Breast Scare and Grandma

One of my grandmothers is going to turn 97 or 98.  (Age and year of birth of that generation in the Chinese culture is often vague.)  I haven’t seen her since our trip to Asia in April 2014.  It is tough to live so far away from the majority of my family.  Grandma had been in very good health until this summer when she fainted and was hospitalized.  Physically she is fine.  However, her mind might have been a little chaotic.  As someone who used to have the best memory (remembering everyone’s birthday), she exhibited some symptoms of mental confusion and at one point didn’t even recognize my cousin who lives with her.  She no longer takes the shuttle from her home to the market for her breakfast, which was her routine for 20 years.  Her mind has improved since the summer, but it feels that a visit with her overseas is necessary at a time when she is still relatively lucid and healthy and we can still spend quality time together.  I do not want to go when it is too late.  Since we have been trying to sort out the whole donor egg cycle and surrogacy, there has not been a good time to go.  The timing seems good now that we are down to the wire in terms of preparation for our gestational carrier’s transfer.  The legal paperwork will hopefully be completed by the second week of October and we are hopeful to do the transfer the first week of November.   Grandma’s birthday this year is October 22 (it changes yearly according to the lunar calendar).  My brother is set to fly over for a visit around that time.  It would be good for me to go around the last two weeks of October just in time for a transfer in the first week of November.  I was doing my search of reasonable airfare and then…

I found a little lump on my right breast last weekend randomly while watching TV.

It felt small and it moved around a little, but it was definitely something new.  I freaked out a little but decided to make an appointment with my primary care doctor online.  I scored an appointment for Monday afternoon.  I am not going to lie, but my mind was going fast and I was worried.  You know how it is.  Our worries about the future cloud our judgment as our mind jumps to conclusion.  The worst case scenarios flashed in my head.  Fortunately, prayers for peace and the determination to stay away from Goog.le search had kept me sane.

My doctor reviewed my mammogram results prior to coming in the exam room.  My one and only mammogram two years ago was normal but did indicate that my breast tissues were dense and fibrous.  Upon palpation, my doctor couldn’t even find the little lump at first until I pointed it out to her.  She said it felt more fluid-filled, like a cyst.  Just to be sure, she also examined my left breast and found a bigger and denser lump on the top left part of it.  She said that since this one felt more solid, it’d be best for me to do a scan.  She put in an order for a mammogram and told me to go to radiology to make an appointment.

At radiology, I was told that I could be seen immediately.  However, the staff members asked me a question that was taped on the counter: Do you have new masses or lumps on your breast?  I answered yes.  Because of this yes, I was told I had to go to the “Breast Health Services” downstairs.  Over there, I was told that I had to be scheduled to see a doctor there first.  The first opening is this coming Monday late morning.  So that means that I have had to wait a whole week to see this doctor before I can get any scans.

During this week of waiting, I still freak out at times, thinking about the possibility of me being sick and us bringing a baby into this world and the baby not having a mom.  The mind can go to the worst place fast.  But I am mostly at peace with this and am just waiting for the appointment.  I pray that I surrender everything to God as He is the one who is in control.  It could be psychological, but ever since these two lumps were found, I could seriously feel my breasts throbbing with soreness at times.  Speaking with others helps.  Both of the coworkers that I spoke with have had the same happen to them.  Both were checked out and were fine.  It’s helpful to know that the results could be normal.  This has also freaked Bob out.  The first night was the hardest as he was worried and wondered why we had to deal with one thing after another.  He has since then calmed down and has also just been waiting patiently for the appointment next week.

Because of this new development, I have been hesitant with the trip to Asia.  What if these lumps are more serious than I would like?  What if treatment is needed?  What if what if what if.  I have delayed looking into plane tickets but then I am also mindful that I would like to be around for all the initial scans that Annie, our gestational carrier, would have if/when we get pregnant.  It will be even harder to schedule a time to go see my grandmother in the near future once a pregnancy is achieved if I want to be as present for the pregnancy as possible.  So I have decided to purchase my plane tickets this weekend regardless of the outcome of the exam on Monday.

It is sometimes difficult, but I am determined to focus on the good things: seeing my family, spending time with my grandma, and being full of anticipation for our upcoming transfer.  I pray that the exam on Monday yields good results so that my mind can rest and truly enjoy the good things that life has to offer.

MicroblogMondays: Cards

Microblog_Mondays

This past week I received two cards unexpectedly.  I was touched tremendously by both of them.

I came home from work on Monday and was surprised by a card in the mail from my coworker.  She is one of the only two coworkers that know the details of my journey.  I told her briefly about our donor’s cocaine debacle last week, and she wrote the following in a card and dropped it in the mail:

“Isabelle and Bob,

I awakened on Friday with you two on my mind and felt the need to write – so… sharing my thoughts…

Living for the emergence of life… the fruition of an incredible journey that had its origins in two separate countries and cultures brought together in a third through a 21st century technology… the reaching out over space and time of two kindred spirits… bound together by a mutual love, joy, faith, bond… to a shared path, with many junctures, potential pitfalls, ruts, bumps, rocky steep climbs, protruding roots, boulders and stones to navigate through and across and on which many others would have stumbled.  Two walking hand in hand, side by side toward their shared, firm, mutual destination.  With great admiration for the inner strength, shared support, and unwavering belief in the end result.  What a blessing to have found each other.  What a blessing to those who have had a glimpse of or shared in your journey.

With constant support and love,

[Coworker’s name]”

Such beautiful words that sum up our journey in such a poetic way.  I was utterly touched.

And then on the weekend, I had the honor to meet my dear friend behind Dreaming of Diapers.  You know it when someone gets you.  And that was the feeling I got the whole two hours we were chatting over lunch.  When we said our good-byes, she handed me a card.  The cover of the card said, “Hope is the belief in things unseen”.  On the inside, she wrote that she was happy to be finally meeting me, and that she was excited for me and my 4 embabies.  She said she cannot wait to hear I am expecting soon, that she just knows it in her heart that this is my time.  What a thoughtful gesture and such great encouragement that my dear friend is hoping with me that these embryos will help fulfill my dream of being a mother with live children.

Being loved, thought of, and understood is such a great feeling.  Thank you friends.

Great News!!!

I love it when good news comes at an unexpected time.

I was supposed to go see Dr. E tomorrow for our PGS results.  She emailed me this afternoon as soon as she got the news!

The subject line said “Normals!!” so I knew that we have some normal embryos.  However, she didn’t specify how many normal embryos we have.  She wasn’t sending me the report because gender of the embryos was listed there, and I don’t want to know the gender at all.  She said in the email that right now would be a good time to connect since we had the report then.  She asked if I would like to meet in person or talk on the phone.

Of course I wanted to talk on the phone.  But the most important piece of information that was missing was the number of normal embryos.

Her response: 4

We have four normal embryos!!!!!!

Praise the Lord for answering our prayers!  I have been praying for the perfect number of normal embryos that God has already planned for us.  And here is our perfect number!

I am so relieved and incredibly grateful.  I think our chances of having a baby are great!

Yesterday I went to see my therapist and told her about my fear of not having any normal embryos.  It helped to speak with her as she gave me strategies to get away from my negative thoughts.

Later this evening Dr. E and I spoke on the phone.  We were both so happy to have these embryos.

I came to find out that embryos 1, 2, 4, and 5 are normal.  They are Max, Noelle, Penny, and Quentin.  I don’t have their grades at the time of freeze.  Number 1 and 2 were the day five embryos that were 3AB and 3BB.  Number 4 and 5 were the day 6 embryos that were 5AB and 5BB.

We will know the mitoscore in the next few days.  This score tells about the implantation potential of each embryo.  Dr. E will make recommendations of which embryo and the number of embryos to transfer.  Grade A and B are good.  Dr. E checked and said that our donor’s first cycle with her had 6 normal embryos and all 6 had a mitoscore that was graded A.  The second cycle with Dr. E, 4 out of 6 were A and 2 out of 6 were B.  According to her, the mitoscore is all dependent on the egg quality and not sperm.  So given the previous results, she said that it’s very likely that we’ll have good mitoscore for our embryos.

She said that just looking at the embryos now, she would probably recommend transferring the 3AB.  She asked her assistant to send me the embryology report at freeze time so I will know what the final grades of the embryos were before freeze.  She doesn’t remember exactly but she said that she didn’t remember seeing a downgrade on the embryos.

I asked Dr. E if the sperm played a part in the number of normal blastocysts that we have.  She said that it’s not clear.  The donor did have two perfect cycles but our number is not out of the ordinary.  Maybe this is the new normal for this particular donor.

This is such great news!  I can breathe more easily.  And I don’t have to drive an hour to see Dr. E tomorrow.🙂

If this is in God’s will, we should be able to have a baby in our arms next summer!

MicroblogMondays: Inching Closer to Our Baby

Microblog_Mondays

I have to admit that this process of getting to our baby is going pretty well.  And I am not afraid of jinxing it.

We have six blastocysts.  The most that we have ever had in our journey to our baby.  I am not going to lie about it.  I still have a certain degree of worry/fear/anxiety of not having ANY normal embryos to transfer.  Whenever I have this fear, I try to remember what my dear friend A. told me about her therapist’s advice on probable vs. possible: to acknowledge that the thing you fear is highly improbable.  So I am trying my best to trust God and believe that He has the perfect plan for us regardless of the number of normal embryos we have.  

On our gestational carrier front, things are moving along as well.  There was some hiccups with Annie, our gestational carrier’s blood work results.  Her TSH is within normal range for a regular person but not for the IVF/TTC world.  After a retest to confirm the higher than desired value, Dr. E has prescribed Synthr.oid to her.  Her levels should go down quickly but Dr. E didn’t pass her medical screen until the day before our donor’s retrieval.  It was so great to get the green light to move forward because without her passing her medical exams we wouldn’t be able to move forward to the next steps.

Annie finished her psychological evaluation last Tuesday.  She told me that there were a few difficult questions as well as an online assessment of her personality on which she had to answer 344 questions.  She got them all done in a day. What a trooper!  The next day Dr. E, who received the results from the examiner directly, notified us that Annie passed her psychological evaluation with great results!  That was the same day we made those day 5 blastocysts.   Both were so exciting to hear.  Bob and I had a phone counseling session with the same LFMT who asked a bunch of questions about the issues surrounding surrogacy.  That phone call was only 23 minutes long.  I joked that it was probably the easiest $100 she had ever made because we had an answer for every issue that she asked about as we had thought about each one already.  Rather than a counseling session, it was more like a question and answer session.  She asked the questions.  We answered them.  But the good news is, it was done and we could move forward.

Drafting the legal paperwork is our next step.  We haven’t received the details from the attorney yet so we don’t know what is involved.  All I know is that it takes three to six weeks to finish the contract.  And without the contract signed, we cannot start preparing Annie’s lining for a transfer.  So getting the contract done as soon as possible is our immediate goal.  Looking at the calendar, if we can get the contract done at a fast rate, I am hopeful that a transfer can be scheduled for the 3rd or 4th week of October.  If that truly happens and a pregnancy is achieved, our due date would be around my birthday next year in July.

In five days, we’ll find out the fate of our blastocysts.  We are full of anticipation, hope, and joy as we enter the next phase of our quest.

Final Tally of Blastocysts

I felt tremendous peace last night and this morning.  I knew that we were covered in prayers.  We prayed last night before bed and this morning when Bob woke up at 5:30am for his run.  We prayed for the embryos to grow well, and prayed for God’s perfect number of embryos.  The nervousness that I felt was almost all gone.  If it is in God’s plan for us to have just those three embryos, I choose to be grateful and joyful about it.  If His plan is for us to have more, He will provide.  This peace enabled me to sleep through the night.  God is amazing and prayers are amazing.

Usually Dr. E would write me between 10am and 12pm.  I was in and out of my office the whole morning.  Every hour I came back to check my email, there would be nothing.  After my last client in the morning, I came back to my desk at noon and gmail still had no new message.  Suddenly Dr. E’s email popped up.  The title said, “Today’s report :)”.  I like anything that Dr. E wrote with a smiley face.  She said, “Another 3 beauties today, maybe 4!  Total 6-7 beautiful blasts.  Exciting!!”

What a relief!  The attached fertilization report showed that on day 6 (today) at 6:21am, there were one 5AB and two 5BBs.  There were also four 3CCs and one 2BB-.  I don’t quite know what that minus means.  It seemed to me like the lab would check on the lesser grade blastocysts to see if they would grow more.

Later this afternoon, Dr. E’s email confirmed that we have a total of three embryos biopsied and frozen today.  That brings the tally to a total of six blastocysts.  She said this about the rest of the embryos: “The others were not viable i.e. no chance for pregnancy.  The cells stopped growing and dividing when they checked again this afternoon.”

Praise the Lord that we have three additional ones!

The PGS testing results will be available in a week.  I emailed Dr. E to tell her that I would prefer not to know the gender of the embryos.  She said that she doesn’t tell the gender, that’s why she would like to meet with patients to go over the results if that’s possible.  She is so nice.  Her assistant said that the clinic typically doesn’t see patients on Friday afternoon, but Dr. E was happy to make an exception for me.  So next Friday September 16 in the afternoon we’ll find out how many of our embryos are normal.

I know that we don’t have as many blastocysts as our donor’s previous cycles, but I am super grateful for us to have these six to work with.  I am hopeful that some of these are normal and one or two of them will become our future child(ren).

We have Penny, Quentin, and Ruby joining us.  A total of six.  This is such a milestone that is worth celebrating!

P.s. I vetoed Bob’s suggestion of naming our “P” embryo “Pringles”.

Max, Noelle, and Owen

Just a quick update.

As of today, we have three full blastocysts that have joined our embryo family: Max, Noelle, and Owen.

They were 3AB, 3BB, and 2AB. They were biopsied this afternoon and were frozen.

The rest of the embryos are as follows:

1BB, 1BC, 1BB-, two early blastocysts, and four morulae.

Dr. E asked her assistant to email us the fertilization report in the morning as she was still in procedure.

I didn’t know what to make of the grades when I read the email.  I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t have more full blastocysts.  I was hoping for at least 4 or 5 of them so I’d feel better.

Dr. E called me at 12:30pm.  She sounded happy, saying that we had some beautiful embryos this morning.

This is what I gathered.  She said that this is a fluid process.  The fertilization report is just a snapshot of the embryos at 6:49am.  The three expanded blastocysts (3AB, 3BB, 2AB) would most likely be biopsied and frozen (which they were) in the afternoon.  The three 1s (1BB, 1BC, 1BB-) are not expanded blastocysts yet so Dr. E said that they can’t be biopsied yet.  They need to grow into full blastocysts before they can be biopsied.  And plus, she said that the grading can change as the blastocysts continue to grow.  She said that our cycle at this stage (day 5) looks quite similar to our donor’s last two cycles.  She also said that the morulae could grow into blastocysts as well.  So now we have a total 9 more embryos that the lab is watching overnight.  We’ll have a report on them tomorrow.  I asked if the sperm quality affects the embryo quality.  She said for sure.  But she thinks that it’s too early to say how many embryos we will have tomorrow, but she believes that we will have some.  So it’s a waiting game again.  I told Dr. E my fear.  She said, of course our mind often goes to the worst case scenario.  But today we have three beautiful day 5 blastocysts.

How do I feel?  On one hand, I feel very grateful as this is the farthest we have come.  We have never had any day 5 embryos that are full blastocysts with the grade A in it.  And we still have a chance at more blastocysts tomorrow.  On the other hand, I just have this fear that none of the blastocysts are normal or that we don’t have anymore blastocysts to freeze.

My sister-in-law sent me this text tonight:

“Philippians 4:6-7. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition and thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus.

Father God, We give thanks for these embryos, for the miracle of creation– knowing Lord that you are the creator -the almighty God.

God we pray that your hand and will be on these embryos, on these procedures, on these doctors, on Isabelle and Bob and all the spaces and breaths in between.

I ask that your presence be known, and that your encompassing peace would rest on them.  You are good and we praise you.  Amen.”

I will try my best to hold onto God’s goodness and His presence, and to also celebrate the fact that Max, Noelle, and Owen have joined us.

And I continue to pray for God’s perfect number of embryos for us.

Day Three Report: Twelve 8-cell Grade 1 Embryos

Yesterday was Labor Day.  Both Bob and I were home.  Yesterday was also the day to find out how our 17 fertilized eggs were faring.

I am not going to lie.  I was super nervous.  I had a reason.  At our last donor egg cycle with our frozen egg, all 10 eggs thawed and fertilized well.  The day three report was horrible as there was no grade one embryos.  Everything was grade two to grade four, from 4-cell to 10-cell.  We ended up having only one early blastocyst that we transferred and one day six blastocyst that was later transferred.  They resulted in one chemical pregnancy.  It was hardly a good cycle.

Yesterday I had this fear that all of the embryos somehow had died.  It was super irrational, I know, but I couldn’t help having these thoughts.  We have been traumatized for so long, it was hard for me to keep these thoughts out of my head.

I had so much nervous energy that I started cleaning the floor, tidying up things, and folding laundry.  Yup.  I clean when I am angry or nervous.

Bob wasn’t too much better.  He was super distracted while working on an assignment.  I checked my email every three seconds.

Dr. E’s email came after 11am.  Once I saw her subject line, I knew we had good news.

She wrote on the subject line: Gorgeous!!!

This is her email:

“Good morning!

We have GORGEOUS embryos this morning!

We have 12 embryos that are 8-9 cells and grade 1

1 = 7 cell grade 1

1 = 6 cell grade 1

1 = 8 cell grade 2

1 = 6 cell grade 3

1 = 4 cell grade 3

Next report will be on Wednesday

I expect approximately 8 blastocysts or more on day 5 = Wednesday

More news to come!

:)”

Wow!!!  Out of all of my own egg cycles and that one DE cycle, we have NEVER had ANY 8-cell grade 1 embryos.  It is out of this world to have 12 of them!  Looks like all 17 embryos are still dividing, with the 12 8-9 cell grade 1 ones that are leading the pack.

Praise the Lord for answering our prayers!

I was grinning from ear to ear.  My shoulders were finally down.  It was the best news ever!

I know that we still have a way to go.  First we need to have some blastocysts tomorrow.  Then we’ll have to test them to see which ones have normal chromosomes.  But we are definitely heading to the right direction.

My dear friend Jane is right.  Maybe we will need to come up with a bunch of embryo names this time.