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