PLEASE NOTE: If you are struggling with infertility or are trying to conceive and you DON'T want to readabout my pregnancy (which I totally understand), I recommend starting at thebeginning of the blog (March2010) and reading from there. I find out I'm pregnant in June 2011 so thereis a lot of trying to conceive posts in between that you might find funny,helpful or especially relatable. Wishing you all the luck in theworld!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Resources for Affording Fertility Treatment

One of the things that both floors me (and pisses me off quite frankly) is that many insurances do NOT cover fertility treatment. Infertility is an actual medical issue – shocking, I know. I’m truly amazed how many times I have to point that in a day and it doesn’t help matters when even insurance companies don’t recognize it as a diagnosed condition.

Here’s the example I always use: If a diabetic’s blood sugar is high, you would not say, “Just relax and your sugar will lower on its own.” Or “Forget an endocrinologist! I’m sure your ENT can handle it.”

You wouldn’t… because it’s stupid and irresponsible.

Also, the public at large is simply unaware that a fertile couple can say, “When do you want to have kids?” or “Should we have more?” where as an infertile couple ask, “Can we afford treatment to even try to have kids?” or “Will we have any at all?”

Last year, I participated in Resolve’s NationalAdvocacy Day that hopes to address these issues and I continue to fight for this cause whenever and wherever I can but until we knock some sense into the people that make these decisions, I did want to list a few resources, grants, financing options, etc. here to see if it can possibly assist you in financing your journey.

One more thing before I get into this list: At my job, Fertility Authority, we recently launched a multi-cycle discount program called IVFAdvantage. It differs from other similar programs out there in that we have no cut off age or blood work or BMI restrictions. This is for those who can afford treatment BUT need additional assistance while getting personalized care. Meaning… when I did a clinical trial (more information on that below), they didn’t treat my issues specifically – it was a blanket study that I participated in. If you have a specific case, know you need more than one cycle, please feel free to email me at work: jay (at) fertilityauthority (dot) com and I can see if I can help at all through IVFA.

Here’s the list but TO BE CLEAR: While I’ve worked with a few of the organizations below, I haven’t investigated each and every one of these. In short, please do not take this list as my personal recommendation and be sure to look into each of them on your own to make your own decision.

Clinical Trials: You can search for free fertility treatment in your area that you may qualify for. On my second IVF, I did a clinical trial and found out about it through the clinic I was seeing. If you don’t want to go the website, you can ask your current doctor if they are participating in any you might qualify for.

The Tinina Q. Cade Foundation’s Family Building Grant: They are accepting applicants NOW for the 2016 $10,000 grant so you can fill out a form here:

Fertile Dreams – The Embracing Hope Grant:

The Heart to Heart Video Contest:

The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination (INCID):

Parenthood for Me:

Lost Stark Foundation:

Again, this SOOOO does not solve everything... not even by a long shot... but I do help at least offers some ideas to explore in getting treatment should you decide to pursue it. And of course, if there are any resources I've left off, please comment and let me know. :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

We All Agree: Infertility Is an Evil Bitch Demon

Here’s what’s going on and here’s what’s happened:

As many of you know, there was much drama this past weekend on Twitter that I do hope will at least open up the infertility community to important conversations on support and sensitivity.

In this post, I’m going to bring everyone up to speed who may have missed it and include some information I did not include on Twitter. None of this should at all be perceived as an excuse but rather an explanation. My ultimate hope is in all of the dialogue that is taking place online, on blogs and in private messages, we will remain supporters and friends of one another as well as continued much needed infertility advocates.

So get comfy as this will be a long one!

Despite being told that I have poor egg quality and a 1% chance of ever getting pregnant again, I am, in fact, pregnant. I’m currently about 13 weeks and am having a boy. Yes, this was a complete and total shock and no, I will not be using the word “unicorn” anywhere in this post. There is nothing magical about my reproductive organs. Trust me.

To refresh everyone’s memory, it took me three IVF’s to conceive my now almost three year old son and on the cycle that worked, I only had one embryo to transfer. When my reproductive endocrinologist saw me for this pregnancy, she said point blank, “I’m not going to lie - I’m completely shocked you’re here and pregnant.” That made two of us.

On December 24th, I had my NT scan and received the Maternity 21 blood work test results giving an overall picture that the pregnancy is going well and the baby is healthy and the 25th would be the official end to my first trimester.

On Christmas morning, my parents, husband, son and I had just opened presents and were sitting around when my husband asked about posting the news on his personal Facebook page. My father was very excited about doing this as well (more on this shortly) and at that time, I expressed my concern about upsetting anyone in the infertility community.

Now, let me quickly cut to last Christmas as I do feel this is relevant. As I blogged about earlier this year (see post here), my father has had major health issues recently. Between November and Thanksgiving of last year, he was losing weight rapidly, his skin color had changed and we found out that he had a tumor in his pancreas. Given that his father died in his late fifties of cancer, my father became convinced he was going to die as well.

In March of this year, he had his gallbladder, a portion of his small intestines and a big portion of his pancreas taken out. He currently has to take enzymes with each meal to be able to properly digest his food, he takes insulin to regulate his blood sugar and only in the past month or two, he started to look like himself again. His doctor said that he is nothing short of a miracle.

When I told my father I was pregnant again, it was very emotional moment. We could barely speak to each other without crying but my dad managed to say, “I didn’t think I was going to make it to this Christmas but not only am I alive, I’m having another grandson.”

I did NOT post this on Twitter because A) It’s a fucking long story to fit into a series of 140 character tweets and B) My husband was already getting a lot of grief that I honestly couldn’t bare my dad getting any as well… not without being able to offer a longer explanation.

Now back to this Christmas morning. My husband, Mike, had always felt robbed of the more normal fertile experiences (in addition to my shitty eggs , he has a low sperm count and I feel like he always harbored guilt over it) and he was excited to do something he always wanted to do – post a big ol’ happy announcement of our pregnancy with a sonogram and all. Many of you would not have done this or let your husband do this but if we’ve learned nothing from the last couple of days, it’s that everyone deals with infertility differently and we need to be supportive of one another as much as possible. He's my husband, we've been through a lot together, I love him and this was important to him.

And of course, when my father said he would like to share Mike’s status as soon as Mike posted it, it became even tougher.

I had two of the most important men in my life downright giddy about sharing the news with our loved ones on Facebook. Mike felt that this was a moment he always dreamed about and my dad felt this was a moment he never thought he’d see. So I let them post it on Facebook… and they did. Mike posted his status with a sonogram picture and tagged my personal Facebook profile.

I want to stop here to make this point 100% clear – where he posted is very much my personal Facebook page. It has photos of me, my family, posts about my son, shares my entire life from my love of Starbucks, my ass being bigger than Kim Kardashian's (but in a bad way), infertility issues, my support of gun control and stuff like that. Even when anyone in the IF world has asked to connect with me on Facebook, I always refer to both my @jennpal Twitter account and jennpal Facebook page as my personal page and The 2 Week Wait Twitter and The 2 Week Wait Facebook page as my IF account. The ONLY reason I haven’t posted on my The 2 Week Wait Facebook page as of late is because they have a new policy where you have to use your real name so me and drag queens have been locked out. Oh well, at least we’ll always have our false eye lashes…

Anyway, the reason I’m making this clarification is NOT, repeat NOT to make excuses. It’s mainly because I’d like to avoid inflicting any additional pain as much as possible. So really – the JennPal Facebook page is my personal page. If any of you didn’t realize that and you want to unfollow me or run away screaming from that page, I completely support you and will fully understand.

So, roughly a half hour after Mike posted our news, I posted the following on my (personal) Facebook page:

“As my husband posted this morning, despite needing several IVF's to have MJ and being given only a 1% chance of ever conceiving on my own, I'm pregnant and due in July. I'd so appreciate your prayers for a healthy pregnancy/baby AND that you include all of those still struggling to conceive in your thoughts. Thank you so much and Merry Christmas!”

On my The 2 Week Wait account, the only thing I posted on Christmas was:

“When in the TTC trenches, the holidays were painful for me. To those struggling w/infertility, I'm holding you in my heart today & always.”

This is when things slowly began to unravel…

A friend on The 2 Week Wait Twitter account on Christmas congratulated me and asked if I posted it “here” (meaning Twitter) yet. I wrote back to her that I didn’t out of respect for the day. But then another person saw that exchange and asked what was going on. I ignored that question and let it sit there while I tried to figure things out. You can go through my timeline to confirm all of this but I urge you to do something way more exciting that that if you can.

Years ago, I had a friend who was active in the IF Twitter world who got pregnant on her own after years of treatment. She was so terrified of telling the community that she never posted it or acknowledged it. Eventually though, people found out and many of the responses were well, let’s just say rather unkind. I thought about this incident and began to get concerned that the longer I didn’t say anything on my IF account, the more people would then feel like I was hiding it and become angry.

So, on December 26th, on my infertility The 2 Week Wait Twitter account, I posted:

"1st Tweet of 2: Despite needing several IVF's to have my son & being given a 1% chance of conceiving on my own, I'm pregnant & due in July."

"2nd Tweet of 2: Out of respect to my cherished IF friends, I plan to post about this rarely. Thank you & truly sorry to those this hurts."

On the whole, responses were supportive and positive. However, there were also a few that felt my posting of this on Twitter the day after Christmas was extremely insensitive. Within minutes, many (some who I know and some who I’ve never met in my life) were discussing my post, my pregnancy, what was on my personal Facebook page, that my husband posted a sonogram picture, etc. and so forth. To know there were so many Tweets, direct messages both to me, about me to others, etc. blows my mind.

Some said it wasn’t the news but that it was on Christmas. Others said it wasn’t the news or that it was on Christmas but it was the sonogram picture I was tagged in. Some said the news should be inspirational to people. Others said it was a win for the IF team. A few wanted to revoke my Infertility Advocate card altogether as I no longer deserved to call myself one. Compliments were given. Swear words were used. Some posts were touched my heart and made me cry. Others made me want to crawl under a rock and die... and also cry.

From there (and it’s almost funny to think about now…), I got the most direct messages, emails and texts I may have ever received in my entire life. The messages ranged from, “Apologize immediately!”, “Why did you apologize?”, “Your apology isn’t good enough!”, “Retweet everything everyone is saying to you!”, “Why the hell are you retweeting everything???”, “Delete your entire account!” and so on and so on. My head was spinning…

In the interest of full disclosure here – it’s been a tough couple of months. My son, who is on the autistic spectrum, has now also been diagnosed with a minor seizure disorder (which can happen when you’re ASD). We’re trying to get him into a special school which is harder than buying a gun or getting him into college and now that I know I’m having another boy, I’m terrified he’ll have to go through everything MJ just has. I also am at a greater risk for preeclampsia (yaaay!) and I had cholestasis with my last pregnancy.  The stress has been profoundly affecting my sleep plus, adding to all of this, I’ve been exceedingly sick this pregnancy. This was the reason I wasn’t able to travel to this year’s SHER I Believe Video Project and my co-workers will confirm that I very much look like total shit. Think Michael Jackson, the dying years… only not as thin.

Even though I’m sure some of you are like, “Yeah, cry me a river...”, I share all of this because I’d like to be the first to own that I’m not at my best. I’m sure I was not thinking at my clearest and so when everyone was giving me advice, I pretty much followed EVERYONE’S advice even though they often contradicted each other. I have no doubt that made matters worse and I came off like a confused, slightly bipolar hot mess.

One of my BIGGEST regrets though (whether you agree or not) is that even though I did  retweet many tweets that criticized me, I also retweeted tweets that were supportive but also critical to those who were not supportive of any of my pregnancy posts. In doing this, it came off as my not wanting to listen to both sides and I fear might have undone any sincere apologies I was trying to make.

If you know me or was following all of my posts or even if you’ve followed this blog for a while, I feel confident that you’d know that nothing could be further from the truth. One of my posts actually invited anyone who was unhappy with me to Tweet it and I’d retweet it to everyone to share all points. However, it’s clear that I did not think through some of what was retweeted and for that, I feel like a complete moron.

Overall, there was some fair, honest, critical statements made to me or about me and there were some that, I can’t lie, really deeply hurt that I’m still trying to put behind me as they didn't feel productive so much as they felt... personal and intentionally unkind. It’s been very difficult to take at times but the bottom line is everyone has a right to be heard and even though it may hurt me, I know full well that they are hurting too. I see nothing to gain by being anything but apologetic, supportive and open to hearing what they feel needs to be said.

All in all though - t’s been crazy watching people fight over this, seeing the amount of blog posts all about what’s going on in my uterus and I’m utterly mortified and beyond distressed that this has caused so much drama. I almost feel like Rodney King screaming, “Can’t we all just get along?

A few have said this may be a good incident as it’s started a conversation but if that’s true – I just wish more people would listen instead of argue. 

There are some who have criticized me for thanking those who supported me and others who have criticized me for apologizing. As you can see from this post, I’ve gotten a lot of contradictory opinions from all sides but I wanted to say again, whether it was my handling of my pregnancy announcement, whether it was a retweet that upset you, whether it was a particular word I used or didn’t use, none of the above but just my surprise pregnancy in and of itself that has upset you – I am truly and sincerely sorry and apologize if you are one of the people who I unintentionally hurt.

Even though I accept the criticism, I honestly don't know if there's anyway to not upset someone when you unexpectedly get pregnant but I just can’t stress enough how much this has absolutely broken my heart… literally… pains in my chest that my desperate attempt to balance both my family’s wishes while being respectful of my infertility background and friends have hurt and offended others. I swear on my life that I really tried and even though I was told by one Tweet that “good intentions aren’t good enough”, it’s all I have at this point.

Please know though that I’ve been an infertility advocate for a while now and I have no plans of stopping anytime soon neither at my job or in my personal life. I love this community and still believe it so for any mistake you feel I’ve made, for any mistake I feel I’ve made – infertility is an issue that needs as many voices as possible. We can't always agree on everything but the one thing that is a fact for all of us: Infertility is an evil bitch demon.

Whether you’re pregnant, trying to conceive, going through treatment, surrogacy, adoption, child-free or childless, let me know how I can support you and let's all keep talking… and more than anything listening, ok?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Still Here... In A Womb With a View

Sooo… it’s been a while, no? Like an embarrassingly long time! What’s even sillier is every week, I would say to myself, “I’ve GOT to write a blog this week!” but then something else always came up. I know, I know… I sound like a shitty boyfriend that hasn’t called in a while but this year has kicked my ass every which way. I have been calling 2014, “The Year of the Curve Balls”.

Heh, heh... I said balls...

Interview with Fox on Egg Freezing
I’ll spare you all of the details but the short version is my son (product of my 3rd IVF) getting an EEG and MRI for minor seizures due to his Autistic Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis (no – ASD has nothing to do with ICSI. Oy.), my father having major surgery (he’s currently down a pancreas), my husband’s pay unexpectedly getting cut (WTF?), then him switching jobs (yaaay!), financial strain due to this transition (haven’t resorted to stripping yet though!), us moving to a new place (the new digs doesn’t have mice or mice shit so that’s progress!) and endless meetings about my son’s schooling going forward (it was easier for me to get into college).

Trust me – That truly is the short version.

Despite it all, I’ve remained very active and passionate about all things related to the reproductively challenged. Here are also a few of my favorite pieces that I’ve written related to my infertility related activities among a few others should you be interested in checking any of them out:

My job at Fertility Authority also continues to keep me busy and always manages to provide one fertility related call a day that cracks me up. Some recent highlights are:

“I’m calling about artificial insinuation.”

Me: "Do you have intercourse when you're ovulating?"
Caller: "Do I have what?"
Me: "Intercourse".
Caller: "No. Blue Cross."

“Both my wife and I had our tubes tied.”

“If my eggs don’t work, can I use my husband’s eggs?”

“I have a unicorn in my uterus.” (She meant bicornuate uterus… although I like the sound of a magical uterus.)

“My friend is pregnant but doesn’t want the baby. Can you transfer the baby to my uterus? I’m in great shape!”

Male Caller: “My sperm gets lost apparently.”
Me: “And like most men, it won’t ask for directions, right?”
Male Caller: “Exactly. And I’m going to use that joke going forward!”

Among these calls though, I’m also fortunate enough to continue to connect with both
The No Baby Shower
with @@ChancesOur and
couples and women who inspire me with their perseverance and sense of humor. What’s particularly shocked me lately is how many women who’ve contacted us about egg freezing find out that they have a fertility issue they knew nothing about.

In general, roughly 20% of women who go to get an egg freezing consultation get diagnosed with a fertility related concern (blocked tubes, diminished ovarian reserve, etc.). I also have been working with the mother of a 15 year old who somehow has started menopause. It never ceases to stun me how many infertility issues there are and how the public at large still has no awareness or understand of it. I’m floored that it still doesn’t seem to be recognized as a real medical diagnosis and so many OB/GYN’s (bless their hearts) don’t really seem to educate women on knowing their fertility health. I’ll never be able to wrap my head around that. Never.

Me at the Cade Gala
A few weeks back, I went to the Cade Foundation Gala and I have to tell you – that was a wonderful night. I’m particularly impressed with this group. They really did feel like a family holding your hand, encouraging you to pursue whatever fertility goals you have and unlike some other groups out there, they put the emphasis on those struggling with infertility. I’ve never been to an event where you heard more from patients than you did doctors or staff. I loved it and recommend you check them out if you haven’t already.

I’ll also be judging Sher’s I Believe Video Project again and I can’t wait. To be a part of someone getting a free donated cycle means the world to me as I know firsthand what it feels like to want a baby and be totally out of funds.

All in all, the word 'humbled' doesn't cover how I feel these days. Yes, I'm stressed, overworked, tired and behind on everything but just so deeply appreciative for any opportunity I get to make a possible difference or impact in the world of fertility matters.

So basically, I swear I’m still here, I absolutely care and if there’s anything I can ever do to help anyone – you just let me know. I’m on Twitter (either at @jennpal or @the2weekwait)
Me with PHENOMENAL ladies at Resolve's Advocacy Day
and you can email me at the2weekwait (at) gmail (dot) com.

What I personally need right now is for things to just calm the fuck down. I long for just one weekend of boredom. Just one. Can I get an amen?

Sending you hope, hugs and humor… as always.

- Jay