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#120 Infertility Series: Baileys on Reciprocal IVF Part 1

by Kira Dineen
April 17th 2020

This episode continues the DNA Today’s series about infertility. If you haven’t yet heard the episode with Genetic Counselor Lauren Isley, I highly recommend you go back and listen to lear... More

Curious about your fertility status. Start learning with home testing kits from let's get checked a kick. It sent discreetly to your place. You collect a quick sample and send it back with only a 2-5 day wait time you receive your results really quick with an email notification when they are available on the website. I've done it myself with the female fertility test and found it really interesting to learn for myself. Now you can do it too with 20% off using code DNA today redeem your exclusive offer as a DNA today listener by going to let's get checked.com and entering Codina today at checkout for that 20% discount. How is it that we find ourselves surrounded by such complexity? Such elegance genes of you and me. We're all made of DNA were all made of the same. Hello, you're listening to DNA Today genetics podcast and radio show. I'm your host here Dancin. On this show. I explore genetics impact on our health through conversations with leaders in genetics.

These are often genetic counselors, researchers, doctors, patient advocates, and many other people in the world of genetics. This episode continues the show series about infertility. If you haven't yet heard the episode with genetic counselor Loren Eiseley that kicked off the series, I highly recommend you go back and listen to learn more about the artificial reproductive technologies or A. R. T. S and the genetic counseling side. All of the science and genetics behind infertility. It is a great preview into this episode. Currently 7.3 million Americans are facing infertility and this series is bring awareness to infertility along with teaching some of that science and genetic side. And on this episode we're going to hear personal perspectives joining me are Katie and Christina bailey. They share their journey into parenthood through reciprocal in vitro fertilization or IVF, Christina and Katie have a large following of nearly 100,000 on instagram. So you can check them out at baby bailey mama drama. This is part one of our conversation, So for part two, you'll have to tune into the next episode of DNA today to hear where the Baileys are today.

Very excited to have you on Katie and Christina. Thanks so much for joining this episode so that we can explore your journey to parenthood. It's awesome to have you on. It's great to be on. Thank you. So when did you start talking about having kids in your relationship? We'll kind of build up to where you guys are today and bring it through a story mode. Um when did that start coming up in conversations between you two? Is that very early on a dating? Were you married? Um It happened very early on since our whole relationship happened very fast. Um we were married in less than a year. So we started talking about kids towards the beginning of our relationship, I would say after maybe a month, I had talked about how I always wanted kids and Katie said she didn't want any kids. Um but as our relationship progressed, Katie said that being with me made her want kids. Well isn't that so adorable? It is really sweet. So was there something that changed your mind to say, okay, like I now do you want kids or is it kind of just a slow evolution on that?

Where's the slow evolution? And I just wanted to be able, raising a family with Christina and I think it's just because I found the right person, I found someone that I knew would be able to be a great partner and a great parent alongside me. It's a huge part of parenthood to have someone if you can with you to do it together because you need a whole village to raise a kid. So having two people is a good way to start definitely. How did you decide then on the way you wanted to become parents once you're like, okay, we want kids, how are you thinking? All right, how are we going to do this? So there are so many different options and it can be kind of overwhelming actually. Um you can do you know, I I where just one of us would carry our with our own eggs, we could do adoption. We looked at both of those options and then we came across reciprocal IVF and we were really drawn to it because no matter what what avenue we chose, we would definitely be emotionally part of the process.

We would both be be parents just as much as the other one, but with this, with reciprocal IVF, we would both be physically part of the process. So each of us would have a role in IVF. So we would each be attending doctors appointments, we would each beyond medications um so we were able to take Christina's eggs and then I was the one who carried both of the pregnancy. So really just really both part of it and when you were deciding the roles for this, of being able to both be a part of this process and both biologically be parents of one of you Christina, having it be your eggs and genetically and then Katie biology wise you carried the pregnancy. Um how did you decide who was going to be in what role or did it feel really natural? It actually felt really natural. So I never really felt the strong desire to have a genetically related child but dead like the idea of being pregnant.

So it was really perfect for us because Christina really wanted a genetically related child um that was something that was important to her. So this was just perfect for both of us and once you were making the decisions and starting to have a lot of these conversations, were you talking with other friends and family during this time or was this something that was really between the two of you for a while for the most part, I don't know if anyone knew we were very serious about it and so we started going to the doctor's appointments. It almost sounds like a made up thing. It just sounds like you're taking to people's bodies and doing so many different things to it, it's like it's not even really possible. Um and for the most part I would say everyone was fairly supportive, we had some issues with two members of Katie's family with it and other than that everyone else was definitely on board for the process. I think that's a really good point of, some people may not have heard of this before and it kind of sounds like science fiction is a lot of the things that we talk about on this show does, but so you must have having do a lot of education, people listening now might be like I didn't even know reciprocal IVF was, you know, a way to become parents.

Have you had to educate a lot of people in your life? I mean definitely on instagram you were doing a lot of that. Um but in terms of just people everyday life and throughout the pregnancies and once having kids and all of that, was that a major part of this journey for you? A lot of educated people, usually they're coming from the best of intentions and so we just educate them a little bit around the process and what we did. We have had friends who have you had been our friends for like months and didn't even know that we did reciprocal idea. They just assume thought the kids were genetically related to me. So opening up that conversation is often very interesting with people and like you said, it's something that people don't know, it is possible when it came to starting this process with the reciprocal IVF, one of the first choice is once you make the choice to do it is a sperm donor and who is going to be giving sperm for this?

What was that process? Like when you started exploring this and learning more at the beginning, we actually had a friend of mine who was going to be our sperm donor. Um, as time went on, that friend is no longer with us. Unfortunately, then once we learn more about the process, we realized that maybe using somebody that we know just wouldn't be as easy as we thought it would be. All these sperm donors undergo a lot of testing. Um, we learned that if you use a friend, they have to go through the testing as well. It just sounded like a lot to ask if somebody. And in the back of our mind, we always wondered what that ruin our friendship with the person, would they feel obligated to be a parent or what they think that they need to play a role in the child's life similar to us and we were thinking, well we already have two moms, we don't need to make this situation were complicated. Um so we started looking at sperm donors and we weren't even sure how to go about this process.

We always imagined it being like the movie baby mama where you go into a clinic and you merge the two pictures together, baby pictures and you get to see what this child will look like. And it was nothing like that. Our clinic told us to go online, look for the sperm donor. They gave us the names of two different banks that most of their clients used. And we were off exploring and they just said ship the sperm to the clinic and that's how it went. So we were kind of blown away and we just started searching like, crazy, we use genetic facial matching. So we could have Katie's, you know, genetic kind of play a role in it. Uh We made sure the guy had similar features to her had similar interests. So that way both of us played a role with this child. It's really interesting that you get this information and it probably kind of feels like you're shopping of like, okay, what do we like this one? Is this? This one has that and having the pros and cons of that interesting that it also lists aspects that they're interested in on top of just other probably physical information.

How did those profiles work? Was it a list? Like almost a resume or were you able to see pictures? Because that kind of gives away their identity? Right? And we had in mind that every guy would be dressed in a suit or a tux or that's what I'm picturing right now. And it's nothing like that. Because if you think about it, who is going to give away their sperm? I mean if some guy going to show up and I talked and say I'm here to give away my sperm, not necessarily. Um but it was quite interesting. A lot of the websites usually work with, they give some things away for free, but the parts that you unlock are an additional cost. So we kept running into, okay, should we pay more to see more pictures of this donor? Um Should we narrow it down some more? So we've already narrowed down our search by doing the facial matching. And we wanted to see pictures. We had gone with a site that offered more pictures because the first site we looked at only offered baby pictures. And together we look nothing like our baby pictures.

So we thought no way we want to know what our child will actually look like. So we went with a site that offers baby pictures, um, toddler, you know, teen adult, they offer pictures throughout the entire donors life. So we had narrowed it down to a few paid the extra um found the one that looked the most like Katie as an adult and that was the one we chose and going along with that. Can you also learn if that sperm donor has had other successful pregnancies and other Children that are out there in the world from that same sperm Or is that information lockdown? Um That information is out there sometimes. I mean back when we did it. I feel like it was so long ago because websites are already changing so fast. But back when we did it you can always call to get that information. Maybe now they even haven't posted on the site on the profile. But when we called they would tell you how many pregnancies have been reported and I don't know how many people actually call an update with that clinic or with you know with the cryobank saying oh I'm pregnant, you know add that to the donor profile.

Um but when we looked at that donor, he did have reported pregnancies. And one of the things we also liked about that cryobank was that they only gave out so much of one donor. Like they could only donate so many vials which means there would only be so many kids out there in the world with you know that same donor once you chose your sperm donor you found the one, what was that first step for both of you, Katie Christina of physically starting the IVF process. There's hormones involved. What did that look like? So there is a lot of hormones and a lot of medication that's involved. We both started on the birth control just so that our cycles could be controlled and be able to kind of set up that timing and so along the process we were both on a schedule of hormone and medications. So it was an interesting process for sure. That's two women on a whole lot of hormones.

Um Christina who is usually pretty, pretty level headed and not too emotional was like the exact opposite. No it was it was different, it was luckily it was short term and that's done with now. Rougher time in the house back then of you both being on hormones and part of that is having hormone shots. Is it daily or how how often is that? Oh gosh! It was uh sometimes multiple times a day. So it was it was difficult especially with meeting the one carrying, there aren't some shots that you have to take. Um they have to be done like in your, you can do it I think in your thigh but they recommend like your upper buttock region and so I would meet Christina to help me with that. Um So that was like a nightly routine is heating up the area, doing the shop, putting ice, it was just quite a process once you got through the hormones of the shots you had egg retrieval of Christina, you had the egg retrieval during this time, how does that work?

You go in for the procedure. Was there a lot of prep for that? I was doing most of the shots because I was prepping my body to have a whole bunch of eggs you know taken out of me. And actually this process worked really well in my favorite since I do have Pcos. So I already produce a lot of eggs and so they were really excited. The clinic was when they heard about that because I was already going to produce a lot of eggs. So what they do is the eggs are enlarged and they withdraw them one by one with a needle and you are not awake during this process obviously. Um so at a certain time of the night I had to do my trigger shot which was causing all the eggs to fall down more. So that way they could be retrieved. And I remember the three hour drive or so to the clinic just being in a lot of pain and just feeling like I am cramping like what is going on and they actually said that side effects are usually pretty rare but of course I had them and I was ready to get them taken out as soon as I got there I said I'm ready to be knocked out.

I'm ready for this to happen. But I was also very excited for just knowing we're one step closer to hopefully being pregnant and having a baby. Some of the long process so far we've only gone through deciding to go through the process how you're doing it sperm donor egg retrieval. I mean we've got a we've got a bit to go in terms of the rest of the journey and it's ongoing. Do you know? And remember like what technique was used to then fertilize the eggs once they have your eggs and the sperm donor. So they had planned to just do regular fertilization which an IVF would be. They have the eggs in a little dish and they put the sperm in and the sperm usually just go and they meet the egg. And when you purchase the sperm from the sperm bank you can buy different vials of sperm. So we had purchased IVF sperm which is actually less sperm per vial because they don't expect you will need a lot because they're contained in a ditch. Whereas if you purchase I ui sperm there will be more sperm per vial because they're hoping that one of those sperm will make it up to the egg since it's already the egg is still in your body.

And for those that don't know just to interject for a moment I ui is when you're just naturally at that point your cycle and they're just injecting the sperm into your body versus outside, correct for you? You were saying that it was a little bit different. Right? So when they put the sperm from the vial in the dish they were just hoping that the sperm would meet the egg they would fertilize everything would go great. But unfortunately that is not what happened for us. They had to use a more special type of actually taking the sperm and putting it into the egg themselves and really helping to facilitate the fertilization to happen. Um Yeah so that didn't happen until later which was another problem in our first failed round. They had called us later that day saying the eggs are not fertilizing. I think we need to go in and do emergency XC. An emergency exit is where they will take a sperm in a needle and they will actually inject the sperm into the egg in hopes that the egg will then fertilize.

The problem is that usually this method is recommended right after acre retrieval and our egg retrieval had already happened hours ago and this makes a huge difference. So we were told that the odds were not in our favor but we were still going to try everything. We could to make this happen. What ended up happening from that round? Were you able to get any embryos from that? So I had 13 eggs retrieved from me. There were two that survived and those two underwent emergency XC. We were told the first day when they did the emergency XC. That we'll watch them overnight. We'll see what happens. We got another call the next day and they said only one was left. And then the following day we had this call that that one had not survived. So we had been left with nothing at that point. So we had no viable embryos for transfer and I'm sure that was just so frustrating after going through so much of this to say we didn't get any embryos out of this, that must have just been so feeling defeated in that moment.

Yeah, I mean even talking about it now, it's still makes my eyes water, just thinking about how hard it was to hear that, that you had your hopes up thinking you are one step closer to having a baby and then just feeling like you were back at square one again, you had nothing. Um and you just, I had no idea what to do at that point, Katie and I were both at a loss and at that point we just started crying on each other. I can imagine just getting that call and that you've been putting so much into this and not just going through all like the physical part, but just the emotions all the time of of saying this is my day, this is what we're looking forward to. This is our plan and and for that to not happening in the way you thought it was going to in the moment. Yes, exactly. And at that point we were just kind of stuck and we were still giving Katie her nightly progesterone shots which was preparing her lining for an egg to be or for an embryo to be there and we still didn't know what to do. So we still just kept doing the shots every night and the shots at night used to be exciting because we knew we were a step closer to having a baby and then they just became really depressed because we were giving the shots, not sure what we were going to do next at a turning point.

What did you then do next? What were your conversations to say? Okay, how are we moving forward from here? So at this point we turned to embryo adoption. It's not something that we looked into before and not something we had really known about, but at the time it seemed like a great option once we learned about it. So with embryo adoption, their donor eggs and donor sperm and we're through this program, they basically guarantee that it will result in pregnancy. And if it doesn't then you're able to get your money back or you can try again. And so at that point, I mean I was, my body was ready for an embryo, like that seemed like really the best idea and at this point we had already spent already spent so much money. So knowing that it was, you know, a for sure thing and we had sort of a guarantee or a money back kind of thing. Um was really appealing to us at this point.

You talk about doing it and did you line up to be able to set this up? Yeah. We were pretty far into the process. Um so they took our photos and they were able to match what we look like to the donors. So that part was really interesting. And so we were ready. We got to the point where we were in the doctor's office, we were there for the implantation. The uh doctor had gone back to get the embryo. They because it had been frozen, they were thawing it. They were I mean it was ready to go and we both just started crying. Um and that's when you know our nurse that you know, is this are you sure is this what you guys want to do? You shouldn't be crying right now. And I mean this was a great option for us. But we just kept thinking about what if you know, should we have tried again? I know Christina really wanted a child that was genetically related to her. Should we have tried that again.

So we had to stop and take a step back and we didn't go through with the embryo adoption. And we ended up deciding that we were going to try the whole process again with reciprocal IVF. So there's a lot of rollercoasters of emotions and decisions and you choose a path and you're like, okay, we're doing this and feeling like there is control to that and then something happens and you're reeling from that and saying okay are we really planning on doing this? A lot of thinking around these topics and exploring it with each other? Because it's not like you're just making a decision for yourself. So I'm sure it was a lot of talking you're on the same page at that point it sounds like when you're in the doctor's office and the embryo was thawing. Yeah I mean it's a moment that I'll always remember. I mean had we waited five minutes later and if we didn't have that reaction, I mean we we would we would have a totally different child right now. Yeah that's a really good point. And you then decided to go for a second round of IVF. How was this round?

Different than the first one? It was amazing. And he knew us very well. So he decided to change the hormone medication levels. Just kind of give me a little extra boost in hopes of getting even more eggs. And then he had also planned during egg retrieval this time we would be doing half XZ and then half regular fertilization in the dish. So he would have the embryologist be injecting half of those eggs with the sperm just to ensure that we would definitely have fertilized eggs this time. Something that they learned from the first round and say normal IVF didn't work. Let's try X. C. And normal to really increase those chances. So they were able to give you better odds when you're going for that was this round more successful in terms of getting viable embryos. It was we also had to go back and purchase new sperm. So it really was starting back at square one all over again. And I felt like we were comfortable with the process having going through it already once.

So we really you know kept track of our medications. Um we looked through the profiles for sperm donors very carefully again and I felt like we were ready to go and I felt pretty confident but also very nervous because once again we're putting our hearts on the line again hoping that this happens. And we tried to not think about what would happen if it failed. But Katie and I had both decided that okay this is our last shot. If it doesn't work again, we're going to go back to embryo adoption. And I remember even writing an email to the coordinator of the embryo adoption apologizing for walking out that day and how we just couldn't go through it, how we might be back if it doesn't work. And she was so supportive. I mean everyone at that clinic that we had tried all these processes was very supportive of us and totally understood the emotional roller coaster we were on. Perhaps the hormones were also playing a role in this to the whole thing up on hormones, who knows what we were deciding and it's so good to hear that, you know, the health care team you had was really receptive and able to like process with you and make sure that the decisions you're making, you're thinking through and comfortable with and that I'm sure really helped the process because if you were with people that weren't that way and weren't very supportive and patient, then it probably would have felt like a much worse process to go through definitely.

And we had done our research before we chose a clinic and one of the reasons that we continue to go back to that clinic and the reason we went back there to have our second child was because of the support and just feeling comfortable. They're feeling like it's another home for us um just because they know us and they know our family and they know everything we've been through. Hear about the rest of the Baileys IVF journey, you'll have to tune into the next episode of DNA today, but in the meantime join nearly 100,000 others and following them on instagram there at baby bailey mama drama. They also have a Youtube channel same name, Baby bailey mama drama and you can guess what their blog is. Baby. Baby mama drama dot org pressed dot com for more information about this episode and any of the 100 plus other episodes I have of DNA today, you can go to D. N. A podcast dot com. Again, that's DNA podcast dot com on there. I have episodes with genetic counselors, researchers, patient advocates, physicians, so many other people and talking about the world of genetics.

You can go to DNA podcast dot com. You can also search DNA today in your podcast app to stream it on their Spotify Apple. Um it's also on the radio wh us 91.7 F. M. In Connecticut. If you're on twitter, you can follow me at DNA podcast. If you're on instagram, follow at DNA radio would love to connect with you all on there. If you have questions for myself, Christina or Katie, you can email into info at D. N. A podcast dot com. No, I'm throwing a lot of information at you. But D. N. A podcast dot com also has a contact form. So when in doubt just go to the website DNA podcast dot com. But we would really love to hear from you is if this is a story that you really connected with. If you learned a lot. Hearing from the Baileys would really appreciate just hearing your insight and if you have any questions were more than happy to help you out info at D. N. A podcast dot com. Let's get checked offers a variety of home testing kits including fertility, but also sexual health with S. D. I. Testing according to the world Health organization of the 19 million americans who contract a sexually transmitted disease.

Each year, only 50% are aware that they're infected. Only 50% people who are sexually active should all be doing S. D. I. Testing on a regular basis. Luckily let's get checked. Makes it easy by sending a kit right to you in discreet packaging. It's just like the other kids I've talked about. You collect a sample, pop it back in the mail. Wait time is quick with results in only 2 to 5 days as most of you know, let's get checked. Also provides fertility testing too. If these episodes make you curious about your own fertility status, you can start learning with their kits. I did the female fertility test and had my sample run in their clia certified lab to know more about my hormone levels for specifically follicle stimulating hormone and legitimizing hormone and a bunch of others. Try any of these kids for yourself by going to let's get checked dot com and use code DNA today for 20% off your kids again. You can use code DNA today for 20% off your kids at let's get checked dot com. And that code works for any of the sponsors from the show. DNA today is the code to beginning all these exclusive deals as a DNA today, listener and thank you join me next time to learn and discover new advances in the world of genetics and DNA.

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#120 Infertility Series: Baileys on Reciprocal IVF Part 1
#120 Infertility Series: Baileys on Reciprocal IVF Part 1
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