Saturday, March 31, 2007

Birth control pills and (hopefully) the end of the packing

Well, I started on BCPs yesterday - seems crazy... given that I had a hysterectomy 5 years ago, but I know it's about the hormonal input and not the prevention of conception. B has forbid me becoming bitchy. I'm not sure what's going to happen as it's been years and years since I've been on BCPs. Hopefully they won't cause me to gain weight! God, wouldn't that suck?!

I spent the last 4 days in Goldsboro, packing up B's stuff... he has a LOT of stuff!! Boxes and boxes of paperwork that he probably hasn't looked at in YEARS and probably will never look at again, but he just can't quite bear to part with it. To give him credit, he did throw a lot of paperwork from the Air Force away. He explained to me that, not having "proof" of things (e.g. his 1st marriage, his Air Force career, the bar, the airline, etc.) makes him wonder if any of it really happened. Well, I can't say that I necessarily understand that line of thinking... I KNOW that I was married to my 1st husband and don't have a single photograph of him in my possession (even in the attic), but I don't wonder if any of it really happened. Of course, I do have FB as testimony to that time in my life... maybe that's kinda like having pictures? Oh, well... it doesn't take up that much space, and if it makes him feel better, then so be it. I need to get past my weird jealousy/possessive crap that has surfaced recently anyway.

So, basically there's not much going on in my life... same old, same old. The best part about the upcoming trip to Ireland is that we'll be starting stims when I get back (how sad is that?). I'm SO looking forward to "Operation Baby" (as R has begun calling the process). I want to have B's baby so badly. I sure do love him. That's the only explanation I can find to account for the jealousy that I've been feeling. I sure don't like feeling that way! It's not as if I don't have a past myself. I guess the difference is that I know how I feel about the men in my past, and I know that they're no threat to my marriage - guess I'm not as confident about B's past loves. Of course, then I remind myself that he didn't HAVE to marry me, especially so soon after we met. I never pressured him to get married - HE pressured ME, so he must have wanted it pretty badly. I do believe that we'll be fine... I need to let go of other thoughts. I'll blame it on the BCPs!!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Finally - ovulation!

I got the call this afternoon - my progesterone was 7.6 today!! That means that I have FINALLY ovulated! My new instructions are to start on active BCPs on Friday the 30th and continue to take them daily until I get back from drill in May. Our retrieval/transfer has definitely been pushed off until May. There's just no time to get it done before I leave for Ireland.

As I understand it, I'll start on BCPs next week to keep me from ovulating again. The next step is "financial clearance" - meaning I have to pay up front!! I think the bill is about $11,000 - that's going to be a painful check to write! But, it's $5,500 for the retrieval/transfer and $4,800 for the PGD if we elect to go through with that, and another $1,000 for assisted hatching... thankfully I have pretty much all of it available now.

Once that's out of the way, R will have an u/s at the end of April to make sure everything looks alright and then she'll start on lupron. I have to go to Tuskegee for drill from May 4-6; I have an appointment for an evaluation on the 7th. As long as everything looks good, I'll start stim meds on the 11th, which will continue for 10-12 days. That will make potential retrieval the 21st - 24th of May with transfer the 26th - 29th of May. I hope we're on the early end of that, because I have to go to San Antonio on the 28th of May for OBC!! I would really prefer to be here for that, but R and I have discussed it, and she'll be ok on her own. I'm sure that dh will be with her, so she won't be "alone".

I bought a canvas/leather bag for her, that I'm going to paint with 2 angels and the cutest little baby faces that I found in a painting book... I'm going to put the pregnancy tests that I got for her, and some other stuff - movies, gift certificates for restaurants, a book or two, etc. in there, and if I can't make it to the transfer, then I'll mail it to her. I also got her the little 4-leaf clover necklace which I'll send to her before the transfer.

I'm so excited that we're moving ahead, another baby step in our journey!! We'll be pregnant (fingers crossed!) before you know it!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Am I EVER going to ovulate??

I'm guessing that, sooner or later, I'll ovulate, right? I'm just tiring of this and am ready to move forward. Part of my problem is that I'm leaving for Ireland in less than a month - so we're unlikely to be able to do the retrieval before I go. I guess I knew that a while back, but was just HOPING.... Well, I suppose there's no use dwelling on things that I can't change...

NCCRM wants me to repeat the progesterone on Friday. Of course, in the usual screwed up fashion, I got a message from the OB's nurse last night saying that she had received an order from NCCRM and they want my progesterone done today. Given that I only had a 1.1 last Friday, it's unlikely to be over 2 today, so I'm going to wait until Friday. When we did this in December, I had a 1.6 or something along those lines, and they had me repeat it 3 days later. I have a much better chance of getting a good result on Friday - it's not so much the being stuck that I'm objecting to - but these repeated blood tests are getting expensive! They're about $200 each, and that really adds up!

Hopefully by Friday afternoon we'll have some good news. I spent all day yesterday (and I mean ALL DAY) down at AAMC doing cats - 6 spays (5 of which were pregnant), 6 neuters, 5 more for just vaccines, then 3 to be checked for various ailments. On the positive side, the invoice was over $800, so that will help cover the cost of these progesterone levels!! BUT, I've got some sort of respiratory junk right now - it started Monday night when I was in Goldsboro - and I feel awful. I didn't sleep well last night and I have to go to Sanford today to meet with that jerk of a lawyer to try to close J's estate. I'd "call in sick", but I really want to be rid of him - and the sooner, the better!

Friday, March 16, 2007

I feel so blessed...

to have R as my surrogate!!

Just when I was feeling so aggravated and frustrated that I just wanted to scream or hit someone, or maybe both, I got the sweetest email from her - encouraging me to be patient and strong; assuring me that our time is coming. She reminded me that, when we initially met, I told her we were looking for a late spring/early summer transfer - the March/April transfer was really more her time line than ours, but I didn't mind. At any rate, she said that a May transfer would be in keeping with our original intent, if not even a little early. She said that she "has no plans for the next year except to carry your babies" (we've decided that we would like b/g twins, but don't tell B!).

It actually brought tears to my eyes - I am so grateful for having met this wonderful woman who is willing to give so much of herself to make our dream come true! This is why I didn't want the surrogacy to be a business transaction - I want it to be a special friendship. This is a major commitment - for all 4 of us - physically, emotionally, financially. It's something that will bond us forever.

The bond here is primarily growing between R and myself. Right now, the guys just aren't involved much. Sometimes I worry that B isn't as excited or into this whole thing as I am... but then I came home one day to find a list on my desk with 2 columns - "girl" and "boy" - potential baby names. I think (hope) that he'll become more involved once R is pregnant. I think he'll be a great daddy....

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I an sooooo frustrated!!

My progesterone was only 1.0 this time; I really think that we missed my entire cycle. Thinking back, I would now wager that when I was so cranky (2 weeks ago), it's more likely that I was getting ready to start a new cycle and not to ovulate. The nurse wants me to repeat the progesterone again on Friday. I'm getting tired of this! It's frustrating and expensive. This process is expensive enough without having another $1,000 in blood work to determine when I'm ovulating.

Problem is that we're getting past (or may already be past) the point where I can just be stimulated. I'm leaving for Ireland on the 20th of April, and I have OBLC from the 28th of May until the 10th of June. Those things can't be changed. I told NCCRM that I am NOT going to go through all of this only to decide that I can't be stimulated right now so we have to wait and then start all over. She assured me that would not happen - once they determine that I have ovulated, they will keep me on BCPs until they are able to do the stim and retrieval. If we can't do it before I leave for Ireland, then I want to do it as soon as possible after I get back from drill in early May, so that we can transfer before I have to leave for OBLC. **sigh**

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I just got the results of B's semen analysis from NCCRM... Not too bad for an "old guy" I guess:

His motile sperm concentration was 18 million (they like to see it above 10 million)
His motile percentage was 34% (they like to see this one above 50%)
The total sperm count was 53 million (they want this to be above 40 million)
The total motile sperm count was 18 million (they want it above 20)
The last variable... I would swear that she said "percentage abnormal" is 94% and they like it to be less than 96%

That last one doesn't make any sense to me... Are there really that many abnormal sperm in a "normal" sample? I'll have to do some investigating on the internet when I get home. That seems bizarre. I guess that abnormal sperm wouldn't be able to penetrate an egg?? So as long as there are a LOT of them, a "normal" one will find it's target??

At any rate, they want to evaluate the sample he provides on the day of retrieval and then they will decide whether they feel ICSI is needed. I'm sure that motility naturally decreases with age, but his doesn't seem too bad. He did manage to impregnate 2 women in the past - I know we can make this happen.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Financial stresses

B came for lunch today, as is his usual when I work in town. He doesn't like to go an entire day without seeing me... Isn't that sweet?

He talked to me today about the things that are going on for him in regards to potential work - this stuff with the guy in Canada, the deal with the Nigerian Oil guy and the brothers. He told me that with all these things, and his retirement, he has about $5,000/month cash available. Therefore, I shouldn't worry about money because he's got the basics covered. He said that he can't cover the unusual - like my veterinary expenses (liability insurance, DEA licensing, privilege license, professional memberships, etc.) but that the rest (mortgage, electric, water, phone, car payment, insurance, groceries, and the like) are something that he could cover on his own if push came to shove.

My problem though is I've been paying all these things myself - granted, I was working more and the bills were less (my electric bill last month was $200 and the water bill was $55; this month's cell bill is $250... I've never had bills that high!!), but I still feel like I should be able to cover everything, and I get frustrated and scared when I find that I can't. The other problem is that we have totally separate finances and I'm just not comfortable asking him for money.... So I tend to make little comments about how I can't pay the bills, and then he ends up giving me money - it would be much easier and less stressful for both of us if I could just learn to ASK. I don't think that he expects for me to support him... I don't think he has a problem with giving me money. If he gets about $5,000/month, and he's only giving me about $1,500 then he has plenty more. I spend all that I make, and all that he gives me, primarily on bills. I do buy other things - for the boys, I just bought new running shoes, etc. but I'm not making any large, wasteful purchases. He says he's got about $10K sitting in his account. That will come in handy when it's time to start paying R her monthly allowance. With what he's giving me currently, he can pay her the $2,000 monthly stipend, and STILL have money left over to spend on whatever he wants to spend it on.

When I sit down and reason it out, I know that things will be fine. There's a possibility that I can pick up a steady 1-2 days at the Banfield, and Dr. G from AH called today and said that he'd love to have me commit to 2-3 days/week starting in June. So, I'm going to take a deep breath and try very hard to let go and just believe that everything will be alright.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

A little bad news, a little good news and a lot of prayer

After much effort, I finally got my progesterone level back (at 4pm) - it was 1.04. Apparently that isn't high enough for them to be confident that I've ovulated, so they want me to repeat the test on Monday. The nurse seemed a bit surprised that they were delaying the retest for 5 days, but I assume that they know what they're doing...

R had her psych eval on Tuesday and apparently passed with flying colors. The only thing we're really waiting on now is my progesterone, then we can start the cycle. Hopefully we won't be delayed too long by my lab results. If all goes well, we should be transferring mid to late April. That will be an exciting and exceedingly stressful time, praying the embies stick and waiting to find out for sure... Then the next 8 weeks which hold the highest possibility of miscarriage... I figure, if we make it to 12 weeks, then we're virtually home free.

Here's to healthy twins on the first attempt!! (might as well be optimistic, huh?)

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The P2 predicament

Today was my progesterone draw - this morning started out with a bang -

The fertility nurse wrote P2 on the lab form; the lab tech didn't know what a P2 is - I explained that they wanted a progesterone level; he wasn't sure... Guess he didn't believe that I knew what I was talking about. So, he called his lab - according to them, a P2 is an entire group of tests, including all the different types of hepatitis, etc. He was unable to verify what was requested because neither of the usual fertility nurses were available at 8:15am. Of course, this happened on one of the few days that I actually have to work this month!!

So, in the end, he drew about 8 tubes of blood and was going to hold them until he was able to verify what was being requested. I didn't realize this was rocket science! Amazingly enough, I managed to make it to work on time! I was rather surprised. Hopefully the level will indicate that I've ovulated, and I can start BCPs next week!! We're on our way!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Now what??

After determining that I do appear to be fertile, we quickly set about negotiating the terms of the contract. I downloaded a surrogacy contract and retyped it, making a few changes that suited me. I emailed it to R & S who looked it over and emailed me with requested changes. What they asked for was very reasonable, so I agreed to everything, making the changes accordingly. We agreed to have one attorney review the contract for verbiage - not necessarily representing the best interests of either side, though he did lean towards R (which was expected given that she knows him and I don't). Some of his suggestions were reasonable, some were ridiculous - R and I reviewed them together, used the ones we both agreed upon and disregarded the rest. We found no points to argue - it was that simple; we had the contracts signed within the week.

Next came the preliminary testing - blood work all around!! HIV, Chlamydia, hepatitis, rubella, rh factor - and other things I'd never even heard of. We were all pronounced healthy and able to proceed. R's saline sonogram showed a healthy uterus, free of any tumors or blips or anything that might interfere with the implantation of an embryo; and she passed her psych evaluation with flying colors. B's semen analysis showed very high numbers (53 million, 40 million is considered good), with slightly decreased motility (34%, ideal is >50%). I did look online to find out what the parameters actually measure and found that to measure motility, they only count the sperm that swim really fast and in a straight line. This doesn't mean that other sperm are incapable of fertilizing an egg, just that they might have a harder time getting there. However, in our case, the sperm will be dropped in very close proximity, if not on top of the egg, thus having little to no swimming to do! Dr. M will evaluate the sample collected on the day of my retrieval and determine, at that time, whether he feels that ICSI is warranted.

Now that we've all been determined to be healthy and relatively sane, it's time to sync our cycles. R was started on active birth control pills on the 1st day of her last cycle; she's now on her 2nd pack. I had to pee on some more of those damn sticks, and submit to progesterone draws. I really think that we missed my last cycle entirely and were actually closer to starting a new cycle than we were to ovulation. So, now I'm having a series of progesterone checks - every 3-7 days, depending on the value of the preceeding test. Once my progesterone goes over 2, indicating that I have ovulated, I'll get to start on BCPs. They'll keep me on the active pills, to suppress ovulation, until they are ready to start the stimulation.

We were really hoping for an April transfer (that is to say, R and I were really hoping for an April transfer - not sure how the guys feel... B is kinda staying out of it at this point), but I don't think that's going to happen. I'll be in Ireland from the 20th to the 29th of April, then in Alabama for drill from the 4th through the 6th of May, then it's off to San Antonio for OBLC from the 28th of May until the 10th of June. AND, my commander says that he may send me off for an additional 5-7 days of training after OBLC!! R and I have discussed it extensively and, as much as I want to be there for the transfer, we agreed that we will go ahead if they can do the retrieval before I leave for Ireland; she'll do the transfer without me physically there (maybe I can call?). Otherwise, we're going to hopefully aim for that lapse between drill and OBLC.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Surrogacy?? Are you serious??

I want to write this all down - the good, the bad, the ugly... all of it. Not so much for anyone else's eyes, but more for my own. Sometimes it helps me to just write... reading back through it can help to make sense of the non-sensical. I also want to remember every detail of this amazing journey.

As for how this all came about -

Once we made the decision to try and have a baby through surrogacy, I started doing research on fertility, IVF, and success rates for women my age. One thing that I kept coming across, over and over, was a possibility that DHEA taken daily for at least 4 months seemed to restore declining ovarian function in older women. I made a trip to Vitamin World and picked up a big bottle. I immediately began taking 100mg every morning. I do take what I read on the internet with a grain of salt, but the study findings were published in the Journal of Fertility and Reproduction (or some professional journal), so I took it a little more seriously than if it had been written on "Stella's Infertility Blog."

B and I made an appointment for an initial consult at NCCRM - to discuss the process and (of course) the financial end of things (as in, how much money are we going to need to save up to make this happen?). I had gone ahead and posted the ad on the surrogacy site because (1) I'm not a patient woman and (2) I thought that it would take a long time (at least 6 months) to find a surrogate. Well, lo and behold, we found R within a couple of weeks... before our consult at NCCRM.

The consult went well - I really like our RE - and it wasn't quite as expensive as we had anticipated, so there was no "sticker shock" there. The primary concern for us was my age - as our RE so eloquently put it "It all depends on the egg... the egg is queen." The fact that I'm already 39+ is not in my favor. The best evaluation of my fertility, he told us, was to do a "Day 3 FSH" level. The amount of FSH needed to stimulate the ovaries tends to increase with age - thus indicating decreasing fertility/responsiveness. If my FSH was 10 or higher, they would be unlikely to be able to stimulate me sufficiently and it wouldn't be worth the money to pursue it any further. Given that I had a hysterectomy years ago, I have no way of judging where in my cycle I am at any given point (can't exactly give a date for my last period!). Dr. M suggested an ultrasound to take a peek at my ovaries, and a blood draw for some basic hormones - LH, estradiol, progesterone... this would help them to make a guess as to when ovulation had or might occur. The ultrasound showed multiple, well-developing follicles on each ovary, which the nurse said was favorable - she said I had "very active ovaries." I was sent home to await the results of that initial blood work.

The hormone levels indicated that ovulation was pending, so I was advised to purchase an ovulation prediction kit and begin to pee on sticks daily. When I detected an LH surge, I would notify NCCRM; a week later, I would have a progesterone level checked to determine whether or not I had ovulated. Once that was confirmed, I would wait about 15 days and then draw for estradiol and FSH. That was as close as they were going to get to a "Day 3" level for me.

Let me just say that ovulation prediction kits suck - and if I had had to rely on them to conceive, I would be childless. It's not a matter of one line vs two lines, or a plus vs a minus sign. It's a subjective evaluation - is the test line as dark as or darker than the reference line? I won't detail the frustration and aggravation, but suffice it to say that we managed to stumble through the process with only a few sidetracks, and finally drew for FSH. The 3 day wait for results was excruciating for me; B seemed to take it in stride (either that or he hid his anxiety well). B and I had already agreed that an FSH of 10 or more would mean an end to this endeavor. They finally called me with the results - my FSH was 4!! Estradiol was well within normal, healthy, fertile limits as well, but I was only focused on the FSH.

It appeared that my ovaries were functioning well for an "old gal" and we were going to give this a shot!!