MicroblogMondays: The Last Two Months, An Abridged Version

Microblog_Mondays

There is something called one step forward, two steps back and we are very familiar with it.

In the last few months we have been going through a lot of soul searching about me carrying our baby vs. a surrogate carrying our baby vs. doing both.  The more I pray about it, the more the surrogacy route sounds like the right path.  The thought of potential complications with my own pregnancy is just too much for this moment.  When I think about what is more important to me, I’d definitely vote for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.  I know there is no guarantee.  But the likelihood of a surrogate carrying a healthy baby to term is a lot higher than a pregnancy in my womb.  My therapist asked me to consider this: if we decide to do a simultaneous transfer with a surrogate transfer and if we both get pregnant, how I am going to handle the surrogate’s pregnancy (namely having the emotional and physical health/energy to tend to her pregnancy and birth) if anything bad happens to my own pregnancy.  That is really worth exploring.

While we haven’t ruled out a Lupr.on Depot trial and a transfer to me, we have been actively figuring out the financial aspects and logistics of using a surrogate.  So here is what has happened in the last couple of months:

  • An online friend of mine offered to carry for us as a gift.  We were emailing back and forth for a couple of weeks about the logistics.  She has young active children of her own and has two more embryos she’d like to transfer.  Since she is not quite done with her family building, the conclusion is that it is best for her to not be a gestational carrier so that her future pregnancy is not compromised.  We were obviously bummed out about it, but Bob and I totally understand her situation and are very thankful for her thoughtful and selfless offer.
  • In the mean time, I have done a lot of research regarding surrogacy agencies in my state as well as in other states.  I have contacted several agencies in California and the complicated fee schedules and the sheer high cost make me very hesitant to even consider interviewing any surrogates with them.  I had phone interviews with two surrogacy agencies in another surrogacy-friendly state.  I like both agencies.  We reviewed profiles from both agencies and liked some of the potential surrogates.  One particular agency’s fee schedule is more reasonable and the owner sounds very knowledgeable.  Communication has been great.  I asked for a reference for a parent who had worked with this agency before.  We connected and this parent has very high praises for this agency.  Because of the research, I have a good idea of the compensation a surrogate would receive in each state.  A first time surrogate gets a particular base pay.  An experienced surrogate often gets about $10,000 more.  And first time surrogates in California gets about $10,000 more than a first time surrogate in this other surrogacy friendly state.
  • Originally Dr. E told us that our donor was going to be ready for a retrieval for us in September.  She then notified us that the original intended parents next in line can’t work with this donor due to their own medical reasons.  So the donor will be available for us for a July retrieval if we want.  We were very happy about it and wanted to start the process so we could make some embryos in July.  I’d feel better that way so that when we find a surrogate, we can move forward with a transfer.
  • A good friend of mine moved out of state five years ago.  I spoke with her about the possibility of needing a gestational carrier.  She informed me that a friend of hers in her town has been interested in becoming one.  She gave me her friend’s contact information.  When a surrogacy arrangement with my online friend didn’t quite work out, I reached out to this friend’s friend.  I wrote her about our situation and asked her about her idea of a gestational surrogacy, her idea of the couple for whom she wants to carry, and the compensation.  She asked to speak with both of us via video conferencing.  The chat happened last week.  About 45 minutes into the conversation, I asked about the compensation that she was looking for.  We were a bit shocked by the number that she gave us.  What she was asking for is equivalent to the compensation for an experienced surrogate in California, and is double of what a first time surrogate will get paid in the surrogacy-friendly state that I mentioned about.  She herself had never been a surrogate, is in her late 30s, and her last pregnancy was 7 years ago.  I told her very honestly that the amount was beyond our budget.  We ended our phone call respectfully.  We still appreciated her time but we just don’t have the funds to work with her.
  • Bob sent in a sample for the sper.m DNA fragmentation test.  We just received the results before the weekend.  We didn’t expect anything to be wrong, but the results showed his numbers being borderline abnormal.  Dr. E thinks that we could move forward if we wanted to, but if we want to optimize our chances, Bob can be on supplements for two months before we retest and proceed with the donor egg cycle.  Needless to say, I felt discouraged that there could be potential problems with the sperm, and my fear is that the embryos we make would not be of good quality.   The ultimate fear is that we won’t have any good embryos to transfer.  Dr. E said that his DNA fragmentation level could be fixed with this technique called PICSI.  You can google it to learn more about it.  Nevertheless, it was a bit discouraging as I thought that we could cycle in July.
  • One piece of good news is that with the out-of-state surrogacy agency I mentioned about earlier, we really like one of the potential surrogates’ profile.  We actually had a phone interview with her yesterday.  It was a trying day yesterday as Bob and I continued to sort through our feelings about all these roadblocks.  I would say that the phone call was a saving grace and turned our day around.  After learning about her reason to be a surrogate and her ideas about a bunch of important topics regarding surrogacy, both Bob and I like her a lot and feel that she is a good match.  She is sincere, down to earth, ready emotionally for a surrogacy pregnancy, and has support from her family and friends.  She is in a stable relationship and has been considering this for quite a few years.  We like her a  lot and would love to work with her.  If we decide to work with her, we’d have to complete medical screening and other tests.  I will write more about it in the future.

I have been putting off writing a blog post about all this because I have been very overwhelmed with the information.  Some days I just feel like hiding myself in my blanket so I don’t have to face the world.   Meeting with my therapist has helped, but I think what helps the most is prayers.  I often start praying for peace and strength from God even before I open my eyes in the morning.  Without prayers sustaining me, I think I’d be a much worse shape.  I hope that you can all join me in praying for us that things will go smoothly for us from this point on in regards to the sperm, donor, and surrogate, if it is in God’s will.  I want to trust and have faith, but some days are harder than others.  I hope that after the two steps back, we can finally go forward without a hitch.

MicroblogMondays: Father’s Day

Microblog_Mondays

This is the fifth Father’s Day since my husband and I started trying for a baby.  And it is the fifth Father’s Day that he is still waiting for a baby that he can call his child.  We skipped Mother’s Day this year as it was too much for me to be there after the news of needing a surrogate.  The day before Father’s Day, Bob told me that he wanted to skip church so that he wouldn’t have to sit there and listen to the Father’s Day acknowledgement during service.  Instead, he went with his dad to Ocean Beach.  They enjoyed the sunshine and spent some quality time together.  It was a very special and precious bonding time as the last time they spent Father’s Day together was seven years ago when his parents came to visit.  That was when we first started dating. It took them five years after we got married to come to terms with our marriage and agree to a visit to the States.  Bob was super happy that he got to spend his Father’s Day with his own dad this year.  It made not having a child hurt a bit less.  We have been working on hiring a surrogate and hoping for a transfer in the next few months.  If everything goes smoothly, my husband may be able to celebrate his Father’s Day next year with his own baby in his arms.  Maybe then his father can visit again and make it a celebration for three generations.  That would be such a wonderful moment.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make it happen?

MicroblogMondays: My In-Laws’ Visit, Week One

Microblog_Mondays

I’ve got to say that my in-laws’ visit has been going exceptionally well for me.  For Bob, not as much.

My in-laws arrived on Wednesday.  Bob and I went to the airport separately in two cars so we could transport all the suitcases back home.  Bob was excited but I was a bit apprehensive about my feelings because I really didn’t know what to expect.  After an hour of waiting, I finally spotted my in-laws on the TV monitor on their way out.  When my father-in-law smiled and said Hello to me, I felt that things would turn out fine.

And things are more than fine.

The first thing that my mother-in-law did once she arrived at our house was to give me a gold bangle that she had brought from India as a gift for me.  I really like it and have been wearing it every single day.  This is a huge gesture coming from a woman who told me not to go visit her at her house in India a few years ago.  Here is the bangle:

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You know what came out of all four big suitcases and two little ones? Lots and lots of new purchases.  They started pulling out these brand new stainless steel bowls, plates, cups, serving utensils, pots, and pans.  There were also eight or nine new Tupp.erware containers for storing spices.  You name it, they had it.  They brought so much because these things are a lot cheaper in India.  I stood there washing all these new things for about an hour.  Out came this really big machine for making dosa dough.  Another machine for making idly rice.  Then there were these South Indian pastes, spices, snacks, tea, coffee, and pickles.  They were all in large quantity.  Right then and there, we cleared out two cabinet shelves and three drawers to house all the new things.  We had to move our usual plates and bowls somewhere else.  Here are some photos of what we dealt with on that day:

Some of the pots and pans and utensils

Some of the pots and pans and utensils

Some of the boxes on our counter before we unpacked them

Some of the boxes on our counter before we unpacked them

These snacks should last us for a few months, I hope

These snacks should last us for a few months, I hope

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Some of the boxes that we unpacked from the suitcases.

I jokingly called it our “Indian Invasion”.  But in reality, I really don’t mind at all.  I find that my tolerance for someone else taking over my kitchen is actually high.  My mother-in-law is a wonderful cook.  Her dishes are super delicious. But her way of cooking is very different from mine.  South Indian cooking requires many pots and pans, flour, and vegetables to be cut in tiny pieces.   I usually clean as I cook.  My MIL cleans at the end.  But again, I don’t mind.  I just let her do her things.  I showed her how to clean the stove, and she does a wonderful job cleaning it in the evening after all the cooking.  Bob is less patient than I am with the way she is using the kitchen.  That is too funny because I am the one who usually cooks, not him.  I told him to let her be and he is doing better in that department.

It has been five days since my in-laws arrived.  How have we all been getting along?  It’s amazing that my in-laws get along well with me.  Given our history, you would expect them to be difficult to get along with.  But in reality, they are very easy going.  They try to be quiet in the morning when they get up at six.  My MIL makes me Indian coffee every single morning.  She provides us with lunch to bring to work.  When I get home, she serves me chai tea.  She asks me daily what I would like for lunch and dinner.  On Saturday, she made us breakfast.  I am living a life of a queen who gets served three meals a day.  Here are some pictures of her dishes:

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Everything is  made from scratch.

Another unexpected thing is that, my in-laws actually like me.  Especially my mother-in-law.  After a few days of being in the same house with me, Bob told me that they keep saying that they love me and that I am patient with them.  My mother-in-law said to me that I am like her daughter.  She doesn’t have a daughter herself so now she’s treating me like her daughter.  It’s so nice to hear that she likes me like a family especially given how they rejected me in the beginning.  I actually get along better with my MIL than Bob with his own mom.  He is not as patient and sometimes is short with her.  I can understand that as I sometimes may be the same way with my own mother.  This is after all his own mom.  They have a history of the last 38 years and baggage they have to sort through.  My MIL seems to think that Bob behaves better when I am around.  When Bob is critical of her habits or how she handles certain things (all trivial things such as how she uses the dish cloth), she calls me for help.  Just yesterday when I was out grocery shopping, Bob told his mom to cut down on the clarified butter that she uses.  He was short with her and she wasn’t happy about the criticism.  She was calling for me to intervene.  When she discovered that I was out, she told Bob, “No wonder you came to argue with me.  Isabelle is not around.”  She told me, “You should be here always, otherwise he quarrels with me”.  Bob is thinking about taking a couple of days off taking his parents to sightsee.  His mother said she wouldn’t go without me being there.  It’s sad and hilarious at the same time.

My in-laws have been urging Bob to make a baby.  I am sure that they guess that we have been struggling.  His dad even told him to just make a baby no matter what it takes.  I know that they mean well.  It is a way for them to tell us to go ahead and use whatever treatment we need.  I wonder how they’d react if they ever find out the extent of treatment we have done and what we are about to do.  My MIL and Bob were discussing about us making a trip to India later this year.  She insists that I stay in the U.S. if I get pregnant.  She consulted with an astrologer earlier this year and seems to believe that we’ll have good news in the baby department come September or October.  Anyhow, when we have a baby, I am sure that my in-laws will shower him/her with love and affection.  That’s a sight I would really love to see.

You know how I was worried about my own down time being taken away?  That is not an issue at all.  I come home and do my own thing.  My in-laws don’t bother me.  And since I don’t have to cook, I have even more time to do whatever I want.  It is a win-win situation.

Five years ago when my in-laws refused to come to the wedding, I never dreamed of them visiting with us here in the U.S.  The fact that they are here getting along well with me, I am very grateful for how things have turned out.  I know that things can change since it has only been a few days.  But I am confident that this will be the visit that turns our relationship around for the better.  Now let’s hope and pray that Bob and his mother don’t get into too many big arguments.  Then we should be able to all live harmoniously under the same roof for the next two months.

MicroblogMondays: Final Countdown to In-Laws’ Arrival

Microblog_Mondays

The time has come.  My in-laws will be arriving on Wednesday.

My mother usually comes from overseas and stays with us for about six months each time.  She is very self-sufficient and considerate so Bob and she get along very well.  This time she came in March so she was supposed to leave in September.  However, in order to make room for my in-laws, my mom graciously offered to leave super early.  She returned to our home country on Memorial Day.  When we remodeled the house, we added a new addition so that she would have her own space with a room and a bathroom.  We intend to let my in-laws stay in the new addition so they can have their own area and we can maintain a little bit of privacy.  Before my mom left, she cleaned out all of the drawers in her dresser and cleaned out half of her closet.  She has helped us a great deal.  My mom had a twin bed in her room.  In order to accommodate two people in the room, we needed to buy a new queen size bed frame and new sheets as well as  to move my queen mattress from another bedroom to my mom’s room.  It was all accomplished this past weekend:

In preparation for the visit, we have gone grocery shopping and bought things that are necessary for my in-laws’ survival.  My in-laws only eat homemade food.  They do not eat out let alone try other types of cuisine.  They only eat South Indian food that my mother-in-law cooks.  They don’t trust non-vegetarian restaurants and they don’t think South Indian restaurants are any better than their own cooking.  We went to an Indian grocery store twice.  We picked up things that I don’t usually use, like wheat flour, refined sunflower oil, sesame oil (not the kind for adding taste but the kind for cooking), and idly rice.  My MIL is going to make everything from scratch so different kinds of flour are necessary.

Another big task for us to do was to get rid of all the meat products in our fridge and wipe everything down.  You see, my in-laws are strict vegetarians.  They do not want anything to do with meat.  They know that I eat/cook meat and my mom does too.  So to reassure them, Bob wanted us to clean out the fridge and wipe it down.  When his parents came to visit him seven years ago, his mom got mad at him after she found chicken broth in his pantry.  He does not want a repeat of that moment.  So this was what I did on a nice overcast Sunday afternoon after 4 episodes of Gilmore Girls:

And this is the result:

 All the grime and dirt is now gone!  I do like a clean fridge.  My next job is to finish using the eggs as well as to clean out the beef broth and chicken broth plus the frozen meat in the freezer.  My Dear Colleague graciously lets me store my stuff in her extra freezer until my in-laws are gone.

So what will life be like with my in-laws here?  I actually do not know what to expect.  The last time we saw my in-laws was two years ago when we went to visit.  That visit didn’t end too well.  I have gone to India two times.  Each time we stayed for about 10 days.  We stayed at a hotel so we had a place to go to for some personal time.  I don’t know what will happen when they come to our space for almost two months.  My mother-in-law will definitely take over cooking, so my kitchen will become her kitchen.  They have packed four suitcases full of stuff to bring here so I am anticipating many new things that they will leave here instead of taking home with them.  The one thing that I am little worried about is my down time after work.  I usually get home at around 6pm.  From then until Bob’s arrival at 8pm is my usual me-time.  I am home doing whatever I want to until my husband gets home.  When my in-laws come, I will be greeted by them instead, and I don’t know if I get to do whatever I want or if my MIL is going to have me watch her cook everyday.  My father-in-law doesn’t usually interact with me (given our history of them not approving our marriage) so he probably won’t say much to me.  I would imagine things to be awkward in the beginning.  Needless to say, it is going to be big change for me in the next two months, having my in-laws stay with us, eating only vegetarian at home, and hoping that they won’t go through our personal things and ask any questions about fertility.

A good friend of mine asked me last week if we would ever share our fertility journey with my in-laws.  I would prefer not to, given how judgmental they have been ever since we started dating.  If we use a gestational carrier, then they will have to know that piece of information.  However, I think that sharing with them about egg donation is out of the question unless I want endless judgment and discrimination against me and possibly my future child(ren).  I will just say that my in-laws are not open-minded people like my parents who would welcome any babies in our family with open arms.  For this reason, my task before their arrival also includes putting away information about our treatment and all the books related to infertility.  It’s tiring to not to be able to open to one’s parents, but Bob knows his parents.  So it’s better to be prepared for that.

So here we are.  The final days of time to ourselves, hopefully not the calm before the storm.  Hopefully there will not be any storms.  Hopefully my in-laws’ visit will surprise everybody and will be better and nicer than anyone would have guessed.  I have been praying for their visit for a long time, for harmony, for unity, and for a very nice time together.  I also pray for a breakthrough in our relationship and for some new understanding of one another’s life and value.  I just chatted with my dad on the phone.  He is always the wise one.  He told me that we don’t ever know how much longer our parents (my parents and my in-laws) will have left in this world, so he told me to be as warm and welcoming as possible, and keep an open mind with this visit.  I think I’ll take his advice.  So, I hope that I will be writing some happy posts about their visit rather than the stress that the visit may cause.

Three Years Later, Still Hopeful

Word Press notified me that today is the third anniversary of this blog.

Oh yes.  This blog began right when we were about to start our first IVF cycle.  Fellow bloggers who started at around the same time come and go, and some are moving on to their second child.  Just like any other bloggers who write about infertility, I was hopeful that IVF would work and I wouldn’t be here writing a blog post on my third anniversary waiting to make a huge decision about the next step to bring home our baby.

After 8 IVF cycles that resulted in 7 retrievals and two transfers with embryos that were made with my own eggs, we had one chemical pregnancy.  In July 2014, I began to grieve the loss of a genetic link with my future babies.  In March 2015, we officially closed the chapter of treatment with my own eggs and moved forward to donor eggs.  But, egg donation is no silver bullet.  The careful selection of frozen eggs from a proven donor did not help us with a baby in our arms.  Instead, we were devastated by yet another chemical pregnancy as well as negative results with our last DE transfer.

But I had always had hope and faith that all I needed was eggs and embryos from a fresh cycle with a proven donor, as I always believed that I had a “perfect” uterus.  I have had no problems growing my lining.  Although I had a history of uterine fibroids, no one had told me that my uterus could possibly be the reason why we don’t get pregnant.

I thought that relinquishing the genetic connection with my offspring was difficult.  However, to me, being told that your uterus is the problem is exponentially more crushing than the need of using donor eggs.  My dream of feeling a baby grow inside of me is replaced by the fear and worry of potential risks and complications one may have associated with my uterine condition.

So here we are, on this blog’s third anniversary, we find ourselves at this crossroad once again.  We have been in that place many times.  All the uncertainties we have experienced in the past few years would probably make an interesting book.  Although we don’t know how and when we will get our child(ren), we know that both of us have the strong desires to move forward and try our best to achieve that.  Surrogacy is being looked into.  We are in line for our donor’s next donation cycle.  My therapist has been helping me sort through my confused mind.  Infertility didn’t pull me and Bob apart.  In fact, we are stronger as a couple.  Does it mean that we don’t have our weak moments?  Not at all.  We struggle emotionally and sometimes spiritually as we navigate our next steps.  Does it mean that we are not tired of this process?  This season has probably been the most fatiguing emotionally and mentally.  But both of us are completely committed to bringing home a child.  My dear husband talks about our future child on a daily basis, just like three years ago.

Although this journey sucks, we are hopeful that somehow some time in the near future, our child will come into our life.

Thank you for following this journey in the last few years, and hopefully you will be there to witness it when our child finds his/her way to us.