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.

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.