Infertility Video Series: What Are Some Of The Basic Treatment Options For Infertile Couples?

September 27, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, In Vitro, Video


Note from the Editor-

This is a continuation of the infertility series that our readers have requested. Dr. Tourgeman will be doing a video series in which he will answer your questions in detail before you even step into a clinic.  He will address single parents and couples, whether same sex or heterosexual.  Please get involved; ask questions or, if you have been through the process yourself, give feedback.  Tell us your story in our comments section.

What are some of the basic treatment options for infertile couples?


Infertility Video Series: What Is The Work Up And Treatment Like For A Male/Male Couple Trying To Conceive?

August 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, In Vitro

Note from the Editor-

This is a continuation of the infertility series that our readers have requested. Dr. Tourgeman will be doing a video series in which he will answer your questions in detail before you even step into a clinic.  He will address single parents and couples, whether same sex or heterosexual.  Please get involved; ask questions or, if you have been through the process yourself, give feedback.  Tell us your story in our comments section.


What is the work up and treatment like for a male/male couple trying to conceive?  


Video-Infertility Series: Females Conceiving Without A Partner

August 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, In Vitro, Single Parents

Note from the Editor-

This is a continuation of the infertility series that our readers have requested. Dr. Tourgeman will be doing a video series in which he will answer your questions in detail before you even step into a clinic.  He will address single parents and couples, whether same sex or heterosexual.  Please get involved; ask questions or, if you have been through the process yourself, give feedback.  Tell us your story in our comments section.


What special considerations do you have for females conceiving without a partner?  


What The Fertility Clinic Won’t Tell You

August 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, In Vitro

By: Wendy Kramer

Dear Prospective Parents,

Many people have tread the route you are about to take. Assisted reproduction has been in existence since the 1880’s and has helped create countless families. No matter how far along you are in the process, there is some information that you need to know.

Fertility clinics will most likely not discuss with you the cost and benefits of using an anonymous donor versus a known/willing to be known donor. Conventional wisdom has dictated that anonymity is best for the donor and recipient family. Our experience and the experiences of the donor-conceived say otherwise.

It is an innate human desire to want to know where we come from. Just as in an adoption, donor children may become curious as to their genetic, ancestral, and medical backgrounds. For some parents the means of conception might just be a “donated cell” or a “piece of genetic material,” but to their child it’s one half of who they are. It is important to embrace and support this curiosity. Just as parents should feel no shame in using donor gametes, the donor-conceived need to have their curiosity met with open and honest communication.

When donor-conceived people were asked what they would recommend, 77% of heterosexual couple offspring and 70% of LGBT offspring recommended that parents use a known or willing to be known donor. These people have dealt with the realization that they were conceived using a donor, and the fact that the vast majority believe a donor should be reachable proves how important transparency is to offspring.

Some of the larger sperm banks are attentive in the pre-pregnancy stage, but offer no post-pregnancy and donor child support. Most do not update important medical information on donors. Few update and share medical information amongst families and none adequately educates or counsels their donors. Some simply do not return phone calls. The ramifications of this are gaping holes left in the medical records of donors and subsequently, the donor-conceived.

Do not be afraid to quiz the bank on these things. Ask them how you can know that the donor you chose doesn’t already have 33 kids, and that 12 of them haven’t been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, Autism, or Tourette’s. Medical issues like these are not life threatening so the medical information is not shared. Donors are almost never asked to update their medical info, leaving their medical form to be a snapshot of one day in the life of a healthy college kid who wouldn’t necessarily report accurately about family history. The percentage of donors who donate to more than one clinic is 22-27%.

If there are medical situations in donor or sibling families, there is no way to transmit the possibly life saving information to other siblings. An estimated 20-40% of women never report their live births to the sperm banks. Sperm banks don’t keep accurate records on how many kids are born from any one donor (the largest known group is now at 130); they often sell sperm around the world to small clinics, who in turn sell to recipients who have no idea where the sperm originated from.

The Donor Sibling Registry helps sperm bank users share their experiences, locate donors, and donor siblings. Because you cannot compile a complete medical history on your donor from your fertility clinic, you can use the experiences of others to build upon and gain a greater understanding of the person who will help you create a life. Right now there are people narrowing down the donors to choose from by contacting the families posted on the DSR. They are connecting with the families that already have children from their donor; they are viewing pictures of future siblings and checking the health and medical histories of all those who shared the donor parent.

Until the time comes when fertility clinics and medical professionals address the need for donor transparency and in depth medical records, we must rely on each other for this information. I did not intend to scare anyone; becoming a parent could be the most enriching experience of your life. I just want you to know what so many of us wish we had known. You are not alone; we can draw strength from our common goal born out of love.

Wendy Kramer


Talk to an Infertility Expert: Video

August 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, In Vitro

Note from the Editor-

Many of our readers are starting families of their own and have asked for more information about infertility and IVF.  Having gone through this myself I understand how scary the process is -not knowing what’s ahead of you, the procedures, the drugs, the expenses, the pain you might endure both physically and mentally.  I went on a search for an expert and thought, “who better than one of my fertility doctors?” After all, I did a lot of research myself and I now have three kids!  Dr. Tourgeman will be doing a video series in which he will answer your questions in detail before you even step into a clinic.  He will address single parents and couples, whether same sex or heterosexual.  Please get involved; ask questions or, if you have been through the process yourself, give feedback.  Tell us your story in our comments section.

 The first video is an introduction to Dr. Tourgeman and the second is the first question from one of our readers.

Question: What are the initial first steps for an infertile couple?


Journey to the Center of the Uterus

October 20, 2011 by  
Filed under In Vitro

By: Kathleen Puls Andrade

The first words of advice I received about ensuring conception were from a reporter who was reviewing a show I was doing at the time. We had hit it off over the phone and we started talking about fertility issues. Her advice? Put my legs over my head after having sex. Wow! Apparently it was pretty easy! So, off I went to have some sex and some “me time” with a pillow under my butt and my legs hiked up into the air. A half hour later, I put my legs down and hoped for the best. We had to do it again…and again…and yes, again. They say it’s fun trying, but honestly, it wasn’t. It became a chore and my poor husband. He was a trooper! I’d push him down and say, “Get it up! Right now!” Not as easy as it sounds.


So, I did it again…and again…and a few more times until we realized that this wasn’t exactly working. So, off to the gyne we went. Well, I went. There wasn’t a whole lot my husband could do…other than watch…which would be weird. Anyway! I went and my gyne ended up prescribing Clomid, which I took for about three months. Nada. It might have made me a little nutty but I really can’t remember. It’s been a while. I do remember wanting to lash out at various people but it might have been the progesterone suppositories. Meh. Same difference. And going to this particular gyne wasn’t fun. I don’t know what it was but the staff really made me feel like I was a pain. I really didn’t want to continue with that hospital so looked for somewhere else to go. It was time, anyway.

Actually, it was time to go to the big leagues…the show…the Majors. It was time to do the turkey baster. The first real IVF doctor we had was an enigma. She was nice enough but I couldn’t call her a people person. Still, she was the head of the program so we thought she’d be pretty good. The first order was for the hysterosalpingogram, or HSG. I’m sure that you’ve heard of that one. You know, when they insert a balloon into your uterus, inflate it, and listen to you swear…out loud…loudly. It was just a little uncomfortable. But she barely acknowledged that. I think I had more sympathy from the Intern. And don’t believe the hype. One or two Advil will not suffice.

But, there was good news! My fallopian tubes were not blocked! Although she did mention that I had a small uterus. I’ve since learned that I have an “infantile uterus”. The size of a baby’s, apparently. An outdated term but apt. But I guess it could still hold a baby. They do stretch after all.

So, on to the Intrauterine Insemination. I had three. My husband had the most important role in this step: masturbating into a cup. The nurse called him in for his first “session”. We were pretty new to this so I asked, “Should I come too?” She said, in her dry Chicago way, “You shouldn’t have to.” Ugh. How embarrassing! But, he was successful, albeit not entirely stimulated by the surroundings. I guess that’s what the copious amount of porn is for. That room is sterile! Ooh…bad choice of words?

The IUIs went smoothly, with the exception of one. The IVF nurse had a hard time getting the catheter with the sperm into my uterus. The doc breezed in, adjusted the speculum, slid the catheter in, and breezed out…with barely a word to me. I saw her in the hallway some time after the procedure. I waved, said “Hi Dr. So and So”…and she didn’t recognize me. I think she only recognizes her patients by their vaginas. I was one of those vaginas.

On to the Bigs.

The Clomid and the IUIs didn’t work. We had to move on to In Vitro Fertilization. By this time I’d been pretty well entrenched in Fertilityland and when one cycle ended, I couldn’t wait for the next one to begin. It began to feel like an addiction…an addiction to the process. I had had polyps removed, scar tissue removed, estrogen suppositories, Viagra suppositories, shots with giant needles, knots on my butt, and I couldn’t wait for it to begin again. And it was to a certain extent. There was always one more thing to try, one more procedure, one more chance. And the hormone roller coaster was starting to get to me too. But, all in the name of building a family! So, onward and upward.

My old IVF doc left the program. Seemed as though she had a little burnout going on. But the new guy was a pretty nice guy, all business, but a nice guy. I tried everything I could to get him to laugh at my silliness but he didn’t crack. He was professional to a fault, which bothered me and comforted me all at once. And he tried just about everything he could think of to get me pregnant. He finally showed his personal side to me while doing a water sonogram. (He put water in the uterus to find out what’s going on in there.) I mentioned to him that I had just gotten back from Mexico, where it was really humid…like I’m sure it was, down there. Ha! Not really. He starts talking about his own disastrous trip to Mexico…in my uterus! I just did not know how to take this! What do I say? What do I do? I was thrilled that he finally opened up to me. I felt we were bonding over my narrow cervix. I had had issues with the narrowness of my cervix before and it seemed to be worse this time. He ended up shaving it to make the insertion of the embryos go a lot smoother.

Oh yeah…that time with the embryos.

If I didn’t know any better I’d swear they were messing with me. I was going in for the embryo transfer. You know, after you do the egg extraction and they fertilize the eggs with your husband’s washed sperm? Again, his one and only job, a very important job, is to masturbate and give them sperm to wash. Nice! So, we went in and they got me all doped up on Valium and put me on the table with the stirrups and inserted the speculum (my favorite part!) and started with the catheter. He raised the table. He lowered the table. He asked me to move my hips up, down, and around. Nothing. That catheter wasn’t going in any further than it wanted to. Must have been a sign. He called in the ultrasound tech to help guide the catheter. Legs up, hips down, a little to the left, a little to the right…all of this through a Valium haze. The embryologist was giving me sympathetic looks while everyone else was trying to figure out why this wasn’t working. My husband was trying to comfort me by kissing my hand, wiping my forehead and telling me that it’ll be over soon. After a few more attempts, the embryologist pointed me out to Dr. S. Tears were silently running down my cheeks as I was trying not to say, “For the love of God, please stop poking my cervix!!”

He stopped…

…put the bed back to its original position

…and apologized.

And then somehow he managed to figure out how to get those potential babies into my uterus.

Oh yes, there was one time when I did get pregnant! I think it was the time after the cervix-poking incident. Or the time before…it’s been a while so I’m not entirely sure anymore.
We did the whole shebang and Donna, the flat-voiced IVF nurse, called me and told me that my numbers were up! The numbers are what we “IVFers” live by. They’re supposed to double every other day and mine had doubled! I had to go in for an ultrasound and a follow-up blood test to monitor my numbers and, of course, the worst part is the wait. It’s really interesting how you just know when there’s something happening in there and I could definitely sense that something was in there. So, I went to shop for new computer speakers and was at the customer service desk when Donna called with the results. And that’s when she told me that my numbers were down. “So, that means I’m not pregnant anymore?” She confirmed that this was indeed the case and how sorry she was and that I could call for a follow-up if I wanted to.

So, I got another pair of speakers. And then went out to my car and started it up to go home and broke down in tears. That, as they say, was that.

Eventually, after trying two donor egg cycles, I realized that I couldn’t do it anymore. I had to get some help to discover this. One of the most valuable things I learned is that no one will tell you when to stop. There’s always something else you can do to try and get pregnant but you have to figure out what you can and cannot take –physically, spiritually, and mentally.

It didn’t work out for us. And we decided we didn’t want to adopt. And, it’s ok with us. Not perfect, but it’s ok. We have several nieces and nephews and they’ve become our kids…that we can hand back. Ha!

I’ve mourned over and over and I just can’t mourn anymore. I have to move on and be happy with the way things are. I think my husband still has some mourning to do but we’re doing ok. We love each other. We appreciate each other and we laugh so much, which is so important. I believe that humor is the great healer and we’ve found so much to laugh about in our experiences.

Now we just have to convince our nieces and nephews to take care of us in our old age. Ha!
To read more about Kathleen visit her site 


Going Back to the Hospital

July 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, In Vitro, Same Sex Parent

Coming through a challenging pregnancy, birth, and recovery for everyone created new people in all of us. We took away a few tricky qualities that we’re still working on, but overall both Tere and I came away with a new sense of appreciation and gratitude that we hadn’t understood before. It was a tough lesson to learn under very difficult situations but we eventually got it. If there is anything I try to encourage for new parents or anyone undertaking large change in their life, it’s patience, because in time all things become clear.

I read once that great CEO’s have a keen knack for knowing when to make a decision. It’s all about time and information. If they wait until they have all the information they need, the time to decide has passed. If they rush a decision without enough information, the odds of making the wrong choice are high. So the key is to wait, gather just enough information, and act at exactly the right moment when these two worlds meet. I think there is a good bit of “art” to it. Patience.

I saw something once where this guy gives away “gratitude rocks” which you’re supposed to carry in your pocket so that every time you touched it, it would remind you to be grateful for all that you have. This is a tricky lesson. In our 21st century, high-tech world, we are all moving at great speeds climbing the corporate ladder in our ever quest for more. More of what –I’m not sure, but we all want more. We had a great evening last Sunday at our house when a young singer-songwriter came to do a mini-set for our friends. We had lots of food, everyone loved the music and I poured lots of wine. It was a lovely evening. One of our friends found Tere and me in the kitchen to tell us how important we were to her. She took each of our heads in her hand, pushed all three of our heads together and leaned in close to tell us that we were loved. Right then, I was grateful for all the people in my life that support me every day even if I don’t see them. Gratitude.


For us, patience and gratitude produced a need to give. We realized quickly that there were lots of people around us that gave of their time, their expertise, their love and somehow we needed to give back. We loved going back to the hospital to visit the nurses who took care of Tere while she was on bed rest and soon they asked if we would talk to a patient. We agreed and soon we were visiting a number of soon-to-be moms, all on bed rest at Cedars-Sinai’s Maternal Fetal Care Unit. We met some great women and I hope we inspired them to tough it out through those agonizing months of nothing but online shopping, hospital food, and constant wake-ups to be poked and prodded. We’ve even stayed very much in touch with one family now with twin boys living in San Diego. In fact, our son Free pretty much peed all over their house on one visit as we were beginning to potty train. Oy!

My point is that sometimes the best way to get what we need from the world when we need it most, is to give. When we’re stressed beyond belief and think we have no more energy, give. When our patience is thin and we want to hide, give. When I’m angry and want to have a pity party of one, give. When the world is spinning and feels ready to cave in, give.

I hear it comes back tenfold.


Independence Day

By: Heather Somaini

mother and daughter

I love the 4th of July.  It’s warm out, the food is generally being cooked by some burly man in an apron over an outdoor grill, and there are fireworks.  I mean really, what’s better than fireworks and men cooking for you over an open flame?  Fireworks make me think back to being a kid in Vermont.  My parents would take us to what was probably a small park but to me it felt like a gigantic field that went on for days.  I’m sure there were like maybe fifty people there but it felt like an ocean of people to me.  I remember that feeling on a summer night when the air is finally cool and the sun is setting, your skin still slightly damp from the day’s heat.  I always loved slipping into that jacket my mom always made sure I had and finally feeling warm; lying down on the blanket and smelling the cut grass.  It always felt like such a treat to be out so late with the grown-ups as if something very mysterious were happening at that time of night.  I’m sure mysterious things were happening – it was the 70’s in Vermont.

This year we’re celebrating the 4th at my parents’ house in the great state of Tennessee – I say “great” somewhat facetiously since they’re trying to ban the word “gay” there.  Is it possible to ban a word?  I’m sure we will be requested to engage in conversation about it while we’re there.  Not with my parents but instead with some random, slightly intoxicated retiree that is still trying to figure out how we conceived our kids.

But I really want to tell you about our first 4th of July as parents.  A few years before the babies were born, we went to a barbeque for some new friends of ours.  We had the best time.  There were lots of kids running around, great food, and we really enjoyed meeting an amazing group of similar-minded people.  Every 4th of July, we would attend this party and as every year passed, we felt worse and worse because they would ask us how the “fertility thing” was going.  It clearly wasn’t going well because we had nothing to show for it – no pregnant bellies and no babies.  They pitied us or at least we felt they did.  I’m sure they didn’t because knowing how busy parents are, they don’t have the time or energy to feel pity for anyone.

Our twins were born in early March and as July started rolling around, I asked Tere if she had heard from our friends about their party.  She hadn’t.  I couldn’t believe it – did our invite go into our email spam folder or something?  I mean, we couldn’t miss this party.  We had to show off our newly-hatched spawn!  We had to show them that we were finally successful, that we had created duplicates of ourselves, that we weren’t total failures at this thing that everyone around us did with ease!

We called and asked if an alligator had eaten our invite.  It hadn’t even gone out!  How dare they deny us our moment in the sun?  They “had” to have a party, otherwise our entire reason for existing at that moment was for naught!  Somehow we invited ourselves to our friends’ “very small” 4th of July party.  I swear I think we told them that the only reason we wanted to come was to show off the babies.  Luckily for us, the matriarch of that family desperately wanted to hold them.  We were in!

Tere and I spent the whole afternoon showing our 4-month-old creatures off.  It was awesome.  We beamed.  I dunked them in the pool.  They screamed.  Tere cried.  It was a hell of a day.

I was happy.  Sometimes you just need to show off your newly-hatched spawn to feel good about yourself.


Bringing A Child Home From The NICU

March 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, In Vitro

By: Heather Somaini

Lesbian Moms with Twins



March 12th

It was amazing bringing Tere and Izzy home.  We still referred to her as “the girl” then.  It was astonishing how long it took us to stop doing that.  I guess it was hard to switch from thinking of them as embryos to full-fledged babies.

It was a Monday afternoon in March.  My Mom had set us all up in the master bedroom with everything we needed so we could all sort of hunker down in there.  My boss and his wife gave us the bassinette that all of their kids came home to so we kept Izzy in our bedroom for that first week.  We really wanted her near us but I don’t recommend keeping a newborn in your bedroom.  Izzy, and apparently most babies, move a lot when they sleep so I would essentially wake up every time she moved – which seemed like every fifteen minutes.  I was terrified something would go wrong so I lay there listening to her move, listening to her breathe.  She would be loud and then quiet and I was convinced she had stopped breathing and then I would get up and check.  I’m sure I was a sight standing over this little baby trying to see her chest rise and fall, trying to be completely silent, listening.  I’m so glad Tere never woke up to see that!

I was exhausted the next day and the next and the next.  I went right back to work which I also don’t recommend.  I should have taken a week or two off – it would have gone a long way to help Tere who had just gone through a ridiculously trying experience and needed my support more.  Parents tell you about the lack of sleep but nothing prepares you for it actually happening.

It was amazing though to come home to almost all of my very new family every day.  My Mom made sure we all ate well.  I would get Izzy almost immediately and do whatever needed to be done.  She would invariably spit up most of whatever I fed her and I soon started to worry that I was doing something wrong.  Tere and my Mom kept telling me it never happened with them so it must be me.  I was clearly holding her wrong, feeding her too fast, feeding her too slow…something!  I was starting to really freak out when they decided to let me in on the joke: Izzy spit up a lot on everyone!  Aren’t the people who love me the most fun?

I loved that we had a chance to spend time with one baby at home before trying two.  It gave us time to practice.  We realized quickly that babies sort of do whatever they want and if you go along with them, your life can be very challenging.  We took Izzy everywhere.  Every day we went and visited Free in the hospital and Tere and I took turns feeding him.  We would hold the babies together, hoping that might help Free get stronger.  Those NICU nurses were on a very intense schedule and if you missed your baby’s feeding every three hours, even if that just meant missing the big push of formula from a syringe into his feeding tube, you missed it.  They ran on time like Swiss watches, like German trains –it was insane.  It was a good thing though, as it set Free up for one of the best baby schedules EVER!

Now if we could just get Free home.




The Other Mother

March 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, In Vitro

By: Heather Somaini

Lesbian mom holds her son in the NICU

I have to say that our overall experience at Cedars Sinai was excellent.  But it wasn’t without its odd situations.  Remember the anesthesiologist who thought every gay man in our room was the father?

Well in the NICU, they were generally confused by me.  They would ask who I was since I was clearly not the mother who had just given birth to twins.  I would say “Oh, I’m the other mother,” which always threw them off.  But I was never sure what else to say.  How do you succinctly and clearly explain that your newborn babies have two moms when that’s the last thing on your mind?  That was the problem.  I was always thinking about what needed to be done or what was happening with the twins or Tere and never really thinking about how confusing our family structure was to people who usually only deal with moms and dads.  So I would say the easiest, shortest thing that came to mind, which didn’t always clear up the situation.

The woman at the front desk got used to me very quickly so that was no big deal.  But the nurses in the NICU rotate every twelve hours, so depending on what time I was in there, a new nurse could be waiting for me.  All I wanted was to sit with Free and hold him; I didn’t want to have to explain who I was every time I met someone new.  But that’s what I did.

I really think how we handle these situations is so telling about who we are and where we want to be.  Our family structure just wasn’t something I was thinking about that much right then.  I felt as normal as normal could be.  Maybe if our pregnancy had been routine and the birth very average and the babies were totally healthy, I could have been worried about how people perceived us.  But I just couldn’t with everything else going on.  I’m happy that my brain was otherwise occupied for more pressing matters.

One day in the NICU, I was sitting and holding Free in the rocking chair next to his station.  I couldn’t move him far because all the monitors kept him attached to that area.  The attending doctor that day was an older gentleman who clearly knew his stuff.  He went from baby to baby knocking out all the things that needed to be done and was clearly insightful about how to handle each situation.  When he got to Free, he read through the chart and asked the nurse why they were running some blood test on Free when his mother’s blood type was not O+ (Tere is A+).  Since I overheard the conversation and wanted to be helpful, I simply said “Because I’m O+”.  He looked at me and said “And who are you?” in a short, curt voice.  The nurse stepped in between me and the doctor and turned her back to me.  I smirked, realizing what she was about to do.  There was a good bit of discussion in hushed voices with the doctor moving his head sideways to take a look at me once or twice.  When it was all over and the nurse had clearly explained that Free had two moms and that we had used my eggs with an anonymous sperm donor but Tere had carried, the doctor sort of shook his head just a tiny bit almost like he was trying to get all the marbles to settle in but then went about his work, business as usual.  Just the way it should be.

By this time, Free was also struggling to eat.  He would take a bottle on one feeding but worked so hard to get it all in that he was exhausted and refused to wake and eat for his next feeding.  They inserted a feeding tube through his nose and down into his stomach.  They were trying to get as many calories in that little boy as possible.  Holding him was challenging but once I sat down in the rocking chair with him, I never wanted to leave.  I think I took a number of naps with him there in my arms.

March 11th, 9:00am

We were rolling with the punches, realizing that Free was going to be fine with a little help from the NICU doctors even though no one knew when he would be ready to go home.  I arrived to the hospital again with coffee in hand, ready to take on the day’s challenges.  When I walked into the room Tere said “They’ve got Izzy for an x-ray.  She’s stopped eating.  You have to go be with her.”

My head nearly exploded…not Izzy too.


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