MicroblogMondays: My In-laws’ Visit, Week Seven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MicroblogMondays: Adoption and Urologist Visit

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Another eventful week last week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MicroblogMondays: Turning 42

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This is nothing new.  I make a wish for a baby on every single one of my birthday in the last few years.  Every single time the outcome is the same: another year has passed without a baby.  People often tell me that I am one step closer to our baby, but new challenges and unforeseen circumstances often make me feel like we are farther and farther away from achieving that.

I turned 42 yesterday.  I have never imagined myself not being a mother with a baby/child in my arms on my 42nd birthday.  This is my reality and I have accepted it.  Bob had planned a nice and low key day for me.  Church, massage, and a nice dinner.  When I was still at church, Dr. E emailed me with this information: our donor is available to donate to us until September 6th.  After that, she won’t be available anymore.  So there is a deadline for us to figure out the other part of the equation: the sperm.  We have an appointment with a urologist on Thursday.  We will figure out at that time if we could proceed with a cycle end of August.  I won’t go into details about the discussion with Bob at his request. But let me just say that depending on the results of the consultation on Thursday, we may have to delay our cycle until the end of the year because of certain treatment.  If that’s the case, then we won’t be able to work with this donor unless we want to freeze her eggs instead of fertilizing them right away.

It sucks that every single step we take is a roadblock.  First my eggs.  Then my uterus.  After that, the sperm. And now the donor’s availability has a deadline.

Despite getting discouraging news on my birthday, I am proud of us for being able to get over the disappointment of having one more thing to worry about.  I was determined to not let it get me down.  So our day went as planned: special lunch that my mother-in-law made for me and a relaxing massage followed by a stellar dinner.  Everything at dinner was perfect.  My time with Bob, our conversation, the attentive service of our server, the selection, the wine, the apple bacon beignet, the perfect pork chop, the steak, the mushrooms, the dark chocolate bread pudding, and the salted caramel ice cream in our dessert.

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There is no guarantee that I won’t go crazy and get very stressed and anxious about our situation tomorrow.  But right now, I feel blessed that we have the ability to enjoy each other’s company despite our less than desirable circumstances.

We still believe that God has a plan for us.  His plan is not always the easiest.  But we know that it is always the best.  I just want our head knowledge to align with our hearts’ response.  We are trying our best to be okay with the unknown.  And things could still turn out fine.  We could still have a baby in a year.

And we have each other.  That’s the most important thing.  And it is comforting to hold onto this truth on my 42nd birthday.

MicroblogMondays: Things Change Every Week

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The nature of infertility: things change all the time.

Last week Bob and I were both excited about the potential surrogate that we interviewed on the phone.  The agency owner emailed me on Tuesday to check in with me.  I immediately returned her email telling her that I was swamped with a presentation and couldn’t send her the additional questions we had for our potential surrogate.  I said I’d send her the questions in the next couple of days.  I also asked the agency owner several other questions regarding the process.  After that, radio silence.  I didn’t hear back from the agency owner at all the next couple of days.  I didn’t know why but my mind was going 100 miles a minute, thinking that the agency owner’s lack of response meant that the surrogate was no longer available.  Don’t ask me why I had that fear.  I was just very anxious about it.  I prayed and prayed about it.  I was better then worse then better then worse.  So finally on the day of my presentation, I was determined to speak with the agency owner.  Fortunately she returned my call promptly and before my presentation.  I guess she didn’t realize that she needed to return my email.  The potential surrogate was still available.  What a relief.

Even if we really liked the surrogate, we didn’t want to move forward until we asked all the questions that we didn’t get to ask during our phone call.  I looked through two very detailed questionnaires given to me by two different intended mothers and came up with the questions that I wanted to ask.  I finally sent the questions over this weekend and received an answer from the potential surrogate on the same day.  One thing I really like about her is transparency as she answered all the questions honestly.  One of the questions I asked was about smoking.  On her profile, she said that she didn’t smoke.  So I asked about smoking in the household.  She said that she had smoked on and off but recently quit.   She never smoked during her pregnancy.  And her husband does smoke but not inside.  I read the email in the car with Bob next to me.  I didn’t tell him right away that she responded and my reaction to her response.  I wanted to process my feelings for a little before telling him.  The more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I was with it.  I really appreciate the surrogate’s honesty.  She could’ve lied about it.  However, in this process, I am already giving up a lot of control.  Even if the surrogate sticks to her word and not smoke during her pregnancy, I just don’t know how I could deal with the potential risk of second hand smoking.  I also asked questions about her and her husband’s contact with the law and she answered those questions honestly.  Those don’t bug me because things happened a long time ago, but the smoking one felt like the bigger issue.

Bob was wise.  He told me to sleep on and pray about it to see how I felt the next day.  I still felt uncomfortable the next day despite some online forum people and friends telling me that their parents smoked when they were growing up and nothing was wrong with them.  I consulted with Dr. E about it.  She said that she has had carriers with partners that smoke outside and the carrier smells like an ash tray.  She said if she does a medical screening on a carrier and she smells like cigarettes, she is out.  She said that the “off and on” really depends on what it means.  To her, second hand smoking can lead to intrauterine growth restriction.  I thought long and hard about it.  We are spending so much money on this process and I don’t want to have one more thing to worry about.  

This process is so hard on my emotions.  One minute things look good.  Another minute things go down hill.  So many decisions to make.  And we want to feel at peace every step of the way.  I am still going to take some time to think about this surrogate, but the smoking part and the second hand smoking part is a pretty huge deal.  I am not discouraged just yet, but we really thought that we had found the right surrogate for us.  Things are never that simple, are they?  So onward we go, and hopefully this agency or another agency in the same state will have additional surrogates that we could choose from.  Although I am still tense, I am trying very hard to take it one day at a time, and also focus on the end goal of having a baby.

Deep breaths.