Thursday, January 22, 2015

Books about egg donation

I've wanted to do this post since 2012 when we found our egg donor and I started collecting children's books about egg donation.  I have a similar post with books about surrogacy in the works, and in fact started collecting those books at the time same based on a conversation with a psychologist (required by my clinic) who suggested having an array of books about different ways families are made, not just egg donation. So include books about adoption, surrogacy, sperm donor, egg donor, two dads, two moms, etc. to illustrate all the ways people build families.

This post starts with the egg donation books, but I'm also including some more general assisted reproduction books at the bottom.

Mommy, Was Your Tummy Big

Recommended. Hardcover. Boy baby. This is my favorite of the egg donation books. The language is simple and straightforward. It addresses the sadness of not being able to have a baby. The donor is referred to as a "special lady (a donor)" initially, and then as the "donor" later. It talks about "Daddy's cells together with the donor's egg". It doesn't explain uterus vs. tummy, and uses 'tummy' or 'body' throughout. The illustrations are simple but cute. It's not at all religious.  My son asks for this book.

A Part was Given and an Angel was Born

Hardcover. Girl baby. The rhyming is overly cute and a little strained, but works well enough for reading aloud. The illustrations are cartoony. The story addresses the sadness of not having a baby. The book refers to the baby being in the tummy and is not at all specific about what's getting donated; "there was a part in Mommy that just didn't work as it should." The illustrations that go with the "part" section are likely to be confusing to an older child - one has a Classifieds page in the newspaper with "parts for sale: Auto, Body, Baby, Home" and another shows a box of "spare parts" that has safety pins, screws and nuts. Despite the title, and a later reference to 'angel', the book is not at all religious. There is a blank page at the back labeled "to baby" if you wish to add personal notes. It's not my favorite book, but I keep it in the rotation.

How We Became a Family (Egg Donor, Singleton version)

Recommended. Hardcover. Baby is not gender-specific.The illustrations are much more conceptual than in other books and less kid-friendly/more sophisticated. The couple is portrayed as two birds. One thing I like is the book describes the couple as a family of two, and that they wanted to grow to be a family with children.  It addresses that they were sad about not being able to have a baby. The book is factual about baby-making requiring "an egg, seeds (sperm), and a nest (uterus)" and the illustrations show the correct anatomical terms (in small type so it's easy to skip or not, depending on your preference and the age of your child, and these illustrations show people, not birds). The book talks about sperm donors and egg donors and defines them as "people who want to help other people build families". There's one page that talks about the egg being fertilized and defines "zygote" and "embryo". Not at all religious. It's a sweet book, but the illustration style and the detail in the text suggest it's better for an older child. There is a blank page to fill in birth details.

One More Giraffe

Baby is a giraffe, so not gender specific. I have an earlier version of this book (softcover instead of a board book) so I will update this review when the new version arrives. This book is very simple. It defines a family as including children. It addresses the sadness of not being able to have a baby. It's very general about the donor: "a kind lady giraffe who wanted to help them. She gave them a very special gift." The gift is shown as a wrapped box with a ribbon, and the text explains that a doctor helped them with the gift. It's such a simple book that it barely introduces the concept of a donor, so I wouldn't recommend it as an only purchase. It could be a good companion for a more detailed book for a very young child. Not religious at all.

The Pea That Was Me (An Egg Donation Story)

Softcover. Baby is not gender specific. This book is straightforward about eggs + sperm, which is sort of funny since the baby is shown as a pea in a peapod, and the embryo is described as a pea (the word 'embryo' is not used). It also refers to the baby growing inside of mommy's tummy. The book doesn't use the term 'donor' and instead refers to 'a very kind lady who had lots of extra eggs. There is a blank page in the back to fill in with the baby's story. The illustrations are crude but cute, and the tone of the text is cute (if you're ok with an embryo being referred to as a pea). Not religious at all.

A Tiny Itsy Bitsy Gift of Life (An Egg Donor Story)

Softcover. Baby is a girl named Nicasha (and she's a rabbit. :) This book talks about tiny itsy bitsy seeds from the mummy and daddy. The donor is referred to as "a lady rabbit" who has "lots of tiny itsy bitsy seeds". It talks about putting the seeds in the mother's tummy so they can grow. Doctors are never mentioned.  I find this book strange - it talks about putting the two seeds together to make a baby bunny, like a cookie where two halves make one, which makes no sense. It does address the sadness about not being able to have a baby.

Books about ART

Recipes of How Babies are Made

Recommended. Softcover. This book compares babies to cakes  - that with ingredients + a place to bake, you can get a baby similarly to how you get a cake. It talks about egg and sperm, which go in a woman's tummy. It later describes a woman's tummy as a womb, which may be a problem if you're trying to be precise with anatomy for your child. The illustrations are realistic but not graphic, although there is full frontal nudity. The book then steps through what happens if an ingredient is missing and what the variations are: natural conception, in vitro, sperm donation, egg donation, embryo donation, surrogacy, and adoption. It does address sadness about not being able to have a baby. There's also a page about families being different, referring to varying numbers of kids (or no kids), divorce/remarriage, one parent/two parents, etc. The illustrations are cute and the text is straightforward and educational.

I loVe my Family (a book about assisted conception for young children)

Softcover. This book focuses on IVF. It talks about putting an ovum together with a sperm and forming a "super cell" called an embryo which gets put in a uterus. There are some guidelines for parents about how to talk to children about their conception, and also some suggestions for how to use the book to discuss egg/sperm donation or surrogacy. There are some coloring pages in the back with some discussion tips on love, hope, wishes, and family. The illustrations are crude, and don't follow one family through the book, but rather show a variety of couples and kids of various ethnicities. Not at all religious.

If you have suggestions for other books that I should review, please leave a comment.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

I'm still here

The last time I blogged was right after our miscarriage in the spring - the second since we started trying for a sibling for C, and the end of our chances of having a girl - all our remaining embryos are male.

My husband was ready to call it quits. The miscarriages are so hard, and losing our last girl, after everything looked like it was going to be a smooth pregnancy, was just devastating.

We have no answers as to what caused that miscarriage. According to my RE, the chances of a miscarriage with a CGH-tested normal embryo is 1 in 12. So the chance of it happening twice is about 0.5%. Not impossible, but very unlikely. The normal ultrasound showed no signs of a SCH, and it was a sudden, spontaneous miscarriage. It's possible the same underlying cause affected both this pregnancy and the one last fall, or maybe the one last fall was purely due to the SCH and this one was different. Either way, we were dealing with complications beyond what we'd had to deal with to conceive and birth C.

I wanted to try one more pregnancy - to treat everything prophylactically, and see if we could sustain a pregnancy. If the answer was no, then it was clear we'd reached the end of current medical science. We finally agreed to do another FET, and timed it for mid-September, giving us a chance for a much needed vacation in late August (we left C with my mom for 8 days, which went really well).

I started low dose antibiotics at the recommendation of my ob/gyn, who has found that a long course of low dose antibiotics can help with recurrent pregnancy loss.  We did an endometrial scratch 4 weeks before transfer. We did an intralipid infusion before transfer.

We transferred one CGH-normal embryo on September 13. I had pregnancy symptoms almost  immediately, but when I POAS 8 days after transfer, it initially looked like a complete negative, and a few hours later had a faint, faint line (with a FRER, which don't show evaporation lines in my experience). Sure enough, beta was 8, and two days later was zero. So we had implantation, but it didn't stick.

Having a beta limbo sucked - I knew it was declining: based on my strong early symptoms I knew the beta would have been higher if it had been measured earlier, and I was ready to be done. This was our 10th transfer. #1 and #2 resulted in miscarriages, #3,4 and 5 were BFNs. #6 resulted in C. #7 resulted in a miscarriage. #8 was a BFN (technically it might have been a chemical), #9 was a miscarriage (and our last chance at a girl) and #10 was a chemical.

I had had the idea that we'd try one more pregnancy, not one more cycle, but I was ready to be done. (And DH only had the idea we'd do one more cycle, so he was worried that with a negative I'd push for another, but was definitely ready to be done.) For 7 years we've been focused on getting pregnant. And we have our fantastic son C. And I got to be pregnant (and loved it). So declaring that we were done with injections and transfers and 2ww's and endometrial scratches and hormone swings was a relief.


After the last miscarriage, DH was ready to be done. As in stop cycling, no more kids, call it quits. But he had some conversations with friends, and he and I had some conversations, and we both got comfortable with the idea of surrogacy. Don't get me wrong, I grieve the loss of being pregnant again, and being able to epigenetically affect my baby during pregnancy. But between the choice of no more kids, or surrogacy, we choose surrogacy.

So after the last cycle failed, we've moved quickly. We signed with an agency in late October, and are meeting a potential surrogate tomorrow (!!). Since we have embryos, we could potentially transfer in as little as 2 months, so could be January sometime.  We'll transfer one at a time, but hopefully around the end of 2015/early 2016, we could be bringing home another baby.

It feels weirdly transactional, and at least right now I don't feel nearly as emotionally invested as I did when cycling myself. I think some of that is because we have C, so the stakes are lower. If instead of doing donor eggs, we'd had to do surrogacy for C, the stakes would have been incredibly high.

There are some silver linings. I have my body back, and after weaning, four transfers, and two miscarriages, it's nice to be able to exercise freely and fit into old clothes. No injections is great, and no monitoring appointments, etc. I intend to induce lactation so I can breastfeed, and hopefully having successfully breastfed C will increase my chances of success (if anyone has a killer lactation consultant in Northern California with experience in inducing lactation, I'd love the contact info).

When we first started trying to have kids, back in 2007, I would never have anticipated getting to this point. But we decided having a child was important enough to us that we chose to use donor eggs. And that was a great experience and hasn't colored my relationship with C in the slightest. And we've decided having another child was important enough to us that we're choosing to use a surrogate with our donor egg embryos. And I'm confident that if we'll have no regrets.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Not only lightning strikes twice

I thought only lightning strikes twice. I was wrong.

Yesterday afternoon I had what felt like a tummyache. I went to the bathroom and felt constipated, and when I wiped, there was fresh blood. I rested on the couch and called my husband to come home from work early so he could take care of C and put him to bed. Over the course of the next few hours I passed blood and clots - probably about 4 tablespoons worth. It was frighteningly similar to the bleeding in the fall, and we were pretty sure we knew how this would end.

Woke up this morning and didn't have any bleeding, but still felt crampy. I had about 5% hope that the bleeding all came from my cervix, since I'd had the good ultrasound last Thursday that showed no signs of a bleed. Went in for an ultrasound this morning, and it's clear the pregnancy is over. It looks like there's a lot of blood and clots still to come, but there's no visible gestational sac. No hematomas, though (which we believe to be the cause of the bleeding and miscarriage in the fall).

Our last girl, gone, in a blink of an eye. We're devastated. We were so joyful and optimistic about this pregnancy, and this happened out of nowhere. DH isn't sure he wants to continue trying to add to our family. I definitely understand where he's coming from - it's not the right time to make any decisions about this, but we have C, and it's so so painful to deal with loss after loss, when we've done everything we can to make sure all possible variables have been removed.

The universe sucks.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Quick update - 5.5 weeks

Beta on Wednesday was 4157, which floored me. Our doubling time is about 26-27 hours. We didn't get the number until Thursday morning, so I was awfully curious what I'd see at the Thursday ultrasound. (Of course on the way to the ultrasound, NPR was airing a show about raising identical twins... hee!)

Thankfully, we saw one (phew!) perfect gestational sac. And no signs of any bleeds. Too early for a heartbeat - our next scan is May 5, when I'll be 6w5d and should definitely see a heartbeat.

We retested my immunology (NK and TH1:TH2) and they all came back normal, so no intralipids, and no more retesting. I just do another beta/progesterone/CBC this week, and then progesterone/CBC afterwards until 12 weeks.

I'm frequently queasy - mostly at night when I'm reading in bed, but also sometimes when I'm driving in the car. My theory is I actually have low-level queasiness pretty frequently, but life is distracting at other times, so I don't really notice. I'm sleeping very soundly. And my breasts are getting a little bigger - I swear sometimes I can feel them grow.

We went ahead and told our parents and a few close friends. C will just be 2 when his little sister is born, so I'm guessing he won't understand anything I try to explain until the fall. He generally has extremely good comprehension of things we say - for at least a month he's followed instructions like 'please put that back in the drawer' or 'please put your pajamas in the laundry basket', but this is a little more abstract. ;)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Whoa Nelly!

We're pregnant! Beta #2 was today. It tripled from 211 on Friday (10dp6dt) to 644 today (12dp6dt). 

She implanted quickly - I didn't feel implantation but started having symptoms within 48 hours of transfer. And then spent the next week hoping I wasn't being too optimistic. I POASed on Wednesday (and freaked myself out by not waiting 3 minutes to look - you'd think I'd know better by now...) For the math to work out I had to be producing HCG pretty quickly. 

I have an early ultrasound scheduled for Thursday  so we can look for any signs of a potential bleed. 

Her due date is 12/24 - two days after C's due date (though his birthday is 12/18). Conveniently that means my maternity clothes are all the right season, as are the hand me downs. And I guess we'll be experts at how to handle Christmas birthdays...

Next hurdle - hoping for no signs of a bleed when we look on Thursday. I didn't think there'd be anything to see, but our betas will be over 2000 by then so we should see a gestational sac. I'll schedule the first regular ultrasound for the first week in May when we hope to see the heartbeat. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Starting another 2ww

A quick update...

We transferred our last XX embryo today. It was only a 3BC when the clinic graded it this morning, but two hours later at transfer time it had expanded to a 5BB (5 measures its progress/growth, B is the quality of the inner cell mass, and B is the quality of the trophectoderm that forms the placenta. We were initially disappointed to hear the embryo was so far behind the other embryos we transferred (last one was fully hatched), so it was a huge relief to hear it was doing so well.

I did an intralipid infusion last Friday, just to cover our bases, and as I mentioned in my last post, my RE did an endometrial scratch for me a month ago.

Our transfer for C was 4/6/12. Hopefully we'll be able to say his sister's transfer date was 4/8/14.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Not that horse...

(Subject is a reference to my last post, Back on the Horse.)

Sorry for the delay. The last FET didn't work - BFN (beta was 2, so annoyingly my RE had me do a second beta to make sure it didn't rise). So we only have one XX embryo left.

High stakes.  We console ourselves with the thought that very few people know ahead of time the sex of their baby. But oh, we'd so like to have a little girl. I even bought a few little girl clothes when I was pregnant in the fall...

We're doing everything we can - we convinced my RE to do an endometrial scratch - he usually only does them as part of retrieval (since transfers at his clinic are all FETs due to CGH) and thus not for later FETs or donor recipients. But he did it for me (under sedation). Maybe he'll start doing it regularly - the way we managed our donor cycle changed the way the clinic handles all patients: CGH screening, and single embryo transfers of normal embryos.

Last cycle my immunology results came back normal so we didn't do an intralipid. This time, we're doing an intralipid regardless - that's scheduled for next Friday.

I had the scratch on March 8. The FET is scheduled for April 8. I started estradiol last Friday. DH is traveling again, but this time he's only missing two shots. Last cycle he was gone until the night before transfer, so I did nearly all of my estradiol and progesterone IM shots myself.

It took 3 transfers of perfect embryos to get pregnant with C. My RE says this third one will work. I'm scared the pregnancy in the fall was the one of three that worked...


I'm generally not all that focused on this FET, however. It's the subject of late night conversations in bed before we go to sleep, but my days are filled with C.

He's a joy. He's a solid walker - in the past few days he's started walking like an adult, with his legs under him, instead of toddling with a wide stance. He has a few words now. 'Nana' for banana, and 'cheeeeze' for cheese. He still doesn't say Mama or Dada with intent, although occasionally when he's annoyed he'll converse with himself and I often hear 'mama' in those diatribes. New signs are 'music' and 'up'. I sing him the alphabet song after we read books before nap and bedtime, and after we're done with books he signs for 'music' so I sing. He really loves music - as soon as he's up in the morning he'll ask for music to be turned on. At the playground he's much more active - clambers up steps in the climbing structure and knows how to hold onto railings while he climbs. He doesn't like slides - hasn't figured out how to stay sitting while sliding down, but enjoys swings as long as it's not too high.

He's still not eating meat, except in combination with other things (ham in beans, or chicken in soup). He loves beans and rice. We moved off thinkbaby sippy cup tops and are now on straw bottles. He's not very good with an open cup but I'm trying to mix it in so he gets practice. He's great with a fork, but not so hot with a spoon unless I'm helping.

I'm solo parenting for the next 5 days, so wish me luck. :)