Category Archives: sperm

pops it is

I thank you all for your thoughtful responses to my question in my last post. It helps to see other people’s perspectives, particularly the concerns, and it was all good fodder for discussion for J and I. We are about 95% certain we are going to go with our old donor, Pops.

The first consideration, of course, was the medical matter, and because BG’s oncologist told us this was not a hereditary issue (and because she knows this disease better than almost anyone else in the world), I trust her. We had a lengthy discussion with her about it, and she didn’t know what she would do either, though she never once suggested we use someone else, only that we make the decision that felt right to us knowing that even the mutation that made BG more at risk for JMML was not hereditary. I imagine we’re always going to be a little gun shy about any child’s health, but this sort of lightning really doesn’t strike twice. It would be statistically pretty much impossible, and while there are always other cancers and childhood illnesses, I have a fair amount of certainty we’ll not see JMML in our own family ever again.

It occurred to me as we entertained using another donor that we would be opening ourselves up to a whole new set of odds, unknown genetics, etc. We wouldn’t change donors to have a known donor. We don’t necessarily want that, and in BG’s case, it wouldn’t have helped anyway (any parent can only even be a half match for a child who needs bone marrow, for example, and a half match really isn’t good enough). So that issue is sort of irrelevant to us too.

With the health matters out of the way, the biggest factors are psychological, emotional, sentimental. We always wanted to meet a future sibling of BG’s–long before leukemia ever became a part of our lives. We still want to meet that sibling with similar genetics. He or she will be a new person, a new soul, and an individual all his/her own. The thing that was so great about BG was that he was utterly himself. J and I didn’t get in the way of that. If he was going to be into kitchen appliances, well then we let him. We gave him an old CD player so that he could have control over his own music. We let him pick out clothes that he liked. We valued his opinion and his sense of self, and we encouraged him to be him, even when that happened to be so different from what we expected. We would do that for any child because it’s how we parent. That fear of transferring hopes and dreams we had for BG to another child is something people have encouraged us to consider, but our real hopes and dreams for BG were for him to live a healthy, happy, long life. We would have those dreams for any child. We’re certainly not going to put a blender in our baby’s crib to encourage a love of appliances, but you can bet we’ll cook with another child, and if he or she likes it, great. We’ll read to another child, and if he or she likes the same books, that will be wonderful; if not, we’ll get to explore something new. We’ve definitely thought about all of this, and what it comes down to is that we want to keep being parents, and we want to keep being the same kind of parents because, well, that’s what parents do. And we want to be parents of BG’s full sibling first and maybe someone not at all related to him later.

So with our decision mostly made, it seems we’re heading in the direction of TTC again. I have an early morning alarm set and a basal thermometer at my bedside. I even have a Fertility Friend app on my phone (I feel like I’m trying to get knocked up in a different century!). Sometime in the coming few months, I’ll put away the wine (mostly) taper off the caffeine (mostly) and even move my body a little in hopes of creating a happy environment for some happy little cells to grow. Honestly, most days it’s hard to imagine, and I don’t know how it’s going to be to go through the roller coaster of this process. I hope it’s healing. I hope it’s a short journey. In the meantime, I’m trying to be a bit selfish, hoping to find myself beneath the heaps and heaps of grief that sit on me each day so that I’ve got something to offer a new child, my wife, and, yes, even myself.

 

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Filed under babies, sperm

take two?

This week, I visited Fertility Friend for the first time in four years. I opened up a chart and plotted some details about my cycle, and then I closed it up quickly because I felt a little bit guilty and a little bit scared.

You see, J and I had planned to start trying again once BG was healthy. We had, in fact, been thinking in this direction before BG got sick too, but we obviously had to table it. We didn’t want anything to distract us from the important task of caring for our son through his disease.

Now that we are where we are–grieving mothers without a child–we find ourselves knowing with a great deal of certainty that we need to have another child. Neither of us can imagine living our lives without a little one to look after. We miss reading stories, singing songs, even worrying about what our little guy might be getting into. Our lives are far too quiet. It’s too easy to go places. Our schedules are far too bare. Our clothes are much too free of grimy hand prints and bits of kid food. The back seats of our cars may as well be caverns.

But in our minds, these things are supposed to be, and before long, when we’re ready, we’ll be working on creating the next love of our lives.

This community will understand our unusual predicament as we explore this possibility. We had one donor, and he’s still available. Between my genes and his, we had a really beautiful child. But we also had a child with a very rare disease, and while there is no known hereditary link, there is still this question about whether we ought to use our old donor or go with a new one.

On one side, there is the sentimental pull to have a child who will resemble our BG, who will maybe sound like him or have some similar mannerisms. On the other is this idea that maybe we shouldn’t go there again. Maybe there is some weird thing that happened between my DNA and the donor’s.

We have talked to our son’s oncologist about this. She is, after all, one of the leading experts on the disease he had. However, she found the question just as difficult as we do. She sees these cases of this disease, and it’s so very, very rare that she just doesn’t see them in the same family. She also studies it endlessly in the lab, and there are no inherited traits. It’s a genetic anomaly. It’s a case of really bad luck. We have asked other professionals in this field too, and their general hunch is that, no, we shouldn’t. One doctor asked, “Why would you?”

The thing is, no one would ask a straight couple whether they were going to seek a sperm or egg donor for any subsequent children. If they were going to have more children, they would simply have more children because that’s what people do. And they have reminders in their new children of the child who died.

I don’t know what the right answer is. I know I awoke from a nap today to find my wife perusing the listings at our sperm bank, and I just found myself rejecting the donor she had pulled up because I couldn’t imagine anything else.

We’ve got time to figure it out. I’m not ready yet to be pregnant, but I think in a few months’ time, I will be ready, and we are going to have to figure it out.

So tell me, friends, what would you do?

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Filed under sperm

our own little iceman

Four years ago this week, my wife and I were finishing grades, and we were sharing our apartment with a storage dewar filled with liquid nitrogen and a tiny vial of cells. We waited and waited for just the right moment. I had no hope left that we would be making a baby, but when my wife said she thought it was time, I dug deep for that hope again and we urged those cells toward what we hoped would be a waiting, fertile egg. It turns out it worked because on New Year’s Eve, I got my first “Pregnant” on a pregnancy test, and 38 weeks later, I was cradling our pudgy Baby Genius in my arms.

This week, four years later, we are waiting again with frozen cells to create new life. Our son’s bone marrow donor underwent surgery a week ago, and the hematologists here have frozen those cells in anticipation of our son’s transplant tomorrow. It took some time for me to have faith in this process, in the fact that when most people get fresh cells, BG was going to get cryopreserved cells because an infection delayed his transplant by a week. But I keep reminding myself that our son is a child of modern science. Cryopreserved cells, while foreign to most, are familiar to us. We know they work because we have  little boy to show for it.

The subject of our son’s origins have come up from time to time in the context of his illness. When we learned of his diagnosis, there was a fair amount of disappointment that 1) we didn’t know the donor, and 2) there weren’t any siblings. I never imagined when we chose a no-identity-release donor that this would be an issue, and I allows myself to fret about this for about ten seconds. I contacted the sperm bank to ask if they would contact the donor. I was shocked when they actually did try–multiple times–but the guy didn’t call back, and while I hoped he would, I respected that he didn’t. And, as it turns out, there was no need. The donor would have only had a chance at being a half-match. Our best bet would have been a sibling, and that didn’t exist, but when it came to looking for a donor for BG, the odds were finally in our favor. Our decision to choose a donor so similar in ethnic background to J’s (and to mine) ensured that we had literally dozens of good potential matches.

More important than that, we have one exceptional match: the young woman who volunteered to go through surgery to save our son’s life. What is lovely, and I know this is something our community will appreciate uniquely, is that at present, BG has his sperm donor’s blood type. Following his transplant, as his cells recover and his new marrow starts making new red blood cells, our son will have the bone marrow donor’s blood type, which happens to be the same as my wife’s. It seems only fitting.

Tomorrow will be a new birthday for Boy Genius. From now on, we’ll celebrate both the day he made his first appearance in the outside world and the day he received a renewal of his life. I can’t wait to celebrate September 5th and December 20th for years to come.

I never imagined when I started this blog so long ago that I would go from writing about trying to conceive our first child to trying to save our first child’s life, but here I am. It’s hard, harder than anything I’ve ever done, but we’re doing it.

——————-

I’m sure I’ll make an appearance here in another month or so. In the meantime, if you want to follow BG’s journey through leukemia and back, you can read along at C is for Crocodile.

 

 

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Filed under leukemia, sperm

when i’m awake at 4 a.m.

These days, when I finally go to sleep, I’m usually out. If I’m at the family guest house down the street, I sleep like a log, and wake up to the commuter train rumbling, my back screaming from hard sleep, and my gut full of anxiety–but at least that’s at 7 a.m. or so. Here in the hospital, I sleep on this pull-out chair bed, and I awake to every alarm, creak of a door, “code blue” announcement over the overhead paging system, and the nurses’ attempts at drawing my son’s blood from the tiny space between my bed and his (This annoys me to no end because when they’re really good night nurses, they just bed over the bed to reach his arm. No need to wake everyone!). This last item is something that happens every morning, and it wakes me up most of the time. This is when my mind starts racing, when I can’t go back to sleep. It’s when I start to obsess over the things I cannot change.

For the past few days, I cannot stop grieving my biological grandchildren. I know. That was a weird statement, but here’s the reality that I haven’t discussed here: after his bone marrow conditioning (read: hardcore chemo that essentially kills off all the healthy blood cells in our child’s body), our boy is going to be infertile. At the age of three, this hardly matters. I cannot imagine what this will mean to him as he is older, and I can’t imagine how we’ll tell him. When the doctor from the bone marrow team told us this bit of news, it was one of a thousand things she rattled off in the space of fifteen minutes. I remember her saying in her thick Croatian accent, “But as you know, there are many alternative means of having children.” I remember my heart breaking for my son. Over and over and over again.

Obviously, I know that there are many ways to have a child, and with the appropriate preparation, our son will accept that this is his lot (if he even wants kids), but I can’t help but be sad that I’ll never know what BG’s offspring would look like, and I can’t help but be sad that he won’t ever look into his own child’s face and see traces of himself. (How’s that for projection?)

Our research doctor, this brilliant guy who spends much of his days looking through a microscope, tells us that by the time BG is old enough to start a family, chances are science will have an answer to his infertility, that this certainly isn’t something to fret over. Maybe he’s right. I mean, he is the sort of person who knows where that is headed.

But then there is the issue, too, that maybe a person with my son’s genetic mutation shouldn’t reproduce. Maybe chances would be too high that he would have to go through the same nightmare we’re facing with his own child. Science doesn’t know this yet, but I can tell you that it has me wondering about my own genetics, whether or not this is something I somehow “gave” to him, whether it is something a future sibling of BG’s would have to worry about. It’s pointless to think about this right now. I can’t do anything about it, but still, it’s there.

These aren’t really thoughts I want to be having at 4 a.m. They aren’t thoughts I want to be having any time, but I’m learning every day that this disease we’re fighting and the treatments to save our son’s life are going to affect us forever. Sometimes it’s hard to grasp that.

 

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Filed under Boy Genius, insomnia, sperm

end of day cranky thoughts

I’m so tired from a very long day at school, a somewhat demeaning meeting with the faculty member who observed me (she told me I could work for one of the full-timers as a grader since I don’t have classes next semester), and just utter exhaustion from the infighting and the stress associated with the Prop 8 shit. I am not feeling like my nice, polite, articulate self, so I present to you three important matters for today’s post:

Matter One: If you’d like someone toward whom you can direct your anger over those missing civil rights, take a gander at this asshat: Jim Quinn. Could this man be any more disgusting?

Matter Two: If you need a forum for your anger, a place and time to stand with others like you, Join the Impact this weekend. Find a rally in a city near you here. J and I will be rallying in our nearest city on Saturday. Where will you be? (And for fuck’s sake, don’t tell me you’ll be boycotting California wine. It’s the best this country has to offer, and we need it in times like these!)

Matter Three: J ordered our sperm today. We have a new donor (since we used the last vial of the old one). I’m so glad to be on to this cycle already.

Tomorrow, J and I are meeting up with my mom to shop for xmas gifts. It will be a nice reprieve from all of this hoopla. My greatest hope is that we find a perfect reading lamp. I can’t abide reading student papers in permanent mood lighting any longer.

I hope I’m not so grumpy tomorrow.

 

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Filed under Marriage Equality Resources, Politics, Ramblings, sperm

the best laid plans

Oh, where do I begin?

After yesterday’s post, we waited throughout the day, our anticipation building. I was distracted as I taught. J couldn’t get any work done at home. It was just one of those days when we had a singular focus and it didn’t have anything to do with our students. We were both so excited and hopeful that our new plan was finally going into action.

Our midwife, C, told us in the morning that she would call after her last appointment of the night to let us know what she was able to find as far as catheters go. We waited and waited. I had a beer. We had dinner. We watched some television. I started to fall asleep on the sofa with a cat or two. Then the phone finally rang. At 9:45. C was on the other end, and she was telling me in my groggy state that there was no catheter.

Um.

She then related to me advice from her OB friend:

1. We just needed to get the sperm on the cervix.

2. We could use a turkey baster.

I nearly dropped the phone. C was going to come to our house with some kind of modified turkey baster to do an IVI–and too late at that. As any TTCer knows, turkey basters are wasteful and problematic even when you’re working with fresh sperm, but when you’ve got half a teaspoon of frozen that cost hundreds of dollars? Let’s just say it would have been laughable had tears not been streaming down my face. I thanked her for her efforts, let her know that with the frozen sperm and IVI, we needed to act much more quickly, and worked on stifling my tears. She wished us well, told us she would have the supplies should we need her next time, but that she hoped our baby spirit was on its way to us. She’s lovely; she really is. She’s just not prepared.

When I got off the phone, J was furious, and I was starting to cry. Because we weren’t doing IUI anymore, we needed to get this done now, and we were completely unprepared. We both calmed down, and I began rummaging through our bathroom trying to find a needle-less syringe that didn’t exist. By now, it was after 10:00pm. No pharmacies/drug stores were open. Think, T. Think! I remembered Safe.way had a pharmacy, so we piled into the car and wandered the aisles of the grocery store until finally we found the syringe. We also found a bottle of wine.

It took awhile for me to get into a place where we could do this. I just wasn’t prepared mentally or emotionally for the old fashioned inseminations. This time was supposed to be so much better; we were supposed to be increasing our chances. Oh, I was in a bad space. I wavered between crying and thinking–trying to figure out if there was anything else we could do to up our odds.

Finally, we got out some gloves, snipped the zip tie holding the top on the dewar, and pulled out our vial of sperm. I knew there wouldn’t be nearly as much as we had in the past, but neither of us was prepared for the teeny-tiny amount. J was particularly surprised and forlorn.

We went to bed with our glasses of wine, tried to get the syringe as close to my cervix as possible and depressed the plunger the centimeter it needed to go to get the stuff where it needed to go. In the past, we always made sure that this was done amidst some intimacy so that I could have an orgasm. Last night that wasn’t working though, even with our very best vibrator. All I could do was cry and lie there with my hips propped up while J tried to comfort me. And I rotated (rotisserie chicken style).  I was able to rotate. But the orgasm eluded me.

And that is how our long, long break ended. Today we both woke up feeling like it didn’t even happen. It was all so weird and surreal and so unlike what we had planned. But we did do it, and we had two really great things going for us: viable sperm and timing. During Reproducing Genius Phase 1, one of those crucial items was always missing, and more often than not, both were (hence the lack of baby after a year of trying). I’d say our chances have increased dramatically, despite our loss of plans, despite our disappointments and the strangely sad insemination. Still, I’m not sure where that giddiness and hope went.

But here we are, rubbing our eyes and stumbling into our first two week wait in half a year. I’m sure it will hit me soon, right?

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Filed under insemination, midwife, sperm, ttc, TWW

Guess what’s in our dining room…

The above is a tank, or dewar, of you will. Inside this tank, we’ve got sperm on ice. This is our first ever frozen sperm, and it’s an exciting sight indeed.

The sperm showed up two days early, so if I have a freak early ovulation, we’ll be prepared. It’s good to be prepared. Also in stock are a fresh pack of ovulation tests, our very own speculum provided by our midwife, and a whole lot of excitement because, my friends, we are sperming up this week!

Today is CD10. My typical ovulation date in the past was day fifteen. It could come as early as day thirteen or wait as long as day 17. All I know is it’s on its way and the sperm is here and we are oh so ready.

Last night, our neighbor came over, and we created and blessed a new house altar dedicated solely to our new TTC efforts. You can see it below:

Of note on the altar are

  • the lavendar candle we always use to symbolize our future child,
  • a moonstone egg (perhaps the most obvious–and fabulous–fertility symbol one might muster up),
  • stones (both gemstones and river/ocean stones) that J and I have collected throughout our years together (these are surrounding the lavendar candle),
  • a rune symbolizing masculine energy and fertility (we thought some balance might be in order),
  • rose petals from our wedding this past June,
  • a prayer shawl blessed by Ammachi (a guru who embodies the divine mother from whom I received darshan–a type of blessing in the form of a hug–before I met J).

There are other altar staples as well–salt water in a bowl that was my great-grandmother’s, a big chunk of amethyst crystal, marigolds, sage, extra candles, and so on.  It feels so good to have this here, to be focusing our energies on creating our baby in such a fresh, new, positive way.

We’re also shifting our focus a little to see if it changes how we cope with this process. We obviously want a baby, and this has always been our focus, but for now we’re looking torward me being pregnant–looking more toward our immediate future. J keeps telling me how beautiful I will be when I’m pregnant, and I keep dreaming about how it will feel. Instead of thinking so much about that baby-shaped hole in our lives, we’re imagining how great it will be when I have a big giant belly full of baby when I officiate our friends’ wedding in July or how annoying and amusing it will be to be stifling nausea  and fatigue when I’m trying to grade final exams in December. Yes, these are the things I am looking forward to, these are the things that are driving us forward and keeping big grins across our faces tonight.

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Filed under Pregnancy, sperm, ttc

intoxicating

I just placed our order for our first ever vial of frozen donor sperm. We’re only ordering one this time around for financial reasons, but it seemed to work out perfectly. Our first choice of donors had run out, and for our second choice, there was only one IUI vial left. We took it. Somehow, that seemed right. Maybe it’s the only one we’ll need (I can hope, right?), or maybe we’ll have to switch to a different donor next time. All I know is we’ve got the goods coming to our house in ten days. Ten days. That’s nothing compared to the six months we’ve been waiting to start this up again.

I haven’t had this feeling of giddy anticipation about this whole process in a very long time. It has been so difficult to imagine having hope or excitement, and yet I do again. We don’t know how long it will take, but we have a plan to keep going this way until we’re pregnant or we can’t afford to take this route anymore. It feels so good to have a clear plan, to know that we’re using a tried and true method, and to have some fucking control for a change.

Our neighbor friend has been sending me affirmations about hope. She did a tarot reading for me, and it’s all full of hope. She drew three cards, and here’s the summary she emailed me:

The first one:  You have money worries on your mind, and you have to let that go.  It said that you can’t give up hope too soon.  And to keep yourself healthy. 
 
The second one: Appreciation, and that someone will offer assistance and helpful advice.  I am thinking your midwife???  Could be…
 
The third and final: Your patience, honesty, kindness and loyalty are rewarded. 
I haven’t dipped into divination tools in a long time, but this was nice to see. I’m thinking it’s time to start lighting candles again, to put gemstones in my pockets, to pull out the runes and see what they have to say (I really am a witch at heart). If nothing else, they’ll help me pass the time and maybe even throw some extra hope my way. Our midwife is encouraging us to light candles for the insemination, to raise energy and make our intentions known. She really is good for me, for us. She is bringing back that side of me that wants to call on the goddess/universe/magic to make this happen. So we will be setting up our baby altar again and drawing our baby’s soul toward us in as many ways as we can.
I am still cautious. I am very realistic about the slim chances involved in this first cycle working, and J and I are prepared to deal with the letdown should it come, to take the steps toward the second cycle, and the third and fourth and…oh, I hope it doesn’t take that long. But you get the picture. I know what sort of ride we may have ahead of us. But today, I’m clinging to this excitement because it feels so damn good to be drunk on hope.

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Filed under midwife, sperm, ttc, witchiness

game on

I started spotting tonight.

Just after I noticed the spotting, I happened to check my email and heard from the cryobank. Our fear had been that we would have to pay a dewar deposit, which would have been bad news. Very bad news. We would have been out this cycle.

The news from the email: no deposit required.

We will order sperm on Friday. We will inseminate in approximately two weeks.

Reproducing Genius Phase II has officially begun, and tears are streaming down my face. Holy shit! This break is officially over!

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Filed under cryobank, good news, sperm, ttc

dreaded paperwork

I don’t know what it is, but every time J and I try to sign up with a sperm bank, something is amiss with our paperwork. Yes, we follow directions. Hell, I’m meticulous to a fault, but every time, something is wrong. Something is missing. This time, they want to know the departments we teach in and we have to use a different witness. What will it be next? Perhaps I’ll need to take a new driver’s license photo, or maybe my signature will need to be more legible (good luck with that!). Holy hell. Why does every fucking step in this process have to include hitches?

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Filed under sperm, ttc