Little blueberry

Today, just an hour ago we saw our tiny beginning of a life. 9mm from head to rump and a quivering heartbeat around 140bpm. I’m feeling dazed and just amazed! So excited that our first round of IVF worked and here we are! I’m just seven weeks pregnant and all is well!

Wishing upon a heartbeat

It’s around 6pm on a Sunday, and I’m lying down on our pseudo-sofa, with a cat partially lying on me purring loudly. This weekend I have felt more exhausted than ever, crashing around 3pm, and then again around 8-9pm. The fatigue comes and kidnaps you like jetlag. When you’re least expecting it, you’re suddenly captured in this dark cloud and pulled into sleep practically against your will. It’s getting to the point where, I can’t hide it, and I have already suffered the consequences at work when I can’t just up and go take a nap in the middle of training a client. (Luckily, however, if the fatigue hits me earlier, I’m usually on my lunch break and can go take a nap on the sofa in the child-care area).

Tuesday has been the only day this week that has been manageable in terms of the nausea (no gagging or puking, just a twinge of nausea). Today has probably been the worst day of the nausea too. No matter if I’ve just eaten or what, but I’ve been pale as a sheet all day, and have been gagging and puking pretty much since morning, and it hasn’t really subsided at any point. Great. We were visiting my wife’s godfather, where there were also her second cousin and family visiting, and they all probably all thought I was hungover. Oh well. I guess the symptoms are pretty similar.

Tomorrow, tomorrow! In about 18 hrs, one sleep away, is our first ultrasound! We are wishing for a strong heartbeat! And though it’s a crazy thought—what if there’s twins in there? What if this little embryo decided to become identical twins? Or is this level of fatigue and nausea normal for a singleton? Anyway, we can’t wait!

Calming down

I got the results from my second beta, and I think I can stop worrying now.

First beta hCG on 10/17: 283
2nd beta hCG on 10/23: 3736!!!!!!!!

Okay. Stop worrying. I’m definitely, definitely preggers even though I didn’t throw up yesterday. Today the nausea is back and trying to get the best of me. Plus my boobs are getting so sore and heavy that I woke up from boob pain multiple times during the night. Ouch!!

The numbers are in!

So the numbers are in! The results from my beta hCG levels are 238, comfortably in the range of definitely pregnant. Of course those numbers are from yesterday and today they’d be something else…

Our clinic doesn’t routinely do more than the one so our next appointment is November 4th for our first ultrasound!

So the waiting game continues…

IVF: Becoming a pincushion

It was a relief to take the summer off from treatments, because you realize that the past six months of your life have been measured in two-week increments and bi-monthly clinic visits. Especially with the hormone treatment, this is what an average month would be like: upon getting your period, you call the clinic to make an appointment for an ultrasound around the time you’d ovulate. You go into the ultrasound around 8-9 days post menstruation to see how well the follicles have developed, and at a precise instant a few days later you inject the Pregnyl after which precisely 36 hours later we would go in for the insemination. And then you wait. You get paranoid about experiencing signs of early pregnancy. The first week flies by, the second week you wake up each day hoping you won’t get your period, which of course eventually you do and you start the cycle all over again.

Over our month of summer holiday, during which the clinic was also closed, we had time to reflect and prepare for the next set of more intensive treatments: IVF. I had a lot of mixed emotions about this: mostly fear and worry about the discomfort, but also about the cost. It ain’t cheap makin’ babies, that’s for sure. On the last day of our holiday I experienced the most severe cramping I ever had before and had to go in to see a doctor, who of course wouldn’t/couldn’t believe that it could possibly be related to menstrual cramps. (It was).

Upon returning home, I immediately made an appointment with my doctor who confirmed that my endometriosis had flared up, and was the source of my pain. She thought I should get a second opinion. Also, she thought it was wise to first take care of my pain and only then continue with the treatments. After preparing for it emotionally for a month, we felt disappointed and very unsure: the second opinion could mean being put in line for surgery…which would effectively force us to take a break from treatments until the following summer!

Luckily for me, pregnancy (if possible!) is actually a great temporary cure for endometriosis. Without the hormonal fluctuation of the menstrual cycle, the endometriosis chills out, dries up and can greatly be diminished. Our second opinion doctor showed us the green light, and two days later we are purchasing hundreds and hundreds of Euros worth of injectible hormones. (Thanks to the health care system, I only pay a small fee for ALL prescription drugs for the remainder of the year!).

On the second day of menstruation I took the first shot: Elonva to stimulate follicle growth. Five days later began five consecutive days of injections of Orgalutran to keep me from ovulating. On the last two days, I additionally injected Puregon to boost the rest of the follicles. On the 6th day at precisely 10pm I injected a full dose of Pregnyl to release the eggs for the harvesting on Monday. Three days into the Orgalutran injections I had had an ultrasound, where they discovered about 15 follicles. To ensure the maximum amount of mature follicles, the doctor calculated their growth rate and debated whether or not there would be enough on Friday–eventually she decided on Monday.

I had anticipated extreme discomfort and swelling to the point of being unable to work. Instead, the only side effects from being a pin cushion seemed some minor mood swings and a significant increase in sexual appetite (insatiable!). Not so bad 🙂

On Monday, after being a nervous wreck all weekend we arrive at the clinic in the morning. I’d taken a few days off work since I was expecting some soreness and my wonderful partner had taken that Monday off work completely to be with me. After a little bit of waiting we were called into the “resting room” where they prepared a cannula in my hand for the medication. And then they called me in! I climbed on to the exam table and immediately I was prodded and poked and washed. I was injected with a sedative and pain killers… and they administered a local anesthetic to the vaginal wall. Soon the sedative started to have effect… as they began the ultrasound and the harvesting from my right ovary. Unfortunately the machine got stuck and the sedative and pain killer started to wear off… so when they resumed I felt very distinct pain. But soon they gave me more things to calm me down and the rest of the procedure went quickly and painlessly. All in all it took about 20 minutes.

While I was blissfully unaware of what was happening, they managed to extract 14 follicles, of which 7 had an ovum. They immediately took them to get fertilized and I went in to recover.

I can only say that I was positively surprised at how easy and painless this whole procedure was! To any of my readers about to go through this: It’s really not so bad!

A few days rest at home and three days later we returned (yesterday) for the implantation! Of the seven ovum, five had split from the nucleus and were unusable, but two were prime 8-celled little embryos! Because I’m not very tall, they only implanted one.  The procedure was comparable to an insemination: A quick stretch and a wash and catheter in, catheter out–look at the little embryo on the ultrasound screen…And now we have a picture of this light blob in my uterus.. possibly the very first picture of our future baby!

Until I get to take a pregnancy test, I’m inserting a progesterone tablet three times daily to support implantation…and injecting a few shots of Pregnyl over the next week to support my short cycle.

So all that’s left to do is WAIT.

I’d appreciate your support!

So it begins: 6 inseminations

January 2013: The time has arrived. The talking and the planning finally boil down to baby making.

We have our first insemination halfway through January. Towards the end of the two week wait before taking the pregnancy test I get ridiculously moody, like the worst PMS I have ever experienced. A day after non-alcoholically celebrating my 29th birthday I get my period.

We are not crushed. Just disappointed. We didn’t think it would have been THAT easy anyway.

We try again in February. They told us at the clinic, that on average couples get pregnant by the third try, so we are hopeful. Throughout the process we’d been bounced about from doctor to doctor (our regular doctor always seemed to be away at conventions or trainings or on holiday, and eventually we find out she’s quit). The third doctor that is assigned to us suddenly notices something strange in my cycle: my luteal phase is abnormally short, despite my cycle being of normal length (though on the short side). Now for a fertilized egg to have time to travel to the uterus and implant, it needs at LEAST 12 days, preferably more than 14. If a woman’s luteal phase is normal, she’ll take a pregnancy test 14 days after insemination to figure out if she’s pregnant. My luteal phase is only 10 days: two days shorter than what is already considered to be challenging and only one day more than impossible. In other words, short of a miracle, there is no way I can get pregnant naturally. My uterine lining starts to shed 4 days before even the most accurate pregnancy tests can detect an early pregnancy.

Enlightened by this knowledge, for our third insemination in March, our doctor prescribes me progesterone to hopefully lengthen my luteal phase to allow for a pregnancy to begin. To our dismay, the progesterone only lengthens my cycle by one day, and I get my period days before the date of the pregnancy test.

For the next round we take things a step further. I get an ultrasound a few days before my natural ovulation but my body is tricked into ovulating sooner with the use of a hormone injection. This makes the egg(s) mature quicker and release sooner. This particular time, I had two mature eggs, so our chances are doubled! Precisely 36 hours after the injection we go in for the insemination. Ideal circumstances for a baby to happen, right? I continue to inject half a dose of Pregnyl (2500UI) two more times in four day intervals to support and lengthen my luteal phase, succesfully. The week leading up to the pregnancy test I experience nausea, breast tenderness, aversion to certain smells and tastes, and a strange heaviness in my lower abdomen. I have vertigo. I cannot stop reading online forums for the earliest signs of pregnancy. I feel an odd protectiveness, that I’ve never felt before. As someone who trains hard at the gym, I find myself not wanting to do so. I’m convinced this time, we had success!

Until a day before I’m to take the pregnancy test I wake up with horrendous cramps and heavy bleeding. I am in so much pain, my partner drives me to the doctor and I get a pain killer injected straight into my buttocks. I take the day off work to recover.

We try again in May, and the last time in June. Pregnyl helps, but each time I get my period a day before or the day of the pregnancy test. Our doctor says we cannot keep doing this to ourselves like this anymore, and it is looking more and more likely that my endometriosis is somehow causing infertility. We have no choice but to consider IVF as our next step.

The next step

So, the decisions were made and it was time to make a move. A year earlier actually, we had gone in to talk and get a consult at the clinic and at that time we were considering my partner as the one to get pregnant. I remember one tense drive to my partner’s grandmother’s house in a different part of the country around Easter 2012 where I finally blurted out that I was uncomfortable with the idea of her being pregnant–instead of me. Somehow, even though I was never much of a “baby person” or even necessarily thought I’d ever had kids, if we were actually going to be doing this, then it would have to be me. Not something I can really explain logically; some people want to have kids because they have a strong nurturing drive or because they really love kids, but I just kind of really want(ed) to be pregnant.

So with that decision made we booked appointments at a clinic, which we’d heard great things about from other lesbian couples, to get all the necessary tests done. Where we live they require several necessary steps before you can start your baby process:

1. Getting tested for all possible STI’s

2. Testing that your fallopian tubes are open and working properly

3. Getting all the necessary hormone levels checked at different points of cycle to for example, ensure ovulation.

4. A 1,5hr meeting with a psychologist to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into–and also them assessing your suitability to parent!

Autumn of 2012 was filled with blood tests, ovulation tests, many internal exams and tests to see if everything was working right. It was. So as 2012 came to an end, the only thing that was left to do was to order sperm. Like any couple, we wanted our donor to resemble my partner as closely as possible. Unlike in many countries where you essentially have a Facebook-type catalog of sperm donors including childhood pictures and voice samples, in our European country all you get is ethnic background, height, and the color of their hair and eyes. That’s it.  And the cryobank had one match.

So in the history of all awkward phone calls, imagine this: you’re sitting in packed bus during rush hour when your phone rings. I often don’t take calls while using public transportation, but as I was expecting this particular call, I answered. The somewhat one-sided conversation went about like this:

-“Hi! Is this xx? This is xx calling from the lab at the fertility clinic”

-“Yes, this is she.”

-“So I was calling about ordering semen for your upcoming treatments”

-“Yes, great”

-” So we found a donor that matched your wishes. Tall, of European decent, brown hair, brown eyes. Is that correct?

-“Yes, perfect”

-” So how many vials would you like to order?”

-“Ummm… four?”

-“Okay, four vials of semen.  It will be one vial per treatment, so hopefully you’ll have some left over. So the quality is very high–we test for mobility and wash it to ensure the best possible results.”

-“Sounds good.”

-“Your order should be available to use at the clinic just after the holidays”.

OF COURSE you imagine everyone on the bus hearing the other person talk about semen and insemination and sperm donors… so perhaps the feeling of awkwardness was mostly just on my part, trying to keep it cool stuffed in my winter coat on this packed bus.

Introducing our story

I suppose this story starts like so many other stories: you’re nearing 30 or in your 30’s and it’s time to think about babies. As two women, this whole baby thing isn’t exactly something that just accidentally happens, but requires a great amount of planning and investment (both emotional and financial). So the discussion revolved less around WHEN to have a baby and went more like: “How are we going to have baby, and are we going to involve other people? Should we ask one of our friends to donate or should we go for an anonymous donor? Who’s going to carry the baby? Are we going to inseminate at home or use a clinic? For whom would it be easiest to stay home after the birth?”.

Quite surprisingly and eerily accurately we received an email a week after our commitment ceremony, from a gay couple that we knew of through other friends. In this email they in all essence asked if we wanted to make babies with them. Now straight couples will probably get questions after they’re married about when to expect the pitter patter of little feet—but for gay folk, we go straight to the point 🙂 We had at that point only just begun the process of thinking of expanding our family, and we openly accepted the boys’ invitation to get to know each other and consider starting a family with them. Through nearly a year of discussion we eventually came to the conclusion that we wanted different things (my partner and I wanted to be the sole guardians of the child(ren) and they clearly wanted a family of their own).

We had previously also brought up the idea with a (gay) friend of ours, thinking of him as the only person we would ever ask or want as a donor. He accepted…but as things got close to decision time he backed out worried how a mutual child would affect our friendship and his possible plans to have a family of his own someday.

No problem–considering all the things we wanted and our only possible donor out of the picture (in that capacity, not out of our lives!) we decided going for the anonymous donor route. Simplest (most expensive!), and easiest. And this is where the story really begins.