Another quick beta post

In a few minutes I’ve got some ladyfriends coming over to watch Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken– a movie I loved intensely for a short period of time.  In 2nd or 3rd grade, when we had to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up, I drew myself riding a horse off a high platform into a deep pool.  Everyone laughed!  I haven’t seen the movie since, and I’m so excited to revisit it.

So, quickly…. I had my third and last HCG blood test yesterday.  At 20 days after my 3-day-embryo transfer (or 20dp3dt in IVFForumSpeak) my number was a whopping 11,521.  Of course, I’ve been obsessively checking IVF and Surrogate forums to compare my numbers with other twin and singleton pregnancies.  11,521 is high.  Really high.  Even for a twin pregnancy.

One of the Gestational Carriers on a forum I use is 26 weeks along with twins, and she’s just been placed on hospital bedrest.  She could be waiting it out in the hospital for a LONG time- the babies aren’t due until June.  Reading about her experience and seeing that number yesterday… it really started to hit home that that could be me in a few months.  I’ve started to get a little panicky.  Carrying twins would change my experience a LOT.  In the last week I’ve gone from being 100% excited about the idea to being about 30% excited.

This next Friday, the 30th, I’ll have an ultrasound to confirm that there is at least one heart beating in there.  If it’s a singleton I’m going to be pretty relieved and surprised.  I’m afraid Urs and Ingmar will be disappointed, though; they haven’t been pushy or anything but I know they want twins most of all.  When we were together I asked them whether they were hoping for a boy or a girl and they said, in unison, “both.”  Oh boy.  This is going to be a long week.  Once I know where I stand I think I’ll be able to deal with whatever the news is.  I just can’t handle this waiting!

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Beta numero dos

Quick update!  My second beta was today:

695!

Hooray!  HCG levels are expected to double every 48 hours at this stage, and mine doubled in only 33 hours. (Thank you, handy beta doubling calculator.)  So that’s great news, and I took my last PIO today.  w00t!

I’ll have a third and final beta one week from today, and an ultrasound to confirm heartbeat(s) one week after that.

BETA

So, remember that last post when I mentioned that I thought I might be having a reaction to the PIO?  Well, I was right.  The rash wasn’t making me miserable, but it was spreading.  So I called the clinic.  They pushed my beta hCG test up a day!  (quick definition for you: Beta hCG test: A blood test used to detect human Chorionic Gonadotropin, a hormone produced in pregnant women.)  The thinking was that if I’m pregnant, I’ll need a medication change.  If I’m not pregnant, I’ll be stopping PIO anyway.  So rather than having the blood test on Thursday, I had it TODAY!

That’s right, just this morning I went in and got my blood tested for baby-makin’ hormones and this afternoon the clinic called me back with the results. GUESS WHAT!  I have 249 units of hCG in each milliliter of my blood.  That is a nice STRONG positive.  The average hCG for a singleton pregnancy at this point is about 100 units.  So we are looking at a pretty high likelihood of twins!  I’ll go back for another beta on Friday, and then another a week after that.  If the numbers grow exponentially each time, I’ll have an ultrasound at the beginning of April.  It’s pretty amazing to think that at this moment, I am four weeks pregnant.  And there is definitely at least one baby growing in there.  Amazing!! 

I am SO excited and relieved, though not too surprised; by last night I had taken five (!!) pregnancy tests, all of them positive.  I got a very sweet, ecstatic email from Urs this afternoon (the clinic actually called him before they called me) as he was on his way to share the news with Ingmar.  He was overjoyed, and I can’t stop smiling!  What a beautiful day!

One more added bonus, thanks to my apparent allergy:  I’ll be switching medications.  As of Friday I’ll be off the PIO and taking the progesterone orally and vaginally.  Yeah… kinda weirded out by the latter.  But I’m very happy to be near the end of the injections.  You should see my poor tuchus.  No you shouldn’t.  But really, it’s gross.

Till Friday!

 

p.s. – I just spent way too much time trying to find a good image for this post, and I didn’t come up with anything.  Do yourself a favor and DO NOT do a google search for anything involving the word “fetus.” 

A good whine

I should be writing my review of The Book of Mormon Girl, which I adored, but I’m too cranky to write a glowing review so I’m coming to this space to complain instead.

Yesterday morning I took another home pregnancy test and got a much darker line.  Then this morning I took my last test, expecting the line to be darker still.  I wanted to line up all three tests and take a photo to record the line’s devopment: faint, darker, darkest.  Yes, this sounds like a strange idea, but within fertility and surrogacy circles it is actually pretty normal behavior.

So here’s what I got:

The line didn’t get much darker between yesterday and today.  I’ve been stressing about it all day because there’s an unfortunate phenomenon called Chemical Pregnancy.  It’s something I hear about a lot on surrogacy forums:  you get a positive result, then a weaker positive, then an even weaker one, and finally a negative blood test.  I don’t feel as pregnant today as I did yesterday; I’m not as tired or hungry, and never the slightest bit nauseated, even when my stomach is empty.  I wish I could take another test tomorrow morning to reassure myself that I’m still pregnant, but I’m fresh out.

I’m also stressing about Elspeth’s preschool situation.  For the last two years she’s been so happy at our local Jewish day school, Ben Israel.  Dean is there this year, too, and he loves it just as much as she does.  But it’s absurdly expensive- we pay more for our kids to attend this preschool than my parents pay for my brother to attend BYU-I.  So tonight Elspeth and I attended an open house for a montessori magnet school that has a PreK/K program.  The school is a little closer to our house, FAR more socio-economically diverse (at Ben Israel WE are the diversity because we’re not Jewish and we don’t have hired help) and I think Elspeth would thrive on the Montessori method.

But having grown up in an air force family, I’m resistant to making my kid change schools if it isn’t absolutely necessary.  When we talked about leaving Ben Israel, Elspeth really gets upset.  I hate the idea of her having to leave the safe, welcoming class family she has there when she could technically stay one more year (from Kindergarten on, the school is closed to non-Jewish children).  Even if the Montessori school is excellent, the resources of a public school can’t compare to Ben Israel.  The class would be bigger, and it would be pretty overwhelming for her to be there with a bunch of strangers for the first week or so.  But then, I’m probably not giving her enough credit in the social department.  The girl is FAR more outgoing and adaptable than I have ever been.  And she was excited when she saw the beautiful Montessori classroom; we both were.  I don’t know.  Choosing between this school and Ben Israel… it’s really choosing between two good things.  I don’t know why I’m whining about it so much.

I’m also concerned about what the PIO is doing to my poor rump.  I have some pretty scary-looking bruising and enough knots under the skin that it’s difficult to find a smooth injection site each day.  Most worrisome is the rash I’ve developed.  Something like hives, maybe?  I think I might be having an allergic reaction to the oil, the needle, or the progesterone itself.  It’s pretty annoying, having an itchy/lumpy/sore booty, and I’m supposed to continue PIO for another couple of months still.

One more thing to whine about!  I sent emails/texts to my family to let them know about the positive pregnancy test on Saturday.  A couple of people responded happily (the people I expected) but several others didn’t respond at all.  My own parents haven’t even called to ask how I’m feeling.  I know they don’t love the idea of my having a baby (or babies) for a gay couple, but I expected them to be a little more supportive than this.  The last few days have been bittersweet.  I’m so excited, but also worried that it’s not real.  I want to tell everyone I see, but I know most of them will not be as enthusiastic as I want them to.  It’s so different from a “normal” pregnancy.

BUT!  I just got off the phone with my incredible, supportive, cheerful sister-in-law.  And now I’m feeling a little perkier.  Tomorrow I’m going to buy some more pregnancy tests, turn in Elspeth’s application to the Montessori school, call my doctor about the PIO reaction, and prepare myself for whatever news Thursday’s blood test brings.

Until then, I’m going to eat some ice cream and read a book.

How many lines do you see?

 

It’s hard to see in the photo, but there really are two of them! I’m SO SO SO tired (see? pregnant.) so I’m not doing a real post tonight. But I couldn’t resist sharing the joy of a positive pregnancy test.
So happy! So excited! So tired!

I may be pregnant right now.

Image

This past weekend was one of the happiest of my life.  Knox and I spent 3 days in and around a city we love, we spent one of those days with Urs and Ingmar, and we even got to meet Delia, the egg donor.  And, of course, there was the actual embryo transfer.  It was incredibly fast and painless, though a little awkward and considerably less fun than traditional procreation.  Afterward I got to spend almost an entire day relaxing in a quiet hotel room with Knox, a good book, and a terribly addicting game.

Right after arriving in the city, Knox and I headed over to the offices of the surrogacy agency to get a little tour and meet some of the people I’ve been emailing back and forth with these last few months.  We even happened to meet the company’s founder and president, a really cool guy whose own child was born through surrogacy nearly twenty years ago.  While waiting for Urs and Ingmar to arrive, we got to spend about an hour getting to know my journey coordinator, the person I’m in contact with most at the agency.  She was very smart and friendly (as she had been on the phone and in emails) and it was so great to chat with her.

Knox, the guys, and I met at the agency and then went out for lunch at a cute little Italian place.  We exchanged small gifts; they gave me a beautiful coffee table book about traditional homes where they live, and I gave them a brie baker and a children’s book about the state we live in.  From there we headed to a museum, and later we met up with Delia for bowling and dinner.

I got to talk to her a little about how she decided to become an egg donor and how she knew she wanted to work with Urs and Ingmar.  Delia has worked in health services and seen couples deal with the terrible struggle of infertility.  She wanted to ease that struggle for someone.  And she knew she wanted her contribution to go to loving people.  That was her primary requirement: that they be loving.  She said she could tell immediately that Urs and Ingmar were the right Intended Parents for her eggs.  I totally agree with her.  It’s not every day you meet a couple who not only adore each other, but exude love and kindness toward everyone around them.  Urs and Ingmar are so genuine, enthusiastic, and good.  After spending some time with them I am more proud than ever to be helping them start a family.

And it’s no mystery why they chose Delia from the pool of egg donors.  I’m not exaggerating Delia’s beauty when I say that she looks like Iman.  Yeah, she’s that gorgeous.  And if the previous paragraph doesn’t convince you of her kindness, I don’t know what could.  She’s also smart and articulate; I liked her a lot.  According to my journey coordinator, it’s extremely unusual for the Intended Parents, Egg Donor, and Gestational Carrier to all spend time together.  Usually the egg donor is anonymous and/or has very little contact with the parents; our case was the first she’d ever heard of an egg donor and carrier actually meeting each other.  I’m so glad we all had the opportunity to get to know each other as a group.  We all have the same goal in mind: the birth of at least one healthy baby.

Speaking of babies, I maybe be growing one or two right this very minute!  The earliest I can take a home pregnancy test is this weekend.  There is some risk of a false negative, though, and the results won’t be official until my blood test next week.  And then, if the test is positive, it will be another couple of weeks before I have the initial ultrasound to find out whether we’ve got one or two babies in there.  Urs and Ingmar made it clear that the most ideal outcome for them would be boy/girl twins.  I said I’d do my best to accommodate!  At the transfer the doctor who performed the procedure told me a little about the embryos.  3 days after insemination, they were both grade three.  One had 6 cells, and one had 7.  Knox asked the probability of twins, and she said given the age of the egg donor (29) she’d guess at a 40-50% chance that both embryos will implant.

Anyway, I’ll be over the moon if there’s one pre-baby growing in there, and doubly amazed if there are two!

Embryo Transfer! Is! Scheduled!

via

Exciting happenings are happening!

On Friday Knox and I are heading up North for the embryo transfer, which is scheduled for Saturday, March 3rd!  That’s my sister’s birthday, so… good omen, right?  Send prayers/kind thoughts/fertile vibes my way because I want so so so badly for this to work.  According to my last ultrasound yesterday, my endometrium is 10.62 mm thick and looking perfectly ready for implantation.  It’ll be two fresh 3-day embryos.  I can’t wait!

This morning I had my first experience with the dreaded Progesterone in Oil shot.  As you can see, it’s a nasty scary huge needle (about 1.5 inches long) that goes deep into the booty muscle, all the way to the hilt.  It’s a good thing I’m so bootylicious because that is one long pokey sharp thing.  But actually, it wasn’t that bad.  The shot really didn’t hurt; I just have a little soreness in the muscle tonight.

Knox’s parents are coming to town to watch Elspeth and Dean while we’re away.  The trip will be the longest we’ve taken together since Elspeth was born; we won’t be returning until Monday because of the required post-procedure bed rest.  This is pretty exciting.  I’m so eager to meet Urs and Ingmar!  They’ll be there for the transfer.  We also have several friends who live in the city, so I hope my bed rest won’t be too terribly restrictive.  I’d love to get out and see people, and it will be awesome to revisit the city (Knox and I lived there when we were newlyweds).  But then, sitting in a quiet hotel room with a book or two doesn’t exactly sound bad either.  I know the kids will be happy with Knox’s parents.  Elspeth in particular ADORES my Mom-in-law.  Poor Lolita is really the only one getting a raw deal; she’ll be boarded at the vet all weekend.

Transfer day!  Hooray!  I’ve been waiting for this pivotal moment since I applied to become a Gestational Carrier five months ago.  Wish me luck!

In The Church but not Of The Church

We Mormons love this Christian motto: We strive to be in the world, but not of the world.  The idea is that we shouldn’t cut ourselves off from society; we don’t move onto compounds, we grace society with our presence and thus we improve the world with our special spirits.  But we have to guard ourselves against worldliness.  Being “of the world” implies being shallow, shortsighted, sinful.

This idea has always rubbed me the wrong way because I don’t think the world is such a terrible place.  We Mormons don’t have a monopoly on goodness, as much as we like to think we do.  I’ve been in TONS of Relief Society lessons in which the discussion devolves into a group rant about how wicked the world is.  TONS.  Mormons LOVE this subject.  LDS people love to get together and talk about wickedness in politics, in high schools, in the media, and in every institution of higher education except the church schools.  It drives me BERSERK.  These kinds of discussions are almost always ridiculously self righteous, even paranoid, with an end-of-days tint and a persecution complex.

In the last couple of days, I’ve been mulling over the idea of being in the church, but not of the church.

It’s been almost a month since my last post here.  I’ve been putting off posting.  I wanted to organize my thoughts better before I sat down to type them out.  I feel like I’m in an intense place right now with my relationship to the church.  I read The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance and loved it.  I found Elna Baker’s voice so refreshingly honest and funny, and it meant a lot to me to read about another LDS woman who struggles with belief.  But then in light of the fact that Ms. Baker has recently taken a break from being Mormon, I’m less inspired by her than I’d like to be.  Then I watched John Dehlin’s excellent presentation about why people leave the church.  These are all the reasons Knox broke with religion about 5 years ago.  But the end of the video spoke to me in a new way.  Dehlin mentions the idea that some people learn all these disturbing facts about the church and its history, but they still feel a familial/social/ancestral connection to the church as well as an obligation to stick around and try to make it better.  That’s where I am now.  I know I can never shut the church out of my life, and I don’t think I would want to.  I’ve been spending a lot of time on Feminist Mormon Housewives, both the original blog and the facebook group, and deriving a huge amount of strength from the fact that I’m not alone in this.  Now I’m reading The Book of Mormon Girl and Joanna Brooks is like my new role model.

All of this has been so healthy, and it has helped me prepare for the last couple of days: some uncomfortable discussions online about the stupid modesty note-passing incident as well as another short meeting and email from Bishop Ellsbury.  He pulled me aside on Sunday to follow up.  I told him I was still planning to go ahead with the surrogacy, that I still felt good about it.  He told me again that he counsels against it.  Then, a few days later, he emailed me a copy of The Proclamation to the Family.  He recommended I revisit it, which I did.

Ok.  I’m just going to come out and say it: I HATE the stupid Proclamation.  Honestly, almost all my major beefs with church doctrine are found in this one document.  Marriage is between one man and one woman (HAHAHAHAHAH WTF IS UP WITH OUR TEMPLE SEALING PRACTICES THEN, HUH???) and women belong in the home and every baby needs one father and one mother and watch out world, God is going to punish you if you break our archaic rules. AAAAAARGH.

I should probably go ahead and put this out there:  I’m on some hormones.  I think the high doses of estrogen are making me a little extra emotionally reactive.

Lupron

I’ve started my hormone regimen!  This last Wednesday was my first day, and it’s really not too bad.  In the morning and at night, I squeeze a little tummy fat and, with a tiny and extremely sharp needle, inject 10 units (a very small amount) of a clear liquid just under the skin.  It’s a good thing I don’t mind it, because I’ll be sticking myself for quite a while- for a few months into the pregnancy if the the embryo transfer is successful.  Lupron halts ovulation, and it’s how we sync up my cycle with the egg donor’s.

A few days before the transfer I’ll start another injection, Progesterone-in-Oil, which (in conjunction with an estrogen patch) thickens my endometrium (the lining of my uterus) so that the embryo(s) will be more likely to implant and grow.  Progesterone-in-Oil (or PIO, as it’s known in IVF circles) is a beast of a shot.  The needles are long and intimidating, and the viscosity of the oil makes it slow to inject.  Plus PIO has to be given intramuscularly, in the muscly part of my tuchus.  From what I’ve gathered from other surrogates (online) it sounds pretty terrible, and I’ll be taking it for a long time, too.  I’m not squeamish about needles and I generally think of myself as being pretty tough, but I’m really not looking forward to PIO.

I’ve been a little crankier on Lupron, but otherwise I feel fine.  This way of getting pregnant is so much more complicated and less fun than the traditional way!  But I keep thinking about the moment when I’ll get to hand that baby over to Urs and Ingmar, and then everything will be worth it.  The transfer is scheduled for the week of February 27th.  It can’t come soon enough for me!  I’m so happy to be getting started.  A few days ago I went out for lunch with a friend, a fellow liberal Mormon, and told her all about my being a Carrier.  She was so happy for me and supportive; she was at least as positive about everything as other nonMormons I’ve told.  She was a breath of fresh air, and a good reminder that not everyone will be hating on me for this.  I really do have some great people in my life.

Because I Have Been Given Much

Ok, I spoke to Bishop Ellsbury again today.

He said he had talked to the Stake President about my situation, and it looks like the Stake isn’t going to get involved.  So that’s a relief- I don’t have to worry about sitting down and explaining myself to a perfect stranger.

That’s pretty much the end of the good news for today.

Bishop Ellsbury reiterated his recommendation that I not go through with the surrogacy.  He’s worried about a few things: how it will affect my family (especially my children), and the ward as a whole (especially the primary children who I work with in my calling every week) and my relationships within our congregation.  He mentioned the Proclamation on the Family and the undeniable fact that two men raising a baby contradicts it.  He warned me that word is going to get out once I start showing and people are going to talk.  They’re going to judge me.  He was really sensitive about this subject- it’s wrong to judge, and hearing the whole story behind so many people’s struggles, he’s learned more as bishop than ever before how wrong it is to pass judgement on others.  I know he’s also worried about people being forced, because of me, to face the issue of same-sex parenthood head on and possibly even discuss it with their children.  And he’s worried that the judgements against me might damage my admittedly fragile testimony.

I know he’s right that my relationships with other Mormons will suffer when they find out about me being pregnant with a gay couple’s baby.  And I have no idea what’s going on with my testimony, surrogacy or no.  But I’m not worried about my family.  I’ve already purchased And Tango Makes Three and The Kangaroo Pouch for Elspeth and Dean; I’ve used both books to introduce the ideas of same-sex parenthood and surrogacy, respectively.  I know they’ll accept these ideas because Knox and I do, and they’re young enough to take what we say as law.  But my wanting to open up discussion about these subjects with my children places me in a totally different category from almost every other Mormon parent.  I don’t know how to tell Bishop Ellsbury that I don’t think it’s wrong to be gay.  To say that would be to say that I don’t believe in The Proclamation and I don’t believe in the church’s ludicrous “don’t act – don’t tell” policy toward homosexuality.  And to imply that I don’t believe in those things would imply that I don’t believe in anything.  This is an absolute, all-or-nothing church.  There’s no room for dissent or doubt.  So I don’t even know how to tell the truth about what I think of these issues.  And, to be honest, I wasn’t doing much telling in our discussion today anyway.  I did tell the Bishop that I had thought and prayed about whether or not it’s right for me to be a gestational carrier for Urs and Ingmar, and that I hadn’t received a “no” answer from God.  I told him I still feel good about this choice.

Another important part of the discussion:  Bishop Ellsbury told me that if I choose to go through with this, we will probably need to have a Ward disciplinary council.  I was really surprised by this development.  I think of church courts as being reserved for sinners.  Major sinners.  I’m hurt by the idea that the gift I’m giving to Urs and Ingmar is a sin.  This isn’t me falling into temptation.  This is me making a careful, prayerful, personal decision.  Bishop Ellsbury said that there’s no “punishment” in place for participating in surrogacy for a gay couple (after all, I may be the very first Mormon to ever do this) but that the council would be led by the spirit.  As the spirit dictates, it’s possible that I could be placed on probation or disfellowshipped, but he assured me several times that I was not in danger of being excommunicated.  He said it’s also possible that the council would rule that I only have to repent, and there wouldn’t be any formal action.

Repent?  I’m not doing anything wrong!  Our closing hymn in sacrament meeting was “Because I Have Been Given Much.”  It’s one of our more modern hymns, and I love the text:

Because I have been given much, I too must give;
Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live;
I shall divide my gifts from thee
With every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.

Because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care,
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread,
My roof’s safe shelter overhead,
That he too may be comforted.

Because I have been blessed by thy great love, dear Lord,
I’ll share thy love again, according to thy word.
I shall give love to those in need;
I’ll show that love by word and deed:
Thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.

Today I felt a real connection to this hymn, and I’m sure most LDS people would consider that connection a self-serving justification.  But I really feel that as a gestational carrier I am giving of myself (literally) to those who are less fortunate.  God blessed me with a healthy body that seems to have been designed to bear children.  Why is it wrong for me to want to share that gift with a loving, committed couple who want to be parents more than anything?