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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