Friday, May 30, 2014

Hearts United Hoping for a Womb Divided AKA Transfer Day!

At our clinic, you don't find out your transfer time until the day before, as the lab has to plan around all of the other transfers that day. We had requested an early afternoon appointment if possible, as Ellen was scheduled for an acupuncture session at 9am that morning.  Research shows that acupuncture before and after transfer can aid in implantation as it helps to increase uterine blood flow.  The day before our scheduled transfer, I got an email from my nurse giving me my time (afternoon as requested).  However, she also told me that a different doctor who we had not yet met would be performing our transfer since our RE, Dr. Toledo couldn't be there as he had a surgery that day.  When I read that I immediately burst into tears.  We have known Dr. Toledo since late 2011 and had been through many challenges and tears with him. Dr. Toledo had shared that he went through four failed IVF's with his second wife before they finally got pregnant with their daughter on their fifth attempt.  While I think he probably had an amazing bedside manner prior to this, that experience certainly made him even more compassionate.   Though we were sure other doctors were competent,  we really wanted our transfer to be with a doctor that cared about us and understood our journey.  We believed Dr. Toledo wanted this too, as he had made a point to tell us that we would be sure to plan Ellen's transfer on a date that he would be available to perform it, even if it meant manipulating her cycle to match his schedule.   I immediately wrote our nurse back letting her know that it was really important for us to have him there and asked if there was anything that could be done. She told me that it was impossible to change his surgery and assured me we would be in good hands.  I was beside myself.

I am sure a lot of it had to do with the anxiety leading up to the day but I was also really upset because whenever I pictured our transfer finally happening, I had never pictured it without  Dr. Toledo.  In fact, we had planned to involve Dr. Toledo in our college rival transfer day theme since he is also a Gator (I was hoping he would wear his Gator surgical cap).  Needless to say I was pretty inconsolable. Until this text exchange with Ellen. To give you some context, we had both just watched this ridiculous movie,  Sorority Surrogate that basically takes every stereotype about surrogacy and twists it into a campy movie that I think is supposed to be a thriller but was really just hilarious.  In it, a college student desperate for money becomes a gestational carrier for a couple and the overbearing grandmother  put the surro in her trunk and kidnaps her in an attempt to keep the baby as her own.  We both enjoyed poking fun at the movie and I loved that she referenced it during my freak-out moment.   It definitely provided much-needed comic relief!

Never one to just accept "no" when there is something that I really want, I decided to email Dr. Toledo directly,  explain our situation and plead with him to see if there was anything that could be done.  As suspected, he did not seem to be aware that he would be missing our transfer date.  Thankfully, he got with his nurses and the lab and arranged his schedule so that he could do the transfer before his surgery.  Crisis averted.

On transfer day, we were nervous and excited.  We dressed in our respective college t-shirts, gathered our transfer day packages and met Ellen and Chris at the clinic at 8:00 AM. We asked Ellen and Chris to put on their Georgia shirts and showed them this awesome sign that  Jason made. 

We knew there was a possibility that the transfer might not happen if G-d forbid, the embryos did not thaw properly.  We were only planning to thaw and transfer one embryo, but if for some reason, the embryo didn't make it, we would have to thaw our second and final embryo and there was always a chance that the second embryo might not make it either.  Thankfully, when we got to the surgical room we learned that our embryo had thawed perfectly. 

We took plenty of pictures with the four of us

And the five of us
And also got a shot of the two hopeful mommies with our embryo
The transfer went off without a hitch.  It was really special to share it with Ellen and Chris.   When we left the clinic, Ellen gave us a transfer day gift as well: this ever-bearing strawberry plant.  We couldn't wait to watch it grow and hoped our little embryo would grow along with it.

My favorite part of the day?  Around 5:30 that night I got my first-ever text from Chris.  A little background- Ellen and I use copious amounts of emoticons when we text (which is no less than 10 times a day but typically at least 30)  While there are plenty of smileys, hearts, praying hands and a baby, there is no emoticon for crossed fingers- a very necessary expression when you are hoping for something this big.  I ended up just taking a picture of my own crossed fingers and sent it to Ellen and it soon became a thing for us.  My text from Chris was simply this:
A picture is worth a thousand words and the fact that Ellen's husband sent that to me? I think that says it all....

Monday, May 26, 2014

So how does this whole thing work anyway?

A lot of folks have been asking how this whole IVF things works so I figured I'd give a brief tutorial (as if I'm capable of that!) to let you know the drill.  We've actually done 3 different rounds of IVF with three different clinics.  While every protocol is different the process is typically pretty similar- though we definitely experienced some differences at our last clinic in St. Louis.   This post is going to be kind of science-y so if that's not your thing, feel free to skip it.

In general, when doing an IVF the goal is to retrieve as many quality, mature eggs as possible in the hopes that they will fertilize with your partner's sperm and create a healthy embryo.  The embryo is then transferred into the woman with the hopes that it will implant.  IVF stands for In Vitro Fertilization and refers to fertilizing an embryo by manually combining an egg and a sperm in a Petri dish.  However, there are a lot more steps that go into IVF than just the fertilization.

Step 1Baseline Ultrasound - At the beginning of your cycle (when a woman first gets her period) she goes in for a baseline ultrasound to get an AFC or Antral Follicle Count.  Your Antral Follicle Count is the amount of resting follicles that are present during each cycle.  Usually each follicle contains one egg.  In a woman's cycle at ovulation, typically one egg is released (sometimes two or more if fraternal twins, triplets or quads are conceived). During IVF, the goal is to stimulate the maturation of multiple follicles to increase the odds of success.  That whole ticking biological clock thing has to do with your AFC, because a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have.  As a woman gets older, her AFC decreases.  Less eggs usually equals less chance of success, especially since not all eggs are normal and as a woman gets older, you guessed it, her chances of having normal eggs decrease.  However, even young women can have what is known as Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) which means they might be 24, but have the egg supply of a 39 year old woman.  Thankfully, I always had the reverse. My AFC was usually quite good and we were often able to retrieve a decent amount of eggs.

Step 2: Stimulation phase-  Before stimulation happens, first you have to suppress your natural cycle to ensure that you don't naturally ovulate. This is done using something called a GnrH antagonist, usually in the form of a tiny shot called Lupron that is taken for about 10 days.
After a few days on the lupron, stimulation with fertility meds called gonadotropins commences. Depending on your protocol, you begin to take anywhere from one to four shots daily (sometimes twice daily) for about six to ten days.  You also begin getting monitored pretty closely, which means sometimes daily bloodwork and ultrasounds to determine if the follicles are growing properly and to make sure your estrogen levels don't get too high.  Medications will be tweaked based on the results of the u/s and bloodwork.  If you are not responding well to the medications (meaning the follicles just aren't growing) the cycle may be cancelled, or converted to an IUI. We actually had that happen to us once and it was really disappointing.  If too many follicles are growing too quickly,  there is always the risk of something called OHSS.(Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome) Mild forms of this mean bloating and discomfort, severe cases mean hospitalization.  I've had mild OHSS before and it wasn't fun so can only imagine what severe cases feel like.  This is an example of the last protocol I did for my retrieval in St. Louis.  Things were a little different there as the monitoring didn't start until Day 8.  I was a bit nervous about this as I usually went in for monitoring on day 4 with my cycles in Atlanta, but my cycles in St. Louis went surprisingly well so we were pleased.

Step 3: Trigger shot- After about a week on stimulation medication when the follicles reach maturity (about 18-20mm) you are ready for your trigger shot. This shot has to be timed perfectly and needs to be given exactly 36 hours prior to retrieval. When we were in St. Louis we were instructed to take our shot at 3am.  Nothing like getting woken up to get a shot in the ass!

Step 4: Retrieval- The next phase of IVF is the egg or oocyte retrieval.  The actual technique used to collect eggs for in vitro fertilization is known as an ultrasound-guided transvaginal aspiration. During this procedure, an ultrasound probe is used to provide a visual image of the ovary and the surrounding structures. Then, a very fine needle is inserted into the ovary. Through magnification of the ultrasound image, the physician can locate the individual follicles that contain mature eggs and apply gentle suction to remove the contents of each one, which is known as aspiration.  The whole procedure generally takes about  20 minutes and is done under sedation.   The average number of oocyte so retrieved is between 8 and 15.   I remember crying after I came to from my first ivf retrieval when I learned I had retrieved just 9 eggs.   Even though this fell within the average range, I was still disappointed because I had hoped for more.  Still, some woman retrieve far less and as they say, all it takes is one. 

Step 5: Fertilization-  At the end of the day, the number of eggs retrieved isn't as important as how many fertilize properly. Generally, 70% of oocytes will do so. On the day of retrieval, your partner provides a semen sample.  The semen is then put through a special washing process to separate he sperm from the other components of the semen and then the strongest swimmers are put in the Petri dish with the oocyte. In some cases, a process called ICSI (Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection) happens.  During ICSI, the embryologist will take a single sperm and inject it into an oocyte.  Then the waiting begins. First you wait to see how mature eggs were retrieved and of these how many fertilize normally.  Next, you wait to see how many of these will make it to Day 3.  By day 3, the cells have begun to divide and you will have 6,7, or 8-celled embryos.
Photo of a high quality day 3 human embryo at the 8-cell stage
6 cells are visible in this plane of focus
 During a fresh transfer, embryos may be transferred on Day 3 or Day 5, depending on embryo quality.  I still don't really get how all that works.  They typically say Day 5 transfers are better because they know that the embryo is strong enough to make it to the blastocyst stage, which is the stage right before an embryo implants. However, when you have a 3 day transfer they will tell you that an embryo fares best inside the uterus rather than in a laboratory ( if this is true, then why not always do day 3 transfers?)  I think they may just tell you an embryo does best inside the uterus to make you feel better if you end up needing a 3 day transfer.  Since not all embryos make it to blast (5days) if there aren't enough good looking embryos by day 3 , the lab will suggest transferring then rather than waiting till day 5 and risk losing all of them.   For various reasons, some folks will have a frozen transfer.  When this happens, you wait for the embryos to grow out to the blastocyst stage and then freeze them on either day 5 or 6.  In our case, after our first failed IVF, we did genetic testing on our embryos due to my age and history of miscarriage.  This involves taking a biopsy of one of the cells on either day 3 or 5, freezing the blastocyst, and then sending off the biopsy of the embryo to test for anueploidy (extra chromosomes).  When an embryo is frozen the transfer, known as an FET, (Frozen Embryo Transfer) occurs at a later date.   

This picture shows a high quality blastocyst embryo on day 5

Step 6: Transfer-  During a fresh cycle, the best looking embryos are transferred to the woman's uterus on either day 3 or day 5 depending on the quality.  The transfer is a quick and painless procedure done via catheter.  Depending on a woman's age, often more than one embryo will be transferred in order to increase the chances of success.  This is why so many IVF babies result in fraternal twins.  In these cases, at least two embryos were transferred and both "took".  Many people mistakenly refer to the transfer process as implantation and that is actually a pet peeve of mine.  Not all transfers result in implantation. In fact, only 30% do. We transfer with the hopes of implanting.  

Step 7: The 2WW- (Two week wait). After transfer, a woman takes medications to mimic her body's natural cycle.  In a natural pregnancy, progesterone is produced to help support the development of the fetus.  However, during IVF, your body doesn't initially produce progesterone on its own. Therefore progesterone supplements must be given, either via suppository in a medication called Crinone or via injections (PIO or Progesterone In Oil shots).  Estrogen is also given in various forms (oral, patch or injection).  During an FET, a woman begins priming her uterus with these supplements for weeks  prior to the transfer and continues taking supplements after the transfer occurs.  If you become pregnant, you stay on these supplements until about 10 weeks gestation, when the baby's placenta takes over progesterone production.   Typically, two weeks after the transfer you get bloodwork to give you a quantitative HCG or beta.  HCG is the pregnancy hormone and anything above a 5 indicates pregnancy.  Often, serial betas are given to determine if the pregnancy is viable as the number should  double every 48-72 hours. If the number is slow-rising or falling, this is usually indicative of a chemical pregnancy.  A chemical pregnancy is when implantation occurred but for whatever reason (usually an abnormal embryo) the pregnancy does not sustain. This is also known as a very early miscarriage. It was my chemical pregnancy of a genetically normal embryo that led us to our clinic in st Louis.  

When we were in St Louis, prior to the  2WW we had a 6WW which added another step to our process.  Our RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist) uses a special type of genetic testing that involves biopsying the embryo on day 3, growing it out to day 5 or 6, and then shipping the embryo biopsy off to Turkey for metaphase CGH testing.  The process is extremely laborious and takes 5-6 weeks for the results.  When we went to St. Louis we did what was called staggered IVF and embryo batching.  We did two embryo retrievals in the hopes of getting enough embryos to test.  Each time I retrieved a good amount of eggs (12) most fertilized properly (10) and we're still going strong on day 3 when they were biopsied.  Unfortunately, by day 5 and 6, only 2 embryos remained. This happened both cycles so we ended up with just four embryos that we were awaiting test results.   It was a looooooong six weeks and we were just hoping for one healthy embryo so we could have one more shot at a successful transfer.   We felt like we hit the jackpot when we finally got our results and learned we had three healthy embryos. That meant three shots at a baby and (gasp!) maybe even a sibling.

Unfortunately, while that FET did result in a pregnancy with perfectly rising betas,  we once again miscarried.  That is when we turned to surrogacy and found Ellen.  With our embryos still in St Louis we just had one extra step in our IVF process- ship our embryos to Atlanta.  This involved having one clinic ship a cryopreservation tank to the other for the safe transportation of the embryos.  Believe it or not, they are shipped via FedEx.  It just so happened that our embryo shipment was slated to occur during the Snowpocolypse of 2014.  I made sure to request a delay in shipment as this cargo was just too precious to be lost (I could just picture the plane being re-routed to Mexico due to ice storms in Atlanta and the embies being lost or melting during that process). Thankfully, they made if safe and sound to Atlanta are are just waiting to be transferred into Ellen's uterus!

Monday, May 19, 2014

So this is what online dating is like....

EDITORS NOTE: This is the first post written from Ellen's point of view of the surrogacy, dating back to when she and I first "met" online and then when we met in person.  Moving forward, Ellen's posts will be written in green to distinguish her Surro Side from my IP (Intended Parent) Side.  Our posts are written independently so we are reading and learning about one another's viewpoints just as you are....

So this is what online dating is like....

Wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, friend, teacher, amateur baker, Scrabble beast…just a few of the things I am.  I am also a surrogate mother.  And a very proud one at that.  I was a TS (traditional surrogate; means I was also the egg donor) for dear friends in 2008.  When I began that journey, I immersed myself in all things surrogacy.  Not knowing anyone IRL (in real life) who was involved in surrogacy led me to research online, and a few different online message boards.  Through these sites, I “met” a plethora of wonderful people.  Several of whom I have met, and many more I consider to be friends, even if it’s just online.  While my actual journey ended when Austin was born in December of 2008, I maintained these relationships, and consider these women (both surros and IPs) to be some of the best people I know, and it is through these people and connections that led me to Kerri and Jason.

When my husband Chris and I started dating, it was the time of dial up internet, and everyone who was anyone had an aol email address.  Online dating didn’t exist then like it does now.  Receiving the first message from Kerri via FB must be what it’s like to be courted online.  Kerri’s message was sweet, candid, flattering, funny, with just a smidge of desperation.  I liked her immediately.  Doing a second journey as a GS (gestational surrogate; zero genetic connection to the baby) had always been in the back of my mind, but I had never discussed it with Chris.  He was amazing and nothing but supportive during my journey with Austin.  I often consider the spouses of the surros to be the unsung heroes of surrogacy.  They put up with the meds, shots, hormonal mood swings, dr appointments, having their wives pregnant with someone else’s baby, (how weird it that!) but I digress. I didn’t even tell Chris about the message I got from Kerri for a week or two.  I wasn’t sure he would be receptive.  When I finally shared the messages and blog with him, he immediately said “if it’s something you think you want to do, I’m in.” I really am a lucky girl. 

And that folks, was the start of a beautiful friendship. 

OMG, what do I wear??

So after tons of FB messages, emails, and texts, it was finally time for our “first date.”  We decided to meet for breakfast on a Sunday morning.  I was a bundle of nerves and apprehension.  I felt like a 7th grader on the first day of school.  What should I wear?  What if they don’t like me?  Yikes!!  And anyone who knows me knows Chris and I hate to be late, and are almost always early to everything.  So, of course we were running late that day, then couldn’t find parking, and needless to say, I was a little freaked out.  We walked in the restaurant, spotted Kerri & Jason immediately.  And the nervous 7th grader reappeared… Do I hug them?  Shake hands?  Do they like me?  We hugged, started talking, and that connection I felt online and through text was indeed real.  I don’t think there was a subject we didn’t talk about that first meeting.  Our families, jobs, Chris’s cancer scare, my first surrogacy journey, Kerri & Jason’s journey thus far TTC (trying to conceive), and what we hoped for this journey.  When we left, it was with smiles on our collective faces, and hope in our hearts. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Big News

No...not the news that you think.    Hopefully that will be coming soon though....

As you may have noticed, in the last couple of blog posts, I've changed from using "my surro" to "Ellen".  In the beginning I was using "my surro" to protect her privacy but as we approach transfer day in hopes of a new addition to our family, we are also about to launch a new addition to the blog: Ellen's viewpoint of the surrogacy journey.  Sort of a "Hers and Hers" blog.  I actually hatched this plan months ago, right after we met for the first time.  I just had a good feeling about us. Here's how it went down on FB back when we used to Instant Message:

  • Kerri Golding Oransky

    So, I'm going to just throw an idea out there. No pressure at all- just something for you to think about. When I was first learning about the surrogacy stuff I went to the internet of course. I found a fair amount of blogs from the surrogate side, and VERY few from the IP's side (the Misconception being one of them) As I said, I really love the way that blog gives his/her viewpoints- it was so helpful for Jason to hear another guy's side, esp since the feelings were quite similar At any rate, while one of the reasons I decided to do my blog was to document our journey for friends/family and hopefully our child, I also hope it can help others at some point the same way Our Misconception helped us. I was thinking about doing a similar his/hers thing, but also thinking it could be cool to do a hers/hers thing- like an IP/Surro thing (as far as I know that hasn't been done before) So, I just wanted to throw that out there for you. Once again, no pressure. I'm going to do the blog either way.
  • Kerri Golding Oransky

    I realize it could be weird/bad if things go horribly astray with us but hope that doesn't happen
  • Ellen Court Marston

    I loooooove the idea!!!
  • Kerri Golding Oransky

    Somehow I knew you would
  • Ellen Court Marston

    Um, I am an English nerd. Ha!
  • Kerri Golding Oransky

    Ok, not sure of the logistics of all of it yet but maybe you can just start writing about your experience with it can just do it in a word doc and then we can figure the best way to publish things
  • Ellen Court Marston

    Oh we're so gonna have the best blog ever.
  • Kerri Golding Oransky

    Damn straight! Never mind blog- I see a book in our future!
  • Ellen Court Marston

    Yes!! Movie rights even! Lol.

    Stay tuned for Ellen's first blog post, which gives her side of our initial meeting....

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Transfer Day Prep

With transfer day quickly approaching I find myself in a surreal position.  Leading up to transfer day, I am typically getting daily shots of progesterone to prepare my uterine lining, doing acupuncture at least weekly to balance my hormones,  and doing all I can to prime my uterus for conception such as refraining from alcohol, eating healthy, doing fertility yoga and listening to Circle and Bloom fertility meditations.  This time, it's not my uterus that will be carrying this baby so I don't have to do any of those things.  Some may think this is a good thing. Just sit back and let someone else do the work for a change.  For me, not so much.  In these situations where I am completely powerless about the outcome, I have learned that I do best when I find ways to empower myself by doing something. (Hence all the yoga, meditation, etc).

So what can I do to prepare for transfer? I decided to put my energy into coming up with the perfect transfer day gift package for Ellen and her husband, Chris.  I learned via FB posts and blog posts that in the surro world, it's typical to give your surrogate a gift upon transfer day.  A transfer day gift is usually a basket with goodies, sometimes jewelery, sometimes matching green socks, etc.  Some folks even wear matching t-shirts with sayings like the standard "Our bun" and "My oven" shirts or the more original "Sometimes it takes three to tango" and "My Threesome was Crazier than Yours"  t-shirts.  I scoured the internet for some ideas and came up with a few of my own.   Since we are all college sports rivals, we decided it would be fun to plan a transfer day package around that.   We wanted to get Ellen a Georgia Bulldog maternity  t-shirt, especially since if all this works, she will be needing maternity clothing come football season.  I couldn't have been more pleased with this shirt that I found.
We put some other fun stuff in the package too, like this great little book


Which pretty much sums up how I feel about Ellen...                                                                        

We also included the obligatory pineapple core.  Pineapple core is one of those "Old Wives Tales" that is supposed to help with implantation, although there is actually some science behind it. Pineapple contains large amount of bromelain, which is a nutrient that is an anti-inflamnatory which seems to increase cervical mucas (TMI?) This can make the uterus more sticky which can lead to increased rates of implantation.  Most of the bromelain is foudn in the core of the pineapple, so the recommendation is to cut the core into five equal pieces and eat one piece a day starting on the day of transfer.  I did this for all of my transfers and IUI's and hoped Ellen would do the same.

We also put in this silly little gift ( a walking hen who lays little gumball eggs!) We figured it was appropriate since we're hoping she's our Momma Hen who will be sitting on our egg keeping our little chick warm until it's ready to be delivered.

We added a little good luck charm- a jade rabbit necklace that was lent to me fairly early in my TTC journey  by Jason's mother.  If I remember correctly, a long-time friend of her's had some trouble conceiving and found this rabbit in Chinatown which helped her get pregnant with her daughter. Years later, her daughter had trouble conceiving as well and she gave her the charm. She, too,  had a baby.  While the charm never worked for me (or at least never stuck) I hoped Ellen would have better luck with it. 

Finally, we put it all together along with some magazines and some goodies from Trader Joe's like dark chocolate pretzels, hummus, and these chocolate peanut butter bars that she had posted about on Instagram.    This is the finished gift basket.

We couldn't leave her husband Chris out since he plays a big role in this as well.  Jason and Chris had already discussed their mutual love of IPA's so I found a cooler backpack and Jason filled it with some of his favorite beers. We got Chris a Georgia t-shirt, which as it turns out,  is a lot harder to get in Georgia when it isn't football season than you would think! Jason had actually ordered one he liked on-line weeks prior but for some reason it never showed.  We scrambled to find one that wasn't a golf shirt or really ugly and despite looking in Target, Ross or TJ Maxx we coudln't find any that we liked. Jason even looked at the mall in  Footlocker, Champs, Nike and various department stores.  Surprisingly, we found a decent one at the dollar store of all places, so got that along with a giant Georgia beer mug. We're hoping he enjoys his gift as well (and that he drinks the beer AFTER he gives Ellen her shots!).  Stay tuned for the rest of our transfer plans....

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day Musings

About three years ago, when I was about two years into my TTC (trying to conceive) journey a colleague of mine shared a bit about her own infertility struggles.  In addition to being in the same field, it turned out we had a lot in common- our birthdays were just a day apart, we got married one week apart, and we both longed to start our family.  We were both even seeking assistance at the same fertility clinic.  I remember thinking "she really gets it" when she told me "I've had 23 failed cycles" (by this she meant menstrual cycles- she had not yet tried Assisted Reproductive Techniques but had clearly been keeping track of the monthly disappointments just as I had.)

With this shared experience, we forged a friendship unlike any other.  We leaned on each other during our losses, celebrated one another's victories and understood when it was too difficult to talk about either.  I remember when our mutual friend commented on how great it was that we were starting such a strong friendship but expressed concern about what would happen if one of us got pregnant and the other didn't. I told him that though it might be hard, I thought we would be happy for one another and hopeful for ourselves.    I was right.  At one point, after her first failed IVF cycle and my sixth failed IUI, we were both set to attempt an IVF cycle together.  Then I unexpectedly got naturally pregnant. I was initially afraid to tell her but ultimately did and she couldn't have been more over-joyed.   As it turns out, I miscarried and she had another failed cycle.  We both mourned the losses together.   And then, the news we both dreamed of happened.  Her third and final IVF cycle worked! I cried when she told me the news-  honest-to- goodness happy tears.  She now is the mom of twins and though she is incredibly busy, she  continues to be an amazing support for me. She still checks in with me weekly, listens to my pain and worry and celebrates the victories when they come.

This week she posted a very profound statement of FB that I wanted to share on Mother's Day:

The calendar never stops and here we are approaching another Mother’s Day. It is my first official one and I am feeling incredibly lucky to have the family I dreamed of my whole life. I am also painfully aware that many people are yearning for children of their own, are missing mothers and children who are now in heaven, and some who are still looking for the right partner to start their family. No matter where you are on your personal journey, please focus on the hope and possibilities to come. Life may not be what you expected, but sometimes the unexpected can be a wonderful blessing. Hugs and lots of love to all the special women in my life.

This other poem was given to me by my surro. Though I'd seen it before, it carries more weight this year as I hope and pray this will be my last Mother's Day without a child in my arms.

I Will Be A Wonderful Mother - By: Author Unknown

There are women who become mothers without effort,
without thought,
without patience or loss,
and though they are good mothers and love their children,
I know that I will be better.

I will be better not because of genetics or money or because I have read more books,
but because I have struggled and toiled for this child.

I have longed and waited.

I have cried and prayed.

I have endured and planned over and over again.

Like most things in life, the people who truly have appreciation are those who have struggled to attain their dreams.

I will notice everything about my child.

I will take time to watch my child sleep, explore, and discover.

I will marvel at this miracle every day for the rest of my life.

I will be happy when I wake in the middle of the night to the sound of my child, knowing that I can comfort, hold, and feed him and that I am not waking to take another temperature, pop another pill, take another shot or cry tears of a broken dream.

My dream will be crying for me.

I count myself lucky in this sense; that God has given me this insight, this special vision with which I will look upon my child.

Whether I parent a child I actually give birth to or a child that God leads me to, I will not be careless with my love.

I will be a better mother for all that I have endured.

I am a better wife, a better aunt, a better daughter, neighbor, friend, and sister because I have known pain.

I know disillusionment, as I have been betrayed by my own body. I have been tried by fire and hell that many never face, yet given time, I stood tall.

I have prevailed.

I have succeeded.

I have won.

So now, when others hurt around me, I do not run from their pain in order to save myself discomfort.

I see it, mourn it, and join them in theirs.

I listen.

And even though I cannot make it better, I can make it less lonely.

I have learned the immense power of another hand holding tight to mine, of other eyes that moisten as they learn to accept the harsh truth when life is beyond hard.

I have learned a compassion that only comes by walking in those shoes.

I have learned to appreciate life.

Yes, I will be a wonderful mother. 

Finally, I would be remiss without wishing my wonderful mother and mother-in-law a Very Happy Mother's Day.  Thank you for your unending love and support, especially during this difficult time in our lives.  And of course, Happy Mother's Day to the newest and most important mother in my life surro, Ellen. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Signed, sealed....hoping for a delivery!

It's official.  After endless scrutinizing, multiple revisions, and a bit of discomfort, we have officially signed our contract.  All 33 pages.    This was the not-so-fun part of the surrogacy arrangement because it makes you think about and discuss not-so-fun subjects like compensation, termination of pregnancy,  and every worst-case-scenario that you can imagine including but not limited to divorce of intended parents or gestational carrier, death of one or both of the intended parents,  and incapacitation/death of the gestational carrier.  

Talking about money is never a comfortable thing. We first discussed compensation right after we met when we agreed to move forward with this journey. And by discussed I mean I emailed my surro a  questionnaire that our attorney gave us where she listed her desired amount for compensation and we emailed back saying it all sounded good.  Our attorney gave us a similar checklist prior to developing our contract which covered a more detailed breakdown of the compensation.   Apparently, there are  different variables throughout the journey when compensation is given (X amount for starting medications, X amount for transferring, X amount for positive pregnancy after 3 consecutive rising betas, X amount for confirmed heartbeat, and then X amount per month).  There are also various amounts for hypothetical situations such as invasive and surgical procedures like polyp removal, selective reduction, D&C,  and loss of reproductive organs and various amounts for lost wages due to bed rest, as well as childcare and housekeeping expenses should bed rest occur.  We hoped we would never have to compensate for any of those hypothetical scenarios!

Our surro completed the checklist, which we then forwarded on to our attorney to draft the agreement.  It took a couple of weeks for them to get the initial draft to us and we were pretty overwhelmed when we first saw it.  There were a number of restrictions for our surro that we had never discussed with our attorney but which appeared to be pretty standard.  For example, there was a lengthy paragraph regarding her diet.  I had previously requested and she had agreed to eating organic meats and poultry, and while this was in the contract so were a variety of other mandates and restrictions such as eating sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables and limiting fast foods, canned foods, packaged snack foods, soft drinks, cured meats, caffeine, and energy drinks. I was quick to notify our surro that the dietary requests were not something we had asked for as I didn't want her to think I was going to be super-controlling about her every move. 

Some other somewhat standard restrictions were related to travel.  The initial draft stated that our surro would not travel more than 5 hours or 250 miles away from home for the first 22 weeks of gestation.  After the first 22 weeks, she was restricted to traveling no more than 3 hours or 150 miles away from home.  The reason for this restriction is due to different jurisdictions' laws related to surrogacy. The concern is that if our surro was traveling to a state that did not recognize surrogacy and went into labor,  we may not be able to have rights as Intended Parents.    While we agreed that this was important, we didn't think it was fair to restrict her travel for the first 22 weeks so asked that that restriction be removed from the contract.   We asked for some other minor changes related to errors that we spotted (ie they listed our surro's husband's daily income as his hourly income, which made for a considerable difference in the amount we would have owed for lost wages)  and waited for the revisions.  This was a pretty frustrating process.  Despite multiple readings and requests,  many of the same mistakes were still present and if often took days to get a corrected copy.  We got to the point where we just wanted the contracts signed so we asked that they be sent out for our surro's approval even though there was still an inconsistency in the contract.  They complied, and assured us that the correction would be made before the final contract was to be signed.

Once the contract was approved by both parties, we scheduled an appointment for the four of us to meet with our attorney to sign the contract.  As it turns out, our attorney was out of town so her associated stood in for her.  Our surro was given the option to have her own attorney review the contract with her but she waived this option.  The signing of the contract was was similar to a closing for property.  All four of us had to initial each page (all 33 of them) of three separate copies of the contract (one for us, our surro and the attorney).  Jason knows me pretty well and he correctly pointed out that I was racing to be the first one done initialing my copy.   I was moving at lightning speed until it occurred to me to check and make sure the correction had been made. I was pretty annoyed to learn that it hadn't.   This meant that I had to address the mistake (one that involved compensation) in front of everyone.  It was extremely uncomfortable because all previous discussions about compensation were done via text or email.  This had to be done in person and I think all four of us were squirming a bit.  After several minutes of explaining to the associate, the paralegal finally made the correction and we resumed our signing duties.

A few awkward moments aside, I think the four of use were excited to have the contracts signed as it meant we could soon move forward with transferring our embryos.  We all grabbed a bite afterwards to celebrate and found once again that we really enjoyed one another's company.  We were hopeful that this would be the first of many celebrations to come!