Sunday, June 28, 2009

In Which Our Brains Explode

I realize that it has been a while since I've written about our hopes and plans for parenthood.

And while I haven't been writing, I certainly have been thinking.

There is actually so much to think about that it's hard to know what to write about.

Simply said, surrogacy is an overwhelming proposition. In addition to the significant emotional and psychological aspects, there are legal, financial, and even logistical complexities that on their own could confound even the most intrepid intended parents.

And that's what we are: intended parents, or sometimes Intended Parents, in the parlance.

And I do think that we are fairly intrepid, generally speaking. Intelligent, too, if I do say. Educated for sure.

But our five collective degrees haven't made the process any easier.

We are in California, where surrogacy is legal. Our two frozen embryos are in New York, where it is not.

The reproductive endocrinologist we worked with in New York has moved twice, first to a new practice and then to Westchester. And the doctors at his old practice will not transfer our embryos to a surrogate. So whatever happens, we will have to move the embryos, either to our doctor's clinic in the suburbs, or to one here in California, or to a third state somewhere in between.

Then there is the matter of finding a surrogate, which can happen in a variety of ways. We could advertise on our own, and arrange for the necessary medical and psychological screening ourselves. But since none of our five degrees is in medicine or psychology, we won't be doing that.

Some fertility clinics seek surrogates on behalf of intended parents. So do some attorneys. And there are a plethora of agencies that do nothing but. But which route to take? And once we choose the route, to which particular clinic or attorney or agency do we entrust with finding the person who will change our lives?

Once we find a surrogate—one we love and who loves us, who passes the aforementioned battery of medical and psychological tests—there is the very delicate matter of trying to impregnate her with one or both of the only embryos that we will ever make.

Those embryos have been frozen for three years and nearly five months.

Our doctor has told us that there is a significant chance that one or both will not thaw.

And if they do thaw, there is an even more significant chance that they will not develop.

Our doctor told us that given my age—39—when we went through our modified version of IVF, we could expect at best a 40% chance of one of our embryos resulting in a pregnancy. "At best" means "if you hadn't already had lots of chemo," which I did during Breast Cancer 1.0.

Chemo that damaged my ovaries and put me into temporary menopause and threatened our chances of ever becoming parents—all this in its spare time, off the clock, while it infiltrated my bloodstream, looking for any rogue cancer cells and threatening their chances of ever becoming parents.

So those two miraculous embryos, those longed-for long shots, now face even longer odds.

And that means we need to consider, very seriously, what we will do if this exceedingly complex process does not work: if the embryos do not survive the freezing process, or if they survive but are not actually viable, or if they are viable but do not implant, or if the three of us—Zach and I and our surrogate—suffer a miscarriage at some point in the pregnancy.

And those options—chiefly egg donation and adoption—are themselves complex processes.

Which is why we have had so very much to think about these past few months.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Weighty Matters

I will say up front that I expect absolutely no sympathy.

I realize that compared to many people, I am coming to this issue approximately 25 years late.

I also realize that it is likely of zero interest to anyone besides me, my mother, and a subset of my health-care providers (everyone but my ophthalmologist and dentist, I'd say).

Nonetheless, it's an in-my-face reality these days.

I need to lose some weight.

There. I said it.

This from the woman who did not weigh enough to donate blood back in high school.

Who was all of 105 lbs., seven pounds below the already absurdly low weight limit for my height, back in my college-cheerleading days. (Yes, I was a college cheerleader. And a high-school one. And a middle-school one. And a Pop Warner one, if you know what Pop Warner is. There. I said that, too. The late-blooming feminist said it.)

By the time I left college, I finally had hips and breasts, and I weighed 127.5 lbs. I was thin but not too thin. (I really don't think I've ever been too thin—just naturally skinny. The way my dad was in his teens and twenties. The way all my cousins on his side have always been.)

I didn't pay a lot of attention to my weight. A scale wasn't always among my belongings, and when it was, I didn't spend a lot of time on it.

But whenever I did step on a scale—my own or a doctor's—it read 127.5 lbs., year in and year out.

For two decades.

The only exceptions were during chemo. The first time around, I had an allergic reaction to an anti-nausea drug, and I dropped seven pounds in three days. I put the weight back on, and the same thing happened again three weeks later, during the next cycle. I put the weight back on again. By the following cycle, someone figured out that I shouldn't be taking that drug, and all was well. No more changes in my weight.

The second time around, with a different chemo regimen, I had the opposite experience—I managed to put on 15 lbs. Big weight gains and losses are pretty common among cancer patients, and no one was concerned. And I eventually took the weight off, slowly but surely.

So when I moved to LA a year ago, I was back to my familiar 127.5.

And then I gained about a pound a month, topping out at 134.5.

I can give you lots of reasons why this happened—I'm over 40, which makes it easier to gain and harder to lose weight. I'm officially and permanently in menopause (ditto). I am on at least one medication (Arimidex) for which weight gain is a common side effect.

I also moved to Los Angeles, where pedestrians are an endangered species.

Where I cannot find a gym within walking distance.

Where I sit in an office in a skyscraper for 40-50 hours a week.

Where I got rear-ended and wasn't able to do much of anything for a good two months.

All true.

All beside the point.

It's not just that my clothes don't fit right (although they don't, and that is a daily irritant).

It's that carrying extra weight puts me at higher risk for some things and creates or exacerbates other things—all problems I don't ever want to have (diabetes), or don't want to have ever again (cancer), or want to get rid of immediately (acid reflux).

To be healthy, I need to shed those seven pounds. Pronto.

And I'm hoping that writing about it here—not incessantly, but regularly—will help.

Friday, June 05, 2009


I arrived in Los Angeles a year ago today.

To commemorate the anniversary, we went out to one of the best kinds of restaurants in Los Angeles: the ones that are hidden behind unpromising facades in the midst of strip malls.

This place happens to have a good sense of humor about its surroundings.

One of things I really liked about it—in addition to a delectable sweet-corn soup with avocado—was the fact that you could order a "taste" (aka a two-ounce glass) of wine, which is perfect for a lightweight like me.

Several months ago, at our (nineteenth!) annual New Year's Eve dinner party, one of our guests asked me what I liked so far about LA.

There was a long (and embarrassing) pause before I was able to summon an answer, although (with Zach's prompting) I eventually came up with more than one.

Every time I see this friend now, he asks whether I've added anything new to that list.

Here's the current version:
  1. our home
  2. our neighborhood, otherwise known (to us) as "the Brooklyn of LA"
  3. our Saturday-morning farmers' market
  4. our local cheese shop
  5. our favorite neighborhood restaurant
  6. having the best gelato in the city within walking distance
  7. the yummy bakery that's an even shorter walk
  8. having a great place to see both blockbusters and indie films, all with reserved stadium seating
  9. being so close to LA's signature public park
  10. discovering great restaurants hidden behind unpromising facades in strip malls

Monday, June 01, 2009


Zach and I returned this morning (on a much too early flight) from our East Coast swing.

It was a great trip for us, although I realize it would not have been for most people: 9 days, 4 cities, and lots of plans, including a high-school reunion, two NYC get-togethers, three trips to the theater, and several appointments in the mix.

I just did a rough count and realized that we stayed, broke bread, shared a drink or a meal, or otherwise meaningfully connected (or re-connected) with more than 100 different people on this trip.

That figure might make some people's heads explode. But for me at least, it was an incredible tonic.

We didn't get to see everyone we'd hoped to, and we had less time than we'd have liked with most people. Still, it was a soul-feeding, gratitude-inducing trip.

Thanks to all who put us up (and put up with us!), braved the rain, made the drive, and otherwise went out of their way to spend time with us on this visit. We love you, and we miss you!