Money after fertility treatments, and its relationship to body, mind, marriage

Woke up after five hours of sleep with my period and that deep sigh of relief—let’s get this blood out of here, already. Guys, the lead-up to my period has been about 1 to 2 weeks of a lot of intense stuff: body pains and stiffness, bloating and GI upset, insomnia, and extremely erratic emotions.

But I keep telling myself: wait before you get a prescription for anything, like an antidepressant. Wait until you try regular aerobic exercise and yoga. Wait, wait. Try, try. Try and see.

Got the $70 membership to the community center with free child care. Can exercise there for 1.5 hours at a time. Do it, do it, doooooo it. Two doc appointments, one Monday, one Tuesday, then doooooo it.

Monday is for S. Physical required for daycare. (Daycare will be $10/hour, a few hours per day, two days week–so about $60 a week.) Tuesday is for me. Have to see a GP because we’re HMO insurance (hooray). I have a list of ailments so long the doc might think I’m a hypochondriac. I’ll have to explain how long it has been since I’ve seen a doctor and all of the stress I’ve been under. Problems: Anxiety; esophageal spasms/dysphagia/esophagitis; GI issues; chronic pain; insomnia; PMS (or PMDD?); need to see an allergist re: food allergies; need OB appointment. Also need dentist appointment for check-up, bite misalignment, teeth grinding, jaw pain. All of this paints a picture, doesn’t it? Yikes.

Money. I do believe our money struggles are closely related to my stress and health problems. Money has been a major source of stress for so long that I have that helpless/hopeless attitude toward it. I’ve got to adjust my thinking, because money worries suck so much energy from me. Money thoughts, lately especially, are literally toxic to my mind and body.

It is difficult for those outside the fertility treatment world to understand what a huge role money plays in our struggle. And that struggle is oftentimes just as bad or worse when a couple pursues adoption.

The repercussions of investing so much money into trying to conceive a baby and carry a pregnancy have been long-lasting for us.

We had to ask for help from DH’s parents for IVF. Before that, we were on our own (as graduate students, no less) footing the bill for supplements (oh my god, I blanch to think of what we spent on supplements), acupuncture, three times a week yoga (saved me), and any not-covered medical stuff (I didn’t have the best insurance). As many of you know, we decided to go to Colorado  and Dr. Schoolcraft for our one-shot IVF. I’ll never know for sure if that was the right choice (strike that—of course it was, because it all led to my beautiful son in the end), but at least it means my body went through the hell of IVF meds, etc, only once. But although DH’s parents helped by paying the (insane) medical costs, we had to foot the bill for all flights, hotels, supplements, medications, anything else extraneous—and it added up big time. Then we used our entire savings—$30K—for the donor egg program. Again, that covered only the program, and all else we had to put on credit cards.

Then we had our incredible little boy, who is this kind, gentle, sweet, funny, generous-spirited angel from the stars and who is, of course, invaluable. So none of this is to say this hasn’t been worth it!

But just to write out how the numbers have affected and continue to affect our lives…. We bought a LOT of stuff for S when he was an infant and young toddler. A lot. I did most of the buying. I didn’t know what I needed. There was a lot of trying things out. There were a lot of purchasing mistakes, and very few hand-me-downs. I was also alone, so I did a lot of shopping on Am.a.z.on, which was a lifesaver. Click, click, click, and the products would show up at my door two days later. I’m sure I could have been more careful, but I also know that I was dong the best I could, and that when I compared what I bought to what other parents bought, we were being very conservative.

But we are not other parents. We are two people who went into 3-4 years of extremely expensive fertility treatments right out of graduate school, career-changers without careers established yet, one of whom had to drop out of the income-game and not work after her 6th devastating miscarriage, a donor-egg pregnancy, so as not to lose herself entirely and try to heal enough to become pregnant and stay pregnant. Who had to stay home during pregnancy to ensure that she was doing absolutely all she could to maintain the precious pregnancy that finally stayed. Number 7.

And now here we are, with our 19-month-old wonder child.

We don’t want to put him in day care 40+ hours a week while we both work. I honestly cannot imagine it. Not just because we waited so long, and not just because he will be our one and only. But also because of the bond, because of what we are building together. I’m not judging those who do put kids in daycare 40+. In fact, I kind of envy those who are able to do it. But for us, it just does not feel right.

S is a healthily attached little boy, I’m very proud to be able to say. I see how free he is to explore. How friendly he is with others. How he naturally shares, without prompting. He amazes us with his gregariousness, agreeableness, his loving attitude toward adults and other children. And I see how he comes and checks in with me, or with DH, and then bounces back into the world after having touched his home base.

I am always there. This is what we have established. Now it is time for him to spend more and more time away from me and gradually ease him into the world of school. But I don’t want to do it abruptly. And I don’t want to spend more time at work than I do with him. I don’t want him to be in daycare and then aftercare. Just having dinnertime with us and then he going to bed.

He’s a December baby , so he won’t actually be 2 in time for 2’s preschool programs this fall. He will be closer to 3 by the time he can participate in those programs. We don’t want to push him into things early because a) we’ve read that that is almost never the best decision, and b) he is very small for his age, not even on the growth curve, but growing steadily below it.

In essence what we are looking at is probably 5 years before he is in full-day public school: 1st grade. (I believe kindergarten is still half-day, no?)

I have to figure out what I need to do (another licensing exam, problem, UGH!!!), and do my requisite yearly continuing ed (thus the tiny bit of day care now) to practice social work again. But I’ve seen the preschool options and it would be tricky if not impossible to find a part-time job to match those programs’ hours. Especially the programs we could afford, and the programs we prefer.

I’m not saying I can’t eventually figure out how to work within that 5-year span before 1st grade, and still maintain the time-with-parents we want for S’s young life.

But I’m saying that I am not able to figure it out right now. That it looks almost impossible. And it scares me.

But the other thing that is looking almost impossible is surviving on DH’s salary alone for 5 years.  It is $89K here (before taxes, insurance, etc), because his salary was adjusted for cost-of-living in PA. We knew that would happen, but we also thought it would be so much cheaper to live here. And 89K used to seem like a lot of money. But when we calculate our modest bills and rent, then add in our grocery bill, we basically end up in a situation where we are once again living on very little spending money per week. Almost impossibly low.

And it is my job to maintain the budget. I’m the one going out into the world with S, collecting receipts, tallying, buying groceries and supplies, managing the household. DH takes out $50 for the week, uses that on his lunches and coffee at the cafeteria, and that’s it. My calculations are much more complicated.

It’s so stressful, guys. After S goes to bed, I am doing math for at least half an hour, bleary-eyed and back burning.

But I have to keep doing it. We went into serious credit-card debt for the two moves in a row. Things are seeming so painfully tight. There are also still student loans to pay off!

When I look at our Excel spreadsheets, I feel so depressed. I see that there is little to no money for clothes, for eating out, for toys. Forget getting my gray hair dyed. Forget going on trips. Forget furniture and lamps.Forget massages. Off, off, off the list.

All of this does a number on our (non-existent, really) sex life. We just feel so weighed down. Also so tired from work (DH) and taking care of a toddler (me) and being older (40 and 42) doesn’t help.

I want to enjoy life now, while S is young, while we are relatively young, but it always seems like the freedom is down the line, not now, not now.

I have got to see past the numbers and learn how to feel hopeful about our life, about what we can do, now, not just in the future.

I am looking up “cheap recipes” every week and am trying to cook with less and less. I am conscious of everything I buy, from a cup of coffee to a poster for S’s wall. I am trying not to focus on the beat-up walls of this rental and focus instead on its beautiful yard and sunporch and bay window. Trying not to think of how we can’t even buy painting supplies for the walls that are the worst. Trying not to think of how we are uncomfortable because we have a cheap, uncomfortable couch (that at least looks nice) and few places to sit…we are often just on the hardwood floor (we have one rug so far) with blankets. The walls are blank. We have a plastic patio table for two to eat on. There is a mentality of knowing what is missing. Knowing what I could do if I had the money to make a beautiful, comfortable home. I’m a natural homemaker. It kind of feels akin to being an artist trapped with a canvas, day after day, but never any art supplies to do something with it.

But I am writing all of this out because I know that the problem is with me, in part. The numbers are undeniably bleak. Yes. But. The word “bleak” is a soul-sucker. The mentality behind it is an energy-sucker. I have to learn how to get past the numbers. This is my only life, and S’s only childhood. I have to figure out how to live it with hope and optimism.

I’m trying. But writing this out—I’m crying as I type. I need to give myself at least another month. Things won’t always feel quite so hard.

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29 Comments

  1. Oh lady :( all that shit is hard. And being out of work now for a year I empathize so much. Hang in there. And if you need meds you need meds! Also what about thrift shopping to make your home? Plus there are lots of Facebook pages in my area that give stuff away for freel. Good stuff. I know decorating your home won’t change everything, but it WILL help. My house is a complete disaster right now and I am waiting to unpack until we do a few things to renovate. Living in a mess really brings down the moral. Thinking of you as you try to find peace with it all! You are under a lot of pressure and anyone would feel the stress.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much. And the recommendations are awesome. I admit that I’ve gotten into the Amazon habit because I always have S, and shopping trips out are so challenging. And Amazon actually seems to me to have great prices a lot of the time. I think ultimately, though, I end up spending more. I will check out Facebook pages. Already have checked out Kid 2 Kid and consignment shop Facebook pages and am trying to take a deep breath…

      Reply
      • I totally understand fogo(fear of going out!). Shopping with toddlers isn’t the most fun now is it? Keep us posted on how you make it all work! Thinking of you!

        Reply
  2. Caroline s.

     /  July 31, 2016

    I’ve been on a super tight budget for what seems like forever… I have a 4.5 year old daughter and fight many of the same struggles as you do. All extras are just gone. But some good tips that I can pass along, clothes and toys are easy to find for free/cheap if you get hand me downs. Join local fb mommy groups and people gift/give/sell for cheap.

    Write out what it is you want to buy/get and then see if others are getting rid of it. I’ve gifted many things that were great but that I just didn’t have any need for.

    Reply
    • that’s a really proactive stance. i never think to cast out a fishing line and just ask if anyone has what i need and wants to sell it. thank you!

      Reply
  3. Caroline s.

     /  August 1, 2016

    Another way to find some free items is craigslist, they give away stuff on there all the time!

    Reply
  4. Hugs! It won’t always be this hard sweets. And you are not alone–I think most people (like 99%) struggle with balancing finances with their vision. It’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when we want to give our kids the world.

    But S. has YOU and YOU are enough. Even on your worst day, you are a great mom. He won’t remember what he wore or how many toys were in his toy box or how stiff the couch was.

    And if you need help (meds, etc.) then by damned, you get it.

    XOXO

    Reply
    • Done. I have to tell you—your voice (typed voice) was in my head. Get the meds. I did. Am now on Wellbutrin, with the hopes it won’t have the bad side effects I ended up getting on Zol.oft after prolonged use. I can always wean off once I’m exercising regularly for a few months! But I already feel like I’m able to be a better person. Thanks for the nudge! It was time.

      Reply
      • Yasssss girl! You are running your life, it is not running you! Hugs

        Reply
        • Also, Welbutrin works for me but Zoloft (any SSRI) makes me feel like a zombie. I started taking Welbutrin during severe depression and didn’t notice any side effects. Just one day about a week after I took it, I woke up and didn’t feel like putting the covers over my head. I got up and got dressed and walked out the door like a “normal” person. That’s the only way I knew it was working–I started living again.

          Reply
          • Wow! Yes, so far, I feel zero side effects!!! I would be a zombie on Zoloft right now. (The zombie wore off at least mostly after some time though.) also—I am drinking zero to 1/2 cup of coffee instead of 1-3, because I don’t need as much, and last night I slept through the night for 8 hours to the first time in ages. I can see straight again. Are you still on Wellbutrin? If so how long?

            Reply
            • Since 2006. I did try to wean one time in 2012 and it did not go well–I am dependent on it. That speedy quality is because it affects norepinephrine and that is what makes it hard to wean (after 6 years). But I’m sure you’ll be fine if you do.

              Reply
  5. Anon

     /  August 1, 2016

    Great ideas above on the free stuff.

    On the work front: Would you consider setting up a private practice (once you’ve met all the licensing requirements, of course)? That could be totally part time and you could control the hours to correspond with daycare. Maybe even offer skype/face time/phone consultations?

    Your experiences give you amazing insight into the issues related to infertility, donor egg, parenting after infertility. I love your way of looking at things and approach to life and think you could really help people in need. You’re also a talented writer and you could set up a professional blog to get your name out there and attract clients.

    Reply
    • Yes, you know, private practice would be ideal…the only problem is, in order to get my “C” I need to work full-time under a supervisor for 3 years. I can practice without my “C” but I don’t know how it works—I need to speak to someone about what my possibilities would be in PA. Patients generally need after-work hours, so that would be really tricky. But I am so interested in Skype therapy. It’s all new territory and would take a great deal of research and set-up time to do it correctly—liability insurance, protections, etc., because that stuff is no joke. I want to make the leap but am frankly afraid of the time investment on the front end not paying off in the long run. Still, I am going to look into it for sure. Thank you so much for your compliments. Although I am presently riddled with all sorts of insecurities, financial and healthwise, I have to remember what my skills are, what I can offer!

      Reply
  6. rebeccarich

     /  August 1, 2016

    This is so hard! Have you looked into teaching online through a community college? I do this, and it helps.

    Also, check out moneysavingmom.com. I followed a lot of her tips while we were living in California and my husband was in grad school.

    Reply
    • I checked it out right away—great stuff on there! Thank you. I also found a used copy of one of her books, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. Community College is another great idea. I’ve thought of that. I used to teach at community colleges right after I got my MFA. I’d be rusty but it’s worth looking into.

      Reply
  7. JK

     /  August 1, 2016

    I’m so sorry! Money problems are the worst! Obviously I can’t say what is right for you, but here is my experience.
    I went back to work when our surprise-miracle son was born, and I went back to work again after our adopted daughter was born. Three failed IVF cycles (including a medically-expensive loss) AND an adoption within a year. OUCH! Anyway, without my income, we’d be in really bad financial shape. It was SO SO hard to keep working. For six months after my son was born, I cried every day and doubted all of my life choices. But as he grew into a toddler, I saw how much he was learning at his cute little school/daycare, and realized that I appreciated our time together so very much. And I never take the extra income we enjoy for granted. Every trip we take, every dinner out, shopping trip, etc., all the money put into savings, is because I helped to earn it for our family. And that feels good.
    Anyway, as you said, working may not be right for you and your family (there are so many factors). But if you HAVE to go back to work, you will adjust and so will S. It didn’t feel right for me either for a very long time,and now it’s normal for us, and I can see the positive side for each member of the family, including for both of my kids. Either way, you will all be okay. Good luck!

    Reply
    • This comment was so, so helpful. Thank you for it. I read it again and again. It made me realize how trapped I am in a certain way of thinking, that things have to be a certain way…and I started thinking: Why can’t I figure out how to work at least part-time? I am a skilled person, a smart person, a capable person—why do I always feel like I won’t be able to figure it out, or I won’t be able to handle it, etc? The same would be true for if I absolutely ahad to go back to work full-time. I would adjust. S would adjust. You inspired me to ask DH to ask his co-worker if she and I could talk sometime—she works full time and so does her husband. I want to ask her what it is like. How much time she has with her son in the evening. What does it feel like to be at work all day. What does it feel like to be at work all day for you? Have you adjusted to the point where you don’t have that yearning feeling? It sounds like it. You’re badass for helping your family thrive. That sounds so hard and sad. But you did it, and now you are enjoying a secure and rich life with your kids.

      Reply
  8. Oh girl. This all sounds so tough. The financial burden is no joke. Money matter can stress people out so much especially you are the one who needs to figure everything out in a single-income family with debts. Don’t beat yourself up too much about feeling bleak about it all. It’s tough to see beyond your worries and focus on the positive things all the time. You are right. Things won’t always feel so hard. Love to you, friend. <3

    Reply
  9. I hear you, I really do. We spent all our savings (what was supposed to be the downpayment for a home) to finance repeated IVF and adoption. We never really did get out of the hole. I only work on a casual basis and I’m also an actor (which means I’m unemployed most of the time) and any money I could have made would have gone to daycare (which is about $1600-$1800 a month here) so what was the point? I wanted to stay home and bond with my son. And then my husband’s well paying job went away and now we’re both self employed. Finances were a HUGE stress in our lives. We’ve gone on maybe 2 week long vacations in 7 years. The one thing I learned though that it was unfair of one person to shoulder the entire burden of budgeting and figuring things out. Hubby taking an allowance and then just allowing you to handle the rest is not working for you. I doubt he wants you to suffer through this on your own. Sit down and share the spreadsheets at least one time. And on top of it all, it sounds like you are undergoing adrenal fatigue and/or depression (which I thought was bullshit until it happened to me: foggy thinking, fatigue, aches and joint pain, depression) and it’s no wonder you feel hopeless at times. If you choose meds, then do that but please know you are not the only one.The good news is that you still have so many positives in your life that you recognize. All you child needs is his family and probably a stick to keep him entertained. You have so much to offer people because you have gone through so much.

    Reply
    • Heartfelt thank yous. You know what I’m talking about and I’m sorry for that, and I wish I could buy you a vacation. And myself one, too. And what’s up with that daycare amount? That’s just madness. With your voice in my head, I realized that I had completely overlooked my husband’s genuine offer to do the budgeting in the evening. I guess I was so stressed that I just didn’t read his email carefully. He reminded me of it last night, saying, “Hey, I love doing Excel spreadsheets.” So maybe I just need to take him up on his offer! As I mentioned in another comment, I’m on Wellbutrin now. Enough is enough. I wanted to wait until I’d felt the effects of regular aerobic exercise, but the dr reminded me that I don’t have to stay on it forever. It is already helping!

      Reply
  10. I am so sorry about all this. Get the meds to help you for sure! I agree with deathstar in that you need a break from handling the budget alone. This MUST be a shared task because it’s not working for you. Another option for a bit of income if you’re not ready to jump back into your field or you can’t see it working right now on a part-time basis…see if you can take on another child at your home for a few extra hours a week. You’ll be home with your baby and then he’ll get some interaction with another little one…and a little extra income to take the stress off? Just a thought; my sister did this for quite awhile and just having a little extra income made her feel like she was contributing to the family in more ways.

    Reply
    • Woah, I never thought of that…that would b perfect for a couple of days. How did your sister do it? Was she certified? Did she advertise?

      Reply
  11. Kathryn

     /  August 2, 2016

    Kindergarten is universally full day now … Check your district. You should also see if there are lottery options for 3 or 4 year olds for public school preschool. Although this seems like a lifetime away, you can start planning on what you would do with that time.

    Reply
  12. Yes to your last line — “It won’t always feel quite so hard.” I think there are some great ideas in your comments for some ways to save more money and bring some in — I agree with the writing so much although understand if everything else is so overwhelming that adding one more thing seems insurmountable. While it’s great to think on all you have, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re struggling with so much in terms of health and finances and the impact of those things on every aspect of your life. I am glad you have so much time with S, that is so precious. I hope that you get answers from your GP healthwise, and that there are solutions to help loosen the grip financial tightness has on you. IVF (and adoption) definitely have a long-lasting effect in that arena. Thinking of you and hoping for relief.

    Reply
    • thank you for such validation! i am back to really focusing on the gift of getting to be with S right now and trying to turn my mind away from the things that were/are bothering me. multiple stressors can be so hard to juggle. when it’s just one, it’s so much easier! thank you for thinking of me, as always.

      Reply
  13. My husband and I struggled through 7 infertility treatments to get our son. When our first IVF failed we decided to get on a budget and we did The Total Money Makeover – that’s a book by Dave Ramsey. It really helped us get on the same track. Good Luck!!

    Reply

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