MicroblogMondays: It’s Never Easy

Microblog_Mondays

This past week has been a whirlwind of emotions for me.

The week started with a surprising offer.  A generous one.  One that I didn’t see coming.  My Dear Colleague told me that one of her closest friends had offered me and Bob her embryos.  This friend had made four embryos in her early 30s prior to her cancer treatment.  After she finished her treatment, she got pregnant via IUI and had a baby.  Later she made a second baby the old-fashioned way and didn’t need to use her embryos.  Now that she is done building her family, she has generously offered to give these embryos to us.  I was touched by this offer because not everyone is willing and ready to give their embryos to another couple.  Many may choose to keep them frozen for a long time, and many would choose to discard them.  We don’t have to decide right away.  She has just paid for the annual storage fee for these embryos so she would like to donate them before the next storage fee is due.  We have approximately a year to make a decision.

Both Bob and I feel blessed that there is such an offer and hence a choice and another way to have a child.  We are still going to pursue egg donation first.  But emotionally, it makes it so much easier to know that there is a choice if other means don’t get us to where we want.  This couple is Caucasian and South American, so any babies resulting from these embryos would not share our ethnicities with us.  But I think both Bob and I don’t have a problem with that if it comes to that point.

A couple of days after that, I finally looked into the donors that Dr. E recommended.  I really like one of them.  She is half Chinese, my height, young, pretty, and a college graduated.  The donor profile didn’t say anything about her availability or her prior cycle history.  I emailed the donor agency owner who promptly responded to my questions.  This donor has done two cycles in the past, is finishing up a third cycle, and is booked for a new cycle soon.  At the time of that email, she was going to be available in May for a new cycle.

This is her cycle history:

Cycle 1: 26 eggs, 18 embryos, 12 frozen, 1 transferred, + pregnancy

Cycle 2: 25 eggs, 21 embryos, PGD tested, 21 normal, 1 transferred, + pregnancy

Those are some crazy stats.  She has done two cycles with Dr. E.  I was very surprised that she would be available in May as I thought someone like her would have a long wait list.  I corresponded with the agency owner back and forth.  In order to book her, we would sign the agency agreement and pay the agency fee in full in order to secure her for May.

The advantage of matching with this donor is that 1) she is half Chinese and my height, 2) she is local so we don’t have to pay for travels, 3) she seems to have proven fertility, 4) she is available in May, 5) her psychological screening, genetic screening, and all the DNA testings are all current, so we don’t have to repeat/pay for those, 6) she is willing to register with the donor sibling registry as well as to meet with the intended parents, and 7) she has worked with Dr. E a couple of times so she should be reliable.

I really like this donor.  I would say she is my favorite donor so far.

Bob and I discussed about it, prayed about it, and thought about it that night.  The more I thought about it, the more I felt that this could be our donor.  It is a little disconcerting to have to pay the agency fee in full in order to secure a donor, rather than being put on a waitlist and pay right before the donor is available to cycle.  What if the donor changes her mind?  The agency owner said that the agency fee is 100% refundable should the donor change her mind.  I told her that I would read the agency agreement.  If we are okay with it, we’d sign and pay.

That was Friday.  Then Friday afternoon, I searched for reviews on the agency and the agency owner.  I didn’t expect to find anything fishy.  What I found shocked me.  The agency owner owns two agencies: one egg donation one and one surrogacy one.  I found out that her name was associated with a bankrupt surrogacy program in another country that left many intended parents out of money and no babies.  Although she wasn’t the founder or the owner of that surrogacy program, apparently her agency provided egg donors for the intended parents.  I also found some other reviews of her detailing some unethical practices that some intended parents experienced.  On the Parent Via Egg Donation (PVED) forum, a nonprofit organization that aims at helping people pursue third party reproduction, I found some comments from the PVED founder who seemed to have some reservation about this donor agency and the agency owner.  The PVED founder and I chatted on the phone.  She told me that a few years back this agency owner was involved in some unethical practices, such as withholding money from a donor or some messy cycle coordination.  But that was a few years back and this agency owner might have changed.  But the PVED founder warned me to be extra extra extra careful if I choose to work with this agency.

I was so bummed about this discovery.  I thought that we had found a donor and everything would be set.  However, I don’t think Bob would be comfortable working with someone with such a dodgy past.  My gut feeling tells me that everything would be fine if we pick this donor.  But I am also cautious about spending so much money not knowing if the agency owner is going to be honest or has integrity.  It is very important to work with a reputable agency as the agency is the one who does all the coordination with the clinic and the donor to ensure a smooth process.  I need an agency that has a sense of responsibility to make things right if anything ever goes wrong.

Finally, I emailed Dr. E yesterday just to see what she had to say about this agency.  Dr. E is so phenomenal with her responsiveness.  She wrote me back within three minutes.  Here is her response: “I have 3 donor retrievals this month with her donors.  I probably use 30 a year from her consistently for several years.  Never ever an issue.  I also use her for surrogacy.  2 currently pregnant.”

I let Bob read her response.  We both felt a little better about moving forward with this particular donor if Dr. E hasn’t had any problems working with this agency.

A few minutes later, Dr. E wrote me again.  This time, she told me that she had just matched this particular half Chinese donor that I am highly interested in with one of her patients the day before.  She said, “If you want to meet her or talk to her to see if she’s a good match, let me know.  She would be available  again over the summer.”

Over the summer???  So does that mean that the May timeframe is gone?  I wrote her back asking her to clarify.  Here is her response: “She’s in cycle now(patients of mine).  Next cycle in May (my patients too).  Next cycle she would be available for is August.  The agency owner has 2 other families (not my patients unless you emailed her ) interested as of Friday.  I would email her now if interested.”

You see the nature of looking for a Chinese or mixed Chinese donor?  You blink and they are gone.  You are not even allowed the time to let it sink it that you have to pay a big sum of money to secure a donor.  If you take your time to think and digest the news and make sure that this is the route you want to go, you miss the opportunity.

I was bummed again that the choice of cycling with this donor in May is gone.  May is such a nice timeframe.  It’s right before Bob’s parents’ arrival.  It’s only two months from now.  I don’t know if I would want to pay full agency fee to wait for this particular donor to be available in August.  August seems so far away (although I know it is not).

Sitting there right in front of the screen, I just felt defeated and numb.  Bob is very good at reading my facial expressions.  He asked me if something was wrong.  I told him that I just felt defeated, not necessarily about losing the donor for the May timeframe, but about the unfairness of this whole process.  Why some people have to go through so much to have a child, while other people just simply have sex and are able to accomplish that.  I know I will never have an answer, and I am working on accepting that.  But these moments are still tough for me as I struggle to compete with others who also want to book Chinese donors to achieve a pregnancy.

At that point, tears were rolling down my cheeks.  I hadn’t cried in a while.  I knew that one was due.  That was a perfectly good time to have a cry.  But it also broke my husband’s heart.  He just hates it so much to see me hurt.  He was good at comforting me.  He led me into our bedroom, tugged me in our comforter in bed, and hugged me tight while I cried it all out.  In this “nest”, I felt safe to just let all of my emotions out.

Bob told me not to blame myself for not making a quick decision about booking this donor.  It is a very expensive decision and it is wise to take time to think about it.

I don’t know what we will decide on.  We could decide to book this donor for August.  We could decide to go with another donor that could start in May or June.  We could go with a non-Chinese Asian donor that is available right now.  There are many things to think about.  One thing for sure is that we really need wisdom to choose a donor and an agency wisely and we need to be totally at peace with it.

This journey of egg donation is not easy.  There is always something, isn’t there?

The Lu.pron Saga Continued

The Lu.pron saga continued.

Me being me, I called Fed.ex to make sure that the direct signature requirement was removed from the delivery.  The lady on the phone told me

  • Nope the request is not honored, so a direct signature is still required at the time of delivery
  • It says on the request that Isabelle was the one who requested for it, not the pharmacy, so therefore it was not honored
  • She could ask for the package to be sent and held at a nearby facility, but it sometimes takes 24 hours to process, so I may not be able to pick it up tonight
  • The window of delivery was set at 11:05 and 2:45pm
  • There is nothing she can do to change anything

At that point, I was super annoyed and frustrated.  Why tell me that the shipper could change the signature requirement if it wasn’t going to be honored?  I need the meds tonight.  I needed to make a quick decision to figure out what to do.  That involved canceling a couple of clients and bringing work home for the rest of the day.  Fortunately, everybody was very understanding of my situation.  All the parents were good as I rescheduled them for another time.  My supervisor was understanding although I didn’t really tell her what was going on.

I figured if I left then, I could arrive home between the window of delivery.  As I pulled onto the street before I would make a turn to go home, I saw a Fed.ex truck making a turn somewhere.  I literally got a glimpse of it.  That was 15 minutes before the beginning of the delivery window.  My instinct told me that the truck came to my house already.   I pulled into my driveway, ran over to my door, and saw the door tag.  I grabbed it quickly, jumped back into my car, and drove to the direction of the truck.  Of course I didn’t see it at the intersection where I had seen it earlier.  I drove down this long road and made a decision to turn right and right again.  Don’t ask me how I knew but I just tried.  And there it was, the Fed.ex truck.  The guy just walked out from a house so I drove up to him, told him that I missed his delivery, and handed him the door tag.  He gave me the package and let me sign his little hand device.

Phew.  The one thing that I was afraid of was that I did all of this for nothing, rushing home finding that I had already missed the guy.

At least I caught him and now that box of Lu.pron is sitting on my kitchen counter.

Drama drama drama.  I guess it makes a good story now there is a happy ending?

The Lu.pron Saga

My nurse’s calendar for my test transfer and biopsies for the Endometrial Receptivity Array test (ERA test) dictates that I start Lu.pron tomorrow.  I have been kind of in a funk lately, so I had put off ordering it until Tuesday.  I was sick at home with some sort of sinus infection and running nose, and really didn’t feel like doing anything.  However, I am not one who waits until the last moment (namely Thursday) to order my meds.  So I finally gathered enough motivation to search online for the pricing of this very expensive medication.

A few months ago when I did my first DE transfer, I bought Lu.pron from Ave.lla, which offered the cheapest price back then.  It was about $189, $10 cheaper than other places.  That cycle failed.  I needed to transfer our last frozen embryo in February.  At that time, the price over at this pharmacy went exponentially higher.  It was almost $100 more expensive than the original price.  I was appalled by the price gouging and went ahead and ordered from Fre.edom Pharmacy, which still offered the medication at right below $200.

An internet search showed that at the current time, Fre.edom offers Lu.pron at $239.99 if you don’t purchase Gonadotropin at the same time.  I called Ave.lla just for giggles and almost fell off my chair when I heard the price quote.  Are you ready for it?

It had the audacity to ask for $445 for the same meds that others are charging for almost half.

This pharmacy still offers the cheapest PIO and estrogen patches, so I will eventually order some from it.  But, can you imagine paying $445 for the Lu.pron?

A few phone calls around showed that Fre.edom still had the cheapest price.  So I went ahead and ordered from them.

That was more than what I wanted to do on that one sick day.

I was asked when I needed to do the injection.  It’s going to be Friday but I always try to play it safe.  I asked for the meds to be delivered on Thursday at work.  The guy put me on hold.  Later he returned and said that most meds require a direct signature, but this particular doesn’t because it’s not a controlled substance.  However, since I was sending it to work and there is always someone there to sign, we would just leave the direct signature requirement there.  I tripled checked with him that the meds would arrive at my office on Thursday.  Then I went my merry way to take a nap and nurse my illness.

Everything is fine, right?

Wrong.

Today, I clicked on the Fe.dex tracking number included in the automatic email from Fre.edom.  I looked at the destination and was shocked to see that the city it would be delivered to was my home, not my work.  In other words, someone over at Fre.edom messed up my shipping address.  Guess what?  Nobody was going to be home to receive that package.

Furious, I called Fe.dex to request for the delivery to come between 6 and 8 pm because it said there that the guarantee delivery is before 8pm.  At least I could rush home right after work to wait for the package. The customer service person entered my request and got my phone number.  That was about 11am.  I inquired about removing the signature requirement.  He told me that the shipper has to request it.

When I checked my phone in the afternoon, a Fe.dex person from my local facility called and left a message.  He basically said that the package was on the truck heading to my residence and they could not honor the request for a late delivery.  In the voice mail, he gave me an address of a Fe.dex facility that I could go to pick up the package tonight between 8 and 11:30pm.

It was so frustrating that I had to spend more time calling around getting answers.  I called the Fe.dex mainline again.  Then I was told a different address of a different facility that the package would be held tonight and was given a window of 8 pm and 8:30pm to pick it up.  Are you kidding me?  Half an hour?  Yes, the package wouldn’t be back at the facility until 8pm and the facility closes at 8:30pm.

I thanked the Fe.dex representative and hung up.  Then I discovered that my next (and last) client of the day canceled.  Good.  I had the time to call Fre.edom.

I was put on hold for 13 minutes.  THIRTEEN MINUTES!  Good thing I had the time.  But what a waste of time.  I could use it for something better.

I explained to the Fre.edom representative what happened.  Then I was put on hold for another I don’t know how many minutes.  Finally the guy said that he had contacted Fe.dex and now the signature requirement had been removed. So the package will be delivered to my home address tomorrow without a signature needed from a live person.  He gave me a case number and I was told that there was nothing else I needed to do at that point.

I told the representative that I hoped that this wouldn’t happen again in the future.  How could they make a mistake like that?  He explained that whoever took my order did write down the shipping address as my work address.  However, for the label, the order person did not double check it to make sure it was the same as requested.  Okay, thanks for the explanation, but I was thinking, where is the apology?  As a company, shouldn’t someone apologize for the inconvenience it has caused me even though this particular representative was not the one who made a mistake?

But nope, no apology.  He was courteous.  But there was nothing like, I am so sorry this happened.

It’s so infuriating that you pay money for services and people just don’t care.

Still Waiting…

I called every hour and was told that there were still no results.  I finally asked to be connected to the advice nurse who connected me to the local lab.  I spoke to a lady in the lab.  She was very nice.  She went and checked for me.  Then she told me that my OB/GYN DIDN’T order STAT like the last few times.  The blood got sent to a regional facility (probably in the same area) instead of the lab across the street from where I got my blood drawn.  SO WE DO NOT KNOW WHEN THE RESULTS WILL COME IN!!!

I do not understand why my OB didn’t order STAT like last time.  So I will have to call my insurance’s 24-hour line hourly to check if the results are back yet.  And I WILL BE CALLING every hour.  This is nuts…..

This is seriously one of the longest and more torturous wait ever.  I have hardly done any work today.  My calm and peace went out the window.  But now that I know I will have to wait, I just wait.

Please pray that I will be at peace and calm until we get the results.

Christmas Day Reflections

Today is Christmas.

This year, we have no Christmas decorations.  No tree, no ornaments, no stockings.  We did exchange gifts that we bought for each other without wrapping them.  A few presents for my side of the family are scattered in front of the fireplace waiting for the owners to claim them.  We opted out of the Christmas Eve service.  We are not trying to avoid people, festivity, or the usually holiday hustle and bustle.  We are not doing these things deliberately.  We just feel that this year we want to lay low and enjoy a low key holiday season.  I want to recognize that it is okay not to be celebrating Christmas the traditional ways that are done by so many others.  It is okay to just spend time doing whatever we feel like.  It is okay to just chill and be by ourselves.

I am not sad.  I am not uncomfortable.  I am actually at peace with all the decisions that we have made about this holiday season.

Given what happened to us the last couple of days, I thought I would have reacted in a much more negative way, blaming God and being angry at Him for throwing us more chaos and inconvenience on top of all the struggles and hardship that we have had in the past year.  But yeah, I just feel at peace.  This is a huge blessing in itself.

You see, two days ago, Bob’s car died.  The more I think about it, the more relieved and thankful I am that he was the one who gave me a phone call about the news, not any emergency workers.  I didn’t grasp the severity of the car’s problem until our mechanic gave us the diagnosis: the engine just totally died on our 9-year-old Suba.ru, a car that in my brother’s word was “indestructible”.  That morning when Bob started the car, the engine sounded fine.  All the way down the freeway for about 35 minutes, the car ran normally.  It was right when he exited the freeway and had to accelerate going around the curve that he discovered that the car’s accelerator did not listen to his command.  By the time he got off the freeway exit, nothing worked: his power steering lost power, his brakes failed to respond to him, and all sorts of lights were flashing on his dashboard.  God protected him.  It had been raining here, but it was nice and sunny on that day.  The normal traffic was non-existent because of the quiet holiday week.  The spot where he was waiting in the car for the tow truck to come was relatively safe compared to some spots right at the exit of the freeway or even on the freeway.  Since this happened on December 23 earlier in the day, our mechanic hadn’t gone on his four-day break yet.  We were able to tow the car to the shop and were also able to get the diagnosis and were given the options on December 24, the day before our mechanic’s vacation.  Although the car’s engine totally died, the cost of repair is not worth our money, which means we will have to now shop for a new car, things could have gotten much worst.  We could have had this problem while we are 3.5 hours away from home had this happened during our trip down the coast.  Imagine being in the middle of vacation having to pay extra to tow the car back to the city while dealing with the logistics.  Imagine having this problem today.  The only thing we could have done would be to tow the car back home and to worry about towing the car to our mechanic’s shop after the holidays.  Imagine the engine dying On. The. Freeway.  I don’t even want to go there.  I can’t imagine losing Bob and I hope and pray that this scenario would never happen.  But that was a possibility and I am ultra relieved that the car died when the car died.

It is sad that this happened.  It sucks that we are now down to one car and will have to try to purchase a car as soon as possible.  It is a burden to think about what kind of car to get.  We have been talking about buying a car in the past year.  The decision has always been put off by us trying to get pregnant and having a baby.  The cost of fertility treatment has caused us to be very cautious with our spending on big ticket items.  We have earmarked our savings enough for another fresh donor egg cycle should this frozen embryo transfer fail.  We have saved up enough money for a new car if/when we need one.  However, I know Bob’s fear.  He is afraid that we would have to hoard the money saved up for a car for another IVF cycle if both the frozen embryo transfer AND another fresh donor egg cycle fail.  He is driven by this fear to save up every single extra penny that we have.  When you don’t have control over the cycle, how the eggs fertilize and grow, how the embryos behave, how my uterus is receptive, you just want to control something that you think you have control over, such as money.  I do get it.  But, I also feel that we should have faith that the Lord is going to take care of these things if they are the right steps for us to take.  If we need a new car, which we obviously do, then we will spend that money.  If we need to save up more money for another cycle, then we will.  I think we need to learn to turn things around and be happy that the Lord has helped us save up money so we have the means to do this.  We have to learn to see things in another perspective that being blessed with good jobs, budgeting pays off.  I hope we learn to be excited that a new family car is our way to prepare for our new child that will join us in the next year.

Oh you know, car trouble was not the only thing that happened on December 23.  After a long day of dealing with the towing and the diagnosis and other things, all I wanted was a nice hot shower at night.  My heart sank when pulling the temperature control of my shower to the right only resulted in lukewarm water at best.  After finishing the quickest shower ever, I inspected the hot water heater.  After reading the instructions on the relighting the pilot, I resorted to a you.tube video.  Luckily I found one with the exact model of our hot water heater and learned to relight the pilot.  I was desperately hoping for the pilot to stay lit so that I didn’t have to call anyone or spend any more money.  But it didn’t matter how long I held that “pilot” button, the fire would not stay lit.  Being tired, disappointed, and cold (because of the cold shower), patience was running thin in the household.  Bob lost a half day of work because of the car problem, so he worked until after midnight to solve a problem that he had been trying to solve for a few days.  I know it is easy to be down about getting hit by one bad thing after another.  First the car, then the hot water heater that is only 3 years old.  ON THE SAME DAY.  It is so easy to be discouraged by all the expenses that we will have.  But I only let myself be frustrated for a little, and comforted Bob as his day was a lot more emotionally drained than mine.

I woke up early and left a message at the two plumbing services 30 minutes before their supposed opening time.  I was hoping that the plumbers would still work on December 24th.  One of them called me back within 15 minutes.  (I never heard back from the other one.)  This guy quoted me a bunch of money, which was still within my reasonable budget, and gave me a window between 9:30 and 10:30 that same morning.  Bob left for work without a shower.  Two plumbers arrived on time, diagnosed the problem, fixed it, and entertained me with jokes and humor.  Within 20 minutes, and a couple of hundred of dollars out of our pocket, we got hot water back.

What did I learn from this incident?  Time and time again, I think that my father is the wisest man on earth.  He often tells me that a problem that can be resolved with money that we have is not a real problem.  We have always put aside money for house maintenance, so the cost is not a problem.  I am just so thankful that this happened on December 23, so a nice plumber who decided to work on Christmas eve could fix the water heater for us.  I happened to have found somebody who was very experienced in this type of water heater, so the problem got fixed beautifully.  The plumber said that he had to turn away callers that day for services, so I felt tremendously fortunate that 1) the water heater broke on a day when a plumber was still willing to come, 2) it was an easily fixable problem by capable hands, 3) I got to the plumber early enough, 4) he got it done in no time.  Things could have gone worse.  It could have happened today and nobody would have been willing to come out.  It could have been the other problem that would cost southward of one grand.  The plumber said that this part that needed to be replaced usually breaks between three to five years.  We moved back into the house after our new remodel on December 22, 2012.  The part broke on December 23, 2015.  Right on the dot.  Crazy?

The plumber kept joking that bad things come in threes.  He told me to go break a glass or stay in bed for the whole day.  But hey, one’s gotta live life, right?  Can’t avoid life by staying in bed all day.  Because the heater got fixed so quickly, I got to have lunch with one of my best friends for three hours.  We caught up and chatted about anything and everything.  Just being very real with each other about our joy, happiness, frustrations, struggles, insights, perspectives.  It was a wonderful afternoon.  My friend is not without her struggles.  She is a single person who wants to be married and have kids.  She watches her friends reach their goals and check things off their life list, and she is still trying to find someone to spend the rest of her life with.  But her resilience is such a great example for me to follow.  We learned a lot from each other in those few hours.

I don’t anticipate the third bad thing to happen.  But if it did, I know that I have the resilience and strength to face whatever that may come our way.  These so-called “bad things” are helping me to reflect on my way of handling things and ways to change my response if needed.  Who is to say that this is not a great Christmas present from God?

Waiting to Ovulate… ZZZzzzzz

Quick update.

This fertility journey requires tremendous patience and a lot of waiting.  My 2014 begins with waiting to ovulate.

Today is cycle day 21.  Guess what?  My basal body temperature has not risen.  No confirmed ovulation.  In fact, my BBT has been very low, way lower than usual.  Yesterday’s was 96.5.  It’s usually above 97 before ovulation.  I thought that the thermometer was broken so I went ahead and changed the battery.  Today’s temperature was 96.7.  Still no O.  For someone who usually ovulates on day 13 or 14, this is like missing a flight and waiting at the terminal for another plane that may or may not have room for a standby passenger.  

I usually don’t spot mid-cycle.  The one and only time I had mid-cycle bleeding was exactly one year ago.  In that cycle, ovulation occurred on cycle day 29.  My cycles are usually 25 days to 28 days.  Not ovulating until day 29 felt like an eternity.  Currently, no sign of ovulation on cycle day 21 also feels like time is standing still and not moving.  I wonder if the mid-cycle bleeding I had from cycle day 12 to cycle day 14 was due to the cyst.  There is no way of knowing.   

This is a little bit frustrating.  Natural conception or the next IVF cycle will not happen until this body decides to release an egg or to just go directly to breakthrough bleeding.  

Plus, BD every other day gets a little…. tiring.  I am sure Bob will agree with me.  

Back to waiting……