The Craziest Story

At least it is the craziest in my books.

About five years ago, I became friends with the nanny of one of my therapy kids.  She brought him in for therapy weekly and we became very friendly with each other.  I knew that she was trying to get pregnant but seemed to have had problems.  I remember one time she was about to do a heart surgery but couldn’t because they found out that she was pregnant.  A couple of months later, I asked her how she was doing.  She told me that she went ahead and had the heart surgery because the baby was no more.  When my client graduated from therapy, I stopped seeing the nanny regularly.  She and I are friends on Face.book so I would see her updates once in a while.  I would pay attention to her belly and would see that she wasn’t pregnant.  

So imagine how shocked I was when I saw an update on Face.book two days ago at lunch.  I was mindlessly scrolling the screen of my phone up and down and almost exclaimed out loud.  Good thing I didn’t because the lunch room was full of my coworkers who would have no idea why this would be a big deal.  The nanny had posted an ultrasound photo and a photo of her with her expanded belly.  I gasped and checked her page.  I saw a post by her husband a couple of days prior with pictures of them presenting a bun in their oven.  I quickly got back to my desk and wrote the nanny a message.  I expressed how happy I was to see her photos and to find out the news, as I knew how many years and how hard she had tried to get pregnant.  She quickly wrote back and wanted to share her story with me on the phone.  It was inconvenient for me to chat with her at work, so I promised to call her soon.

I finally had a chance to chat with her last night.   This is her story.

She started trying for a baby five years ago.  She had her daughter at 17.  Now her daughter is 22.  So this nanny is 39 years old, my age.  She was a single mom for a long time and finally met a wonderful guy who became her husband.  In the past five years, she got pregnant and miscarried a total of six times.  She lost two natural pregnancies.  She got pregnant three more times through a fresh cycle and three subsequent frozen embryo transfers.  She even did egg donation through a proven donor who helped every single recipient with a live birth.  She did get pregnant but yet, she miscarried.  All of these miscarriages happened between five to eight weeks.  Early miscarriages.  In the beginning she was told that the miscarriages could be due to her poor egg quality.  However, the pregnancy loss from the donor egg cycle could not have been due to her own egg quality issue.  She and her husband felt that they were running out of options here so they were planning on pursuing surrogacy in India.  Then one night in November last year changed their lives.

She and her husband were watching a new program that discussed about the effects of triclosan on fertility.  Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that is found in many household products, including anti-bacterial soap.  It is associated with endocrine disruption.  My friend paid close attention because she had been using anti-bacterial soap in the last twelve years.  She had a yeast infection and her doctor told her to use anti-bacterial soap to wash herself.  Since then she had been using products containing triclosan for her showers.  She said that this chemical goes into your bloodstream the fastest when you use it to wash your behind.  After watching the program, she and her husband threw out all of the household products containing triclosan and switched over to other products.  From December to March this year, she lived a triclosan-free life and estimated that by March her body should be rid of any triclosan.

In March this year, this friend thought that she could try a fresh IVF cycle one more time with her own eggs.  This is the result.  She had 19 high grading blastocysts (19!  And she’s my age…).  Three were transferred.  She got extremely high beta.  At her early ultrasound scans, they could find two embryos and two heartbeats.  So she was beyond thrilled that she was carrying twins.  Then at her 11-week ultrasound, her doctor kept on looking at Baby A saying that something was wrong, as the baby’s head was on one side but the body was on the other side.  She was almost having a heart attack thinking that something was wrong with the baby.  The doctor tried to look around and found that Baby A had split into two!  So instead of having Baby A and Baby B, now they also have baby C, who is the identical twin of Baby A!  Triplets… I can’t imagine…

At 15 weeks, everything is looking good.  The doctor of course discussed with them about selective reduction but the couple has decided that they are going to keep all the babies.  So my friend, at 39 years old, after trying for so long for five years, is finally carrying not one, not two, but three babies inside her.  The only thing that she has changed was getting rid of everything triclosan in her life.  Isn’t that crazy?

So now she has a remainder of 16 embryos frozen, plus the six that remained from the donor egg cycle.  (It seems like she herself yielded more blastocysts to keep than the 22-year-old donor did.)  

I don’t know about you.  I am still in awe of this story… that toxins in one’s body are so powerful to affect a person’s fertility health in such a profound way… and wasted five years of her life and many little lives.  I know Bob is skeptical about it… but I truly believe that this change made a difference in my friend’s body, allowing her system to accept the babies.  I know everyone’s body is different when it comes to the effect of environmental toxins.  So whatever works for her may not work for me.  I can’t help but think about how many women may benefit from this kind of information so they’d be saved from years of heartaches by just changing one thing in their lives.

I am beyond thrilled for her.  And I still think that this is the craziest story I’ve heard.  

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Who Would Like A Long Update?

I have had so many thoughts in my head… I don’t know where to begin.  I will try to write some of them down.

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Mother’s Day.  

I actually had been feeling fine leading up to Mother’s Day.  Last year I was a lot more miserable, dreading that day.  Unfortunately, Bob and I are greeters on second Sundays each month at church, so I am always the greeter on Mother’s Day.  Last year, I went but was feeling off all day.  I delegated the duty to pass out flowers to mothers.  This year, Bob suggested switching our week with another couple so we could avoid Mother’s Day.  I assured him that I was feeling fine and didn’t feel a need to avoid going to church just because of this occasion.  I wanted to go to church to worship God.  

So off we went, two days after we came home from our trip.  The sun was very bright on that day.  I wasn’t feeling particularly sad or upset or anything. Once I entered, I saw Anna, my very pregnant infertile friend.  She couldn’t wait to update me on her life so she stood next to me while I was greeting people at the entrance.  This experience proved to be very overwhelming for me.  I didn’t mind seeing her big belly or chatting with her. However, everyone who passed by us said “Happy Mother’s Day!” to her because many people knew about her struggles to get pregnant.  I can understand why everyone wanted to celebrate with her and said the greeting more loudly than usual.  Anna also stopped her conversation with me and said “Happy Mother’s Day!” to all of the mothers who entered the church door.  After hearing this phrase about 50 times, I was about done with her standing next to me.  And I felt a little anti-social for not saying “Happy Mother’s Day!” to anybody.  Our musical director came by to get a bulletin from me and wished Anna a happy mother’s day as well.  Given that he doesn’t really know me, he looked at me and said tentatively… “Happy….?” He wasn’t sure if I was a mother or not.  At that point, so many emotions just surfaced and and I blurted out, “Don’t even go there”.  So can you imagine at that moment, these things happened at the same time: Anna responding to Mr. Musical Director on my behalf and said, “Not yet”, Mr. Musical Director trying to apologize by saying “Sorry I wasn’t sure…”, another male greeter asking me the length of our marriage, and me saying to Mr. Musical Director, “It’s okay… Just walk away right now”.  That was very chaotic.  So finally, Mr. Musical Director said, “I am walking away now… and by the way, I like your top”.  Ha… poor guy.  Probably really didn’t know why he got into trouble.  

Anna kept on talking about things and at that moment, I just wanted to her walk away so I didn’t have to be subjected to hearing “Happy Mother’s Day” another 50 times.  When my pastor walked up to me to say “Welcome back”, Anna said, “I heard you guys are expecting number three?”  I was totally caught off guard.  I knew that my pastor’s wife struggled to conceive her second child for about two years, so I am not surprised to know that they started trying again for number three so early as her daughter is only 18 months.  I kind of understand why she would want to start sooner rather than later because of her struggles.  I am glad for her that she didn’t have to struggle this time anymore… But it still stung to hear a pregnancy announcement after being subjected to “Happy Mother’s Day” fifty times.  My pastor knows about our struggles and he seemed a little embarrassed that he wasn’t the one who broke the news to us.  Because of these moments, I felt very overwhelmed that morning.  I was glad that the rest of the service was uneventful, but it was really a bit much to be fighting jet lag and fending for myself on this holiday.

But really, other than that incident at church, I was feeling fine on Mother’s Day.  I was happy to be worshipping after not going to church for four Sundays.  I was happy to celebrate my mother who has been so selfless and has helped us so much in our life.  I am happy for this change, although I couldn’t help but think about the few women at church who struggled with infertility last Mother’s Day.  One is Anna who is going to give birth in August.  Another one just gave birth.  The last one has a 5-month-old adopted child.  I am the only one (or I feel like the only one) being left behind.

I don’t know about you.  That’s not a very good feeling.  I know that I shouldn’t be comparing myself to others.  But I do feel like I am in this silent club that nobody wants to be in and everyone wants to leave.  I am the only one left in the club.  I don’t really want anyone to join me because I don’t really want anyone to be miserable.  But it’s a lonely feeling.

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I love my mom, but sometimes she’s oblivious about my feelings.  My cousin’s wife, who just got married last October, is going to give birth in September.  My mother happily showed me baby sweaters that she knitted the morning after I came back from Hong Kong.  I squeezed out a half smile and didn’t tell her how I felt.  I didn’t think that she’d understand so I didn’t say anything.  Deep down I want my mom to make ME baby clothes, not for someone else.  Bob was upset with me that I wasn’t being clear to my mom that I didn’t want to see baby clothes she made for others.  When my mom showed me another set of baby sweater that she is currently knitting, I still didn’t say anything.  Bob this time was really mad at me for not standing up for myself.  I know I have a problem with being frank with my mom.  I admit that I really don’t know how to tell her my true feelings regarding this.  

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Baby shower and baby party.  

Anna again.  I received an evite for Anna’s baby shower when I was still in India.  I can’t tell you the last time I went to a baby shower.  I haven’t been able to say yes to invitations.  After I chatted with Anna the previous time, feeling okay standing next to her and her big belly, I told Bob that I thought I could consider going to her baby shower.  I still think that I can go.  But I don’t know if I can stand being there the whole time watching people going OOO and AHHH over cute baby clothes and items.  

When I came home, I also received an invitation in the mail to attend my infertile pregnant friend’s baby party.  My infertile pregnant friend is obvious not pregnant anymore.  She gave birth about three months ago.  It’s a tradition for Chinese grandparents to throw a baby their 100-day party called Red Egg and Ginger Party.  I haven’t seen her or her husband in a very long time… and haven’t obviously met her baby.  I don’t mind seeing them, so I don’t mind going to the party.  I looked closely at the date.  It’s going to be the same day and almost the same time as Anna’s baby shower.  What a coincidence.  It dawned on me that it provides me a way out of Anna’s baby shower.  The baby shower starts at 12 noon.  The red egg and ginger party starts at 12:30 about 30 minutes away.  I can attend Anna’s baby shower for 30 minutes, take off at 12:30, and drive over to the red egg and ginger party being 30 minutes late.  I have enough excuses to not to go both parties for the whole duration.  It’s the best of both worlds.  

Because of these friends, I found myself going to the baby section at Tar.get and bought them both gifts.  This was the first time in a really long time that I stepped anywhere close to the baby section at Tar.get.  It’s a step towards the right direction for my emotional health.  Don’t you think?

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The next step.

What is the next step?  I still don’t know.  I emailed Dr. E, my RE, on our last day in India.  I asked her what she thought the next step would be given what she has learned in the four cycles that I did with her. She said that she’d like to do an ultrasound and day two FSH and estradiol in order to tell me what she recommends.  In the last four cycles, we have tried four vials of Menopur a day and Femara plus Menopur.  We haven’t been able to get more than one embryo for each cycle.  I am just a little tired of the same protocol and was hoping that she’d have something new to say.  At this point, because of Bob’s loss of his job as well as the health insurance, we currently have Kai.ser which does not have any fertility coverage.  We have to pay out of pocket for even blood test at a non-Kai.ser facility.  So everything that we do will cost money from this point on.  My period came after a disappointing 20-day cycle.  I have a feeling I didn’t ovulate.  However, it was hard for me to confirm because I didn’t do OPKs and my basal body temperature was all over the place due to international travel.  I obliged and went for a blood draw on cycle day two.  The results came back as follows: FSH was 14, but estradiol was 78.  My RE thinks that we’ll have a viable embryo if our FSH is under 18 (historically my FSH has been around 18 when we have an embryo).  However, the high estradiol (anything over 70) is suppressing the FSH and means that I will only have one egg for this cycle despite stimulation.  Her recommendation is to wait for another cycle, but she could also put me on Femara if I decided to proceed.  I asked why put me on Femara if I would only have one egg.  She said that there is always a possibility for two eggs.  I decided against proceeding, so we’re trying naturally this cycle.

I have contemplated a few possibilities for the next step.

1) Go with Dr. E again, pay $12400 for one egg and gamble all that money into buying a dream (and that amount does not include meds)

2) Go with Dr. Y in Southern California, buy a three-cycle package of mini/natural IVF, which means I’ll have to coordinate out-of-town monitoring, finding a local clinic/facility for ultrasound/blood draw, and risking disorganization and stress from working with a clinic really far away.  Pros: the price of a 3-cycle package is the same as working with Dr. E for one cycle.  Since I only make one egg each time, this seems to be the best option to continue trying my own egg without running out of money fast.  However… I have to take time off work which I would if it’s absolutely necessary but it’s still not desirable.

3) Consult with Dr. Z locally, who last year suggested egg retrievals three times, freeze the eggs the first two times, thaw those eggs at the same time, ICSI them all, do CCS testing on them to find the normal ones, transfer one normal embryo at a time.  Pros: it’s done locally.  Cons: it’s going to cost over $35000.  I would really like to know what he’ll recommend for protocol now knowing my history of being a poor responder to high stims and low stims.

4) Consult with an RE in New York who is known to think out of the box.  Don’t know what he will recommend but am curious to know what he will say.

5) Go the donor egg route at this point so that we don’t have to save up money again if we use up all of our savings on trying my own eggs.

Just looking at the list makes me just want to run and hide.  I admittedly have been in a rut with my thoughts.  The fact that I went and got my blood work done is a big huge first step for me to get back into the game.  I didn’t know that I would be so haunted by a transfer and the subsequent chemical pregnancy that thinking about the next step and starting from square one again would be so daunting.  But I think that it is about time I start coming out of my cocoon.  It has been three months since the pregnancy and the loss.  My friend Jo has been gently nudging me daily to contact these other doctors for a second opinion.  It’s about time I do that.

*****

I wrote about my client S’s mom here.  She had been trying to conceive her number one and number two since eight years ago.  She got pregnant at 40 after her second IVF and gave birth to S, my client.  She had been trying for her second since then.  She did a couple more IVF and didn’t get pregnant.  Last July she found herself being pregnant naturally for the first time in her TTC life of seven years.  It unfortunately ended in a miscarriage.  Since then she decided to stop trying for a second baby.  No more IVF.  No more trying naturally.  She totally quit.

I saw her on Friday and was so surprised to see her big belly!  She said, I have something to tell you.  And I said, I can see it now!  I hugged her and almost burst into tears.  I was so emotional about it.  What happened was, she totally gave up trying.  In January her period was late.  She didn’t even test because it was impossible in her mind that she’d even get pregnant.  So she didn’t test until much later.. Lo and behold. She was pregnant.  This time she and her husband didn’t tell a single soul about her pregnancy. She was scared to death that this would go away.  She hid it from everyone and silently went on her life.  Today at age 44 and 23 weeks pregnant, she can breathe a sigh of relief that her baby boy is checked out okay on every single test, alive and healthy.  I am just so happy for her beyond words.  This is someone who has walked along side me in the past year because of the similarity of our journeys.  She went through what I was going through.  She understood exactly how I felt.  I was heartbroken to see her struggles with her miscarriage last year.  To see that she got pregnant naturally for the second time in her eight years of TTC history, I couldn’t help but be emotional and extremely ecstatic for her.  There are miracles in life and she’s carrying one insider her.  It tells me to never give up but to aim at my goal and see where it leads me.  

Her nurse at Kai.ser told her, “We’ve only had one 44-year-old lady who could carry her pregnancy to term in this clinic’s history.”  Isn’t that the most heartless thing you could say to somebody who has tried so hard to achieve a pregnancy in their 40s?

*****

Bob has had many phone interviews and some onsite interviews.  He hasn’t gotten an offer yet.  I feel that because of the stress of finding a job, we get into fights a lot more frequently.  I really have to keep in mind that we’re in a stressful situation regardless of how much we want it to be stress-free.  I have to remember to cut him some slack if he’s snappy or emotional about things.  We need consistent prayers to ask for patience, total dependence, and protection over our marriage.  We’re mostly good.  I just don’t enjoy fights due to seemingly trivial matters.

*****

I think those are my thoughts so far.  Thanks for reading until the end!  You get an award for being patient and persistent.  🙂

Finally, the Stress-Free Part of Vacation

Wow.  Can’t believe it’s been more than two weeks since I last blogged.  Sorry for leaving you all hanging after the family feud in India.  Compared to the craziness with Bob’s family in India, Hong Kong was totally stress free.  

I loved spending time with my dad, who is no doubt the coolest guy in the world.  He is almost 70 years old and is still full of energy.  He loves hiking and biking.  When we had other plans, he went ahead and hung out with his friends on the road biking or on the mountain hiking.  There was no pressure whatsoever in how we spent our time.  We were free to do whatever we wanted to.  We went hiking with him one day and we all had a great time.

Another highlight is a trip to Macau on April 30th for our third wedding anniversary, which was a gift from my father to us.  He booked the ferry tickets and one night of hotel for us to celebrate our marriage.  It was Bob’s first time being in Macau.  We walked around town, visited touristy sites, stayed at a very nice hotel, and had a wonderful Portuguese dinner to celebrate.  Image

 

We had pork, mussels, and sangria.Image

 

See how crowded the street was on May 1st, which was a holiday in China.  The streets were flooded with tourists.  Image

 

We went to the famous place for Portuguese egg tart but it was closed both on April 30th for their regular day off and May 1st for the holiday.  We had to have the second or even third best which was to just buy one from a random place on the street.Image

 

Macau definitely was a very memorable trip.

We also traveled to China this time.  This would also be the first time Bob had ever been to China.  My dad partnered with others to open a restaurant in Guangzhou China so this was our first time going there trying the food.  I was also looking forward to getting a massage there in Shenzhen as massages are very cheap.  We had one hour of foot massage and two hours of body massage.

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We had very good Hunan food with a dish of stone pot fish:

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We took the metro to my dad’s restaurant:

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I gotta say the food was very good.  This is the shrimp toast that we had:

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On the way back from China, we waited in line for customs.  I overheard an officer ask a woman from Mainland China a question, “Are you pregnant?”  To give you some background, Hong Kong has been inundated with pregnant women from China who come to give birth as Hong Kong provides a better condition for labor and delivery.  Hong Kong has been trying to prevent this situation by limiting the number of pregnant women from entering the city.  When I heard that question, all I could think of was that I could punch the officer if I were asked that question.  Plus, who in the world would answer “yes” if they really want to just come in and stay there to give birth?

Since we only had ten days in Hong Kong and were traveling to Macau and China, we barely had enough time to go shopping, visit with friends, or see relatives.  We did do all of those, but not nearly enough.  Before I met Bob, I would spend three weeks in Hong Kong and felt that I had a lot of time to just chill, play, and rest.  After we got married, we feel obligated to go to both places and my visit home has significantly cut short.  I am not complaining.  It’s our new way of life… But I would really love to be able to spend more time with my loved ones.  Fortunately, I saw my two grandmothers several times and got to visit with my 106-year-old great aunt.  Last time we visited Hong Kong, it was ten months after we got married.  My great aunt and my grandma at the time were asking why we still hadn’t had babies.  My grandma even joked that Bob shouldn’t go back to Hong Kong without a baby to show her.  This time, nobody asked any questions because they learned not to ask.  And my great aunt is no longer lucid enough to even keep track of who is who.  It just makes me sad that we have nothing to show for… I desperately want my beloved grandmother to hold my child… Although she’s still in great health, she is 95 years old after all.  I don’t really know if she’ll ever be able to meet my future children.  

We also spent quality time with my childhood best friend.  She has two daughters, one six years old and the other one three years old.  She and I hadn’t really talked on the phone in the past year as I was in my daze of fertility treatment and she was busy making money to support her family including her mother with dementia.  So this time we had a chance to sit down and talk a bit about what Bob and I have experienced in the past year.  One very interesting phenomenon is, none of my friends in Hong Kong with whom I have shared about the possibility of using donor eggs and donor embryos were fazed by these alternative ways of having a baby.  They discussed with me about their thoughts and all of them have the same thoughts as I do, that we would go the donor egg route before we would try donor embryos or adoption.  I am just surprised at how educated and how open my friends have become.  

Another highlight is my snake soup.  I know you may stop reading this blog after you read this, but I love my snake soup.  I grew up eating snake soup and I have to have my snake soup every time I go.  Unfortunately, Bob is very scared of snakes.  Poor guy.  He was traumatized sitting in the snake shop watching me eat my snake soup.  It’s a step forward from last time when he just stood outside of the shop refusing to go in.  Kudos to him. 😀

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We were determined to catch the egg this time.  We are proud to say that we tried to do that once in India, once in Macau, and once in Hong Kong.  Imagine DTD with my dad next door.  EEEWWWW.  Too bad we didn’t get to do so in China.  Sad to say that we lost that egg since my period came a few days ago after a disappointing 20-day cycle.

On our final day, we went to the cemetery where both of my grandfathers rested.  It was good to introduce Bob to them.  This is the view looking out from grandpa’s place:

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We also had a very nice dinner at grandma’s house:

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On the way to the airport, it was raining cats and dogs.  In fact, the rain was so heavy that we experienced what they called amber rainstorm, red rainstorm, and black rainstorm.  You can read up about them here.  The two car accidents that I had in my life were both in the rain.  So needless to say I was extremely nervous.  At one point, we couldn’t see out of the windshield because of the rain water that was kicked up by these huge trucks that passed by our car.  I. Was. So. Scared.  My dad was brave and just maintained his composure to send us safely to the airport.  Also very grateful that he drove home safely.  Our flight was an hour delayed.  My lovely brother came to pick us up at 11:30pm.  My lovely mother welcomed us home with a very clean house with clean floor and clean bathrooms.  My family is just lovely.  

It hasn’t been too hard to get over our jet lag.  We slept through the night every single night and I went back to work okay.  However, every single evening I couldn’t keep my eyes open… I would doze off at 7:30pm every night.  Hence the reason you haven’t seen an update from me.  Finally I got some energy to write today.

I know the following is about India and not Hong Kong.  But I have got to share this.  We wanted to buy our future child something last time we were in India, but never actually did it.  So this time we were determined to find something and here is a shirt for our future child:

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It is my hope that I can put this on our baby in the very near future.  

Oh, and I think Bob and his parents are still on speaking terms, so that’s a good sign that they will eventually totally reconcile.