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The “Me” I Never Thought I Would Become and The Stain Infertility Leaves On Your Soul- The 411

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Infertility indelibly leaves a horrid stain on your spirit.  It is an experience so lonely, only those who have gone through it could possibly understand.  It is a pain so deep, it changes the fabric and core of who you are.

I have slowly become the “Me” I never wanted to become.  Slowly, but surely, I find myself at times being cold, stoic, uncaring, unphased, bitter, and a shell of the person I once was when I started this process.  It comes in waves. There are times when I feel empowered and strong and other times, more often than not lately, that I feel weak, like a failure, and like there is no end to this pain.

The hormones the doctors soup you up on wrecks havoc on your emotions.  I have, over time, been able to separate the hormonal crash that happens after cycling, as the drugs are finally leaving your body, from my true feelings.  It is important to know when you are just being hormonal and when you are connecting to your inner self and in touch with your emotions.  Sometimes the lines blur and you feel like you are in a twilight zone.

Infertility is this thing that sneaks into your existence and you have absolutely no control over it.  No matter how much you hope, how much you pray, how much you feel you can control and manipulate, in all honesty, you are a slave to it.

For a woman who is always in control, always planning everything out, is successful at all other things, being a failure at what should come so very naturally is the most daunting and hurtful thing ever.

With every sliver of hope that is dashed, a bit of you dies on the inside.  It is the kind of longing and hurt that none other, save those who have experienced it, can truly understand.

Hearing the “It is Gods timing…. Are you sure this is what God wants for you… Not everyone can bear children… God doesn’t intend for everyone to be a parent… Why did you wait so late….Keep trying, it will happen…. Just relax, it will happen…. Give it time….Just give it God…  God has got you…. etc  CUTS . LIKE. A. MACHETE !

I have spent so many hours pondering what cosmic curse I am under…what could I have ever done in my life for this to be what I must bear?

My entire life, I have ALWAYS been a good person.  I have always had a giving heart and have always given my all to everything.  When none of my “elite” friends could not be bothered, save for writing a check, I would give up a day or two every week to stand in the serving line at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, N Street Village, Union Central Mission, S.O.M.E, and volunteered more hours than I can count at homeless shelters and with the LBGT homeless kids on the streets of NYC in partnership with New Alternatives NYC.  I have taught acting classes to impoverished children in partnership with Tommy Hilfiger Foundation…. and so many other things.  I have given the coat off of my back to a homeless person and had to trek back to my apartment in below zero temps.

Although I do all of these things simply because it is the right thing to do and expect nothing in return, should I not have a few little brownie points with the big guy upstairs?  I am by no means perfect, but I do have a good heart and I for the life of me can not wrap my mind around why a loving God would keep me from two things I desire more than anything in this world.  I would give up everything I have to have these two things. One, finding one man who will be my best friend, confidant, road dog, lover, protector, and life partner and Two, twins (boy and girl or two girls) who are bright, loving, sweet, healthy, and all mine.

After I avoided what would have been the most catastrophic thing that could have ever have happened in my life, the wedding that never happened, I took some time to heal.  After time went by, I decided that I really wanted to be a mom.  There was this deep longing to love someone and nurture another life and devote myself to giving a child all the love and knowledge I have.  I had the best mom ever and my grandfather was the best thing since popcorn.  If I could be half as good of a parent as they exemplified, my kids will be awesome !

There are no words to describe the pain that infertility causes.  There is nothing that compares.  Losing my grandfather, my stepfather, dealing with my mom and godmother’s cancer, dealing with the sudden illness of my spiritual mom/advisor, and even the heartbreak I went through with my ex doesn’t cut as deeply as this does.

Experiencing the loss of a life once growing under your heart is indescribable.  It is a debilitating pain that never heals, no matter how much time passes.  I do not think that even being able to bring another child into the world will erase or lessen the pain from loss.

No one tells you how stressful going through IVF is.  Aside from the thousands of dollars per day in medications, thousands of dollars paid to fertility clinics, LabCorp, monitoring centers, travel, hotels, hundreds of dollars in supplements, specialty foods, weekly acupuncture sessions and herbs, massages, additional specialty doctors, testing, procedures and all the other numerous expenses, the largest source of stress comes from the process of stimming for weeks, going through two procedures, sitting on pins and needles for the 2WW (two week wait) and then learning that you went through ALL of that for a BFN (big fat negative).  Somehow, you put that behind you and put forth faith for another go at it, and it is failure after failure.

After my first IVF, I was elated to learn that I got pregnant on the very first try.  My first IVF was done because I was partner-less and wanted to be a mom.  Color me surprised when I learned that my baby, a perfect little girl, was genetically normal and that I had autoimmune and possibly alloimmune issues that were to blame.  Getting a diagnosis of unexplained infertility is not the business !  It SUCKS !  What sucks even more is that infertility is an illness just like diabetes yet our healthcare system will not cover treatment.

I am now at a crossroads in my treatment.  My eggs are now aneuploid and are not sticking to my womb.  They are dying off before they stick and some are dying off before they can even do ICSI.  The quality is declining and in order for me to have a child, now I must do donor egg IVF.  I can accept that.

It has been damn near impossible to find an egg donor who is black and has the qualities I need for her to have.  I have found several donors of other races who fit the bill, however, that would mean I have to change my sperm donor.  I am extremely unhappy with Xytex now because they increased the family unit to 60 and they do not keep good records all the time because women do not always report live births and they do not go out of their way to follow up.  Moreover, 60 families means family units, not children.  60 women could decide they want 2-10 kids from a donor and each woman represents ONE family unit regardless of how many children are born to her.  That is a hell of a lot of kids out there.  I do not want my children meeting up with their donor sibling and ending up on the next episode of Springer !

In searching for a black sperm donor, it is hard to find an ID open donor who has the educational background, medical history / familial medical history background, and other criteria that my current donor has.  Black sperm donors are more often than not, anonymous donors. I definitely want an ID open donor so that my children can, at the age of 18, arrange to meet their “father”, should they choose to.  With egg donors, it is anonymous, but I am not that concerned about it because of epigenetics, only 8 cells or so come from the egg donor and the millions of cells that will grow to make your baby, the blood that flows through their veins, etc come from ME, the mother.  I do need to leave the door open for my children to find their father, if they want to.

As sorry a father as I had, I knew who he was.  My parents divorced when I was 16 and that was the best day of my life.  But I did know who my father was.  I knew all about him and it made a difference to me.  He died shortly after my stepfather died and just before my grandfather died. They all died within a five year span.

I had given much thought into having one of my friends be the donor for several reasons. (although I initially did not want to go that route) I do not want my children to have hundreds of donor siblings out there, and I have no desire to meet any donor siblings, although many women do.  My children are MY family and I am not a fan of doing this blended family thing.  It would be completely different if my donor had children, however.   I have intentionally never dated men with children because I did not want to get involved in a ready made family situation with all the drama that could entail.  My male friends are all gorgeous, tall, highly intelligent, educated, and down right good people.  They all are men of integrity, have great senses of humor, have wonderful families who have decent health histories, and the men I know are all healthy. They have varied talents and interest, but all things I would desire in a partner if I were checking for them in that capacity.  Any one of them would be a great father.

I am now researching cryobanks and trying to decide which one(s) I will purchase an all access pass to (another expense I am not looking forward to) and try to find a sperm donor that will be what I am looking for.  This is stressing me out so badly.   When I did my initial selection of my sperm donor, it was a long, tedious process.  I narrowed my selection down to I think four and then had a donor selection party with my family and closest friends and my godmom and they all voted for the one I liked most, and I never let on which one I had in mind nor did I tell them who I went with.  I have blow $2300 on sperm vials !  Three vials of sperm for $2300 !  Ridiculous !  I could have gone with a less expensive cryobank, but since I am making a baby like a damned Build A Bear, I saw no reason to cut corners.  I wanted the best possible donor, the cryobank which offered the most comprehensive testing, and one which had a stellar record.  Now, if I do not have a friend who is willing to help me make these babies, I will have to find a cryobank that is acceptable.  The problem I have with a lot of banks is that they do not offer lifespan photos, they do not properly vet donors nor require psychological testing, they do not do the same level of testing, and some of them do not have a large Black donor pool.

It has been well over a year since I selected my initial donor so I basically have to start over from scratch.  There are a few cryobanks which limit family units to 10.  I am definitely going to want a low family unit cryobank.  I, myself, am multiracial, so I definitely want my children to be, although their racial make up will differ from my own.  My family is Black, Native American and White. My children will likely be Black and White (European) or Indian.

I am beyond stressed out at this juncture because in selecting an egg donor, it has to be done now because it could be as little as a six month wait for her to become available to me.  All of the most desirable egg donors are always with a waiting list.  The clinic had me submit photos of myself so that they could match me with  donors, but all new donors they are getting in are not Black, thus, I will definitely have to change my sperm donor to black.

I am so stressed out about this whole thing.  I am working diligently to get my body back to my ideal weight, although my BMI is still normal for my height (thank God !).  I have dropped 15 pounds already and am working on dropping at least 20 more. I would rather be underweight going into another stim cycle, even though I will not be on all those meds again, than to be at my normal weight and balloon once pregnant.  I also worry about getting preeclampsia because of using donor sperm from a man with whom I have not slept with, due to an absence of his antibodies in my body.  That is another reason I would prefer to use one of my male friends as the donor.  I could possibly be intimate with them once to avoid the whole risk, which ultimately is life threatening.  There are so many variables to this infertility journey and it so unfair.

I am SICK of people telling me to trust God and it is going to happen.  It is not like I woke up one day and decided that this is what I wanted. I have wanted this for several several years but I was not in a committed relationship at those times or the relationships I was in were not such that they would lead to marriage. I wanted to experience this with a husband who adored me and would be appreciative of the gifts we created together.  That is not what God has laid out for my path.  I am angry about that too.  It is not fair.  I tried to do the “right thing” and do things the “right way”  and now I am at a point where I am doing what I have to do.  My perception of what was the “right thing” and the “right way” were based on how I was taught in church.  It was not until I was talking to my spiritual mom, who is a Pastor in Atlanta, that I realized that I was doing nothing wrong by using medical intervention to have children.  Married or not, I would still have to take this path.  She opened my eyes to a lot of things and gave me her blessing.  My mom and my family were thrilled that I made this choice, and my grandmother, who thinks she is so holy that she walked with Jesus and sin never lived on her street, also had no problem with me doing IVF.  (color me surprised, flabbergasted, and shocked!)

I have gotten to a point that I no longer desire to even pray about this anymore.  I force myself to pray at 6 am and 6 pm daily.  I have found that by taking my issues to the throne of grace, that I am less burdened.  I am a woman who is not used to being told no.  I am a go getter and I am used to finding a way to make things happen.  THIS is not that kinda situation clearly !  No matter what I do, I can not MAKE this just happen.  Even using donor eggs, there is a possibility that it will not work.  I have the strongest chance of conceiving by using donor eggs.  My chances go from 4 % to 90% and I like those odds.   I will not allow myself to believe that this will not happen.  God can not be that cruel !

I currently experiencing the hormonal crash that always follow a stim cycle.  I will be so glad when my body and my hormones level off.  It did not help things at all that I have been on estrogen for 13 days for the mock cycle.  It was horrible.  My breasts were tender, my nipples ached so badly that I had to pull off my bra as soon I walked in the door (with the balloon from 36C to 38DDD because of these damned meds) because I could not leave the house bra-less.  I also had a lot of irritation after the first week of taking the Estrace.  Just as I was about to call the doctor and ask to switch to the injections in lieu of vaginal administration, the irritation and burning stopped just as quickly as it started… go figure.

Today, the movers were here to pack up the truck and take the belongings that need to go to NC.  I was able to talk them into driving this 26 foot truck down there !  Yesterday, the movers took all of my items to storage.  I am going to dread having to move all this stuff again in a few months once I find a place in California.  I have decided to wait until February/ March to do the donor’s egg retrieval and my transfer because I would rather pay for this in full.  It is going to take me several months to recoup enough money to pay for this damned cycle ! I am opting to do a sole cycle with my donor so that I get all of her eggs.  I am nervous about only getting half of them because I do not know how many transfers I will have to do before getting pregnant.  I would rather have more embryos than I need than have to pay for another cycle and then chance that the donor will not be available.  In the event that I only get pregnant with a singleton, I will do another transfer six to eight months after giving birth (a year max) to give the baby a sibling and then I will done with baby making.

I ask for you prayers and well wishes, as I am overwhelmed beyond measure.  This entire ordeal would be so much more manageable if I had someone to share this with.  But as they say, it is what it is.  I am learning my own strength.

Cryobank Checklist – the 411

Cryobank Checklist - the 411

CRYOBANK CHECKLIST:

Contact info for cryobank:
___________________________________

Name of person I spoke to: _____________________________________

Date of call: ______________________________________

Certifications? American Assoc of Tissue Banks? State Tissue Bank License? CLIA?

Genetic Testing
Sickle Cell
Hep B & C
HIV
HTLV I & II
Herpes
CMV
Cystic Fibrosis
Chlamydia
Mycoplasma
Syphilis
Canavan
Tay-Sachs
Familial Dysautonomia
Thalassemia
Fanconi
B-Strep
Gaucher’s Disease
Genital Warts
Niemann-Pick
Gonorrhea
Trichomoniasis
MS
Spinal Muscular Atrophy
SARS
West Nile
Cystic Fibrosis
Full genital culture (how frequently?)

List other testing:

How long specimens held? (min 180 days)

What other hidden/unexpected costs have I not asked about?

Min motility guaranteed? What happens if it is less than the minimum?

Refund policy?

Drug Screening

Family limit

How is family limit checked/verified?

How many are born in my geographic area?

How do you track conditions of donor/offspring in the future?

How would I be informed if a genetic problem appears years or decades down the line?

When should I call to order the tanks?

Online order/pay then.. ? What about weekends/holidays or overnight shipping?

How shipped?

Shipping costs?

Tank costs? (How quickly does the tank have to be returned and what is the cost if it is late? Or damaged?)

What other costs are there?

Do you ever run out of tanks?

IUI Cost

ICI Cost

Bulk rate or specials?

Storage fees?

Do you ask if donors contribute to multiple banks?

What if a donor has donated to other banks?

Has donating to multiple banks been an issue?

What other banks are in your geographic location?

Do you keep in contact with the donor over time? If so, how long?

Do you count on the donor keeping up with you or do you keep up with them?

Is the Donor Sibling Registry or other resources made known to donor

Open ID program?

How is Open ID info kept?

What happens if your facility closes?

What is your protocol for my child if he/she turns 18 and wants to contact the donor?

Sperm Donor & Cryobank 101

Sperm Donor & Cryobank 101

After researching all of the top rated cyobanks aka sperm banks, I ultimately decided on using Fairfax Cryobank.

FC, of all cryobanks, does the most comprehensive testing of all of them. FC is the ONLY cryobank which tests for HPV and Herpes via DNA. It is important that a woman TTC (trying to conceive) not walk away from the experience with more than what she came in with and only walk away with a baby or two… or three :-).

No one wants a sexually transmitted disease !

FC has extremely strict donor guidelines and they also limit the number of births that can come from one donor.

The last thing I want is to end up on the new reality show, “Generation Cryo!”

ps: good thing I have a sense of humor, as all of this is a tad bit overwhelming !

I have made a list of the most important factors that I would want in the father of my child. I will begin my seach using that criteria.

I have opted to use a “Donor ID” as opposed to an Anonymous Donor. At the age of 18, I am allowing my child/ren the option of seeking out their “father” and developing a relationship with him, should they so choose.

My mom, sisters, godmother and my closest friends and I are going to have a “DONOR SELECTION PARTY” ! Open up a few bottles of wine, lay out a spread of cheese, appetizers and a Bible (just kidding) and narrow down my “baby daddy #49877ab2”