Come Fertility with Us!
Cory and I started a GoFundMe campaign called “Come Fertility with Us!” to fundraise money for our fertility related medical bills. This is a blog post for anyone who is considering donating but might not know much about us or might be just entering into our fertility story. Read this blog post to catch yourself up on who we are, what happened to us, and how we feel about asking for help now.
It was easy to fall in love with Cory.
It’s been just as easy loving him every single day since.
As soon as we started talking on Tinder (yes, really, we met on Tinder), I knew he was it for me. Our conversations were unlike any others I’d had before...on Tinder…or Match…or E-Harmony…or Bumble…or any of the other dating apps I had tried.
You see, back then, I was a dating pro. After ending a 7-year relationship in 2013, I picked up the pieces, moved to Denver, healed myself (thank God for a good counselor and long runs around Wash Park), and then got to dating! In the next three three years, I went on 25 first dates, 10 second dates, and had two relationships. I was a pro. By the end of that run, I knew exactly what I wanted (and what I didn’t want).
And then came Cory. We both swiped right on Friday, November 20, 2015. I had only been on Tinder for one week at that point. After a few days of texting, Cory asked me out on a date:
Cory: Kristen, might I take you out sometime? I feel like I’d rather not rush you, what with you being one of Tinder’s newest additions. But, in all honesty, I’d love to meet the person responsible for these fantastic thoughts and your lovely emotional fluency. I’d feel strange not acting on my instincts at this point.
Kristen: I was thrilled to see that you asked me out because I too would love to meet the man who has inspired me, made me think, shared, and has made me laugh over texts the past few days. When were you thinkin’, Lincoln?
Does that sound alright?
You see my plight
Is that I’d prefer seeing you before the dawning of another morning’s
No lyrical reply
To illustrate my excitement
Of meeting tonigh(t)
I don’t think Tinder has ever made a more perfect match. We had our first date at the Denver Christkindl Market on November 23. I met his parents on November 29 (kind of by accident, but totally amazing). He met my family December 14. We just knew.
We dated for a perfect 1.5 years filled with musical theatre, Netflix binging, cooking together, house shopping (then house buying!), and time spent with family.
(As I’m writing this, I’m imagining you, the reader, on the opposite side of the screen, gagging with how mushy and sweet this is. I wish I could tell you some juicy secrets about how tough our relationship is – but I just don’t have any. It’s the easiest, most secure, most fulfilling relationship I’ve ever been in. And it’s not that we don’t have our stuff – he has tinnitus, and I have rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic pain is something we work through together on a daily basis. We have financial stressors too – he’s a teacher, and I’m a speech therapist. We’re not rolling in the dough, and sometimes that can be anxiety provoking. Apart from these sorts of challenges that come with being an imperfect human trying to make it through adulthood, our relationship is rock solid. I hope everyone gets to experience this sort of love at some point in his or her life.)
We got engaged in June 2017, got married three months later, and started to try to get pregnant shortly after. After six months of trying, we made an appointment with my OBGYN. She put me on Clomid, an ovulation stimulating medication. The medication didn’t end up working and actually resulted in me developing ovarian cysts/torsion that required a very expensive surgery. While dealing with the ovarian cysts, an MRI revealed that I have a unicornuate uterus, an uterine anomaly that occurs during embryologic development. I essentially only have half a uterus, a “uter” if you will (ar ar ar). We also found out that I have terrible egg quality and endometriosis. Within a few weeks, I went from a healthy, fertile woman to a woman with half a uterus and pre-menopausal eggs that were tanking by the second. My OBGYN recommended that we immediately start working with a highly specialized reproductive endocrinologist (RE).
Our first RE told us that I wouldn’t be able to safely carry a baby to term because of my smaller uterus. He recommended in vitro fertilization (IVF) with a surrogate (and its $75,000+ price tag, no joke). I was sent into a grief spiral. Losing the chance to carry my own child was devastating. In the back of our minds, we knew something didn’t feel quite right about this first doctor’s recommendation. We decided to get a second opinion. Our second RE told us that I would definitely be able to carry my own child, and that we should start IVF right away since my egg quality had already declined in just the two months we had been seeking fertility treatment.
In August 2018, we started our first IVF cycle. If you’re not familiar with IVF, here’s IVF in a nutshell: a doctor retrieves all of your eggs, injects sperm into the eggs in a petri dish, creates an embryo, and then puts the embryo back in your uterus. IVF is miraculous…science at its finest. Sounds pretty fool proof, right? Well research has actually shown that most women require multiple IVF cycles (up to six) before actually getting pregnant and having a live birth.
Back to our first IVF experience: because of my poor egg quality, we only got one genetically normal embryo from the first round of IVF (some women get up to 3 or 5 genetically normal embryos after a single cycle). And because my type of uterus has a 37% miscarriage rate, we decided to do a second round of IVF to try to get a couple more embryos just in case.
Several people have recommended that we “just adopt” instead of going through the hassle and expense of IVF. What I wish people knew is that adopting isn’t a simple alternative. Adoption is emotionally grueling and just as expensive as IVF. In the spirit of full transparency, domestic infant adoption costs $25,000. International infant adoption costs $35,000. Before my heart could be completely open to adoption, I first need to know we tried everything we could to have a biological child.
Our relationship has deepened after going through this infertility chapter. Cory has held me while I’ve cried about my new diagnoses, the loss of my fertility, the financial stressors of these treatments. Cory injected me nearly 40 times within 12 days. He’s been by my side through two surgeries. I’ve asked him for help when I’ve needed it, and he’s asked me for help too. Together, we have both learned the power of asking for help.
And right now, we need help.
Keeping on with the transparency train, 2018 has been a very expensive year for us, a part-time teacher and a speech therapist. My surgery cost us $4,000. The first round of IVF cost us $25,000 (thankfully my insurance covered $5,000). This second round of IVF will cost us $10,000. All in all, we have paid out-of-pocket over $35,000 in surgeries, fertility treatments, co-payments, diagnostic testing, and fertility supplements in the past five months. My OBGYN recommended that we seek treatment at one of the top fertility clinics in Colorado since I have so many complicating factors (i.e., uterine anomaly, poor egg quality/quantity, endometriosis). Because of this, the IVF price tag at our clinic has been more expensive than at other smaller, less specialized clinics. Cory and I are working as much as we can to save as much money as possible, but we are still drowning. In addition to working a full-time job, I also see clients on the side to make extra money. Cory works over 20 hours a week while also going to grad school. We simply can’t do it on our own.
Asking for financial help is really humbling.
A thousand “I wish” statements swirl around my mind as I consider asking for help.
I wish we had more money and didn’t have to ask for help.
I wish insurance covered more.
I wish we didn’t have to go through these treatments at all.
I wish I didn’t have a unicornuate uterus or crappy eggs.
I wish we could have gotten more than just one normal embryo after our first IVF cycle.
I wish we could be like the other 88% of couples who get pregnant easily (and sometimes even unexpectedly).
Heck, some days I wish we could be like the many couples that don’t want to have children at all.
Most of all, I wish I felt better about asking for help.
Instead of dwelling on the “I wish” statements, I’ll focus on the “I’m grateful because” statements.
I’m grateful because I have an amazing husband and family and friends who have supported me as I’ve grieved my new diagnosis.
I’m grateful because I have some eggs left.
I’m grateful because I have a uterus.
I’m grateful because I have access to health care and experts in the field of infertility.
I’m grateful because my insurance paid for $5,000 of the first IVF cycle.
I’m grateful because, for some reason, I have the courage inside of me to be vulnerable, share my story, and voice my needs.
I’m grateful because I have an amazing community of people around me who follow story, validate my experience, share their struggles, and would do anything to support me.
IVF is expensive, and I don’t think other couples going through it ask for help enough. Maybe because they don’t feel like it’s okay to ask for help. Maybe because infertility is hard to talk about, and money is even harder. Maybe because of pride and shame. Even though it’s uncomfortable to be vulnerable, it’s important. It’s a gateway to understanding. It cultivates compassion. It opens hearts and is a precursor to love.
It feels uncomfortable to extend my hands out for help. Despite this, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing these past three months – put myself out there and share my story. Show that it’s okay to ask for help. I will be vulnerable and voice my needs to you, my community. Meg Cabot once said, “Sometimes in life, you can fall down holes you can’t climb out of by yourself. That’s what friends and family are for – to help. They can’t help, however, unless you let them know you’re down there.”
By choosing to support us, you’re saying, “I see you down in that hole, and I choose to help.” You’re saying yes to a more vulnerable, more compassionate world. You’re saying yes to a world where asking for help is met with warmth and generosity. You’re saying yes to a world where people don’t feel like they have to go at it alone.
Finally, a some questions for you!
When have you put yourself out there and asked for help in the past? What sort of response did you get?
How awesome is Cory’s Tinder profile on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being “heck no” and 10 being “he looks legit!”? (PS: I was especially intrigued by this line: “I love a good scratch n’ sniff sticker.” Ha!)
When have you been able to help someone in your life in a big way? How did that feel?
What would your first line be on your hypothetical Tinder profile? I gotta know what you’d write!
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