Always, Katie: June 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014

BarBABYdos: Day 0: Getting There

Today.  Was.  Long.


We got up at 2 this morning.  My in-laws picked us up to drive us to the airport, where we had to say goodbye to our spoiled, much-loved Charley.  TSA.  Airport.  Airplanes... cramped, with stale air.  Borderline claustrophobia.  LONG lines at immigration.  Hot.  Sticky. Ugh,

But...  today was also filled with moments where we looked at each other and said, "Wow... it's today.  Today is here."  Like when we were on our way down the interstate, while we were checking in and waiting for our first flight.  When my "Countdown" app confirmed that our flight was, in fact, leaving. ;-) As our second flight was coming in for a landing.  Seeing the taxi driver holding a sign with my name on it.  

It's been surreal, and kind of magical (sorry - I'm in a cheesy mood) to consider every step and every obstacle in relation to that one big obstacle of our marriage: our infertility journey. 

The next time we are flying over islands and such between Miami and Barbados, there will be a couple of embryos nestling into my uterine lining (we pray!).  The next time I see my Charley, I'll be carrying his sibling(s).  The next time we go to "our" grocery store, I may have cravings and food aversions with which to contend.  Only a few more ginormous injections in my rump until those eggs are sucked out of me and FINALLY united with Ethan's spermies.  Finally.  


We're here.  We're ready.  We're hopeful.  Finally.

My first ultrasound to check follicle progress is in the morning... followed by a couple's massage!  WooHoo!
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Thursday, June 19, 2014

BarBABYdos: How to Save BIG Money on Your IVF Drugs

When you are getting ready to do IVF, your fertility clinic should be able to give you a price list of all of the services and procedures they anticipate you will need, allowing you to figure out the cost of the clinic side of your cycle fairly easily.  These rates are fairly predictable across the US, a little more expensive in big cities with higher costs of living, not so bad in the heartland, but overall fairly similar.  

Where a cycle can get outrageously and surprisingly expensive is the price of the meds for your treatment.  This can typically cost anywhere from $1000 to more than $4000, depending on factors like age, hormone profile, conditions... you get the picture.  

In typical Hodge fashion, Ethan and I decided that we wanted to shop around for our medications.  Since we had plenty of advance notice of our cycle, we got my prescription list and set to work finding the best, safest, least-expensive way to get our hands on these medications.  I thought I'd share what we learned with y'all, so you can mitigate the cost of this insanely-expensive method of baby-making :-)

Most fertility drugs are made under multiple brand names, and you want to be able to research the price for ALL of these brands.  They're all interchangeable (within the generic, of course), and the price can vary drastically.  You'll see what I mean in a minute :-)

Local pharmacies, even big names like CVS and Walgreens, do not sell enough fertility drugs to buy in bulk.  If, by some miracle, they have what you need in the quantity you need it, the prices will be pretty high because they have not been able to order it in bulk.  If not, they'd have to order it anyway, and you still pay more and still wouldn't get it that day.

My clinic highly recommends IVFmeds, and I trust their recommendation.  They are not US-based, so your US clinics may not even mention them to you.  They are based in London, England - which, incidently, is where the first IVF procedures were done.  The Brits have been doing this even longer than we have, trust them. :-)   We are getting some of my drugs from this company, and some from Freedom Fertility Pharmacy, but that's another later point.

Some of the big name fertility drug manufacturers have programs you can apply for that can potentially give you deep discounts on their products, especially if you are 100% self-pay (as many - if not most - fertility patients are).  Serono, who is the maker of Gonal-F (a brand name of FSH - follicle stimulating hormone) calls their program "Compassionate Care," and if you're approved, the LOWEST discount is 50% off.  Follistim is an identical product to Gonal-F, and their program is called "First Steps."  They give discounts of between 5% and 75% off.  There are some strings attached to programs like these, mainly that you cannot use them at every pharmacy out there, but they are worth looking into!  Serono even has similar programs for people who DO have fertility medication coverage, too! Go ahead and apply for any of these programs you may qualify for, and choose the brand that will give you the best deal.  (Gonal-F and Follistim are one of the instances of the same drug under different, completely interchangeable names.)

I made a table in Word, with all of the medications I needed down the side, and all of the different options we had for purchasing them across the top.  The two pharmacies I was comparing specifically were Freedom Fertility and IVFmeds.  For everything I needed, the base price at IVFmeds was cheaper.  But wait!  We qualified for a 25% discount from Follistim, and a 50% discount from Serono.  And it just so happens, Serono makes two of the other drugs I need.  And it also just so happens that IVFmeds cannot accept the Serono Compassionate Care card.  So for non-Serono drugs, IVFmeds was my less expensive option, but Freedom Fertility was the better option for my three Serono drugs (Gonal-F, Ovidrel and Cetrotide).  

Another issue for my table was the variation in price for different brands.  One drug I will be on is HMG.  Brand names for it are Repronex, Menopur, and Merional, but IVFmeds even carries a generic version (but they do not carry Repronex).  I need 11 vials, and the prices per vial of the versions they do carry are: Menopur: $56, Merional: $40, and generic: $25.  The catch on the generic is that it is an intramuscular (IM) injection, which are a little more difficult and painful than sub-cutaneous (sub-q).  I opted for the Merional, but it was out of stock until next month... so I could choose from the Menopur (at $616 total) or generic ($275).  I chose the generic... that's a savings of $341, or about 55%.  We can learn to give an IM shot for that!  If I had gotten it through Freedom Fertility, my total cost for that ONE medication would have been... drumroll... $1538.90.  So by choosing the generic from IVFmeds instead of Repronex from Freedom Fertility, we saved $1263.90, or about 82%.  I do have to pay shipping from IVFmeds, but it is only about $50.  Considering the $1500 or so they're saving me, I'm fine with that ;-)

I am extremely lucky to be working with Anna at BFC, because she is a communicating ROCK STAR, and makes this step easy!  Several weeks ago, she sent me my prescription list.  When I had done all of the shopping (and had run questions like the Menopur/Merional/generic stuff past her), I asked her to send me two separate prescriptions: one with the medications I was getting from IVFmeds to send to them, and one with the medications I needed to get from Freedom Fertility.  **This will not be a concern unless you are pursuing IVF overseas like we are, but... Freedom only accepts prescriptions from doctors licensed in the US.  If your doctor is not (mine isn't), you will need to coordinate with a doctor here.  You're going to need them to do a baseline ultrasound, prescribe your birth control, and possibly order lab tests for you, too, so hopefully you have a good enough working relationship with them that they'll fax a prescription for what you need to a US pharmacy if you ask them.**  

**I hate that I have to add this part, a week after drafting the post** 

The drugs I ordered from IVFmeds are stuck in customs. According to USPS, they've been in New York for almost a week, and IVFmeds is sending a replacement order with rush shipping, HOPING one of them gets to me on time.  This is definitely a risk you run ordering from overseas.  My advice - learn from my experience, and make them ship early.  Mine left London on June 11, even though I ordered on May 30, for injections starting June 24.  I wish I'd told them to send them straight away.  Better to have to store them for a few weeks than be bawling your eyes out on birth control hormones because they're delayed in customs!!!

**Adding again: June 21, 2014**

My meds left London on June 11, reached customs in New York on June 13.  On June 20, at 9:45am, they cleared customs.  By 11am the next day, the mailman brought them to my door!  In plenty of time to start my cycle.  DEFINITELY order early, and ask them to ship right away!

**Edit: January 23, 2015**

Due to a recent explosion on Pinterest, I'm popping back in again to review and revise this post.  Since writing it, we finished the cycle we were preparing for and also did an FET (frozen embryo transfer).  We learned one more valuable tip during that second cycle that I wanted to share :-)  When pricing medications at local/brick-and-mortar pharmacies, check out programs like GoodRx and LowestMed.  You can search by medication/dose, and it will locate the lowest price near your ZIP code.  That price is usually contingent on using their coupons, which can be printed or screenshot, and look just like insurance information (BIN, PCN, etc).  Your pharmacy will need to run them like insurance, and will appreciate if you give them the info before pick-up.  For our FET cycle, we were able to get all of our medications locally, using three different pharmacies (Target, CVS, and maybe Meijer?).  For both my Lupron and my progesterone-in-oil, we saved several hundred dollars using just the GoodRx app.  I didn't keep the records of my price hunt for that cycle, so I can't give exact figures, but it is very worth checking out!  Add that as a column in the table we talked about above :-)

If you're new here, please check out our story of doing IVF with Barbados Fertility Centre.  We are so incredibly grateful for our precious twins, thanks to the incomparable Dr. Skinner and her wonderful team!!  I truly believe that their supportive nature and focus on our total wellbeing (and relaxation) made a huge difference in our success :-)

You may also be interested in this post -  3 TIPS TO FAST TRACK YOUR IVF SAVINGS PLAN.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Home Sweet Home: Mantle Decor

I shared some of my living room inspiration several months ago, before we had even closed on our house, and I finished one of the projects for it I'd been planning and working on for a while, this week :-)  Now, all that's really left is to finish organizing and decorating the entertainment center (and clutter-busting) and this room is pretty much up to my standard of "done."  

Our mantle is one of my favorite features in this room - maybe in the whole house :-)  Aren't the wood and the details delicious? 

For several weeks, I've been collecting milk glass and clear glass vases and such from Facebook local buy/sell/trade sites, yardsales, and thrift stores. 

For greenery and flowers, we checked out an Old Time Pottery, and found everything I wanted :-)

I didn't keep a running total of my costs, but Ethan and I were figuring it out in our heads, and we're pretty sure this whole project cost about $40.  Not too shabby, really!  Especially considering there are a dozen vases up there, most with stuff in them :-)

I'm not sure what's gotten into me lately, but I've been knocking projects off my list left and right!!  I think part of it is that I want to have a mostly-finished house when we get back from BarBABYdos, so I can relax and snuggle in.  Maybe partially the relief of being DONE with school (and passing my licensure exam yesterday, wooHoo!!!).  Whatever... I'm just glad to have the motivation and energy to tackle these projects, and I'm excited to show you more of them soon! 

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

BarBABYdos: On Sea Glass and Struggles

As I have read and researched BarBABYdos for our trip, one of the things that has stood out to me as the most special is the sea glass.

From Sea Glass Journal
Shells - probably the most popular beach collectible - are empty, abandoned critter homes, which is a neat thing to think about.  I have read, however, that pieces of sea glass are far more plentiful on Barbados's beautiful white beaches than shells are.

From Caribbean News Network
I've been a fan of sea glass for a while, because I like the metaphor.  Glass items have been thrown into the ocean, broken into shards, then been pounded by sand and surf for decades until they are smooth, frosted, beautiful, and valuable.  I love that we are continuing our journey - which many, many times has felt like being broken, tossed about, and roughed up - in a place where these collaborations between man and nature are so numerous.  I like to imagine we will come out on the other side with a testimony like sea glass: more beautiful and valuable than it would have been without our being broken and surf-tumbled. 

From Sea Glass Journal
I hope to be able to spend some time searching for these beautiful metaphors while we are in Barbados for IVF, and have been pinning and planning some fun little souvenirs to create for us and for some of our support network.  Here are some that I especially love :-)

Pinterest has blocked the link to the source. :-(  But, we collect magnets from everywhere we go, and a little picture of a Barbadian beach, with some white sand and tiny beach treasures would look spiffy in our collection!
From Stone Street Studio on Etsy.  Sold, but her shop is COOL!  I'm thinking of using a knock-off Origami Owl locket, since it would be much less expensive (but smaller) than a vintage pocket watch.
From JustBeachyNow on Etsy.  I'm borderline obsessed with putting stuff in these empty ornaments, so I am definitely going to put some sand and beach treasures on our tree this year!
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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Big Summer Giveaway with Caravan Sonnet and others!

My sweet friend Rebecca, at Caravan Sonnet, is hosting an awesome summer giveaway, and I am excited that I get to be part of it along with these other lovely ladies :-)

From Rebecca:

"The wonderful thing about this giveaway is that there are multiple prizes! Are you still looking for a graduation gift? A wedding gift? You could win it here! Looking to try out Arbonne? Looking for a fun summer book? These prizes will give you some options! Or win a Starbucks or Visa gift card for you or a friend! All you have to do is enter via the rafflecopter below!"

The fabulous prizes (which will ALL go to the one winner - what a haul!) are: 
$25 Visa Giftcard
$10 Starbucks Giftcard
1 Beautiful Handcrafted Pair of Earrings from Always, Katie
1 Free Make up primer or mascara from Arbonne
35% off first order from Arbonne through Anna
3 Jodi Picoult Books
1 Six Month Membership to the Parcel Post Tribe 
These are the earrings I've contributed!  Happy little summer dragonflies, made with jasper and antiqued silver-plated wings :-)

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Etsy Shop is Open!

Today is the day!  The Grand Re-Opening of Always, Katie's etsy location :-)

Please go check it out, share with friends, celebrate with me!  I am so excited to be back to doing what I love :-) 

Don't forget the free shipping code I shared on Monday! And stop back by the store often this week - I still have a few items I'll be listing in the next few days. :-)

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Shop Talk Monday: Grand Re-Opening Scheduled!

I am so excited to announce that my etsy shop will re-open on Wednesday!  I have been doing a lot of planning and dreaming about how I want to do business this time around, and I feel like I have new energy and direction. :-)

I will have a "Limited Edition" section in my shop that will have both new and familiar designs that are ready-to-ship but not necessarily able to be re-listed in the future. 

Another new section in my shop will be a new line called "Family Tree Pendants," based on the tree of life birthstone trees I have custom made for a couple of years now.  My Swarovski birthstone crystals are well-stocked and ready to sparkle on these awesome gifts for moms, grandmoms and great-grandmoms!  

I am going to re-introduce the "Petite Princess" line of small crystal earrings on stud earring findings that are lightweight and ideal for little ears.  Birthstone colors will be available, as well as seasonally-themed color schemes and Disney Princess-themed colors.  Of course, custom orders will be welcomed... favorite colors, sports team, school spirit?  The options are nearly endless with Swarovski crystals!  (Recommended for ages 4 and up - it is important that kids who wear these are old enough to not chew on the earrings, as broken glass is never a tasty snack, and I am unsure as to the potential danger of the miniscule amount of lead used in the core of Swarovski crystals. DEFINITELY better to be safe than sorry!)

In the next couple of months - I am hoping by the end of August or early September, I will be launching another new line, this one of customizable Swarovski jewelry for formal occasions - think bridesmaid jewelry, prom, homecoming.  All items listed will be available in any color for which Swarovski makes the necessary shapes of bead, which will be nearly all colors!  I am especially excited about this line, as it gives brides and other customers who are interested in custom jewelry a starting point for customization.  Of course, I will still take completely new custom orders based on a customer's imagination or inspiration :-)

If you stop by the shop and celebrate with me this week, please use this code for free shipping on any order! (Good Wednesday through Sunday!)
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