birth, donor sperm, family, fertility, gratitude, homebirth, IUI, IVF, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive

once around the sun

I’m increasingly nostalgic as E’s birthday approaches. Today, May 4, was my due date. I watched it come and go and then spent another two weeks living in the surreal state of waiting and getting huger.

At this time of year, the sun travels more directly overhead. It rises in the morning, centered above the neighboring rooftop and shining straight onto my bed, where I lay like a whale last year. It sets in the evening, slanting through the kitchen window to the living room, where I sat on the couch and ordered omelets from my dad. Every day we waited, every day no sign. It was a happy time, yet, like so many things, not what I expected.

Now the sun rises, centered above the neighboring rooftop, and there’s a little person laying next to me going, “Gaba gaba gaba.” The sun sets, and he’s standing below me, raising his hands to be picked up, an expression on his face that says, “PICK ME UP” as emphatically as possible without words.

Tonight he correctly did two signs in context: he requested to nurse when he was feeling a bit distressed (I actually had him on my lap while I was peeing in an effort to avoid a big protest–he missed his afternoon nap today) and then during dinner he requested more blueberries. And when I suggest he find his blue car, he finds his blue car. When he wants to communicate in the affirmative, he says, “Yah.” When it’s negative, as demonstrated tonight when I offered tofu, bok choy, quinoa, and strawberries, he shakes his head vigorously. More blueberries.

One whole trip around the sun.

I decided to go see Dr. Tran. I know this seems out of the blue, but it’s not. I’ve been shy about telling you. There’s something about having a baby that made me immediately thing about #2, pretty much on a daily basis. Will this be the first and last time I experience all of these milestones? Will everyone think I’m completely off-my-rocker bananas for considering this much less going ahead with it? What if I never gave those frozen embryos, full siblings to E, a shot?

Let me first say that I’m 1000% sure that I want to try. And I hope that where there’s a will there’s a way. But there are a few hurdles to overcome here, namely the financials. And getting pregnant again. Which, let me remind you, dear readers, was not so easy the first time around.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves–I decided to go talk to Dr. Tran because when E was born I “gave myself a year” before thinking seriously about it. But what I most needed to find out was–with frozen embryos, is there any rush?

I met up with Dr. T. last Thursday in the shiny, sparkling brand-new Marc Benioff-funded facilities of UCSF that just opened in Mission Bay. I hadn’t seen Dr. T. in almost two years. It was like old times. As always, he looked handsome in scrubs.

I remember distinctly his last comment to me at my last appointment at 9 or 10 weeks pregnant: “You have embryos, you’ll be back.” It’s been ringing in my head ever since.

Upon greeting me in his office, he said, “Well, I didn’t think you’d be back THIS soon!” And I explained, bashfully, that this was purely informational, I wasn’t in any hurry. Just needed the information from him rather than trusting the internet or anecdotes from friends.

Essentially, he said that there’s no rush on the frozen embies. My relative chances will be the same next year, or the following year, or the year after that. Which felt like a relief… I realized that the decision was starting to weigh on me, as I paid a hefty annual storage fee for the embies plus five vials of sperm. And now I feel like I can give myself another year or more and just enjoy and really not worry about it either way.

I got choked up when I thanked him… He’s the closest thing to a babydaddy that I have–in so many words, I said thanks so much for knocking me up and helping bring this beautiful boy. It’s been a thrill and a joy! (Now take me out for dinner already!)

Beyond the FET (frozen embryo transfer) of my two remaining, PGS-tested embies (one good, one not-so-good quality), an IUI or IVF attempt would have low success rates at my fast-accelerating decline in fertility. So, I think I’m letting that go.

Dr. T asked why I would want another baby. Which is an intriguing question, and was the first time around as well. He asked if it’s just been so wonderful in all respects that I can’t wait to do it again? I think it’s not exactly that; even if it kind of is that. It’s sort of about going through it again and it’s about a sibling for E and becoming more of a clan than a pair. But, in a way, it’s not really those things… Like the first time, it’s just an intangible desire. I think everyone who chooses to become a parent knows what I’m talking about.

He kept encouraging me to enjoy my “sure thing” which is a totally Reproductive Endocrinologist way of saying that I already have a baby–a 100% guaranteed baby on the right side of all the odds. I’m still pinching myself that he arrived one year ago plus 15 days.

I just re-watched the birth video the other night with, as always, complete awe. My vagina blows up into the size and shape of a standard balloon as E’s head makes it’s way down the canal, and then they start yelling, “K, reach down and get your baby!” and someone is yelling, “Baby! Baby! Baby! Baby!” and there is chaos and the camera view flips around and then he’s there on my chest and I’m exclaiming, “Oh my god oh my god oh my god [hyperventilating]…”

In two weeks, we’ll celebrate his birthday in the park with the community who supports us every day and I will only moderately stress about the number of cupcakes and the placement of the balloons–my boy is turning ONE! It’s too awesome in the breathtaking sense. He is the one I love the most on the planet.

Even though I love you guys A LOT.

xoxo

11 point 5 months

I

donor sperm, family, gratitude, single mom by choice, SMC

McPiercy

I’ve had McPiercy bookmarked in my mind as a blog topic for a long time, since people are often curious about the process of choosing a donor. I chose him before I created the blog and then I didn’t want to write about him until I was pregnant and then once I was pregnant I thought I should wait until the baby was born and then things were a tiny bit busy. Now that I’ve written about everything leading up to the creation of the blog (which starts during my first two-week-wait), I’m ready to share. Below is an excerpt from the book! (Read all the way to the bottom for McPiercy news.)

I began the search on the donor database of my chosen sperm bank, which felt shockingly similar to online dating. One puts in the parameters of their search (e.g. ethnicity, eye color, height), and the system pulls up your lucky matches. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t online dating–it was a different type of search altogether. Or was it?

In considering what was most important to me in a donor, I came up with three main criteria. He should be 1) willing to be known (i.e. he’s agreed to be contacted if the child chooses to get in touch when he/she turns 18), 2) tall (this is one of my dating preferences but, more importantly, is an advantage in society), and 3) my coloring. I read somewhere that there will be enough questions to answer without also having to explain why the kid looks nothing like you. Beyond that, yes–of course he should be smart, driven, kind, fit, healthy, etc. etc. but, frankly, the sperm bank screens so selectively that most donors in their database are all fine genetic specimens, particularly when it comes to their health history. They are also uniformly 24 years old. They all need the money.

I did a fair amount of searching online, but this was expensive–in order to access adult and baby photos, you basically had to purchase and download them at around $15 a pop. Alternatively, you could go into the sperm bank office and pore over binders that included the donors’ extensive info and photos, for free. Of course, it wasn’t easy for me to get time to hang out in their office when I was working full-time.

Then I realized that they were open on Presidents’ Day, whereas my office was closed. Perfect–I would have time to at least narrow it down to my top three, and my plan was to share these with my immediate family. According to my fertility charting, the magic day was approaching.

By the end of that afternoon, I was tearing my hair out. I did not have my top three, and I was a wreck. Consider for a moment how major this decision is–determining the future genetics of your child! It felt, in a way, like I couldn’t screw it up, since the baby I ended up with would have to be the right baby. But, on the other hand, until I had that YES THAT’S HIM feeling, I was very hesitant to make any decision.

I remember going home that night and watching back-to-back episodes of Downton Abbey as an antidote to the stress of the whole donor selection process.

After taking a short break, I came back to the decision reinvigorated and somehow made time to get back in front of those binders. I narrowed it down to three and gave each contestant a name: McSmiler was a 6’4” sommelier of mostly Irish heritage and a big smile; McDreamy was handsome, short, an artist, and not smiling; and McPiercy, named for his ear- and lip-piercings, was also tall (6’3”), also handsome with dark hair and dark eyes (not my coloring), and was working as a waiter and substitute teacher.

Then, I sent my family this email:

“Dear Mom and Dad, D, and B,

At first I was detached from the donor selection process. When it was finally time to get serious about it, the other day I spent 1.5 hrs in the clinic going through binders, and I picked 6. Then I ordered their adult photos online and realized that sometimes cute babies grow up to be not-so-cute donors and cute donors can be not-so-cute babies. I mean–all babies are cute, but in the end there is a gut feeling about whether it’s a match for me. I’m asking you to please help me by reporting your gut feeling on these!

My major criteria are: that he is Willing To Be Known when the kid is 18, no major genetic health issues, has my basic coloring(ish), and is on the taller side. Nice-to-haves are: smart, positive, easygoing, athletic. Good person. Varied interests. When it comes down to it, though, when I try to get too specific, I feel like it’s kind of pointless considering how much of this is left to chance. So, I’m attempting to do the necessary research while not overthinking it.

Which is where you come in! I want to involve you because you’re my family and I need trusted people in on this decision. (I ask that you please keep the donor info between us for now.) I did manage to pick 3, after scrolling through the entire list of Willing To Be Known donors (around 130). These 130 guys are mostly not rocket scientists–they’re around 24 years old, students, many are artists of some kind (musicians, actors, etc.), they are pretty much not fully-realized adults yet. They’re not especially guys I would date or even necessarily be attracted to in their current phase of life. But, in many cases, there’s a nice vibe–a sweet smile, a positive outlook, a strong and healthy body, a thoughtful human. I’m looking for the one that feels comfy. I have pros and cons on these top 3, but I’m also aware that no one is perfect, there are no guarantees, etc.

So: please look these over soon if you can! Probably better to chat with me to let me know your impressions before talking to each other. Also: I reserve the right not to go with your choice! But I feel like your impressions will definitely help shape my process one way or the other. As a last-minute planner, I have high hopes that I can finalize my decision in the next couple of days and I can place my order (time is running out as I’m already on Day 2 of my cycle). Otherwise, I will wait one more month so I can take the time to feel really sure.

I’ll send the three donors in the next three separate emails, by donor #. In ranked order, starting with #3 for suspense. 🙂 Coming up! THANK YOU!

love,

K”

My family totally dropped everything they were doing that day to read through all the donor forms, evaluate photos, and weigh in on my selection. It meant a lot to me that they were all involved in this seemingly monumental decision, although we were far from consensus!

Each family member weighed in with a variety of ranked orders for lots of different, touching, well-considered reasons, and I was surprised and intrigued when my mom ranked McPiercy #1–the guy I had thrown in last-minute to have a third, but without really looking at his details. After all, he had dark hair and dark eyes, not meeting my criteria of having my coloring. I said, “Mom, #3? Really? I need to look at him again!”

I went back over his photos and details and realized I really liked him too. Analyzing his adult photo, I realized that I would be attracted to him in real life. He was “my type.” Suddenly this seemed imperative–of course you should be attracted to the guy you’re going to procreate with! And his baby photos were adorable–he was around 18 months and had big, messy, curly hair and sweet brown eyes.

I then consulted with two friends. The first had conceived with a donor more than ten years before and I wanted to know about her process for choosing. Back then, there were no photos and almost no info. He had listed his favorite animal as a dolphin, which just seemed perfect and right to her (and her partner)–and their daughter came out looking like her clone and waking up every morning singing.

The other friend is a single mom of two with addiction in her family–she warned me that addiction would be her biggest concern (McDreamy was a smoker).

Still, I didn’t make the final decision until I did an old-fashioned pro/con list, which is what I do in times of extreme duress over big life decisions. There was no competition–#3, McPiercy, had the most pros, and only two cons: his mother was allergic to penicillin (not really a con!), and he wasn’t my coloring (also not really a con!). Done and done!

McPiercy!

I meditated on it and then called to place my order with the sperm bank, checking and re-checking that I had the right donor number. I’d had no clue what my process would be for choosing when I went into it–and yet, somehow, the process was perfect and I felt really solid about my choice. I believe I started with three vials of sperm.

Now, after all the planning and prep, I really was on the precipice of becoming pregnant. I strongly suspected it would happen on the first try.”

(You can pick up the story at the beginning of this blog to see what happened next. SPOILER: it took eleven tries.)

AND HERE’S THE MCPIERCY NEWS: When I selected him, I had access to his adult and baby photos but ALSO a 7-minute video interview, which I never watched. I specifically didn’t watch it because most donors did not have videos and I didn’t feel I could compare a guy without a video to a guy with a video. So I didn’t watch it then, or while trying, or while pregnant. I watched it last week.

Why last week? I have no idea. It was like 11 in the morning on a Thursday and the baby was sleeping and I just suddenly felt it was the right moment. Like E is his own person to the point that it doesn’t matter what was on the video.

The video came on the screen and the still photo that I’ve studied so many times came to life. The questions were deep–why did you decide to be willing to be known? what are your best qualities? what do you hope for the future? what do you wish for the babies? And his answers were all so genuine, kind, and smart. He had a great smile, deep voice, and flashes of Baby E. He said we’re all here to create a great life. He plays his part and the parents play their part. He hopes they all have loving families and unlimited opportunities. I was crying.

I knew I couldn’t screw it up and that I’d get the right baby. But I have to say–McPiercy goes above and beyond all expectations. He’s my hero. I’m so grateful to him for bringing us Baby E and trust that if and when E looks him up down the road, they’ll have a meaningful and important conversation.

I hope McPiercy has a great life too.

xo

anxiety, donor sperm, gratitude, homebirth, IVF, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

full disclosure

I woke up this morning at 6:15am and was so awake (despite having gone to bed at 11:45pm) that I decided to get up and write. So, I had a bit of plain whole-milk yogurt and checked in on some blogs (my midwife just sent me her food blog with great recipes, it’s here), and I’m back in bed with my laptop.

This week I told my team at work the big news! For almost two years, the solo mama project has been kept entirely separate from anything work-related; whereas all my friends and family have followed my every step (largely through this blog), the work folks knew nothing. When they asked me what’s new, I made something up. I’m not used to keeping such a big secret, especially one that is so central to my life–as you know, I’m not the most private person in the entire world. Clearly, though, it was smart to keep this one to myself. Even if it was difficult through all the appointments, the disappointments, the tearing my hair out over wondering if a conference was going to overlap with my fertile window, etc.

I know that disclosing a pregnancy at work is a pretty universally terrifying conversation. I’ve wondered why this is. I mean, how many managers really say, “How DARE you!” In my non-scientific sample size of friends’ anecdotes, the conversation usually goes fine, and managers are congratulatory. But I think it’s terrifying because it’s the very first time (of many) when this new child is inserting itself as an important enough priority to be discussed as something that will eventually conflict with work. And, knowing that this is a conflict that is essentially unresolvable, that, for the rest of our lives there will be tension between our careers and the needs of our children, breaking the ice on this just feels huge. HUGE.

So, I decided to tell my manager on our regular weekly phone call (she is in NY), with as unquavering a voice as I could manage as I paced around with my heart pounding. Once we had run through our list, I said, “Well, if there isn’t anything else, I have really big news from my personal life.” She said, “Uh oh.”

I told her I was 15 weeks pregnant. There was a pause. She said, “WHAT?!” in the most incredulous voice, then WOW!, then Oh my God, K, I am so happy for you! She asked a few questions about how I’ve been feeling as she absorbed this big news and I told her a bit more of the story, that I decided to become a single mom, used an anonymous donor, and couldn’t be more thrilled. We talked for a while longer, and she said how she knows I’ve wanted this for a long time (I shared this back when I was still dating) and she’s so impressed that I went for it and made it happen. She said she hoped I’d tell the rest of the team soon otherwise she wouldn’t be able to to explain her big, dumbfounded grin.

I got off the phone with a full heart. Ultimately, it felt like the disclosure wasn’t about work, or how this affects or fits in with work, it was purely about me and my life-changing news. I had kind of lost track of just how huge the news is, and her heartfelt reaction reminded me. It really couldn’t have gone better.

I went on to call the rest of my outside-of-SF team, one by one. They were all similar conversations and I realized that whether or not someone has kids, wants kids, or even likes kids, the story that rose to the top was that I wanted this and I made it happen, and they just loved that. There was only one co-worker who said, “I *thought* you had a lot of doctor’s appointments!” and I was like oh, honey, and I only called about a third of them doctor’s appointments!

The next day, I told the local team here in SF, and they had actually been speculating about my growing mid-section and all-day crunching at my desk. Apparently there was a meeting where I had my hand on my belly. They were less surprised but also extremely happy for me, some of the parents even got teary.

The release of all that held energy was so cathartic and also exhausting. I shared more of the back story. I sent my blog to a couple more people, although keeping a general boundary there (and my anonymity) seems like a smart thing to continue.

Life went mostly back to normal except now I can wear more form-fitting clothes and we talk about what fruit I’m  on (avocado) and people make references to how I won’t be needing drink tickets at our conference event.

Meanwhile, my midwife experience continues to be awesome (I’m going to her house for gluten-free crepes in a couple of hours), but my transition out of UCSF IVF and back into UCSF OB (as backup) has been a bureaucratic nightmare that reinforces my decision to have my primary care outside the system. I needed my medical records sent to Em, and the woman from whom I requested them was on emergency leave and no one checked her email–delay of 2 weeks. Then I called the OB dept and they couldn’t find me in their system at all, acted like I never existed and could find no records or scans, and insisted my midwife fax over my “file” even though she hasn’t received medical records from the IVF dept and had only had one appointment with me… Every time I called the OB dept and tried to get past the script in the call center, they blocked me–I tried dropping the midwife story and they just couldn’t believe that I hadn’t had prenatal care before now, or that I haven’t done any prenatal testing (which I haven’t, outside of genetic testing of the embryos). Finally, Olga came to the rescue and I think we solved it (so far).

I have an appointment with a midwife on 12/4, I’ll get set up in their systems and can make my appt for the 20-week ultrasound. Also, at my midwife appt next week I’m doing a blood test but I can’t really tell you which one…I’m enjoying paying less attention to the testing. I’m going with it because by checking out, I’m not feeling too worried.

And finally (because I’m starving), I hosted my first SF Single Moms by Choice meeting yesterday. We’d gotten kind of out of the habit of monthly meetings, and now we’re back. My best SMC friends were all there (B, C, and R, minus JJ who we think was in labor across the street), plus friends I’ve gotten to know more recently (T, J, L) and others I met for the first time–a couple of thinkers, many tryers, a few pregnant ladies, and moms with 4 babies and one toddler. My place is party-ready! And it was great to catch up with everyone’s stories.

Later today, dear friend and mom-of-three J is bringing a car load of baby gear over and I hired two Task Rabbits to carry a heavy changing table up the stairs. Welcome to baby furniture.

As I share my story with more people and get it reflected back to me by people such as the call center operators at UCSF OB, I realize just how niche-y I am as an SMC who is planning a homebirth… So sue me! It’s going to make a fascinating book! And I gotta be me.

Must eat. Love to all and happy Sunday xo

anxiety, donor sperm, fertility, IVF, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc

Day 5/6

Just got the call after a loooong day of waiting!!!!!

  • 7 embryos biopsied and frozen on Day 5
  • 2 embryos biopsied and frozen on Day 6

NINE embryos  made it to the day 5/6 finish line as blastocysts and all are tucked safe and sound in their freezer! I have the grading worksheet and Lili says 6 are “amazing” and 3 are “good.” As mentioned before, the grading doesn’t reflect normal vs. abnormal, so we take it with a grain of salt anyway. But it can’t hurt that they’re good looking. 🙂

Biopsies go out for genetic testing tomorrow, and Lili will call me with those results by the end of next week.

Now I get a break–no news, no injections, no decisions, no stress, no phone calls, no appointments. Still recovering and tired from the retrieval (and the stress) but once I’m 100% things are going to get back to normal around here!

So happy and grateful and excited for all of this and feeling like those 9 embies are the beautiful fruits of our labor: me, McPiercy, UCSF, and my wonderful support team: you.

Hopeful that one of those  is my little person-to-be.

donor sperm, fertility, IVF, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc

fert report

Your love and positive fertility vibes worked: Dr. Tran called with good news!

  • All 18 eggs were mature
  • 17 eggs fertililzed
  • 16 eggs fertilized normally

He will call back on Day 3 (Sunday) and we’ll discuss whether to push to Day 5. So far, so good.

Full of hope for my 16 embies and gratitude for McPiercy’s winning contribution.

Thanks for keeping the love and growing energy flowing to Sutter and Divis!

anxiety, donor sperm, fertility, IVF, meditation, running, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc

stims

So far, so good. On Thursday, I had my baseline and essentially combined four appointments in one. First, I went to PRS when they opened to pick up McPiercy’s five remaining vials. I realized it was likely my last time going to PRS, perhaps ever, and I’ve lost count of how many vial transports I’ve done but this is at least three. Hilariously, when I got outside with the box, I posed it next to a silver Prius that is not mine but was parked a few spots down from mine! This is not my car, but these are my guys:

mcpiercy3

 

After parking at UCSF, I remember standing at the corner of Sutter and Divisadero waiting for the light to change, having this distinct sense that my child is coming together now, literally–half is in me, half is in one of the millions of sperm, frozen in time, in this box.

I checked in and the receptionist said kindly, “I see here we need to collect a large sum of money from you today.” Indeed. I took out my checkbook (and later regretted not using a fancy credit card with points–it’s been on my list of things to do forever now…) Olga came out to have me sign the ICSI forms. I dragged the box around with me while I gave blood (to check my estrogen level) and went in for an ultrasound. During the ultrasound, Nurse Jennifer asked if I was a runner and for a second I thought she saw something in my uterus that betrayed this fact about me–but when I said yes, she said, “I saw you running at Lands End. I never know if people want me to say hi.” I laughed and said, “OH, yes, I want you to say hi!” She said she was with her yellow lab so I told her I’ll watch for yellow labs next time.

She kept saying “great, perfect, excellent.” All was quiet on the ovarian front, which is what you want for the baseline. She said they’d call in the afternoon with the blood results to give me the green light on beginning stims.

Next, I went to the lab to drop off the box which only took a few minutes. Then I went to see Lili, my genetic counselor, to sign some more forms and give a cheek swab sample. Yep, that’s all they need to get your genetic makeup. Lili is my new BFF. She kept telling me I’m fabulous and that my chances are amazing and at one point she raised both arms in the air and said, “I LOVE MY SINGLE LADIES!” On my way out, she grabbed my jacket and said, “OH my God, is this from REI? This is the exact jacket I want,” and quizzed me about it. I am verging on asking her on a friend date although I’d probably want to talk shop the whole time which would be boring for her!

All that AND I made it back home in time for a meeting. That afternoon, I got the call that my estrogen was at 57, go ahead and start the stims on Friday night.

On Friday night, I got home a little later than intended and hadn’t walked myself through the whole process by reading through the materials and watching the videos, etc. So I felt a little anxious and also exhausted, not the picture of IVF serenity that I had hoped. Lupron was no prob–just decreased the dose by half. Follistim is pretty foolproof–it’s a pen and you just dial up the dose. When I got to the Menopur, which requires drawing up sodium cloride, injecting it into the Menopur vial, swishing it so the powder dissolves into the fluid, drawing it back up, injecting it into a second vial, swishing it around, and drawing it back up again, I freaked out because a) there was a ton of air and b) there wasn’t nearly as much fluid as I started with. I have a bad habit of trying to destroy the evidence of my mistakes and plowing ahead with a fresh start as if nothing happened (cooking is another good example)–so I found myself dumping the fluid with one vial of powder into the sink and starting over. It was dumb (and expensive). But if that’s the price of my learning, so be it. The second attempt was successful, although I went to bed nervous because I had used the same syringe and if there were traces of a third vial maybe I just overdosed myself…

Yesterday, I got some advice on the boards and talked to Dr. B. and last night went much better. I wish you could see how many steps it is, how freaking long it takes, how much there is to dispose, recycle, and drop into the sharps container for just one evening’s worth. But, I’m getting it. And my belly is hanging in there.

I slept fitfully–sweating, waking up disoriented, dreaming. Woke up and went directly on a six-mile run–a gift to me. The countdown is on if I’m going to stop running on day 5 of stims. Came home to make delicious almond butter pancakes and a smoothie. Took a bath. Meditated. Took a 2-hour nap. Went w/ Dr. B. for a foot massage. I basically nailed Saturday.

Slept great last night. I have an appt in 25 minutes for a blood draw at UCSF, so I best be getting out of my pajamas. The first ultrasound will be Tuesday and then we’ll be off to the races! Here’s hoping for a 20-way tie!

donor sperm, fertility, IVF, pregnancy, pregnancy loss, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc

peace of mind

I’m on the iPad tonight and feeling sleepy… But before bed, i wanted to share this lil parcel which arrived in the mail for me today:

20130321-221046.jpg

Here we go, yo.

After my last post, my IVF veteran friends called one by one, sharing their experiences. I realized I was still swimming in uncertainty about Day 3 vs. Day 5 and genetic testing. Then I talked to Dr. B, my friend who is pregnant after 2 IVFs–first time she did a Day 3 transfer and it didn’t work. Second time: genetic testing and a frozen embryo transfer a month later–worked. She also reminded me of a woman we know from the national boards who, like me, got pregnant easily and had early losses. She got tons of eggs, and 6 embryos made it to Day 5. After testing, they found that only one was normal. And that’s the one she’s pregnant with now! They can’t eyeball these things… And at my age, 2/3 of my eggs aren’t going to work.

I realized that putting 3-4 embies in on Day 3 would feel like “spray and pray.” And why not find out which ones have the right chromosome count when the technology is there? And mitigate the risk of miscarriage? They only want to put back one to ensure that this blog doesn’t turn into solo mama with twins (as if I could keep blogging!). The risks are: losing a normal one between Days 3 and 5 (impossible to know if this happens or not), ending up with all abnormal, or ending up with nothing.

I sat with it, did a pro/con list. I have to say, the pro/con list never fails me when it comes to big decisions. What rose to the top as the favorite pro? Peace of mind.

Today I met with the genetic counselor along with a doctor who was observing. We were all women around the same age. I learned so much nerdy science stuff that I can’t adequately convey while typing on the iPad. Let’s just say that the technology is mind blowing. Particularly the part where they map the genetics of me and McPiercy and it’s where the code veers from either of ours that they determine it’s abnormal. That and missing or extra chromosomes.

They felt I was a strong candidate for PGS given my age and my high ovarian reserve. So, I’m going for the method that has the highest rate of success. Why not knock this out in one round? My favorite stat: they predict I have a 93% chance of getting at least one normal embryo. (and, if it works, there is a 100% chance it was the right one.)

I emailed Dr. T because he gave me his card and said I could. I apologized for changing my mind but apparently needed more time and now I’m clear. All he had done was “order the labs” so I think all he had to do was revise the order. He wrote back, “No Problem, K” and I liked how he capitalized No Problem. He acknowledged that it’s a very difficult decision and copied in Olga and Lili (the genetic counselor), so now we’re all on the same page.

So, sports fans, I just added a month to the final result. The biopsies, a few cells from the part of each embie that will become the placenta gets couriered down to San Carlos where the results take two weeks. So I’ll catch the next cycle and transfer in early May. After a little R&R and detox from all those drugs you see on my dining room table. My baby will be born in 2014.

Good night, friends. I leave you with this light fixture in the restaurant where I had dinner tonight with my friend C. Am I hallucinating or do you see it too?

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anxiety, dating, donor sperm, family, fertility, IVF, outdoors, pregnancy, pregnancy loss, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc, writing

ivf. omg.

This morning, I said to Dr. Tran, “I feel like I’m about to climb Mount Everest.”

He looked at me solemnly and responded, “You are.”

I’ve begun my IVF protocol, without a break, careening straight into a full calendar and a giant box of meds. It is so huge. I hope I can adequately convey to you how big this is.

It was a good time to take a break from the blog considering this monumental transition and the fact that I had no bandwidth for writing (or even thinking) while traveling and working and spending time with family and processing the neg bomb. I have not even close to sufficiently responded to all the love that poured in after my last post. I needed an escape, I took a break from everything, including you. But not including work–it’s my busiest time of year. I spent time in therapy talking through the way I channel a lot of my anxiety about fertility into my job, trying to stay on top of it, trying to control it. But while my job is a priority, it is not THE priority.

I am myopically focused on the priority. The intensity of it is awesome in the old-fashioned sense of the word.

IVF began in Indianapolis, when I emailed Olga to give the green light on this cycle. Yes, it was short notice to get all of our ducks in a row but her next email bowled me over: you need to go to IVF orientation, sign a consent form in person, attend an injection class, have a saline sonogram, do a test transfer, meet with Dr. Tran, meet with a genetic counselor, order your meds, start birth control pills, start antibiotics, have a financial consult, and clear your schedule. Next, I called the pharmacy and got bowled over again: Lupron, Gonal-F, Menopur, Methylpredisolone (I actually don’t even know what this one is), Progesterone, Estrace, more syringes than I want to count, 3 different gauges of needles, and 10mg of Valium. I could have used the Valium at the top of this paragraph.

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Because if not, you did not read carefully. This is Mount Everest.

I have mountains of compassion for all women who have gone through this and I have only just started. Having a full life and then taking on IVF is like a second full-time job. And I have only just begun–what’s going to happen to my body, my finances, my mind?? And, the biggest question of all: will it work?

I am about a week into birth control and started the antibiotics last night (coincidentally I have a cold and maybe it will help with that). I attended injection class, along with 2 straight couples, a lesbian couple, and a couple of single women freezing their eggs–very educational. I learned that triplets are rare (maybe 4x/yr at UCSF) and cause for many staff meetings where they discuss “where did we go wrong???” Not your every day occurrence. I paid attention during Gonal-F but zoned out during Follistim, then got an email from Olga that I’ll be switching to Follistim because Gonal-F isn’t covered on my insurance (my reaction: yay, medication covered on my insurance! but damn–should have paid more attention during the Follistim presentation). Had my saline sonogram and mock transfer yesterday, thankfully not at all painful (I had visions of the HSG test and hives)–Dr. Renato said the transfer will be really easy and none of my fibroids are in the cavity: cleared to go forward.

Today, I met with Dr. Tran. As I have mentioned, I love him (as in IN love with him). Today he was in a tie and white coat, his coffee from Peet’s. He is masterful at drawing upside down. I had more or less decided to go with PGS (genetic testing on Day 5) and then had second thoughts when weighing out the cost and the risks. You can either: transfer 3-4 embryos on Day 3 and freeze the rest at that point or let them go to Day 5, lose 60%, genetically test them, freeze them, and later on put back the 1-2 normal ones (for an additional $7k on top of approx $12k). There are huge pros and cons on both sides and no guarantees for any of it, so it’s very complicated and gave me visions of gambling in Reno.. At this point, and on his recommendation, I am hedging my bets–opting for Day 3 in an effort to have a fresh transfer, enough leftover to freeze, and at least a little money left in case I have to do it all again. Higher risk of miscarriage which is terrifying. But I feel like there’s safety in numbers… I’m meeting with a genetic counselor tomorrow just to be informed.

And I start Lupron on Monday night. I might be on the road and this time I know to bring a doctor’s note for airport security (wisdom of experience). I have put my schedule and life and online dating and pretty much everything on hold–everything is canceled except work and health-related appointments. I still need to walk in the fresh air with friends and talk on the phone so–don’t let me drop off the face of the earth. Just know that I am consolidating resources and hunkering down. And I’ll probably write a lot because, as you can tell, this is going to be quite an experience.

And I need you along for the ride xo

anxiety, donor sperm, fertility, IUI, IVF, meditation, outdoors, ovulation, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc, two week wait

high gear

This is going to be a fast post! Stream of consciousness! Bear with me, here–there’s a lot to update.

I had the IUI on Saturday. As I waited for the doctor, I was again facing the calendar. I counted out the days until the due date in 38 weeks and fixed my eyes on it for minutes in a row. Eventually, the doctor appeared, and she was a young black woman with long braids whom I’d never met before. She had a warm vibe and wished me good luck.  11 million, good motility, McP never disappoints with the numbers. While hanging out for 5-10 mins, I actually started fighting off negative thinking (a big NO), and then remembered that what you resist persists. Let the anxious thoughts flow… it’s OK, and understandable. I thought about babies. Afterward, I took a picture of the exam table so the eventual baby can see where he/she was conceived, ha!

At the front desk, I went out to see Maria who is my BFF. I asked her what she thought and she said she thought things were good, and I should focus on positive thinking. She says she’s somewhat psychic, and I believe her. I asked if I could give her a hug, and she said, “of course!” and I stepped around behind the front desk and she kissed my cheek and gave me a huge hug and wished me luck. I spent much of the weekend sleeping–still sleeping off the cold and the stress of the previous week. On Monday, I felt like a million bucks at my 7am training session.

The challenging nature of this process has required me to create some really good habits. I am more organized than usual, I go to bed earlier and get up earlier, I am cooking more. It’s not that hard to avoid certain foods/drinks (coffee, alcohol, gluten). I actually meditate in the morning, at one far end of my yellow couch, facing the sunrise out the bay window. I am more in love with my friends and my city and my family than ever. I’m happy to know that I can kick into this higher gear when it’s necessary. Self-care has finally become the thing I do, religiously, instead of avoid.

Yesterday morning, I had my IVF consult with Dr. Tran–Olga scheduled it since it can take 3 weeks to get an appt with him, so might as well get that show rolling while waiting for the result of this cycle. In a word, the conversation was fascinating. I’m still incredulous that this is even possible. And, yes C, I got a little excited.

The first thing he asked me after shutting the door was, “How are you feeling?” and I paused and said, “How do you want me to answer that question?” Because, as you know about me by now, I can share a great deal of info at long stretches if not given further guidelines. He said, smiling, “It’s an open-ended question.” I said this has been hard, but I’m doing OK, and feel like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff called IVF.

That comment got him started down an alternative path, where I would continue doing IUIs but on an injectible cycle if I wasn’t ready for IVF, meaning I’d give myself daily injections to stimulate production of more follicles (4-5). At first I thought, yes–I’m maybe not ready for IVF yet. But then we talked about IVF.

Ultimately, he says, IVF will get me pregnant the quickest and be the most cost-effective. And I know he is on the conservative side…doing injectible IUIs now seems like more time on the slow path. As he said in so many words, I’ve done my due diligence. When I asked his recommendation, he said, “It’s time.”

So, what is the protocol? I’ll try to summarize in a nutshell. First, he recommends taking a month off for my sanity. I have to consider this…it was so hard for me to take a month off in November. But I know that it would feel like a vacation.

Then, on the next cycle, I’d go on birth control for 14-21 days, and do Lupron injections 2 weeks in for 10 days. This will begin to disconnect my brain from my fertility cycle–I’d go on “manual” instead of “automatic.” After the next period, I’d have 2-3 injections per day for 4 days, blood test, ultrasound, HCG trigger, 36 hours later egg retrieval under sedation.

One thing I didn’t know is that every cycle, there are 10-20 eggs that begin to develop, but they all naturally peter out with the exception of one dominant. (And the body does not self-select for the good egg, darn.) The drugs help to keep all 10-20 in the running–so you’re not actually robbing from future cycles, just maximizing the potential you already have. He would expect to “rescue” 10-20, 70% will be bigger than 13mm (7-14), fertilization would occur in 60-70%, leaving 5-10 embryos. They’d put back 3-4 for a 30% success rate with chances of twins in the low teens. Another option is going to Day 5, allowing the embryos to get much bigger and therefore able to be genetically tested–how crazy that they can biopsy such a teensy thing and know virtually everything about it. The catch here is that you automatically lose 60% by letting them go that long. You don’t have to decide which day the transfer is until you know how many you got.

Dr. T. said my questions were “very insightful”–I admitted that I pulled many of them off the SMC national discussion board. I noticed his coffee sitting nearby, from Noah’s Bagels, wondering where he lived near a Noah’s (there isn’t one near UCSF). Also wondered how he took his coffee so I could bring him one next time.

He stood up and put his hand on my shoulder on the way out, wishing me a good day. I thanked him and shook his hand. He spent 45 minutes with me, at 7:30am. I realized upon leaving that I totally forgot during the conversation that I could be pregnant now.

So, this is a lot to process. Please correct me if I got any of these details radically wrong, IVF friends. I’m in the blissful bubble of no decisions, nothing more to do.

Have a great Thursday, team!

anxiety, donor sperm, fertility, IUI, meditation, outdoors, ovulation, running, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc, two week wait, writing

swim, swimmers, swim

OK, I’m back. That was a long stretch of no writing, but I was so stressed that I actually felt as though writing about it would make the stress expand and devour all of us like The Blob. I needed to walk quietly through the steps of my week. And, miraculously, I made it through.

I went back for the second ultrasound last Saturday, hugely looking forward to learning the timing of the IUI because I had an important non-reschedulable Thurs/Fri business trip coming up.

Two male doctors this time, which in itself seemed foreboding–I’ve gotten so used to women managing this process. Sure enough, one follicle hadn’t progressed while the other only grew one millimeter: they were at 12 and 12. I thought, here’s something else I didn’t know I had to worry about: what if my follicles don’t even grow???

The doctors were nonplussed, said this can be random, no signs of a problem, come back on Tuesday. Which meant THREE MORE DAYS of waiting, holding off on buying my plane ticket, dreading the conversations I’d have to have about canceling. I came home feeling deflated and defeated and it was almost as bad as a BFN.

I spent the next three days living in uncertainty while being as absolutely kind and gentle to myself as I possibly could. Sleep, good food, friends, undercommitting, mani/pedi, candles, meditation, reading Pema. I was majoring in stress reduction. I took a long sunny walk with my sister. I took a long chilly and windy walk with my friend KC. I talked through every angle of every possibility: if Thursday, then if I can get an early appt I’ll jump on a plane. If Friday, I will have the dreaded conversations. If Saturday, I will be back. Tried not to pull my hair out but felt utterly and seriously stretched. I suddenly have more compassion for couples trying to time their tries around business trips and other commitments–all this uncertainty times two is enough to make anyone go mad.

I bought a Pema Chodron book called, “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change.” She talks about how the ground is always shifting underneath our feet, that feeling anxious about it and clinging to what is known is totally understandable…yet, what if we practice being with the uncertainty, the discomfort of not knowing, and accept that this is part of being human? Stop resisting and be with it, sit with it, let it be what it is. This is REALLY HARD but all you can do is stay with it and realize that everyone has their own version of this, every day. No exaggeration.

On Tuesday, I went for my third ultrasound, feeling as though I had already been through a great battle and was pretty resigned to what the outcome would be. As mellow as I could be under the circumstances.  And, wouldn’t you know, the follies cooperated and gave me the best outcome:

One petered out, but the other was at 15mm, which meant I could go on the trip and come back for the IUI on Saturday. Today!

The nurse said that maybe my intense stress over the timing ironically actually slowed things down (that and having a cold). I had some painful bumps appear on my back last weekend which may be a mild case of shingles. I really turned myself inside out over this one.

Relief flowed like a happy river and I’ve been floating along it ever since. (It almost felt like a BFP and yet still nothing has really happened. The joys of being monitored!)

I packed my trigger shot and went on my overnight trip. While in the security line, it suddenly dawned on me that I had a syringe full of fluid in my purse and um how would I get security with that? Plus, I was with a co-worker already and not inclined to have a conversation about it in front of her. I texted B who traveled for IVF–what do I do? She said she was only asked for a doctor’s note 1 out of 8 times. A doctor’s note, of course I should have considered this… I could just see the whole trip going down in flames…and then it didn’t. They didn’t ask me about it! More gratitude.

From there, everything went smoothly. I triggered on Thursday. I flew home last night. I slept 9 hours, I called the sperm thaw hotline (YES I remembered), made a smoothie with banana, oranges, açai, almond butter, and mixed greens, and eggs with tomatoes, cheese, and basil. I’ll go on a run after this, which I’ve been missing desperately while sick and traveling. I have zero plans for the weekend other than relaxation. My head is finally clear and my cough is gone. I have an underground ovulation pimple on my chin. The sun is shining.

My friend B somehow thoughtfully and precisely tracks my fertility schedule even though she has a very busy life of her own–I get texts like, “happy triggering!” and just got “swim, swimmers, swim!” And to those texting me for updates–thanks for checking and sorry to leave you hanging during my epic week of stress management!

Time for the last IUI and, now that I think about it, the last two week wait (for IVF it’s a one week wait), the last of this phase of the process. It could work. I felt my left ovary twinging on the plane last night, hopefully preparing to blast out the good egg. Here come McPiercy’s millions!

Crazy how my hope keeps resetting–it’s back.