Tuesday, December 15, 2009

All the News That's Fit to Print?

Well, they did it again. Good old New York Times pleasured us with yet another surrogacy article that sets us all behind a giant step. The same day as my baby shower, December 12th, they printed an article "Building a Baby, With Few Ground Rules." Just from the title alone you already can see where it's going. Believe me, I used to write headlines during my experience in journalism and I know what they are all about. You keep them punchy and provocative enough so readers will salivate. Already we know the angle of the article. No doubt it is going to portray babies as commodities in the unregulated, dangerous, immoral wild west of surrogacy.

But I read on. Despite my stomach turning, knowing full well it would be biased and end with a slew of nasty online comments from fire breathing know-it-alls, I needed to know how bad the damage was. Furious doesn't come close to describe my utter disappointment and anger (once again) at the New York Times. 

The story opens with "Unable to have a baby of her own, Amy Kehoe became her own general contractor to manufacture one." The couple used donor egg and sperm as well as a surrogate. The article proceeds to tell the story of the Kehoes and their surrogate, Laschell Baker, who filed for custody of their twins after finding out "Ms. Kehoe was being treated for mental illness." Once again we see the same tiresome stereotypes - crazy desperate infertile woman spends gobs of money to buy a baby.What's her punishment? Concerned surrogate feels she must keep the baby because she can be a better mother. Because why? For the public, it's obvious, she carried the baby. Second, anybody with mental illness of any level should not be a mother. Great logic. So I guess we should start having all women get approval from a psychiatrist that they are fit to parent? So glad that it's going to be 2010 and we are still pandering to the prejudices again mental illness and fears of new reproductive technology.

The writer, Stephanie Saul, doesn't even try to hide her own opinion in the article. She devotes just one line in the article stating the fact that most cases of surrogacy are not as complicated as Ms.Kehoe's case. But she then follows that up with the thesis statement of the article:

The lax atmosphere means that it is now essentially possible to order up a baby, creating an emerging commercial market for surrogate babies that raises vexing ethical questions.

So if most cases of surrogacy are not this complicated and messy, why is she claiming that suddenly we are now plagued with vexing ethical questions? Okay, journalism 101  - this very opinionated tone needs to come from an interviewed source, NOT the writers voice. Look at the language she uses - "order up a baby," "commercial market for surrogate babies, "vexing ethical questions."Um, this is objective writing? This isn't the Op-Ed section lady. A better journalist would have set the issue up like this:

"Though surrogacy and donors has given opportunities for couples struggling with infertility to find alternative methods for starting a family, the complexity of surrogacy laws, financial costs, and relationships with surrogates has opened the door for cases like the Kehoes to raise debate about what's best for the child."

So we already know where the writer stands and it's not an objective journalistic voice. It's quite obviously suspicious and obsessed with the monetary aspect of surrogacy. As the article continues on we hear about other poor babies being created by maniac infertile couples who are putting the children at jeopardy. Saul then sets up her defining punch of the story with the perfect crazy story of a single man who uses a surrogate to have a baby and brings his pet bird to the hospital. Among other evidence she lays out that this man is unfit to parent, she is able to create the obvious metaphor that people using third party reproduction are essentially seeing their babies as pets. She quotes George J. Annas, a bioethicist who says “This is the main problem with commercialization, seeing children as a consumer product...This is especially true when there is no genetic connection with the child,” he said. “It really does treat children like commodities. Like pets.”

Okay, so according to this statement, intended parents like myself must see our babies as that cute dog we have always wanted? I guess that goes for adopted parents too who also have no genetic connection. You mean after years of infertility and miscarriages and IVFs, all I really wanted was a dog? Gee wiz, I've always wanted a cat or guinea pig, hey, why not a baby?

Jesus New York Times, can you be a little more simplistic and judgmental? Can you see beyond the dollar signs and the manufacturing process? Can you see that there are humans making decisions to love a baby and start a family? Do you jump on every bad apple to base your entire lens on surrogacy? Is there no further explanation you can give of what Ms. Kehoe went through with infertility? Is there consideration that mental illness is treatable and that an enormous amount of people suffer with depression and other disorders and are not barred from parenting? No, I guess not. I guess Ms. Saul couldn't resist keeping the thread of the story focused on the absurd claim that babies are being bought and sold like commodities. She showed no informed debate about the needs of the intended mother and the needs of the surrogate. Nope- dollar signs rule. It's much sexier. Just read how she concludes the article:

"Ms. Kehoe still has hope, though. It is stored in a tank of liquid nitrogen at IVF Michigan. The tank contains 20 frozen embryos made from the eggs and sperm she bought."

Are you kidding me? Um, do you hear the snide use of "hope"? Oh, she's hopeful that she can just buy another baby. If it wasn't bad enough that Saul portrays this whole scenario as if crazy people are building babies without thought or responsibility, now she implies that Ms.Kehoe didn't care that much about those twins to begin with because look at how many embryos she bought and so she can just make another one. Like she bought her supply of high-end designer shoes so she can always have back-up if a pair goes out of style. A nice frivolous ending. Is there no understanding of what loss these intended parents must be going through? Is there no understanding that this is the same feeling as having a stillborn or a miscarriage? So are we suppose to think that people who have frozen embryos just look at them as commodities and not the greatest gift of potentially expanding their family?

Frankly, this is just bad journalism, bad story-telling, and an oversimplification of why people turn to third party parenting. I completely agree with Kerry Howley's blog post, "It's 2010. Can We Stop Talking About 'Designer Babies' Now?" who writes,

Part of the impetus to describe these relationships as new and frighteningly alienated comes, I think, from the misperception that until recently the process of having a baby has been entirely separate from the market economy. And there is undeniably something new about the buying and selling of ova among former strangers. But for as long as childbirth has involved medical professionals, the “creation” of a child has been a group endeavor including parties both paid and unpaid. New technologies create the possibility of new relationships. As those relationships—egg donor and intended mother, sperm donor and surrogate mother—become normalized, the pattern I see is less one of alienation than adaptation.
Again, there is something about infertility treatments that people love to see as excessive, selfish, and most of all, vain. There is a tendency to put it in a box and label it anything but normal. It turns woman against woman, parent against parent, and media love to feed off this.

Ironically, as this completely negative portrayal of third party reproduction hit the stands in my beloved city of New York, I wish, just wish the world could know what was happening simultaneously. That very same day just blocks from the New York Times building, my family and friends were gathering for my baby shower, celebrating and honoring the coming of my baby via A. Instead of some legal battle and commercial baby market that the rest of the world was reading about, my wonderful surrogate A. video skyped in to my shower so everyone could meet her. Instead of fears that she would announce she is keeping the baby, screams of joy and applauses rang out from friends and family as A. stood up and showed her big belly carrying my 33 week old daughter. In that moment, was anyone thinking about how much this cost? Were my friends and family tearing up because of our financial loss? Was everyone wondering whether I was mentally fit to have this child? Were we all wondering when my commodity will be born? I think I make my point loud and clear New York Times, that you chose the low road. Tell me who is commodifying babies? Intended parents who seek help to start a family or journalists who chose to exploit and sensationalize a legal tangle and a tragic misunderstanding between two women just to sell some newspapers?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

'Tis the season for giving

The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Upon returning from sunny paradise to the miserable cold of New York City, it dawned on me that it's already Christmas season. The lights and festive cheer are draped all over the city and it feels like a time warp. We sort of skipped Thanksgiving mentally by being away and now suddenly it's jingle bells all over the place. Suddenly time is closing in on our due date at lightening speed and I am dumbfounded by how fickle time is. Once my torturer, the clock let the minutes drip painfully slow - one drop at a time on my forehead, burrowing a hole in my scull. It was the same thing during every 2 week wait, every beta check, every scheduling of the next IVF. Now I can't seem to blink without chunks of time passing before I can even mentally digest them.

Unfair? Yes. Perspective is everything and your reality will always fall victim to it. What is naughty and what is nice? It all depends. The line is so slight sometimes between good and bad, joy and grief, loss and gain, clarity and confusion. They seem so vastly different in meaning, but then just one little event or emotion can trigger one to the other, making them seem so closely related.

So as I look upon all this holiday cheer around me, I can still acknowledge that 2009 brought the greatest loss of my life thus far- a definitive NO regarding a genetic child. But at the same time, I can see that once that big "NO" came crashing down on me, it forced me to move on to donor egg and surrogacy. I got the double deal special this holiday season - a new egg and a new uterus, totaling up to my new baby on the way. Santa is no longer peddling the IVF drugs to me. That carrot stick dangling in my face has finally been cut off it's rope and thrown in the toilet. I have tried for three years to be nice. I was never naughty, except maybe my outbursts of rage, but I tried, and I tried, and I tried to be good. I did everything I was told to do - vitamins, bed rest, yoga, protocols, no caffeine - never once slipped. I tried to wish upon every star for this damn infertility to go away. But it didn't. Until this year I didn't know when to give up on my own body. How could I have known that I should have been wishing for completely new parts - shiny new parts of my body that two incredible women would give to me?

It's overwhelming to truly think about the meaning of these gifts. 'Tis the season for giving is no laughing matter in this situation. Just like the depths of grief I have felt these years, the depths of my awe and wonder over how this baby came to be is almost too much. How am I actually going to feel watching our baby come out of A.'s body? My biggest fear is that I won't feel anything. Maybe I will be too stunned. Maybe I won't feel as much because we used donor egg? Will it be so separate and foreign and bloody that the meaning of it all won't resonate? Sometimes I think I won't even cry, like it's almost too much to express. Maybe I won't crumble to the floor singing Hallelujah. Or maybe, just maybe, I will finally feel parts of my heart growing back, just in time to give to this baby.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Baby Moon

We are jetting off this week to an undisclosed location for a 10 day last-hurrah-vacation, just the two of us, before the baby arrives. Instead of heading to the usual thanksgiving with family, we are ditching both sides of the family and heading to a tropical paradise. I was told by someone that this is our "babymoon," which I suppose is the honeymoon before the baby arrives. It's one of those terms that would have irritated the hell out of me if some pregnant lady ever chirped to me "We're going on our babymoon!" But like so many other circumstances right now, my usual abrasive reactions are watering down. I can see the sweetness of the term.

In 2007, I spent thanksgiving miscarrying while eating turkey. In 2008, I was thankful that I was not miscarrying over turkey dinner. And in 2009, obviously I am thankful for this baby, but frankly I am also just thankful that none of this killed me. I mean how many holidays have I spent miserable and in despair? I always dreamed of being able to spend thanksgiving sitting at the table with my family, piling my plate with the harvest of foods, looking down at my pregnant belly, or another scenario - I am stuffing my face with mash potatoes and I raise my glass at the table and say, "We have an announcement to make, we are pregnant!" Well, that never came true, and it never will. So instead of trying to create this fantasy thanksgiving I have been waiting to have, we are reinventing it by getting the hell out of here. We will begin a new kind of thanksgiving next year when we can celebrate with our own child sitting right next to us at the table.

Happy thanksgiving to all of you. Peace and good eating!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Media Watch

Besides people who are completely boring, most people have something that makes them an outsider. Some just hide it better than others. Any story has it's greatest impact when telling the arc of a character who must face some kind of challenge, idiosyncrasy, or exile. Television is no exception. Even in the toilet of reality TV, there is this same fundamental principle. But for television that actually requires good writing, there are always eyes out in the audience who can verify whether these challenges, idiosyncrasies, or exile are ringing true.

I'm pretty sensitive to media representations of gender, race, and sexuality. In all these categories historically there are countless gruesome moments of stereotyping. But certainly over time it has been improving, there is hope. I had long given up on television ever portraying infertility with any real craft. Particularly with surrogacy, they have tended to turn to comedic set ups -- (Desperate Housewives) "Oops, they put the wrong sperm in and, oh no, our baby is black!" On top of the fact that the husband ends up sleeping with the surrogate- nice. Or, (Baby Mama) "Oh my god my surrogate is a maniac!" or (Jezebel) short-lived sitcoms where Parker Posey asks her sister to be her surrogate- "How nutty!" On Friends Chandler and Monica couldn't conceive so they adopt. Phoebe helps her brother and carries their twins. They got it a little better, about a B+ in terms of storytelling.

In terms of general infertility, there is a wider spectrum of attempts. Most TV shows play this storyline for a couple episodes and then POOF, wow, they get pregnant, or POOF, wow, they will adopt. No one really wants to see the storyline go much further than that. There was a series on HBO called Tell me you love me featuring a couple trying to conceive. They were trying to get it real in term of relationships, so they tried to tackle infertility. But the infertile couple constantly bickered and ultimately the woman seemed out of her mind. Good try but no cigar.

But let's face it, surrogacy and donor egg on paper are ripe for comedy. Three or four people trying to make a baby and all the potential delicious mishaps could score some laughs. It does scream soap opera. But when writers dig a little deeper, or actors who have faced infertility chime in, there is potential for more. The reason I bring all of this up is that I am happy to see on ABC's Brothers and Sisters many fertility plot lines. First we find out that among the Walker family, Tommy is infertile and has to use one of his brothers as a sperm donor. Then his sister Kitty can't get pregnant and low and behold we actually get to see them go through an IVF cycle- shots and everything. We even see Kitty miscarry. They ultimately adopt, but they even dabbled a little in surrogacy talk. In a later episode after both Kitty and Tommy have their children, they have a moment of understanding- infertile to infertile. Wow, too good to be true? You mean, they actual keep the infertility as part of their characters? They don't just write it out like most TV shows once the problem is miraculously solved?

For this new season, Kevin and his husband Scotty have now decided to have a child through donor egg and surrogacy. Am I looking in the mirror? I have said before that on paper I am equal to a gay man trying to conceive a child. I love a man, and I don't have a good egg or uterus to use. So when watching this plot unfold on Brothers and Sisters, I was happy to see they were getting is right- at least in terms of the surrogacy process. I've read on some TV blogs some criticism that this surrogacy plot desexualizes Kevin and Scotty by making them less a gay couple and keeps them in a safe heterosexual plot of love, marriage, baby. I can't speak to that, obviously, but I can speak to seeing a surrogacy and egg donor plot line that doesn't involve slap stick humor. For instance, last episode Kevin and Scotty are trying to search online for their egg donor. Kevin was obsessing over the profiles, trying to find the perfect woman. It was good to see it wasn't the butt of a cheap sitcom joke. It showed him really struggling with the choice. I had to do the exact same thing pouring over online profiles. It's not easy. It's one of the weirdest processes I have ever gone through.

The timing couldn't have been better for me. I had been starting to obsess a little about what our baby girl is going to look like. Will she look like the egg donor and will that make me feel bad? Will she feel bad that she doesn't look like her mother? Then as I settled into bed I found comfort where I least expected, the television. I turned on Brothers and Sisters and saw Kevin obsessing over the same things- physical traits, academic traits, etc. His uncle tells him that like wine, you don't know what you are going to get based on the grape. He says there is a world of surprises depending on how you cultivate that grape, so the taste is unpredictable. So Kevin walks away feeling like no matter what traits the donor has, the child will be a product of their parenting and that will be full of unexpected and joyous surprises.

I know this is not an earth shattering revelation, as I have been preaching that for a long time to myself, but it was somehow good to see it on TV. It's one thing if I say this in my head, but it's another thing for this sentiment to be portrayed on a box that sits in millions of people's homes. It rang true and that's good writing, and good writing can move mountains. Good writing can possibly sway prejudices. Good writing can move a woman to feel more okay about donor egg and surrogacy. That's progress for me and more surprisingly...for television. Kudos ABC.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

To all who are trying

"Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction."
-William James
After going out into the city with a fake pregnancy belly on Halloween, it definitely confirmed that I can still make fun of my situation but no longer feel the need to shoot dagger eyes at every pregnant woman or every stroller that zooms by. Now I look at what brand the stroller is for god sakes. The graduation to a healthy pregnancy is slowly but surely moving me from "have not" to "have." In this rather unsettling but happy shift, I try my hardest to think of what comforting words I can say to those who are still in the "have not" section of infertility. What did I so desperately want from people who seemed to "have" what I wanted?

This was never more clear when a friend recently faced yet another mishap after years of IVF losses and even failure with a surrogate. After having decided to finally move to donor egg, her cycle was cancelled the day before retrieval because of a mishap with the donor. Somehow in my naivete, I had believed moving into the extreme sport of surrogacy and donor egg gave you a bit of a shield from bad luck and cluster-fucks. But it doesn't. There are still a world of things that can screw you even when working with other women's bodies.

So as my friend faces the same question we have all faced, "What do I do next?" I so desperately wanted to say some words of comfort that would really comfort. I want to be able to convey to her and anyone else out there that at some point the bad luck will end. At some point all this effort will get you to a solution. When I was struggling with each IVF, it was so easy for me to feel like I was wasting my time. It was so easy to feel like the bad luck would never end even when it ended for other people. I think back and I am not sure any fertile person ever said to me emphatically, "Keep trying." No one in the "haves" club ever said with confidence for me to continue, as I am sure most felt pain to watch me struggle. There was a lot of sympathy, but no rallying for the cause. I think it could have helped to hear once in a while from others a certain confidence that I should keep trying for my family, however it works out. To actually say those words to someone is very powerful.

I know I can't expect others to know how this all feels, but I do in fact know how it feels and I want to be able to say comforting and real words to those struggling through infertility. As the quotation above says, we don't know how much strength we have until we push through that obstruction. So I guess my message to those still trying hard for their baby is don't stop trying. I am saying to you that despite failure, don't stop. Keep finding ways to try, even if it pushes you to where you never thought you could go. Do not give up. Every single person going through infertility has this drive to break through obstructions - you live it everyday, you prove it everyday. So I just wanted to be a reminder of that.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Treat?

“On Halloween night, the Great Pumpkin rises from his pumpkin patch and flies through the air with his bag of toys to all the children.”


 from It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

P.S. This is a fake pregnancy belly costume in case you forgot I am not pregnant.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The newness of numbers, the sound of words

Every post these days seems to celebrate a number, a span of time left before this baby will be born. Each week is a new breath of fresh air and each day left is a count-your-blessings moment. Today is the marker for 100 days left until our due date and like all these numbers it's the first ever experiencing this. These weeks of pregnancy were always markers that I never thought I would get to, let alone be able to write about on a regular basis. Everything is "a first." I broke down and bought my first toy for the baby. I couldn't resist those knit dolls I've always wanted to buy.

This also marks the first baby toy I don't feel like stashing away like a closeted secret - afraid to let myself and others see it for fear it will just verify what I might lose. A breakthrough is an understatement. It was like some sort of shock therapy. After the initial shock wore off that buying the toy didn't unleash the infertility heavens to shit all over me and I didn't immediately get a phonecall telling me bad news, I felt like we might as well go whole hog. We decided on the crib, the bedding, the rocker, the wall paper, the stroller, the whole shebang. All in one afternoon a load of emotional baggage lifted in one fell swoop. First time moments are truly magical.

Words have a similar first time moment. There are words you never say until that time arrives to welcome it. Do you remember the person you first said "I love you" to? Do you remember the first time you referred to someone as a boyfriend or girlfriend? It was scary to say at first. I remember after I got married it still felt so new and weird to say, "My husband did this, my husband did that" or "I am his wife." It felt like a funny mistake my tongue had made without me knowing it. But years later, forming those same words in my mouth are as common as any other noun, adjective, or verb I might need to say.

But I had this same new moment the other day making an audio tape to send to A. I had decided to record some stories so the baby can hear me since at this point the baby is suppose to be able to recognize voices. So I grabbed some books with my niece who acted as my assistant reader. I slowly flipped open the story book, took a deep breath, pushed the record button, and began, "Hello, this is mommy."

The word fell out of my mouth with that same hesitation and weirdness as all first time words. It felt funny, slightly exciting, but mostly like trying on new skin. The same way when I would say "husband," I felt like I was pretending or playing dress-up. "Surely the word 'wife' is not me, I would think to myself. "Surely that man over there I've been dating is not my husband?" But yes, those words were correct. And saying the word "mommy," not referring to a third person or a concept, but to myself will take some time to not feel a little absurd. But like all things, there has to be a first time.

Luckily, a little voice reassured me I was not insane when my niece handed me another book and said, "Say it again, 'this is mommy.' That sounded nice."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Coming to a theater near you

We are 24 weeks and approaching THIRD trimester- the home stretch. This calls for a little Art of Being Infertile movie trailer:

Monday, September 28, 2009

"You are going to be shocked"

When both my mother and mother-in-law said in unison, "You are going to be SHOCKED" as to how hard it is to take care of a baby, I laughed along with them. When people around me said your life will never be the same, I laughed along with them. When people suggested getting a doula or a night nurse, I fully embraced the idea of help. I am the first to admit that I have no idea what I am doing. But somehow this weekend when I was being told once again by family how hard this is going to be and they will worry about me if I don't get help, I began to feel a little defensive. Um, why is this going to be especially hard for me and not others? Why would I not be able to handle this as well as other people? Why am I being constantly warned as if there is a choice in the matter at this point. There is no return policy.

On top of it all, it's like the past 3 years of suffering and loss have been erased. I have not tortured myself through infertility for the illusion that baby rearing is full of sugar plum fairies and magic dust. Do I seem fresh off the boat, clear of suffering so that a crying baby is going to hit me like a ton of bricks? Perhaps because I am not carrying this baby that I appear especially naive.

It started to make me look at how suffering and motherhood relate to each other. There seem to be war wounds not only with infertility but also with motherhood. How much sweat did you put into this child? Did you have a horrible pregnancy full of swelling, aching, testing, and panic? Did you have a gruesome labor with all the blood and guts of horror film? Did you have a colicky baby that left you miserable beyond your wildest imagination? Did you go through intense postpartum depression? But obviously the pay off has been well worth it or the human race would have ended long ago.

The common ground is that women go through a lot to have children both pre and post baby. But the divide comes when you have only experienced one side of that process. Those on the side that never went through infertility or loss might feel like taking care of the baby is the hardest part. But someone coming from infertility would take a crying, difficult, cranky, unbearable baby over infertility in a split second. So in the suffering meter, perhaps I am naive in thinking that what I have already been through with ectopics, miscarriages, shots, surgery, depression, grief and despair has already paid some dues toward motherhood. It's like a deposit check that goes toward the full amount due. No, I have not yet been sleep deprived beyond comprehension. No, I have not yet had a child pooping and throwing up on me at every turn. No, I have not suffered panic for a child with a fever or a bad cough. That is all yet to come, but will it really seem so much worse than what I have been through? I doubt it. The fact is that I will have experienced both infertility and motherhood. For better or for worse, that's frankly different that just experiencing motherhood.

Despite all my raising of fists that nothing could be worse than infertility and declaring I am not some incompetent monkey that can't take care of a baby, this talk of hardship still touches a nerve of insecurity in a different way. Since I am not carrying this child there is deep down a worry I am still getting off "easy" and therefore I should be willing to deal with a kid crying and pooping all on my own. No more "help" when I've been constantly being helped by fertility doctors, nurses, support groups, a surrogate, an egg donor...it's getting crowded. More than anyone, an intended mother who has been waiting for her role to kick in needs some bonding time with her baby, alone. Whatever irrational needs I might have to offset the surrogacy and donor egg, I have to figure it out my own way. There is no age old mother advice on surrogacy and donor eggs. Like everything else about this experience, I will have to find my own special recipe for balancing my baggage with infertility, bonding with my DE baby, and the realities of wanting help taking care of a baby. I don't think it will ever stop being a three ring circus.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Drum roll....

It's a girl!!!!!!!!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Halfway there

Rainy gray days like today are meant for writing. Also a good cup of tea with creamy milk. It's also a day to remember. Today is 9/11 of course and being a New Yorker you always have to take pause and remember. I will never forget that morning, waking up and turning the TV on just to check the weather. It's always something simple like that. You intend on doing something so normal, so everyday, so boring and boom, you get slapped in the face. The two towers firing up the TV screen with their ailing billows of smoke. Tower one falls. "Holy fuck." We sat stunned, watching outside my window as the streams of people run up from the Wall Street area. Just as we were about to go outside, we turned to the TV screen. Tower two falls.

Life is crazy that way in that you never know what you are going to wake up to. One day those two towers were there, always a good tall visual aid to orient you if you were lost in the city, the next day obliterated. One day someone I loved was alive, the next day dead. One day I thought I was pregnant, the next day not anymore. I have to say I've had a lot of loss in my life since those towers fell. So I can say with great relief that I've been a rather boring blogger these days. I have felt like infertility and pain haven't been at the forefront of my mind. I am just living. What a lovely luxury to finally be able to do that knowing that I have a baby to look forward to with none of the physical ailments that go with it. It's like I am coasting on a boat and only when a fog horn blows or a seagull caws that I notice how far we have been moving. Today is like seeing a lighthouse. We are 20 weeks, the halfway mark. The rough waters I hope are really behind me.

The halfway point is always a breather - being able to look equally behind you and ahead of you. I never had that during all my IVFs. There was never a halfway juncture where you could measure how much more you needed to endure. You never knew when it was all going to be over. You never could breath and orient yourself to where you are in the process. There are no beginnings, middles, or ends when you are faced with infertility. It's just a constant sense of limbo. I remember feeling that so acutely and being enraged that I had to live my life with no lifeboats in sight.

So now that I am entering into the second half of this pregnancy, it's a funny thing to not be pregnant. I would be showing now and perhaps someone might offer me a seat on the subway and I might get asked by strangers how far along I am. But since I am physically no different than I was when I started this journey, I don't get asked anything. Nothing is offered to me and no one treats me any differently. But that's really all I can observe since I never have been big belly pregnant and therefore have no idea how life changes in terms of how the world treats you. All of my imagined ideas of how people treat pregnant women come from TV or sitting near a pregnant person. That's about it. So in some ways I really am not missing out on much. I have remained a strong believer in this whole pregnancy that ignorance is bliss. How can I miss something that I don't know about? I think my only twinge of sadness of not carrying the baby is simply being able to know his/her presence all the time. Also, people remember to ask you how you are feeling or are reminded that you are carrying life when they see you blowing up like a fat balloon. There is wonder to that, a protective impulse comes out of everyone when they see a big pregnant belly. I guess it's a primal reaction. Just like babies are soft and round and cute so you want to take care of them. That's what I am banking on since I won't really have a connection until that point.

So in just one week we will be traveling out to see A. and will do our big anatomy scan. That's made my radar perk up this week knowing that soon we will know if it is a boy or girl. Knowing that will give me some kind of compass for understanding what's ahead. I realize that in my coasting I don't have something inside me literally jabbing at my ribs reminding me I better get some books on how the hell to take care of a baby. When faced with the reality of this new helpless person arriving in our lives, I don't know anything about the instruction manual. I am like a student unprepared for the exam. So as soon as we find out the sex, and make sure all it's parts are there, I will go out and buy my first baby book (any recommendations would be greatly appreciated).

Again, what a lovely luxury to be speaking of new life when so many perished on this day.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

1, 2, 3...KICK!

I was a ripe 13 year old when Karate Kid came out in the theaters. I remember thinking how Ralph Macchio was so cute. I remember singing the Bananarama song "Cruel Summer." But I also remember that infamous kick that knocked his opponent on his ass forever more. After much hard work, "Wipe on, wipe off," the Karate Kid triumphed.

So when A. wrote me yesterday to tell me our baby kicked for the first time, I felt triumph. Puttering around my apartment this morning on a lazy Saturday, it just hit me that this is a big deal. Our baby is moving around in there and is getting big enough for A. to feel in her belly. I felt (not literally) a physical connection with this kid. Every kick is a triumph, even when I have to imagine what that must feel like.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Surrogate children are psychologically well: study

It's always nice when mainstream articles can allay some fears that someday my child might have a total mental breakdown because of all this surrogacy and donor egg business. I worry my kid might have some sort of intense identity crisis, but what person doesn't go through identity issues? If it isn't about genetics, it can be about a whole assortment of things- gender, race, culture, career, sex, marriage, the whole gamut that life throws at you. Who's to say my kid is more likely to be a serial killer or go on a shooting rampage at their high school? But of course as a nervous mother-to-be, I google every once in a while to see what's out there on the subject. So when I found this article, it was reassuring to see this opening paragraph:

"Children born to a surrogate mother or conceived through donated sperm or a donated egg do just as well psychologically as counterparts who are naturally conceived, a study unveiled on Sunday said."

Usually I cringe when I see an article on surrogacy or donor egg because inevitably it's about a celebrity, or it's got nasty maniac comments posted after the article, or it's just sensational nonsense. But after starting this article I continued to read on:

"We found that the family types did not differ in the overall quality of the relationship between mothers and their children and fathers and their children," Casey said.

Mothers who had had their child through surrogacy and egg donation tended to be more sensitive to their child's worries and anxieties compared with donor insemination mothers and natural conception mothers, but the difference was minor, she added.

As for the child's view of family relationships, children of all backgrounds placed their mother or father in the closest circle with the same frequency.

There was no significant difference between family types when it came to self-esteem."

I am sure there are many arguments out there that try to say the opposite of this article. I have read about children of donor parents feeling angry about not being told the truth. I have read about donor kids feeling orphaned by no knowledge of the donor. I have read some moral and religious arguments that make me gage even as I write these words acknowledging their existence. But I can only work with the life I can give this child. The only thing in my power is to make sure this child is loved completely and truthfully. So I am putting aside all my past fertility cluster fucks and believing that this kid is going to be okay. After all that ruminating about chromosomal problems, we decided to just do the AFP blood work. If that comes out bad we'll consider an amnio but at this point we aren't planning on one. We'll just have to run on faith that not only will this kid dodge the down's syndrome bullet, but to the best of our abilities will also be "psychologically well."

FOR FULL ARTICLE GO TO: Surrogate Children are psychologicaly well; study - AFP

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

AMA: Advanced Maternal Age or just Appearing More Advanced?

Upon returning from a quick visit with A. and our fabulous 15 week 5 day baby, we were presented with the option for an amnio. Not that there have been any indicators for problems, but if you want to do one, now is the time. Now, hmmm, wasn't there a very good reason I used a 26 year old egg donor and a 31 year old surrogate? Oh yeah, to precisely LOWER such risk factors as downs syndrome and miscarriages and endless testing. So if I was 26 years old right now and knocked up, would this same doctor be telling me all these risks and making me decide if I would terminate or risk losing a healthy pregnancy with an amnio? Probably not. He would say you are at low risk at 26 years old and would probably imply that there wasn't a pressing need for an amnio unless there is family history. He'd then proceed to scoot me out the door.

But I am not 26 years old. I am a 38 year old who got another woman pregnant with another woman's egg. So does this change anything? Not really. But does this pregnancy somehow appear more risky because I appear to be at advanced maternal age even though I had nothing to do with this pregnancy? Shouldn't I be getting that same scoot out the door with relief that I am young and low risk? Instead I am feeling like a woman who has to decide between two risks - a down syndrome baby or a miscarriage of a healthy pregnancy from an amnio. I thought my options between horrible and extra horrible were finally over now that I was pregnant. So why do I feel pressure to do an amnio? Is it the worst case scenario in me always believing that I will be the one that always falls in that 1% chance? Way to set a person into unnecessary panic.

So this is making me feel rather advanced in maternal age even though my pregnancy is not. I mean really, at this junction what really matters about my age? I'm completely cut out of the reproductive part of this story so isn't my age meaningless? At worst people could call me an "old" mother. But sticks and stones, a-holes, sticks and stones. By my own body clock, yes, I am 38 years old. I will be 48 when this child is 10 years old and at the starting line of adolescent frenzy. I will be 58 when the child is 20 years old and finishing up college. I will be 68 when the child is 30 years old and I start badgering him or her to get married so I can see some grand kids before I croak. I will be 78 when the child is 40 years old, and God help us all, hopefully their sperm or eggs haven't shriveled up like mine had by then.

After 3 years of IVF, ectopics, miscarriages, am I prepared to raise a donor egg child that might have downs syndrome? Nope. But am I equally prepared to lose a healthy pregnancy that we've spend thousands of dollars on and went through emotional chaos about because I was given an option for an amnio? Nope. So I am left to soul search through this trying to believe that I'm not going to get screwed over again and again and again. I should be at low risk as a 26 year old, but I am so used to being at high risk for everything. Don't I at least deserve to reap the benefits of my egg donor after giving up so much of myself and my sanity to have this child?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Thaw

Today was the first time I felt like it's summer. After doing a lot of traveling and gazing outside my window at heavy rain, it was great to just walk around today. Enjoying the sunny warmth and city bustle made me feel more officially in the season of popsicles, open toe shoes, and breezy afternoon drinks in New York City. I started to finally feel a thaw in my present state. I think the coldest parts of my infertility trauma are starting to liquify. Something in me is melting because things that I didn't think I could handle are happening. I was able to talk to a friend who I had cut out of my life for two years because she seriously disappointed me by the way she told me she was pregnant. I am able to see friends with newborns and feel happy for them and be excited to experience the same thing. I am able to talk to people about the excitement of my baby coming. I am able to look at pregnant women without wanting to curse at the heavens. Who am I?

It's a good thing, this normalization. I resist it as much as possible because I don't feel ready to believe that these weird and horrible experiences are behind me. I seem to want to hold on to my war wounds. But the start of my fists unclenching is probably the first sign of softening. The venom I have toward the universe, toward fertile people, toward my bad luck is starting to become a little less poisonous. I am allowing myself to feel giddy about seeing A. and our 15 week ultrasound this tuesday. It may seem strange to have to remind myself of this little blessing growing in her, but it's also not so inconceivable when you use a surrogate and donor egg to go through your day and not remember you are pregnant. It's quite easy in fact. So I am marking my weeks of pregnancy and I am starting to be able to dream a little bit about life with this new baby.

A friend who went through IF and now has a baby said she is starting to try to join "the mommy club" and I wonder how this is going to work for me. I am so irritated by the idea of talking shop with other mothers who don't have a clue about what I went through but I can't avoid everyone who hasn't been through IF. But right now fellow infertiles seems like the safest people to be around. I know I will want to have other mothers to bond with, but wouldn't it be fun to have a club for mothers who have gone through IF. We could name it "MIFTED"- Mothers and Infertility: The Extraordinary Dames. Or "MIRTH" - Mothers and Infertility Rock the House. Maybe even a secret handshake so we know who each other are.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

This one is too big, this one is too small, this one is just right

I had a weird dream last night. It was one that so obviously wreaks of anxiety and anticipation. All in all I have been feeling really great about the coming of our little one. A. seems to be tired but doing just fine. She has some heartburn and the biggest boobs of any of her pregnancies. It figures that my baby creates big boobs when I'm not the carrier. Maybe that's the real tragedy of my infertility is that I will never have big boobs, but that's another story. I am still slowly telling people. But I think you could say that I am ready to fast forward through these next 6 months of pregnancy. I am sort of bored with it because I am not carrying the pregnancy. I am in the mood to just skip right to the ending. Give me the baby already.

So in my dream I am very much like Goldilocks. I guess in a lot of ways I feel like I am in someone else's house since I am using a surrogate and donor egg. I am trying to find a spot that feels just right, but deep down I fear I don't belong. So I woke up this morning with the memory of this pretty strange dream. A. is giving birth and this enormous baby comes out of her. It's like a gigantic baby that proceeds to stand up and walk around and talk. I am bewildered and confused by it's size and how grown up it is. I am trying hard to see if it looks like my husband or the donor but get distracted by it's size. I turn to my husband and say, "That huge baby came straight from her uterus!" Then fade to black. The second part of my dream is the opposite. A little tiny baby comes out of A. and at first I am relieved it is much smaller than that enormous baby before, but then I see that it's just the size of my palm. I gasp and ask if we can incubate the baby and I am told it won't make it. I am devastated.

It's pretty clear generally what this all means. Of course I am still scared something is going to go wrong, but I am also so curious about what this baby is going to be like. Just like Goldilocks who tries to find the right porridge, right chair, and right bed, I am hoping to find the right child. Of course with donor egg I have all these fears about whether this is going to be the right kid for me, but obviously this is "right" or else we wouldn't be blessed with this new life. There is a great line in movie where this guy describes his dream girl who would have a big rack, sexy long legs, etc. etc. But then he talks about his girlfriend and he says, "She's better than my dream girl, she's real." So I know this is what it will be like for me too. The baby of my dreams through all this infertility is all theory, fantasy, hope, but this baby coming in January will be real. That's why I need January to be here NOW! Thanks for waiting with me.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Art of Evading Questions

Politicians do it. Celebrities do it. Why not infertiles? As I embarked on the first announcement to friends of our pregnancy, I didn't do much prep for spin control. I figured we'd just explain we are using a surrogate and that would be that. No mention of donor egg necessary at this point. It all went well in terms of reactions, which came as a huge relief. Joy, laughter, tears were all part of the response to our good news. The one thing I didn't figure out before hand is how to evade the questions about eggs.

We all know there is an art to evading certain questions you are not ready to answer. If you do this with confidence and finesse, no one will question you. I learned this by not having the right answer the first time around. When we told the first set of friends, I wasn't ready for this question:

"So how does it work? Is it the surrogate's egg or yours?"

I had some choices for this answer that I realized only in retrospect:

A) Lie and say, "My egg."
B) Withhold info and say, "Oh, it's not the surrogate's egg." (not the same as lying)
C) Sort of a lie, but not really, and say "No, they put our embryo in her." (In the most gruesome of terms we did buy the egg that made the embryo, so it's "our" embryo).
D) Spill the beans and tell the truth and disclose about the donor egg.
E) None of the above, just run.

So being caught off guard, I went with Choice D and told them about the donor egg. Even though we had no intention of telling them. But I really didn't know how to evade the question. We explained that we are keeping this private among close friends and family and that we feel strongly it it the child's story to tell, not ours. They understood.

But lesson learned. For the second try with another friend, we tried to bypass questions altogether and just told her we are using a surrogate and our embryo. That seemed to work and yet I had a lingering feeling of guilt that I wasn't revealing the whole truth. I explained we want it to be the child's story and began some non-sensical garbage about our hesitation to tell people which I could tell just started to confuse her. I could see her puzzled look and knew she was probably thinking, "What's the big deal if the child is genetically yours?" Which of course, it is not. But I realized I don't need to get into much, just keep it short and to the point. I am hoping this guilty feeling passes in time. However, I am finding that Choice C seems to be a good one for us. Just like the SATs, I remember some prep course teacher saying, "If you don't know the answer, choose C." It was something about the odds being in your favor that more "Cs" would be a correct answer.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Coming out of the closet in the 2nd Trimester

I awoke bright and early this morning, solely due to jet lag, and felt a strong urge to nest. After our long wonderful journey away in Europe, I wanted to dust my apartment clean, speckle it with flowers, organize the knickknacks, fluff the pillows, and mentally incubate the idea that I will be a mother. I think and think and think about what this is all going to be like while my baby safely grows miles away. I've decided that this endless thinking is my pregnancy. This is my gestation.I am convincing myself everyday that this is going to happen and it's not going to be taken away from me. This is my pregnancy. I may play no part in sharing my blood and body with this baby, but my mind is pregnant with ideas, fears, strength, chaos, and peace surrounding this baby. No longer are the miles mental or emotional, they are physical now. My baby is now roads and roads away in the Mid-West. I am not the gestational carrier, I am the gestational mind. My thoughts, my desires, my heart are carrying this child to life too.

But my anxiety is still lingering. Mostly because it's time to go public. That's right, we are coming out of the closet. Considering that reproductively I am the same as a gay man, this isn't surprising. But I'm forcing myself to accept that I now have to explain to other people my unique way of "being pregnant." I thought it would be easy once I hit second trimester because my god, it's second trimester! This is unknown territory for me. This is a million times closer than I have ever gotten to the promise land. But I am still afraid to tell people.

As I road my bike for miles and miles from Prague to Vienna, passing lush emerald pastures, rustic hobbit houses, and a history so rich it could clog your arteries, I tried my hardest to believe that all this hard work will pay off. Agonizing up those hills I could barely pedal up, there was nothing sweeter than the curving descent - wind melting away the harsh sun, the pavement smooth beneath me, and downhill speed thrusting me forward with graceful flight. It was all worth the burning legs and semi-hyperventilation. So I want to hold on to that same feeling as I await this baby to fall into my arms after being tortured for 3 years. If I can hold on to this pleasure, I can tell people with pride and genuine happiness about our pregnancy. People follow what you put out there. If I come off weird, apprehensive, ashamed, embarrassed or confused, they won't feel like celebrating. They'll give me that nervous awkwardness I hate, always accompanied by the deer in headlights expression. I want jumping up and down for joy for god sakes. I want to hear, "Oh we are over the moon for you guys!" I want heartfelt congratulations. So why am I afraid I won't get any of that? It's that damn insecurity that infertility cripples you with, telling me "you are not worthy, you aren't the same as the fertiles, you aren't going to be a 'real' mother." Fuck you infertility. So it's another ugly dragon for me to slay. We'll find out tomorrow when we tell our first set of friends. They just had a baby. Will I feel like fake or can I stand up and strongly croon like Frank Sinatra, "I am pregnant, and I did it myyyy waaaaay!"

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Just do it

A woman I met who now has donor egg twins told a story of how during her infertility journey she woke up one morning and said to herself, "if I can't have the dream of a baby, I will fulfill another dream." She got on a plane from Australia and flew to Chicago, stood in line overnight, and got tickets to see the Oprah Winfrey Show. It had always been a dream of hers to see the show live and she just went and did it. She explained that you spend so much time obsessing over the dream of having a child you just don't feel like anything else is possible because the baby is not happening. But she proclaimed that no matter how big or small your other dreams may be, just do one. It will make you feel better and it will break some of the chains that keep you feeling like a slave to infertility.

So when I was gearing up for my donor egg cycle, I said to my husband, "I need to fulfill another dream this year." If this donor egg cycle didn't work I wanted 2009 to include a dream come true. The only highlights I remember from 2006, 2007, and 2008 was loss, loss, loss. So when I looked at the other realms of myself, I remembered I have always dreamed of going to Prague. It always had this cool allure to me and I imagined myself walking around the historic city and hanging out at cafes and getting into the vibe of that place. I've traveled a lot in my life, but never yet made it to Prague. My husband has taken a couple European bike trips before meeting me and it's been his dream to do it again. Our friend happened to be getting married in Germany this July and so the universe gave us an opportunity to jump on our dreams. So, in order to fulfill both of our dreams, we are leaving this Friday for a 5 day bike tour from Prague to Vienna.

I am not a big biker or athlete but this seemed like a perfect way to fulfill a dream and to tackle a challenge. We have been biking outside the city as much as possible to train for the ride. Every time I had to pedal up a hard hill, I would say to myself "I am pedaling toward a baby. You will make it! You will make it!" I could grit and bear the pain in my legs and I realized what mental strength I have gained by waiting for this baby. No pain can really compare to what we all have been through and it's given me a sort of inner strength to muscle through pain - physical and emotional.

So I will take this two and a half week pause from blogging and enjoy this wonderful dream. I highly recommend anyone who can fulfill another dream this year, besides a baby, to just do it. If you can't tackle a big dream, tackle a little one. Just give yourself that. Now I have the pleasure of perhaps having two dreams come true - Prague and a baby. It's too good to be true. But I'll take it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Road to Repair

In my tunnel vision toward babyland, it's been easy to justify a certain amount of isolation and space from my social world. I have always felt that creating boundaries of what I share, who I share it with, and when I interact with the outside world was my prerogative. I am the one suffering, therefore it's my call who, when, where, and how I let people in. My reproductive life is my business and anyone who expects to be privy to more than what I am willing to give is simply out of line. It's my choice how much I share.

My last post was about how to mend myself and come to terms with pregnancy after infertility. I am trying to "recover" and allow myself joy, but not forget what I have been through. I really thank you for your comments and advice as I sift through that internal mess. But yesterday a phone call from a friend made me realize it's not just a road to recovery for myself, but it's also a hard road to recovering and mending and redefining friendships I've left behind.

My comfort level of disclosure has been limited to family and 2 very close friends and all of you. The bloggers and IVF buddies have been a life line and the foundation for sanity. Family has been family- they love, they try to understand, they blunder and misstep, they push my buttons, but they support in the best way then can. My two close friends I chose because we share everything with each other and I can see them regularly which makes a big difference to me. But outside of that, a few friends know generally we've had loss and that we are "doing fertility treatments." For those people I've put up the road signs saying "detour," "temporarily closed," "under construction." I have relegated them to stay off the main road toward me and even turn around and go the other direction.

Again, I have felt justified in that I simply don't have any energy to update several people of what's going on when there are moments I can barely stop crying, I can barely feel my heart beating. Depression leaves me feeling non conversational and burdened by social pressure. I also find it upsetting to have to recount loss and grief to multiple people over and over again. It becomes exhausting having to say, "It didn't work again." It's also daunting that I might not get a reaction I want, or worse, a reaction that might make me hate them. So I do none of it. I leave them out.

Yesterday I called an out of town friend who knows we are going through infertility. I hadn't been in touch for a couple months and she's a friend who demands a lot of attention, which I can't give to her right now. So I tried to call and catch up and she was cold, mean, distant, and withholding. I asked her why and she said she feels "awkward,"cut out, and I've been out of touch and that effects our friendship. I became irritated. I could have predicted that reaction from her, but even knowing this, still doesn't compel me yet to change my behavior. I know I have to be aware of the people who need more from me, but it still comes down to how much water is in the well. I know people are thirsty but if I barely have any water, I can only ration out what I can.

So I do feel overburdened by dealing with my own feelings about what I have been through and then feeling like certain friends may resent me for not sharing or being there for them. It's a vicious cycle. Some people really do take it personally as if by not sharing with them about this I am not trusting, or they are not worthy, or I don't value their friendship. I never saw it that way. I always felt like it was obvious that when people go through shitty things that they may not want to share every detail. The best you can do is tell them you are there for them and leave it to them to decide.

I do realize that in losing myself to infertility, others have lost me too. That's a loss for them. They miss me. I miss me too. I am not sure where that person went. There are some friendships that need special time to repair and there are others who don't expect me to explain myself. Most people don't hold this against me. But some do. It's hard because I am tired. I have no brain power to worry about other people's reactions to my tragedy and how it effects them. But I know I will have to think about that and try to make amends.

When the signs come down, and my road is open again, by nature the road is different. People who've been on that road before may want it to be exactly the same. They might have missed certain things it provided for them that maybe harder to find along this new repaired road. Trees were cut down, new pavement was put down, certain scenery along the road is different so they might get disoriented, cranky, and say, "I want the old road." Others will immediately see improvements, appreciate the change, appreciate just the fact that it is open.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Straight from the heart

In one of my favorite Woody Allen movies, Hannah and Her Sisters, his character says, "The heart is a resilient little muscle." I can't even begin to articulate how true this is, but I will try. How many times has my heart been broken, punched, and almost annihilated? How many times did I long for a prescription for heartache? How many times did I think my heart might actually die? It's hard to even imagine that I climbed my way out of those basement moments and can live to see this tiny little heartbeat flutter. We have reached a point in this pregnancy I never got to with my eggs and my body - the heartbeat. Last week I traveled out to see A. and to witness the 2nd ultrasound and there it was - a tiny little flicker. Today was the 3rd ultrasound at 8 weeks and amazingly it is still blinking on that screen, stronger than ever. Shit, that is cool.

But I have to admit, in the past couple weeks letting this all sink in (that I actually might have a baby in January 2010), I did have a spell of emotional disorientation. What I mean by this is that I am elated by the success of this pregnancy. It's a long awaited dream and we are so blessed. But on the other hand, using donor egg and a surrogate leaves you still feeling detached during a pregnancy in ways I never wanted to be and have worried won't go away. All these great milestones of a pregnancy are wonderful but I am watching them as a spectator. I am not feeling it in my body nor am I wondering if this child will look like me. Part of the joy of telling people is somewhat daunted by the fact that I then have to explain we are using a surrogate and then toil over who is worthy of knowing about the donor egg. It makes these very simple joyous announcements not quite the same. In some ways, out of solidarity to myself and other women who have suffered through this, I feel like baby showers and announcements and mass emails are counter to myself. Why would I do things that other people have done that have hurt me so much? Will I ever send one of those Christmas cards with my kid on it? Right now, I don't think so. Will I put a photo of my baby as my facebook picture? Never. But what does this all mean? Am I robbing myself of joys and having a chip on my shoulder or perhaps this experience has just made it feel better not contradicting myself by doing annoying things fertile people do around me? It's all loaded with this baggage that I have to sift through and make sense of before this child is born so there isn't an iota of weirdness this child could feel from me. My heart has to be resilient as I watch this new beating heart. It's tough. It can't be a simple ending to a very complicated story.

I was trying to think about how this blog will evolve now that things are swinging in the right direction. I don't really need to report every pregnancy milestone to you all, though I know you would be excited for me. How can a blog named "The Art of Being Infertile" be talking about pregnancy? But then I realized, I am still infertile. By extension I am not, but technically I am. I've come to accept that my infertility will not be physically cured and therefore I still think there is an "art" to handling this. I realized that my situation is quite unusual and probably worth still writing about. As much as I would like to ride off into the sunset and feel like all will be normal and happy now, I know I have a crazy unique future that will have it's own twists and turns. 

So I begin this next chapter by standing up and saying, "My name is T.A.B.I. and I am an infertile. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would get another woman pregnant."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

One Singular Sensation

We've got one bun in the oven! Today was the first ultrasound. Though a part of me was greedy and wanted twins, one beautiful yolk sac and fetal pole is all I need. Next week I fly out to see A. and we hope to hear heartbeat. I feel like kicking my legs up in a Chorus line. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

So far, so good

We're at the point of the process where ingredients have been added, everything is mixed and  poured, and now the buns are cooking up. All we know for sure is that the oven is industrial strength, the batter was of the finest ingredients, and the intended mother is peering through the oven window hoping to see the dough rise. 

So far, so good. The beta is still more than doubling with last week's beta at 2471. Now the real test of how things are cooking- the ultrasound. The first one is this Wed and we may or may not hear the heartbeat but hopefully all will look good. We'll also know if we have multiple buns or just one single soft puff of heaven. 

I am at a loss in terms of what to write. I am so use to things going wrong that it seems odd to talk about things going right. I also don't want this necessarily to be a pregnancy blog all of a sudden. So I will think about this as I await the next set of news. All I can say with absolute certainly is a heartfelt THANK YOU for all your comments and support. It means the world to me and I just don't know what I would do without you ladies. 

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tiger mom hear me roar "BFP!!!!!!!!!!"

This could be it. I mean, this could really finally be the end of this heinous ride. I am sure many of you have seen these photos floating around virally but I just had to post them. The story is that after losing her cubs, the tiger mom was quite depressed until the zoo keepers brought her these piglets. I could not have felt more akin to this tiger mom. Not only does it make everyone just simply feel warm and fuzzy inside, as we collectively say "awwwww," but it also couldn't better capture the phenomenal love of a donor egg  mom or adopted mom. 

So I've decided to coin the name "Tiger Mom" for all the moms out there who finally stop the heartache through the wonderful gifts of donor egg and adoption. I think it's aptly named for so many reasons - for the strength it conveys, and for the unexpected joy it symbolizes. Who would have thought the need to love a child could surpass what we perceive as "natural." Naturally you would think this tiger would not cuddle up with the little pigs, but rather devour them up for breakfast. Just like an angry pissed off infertile - can she really love a child that's not her own? Can we defy what everyone thinks is "natural?" You bet we can. 

But on to my BFP news. The plan was that A. was going to test at home this Monday, the day before our beta. This way I could enjoy my birthday and not have it ruined by bad news. Years of pain have made me a great strategist. We figured the HPT would most likely be accurate by then so there would be no stress about false negatives or positives. But the lovely sweet A. wanted to surprise me for my birthday and get an early beta. She called today with the news that Wed's beta was positive and today's beta more than doubled. I am still in shock. Can you even begin to fathom a better birthday present than this? It's still not really sinking in, but I think I might finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Stay tuned. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

Four Frosties!

So I guess it's my moment to eat crow. I was wrong. Happily wrong! Out of the five embryos we had left, they were able to freeze four of them. The amazing thing is that they were even better quality than the ones we transferred. Am I in some altered universe? It is the first time ever in 3 years that we have extra embryos to work with. We are actually in excess and not shortage, for once, for once, for once. Needless to say we are thrilled and shocked. My eggs have been very lonely, losing this battle alone, but we are finally getting some reinforcements to help win the war. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Having a blast? Well, a couple...

Thank you all for cheering on my 7 embryos, we all appreciated it! Transfer was today! The first time we have ever been pushed to a 5 day transfer. So at least a new milestone was hit. Out of the 7, we only have two blasts, the rest are morulas and we'll know tomorrow if any of them make it to freeze. I am trying to resist the urge to complain, but I am feeling a bit cheated that my donor egg cycle produced so little. If these were my eggs I would be doing a jig right now, kicking up my legs in delight. But since these were suppose to be top notch young eggs, I really still can't believe our bad luck. Even when you cut me completely out of the picture we still are poor responders. Not to be a total downer but I'll put money down that we'll have none to freeze too. What the fuck is that about? I can't even begin to think that one out or else I'll once again have my fist raised toward heaven with bitterness. 

I decided that transfer day I would plant my seedlings that I have been growing all month. Maybe this is just overcompensation for the fact that I haven't played any role yet in this conception process. But I needed to get my hands dirty today. To dig into some moist earth and plant things. Even with plants you can see how some seeds are a bust and others thrive. All conception is like this. Some will keep blooming to maturity and others will die when the wind blows too hard or when there is heavy rain. So today I need to feel part of nature in the midst of this weird baby science experiment. While transplanting my seedlings into my terrace garden, I wondered if I will continue to overcompensate for my barren-hood throughout my life. Will this make me more daring, more adventurous, more of a risk taker so that I can always say to other women, "Well you might have conceived and given birth to babies, but I've climbed Mt. Everest, or I've bungee jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, or I've eaten raw snake, or I've traveled to every continent on this earth, or I've killed a wild bear with my bare hands." Just something to say back to a woman who might smugly say, "There's nothing like giving birth to a child." I know I don't have to feel insecure, but maybe this infertility, in addition to emotionally pushing me beyond myself, will also make me live life beyond myself. I am all for sucking the juices out of life and maybe this experience will really solidify that. That's my most positive side trying to really drown out my negative side who just keeps screaming, "This is all shit."

But at least mission is accomplished. The embryos are cooking up now. Since I wasn't able to go to transfer, wonderful A. texted me on my phone when it was done. It was like I ordered at a fast food restaurant, "Two blasts please, yes, and can you put that in my surrogate to-go."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

M for mature eggs - O for ovums - M for mixed feelings

It's that day again. The day that reminds me of what I have lost and what I have yet to receive. Happy Mother's Day. Once again I celebrate this day as a daughter, not a mother. I am realizing more and more that this donor egg cycle is going to hurt just as bad as the other cycles if it doesn't work. Somehow I thought it would be a little safer without the physical involvement, but I can tell already that this could really burn, just like the rest of them. 

For starters, we were hopeful of getting plenty of eggs with the 40 follicle report, but turns out we got 15 eggs, only 10 mature, and 7 fertilized. It really hit home that donor egg is no cure all. If this 26 year old makes just a little more than what I made at 37, that's just plain cruel. So will this be a continued joke or will all 7 make it to blast? I just can't help but think how much we have invested in this cycle and we could still have only a few to transfer and nothing to freeze. 

I am actually very glad that transfer did not fall on this Mother's Day. I am quite sick of the cliché days and holidays that keep giving me false reasons to believe luck is on my side. "Oh, this is a good sign," has become a laughable broken record. I transferred on Valentine's day, I've transferred on my birthday,  I've started meds on Christmas day, I've gotten betas right before anniversaries and massive family events. Just stop it -  I just want this to land on uneventful days so I stop thinking it means anything.

Tomorrow I will know the 3 day results and whether we have to transfer them to A. on Monday or Wed. Everything I thought would be easier is not. So please ladies, get the pom poms out and cheer for my 7. Peace to you all on this Mother's Day.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The green-eyed monster

"O! beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on." 
- Iago, from Shakespeare's Othello
Othello is one of my favorite of Shakespeare's plays. It has all the juicy aspects of a good drama; love, jealousy, deceit, betrayal, manipulation, an interracial couple in the 1600s(!), and one of the greatest villains - Iago. For those who never read the play, in a nutshell, Othello the moor of Venice is married to Desdemona and has a trusted high ranking soldier named Iago. When Othello promotes a younger officer Cassio and not Iago, Iago is furious and sets a course of lies, back stabbing, and manipulation to convince Othello that Desdemona is betraying him with Cassio. Othello then kills Desdemona only to find out that he had fallen for Iago's lies. Othello doesn't kill Iago and instead leaves him to suffer the rest of his life in pain for what he has done. But as expected with Shakespearean tragedy, Othello kills himself before they can take him into custody. 

The reason I bring this all up is that I am jealous. I've been green jealous of so many things during this infertility journey. Not all the time, but it's reared it's ugly head. It's hit the range from reasonable to irrational. Here's my jealousy list:

1) I am jealous of every single woman who can get pregnant naturally.

2) I am jealous of women who got pregnant on their first IUI or  IVF.

3) I am jealous of women who didn't have an ectopic.

4) I am jealous of women who truly don't want kids. I wish I could take a pill and make this desire go away.

5) I am jealous of women who don't have to use a surrogate or donor egg.

6) I am jealous of women who got a diagnosis and were able to then fix something that was causing infertility.

7) I am jealous of women who join online buddy groups and graduate to the pregnancy boards.

8) I am jealous of my sister who had 3 kids without a blink of an eye.

9) I am jealous of my friends who can plan play dates and not blood draws and shots.

10) I am jealous of youth and fertility.

But who am I-  Othello or Iago? In many ways I see infertility as my Iago - manipulative, disloyal, and destructive. I am the proud Othello that is just a victim of this deceit. I've been part of a web of lies around me telling me IVF would work, that anything would work, and that has made me a jealous maniac. But on the other hand, part of me might be Iago. I was denied something I feel I deserve, something I expected. I am pissed that the Cassios of the world got what I wanted. I might have gotten so enraged to go on a rampage of destructive behavior to seek revenge. 

All this is to say that jealousy is pretty poisonous. The latest, but brief, bout with the green-eyed monster happened yesterday when I was told my egg donor has 40 follicles. Yes, you did not read that wrong - 40. Of course my first concern was that they are overstimulating her, but I was assured her estrogen levels are good and so they are happy with where she is. After that relief, for a very brief spell, I was jealous of my donor's youth. My 37 year old body can barely eek out 6 good eggs and this 26 year old can just pound the suckers out. If I didn't already know that my eggs were sub par, this certainly hit the nail on the head.

What can I say, I am human. I am going to have jealous thoughts. But, unlike Iago, they don't last long and I certainly don't act on them besides avoiding pregnant women. However, the tale of Othello is an eloquent reminder that the green-eyed monster will not only eat you, it will mock you. So unless I want to have a Shakespearean end, I have mastered the quick recovery from these jealous moments. Very soon after letting the 40 follicles sink in, I was quite elated. We might finally have enough eggs to make a baby. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

No, nothing at all

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (English Translation)

No, nothing at all, I regret nothing at all
Not the good, nor the bad. It is all the same.
No, nothing at all, I have no regrets about anything.
It is paid, wiped away, forgotten.
I am not concerned with the past, with my memories.
I set fire to my pains and pleasures,
I don't need them anymore.
I have wiped away my loves, and my troubles.
Swept them all away.
I am starting again from zero.

No, nothing at all, I have no regrets
Because from today, my life, my happiness, everything,
Starts with you!
This weekend I watched the movie "La Vie en Rose" about the great French singer Edith Piaf. Her life was abundant with tragedy on every level. Everything good that came into her life was taken away. She lost her parents. She lost her mentor. She lost her lover. She lost her child. She then lost her life to liver cancer. On paper you can't help but think, "How did this woman live on?" The one thing that did remain was of course her voice. That raw and powerful voice. It's the kind of story that reminds us that beauty still remains in the most relentless kinds of sorrow. "No, I regret nothing" is one of her most famous and is a wonderful battle cry for me right now. I want this future donor egg child to be the beginning, not the end. This child can't be part of that past pain. It's no way to start a love story. So as Edith says, "I am starting again from zero." I am rallying my soul to let go, to begin to see pain and joy as part of the same recipe. 

Tentative Cycle schedule:
Donor egg retrieval - May 8 or 9
Surrogate transfer - May 11 or 12
Beta- Right around May 24 - my 38th birthday 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Will the real mother please stand up?

Do you remember that old game show "To the Tell the Truth"? For the younger folks, it was a game show started in the 1950s where three people would come out and pretend to be the same person. The contestants would have to deduce from the information who they thought was telling the truth. It came to the climax when the host bellowed out, "Will the real [name of person] please stand up?"

This is how I feel about the notion of motherhood when placed in the alternative world of donors and surrogates. I am out there with my donor and my surrogate on stage and we are all telling a story. As I try to come to terms with what this means for me, I find it really interesting how it all seems so malleable. Is there really a truth? 

I've already read a lot about surrogacy and I hear over and over, including my own thoughts, that we give up the carrying part but the egg is ours, and therefore we are the "real" mothers. I hear on the other side of the coin from donor egg recipients that even though the egg, or genetic material is not ours, we will carry and nurture this child in our bellies and that makes us still feel like the "real" mother. So what's a girl to do if she doesn't carry the child or provide the egg? Now the canon ball argument is blown onto the stage. The "real" mother is the mother who raises the child - period. 

Even though intellectually I can say that over and over again to myself, the notion of creation still remains on the game show stage for me. It's all conjecture for me at this point since I don't have a child yet so I feel like I am just rationalizing, persuading myself, justifying. I can't help but keep asking what does all this biology, physicality, technicality, intention, nature, nurture all mean to me? So I decided to turn to webster to help clarify my thoughts:

1 a: a female parent b (1): a woman in authority ; specifically : the superior of a religious community of women (2): an old or elderly woman
2: source , origin

3: maternal tenderness or affection
4 [short for motherfucker] sometimes vulgar : motherfucker
5: something that is an extreme or ultimate example of its kind especially in terms of scale

So let's take this one definition at a time. 

Definition Number 1: a female parent b (1): a woman in authority ; specifically : the superior of a religious community of women (2): an old or elderly woman

This one is fairly easy. I will be a female parent, in authority, although technically I am pretty much equal to a gay man - wanting to have a child with the man I love but with no uterus or egg to offer the endeavor. And yes, eh hum... I am an "old or elderly woman,"according to the reproductive world. Okay, overall I can check this off as "Yes!"

Definition Number 2: Source, origin

This is where it gets sticky. For the all the debating about how far back we have to go to find this - our intention, our money, the womb, the egg, the petri dish, nature/God/the divine/just plain luck - obviously we can choose any of these things that feel truthful to us. An outsider can just see the money and the petri dish and their fists are raised in moral disgust. An insider can just as easily see it in a billion beautiful and logical ways. We have to pick among the many truths to let us feel comfortable with what we are doing, what we are becoming, and how we identify ourselves as mothers. I have been really wrestling with this a lot but it's forcing me to gain new perspective (see Definition #3).

Definition Number 3: maternal tenderness or affection

As I traced back the potential origins of life, I've focused on my personal dilemma of being on the farthest end of this spectrum. I have to cling to "intention" and "raising the child" as my definition of "real mother." But in the past week I came to realize that getting comfortable under my own skin about donor egg requires more than talking about it logically. It requires going really really deep, I mean hyperspace deeper into yourself. I even went to a Buddhist meditation this week and what struck me the most was the redefinition of self that the guru proclaimed. In a nutshell, he argues we cling to "self-cherishing" or self-centered views of ourselves that aren't really true. The real "self" is the potential self. The deepest part of who we are is our potential selves, which is limitless despite limitations we cling to. So I've been digging deep these days, doing the archeology of myself, and I realized I left out one major source/origin in this motherhood trace back - LOVE. Sorry to get Beatles-hippy on everyone but "All you need is love" couldn't be more obvious and true. In understanding how this donor child will be "mine" and how I will be the "real" mother goes to the deepest part of my ability and capacity to love this child. I would even argue that the origins of love go further back or are the same as nature/God/the divine. But this still isn't easy. I can only hope that once I see that cute baby I will be awash with love. But that's still not enough of an anchor right now for me to hold on to. I have to take on a whole new sense of identity. I know I have to go to the outer limits of who I am. This is my most strenuous exercise these days - preparing and believing that my potential self will have limitless ability to do this. 

Definition Number 4: [short for motherfucker] sometimes vulgar : motherfucker

In this regard, it's easy for me to see how motherfucker relates to my own sense of motherhood. I can certainly identify the list of motherfuckers who exacerbated my infertility journey, and to be fair, the ways I've acted like a motherfucker. But even more so, I can define my infertility as the biggest motherfucker of them all. Not only did it completely fuck me over, fuck up my notions of motherhood, fuck with my mind for 3 years, and make me hate other mothers who have no fucking clue, it made the act of fucking a completely useless way of having a baby. 

Definition Number 5: something that is an extreme or ultimate example of its kind especially in terms of scale

This one's also a no brainer. My current "Baby X project" has moved to a scale beyond most people's imaginations. It's an ant farm of logistics and an ongoing rumination of how this effects my future. Now managing two women to make me a baby, I'm the ultimate project manager. But it doesn't stop there. Surrogates often remain loving parts of children's lives as the "nice lady" who carried them because mommy's tummy was broken. On the donor egg front things become more difficult. What role does the donor play in the child's birth story? Even though there is the constant proclamation that the donor is not the "real" mother, donor egg parents are also recognizing what that genetic link might mean for the child when they are older and want to know more about this donor. So yes, no doubt, this is a mother of a project.

So I am learning and practicing to stand for the first time, just like a child. I have to start out kind of wobbly with fear and skepticism before I can stand with confidence and conviction when the host shouts out "Will the real mother please stand up?" As Mother's day approaches, I ask for all infertiles at one moment of that day (May 10th) to stand up from where they are sitting and practice.