Friday, June 27, 2014

"And How Many Vials of Sperm Would You Like With Your Order, Ma'am?"

For those of you that don't already know, Audrey is the result of my eggs and anonymous donor sperm. Long story short on how this came to be: Ryan and I tried for about a year to get pregnant. I was charting my cycles, using ovulation prediction kits, etc. and still nothing. It was heartbreaking, a loss we experienced every month the pregnancy test came up negative. We went in for fertility testing and found out that I was fine but that Ryan has an extremely low sperm count which was inherited from his father. The count was so low that the reproductive endocrinologist suggested we go straight to trying in-vitro fertilization bypassing some of the other less invasive and less costly techniques. So we looked into IVF options and financing. Even with the loans and programs available there was no way we could afford the monthly payments and we knew we wanted to have more than one child. And the whole IVF procedure along with the chance that we could have extra embryos leftover, felt morally wrong to me since I believe that life begins at fertilization not implantation in the uterus. I struggled with the idea of 'playing God' in that way. (I know this doesn't make sense to some people-you didn't want to do IVF but were comfortable with using a stranger's sperm??? I can't really explain it, just how I felt.) So we made the difficult decision to use donor sperm. On a side note, I am forever grateful and blessed that Ryan was willing to use another man's sperm in order to create our family. So many men would not be comfortable with that and would either say "we do IVF, adopt, or nothing!" There were a few reasons adoption was not a top choice for us: it is extremely expensive and takes a lot of time (in general) and I desperately wanted to experience being pregnant and giving birth. It didn't even matter to me that the baby be genetically related to me or Ryan; I would have been fine with using donor eggs if that had been necessary. I realize that sounds very selfish and there are some people who think creating children from donor sperm or eggs is morally wrong. Again, I don't really have a reasonable explanation for feeling this way, only that I felt a profound calling to be pregnant myself.

So, after we decided to use donor sperm, I called our reproductive endocrinologist's clinic and asked about doing a simple vaginal insemination. They only offered intra-uterine insemination (IUI) AND there was mandatory counseling whenever third party reproduction methods were used. So I got upset and angry, as this would be more money we didn't really have-of course my insurance covered nothing for infertility. So then I started researching for sperm banks who would ship sperm to private residences. I figured we could easily do a vaginal insemination at home. I found NW Cryobank and we started looking at possible donors. We looked for someone who was similar to Ryan physically and mentally (his interests, education, etc.) We also wanted an open donor versus an anonymous donor (this means that when the child turns 18 if the donor is still "open" the child can obtain the contact information) and a donor who had had a successful pregnancy. We ended with a donor whom Ryan refers to as "Frank."

While we were preparing for our first insemination I went on the cryobank's forums and asked if there were other people who had used this same donor. I really wanted to be in contact with our future child's half-siblings so she would grow up knowing them or at least of them, just like how many children are now in open adoptions versus closed. One of the families responded to my post and invited me to a facebook group just for the "family" of said donor. There were several other families in there and I was so excited to meet them! Some of them were currently pregnant or currently trying to get pregnant while others already had babies born. It was awesome to be able to connect with everyone.

Our first cycle trying was a simple vaginal insemination that did not result in pregnancy. (I will leave the process of shipping and using donor sperm for a future post!) But our second attempt, which was actually an IUI that we did in our home, was successful! We were finally pregnant after 1.5 years of desperately trying. It was an amazing and super emotional moment that we will never forget, seeing that wonderful word on the test "pregnant." Even now I get emotional thinking about it.

So that brings us to the title of the post. Some of the 'donor families,' as we refer to the families that also used our donor, bought many vials of his swimmers and stored them for future use. We could not afford to do that and just bought what we needed to use for each immediate cycle. After donating for quite awhile, he was taken off the website and we weren't sure when or if he would be back. Since Ryan and I are thinking of having 3-4 children we knew we would probably eventually have to turn to a different donor so this wasn't too concerning. However, the other 'donor families' had been paying close attention to the website along with frequently calling NW and we found out that our donor was coming back! This time Ryan and I were in a position to purchase some vials so we got 4 IUI and are storing them for future use. And NO this does not mean we will be trying to get pregnant soon!!! :) Just that we have extra money saved from our tax refund and my birth work.

They really make you sign your life away when purchasing donor sperm! I purchased online and I had to click tons of boxes saying, yes I have read and agreed to the very many terms and conditions of purchasing sperm. That took longer than the actual input of my credit card! But now we are in possession of 4 vials of IUI sperm and $1,300 poorer. And, in time, those vials will be put to good use ;)

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Newborn Hearing Screen and Upper Lip Tie

Last week I had a friend come out to do the newborn hearing screen for Audrey. (She is an apprentice midwife and has access to the machine). At the time of Audrey's birth some midwives were just starting to offer the screen to their homebirth clients and our midwife did not. (For more information on the newborn hearing screening program see here.) And it got swept by the wayside during her 6 week well child check up with the pediatrician and so here we are 18 months after her birth doing a hearing screen!

This has only become a concern since she is now officially diagnosed as "speech delayed." The pediatrician wrote a referral to the audiologist, whom we may still have to visit, but I always prefer erring on the less invasive and less traumatic approach first. (Kind of our general approach to everything; why go to a specialist if it's unnecessary? Another analogy: most American women see obstetricians for their normal pregnancies and births even though OBs are highly trained in abnormality and surgery whereas midwives are highly trained in normality. It's just overkill and those OBs are trained in and used to finding things wrong when it's usually just a variation of normal and not a high risk situation. Anyways....) So our birthy friend came over and administered the test, which was very easy and quick and not traumatic-yay! A soft rubber nodule was placed in each ear, one at a time, much like an ear plug, which delivered a sound made by the machine. It then measured the echo that happens when the ear functions normally. Depending on the echo measured the machine either gives the baby a PASS or REFER, which means to refer the baby to a audiologist for further testing. Well, Audrey passed, no surprise to us! It's pretty clear she can hear and understand us.

Today we went to see Dr. Darcy of St Croix Kidds Pediatric Dentistry in Hudson, WI about Audrey's suspected upper lip tie. I was pretty sure she had an upper lip tie but wasn't sure if she also had a tongue tie or lower lip tie. Here is what the St Croix Kidds website says about tongue and lip tie, which is better than I can explain it: "The muscles of the cheek and lips are attached to the gums and tissue of the mouth by a piece of soft tissue called a frenum. Sometimes a frenum can be attached too high on the gums causing recession or spaces between teeth. Also, there is another frenum under the tongue. If this frenum is attached too close to the end of the tongue it can adversely affect swallowing and speech. This is referred to as being “tongue-tied”. A frenectomy is a safe and simple procedure where either part or all of the frenum in question is removed in order to maintain a healthy balance to the mouth."

Tongue and lip ties can cause problems with nursing (painful, cracked, sore nipples for mom and insufficient milk intake for baby), speech problems, and dental problems. Although I now realize that we both would have greatly benefited if she had had a frenectomy as a newborn-well mostly me. She gained weight well but I had severely cracked and painful nipples for almost 6 weeks. Dr. Darcy said she will need the procedure before she gets her permanent teeth, around 6-8 years old, but since she has no cavities (yay!) there's no reason to do it now.

Here is an example of an upper lip tie (not Audrey)

Normal upper frenum with no tie

I was still very happy we had a consult with Dr. Darcy for two reasons. 1) She confirmed that night nursing will not cause cavities as long as we brush her teeth before bed, contrary to our pediatrician telling me I need to night wean her. (Yep, great idea! She still frequently nurses at night so let's take away a good number of her calories she's getting based on problems bottle-fed babies have! Because it's not like she's had trouble gaining weight or anything!) 2) Dr. Darcy told me how to brush around the delicate frenum tissues, which I've been doing wrong! Normally you would just brush right across the whole area but with all that tissue in the way you need to go in from each side with the top of the toothbrush not going across the tissues but just up to the space between the front teeth AND also do the back of the front teeth.

So two very good appointments! And now we're off on our first camping trip as a family with the Twin Cities Attachment Parenting Group! Four days with a toddler in a tent and cloth diapers, cooking over an open fire! Should be fun! :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Changes and More Changes!

Audrey has a growth check up today and although she's only gained 1 oz since her last visit a month ago she grew almost an inch in height! The ped was pleased with her progress and said she looks great and is the picture of health! Poor Audrey hates these visits, especially the weighing and measuring. She definitely remembers that unpleasant and painful things happen there. The ped also said that her kidney issues were the cause of all the subsequent health problems, which we knew but it was so nice to hear a medical professional say so as well!

One area of concern is that Audrey is still not talking. The only word she says is no. She used to say mama and dada, and still makes those sounds, but more in a babbling way. Originally we had planned on waiting until she turned 2 to go to speech therapy but the ped is pushing us to go sooner so the new plan is to go in the fall or late summer. The idea of speech therapy doesn't upset me nearly as much as her physical health problems did and it seems like a fairly painless and minor intervention.

Tonight I was cleaning out the last of the leftover medical supplies to donate or toss-what a happy task! I already love paring down my material possessions but have never been so glad to get rid of something before. It already seems like a very long time ago that we were using insulin needles, tube feeding pumps, and dozens of medications but it was only 6 months ago!

Another change I am making is trying to get off my anti-depressant for the third time. I have been taking it for over 10 years. I was already at a very low dose (10 mg) while trying to wean off during pregnancy but would absolutely love to not be on any at all. I have been on 5 mg for a week and can already tell a difference in my anxiety levels and mood. I feel very stressed and anxious about nothing in particular much of the time, overreact emotionally to things I cannot control, and often feel very sad. This is what has happened the other times I tried to wean off as well. This time I am trying very hard to notice these feelings, realize that it's ok that I'm feeling this way, and try to ignore it and get on with  my day. In the past I would have dwelled on it, gave into the feelings, and make life miserable for everyone else. I am also trying to get lots of vitamin D every day, exercise, and de-stress with alone time. I will also be trying St John's Wort for the first time after I have weaned completely off the citalopram. I know it's not the worst thing to be on an anti-depressant and I will definitely go back on if I need to, but it would be so awesome to not have that drug in my body, Audrey's body via my milk, or future baby's bodies during pregnancy-which is the biggest concern I have.