Monday, April 28, 2014

Some speed bumps along the way....

While finding a surrogate is the hard part there are still a good bit of hoops that you need to jump through to make sure that she will be a good candidate.  One of these hoops was the psychological evaluation.  Check.   Another requirement of surrogacy is for our gestational carrier to be medically cleared.  This involves meeting various medical requirements that the clinic sets forth, including a clean STD panel for both her and her husband, a current PAP, and a Sonohystogram or SHG (which is an ultrasound of the uterine cavity to rule out any abnormalities).  The SHG has to be given during a particular time of the month, usually day 7-10 of a woman's menstrual cycle.  When we met my surro, she told me she had an IUD put in following her last surro birth, which meant she hadn't had a menstrual cycle in five years.  She was scheduled to have her IUD taken out in February.  I asked if she would mind getting in taken out sooner and she thankfully agreed.  My research told me that it can sometimes take 4-6 weeks for your period to return to normal once the IUD is removed, so I was anxious for her to have it removed as quickly as possible.   The day after our first meeting, she schedule an appointment for the IUD removal and it was removed later that week.  She also got her STD testing done that day as well.  She was unable to have her PAP the same day due to insurance constraints but scheduled to do so at the first available appointment.   I was really impressed about how on top of everything she was and encouraged about how quickly things were happening.  Get this, her period even came quickly! Less than a week after the IUD was removed!  We were trucking right along!

And then we had our first little speed bump.  When she got the results of her PAP it showed some minor abnormalities.  This meant she needed to go back in for a colposcopy to further examine the cervix and biopsy the abnormal cells. She was really apologetic as she knew this might set back our timeline, but I told her not to worry about us and to just make sure that she was okay.  Privately, I was a little worried myself.  I researched to make sure that abnormal PAP's wouldn't exclude her from surrogacy and mostly found mixed responses. We were supposed to meet with our RE later that week so I figured we'd find out the answer then.  Thankfully, the RE didn't seem too concerned with the abnormal PAP and said as long as the colpo was clear it (it was) we would all be good.  He looked at her medical records and said on paper she looked like a great candidate.  All that was needed next was the SHG.

I accompanied my surro to the appointment for her SHG.  It was then that we hit our next speed bump, but it had nothing to do with her uterus.  In fact, our RE said her uterus looked "marvelous".  Phew! However, he was concerned with her thyroid level as her TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone)was elevated.  This wasn't news to us as the one minor health problem my surro has is Hashimoto's disease, which means her thyroid is often out of whack.  The normal range for TSH is .4 - 4.2 , thought when trying to conceive, RE's like it to be between 1 and 2.  When she was first diagnosed about a year ago, hers was a whopping 100.  She was put on 100mcg of Synthroid to help regulate it and once on this medication, her thyroid was normal.  At least it used to be.  Her most recent bloodwork showed that her TSH  had risen to 8.  While not as bad as 100, it was a far cry from the 1-2 that the RE wanted it to to be.   Our RE increased her dosage of Synthroid and told us we would re-test before transferring.

I was super-anxious upon leaving that doctor's appointment.  I was worried about how long it would take to get her thyroid back to normal, and worried that it would continue to be out of whack throughout the pregnancy.  When I was trying to conceive I was on Synthroid myself due to slightly elevated thryoid levels of my own, so I was somewhat familiar with the perils of high thyroid levels during pregnancy. Still, this didn't stop me from consulting Dr. Google and I did not like what I found.  Elevated thyroid levels can quadruple the risk of miscarriage!  While I knew my surro had never had complications with her pregnancy, she also was only diagnosed with this thyroid issue in the last year.  Further research told me that it is possible to lower thyroid levels through dietary changes (specifically lowering/eliminating gluten).

When I was trying to conceive,  there wasn't much that I wasn't willing to try in order to have a healthy baby.   I knew that if it were me trying to carry the pregnancy, I would absolutely cut out gluten. And yet, this wasn't me, so there was nothing that  I could do except hope the increase in  medication would work. My surro had previously agreed to doing acupuncture so I figured I would ask her to start that in the hopes it would help regulate her. However, I did not think it was my place to ask her to modify her diet.   She was already doing enough for us.

Later that day, we were texting about the thyroid stuff and I was honest with her about my fears.  She told me, as she often does, to step away from Dr. Google.  However, she did some of her own research and told me that she was looking at natural things she could do to help lower the level.  Then she wrote, "For instance, I'm going to cut waaaaay back on the gluten".    I could have cried.  I  couldn't believe that I was lamenting about the fact that I didn't think I had the right to ask her to adjust her diet when she volunteered to do so without me saying a word.  I wrote back and told her how much it meant to me that she was willing to do that (and even told her that I too would cut back on gluten in solidarity). Her response:
And then I really did cry.  I was so unbelievably touched by her words.   We are so, so grateful for everything that she is doing for us.  How did we get so lucky? 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Maybe We're Craaaazy...

One of the requirements of surrogacy is a psychological evaluation. The purpose is to rule out any glaring psychological issues that would get in the way of a healthy surrogacy relationship as well as iron out any details that might cause issues along the way.  It involves a meeting with the “Intended Parents” (Jason and I), a meeting with the Surrogate and her husband, and a joint meeting with all four of us.  Our surrogate is also required to complete a personality test.   Thankfully, the psychologist with whom I spoke said she typically uses the PAI (Personality Assessment Inventory) which consists of 344 questions and usually takes 20-30 minutes.  Many psychologists use the more laborious MMPI (Minnesota Multi-phasic Personality Inventory) which consists of 567 questions and takes 1-2 hours. 

I was relieved to hear the inventory she uses was different than the MMPI, and not just because it was shorter.  I also question its validity.  Jason and I had to take an MMPI last March when we were looking to adopt.  We were both put in a room with pencil and paper and spent the next couple of hours answering question after question.  I’m quite certain I must have skipped or mis-read some questions as I was embarrassed and a little outraged when I received the results.   For example, there was a question,  "I have no enemies who really wish to harm me".  I apparently answered that as false.  I'm thinking that I didn't see the "No" in there because I don't really think I have enemies, let alone ones that really wish to harm me.   Answering that question as false apparently flagged me as someone who has Persecutory Ideas.  In other areas, I think I was perhaps too honest.  For example, there was a question that said "I have never been in trouble with the law".   I answered this question as true, since I did get caught drinking at Florida Field when I was in my late 20's.  I received a misdemeanor citation and was ejected from the stadium.   According to the MMPI, endorsing that answer, along with answering true to "Sometimes when I was young I stole things" (five dollars from my parents) classifies me as having an Anti-social Attitude.  Whatever.  For these reasons, I was less than impressed with the MMPI and was glad that my surro wouldn't have to take it.   (I was also glad that we never had to use those MMPI results because I truly did worry if they would make me look un-suitable for adoption.  Good thing it's been a year since we took it-which means we can re-take the test if need be! )

Our meeting with the psychologist was scheduled for a Tuesday morning.  Each of us had to go to work after the meeting so we all arrived in separate vehicles (Swinger's style)When we got there, the psychologist had not yet arrived and the door was locked.  At first, we got out of our cars to wait.  However, it was getting cold so we all ended up piling into my surro’s suburban-type truck.   I sat in the front with my surro and the two husbands sat in the back.  This was the first time the four of us had been together since our first meeting and it was initially a little uncomfortable, especially given that we were all about to get psycho-analyzed.  That discomfort quickly melted away once we saw this phallic-shaped balloon in the center console. 

Dare I ask?  My surro immediately shared that she had been to a carnival with her children and that the balloon was once a dachshund.   Likely story.    Needless to say, it definitely provided some comic relief for all of us.

When the psychologist arrived, she immediately apologized for being late, as well as for the state of her office.  She explained that this was a satellite office that she really only uses for overflow when she needs to get client in on a particular day.   Since it isn't her main office, the decor was quite sparse. In fact, she had taken tables and chairs from her own home in order to ensure that we all had a place to sit.   While the psychologist was getting our surro set up with the testing in the waiting room, she told Jason and I to head back to her office.  As we were nervously waiting, Jason pointed out the sole painting that was on the wall.  It was a lighthouse.  I immediately felt a sense of ease.  Lighthouses had become a bit of a symbol of hope for Jason and I.  It's meaning stems from Jason's father, who began photographing lighthouses towards the end of his life.  I never had the honor of meeting Jason's dad, but by all accounts he was a wonderful man.  Whenever we see a lighthouse we think of him and I'd like to think that it's his way of connecting with us from beyond.  Jason doesn't put as much stock into the lighthouses as I do, but I do think that seeing that lighthouse painting was reassuring to us both.

When the psychologist came into the room, she asked us a lot of questions.  She basically just wanted to understand what had brought us to this point, if we had any concerns thus far with our surrogate, and if we anticipated any concerns moving forward.  Our story is long and complicated.  I probably could have given an abridged version but its hard to stop once I get going, so both the psychologist and Jason were patient with me.  When we were done, we switched places with our surro and her husband and went and grabbed a quick cup of coffee. Finally, the four of us met together.  The psychologist explained that given our history of loss, we would likely need some hand-holding during the initial stages of pregnancy. I was glad that she said this because I know how hard my own subsequent pregnancies were after our first miscarriage.  I can only imagine how hard someone else's pregnancy will be after three more miscarriages.  We also discussed what we wanted our contact to look like and all agreed that we hoped it would continue beyond the birth.  We fought back tears as we expressed our gratitude for this opportunity to finally create our family.

One of the things the therapist said really resonated with us:   The more struggle and heartbreak you endure, the more you are capable of experiencing joy when it comes your way.  We so look forward to the joyous times ahead...

Monday, April 14, 2014

         Also  railroad tracks, crossed fingers, wood-knocking,  four-leaf clovers and lighthouses!

Monday, April 7, 2014


I went on my date with my surro the day after Valentine's day.  Along with giving her the meds (not much of a present) I gave her some chocolates and a card which contained a gift for her whole family- an annual membership to Zoo Atlanta.   Jason and I live in walking distance to the zoo, so we thought that in addition to it being a fun and useful gift for their family,  it would also be a way to get to see my surro and her hopefully growing belly on the regular.  

My surro and her girls had winter break and I've got a pretty flexible schedule so we decided  a trip to the zoo would be an ideal way for me to meet her girls.  We had actually hatched this plan before I gave them the zoo pass- which is why I knew it would be a welcomed gift.   I was excited and nervous to meet them.  The zoo trip happened the day before her youngest was about to have her 7th birthday party.  Weeks prior, she posted this on FB " My sweet (daughter) turns 7 soon and she claims she "has everything she needs, but wants to have a party to collect clothes, toys, and books for kids who don't have any":) so we're celebrating with a carnival."  I was blown away when I saw that post.  How fitting that this wonderfully generous woman has a seven year old with that same generous spirit! If this is the kind of kid my surro-mom was raising, I knew my baby would be in good hands!

I had heard such great things about her girls and they certainly lived up to their reputation. They were smart and sweet and funny and the littlest was as spunky as could be.  Living so close to the zoo, I've been there a handful of times.  Never before have I seen so many baby animals! It was really uncanny.

First we came upon the lions and the baby cubs.   They apparently were born in November and just made their zoo debut in late January.  They were soooo adorable (Editors note: I stole this picture from the internet)

We also saw the panda cubs.  I was expecting to see them as their birth had made headlines when they were born in July. They were IVF babies so I thought it was pretty cool seeing them. (Editors note: Picture also stolen from the internet)

The gorillas were the ones that really got me.  They are so human-like and their were a ton of baby gorillas.  The mom's carried their babies almost like they were in a baby bjorn (though sometimes it looked like the little ones were hanging on for dear life!)  The gorilla exhibit is enclosed and their is stadium seating so you can sit and watch a while.  It was pretty surreal sitting with my surro and her kids, watching these gorillas and their kids, knowing that one day (hopefully) this would be the woman who would help me have my own kids.(Editors note: I took the gorilla pics!)

After the zoo, we went across the street to  to grab lunch.  While we were eating, I asked the girls what their favorite foods were.  I was floored to hear their answers.  The littlest one said...get this...BRUSSELS SPROUTS! What?!? I had only just recently (like within the last five years) tried brussels sprouts and while I enjoy them (especially when drenched in garlic) I certainly wouldn't put it atop my list of favorite foods.  Her oldest daughter shared her favorite food next- ASPARAGUS. Again, I love me some asparagus but when I'm talking favorite foods, I'm thinking CHOCOLATE, PIZZA, SWEET TARTS.  You know, junk food.  Not only did it floor me (and okay, maybe even shame me a little) to hear that these young children and pre-teens put vegetables at the top of their favorite food list, it also made me once again feel really, really goodabout the woman I had chosen to by my surrogate. If her children are eating like this, then surely she eats healthy like this, which means my growing baby will also be eating healthy like this.   It was so very reassuring.

Having a surrogate means, among other things, letting go of control.  For the past five years of trying to conceive, I have worked really hard to eat healthy.  We got a refurbished Vitamix and I have smoothies almost daily made with organic spinach, bananas, berries and often macca root or goji berries which are ancient fertility enhancers. I used to limit my alcohol intake even when I wasn't in the two week wait and rarely had caffeine.  I only eat organic meats and try to eat lots of super-foods.  I do this to for my own health, but also because I wanted to create the healthiest environment for conception  and had hopes to nourish my growing baby in the best possible way.  All bets are off when you get a surrogate.   I spoke to someone who loved their surrogate but acknowledged she didn't have the best eating habits. She apparently ate a ton of sugar- so much so that the baby was born in diabetic shock... because it wasn't getting the sugar it was used to in utero! It resolved itself within a few days and their five year old is perfectly healthy now- but still-it makes you worry about what your surro will be eating.  So, you can imagine my relief to hear that her children's favorite foods are vegetables.  All in all, it was a wonderful day- I can't help to think all the babies at the zoo- the zooborns- are foreshadowing for what is to come!