Round 7, Day 2
There are so few benefits to IVF pregnancies, but one of them is that you know when you're NOT pregnant. So I enjoyed a glass of Cab Shiraz last night despite being Schrodingers pregnant and a lovely hot cup of caffeinated coffee this morning, then slipped out to the clinic while Offspring was distracted by the everyeth viewing of Dory. DH has a rare day off.
The traffic was unusually light and I got a parking spot right out the front door. I can't tell you how unusual that is. An omen of course. ;) The receptionists know me by name now so I don't need to announce myself when I walk in, but I do it anyway, just in case.
I've barely taken a seat when my name is called for the scan. I sign my consent form, she lowers the light to get me in the mood and I take off my shoes, jeans and knickers. I lay down on the paper covered table, put my legs in the stirrups and scootch all the way down until I feel like I'm almost falling off. I've learned that if I don't do that and just lay comfortably she'll just get me to wriggle further down anyway, may as well get it over with. We make small talk about the weather.
It's day 2 so messier than a bashed punnet of raspberries down there and I warn her but they're used to it and the internal exam was over in no time. I've had the same technician for every scan over the years, and she's great. It's not uncomfortable until she changes direction to point at my left ovary and bumps across my bowel.
"Oh wow, you have a good number of follicles, you should get a lot of eggs this round."
"I'm not doing an egg collection. I'm done with surgery. This is my last round and it's a frozen one."
What did that "ah" mean - does she think I should be doing another collection? Is this like a miracle egg crop I should be taking advantage of?
STOP. ENOUGH. NO MORE COLLECTIONS. YOUR TIME IS UP.
She points the wand in the other direction. Oof.
As she scans, she rattles off a bunch of numbers to her assistant who writes them down. I heard "anteverted" (my uterus is doing backflips again), my left ovary is apparently bigger than my right, my endometrial lining is 4.... millimetres I guess!? and she measured all of my beautiful but useless follicles anyway. Protocol, I guess
Now I'm in the almost-empty waiting room awaiting the doctor. Thank Beyoncé it's not a Monday, Mondays are crazy at IVF clinics and the wait times are atrocious. I used to dread day 1 falling on a weekend for precisely that reason. I look around. There's a lady here who looks like she's in her late 40s or early 50s. She's carrying a cooler bag. Lunch or gametes? I chuckle to myself. I wonder about her story and hope with all of my heart that she gets everything she wants. I hope she feels my support and love from across the room. I want to tell her it worked for me but I know that wouldn't help.
I have a flashback of driving to the clinic for Round 5 blood tests and gripping the steering wheel while "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" by The Smiths came on the radio. I couldn't breathe.
I snap back into the present and I'm trying to remember if I had to do any injections or anything with a frozen round. It really hasn't been that long but it's amazing how you forget. There's too much to remember. It all merges. I've learned to just follow the immediate instructions they give you until they give you the next lot of instructions. It's easier that way.
The doctor calls my name. I love her. It's a quick visit.
"Ah, the last round." She smiles and looks down at her notes.
"Would you like embryo glue?"
"Would you like hatching?"
Does that increase the chances?
"By about 23%."
"Well, in studies on a 38 year old with 4 failed transfers showed a 23% increase."
Ok yes, lets do that.
"And you're automatically on the miscarriage protocol due to your losses."
Pessaries. Ugh. But yes, good.
"Any more questions?" She looks up.
I have a million stupid questions that I already know the answers to but I shake my head. Should I ask her about the weird lump on my vulva? I decide no. I know there is something important I'm forgetting.
She comes over and hugs me. "This is going to work," she says, and smiles, and I want to believe her.
She directs me into an office where a nurse gives me my medical instructions.
The nurse points at a printed sheet with a mini calendar of my cycle.
8mg progynova, three times a day.
10mg prednisolone, two times a day.
Just keep doing that for the next 10 days, she says. Very important to keep a steady stream of the hormones. Don't miss a dose. Come back in on Day 10 early morning for a blood test, scan and embryologist appointment. The transfer will likely happen on Day 20.
Yes. I mean no.
"Do you need to see the accounts manager?" She asks, like I have a choice in the matter. He's hovering outside the door.
She ushers the accounts manager comes in. I steel my wallet. I know him well. It's a love/hate relationship. I love to hate him. He looks haggard and has grown a beard since the last time I saw him. Maybe I should lay off the negative vibes. He's just doing his job.
"I see you want hatching," he says. "They will only do that if it is necessary, so you may not have to pay, but that's $400 out of pocket with no rebate."
My eyebrows shoot up but I say nothing. He notices. 'What price 23%?' I think to myself. My husband would have something to say about that. Money's very tight right now.
He carries on. "The embryo glue is another $300 out of pocket." I think about Offspring and how we used embryo glue for Round 5, our successful round. I nod slightly.
"Your medications could be $700 or more, and I can't guarantee what you'll get back from Medicare or your health care insurance." I know with the additional meds for the miscarriage protocol that I'll automatically be going above that. I'm bad at math but this seems pretty exxy so far. Like "no holiday next year" exxy. Maybe even "no food next week" exxy.
"Then the actual transfer and round management costs $3,400." Blood rushes to my head. For some reason I had $2,000 in my mind.
"Has that gone up recently?" I ask
Not for a few years, he says. You'll get some of that back from Medicare, but you need to pay it in whole, up front.
My mouth is dry.
I look at the paperwork, a little embarrassed. I think we can shuffle some money around maybe and fit it on the credit card. Just. Maybe.
But this time the cost is really bothering me. For most people conception is free with a side of orgasm. I've paid the same amount every frozen cycle and then well over $12k for each of my four collection cycles to this clinic. Plus endometriosis surgeries that I had through them. At the same time, I understand and appreciate the professional effort and technology and labour of love that goes into running an IVF clinic, it's not cheap, but if this were me buying a fridge at even half the price I'd be haggling, and likely successfully. Why should this be any different? If this were a cafe I'd be approaching my free coffee punch by this point.
I WANT MY FREE COFFEE GODDAMMIT.
"Any chance of a Round 7 discount?" I hear myself saying.
To my surprise he says he'll see what he can do and will call me later after he's spoken with management. Maybe he's not so bad after all. I hope everything is okay at home for him.
I try to play it off coolly... like of course they should give me a discount... then I'm not sure if that's the right move to reinforce the discount, so I also I tell him I've been out of work for the last year (kinda true, even though I have a casual day gig every here and there when I can).
A receptionist I didn't recognise tried to ping me for the full amount on my way out. Like I have $4k tucked into my bra or something. He's only just told me how much it is! Surely everyone needs to shuffle money around accounts, remove spending limits on their bank or sell a family heirloom between the "how much" and the "please pay" discussion.
It always feels like a shake down when they ask. I've paid every bill they've ever given me - thousands upon thousands - and yet they still seem to have this weird energy when they ask for payment. Like I'm going to somehow dupe them out of getting paid.
I said in a low voice that the account manager and I were coming to an alternative arrangement and he'd be calling me this afternoon and she still went to verify with him like I was lying or something. I get it. But doesn't longevity of a relationship help any here?
My IVF friends tell me this is NOT normal clinic behaviour and plenty of clinics post-bill and don't make you feel weird about payment. We wanted to change clinics earlier on for that and other reasons, but by then our eggs were literally in one basket. Seemed easier to just suck it up. Plus, I love my doctor.
I'm in the clinic by 8.30 and out by 9.47am. I timed my street parking ticket perfectly. YES. Those inspectors have pinged me more than once outside the clinic when appointments have gone long. I give them a mental middle finger.
I head home, grab Offspring and we head out for a babycino and breakfast while DH chills out. I pick up my meds at the chemist and down them with my coffee.
The account manager calls back in the afternoon.
"I have some, hopefully, good news." Oh wow, didn't expect him to actually give me any kind of discount, but yay! Oh great, thank you! I say in anticipation.
"Due to the amount of money you've spent and rounds you've done with us over the years I've spoken with management and we've decided to discount this round by $1,000."
Holy fecking spitballs. I'm momentarily silent... and then I start to cry. I blame the new hormones that I'm now on and splutter out another sincere but thick-voiced thank you through my tears and assure him I'll get into payment ASAP.
So glad I at least asked the question! There's a lesson for you. Always say when they give you the grand total, "Is that the best you can do in terms of price?". Who knows where it will get you?
And now I'm thinking I should have asked for a Round 6 discount, haha.