It's been a little while since I've provided an update of my journey. I haven't even been doing IVF since March, and, yet, the past few months have probably been even more stressful.
In May, I shared an update on our next steps since withdrawing from the shared risk IVF program we were in at our last clinic, Shady Grove Fertility. I had just had a consult with a new doctor, Dr. Check with The Cooper Institute for Reproductive Hormonal Disorders. I was disappointed about the outcome at Shady Grove, but hopeful for what may come. Of course, things take time, and this has certainly been a process. Transitioning to another new doctor and clinic is tough because you have to get to know them, and, likewise, they have to get to know you. I even wrote a post for The List about what to look for when visiting a fertility clinic for the first time.
Okay, I have to be honest: I've seriously missed that last place. Yeah, we had our ups and downs with the process, but there are many things I've missed: seeing the actual doctor at almost every ultrasound appointment, being asked how I'm feeling each time, having one dedicated nurse to work with, not feeling like a number, the convenience, the friendly staff, the natural light, etc. But when I have these thoughts, I try to tell myself to forget it. Forget all the warm and fuzzies. That's what they charged for, and it wasn't working. Yet, thankfully, we were able to get our full refund.
Here, I've summed up what I've been up to in the past couple of months along with a look ahead:
Back to Basics: One Natural Cycle and Two IUIs
It was definitely odd after going through several IVF cycles to basically go back to the beginning, but that's what it felt like. My new doctor wanted to start off with less-invasive procedures while getting to know more about my body and my cycles in order to get to the root of the problem. Well, this was easier said than done. I was in the middle of my cycle when I had my first consult with the doctor, so that was a weird time of initial testing, but, apparently, I had ovulated on my own in May, so I was advised to take a pregnancy test. I began to get my hopes up, but it was a no-go.
The nurses, at the discretion of the doctor, suggested an IUI during my monitoring for my next cycle in June. Immediately, I shuddered, thinking back on the $1,200 out-of-pocket payment I spent on an IUI at my first clinic, RMA, only to get a negative result and be advised to seek out IVF next. Oh, and the month before when my insurance would have covered most of it, I was told to cancel the cycle; it turned out that the Clomid I had taken had "worked too well," and he was afraid of the risk of multiples. Meanwhile, it's more than two years later, with no pregnancies, other than one chemical.
One of the nurses I spoke to during that time reminded me to let go of what I did in the past and to trust the process. I knew she was right, but this is easier said than done. I've had to continuously remind myself to do this because I'm just not a very trusting person. I had a super hard time letting go of past experiences and being open to the idea that this time may be different. The fact that the procedure would be covered by my insurance was the only reason I agreed to go along with it, because, if not, I would've said no way.
This next cycle went more smoothly, as I started with the clinic from the beginning of my cycle, and I had made the right decision to drive to their main location in South Jersey for ultrasounds and bloodwork rather than doing them locally and having the results faxed over (that didn't go so well the first time, and the anxiety led to one of my major recent meltdowns).
I tried to be open-minded, did everything suggested, and did my best to trust the process. But after I got another negative result, I have to say, I'm just totally over IUIs. I had done some research into my insurance, and after learning I had close to $15,000 in fertility coverage remaining, I didn't feel like spending more time on this; I wanted to get back to IVF.
However, timing had another idea. Since it would be too late to start IVF for that cycle (there are quite a few ducks you have to get in a row before you can start), doing another IUI was suggested so as not to "waste" that cycle. I reluctantly agreed.
I have to say, I basically went through the motions for that cycle, never really getting all that excited to prevent myself from being let down. Mentally, I was just kind of over the IUIs. So, yeah, after we got yet another negative result, I planned to dive full speed ahead into IVF again.
But I got a surprise regarding my insurance. Apparently, I had much less left of my coverage than I thought, as each bloodwork and ultrasound appointment counted toward my coverage. So, I quickly went from $14,000+ with the hope of fitting in about two cycles if needed to $10,000, with enough coverage left for only one. (Cooper is more affordable than my last two, so that's why this was even possible.)
At this point, if I could only do one fully-covered cycle right now anyway, why rush to start right away? I certainly don't have all the right answers when it comes to this process, but my gut was telling me: Take a one-month break before starting. And, by break, I mean, like an actual break: no appointments, no instructions. My goal for August is to enjoy the rest of the summer, relax, save up a little money, mentally prepare myself for the next time around, and, oh yeah, actually properly celebrate my wedding anniversary for the first time in three years with a short weekend getaway.
Here are a few other reasons for taking this break:
I planned to take some time off my in-person, part-time job in September when my in-laws come to visit for two weeks, so with this time off, I'd also have more time for appointments and a lot less stress.
If I haven't yet mentioned that my stress level had become super high, well, I am now. Why? Progesterone suppositories three times a day (3x a day is really tough to fit in -- literally and figuratively! 😛), plus orally at night. That stuff makes me one crazy, angry bi-otch. My hormones have seriously been all over the place, seemingly feeling the worse they've been in months (worse even than during my IVF cycles). I've had several meltdowns as of late, not sure which one was the worst. The crying, the screaming? Ugh, enough said.
On top of the hormones, a big part of my stress lately has been my commute to the new clinic for appointments -- 1 hour+ each way down the PA/Jersey Turnpike. If you're wondering why I switched from a clinic that was 15 minutes from my house and literally within walking distance to my part-time job to one that is over an hour away, well, I'm not entirely crazy: I'd heard numerous recommendations and success stories regarding this doctor and his out-of-the-box techniques that he personalizes to each patient (not easy to find), not to mention that the prices are way more reasonable. Still, the added cost of gas and tolls (I love my EZ Pass, but, damn, is it expensive!), plus the extra time it takes away from work, has taken a toll on me. Sorry, I just had to there. I'm super corny. 😛
This is also closely tied to stress (work and stress, they go hand-in-hand, right?!). I think we all can agree that workplaces everywhere have been a bit, um, understaffed this summer. Well, two of my co-workers recently quit my part-time job, which made me worry that needing to take time off for procedures or appointments might not be so easy right now.
Before I go, here's what else I've been up to:
Getting organized (or, at least, trying to):
Between the new acrylic wall calendar in my office and our Google Hub (Home?), I spend a lot of time writing up and managing my to-do lists. And, yet, I still forget stuff from time to time. But I have to go easy on myself because I do have a lot on my plate.
Trying new things:
Because I'd begun questioning whether there might be an underlying issue to blame, I've started working with a holistic fertility coach -- it's been eye-opening so far, to say the least. She's alerted me to the fact that my thyroid condition could be playing more of a role than I had thought, especially with the symptoms I've have recently: anxiety, irritability, irregular cycles, impaired memory/forgetfulness, and, recently, a horse voice and joint stiffness and fatigue during my period. The docs treat a thyroid condition (in my case, underactive thyroid) with a prescription for the synthetic hormone Levothyroxine Sodium (brand-name Synthroid) and send you on your way. But holistic practitioners take diet and lifestyle factors into account. So, I have to cut out both gluten and sugar, which will not be easy. I just keep focusing on the goal: feeling better and getting my body where it needs to be to do its thing.
Other new things I've tried: Back in May, I tried this sound vibration form of reiki, which I loved. I felt amazing the next week. I seriously need to go back. I also tried float therapy, but not so sure how I feel about it yet. And, I've gotten fully on the acupuncture train: After doing it on-and-off for over a year, I can totally tell a difference when I'm not going. And, seriously, Friday morning, before my appointment, I was worried that I still hadn't gotten my period after stopping the progesterone. I was on cycle day 41, I think. Yeah, nuts. I came home, and bamn! I got my period later that morning!
Being my own health advocate:
Making my own decisions regarding next steps (like taking a break), listening to my gut, getting tested for Hashimoto's disease, making an appointment to see an endocrinologist -- these are just a few of the things I'm doing to regain some control.
Choosing what to focus on and being easier on myself:
There are some things I'm just not going to accomplish right now. And that's okay. I've decided to put aside the things that I just can't seem to get to and focus on what is a priority: my health and well-being and this blog. I want this to serve as a therapeutic outlet and forget about my plans for what it could become; there's always time for that later. Having no plan right now is okay. I realize I was neglecting it at times and focusing more on the quick fix of my Instagram and Facebook accounts -- and we all know that social media isn't always the best outlet, even if you are doing it to share your story or connect with others with similar experiences. Things like followers and likes start to take precedence, and that's so not what I should be focusing on.
Oh, and hiding the Facebook app from my iPhone's home screen was also a huge win! The last thing I need is to get irritated right before bed from seeing something on Facebook I didn't need to see.
Doing way too much retail therapy at Nordstrom:
It's one of my vices, I know. But it wasn't so bad since I didn't just buy; I also made some returns.
Enjoying my favorite reality show guilty pleasures:
I'm obsessed with TLC's sMothered -- probably because I relate to this show way too much. And, I got into this season of The Bachelorette after watching reluctantly at first. I know I'm a married woman, but I have a total thing for Michael. And, I can't wait for Paradise to start!
It's time to go relax for the night. Tomorrow I've got to get these nails done, fill out some paperwork, and, oh yeah, do some research into our anniversary weekend getaway. Because we totally deserve it.