Tag Archives: IVF

Where To … Part 9: Appreciation and Sharp Reminders

I’m married to the most remarkable man I know. You’re probably thinking “Duh … that’s why you married him!” … and yes whilst that’s true, at the time we got married, I can honestly say that I had absolutely no idea just how remarkable he was and would turn out to be. Lets not kid ourselves our relationship has been put to the test many times in the 3.5 years we’ve been married, with our journey to hopefully having a family of our own. On this note, I’d like to congratulate LH for making it to the summit of Kilimanjaro last month! Proud of you Babe!

As part of my voluntary work in animal welfare, a little 7 day old kitten (Johnny Bravo) entered our home last week Thu – rescued as an orphan from Khaylitsha (a poverty stricken township near Cape Town International airport). The last time I bottle fed and cared for an orphan this young was in November 2010 with our ‘twins’ who remained with us as “failed fosters” and are turning 3 in October. It was during those dark and desperate weeks and months following the loss of our beautiful daughter Stella that the ‘twins’ came into my life and literally saved me by giving me purpose – that of saving their lives.

Having Johnny Bravo in the house, is a reminder of how we would dearly love to have a family of our own, of how prepared we have been to take this next step in our lives for some time now and the anguish we feel of not being able to do so. LH generally tends to steer clear of the fosters that come and go, because he gets too emotionally invested and has difficulty letting go when they leave for their adoptive homes at 9 weeks of age or older. As the caretaker of our fosters, I’ve learnt to cope emotionally with saying goodbye, with the knowledge that we are able to help the next lot coming through our door. Recently I’ve been asked a number of times how many we’ve fostered up until now … I’ve yet to count, but I think it’s quite a number. So it was unusual to be able to photograph LH tenderly holding little Johnny Bravo whilst I was sorting out a hot water bottle for the little guy over the weekend. Little did I know the emotions that this photo would evoke within me … If LH, as a 6ft2inch man, can be so tender and loving with a tiny kitten that’s barely bigger than a mouse in his hands, just imagine how amazing he would be with a baby of our own. Knowing that I can never give LH the son or daughter he so desires really tears at my soul and is nothing short of excruciating. Being at the mercy of strangers in the hopes that one day we may have a baby is simply soul destroying, but we continue to live in hope.

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Where To … Part 8: Adventures & Outcomes

We started with 20 eggs, 13 fertilized, 6 embryos developed, of which 1 embryo stopped growing, 1 embryo was of too poor quality to freeze, which has left us with 4 embryos to send off on their ski holiday in the freezer.

One has to wonder how the human race keeps multiplying with these kinds of statistics. Be that as it may, we’re happy that we have 4 embryos who will have to wait patiently until we find a suitable surrogate mother – whenever that may be.

The criteria to be a surrogate in South Africa is:
1. have to have had children before
2. uncomplicated pregnancies and live births to healthy babies
3. preferably have completed own family
4. have altruistic intentions and not be looking for financial gain

In return, they get:
1. the honour of being an incubator for 9 months.
2. a whole new (albeit maternity) wardrobe.
3. pampered by the commissioning parents (and poked a few times by the doctors) for 9 months.
4. the privilege of giving the ultimate gift one could ever give to anyone – the gift of a baby … the gift of a family.
5. the possibility of a gift once the contract term is complete, although this would vary depending upon the commissioning parents

So basically I’m still looking for my special angel who loves having a pregnant belly and looks forward to being able to dress in maternity clothing – which lets be honest, most maternity clothing is frumpy as all hell! Just because a woman is pregnant, full of hormones and therefore sometimes can’t remember her own name (I speak from experience from my brief 5 month pregnancy with Stella), doesn’t mean that her sense of style and fashion has to be forfeited! But that’s a topic for another day …

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Stella who we lost suddenly 5 months into my pregnancy in 2010. What she would have looked like today … her personality … her giggle … her smile … the twinkle in her eyes. The image of her face and tiny hands and feet are still imprinted on my mind and will be forever. Her photographs, hand prints and foot prints stowed away safely. I sometimes wonder whether we shouldn’t have named our son, who we never got to meet. Perhaps we’re in denial. Perhaps because in some ways I was still dealing with the emotions of watching my son on a screen in someone else’s tummy, when tragedy struck at 13 weeks. Perhaps it was the guilt I felt because our surrogate mother had to go through a traumatic experience on my behalf. I’m really not sure. So much to work through and so much to think about even though it was a year ago … almost to the day.

Be safe on your adventure LH. Wish I was there with you.

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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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