MicroblogMondays: Clinging to the Positive

Microblog_Mondays

Last week was such a rough week.

Because of our donor’s cocaine debacle, both of us were extremely distracted from work and from life.  All the phone calls and emails with all the professionals, family, and friends were taxing our attention, time, and energy.  One day everything was going smoothly.  The next day, our life was turned upside down.  So many doubts, fears, and worries surfaced.  One person’s selfish act, lack of concerns for others, and lack of integrity wreaked havoc in our lives.  We were exhausted emotionally, physically, and mentally.  Extra courage and strength were desperately needed on those few days for us to function.

Amid the chaos, we see the love, beauty, goodness, and positive that were poured over us.

God is teaching us to hang on to the positive despite walking through the valley.

We see how truly beautiful our gestational carrier Annie is.  That morning I called her to tell her about our decision to continue our donor egg cycle despite our donor’s breach of our trust and contract, Annie was so calm, gentle, and full of reassurance.  She not only took care of me and my emotions that morning, but she also thought of taking care of Bob’s.  That night, Bob came home and told me that Annie’s husband Kenneth called him on his way to work that evening just to chat.  Bob didn’t recognize the phone number but saw that it was from Annie’s area, so he picked it up.  For someone who usually doesn’t pick up unknown phone calls, that was definitely a divine intervention.  Bob said that they had such a good chat about life, their work, family life, and a little about the donor’s choice.  This 20-minute phone call with a brother in Christ reflects the thoughtfulness and caring nature of our gestational carrier and her life partner.

We are so blessed to have them in our lives.

And then, there was my friend Jo.  She has been there every single step of the way in the last few years of our journey.  She knows the ins and the outs of our struggles.  The day I returned to work after taking a day off to take care of the mess that was caused by our donor’s positive drug screen was extremely busy with clients and a presentation.  Jo was so sweet.  She took care of me by ordering dinner and having it delivered to our house so that I could take a break from cooking.  And bless my husband’s heart.  He knew exactly what I had been craving so he clued Jo in on the type of food to order.  The sushi that night was truly a treat after a few long days of emotional exhaustion.

And surprisingly, I don’t feel anger towards our donor anymore.  Instead, my heart has been prompted to pray for her and for her salvation. This definitely is not my own doing.  The Holy Spirit is once again doing something that is so unexpected but beautiful.

And then, we also see how God has sustained us through all this.  After the decision was made to continue with the cycle, the peace that I have felt is unparalleled and is such a confirmation that this has been the path that aligns with God’s will.  Although we don’t know how this cycle will turn out, I no longer have that gnawing pain in my heart.  I am amazed at how quickly we bounced back from being at the bottom of the pit, but it is no coincidence or accident, and it is not our own ability or doing.  Nothing that we did could take us to that place of peace.  It is solely the Holy Spirit that took us to that space.

Later today we will know how many embryos are still in the running.  Fear comes and goes in my heart, such as the possibility of the embryos growing poorly or not having any blastocysts to test.  Fear is normal, but I have to remind myself that fear does not come from God.  Seeing the positive that God places in our life helps us move away from the space of fear and worry.

Despite this path to our baby that has been lengthy and grueling, it is a blessing that we can cling to the God-given beauty and positive in life as we wait expectantly for our journey to unfold in front of our eyes.

28!!!

This was the number I had been waiting for all day!

Today was our big retrieval day.  We got up super early for the 8am semen collection time.  I slept quite well last night, but this thought kept coming back to my mind: what if our donor decided not to show up for retrieval?  I guess once the trust is gone for something, it is harder for me to trust her to hold up her part of the bargain, although she had been showing up for every single monitoring appointment.  But you know, my mind was doing tricks and it wasn’t a lot of fun to have that anxious feeling.  This is exactly what my dear friend Elisha was talking about, the enemy trying to distract us from Jesus and steal the joy from us.  When I woke up in the middle of the night, I prayed on and off for God to give us peace and take away that doubt and fear.

We were happy and excited on our ride to the clinic.  I was the chauffeur so Bob could relax in the car as he had a very important job to do.  Upon arrival, the lady who checked Bob in had a quizzical look on her face when she was trying to locate his appointment in the system.  I should clarify that Dr. E is an independent reproductive endocrinologist who has privilege at different local clinics for procedures and the lab.  This clinic is the main one that Dr. E uses.  So it is quite possible that Bob’s name wasn’t in the system because we weren’t seeing one of the doctors there.  The lady turned to me and asked for my name, which she also couldn’t find because I wasn’t the “patient’ per se for the procedure today.  She finally checked him in and asked him to go to the andrology lab.

The lady at the andrology lab window also seemed to look very confused as she shuffled the lists of names to locate Bob’s.  I had this sinking feeling as I watched her.  Did they not know that he was coming and that his sperm was to be used with our donor’s eggs?  I took at peek a the lab order and saw that the collection time was supposed to be 9:30am.  Why in the world were we asked to arrive at 8?  After some confusion, it was finally declared that everything was fine and Bob headed down to his little room to do his business.

Feeling uneasy about the little drama, I called up Dr. E’s office to speak with the nurse.  She reassured me that the clinic knew what they were doing but told me that she’d get on it to clarify everything with the clinic on the phone if need be.  A few minutes later, Dr. E’s nurse called me back and said that everything was fine.  Apparently we were supposed to arrive at 9:30am so the lab was a little confused about our arrival time.  But Dr. E’s email clearly said 8am.  I guess it didn’t matter as long as the semen was collected and it wasn’t too early for that.

But this little drama kind of threw me off.  What if they couldn’t match the sperm with the eggs.  Then I was reminded to trust God’s plan.  If this is going to happen, it is going to happen.  So I took a deep breath and settled in with my book.  Bob came out in a little while.  He often had a look on his face after his semen collection.  I asked him what was up.  He said he often wonders if he had produced enough sp.erm since the quantity of the semen didn’t look like a lot.  I told him I wouldn’t worry about it because he has been performing every single time.  I don’t see how this time would be any different.

I waited in waiting room when Bob was in the bathroom.  Dr. E came into the clinic and saw me.  She gave me a hug and said that everything was going to be great.  Then she pulled me to the side and said, “Your donor is due for her check in right now, so you may want to hide somewhere.”  Oh okay.  I grabbed Bob who just came out of the bathroom and we quickly exited to the parking lot.  I wouldn’t want to accidentally bump into our donor like this.

I don’t know why.  Maybe because of the little drama, I was still feeling a little anxious about the possibility of the donor not showing up, which does not make sense at all.  If she wanted to be compensated, she’d show up.  She had already gone this far.  And it wouldn’t be fun to have all these enlarged follicles inside one’s ovaries.  So I vacillated between feeling calm and a little anxious.  I was thinking, if our donor didn’t show up for retrieval, Dr. E would have notified us in the morning.  The fact that there was no phone call or update was a good thing.

My friends were asking if I wanted to write Dr. E for an update.  I guess I wanted to just hide in the sand.  I was still treating no update as a good sign.  Dr. E’s email came at 3:17pm.  She had “28!!!” in her subject line, and said that “Retrieval went beautifully.  Just wanted to let you know.  Next update is tomorrow!”  I immediately praised the Lord for answering our prayers!  Bob sounded happy but also cautious as we don’t know how many of these 28 eggs are mature and fertilized.  I think he is still wondering if his boys performed.  But I am grinning from ear to ear!  This is such fantastic news and today couldn’t have gone any better.

You know what got me through today?  My happy thought of the day, which is “today is the first day of my future child(ren)’s existence”.  I truly believe that one or two of these eggs will help make our child(ren).  Although our donor had made a mistake and breached our trust and contract, I am still feeling super thankful for her, her willingness to donate, and her super high-performing ovaries.

May this news be the first of many happy moments before we finally meet our baby face to face.

Praise the Lord!

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: The Last Two Months, An Abridged Version

Microblog_Mondays

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

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

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

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

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

MicroblogMondays: Dealing With Worries And Sadness

Microblog_Mondays

I have been trying to digest and accept the news we received last Thursday.  Admittedly, I haven’t been doing a good job.

Since that day, I woke up every morning confused about where I was and when it was.  Once I realized that it was Friday, or Saturday, or Sunday, and that our quest for a baby is once again going to be delayed, sadness overcame me.  This sadness has been intermittent.  Sometimes I feel fine.  Sometimes my heart hurts.

This four-year journey has been so tough for us.  Even before we started to try for a baby, an abdominal myomectomy was necessary to remove over 50 tiny fibroids from my uterine wall.  They were not in the cavity but the sheer number and volume of them pushed on the uterus and altered its shape.  Recovery time for this open surgery was six weeks off work and three menstrual cycles before we were advised to start trying for a baby right away.  My FSH was elevated already.  I knew that we should try quickly before the fibroids grow back.  Well, we all know how that has been going.  Despite how much we want to get pregnant, it just hasn’t happened for us.  We watch people who try with their own eggs and donor eggs get pregnant one by one.  We miss the train every single time.

In the meantime, a new fibroid has been growing in the back of my uterus.  A couple of years back, it was much smaller.  In the last few transfers, nobody had ever said anything about it interfering with implantation or pregnancy.  I felt fortunate that no one had told us that we had to remove it.  Until last Thursday.

I have been trying to avoid another surgery at all cost.  Being cut up and recovering from it is not easy.  Plus I just don’t want to weaken my abdominal wall any further.  I know plenty of people have two or three abdominal surgeries but I didn’t want to be one of them.  I didn’t want another surgery to delay any fresh cycles or transfers.  But, as we have learned time and time again, it is not in our control.

All of a sudden, I am worried about things that may or may not happen.  Of course we want things to go smoothly and according to our timing.  But our history shows that things don’t often go the way we want.  I am worried that the surgery would be scheduled at the time my in-laws are in town.  My surgeon told me that after the surgical consultation (on 4/20) it takes about a month or two to schedule the surgery, and I’ll have to be off work for two weeks.  Can you imagine being home with my in-laws while I am trying to recover?  I so desperately want the surgery to be around the time my own mother is still in town.  I am also worried that somehow my donor has traveled to an area infected by Zika virus and my clinic deems her ineligible to donate until a much later time.  I feel that somehow with our “luck”, bad things that are unlikely to happen will happen.  And, my biggest worry is that after doing the surgery and spending all the money, we still won’t have a child we can call our own.

Sometimes I just want to hide in a hole and quit it all.

Irrational.  I know.  But these are real fears and worries.  I usually try to deal with worries by taking it one day at a time.  But this time I just can’t seem to focus on the positive .  My brain these few days is filled with these worries that I can’t seem to shake.  We skipped Easter breakfast at church because I didn’t want to deal with people.  I avoided meet and greet time.  I didn’t want to have anything to do with babies.  Seeing all the matching outfits of kids and families of two, three, or four kids, I was once again reminded of the void in our life.  Bob was amazing though.  Being a helper at the nursery today, holding all the babies gave him the resolve to become a father of his own child in the future.

I continue to pray for peace.  After having peace on Thursday, I don’t seem to have it these past few days.  I know it’s up to God to answer my prayer.  I desperately want God to take away these worries and give me the peace that surpasses all understanding.  But again, I can ask but this too is out of my control.

Fortunately, although I am a mess this time, Bob is not fazed by any of these potential problems.  He has been my voice of positivity, logic, and rational thoughts.  He consoles me and tells me that it’s okay for me to feel sad, but he doesn’t want me to stay there for too long.  He acknowledges my fears, but is also firm in his beliefs that although our timeline is delayed once again, we will eventually move forward with the next cycle with a uterus that is healed.  He believes that the donor will be fine and will give us the embryos that we need.  He believes that I will get pregnant and we will be parents in 2017.

His unwavering belief is exactly what I need.  I am grateful that one of us is doing well.  Our patience is once again tested.  I hope that soon I will get over this sadness and this state of worries so I can be back to being calm, happy, at peace, and patient again.

And I hope that none of my worries comes true.

MicroblogMondays: We Booked Our Donor!

Microblog_Mondays

After last week’s confusion, we booked the donor that we like!

This is our fourth donor.  The first one was an in-house donor that never responded to the donor coordinator’s inquiry, so we couldn’t work with her.  The second one disappeared after we booked her and met with her.  The third one was an in-house donor who had frozen eggs that resulted in two so-so blastocysts and failed transfers.

I just hope and pray that this new donor will be our very last donor before we finally have a child we can call our own.

I really thought that this donor was booked by another couple already and wouldn’t be available to start legal paperwork until August.  That was from reading Dr. E’s email.  The donor agency lady clarified with this: “That was the cycle that is in front of yours.  She will be finishing a cycle in May and then would be available at the end of May to start working with you. This is what I meant about legal being done at that time.”

I wrote her again trying to get a clarification: “Oh I was a bit confused about what Dr. E said.  She told me that she just matched this donor with a patient of hers this weekend.  When I asked her to clarify, she said that this donor is in cycle now with a patient of hers.  Then the next cycle in May with a patient of hers too. So next cycle she would be available for is August.  I would love to work with this donor if I get to start a cycle with her in May.  But I will have to think about it some more if I have to wait until August.”

Donor agency lady: “Yes, she is finishing next week with her current cycle. Then she is cycling again and will be done in May. She can start working with you at that time and should retrieve around July most likely but the doctor will be the one to calendar it for us. It depends how quickly the donor gets her period again after that retrieval. “

From my understanding of her response, Dr. E was talking about two patients of hers, one is finishing up a cycle with her now.  The other one will start her paperwork and finish her retrieval in May.  So I will be in line after that to start paperwork late May. I just wanted to make sure that there is not another person in line to start paperwork in May which pushes me to start paperwork in August.  So all of this is correct.

The next five days, I asked a ton of questions about the whole process and to make sure that we are next in line to cycle with this donor and not having two more people before our turn.  This donor agency owner answered all of my questions promptly with a lot of patience.  The donor was not employed at the time she filled out the profile.  The agency owner helped me ask and responded promptly with the donor’s employment information.

What else did I do that help us make this decision?  I was trying to explain to Bob all the cost and different donors and different clinics.  He got so confused that he asked for a spreadsheet.  So Wednesday after work, I put food in my Instant Pot, pressed some buttons, and let the pot do its job.  Then I sat down and did a combination of different donors, different agencies, and different clinics (my current clinic and Dr. E).  Why do I have to do that?  Different agencies ask for different agency fees, escrow fees, travel fees for the donor, insurance for the donor, and other miscellaneous expenses.  Different donors are from different states and areas so travel fees will vary.  Plus they all ask for different compensations.  I compared proven donors with first-time donors, local donors with non-local donors.  I estimated the cost of travel.  I compared donors who have done the psychological and genetic screenings, and genetic testing in the past year with the ones that haven’t.  I compared the cost of each clinic with or without PGS testing.  There are so many variables.  I got it done in an hour.

When I presented the whole spreadsheet to Bob, he was so impressed with it.  I made some estimates on certain things but I think the figures weren’t too far off from the real figures.  After looking at all the figures, it appeared to the both of us that it would make the most sense to go with this local, proven donor and cycle at my current clinic.  The only disadvantage is that I probably won’t be able to do a transfer until some time in the summer.  If I go with a first-time donor I can probably cycle a little sooner.  But with a first-time donor, the risk is that she may not pass her medical screening.  Then we would have wasted money on flying her to the clinic and paying for the screening.  Like I said, there are all these variables. So it seemed to make the most sense to wait for the local proven donor.

Plus, both Bob and I really like her.  For the first time choosing a donor, I feel that I don’t have to compromise any of my criteria I have set for a donor.  With the previous three donors, I made a couple of compromises with the height, education, or personality type with every single one of them.  But this particular donor meets all of my requirements.  I like how she looks.  She is my height.  She is a college graduate.  And I like how she answered her personal questions.  She just seems really down to earth.  I feel that this is someone that I could be friends with in real life.  And she has proven fertility so we don’t have to guess how she’d respond to medications.  I know that every cycle is different, but her past cycles give us a good glimpse of what could happen.

After lots of talking and prayers, Bob and I felt that we had peace with moving forward.  We signed the agency agreement to book this donor last week and emailed it to the agency person.  We will pay the agency fee today.  We have been officially matched with this local donor!

As far as which clinic to go with, I was thinking that since this donor will have worked with Dr. E three times by the time we cycle with her, it’d make sense to work with Dr. E.  After all, she is familiar with this donor and knows how to stim her.  After emailing back and forth with her finance person, I was a bit shocked and actually changed my mind.  Without PGS testing, the difference between Dr. E and my current clinic is about $1500.  With PGS testing, Dr. E costs $4000 more than my current clinic.  How does one justify paying an extra $4000 for a cycle that may yield the same result?  Just for some extra hand holding along the way?  I am just not so sure.

Bob, who usually has a tight grip on money, surprised me once again.  I thought he would be adamant about not spending the extra money cycling with Dr. E. But I was wrong.  He lets me choose.  If I really want to cycle with Dr. E, he’s okay with paying that extra money.  I guess to him, we have already spent so much money.  That extra few thousand is not going to hurt.  But I think differently.  I just have a really hard time justifying it.  So we shall see who to work with.

Dr. E is great though.  I asked her a bunch of questions and she got back to me very promptly.  Here is her answer about cycling back to back and how that might affect a donor’s health, and the necessity to do PGS testing with a proven donor who performed really well:

“She (the donor) is getting breaks between cycles.  That’s why you’d cycle with her in August, not back to back.  I think as you know:  IVF doesn’t make you run out of eggs and IVF doesn’t cause poor quality eggs.  Therefore we can definitely use her if you would like.  Her embryos were 100% normal with her first donation for me.  Is it possible that could happen again? Totally. I’ll know very soon. Her second cycle with me will start very soon.  As far as genetic testing, it’s a personal choice. I ask all my patients to consider genetic testing regardless of whether they are using egg donor or not just so you have all the info you need to make the best transfer decisions possible.”

The last two days I was looking at other donors on some agencies’ databases.  I came across donors who ask for something higher than the ASRM’s suggested guideline of $5000 to $10000 for donor compensation.  Some ask for $14000, 15000.  I came across some that ask for $20000, 30000.  One even asks for $35000.  I don’t know how they justify asking for so much (Ivy league graduates, but so what???), but I am so glad that our donor adheres to the guideline.  If everyone does what these other donors do, then nobody will be able to use donated eggs to conceive.  For this, I feel fortunate that we found this local donor.  We have Dr. E to thank.

Now we shall see if we will be cycling while my in-laws are in town (early June to end of July).  *Gulp*

MicroblogMondays: Frozen Donor Eggs (a post not so micro)

Microblog_Mondays

This is going to be my third attempt in writing about what has been going on since our donor Iris bailed.  I have been so short on time lately that I just can’t seem to finish a post about it.  I hope you are ready for a not so micro post.

It’s been three weeks since we got the news that Iris had disappeared.  I don’t quite think much about her anymore.  Emotionally I am not affected much by her.  Did she ever return any emails or phone calls to the agency?  The answer is no.  She returned the $200 that the agency sent her for transportation to and from the clinic, without attaching a single note.  Just like that, she disappeared into thin air without a single word or explanation.  On some level, I feel disappointed at myself for choosing a person who would be so irresponsible.  But my therapist told me that I should not take any responsibility because her decision and disappearance had nothing to do with me and Bob personally.

So what has happened in the last three weeks since we found out that we had to start all over again?  It took a few days for my emotions to return to normal.  Then I began to think about the next steps.  Naturally, we started searching for a donor again.  Both the agency database and the in-house clinic database did not have any donors that we could work with immediately.  A proven, repeat donor who is part-Chinese would be our first pick.  Nobody matches that description.  I expanded my search to agencies outside of the Bay Area.  Still, the choices are very limited.  I was discouraged for a few days and was defeated that the chance to have a transfer before Christmas would be very slim.  Why do I want a transfer before Christmas?  I think it has to do with us approaching the end of the 4th year trying for a baby.  Christmas is a season that focuses so much on family and children.  I just want to share the joy with others who have children or who are pregnant.

We have discussed in the past about doing a fresh donor cycle vs. doing a frozen donor egg cycle.  I didn’t really go into details with you guys about the differences.  Basically, the chances of a pregnancy/live birth are higher with a fresh donor cycle because the recipient couple would receive all the eggs in that cycle, hence the chances of making multiple embryos would be quite high.  Many donors would retrieve from 15 to 35 eggs during one cycle (although some may make fewer than 10 eggs).  Many of these eggs would be fertilized and at least a few embryos would/should make it to the day five or day six blastocyst stage.  Often times, a recipient couple transfers one to two blastocysts and has a few other blastocysts to freeze for future use, may it be for a frozen embryo transfer if the first fresh transfer didn’t work, or for a chance at a second child in the future if the first transfer results in a live birth.  The cost of a fresh donor cycle is high.  Compared to that, a frozen donor egg cycle is a lot cheaper.  At my clinic, the difference could be over $10,000.   The eggs are already there, frozen for a recipient couple’s use at any time they are ready.  The advantage is that you don’t have to sync up the donor’s cycle with the recipient, and there is not a risk of the donor not stimming well or actually backing out from the cycle.  The disadvantage is that the clinic guarantees at least six mature eggs.  Compared to a fresh cycle with 15 to 35 eggs, six eggs seems to be a small number.  With fewer eggs, the chances of having multiple embryos are smaller.  Plus, there is a risk of the eggs not thawing well.  So realistically, there could be one or two embryos to work with.  Once the embryos have been transferred, if the cycle doesn’t result in a pregnancy, there may not be any frozen embryos to use for a frozen embryo transfer.  So there is always that risk of exhausting all the embryos quickly and having to do another cycle all over again.

My RE Dr. No Nonsense has always told us to do a fresh donor cycle if we want two of more children because a fresh cycle gives you a lot more eggs.  I do want more than one child.  However, Bob’s position in the last year has been that he only wants one child.  If we get a bonus one (such as having twins), he would be overjoyed.  But he just wants to have one child and be done with this process.  I know that he is very tired of this journey and just wants to move on.  This is coming from a man who had always wanted four children.  It breaks my heart to see him so disappointed and exhausted and just wanting to move on with life.  So in theory, since Bob only wants one child at this point, he shouldn’t care much about fresh donor cycle or frozen DE cycle.  But in reality, he cares a lot because he really wants me to have the best chance at having a live birth and it seems like a fresh cycle will allow us the best chance for that.

You may not remember, but back in May, I wrote about the various choices we had to face when it came to egg donation.  In that post, I mentioned about donor 1.  She is half Chinese half other Asian.  So she is fully Asian.  Back then, I learned that all four of the recipients of her cycles had gotten pregnant.  She had committed to donating for the 5th time for all of her eggs to be frozen.  We did not go with her because only frozen eggs were available.  You can see the above for the reason why we didn’t want to go with frozen eggs.

There is another donor that we also liked.  I mentioned about her in the previous post about egg donation as well.  I described her as donor 3 who only has a bit of Chinese.  I checked with the donor coordinator.  She has just been matched with another couple and will do a cycle in November.  Technically, Bob and I are next in line if she chooses to donate again.  The thing is, I am not so sure if she’d donate again as this is her 3rd donation in a row.  She may or may not want to do it again.  Plus I would still like my future child to have at least a quarter Chinese.  So I am a bit hesitant about waiting for her to be available.

So, out of all the donors on both the agency and in-house clinic databases, the half Chinese/half other Asian donor is still the only donor that we are really interested in.  However, I knew my husband’s position.  I didn’t want to force the issue if he did not want to pursue having a cycle with frozen eggs.  We just had to wait a little bit for a donor to show up that we both like and want to work with.  So realistically, it could be some time in 2016 before we can do a transfer.

And then, Bob had a change of heart.  We were lying in bed one day having our pillow talk.  We were chatting about various things.  Out of the blue, Bob asked if I wanted to consider the frozen eggs from this Chinese/other Asian donor.  I was very surprised at his inquiry.  His reasoning was that 1) this is a young, proven donor with good records, 2) the eggs are all there for us to use, 3) so a donor will never back out from a cycle again (I think he’s a bit traumatized by the incident with Iris and has lost confidence in a future fresh donor), and 4) the cycle is cheaper so if it’s not successful, we still have the money to try another fresh or frozen egg cycle.  We agreed to inquire about the status of the Chinese/other Asian donor.

This is what I learned.  At the time when I wrote the donor coordinator, this donor was about to do a retrieval for her 6th donation.  So we didn’t know how many eggs would be given for each batch.  While we were dealing with our previous donor Iris in the past months, this Chinese/other Asian donor had already completed her 5th donation (and second frozen donation).  That cycle yielded 23 mature eggs which were divided into three batches of 8, 8, and 7 eggs.  All three batches have been matched with various couples but these couples have not done a cycle with these eggs yet.  We would be next in line for the new batch of eggs that results from her 6th donation (and 3rd frozen egg donation).  A transfer had been done with the eggs that came from her very first frozen egg donation but the clinic was still waiting for the pregnancy result.

When I was waiting for the retrieval to see how many eggs would go into each batch, I had asked myself what the most ideal number of eggs would be.  I knew that her first frozen egg donation resulted in 9 mature eggs and 8 mature eggs.  If she has 20 mature eggs, then the cycle would be split into two batches of ten eggs.  If she has 21 eggs, then they would be divided into three batches of 7 eggs.  I was praying that she’d get 20 eggs.

Guess what?  My prayer was answered.  The donor coordinator said that her cycle resulted in two batches of ten eggs each.  They were all deemed mature and were stripped for ICSI (whatever that means).  This would be the best case scenario for someone who is interested in using frozen eggs.  Again, the clinic guarantees at least six mature eggs.  A batch of ten eggs is amazing.

After knowing the answer, I was thrilled at first.  We have ten chances to make a couple of embryos, if not more.  This is a proven donor.  What else is there to think about right?  After praying over the weekend, both Bob and I were saying to each other that we should go for it.  I posted to an online group of DE moms who had experience in frozen egg cycles and many had shared their success stories with me.  Many of them had only 6 eggs and still had a pregnancy and live birth.  I was feeling better and better.  And then, I had a thought.  What if we purchased both batches of eggs?  That’d cost a lot more money but that’d mean that we’d have a chance to have a few more embryos.  Bob still thought that we would only need one batch because he would still want one child.  But he told me to go ahead and ask.

The donor coordinator said this, “We unfortunately do not allow the option to purchase multiple batches of cryo banked eggs because the cornerstone of the program is to offer more recipients an opportunity to match with our more sought after donors.”  

I was at peace with this.  I was actually relieved that a decision was made for us, that we didn’t have to fret about the decision to purchase two batches of eggs.

I was feeling good for a couple of days.  Then I got the latest news.  The donor coordinator told me that the result of the latest transfer with this donor’s frozen eggs was a negative pregnancy and the recipient had one more embryo to try.

Cue panic.  I went from having peace to having fears and doubts.  I was projecting the results of that failed cycle onto my future, wondering if that would happen to me as well.  I seemed to have overlooked the still stellar record of this donor, having a 80% pregnancy rate with her eggs.  I wondered if bad statistics would follow me.  I was fearful that I would be unfortunate enough to have a batch of the worse eggs from the 20 eggs.  I entered into this land of what-ifs.  I could not distinguish my fear from God’s will.  My mind was very noisy and chaotic.

In the back of my mind, I still thought and felt that this was a wonderful opportunity to pursue with a proven donor.  Since we only have to prepare my lining for a transfer, we can possibly transfer before Thanksgiving.  And if this does not work, we still have the money to pursue other opportunities.

But I was scared to death.  I was scared that the first transfer wouldn’t work, and it would be a huge blow to the both of us.  It would mean tens of thousands of dollars down the drain.  It could possibly mean having no frozen embryos to try again and needing to find a new donor.  I have just been so traumatized by this experience that I was so afraid of failure.

My therapist came to the rescue.  A few days ago, a session with her cleared up some of my chaotic thoughts.  Every pregnancy is different.  We don’t know what the failed cycle was like.  We don’t know the sperm quality or the uterine environment.  We do know that the recipient has one more embryo to try.  We also know that other people who used this donor’s eggs have all gotten pregnant.  She told me that things are out of my control.  So I should let go of the what-ifs because no one except for God knows what will happen in the future.  I should focus on my perfect uterus and visualize how welcoming this place will be for my future child.  Instead of putting my energy in thinking that this will never happen to me, I should put some positive energy into believing that this will happen with a perfect uterine environment and a beautiful embryo.  My therapist told me not to rush into a cycle if the reason is that I want to have a transfer before the end of the year.  Go for it if it feels right.  Don’t go for it and wait if it doesn’t feel right.

I was able to get a hold of Dr. NN and asked him a few questions.  He said that this being the donor’s 6th donation does not affect the egg quality.  I also asked him about immune protocol.  He said that I will be on steroids.  He does not recommend any blood thinner like Hepa.rin for me, and he thinks that hCG infusion is not necessary for me.  He thinks that it’s wonderful that we get 10 eggs from this donor.

After talking with him and having Bob’s support, I wrote the donor coordinator and let her know that we’d like to take a batch of ten eggs.  Then came her email.  She told me that there is a change in the guarantee program.  What???

I immediately gave her a call and learned about the details.  Basically, the clinic was evaluating the frozen egg program and wanted to boost the success rate.  According to the coordinator, there was 16 transfers with frozen eggs and 9 resulted in a clinical pregnancy.  So instead of guaranteeing that there would be two viable embryos (could be anywhere from day three to day five) to transfer, the clinic will change its policy to one blastocyst.

I think it is a good change, but I was a bit uneasy with the rate of pregnancy because it is lower than the 70% of transfer with fresh eggs.  I prayed to God for peace and strength as this is such a difficult decision to make.  Bob and I talked and talked.  I let the news sit for a little longer.  I woke up the next morning with peace.

So this is where we are at right now.  We have chosen to proceed with ten frozen eggs from this Chinese/other Asian donor who has had a great record.  I went off birth control pills a few weeks ago because I was bleeding from them.  In order to get ready for the cycle, I will go back on birth control pills when my period comes.  My nurse said the transfer time will be six weeks from the time I go back on birth control pills.  I am expecting my period to come in two to three weeks (I have EWCM lately but I don’t know if I have ovulated yet) so I think transfer time should be somewhere in November.

I can’t help but think that, maybe this is meant to be?  If we had chosen this donor’s frozen eggs in the first place, the eggs that we would get would be very different from the eggs that we are going to get now.  The sperm used for that would be different.  The resulting embryos and child/ren would be different.  Maybe there was a reason why our original donor didn’t work out.  Maybe we are meant to get the ten eggs that we will get?  I don’ t know.  I think we’ll never find out the reason for all these twists and turns until we have a baby in our arms.

I am excited but at the same time scared.  I am grateful for this opportunity but at the same time fearful of the future.  I have been reminded again and again this past week during Bible Study that God has the perfect plan for me.  I believe that this is the right decision.  My hope is that I continue to trust in the Lord and in this process without being doubtful or living in fear.  If you are the praying kind, could you join me in praying that I live daily with trust and faith in the Lord?

Thank you for your support.

Processing My Feelings After Our Donor Disappeared

So yeah.  This is what happened.  Our donor is nowhere to be found, still.

I just can’t believe that this is happening to us.  I mean, I know that there is a possibility of donors bailing.  But I never thought that it would happen to us.  Not somebody who had donated twice before and followed through with everything that she needed to do.  One moment things were going well and we were on our way to our donor egg cycle.  The next moment, we are back at square one.  This journey is so unpredictable with so many twists and turns.

At 8am this morning, the phone rang literally when I was turning the door knob to walk out of the house for work.  It was our donor agency director.  Her voice was almost shaking.  She said that she had some bad news to tell me.  I came back into the house and sat down.  She told me that Iris, our donor, called to cancel the appointment with our clinic last Thursday saying that she had to go to work.  To our donor agency director, it was not a good sign, because it takes a long time to schedule an appointment with the clinic so once it is scheduled, a responsible donor should stick with it.  Anyhow, I guess it would have been fine for Iris to cancel the appointment if she had rescheduled it for another day.  But she didn’t.  Donor agency director tried to contact her, leaving her email, phone call, a longer email, and another phone call.  Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and today.  No response.  Donor agency director said that she was totally surprised by this turn of events because she thought that the meeting with Iris went really well.  Iris, who met with the director prior to our meeting, never expressed any doubts about egg donation.  She in fact indicated that she would like to donate again even before the last donation was completed.  The director said that donor backing out is not unheard of, but doing so after meeting with the recipient couple (us) is more rare.  And usually the donors who back out would contact the director and give an explanation or a reason.  It’s quite rare for someone to disappear without returning any phone calls or emails.

Donor agency director was feeling horrible that we are in this situation.  I took it as well as I could on the phone.  I told her that it was okay as I’d rather have the donor bail right now than later in the process, which would definitely cause more heartaches and cost more money.  The agency director was praising me for my mature response.  But really, what could one do?  Screaming and yelling would not change the outcome.  I just didn’t understand what had happened there.  Agency director told me NOT to think it was because of us that the donor bailed.  We just won’t know what happened and what went through Iris’ mind.  We are now out $450 for the genetic counseling.  If she had completed the medical screening then bailed, then we would be out another $800.  We talked about other donors on her database.  We saw a fully Chinese donor last week and asked about that one.  Of course she has already been matched.   Bob was there so I updated him, and I went on my way as calmly as possible to work.  Poor Bob.  Today was his first day at his new job, and he sat there being stunned for ten minutes before he could get himself up to get ready for work.

However, on my way to work, I grew angrier and angrier, and utterly disappointed.  Why can’t we catch a break?  There has been so many road blocks from the first day we started trying for a baby.  Now that we have decided on egg donation, the road still has not been smooth at all.  I teared up in the car but didn’t cry.  I just felt awful that this was happening.  I prayed and asked God to sustain me for the day so I could still fulfill my duties at work.

I walked into my office and saw my Dear Colleague.  I couldn’t hold my tears anymore.  I started crying while my Dear Colleague gave me a hug.  I was feeling a little better after crying a little.  Unfortunately, I had to get myself together for my 9am client.  And unfortunately, his very pregnant mom was also there this morning (usually grandma brings him in).  It was extra tough to have her in the session while I was trying so hard to pull myself back to a reasonable state.  I struggled through the whole session and did the best that I could.  I was supposed to work on a project the rest of the morning.  I could not focus and was just staring into space.  I just felt very upset, angry, and disappointed.

I realize that I am not mourning the loss of this particular donor per se.  I have always told myself not to fall in love with any particular donor.  I know we can always find another donor.  But it is about the loss of time, the sense of loss of control, the timeline being pushed back, the huge sense of uncertainty, and the seeming impossibility to get pregnant by the end of the year.  It was also a sense of unfairness that this is so easy for some people and so tough for many of us who struggle with this.  I am angry.

I try not to second guess ourselves and wonder if it was something that we said, or the fact that we made a decision to meet with her that drove her away.  If I had to make a choice again, I would still choose to meet with our donor if at all possible.  Bob had great intuition about this one.  After Iris talked about the future and how she was uncertain about how she would feel about egg donation, Bob asked me several times last week what Iris meant by that.  He wondered if she meant that she wouldn’t donate to us.  I dismissed his observation and told him not to be silly because I really didn’t feel that she was moving towards that direction.  But I guess I sometimes have to trust my husband’s intuition.  The only odd moment that I remember was how Iris rushed out of the house forgetting her purse and had to rush back to retrieve it.  In the back of my mind, I wonder what the rush was.  But that one moment didn’t clue me in on her decision to bail.  I just didn’t see it.  But when we choose our future donor, we will still like to meet with her.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with it and we will proceed with it if the new donor is willing.

All morning I was on the verge of tears.  But being at work prevented me from really crying.  I just didn’t feel well at all.  I inclined to cancel my afternoon clients and just go home.  However, I also felt bad for canceling them.  I struggled for another hour, and decided to take care of myself first.  I sent my sister-in-law a text when I left at lunch time.  I thought that it would be better for me to process my feeling crying in front of a person with sympathetic ears than all by myself.  Fortunately, she was available and urged me to go cry at her house.

I walked in her door.  Once I opened my mouth, I could not control my tears.  I just cried and cried and cried.  My wonderful sister-in-law, bless her heart, situated me on the couch and surrounded me with tissue, water, chips, nuts, and Toblerone! In her presence, I just cried my eyes out, wondering aloud about our journey, all the road blocks, the uncertainty about the next steps, and feeling unloved by God.  After crying for about an hour, my breathing was more smooth, my heart rate slowed down, and my emotions had calmed considerably.  Then I stared to feel hungry.  My wonderful SIL fed me lunch before I went back home.  She is amazing.  I am so glad that every time I needed someone to support me, she is there.

The rest of the afternoon I just sat on the couch and chatted with my wonderful friends online.  I just needed to sit and be by myself.  I also began to think about options.  Maybe we’ll start thinking about the frozen eggs that are available from the Chinese/Korean donor at our clinic?  Maybe it’s worth exploring?  There aren’t too many choices on the agency’s database as of now.  So as for fresh donors, we don’t have choices until someone else pops up on the database.  We have to continue to wait.  Unless we pursue egg donation with frozen eggs, I don’t think we will have a transfer by Thanksgiving, our original timeline.

Every time crisis strikes, I am thankful for Bob as my husband.  He came home after his first day of work at his new job and we chatted about things.  He was calm and reassuring.  I know that maybe this hasn’t sunk it yet for him, and he may feel angry later.  He did feel angry this morning, but like he said, life goes on.  We chatted a little about frozen eggs and agree that it’s worth exploring.  But no doubt we have lost a bit of confidence in this process and may be taunted in the future by the fear that this may happen again if we choose a donor for a fresh cycle.

What if Iris shows up again with a good explanation?  I really don’t know if I can put my trust in someone who could be flaky and disappear again without contacting anyone.  The confidence is gone.  We will see how this is going to unfold.

I am so fortunate that my work is flexible, so I was allowed to process my feeling at my own pace.  I am ready for work tomorrow, and whatever that we will have to face.  I am sure that I will still need more time to wrap my mind around this, but I still believe that everything will work out in the end, not according to my own timeline, but according to God’s.  I just hope that we continue to have the strength and perseverance to keep up our faith.

MicroblogMondays: Meeting with Iris, Our Donor

Microblog_Mondays

Edited to add:

Right now is Monday morning.  Just got a phone call an hour ago from our donor agency director with some bad news.  After meeting with us last week, Iris was supposed to have her first appointment with our RE on Thursday.  Apparently she canceled that appointment citing work related reasons.  Our agency director has been trying to reach her since that day with multiple emails and phone calls, and she has not returned any of them.  So guys, it sounds like whatever we experienced last week at the meeting with her doesn’t matter anymore, because it sounds like she bailed.  I will update more with a new post.

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It’s interesting.  I chatted with quite a few people about their preference regarding meeting with a donor.  Some did not need egg donation to build their family.  Some did.  Many of them said that they would not meet with their donors.  Some of them fear that they would learn something about the donor that they do not like.  Some other ones would just want to move on with the process without any extra contact.  I can see their point of view and understand their preference.  In this highly emotional process, it is natural to just want to get to the end point without making it even more emotional.  Like I have said before, my intention is to make this process as open as possible so we can paint a complete picture for our future children about how they were created.

Last week was a crazy week.  I was majorly short on time for everything else so going into the meeting I didn’t really have a free moment to think much about it ahead of time.  I didn’t prepare a lot of questions.  I just wanted to get to know Iris, our donor.  From what the agency director had told me, I knew we would have about 45 minutes to an hour of time with Iris.  I did wonder what we were going to talk about.

The meeting took place in the living room of the agency director’s house/office.  Upon arrival, Iris was already sitting in the living room.  When we walked in, she got up and gave us both a very firm hand shake.  I went to the bathroom leaving Bob by himself with Iris.  When I returned, they were chatting about Bob’s birth city and the city where he grew up.  I sat down and listened to the conversation quietly.

My first impression of Iris was that she looks just like her photo.  She was actually prettier in person.  She looked a lot more Asian than Caucasian, with dark eyes and dark brown hair.  Her hair was tied up.  Her thick eye liners made her eyes pop.  She was wearing a black T-shirt, an oversized sweater, casual pants, and canvas shoes.

Iris came across as a very open person.  From her strong hand shake to the confidence in her voice, she presented as somebody who was mature for her age.  I didn’t sense any awkwardness during our conversation.  The donor agency director told us to just ask each other any questions we wanted.  It was mostly me asking questions and her answering.  Bob mostly listened and made an occasional comment.  Iris told us why she became interested in egg donation (her friends who struggled with infertility finally got pregnant and gave birth through embryo adoption).  We were the first couple she had ever met, despite having two prior donations.  She was surprised that we wanted to meet with her and actually arrived early to talk to the agency director about the meeting.

Out of respect for Iris, I am not going to go into details about her life.  We talked about her current work situation, living situation, where she grew up, her siblings, and her relationships with her mother, her father, and her sisters.  She talked about her father and what he does.  It was nice to hear that she has a good relationship with her father, just like I do.  She shared about her childhood and what she was like.  Apparently she was an easy baby and was able to sleep through the night.  She preferred the outdoors when she was growing up, digging dirt in the yard and not being afraid of getting dirty.  She was also the oldest among her siblings and was often the leader of the neighborhood kids when it came to expeditions in the neighborhood.  It was lovely to be able to have an image of her childhood.

Iris was also very kind to show us the photos of her father, mother, and two younger sisters.  Her dad is fully Chinese.  To my surprise, her mother is blonde with blue eyes.  Her sisters are both gorgeous and look more Asian than Caucasian.  It seems that the Chinese genes are very strong in this family.  We discussed about how she felt being an offspring of a mixed couple and she said that she sees herself in both her mother and her father.  The interesting thing is her father is over 6 foot tall and her mother 5’10”.  One of her sisters is 5’10” but both she and her other sister are 5’4″.  You would expect tall parents to have tall kids.  I guess it’s not always the case.

I asked her if she wanted to know anything about us.  She didn’t really ask us questions per se.  She went on to tell us that she didn’t know what to expect at this meeting.  Since she’s still young (24), she wonders about the future and how it would be like if she bumps into us on the street in the future.  She said she doesn’t know how she will feel about her decision about egg donation in the future, but she currently feels that it is the right thing to do because she finds it fundamentally fulfilling to help out couples who can’t otherwise have a child.  She said that she sometimes sits across from couples in a fertility clinic and wonders about what these couples have gone through.

In response to what she said, I expressed my sincere gratitude to her for her and other young women’s willingness to give a part of themselves so couples like us have a chance to have a baby.  I felt a bit emotional when I told her a bit about our history and how long this process has been for us.  I didn’t cry.  I was just glad that we got to meet her.

About 30 minutes into our meeting, the agency director asked Bob to initial a part of our agreement with our donor to indicate whether we wanted anonymous donation with a meeting or non-anonymous donation with a meeting.  She had my initial next to the item that said anonymous donation with a meeting.  I was puzzled about that because I had indicated non-anonymous donation.  However, because there were so many things happening at the same time, I failed to question that part.

Ahead of the meeting, I emailed the agency director to get an okay to ask our donor if she was willing to take a few photos with us.  By the end of our meeting, the agency director brought it up and Iris was totally up for it.  She moved over from her chair to the spot right next to me on the couch.  She also took off her oversized sweater and mumbled something about being warm.  Then I saw the tattoos on on arms.  I didn’t say much but I think she was a bit self-conscious about showing her tattoos to us, the recipients of her eggs.  She didn’t have to be because we have absolutely no problem with her tattoos.  I now have a few digital copies of Bob, Iris, and me together.  We all had a big smile in the photos.  It was very nice of Iris to be willing to share her face with our future children.  The agency director said that she could forward the digital copies of Iris’ photos on the profile to us.  Iris then said that she can also give us a few more clearer photos of hers.

By the end of the hour, the agency director ended our meeting.  She said she would walk Iris to the door while we waited in the living room.  Iris got up and gave both me and Bob a hug each.  She wished us luck and just turned around to leave, forgetting her purse.  She returned, got her purse, and said bye to us again.  When her sweater was left on the chair, I realized that she must have asked to borrow a sweater from the agency director.

We stayed for a little longer chatting about the rest of the process.  Iris will meet with my RE this week.  After that, we will be able to get a calendar.  Depending on Iris’ cycle, we should be able to finish with our cycle with a transfer before Thanksgiving, if not sooner.  It seems like a long time from now so we’ll see how it all works out.  We also went on to talk about transferring one vs. two embryos.  It seems like the agency director is a proponent of transferring two embryos if the total number of embryos is fewer than six.  She showed us some statistics for our clinic and another Bay Area clinic.  The fresh transfer rate with an average of 1.4 embryos per transfer is 70% pregnancy rate.  However, the frozen embryo transfer rate is about 35%, half of that of the fresh transfer rate.  We only get one chance for a fresh transfer.  She said that she has seen couples who transferred one embryo at a time and exhausted all of their 4 to 5 embryos without getting pregnant.  She wanted us (mostly me) to think long and hard about that.  So yeah, it is something definitely to discuss with our RE again.

I emailed the agency director about the agreement the next day.  She then told me that Iris was originally willing to have a open donation, but prior to meeting with us, she indicated that she would like to remain anonymous.  The agency director said she could ask Iris again if we would like.  I told her that we don’t want to push Iris if she wanted to remain anonymous, but we would like to have a way to contact her in the future if a health-related issue comes up for our child.  We will see if she will accept that.

Overall, the experience meeting with our donor was positive and wonderful.  Iris is no longer just on a profile with words and photos only.  She has become alive for us as an integral part for our fertility journey.  We like her as a person and are very grateful for her willingness to donate.  We know that she is serious about this process and will follow through with the required injections and the rest of the procedure like she did in her first two donations.  Now that we have met, Bob and I have good memories of this encounter and can share with our future children about the time when we met with the nice lady who helped us make them.  My hope is that one day this dream of sitting next to our children looking at a book that details our fertility journey including egg donation will come true.

I hope, pray, and believe that this dream is not too far-fetched.