The Other Shoe Actually Dropped

This is going to be an extremely difficult blog post to write.

My husband is often skeptical when things are going well on our fertility journey.  He often feels that he needs to save up every penny to add to our fertility fund because he is always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I am often the overly optimistic one who thinks that everything is going to be fine.  On Sunday he told me that he was waiting for the other shoe to drop when we sat down to discuss our finances.

The next day, the other shoe actually dropped.

It is still hard to believe that I am writing this post.

Our donor Serena has been doing extremely well in her stimulation phase of this process.  You know how I had that fear that she wasn’t doing her stims right?  Well, that fear isn’t warranted because she’s growing some crazy follicles.  She returned on Monday (two days ago) for her second follicle check.  I was anticipating an email from Dr. E for an update.  Instead, I received a phone call from her.

We all know that a phone call from your doctor is not a good sign.  Sometimes it’s very bad.  This was one of those very bad ones.

She asked where I was, what I was doing, and if I could find a place to sit down and talk.  I panicked hearing her questions.  So I found a private place.  She went on to tell me the following.

This is a donor that she has worked with twice.  Once in January and once in April this year.  She is really familiar with her.  But Dr. E sometimes throws in a drug screen during donor cycles randomly just for the heck of it.  No rhyme or reason.  So on my donor’s baseline appointment on August 22, Dr. E also ordered a drug screen.  The results didn’t come back until Sunday August 28th.  Dr. E usually doesn’t check lab results on the weekend.  However, she was checking on someone else’s so she thought might as well check on Serena’s.  The results shocked her.  Serena’s test came back positive for cocaine.

Dr. E immediately called Serena on Sunday night and confronted her.  Serena denied using any cocaine.  When Dr. E saw her on Monday August 29 for her third follicle check, she told Serena to tell her the truth.  And Serena still said that she didn’t.  After her scan, Dr. E had to leave to do another procedure, but her physician’s assistant sat Serena down and asked her again.  It was then that she kind of made up a story and said that it could have been from a party that she went to and it could have been second-hand smoke from a cocaine pipe.  Afterwards, Dr. E consulted with a toxicologist at Lab.corp who said that it is nearly impossible to have that level of cocaine in one’s system if it was not ingested or snorted.  So basically she was lying and did not own up to her mistake.

When I heard the news, I was immediately devastated.  Everything had been going so well.  Why do bad things always happen to us?  Has our journey not been crazy and difficult enough?  I thought that because of the positive drug test, we couldn’t use her eggs anymore.  The thought of starting all over yet again and possibly losing our gestational carrier due to a longer wait was paralyzing.  But Dr. E actually said that she doubts that the eggs will be affected.  She thinks that our donor will still make beautiful eggs that will turn into beautiful embryos.  But to her, it is more about the character of the person.  She asked me to talk with Bob and think and pray long and hard about whether or not we wanted to proceed knowing that this person breach our trust and the contract.

Honestly, I was relieved to know that the eggs are still going to be good to use.  But what does one do in this situation?  Do we cancel the cycle and start all over again losing A TON OF MONEY that we had already paid out (agency fees, monitoring fees, legal fees, insurance, medication), or do we move forward knowing this piece of information.  I told Dr. E to call Bob and explain to him what she found out and let him ask questions.

I was standing there not believing what I had heard.  Dr. E said that this had never happened before in her years of practice, that a known donor that she has worked with multiple times would fail a random drug test.  What are the odds?  And here we are, encountering this problem that truly dampens the joy and the excitement at this stage of the game.

Bob spoke with Dr. E for 20 minutes.  After understanding about Dr. E’s take on nature vs. nurture and drug use and drug addiction and moral values, he told me to speak with our attorney (the one who did the donor contract for us) and the agency owner.  I so appreciate him that he was calm.  His calmness helped calm me down as well.  That Monday afternoon Dr. E called me at 1:15 or so.  I was scheduled to see clients at 2, 3, and 4pm.  Since this was an urgent matter (as we had to decide if we would move forward or cancel), I saw my 2pm client, but switched the other two to another day.  My mind was going to all sorts of places during my 2pm appointment and it was so difficult to concentrate.  But I pulled through.  Following that, I called the attorney and the agency owner but couldn’t get a hold of either one of them.  The attorney returned my email.  He basically said that if we had professionals (our RE and the toxicologist) to back the claim of cocaine use, it is a breach of contract.  However, it is often difficult to seek damage from donors who don’t have much financially.  Basically, the so-called contract is a guide and you hope that people with good nature would voluntarily follow through with it.  Unfortunately this is not the case.  We could take her to court.  But do we have the time and energy and the money to do so?

Since I couldn’t get a hold of the agency owner, I decided to leave work and go to the one person that I always turn to when we are faced with tough decisions.  My sister-in-law was once again there to be my sounding board.  Luckily I found her and met her at her house.  We discussed about it and both of us felt that we could still move forward with this donor knowing that Dr. E said that the risks of using her eggs are very minimal at this point.  She prayed for us and promised that she’d continue to pray.  She said that if the Holy Spirit speaks to her in a different way, she’ll let me know.

That evening was very difficult emotionally for me.  There were so many questions that we had to ask ourselves and answer.  Didn’t we have peace when we prayed about this donor and decided to book her?  How could a person be so arrogant and selfish to do this after committing to be drug free during this time?  Are the eggs really going to be fine?  Is my future child going to have a predisposition of addiction?  Is she a habitual user or is it recreational and occasional?  If we decide to move forward with her eggs, will they still be affected by her cocaine use?  Has she been using for a long time?  Am I knowingly putting my future child in danger?  If we don’t proceed with her, how much money are we going to lose?  How much more money do we have to shell out for a new donor?  How are we going to locate a new Asian donor and have a cycle soon so we don’t lose our gestational carrier?

So many questions that we struggled to answer.

But God is good.  I prayed and I prayed and I prayed for peace, wisdom, and discernment.  Although our donor’s cocaine use really disappoints me, I have been leaning towards moving forward.  Sometimes I had the urge the just start all over and cancel her and lose that money.  But most of the time I feel that we should move forward.  Bob has been strongly leaning this way from the get-go.  Once he learned from Dr. E that it is highly unlikely that the egg quality is going to be affected, he doesn’t want to wait any longer and just wants to get this over with.  But at the same time, he is okay with the decision to cancel the cycle if I felt really strongly about it.

I just could not believe that we had to make this decision two days before the trigger shot.

But, my gut tells me that we should proceed and everything will be fine.

I had a terrible night of sleep on Monday night.  I truly could not go to work on Tuesday as I needed that time to process this news and think.  I continuously prayed for peace.  Throughout the day, I spoke with many people whom I trust.  It’s very interesting that 90% of the people that I spoke with said that they’d feel comfortable moving forward knowing that the eggs are probably going to be fine if not still excellent.  Some of my believer friends also felt that way.  My dear friend Elisha spoke a word of encouragement to me.  Basically, this is Satan’s way of distracting us from Jesus.  Jesus is here with us in this storm so look to Him and Him alone.  And if God gave us the peace when we chose this donor and we have peace now, then we should go for it.  My therapist is so wonderful.  I sent her an email asking her to speak to me on the phone for this emergency.  She called me the same day.  She basically said that if my gut tells me to go for it, even if it’s not 100% of the time, trust my gut.  I told her that I was worried that this one piece of information would damage the narrative that we’d build around our future child(ren).  She thinks that we have all the right to build this story with positive things rather than negative.  This piece of information about our donor using hard drugs is one piece of the puzzle.  It does not define our child.  We are the ones who would raise our child the way we want to.  She thinks that once we decide to move forward, we have to work towards an acceptance of this piece of information and continue to find the positive of this story.  She thinks that drug use in the egg donor population is probably quite prevalent.  We just usually don’t know that piece of information.  Now we know it in our situation, what we are going to do with it is the most important.

Yesterday I also spoke with the agency owner who apologized about this situation.  But there aren’t too many options for us.  We either cancel or we move forward.  It’s hard to recover the monetary damage.  If we go to court, the judge would say that the donor has the right to do whatever she wanted to to her body, and she has the right to terminate the contract at anytime.  Agency owner has known this donor and her sister for quite a few years.  She said that it is quite out of the character for the donor to do such a thing.  She also said that she had spoken to the donor prior to our phone call and the donor was still motivated to complete the donation.

Dr. E actually ran a repeat drug screen on Serena on Monday.  She put it down as STAT but was told that she probably wouldn’t get the results back until Friday.  When I spoke with her on the phone yesterday and told her that we were leaning towards continuing, she was very conflicted.  We are like family to her.  And she hates people who lie.  To her, the cocaine is not the problem because she doesn’t believe that the eggs or our future child would be in danger.  Her biggest problem about this is that the donor shows no remorse.  Serena lied about this over and over again.  Dr. E said that her urine sample on Monday came back very low in concentration, which means that Serena probably intoxicated herself with water from the time she got Dr. E’s call on Sunday to her appointment on Monday.  She basically was trying to dilute her urine so that maybe whatever drug in her system would not show.  She wanted to cover up whatever that might be remaining in her system.  Dr. E is sorely disappointed with this person.  She just wanted Serena to admit that she was wrong.  But I told Dr. E, that this journey has been so long and hard for us, and we are so so close to getting embryos, that Bob is willing to gamble and take the risk of having the genes of this person knowing that we will raise our child differently.  Dr. E said that even if the repeat drug screen comes back negative, she does not trust this person anymore.  But her eggs will still be good.  She supports us 100% if we decide to move forward with the cycle.  We had the whole discussion about nature vs. nurture, susceptibility to addiction and what not.  What a heavy duty discussion to have especially when I have never even smoked a cigarette in my life (I know I am an extreme).  It is so hard to fathom doing drugs.  It is also hard to fathom someone who wouldn’t admit their mistake even after being caught.

First our previous donor disappeared. Now this donor breached the contract.  This is why it is very difficult for me to trust young people who are in their 20s.  This is why I’ll never work with a gestational carrier under 30.

My sleep was better last night but still interrupted.  I woke up in the middle of the night with a headache and feeling bugged that this has happened, but at the same time I felt like we were very close to making a firm decision to move forward.  When we woke up at 3, Bob said that we should speak with Annie, our gestational carrier, about this new development and see if she would still be okay with carrying for us.   I had an extremely full day today.  I had to go into work early to see one client, then I had an hour-long presentation in Chinatown to parents of young children.  I had a full afternoon of appointments at work.  I only had time to speak with her at 7:30 when I started driving to work.  I am just so grateful for Annie.  She is such an amazing person.  She picked up the phone, listened to me, and reassured me that she would have no problem carrying for us, and that she’ll provide the best environment possible for our baby to grow in.  We spoke some more and she prayed for us as well as the donor before we hung up.  I am just so full of gratitude that our gestational carrier shares our beliefs and we could speak so openly and honestly about our struggles.

In the morning, Bob and I both felt good to move forward knowing that we’d love our child in the future no matter how the story of his/her creation began.  We love our friend’s adopted son regardless of his birth mother’s alcoholic history.  We know that we will love our child unconditionally.  And since we repeatedly got the confirmation from Dr. E that the egg quality will most likely not be affected (well of course she won’t be able to say 100%), we feel safe to proceed to retrieval.  My presentation went amazingly well.  I sometimes surprise myself that I could turn my personal life off and be very professional without a problem.  Dr. E updated me on the donor.  Her second drug screen came back negative as expected.  I don’t know if she really didn’t have any cocaine in her system on that day or the diluted urine yielded negative results.  But that’s beyond the point now.  Most importantly, we decide to continue with the cycle and her scan today yielded excellent results:

RO: 11.5, 14.5, 10, 20.5, 16, 16, 15.5, 12.5, 11, 17.5, 14.5,  remaining <8

LO: 14.5, 14, 17, 14.5, 18, 15.5, 17, 16.5, 14.5, 23, 13, 10

Of course another fear of mine is that Bob’s sperm won’t perform.  Dr. E reassured me that PICSI is going to help find the best sperm.  We are scheduled to show up at 8am on Friday for the semen collection at the clinic.  We are very close to the finish line of making some embryos.  This afternoon was the first time in a couple of days that I started to feel excited about the prospect of owning embryos again and the hope of having our baby in the very near future.  It IS an exciting time.  I hope that we are still full of hope and joy on Friday when we drive to the clinic.

Isn’t this a crazy twist?  It’s more complicated and surprising than fiction.  I am sure that if I ever wrote a memoir of my journey, nobody is going to believe me.

We don’t know why we are being put in this trial.  And we may never understand why.  But after two agonizing days, I have a new appreciation of us as a couple, how we handle ourselves in an extremely difficult situation, and the loving friends and family that we have.  We are surrounded by love.  I am very sure that no matter who contributed to half of my future child’s genes, our child will be positively influenced by the numerous people that are going to love him/her.  And dependence on God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the lesson I have learned here.  This was an extremely difficult decision to make.  One of the most if not THE most difficult decision we ever had to make.  I hope nobody who reads this will have to make this decision in the future.  And I hope that there aren’t any more shoes to be dropped.  However, even if there is more, I am quite sure that we will be able to pull through one way or the other, because we have God and each other.

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MicroblogMondays: “Family” Vacation

Microblog_Mondays

A couple of months ago a close friend of mine told me about a trip that she had planned for her family at a university about five hours away along the coast.  The university turned its student dorms into a vacation center in the summer.  It provides weeklong activities for families.  Parents can drop their kids off at their age-specific groups and then go off to join adult activities.  Each family is assigned a suite with two, three, or four bedrooms with a bathroom and living room inside.  Meals at the dining hall are included in the fees.  My friend signed up for a mini-week, which was four-day, three-night.  After looking at the schedule, I was very tempted to go with them as well because we would have a chance to hang out with my friends and her kids, who are also our favorite kids.  But I hesitated because our donor schedule and our search for a gestational carrier were still up in the air.  After some thinking, Bob and I both felt that what the heck, we have to live life.  So we signed up knowing that this place is meant to be for “families” in the most traditional sense: parents and kids.

Our room had this welcome sign on it:

 I am quite sure that it is true in the case of the vacationers who are parents.  I looked through the list of families who participated in this camp for our week.  People who didn’t have children listed with their names mostly had “retired” next to their occupations.  I am quite sure Bob and I were the only people who were relatively young without children at the camp.  But it was okay.  We still had a lot of fun as a childless couple.

We joined a few activities that we had to pay extra for.  We joined a local tour at a historical park.  The beer tour took us to two microbreweries that provided four 4-oz beers each and a behind-the-scene tour of the beer-making process at each place.  We joined the family bingo at which I won a big box of Oreos for winning the blackout.  We witnessed parents dancing with their 80’s hairdo and leg warmers at the 21+ only 80’s prom night.  Adults also had a karaoke party with so many parents who took the stage and sang their hearts out.  And did I mention that both of those adult activities had an open bar?  I had quite a few cocktails during this trip.  There was campfire at the beach, family photo time, and making s’mores with the kids.  When you don’t want to join the activity, you can just lay by the poolside with a book for a whole afternoon, like what I did one day while Bob took a nap in the room.

I was told that parents could just drop their kids off after breakfast and don’t have to worry about them until late afternoon.  During the evening adult-only activities, parents can hire the camp babysitters at a very low rate to watch their kids until late at night.  No wonder it said on the sign on our door that it is going to the best vacation since becoming parents.

I think what I enjoyed the most was not having to worry about cleaning the room or planning for meals.  The dining hall food was actually quite delicious with great varieties and many organic choices.  Even when we go on vacation by ourselves, we would always have to figure out meals everyday.  Over there you don’t have to worry about reading reviews or driving to a restaurant.  You just walk to the dining hall at a designated time then you’ll be fed.  Even the BBQ lunch at the beach wasn’t what we had expected.  I thought we’d be fed burgers and hotdogs, but the actual meal was delicious and tender tri-tip and other tasty dishes that were all catered.  You don’t have to worry about where to go or what to do.  Things have been prepared for you.  And the bonus was that we got to spend some quality time with our friends and their children for a few days.

Seeing families with kids and pregnant ladies everywhere was surprisingly okay for us.  I felt quite brave as someone who has been trying for our first child for five-plus years.  I think having our friends there helped a lot.  We didn’t look too odd as a couple without kids when we had our friends and their kids to be with.

I heard that families return to this place every single summer.  It sounds like a great plan when you have children.  I look forward to one day when we can return with our little ones so that we could drop them off at Small World when it is open for naps so Bob and I could go kayaking or paddle boarding or whatever activities that fancy us.

Although it wasn’t our typical vacation spot, Bob and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  All in all, it was a wonderful trip and some much needed down time.

Even and Steady – Donor’s Follicle Check

You know, because I am a little crazy, I sometimes have this fear that our donor Serena is not doing what she is supposed to be doing, such as forgetting her injections, administering the wrong dose, etc.

But fortunately, that fear only creeps in my head once in a while.  The rest of the time I am quite confident that she diligently does her part correctly.

Today is her first follicle check after four days of stimulation.  Quite amusingly, a few of my friends messaged me this morning asking if today was our donor’s monitoring appointment.

It takes an IVF veteran to know which day the follicle check should fall on.

This morning, I had all sorts of thoughts in my head.  I am not going to list them here, but they were all sorts of things that could go wrong with our donor.  I know, crazy, right?

I guess with this being our last shot, and with our history of getting bad news, I just can’t help it but anticipate the other shoe to drop.  But at the same time, I am quite confident that this will turn out fine.

Can you understand that dichotomy?

I pray for her safety during her drive to Dr. E’s.  I pray for her health and for her eggs to grow well and evenly.

Emotionally I have been doing quite well.  Not too anxious.

This afternoon, Dr. E’s update came with a smiley face in the subject of the email.  It’s always a good thing when your RE writes you with a smiley face.

This is what she reported:

“She looks great.

Estradiol just under 500.

Scan report below
IVF TREATMENT DAY #5: FOLLISTIM 150IU/MENOPUR 75IU/GANIRELIX
S: no c/o.
O: TVUS:
em: 6.73mm trilam
RO: 12 total: 10, 11.5, remaining <9
LO: 10 total: 10, 11.5, 10, 11, 10, remaining <9″

 

Looks like Serena is doing great.  The follicles seem to be growing steadily and evenly.

But me being me, even though Dr. E said that she looked great, I still had to email her and ask if our donor is looking good.

Dr. E’s response?  “I’d say great :)”  Another smiley face.

Well, I will take her word for it!

This is so different from when I was using my own eggs.  When we stimmed for my own eggs, we’d have two follicles, three follicles, or at most five follicles.  This is a whole new ball game.

For this particular cycle, I almost didn’t want to know the details of the stimulation.  But Dr. E included all of that.  I don’t know if it is or is not a good thing to have that knowledge.  I almost just want to hide myself under the blanket until day five or day six of fertilization.

But all in all, it is great news.  So now I can breathe and enjoy my weekend.

Beginning of Our New Donor Egg Cycle

I have been writing about our gestational carrier Annie, and I seem to have neglected to talk about our donor.  We’ll call her Serena.

I’d say Serena is my favorite out of all the donors that we have come across.  I feel very fortunate that we have found her, and we have Dr. E to thank for her.  Dr. E has worked with her twice in the past and highly recommends her.

About a month ago, Dr. E contacted me regarding Serena’s calendar.  Dr. E had to be mindful of Bob’s sper.m situation and Serena’s timeline.  Apparently Serena can’t do a retrieval from the first week of September to December due to work-related trips and other things.  And we have to allow Bob to take his supplements for two whole months before we use his sper.m to fertilize the donor eggs.  Finally Dr. E came up with a calendar with August 31st as the tentative retrieval day.  August 31st does not work for me due to a presentation that I have to give.  I know I am not needed in this whole procedure because I don’t contribute to the eggs or the sper.m, so technically I don’t need to go to the clinic on the day of the retrieval.  However, I still want to be included in the process and to accompany Bob to give his sample.  Dr. E pushed the calendar out one more day.  The new tentative date is September 1st.  Serena was to stop birth control pills on August 17th, and her baseline appointment with Dr. E was supposed to be yesterday, August 22nd.

I emailed Dr. E over the weekend to ask if Serena was still on track for her baseline appointment.  Somehow I had some irrational fear that her period didn’t come after she stopped birth control pills.  Dr. E confirmed that yes, Serena was all set for her baseline appointment.  When I went to bed on Sunday, another irrational thought came to my mind.  What if she had a cyst? If she did, then we couldn’t move on with this cycle.  Since she can’t do a retrieval after September 6th, we’d have to wait until January.  I guess it is easy to let the mind go to dark places when we are so used to not-so-good news.

I woke up and prayed.  I prayed for peace and for Jesus to take hold of my mind.  Most of the day I was calm.  My mind did go back to that fear of something going wrong, but I could mostly think about God’s plan and His sovereignty and to focus on work.  I didn’t hear from Dr. E at all throughout the day.  I knew that Serena probably had her scan done in the morning, but the estradiol results would not be back until the afternoon.  Dr. E emailed me regarding Annie’s blood work and urine sample but didn’t mention about Serena.  That was late afternoon.  I didn’t want to ask any questions because if there was bad news I would have been told already, right?  But Bob wanted to know.  So I emailed Dr. E about the donor.  I think we were emailing each other at the same time because I got her email right after I hit “send”.  This is what she said, “Donor looked awesome today.   Estradiol 45.  She’s ready to start!”

I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am!  We have been waiting for this moment for quite some time.  We booked this donor back in March.  We thought that we could start legal paperwork with her in May.  Then one delay after another with the condition of my uterus and Bob’s sper.m issues.  In the mean time we were trying to find a gestational carrier.  These few months were very eventful and difficult for us.  To finally get to this point of starting meds and looking at a retrieval in a bit more than a week, it is very egg-citing (as my friend Jane Allen puts it)!

I didn’t ask anything about the details like how many antral follicles or whatever.  I will just be ignorant about it and focus on the end goal of making some great embryos and having a baby.

What a great start of a new beginning!

MicroblogMondays: Our Gestational Carrier’s Visit

Microblog_Mondays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our hope is alive.  And we are grateful.

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

Microblog_Mondays

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

We have a gestational carrier.  And she is wonderful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Have a Gestational Carrier! (Part I)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Stay tuned for Part II!)