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Archive for May, 2010

Update on the Boy Who Was Returned to Russia

May 18, 2010 | By: | Filed under: adoption, In the News, Uncategorized

For those of you who are following this horrific story, here is a link to a newspaper article a colleague shared with me:

http://www.t-g.com/story/1634398.html

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Law and Order Disappoints by Getting the Law WRONG on egg donation and the law as it pertains to same sex couples in NY!

May 13, 2010 | By: | Filed under: adoption, Egg Donation, Infertility on Television, Same Sex Parenting and Reproductive Law, Thinking Out Loud

I rarely watch television anymore.  I am lucky if I get time late at night to watch something and then I usually elect to watch a re-run of The West Wing.  However, the other night DH and I decided to stay up late and watch some television and he put on one of my favorite shows, Law and Order.  This episode may have been a re-run but I am not certain; we were watching it on NBC during it’s regular time slot 10-11 pm ET.  We only caught the last half hour, the part that always deals with the trial.  This fact pattern was very convoluted and revolved around a conspiracy by a doctor and a family to cause someone’s death of cancer at a certain time so that specific amounts of money would pass to certain descendants and not to other people or organizations (I didn’t catch the fact pattern well and it was really intricate).  Had the guy died of cancer on his own before some date the defendant and her partner would have inherited ten million dollars.

In the story, the prosecutor decided to use the fact that one of the defendants (who was a daughter of the guy who died and who was supposed to inherit ten million dollars) had conceived a child with her lesbian partner using an egg donor (at least I think it was an egg donor, it could have been that the defendant female partner had donated her eggs to her lesbian partner so that her partner could carry the baby for them to raise together . . . however, the prosecutor kept using the term “egg donor” so I assumed that the couple had used an egg donor and were planning on raising the baby together).  To further complicate matters, the lesbian couple had entered into an adoption whereby one partner had adopted the other so that they could obtain insurance together etc. and more relevant to the Law and Order story line, to inherit money together.

The prosecutor wanted to use the fact that the baby, because it was conceived via an egg donor, was not really their child (biological or otherwise) to cut off any inheritance rights the baby might have to the ten million dollars, and thus deny the defendant her right to benefit from the baby inheriting the money.

This had to be  a recent episode of Law and Order as the prosecutor is someone new, and Sam Waterston (sp?) is now the District Attorney or is in a more senior role and not trying cases.  The law as it pertains to same sex couples in NY has been pretty well established for several years.  Adopting an adult for purposes of a establishing a legal relationship between same sex partners is extremely difficult to do, and I believe there are and have been enough other laws that protect or recognize same sex marriages in NY that the adoption aspect of the story line was just plain stupid and offensive (if not legally wrong)!  I don’t believe that one adult can adopt another adult.  But . . .

Second and more to the point.  Law and Order got the law wrong on egg donation!!!!!!!!!!!

Let’s assume first that it was a true egg donation whereby this couple used an egg donor to conceive a child they would parent together (and not that one partner was donating her egg to the other for purposes of conception).  In NY, although there is no statute, there is a case that specifically states that woman who gives birth to a child or children conceived via egg donation is the legal and natural mother of that child or children.  McDonald v. McDonald, 196 A.D.2d 7, 12, 608 N.Y.S.2d 477 (App. Div. 2d Dep’t 1994) (finding woman who gave birth to child conceived through egg donation to be “the natural mother of the children. . . .”).  Indeed, this case and a long line of other cases in NY deal with the presumption that a woman who gives birth to a child in NY is the legal and natural mother of that child.

Law and Order usually has lawyers that check the facts and the law on its episodes.  I am absolutely dumbfounded that they got this so wrong.  Regardless of whether one member of this partnership donated an egg to her partner or whether they used an egg donor, that baby was the legal child of the woman who was going to give birth to it.  Assuming the two members of this partnership had a legal relationship that could be recognized in NY (and maybe I am wrong on the adoption thing, but it seems that in 2010 it is easier to go to MA or Canada and get married than to try and adopt an adult (???) to create a legal union), that baby was a baby of their partnership and their love for one another, and if the baby was delivered in New York City or any of the five boroughs and they were legally married, then both of their names would go on the birth certificate.

This manipulative and legally inaccurate representation of same sex partnership laws, same sex parentage laws, and egg donation is staggeringly offensive and WRONG.  Where were Law and Order’s lawyers in this?  Do they no longer check that their story lines are factually and legally correct?  And if they have lawyers, may I take a guess that their lawyers are 80 year old homophobic men and that the show’s writers must have been on acid when they wrote this episode.

I am anxious to watch a re-run of this show and figure out what the facts were, and to determine just how wrong Law and Order got the law and order of reproductive law.

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Some thoughts on making egg donation work

May 13, 2010 | By: | Filed under: Egg Donation, Thoughts on Choosing an Egg Donor

As I get closer to finishing my E-Book on egg donation, I seem to have more and more clients asking me some of the essential nuts and bolts questions about egg donation.  It is urging me to write faster and get the first of the three book series finished.  In the meantime, I have taken an old article I wrote for the then Hartford Chapter of RESOLVE on egg donation, and modified it for this blog post.

Here’s How One Woman Made Egg Donation Work:

Through the gift(s) provided by an egg donor, many infertile women are now able to experience pregnancy; sharing their thoughts, feelings, blood supply and the sound of their voice with their baby; and to deliver their child into the world.  The success rates offered by many egg donation programs are staggering (nearing the 70% mark at most clinics), making this one of the more popular options in modern family building for women with diminished ovarian reserve or other issues of egg quality.

Egg donation is often so successful that you can potentially build your entire family from one egg donation cycle.  Of course not every egg donation results in a pregnancy; but more often than not a carefully selected donor not only gets the recipient mother pregnant but there are extra embryos frozen for future family building.

Let us consider Janet[1], and her experience with egg donation.  Janet is in her late thirties and after several failed IVF cycles, Janet’s doctors told her that her best chances for becoming a mother were through egg donation or adoption.  Janet wanted to experience pregnancy, and so chose to pursue egg donation.

After doing research, Janet decided to work with an egg donation agency, rather than using her clinic’s in-house program. While some clinics are very flexible, Janet found she had more options when using an egg donation agency.  By working with an agency Janet had greater flexibility in choosing her donor, didn’t have to share eggs with another infertile family, and would have greater control over her finances.  Because she was on a tight budget, most of the agencies she spoke with encouraged Janet to select a donor who lived near the clinic she would be using, thus avoiding substantial travel expenses.  Using an agency, Janet also had a greater selection of donors with compensation rates to fit her budget, compared with the fixed rates offered by most clinics.

One donor Janet considered (we’ll call her Leslie[2]), was twenty-six years old, single, had near perfect SAT scores, attended an Ivy League college, graduated at the top of her class and was attending medical school.  Despite Leslie’s outstanding academic credentials (which sometimes result in higher compensation rates) Leslie’s requested compensation was within the middle range of both ASRM’s and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies’ (SART)[3] guidelines for egg donor compensation: $3,000-$7,000 per donation.  Leslie also visibly resembled Janet and lived near their fertility clinic thus helping to make the cycle more affordable for Janet and her partner.  Leslie seemed like the perfect donor.

Leslie, however, had no “track record” donating eggs.  She had never been an egg donor before and didn’t have any children of her own.  Although statistically, carefully screened first-time (or “unproven”) donors have the same success rates in helping infertile women/couples achieve pregnancy, Janet was concerned that she would spend money to have Leslie donor undergo the first part of the necessary screening process, only to find out that Leslie was not sufficiently fertile and had been disqualified from being an egg donor.

Janet and her partner were also considering matching with a donor named “Julie”.   Julie also was twenty-six, had high SAT scores, had attended college, and had never been an egg donor before.  Julie was requesting the same compensation as had Leslie ($5,000) and lived near Janet’s clinic.  However, Julie was married, and had two-and-half-year old twins and a one-year old baby.  Julie was clearly fertile (she had children) and thus would be more likely to produce healthy eggs, which to Janet and her partner meant she presented a lower risk of being “screened out” by their fertility clinic.

Once Janet and her partner selected Julie as their donor, Janet’s egg donation agency presented them with a list of attorneys to help prepare their egg donation agreement, and it arranged for Julie to be represented by separate counsel in connection with the negotiation and drafting of their agreement. The egg donation agreement is a critical aspect of the egg donation process and all parties should be represented by independent counsel.  The egg donation agreement will protect your rights as parents and govern your relationship with your donor for years to come.  You should have the right to select your own attorney, one who is an experienced reproductive lawyer.

Each egg donation agreement is unique; some agreements provide for complete disclosure of names and addresses and others are completely anonymous.  Whatever your comfort level or that of your donor may be regarding future contact, please consider that your agreement should ensure that you can contact your donor in case of a future medical emergency.  Among other things, your egg donation agreement should specify your rights to utilize and/or dispose of the eggs/embryos created from the cycle, require that your donor follow medical directions, address what happens if your donor breaches your agreement or if the cycle needs to be rescheduled for some reason (like a death in the donor’s family), and/or how medical bills are handled if she experiences a complication like ovarian hyper-stimulation.

Within four months of the time Janet initially contacted their egg donation agency, Janet, Julie and their respective partners had negotiated their agreement and their cycle got underway.  Julie produced seventeen eggs of which fifteen fertilized.  Janet conceived a beautiful baby girl on the first embryo transfer and when Janet’s daughter was about a year-old, Janet and her partner went back and did a frozen embryo transfer; this time conceiving twin girls (it is admittedly rare for a frozen cycle to result in a twin pregnancy but in this case it did)!


[1] Janet is a combination of several of my clients, a fictitious character created for purposes of this blog to help demonstrate a typical egg donation process from a more “real life” perspective.

[2] Names have been changed to protect people’s privacy.

[3] ASRM (The American Society for Reproductive Medicine) and SART are related organizations which, among other things, establish ethical and regulatory guidelines that many clinics and agencies agree to comply with.  For more information, visit their websites:  #www.ASRM.org# and #www.sart.org#

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What do you want Mother’s Day to be like when you are a mom?

May 7, 2010 | By: | Filed under: Peace to Parenthood, visualization

You are probably being inundated with blog posts right now, and articles about how to cope with Mother’s Day while you’re waiting to become a mother.  The last Mother’s Day I spent before I became a mother, I spent it at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Puerto Rico where Charlie took me for the weekend right before our next IVF cycle started.  I spent the weekend doing my Lupron injections and drinking Pina Coladas and beer by the pool (sorry Dr. Chung, I know you said no alcohol!! oops).  Charlie went hiking.  Neither of us was in much mood to deal with the holiday so we escaped.  I got pregnant with twins that IVF cycle and shortly after miscarrying the pregnancy decided to adopt.  What I didn’t know then that I know now is that there is a far more productive means of escaping.  Instead of drowning your sorrows or hiding, visualize how you want Mother’s Day to be when you are a mom.

Charlie keeps asking me what I want to do this Mother’s Day.  I don’t know.  Breakfast in bed brought on a tray by my little boy sounds too cliche.  And the kitchen will just be a disaster that I get to clean up.  Instead, I have been visualizing future mother’s days and trying to create a rich memory for this year.  I am trying to create the perfect Mother’s Day in my head.

I asked for a trip to the gardening store and extra hands in our garden so that I can plant things that grow.  I want to celebrate this year’s Mother’s Day by making the earth rich and fertile and creating life that I can look at outside the kitchen window when I am doing dishes later this summer and be reminded of Mother’s Day.  I am trying to decide what flowers and plants I want to put in.

Mother’s Day has different meanings to all of us.  It is an especially painful holiday when your womb and arms are empty, when your power to reproduce or be a mother is in someone else’s hands.  But you do have power to visualize what it will be like when you are a mother and in so doing, by creating every detail down to the smells and textures, to the exhaustion you will feel at the thought of cleaning up the mother’s day mess in the kitchen, you help speed your way to its manifestation.  Create your future mother’s day and write it down.  Live it in your head.  Don’t for a second doubt it will be real.  The flowers this year are only a start for me.  I need to visualize more Mother’s days, with more babies.  Where will I be then, what flowers will I be planting?

And you know what, as I am writing this, I remember that my first Mother’s Day as a mother, I planted a rose bush in the garden of the house we were renting.  I had made a promise to myself before my very first IVF cycle that I would thank the earth and plant something to remember that time in my life.  I totally forgot about that.  WOW.   Maybe this is my way of celebrating.  But clearly, that promise has been realized.  Yours will be too.  And mine will be again.

So, what does your perfect Mother’s day look like?

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Taking Baby steps toward baby steps

May 4, 2010 | By: | Filed under: Faith and Infertility, Peace to Parenthood, Personal Musings, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud

Today I saw a pregnant woman on my way home from dropping off my son at school.  I had been in this really amazing place of feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for my life and my children.  I was literally weeping at this vision of a train of school buses leaving his elementary school.  I had him in the back seat.  This was my dream for years and now I am among those whom I envied.  I am a MOM.  It was the most beautiful moment and I stopped myself to “appreciate” the appreciation in my heart.  I stopped myself to thank the Universe.  I looked in the rear view mirror and told my son I loved him.  Life was full, rich and I was blessed.

I dropped him off and debated which way to drive home.  I opted for the way I came so I might catch a glimpse of those school buses again.  I could have chosen a faster route home, and a stop at Starbucks, but I wanted to see those buses and feel that wonderful sense of perfection and rightness again.  I wanted to hold onto it for as long as I could.  Soon, I knew, the day would interrupt and I would be struggling to find that sense of peace and joy.  Maybe I should have taken a right instead of the left and gone to Starbucks.  My day sure as hell would have been easier.

Because whammo there she was.  She was hugely pregnant.  She was wearing a white shirt that barely stretched across her belly.  She was big and beautiful and I could see her belly button sticking out from a 1/4 of a mile away.  With a sudden intake of breath I went crashing from an emotional space of rightness and calm, free falling my way to the depths of despair.  Choose the profane word you like most and insert it here.  Mine begins with an “F”.

WHY????  Why does this continue to bug me.  Why cannot I get past my need to be pregnant.  My life is full and rich, and challenging and amazing and hard and beautiful . . . just as it is intended to be.  And yet one siting of a woman filled with the life that I have yet to bear and I turned into a weeping mass of depression.    I pulled the car over to watch her for a few moments, turned on the Dixie Chics’ song about infertility, and had a good cry.

I imagine my heartbreak this morning was more real because I recently lost an unexpected pregnancy.  I spent a little over a week of my life living in wonder at the miracle of nature and my body that I could conceive at 43 without Lovenox and without donor sperm.  According to the ultrasound, I was 5w4d when I found out I was pregnant.  I didn’t keep the ultrasound because I didn’t want another reminder.  I knew the pregnancy wouldn’t stick.  That was too much to ask for.  But I did live with this beautiful secret for much longer than I expected to until the inevitable . . . .

Now I am struggling to make sense of this accident.  My body is still recovering, and I am sure I am 100% normal in my response to that which I long to have, and see all around me, and all too often.  It is Spring and I have always noticed that I see more pregnant women in the Spring.  It sucks that so far this experience has been denied to me.  I sat in the car praying that one day that the Universe will let me carry a child to term.  I also accepted the fact that there is a lot of work and change that I realize I must do if I want to realize my dream (another subject in and of itself).

But what shocks me is that I/we can go from such unbelievable peace, contentment and gratitude to the depths of despair so quickly.  This is what infertility brings us.  I have been thinking alot about this infertility rollercoaster thing we’re on.  I don’t think it’s a roller coaster anymore.  I think it’s more like bungy jumping.  Every attempt we make at conception or adoption is like diving off a bridge with a seemingly thin rope tethered to your ankle.  Will the rope be strong enough to pull us up before we hit the ground?  Is it short enough to prevent us from smashing into the ground or will we crash and burn?  There is so much faith that goes into that bungy jump, so much strength and bravery that we need in order to let go and try and feel the sensation of falling safely.  Or to try and feel the the glory of the wind rushing past our face and facing the risks and fears that the “velcro” won’t stick.  My velcro didn’t stick this time and boy did I crash and burn.

But I learned something too.  I learned that I don’t want to give up my dream of carrying a child.  I’m willing to do the work and face the risks inherent in striving for this as my reality.  I learned that I am willing to dive off of the bridge again.  In fact, I am craving and longing for that opportunity.  I am officially no longer risk adverse and have put nothing but my happiness and the desire to fill each and every one of my dreams — not just being pregnant, but all of what I need and want as a person but have been too afraid to ask for because of what it might mean to the rest of my life, or how it might impact the rest of my life.  I decided that my children deserve a happy mother, not just a good mother but one who is happy and fulfilled by all aspects of her life and her being-ness.  Indeed, I think now that if I hadn’t had the miscarriage I might have failed to teach my children a valuable lesson: to believe in yourself and your dreams.  I discovered I am brave and strong.

I know now with a certainty that words cannot convey that my children came to me out of my faith that I would be a mother; that the events and circumstances in my life have all had meaning both in the way they came to be and because of the time at which they were realized.  The Universe plays a roll in everything that happens, there is no coincidence to anything that has happened to me.  All of it was part of my own divine inspiration.  And with that divine inspiration I will get to a place where I am standing on top of the bridge again waiting to feel the rush of wind, the freedom in the free fall and the unknown, and the joy and terror of staring my demons in the face and waiting to feel the cord tied around my leg catch me as the velcro finally sticks.  There is more to my journey through infertility.  Of that I am certain.  Of the outcome, I am certain in that too.

I have spoken with three clients today.  All of whom feel as I do.  That the journey seems too hard but that there must be purpose to it.  One client left me the most beautiful voice mail last week, thanking me for being a part of her family’s journey and telling me not to give up on my own (she didn’t know about the miscarriage but she must have sensed that I have been depressed and struggling with many different issues in my life and my family).  She also said that she knew one thing with certainty, that their journey was enriched by knowing me.  I was moved to tears.  My experience as a woman, as a lawyer, as an infertility patient are enriched by each of my clients.  As I help them with their contracts, with their search for a birth parent, with the daily ups and downs that come on this path, I learn new ways of expressing hope, of finding peace in each moment, of being grateful for what I do have and in renewing my faith in what is possible.  I am as grateful for each of my clients as I hope one day they will be (or are) for the work that I do for them.  But no one has ever expressed their appreciation or gratitude as she did.  I know I am doing exactly what I was intended to do and I would not be doing this work had I not endured 4 IUI’s, 7 attempted (six completed) IVF Cycles, 3 adoptions, and now ten miscarriages.  It all had purpose.

This morning as I sat in my car having my cry I wondered why it is so hard (as the Dixie Chics sang so eloquently). Is there is a reason it is so hard?  And I realized that there is a reason.  It is because it’s part of learning that the process doesn’t have to be hard.  I can instead choose to believe in the outcome I want.  What is hard is the fact that we don’t allow ourselves to believe in what is possible.  And in not believing in what is possible, we prevent it from taking place.

It is not easy to go from the pain and grief I felt this morning to having total and complete faith that my dream will one day be a reality.  But if I don’t hold steadfast to that dream and believe in believing, the velcro will never have a chance to stick.  These last few months I have discovered a place inside me that is strong and fearless.  I know without a doubt that I have the power to create my dreams.  I am glad I saw that pregnant woman this morning, and I am glad that I spent time weeping for the child I just lost.  But that child is a reminder that my body works, that my dream is alive, and that I am moving closer to it.  We are all moving closer to it, as long as we create the vision and believe it will happen, we are moving toward its’ creation.  In this case, it’s the creation of our child and/or our family.

It’s okay to have hard days.  The hard days make us understand how worthwhile the journey is and make us appreciate the easy days more.  Today, I am taking baby steps toward my next baby’s steps.  I don’t know when, but I do know it will BE.  What I can’t do is allow the hardness of the process overtake the belief in its outcome.

If you too are having a hard day, remember that you’re not alone.  And remind yourself to hold onto your dream and to make it more and more vivid every day.  Your baby, and mine, are coming.  In their own time and their own way.  As it is meant to be.  I wouldn’t have met all these wonderful men and women if it wasn’t for the way it had to be.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  Not even the baby that I just lost.  S/he taught me an incredible lesson.  To have faith in myself.

It may sometimes take baby steps to get through the day, or the week or the month.  But each little baby step is one GIANT step closer to the reality you envision.  Believe yourself.  Believe your dream.  Don’t give up.

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