Creating Life in a Laboratory

Let’s talk babies! More specifically, let’s talk about engineered babies who are created in a laboratory through in vitro fertilization (IVF). My wife, Kristine, and I went through a scientific process called IVF to have our two beautiful children. We actually did ICSI (pronounced: ick-see); which stands for intracytoplasmic sperm injection. We went through five IVF procedures to have our two kids. In other words, two of our five attempts were successful. And, it was the last two tries that gave us our lovely progeny!

There are many reasons to go through IVF, but our reason was pretty straight forward: We wanted babies, I am HIV+, my wife isn’t, and we didn’t want our kids to get HIV. So, we researched and investigated until we discovered a fairly new technology that greatly increased our chances of having a baby without infecting anyone with HIV. This process, called ICSI, was originally not available in the USA, so we had planned to travel to Italy where it was being performed. Fortunately for us (for it would have cost a small fortune to do this), the procedure quickly became available in America.

Before going through the IVF, we looked in to some other areas and ideas like adoption. Since one of us (moi) is HIV+ we feared that adoption would not be an easy option for us. Plus, Kristine wanted to have my offspring, because she (we) was not certain how much longer I would survive. So, we decided that adoption wasn’t for us. Next, we researched having my dad be a sperm donor. In this way, we could have part of my genes in our child(ren). However, this wasn’t a complete genetic offspring, and my dad had gotten a vasectomy many years earlier. So, this was not an option either. Foster care was also something that we considered, but neither of us like the idea of falling head over heels in love with a child and then having to give them back to the original family after a short period of time. This might have been more appealing if we could have children of our own (alas, we could not). Foster parenting felt like a tortuous thing to put ourselves through. So, for a while anyway, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we wouldn’t have children.

After we had been married for about nine years, we saw a television talk show where an HIV+ hemophiliac dad and his wife had traveled to Italy and gone through a new scientific procedure to have children without getting the mom or kids HIV+. This was amazing and exciting to us. So, Kristine and I both started looking into this. Our plan was to travel to Italy and do a similar IVF procedure. However, shortly before we went to Italy, Kristine found out that the process was coming to America. So, we got on the list to do the ICSI IVF here in America.

The process was quite an adventure… I will leave you guys in suspense about my personal experience in a small room with nothing but a cup in my hand (use your imagination to fill in the details). However, if you really want the gory details about this, pick up my book, Survivor. Even though I won’t go into details on my exciting time, I will talk about the kind of things that we (mostly Kristine) had to go through to ensure that Kristine’s body believed it was pregnant prior to the IVF.

Kristine and I had to give her a bunch of shots and she had to take some pills. Her experience broke down like this:

Pre-Egg Removal Operation
1. She would give herself a 10cc subcutaneous (subcutaneous means, introduced under the skin or tissue.) shot of “Lupron” (leuprolide acetate) each morning for 15 days.
(Leuprolide acetate is a synthetic nonapeptide analog of naturally occurring gonadotropin releasing hormone. Obfuscation aside, it increased her estrone and estradiol levels. Basically, it is used to trick her body into believing it’s pregnant.)

2. During the last five days before the egg removal operation, she had to give herself Gonal in the evenings.

3. She finished up with a shot of Avidril hCG as the final subcutaneous shot two evenings before the retrieval operation.

All in all it was a bunch of shots and Kristine was a trooper!

Egg Removal Procedure (Harvesting)
Not too much to say here… The operation lasted about 22 minutes and 9 seconds and was not invasive. Afterwards, Kristine was pretty sedate and adorable.

Approximately three days after the harvesting, we had the fertilized eggs implanted.

Post-Egg Removal and Insertion
1. That evening she started taking Doxycycline orally.

2. Then she started giving herself an intravaginal medication called Prometrium, which is projesterone.

Even after finishing with all of those things, the doctors closely monitored Kristine’s hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) levels. These indicate that the embryo was good and growing at a healthy rate.

Getting pregnant is not as easy as you may have thought!

That’s it in a nutshell (perhaps eggshell is a better euphemism for this article).

Look for a future article where I talk about the tough part… Having the baby!

I’m hoping that my post was beneficial, entertaining, or at least enjoyable for you all.

Happy baby making,
Vaughn

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About Vaughn Ripley

Vaughn is a happily married daddy, author, and CIO. He is an HIV+ hemophiliac, and is one of the longest surviving HIV+ people in the universe.
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Follow Vaughn on Twitter: @vripley
Like Vaughn's page on the Facebook: www.facebook.com/VaughnFRipley
Read his personal blog: HIVLongevity.com
Visit his web page: www.VaughnRipley.com

Comments

  1. “Happy baby making!” Really? As if we all have an extra 100K laying in the bank so we can rush off and make babies. I’m So glad it was so easy-breezy for you! Thanks for letting us know about this brand new tech breakthrough that I’m sure none of us knew about until you so thoughtfully brought it to our attention!

    • Hi Elise,

      Thank you for your honest (and blunt) comment.

      We (my wife and I) do not have $100K just laying around, and my family is not rich (money-wise) by any means (this is in reference to your comment on my Survivor book page on the Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/Survivor.Vaughn.Ripley ). However, we both worked at the time of these attempts and we had (and have) great health insurance; which covered a very large portion of the costs.

      My wife had a miscarriage and we lost a total of three of the babies before we finally were able to have our two children… Also, my daughter was born with esophageal atresia and was operated on when she was one-day old. She also spent the first month of her life in Children’s hospital. So, I wouldn’t exactly call it “easy-breezy.” However, we do consider ourselves fortunate.

      The first in vitro “test tube” baby occurred in 1978. ICSI was first introduced in the early 90s. So, you are correct that this is not a “brand new” breakthrough… However, my wife and I were on the leading edge, considering we were one of the first serodiscordant couples (where one partner is HIV-positive and one partner is HIV-negative) to do this in America (we did our first attempt in 2001, when it first became available).

      I wrote this article and “brought it to your attention” because almost everyone that I know had not heard of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). And, folks often ask me about our experience and to please share the details. So, I was simply sharing.

      It is my hope that someone out there gains some valuable insight and or information from each and every one of my post. That said, I am not naive enough to believe that every single post will be new and breakthrough to every person, nor even please every person. I’m cool with that.

      I will continue to write what I feel and want to, because this is my blog and platform. Obviously, everyone is welcome to comment here and I will not censor anything (unless I determine it to be so atrocious that I would not care to have it shared on my blog, at which time I will exercise my right and remove it).

      It truly is my hope that I can inspire people through my articles, my book, my life story, and my positive attitude. Yes, I did say “my” a bunch of times there… This is after all, “my” web page.

      Hopefully you can see my sincerity in my words and the caring in my heart with everything shared here.

      Posted with love,
      Vaughn Ripley

    • Dan McNally says:

      “Really? As if we all have an extra 100K laying in the bank so we can rush off and make babies . . . ” Please tell, what is a child (or two as fantastic as Vaughn’s are) worth? And while I’m asking questions, why do NBA players get to drive Lamborghini automobiles? Not all of us have an extra $200,000 “laying” in the bank. Well, I’ll be glad to tell you. Because this is the United States of America, the fools from “Occupy” do not yet own the government, and wealth redistribution hasn’t occurred yet. We have the freedom to make decisions as to how we spend our money as we wish. We also still have people who value their families and their children. By the way . . . if you don’t “have $100,000” for a child, don’t have any, because the cost of having, raising, and education one far exceeds that. Congratulations to Vaughn and Kristine for deciding to put their money into a fantastic and loving family, rather than spending it all on themselves. Vaughn is a much nicer person than I am . . . I am a bit of a curmudgeon, and see attacks against others for the choices they make, that harm no one and bring great joy into their world, as meaningless chatter of judgmental, small minded people who have yet to grow up . . . but that is just me.

      Posted with anger,

      Dan McNally

      • Dan,

        I wouldn’t call you a curmudgeon, but I really do love (and appreciate) your opinion. While Elise’s comment did catch me off guard and hurt a little, I believe that is the beauty of blogs and online forums… It is great to hear from different points of view and perspectives.

        Thank you for chiming in, and keep on keeping on!

        -V

    • Wow, Elise! You think it was “easy-breezy” on them? It involves lots of office visits, rigorous schedules, medications including injectable hormones, surgery to remove the eggs, and financial and emotional risk. However, is cases like the Ripley’s it is cheaper than infecting people with HIV- the birth mother and their children. I agree with Dan, this is a lot cheaper than raising a child. I am going to assume your harsh comments are out of jealousy, maybe frustration over personal infertility?

    • Barbara Gardell says:

      Wow. Such venom. If you don’t like his posts or book, don’t read them. As a parent who went through IVF it is absolutely NOT easy breezy. And our insurance covered most if it as well. There must be a reason for your anger and I would guess that nasty posts online is not the best remedy.

    • Kristine Ripley says:

      Don’t appreciate your comments. Yes, we have been fortunate but we have also worked towards it. If money is so tough for you (it is for us too), there are things you can do. And it was a breakthough for us. Invitro was not available to couples like us until April 2001 and we jumped at the chance! In 2005 we finally had our 1st child so we went though our fair share of struggles.

    • William A. Altizer says:

      Elise,

      If two consenting adults have the means to produce a child together, that is a blessing. Vaughn Ripley is one of the most selfless and kind human beings I have ever had the privilege to know. I think your comments about his journey represent something that is negative burning within you vice your thoughts on this procedure. Think about it. Two married people in love have an extreme challenge in conceiving a child so they pursued this method and were successful. They also provide a public service that describes the process for other aspiring parents. Much love and respect Ripleys!

      • Alan,

        Thanks so much for the kind words! Phil H stayed over with his wife and kids and we spent the night reminiscing about the old days. Your name came up a few times and we smiled all night! Miss you, brother!

        Hope all is well,
        Vaughn

  2. Childbearing can be such a hard subject, especially for those that struggle with Infertility or pregnancy losses. Many people assume, when they see an adult with a baby or child that the journey was easy. For 1 in 8 couples, it’s not because of infertility. Between 25-50% of pregnancies end in early miscarriage. It’s easy to make assumptions when the result is seen, but rarely are those assumptions correct.

    • Julie,

      So very true. And, so heartbreaking. Thank you for your response and your touching statistics. Life is rarely easy (with or without trying to have children) and I (along with most of my friends) aspire to make the most of it.

      Thanks,
      Vaughn

  3. James Nicoll says:

    I am unsure what would make Elise so mad. For most of the world, its pretty damn free to go off and make babies. For those in similar health circumstances as Vaughn, its not easy. He was outlining why it wasn’t easy. If this was a post to brag about having 100k kicking around and nothing better to do with it than make lab babies, that’s one thing. But it isn’t. If I was to write a blog about how hard it was to get an MS in Infectious Disease with no biology background, I would hate to think that the first comment would be “NOT EVERYONE OF US HAS 100k TO KICK AROUND AND GO TO GEORGETOWN EASY BREEZY.” The point is things that can be simple for some, require massive sacrifice and struggle for others. If one is willing and able to shoulder that burden things once deemed impossible, say having HIV free babies with an HIV+ parent, are possible. Even if it means temporarily burdening the family with massive costs.

  4. First off let me congratulation you on your children, what you and your wife went through was not easy well maybe your part, but taking the shots everyday put your wife through an emotional roller coaster ride, but holding your babies made it worth all the pain. Thank you for sharing your story, you are giving others hope. I am glad you kept that one comment, though I did not like it and wanted to tell her off, but didn’t want to lower myself to her level. I feel sorry for her in some ways, she must be a very sad person.

  5. In response to Elise’s comments…..Although ICSI is not new, many people have not heard of it nor know it may be an option for them. Kudos to Vaughn for providing information.

    Her suggestion that the cost is 100K is not only inaccurate but misleading. Someone may read this and immediately think that pursuing ICSI is beyond their reach due to cost. IVF treatment averages about $12,000, the addition of ICSI is about $1500. This is not cheap but a far cry from the number she stated.

    I too was able to bring two wonderful children into this world thanks to ICSI. Nothing about it was “easy-breezy” but I was fortunate to have excellent insurance that covered a large amount of the cost. To others that may have read Elise’s comments, don’t be discouraged- this option may be in your reach.

    Thanks Vaughn….Keep doing what you’re doing!

  6. Wow! Good for you Vaughn and Kristine for finding a way to have two healthy children sans HIV. Great info and resource for people wanting to do just that. Thanks for sharing! Darling picture of Kristine and baby btw.

  7. Congratulations on your children. I have an HIV+ Son, because his mother was unknowingly infected by an old boyfriend. I do have one observation about your post. I think that you’ve made a technically grammatical error that gives the wrong impression.

    I don’t think you can or should refer to IVF as “engineering babies” Simply because the sperm and egg were introduced outside the body to create the baby. this is not “engineering,” (which is the manipulation of the genetic material to effect changes to what would have otherwise developed from the combination of Egg and Sperm naturally.)

    Be sure to enjoy your kids now. As they get older you will really begin missing the younger years. They grow and change too fast. : )

    • Hi Robert,

      I’m sorry to hear about your son. It is a battle and struggle at times, but with today’s technology ad rapidly improving medicines he should be able to lead a relatively normal life.

      Thanks for pointing out the engineering error. So true. I was just using fun words, but you’re right about giving the wrong impression.

      Every day with my kids is a blessing and I do try to enjoy them daily. I already see some of the changing… Gosh I love them to death!

      Thanks again!

      -V

      • Thanks. He has had a fairly normal life and I couldn’t be prouder. He turns 16 on the 23rd and has been doing great. He’s been undetectable since he was about 4, with an above average T-cell count. I think he got his immune system from me, as I rarely get sick : ) I ride to help keep it that way. We’ll do anything for our kids, right? I hope your health is as good.

  8. Sheila Corrigan says:

    All of us have so much on our plate. The is no ease in navigating through life. I applaud Vaughan and Kristine for making their dream a reality. They have two little people that they love and cherish and what could be more magnificent?

    The anonymity of the Internet has created a nastiness that is frightening. As my Dad has likes to say, “there is never room for unkindness.” If you take it personally, you give it power and unkindness shouldn’t rob a single moment of your life. Those that inflict it upon another have their personal demons and, if they don’t have the tools or the strength to deal with it themselves, they inflict it upon another.

    I hope that Vaughan and Kristine continue to share their stories. They are hopeful and inspiring.

    Sheila Corrigan

    • Thanks, Sheila! I agree whole-heartedly about the anonymity of the web. When we were growing up you got a little of that in a car and many people are rude drivers. Now it’s at an all-time high with complete identity secrecy. Some people just feel free to say whatever they like despite other people’s feelings or beliefs. I will continue to share!

      -V

      • Hi Colin – you’ve got it correct first go. It uses the area winds of the departure point which is a limitation of the system for now. In the mean time you can double-check and input winds manually (maybe lookup wind/temp profile on NAIPS, although that only works for high-level).

  9. Sheila Corrigan says:

    OOPS…I meant to write…’There’ is no ease in navigating through life.

  10. Wow!
    Good for you! Heated debate here huh?…Angry folks jump to quick conclusions don’t they? Some people argue for the sake of arguing…..not I. Life is too short…..be happy.

  11. Fertility treatments are not cheap, but there are many ways to make it affordable. Check out http://blog.shadygrovefertility.com/2013/08/20/affording-fertility-treatment-what-are-my-options/ for more information if you are struggling to have a child and want to learn about the financial options available.

  12. What a great article! My husband and I are currently going through IVF and it has been anything from easy. My ignorance in the beginning was similar to those who have never been through it-I was expecting “good news” the first month we tried IUI and after three negative cycles, I have now realized it’s not as simple as one may think. I do think and hope the lack of knowledge will decrease with blogs and information like this one. I remember telling a friend about our IVF and his response was “Yea, my wife will probably want that, too”. I felt hurt and a bit pissed because the mentality of “choosing IVF” could not be further from the truth.

    The ups and downs of an IVF cycle cannot be explained without the countless injections, hormones (ask my husband, he’ll agree) and countless visitations to the doctor’s office. They get so old, so fast, but keeping a positive spirit will make that one day so worth it when we get the positive result. Now, as for going into labor-that’s a whole different thing.

    Thank you for sharing this, you are an inspiration and much braver than I am, as I am signing my posting nameless.

    • What a great response! Thanks so much for sharing your experience (despite not sharing your name – which is fine). Good luck with the process!!!

      p.s. You are (clearly) plenty brave!

  13. Elizabeth baugher says:

    Hey Vaughn ,
    I’m appaled at Elise’s posting! I was able to get pregnant ” naturally” and still lost six babies. No matter how or why it happens it is enough to rip your heart out certainly nothing easy or breezy about that. Thank god I now have three healthy and happy kids but I will never forget my angels.
    Kudos to you for putting important info out there.
    E

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Trackbacks

  1. […] way for us to have children in circa 2002. It is called ICSI (you can read more about this in my in vitro article) in vitro fertilization. We made several attempts before finally being successful and having our […]

  2. […] You can read more about IVF here: healthywealthytribe.com/creating-life-in-a-laboratory. […]

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