Family reunion

Yesterday, K, E and I attended an event that’s hosted by the reproductive endocrinologist who helped us conceive E. It was held in a park with a bouncy house and free ice cream from an ice cream truck, and was meant to be a sort of family reunion for families who have expanded because of the staff’s loving expertise. K and I wanted to attend because our lives had gotten busy and we had never gotten the chance to take E into the office and thank the staff.

It was a lovely park that we didn’t even know existed, and the weather was perfect for the event. Staff members ooed and ahhed over E and other babies in attendance. The oddest part was an unofficial receiving line of sorts where parents and babies waited to speak to the doctor. It felt a little bit like an unintended “meet your maker” sort of moment, but likely only because there were so many thankful parents (like us) who wanted to say hello to the doc.

The doctor’s practice is located in a very upscale nearby community, so K and I weren’t sure what sort of crowd to expect at this gathering. I was pleased that so many of the families seemed down-to-earth and friendly. We chatted with some of the parents about each other’s babies, milestones, etc. K and I confessed to each other later that we each spent time wondering about each of these family’s experiences with infertility. Thoughts of, “I’ll bet you were a cycle monitored, fertility med sort of family,” and, “IVF with egg donor for sure,” kept swirling through my head.

There was one family that was among the demographic I expected to see at this event: a privileged blond woman with her equally privileged mother and baby. They were, as K put it, a spectacle. The baby’s grandma clearly had a lot of plastic surgery and the entire family was decked out in a wide array of upscale clothing brands. The baby was cruising in a $5 bajillion stroller and had no short of seventeen toys dangling in front of her glitter beret topped head. I imagined that the mother had been married to a very wealthy older gentleman and, upon his death, had a doctor harvest his sperm so that she could conceive her miracle baby and secure a larger part of his estate for her and his postmortem spawn.

I wondered what others assumed our fertility journey was, and mused that they were all likely very far off from the accurate story.

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How to make a baby: sperm donors, IVF, and mad science experiments

I really, really love this recent post on Offbeat Families. It makes me think about how we conceived Falco and how I hope our child one day views this journey we’ve taken in order to grow our family.

So much of this resonates for me, namely:

[S/he] will know how much we wanted [her/him], our precious result of a mad science experiment gone wonderfully right.

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.

A day of pure work win!

I have a standing weekly meeting with our new director and yesterday was our day to meet. At the end of our meeting, she said, “So tell me more about this baby!” I had previously mentioned that K and I were expecting but didn’t have an opportunity to speak to her more about the details. It has also been really difficult to bond with her and develop a sense of trust. I decided to take the plunge with her perfect opening and just told her the rest of the story. She reacted wonderfully, asked really thoughtful and sensitive questions, and seemed genuinely excited for me! This was a breakthrough in our very new work relationship and I think I learned a lot more about her in the process.

Later that day, when I was processing and acknowledging donations, I saw that our reproductive endocrinologist had renewed an annual gift from him and his wife, and added a $1,000 donation from his clinic. When sending out major donor appeals about a month ago, I made the decision to write a note on his letter:

As survivors of domestic and sexual violence, one of the reasons why K and I felt inspired to come see you for our care is your generous support of [organization], where I work. We greatly appreciate your commitment to the women and families we serve! Best, C, Mama-to-be BECAUSE OF YOU!! 🙂

My supervisor was so excited to hear about such a major donation and directly attributed his increased generosity to our relationship with him. She even joked, “Falco is already engaged in philanthropy while still in utero!”

Also on the topic of winning, while not entirely work-related, I had an epically good hair day yesterday. Those who know me well know just how exciting this is for me!

Falco’s second ultrasound

Yesterday afternoon, K and I went to our final visit at our reproductive endocrinologist’s office, where we went for our second ultrasound. It was so phenomenal to hear Falco’s strong heartbeat (on the high range of normal at 180 bpm) and see the little one moving all around. It’s so amazing to see how much Falco has changed in a few short weeks. Our baby is finally looking like a BABY, albeit one with alien-like translucent skin.

Our doctor took videos with his iPhone of Falco’s heartbeat and of Falco moving all around, which he emailed to us after our visit. It’s this thoughtful nature, coupled with the doctor and staff’s sweet, supportive demeanor, that we’ll miss the most about their practice. It’s sad to be leaving them, even though it’s for a very happy reason. We look forward to referring many other hopeful parents-to-be and, perhaps, we’ll be back there for help conceiving our second kid! (Right now, K’s rolling his eyes at me and telling me that we’ll see.)

Now, some close-ups of our now FETUS (no longer an embryo!) named Falco:

All nestled in

The heartbeat

A sideways view of Falco

Now, because we’re opting out of some of the diagnostic tests like the NT scan, we likely won’t catch a glimpse of dear Falco again until our sex scan at 16-20 weeks. At least K can continue to watch that video on loop like he did last night.

9 weeks

Well, I’ve hit the 9 week mark!

Here’s an update about how I’m feeling:  I’m not feeling 100% like myself, but I know things could be much worse during the first trimester.

I get tired pretty quickly, even doing little things like walking the dog or doing dishes.

Certain smells make me gag (literally).  Mostly it’s just garlic and vinegar.  I felt really bad for the woman re-heating her garlicky pasta in the microwave today at work.  I was in the kitchen grabbing my lunch from the fridge and audibly heaved a little.  I hope I didn’t offend her—really it’s me and not your pasta.

The frequent urination has been getting a little better.  I’m only going to the bathroom 14 times a day instead of 20 (true story).  The commute is usually where I get in trouble.  It’s exactly an hour one way, and I usually pee once an hour.  I race into work and head right for the bathroom!  I’m really concerned about this winter though when the snow and rough conditions can make the commute even longer.  I hope this gets better or I’m going to have to get creative.

Finally, I have what I’ll call evening sickness.  Most other pregnant people feel better at night, but my nausea is worse between 5-8pm.  I never want to eat dinner.  This has been hard because C and I usually like to prepare and eat dinner together.  It makes me feel sad that we don’t do that much anymore.  I’m lucky if I can eat some crackers or soup or a smoothie or a Popsicle or something.  It’s not that I’m not eating….I’m eating more in the morning and afternoon when I feel better.  But, my major complaint thus far is missing eating and cooking dinner with my wife!

Here’s an update about what’s coming up next week: Next week is a big and busy week full of doctors’ appointments.

On Monday I’m headed to the Endocrinologist to see how my thyroid is doing while pregnant.  While we were trying to conceive, I was diagnosed with Hashimotos.  From what I understand I’ll go to this endo once a month to get my levels checked to make sure I’m on the right does of Synthroid throughout the pregnancy.

Wednesday, we have our second ultrasound with the RE’s office.  If all goes well this will be our final interaction with them, and we will officially “graduate” to our next care provider (OB).

Friday morning is our first OB appointment with Dr. K.  I’m nervous and excited.  I feel so comfortable at the RE’s office and now we have to get comfy at the new place.  I’ve had good experience receiving gyno care there as a transman, however pregnancy will likely be a challenge to their staff.  All the providers at the office I spoke with said they were 100% supportive, let’s just hope they act on their words.

First Look at Falco

Yesterday was our long-awaited first ultrasound.

The appointment began with us standing in the ultrasound room for several minutes while a new medical assistant awkwardly bustled about to prepare the room for the doctor. She fiddled with the ultrasound machine, trying to accurately enter K’s data into it, leaving the room several times to try to confirm information like the date of his last menstrual period. Her preparations concluded with her applying blue goo to the dildo-like wand, rolling a condomesque sheath over it and then delicately placing a tissue over the entire implement, lest we be intimidated by its length or girth.

It was amazing to see our little bean, who is strong, singular and well-positioned. Falco looked just as my friend D described seeing his future baby for the first time: “blobby.” A cute sort of blobby, at least.

Falco’s heart rate was 138 beats per minute, which is good for the gestational age of 7-ish weeks. Hearing the heartbeat was my favorite part. It made it all so real. That gap in the middle of the heartbeat is K saying something along the lines of, “Whoa, that’s SO COOL.”

Our reproductive endocrinologist is delightfully nerdy. He made quite a few corny jokes and gave us hugs and high-fives after the ultrasound. The entire staff gathered in the hallway, congratulating and cheering for us. They gave us a congratulatory card, which they all signed, with Falco’s ultrasound picture tucked inside. The card, while sweet, was comically irrelevant, though I hardly expect them to have a card depicting a pregnant man, should the occasion ever arise.

We’re headed back for a second ultrasound in a couple of weeks, then a few days later, we see the OB for the first time as an expectant family. I’m sure K would agree, despite feeling really good about our beta test results, finally seeing Falco and knowing that Falco  currently meeting all health-related milestones sure is a major relief. I’m feeling a lot more confident and significantly less worried about that blueberry-sized baby-to-be. In the meantime, I’ll keep optimistically looking forward to our now confirmed estimated due date of April 26, 2013.

Grow, Falco, grow!

We’ve been going into our reproductive endocrinologist’s office twice a week for regular beta tests to monitor K’s HCG levels. In early pregnancy, watching these levels is one way of determining the viability of the pregnancy. The thought is, in a healthy pregnancy, that the beta levels should at least double every 48 to 72 hours. We will continue these regular blood draws until K’s beta level reaches approximately 10,000.

There’s quite a wide range in what’s considered “normal” in beta levels. One great resource we’ve accessed is the BetaBase, a searchable compilation of user-entered HCG beta results from pregnancies where heartbeats were eventually detected. You can filter beta levels by age of gestational parent and whether the pregnancies are singletons, twins, or triplets+.

So far, K’s betas have measured the following:

  • 16 days past ovulation – 102
  • 19 days past ovulation – 349
  • 23 days past ovulation – 2,167
  • 26 days past ovulation – 7,092

Despite being very much in the “normal” range, and we only have one more beta test at the RE’s office, it’s difficult to feel fully calm. I think K and I will feel a small sense of relief when we’re able to see the first ultrasound. Luckily, it’s not too far into the future. We’ve scheduled it for September 11th. Until then, we’ll continue to take this process one day at a time.

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! 🙂