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?

 

You just need to learn a different lesson

When you’re trying to make a baby, and failing to make a baby, and paying out the arse to make a baby, there’ll be someone who makes you feel just a little better about the situation. Maybe it’s your partner, maybe a friend, for me, strangely, it seems to be my father.

When I was younger, I didn’t have much of a relationship with my father. This makes our relationship now kinda weird. He doesn’t feel like a parent, rather, we’re just two adults who like each other, happen to have similar interests and do stuff together.

It so happens, therefore, that my father is the only other person, besides my wife, who has heard all the gritty emotional details of our TTC frolics. This is a situation that I would have never seen eventuating. I always thought of my father as the last person to look to for life advice.

Maybe it’s age and wisdom, maybe it’s his way of never doing things the logical or generic way, or his wacky way of thinking or that he seems to be singularly and enviably at peace with life, the universe and everything. Either way. He’s a good bloke to talk to about the frustrating meaninglessness that is infertility.

The last time I saw him, I told him how we were going with it, and how it had failed, yet again. I got teary and started feeling like the horrible void of nasty barren womb feelings was going to swallow me up… yet again.

“Look”, he said, ending a long and difficult conversation in his usual sage style. “The thing is, some people just get pregnant by accident. That’s because they need to learn some responsibility. Now, you’re already responsible! So, you must just need to learn a different lesson.”

It’s most certainly BS but it made me feel better. I know I’m getting wiser from all this. I know my relationship with my wife is getting stronger and more complex. I know I’m more assertive and more confident and more sensitive to my own needs. I feel like an adult for the first time in my life, not just a teenager masquerading as a responsible grown up human.

One day I’ll finishing learning this darn pesky lesson and then finally it will rain babies**!!!

 

** In a really controlled fashion, I should think.

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

Infertility: The more you know

Call me naïve if you will, but I never realised that the process of trying to make a baby would be so emotionally devastating.

Seriously, I really didn’t. I didn’t! Honestly, I think that goes for a lot of people who have never tried or never struggled. I like to think of myself as a very rational person. I’m a scientist. I do research for a living. I make spreadsheets for everything. If you think I didn’t make a spreadsheet and do the statistics on this whole baby making caper, you are absolutely kidding yourself.

But, although it’s expensive and although it’s physically exhausting, the worst thing by far is the emotions. I don’t even know how to describe it to people who haven’t been there. It’s fucked.

My mother got pregnant once before she had me. My parents were on their honeymoon and it just happened. She miscarried a few weeks in but didn’t feel upset or emotional about it. “It was just a bunch of cells”, she always told me. True. Rational. You don’t miss what you weren’t looking for. This story has always coloured my view of conception and loss.

A bunch of cells is nothing to cry over.

A couple of weeks ago, I came as close as I ever have to getting pregnant. Although I don’t have a positive home pregnancy test to base this on *TMI alert* when I got my period, I was losing what looked like big chunks of bloody flesh. Not blood clots, but actual tissue. This has never happened to me before. Ever. It was a legit bunch of bloody cells. And I felt a bloody emotional, teary attachment to them/it. Is it disrespectful to humanity to flush these down the toilet? (If so, I was eventually disrespectful).

Anyway.

How it turned out for my mum: After me, she tried for 6 years to have another baby, naturally and through IUI, and never had another pregnancy. The story she only really told me recently is about how devastating and all-consuming it was to want a baby, knowing that your body can do it, theoretically, and just never ever get one. That particular story is the one about sobbing over baby clothes and about buying heaps of soft teddy bears to cuddle when she was craving a little soft thing to care for. It’s the story of resenting my father for not caring as much as she did and resenting those for whom pregnancy came easy.

It’s the wanting that makes it hard. It’s the knowing it’s just luck and chance and persistence and that the only thing you can do is try and try and try and wait.

N

P.S. My mother recently bought me a really soft fluffy toy when I was in the ‘progesterone-crying’ phase of the cycle and started weeping profusely over it in a shop. She told me the above story and said it would make me feel better. It did.

An introduction

I’m Nik, one half of an Australian lesbian couple trying very, very bloody hard to make a baby. We’ve been trying since July 2016, so I have quite a bit of news to catch up on in this blog. I probably should have started sooner but it didn’t really occur to me that it would be of interest to me or anyone else. We pay money, sperm goes in, baby comes out, yeah? Needless to say, this past year has robbed me of most of that hopeful naivete.

But really! Of course it’s of interest. Of course it’s relevant. There is not enough information and resources out there for people like us (dykey, lezzo, spermless types) who are ttc. Devouring all the stories my wife and I could find on the internet was helpful, but it’s not enough. We have felt bamboozled and blindsided so many times during this process. No one teaches you this stuff. No one expects you to need it.

I want to record this for my wife and I, so we can look back and remember this time in our lives. I want to put this out there for others struggling down the same path as we are. I want to capture all of this for the child I hope we will make.

I will try to be honest about this process. I will probably verge on the side of TMI quite regularly. But, I’ll also try not to be too sombre and serious, because if you can’t laugh at an emotionally and financially crippling happy fun adventure like IVF, what the hell can you do?