Another One Bites the Dust: IVF Cycle #5

I was probably not in a good place when we started number 5. My wife did this one, I having given up after 4 cycles. She was terrified of it, although she’d seen the process 4 times before. It much different when you’re in the thick of it. This is one of the few reasons I am glad to be a lesbian – at least at times like this, your partner knows exactly what you’re going through. Or, in my case, what you’ve been through. This is one of the reasons I don’t tell people about this journey. No one can know how bad it really is unless they’re living it and I don’t want people to think I’m making a big deal over nothing.

But, honestly, I’m a bitch anyway. One memorable night, pre-cycle 5, I told her she was wasting our money, ruining her life and there was no fucking way she was ever going to get pregnant from this IVF shit.

Turned out, however, that she did.

They retrieved 3 eggs, 3 were mature, 3 fertilised, 3 grew. At 5 days, we showed up for the transfer and I demanded proof that there was something to transfer before we paid for the transfer. We’ve been caught out by that trick before.

There was something. 2 embryos were good quality, but our doctor refused to transfer both. Instead, one went in and the other 2 (one good, one bad but alive) went in the bin.

(I often wonder if this whole idea of freezing embryos isn’t just a ploy to make unwitting patients feel like they might just get a second, third or fourth chance of pregnancy out of a cycle. It seems that, invariably, we’re told; “we’ll see how they go and see if we can freeze them” and the call invariably comes the next day; “they all stopped growing – nothing to freeze”, which gives you no confidence that the one inside you is growing, which, invariably, it isn’t.)

But, in wifey’s case, the stupid thing actually grew for 3 or 4 weeks before it stopped. One day, she didn’t feel pregnant any more. Based on its size when we had the 7 week scan, that was the day it stopped growing.

She was skewered on an ultrasound dildo when we found out. She vomited. They let us out the back door of the pathology clinic and we went home to watch Netflix.

Giving Up

The TWW portion of IVF #4 was the same and the rest. Negative home pregnancy tests and a punctual period. I had felt different this time around, however, both during the stim cycle and the TWW. I could feel my baby in me. I knew it was there. I knew it had finally worked this time. I was pretty sure it was a girl.

But the thing is, you don’t know anything. You can think you know a lot of things, but more prudent people keep it to themselves, as I did. You can’t really know anything.

When I say that I know that this is the end of my TTC journey, I don’t really know that either. Two things I do think I know, at the moment, in 2017 and at the age of 28, I think I know that:

  1. I cannot do another IVF cycle. I do not want to. I will not do it and there’s no point doing it anyway.
  2. I’m not getting any more fertile. This is it. If I can’t now, I can’t ever.

I’ve know this for 2 months now. The knowledge is getting surprisingly easy to bear. It still makes me cry sometimes, like now, for instance. It still means that I’m a bitch to that pregnant girl at work and that I avoid all family gatherings because I can’t handle seeing my pregnant cousin.

But, giving up is surprisingly liberating. It’s one of the few things I have control over. Never again will I be sick like that. I will be able to do my job in a way that justifies my pay check. I’ll have the physical and emotional energy to maintain friendships. I won’t have to worry about how I can possibly maintain my house, my car, the adult aspects of my life.

It’s liberating to know that, from now on, you can go out in the world and be a person and probably be OK. You probably won’t collapse on the street. You probably won’t start weeping profusely in business meetings. You’ll probably be able to go to work every day. You’ll probably be able to go to parties without smoke bombing when someone walks in with a kid or a pregnant belly. You probably won’t have a nightmare tonight. You probably won’t have to blacklist friends because they can’t stop asking why you aren’t pregnant yet and can’t understand why such questioning is impossible to bear.

I do regret beginning on this baby making path, but I wouldn’t want to relinquish the knowledge I have gained from it. But, you probably can’t have both.

 

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