Egged on: Navigating the world of secondary infertility and egg donation

Join us on this journey into our hearts, a petri dish and (hopefully) my uterus.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Egg donation is big news. Oh, and look at the button on the left. Please vote for me. :)

Links to recent articles for those of you looking for more information:

Scientists: Egg shortage hurts stem cell research
Scientists say egg shortage threatens stem cell research, seek ways to pay for eggs
July 30, 2008

Tough Economic Times Create Boom of Egg Donors (this is a news story quoting the director of my donor agency, Center for Egg Options in Northbrook, Ill.)

A delicate technique at Mayo produced the first births - healthy twin girls - in Minnesota from frozen eggs

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trying to find the right words: Adding estrogen to the mix

Tonight I start estrace, estrogen tabs that I have to take orally and vaginally. I also take a baby aspirin every day. These things are supposed to help build my uterine lining to make a cozy spot for the embryo(s) to nest.

My husband is on antibiotics to clear up some sort of bacteria they discovered in the sample he left after his visit to the clinic collection room the other day. (It's nothing to worry about, I'm told. And, no, it's not an STD.)

Of course, we are still doing Lupron, prenatal vitamins and folic acid supplement.

What all this means is that we are moving forward. Our donor (remember, I'm calling her Tanya) was in for her baseline appointment today. She has some fluid in her tubes, but nothing that should stop us from proceeding, I'm told.

The nurse told me how much she loves Tanya. She's reliable and responsible and funny and personable and dedicated -- that's what they say at least. Makes me wish I knew her for more than the 20 minute phone conversation from a few months ago.

I wonder if she wants kids of her own some day.

When she first filled out her application with the donor agency, she said she had been feeling depressed because her boyfriend was serving in the military. I wonder if they are still a couple. I wonder how he is doing and whether he's safe.
I wonder how many children have been born from her donor cycles. Her sister also is a donor. I wonder how many children she helped create.

All this focus on the donor has a purpose. It's time for me to begin crafting a letter to her -- to find the perfect words to tell her how I feel about her gift that allows us to try to pursue a dream.

As a writer, you'd think that the words would come easily. But they don't. It's not because I can't express my feelings. It has more to do with the combination of conflicting emotions: excitement, fear, anxiety, hope.

I can only equate it with something that happened two days before our wedding, Thanksgiving of 1997. We wanted to write our own vows. For my husband, the words flowed easily. He's a great writer, certainly the more talented of the two of us. I could not clear my head of all the details of planning the wedding, designing the program, putting finishing touches on the seating chart, writing the checks, worry about what my mother would think of the '70s disco band we hired, etc. etc. I couldn't write vows that carried any of the real emotion, passion, excitement and love that I was feeling.

So I cheated. We both read the vows he wrote. And they remain the most beautiful vows I've ever heard:

I promise to find a new reason to love you each day.
I promise to keep our home filled with laughter.
I promise to continue to challenge you, as you do me each day forth for the rest of our lives.
I promise to give you the comfort and support you need when life has been hard, and help you see that even in the times that try our souls, your hand need only open to feel mine there.
Most of all, I promise to be a better person each day and be worthy of the love you have given me -- a love I will never take for granted, or diminish, but will cherish and nurture as long as I live.

On top of the conflicting emotions, there are the drugs and my work and everyday life with a busy 8-year-old. Maybe my brain is just too clogged -- like it was that night in 1997 when we set out to write our vows.

Maybe it will clear up at the end of the week, when I begin a long stretch of vacation time.

Or maybe I'll cheat again ... and have my husband write the letter.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Jack of all trades

My husband had to go in and update his sperm count earlier this month.

I've mentioned before that he could be a stand-up comedian.

Here's a sampling of some of the lines that the nurses at the fertility clinic heard:

Receptionist: How are you today?
Husband: The insurance company is paying for me to masturbate. It doesn't get better than that.

Nurse: (showing him to the room) Have you done this before?
Husband: Yes. Since I was 12.

Nurse: No, I mean, have you been here before?
Husband: Are you kidding? I love this room. Is it available to rent out for parties?

Nurse: (also while showing the room) Do you have everything you need?
Husband: I could use a few more outlets and an air compressor.

I wasn't there. And I have no idea if they were amused or ready to call the police.


I'm not sure if it's the non-stop working or the Lupron. But this exhaustion is like nothing I've ever felt.

It's not as debilitating as that first trimester exhaustion that I got to know when I was pregnant with my daughter. It's more of a I-don't-even-remember-getting-in-bed exhaustion.

I had the opportunity to attend the Unity conference for journal.ists of color last week. Lots of fantastic workshops, networking, opportunities to offer guidance to recent graduates (who have little hope of ever finding a job since the industry is in disarray, BTW).

But the days started when I got in the car at 5:50 am every day and parked for the night at 7 or 8 pm. That was Wednesday through Saturday. Sunday was brief -- one seminar and a chance to see Barack Obama speak.

But it took a toll. Now I'm back to my regular work week and don't have a day off until Saturday. I went days without seeing my daughter last week. After the first day, she was crying. She's clearly not ready for something like sleepover camp, I guess.

And, honestly, that's kind of a good feeling. I'm happy to keep her close to home, especially while we're closing in on this whole experiment.

She's a terrific reminder of both why we're doing this and how fortunate we are.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I have never liked shots

Even the tiny needles freak me out.

When I was maybe 13, I remember meeting a kid who had diabetes and thinking about how impossible it would be to give myself shots.

Advanced fertility treatments rely on a variety of drugs to control your girly parts.

Lupron and birth control pills keep you from ovulating. Like a fake menapause. Complete with hot flashes.

Baby aspirin and estrace help build your lining. Progesterone helps maintain a pregnancy. Then there are other things ... I don't even know what those do.

These things come in abdominal shots, butt shots, oral pills, vaginal pills, patches and suppositories. The donor takes something called follistim, which is just like it sounds: follicle stimulating. Follicles are the things that pop out of the ovaries with eggs -- the more follicles, the more eggs. The more eggs, the better chance that we have of making a baby.

All these drugs are hormones. When I was on my IVF cycle, I called the combo of Lupron and Follistim the "hate and rage" drugs. I felt edgy, emotional and angry at all times. Living and working with me was a real joy, I'm sure.

This time, my only anxiety is related to the actual injections. There's no pain and my husband gives them to me because, well, I was right when I was 13. I could NEVER give them to myself.

Still, I dread facing that needle every night at bedtime.

I've been on the Lupron for a week. I'm now done with my birth control pills. I have a doctor's appointment on July 29, then start the estrogen drugs after that.

It's a time when it feels like a waiting period, but there's a crucial 10 unit shot that must be delivered every day.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's been a long four months

The best writers use the toughest times to generate their best work.

It's been a tough four months. Instead of using that time to write about everything that was going on, I just withdrew from the blog.

That's why I still haven't written the Great American Novel, I guess.

Last we met, we had just spoken to our donor. And we loved her.

A few weeks later, we heard that she had a bad pap smear and needed the Leep procedure to clear away some bad cells. That obviously put our cycle on hold. I was quite prepared for it to be the end. And, after talking to her, we decided that we'd be done if she dropped out. We felt like she was our match.

More importantly, I felt a lot of worry about her. If she was my daughter, would I want her playing with her hormones after having pre-cancerous cells on her cervix? If that was me 20 years ago, would I want to go through a series of shots and pills and bloating, etc. -- for someone else and $7,000 in pay -- after having a (minor) operation on my cervix? No. I'd be done with messing with this stuff.

Well, she's still gung-ho. She had her surgery in May and got the all-clear in June. We started lupron this week and we"re on track for a mid-August transfer, assuming all goes well.

Including my failed IVF cycles, we've been at this for an entire year. If you include the IUI cycles, it's been more than two years. In all, it's been about six years. So I'm still trying to remain realistic.

The stats are fairly straightforward, I've got about a 70 percent chance of getting pregnant. Sounds great -- especially compared to the 15 percent rate that IVF gave me.

But that's not the whole story. With every pregnancy, there's a 25 percent chance of a miscarriage. So now we're down to about a 53 percent chance of having a successful pregnancy.

In short, I'm standing at a table in Atlantic City with $14,000 in my hands. I've put it all on red and I'm spinning the wheel.

And I've always said I'm NOT a gambler ... HA!