fasting prolactin

I got my lab tests back, and there was good news. I am HIV-negative, don’t carry any genetic disorders, and am CMV positive.  The CMV is important for donor-sperm shopping, because if you’re positive, you can choose any donor, but if you’re negative, you have to choose a donor who is also negative, which dramatically reduces your choices.  Based on my age, test results, etc., the nurse estimated I would be pregnant in 6 months or less. Whee!

There was also bad news. Apparently, I had high prolactin levels during my blood test, which means I have to go for a second round of bloodwork, this time while fasting — that means no eating, drinking, exercising, heavy lifting, or hanky-panky after 11pm the night before.  If the levels are normal after the fasting test, then I guess the assumption is that the elevated levels before were a fluke.  If not, I need an MRI.

After I hung up with the nurse, I got to thinking.  The mention of the MRI had me wondering exactly what would cause high levels of prolactin, so I decided to Google “elevated prolactin.”  THIS IS ALWAYS A MISTAKE.  If you have a symptom, do not Google it.  Especially if that symptom is elevated levels of prolactin.  Because then you will discover that this is either caused by breastfeeding, or by a TUMOR on your pituitary gland.  A TUMOR? Yes, a tumor.  Since i am not breastfeeding, I can only assume I have the tumor.  But don’t worry, the tumor is {almost} always benign. 

Oh gee, Internet. Thanks.  A probably-benign brain tumor.  NBD. 

My wife pointed out to me that people with horrible medical problems are always posting things online, whereas it’s much less common to post “Hey, I had this horrible [insert symptom here], but guess what? Turned out it was nothing and went away on its own a day later.”  She has a point, but still.  Brain tumors make me squirm.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll go in and do the fasting test.  Either my levels will be normal, or I will have a probably-benign brain tumor, and then we can go on our merry baby-making way.  After they remove the brain tumor?  Not clear at this juncture, but I am refraining from any more online symptom-checking. 

Note: I tried to search for some snappy images to go with this post, but an image search for “blood” or “brain tumor” leads to disturbing results, so this post will be illustration-free.  You’re welcome.

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artificial insemination

baster

I am kind of a hippie in a corporate lawyer’s clothing. We recycle. I used to live in Berkeley. I wear bandanas on my head from time to time. That kind of thing. Which is partly why I wanted my pregnancy and childbirth experience to be as “natural” as possible. One small problem with this, though, is that I am actually a lesbian. So right off the bat, we will need a little medical intervention to get things started.

BUT! I absolutely definitely wanted to conceive at home, and I for sure needed to have an unmedicated home birth. Early in our planning process I announced these two things to my wife, who is decidedly not a hippie (although she somewhat reluctantly recycles, she will NEVER, EVER wear a bandana on her head). She was totally on board with the first one, and totally NOT on board with the second one. Apparently her college roommate had tried to have a home birth, was in labor for some excruciatingly long period of time, was rushed to the hospital, etc. So she was understandably afraid. We talked, negotiated, discussed. I am not going to spoil a future birth-plan post by telling you now where we landed.

Back to conception, though, which is actually the stage we are at now. We both have a very romantic ideal of how the whole conception thing is going to go. A tank of frozen sperm will arrive at our house right on schedule with no logistical difficulties. Our kids either will not see it or will not ask why there is a nitrogen tank in our house. Surrounded by candles, after a romantic dinner, the magic will happen. The first time we try.

A few weeks ago, at our first meeting with our (new!) reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. R., this fantasy was abruptly shattered. You see, our particular office does not facilitate home insemination — we would have to negotiate directly with the sperm bank. Oh, and the success rate is much higher if you do an “intrauterine insemination,” (a.k.a. artificial insemination) which can only be done in the office. And by “much higher” we mean a one in four shot in any given month. Which means the home rate is… something less than that. And by the way, it’s expensive, and as time goes by, this weird thing happens where we keep getting older. As we were walking from Dr. R’s office to the exam room, my wife whispered to me, “Let’s just do the in-office thing. It seems a lot simpler logistically.” I kind of agreed, but the hippie in me rebelled against doing something with “artificial” in the name.

I thought long and hard about a doctor’s-office conception. I talked about it with my wife, and we both finally agreed that for our life, and our reality, it’s the best way to go. Having a baby is all about flexibility, right? Let’s be honest. With three kids at home, the likelihood of a nitrogen tank making it into the house unnoticed is extremely slim. And due to our “no secrets within the family” rule, the likelihood of my wife’s ex-husband promptly finding out about our baby-making was extraordinarily high. That thought was, um, less than appealing. So the discretion factor was part of it.

But also – how would we actually get the sperm home if we couldn’t pick it up from Dr. R’s office? We would have to have it delivered to our house, which, owing to our two full-time jobs, would mean that our BABYSITTER WOULD BE ACCEPTING DELIVERY OF OUR SPERM. That is just weird.

Plus, my wife is a good cook and everything, but she has definitely forgotten to thaw the chicken we were supposed to have for dinner, and then sort of half-cooked it trying to thaw it in the microwave so we could eat dinner on time. I think the success rate with half-frozen, half-cooked sperm is probably pretty low.

All of this is an extremely long-winded way of saying that we can’t really handle the logistics of a home-insemination. I know, I know. If we can’t handle the logistics of an insemination, how are we going to handle the logistics of a baby? But the thing is, the baby is not going to be a secret from our own kids. This, necessarily, is. At least until it works. Plus, the baby doesn’t have to be thawed at a particular time. And it’s not weird to have your babysitter take care of your baby, the way it’s weird to have your babysitter take care of your sperm. Taking care of your baby is actually the babysitter’s job. Etc.

Still, it was hard to let go of how I thought my conception-story would go.  I wanted it to be “natural.”  Not “artificial.”  I wanted it to be me, and my wife, and some romance. And, you know, sex. Which, heteronormative though it may be, is where I still kind of think babies come from.  But we just can’t.  We can’t make it work, not with everything else going  on in our lives.  So, artificial insemination it is.

Before we left Dr. R’s office, I had an ultrasound and blood drawn. I have a uterus! And two ovaries, one with black lines that are apparently follicles! It was so cool to see it all on the monitor. I pretended like I could see the things Dr. R was pointing out to us, but I’m going to be honest – it was just a bunch of black swirly crap and lines to me. Can other people actually understand things on that show up on the ultrasound monitor? Even when people post ultrasound pictures of their fetuses on Facebook (which is a topic for another post) I always just see black swirls, sometimes with a nose or foot. It’s like those magic-eye posters that were popular when I was in high school. Oh look, it’s a schooner! Anyway, this week, I get the results of my lab tests, and we see if all systems are go for the artificial insemination, which is how these two lesbians are going to bring a baby into the world.

life as it is

About a month ago, we had one of the greatest family weekends ever. We did gazillions of chores (including painting our bathroom, replacing a faulty outlet that has been driving the whole family nuts, and planting peas and new grass seed), we went to gazillions of kids’ sporting events (okay, really just one baseball game and one soccer game, but that is enough, isn’t it?), we had our ex-babysitter and good family friend over for dinner and a bonfire in the backyard, and we played board games. As my wife and I drove to Home Depot to pick up a few things, leaving our now old-enough kids home on their own, I confessed.

You see, I desperately want a baby. I think about pregnancy and small toes and sleepy baby snuggles on a daily basis. But our family has gone through a LOT of changes in the last five years. My wife and I have each moved cross-country, I moved in and became the parents to three kids, we’ve had four job changes between the two of us, I spent a year staying home with the kids, I went back to work, and we got married. And sometimes, just sometimes, I get a little bit afraid that throwing a baby into the mix is going to upset our delicate balance, which we just barely seem to have achieved.

I haven’t wanted to admit this to my wife, because I worry that being a *few* years older than me, and having already birthed three kids, she might be ambivalent about adding to our family. I sometimes am afraid that she will latch onto any lack of confidence in our baby-making plans and turn it against me. Even as I write this, I know how ridiculous that is. My wife is an incredibly loving person. She would never actually turn my own fears against me to get her way. If she was feeling ambivalent about the baby, she would just tell me. But she hasn’t, so she isn’t. She is actually very, very excited to have a baby with me. So I sucked it up, and I admitted to her, “You know, it’s been so nice. Sometimes I am wish we could just put the baby thing on hold and just BE, for a little while.”

My wife laughed. “Me too! But really, I don’t want to.” She correctly noted that none of us were getting any younger, including our kids, and we wanted them to all grow up in the same household. But also, the baby isn’t going to show up immediately. That’s the beauty of a 10 month gestation period. Even if we were to get pregnant right away, we are still a year away from our new baby, which means that we have a whole year to enjoy our family as it is.

When we talked to her about our plans to have another baby, our oldest daughter, who is twelve, was worried. She liked our family just as it is, she said. “There are three pictures on the wall. There’s no room for a fourth,” she reasoned. My wife reminded her of her reaction when her sister was born — after a few hours of amusement, she asked if we could put her baby sister back now. I reminded her that for a while, it was just the two girls, and the family seemed whole then — but imagine it without their pesky little brother. It just wouldn’t seem right. And so, we told her, this is how it will be with the baby. The family seems whole now, and it is. But after the baby is born, we will not be able to imagine life without our youngest child. Sometimes, in these moments of loving my family just as it is, I share a little of my oldest daughter’s worry. But then I remind myself of what we told her. I have no doubt that this family of mine has enough love to grow by one more person, and that once our new baby is here, we won’t be able to imagine life without our youngest child. And that new normal will become life as it is.