Cancer Ever After

Musings on Infertility, Adoption, Parenthood and Cancer

Tips and Tricks

There are little things we’ve stumbled on as we navigated the waters of infertility treatments and adoption–small changes we’ve been able to do that have helped us better afford trying to have children. If you are currently trying to finance treatment or adoption, maybe some of these will be new ways that will help you as you navigate.

Get a credit card with rewards. We used Southwest Airlines since our doctor was in another state. We used the Southwest credit card for every single payment for copays, groceries, etc. Then each month we would try to pay it off in full. This allowed us to charge as much as possible to get reward points, which we then used for airline tickets and gift cards. The Southwest card also lets you turn points into gift cards, which helped us when we had to cover daycare costs for twins. We charged daycare to the card each month and used our points for rewards at Walmart and Amazon to cover groceries and baby wipes. We’ve even continued to use those rewards to help us provide gift cards to our birth mom.

Know your insurance. This applies for both infertility treatments and adoption. Call, call and call some more. Ask for everything in writing and read all of the fine print. We had bills that were denied that we had to fight to get covered. We had to challenge to get out-of-network procedures covered as in-network. Do not accept the first answer. Read, research, and reach out for assistance. My first employer had a nurse advocate program that helped us navigate many of these issues. Knowing how you are covered and fighting the good fight can save you thousands. This also applies to adoption. Know exactly how the baby will be covered when it is born. How soon will coverage kick in? What happens if the adoption is disrupted? How much will you be expected to pay? This is a major expense in an infant adoption. Know how much you need to plan for. Also, talk to the hospital about using a payment plan.

Ask for coverage. My current employer does not offer coverage for infertility treatment. They announced they were doing an insurance review and I provided this letter from Resolve to our CEO and asked for them to consider coverage. They strongly considered it. Due to our size, the insurance plans would not allow it, but my answer was not an outright “no.” Infertility treatments can take years, so it’s worth it to ask for coverage starting the next year. When I asked them to consider adoption assistance instead with this package from the Dave Thomas Foundation, they added benefits. As one of my wise coworkers has said, “’No’ is the answer you already have. ‘Yes’ is the answer you can get.” Go get it.

Consider changing jobs. Ask your fertility clinic which employers offer infertility coverage. Review the Resolve website for a list of states that mandate infertility coverage and look for employers in your industry based out of that state. Before you accept any job, ask for detailed information on exactly what is covered in the medical plan to evaluate if the benefits are comparable to what you have. Ask friends to check their benefits at their companies. If you can get $30,000 in treatment coverage or $10,000 in adoption benefits, it might be worth a job change.

Track every last penny spent. If your medical expenses and travel-related expenses for medical treatments exceed 10% of your income, you can deduct some of those expenses. (Trust me, we’ve done this three years running.) Keep track of everything. If you aren’t sure, visit your insurance website and dowload all of your expenses for the year. Call each of your doctors and ask for a statement for the entire calendar year. Track down every receipt that you can. Then add them up and see if you can deduct. This holds true for adoption expenses, as well. State laws may vary slightly on what allowable expenses are, but keep track of every penny spent, both for your court finalization, and also for a possible adoption tax credit.

Loan, withdrawal, then distribution. Ideally, you won’t have to raid your retirement. But if you do, try to do a loan first, so that you are paying that money back and will still have retirement down the line. If you’ve already used that option, look into whether or not a hardship withdrawal is an option. Ideally, you would take this in a year when you know your medical expenses will exceed 10% of your income so that the early withdrawal penalty can possibly be waived. (Read the full IRS rules around this–I’m no tax expert.) The impact of taking a distribution is much bigger and this is only an option if you quit or change jobs. Use this as a complete last resort as it will deplete your retirement.

Negotiate your bills. The only one I’ve been able to do this successfully with is our cell phone/internet. Every six months, I have a chat with my provider and see if there is a new package that will save us money. We’re pretty bare bones, so there isn’t always savings, but the initial conversation saved me $40 a month, minimum. Also, consider ditching cable if you haven’t already. Amazon, Netflix or Hulu are viable alternatives that are much cheaper.

Libraries are your friend. Prior to infertility, I spent a lot of money on books. As soon as we were diagnosed, we began getting all of our books and movies through the library to save money for treatments. Find out how to preorder items online to get new releases. Work the system to get the books and movies you want. This can save you a lot on entertainment expenses.

Compare loan options. Tim and I contacted several places that offered adoption loans, and then on a whim, we also contacted our credit union. They offered both collateralized loans (if we had anything we could use) or home equity lines of credit at cheaper interest rates than the adoption loans we had looked into. What you can qualify for on loans can vary greatly, but don’t be afraid to shop around. The same is true for medical loans. If you have a hard time getting approved, the places that advertise for adoption loans or medical loans may be your best bet, but look at at least three of them. Compare rates, compare fees and compare how long they will let you repay on the loan.

Get your home study done right away! Our biggest roadblock has been our lack of a home study in the adoption process. We could only apply for one grant because we did not have a completed home study, which is the gold standard and a requirement for almost all grants. And even though we have our home study now, we don’t qualify for most of those, because the grant must be awarded before your adoption is finalized. Our adoption is simply moving too quickly for that. Do everything you can to get the work for the home study done as quickly as possible, so that you have more time to apply for grants.

I’m sure there are a million more tips and tricks out there if you are currently navigating these waters. Share yours! I would love to hear them.

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Roll with the Punches

Sometimes you walk straight into a left hook. Life just punches you right in the face. I belong to a twin moms’ group on Facebook. There are lots of great tips on dealing with newborn and toddler twins–little clever tips and tricks that I love to learn about. But there are also two kinds of twin moms in the world: those who are superfertile, who seem to get pregnant by walking past a man (e.g., my sister), and, well, those who are like me. Years-in-the-making, on-your-knees-praying, twin moms. This day my Facebook newsfeed was full of not one, but TWO of the first kind of twin moms who were freaking out because they had very young twins and just found out they were pregnant again.

Their reactions and my reaction to this news was probably not that dissimilar. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. Their posts went on to express dismay and concern over this news. Now, I don’t know them. I don’t know if their husbands just lost their jobs, if their babies are colicky. There are worlds that I don’t know, and they are entitled to feel how they feel. It’s their life. I do know that I’m thrilled with this adoption and it feels 100% right. But it didn’t stop my knee-jerk reaction: “Why couldn’t it have been me?”

We haven’t used birth control in six years. There are no miracle pregnancies on the horizon for us. My body simply doesn’t work that way. But it’s always impossible to quash that last little bit of hope that someday, it would work as it should. That I would be able to do something that “comes naturally.”

My husband and I have agreed that if this adoption is successful, we are done. Our family is complete. But I can see that I will still have some healing to do over the fact that I wasn’t able to get pregnant on my own, that my body seemed to betray me and tried to kill my children. Sometimes I’m angry at the weird little things they found in my blood that seem to cause it all: the infertility, the miscarriages, the liver damage. I get jealous when I hear news like those mothers’, but that doesn’t change how I feel about this adoption. We’re in 100%. The only questions that mattered when we got that text was, “Can we love this baby? Are we willing to make it our own?” My answer remains unchanged, as does my husband’s. I may get jealous or feel wistful when I see news like this, but I’ve found my own miracle. And he’ll be here soon.

 

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This Moment

Do you ever have one of those moments you want to freeze in time forever? Seeing my husband walk down the aisle on our wedding day is one. (Although I’d love to fast-forward through the part where I couldn’t say my vows because I was crying so hard.) Life is full of those moments when you know something monumental is occurring and you want to take that moment, freeze it in your mind and hug it close to you for a lifetime.

The moment I heard both of my girls cry in the delivery room, and I knew, just knew when I heard those cries that everything was going to be okay. That my girls would make it. I was a ball of fear until I heard those cries, and then I wept as  I got to hold them briefly before they were whisked off to the NICU.  My photo stream currently holds 1,821 pictures of the girls in which I’ve tried to capture the wonder that occurred in that specific moment.

The hours of 5-8 have become my favorite times of day, both morning and night. And then there are the weekends. Oh, how I love the weekends. There are so many times when I find myself thinking, “This moment is what life is all about.” The first hug, the first time H blew me a kiss, the first-time P  said “mama.” The first step, the second step and every time they smile and then turn and run down the hallway toward me, or even from me.  I’m constantly thinking “This moment. This is the best moment of my life.” There is playing, learning,  hugs and cuddles.  This is the life that I waited on, wished for and worked so hard to achieve.

Even those strange, right-of-passage parenting firsts are moments I want to freeze in time: the first floater during bath time (double the fun with twins!), the first full-body vomit, the first bathtub toot and ensuing giggle-fest. The first tantrum.  Those times that it’s so hard to be a good parent and not laugh at the terrible thing your child is doing, “No, it’s not okay to cover the dog in food”. For a long time I felt like life was on hold and I was stuck in limbo and now I feel like it is moving too fast. I want to freeze and savor every moment.

Those moments happen at even the worst times. A crying toddler at 3 a.m., who won’t go back to sleep and needs comforting. As exhausted as I am, I sit there in the dark, feeling that little body snuggled against me and think, “This moment–right here–I want this moment to last forever.” Even with a lifetime with my girls, and soon our son, we’ll never get enough of those moments.  Because these moments pass so quickly -I can’t freeze time.  For now, I can simply savor each moment I have. I can put down my phone, turn off the tv and simply be there in the moment with them.

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A “Real” Pregnancy

It’s funny, but one of the hardest parts of going through infertility is that when you do finally get pregnant, you expect to have the ideal pregnancy. And when you lose a baby, you become the world’s most paranoid pregnant lady. Between the two, I was a pretty freaked out pregnant lady with high expectations when I got pregnant with my girls.

Of course, my only successful pregnancy didn’t go as planned. I was a nervous wreck until 12 weeks passed and was in a haze of joy. Then all hell broke lose at 15 weeks and the complications began. I think this is why the adoption feels more like a “real” pregnancy to me. Because of all of the testing and treatments I had when I was pregnant, we knew we were having twin girls at 12 weeks. We didn’t go through all the anticipation of a gender ultrasound. By the time the first ultrasound would normally have rolled around, I was having weekly ultrasounds with two different doctors and being monitored by three specialists. Everything about my pregnancy was scripted and involved about a million and three people in scrubs in the room with me at all times.

Adoption isn’t without typical pregnancy symptoms, though. I’ve burst into tears randomly in so many places: at the attorney’s, in my van, at the grocery store depositing my first check from fundraising, and yes, even watching TV. There was an episode of “Chopped” when the winner said he was going to use the money to begin the adoption process because he and his wife were infertile. I just lost it and hugged my girls.

This adoption is so different from what I anticipated when we debated going this route years ago, and honestly, it feels a lot more like I expected to feel in a normal pregnancy. It was completely unexpected, in an excited-terrified-joyous kind of way. A complete “oh, shit” moment came shortly afterwards as the reality of everything began to sink in. But, while it’s not worry-free, I don’t have a daily paralyzing fear that something will go terribly wrong.

I may not feel the baby kick or wiggle, but, ever since I’ve found out about the adoption, I’ve had visions of a smiling baby with dark curly hair and beautiful brown eyes. Whether he comes from my body or someone else’s, this child will be loved and it will be ours.

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