Recent Struggles and My Supervisor is Pregnant

It is a little surprising to me that life has been a little bit tough lately.  Every day seems to be a challenge.

One day last week when I woke up, all I wanted to do was to stay in bed and hide under my cover.  It could be an effect of the birth control pill, or because of the gloomy, overcast, and cold weather in the Bay Area, or due to a sense of being in a holding pattern, or it could also be an influence of the multiple pregnant ladies at work.  Plus my husband’s issues with my side of the family don’t seem to be going away.

Yeah there are multiple expectant moms at work:  Original Pregnant Coworker who is about six months pregnant and New Pregnant Coworker who is four months along and is already flaunting her baby bump.  And then, I received a confirmation that my supervisor is pregnant.

I was correct three weeks ago when I said that I eventually would have a third pregnant coworker.  My Dear Colleague had been commenting to me on how Supervisor has been wearing flowy clothes.  I made a mental note of that.  Well, it has been confirmed.  Last week, on the day I wanted to hide from the world, my Supervisor was out sick.  I was quite sure that it was pregnancy related.  The next morning, I was in my room sorting things out, and could hear a bunch of people talking in the conference room right next door.  What I could make out was, Supervisor was announcing to her team of people that 1) her due date is early February and 2) she was feeling awful the day before.  My first reaction: got up and closed the door.  I just wanted to mind my own business and not to be subject to any more information than the confirmation of her pregnancy.  The puzzling thing is, she cannot be more than five minutes pregnant.  Well, I exaggerated.  But you know what I mean.  To give her credit, she didn’t really announce it to the whole wide world.  She told her team and I happened to have overheard.  But it doesn’t make life easy for me.

Work does not feel like a safe place for me.  Triggers seem to be everywhere.  I have to make choices daily.  Do I choose to stay in my office for lunch rather than joining the crowd in the lunch room?  What about riding the elevator or walking up and down the stairs?  I know I have a choice.  I would love to see myself as someone who can make a good choice every day.  But sometimes I just can’t force myself.  I know that I *should* not allow myself to be affected by other people.  After all, making a new life is a joyous thing.  However, I really cannot force myself to be a hypocrite, sitting in the lunch room smiling to everybody.  I feel a strong need to self-preserve.  I struggle.  In my head knowledge, I desire to be a generous and godly person.  Emotionally, I choose to be selfish at times.  Often times, my fight-or-flight reaction wins.

I successfully ate in the lunch room two times last week.  All three pregnant ladies were there the first time.  I let myself be and it was fine.  A coworker oblivious to my struggles commented loudly (like, for real, loud enough that everyone could hear her) that it was rare to see me in the lunch room recently.  Well, thanks for noticing and making a case about it.  Not that she sits there for lunch everyday.  I was proud of myself and felt brave.  It wasn’t easy for me.

I have been closing my office door more often lately.  Just on Friday, I had to do that when a male coworker asked Supervisor how she was feeling, and her answering “so far so good”.  A second time, Original Pregnant Coworker and Pregnant Supervisor were chatting in the hallway about how different they were (in terms of their pregnancies).  Another office door closing moment.  At times, when I see my Supervisor in the hall, I can’t even look her in her eye.

Anyhow, I just have a difficult time dealing with all this, while at the same time seeing the gloomy dark sky every single day.  I need some sun.  Something to cheer me up.  And then I have this fear of the unknown of the future.  I ask what-if questions about my procedure next week, being afraid that the scar tissue is more serious than presented.  And the availability of the donor.  And the stress of putting together curriculum for the prenatal class that I mentioned about before, which is coming up very soon.  All of that plus the family issues.  Honestly the family conflicts stress me out the most.  I just feel like waking up daily is a challenge.  I plead with God on my way to work.  I ask for solutions.  I ask for peace and strength to get through everyday.  Sometimes it is tough.  Some days are a little better.  I am living day by day hoping that tomorrow will be better than today.  I also appreciate it when my friend asked me to give her three things for which I was thankful.  It helped.

Like I said, this is so surprising to me.  I thought I would be able to handle this better than I am.  This feels even more challenging than when we were banking embryos.  You know what I do?  I hang on to the good moments.  Like a walk with my husband and my father, chatting about anything and everything, making jokes and having a good time.

One day at a time.  This is the motto by which I live.

MicroblogMondays: My Awesome Dad

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My dad is in town for a month.  This is after 2.5 years of not coming home.  Long story short, due to some traumatic experiences going through immigration every time he comes into the States as a resident, it took him this long to decide to come.  To see him, we all had to travel out of the country.

I am thrilled that he is here.  My dad is one of the most awesome people I have ever known.  Born into a very poor family in China, he never had the chance for a formal education.  He started working at age six to help feed his family of many kids (my grandparents eventually had ten children).  He learned English, accounting, and other useful things on his own.  He is unlike many other traditional Chinese parents that I have encountered in my life time.  This is a dad that told me to major in whatever I was interested in college because the purpose of a college education is to train your mind for thinking.  Instead of requiring us to pursue a certain profession, my dad urged me to let my interest guide my career path.  My father is a very open-minded and generous person.

We don’t always talk on the phone.  But when we do, we can talk for a long time.  I can share more about my life with him than I can with my mom.  It is just a different kind of relationship.

Yesterday we went for a two-hour morning walk at Golden Gate Park.  This is his ritual: taking a walk there daily when he is in town.  Since we don’t talk on the phone a whole lot, I hadn’t updated him on the next steps of our fertility treatment.  I wasn’t in a rush to tell him.  I just let the conversation flow.  Somehow I started talking about finances and money.  And then about friends that have pursued egg donation.  I am quite sure this is a brand new concept for my father.  If it is not for me, he probably doesn’t really know a whole lot about IVF, IUI, and other fertility treatment.  After listening to me talking about my friends, my father asked, “Is this something that you guys are going to do next?”

Wow.  It blew my mind that he made that connection on his own that this would be our next logical step.  So the next 1.5 hours, he learned all about fresh vs. frozen eggs, in-house vs. agency donors, the difficulty finding an asian donor, the possibility of egg donation overseas, first time vs. proven donors, local vs. out-of-town donors, cost of egg donation, embryo adoption, and traditional domestic vs. international adoption.  It was truly a mouthful.  And it would have been too much for any 70-year-old parent to digest.  But my dad, in his usual open-minded manner, was unfazed by any of the things that I talked about.  He listened.  He commented.  He agreed with my personal choice.  And he also understood my desire to carry the baby.  He did not say, as some parents would, that I am too old for a child.  He did not say that it is too much money to pay for egg donation.  He did not say that he does not welcome a child that does not have my genetic makeup.  He also said that donor’s height doesn’t really matter because of Bob’s height.

He is awesome.

I am truly grateful that he is my dad and I am his daughter.  His and my mom’s support is so unwavering and their love is so unconditional.  I never have to worry about being judged by them.

This is so important especially in this world of easy judgment.

A Stressful Week has Ended, Yay!!!

I am so glad the weekend is here.  Even better that it is a long one.

Last two weeks were some of the toughest weeks I have experienced.  Somehow I don’t quite recall how trying for a baby month after month, starting IVF the first round, and banking embryos for the second round felt.  Maybe because I got used to it and felt familiar with the process.  Now that we’re moving on to egg donation, I was expecting my uterus to behave like usual so we could just move on with the process.  The fact that a therapeutic hysteroscopy is required in order to move forward is making my psychological wellbeing suffer a little.  My cycle going a little crazy again also depressed me a little.  Let me explain.

Menses started on March 18th after our failed transfer.  I bled for days and did not ovulate at all.  Breakthrough bleeding started on April 30th (my wedding anniversary no less).  I expected it to last for a few days like my usual cycles.  No luck.  I was bleeding for whole 19 days straight.  Last Sunday it was getting heavier and I was even passing blood clots, which scared and worried me because blood clotting is not good for implantation and staying pregnant.  Blood clots are also something new to me.  I wrote my OB/GYN about the blood clots, and she still thinks that the IVF drugs threw off my hormonal balance.  However, if I continue to be worried, she recommends a visit with her.  I just had an uneasy feeling that bleeding for so many days with an increased flow and blood clots is not normal.  I emailed my own nurse at my fertility clinic.  She said that if Dr. No Nonsense detects a blood clotting problem, he would prescribe both baby aspirin and Love.nox.

Another thing is, the surgical coordinator told me to contact her on cycle day two so that I could start birth control pills in preparation for the hysteroscopy if we decide to go with my current clinic.  Bob and I gave it some serious thoughts and do want to pay out of pocket to get my RE to perform the procedure.  However, given my continuous heavy bleeding and my recent wonky cycles, who knows when cycle day two would be?  Another thing is, Dr. No Nonsense is going to be overseas for a conference for two weeks in June.  He wants to be the one performing the procedure.  If we don’t catch him early enough, then we would have to wait until he comes back late June.  My email to the surgical coordinator on Sunday inquired about the bleeding situation and the timing of the surgery.  We connected on Monday morning.  She informed me that Dr. No Nonsense wanted me to start birth control pills right away because I was still bleeding.  I would be on the pill until the day of the surgery.  However, if my bleeding stops before I can start the pill, then I really will have to wait until cycle day two to start it.  That will further delay the procedure.  I don’t quite understand the reasoning behind starting the pills on cycle day two.  But I respect the process.  I was surprised to see that after passing lots of blood clots on Sunday, my bleeding had reduced to spotting on Monday.  If I didn’t start birth control pills on that day, then I would really have to wait until my body decides to ovulate or to have breakthrough bleeding.  Then it might take us all the way to June or even July before we could begin to schedule for the hysteroscopy.

You see the urgency for me to take advantage of my bleeding situation so I could start the pill?

So that morning at work, I had to rush to have the surgical coordinator order birth control pills for me.  Since my insurance does not cover for prescription ordered by my fertility clinic, I could wait for my OB/GYN to write me a prescription.  However, if I waited for my GYN, I had a feeling that my bleeding would stop the next day, which means I could not start the pills right away.  Instead of waiting for my GYN, I found an online discount coupon for the birth control pills and just paid out of pocket at the pharmacy down the street from work.  I swallowed my first birth control pill in my life at 1pm last Monday.  My first birth control pill at age 40.  That must be some kind of record.  I must have had a good hunch about things, because bleeding did stop later that day.  Timing is everything, right?  However, I was still worried that I started the birth control pills at the wrong time (because the bleeding had stopped shortly after I took the pill) and that would jeopardize the uterine lining and thus the surgery.  I wrote the surgical coordinator for reassurance, which she gave me as she told me to just continue the pills until the day of the surgery.

As if this is not complicated enough (or that I have made it complicated enough), Bob and I got into a robust discussion that morning about funding the procedure.  We do have the money for it.  And since it is a medical expense, I can use my Health Savings Account money.  However, my HSA does not currently have enough funds so I would have to fund it with my next paycheck.  My next paycheck is on May 31st.  I notice that depending on when our work payroll person deposits the HSA checks, sometimes the fund doesn’t show up until 5 or 6 days after pay day.  So Bob would like me to schedule the procedure some time after June 6th so that the HSA money is enough to cover for the procedure.  That kind of stressed me out because Dr. NN is going overseas on June 5th.  If we don’t schedule something before then, then we’d have to wait until later.  But Bob was also going a little crazy about having to pay for one other thing.  I think psychologically he just felt that our fertility problems have gone out of control.  Just one thing after another.  Everything has been unexpected, of course.  And even when we were so prepared for having to do a egg donation cycle, we still didn’t expect my uterus to have problems.  So his frustration is not because of the cost of the procedure per se, but because of his sense of lack of control.  He even went as crazy as to say that we should just cancel our Chicago trip and some other things.  I found that when he feels the lack of control, he becomes illogical like that.  So this whole conversation took place online while I was juggling work, correspondence with the surgical coordinator, and emailing my GYN.  Finally, I stopped engaging in that online conversation with him and just stepped away.

And not to mention that I had a huge presentation scheduled on Wednesday so I was trying madly to finish up the final touches.  My dad was going to come to town on Tuesday from Hong Kong after not coming back for 2.5 years.  Given some sensitive family issues between my husband and my side of the family, it was stressful for me emotionally to deal with everything all at once.

I know that all of this may not sound like a lot to all of you.  But it was a lot for me to take.  I really didn’t need Bob to go crazy on me about finances.  Fortunately, my husband always thinks about our robust discussions afterwards.  One of the good things about him is that he comes around very quickly.  He became sane again and apologized later on.  When the surgical coordinator came back with June 3rd as my surgery date, I told Bob that we might have to use funds other than the ones in my HSA for part of the procedure.  He returned my message thanking me for trying to use my HSA and told me that it would be fine to use other funds.  I was so glad to get my logical husband back.

Normally I don’t get stressed out by any one of these things.  Somehow I had a really difficult time handling all of them at the same time.  I told Bob not to fight me on Tuesday and Wednesday because I needed to put my game face on for my presentation.  My body could feel my stress though.  My shoulder hurt.  My wrist hurt.  I was emotionally on survival mode.

Then this happened on Wednesday, the afternoon before my huge presentation:

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My husband sent these flowers to work for me to wish me luck at my presentation and told me that I would do an awesome job.  Aren’t they gorgeous?  He saw how stressed out I was in the past few days and wanted to cheer me up.

This has made up for everything.  The good news is, the presentation went really well, my dad arrived safely, and both Bob and I have been having a fantastic time with my parents.

Like I said, I am so glad the week is over.  Next week will definitely be better.

MicroblogMondays: Bob’s Misadventure

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As required, Bob arrived at the clinic to give a sample for his semen analysis.  This is not the usual location, the one that he was used to.  Our clinic had moved.  The new fancy schmancy location is like a maze, not one with which he was familiar.  He checked in at the front desk with one of the ladies, who might have been a little embarrassed about the word “semen” because she just looked at the screen and said, “Oh you are here for… okay”.  He was asked to pay up, which surprised him because probably like many husbands, he didn’t listen to or remember his wife telling him that the cost is not covered by insurance because of the special analysis (strict morphology) required by this particular clinic.  A male lab technician came and led him to a room.  At the old clinic, he would usually just be left alone to do his business.  This time, this guy felt the need (or was told, maybe?) to show Bob around the room where he would produce a sample.  He explicitly told Bob where the towels, the DVDs, and the lubricant were.  Awkward…… Then he left.  Bob looked around.  He opened the cabinet door expecting to find “educational material” .  Uh oh.  NO educational material.  Although we often joked about how dated the magazines were and how infrequently the previous location replenished the supply, they were available to help male partners with the process.  This fancy schmancy new location doesn’t even provide any magazines, old or otherwise.  The only thing that was left in the room was those DVDs, which didn’t help because it is not Bob’s kind of thing.  He did look at the cover for giggles so that he could tell me what they were called.  It was volumes one to four of “Boo.ty Patrol” with this posted on the wall:

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Poor guy.  He didn’t have all the time in the world to get it done.  And he definitely did not want to watch any videos.  So he had to resort to his phone.  The sample room is right next to the embryology lab.  He could hear clinging and banging sounds from next door while he was concentrating on his mission.  He didn’t know what to search for at first, so it took him a few tries before he got the right combination of words to get something that was useful.  It really wasn’t easy for a guy like him who doesn’t look at these images online.

Awkward……

I wish that clinics could be a little more considerate when it comes to helping men achieve their goal.  Especially for those who don’t watch videos or enjoy online images.

Bob should get a gold star for completing this mission despite unexpected technical difficulty.

Hysteroscopy Needed

One more hurdle to overcome.

I totally thought that once we decided on egg donation, all we had to do was to choose an egg donor.  Other things would fall into places.  This is so not the case.

Dr. No Nonsense didn’t call me until Thursday.  The saline sonogram was on Monday.  So it took a whole three days for that phone call.  The “no-news-is-good-news” theory didn’t really work here.  Fortunately I actually was available to answer his phone call on the day when I had back-to-back clients.  As usual, he put me on speaker phone, which I really dislike because I feel like I can never have a decent conversation with him.  He asked if the saline sonogram was painful.  Actually it wasn’t.  I have pretty high pain tolerance for these things.  My previous saline sonogram or diagnostic hysteroscopy all did not hurt at all.  Even the hysterosalpingogram (HSG) didn’t hurt either.  Anyways, Dr. NN said that it looked like there is scar tissue.  No one knows how much there is.  So he said that he would need to go in and clean out any scar tissue that I may have.  He would prefer to do it when I am awake vs. me being totally sedated so that I can look at the procedure being done.   He hoped that we could clear all of it out using this procedure.

I just remember my heart racing fast and my mind going wild.  I just don’t want any sort of surgery if I don’t need it.  I was really hoping that we didn’t have to go down this route.  I just wanted Dr. Director to be wrong and for Dr. NN to say that the images from the saline sonogram were fine.  I always pride myself for having a good lining because it has never been a problem.  The fact that there is scar tissue that needs to be cleaned out is enough to make me want to puke.  But I held myself together and started asking questions about logistics.  I have Kai.ser insurance, which means that whatever procedure I do at UC.SF will not be covered by my insurance.  I reminded Dr. NN that fact.  I could hear him go Ugh.  He didn’t know the cost of the surgery.  So I asked him, “Is it a hysteroscopy that you wanted?” since he never told me what the procedure was called.  He said Yes.  And he said that I could get it done at Kai.ser, but that means that it will most likely be done under general anesthesia in the operating room.  If that’s the route I want to take, he would want to talk to my doctor at Kai.ser.  He told me to give my nurse’s email to my Kai.ser doctor to contact him.  And if I prefer to have the procedure done at UC.SF, the financial coordinator can contact me.

We hung up.  I really was not feeling good that a procedure has become a reality for me.  I could have felt sad, or mad.  However, I didn’t have time to analyze my feelings because my problem solving mode was turned on.  In the short 10 minutes that I had left before I saw my next client, I emailed my Kai.ser doctor, updated Bob about the situation, and emailed my own nurse to get some questions answered, including my bleeding problem that I was too flustered to remember to ask Dr. NN.  Bob was sad and frustrated.  He was mainly mad at himself for quitting his big corporation job and losing the fantastic health insurance that came with it.  He was mad that this could all have been covered at UC.SF had I continued to use his big corporation insurance rather than having to sign up with Kai.ser through my own work.  Nobody could have predicted what might happen in the future.   So it’s really not helpful to blame oneself.  I told him that we can’t worry about what has been done already.  We have to look ahead.  He said that he wanted to scream out of frustration, but he would try to persevere, like I was doing at that point.  He felt so sorry that it has been so tough on me.

I went on to see my next three kids.  It was really tough to get myself together.  But I did it anyways.  I really had no choice.  I tried as best as I could be to focus on the kids, but at times, my mind drifted back to the reality of having to do a hysteroscopy and possibly delaying our egg donation process.  My mind again went to a dark place: the fear of not being able to carry a child to term because of whatever problem I have in my uterus.  Again, I know this is not logical.  But that’s what fear is.  Not logical.  My mind went far.  The possibility of losing the egg donor. The possibility of scar tissue that is too serious and needing a gestational carrier.  It was scary to let my mind go so far.

One great thing about Kai.ser doctors is the accessibility to the doctors themselves.  My OB/GYN, whom I have never met in person before, returned my email right away.  She said that this kind of procedure is usually done in the operating room by the Kai.ser surgical team. She could make a referral for me if I would like.  I wrote her back asking for a referral. I also wrote again, gave her my background of my IVF cycle, and asked her if my 15 days of bleeding was a concern.  She said that it is most likely the extra hormones in my system that cause the vaginal bleeding, because scar tissue doesn’t usually cause that.  She also said that the surgical team will call me in a week to schedule an appointment, and at that time my questions regarding diagnostic code and procedure code will be answered.

The whole night on Thursday, while I was still waiting for the quote from UC.SF on the procedure, I became more and more calm about this new development.  Like I said, I have turned to problem solving mode.  Things may get delayed for a little.  But I would rather get this done first than to risk having implantation problems because of scar tissue.  At the same time, I feel like one day I may just explode.  There just has been one twist after another in our quest of a baby.  It has been really tough.

God really spoke to me that night.  The several daily reading plans that I read all helped me refocus my eye gaze back on Jesus.  One says, “But there is one thing that will never change, even through the ups and the downs of infertility.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (from Infertility Encouragement from Sarah’s Laughter)

Another passage says, “When it comes to hardships in life, it is common to feel as though you are stuck…… When bad things happen, it’s understandable to feel continually defeated in your heart and spirit.  We can be tempted to think that we will always stay stuck….. One of the best gifts God has given to use is free will……. We have free of choice… we can CHOOSE joy.  We can CHOOSE to run to God. We can CHOOSE to do something about life from this day forward.  We can CHOOSE to pick up the pieces and create the best life possible with God’s direction.” (from Grief Bites: Finding Treasure in Hardships)

With these reminders to put my focus back on God, I fell asleep.  I woke up feeling mostly at peace.

My nurse returned my email saying that 1) the financial coordinator will contact me, 2) the bleeding could be a sign of perimenopause and I could be put on birth control pills to stop the bleeding.  I was taken aback a little by the word “perimenopause”.  But I guess, we have already chosen this route of egg donation.  So whether on perimenopause or not, I should be okay.

About an hour later, a surgical coordinator from UC.SF contacted me informing of the cost of a hysteroscopy in the office with sedation.  The total of facility fees and professional fees for scar tissue removal is about $2600.  If Dr. NN finds more than just scar tissue to remove, the professional fee may increase with the maximum of $500.  I was to contact her when I would like to proceed.  Dr. NN would most likely start me on birth control pills or Aygestin on cycle day two and schedule the procedure 15 days or more after I have been on the medications.  I asked if I could chat with the doctor one more time to learn about why I should get it done at UC.SF instead of Kai.ser.  The coordinator said that since Dr. NN has been following me, he knows how much to remove.  I asked about the cost of the procedure done at an operation room with general anesthesia because that will most likely be the procedure done at Kai.ser.  I was shocked to learn that it would cost $18,000 at UC.SF.  Uh no thank you.

So currently this is what we are facing.  A choice between paying out of pocket at my own clinic with my own reproductive endocrinologist or possible insurance coverage for the procedure at Kai.ser.  I haven’t called Kai.ser to learn about the cost.  I have a high deductive insurance plan so I will need to pay out of pocket up to a certain amount before insurance starts to cover for health-related cost.  The cost of the hysteroscopy at UC.SF is actually well within my expectation.  I will contact Kai.ser this weekend or on Monday to get a quote.  Another thing is that, I don’t know what code will be used at Kai.ser.  If an infertility diagnostic code is used, then the procedure will definitely not be covered.  So that’s something I have to look into.  Plus if it’s not covered, the cost of doing the procedure with general anesthesia in an operating room at Kai.ser is going to be really high.  I may as well just get it done at a clinic with which I am familiar.  Then I’ll just have to put on my big girl panties and do it with sedation in an office.  Hopefully it won’t hurt too badly.

Yes.  One more hurdle.  But I think we are in good hands: both God’s and the doctor’s.  I just pray that Bob and I will continue to remain calm and get over this hurdle with the peace and strength that only come from God.

Crazy Last Few Days

The last few days had been crazy and emotional for me.  It all started on Sunday.

Bob and I have had fights about my family.  This fight about this particular topic has been recurring.  And I feel like there is no resolution unless something or someone changes.  Anyways, we had one of those fights on Sunday.  I know it was Mother’s Day.  I am the greeter at church every single Mother’s Day.  This time it was no different.  And I dare to say that it was actually not bad at all.  I went and greeted people.  I didn’t experience the constant bombardment of “Happy Mother’s Day” ringing in my ears like last year.  I was fine seeing all the babies that were being dedicated during Sunday service.  It was interesting to observe that out of the 7 or 8 families on stage, only one family had a single child.  Everyone else was dedicating their third child.  I actually wasn’t bugged by that.  Just an observation.  Bob and I were originally going to have leftovers at home.  He suggested taking me out on Mother’s Day.  We walked into our favorite taqueria and saw my brother’s whole family with their friends there.  It was actually very awkward.  We just saw them at church but we weren’t invited by them to lunch.  My sister-in-law saw me and mumbled something like oh I thought about calling you.  Anyhow, there has been tension with my one and only brother.  Mainly Bob has felt that they treat friends better than they treat family.  I can see his point and I don’t blame him.  Bob didn’t say much about this incident, and we still had a great time having lunch by ourselves.  Later on that afternoon, he asked me a question about my parents, questioning why I was opting to do something for my dad.  I couldn’t understand why he questioned me.  And he kept on pushing me to give him a reasonable answer.  It started escalating and became a full-blown fight.  I believe that deep down the whole Mother’s Day thing at church and bumping into my brother’s family at lunch triggered a lot of negative emotions and he needed an outlet.  Infertility and money is also a part of this tension between us: the constant need to shell out more money, the stalling of the process, the lack of progress, etc.

Needless to say, although we made up, Sunday didn’t go well.  The residual feelings spilled over to Monday morning.  My eyes were puffy and life felt a little more grim than usual.  I went to my saline sonogram that morning at 8:30am.  I arrived early, paid my big money, and waited.  I was called back in no time.  Dr. Director (who is the director of the clinic) did my sonogram.  The mock transfer was extremely easy.  The catheter went in and came out.  Dr. Director went on to do the saline sonogram.  The dye went in and I could see my uterus on the big screen.  She showed me the big fibroid that has always been there.  Then she showed me a smaller fibroid.  Those didn’t seem to be the problems as she put it, “They are behaving quite well”.  However, she became silent while checking on something for a quite a few seconds.  Going in, I didn’t expect anything other than my uterus looking okay because none of my previous scans, saline sonogram, or hysteroscopy showed otherwise.  Dr. Director moved the wand and showed me on the screen this area that became dark and then light again, which might indicate adhesions or scar tissues.  She asked if I had a surgery before.  I did, but it was on the uterine wall, not in the cavity.  I don’t know how scar tissues could move into the cavity.  She took a few more images, finished the scans, and asked me to sit up.  I asked her what this all meant.  But she wasn’t willing to say anything.  She just told me that Dr. No Nonsense would look over the scans and contact me about the next steps.  I pressed further, and she said that he might request a hysteroscopy for me.  But she would defer to his opinion.

Let me tell you.  I wasn’t feeling well.  My mind was immediately going to very dark places.  I know that it is not logical, but my first reaction was that this could be a problem that would prevent me from carrying a child to term.  I had arranged for a meeting with the donor coordinator immediately following the saline sonogram.  While I was waiting for her to come get me, my mind was going wild.  However, I was determine not to consult with Dr. Googl.e though.  I waited for a very long time, about 45 minutes, before the donor coordinator came to get me.

I requested the meeting because I wanted to learn about the next steps after the precycle checklist has been done.  The meeting didn’t go well either.  Apparently, we have to wait until Dr. No Nonsense clears my saline sonogram.  However, even with all the checklist items being done, we will not be matched with our chosen donor immediately.  The donor coordinator will call the donor in July, which is a month prior to when she said she’d be available, to ask if she is indeed going to do the donation.  So we really won’t know for sure until July.  One point I am not clear is whether or not we will lose this donor if another couple ahead of us on the priority list becomes interested in her.  I will have to ask about this in the future.

This totally sucks.  There is no guarantee that we will get this donor until right before she can start a cycle.  The donor coordinator’s explanation is that even if the donor says yes right now, she may still change her mind due to external factors like career change, trips, or other things.  I can see that point, but it still sucks.  Another thing is cost.  If somehow the donor does not respond to the stims, the recipient will be out half of the donor compensation fee as well as the cost of the medication.  Half of the donor fee is a lot of money.  I guess it’s nice to have a proven donor so you know that she did respond well to drugs previously.  But still.  I can request a meeting with the donor, but my clinic does not assist the donor to take part in the Donor Sibling Registry.  This is very surprising to me as this is a large clinic.

I walked out of the clinic feeling defeated.  The fight the day before, the unknown about my uterine cavity, and the delay of being officially matched with a donor made life grim for me.  I still had to go back to work and put on a happy face.  Before that, I went to my jeweler to tighten the diamond on my engagement ring that apparently came loose over the weekend.  My jeweler looked at it carefully and declared that he would have to keep the ring for a few days to fix it.  I don’t like parting with my ring, but I had to.  I said, Can you believe it that this ring is almost five years old?  Jeweler said, Still no babies yet?  And I said, I am not going to lie.  We’ve been trying but it’s been very hard.  My jeweler remained silent.  I guess there is nothing to say when you give a brutally honest answer to these sensitive questions.

I hid in my office at work, with the door closed.  I just couldn’t interact with anyone.  Luckily I didn’t have any clients until the afternoon.  I was worried about the saline sonogram results and had my phone close to me.  Then, one of my FB secret group ladies, who had been trying for her second child for a few months, posted her BFP.  I normally would not react strongly to this, but after all the not-so-good news, a pee stick picture was too much to bear.  That was a perfect day for hiding under the blanket.  But of course I had no way of doing that.  I had to put on a happy face for the kids.

After my last client, my coworker, who knows nothing about our struggles, came in to show me the new Playmobil toys that she just purchase.  My first thought was, You’ve gotta be kidding me.  This is what she showed me:

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I can’t even escape a pregnant lady when I am shown a toy.  I am quite sure she is pregnant because the other Playmobil mommies all have flat tummies, although Aramis speculated that maybe she hadn’t lost her pregnancy weight yet.  The only two things that I commented on this to my coworker were 1) She definitely didn’t have any problems conceiving, and 2) the kids are possibly from different dads.

The only silver lining the whole day was that I got street parking right away all three times I needed them.  Small mercies, yeah?

I was exhausted when I got home.  Mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Dr. No Nonsense still hadn’t contacted me after a whole day.  I really needed a mental health day to recuperate from all the things that happened in the past couple of days.  I arranged for a day off on Tuesday and was going to do something that I would enjoy.  I finished my last blog post, pressed Publish, then went to bed.

Wow.  I was so surprised when I woke up at 5:45am and read my first comment.  A comment not from an unknown troll, but from someone who had commented more than a dozen times in the past year.  Someone who had been supportive and repeatedly cheered me on and offered her prayers.  I actually had never received any negative comments before.  This was the first time that I felt like someone had yelled at me very loudly for the choice that I am so carefully making for myself, my husband, and my future children.  I was stunned that I was criticized for such a personal choice.  And I was even more flabbergasted that this person did not voice her opinion in a respectful way on my personal blog, but used strong language to attack me.  I am thankful for all the friends who commented and called this person out.  I was actually not mad.  But this whole incident left a bad taste in my mouth on a day when I was supposed to rest mentally, physically, and emotionally.  I don’t see the need to explain my choices and my finances, but I will write another post to clarify the difference between frozen eggs and fresh eggs, as Julia so eloquently explained in the comment section.

I woke up this morning at 5:10am having the similar feeling that I had when I was banking embryos.  I was feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and helpless. I need of strength and peace that could only come from the Lord.  I prayed for Him to sustain me, and give me strength to get through the day.  I got through today okay.  Still no phone call or email from the clinic.  I eventually emailed my nurse to ask for an update on the scan results as well as to ask whether it is a big problem for me to be having breakthrough bleeding 14 days straight (yes, today is cycle day 14 and I am still having light bleeding).  So disappointing that nobody has gotten back to me.  So I continue to wait.  Jane Allen maintains that it could be good news if the doctor hasn’t contacted me, which means that it’s not a serious problem to begin with.

There you have it.  My crazy few days.  Sometimes I just feel that I should go back to see a therapist to talk through all my feelings.  Unfortunately, mine is on maternity leave.  But it may be worthwhile to see someone new in the mean time.  I thought I could do it all, but I can’t.  I need God’s help.  And possibly another therapist.

The Beginning of Everything Egg Donation

I know this update is long overdue.  So much has happened since I last wrote about this.  In order to keep the integrity of the whole experience, I will keep everything in one post instead of two.  Please bear with me as this post will be ultra long.

I am Chinese and 5’8″.  My criteria for a donor had been: 1) 5’6″ to 5’9″, 2) at least part Chinese.  I have since relaxed my requirement because of the limited availability of donors.  The height requirement has been lowered a few times.  It went to 5’5″ and then 5’4″.  I had been standing firm at 5’4″.  We would prefer an in-house donor with my clinic because 1) the donors have been screened and are all good to go and 2) the cost is lower without the agency fee and other fees.

The last time I wrote about egg donation was April 7th.  At that time, I was still not quite ready to contact the donor coordinator at my clinic.  However, I suddenly felt an urge to get things moving on Thursday April 9th.  I emailed the donor coordinator the next morning, letting her know that we were ready to move forward with a donor egg cycle.  I specifically asked about three donors in whom we were interested.

Donor 1 is half Chinese half other asian.  She is only 3 inches shorter than I am.  Here is her stellar cycle history:

Cycle 1: 18 eggs retrieved, 15 fertilized, 1 transferred, 7 frozen embryos, live birth.  

Cycle 2: 18 eggs retrieved, 10 fertilized, 1 transferred, 5 frozen embryos, positive pregnancy.

Cycle 3 (cryo cycle): 18 eggs were retrieved and split into 2 cycles of 9 eggs. The first recipient received 9 eggs, 7 fertilized, 2 transferred, and 4 frozen embryos. The recipient is currently pregnant.

Cycle 4: 17 eggs were retrieved, 12 fertilized, 2 transferred, and 3 frozen embryos . The recipient is currently pregnant.

I liked this donor.  I wasn’t in love with her as the answers to her questions on the profile were okay.  She is only 21.  Full asian.  However, she is not available for a fresh cycle.  There is a second batch of seven eggs left from the previous frozen egg cycle.  And she has committed to doing another frozen egg cycle in which her eggs will be frozen in batches for future use.  I asked Bob if he would consider using her 7 frozen eggs since her previous frozen egg cycle yielded excellent results (pregnancy and four frozen embryos).  However, Bob wants to give me the best chance of pregnancy and still believes that a fresh cycle will allow us to do that.  I tried asking the donor coordinator if we could sync the cycle when this donor donates again so we can get half of the fresh eggs instead of the frozen eggs.  She said that unfortunately the clinic won’t allow that to happen.

So donor 1 is no go.

Donor 2 is half Chinese half caucasian.  She’s got the height as she is slightly shorter than I am.  She just completed one cycle with 13 eggs, 11 fertilized, 1 transferred, and 9 frozen embryos.  The recipient had a miscarriage and has not done a frozen embryo transfer yet.  However, this donor is unavailable to donate again until 2016.

Donor 2 is not going to work out either.

Donor 3 is the same height as donor 1.  I was very impressed with her profile and felt her sincerity coming through the page.  However, she is a mixture of caucasian and another asian ethnicity and may have only a little bit of Chinese.  She was in cycle at that time and another couple was already in line to be matched with her.  The clinic’s policy is not to inquire about the donor’s intention to donate again until the cycle is done.  So as far as I am concerned, she is not available.

Donor 3 also doesn’t seem like a possibility.

Just like that, all three donors are not available.  I was disappointed because I thought I had a good chance of having one of those donors.

Bob and I were initially adamant about not going with a donor agency because of the extra cost.  I crunched some numbers and found that going with an agency is doable.  So I started embarking on the journey of looking at donor databases at different agencies.  Agencies come in different shapes and sizes.  Some are national and have donors all over the country.  Some are small and local.  Many of the local ones do NOT have any asian donors.  One well known one in the city actually has 15 to 20 asian donors at a given time, which is quite good.  However, we didn’t see anybody who stood out.  I was remotely interested in one girl who is 5’4″.  That was it.  And the agency director does not provide a password for full access of the profiles until potential recipient parents meet with her.  So we made an appointment for a meeting.  In the mean time, we continued looking.

One day, I received an email from one of the donor databases that a first-time fully Chinese donor was available from the other coast.  She was tall, pretty, and educated.  I quickly forwarded the email to Bob and started daydreaming about the possibility of working with someone like her.  I clicked on her profile and saw that she was already reserved by another couple.  Asian donors are like a hot commodity.  You have to snatch them quickly before they disappear.  Plus, I looked more closely at the cost associated with this agency and the extra cost of working with an out-of-town donor.  Did you know that you have to pay for the travel cost of the donor and a companion of hers for all their hotel, meals, transportation, etc etc.  It adds up in no time.  And someone like her who is a first timer, you don’t know how well she would respond to the stimulation.

Another day, we found another fully Chinese asian donor on another database.  She was within my height requirement and was highly educated.  She had already donated 6 times.  The donor agency coordinator informed me that our current clinic would not agree to working with her because the ASRM guideline is for donors to donate no more than 6 times.  In order to cycle with this donor, who is also out of town, we will have to cycle with a clinic down in the LA area that would accept the 7th donation as well as pay the extra cost of travel.  Uh. No.

And then, I discovered through a donor egg forum that you can actually cycle in Malaysia with Chinese donors.  I found a lady who owns a donor agency there and wrote her.  We exchanged a few emails.  I told her my criteria for a donor.  She sent me a bunch of donor profiles.  The thing is, the donor profiles don’t say much about the donor.  They include the donors’ names, a few pictures, the family’s history, and the reason for donation.  Some of the profiles have a lot of missing information.  And the family history for all the donors say “No” for all the health conditions.  I don’t know how much we should believe that.  I told the donor agency lady the top three choices.  From what she told me later, it doesn’t seem like any of them will work out.  Plus the cost of cycling there is not as inexpensive as going to the Czech Republic.  The cost of traveling plus the cycle would be about 60% of what it’d cost to cycle with an in-house donor at our current clinic.  We also have to factor in the cost of travel and frozen embryo transfer if the first transfer doesn’t work.  Traveling to Malaysia around summer time is pricey.  All these factors make me hesitate in actually thinking further about egg donation in another country.

Finally it came time to meet with the local donor agency lady who has many more asian donors than any other agencies in the local area.  It was a nice meeting. We learned a lot about the cost and the process of working with her.  The take home for me from meeting with her is:

  • If we see somebody that we like, we have to be proactive because the donors will be chosen by others in no time.
  • You pay the agency fees for a donor after you choose the donor.  With first-time donors, you pay the agency fees first, then pay for the donor to go through her screening.  If the donor doesn’t pass the screening, then you would lose the money that you have paid for her screening.
  • If a donor doesn’t work out and you decide not to go with the agency anymore, you will be refunded majority of the fees minus $500 administrative fees.   However, if the donor has started stims already and at some point the cycle is canceled due to no fault of the donor, she gets compensated at a fraction of the fees, ranging from $500 to $1500.
  • We were told to check on the donor database daily for new donors.
  • Working with this agency will be about $5000 more than going with an in-house donor with my clinic.

We were interested in one of the donors who had donated before.  She is half Chinese and is currently doing a cycle.  However, her first donation’s record was less than stellar.  There were only eight eggs and one embryo.  Although the recipient did get pregnant, there was nothing left to freeze.  We were told to call right after her egg retrieval, which is coming up on May 13th, to look at her performance this time.

After our meeting with this lady, I had been checking the website every single day.  I checked one weekend and saw a brand new donor who is half asian (not Chinese).  She was tall (almost my height), very pretty, highly educated at a great university, and young.  My reaction to seeing her profile was very interesting to me.  It was a visceral reaction.  I was shaking.  This was the first time that I actually saw someone that could be a possibility for us, because she was local, tall, educated, and pretty, although she is not Chinese.  However, I saw things that did not add up on her profile.  I won’t go into detail of it, but I wrote the agency lady about it.  The way she explained the discrepancies was less than ideal for Bob.  Plus, another couple with whom the agency had worked for longer got first priority in choosing a donor, and this tall donor was one of their top choices.  We had to wait.  The next day, I showed Maddie, Aramis, and Jane the profile and we were all daydreaming about having this donor for me.  However, I still hesitated because she was a first-time donor and who knows how she would respond to drugs.  I am thankful to have friends who would mull over these things with me.

The next two days, I prayed for God’s wisdom and His hand in making a decision for us.  If this is not the right donor for us, I asked God to move the other couple’s heart so that they would pick this donor.  And also prayer for me to not be disappointed.  The next day, the donor agency lady notified me that this couple had picked this tall donor.  There was another shorter, 5’3″ donor, that was also brand new and 100% asian.  Just not Chinese.  I liked her profile as well, and she seemed much more sincere.  However, do we risk our money on a first-time donor who has no Chinese blood in her?

This made me think of a donor on the in-house donor database at my current clinic.  I remember reading her donor profile initially.  She is 5’2″.  Definitely way shorter than the requirement I had set for myself.  When I saw her profile, I didn’t immediately click on it.  And then one day, I clicked on it and was attracted by her.  She is half Chinese and very pretty.  I was impressed by her answers to the questions in the profile and felt drawn to her. She seemed to have this drive and is very goal oriented.  I loved what she said about the reason why she looked into egg donation.  And I loved that she actually cared enough to fill out the three questions at the end of the questionnaire: what she wanted to let the program know, to let the recipient parents know, and to let the future child(ren) know.  Many donors did not complete that part in their profiles.  She also checked that she was open to communicating with the recipient parents and children in the future.  All in all, she came across as a very open person.  I loved that.  However, I never seriously considered the possibility of having her as our donor solely because of her height.

On her profile it says that her four previous donations resulted in pregnancies.  So I emailed the in-house donor coordinator at my clinic her cycle history.  Here it is:

Cycle 1: 30 eggs retrieved, 20 eggs fertilized, 2 embryos transferred, 4 frozen embryos. Positive pregnancy with the fresh transfer and a live birth. Negative pregnancy with FET.

Cycle 2: 23 eggs retrieved, 16 eggs fertilized, 2 embryos transferred, 6 frozen embryos. Positive twin pregnancy with the fresh transfer and a live births.

Cycle 3: 26 eggs retrieved, 21 eggs fertilized, 2 embryos transferred, 2 frozen embryos. Positive pregnancy with the fresh transfer and a live birth.

Cycle 4: 26 eggs retrieved, 13 eggs fertilized, 2 embryos transferred, 1 frozen embryo. Positive pregnancy with the fresh transfer—miscarriage. FET to be determined.

She is currently 27 years old.  And it seems like the last cycle the results weren’t as good.  However, I also have to keep in mind that the uterine environment and the sperm are also critical factors in how many embryos are made and the miscarriage.  So I wrote to ask for my RE’s opinion.  Given this proven donor who is slightly older and a younger donor who is not proven, which one he would prefer.  The nurse wrote back:

“Dr. No Nonsense thinks she is a good candidate even though she is 27 years of age.  He would go with this  proven donor, rather than the younger donor.  We want to see at least more than 14 eggs and she makes a lot more than this.”

It’s a relief to know that she is a good candidate.  Bob and I got into a very serious discussion about the height.  Is that really a deal breaker?  With Bob’s height (6’5″), does it really matter that the donor is not as tall as I am?  Given having no baby vs. a baby who is not as tall as he would be if he had my genes, what would I choose?  Would I have hesitated if the donor were an inch or two taller?  Given this proven shorter donor and a first-time tall donor, what would I choose?

So many questions.  No one could answer for us.

But the most important question is, is this donor available?  If she was not, then this discussion would have been moot.  About ten days ago, I asked the donor coordinator if this donor was available.  This is the answer I got:

“[Donor’s name] will be available to match and complete a cycle in mid-July/August. Have you checked with your care team in regards to your checklist?”

I immediately updated Bob and wrote the coordinator back.  Our trip is from July 4th to July 11th. She said, “That should not interfere with the cycle as it looks like you both would be out of town around the same time, and would most likely move forward with the cycle after that. The donor is coming in next week to update her labs, so I can let you know if everything checks out for her. I can match you as soon as you have completed your checklist.”

Dr. No Nonsense’s administrative assistant went over the checklist with me.  There are only three things we have to finish before we could be matched with the donor. One is my complete blood count plus platelets.  It is easily accomplished.  At publish time of this post, I had already completed it with normal results.  The second is a saline sonogram to check on the uterine cavity as well as a mock transfer.  I originally was opting to get it done with my OB/GYN using my own insurance to save a few bucks.  However, given the timeline, waiting for my OB would take too long.  This procedure has to be done between cycle day 6 and 12.  AF still had not come on cycle day 44 after my failed IVF transfer.  I was worried that delayed AF would delay the procedure.  AF must have heard the curses I had for her because she showed up that afternoon following my phone call with the admin assistant.  So a saline sonogram had been scheduled.  (At publish time of this post, the saline sonogram has been done.  I’ll write another update.)  Finally, a special semenalysis with strict morphology has to be done and paid for privately (because insurance won’t cover for this special analysis).  This is to determine if regular fertilization, half ICSI, or full ICSI is appropriate for fertilizing the eggs.  This is a matter of paying extra $1000, $2000, or nothing.  We originally scheduled it for end of the month.  However, after the donor coordinator told me that the donor’s updated labs all checked out, and we wouldn’t be able to be matched with her until all the items on the checklist have been completed, I moved up Bob’s appointment to this week. This is what the donor coordinator said: “I am unable to reserve any donor for you and can only match donors to recipients who have completed their checklist. I do, however, believe that there is a strong likelihood that you can match with [donor’s name], and will definitely let you know if someone else ahead of you on the waitlist becomes interested in her.”  So we are doing everything in our power to make sure that we move ahead faster so we can be matched sooner.

All of a sudden, things are becoming real.  We are moving from only talking about it to actually doing things and having the potential of being matched with a donor who is pretty, attractive, with a great personality, proven, and half Chinese.

However, I still battled the height of the donor for quite a few days.  I know that there is no perfect donor out there.  I myself would be perfect for myself.  And I am very far from being perfect. Height WAS the second most important criterion for me.  However, I set my criteria a long time ago not knowing the extreme difficulty of finding a donor that would match the height, ethnicity, and prior successful donation criteria.  Even when I saw the “perfect” donor with the height and ethnicity, they didn’t have some other things that I didn’t know I was looking for.  Cost and distance are a problem with some of these “perfect” donors.  Plus I didn’t know that I actually care a lot about how attracted I am to the donor’s personality.

So day by day, I have been feeling better and better about the donor’s height.  And day after day, I have been feeling like that this is becoming less of an issue.  Eventually it will become a non-issue.

One day Maddie asked me how I felt about this whole thing and if I was at peace with it.  This is my answer to her:

“I feel like some force is leading me to that direction.  Given all the people lining up in front of me, all the ones that we had come across and been given a choice to pick, I think I would still pick her.  It just works somehow, with her personality, her ethnicity, her looks, and her fertility history.  I was thinking, if the tall pretty donor was available to us, putting her with the current donor together, I would still choose the current donor.”

The force is God.  I have been praying daily for Him to lead us in the right direction.  Somehow things have been working out with her.  The more Bob and I talk about this donor, the more we are excited about the possibility of the future.  I am so grateful for having friends who have gone through this process ahead of me.  Other than excitement, I have also been feeling doubtful, terrified, ambivalent, and a whole other gamut of emotions.  I confirmed with Aramis that these are all very real, normal, and legitimate feelings.  Good to know that I am NOT going crazy, that it’s okay to feel positive and negative about the same thing.

Okay there you have it.  Over 3400 words for this post.  This is a first for me.  I guess I did have a lot to say.  😉  I will let you all know the results of all the tests and whether we will be matched with this donor.