Baby, plan your birth!

A couple of queer expats in Singapore on a quest to make a baby


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Very patiently waiting with much patience quite patiently

I’m not a particularly patient person.

It is only after exercising considerable restraint that I managed to take only three pregnancy tests in the past week.  They’re all negative, of course, because it turns out there was a reason the clinic said to wait two weeks before taking a test.  Pregnancy tests detect levels of human chorionic gonadotropic (hCG) in your urine, which don’t show up in detectable levels until somewhere between 10 and 14 days past ovulation, depending on the sensitivity of your test (I have no idea what mine is; the “bulk pack”  didn’t include those sorts of superfluous details) and your own body’s response to harboring a tiny parasite.  Which is why it is so important that I test, just to be sure, at 6, 8, and 10 days.  Just in case all of medicine is wrong and my heart science is right.

Thankfully, I anticipated my tendency to do this, which is why we bought a bulk pack of pregnancy tests way back in December.  I love diagnostics!  (Thanks, Amazon!)

H asked that I share with the group my pregnancy testing ritual, I suspect because she enjoys it when I embarrass myself publicly.

1.  Try to convince myself that there is no point in testing something that will come out negative with 95% certainty.

2.  Figure, hey, let’s just give it a go, wouldn’t it be nice if it were positive?  After all, I have so many tests in my drawer.  Also, I’m bored.

3.  Procure the “pregnancy testing cup.”  These tests need to be dipped, which requires a cup. After great consideration, I settled upon the Hendrick’s teacup that came free when we bought some fancy gin at duty free.  It’s just the right size, with a nice wide mouth, but more importantly, it makes me feel like classy English royalty when I use it.  As you do.

Breakfast of champions, pregnancy test of queens

Breakfast of champions, pregnancy test of queens

4.  Fill the pregnancy testing cup.

5.  Dip cheap-o pregnancy strip in cup for 5 seconds.  (The instructions say 3.  I’m an overachiever.)

6.  Watch all the colors move around.  Oh god!  Could it be positive?!

7.  Watch all the colors vanish.  Nope, never mind.

8.  Wander away for the 5 minutes you’re supposed to wait for a result.  It will only change to positive if you don’t look at it.

9.  Nope.

10.  Obsessively check the internet for reasons there might still be a negative test at day X but ultimately positive results, even though my heart feels like I should be able to tell by now.

11.  Repeat.

Closing note regarding perspective.  I realize waiting two weeks to find out whether you’re pregnant is an amazingly common occurrence, and surely at least some of you are laughing, remembering the first go, and then the second, and then the third, and then the thirtieth … I fully acknowledge that in the world of all hardships requiring patience and perseverance, this is somewhere above “waiting for dinner despite being very hungry” and below “saving up for a nice vacation that won’t come for six months.”  I just like sharing.

-E

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Where do babies come from?

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Where do babies come from? Bangkok, of course!

Babies come from Bangkok! We hope.

After a whirlwind of emotions, we set off for Bangkok on Tuesday night.  By the time we boarded, we were both pretty much done with everything – we spent the flight basking in the emotional turmoil of gloriously bad ABC family dramas.  Perfect.

Of course, I break that sweet, television-induced sedation by spending the rest of our evening scouring academic articles for everything known about IUI, trigger shot-to-ovulation timing, and whether 24 hrs vs. 30 hrs vs. 36 hrs matters at all.  Confirmation bias abounds.  Everything will be okay.

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Swanky clinic – image from their brochure, as they reasonably asked we not take pictures.

Bright and early Wednesday, we headed to our clinic, which turned out to be about 300% more swanky than we expected.  We huddled in our padded furniture pod alongside 30+ other families and waited to meet with the doctor. Despite everyone’s disappointment that I had not done things “properly,” the doctor (and her army of ultrasound technicians) seemed reasonably optimistic.

We broke for lunch, I tried not to eat too much street food (so hard!), and reconvened in the afternoon.  We donned our baby-making costumes – sexy sterile crocs and hospital caps and gowns for both of us.

crocs

After prepping very, very slowly, to help delay the insemination time as much as possible, it was time to make some babies.  The doctor brought out our washed, processed, and ready for action sperm, which came in a lovely shade of pink.  I got all situated, and then the team got to work.

I was more than a bit nervous because most experiences I’ve had with doctors poking my insides have been negative.  I researched other folks’ IUI experiences, which, of course, were all over the place.  Usually, the range was from “didn’t notice” to “it was uncomfortable.”  So I shouldn’t worry?  Wrong.  Always beware the use of “uncomfortable” in a medical setting.

In non-medical settings, the phrase “uncomfortable” refers to anything from a chair with insufficient padding to an awkward social situation.  Maybe the over-full feeling you get after too much pizza.  Uncomfortable.  In medical land, “uncomfortable” is everything short of getting your arm cut off or passing a kidney stone.  It’s more like how spraining your wrist is “uncomfortable” or getting a bronchoscopy is “uncomfortable.”  HA.  It is “bad.”  Simply bad.

Despite the “uncomfortable” nature of the procedure, of course, I was a champ.  That is, if by “champ,” you mean that I hyperventilated, experienced an extreme blood pressure drop, and nearly passed out.  I went through those smelling salts like a champ, that’s for sure.  Aced it.

Then it was over.  I rested for an hour with my book, leaning on my right side as I was told to to help direct the little swimmers toward the good egg (still waiting for an academic paper on that) then we headed out for lunch and a relaxing evening.

And now we wait.

-E


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Countdown?

Alternate title: Dr. C and the tournament of the … doctors. 

Rose bright and early for our daily visit to Dr. C  to be probed and photographed (on the inside! eek! it hasn’t gotten old yet).  Dr. C asked if I was “feeling ovulatory today.”  Yes! I have been directing good, pro-ovulation thoughts all day.  It’s hard work, too.

A brief panic when Dr. C adds “Oh, the follicle is collapsing.”  What?  Collapsing?  Buildings collapse. Civilizations collapse.  Tiny follicles do not collapse.  Turns out it was her fun way of saying that it had an oval shape rather than circle shape.  Really?  Word choice.  Please.  My heart.

At the risk of way too much gross detail, the now oval-shaped follicle is big and strong, and it was ready to be injected with magic hormones.  These magic hormones ensure that it is released in a timely fashion, ideally during business hours.  I hear it’s more effective than our other option, pro-ovulation thoughts + prayer (probably not the best strategy for two atheists).

I survive my jabs (like a champ, no less), we celebrate by buying tickets to Thailand for tonight and eating CPK. (Yes, there is California Pizza Kitchen in Singapore. Globalization is magic.)

Then, problems.

IUI planning is a bit of a math equation, but everyone has a different equation and very strong opinions that theirs is the only correct equation.

 

Bangkok clinic’s equation:   20+mm follicle + 11pm shot + 36 hours + IUI = BABY!

Dr C’s equation: 20+mm follicle + 8am shot + 24-48 hours + IUI = BABY!

 

These are different.  See the differences?  We got the 8am shot, so Bangkok clinic is not pleased.  They have so far suggested that we (a) wait 50 hours to do IUI (not in anyone’s equations), or (b) cancel the entire thing.  Checked back with Dr. C and she said that we could (a) wait 24 hours, (b) wait 36 hours, (c) wait 50 hours, and it wouldn’t matter. We tried to get the two parties to duke it out, but with no luck. Apparently they have other patients, or something.

Then there’s Google.  Everyone on Google also has their own equation. 24 hours is the best!  Oh, well you should do two IUIs, one at 12 hours and one at 36.  You should have sex, then have an IUI, then have sex again. You should get your IUI while standing on your head and reading Shakespeare (okay, maybe not exactly that last one). Pages and pages of very specific anecdotes, which are especially unhelpful because not only is every person is different, only some people are going through the same procedure as us, and even fewer are going through the exact same procedure with unknown fertility background and no fertility drugs. So we have no idea.

On the other hand, this feeling of stress and uncertainty is familiar. We’re back at the place where we usually are – having absolutely no clue what is going on, wishing we had taken more biology/anatomy classes in college, and strongly desiring an authoritative pamphlet.  There should be a pamphlet.  (More on the general lack of pamphlets to follow, I promise.)

– E


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Dr. C and the tournament of follicles

On Tuesday, we had our first appointment with our new queer-friendly OB/GYN at Mt. Elizabeth Hospital!

Dr. C is efficient and respectful and doesn’t seem at all bothered that we’re gay. (I don’t think much fazes Dr. C.) When we walked in together and E introduced me as her wife, Dr. C looked at me and asked, “Are you getting pregnant, too?” After I said no, she pretty much lost interest in me, but in a normal I-don’t-have-much-bedside-manner-and-you’re-not-my-concern kind of way that my dad-friends say they’ve also experienced as the non-baby-carrying parents.

Fair enough. As long as I’m allowed to support E when/where she wants my support. I wasn’t sure quite what to do with myself during ultrasound time, though. Dr. C pulled the curtain, so I hung out awkwardly and tried to get a look at the screen.

And creepily took this picture…

IMG_5401Anyway, the result of the appointment was that E’s follicles were still duking it out to see which one is going to be Egg of the Month. We have another appointment Monday to see if a champion has been crowned. If so, and if it’s achieved a certain level of growth, then Dr. C will give E the trigger shot (some kind of hormone cocktail that makes her ovulate according to a predictable schedule) and we’ll be off to Bangkok two days later for an insemination jamboree!

Things are finally coming together!

-H


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Updates on all the things (with a special guest appearance by Radiohead)

We’ve been enjoying answering your questions lately, but we also want to keep you up to speed on the process. So here are some updates!

On the topic of doctors

We have one! A gay-friendly one! In fact, she delivered our (gay) friends’ baby last year, so we know she’s comfortable with our crowd. At a minimum, she can do the follicle ultrasound thingy we need for the insemination, and if we like her, she’ll be E’s pregnancy and delivery doc. And if we don’t, we’ll have nine months to find someone else from our list.

On the topic of insurance

Yup, still have it. There’s a ten-month waiting period from the time we got insurance until the time the insurance starts covering any kind of maternity care or delivery (except complications to the delivery, which are covered anytime). The ten-month countdown started in early July, so an on-time delivery would now be covered even if we got pregnant today, which isn’t in the cards since we’re going to be really busy tonight watching Masters of Sex and eating tacos. (Also, we’d know if we were getting pregnant today because we’d be in Bangkok in a cold, sterile exam room.) The delivery is the main reason we bought the insurance: cost of uninsured delivery – cost of insurance = ~$5000. Maternity care is pretty inexpensive here anyway, so having the insurance cover any portion of that would just be bonus. So… baby-making can commence soon.

On the topic of my visa status

This didn’t really get resolved, but it did get less dire.

I’m still on the three-month tourist visa just as I have been for the last year, coming and going. When we applied for the Long Term Visit Pass, it was on a new passport since my old one was about to expire. On the plus side, the new one isn’t full of Singapore entry and exit stamps. But we were also worried that my failed application might have put a flag on my new passport such that I’d have trouble getting in again.

To find out before we got E pregnant, we went to Thailand for the weekend a few weeks back. On the way out, we discovered that Singapore Immigration doesn’t have my two passports linked. This was a problem because, in order to leave, you have to show that you came, and I didn’t have my old, voided passport on me. I’d assumed they’d be linked, especially since Singapore is a super high-tech country, but I actually had to go to a special desk and spent 15 minutes explaining the situation to an official who wanted my old passport number and the ticket I flew in on. That was a good discovery because it means my previous entries on the old passport won’t be visible electronically to future immigration officials. (Even an attempt to put my new passport through their photo recognition software only brought up the passport of an elderly Chinese man.)

On the way back into Singapore, the official didn’t give my passport a second glance. So it seems that there’s no flag on it, and I’m probably about where I was a year ago, seemingly on my second social visit to Singapore as a tourist.

With that in mind, I’m still applying for jobs, but I can be a little less frantic about it. I’m also going to the States for a research/writing trip for about a month this autumn, and then back to the States again for Christmas, so I will genuinely look like a frequent visitor to Singapore rather than someone who lives here.

Wow. Bureaucracy is boring. I’m sorry. There really wasn’t a way to spice that up.

But here’s a cool upshot of our visa run to Thailand: we got our Open Water Diver SCUBA certifications!

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(Photos by Jay Chance)

 

Yeah, it might seem silly, but getting SCUBA certified was one of our top 5 reasons for moving to Singapore, and we had to do it before E gets pregnant. Apparently, fetuses don’t respond well to intense underwater pressure (…also, this).

That’s all for updates at the moment. We’ll return to questions in the next couple of days.

-H


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Question Box Answers: second parent adoption

Here’s a question I’ve been putting off because we don’t really have a good answer for it:

“How will the legalities be handled with E having the baby and H being E’s spouse? (but not recognized as such everywhere) How does adoption work in such circumstances?”

Let’s start with this map, courtesy of wikipedia:

Screenshot 2014-08-28 01.04.47

 

Just before moving to Singapore, E and I lived in Michigan. We’re registered to vote in Michigan and have drivers licenses for Michigan. (For our non-American readers, Michigan is the one that looks like a mitten or, on this map, the red one in the north.) In theory, we could change our state since we don’t really live there anyway, but that’s complicated and usually involves demonstrating that we’ve set up a residence in our new state. Hard to do when, again, we don’t really live there. Realistically, we’re probably stuck with Michigan as our state until we move back to the US and take up residence elsewhere. (This isn’t strictly relevant to today’s topic, but for future reference, we were legally married in Illinois. Michigan does not recognize our marriage.)

So what does this map mean for us?

Assuming the situation is static (but hoping it’s not – c’mon SCOTUS!), it’s actually not clear what would happen in our situation. Michigan does not permit same-sex couples to adopt a child together, but there is no explicit prohibition on one partner adopting a child born to the other partner. Wikipedia calls this “stepparent adoption,” but it’s more commonly known as “second parent adoption,” even though these are technically different: stepparent adoption is for married couples, while second parent adoption is for a couple that isn’t married. But because some states are a little stingy with the marriage rights, a lot of co-parenting couples aren’t legally married, so second parent adoption is the more general term for everyone in that situation. (“Stepparent” also seems kind of misleading to me. I’m not adopting a child that E had as part of a previous relationship. I’m going to be there right from the start, as much a co-parent as E.)

Anyway, at present, Nessel & Kessel Law (no joke, that’s their name), the same firm that was part of Michigan’s DeBoer v. Snyder case back in March, is looking for same-sex Michigan couples who are legally married somewhere to file petitions for second parent adoptions to get the ball rolling on this issue.

As expats living in Asia, we’re obviously not ideal candidates, so we’re basically just waiting to see what happens, either with a Supreme Court ruling or a Michigan ruling. We’re confident that I’ll eventually be able to adopt our child, but it may be a little while.

In the meantime, we’re going to have some legal documents drawn up including a co-parenting agreement and a custody agreement. That way, everyone’s protected even if something bad happened to E or to our relationship. It’s not very romantic, and it’s definitely less joyful than signing my name to the birth certificate, but for the moment, it’s the closest we can have to an adoption.

I will leave you with the advice E was given last year by her former ob-gyn in Ann Arbor, MI: “Make sure you don’t put your girlfriend’s name on any legal paperwork. That way, if you break up, she won’t have any claim to your child.” Classy.

Send us more questions through our anonymous question box.

-H

 


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Question Box Answers: eggs, brought to you by the letter E

Easy question today from our Anonymous Question Box: “Whose egg gets fertilized?”

Answer: E’s egg.

Why? Because she’s the one carrying the baby.

It is possible to fertilize my egg (either in a lab or inside my person – the latter is generally more successful, and involves me being inseminated and temporarily pregnant) and then move the party to E’s body, IVF-style. Sort of like some kinds of gestational surrogacy.

But that’s expensive and complicated and mainly just unnecessary. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this enough, but I think E is just the bee’s knees. Having a kid with her genes sounds awesome! Sorry, Darwin, but I don’t actually care whether our baby has my genes or not. We make our families, in large part, by who we choose to love.

-H