Sunday, July 14, 2013

We attended our first support group meeting this week

B & I attended our first Resolve Support Group Meeting on Tuesday night this week.

I've been thinking about going ever since we cancelled our IVF cycle in January 2012... maybe even before that.  I never pulled the trigger for the following reasons:

  1. B wasn't really interested, but was willing to go if I pushed the issue.
  2. I was in such a dark place after what happened in Jan. 2012 that I kind of took a hiatus from researching action plans or moving forward on our infertility journey.
Rather than channelling all my emotions, fears, anxiety, and other negative energy into exploring what "the next step" would be for us after we cancelled our IVF cycle, I kind retreated inside myself.  I started this blog at that time to try to sort through some of what I was feeling, but I never really looked into other alternative plans of action.

I think we never went to the support group before because I was afraid it would be like ripping off a band-aid and opening old wounds before I was healed enough to handle that.  I wasn't ready to start taking much action since we couldn't afford IVF for a couple years, and I didn't want to spend all my energy thinking about this painful experience, except when I couldn't help it or actually wanted to, and then I chose to channel those thoughts and feelings into the blog.

The last year and a half wasn't all just sitting around stuck in my own head and blogging.  The blogging came in spurts sometimes.  Sometimes even the blog felt like it was ripping off bandaids, so I would have to take breaks from this too.

We went through periods of trying to say we were on a break from even thinking about TTC because it was all too much... though I don't think we were ever successful with that one.  Eventually, I opened up and was ready to start peaking under the bandaid again, just peeling back little corners of it at first.

A few months ago I got really interested in advocacy and legislation that affects infertile couples like me, so I kind of jumped from being completely stuck inside my own head and heart, to going completely outside myself, to a point where myself as an individual wasn't the issue, but rather the focus was on the good of the whole community with whom I was now identifying.

Now that we are half way through 2013, and only 6 months away from the year that we set as our goal to find a way to pay for IVF, things starting getting a little more real, and alot more scary.  

You'd think we'd be more excited that all of our goals and dreams were about to become a possibility.  But truthfully, I think the financial risk is what is becoming more real.  There is no guarantee that IVF will work for us, but there is a guarantee of the monthly sacrifices we have to make now to pay off our credit cards again, or to put more money in our savings account, or of the monthly loan payments we'll have to budget for next year if we finance the whole thing!

In preparation for taking this last big step next year, we want make sure we have left no stone unturned.  I blogged previously this summer about new beginnings and being ready to go back into action mode.    We want to get a second opinion from an RE that will take a more holistic approach toward me.  Someone who will examine my BBT charts, analyze my cycle lengths, and take a look at my luteal phase (which I think is too short).  Someone who will do a post-coital test on my cervical mucus, someone who will do serial testing on my progesterone to make sure I'm not actually conceiving but having early miscarriages each month.  Maybe even someone who will test to see that I'm actually releasing an egg each month when my hormones imply that I am about to on OPK's.

So, it seemed that the time was finally right for us to check out a Resolve support group.  We are ready to start actively researching our condition and trying out various ways to  improve it.  I remembered that the support group in our area only meets once a month, so I checked out the Resolve website and realized that the next one coming up in July worked with our schedule.  I emailed the contact person to ask if there was room for us and received an almost immediate response that we were welcome!

I honestly don't know why we didn't do this before.  It was overall not just a neutral, but actually a pretty positive experience, and both B and I found it to be worthwhile.  I really appreciated hearing from so many other couples with a wide array of conditions, but we were all bonded by the common goal of having a child... and often a similar journey of testing and treatment.  B even spoke up and asked a few questions of the group, which impressed me, because he was actually engaging in the activity.  I had thought he was just going to humor me, but there he was, actively participating!

I thought it would be good for him to see that other men cope with all this female-craziness similarly to the way he does... but I think it actually helped me more than him!  It was relieving for me to know that it's not personal or unique to our situation that I am more consumed with all this than he is, that he doesn't want to talk about it all the time, or cry, or research, etc.  It just validated what I blogged about previously, that men and women grieve differently, and the greif associated with infertility is no different.

Some of the questions B asked the group was pretty revealing about what he values, or fears, or is concerned about the most.  The responses we got from other members in the group to his questions were really helpful to us too, and we keep going back to their comments as we've been continuing to digest things since the day of the meeting:

  • He asked how the other couples have wrapped their minds around the cost of IVF and other ART treatments.  And how are they paying for it?  And how do they justify the risk?
    • One woman (the facilitator actually), who successfully went on to conceive naturally after a failed IVF cycle, confirmed that it was all completely worth it.  Does she get angry that she had to pay so much for what others can do for free? Sure, but in the grand scheme of things, this extra cost is just a drop in the bucket.  Think about what will come if we are successful, daycare, college savings, etc...  Relatively speaking, this won't be so significant later on in our lives.
    • The men in the group validated his concerns, saying they wholeheartedly agreed with everything he was worried about, but then said "you just do it."  It seemed all the men in the group were doing it for their wives, much the way Brian seems to be just doing it for me and my well-being and happiness.  I think this is good because it might ease some of his doubts about whether he's making the right decision.
    • One woman in the group said that her parents loaned them the money and they are making monthly payments to her parents
    • Other couples are paying for everything out of pocket al a carte style as they can come up with the money
    • Some couples opted for the "package" deals you get from the hospitals for multiple cycles at a discounted rate - financed through Attain fertility (that's what our clinic offers).
  • B also asked how bad the hormone stimulating injections really are... which revealed an anxiety I didn't even know he had, about having to give me shots and how bad my mood swings would be!
    • Some offered tips such as icing the skin before the shot with an ice cube, and after the shot putting an ice pack over the injection site.
    • Someone said the inter-muscular shot in the buttocks was much less painful than the fatty-tissue shots in the belly, and it probably had something to do with not being able to see it going in, even though the one in your butt has a much bigger needle!
    • Several said they really did have crazy mood swings caused by the hormones, and I think it was good for B to see that their husbands were still there by their side supporting them and this whole process, despite the mood swings and all :)
We also got some really great tips and referrals from others in the group about resources in our area that we didn't know about and hadn't opened up our minds to explore yet.  A well-known acupuncturist who specializes in infertility and prescribes herbal remedies was highly recommended by the majority of the group.  Someone else mentioned fertility yoga classes at our city's only independent birthing center.  A few of the women had gone gluten-free and suggested re-examining my diet again, even though I had originally gone vegan and then vegetarian in effort to improve my fertility.  They suggested it wouldn't hurt to take another look.  A book called The Infertility Cure was recommended too.

B & I both left that meeting agreeing that looking into incorporating some Eastern holistic methods with our Western diagnoses and treatments would be something we'd like to explore.  We plan to get a consultation with the acupuncturist that was so highly recommended soon, and I plan to sign up for the next fertility yoga class when it starts later this summer.  I also bought that book yesterday and plan to do a little research about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) this weekend.  I'm sure I will probably have to blog about my thoughts on all that soon too ;)

All in all, attending this support group meeting was positive, and I think really good for us.  Each day that has gone by since, I we are realizing more and more of the positive aspects that we have actually taken away from that one 2-hour meeting!  I would really like to go back again, and I'm sure we probably will as long as our schedule allows and we continue to take positive things away from it.

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