Donor sperm request email writing 101

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Bath time for Amy -trying to match the donor as close as possible to my features

During one of my initial appointments I had asked how I express my ‘wants’ in a sperm donor.  I was told a simple email would suffice and to send it to her (Penny), and that she would match me as best she could, as she knew them and would try and match to make a good family dynamic.

I procrastinated big time on this email, as let’s face it – it was probably the single most weirdest email that I ever had to write.  I mean, how do you even start that?  Not to mention what do you put in the subject line. Crazy town.

Procrastination on the writing of the email did not mean that I procrastinated the thinking about it and I had already had a few characteristics in mind.

Not wanting to be greedy, I only had a few prerequisites.  If I have to do this alone, or if I am lucky enough for it to be successful, I want the child to look as much like me as possible.

So in the interest of telling it like it is here is the exact email I sent:

Hi Penny,

I just wanted to touch base with you about the sperm donor, as you said to email you about it.

If possible my preference is:
– Olive skin
– Blue eyes
– Brown/light brown hair
– Thick, wavy/curly hair

Weight and height are not so much an issue although I would be happy with 1.68m or above.

Of course kind, charismatic and creative are a bonus – haha!

Many thanks for all you have done so far.  See you Saturday morning.

Many thanks,
Amy Martin

I added the weight/height part in last minute and tried to lighten the mood with the characteristic traits, knowing that they would not even come into it.

Super weird email to write as expected and even weirder getting the reply, although it was a relief to receive it:

Hi Amy,

Thank you for your email and for sending me your preference regarding the donor profile. I am sure I will match you most appropriately 🙂

I will be seeing you tomorrow!!!

Many wishes,

Pennyxx.

And that’s how you write the weirdest email of your life, all the while totally tripping out and asking yourself if you have missed anything or are being too picky!
That concludes today’s lesson on donor sperm request email writing.  Let’s hope there is no need for further instalments.
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Best day ever: Sarcasm at its finest

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The ‘Trigger Shot’ – my hands were shaking even walking with it back to my apartment – icepack and all

8.30am and I was at Serum to get a scan to see how the stimulants had gone with the second egg – not so well and it was another round of stimulants (a shot of Merinol and one of Cetrotide), scheduled for between 3 and 4 pm that day.

Next it was on to the run down of how the egg retrieval would go as that was the next step in 2 days time…

And this is where it all fell apart….

The trigger shot (which helps induce ovulation), needs to be timed so that the eggs can be harvested at optimum time – (36 hours later) and namely be collected in the morning. So that meant that I needed I had to have the shot at 10pm at night and had to do it into the top, right hand side of my butt muscle. Ouch!!!

The mid wife knowing me by now, sensed my panic and her initial thought was to tell me to find a pharmacy that was open until late and have them do it.  Geez – another thing to try and suss out in limited time.  I of course asked her if she knew any nearby – she didn’t as most people come here either with a partner or friend to help them OR do not have an avid fear of needles!  So, I gave in and convinced myself “Amy you can do this”.

Turns out I was wrong and that needle phobia is a thing.

I was completely fine as she told me how to break the viles, draw up the liquid from one vial and then deposit it into the powder vial and then repeat with another 2 vials and then change needle points (to a smaller needle – for my benefit apparently), I even got through the what quadrant of my butt to put it in talk….then as soon as she started talking about putting it all the way into the muscle and then drawing back to check for blood incase it was in a vein….I completely lost it.  I felt like a child having a massive crying/ hyperventilation meltdown.  It came out of nowhere and poor Leah.  I felt incredibly awful.  Straight away she said, “Right, no, I’m going to stop explaining now, you can’t be stressed doing this and someone else needs to do this for you”.

I feel super embarrassed even writing this but I promised myself I would tell the whole story, exactly like it is.  I have convinced myself if someone else was doing it for me or if it was preloaded needles then I would have no issue but I have not had preloaded needles at all so I’m not sure how true that part is until faced with it (I have since been faced with preloaded needles and I am now able to self inject so pretty proud of myself that I called it when I wrote this post awhile back).

So armed with the letter for both the ECG and the trigger shot in Greek I was off (for all I know it read – ‘This great big wimp cannot do this so please give this to her at 10pm exactly!’ lol – but not really laughing so much! haha!)

Leaving the clinic, with poor Leah getting the blame from the receptionist that I was a mess once again – is it fair to blame the hormones at this point?  Are they effective right away? – I was off to suss out where Leto Hospital was.  I was told it was a taxi ride and that maybe I should ring them in advance to see if they could do my ECG before my shot.

Upon getting back to my apartment, super emotional, I called 6 times via Skype on both my phone and laptop with a crappy connection (apparently that is not just limited to China), was hung up on and if I got through no one understood what it was I wanted (there is not many ways to explain ECG apparently). I was again in tears.  I was incredibly frustrated and all alone trying to figure all this out and sick of all the unfairness of this situation and doing it by myself in a foreign country….yes, I still lay blame at NZ’s health system with this one and it definitely came out then.

I decided I need some distraction to calm myself down before I set off to walk to this hospital to sort it out in person, so engaged in some mindless TV show watching.

Luckily, my parents rang at that time – sarcasm at it’s greatest. I was a mess.

Finally I felt calm enough to make the trek to the hospital – a 30 minute walk, so not too bad, unfortunately on arrival the street it was on was full of shops with ‘Congrutaltions its a ___”, bouquets  and baby and maternity shops….turns out it was a maternity hospital.  Just great.

They were fab and right to the point, no appointment needed, I showed them the forms in Greek and the ECG could be done at 9pm and shot at 10pm.  Relief flooded me and joyously I walked back (well joyously is definitely a gross exaggeration…let’s just say I was much happier than when walking there).

Next, it was the wait for my 3pm appointment for my shots (unfortunately 1 actually hurt this time, same spot or increased dose…one or the other.  Once again I am thankful for not having 2 weeks of these), and to pick up ‘the’ shot, which I filled in with grocery shopping – another frustrating feat in itself (turns out I was at a dinky little market and the main one was only one street over! Found it the next day)

Shots went without a hitch – Leah pleaded with me for no tears and preceded to teach another staff member how to prepare shots, which made me feel better that it wasn’t just me that was learning today!  I was given a plastic bag with the needles, vials and ice pack and headed straight home.

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The quickest part of this process so far – my ECG with Greek results – all good!

I cooked to relax (yes, I know that is strange for some) and due to my exhausted and emotional state I set an alarm for 8.30pm.  Another 30 minutes walk to hospital. The ECG was extremely quick and easy, in and out within, I swear, 2 minutes and the results were all good – a super positive as this means I can go under the aesthetic for the egg retrieval. Because that was over so quickly I had a wee wait to dwell on the shot so read my book – clever plan Amy! – and then 10pm came around.  The shot in the upper left quadrant of my left buttock  was quick but oh, so OUCH!!!!! Muscle is not  a fun place to have a shot, bring on the spongy European paunch of a stomach.  Being able to walk it off really helped and it was straight into bed ready for my ‘drug free day’ the next day.

My drug free day literally meant no injections (whoop whoop) but all of the other pills that I had been taking.  Little was I to know that the pill taking would increase by ten fold.  I was just so thankful that my day of being examined, poked, prodded, pinched, injected and inspected in all parts of my body was over.  Next stop – egg retrieval.

How do you solve a problem? Meet Maria

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Amazing treats greeted me including home made jam (“You will get pregnant if you eat this jam!”), cheese and home grown and marinated olives!

…Yes another altered song lyric.

Feeling the way I was, I was super thankful that this is when Maria came into my life!

Who could have thought that my Airbnb host would be able to lift my mood, drag me out of the dark and turn everything around.  She had guessed from my message that I was doing IVF as she had many other women stay in the apartment doing the same thing.  She had told me that she had accepted me right away when she had realised.

There was a massive gift basket wait for me filled with homemade delights, wine and everything else under the sun.  The homegrown and marinated olives are too die for and the best I have ever tried.

The apartment is just what I needed – air conditioned, balcony (covered and has an amazing breeze), hammock and table and chairs on the balcony, good kitchen, fabulous bed, washer, great wifi and other small features galore – like all the masses of herb pots that she encourages you to use and “you must make spaghetti”!

She gave me incredible advice on islands to visit for the day and how to ensure I rest up – where the supermarkets were and good homely food that I could take away if I need to or for when I could not cook.

She was a ball of energy and so excited to be helping me along the way.  She claimed that everyone who stayed in the apartment had gotten pregnant and that her homemade jam  would be key to help me get pregnant.

There were plenty of hugs and stern reminders that if I needed anything, ANYTHING I was to call as “doing it alone is not easy and I do not want you to ever, EVER think you are alone”.  After I proclaimed how amazing this all was and that she really did not have to do half of it, she stated “But it’s the way of the Greek’s, there is no other way”

She even works for her sister just down the road, who specialised in holistic treatments – Reiki, massage etc to help get the body ready for accepting an embryo/ pregnancy.

It’s crazy how life works out sometimes.

Thank goodness for Maria.

Oh my god, I’m back (in Athens) again…

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View of Athens from my hotel on the first visit – not too shabby

…a bit of old school and backstreets boys always helps to lift the mood.

After 6 nights in Berlin, 7 pills for breakfast each day and 2 at night, 1 birthday, 2 gut wrenching and head screwing text messages from my ex and 6 days of my cycle, it was back in Athens to get this not so party started.

No mucking around this time, I had the driver from the clinic come and get me (for a pretty sum), as I landed at 3.10pm and needed to be at Serum by 4pm.  Thank goodness I had done this, as the metro workers had gone on strike that day!  Arriving just after 4pm I was practically the only person there and it was smooth sailing and no waiting as I was whisked up to the 3rd floor, asked to empty my bladder and change into my now favourite left thigh accentuating wrap around.

It was straight into the scan with Penny to greet me – this time only her and Leah the nurse, and I was adamant there would be no tears.  The scan was started and I can’t quite catch a break…

Absolutely gut wrenching – only 1 follicle.  How to hold back the tears with this news?  Somehow I did, I have no idea how but I did – minor win.  There were a few tiny follicles but they wouldn’t be ready in time and one that was borderline so it was no more ‘Mrs Nice Lady’ and we were onto stimulants. Buggar!  Actually, to be honest, as long as someone else was doing it and I don’t have to watch I was completely fine.

Unfortunately I received 3 jabs – 1 blood test in the left arm, 1 shot of Merional and 1 of Cetrotide both in the stomach – thank goodness for the extra paunch I have gotten from all that European food eating, I felt nothing.

With that done, I was handed paper work to look over and told I needed an ECG by the time of egg collection – this Saturday (July 9th at 9am).  I was a bit annoyed at this as I am in a foreign country, have no idea of my way around and had asked before I came if there were any tests that I could do in China before I got here, to eliminate any of this stress and was told I did not need to worry.

I was told to be back at the clinic at 8.30am the next day for another scan to see how the eggs were progressing.

So, I was off, dragging my luggage behind me over the same minute, uneven, cobbled streets to try and find my apartment feeling super weird, slightly like a pin cushion, pumped full of hormones, a little pissed off but more emotional and questioning if I could do this all alone.

What had I been thinking?

And away we go…

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The time had come, it was off to Athens to start this part of the journey. Here I go.

Some how the time came, racing along at full speed, and I was heading to Athens to visit Serum for my first initial tests.

Due to the excuse of busy-ness and also trying to be as even and zen about what was happening to me, I had wanted to appear as relaxed and laid back as possible by putting all of my trust in the team at Serum and hadn’t asked too many questions.  Of course this was also part of my step by step, one foot in front of the other strategy.

I arrived in Athens on time and decided to make my way to the clinic via Metro forgetting that Greece runs on island time.  I had printed out directions and had made an appointment directly from the airport on the advice and suggestion of almost everyone involved in the process and from the many, many posts on ‘Fertility Friends’ websites.  Dragging my suitcase behind me over cobbled, narrow and uneven streets I arrived 20 mins after my ‘rough time’ which seemed to be no problem as it appears they keep quite a loose scheduling system, very well suited to cases like mine and overseas clients.

It was strange not having to fill in forms or confirm payments, they seem very laid back. After a small wait I was told to go to the 3rd floor where I was greeted and lead to a small room where I was told to empty my bladder and then get changed.  Ok – straight into it then.

Upon returning the nurse asked me what tests I was getting done – I looked at her blankly.  Finally we cleared up the fact that it was my first visit, that I had no clue and she then confirmed a few other details.  We had a laugh and were back on track.  My initial thought was – stay calm, I am sure this was just a small hiccup.

I had to don this hilarious too small wrap around sheet about the size of a hand towel, I think I am going to have to get used to manovering it over my left thigh to ensure the least flashing possible….ooooo sexy!  I sat for a few minutes and then was told to come into the next room where 3 people were – 1 being the famous Penny, who is the clinic director and founder of Serum.  She had a huge smile on her face in greeting but was straight to business – ‘Please sit down and put your legs up here, I will first do a scan’.  My god, it is run like a tight ship around here, understandably so but for someone coming off 4 and a half hours sleep, an early flight and going into the unknown it was all a bit much.

It was amazing to have someone be very quick and precise and so obviously know what they were talking about minus the judgement – all things I have had to endure during this process.

She informed me that my left ovary had 4 follies and that unfortunately my right ovary was not a good producer and that it may have 1-2 follicles.  We then got into a conversation about my eggs being accelerated to the state of a 41 year old, she then looked at me in disbelief and asked who had told me that?  While answering, it caused me to lose it and get emotional, tears leaking out.  All 3 tisked at doctors, then she put my legs together sat me up and gave it to me straight:

P: “How old are you?”

Me: “32”

P: “How old are your eggs?”

Me: “32”

P: “If I scanned a 41 year old and they produced 19 eggs.  What eggs would be better?”

Me: “32 year old eggs” (I was sobbing at this stage)

P: “ Thats right, it makes me so sad to see beautiful young girls so upset by the words of others. How many eggs does it take to make a baby?”

 “1” – We all chorused -laughing now (well, I was laugh crying)

She gave me a huge hug and asked: ‘So, why are you crying?”

Next she explained that she wanted to do an Aquascan. Luckily I had read that this was quite a common procedure at Serum.  It involves inserting a catheter into the uterus (“There are 3 things that you need to make a baby – an egg, sperm and a good baby growing environment” repeated Penny), passing saline through the catheter, blowing up the uterus to gain a look at every nook, crannie, scarring, mark etc.  It was amazing to see it on the monitor, it looked so small.  Excitedly she told me this was a perfect looking uterus, absolutely nothing there to impair anything and that it was able to be ready for 1 or even 2 babies.  It was a textbook scan.

She then scraped the side of my uterus to make it more optimal for implantation.  Thankfully I could not feel that at all (until an hour or so later when I got some pretty intense cramping).  Unfortunately she then told me that because the liquid had only stayed in the uterus that meant that my tubes were probably blocked, however because I am doing IVF this was not a problem.  I decided not to press for more information and find out about that later if it would influence things further down the track at some point….small step by small step.  I decided to flag this bad news and move on.

I was able to get dressed and then went to meet with her and the embryologist in her office on the 4th floor.  This proved to be the most informative part of the day and enabled me to ask the questions I needed to ask and get a clearer picture of things.

In summary:

  • Because of my right ovary and the extremely low number of follicles she does not want to use stimulants unless absolutely necessary.  She explained it “It’s like if you have a gun held to your head, it impairs you and makes you seize up or act differently than you normally would.  Stimulants can do that to your eggs (causing abnormalities or making them ‘freeze’ in growth) and with a limited number I do not want to do that to you, we want it to be as natural as possible.”
  • I will be following a protocol called ‘Natural supported cycle’.  Which means initially I will only take supplements to help improve egg quality and to prepare my uterus: Steroids, antibiotics (to counteract the scraping and clear the uterus of any bacterial invaders that may be present), Melatonin (to aid egg quality) and extra folic acid on top of the prenatal vitamin I am already taking.
  • NO NEEDLES at this point!!!  There are some bonuses to sucky egg numbers!  There may be stimulants later after my Day 5/6 scan if some follicles aren’t developing properly (to help them along), but they will administer them! Whew!!!
  • This part is a little gross: I need to collect drops of my blood when my cycle starts so they can test it when I am back (as I won’t be there during it), to make sure there is no infection and all is good.
  • I will be back in Athens on July 6th, straight from the airport to the clinic (taxi this time), to ensure I have a scan to make sure everything is developing ok and then adjust anything that needs to be adjusted before retrieval.
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Pills only at this stage…whew!

After that it was the logistics of obtaining the medications and payment for the Aquascan (E200) and medication (E47).  This was way lower than the E1500-E2000 that I had expected after researching….although I may be paying big amounts for stimulants if they are needed when I am back.

I was then taken through the printed out sheet of instructions Penny had given me 1 more time, given a plastic cup and saline for blood collection and I was out the door on my way to the hotel up the street, emotional and desperate for a lay down but feeling a thousand times better knowing that I am in great hands with someone at the helm who comes across as your Greek Grandma.  Just what you need when you are doing this alone – “Amy, the lovely, kind, beautiful girl, who has not yet met her prince.  She will have everything ready for him”.