Two of a Good Thing is Better than One

trust

Hooray! We finally got some responses to our question we’ve been waiting on since September 18th!! Here is a quick recap:

On September 18th, Nick and I sent an email to our coordinator in the Czech Republic asking “If possible, we would really like to match with an embryo that has other full genetic siblings. Is it possible to find a match with 2 embryos that have the same sperm donor and same egg donor that we can reserve, so we could have 2 children that would be full siblings?”

On September 26th (over 1-week later) we still hadn’t gotten a response, so I emailed again politely requesting a response to the above question…

On October 1st, I sent another email requesting, again, a response back and indicated how important this entire process was to us and that the lack of responses were beginning to concern us, even if the answer was “Sorry we are unable to fill that request at this time” I was pleading for some sort of freakin’ response, c’mon it’s been over 14-days!

On October 2nd, there was still zero response! I was getting beyond frustrated! What the hell!?  I emailed an emotion-filled letter to the general email requesting a new coordinator and expressing my not so great feelings. I had reached out to my support group and this was what they recommended to do, some people said they had similar experiences and requested a new coordinator and it was smooth sailing after that. What did I have to lose?

On October 4th, I woke up bright and early to a response directly from my coordinator: “I’m so sorry but at the moment we haven’t any double donor embryos suitable for you. We must waiting if you want.” Not the response we wanted, but hey- at least we tried. This email wasn’t going to change our plans and I was satisfied that we finally received an answer. I emailed her back and thanked her for the response and I ignored the fact that it took 20-days to get back to us, I was just grateful to get an actual response.

On October 5th, I woke up to an unexpected email, again from our coordinator: “Dr Hana found 2 genetically tested embryos with following characteristics: Donor egg 25 age, 0+; eyes brown / hair: dark brown 163 cm (5’3”)/ 63kg (138lbs) × Sperm donor 21 age,0+; eyes: brown / hair: black 181 cm (5’9”) / 81 kg (178lbs) The date for your transfer could be on 3rd Decembra if want. Please, let me know if could be ok for you these embryos.”

I took a shower before waking up Nick so I could process the email and think about the characteristics. It was just yesterday that she had said there wasn’t any options, so I had quickly shut that possibility out of by brain and was again focused on our embryo that we had previously accepted.

For those of you who like comparing options like me, the 1 embryo that we initially accepted had the following characteristics: Egg donor – 27 age; 0+; eyes: brown / hair: light brown; 165 cm (5’4”) / 60 kg (132lbs) × Sperm donor 21 age; 0+; eyes: green-brown / hair: brown; 184 cm (6’0”) / 75 kg (165lbs).

Once I was out of the shower I woke up the sleepyhead and told him the news, the first thing he said was “really?” the second thing he said was “lets do it!” I sent an email off to our coordinator to tell her that we gladly accepted these 2 embryos 😊 😊 😊.

The first thing our family and friends asked us when we told them we had two embryos was if we were transferring both at the same time to try for twins. The answer to that is a big fat NO. Although we have the option to transfer 2 at a time, we will only be doing 1, financially and mentally, we think 1 is plenty. The remaining embryo will remain frozen under our name and we will go back to the Czech to get it transferred, they will not allow us to transfer it in the US. In a perfect world the embryo transfer we are doing on December 3rd will be successful, we have about a 65% chance of success, so fingers and toes crossed. If it is successful, we’ll wait until we are ready for baby #2 and travel back to hopefully have a sibling. If it is not successful, I’d be traveling back solo (due to cost and time) a few months after to transfer our second embryo and hope for success!

Who would have thought there was so many things to consider with a double-donor embryo transfer in another country…

xo,

Tessa

Superstition, Fact or Fiction?

TWO MONTHS until our transfer date! The nervous-excitement has officially hit me, last week I dreamt about transfer day on two different nights, one nightmare and one (just) okay dream. In one of the dreams, our fertility clinic had no records of us doing treatment which meant no embryo to transfer and no one would help us because no one spoke English. I woke up sweating and sobbing, it felt so real.

In the second dream, we somehow got pregnant with twins even though we only transferred one embryo. The twins I was pregnant with were not related and the clinic couldn’t tell me how it happened.  We had two babies from 4 different donors…. I wonder how many bizarre dreams I’ll have before (and after) transfer day.

Anyone who has underwent any form of extensive fertility treatments knows the term “PUPO.” PUPO means: pregnant until proven otherwise and it is a commonly used term in the infertility world. PUPO is supposed to create a positive mindset around the terrible anxiety of the dreaded 2-week wait to see if you are indeed, pregnant. A lot of women choose to wear some form of good luck clothing on their transfer day, it could be a shirt, socks, undies, leggings, you name it-I’ve seen it all. Usually the clothing has some form of transfer day saying like “Keep Calm It’s Transfer Day” or “Mother of Embryos” or some form of representation for fertility- like a pineapple because it represents welcoming and hospitality.  People do all sorts of mood busters to help them on that anxiety filled day.

There is also an entirely different realm of “old wives tales” that will help lead to a positive pregnancy test…

  1. Eating pineapple core for 5 days after transfer is supposed to help with implantation.
  2. Eating 5 brazil nuts per day from the start of your period helps with lining and implantation.
  3. Drinking 4oz of real pomegranate juice a day will boost blood flow and help thicken lining.
  4. Eating McDonalds fries right after transfer, helps decrease irritation from the transfer.
  5. Wearing warm socks all day long helps your uterus stay warm for the embryo to implant.
  6. Wearing socks on transfer day that were gifted to you from someone who wore them on their transfer and had a positive will increase your luck.
  7. Only take lukewarm baths to avoid “cooking” the embryo or baby.
  8. Anywhere from 1 day to 1 full week of bedrest after transfer to help implantation.
  9. And in the other hand, return to regular physical activity right after transfer to help with blood flow to help with implantation.
  10. No sex ranging from 1-12 weeks to avoid a miscarriage and embryo failure. (What the?)

The list goes on and on, some are likely based on science where others are clearly debatable, sometimes they even oppose each other. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t tried nearly 95% of these. Ha!

Reality is, I’ve read about 40,000 books on increasing fertility and it’s all about nutrient, diet, exercise and lifestyle. The caveat to that is there is a wide variety of opinions based on the authors. I read one book a few years back that raved about the benefits of a vegetarian diet, so what did I do? I turned vegetarian (no meat or fish) for over two god-damn years because I thought it would boost my fertility! In late May 2018, my acupuncturist and fertility specialist suggested that I start eating meat before our next cycle, so I did. This was right after we returned from our 2-week European trip. I had ample opportunity to eat some of the best (meat) cuisine in Italy and France, but I didn’t, because I thought I was helping my fertility. I chose to eat a bratwurst 8-days after we got home because my doctor said to… and it was freakin’ delicious!

We started eating mostly organic and rid our house of all the chemicals/cleaners/skin/makeup products that had phthalates and other crap that was linked to fertility problems. We even started wearing natural deodorant…pee-you. I took up running, which I learned to love, although I don’t do it nearly enough now. I decreased my drinking and stopped regularly smoking cigarettes. That’s right for those of you who didn’t know me then, I was a regular smoker before the first 2014 surprise pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I’m guilty of indulging in too many adult beverages and puffing on the cancer sticks every once in awhile with friends. 😊 (We’re all human, no judging!)

We’ve spent thousands, I mean, thousands, of dollars on acupuncture, massage, chiropractor, vitamins, supplements, books, psychic readings, essential oils, healing stones, guided meditation music. The list keeps going…I mean.. I’ve slept with antique worry dolls and rose quarts stones under my pillow for the last 2 years…All to try and increase our chances of having a baby.

It’s laughable and semi-pathetic all the things that we have tried to get pregnant. In 2-months I’ll be half-naked sitting in a room getting our Czech Republic baby put into my uterus…will any of these things matter? Will this work?

Long story short, people who are going through infertility will try a ridiculous amount of things (and spend a fortune) for something that SO MANY PEOPLE TAKE FOR GRANTED. Pregnancy is easy for some people, and for others- it’s far from. You will never-ever know what this struggle is like unless you’ve personally been through it, please remember that if you are ever tempted to give unsolicited fertility advice to an infertile friend, because they’ve probably already tried it.

(Side note: for those who read my last blog post “Relief,” and wanted to follow up, I have still NOT GOTTEN A RESPONSE! I sent a follow up message last week, and today I sent a message to the main email requesting a different coordinator.)

Xo,

Tessa

pineapple

Relief!

Great news! Our (second opinion) doctor happily agreed to perform our initial ultrasound and rewrite our medications so we can order them here instead of the Czech Republic! What a major relief!  If she said no we would have had to order them from overseas, which takes forever and costs an arm and a leg to ship. Honestly, if she would have said no to the ultrasound, I have absolutely no idea how I would have figured that out. Glad that worry is off the table! She is truly awesome and very supportive, I’m excited for her to be apart of our journey going forward.

Last week felt insanely busy, aside from the doctor appointment, work and normal life expectations, my mind has been constantly going going going… like last week I realized, what if this double-donor embryo transfer works and we want a full genetic sibling in the future…is that possible? So, I searched my support boards and found, yup it’s possible, people reserve additional embryo’s all the time, they just pay for storage. Sweet, that’s not a problem, we’ll gladly pay for storage if it means the possibility of genetic siblings. Why didn’t I think of this question a month ago?

I emailed our coordinator Michaela to see if there are additional embryos from the batch we were offered. 12-hours later, we had a response and the answer was…nope. There are no embryos left that were created from that same egg and sperm donor. Dang. *Side note: We were informed there are 3 genetic children that have been born from this batch, meaning, if it works, our child would have 3 full siblings somewhere in the world!*  She offered the option to reserve embryos created with the same sperm donor if we’d like.

Nick and I talked about it for a few days and 5-days ago Nick sent this response back to Michaela: “If possible, we would really like to match with an embryo that has other full genetic siblings. Is it possible to find a match with 2 embryos that have the same sperm donor and same egg donor that we can reserve, so we could have 2 children that would be full siblings?”

Well, we haven’t gotten a response back yet. I hate waiting. Whenever it takes more than a few days to get a response I worry that we are being greedy and annoying, or that our questions are frustrating to them. The funny thing is that they’ve been nothing but fantastic to work with and have been very responsive to my (many) emails. Even still, I find myself feeling insecure when I haven’t gotten a response back. I have to continually remind myself that this is our life, this is our future, we get to ask all the questions, we get to know our options, we get to be annoying.

Chances are I’m reading way too far into this, maybe she is looking to see if another batch of embryos meet our criteria? Maybe she has to talk with the doctors before she can offer us another set of embryos? Maybe she was sick a few days and couldn’t respond? Maybe she doesn’t respond after all, and I send another email asking the same question after a week. Regardless, I’ll survive and it will be okay. 😊

xo,

Tessa

babies

Here we come, Embaby!

Dearest Embaby, our flights are booked and we’re coming to get you! We’ll be there on December 3rd! Holy, it feels real now. I’m so nervous for the possibility of yet another disappointment I could puke, but so hopeful I’m excited. This works for people, I’ve seen it! 73-days away. Ahhhh the anticipation!!

I’ve got so many emotions running through me right now.  I’m so eager, I’m so hopeful, I’m so optimistic, I’m so nervous, I’m so vulnerable and I’m seriously…grieving. I think my grief is from throwing in the towel and the helpless feeling I have about giving up the ‘biological dream.’ Hello again grief, I didn’t miss you.  This stupid grief feeling has been difficult to shake since we booked our tickets, maybe because we are really doing this?  I’ve been trying to remind myself that these are exciting times, I should be happy and looking forward to the future, not grieving what we can’t have, that ship has sailed. Honestly though, it’s just so freakin’ hard sometimes. Some days when I’m stuck in a pity- party, I just want to stomp my feet and scream like a 3-year old “THIS ISN’T FAIR!”

I know screaming like a 3-year old will fix nothing, but for a few seconds it might give me some relief, because this sh*t isn’t fair…. why me, why us?! On some days when I’m feeling exceptionally vulnerable to the reality of our infertility the negative thoughts hit me and the word “never” distorts my logical thinking… We’ll never be parents, We’ll never know what it’s like to experience the unconditional love that comes with children, We’ll never have a daughter with my brown curly hair, We’ll never have a child that has my husband’s beautiful green eyes, We’ll never look at our children and question which physical traits were inherited from Nick and which were from me, We’ll never know what it’s like to look at a child that is 100% our combined genetic material…………….the ‘nevers’ go on and on.

Luckily, somehow I’m always able to pull myself out of these icky negative thoughts, somedays it takes longer than others, but I always step out of my pity-party at some point and remember….DNA doesn’t make family, We’ll get our family one way or another if we just keep moving forward, We’ll make fantastic parents- it doesn’t matter where our children come from! We have so much love and support, our children will be so loved too, We can do this, we will do this! I am strong and we are stronger together!

See, that’s a lot of thoughts swarming around in my brain. Thank god for therapy. 😊

Uffta. Back to reality. What if this actually (like, actually-actually) works and we get pregnant? How crazy-cool would that be?! Someone would definitely need to pinch me.

This chapter of our journey begins on Nicks 34th birthday, AKA: November 30, 2018. Last year for Nick’s birthday we were riding dune buggies in the Dominican Republic now this year, we’ll be hopping a flight to hopefully make a baby, what a lucky guy. Anyways, we fly from Minneapolis to Vienna, Austria, and we land on December 1st. Our frozen double-donor embryo transfer will be on December 3, 2018! *Happy dance* 😊 😊 😊

The process of transferring a double-donor embryo: As I said in a previous post, the transfer of the embryo only takes a few minutes, it’s an extremely quick and painless process. In-and-out. It’s the days of prepping my body before and after that take work because everything must be timed precisely. At the start of my next period (in October) I will begin taking birth control, the birth control pills are meant to manipulate my cycle for my body to be ready on December 3rd. With an embryo transfer, there is only a small window where an embryo can nestle warmly into the uterus to create a baby, and that’s around cycle day 20-22 (*based on a 28 day menstrual cycle).  Therefore, the point of taking the birth control is to sync up my cycle so that December 3rd is smack dab between cycle days 20-22. The doctor tells me when to stop and/or re-start the pills. This means I might go 5-6 weeks without having a period due to the birth control. I follow the doctors lead and trust that he knows what he’s doing.

The second medication I’ll be taking is estradiol, which starts on day 2 of my transfer cycle, so probably around November 14th-ish. This is taken orally 3x per day. It’s a tiny little pill, but it packs a punch. By punch, I mean a nice array of side effects that are highly unpleasant, at least for me they are for me. The goal of this medication is to thicken my uterine lining to make it like a 5-star hotel suite for our embryo.

The third and last medication that I have to take is progesterone, I start taking this 5-days before my transfer, ~November 28th-ish. Progesterone can either be taken vaginally by inserting (4) nickel sized dissolvable egg-shaped tablets into the V 2x per day, or a 1x per day injection into your butt cheek. (Side note: Ladies, imagine the over the counter vaginal pills for YI, the progesterone suppositories are just like those, but 4 times worse because its 4 of them at ONE TIME. So basically, gross.) Without hesitation, I opted to take the 1x per day injection, plus I have 5 bottles left from our IVF.  If I get pregnant, I’ll have to do these daily until I hit 12-weeks.

We can either order our medications from Europe (the scripts are so hard to read) or we can ask my doctor here to write the prescriptions so it’s more convenient to get. I have an appointment on September 21st with the doctor we saw for our second opinion at OGI Maple Grove. I’m hoping she will agree to re-write the prescriptions for us, but if she doesn’t, that’s fine, at least we tried 😊.

We also need my lining check (done by a vaginal ultrasound) on cycle day-11. Likely to occur around November 23rd.  We are hoping that the second opinion doctor will also agree to do the ultrasound for us (fingers crossed).  The results of the ultrasound get sent to the doctor in the Czech, either by me or the clinic who performs the ultrasound, they said it didn’t matter. The only nerve-wracking thing is that if my lining is not where it should be on the ultrasound (millimeter thickness wise, they are looking for 8-10mm) the transfer could be moved or cancelled. I’ve never had an issue with my lining so I’m not that concerned, but wouldn’t that suck? At least we would get a trip out of the deal.

So that is it, I only have to take 3 medications (and do an ultrasound) for the embryo transfer, its easy-peezy as long as I remember to take and do everything correctly. I have to take the progesterone based on the Czech time, so 7-hours ahead of Minnesota until pregnancy is confirmed. Yikes…..I always get confused with time zones so I think I’ll let this be in Nick’s wheelhouse.

When I was typing this, I remembered a funny story from when we did our IVF, I majorly messed up on 2 of the injections prompting mass hysteria and a frantic emergency call to the afterhours on-call nurse who returned our call 3-hours later informed us it was fine and not to panic. It wasn’t funny at the time, but now looking back its kind of hilarious. 😐 I can be so careless.

Hopefully nothing like that happens this time around!

In other news, it’s our first fur babies 4th birthday today!  Happy Birthday Dottie, we love you!!!

Xo,

Tessa

Dottie Bday

Next post: Prepping: Mind, body, spirit.

Realtalk

Yesterday marks one year since our failed IVF cycle. If it would have worked, I would be snuggling a 3-month old babe right now. It blows my mind to think about how different our life would be if it had worked out..like, would we have been able to tear it up at Bruno Mars last night if we had a 3-month old?? Doubt it, because we would have been too tired. (Silver linings 😊).

Honestly though, over the last several years of infertility, I’ve experienced a ridiculous variety of emotions, ranging from crippling sadness to pure joy when I hear a friends pregnancy announcement, thrilled and excited but also gutted and jealous when my friends give birth, and irritated yet curious when my friends spend countless hours talking about their child(ren).

Infertility is a bitch.

I don’t want whoever is following my blog to think that these last several years have ONLY been about infertility, because they most certainly haven’t. I’ve experienced some of my favorite memories, traveled to gorgeous places and met some of the greatest people during this time. I wouldn’t take it back for anything, you know, except for a baby. This journey has shaped me into a much different person then I was 4 years ago, hell, a MUCH different person then I was even one year ago! I’m much more patient, open, and understanding. I’m genuinely interested in people, because people equal stories and you never know a person’s story until you actually talk to them (or read their blog, haha). I’m much more empathetic and compassionate, I become teary-eyed at everything that is even remotely sad/happy or exciting, it’s pathetic. Infertility has changed me.

I’ve experienced a ton related to infertility and without these (shitty) experiences I would have never started this blog. Thank you to everyone who has been following along so far, for those who sent me private messages, texted/called or stopped by my cube at work to offer support- it’s SO appreciated. A super-duper big thank you to anyone who has passed along my story to someone who doesn’t know me. Since starting my blog 17 days ago, there has been over 700 visitors and over 2,000 views to this blog! Holy-S, that’s incredible! That means that people are talking, learning and sharing about infertility!!! How amazing is that? I feel so humbled. Please keep spreading the word about infertility!

THANK YOU!

Tessa

 dont-drink-the-water

Next post: ‘Lets make it official’ ~ my uterus hopefully meets its new roommate soon!

Eight/Nineteen

I’ve always considered myself an intuitive person and I believe the universe does bizarre things that cannot be explained. Tonight, something totally bizarre happened. The date ‘8/19′ has been sliding its way into my life for the last year and a half. It catches my eye frequently, most the time it in date form, and other times in decimal or time. It is ALWAYS there. 8/19, 8:19, $8.19, 81.9 degrees, you name the variation, its caught my eye. A few weeks ago I bought some snacks at the gas station, total bill $8.19. Last week I was reading a report, time of incident was 8:19am. Today I was looking up a date of birth and poof there it was again- 8/19/19**!

I’ve honestly asked to myself on multiple occasions if this is just a crazy coincidence or if there is bigger meaning. I was just starting to write my next post about the date 9/11 (my least favorite day) when I remembered 8/19, so I googled it: “8/19” and the first thing that populated was a calculator… cool, no biggy.

Then the second thing that popped up was a bible verse. I am not, nor have I ever been a religious person. I know very little about organized religion or the bible. But this gave me goosebumps. I have no idea what the rest of the verses around it say but it just…struck a chord…

Romans 8:19 New International Version (NIV)

19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.

What on earth? I got chills all over my body. I immediately hollered to Nick who says he never remembers me telling him about my constant run-ins with the 8/19 date. Irritating, but I know he has selective hearing and this probably wasn’t a priority 😉. I’ll let it slide. We spent the next 15-minutes googling different dates and reading those verses to see if they were all like that. None of them were remotely close. I still can’t explain it, was this meant for me to google? What does it mean?

The universe is wild.

Did she say…. “Snowflake” adoption?

Yes. You heard me. I said it, I said snowflake adoption (AKA: embryo donation), sounds weird, right?  Everything about infertility is weird and..confusing…annnd uncomfortable, but it’s also really fascinating and science is sooooo incredible.

I hope you’re curious to learn more about embryo donation and maybe you even looked it up after my last post (which would be awesome if you did 😊), but honestly, we knew very little about it until 4 months ago. We originally heard the term ‘embryo donation’ when our IVF failed, one of the options our Reproductive Endocrinologist (fertility doctor) gave us was to get on their clinic’s embryo donation waitlist. They estimated a wait time of 2-3 years until we would be up on the list.  My first thought was “holy shit that’s a long wait, I hope we don’t need this route” and my second thought was “yes, put us on there right away.” Like I said, we didn’t know a thing about embryo donation at that point, but we figured why not, we were feeling completely defeated by our failed IVF and the reality of experiencing pregnancy and childbirth was slipping farther and farther away. We’d do whatever.

So, what exactly is embryo donation and why would a couple donate? Embryo donation is the process of a 3rd party receiving a fertilized embryo from another family (or person) who has previously undergone IVF. *Note: embryos are a cluster of cells that form when egg and sperm meet, they have been fertilized and are in the beginning stages of making a baby. These blobs of cells are stored in a cryofreeze bank between days 3-6 of fertilization and they remain frozen until the family is ready for pregnancy.  A large majority of couples who undergo IVF have more embryos than they need. For example: a couple completes IVF and at the end of their treatment they have 6 beautiful embryos with a high likelihood of resulting in 6 potential babies. The couple wishes to only have two children, and now have 4 perfectly healthy embryos remaining. They have three options for their remaining 4 embryos: 1) They can destroy them 2) They can donate them to science for research 3) They can donate them to other couples facing infertility to give them a chance at life. Side note: in the US it is illegal to receive any payment for embryos and is punishable by jailtime and major fines, hence the ‘donation’ part.

Had we successfully undergone IVF and had remaining embryos I would of, without a doubt, donated our remaining embryos to another couple. I do understand this could be a complicated decision for some families, since if the embryo donation is successful you literally have a biological child in the world being raised by another family. Decisions, decisions. I wish this was a decision we were stuck making.

Anyways, the great thing about embryo donation is that the donors have options, lots of options, and recipients have options too. The first and most important option for the donor and recipients are if they want to do an open or closed adoption. Most fertility clinics (like ours) will offer in-house embryo adoption with embryos created at their facility, but the catch with that is that it 100% anonymous. The donor relinquishes their right to pick a recipient, and the recipient gives up the right to know their donors. Obviously with the advancements of DNA websites like ancestry.com or 23andMe there is a high chance that one day the families will unintentionally connect, essentially making the anonymity pointless. There are also a ton of registries that donors, recipients and donor conceived children can search if they wish. My point is, the fertility clinic themselves will not (even when requested by both parties) release specific personal information about each other. The recipients receive just a health history on the donors, that’s it.

When we first learned about adopting embryos, we thought our only option was to go through our fertility clinic and wait the 2-3 years. About 4 months ago I stumbled upon an “embryo donation support group” and joined. What I learned in there blew my mind. There were other ways to adopt an embryo(s) besides the insanely long waitlist through our clinic. Who woulda’ thought there were other options, our clinic never mentioned other embryo donation programs to us, ever. Turns out there are a few websites and Facebook groups that allow a platform for donor/recipients to meet and match privately. Sayyyy whaaa???

In July after experiencing our third failed donor sperm IUI, we decided it was time to do this embryo donation stuff. We made a recipient profile and posted it in three places: Miracles Waiting, National Registry for Adoption (NRFA) and a Facebook group. I’d describe these websites like a souped-up dating website, recipients really need to sell themselves to find the perfect match, I mean, lots of writing about yourselves/lifestyles/family/etc. The goal is to paint a picture of what your family life would look like. We spent hours creating our profile and finding pictures that best represent us and our family. It was exhausting but we were hopeful we would get matched quickly. Fingers crossed!

As recipients, we were also able to scroll through donor’s profiles and message them if we felt like we’d be a good match. There were a few things we were looking for in our donors: 1) a family who wanted an ‘open’ adoption because I feel it is important for our future children to know their biological family and siblings 2) a family with more than 1-embryo because ideally, we would love at least 2 children, and 3) a family with similar socio-political views.

Looking at donor profiles was overwhelming, there were a ton of donors that absolutely did not meet our criteria and there was a handful that did. During the first week, I messaged quite a few that I felt met our criteria, and I heard nothing back from any of them that first week. Super disappointing. Then the second week went by and we got ZERO responses or messages again…I couldn’t help but think “what is wrong with us that no one wanted to even respond? I mean, we aren’t that bad, are we?”

Then one day on week 3 I got an email back from a couple in Florida that caught my attention on week 1. Whoohoo! Finally, a message back! They had 3 embryo’s they were looking to donate, we exchanged back and forth emails over the next few weeks to learn more about each other, they were a great match for us! We reached out to our 3rd party coordinator at our fertility clinic and she discussed the process of transferring embryos if we adopted privately, they had no issues with this and talked us through what we needed to do. Super exciting, this might happen! Right before I ended the phone call, the coordinator cautioned me about the storage facility where our potential donors embryos were stored. She informed me to expect a wait of about 6-8 months and spend around $3k to get the embryos released in our name. Are you serious lady…part of the draw to embryo adoption is the price, its much less then traditional IVF because all the leg work is already done and since the embryos are “donated” there shouldn’t be any costs for them.

So, I did what I always do, I logged onto the trusty internet and started my research to verify what she just told me. Damnit. She was right! This storage facility had a bad reputation for extorting money from couples that have already been through so much to start their family. The storage facilities fee was $2,700 for FDA testing on the embryos and required the donors to jump through multiple hoops for them to donate their embryos. This was not typical and other storage facilities do not require this testing, it was 100% a money maker for them. Disgusting. How can they get away with that?

Throughout the last 4 months, I loosely followed a support group for international fertility treatments that I had joined when we learned about embryo donation. It sounded slightly sketchy because it was so affordable (unlike in the US), so I didn’t give it much research, but it sounded interesting. After learning about the storage facility and their sheepish ways, I felt so fed up with the constant money hungry companies that take advantage of people here in the US, so I emailed a highly acclaimed fertility clinic the Czech Republic (Reprofit in BRNO, Czech). Less than 24-hours later I had a response from the coordinator educating us on their double-donor embryo program.

The double-donor embryo program in Europe is different than what can be offered in the US because of differing reproduction laws. To my knowledge, there are no fertility clinic in the US that can pre-create double-donor embryos to be offered as an option. In the US, the recipients would be required to fund the entire IVF procedure to use double-donor embryos. Each country in Europe is different, but in the Czech Republic, donors are screened and vetted well before they are eligible for donations and their financial incentive is very good if they qualify. A double-donor cycle means that the embryos were created by TWO separate donors, an egg donor and a sperm donor, they do not know each other, and the egg and sperm met in a petri dish to create that wonderful cluster of cells that will hopefully result in a baby! Donations are all done anonymously which is part of the law there. The recipients of the embryos get the following information about the donor: Age, weight, height, hair/eye color.                                                  That. Is. It.

Nick and I sat down over dinner at our favorite ramen noodle joint and created a pro’s and con’s list for both. The biggest con (and only) with international was that our children would not have the opportunity to know their biological parents. I can’t help but question if they will feel cheated, lost, and confused about their roots. Would this damage them for life? If it did, we would be fully responsible. Ugh. That’s huge.

On the flip side, we found a lot of pros: in the Czech our embryo would be genetically tested, giving us a higher chance of a successful pregnancy. It’s about a fraction of the cost of doing it in the US and…we get to explore the Czech Republic and surrounding areas. Frozen embryo transfer (FET) is a procedure we need done in the Czech, it only takes a few minutes and it is very quick and easy-essentially like a yearly pap, but they stick an embryo in your uterus and we go on our way. We technically only NEED to me in the Czech for a few days, but its recommended to give some wiggle room in case there needs to be some adjustments to the days of transfer or if anything happens to the embryo during thaw.

We also crunched numbers:

 Estimated open embryo adoption in the US cost breakdown:

~$2,700 for FDA testing fee for embryos

~$500 for attorney fees for legal contract for “transfer of property” *Recipient pays donor’s legal fees too.

~$600 for storage fees

~$250 for shipping fee of embryos

~$1,500 for medication for embryo transfer

~$5,000 minimum for frozen embryo transfer

Estimated total: $10,550

Estimated double-donor embryo transfer in the Czech Republic cost breakdown:

~ $1,600 for embryo/transfer/all procedures

~$200 for medication

~$2000 for 2-round trip flights

~$400 for car rental/7 days

~$600-$800 for Airbnb/7 days

~$500 for food

Estimated total: $5,300

That night, Nick and I talked long and hard about what direction we wanted to go. The open adoption was not as important to Nick, honestly, he said he could take it or leave it, but he supported whatever I wanted to do.  I had a complete internal struggle, going back and forth between here or there, my preference changed by the hour. It was exhausting, not only for me, but for Nick, because he had to deal with my indecisiveness.

That next week I had an appointment with my therapist, I talked to her about my fears of doing an anonymous double-donor cycle and my fear of our future children hating us for bringing them into the world that way. She helped me discover that I naturally go to the most negative outcome. That is what infertility has trained me to do. I constantly doubt that something like this could work for us, or that even one day we will get to be parents. Now I’m worried about the future and if our non-existent children will hate us? Maybe I am crazy. No, wait, I’m just infertile.

Nick and I discussed it and discussed it again and I changed my mind a few times back and forth, but I’m confident that choosing to pursue double-donor embryos in the Czech IS our best option. I had to send an email to the couple in Florida to let them know, they hadn’t officially picked us yet, but it was obvious that we were likely going that direction. She said they understood and to let them know if we choose not to take this route.

I completed an initial consult with the coordinator in the Czech and sent off all fertility records (over 150 pages) for the doctor to review to see if we qualify for the program. During the initial consult we were asked about donor characteristics that were important to us, so I clicked all the characteristics that match ours. I also added that I would be willing to waiver on some of those things if they could find us a curly haired donor. Sperm or Egg, I don’t care. Both Nick and I have long genes of curly hair and I’ve always daydreamed about a child with curly locks. Since the recipients get very little information about the donor, we are putting alot of faith into the clinic. Luckily they have endless amounts of personal info about the donors they sift through to fit our criteria.

One week later we received an email that said the following:

“Dear Tessa,

I‘m happy to offer you 1 genetic tested embryo with following characteristics :

Egg donor – 27 age; 0+; eyes: brown / hair: light brown; 165 cm / 60 kg ×

Sperm donor 21 age; 0+; eyes: green-brown / hair: brown; 184 cm / 75 kg)

If you agree so Dr. prepare you the treatment plan.”

*Insert happy dance*

On August 23rd, 2018, we agreed, we accepted this embryo. Our potential son or daughter. They are on ice waiting for us to fly over and plop them in my uterus. We are so excited and even a little hopeful. I honestly haven’t felt hopeful in a while, and the last time I allowed myself to it ended in a near panic attack after our 3rd failed donor IUI. It’s hard for me to let my guard down in order for hope creep in, but it always does. Sometimes I feel like this infertility journey is a dream, like I’m living in someones  reality that isn’t mine. I don’t understand why it was Nick and I that had to have a story like this. It isn’t fair.

The through of flying to Europe to do this treatment also has me scared and anxious. What if this doesn’t work? How many times do we give this a try? How can I increase my chances of this working? What will people think? Will people think this is morally wrong? What will our child think? What if our child hates us? How will we incorporate the way they were conceived into their life story? I mean, the questions never stop coming.

So, its been 12 days since we accepted our embryo and 5 of those days we spent hiking in the Porcupine Mountains with some friends. I haven’t had alot of time to digest it all, but I AM excited.

This week’s plan is to book our flights to Europe! The clinic is flexible on the dates because part of the process is using birth control pills that control my cycle, so once our flights are booked they give us the official plan. We are thinking of going in November or December. If it were up to me only, we would be there tomorrow, but Nick has to work, and September and October are very busy for him. Boo, but what’s a few more months anyways?

Pretty crazy right? We’ve got a lot of things coming up in the next few months. It should be an interesting journey.

xo,IMG-1704

Tessa

Photo taken at Lake of the Clouds in Porcupine Mountain, UP Michigan.