The First Step

I had a great appointment with the specialist. As I mentioned last week, there were tons of nerves going into it. A lot of those had to do with the weight of the decision that I was trying to make, but it was also about whether I’d like the specialist and feel that he was non-judgmental about what I wanted to do and be able to answer all my questions.

I met with a few different nurses and the specialist and everyone was professional and friendly. I know you should expect this, especially somewhere that specializes in fertility treatments, but you really never know nowadays what people’s bedside manner is going to be.

It started off with one nurse asking a bunch of questions on my medical history and why I was there and ended with another nurse going through all the logistics for what comes next along with a welcome packet.

In between was the doctor’s turn that walked me through what the options are and what the process would be for each. He started talking me through the facts about women’s eggs and how at this point in my life, I have about a 50/50 chance that the egg I “drop” during ovulation is good vs bad. The chances for good eggs will just decline with the years to come. Basically the starting point is to figure out how fertile I am. Because I’ve never tried to get pregnant before, it’s the big unknown that will then gauge what the best option will be. He says there is no reason to believe that I’m not fertile but we do have to see where I stand.

As soon as I start my next cycle, I need to go in between days 2-4 for a blood test that will check my hormone levels and an ultrasound to see the egg follicles (I may not be getting all the medical facts correct, but it’s the basics of what will happen). Then about a week after that I go in for an HSG, which is a test to make sure that nothing is blocking my fallopian tubes. After that, he and I review the results to see the best course of action.
What will most likely happen is IUI. There will likely be a prescription leading up to insemination so that I release more than one egg and increase my chances. If all were to go well with the tests, this procedure would foreseeably happen in April. If you can’t tell by now, I am leaning very heavily towards going through with this.

I also talked to him about freezing my eggs. To do this I’d have to go through IVF. There are options to freeze eggs and to freeze embryos with donor sperm. Quite honestly, if I decide to proceed with IUI now and I get pregnant, I don’t think I’d want to freeze my eggs. The eggs would be for the potential of having more children later on with a partner or alone in case at the time I try, my fertility has declined. While I would love to have more than one child and ideally with a partner, if I only had one, I’d be content. I don’t know that I’d want to put myself through IVF alone with so many variables.

Overall, I’m very happy with this first step that I took. Most likely tests will start next week and by this time next month I’ll know if I’ll be moving forward with IUI in April. It’s still extremely nerve wracking, but I feel more at peace. The nurses will even walk me through the sperm donor process and give me advice on how to navigate that choice.

I want to thank all of those that offered to come to the doctor’s visit for moral support. And a special thank you to Naty, who came with me very early in the morning on the coldest day of the year.

Donor Options

My appointment with the specialist is on Friday and I can’t think of anything else. I’ve been going through the motions at work while thinking about how the appointment will go. How fertile am I? Will I be able to go through a few tries unmedicated or should I just go for the meds right away to boost my chances? If I decide to move forward, how quickly can the first try happen? What’s really involved in freezing your eggs? Should I do both in case I meet someone a few years from now and need my “younger” eggs to have another child?

There are so many thoughts going through my head. It’s like one of those news tickers at the bottom of the screen while you’re watching the news. Even when I’m talking about something else or doing something else, my brain is racing with all these questions and things that I might want to get a head start on.

I know a lot of medical questions will get answered on Friday, but I’ve also been reading up on the forum I joined taking in everyone else’s experiences and what they chose to do. It’s a bit overwhelming, but I do feel like it’s made me think of questions that I might otherwise not have thought of. I would have had no idea what IUI (intrauterine insemination) means and that you can go through it with medication like Clomid and something called a trigger shot.

I’ve spent the last couple of nights combing through sperm donor websites. It’s just as bad as online dating. Online profiles with basics like physical features, ethnicity, medical history, and in some cases personal profiles. You can pay more for extended profiles, staff opinions, baby and even adult photos in some cases. Do I want to see what he looks like now? Is that important to me? I’ve read tons of opinions for and against seeing the pictures. I’ve also read a lot of what other women have decided to prioritize. If you have too much criteria (just like finding a boyfriend/husband) you end up with no choices…no one can meet your complete check list.

Here’s my ideal:

• Open donor – meaning that at 18 my child can choose to get his information and meet him a ’la The Kids are Alright.
• Of Jewish ancestry
• Physically have similar characteristics to me and my family – I’d like my child to look like me. This doesn’t take away that he might get a recessive gene of a grandparent that had blond hair or something, but it would be hedging against that.
• Intelligent – the only way to really tell this is by seeing education, major, and reading a personal essay if there is one. It’s pretty subjective.
• Enough vials available for multiple tries and perhaps storage for a future child from the same donor.

I’m trying not to think too much about whether he’s athletic or into carpentry or something. I am intrigued by
those donors that seem to be creative. There’s one that got his MFA in printmaking and that sounds pretty interesting. As I go through them, I have to keep reminding myself that I’m looking for DNA and not for my ideal mate.

It’s about choosing the right donor and choosing the right bank. More on the banks later.

How much to share

Some of you may be wondering where I am on my single mother decision. I know that I said I would share all of this with you, but I feel a little awkward doing it. It’s rare to hear people talking about trying to conceive even when they are married or in committed relationships. It is something that you hardly hear people talk about until they announce they are pregnant. On the other hand, I have felt strangely comforted by the online forums with so many women who have or are going through the same thing as me, which makes me want to share so that others don’t feel so alone in their decision.

I recently read an article that someone posted on Facebook (yes, I get much of my news from there to my brother’s horror). The article was specifically talking about married women in the Jewish community who are having trouble conceiving. It speaks to the fact that these couples often suffer in silence through miscarriages and fertility treatments because that has been the norm. Nobody from the community offers to bring them a meal or offers support. They come to community events with a smile on their face hiding the hard times that they are going through. They become isolated in those hardships without knowing that many others in the community are suffering from similar issues.

While I don’t equate what I’m doing to those hardships at all (and I don’t expect anyone to bring me meals), the similarity lies in keeping the “trying to conceive” part a secret. Since nobody talks about it, then it makes me feel awkward to share. It’s the reason you’re getting moments of silence from me. I have to keep pushing myself to share. Not for myself, really, but because even if one person reads this who is thinking about doing the same thing and feels less alone then it can help.

With a trip to North Carolina to end 2014 and then going to Israel, I sort of lost some of the momentum that I felt after laying it all out there with my posts in December. I never stopped thinking about it, but it was just thoughts and no action. I kept stalling when it came to making an appointment with the specialist my doctor recommended. Mostly because procrastination is in my nature and partly because I have a weird phone phobia about calling places even if it’s just to schedule appointments, make reservations or order delivery. You don’t understand how Open Table and online appointments have helped this strange and irrational phobia that I have.

However, some appointments you need to do over the phone, especially the first one going to a specialist like this where I actually had questions to ask them. Making the appointment wasn’t going to signify making a decision. “It can’t hurt” was what one of my friends told me. It would just help me speak about my options with someone and get a better sense of what my next steps should be if I choose to move forward with it.

I finally made the call yesterday and got something scheduled. Once I was on the phone, it was painless. They told me to set aside 2 hours for the appointment because there’s a physical checkup, but then also plenty of time to talk with the doctor. While 2 hours sounds overwhelming, it was comforting to know I’d get that much time with them and hopefully come out of there with a little clearer direction.

Dating in different cultures – a sociological study?

I never liked doing research for papers in school. I didn’t like the tediousness of looking things up in the library and certainly didn’t want to go around interviewing people. I took plenty of sociology classes in college, but was never tempted to do the additional work of a thesis knowing that it would mean likely talking to live sources. I like writing, but when it’s conversational instead of academic and when it’s something I know and/or something I made up. In high school we had an assignment to interview a holocaust survivor and then do an oral report…I made up my survivor and her story and got an A.

All of this as a long way to get to the fact that while in Israel, I was really tempted to actually conduct a sociological study except for the small truth that I’d hate it. So perhaps someone else can do it for me or point me towards a study already done.

You all know that I’ve been on my share of blind dates (I’ve actually been tempted to write a book about those adventures), so I feel like I’m an expert even if only in my own date stories. What I was caught off guard with in the hotels in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv was the amount of Orthodox couples that I saw having “dates” in the open lounges. Typically well dressed, seated just enough apart, and with full glasses of juice or soda on the table as they talked. My uncle was the first to point it out to me one day as we sat there having an afternoon snack and coffee. My initial response to him was that this didn’t seem that different from me meeting a blind date at the local coffee shop.

As the week went by, I couldn’t help but notice the numerous couples I saw in these types of encounters and it got me thinking about how alike or different I was from them and which method actually works better. That’s the study I’d love to see done.

Contrary to what many believe these aren’t arranged marriages. The way I understand it (without research) is that there are women in the community, like matchmakers, that are there to set your children up as they reach the right age. You let them know whether you’re looking for someone Sephardic or Ashkenazi and probably some other family criteria. Then my guess is that this same woman arranges the place and time for you to meet. I don’t know if phone numbers are exchanged, but my guess is that all initial interactions between the first few dates are done through the matchmaker. After a few encounters you get engaged, which is pretty quickly followed by the wedding. You do not co-habitate, not even in the sense of hanging out with him on your couch and you don’t even hold his hand.

My experience when someone sets me up or I set myself up via the internet, is that we have some initial phone conversation or sometimes even email conversation to see if it’s worth meeting in person. It’s an awkward, interview-like conversation that then leads to where we want to meet. The actual first date usually goes like I pictured all these Orthodox dates taking place. Substitute coffee for juice and we’re all probably having similar conversations about our families, where we came from, what we like to do, etc.

That’s probably where the similarities end. While they continue to meet in hotel lobbies or potentially in their parents’ living rooms with their parents present, we go out for dinner and drinks, watch movies on the couch, hold hands and even kiss out in public as we walk down the street, etc. There is plenty of time alone as well as with family and friends before a possible engagement is even on the horizon. And really who is to say which method is better?

I know that I’m just talking at the surface level here. There’s a lot more we can get into in terms of similarities and differences, which is why the subject piqued my interest so much. I know that there’s pros and cons to both dating scenarios, but I take some comfort in our initial blind dates being pretty similar.