a blood test (can’t have them just anywhere) so that she could prove to me that she was right and I was wrong. Obviously, I declined this generous offer and just had to accept that they were going to waste most of my eggs.

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I’d like to thank the fine people at Monash IVF for this mess.

Sure enough, after egg collection (12 eggs), only 5 were deemed mature. This ratio is fairly typical after I’ve done 10 day cycles. In contrast, almost all my eggs are mature after 12 day cycles. They had my medical records. They chose to ignore this. Obviously they make more money the less successful they are.

5 mature eggs. 4 fertilised eggs. The doctor called me 2 days after the transfer to say, because they all looked so lousy and because I’m superinfertile, she’d like to transfer 1 embryo on day 3. Of course, I kicked up a fuss and insisted on 2 being transferred (can’t freeze them anyhow). I was a bit nervous about the prospect of a 3-day-transfer. I’ve never had one before and I am very aware that, in general, my embryos look great until day 4 when they all die. They’d probably all look the same at day 3. How would they choose the good ones?

Because of the short notice 3 day transfer, I had to drive the 3 hours up to Sydney on my own. I was a bit late, not accounting for Sydney peak hour hell, but I made it there in time.

In the end, of the 4, there were only 2 good ones. The other 2 had variable sized cells and fragmentation (neither of which are good). They didn’t make it to 5 days. Of the 2 that were good on day 3, one was a ‘pre-morula’ (i.e. between 3 and 4 days of development – good for only 3 days along) and one that was 10 cells (pre pre-morula but still a little advanced for 3 days – the average cell number for a 3-day embryo is 8 cells).

All in all, it was the same outcome as if I had have had a 5-day transfer. The same embryos would have been transferred (unless they died on day 4, of course).

After the transfer, I went to a dodgy looking acupuncture place and got (probably useless) acupuncture. It made me feel slightly less guilty about being so infertile, so that’s a plus. I bought a few groceries (fresh pineapple included, as it is apparently the customary food of the infertile) and drove home feeling sad and lonely.

pink and green pineapple
Pineapple: Food of my people.

That night, my beautiful wife arrived home from work and told me that she’d ordered our favourite take away and that it would arrive in 15 minutes. It’s a silly small detail but it just seemed to make the whole day better and I felt like everything was OK.

Extreme Excitement

It’s happening *again* and this shit show starts on my 29th birthday. On my 29th  birthday I stop taking the tablets that give me PMS and that should make my period arrive. I might even have a day of feeling OK to celebrate my birthday.

BONUS FACT: Chemical PMS has made me so angry that I broke my car door by slamming it. Haven’t told wifey. Totally didn’t know that was even a thing. I’m actually quite feeble since the surgery so it’s the last thing I was expecting.

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I honestly don’t know what happened, but it may have been something like this.

Yay! I’m starting on my birthday! How thrilling! My 28th birthday was embryo transfer #1, IVF cycle #2. That was a bust. The past year has been a bust.

99% chance the next month will be a bust too. YAY!!!

But, I digress. I got a call from a nurse last week. She was all peppy and upbeat and all that bullshit nurses are before they release you’re an old hat at this crap and they don’t need to pretend that you’re **going to have a cute widdle baby soon!!! OMG YASSS**

Because this was our first treatment at the new clinic, the nurses hadn’t gotten the memo about me being a cranky barren jaded bitch who does not want to hear their optimistic liar crap.

So, I got a call from a nurse last week. It was one of those upbeat calls where they tell you how *infinitely exciting* it is that you’ve started on your fertility journey with Dr X: Bullshit Fertility Shyster Extraordinaire.

Notice that a “fertility journey” isn’t really a journey. You probably won’t go anywhere except into a pool of debt. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get anything out of it… except that it’s invariably *exciting*. You will ruin your life… but you’ll be *incredibly excited* about the process.

Exciting
Thanks, IVF Australia. It sure is *exciting* when your staff are incompetent, your propaganda heteronormative and USELESS and your doctors more concerned with $$ than doing their jobs. (If only I understood my darn menstrual cycle!)

But, still, it’s refreshing to get the *exciting times* talk again. Just as it was refreshing to shut it down.

Big Kev
IVF nurses remind me of Big Kev. (International readers, Big Kev was an Australian weirdo who was very excited about cleaning products 20 years ago.)

I listened to the spiel. It was great. Those nurses would be great actors, I bet, because they do the talk with such conviction. *I* almost got excited about my fertility prospects. What an exhausting job they have!

“Yeah, look”, I said, when it had abated into a mild insistence that I take a day off work to travel for 6 hours to listen to some idiot nurse telling me how to inject myself with poison. “Can we forgo the part where you tell us how to use all the drugs? It’s just that this is our 6th IVF cycle and I guarantee we’ve heard it all before.”

As a new patient, I’m sure she expected me to be green as grass and *so excited about having a darling widdle cute baby !YAY PREGNANCY! OMG yass babYYYYY 😀 *.

She stopped rhapsodising about my forthcoming *extreme excitement* and simply said,

“Oh.” As in: “Oh. You’re fucked“.

“Oh.” As in: “Oh… 6 at your age… why are you even doing this? Are you crazy? You must be crazy.”

“Oh.” As in: “Oh. So you knew as well as I did that what’s about to happen is not in the least bit exciting so that whole charade was a waste of my time.”

I do wish this crap was over already. I rather just want to get started and get it over with, although I know wishing to be incredibly sick and to metaphorically flush money down the toilet is not something people traditionally look forward to.

But, perhaps, when it is over, I’ll have my answers. I’ll have satisfied my scientific mind with yet another experiment.

Aim: To analyse the impact of endometriosis on developing eggs and embryos.

Hypothesis: Regardless of the presence/absence of endometriosis, I am infertile AF.

I am SO EXCITED for the conclusion.

 

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.

Hope-is-being-able-to-see-that-there-is-light-despite-all-of-the-darkness.-Desmond-Tutu.jpg
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.