(My apologies to TLC/Discovery Channel for co-opting their sentiments)
WARNING: The following blog entry contains actual descriptions of medical procedures that may seem incredibly space-age, out there, and, perhaps, disturbing for some readers. Reader discretion is advised.
The way the movies would have you believe, babies are created after a night of steamy hot lovemaking. The way most sex-ed classes in high school would have you believe, babies are created in a fit of hormone driven experimentation in which one does not use a condom. And the way most friends would have you believe, babies are created after a couple drinks a whole bottle of wine one evening instead of a half bottle, and someone forgets to take a pill for one day. While all of the above scenarios are true and lovely, I must point out that there is yet another way- the amazing process of fertility drugs, doctors, pipettes and petri dishes! And Aaron and I got to discover all of this in a nearly 3 hour appointment the other day.
I'd like to point out that in all of the above scenarios, baby-making involves two people...that's it. A him and a her. And perhaps Aaron and I were naive in thinking that although we would be doing it slightly differently, our baby-making in the 21st century would still be focus around 2 people, he and I. Answer: Uh, no. Big time no.
We headed for our appointment at Your Fertility Clinic For the 21st Century (YFCF21C)for what we thought was going to be an hour tops, with a consultation from the doctor, and from our nurse coordinator. OK, 2 more people in this fun process. (I'm beginning to feel like perhaps I need to start another blog entry just listing primary characters, like they do in a script). We had gone to YFCF21C for our first appointment where we met with 1 person, the doctor, learned all about IVF, dand we assumed it would be similar. Well, we all know what happens when you ASSUME! We walked out about 3 hours later having met with 8 people and with our heads spinning with information (seriously, it might have looked like the crazy part in the exorcist).
Everything began as planned, with the doctor. We got the report on Aaron's...we'll call them "swimmers". Needless to say, Aaron is quite virile (he puffs up his chest). The number of swimmers, their ability to swim, and their shape are all quite nice, yay Aaron! So we discuss this with the doctor and then it is time for my exam, an ultrasound. And here again, we find that women have the challenging time. In all of this 21st century baby-making, Aaron will spend a bit of time in a comfortable room alone and deliver his "contribution" in about 30 minutes. My part will involve drugs (SHOTS!), anesthesia, and other invasive, lovely procedures, the first of which I was about to undergo. Let's just say they did an ultrasound. And any ultrasound I've ever see they put some gel on a woman's belly and see what's going on beneath the skin. But there is another way to do an ultrasound. Involving using an orifice and a long wand that they actually put a condom over before using it! I never thought I'd see a whole basket of condoms in a fertility clinic, but there is was! Oh boy. Apparently this is the best way to visualize the ovaries. And yes, even ovaries look 10 pounds heavier on TV.
Next was off to the blood draw. And I know I have difficult veins. They're deep, they roll, it takes everyone a bazillion sticks to get blood, etc. etc. etc. And this was no exception. Although there nurse was very kind, after 2 pokes with no success they had to bringing in the big guns, the nurse with the magic touch! But that would take a while so we were shuttled off to embryology and an embryologist who showed us what seemed to be a 1000 slide power point (my eyes started glazing over about the point of the discussion on "day 2") showing us how they go from egg to embryo. They've apparently come a long way with this, rather than just putting everything in a petri dish and letting them mix, mingle and do their speed dating thing to make a match, they can now individually select the best swimmer and put it directly into the egg. It's called ICSI. Holy cow! So now we have to decide if we want that. It does increase the chances of egg fertilization, but I think there's something to be said for letting them all swim around, letting the hardiest of the swimmers meet the acquaintance of the gorgeous egg and get their groove on. IVF seems to get more and more scientific, but I'd also like to leave room for God to help them meet. Granted, God could work through the embryologist to select exactly the match He wants, but I figure there's got to be room for nature somewhere in this sci-fi procedure. We also discussed the number of embryos we'd like to try and create. They'll get a bazillion swimmers and quite a few eggs, however we really don't want "left over" embryos when this is all done. Fortunately, not all the egg retrieved need to be fertilized, it's up to us.
The other thing they do is something called "assisted hatching". Did you know that human embryos at some point have to "hatch" out of their first covering? Yup, I didn't either. Sheesh this is getting complicated! To make matters even more humorous, the embryologist was humorless. Any attempt at humor on my part (I mean, come on, thinking about human eggs hatching is kind of funny!) went totally over this guy's head. Which, considering he's the scientist who will be working with our little guys I supposed having no sense of humor is ok, but it made the 45 minute slide presentation painful, and reminiscent of grad school. ;) So the embryo will be implanted on day 5. And at that point it will be about 100 cells. AND, this is cool, we'll get a picture of it before it is implanted! HA HA! So all of those parents who are so excited about their first ultrasound picture, well, we've got you beat! We'll have a picture of our kiddo at 100 cells! Think about that!
So at this point we're 2 hours into this appointment, my eyes are glazed over after meeting Mr. I-Must-Be-An-Incredible-Scientist-Because-I-Have-No-Sense-Of-Humor and it's time to meet another player at YFCF21C, the IVF nurse. Turns out she'll be the one adjusting my medication and helping me through the creation of the eggs. Did I mention SHOTS? Lots and lots of them. Fortunately after all of my botox treatments every 4 months I've gotten used to shots, but somehow I think Aaron should have to get a shot each day to share in the joy and excitement of the creation of this baby. You know, just so he can be an equal participant. But no, it shall just be me wielding the razor sharp instrument of procreation on a daily basis for a month.
Then it was back to blood draw. As I mentioned above, needles really don't bother me that much. Honestly. HOWEVER, Ms. Nurse-With-The-Magic-Touch shows up. And indeed, technically, she only poked me once. But she did the "Now that I've made one hole I'm just going to move the needle around inside your arm and slide it back and forth until I manage to hit a vein." And while it probably only took 1 minute, it felt like forever. Not fun. At all.
OK, so blood draw is done, we've met everyone and their second and third in commands and it's time to go, right? Nay nay my friend, nay nay. Time to meet with the donor egg coordinator. "What?" you say, "Donor egg coordinator?" Yup. Even though Aaron and I are providing the DNA for this endeavor, because another person is going to be lovingly carrying our kiddo for us, this process is treated as an "egg donation". Interesting, eh? So we find out about all the tests for various things including, but not limited to, every STD on the planet that we'll need to have. So then it's off to schedule physicals for both of us. Oh yes, and counseling. Yup, we have to meet with a counselor who will talk to us about surrogacy and make sure we're fully prepared to participate in this endeavor. Frankly after all of the research we've done, talking to lots and lots of different people, mourning on our own the fact that I can't carry our child, dealing with disappointment over not being able to adopt, and meeting with all the agencies and finally finding a match, I think we've come through remarkably intact. Honestly, I think our marriage is stronger for having gone through this. And if we we going to go nutso I think we'd have already gone there. But another stamp of approval we need to get. So off to schedule the counseling appointment.
And then, finally, 3 hours later, we are done. We trudge to the car, barely remembering what floor we parked on, and sit in the car for about 5 minutes, unmoving, not talking, before we can bring ourselves to engage our brains enough to start the car and go. Yes friends, baby-making in the 21st century has come a loooooooong way from 2 people spending time together after missing a pill, or drinking too much wine, or even deciding to just forgo the birth control and let it happen. And at the end of all this, as crazy as it is, we are incredibly grateful. Let's face it, we would love to do this the traditional way, but that's not the path God has us on. So we'll hang with the crew at YFCF21C, trust them, and create a baby, all 8+ of us.