Adios, 2012!

I feel like K and I spent half of 2012 in doctors’ offices in our quest to conceive and the other half worrying about the entire process of becoming parents. What if K’s cycle won’t return after so many years of being on testosterone? What if we won’t become pregnant? What if we can’t afford the entire process of trying to become parents? What if we’re pregnant? What if something’s wrong with the baby? What if K barfs for literally 9 months? What if we aren’t prepared to become parents? Is that pain normal? Is that gas or Falco moving? What if we’re having a boy? Am I going to be able to handle the fact that Michigan does not currently allow second parent adoption or view me as legally related to this child? The list is endless and contains both silly and very sobering fears.

2013 will bring about some terrifying and exhilarating changes. Those who know me well are aware that change is not typically my bestie, but I am really looking forward to being a mom and know that I will get through all of the challenges because we are tough cookies who have an amazing support system. I have a handsome and phenomenal partner (truly, you all should be jealous) who loves me and walks through this life with me as the world’s best teammate. K and I have treasured family members, both given and chosen, who are always there for us, even at the drop of a hat like our dear friend M did over the weekend when I suddenly realized that I had no idea how I was going to carry all of the heavy IKEA purchases we’d just made for the nursery. K and I often feel like the luckiest people in this world, and we’re so grateful for that.

Bring it, 2013. We’ve got this.

Path to pregnancy, a retrospective

The journey to become pregnant for the first time has been a roller coaster for the past 9 months. Since we started our blog just recently, I thought I would share some of the highlights month-by-month to tell the story of how we got to this place.

December 2011
Took my final shot of testosterone on December 23, 2011.  C and I talked constantly about baby making and our plans for 2012!

January 2012
Started charting with Fertility Friend and felt obsessed and empowered by all of my bodily data.  We also began researching sperm donors and narrowed down our choices to our top 2 or 3. Our friends tease us about a Google spreadsheet we created to track pros and cons of each donor option.

February 2012
Still waiting for my cycle to return.  Waiting and waiting, and was getting scared that it would never come back.  On Valentine’s Day, I went to my regular OB/GYN and discussed my plans for getting pregnant.  The doctor and nurse practitioner are excited for C and I and are more than willing to work with us for my pregnancy.  C teased me about showing my bits some love on V Day.

March 2012
March 4 2012–my period returned.  I was overjoyed and grouchy at the same time.

We also had our first consults with reproductive endocrinologists (RE) this month.  We selected one RE based on the fact that they advertised in a LGBT local paper and the other based on good word-of-mouth feedback.  Before scheduling the appointments, C and I drafted long, detailed letters explaining our situation and identities.  They both sent me 30-40 page packets of forms to complete ahead of time, most of which I had to respond with “does not apply.”

The prices were really somewhat shocking, especially that of Dr. W, which were about $750 more per cycle than Dr. MB.
We both felt really excited about going with Dr. MB between his better pricing and REALLY compassionate and nerdy personality. This is somewhat surprising because we both anticipated liking Dr. W more, based on some good experiences we’d previously had with her staff. However, she seemed very judgmental toward C. For example, when I asked directly how queer/trans friendly she was, she responded, “I’m sitting here talking to you, aren’t I?”  Ummmmm….What?!
Looking back, I can honestly say that we couldn’t have made a better choice.  Dr. MB’s staff are so kind and I feel very relaxed and safe at their practice.
April 2012
First month of testing at the RE’s office.  I was introduced to the joy horror of the cycle day 3 vaginal ultrasound.  If I had any issues with being a bleeding man, I was going to have to get over them quickly.  We also had tons of blood work to check hormones, thyroid, FSH, and a bunch of other things.  I had a HSG, which is uncomfortable both physically and emotionally, as it turns out the resident performing the test was in my degree program and remembers me—-as a different gender.  At the end of the testing cycle, we met with the RE who diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s and refers to me another endocrinologist.  Other than my slightly elevated thyroid, all other systems were a go.

May 2012
I was disappointed because I was hoping May would be our first month to try.  Instead, I met with the new endocrinologist, Dr. B.  He’s young and did his residency at the medical school where I do research.  Somehow this makes him more approachable. He prescribed synthroid and wanted to see my TSH levels below 2 before we began trying to get pregnant.

C and I took a trip to Philly to visit our best friends and attend the Trans Health Conference. We attended a half-day intensive workshop on trans-masculine pregnancy and it was amazing! I was still charting this month and also practicing with ovulation predictor kits (OPKs).  While on the drive to Philly, we stopped somewhere on the Ohio turnpike so I could pee on a stick.  I got one of my first smiley faces in a men’s public restroom!

June 2012
My thyroid levels were good and were finally ready to start trying!  This month, we had our first IUI attempt.  We decided to try one natural (un-medicated) cycle.  We did OPKs and went in for back-to-back (24 hours apart) IUIs once we received a positive OPK result.  The first IUI went great, but the second one was physically and emotionally uncomfortable.  We had a nurse we didn’t like as much, she mis-gendered me and spoke about me in the 3rd person.  Plus, she had difficulty inserting the catheter through my cervix and I had a lot of bleeding, camping, and backaches afterward.

We tested after 2 weeks and a got a very faint positive.  After going in for blood work we discovered my HCG (beta) had dropped and I wasn’t pregnant after all.  I was unprepared for how crushed and disappointed I would feel.

July 2012
Because I don’t want to be off T for longer than I have to, and was hoping to be hugely pregnant during the winter months, we decided to move ahead with a medicated cycle for our second attempt.  Doing the medicated and monitored cycle made me feel like we were at the doctor’s office every other day (and we were for two of the weeks).  I did a baseline ultrasound and blood work, took Femara, did 4 or 5 additional ultrasounds (with blood work each time) to check on how my follicles were growing.  We ended up with two mature follicles and did a trigger shot of Ovidrel to initiate ovulation.  Again, we went in for back-to-back IUIs, 24 hours apart.  4 days later, I had another follow-up appointment to confirm ovulation. Two weeks after taking the Ovidrel shot, we got our good news! 🙂

Product Review: What Makes a Baby book

K and I were very excited when we saw a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publishing of an inclusive book that would teach children about reproduction. Below is a description of the project, in the words of the author, Cory Silverberg:

What Makes a Baby is my response to the fact that books about where babies come from leave many of us out.  They tell a nice story (mommy + daddy + intercourse = you!) but the truth is that more and more of us are acknowledging the help we get to bring children into our lives.  That help might be a doctor, fertility clinic, adoption or foster agency; it might be a turkey baster and a friend; it might be a sperm donor or a surrogate.  What Makes a Baby helps parents tell children a story about where they came from that isn’t just true for them, but true for everyone.

Crafted for children roughly from pre-school to 8-years-old, What Makes a Baby is written and illustrated to include all kinds of kids, all kinds of adults, and all kinds of families – regardless of how many people were involved, what the orientation, gender identity, or other make up of the family is, or how it came to be that way.  It’s a social justice approach to sex education.  Like all picture books, it’s meant to be read to a child and gives the adult reader the opportunity to fill in as much detail as they would like.

What Makes a Baby Book Trailer from Cory Silverberg on Vimeo.

What’s not to love about this project? As a transguy who is the gestational parent and a queer woman who is an adoptee and non-gestational parent of Falco, K and I are obviously going to one day need to answer the question of our children’s conception and we plan to teach them about this in inclusive and age-appropriate ways. What Makes a Baby, written by certified sexuality educator Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth, seemed like a logical and exciting resource for young kids, and we happily backed the project at the “Flash Mobber” level, which came with the benefit of receiving a first edition, hard-cover copy of the book.

We were elated when the Kickstarter campaign exceeded their funding goal and even more so when we received our copy of the book. It is vibrantly colorful and appropriately addresses the concept of conception and birth for young children.

Cory Silverberg accurately professes that What Makes a Family is “a book for every kind of family and every kind of kid.” I personally loved that the people all appear to be happy, gender neutral beings and that the language follows suit with treasured sentiments like, “Not all bodies have sperm in them. Some do, and some do not.” Silverberg includes questions such as, “Who was waiting for you to be born?” which leaves room for caregivers to provide additional or personalized information about the child and family’s stories, and to celebrate the unique ways in which families come together.

In a nutshell, K and I love this book and can’t wait to read it to our little Falco. We hope you’ll consider purchasing What Makes a Baby to read to the children in your life!

Telling the maternal grandparents

My parents knew that the RE’s office wanted us to take a pregnancy test on Friday, so despite the fact that they were traveling via RV in Alaska and likely wouldn’t be near reliable cell towers, my mom wanted me to call with any news. Being the compliant excited daughter that I am, I tried calling as early as I felt it was appropriate. Sadly, the call went right to voicemail. This isn’t unheard of for my folks, who don’t always leave their cell on. I left a voicemail, pouted slightly, and moved on with my day.

We played phone tag for the remainder of the afternoon and it wasn’t until I was getting the final few minutes of sleep during my much-needed afternoon nap, that I finally got a call from my mom. She apologized about not being available and said they’d been driving through the mountains. I quickly told her our news about the positive pregnancy test. Knowing what happened with our last cycle, she asked about our level of certainty and next steps. I started to tell her how we knew for sure it was a positive result and that we’d be going for bi-weekly blood work at our RE’s office, starting on Monday, gaining momentum with my excitement, and suddenly heard a loud beep. The call had dropped right after I told her we were pregnant! AHHHH!

We eventually connected after over an hour of us both sitting on pins and needles, but I will always remember the humor in telling my parents, whose support has been so critical to both K and I these past several months, while they were traveling to the Arctic Circle.

Finally.

It’s been such a long journey already. At times, it was hard to let myself imagine that we’d finally be at this place and, truth be told, I’m still a little stunned by the reality of it.

It took months for K’s period to make its reappearance, then two cycles involving a wait for ovulation to occur and then agonizing waits to test for pregnancy. Our first attempt at insemination (IUI) involved a long delay between inseminating and K finally getting his period. We were completely overwhelmed by a constant sense of anxiety and took several pregnancy tests during that wait, one of which was a very faint positive. Unfortunately, by the time we went to our reproductive endocrinologist (RE) for blood work to confirm the pregnancy, we must have lost the baby. It’s what many refer to as a “chemical pregnancy.” It was a horrendous feeling of loss and sadness for us both.

Because K was finding it increasingly difficult to be off of testosterone, we decided to work with our RE to take fertility medication and a trigger shot with ovulatory monitoring to enhance our chances at conceiving during our second cycle. Our RE almost exclusively prescribes Femara to his patients on fertility medication because it has many of the benefits of Clomid without the potential side effects such as anxiety and depression. The monitoring involved endless early mornings to have K’s estradiol level checked and ultrasounds to monitor the size of his maturing follicles, most of which wasn’t covered by our insurance plan. We started to heavily stress about money as we watched the savings we’d manage to scrape together for this journey quickly diminish with each monitoring visit. We knew that if the second try didn’t end with the result we’d hoped, we would have to take at least one month off from trying in order to replenish our savings for another attempt.

We went into the second try with so many reservations. We were terrified to get any hopes up. Still, this time, we felt much calmer and a lot less anxious about our two week wait until we were able to test for pregnancy. During the beginning of the second week, when K brought home french onion dip from a routine tip to the pharmacy for refills, and then said he felt too yucky to eat the food he’d purchased on a craving-based whim, I felt a glimmer of hope. On Friday, at 2:30 a.m., K turned to me in bed and announced that he had to pee and wondered if we should test. I, having just ingested my second dose of sleeping medication for the night, followed K into the bathroom and sleepily waited. I wasn’t even paying attention when K announced, “I think I see a second pink line!”

It's a faint second pink line!

It was faint, but much more prominent than the previous month’s result. Still, after our previous month’s heartbreak, we were tentative and frightened. I went back to bed in my zombie-like, already asleep state, while K stayed up ruminating about the result. In the morning, we called the RE’s office and they congratulated us, assured us that a second line, no matter how faint, means that we are pregnant and that we should come in on Monday morning for the first of our bi-weekly HCG beta tests. We began to feel a glimmer of hope, but we were still somewhat skeptical.

That evening, I had picked K up at work and we proceeded to make an hour long trek to visit out-of-town friends for dinner. I brought a digital pregnancy test with me, just in case, so we stopped at a Speedway gas station to see if we could potentially confirm the result. We crammed into a single-stall restroom to test and created quite the line for the women’s room. People, of course, gave us dirty looks when we both poured out of a single restroom, but it was worth it to be able to confirm this joyous news.

We confirmed with a digital test.

On the evening before the 34th anniversary of when my mom learned that she was becoming a mom, I learned that I was about to embark on the journey toward motherhood as well. It was a meaningful and treasured day to receive such momentous news.