Thursday, May 24, 2012

From Infertile to Egg Donor?

When I was 21 years old, I graduated from college and went straight to grad school.  My parents were generous and helped me financially with college, but they were done – no help for grad school.  I figured it would be fine – that’s why they invented school loans!  In retrospect, it may have been wise to wait a few years, save some money, and then go to grad school, but I highly doubt I would have made the plunge once I had the taste of real life income.  So I went straight to grad school, took out a bunch of loans, got a couple part-time jobs, and tried to figure out how to survive while paying out-of-state tuition.  I remember driving home one day after class and hearing an ad on the radio about being paid to become an egg donor.  I had no idea what was involved, but I figured, why not?

As soon as I got home (no cell phones in those days…) I called the egg donation place to ask for more information.  I asked a bunch of questions, they asked me some more, and then told me I wouldn’t make a good candidate because I was adopted and I didn’t know my medical history.  I was disappointed because I wanted the money, so I hung up and proceeded to the local blood plasma donation place ($15 each donation, and I could do it twice a week!  Good money!).  I told my new friend about it, and she commiserated with me about how nice it would have been to make money doing something simple like egg donation – ah, how naïve we were.

Fast forward 16 years, and that friend that I met in grad school is still my friend, in fact my closest friend, my BFF as I like to call her.  She recently has been told that at age 42 and going through multiple IVF's and finally PGD, her eggs are no longer good, and she needs to consider egg donation.  She had talked with her husband about it, and they’re not sure what they’re going to do.  Well I just threw a wrench in their plans…  Last night I told her that if they want, that I would be an egg donor for her.  Or if we get pregnant at our next FET using two of our embryos, then she and her husband can have our remaining three embryos. 

I did not make this offer lightly.  It was only after hours of discussion with my husband, and after thinking about it a few weeks, that I made the offer.  I wanted to make sure that I was truly comfortable with this decision, and that I wouldn’t want to revoke the offer after giving it.  And that my husband feels the same way.  During this infertility process, I’ve thought a lot about my 21-year-old self, and how flippant I was about considering egg donation.  I didn’t really think about it as giving up a potential child, or at least half of a child.  I didn’t think about wondering what happened to my eggs and future babies, I only thought about the money I lost because I didn’t know my medical history!  Later when I started struggling with infertility, I thought a lot about how naïve I was, and how important those eggs are.  I also thought that there was no way I would donate my eggs, because I had such an emotional attachment to creating a child that was genetically mine.  I was working so very hard to have a baby, and I had such a drive to be genetically linked to that child, that I couldn’t imagine giving up those genetics to someone else through egg donation.  I also thought a lot about embryo donation.  I knew that if we were so lucky to not need all the embryos we would make through the IVF process that we would need to make a decision as to what to do with those embryos.  We even signed consent forms that if something were to happen to us, that the embryos would be discarded.  I couldn’t imagine giving our embryos to someone else, having someone else raise our babies.  I feel attached to those embryos, and it's hard to imagine someone else using those embryos.  I really wasn’t sure what we would do if we had any embryos left after completing our family.

Until my BFF…  She is now at the point where she and her husband needs to decide what to do, but it won’t involve her eggs.  They can do egg donation to a point, but they will run out of sperm in the future as well (he had testicular cancer, and he has successfully gone through treatment, but their doc doesn’t want to use his sperm for at least three years).  I know I used to think that I couldn’t give up my eggs or embryos, but now that I’m a mother to baby Alex, everything has changed.  I look at her, and I can’t imagine my life without her.  I want this for my friend.  I know she wants to be a mother, and has gone through great lengths to be one, to no avail.  I want to do everything I can to help her do this.  It’s so weird, how easy this decision was for me, how quickly I became comfortable with the idea of giving my friend my DNA, and how it is now an even easier decision now that I am a mom.  It was the same with my hubs – we talked about it at length, how bizarre it could be, and whether we would be comfortable, watching our friends raise a baby that started as our child, who is genetically our child, and our child’s sibling.  It’s so strange what is possible now with science, but it feels so comfortable to make this decision. 

I have no idea if my BFF and her husband want this, or if their doctor will advise it.  Because let’s face it – I’m not an ideal egg donor.  I’m almost 37, and I’ve had fertility problems.  But we know I respond well to the drugs, and I have a perfect daughter that proves that some of my eggs work!  I’m very interested to see what happens, and what she decides.  She didn’t say anything last night, as I think she was very stunned and needed time to process this.  I think it could be very complicated, donating eggs or embryos to a friend, but I’m confident that no matter what she decides, we’ll be able to muddle through this new element to our friendship.  Stay tuned…

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

But I Don’t Want to Go to Bed!!!

We’ve all heard of the stories of friends whose children won’t go to bed.  Children who want to stay up, playing, feigning such problems such as hungry, thirsty, afraid of the dark.  Parents who sit outside of their children’s door, saying repeatedly, “You must go to bed.”  It seems like it’s just part of parenting: fighting with your children over going to bed.  Heck, there’s even a book about it: Go the F**k to sleep.  (it’s a great book, fun to read for all ages!)  I figured it was going to happen at some point, but at six months old???

Last night Alex was in a great mood.  She had taken four naps at daycare, when she usually only has three, so she was very well rested.  We had such a good time when we got home, playing, talking, singing together.  (you know, as much as a six-month old can sing with you…)  I knew she was very rested, so I started the bedtime routine a little later than normal, as she wasn’t fussy at all.  She took her bath, and had a great time playing with her toys in the bath.  Then we got out, lotioned up, put her pajamas on, and sat down in the rocking chair in her room for her last bottle.  Usually she pounds down 7 ounces, and is in a food coma when she’s finished.  We usually read a book quietly, sing a lullaby, then she goes to sleep in her crib very easily.  Well last night she had something else in mind.

Alex finished about 3 ounces of her bottle, and then wouldn’t eat anymore.  She sat up in my lap, flailing her hands around, ready to play!  I didn’t know what to do – this wasn’t normal!  So I pulled out a book, and she loved it.  She started flipping the pages, and I read to her, and she would pound her little hands on the pages.  She grabbed onto the book, and was having a great time playing with it.  Every few minutes, I tried to give her the bottle, but she shut her mouth and turned her face.  So we would play some more.  This continued for about 20 minutes – playing with the book, reading to her, trying to give her the bottle, and getting rejected.  Finally she looked up at me and yawned.  I gave her the bottle, and she relaxed in my arms, lay back, and finished the rest of the bottle.  She was in her normal food coma at the end of the bottle, she cuddled with me, burped a bit while I sang her a song, and then I put her in her crib, where she slept quietly until morning. 

I can’t believe that at six months old, she deliberately was able to tell me she wanted to stay up and play for a little longer.  Every day, she can do more, and likes to play even more.  I can see more of her personality every day.  She’s such a happy little miss, and it was so fun playing with her on my lap.  The first of many times in her life, I’m sure, when she said very clearly, “But I don’t want to go to bed!”

Monday, May 7, 2012


Sometimes I get caught up in my life.  It’s a fast-paced life: career, daycare, bath and bedtimes, stolen moments with my husband, rare conversations with friends.  Full days or weeks can pass without catching a breath.  But this weekend, I had two moments that caused me to slow down, look around, and truly appreciate my life, and especially my daughter.

Saturday I had coffee with a woman who found this blog by searching for MTHFR on the internet.  Like me, she has been diagnosed with compound heterozygous MTHFR.  Also like me, she has gone through a fresh IVF, and a frozen transfer, and she lost a baby at eight weeks.  She also goes to the same RE as me, and has had the same frustrations.  The only difference is she has PCOS and she’s 10 years younger.  But after you’ve gone through multiple years of infertility, multiple cycles of treatments, losses, etc., it doesn’t matter how old you are – it just plain sucks.  And hurts!  She found my blog through searching for her diagnosis, and then discovered that I lived in Houston, and she suspected and later confirmed that we even go to the same doctor.  It’s amazing, really, to think that she was able to find me through the internet, and that we have so much in common.

We met for a couple hours on Saturday, and she talked about her history and her plan for the future.  She’s exploring the world of reproductive immunology, which I was surprised to hear was recommended by our doctor, considering the struggles I had with him in this regard.  The pathology on her miscarriage showed a chromosomally normal baby, which is why he recommended immunology testing, and we talked about all this.  I was struck by how we have very different personal histories, and yet we are in many respects the same person.  I sat across the table, and saw all the frustration, the confusion, and the pain that comes with battling infertility and loss.  I wish I could take this pain away from her, and that I could guarantee her a baby.  I wish I could tell her that if she keeps going, keeps getting tested and spending money and going through treatments, that one day she would get her baby.  But I can’t.  That’s the worst part of infertility.  We battle this, every day, and there is no guarantee.

Last night I also received heartbreaking news about my best friend IRL.  I’ve talked about her on my blog before, she started TTC after I did, and when she finally met with a doctor, she used me as an IF mentor.  Due to her age (she’s now 42) she quickly went to IVF, and we started the IVF process at the same time, the two of us fantasizing about raising our IVF babies together.  Since then she has had 2 fresh IVF cycles, which resulted into two early miscarriages.  After the 2nd IVF, her husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer, so this derailed their TTC plans for awhile.  But he went through chemo (after freezing a bunch of sperm prior to treatment), and he is now declared cancer-free, so they started their 3rd IVF cycle, using some of his frozen sperm.  This time, however, they did PGS.  They got 16 eggs, 12 were mature, and 6 fertilized.  All 6 were tested with PGS, and none of the embryos were considered normal enough for transfer.  This is the official end of their attempts at having a baby made with her genetic material.  They are exploring their options, and will meet with the doctor in June to discuss donor eggs, but my heart goes out to her.  I know this is a huge loss, and I wish I could take away her pain. 

I am so very lucky.  Every day, I go online, fingers crossed, and hope that the women whose blogs I follow get that elusive BFP, but more importantly bring home their baby.  I’ve been online for awhile now, so I’ve seen many of us start to parent, but there are so many who are still trying for that first baby, even some that started their infertility journeys prior to me.  I wish that it wasn’t so hard – I don’t understand why some people get their babies and some don’t.  The pain from women online is so hard to see, but sitting across the table from it, and then hearing about it from my best friend, I feel so helpless, like there’s nothing I can do.  (…well actually there is one thing – I could donate my embryos to my friend, but it may be a bit early for that, I can’t even wrap my head around this one…)  All I can really do now is be there for my best friend, and for my new friend, and be grateful for my daughter.  Last night, after I gave her the last bottle of the day, and rocked and sang to her, I squeezed her a little tighter than normal, and gave her a couple extra kisses.  I can’t put into words how grateful I am to have her in my life.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Return of My (in)Fertility

I had a nice break.  Between pregnancy and breastfeeding, it was nice to be without periods, without looking at my body for signs of fertility, without wondering if I could be pregnant.  But alas, that time has passed.  A little less than a month after quitting breastfeeding, and exactly six months after my daughter was born, my period came back.  With a fucking vengeance…

And even though I really don’t want to be pregnant right now (oh my god, can you imagine a six month old while pregnant?  How about a newborn and a 14 month old???  Scary!!!) I was a little sad when I saw that first bloody tinge.  Because two weeks ago when I saw the gobs of egg whites in my undies, I did what any good infertile does.  I headed to the bedroom and attacked my husband…  How quickly we get drawn back into the TTC world.  I have spent the last two weeks wondering, and even the hubs asked, “Could we be pregnant?”  And we allowed ourselves to fantasize about having a second child so quickly.  The biggest fantasy is being able to get pregnant so easily, without going through the torture of last time.  I’ve spent the last two weeks fantasizing about becoming that urban myth that all the infertiles hate.  “I once knew this woman who struggled to have her first baby, and then she just relaxed, and bam!  She was pregnant – even before getting her period again!”  Oh wouldn’t that be amazing???

But instead, here I sit at work (because I can’t take any time off – I have almost no PTO after my kid was sick!) in agony from cramps, the kind that I never remember having, running to the bathroom every hour to change my tampon (the super kind!), in misery.  And resigning myself to the fact that we are officially back on the TTC bandwagon.  Well kind of.  I absolutely refuse to take my temperature, or chart anything.  But I’m hyper aware of the signs my body puts out, and we have agreed that we’ll spend the next six months trying naturally.  And as soon as Alex turns 1, we’ll go back to the RE for a consult about doing FET’s.  Or maybe before so we can be ready to do the FET shortly after her birthday.  This time down the TTC road, I have a very important safety net: 5 lovely embryos waiting for me on ice.  The original plan was to not even try naturally at all, and do FET’s after I weaned Alex at a year old.  But since breastfeeding was quit abruptly, our plans have changed. 

I’m resolved to do it differently this time, especially during the 6 months of natural TTC’ing.  I will not take random supplements other than prenatals and extra folic acid for my MTHFR.  I will not stick a thermometer in my mouth.  I will not get a subscription on Fertility Friend.  I will not pee on anything – ovulation stick or otherwise.  This is TTC Light, and I hope it calms my shit a bit.  I need to keep telling myself that having a baby so quickly after Alex will be hard – I don’t want it as much, or as urgently, and hopefully that will kill the obsession a bit.

Why start so quickly?  Because I HATE TTC.  I want it to be done.  There are other reasons: I want Alex to have a sibling that is close, I’m not getting any younger, blah blah blah.  The real reason is I want to be DONE with this part of my life.  I hate every second that this goes on.  Yes, I want another child, but I don’t want the obsession that I can’t seem to control when it takes over my life.  I think this time it should be easier, as my life is filled with my little girl.  I know that no matter what happens, I will have her in my life, so it doesn’t seem as bad if we fail on this TTC journey.  Last time, I was wondering when it would end, when I could stop living my child-free life.  But now, I will always have my little Alex, and although I feel like our family is not yet complete, it’s not the end of the world if we don’t have another child.  But we have to try, and so it begins…

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Six Months!

Today Alexandra is six months old!!! I can’t believe how quickly this time has gone. Every day, I’m so thankful to have her in my life, and I can’t believe that I get to have this life, this life as her mom. She’s finally healthy – kind of. After having a 12-day stomach bug, she was healthy for about 1.5 weeks, and then she got a cold which quickly transformed into an ear infection. She was absolutely miserable for a couple days, but now she’s feeling better. She still has a cough, but we smile and say “get it out” or “good cough” when she coughs, and she smiles. Which is better than crying, which she used to do… Another sad thing is she has lost her crying voice, so instead of making a high-pitched cry when she’s upset, she just breathes out, and you can’t hear anything. It’s pitiful, and a little less grating on the nerves… Awful, I know…

She’s a rockstar sleeper! Alex sleeps through the night about 5 times per week, and occasionally will get up, have a bottle, and then go back to sleep. She goes to bed around 7:30-8:00 pm, and I usually wake her up during the week at 7:00 am, or on the weekends she’ll sleep until 7:30. She takes 3 naps per day, ranging from 45 minutes to 2 hours, usually one 2 hour nap, and 2 other 45 minutes naps. All of this in her crib. 

Alex is a very hungry little girl. At the request of daycare, we have increased her bottle size to 7 ounces, and she finally seems content, although sometimes she doesn’t finish it completely. She drinks 5-6 bottles per day, depending on if she is at daycare or at home. It’s funny, at daycare she eats about every 3 hours, and at home she eats about every 4 hours. I was worried about it for awhile, trying to get daycare to extend her eating schedule so it would comply with home, but I’m giving up. She seems happy with it, and so who cares? I think it relates to her nap schedules. At daycare she doesn’t nap as well or as long, so she is hungrier quicker and wants to eat more often. We have started solids, and she has tried rice cereal, oatmeal, bananas, pears, peaches, sweet potatoes, squash, and green beans. She has good days and bad. Before she got the stomach bug, she was starting to eat like a champ, but we have definitely regressed with all the sickness. So we try every day with a little food, but most days she doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. Daycare seems to be a little more successful with it that me, so I figure I’ll just let her figure that out at daycare, and then once she likes eating, do more at home.

Alex has been rolling over, every which way, for months, but she hasn’t yet figured out that she could move somewhere by rolling over. She is still very immobile, which is just fine with me – nothing is baby proofed! She’s starting to sit up for longer periods of time – she can go a minute or two without toppling over. And she definitely prefers sitting up to being on her back! She plays constantly, always wants to have something in her hands, which then means it must go in her mouth. We play the game, “Does this go in my mouth?” And yes, everything goes in her mouth… No teeth yet, but I have a feeling it’s coming, as everything must be gummed. It’s very easy to get Alex to smile, but she’s not a big laugher. Occasionally she’ll give you a little chuckle, or if something is really funny, a squeal. But most of the time she’s quiet, but will have a huge grin on her face.

 Alex loves her bath time. She takes a bath most nights in her new bath chair, which is very nice for sitting in the tub. About once a week, I take a bath with her in the big tub, and we practice floating, and dunking, which doesn’t seem to faze her. I took her into a friend’s pool for the first time last week, and she loved it! She had the best time, just chilling out and observing the other kids. Daddy bought her a jumper, and she thinks that’s the best thing ever! She can sit in there, and jump for a long time, all by herself. But her favorite thing is her two brothers – the dogs. Her face lights up whenever she sees Kodiak or Jackson, and they are starting to figure out that she can be fun too. Yesterday I had her strapped in her bouncy chair on the couch, and she saw Kodiak walking by. She pulled herself up into a sitting position, and she leaned over the side to grab him. He stopped and she patted his head and grabbed his hair for a couple minutes, and it seemed like both really enjoyed it! This is their first real interaction when nobody else was involved! It was so cute seeing them – I know they’ll always be good friends.