Monday, September 28, 2009

An Interesting Week

The day came and passed when I had my opportunity to do my Day 3 testing again. I decided that it really wasn't going to tell me what I needed to know. We really won't know what is going on with me until we commit to IVF with my own eggs and until I go through estrogen priming. I rationalized that I should just save my money, but the other side of me told me I was chickening out. I didn't want to run the risk of my FSH being higher and Dr. BloSun telling me IVF was out with my eggs.

After an informative chat with BigShotClinic's embryologist, we found out that we do have enough frozen sperm to do a cycle with my own eggs and one with donor eggs. Unfortunately, my lottery ticket that I bought did not provide the money to make this a reality. We are back to looking at what we would do if we only had enough money for one cycle. I also found out today that BigShotClinic now has three potential financing options to fund IVF! Back in May, they did not have any options. We'll see what my research on this will reveal and what kind of debt we are willing to take on.

I was sweating out attending my good friend's baby shower this past weekend. I was ok with it, until I found out kids were going to be there. I went because I really wanted to support my friend, who was kind enough to give me an out if I did not want to attend, and because I knew this would not be any ordinary baby shower. The shower was a friggin' romper-room of babies and young children. Every time the door opened with even more babies and toddlers, I wanted to run screaming from the room. I stuck it out because I wanted to observe these parents their children from the many different ways to build a family. There was the single mom with twins from donor sperm via IUI. Another single mom was there with her adopted three year old from Vietnam. There was the best friend who had two young daughters from donor eggs and a husband that had a reverse vasectomy. And then there was my friend at 51 very pregnant with twins from donor eggs. As far as I could tell, they didn't act any differently than the other DIY parents.

I talked at length with the mother of the two daughters from donor eggs. She told me that she thinks about her children not looking like her, but that mostly, she is grateful that she has two healthy children. She said the decision for her to use donor eggs was fairly quick. She and her husband had been trying for a few years on their own after a successful reverse vasectomy. At about my age back then, she was at a place in her life that she could not take on any more stress than life was giving her, and she just wanted something that would work. I wish she had talked about how much she loved her children, but I have noticed that people have a hard time talking about love to strangers in our society, even if it is their kids. They say things like, "I wouldn't have it any other way," or "I'm very grateful."

I was also in a panic on Tuesday night when I realized how tight our money was and how it was going to affect our ability to fund any kind of cycle. I made the decision to quit enlightenment training so that I could use the money I had been spending on that to fund our future cycle. We had a five day retreat starting the next day. I was torn. Part of me has been very angry at the lack of support I have gotten from my enlightenment training around the whole baby making thing, and part of me loved all the wonderful teachings and experiences I have had over the last 10 years. I was very busy on Wednesday morning before the retreat, and did not have a chance to talk with my teacher about it. I decided I would talk to her in person at the retreat at the first break possible. I was prepared to tell her that I couldn't afford enlightenment training anymore and that I was leaving. To my surprise, I found that I did want to stay and that my teacher was going to work with me to be able to afford the retreat. It was probably the first time in a year that I really enjoyed enlightenment training.

The material in the retreat also challenged a lot of what I have been holding on to with using my own eggs. I know that if we make the decision to use donor eggs that I will have to grieve the loss of my own eggs and genetics. I have been able to love my stepsons as they are my own, who have no genetic link to me, so I'm not quite sure why I have had such a hard time with this issue. My husband has been struggling too, but the fact that he is even willing to consider donor eggs is huge. Pride is one of the factors getting in the way. I think that I am doing this and that I can make it happen. I have had that attitude for the past four years. While it served me well, the fact is that I'm 43 now and I may not be able to fight my genetics anymore. I don't want my ego to make us go bankrupt trying to pay for more IVF cycles we can't afford. What I did learn from my last IVF cycle is that it really is all out of our hands what happens.

Magic and I have been having some great discussions about donor eggs and having a child. Because I have been having such a hard time with the idea of donor eggs, I honor his difficult process with it as well. We need to decide soon what we are going to do, in the next two weeks. I have a new list of things to do. I did not forget about the whole polar body testing issue from my last action list, but I will save that for another post.

1) Make an appointment with a therapist to discuss donor eggs with Magic and I.
2) Call family members to find out if they are willing to donate their eggs to us.
3) Follow up on financing options.

I feel great today. I don't know if that is because I am beginning to let go and that I feel that I have viable options for a baby, or that I just am appreciating life for what it is, or that I ovulated and that the hormones from that always make me feel good. For today, I feel great, and I'll take that any day.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Perfect Moment Monday: Rainy Day Inspiration

I'm a "Perfect Moment Monday" virgin. I usually don't have time to post this kind of frivolous stuff, but I had the most perfect moment this morning, I had to share it.

I woke up to a dark, dreary, cold, rainy day, the kind of day you want to just pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep, especially when you have the AF blues. One of my morning rituals is to peek under the blinds while Magic is still sleeping and look out the window down to my garden. I wish I could have taken a picture of what I saw this morning.

A hummingbird was taking a bath on a collard green leaf that had collected some water from the rain. The collard green leaf was one I had not picked, and was lying parallel to the ground. The little hummingbird was rolling back and forth on the leaf, having a good old time taking it's bath. I had never seen anything like that before. Life is always in fast forward for hummingbirds, so this moments didn't last long before the hummingbird flew off.

With the weather beginning to change, it won't be long before the hummingbirds will fly south for the winter. I worry about them, and hope they can stay warm on this cold, wet day.

You can find the rest of the "Perfect Moment Mondays" over on Lavender Luv's blog.

Thanks everyone for your comments over the last week. It really helps me to stay somewhat sane while making this difficult decision. I finally e-mailed my embryologist this morning to get his take on what our inventory will cover. I have a feeling that we only have one shot left.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Things That Make You Go, "Hmmmm"

Are the messages I am getting from the Universe, or my fears projected upon the world? Last week, as I felt in my gut that trying one more time with my eggs was the right thing to do, I get behind the bus with the "be an egg donor" add on it. Later in the week, I hear the "be an egg donor at BigShotClinic" ad on the radio. When I am once again thinking about cycling with my eggs as I am driving to work, I see a passenger in a vehicle who is handicapped, probably from birth defects. Part of me thinks the Universe is trying to tell me something, and the other half of me thinks it's just my fears being reflected back to me.

Here is what I do know. I had a fabulous cycle this month, 25 days with a 12 day luteal phase. I rarely have 12 day luteal phases. It has been three months since I started juicing. I cut back when I had the short cycle the one before this, but I can only theorize that the traveling screwed up my ovulation. I have since been trying to still juice twice a day, but I don't get bent out of shape if I don't have time to. Has the juicing helped with my egg quality?

I know it has not helped with my estrogen production. I still get hot flashes, more than I would like to admit. That means my FSH is probably high, but I would expect that at my age. My body is trying to crank out it's own follistim. My body really wants to get pregnant with my own eggs. The problem is if my FSH is high, then the stims won't do much in terms of recruiting more follicles. But do the hot flashes really mean that my egg quality is crap? This I do not know, but it is what the doctors tell you. I think that maybe the estrogen priming protocol will help lower my FSH, though Dr. BloSun did not blow any sunshine on this idea.

After seeing how long this luteal phase lasted for me, I'm all fired up again about trying with my own eggs. I have a few action items I need to take care of first:

1) Checking with the embryologist to see if we have enough of Magic's frozen sperm for both a cycle with my own eggs and one with donor eggs without having to do ICSI. We have already decided that ICSI is not right for us. We would certainly have enough sperm if we did decide to do ICSI, but neither Magic nor I feel good about it after our last fiasco.

2) Convincing Dr. BloSun to let me do a fresh transfer without polar body testing. I have done a little bit of research on polar body testing, though I have been having a hard time finding relavent articles. Basically, the technique was developed for countries that do not allow genetic testing on embryos. The testing methodology has lots of potential for errors, which is why I think the success rate is so low. To me, polar body testing does not make sense if your pregnancy rate is only 20% when transfering normal eggs. I have not found a published journal article anywhere that says that doing polar body testing increases an older woman's chance of pregnancy. Maybe in the case of an older woman having recurrent miscarriages with IVF, but that is not my issue. Maybe Dr. BloSun forgot that the reason I'm not getting pregnant is because Magic has no swimmers, not because we've been trying all this time on our own.

I am so angry that I have to do all this crap, the research, the negotiation, etc, etc. However, I do know that it is imperative. I can not have the attitude that this is what my I'm paying my doctor and embryologist for, because I learned the hard way once already that they do not have the time to care for me in such an intensive way. I have to do my own research and be my own advocate. It just makes me so mad.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Not Dead Yet - Part 3

I wanted to give the polar body testing issue a post of it's own, in case anyone would have a comment that might help me with it. Because what is to come next is really a much bigger deal and deserves it's own post. It is a much bigger than I ever thought it would be.

Magic said to me the night after our follow-up, "I've been thinking that this is your dream, and I don't want to be the one holding you back. I would consider it." Donor eggs, that is. Yay!!

I was happy that night. I felt like I had choices. We both agree that we would only do donor eggs if I had one of two potential family members agree to donate their eggs to us. I began to see all the advantages of donor eggs:

1) Single embryo transfer. We would reduce the risk of multiples.
2) Greatly reduce the risk of genetic birth defects. We definitely run this risk with my older eggs.
3) Much greater chance of pregnancy and birth.
4) I wouldn't have to stress out over trying to produce eggs.

Logically, everything points to donor eggs.

So why do I have a sinking feeling in my gut?

Suddenly, I'm the one having a problem with donor eggs. My heart is not into it. I feel tremendous grief when I think about giving up on my eggs. I worked hard the last four years to regain and maintain my fertility. I would say it worked, up until the last 10 months. I think the frozen embryo transfer really screwed up my ovaries. Probably getting older doesn't help either.

I have been given the donor egg speech at least three times previously. I would either find another doctor or at least find a doctor who would allow me to cycle with my eggs. I had surgery to remove a pound of fibroids. I fooled all the tests with my Chinese medical treatments. I did get pregnant with my own eggs, but we could not have predicted the very small risk that happened to us because we did IVF/ICSI. You can try to plan for everything, but in the end, you just never know what is going to happen.

In my heart of hearts, I want to try one more time with my eggs. However, reality is not only dictated by what is in our hearts. Reality is always much more complicated. The financial crisis has hit us at home, and we are not in a position financially to do both one cycle with my eggs and a donor egg cycle if my eggs are not up to snuff. Heck, we are not in a position financially even to do one cycle period, but I will find a way to make it happen. I thank all of you who pointed out that less than 5% chance of pregnancy is better than zero percent chance. If there is anyone out there that believes in my eggs enough to donate $20k towards this cycle, then I would try again myself in a heartbeat.

I am not one to give up lightly. I have struggled with this for four years. I know that I am not producing estrogen and progesterone like I did when I was younger, and I am convinced this is the reason why my test results are less than stellar. I wonder if the estrogen priming protocol would be enough to help, though Dr. BloSun doesn't think so. I know how all the statistics work, and I also know how reality works, that is, not usually the way you think it works. I've studied the literature to well know that my test results do not bode well for IVF success. I have tried all the alternative treatments. I am not being negative; I am being realistic. I do not believe that hope and positive thinking alone will get me pregnant. I have been down that road too. Positive thinking is very helpful during IVF, but it is not the deciding factor. If money were no issue, I would take the "wish and a prayer" statistics and go for it.

On the other hand, if I do get pregnant with DE, I don't want to be second guessing my decision. Would I always be looking at my child, knowing that her genetics are not mine? Will I regret not having tried again with my eggs? I tell myself that genetics are not that important to me. I know that if my spirit baby comes, I won't care about the genetics. But it is a little white lie I tell myself. I do care, or at least I feel incredibly sad about giving up on my eggs. I feel like I am giving up on myself. I feel like a failure.

I don't know how to reconcile these feelings. Magic feels much the same way. He is not crazy about donor eggs, but is considering it for me. I am on the fence and feel like I can not move. One minute, I'm convinced that I should go with my heart and try with my eggs. The next, I see that my eggs are doomed and I'm in for donor eggs. Back and forth it goes. It is driving me mad. I can not choose. I now understand how hard this decision is. It is easy when you are looking on the outside at someone else's situation and say with confidence what you would do if you were in their shoes. This is a very personal decision and will not be made lightly.

I've been having a pretty good cycle. It gives me some hope that maybe my eggs are good after all. I know I ovulated, because I have been taking my basal body temperatures and they are up. I'm eight days past ovulation, and no period yet. That's pretty good for me. Last night, I had a hot flash. This surely means that if I do my Day 3 testing with my coming next cycle, my FSH will be elevated. When things like this happen, I do feel like my eggs are doomed. I am incredibly sad, even though I do have another choice. I know in my mind that I will have to grieve the loss of my eggs if we do go with donor eggs, but to experience it in my heart is a whole 'nother thing. It makes me feel hopeless. I don't know what to do.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Not Dead Yet - Part 2

Dr. BloSun said that he would let us do IVF again on the condition that I would have polar body testing. I remember talking to my previous RE about polar body testing, and they did not do it. He said that the research was not conclusive, and it is another impact to the embryo. I was convinced back then that I never wanted to do polar body testing, but I know that BigShotFertilityClinic is big on it. Apparently, so big on it that they now want me to do it.

A polar body is a cell that is cast off by the egg when it fertilizes. It only gives you information about the egg. Some say that it is not a reliable test since a polar body cell is degenerating. I have also hear that the sperm can help correct problems with the egg. The statistics on polar body testing is that IF you get a normal egg, your chance of pregnancy is 20%. The embryos would be frozen on Day 1. You wait 6 weeks for your results. Then, if I had any normals, they would thaw the 1 day embryos and transfer then on Day 2. Dr. BloSun doesn't think my embryos would make it to Day 3.

I have a lot of issues with the whole polar body testing. It's kinda like "why bother" testing to me. If he really thinks my egg quality is that poor, then why not just transfer the embryos on Day 3 and let the embryos and my body sort it out? Why go to the extra expense and torture waiting 6 weeks for your test results? Why put your embryo through freezing and thawing? Though BigShotClinic says that their vitrification has a 95% thaw success, it's still another impact to the embryo. I don't like the idea of my embryos being messed with any more than they have to. He did mention that some women do not get pregnant with the high amount of stims in their body, but that is not my problem. I got pregnant after a day 5 transfer after being on max stims. If I was going to blast, I would insist on CGH testing, but that's out of the question now. I would really be happy with a Day 3 transfer without polar body testing at this point. Now I need to become an expert on polar body testing before I present my case to Dr. BloSun.

In the parking lot, I talked with Magic. I asked him, "what are you going to let me do?" The statistics we were just given for success with another IVF cycle were grim. At this point, Magic was the one holding me back from donor eggs. This wasn't going to be decided in the parking lot right then and there.

That night when I got home. Magic said to me, "I've been thinking..." I waited. The end of the thought did not come. Finally, I asked, holding my breath, "you've been thinking?" I closed my eyes. I didn't want to hear the bad news. I didn't want to hear that Magic was going to say that he just couldn't do to donor eggs. I didn't push him, because I wasn't sure I wanted to hear the answer...

To be continued...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Not Dead Yet - Part 1

We finally had our regroup with Dr. BloSunMyCha. The meeting started with, "how can I help you?" Uhhh, did you even look at my Day 2 results from back in June? Do you remember my name?

I know now why I waited almost three months to have our regroup. I knew that the news was not going to be good with my test results, but I wasn't quite prepared for the gloom and doom talk we got. It was the "almost donor egg" speech, but we are allowed to do IVF again with my eggs, with some conditions. It's the conditions I have a hard time with. I will save that for another post.

Let's review my test results from back on June 18th. The ideal will be in parentheses next to my test results.

FSH 15.4 (less than 10)
LH 5.9 (less than FSH)
Estrogen 85.5 (less than 50)
AMH 0.2(>1.0)
Resting follicle count 2 (>10)

The number that bothers me the most is the last number, my resting follicle count. All the numbers were "abnormal" except for the LH. I know that I would not have done IVF that cycle, but Dr. BloSunMyCha is in the camp of doctors that believes you are only as good as your worst FSH. He does not believe my egg quality will get any better. I think that is BS, but the resting follicle count AND the weird symptoms I have been getting the last few months worry me. Dr. BloSunMyCha gave me a less than 5% chance of getting pregnant with IVF. Ugh.

I'm at a point that I really do not know what to do. I asked if I could do my Day 3 testing again for my peace of mind. I want to know if anything I have been doing in the last three months has been making a difference. He warned me that if my FSH goes to 20 or higher, he will not let us do IVF with my own eggs. At that point, I won't want to either. Up to this point, Magic has been adamant that I use my own eggs. I asked him after our appointment, "what will you let me do?" I can't imagine not having children. I can't imagine leaving our spirit baby out there.

I was a little upset after our regroup, but honestly, I had already done much of this grieving and I had to go to work. I had a big project I was working on for today and a big grant application due Friday. It would have to wait until after work until I could get back to processing all this.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


My Dad finished a memoir recently, which was a pretty cool thing to hand down. I learned some things about his mother that I did not know. I knew that she had a son who died at a young age, only a few months old. He was sick, and she took him to the doctor. She was told he just had a cold, and she was relieved. However, he never woke up that night. What I did not know is that my Grandmother also had a stillbirth girl about a year after that. I felt so sad reading that in my Dad's memoir. I'm sure she did not have the support she needed back then for these terrible tragedies. Eventually, my Grandmother gave birth at age 36 to my uncle. He was 12 years younger than my father, and the prized son after these sad losses.

My other Grandmother was finished having children at age 31. I wonder if she just did not want to have any more children, after basically raising all her seven siblings after her mother died, or she was just not able to have any more children. I learned some interesting things about "Grandma Cookie", as we called her, from my Dad's memoir also. She was engaged to my Grandfather after only knowing him a short time. They also did not speak the same language. He spoke English and she spoke Italian. My Grandfather proposed to my Grandma through both parents. After my Grandma accepted, they were married three weeks later. My Grandfather had to go back to the US soon after, as it was the Depression and he needed to get back to retain his job. My Grandmother ended up taking the boat to America a few months later by herself and three months pregnant. How amazingly gutsy was that of my Grandmother?! I can't even imagine how rough that journey was being pregnant with no airplanes and not speaking English in a new country.

My Dad said of me in his memoir, "Phoebe was born breech, which means that she came out butt first. She has always done things her own way." I don't know if this is a compliment or not. Unfortunately, it does seem to be true in the trying-to-get-knocked-up category. None of my uber-fertile sisters ever had any girly problems. One of my sisters did get pregnant at 40, which was encouraging to me. That was when I was 40-41 and I still had unwavering confidence in my eggs. I hope there is still a happy ending for my memoir when I write it.