The journey of two guys ( with one cat & lot of great friends) trying to get through life and expand their family through surrogacy in Thailand.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fall off the horse Vs Get back on again

So what do you do when you fall off the horse?

Well, if you’re me, then you first look around to see how many people witnessed the fall because your injuries will be in direct proportion to the number of people who saw you sustain them.
For example, in a large group of people my reaction would be as follows:

“No, no guys! I’m good. Don’t even worry!  No, it’s cool, my arm usually bends like that, I swear. And I’m pretty sure it’s ok for my shin bone to be peeking out of my skin like that. It just needed a little fresh air, that’s all. I’ll just walk it off, it’ll be fine. Walk it off….walk it off. Now where is that horse? Time to jump back on!!”

Now, if no one had seen it…my phone would be out and I would be dialing 911 on my way down to the ground; because even if I only had a scratch, there’s always the possibility of getting mad horse disease…which isn’t even a thing, but I’m sure I would be the first to contract it. I would then concoct a believable story about being mugged by the horse so that the EMS personnel wouldn’t know that the injuries were due to me trying to stand up on the saddle of the horse like they do in the circus.

Those reactions aren’t because I’m prideful; it’s actually just the opposite. I can’t stand to be the center of attention especially if the attention is garnered because of an injury. So, I’ll do whatever I can to ensure that the attention is directed elsewhere as quickly as possible. Look a unicorn!!

It’s the same idea here. How do I direct attention away from the emotional injuries sustained earlier? Try, try again. And so we shall.

We’re currently regrouping to see how we should move forward. Right now, Frankie only has one embryo frozen at the clinic, and it really isn’t a great embryo. In fact, it wasn’t even able to be graded, so we have no idea whether or not it would continue to develop in utero. Using that embryo simply isn’t the best idea if we want to give ourselves the best chance of success. So, realistically we have two options:

The first is to see whether or not Frankie has any frozen swimmers left at the clinic. If he does, we would ask the ED we used from the first round to cycle again for us, fertilize the eggs with Frankie’s frozen sperm and then proceed with another fresh embryo transfer after the cycle. We would really love to have the same genetic mother for any children we are lucky enough to have. So, in some ways, this option would be ideal because who knows what our ED will be doing in the future and whether or not she would be willing to donate again down the line.

The second is to try a frozen embryo transfer with one of the 7 embryos with my genetic material. The agency we’re using (New Life) has been really great in working with us as a couple and not making us jump through a lot of hoops should we need to change the contract with them (using my embryos instead of his). I would much rather use Frankie’s embryos, but time and money make that a bit more difficult if he has no frozen sperm left over. If we were to go down that road and use mine, and we were lucky enough to be successful, we would then see if our ED would be willing to donate sometime next year when we went for baby pick-up. That way, Frankie can donate more swimmers while we’re there, and those embryos can be frozen for a later attempt with his material, and if we tried for a sibling in the future, our kids would be genetically related.

So, that’s where we stand right now. We are once again full of hope, full of excitement, and full of joy. That might also be due to the pleasant distraction of leaving for an all-inclusive resort in Cancun on Monday, but either way…hope, excitement and joy. And a liquor dispenser in our room at the resort.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Joy Vs Pain

The American philosopher and author Joseph Campbell once said: 

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”

Frankie and I are currently seeking out the joy in our lives.

This past weekend we got an email from New Life letting us know that although the fetal sac was visible, there was no visible fetus, and thus no detectible heartbeat. They have taken the surrogate off of medication, and expect that the lining and sac will be discharged.  (I have many thoughts on this that will come in a later post. Our poor surrogate… L )

It was a tough email to receive, but as you may guess after my last post, in a way it was a relief. At least now we know.

Naturally, we’re very saddened by this news. But it’s not end game for us. Not by a long shot. While I totally understand why some celebrate the beta tests and the early pregnancy indicators, we never fully celebrated those moments. We found great joy in them, but we didn’t celebrate. Each IP has to view this process through their own lens, and we knew that through our medical lenses, the pregnancy wasn’t viable to us until we had a heartbeat. While I know that some people don’t agree or understand why we didn’t enjoy the emotions more, we restrained our emotions for this very reason. Our hearts were protected…to some extent at least. There were still some tears….and some cherry pie from Thanksgiving that disappeared a little too quickly…but overall we’re doing ok. It’s a process that won’t happen overnight, but we know we’ll be alright, and we’ll come through stronger.

Fortunately, there is no lack of joy in our lives, so the residual pain doesn’t stand a chance. Before we got married, we talked a lot about our future together. We both knew that we wanted children, but we also both knew that we wanted to be in a relationship that didn’t need children to be complete. We’re already complete and although we both want kids more than anything in this world, we don’t need anything more to fill our lives together. Any children we have would just be the icing on an already wonderful cake. The joy we bring each other is enough to burn out any pain we’re faced with in our lives, and it gives us the confidence to know that any children we are fortunate enough to have will only add to the love we have in our house; not be born to fill a gap in our lives. And that feels wonderful. It means we can be patient. It means we can be happy that we got so far the first time. And it means we have the strength to try again.  

Joseph Campbell also once said: 

“Follow your bliss, and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”

That said, we’re ready to knock down some walls…. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Knowing Vs Not Knowing

Well, over a week has passed, but we’re not quite where we wanted to be. We’re back to the land of uncertainty. I had to wait a few days before writing this, because my initial reaction to the email we received would have shot this blog from a PG rating straight to an R rating. I think the term my mother used was….”mouth of a sailor this one.”

But, after a few laps around my Zen labyrinth (the halls of the hospital,) I am once again reminded that my life is pretty damn good, and I’m in a good place.

So here’s the scoop:

We received an email from our contact at New Life that said at this time the fetal heartbeat could not be detected and the fetal sac is too small. Our next appointment would be in one week.

And that was it.

There was nothing about what the doctor thought about the scan. Nothing about having run HcG levels to help indicate if the pregnancy was still viable. Nothing.

I guess the funny thing is: even if there was a HcG test, and even if we had a personal note from the doctor outlining his thoughts, it wouldn’t change the outcome of the pregnancy. It’s like waiting for the train. You keep looking at the scrolling marquee that announces the time of the next train; and if the marquee is broken or non-existent, then you begin to lean over and look down the train tracks to try to figure out when the train will arrive. The fact of the matter is the train will arrive when it arrives. Watching the little marquee doesn’t make the train come any faster or change when it will arrive. And our reality is that the pregnancy will remain viable, or it won't. Nothing we can do can change that. But there is a comfort in knowing; Or at least feeling like you know.

And right now, I long for that feeling of knowing, because not knowing simply sucks.

(This is perhaps another really difficult part about international surrogacy. We would have really wanted to be there during the scan to ask the doctor a million and one questions…but alas, that’s just not an option here. )

Fortunately, our contact was happy to elaborate on the scan. But we didn’t get the answer we wanted: “of course your pregnancy is still viable, and the fetus is happy. Actually, if you look really closely at the ultrasound image, you can see balloons and a tiny party hat on the fetus. It’s having a ball in there.”

Instead, we got a realistic view of the situation. Not detecting a heartbeat at 6 weeks is not a good sign. But it’s not time to give up yet. A fetal pole was visible, and measured about the right size for this point in development. We won’t know anything for certain until next week.

So, this Thanksgiving, we’ll be thankful that we even reached this point. We’ll be thankful that we still have hope. We’ll be thankful knowing that we’ve gotten to this point once, and if need be, we’ll get there again. And we’ll be thankful that we have a taste of what it would feel like to have our dreams come true…and that’s worth fighting for. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Presumptive Vs Probable Vs Positive

In the world of Obstetrics, there are three stages of pregnancy confirmation: presumptive, probable, and positive. Believe it or not, a "pregnancy test" as we know it is not a positive (or conclusive) test; it only gives you a probable result. Here are some examples of the signs of pregnancy confirmation, and what other factors might be causing them:

Presumptive signs of pregnancy
·         Missed period  - Sorry, but if you’re 60 and you missed your period….probably not pregnant
·         Nausea / vomiting - Really? You thought eating sushi from the gas station was a good idea?
·         Weight gain – Are you American? Enough said. (But sadly…we’ve finally been dethroned of having the honor of fattest country in the world! Thanks a lot Mexico…)
·         Fatigue – Bad news, you’re not pregnant….more bad news, you have Lupus…
·         Breast Tenderness – You got a little out of control after reading 50 shades of grey…baby steps.
·         Quickening (A “flutter” of movement…when mom says, “I think I just felt the baby move!”) – Please refer back to gas station sushi. This can be gas or peristalsis.

Probable signs of pregnancy
  • Hegar's sign (softening of lower uterus), Goodell’s sign (softening of cervical tip), or Chadwick’s sign (vaginal mucosa turns violet-blueish) – I hope you aren’t basing your results after any of these, because they require palpation and some spelunking! So probably not things you would want to do at home. However, if you are, all of these things can be caused by pelvic congestion. 
  • Ballottment (By far my favorite!! This is when the examiner places a finger within the vagina, taps gently upward against the cervix, and leaves their finger there. This causes the free floating fetus to rise, only for gravity to make it sink back down, and the examiner feels a light tap on her/his finger….how cool is that?! It's not really used any more, but still very cool.) – Not sure what else could cause this. My nursing textbook claims it could be cervical polyps…but I’m thinking maybe a marble got up there somehow? 
  • Braxton-hicks contractions – Sadly, these can be caused by a tumor. 
  • Urine pregnancy test – The at home classic! The problem is, a pregnancy isn’t the only thing that can cause a positive. Pelvic infections, tumors, and simple user error can lead to false positives.
  • Serum pregnancy test – This is the one we in the surrogacy world all depend on! We get our Beta HcG levels, we compare how they change, and if they rise appropriately, surely we know we have a baby on the way, right? Nope. A molar pregnancy (caused by a hydatidiform mole, or a large mass, growing in the uterus) can also be the culprit. Also, a non-viable pregnancy can also cause these levels to rise. 

And this is where we are currently in our journey. We’ve gotten the coveted positive on the serum pregnancy test…and we’re over the moon thrilled. Our beta levels showed significant rise going from 120 on the first test, to 1793 on the second test that was taken just less than a week after the first. This means that the levels are doubling in less than 48 hours, and that seems to be highly desirable. The likelihood of anything but a viable pregnancy causing the beta levels to rise like that is really very low, and that feels amazing.

 But, we’re not letting our guard down just yet. It’s not until we get to the third stage of pregnancy confirmation that we’ll be able to relax knowing without a doubt that we have a viable pregnancy. And that third stage comes within the next week. For us, it will be an ultrasound to detect the heartbeat. Nothing else in this beautiful world can mimic that little flutter of a heartbeat within the womb, and so it is accepted as a Positive sign of pregnancy. Here are the other methods of solidly confirming a pregnancy:

Positive signs of pregnancy  (The only ways to be 100% certain that you have a pregnancy and nothing else could possibly be causing a positive.)
  • Ultrasound to visualize fetus in real time or detect fetal heart tones.
  • Doppler to detect fetal heartbeat.
  • Fetal movements palpated by nurse, nurse midwife, midwife, PA, or physician (Interestingly, movements felt by the mother don’t count. It sounds crazy, but one of the last case studies we had involved a woman with a psychosomatic pregnancy, or a pregnancy manifested only in her mind, right down to distended belly and her claims of feeling fetal movement. Very interesting stuff.)
  • Fetal movements visible through the abdomen (Not even the dreaded gas station sushi could do that!)

By this time next week, we should hopefully have a positive confirmation of our pregnancy. It’s amazing how much your life can change in one short week.

Here’s hoping for the best. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Positive Vs Negative

The ten day wait is finally over. We prepared ourselves as much as possible for either result. Positive. Or Negative.

I said before that I’m always one to get the bad news out of the way first, so here it is…Unfortunately, Willow still has not learned to jump through a hoop of fire.

But the good news is that our surrogate had a positive pregnancy test!!!! So, I think it’s safe to say that makes up for it. ;0)

It’s still way too early to let our guard down and celebrate, as this result is only based on one HcG test and generally speaking things are so fragile right now. For all we know this could result in a chemical pregnancy; But just getting to this place is incredible. Even if things take a turn for the worse, it gives us confidence that we can get through this.

We have another test next week and hopefully we will see the HcG levels climb at the appropriate rate. Until then, Frankie and I will stay cautiously optimistic. Fingers crossed. 

Grow little embryo, grow! 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Two Guys Vs. Ten Days

Wow. I can’t believe we’re here. So the short of it is that we’re now in our ten day wait. I was expecting a two week wait, so ten days really doesn't seem that bad. But you can still imagine how slowly time seems to be moving. So, I've come up with fun ways to help time pass more quickly:

Teach Willow to jump through a hoop of fire.

Obsessively check my email to make sure I have the date of the pregnancy test correct.

Teach Willow to sleep on her head. (Already in progress)

Obsessively recheck my email just in case there was an update that didn't get forwarded to my phone, despite the fact that this has never happened in the past.

Teach Willow to ignore me when I call her name. (She’s all over that one)

Send myself a test email from one email account to another to make sure I’m getting my email in a timely manner.

Work on my wound care skills on the scratches Willow will give me while teaching her to jump through a hoop of fire.

And last but not least, ask my Thai family to send me daily emails from Thailand to ensure that the NSA isn’t blocking Thai emails to my account.

Yeah….it’s going to be a fun ten days.

Now, the long of it is a bit more involved. At the three day mark, Frankie had 7 good embryos, and I had 8. However, the morning of the transfer we were notified that unfortunately only 3 of Frankie’s embryos had made it to day five, and only one of them was of good quality. :-/  I still have 8, which is awesome but somewhat irrelevant given that our plans revolve around having a child genetically related to him. (He gets 6 weeks off at half pay for paternity leave, but it’s unclear if the pay or leave would apply to a child born that’s not genetically related to him.)

I suppose this is where the great 3 day vs 5 day transfer debate comes in to play. Did we save ourselves a lot of time and money by waiting until day 5 to make sure we only transferred strong, viable embryos? Or, did we needlessly loose embryos because they were in media longer than they needed to be? I really don’t know the answer, but I do know we knew that All IVF transferred on day 5, so it’s nothing we didn't sign up for. While it’s not an ideal outcome, with IVF you never know what will happen, so you just have to roll with the punches.

So, the embryo with a “good” rating, and a not so good embryo were transferred to our surrogate yesterday, and Frankie has one more not so good embryo frozen. Whether or not it would be worth trying again with that embryo remains to be seen. So, this might be our only shot with his material this time around. It certainly wouldn't put us out of the game just yet…but it would be a set-back.

However, we've decided not to worry about it just yet. What’s the point?! All it takes is one. And there’s as good a chance as any that one of those little blastocysts will be the one. And if not, well…. we’ll deal with it later.

And here are the little cell clusters we’re hoping will cling on to that lining:

So, for the next ten days we remain cautiously optimistic and hope for the best.  Fingers crossed. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Last Week Vs. This Week

Most IPs undergoing international surrogacy can tell you about a little ritual that develops as part of this journey. It essentially consists of waking up, reaching over to the nightstand where your cell phone has found a new home, and compulsively checking your email to see if the clinic sent you an update overnight. This process has become an integral part of our lives.

Last week, shortly after my last post, I completed this ritual and woke up to a very alarming email. Apparently Grub Hub, the restaurant delivery service we use, had removed one of my favorite restaurants from their list. As you can imagine, this shot me right out of bed.  After taking time to mourn the loss of my Dragon rolls and Spicy Tuna Maki, I noticed another email that some might argue was equally alarming. It read:

“Your surrogate experienced bleeding after taking medication for a week. The doctor has canceled her from the program to protect the success of your program. I have attached the profile of your newly allocated surrogate, please let me know if you have any questions.”


I thought perhaps I had read the email incorrectly, so I read through it again. Sure enough, they had just switched out our surrogate. Granted, we had given them permission to do this if necessary, but it was still unexpected, and certainly a little jarring. I didn’t know how to react at first, but soon found myself looking over the profile of the newly assigned surrogate. On paper, she was great. She was 32, she had been a surrogate before, and she had a total of 3 uncomplicated pregnancies. So, while we were a little taken aback at first, ultimately we were ok with the change.

Fast forward 8 days. We had gotten comfortable with surrogate number two, and were happily going about life when I woke up to the following email:

“I apologize for the continued change, however we are doing everything to ensure the best success of your program. The doctor has replaced your surrogate with another surrogate. Please let me know if you have any questions”

Yes, gentle reader, we are now on surrogate number three, and we haven’t even managed to make it to embryo transfer yet. If we were running in the "going through surrogate Olympics", I’m pretty sure we’d be right up there with Usain Bolt at this point.

We can’t say that all of this change has been entirely welcomed. In fact, it was quite stressful for a time. But then we really started thinking about it; If given a more explicit choice, what would we have done? Would we have wanted to proceed with less than ideal conditions? Definitely not. And when we started thinking about it like that, we were actually comforted by the switches.

Let’s face it. All of this is happening half way around the world. Surrogate number two had a thick enough lining, but it was deficient in other ways that weren't as obvious. It would have been really easy for the doctor to move forward with her and just ignore the less than ideal lining. In fact, that probably would have been the most profitable choice for him. But he didn’t move forward. Instead, he presented us with an alternative that would help achieve better results. Sure, it’s in his best interest to garner the best success rates for his business, but it also makes us feel like he cares about quality practice in his field of medicine.

It was also another reminder of how different international surrogacy is compared to what people expect from domestic surrogacy. In domestic surrogacy, IPs search for the surrogate version of “The One”; their perfect match.  This is the one and only surrogate that will travel with them through their journey. If her lining isn’t ideal one month, then they wait until the next month and hope that conditions improve. It's actually a really lovely process, as a real bond can form between surrogate and the IPs. However, this is generally sacrificed with international surrogacy. It's good in that you don’t have to wait to get your cycle going, but you also don’t form any sort of bond with your surrogate before proceeding into what is a very emotional journey with her. 

Additionally, in domestic surrogacy, IPs are given much more control over the process. This is partly due to the patient centered care structure in place here in the US. But, let’s be honest, it’s also partly due to people like me who are control freaks. In international surrogacy however, much of that control is taken out of your hands. Again, advantages and disadvantages. We like the feeling of being in control, and having that control taken away can be a real challenge and feel like a huge disadvantage. Simply put, If you feel like you’re not up for that challenge, you really need to consider whether or not this is the right process for you. 

So what’s the advantage? Well, let’s put it this way, Frankie is a physician and I’m wrapping up nursing school. We have several friends who are Family Medicine Physicians and OB/GYNs. However, truth be told, even with such a  large body of medical knowledge at our disposal…we’re simply not qualified to make some of these decisions. We can certainly ask good questions, but we’re not there to interpret the ultrasounds, to talk to the surrogate, or to monitor the development of embryos. No amount of information from internet IVF/surrogacy forums or even medical/nursing programs can replace or even come close to the knowledge the physician has. 

Frankie is amazing when it comes to caring for the kidney. It’s what he does, and it’s his passion. But would he ever treat someone just from reading their medical record, without meeting them and without verifying information for himself? No, never. So why should we expect to have enough knowledge to make certain calls pertaining to the treatment of our surrogate without having her as a patient? Really, we shouldn't; and because we know our knowledge is ultimately quite limited, we wouldn't want to make those calls. 

Instead, we decided to trust our agency, our clinic, and the physician in charge. We met him while we were in Thailand, asked him many questions about his experience and his process, and we walked away feeling comfortable with him in charge of the medical side of this process. We knew we would be giving him the authority to make certain decisions for us and lessen our burden; and having that security and comfort has been a huge advantage.

So yes, since the last update, we’ve gone through three different surrogates. However, here is the last email we got…

Regarding your Egg donor, 18 eggs were retrieved today, and we'll have your next update on Monday (embryo report).
I also have your surrogate's last update before transfer. Her endometrial thickness is 10.1mm.
 As always, Please let me know if you have any questions.”

Sure, we had to get a few emails that made us a little uncomfortable, but did we make the right call trusting our agency? For us, the answer is undoubtedly yes. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: There are no guarantees in IVF and surrogacy. There’s a good chance this first attempt won’t be successful, and we’re prepared for that. But just the same, it feels good to have people who put forth effort to stack the deck in our favor.  

The embryo report should be coming in tomorrow and the first embryo transfer is scheduled for the end of the month. Wow…..just wow.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Emotional Restraint vs. Hope

Every nurse faces the same challenge at some point in their career. I faced it last semester during a clinical rotation for my nursing program. I was part of a cardiac code team; pounding on a woman’s chest as the rest of the team provided her with oxygen and various meds in an effort to resuscitate her. But we failed, and just like that she was gone.

When the physician told me to stop compressions, I stepped back, took a few deep breaths as he called the time of death…and I felt numb. This was part of my training. As nurses we are taught to care for our patients like we would want our loved ones to be treated. We are also taught to distance ourselves emotionally. For a good ten or fifteen minutes, I achieved that goal. I had given all I had to give, while still trying to protect my own emotions. It was while we were preparing her body for the family to view that it hit me. I saw one of the techs remove her wedding ring to give to her husband, and with that, the numbness cleared. I promptly excused myself, went to the bathroom, locked myself in a stall and cried until the burning in my eyes forced me to stop.

It remains a mystery to me how we are supposed to care for someone in such a deep way and then not feel broken inside when our best attempts to save them fail. The good news? I cried a little less the next time this happened.

I have tried to approach this surrogacy journey with the same caution. I try to hope for the best…but only in an emotionally restrained way. I can nurture the idea of having a child, but I have to stay emotionally distanced to protect myself. But every once in a while I can feel myself slipping, and today I allowed myself to do something dangerous.

We got a report from our agency telling us that our Egg Donor had a preliminary scan that showed 20 follicles developing. I became really excited. This was the first news that we’ve gotten that makes me feel like it’s all actually coming together and that’s when it happened: I let myself really hope that this will all work out. I threw away my restraint, and let myself really hope.

The problem with that is, the further you get your hopes up, the further they have to fall.

I know when it comes to IVF and surrogacy, there are no guarantees. But despite my best efforts, I’ve already managed to: mentally design a nursery, wander down the baby aisle at Target, start thinking about names I like, start eliminating names I don’t like, and start making up new and inventive names like “Ragdoll Curtain-rod” …you know, in case I take off as a celebrity. This is all very well… but it’s also a game of emotional roulette. What if this doesn’t work out, and all I’m left with is the image of a nursery that my little Justin Case will never exist to use? (Hey, if Kim and Kanye can have a kid named North West, I can have a kid named Justin Case…but really, celebrities need to stop with the cruel names.)

Financially, this process isn’t cheap. We’re extremely fortunate to be able to try this even once, as we fully realize there are others who don’t have that luxury. However, we can only afford a certain number of tries until we would be forced to take a hiatus in order to reestablish our funds. I think some people assume that because Frankie is a physician, we’re rolling in money; when in reality we’ve only done that once and it was after a very odd night in Vegas that we choose not to speak of… (Because you know what they say, “What happens in Vegas, makes you feel like you need a shower and antibiotics”… What’s that? That isn’t Vegas’s motto? Huh.)  In all seriousness, we’re not struggling, but we’re not thriving just yet either. Medical school isn’t cheap, and we have a combined student loan debt that exceeds the cost of the average home here in the US and last month Frankie’s loans came out of deferment, so it's time to pay the piper.  If we ever want to have a mortgage or perhaps a college fund for any children we might be fortunate enough to have, we need to work on paying down our own debts. To sum it up, when it comes to more attempts from scratch: Our spirits are willing, but our pocket books are weak. 

So, I try desperately to keep myself in a state of restraint, but hope is a powerful emotion. I’ve allowed myself to get too close to patients, and that’s left me in tears. I can’t allow myself to become too close to the idea of a child that might never come in to existence because I’m afraid of what that might do to me inside.

 But what I can do is cautiously wish for one of those 20 follicles to develop, be fertilized and become something that will make our lives complete. I can cautiously wish, and leave the rest to fate. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thailand vs. India

Thailand Vs. India...

Round One…


Ok, so I suppose this really isn’t a fair fight. After all, Thailand is home to Muay Thai Kickboxing, and India is home to the Kama Sutra. It’s clear which country is a lover, not a fighter. Just the same, when it came to the surrogacy battle, India definitely won out. (Before it was taken out of the competition Tonya Harding style by the Indian Home Ministry and their visa regulations…) With India off the table, Thailand became the best option for us, and after getting over the shock of having to regroup and change locations, we’re actually pretty happy that things have turned out this way.

One of the reasons we’re so pleased is because of my aforementioned family in Thailand who have been so incredibly supportive of us during this process. But I feel like there are not so personal advantages and of course disadvantages as well. So, for anyone who has had to face the same situation, or for those just starting to consider surrogacy, I present to you some of the pros and cons of Thai Surrogacy (according to yours truly).

Let’s get the cons out of the way. I’m always one to pick hearing the “bad news” first. The biggest issue is that surrogacy is neither legal nor illegal in Thailand. So, it’s not just a gray area within a law, it’s an entire gray sky. There is a draft law in place that if enacted would effectively ban commercial surrogacy in Thailand, and while that draft law has been approved, it currently sits in limbo. No one knows if or when the bill will be enacted, which puts pressure on potential IPs to act quickly. However, this is not a process to rush into, so there is quite a conundrum here; and really it's just something we will have to keep an eye on to see how it plays out.

Additionally, there are some big issues with the Birth Certificate as well. In India, IPs are neatly written into the child’s birth certificate as the legal parents. Badda-bing, badda-boom. Done. However, in Thailand, all babies born are seen as a product of a relationship, even babies born through surrogacy. This means that the surrogate mother’s name ends up on the BC with either A) the genetic father’s name (male IP) or B) her husband’s name if she is married (again, the baby is seen as the product of a relationship, and if she is married then the baby is assumed to be her husband’s.) This makes it crucial to ensure that the surrogate is not married. It also makes it exceedingly difficult (if not impossible) for a single woman to pursue surrogacy in Thailand. After the BC is issued, there is then a process in which the surrogate relinquishes her rights and gives sole custody to the genetic father (The IP) so he can get the proper paperwork done for citizenship and a passport. (Please note there is still some debate as to how this process should work, so I will say that I’m writing this as I see it working.) To be so dependent on a stranger doing all of this is really scary…but no scarier than having a stranger carry a child for us. I feel that if we can trust her to ensure our child is born healthy, we can also trust her to do the right thing and happily give us full rights to the child.

On the financial side of things, there will also be a larger impact on your bank account when going to Thailand. While there is always variation from program to program, most clinics in Thailand charge somewhere around $34,000 for surrogacy with an ED, while clinics in India generally charge something around $25,000. Paying more for the same thing is never a good thing. 

For faithful researchers like myself, the other negative aspect of Thailand is that compared to India Thai clinics are relatively new and therefore have little statistical information to offer. Many of the agencies opened in 2011 or 2012 and some haven’t had any babies born to foreigners yet. (In fact, the agency I'm using just had it's first baby born in June of this year.) This leaves some questions up in the air that simply cannot be answered yet. But, there’s only one way to find out. And eventually, if the Thai government continues to allow surrogacy, this won’t be a problem.

Now that we have that unpleasantness out of the way, we can think about the pros.

For one, “Delhi Belly” takes out many a tourist, but fortunately you don’t hear a lot about “upset GI from Thai”. (Sorry, I tried really hard to rhyme Bangkok with some form of gastro-intestinal distress, but really, what rhymes with Bangkok?!)

Secondly, not only does Thailand still allow gays to enter into surrogacy contracts, their culture is also far more accepting of same-sex relationships than most of East and South Asia. For same-sex couples, that’s a huge plus. If you’re travelling with your partner and have some free time, you can always try to head to Pattaya where they are especially accepting of diversity. (It’s also especially full of prostitutes, or “massage parlors”, staffed by ladies, ladyboys, or boys…so some research into which areas to avoid might be in order.)

Thirdly, many of the clinics in India that I researched discourage or flat out forbid you from meeting your ED. They are anonymous, and prefer to stay that way. I know some IPs had a different experience, but I can only speak to what I was told by the clinics. While I can respect their policies and the privacy of the EDs, it would certainly leave me wanting for something. However, all of the Thai agencies/clinics that I inquired with not only allowed, but encouraged me to meet the ED and the surrogate. For me, that’s a huge plus. I was able to sit down with my awesome egg donor, get a sense of her personality and even ask her about future contact. I hope to be able to do the same with the surrogate at a later time.

Fourthly (I looked that one's a real thing), while all cities have their charm, Bangkok is generally accepted to be significantly further developed than both New Delhi and Mumbai. While this does translate to Thai surrogacy being more expensive than Indian surrogacy; it also means that it is generally more comfortable for the average western traveler. The location of Bangkok in proximity to the coast also means a two hour drive to gorgeous beaches.

And last but not least, you don’t have to worry about buying only green and yellow clothes, or buying those awkward, “Congratulations! It’s a.....Baby!” signs. Thailand has no laws forbidding gender determination, so you can break out the “It’s a girl” cigars at the appropriate moment. (If you want, you can even select the gender of your child… personally, I don’t necessarily say I see that as a pro as I like the thought of letting fate decide, but some people might.)

I like to consider myself to be a realistic optimist, so while I see faults in the Thai surrogacy system, I tend to try and focus on the good. In the end, I think Thailand was the best choice for us, but does that mean it’s the right choice for you? Not necessarily. But at least now you know, and knowing is half the battle. (Did anyone love GI Joe as much as I did growing up?!) 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Clinic vs. agency vs. facilitator vs. going insane because of too many choices

Every surrogacy journey has to start somewhere, and unfortunately most of the time is starts with a very difficult decision: Who will you trust to facilitate and oversee the process of bringing your baby into the world?

For Frankie and I, this whole process actually started in July of 2012 when we first contacted several clinics in India. We asked questions ad nauseam and eventually zeroed in on the clinic that was right for us. I developed a great relationship with the facilitator of the clinic and began to trust her to help us handle this delicate process. As many of you probably know, this all turned out to be in vain as several months later India shut their doors to singles, which was essentially their way of giving the finger to gays. After seeing months of research go down the tubes we resigned ourselves to the fact that Willow would have to remain an only child for a while longer. But there’s always a silver lining; that night while figuring out whether or not I could coerce Willow into playing dress-up, I discovered that they make wigs for cats!

(I think Willow would look dashing in one of these, but Frankie vetoed the idea…)

Down but not out, we regrouped and started looking for alternatives. There was Ukraine, but they don’t allow singles or gays. On a good note, there was an agency claiming they had ways to get around the whole issue of gays not being able to legally enter into a surrogacy contract. Because that’s not at all dodgy…   There was also Mexico, and this was certainly appealing given that the surrogate would be a lot closer to us physically since we are in the US. But upon further investigation, we only found two agencies facilitating surrogacy there at that time, and for various reasons neither were an option as far as we were concerned. And then it happened; I heard Frankie yell from the other room, “Husband! We can go to Thailand!”

My first thought was one of disbelief. How could it be that I had done so much research into India and never once came across a website or blog concerning surrogacy in Thailand? As I mentioned previously, I have a very special connection to Thailand, and I immediately loved the idea of going through surrogacy there, but it seemed to good to be true. I wasn’t sure what exactly Frankie was smoking, but clearly he had to be in some sort of delusional state as things never work out for us that easily in reality. But, I surmised that at least we could try selling his magical elixir to raise money for surrogacy here in the US.  It worked for that lady in “Weeds” right? We started looking over the website for New Life Thailand, and that quickly snowballed into us sending out emails to all of the major clinics and agencies in Thailand. Not all of the clinics responded, but the ones that did seemed to be creditable at first glance…and so it started to become real. We decided to let ourselves become cautiously optimistic and begin researching again.

Fortunately, around that same time, I received an email from my contact at the Indian clinic offering to put me in touch with one of her friends who facilitates surrogacy in other parts of the world. Because I had developed such a good relationship with her while looking into India, I felt confident in her guidance and I was incredibly grateful. I came into contact with my current facilitator in February, and the courtship began again. As it turned out, she contracts with New Life Thailand which was great given that they were already the agency we were most interested in. Even more importantly, our personalities meshed well, I got honest answers, and I began to really trust her.  About 1,000 questions later, we signed the contract with New Life Thailand and we will be transferring embryos next month. It seems like we just started the process yesterday and yet we've actually been working on this for over a year.

For those of you who might be just starting out in this process, I wish I could give you a magical map that would guide you to the perfect solution for your situation, but such a thing doesn’t exist. Instead, I invite you to consider these helpful hints as you begin your journey.

You must first accept that much of this process is going to be beyond your control. If you cannot deal with that, international surrogacy is not for you.

That said, there is one thing that you can always control: your level of education. Research IVF. Research the egg donation process. Research citizenship options. Research Thai culture. Research until you can’t bear to research any more…and then grab some coffee and keep going.  A good facility or facilitator worth their weight in salt will answer any questions you can throw at them, and then invite you to ask more. (If they don’t, I suggest you move on. Good questions deserve good upfront answers.) But if you don’t do your job asking the right questions, you can’t get mad later when things don’t go the way you expect them to.  Because of the current climate regarding surrogacy in Thailand, I wouldn’t take as long as we did to get going…but that doesn’t mean you should rush in to anything without doing your due diligence.

And last but not least: take my advice, take the advice of others who have gone down this road, take it all in, and then throw it out and go with your gut. If your heart tells you that something isn’t right, listen to it. There is no one successful path. Was New Life the right choice for Frankie and me? Definitely. Is it the right choice for you? That’s a question only you can answer. Remember, you’re going to lose a lot of control during this process, so if you don’t trust your choices and have faith, you will go insane faster than Amanda Bynes.

P.S. I want to offer a huge congratulations to Brooklyn Couple on the birth of their twins!! I couldn't be happier for them! :-D

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kiss Vs. Tell

I’ve read through many blogs written by gay couples going through surrogacy. Many, many blogs. So many in fact that when I first discovered them it became a bit of a problem for me. I found myself sneaking behind the dumpsters at work with my smart phone just to get a fix. My fingers, callused from the touch screen, would tremble as my archaic 1G phone would slowly load the pages of blogger. (Is 1G a thing? I know 4G is supposed to be fast…so I can only assume 1G is slow.) It was almost worse than the great Facebook addiction of ’08.  Fortunately, I got help. Well, I suppose I didn’t get help so much as I simply got caught up with all of the blogs out there that were of interest to me. But hey, let’s not pick apart the details.

In any case, after I realized I hadn’t showered in a few days and I had lost five pounds because I couldn’t stop to eat, I also realized that in many of the blogs the IPs would mention getting asked one question that really offended them: “Who is going to be/who is the biological father?”  Of course, there were variations of this question. “Who’s going to be the real dad?”, “Whose material did you use?” or “Who the baby daddy?” But regardless of how it was asked, it seems the reaction was always the same: The IPs would be slightly insulted. Some would reportedly respond with a curt, “We’re not saying” Others would reply “We’re both Abcd’s father” While others would simply say, “Nunya…. None ya business!” Ok, maybe no one actually said that; but they should have! It’s really an underused comeback. But regardless of their actual response, it seemed they all had an underlying suspicion that these family members, friends, or even unassuming strangers adoring their child on the street were somehow trying to disrespect them. While they certainly have every right to feel the way they do, I can’t say I understand that feeling myself.

Is it an inappropriate question? Maybe. I suppose that’s debatable. But I don’t think people intend for it to be inappropriate or offensive. It comes down to one simple thing. Ignorance. No, not the hateful “My sister-cousin-wife says that gays are evil” type of ignorance. But the “surrogacy is a relatively new phenomenon and most people haven’t met a gay couple who have had or are having a child through surrogacy” type of ignorance. The people who ask this question aren’t sitting at home thinking, “If I one day happen to meet a gay couple expanding their family through surrogacy, what can I ask that will really get their goat?”  They’re engaging you and/or your adorable child, and when they learn that you’re preparing for a child through surrogacy, or that your child was born through surrogacy, they find themselves unprepared and so the awkwardness ensues. As for family and friends; there is probably an intimacy there that leads them to believe they’re privy to this bit of information. Either that, or they just like to watch you squirm when you feel awkward. With my friends, either is a real possibility.  

In any case, I am happy to tell you all that the genetic father or our child is going to be Nunya…none ya business. (See, you didn’t see that coming, did you?) No, in all seriousness, even if we wanted to keep it a secret, I don’t think that’s feasible.

This is a picture of my husband's hand (Well, not actually his, but you get the idea):

This is a picture of my hand (Actually, this hand is a little darker than mine...):

Needless to say, the genetic father of the child will most likely be evident at a glance. Frankie has a beautiful mocha brown skin tone...and me...well, not so much. Also, even if that wasn't a factor, we decided early on that we would be as open and honest about this experience as possible, both with our friends and with any children we are fortunate enough to have, and for us that includes this detail. So, I’m pleased to tell you our first attempt will be with Frankie’s material; and I couldn’t be happier. We ran into the problem of both of us wanting the other to be the bio dad. So, we left it up to a simple coin flip. Heads I win, tails he loses. Well, that and we looked at it practically and realized that to ensure the baby could get on his health insurance right away and to ensure he would qualify for FMLA, it would be easiest if the child was genetically related to him. We’re hopeful that our egg donor will produce enough eggs so that half can be fertilized with his material and the other half with mine. If that’s the case and we’re successful this time around, we’ll consider trying again with frozen embryos fertilized with my genetic material at a later time. But in the end, it really doesn't matter. If we're lucky enough to have a baby with his genetic material, that child will be just as much mine as his. If someone asks, "Who's the real dad?" I will happily respond by saying "We're both real dads, but the baby is genetically related to my husband." Maybe that's one of the perks of being shunned by family. You learn that unconditional love is not defined by genetics but instead by the family love creates. 

Just a couple notes:

This post was certainly not meant to offend anyone who has decided not to disclose the genetic father of their baby. That's one of the beautiful things about surrogacy. The journey is generally the same, and yet also so unique and different for each IP. There really is no right path, just the path that's right for your family. :o) 

I realized that I hadn’t actually mentioned which agency we’re using for this ride. After a lot of research we went with New Life Thailand. That said, I’ll be sure to write something up regarding how we ended up picking them.

Also…you might have been thinking that “Abcd” was just a place marker for an actual name in the example above. If you were, you were sadly wrong. It’s apparently a real name (or at least a name someone was given) pronounced “Ah-bee-suh-dee”. You know, sort of like Obesity, only starting with an A. I think it’s safe to say the list of baby names just got longer….

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Practical Vs. Shallow

There are times in my life where I have found myself making practical choices: Buying groceries instead of buying video games; Going for a jog instead of using the ab trimmer as seen on TV; Shaving my cat to stop her from shedding instead of just brushing her every day…

And admittedly, there are times where I have made shallow choices: Getting the black car with a higher insurance rate instead of the white car with a lower rate, because the black one was better looking; Buying the Guess button down shirt instead of the Target button down that looked almost as good, because…well, it was Guess; Gluing fur back onto my cat, because sadly for her, bald is not beautiful.*

But I had never been put into a situation anything like what I had to face on this surrogacy journey: Picking out an egg donor.

It’s been about a week since meeting our egg donor, and Frankie and I still feel great about our choice. But you might be wondering, “Out of all the profiles, how did you pick hers?” You might also be wondering, “How many licks DOES it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop?”, but since I’ve never made it without biting, I can’t help you there.

Obviously, this wasn’t a decision to take lightly; in fact it’s quite possibly one of the most important decisions we’ve ever made or will ever make as a couple. I found myself wondering: Is this a practical decision? After all we want our children to be clear of medical calamities and have a good family health history. Or, is this a shallow decision? Because, quite frankly, you also want to pick an attractive egg donor.

Well of course, I don’t like to think of myself as a shallow person, and generally I don’t feel that I am. So, I found myself trying to eliminate donors because of practical reasons:

“Well, she doesn’t have the best teeth, and straight teeth are genetic. I really don’t want to have to pay for braces down the line….so maybe not her.”

“She’s only 5ft. tall? Well, Frankie is just over 6ft, and I’m about 6 ft myself, so I wouldn’t want our child to develop an inferiority complex because he or she is significantly shorter than both of us….so maybe not her.”

“I can’t help but notice she’s a little overweight. Type II diabetes does run in my family…well, okay, it doesn’t actually run in my family, but it could. So, I wouldn’t want my children to be even more predisposed….so maybe not her”

“Are those cut-off jean shorts?  No...”

I was unprepared to admit that physical features had to play a role in this decision, and not for practical reasons; but purely because I wanted someone physically attractive. For a guy who used to look like Jared from Subway before he discovered Subway, it’s really hard to feel like you have the right to judge people based on their looks.  But in this case, I had to give myself that right.

We decided that the process was not entirely practical, nor could it be entirely shallow. We started by narrowing the pool to donors who had a good family medical history, had a college education, had previously donated eggs successfully and shared similar interests to us (although, strangely none of the egg donors listed RuPaul’s Drag Race as one of their favorite TV shows, which we found slightly disappointing). After the playing field was narrowed by practical factors, we then turned our attention to physical features; as like it or not, those had to play a part in our decision.

Frankie and I decided we would both pick out our top choices from the remaining profiles, then compare to see if we had picked any of the same ones. So, I went off to my corner to ponder which egg donor was best suited to us…and also whether or not decent Mexican food exists on the East coast, because I’ve failed to find any thus far.

We compared notes, and came up with our top five. In the end, cut-off jean shorts made the cut. As my surrogacy coordinator and friend put it, “better to go with the fashion challenged as style can be taught.”  Truer words have never been spoken. There was also a Caucasian donor living in Thailand, a girl with an impressive family history of good health, a donor almost as tall as my husband and me, and the donor we ended up picking.

There were several reasons we picked her. There was her medical history, height, looks, educational achievement and answers on her questionnaire. My favorite part of the questionnaire was her response to “have you told your family about your decision to donate eggs?”. She responded with “I make my own decisions.”  She seemed strong, independent, intelligent, and attractive. All qualities I would be happy with any potential children possessing.
But in the end, it just came down to one thing. It just felt right.

*Just to clarify, no Willows were ever shaved or harmed for this blog. She's way too cute with all her those bald cats freak me out.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Our Fault Vs. Her Fault

So, here in Thailand there is an expression: ความวัวยังไม่หาย ความควายเข้ามาแทรก. (kwaam wua yang mâi hăai kwaam kwaai kâo maa sâek )

In English it means: We’re not done with the cows, and here come the water buffalo…

It has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but it’s kind of awesome. I think it’s the equivalent to “when it rains, it pours”, only it involves water buffalo which makes it infinitely better.  And since it’s currently raining cats and dogs (or cows and water buffalo?) perhaps it is pertinent after all.

In any case, “Frankie” and I are indeed in Thailand, and things are going really well. I've been to Thailand several times before, but this has been a very special trip for several reasons. I suppose I should give everyone a little back story first.

Picture it: California. 1998. An American family hosts a Thai exchange student. The American family consists of a mother, father, sister, and a dorky son. The Thai student was named Toop and quickly became a member of their family. And yes, I was that dorky kid.

After high school, I went to meet and live with his family, and found that they were all as kind as Toop and generally just awesome people. So now when I talk about Thailand, I often refer to my Thai family, as I love everyone here as I would if they were connected by blood. I will say that at first I was apprehensive about telling them I was gay, but the response I got from my Thai brother quickly assured me I had nothing to worry about:  “Justin, you are our family and we will love who you love.” So, this trip was special in that they were finally able to meet the person I love. Frankie and I are staying at their place in Bangkok, and while it’s a bit outside of the city center, the hospitality can’t be beat.

They've also been incredibly supportive of our decision to undergo surrogacy here in Thailand. You see, there are few Buddhists in Thailand…actually around 64 million or 95% of the country.  In Thai Buddhism, there is a belief that people should ทำบุญ (tam bun) or "make merit" in order to bring honor to their family and better their lives. There are many ways to make merit: you can give food to monks, give money or time to monasteries or temples, donate books or supplies to school children, etc.  But you can also give part of yourself in order to give life to others. This can be done through blood donation, organ donation, and yes, even egg donation and carrying a child for someone. So as my Thai family confirmed, donating eggs and being a surrogate mother is a great way to make merit.

Of course, that was the other thing that has made this trip so special; we officially started our surrogacy journey. We had two meetings with our agency this week: one to meet the agency coordinators and then leave our “samples”, and one to meet our egg donor. The first meeting went well, aside from the fact that we were about an hour and a half late. If you've ever been in Bangkok traffic when it goes from bad to worse, you’ll understand why that happened (the expressways can be better described as parking lots); but still, we’ll call that one our fault. But it all worked out in the end as the samples were left at the clinic and the results came back indicating that they are healthy and good to be frozen. In general, we found ourselves happy with the condition of the clinic. We are using New Life Thailand, and the clinical work is done at All IVF center. The facilities at All IVF were clean and the staff was very professional. All in all, they made having to masturbate into a cup in a public location as comfortable as possible. (Of course, there is something about Thai culture that is very service oriented. This can prove to be slightly awkward when the kind nurse walks you into the room, turns on the tv, switches to "naughty girls wrestling", hands you the remote and tells you to enjoy and to remember to lock the door...all with a smile and a polite ไหว้  (wâi) or head bow, as she thanks you and takes her leave....)  

The next day, we were scheduled to meet our egg donor at 11 am. Apparently when she agreed to meet us at that time, she forgot that she had finals this week at her university. So, she was running about two hours late. We’ll call that one her fault. But in some ways, it was strangely perfect. The agency profusely apologized on her behalf and asked us to come in later, and really all we could do was laugh given our tardiness the previous day. But when we finally met her, it was well worth the wait. Thailand is known as “the land of smiles”, and people like her help to cement that title. She had a beautiful smile, great taste in music, described herself as ambitious and strong, made good grades in school and said that she was donating eggs in order to make merit. She also donates blood on a regular basis. I can understand Thai decently and speak enough to get by, but fortunately Na who works for New Life also translates beautifully. We asked the donor many things, but there was one question in particular we were really eager to ask: If we are fortunate enough to have children through this arrangement, would she be willing to meet them one day and give them a sense of where they came from. In response, she paused, smiled, and said “Once I give this part of myself, it is gone, and I would never try to have the children for myself. But if they ever want to talk to me, I would be happy to meet them.” We couldn't have been happier with her answer.

However, I think one thing is clear. If we are fortunate enough to have children with our sperm and her eggs, we probably don't have to worry about the baby arriving early. But you know what they say: ฆ่าควายอย่าเสียดายพริก (kâa kwaai yàa sĭa daai prík); While killing a water buffalo, don't feel sorry about wasting a chili pepper.  (I think that one is "don't sweat the small stuff", but you might be on your own...) 

PS....there are also bonus points awarded to anyone who got the Golden Girls reference. Thank you for being a friend indeed. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Now Vs. Later

They say the Devil is in the details. I say the Devil is in the Jell-O. I’m sorry, but nothing good moves in such an unnatural way. In any case, since it’s the details that seem to matter, I thought I would share some with you; particularly those that pertain to timing.

In a nutshell, most Intended Parents (IPs) research their butts off, choose an agency or clinic and then sign contracts, which sets off a huge snowball effect: An Egg donor and a surrogate are selected, the ED is given medication to help her ovaries turn into ovulating machines, then around 6 weeks later the IPs fly out to wherever the IVF will take place, in our case Thailand, and the eggs are harvested, the sperm is…produced, the eggs are fertilized, and after a couple days of maturing, the embryos are then implanted into the uterus of the surrogate. (It turns out that embryos are a lot like the cheese used in Cheez-Its…they’re given time to mature.)

But, our journey is a little different. You see, I’m currently in nursing school and set to finish my program in around, ohhhh, nine months or so. As appealing as it would be to sit through finals knowing my baby had been born across the globe, we decided it would be best not to chance it and wanted to make sure I was done before the big day. Plus, having a baby while still in my program was a little too “16 and Pregnant” for me: “I don’t know how Im’ma get through this schoolin now that I gots me a baby…”  Granted, I’m not going to be pregnant. Nor am I 16. And, I have all of my teeth and don’t refer to my husband as my “baby daddy”. So, I suppose I wouldn’t be exactly like the girls on that show, but we’ll just go with it. (I will say, there have been some intelligent, ambitious young women on that show who simply made a mistake…but most of them, not so much.) But, the problem is that if we didn’t go to Thailand now (in August), we would have had to wait until next year for me to have enough time off from school to make the trip to Asia. After seeing what happened with visa regulations in India, we really didn’t want to wait any longer than we had to lest Thailand change its regulations as well; so in our minds waiting until next year really wasn’t an option.

Knowing all of this, my brain went into over drive. I was determined to make this work. I came up with several “solutions”, and sent them off to my wonderful coordinator, who was kind enough to confirm my suspicions: my ideas were both crazy and just not humanly possible. However, being the surrogacy goddess that she is, she presented us with a much more simple solution…why not just freeze your swimmers, wait a few weeks, then thaw them out? I think we can all agree that this idea isn’t as interesting as my idea of just asking the surrogate to “hold it” for an extra month, or somehow manipulating time in our favor; but it was perhaps a bit more practical. (Believe it or not, I had actually come up with one practical idea, which was to freeze embryos and perform a frozen embryo transfer later. But I learned that as far as quality goes, it’s much better to freeze the sperm than it is to freeze embryos. This makes sense given that our clinic uses Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) to inject a single sperm into the egg. So, even if some of the sample is somehow degraded because of being frozen, we only need about a dozen healthy sperm out of the  180 million or so that will be in the sample. I think that’s doable.)

So, unlike most IPs who start their two week wait right after making their donation, we get to start our two month wait. This time around, we’ll be meeting the egg donor, leaving our samples, and enjoying our time in Thailand. The swimmers will be iced until October, when they will be thawed just before the ovum will be harvested, fertilized and implanted. Is it an ideal situation? Perhaps not; but for us, it’s certainly the best situation possible under the circumstances.  

So, for now we’ll deal with this. We’ll worry about the rest of the details later.

(By the way...whatever happened to Now&Laters? They're like the rough and tumble cousin of Starburst, but I can never seem to find them any more. These first world problems are brutal I tell ya...)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Two Guys Vs. The World

So, if there’s one thing we all know about life, it’s that it rarely works out the way we plan. Fortunately, humans have developed mechanisms to help us cope. It’s why when things in life don’t quite turn out right, we comfort ourselves by saying things like: “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” or “No, if you cook it after it fell on the floor its fine. You only have to worry if it was on the floor longer than ten seconds after you’ve cooked it.”

In the same vein, when we’re faced by yet another cold, gray, rainy day we always justify said gloom with “well, we needed the rain”. But it’s around then that I find myself wondering: “it’s been raining for the last four days; do we really need more rain at this point…really?”  And even after consistently trying to fool ourselves and despite our best efforts to convince ourselves otherwise; it is the destination that matters. Otherwise, we’d just be wandering around aimlessly until we got stopped by the police so they could ask a few questions about our “unusual behavior”... But that’s a story for another day. And since we all insist that it is indeed the journey that’s important, I figured why not document it?

So, how to introduce you to our lives and our journey? Let’s try this, and stop me if you’ve heard this one: “A white boy from California and a South Asian guy from New Jersey walk into a fertility treatment center in Thailand….” Hmmm, no, that’s not quite right.

Ok, how about this one: “How many gay guys and straight women does it take to make a baby?” No, that’s not it either.

Alright: “Knock Knock. (Who’s there?) Justin. (Let me guess, Just in time?)” 

Nope, just Justin, and my husband’s name is Frankie. Well, ok, that’s not actually his name so much as the name of one of his favorite anime characters, but you’ll eventually learn that we currently live in Massachusetts and he’s a physician. Having said that, my name is as common as head lice, but his is a little too unique to throw out into the blogosphere without fear of eventually being stalked. I’m not sure exactly who would stalk us, but I’d like to imagine it would be a wheelchair bound photographer with binoculars who moves in to the building across the street. In any case, I’ll say that one translation of Frankie's name means loving and sympathetic. So in his case, what’s in a name is an incredibly accurate description of the person who bears that name. He grew up in New Jersey and is of Indian and Pakistani origin. I grew up in California and I’m pretty much as white as they come. No really, you can see my veins through my skin. It’s a little sad. Our paths crossed just over three years ago in San Francisco and our first date consisted of dinner at a diner, chardonnay at a wine bar, and bowling. He had me at “Damn! Another gutter ball!” During that first night we talked about a lot of things: our careers, our families, our friends, our mutual love of RuPual’s Drag Race, and of course how we both wanted children one day.

Our relationship progressed, and soon enough, we were with kitten. Willow has been the Queen of our house ever since, and she rules with an iron fist. Eventually we found ourselves moving across the country from California to Massachusetts, so we could live in a state that would allow us to marry. Being married has always been important to both of us, and we were tired of our cats’ judgmental nature. We were almost certain she was giving us dirty looks because we were living together out of wedlock, but it turns out she just does it because she’s an ass. (Who we still spoil to no end.) 

We were married in September of last year, and it’s been the two of us ever since. Just two guys vs. the world; and we’re ready to take on whatever the world may throw at us.

Now, we find ourselves taking the next step, flying across the globe to a country that will allow us to enter into an affordable surrogacy contract and hopefully make a baby. We had originally picked a different clinic, and even a different country to help us make this happen, but like I said earlier, life rarely works out the way you plan.  So, now we find ourselves picking an egg donor, a surrogate, and getting ready to take the journey to Thailand. It’s one of the most stressful, exciting, and overwhelming times in our lives.  I know that this part, the journey, is supposed to be what counts; but if I’m being honest, all I really care about this time around is the destination.