Thursday, September 29, 2011

More process...and finally a decision

...Continued from my last post...

Because neither donor egg nor surrogacy felt intuitively right, I began to think that I just needed to surrender and accept that I wasn’t going to have that feeling, that maybe this would be one of those times in life when you use your head, leave your heart and gut out of it, and jump.

And in signing on with a surrogacy agency we jumped. We had our plan. Or so we thought. Only thing was, the further we looked into it, the less comfortable I felt.

As surrogate profiles came in slowly, one by one, I looked at them in front of me and was just filled with fear. None of them had the information I felt I needed to choose someone to carry my child.

On the questionnaires, there was a single question that asked about the carrier’s religious affiliation. So one GC was “Baptist,” another “Christian,” another “Pentecostal.” But honestly, we don’t really care what someone’s religious affiliation is. I’d be much more interested in a Likert-type item, such as “How religious are you on a scale of 0-10?” [With zero being anchored as “I am not religious at all” and 10 being “I am devoutly religious, with thoughts of religion filling most of my waking hours.”] What would my ideal answer be? Probably somewhere between 0-7.

Everyone appeared to potentially be falling on the very religious end of the spectrum, although this was based on their personal statements more than anything. And this seemed a little comforting (maybe the religious ones would have more social support? maybe they'd feel more grounded?), but it also scared me a little. I was raised Catholic but am not practicing so avidly these days. Would it bother me if someone quoted scripture to me when we talked? (maybe) Would I get offended if someone tried to tell me that my cancer or our six losses were “God’s plan”? (probably) What if the person was so religious that they wouldn’t terminate if we had a terrible problem like anecephaly? We don’t want to terminate, of course. We want a child! But not one born without a brain. Watching something like that unfold, and being helpless to stop it, and actually going into significant debt to make it happen, sounded horrible to me. Unlikely scenario, I know. But we've been pretty unlucky in the past! Around and around in my head went all the What Ifs.

The GC’s lifestyle was also really important to me. I wanted to know what their diet was like, were they physically fit? How well did they take care of themselves? But there was a single item on the questionnaire about diet that read simply, “How would you describe your diet”? Choices were “Excellent,” “Good,” “Average,”…etc. Problem is, all but one of the profiles listed their diet as “Average.” And I was left wondering, what in the world does “Average” mean? Being Mo, I didn’t think good thoughts. I thought… "standard American diet…hmmmm…what are they eating? French fries? Kraft Macaroni and Cheese? Popeyes?! There's no nutrition in that!!" More fear.

The other thing that we realized was critical for us was the person being in a stable home situation. We didn’t want someone in the middle of breakup, or the stress of a new relationship, or trying to date, move in, move out, etc. while dealing with pregnancy. And unfortunately, things for the potential GCs didn’t look so great on that front either, but again, information was scanty.

What I learned reading all the profiles is that a lot of things I told myself I could get over and weren’t that important to me were in fact Really Important To Me. And that there was no way to glean this information unless I interviewed each of the candidates myself. Which felt overwhelming. And made me start to resent the role of the agency. We’d be going into great debt to compensate this person - and the agency - and yet none of the things that were most important to me were answered in a way that felt satisfying.

Add to that the seemingly strong possibility that the whole venture wouldn’t even work, because our embryos, albeit chromosomally normal, are not typically developing and may be unable to produce a living child….and, well….

I felt defeated.

Much bigger than this though, and more surprising, was the surging feeling of loss that overcame me. This rush of grief at the idea that I would never be pregnant again. I began tearing up when I saw pregnant women, thinking that I would never have that, never experience it, something I’ve fantasized about since I was a child now completely taken out of the realm of possibility.

And for what? When I thought about it, we actually don’t really have great evidence that I can’t carry a child. Two out of three REs we’ve talked to since the last loss have said chromosomes normal or not, there is likely something fishy with my eggs. We have the one chromosomally normal miscarriage. Which apparently happens sometimes. All the others that were tested were aneuploid.

So I mulled and mulled. All the while we kept reviewing GC profiles. The feeling of loss grew so strong that I found myself asking Will to promise that after we used our embryos with a surrogate that he would agree to us trying an egg donor cycle because it was just too crushing to imagine I would never ever get to be pregnant and give birth. I wanted to at least be able to try. 

Will, wonderful husband that he is, heard the desperation in my voice and said if it was that important to me, we'd find a way to do it. 

And then I started to wonder, if using an egg donor felt truly acceptable, why would we do things in that order? Why do gestational carrier and then egg donor? Wouldn’t it make more sense to use an egg donor first and answer the question of whether I can carry a pregnancy? If I can, no surrogate needed. If I can’t, well, then maybe it wouldn’t feel agonizing in exactly the same way. Maybe then it would feel like this is the way that it is, something more defined and real and therefore easier to accept.

At the same time, I had continued to read about and reflect on our two egg donor candidates. I’d had one take the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and the other one had taken it previously on her own. They both had excellent health histories, were both very smart, both had my skin tone(ish) and hair color. Both were extraordinarily verbal, avid readers, and into the sciences. One was a little older and proven, perhaps a little more intellectual. One was very young and not a prior donor, but enthusiastic, athletic, and grounded. One was a bit of a hippie who wanted to be a museum curator. One was a psychology undergrad now going for an advanced degree in mathematics. One lived in the South. One lived in the West.

I can’t say exactly when the moment hit, but one day there was a rather distinctive shift.

There it was, finally. The “right” feeling I’d been searching for and missing. It was here. I walked around for several days with this feeling wrapped around me, trying it on for size. Was it going to pass as quickly as it came? It didn’t. And it’s been a few weeks now, and it hasn’t. I wasn’t sure exactly how, but one of the egg donors had really become “the one" for me. The other one is really good too, don’t get me wrong, but something about the one we chose clicked right into place. And with the selection, so did my questions about being a mom of a child not related to me; those concerns now seemed remote and not so relevant any more. I felt actually excited about moving ahead with this donor and hopefully bearing a child from her egg.

Will had been checking in with me daily – ok, more than daily - and was in full agreement. We had a decision! Egg donor first, and then surrogacy if needed. If we need a surrogate, hopefully we’ll have some frozens left from the egg donor and can use those in tandem with our own frozens. They won’t be of the same origin, but that really doesn’t feel like it matters much anymore.

I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I feel confident that we will make one – hopefully big – happy family of whatever size, composition, order and method of arrival need be.

If things go well, we will have an egg donor baby around October or November 2012. One way or another, we can make a go of it with the Mo and Will frozen five after that. And the one thing I am absolutely sure of? All babies arriving on the scene will be loved and cherished however and whenever they get here. 


Click here to subscribe
Add to Google Reader or Homepage Subscribe in NewsGator Online Subscribe in Bloglines Add to My AOL

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Deciding: the process

First things first - I am astounded that so many of you are out there still reading this blog after all this time. I am so touched - and a bit shocked - to see your comments. So, thank you for sticking with us. I know it hasn't been a fun read for quite some time, if it ever was. It means a lot that you're still reading.

I promised to try to convey our decision making's been a long one...but here goes....

In terms of trying to figure out where to go after our sixth loss, we've had many options on the table as you know: gestational carrier, donor egg, donor embryo, and sometimes adoption (although adoption has felt like a whole other enchilada with different stressors, rules, and uncertainties, and therefore not the choice for us right now).

The two options that we've been most closely contemplating at this point in time have been using donor egg vs. using a gestational carrier with our own frozen embryos. And deciding between them has been more difficult than I can articulate. I think a lot of it has been due to the fact that we - and our doctors - still don't know what is going wrong. Whether there is something terribly wrong with our embryos (even when they are chromosomally normal) or whether there is something terribly wrong with my body, making me unable to carry a child to term.

We've been round and round and round the different options. I've been researching them, trying each different choice on for size, trying to find the option that seems like the right one to begin with. Typically, my decision-making process involves gathering scads of data to figure out what makes sense rationally and then waiting for some intuitive process to occur to narrow it down from there and feel confident in my decision. Will is much easier than me about all these things. He doesn't question things like I do, doesn't exhaustively research. In fact, if he'd been in charge of this decision, it would have been made long ago, more impulsively, and probably would have been to transfer our embryos yet again into me and see what happened. Problem is, I couldn't do that again, not with our track record. And once Will thought about it a bit, he agreed that it probably wasn't really a very prudent plan.

So in choosing between using a gestational carrier or a donor egg, I tried to get a sense of what each entailed, what we'd be giving up with each choice and how hard that might be, what we'd potentially gain from each choice and how cool that would be, how expensive (my oh my) and uncertain (sigh) each choice would be. I spoke with a couple of friends, I read everything I could get my hands on, I made pro and con lists, I slept on it, I talked to a professional about it. Problem is, even after exhaustive research, neither a gestational carrier with our own embryos nor an egg donor with my body stood out as "feeling" exactly right.

We perused surrogacy forums and databases. We even signed on with a surrogacy agency and had them start looking for a carrier for us. We simultaneously contacted our current and former clinics and got some names of egg donor agencies and began a search across the U.S. at several egg donor agencies with the parameters we thought most important to us in selecting an egg donor.

We narrowed it down to two egg donors at two different agencies. And we began looking at gestational carrier profiles that were sent to us.

And although none of the gestational carrier profiles seemed to be the exact right fit, we figured we would most likely move forward with a gestational carrier because it seemed to make the most rational sense to use our own embryos first..... Meanwhile, Will was ready to move forward with anything. He told me he'd be happy with either egg donor. And as we looked at each gestational carrier profile, he said he'd be fine with each of those as well.  As is typical of Will, he was ready to choose any and every option.

And me? I was scared to commit to any option. I kept waiting for the "right" feeling to come.

(to be continued)


Click here to subscribe
Add to Google Reader or Homepage Subscribe in NewsGator Online Subscribe in Bloglines Add to My AOL

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Two vacations and a funeral

I've been away from this blog for a long time. Much longer than I'd planned.

It's been insanely busy with my new promotion, but while true, that's obviously not the whole explanation for my absence. It's also that it is hard to know what to write as we've struggled and struggled to find the next path. Somehow this space hasn't felt like the right place to continue to hash it out and come to any peace with it. I keep imagining that people are sick of hearing about our fears and misgivings at this point,  our uncertainty about what to do, what specific steps to take, how to get from the "here" of seemingly endless infertility to the "there" of a life with children.

I think we've finally settled on a direction - found something that makes sense intellectually and that feels right (whatever that means at this stage of the journey). I promise to blog about it shortly. It deserves its own post...or maybe several posts.

In the meantime, though, wanted to share a bit about our summer. It's been a beautiful one and a rough one marked by grief.

First, we took a vacation. It was meant to be one of those compensatory vacations that theoretically "make up" for the fact that we can't have children. One of those "we could NEVER go on this vacation with a small child" vacations. Just to make it extra edgy, we camped. In a tent. In the middle of the wilds of our destination... Here's a little video clip to give you a clue about where we were...

Unfortunately, though, a couple of days into this vacation, we received terrible news. Will's father died. He had been ill for some time but stable. Somehow in the middle of the night that Monday night, he became disconnected from his oxygen supply and he passed away.

We received this news late the next day, the evening of our second day, via satellite phone, in our camp (which was comprised of just us, our driver, a cook, and a camp helper). I've never felt so far away in all my life. We then proceeded to try to return from our vacation. Two chartered flights, one intercountry flight into a more developed country, and one transcontinental flight later, we were home, double jetlagged (having never recovered from the first jetlag), and sad beyond belief. On the upside, we already had time off arranged and so could devote ourselves to Will's mother and spend a lot of time with his siblings and nephews.

We've been coping with this loss for much of the latter part of the summer. This plus the fact that somehow Will and I now have jobs that are truly out of control in terms of our responsibilities (and also fortunately in terms of their sense of reward and meaning). Will is hanging in there and we've both tried to step up and be a help to his mom as she transitions to a life alone after 50 years of marriage. We knew this day was coming but it was not expected so soon. It is really so sad to be without Will's father. We're both glad, however, that he is no longer suffering.

As the summer started to fade toward fall, we decided a couple of weeks ago to try again for a vacation. We desperately needed one, actually, and still had the summer slow down going on that affects all of NYC and NYC academia in particular. So we took a long weekend over Labor Day and we went here:

The second trip was lovely. SUPER relaxing and very stimulating all at the same time. And not as far away as we'd always thought! Wish we'd had longer (we only took 3 days off of work), but it was definitely still worth it.

So that's where we've been physically, what we've been dealing with emotionally,  and a promise of forward movement to come on the fertility front.

More on that to come. Soon.


Click here to subscribe
Add to Google Reader or Homepage Subscribe in NewsGator Online Subscribe in Bloglines Add to My AOL
Related Posts with Thumbnails

Popular Posts