Grooooooooow babies!!

How 2 men + 2 women - sex + science = 2 babies!!

This is the funny, heart-warming, tearful, inspiring, and shocking truth about my journey to have a child.

How a man, another man, a woman, another woman, a couple lawyers, a few doctors, a psychologist, a couple social workers and some agencies make a baby.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Deja Vu

Derek and I went out to dinner tonight. I wasn't very hungry and just wanted something small and quick. We were planning on going to Noodles and Co. but at the last minute I remembered a Chinese restaurant in the area. We decided to go there.

At the end of the meal we got fortune cookies. I opened mine up and it said:

"Your present plans are going to succeed."

Hmmmm...same fortune I got on April 21st. Coincidence???

Friday, August 27, 2010

There's Good News and Bad News (This Is a Familiar Theme)

I guess getting up at the crack of dawn is something that will be normal for me in nine months. I had to be at the fertility clinic at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday. Of course I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I was late. I remember seeing the clock said 3:19 a.m. Next thing I knew the alarm was buzzing at 5:00 a.m. Oy vey.

Derek (my boyfriend/partner/support system who just got major points for sending me flowers at work today and who will be played by Neil Patrick Harris in the movie and who was thoughtful enough to buy the surrogate a little thank you gift for our first meeting) and I had eggs for breakfast. We just couldn't resist.

We headed up to the fertility clinic and "Chloe" was already there with her friend who is hoping to make the documentary film about this process. I introduced Derek, she introduced her friend, and we all made our way into the clinic.

The clinic was much nicer than the last time I was there. The waiting room renovations were complete so there were flowers and bamboo walls and art deco couches now. I didn't have to walk past client files to sit in an overcrowded back hallway this time. Clearly the renovations were a success.

"Chloe" and I were called in almost immediately and that left Derek and the filmmaker to deal with awkward conversation and silence. "Chloe" went into one room to change into a gown and I was put in a separate room.

The embryologist came in to talk with me. She told me that embryos, which should be at the blastocyst stage by now, are given a number on a scale of 2-4 for the rating of the cavity and then get a grade of A, B, or C for inner and (I think) outer cell mass. I had four full blastocysts, two early blastocysts and one pre-blastocyst that is called a morula. The four full blastocysts were rated 4AB, 4AB, 4AB and 4BB. That sounded pretty good to me. The other three were not viable at that moment and could be watched for one more day. If they continued to mature I could freeze them. The attrition rate after fertilization is usually 50% so I was doing pretty well.

Then came the big decision. How many embryos to transfer? Fresh transfers have a slightly higher success rate than frozen transfers. If I decided to only transfer one and it failed, then next time I would have to do two. Then I might be left with only one, frozen 4BB for a third time and that doesn't give me very good odds. How many blastocysts I had influenced my decision. How confident I felt influenced my decision. How I felt about the possibility of twins influenced my decision. And, of course, my emotional state of how I would feel trying this two or three times influenced my decision. I literally just paused for a second and blurted out "two." It feels like the right decision.

The embryologist and I went in to talk with my surrogate about my decision to get her approval. We asked how she felt about twins. My surrogate said something to the effect of "Bring it on!" She is so willing to do anything and everything to make this pregnancy happen. It was nice to see her be so fearless in this process.

"Chloe" and I were left alone in the room. We wound up being there for, I think, about 30-40 minutes. I wondered how we would find anything to do to pass the time. We talked almost the whole time. I learned a little about her family, her education, plans for medical school, travel experiences and more. We had a really nice time. After getting to know her a little more I have a lot of respect for her and I like her. I really do. I see how when she wants something in life she goes for it with 100% commitment. Getting to know her as a person and not just as my surrogate makes me trust her more.

When the time came to do the embryo transfer "Chloe" let me go in the room with her. I got to watch the embryos on the monitor hung in the room. I saw the embryos sucked up from a dish into a tube. Then I watched the embryos injected into the uterus. The whole process took 10 minutes or less. The actual transfer was about 30 seconds. The surrogate said she barely knew they were starting before it was all over.

From a clinical perspective, it looked like two little dots moving across the screen. But from a personal, emotional level, I can't get it out of my head that I just saw my child(ren) for the first time! The idea that my child is alive now is amazing. As much as I wanted this child, I want him or her (or them!) even more after seeing them. If it is possible to love a collection of 20 cells, I do.

The surrogate goes for a pregnancy test in about two weeks. It has been about 36 hours so far and the wait is so agonizing.

Today I got a call saying that out of the three embryos that were not fully developed only one became viable. That one grew to a 4BB. So I have a 4AB, a 4BB and a second 4BB frozen now. Somehow I went from 13 eggs to 5 embryos so quickly. That's a harsh reality.

Now I wait.

And wait.

And wait.

On the ride home from the clinic Derek said that the filmmaker was sharing some stories with him. He said "Chloe" has had some people tell her that what she is doing is playing G-d and it is unnatural. It makes me sad to hear that people she knows are not supporting her in what she is doing. I feel lucky my friends have been supportive beyond belief. Is this natural? No. But nasty, hurtful comments like that make me think this film is a good idea. It is hard to hate when you put a face to an issue. I'm sure some people will always be against this. But maybe this movie will make some people will see what an amazing thing "Chloe" and my egg donor have done for me.

Meanwhile, last night I saw the episode of "Friends" where Rachel is in the hospital right after giving birth. Is this another sign? Or does this mean that I have an unhealthy faith in "Friends" paralleling my pregnancy process?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Odds and Ends

The last few days have been so stressful. My mind is constantly thinking about this process, my life, babies, money, relationships, and everything else. I try to remember that having a child is stressful. If I think this is bad now, nine months from now will be unmanageable. I just have to take things as they come. I have no control over the process right now. Sometimes that helps me calm myself down...sometimes not.

One thing that does run through my head a lot is how this process is so much more for me than for 99.9% of the world. Many people, hundreds or maybe thousands, without money, education, resources, support or even wanting a child, get one. As an interpreter I have seen examples of this: an HIV+ woman having her sixth child, a woman who didn't have $100 for a bite guard but who is trying to get pregnant (and we all know a baby costs a lot more than $100), a woman who barely has the language capacity to understand pregnancy had a baby. But, as I have also learned, I'm not alone in my process. By now about a dozen friends have mentioned that they or someone they know have used sperm donors, egg donors, surrogates or IVF treatments. These success stories are wonderful to hear and in nine months I will hopefully have my own success story to share with others.

I had another sign this morning. I usually listen to a morning radio program if I'm in the car. I almost didn't turn it on. I was close to listening to the tape of my singing lesson. In the end I decided I would listen to the radio show. As soon as I turned it on I heard talk of turkey basters and ovulation. I missed part of the conversation, but I did hear some talk of how little people know of the ovulation/pregnancy process. The DJs were talking about men wanting signs about when it was safe/not safe to "have relations" as they kept saying. An obstetrician called the show to talk about how male and female sperm differ (speed vs. stamina), how many days before a period ovulation happens, and how much more men know about this process now compared with 10 or 20 years ago. One DJ even asked how long sperm stay alive in utero. I knew that thanks to my fun fact I posted in a recent blog entry. I know that anything can be made into a sign if you are looking for them, but I thought that was just one more fun coincidence in my life.

Plus, there is a recall on eggs due to salmonella. Wait...that's not good. Moving on...

I also decided to write a letter to Neil Patrick Harris. No, I have not turned into a crazy stalker. My letter was very simple. I said that I was writing a blog about my surrogacy journey and said NPH should be in the movie of my life and a week or two later NPH announced his own surrogacy journey. That made me wish that NPH would follow my blog. I'm not really expecting an answer. On the off chance that you see "NPH" or "Neil" following my blog, though, you'll know who it is.

I have more casting updates on the movie. My friend (a.k.a. "Michaela") is a dancer and has decided she should choreograph this epic movie which will become a film and, maybe, a mini-series. Her husband will be played by Matthew Broderick since Matthew had kids through a surrogate recently. I think all my interpreter friends need to be condensed into one or two co-workers and I'm thinking Kathy Griffin and Tina Fey. This movie really is going to be an epic. We haven't even started the pregnancy and already I have a cast of thousands. I think we might have to break this movie up into parts like the final Harry Potter book which will be split into two films.

Finally, I will be going to the fertility clinic tomorrow morning at 6:30 (ugh) for the first embryo transfer. I guess I better get used to the early mornings. This is it. After a lifetime of thinking about being a father, years of planning, months of stress, weeks of contract negotiations, days of crying and hours or holding my breath we are finally at a point where this could happen. So cross your fingers, eat some eggs, wish upon a star, rent a Neil Patrick Harris movie, say a prayer, purchase creepy surrogate t-shirts on the internet, dream of babies, buy some booties, watch Phoebe give birth on "Friends," give your baby a kiss or do anything else that you think could increase my chances.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Babies are Everywhere

I thought, when you ride a roller coaster, the big drops are at the beginning and the ride calms down as you get towards the end. Clearly I was wrong. I recently had an amazing high that then dropped very low.

On Saturday I called the fertility clinic to ask what had happened with my donor. I was told the doctors got 13 eggs. Thirteen!!! What a lovely number. This was better than I could have expected. I felt like 13 eggs would give me a great chance of having a lot of viable embryos.

After the eggs were retrieved they were fertilized. The nurse said she did get the message to do ICSI and assisted hatching so that was a relief too.

Today was the call with news about how many eggs turned into embryos. As I listened to the message it did make my heart pound. It's incredible how one little word can change your life. Hearing a number like "12" would be very different than hearing a number like "3." The magic number was seven. Four of the eggs were immature and couldn't be used. One egg was degenerative. That left me with eight. Of the eight eggs that were healthy, seven made it through the first day of fertilization.

Of course I wanted more. But I have also heard from some people that having 6-8 embryos is average. I'm just trying not to freak out until I talk with the doctor on Tuesday or Thursday.

On a lighter note, babies are starting to pop up in my life. On Saturday I met a friend of mine for brunch with her 2 month old baby. She let me feed him. I was burping him after feeding him. I was watching his head sway from side to side and getting further and further away from the burp cloth. Sure enough, when his head was turned completely to the side facing me, he spit up his milk all over my shirt. Guess that's just my first taste of being a dad. At least I haven't had to deal with dirty diapers...yet.

And tonight I went to rehearsal for a show. I have a prop wallet with $25 in it. I opened the wallet and saw the fake $25. Nothing else was in the entire wallet except some photo holders. There were eight photos and they all were photos of babies. that a little bit of a sign? Let's hope.

Friday, August 20, 2010

August 21st: It's the Day of the Retrieval, Y'all!

My poor donor. She keeps going in for more and more testing. I'm sure she is anxious to get back to her life. She is living out of town now and had to come back to Chicago for the retrieval. The original plan was to retrieve the eggs Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. The final decision is to retrieve the eggs on Saturday since the medications had to be adjusted as we went along and that caused her to be a few days behind the predicted schedule.

At last count the donor had 10 follicles in the ideal size range and 5 more that are small. Not a bad number, but I wouldn't have minded a few more. Here's the to-do list over the next few days

- eat brunch (probably eggs)
- get phone call about how many eggs were retrieved
- cry (from either good news or bad news)

- sleep in
- get a call about how many eggs were fertilized
- cry (from either good news or bad news)

- get oil change
- get a call about when embryo transfer will happen (either Tuesday or Thursday)
- buy more tissues in anticipation of crying

- go to the fertility clinic and watch embryos be inserted into a stranger's uterus

- use up all the tissues I bought on Monday and hope to hear the fetal heartbeat

The transfer day will be either Tuesday or Thursday. It is always 3 or 5 days after fertilization. Most times the parents go to the clinic, but the doctor can call me if I can't make it. I will hopefully be able to go in person. Plus, if the surrogate agrees, I can be in the room with her when they do the transfer. Everything can be seen on the monitor. How amazing is that??? I thought it would be neat to videotape it and then I realized the surrogate probably doesn't want a video of her uterus on YouTube or Facebook. I'll probably have to be content with just watching it myself if she allows me to come into the room.

My current nurse is much better than the mean one I had to deal with in the first part of the process. She noticed some decisions I made on some paperwork that didn't make sense. I think it was because the first nurse did a lousy job explaining the procedures to me. There are two techniques that can increase my chances of fertilization. ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) is allowing the embryologists to hand pick the sperm and insert it into each egg. If I don't do that the sperm and eggs all mix in a dish and we hope the meet. Doing ICSI ensures that the sperm that inseminates the eggs all look good and healthy and nothing odd happens like two sperm entering one egg. The second technique is egg hatching. Women's eggs have a shell on the outside. The shell has to be removed at some point during the process. If I understood it correctly the embryologist doesn't actually remove the shell but will crack it to help the process. I told the nurse to please use both techniques to increase my chances.

Fun fact of the day: human sperm is fertile for 24-48 hours. A bat's sperm is fertile for 135 days. Could you imagine having sex once and then finding out four months later that you're pregnant???

Thursday, August 19, 2010

:-/ :-D :-(

On Friday my donor had 13 follicles. :-/

On Monday my donor had 21 follicles. :-D

On Wednesday my donor has 12 follicles. :-(

Whoa...what happened??? Did the follicle fairy swoop in and take some? How did I suddenly gain 8 eggs and then lose 9? Weren't things going in the right direction?

My nurse told me that the people who run the ultrasounds count follicles differently. Follicles should be 10-18mm and I think 15-16mm is ideal. I knew some follicles were small and may not have eggs so the ultrasonographer (who knew that was a word?) only counted the ones over 10mm. I only have 4 in the 15-16mm range and the others are closer to 10mm. The donor is going to be on medication for a few more days to hopefully help the follicles grow a little more and it now looks like she will donate either on Saturday or Sunday.

The donor's estrogen levels have almost doubled (I have no idea what the number should be but my nurse was very excited by this so I decided I should be excited too). Because the donor is donating for the first time it sometimes takes doctors some adjusting to figure out the right medication levels and combinations. My donor is moving in the right direction and responding to the medication, she's just a few days behind schedule. I asked the nurse to thank my donor for staying a few days past her planned donation date. I'm sure she wants to be done with the medication and see her husband again. I started crying thinking about how much she is doing for me and almost made the nurse cry. In the movie I don't think I should be crying so much. I want a comedy...and to win an Oscar I think I just need one, really good break down scene. That'll be the moment that clinches my award.

I asked about getting up to 30 eggs. I had been told that donors usually produce 10-30 eggs. My nurse said that was correct but 30 is definitely rare and sometimes you get poor quality. She also said most donors produce 10-15 eggs. Sometimes she only gets 7-8 eggs but they are high quality. Hopefully I'll get about a dozen eggs.

Keep holding your breath and crossing your fingers until the weekend. I'll be heading out to brunch on Saturday with a friend and her 6 week old baby. I think I'll order eggs.

I'm off to search the web for a way to contact Neil Patrick Harris. I'm hoping he'll follow my blog.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I'm the Next Neil Patrick Harris

Over the weekend it was announced that Neil Patrick Harris is having twins born through a surrogate. I found that a little bit of a weird coincidence that he is going through this process at the same time I joked that he should play me in the movie. My friend wants Amy Adams to play her. I'm secretly hoping that Amy Adams is the egg donor for Neil Patrick Harris' baby. If she is I'll have to quit my job and spend the next 9 months trying to contact Neil Patrick Harris to get him to produce and star in my movie. One friend thinks he's not Jewish enough to play me. So the new plan is that Amy Adams will be my friend Michaela in the "Michael & Michaela" movie, I will play myself and get my big break and Neil Patrick Harris will play my love interest. I think it's perfect! Amy, Neil and I all sing too, so when the movie is turned into a Broadway musical we can all still be in the show. I see absolutely nothing wrong with this plan.

I got some good news today too. The surrogate went in for more monitoring and she is now above the threshold that the doctors want. I was also told she has a "nice quality" for her uterine lining. I never thought I'd hear those words in reference to that. A nice quality of life. Sure. A nice quality shirt. OK. A nice quality uterine lining. Not so much. But I'll take it. So she is ready to take an embryo.

The egg donor was on more medication over the weekend and it seems to have helped. She went from having 13 follicles to 21. The nurse said some of the follicles are tiny and may not produce good eggs. But she also said "overall, it's a great quantity." Again, it may not be optimal, but I'll take it for now. The surrogate will be on medication for two more days and then she'll go in for another check. We'll see if she actually donates on August 18th like my fortune cookie predicted or not.

I'm trying to read up on this whole process of egg follicles and ovulation so I understand it a little more. As a gay man I have to admit I'm not very familiar with cycles and ovaries and other girly parts. (Yes...I am calling them girly parts.) When I interpret ob/gyn appointments I definitely have to ask the doctor for clarification at times. I guess we have proof that my sex ed classes in high school failed a little, although I'm not sure follicle stimulation of a donor to be mixed with frozen sperm in a dish was a common topic 20 years ago. However, in my defense, I do remember one high school girl saying she had cramps so bad she could feel which ovary it was in. After she left the room, a boy - a senior, no less - responded with, "You mean she's going to have a baby?!?!?" I think the sex ed classes were a little lacking and my being gay might not be the only reason hoo-has and bajingas are foreign to me.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

There May Be a Movie!

On Friday the fertility nurse called and left a message. I'm not exaggerating when I say I was holding my breath during the first 20 seconds of the message because I was waiting to hear if it was good news or bad news. It was torture. I finally exhaled when she said everything was OK. The donor has 13 follicles. They were hoping for a little more so the nurse gave her a little more medication and on Monday I might have to order even more. So it's not bad, but it's not optimal right now. Hopefully a few more follicles will grow. I've been told they want to retrieve between 10 and 30 eggs so 13 is an OK number but more is better.

The surrogate needed a little more medication too, but she is very close to the expected results for her uterine lining. So again, we're not panicking, but it's not quite at the level that we all wanted.

The surrogate also contacted me to say that her friend is a filmmaker and wants to make a documentary about her process. She said she needed my permission. I know there is something in my contract with her and my egg donor contract saying that we will keep the other party's identity a secret. So I'm not 100% sure if she needs my permission if she doesn't say anything about me. But I'm leaning towards giving her permission anyway. I think it would be an amazing story for my child to see. I have to talk to my lawyer for sure to make sure this doesn't break the contract, but I don't think I have any issues with this. I'm very open about my situation so this film is not revealing anything new or unknown. A while ago the surrogacy agency sent me a message saying HBO was looking for people who were using surrogates and/or egg donors. I didn't have time to apply but I might have done that if life hadn't been so crazy at that moment. The more I talk about this (and my friend writes her blog) the more I hear stories about people wanting to know more, people who donated an egg, people who are considering a surrogate, etc. Information and exposure can only help bring this process into the mainstream.

I have been calling my boyfriend with updates about the women. I have to say that this process is so much nicer while having someone going through it with me. Of course my friends and family have been supportive beyond belief. As I have said many, many times this blog and the comments I have heard from other people have helped me make it through all this stress. However, having one person who is getting emotionally invested in this with me is calming and nice.

The exact date of the egg retrieval is still up in the air. It is supposed to be this Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. Then I finally get to send the donor my letter thanking her for what she is doing. I am looking forward to that.

Time to not breathe for the next three to five days. Keep sending me - and the donor - good thoughts.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Proudly Baked in a Surrogate Oven"

Late last week I got the email address and phone number for my surrogate. I emailed her and she recently emailed me back. How on earth do you start a conversation/friendship/business partnership under these circumstances? I have never seen a Hallmark card for this and believe me, I looked. I did, however, find a card celebrating meat, Ramen, samurai time, tea and terrible teeth at

There is, however, surrogate themed clothing. Just in case I have an overwhelming urge to buy my baby a onesie that says, "Proudly baked in a surrogate oven" or buy the surrogate a "Yes I'm pregnant. No, it's not mine." t-shirt for Christmas I know I can order it at I might "accidentally" forget to add those shirts to the baby registry.

I will admit it is a little awkward, but I'm sure it will be better as time goes on. My surrogate, as most of you know, hopes to be a D.O. (doctor of osteopathic medicine) so I mentioned that I work in a hospital and if she had any questions maybe I could find out some answers. I figured that was a good way to bond at first. And I sincerely do hope that she is successful in her career path. Why would I want to wish her anything but success? So we'll see where she is in 9 months and I'm sure you'll be getting some updates about her.

I recently posted about suspending my blog for 3 months. Many people wait for the first trimester to pass before announcing a pregnancy. I am a little superstitious and scared to talk about the pregnancy. But then I received an email from a friend who, unfortunately, had lost a baby right around the end of the first trimester and she was already showing. She said people knew and the support she got helped her get through the ordeal. It was very touching to have her open up to me like that since I hadn't known the story. Once again I get amazing support from people I wouldn't expect! So I'm leaning towards continuing my blog.

Approximately two weeks from today (I still don't have an exact date) the egg donor will go in for her egg retrieval procedure. Yep...two weeks. A great interpreting teacher of mine believed life is like a roller coaster. Once you're on it you can't get off until it comes to a stop. I'm trying to think of this process in that way. There's no getting off the ride now. And, in my experience, once I get off a scary roller coaster, I usually want to get back on and ride it again! Hopefully this process will have the same effect on me.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Signed, sealed, delivered

Hooray! On Thursday I got confirmation that the donor's husband did, in fact, sign the paperwork. Whew. That's a load off my mind. I believed he did intend to sign then contract and I believed he did sign the contract like I was told, but until he got to a fax machine and actually sent it to his lawyer and his lawyer sent it to my lawyer and my lawyer sent it to me I was holding my breath. Now I can breathe again and un-cross my fingers.

For the next three weeks or so I just wait. The surrogate and the egg donor are taking medications to prepare them for their respective jobs. The egg retrieval will happen, I believe, between August 18th and 20th. The two women go to the doctor a couple of times for monitoring this month. At any point, if they are not responding appropriately to their medications, their participation could be canceled. So I actually need everyone to cross your fingers again...even all the sign language interpreters even though I know it's hard to sign that way. It is scary to know that at any moment I could get a call saying everything is off. Please pray, throw salt over your shoulder, pick up a four leaf clover if you see one, wish upon a star one night or do anything else you can think of to help this process. You all have been amazing support so far and I need a little more.

I also got my surrogate's contact information. I just emailed her. It is a little odd to start a relationship this way, but I also am very hopeful that we will have a positive relationship with each other and have a unique bond that is unlike any other. For those of you out there who wonder how I can approach this relationship, the answer is that I don't know how. I am going in with a lot of optimism and peace knowing that she is probably just as awkward with this as I am and we will just figure it out as we go along.

As we get closer and closer to the actual date of the embryo transfer I realize I have to make a decision. I need to decide if I will continue posting or not. I know that most people do not announce a pregnancy during the first trimester and I am back and forth on if I will be ready to announce the pregnancy so early in the process. A major milestone in this process is the fetal heartbeat. A huge section of the contract starts after confirmation of the heartbeat at 6 weeks so that is a possible time to start blogging again. Most people don't announce to the world they are trying to get pregnant on a specific date. I have. I'll have to wait and see what I'm feeling at the end of August.

Maybe I'll use the first trimester for casting! I'm thinking an unknown actress as the donor since she's anonymous. We'll never see her face; she'll always be shot from behind or just a voice on the phone. This has a Best Cinematography Academy Award written all over it. Plus there will be the birth of baby and lots of crying and angst based on a real story so I'm sure we'll get at least win a few awards at Sundance or some independent film festivals.