What was I doing?

Oh! I was going to write a blog post, right.

That’s right, I’m in the throws of the first trimester. For me that means exhaustion felt all the way deep down in my bones, All the smells, and I eat like a toddler. How does a toddler eat? One second bananas are their favorite and that’s all they want so you go buy two bunches only to come home to a fit throwing child that now HATES bananas. There is no rhyme or reason. And there is no warning. I can sit down to a meal that sounds good but one bite turns the tongue curling yuck vibes on. Since I’m an adult, I try one more bite to be sure. Yup, still tastes like a clod of dirt my dog brought in, run away! This fun phenomenon is called food aversion. The things that do consistently taste good at the moment include anything sour, but especially: old fashioned lemonade, bread, a real fresh from the grill cheeseburger, nachos Loaded with jalapenos, medium dairy queen hot fudge sundae with all the toppings, pickles, topo chico (“bubble water”), and peanut butter. Other things trickle on and off the menu too so I’m still getting my nutrients but some days I take the bagel with cream cheese because absolutely nothing else sounds appetizing. I fully embrace each and every change though because they all point toward a healthy start to the pregnancy and continued growth.

My current surrogacy related routine consists of taking a handful of pills every morning (1 estradiol, 1 giant prenatal, & 3 metformin), an intramuscular injection every evening rotating each night between left and right upper outer quadrants, 2 estradiol pills every evening, and a weekly blood draw. The blood draw checks three levels to keep an eye on the growing baby: Beta-hCG, Progesterone (P4), and Estradiol. After the blood draw I send a message to “Team B”, as Amy has dubbed us, letting them know the stab session is over. Then I send an email to our amazing RE Nurse to let her know to expect the STAT results in a few hours. After the test results are in, we all receive an email from our nurse with the numbers followed up with the RE’s orders for the following week.

The last two blood test results have continued to be excellent! And it is so reassuring to watch that Beta climb and climb.

Monday, May 15 results:
HCG 7,001
Progesterone 23
Estradiol 185 (normal to fluctuate and is not a concern)

Monday, May 22 results:
HCG is 33,448
Progesterone 21
Estradiol 428

This Monday is Memorial Day in the U.S. which is a federal holiday. That means the lab will be closed so I will be going in on Tuesday instead. The next morning will be the first prenatal ultrasound at the RE’s office! We’re all pretty excited. Hopefully at close to 7 1/2 weeks we will be able to confirm a strong heart beat. I will be taking video of the ultrasound monitor to immediately share with Amy and Al, that way they can save it and watch it as many times as they want. 🙂

Beta #2

I went in for the second blood draw to check the level of hCG in my body. Ideally you would like to see the number double at a rate of every 48-72 hours. My first blood draw was on Friday morning so that put today’s test almost exactly at 72 hours.

First beta-hCG at 9 days post transfer: 126 mIU/ml

Second beta-hCG at 12 days post transfer: 490 mIU/ml

Woo! This little bean is growing! Now, we just wait to hear from Dr. Vaughn with what his orders are.

Here is some information for a reference point on what those numbers mean:
This table shows the normal hCG levels during pregnancy for each week from your last menstrual period, according to the American Pregnancy Association:

Weeks from last menstrual period Normal hCG levels (mlU/ml)
3 5-50
4 5-426
5 18-7,340
6 1,080-56,500
7-8 7,650-229,000
9-12 25,700-288,000
13-16 13,300-254,000
17-24 4,060-165,400
25-40 3,640-117,000

Under the Radar

Sometimes, there is comfort in flying under the radar. People mean well in asking what’s next or how I’m doing but I just wanted to stay in a quiet bubble while the cyclone of life was ripping around me.

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So, what have I been up to over the past month? A lot! I have a few volunteer jobs (I said yes, one too many times) that all got busy at the same time March through April on top of navigating the surrogacy waters. Let’s dive into my surrogacy world April through today, shall we?

The week following the news of the loss I shifted my focus to my health. I really focused on nutrient dense food and high protein while tackling an amazing 30 day fitness challenge by Betty Rocker and walking several miles daily. In the midst of that, “Team B” as Amy has dubbed us (and I love it!), was able to turn around immediately and jump right into another transfer cycle. That’s right, we didn’t have to wait and I didn’t have to go back on birth control (YAY!). We were so quick in the turn around that I made it through day 25 of my 30 day challenge which was still an awesome accomplishment! I highly recommend the free challenge and have already gotten my husband and several others bit by the bug. Ha!

At the beginning of April I went in for my third Baseline monitoring appointment. Dr. Vaughn was happy with the way everything looked and said he was good with us continuing on with the transfer cycle. Of course that meant we had wiped off all the checks from our previous list and needed to start working through it again, but it was still a great start to round three. One of the things our previous nurse had forgotten was to put my husband and I on a z pack antibiotic to ensure a clean environment, so we knocked that out and I refilled medications.

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Through the tests and the weeks without any major updates, Team B has kept in constant communication full of faith and silly banter. This journey has been such a wonderful thing to experience, I’m so blessed.

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Part of the bubble aspect was that I realized I had been unnecessarily putting off making a new appointment with my therapist Dr. Boyd since her practice break in December. Subconsciously I was waiting to have good news to share with her, but that is the opposite of why I continue to seek her very skilled support. The timing of the appointment was especially good though because I went straight from my lining check to Dr. Boyd’s office and was able to fill her in accurately with our timeline.

Did you notice the mention of “lining check”? Well, it was another good appointment with my uterine lining sitting fluffy at 11.2mm. Almost exactly 2mm less than the lining check for the previous cycle but still well beyond the goal of 7mm. The next day was a blood draw to check the level of progesterone. Another pass! Things were flowing along pretty smoothly once more… until we hit a slight hiccup. Our nurse noticed that the lab had not received the eggs yet and they were supposed to start the thaw the next day. Just a little tiny IMPORTANT missing ingredient. Thankfully Team B and our nurse were on top of it and the eggs shipped right away so we only pushed back the timeline by two days. It was a pretty frustrating mistake by the egg bank but I’m so thankful our nurse was on top of things and it didn’t result in a dropped cycle which would have meant pushing things off to the next month. As a result of the snafu I had to go back in for another blood draw two days later to make sure progesterone levels hadn’t changed. Once that result came back we were OK to move forward with thawing the eggs and anxiously awaiting embryo reports from the embryologist leading up to the transfer.

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This is when the news started to get so good that I’m sure we were all doing a lot of self pinching to make sure it wasn’t too good. Even though the cohort of eggs we received this time was six instead of seven like the two previous times. Five out of Six fertilized, woo! The 3-day embryo report showed three (ah!) 8-cell, one 6-cell, and one 5-cell. I was reaching a hopeful state of happiness, not quite full on excitement and giddiness but definitely heading in the right direction. The verse I shared with our team was Psalm 130: 5 which perfectly summed it up for me.

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Wednesday morning, April 26th was transfer day! Another gracious friend offered to take our youngest daughter for the morning and away we went. Unfortunately for me, I took my job of having a full bladder too seriously and arrived to the Austin Fertility Surgery Center with my bladder already full… the transfer wasn’t for another hour and a half. You’ll notice the giant bloated jelly bean of black space in the ultrasound which was my bladder. Yikes! I filled out my required book of paperwork, took the valium pill with thoughts of sound sleep to come later in the afternoon, changed into my stylish digs and waited for the Embryologist. The Embryologist came in with a wonderful update. We were about to transfer a beautiful freeze quality blastocyst embryo and there was one more early blast embryo that may be freeze quality by the following day that they were going to watch. There were happy tears and that is when I finally became officially excited for the transfer!

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We were shuffled off down the hallway to the OR to witness (because I don’t really participate) another transfer. My husband took video of the monitors so that Amy and Al could get front row seats to this amazing process. Everything went smoothly and I heard the magic words, “You may empty your bladder now”. Hallelujah! Sweet relief.

After getting dressed, a nurse came in to remind us of my restrictions over the next nine days before the first blood pregnancy test. No lifting over 15 pounds, nothing that could bounce or jar my uterus (running, jumping, aerobics), a complete pelvic rest, no baths or pools.

And then we waited and tried not to read into every little twinge or food thought or weird dream. But it’s hard to ignore those! I felt some ovulation type cramps around three days post transfer but tried to look past them and didn’t bring any attention to them. Just shy of a week post transfer I cracked open a can of whole beets to make a salad but the smell was so good that I started drinking the juice too, much to the horrified disgust of my husband. And then before I knew it, it was the night before the blood test for pregnancy. I really wanted to be mentally prepared so I cracked open three different home pregnancy tests and watched anxiously as the dye slowly creeped into the viewing panel on each one…. to reveal three beautiful positives. AHHHH!!! I started crying and smiling and shaking. This couldn’t be kept to myself, no way! I messaged the team, “Sooooo… If I did a naughty and peeked… at something… would y’all like to see it too?” Of course Amy and Al were excited to see the tests and Amy even said she was hoping I would do that. Ha! So we all broke our own rules but it worked out for good! It made the test day so much better knowing that good news was on the other side. There was a delay in getting our results too which we didn’t mind at all. Our nurse called in the afternoon to let us know the first hCG level came back at 126! I’ll go back for one more blood draw on Monday to make sure things are progressing but I’m officially pregnant. Which also means Amy and Al are expecting a baby! Ahhhh!!!! SO many happy tears (and earlier bed times and more beets).

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