The Dream

Our society is not conducive to waiting.  Do you need to know the hours at the local pizza joint?  How about what time it is in Berlin?  The weather in Anchorage?  Who won the world series in 1994? (Ha!  No one!  It was cancelled for only the second time in the history of the league thanks to a players strike.).  All of the answers to these questions can be given to you in a matter of seconds thanks to the little wonder-machines that we keep in our pockets.  The world is literally at your fingertips.

The one thing that the internet can’t tell you, though, is if you are pregnant.  That, my dear, is something that humans still have control of.  Sure, we can find out fairly quickly after conception occurs thanks to home pregnancy tests, but definitely not in the amount of time that it takes to discover that 8 of the 10 highest peaks of the world can be found in Nepal.

On Wednesday morning, five days after our embryo transfer, Mariya woke up from a pretty vivid dream.  In it, she said that we had 16-year old twins — a boy and a girl — and that she was talking to them about something that they had done wrong.  Mariya has crazy dreams all the time that are very vivid.  In fact, former co-workers can attest to the fact that there was a period in time where I received phone calls each morning when I arrived to work (once Mariya had woken up), just to confirm that “yes, we are still married…..yes, I still love you…….yes, that was all a dream.”

Mariya’s dream on Tuesday night was vivid enough that she told me to get out of bed and go take an at-home pregnancy test that we had bought earlier in the week.  Our official blood test wasn’t scheduled for another four days, so the chances of getting a positive test this early were pretty slim.  But, I went into the bathroom — messy hair, morning breath, stiff from sleeping, in my pajamas — and peed.  I turned the test upside down to give it some time to work, and both of us continued to wake up and get ready for our day.  Our movers were scheduled to arrive shortly to start packing our items for our big move to Korea and so the day was going to be a busy one.

After a few minutes, we looked at each other, flipped the test, and saw:

Day 5 Test

………..”do you see what I see?”……….

We kept looking at each other, looking at the test, and looking back at each other — in awe that there was a smidgen of a second line.

“OMG…….babe, IT WORKED,” I screamed, before hugging her tight and bursting into tears.  I was a blubbering mess for a good ten minutes, repeating over and over again “it worked………oh my God, it worked……..”

At the time, the only people that were around to share the news with, were our movers that arrived an hour later.  Despite having only met us that morning, they shared in our joy — as evidenced by a little heart that we found on a box they had packed later that night 🙂

Moving Box

We wanted to shout the news from the rooftops!  OMG, we are having a BABY!  At the time, the only folks that we told were our siblings and a few close friends that have been sharing this journey with us.  As the week progressed, our daily tests got stronger and stronger:

Day Seven

Finally, Sunday rolled around — the day of our “official” test.  By this point, I would have been shocked if the result was negative.  I had taken multiple tests at home and, unless I had the bad luck of purchasing four faulty pregnancy tests at CVS, I was convinced that we’d be getting a good call later in the day from our doctor’s office.

We went about our afternoon, packing up things for our flight to Korea, and waiting……….

Finally, around lunchtime, our nurse called. A good result at this point was and HCG level over 50.  Ours came back at 186!  We were officially pregnant!!!  We hopped on Facebook, told our extended group of friends/family and then went right back to packing.

(Yes, anticlimactic, but it needed to be done!)

So there we have it!  WE are going to be moms!  Heck, we are going to be awesome moms, if I must say so myself.  After decades of practice with nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends, we are ready for this!

Thanks, again, for following along.  Our journey is far from over, and we plan on continuing to write in this journal so that you can be with us every step of the way.  The next big things on our calendar are more labs tomorrow (to make sure that my pregnancy hormones are continuing to increase), and our first ultrasound somewhere around July 12th.  It is at that point that we will know what happened to both of our embryos.  We know for sure that at least one decided to burrow in for the long haul.  Who knows if the second one did, too!  Stay tuned — I’m sure that this pregnancy journey will be exciting — especially as we travel to the other side of the world!

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******Some folks might be hesitant to share positive news early on in their pregnancy, for fear of a miscarriage or loss.  In my eyes, that is the exact reason why you would want to share the news. God forbid something goes wrong, I would want my friends and family knowing what I was experiencing.  If nothing else, this journey has taught me that infertility, miscarriage, and heartache are more common than any of us think.  I can’t tell you how many private messages I’ve received over the past few months from friends sharing with me just how widespread infertility is.  One thing is for certain, you are never alone on this journey.  Look to your left and look to your right.  I’m nearly positive that one of your sister-friends is going through the same thing as you.********

Choosing half of your child’s DNA

While we continue to count down the days until we officially know if we are pregnant or not, let’s talk about an issue that a few of you have been curious about……

“Swipe right, he’s cute!”……….
“Ugh, left – too much heart disease!”……….
“Right, Right!!!!!!”

Tinder possibilities, you might ask?  No, but that is exactly how I felt while trying to pick our perfect sperm donor.

There are many different types of sperm donors out there.  Some are known donors — friends — that are willing to assist.  We had plenty of generous offers from close friends, but, as nice and convenient as that would have been, Mama M and I decided against it.  That left us with using a sperm bank.  One of the largest banks in the United States is California Cryobank.

So, while sipping wine one Friday night a few months ago, Mama M and I searched…….and searched…….and searched.  He had to be perfect — heck, he was contributing to half of our children’s DNA!  I will say that an advantage to using a sperm donor (versus the spouse found in a heterosexual marriage) is that you can seriously weed out characteristics that you don’t like:

“Did you have to wear braces or are your teeth naturally straight?”
“Did Uncle Lenny die of a heart attack at age 40?”
“Do you have a serious lack of math skills?”

Items that you would normally accept from your spouse can now disappear as you pick your ideal match!

So, how did we do it?  What parameters did we use?

When it came time to finding a donor to match up with Mama M’s eggs, we tried to find someone that reminded us of me.

  • 5’11” or taller
  • brown or blonde hair
  • green or blue eyes
  • 50% Irish and 50% Eastern European
  • Book smart / nerdy
  • No need to have a history of being a star athlete (our kids will get enough of that from Mama M!)
  • Grandparents that lived into their 90’s
  • A donor that was open to replying to contact from any future offspring.
  • CMV Negative (This one was actually the most important.  Cytomegalovirus is a virus that most adults have been exposed to at some point or another in their life.  Most often, it feels like the common cold.  Once you have it, you have antibodies for it that can pass through bodily fluids.  After testing, it was discovered that I don’t have the antibodies for it.  If our sperm donor was CMV+, I could develop CMV during pregnancy.  I’d feel fine, maybe congested.  Our baby, though, could have severe birth defects….)

Using those qualifications, we were able to narrow the field of over 400 donors down to 4.  At this point, Mama M gave me the freedom to choose whatever one “spoke” to me.  I delved deeper into the information available — and boy, was there a ton.  Childhood photos, likes/dislikes, academic testing scores, health/occupation information for siblings, uncles/aunts, grandparents, parents, cousins, etc.

The last guy on my list was it.  He was it.  He made me laugh — deep, belly laughs — as I read sections of his profile.  Under “Express Yourself” — a section normally dedicated to a story/poem written by the donor, this guy wrote that he wasn’t necessarily artistic, but that he would use the space to list out additional traits:

– I have no sense of direction
– I am kindhearted
– I have never been more than 10 pounds overweight
– I believe that I am of (at least) above average intelligence.
– I love parentheses (they’re great)

He then went on to talk about his love of writing, public speaking, and working with machines.  Oh, and how his grandfather was a college art professor — and wrote a book that was regarded as the “Sculpture’s bible” in its day.

This, amongst many other tiny details, got me hooked.  I loved this guy — a guy that I had never met, but that was going to become an incredibly large part of the rest of my life.  In addition to being a great physical writer, he was literally going to write the next chapter in the book of my life.

So, cheers to you, Donor #XXXXX.  You have given me hope and excitement at a time when I thought that losing my genetic identity in my offspring would be devastating.  No matter what circumstances motivated you to donate (financial? kindness? etc?), I thank you.

……………….

Now, can Sunday get here so that we can get the official word on whether or not I’m pregnant?  I don’t feel any different at this point which makes me pause just a little bit.  But, maybe that is just our little peanut giving me a break before the onslaught of morning sickness!

My Wife Lied to Me

I’ll just start this entry by saying that I have a very LOW tolerance for pain.

Prior to starting stimulation medications, a baseline scan of your ovaries is necessary.  Unfortunately, at mine, they found a decent-sized cyst on my left ovary.  This is the same kind of cyst that caused Mama D to have to fly to Denver to get drained back in February (thus, missing her sister’s surprise birthday party!), so I knew that it meant that I’d have to go in for a “quick procedure,” too.  I found a doctor here in Kansas City that wouldn’t charge an arm and a leg to do it, and scheduled the procedure for the next morning.

I left home under the assurances from Mama D that the pain would be along the lines of an ear or naval piercing, followed by cramps.  Despite being completely NOT EAGER about having this done (seriously, who wants a needle through your vagina and ovary????  Hands?  Anyone?), I knew it was necessary for us to do this retrieval.  If I didn’t, all of this expensive medication that I had negotiated for would get sucked up by the cyst and not by my little follicles/eggs.

Mama D had to go to work that day and so I went down to Kansas City solo — again, with the assurance that it would be a relatively easy procedure.

It started just like any other OBGYN appointment.  The doctor came in and explained what would happen — a vaginal ultrasound to confirm the presence of the cyst followed by a needle that would then be inserted through the vagina and into my ovary to drain the cyst.  A big part missing from her explanation was any mention of anesthesia.

“Oh,” she said, “that’s because we don’t use anesthesia here because it takes too long.”

SAY WHAT.

At this point, I was facing either bad pain or a canceled cycle.  I decided that the canceled cycle would be worse than the pain in my lady parts.

The draining itself went as expected — the pain was just like Mama D had described.  The only difference was that the pain didn’t go away, the cramping in my abdomen was like a charley horse in your behind (seriously, the pain in my rear made me think that this doctor had stabbed me through and through), and, as I laid there waiting for the pain to subside, I was bleeding…….so much so that the doctor and nurse had to sit there with multiple rags trying to sop it up.  I have no idea how much it was in the end, but I imagine that it looked like a crime scene down there.  The doctor assured me that this happened sometimes and that it was nothing to worry about.

After about 15 minutes, the nurse asked me if I wanted to go to the restroom to clean up.  Instead of having me get completely dressed, just to dart across the hallway into the bathroom, she peeked out into the hall and let me run across really quick —– in my t-shirt, flip flops, and a little paper dressing covering my lady parts.

As I sat there in the bathroom, the cramps got the better of me.  I started shaking and getting light headed.  All I could think was:

OMG – I cannot pass out in the bathroom with no pants on!

I mustered up the strength to get to the door, open it, and start to walk across the hall……and that was about as far as I got.  The next thing I knew,  I was laying on the cold floor of a medical room, half naked, with a nurse holding my legs up over her shoulder, another shoving a small desk fan in my face, and the doctor holding a paper bag over my mouth and telling me to breath.

This definitely wasn’t how I imagined this experience going.  The only things I could mutter enough strength to say were “Someone call my wife to make her feel bad about not coming to this appointment with me” and a half-apology to the nurse holding my feet because half of my ass was hanging out of this makeshift toga.  Eventually, I was well enough to leave the office — thanks to some friends that came to pick me up.  Mama D was still in school and, although I gave her a guilt trip about it later, I knew that missing more classes would hurt her in the end.

After the cyst draining, my retrieval was pretty much by the book — with the exception of some odd abdominal bruising, continued cramping in my behind (seriously, I have no clue where that came from), and apparently my body decided to let my intestines descend throughout the week of stimulation medications.

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In the end, our doctor was able to retrieve 7 eggs from me.  From those 7 eggs, 4 of them grew normally to Day 5 and were frozen and sent off for chromosome testing.  Hoping that our little kiddos are somewhere in that 4!!!

Batter Up!

After the subpar performance of my ovaries during retrieval in April, Mama M and I followed the recommendation of our doctor and decided to switch over to trying to use Mama M’s eggs instead of mine.  This decision was not an easy one for me to make — but one that was really the next logical step in our journey to become parents.

The next few posts have been written by Mama M in light of the last two months of our journey….

Where to begin….?”

Double the moms, double the fun?  Double the choices, double the fun?  It’s the bottom of the 9th, bases are loaded, 2 outs and Mama M is up to bat!

I love my wife and there isn’t anything that I wouldn’t do for her and for us. These are not just hollow words….anymore.  As you all know we have been trying to get pregnant for the last 2 years. It feels weird saying “we have been trying to get pregnant” because I wasn’t much of an “active” participant, if you know what I mean.

During the multiple IUI and IVF treatments that we went through, I was right by mama D’s side — I attended the multiple medical appointments, gave her shots, searched through sperm donor profiles, sat at each ultrasound uncomfortably holding her things, counted down the days until we received results from each IUI/IVF, and held her each time we got the heartbreaking news that things did not work out.  Our hearts broke together each time we got the news — but it was mostly her heart breaking because it was her body that wasn’t giving us the results that we wanted.  Let me tell you, there is nothing more difficult than seeing your best friend/partner/love of your life get her heart broken over and over again — especially knowing that there is nothing that you can do to make it better or to fix it.

Or is there……?

Throughout this entire process, I have felt very helpless and useless — like I have been sitting in the “passenger’s seat” while my wife has been in the “driver’s seat.”  I went along to every appointment, drove the entire 9-hour trek each way to Denver (Mama D is great, but cannot stay awake in the car to save her life!), and I have sat there as she has been poked and prodded.  I felt like there wasn’t much else I could do to help, aside from providing moral support.

In mid-April, when the doctor called to tell us that we only had one embryo after our most recent retrieval, we looked at each other and I swear that I felt both of our hearts break again.  The doctor continued to explain that, after 3 rounds of IVF, with a total of 22 eggs retrieved, and only 2 that made it to the blastocyst stage, he felt that Mama D’s eggs had a very low maturation rate and that our best option would be to use my eggs……MY EGGS?!!??!??!  I remembered those words that I spoke earlier in the year — ” I would do anything for you and for us.”  My stomach dropped.  Those were no longer going to be hollow words, those were going to be the truth.  In a matter of minutes, my life as a passenger had ended and I was now going to be in the driver’s seat.

I had no idea about the road that was ahead of me.

*This week, we are going to do a post per day to catch you up on our story. Feel free to check back tomorrow (and throughout the week) to see Mama M’s take on being the driver, reacting to medications and procedures, and, ultimately, how her retrieval turned out.*

Processing My Thoughts

It has been a hard month for me to process all the different thoughts that have been flowing through my head.  About a week after my doctor’s office froze our one sole embryo, we had a follow up call with him to discuss the way ahead.

After my last retrieval, my doctor was able to do a little bit of analysis on my eggs and he has come up with one conclusion: my eggs are genetically abnormal.  There were a few different scenarios that had been occurring with my eggs:

Egg Scenario #1:  “I don’t need no stinkin’ sperm!”
Some eggs decided to just start dividing on their own, absent any sperm.  I guess they decided they could reproduce asexually and create clones of me.  Unfortunately, this isn’t normal and so they died off after a few days.

Egg Scenario #2:  “Sperm!???!??!  EEEEEEK!  ABORT! ABORT! ABORT!”
Some eggs had one look at the sperm that had entered their territory and decided that life just wasn’t worth it.  They either died upon first sight of their new mate, or else within a few hours.

Egg Scenario #3: “Yawn…….this splitting and growing thing is just plain ol’ boring.  I think I’m going to take a looooooooong nap.”
This scenario actually sounds pretty typical of me.  I’ve been known to have the ability to nap on demand — anywhere, anytime.  My fertilized eggs carried on that trait — except their naps were so deep that they just ended up dying.

Egg Scenario #4: “Fertilization!  Woohoo!  Lets grow, grow, grow!”
This is the best case scenario.  Grow and divide, grow and divide, repeat for nine months!  So far, we’ve had two embryos follow this scenario.  The first one, however, when tested for chromosomal abnormalities, came back as abnormal — and not just abnormal in one way (i.e. Downs Syndrome), but more than three abnormalities.  The word the doctor used was “chaotic.”  Our second embryo that grew has yet to be tested.  I’m really afraid that it, too, will come back as chaotic.  We will find the answer to that question soon.

So where do we go from here?  Our doctor gave us a few possibilities.  The first was to use Mama M’s eggs.  A “her bun, my oven” scenario.  The second is to use a donor egg with our current sperm donor.  The third was to accept and use a donor embryo.  These are extra embryos that were created by other couples for use in creating their own families — but they ended up being surplus.

After a little bit of thought, we’ve decided to try using Mama M’s eggs.  The process to retrieve her eggs is identical to the process that was used to retrieve mine.  The only difference is that I, at the same time, am taking medication to prepare my body for a (hopeful) transfer of 1 or 2 normal embryos that will be made up of Mama M’s egg and our donor sperm.

This scenario has definitely put us in a financial bind due to yet another retrieval and surgery, has resulted in us having to find a new sperm donor (our original donor resembled Mama M…….this new one is a bit more white), and, for me, created a big mental hurdle for me to overcome.  This entry is long enough, though, so that’ll have to wait for another day.

Your continued thoughts and prayers are appreciated as we endure this cycle.  We’ve both started medication and two hormonal women living under the same roof is definitely making for a test of our patience and love.

Where We Stand

Part of me wanted today to get here quickly so that I could know the answer.  The other part of me wanted today to never get here — so that I could live in the “They retrieved 12!” bubble forever.  In reality, I knew the number could be no greater than 4 since a phone call last week let me know that only 4 of our 12 fertilized properly.  Nevertheless, the number 4 kept circulating through my head as the number that I’d love to hear the embryologist say come Monday.

The call came this morning while I was in the library, printing off handouts for my Intro to Korean class.  I was trying to whisper due to the setting, which I’m pretty sure made the embryologist on the other end of the line think that I was waiting with bated breath for what she was going to relay to me.

“Yes, this is Dannielle.”

“Hi, this is _____ from the embryology lab, calling with your Day 5 report.”

At this point, in my head I kept thinking “please, please, puh-lease let us have a bunch to work with.”

“We were able to grow one Day 5 3BB blastocyst, which we are going to freeze for you since you wanted us to skip chromosomal testing if there were only 1 or 2.”

“…….oh………”

“I’m sure that Dr. ________ will be calling you in the next few days to discuss specifics.”

“…….oh………..um, okay.  Well, thank you for the phone call.”

One.

Only One.