Friday, April 27, 2012


OK, so I've learned that I'm not going to handle the waiting very well.  We sent our initial payment on Monday and spent three days waiting for confirmation that it was received on the other end.  I was a bit of a crazy woman, stalking my email, worrying that something went wrong with the wire, and just generally driving Mike nuts.  This does not bode well for my sanity for the rest of this journey.

Waiting is the name of the game.  Now I am waiting for the embryos to ship.  Next week I'll be waiting for the embryos to reach India.  Then I'll be waiting for the paperwork...then the transfer...then the results of the pregnancy test...and on and on and on.  Waiting, waiting, waiting for the next step, and next scan, and next milestone.  I never realized I was this impatient. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Finding Joy in the Littlest Things

When we moved into our new home in January, one of the things that made me sad about leaving my old home, was that I was leaving behind my Pink Lady Slippers.  For those who don't know, Pink Lady Slippers are flowers in the orchid family.  They grow wild in wooded areas in our region.  They are notoriously hard to cultivate, so they are typically only seen in the wild.  They are also somewhat rare, being listed as endangered in many areas.  In our old home, I was always so excited to see them popping up and I would go on Lady Slipper treks through the property to see how many I could find.  I would drive Mike nuts making sure he didn't run over one with the tractor or the truck.  I LOVED the Lady Slipper time of year!!!

How excited was I when I noticed a Lady Slipper in my new front yard yesterday morning!!!  And this morning I found a second one!!!  Now that the rain of the last few days has stopped, I'm going to have to go on a Lady Slipper hunt.  Lady Slippers make me happy!

Here is a picture of one:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What Can Change in Five Days?

Isn't it amazing how quickly life can change?  One minute you're a healthy 30 year old woman and the next minute you're a "sick" cancer survivor.  One minute you're half of a childless couple and the next minute you're a mother.  So much has changed in 5 days!

We moved to a new home in January and I love gardening, so I am excited to see spring coming and see what pops up in the yard.  Five days ago our flower beds were full of the remnants of daffodil blooms and spent cherry tree blossoms were blanketing the yard.  Now the yard is full of color and trees are budding in new green.  Dogwoods and azaleas are blooming full force.  I have a lilac bush!!!  How appropriate that we are beginning the road to parenthood in the spring when life is renewing every day. 

I returned from India last night.  Out of deference to concerns over my safety as a youngish woman traveling alone, I didn't want to put this on the internet until i returned.  Hence, the gap in my posts.  I was so excited about my trip in the week and a half before I left, I couldn't focus enough to put a coherent post together.  Anyway, I left for India at the crack of dawn on Saturday and returned Wednesday evening.  I was gone for 5 days, which gave me 2 full days in Delhi.  Yes, I spent nearly 3 days in the air and waiting in airports to visit India for 2 days.  Crazy, right?  I wish I could have spent more time but, with our busy season gearing up into full swing, I couldn't take more time.  We need every sale we can get to help fund this journey. 

I went to Delhi to meet with the doctor and her team and to see the clinic and to generally try to get my bearings so that when Mike and I arrive to pick up our baby/ies, one of us is not in complete culture shock.  I was on the fence for a while about whether to go to India or not.  Mike and I both felt pretty good about our choice of clinic and the communication we had received in answer to our questions impressed us.  I was having trouble justifying taking the time away from work at this time of year and spending the money when I felt mostly certain that I would find exactly what I expected in India.  In the end, the little devil of doubt whispering in my ear won out and I booked my flight.

I found exactly what I expected to find in Delhi.  Dr. Shivani was exactly what I had heard about from other parents.  She was very nice and introduced me to everyone in the clinic, explained a bit more in detail how everything works, and answered all of my questions.  Most of my questions had already been answered but it was reassuring to hear directly from Dr. Shivani.  Everyone in the clinic was very nice and helpful and, during my tour, I was able to see many surrogates and potential surrogates waiting for various appointments.  It was reassuring to see these women and their families.  And obviously, is was reassuring to see the baby bumps on some of the women.  So the result of my trip is that everything I believed before is confirmed.  I have faith in the doctor we have chosen.  I have faith that this is the best way for Mike and I to start our family.  I have faith that this will work for us.

I heard that I would either love or hate India.  Well, I didn't hate it, but I was not there long enough to fall in love with it.  I had a pretty good idea what to expect, so nothing I saw shocked me.  I would not call my self a globe trotter, but I have traveled a bit to both first and third world countries.  I have seen poverty in other parts of the world, but not like in Delhi.  My travels have given me an appreciation of how lucky I am to have everything I do.  But I think, like most people, sometimes I lose sight of that, especially when things don't go my way.  I hope India will make it harder for me to forget how lucky we are, even when we are living paycheck to paycheck and maybe can't afford to buy latest, newest, biggest thing.  I hope I can teach my children to appreciate how lucky they are.  I found Delhi to be a busy, grimy, friendly, beautiful place.  It's a place full of contrasts...ugly and beautiful, rich and poor, fast and slow.  Given more time, I think I will love it.

On the other hand, I think Mike will hate it.  To begin with, he is not a city person.  A few years back, he surprised me for my birthday with a weekend trip to New York.  We saw a show on Broadway, walked around the city a bit, rode the subway.  I think he hated every minute.  He doesn't like crowds, or traffic, or noise, or dirt (he's a bit of a germaphobe).  He doesn't like being outside of his comfort zone and is content when he lives life in his little box.  I love him to death, obviously, but he's not a person who likes new things or adjusts well to change.  India will be WAY outside of his box.  I hope he will be able to see past the dirt and grime and poverty and see the beauty there.  And I hope that it will give him an appreciation of how lucky he is...even if he hates it.

Going to India ended up meaning more for me than I first expected.  In my teens and most of my twenties, I traveled.  It helped me find my independence in addition to exposing me to different cultures and people and experiences.  I did the majority of my traveling alone or at least without anyone in my immediate family.  When I was in 6th grade, I learned that my school offered a 10 day trip to Russia for 8th graders.  That day I went home and told my parents I was going to Russia, and for two years I worked my butt off doing odd jobs for my neighbors to save up the huge (to an 11 year old) sum of $1000 to go on the trip.  With one semester left for my college degree, I decided to change majors to study archaeology.  Two months later I was at an archaeological field school in Belize.  I drove myself cross country for a job in New Mexico doing archeological survey and took a 3 day Greyhound bus trip to Texas to find an apartment for grad school.  I wanted to see the Grand Canyon, so I spent 3 of the most memorable days of my life camping alone and soaking in the beauty of the world.  My friends used to joke about me "fleeing the country" and knowing that I had a passport and could just go any time I wanted was exciting for me.  My cousin called me "fearless."

In the last decade I have "settled down."  I've, more or less, lived in a little box...a happy, comfortable box with Mike.  But it's a part of my life that I have missed.  At the same time, I lost my "fearlessness."  I would imagine traveling somewhere and the doubt and fear would take over and I would make excuses not to travel.  My two days in Delhi gave me back the confidence to step out of my box.  I'm older, and smarter about many things, but I can still travel someplace new to me and not like anyplace I have ever been and I can manage.  I don't have to stay in my happy, comfortable box all the time.  I can climb out when I want and experience some of the best things the world has to offer. I can do it even though it scares my mom or worries Mike.  I don't have to listen to the little voice in me that says I'm too old, or too female, or too weak.  I can still be "fearless."

Friday, April 6, 2012

So What's Wrong with the Old Fashioned Way?

So how did we get to where we are now?  Why are we having a woman on the other side of the world carry our baby for us?  What's wrong with the old fashioned way?  It worked for our parents, right?  Our infertility story is very different than any I have read about so far.  We are a heterosexual couple, so we have all the right parts for baby-making.  As far as we know, all of our parts work as designed, more or less.  We have not had the heartbreak of failed IVF cycles or miscarriages.  In fact, as far as we know, we could make the leap and try tonight and have a bun in the oven in the morning.  But it's not that simple.

On June 10, 2010 I got a phone call from my doctor.  It was about 4:30 in the afternoon and I was at work, alone.  She was calling to tell me that the lump in my breast was malignant.  She was calling to tell me I had breast cancer.  I was 30 years old.

My first coherent thought as I hung up the phone was "holy s#*t, life just got so much more complicated."  My second thought was "oh my god, what about kids."  I had quit my "real job" two months before so that I could run the retail end of our business full time, and Mike and I had decided that though we weren't going to actively try to start a family, we weren't going to do anything to get in the way of a happy accident.  That afternoon, all of our plans for everything came to a screeching halt.  Our lives were suddenly on a whole different course.

In the first weeks after my diagnosis, I saw doctor, upon doctor, upon doctor...various specialists and second opinions.  The first question I asked every one of them was, what about babies?  Some doctors passed it off as a question for a different specialist.  Some doctors essentially said "Why are you thinking about babies when you have cancer."  In their defense, we live in small rural community that is a haven for retirees.  These doctors typically see post-menopausal women who have had, or not had their families, and I was diagnosed with a disease that typically occurs in someone at least twice my age.  (As I have since learned, breast cancer in pre-menopausal women is not as uncommon as we would like to believe.)  Bottom line, my fertility was a priority for me, but obviously not for my doctors.

To be fair, the objective of my oncology team was to "cure" (oh, how I hate that word in this context) my cancer, but I was not willing to let cancer take away the possibility of my having a child.  So against my cancer doctors' advice, I decided to preserve my fertility.  I consulted a fertility specialist and after speaking with me over the phone for 2 days, she told me she had consulted with her partners over my situation and they agreed that I could join the IVF cycle they were beginning that week.  That meant a crash course in the process of IVF.  I went to the clinic on my first day of injections, had an ultrasound and spent 6 HOURS with various nurses and administrators learning how to give myself the injections, what the process would be, getting approval from my insurance company to cover the cost, and having them answer all of my questions about what the hormone surge would mean for the cancer.  It was a mind-spinning and exhausting day trying to learn in 6 hours what most couples learn over several weeks or months.  But less than two weeks later, they had collected my eggs and we had 17 embies on ice. (My mom calls them her grand-"pops")

For those of you that don't know much about breast cancer, there are several different kinds of breast cancer.  When they removed the tumor, it was tested to determine which type of cancer it was and to determine my course of treatment.  Very long story, very cancer was estrogen positive.  That means that the cancer "fed" on the estrogen in my body.  One of my doctors described it as miracle grow for my tumor.  Because the cancer was estrogen positive and because I was so young (in cancer years), the cancer was considered aggressive.  My oncologist advised me not to go forward with the fertility treatments for two reasons.  First, he did not want to delay chemo (ultimately, it delayed the start of chemo for about a week) and second, the surge of estrogen from the injections would make any random cancer cooties left over from my surgery go bananas.  I decided it was a risk I was willing to take, knowing that I would start chemo the day after the retrieval.

But that doesn't explain why I can't be pregnant now.  Chemo ended 15 months ago and radiation ended 13 months ago.  Part of the standard of care for my type of cancer is to take a drug called Tamoxifen for 5 years following treatment.  Tamoxifen blocks the estrogen receptors in my body so that if there are any estrogen receptive cancer cooties floating around inside me, the estrogen cannot feed them and they will not grow.  Eventually they will die.  So bottom line, Tamoxifen GREATLY reduces the chance that the cancer will return.  Tamoxifen has many annoying side affects but the one that matters most to me is that it can cause miscarriage and/or severe deformities in a pregnancy.  So my choices are to take the drug and not have a baby and GREATLY reduce the risk of the cancer recurring, or not take the drug and have a baby and live with the very good possibility that my cancer will return.  And the kicker to all of this is that pregnancy itself creates a long term estrogen surge.  So if I get pregnant, a baby may not be the only thing I am growing.

So there is the Tamoxifen which is not good for a fetus, and there is the estrogen during pregnancy that could make the cancer return, but there is also the very real possibility that chemo damaged my ovaries and I am now infertile.  As anyone who has gone through IVF knows, there are tests they can do to determine my fertility.  However, everything is hormone dependent and because of the Tamoxifen, there is nothing normal about my hormones right now.  Tamoxifen mimics (and sometimes causes) menopause.  So the drug has to be out of my system for any of these tests to be reliable.  I may or may not be fertile, but we won't know until I have finished my 5 years of Tamoxifen (4 years to go).  

So that is a very shortened version of how we got to where we are today and why we are taking such a drastic step in starting our family. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Going to India

My visa is in the mail on the way back to me!!!  Hopefully I'll be in India in the next week to 10 days to meet Dr. S and get the ball rolling!!!  I just realized, this time next month, we could have a bun in the oven OMG!!!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My First Blog Post

I'm Maggie.  My almost-husband's name is Mike. Mike is my almost-husband because it seems silly to call him my "boyfriend."  He's an old soul who was a man long before he had to shave.  We've been together for 9 years this May but we've yet to tie the knot.  People always ask us why we aren't married yet.  I don't really have a good reason.  Life keeps happening and we haven't made the time. 

Even though we don't have a piece of paper saying we are husband and wife, we have lived more life and more "marriage" than most married people we know.  In nearly a decade, we've bought homes, built homes (literally with Mike's bare hands), we've lost loved ones, we've struggled with our relationship, we've built a business, and we've done the whole "in sickness and health" deal.  We are partners in every sense of the word. 

So why I am I writing this blog?  Mike and I want to start a family.  Mike is not a risk taker.  Every decision he makes is analyzed from every angle before he commits.  I, however, am much more a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl.  I figure, everything will work out in the end and the bumps along the way are what life is all about.  I've been ready for motherhood since...forever.  Mike, ever the analyst, has been waiting for the "perfect time."  Events over the past two years have forced us to realize that life is too short to wait and there will NEVER be a "perfect time."  Now that we are ready to start a family, I cannot be pregnant.

We talked about and considered adoption.  Sometimes it seemed like the best way to go, and sometimes it felt wrong.  Having other people evaluate us and our lives and determine whether we were worthy to parent a child feels wrong and cold and stressful.  Not to mention the possibility for heartbreak if no one chooses us to parent her child, or if she chooses us and then changes her mind.  The process outlined for us by the adoption agency we consulted, helped contribute to an all consuming anger I had for many months last year.  Eventually the back and forth of "it's the way to go, it's not the way to go" crossed it off the list of possibilities for us.  If we both couldn't be 100% certain that this was the way to go, it was not the way to go.  I think we only really considered it because it felt like the only option available to us.

Surrogacy was an option that seemed like a great possibility until we learned that the laws were not favorable toward it in the US.  Even if I was the biological mother of the child, I would have to adopt the child after birth to be the LEGAL mother of the child.  That meant that I would have to do the home study and have someone else determine whether I was "fit" to be the mother of a child that is already genetically mine.  Because of the laws protecting paternal rights, Mike did not have to worry about that.  Apparently paternal rights are based on genetics while maternal rights are based on the womb used for gestation.  The concerns over who exactly the legal mother and father of the child would be added to the concern that the surrogate may not give us the baby when it was born.  We briefly considered having my mom carry our baby (her idea, not ours).  But while it is definitely possible for a post-menopausal woman to carry a pregnancy, and has been done (several times), the risks were simply too high.

So we were left with our last option which I had crossed off the list very early in our thinking.  We decided to pursue surrogacy in India.  Initially, I was very against the idea.  It felt like I, as a "rich" American, would be exploiting a woman from a developing country.  When all of our other options were crossed off the list, I started doing much more research into the surrogacy industry in India.  It felt right.  There are a million hurdles to starting a family this way and we fully expect that there will be all kinds of stress.  Mike, after all of his analyzing, felt the most comfortable with this avenue.  I have come to trust that we would not be exploiting anyone and also trust that we will not be exploited.  So we are excited and scared and we have a thousand questions.  We're having a baby in India!