We got the goods.

So today was kind of a momentous day.

After Friday’s appointment with the doctor, we spent the evening checking out potential donors (I mean, let’s be honest: we’ve been looking at donors for the past few months, and finally got serious on Friday) and narrowed our list down to a short few. We then purchased a subscription to view more information on the cryobank’s website, and – through process of elimination and our most most basic gut instincts – found the donor we pretty much knew was “our guy”:

  • His ancestry is a combination of parts of each of ours
  • His personality is similar to both of us, and he seems like someone we would generally respect and appreciate as a human being (which is important, should our future children ever want to get in touch with him)
  • He is open to being contacted one day (which we felt was really important)
  • He’s intelligent

We also found out after reaching out to our clinic today that my tests from last week came back and I am CMV negative (which I NEVER thought I would be as I’ve done a lot of reading on it and was exposed to a lot of the things which are thought to be linked to CMV as a child) and fortunately – so he is, which made our lives a lot easier as it is suggested that CMV negative carriers utilize CMV negative donors. We also found out that my AMH level is 4.4, which the nurse said is above average and makes sense considering the follicle count that the doctor advised us of last week. So I have a green light should we elect to conceive baby#2 via IUI. So I placed an incredibly expensive order for sperm that will be stored until we are ready to proceed (we didn’t want to risk losing out on this person since we felt there were so few individuals who met all of our criteria: and this guy did, and THEN some!)

I really wanted to tell someone, but we are staying tight lipped about this process until after we successfully conceive, so for now…our dog knows all of the exciting details (and we hope she won’t tell).

We then got the disappointing news that our clinic appointment – which was supposed to be tomorrow – got pushed out by two weeks (to be fair, they were ready to meet with us next week, but I’ll be traveling again). So we now have to wait for any additional info about the costs of the actual procedure (including how much all of the medication will cost as we still don’t know which medication we’ll be taking and are supposed to better understand all of that during our appointment) and I’ll have to come up with ANOTHER excuse to duck out of work for two hours, as the one I had given my boss for tomorrow won’t work again in two weeks. Ugh.

Part of me thinks I should tell my boss now, but I am also another few days away from learning more about the fate of my current role, so I don’t want to say or do anything that will affect my ability to keep this job beyond this year.

So many things to think about, but at the moment: we rest, and celebrate overcoming another big hurdle today, and patiently wait another two weeks for the next step in this process.

Wishing you all good luck wherever you are in the process!

These dreams go on when I close my eyes…

This time last year, I was having a lot of nightmares about our wedding. When brides before me used to say they had “wedding nightmares” I envisioned burning churches, wedding serial killers, or some Stephen King iteration of the big day. My nightmares were less dramatic, albeit slightly more terrifyingl: several times I visualized a grey and lifeless version of our venue, void of family and friends: they couldn’t make it, they forgot, they didn’t want to come…the list went on. Sometimes we sent the invitations out with the wrong date. In one dream, our guests came but there was no one around to help us get ready so it was basically an ordinary day with family and friends – no white dresses, no makeup, no DJ.

Don’t get me wrong: I recognize that those things don’t make a wedding. Our wedding was the pictures we took, the laughs, the hugs, the dancing, the food and drinks we enjoyed with our favorite people in this world. But, the DJ and the makeup may have helped to add that magical touch.

So the day came (and so did our guests) and we got married at a venue on a lake surrounded by about 120 of our family and friends. We are both Catholic and although we don’t go to church EVERY Sunday, our religion has played (and continues to play) a significant role in both of our lives. Although we knew that we would never marry in a church, we attempted to incorporate elements of our faith, and the year before – we attended an Easter vigil ceremony at which my wife’s sister-in-law was baptized as an adult. The church had a beautiful candlelit ceremony during which the candidates for baptism lit the candles of the church members nearest them, and the flame was passed on until the darkened church was filled with the light from about 200 candles. It took my breath away. My mother-in-law helped us to write a poem about the light my wife and I were sharing, and how it lit up the room in much the same way that its bearers lit up our lives, and we re-created the church scene in our secular venue, surrounded by people – many of whom didn’t understand our relationship in the past, or perhaps even now – but loved and supported us in spite of it, and in some cases because of it. And the day was perfect. Not at all grey. Not at all empty.

Now that the wedding is in the rear view mirror, the nightmares involve sad baby-less dreams. Last night I dreamed that we had arrived at our “implantation day” (I guess we fast forwarded through everything else) and the doctor casually inserted some sort of catheter-like device, pushed something out of it, and told us to come back the following day for a check up. It felt rushed, and impersonal, and…kind of grey. Can something feel like a color? Does that even make sense? Needless to say, we weren’t pregnant when we went back for our “magical 24 hour later” appointment and the doctor couldn’t seem to understand why we were upset.

I think this dream have been prompted by a rather disappointing visit I had with the doctor earlier this week for my internal ultrasound. Unlike my HSG appointment, I didn’t feel quite as rushed and was taken much sooner (not surprising since I was at the office at 7am). After stripping down and waiting on the table with a white paper gown over my lap, nervously sweating despite the chill that the air conditioning left in the room, I was relieved to see the doctor come in (and – even though I am accustomed to having female OBGYN doctors – I wasn’t a fan of the extra lady who had to accompany him in, but it is what it is). Before he started the procedure, I double checked (I really need to stop doing that) that he would be getting a “good” read on…well..whatever he was trying to get a read on, since I wasn’t come in on Day 3 of my period, and he stopped, looked really confused, flipped his notepad, and said, “well, wait…what day are you on then?” I reminded him that he suggested that I come in during the “first half of my cycle” (his email to me which was confirmed by his nurse when I called) and he asked what the plan was to get pregnant, and I reminded him that we wanted to use my uterus, my wife’s eggs, and a donor. “Uh, yes…” he started, nervously as he flipped through a few papers on his clipboard. “That’s perfect then”. He mentioned something about counting my follicles and checking the lining of my uterus, and then uttered my most loathed words at such an appointment, “now if you’ll just move down and put your legs up here..” as he motioned to the stirrups.

I hate internal exams. I hate the speculum only slightly more than I hate that little device they use at the dentist office that scrapes the plaque off of your teeth and makes your gums bleed while it emits a noise that is reminiscent of nails on a chalkboard. I REALLY hated the HSG test (which combined that plus an injection of dye that felt like it was made out of needles), but the internal ultrasound: not bad. Not bad at all.

So he showed me my uterus and said it looked good, and said that between both ovaries he counted about 18 follicles (I still don’t know exactly what it means and if that’s good or bad, but he sounded happy so I’m guessing it’s not awful), and he said that we could likely use my eggs or my wife’s without any issues. He then took some measurements of my uterus (or the lining – I mean, I don’t know how people can see a baby on those things let along a solid grey uterine mass that just looks like white noise on an old TV) but he then said, “If we get you pregnant, this is where the baby is going to go.” Hold on. Wait a second. Slow down. Dear Sir…I know this isn’t guaranteed and all, but I’m going to need you to demonstrate a LITTLE more confidence than “if” we get you pregnant.

So there was that.

And then after the appointment, I met with the clinic’s financial person (who I learned is a general financial adviser? consultant? Not sure on her exact title) and the lady we worked with at their other location was the IVF-specific adviser, and I explained to her where we left off and she stopped and asked what I did for work and suggested that I look into advocacy work as she was moved by my passion for our cause. She offered to follow up with the insurance company and triple-check that everything we’ve been told is correct, which was a fruitless effort as she called me back about 2 hours later to inform me that there is now some kind of form that has to be signed that verifies that we understand the stipulations of the state fertility mandate and that we are seeking care anyway (or something like that).  Keep in mind that back in February/March, TWO CLINICS verified our benefits and said that we didn’t even require prior authorization let alone a formal document that had to be signed, so I’m calling BS here, but I’m honestly getting tired of fighting.

I think that’s why I ended up having that dream. So after all of that, the IVF adviser’s boss (so, if you’re following this blog…at all…is the boss of the woman from two entries back who we met with in the city) called me to confirm that we truly wanted to sign this form and confirm some of the specifics of our care, and I asked her point blank, if she thought that we were correct in pushing this given the experiences of our friends and the fact that the insurance company has given us so many different answers. She hesitated, and said she wasn’t really sure what I meant/wanted, and that our friend’s case was different because they had a medical need for IVF, despite not having demonstrated the “attempts” required by the mandate. (I would argue that we – too – have a medical need…I mean, we have no sperm, lady!) but she went on to say that if someone had a damaged tube (or something like that…I was kind of annoyed at this point so things began to blur) or low sperm motility, pursuing a less costly method of pregnancy such as IUI first would be fruitless, and thus – would warrant coverage due to the mandate. I was now livid, and feel kind of sorry because my frustration was misdirected at her, but I asked if a heterosexual couple in which the man had low sperm motility would automatically be granted IVF coverage over being required to pursue a sperm donor (which is much less costly for the insurance company although shitty for the couple) while we wouldn’t be entitled to IVF OR IUI coverage – even if we go out and buy our own sperm – she said, “yes, I believe that’s correct.” WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. F&$K.

So I stopped arguing at that point, because it felt pretty pointless. It would have been nice if she ended it with, “I get it. It sucks. I’m sorry.” but she went on with some clinical bullshit, so I told her we’ll just have to sink further into our research on self pay options, and hung up.

I also found out (which may be common knowledge but it wasn’t to us) that although we have a separate prescription company, that those companies typically verify benefits with the insurance company before offering coverage, so we would also likely be denied coverage for any of the required medication which we are being told will be another 3-5K or so (please share your secrets for securing them less expensively!!)

So it was a rough week, and it left a sour taste in our mouths about both the doctor and the billing team at our clinic, and depending on what the outcome is of our consultation with the doctor on Friday (during which we were supposed to be discussing our next steps forward) we may elect to check out another clinic before deciding who to pursue treatment with.

At this point, I just feel kind of sad and alone about this entire process (aside from my wife – who has been amazing and supportive but equally sad and frustrated with this process). I wonder if I am wanting something that is unreasonable or unfair, and if not – if it even matters as it now appears pretty clear that we won’t get what we want.

We plan to forge ahead with the self-pay options, but even that is frustrating with the differences in the co versus regular IVF packages (which we are discussing with the doctor on Friday).

So I was feeling pretty bummed about all of this, and then the dreams kind of freaked me out a little bit, and as I was sitting down to write this, the song “Dreams” from Heart popped into my head. In all likelihood, it was because I was thinking about ACTUAL dreams, but I like to think of it as some kind of positive sign. One night, a few years ago, my dad and I were driving and that song came on the radio. He smiled nostalgically and told me that it came on often when he and my mom would drive to her doctor’s appointments when she was pregnant with me, so maybe it’s my mind’s way of apologizing for it’s midnight shenanigans and letting me know that it thinks that this will all work out okay.

Yeah. That’s what I’m going to go with.

Even more confused.

We met with the doctor we plan to use to help us conceive yesterday. Oddly, I wasn’t nearly as worked up about this appointment as I was for the first (probably because I traveled for work last week and work in general has been so hectic and preoccupying me quite a bit), but overall it went well and we are actually getting ready to take some finite steps forward in the next few weeks.

We told him in the prework that it was our desire to do reciprocal IVF as long as it is financially plausible (and according to the preliminary paperwork we got back from their billing staff, we think it is – we have a call tomorrow to confirm some information), and I expected a lecture when we sat down for the consult and he was surprisingly frank about the fact that he thinks it is a fine way to conceive and he has no qualms about assisting us with that without first trying IUI. I think his exact words were something along the lines of “this is great. We have two sets of uteruses, two sets of ovaries – I mean, we have options. You carry her egg. She carries  your egg. Whatever. We’ll get you pregnant.” We’d beern told that he has a dry sense of humor and he lived up to our expectations to a “T”. We felt incredibly comfortable with him (much more so than doctor #1). The only thing I didn’t love is that when I asked if he recommended a specific sperm bank, he said “they’re pretty much all the same. Just pick a guy who you think would be a good father to your kid.” Um…none of them, thanks. Our kid will have two moms. Then he made a comment about how if my wife’s eggs didn’t work for some reason, then I “could be the mom”. Again, I get where he is coming from but it felt like the first of many time that I had to point out that regardless of the biological link or the uterus used to grow the baby: we will BOTH be the moms. 100%. Full stop.

He told us that in order to begin this process, we would both need to come in for internal ultrasounds and bloodwork (during our periods as he said it would be easier to see our egg follicles or something like that – I don’t completely understand the science behind it and it kind of grosses me out to be laying on an exam table with my period, but he’s the expert so onward we march). Then I think he said that I would have to do a “mock implantation” to survey the layout of my uterus to determine how the actual implantation would commence, and then I *think* we are in the clear until we are ready to start the process for my wife’s egg retrieval (which will require her to self inject hormones for a two(?) week period with monitoring every-other-day until the date of her egg retrieval. After that they would inseminate the eggs, wait for a week or two for them to mature (I think its a week, but I honestly forget – I took fewer notes than I planned to as I forgot my good notebook and only had a few tiny sheets of paper – plus I was really excited and listening and not really eager to write). Then we have to decide if we want to do any kind of genetic testing which is not covered by my wife’s insurance (unless medically necessary – which is interesting as I’m honestly not sure what would constitute a need. Perhaps a known genetic condition? Not sure.) We’re still up in the air about this process which a few other people recommended and we’ve been doing some reading on, as it will cost somewhere in the ballpark of $5k.

Overall, he said that we will want to get started about 3 months before we are actually hoping to conceive (and he warned us that success rates for IUI hover around 20% and IVF is around 50% so he suggested that we be open to the fact that the first try may not go as planned) so since we were targeting August for implantation (for the reasons mentioned previously) we plan to go in April (within the next 2 weeks) for our “period ultrasounds” and then we’ll go from there.

I was already overwhelmed by all of that, and today I got an email (randomly) from one of two sperm banks that I created an account with and was notified that they were having a 2 day “sale” (yeah. Sperm banks run sales on sperm, evidently. Who knew??) It’s 20% off for 4+ vials (which we would likely require as we plan to use one for this round and perhaps several more in a few years if all goes well, as we’d like to conceive the 2nd time via IUI and have two biological siblings (one each genetically linked to my wife and I). We thought we had our bank narrowed down but this threw an interesting wrench into things (as that changes the overall price dynamics of one compared to the other) and then I started doing some google research and discovered a 3rd that we may want to check out. Initially, we were thinking that we’d wait until closer to the date to select our donor, but now knowing that sales are a thing, and that this process will likely begin to pick up more quickly once we get going with the initial testing, we are hoping to narrow down our “guy” sooner, so we are going to dig into some heavy research this weekend.

I’m almost glad that we set a pretty firm date (well…month, anyway) for our first targeted implantation, as I think if this were all a freely moving process, I’d really be driving myself crazy with the details at the moment (as I tend to do with a lot of things in my life such as our home search 2 years ago, and a lot of our wedding details). Knowing that we are not on a time crunch and can breath and relax through this process makes me feel so much better.

Here’s to continued baby steps (pun intended), and a narrowed down donor in the near future.

Donor decisions.

So we are cancelling one of our two upcoming fertility clinic appointments as we think we’ve narrowed down our search to the place that will (hopefully) help us make a baby in the near future. My best friend happens to work for the hospital with which this particular clinic is affiliated and highly recommended it before I began any of my online searches (did I mention that my best friend is a nurse practitioner in the women’s health field and her fiancee is a gynecologist? She is my go-to for all lady issues and has been AMAZING during this process because she seems to always know the answers to my questions before I know the questions themselves. More on her later…)

In addition to the fact that the bestie works for the hospital with which this clinic is affiliated, my own gynecologist recommended them (I go to a different practice than the one at which my friend works – I love asking her questions, but I think it would be weird opening my legs to her…though she’s told me plenty of times that “a vagina is a vagina”), and the lesbian couple with whom my wife and I had dinner a few weeks ago used this practice and got pregnant on their first try with this doctor (after trying for a while at home). We’re pretty stoked about the upcoming visit, and feel pretty confident that this is the practice we’ll be using to have a baby.

In the meantime, I’ve been casually perusing (read: incessantly searching) the database of the sperm bank we think we’d like to move forward with, and have about 20 favorites flagged to do more research on. We plan to reach out to the bank once the date gets closer for more in-depth info on our choices.

When we first discussed the possibility of having kids, we always knew I’d be the carrier. I’ve wanted to experience pregnancy for as long as I can remember (it was never NOT an option, really), and my wife is the total opposite (she says its a body sacrifice that she isn’t willing to make). We considered the idea of asking one of her two brothers to be our donor and attempt at-home inseminations or in-clinic IUI, however, one of her brothers who initially offered before we got married changed his mind (he and his wife just had a baby and I think they are afraid that it will complicate things for their daughter which I can certainly understand) and we aren’t terribly close with her other brother and we felt funny asking. So we began to discuss more and more the possibility of using donor sperm. At first, I was completely averse to the idea: I wanted my babies to understand from where (and from whom) they came and understand their complete family history, genetics, etc. What I didn’t realize, though, is how much of that is available through donor databases and now that I have been searching, I’m kind of excited by the idea of getting to select someone who has certain traits and characteristics and a particular background to help create our kids. It’s like…match.com, but for genetic traits and characteristics. And baby pictures. SO. MANY. BABY PICTURES.

I mean, if you’ve seen a bunch of baby pictures of someone, and you know about their hopes and dreams, and you know a little about their background and genetic makeup…you KIND OF know them right?

Then I tell myself: it doesn’t matter. This baby will be mine, and my wife’s. We will raise it, love it, nurture it, and support it: where it got 50% of its genetic makeup doesn’t matter. Or does it? I’d love to hear the perspective of someone who conceived with donor sperm. Am I crazy? Did you ever think this? Did it completely dissipate as your baby grew?

The other thing I am stuck on now, is whether or not to fixate on the idea of identifying an “open” donor or not. So sperm banks appear to have truly anonymous donors, as well as “open” donors with whom the child could have at LEAST one (more if both parties agree) communication with the donor when they turn 18. I like the idea that if my kid ever wanted to, they could at least ask the questions and perhaps get an answer or two – if not a relationship with this person with whom they share DNA. Again, I’m not sure if this matters. I don’t know anyone who was the offspring of someone who used donor sperm (nor a I close with anyone who was adopted to ask) so I don’t know if this is just me in my own head, or if it’s a realistic fear.

Another thought that’s been floating around my mind heading into tomorrow: St. Patrick’s Day. My family is predominately Irish (especially on my dad’s side) and I have always felt a connection with Irish-American culture, and I wonder if my sharing of that culture of my children will be enough if they don’t also share that blood-link to my Irish roots. If we go the route of reciprocal IVF (where I would carry my wife’s embryo) and don’t select a donor with a similar ancestry as me, my kids very well may NOT be Irish by blood – but will they still feel that connection to Irish music and food? Will they still feel that sense of belonging at Irish celebrations? And again…does it matter if they feel loved? I’m really torn.

Would love some insight, here.