TTC Cycle 3 updates

I have no updates worthy of a blog post, but I’m starting to obsess so I’m going to write about all the nothing that has been going on.

It is 11DPO. I have had no symptoms. I probably could have imagined some symptoms if I really wanted to, but I have learned that most of the sensations I think are symptoms are sensations I get all the time but don’t make anything of if I’m not looking for something to cling to…

I am trying to prepare myself for a Christmas Eve BFN. I think we should take a test in the morning of Christmas Eve so I don’t have to deal with the surprise of AF while we are with family for dinner that night. And although I really don’t want to let myself get excited, testing in the morning COULD mean that we would be able to share good news with family.

Although this post probably sounds pretty negative, I am actually feeling a lot better than I was during my last post. I think I have successfully lowered my expectations enough to reduce the intensity of the disappointment that would come from a Christmas BFN. Last month I was really convinced that I was pregnant. That was rough. I have learned to protect myself.

However, as the days past ovulation tick by, it is getting harder and harder to keep my mind from wandering to “what if”…

The dread of this wait

My wife wants me to stop worrying and stop being pessimistic about conceiving, but for some reason it is a lot easier for her than me. It is 5dpo and I am filled with dread about getting my period on Christmas Eve or Christmas. I initially thought it would be cool to have a Christmas test date, because we would either have a very happy Christmas surprise, or I would be able to enjoy the libations to the full extent. Now, I’m just worried. Will this ruin Christmas for me? Can I buck up and not let it ruin Christmas for me, or will the emotions and disappointment be too much to control on this family and child centric holiday?

We are spending Christmas Eve with my sister-in-law who is 6 months pregnant. And here is where I admit that my green-eyed-monster has come out of the depths of my subconscious at only cycle 3 of trying… Pitiful! My sister-in-law tried for almost 2 years to conceive, and required 2 IUIs. This pregnancy did not come easy for her. And yet, I am finding it hard to revel in the excitement of her pregnancy. She asked if I wanted to come over the day before Christmas Eve and have a sleepover. I am ashamed of this, but I don’t want to be reminded of the fact that the first grand-baby will be born into the family in 3 months, and we may still be TTC in 3 months.

Why does TTC do this to us? Why does it strip us of joy and excitement? Even when we get pregnant we are often too afraid of miscarriage to let ourselves get excited. Why does it make us pessimistic and obsessive? There is a reassuring statistic that when intercourse/insemination is well timed with ovulation, the chance of getting pregnant in 3 cycles is as high as 68%! But all I can think about is the 15-20% chance of it working each new time we try. Like my stats prof used to say, dice have no memory. My ovaries have no memory. Statistically, there is no magical cumulative effect that adds 15-20% to your chances each month.

Ugh, I have to get out of this funk. I feel like I have no right to be so pessimistic and jealous because we have been trying for such a short amount of time. I think that the difference between my wife and I when it comes to our patience level is that I have been pushing and planning for this since last Christmas. I wanted to start trying then, whereas my wife has only recently gotten into the whole idea. I’ve only had to deal with the disappointment of failed cycles twice, but I have been riding the emotional rollercoaster for a lot longer. Anyway, I shouldn’t be trying so hard to make excuses for myself. Time to cheer the fuck up.

I want to end this with a hopeful statement, that maybe this will be our month and we will have a very merry Christmas. But I am too afraid.

One Year Anniversary Trip!

We went on our one year anniversary trip to Newfoundland this past weekend. It was such a nice getaway with lots of one-on-one time, coastal drives, restaurants, and local beer.

Now we are back to the daily grind, trying to keep our heads above water with work and school. I am on CD10, and I think I will start testing for my peak fertile period on CD13 (on Saturday). We had a lawyer friend look at our donor contract and – very belated – he sent us some suggested changes. We are meeting with our donor on Sunday to go over the changes to the contract, and we are now asking for him to be witnessed by a third party when he signs, so that might take some planning. I can’t believe we are actually down to the wire with this! All those months, and months, and months of planning and we are scrambling. The scrambling kind of makes it even more exciting though… feels like possible insemination is coming up fast!

In other news, my sister in law who was TTC for 2 years and went through two IUIs is now 3 months pregnant! Life is coming together.


Known Donor Agreement Approved!

It wasn’t until my wife and I actually created our donor agreement (only a few days before meeting with our donor to hash it out) that the fear struck me — our donor might not be OK with our stipulations and might back out, leaving us nearly back at square one with our baby making plans.

But that didn’t happen! We had dinner with our donor and his partner (and their kid) last night to talk business. We brought printouts of the agreement for each person to read over carefully, and we discussed each item thoroughly. Some of the items in the agreement felt uncomfortable for us to ask because the “legalese” made it sound very cold and impersonal. Luckily, discussing our way through the agreement enabled us to say things like “we hate how harsh this sounds, but here is how this item would protect both us and you while still allowing for some leeway”.

Our donor agreement is 5 pages long and covers the following topics:

  • The sperm and insemination process
    • including how many donations we request per cycle
    • and STI testing for our donor
  • Parenting and parental rights
    • including a statement that the donor agrees to assist us with second parent adoption
  • Roles and Relationships
    • including our appointment of a guardian
    • the donor’s relationship with the child
    • extended family relationships
    • and that the donor agrees to maintain contact with us in case the child has questions about their genetic lineage/medical history

If anyone wants to see a copy of our contract to use as inspiration for their own, I am happy to share.

I kind of can’t believe this is really happening. My wife and I have been on a rollercoaster of “will we/won’t we/when will we” for almost a year. Getting the donor agreement signed was the last real excuse for not starting the process of actually “trying to conceive” (although for a lesbian couple I think the fertility appointments, deciding on a donor and a form of assisted reproduction, and all of the other “planning” stages feel like part of the TTC process).

Last night we went over our mental list of accoutrement – syringes, sterile cups, and pre-seed. I’m not sure about trying softcups yet. I ordered pre-seed from amazon (holy expensive!!). We will give our donor a box of pre-seed to help with the extraction of the goods, because we heard that sperm donations shouldn’t be made using traditional lubricants or saliva. It is all coming together. If anyone has recommendations of where to get cheap syringes and sterile collection cups, I’m all ears!

The authenticity of BOTH mothers

One of the topics I’d like to blog about more regularly is my wife’s some-day-role as a mother who won’t be giving birth to her child. I might eventually be able to convince my wife to write about her thoughts and feelings here, but she’s not one of those people who finds it a fun pastime to write about her feelings. So for now, it’ll just be my one-sided feelings on the matter.

I have read blogs that share heart wrenching stories about the struggles of the “other” mother, feeling much as dads might feel – useless, inadequate, jealous of the baby’s time with the mother and the mother’s time with the baby…  And as we research the legalities of our family planning as a same-sex couple, we find that challenges to my wife’s parental rights await us as soon as a baby is born, such as not being able to put my wife’s name on the birth certificate right away and needing to file for second parent adoption.

However, I have also read that these concerns often completely dissolve once the baby is born. That, just like with adoptive parents, genetic relation suddenly seems irrelevant, the love crosses all boundaries, and true parent roles quickly form and are naturally filled. I know that my wife will make a naturally amazing parent, and I believe that our family will feel comfortable and right and perfect for both of us when we get there. But in the meantime, when it is only human to have anxieties about such a huge life change, I want to make sure I am doing everything I can to make sure my wife doesn’t fear being an “other” who is just along for the ride.

One of the ways I plan to assuage some of the common concerns is to build specific rules about skin-to-skin contact (aka the Kangaroo Method) into the birth plan – I want my wife to get the first snuggle with our baby.

Skin-to-skin contact has a ton of benefits for the baby, including increased contentment, stabilization of body temperature, heart rate, and blood sugar, and it elicits pre-feeding behaviour (i.e., rooting and searching for the food source). Once thought to be an important practice for birth mother and baby, there is an increasing amount of literature now on “fathers” and baby engaging in skin-to-skin contact. And guess what – there is absolutely no difference for baby if they get their skin to skin from a birth mother or from someone else. In fact, the parent who is not recovering from birth or a c section can actually facilitate the baby’s pre-feeding behavior (apparently babies have been known to try to get milk from their fathers – they don’t discriminate when it comes to nipples!). And in addition to all of the calming benefits for the baby, skin-to-skin contact with the parent who did not give birth is just as powerful a bonding agent. Even if you are not the one who gave birth, holding your newborn against your chest, skin-to-skin, increases your oxytocin levels (the love hormone), and partners who engage in skin-to-skin with the baby in the first 24 hours report better bonding. 

There is no reason why the parent who did the birthing needs to be the first one to hold the baby (besides the fact that they just worked their butt vagina off and may feel deserving). From the baby’s perspective, any parent with a warm chest will do just fine.

That is just one of the ways that I hope to make my wife feel like #1 mom when we have a baby. For those who have either been the non-birth mother or those who have worried about this for their partner, I’d love to hear other ways in which you kept your roles in pre-parenting equal when one mother gets to hog the pregnancy and/or the DNA.

Known Sperm Donor Law in Canada

This is a scary topic for me. From my perspective (can’t speak for my wife), the legalities are my biggest barrier to using a known donor. I want to make antiquated, heterosexist parentage laws and policies work for me without breaking the law.

I want to outline some of what I have learned, because lists make me feel more comfortable.

  • Sperm has to be a “charitable” donation. It is illegal to pay someone for sperm in Canada.
  • Although some provinces have legislation protecting the parental rights of the sperm RECIPIENTS, Ontario has no such legislation. From what I understand, a sperm donor could have a change of heart and take you to court to get parental rights. Having an official sperm donor agreement can help in these cases, but there is no guarantee it would save your parental butt from the grief and heartache of such a legal battle.
  • It is illegal to name the non-birth mother as “Other parent” on the birth registration if the child was conceived with a known donor. You don’t have to put the sperm donor’s name on the birth registration though, even if it was a known donor. You would instead list only the birth mother as a parent, and add the other mother later.
  • How do you add the other mother to the birth registration? The easiest route seems to be Second Parent Adoption. The birth mother can add a second parent if they are in a spousal relationship as defined by the Family Law Act, and any parental rights of the known sperm donor must have been relinquished. You have to wait at least 7 21 days after the birth to apply for second parent adoption.
    Now if you were to do reciprocal IVF (taking the egg of one mother, fertilizing it with donor sperm, and implanting the embryo in the other mother for safe keeping for 9 months), both mothers can be listed on the original birth registration. But we are not going this route.
  • We want the child to have my wife’s last name. No can do until the adoption goes through. You have to legally change the child’s last name after (or as part of) the adoption process if you want to do this. I am going to look for loopholes given that my last name include’s my wife’s last name, hyphenated, and I think there is some legislation about choosing a different last name for your child for “cultural reasons”.

I have led a privileged life so far, even as a gay woman. I have never encountered direct discrimination based on my sexual orientation, even going through the process of marrying my same-sex partner. But starting a family with my wife is popping my privilege bubble. I am really clearly seeing the inequality for LGBTQ families, and I feel discriminated against, or treated unfairly by heterosexist laws and policies. It sucks.

If anyone reading this has further insights or experiences to share with me about this process, or if you know any of my info to be wrong, please let me know! Thank you!


Known Donor Discussion Items…

We have had some good discussion lately around our potential known donor. Before we sit down and go over all of our discussion items with the donor couple, we wanted to be sure the two of us were on the same page with everything. However, I have been struggling to come up with all the things that we will need to think about… Here is what we have thought of so far:

  • What will our child’s relationship with the donor look like? *We expect that we would maintain our friendship and the child would just become a part of this. We would be open and honest that this person was the sperm donor.
  • Who will our child’s god-parents be? If the donor couple are not the god-parents and we (worst case scenario) both die young, will our god-parents be willing and able to maintain a relationship with the donor couple for the child’s sake?
  • Would there be an expectation for a certain number of get-togethers / donor visitations a month? (There would be no legal visitation rights of the donor – this would be a purely social consideration).
  • Would the donor couple be OK with it if we moved across the country, making visits very rare? Would the child be OK with this, if they developed a good relationship with the donor? *Just as moving away means parting from other friends and family, everyone would just have to get over it.
  • What would we refer to the donor as? E.g., donor family (acknowledging the partner of the sperm owner), prohibiting use of term “father” or “dad”
  • What role would the donor’s parents (or the donor’s partner’s parents, for that matter) play in our family’s life? *At this point, we are not interested in having 4 sets of grandparents for our child – just to reduce complicatedness. But we would want our donor to be honest with his family so there were no surprises.

I know there is more to think about and discuss, but it’s just not coming to me. If all goes well with the discussions, we plan to use a general donor contract available online, and take it to a lawyer just to be extra careful.

On the technical side of donor discussion, I have been doing a lot of google research lately, and found that we have 2 main options:

Option 1: Freeze the sperm for IUI

The only way we could do IUI is by going through a sperm clinic, because the sperm has to be washed for IUI and apparently clinics in Canada won’t wash/use fresh, donated sperm for IUI unless it has gone through ReproMed’s testing and approval (ReproMed is the only sperm clinic in Canada that will accept a donation from a known person). If we were to go this route, we would have to put our donor through a host of medical tests (including an $800 physical examination…), freeze the sperm for 6 months, and then re-do an HIV test at the end of the 6 months before the sperm can be released. I really dislike how much control is taken away from us in this option. Not to mention the expense (almost as much as using an anonymous donor from a sperm bank). The two benefits of this option are the IUI – in case we have trouble conceiving “naturally” – and that a donor going through a sperm bank is automatically legally relinquished of any parental rights. This is the only way to completely remove parental rights of a sperm donor in the province of Ontario. Donor contracts can be challenged in court, and you have to rely on a deep trust of your donor.

Option 2: At-Home Insemination with Fresh Sperm

The free, immediate, and easy option is to do at-home insemination with fresh sperm and not go through a clinic. I would still get my initial fertility counselling from my RE (that is almost done now), but we would do a completely non-technical conception. Well, not completely non-technical when compared to hetero, natural conception, but as close as us lesbians can get! We would still request a health screening from our donor, but would then just have him provide us with a fresh sample of semen (preferably given at our house so the sperm doesn’t die off in transit) and use a needleless syringe to get it right up there next to the cervix. In this option, conception would be completely in my wife’s hands.

So that’s what we’ve been talking about lately. If anyone has any other ideas of what we need to think about regarding using a known donor, I would really appreciate your advice!