IVF, Personhood, and a Story of Infertility
I don’t have an exciting infertility story. We had one kid easily. And then we couldn’t get pregnant again. I took lots of medicines that made me a little fat and a lot crazy, I pee’d on a lot of sticks, I cried a lot, I had a minor surgery, we had 6 failed IUI’s (intrauterine insemination, where they place the sperm directly in the uterus and hope for fertilization), I prayed a lot, I was finally diagnosed with crappy egg quality, and that left us with our best option being IVF (In Vitro Fertilization, where an egg is fertilized in a petri dish, and then a healthy embryo–or two, depending on your odds of implantation–is placed into the uterus).
So yes, I love my 4 frozen little embryos and I think about them a lot. But do I believe they’re alive? No. They need me–or another willing mother–for that. Do I believe they have the same rights that my living children have? No. But those who proposed the Personhood Bill seem to feel otherwise. They would lead you to believe that it’s just about abortion, but it’s not. The language of the bill would make IVF virtually impossible.
If you support the Personhood Bill, you are against the very thing that allowed my children to be born.
Read the whole story at https://cabernetandbreastmilk.com
Financial Burden or Death
Accessing abortion services cost me my home. But not accessing would have cost me my life.
I had a (male) doctor refuse to prescribe me birth control, which I needed to regulate my cycle, so I could stop having a period every 10 days…. because I was unwed.
Steady As She Flows
A few years ago, I moved to New York City and began a whole new life. I never lived in a particularly large city and was intrigued. Shorty after arriving, my periods got quite heavy. My menstrual cycle has always been uncomplicated so this was slightly alarming. It got to the point where I was bleeding heavily not just on my period week but every single day. I worried about leaking through a regular sized tampon if I was stuck underground for more than an hour in the subway. Menstrual cups do not work well for me and the amount of tampons I was going through got to be kind of crazy. My income was low but I was lucky enough to have a new, patient boyfriend that had access to an endless supply of free tampons at his college.
Working as a nanny with no health insurance, before the Affordable Care Act came into effect, I turned to Planned Parenthood. They had me sign up for Medicaid in order to be a able to help. I had no idea how long it would take to get an appointment but should have assumed just as much with a city of eight million people, almost half of which are living below the poverty line. After multiple visits to different Planned Parenthood physicians, I was sent to a specialist for a vaginal ultrasound. The results showed nothing abnormal and I was diagnosed with menorrhagia without a cause.
I was advised to get back on the birth control pill in order to control the periods, which I did, but it took some trial and error. The dose I needed was a stronger one, and the whole process of the first appointment to finally getting the correct amount of hormones took about a year. That year was stressful, as I was still learning how to get around the city, scrambling to find jobs, and taking care of this new, bloody issue.
To complicate things even further, I was repeatedly kicked off Medicaid every two months for no reason. Constantly re-applying and attempting to get ahold of someone at the Medicaid office was a complete nightmare, finally escalating to me appealing in front of a judge. My income had stayed the same and I was definitely eligible for the care I was receiving. I presented the judge with a two-inch thick, stack of paperwork I had collected from Medicaid disputes. I was extremely luck in getting a female judge. She asked me why it was so important for me to be on this insurance and I showed her a note from a gynecologist, stating that I have menorrhagia. She took one look at it and immediately dismissed my case, allowing me to stay on the insurance with no more issues, at least for the next year.
I think it is important to point out that since this issue, I still have not been offered health insurance by a company that I have worked for on the books. Many people may not realize the Affordable Care Act states that small businesses with less than fifty employees do not have to offer health insurance. In New York City, ninety percent of all businesses are those that have less than fifty employees. It is almost impossible to receive health insurance or any benefits while working in this city. The Affordable Care Act is definitely a necessary step in order to provide care to those in need, but it needs to be revised, and quickly
The Challenges of a Breastfeeding Mother
In the early, sleep deprived days of being a new mother, I faced many challenges. The first big one came about pretty early on. One day my milk was leaking like crazy, a couple of weeks later my milk supply had nearly dried up. My daughter was very slow to gain weight because of the breastfeeding challenges, and she was diagnosed with “failure to thrive”. A pediatrician basically gave us two days to show significant weight gain, or we were heading back to the hospital and they were going to tube feed my daughter. We had already been supplementing with formula, but apparently not enough. My partner and I started to keep a log of how many ounces we were feeding. The doctor suggested 24-30oz of formula to get her weight up to an acceptable level and prevent hospitalization. My midwife suspected tongue tie and referred me to a lactation consultant. We started working closely with the LC to try to bring my supply back up. My daughter’s Frenulum was clipped, and we saw some significant changes with the latch, but my supply was still really low. I tried all the recommended herbs and galactalgouges (a food or drug that promotes or increases the flow of a mother’s milk), until I smelled of a pancake house. Fenugreek, one of the highly recommended herbs causes you to smell like maple syrup. None of the herbs really seemed to be helping enough. I also pumped like crazy to try to increase my supply, and the results were so depressing. My lactation consultant informed be of a few pharmaceuticals that have the side effect of “increased milk supply”. In my state of grief and anxiety, the one she suggested as the most effective, with the least negative side effects and lowest transfer rate was called Domperidone. Domperidone had been recently banned by the FDA, because it caused cardiac issues in people in the seventies that were predisposed to cardiac issues. There were no negative side effect for healthy lactating women, except increased milk supply, which is exactly what I needed. Reglan, which IS FDA approved, had side effects of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and a much higher transfer rate. Definitely not side effects that a new mother needs to endure. I recently read a story of a mother that had been prescribed Reglan, committed suicide, leaving behind her partner and 4 month old child. Just heartbreaking. Because of the FDA ban, my lactation consultant, told me that I had to obtain the medication from England, Australia, or Canada. She gave me that address of an online pharmacy that carried the medication and told me I would need a prescription from my midwife. I got all the necessary things in order and placed my order. The drug took two weeks to arrive, and after about a week or less I started to notice an increase in my milk supply. I was still pumping like crazy, the increase was gradual, but eventually I was able to decrease the amount I was supplementing until I no longer needed to supplement. The Domperidone was my last hope and it worked wonders. Many tears later I was able to exclusively breastfeed my daughter like I had planned all along. I’m not saying it is the miracle drug that works for everyone, but it worked wonders for me. During the first sleep deprived months, I thought why would the FDA deny this medicine to a healthy lactating woman? I had all kind of hair-brained conspiracy theories running through my head. To this day I still believe that the formula lobbyists, and the politicians that seek to control women’s bodies, are partially behind the ban. For one, the drug is cheaper than supplementing with formula. Perhaps there is no connection, but a big part of me still believes there is. I feel fortunate that I had the resources in my community to gain access to the medication I needed to breastfeed my daughter. She just turned one approximately a month ago and we are still nursing. Our nursing relationship is mutually comforting. My daughter will be fussy or upset, and I will nurse her and she will be comforted almost instantly. My partner and I call it checking in. If my story can help any mother struggling with the challenges of breastfeeding, I will be a happy mama. Oh yeah, regardless of if you supplement or breastfeed, please never forget that you are an incredible mama! Being a mother is the most challenging and rewarding job I have ever had. I wish it were more valued in our society, we are only raising the future generation!
I have never had any form of discrimination or anything like that. My story isn’t heart wrenching or horrible just more of a pain in the ass. As a single mother going back to school I don’t make enough to afford insurance. Alabama did not take the Medicaid expansions so that doesn’t help either. Until I graduate and get a better job, I just try really hard not to get sick. A few years ago Alabama also decided to shut down the majority of Planned Parenthood clinics in the state. I think there might be one or two left but I’m not sure. That had been my only way of seeing anyone about gyn issues. Thanks to the state and the ever so lovely republicans running it, I haven’t seen a doctor in a good four or five years. Nothing bad has happened. I just keep hoping it stays that way.