Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Better than Oprah's!

A few weeks ago I convinced my Grandma to start a book club with me.  Like any good grandparent she said 'yes' even though I think she wasn't completely on board with the idea (she's humoring me, folks).  

Our book club is better than Oprah's because we'll read some trash (oh!  and self-help books are strictly prohibited).  My Grandma got first pick (a not so subtle sales tactic I used to get her more firmly invested in the book club idea).  We're reading a mystery/thriller called Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown.  

I've posted our current and next selections on the right side of the blog.  This is to encourage those interested to read along with us.  After my Grandma and I read a book, I'll drive to see her and we'll talk about what we thought.  I'll post our thoughts and hopefully you will post your comments and we'll have a quasi-official, Internet-driven book circle.  Sounds fun, right!?!

In fertility news, we had some mildly stressful moments last week when we received our IVF bill.  The big payment of $11K is due on October 5th, which is a Sunday (and slightly odd payment date).  We have to pay this bill before we can begin the stimulation injections on October 13th.  So why the stress?

Have you been watching the news!?!?  Luckily we've known for a while this was coming.  We picked a finance option that was right for us and got approved last week.  In the event we weren't approved some financial alternatives we discussed included:
  • holding a charity dog talent show (until we realized neither of our dogs do anything special)
  • selling our plasma for $$$ (roughly 200 times each)
  • playing the state lottery (but I heard the odds were kind of low).

Monday, September 29, 2008

Becoming a Teacher or an Alcoholic?

Friday I spent the day 'observing' my old roommate Clay (aka Mr. Kennedy).  He teaches Spanish and French at a local middle school.  While I don't plan on teaching French or Spanish, nor do I plan on teaching middle grades, I wanted my first observation to be with a friend.  I haven't been in a public school classroom in over 15 years (I was scarit).  

What did I learn?  I really must live a life of leisure right now, I was exhausted at the end of the day (and I didn't DO anything).  I am completely convinced there is a direct correlation between teaching and an increase in alcohol intake.  Is it still illegal to keep a liquor cabinet behind your desk?

Clay was awesome!  It must have been quiz day in all his classes.  For extra credit he asked his students to stare at 'the mysterious lady' in the back of the classroom and guess who she was.  Some responses included me being his sister, his wife, his friend, being from France, etc.  My personal favorite was 'she's waiting for you to retire so she can take your job' (I requested this kid get half credit for creativity).  

The school made me wear a big red sticker all day that said 'VISITOR' (that's me during planning period trying my best to rock it).  All in all, I'm still excited about teaching.  When I get my graduate certificate, send me a case of wine (for medicinal purposes, of course)!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Rockin' ECON 101

I've got my first real test tonight!  It's in my ECON 101 class.  I did the practice study questions for fun and surprised myself by getting all the answers correct but one (apparently going to every class, taking good notes and reading the chapters does work).

So, how would you fair if you had to take my ECON 101 test?  Here's some sample questions (grade yourself on a huge curve since you don't have the textbook and haven't been to class):

1.  The Law of Supply requires:

a.  quantity supplied to be greater at higher prices
b.  supply curves to be negatively sloped
c.  supply curves for inferior goods to slope downward
d.  an increase in price to cause an increase in supply

2.  An increase in the quantity demanded of hot chocolate could be caused by:

a.  an increase in the price of coffee
b.  a decrease in the price of hot chocolate
c.  a decrease in average temperature
d.  a decrease in the price of marshmallows

3.  If the price of apples is above the equilibrium price (i.e. market price) then:

a.  there is a shortage of apples
b.  the quantity supplied of apples exceeds the quantity sold
c.  the quantity demanded of apples will exceed the quantity supplied
d.  the price of apples will tend to rise

4.  Which of the following statements concerning a price ceiling is true?

a.  a ceiling set above the market price will have no effect
b.  a binding ceiling will create a surplus
c.  a ceiling is designed to help sellers
d.  all of the above

5.  Owners of rent controlled housing may attempt to increase profits by:

a.  allowing the rental units to deteriorate
b.  converting rental housing to commercial property
c.  taking under-the-table payments
d.  all of the above

I'm particularly curious to see how my friend Holly's husband does on this quiz.  He's a high school Economics teacher in SC (that should give you some clue).  Also, my friend Shannon's husband was my Marketing mentor for years (he painfully taught me business economics on a daily basis).

Here's the answer key:

1.  A, 2.  B, 3.  B, 4.  A, 5.  D

P.S.  Question #3 was the one I got wrong.  I still don't fully understand why.  I think the questions flawed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Politics of Family

Well, we've talked about three out of four taboos on this blog (sex, money, and religion) might as well talk about politics.  Here's a brief history of my family and politics:

  • My Grandma has voted Democrat most of her life
  • Her two children are Republicans (apparently the Democrat gene skips a generation)
  • My sister and I are Democrats
  • My two younger brothers are Independents (they'll probably be Republicans because 'guns are cool')
  • My baby sister is too young to vote
  • My mother just became a US citizen a few years ago! (and currently an Independent)
Alright, so what does this all mean?  Well, for the first time in her 80+ years, my Grandma is seriously considering voting Republican (I believe her exact words were 'I'm voting for Palin, not McCain').  In an equal reversal of roles, my father (aka Rush Limbaugh Jr.) was caught making fun of Palin.  Essentially he wonders why McCain didn't ask my Mom to be his running mate, she also has five children.  

My Dad's comment got me thinking maybe my Mom would make a good Vice President.  Here's why:
  • She has 15 years public service experience (she's a high school teacher)
  • She was born and raised in Germany (good foreign policy experience)
  • She managed a household with 5 kids on a single income (knows how to balance a budget)
  • She only buys American cars (loyal citizen)
  • She likes playing Rock Band (great photo op possibilities)

So Mom, if you're reading this, I'd vote for you!  Now that I've covered taboo #4 I feel this blog is truly complete.  

On a more serious note, did you know politicians have a legal right to lie to voters in commercial ads?  If you don't believe me, read this interesting article from the Annenberg Political Fact Check organization (www.factcheck.org).

The Annenberg Political Fact Check is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization which 'aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics' (I know, takes all the fun out of it).  

Good luck this election year figuring it all out!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Baboons Are People Too!

I saw this yesterday on ABC's Good Morning America (I had to share, the clips only 3 minutes long).  Apparently stress-related health disorders have similar effects on baboons as they do on humans. 

Some things that went through my mind while watching this video:
  1. I'm not sure which is more interesting, the study findings or the scientist being interviewed.
  2. I think I worked in similar environments as some of the baboons.
  3. My favorite quote:  'You've got 9 hours of free time every day to devote to making somebody else just miserable.'  (I most definitely worked with a few of those baboons!)
  4. I thought all British people were born unhappy?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Why All Theatre Majors Should Be Teachers. . .

Friday night I met up with my old friends from Winthrop's theatre department.  Most of my freshman and sophomore years were spent in that department (it was the only cool place on campus).

So, what do theatre majors do for a living (aside from keep odd hours and still live on ramen noodles)?  Interestingly enough 15% of the group are teachers!  The other 85% either have desk jobs they hate, work in retail or restaurants, a few were/are massage therapist, and some were lucky enough to find full time work in theatre.  

So why do I think more theatre majors should be teachers?  Here's my rationale:
  • Theatre majors are use to making no money. . . so are teachers.
  • Teaching gives you at least 4 or 5 one Act performances a day (never mind the audience is forced by law to attend).
  • Teachers get summers off (perfect for doing summer theatre work).
  • Theatre majors are quirky and cool. . . schools need more quirky and cool teachers.
There you have it.  Of course, since I'm becoming a teacher I obviously think everyone I know should be one too (who doesn't want to work with their friends).

On the fertility front, I did my trial transfer and sonogram on Friday.  Everything went smoothly and Dr. Skywalker was pleased.  The sonogram was a little painful, just tiny 1 - 2 second cramps (nothing some ibuprofen couldn't handle).  

The sonogram was needed to take pictures of my uterus and make sure there are no polyps or other abnormalities.  The trial transfer makes sure a special procedure is not needed during embryo transfer (I was normal).

I got my second Lupron shot and marching orders for starting IVF treatment.  My first stimulation shot and ultrasound begins on October 13th.  Yippee!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How do I find a good acupuncturist?

Ah yes, that burning question you never knew you had.  My second acupuncture session was yesterday.  She put a needle somewhere on my right calf and instantly this perpetual constriction in the back of my throat eased (I've been feeling it since my first Lupron shot).  I made a surprised sound and she asked if my throat felt a change (very cool).

So if you are in the market for an 'expensive nap', I thought I'd share some advice my acupuncturist gave me on finding one.  She recommends using the following website:  National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (www.nccaom.org).  

There is a 'Find a Practitioner' link on the homepage; use your zip code to search for a certified acupuncturist in your area.  You can search for practitioners with one or more of the following certifications:
  • Acupuncture Certification
  • Asian Bodywork Therapy Certification
  • Chinese Herbology Certification
  • Oriental Medicine Certification (a combination of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology)
On the home front, Dave's down in Myrtle Beach (again) for his annual 'man's man' golf trip.  Lavender is perched by the front window anticipating his return (I've debated telling her it won't be for another 58 hours).  Bailey could care less (no worries, this is her standard opinion in life).  

I've got a busy day ahead of me.  I go to the clinic to get my second Lupron shot, as well as do my sonogram and trial transfer.  Then I get ready for an unofficial reunion party with my old theatre friends from Winthrop University (I haven't seen some of these peeps in over 13 years).  

Happy weekend to all!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

So, you want to get pregnant. . .

You all know Dave and I have been trying for years to get pregnant. Now that we are doing IVF, I can stop using all those products I tried early on. While these items didn't work for us (because of my endo situation) they did work for my friends who recommended I try them.

Which then got me thinking, maybe I should recommend some of these items to those of you out there just starting the journey. Here goes:

One of my best girls gave this to me (well, let me borrow it. . . I was to return it when I got pregnant. . . 3 years ago). It helped her conceive both her children.

This book basically tells you everything you ever needed to know about your reproductive body. It should be taught in the schools (or not, apparently this issue is a hot topic in my grad school discussions).

The book teaches you how to take your body basal temperature every morning and chart your findings. It also teaches you to chart other signs and symptoms; over time you find your ovulation pattern. This helps you either avoid getting pregnant or know what days in your cycle to 'really try'.

The book is $16.47 on Amazon. You'll want to invest in a digital thermometer as well, roughly $10 at any drug store. So, for under $30 you can start conceiving without feeling like a kid lost in the supermarket.

Now, this book is not for everyone. I, personally, got stressed out trying to remember every morning to take my temperature (I'm not a first-thing-in-the-morning person).

Another friend gave me this product after she successfully conceived using it. Essentially it does the same thing the fertility book teaches you (minus the morning temperature readings and mental exertion).

You definitely pay for the convenience, it costs $130 on Amazon and you have to buy the test sticks which range from $40 - $50 a box. My friend used her employee flexible spending account to pay for this product (or put it on your holiday wish list to Santa).

I loved using the digital monitor because it did most of the work for me (I was tired of charting my body temperature after 14 months with no success). However, there is so much wonderful information in the fertility book, I strongly urge everyone to read it regardless of how you choose to monitor your ovulation cycle.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the techniques and methods out there to help you conceive (I never promised that). This is a small list of things I have personally tried and know to be successful because I've held the babies that later followed.

Good luck to all just starting, still trying or don't want to think about it for another 10 years (which better be my little sister)!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Get in my BELLY!

We're finally settled from our weekend trip to Myrtle Beach, SC.  Here are some of the pictures from the baby shower.  Visual proof, if you will, that I did in fact try to 'catch' getting pregnant.  Later this week I will try using the law of attraction and various feng shui techniques to increase my fertility chances (sadly, I'm probably 60% serious and 40% joking).

The beautiful pregnant chic is my dear friend Sarah.  I've known her since the 7th grade; which means I've known her for over 20 years now (freaky feeling).  

The baby is a boy.  They've already picked out a name, which they are keeping a secret (very smart idea).  His first name starts with a 'C'.  Here are some of my guesses:  Caesar, Chi, Chikamasa, Cannabas, or Centzonuitznauachalchiuhtlatonal (actual Mexican boy name).

The shower was on the 12th floor of a really nice oceanfront resort.  We ended up having a slumber party complete with midnight pizza delivery, pregnant 'glamour shots' (gone horribly wrong), and an after-pool-hours dip in the resort's jacuzzi (Security came and politely asked us to go inside).

It was a wonderful shower and evening (the moon was almost full)!  I never once felt 'baby envy' (probably because I'm so embarrassingly self-absorbed in my own IVF adventure right now).  In fact, to my surprise I became the unofficial (and highly unqualified) fertility expert for some of the guests who were also trying to get pregnant.  Who knows, maybe this blog will actually be useful to my new baby shower friends. 

Friday, September 12, 2008

Beware the Ides of October

Talked with my IVF nurse yesterday.  We scheduled the trial transfer and sonogram for Friday, September 19th.  In Dave's best attempt at sympathy he politely reminded me he would be out of town that day on his annual golf trip (lucky Dave).  The trial transfer/sonogram should be fairly routine.

The doctor also created an IVF treatment calender for me.  I begin the stimulation phase on October 15th; that's the 8 - 13 days of 3 - 4 shots/day using follicle stimulating hormones (beware the hormonal lady on campus).  This means I'll do egg retrieval and transfer sometime the last week of October or first week of November (right around midterms).  

These dates are simply rough estimates.  I can't begin the stimulation phase on October 15th until the doctor is comfortable the endometriosis is properly suppressed.  Keep your fingers crossed for my body to cooperate.  

I'm off to the beach to rub a big, fat belly for the weekend!  And wishing my Meigh didn't live so far away, since the big, fat belly belongs to our oldest friend from junior high.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Par-TAY!

To all my friends in Austin and San Marcos, TX, good luck with Ike.  If I were there with you we'd be preparing a hurricane party with plenty of Tequila using this curious invention, the Tailgator gas-powered blender!

But on a serious note, hopefully you
 won't get too much damage and flooding.  I'll be watching the weather channel (because it's better than studying) and thinking about all you.  Oh, and thank you so much for the support and good wishes.  It really means a lot!

For those of you who don't know, I was a Marketing Consultant for a year and a half in TX before finally going to grad school.  I met and worked with some of the finest people during that time.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

East meet West. West meet East.

I met with my acupuncturist today.  We did a consultation and treatment session.  Now, some call acupuncture a 'very expensive nap' (I, myself, do tend to fall asleep during the sessions).  There are also claims that no relationship exists between acupuncture and an increased success rate for pregnancies in IVF patients.

I'll tell you what I've been told by Western doctors and my acupuncturist, as well as the limited research I've done on the topic.

My fertility doctor's view on acupuncture:
  • Dr. Skywalker doesn't mind if I use acupuncture.  However, he did reference an article released this summer claiming acupuncture has 'no effect' on IVF pregnancy success rates.  I found something similar in the UK edition of THE TIMES.  While the findings are compelling, I'm sensing a hesitation from my doctor to tell me 'yes' or 'no' (therefore, I'm ignoring the article).
  • I was asked NOT to take Chinese herbal supplements while doing IVF treatment.  His rationale being the introduction of too many unknown medications make it difficult to follow my body's reaction to the hormonal injections (very logical, I willing follow advice).
  • He did NOT want me to do an acupuncture session directly after IVF transfer.  He wants me to go on strict bed rest as soon as I leave the clinic (who doesn't want to be treated like a princess for 48 hours, I willing follow advice.  Bring over some movies Ash!).
My primary care physician's view on acupuncture:
  • He is aware of research that does promote the use of acupuncture for allergies and carpal tunnel syndrome.  He is not aware of compelling research on the benefits for IVF patients (fair reply).
  • While he wouldn't endorse the use of acupuncture for IVF patients, he was willing to endorse the fact that acupuncture is harmless.  Basically if said patient (that would be me) wanted to spend the money,  he said research shows no harm in using acupuncture (Ah, just the nudge I needed to schedule my acupuncture appointment).
My acupuncturist's (obviously biased) view on acupuncture:
  • She recommended acupuncture once a week for pain management issues associated with the suppression phase of IVF treatment.  For me, that would be working to counter my existing side effects of the Lupron shots which are currently: fatigue, headaches, mild pelvic cramping and night sweats (session 1 complete and I feel great).  
  • She recommended acupuncture twice a week during IVF stimulation phase.  This is to help increase follicle/egg development as well as promote blood flow to build a thick uterine lining for implantation (here's where the West/East debate really begins).
  • She recommends one session the afternoon before egg transfer; in addition she'll give me some beads to place in my ear during day of transfer to promote relaxation.  She agrees with the bed rest post-transfer.  (Interestingly enough, she says there are public misconceptions concerning IVF and success rates.  Namely, she cautioned me to remember there are 2 ways an IVF patient can use acupuncture and consumers don't always pay attention to which method is cited in a given study.  First, is a series of treatments before and during the 4 - 6 weeks of IVF.  Second, is two sessions one directly before transfer and one immediately following transfer.)  
  • We did not discuss post transfer treatment plans.
The book in the waiting area's view on acupuncture:
  • It's called Acupuncture & IVF:  Increase IVF success by 40 - 60%.  It pretty much agreed with my acupuncturist (imagine that).  It did cite a German research study done in 2002 showing increased success when acupuncture was combined with IVF treatment.  This study also pointed out more research was needed to determine if the success was physiological (the needles) or psychological (the expensive nap).
  • The book also claimed acupuncture was helpful post-transfer to prevent a certain type of miscarriage.  However, the book points out of the 3 types of miscarriages, acupuncture only helps with 'threaten miscarriages' where there is uterine bleeding during a pregnancy but the cervix is still closed (if you are curious about the other types of miscarriages check out the American Pregnancy Association's website).
Alright folks, there you have it.  A not-so-clear view on whether acupuncture will increase my chances of a successful pregnancy.  As I said to Dave (when he asked how much this would cost), 'I am a desperate woman who does not want to be told No!' (kidding, I didn't really say that).

Here's where I'm mentally standing:
  1. In the end, my acupuncture sessions will amount to roughly 3% of the total cost of doing IVF.  
  2. If our first attempt at IVF does not work, I really don't want to deal with the mental baggage of 'what if I had tried acupuncture?'
  3. If later studies continue to confirm acupuncture has no effect on IVF pregnancy success but simple relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation do; well, I'm planning to read those while playing with my babies (i.e. I don't really care).

Monday, September 8, 2008

Are pregnancies contagious?

I'm getting ready to go to a baby shower this weekend.  This is a special shower for me.  The first of my circle of friends to get pregnant!  

They say pregnancies are contagious; I'm hoping that's true.  I plan to sit very close to the mommy-to-be and rub her belly constantly.  However, it is possible she has entered the 'don't-poke-the-bear' trimester.  Maybe I should proceed with caution.

Regardless of Dave and I pursuing IVF and dealing with our own challenges, we are so thrilled our friends are trying to start families too.  More to the point, we are thrilled when we find out our friends are pregnant.  Don't get me wrong, I'm human and if IVF doesn't work for us, there will probably be moments when I temporarily break the 11th commandment (thou shall not covet other people's pregnancies).  But right now, I don't think we feel that way.  

In fact, since Dave and I finally committed to try IVF things feel more hopeful.  If you think about it, IVF will be the first time we actually have a decent shot at getting pregnant.  No more charting morning body temperatures, trying bizarre fertility diets, combining yoga with acupuncture, taking expensive herbal supplements, or reading crappy romance novels (okay, so I got addicted for a while).

So, dear friends, if you ever find yourself pregnant know that Clan Donovan is thrilled for you!  We may not buy the most expensive thing on the baby registry (you did read our post about how much IVF costs?) but we will most certainly help you eat the cake!  Who doesn't love cake!?!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Have you hugged a Grandparent lately?

Apparently the first Sunday after Labor Day is National Grandparents Day (because Mother's Day and Father's Day just didn't cover it).  But seriously, this day was created to connect grandchildren with the heritage and wisdom of their grandparents.

That being said, I may be somewhat bias but I do think I have the world's BEST Grandmothers.  Here's a picture of me with both of them at my wedding.  On the left is my Oma (from Germany) and on the right is my Grandma (from South Carolina).

These two women are my heroes!  They've both lived very different but very amazing lives (both are octogenarian).  Here's a list of some things I know and admire about these two gems:
  • My Oma was fearless during World War II.  On her way home from a neighboring village some Russian Army soldiers stopped her and told her to get into the back of their truck.  She jumped out of that truck and ran safely home.
  • My Grandma has impeccable taste.  She fell in love and married the one man who walked straight up to the bar and ordered a cold glass of milk (instead of beer like all the other guys).
  • My Oma doesn't let age slow her down.  In her late 60s she decided to go back to college and study Art History (I will promptly quit whining about how old going back to school makes me feel).
  • My Grandma embodies determination.  After my Dad was born she suffered a few miscarriages before becoming pregnant with my Aunt.  The doctor told her she might die if she continued this pregnancy and encouraged her to abort.  She refused and my Aunt was born healthy and safe (I will promptly quit whining about IVF).
  • My Oma and Grandma have amazing inner strength.  Both are now widows, my Opa died in 1998 and my Granddaddy died this past spring (sorry Aunt Sharon if I made you cry at work).
See, my grandmothers really are the best!  With love, Happy Grandparents Day!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Are you there God? It's me, IVF.

 Yes, we've recovered from the sticker shock.  In fact, for some bizarre reason we seem perfectly okay with the cost.  I couldn't think of a better way to spend $20K on an investment that really would be priceless if things are successful.

So, what have I been stressing over instead?  Oh, the usual like 'What does God think about IVF?', 'What do other religions think about IVF?', 'Will I get fat on all those hormones?' etc.

While I don't know about the weight gain, I did do some research on how different religions view IVF.  Since I'm Methodist and Dave's Catholic (and also an associate member of the Methodist Church) I only focused on these two viewpoints in my Christian search.

Apparently, the United Methodist Church is okay with IVF based on their Book of Resolutions, specifically the Ethics of Embryonic Stem Cells.  They offer some guidelines for embryo production quantity and care.  

Now, what about the Catholic Church?  (Does anyone remember Monty Python's Meaning of Life . . . more specifically the sacred sperm song?)  They have a different view on IVF issued directly from the Vatican.  It's called Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation.  They do not agree with IVF mainly because a third party is used in the conception process (i.e. the embryologist and Dr. Skywalker).  So, does this mean Dave must sin in order for Clan Donovan to win?  (What's a few more Hail Mary's, right?)

As for other religions (not being completely familiar with their terminologies) my research findings were limited.  I did enjoy reading an article from the Jewish Virtual Library.  It actually referenced scripture verses and stories of infertility from Genesis, apparently Rachel used fertility herbs to assist in conceiving (a true pioneer in fertility treatment).  

Muslims generally believe in IVF, as do Buddhist, Taoist and Confucianist.  However, like the afore mentioned religions each has its own views on appropriate uses of IVF (mostly concerning embryo creation).  For those of you curious (or perhaps bored if you actually take the time to read this blog) then you might find these articles interesting:

Overall, it seems IVF is okay for us, as long as we only use our own eggs and sperm (no donors) and every effort is made to not overproduce embryos or destroy them (mainly through research).  We can all rest better, right?  Now I can stress about reading three chapters on Latin American colonial rule by Monday.

Monday, September 1, 2008

How much are you worth?

We received our IVF estimate this weekend (drum roll, please).  Total IVF treatment estimate is about $19,350.

Here's a break down of the costs.
IVF Estimated Fees:
Anesthesia: services and meds  $800
Oocyte retrieval physician fee  $1,800
Embryo transfer physician fee  $720
Cycle management fee  $300
Embryology IVF with ICSI (11+ eggs)  $5,730
Monitoring during stimulation  $2,300
Trial Transfer  $600
Cryopreservation initial fee/storage for 1 year  $1,100
Medications  $3,000
PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis)  $3,000

Okay, so we were off by about $9,350 (I guess now, more than ever, we really do want twins).  We're currently researching our financing options (Dave is searching the couch for loose change).