Wednesday, September 28, 2016


So I may have mentioned that Viking's birthday present this year was an Ancestry DNA kit.  Just how Viking the Viking truly is will be interesting.  Of course I got one for myself for good measure.  Tonight, I finally spit into the little vial I was sent, sealed it and placed it into the tiny postage paid box for the mail.  I then went online, registered my kit, and began a to work on my itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny family tree.

Niblet was by my side as I typed in the scant information I know about my lineage.  I could only conjure up both the first and last names of my great grandparents on my paternal side.  Virtually Everyone on my Mom's side was entered as just a first name with the "deceased" box checked.  But check this out, I actually learned my father's matrilineal grandmother's full name, including the fun Polish spelling of her maiden name.  "Niblet, that's her, that's my Mémé's mother!"  "So that's my great-great-grandmother?  Cool."

And this exercise was all fun and games until Niblet started at me with her enormous soulful hazel eyes and said the following:

"I'm sad.  If I never have any babies, that means our family dies, right?"


I cheered her up a bit with the reminder of my sole cousin's children.  And the jillion second cousins she has (and knows) from her Viking side.  So yes Niblet, the families do live on..... but my mother's branch is dangling by a thread.

Fucking Holocaust.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

"Stop thinking. Act."

I recently sat down at lunch with a good friend who is the ONLY person besides my husband that I feel safe with sharing the musings in my head.  She is an older mom, one of the lucky ones who found that last good egg in her forties via IVF.  It was really helpful bouncing all of this off on her (including the eye-rolling I got in response to describing the spirit medium's words).  Walking around with all of this I've-gotta-secret-ey-ness has been rougher than I thought it would be.

Her: "You don't want to have to travel for IVF, it's hard enough to deal with the monitoring and everything when it's local."
"Me: Yeah, but apparently donor egg IVF really does vary widely across the country. Not to mention it's a really different process.  I wouldn't be stimming my own ovaries, so I wouldn't need the kind of monitoring you needed."
Her: "Well, I still think that you should at least start locally and see where you can get.  You really need to stop thinking, start doing. It's so clear to me that you want a baby.  It's much easier to start acting locally, so start acting."

So, Part I of Acting:  There is a clinic about ten minutes from my house, actually, that is not Babies Guaranteed.  They do have a donor egg program.  They were my friend's clinic as a matter of fact, and they are known to cycle women who are not sure bets by any stretch, which does likely lower their SART stats.  Actually, Viking's old primary care physician had a baby through them in her forties (not sure whether it was via donor egg) and again at age 50 (definitely via donor egg).  Viking has done very little way in the research (nah, who am I kidding he's done none) over the years about ANY of my fertility bullshit, but one day he came home from an appointment with her with a little torn off slip of paper with that clinic's name on it.

I poked around a bit.  The clinic has a donor egg program with an agency I've already reached out to to ask about Open ID donors, and a frozen donor egg program through one of the few reputable frozen egg banks that definitely has open ID donors.  The clinic may also offer a guarantee program, though it's a tad unclear from their website.  But all of this is a start, I guess.  Fine.  I might as well make a consultation appointment.

Part II of Acting is a conversation with my mom.  I have dipped my toe into those waters already.... it's kind of hard.  When I talk to her about wanting a baby, frankly, all she does is blame herself for not pressuring Viking and I to start procreating immediately after Niblet was born. Her exact words: "I should have told you two to just get busy when I moved down to (your city) that year to watch Niblet." Not helpful, Ma.  I also had to re-explain to her that I was already rejected as an Own Egg IVF candidate at 40  ("Oh," she said.  Long Pregnant Pause. "I didn't realize that.").  I've brought up donor eggs with her, in the abstract. In the context of being told by doctors that this was my only pathway to a baby.  Also in a context that she could possibly relate to -  the many women out there who have reached that point and have definitely turned to donor eggs.  "Out of desperation," she said. "Or out of an all consuming desire to have a baby, Mom," I said.  "You're in NYC.  Look around you.  All of those forty-something women with infants you see on the upper west side or in Brooklyn?  They are NOT all genetically related to their babies."

I was going to attempt another talk with my mom again yesterday, but now I am thinking I am going to hold off.  Because I know it will be helpful to talk to her with the ammunition of another fertility clinic conversation under my belt.  This motivates me to complete Part I first.  I can't quite understand her logic, but Mom still somehow inherently trusts the doctors, fuck if I know why.  She believes that I am the victim of "bad luck" and is convinced that if I had just had gotten pregnant with another baby within two years of Niblet, I would have somehow been successful. (Yes, she has an operating two year theory based purely on anecdotal evidence.  All of those three year and five year and ten year anecdotes be damned.  Two years ya'll).

Some of you may wonder why I care so much about my Mom's buy-in.  It's not for the financial help.  I've written in the past of my love and respect for her.  This is a woman who offered to pay for me sorry ovaries to cycle, before I was rejected by Babies Guaranteed.  But there is also, as you have learned, the need for me to not have any shame about this.  If I were to ever have a baby via donor egg, I would require honesty for a child, and the family who love that child.  It would be no one else's business how a pregnancy came to be, but somehow I do feel it's my Mom's business.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The other considerations

Infertility feels like trying to pull a U-turn with a tanker.  You experience grief and death and failure and that is fucking hard.  Then you prep yourself for something even more difficult.  Maybe you say, OK Self, I will need to stimulate my ovaries to kingdom come, treat my body as a human pincushion, and then put my vulnerable being in the hands of doctors who may or may not have the personalities of used car salesmen or game show hosts. And then, when you learn that the difficult path you steeled yourself for is off the table for you because your ovaries and eggs are shot, you bring yourself over the river and through the woods to the concept of donor egg IVF.

Bringing yourself around to the concept of carrying a baby made of some strangers maternal DNA is no joke.  A few days ago I thought long and hard about identity and anonymity and the implications of a child born of completely anonymous genetic material.  There are a million existential and unanswerable questions that seem to spring up when you think about it.  Is motherhood a form of narcissism?  If I am brutally honest, am I seeking to replicate myself?  What does it mean for Niblet to be the LAST surviving member of my maternal line?  (Yeah, I know, she would be whether I had a kid with another woman's DNA or not, but the question is still out there, and yeah, she is the last.  My mom's siblings are childless. Niblet's well and truly the final leaf of that family tree).

Those questions scratch the surface, but then there are the logistics.  And anyone knows me and knows how my brain operates, knows that I can get lost in the logistics.

First, there's the Fresh vs Frozen aspect to this all.  Frozen donor eggs are a thing now, and a potentially good thing too.  The most important pro for me is that the process is a million times quicker.  I wouldn't have to time my cycle with a fresh egg donor.  I wouldn't need to use as many drugs myself.  I've been through a lot.  Easier sounds.... nice.

Easier also narrows the pool though.  It's less likely I'd find the short, artistically inclined, brown-eyed brown-haired brunette who writes a killer essay.  Which circles back to the earlier existential question:  Am I seeking to replicate myself?  Or maybe, am I seeking to make all of this a little easier by bearing a child who doesn't present too many questions from strangers?

But at the end of the day this comes down to a central issue.  Money.  This is a fuck ton of money.  And the more "perfect" the scenario you want, the more money it costs.  Generally, people find their willing-to-be-identified-and-contacted-in-the-future donors through an agency.  That's another ten grand off the bat.  Some people get lucky and find these donors through the clinic's existing pool, but it's not a sure bet.

Viking has one "must-have" in this process.  And that is a guarantee.  This actually exists.  The personally triggering Babies Guaranteed  clinic offers a million tries of IVF and you get your money back if you don't have a live baby at the end.  Viking has watched me experience 5 consecutive pregnancies without a live baby.  He wants this option.  But it is the forty-thousand dollar option.  And hear me now:  I. WILL. NOT. GO. BACK. TO. THAT. CLINIC.

Now I held off on publishing this entire post, until I had more information to the puzzle.... A few days ago I asked Viking, where his office was headquartered.  See, he works in a specialized field in the financial services industry Lot's of women with MBAs and PhDs and JDs behind their names. Viking, can you look up the fertility coverage in your insurance policy?  It turns out, we may have coverage for a smidge of this, at least for the labs and monitoring and the actual transfer.  We also have some unused money from a home equity loan we took out to refinish our basement (it's now a lovely man cave with the best bathroom in the house).

I'm not going to say this is financially possible, but finances haven't put it completely off the table, and I know I am luckier than the majority of women who have been dealt this hand.

But I'm not going to lie.  I am still working through some anger, and I need to get past it to move forward.  I am honestly ticked off that I even have to go here.  That I have had to figure out how to live like a sane person with this shitty hand I have been dealt, and that every day I put a fucking smile on my face and my most-fertile office.  Why does this STILL have to be so fucking hard and why does it require so many mental gymnastics that are exhausting?  I still have to worry about the very real possibility that I will miscarry a baby with another woman's young and sprightly eggs, so it's not enough to shell out twenty grand we don't actually have for these services, we need to think about how we would shell out forty grand.


Thursday, September 8, 2016


I can't even begin to describe the past few days as far as articulating the whiplash I am experiencing on my current dilemma.

My therapist found it unsurprising that I would latch on to a new idea - bring a baby into my life by forgoing genetics - in her view, "I am a fighter, and tenacious, and this is just me being me." Well, TenaciousC I am then, because I feel like I have been trying to jam a square peg into a round hole for the last five days.

I'll step back:  I am still researching our donor egg options.  Firm in my resolve that a completely anonymous donor is not a choice I could stand by without great qualms, and trust me when I say that giving up your own genetics is already an enormous qualm in this journey. 

Let me be clear, I don't necessarily want to have coffee with a potential donor.  I don't even necessarily want to know what they look like as an adult (many sites only offer their baby pictures).  But should the baby I bear and raise want to know where they come from, I want a donor who says it's okay to be contacted by this curious adult genetic offspring.

I was thinking more deeply about this the other day because I finally got Viking his belated birthday present and for laughs, I purchased one for myself too. It's....wait for it... an ancestry DNA kit.  That's right, a little saliva to unlock our genetic heritages.  Now, here's an interesting fun-fact about my in-laws:  We actually know a GREAT DEAL about Viking's ancestry, particularly on the maternal side.  For starters, he is as Swedish looking as a guy can be.  There are likely thousands of dudes walking around Stockholm with his face and build.  I would say 75% of his mother's family bears this look as well.  But beyond just that, his family happens to be obsessed - and I don't use that word lightly - with their family tree.  There is a 300 page book in my house of his family's tree in fact.  On his mother's side, they came to America when we were but a colony.  His father's side can't reach back as far, but my father-in-law is currently hammering away at his own family tree, attempting to reach back to the Magyars of course.

Contrast this with my family: I want to do a saliva test because quite honestly, my knowledge of my family - on either side - goes back exactly two generations.  My parents are both immigrants and I am a first-generation American.  I am not being hyperbolic when I say that the holocaust decimated us.  There are no records, on either side, though Dad's had more survivors, so I have a little more to work with.  On my mother's side, there is my grandmother, who had some distinctly Asian features, and one fuzzy picture of my great-aunt Mindy, who never made it out of Eastern Europe.  And yet crazily enough, despite being born in Bergen-Belsen (that's a former Nazi concentration camp, DP camp when she was born there), my mom has  a completely English (meaning UK) sounding maiden name.  I know for sure that we are Polish Jews, via Warsaw, on both my maternal and paternal sides.  And that my Dad, who was born in Paris, has got a bunch of French blood in him too.  But how they got to either Warsaw or Paris, I have no idea.  And surely they have a back story to getting there because.... wait for it.... I hate camping.  No, hear me out - I can't stand sleeping in the woods!  I feel a distinct negative genetic memory of this experience.  Like, a gut feeling at the cellular level that my ancestors did a lot of that while fleeing Pogroms and angry anti-Semites with pitchforks.  But I digress...

All of this is to say, that at a visceral level, I would love to know where my family has fled from.

I happen have the features of a European mutt - everyone thinks Imma little bit something - French, German, Polish, Italian, you name it.  Backpacking through Europe when I was in college was a hoot because little old ladies always assumed I could speak their language, regardless of what country I was in.  Tracing any of this would be a fun mystery to unlock, and would give me some answers to questions I have asked for my entire lifetime.  Just where DO I come from in the vast tree of our human race?

I am born of a mother and father who love me unconditionally.  Just as Niblet is a composite of the Viking and myself, I happen to greatly resemble both of my parents (particularly Mom), and yet I STILL ask this fundamental question about my identity.  Not because I feel incomplete.  Not because I lack critical medical information (though when I think about it, I sorta do, but that's another post post another day).  But because honestly, I am really fucking curious.

So in my own way, I can actually muster a great deal of empathy for the kid in my mind's eye who may have these questions.  I absolutely believe that the love that is given to a child should be enough to sustain them.  I know from my readers and my close friends, that not every adopted child feels that missing biology is a problematic missing link.  I have no doubt that there will be children born of ART  - whether donor sperm or donor eggs or both - who will look at the parents who raised them and loved them and feel deeply in their bones that this is enough and that these kids never have any real questions or concerns with the gaps in their genetic puzzle.

But the nagging fear doesn't go away:  What if MY child was different?  What if the issue of identity - the puzzle of their genetics - nagged at them, or even plagued them?  What if they had a button nose and just had to see where the hell it came from?  Or on a more serious note, what if they developed a medical condition and had to know where the hell it came from?

Going way back to the image of pounding of a square peg into a round hole, my search for a clinic to meet the needs I have to feel comfortable embarking on this path is turning up zippo.  Nothing out there that we can work with so far.  Because it's not just an clinic that uses open-identity donors that I need to find...I'll elaborate on that soon.

Mindy looks older and far more serious than I do.  She's a lot larger than me too.  But those eyes, man, those eyes tell the tale of my DNA.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The aftermath, Part 2

I have had a lot swirling in this crowded brain of mine.  Before I venture there, here is a conversation with the Viking:

Me:  Do you still really want a baby?
V:  Yes, of course I do.  
Me:  Well, I've been thinking:  the only way we will ever have a living baby is if I give up on my eggs.  We would have to go the route to donor eggs.
V:  If you could handle that, I could handle that.
Me:  Well of course you say that.  The baby would still be genetically yours.
Me:  But there's also the cost.  This could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
V:  What if it didn't work?
Me:  There are some clinics that offer a money back guarantee if after multiple attempts you never have a baby.  But that option is very expensive on the front end.  And there is the very real fear I have that this might not work.

I am going to leave that there.  There was actually a lot more to this conversation, but to sum it up:  unlike some women I have encountered over the years whose partners were adamantly opposed to this route, mine is not.  He has concerns about the cost, and legitimate concerns about me miscarrying, but he appears to have little to no ethical dilemma on the matter.

But lest you think, oh wow, justonemore, a new path, away we go(!) there are number of reasons why my little family of three will likely remain a family of three during my spirit's current lifetime.  Here's a stab at articulating just one of them:

Finding a donor who is willing to be known or semi-known to my future child is non-negotiable for me and this would be an enormous hurdle.  In my case, quite literally, the cost is too high.

Let me backtrack:  One of the most interesting things perusing donor data-bases this past week of (and whoa, have I been perusing), is that you discover where your priorities lie - and where they don't.  For example, finding someone who looks like me isn't the hugest challenge.  Like many women out there, I'm fairly pretty.  I'm a petite brunette with brown eyes. Frankly, I look like a hell of a lot of people - no seriously, if I had a nickel for every time someone stopped me in a grocery store thinking they already met me somewhere, I would have a fuck-ton of nickels.  And I will remind my readers that Niblet, while she has some of my features, is not my carbon copy by any stretch.  No, I am not really seeking a mini-me. For all I know this imaginary child could look exactly like Viking.  No shit, when I was once in a grocery store with infant-Niblet in a carrier, a woman came up to me and actually said "That is a beautiful baby you are watching."  Because she evidently couldn't believe the Valkyrie child I was holding sprung from my Jew-y loins.  But I digress.....

Based on what I'm seeing, I truly believe that there are plenty of reasonably attractive, intelligent women out there - who also have some artistic ability (actually one of my preferred criteria) who are donating their eggs.  I could probably find them in clinics nearby.  I might even find a frozen batch of their eggs somewhere.

Side note - I have to admit I got really intrigued by the frozen egg option.  You don't have to sync an IVF cycle with your donor.  They're cheaper, by like ten thousand dollars.   But there's a cost to everything.  These eggs are only available anonymously. 

And there's the rub.  All of the clinics around me that I could afford to cycle at use donor bases  - fresh or frozen - that are entirely anonymous.  That just won't work for me.  I can't bear a child who grows up wondering, "where do I come from?" without being able to offer them an answer.  I just can't do it because while it would be certainly be easier for me to forget that I am not biologically linked to my child, it could be detrimental to my actual child.  Just as I couldn't imagine a closed adoption as working for my family, I couldn't imagine a closed egg adoption.

Now, there ARE ways of finding willing-to-be known fresh egg donors, mainly through agencies.  But this costs a whole lotta money.  Like, twenty grand kinda money on the front end.  That's before any IVF meds or cycling.  Which also would be entirely out of pocket and yes, also cost about 29 grand for the number of attempts I believe would be necessary for it to work. Yeah, there's that too.  I am not convinced I would be one of the lucky ones who hits the jackpot in one cycle.  Have I ever hit the jackpot in this journey?  I think we can answer that question all together now, right?

I am not looking to find a new bestie in a gorgeous, hopefully brilliant young woman who donates her eggs to me.  On the other hand, I absolutely DO need their deets.  No let me be clear, my child would need their  contact information.  I need the assurance that when this genetic material grows up and has questions- Why is my nose so cute?  Why am I so good at math?  Do we have a cancer history I need to worry about? -  that my donor would be open and willing and ready to answer those questions.  This is non-negotiable.

So the brief (by brief I mean about 5 day's worth of) excitement that bubbled up in me mulling over this option has been quelled.  I don't have 40 or 50 grand.  And I cannot in good conscience borrow forty or fifty grand  - on a complete gamble - when that money can go to our need to be repaired roof.  Or Niblet's very expensive dance lessons.

If I had the money, I'd consider it.  It wouldn't be easy, but I could wrap my brain around it I think.  I want a baby far more strongly than I want a baby I am genetically linked to.  But I'm just a public interest lawyer who makes a little scratch on the side as a zumba instructor.  This is money we simply don't have.  

Trust me I have so much more to write on this topic.  I've been marinating in it days, I have a lot to distill.