What I Wish I Had Known….by Julie Richt

The journey of infertility – what I would have wanted to know.  This blog is not necessarily here to provide you concrete “facts” about infertility, but rather, my truths.  If I could go back and do things differently, would I?  The answer to that question, is absolutely YES!  Infertility got the best of me for a long time.  It was a marathon warm-up and an iron-man event…definitely not a sprint.  Here’s some thoughts I wanted to share for those going through it now.  

I went into fertility treatments thinking I had done all the research and knew what to expect – HA!  I was focused on the process, the cost, and the result.  Little did I know where the journey would take me.  I’m a type-A personality that likes to plan, attack, celebrate the result, and move onto the next challenge.  I know my audience, I know my budget, and I sure as heck ask a lot of questions until I feel like I’m an expert in whatever endeavor I’m looking to conquer.  I now know that I have grown and was proven way wrong by infertility!

Fertility treatments are not cheap, or shall I say, “quality treatment is not affordable”.  Naturally, you should do your research when you are going to make an investment such as fertility treatments – cost of labs, ultrasounds, IUI, IVF, genetic testing, etc.  This became a very scary situation for me early on because once you start down the road of fertility treatments, you don’t know exactly where your journey will take you.  You think a couple of meds along with some tests and wham bam thank you ma’am – here’s a baby!  Quite the contrary!  You realize quickly that there is not a lot of controllable situations that will arise when going through treatments. 

I thought my initial rounds of tests came back okay (no terrible news and everyone seemed optimistic), but then ultimately headed down a path of 4-5 IUIs for $6000 a round due to medication costs.  Before we knew it, we were heading onto to IVF with ICSI and genetic testing, and no time for planning or budgeting or planning (aahhhhh).  I felt so many times I let myself succumb to the process and got lost.  I stayed relentless in my pursuit of the goal, but blind to the details.  It wasn’t always a bad thing, but I would have done some things differently for sure.     

I wish I could outline for everyone all of the emotional and financial roadblocks you will cross on your journey, but I can’t.  I do remember being so overwhelmed because the doctors and nurses would be so nonchalant about the next steps or tests.  “So you will start by giving yourself a shot, just watch a video (like administering a shot to yourself is so easy or something), and here is the prescription, go pick it up right away so you can start today (oh and by the way it is $1,200) and call us tomorrow and we’ll see you in 2 days”.  I would immediate google everything they said and then call back them back within the hour and ask questions.  I was always unprepared.  From day one, I didn’t feel like myself.  Whirlwind! 

So, here’s my first tip – research what you can to have an idea on cost, so you don’t experience “sticker shock”.  I thought that it was all relative and that there wouldn’t be much of a variance in cost from facility to facility or treatment plans.  I was wrong.  I didn’t do enough research and now there are such great resources online that you can benchmark from.  Here is a great blog, https://fertility-news.rmact.com/path-to-fertility-blog/cost-of-ivf, that outlines the cost and treatment procedures for IVF.  Your doctor’s office will also provide you with a list of cost break down, but this website does a great job with spelling out the variety of IVF treatments, tests, and types of “add-ons” that might affect your total IVF cost. 

Same with medications – once you get started on treatments, you totally feel like you don’t have a choice on what drugs you use.  But you do!  I overpaid for medications and had no idea what I was putting into my body.  You can get them online from pharmacies that have discounts, especially when insurance doesn’t cover the cost of meds, or go to a local pharmacy that your doctors work with because sometimes they have negotiated pricing, but either which way – do some research.  You can compare any drug cost (name brands and generics) on www.goodrx.com and get a feel for the difference in drugs by name as well as by cost.  Understand too that your doctors do know best overall, but you should understand what you are putting into your body and ask questions.  I did not do this well during my journey and wished I would have looked into medications more and fully understand what I was taking and why.  The thing with medications is that once you’ve consulted with a physician, they are ready to get you going on a treatment plan right away, so they make it seem like you don’t have any time to waste.  But there is time – one cycle to pause, research, order prescriptions online, or whatever, will not make or break your success rate. 

Second tip is, listen to your body!  You know more about your body and how it will react to certain things.  I wanted to do a more holistic approach but felt so rushed to jump in that I didn’t really get a chance to prep my body the way I wanted it to.  I just dove in headfirst with medications.  Ask yourself, what can I change or control with my diet or activity level to make my body and mind feel strong?  You have to gear up for the emotional stress of fertility treatments.  They don’t prepare you for that.  Start treatments with a healthy diet and exercise routine so that you feel strong and powerful while already having the habits established.  A lot of the struggle is mental and keeping a firm grasp on your goal, your health, and your mission will help throughout the whole journey. 

My last tip is self-care has to be a priority.  One thing I didn’t realize while going through our fertility journey was the time and space I needed to process everything.  Some weeks you are going to the doctor’s office for labs and ultrasounds 3-4 times.  That is a lot of time in a short span and then all of the information to process.  I would recommend as much “self-care” activities that you can do to keep you feeling like you.  Whether that is carving out some “me-time” to read a book, journal about your appointments, get a massage, get your nails done, whatever it may be that you need to treat yourself.  Create the space for yourself because your schedule and calendar fill up fast when starting treatments and you can get lost in the shuffle quickly.  You cannot control your cycle so the days you have to be in the doctor’s office are the days you have to be there.  Just be sure to run your calendar and create some time for yourself, don’t let your fertility schedule run you…down. 

Also, you have to allow yourself to grieve.  You will have little wins (that should be celebrated along the way) and big losses throughout fertility. Don’t be afraid to let people in or talk to a professional.  You have to process all the steps your own way, but don’t ignore it.  The fertility journey can be a very lonely and tiresome process.  As easy as it is to say right now, try not to lose sight of what makes you happy.  My self-worth was wrapped up into my infertility issues.  It was the only way I knew how to identify myself for 6 years.  I isolated myself and pushed friends and family away because “no one knew what I was going through”.  But at the same time, I didn’t share with them.  I didn’t journal or have an outlet of expression for my fears, tears, or worries.  I didn’t have a place to build my faith or hopefulness either – I kept it all to myself. 

Fill your cup with anything that gives you a sense of yourself.  Don’t ignore your inner-self…sometimes they are who know best!

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