Monthly Archives: August 2011

It’s A ….???

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (8/24/11):

Those first months went by quickly and smoothly, and we anxiously awaited the appointment at which we could find out the baby’s gender.  Erikka had wanted a baby girl since SHE was a little girl, and since we have my two boys, I was really excited at the 50/50 chance of having a girl myself!  I kept telling Erikka that there was nothing wrong with having a boy, if that is what we get, and we both agreed that we will enjoy whatever      little darling we are blessed to have.

Now, because of Erikka’s age, 35, and some previous short-term issues with blood pressure, our OB/GYN decided that she needed to also see a maternal-fetal specialist during the pregnancy.  On the down side, this meant more doctors’ appointments and testing; on the up side, this meant more ultrasounds!  It just so happened that our first appointment at the specialist coincided with our 18th week, and hopefully far enough in to find out the baby’s gender.  They were going to do a level 2 ultrasound, which meant that it is better than the average sono, so SURELY it could show us what we want to see, right?  The day that the appointment arrived, we were so excited that we were on our way about 30 minutes too early when Erikka decided to check her voicemails and discovered that they had called and needed to reschedule!  OH NO!  Man!  Once she called in and found out that the doctor was sick, we had to spend two agonizingly long days waiting until the rescheduled appointment.

The new appointment day finally came, and we again rushed off to the appointment, ready to find out who was in there and start picking out names.  When we were first ushered to the back and into a room, we were met by a sonographer who would start the exam, doing measurements and such.  After a few minutes she asked if we wanted to know the gender – well, YEAH.  So she probed around a bit and had to do some maneuvering of the wand (baby was hiding the privates), and finally said, “Oh this is a little girl!”  I was like, “No way.  Check again.”  So she kept at it, and continued to say that it is indeed a little girl.  My response was, “I don’t see anything!  How can you tell?  Haven’t you heard these stories where they tell someone they’re having a girl and then out comes a baby boy with a teeny, tiny little peenie that was hiding?”  She and Erikka just laughed at me.  Erikka was grinning from ear to ear, saying that she KNEW it would be a girl, because she was supposed to have a girl!  I still was not ready to accept and believe it.  Soon the doctor, the specialist, came in.  She looked at me and said, “So I hear that someone in here needs more proof on the baby’s gender?”  I raised my hand, “Yes, that would be me.”  So she grabbed the wand and began doing the same tests and measurements, and then went in for the between-the-leg shot and said, “Oh she is most definitely a little girl!”  I again said, “How can you tell that?  I don’t see anything!”  She laughed and said, “That’s the point.  There’s nothing there!”  She probed around a bit more and said, “I promise you, it’s a girl.  I’m a specialist.  We don’t make mistakes on these things in this office.”  Hmmmm.  Well, okay.  Okay.  It’s a girl.  Oh my God!  It’s a GIRL!!

We were thrilled and couldn’t stop grinning like idiots, texting, calling, and posting online about our awesome news.  We had a little cake made that was pink and chocolate cake on the inside, and we brought it out on Father’s Day to tell Erikka’s parents – it was pretty cute.  After raising two boys, I was finally going to have a girl.  Wow.  It thrills me and terrifies me all at the same time.  I have no clue how to style girl hair!  I can probably dress her girly and put hats on her, but does this mean I have to play dolls and Barbies and have tea parties?  I’ve never had to do that!!  But we have already discussed and decided that we will put her in sports, and won’t put her in pageants.  I’m pushing for soccer, of course, and I will be her coach if she wants – just like I was Nicholas’s coach.  I can and probably will be that crazy soccer mom, who acts like a soccer dad…haha.  I’m already learning to like flowery, pink, fru-fru things.  We have been milling over names already; there are several that we like and we are narrowing the choices.  We decided that once we decide the name, we are going to keep it between just us.  A lot of people have been asking, and some have not been happy when we tell them that they will find out the day that she is born.  Noah has been asking every other day for us to tell him her name, but we won’t even tell him – he has a big mouth!  But I am thrilled that not only is he excited about becoming a big brother, but he is happy to be having a baby sister (which is what he wanted).  This is a whole new adventure, for both of us, but especially for a mom of boys!  But, I am loving every minute of it, and cannot wait to meet our baby daughter (wow, DAUGHTER)!

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So Many Questions!

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (8/17/11):

So I’ve been asked a lot of questions lately from a wide variety of people about our process and what we’ve had to go through to get where we are now – pregnant and thrilled to pieces about it.  I’d like to take this week’s blog to hopefully answer some of those questions, for those who are thinking of going down this road of unknown fertility, as well as for those who know someone who may want to also someday take a stab at it.

One of the top questions, of course, that we get asked is:  When is the baby due?  This leads to a long explanation with a complicated answer of:  We don’t know yet.  Now, let me explain.  Our original due date was 11/11/11 – the COOLEST birth date of all time, right?  But no, we’re not going to get our cool due date.  Let’s back up to January.  Remember that surgery that Erikka had to have to remove a fibroid from her uterus (I wrote about it, you remember)?  During the course of THAT surgery, they made incisions in three different places, thus making it a very bad idea for her to go into any kind of active labor.  So we’ve known from the first trip to the OB/GYN that a cesarean is in order, and well before the actual due date in order to avoid contractions.  I was then pushing for 11/1/11 – the second coolest birth date, huh?  The doctor, at last inquiry, told me that this would probably be the latest that she would deliver, but that it would most likely be during that last week of October.  Hmmm.  We have been going for multiple sonograms so that they can keep a close eye on how big the baby is growing, and will be picking a date to schedule the delivery in the next few weeks.  Once we have it scheduled, we promise, we will share it with the world (well, with those who are interested).

I guess that the next, most-asked questions have been:  Who is the dad?  Do you know him?  Did you use a donor?  Did you use a sperm bank?  Will the child be able to find him when s/he grows up?  Whoa.  That’s a mighty big barrage of questions!  Sometimes they come all together, other times, separately.  So let’s see.  Our baby won’t have a “dad”, but rather a biological sperm donor, and two very loving moms.  Besides, a lot of people have fathered a lot of babies over a lot of years – but being a “dad” is not the same, right?  And if anyone wants to know if I am playing the role of “dad”…?  Um, NO.  I may joke around about being the “baby daddy”, but I am the baby’s mother – just like Erikka.  We don’t know the donor that we chose, we only know the profile with his description, features, characteristics, background.  We kind of used a bank, since our specimen originally came from a bank.  Our fertility clinic keeps a stock of specimens that have been purchased by clients who no longer have need of them.  We totally tell people that we bought the clearance sperm and are having a budget baby!  And our donor is listed as “anonymous”, meaning that he does not wish to be known, even when/if the child reaches eighteen years old and wants to find him.  Some donors will list themselves as “willing to be known”, and those specimens are a bit more expensive.

What else?  I guess another big couple of questions have been:  What is the process?  Where would one begin – at a fertility doctor or at an OB/GYN?  For us, the process was relatively smooth and positive.  We started at a fertility clinic that came highly recommended.  That was where they did initial testing on Erikka to find out what she needed to do to prepare her body for pregnancy.  That initial sonogram on the first visit revealed the fibroid, and that was the surgery portion in the prep work.  On her follow-up visit after the surgery, sonograms and tests revealed that all was well and she could proceed – and so we did.  As I outlined in an earlier blog, we started getting ready for AI (artificial insemination) on the very first cycle after her surgery.  We had gone in for our initial visit thinking that we wanted to just jump to IVF (in-vitro fertilization) because its success rate is a little higher, but were surprised to hear from the doctor that we didn’t necessarily need to take that huge step and extra cost when we didn’t need to yet, as far as she could tell.  We also found out that most doctors like to at least try a few rounds of AI before moving on to IVF, so our minds were changed and our intentions became focused towards successful insemination.  After several sonograms that would track ovulation (called a follicular series – tracking the follicles, aka eggs), we were almost there.  She had a shot that would give her follicles a “boost” to make them release and drop, thus creating ovulation.  Thirty-six hours after the booster shot, we found ourselves back at the fertility clinic, nervous and excited and about to be inseminated.  Since we had purchased the specimen from the clinic, we knew that they had it already, and when we were ushered into the room of magic there it was, thawed and waiting for the magician.  The whole process took about ten minutes, and then it was a very long, two-week waiting game.  Once we got word that it had worked and we were pregnant, the doctor (aka magician) informed us that she would be taking care of Erikka through her 9th week, and then would turn us over to the OB/GYN of our choosing for that first, 10-week visit.  Everything went so smoothly, and we will without hesitation tell anybody that we are highly blessed to have had it occur on the first try.  So many that we know try over and over and over, and then move on to IVF for several rounds.  We know those who have had success after a very long, hard road, and others who tried and tried and still had no success.  I don’t know why we had the fortune that we did, but we are and will be eternally grateful.

So for anybody out there who wants to do this, or knows someone who does – and it doesn’t matter if you are straight, married, gay, single – I say good for you, and go for it!  But know where to go first for direction:  a fertility clinic (preferably one that is recommended).  Make an appointment for a consultation.  Once there, they can lay out a plan for you of preliminary tests, tell you what your insurance will pay for and what it will not, and direct you with their particular costs.  They will have information for you for choosing donors from different banks, as well as what to do if you are using a specimen from a husband or donor that you know.

People judge us on a regular basis, just because we are two women in love.  I’m sure that people will judge again and more, with the addition of our baby to the mix.  But you know what?  I don’t even care!  The way I look at it, if those people, the ones who judge, are too stupid to realize that we’re not doing anything different than thousands and thousands of heterosexual couples who have trouble getting pregnant, then surely their opinions and judgments should mean absolutely nothing to me or my family.  So if you’re wanting a baby, and you need help to do it, it doesn’t matter what your reasons are or what your challenges are – get the help you need and don’t ever worry about what anybody else thinks about it!

We’re Pregnant…Now What???

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (8/10/11):

So…we’re pregnant. Now what? Oh my God we’re pregnant. Now what???

When we found out that the blood test was positive, it was two weeks post-insemination; but when they calculate due dates, they go from the last period, thus saying that Erikka was FOUR weeks pregnant.  I was confused already.  She was already experiencing some of the early symptoms of pregnancy, which to me was a very good sign (despite how she felt).  Everything had gone so well so far, so naturally I had no reason to suspect or fear that anything would go wrong with any portion of the pregnancy – and I declared it my job to make sure that Erikka stayed just as confident as well.  This was going to be great, I told her, because I was going to be experiencing the best of both worlds.  I had already had children, so I knew what to expect, what she will likely feel physically and emotionally, what to do and not do, and ways to take care of her that a guy might not know.  I also was going to experience part of what a dad goes through by NOT being pregnant, and some of the feelings that THEY experience when their wife, girlfriend, or friend is pregnant.  I will be the baby-daddy, so to speak; but I will also be the other mommy.  This is going to be great!

We scheduled the first appointment with an OB/GYN nearby whose practice had come highly recommended by both straight and lesbian moms that I know.  They got her in, and I wasn’t nervous about going to this new doctor, knowing that they had previous clients who were just like us.  On the very first visit, I asked the doctor (who has privileges at three hospitals) where we should deliver and where I would be treated as the spouse that I am.  I had read stories about partners/spouses who were kept from their significant mother because of a doctor or nurse’s prejudice or homophobia, as well as kept from their own baby!  It was bad enough, living in this very red state of Texas, that I was going to have to adopt my own baby; but just try to keep me from my wife OR baby in the hospital at the time of the birth!  I did not want to have to go nuts and lose my mind in the middle of some hospital corridor after some fundamentalist nurse had just prohibited me from being with my wife and newborn baby (not that I overreact ever, in the least, over anything)!  But the doctor took my questions in stride, gave me a direct answer without hesitation, and proceeded with the visit.  There were tests to schedule, sonograms to have, and we couldn’t wait for any of it!

(One of baby’s earlier photos….)

The hardest part, at that time, was keeping the pregnancy a secret.  We had three friends that knew, and Erikka waited until she was a little further along before telling her parents.  But other than that, we had decided to wait until we were out of the “danger zone” –12 weeks.  That…was…hard.  But for those first months, it was exciting to have this secret, knowing that our family was growing long before Erikka’s belly would.  Every time I looked at her, my love for her grew stronger, and all I wanted to do was protect her and make sure that she and my tiny little baby were safe.  We were going to wait until the 12-week mark to tell Noah as well, just in case there was a remote chance that something might happen; he had not taken it well when I had lost my last baby.  It was hard not to tell him – I wanted to see the excitement that I hoped he would have, and for him to share in our perfect little family.  Spring was around the corner, and everything was perfect.  Nauseatingly perfect.

Birthday Blogging…again.

“The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” ~ Lucille Ball

So today is my birthday.  My 41st birthday, to be exact (well, actually it’s my 29th…again…if I go by Lucy’s rules).  Ironically, it would have also been Lucille Ball’s 100th birthday (glad I found the cool quote by her).

I was lying on a float in the pool earlier when this blog was conceived in my mind.  Last year when I turned forty, it really wasn’t that big of a deal.  This year, however, turning forty-one has hit me much harder – it seems very strange.  But alot has changed in our lives from last year to this, and we now have a baby girl on the way – and this changes EVERYTHING!  I have been freaking out a bit about this new little life who will be joining us soon, and my age has been in the forefront of my mind.  I am, and will be, 41 when she arrives.  I will be 59 when she graduates high school.  If she marries in her 20s, I will be in my 60s.  Oh my goodness that makes me feel OLD.  When SHE turns 40, I will be 81, God willing.  It just doesn’t seem like enough time!  But earlier, as I lay in the pool, enjoying my day relaxing before my hot date with my wife tonight, I started thinking about all of the things I have seen and done in this 41 years; I am truly a highly blessed and favored woman!

  • I remember the day that Elvis died – August 16, 1977.  I know where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing.
  • I remember the Space Shuttle that exploded when I was in 10th grade, while I sat in Biology watching it live.
  • I have been married, and divorced, more times than I should; but those things had to happen to bring me to the place where I was ready to meet the woman who would become my beautiful bride two years ago.
  • I remember when David Koresh lit up Waco; when Timothy McVeigh blew up Oklahoma City; and when two boys shot up Columbine.
  • I remember vividly the day that terrorism came to the U.S. on September 11, 2001 – changing the way all of us live…forever.
  • I watched helplessly as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita tore up the Texas and Louisiana coasts, killing countless lives, flooding cities whole, and ruining years and years of crops and communities.
  • I became a mom in 1991, and again in 2000; and soon, again, in 2011.
  • I have marched with thousands in Washington, D.C. for marriage equality and equal rights; and I have photographed White House protests against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – opportunities that many have not had the honor to have.
  • I have attended many weddings and funerals over the years, experienced great joys over love and birth as well as heartache of suicide and illness.  I have also attended same-sex weddings, and wept with joy at watching two people overcome the hate of the world to unite in love.
  • I have sung solos in front of crowds of thousands; I have sung in groups of even more.

This is just a TINY sampling of some of the amazing and wonderful things that I’ve seen during these 41 years.  There is no way to cram a lifetime into a blog, for any of us.  If we stop and try to examine all that we’ve seen, all that we’ve done, I’m sure that every single person on this planet could write a novel.  That’s just how life goes, right?  But as I lie on the float, I not only try to remember moments and events, but also try to realize and recall what I have learned during my time here thus far.  Some of the things I have learned:

  • It doesn’t really matter WHO you love, or HOW you love….just simply that you DO love.
  • Our founding fathers stood for the basic belief that “All men [aka mankind] are created equal.”  Why can’t we ALL do that same thing?
  • Family doesn’t always mean the people with whom you are biologically connected.  Family are those who are there for you, who support you, who love you unconditionally whether they agree with you or not.  Family doesn’t leave.  And the family that you have is the family you create for yourself.
  • Every life matters, regardless of gender, regardless of sexuality, regardless of religion, regardless of race.
  • Hate is never warranted – hate is a choice.
  • We only have one earth, and we should all take better care of our little piece of it.
  • Friendships should be valued and treasured and treated like the precious gems that they are.
  • Everyone should say “I love you” every day to someone.  It’s good for your health.
  • I can have a burger and fries if I want to; I can even have a beer if I want to.   I know that I’m overweight, but I know that it won’t kill me to splurge from time to time.
  • My marriage is just as real and important as anyone else’s.  My family is just as real and important as anyone else’s.

Yeah, I’ve learned alot, but like trying to sum up life’s experiences in a blog, it is just as difficult to sum up all of the lessons that life has handed me.  Many of the things that I have learned, I have learned the hard way, through pain, heartache, and many tears.  Best line that I heard while at the movie for my birthday: 

“God don’t care about who you WERE….God only cares about who you ARE.”

Amen preacher, AMEN.

Beginning the Process – Insemination, Here We Come!

This week on TheNextFamily.com (8/3/2011):

Over the next few days, we watched things that we normally wouldn’t pay attention to, like physical signs and symptoms in Erikka.  I was fascinated with the whole process.  We had to go in for ultrasounds so that the doctor could watch her follicles (aka eggs) as they grew and prepared to release in ovulation.  It was amazing to watch them get bigger until the point when they were ready to drop.

We had planned a trip to Oklahoma to visit friends over the weekend, so we were wondering how this was going to play out, since everything was timed so precisely.  The morning we were leaving for our trip, we went in for another ultrasound, and the doc said that she was about ready to ovulate, so we would have to take the syringe with us that would give her the surge that she needed for the eggs to drop at the appointed time.  Wonderful.  We were going to have to give her the shot that evening, while we were scheduled to be at a fundraising event.  But we knew that we could figure it out – after all, we are two very highly educated women!

That evening I was photographing the event and and we were visiting with several close friends.  Fortunately, one of them was my adopted mother, who happens to be a nurse. She accompanied us to the bathroom at the appointed “shot time” and administered the shot for me (I didn’t think I could do it).  So just like shake and bake, she helped!  We went home the following afternoon, and prepared to go to the fertility clinic the next morning for insemination.  It was very exciting not only for us, but our friends as well!

We woke up on Monday with anticipation, having a really good feeling about how things were going thus far.  Arriving at the clinic, we were ushered into one of the rooms, where donor #351 had been thawed and was waiting for us, ready to fulfill our dreams of dual motherhood.  We laughed and waited for the doctor, me with video camera in hand, ready to capture the whole thing.  Once the doc came in, she got straight to business, which took all of two minutes.  I was standing by Erikka’s side as the specimen went in, but didn’t actually video THAT part – just the before and after.  About ten minutes later we were on our way, with an appointment for blood tests two weeks later, and admonishments not to be tempted to test any earlier than that.  We both had such a good feeling about it, I was afraid to even acknowledge how good of a feeling I had.  When we walked out, I looked at Erikka and said, “We just made a baby in there.  That doctor knocked you up!”  Somehow I knew that it just had to be true.

Erikka waited about five or six days before she whipped out the mass box of pregnancy tests that she had purchased in bulk on the internet.  The first produced the faintest of lines, as did the second and third, until the line started becoming slightly darker with each passing day.  Oh my God, could it be?  Had we been right?  Had we really been so lucky, so blessed, as to have it happen for us on the very first try?  Part of me thought that of course it worked, and that there was no other option BUT for it to have worked.  The other part thought no way, really??  We had friends who had children, but had heard their stories of how long it took, months and years for some.

When the day finally arrived – two weeks post- insemination – we anxiously went to the fertility clinic for the blood test.  In OUR minds, they would draw the blood and give us the answer right then; but no.  They drew the blood and then informed us that we would hear from them probably by noon.  WHAT???  We have to WAIT for several hours?  Oh geez.  So home we went, and the hours passed so slowly.  Noon came and went.  One o’clock came and went.  TWO o’clock came and went.  Ugh.  “Call them,” I said.  She called, got a voicemail, left a message.  Three o’clock came and went.  Four o’clock arrived.  “Call them again,” I said.  She called again, got a voicemail, left a message.  Dear God this was torture!  They called back, and somehow, we missed the call and got a voicemail – with no information, just told us to call them back.  ARGHHH!!!  Finally, just before five o’clock, we made contact.  I had the video camera out and rolling, and we put the nurse on speaker as she said the glorious words that we were holding our breath to hear:  Your pregnancy test was positive!  We couldn’t wipe away our ear-to-ear grins for the rest of the day!  We texted the few people who knew what we were doing, gave the good news, and then swore them to secrecy until we were ready to announce to the world at twelve weeks.  It was a fabulous end to a very long day of waiting, and the beginning of a whole new life for us.