The Unexpected Gift

TimeWhen I decided to be a gestational carrier my main focus was helping out two amazing people in their quest to parenthood.  I never imagined that through this journey I would gain something from it other than some additional attention.

It has now been 5 months since the baby was born and in hindsight this pregnancy in many ways saved me.  I had been at my past employer for nine and half years when I went out on disability a couple of months prior to the birth.  It was not an easy time for me.  I felt poorly.  I was unable to take care of my children and the simplest things were very taxing to me.  After the baby was born, they could not get me to stop bleeding and because of this my hemoglobin count dropped to a 7.  The doctor told me average range was 12-14.  Because of this drop in my hemoglobin I was anemic.  I never realized how debilitating that could be.  I had body aches and pain, chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue.  About a week and half post-partum I started to feel like myself again (thanks to the iron supplements I was taking) and that is when it hit me like a bolt of lightning.

The first time I was taking a shower when I burst into tears.  Not realizing how loudly I was crying my husband came in to see what was wrong.  I looked at him and said, “I do not want to go back.”  There were no additional words needed he knew what I meant by that.  A week later he had just finished drumming and I was working at the computer.  I turned around on the chair to face him and burst into tears again, and said “I really do not want to go back.”  Without hesitation Will said I do not how we will do it, we will figure it out, but you aren’t going to go back.  He then said you better write your resignation letter.  Just the thought of that made my stomach do flip flops and caused me to feel anxious, but I sat down and wrote it.

To say I had been unhappy for some time would be an understatement and the details aren’t really important.  For some reason however, I never had the courage to do something about it.  After the baby was born something inside of me changed.  I can’t really explain it, but I will say this.  Seeing how in a split second the lives of two people changed so much, was like an epiphany to me.  These two incredible parents now had their family.  A journey for them that had many bumps in the road, but they never gave up.  Somewhere along my own journey I had silently cried defeat.  But in that moment something renewed me and gave me the sense that I needed to make some changes.

That pregnancy as a gestational carrier will always be different and special for many reasons.  However, one of the biggest reasons will always be for the first in many years I finally took a step in the right direction towards my road of happiness.  There were some sacrifices I had to make, but it has been more than worth it.  With this renewed feeling of life and love I truly believe that my future has endless possibilities and for that I will always be indebted to “Baby Wednesday”.

Baby Wednesday is Born

“And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make.”

June 10, 2015 my journey as a gestational carrier ended.  “Baby Wednesday” was born at 2:59 PM and altered the lives of everyone in the room with me that day.  For me it was a moment of closure of a process that had carried on for a lot longer than 9 months; for the intended parents it was a moment of joyous tears; and for the medical staff that were there that day they watched in awe over this rare moment.

June 5th was the first day I thought maybe my journey was coming to end as I began to have contractions that went on for several hours, but then it stopped.  The following day was Saturday and my family went to my parents’ house as they lived closer to the hospital that I was going to deliver at.  During the day I began to have some serious contractions and then they stopped.  We stayed at my parents’ house thinking that it might start up again overnight, but it didn’t.  The next morning after breakfast my husband and I packed up our kids and went home.  In the late afternoon I began to have some very painful contractions and I was convinced this was it.  We drove down to my parents’ house again and then the contractions stopped, again.   Frustrated and tired I was looking forward to my appointment I had the next day with the midwives to find out what was going on.

During the appointment I found out I was dilated 2 cm, but no signs of immediate labor were apparent.  I was scheduled for the next day, Tuesday to be induced.  I was so excited as were the parents.  Overnight there was a storm.  I am not sure if it was the change in the barometric pressure or just coincidence, but apparently every woman in the tri-state area (I might be exaggerating a little bit), except for me went into labor.  By 8:00 AM my inducement time got pushed back till 3:00 PM.  Needless to say I was more than ready to have the pitocin drip begin.  Unfortunately, after hours of having the pitocin drip in me it was 1:00 AM and my contractions were still rather irregular.  It was thought best to quit until the next morning (6:00 AM) to get some rest.  I however got no rest.  I was still pregnant with a baby leaning heavy on my bladder and no position was comfortable.  On top of that, every so often a nurse was coming in to take my blood pressure, check the baby monitors, etc.  I was exhausted by the time the morning came.

Since the pitocin had proven not to be so effective the next morning it was thought best to begin with an oral inducement as well as the pitocin.  But I was warned that if my body was not ready this could possibly not work.  The midwife spoke to me about breaking my water, however if the baby was still not born within 48 hours of breaking my water, a c-section would have to be done.  Tired and so done, I was up for anything.  The intended parents really did not want to see a c-section happen as they were concerned for my well-being.  I anxiously waited to see what would happen.

As luck would have it a couple hours after the pitocin, the midwives felt pretty confident with breaking my water.  My labor was progressing and I was well on my way to an epidural.  Needless to say the epidural for me was glorious as I was unaware of how imminent delivery would be.  It was not until I asked the midwife at around 2:30 if she thought they baby was going to be born before dinner and her reply was, “She will be born in the next half hour,” that I realized that “it” was happening.”

Nine minutes of pushing, that’s all it took.  Beautiful, miraculous, “Baby Wednesday” was born.  The moments that followed were ones filled with relief, joy, and tears.  It’s funny in hindsight I can see how we were all part of something so much bigger than what we realized at the time.  The staff kept saying what an awesome moment it was to see and experience, but for us it was just living, experiencing the moment.

It was not easy for any of us to get to that moment, but it felt good to be there.  Now there is one family completed and full of so much love.  I am so happy that I could do that for them.  For me, I am glad that I can now focus on my own family.  If there is not one thing I have learned through this experience is that love is a very powerful thing.  It can transcend us to do things we thought we would never do.  Never take love for granted and never underestimate it because love truly will get you through anything and everything.

The End is Near

It’s funny when I started this whole process as a gestational carrier one of the things that was told to me time after time from every professional was think about all the situations that could arise and plan for them.  However, just as I predicted there is no way of thinking of every possible scenario, and last week was one of those moments. 

I was at the 37 week checkup and afterwards the office had a mini class for those who were coming close to being due.  During the class the topic of having active labor came up and how to “work” through the pain and that is when it dawned on me.  With Liam and Ava in those moments of pain I told myself in the end there would be my son or daughter in my arms, and although it surely did not make the pain any better, it did renew my sense of perseverance.  I am slightly nervous now thinking about how I do not have the same motivation this time.  Yes in the end there will be a baby and a beautiful new family, however what will I have?  I am not trying to get something out of this, but I am slightly worried that I might feel….empty when this is all over.  Does that sound horrible?

I have told my husband how important it will be for me to see the kids as soon as I can after the delivery.  To have them in my arms to kiss, hold, and hug, I think it will help a lot.  I have also told him that after the baby is born and everyone is excitedly buzzing around the new baby and parents, that I might need a little extra TLC.  I worry now slightly that the aftermath might be a little harder than I had anticipated.  It isn’t that I want another baby, it’s far from that, it’s more just knowing what I am about to go through and having the strength to do it.  

10917266_819323801447500_6350335670359871823_nLiam and Ava I believe understand that the baby is not coming home with us as this is a constant conversation that I have with them.  I am so unbelievably happy that I have done this and if asked if I would do it knowing everything I know now, my answer would be yes.  However, I am looking forward to going back to status quo in my home.  I am also looking forward to having my body and life back.

9 Weeks and Counting

Baby DeliveryWell here I am 9 weeks away from D- Day and I am starting to feel like it’s the end.  Restless legs, charley horses, back pain, insomnia, and unable to catch my breath, I am in the uncomfortable stage of it all.

I sleep upright most nights to help with the breathing; however that is hard on my back and bladder.  I am up about every hour and half to go to the bathroom throughout the night, partly because of the pressure on my bladder, but partly because I am constantly thirsty and chugging water (I guess there are worse things).  However, nothing is as bad as the charley horses and restless legs.  That has been driving me insane.

Three nights ago I did not get very much sleep; maybe a couple of hours at best.  I was real delight that day.  My wonderful, supportive husband was amazing, as he dealt with my mini-breakdowns, and did his best to make me comfortable. I knew I needed to do something to at least to try to alleviate some of the discomfort.  Last night I took a hot bath before going to bed and for once my legs did not twitch.  I fell asleep in the tub and I might dry out my skin in the process, but if that’s what I need to do to sleep I will do it every night.  I also started eating a banana right before I go to bed hoping that will help with the charley horses.  A lot of people speculate that charley horses are result of dehydration (which is certainly not the case for me) or lack of potassium (possible).

I always find it interesting that at the very end of pregnancy it becomes unbearable.  Is labor not enough?  However, maybe that is the way it is intended to be.  I am in such discomfort the thought of labor does not phase me.  Sure it’s painful, yadda, yadda, yadda.  But, hey at least after it’s all over I will not be waking up in the middle of the night in agony grasping my calf muscle in pain, all while trying not to pee myself, because I have to go to the bathroom, again.

Yes I must admit as this third trimester is wrapping up I am getting quite anxious for D-Day.  I keep picturing in my mind what it will be like.  Of course, I am sure it will be nothing like I imagine, but one thing is for sure I can not wait to see the intended parents hold their baby girl in their arms.

I’m Back….

So I know I have been MIA for a while but as you probably can only imagine sometimes life has more planned for you than you expected.  Between doctor visits, nauseousness, extreme fatigue, work, and my own little cherubs it all seems like a blur right now.   However it is important that I get back to my writing as it has always been therapeutic for me.

So I am now 15 weeks pregnant and out of the first trimester.  But before I get to today let me rewind to 9 weeks ago.  I last left it 6 weeks pregnant and possibly carrying two.   Well, I had something happen to me what is commonly called “Vanishing Twin Syndrome.”  This basically means that both embryos took but for whatever reason one of them did not progress past 6 weeks.  Over the last several weeks the embryo has slowly been absorbed and no longer exists.  I am very thankful that the other baby is doing well, but I would be lying if I said I was not disappointed.  I really had hoped for more than one, however as I have been often reminded I should be thankful for the well progressing baby inside me.

Nauseousness and extreme fatigue in the first trimester haunted me.  I was also down for the count for a week with a very bad cold which there is nothing you can take when pregnant to alleviate the symptoms.  On top of that the headaches and migraines have been quite a frequent symptom.  Unfortunately, one of the hormones that I am taking can cause headaches.  Luckily I am at the point now where I am being weaned off the drugs. One more week and I will be done with the progesterone (just in time for Christmas).

I promise to write more frequently now that I am feeling better.  I missed you and I hope you continue on my journey with me.

Shots, and Tests, and Transfer, Oh My!

To actually become a gestational carrier there are many tests that the carrier and her partner must do first.   I had to go through extensive blood work.  This blood work was to make sure my thyroid was working to par and that I had no blood clotting issues.  Thyroid hormone plays a critical role during pregnancy both in the development of a healthy baby and in maintaining the health of the mother.  Women with thyroid problems can have a healthy pregnancy and protect their fetuses’ health by learning about pregnancy’s effect on the thyroid, keeping current on their thyroid function testing, and taking the required medications.  It just so happens I produce a thyroid hormone which is called hypothyroidism and can cause many of the body’s functions to slow down.  Mine was very minimal and I believe it was not an issue but since I was going through all this effort I did go on thyroid medication to help the thyroid work at its fullest potential.  Since blood clotting can pose problems in the IVF process with all of the hormones (estrogen) that are taken, it is essential to have that tested.  We also had my blood tested to make sure there were no infectious diseases that I could be carrying (don’t be insulted; they need to cross every t and dot every i).  Your partner will have to have his blood tested as well to verify he is not carrying anything that could be passed to you (again do not be insulted; It’s protocol). Next both you and your partner have to go through a psychological evaluation.   The psychological evaluation is intended to assess the candidate’s:

  • Motivation for serving as a carrier
  • Understanding and appreciation of the psychological and emotional implications involved
  • Understanding and appreciation of the time commitment and medical aspects of treatment
  • Perspectives about the future child and oneself in relation to that child now and in the future
  • Current psychological and emotional stability
  • Preparedness for various cycle outcomes
  • Reliability and responsibility
  • Lifestyle factors

Do not underestimate how vital your partner will be to you in this process.  My husband has truly been my lifeline and I would have not been able to do this without him.  Make sure you really discuss the implications this will bring on your relationship and family.

The next thing I needed to have done is a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) which is an x-ray that looks inside of the uterus, in the fallopian tubes and the areas around it. This is often done for women who are having a hard time getting pregnant.  Many times for women it is caused by blockages in the fallopian tubes.  Even though I have had two successful pregnancies, I still had to take the test because I was advised that blockages could occur at any time.  The doctors wanted to rule out any reason that the IVF transfer would not work before they went through the whole process.  The intended mother had already warned me that it was an uncomfortable test and I would certainly agree.  The procedure itself is rather quick (once the catheter is inserted it takes less than a minute), however I’m not going to kid you, when the catheter was first inserted I thought I was going to pass out.  I asked the doctor for a minute to take a few deep breaths which he allowed and then he inserted the dye.  Again the intended mother had told me that it would be like a burning sensation which is true but it’s not painful (although I have heard if there are blockages it can be).  During the x-ray dye is put into a catheter which is put through your cervix into the uterus.  The uterus and the fallopian tubes are hooked together so as the dye flows through the fallopian tubes pictures are taken using an x-ray and the doctors will be able to see if the uterus and fallopian tubes show problems such as injuries or abnormal structures or blockage that would prevent an egg from going through.  In my case there were no blockages and no issues which meant I just cleared the last medical hurdle

The next step for the gestational carrier is to begin medication.  The doctor will start you out with a low dose of Estrogen and then with observation will increase it.  I started on one pill of estrogen and was increased up to 4 pills of estrogen over a three week period.  During the time the estrogen is given I to go back to the office periodically to be monitor using an ultrasound to determine the thickness of the uterine lining and a blood test to look at the levels of estrogen my blood.

Once the doctor is satisfied by your hormone levels and thickness of the uterine lining you can now start the progesterone. The intended mother had warned me that part just stinks. I would agree with her but luckily it’s only once a day and it’s for good cause.  The progesterone matures the uterine lining and makes it receptive to an embryo implant. Once progesterone has begun there is a certain window of time when the implantation can occur so the transfer of the embryo must be done at a precise time. Therefore the only factor that locks the patient into performing the transfer on a certain day is starting the progesterone. Once the progesterone has begun, if the embryo transfer is not performed on a certain day the cycle must be canceled and the new preparation of hormones must begin after allowing a period to occur.  It can be very frustrating constantly rearranging your schedule for blood work, checkups, and for the transfer (there is no wiggle room for that day). However if all goes well it is well worth it.

For me I take two forms of progesterone which I am still doing till the end of the first trimester.  The first is a progesterone injection and it must be administered in the muscle of either you lower back or in the thigh (thigh is not preferable and it hurts much more).  It must be done in the muscle because it is thick oil and if it is administered in fat it will never be disbursed into your body.   I’m not going to lie to you; after a week of taking turns on each side of your back, you are sore. I have found that taking hot baths or hot showers before the injection helps and after the injection rubbing the area with a warm washcloth.  It helps loosens the muscle and soothe the area.  The other form of progesterone that I take is progesterone suppositories one in the morning and one in the evening.

The actually transfer of the embryos was a rather quick process.  I was instructed to drink 32 ounces of water and I was given a Valium to take (that part was very nice 🙂 ) The sedative was to relax me.  The actual transfer is not uncomfortable, but if the office is running late and you are sitting around with 32 ounces of water in your bladder, that is uncomfortable.  When it was finally time to do the transfer, I was brought into a room with the intended parents.  I lay down on a table and an ultrasound was used to help guide the doctor as he transferred the embryos.  The embryos were loaded into a fine tube catheter that passed through the vagina and cervix into the uterus. In my case two embryos were deposited.

1197104193998287648papapishu_Baby_boy_crawling.svg.hiThe hardest part is the waiting period afterwards.  It is an excruciating two weeks of not knowing and it is highly suggested you don’t take a pregnancy test. It is possible to get a false reading because of the hormones being taken.  It is on the very early side when you go back to do blood work for the pregnancy test. It is about 12 days after the transfer.  Five hours after my blood work I received the wonderful news that I was pregnant.  🙂

What is Gestational Surrogacy?

Credit Due to http://step1removelenscap.blogspot.com/2010/11/waiting-for-their-miracle-daughter.html
Credit Due to http://step1removelenscap.blogspot.com/2010/11/waiting-for-their-miracle-daughter.html

As I defined in an earlier post a gestational carrier is a surrogate who carries a pregnancy and delivers a child that is created from the egg and the sperm of the intended parents. The gestational surrogate is not genetically related to the child and acts only as a gcarrier for the pregnancy (That is what I am).  A traditional surrogate either undergoes artificial insemination or IVF with sperm from the male. The surrogate herself provides the eggs and is therefore genetically related to the child.

One of the most frustrating things about this process is how unclear the path is that you need to take.  First of all, from state to state it varies in what is allowed and what is needed to be done.  For example in New Jersey surrogacy is illegal (Baby M Case), however being a gestational carrier is not.  In DC any form of surrogacy is void under law which makes it criminal to enter in or assist in forming a surrogacy contract.  In 2012 New Jersey had a chance to relax its surrogacy laws, but Governor Christie shot the bill down saying, “While some all applaud the freedom to explore these new, and sometimes necessary, arranged births, others will note the profound change in the traditional beginnings of the family that this bill will enact. I am not satisfied that these questions have been sufficiently studied by the Legislature at this time.” (I am having a hard time not pointing out the fact that the Governor was not opposed to untraditional methods to losing weight.) This bill would have eliminated the three-day waiting period for parents of children born to surrogates to be listed on their birth certificates. It also would have required the “gestational carrier” to surrender custody of the child immediately upon the child’s birth.

To add to all of this even though gestational carrying and surrogacy has been going on since the 80’s, it has only been in recent years something that people talk about.  This once taboo subject finally is acceptable for public discussion. I have learned the general public knows very little about it and therefore does not know what options may be available to them.

I could not help but think through the first few hurdles we had to cross we were up to random luck if this would work.  After many discussions with the intended parents it was obvious that you need to know more than any of the professionals and in some cases have to teach them what they need to do.  Still there was this constant gnawing feeling of what the next landmine would be that we would have to navigate through. I only hoped we didn’t step on a mine that would detonate the whole thing.

Some insurance companies have no idea what their protocol is for surrogacy and other insurance companies have very specific exclusions of what is and isn’t allowed. I had to call my insurance three times to get a clear answer and I still think the last woman I stoke to was guessing.  The intended parents that I am doing this for are very fortunate and have an insurance that not only covered the process leading up to the transfer of the embryos, but will also cover me for the next nine (9) months for pregnancy related issues.

Then there are the doctors themselves.  It is very important that you use a doctor that has done this before.  One error in insurance coding and it could cost you thousands of dollars and years of clearing it up.  On the same note in New Jersey you need to have a surrogacy contract to move forward having a transfer done.  However, not all family law attorneys practice in surrogacy law.  It is never a good sign when you ask an attorney how much they charge for a pre-birth order and the reply is, “What’s that?” A veteran attorney in this field is a must. Although it is costly it is not only necessary by state law, but it will help clear up any confusion of what the intended parents and surrogate’s roles and responsibilities are.

Well it is time for me sign off for now, but before I do last Friday I was officially 5 weeks pregnant.

Explaining Pregnancy to a Three Year Old

Last Saturday when I found I was pregnant I screamed out loud out of excitement.  Liam asked me, “Mommy what’s wrong?”  I said to him, “Nothing is wrong.  Mommy is just really happy. I am pregnant.”  Without missing a beat Liam replied back while waving his hand towards Ava, “Why you are already have her?”  I could not help but giggle but then I tried to explain in simple terms that mommy was carrying the baby, but the baby would not be coming home with us.  This must have satisfied Liam because he then asked for a cookie.  I love three year olds.

I’m Pregnant

dc85aGkceThere are times in our lives when we empathize with something that is happening in someone else’s life.  It is still very hard to put ourselves in their shoes and if we try we quite never fully understand what they are going through.  I think it is so easy for a lot of us (myself included) to take some things for granted. Three months ago I started on a journey that has brought me to today.  I am pregnant.  I am pregnant, but not with a child of mine.  I have two dear and very special people in my life in which carrying a child full term posed to be not possible.  As a bystander to everything that they have gone through my heart ached for them.  As parents they would undeniable be able to give any child a home full of love, security, and every need met.  It is situations like this where the phrases “Life is not fair,” does not even come close to how frustrating and upsetting their journey has been.

 

I have already been asked many times, “How did you come to decide to do this?”  I have to be honest it was never even a debate in my head.  When I approached the subject to my husband, again, it was not even a question.  He fully supported me (I am a very lucky girl). And although it is subject matter that needs to be handled delicately once we started down this road, I have not once looked back.

 

If you asked me three months ago what the difference between a surrogate and a gestational carrier were I would probably had given you the same definition.  However, they are very different.  I am a gestational carrier which means I have no genetic tie to the child that I am carrying.  The child that I am carrying came from the egg and the sperm of the intended parents.   In surrogacy the sperm from the male and the surrogate herself provides the eggs and is therefore genetically related to the child.

After three months of blood work, tests, doctor clearances, medications, and shots; two weeks ago we were finally able to do the transfer of the embryos.  The last two weeks have been hard to bear.  The not knowing, the waiting, was excorticating.  But on Saturday with simple call the anticipation, anxiety, and nervousness melted away.  The nurse said, “Congratulations you are pregnant.”  That simple statement has set in motion a change in many people’s lives.   And so now I begin my journey pregnant as a gestational carrier.    The excitement in me is immeasurable.  The two people I am doing this for I love dearly.  I am thrilled to have the honor to do this for them.  As I begin on this journey as a gestational carrier, I invite you along for the ride.