Relief

The breast scare turned out to be nothing serious.  Such a relief.  Praise the Lord!

Yesterday’s visit with the doctor at the Breast Health Clinic already gave me good news.  The night before the appointment, I couldn’t even find the lump that was on my right breast.  I touched and searched and it was just not there.  The bigger and more solid one on the left was still there.  God answered my prayers by keeping me at peace with this whole thing.  I went into the appointment feeling calm.  And I really appreciated the doctor’s bedside manner.  She really put me at ease.  I will call her Dr. Calm.  After I told her about my fertility treatment, she shared with me her own infertility journey.  We chatted the whole way through the clinical exam and the ultrasound.

Dr. Calm told me that she went through many rounds of IVF before she finally got pregnant with her twins.  She spotted my pendant that says “Hope” and told me a story.  While they were still in the thick of it, her husband told her that if they have a girl in the future, he’d name her Hope.  And Dr. Calm finally got pregnant with boy/girl twins.  And her daughter’s middle name IS Hope.  We also chatted about her husband being the only child in a traditional Chinese family so the pressure was on from her father-in-law for her to make some boys.  She was very touched when her mother-in-law told her that she’d be equally happen if Dr. Calm was carrying twin girls.

While we were chatting about all this, she carefully palpated my breasts.  And she also couldn’t locate the small lump on the right breast.  She was quite sure that it was a cyst if it came and went so quickly.  She could really feel the bigger, more solid lump on the left breast.  She commented that it felt very mobile and oval.  So those were also good signs.  The ultrasound image showed a dark oval which looked to her like a cyst as well.  However, she said it looked like a cluster of cysts rather than just one cyst.  Just to be sure, she wanted to send me to get a diagnostic ultrasound because her simple bedside ultrasound couldn’t show the depth of the mass.  She said that there was nothing to worry about, but clinically she wanted to make sure that there was nothing hiding below the cyst/cluster of cysts.  She also ordered for a mammogram since the last one was done two years ago.

Dr. Calm then told me an encouraging story about egg donation and surrogacy.  A college friend of hers couldn’t get pregnant and was advised not to carry on her own.  She did both DE and surrogacy and had twins around the same time my doctor did.  The two sets of twins grew up together and are best friends.  She said that her friend is blonde with blue eyes so the donor was as well.  Mixed with her husband of Egyptian descent, my doctor said that the twins looked just like her friend.  Dr. Calm said that she was very hopeful for me for bringing home a baby.

Today I had a busy day running to the radiology department two separate times from work.  The mammogram itself was not so much painful but uncomfortable after being squeezed, moved, turned and told to hold my breath.  The entertainment came from the technician who was also Indian and chatted with me about all things Indian including food, customs, and in-laws.  The afternoon appointment was for the diagnostic ultrasound with a more powerful machine than yesterday’s.  The ultrasound tech took many images of my left lump.  Afterwards, a very eloquent doctor came in to talk to me.  She looked at my mammogram images and saw that I did have a mass.  But she didn’t think it was anything serious as it looked like a cyst to her.  I lay down again for her to feel the lump.  She looked at the ultrasound images that the tech had taken and told me that it looked like there was one bigger cyst in one location and a bunch of smaller ones in another location.  They are nothing to be worried about.  They don’t increase the risk of cancer and they come with the fluctuation of hormones.  Sometimes they go away depending on the hormonal level in the body, like the little one on my right side.  Although the guidelines for mammogram have changed from over 40 to over 50, she’d still recommend an annual one from 40 on.  The only disadvantage is a false positive that may cause a bit of anxiety, but the advantage is that it does catch cancer and save lives.  She wants me to know that having cysts does not mean the risk of having cancer is diminished.  So I have to know what these lumps feel like.  If there are any changes that are out of the ordinary, I should still seek help.  I think from now on I’ll have a mammogram on a yearly basis just to be sure.

It’s such a blessing to be healthy.  I am so grateful that this is nothing more than discomfort and soreness.  Now I can focus on other important things in life and won’t be distracted by this health scare anymore.

MicroblogMondays: Progress – MitoScore and Legal Paperwork

Microblog_Mondays

It’s very encouraging to see progress on our surrogacy journey.

First of all, we received the MitoScores of our embryos.  The two day-5 embryos (3AB and 3BB) both have a grade of A, which means that they have a high implantation potential of 81%.  The two day-6 embryos (5AB and 5BB) are Bs with an average implantation potential of 56%.  Dr. E recommended transferring one embryo with the MitoScore of A.

This is such excellent news.  Both Bob and I are so relieved that we have embryos with excellent quality for a transfer.

On the gestational carrier front, we finished a questionnaire and signed an agreement for the escrow account with our attorney.  Last week we had a very informative phone call for about 30 minutes with the attorney and her paralegal.  As you may know, in order to make the surrogacy legal and for us to take our baby home, legal paperwork has to be filed in our gestational carrier’s state.  Our attorney is located in that state and is very experienced with this type of contract.  The following are the main points:

  • We will receive the draft of our contract with our gestational carrier in the next week or so.  We will read it over, make changes, and ask any questions or raise any concerns.  Once we are satisfied with the changes, our gestational carrier will go over it with an attorney that will represent her.  That should take about a week.  We are hoping to get the contract done by the first week of October, and second week at the latest (because I am going to be leaving for Asia at the end of second week of October).
  • At about 20 weeks of the pregnancy, our attorney will help us finalize the medical power of attorney which allows us to make decisions for the baby.
  • Our gestational carrier’s state laws stipulate that we get a post birth order, which means that a court order is obtained after the birth of a child.  The court will direct Vital Statistics to add the biological parent’s name (Bob’s name) on the birth certificate, remove our gestational carrier’s name, and grant legal guardianship to me as the other intended parent.  This is done because we have used donor eggs.  If we were both biologically related to the child, then we would both be added at that time.  The hearing is scheduled every two weeks at the court, so on average we should have the hearing done within two weeks after birth if not sooner.  The hearing should take no longer than 30 minutes.  We will be asked a list of questions mostly by our attorney and may also be by the judge.
  • We can leave the hospital with our baby and go home as soon as the doctor clears us to leave.  Our attorney will represent us and we will attend the hearing via phone.
  • We should get the court order a few days after the hearing.  Then the birth certificate should be amended by Vital Statistics within 5 to 10 business days with only Bob’s name on it as if he has made the baby all by himself. 😉
  • A recent change in the law in our GC’s state requires an intended parent who is not biologically related to the baby to file for a second parent adoption in our home state so that I will also be named on the birth certificate.  We will need to hire a different attorney in our home state.  I will have temporary custody of our baby until the court order is done, which will take three to six months.
  • Our attorney stated that the court process is quite simple.  She will prepare all the paperwork for us to read prior to the birth so that we just need to sign at the time of birth.  She said that there are going to be many other things to focus on at the time of birth so she doesn’t want us to spend the time reading all the legal documents.
  • One very important thing that our attorney wanted to speak with us about was the number of embryos to transfer.  Our answer on the questionnaire said that we may transfer one or two embryos. She wants us to be very careful with this choice.  Our gestational carrier lives in the northern part of the state and lives very close to the border of a neighboring state that is NOT surrogacy friendly.  If we transfer two embryos and are expecting twins, the chances for complications and the need for a level 4 NICU are a lot higher with twin pregnancy.  The hospital that we intend to have the birth does not have a level 4 NICU.  If any complications arise, it is VERY likely that our gestational carrier will be transferred to a hospital with a level 4 NICU that is in the surrogacy unfriendly next state.  It doesn’t mean that a singleton pregnancy is a guarantee that it will be free of complications, but the chances are a lot lower.  So our attorney wants us to think long and hard about the number of embryos to transfer.  And if we do transfer two and expect twins, she wants us to have a plan B for the delivery.  Our gestational carrier can still give birth in the local hospital in her state and we can always transfer the baby/babies to the level 4 NICU in the next state if need be.  If our gestational carrier gives birth in this other state, the legal ramifications would be great.  We don’t want to go there.  It all sounds very scary so I have already spoke with our gestational carrier and she is going to try everything possible to stay in her state when she gives birth to our baby.

Dr. E, Annie (our gestational carrier), and I have been coordinating the earliest possible date for a transfer.  It would be the best for Annie if we could do a transfer on a Monday.  She and her husband can fly in on Sunday, have the transfer on Monday, and rest on Tuesday before going home on Wednesday.  She said that this has been a source of stress in her household because they don’t live near any family members so they couldn’t figure out who could take care of their two younger children.  She thought about driving the whole family on a roadtrip for the transfer, or even flying the kids over with them.  However, she would really want to take this opportunity to take a vacation with her husband by themselves, sans kids.  She finally enlisted her 19-year-old son and his wonderful girlfriend who will watch the 3- and 5-year olds.  We have now tentatively settled on a date: October 31, 2016.  Halloween!!!  Hopefully I won’t be jetlagged anymore (after my return from my trip on October 27).  I mean, I will still have to figure out other things like buying the medication for her and arranging for local monitoring appointments.  Nevertheless, this is an exciting time and I am so grateful for all these forward movements.  I am also trying not to let my appointment with the Breast Health Clinic later today dampen my excitement.

Almost time to make a baby!

Breast Scare and Grandma

One of my grandmothers is going to turn 97 or 98.  (Age and year of birth of that generation in the Chinese culture is often vague.)  I haven’t seen her since our trip to Asia in April 2014.  It is tough to live so far away from the majority of my family.  Grandma had been in very good health until this summer when she fainted and was hospitalized.  Physically she is fine.  However, her mind might have been a little chaotic.  As someone who used to have the best memory (remembering everyone’s birthday), she exhibited some symptoms of mental confusion and at one point didn’t even recognize my cousin who lives with her.  She no longer takes the shuttle from her home to the market for her breakfast, which was her routine for 20 years.  Her mind has improved since the summer, but it feels that a visit with her overseas is necessary at a time when she is still relatively lucid and healthy and we can still spend quality time together.  I do not want to go when it is too late.  Since we have been trying to sort out the whole donor egg cycle and surrogacy, there has not been a good time to go.  The timing seems good now that we are down to the wire in terms of preparation for our gestational carrier’s transfer.  The legal paperwork will hopefully be completed by the second week of October and we are hopeful to do the transfer the first week of November.   Grandma’s birthday this year is October 22 (it changes yearly according to the lunar calendar).  My brother is set to fly over for a visit around that time.  It would be good for me to go around the last two weeks of October just in time for a transfer in the first week of November.  I was doing my search of reasonable airfare and then…

I found a little lump on my right breast last weekend randomly while watching TV.

It felt small and it moved around a little, but it was definitely something new.  I freaked out a little but decided to make an appointment with my primary care doctor online.  I scored an appointment for Monday afternoon.  I am not going to lie, but my mind was going fast and I was worried.  You know how it is.  Our worries about the future cloud our judgment as our mind jumps to conclusion.  The worst case scenarios flashed in my head.  Fortunately, prayers for peace and the determination to stay away from Goog.le search had kept me sane.

My doctor reviewed my mammogram results prior to coming in the exam room.  My one and only mammogram two years ago was normal but did indicate that my breast tissues were dense and fibrous.  Upon palpation, my doctor couldn’t even find the little lump at first until I pointed it out to her.  She said it felt more fluid-filled, like a cyst.  Just to be sure, she also examined my left breast and found a bigger and denser lump on the top left part of it.  She said that since this one felt more solid, it’d be best for me to do a scan.  She put in an order for a mammogram and told me to go to radiology to make an appointment.

At radiology, I was told that I could be seen immediately.  However, the staff members asked me a question that was taped on the counter: Do you have new masses or lumps on your breast?  I answered yes.  Because of this yes, I was told I had to go to the “Breast Health Services” downstairs.  Over there, I was told that I had to be scheduled to see a doctor there first.  The first opening is this coming Monday late morning.  So that means that I have had to wait a whole week to see this doctor before I can get any scans.

During this week of waiting, I still freak out at times, thinking about the possibility of me being sick and us bringing a baby into this world and the baby not having a mom.  The mind can go to the worst place fast.  But I am mostly at peace with this and am just waiting for the appointment.  I pray that I surrender everything to God as He is the one who is in control.  It could be psychological, but ever since these two lumps were found, I could seriously feel my breasts throbbing with soreness at times.  Speaking with others helps.  Both of the coworkers that I spoke with have had the same happen to them.  Both were checked out and were fine.  It’s helpful to know that the results could be normal.  This has also freaked Bob out.  The first night was the hardest as he was worried and wondered why we had to deal with one thing after another.  He has since then calmed down and has also just been waiting patiently for the appointment next week.

Because of this new development, I have been hesitant with the trip to Asia.  What if these lumps are more serious than I would like?  What if treatment is needed?  What if what if what if.  I have delayed looking into plane tickets but then I am also mindful that I would like to be around for all the initial scans that Annie, our gestational carrier, would have if/when we get pregnant.  It will be even harder to schedule a time to go see my grandmother in the near future once a pregnancy is achieved if I want to be as present for the pregnancy as possible.  So I have decided to purchase my plane tickets this weekend regardless of the outcome of the exam on Monday.

It is sometimes difficult, but I am determined to focus on the good things: seeing my family, spending time with my grandma, and being full of anticipation for our upcoming transfer.  I pray that the exam on Monday yields good results so that my mind can rest and truly enjoy the good things that life has to offer.

MicroblogMondays: Cards

Microblog_Mondays

This past week I received two cards unexpectedly.  I was touched tremendously by both of them.

I came home from work on Monday and was surprised by a card in the mail from my coworker.  She is one of the only two coworkers that know the details of my journey.  I told her briefly about our donor’s cocaine debacle last week, and she wrote the following in a card and dropped it in the mail:

“Isabelle and Bob,

I awakened on Friday with you two on my mind and felt the need to write – so… sharing my thoughts…

Living for the emergence of life… the fruition of an incredible journey that had its origins in two separate countries and cultures brought together in a third through a 21st century technology… the reaching out over space and time of two kindred spirits… bound together by a mutual love, joy, faith, bond… to a shared path, with many junctures, potential pitfalls, ruts, bumps, rocky steep climbs, protruding roots, boulders and stones to navigate through and across and on which many others would have stumbled.  Two walking hand in hand, side by side toward their shared, firm, mutual destination.  With great admiration for the inner strength, shared support, and unwavering belief in the end result.  What a blessing to have found each other.  What a blessing to those who have had a glimpse of or shared in your journey.

With constant support and love,

[Coworker’s name]”

Such beautiful words that sum up our journey in such a poetic way.  I was utterly touched.

And then on the weekend, I had the honor to meet my dear friend behind Dreaming of Diapers.  You know it when someone gets you.  And that was the feeling I got the whole two hours we were chatting over lunch.  When we said our good-byes, she handed me a card.  The cover of the card said, “Hope is the belief in things unseen”.  On the inside, she wrote that she was happy to be finally meeting me, and that she was excited for me and my 4 embabies.  She said she cannot wait to hear I am expecting soon, that she just knows it in her heart that this is my time.  What a thoughtful gesture and such great encouragement that my dear friend is hoping with me that these embryos will help fulfill my dream of being a mother with live children.

Being loved, thought of, and understood is such a great feeling.  Thank you friends.

Great News!!!

I love it when good news comes at an unexpected time.

I was supposed to go see Dr. E tomorrow for our PGS results.  She emailed me this afternoon as soon as she got the news!

The subject line said “Normals!!” so I knew that we have some normal embryos.  However, she didn’t specify how many normal embryos we have.  She wasn’t sending me the report because gender of the embryos was listed there, and I don’t want to know the gender at all.  She said in the email that right now would be a good time to connect since we had the report then.  She asked if I would like to meet in person or talk on the phone.

Of course I wanted to talk on the phone.  But the most important piece of information that was missing was the number of normal embryos.

Her response: 4

We have four normal embryos!!!!!!

Praise the Lord for answering our prayers!  I have been praying for the perfect number of normal embryos that God has already planned for us.  And here is our perfect number!

I am so relieved and incredibly grateful.  I think our chances of having a baby are great!

Yesterday I went to see my therapist and told her about my fear of not having any normal embryos.  It helped to speak with her as she gave me strategies to get away from my negative thoughts.

Later this evening Dr. E and I spoke on the phone.  We were both so happy to have these embryos.

I came to find out that embryos 1, 2, 4, and 5 are normal.  They are Max, Noelle, Penny, and Quentin.  I don’t have their grades at the time of freeze.  Number 1 and 2 were the day five embryos that were 3AB and 3BB.  Number 4 and 5 were the day 6 embryos that were 5AB and 5BB.

We will know the mitoscore in the next few days.  This score tells about the implantation potential of each embryo.  Dr. E will make recommendations of which embryo and the number of embryos to transfer.  Grade A and B are good.  Dr. E checked and said that our donor’s first cycle with her had 6 normal embryos and all 6 had a mitoscore that was graded A.  The second cycle with Dr. E, 4 out of 6 were A and 2 out of 6 were B.  According to her, the mitoscore is all dependent on the egg quality and not sperm.  So given the previous results, she said that it’s very likely that we’ll have good mitoscore for our embryos.

She said that just looking at the embryos now, she would probably recommend transferring the 3AB.  She asked her assistant to send me the embryology report at freeze time so I will know what the final grades of the embryos were before freeze.  She doesn’t remember exactly but she said that she didn’t remember seeing a downgrade on the embryos.

I asked Dr. E if the sperm played a part in the number of normal blastocysts that we have.  She said that it’s not clear.  The donor did have two perfect cycles but our number is not out of the ordinary.  Maybe this is the new normal for this particular donor.

This is such great news!  I can breathe more easily.  And I don’t have to drive an hour to see Dr. E tomorrow. 🙂

If this is in God’s will, we should be able to have a baby in our arms next summer!

MicroblogMondays: Inching Closer to Our Baby

Microblog_Mondays

I have to admit that this process of getting to our baby is going pretty well.  And I am not afraid of jinxing it.

We have six blastocysts.  The most that we have ever had in our journey to our baby.  I am not going to lie about it.  I still have a certain degree of worry/fear/anxiety of not having ANY normal embryos to transfer.  Whenever I have this fear, I try to remember what my dear friend A. told me about her therapist’s advice on probable vs. possible: to acknowledge that the thing you fear is highly improbable.  So I am trying my best to trust God and believe that He has the perfect plan for us regardless of the number of normal embryos we have.  

On our gestational carrier front, things are moving along as well.  There was some hiccups with Annie, our gestational carrier’s blood work results.  Her TSH is within normal range for a regular person but not for the IVF/TTC world.  After a retest to confirm the higher than desired value, Dr. E has prescribed Synthr.oid to her.  Her levels should go down quickly but Dr. E didn’t pass her medical screen until the day before our donor’s retrieval.  It was so great to get the green light to move forward because without her passing her medical exams we wouldn’t be able to move forward to the next steps.

Annie finished her psychological evaluation last Tuesday.  She told me that there were a few difficult questions as well as an online assessment of her personality on which she had to answer 344 questions.  She got them all done in a day. What a trooper!  The next day Dr. E, who received the results from the examiner directly, notified us that Annie passed her psychological evaluation with great results!  That was the same day we made those day 5 blastocysts.   Both were so exciting to hear.  Bob and I had a phone counseling session with the same LFMT who asked a bunch of questions about the issues surrounding surrogacy.  That phone call was only 23 minutes long.  I joked that it was probably the easiest $100 she had ever made because we had an answer for every issue that she asked about as we had thought about each one already.  Rather than a counseling session, it was more like a question and answer session.  She asked the questions.  We answered them.  But the good news is, it was done and we could move forward.

Drafting the legal paperwork is our next step.  We haven’t received the details from the attorney yet so we don’t know what is involved.  All I know is that it takes three to six weeks to finish the contract.  And without the contract signed, we cannot start preparing Annie’s lining for a transfer.  So getting the contract done as soon as possible is our immediate goal.  Looking at the calendar, if we can get the contract done at a fast rate, I am hopeful that a transfer can be scheduled for the 3rd or 4th week of October.  If that truly happens and a pregnancy is achieved, our due date would be around my birthday next year in July.

In five days, we’ll find out the fate of our blastocysts.  We are full of anticipation, hope, and joy as we enter the next phase of our quest.

Final Tally of Blastocysts

I felt tremendous peace last night and this morning.  I knew that we were covered in prayers.  We prayed last night before bed and this morning when Bob woke up at 5:30am for his run.  We prayed for the embryos to grow well, and prayed for God’s perfect number of embryos.  The nervousness that I felt was almost all gone.  If it is in God’s plan for us to have just those three embryos, I choose to be grateful and joyful about it.  If His plan is for us to have more, He will provide.  This peace enabled me to sleep through the night.  God is amazing and prayers are amazing.

Usually Dr. E would write me between 10am and 12pm.  I was in and out of my office the whole morning.  Every hour I came back to check my email, there would be nothing.  After my last client in the morning, I came back to my desk at noon and gmail still had no new message.  Suddenly Dr. E’s email popped up.  The title said, “Today’s report :)”.  I like anything that Dr. E wrote with a smiley face.  She said, “Another 3 beauties today, maybe 4!  Total 6-7 beautiful blasts.  Exciting!!”

What a relief!  The attached fertilization report showed that on day 6 (today) at 6:21am, there were one 5AB and two 5BBs.  There were also four 3CCs and one 2BB-.  I don’t quite know what that minus means.  It seemed to me like the lab would check on the lesser grade blastocysts to see if they would grow more.

Later this afternoon, Dr. E’s email confirmed that we have a total of three embryos biopsied and frozen today.  That brings the tally to a total of six blastocysts.  She said this about the rest of the embryos: “The others were not viable i.e. no chance for pregnancy.  The cells stopped growing and dividing when they checked again this afternoon.”

Praise the Lord that we have three additional ones!

The PGS testing results will be available in a week.  I emailed Dr. E to tell her that I would prefer not to know the gender of the embryos.  She said that she doesn’t tell the gender, that’s why she would like to meet with patients to go over the results if that’s possible.  She is so nice.  Her assistant said that the clinic typically doesn’t see patients on Friday afternoon, but Dr. E was happy to make an exception for me.  So next Friday September 16 in the afternoon we’ll find out how many of our embryos are normal.

I know that we don’t have as many blastocysts as our donor’s previous cycles, but I am super grateful for us to have these six to work with.  I am hopeful that some of these are normal and one or two of them will become our future child(ren).

We have Penny, Quentin, and Ruby joining us.  A total of six.  This is such a milestone that is worth celebrating!

P.s. I vetoed Bob’s suggestion of naming our “P” embryo “Pringles”.