Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tears for someone I never knew

Today I found out that a fellow "nestie" as I so affectionately call them passed away during childbirth. Her name was Jewelyn and she and her husband Phillip were so excited on the birth of their first child, a girl. Jewelyn went into labor on Saturday and ended up needing an emergency c-section. She then suffered from an Amniotic Fluid Embolism and Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation. She passed away on Sunday at 11:30 am PST.

Jewelyn was a fellow nestie from California and was a frequent poster on many boards that I am part off. The Nest is a group of women who have always been there for me, we have planned our weddings together on The Knot and then all moved over to The Nest and discussed everything from husbands, family, jobs, and having children. The women on that board are some of the most wonderful caring people I have ever known.

Of course my nesties have amazed me once again and have already set up a fund for Jewelyn's husband Philip and baby Gabrielle. A PayPal account under the email address 4jewelyn@gmail.com has been set up. You can make a donation there. All proceeds will be donated to Philip Okamoto. I am sure any amount donated will be extremely helpful even if it's only a dollar. I have been informed that this money can be taxed so the girls are looking into setting up an official fund. I will update the blog with this information when I receive it.

This makes you stop and think how precious life is, hug your loved ones a little tighter tonight as we never know when our last day may be. My thoughts and prayers go out to Jewelyn's husband, and family, and especially her little girl. May God give you strength to get through this and bring you peace.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My take on the embryo situation.

First off, I have to say that my heart goes out to this couple. First to go through the pain of infertility and then to go through IVF to get pregnant only to find out it's not your biological child, I can only imagine the pain that she is going through. I give her a lot of credit for being able to carry a child for another couple, I don't know if I could do that. On the other hand, what a wonderful gift she is giving to another infertile couple, a child is a priceless gift.

I do have to question this IVF lab that made this mix up, having gone through 2 IVF's at 2 different clinics I will say that security is very high and over and over you are saying your name and the lab is verifying that they are giving you the correct embryo. I remember right before my embryo transfer the lab tech asked me my name and double checked it against the petri dish that contained my embryo. So it's a shame that this happened, however humans are still involved and humans make mistakes, although this is a big mistake. But I can assure people that this does not happen everyday- this is a rare isolated incident. But that does not stop the ignorant opinionated people from voicing their opinions.

I have been on two different websites that both were playing the same video of this couple and I could not believe the comments that people were making. These were some of my personal favorites;
"Serves them right, that's what you get for messing with God's plan"
"People who go to these lengths to have kids are selfish"
"So what you can't have a baby, get over it!"
"Why don't you just adopt"
"IVF should be illegal, this is God's way of saying survival of the fittest."

Honestly, I really do not even know where to start. The people who said these disgusting comments should really learn to keep their mouths shut. They obvioulsy know nothing about fertility treatments and I really hope that none of them have to endure the hell of infertility. First of all, IVF is not playing God- there is still alot that has to happen once the embryo is transferred back into the uterus- and I feel that is when God's plan takes over. Secondly, there is nothing selfish about wanting to have your own children, that is a basic human desire, that everyone should get to experience if they choose to. The next comment upsets me the most, "get over it" are you serious! That is the rudest thing you can say to someone. As for the adoption comment- yes adoption is a great alternative for people to build their family- but for some it's not right. Personally, I am totally up for adoption, but I will still pursue fertility treatments to have my own children. And last but not least- God is weeding us out by making 1 in 6 couples infertile, does that mean that if you get cancer you should die, because that is God's plan? HELL NO! My life is not dictated by infertility- it's a disease just like Cancer, Diabetes, or AIDS- it's not a bad person's disease- it just happens, and you get through it, and it makes you stronger.

I hate that there are so many ignorant people in the world who feel that it's their duty to put other down, I think the old school rule of if you have nothing nice to say then say nothing at all applies in this case.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My opnion of The Daily Beast Article

After reading the article that was posted on The Daily Beast I was so mad I think there was smoke coming out of my ears. First off to call wanting to have a child an "obsession" is completely wrong! There is nothing obsessive about wanting to have a family, that is a basic human desire for some. I can think of nothing better to spend your time or money on, its a baby for goodness sake- not a pair of shoes.

To put others down for their decisions when they do not effect the lives of others is so wrong. My decision to pursue IVF does not in any way impact any one else, only me and my husband are affected. There were several people in this article that had medical issues that were causing issues and just because they used assisted reproductive technology (ART) in order to have a child that is wrong. I didn't know that having Hepatitis or HIV banded you from having children. If someone has a disease and they use ART in order to not pass a horrible disease onto their child that is smart, not wrong.

I do not wish infertility on anyone, but in this case- the author needs to walk a mile in our shoes and see how it feels to be disappointed month after month because you cannot get pregnant, then maybe she will have a different opinion about using whatever method necessary to have a baby. I am happy that we have the technologies available to us. This is an instance in which if you do not have anything nice to say, do not say anything at all!

The ignorace of some people!!

This was posted in The Daily Beast today and boy does it stir up a lot of emotions in me and other people going through fertility treatments, enjoy:

From embryo adoption to sperm washing, making a baby is easier—and more complicated—than ever. Doree Shafrir on parenthood's new frontier.

Today's birth announcements come in all shapes and sizes. "Steve and Michael are Preggers!" "Sally, Maria, and Sebastian are Having Twins!" "It's an Adopted Frozen Embryo!"

We live in an age when the obsession with having a child has reached a fever pitch. Single men and women, and couples gay and straight, have more options than ever before—and they're taking advantage of every single one of them. The $4 billion fertility industry has couples going to untold lengths to conceive, and has pushed pregnancy toward the realm of science fiction. People are adopting embryos that would have otherwise been used for stem-cell research, and HIV-infected sperm is being washed clean so it can fertilize an egg. (Whose egg? Maybe the 50-something single lesbian's.) There are sperm banks offering discounts to soldiers who want to store their sperm for their wives to impregnate themselves with in case they die overseas. And more and more often, close family members are acting as surrogates.

With the art of baby-making going from surrealist to abstract, The Daily Beast talked to couples (and singles) whose paths to parenthood were circuitous, but perhaps all the more touching for the length of the journey.

The Sister-in-Law Surrogate

Mindy Denney, a former TV news anchor, had a partial hysterectomy at 19 because of hemophilia in her family; she still had eggs, but no uterus. When she started thinking about having children, she turned to her sister-in-law, Gina, whom she'd known since junior high school. Over a bottle of wine, Mindy and her husband discussed it with Mindy's brother and Gina, and Gina agreed. "For three months she had to take huge progesterone shots in her back every day," Mindy said of Gina's ordeal. "We had to get our cycles together." Mindy's cycle had to be lined up with Gina's so that Gina's uterus would be ready to receive the eggs at the exact moment they were ready.

Diagnosing an Embryo

Mindy also knew she was a carrier for hemophilia—the reason she'd had the partial hysterectomy—and so her embryos underwent PGD, or preimplantation genetic diagnosis. "We had 13 embryos, with eight cells to each embryo. They'd pull one cell off at a time and send it to a clinic, and the clinic would test that one cell and send us back the paperwork and say this one has PGD, this one doesn't, etc. We only had 13 embryos in consideration." Of course this raises the issue of genetic selection, as Mindy herself points out: "People say, oh, you decided not to have the hemophilia child." She declined to say what happened to the rest of the embryos.

The first two clinics Mindy tried refused to work with her because of the genetic disease issues. The third, the Huntington Reproductive Clinic in Southern California, agreed. "The doctor said, I've never done anything like this before. Let's do it," said Mindy.

Adopting Her Own Son

After the embryo was successfully implanted in her sister-in-law—who was living in Austin, Texas—Mindy discovered, months later, that there was another potential wrinkle: She had to get a court order saying that she and her husband, not her sister-in-law and her brother, were the parents. "Otherwise, we would have had to adopt our own son," she said. Today, Mindy's son Alec is a healthy 3 year old. But she and her husband know if they want to have more biological children they'll have to find a new surrogate: While she was pregnant with Alec, Gina developed the anti-E antibody, a condition that can result when a mother's blood type is incompatible with her child's. As a result, Gina is unable to carry any more children as a surrogate, though she can still have more of her own biological children.

Sperm Washing

Today, even a man who’s HIV-positive can conceive with relative safety—he just needs to get his sperm washed first. Dr. Ann Kiessling, a researcher at Harvard Medical School and the founder of the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation, pioneered the use of so-called sperm washing in the United States. Sperm washing can be used when a man with HIV wants his own biological child but wants to be sure he doesn’t pass along the virus.

The process foregoes soap and water, and skips right to the spin cycle. Sperm is spun in a centrifuge and the healthy, presumably non-HIV-infected sperm are the ones that are left in the center. The healthy sperm are then fertilized using IVF or through the "cup" insemination method. According to Kiessling, 101 babies in the U.S. have been born using this method since 1998. "We were going to have a big party when we got to 100, but we realized that most people who have gone through this don't want people to know who they are," she said. "There are quite a number of pregnancies ongoing now."

At first, she said, she had trouble finding fertility specialists who were willing to work with sperm that had been "washed." "Vladimir Troche, who runs a fertility program in Arizona, was the very first to step forward and said, I'll help you with these people. After he started, other programs had started." Sperm washing can also be used by men with hepatitis B, which, according to Kiessling, is "one of the few viruses that can infect the developing embryo."

Claiming a Frozen Embryo

Monica, a 38-year-old woman living with her husband Gary outside of Philadelphia, is pregnant with her first child. But the baby won't share any genetic material with either her or her husband. That's because she adopted the frozen leftover embryos of a Milwaukee woman who had undergone fertility treatments. Many women who undergo IVF either discard their leftover embryos or donate them for stem-cell research. But some IVF users—especially Christian ones—believe that life begins at conception and refuse to destroy or donate their leftover embryos. Instead, they pay to keep them frozen and, in a process that has become similar to adopting a child, wait for the right person to come along to adopt the embryo. The resulting children have come to be called snowflake babies.

Monica went through an agency called Embryos Alive, which has been run by a Cincinnati woman named Bonnie Bernard since September 2003. Bernard matches leftover embryos with women like Monica; the embryo donors must approve each adoption. "On her Web site there's a list of the anonymous donors—what they look like and what they're looking for, and how many embryos they have," Monica explained. "It also says what the mother and father's backgrounds are, and what faith or religious beliefs they have." The couple she chose to adopt her embryos “was perfect,” says Monica. “They fit what we look like and our Christian beliefs, and they wanted a closed adoption.”

Monica and Gary had to submit a background check, birth certificates, baptismal records, deed to their house, health-insurance cards, proof of life insurance, and information about the neighborhood they lived in, as well as three letters of recommendation. Bernard's fee for everything was $3,200.

The Adoptee's Adoption

When it came time for the embryos to actually be transferred, however, Monica hit an unexpected snag: The father of the donated embryos was himself adopted, and had incomplete medical records. Several fertility clinics they contacted refused to do the transfer because of his unknown medical background. "They were afraid they would contaminate the other embryos," said Monica. She finally found a clinic in Delaware that would do the transfer, for which she paid $3,500. Despite these fees, Monica said, embryo adoption "was the most affordable way to go about having my own child." She’s due two days after Christmas.

The Divorcees' Conception

Dr. John Jain, who founded the Santa Monica Fertility Specialists clinic, recalls one patient who had frozen her eggs at age 40 when it seemed that she and her husband would divorce. One year later, at age 41, they reconciled, and the couple came back to Jain's clinic for IVF after she had had a miscarriage. "Miscarriages at that age are related to chromosomal abnormalities—the egg gives rise to genetically abnormal embryos," said Jain. At that point, he said, the patient decided to use her frozen eggs. "I decided to do ZIFT (zygote intrafallopian transfer). I put the eggs in her Fallopian tubes. This was a woman who was in her forties and likelihood of pregnancy through any standard in vitro fertilization method is poor. She'd already had a miscarriage, which showed eggs were on downward side of quality." ZIFT is a laproscopic surgery performed under general anesthesia. Through ZIFT, the woman ended up with a healthy baby.

Seeking Single Motherhood

Staceyann Chin, a lesbian author, poet, and activist, is working on a documentary called Baby Makes Me with the filmmaker Tiona McClodden about attempting to become a single mother. The documentary, which will begin shooting soon, will also explore other women's nontraditional paths to become mothers. "Even if I did have a kid with a partner, I'd be making the choice to have a child who will grow up without a father," said Chin, who has started visiting sperm banks to explore her options. "This whole idea of choosing a kid—when you go to buy sperm, you have Chinese sperm, black sperm, white sperm. You can pay extra to look at a picture of the donor as a baby, to see what your baby might look like."

Chin, who grew up in Jamaica of African and Chinese ancestry, said that embarking on this quest has also raised difficult questions about race. "I had this idea that I'd like to have a kid that looks like me," she said. "When you have a kid, you think, 'My child is going to look like me and my boyfriend.' So that we all look like a family, if i was with another black woman I would choose black sperm. When you don't have that in mind when you're going solo, it's an eeny miney mo setup. You get to manipulate the race of your kid."

Making Other People's Babies

Rick Dillwood and his wife, Amelia, who have been married for seven years, don't have children themselves, and have no plans to. But there will be five children who owe their existence to the two of them. Several months ago, Dillwood, a 29-year-old grad student in North Carolina, donated sperm to his friends, a lesbian couple named Melanie and Karen, who used to be his neighbors. Their baby, a girl, is due in November. And before Amelia, who is now 34, met Rick, she had donated eggs. "So there are four children in the world who share my wife's genetic material who she has no contact with," said Dillwood. "Those kids can contact her when they're old enough. I think part of the reason that Melanie and Karen approached us is because they realized we were into the idea that we didn't want to be responsible for our biological children."

Before Dillwood handed over his sperm, Melanie and Karen drafted a contract stipulating that he knows why he's doing this and what it will lead to. "I have no say in anything about the child," said Dillwood. "I'm not responsible financially in any way for the child." Dillwood said he's not telling his parents about his daughter until the so-called second family adoption goes through. "A couple years ago, my mom said, 'Do you think you're ever going to have kids?' And I said, 'I don't think.' My parents are pretty traditional, and I could tell that didn't make any logical sense to her. So now I'm going to tell her that not only am I not going to have kids, but I'm giving kids to someone else."

Dillwood made a 10-minute film about his experience called How to Make a Heartbeat that screened at the Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival last week. His parents, he said, don't know about the documentary, either.

The Homeless Fetus

Dan Savage, editor of the Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger and the writer of the Savage Love sex advice column, adopted his son D.J. from a homeless woman before the child was even born. Savage has written extensively about D.J.'s adoption in two books: The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant and The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage and My Family. D.J.'s birth mother, whom Savage calls Melissa in his writing, was an inconsistent presence in his life in his early years; there was a period of about a year and a half where Savage thought she was dead. But today they see her about once a year. "She's no longer homeless," said Savage. "She's settled a little more than she used to be. The thing that's complicated now is that it takes them a little time to warm up to each other. D.J.'s shy and so is his mom."

Savage was quick to clarify reports that labeled Melissa a drug addict. "She was using drugs and alcohol in recreational quantities when she got pregnant. The minute she found out she was pregnant, she stopped."

Nine months after D.J. was born, his father showed up. "Then he disappeared and we never heard from him again." Today, Savage is in touch with his son's step-grandmother (his biological grandfather's wife), and says that no one knows where D.J.'s father is; he does know that "D.J. has a half sibling out there somewhere."