Saturday, February 4, 2012

One in the Oven, One on Order, and One in the Freezer

Craig and me on Egg Transfer Day, August 21st, 2011

Craig and me at the Gladney Center for Adoption with our social worker, Vicki, on August 19th, 2011.

Well, it’s been 6 months since I last wrote, and I first want to apologize for not updating sooner.  I last left off with our plans to travel to Houston to visit Craig’s family over the summer and to attend our Gladney adoption orientation in Fort Worth.  That was the last hoop to jump through before we could be officially approved for domestic adoption.  We had also learned of a very successful fertility clinic in Houston that had high in vitro fertilization rates, and my mother-in-law offered to pay for our treatment.  This was HUGE for us because the costs of IVF are right up there with the costs for adoption (none of which are covered by insurance), and we could never have afforded to do both.  Words will never express our thankfulness.
At the same time, I was nervous about doing IVF because I wasn’t confident it would work, despite the doctor’s confidence that it would.  Plus, if it didn’t work I would have felt so guilty for accepting such a huge gift that would have been for naught.  Another part of me struggled with separating my excitement for adoption and my hopefulness that IVF would work.  Was I somehow selling out my adopted baby?  It was like I was pregnant in my heart for our Gladney baby, but if I got physically pregnant, I would have to put off the adoption until our bio baby was 9 months old.  How would that feel?  And what if IVF didn’t work?  How would I compartmentalize the grief of those lost babies and the excitement about our adoption?  There were so many uncertainties and fears and hopes.  I was so afraid it wouldn’t work, or worse that it would and I’d miscarry.
Shortly after arriving in Houston, I started the dreaded fertility medicine which those who’ve gone before warned would turn me into a raging b*tch.  On the contrary, it was quite pleasant and gave me a little buzz.  I was afraid it must not be working, but the doctor assured me elevated estrogen levels affect women differently.  I did shots every day for two weeks leading up to our egg retrieval, which was on August 16th
According to my ultrasounds beforehand, I had about 14 mature eggs, for which they predicted a 75% retrieval rate.  Craig and I both had to gear up in hospital scrubs, and I was put under anesthesia for the minor surgery to retrieve the eggs.  The procedure is much like a vaginal ultrasound, but a tiny needle pokes through the ovaries to suck the eggs down into a little tube, where they are stored until fertilization.  They were able to retrieve 9 eggs.  Three hours after the retrieval (enough time for the eggs to “chill out” from the trauma- yes, this is how they described it to me), the eggs are put in a petri dish, in a very controlled (light/temperature) setting.  Then Craig’s goods are properly prepared as well.  The sperm is spun and “washed”, a process which separates the men from the boys, so to speak.  Then the 9 best of the best are carefully sucked into a tiny, tiny, tiny little needle and one by one injected into the 9 eggs.   Conception. 
We were sent home to wait 24 hours to find out how many had properly fertilized.  Again, we were hoping for at least a 75% fertilization rate.  After the longest 24 hours of my life, we found out 5 had fertilized.  They needed then to be left alone for 5 days to continue cell division until they were blastocysts (big enough and strong enough to implant).  Our embryo transfer date was scheduled for August 21st
Luckily for us, our Gladney orientation was on August 19th, which was a great distraction from the wait, plus we were so excited to meet all the lovely people who were helping us become parents through adoption.  The orientation was wonderful.  We met several young birth mothers living in the Gladney dorms, a birth mother who gave a baby up for adoption 15 years ago and now works at Gladney, several adoptive families, and our social worker.  It was an all-day event, and we left feeling confident in the respect, support, and counsel given to birth mothers, the ethical and legal approach to adoption, and Gladney’s overall philosophy of what it means to be a family.
Going to the orientation put me at ease about IVF because I was reassured that whatever the outcome, we were going to have a family very soon. 
On August 21, transfer day, we found out only 3 of the 5 embryos developed to the blastocyst stage.  This was disappointing because at every stage, our number of viable embryos was decreasing.  I just had to keep telling myself, it only takes one!  We then had to decide how many to transfer on this first round, one embryo or two.  You would think putting two in would increase your chances, but the doctor said the pregnancy rate for one vs. two embryos is the same, so it was really up to us.  Being type 1 diabetic, carrying multiples isn’t ideal, but I kept thinking “How can putting two in NOT increase your chances?”    We would trust him either way.
When we arrived, Craig and I both went into the room where the transfer would take place.We were told this would take 15 minutes tops, and there was no anesthesia needed.  They basically take a turkey baster with your precious, microscopic future babies and insert them vaginally near the uterine wall, which of course has been preparing for weeks to accept them (hopefully) and start growing into future Craiglettes.
Dr. Williams, our polished African American doctor, decked out in scrubs and cowboy boots, recommended we put in 2 embryos, so that is what we did.  As we watched on the ultrasound, we couldn’t actually see the embryos (too small), but we could see the little puff of air that forced them in, and got a general idea of where they might implant.  Dr. Williams leaned over me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Congratulations on your pregnancy.” 
I was taken aback by his confidence in the procedure, given the 70% success rate and that we very well could get a big fat negative on the test we’d be taking 2 weeks down the road.  I asked the nurse, “Isn’t there embryo glue you can use to make sure they implant?”  “Oh, honey,” she said in her Southern accent and big, blonde hair, “We can intervene and get all the conditions just right . . . but only God can make ‘em stick.”
 So began the wait.  I went on bed rest for 3 days, and then my mom and I drove from Houston back to Vancouver, which again was a great distraction from the wait.  My dear friend (Craig’s cousin, Kristie) had also done IVF at this clinic (and had twin girls!), and gave me a bag full of gifts to open and scriptures to read every day until the day of the pregnancy test.  The most encouraging scripture was Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” 
Well, I went in for the pregnancy test on August 29, a few days earlier than they advised because, of course, I just couldn’t wait.
I was cautiously excited.  We’ve been pregnant before and miscarried, so I felt if we could just make it to 12 weeks, we’d be in the clear.  They monitored my hormone levels over the next couple of weeks, until the numbers were high enough that we could go for an ultrasound.  When we went, they identified one sac and one heartbeat.  And, oh, I was so emotional.   We’ve actually seen a heartbeat in a previous pregnancy, so I was trying to not get too attached or excited, just in case. But my hormone levels looked better than any other pregnancy, and I didn’t have any cramping or bleeding like I’ve had in the past.
As the weeks and eventually months went by, our little baby kept growing and getting bigger, and it took until our anatomy ultrasound on December 16th to actually believe that we were in fact going to have a baby.  We found out that day we’re having . . . a girl!  Craig’s mom and sister, my mom, dad, sister, and nephews were in the room when we found out, and we all started bawling.
I am now 27 weeks pregnant (6 months and 3 weeks).   It has been an uneventful pregnancy in the fact that I never had morning sickness, have had no oddities because of my diabetes, and haven’t had any mood swings.  I’m FINALLY starting to show a little, even though I’ve been wearing maternity clothes since the very beginning.  Ha. Ha.  We’re due May 8th.
We are definitely still adopting, but we can’t accept an adoption referral until our bio baby is 9 months old.  I think often about our little adopted angel, where she’ll come from, who she’ll be.  I’m happier than I’ve ever been, as I’m pregnant in my belly with our first baby, and pregnant in my heart with our second baby.
And we still have one frozen embryo left.  So, if you think about it, we’ve got one in the oven, one on order, and one in the freezer.  It feels as though our struggle with infertility is a distant memory, and the pain and desperation I felt pales in comparison with the joy and peace that I feel now.
Thank you, EVERYONE, for loving us along the way and supporting us in our journey to start a family. 
Heather, Craig, and Hattie May