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Cela nous a pris 84 ans combinés à tous les deux pour finalement arriver à pondre le bébé. Du moins c’est ce que nous visions. Un bébé. Un.

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

Quelques uns d’entre vous connaissent déjà la bonne nouvelle, mais les autres pas. Nous sommes enceintes avec des jumeaux. Nous avons décidé d’attendre le 2ème trimestre pour le dire à tout le monde, une fois que les risques de fausse-couche étaient passés et les résultats de tests génétiques connus.

Nous avons essayé de tomber enceinte pendant un bon moment mais après une année, nous avons regardé le calendrier, considéré nos âges avancés, et décidé que nous avions besoin d’un petit coup de main extérieur pour que quelque chose se passe.

Merritt a démarché les docteurs pendant un mois avant de se décider sur Dr Ryan, une docteur remarquable et reconnue dans les traitements d’infertilité. Pierre l’a adorée aussi, et elles nous a aidés à mettre toutes les chances de notre côté avec la Fécondation In-Vitro.

Notre blog servira a vous tenir au courant, partager les échographies et décrire le graphique et l’impalpable dans les moindres détails. Et comme nous avons une audience captive, nos ruminations ne s’arrêteront pas aux Petites Personnes. Thérapie, famille, politique, crime & châtiment, tout ce qui nous passe par la tête y figurera aussi.

Donc revenez y voir de temps en temps et soyez libres de nous poser les questions que vous voulez, sauf si vous voulez savoir si Pierre regrette de ne plus voyager ou bien comment Merritt fait pour rester tellement blonde..(*)

(*) Quand nous voyagions à travers l’Afrique, la question #1 que nous posaient nos compatriotes Américains était à propos des cheveux de Merritt. Et oui…

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That will get you started
That will get you started

10.475 dollars pour la procédure de base…
3.500 dollars pour les médicaments…
250 dollars pour un test ici…
400 dollars pour un test là…
et ça continue… et ça continue…

En fin de compte, nous n’avons toujours pas calculé combien exactement nous avons dépensé sur ses gosses. Mais une chose est sûre, ils nous le paieront un jour. J’ai gardé les factures, bien rangées dans une boite avec un faux arbre de Noël que nous avons trouvé sur le trottoir.

Le jour où ils commenceront à faire chier, le jour où ils me traiteront de vieux con, je serai là avec mes factures pour leur montrer que je les ai aimés un jour - et je leur demanderai la monnaie de ma pièce.

Et encore heureux qu’ils soient deux: au moins ils pourront partager la note.

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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

Le docteur nous donne une photo de notre mixture. La première chose que nous remarquons, c’est que 2 des 4 globules de la boîte de Pétri sont sensiblement plus petits.

Nous pointons tous les deux du doigt les plus gros et disons, “Ce sont les miens !” (c-à-d Mon ADN est responsable des plus gros, des plus forts). Nous n’avons aucune idée si la taille, petit ou gros, a une signification quelconque. En fait, peut-être que les plus petits sont plus robustes.

Nous continuons néanmoins à rationaliser pourquoi l’autre doit avoir produit les plus petites bulles.

“Les gros, ce sont des Saslawsky”, dit PiR. Je lui réponds que les siens sont les plus petits, parce qu’il est tellement vieux, qu’il est plus court que moi, et parce qu’il n’est pas pur Français (*). Pierre rétorque que “Non, ce sont les tiens !” parce que je suis flippée, que je suis plus courte que lui, et que je suis pure Américaine.

Ce ne sont pas encore des bébés.
Ce ne sont certainement pas des foetus. Des zygotes peut-être.
PiR les appelle les “appâts à poisson” mais je ne trouve pas ça drôle et nous cherchons d’autres noms.

Nous nous entendons rapidement pour les appeler tous les 4, Top, Strange, Charm et D’Artagnan.

Les 3 premiers sont des noms de particules que l’ont trouve dans les Quarks, les petits machins dans les petits machins qui constituent les atomes.

Mais le 4ème ? Qui c’est D’Artagnan ? “C’est le nom du 4ème Mousquetaire”, dit Pierre. Évidemment, mais c’est bien sûr. Donc nous décidons que le plus frêle des bébés zygotes sera D’Artagnan.

(*) En Tunisie, un type antisémite suspicieux des traits de Pierre lui a cherché noise et lui hurla qu’il n’était pas un “pur Français”.

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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!