Friday, May 31, 2013

Donor Profiles

First of all I need to clarify that we need to have at least 6 embryos for our transfer.  However, we are NOT going to transfer all six.  NEDC will usually transfer 2 or 3, but they want to make sure we have at least 6 embryos on hand.  In the unfortunate event that some embryos do not survive the thaw, we will have backups and not have to cancel the transfer.

We still have not selected our donor families.  I was very excited and was looking forward to going over the family profiles.  To me, this is the most exciting part of the process, selecting our future babies.  However, I didn't expect how difficult it would be.  There is no "perfect" match for us in the 8 profiles we have on hand.  Some are because of medical issues, others due to physical characteristics (height, color of eyes, ethnicity, etc.).  I have to keep in mind that even within our own families, we have medical issues as well, so I should be more open.  Also, most of the current donor families  only have between 3 and 5 embryos, which means we will have to select at least 2 different donor families.

There are 2 families that I am fairly comfortable with at this point.  However, I am not sharing this with Babe because I want him to make up his own mind.  I prefer if he tells me which families he likes first, then we can compare notes.  I've check with Angie the patient coordinator at NEDC and there are currently 12 anonymous donor families (i.e. closed adoption) that are either Asian-Causcasion or just Asian.  Babe wants to take a look at those families too, so I have requested the profiles from Angie.  The other thing to keep in mind is we can only select families that have agreed to open or closed adoption, and not a combination of both.  My preference is to have an open adoption, but we will see.

I've just started a new cycle.  Originally I was supposed to start BCP (birth control pills) right away when I start my new cycle.  But I asked the nurse that if I started my BCP right away, wouldn't I be on the it for 3 months straight?  She said I could start right away, or wait till July.  It didn't matter.  So I've decided to wait till July to start my BCP.  I won't be ordering my medication for the transfer until the beginning of August.  So for now, I will be medication free, at least for another month!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

I am finally getting to the post about our day spent on Tuesday, May 21st, the day before our appointment at NEDC.  We didn't really have a plan other than that we would drive out to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that day.  We slept in, had breakfast at the hotel and didn't get on the road until 10 am.  That was a good plan we think, since we avoided traffic on the freeways.

The first thing we did was we stopped by the Visitor's and Information Center in Sevierville.  We told the volunteer there that we only had the day to drive around and she pretty much planned the day for us, where to go, what to see, how much time to expect to drive, and even another way back to Knoxville on the other side of the park, avoiding most of the traffic on the way home.

We drove through Pigeon Forge, which to me was a huge tourist trap!  The road through town was a 4-lane highway (each direction), but you could only go 35 mph.  The main strip was full of restaurants, hotel, amusement parks, theaters, water parks, and anything that you can think of to separate you from your hard earned money.  Thank goodness we were only there for the Smokies!  I suppose if you have kids, it would/could be a cool place to go to.

Pigeon Forge main strip.  Can you spot the "Titanic"?
A closer look at the "Titanic"
Watch out for King Kong on the Empire State Building!
After leaving town, the roads started to get a lot more windy.  Sometimes it felt like we were going in loops and brought back memories of me getting motion sickness from driving on a road called "The Gap" during my childhood.  Fortunately, this time I was the one driving, so motion sickness was not an issue.  Our first stop was Newfound Gap, which straddles the state lines between North Carolina and Tennessee.  There is also the Rockefeller Memorial there that honors a $5 million donation that was used to acquire the land that brought about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The memorial offers some great scenery and is great for taking photos.  If you are into hiking, you will also see part of the famous Appalachian Trail which covers over 2,200 miles and 13 states.

State line between North Carolina and Tennessee
The Appalachian Trail
Next, we drove to Clingmans Dome which is the highest point of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the state of Tennessee.  If you are willing to climb the steep half-mile paved walk up to the top, you will be rewarded with the beautiful view from a cool observation deck.  There are no stairs up here, just a paved walkway that goes all the way to the top. We had a little picnic enjoying the view before heading up to the observation deck.  The walk was only a half-mile long, but it was pretty steep and quite a haul for the not-so-fit me!  We (meaning I) had to stop a few times before we reached the top.  Half a mile seems like forever when you are going uphill!  The view at the top was so worth it!  If you look around you may notice that a lot of the fir trees are dead.  This is caused by the woolly adelgid (insect).  Kinda sad, and it doesn't sound like it will get any better.

View of our picnic lunch at Clingmans Dome
Clingmans Dome sign
Almost there!  Taking a break walking up to the top!
View on the way to the top
We made it to the top of the observation deck!
View from the top of the Smokies! (notice the dead trees) 
Our last stop was to a valley with an 11-mile loop surrounded by mountains called Cades Cove.  This place is rich in history.  European settlers first arrived here in the early 1800's and there are still historic buildings scattered along the loop, including churches, log homes, barns and a mill.  It is also supposed to be a great place to view wildlife, though the only things we managed to see were a few deer, a turkey and a butterfly cocoon (not sure if the last one counts as wildlife!).

The flume directing water from the creek to the mill
The mill
A barn at the mill
Overall we were super lucky with the weather.  We had gorgeous weather almost the entire time we were in the park.  The only times we got rain, and sometimes really heavy, was when we hopped into our car to go from one place to the other.  There were times when the rain made the drive on the windy roads pretty tricky.  The speed limit at the park is mostly 30 or 35 mph, but sometimes we had to go much slower than that due to the rain.  We finally left Cades Cove and the park at around 5 pm.  By that time, everyone was also leaving Cades Cove at the same time.  We encountered a thunderstorm with lightning and thunder, slowing everyone down.  We had a "Smoky Mountains rush hour" going about 10 miles an hour for quite a while until we got out of Cades Cove.
"Rush hour" in the rain in Cades Cove. 
We drove in heavy rains and limited vision for part of the drive back to Knoxville, but it was still a pleasant drive.  Overall, we had a great time at the park.  I think the Smokies would be a great place to visit especially in the fall with its fall colors.  We may consider visiting again when we go back in September.  The only thing I am not too excited about is the long windy roads.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The NEDC Visit & Mock Transfer

It feel like I have so much to write I am not sure where to start, and that I will forget something really important.  At first I thought I would write about our day at the Smoky Mountain National Park first since we went there on Tuesday, but I've decided to write about our visit to NEDC on Wednesday first while I have this somewhat fresh in my mind.  Plus I know there are some of you waiting to hear about our trip.

We arrived at NEDC at 9 am for our appointment.  I had been drinking water before leaving the hotel in the morning, but was trying to be conservative about the amount, since Katie the nurse had mentioned in one of my earlier phone conversations with her not to go overboard because we would meet and talk with Dr. Keenan first.  I remember during my last IVF how uncomfortable I was when my bladder was overfull.

Dr. Keenan was super nice.  We talked a bit about how we really enjoyed Tennessee and the Rocky Mountains National Park.  Then we went over our infertility history and surgeries.  Dr. Keenan had a resident doctor working with him.  I can't remember her name, but it was a unique and LONG African last name.  Dr. Keenan said that the average success rate for NEDC as a whole was 46%, which was pretty good for FETs (frozen embryo transfers).  Based on our history, we have an average success rate, not above average, not below average.  I was at first concerned about just "average", but he said average is great!  So I am keeping that in mind.  We were discussing something about age and I said, I am 39 you know?  He responded 39 is PERFECT!  That totally brightened up my day.  I told him no one has ever told me 39 is perfect before when it comes to trying to have a baby!  But insists 39 is great, so I will take his word for it.  He was professional, personable and made us feel really comfortable.

Some things Dr. Keenan told us to keep in mind:

  • We do not need to worry about the quality of the embryos, nor the age of the donors.  If embryos were not of high enough quality, it would not have been frozen in the first place.
  • Even if the embryos were great quality when frozen, there is no guarantee that the quality will remain the same once it has been thawed.  The quality of the thawed embryos is what is important.
  • Even the best quality embryos do not guarantee a pregnancy, whereas often lower grade embryos produce beautiful babies.
  • Dr. Keenan reminded us that we should keep in mind NEDC's overall success rate of 46 percent instead, and focus on selecting the donor family that best fits us.  And don't worry about the quality of the embryos.
  • We will need to have a minimum of 6 embryos for our transfer.  This means we may need to select more than one family.
  • We have agreed to have mixing of embryos from more than one family if needed (if the family selected has less than 6 embryos).  If that happens, we agree to do genetic testing to determine which donor family the baby is from.
  • We have agreed to do an Open Adoption with our donor families.  That means we will have some kind of contact or relationship with the donor family.
  • We are allowed up to 3 tries per pregnancy.  That is NEDC's policy.  That means if we don't get pregnant after the third try, we can no longer adopt embryos from NEDC.  This is because NEDC wants to give the embryos the best chance at life.  I can totally understand that and think it is a good policy.
After that we moved on to an exam room for my mock transfer.  Unfortunately, I found out that my bladder was not full enough.  They require a very full bladder so it gives a better view of the cervix in the ultrasound machine.  So they had to insert a catheter into my bladder to fill it.  I was not too excited about it.  The resident doctor did the prep work and filled my bladder with saline solution.    Luckily the process was not too unpleasant though I could definitely feel it filling up, and could tell that my bladder was pretty full!  Dr. Keenan then took over and proceeded to do the actual mock transfer.  With the help of the ultrasound machine (over the belly), he inserted a catheter through my cervix and into my uterine cavity.  In the actual embryo transfer, this catheter would hold the embryos that would be placed in the uterus.  But here, there were no embryos in it (i.e. the term "mock transfer").  This procedure is to make sure that the doctor is actually able to insert the catheter into the uterus, take some measurements, and that there are no surprises on the actual transfer day.  Everything went as hoped, and Dr. Keenan said it went perfectly.  I was then allowed to use the bathroom to empty my bladder (thankfully!)

Then I was back on the exam table for my SHG (sonohysterogram) or SIS (saline infused sonogram).  This is a transvaginal ultrasound with the addition of saline into the uterus.  The resident doctor started off the procedure by inserting a catheter through my cervix into the uterus.  Then the transvaginal ultrasound wand is inserted and the saline solution is slowly injected through the catheter into the uterus.  Dr. Keenan was there coaching and advising the resident doctor through this.  I didn't mind as long as I was not in pain ( I wasn't), and she didn't break any part of my body (she didn't).  The saline in the uterus would highlight any irregularities in the uterus including polyps, fibroids, scar tissue or any other abnormalities.  Fortunately, he found nothing.  Everything looked good and I given my medical clearance.   I got my green light for a transfer in September!

Next, I met up with Carol the embryologist and Angie the (new) patient coordinator.  We went over the types of embryos available.
  • PN2 (pronucular) - Frozen as Day 1 embryos, has a 90% of surviving a thaw
  • Multicells - Frozen as Day 2 or Day 3 embryos,  has a 75% chance of thaw
  • Blastocysts - Frozen as Day 5 or 6 embryos, has a 70% chance of surviving a thaw
According to the embryologist, the key point for us to remember here was that no matter what type of embryos we choose, the pregnancy rate was the same.  So, if that is the case, then the type of embryos we choose would determine that probability of them surviving the thaw only.  Of those that do survive the thaw, the pregnancy rate would be the same.  We will need to keep this in mind when we select our donor family.  

Because we are a bi-racial couple and want Asian-Caucasian embryos, our pool of donor families is fairly limited.  Plus, we also want to do an open adoption, that limits the pool even more.  Angie, the patient coordinator said she would look into the number of available donor families and give us an idea of how many families are available to would fit us.  She would email those profiles to us later.  

We then met with Juliana, the Program Manager and went over the financial information and some more forms.  After that, Katie the nurse came back and we went over my prescriptions and frozen embryo transfer information.  I am to reduce my Es.trace dosage down to twice a day, and add Pro.metrium (progesterone) twice a day, both for 5 days.  Then I should be getting my period a few days after that.  I will start my BCP (birth control pills) on the first day of my cycle and continue taking it until I get further instructions from the clinic.

After that we paid for our visit.  $1,200 for the program fee for NEDC's embryo adoption program and $520 for the office visit.  And then we were done!  Before we left, Angie surprised us by giving us the profiles of our donor families!  Because of our limitations (bi-racial and open adoption), we only had 8 family profiles that matched us.  We were pleasantly surprised and very excited to have them before we left the clinic!

After the appointment, we had a few hours to kill before heading to the airport.  We had lunch at the Smoky Mountain Brewery.  Then we walked around a couple of stores close by and went to Starbucks for coffee and went over the profiles.  I have to say, going over the family profiles is very exciting, but it is also harder than I thought it would be.  Babe actually felt a little uncomfortable with it.  If you think about it, it is a bit lot like a birth mom trying to select an adoptive family for the baby.  But it is the total OPPOSITE.  It feels like shopping for our baby.  But in the end, I have to keep in mind that we are adopting our child, and giving a frozen embryo a chance at life while fulfilling our desires to be parents.  We believe that God has already chosen a child/children for us to be transferred into my body. We are only a vessel in part of His plan.  And we pray that His plan is that we will be able to carry and give birth to this child.

We headed back to the airport in our rental car, and hopped on our planes to come home.  Other than our flight to Minneapolis being delayed twice due to thunderstorms out in New York and us not getting home till midnight, our trip home was pretty uneventful.

I really like Dr. Keenan and his staff at NEDC.  Knoxville has been a pleasant trip for us and the people there are all truly very nice and friendly.  I am so looking forward to going back.  September transfers at NEDC are between the 14th and the 20th.  So our transfer date will be in there somewhere. Now, we have to take some time to go over the donor family profiles again and select our family (or families).  After that we will wait for the family to approve us to adopt their embryos and then we will work on the Open Donation Agreement with the family through the National Fertility Support Center.  Once that is all done, we will hopefully have a date for our transfer.

I will post next about our visit to the Smoky Mountain National Park.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 2013 ICLW

It's time for ICLW again!

For those new here from ICLW, here's a quick update about us. After years of trying to start our family, including multiple attempts with IUIs and IVFs, we are now hoping to grow our family through the miracle of embryo adoption. 

This is a pretty exciting time for us. At the time of this posting, Babe and I are in Knoxville, TN. We will meet with Dr. Keenan tomorrow at NEDC for our initial appointment. This will be our first time meeting him and his staff. I'm really excited because I've heard from so many people that they are wonderful to work with. We will do a full workup and a mock transfer.  If everything goes well, we will start the matching process by selecting a donor family.  I will try to update on how things go when I can. 

Monday, May 20, 2013


We made it to Knoxville today. The flights were pretty uneventful, except for the two ladies that sat in from of us on the Minneapolis-Memphis flight. They never stopped talking loudly from the time they boarded the plan until we got off the plane in Memphis. All I can say is thank God for the music on my iPhone and headphones!

We were on a pretty small plane from Memphis to Knoxville. We had a ramp to the plane, but the plane was so small the ramp could not even cover the door of the aircraft (see photo below).  Poor Babe could not even stand up straight in the plane ( he's 6' 4").  

All in all we had a pleasant trip.  We picked up our rental car and drove to our hotel. After relaxing for awhile, we went out to dinner at the Bonefish Grill. It's a great place if you like fish and seafood.  Tomorrow, we head out to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a day trip. 

Good night!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mother's Day Message.... A Song For You

I wanted to share this with you really quick while I am thinking about it.  I just became friends with my pastor on today.  She is the one I wrote about in my last post about her Mother's Day message.  I found out she has a blog and found the message she shared last week there.

Her message is called "A Song For You".  Enjoy!

*........working on packing for my trip to NEDC tomorrow!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Four More Sleeps

As of this writing, I will have only 4 more sleeps before my Babe and I hop on the plane to Knoxville, TN for our initial appointment and mock transfer.

A few of my friends have asked me how I'm feeling, if I'm excited or nervous.  To be honest, I don't really feel any different.  I know should be excited about this trip, but right now, it's just another trip.  I do have a few minor details on a couple of forms to fill up yet for NEDC, but that's about it.  I guess it helps to have my flight, hotel and car booked.  But other than that, not too much going on.  I suppose I should do more to prepare for this trip, but can't really think of what I need to do.  Maybe figure out what I will do when I have a free day before our appointment.  For now, I am hoping to visit the Smoky Mountain National Park.  For those that have been to NEDC or Knoxville, do you have any suggestions on what to do and where to go eat at?

How was everyone's Mother's Day?  Usually this is a pretty hard day for me, but lately our church has moved away from recognizing mothers publicly or having them stand up in front of everyone.  This year the pastor gave a very interesting message.  Not only did she recognize mothers and mothers-to-be in general, she also acknowledged that it can be a very difficult time for a lot of people..... people who have lost their mothers, or those that do not have good relationships with their mothers, mothers who have difficult relationships with their children, women like me who want to be mothers but are not able to, those who have had miscarriages, or have lost children, birth moms who have placed their children up for adoption, those who are adopted and are thinking about their birth moms, and even women that have had abortions.  It was a great message and was very encouraging.  It did make me cry, but not for the usual reasons.  It felt good to be recognized, but also that the pastor helped others see that this can be a difficult time for some people.

I did receive a couple of Mother's Day texts and Facebook messages from friends and my sister.  One friends reminded me that I AM a mother to my angel babies.  Sometiimes I do have to be reminded that technically I am a mother to a few snowbabies that I lost to my previous IVFs.  Also, God has some snowbabies waiting for me to come get them in a few months!

How was your Mother's Day?

Friday, May 3, 2013


I started Es.trace today.  The "little blue pill".

I called the IVF nurse at NEDC on Wednesday when my cycle started, but she said to wait till today to start taking Es.trace.  The clinic wants me to be right around day 20 of taking Es.trace at my mock transfer appointment on the 22nd.  I've never taken Es.trace before and wondering if I will experience any side effects.  For those of you that have taken Es.trace before, what side effects did you experience, if any?  I have yet to experience any that I notice, but I have only taken 2 so far.  I take 2 a day for 9 days, and then increase the dosage to 3 a day until my appointment.

I have also been fortunate that Mel, one of the gals from our infertility support group had an unopened bottle of Es.trace that she did not need.  So, I got my bottle of meds free this time.  I'll probably be prescribed another bottle for my transfer.  Does anyone know how much Es.trace cost?  In the past, I've been lucky enough to have infertility coverage through our insurance, but now we don't.  Just curious how much it would be to pay for it out of pocket.  Also wondering about the cost of Lu.pron.  Any idea?

Only a little less than 3 weeks to before we leave for Knoxville!