MicroblogMondays: Our Gestational Carrier’s Visit

Microblog_Mondays

Because we went on vacation immediately after our gestational carrier’s visit, I haven’t had the time to write about it until now.

We hired a house cleaning crew to clean the house for the first time ever on the day Annie arrived.  The intention wasn’t to clean the house for Annie per se, but I just didn’t want to clean the whole house myself after my in-laws left.  I didn’t want to deal with three bathrooms and three bedrooms plus the kitchen, dining room, and living room all at the same time.  Since I was off from work, I figured I could be there for the cleaners.  We were so pleased that Annie could stay overnight in our very clean house comfortably.

Annie was supposed to arrive at around 10:45pm.  Her first flight was on time.  On her second leg, her plane was already pulled out of the gate, but was immediately returned to the gate due to a sensor malfunction.  That problem was quickly fixed but she was still stuck waiting for a new pilot to take over.  Her flight was delayed for about 1.5 hours.  By the time we picked her up it was almost 1am.  We all went to bed at about 1:15am.  My joke was that how am I going to take care of a baby if I can’t even stay up late past midnight right now?  I felt really bad for booking an evening flight for her which made it even later for her with the delay, but Annie was a good sport.  She was totally calm about the situation.  We hugged each other and laughed at the curbside of the terminal as it was so nice to see the real person rather than a photograph.  It was great to meet her.  She was even more beautiful in person than in photographs.

The next day, our appointment with Dr. E wasn’t until 1:15pm.  Bob went to work while Annie and I drove to the beach.  Where she lives she doesn’t get to see the ocean so it was definitely a treat.  However, the weather in San Francisco was about 35 degrees cooler than where she lives, so a jacket was a must.  The ocean water was gray.  Even then, she was so happy to be there and exclaimed at the vastness of it.  We took a few selfies to document her visit at the ocean.  We also went to Land’s End, which is a park with a trail on the northwest corner of the city.  Annie mentioned to me that the only place her kids wanted her to visit was Golden Gate Bridge when she told them about coming to San Francisco.  Because of that, I drove her to the bridge for a few photos right before we drove to Dr. E’s.  It was a unique experience for her and for the kids to see since half of the bridge looked like it was eaten up by the fog.

We arrived at Dr. E’s and found ourselves bathing in the hot sun.  It was about 90 outside, 30 degrees warmer than in the city.  Dr. E was so great.  Although it was lunch time, she came out to greet us prior to the appointment time.  She gave me a hug and shook Annie’s hand.  I met with the finance person, got the consent forms, and paid for the donor egg cycle that will start actually today!  (Today, Monday, is our donor’s baseline appointment.)  Dr. E came out again to invite Annie to her office.  To my pleasant surprise, I was also invited to join.

In the office, Dr. E asked Annie questions about her past pregnancies, her weight and height, and a few other things about her health.  We had a discussion of the number of embryos to transfer.  Bob and I have been struggling with this decision.  This will be a whole other post.  But Dr. E said she always recommends one embryo especially with a donor who has performed superbly in the past.  The previous three families that transferred with one embryo from our donor’s eggs all got pregnant with a singleton the first try.  Dr. E said that unless we really really really want twins, she’d recommend one embryo as our donor will most likely give us twins if we transfer two.  Dr. E said that in her experience, taking care of twins takes a lot out of mothers who are over 40 in terms of physical strength.  She wants me to be able to enjoy first-time motherhood as much as possible.  So this decision is still up in the air as Bob and I really don’t know if we’d have the money to try with a gestational carrier again for number two.

I was even more surprised when Dr. E invited me to be in the room for Annie’s pelvic scan and her saline sonogram.  When Annie was in the bathroom giving a urine sample, Dr. E and I were in the exam room chatting.  She commented on how lucky we are to have Annie as our gestational carrier.  Annie just looked so chill and easygoing.  I totally agree with her.

It was such a strange feeling to be sitting in a chair where Bob would usually sit when I was half undressed on the table.  But on that day, I was a bystander, fully dressed, watching from the sideline.  Dr. E was great though.  She involved me in every aspect of this.  She explained to Annie the process of these scans.  During the pelvic scan, she called me back to take a look at the screen.  She commented on how beautiful Annie’s uterus looked.  No fibroid.  No polyp.  Great shape and size.  Nice pattern.  Dr. E then began her saline sonogram.  It also acted as a mock transfer.  She pushed the catheter in easily and again commented on how perfect Annie’s uterus was as it appeared on the screen.  She invited me to come take a look.  Since the catheter went in so easily, Dr. E said that the transfer will be very straight forward.  Annie passed this part of the screening with flying colors!  Dr. E herself drew five tubes of blood from Annie.  This concluded our visit with her.  At press time, we are still waiting for the blood work results so we don’t know if Annie is all cleared medically yet.

Another bonus is that we were only charged for the medical clearance.  Dr. E’s office didn’t charge us for the saline sonogram which amounted to a saving of over $400.  What a nice surprise.:)

Annie and I walked around a town close to the airport for a couple of hours before I dropped her off at the airport for her flight home.  We basically spent all day together.  I am happy to report that we get along very well.  She is super easygoing.  We had plenty of opportunity to chat and get to know each other.  We chatted about anything and everything.  Our topics covered our lives, church, homeschooling, my profession, my family, her family, her husband’s family, her fertility history, and our fertility history.  The conversations were natural.  The occasional silence in the car was not at all uncomfortable.  Annie and I connected on a personal level.  I am confident to say that we will continue to bond and develop a friendship and a good relationship.

Despite the extra cost of flying Annie to town, this visit turned out to be perfect.  An in-person meeting prior to the transfer makes it so much more real that the person on the screen, on texts, or in email has come alive.  Both Bob and I are so comfortable with Annie that we just want everything to fall into places so she will be the one to help us realize our long-time dream of becoming parents.  We are filled with gratitude that God has led us to her.  Although the anxiety is still there, our hope is that our miracle may join us in a year.

Our hope is alive.  And we are grateful.

MicroblogMondays: We Have a Gestational Carrier! (Part II)

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(To read how we found our gestational carrier, read Part I.)

We have a gestational carrier.  And she is wonderful.

After we notified Winnie, the agency owner, of our decision of working with Annie, our gestational carrier, we had to wait until Winnie received the retainer fees before we could communicate freely with Annie.  It took another five days before we were given Annie’s contact information.

Winnie sent an official introductory email to me, Bob, and Annie.  Her advise was for us as the intended parents to reach out and write the first email.  So I did.  Annie and I started texting each other that same day.  At that point we had only talked on the phone and saw each other’s photos.  We hadn’t done a video conferencing yet.  So that very night Bob and I chatted with her and her husband on Skype.

I was a tiny bit nervous before the chat as I was wondering if we would all get along well.  It turns out I had nothing to worry about!  Annie and her husband Kenneth were very nice and cool.  We were supposed to just chat for a few minutes since it was getting late at night.  However, the video call lasted 45 minutes.  We shared about our backgrounds, their backgrounds, how they met, his work, her life, and our lives here.  Being able to watch their faces while they talked was so much better than just listening to her voice on the phone.  I even told them about dreaming big and thinking far ahead.  If everything turns out to be the way we want, we would be doing a transfer some time in September or October.  The anatomy scan would be in January or February.  Of course Bob and I would want to fly over there for this big event.  I expressed how I was already nervous about driving in snow since where Annie and Kenneth live has four seasons unlike the Bay Area.  Annie and Kenneth put me at ease.  She told me not to worry about it since they’d come and pick us up from the airport so there would not be a need for us to drive in the snow.  What a relief!  Anyways, we enjoyed talking to them a lot and learned the next day that the feeling was mutual on their part.  Their two younger children even showed their faces on video that night while they were supposed to be asleep already.

One thing I love about this agency is that the owner is really on top of things.  One service she includes in her agency fees is a home assessment of the gestational carrier’s home to ensure that the baby will be grown in a safe, comfortable environment. Annie’s home passed the inspection with flying colors!  Winnie said that Annie has a lovely home that is well decorated and very tidy, with a fantastic homeschool room set up for her children.  Such a relief to know that.

The next thing to schedule was the medical screening.  Annie has to get a saline sonogram to check on her uterus and some blood work done.  Many clinics require an in-person visit for gestational carriers, but Dr. E somehow does not require it.  She reviews the GC’s medical history and has a Skype video call with her, but she does not require the saline sonogram or the lab work to be done here in California with her.  I chatted with Miranda, the mother with twins via surrogacy who used the same agency.  I mentioned about her in the last post.  She told me that her GC did everything locally using the GC’s own insurance.  In her honest opinion, if Dr. E said things could be done locally, then why not save some money?

I worked very hard on having Annie be seen at the same local clinic that Miranda’s GC went to.  After waiting for a few days for Dr. E’s physician’s assistant to finish Annie’s orders, I called that particular local clinic to ask about insurance and the cost for the saline sonogram.  Somehow the person who answered the phone didn’t know what I was talking about.  She said that they didn’t do saline sonogram there. She gave me the name of a local imaging center that might do the scan.  The phone number I got through internet search was disconnected for that place.  So I had to call back the clinic and asked if the imaging center had closed or changed its name.  Finally, she confirmed that she gave me the old name.   So I searched for it under the new name, tracked down the phone number and called, and got the answer that the imaging center too did not do saline sonogram.  At that point, I was very confused and frustrated.

Miranda confirmed with her GC that she did go to that same local clinic for saline sonogram during the screening phase.  So it was impossible for me to be told that the clinic didn’t do saline sonograms, unless it no longer offers the service.  Dr. E promised me that her PA would follow up the next day.  Annie and I communicated and she understood my high stress level trying to get her to be seen somewhere locally.  My stress level also came from watching the airfare go up each day as we navigated the need to fly her out here for medical screening.  I knew that I had to make a decision quickly as Bob and I are going to go on vacation from August 17 to 20.  Airfare at that point for the second week of August was too high.  And I didn’t want to wait until the 4th week of August because I would like to get the legal paperwork started ASAP.  Without passing the medical screening, we won’t be able to start the legal contract.  The best day to fly her in would be August 16th, the day before our vacation.

My mind was fixated on saving money on the plane tickets and on the scan. (We can use her insurance for a local scan but not with Dr. E as Dr. E’s clinic has stopped taking insurance a couple of years ago.)  Bob came home that night seeing how stressed out I was and told me that it wasn’t worth it to be so stressed for a little bit of money.  He was very sweet.  He has given me free rein of the money that we need to spend so he told me to just do what feels right.  And he will buy me massages for all the stress that I was experiencing.  Of course I wanted to do right by our savings, but maybe he was right, that it really wasn’t worth it for me to have to sort out that local scan when I could just schedule the time with Dr. E.

The next day was when I found out that Annie is indeed a great person and a great gestational carrier.  She took it upon herself to call the local clinic up.  She found out that not only does the clinic do saline sonograms but it also accepts her insurance.  She explained the situation and the clinic’s person had to find out if she has to become an established patient before she could be seen there.  Annie sent me a text letting me know what she found out and I truly appreciate her effort.  She saw how stressed I was and decided to help.  So after some investigation on Dr. E’s part, it turned out that Miranda’s GC was seen at that local clinic for a saline sonogram because she was already an established OB patient there.  Since Annie had home births with the help of her midwife, she isn’t an established OB patient at this clinic.  She can be seen in the future for a saline sonogram but just not prior to her becoming a patient there.  In order to become a patient there, she’ll need to see a doctor first.  That particular doctor won’t be able to seen her until August 22.  And who knows how long it’d take after that to schedule a saline sonogram.  I scheduled an OB appointment for Annie there on August 22 as I knew that she’d want to become a patient there when she gets pregnant with our baby.  Plus we can also send her there for lining check prior to transfer.

Since Annie lives in a smaller town in an area that doesn’t have many IVF clinics, there aren’t too many other choices for her saline sonogram.  I called another clinic in the area but she too has to become an established patient there before she can be seen.  I really didn’t want to wait a few weeks for that to happen.  So I decided to just fly her in to see Dr. E.  I know that we’d have to pay more to get things done, but the advantage is that Dr. E has first hand information of the condition of her uterus so it beats reading a report from another clinic.  I asked Annie if she preferred to arrive in the Bay Area early in the morning on August 16th or to arrive the night before and spend a night with us.  She chose to spend a night with us!  She said that she had never spent a night away from the kids so it is going to be a nice break for her.  That very same day, I purchased plane tickets for her and scheduled an appointment for Dr. E to see her on August 16th.  So guys, she is going to arrive tonight!  It is very exciting that I get to see her face-to-face as well as to spend some time with her.  She also gets to meet Bob, which she wouldn’t be able to do had she chosen to fly in on the same day of the appointment.

Annie has to be done with her period when Dr. E performs the saline sonogram.  Annie told me that her period was going to come on August 10th and usually only lasts about 3 to 4 days.  I was a little bit worried when her period still hadn’t come on August 11th.  But, she reassured me that her cycles are usually 27 to 29 days and August 10th  was day 28.  So her period should have come and gone for the saline sonogram.  I was a little bit worried at first.  I had taken time off this week so I could take her to the appointment.  If somehow her period is in the way of the scan, then we’d have to change her plane tickets to next week and I’d have to take another day off.  But I prayed and decided to just let go of the worries.  If it is God’s will for this to be done, He will make it happen.  So I somehow had tremendous peace waiting for Annie’s period to come.  And it did on Friday.  She wrote me and said that for the first time in her life, she was happy to have started her cycle.:)  So we are all set for the appointment tomorrow!

Communication with Annie has been great so far.  We text each other at least once a day or once in two days.  I don’t hesitate to call her when I need to.  She does the same.  Although sometimes I do feel sad about not having the chance to carry my baby, I feel so thankful for ladies like Annie who make a conscious decision to carry a baby for someone else.  This is the ultimate letting go of one’s control as you have to trust another human being to do right by you and your baby.  I believe that God has a plan for us and He has led us down this path as His plan.  I pray that tomorrow will be the first successful step towards our goal of holding a healthy baby in our arms next year.

We Have a Gestational Carrier! (Part I)

Remember it took us four tries to get to our donor?  It appears to be the same for a gestational carrier.

For a donor, we had the one that belonged to U.CSF that never responded to the clinic after we expressed our desire to work with her.  There was the one that disappeared after we paid the agency fee and met with her in person.  There was the one that we failed two transfer using her frozen eggs.  And then there is the current one that we have scheduled for a retrieval on September 1st, which is coming up fast.

As for a gestational carrier, we had my blog friend whose timing didn’t work out for us and her.  And then my friend’s friend whose request for compensation was much higher than what we could afford.  The third candidate was via an out-of-state agency that we liked a lot but had a second-hand smoking issue with her husband as a smoker.  So now onto our fourth candidate.

This is with the Christian agency to which Dr. E referred us back in April this year.  Since the concept of needing a GC was so new at that time, I didn’t contact this agency until June.  I will call the owner “Winnie”.  Winnie is a two-time GC herself and knows the process of surrogacy intimately.  She came highly recommended by Dr. E. Dr.  E in fact told me that this is her favorite agency to work with.  When I asked Dr. E why this is her favorite agency, she wrote this: “Winnie is nice, easy to work with.  Fees are low and she’s low maintenance. She loves what she does. She won’t waste our time. She’s organized, efficient and knows how to get things done.”  I had a great first impression of Winnie.  On our phone call, she was warm and explained everything clearly.  She responded to all emails efficiently and quickly with complete answers.  At our first contact, she had two profiles to show me.  Both Christian ladies.  One with health insurance and one without.  Dr. E had already reviewed both profiles and liked the one with insurance.  However, at that time, the one with insurance was being reviewed by another family and might not be available by the time we got around to interview her.  So we kind of put this potential surrogate on the back burner and proceeded with the interview with the other potential surrogate with the other agency.  When the other surrogate didn’t work out, Winnie happened to have checked in with me via email.  When I learned that the potential GC who has insurance was still available, we decided to look into it more seriously.

You may ask how one may choose a gestational carrier.  From commenters on online surrogacy forum to my friends who had used a gestational carrier, to Dr. E’s advice, I gathered that the most important things to consider are the big issues:

  1. How you will be communicating before, during, and after the pregnancy
  2. How often you will be going to visit
  3. How you both feel about termination or reduction
  4. How you both feel about transferring more than one embryo
  5. How she feels about C-section if it is required by the OB
  6. How she feels about having the intended parents in the delivery room

From reviewing many different profiles and filling out a few questionnaires for intended parents, I have formed my own idea of what we are looking for in a surrogate.  We would like our surrogate to be a married woman who is at least over 25 years old with young child(ren) at home.  I am sure that younger, unmarried women could also be good surrogates but they are just not suitable for us.  A stable married life is not a guarantee but it would help calm my nerves as I feel that I don’t have to worry about potential changes in the surrogate’s life with a new boyfriend or other situations.  I also feel that I need to be able to trust my GC, so I may be able to relate to one closer to my age than one that is almost 20 years younger.

Dr. E had a patient who worked with this Christian agency and just had twins via surrogacy a few months ago.  Winnie, the agency person, shared this patient’s contact information with me as a reference as well as for any support that I may need as an intended mother.  I will call her Miranda.  Miranda and I instantly bonded.  She is currently staying at home with her four-month-old twins so you can imagine how busy her life is.  She set aside over an hour of her time chatting with me about the whole process while her husband watched the twins.  Talking to her was so reassuring.  She is a fellow follower of Christ.  She shared about the agency’s responsiveness, flexibility, and problem solving ability during unexpected situations.  I felt so much better after I spoke with her.

So back to the profiles of our potential surrogates.  Bob and I really liked the potential surrogate that Dr. E recommended, the one with health insurance coverage.  We will call her Annie.  She is in her mid-30s, has three children that she homeschools, and just sounded like a good match in general in terms of the six important things that were listed above.  The only things that made me paused in her profile was a few statements about why she wanted to become a gestational carrier.  She wrote that she and her husband had lived many years dreaming and praying for a child together but it wasn’t happening, although there was no medical reason why they couldn’t have kids.  They finally had kids together so now she wanted to help others realize this dream.  This made me a little worried.  I asked Dr. E her opinion.  She recommended getting a clarification from the agency and Annie before we proceeded with the interview.  It turned out that Annie had a baby at 16.  She met her husband after that, got married in her early 20s, and started trying for a baby after that.  “Trying” means no tracking or medical intervention.  Just sex.  So it took them quite a few years before they conceived their first child together (and her second child).  Two years later, her third child was born and she was done with baby making.  Dr. E reviewed her answer and didn’t see any issues using her.  She in fact thinks that Annie remained an excellent candidate for us.

For a few days I was stressed out about this one piece of information because I wanted this to work so badly.  At that point, we were in the process of filling out our profiles before we could interview Annie.  After struggling for a few days, I wrote Dr. E again about my concerns to which she said, “She has three healthy children.  I don’t think she has fertility issues.  I think that she wrote that down so that she can show that she has empathy for other families.  I am not concerned about her ability to get and stay pregnant or conceive based on her profile.”

Once I saw Dr. E’s response, I felt a lot better.  I have to keep in mind that Annie has never had a miscarriage before.  Every time she got pregnant, she carried her children to full term without any complications.  There was no bed rest or any other problems.  I also have to keep in mind that we are not using her husband’s sper.m or her eggs.  We are going to use a proven donor’s eggs and my husband’s sper.m that will be selected by PICSI to bypass his DNA fragmentation problems.  These are all brand new variables and vastly different from our previous failed cycles.

After we submitted our profile with our pictures, Winnie got back to us quickly letting us know that Annie and her husband reviewed it and they loved it.  They agreed to set up a time to do an interview with us.

Since I had talked with two other potential GC prior to this phone call, I felt a lot more equipped to do an effective job of asking the right questions.  So experience definitely helps.  I typed up a few pages of questions all grouped into different categories, such as questions related to the process of surrogacy, pregnancy history and future pregnancies, her general health, lifestyle, and psychological wellbeing.  I knew that the phone call would be fluid but it was good to be prepared.

Winnie, the agency owner, told us that the phone call would be about an hour.  Our three-way conference call ended up lasting exactly two hours.  Our phone call with the other potential surrogate lasted 45 minutes, so this was definitely a long phone call.  I think it was because Winnie was moderating the call, asking us to tell each other our answers to some of the questions that Winnie posed.  Bob was actively participating.  The more we spoke to Annie, the more we liked her.  She came across as someone who is very straight forward, honest, with no pretense.  She has a heart for carrying a child for someone, and she has been wanting to do it since she carried her first child at 16.  She loved all of her pregnancies.  When we discussed about how much contact we’d like to have before, during, and after the pregnancy, we both wanted the same thing, which is to have contact multiple times a week if not daily, especially during the pregnancy.  We all laughed when she said that she’d like to be able to text us if she had a good BM in the morning because she’d be carrying our child and we should know the details.  We were on the same page on all the big issues that I listed above.  When asked if she was willing to transfer more than one embryo, she told us that secretly she has wanted to carry twins and would welcome the opportunity.  Her timeline works for us.  She is not going to have any planned changes in her life in the foreseeable future.

One thing that she told me really touched me.  When she first read our profile, she was surprised by our need to use donor eggs.  She told her husband, “But I really want to carry a child for her using her own eggs!”  Her husband responded, “If you really want her to use her own eggs, imagine how much more she would want to use her own eggs.”  What a wise man.:)  It really touched me that he has such an open mind.

After we hung up, Winnie quickly called Annie to chat with her.  Then she called me.  She told me that Annie really liked us and would like to move forward with us if that was what we wanted.  I told Winnie that we really liked Annie too.  Since Bob left for work already, I would have to talk with Bob and pray about it.

For two days, we prayed constantly about this decision.  This is a huge decision, not one that we could take lightly.  Once we say yes to a GC, we would start to pay a lot of money for the retainer, for medical screening, for the psychological evaluation, and for the monthly allowance.  So we had to ask each other: is this the person that we would like to carry our child(ren) for us for 9 months?  Do we trust that she’d do what is the best for the bab(ies)?  Do we feel comfortable with her making decisions about her body while carrying our child(ren)?  Do we believe that God has picked out this person for us?  Do we feel that we could be friends with her and her husband?  Our lives will be intertwined in very intimate ways.  Are we ready to invite Annie and her husband to join us on this journey?

After lots of prayers, the answer is a resounding yes!

We have a gestational carrier!  She lives out of state so it will be quite an adventure to navigate working with a GC long distance.  But I have the confidence that we’ll all make it work.

(Stay tuned for Part II!)

MicroblogMondays: My Niece Has Turned 18

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My one and only brother is three years old than me.  He got married a couple of days shy of 25.  Two years later, my niece was born.  When she was born, I was only 24.  I totally adored this child.  She had the chubbiest cheeks and the darkest full head of hair.  I used to go to my brother’s house for dinner every week so that I could spend time with this little girl.  At about two, she really disliked me for some reason.  When I walked through the door, she would push me away and say “No!!!”.  I was so heartbroken but couldn’t do anything to change that.  This phase lasted at least a few months.  The funny thing is whenever I mention about it now she would apologize to me for her unfriendliness.  I have watched my niece grow up in front of my eyes.  Through our day-to-day contact and being there for every graduation, dance recital, and birthday party, I am in awe of the young woman she has become.  She is the first born grandchild in our family.  I have always wanted a child like her.  She is a great student at school.  She is gifted in arts and music.  You should all see the jewelry, drawings, and paintings that she has made.  She built a lamp and nightstand from scratch for her class projects.  She is also an amazing friend.  She loves life, loves Jesus, gets along well with her one and only sibling, is compassionate towards others, and desires to serve and help many.  Her smiles are contagious.  She was there with me at the altar as my junior bridesmaid on one of the most important days of my life.  My beautiful niece’s 18th birthday is a bittersweet event for me.  I am proud of the person she has become, but I am also sad about something that may sound silly.  My niece is an amazing (and responsible) babysitter.  I have all along been wishing to “exploit” her to babysit for us for free, at least in time before she starts college.  As the years go by and I still haven’t successfully conceived a child, I know that the chances of her babysitting for us are getting slimmer and slimmer.  And I have grown progressively sadder because of this fact.  My niece has in fact started her classes for college this summer.  She is only a couple of hours away for college but it seems almost impossible for her to get to know my future child(ren) like the way she knows her little cousins because of all the time they have spent together.  My child(ren) will not know their oldest cousin the way I would want them to if they had been born a few years earlier and growing up in the same town together.  If we are blessed with a baby next year, my niece will be a almost 19 years older than my child.  I know that there is still a chance for my niece and my child(ren) to know one another, but her 18th birthday somehow is a huge reminder of what we are missing out.  I just can’t believe my niece is already 18… As we celebrate a new chapter in her life, I hope that somehow in the future my children will get to know their fun-loving, cool, and joyful oldest cousin in a way that I have never imagined before.  Knowing my niece’s character, she’ll love our children regardless of how big the age difference is between them.  I know I can take comfort in that.

MicroblogMonday: Back to Just the Two of Us

Microblog_Mondays

My in-laws have come and left.  These 7 1/2 weeks have gone by quickly.

Bob took a day off the day before my in-law left so that we could all spend time together out of the house.  His parents were originally reluctant to go out as my father-in-law just wanted to finish packing and my mother-in-law just wanted to finish cooking all the food in the fridge.  Somehow my in-laws refused to go anywhere touristy this time.  They did all of that seven years ago.  This time they just wanted to visit places like Tar.get, Ik.ea, and dollar stores.  I literally had to force them out of the house with us.  And I am glad I did.  My MIL is very into flowers, trees, and plants.  So we took them to the Botanical Garden at Golden Gate Park.  It was delightful to see her eyes light up as we walked by all these fragrant flowers.  Just happened that there was also a walking tour at the time we arrived, so we followed a docent, learned a few things about plants, and smelled/tasted some flowers and plants during that one-hour tour.  Afterwards, my in-laws enjoyed a cup of mocha t Starb.ucks.  It was an extremely pleasant way to conclude their trip.

Bob originally joked that he would need a vacation from his parents’ visit.  We even looked into staying at a bed and breakfast and going to the train museum in the Sacramento area.  However, we decided that getting the house back in order was more important and would make my life easier when I have to pick up cooking again this week.  We saw our in-laws off at the airport, went grocery shopping, and purchased three huge utility plastic boxes at Tar.get.  I was already very tired when we got home, but house cleaning was calling my name.  After not having full control of my own kitchen for almost two months, the urge to put everything back in order was very strong.  When my in-laws first arrived with their four suitcases, we had to move stuff around and out of the cabinets in order to accommodate their spices, containers, and utensils.  For the whole afternoon on Saturday, I washed all the stainless steel utensils and containers and placed them all in the huge utility boxes we got.  I wiped every single inch of the kitchen counter including places that I usually don’t touch.  Thankfully, my MIL cleaned the stove right before she left, so I didn’t have to attend to that.  I cleaned the drawers in the fridge before the groceries went in.  I planned all the meals and already marinated a pork tenderloin for dinner for tonight.  I rearranged the pantry and put away the flour, the dal, and the rice that my MIL used frequently for cooking.  The kitchen floor was wiped clean.  Finally, Bob wiped down the whole range hood as grease from Indian cooking was covering it for the last two months.

The kitchen has not been so spotless in a very long time.

And it does feel good to have my kitchen back.  Yes, the house is feeling a bit too quiet and I miss having meals, tea, and coffee magically provided daily.  But I also cherish just being by ourselves and really truly having down time when I come home.  This past week I sat here at the kitchen counter and typed up notes while my mother-in-law showed me how to make a few dishes.  I am confident that I’d be able to replicate some of them successfully.  I learned how to make madras coffee and made it successfully yesterday.  It took quite some time to make the decoction of the coffee. It makes me appreciate my mother-in-law even more as I think about how she labored in the kitchen for two months for us providing coffee, tea, lunch, and dinner.  Right before she entered into the security area at the airport, she told me that next year she’d return for our baby.  I told her that I’d try my best to bring to this world a baby.  She placed her hand on my head, said a word of blessings, and told me that she’d pray to her gods.  I know that her gods are different from my God, but I am still touched the way she shows her love to me.

I truly hope that next year they will have to ponder about coming to visit because of a new addition to our family.

MicroblogMondays: My In-laws’ Visit, Week Seven

Microblog_Mondays

I realized that I haven’t really talked much about my in-laws ever since the first week of their arrival.  I think my mind is more preoccupied with our fertility things.  So how have things been going?

It has been almost seven weeks since my in-laws arrived.  Poor people.  Where we live is simply too cold for them.  Every morning I go downstairs to greet my MIL in the kitchen, she says to me, “It’s too cold here, no?”   They are used to 80 to 90 degree weather.  Our area is known for being foggy and cold in June, July, and August.  We had warned them ahead of time when they expressed interest in visiting us in June.  We told them that a more desirable time weather-wise would be September, October, November.  My mother-in-law confessed that she thought that we were trying to discourage them from coming to visit by fabricating the coldness of the summer here.  She said now that she has known me better and knows my character, she knows that I am telling the truth.  Of course we are telling the truth.  Why would we lie, right?  We sometimes turn the heat on for them during the day, which is something that we had never done even with summer weather in the 50s here.  But for the sake of our in-laws’ well-being, as ridiculous as it sounds to turn on the heat in July, they are much happier when the house is in the 70s.

The first couple of weeks of South Indian diet did a number on my digestive system.  I mean, the food continues to be excellently delicious, but the abundance of Indian spices and carbs has been difficult to process.  I can usually handle Indian food when I eat it, but consuming it as a main diet is a totally different story.  The first week of it left me hungry at 3pm at work mainly because of the reduced amount of protein and the increased amount of carbs.  Eventually the solution was extra protein from the frozen meatball that my coworker helped me buy because I couldn’t “smuggle” meat product into our house without being noticed.  Protein shakes also turned out to be a life saver.  Now that I have been eating this diet for weeks, my body is accustomed to the diet so I am no longer hungry with shaky hands wanting to find all the food I can consume at 3 in the afternoon.  Friday is my meat-eating day.  My MIL knows not to prepare lunch for me to take to work.  On that day, I order whatever meat dish I fancy: Chinese takeout, Vietnamese lunch with friends, or sausage omelette.  However, I still have to frequent the bathroom for number two (sorry TMI) due to the spices.  My waistline and the number on the scale have both gone up thanks to the extra carbs in my MIL’s cooking.  I know that once our diet goes back to protein and veggies, we will not be as bloated and our digestion should go back to normal, but it is a bit disconcerting to feel your usual clothes getting tighter.

Don’t get me wrong.  I L.O.V.E. my mother-in-law’s cooking.  Not only me, but my coworkers also fell in love with her food.  Everyday I let a few coworkers take a bite of my lunch and enjoy them oohing and ahhing over how perfect the seasoning is and how tasty these dishes are.  My MIL also enjoys hearing me tell her my coworkers’ reactions.  She is such a talented cook and knows exactly how to prepare things to perfection.  My brother’s family came for dinner a couple of times and was so grateful for the wonderful feasts.  My MIL cooked my favorite dish of hers; something that my brother had never tasted before.  He loved it so much that he had four servings of it and also got to take all the leftovers home.  He almost had tears of joy in his eyes.  My MIL loves loves loves my brother because he appreciates her food.  It was a wonderful sight for me to see my in-laws getting along so well with my family considering how much they used to adamantly oppose our marriage.  It was something that I never thought would happen.  Got to have faith in what time and patience can do to mend relationships.

I am spoiled, and I am well aware of it.  This season with my MIL taking care of all the cooking means that I can devote my time in working through all the things that are related to our treatment and such.  Coming home from work, I get to do whatever I want to and dinner will be served.  I am truly grateful for that.

Weekly we have our routines down.  We drive my in-laws 40 minutes to a big Indian grocery store to purchase food for the week.  It is quite a long drive and a tiring ride.  After that we would go to a shopping place of their choice.  They have a particular love for Ik.ea, dollar stores, and Ta.rget.  So we frequent those places.  Sometimes it is just so tiring to go shopping with them that everyone comes home tired and needs a nap.  During that time, I wipe the kitchen floor.  Ever since my MIL took over my kitchen, I have been sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor whenever I have the time.  Her way of cooking leaves a lot of little crumbs and food scraps on the floor, as well as the condensation of the steam dripping from pot lids.  The highly traveled area of the kitchen floor has lost its luster and I will have to wait until my in-laws’ departure to figure out a way to gain it back.

How are Bob and his parents doing?  I would say, better.  Bob and his mother still fight some, but they also have good times together.  I can tell that they are very similar people and that makes them clash because they react to things similarly.  Every evening after dinner he goes to his parents’ room and chats with them about the day.  It’s heartwarming to hear them chat and laugh together.  One surprising thing is that Bob has been telling his parents, especially his mom, slowly about our fertility problems.  My in-laws don’t talk to me about this, but they have been expressing grief in our lack of children.  Bob’s mother often says to him that we should have a four year old and a two year old by now.  She expressed regrets that we didn’t meet in our 20s when making a baby would have been easier.  After our urologist visit, Bob actually opened up to his mother about his male factor issues.  She was unhappy that he didn’t go to the doctor a few years earlier, but he explained to her that all of our tests for him turned out to be good so no one knew this new problem.  He didn’t tell her exactly what we have done treatment-wise but did tell her that we have done a lot.  He explained to her that most of the children in the photos on our fridge were successfully conceived and born thanks to science (most of them are IVF babies).  This is paving a path for us in the future when we explain to them about having a baby via surrogacy.  So this is a breakthrough as I never thought it was possible for us to speak to them about our fertility struggles.

As much as I like my mother-in-law, she sometimes says the craziest things.  After Bob shared with her vaguely about us going through treatment, she said that regardless of how much money we have to spend on treatment, we still have to send them the money they ask for annually.  I know that she and Bob’s dad are very different from my parents because money is tighter for them.  But still….. We don’t plan on reducing the amount of money that we give them but for her to immediately protect her self-interest instead of showing concerns for us is a bit disheartening for me.   Another thing that my MIL said to Bob was that we should go adopt because that’s how people get pregnant afterwards.  I know that this is something a lot of people say but it still bugs me.  Finally, this last thing that she says really gets to me.  She said that she would come visit our child(ren) in the future, but only if the child is “ours”.  For “ours”, she meant that she would not make a special trip to come visit our children if they were adopted.  She and my father-in-law would only come if part of the child(ren)’s genetic makeup comes from Bob.  I know that they’d come around if we ever adopt a child, but this closed-mindedness really makes me sad and mad that any children not made the conventional way are going to be discriminated against even before they are made or born.  It’s hard to change a person and their opinion on things.  So, as much as Bob wants to be transparent with them, I still think that some things are better off not shared, such as our need for an egg donor. 

This coming week I have a whole week off due to an office renovation.  My MIL will teach me how to make a few of my favorite dishes.  I pray that we’ll create some good memories before my in-laws’ departure on Saturday.  It will be so weird to get the whole house back to ourselves after having my mom, dad, and my in-laws here for the past few months. But I’m also ready to just be whatever I want to be and do whatever I want to do in my own house. One surprising thing is that I think I’ll miss my in-laws. This is something that I never thought I’d say. This is an answer to ours prayers. Seeing how well I get along with my in-laws proves that nothing is impossible with God. 

MicroblogMondays: Adoption and Urologist Visit

Microblog_Mondays

Another eventful week last week.

Monday was a crazy day.  It started with me being yelled at by a potential client’s parent for something that was absolutely not my fault.  What a way to start the week.  Then Bob and I had a phone conference with Dr. E about the pros and cons of keeping the appointment with the urologist.  She explained to us that we have been on this journey for too long, that she only has this one shot with us with this donor, so she wanted to gather all the information necessary to make the best decision.  A visit with a urologist would tell us whether or not Bob had varicocele in his testes that contributes to the borderline abnormal DNA fragmentation test results and the urologist’s recommendation.  If a surgery is recommended, recovery will only be two weeks but the DFI results take about 6 months to improve.  Dr. E reassured us that our donor who is not available after September will be available again in January.  So if we really need a surgery, we will not lose our donor.  That was such a reassurance that did put my mind at ease.

You know what else happened?  On that same day, a dear blog friend of mine who lives on the East Coast notified me that she knew of a pregnant woman who was due any day and was considering finding a Christian couple who wanted to do open adoption.  My friend knew that we hadn’t definitively talked about adoption but she thought of us immediately when she learned about it.  She asked, “If a baby fell into your lap, would you be open to adopting?”

I had never anticipated that I would be asked such a question.  My first reaction was YES I would welcome any baby that God entrusts to us!  I immediately asked Bob who enthusiastically said, “Let’s do it! I’m all in!”  I just love this man and his willingness to be open.  We knew that this particular baby would be of a different racial makeup than us but we didn’t care.  We were genuinely interested and were humbly following where God might lead us.  After understanding more about the situation, which I don’t have the liberty to share here, we decided to write the pregnant woman a letter to let her know who we were, what brought us to this point, and our desires to be parents.  It wasn’t an easy letter to write.  How does one begin to write a letter to the mother of your potential baby?  I decided to just be myself and wrote a letter from my heart detailing about ourselves, our dreams, and our trust in God.  I could only imagine how difficult it must have been for this woman to consider adoption.  I prayed for her and the situation before I started the letter.  After the letter was forwarded to my friend to forward to the mother, I prayed again for her for wisdom that would come from God.  I felt at peace with whatever that might happen and just wanted to do God’s will.

That was Monday.  And what has happened after that?  Absolutely nothing.  We haven’t heard from the pregnant lady and I haven’t checked with my dear blog friend about the situation.  If it is meant to be, it will happen.  Maybe this lady decides to parent.  Maybe she has found another family.  Whatever happened, I just pray that it is for the best interest of the baby and the mother.  But I did allow myself to daydream about having my baby in my arms in the immediate future.  It was a nice dream and I don’t regret putting ourselves out there being vulnerable at all.  Our reaction to this potential offer tells us a lot about how ready we are to have a baby whichever way God plans for us to start and complete our family.

Fast forward to Thursday, our appointment with the urologist.  The doctor is a big name in the city who seems to be known by many people.  He was very nice and sounded very caring.  He complained a little about us not sending him any medical records.  I actually didn’t know that we needed to send him any records.  Bob was the one dealing with the medical history and paperwork.  I guess he didn’t take care of that part.  D. Big Name was happy that I was there because I remembered all the details about our many many cycles.  I also brought the fertilization records of the cycles with Dr. E so we had the semen analysis there.  All the semen analyses were normal.  Bob is healthy.  Apparently there is a small percentage of men who are healthy and have normal semen analysis who do have DNA fragmentation problems that are caused by varicocele, which is an enlarged vein of the testes.  He was expressing regrets that we had done so many cycles with our own eggs and donor eggs without consulting with a urologist about any male factor problems.  He thinks that a visit with the urologist should be done before any treatment begins.

Before the appointment, I had a feeling that Bob did have varicocele.  Don’t ask me why.  I just had a hunch.  We have everything stacked against us for so long.  I had a feeling that we would be on the wrong side of statistics again.  Dr. Big Name and Bob went next door for a quick physical exam.  When they returned three minutes later, Dr. Big Name was busy searching for articles from his file cabinet without saying a thing.  That took another minute.  I was anxious to know the results.  He finally stopped being busy and said that Yes, Bob did have varicocele on the left side, which is the usual side for varicocele.  My heart sank even though I had anticipated it.  I just kept on thinking what else could go wrong?

Dr Big Name went on to explain how varicocele was formed and the reason for a surgery.  He showed us pictures and graphics on the computer.  When he got to the slide of the surgery on the screen, he skipped it over and told us that we were actually going to talk about the reasons we should NOT do the surgery.  The next slide showed a picture and the term Physiological ICSI, or PICSI.  In his opinion, this technique of selecting sperm is going to help us find the sperm that is not damaged by DNA fragmentation and is good enough for us to proceed with our donor egg cycle.  If I were any younger and trying with my own eggs, Dr. Big Name thinks that a surgery would make sense to increase the chances of natural conception or the success of IUI.  But we are already going to use DE and we have been on this journey long enough, he thinks that PICSI is a great alternative for us to select the right sperm and thus help us bypass the DNA fragmentation problems.  Since Bob has a large quantity of sperm, 31% DNA fragmentation plus 6% (normal range) of something called High DNA Stainability means that over 60% of the sperm should be normal.  Following that logic, there should be good sperm for us to choose from.  He is happy that Bob has been on supplements and thinks that it is safe for us to proceed with our donor cycle in September.  I asked if it is possible for sperm to not bond in the PICSI process and in turn no sperm would be selected.  He said that it does happen in some cases but in our situation, highly unlikely.  He said that of course urologists would want to operate on people but he is there for care.  Looking at our overall situation, he thinks that this is the best course of action.  He doesn’t think that Bob needs to repeat the DNA fragmentation test.  If the results are better, we may feel encouraged.  But if the results are worse, we may get discouraged but in reality they don’t matter since PICSI and supplements are enough to help.  At the end of the visit, Dr. Big Name said that he was amazed at how well I was doing given our long complicated history.  He looked me in my eyes, shook my hands, and asked us to keep him updated.

We feel fortunate that surgery is not recommended.  I mean, Bob would do it if it was required.  But it is a relief that we can move forward.   However, we are disappointed that no one had ever mentioned about this potential problem that could have been fixed a long time ago.  Dr. Big Name came from our previous clinic and is familiar with the REs there.  He commented that Dr. No Nonsense, my former RE, is not a believer in sperm DNA fragmentation and its potential effects on embryo quality.  We would have held off on the frozen donor egg cycle had we known about his varicocele and sperm DNA fragmentation problem.  In the world of reproductive health, females’ eggs are quick to be blamed and male factor problems are not taken as seriously.  Originally Bob was not comfortable with me blogging about this.  But he eventually agreed to let me share about it because he really wanted a public service announcement for those who are considering doing IUI or IVF cycles to also check male factor problems that are not obviously shown in a regular semen analysis.  It could really play a role in the success of your cycles.

Dr. E has already given us the donor’s calendar.  She is happy that Dr. Big Name recommended the same treatment plan as hers and we are good to go.  The tentative retrieval date is set for September 1st.  It is exciting but at the same time nerve wracking.  I just want some embryos to transfer.  We are currently in the process of reviewing the donor agreement drafted by our attorney.  The donor-related fees have already been sent to the escrow company.  We also have a lead for a potential surrogate with the Christian surrogate agency that we mentioned about.  I will write more about that in the future, but it is an exciting time that if everything falls into place, we could have a transfer in September.

I am trying my best to not get stressed out about things as these things take so much coordination and everything is at stake here.  But I always remind myself to take a step back and be thankful for this moment to which God has brought us.  We are both healthy.  We are blessed with the means to make surrogacy happen.  Sometimes the stress does get to us.  Bob is definitely feeling it and it is manifesting itself in every aspect of our lives.  However, I am going to take it one day at a time and choose to believe that God has His hands in all of this.  I choose to believe that one day soon we will have our baby in our arms.