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.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Should Go To Vegas

This cycle has gone so well. I think I'd even dare to say phenomenally well. The numbers have been so good. Maybe I should go to Vegas or buy a lottery ticket since I'm on a lucky streak. The 15 eggs from the retrieval were a pretty good number. The fact that 13 of the 15 were mature was very good. The next stage was unbelievably amazing. I still can't get over the fact that all 13 fertilized. Five days later I knew I had five viable embryos which was a good number. It was the same I had last year. Only two embryos didn't make it the five days and six were still growing. I was hopeful that I would get one or two more from those six.

Well, yesterday my lucky streak continued. Out of those six that were borderline the embryologists were able to freeze four of them. And one of those even grew into a 4AB which is the second highest quality. The others were 4BB, 4BC and 4BC.

So from 15 eggs that were retrieved a total of nine survived. That's unreal. There is usually a 50% attrition rate for the fertilization stage and another 50% attrition rate during the five days between retrieval and transfer. I was thinking if I got four embryos I'd be satisfied. But nine is so much better!

As I said before, two embryos were transfered so I have seven frozen and one frozen from my donor last year. I'm feeling pretty good. I don't know when my surrogate's pregnancy test is. I didn't ask and part of me doesn't really want to know. I know approximately when it will be but I'm happy to just make it through this week and I'll deal with the pregnancy test in a few days when my nerves have calmed down.

In the meantime, I think I had another sign. The fortune cookies haven't been as good to me as they were last year. But last night I had a callback for a show. There were 10 sides I had to prepare. Everyone got to read two. I was assigned to read Adam in my second scene. Adam is arguing that freedom of speech is only in theory and never really happens. It went like this...

Austin: Youre' saying exactly what you want right now and nobody's stopping you.

Adam: Yeah...well...that's because I'm white...

Austin: What?

Adam: ...and a male when I'd rather be black and a woman and feel my belly swollen with my baby, and be able to sing like Aretha Franklin! That's what I'm talking about, man. R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

It's like I'm Chloe! She's black. She's a woman. She wants to feel her belly swollen with my baby. She wants to sing like Areth -- well, I don't know about that one. But if this story is made into a musical Chloe needs to belt out a big song during birth so hopefully she'll sing like Aretha. I think this is a sign I'll have my baby and my musical too!

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Science Lesson

"Good news."

That's what the embryologist said when Derek and I first walked into the room. I told her that I liked hearing that. Here are the numbers...

Out of the thirteen eggs that fertilized and became embryos five of them were good to go. Two didn't make it. Six of them are still too early to tell. They're classified as morulas. The embryologists will wait until Wednesday to see how they're doing and then make a determination if they are viable or not. What's a morula you might say? (I know I said that.) I have no idea. I tried to get a good definition and here's what I found...

1. a solid ball of cells resulting from cleavage of a fertilized ovum
2. a solid mass of blastomeres that forms when the zygote splits; develops into the blastula
3. a solid, spherical mass of cells resulting from the cleavage of the fertilized ovum in the early stages of embryonic development. It represents an intermediate stage between the zygote and the blastocyst and consists of blastomeres that are uniform in size, shape, and physiologic capabilities.
4. a cluster of organisms appearing as an inclusion in the cytoplasm of circulating leukocytes infected by Ehrlichia spp

And the one that kind of makes the most sense for those of us without PhDs in science

5. an animal organism in the early stages of growth and differentiation that in higher forms merge into fetal stages but in lower forms terminate in commencement of larval life

So basically it's a "maybe baby."

The embryos - well, technically I think they're called blastocysts now - were decent quality but not quite as high as the ones I had last year. They range from 3BC to 4BB. The number can be 1-4 and represents the expansion of the blastocyst. I asked the embryologist to explain what that means and she said "Y''s how it expands." Nothin' like using the word expand to explain expansion. I asked for a better explanation -- an expansion on the definition if you will -- and she showed Derek and me a picture. Her explanation of the picture was "See how it expands!"

"Yeah," I said, not really sure.

Derek and I later decided it basically means that it gets to the point that you can't count the cells any more because there are too many of them. That's the definition we're sticking to.

The first letter refers to the placenta and the second letter refers to the fetus. It can be either A, B, or C. I didn't ask what makes them an A, B, or C. I'm guessing it has to do with the quality but my head was still trying to expand so I could understand the first ranking.

I had talked with Chloe last night about the possibility of three embryos being transfered. She is concerned about carrying triplets. I am too. I'm concerned for her health, the health of the three fetuses, my wallet and my sanity having three infants. I didn't want her to decide last night because I wanted doctor input but I wanted her to figure out how she felt about that. She said she had thought of it too.

After talking with the embryologist we found out the statistics...

Transfering 2 embryos
singleton: 65%
twins: 20-25%
triplets: 3% (if one embryo splits)

Transfering 3 embryos
singleton: 65%
twins: 30-35%
triplets: 15%

So the chance of pregnancy is the same but the chance of multiples is higher. Twins would be OK, but the 15% chance of three babies was a little too much to handle knowing it didn't really improve the overall chances. So we settled on tranfering two 4BB babies.

Now we wait. And pray.

And Wednesday we'll see how many of the six can be frozen but so far things are still going well.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Breathe, Michael, Breathe!

This week is all about holding my breath, then breathing, then holding my breath, then breathing, then holding my -- well, you get the idea.

The breathing is going pretty well so far. We all know now that the doctor retrieved 15 eggs from the donor. That number was good, but there are still so many more hurdles to jump over.

On Thursday the nurse who is my contact for the egg donor left a message. She started out by saying it was good news. I was happy to hear that. But her idea of good news and my idea might be different.

The first number I heard -- holding my breath -- was that out of the 15 eggs 13 of them were mature -- breathe! That is a good percentage. I was happy to hear that.

Now I had to inhale again and hold my breath. There was another number I had to hear. The second number was how many eggs fertilized. This time the nurse said there was very good news -- hurry and say the number since I'm turning blue! Out of the 13 eggs we got all 13 fertilized!!! That was very good news. How exciting. I think my swimmers really outdid themselves this time. I am thrilled to -- wait...exhale first! OK. Better.

So things are good. Very good.

Today, about 5 minutes ago, I got a call saying it would be a 5 day transfer. I asked how my 13 embryos are doing and the nurse said she had no information about them. We'll all just keep praying that they're dividing and dividing and becoming stronger and healthier every day...or hour...or minute. I don't know how fast these things divide.

The big question now is how many embryos to transfer. Two is pretty common. But in my head, I'm starting to be open to transfering three. I won't know much until we get in on Monday and I learn more about the quality of the embryos. I'm OK with twins (and Derek is excited about twins) but triplets really increase the risk of health problems for both the babies and the surrogate. Plus, Derek and I would be outnumbered. No playing man-to-man defense. It would have to be zone defense. I'll have to find out about the chances of triplets and how Chloe would feel about that and how I would feel about it too. I hope to talk to her this weekend so she has time to consider it and we won't have to make a decision in five minutes on Monday morning.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I could be Octo-dad...TWICE

The nurse recently called me to give me the egg retrieval number. She said they got 15 eggs! Of course I was hoping for more, but I'll try to not be greedy. It's a good number. It's a couple more than I got last time so things are already going well. Tomorrow I get the number of how many of these eggs are mature and how many fertilized.

Oh...and I did eat eggs for breakfast today. I just couldn't not do it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Plagarism and the Egg Update

So there's good news and there's bad news. But don't freak out...the bad news isn't so bad.

First, the good news. I got an update on the egg donor on Saturday and again yesterday (Monday). Things are going well. The news is that she has 16 follicles that are 15mm or bigger so those have a good chance of having a good egg. I forgot to ask but I'm guessing she still has 24 follicles. From what I understand follicles don't just disappear. It's just that the other follicles are smaller and have less of a chance of getting a good, healthy egg. But you never know. And the donor still has time for a little more of the meds to work. The retrieval will be on Wednesday (tomorrow). Here's the schedule...

Wednesday: I'll get a call letting me know how many eggs were actually retrieved and how many are viable. The fertility center will then fertilize the eggs with my sperm. They still have plenty left from my first, manly donation. (Ha!) I thought I blogged about it but when I just looked for the number I couldn't find it. I vaguely remember the clinician telling me that my sperm was in the 80th percentile. So my swimmers better do their job well since they're so robust! (Although I think that percentile was mostly related to quantity.)

Thursday: I'll get a call from the clinician's letting me know how many eggs actually fertilized.

Friday: I'll know more about how the embryos are doing and if we'll do a three day transfer (on Saturday) or a five day transfer (on Monday). There are a lot of factors that determine which one will happen but my surrogate was told to most likely plan for Monday. I believe a 5 day transfer is better for a few reasons, but a 3 day transfer isn't the end of the world.

Then we wait and get the happy news a couple weeks later. Just want to say that again...then we get the happy news a couple weeks later.

Meanwhile, I saw a musical called "Surrogates." Yep...someone stole my idea! (Shake fist in the air!) It was written as part of a musical theater class/workshop that started last fall. So this blog is proof that I had the idea first. (Hmmm...I wonder if blogs are admissible in court. I'm sure they are.)

The musical was only about 10-15 minutes long. It was the story of a gay couple who wanted a baby. They asked one of their sisters to be the surrogate and she said no because a baby should have a mother and a father. The brother was angry and asked why he was good enough to be a babysitter to her kids and pick them up after school but not have kids of his own.

The couple decided to interview some (crazy) surrogates. The first was a southern military wife who seemed good until she realized the two men were a couple and didn't have wives. The second was a very type A personality who wanted credit checks on the men (that actually seemed pretty reasonable to me). The third was a strong German woman who was excited to help increase the master race. Yikes!

The couple had a private conversation saying how much they loved each other and tried to accept that maybe things just weren't meant to be. The sister overheard the conversation and realized that they should have a child and agreed to be their surrogate.

It was good. It made me laugh and cry. But where was the "I'll Leggo My Eggos For You" egg donor song? Where was the funny sperm donation scene? Where was the drama of contract negotiations and the hot doctor with the cool accent? Where was the mean nurse who surpises the audience with her heart of gold? Clearly this musical has nothing on "Michael & Michaela." If we open the same year mine will definitely win the Tony award.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Can You Sprint Through a Marthon?

This is a marathon. We've all known that. But now I feel like I've been sprinting the last few days. Everything has been a crisis. At least I see the end in sight. Well, it might not be the finish line. Maybe it's a mile marker or a table with people passing out Gatorade.

Financial: I finally got in contact with my account manager at the fertility clinic. He was very nice about working out a payment. He told me that I could pay part today and part on either Saturday or Monday. After a while he said, "Just pay it Saturday...I'll make sure nothing is held up." Whew. I still want to talk to someone in the billing department. I think it's a little ridiculous that I get a bill for thousands of dollars and am expected to pay it within 3 or 4 days.

Legal: My lawyer is out of town until Monday and her assistant wasn't calling me back. I wound up calling my surrogacy agency and she got some answers. Apparently my surrogate's lawyer is part of the big power outage and hasn't had an office for days. She is trying to work through her Blackberry. Yikes! My surrogate mailed the signed contract extension on Thursday so it's in transit. The assistant called me today and said she's sending over the papers with my signature only and an email from Chloe's lawyer saying Chloe signed the papers and her signature is on the way. The donor won't donate until at least Monday so the very earliest we need the surrogacy extension is Thursday...and that's pretty unlikely.

Medical: We have some good news. The fertility nurse called me Thursday while I was walking through Costco to update me on the donor and Friday to tell me about the surrogate. We have some good news. The donor is stimulating nicely. She has 24 follicles total and 19 are between 9 and 21 mm. That's a good number. My surrogate went in today and her uterine lining was at 9.4 cm and we want it to be at least 7 cm. So things are looking good for both of the women. Today I'm supposed to get another call with more news about my donor and a (probably) definite day of the retrieval.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Who Are You and What Do You Want???

Ugh. That about sums up my feelings right now. Wait...maybe "double ugh" or "blergh." (Yay...more "30 Rock" references. If I had some night cheese maybe I'd feel better.)

Anyway...back to the point...

The last few weeks have been pretty stressful. I'm just so lost as to who needs what form, signature, consent, contract, approval, decision, and payment and when.

1. My contract with my surrogate is expiring in about a week and we want to extend it another year since the two of us want to continue working with each other. I signed the form and sent it to my lawyer. I thought we were all done. Then I got another form changing things like the word "a" to "the." I sent that back. Then the fertility center called -- it was someone named Cindy. She wants to make sure I have the extension form. I'm not sure why my surrogate hasn't signed it but I've sent it to my lawyer twice and haven't heard back.

2. I called my lawyer to try to understand what is going on. Well, my lawyer is off until July 18th. Eek! I've called and emailed her assistant twice (or maybe three times) and haven't heard back from her. Grr...I mean blergh.

3. I called the fertility center to ask a question about this many thousands of dollars bill I got on Monday to see about paying part of it this week and part next week. Well, my account manager is off sick so I can't talk to him. I talked with a nice woman who said Cindy would call me. She's not the same Cindy I know. Cindy called me an hour or two later and left a nasty message saying that I HAD to pay it by Friday because the egg retrieval is next week. The tone was pretty much "I don't see why this is an issue. You just have to pay it." Well, Cindy, maybe it's an issue since I have four days notice to come up with all this money. I have it, I just don't have it ready today. Plus, who are you??? I didn't get a last name or a position. Are you a nurse or a finance person? Double blergh!!!

4. I called the fertility clinic and asked to talk with some head person in accounting and billing. I wanted to let that person know that four days notice really is not acceptable and I wanted to see my options for paying it. I left a message for her and she has yet to call me back. Blerg, blergh, blergh, blergh, BLERGH!!!

It is just a stressful week. I feel like no one from this process is on my side. Last year I felt like people were constantly checking in with me and I had things all set. Now I'm just at a loss as to who has what and who is missing what. Hopefully this will still work. I'm sure it will, but I'm going on a little faith and hope.

Tomorrow will be more phone calls to try to clear this up. Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Facts and Figures

It feels like I'm still climbing the hill of this roller coaster and I haven't made it to the first drop yet. In about two weeks things will go crazy and I'm not really looking forward to going through all the emotional ups and downs again. Maybe I'll be lucky and it will just be all ups! I was feeling OK with this for a while and then my mind went back to almost a year ago when every day or two I got news about how my future babies were doing. I forgot that the doctor gets eggs, but not all are good. I forgot that out of all the healthy eggs some don't fertilize. I forgot that out of the ones that fertilize not all start to divide. And I forgot that out of the ones that divide, not all make it to five days. Every day I held my breath for what the new number would be. I'm excited that this donor produced a lot of eggs last year when she donated. She was almost hyper-stimulated so hopefully I'll have a lot of good eggs. And my attrition rate last year was very low. A high percentage of my eggs made it to a 5 day transfer level. I'm hoping that's because my sperm was healthy enough to grow some strong embryos and will do so again. Of course Mother Nature has a lot of her own plans that may trump my dreams. We'll just have to wait and see.

So, to keep my mind off all the hurdles I'm about to jump over again, here are a few fun facts about dads. The website with the dad statistics is several years old so some of the numbers might be slightly out of date...

According to the US Census Bureau 66.3 million is the estimated number of fathers in the United States today. (Hopefully it will be 66.300000001 soon)

2.0 million is the number of single fathers, up from 393,000 in 1970. Currently, 1-in-6 single parents is a single father, compared with 1-in-10 in 1970.

The United States had an estimated 5.5 million stay-at-home parents last year: 5.4 million moms and 98,000 dads, according to a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Studies show that close healthy father-daughter relationships foster a
sense of competence in daughters, mathematical ability and a stronger sense of femininity in girls. (I better brush up on my math if I have a girl)

The average number of children per father around the world is 3.5. The country with the most children per father is Malaysia at 3.8 children per dad. (Should I move to Malaysia???)

Jose is the most common name for men who are most likely to be fathers. Ryan is the most common name for men who are least likely to be fathers. (That settles it; tomorrow I change my name to Jose)

The tadpoles of the male hip-pocket frog wriggle along their father's back until they reach two tiny slots that open into the male's hip pouches. Inside the pouch, the tadpoles live on the yolk leftover from their hatching. They pop out a few weeks later as fully formed frogs.

A new sea horse brood begins when the female deposits eggs into a special pouch on the male's abdomen, and the male fertilizes them. (I guess gay sea horses don't have to pay surrogate!)

The South American marmoset may win the prize for most-involved dad. The marmoset mother starts pulling away from her twins a few weeks after they're born. Then the male carries, feeds, and grooms the infants—with help from their older siblings—and may even act as a midwife during birth, grooming and licking the newborn marmosets.

A father sea catfish keeps the eggs of his young in his mouth until they are ready to hatch. He will not eat until his young are born, which may take several weeks. (Lucky I'm not a sea catfish. Six weeks without pizza and chocolate? No thanks!)