I'M GOING TO BE A GESTATIONAL SURROGATE! | Applying, Matching, Psych and Med Eval, Contracts, Etc.
My Journey to Using A Surrogate
The first time I became pregnant at 31 years old, after four months of trying, we were over-the-top excited. We immediately invited our parents over for dinner and uncovered the last side dish on the table—a casserole dish filled with "I love Grandma" and "I love Grandpa" bibs. One short week after that, I started bleeding, and I had my first miscarriage. My husband cried in the hospital, but I remember thinking, "Well at least we got pregnant. That's half the battle, right? It will be fine the next time."
After several months of trying, my OB/GYN reluctantly ran tests to put my mind at ease since it was more than six months since the last pregnancy. Shortly after, I found out that I was pregnant again, but some of the test results had shown that I had a positive ANA. "What does that mean?" I asked the doctor. "Could that have been the cause of my last miscarriage?" "Possibly," he said, "but you should have it checked out."
I started scouring the Internet, reading every article, post and blog that I could find regarding positive ANA and its correlation to miscarriage. I learned that it could lead to problems and that there were doctors, called reproductive immunologists, who specialized in immune-related miscarriages. By chance, one of the most well-known reproductive immunologists in the United States had an office 15 minutes from my home. I quickly called the office and was told that it would be a couple of months before I could get an appointment. When I told them I was pregnant and concerned about waiting that long, they told me to come in the next day.
Over twenty vials of blood were drawn to run a battery of tests. Early ultrasounds were positive. A couple of weeks later, we received the results of the testing. The doctor told us that there could be some difficulties sustaining this pregnancy, especially without the medical interventions of prednisone and blood thinners, which I had already begun. The doctor's theory was that my husband's and my genetics were so similar that our embryo's genetics would be almost identical to my own, with only a slight variation. That meant that my body was attacking my embryo as if it were a cancer cell, and because my body did not recognize the pregnancy, it was not making the necessary changes needed to support the pregnancy.
I was alone at my 10-week appointment when I heard the words, "I'm sorry, I don't see a heartbeat." I was in shock. I knew rationally that the doctor was telling me the blood flow to my embryo was not promising the past couple of visits, but how could this be? I was doing everything he told me, taking pills, giving myself two injections a day in my stomach. At that point I was still naïve and optimistic. Did the doctor know that this was going to happen? Why was the nurse in the room for the first time during this visit? As I sobbed leaving his office, I called my husband who left work to meet me in the parking lot. My world started crashing. My worst fears were coming true: I was experiencing fertility issues.
Although our reproductive immunologist felt we were one of the worst cases he had seen, he was still optimistic that he could find the right combination of treatments to allow my body to accept another pregnancy. However, the treatments he was recommending were experimental. One was not typically used for this purpose during pregnancy. The other was banned in the United States and would require a trip to Mexico or Greece. I decided if I was going to entertain these treatment options, I had to be sure it was necessary. I had to be certain that I was among the 1-2 % of the population who was suffering from recurrent pregnancy loss, even though I knew in my heart I was. In reality, I really felt like I had to prove it to everyone else who would otherwise think I was crazy to consider such drastic measures.
I also needed a break. I figured all those shots didn't help my last pregnancy, so I decided to try a new OB, have a fresh start, and try again with no medical intervention. Stress could be a big contributing factor, right? I'd see what happened.
What happened was I found out I was pregnant again five months later. At my new OB's office, I gave her my background with tears running down my face. She didn't look at me and continued to type my history into her computer. At that first eight-week ultrasound, everything was feeling too familiar. Swinging the monitor towards my husband and I, she showed us that the yolk sac was enlarged, an indication that there was a problem. She told us that the pregnancy would most likely not thrive, but there was a heartbeat. Leaving the office I now knew for sure that I was in this small population suffering from repeated pregnancy loss. The following week the heartbeat was gone.
After getting second opinions from various doctors who mostly didn't support the decision, we decided to try the experimental treatments. I was going to do this along with IUI's (intrauterine insemination) so that I would hopefully get pregnant quickly and not be on the drugs very long. After four IUI's and countless shots, there was no pregnancy.
At this point I was becoming concerned about the drugs I was taking, and I decided to get another opinion—what seemed like my 43rd—from one of the most prestigious fertility clinics in the country, located in Manhattan. There weren't many tests left to be run, but there were a few that my new doctor recommended. After receiving the test results, his conclusion was that there was nothing wrong. Excuse me? I asked him how I was supposed to wrap my head around the fact that one "experimental" doctor was telling me that I was the worst case scenario he had seen and another "conventional" doctor was telling me nothing was wrong. He explained that, unfortunately, little is known about miscarriage, and to try and take comfort in the fact that the truth probably lied somewhere in the middle.
His recommendation was to do PGS (pre-implantation genetic screening) testing to make sure the quality of the embryos were not to blame for the miscarriages, even though an earlier D&C detected a normal embryo from my previous miscarriage. The heartbreaking "XY" that I hadn't expected to see on the D&C results report, showing a normal genetic make-up, could have actually been my own cells that were tested, he explained. I trusted this doctor and he was one of the first "conventional" doctors who didn't make me feel crazy for wanting to try these experimental treatments. He even supported my continuing with them through my IVF process, if it is what I chose to do. The results of the PGS were nine frozen embryos—eight of them viable! My doctor was shocked by the results because typically only two or three embryos would survive to this stage. As my gut had always been telling me, genetics was not my problem.
The following month we transferred two, partially hatching, perfect embryos into my uterus on my mother's birthday. The blood test, confirming the pregnancy, would be on St. Patrick's Day. Could anything possibly go wrong with all that luck? Tests later confirmed that I was pregnant but my hCG levels were low—another bad sign.
Another miscarriage, or chemical pregnancy, was confirmed a couple of days later and I spiraled into a full-blown depression. I got physically sick with a 103 fever and stayed in bed for a straight 48 hours staring at the wall. Daylight came and went and I didn't turn on a light or the TV. Time just passed through my numbness. My mom called to see how I was feeling, and I couldn't stop crying on the phone. She told me she was coming right over. When she got to my house she crawled into bed with me, held me like she did when I was a little girl, and we cried. After some time she walked over to my side of the bed, physically lifted me up and told my husband he needed to get me out of the house. "Go anywhere!" We decided to go to a movie and as I went through the motions, I realized she was right, and the fresh air began to lift the fog. I was ready to continue my fight.
I told the reproductive immunologist I wanted a whole new battery of tests run to see what my body was doing. At this point it had been almost two years and three miscarriages since my last tests. He called with the results in April on my birthday. My mom and I were driving home from having a "celebratory" breakfast when, on speaker, he went over the results. My body was "inflamed" and in an agitated state of attack. His next words were, "Have you considered surrogacy?" I was in shock. Of course I had considered this option, but since we couldn't possibly afford that, my next step was looking into a sperm donor. As heartbreaking as this option seemed, especially knowing that we had six more frozen biological embryos, what else were we going to do? If my body would not tolerate our embryo's genetic make-up, then donor sperm might be an option to consider. His response: "At this point, I don't think your body would tolerate that either." I fell silent, how could that be? I hung up the phone and my mom turned to me and said "Let's do it, let's find a surrogate." "How?" I asked. She explained she had never closed the "wedding fund" account that she had opened years prior in order to save money for my wedding. At this point quite a sum had accumulated, and there was nothing in the world she would rather spend it on.
A million questions swirled through my head. How could I accept this beautiful gift? How would my husband feel about accepting this type of money from my parents? Was I really at this point, a last resort? After how many miscarriages is a decision like this acceptable? Four, seven, ten? How many years do you have to suffer with fertility issues before using this option? Should I follow my Manhattan doctor's recommendation and try one more round of IVF? The answer was to the last one was a resounding "no." I would not allow my body to kill another one of my precious babies. My friend once winced when I said this: "You can't think of this like that." But that was the only way I looked at it. As guilty as this option made me feel, as much as I cried that day mourning the loss of the pregnancy I would most likely never experience, it was the first time in three years that I truly felt what I hardly realized I'd been lacking—hope.
To keep my sanity throughout this entire process, I was always a step ahead, so of course I had the phone number of a highly recommended surrogacy agency in New Jersey. The following week I had an appointment, and just like that, the wheels were spinning to match us with our gestational carrier. It all happened so quickly it was almost hard to believe that this was the road I was taking. It was almost as if I was living someone else's life now. Was this really happening to me?
The surrogacy agency we went to in New Jersey was one-stop shopping—lawyer, surrogate matching agency, escrow management for funds—all under one roof. We were so anxious at this point to have our baby in our arms that we had little criteria for our surrogate. We already knew the carrier would not live in New York, where we lived, because it was illegal to compensate a surrogate in the state. We went through the application, setting our criterion. Single woman? Sure. Age preference? No. Preference for race or religion? Doesn't matter. Unbeknownst to us, what put us on the fast track to being matched with a surrogate was our answer to the following question. Would you accept a carrier who refuses to abort for Down syndrome? Yes.
Shortly after our application was filed, we received our first surrogate profile with her bio and pictures. I couldn't open the email fast enough.
For various reasons, the first two matches that were sent to us did not work out, but then I received a call from the agency informing me that a lovely, experienced surrogate in Kentucky was available. My heart sank a little because we were hoping to find a surrogate who lived closer to home, as we wanted to attend big appointments and, of course, the birth. Kentucky seemed so far. We decided to go forward with a conference call to speak with the couple despite the distance. They were lovely and Kentucky didn't seem so far after all, if it meant getting our baby sooner than later.
A few months later we were set to do the embryo transfer. Kristie, our gestational carrier, flew in, leaving her husband home to watch their children. We had decided we would implant two embryos. After a scare thawing out the embryos, the doctor reassured us and we left the Jersey Shore bed and breakfast we had been staying at for the clinic.
As the doctor performed the transfer, Kristie and I held hands. I can remember staring at the doctor's eyes as he sat across from me concentrating on his task, willing him to do everything perfectly. Now it was time to wait and pray that the embryos would implant into Kristie's uterus. Five days after the transfer we got a call from Kristie; an at-home pregnancy test was already faintly confirming a pregnancy. After that, blood tests were showing high hCG levels—very high. Could there be twins? A few weeks after the transfer, we drove 12 hours to Kentucky for the first ultrasound. The technician right away pointed out our baby, explaining everything she was seeing and confirming that everything looked great. Then she announced that there were actually two babies in there.
A little over one year from the day we decided to use a surrogate, I am ecstatic to say we have two children on the way, and our surrogate is due in two weeks. What a difference a year makes. Finally, our happy ending is in sight.
I am happy to say that the stress of this process did not hurt my marriage. Throughout this journey my husband has always been amazing and supportive. There were times when I would get frustrated by his optimism. Of course, it was easy for him to feel this way— he hadn't obsessively read everything there was to read on the Internet, and he wasn't the one being poked and prodded for years. I felt that as much as we were going through this together, this was my war—and it was against my own body. The most important gift he gave me was maintaining something I wasn't always able to—hope.
So after all of it— acupuncture, Eastern medicine, experimental drugs, diet changes, positive thinking, countless doctors, flying to see a specialist, Reiki, a holistic cleanse, all this time and money—we found our light at the end of this dark tunnel. But I didn't come through it unscathed.
Everybody tells us, "Watch, now you'll get pregnant and have a baby." You hear countless stories of this happening. But the truth is that the thought of becoming pregnant again terrifies me. I read a blog from a woman who felt she was suffering from post-IVF PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and I can completely relate. We recently made our fourth trip to Kentucky to see Kristie and attend appointments. Even though we had just been in the waiting room, hands on her belly, feeling our babies moving around for the first time, when the doctor pulled out a handheld Doppler to hear the babies' heartbeats, I couldn't contain the anxiety and terror that was rising in my body. It was all I could do to keep myself in that room and not run out screaming. I don't know if these feelings will ever pass or subside, but I can thankfully say I don't really have to worry about it anymore.
The surrogacy process overall has been a breeze for us. However, it did come with its unexpected disappointments along the way. My employer doesn't recognize a bonding leave and only views maternity leave as a medical leave. For this reason, they will not allow me to take the paid leave that is given to my pregnant co-workers. During the second sonogram of our babies, excitedly getting ready to FaceTime so that we could still be a part of everything from over 750 miles away, we were told that this was not allowed. And recently, I found out that only one person would be allowed into the operating room with our surrogate during the birth of our babies. How can I hear our babies' first cries, set eyes on these miracles for the first time, and find out the sexes of each without my husband there with me? Although medicine and technology have come a long way, unfortunately, society has not come far enough.
In the end, these things are all just blips on the radar. At this point, four long years after this journey began, nothing can bring me down.
Video: IVF with a Surrogate/Gestational Carrier
How to Talk Like Donald Duck
Doing THIS Before Meals Can Help You Lose Weight
Women Are Using Whisper’ To Discuss Sexual Harassment At Work – And The Results Are Really Depressing
Pippa Middleton onthult eindelijk de naam van haar zoon
Teen Dies After Receiving a Hickey From His Girlfriend
Our Pick Of The Best Boxing Day Bargains
6 Ways To Tone And Sculpt Your Calves
Staying Optimistic When Youre Living With a Chronic Condition
This 4-Year-Old Boy Has Mysterious Strokes That Leave His Doctors Stunned
Why You Should DEFINITELY Sweat with Your Significant Other
Conservation or Coal The Bureau of Land Management’s Shifting Priorities