August 27, 2010

facebook tells me how to get pregnant

Really? I can "discover how to overcome infertility without drugs or typical infertility treatments and give birth to healthy babies" for real? That made me laugh. Hard.

This would be a great example of a contextual relevance FAIL. Just because my friends have babies and you know I'm posting all my blog stuff on there doesn't mean this ad applies to me. But thanks for trying Facebook.

August 19, 2010

$18k and counting: the true cost of fertility preservation and surrogate fees

Courtesy photo: MSP Mag
Our BigHMO doesn't cover in vitro fertlization (IVF) or any of the costs or fees associated with a surrogate. I assumed costs of both of them would be through the roof, but none of that bothered me when I got the uterine cancer diagnosis in February. Even though the doctors wanted to do the hysterectomy right away, I pushed back and said I wanted to retrieve my eggs first.

I've since learned the term for this procedure is known as "fertility preservation." It means that, in the face of losing the capacity to reproduce, you do what you can to preserve your ability to have kids. For me, that desire was instinctive. Turns out that most insurance carriers don't cover fertility preservation, even in the face of cancer.

Since I haven't been able to find much on the true cost of fertility preservation -- and the reported costs on the interwebs of using a surrogate have been wide-ranging from $15,000-130,000 depending on which site you visit -- I decided to be completely transparent here for the price of this carnival ride. (The site that offered "Our Guatemalan service for only $42,000" freaked me out a little.)

That way, if you're considering going the surrogate route, you've got a rough idea of the costs involved. Keep in mind, this is based on us being in California, our surrogate being in New Jersey, the embryos being routed through Nevada, and the baby being born in Pennsylvania...a map to follow that meandering trail is forthcoming. Your price may vary.

Here's the true cost of fertility preservation and surrogate fees for us: 

Running total: $17,957.62 (with discounts)
Running true cost: $25,909.90 
(what we would've paid had it not been for discounts from 
kind doctors and drug reps who wanted to help us out)
  • IVF procedure (mine): $9,737.72 (discounted from $12,000)
  • IVF medications (mine): $0 (discounted from $5,000)
  • Blood tests (us): $1374.90 (discounted from $1,764.90)
  • Uncompensated gestational carrier agreement: $2,000 (discounted from $2,300)
  • Contract review (for the surrogate): $750
  • Insurance review: $300
  • Pennsylvania Parental Establishment Order: $2,500
  • Court filing fees: $300
  • Psychologist reviews (for all parties): $450
  • Cost of shipping embryos to East Coast: $545 
  • Costs as of Aug. 27, 2010. Other costs to be added as we incur them.
A note about discounts: it never hurts to ask. For quite a number of these bills, doctors, drug reps, and companies gave us discounts when we told them our story. I can't tell you the number of times I said, "We're paying for all of this out of pocket because our health insurance doesn't cover fertility preservation or IVF. Do you offer any type of assistance or discount?" There's so many nice people out there who want to help.

Since well before my uterine cancer diagnosis, I've wanted to be a mom. Have a baby. Change poopie diapers. Tell them they're making all the wrong decisions. A cute, hopefully red-headed, sure-to-be spirited spitfire like her mom. (Send me my future kid's therapy bills now for saying "her" out loud in the case one of our 6 embryo-popsicles turns out to be a boy.)

But babies don't pay for themselves. So far we're using a mixture of small loans and credit cards to finance Baby DeFrias. We're also exploring a second mortgage. If that doesn't pan out, we'll be putting the rest on the credit cards. You know how old people do reverse mortgages, paying down until the day they die? I see these costs as an investment, where we're doing a sort of reverse allowance for our future kid(s) -- and they'll be paying us back with household chores until they're 21.

*Updated as of 8.19.10 - we'll keep adding to the list as the bills come in,

August 18, 2010

mommy, where does money for surrogate babies come from?

Courtesy photo: ShowBizNewsBlog.
For not even being conceived yet, surrogate babies sure do cost a lot of money. Doctors, lawyers, banks, labs, tests, bills, shipping embryos; where exactly is all this money going to come from?

I've been thinking about doing a post on the true cost of IVF and the surrogate process. When we started this whole thing back in February, I wasn't able to find info out there (and still haven't). I sure as hell had no idea how much this would end up being. Case in point: IT Geek and I had blood tests last week to make sure we weren't giving Easy Bake Oven the Plague. It came to over $500 for me, and $1100 for him.

In the meantime, if any of you know Oprah, can you tell her we'd love her help? I'm sure what she pays for her monthly electric bill in Montecito should cover everything for us. Can't you just hear her now?

"You get a baby! And you get a baby! And you get a baby!"

August 13, 2010

birth mothers, gestational surrogates, and surrogacy haters

NY Times article on surrogacy
In my search for information on fertility preservation and surrogate law in NJ tonight, I read many articles on the landmark NJ case that awarded a surrogate custody of the child she carried for her brother and his husband. Since our Easy Bake Oven lives in NJ, this is of particular interest to me. (You may also recall the famous Baby M story, which also took place in NJ.)

I also learned the difference between a plain old surrogate and a gestational surrogate. The former's somehow genetically related to the child, while the latter is not. In our case, Easy Bake Oven is a gestational surrogate.

During the search, I also came across a new breed of nasties: those who abhor surrogacy. (You know, that path IT Geek and I are going down in order to be parents.) I happened upon these trolls while reading a birth mother/first mother site. They seem to think surrogates are akin to hookers, and those people who pursue surrogacy only do so to protect their size 0 bodies. Here's just a select few of the hateful, hurtful, and just plain ignorant crap I found:
  • What some folks won't go through just to have a "mini-me". Disgusting.. (sic)
  • No matter how you deconstruct the feelings involved, surrogacy contracts create babies on demand, often babies for profit.
  • The stupidity continues...I think it over and think you know, we all have to just admit, it is money.
  • How does this compare or contrast with sex work? It's essentially paying someone for the use of their body, and easily arguable that this it's a more intimate activity than sex.
  • If prostitution is unethical, immoral and illegal, why is it O.K. for one woman to pay for the use of another woman’s body? If it’s unethical, immoral and illegal to buy and sell body parts for transplantation, why is it O.K. to rent a uterus? Our morality seems so malleable in the hands of those who feel entitled.
  • And my personal favorite, from Newsweek: "It's no wonder many conservative Christians decry the practice as tampering with the miracle of life, while far-left feminists liken gestational carriers to prostitutes who degrade themselves by renting out their bodies." 
Entitled? I don't feel entitled at all. What is wrong with these people?! People, who I might add, all went on to gloat about how great their own biological little miracles they proudly gave birth to are doing. Trust me, I wanted nothing more than to have the privilege of screaming my head off during 20 hours of intensely painful labor and hold my newborn child in my arms, but thanks to uterine cancer I can't do that. Since Easy Bake oven lives 3,000 miles away, I've already resigned myself to knowing we probably won't be there for the actual birth. My happy place? The fact that Nurse Mom lives 10 minutes from her, so at least she'll be there when Baby DeFrias is born. And I'm okay with that.

Surrogate is where we're at. Deal with it. I'm so dumbfounded around people's hatred right now that the best thing is really just for me to turn off the computer and go to bed. At least I can take small comfort in know most of their venom contained typos. Lots of them.

August 6, 2010

lessons on cancer and being a redhead from anne of green gables

I'm spirited. I'm stubborn. I'm fiercely loyal to friends. In short, I'm a redhead. Time and again, I'm told these are traits shared by redheads. We're a quixotic bunch, no doubt in part to our Irish roots. Growing up, I was always either Raggedy Ann or Annie for Halloween. It's no surprise as I grew older that I stumbled upon L.M. Montgomery's "Anne of Green Gables" series of books and immediately fell in love with a kindred spirit known as Anne Shirley. Like me, this poor girl was afflicted with red hair, to her dismay. As I grew older, I grew into my hair, but as I child I was taunted. (As redhead children should be, otherwise we grow up to think we own the world. Give us at least til our teens to know we ginger tops should be in charge of everything.)

Some of my favorite Anne quotes:

"Mrs. Hammond told me that God made my hair red on purpose and I've never cared for Him since."

"You'd find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair."

Amen, girl. I devoured all the books in the series, of this girl who never compromised who she was to fit in, surviving on her imagination and endless supply of a hope for the good in people and all things. Through school, her love with Gilbert (like all little girls, I was positively aching for her to be with him), and growing up.

I'd like to think that these same traits listed above, in conjunction with Anne's traits that I so felt akin to, are what got me through uterine cancer and malignant melanoma. It's also what's going to get me through our next step: surrogacy and our new baby.

What I've found most important is balance: knowing that while a positive attitude and humor go a long way in getting through it all, letting a little sadness in now and then is okay. After Matthew's funeral, Marilla finds Anne crying in her room, and Anne opines:

"Tears don't hurt like the ache does."

A little dramatic? Perhaps. But then, I've been told so am I. (I proudly wear that badge, thank you very much.) Here's to knowing there we have more days of light and happiness ahead of us than, as Anne was fond of saying, "the depths of despair."

August 3, 2010

casa defrias featured on the oncofertility consortium

The folks over at The Oncofertility Consortium® at Northwestern University featured on their site - how cool! It's a short story on our journey of trying to have kids, which was kindly detoured by cancer. Apparently, in industry lingo, I'm known as a "fertility preservation patient." Now that's sexy.

The Consortium is "a national, interdisciplinary initiative designed to explore the reproductive future of cancer survivors. It is supported by the National Institutes of Health through the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research/Common Fund. Dr. Woodruff coined the term oncofertility to describe a new discipline that bridges oncology and reproductive medicine in order to discover and apply new fertility preservation options for young patients with fertility-threatening diseases or treatments." (source)

Fertility-threatening diseases? Well butter my buns and call me a biscuit, that sure is a Michael Bay-ish way of putting it. But it's true.

In other humbling-yet-exciting news, I've also asked to speak to 2nd and 3rd year med students at UCSD about my story, and a request do a video, as well! One of the reasons I started this site was to get folks talking about things that have, historically, been seen as hush hush or unmentionable. I'm looking forward to more opportunities to tell my story and empower folks to share theirs, as well.