birthdays

Today is my birthday. I’m 33, now. As I mentioned before, it’s also my wife’s birthday. It’s really, actually pretty fun sharing a birthday, like we have our own special club, that no one except my wife, me, and my wife’s college roommate are in.

And yet, after finally getting our positive pregnancy test this week, it’s hard to focus on anyone’s birthday except our little one’s, which we are hoping to be celebrating some time around the end of January. I never thought celebrating a birthday sans champagne would be so much fun.

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seventeen

Today is cycle day seventeen.  I spent the weekend agonizing over my pee sticks, as I always do when ovulation is imminent, and finally decided after lining up four nearly-identical pee sticks in front of my wife and sister on Sunday night, that it was too early.  Yesterday, I got a true “light line” in the morning, scheduled my IUI for today, and then confirmed with a “dark line” last night.  I was still fretting that I had missed my ovulation, since I usually don’t get the dark line until I am practically ovulating, but my temp this morning was nearly identical to what it was yesterday, so I took that as a good sign.

[An aside about temping.  As annoying as it has been, I find it really useful. My temperature barely fluctuates from 97 degrees, and it was a relief this morning to find it at 96.99, so that I was pretty confident I had not missed the boat. I am hoping to see a good solid shift after ovulation.  All-in-all, useful, and not nearly as annoying as I thought I would find it. Also I get up to go to the bathroom, and I drink, and whatever, and it hasn’t fluctuated too much, so if you are on the fence, give it a try.]

Allllllright. So I go in this morning for my IUI at 8am. The first bad news is that the one doctor in the practice that I really don’t like will be doing my IUI.  He ignores my wife, he doesn’t tell me when he’s about to stick shit in my vagina, etc.  We refer to him informally as “the mean guy.”  He’s also the doctor who habitually keeps us waiting — once it was over an hour, with our little squiggles just sitting there in a test tube, losing vitality.

We pick up our sperm at apparently a really high-traffic time, because there is a guy leaving the masterbatorium (what is that jack-off room called? I don’t know) awkwardly standing there with a paper bag and two other guys waiting for use of the masterbatorium while we wait to pick up our sperm.  Classy.  Our numbers are good – upwards of 60% motility. I am feeling happy as we head into the room.

HOWEVER.  The Mean Guy enters, and as per usual, talks to the countertop while ignoring my wife.  He does not adjust the stirrups, so my heels are somewhere up my ass and it’s really uncomfortable — even after I joke that the bed is set up for a person much shorter than me.  Without a word, he sticks the biggest metal speculum I have ever seen up my dainty lesbian vagina, and does the insemination.  I jump when he touches me, because every other doctor that has shoved things in my vagina ever has said something along the lines of “I am about to shove something in your vagina” before they go ahead and do it.  In fact, every person who has shoved something in my vagina has given me some kind of a heads-up, doctor or otherwise.

After the insemination, he does the sonogram with the screen tilted away from both me and my wife.  When my wife stands up and asks to see, he says impatiently “I’m going to show you.”  Okay fine.  Only he doesn’t, not really. The other doctors all show us the whole thing: Here’s your uterus — this is your lining, looking good.  This white stuff is the sperm we just put in there.  This is your right ovary, no follicle.  This is your left, let’s measure that follicle, do you see it, etc.   Not so for Mean Guy. He is keeping all the info for himself, and only after he finds the follicle does he turn the screen.  He says “This is your follicle.  You haven’t ovulated, so you need to come back tomorrow,” and then turns the screen back to himself.  I ask how big it is, and Mean Guy says he’s about to measure. “Seventeen millimeters,” he says.  Then snap-snap off come the gloves, and he’s gone.

SEVENTEEN?  It just can’t be right.  I have never, ever in the 8 months I’ve been monitoring, ovulated after day 18, and almost always on day 16 or 17 — only once on day 18, ever.  The follicles grow about 2 mm a day, which I know from a different doctor who actually stuck around for questions. And I usually ovulate with that sucker around 25mm.  That would have me four days away from ovulation, which can’t be right given all the other signs.  I have never ovulated as late as day 21, and I would be shocked if I was about to start doing that now.

We then find out that there are no doctors available to do another insemination in the morning tomorrow, only in the afternoon.  So we make an appointment at 2:15, which I will have to cancel if my temp is up in the morning, as it will be far too late in the day to catch an egg that is released sometime today or overnight.

So I am sitting here worrying.  More, again.  There is so much of that in this process. Did Mean Guy mess up the measurements?  Is my follicle really only 17mm?  Is it possible I have already ovulated and that the follicle he was measuring was already collapsing? Shouldn’t he have been able to tell that, if he’s any good?  I wish he hadn’t even done the sonogram.  I wish I didn’t have to have Mean Guy anymore. He always seems to be the Tuesday morning doctor, though, and I’d rather have the timing right with an asshole doctor than miss the timing and have a nice doctor.

Also. What if sonograms kill sperm?

if we wanted Chlamydia, we’d ask for it

I have spent a lot of time over the past few days fretting about how my doctor proposed maybe considering Clomid for the next cycle if this one doesn’t work.  I think this one will work, right? There are a lot of variables that have changed:  new donor, HSG test, two inseminations this month (one today, one tomorrow, yay!), and ever-lowering prolactin levels.  Good for pregnancy odds, not so good for a controlled study, I guess.  Nonetheless, I feel like “considering Clomid” is hanging over my head like a dark cloud.

Yesterday, I confessed to my wife that I was worried about this.  I don’t want to try medication, yet, I told her.  It made the already-awful HSG test worse to have it popped on me while I was still bleeding on the x-ray table that we had to start thinking about fertility meds.

“Well, honestly.  I don’t think she needs to keep bringing it up.  If we wanted Chlamydia, we’d ask for it, right?” my wife said.

“Clomid.”

“What? What’s that?  What’s Clomid?”

“That’s the medication.  The medication is Clomid.  Chlamydia is an STD.”

“Oh, right.  Clomid, then.  Whatever, the logic still stands.”  The woman has a good point.

the hsg test – ow, and nooooooo

Today, I had the HSG test.  I had to take a pregnancy test before I could have the HSG test, so I went to my ordinary doctor’s office about an hour and a half before my appointment to find out if I was knocked up already.  I failed one test, and passed the other — I’ll give you one guess which is which.

I had been advised by the nurse to take ibuprofen an hour or so before the test, but of course, because I was so insanely early for the HSG test, I instead sat in the sandwich shop, eating broccoli soup and reading my book until my frantic and late-as-usual wife showed up to hustle me down to radiology.

The test itself was painful.  More painful, actually, than I thought it would be.  I think this is because my doctor had some difficulty getting the catheter in deep enough, so she used some horrible sword-like device that “would cause considerable cramping.”  That’s an understatement, when someone is shoving a sword into your cervix.  The one upside is that it was fast — about 2 minutes, once they wrangled that catheter through my apparently maze-like cervix.

And, I guess the other up-side is that my tubes are clear.  Totally clear. So now there’s just some dye swimming around in my abdominal cavity and some residual bleeding from the sword fight to deal with.  And a free and clear path for this month’s lucky gentlemen (the sperm, I mean).

After the procedure, when the doctor told me my tubes are clear, she dropped the bomb — she thinks that if this cycle doesn’t work, I should consider Clomid for next time.  My desire to go on Clomid ranks somewhere between “root canal” and “brain removed through nasal passages using a hook.”  Not to mention the risk! of! multiples!  Maybe she wasn’t paying attention when we told her we already have a shit-ton of kids, and we would like to up the ante one at a time.  When she said this, I wanted to say to my wife “See!  It’s really abnormal that it’s taking this long!  And therefore breaking down the bedroom door was a totally normal reaction to the frustration and disappointment!”  Unfortunately, she wasn’t allowed in the x-ray room with me, and I was still lying prostrate on an x-ray table with god only knows what on display for the rest of the room to see, so I just nodded and told her we would think about it.

I’m done thinking about it.  No.  No Clomid.  Maybe I’ll just go ahead and get pregnant this month, instead.

the mermaid

I wrote the post below last Thursday, but have avoided publishing it. It seems so negative, so melodramatic. But honestly, trying to conceive is one of the most difficult experiences I’ve had, and quite frankly, I often feel pretty negative and melodramatic.  I will find out if I am pregnant over the weekend. I am sure, as this week draws to a close, I will have some hope, some optimism, and then, either some more disappointment or some elation. We shall see. But for now, I just feel overwhelmingly, decidedly not pregnant.  I don’t understand how I possibly could be pregnant, when I feel exactly the same as I always do.

***

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sunday night, we got the “light line” on our OPK. While we had agreed just a few days before with our RE that it was time to start reading our OPKs differently so that we did not miss ovulation each time we inseminated, I was nervous. I thought we’d see the light line in the morning, so we’d have plenty of time to get to “dark line” by the time we did our insemination. But getting the light line at night meant that Monday morning, when it was time to make the call, I still had just a light line. So, we hesitated. Should we ask for a sonogram before they thawed the sperm?

We finally decided to just go for it. We had two specimens left from our hot smart donor, which meant that if Monday was too soon, we could try again on Tuesday. We got in the car to head to the doctor’s office. Then, while my wife drove, I looked at our calendars.

“Okay. So you have an 8:30 meeting, a 10am meeting, and a 3pm meeting. I have a 10:30 conference call, a 1pm call, and a 4pm call. So…. Can you skip anything?”

“No. Not really. Can you?”

“Nope. What the hell.” It was 7:45. Even if they thawed the sperm right then, my wife would be late for her 8:30 meeting. “The only window we have is between 11:30 and 1.”

“Well,” said my wife, “I guess we’re doing it between 11:30 and 1.”

Our doctor’s office is basically across the street from where my wife works, but it’s a good hour and a half on mass transit from where I work. The way my meetings were spaced, there was no getting into the office if we did the insemination between 11:30 and 1.

So, I had to figure out what to tell my boss about why I suddenly wasn’t coming in. I had been out sick for a week over Halloween, I had just taken half a day off to meet with the RE on Thursday. I was rapidly running out of good excuses for not showing up to work. How much easier would it be on everyone if you could just say, “Hey, we’re trying to get pregnant here, so I am going to be missing a shitload of work. Okay great.” I only had one excuse I hadn’t exhausted. “I guess I have to say its a childcare issue. ”

“It is,” my wife said. “It’s just the child we don’t have yet.”

My wife set me up to work in a cubicle at her office, and we went our separate ways. I called the doctor’s office at 8:30, when their desk opened, and told the receptionist I needed to schedule an IUI. “Oh, well, hm. We’re really booked today. Could you do 11:30?”

I wanted to kiss her. “Yes! 11:30 is perfect. Thank you!” I could barely contain my excitement.

I will spare you the details, but the insemination was the best yet. My 10:30 call ended early, and we were actually on time for once in our lives. We didn’t have to wait. A female doctor was working, instead of the cranky man doctor who ignores my wife that had done the last 3 inseminations. When the doctor did the post-insemination sonogram, my follicle was over 24mm and irregularly shaped, indicating that I was about to ovulate at any second. The timing, for once, was dead-on. I went and got a salad with my wife in the bright fall sunshine, and then we both went back to work. It was surreal. It was like an hour out of time, when everything went right for us.

Something about the way everything lined up this time made me feel like there was a bit of magic in it all, and I want to believe this is the time we made our baby. We were both so present this time.

Then, yesterday, came the fear.

I’m afraid I’m setting myself up for disappointment if this isn’t the time. It felt so right, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t it. But sometimes I can’t help but feel like the baby has become a myth, like a mermaid. I’ve wanted this for so long. I want so badly to believe that flash in the water was something magical, but deep down, I know that mermaids aren’t real, and magic does not happen for ordinary people like me.

month two, day one

Spoiler:  I got my period today, so I’m not pregnant.  That did not, however, stop me from thinking I was pregnant every day for the last roughly two weeks.  I should really have written a post about the “real” insemination, where I got the true positive on the ovulation kit, bullied and shoved my way into the doctor’s office for an insemination even though everyone was on vacation because it was the week they all take off to clean the IVF lab, and was told that the timing was basically perfect.   But, I didn’t have time, what with my cousin’s wedding out of state, getting trapped in said state due to a freak thunderstorm, and traveling for work.  Don’t worry, though, I did not miss writing a post about the moment our baby was conceived, because our baby was not conceived this month.

The thing is.  The timing can be perfect. You can do everything right, and drink an insane amount of club soda and cranberry juice, which it turns out is a nice substitute for a cocktail at your cousin’s wedding, and have a SUPER sensitive sense of smell (what was going on in that cab that made me want to retch?) and still not be pregnant.  Sometimes I don’t understand how that can happen.  How can the human race reproduce at all when a totally healthy person can get the timing just so perfect and be so careful, and it still doesn’t work?  And DAMN YOU UNPLANNED PREGNANCY PEOPLE.  I know you are out there, staring in horror at your positive pregnancy tests even now, head spinning, wondering what you are going to do.  And I hate you a little.

Now that that’s out of the way, I will say this.  I had, when we totally blew the timing of our first insemination, gotten my head around the fact that we would probably not be getting pregnant the first month.  Okay, fine.  There was a minuscule chance of that anyway.  And when we went in to start the process at our doctor’s office, they told us that we would probably be pregnant by the end of the year.  So that is really a more realistic timeframe.  Nonetheless, I had my hopes up.  I mean, someone has to get pregnant the first month, right?  So I was really secretly hopeful. Maybe it could be us, maybe we would be the lucky ones.  Also, a little smug.  Don’t tell anyone, but I was totally convinced that I could WILL MYSELF PREGNANT.

One of my friends is going through a similar process, only she is about a month ahead of me. She said she spent her first two week wait googling “early pregnancy symptoms” and such.  I thought to myself at the time that lots of people don’t get symptoms, and really the only important symptom is a late period, so I would just keep really busy and try to avoid making myself crazy over it.  WRONG.  Within days, I was googling “early pregnancy symptoms” myself and sort of ritualistically punching myself in the boob every time I went to the bathroom to see if they were sore.  Hint: if you punch yourself in the boob repeatedly, eventually they become sore.

Then, yesterday, when I started spotting (LIKE I DO EVERY MONTH ON THE DAY BEFORE I GET MY PERIOD) I googled whether this could be implantation bleeding, even though I totally knew that if it was, it was far too late for me to hold the pregnancy anyway, and since I was due for my period today, we all really knew what it was.  Nonetheless, there I was, taking a stupid online quiz full of information I already knew from previous obsessive searches.

The internet is evil, people.  For every person with some kind of symptom, there are three more with different symptoms, or different bleeding, or no symptoms at all.  CLOSE THE BROWSER.  STEP AWAY FROM THE IPHONE.  It is the only way to stay sane.  Also, do not use a possible pregnancy as an excuse to stop working out.  All that does is make you bloated, which you can tell yourself is another sign you are pregnant, when it’s not.  It’s because you haven’t gone running in 11 days.

So.  Here are the things I am going to do differently this month, for our second try:

1. I am going to take 50 mg of B6.  I have a short-ish luteal phase and all the websites say B6 is good for that. Plus it makes me feel like I am doing something proactive, which I like.  Note: If your drugstore only sells the 100mg tablets, trying to cut them in half with your letter opener at work just makes it look like you have cocaine all over your desk.

2. I am going to try VERY HARD not to spend so much time at the office.  I’ve had a wonky work schedule the last month (I was here until 1 am last night!) and it does nothing for bloating.  Also the sleep-deprivation is not so great for trying to conceive.  And the longer I sit in front of a computer, the more tempted I am to google things I should not be googling. Really, the only time I was not obsessed with whether or not I was pregnant was the time I was out there doing things – hanging with the kids, or celebrating one year and two weeks of marriage with my lovely wife (hey, when you have kids, you take these things when you can get them), or laughing my ass off with my sister when we read her middle school journal.

3. Exercise.  It felt really good to let it go and go for that run yesterday.  Maybe I could even get back on track with my Fully Fertile thing, which I abandoned a scant three weeks in, and do some yoga.

timing is everything

I wish I could say that the whole insemination process has been great, because I am so very in-tune with the wonder of my feminine cycle.  In reality, it is a frustrating pain in the ass.

I tend to ovulate late.  My cycles are kind of long, and last month I got a positive ovulation kit on day 18.  So when the nurse suggested I come in on day 10 so they could measure my follicles and predict when I would ovulate, I balked.  I explained that my cycles were on the longer side, and my ovulation on the later side.  But what if it wasn’t late next month?  She countered.  Okay fine, good point.  So I agreed to come in on day 11, which was Wednesday, and have the follicle-measuring sonogram then.

Only, as I predicted, it was too early.  Or I wasn’t going to ovulate this month, but I tried not to think about that.  Either way, there were no follicles developing at this point, but it was too early to tell why.  So I had to wait, and come back later.  Usually, they will ask you to come back in three days, but three days from Wednesday was Saturday, so they scheduled me for today, Monday.

Saturday night, I got a positive ovulation kit.  This was on the heels of a family-wide fight about the new baby and the bedroom arrangements (which ended beautifully, by the way, as our family-wide fights tend to — with long pent up feelings expressed on all sides and a new understanding of each others’ viewpoints).  So here we are, all of our emotions raw, needing nothing more than a little down-time as a family.  I pee on the stupid stick, and I get that fucking smiley face looking back at me.  Of all the times.

What this means, though, is that I have to go in on Sunday and get a sonogram before they can thaw my sample, to see if I have any follicles at all, or if I am surging but not ovulating. Then, if the timing is right, we would wait while they would thaw the sperm and we would do our first insemination. HOWEVER.  We have three kids and a new puppy, and do not actually want to bring all four of these creatures to the insemination.   AND it’s Sunday, so it’s not our normal doctor.

Also, it’s our one-year wedding anniversary.  And have I mentioned we are on vacation on an island, which is only accessible by boat, and where there is a decided lack of appropriate child-care?

Without even really thinking about it, we decide that we will take the ferry off the island, pile everyone in the car, drive to the doctor’s office, and leave the kids with the dog in the parking lot watching a movie on the iPad.  Hooray for electronic babysitters, and a stellar parenting moment.  Only when we go to get in the car, the battery is flat.  It’s possible at this point that I chucked the dog’s towel across the parking lot and announced that it was hopeless.  We are now late as well.  We decide to compound the lateness by stopping for bagels, much to the delight of everyone in the car except the dog, who is not allowed a bagel.  I figured that once you’re already late, there is no point in being late AND HUNGRY ALSO.  This chaos is our life.  I wish I could say it was abnormal, but to our kids, this was just another Sunday.  Good thing we are having another baby.

We jump the car, get the bagels, and drive to the clinic, with my wife artfully dodging “slow” drivers the whole way.  When we arrive, our oldest daughter loudly asks, “Why are you having a meeting at a building called HUMAN REPRODUCTION?” Oh yeah, did I mention that we had vaguely told the kids we had a “meeting” to go to, but did not go into detail as to what it was?  We figured that the oldest, at least, would figure it out if she wanted to, being nearly 13 years old and well aware of the fact that we are trying to have a baby.  So, I’m guessing that she figured it out.  Our general approach to questions we do not want to answer is to either not respond at all, and hope they get distracted, or to respond with words that are beyond their vocabulary, in order to confuse them even more.  Before she can ask again, the dog goes ballistic, trying to get a bite of the little one’s bagel, and everyone is appropriately distracted.  Success.

We go in for the sonogram, which is…. inconclusive.  My follicle’s at 17mm.  Some people do ovulate with 17mm follicles, but not all that many, I guess.  Usually it’s around 20mm.  We hem and haw.  Do we do the insemination, and risk that it’s too early?  It is our anniversary, after all, which is bound to be good luck, and we did drag the kids and dog here to sit in the parking lot all morning.  We decide to go for it.  The doctor recommends that he also take blood to confirm the hormone surge, and anticipate when I should come back.

My wife runs outside to check on the kids, and recommends that they move from the overly-hot car to the shade of a nearby tree.  She leaves them lounging on the grass, playing with the puppy and watching Wall-E.

An hour later, and I am lying on my back, while my wife holds my hand, waiting for the doctor to come back in.  And you know what’s playing on the radio?  “I see a red door and I want to paint it blaaaaaaack.”

“Do you think we are allowed to ask them to change it?”  I wonder.  “This is creepy.”  I am so nervous.

My wife just looks at me and starts imitating sperm to make me laugh.  It works.  Also, the song changes to “Bobby McGhee,” which helps.

The insemination itself is uneventful.  The doctor makes a joke about the speculum.  It feels like a pap smear and mild period cramps at the same time.  It is over before I know it.

I drink a glass of champagne that night, because it’s my anni-fucking-versary, thankyouverymuch, and over the champagne and the review of wedding photos, I look at my wife.  “I’m totally pregnant,” I tell her.

“I know,” she says.  “I can feel it.”

The next morning, we get a call from the doctor’s office, saying that my blood work showed that it was almost certainly a false positive on the pee stick, and I should go in for another sonogram because the insemination was in all likelihood way too early.

So, this afternoon, I go in for the third sonogram in under a week.  Thus, this man is the third stranger who has looked into my vagina in 5 days.  He informs me that I’m NOT totally pregnant, because I haven’t ovulated yet.  But my follicle is a ripe 21 mm, so I’m going to ovulate any day now.  He offers me a shot to make me ovulate in the next 24 hours, which I decline.  It seems a little early to me to have shots of hormones and who knows what injected into me.  It’s the first month!

On my way back to work, I run into our old babysitter in the subway.  I say “old,” but I mean she used to be our babysitter and isn’t anymore, not that she is actually old.  She is actually the same age I am (which is YOUNG).  We make plans to go to the beach.  I am forced to tell her that we are trying to have another baby because I am so excited I can’t NOT tell her, and also, what am I doing on the upper east side in the middle of the workday?

I go back to work, and pee on the stick again.  It’s an O, not a smiley face, so I am not surging (according to stick).  Apparently the smiley face guy does not know about my 21mm follicle.  Maybe I peed on the stick too early?  I decide to try it again tonight before bed.  I have decided that I will not get pregnant this month, and that I should not get my hopes up.  This is the month where all the crazy shit goes wrong, not the month for getting pregnant.  But it is also the month we figure out the timing, which will help us in the future months.

I call my wife, and tell her about the babysitter and the 21 mm and the pee stick.  “You’re definitely getting pregnant tomorrow,” she says.

“I know,” I say. “I can feel it.”

So much for not getting my hopes up.

picnic tables and sperm donors

After we realized that we would miss our July insemination, my wife and I took a deep breath and looked toward August.  In reality, we needed this time.  It was too hectic, coming home from our trip to Paris, dealing with the prolactin issue, and we hadn’t really had time to process what we were getting into and how we were feeling about all of it.  Over the last two weekends, we have spent a lot of time talking about the emotional and logistical issues that we needed to work through before we could get pregnant.  We talked about what it meant to bring a baby into a family with three older kids.  We talked about how we would handle work and family pressures with a baby to care for.  We cried a little, fought a little, and talked even more.  It took us two weeks to do the emotional and logistical work that we needed to get to the point where, Sunday morning, we sat down to pick our donor.

A few months ago (is it months already!?) we sat down with a couple bottles of beer and an iPad and narrowed the field.  Let me start by saying that the sperm bank has 3 different subscription levels, which each cost a different amount.  The cheapest plan gets you the most basic information, and the most expensive gets you the most comprehensive information.  On the weekend that we did the narrowing of the field, we had just bought a picnic table.  Picnic tables are shockingly expensive — the table that we had to spend 11 hours assembling (that is a slight exaggeration, but only slight) was like $300.  And they go up from there.  Anyway, through a glitch of ordering, we wound up with two picnic tables being delivered.  After some deliberations, we decided to keep both of them, because we have a big deck and didn’t have room for anyone but our family if we only had one.  My wife likes to have room for company so we can constantly invite people over, so we just spent the extra $300 and kept them both.  We’re sitting there, after putting together one of our extra picnic tables, trying to decide what subscription to get.  I vote for the middle-of-the-road subscription, which is about $100 cheaper than the top-of-the-line subscription.

Moon Valley Cedar Works M700 Outdoor Picnic Table

(not our actual picnic table, but the actual picnic table we bought. and finished.  and assembled. for hours.)

“Okay, good idea,” my wife says. “It’s just HALF THE GENETIC MATERIAL FOR OUR KID.  You’re right, let’s save a hundred bucks.  Maybe we can go buy some more picnic tables with it.”  We got the most expensive subscription.  This included, for the record, some kind of cool things (like baby or childhood pictures of the donors) and some kind of creepy things (like audio of them answering questions, which made my skin crawl so I made my wife turn it off after 2 seconds).

We used all of our most idiosyncratic criteria, indulged all of our whims and gut-feelings (“That guy looks like he would be mean to the other kids on his baseball team!  Delete!”), and got ourselves down to 4 potential donors.  We tried to choose someone built like my wife (long and lanky) who was good at sports and had Irish ancestry.  I wanted freckles, because one of the things I love about my wife are her millions of freckles.  She even has freckles on her earlobes.  (No donors have freckles.  They should find some donors with freckles.)  We liked donors who were described as neatly dressed.  We liked donors who were articulate on their personal essays.  All of these things mattered, but none was controlling.  They were just sort of guides as we navigated through the thousands of profiles, random reasons to say yes to this one and no to those five.

And.  We preferred an anonymous donor.  Donors can be either anonymous or open, meaning that they agree to a one-time meeting with their potential future offspring when said offspring turns 18.  Maybe it’s because we watched The Kids Are All Right.  Maybe its because it undermines our sense that we (WE) are the parents, not the donor.  Maybe it’s because just last week we had to deal with yet another person asking us “But whose kids are they REALLY?”  Maybe we will regret this one day, but we did not want to choose an open donor.  The donor is a donor, not a dad.  And so, he will remain anonymous — to us, to our kid — forever.

I must admit, we have a teeny bit of ambivalence about this choice, because we have a good friend who was adopted, and went to great lengths to track down her birth-mother when she was 18.  She felt it was really, really important to her to find and make peace with the woman who gave birth to her, and firmly supports adoptees’ access to this information.  But we believe that there’s a difference.  We know this isn’t the right choice for everyone, but it’s the right choice for us.

Anyway, when we sat down to look at our six potential donors (I had added in two more that met our criteria as I checked back with the sperm bank website over the weeks between initial review and decision time) with our coffee on Sunday morning, we quickly ruled out four of them.  We were down to one Hot Donor and one Smart Donor.  Let me just say, I don’t know where they find these guys, because basically they are ALL hot and ALL smart.  But one was hotter than usual, and one was smarter than usual.  Smart Donor had a kid already, of his own, so he knew he could get someone pregnant.  But something about Hot Donor just felt better.  Maybe we are shallower than we thought, but he also seemed articulate, and the “staff impression” was that he was well-dressed in professional clothes. I like someone who takes their shit seriously, and puts on some goddamn khakis before he goes for a sperm-donor interview.  For all of these reasons and none of these reasons, we chose Hot Donor.

In the end, my wife is right, it’s a super important decision (more important than, say, a spare picnic table).  But also, it’s not.  There’s no way to know the really important stuff, or how much the really important stuff is even passed down through genes.  Sometimes, two hot people have funny-looking kids.  Not that being hot is the most important thing, but it’s not the LEAST important thing either.  Sometimes, two smart people have a kid who’s kind of…. not as smart.  Sometimes, two totally average people produce spectacular offspring.  Whatever.

What really matters is that we finally picked our donor.  It actually felt great to take our time, talk through our shit, and be in a really good place when we finally sat down to choose.  Maybe, just MAYBE, it was a good thing that we had this extra month, because now we are both CRAZY EXCITED.  Today, I’m going to call the bank and order up some premium IUI sperm from our Hot Donor.

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.

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.