Friday, March 22, 2013

Optimism 5.0

We received word from SCI that our embryo transfer was performed, so we are officially once more in the dreaded two week wait.

We are grateful to everyone at SCI for arranging this so quickly, and doing everything they can medically to make this a positive outcome.  We are cautiously optimistic that this time will be our time!

Again, we have to acknowledge all the kind and generous support we have received from the surro-community, in person, through comments on the blog, and via emails relaying best wishes, personal accounts, and encouragement to stay the course.

It really does help to not feel alone in this process, and to know others have faced similar setbacks with eventual success.  One person shared their favorite quote, which I will paraphrase:

"Greatness comes not from what we accomplish, but from what we overcome."

I find the quote very inspirational, but it is frustrating to have to be patient and persevere. 

But we will. 

We must. 

Because a child will be worth it all. 

Because of the greatness of becoming parents.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Well, it has been quite a week since I last blogged!  There were new developments in India that we were made aware of through Dr. Shivani's blog.  Letters were sent to non-married clients to inform them that their treatments were being postponed.  What a sad day for all those who had planned for months, maybe even years, to go to India to complete their families.  Regardless of marital status, only those traveling under medical visas will be permitted to undergo any surrogacy procedure (sperm/egg collection, IVF, etc.).  We even read blogs of these IP who had made arrangements and bookings, only to be told they cannot have any treatment performed.  We understand the heartbreaking disappointment when a cycle has to be cancelled, which happened on our third attempt when the surrogate just wasn't suitably ready for the fresh transfer.

We held our breath last week waiting to receive this such letter, yet hoping we were in the "grey zones" that might allow us to continue since we had frozen embryos that were scheduled for transfer in May.  Imagine our surprise when we received a letter informing us that our transfer was planned for next week!  Apparently we were benefiting from one of these poor clients whose treatment was being postponed, whose surrogate was in the middle of being prepared for their cycle.  It was a bittersweet moment, since we felt sorry for that parent/s but excited that we could try again so soon.  The political crackdown is making us so nervous that we are even more anxious to get pregnant before an Indian iron curtain comes down.  (Sorry for the dramatics, but this roller coaster has me a bit emotional!)

We also learned that this is the same surrogate that we used in the previous cycle.  We shot off an email to Meg with a few questions.  We expressed our desire to definitely proceed with the cycle and our previous surrogate, but wanted to know the following:

  1. We understand that it usually takes a couple weeks to prepare a surrogate for transfer, so were we the beneficiaries of someone else's cancelled cycle due to the regulations?  We were.  There were a few cycles cancelled from first-time clients that were booked around the end of last year.  Until SCI gets something in writing from the government about people being able to continue booked treatment, they don't want to take any risks.  I applaud the clinic for doing this and not exposing their clients to legal risks.  The regulations seem arbitrary and discriminatory, lacking foresight in planning and execution.
  2. Should we have any concerns about using the same surrogate?  It would have been our choice under ideal circumstances--which we fully understand is not the case--to use a different surrogate, just to change the variables; however, we trust Dr. Shivani's judgment and know she has our best interests at heart, but just wondering if there was any data on using the same surrogate after a failed attempt?  Meg said this is medically fine to use the same surrogate again, as it is so difficult to tell what makes a cycle successful or not after everything medically possible has been done.  Besides, there is a rule as of last week from the FRRO that new contracts must be signed in India, and using the same surrogate avoids us having to fly to India to sign a new contract with a different surrogate.
  3. Is it OK to blog about this?  Meg said it was fine, it was just a delay for a few others, but they expect good news soon.  We felt guilty about benefiting from someone else's misfortune, and didn't want to create any burden on the doctor, staff or client managers with having to possibly field more questions or complaints.  We also didn't want to expose ourselves to any negative attention, even though we do not believe anything is being done improperly.  The main reason to blog is that we want to share this information with others who are or will be in the same position, as we have not seen similar details discussed in other blogs yet.
Like I said above, we feel fortunate to be able to continue our journey to completing our family.  In a way, having the procedure so soon gives us less time to build up the anticipation.  But on the other hand, each subsequent attempt heightens the expectations to finally cross the goal line to becoming pregnant.  Even then, there will be more hurdles, more excruciating trials, and what will seem like an interminable wait.  We realize for us now, this quest was never going to be a sprint; it is turning out to be a marathon, an odyssey.  And if we reach the finish line and bring our baby home, I know that it will have all been worth it.  Thanks to everyone for continuing on this voyage with us.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


After the disappointment of our most recent attempt, Travis and I took some time to process our emotions and consider how to proceed.  We never thought we would be in this position.  Like Bernadette, we never thought that it wouldn't work.  After our first two attempts were negative, we were upset and looking for answers, but we reluctantly accepted that it's ultimately up to nature and we were "unlucky."  So we decided to start over and try again.  Now after another two cycles, we are just sad, confused, and worried. 

Sad, 'nuff said.  We are picking ourselves up and trying to move forward, but with heavy hearts.

Confused because up to this point, we have tried two young, proven donors (meaning they had previously donated their eggs to others and the resulting embryos achieved surrogate pregnancies and live births).  We have also used three young surrogates who had been pregnant with their own children previously, so they were able to get pregnant and carry a child to full term.  Additionally, we were told our clinic, SCI, has a good track record of pregnancies, about 65% success after first attempt, 90% after two attempts. 

The only variable left was us.  Being gay, we never considered ourselves reproductively challenged in the traditional sense. Is that why neither of us ever fell pregnant before?  All joking aside, were we infertile, i.e. was our recurring failure a result of male factor infertility? Sure, we could be in better shape, but we don't smoke or drink.  Before pursuing surrogacy, we had our hormone levels checked and semen analyzed  and they were generally good; besides, SCI uses a procedure called ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) which injects the best sperm into each egg for fertilization.  Just to cover all our bases, for the three months preceding our trip to India, we took all the recommended supplements (thanks to Meg, Doug, and Dr. Google) to boost our sperm count and quality.  We had some excellent quality embryos for each transfer, so why didn't any of them take?

We're worried because of where this leaves us.  Travis had always considered this endeavor a gamble.  I hate that word, because it makes me think of casinos or river boats and gaming.  I realize it is up to chance, a roll of the dice if you will, but I always thought we would land within the odds, be inside the bell curve.  We are your average, ordinary American couple, just trying to do something extraordinary in India.  I never thought we would be outliers.  I never thought we would spend tens of thousands of dollars, with nothing to show for it.

To a lesser extent, with each setback we feel we've also wasted months of valuable time, that the sands of  our hourglass biological clocks are slipping away.  We know there are many other couples who have spent years trying to conceive, but we're coming late to the dance and are already in our forties.  We want to have kids while still able to keep up and enjoy them as they grow.  We want to be part of their lives as they reach milestones like graduation, marriage, and having children of their own.  Additionally, my nephews are growing up and will no longer be in the same peer group as our kids.  And with each passing month, our parents seem to be aging faster as something else in their bodies wear down.  We would like them to be a part of our kids' lives as well, and for the kids to have fond memories of their cousins and grandparents being an integral part of their childhood.

We're also worried about the politics that are playing out in India, with the regulations now preventing gays from engaging in surrogacy.  There is so much uncertainty and speculation going on.  We've heard that the issue is expected to be resolved "in a few weeks," but that time has come and gone.  We also had to agree to letting our information be given to the authorities, so that we can be grandfathered under these regulations; however, we are unclear how long that can last, especially if we maintain our current track record.  We want to be able to get in while the window of opportunity is still open, before India shuts it completely (hopefully not).

So with all that being said, we asked a number of questions to Dr. Shivani:
  1. Should we undergo PGS (Pre-implantation Genetic Screening), since this can detect genetic abnormalities and allow the embryologist to select the best candidates for transfer?  Dr. Shivani consulted with the embryologist and they suggested that we do not opt for it at this time.  She stated that with a young egg donor, like we had, that it's likely that we should have success without PGS.  It is also an additional cost and there is a concern over losing good embryos (a very small possibility) with this screening, as a biopsy has to be taken for the analysis.
  2. Could we try with the other partner's sperm?  We were told that due to the current environment in India, it is so difficult for them to comment at this stage.  We took this as a "no, for now."  Besides, this would mean starting over with a new donor, and the costs are double that of an FET cycle with existing embryos.
  3. If we exhaust the frozen embryos we already have, does that mean we are barred from further treatment, i.e., does the current ban in India grandfather existing embryos only, or does it include anyone currently in treatment to undergo additional procedures?  We did not get a direct answer to this, but I believe the answer is the same as for question #2 above: it's hard to tell right now.   Obviously we are invested with our clinic and have a good relationship and trust the doctor and her team.  We would not want to start over in another country where surrogacy programs are less proven and the process is more complicated and expensive.
Based on these responses, we decided to try again with another FET, without the PGS.  Apparently SCI is fairly busy, as we are scheduled for May.  Realistically, this isn't so far away, but once we decided what to do, we wanted to lose no time in trying again and also avoid the possibility of the situation in India worsening.  In the back of my mind, I also counted the months, and getting pregnant in March/April could mean a baby for Christmas!  I know, I am stupidly tempting fate by making plans.  We did ask that if anyone backed out or there were extra surrogates, that we could move up on the schedule.  I doubt SCI has such a waiting list, but it didn't hurt to ask.

So, now we just wait some more.  And hope and pray.