Red Velvet Beignets – Recipe

Red Velvet Beignets

Ingredients:
  • 1 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 5 7/8 ounces warm water
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large organic egg
  • 4 ounces evaporated milk
  • 3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoon vegetable shortening
  • 2 teaspoon red food coloring
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon citric acid or ascorbic acid
  • Peanut or Cottonseed oil for frying

*Makes: 40-42 beignets

Directions:

–      In a mixing bowl add the yeast, 1 tsp of the sugar, and the warm water. Whisk and let sit for 10 minutes or until the yeast is bubbly.  In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, and shortening. To the yeast, add the rest of the sugar, salt, egg, evaporated milk, and red food coloring. Using the dough hook on the mixer, mix the ingredients until combined. Add ½ cup of the flour and mix the dough.  Slowly add the rest of the flour, cocoa and shortening mixture, scraping the sides down to incorporate. Once all of the flour is added, take the dough out of the bowl and using flour, roll into a large ball. Place the dough in a floured bowl, wrap with plastic and chill in the refrigerator overnight.

–      The next day remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out using flour to a ¼ inch thickness. Using a pizza cutter cut the dough into 2 inch by 2 ½ inch rectangles.

–      Mix the powdered sugar and citric acid together in a large bowl, set aside.

–      In a large pot, heat Peanut or Cottonseed oil to 350F and fry the beignets about 6 at a time for 3 to 4 minutes moving them around somewhat frequently.  Remove the beignets from oil and rest on a paper towel then immediately add to the powdered sugar and citric acid mixture. Serve immediately.

(c) 2015 Valerie Renèe

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Smoked Jamaican Oxtails – Recipe

Smoked Jamaican Ox Tails

Jamaican Jerk Marinade

Ingredients:

5 scallions – chopped

1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme – chopped

2 tsp Kosher Salt

1 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1 Tbsp Brown Sugar

2 tsp Ground Allspice

1 tsp Nutmeg

1 tsp Cinnamon

2 Scotch Bonnet Peppers – chopped

1/3 c Soy Sauce

2 Tbsp Canola Oil

1/4 c Apple Cider Vinegar

1 medium sweet onion – chopped

1/2 c Orange Juice

3 cloves Garlic – minced

1 Tbsp Fresh Ginger – chopped

Directions:

Place all ingredients into a food processor and pulsate until larger items are pulverized.  Puree for 2-3 minutes until very smooth.

Makes 3 cups of marinade.  Store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Oxtails

Ingredients:

15- 20 nice sized oxtails – fat trimmed

Granulated Garlic

Seasoning Salt

Onion Powder

Dried Thyme

Directions:

Season oxtails lightly with spices and place into a large bowl or freezer bag.  Toss generously with the marinade and place into the fridge for 6 hours to marinate.

oxtails - seasoned

Place oxtail on the grate of a grill or smoker over prepared, ashed over charcoal and hickory wood chips.

oxtails - on grill oxtail - on grill done

Smoke oxtails until the internal temperature is 160.

Veggies

Ingredients:

In an aluminum half pan,  cut up onions, garlic, carrots, sweet pepper, mushrooms, potatoes, thyme, tomato and put them in the pan along with 4-5 bay leaves, red wine, beef stock & a little orange juice. When the oxtails were at 160 place them on the veggies and wrapped it up tight in foil to steam/simmer:

oxtail - veggies oxtail- on veggies oxtail - grilling

Leave the pan on the grill for 3-4 hours over the hot coals.  Remove and serve.

(c) 2010 Valerie Renèe

The Donor Egg Journey – The 411

ivf - egg donor

What is the ideal age for an egg donor?

The ideal age for an egg donor is between the ages of 21 and 30. However, many egg donor agencies will not accept a new donor into their pool over the age of 29, since it can sometimes take up to a few months to get chosen by an intended parent.

The reason that span of age has been agreed upon. It is because egg donors who are younger than 21 don’t always understand the commitment and importance of what they are agreeing to or undertaking.

At the other end of the age spectrum, women begin to experience a fertility decline after age 30. Because this treatment is so expensive intended parents want to make sure that the eggs they are potentially receiving are from healthy, fertile young women with no infertility issues.

Egg donation is a big deal and a huge commitment. It also requires a high degree of coordination between the donor, fertility doctor, and the egg donation agency.

Unlike sperm donation – a sperm donor can begin and finish his part in most cases in less than an hour and for most it feels really good. Egg donors don’t have in their pockets 15 or so eggs ready to hand over to give to the IVF doctor. It’s kind of like training for a marathon – it’s preparing physically, and in many cases mentally. An egg donation cycle means about 6-8 weeks of oral and injectable medication. Then there is the many scheduled fertility doctor appointments to measure follicles; then the actual egg retrieval procedure itself which is considered an invasive procedure which takes about 15-20 minutes under light sedation – and while it’s not horrible it’s not like obtaining a semen sample.

How Can I Tell If I Am Ready To Make That Jump To IVF with Egg Donation?

With so much information out there about different fertility treatments and egg donor agencies, it can easily become very challenging to know which one is best for you. A lot of the times we don’t always know. And sometimes it’s much easier to tell if you aren’t ready for an egg donation cycle than if you are.

Genetic link loss is a hard nut to crack and it’s not always easy to work through. It’s about coming to terms and accepting that you will have a loss of a genetic connection to your future children. That part isn’t easy.

One rule of thumb is if you look at dozens and dozens of egg donor photos and/or profiles from your agency and you simply do not like any of them – in fact, you can actually hate them it’s safe to say you are most likely not really ready to cross that bridge, and make that leap to egg donation.

This can all take time – and most importantly it should always be on your timetable. You shouldn’t ever be rushed, or forced.

The experts may tell you – “Egg donation may be the cure for childlessness for it’s certainly not a cure for infertility” and they are more right than you know.

It might mean that making an appointment with a mental health professional, who specializes in fertility, to walk you through the feelings associated with all of this – talking through your feelings, fears, and anxiety might be what you need to move on to the next phase of your journey.

What to Expect When You’re Trying to Expect: A Journey Through Egg Donation

Every expectant parent goes through a laundry list of questions, concerns and overall bewilderment at the process at hand. Throw in a little third-party reproduction with egg donation and the process gets that much more amazing.

For a lot of people starting their IVF with egg donation journey, and even those in the thick of it, there is a lot of uncertainty of exactly what to expect during the process. This is completely normal, and you should be working with an agency whose Case Manager guides you along this imperfect path and catches you when you lose your footing.

As a general rule, you should expect the overall match (sometimes referred to as cycle, which is different than the time the donor spends on medications) to take 3-4 months from the time you secure your egg donor until she has her egg retrieval. The reason for such a lengthy process is that the egg donor needs to complete all of her screening. While agencies do all they can to ensure that the egg donor will meet all of your physician’s requirements, the only true way to know if she’s a candidate is through the medical screening completed with your reproductive endocrinologist (RE).

To break it down further, the 3-4 month process should follow a path similar to this:

1. Egg donor completes a genetic consultation within the first 2 weeks of you securing her. The genetic counselors report generally takes 3-5 days to be written and returned to both the agency and your fertility doctor’s office.

2. Egg donor completes psychological evaluation within the first 2 weeks of you securing her. The report generally takes 2 weeks to be written and returned to both the agency and your fertility doctor’s office.

3. Egg donor completes legal consultation within the first 3 weeks of you securing her. She will be instructed by her attorney to hold onto her contracts until she has met with your fertility doctor.

Telling Others You Are Having A Child Via Third Party Reproduction (Egg Donation and/or Gestational Surrogacy)

Infertility in itself is an incredibly personal and private matter. While some find it easier to share their fertility struggles others will find it extraordinarily difficult – and that’s okay. Because thoughts, beliefs and viewpoints regarding egg donation and third party reproduction vary (depending on who you talk to) only you and you alone can choose whether who, what, where and how much to share.

Some ask “Why should I even share this kind of information with anybody?”

For those fortunate enough to have their children the old fashioned way without medical help, the question of what information to share doesn’t even come into play. For instance, you wouldn’t typically ask a family member, friend, or peer the details of how their child was conceived. In fact, how their children came to its taken for granted to everyone around them how they were born, that their parents are genetically related to them, the mom carried them and both parents have a genetic connection.

The individuals who conceive their children through egg donation and or gestational surrogacy (with an egg donor) are troubled with who to tell, how much to tell, and when to tell.

Psychologists and mental health therapists after many years of study will tell you that it’s important to tell the child who was conceived via egg donation and or surrogacy. It’s the right thing, and the healthy thing to do – every child has a right to know his or her origins.
In most cases your close family members – children already born into the family, your parents, your partner’s parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles etc…

Many intended parents share this news with their closest friends.

Some intended parents share this news with their colleagues.

Most intended parents share this news with their medical caregivers – OBGYN, General Family Practice Doctor, and almost always the pediatrician who will be caring for their new baby.

The biggest question that hangs over the heads of many intended parents is whether or not to tell their child. Egg donation and or gestational surrogacy isn’t the first choice most of us make when we think about creating or adding to our family. However, it’s one of the most beautiful ways to create or add to your family. Those kids born via egg donation and or gestational surrogacy can be rest assured they were most definitely wanted, planned for and worried about! In fact, if you talk to the parents of kids born through this technology they will tell you not only did they really want to become a parent they had to overcome many obstacles, jump through many hoops, and make oodles of sacrifices to become a mom or dad.

The children born through egg donation and surrogacy are most always beloved, prized, and cherished enveloped in a big cloud of love. These children are more than likely to grow up healthy both physically and psychologically. They will have the support they need to thrive by their parents as well as those around them.

Organizations like Parents Via Egg Donation (PVED) and the Donor Conception Network advocate that its healthy and appropriate to be open and honest with a child about their origins telling them at a young age. Marna Gatlin from PVED says, “Tell them early and often. Be upfront, honest, and matter of fact, telling your children and using age appropriate language. If you don’t make it weird they won’t feel weird. This is something they should always know about themselves, not something they can point back to and say that they remember on a specific date mommy and daddy told them they were born via egg donation.”

Many intended parents disclose to others about their reproductive choices for the following reasons:
• They wanted support from their family and friends, this is after all a big deal.
• Their family and their friends already knew about their infertility issues and so it made sense to share with them.
• They didn’t and don’t want secrets in their family.
• They wanted to control the information in regards to who knew and how much.
• They didn’t want their child to find out by accident so they shared the information with their family and their child so it came from them.
• They didn’t feel ashamed – this was just a fact of life.
• They feel strongly their child has a right to know his or her origins.
• They wanted their doctor to know so he would have correct and appropriate medical history.

Some intended parents choose not to disclose and here’s why:
• They are embarrassed about needing help to have a child and feel ashamed.
• Religious reasons – their religion or faith forbids infertility help.
• They worry about being misunderstood by those who they live around in their community.
• They feel that infertility is a personal problem and none else’s business.
• They worry that the egg donor would be considered the real mother.
• They worry about their child’s well being – they don’t want him or her being treated poorly, or differently by other people.
• They want to forget all about treatment after their child was born – they want to put all of this behind them.

The Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) strongly supports the principle that parents ought to tell their children about the fact that they were born using donated gametes. The Committee also considers that informing the child about non-identifying characteristics of the donor is in the child’s best interests. In addition, in those cases when all parties come to an agreement, it’s advised to disclose personal data on the donor. The committee acknowledges however that such decision is of exceptionally personal nature and that it can be made only by the parents themselves (ASRM Ethics Committee, 2004).

Fresh Donor Eggs vs. Frozen Donor Eggs?

For those of us involved in the world of donor egg, fresh donor egg cycles vs. frozen egg cycles are the talk of the town. What to do? Which one gets better results? What exactly is the difference between fresh vs. frozen?

Let’s first be clear on the difference. A fresh donor egg cycle is when you are working with a live donor that you picked just for you. You get the entire yield of her cycle, good or bad. If they retrieve 26 eggs from the donor, all those eggs are yours to use now or in the future. If the cycle only yields 8 eggs, then you get only those 8 to work with.

A frozen egg cycle is different from a frozen embryo cycle or thaw cycle. A thaw cycle is when you freeze embryos from a fresh cycle and either use those embryos (fertilized eggs) for another biological sibling in the future or to try again if the first cycle was unsuccessful. Your frozen embryos are thawed for another transfer, thus, a thaw cycle.

A frozen egg cycle is when you work with an egg bank and only get a lot of eggs, unfertilized eggs, not embryos, from the egg bank. You then fertilize these eggs. You only get a lot of 6 (usually) no matter how many were retrieved from the donor. If there were 24 eggs retrieved, these eggs will be divided into 4 lots of 6 eggs each and each lot goes to a different recipient.

Whether one way to go is better or not is really a very individual decision. It depends on your circumstances and what your particular needs are. Do you want only one child? Are you going to try for siblings or biological siblings? Do you have insurance? Are you an international recipient? Is your time very limited? Are you trying to match with a particular ethnicity? You can read SART stats and ASRM stats and this stats and that stats. Stats will be stats will be stats. I am not debating success rates here. I want to give you other things to think about as stats can be different depending on who you are speaking to. Is either guaranteed, no. Do we all want you pregnant, yes.

The Egg Donor Selection Process

For many being told that in order to have a child means giving up their genetics is devastating, overwhelming, and incomprehensible. There are so many questions that begin to bubble to surface it’s often hard to make sense of them let alone articulate them. Selecting an egg donor is going to be one of the biggest decisions an intended parent is ever going to make and it’s natural to feel incredibly overwhelmed in the process.

Because this information that a patient might receive from their care provider can be mind boggling it’s important to allow yourself time to think about egg donation, wrap your head around what egg donation means, grieve the loss of your genetics and think about the steps that they will take to complete their egg donor cycle from beginning to end – with donor selection being the prime focus.
It’s important to acknowledge your sadness, frustration and in many cases anger. You might have learned when you were in your early 20’s or 30’s that the egg donor route would be your path to parenthood. That mean your journey is going to be easier than the woman who is in her 40’s and has learned her ovarian reserve is almost gone, or the woman who has cancer and lost her ovaries to chemotherapy. We just want you to know it’s normal to be sad about losing your genetic link. For some women, it can be a lengthy grieving process. We encourage you to give yourself time to grieve this loss. Sometimes seeing a counselor a therapist can help sort through complicated feelings.

While it may be difficult to look forward – please keep in mind that regardless of which egg donor you select any baby born will be a baby you and your partner (if you have one) created and gave life to. This baby is going to be special, unique and exclusive to your own family. This baby wouldn’t be coming into the world, into your arms, or into your family if it weren’t for the dedication and love you have to give this child. This baby is going to be yours – and the baby you are meant to have is the baby you are meant to have.
By now I am sure there are many different terms running through your head – anonymous, semi-anonymous, known, or directed egg donation.

You might be wondering where do we start?

To begin with it’s important for you and your partner (if you have one) to think about what is important to you regarding contact. This means you will need to decide if you want to select an anonymous donor or a known donor. For some parents it’s important to make a personal connection with their egg donor. They may want to select a donor who will be willing to meet their child one day in the future. Others choose the anonymous donor route, not wanting to know anything other than what a profile states about their donor.

Infertility clinics and/or egg donor agencies usually have websites that allow you to peruse their donor pool and review an egg donor’s profile. As you review profiles pay close attention to the egg donor’s profile. Read carefully, taking into account how the donor portrays herself. Look for a donor that you can relate to, that you could call your friend, or that you imagine could fit in with your own family. Look for a donor who’s physically and emotionally healthy.

All intended parents have different criteria when selecting their egg donor.

For instance some place value on the GPAs, SAT scores, and college education of their donor. Some place value in egg donors who have excelled in athletics, music, science, or other areas. While other intended parents require their donor to be the same faith as themselves. The majority of intended parents convey they would prefer an egg donor to have a physical resemblance with the recipient mother, so that the baby “looks like Mom and Dad.”

It might be important for you to have an egg donor who’s physically beautiful or “model beautiful” This is not an unreasonable request – let’s face it, who doesn’t want their child to be beautiful and brilliant? Therefore, the demand for attractive, exceptional college girls who are willing to donate eggs is high. However, not all attractive, intelligent, college-age girls are going to make good donors. That’s why medical and psychological testing is required and paying close attention to the results of those tests is important.
So keep in mind that the characteristics you desire in an egg donor are unique to you and based on your personal priorities and choices. There is no right or wrong way to go about this! Just keep in mind that as a recipient/intended parent, you are investing a good deal of money in this process. Being a pro-active, smart consumer armed with information is imperative when selecting an egg donor.

Parent Via Egg Donation (PVED) has put together a great information sheet regarding donor selection that we’d like to share with you.

TERMINOLOGY FOR THOSE STARTING OUT:
An anonymous egg donor is an egg donor you do not meet, selected with the help of an IVF clinic or an egg donation agency. You do not know her name or anything else about her that is not stated on her profile. You may or may not see a photo of the donor. The donor would know nothing about the recipient/intended parent(s) or the cycle other than how many eggs were retrieved, and in some instances, whether or not a pregnancy resulted.

A semi-known egg donor is an egg donor who knows the recipient/intended parent(s’) first name(s) and the state in which they live. The donor and recipient/intended parent(s) might exchange emails and photos; however, no specific personal information is provided about the donor or the recipient/intended parent(s).

A known egg donor can be a friend, family member, or someone selected by the recipient/intended parent(s) with the intention of meeting face-to-face. The donor may know the recipient/intended parent(s’) first and last names and/or where they live, and in addition the two parties may be willing to exchange email, telephone calls, and personal information as well as to continue to keep in contact with one another. The donor and the recipient/intended parent(s) may agree upon the child meeting the donor at a future point in time. The recipient/intended parent(s) may or may not send photos of their child with updates to the egg donor as well. The arrangement regarding exchange of information is agreed upon and put into place between the egg donor and recipient/intended parent(s) at the time of the cycle. In many instances, information is shared for medical purposes.

All egg donors should complete an in-depth egg donor profile compiled of several pages of questions covering their medical history, personal history, social history, and reproductive history. You do not want to do business with an egg donor agency, broker, or clinic that does not require their egg donors to complete at least a medical profile. All egg donors should meet with a psychologist to be administered an MMPI* and a psychological evaluation.

*The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, or MMPII or PAI is the most frequently used clinical personality test. It is an easy test to administer and provides an objective measure of personality. It provides clear, valid descriptions of the test subject’s characteristics in broadly accepted clinical language. It also provides information about any potential psychological problems or symptoms that may deem a potential donor inappropriate to proceed with the egg donation process. It always needs to be scored, evaluated, and interpreted by a licensed clinical psychologist at the PhD level.

What should I look for in an egg donor?

The following is a list of important qualities to look for in a potential egg donor. Ideally, egg donors should:

Be between the ages of 21 and 30** and exhibit maturity, responsibility, and dependability

Be in good physical health as documented by history and testing

Be in good psychological health as documented by history and testing

Be of proportionate height and weight [being overweight may affect egg quality, as well as necessitate higher doses of stimulation drugs to create follicles, which translates to additional costs for the recipient/intended parent(s)]

Be drug free

Be a non-smoker of tobacco and marijuana

Have regular menstrual periods and is not using Depo-Provera or any other birth control that stops her from having regular monthly periods

Have a normal value for Anti-Müllerian hormone ( AMH ) levels which are between 1.0-3.0 mcg/L

Have an FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) level on cycle day three (3) of no more than eight (8), preferably under six (6)

Have an E2 (Estradiol) level on cycle day three (3) of less than fifty (50)

Have an Antral follicle count*** of at least fifteen (15) combined count

**Egg donors younger than 21 may not be emotionally mature; egg donors older than 30 are not at peak fertility. Always follow your reproductive endocrinologist’s advice regarding age.

***Antral follicles are small follicles (about 2-8 mm in diameter) that a reproductive endocrinologist can see, measure, and count with ultrasound. Antral follicles are also referred to as resting follicles. Vaginal ultrasound is the best way to accurately assess and count these small structures. The antral follicle counts (in conjunction with female age) are by far the best tool that we currently have for estimating ovarian reserve and/or chances for pregnancy with donor eggs through IVF.

Specific questions to ask an egg donor (or to ask the clinic/agency about an anonymous donor) or information you may find on an egg donor profile:

1. Do you have or does anyone in your family have a tendency towards any particular illnesses, i.e., allergies, intestinal problem, cancer, heart disease or psychological problems? Who had one or more of these illnesses, and at what age did the onset occur? (These questions should be answered completely within the donor profile.)

2. Are your blood relatives living, i.e., parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles? If not, how old were they when they died, and what did they die of? (These questions should be answered completely within the donor profile.)

3. Have you or any member of your immediate family ever smoked, drank alcohol to excess, or used illegal substances? To what extent are any of these, or have any of these ever been, a problem? Note: Some agencies don’t like to ask this question. However, it is a reasonable and important question, as studies have shown that some forms of addiction have hereditary components. (These questions should be answered completely within the donor profile.)

4. Have you ever been pregnant? What was the outcome? (These questions should be answered completely within the donor profile.)
5. Have you ever donated eggs before? If you have, how many follicles developed? How many eggs were retrieved? How many successfully fertilized? Was there a resulting pregnancy or multiple pregnancy, and a live birth(s)? Note: The donor may or may not have this information.

6. What can you tell us about your family of origin? Who are they and what are their ages? What are their vocations and vocational interests, hobbies, talents and dispositions? What are their physical characteristics, such as coloring, size, weight and height? (These questions should be answered completely within the donor profile.)

7. Do you have any children? If yes, how old are they now? When did they learn to sit up, walk and talk? Were there and are there any significant health issues we should know about? What are their sleeping and eating habits? What are their special abilities and interests? What was their birth weight and length? (These questions should be answered completely within the donor profile.
8. What is your family’s genealogical heritage or history? What country(s) did your ancestors come from, where did they settle here, and when? (These questions should be answered completely within the donor profile.)

9. Why do you want to help us have a baby using your egg(s)? What do you think you will get out of it? If you have already donated, what did you get out of it? If you do not already have children, have you considered the unlikely circumstance that at a later date you might be unable to conceive? (This should be discussed with a psychologist before the donor donates.)

10. If we get pregnant, will you tell your family members including your children? If so, how will you tell them, and when? Would you want your children to know that our child would share half of their genetic heritage? How will you handle their questions?

11. May we see or have pictures of your family, siblings, and children? If we desire [in an known donor agreement], may we meet with your immediate family, including your children?

12. Have you thought about how you’d feel if, after all this interaction and sharing, we don’t get pregnant?

13. Have you thought about whether you would like any ongoing contact such as pictures, phone calls or meeting the child?

A few last words about choosing an egg donor:

Do your homework, research, ask questions, and if something doesn’t sit well, listen to your gut. Don’t be led to believe that if you pay a top price for an egg donor, you will get a premium donor. That’s not the way it works. Also, while we are talking about it, don’t believe that paying a higher fee to an agency or a donor is going to create or produce a top quality (or even a better quality) egg – or, for that matter, increase your chances at becoming a parent. Again, that’s not the way it works.

At the end of the day, we believe that the child you have via this process is the child you are meant to have, and will be the most amazing, beautiful, perfect child you have ever laid on eyes on.

What to Look for in an Egg Donor Agency

The entire process of creating a family when you are doing it the old fashioned way can be overwhelming – but when a couple or an individual needs help it can be incredibly time consuming, overwhelming, and often really stressful. There are so many different kinds of decisions you have to think about. For instance many fertility practices offer small donor pools – and while this is a great service these donor pools don’t always meet the needs of intended parents. Because of that intended parents look to egg donation agencies to help them select the right donor for their family and that decision in itself can be daunting.

We live in a time where there is no regulation regarding egg donation – it’s the wild wild west and there’s no Sheriff. Intended parents are virtually on their own, we rely upon friends, chat rooms, support groups, our clinics, and word of mouth to help us select the right agency that will not only fit our budget, but operate in an ethical manner, and offer healthy well screened egg donors.

Factoid:
“Anyone can hang a shingle outside their door an open an egg donation agency. In fact, it’s harder to open a food cart on the streets of Portland, or any other major city for that matter than it is to open an egg donation agency.” – Marna Gatlin, Founder, Parents Via Egg Donation

Because this process can scramble the great minds of many we’ve put together a list of things to keep in mind when selecting an egg donation agency.

Okay where to begin – well, let’s begin with the basics. Egg donor agencies are small, large, and in-between. Some are well established, meaning they have been around a very long time, and others are small, new to the egg donation industry and operated by inexperienced individuals.

Parents Via Egg Donation, a non-profit educational organization based in Oregon has a mantra and it goes something like this:

“Regardless of what egg donor agency you end up selecting, we at PVED want you to be educated, savvy, and informed. Above all, egg donor agencies are service providers, meaning you are in the driver’s seat. They may have the egg donor you need to grow your family, but in the end, you are writing the check, and they need your business to stay in business.”

QUESTIONS TO ASK:

How long has the agency been in business? Are they an LLC? Has the egg donor agency ever been in business under a different name?

How many donors has the agency matched with recipients in the last year? Does the egg donor agency have references from recipient parents?

How many donors are available at any one time?

How many pregnancies and live births have resulted from cycles with the agency’s donors?

What is the agency’s fee for their services? What exactly do the fees cover?

What do you have to pay up front and what do you pay once you have selected a donor?

Is the fee refundable if you change your mind about a donor or decide not to proceed with any donors in that agency?

Does the agency provide a service agreement between the egg donor agency and recipient/intended parents?

How much is the donor compensated, and when is the compensation given to the donor?

Can the egg donor set her own level of compensation?

Does the egg donor undergo psychological screening before being placed on the prospective donor list? Who performs this screening (i.e., the agency or another third party)?

Does the agency facilitate a meeting between you and the egg donor if you desire to meet her?

Does the agency provide anonymous donors, identified donors, or both?

How long are records kept on anonymous donors?

How does the egg donor agency manage its information and records regarding its donors? Where does the agency keep its information?

How long does the agency keep its information? In the event that the agency were to go out of business, who would be responsible for keeping its egg donor information in case a need may arise to contact an anonymous egg donor? Where are these records maintained?

Does the agency adhere to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Guidelines for Oocyte Donation?

What is included in the legal contract that the donor signs?

What is included in the legal contract that the intended parent(s) signs?

What kind of medical insurance coverage for the donor does the agency provide, and what are the terms?

Does the egg donor agency help the uninsured donor find medical coverage, or is that the recipient parent’s responsibility?

How is the recipient parent protected in the event the egg donor doesn’t take her medication as agreed?

How is the recipient parent protected in the event the egg donor chooses to discontinue the process halfway through a cycle?

Does the agency provide a fair refund policy?

Does the donor program require that the recipient work only with their agency?

Is the donor required to work only with that program for any specific period of time?

Has the donor worked with other programs?

How long and how much effort will the agency put into finding a donor with specific characteristics?

Does the egg donation agency and/or broker charge differently if you pay cash, check or credit card?

Does the program charge the same price for every donor, or is there a higher charge for certain donors (e.g. for donors with successful previous cycles)?

If the recipient pays the donor’s expenses, does the agency provide an itemized list of expenses?

Now granted these are a lot of questions to be asking but we’ll leave it to the intended parent to pick and choose those questions that are important to them – we just want to make sure you have all your bases covered as you begin your path to parenthood!

Fertility SOURCE Companies case managers are here to guide you through your egg donation cycle!

The Skinny on Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Levels and Egg Donor Fertility

We chicks know that we are born with a predetermined or finite number of potential eggs. When a girl is born she is born with about a million or two eggs, by the time she reaches puberty she’s down to about 400,000. During a woman’s reproductive year those numbers continue to fall and by the time she’s 30 that number has diminished by a whopping 90%! By the time a woman hits menopause we have actually less than 1000 eggs left, and not all of them left are good. In fact, some people refer to what’s left as “ovarian dust”

Nice.

For a lot of women our reproductive ages are older than our chronological age and because of that we are unable to have children from our own eggs or genetics so we turn to egg donors to help create or add to our families.

Typically egg donors are tested medically with a blood test administered on days one, two, or three of the menstrual cycle called FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone). This measures the egg reserve in an egg donors ovaries, that along with an ultrasound which will look at something called an Antral Follicle Count (or resting follicle count) which will tell the doctor how many potential eggs an egg donor might produce on her next cycle. Because these tests are accurate on days one, two, and three of an egg donors menstrual timing is crucial.

However, there’s newer method that’s been developed called AMH or Anti-Mullerian Hormone blood test. This test measure the amount of AMH in an egg donor’s blood stream. AMH, or Anti-Mullerian hormone is a substance produced by granulosa cells in ovarian follicles which are specific cells which surround each and every egg on a woman’s ovary. The more eggs, the more granulosa calls, and the more cells the more AMH – make sense?

The cool part about this test is that the production decreases and then stops as our follicles grow. So for instance, in follicles over 8mm there is almost no AMH that’s made. Because of that the levels are always constant and the AMH test can be performed any day of the egg donor’s cycle.

That means the intended parent doesn’t need to wait for the donor’s period to start.

Many refer to the AMH as the “egg timer test” because when you combine the AMH and FSH together with an antral follicle count this together can provide the fertility clinic with a good measurement of an egg donor’s ovarian reserve. In other words – they can get a picture of how they think a donor will respond to the stimulation drugs for an egg donor cycle.
There has to be a catch or a down side right?

Well yes, and no. It’s super important to remember that while this test can tell a donor how many eggs she may have left we still don’t have a fool proof way of knowing the quality of those eggs. We can’t know that until after fertilization when we examine embryos. But, but but — having more eggs at the IVF egg retrieval gives your clinic more to work with – so they are more likely to have at least a few high quality embryo available for transfer back to the intended mothers uterus.

What is a normal AMH level?

There are a few issues involved with interpretation and determination of AMH hormone levels. Because the test has not been used routinely and consistently for past 50 years levels that would be deemed “normal” not every reproductive professional agrees with.

We made a little table below to show AMH interpretation guidelines:

Don’t spend too much time obsessing about the results below. Let your Reproductive Endocrinologist do the obsessing.

Interpretation / AMH Blood Level
—————- ——————-
High (common with PCOS) / Over 3.0 ng/ml

Normal classic textbook. / Over 1.0 ng/ml

Low Normal-ish Range / 0.7 – 0.9 ng/ml
*(maybe depending upon your egg donors FSH and AFC count)

Low / 0.3 – 0.6 ng/ml
*(pass on this egg donor)

Very Low / Less than 0.3 ng/ml
*(pass on this egg donor)

In an every changing world of technology we will learn more and more about AMH levels as we see more and more cycles occur.

My Hopeful Journey – Helping You Stay Organized!

You are about to be overwhelmed. It’s a guarantee if you are entering the IVF / Egg Donation / Surrogacy world.

There are so many dates to keep track of and schedules to be aware of that it’s often easy to become frustrated. Some examples of these upcoming events are: Initial appointment with the reproductive endocrinologist, appointments with the psychologist, Ultrasound appointments, schedule of fertility injections, when to take what medication, continuing reproductive endocrinology appointments, OB appointments etc.

Now, most clinics will give you a calendar to follow and some require you to take notes or both. It’s up to you to keep track. Here is a great website to help you do just that: My Hopeful Journey http://myhopefuljourney.com/

My Hopeful Journey a web-based calendar, task list and journal for women that are trying to conceive (with or without an egg donor and/or surrogate mother) that is customized for infertility treatment. It is easy to use and helps manage everything you need to track on a daily basis. The calendar features a month, week and day view. It is CUSTOMIZED for your needs including appointments, medication, tests, procedures and natural tracking.

Source: http://www.thedonorsource.com

Slow Cooker Cubed Steak & Onion Gravy – Recipe

slow cooker cubed steak

Ingredients:

    • 2 lbs cubed steaks (about 8 pieces) or 2 lbs round steak
    • 3 (3/4 ounce) envelopes brown or au jus gravy ( you may also use beef, mushroom beef, herbed beef, mushroom)
    • 1 pk Lipton Onion Cup of Soup mix
    • 2 cans cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
    • 3 1/2 cups cold water
    • 1 large sweet organic onion, sliced
    • Chicken breader mix or plain flour seasoned with seasoned salt and pepper
    • Seasoned salt  (to liking) (1-2 tsps should be sufficient)
    • Fresh ground black pepper (to liking)
    • Canola oil

Directions:

Heat oil in a frying pan to medium high. Season meat with seasoned salt and pepper.  Dredge in the seasoned flour.

Brown the meat on both sides until golden brown and a “crust” has formed – about 3-4 minutes each side.

Place the meat in the bottom of your crockpot.

In a large bowl, put cream soup, onion cup of soup mix, and gravy packets.  Add water and whisk until smooth and pour over meat in crockpot.

If you are adding onions and/or mushrooms, add them also.

Cook, on LOW, for 8 hours.

Cinammon Roll Pancakes – Recipe

Texas Hill Country's photo.
INGREDIENTS & RECIPE:

for the Pancakes:
4 C. King Arthur all-purpose flour
8 teaspoons baking powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
4 C. Organic whole milk
4 T. canola oil
4 large organic eggs, lightly beaten

for the Cinnamon Filling
1 C. butter, melted
1 1/2 C. brown sugar, packed
2 T. ground cinnamon

for the Cream Cheese Glaze
1/2 C. butter
4 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

To make the Pancakes:
Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet
ingredients in another bowl. Stir them together
until everything is moistened leaving a few lumps.
To make the Cinnamon Filling:
Mix the three ingredients together. Place
in a disposable piping bag and snip the end
off or put in a Ziploc bag and snip the corner off.
(This will keep in the fridge so you can make them again and again and again!)

Heat your griddle to 325 degrees. You don’t want
these too cook too quickly. Make desired size
pancake on greased griddle and then using the
piping bag and starting at the center of the
pancake, create a cinnamon swirl. Wait until
the pancake has lots of bubble before you try
to turn it. You will find that when you turn it
the cinnamon swirl will melt. If you have your
griddle too hot, it will burn the cinnamon, so I
suggest 325. The cinnamon kind of melts out and creates the craters which then fill perfectly
with the cream cheese glaze.

To make the Cream Cheese Glaze:
In a microwave safe bowl melt the
butter and cream cheese and then stir
together. Whisk in the powdered sugar and
vanilla. Add a little milk if needed to make
it a glaze consistency.

Place pancake on plate, then cover with cream cheese glaze.

Using Donor Eggs & Epigenetics – The 411

ivf - epigenetics

Epigenetics

How are we different?

I am sure that it will be a surprise for you to learn that 99.9% of genes are identical for every person on earth. This means that the differences we see at birth don’t depend on whether that child has a specific gene inherited from you bit rather, differences are as a result of tiny variances in single genes.

The power of the womb

DNA does not produce life.  It is the womb that, despite fertilization, will determine embryos attachment and nourishment. Both whilst the embryo is growing in the womb and after birth, differences perceived between children are not so much about the tiny variable sin single genes but also die to specific genes being “activated” in some humans and not in others.

This “activation” in only certain genes is affected by many different factors during our lives including lifestyle, hormones, exposure to carcinogens and, among other factors, the normal physiological working of the body. How we feel, think and react also causes certain genes to be expressed and others reserved. One example of many is the incidence of breast and ovarian cancer that has been lined to a woman’s specific exposure to estrogen and progesterone ad the affects that these hormones have on cell differentiation.

These mechanisms that are expressed in some people and not in others are outside the gene and termed epigenetic factors. The expression of genes begins in the womb. The woman carrying the child; her internal environment is responsible for how the baby’s genes are expressed. This early stage of life, the first 40 weeks or so, begins to shape the characteristics of the child birthed.

The extent of Epigenetics

Epigenetics is a field of biology dealing with information held above and beyond the gene.

http//en.wikipedia.org “In biology, the term epigenetics refer to changes in phenotype (appearance) or gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence, hence the name epi – (Greek: over; above) – genetics. These changes may remain through cell divisions for the remainder of the cell’s life and may also last for multiple generations. However, there is no change in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism; instead, non-genetic factors cause the organism’s genes to behave (or “express themselves”) differently.”

Scientific evidence has shown that genes and DNA are not responsible for the ultimate uniqueness of human beings. Some schools of thought have suggested the even “as we think” will affect expression of the gene. Genes may be expressed or remain dormant depending on energetic signals outside the cell, from our positive or negative thoughts.
Science Daily (13 April 2009) “A certain laboratory strain of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has white eyes. If the surrounding temperature of the genetically identical embryos, which are normally nurtured at 25 degrees Celsius, is briefly raised to 37 degrees Celsius, the flies alter hatch with red eyes. If these lies are again crossed, the following generations are partly red-eyed – without further temperature treatment – even though only white-eyed flies are expected according to the rules of genetics.

The concept of epigenetics offers an explanation of this result. Epigenetics examines the inheritance of characteristics that are not out in the DNA sequence.

Another well documented example is that of the Agouti mice which are fat, yellow in colour and prone to cancer and diabetes. When the pregnant mice are nourished with a diet rich in folic acid, B12 and choline they give birth to healthy slim, brown offspring; as do these mice in turn.

The effect of epigenetics on donor egg conception

Remembering that 99.9% of a baby’s genes are identical to all other humans, 0.1% results in the variations we see in humans.

A baby conceived using a donor egg (roughly the size of a full stop) gets his/her genes from the donor; she gets the “instructions” on the expression of those genes from the woman who carries him/her to term.
This means that a baby conceived using donor egg has 3 biological parents: a father, the egg donor and the woman that carries the pregnancy. The child who is born would have been physically & no doubt emotionally different had another woman carried that child. In other words the birth mother influences what the child is like at a genetic level – it IS her child. She has had a “say” in her offspring as does the donated egg and the sperm used to fertilized.

In horse breeding for example, it’s not uncommon to implant a pony embryo into the womb of a horse. The foals that result, are different from nomal ponies. They’re bigger. These animals’ genotype – their genes – are the same as a pony’s, but their phenotype – what their genes actually look like in the living animal – is different. Taken from a booklet published by Freedom Pharmacy “Perhaps the greatest myth surrounds pregnancy. Many believe the uterus is simply an incubator. Nothing could be further from the truth. The most important aspect of all pregnancies – including egg donation pregnancies- is that as the fetus grows, every cell in the developing body is built out of the pregnant mother’s body. Tissue from her uterine lining will contribute to the formation of the placenta, which will link her child. The fetus will use

her body’s protein, then she will replace it. The fetus uses her sugars calcium, nitrates, and fluids, and she will replace them. So, if you think of your dream as you dream house, the genes provide merely a basic blueprint, the biological mother takes care of all the materials and construction, from the foundation right on up to the light fixtures. So, although her husband’s aunt Sara or the donor’s grandfather may have genetically programmed the shape of the new baby’s earlobe, the earlobe itself is the pregnant woman’s “flesh and blood”.  That means the earlobe, along with the baby herself, grew from the recipient’s body. That is why the child is her biological child.”

“A miracle is a miraculous gift from God, no matter how one received it.”

IVF #5 – BETA IS….. TWO – NEGATIVE… BFN ! – The 411

ivf 5 - BFN

After sitting and stewing most of the morning, I decided to go to the lab at the hospital to have my beta done since my mom had an emergency dental appointment after radiation treatment today.  My beta is 2.  Having a feeling that it is negative and seeing it live and in person, are two different things.   I am pissed off.  At the same time, I am glad that I did give my own eggs one more chance before moving on.  I realize that just because the eggs make embryos and they “appear” normal, does not mean they aneuploidy does not exist.  The embryos can appear normal but will not implant if they are abnormal, which happens more often than not the older we get.  Our eggs are just simply hard boiled.

This is the reason why doctors push for women who are advanced maternal age to move to donor eggs so that the embryos are healthy and not “aged”.

If anyone has any advice about donor eggs and good clinics I should look into, please feel free to send me the info !!

** Also, if anyone is in need of Lovenox (30mg), Desogen(Apri) birth control pills, or Delestrogen, feel free to shoot me an email, as I have left over meds I will now not need. (planbchronicles@gmail.com)

Let the research begin !