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It’s taken 84 collective years between us to finally get around to making the baby. At least that’s what we were aiming for. A baby. One.

My 4-month love salad
My 4-month love salad

A few of you know the good news, but many do not. We are prego with twins. We decided to wait until the 2nd trimester to tell everyone, when the high risk of miscarriage passed and genetic results were in.

We had been trying to get pregnant for awhile, and after a year we looked at the calendar, saw how old we both were, and decided we needed some outside ju-ju if it was going to happen.

Merritt looked at doctors for a month before settling on Dr Ryan, an amazing doctor and leader in the field of infertility medicine. Pierre loved her also, and she helped us beat the odds with IVF.

Our blog is to keep you all up to date, share ultrasounds, and describe the graphic and the impalpable in haunting detail. And since we have a captive audience, our blurbing won’t merely be about the Little People. Therapy, family, politics, crime & punishment, whatever crosses our minds will be here too.

Please keep checking back and ask us anything, except whether Pierre misses traveling or how Merritt keeps her hair so blonde.(*)

(*) While traveling through Africa, the #1 question we received from our US compadres was about Merritt’s hair. Yerp.


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That will get you started
That will get you started

$10,475 for the basic procedure…
$3,500 for the meds…
$250 for a test here…
$400 for a test there…
and on… and on… and on…

At the end of the day, we still don’t know how much exactly we spent on these kids. But one thing is sure, they’ll pay for it one day. I kept the bills, right there in a box with a fake Christmas tree we found on the sidewalk.

The day they start bitching, the day they start calling me an old jerk, I’ll be there with my bills to show them I loved them once - and I’ll ask for my payback.

And good thing they’re two: at least they can split the bills.

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On my visits to the clinic, most of the women looked in their mid to late 30s, though I saw 20 year olds to 45 year olds. They seemed very normal, upper middle class, and definitely white. Everyone was always white except for one Asian woman. Pierre made a joke once in the waiting room but the woman just stared at him. Fertility clinic is no place for joking.

During one visit, the clinic staff said to me that I was unusually calm and that most women are extremely nervous to the point of anxiety. They want the baby so bad that it leads to that much stress. I am guessing many women are on their 2nd or 3rd attempt, dealing with 6 figure credit card debt and possibly a lot of relationship/marriage tension… in which case I would be full-on stress-disorder as well.

Pierre and I were fascinated with IVF data. Maybe you will be too:

“The average, median cost per IVF cycle in 2002 in the US was about $12,000 plus $1,000-3,500K for medication, and the cost per actual live birth was $65,000+.

“However, if you take into account all the failures and repeat attempts at IVF, the average, overall cost per IVF resulting in a live birth in the United States is over $100,000!

In France, all of this would have been free. We couldn’t go, though, because of Pierre’s job. But if it doesn’t work on the first attempt, we’ll probably have no choice but to fly over to a nation that cares a bit more about its people (and helps them give birth to future tax-payers, which isn’t a bad investment if you ask me).

Chances of a live birth resulting from IVF based on age:

40 to 42 years old: 14%

We were very very lucky.

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Zygoat Zygotes
Zygoat Zygotes

The doctor gives us a picture of our mixture. The first thing we notice, is that 2 of the 4 petri dish globules are noticeably smaller.

We both point to the big ones and say, “Those are mine!” (ie. My DNA was responsible for the large (healthy) ones.) We have no idea that big/small mean anything. In fact, maybe the smaller ones are the more robust.

We still rationalize why the other of us must have produced the tinier bubbles.

“The big ones are Saslawskys”, PiR says. I tell him his are the little ones, because he’s like so old, he’s shorter than me, and because he’s not a pure French (*). Pierre tells me , “No, those are yours!”, because I am full of collywobbles, I’m shorter than he is, and I’m a pure American.

They aren’t even babies yet.
They certainly aren’t fetuses. Zygotes perhaps.
PiR calls them “fish bait”, but that’s not funny to me, so we look for other names.

We agree quickly on calling the 4 of them, Top, Strange, Charm and D’Artagnan.

The first three are names of particles found in Quarks, the little thingies inside the little thingies that form the atoms, but the fourth one?

Who’s D’Artagnan? “That’s the name of the 4th Musketeer”, says Pierre. Well, of course. So, we decide the weakest, baby zygote will be D’Artagnan.

(*) In Tunisia, a anti-Semitic man suspicious of Pierre’s features got in his face, yelling at him that he wasn’t a “pure French”.


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We did IVF. You know? In-Vitro Fertilization… The Test-tube Babies… The 5-Legged Sheep…

It was the only option. We’d both been tested extensively. Tests done for STDs, AIDS, low cell counts, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid, herpes, Hermes, we had it all, and nothing herky-jerky showed up. “Unexplained Infertility”.

My explanation is my age (my body had never been pregnant, so it needed a kick start), my lack of being around anything kid inducing (pregnant mothers, baby environments, kids in general) that might stimulate instinct, and my lifestyle (a slew of stress, red wine every night, working 7 days a week). I think that’s a good guess.

After a year of trying, we went in to speak with Dr Ryan at the SF Fertility Clinic who told us that at our (my) age, 40, we have a 20-25% chance for a live birth with IVF. If we wait until I am 42, our chances drop to 4%.

Eeks. I’m 40. Where do I sign?

The odds were rotten but had no other viable option. So we agreed and Dr Ryan explained IVF to us. I was amazed and even tickled over the brilliance and potentiality of medicine and technology. I don’t understand people who claim that they wish they could have lived in another era. It’s certainly ground in nostalgia and projections. And in regards to freedoms, it’s especially brow raising when I hear women say it.

I am many times thankful to be living in this day and age most entirely based on what these two fields have given us.

So, IVF…

You want a test-tube baby? All you need is an empty credit card ($20,000), a proclivity for pain (lots of needles), and a healthy stallion/filly.

IVF is a technique in which egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside the woman’s womb, in vitro (they say “in vitro” ’cause it sounds cleaner than “in the glass”). The first test tube baby was Baby Brown, born in Britain in 1978 amid intense controversy. The second test-tube baby was made by an Indian doctor but because of the the Marxist West Bengal government at that time, he was ostracized and reprimanded, and eventually committed suicide in 1981. God and Government; a lethal cocktail. Now as many as 1% of all births in the US and 4% in Denmark are conceived in the glass.

Step 1) As for IVF in relationship to us, Pierre had 2 tasks. One was an HIV test, and the other….. was a bit laborious. Poor PiR had to go into that sparse room and think about something, anything, to contribute his 50% to the liquid baby. He later did a podcast with Ian about the anguish and the sweats. But he came through. The man’s job was complete.

2) I needed to compile a series of tests for the clinic that included STD, HIV, thyroid, progesterone, Hep B & C, blood tests for FSH,LH,PRL and TSH, rubella, and some other crazy, never heard of things.

Note on being poor: Had I possessed the cash, I could have done all my testing at the IVF offices in an hour for about $1000. I opted to fish out the free clinics in the city and found out what poor people spend all their time doing. Waiting. I went to 4 different clinics, and waited for hours in waiting rooms, for lost blood work, for call-backs, for doctor’s to research procedures, etc, etc. I don’t like when people stereotype the poor as lazy. They’re not lazy, they’re bloody exhausted from waiting in lines all day.

3) With all of our test results, we took a second meeting where we watch a video of the pre-IVF procedures and then practice giving injections to a fake skin sheath.

4) We order $4000 worth of injectable drugs and spend 14 days shooting Merritt in her ass, thighs and stomach. This is to help the female produce more eggs, like a chicken. Since only one egg is produced every cycle, the drugs ‘trick’ the body into producing as many as possible.

5) PiR did all the injections in the stomach and thighs - 2 shots everyday for 14 days. Insulin peoples, I feel for you. The crescendo was on the 14th day with a long-long needle in the ass, done again by brave-heart PiR.

6) Four days later, we arrive at the clinic at 7am for egg retrieval day! I receive anesthesia. The doctor takes a needle, and using a transvaginal technique involving an ultrasound-guided needle, pierces through the vaginal wall to reach the ovaries. All the eggs are sucked up into a syringe and put into a fluid medium. The entire procedure takes only 20 minutes.

7) Normally, the sperms and eggs are incubated together. (at a ratio of about 75,000:1), but to raise our chances, we did ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection, pronounced “eeksee”) . For each egg, a single, healthy sperm is chosen out of thousands via a hollow needle and injected directly into the egg’s center. The antithesis of natural selection…

8) Women produce on average 4 to 15 eggs, and each egg is rated for it’s likely-hood of fertilization on a scale of 0-5. I produced 8 eggs, Baaak. But only 4 survived. Two were A/A+ quality (Grade AA at the grocer) and 2 were B-/C+ grade.

All four were placed back in the uterus through a thin, plastic catheter, which goes through the vagina and cervix. The eggs will now hopefully stay put for 9 months.

This implantation procedure takes 5 minutes. When it is over, I am told, “Don’t worry about peeing, you won’t pee them out”. I laugh, but she says a lot of women fear it. She also advises, “I notice you come up here each time with a motorcycle helmet. Perhaps now would be a good time to stop riding?” Translation for me?… Agony, curse and bane: ie. public transportation. She says most of all, “Take lots of rest, and don’t do anything for a few days.

9) Pierre and I go out and guiltily jump on his motorcycle, ride slowly home where I lay down and start to feel the equivalent of heart palpitations because I have no idea how to “do nothing”. I haven’t done ‘nothing’ in years, and the feelings arising in me have the hallmarks of addiction withdrawal.

10) So, as far as we know, there are 4 embryos alive and growing in origin-of-development land. If all four take, we know we will remove two. We want a family, not a brood. We’ll certainly be thrilled with 1 or 2. Keep your fingers crossed. We are!


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