Friday, December 30, 2005

18 Months Old

This week my younger child, my little girl, turned 18 months old. I still can’t believe it and that in 6 more months she’ll turn 2. This is a magical age for a little kid. They are really walking and babbling up a storm. They understand you pretty much fully and they prove they are real little people

Today my wife brought both my little girl and her brother to my office for a brief visit so my co-workers could see how big she has gotten before we all went to the holiday train exhibit at the Citigroup Center here in Manhattan. As soon as they entered the office I heard, from across the floor, both of them saying “Where’s Daddy?” The sound of your own kids asking for you and saying “Daddy” for the most part makes your heart melt. I will admit though that after any three day weekend home, hearing “Daddy” twelve million times, that I’ll be waiting to get back to work. It doesn’t mean though that you ever want to stop hearing those words.

Every morning, my daughter wakes up at 5:30am give or take a ½ hour. I usually don’t even need the alarm on my phone to wake me up. As soon as she is awake it starts…“Da..dee” …“Da..dee”. It doesn’t stop until she sees me open her door and walk in and then I get that million dollar smile and a hug that I treasure every day.

My office-mate actually asked if my daughter knows any other words. She does, but none so sweet on the ears. Happy New Year !

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Dad Someday

I discovered this past week one of the very few infertility blogs I have found written from the man’s point of view. The blog is fairly new as it was only started in early to mid December and the blogger has only posted 11 entries. So if you are interested in following one man’s (and his wife’s) journey from the “start” you can catch up pretty quickly. So far the blogger has kept his posts directly on topic which is something I have not always done.

While reading of the posts I am quickly reminded of all the issues we went through and I wonder how I would have put my own thoughts down in a blog had I started one at that time. I got a kick out his discussions regarding “producing” for a semen analysis and what goes through your mind. Looking back it was worth the effort to try to produce my own genetic material for our IVF cycles but I would not trade the kids I got for any amount of “what ifs” or cash. Although we could sorely use the cash.

I have provided a link to this blog as well as a couple of other infertility blogs written by men in the sidebar Infertility links section. As there are so few male focused blogs out there on this topic it is important to recognize each of these men for putting their thoughts out there.

I wish them each luck and offer a prayer that they and their spouses reach their goal of parenthood within the coming year.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Holidays, Family, Friends, Life Events and Infertility

Tomorrow morning I will be attending the Brit Milah (the Bris) of an infant boy born 8 days ago to friends from our synagogue. Until my wife became pregnant 4.5 years ago I could not imagine attending such a ceremony without the emotional pain of our infertility. That same pain colored each and every holiday season and how we reacted to invitations from family and friends to parties and life events.

It is so easy to put that pain out of mind when you are changing the diapers and chasing your kid through a social hall to keep him from tripping or spilling something on somebody's favorite suit or dress. The truth of the matter is that there are so many other couples going through that same pain now during this Chanukkah and Christmas season and through everyday events. To those folks I echo the words of a friend's blog "Wishing for a Baby" that this holiday season is almost done and perhaps you can look at the new year as a new beginning and a fresh start in your travels down these roads and that hopefully within this new year you can also lose yourself in the next phase of your lives and put the pain behind you.

Half Sibling Terminology

As I have stated in earlier posts my kids have so far one half sibling found via the DSR. A current topic on the main DSR yahoo discussion group is that of sibling related terminology. This is a topic we have been dealing with again recently as we have traded a number of e-mails and phone call with the half sibling’s mom on this exact topic.

At this moment my older child (at 3years 8 months old) fully knows that he has a mommy and a daddy and a donor. He knows the donor helped him and his sister be born into this world. Their half sibling (still not yet 3 years old) is not fully at that stage of understanding regarding the donor's role or that why she does not have a daddy. At this point neither family is using the terms brother/sisters as the kids have no relationship to each other and at this point don't even know they each exist.

Our issues at this point include (1) what do we each feel comfortable telling the kids in light of their own understandings of how their families are structured / comprised and (2) what each child's maturity level is to understanding the concept of half siblings via common donor. As I have stated in earlier posts my wife would rather just tell our son that he is meeting a half sibling after ensuring he understands what that means but that may be unfair to the half sibling who has yet to fully comprehend even why her family is anything other than just a mommy and me family. The last thing I would want is to create any confusion for this child. Nor would I want to create any conflict between the kids where they might argue “what a family is” knowing what they have as opposed to each other’s family structure. Note that 3 year olds (plus and minus) do not exactly have arguments or discussions but rather statements of fact as they see the world and then they leave with what they think the other side said which more often than not is a misunderstanding of what the other kid intended.

It’s so hard to discuss this stuff by e-mail and we should discuss it more via phone but when there are competing lives and issues finding time is a trick. At the same time where I can write about this stuff with relative ease I forget that not everyone is as comfortable at the keyboard and e-mail time delayed conversations are never great. Neither family I believe wants our only discussions to be on this topic but it’ so easy to get stuck.

Much of what I wrote above captures the point that we are at. I am not looking for feedback as I am just taken by the fact the online DSR discussion is somewhat current with our own.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Judaism’s Priestly Classes and Classifying Children of DI

While trolling the web for donor conception related sites I happened upon the blog of a woman named Mel from Houston who with her husband have been dealing with infertility. What struck me was the title of her most recent blog post “Infertility in the Torah: A Jewish Perspective on Assisted Reproduction Techniques (ART)”. I also learned from her blog post that my children probably should not be considered Levi’im (as I am through my father) as I have no idea of our donor’s priestly classification. I partially addressed this topic in my earlier post regarding the Conservative Jewish position on ART.

Mel’s blog post recounts her D'var Torah at this past week’s Shabbat service where generally the speaker discusses the content of that week’s specific Torah reading. Mel decided however to address in general the fact that each of the Jewish Matriarchs, Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel all had a difficult time fulfilling the commandment "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it". [Exodus / Bereshit 1:28]. In short Mel discussed their battles with infertility. Each Rosh Hashonah the Torah reading recounts Hannah’s infertility and her eventual gift from g-d of her son Samuel (who became one of Israel’s greatest prophets.) During our own infertility battles this reading always brought my wife to tears during the service.

In Judaism no matter what movement a Jew belongs to (Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform) all Jews are classified as Kohanim (priests), Leviim (teachers, spiritual leaders), or Israel. The classification is mostly seen each Shabbat when only Kohain can say the first blessings during the Torah readings. The Leviim go second and then Israel. The classification or status passes through the Father as opposed to the Mother (i.e., if your mom is a Jew so are you). As I am not the biological father to my kids this issue has interest to me. According to the Conservative Movement’s position that technically the donor is the father and I am only the agent for the father ... therefore I should have realized that my kid’s priestly status would actually follow that of our unknown donor. So far as his agent I have treated the kids as following my own Leviim status which is not correct but what I have done. As my kid's have not been called to read from the Torah yet no sin has been comitted as far as I know. Prior to their Bar and Bat Mitzvah's they will be told that they must treat themselves as Israel for fear of committing a sin unless I can determine the donor's status.

Getting back to Mel’s blog post I recommend it as great little summary of infertility in the bible and primarily one Jewish movement’s perspective on treating infertility.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NYC Transit Strike - Day 2

Again I got lucky and got a cab to work. I again walked home with no issues. My intelligent son at one point today apparently dropped his pants and made an impression with his butt in play dough. I'd like to say this was his way of potesting against the strike but he also told my wife he is bored [supposedly from being home from school already.]

One of the more telling events today that showed the impact of the strike was that one of the city's leading high end department stores, Bloomingdales, closed it's doors at 6:00pm due to lack of customers, who were more concerned with getting home than shopping, 4 days before Christmas and Chanukah. Granted their own staff needed to figure out their commutes home as well. The lost revenue at this most important time for NYC retailers will be amazing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

NYC Transit Strike - Day One

Not directly DI related but part of our life. My commute was not too bad as I caught a cab about 10 blocks from our apartment (we live and I work all in Manhattan.) About 60% of my office made it into work. I had to walk home which took about 45 minutes. The East side was close to gridlocked. People on the streets were in good spirits but the drivers stuck in traffic were not too thrilled. The weather while cooler at night was not too bad and I must admit my Lands End down coat (tailored as a rain coat and not the Michelin Man) kept me quite toasty. I wore probably one too many layers but I'll know better tomorrow.

While the NYC schools opened two hours late all morning pre-K programs were out right cancelled. So the kids and some school friends convened at our apartment along with their caregivers or moms. I missed this but heard it was a hoot.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Emotional Blackmail - # 3 - They Received It...

I received back from the cryobank confirmation that they received our request for a lifetime photo package from our now inactive donor. I figure it will be at least a few months from now before we hear anything to give them time to "look" for the donor. My wife figures that if they have the donor's social security number (from when he was compensated for his stuff) they can easily locate him. I am not so sure it is that easy. Anyhow it's now out of our control and we just have to wait.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Family History & Safe Deposit Boxes: Preserving Our Donor’s Known Info

Well today our donor officially joined our family history via my putting the following documents in our safe deposit box: his bios (hard copy and on CD), toddler picture, and voice recording (CD). I finally made copies of the voice recording the other day and finally got to the bank. While there I cleaned up and better organized our files in our box. We actually have a larger box at about 18” depth by 10” width by 6” height.

I originally got the box as I have a number of family history documents that I did not feel comfortable keeping at home (I survived an apartment fire years ago – it wasn’t as dramatic as it sounds but it’s something I still worry about). The larger box was needed as some of these documents could not be folded. I also keep back up copies of all our family pictures on CD rom in the box.

For a while now I have been meaning to get the donor stuff into the box to theoretically ensure its safekeeping. I say theoretically as my office mate used to have her box in a bank branch that was on the concourse level of the World Trade Center, enough said on that. Anyhow I now have duplicate copies of everything and the original picture (the copy we were sent) and the voice recording interview are in the box.

While organizing the box better I had intended to put the donor stuff into it’s own folder but I ran out after assigning one each to the kids and one jointly to my wife and I. So I figured I’d just combine the family history stuff and the donor stuff into one folder. Jointly these documents make up my kid’s history as we know it so it made sense.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Emotional Blackmail - Part Two - I Mailed It !!!

I finally mailed, via certified receipt, the inactive donor request form to the cryobank. It had been two weeks since I got the form notarized but I kept not getting to the post office to mail it. Maybe that means something. My wife said it just means I did not want the cryobank to have any more of our money. It's a long shot if they find the donor and if he then agrees to the lifetime photo series thing but we had to try. The whole thing could take months I suppose and I believe the entire charge will be sitting on my credit card until then. Amusing. Again if it turns out to be a bust we only lose the $300. Not a huge amount but still this time of year every penny helps.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Donor Audio CD - I Began to Listen.....

Late last night I finally dug out the audio CD recording of the Donor answering questions posed by the cryobank. I played the CD to check it was still good towards my goal of making copies and to get the original into the safe deposit box. From the 4-5 minutes I heard of the total 24 minutes noted he sounded normal and quite intelligent. My wife was also in our living room while the CD played and she asked if I felt threatened to which I answered no but then again I am exhausted so I am not totally sure. As I said he sounded like a regular guy and I'll probably listen to the rest later this week perhaps on the bus to work although that sounds strange to me now. It's late and I need sleep.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

“I Want a Brother” & Trying to Explain Half Siblings

Yesterday and again today my son stated he wanted a brother. He knows he is the big brother to his sister but he wanted a [little] brother. When I asked him why, he stated that since he is the big brother there should also be a [little] brother. He also stated that he wanted a brother to hold and love and that his sister is now too big. Part of this may have resulted from our family visit to my sister's house and her two daughters, who are cousins to my kids (not in blood but by family) and his seeing their large doll collection (including American Girl and Bitty Baby).

I took this as another opportunity to review that he and his sister are here due to the help of a donor. I also reminded him of the photos we saw in the NY Times (Nov 20th) of the children and teenagers that were related through their common donor. I thought that if I then drew out our family on paper and then showed him graphically (stick figures) that the donor may have helped other families I would be better able to show him that there may actually be other children who are here due to the help of this same donor. I tried explaining again what a half sibling is but this time he did not seem either to get it or be interested.

He was having more fun naming the fictional children on our pad. So at the current time my kids have 5 mythical half siblings with the following names: From Family # 1 (a heterosexual couple with four kids) boys Fred and Fud and girls Ted and Tud. Yes, we read a lot of Dr. Seuss. From Family #2 (a choice mom with one child) a girl named either Did or Didi, I wasn’t sure what he said. At this point he was giggling so much that the issue was no longer the point but the silly names were. We had a ball laughing which was a lot of fun despite the lost opportunity

He still wants a brother. I had no intention as part of this exercise to tell him that he and his sister already have one known half sibling, a little girl. Maybe someday he’ll find out he has a half sibling that is a boy but for now he only knows to ask us if we’ll have another baby to get him a brother.

[As an aside financially we could not even think about another child and we don’t really want to go down the road of having three where one is always the middle child etc].

Saturday, December 10, 2005

(1) Another Why Post (2) Found Other Male Written Fertility Blogs

Over the last two nights I found by accident a donor egg (DE) blog and discovered the world of female written infertility blogs. There are a lot of them out there and most of them list all of the other DE blogs they visit or know about. Sort of a sisterhood of shared pain which I can relate to from our years of infertility treatments. Anyhow mixed in with these listings I found a few links to male written blogs. None of them appear to be from men who have successfully used DI but it proved that other men are out there willing to discuss their infertility issues of their own or that of their marriage. I will try to add the links to all these blogs tomorrow as my kids are waking up after falling asleep in the car after our drive home from the burbs. It could be long night.

Oh, I almost forgot the "why" part. My wife asked again why am I so obsessed with the topics of DI/DC and infertility especially since we have two great smart gorgeous healthy kids. My short answer (as I need to shut this down) is and keeps coming back to my meeting the few adult donor conceived individuals in Toronto and my fear that my kids could someday have that pain. It is why I blog, why I am involved in trying to start a national US donor conception support organization and my recent decision to be part of an effort to draft model rules of ethics / operation for the sperm banks. We just knew so little when we started down the DI/DC path. Now that my kids are real and luckily for them so far healthy etc I have no right to sit on my laurels just because they are healthy happy etc as they just as easily could not be. I am beginning to rant so it's time to shut down.

No Meeting of Half Siblings This Weekend.

Unsure of what was going to happen this weekend I rented a car for two days. Today, Saturday, we had a birthday party for one of my nieces out in the suburbs. If the kids were going to meet it was to be tomorrow somewhere in NJ where they were to be staying or somewhere in between. This afternoon we found a voice mail message that was apparently left last night on our Verizon voice mail while I was on-line. [Another reason to get DSL or a second line]. For reasons unconnected to our "what to tell issues" they are not coming North for their unrelated event.

We were disappointed but figure / hope to meet perhaps now in the Spring when all the kids are older and maybe this issue of how to introduce the kids will be easier to resolve as the half sibling will be older as well. It was just as well as today's driving left me exhausted and I am unsure how I would have handled two days of driving and car packing for two kids.

Friday, December 09, 2005

More Info on (3) Contact at Point of Purchase with the Sperm Banks re Donor Information

Some of this was addressed in my earliest posts back in August 2005. The following is the third part of an email interview I participated in with a journalist friend Mikki Morrissette (note I have removed the actual names of the sperm banks):

3. What kinds of conversations did the clinic or bank have with you (if any) about issues beyond simply the process of conceiving....such as donor identity/anonymity, openness about origins with the child, half-siblings in geographic area, reporting successful pregnancy so a donor can be retired at a particular limit?

Simply put we had no conversations with the clinic or the bank regarding issues beyond the process of conception. We were seeing a psychotherapist regarding the effects of the whole process and my own infertility upon our marriage. The therapist recommended a few DI related book titles but to be honest I don’t recall our discussing the issues in detail regarding post birth. We touched on the disclosure / openness issues but to be honest the sessions were focused first on our pain. Also I think we were even at that point pretty sure we planned to tell the children as the books were clear that issues would fester if we did not tell.

Added for this post re Donor Medical Information:

An issue recurring on the DSR_Discussion group right now involves holding the sperm banks accountable regarding known or unknown medical issues of the donor. I will not go into great detail here but the gist involves what responsibilities do or should the sperm banks have to test the donors during their pre-screening processes. And if the sperm bank claims the donor has been screened and tested negative for a potential hereditary disease that could be passed along to the conceived child what recourse is available if the child does eventually test positive for that disease.

In our own donor's case based on the medical profile we purchased the donor was tested for the following diseases as part of the screening process and found not to be a carrier of any of them: Cystic Fibrosis, Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Disorder, BRCA -1( breast and ovarian cancer), Tay Sachs, Gaucher, Canavan, and Thalassemia.

I will admit here that we did not question at that time how these tests were administered or the assays involved in their determination that the donor was not a carrier of any of them. We did take comfort and assurance of this info as the medical profile / questionairre was supposedly completed by the donor and his statements were that he was tested during the screening process and found to not be a carrier of any of those diseases listed here. Our assurance was further bolstered by the fact the donor himself had medical training.

Looking back our not asking how these tests were administered etc. was naive and I encourage all individuals to ask for more information. Thinking back on the process I don't even recall what form of documentation existed (i.e. contract etc.) that would have had language addressing legal recourse for any related issues (granted since it would have been the sperm bank's document it would have protected them).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

We May Meet Their Half Sibling This Weekend?

We have been trading e-mails with the mom of my kid’s half sibling as she may be coming into the NYC area this weekend. This resulted in both families getting back into our unfinished discussion of how we would introduce the kids to each other.

My wife right now wants to be direct and upfront with our son as to who this little girl is. Her mom wants to hold back at the moment and just introduce them as special friends who share a special connection. We are at an awkward point as both families want to protect their kids and not take away from how special this occasion will be and mean in their lives. We (my wife and I) have suggested that we delay the meeting until we are all on the same page as to what to say to them. Again this is awkward and your emotions run high. [More so as I know she reads this blog but these thoughts and comments need to be part of this blog’s story.]

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

More Info on How We (2) Chose the Donor

Again Some of this was addressed in my earliest posts back in August 2005. The following is part of an email interview I participated in with a journalist friend Mikki Morrissette (note I have removed the actual names of the sperm banks):

2. How did you decide on the particular donor you used? DI dads tend to be interested not at all in the donor profile information. [According to the sperm banks] most of the interest in that detail comes from single women in particular (and to some extent wives) and that husbands tend to not want to think of the donor as a real person. I'd like to get your view as well on what you considered in making donor selection...did it feel threatening? Did you pore over the details, or tend to dismiss them? Was the ultimate goal simply to find someone who looked like you?

I will admit I actually was quite involved in the initial rounds of weeding through many of the details. After I narrowed down the available Jewish donors by blood type, heritage, and educational background we ordered the available detailed health and social bios as well as the voice recorded CDs where available.

At that point because there was no child I had no problem thinking of him as a real person. As a pretty active amateur genealogist I think I probably looked at the details much as I do when I find data on missing individuals in family trees. Without that background my reactions may have been different. I think as the donor would be 1/2 of what makes my kids I also took it extremely seriously.

The details actually fascinated both me and my spouse but I can see the sperm bank director's point. I will admit there were also a few wild conversations. One donor whose physical and heritage backgrounds came close to mine worked as a parking lot attendant and my wife kiboshed that possibility as this was not some part time job for that guy. Education was a big deal for us and we even selected a donor from Sperm bank DEF's premier education group which added to cost.

Our goal was not simply to find someone who looked like me. Although I believe the sperm bank now offers the service of comparing the social dad-to-be’s photo to the donor. Our main points as discussed above were religion, blood type, and education. We had intended to improve on my family’s medical history but the donor we chose has a family medical history no better than my own in the end.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

More Info on How We Chose: (1) The Sperm Bank

Some of this was addressed in my earliest posts back in August 2005. The following is part of an email interview I participated in with a journalist friend Mikki Morrissette (note I have removed the actual names of the sperm banks):

1. How did you decide on the sperm bank that you used? (And DI Dad, remind me, how many years ago was this? Two?)

We first started with ABC back in 1999 and at that point the donor sperm was to be a backup to a testicular biopsy I was to undergo in support of an IVF-ICSI cycle we were attempting here in NYC. We chose ABC due to the variety they had and to be honest the IVF clinic we were using suggested them, DEF and maybe a few others. Being dumb and not given any real support we went to the banks the clinic suggested rather than doing a lot of research on our own.

We actually started with one ABC donor and then switched to a second donor but when his samples were no longer available we restarted our whole selection process. One of our most important concerns was to ensure we could secure enough vials to create over time two full siblings from the same donors and that was no longer a sure thing with the donors we found at ABC. Their selection of Jewish donors was quite small and we were not thrilled with the ones we saw.

When these initial IVF cycles failed (using my own scant few sperm) we started looking at DEF (around late 2000) and again as it was one of the sperm banks the “experts” suggested and again we figured they knew best.

Our selection process was our own and mostly focused on matching the donor’s blood type, heritage, and somewhat his physical characteristics to my own. We had no help from anybody at the IVF clinic or from the sperm banks.

Again at DEF our most important concerns were the donor’s characteristics (physical and education) and religious background and most importantly the number of vials available.

[Subsequent posts related to this email interview will include: (1) What the Sperm Bank told you re Post Conception Disclosure Issues and (2) How We Decided on a Specific Donor]

Friday, December 02, 2005

Too Painful to Listen to the Donor’s Voice….Not Yet Anyway….

A Choice Mom friend who is also a journalist working on an article sent me various questions to answer regarding how my wife and I chose our donor. As part of that selection process 4+ years ago my wife listened to a CD voice recording of the donor (and other potential donors) before we selected the donor we used.

My wife remarked last night that I still have not listened to that CD and she wondered if I am threatened by it. I was not sure how to answer. I don't believe I am but right now I guess I'd rather leave "him" as a theoretical being rather than have his voice in my head making him real.

Granted I have seen a photo of him but in it he is only a toddler. He was too cute to be threatening. As discussed in my post titled “Emotional Blackmail” we are currently attempting to purchase a set of “lifetime photos” of the currently inactive donor which if successful would include photos from childhood to adulthood. Am I ready to see these? Like the voice recording probably not yet.

Again the question is: Am I threatened by this individual? Possibly but the real reason I think is once he becomes real it just drudges up the pain of my not being able to biologically be part of the creation of my children (and that he was) and pushes my connection to them one step back.. I know these thoughts are silly but they are my feelings.