Voicing Our Truth

By Kathleen and Melanie

“Everything looks good. Your scans all came back clean. You’re young and healthy so I am very optimistic.”

Melanie and I started our journey to parenthood in September of 2018. Obviously, our journey included a lot more doctors and appointments than most couples, right from the start. On top of all the blood work and invasive testing, we were required to meet with a social worker to ensure we were fit to be parents. Again, obviously not a hoop other couples have to jump through before getting the green light (although let’s be honest, some couples probably should). Despite the inconvenience and the increased anxiety this step added, we “passed with flying colors” and were told we would make great parents. Check. Another step closer. Next, we were told to look into attorneys, because Melanie will need to legally adopt this child at birth, in order to be considered its parent in the eyes of the court. Another outrageous hoop we had not considered, but of course we obliged. Check. Moving on. We then started the process of selecting a sperm donor. Despite the fact that the cryobank has hundreds to choose from, we found ourselves struggling tremendously to make such an important decision. We disagreed. We argued. We fought. But then, we talked. We listened. And eventually, we chose “the one”. Fast forward and now it is May 2019 and we think we are finally ready to start treatment. Wrong. In one of the many phone calls with our nurse, she informed me that my rubella immunity had worn off, and I would need to be reimmunized – a process that takes a total of 3 months. More hurdles, more hoops. So off I went for more shots and more blood work. On August 9, 2019 we finally had the green light for our first intrauterine insemination (IUI) procedure, 11 months after we first started the journey. We were excited, anxious, ready. We were naive. I think deep down I knew it wouldn’t happen on the first try, but that first “I’m sorry, it was negative” phone call was still a hard pill to swallow. We cried. We sulked. We bounced back and tried again. Only this time, our insurance had changed. Enter another hoop. As of September 1st our insurance was no longer covering any of our fertility treatments or procedures. We were forced to convert all future appointments entirely to self-pay, with the hopes that insurance would kick in after 6 failed trials. “A lot of good that does – we won’t need 6 trials”. Wrong again. In December we got that dreaded phone call for the 6th time, “I’m sorry, it was negative”. Our doctor’s professional recommendation was now to move to in vitro fertilization (IVF), rather than continuing with the IUIs. Despite yet another heartbreak, we had hope. Our bank accounts were crying and our patience was wearing, but alas there was a glimmer of hope – at least insurance will start to cover some of the astronomical expenses. And at least IVF will give us a better shot. Wrong again. Our claims were denied, citing the need for 12 failed trials before coverage will begin. Although still emotionally draining, for most heterosexual couples, those 12 failed trials can happen in the comfort of their own home. For free. But for us, it meant 12 months of doctor appointments and tens of thousands of dollars. On top of that news, our donor had run out of vials so we were forced back to square one, again having to come to an agreement on a monumentally important decision. We felt broken. We felt devastated. We felt defeated. And yet, we kept moving forward.

But IVF out-of-pocket is $25,000 per cycle, so that was immediately swiped from the table. Back to IUIs until we reach that magic #12. After fail #9, our second donor ran out of vials. Back to the drawing board for choice #3. Considering this donor will be responsible for contributing 50% of our child’s genetic make-up, the thought of sending in your third string quarterback was less than ideal. Luckily, new donors had joined since we last searched the bank. We quickly agreed on “Mr. Right” and were ready to continue. It is now April of 2020 and we are 0% closer to being parents. Literally 0. And we are on hold indefinitely as the world rides out this global pandemic.

We have spent nearly $35,000 out of pocket for treatments that have been wildly unsuccessful, despite our doctor’s initial optimism. We have used nearly 80 hours of combined Paid Time Off that could have been spent on a vacation or saved for a maternity leave. I have had over 50 appointments, each one accompanied by extremely early wake-up calls, aggressive hormone pills, countless blood draws, uncomfortably invasive exams, and lots of fear. We have received nine heartbreaking voicemails telling us it still is not our time. But despite all the sadness, frustration, anger, and jealousy, we still have hope. We are still optimistic. We know our journey to parenthood is not over yet. This week is National Infertility Awareness Week #NIAW. I am the 1 in 8 living with infertility. We chose to share our story to help break the barrier of silence and shame. To let other women know that it’s okay to voice your truth. To remind other couples that it’s okay to feel all those emotions. This journey has taken us to places we never imagined we would need to go, but it has also reminded us that we are going there together. And in the end, that’s really all that matters.

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