Sunday, July 12, 2009

How we got to where we are today...

January 2009
Where do I begin? The year started terrible. I found out I herniated my L3/L4 disc in my back, our beloved dog, best friend and loyal companion Zoe was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in our arms on our deck at home, and I was entirely depressed about all of the above. On top of everything Bill and I were supposed to go to Obama's Inauguration in DC and I had to cancel the trip to have back surgery in L.A. What a great trade-off -- NOT!!! I had to go to L.A. because no neurosurgeon in Honolulu could see me for two months (something about an unwritten policy that if you don't see your physician for two years after a diagnosis you become a "new patient". Basically this means you get put to the bottom of the list and you become pond scum -- but I'm not bitter). Anyway, off we went to Cedars-Sinai for a consult and hopefully surgery -- me all hopped up on pain killers and anti-inflammatories and Bill had been reduced to being my nurse 24/7. And let me tell you this wasn't an easy job.

Well to our surprise, this unwanted trip is where everything started for us in the baby arena, I mean the stuff that made us realize that being parents was very possible. What do they say, through suffering comes refinement? Well, this is a spot-on example of that. As I was recovering after my back surgery and in the hospital for two days, Bill is doing his nursely duties and getting me food from the neighborhood cafe, Joey's. Bill loves this place, it's got great, cheap food and is right around the corner from our friend's house, where Bill is staying while I'm at Chateau de Torture Chamber. Here it is if you are ever in West Hollywood...we consider it the genesis of our idea to go to India for surrogacy!

Joey's Cafe
8301 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA

So...Bill goes in to Joey's and picks up some yummy food but is distracted by a flyer on the counter that says "Surrogacy in India". He grabs it and starts reading about how gay couples can go to India through an organization called Planet Hospital who works with a fertility clinic in Mumbai. The costs were quoted as being considerably less than in the U.S., which was a huge barrier for us a few years ago when we considered it. The flyer was for a seminar with the doctor from the clinic a few days later, to learn more about the process. The only issue is we weren't going to be in town anymore! But Bill brought me the flyer and the wheels started turning all over again. This was exciting. Mostly because I've felt that over the past few years I have been the one moving this baby train, with bouts of resistance from Bill along the way. We both knew we wanted to be parents, but for Bill it was more about having a biological connection to the child, so when he was dragging his feet on the adoption papers I just figured he didn't want to do it. But here it was, Bill bringing information to ME as opposed to the other way around. This was a huge breakthrough. Houston, we have lift off! Well, kind of...

April 2009
For three months everything baby-related was at a standstill. My back health was improving but very slowly, and if I didn't have a good back, a baby probably wasn't the best idea. But, as things improved, "someone" decided to bring the flyer out again. This was another good sign that Bill was excited and on-board about this venture. If you haven't figured it out yet, having a biological connection through hiring a surrogate was a turning point for us in making the decision to have a child. It was definitely Bill's "a-ha!" when he knew he could have a genetic link -- and it really allowed me to understand him better. Growing up as an only child, he felt strongly that he should leave his genetic footprint. For me, it's never been about a genetic link but about raising a child -- whether it was his or mine or some woman in Uganda. Plus, I have a huge family so there are enough of us running around by now...

So, with little fanfare or major disagreements, Bill was our man!

On to choosing an egg donor (ED), which can prove to be a tough thing to do when neither one of us was producing any eggs (sans uterus). Yes, we DID have friends who over the years had offered us their eggs. Usually that was over a couple glasses of wine and we were never REALLY sure if they were serious. Fast forward 10-12 years and now most of those eggs are not good candidates (sorry girls we love you, but time is of the essence here). We also considered going through the clinic in India to find an ED. We found after some research that not only was there a waiting list of women wanting to be surrogates but also a long list of women who wanted to be egg donors. That was definitely an option. If we decided to go this route, the clinic would send us profiles with a photo and list of physical characteristics, etc. and we could choose one before we traveled to Mumbai.

These were all secondary options because we were really hoping our first option worked out. It was something that would make this little miracle a super miracle for us. And it involved my niece, KK.

KK is a beautiful, green-eyed, blond-haired girl. She lives in San Francisco and has a ton to offer the world: she's fun, smart, mature, responsible, stylish, has a great sense of humor, and understands the idea of an alternative family as she is a lesbian. I remember the day I called her to ask her if she would consider being our egg donor. I hadn't told anyone in my family I was contacting her because if she said no, then it wouldn't even be an issue. Why stir the pot, right? I recall being a tad bit nervous as the phone rang but deep down inside I knew that it was pretty much our only shot at having a kid that was genetically linked to not only Bill, but me as well. It was all so perfect I couldn't stand it! If she agreed, it would change our lives forever (all three of us). If she couldn't do it, then we are off to India to find an egg. Which still provided us with a child and fulfilled our desire to be parents (which was very comforting). The good thing is that my niece knew Bill and I wanted to have kids and we had even joked with her and her parents that she could mother our child, but it NEVER went further than that, just a joke. She also knew that we would be great parents, provide a good environment, and have the support of my 20+ member family here in Hawaii and on the mainland. So we were off to a good start. In the end, the call went well, and I was very encouraged that she genuinely wanted to help. It's hard to describe in words and it sounds so cliche, but if she decided to do this it WOULD be her ultimate gift to us. Our conversation ended with "I really want to say yes now but I have to do some research and think about it." I quickly called Bill and gave him an update. We were ecstatic and all I could think of is...this is REALLY happening!

After a couple weeks and a few conversations with her mother (who fully supported whatever KK decided to do), my niece decided to move forward with donating her eggs. All things considered, it's not a light decision to make. Take in the fact that she has to go through a bunch of fertility tests, regulate her period with progesterone and birth control, start fertility meds to stimulate egg production, AND THEN hop on a plane for 25 hours to India for harvesting...I wasn't surprised she wanted some time to think about it and consult her mother and other family members. But WOW!!! This really IS happening...time seemed to be ticking faster now and there was so much to do. Now the real work starts. But I am so ready for it!

Heroine of the day: My niece. Where do I begin???? What an immeasurable gift. I am speechless. The end.

May 20, 2009
Because my niece had an irregular cycle, we sent her to see Dr. Sahakian at the Pacific Fertility Center in LA, which Sarine our case manager at Planet Hospital set up. Dr. Sahakian works with PH and is a very compassionate doctor and was very helpful. What we needed to do was to have her ovaries checked out and make sure she is definitely a viable candidate. Once she is viable then we'll need to regulate her cycle. This was another nerve-wracking moment and I wish we could have been there. But some of our best buddies Asher and Scott picked her up and whisked her to the doctor for her ultrasound and blood tests. Asher even snapped a photo of her (below) in the waiting room with a caption that said “Lay-go my Eggo!” Bill and I chuckled when we got this (I needed a laugh)...but I was still super nervous about her results. Thank God we get them immediately...that was a huge bonus.
So the good news was that KK checked out all fine, had super healthy ovaries and Dr. Sahakian promised she would produce many eggs for us -- the only thing we had to worry about was OVERstimulation. Which after reading some blogs on fertility drugs, I understand can be very uncomfortable. So that’s definitely on our watch list when we get to that time (which we were hoping was VERY SOON!). My niece also had a ton of blood work that the clinic in Mumbai requested, and everything tested out GREAT. Yippeeee!!!!
Heroes of the Day: Asher and Scott for being such great friends and transporters of KK and her eggs! :) Thank you!!!!!
Ok, so right before we got KK's news we received results of Bill's semen analysis. Can you believe it? Just when we thought we were in the clear we get some news that Bill needs more tests to determine his viability. This was a stumbling block that neither of us thought we would come upon. But as I did research, male infertility is more common than you think. It is said that the male alone is the cause of 20-35% of cases in infertility. So time to get to the bottom of it, roll up our sleeves and do some more work -- again! But as I read on another same sex couple's blog about their experience with surrogacy in India, "the only people that end up without a baby, are the people that give up!" So cheers to Johnny and Darren in Australia...we need all the inspiration we can get!
May 27, 2009
A week after we got the awesome news about my niece, Bill and I were on a plane to San Francisco to have more tests for Bill. We saw Dr. Paul Turek at the Turek Clinic ( and he was amazing. Super knowledgeable, very interested in our plans of going to India for surrogacy, and extremely excited that our egg donor was 25 years old. It’s funny the things you find out about reproduction when you are going down this road…it’s like a crash course in biology all over again. But this time (hopefully) with better results than just a passing grade.
I saw this cover of The Economist in the Honlululu airport and HAD to snap a photo. We need all the good news we can get...
What Dr. Turek determined literally within minutes of our consultation and exam was that Bill needed a common medical procedure, and he could do it the next day! I'm not going to go in to details here but it was about a three-hour procedure and not for the too faint of heart. If anyone wants the details, let me know. It’s amazing what these doctors can do. This couldn’t have been better news AND after retrieval everything could be frozen and shipped for use in India at a later date. Science is simply amazing!
Next day we checked in to the Pacific Fertility Center which is just a couple floors above Dr. Turek’s office. This made it super convenient and the staff there was amazing.

This is Bill (below) about to check-in for the procedure. He looks surprisingly calm, but I think it was the Valium that he took in the car on the way over...which he wasn't supposed to take until he got to the office...woops. He asked for another but they denied him...apparently the effect of it stays for several hours.
The procedure lasted a few hours and I was out in the waiting room pacing like an expectant father. I was also madly texting my friend Gail in Seattle, who has two beautiful girls of her own with her partner Sara, using a sperm donor. I knew she could relate as she had gone through something similar trying to get pregnant through IVF. The wait was killing me! When all of a sudden, the door flung open and there was Dr. Turek, with a big grin on his face! “This is good!”, I exhaled a sigh of relief. He joked with me about the waiting, and went on to tell me probably some of the best news I’d heard in a while. Everything went extremely well, Bill did awesome during the procedure, and, according to Dr. Turek, we retrieved enough of Bill's little guys to “populate China”!!!. This is where I had "a moment" and had to compose myself because I didn't want to seem like a blubbering idiot, but I can't tell you the wave of emotions I was feeling. I was sooooo proud of Bill, and so thankful for this doctor that was bearing such wonderful news -- Dr. Turek was a bit taken back when I started to tear but I looked him in the eye and I thanked him the best way I could without picking him up and planting a big kiss on him! So this was a very, very, very good day. And what an amazing story this is turning out to be! (Fingers crossed, knock on wood, etc.)
After the long procedure Bill and I went back to our other best buddy Todd’s house. Thanks to Todd for letting use his car for two whole days and giving us a place to stay and having a fun barbeque for us to relax at after our two big days. We also got to see my niece that night for the first time since I first asked her to be our ED. Here are some photos from the evening…
Todd and his new barbeque

Bill and KK

Heroes of the Day: Definitely my lovable and brave Bill for being such a trooper and choosing to have local anesthesia and a sedative instead of going under general anesthesia for the procedure. You are THE MAN!
Also the second hero of the day goes to Dr. Turek at the Turek Clinic and all the amazing staff at the Pacific Fertility Center. They all wanted baby pictures and were keeping Bill entertained for three hours during the procedure. We were so lucky to have found this facility...what a great team!

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