Tuesday, October 24, 2006

8 Weeks (Or 28 Weeks. Whatever.)

Today marks a milestone. I've been holding my breath for eight weeks now, waiting for today to come.

Since I left the hospital eight weeks ago today, I had this date in the back of my mind. As I gathered my things to go, I asked the nurse what to expect next. "They're sending the material away for a genetic workup. It should take 6-8 weeks for the results to to come in. If you haven't heard anything by eight weeks, give the office a call."

Eight weeks and no word, so I finally gave myself permission to make the call. The nurse in the office put me on hold while she went to fetch my chart. I listened to soothing music until she picked up again.

"Mete? They got the results back from the genetics lab. Unfortunately, they were unable to obtain a useable cell culture. They couldn't tell anything from the testing."


"Alrighty. Have a nice..."

"Well, wait. So that's it, right? There's nothing else, right? No other tests?"

"Yes, that's it."

I pretty much knew that was going to be the answer. I mean, it had died at least a week before the D&E, definitely longer. They warned me from the beginning that there was not much chance of getting a valid sample.

I'm not really sure how I feel about this. I'm disappointed. It would have been nice to have answers, a place to point the finger, or something to rule out.

But I'm also relieved. One of my biggest concerns was finding out the gender. It would change things tremendously for me to have that knowledge. With this door shut, it can stay an It. Not a boy or a girl; not a son or daughter. Just a lost possibility that never developed into anything more than a bunch of bad cells.

(Think what you will, but denial's working for me right now. Okay?)

So really, getting no answers is a good thing. In fact, I may have overlooked other positive things that came out of this. I think it's time I start looking on the bright side. Why don't we examine:

The Top 10 Reasons Having A Miscarriage Ain't So Bad

  1. You actually fit into - and get to wear, this season - those new pants you bought just before you found out you were pregnant.
  2. You get to use up all those dang 'pads cluttering up the bathroom cabinet.
  3. Fear and worry + no more baby + ensuing depression = 10 pound weight loss.
  4. You don't have to deal with the combination of your major insurance changes coinciding with giving birth and enrolling an infant.
  5. You're saving tons on gas money by not having to drive to the OB-GYN as often.
  6. You can start drinking alcohol, if you so desire. (So what if you don't want to? You know you could.)
  7. Maybe now, the two pregnancy tests you have left from that three-pack won't go to waste.
  8. You get a few extra months out of those expensive family photos. And, a few bonus months of only cramming two children into your tiny house and tiny car.
  9. The food apathy is finally gone, and you get to experience cravings after all. (PMS cravings, of course: "Salt. Chocolate. SALT! CHOCOLATE!")
  10. No more A lot less Slightly fewer mood swings.
See? It's all good. Sheesh. I don't know WHAT I was complaining about before...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Very Long Post about A Very Boring Topic. Get It?

Growing up, I didn't like autumn. What good is it to a child? Autumn signifies the end of summer. The end of freedom. The end of warm days playing outside until dark. The beginning of school. The beginning of homework. The beginning of responsibility.

Did I say "I didn't like autumn"? Correction: I hated it.

I finally grew up, got out of school and learned to appreciate the fall. Autumn in New England signifies the end of heat waves. The end of oppressive humidity. The beginning of cool nights that welcome sleep. The beginning of amazing displays of color and the true beauty of nature. We chose to get married in the autumn. I realized that it was actually becoming my favorite season. I loved it.

And then, things changed again.

Autumn still stands for all those things I learned to appreciate as an adult. But it also signifies the time of year I hate the most: health insurance enrollment period.

I've whined about health insurance more than once. More than twice. More, I suppose, than any sane person would whine. See, a sane person would GET IT. A sane person would understand that whining and complaining is nothing but a waste of time.

I guess I like wasting time.

I can't help it. Health insurance pushes my buttons. It's one of those things that keep me up at night. We all have them. For Jete, it's where to locate the ceiling fan on our newly refinished porch. That idea will drive him crazy until it's finally installed. Me, not so much. Instead, I'm concerned that we have medical coverage for our toddler and handicapped son for the next twelve months.

(Feel free to debate which of us is the deeper person.)

This time of year, I'm a woman obsessed. I scour websites, benefits fairs and any scrap of paperwork I can to determine which plan I should go with. I don't take this process lightly. This decision will stick with us for the next year. There's no backing out or changing things, short of getting fired, divorced, or having another baby.

Ha ha ha ha ha. HA.


For many people, deciding which insurance to enroll in is as easy as deciding which value meal to order at the local fast food joint. "This one costs $60 a week, but this one costs $50 a week. So I'll get the $50 one." They eagerly sign up for their company's High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) because, wow, the premiums are so darn cheap. And yes, for people who never get sick, don't have sick children, and don't have to use their health insurance very often, that's fine.

But for the rest of us, it just doesn't work that way.

I'm a little different to begin with. I'm the kind of girl that would rather pay 9 dollars for a quality hamburger than to get one off the 99 cent menu at McDonalds. Yes, you're saving money, but at what cost? What are you really gaining in the long run? Most of the time, you end up with a cold, scrawny, tasteless meal that leaves you hungering for more anyway.

High deductible plans are good in theory. They want us to believe that we'll make "cost-conscious choices" by enrolling in plans like these. Patients will suddenly choose to get the generic drug instead of the costly brand name. They'll pick the cheapest doctor instead of the pricey specialist.

But really, who does this help? The people who suffer under these plans aren't the upper middle class who insist on the brand name purple pills they saw on TV. It's the families, who can't afford the pricey deductibles to bring their children to the best available doctors. It's the sick, who have to take so many medications and have so many tests that they buckle under the weight of deductibles, copays, and coinsurance.

So far, I've been lucky to avoid the HDHP's because we've had choices. But every year, I see more and more of my options being removed. At my employer this year, I have the choice of one high deductible plan ($9000 maximum out-of-pocket per family), one middle of the road deductible plan ($5000 max out-of-pocket per family) and four HMO's.

(Did I mention I hate HMO's too? But I think I'll save that for another post.)

But really, I know I'm luckier than most when it comes to the number of options that I have. Many people have a single take-it-or-leave-it insurance plan, or worse, no insurance at all. Sadly, I'm fortunate to have the six crappy plans to choose from.

Beyond bad choices, the thing I hate the most about health insurance season is all the lying. The distrust I put on every year like hipwaders. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'll hardly have to pay a cent throughout the year. I won't even notice the small bills coming in. I'll get great customer service if I have questions or issues."

"Oh, and no one in Washington ever lies."

In the past two weeks, I had to deal with two untruths slapping me in the face, reminding me yet again why I hate this time of year.

The first was when my company dropped my current health plan. I had a sinking feeling last year when they changed things majorly on our prescription plan. I spoke directly to a benefits representative, expressing my concerns that the changes were a first step towards dropping it completely. He told me that they had no intention of doing that. It was one of their most popular plans, and the employees that used it were very happy with it. They would most definitely have that option for years to come.

And then they dropped it anyway.

Lie #2 came from Jete's employer. They shifted his role a few months ago under a different umbrella. They forced his coworkers to sign a waiver about moving into these roles with the promise that everything would stay the same. They would have the same insurance, the same benefits, blah blah blah. NO changes. No sirree.

While the rest of his company was getting paperwork for their annual benefit enrollment, we still hadn't received ours. We got the flyers from the insurers - shiny brochures covered in smiling faces screaming "Health insurance that will make you happy!" - but none of the meat, the premium and copay pricing.

The other night, I went to one of their open enrollment meetings to find out why we hadn't gotten our paperwork yet. The woman very curtly explained it was because he was not covered under the insurance as of the first of the year.

I sat in stunned silence, thinking to myself (but they promised...they said nothing would change) while she explained loopholes and contracts. The bottom line is that, yes, he will have insurance, but no, they don't know what yet. "You'll definitely have something by January 1st." she said, as if that was supposed to be of some comfort to me.

The thing this woman didn't understand is that "something" just isn't good enough. "Something" may not pay for Ethan's surgeries, braces, therapies, multitudes of specialists. "Something" may not pay for his five different prescriptions each month. I need to know what this "something" is, and soon. I need to be able to plan, to compare, to crunch the numbers and figure out just how much this "something" is going to cost us.

But I guess that's just me being crazy.

In the midst of lie upon lie and crappy choice upon crappy choice, I broke down. I started crying in the middle of the benefits fair. I snuck off to the corner to call Jete about it. He listened to me rant and rave for 5 minutes, and finally said, "Okay." Nothing more.

"You're off the insurance, they lied to us, they won't tell me anything, and we have no way to know when they'll make a decision!"

"Okay." And then he proceeded to talk to me about the porch ceiling fan for 17 minutes.

As I hung up the phone, I decided I needed to blog about this. I needed to reach out to the world at large and, somehow, not feel so alone. My family is great, my friends are great, my husband is great. But sometimes, none of them GET IT. They can sympathize, they can say they understand, but they still don't get why I go so crazy. After all, we'll still have insurance. What is there to get so upset about?

Somewhere out there, someone else must GET IT, right? Someone else must know the frustration of dealing with this insurance CRAP month after month, year after year, with no hope in sight? Someone else must know what it feels like to be so tired, so fed up with the lies and bullshit, that they break down in tears in the middle of a convention center? Right?

Or maybe I just need to GET IT, and stop wasting my time whining. At least until next autumn.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

More Proof I'm Different

Me: Oh, crap.

Coworker: What?

M: They've discontinued my insurance.

C: Huh?

M: It's that time of year again, and they sent out a preview of the changes. They've decided to drop the health insurance plan I use.

C: Oh.

M: I only switched here because I wanted that insurance; the constant run-around got old. Guess we're going back to Jete's insurance (even though we never cancelled it in the first place, just in case). It's a bit cheaper.

C: Well, why'd they drop it?

M: Because it's expensive. That's why Jete's company dropped it too. The only problem is, it's expensive because it's GOOD. But that doesn't matter; the company's got to go with what's cheapest for them. "Good" doesn't really matter to them.

C: Huh. Well... what does that mean to me? Do I have to switch?

M: It all depends. Do you have that insurance?

C: I don't know.

M: (spinning head around at mach speed) What do you mean?

C: I don't know who I have for health insurance.

M: You. don't. KNOW?

C: Uh-uh. Wait. Let me get the card. (fumbles through her purse and pulls out card.) I can't read it without my glasses. What does it say?

M: It says Other HMO.

C: What does that mean?

M: You have the other insurance. They're still carrying that one.

C: Oh good. So I don't have to worry?

M: Well, considering you don't know the name of your own health insurance company? I'm not sure I'd go that far...