Sunday, 30 August 2015

Pantone tests

You may be able to tell that I overthink things.

On Thursday morning, my fertility monitor said no surge.
I used the regular sticks at 11:30. There were two dark lines. But the results line was definitely not as dark as the reference line. So I'm sitting in the work washroom under TERRIBLE light trying to assess if the top of the line is 95% of the reference line and the bottom 90%, or some other variant...
The clinic said 'the same or darker'. Is 95% close enough? What about the 90% at the bottom?

Still in the washroom, I google pictures of other people's sticks. This is what it has come to, people, Looking at PHOTOS of PEE STICKS on the INTERNET. I'm so embarassed.

Then I wrapped my stick in a paper towel and brought it back to my office. I called Aion.

Me: "My stick is like...95%? Definitely not darker. Actually in this light it might just be 90%. Crap I don't know."
Aion: "You want me to do what with this information?"
Me: "I don't know. The clinic said it was supposed to be darker. I shouldn't call. But what if I should call?"
Aion: "Call?"
Me: "But I don't want to be the annoying person who calls when they gave specific instructions of when to call that I'm clearly annoying because this line is certainly not equal to or darker."
Aion: "Only you would think of this in terms of percentages."
Me: "Maybe I should check some sort of pantone test."

But I'm sitting in my office (which is private, but people do have a tendancy to open my door and walk in unannounced) holding a pee stick and I really need to just stop with that immediately. So I wrap it back into its papertowel and shove it deep in my purse to display to Aion that evening, work up my courage, and call the clinic. I swear I left the most ridiculously random, confused message EVER. And then tried to work for the next several hours while I waited for a return call.

When the clinic phoned back, the nurse just told me to come in the next day at 1. I asked about the lines. She says, "Oh, we're just looking for a change in colour from previous lines." "Oh." THAT IS SO NOT WHAT YOU SAID BEFORE.

I got home and showed Aion the lines. She agreed, about 90%. But then (about 7 that night) I tried one of those Wondo tests I had been gifted and it was definitely positive. And the next morning the fertility monitor showed a surge. So...yes, I used three different kinds of tests. Yes, overkill. But I just want to get this right.

Man, I felt better after the Wondo test. I needed actual confirmation. I do not want to get the timing wrong and mess up this change. Each chance needs to be the best possible chance. Too expensive otherwise. I'd be so mad if I didn't get pregnant and then had to sit around wondering if I screwed up my chances because I couldn't read an ovulation test.

Aion officially thinks I'm crazy. She might be right.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Peeing on sticks

As I mentioned previously, I got an electronic fertility monitor a while back. I started using it one cycle just to check it out, but didn't use it all the way to 'peak fertility' because I went away and didn't want to travel with it if I didn't have to. So now that I'm "on cycle" I didn't feel comfortable relying on the monitor alone, because what if it doesn't work and I then end up wasting a month?

So I'm doubling down, because I have this darn monitor and want to use it but don't feel like I can trust it until its reliability is confirmed.

There is an added complication also. The monitor's instructions say to use first morning urine. My clinic wants me to test between 11 - 1. I'm sure the monitor could deal with some other pee, but maybe it wouldn't be as sensitive? Ugh.

And I wasn't keen on carrying the monitor and a test strip into the workplace washroom every day. A single stick is easier to be subtle about, more like an oversized, bright purple, crinkley tampon.

So I'm using the digital monitor to test first morning urine (starting on day 6, per the monitor's instructions) and then the normal sticks for the test between 11-1 (starting day 10, per clinic's instructions). Overkill, yes, but it makes me happy. Look, every cycle is *$%^@!& expensive. If I spend an extra $44 for a box of sticks to make sure I'm doing this right, so be it.

The clinic told me to use the normal sticks with the two lines, not the digital 'smiley face' ones. And then I have to call the clinic before 1pm the day that the line that changes colour is the same as, or darker than, the reference line. Insemination will take place the following day.

I picked up a box of 9 ovulation tests from London Drugs on sale for $44.95. They're sturdy and easy to use. No complaints so far, other than MAN the packages are hard to tear open; I'm using scissors.


Monday, 17 August 2015

Picking the Goods - Our Donor

Picking the donor was the weirdest experience for me. I did not like it at all.

I already wrote here about our initial forays into making our choice.  It got a bit better when I got slightly more used to the process, but only marginally better.

We ended up selecting a few 'must haves' to start. I'm short, so Aion insisted we go for a tall guy. That narrowed things down a bit. Then, to be honest, we just went through them one by one. Using one of our free 24 hour fake email addresses (there's a lot of silly, one-time use gmail accounts out there, 'girlsbuysperm' and degenerating quickly into much more vulgar ones) we opened a LOT of profiles in a bunch of firefox tabs, then when we had enough, flipped through and eliminated obvious 'no's. That left us with a shortlist of maybe 20 or so.

We then printed the short list, whole profile on one page (tiny writing, but we both have decent eyesight). Aion took one colour highlighter and I took another, and we both took turns looking through each profile, highlighting things we found either awesome or concerning. Sometimes we just decided a profile shouldn't be in the shortlist.

From there, we made 'maybe' and 'nope' piles. And then, the hardest task, ranking those that were left.

In the end, for us, it came down to the donor's essay. We figured this profile was the only thing our child would know of his/her genetic heritage until age 18, and perhaps forever. We wanted something that really spoke to the kid. The donor we chose wrote to the kid, rather than about himself. Sure, there was stuff about him too: why he chose to donate, what he had done with his life thus far. But he also addressed the child and offered his tips for the child's future. We thought that was quite special and endearing. He is, of course, also fairly attractive, tall, academically accomplished with some musical talent...all around an amazing sounding guy. And he's going grey a bit early. We have affectionately dubbed him 'Silver fox' and have decided that when his child starts misbehaving we can tell the child about how their fox is showing.



He's also still actively donating, important since we may want a sibling if this process doesn't kill us or exhaust us or bankrupt us first.

So, foxy. Hope you're as advertised.

[Image information: By Zefram (Own work (own photography)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) via Wikimedia Commons]

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Picking the goods - Distributors & Banks

Once we decided we wanted to go with a bank, we had to make some further choices.

My blood test showed that I was CMV+, which means I was not restricted in by my donor's status (CMV+ means I can have either a positive or negative donor; if I was CMV- I would need to find a negative donor).

We also decided it was important that our child be able to contact his/her donor after age 18. Open ID sperm is slightly more expensive than non-open ID sperm and there is a smaller selection, but those appears to us to be the only downsides for a huge potential benefit. Aion is adopted and will have a much harder time finding her birth parents, should she choose to do so. This was part of our decision-making process. In addition, since we had the ability to give the child a choice later in life, we felt it was important not to make that choice for him/her.

Our clinic accepts shipments from only three sources: ReproMed, CanAmCryo, and Outreach. Confusingly, these are distributors rather than sperm banks. The distributors can ship sperm from a variety of banks.

The reason for this restriction is because of Health Canada restrictions. There is sperm out there that people in other countries can use, but clinics in Canada must use "Canadian Compliant" sperm. They get to regulate this because sperm falls under the purview of the Food and Drugs Act. Kinda funny, but it serves a good purpose. One of the requirements is that sperm must be stored for 180 days after collection, and then the donor must be tested again to ensure that he remains transmissible disease-free, because some infectious diseases can be found in bodily fluids long before a test would detect them. (This is one of the reasons we chose to go with a bank, as we discuss in an earlier post.) If you're a big nerd like me and interested in the requirements for Canadian Compliant sperm, check out this link.

We checked out all three distributors.

We did not find Outreach's homepage very user-friendly. There is a lot of text and the fact they call themselves a "health clinic" is confusing. Located in the middle of a line of links is one called 'donor listings'. Clicking on that leads you to this image:
We didn't have any prior knowledge of the particular banks so chose to 'Search ALL'. That leads to a list of Canadian Compliant donors that you can scroll through (10 or 20 at time from the current selection of 779 donors), search or filter based on bank, certain physical and genetic features, religion, CMV status and whether the donor is an 'Open ID' donor. Then you can click on the 'profile' to be directed to the bank's website where you are supposed to be able to obtain more information about the donor.

There was a script on the list page that my computer did not like. I got an annoying pop-up requesting that I make a choice about what to do about the script and the pages seemed to load very very slowly.

The information available about Outreach donors depends on the bank. CLI has a substantial amount of information available for free but one must pay for more extensive information such as photos. ESB has no additional information available without writing to Outreach and buying an extended profile. The FFX link leads you to the homepage for FairFax, a bank, where you have to re-search by donor number.

I found the Outreach interface to be clunky and frustrating. We did not spend very much time looking at the site.

ReproMed at least highlights its 'Sperm Bank' button in a different colour at the top of the page. Clicking on it and through the dropdown menu to 'Donor semen catalogues' leads you to a page with a list that looks similar to that from Outreach, but without the ability to filter or search. There were only 52 listings to scroll through on the one page. You can download a 'Donor Portfolio' for free or log in and purchase 90 days' access to the extended information for $67.80.

I was not impressed with ReproMed's lack of selection and found the information available in the donor profiles a bit limited. ReproMed's samples are the least expensive available though.

Finally, CanAm Cryo. It opens on a graphical search tool where you can search from among 349 current donors. It displays 20 listings per page in the same type of list as on the other sites. You can view a bit more extended information on the CanAm site than on Outreach, but similar to Outreach, you have to click through to the bank's site (and perhaps long in and pay) for more extensive inforamation.

I liked CanAm's user interface the best of the three. But I will admit: they are all AWFUL. I hate how the pictures are hidden and expensive. I hate how people are reduced to basic characteristics. I hate how the physical is emphasized way more than the personal/medical. I hate the lists and the four billion clicks. There are so many more and better ways of looking for sperm. I guess I expected something more like petfinder, or online dating, where the picture is important and so is the temperment information and it's not just a long page of text. I think an even better way of doing it would be to select the most important MEDICAL or TEMPERMENTAL items that concern you, then flip through photos tinder-style until you stop on someone you want to learn more about.

Eventually we ended up just searching on the Xytex (bank) site for Canadian-Compliant specimens, then ordered by number from CanAm Cryo. We liked the amount of information available on Xytex, and found a donor there that worked for us. It was also the most expensive choice we could have made. Typical for me.

TIPS
  1. Create one or more fake email addresses to use for trial accounts. On Xytex one can view extended profiles for free for 24 hours on a new account. We have already made about 5 fake accounts.
  2. Think about how the physical features of the donor would interact with the genetics of the person providing the egg. I have a strong nose. We wanted to avoid donors with strong noses so the kid wouldn't have a comically embarassing nose. 
  3. Don't forget the lubrication. This is a creepy, weird process. It is partially genetic engineering (creepy with super-discriminatory undertones), partially traumatic (even though I'm not sleeping with them, I'm still learning an awful lot about these men and it's quite creepy particularly because they're all jailbait...), partially a really hard compromise (turns out Aion and I have really different taste in men!) and, I found, not even remotely fun. It took alcohol.
  4. Take your time. We had to do this over several weeks because we found it quite intense. Which leads to...
  5. Leave enough time for your order. My clinic wants the sperm to be at the clinic prior to Cycle Day 1. And it's not like you can just order online and they will ship the next day. They're pretty quick, but CanAm still needed to confirm availability, process my payment, confirm everything with me by phone, and then ship overnight. That took a few days.
  6. Have your payment ready. I didn't do the math in my head (clearly self-preservation) so when it came time to order I was not at all prepared to shell out the nearly $5K for my 5 samples. That was more money than I could put on my credit card all at once. CanAm says they take PayPal but I could not make that work. They don't take Debit or Debit VISA. And so when I finally arranged for an e-transfer from my bank, my bank stopped payment and called me, assuming the transaction was fraudulent. It made for a gongshow of a morning while I was trying to sort all that out, particularly because I didn't abide by tip #5 and was convinced that the delays would mean I would miss this cycle.
  7. Don't buy the extended profile or pictures until you are actually pregnant. I have not paid for any information about my donor yet. I will, for my child, if I get pregnant. But if I don't get pregnant with this sperm, I don't need overpriced pictures of some random dude.

Donor decisions

Obviously we have a problem. We have no sperm. No sperm, no baby.

Couples we know have used three different methods: a previously-known donor, a known donor who provides sperm to needy couples outside the bank system (usually found on the web), and sperm banks.

Option 1: previously known donor. We thought about this for quite a while when we were first talking about baby-making. We thought it would be great to have someone from Aion's side of the family involved. It would be an artificial 'genetic' bond because Aion was adopted, but it would still allow her to feel a bit more connected to the process. But we ultimately decided against it. First, we learned that it is really complicated to use a known donor through a fertility clinic. The donor has to go through all kinds of screening and tests which can, for some incomprehensible reason, only take place in Toronto, and takes quite a long time. Also, we were somewhat concerned about asking someone who didn't yet have a family of his own, particularly with one particular choice who, we know, wants children. We were also worried that asking could change our interpersonal dynamic, and be awkward, and maybe we just didn't want to have the conversation. What originally seemed like a natural choice just became more and more complicated the more that we talked about it.

Option 2: the 'Craigslist' method. Ok, I think this is just kind of creepy. I understand that most of these men just want to help people, the same way that people donate to the banks. But the in-person aspect creeps me out. And there is much less selection. And how do you deal with the screening/testing? Then there is the legal aspect. I would want an iron-clad contract, but even that isn't enough protection in my view. This is someone who knows you, who can find you. The BC courts like to make decisions based on the "best interests of the child" which often includes the right to know their genetic heritage and their 'parents'. I don't want to have legal contracts or even the slightest possibility of a threat to our custody. I also would prefer to keep this as medical as possible, and a known-donor of this nature adds a personal human aspect to this whole thing that I'm just not into.

That left Option 3: a bank. There are many advantages. There is a large selection and you get a great deal of personal and medical history from the donor. The banks have very substantial screening and testing. One just places an order and the sperm arrives at your clinic within days. There are also huge downsides, the biggest and most significant is cost. Like $500 - $800 PER VIAL, plus shipping fees from the vendor, and plus 'receiving' and storage fees from the clinic ($250 storage per year, $250 receiving fee per order).

I am content with our choice, but it is shocking how hard it can be to make these decisions. It makes me angry to think that there are families like mine who could not afford the bank option and so may make a choice they are not comfortable with solely for financial reasons, when there are so many people out there in the world who get to enjoy sex and end up with a baby. It's not fair.

Summer break

I went back to work the Tuesday following my laparoscopy, so I only missed four days of work, but I'll admit I wasn't working at full capacity the first two days back. I was just bored and wanted to get back to work. Daytime TV is AWFUL.

I had a prescheduled vacation in July, so Aion and I went on a roadtrip - the kind of great time we can have together that will be much more difficult once we have children. It was a fantastic time.

While we were away, we visited my dad who lives far away. He knows we were thinking about having a family. I know he loves children and he enjoys girlfriend's kids' kids, but he is less than thrilled about our consideration of baby-making.

Aion has several disabilities, including depression and anxiety. My dad and his girlfriend are busy and loud. This does not make visiting easy for Aion. She gets tired easily and sometimes withdraws rather than spending time socializing with my family. Aion then feels guilty, the girlfriend gets upset and assumes Aion just doesn't want to take part, and that makes the whole situation worse. Everyone ends up frustrated and upset. I run triage and try not to get upset myself, when all I want is to spend time with my dad, who I miss terribly, but the girlfriend is in the way trying to make us all this imaginary one big happy family as if force feeding us cookies will help. It's dysfunctional.

Anyway, what became apparent on this particular trip is that my dad is concerned that Aion won't be able to handle being a parent. I know he is coming from a place of concern for me, but he refuses to recognise how much his words hurt.

I get quite defensive when he starts talking about how 'hard' having kids is. I know it's hard. I can't imagine how hard it will be but I can imagine hard things. I can deal with hard things. So can Aion. We won't be perfect parents but we will be good parents. We will have a happy family with typical family problems. We will get through them, just like everyone else does.

And then he goes on about how he always wanted more kids but it just didn't happen and then I feel like he's upset I 'turned out gay' and won't give him the perfect vision he had all set out in his head for me.

I ended up yelling and crying and basically proving with my poor behaviour that I couldn't handle all this adult stuff. Goal completely not accomplished.

We worked out a bit of stuff during the trip but frankly we have a long way to go. 

The road trip meant that we missed our July window. And frankly I kind of spaced out a bit too, forgetting all about this process for a while. That was nice.

And suddenly I realized that it was a few days before I expected my period and I still had not yet ordered the sperm. Time to kick things into action, like, NOW.