Tag Archives: hormones

Where To … Part 7: Statistics, Results and Odds

The ‘beauty contest’ (otherwise known as PGD) is almost over. 20 eggs, whittled down to 13 eggs that fertilized, whittled down to 6 that have developed. Our new donor is under the age of 25 years old.

Of those 6, 2 embryos are being frozen today, another 2 will be frozen tomorrow, another 1 is a very slow grower and 1 is possibly normal, but has a ‘spot’ on it. We chose to freeze that one as well. A ‘spot’ could be something or it could be nothing. For now though we have 2 great embryos and hopefully tomorrow another two.

For those who have got this IVF thing right the first time … wow!!! The sun, the stars, the whole universe must have been aligned for you and I salute you!! We’re still waiting for that alignment to happen for us … once we find a surrogate mother … one day.

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Where To … Part 6: Finding Some Fairy Dust & Magic

The last 6 months has been trying. Seriously, crappily, shitty trying. After our fraudster surrogate mother, along came a well intended surrogate mother who unfortunately turned out to be medically unfit with high blood pressure and abnormal kidney function. Again, the process came to an abrupt and grinding halt and my hopes crashing down.

I’ve been avoiding shopping centres during weekends, not just because I loathe crowds, but also because that’s when families are at their most prominent. In July, as part of my voluntary work for a non profit animal welfare organisation, I found myself ‘stuck’ in one of my worst nightmares – a shopping centre for 4 days doing a fundraiser … during the school holidays! Hundreds of families with thousands of babies / children of all ages. Some with twins, others with newborns, women with telltale bumps and with another one in tow, some with up to 4! What’s the deal with that? Were they first in the line when they dished out ripe, healthy ovaries and industrial strength uterus packages? Did I get the leftovers? The scraps?

Talking about scraps, it really feels as if we’ve been scraping the bottom of the barrel, but despite our countless disappointments, we’ve decided to forge on with our new egg donor who had 20 eggs retrieved / harvested on Sunday. To be quite honest I didn’t give myself the chance this time to get anxious, nervous, excited … Or anything – I’ve ridden the roller coaster way too many times. I woke up Sunday morning bright and early to be at the stables by 7:30am, do shopping for braai by 9am, clinic by 10am to hand over LH sperm sample & complete necessary PGD paperwork, make salads, have fundraising meeting at home with up and coming singer, in time for braai with friends at 1pm. By Monday, 13 of the 20 eggs had fertilised and the ‘beauty contest’ as LH puts it, officially starts today. By today the scientific expectation is that they be between 2 and 4 cells. So far we have 4 2-cell embryos, 3 3-cell embryos and 6 4-cell embryos and 2 have seemingly fallen off the radar. As odds & stats go however, its looking promising … if one can call it promising considering we don’t have a surrogate mother in sight. So once PGD testing is complete over the next few days, those that make the grade will go on their ski holiday in the freezer, until an angel in the form of surrogate mother comes along – whenever that might be.

Perhaps surrogate mother number 4 (if she ever materialises) will make our dreams come true. Who knows? Nothing is certain in this world, let alone in the world of egg donors, IVF and surrogate mothers. Perhaps one day it will be an exact science, but for now it’s hit and miss with a bit of fairy dust and magic thrown in. Something we needs truck loads of right now.

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Where To … Part 5: Drawn Out Cloudy Days

What started out as a status update on Facebook has now turned into a blog post …

I’m feeling rather bleak today. I went from feeling rather green yesterday after a Sunday afternoon of overindulging in lovely pastries and cakes during an afternoon tea session with some girl friends, to being somewhat blue / bleak today. Maybe our deal in life is not to have a family of our own. I’m tired (yes tired and somewhat grumpy) of well meaning people saying “Don’t worry it’ll just happen when you least expect it. You just need to relax.” or “You’re trying too hard. Just let it happen.”. Maybe I need a loud-hailer to yell “WITHOUT A UTERUS, WITHOUT LOADS OF GOOD EGGS, NOTHING WILL ‘JUST FUCKING HAPPEN’!”. Shagging like bunnies was taken off the table the day my patchwork uterus popped like a balloon, suitable egg donors don’t just fall out of trees, surrogate mothers aren’t exactly popping out of the woodwork saying ‘pick me!’ and NO our family (if ever we have one at this rate) won’t just miraculously appear out of thin air. We have to make it happen with whatever means and legal ways are available to us.

So here we are. Our potential surrogate mother turned out to be shady and a fraudulent crook = no surrogate mother. Our new egg donor can’t hang around forever and she’s available in March / April – we either use her or lose her to someone else. It’s a cut and dry business deal – no frills, no freebies, no ‘specials’. Eggs for cash in March – take it or leave it. Our intention was to do fresh embryo transfer, but without a surrogate mother and a good but hasty egg donor wanting to cash out her egg pension over the Easter holidays, we have to do the next best thing. We are going to have to freeze any viable embryos. Frozen embryo transfer has a much lower success rate, as we know from experience, but we don’t exactly have a huge number of options right now.

So therein lies my bleakness today.

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Where To … Part 4: In The Blink Of An Eye

In the blink of an eye life often has unexpected turns around every corner. Just when you think you’re headed in the right direction, an event happens that makes your lose your way again.

We met with our prospective surrogate mother, who seemed like a lovely person, week before last at the fertility clinic. LH and I left our initial meeting with her feeling elated and hopeful and started the ball rolling on meeting with her husband who wasn’t at the meeting, psychometric testing, draft surrogacy agreements, attorney appointments etc …. During the last two weeks however I had tried to, on a numerous occasions, to contact our prospective surrogate only to find that she never answered her phone. I guess from time to time we are all guilty of that, but something was starting to niggle at me.

Last week the bombshell started dropping. Our psychologist KB emailed me with an urgent request to discuss concerns about our potential surrogate. What emerged from KB, our attorney who’d had previous dealings with her under a different name, and subsequently from our own investigation, was alarming and disturbing to say the least. The dirty trail of deceit, outright lies, to fraud … the trail was long … the trail was scary … What her ultimate objective was with us remains unclear, but from what little interaction we’ve had with her to date, her intentions were clearly not good. I severed all ties today … and resolved to continue our search for a surrogate mother.

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Where To … Part 3: We Love It When A Plan Starts Coming Together!

Firstly a belated Happy New Year to everyone following the blog!! I hope that all your dreams for 2013 come true.

Wow! So much has happened since my last entry. LH and I went on a much needed 2 week holiday to the Maldives. The trip was a surprise ‘gift’ from LH for our 3rd anniversary and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We were both emotionally drained and needing ‘time out’ for just the two of us and what a better place to have ‘time out’! In true LH style, when we boarded the plane to Dubai, I had no idea where we were headed! Our days were spent diving the crystal clear warm waters with a myriad of different schools of colourful fish, odd looking ocean creatures and coral, cycling around the island, lazing around our private pool, sipping on cocktails, massages at the spa and dining on delectable Asian cuisine.

Feeling energised on our return, I threw myself into finishing off our adoption profile. Reviewing what I’d done thus far with ‘fresh’ eyes, I scrapped it and started again! I was surprised by the range of emotions I felt whilst putting it together.
* Frustration – what to include / exclude;
* Hope – our baby could arrive any moment once our profile is submitted;
* Anger – why is it so easy for others to become parents and yet we have to ‘promote’ ourselves to a complete stranger;
* Empathy and sadness – if selected by a birth mother, we gain a family of our own, whilst she loses a child;
* Self doubt – will the prospective birth mothers like and connect with our profile … choose us as the couple to raise their child?
I was pleased with the final result of our profile and looked forward to receiving the printed copy in the post at the end of December. On the 4th January we delivered our profile to the social workers, along with all the other original copies of documentation and were registered on the central national database of prospective adoptive parents. The ‘wait’ has officially begun …

Since that fateful day 14th October 2010 when we lost our daughter 5 months into my pregnancy, then again 29th August 2012 when we lost our son 13 weeks into our surrogate mother’s pregnancy and the graveyard of little embryos in between, I’ve not cared much for Christmas and New Year. It’s a really difficult time for me, especially this past festive season where everything seemed to be hanging in the air – so much uncertainty. Waiting for our adoption profile to arrive, worrying about our trusty doc who was gravely ill, wondering whether we’d ever be able to find another surrogate mother, wondering whether the fading hope I hang onto every day is just a foolish dream. It was therefore such a lovely surprise when I received a phone call from our trusty doc just last week with news that he is well, back at work and has a potential surrogate mother for us!

With hope restored, perhaps 2013 will be our year after all! With conservative excitement and some trepidation, we’re pressing forward and making the necessary arrangements / appointments with psychologists, attorneys etc … And so our surrogacy journey begins anew …

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Where To … Part 2: The Way Forward

My mind has been in a million places since I last wrote in the blog. At one point I was just about ready to give up, feeling exasperated, frustrated and totally hopeless. The brain however should not be underestimated (even mine!) as it is a wonderful organ, which finds a way to heal and seeks clarity, restoring our hope and our dreams. So although the frustration of our helplessness seems insurmountably great, our loss unbelievably painful, we are not defeated and remain determined to succeed in our journey to parenthood.

In the past weeks we’ve started walking the avenue of adoption, have had our adoption screening and are patiently waiting for the feedback whilst preparing our adoption profile. Simultaneously we’ve decided not to give up hope on the surrogacy front and are actively looking for a surrogate, exploring options available to us both locally and internationally. One thing I have come to terms with is that I will never have a biological child of my own – a full sibling to Stella, but it’s a reality I’ve now made peace with (finally), so we’ll be going straight to donor egg. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I thought I had 3 options for a surrogate mother, but sadly all fell through:
1. Surro Mom 1 – considered too risky taking our history into account as she’s had 4 caesars, which compromises her uterus
2. Surro Mom 2 – the commissioning parents became parents through adoption, but then decided to also do IVF starting January 2013.
3. Surro Mom 3 – has medical complication and we felt was doing it for the wrong reasons as her decision was purely financially motivated despite the changes to the SA law.

As we’ve come to learn the hard way, this journey is one that we cannot map out step by step. There are so many unknowns, so many hurdles and unexpected obstacles. I’ve adopted a saying “What will be … will be” … whilst it doesn’t wipe away the tears, the anguish, the loss, the pain of what has happened in the past, it makes the inability to control what happens in the future more bearable. All I can do in the meantime is try to set the wheels in motion as best I can.

For now I’m focussing on two tasks – that of finding a surrogate mother and putting our adoption profile together. We’re hoping that someone out there may find it in their hearts to give us the greatest gift we could wish for.

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Where To: I’m a Good Enough Person … Aren’t I?

With the forces of nature seemingly determined to stand in my way, blocking my path and intent on sweeping a cruel hand of devastation to destroy any progress towards my wish for a family, I’m finding it pretty darn hard not to start second guessing myself. Perhaps I’m not meant to be a mother? Maybe I don’t deserve to have a family? What am I doing that is so wrong?

Whenever these thoughts have clouded my judgement, I’ve desperately tried to push them away by screaming at the world:
I AM worthy!
I DO deserve a family!
I WILL make a great mother!
WTF??

Yesterday I read with disbelief a news article about a mother (is she a mother?) who is on trial for murdering her 5 children. She stabbed 4 of them with a steak knife and drowned her youngest in a basin who was just 2 years old. She blamed it on her abusive relationship with the children’s father and financial problems. WTF????? What kind of a pathetic excuse is that?? Here I am – solid marriage with LH – financially secure – would never lay a vicious hand on a child of mine and yet … I can’t even have ONE???? What’s up with that?????????

As you’ve probably guessed the last week has been a cycle of:
- Complete disbelief / numbness
How can this happen to us – yet again?? Have I run out of tears?
- Irrational blood boiling anger / fury
The effing doctors that didn’t figure out there was a problem before embryo transfer, the effing egg donor who didn’t know she had a bad gene, LH & just EFFING EVERYONE!
- Guilt
Our SM had to go through the trauma of miscarriage. Our egg donor now going to find out she has a major genetic issue.
- Helplessness
Nothing in this process has been in my control … and it still remains out of my control … I can’t change anything
- Devastating sadness and gut wrenching tears
I’ve lost two babies. Our precious Stella who was 100% healthy but was encased in my patched up uterus that ruptured and now our son, who although encased in the perfect uterus of our SM, had severe congenital heart failure due to a partially formed heart amongst other problems, making survival an impossibility.

What does the future hold for us? I really don’t know. For now LH and I want to take a bit of a break, pull ourselves together, build up our emotional strength, before we think about how best to move forward. In all honesty I’d be really happy with a vacation from reality right now, but unless someone has some kind of gizmo to port us into another happier dimension where things are constantly in our control and just always work out, that’s unlikely to happen any time soon. So for now, I’ll put on a brave face and muddle through everything until it all starts getting a bit clearer.

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The Pregnancy – Part 5: Shattered Dreams & Fading Hope

I write this entry with an extremely heavy heart, which is why it’s taken me 4 days to pluck up the courage to write it. After 5 years of trying for a family and almost 2 years into our surrogacy journey, it all came to an abrupt end on Wednesday when we went for our 13 week scan at the Foetal Assessment Centre. Our hopes and dreams were completely shattered. We were so incredibly excited to receive a positive pregnancy result for a singleton, even though we had hoped for twins. With sadness we mourned the loss of our one embryo but we still had a baby! All 3 scans leading up to the 13 week scan showed a healthy, growing baby. The only thing we were mentally preparing ourselves for, from an emotional point of view, was finding out if our singleton was the embryo from my egg (female) or the embryo from our donor egg (male).

The results we received at our 13 week scan completely shocked and confused us – I thought I was living a nightmare. The scan showed our baby boy, whose heart was partially formed and failing along with other abnormalities that hadn’t been picked up during PGD nor during previous scans. The prognosis was that our baby was dying before our very eyes (he was barely moving and his heart rate incredibly slow for his stage of development). It was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened. The only decision we had to make was whether to terminate or whether to wait for him to die and the miscarriage which would follow. Together with our Surrogate Mother (SM) we decided to terminate, for the sake of our son who was clearly in distress, for our SM so that she didn’t have to endure the wait and for our sanity, knowing that it was a matter of time – hours, days … maybe a week at most all during which our son was battling along, waiting to die. I cannot explain how I’m feeling right now. After being given some tablets to take on Wednesday evening and into Thursday, our SM went in for a D&C on Friday and our baby is no more. An autopsy was conducted and the results will be made available to the egg donor as she needs to know that she is the carrier of a congenital abnormality.

LH and I are completely wiped out emotionally and don’t think we have the emotional strength to go through another attempt with a surrogate. Our SM indicated to us a while ago that she was only going to do this one time and now that time has come to an end. Finding a suitable surrogate is not easy and nor is finding a suitably matched egg donor, let alone the emotional toll of going through the whole process again will take on us. Perhaps in a few month’s time we may view it differently, but for now we’re not pursuing that option, unless it miraculously lands in our laps. The way things have worked out for us thus far, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing any miracles any time soon. For the moment we would rather focus on the possibility of adopting a baby. Having tried and just about exhausted all other avenues to the point where I’m feeling emotionally destroyed, LH has finally come full circle, to a discussion I had with him almost 5 years ago.

Who knows where this journey will take us. RIP my tiny little son. Your struggle is over, but you will always live in my heart.

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The Pregnancy – Part 4: Rose Tinted Glasses

In the past, when I pictured my eventual family through rather naive rose tinted glasses, I always had visions of me with my LH and 2 children. I also never wanted to be considered an ‘old’ mother (i.e. over 40!) and saw myself having children in my mid 30′s. The reality however is somewhat different. Throughout my life I’ve always been accustomed to strive for what I want and do what it takes to get there. I got this trait from my Dad who was such an instrumental part of who I am today, as he taught me most of the valuable lessons I still apply in my life. As a result I was mostly always ahead of my game.

With rose tinted glasses cast aside, by the time I was 20 years old I was working hard to pay the bills, put food on my table, petrol in my car and finance my night school classes. I was also partying up a storm every opportunity I could get – after all this is what being in your 20′s is all about. By the time I was 31 years old, I was a successful career woman with big responsibilities, a large home of her own in a leafy suburb, travelling all over the world on business trips with a blasé attitude towards personal relationships, bordering on being commitment phobic. Serious relationships cramped my life-style and my independence, so I treated all my romantic relationships frivolously, which often meant making the wrong choices. Looking back, my biggest fear was being ‘stuck’ in a disgruntled and unhappy marriage. I’m glad I waited until I met LH and didn’t rush such a big decision that would change the course of my life. Had I done so, I would have perhaps had my 2 kids, but not the right partner in life to raise them in a happy and secure environment. Although I have had my struggle with infertility because of my age, lost my precious baby mid term, will never know what it’s like to experience carrying a baby to full term and made immense sacrifices, I have no regrets at all that . I have a fabulous LH, a solid marriage and completely accept the path that I have travelled. Is it what I originally had planned for myself? Not exactly. Is it where I want to be right now? Without a doubt in my mind.

Question I’m now asking myself is, in light of what we’ve been through to get to this point, do I still want 2 children? We have one precious baby on it’s way, which I’m extremely excited about, but it’s been a incredibly long and emotionally tough journey to get to this point. Do I have the inner emotional strength to go down this road again? Would it be fair on LH? Our situation after all is unique and such a decision would again involve a team of people, a whole load of financing, zero guarantees and an emotional roller-coaster ride unlike any other. I’ve always believed that to have a sibling in a loving and supportive home is an amazing experience. As a parent it must be equally rewarding and heart warming. On the flip side, it can also go horribly wrong. Unhealthy sibling rivalry can create all sorts of jealousy issues, insecurities, antagonistic competition, animosity and undesirable tension within a family unit. In saying that however I truly believe that the dynamics leading up to unhealthy sibling rivalry is often fuelled by the parents at a time when each child in the family is competing to define who they are as individuals and either of the parents favour one child over another. I could be completely wrong in my theory, however if I look at just our circle of friends, there are those that have awesome sibling relationships and others that are completely antagonistic toward one another mostly citing parental favouritism. LH on the other hand grew up as an only child and sees the merits in being an only child, although for his entire junior and senior scholastic career he was in a boarding school surrounded by fellow boarders. Although not siblings he was surrounded by his peers all of the time, but boarding school is certainly not an option I would choose for our child. Siblings on the other hand can and often do share a special bond, unlike that of friendship. Perhaps again I’m looking at the world through rose tinted glasses. Either way, this is a decision that we need to make quickly because of the orchestration required between all of the parties involved, which means it won’t happen over night. There are two avenues I’m looking at if this is the way we decide to go …

Sigh … it would be a much easier decision if all we had to do was partake in some bedroom gymnastics! … Sigh … unfortunately not an option for us, but it was a nice fleeting thought :-)

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The Pregnancy – Part 3: Realisations & Realistic Expectations

It’s been a super-charged few weeks with what feels like complete craziness. Next week – on Wednesday to be precise – we’re going for our 13 week scan at the Foetal Assessment Centre. In some ways it feels like the past 12 weeks have flown by and in another it feels as if everything has been moving in incredibly slow motion. Weird.

Our 10 week scan all went well and was an emotional one in that it was our final scan at the fertility clinic and we bid our farewells. In a way I felt like my safety blanket was being suddenly taken away, as the team at the clinic have been so instrumental in being part of my emotional support structure and getting me to this point. Our little bean had grown from 19.49 to 36.4mm. With our 13 week scan now coming up, there’s a lot of apprehension as we’ll find out which of our precious embryos has survived – the one from our donor egg or the one from my egg. Whilst in my mind I’ve made peace with what ever the outcome may be and I’m now finally allowing myself to start feeling really excited about our precious baby, I’m not sure LH will take it so well if it’s not what he’s hoping for. What I am sure about however is that we will be there for each other, as we always have been through our journey and for our SM whose been so incredibly amazing.

It’s really odd having a baby without the experience of going through the pregnancy and having those pregnancy hormones rushing through my body. Whilst some women may think I have the best of all worlds, in essence I feel like I’m missing out on a whole chapter of our child’s life – the first 9 critical months of his or her life. Even though my pregnancy with Stella was fraught with complications, worry, bed rest and emergency trips to the doctor, I really enjoyed being pregnant and feeling the glow of being pregnant. Now all I can do is look in occasionally from the outside through the eyes of the camera during the scans. In some ways it still feels vaguely surreal, but in essence I guess what I’m experiencing is a pregnancy through a father’s eyes – just from a greater distance in that I don’t see our SM every day – for now it’s been just for the scans. Silly as it may seem, I keep trying to remember in detail what I was feeling with each week in my pregnancy with Stella, just so I can hope to connect in some way with our baby. On the one hand it’s an incredibly hard and immensely sad time for me and on the other I feel almost like a child counting down the days to Christmas. There’s absolutely nothing I can do to alleviate the feelings of melancholy that sometimes threaten to take over, bar taking a fistful of anti-depressants, but as someone who gags at the simple thought of a pill, it’s a process I simply need to work through in my mind and through my writing. What keeps me afloat is the immense gratitude I feel knowing that I have an amazingly strong husband and that we’ve been given this unbelievable opportunity with the help of so many phenomenal people. I had no idea what incredible individuals I’d have the honour to meet and befriend along the way.

Well it’s almost 1am in the morning – I’m listening to LH’s steady breathing next to me and our furkidz’ gentle snoring, so I guess it’s time to bid a goodnight. Tomorrow I’ll share some more thoughts on another topic that has been weighing heavily on my mind.

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