Thursday, March 31, 2016

Infertility Goodies and Where to Find Them

Infertility SUCKS!  But that doesn't mean you have to go through it without infertility goodies to help brighten your mood!  During my struggle I've come across some AH-MAY-ZING items that you simply must check out if you're struggling with infertility or if you know someone who is - gifting is a great way to show you are thinking about them during the struggle and y'all...the struggle is real!

So if you're in the market to find something amazing for yourself or a friend or loved one...keep reading this post for some pretty awesome items from some very cool people and where to buy them!

Also, if you have some favorite shops you don't see in this list, SHARE THEM WITH ME!  I would love to add to this post and continue the hunt for amazing gifts and treasures for those dealing with infertility!


Jewelry

Who doesn't love jewelry?  There are some people, myself included, who love to accessorize.  Infertility jewelry is the first stop on our Where to Shop Guide.  My Baby bun bracelet shown here was a special gift, handmade from my niece Ruby and her mom who helped!  Isn't that the SWEETEST!!

My first recommendation would be Fertile Gems.  This is an Etsy shop that has a huge selection of fertility bracelets and necklaces made from genuine stones like amethyst, hematite, and rose quartz.  She makes every one of these items on order by hand so you can guarantee that love and patience was put into your piece.  Not only that, she sends you the jewelry in a lovely box with an affirmation card and a description of the stones used to create your item.

My favorite piece is the IUI/IVF bracelet shown here.  This has several gemstones and a rose quartz heart at the center.  You can select a charm to add (not shown here is an angel wing) and it hooks with a toggle clasp.  I wear this bracelet every day.  There are so many other pieces I would love to own from this shop!  She has a selection for just about every fertility issue as mentioned in the excerpt from her shop:


 Fertility bracelets by Fertile Gems are created with genuine gemstones that are believed to help calm, relax and de-stress while providing that hope and positivity you most need during your fertility journey. We carry a wide variety of fertility bracelets and necklaces that have gemstones with properties that is believed to assist in fertility issues such as PCOS, Endometriosis, Thyroid, Blood Clots, Miscarriages and much much more! 

Check out my Fertile Gems Wish List.  These are all available at Fertile Gems and you will not be disappointed with your purchase!  She even creates stacks!  I love to stack arm candy and these three bracelets can be purchased separately or together for a discounted price!





Greeting Cards

I'm a lover of mail, there is nothing like opening the mailbox and seeing an envelope with my name on it that is not attached to a request for payment for the vehicle, electric or cell phone which is why I'm a huge fan of TTC Greeting Cards.  TTC Greeting Cards was formed after the shop owner underwent six years of her own infertility journey, complete with seven IVF cycles.  She realized there was not really a card that captured the struggle of TTC so who better than to create them then a person who felt just as we all do on this journey.  She has over 30 card designs that are designed for IVF, the Two Week Wait, embryo transfers, even cards for your RE or your spouse.  There are congratulations cards and even cards for a BFN.  This is really your one stop shop for a card on this journey.  Here are just a FEW of the cards available in her shop, (LINK HERE!)  All of the cards cost around $5 which is comparable, if not less, than most of the cards on the store shelves...except THOSE CARDS aren't for infertility!  Why not get the perfect card for your friend or family member to show you care and support a local business at the same time!  WIN WIN Y'ALL!




Lucky Socks

Oh but she doesn't stop there y'all!  TTC Greeting Cards is also THE place to go for LUCKY SOCKS!  When you're having your lady bits examined weekly, naked from the waist down, in a room that is kept at a chilly 68° there is one thing you want to make sure you cover and that is your feet!  Frankly, that is all you CAN cover!  Again, that is where TTC Greeting Cards comes in.  Her Lucky Socks are a staple item in my ultrasound bag and they're not available in her Etsy Store.  So where do you find them??  Don't freak out I know where to go!!  You find them on her website HERE!  My favorite pair are the Stick Baby Stick socks, shown here from one of my IUI's.  These are available for $18 on her website but it gets better!  Are you doing a transfer?  Check out THESE Lucky Transfer Socks.  Are you PUPO *that's Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise* then these are your socks HERE.

And if you're not a fan of the knee high socks (I am a HUGE FAN of the knee high socks) then TTC Greeting Cards has you covered with ankle versions as well.  Check out THESE Hatch and Attach ankle socks!!  Aren't they perfect for your Two Week Wait?

Many, if not most, acupuncturists equate cold feet to a cold uterus and say that keeping your feet warm helps implantation of an embryo.  So lucky socks serve a dual purpose.  They keep your feet warm in the transfer room and they keep your feet warm during that all important TWW!  

I am a HUGE FAN of the TTC Greeting Cards lucky socks and I will be ordering the Lucky Transfer Socks mentioned above for my Frozen Transfer!   HINT HINT y'all these things SELL OUT quickly!  Make sure you take a moment to head over to TTC Greeting Cards website to get your Lucky Socks RIGHT NOW! 
(but don't forget to come back to this blog to continue the Shopping Guide!)


One less pair of Lucky Transfer Socks available!  I just ordered mine while writing this post!

Infertility Tees

Did you think TTC Greeting Cards stopped there?  HA!  You were wrong folks!  She just keeps on coming with some super cute tee-shirts available on both her WEBSITE and her ETSY SHOP.  TTC Greeting Cards features two awesome tees for infertility.

I had the pleasure of purchasing one and shipping it "across the pond" to my fellow TTC'er and Crazy Cat Lover, Lucy!  Lucy and I are like sisters from another Mister and I sent her a care package recently and it included the "Let's Make Some Embryo's Tee" (HERE).

In addition, I am a proud owner of her "I Can Do This" tee.  This is a reminder we all should keep close to heart.  Infertility is hard y'all!  It wears on your heart, it wears on your soul, it wears on your mind.  But WE CAN DO THIS!  And this shirt is my reminder of that fact!  These shirts are priced at $16 which is a STEAL of a DEAL for a tee shirt designed special for a TTC'er like you or me!




Another awesomely wonderful place to find a great Infertility Tee is Funny Girls of Fertility and this shop is run by an IVF Coordinator over in Texas by the name of Sharon.  And she is the CUTEST!   Y'all, this gal is after my own heart I tell you what!  She went to Oklahoma State University, the Alma Matter of both my parents and my brother (Go Cowboys!)  She runs a fabulous blog to increase awareness about infertility and has these AWESOME shirts that I LOVE!!  She has three styles and her latest shirt, "Ain't for the Weak" sold out in a day!  I didn't even get my hands on one of those!  I do happily own the TTC/IUI/IVF/FET/PUPO shirt which I will be rocking at my Trial Transfer and I was able to order one for my friend Monica who is out of the country!  Today I ordered my PIO Y'all tee...I mean was that shirt NOT meant for a gal like me!?  I am such a southerner it's like it was designed for me!  Hop on over to Funny Girls of Fertility and look at their SHOP link to see what is available.  And don't just shop, check out her blog!  What an amazing way to share awareness!  I sure appreciate Sharon and what she's doing for the cause!   


TTC Boxes

Last, but certainly not least is TTC Boxes.  Similar to a subscription box, this is a prepackaged selection of TTC items that you can purchase or gift.  My favorite TTC box is made by My Fertile Box...also the same gal who does Fertile Gems mentioned in the jewelry section of this post.  This is not a subscription box but she regularly comes out with a beautiful selection of themed TTC items that will come to you beautifully wrapped and includes FREE OPK strips and FREE HPT tests!

She often has a small box and a large box to choose from.   I purchased my first box and reviewed it HERE back in December.  The box featured in that post is the SMALL box!  Yes small!  Here's a picture of my Fertile Box. This box was the "Live in Faith Box".  For about $28 I received two 5x7 prints, a coloring book, a Fertile Gems bracelet and necklace, and a pen.  ALso included was a little baby dust which I keep by my vanity and the free HPT and OPK's.  It was gently packaged and I was overwhelmed when I received it.  This is a real winner in the Shopping Guide and I definitely suggest you check out My Fertile Box as a personal item or a gift for someone else. I've just purchases the last of her Anchored by Hope box which was the current TTC box she had available.  


Do y'all have some favorite infertility shops to share with me?  I'd love to add to this post and extend our shopping guide a little further!  Let's rock it with pride!  I am more than just a diagnosis but I want the world to stop being afraid to talk about it!  Wear it, share it, and let's tear down those silent walls that separate us!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Prescription Assistance for IVF

Let's talk medications...when you're undergoing IVF treatments, you will have to spend time administering shots to hyper-stimulate your ovaries.

Wait, there are SHOTS involved in this?  
And I have to give them to myself? 

Yes, there will be shots!  And it's up to the RE as to what shots you'll be administering, how often you're getting them, and how many shots you'll get.  So remember to be really nice to the RE so you have to get less shots!  HA!  I wish it were that easy!

Part of the trouble with our particular journey is the lack of state mandated coverage for IVF in Florida as well as the lack of coverage for our insurance plans.  This means we are paying 100% out of pocket for the procedures, including medications.

Some companies have established income based programs to assist with the cost of these medications.  Savings can range from 10% up to 75% which is a great deal of savings when a single shot can run you $719.  Yes, you read that right, one shot can cost upwards of $700 y'all!  Do you only need one shot?  No, you need them daily.  And in some cases, two medications, so that's two shots...are you starting to swoon?  Because I am...

Back to the programs!  I'm going to share with you a few income based programs that can assist with the costs of your medications.  They require a simple application and a copy of your last 1040 (or whatever tax document you submit) and THAT IS ALL Y'ALL!  How simple is that?  And will you qualify?  Yes or no, but a definite maybe!  Here's the way I look at it, it never hurts to try it out.  The worst case you will get a "no" and the best case you might save a little bit on your medications.

Why not ask and see what happens?  You can apply for both programs and see which offers you the best discount, then discuss the medications with your RE.  Each program is designed for self-pay patients.  Both have income requirements and both will require your tax forms as income verification.

The first program is from EMD Serono and it's called Compassionate Care.  It's income based and offers savings up to 75% off the prices of their medications.  And that's when you pay for them.  Imagine, getting a $500 medication and only paying $125 for it!

 If you aren't eligible for the program because your income falls out of range, you can still receive a 10% rebate check for each medication.  For a $500 medication, it's generating a $50 rebate.  It's not a huge amount, but it's more savings than paying full price.  Go to the Compassionate Care program here to complete an application.  You need to have a valid prescription for GONAL-F, CENTROTIDE or OVIDREL to be a part of this program.  You can discuss this protocol with your RE prior to the start of your stims.



The next program is called First Steps by DesignRx.  This is also for self pay patients and is income based.  Unlike the EMD Serono plan, everyone is eligible for at least some form of a discount on the following meds:  Follstim or Ganirelix and Pregynl.  No mail in rebates required.  Again you will need to discuss the medical protocol with your RE prior to starting your stims.

If you are out of the income range for this program, they offer a prescription drug card which reduces the costs of the medications by about 30%.  Again, this is a big savings when you're paying out of pocket for your medications.

Check them both out!  You can also go to Resolve.org where a more complete list of financial programs is available for fertility assistance.  And remember, nothing beats a fail but a try!

We applied for both programs and while our income did fall out of range for Compassionate Care, we were able to obtain up to 30% savings on our medications through First Steps.  I'm so thankful because this is a huge financial undertaking and every single dollar we can save is important to our family.  Good luck on your journey to Financing your Fertility.

For a list of the costs associated with out Out of Pocket IVF, check this POST.

To find out more about the Buns, check out our Infertility Story.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

And So It Begins...The IVF Journey

Y'all....it didn't work.  The Hail Mary IUI (post HERE) did not work.  And I was definitely heartbroken this weekend. I knew that it was a long shot to work, but I still held on to the hope that somehow it would.

But it didn't...and I spent Friday in shock and Saturday in turmoil.  I went through all the questions we all do...why?  What could I have done better?  When will I get pregnant?  How many more will come off the bench in the TTC Community before I get to get off the bench too?  And on Sunday, I remembered THIS post from Caroline over at In Due Time which tells us to STOP ASKING WHY and instead ask, "How can I use this situation in a positive way?"  Caroline is such an inspiration and her blog really speaks to me on the daily y'all!  That post is what inspired me to take a step back, evaluate our journey and pick myself back up again and keep moving forward.

So I thought to myself, THIS is how, this blog is how I will use this situation.  So we begin the next steps for IVF and I will walk you through it...in the best way I know how, with a little sass and a lot of laughs.  Infertility is NOT FUN y'all but it can be funny!

I went over the costs for IVF in THIS post.  This is pretty standard for the area where we live in Central Florida.  It's expensive and if you're not ready for the REAL COSTS associated with it, then do not click that link.  It's a staggering number, it's enough to make you want to toss your cookies.  But in the end, it is going to be worth it because I'm predicting that we will be an IVF Success story...REPEAT...we WILL be an IVF Success story!

So how do we begin?  We started with a meeting with Dr. Mark over at Fertility CARE and he went over what we've done so far and what he believes are the next steps for us.  He reassured me that our IUI results have NO BEARING on our IVF changes and they're two separate ballgames, more like two separate sports in the big bad world of Infertility.  Usually you would start the cycle with a baseline ultrasound to check your current lady bits but after three IUI's and what seems like 50 ultrasounds, we decided I did not need an official ultrasound to get started (cue excited face for $250 savings).

Next we begin with 21 days of birth control...wait WHAT??  Birth control?  To get pregnant?  Isn't that counterproductive?  That answer is NO and there are really two reasons for this method; research shows that taking birth control prior to an IVF cycle helps your ovaries respond better to hormone stimulation, and second it helps regulate your cycle so the RE can control the timing of your follie growth.  The idea is to have them start growing at the same time so they're ready at the same time as well.

Who knew that someone could be so excited to start birth control???

Next Steps...
Trial Transfer
Ovarian Stimulation
Egg Retrival and Endometrial Scratch
One Cycle on "Break" 
Official Transfer of Frozen Embryo


The next step is in two weeks and that is a Trial Transfer.  The Trial Transfer is performed so the RE can find the "perfect place" to insert the embryo when we move to that part of the journey.  This is also so he can determine where to perform the endometrial scratch during my egg retrieval.  Why is he scratching my lady bits?  It's been shown that irritating the lining of the uterus helps an embryo implant and we want to be sure that baby sticks!  We will dig into that procedure when it's completed.  For now, I will take my birth control and hope that the hormones don't negatively affect my emotions!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Financing Fertility - Part Two


If you're reading this, you probably know or have ventured a guess that IUI number 3, the Hail Mary IUI, the last chance at IUI success before moving on to IVF did not work.  And you would be correct.  Friday I discovered that IUI 3 didn't work.  I was bummed, I was angry, I was not really surprised either.  I just didn't have high hopes for this round.  But we agreed, 3 IUI's then move on to IVF.  When brings us all to this post today...


After initial testing, analyses, blood work and three unsuccessful IUI's, we were at a total cost of $6,617.  This doesn't include the 3 hour round trip, the cost of fuel and tolls, and the lost wages from missing work three times a month for ultrasounds and procedures.  The information on the initial costs of our fertility journey can be found HERE.

So here we sit, we've spent over $6,600 and no Little Bun in this Oven.  This is a FRACTION of what we will spend on an IVF cycle which brings us to the next course, Financing Fertility 102.

Let's review the players here...we have Fertility CARE, Vivere Health Labs, and the Pharmacy for Stimulation Meds.  Three different agencies taking all our money at the same time!

Fertility CARE: $6,550
Includes Baseline and repeat ultrasounds
Egg Retrieval and ultrasound
1 fresh or frozen embryo transfer and ultrasound
Nurse Scans
OR/Facility Fee
Administrative Fees

PLUS
Two Step Cycle (Frozen): $1,750

PLUS
Trial Transfer: $350

PLUS
Anesthesia: $650


Vivere Fertility Laboratory: $4,105
Oocyte Identification
Culture and Fertilizing
Assisted Hatching
ICSI 
Prep for Embryo Transfer (if needed)
Cryopreservation for 1 year
Extended Culture of Oocyte (if needed)
Lab Fees

PLUS
PGS Genetic Screening: $5,500


Freedom Pharmacy: $5,000
Ovarian Stimulation Meds

TOTAL FOR ONE IVF FROZEN EMBRYO TRANSFER: $23,905

Total Covered by Health Insurance...ZERO.

Add this cycle to what we've already paid and the total after the first IVF cycle is $30,522.

Marinate on that for a minute...


The story continues as we start tomorrow with a baseline ultrasound, consult with Dr. Trolice, and start birth control pills.  More on THAT in a later post!

How Much Does This All Cost? Final IUI Numbers


The idea of financing the cost of a baby like a car payment was the reason we did not seek infertility treatments.  The rule was, either we afford to have the baby without a monthly payment or we sacrifice having the baby.  And that's why we tried naturally from 2009-2013.

In 2013 Daddy Bun's son graduated and in 2015 Daddy Bun's daughter graduated so they are both pretty much out of the house.  And before you start wondering if we want to start over, the answer is a resounding YES (Post on that HERE).  Together with strict budgeting, progressive payments on our mortgage, and a reduction in frivolous spending such as clothes, shoes, and accessories, we are in a place where we can afford to pursue that dream without going into debt.  I must thank Daddy Bun for that as he is the practical one when it comes to money.  I am the frivolous spender mentioned above.

I'm tracking how much Little Bun costs so I can remind the future child later why we have not saved any money for college.  I will be updating this post each time we pay something toward the cost of Little Bun to give a realistic picture of the costs without the assistance of insurance.  Neither of our policies will cover anything beyond diagnosis.

I am NOT tracking the costs to get us to and from the RE's office and the lost time from missing work, only the costs of diagnosis, labs, treatments, medications, ultrasounds, and testing.

Little Bun Costs:
Initial Visit with Dr. Mark: $250 (insurance covered a portion leaving this for us)
OPK Kit #01: $30
Hunny Bunny Blood Work: $265 (insurance paid a portion leaving this for us)
Daddy Bun Blood Work: $145
Initial Visit with Dr. Witt: $250
Medication for Ultrasound: $16 (insurance did not cover this medication)
OPK Kit #02: $30
HSG: $700
Water Ultrasound for Uterine Polyp: $700
Sperm Analysis with Test Wash #02: $375
Clomid for Daddy Bun: $50
Letrozole for Hunny Bunny: $13
Ovedril Trigger Shot for Hunny Bunny: $185
Baseline Ultrasound for January IUI: $250
Second Ultrasound for IUI: $250
OPK Kit #03: $30
January IUI: $450
IUI Sperm Wash: $250
Pregnany Tests for IUI: $60

IUI number one didn't take, so we are moving on to IUI number 2.  

Baseline Sonogram for February IUI: $250
Another round of Clomid for Daddy Bun: $50
Letrozole for Hunny Bunny: $13
OPK Kit #04: $30
Second Ultrasound for IUI: $250
Ovedril Trigger Shot for IUI: $185
February IUI: $450
IUI Sperm Wash: $250
Pregnancy Tests: $30

IUI number two didn't take, so we are moving on to IUI number 3.  
Baseline Sonogram for March IUI: $250
Another round of Clomid for Daddy Bun: $50
Letrozole for Hunny Bunny: $13
OPK Kit #05: $30

Second Ultrasound for IUI: $250
Ovedril Trigger Shot for IUI: $185
March IUI: $450
IUI Sperm Wash: $250
Pregnancy Tests: $30

Current Cost: $6615

And with that, we close the books on this part of the costs as we move on to IVF.  New post to track that in the upcoming weeks.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

IUI Round Three...Last Chance

Let's talk a little football shall we??  Wait...WHAT?  Yes y'all I am well versed in the game, I pride myself on identifying every referee hand symbol from the obvious first down to holding, to even clipping which is not something you see called in many games.

I'm going to tell y'all about the most exciting play in football and that's a Hail Mary...In football, a Hail Mary is an extremely long forward pass that is made in desperation with little chance of success. A Hail Mary often occurs at the end of a game or a quarter.  The reason they're often unsuccessful is because it's pretty obvious when it happens and the defense is able to prepare for the play.  They call it a Hail Mary because you pretty much need divine intervention for it to actually work.

And that my friends, is what hubby and I did last week...The Hail Mary IUI.  It was a long shot, it is unlikely to succeed, but it's the fourth quarter, there's 10 seconds left on the clock, the defense is lined up and ready for the play, and we are praying for divine intervention.

In our three IUI's we saw a slight rise in count from number one to number two and we saw a slight decline in motility.  This round, the numbers came in a 3.5 million post-wash.  My RE likes to see a minimum of 5 million post wash to perform an IUI.  We didn't hit the mark.  When the nurse told me the count from the sample, I froze.  I blinked once, twice, and the fear washed over me.  The words from my RE rang in my ears, 5 million minimum...5 million minimum...my heart sank as I wondered if he would even perform the procedure.  I signed off on the sample making sure it was, in fact, our sample, and was ushered into the exam room.  I de-pants myself and wrapped in the paper sheet of shame, still wondering why at a cost of $1150 we were not provided with something a little warmer for the lady bits...

I wore my "This Ain't My First Rodeo" hat that I purchased from Rebel Chicks on Etsy.

 Definitely check them out for sassy hats like this!  They also do custom work y'all so don't let my redneckery deter you from checking their shop!

Talk about the perfect hat as this is my third IUI and I'm all too familiar with the procedure!  Also, I didn't want to brush my hair and that makes it the perfect "haturday" for me!

Maybe you can't tell from this photo, but I was frozen with fear and already planning to demand the IUI go on, just in case the RE said he didn't advise it.  And today, Dr. Mark performed the IUI.  The first two IUI's were done by Amy, and if you don't recall from my post HERE she had a difficult time finding my cervix.  As though it would hide out on the day it was needed!  So when Dr. Mark came in to do the IUI, I was a little nervous that he would also find my cervix hiding.

Dr. Mark warned us that he likes to see higher numbers but I was already on the table in my paper sheet, so he performed the IUI.  And in RECORD TIME!  Y'all...I was literally thinking, "I wonder if he will find my..." and he said DONE.  I didn't even complete the thought...it was THAT FAST!  Mere seconds and the last effort was complete.

The Hail Mary pass was thrown...spiraling down the field...the fan are in silence...waiting with bated breath as we all wonder...will it work?  Will the egg catch that Hail Mary pass?  Will this be it?

Join me in my next Two Week Wait right now as we wait for the results of this Hail Mary IUI!