Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Almost, almost, ready to start

From the post below you'll see that I've got my sperm ordered.  The next thing to take care of is to schedule my first cycle of trying.  This will be a drug assisted IUI cycle.  My cycle seems to be relatively regular but is fluctuating between 31-33 days.  Because of this, the clinic has suggested a drug assisted cycle to be sure of when I am ovulating and to have the best chance of insemination.  This means I'll need to pay for the cycle in advance and pay for the drugs I'll be using and have them ready to go in the fridge for the start of my next viable period/cycle.  I'm going away for three weeks and based on a period calculator I used, my next period will start the day before I come back to the UK or the day before.  This makes January unlikely as the first cycle to try for.  Instead, I'll just go for February.  That way I'll have been back for a month, settled in to my routine, and on top of things.  I don't think coming back from a holiday and rushing to the clinic is the best way to go about this anyway.  So February it is.  This gives me a month and a half to get all of that set up, i.e., paid for, and to get the drugs delivered.

It's honestly unreal.  I can't really think about the possibility of getting pregnant because I think it seems to overwhelming.  And if I do get pregnant, I think I'm going to be completely freaked out.  Which is, I think, pretty normal.  Regardless of how you end up getting pregnant.

In other news, me and the boyfriend have had a bit of bumpy spot regarding my pregnancy plans.  This has been causing me much sadness because he is hurt and upset and also because it doesn't mean I'm changing my plans.  This in turn makes me feel bad because something I'm doing is hurtful to him, at a time when our relationship- between the two of us, seems to be better than before.  This situation tempers how I express myself about the baby plan.  I do talk to close friends about it, but I can't really talk to my partner about it without it becoming a conversation about something else really.  So I try not to.  That's weird, huh?  But then what I'm doing is maybe considered a bit weird, all things considered.  Relationships and big life decisions are complicated things.  I may write more about this at some point, but I'm mindful of his privacy, even though I don't think he knows about this blog.

Sperm success

So things went a bit quiet here while I searched for sperm and knew I had time before anything needed to start.  In the end, I decided to go with Xytex who had a reasonable number of CMV negative donors who vaguely matched my coloration.

First, let me have a rant about sperm banks.  I find it appalling that banks charge you a not unsubstantial fee just to look at the donors.  I paid $175.50 just for the privilege of looking at the full profiles of possible donors.  Now, I get that they don't want donor tourism and I can see why you may need to show you're serious by putting down some cash.  But I'm seriously offended that this payment isn't refunded when you make a purchase.  It's completely and utterly taking advantage of people who honestly need this service.  I can't express strongly enough how distasteful I found this aspect of the sperm searching process, or how pissed off it made me.

That being said, what choice did I have? I put down my money because it was important to me to search for a donor whose features were compatible with my own. That way potential future child will hopefully not be asked too many questions about where their looks came from as they should vaguely look like me!

In the end I found about 8 possible donors who were CMV negative and whose looks fell into my general range of attributes.  I was very thankful that my clinic were helpful in looking at all the donor profiles and advising me on any that would not be suitable for use.  Mostly this had to do with what sort of sperm vials were available, or if any were available.  In the end I got down to a shortlist of 3, then the 3 became 2.  And finally the 2 became 1 as the leading choice.

I could probably say more about how I selected a donor but I'm not sure any of it is particularly relevant.  I think it's probably somewhat personal.  There's no particularly clear way that you select one person over another.  For me, I mostly considered genetics and traits that I felt were desirable and that I felt complimented (or in some case counteracted) my own.  The donor is, in the end, just a donor.  Nature versus nurture and all of that stuff.  The potential child will also be their own unique independent person that will be all about them as individual and cannot be attributed to myself or the donor.  You can only go down this route so far before you just make a decision and hope that you didn't make a bad one.  What else can you do?

Anyway, I got in touch with my clinic and the bank and got all the information needed for ordering.  Because the bank is in the US, I paid on my US credit card so there was a bit of a moment increasing my credit limit on my US credit card and also ensuring that my US PayPal account was still up and running so I can easily transfer myself money from my UK account.  On the advice of my clinic I ordered 6 vials of sperm.  This, with the shipping came to an eye watering total of $5355.

So a good time to do a budget update.  I've used XE converter on today's date to do the conversion.  I've also rounded up to whole numbers for ease of calculating!

Previous total £720
Donor 'looking' fee$176/£119
6 vials of UK approved washed sperm $4770/£3220
UK Shipping/delivery fee$585/£395
New total £4454

So you see, when you're spending that much money, I feel that really it would not be such a big deal for the clinic to refund you the 'looking fee' if you end up making a purchase.  It's really just rude.

So where are we at?  So far, before I've started any treatment at all, I've spent as much as a full IVF practically.  That sort of sucks.  After all, I have a budget for this process.  Everything I do before I even start trying is money taken away from the trying phase.  But, with 6 vials of donor on the way, that should cover that part of the process for all of the treatments I can reasonably afford.  So that's good.  Or scary.  Depending on how you look at it.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sperm setback

I just had an email back from one of the larger US donor bank sites which was recommended by another egg freezer I chatted to on eggsurance. The bank told me they can't ship to the UK. This really sucks as so far they've had the largest amount of CMV negative donors who match my coloring. Back to square one.

Test results 2

I called the GP this morning to ask about my unusual blood test results as reported by my clinic nurse. The woman I spoke to on the phone said there was nothing unusual about my tests at all! The only thing remotely out if the ordinary was that when I had my swab test in July, I tested positive for thrush. But that was July, and I haven't had any symptoms of a yeast infection. I mean, I could go get a pill from the pharmacist if I was worried I guess. In the meantime, it's a relief to know that everything else was completely fine! So that was a weekend of worry for no good reason.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Looking for Sperm

Trying to decide on a sperm donor is difficult.  My clinic gave me a list of 5 sperm banks that they recommend.  All of them comply with UK sperm donation regulations which means that the donor will be able to be contacted by the child at age 18 if the child desires.  And the child will be able to find out at age 18 who the donor was even if they don't choose to contact them.

In general I think this is a very good idea.  Before I started on this journey I had looked at some sites on the internet, and in particular sites where children of donors talked about their feelings and experiences.  I think one of the harder things a child of a donor has to deal with is wanting to know where they come from.  I read stories from donor children saying that they would walk down the street wondering if the people they passed were relatives.  I get that.  And I think that's not very nice.  So even before I knew that it was the law in the UK that you use a non-anonymous donor, I had already decided that this was a requirement for me.

The next thing I need to be aware of is that I am CMV negative.  This means that I can only use a donor who is also CMV negative.  If I was CMV positive, I could use a donor who was either negative or positive.  So this restricts my choices somewhat as more people are CMV positive.  On the other hand, limiting choice isn't necessarily a bad thing, because there are a lot!

Other things I have come to find out is that many donors are tested for various genetic diseases and you get profiles on their test results.  Some donors I have come across have tested positive for genes known to be related to certain diseases.  I haven't had my own genetic testing done, so I don't know what I may or may not carry.  This means that an ideal donor to me would not be positive on any genetic diseases, because what if I am too?  So this also limits some of the available options.

I talked to the clinic about what I should buy.  I mean, how much do you buy and should it be washed or unwashed or what?  They told me that for IUI I could get washed or unwashed.  If it was washed it needed to be >10 motility and if it was unwashed it needed to be >20 motility.  For IVF (assuming my 2 planned cycles of IUI don't work) unwashed is fine but it needs to be >20 motility.  Annoyingly, not all clinics give this information.  And I've also noticed that there seems to be a limited supply of >20 sperm. 

The clinic suggested I order 6 samples to cover my treatment.  My next surprise?  How expensive sperm is!  We're looking at around £600(±) per sample.  With shipping, that's around £3000 just for the donor sperm.  A bit more than I was anticipating.  That's basically the cost of both IUI cycles combined!  But it is what it is.  I know this process is expensive.  Still, if I spend that much and get pregnant on the first go- can you sell the samples back??  It's a bit weird.  I don't think I fully understand all the detail yet.

Really I'm just looking at donor profiles at the moment.  Trying to find one that meets the above criteria as well as my own criteria which is to be vaguely of my own complexion and look.  I've read up on being a single mother and a recommendation is to pick a donor with your own coloring so that you aren't always asked about the father if the child looks nothing like you.  I think that makes sense.  This also helps then to limit the options.

It's just that when you keep limiting the options and keep limiting the options you start to feel like you don't have any!!  Each bank that my clinic recommended has only 1-5 donors that meet the above criteria, if that!  On the one hand it feels like such a big decision.  This possible future child is going to be half made up of this mystery person.  It's a little bit scary because you don't know them.  You don't really know anything much about them.  And you don't really know what they look like.  On the other hand, this possible future child is half me.  And how much does the genetics matter over the nurture?  Ah, the age old question.  I'm sure that most of the donors would be perfectly fine.  I guess it's just that when you aren't picking the person because you love them and have a relationship with them, the ONLY thing you have to go on is their genetic contribution.  And that makes you feel a bit panicked.  Like somehow you're making a wrong choice.

It's not that it's a bad thing, it just seems like a particularly great responsibility, to have this level of choice, but then to feel that you aren't really informed enough to make a good one, you know?

At any rate, more donor updates as warranted.  Stay tuned.

Test Results

Various tests and results this week moves everything that little bit forward.  First, I managed to get my GP to do the majority of the blood tests the clinic said I needed to get which was good.  I need to call the GP tomorrow though because when the clinic called to tell me that my CMV was negative (more on that later), they also casually mentioned one of the other tests had some unusual results.  I didn't catch what she said and it was a very quick phone call, but considering the only other tests I had were HIV and HepB/C, you don't really want to hear that something was unusual!  Anyway, hopefully I'll find out more on that tomorrow.

The results of my AMH test that the clinic did on my first visit came back and was 8.5 pmol/L.  In early 2013, my AMH was 9.4 so it makes sense that it's gone down, although not by too much so that's great.  It means my fertility is in the low bracket but still completely reasonable for my age.  I also had a good number of follicles (11?) when the doctor did my scan. So although my fertility isn't like it was when I was younger, I'm in good shape for attempting to get pregnant naturally based on these results.

The AMH  test results also meant that I could go ahead with the second test that I needed to ensure that I could try an IUI cycle, which was the hycosi.  I had this on Tuesday.  It was a relatively easy procedure although not very comfortable.  I cycled up to the clinic from work (about 2 miles/15 minutes) and waited for my appointment.  I was shown to a recovery area and asked to remove all my clothing from the waist down (I left on my socks) and was given two hospital robes- one to put on the front and one to use as a dressing gown in the back.  The doctor came in and explained the procedure.  He was assisted by a nurse and another doctor who may have been training.  She didn't do anything, she just watched and asked questions.

They gave me some paracetamol to take when I arrived.  But otherwise, I hadn't taken anything or done anything special.  I think I emptied my bladder in preparation but that was all.  When they were ready for me, I walked into the procedure room which had yellow lights as it's the same room they use for embryo transfers (and the light waves can damage embryos apparently).  Up onto a gynecological table and I scooted down until my butt was hanging off the edge.  Then the doctor did some cleaning with a swab and went in with a speculum.  They put a very fine tube through the cervix into the uterus in order to insert contrast liquid into the uterus and therefore into the Fallopian tubes. This was not very pleasant and the insertion of the tube resulted in some cramping that felt like bad period cramps.  Although they subsided.  Then they removed the speculum and inserted the ultrasound at which point the liquid is sent in which also felt uncomfortable and a bit crampy.  They can see the uterus at this point and then need the liquid to flow into the Fallopian tube.  This required some pushing on my stomach which again was unpleasant although not that bad.  It mostly felt like I really had to pee and had cramps.  I couldn't see the screen they were all looking at but apparently it was all fine and they could see the liquid moving cleanly through the tube and then washing over the ovary.  My other tube was mostly removed when my dermoid cysted ovary was removed.  So that was okay.  Then everything came out and the procedure was done.

Apparently your body absorbs the liquid although you are told to expect some spotting which is pretty much what I've had.  They had me lay on the procedure bed for a bit in case I felt dizzy or woozy or anything but honesty I pretty much felt fine except for a bit crampy and a bit like I had to pee.  So after a few minutes they let me get up and go back to the recover room where I used the toilet, put a pad on, got dressed and that was that!

I had an appointment scheduled with a nurse to go through the next steps which I did.  I also had a lot of forms to fill out giving various consents and so on.  The UK has some very strict laws in place regarding fertility treatment, which is probably a good thing, but means there's a lot of paperwork to deal with.

We talked about what's needed to do the drug assisted IUI and the timing.  It seems clear that I won't be able to start a cycle until my first period in January as I'm away in December and January which makes scheduling around that challenging.  But that's okay.  It gives me time to get the donor sperm ordered which is proving to be its own difficulty but I think I'll write a separate post about that.  At this point, I'm just happy that the tests I've taken so far are good, and the next step is known and vaguely scheduled (as much as you can schedule an irregular period).

Budget update:

Previous total £370
New total £720

Sunday, October 18, 2015

First post

So I thought I'd make a new blog for this new venture.  For anyone new to this blog, you can read about my journey with egg freezing here.  I'm glad that blog has been, and continues to be a resource for women on their personal fertility journeys.

But lots of different things can happen after you freeze your eggs. You may decide not to have a child.  You may meet someone and find out you are pregnant naturally. You may meet someone and decide to use your frozen eggs to try to have a child with them.  Or, like me, you can begin the process of trying to become a mother on your own which may involve using those frozen eggs, or not.

When I started my egg-freezing journey, I of course had already started to think about the possibility of single motherhood.  When I spoke to the counselor she had suggested I move my planning forward, and yet here I am, just over 2 years after I froze my eggs and pretty much on the schedule I anticipated.

I haven't met a partner I want to have a child with, although I will mention that I do have a partner who I see regularly.  Our relationship is great, but at the moment, it's not the sort of one where you make a child together and tie yourself to each other for the rest of your lives.  He knows about my plans.  I'm sure I'll mention him again as this continues, particularly if I'm successful!

So, what's happened so far.

About two to three months ago I met with my new GP (I've moved out of London) to start the process of trying to get pregnant.  In Cambridge where I live now, there are limited options for clinics.  Due to the frequent nature of tests and scans, it is not feasible for me to continue with my London clinic.  So in Cambridge, there is basically one centrally located clinic which is also the NHS clinic.  You can either go through the NHS, or private.  I'm going privately but I also had to be referred by my GP.

So I met with my GP and she was very nice.  She scheduled me for a progesterone test and did a swab test.  Then I had to wait for my period to start so I could get the progesterone test 21 days after it.  I went on day 21 and my progesterone result was 18.  That was low, but my period didn't start.  So I spoke to the GP and he had me come in on day 28 when my progesterone was up to 34.2 (which suggests I've ovulated which was good!) and my period finally came on day 33.  In the meantime I followed up with the clinic and scheduled my first appointment for last Tuesday.  I had the initial consultation with one of the three doctors and she did an ultrasound and they took my blood for a new AMH.

We discussed my options for moving forward.  The discussion was pretty much in line with the last conversation I had with my egg freezing doctor.  If my AMH is okay and my Fallopian tubes are open (I'm scheduled for a Hycosi this Tuesday) then she suggests I try two cycles of drug assisted IUI.  She doesn't think I should waste too much time with it, but as it's much less expensive, and my fertility is unproven, then she thinks it's worth two tries. After that, it's likely to be fresh IVF cycles until I'm either pregnant or running low on resources or we decide that's not a good idea, and then (and only then) will we move on to the frozen eggs.

I've saved and set aside £30k for this journey which is no small thing by any stretch.  That's on top of the money already spent on the egg freezing.  You don't do something like this unless you are really really serious about it.  That money could all have gone to any number of other things.

So, this is where I'm at.  Tomorrow I will call the clinic to see if it's worth proceeding with the Hycosi based on my new AMH test.  I am currently shopping around for donor sperm which will probably be the subject of one of my next posts.  And because of holidays and travel, I'm likely to only be able to start my first cycle of trying to get pregnant in January.  But that's fine.  I have a plan, I'm moving forward, I'm taking action, and holy crap this is really happening.

Stay tuned.


Initial Consultation£370
Current total £370