An unconventional journey through assisted reproductive technology (and hopefully pregnancy and parenthood.)

About Me

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They say 30's are the new 20's. My wife and I have been together for over a decade now. We both work in the fast paced world of academia. Our state (and recently all others across the country) have finally allowed all marriage so we made that happen October 2014.

I'm a pretty big nerd, I'll be the first to admit. I love video games (yes, as a girl and yes, at my age). I have lots of other nerd hobbies and since I was unceremoniously banned from RuneScape, I've been playing Civilization and Skyrim. My real first nerd love is Magic the Gathering. 10,000 cards and growing, but that's an expensive hobby when you have two babies.

I have other grown-up interests too, especially reading. I like reading so much I have 3 Kindles and I also used to be a martial artist (one belt away from black belt. I'll finish someday.)

But now I've got twins and I have a feeling a lot of those hobbies are going to change.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Pre-Lupron Scan #2 - March 30

It's been a week since my last post mainly because there hasn't been much to report. But today I took the day off and we saw the doctor. Even though it's the Friday before spring break, I took the whole day because subs just aren't taking half day jobs. We're short subs anyway. We have about 3,000 subs in our system but on any given day there are upwards of 4,000 teachers out. I had one for today, though so I didn't feel bad about being gone like last time when they had to split my class.

Anyway, everything has healed up and calmed down inside me. My ovaries aren't leaking fluid anymore and everything looks normal. So we're cleared for the frozen embryo transfer (FET) at the end of April. They gave us a new flow sheet, so here's the new plan.

I continue birth control until April 4th. We start Lupron again tomorrow. This time it is twice the dose as last time. The nurse said that such a high dose is likely to bring on a headache after we do the injection. I'm not happy about this because I'm susceptible to headaches anyway and I don't like them. I know, who does? But they really make me miserable. As a matter of fact, I kind of have a headache right now. Damn. And all I can take is Tylenol which is not the best for headaches, in my opinion.

I have to call them to report day 1 of my period, which should be some time next week. Perfect. I'll be menstruating over my vacation week. Oh well. I'll go in again on day 3 to start ultrasounds again. And I'll start taking estriadol, which I'm going to assume has something to do with estrogen. Then on day 7 and 10 the medication will be adjusted.

All the while I'll be going in for bloodwork and ultrasounds to monitor my lining and other inside bits. They have me scheduled for 3 already at 8:30 in the morning and that might be a problem. I'm hoping they can do them earlier so I don't have to miss so much work. I'm supposed to be at work by 8:26 but the bell isn't until 9:00 so if I can do the ultrasounds at 8:00 instead, I can still get to work by the time the bell rings. I'm sure my office manager would rather me be late than have to deal with splitting my class because no sub picked up my job.

Besides the problem with getting subs, my students start taking state tests on the 24th so I need to be there and actually teach them something. I know I'll have to be out the whole day when we do the transfer on the 23rd but I'd really rather not take off so many other extra days if I can avoid it. I'll have to deal with that in a couple of weeks, though. Nothing I can do about it right now.

Well, enough insight to my work attendance problems. I'm sure it's only interesting to me.

We also asked how many embryos they plan to transfer. Since I've had problems conceiving with IUI I've been assuming they'll transfer two. But they said it will most likely be just one, unless we wanted twins, which we don't. Although there still is a chance that after the transfer, the blastocyst could still split into identical twins. But that's pretty unlikely since twins don't run in my family. Actually, there's none at all that I know of.

The doctor must be pretty confident with her methods that she would only transfer one. The more I read about it, the more I see that she uses some pretty aggressive methods. But hey, whatever gets results is fine with me at this point. I'm just glad to finally get things going again. The last couple of weeks just waiting have been hard. But now that we know the plan, I can sit back, enjoy my vacation and wait for my period again : /

Friday, March 23, 2012

Like millions of others, we'll be seeing The Hunger Games this weekend. We don't go to movies often, but when we do we like to see them in IMAX glory whenever possible. This is actually part of a birthday present for our bestie and should be fun. The missis and I need to do some fun things. We're both under a lot of stress lately. She's writing her professional paper for her Master's and I'm trying to get 25 fifth graders ready for the state assessments in math, reading and science. So we need to do little things like this whenever we can.

Anyway, next myth.

Turkey baster?

Oh. My. God. This has to be the most obnoxious question we get asked. And we get asked it a lot. Did we use a turkey baster? No. And there are so many reasons why that doesn't work that you would think people would have the common sense to know better and stop asking this ridiculous question. Everyone that asks it thinks it's so damn funny. And they usually ask it only half-joking. The other half of them really thinks that this is how it works. And it just rubs me the wrong way.

Can you fit this in YOUR vagina???
First, I would like to meet the man who can produce enough jizz in one sitting to full a turkey baster. It just doesn't happen. Also, have you ever really seen a turkey baster? They are far too long for a normal human vagina. Even if you did manage to fill a baster and somehow get it into your vagina, once you squeeze it to get the jizz out, when you let go it would suck back in unless you pulled it out right away. The whole scenario is just absurd.

Back when we were first considering having a baby, we actually thought we might do the insemination ourselves. We originally had it arranged for the sperm to be shipped to our house and I started tracking my basal temperature to try and figure out when I was ovulating. Yeah, we were serious.

We researched methods of self-insemination and even ordered a kit. It came with a needle-less syringe...NOT a turkey baster. We decided to go with a fertility doctor instead once we learned how complicated it is to inseminate yourself. The sperm comes frozen. Do I thaw it in the microwave or what? And it's such a tiny amount, like the size of a perfume sample cylinder. If we spill it, that's $800 lost.

Plus the timing is so critical. The window when you're fertile enough to get pregnant is only a couple of days. It's a wonder anyone gets pregnant at all, let alone by accident! We could be dropping $800 month after month after month with no results. We figured if we're going to invest that kind of money, we might as well go with a doctor and make sure it gets done right.

And considering all the complications we've had, I am convinced we made the right choice. I'm pretty sure this never would have worked if we tried to do it ourselves.


Monday, March 19, 2012

For those who are interested in the slightest, my weekend on RuneScape went very well. Here's how my levels turned out:

12 levels and over 3 million experience. Not bad. I'm most proud of the herblore. I made so many potions! I was hoping to get a summoning level too, but I didn't have enough charms saved. Time to start doing some more slayer, I guess. It's really close and so is strength, so I should get another combat level soon too. Not that anyone besides me really cares about my RuneScape stats :)

Other than that, I'm getting pretty antsy waiting all this time again. And I think it's starting to mess with my head. I start with the anxiety and worrying, even though logically I know there is absolutely nothing to worry about. It's maddening, I tell you. I'm not the best at waiting patiently, especially when there is nothing I can do to speed up the process.

Anyway...here's today's real post.

How did you pick a donor?

We get asked this quite often. We get a lot of people that ask why we didn't just ask some friend to be the donor. Well, if you knew any of our male friends you would see why that's not an option. Plus that could really complicate a friendship. And they may say they just want to be the donor, but what if later they decide they want to be a father after all?  It's too risky.

We decided on an anonymous donor. For one thing, sperm from an anonymous donor is cheaper. So although our child won't be able to find their biological father, they will be put on a sibling registry since the donor has other pregnancies before ours. I'm not sure how it works, but I imagine they let you know if there are possible siblings in your area so your child doesn't end up marrying their half-sibling someday.

When we researched how and where to buy sperm, we ended up at California Cryobank. You can search by pretty much anything you want. Hair color, eye color, ethnicity, religion, education and a whole lot more. We weren't really too picky about appearance but the one thing we wanted was someone who's educational background was math.

See, I'm a great reader and social studies was always my best subject. And writing...well, you read my blog, so you know. But math...man oh man. It's not that I'm completely dumb. I do have the capacity to learn it (I did finally pass college algebra) but it is definitely not my cup of tea and it's never come easy for me. So if this child is going to have any mathematical ability, I know it would have to come from the donor because he won't get it from me. My whole family is the same way. Great readers, horrible at math. My girlfriend is very gifted mathematically so she'll be able to help him with his homework when he brings home math past 5th grade level.

We chose the specific donor mainly because of his personal essay. There is a question that asks why they want to become donors and a lot of the ones we read were about how they want to help someone start a family and other cheesy stuff like that but this guy said "Well, mainly for the money." I can appreciate that honesty. The last question was about if they had a message for us and he said "Determine the next three letters in this pattern: D T N T L ___ ___ ___." I couldn't figure it out myself, but my girlfriend realized it was the first letters of each word in the sentence, so it would be I T P. I love a smart ass, so that's what clinched him for me as our donor.

After the failed IUI attempts, the doctor did suggest we might consider a new donor. So we searched some more, but nobody was quite as perfect as that guy. There was one other that we seriously considered but his profile said he had curly hair. I have very curly hair and I didn't want to lay that double-whammy on the poor kid. We ordered his baby pictures to see how curly his hair was and the picture didn't look like what his profile described. I know most people change a lot from their baby pictures, but there was just something about him that we weren't feeling from the picture so we decided to stay with the original guy.

I hope we can be good enough parents for the baby that they won't feel the desire to find their biological father someday. They may always have some curiosity, but hopefully we can fill their life with what they need and they won't resent us someday for this choice. I'm sure they'll resent us for lots of things as children tend to do, but hopefully not this.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Me in RuneScape
If you play RuneScape, and I doubt that you do, then you know that this weekend is bonus xp weekend. So that's how I'll be spending my time this weekend. I'll be training farming, herblore, slayer, fletching and summoning.

But before I start with all that and completely lose touch with reality for the next 2 days, here is the first in my series of questions we get asked a lot and misconceptions we've come across.

Why don't you just adopt?

When people find out how much we've gone through, cost-wise and emotionally and everything else involved in the whole process, they naturally tend ask this question.

Well, it's complicated and with complicated things, the answer is also complicated. First and foremost, to put it simply, we want our own child. It's just something we both feel. We're aware of the many adoptable children that need good homes and God bless them. Me personally, I really want the experience of being pregnant too. I know I will probably look back on that and laugh.

There are legal reasons as well. In our state, domestic partnership is the most legal union we can have and it barely covers anything. Adoption is not included. Now, in our state there is nothing to specifically exclude gays from adopting, but we wouldn't be able to apply together. We could apply separately, but neither of us would qualify on our own. So it's really not an option for us anyway. Our only choice is to make our own.

After the baby is born we will be applying for a second-parent (sometimes known as a step-parent) adoption and my girlfriend will be just as much the legal guardian of the baby as myself.

And actually, the adoption process can be just as complicated and expensive as IVF. Our best friend's family adopted a little boy and then the paternal grandmother decided she wanted custody almost a year after the adoption. And she got it. Their family was naturally devastated and I couldn't imagine going through that myself.

Monday, March 12, 2012

We got our new medication shipment Friday. It was just Lupron and some antibiotics but I got this with the package:
I bet they do!
I thought it was funny. It's not like we have much a choice. There is no specialty pharmacy in our area so we have to go out-of-state for most of the medication, just like the sperm. That probably makes it sound like we live in the backwoods, but I swear we live in a major city that you would probably expect to have a sperm bank and a specialty pharmacy!

Today I saw my regular endocrinologist. I've had thyroid issues since I was in my teens. No real reason for it. Usually it's inherited, but there is nobody in my family that we know of that has thyroid issues. No big surprise though, considering weird things tend to happen to me. My thyroid blew up when I was about 15 and became very hyperactive. We couldn't control it with medication so I had radiation treatment and it has been hypoactive ever since. I'll have to take medication for it for the rest of my life.

Thyroid issues can cause major problems when trying to conceive. Your thyroid controls a lot of hormonal balances and other stuff so you really need to have it under control. When we were doing IUI mine was not under control 100%, but I was impatient and I thought we could get it under control during the process and it would be fine. There's no way to know if the three failed attempts were because of this, or something with chromosomes since we have that information now, or something else. But before I would even consider IVF I got it under control and the levels were stable for months before we started.

Actually, although I've had this problem for years I've only seen this endocrinologist for about a year. I had to switch a couple of times before because of changes in insurance and the last one I ended his services before our first IUI attempt. He told me that if I got pregnant I would have a miscarriage. And he said it that bluntly too. When I left I never went back and when I told my fertility doctor she said it was bullshit so I found a new endocrinologist. And I really like her, except her office is so far away! That's my own fault though because when I was mapquesting the office, I forgot to put in "west" with the street name so it looked like it was right down the street from where I live when in fact it's about half an hour away. It's actually right across the street from the fertility doctor. Well, they're both worth the drive.

Today the doctor said that although I'm still within the normal range, she wants to bring my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) down a little to make more ideal conditions for conception. It's better to be a little hyperactive than hyopactive. If the transfer in April works, I'll have to see her immediately and I'll have to see her every six weeks for medication adjustments. If not, I'll see her in May instead.

Since the next IVF news won't be until the end of this month, I have some posts planned with questions we get asked a lot and misconceptions that I thought were interesting. I'll try to put a couple up each week, starting this weekend. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Well, this blows.

I finally got in contact with our coordinator for the next transfer attempt. Seems the timeline is a little longer than I expected.

Yesterday I started birth control again. I'll take it for 3 weeks and then I see the doctor again on the 30th for another pre-Lupron scan. That's right. Lupron again. The Lupron is to prevent ovulation, but I don't see why that should matter since we're not retrieving any more eggs? I guess it's all for hormonal reasons and the doctor obviously knows more about this than I do. I'm just frustrated because I am very much a product of the Internet generation and I want things to happen immediately. Curse my super-effective ovaries and their 40 eggs that caused this delay.

These are not cute at all :(
After that I'll be on the Lupron again, but at a lower dose. Doesn't matter. That shot hurts like a bitch. And I think it is the one that gave me a funny taste in my mouth. But on the plus side, it's one of the few that my insurance actually pays for. Oh, and I had a skin reaction to all the cute band-aids we bought. My skin darkened in the shape of band-aids all over my stomach and legs. I don't have a latex allergy so I think it was to the adhesive. We've got to try and find hypo-allergenic band-aids before we do that again. So now my students will have cute band-aids.

I'm not sure how long we will have to do the Lupron but they gave me an estimate of April 23 for the transfer so we're looking at a January 2013 baby now. I'm glad it's not so close to Christmas, but on the same hand, I'm really bummed about the delay.

I know this sounds like I'm just bitching, and I am a bit. I guess the doctor doesn't get 70% success rates by being hasty, so I've got to learn to be patient.

This Friday is the end of the second grading period so I get to do report cards this weekend. So my next update won't be until next week. Until then, I leave you with this advice. If you have a Taco Bell in your area, you must get the new Doritos taco. And you must get the taco supreme with the sour cream and tomatoes. You will thank me later.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Day 1 (again) - March 4

Well, here we go again, I guess. Period started very suddenly on Sunday. It's about a week early by my estimation, but that's probably because of all of the medication. I'm glad because this means we can get started sooner. I called the doctor this morning but they haven't gotten back to me so I don't know when I'll be going in again. I assumed it would be tomorrow since that's day 3, but I don't have any injections to start so they might not need me on day 3. I'm not sure what the timeline for a frozen transfer is. I imagine I'll be going in sometime this week, but until then, I had already this filler post typed so I figure, why waste it? Enjoy.

Assisted Reproduction Technology Misconceptions:
A Critical Review of The Golden Girls

Sounds like a topic for a dissertation. Hell, maybe if that was what my dissertation was, I might have actually finished. Anyway, I fucking love The Golden Girls. I've loved it since I was a kid and between syndication on Lifetime and Hallmark channel, I must have seen every episode at least 20 times. I'm now waiting for Netflix to put it on instant streaming.

In season 5, Blanche's daughter comes for a visit and tells her mother she is planning to get impregnated by artificial insemination. The episode then depicted her path to motherhood.

Since we have been doing all this, this episode has really taken on new meaning for me. I find myself watching it with a different eye. It's still a great episode, but there are some problems with the information presented. I know, it's an entertainment show not an informative one. But I can't help but think that things like this are the reason why misconceptions persist. So I decided to evaluate the episode.

You can watch here. I tried to embed a YouTube video, but all videos with this episode have been removed. So I had to download it myself through...other means...and upload it directly to Blogger. Since this isn't exactly a high traffic blog, I figure it'll be safe for a while. I guess we'll find out.

"The Accurate Conception"
Season 5, Episode 3
Original air date: 10/14/1989
video

So, Rebecca lives in Atlanta but is visiting Blanche and the girls in Miami. And she announces that next Monday she is getting impregnated. Now, I'm working on the assumption that Rebecca is doing IUI and not IVF. I'm also assuming, even though the episode doesn't address it, that she has already done all the fertility testing and has been tracking her cycle for at least 2 months, so she knows she will be ovulating next Monday. It's a stretch, but OK, fine.

Rebecca says she is going to a sperm bank to get artificially inseminated. But she would have to go to a fertility clinic. A sperm bank doesn't do the insemination, at least according to what I found when I researched. They just provide the swimmers.

Now, the girls' reactions when Blanche tells them about it is hilarious and totally expected for 1989. Lol.

Blanche also is surprised that you have to buy sperm. She's probably be even more surprised to know how much it costs, too.

In the next scene, Rebecca comes in and announces that she has found a sperm bank nearby. She wants Blanche to go and see what kind of place it is. They all decide to go check it out. We had to go out-of-state for our sperm so we've never actually been to one. I don't know if they allow people to just drop in like that, especially if you have no intention of actually buying something.

In the next scene they arrive at the sperm bank. Oddly enough, the elevator opens right into the lobby.

When they meet with the doctor the scene cuts to the end of their conversation so we don't know what he told them the procedure was going to be. Blanche makes a classic comment about having a test tube baby. But the embryos are grown in a petri dish, not a test tube. They only use a tube when the eggs are extracted for IVF. And when we did IUI, we never once saw a single test tube.

In the final scene Blanche and her daughter make up and Blanche accepts what Rebecca is going to do. I assume she is going back to Atlanta and to her own sperm bank there. In later episodes it is revealed that she actually becomes pregnant and there is no mention that it took multiple attempts, so I guess we have to assume it worked the first time. Lucky her.

Things don't go this smoothly now in 2012 so I've got to figure in 1989 things didn't work out like this either. But hey, it's the Golden Girls.