Saturday, January 31, 2015

LesBeing the Wife of a Pregnant Person: EXHAUSTION!

Tommie and Blanket are nearing the 11-week mark.


It seems like everything is moving along.  Tommie is still sick most of the day and cannot really do much around the house (or anything, for that matter).  I spend my days working, cleaning, cooking, buying food, cleaning, sleeping, working, blah, blah, blah.  I fill Tommie's water, get her the vitamins she needs, pick up her thyroid medication, shovel when the show comes, take out the trash, get the mail, do lots and lots of laundry...

Schneider, Jake, and the two/three of us are supposed to meet for dinner tonight, but we will have to make a last-minute decision.  I'm not sure if Tommie will be able to get up and dressed, let alone take a 30-minute car ride and sit through dinner.  I am having a little bit of cabin fever, but I am hopeful that Blanket is healthy and that everything is progressing as planned.  To pass the time, I read books and imagine myself on the beach somewhere.


Tommie has had some new cravings this week, so I usually end up going to the market or a restaurant on my way home from work each day.  I tried to get Thai food, but it ended up as a fiasco.  I have a leg inury, so I must park in a handicapped spot.  All of them were covered with mountains of snow from our recent storm.  I drove around the block for 20 minutes, waiting for a place to park.  Then, I started crying.  Finally, I double-parked and "ran in" to get the food.  It was not good.  This week Blanket/Tommie wanted bologna and mayo sandwiches on Wonder Bread (??????), Thanksgiving Dinner (wtf?), and lots of requests for pancakes.  The bologna sandwich was the only troubling item because pregnant women are not supposed to eat cold cuts.  I did find out that Tommie can have them, as long as they are heated until they are "steaming."  By the time I bought the bologna and brought it home, Tommie did not even want it anymore.


I have just discovered that Tommie and I may need to work with a lawyer to get a second parent adoption, so that I am legally Blanket's parent when (s)he arrives.  The thought of dealing with this- financially and emotionally- makes me want to vomit.  BUT, I will do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Tommie and Blanket.  Does anyone out there know the deal with this?  Here in CT, we have gay marriage; Tommie and I are married.  Do I still need a second parent adoption?  Ugh.  We have some excellent lawyer friends who specialize in LGBT family law at Freed Marcroft.  Once we get all of the genetic assessments completed on Blanket, and are assured that (s)he is healthy, it will be off to the lawyer's office for a visit.

Monday, January 26, 2015

LesDouble Digits, Baby!

Tommie and Blanket are officially at the 10-week mark.  Our favorite pregnancy video vixen explained that the fetus is now the size of a prune and is beginning to be more active.  Tommie is having some discomfort.  I imagine Blanket going to IKEA, picking out the coolest stuff, and setting up a comfortable space for the next 7 months.


Tommie actually has a baby bump.  It's small, but it is definitely there.  We now start our countdown to the second trimester, with the bulk of our effort (and worry) dedicated to the upcoming genetic tests.  We uncovered the special "cell free DNA test" that we will request, along with the other, typical ones.  NPR offers an overview of the test and its benefits here.  Along with the next ultrasound scan and the regular bloodwork, this new test will provide us with adequate information about Blanket's genetic health.  Like so many newly pregnant couples, there is anxiety involved.  We are hoping that science and Mother Nature are on our side.  We have chosen to see a midwife, as planned.  Our next visit is February 5th.  Once we leap over this hurdle and everything is swell, we may begin to share the news with our family and friends.

To relax a bit, I have indeed started to plan some "me time."  I will travel out of state to visit one of my two most admired tattoo artists, Alexis Kovacs.  She was a finalist on the show Best Ink.  I have two AMAZING tattoos by her and I will soon get another.  As mentioned in an earlier post, I was in the planning stages of my next piece.  Strangely, and mabye due to fate, I got an email from her assistant to tell me that she had some unexpected openings.  It just seemed right.  I am looking forward to going to her shop because she previously tattooed me at a convention.  I am going to road trip it with one of my close friends.  In turn, I am fulfilling another one of my "me moments" that I outlined a couple of weeks ago.  I do feel horrible leaving Tommie in her current condition and may check to see if Schneider can look after her for the overnight visit.  Maybe I'll drop Tommie off for some babysitting.


We are super-snowed in tonight.  There are 2-3 FEET of snow expected here in Connecticut.  Tommie and I are going to curl up and watch our favorite shows while I put my hand on Little Blanket, as (s)he burrows into the warm pregnancy cave Tommie and I created with lots of our time, money, and positive vibes.  It's 10 weeks, baby.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

LesDonation: Fertility Medications for Free

Tommie and I have a box of fertility medications that she never used.  We asked our doctor if we could donate them to patients at The Center and we were told that we can only give them away on our own.  So, I'm looking into the legality of this.  If it appears that we can donate these medications, I will post a list that contains the name of each medication, the expiration dates, dosage, etc.; I will include a picture of each one.  We also have a ton of syringes, alcohol swabs, and a few other items.  Tommie and I only ask that any takers pay shipping.  One of the medications (Follistim) will need to be shipped in a special refrigerated envelope.  We would also require the recipient to pay for this type of container.  I don't think it is that expensive.  If you live in CT, we are fine with you coming to get them here.  

If you know whether or not we are allowed to give away and ship our medications, please share in the comments section below.  Also, let me know if you are interested.

Friday, January 23, 2015

LesGetReal: Second Ultrasound

It was a miracle that Tommie did not throw up on herself, on the way to the second ultrasound.  She looked some shade of green mixed with gray; she was sort of an overcast sky.  We got to see the fetus today and it looked like a little babydoll wrapped in a blanket.  So...we decided to upgrade our nickname to exactly that- Blanket.


On the top of the ultrasound, as you can see, our doctor wrote: "Hi, Mommy.  I'm sorry you are so sick!!!!!!"  While we were viewing it, it did a bunch of flips, put its arm on its forehead like an exasperated Southern belle (Tommie's words, not mine), and moved its feet together.  The ultrasound was just about the coolest thing I have ever seen.  The doctor showed us the blood flowing through the umbilical cord.  He also viewed the two hemispheres of the brain and Blanket's tiny toes.  We caught a glimpse of its profile and then it moved away from the light.  I guess it is a little camera shy.  Its heart was beating at 161 beats per minute and it measured approxmiately 3.5cm.  It almost tripled since the last visit.  Our doctors said it is measuring at least two days ahead of schedule!  This makes perfect sense.  We know that our donor's other offspring have all been on the bigger side at birth.  He is also a sturdy guy, at 6'1" and 180lbs.

We are officially released from the fertility doctor.  We have our first appointment with the midwife on February 5th.  Tommie is almost 10 weeks (DOUBLE DIGITS, YES!!!) and I am awaiting the next hurdle- the genetic testing.  I read that it can occur sometime between 11 and 15 weeks.  I'd like to get that accomplished as soon as possible.  Since we used a donor, he was screened for a number of diseases, but that does not put us or Blanket in the clear.  And to think that I thought getting pregnant was the hardest part...

Monday, January 19, 2015

LesJourney: Our Baby-Making Process

It is officially week 9.  According to our trusty video, Sharkie is the size of a "cocktail olive" and its intestines are starting to migrate into its body.  It is not an embryo anymore, but has transformed into a fetus.  Great.  Now, when I search for pictures of a "9 week fetus" to see how Sharkie is progressing, I end up getting hits for pro-life websites run by lunatics.  Anyway, I am sure Sharkie is having a blast.  Tommie is too. Yesterday, she threw up while she was brushing her teeth.  We have reached a new high in our journey.  As Schneider wrote in a text, "It's official ladies and gentlemen!"  


I would like to stay true to the description of this blog and take a trip down memory lane to share the steps that brought us here.  For anyone considering how to approach lesbian fertility, our story may help you to make some critical decisions, or it may solidify ones that you are already planning on making.  First, this book was one of our guides.  The author weaves in her own story of conceiving her daughter and she shares some hilarious moments.  The other essential text was Taking Charge of Your Fertility.  It is a classic and the author has a helpful website:  


I am going to break our tale into its three stages: trying at home (dumb), going to a boutique-y fertility doctor (horrifying), and using a center for advanced reproductive services (BINGO!).  

Trying at Home
All lesbian pregnancy scenarios begin with the big, looming question regarding the source of the sperm. Although we had two different friends volunteer to share theirs, we realized that the legal ramifications of this could be catastrophic.  Even with professionally drawn documents, a known sperm donor can sue for rights to his "child."  Remember, the cryobanks are going to do all of the important work for you by screening the donor, checking for STDs and genetic diseases, and working through your doctor to ship and deliver the units.  We discovered that our closest reproductive health centers would need nearly a year to do this and they also would make us pay more than $1,000 to store the sperm.  All of these indications pointed to using a cryobank and we did.  There are a number of reputable ones, including California Cryobank, Fairfax Cryobank, and Xytex.  They are expensive, so have a pregnancy fund before you begin.  

Here are the at-home supplies one needs to do an ICI solo.  Note- there is somewhere between a 0%-10% chance that it will work this way:

1. a headlamp- Use your imagination!

2. disposable speculums- No imagination needed!

3. a long, flexible catheter- That cervix is A LOT farther away than you think!

4. a microscope- Need to check that the sperm thaws properly!


We attempted the at-home method 4-5 times, alternating between the two of us.  We thought it would offer a more comfortable setting and a feeling of home.  It was just frustrating.  I do know a couple who have two children by this method, but I get the sense that it rarely works.  (They also used "fresh" sperm from a known donor.)  I would avoid it, but that is just my opinion.  Keep in mind that I don't do well when I have to go to the dentist.  This really was not for me or for most people.

Going to a Fertility Doctor 
Next, we decided to see a fertility doctor to pursue IUI.  What we did not necessarily realize was that he was more of an OB/GYN who was willing to address our fertility needs.  He was not an endocrinologist.  He was approximately 70 years old. We still did not want to feel like we were on a fertility assembly line at one of the big reproductive health offices.  He suggested that we try a different sperm donor.  We did that.  He also monitored each of us a little more closely.  He did have a "fertility hotline," but we used an at-home ovulation prediction kit to known if it was time for the IUI.  I think I had blook work once or twice with him. His hands shook.

He was the only physician in his office who performed reproductive services of this nature, so we need to see an "on call" doctor at the hospital, if we required an IUI on a weekend.  At one point, he suggested I try clomid for two cycles.  It made me feel like I was suffering in purgatory.  He was clumsy and, in retrospect, did not have the means to track us enough to achieve a positive pregnancy.  After 8 or more attempts with him, we moved on.  It was sort of like we were stuck in the middle of a long staircase.  I know that he helped some couples get preganant, but my hunch is that this was just due to good luck.


Using a Center for Advanced Reproductive Services
At this point, I felt I was too old to continue with the process.  Tommie, at 2.5 years younger, seemed like the better candidate.  Plus, she was willing to face IVF.  Based on recommendations from close friends who have a daughter and another on the way, we chose our fertility doctor at The Center.  We LOVE him.  The Center requires that you attend an IVF seminar before you begin the process.  We did that.  They also force you to see a psychologist to discuss the ramifications of using a sperm donor.  We did that too, but it was a waste of time and money.  The woman was condescending and we both wanted to strangle her when she asked, "Is there any history of abuse at home?"  and "Do either of you have any mental health issues?"  We wondered why straight couples, using their own sperm and egg, are not required to sit through this insulting process.  We reminded ourselves of the goal: a baby.

Tommie and I then met with our doctor.  He put her through a battery of tests and she passed with flying colors.  Then, we began the injections, the sickness from the injections, the retrieval surgery, and two transfers.  The second one was successful and now we have Sharkie.  It was not fun, but we currently have the result we wanted.  In addition to the side effects of the injections, we had to travel to The Center (40 minutes away) on a daily basis, for weeks at a time.  We also only saw our own doctor once.  When you work with a group that large, they all share the duties.  Tommie's successful second transfer was performed by a doctor we had never even met before that day.  Indeed, it felt like the assembly line we anticipated.  We would see the same people in the waiting room every day.  We watched them cycle through, some with smiles and others with tears.  We sometimes waited for an hour or more to see the doctor.  We passed our time watching the TV that cut in and out of service.  We saw people we knew and we actually made new friends.  We will go for our second ultrasound on Friday.  If Sharkie is doing well, we will be "dismissed" to go to an OB/GYN of our choice.  It has been approximately five years since we began our journey.

Using a comprehensive reproductive health center was our last choice, but we think it was the best one.  They did all of the work for us.  They charted Tommie's ovulation.  They were always open for tests and procedures.  They provided statistics to show that nearly 65% of women in Tommie's age group conceive through them.  They had their own embryologists.  When our first transfer did not succeed, they had the answers as to why.  They stored the sperm and the emryos.  The best part was that almost every bit of it was covered under our health insurance.  It was a relief to go there.     

Sunday, January 18, 2015

LesCountdown: C'Mon, Double-Digits

I don't know how other spouses of pregnant women feel, but I am starting to think I am willing this baby into the world.  I am sending it telepathic signals to get it through each step and every hurdle.  Tommie and I are approaching the end of week 8 and will celebrate the beginning week 9 tomorrow by watching our next What to Expect video.  I am also gifting myself a massage tomorrow because I am truly exhausted from all of this.  Week 9 is exciting because it will finally lead us to the infamous and coveted double-digit week 10!  Ten is such a wholesome number.  It is so perfect.  It is a mark of quarterly success with the pregnancy.  (I hear a radio announcer in my head saying, with charisma, "You are a quarter of the way there!")  With all of this mental tugging, pleading, and mind melding with Sharkie, I am having a hard time making room for myself.  I feel guilty that I am even considering my own needs right now.

I have been working through some way to approach my emotions in a healthy way.  The stress and anxiety that can accompany pregnancy are massive and I do not want to make Tommie feel these things radiating from me like a ghastly sunburn.  My DBT Workbook has been a real life-saver.  The authors provide a list of 100 things you can do to distract yourself from this stress; they call it "The Big List of Pleasurable Activities."  I made a pact with myself to check the list every day, during this upcoming ninth week.  I have agreed- with myself- to DO one of these per day.  It's not going to be easy!  I am also brainstorming some new "pleasurable activities" that will keep my emotions in check.  They are a bit strange, but here goes:

1. Quilting Classes: I know it's not 1815 and I am not yet 40, but I have always wanted to make a quilt!  I found classes available at our local Jo-Ann Fabric Store.
2. Design a New Tattoo: Although I am a professional, I am covered in them.  Most people never even see them.  I would like something inspired by Henry David Thoreau's Walden and his chapter on "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For."  I will reach out to my very talented tattoo artist and friend, Tim, at Blueprint Gallery in Hadley, MA.

3. Take A Day Trip: I have three favorite places that are all within a 90-minute drive- New Haven, Northampton, and Brattleboro.  Tommie and I also adore The Chesterfield Inn.  I would like to make one exursion a month.  It is possible I will venture to Raleigh, NC to see my family too.  We will have to wait until Sharkie is not making Tommie so sick, but I picture myself like this...


We live in Connecticut.  It will probably look much more like this...


It's time to go indulge in some bacon and make this a relaxing Sunday because, with some more luck, we won't have many more of these after August!  Today's "pleasurable activities" will include wathing football, eating junk food, and day dreaming about Sharkie.  I may read some more blogs too.  I now have some favorites; see our blog list.  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

LesRelief: Everything Seems Fine

This was a bit of a chaotic week.  Tommie was bleeding and she was also feeling exactly like shit.  The bleeding subsided and the IVF nurse said that it was "normal," and we did not need to go in for a visit. Tommie and Sharkie (that nickname for the embryo has really stuck) will go for an ultrasound on Friday, at nearly 10 weeks.  We are still at the stage, in which anything could go wrong at any moment.  It's like we're teetering at the edge of a cliff.  We did get some good news, though.  Tommie had elevated levels of TSH when she was first pregnant, so she was put on a very low dose of a thyroid medication; now, her TSH is totally normal.  Apparently, high levels of TSH can be risky for a developing embryo (see article).  All is well in thyroid land.

We were able to sneak in some laughs this week.  Tommie and I are staunchly atheist and I accidentally bought her a baby naming book from that is for "spiritual reference"!  In my defense, that was not entirely clear in the description.  When the book arrived- which I thought would be a nice way to lighten the mood- it was filled with biblical references and advice for a "spiritual naming."  Just in case you want to avoid it or order it, here's the book:


I did find a really great one too and we think we settled on some choices that truly resonate with both of us. Since IVF- without intentional sex selection through PDG- results in many more girl babies, we have made "girl names" our focus.  Girl babies are more resilient and, generally, have higher heart beats per minute than boy babies.  Sperm containing female chromosomes also live longer, so they have a better chance of meeting the egg.  (Interestingly, when parents choose the sex of their baby, more than 70% select a boy!)  The statistics are mixed on all of this, but most of the literature I read supports this girlie notion.  This article provides a little overview.

We have always found it easier to agree on boy names.  We are both somewhat androgynous ourselves, so our goal has been to find gender-neutral names.  We are opposed to the whole blue-pink dichotomy and we don't want Sharkie to feel like he/she cannot express himself/herself.


Tommie's cravings and sickness continue.  She has consumed tons of ginger ale and has also asked for clam strips (?), Oreos (??), and orange Jello (???) in the last week.  I  found an awesome ginger ale that contains real ginger; it is delicious and much better than the garbage that is called "Ginger Ale."  I also cannot stop drinking it, so it will be a miracle if my teeth don't rot out of my head before Sharkie is born.


I have a new habit of calling Tommie and asking her, "How are you guys?"  I am now starting to think of Sharkie as a person, but I am a proponent of science, and I know we are not quite there yet.  It's still cute that there is a little blob with a faint heartbeat growing inside of Tommie.  When my sister was pregnant, I had recurring dreams that she gave birth to a puppy.  It was always wrapped in a blanket and she would hand it to me, so I could hold it.  I have not had anything like this since Tommie became pregnant, so I guess it is not entirely real to me yet.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Les(baby)Bumps in the Road: Week 8, Week Hate

Tommie has some sort of situation going on right now.  Last night, she was bleeding.  It was not an alarming amount, but it definitely could not be classified as "spotting."  It was red.  Bright, lipstick red.  I called the doctor who was tending to the answering service.  For some reason, she sounded like a teenager and I wondered why a real doctor could not call us back.  She asked a dozen questions.  This validated her position as "real doctor."  Then, she deemed the bleeding as "sort of typical."  She said that 1/3 of women have bleeding in their first trimester, especially those who have never been pregnant before.

Double trouble.  It happened again today, at exactly the same time as it did yesterday.  I already called Tommie's IVF nurse and left her a message, so that we can see the doctor tomorrow.  I believe it's ultrasound time, again.  The only solace I have is reading another blog- Reciprocallove- because the same EXACT situation is happening to its writer.  I cannot deny the shitty feeling that accompanies this current baby bump in the road.  As soon as we got the phone call about the positive pregnancy, with the accompanying cheers for high HCG and "perfect" progesterone, we were happy.  It was a whole level of happiness that I had not achieved in any other time of life.  It was unprecedented.  Now, it is taking everything I have not to fall into a bleak pit of doubt.  If this doesn't work, if Eggrbyo/Sharkie/Paddlehands cannot hold on, we have very little energy and money left to build a family.

Fingers crossed that we are among the 1/3 of women who go through this and still give birth to healthy children.  I thought that actually getting pregnant would be the hardest part of this process.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

LesMilestones: Week 8 Begins Tomorrow

According to all of the literature on pregnancy, reaching Week 8 is a big milestone worth celebrating.


I am looking forward to weeks that are double-digits.  It seems safer and increasingly real to say, "Tommie is 10 (or more) weeks."  Eggbryo is growing a lot these days, which is why Tommie is sending me texts like this.


Should I start a second blog called Pregnant Lady Texts?

Since she is so sick, I don't want her to feel like she has to do tasks around the house.  In turn, I hired a friend of ours who is looking for odd jobs.  I am paying her to come to the house each week to help me clean and do chores.  I think this is something that will continue, as Tommie progresses.  For now, our friend thinks that Tommie is recovering from the flu.  We are still keeping things under wraps.  For fun, in the secrecy of our own home, we have been talking some more about names.  We have an ever-evolving list that I will share if Tommie makes it to Month 7/Week 28.  That's a safe threshold.