It’s a…

BABY! Yay!

Who is very proud of his anatomy. Did you catch that? Yup, Amy and Al are very excited to be expecting a baby boy.

We had a wonderful tech at Austin Maternal Fetal Medicine that conducted our very in depth anatomy scan and fetal echo ultrasound. Normally the gender reveal happens after all of the images and measurements are taken, but… Baby boy had everything proudly displayed about 10 minutes into the scan. And continued to give us multiple angles through out the appointment. He left no room for doubt, ha! But he made us work for the rest of the images with lots of belly jiggles and shifting me into new positions. I will have to return in three weeks to get additional images of his heart because his spine and rib cage were casting shadows, but I was prepared for a return visit.

When I had to roll over to my side for a better image, I really wish I had my phone handy for a candid shot of Amy and Al. They were rapt in awe watching the monitor as different aspects of their precious baby came into view. I turned my attention back to the screen, partially out of curiosity, but also out of respect because I felt like I was watching a very private moment.

Dr. DeStefano came in at the end of the apointment to review everything. She confirmed that baby boy looks great and is right on track. Such great news!

We had lunch with my husband between appointments at a local favorite, Jack Allen’s Kitchen. Who would have thought that laying on a table for over an hour would work up an appetite?!

Last up on our epic agenda was a tour of the Women’s Centre where I plan to deliver. Wow! It is such a nice facility! I look forward to getting to experience everything there come January. 😊

Having accomplished the appointments today seemed to really put us all in a reality of “this is really happening!” We discussed several details about January and set more in motion to be tackled in the near future. What a wonderful day ❤

He or She?

Excitement is right around the corner! Amy and Al are flying into Austin right now for a day full of appointments. They will get to attend their first live ultrasound of this precious little one and hopefully find out whether they are expecting a he or she! We will also be touring the hospital while they are here as they are not planning on a return trip until January.

The ultrasound will be an anatomy scan and fetal echo to check on baby’s development of major organs and bones. This major ultrasound is normally done around 20 weeks and lasts close to an hour. We’ll be squeaking in at 19 weeks to accommodate all of our schedules. As a result, there is a chance that I will have to go back in a couple of weeks to get better/additional images of some of the organs, which we all agreed was fine.

I have started feeling more and more movement every day. And as you can see below, my belly buddy is definitely more noticeable. One fun thing I’ve started doing is making shirts to wear. I use my Cricut Explore Air 2 machine to create stencils out of freezer paper and paint designs and sayings onto maternity shirts. Now, to find or come up with more fun designs!20170730_081202

 

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Interview with Intended Parents

Q: What led you to use a surrogate?

A: We attempted adoption and we waited for almost 2 1/2 years. We used social media and reached out to many adoption agencies and clinics. We were suddenly approached about an opportunity in surrogacy, we did our research and moved forward.

Q: Do you know her?

A: No. We were referred to her.

Q: Was it difficult to trust someone else to carry your child?

A: No. We know it is not physically possible to carry our child. Our surrogate has had experience before, is very knowledgeable and takes very good care of herself and the baby. Knowing she has the support from her husband is important to us as well.

Q: Do you feel included in the pregnancy?

A: Yes! Communication has been absolutely wonderful. Examples…We receive video of ultrasounds with the Dr. pointing things out, nurse including us on emails sent to our surrogate, how our surrogate is feeling and we just had an update that is our surrogate is sitting a certain way, she can feel baby kicking!

Q: What has been the biggest challenge so far?

A: Not so much a challenge, but wish we were closer to support surrogate. Prior to getting pregnant, challenge and frustrations included 2 failed attempts.

Q: What has been the biggest surprise for far?

A:  The amazing wonders of science! As well as the relationship we have built with our surrogate and her husband. Through 2 failed attempts, we’ve experienced the ups and downs together!

Q: Would you do anything differently?

A: No

Q: Would you do it again?

A: No…simply because it’s not feasible as we want strong future and college funds 🙂 As well as our age.

Q: Any closing thoughts?

A: It has been an amazing experience and we look forward to sharing this rewarding story with our child! We hope to continue a lifelong relationship with our surrogate and include her and her family on our child’s upbringing.

Interview with a Surrogate’s Husband

Q: What was your response to your wife telling you she wanted to carry a second time as a Gestational Carrier (G.C.)?

A:  I wasn’t at all surprised.  We had talked about it before and said that if it was a good fit we were open for another journey.  Communication is key and that door is always open.

Q: What was your level of support in the decision for her to carry?

A:  We are both completely involved.  We talked about it and agreed upon it and I support her decision.

Q: Do you get many questions from people about surrogacy?

A:  Most people just smile and say “that’s cool” or something similar.  I think a lot of that is people just honestly don’t know even what it means when I say my wife is a surrogate.  Others that do know typically do have questions.  Questions to me and about my wife.  I always answer them truthfully and speak from my experience and point of view.

Q: How do you handle the pregnancy with your children?

A: We are very open with them.  We explain to them exactly what is going on and what it means.

Q: Is your involvement with the pregnancy any different than when you had your own children?

A:  Support is pretty much the same as when she was pregnant with our own children.  Be there for her physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Whatever she needs.  Pregnancy can and should be a beautiful thing for couples to share together.  It’s a fantastic miracle whirlwind of a journey that has only made our bond stronger.

Q: Your wife experienced a failed transfer, how did that affect you?

A: I felt helpless.  I knew there was nothing I could do or say to make it hurt any less for the IPs or my wife.  All I could do was to just be available whenever for whatever.

Q: Do you think this experience has or will affect your relationship in any way? (good or bad)

A: I suspect that like the first time, if anything changes in our relationship, it will be for the better.  It’s yet another experience we have been through together.

Q: If roles were reversed, would you consider being a G.C.?

A: That’s a very interesting question.  Being a completely hypothetical question and not knowing anything about what it’s like to be pregnant I have to answer this question purely based on heart.  I’d like to believe that if the circumstances felt right to all parties involved, that I would be willing to take that on.  I’ve never been one to shy away for challenges or adversity so I think there would be a lot of excitement and joy involved.

Q: Any closing thoughts?

A: I think that getting knowledge out to people by doing things like this is a great thing.  I’m curious to hear from others out there, both G.Cs and their support group, about their thoughts and their journey experiences.  I think that being a G.C is one of the most selfless acts that a person could do and it opens up a door that may not have ever been opened for people.  What a great way to bring joy and happiness to others.  By giving them one of the best miracles in this world.  Hope and Lord willing, a child.

Interview with a Gestational Carrier/Surrogate

Q: How are you able to keep from becoming attached? Won’t it be hard to give away the baby?

A: From the very beginning it is clear, to me and everybody involved, that I am carrying for another family. I don’t think up names, or plan out a nursery, or make cute announcements to family members. This is not my child. That doesn’t mean I’m cold hearted and have no feelings at all, it just means that my feelings do not include a claim or a motherly bond. Rather, I feel more like the cool aunt sharing updates.

Q: How has surrogacy affected your marriage, if at all?

A: If anything it has only continued to draw us closer as we experience these miracles together. My husband is my biggest support, especially during the black hole of no energy in the first trimester, he really is amazing.

Q: How are you handling the pregnancy with your children?

A: We are pretty direct with them about the whole process. Words have grown up a little bit between the first surrogacy and this one but the concept remains the same. Our 5 year old told her Kinder teach toward the end of school that “A doctor put a baby in my mommy’s belly for another family!” They are both very attentive and seem to grasp the situation better than most adults. Another wonderful resource are some of the books we own, see this post for more on that.

Q: How did you first learn about surrogacy? What made you want to become a gestational carrier?

A: When I was 16 and taking a college course at my local community college the conversation of family came up with a classmate during a break. I learned that she was a two time surrogate in addition to her three biological children. It was the first time I had ever met a surrogate and it blew my mind. I wanted to learn more about it and made the goal of someday becoming an egg donor and/or surrogate. Fast forward several years and I made friends with another surrogate who joined an agency once she was done with surrogacy as a carrier. She suggested that I would be an ideal surrogate and encouraged me to submit an application when I was ready to do so.

When my husband and I were ready to grow into a family we experienced some fertility issues for over three years. Compared to many it wasn’t long, but it felt like an eternity. After having our own two children it only made me want to help grow other families that much more.

Q: You had to do injections how long?! Who gave them to you? Does it hurt?

A: I started Progesterone in Oil (PIO) intramuscular injections on the day the eggs were thawed and continued through 15 weeks gestation. My husband has lovingly administered all of my injections this time. The majority of them were relatively painless, the actual medication is a little thick so if it is pushed too fast it can burn but as soon as the injection is done, the pain stops.

Q: Do you get paid a lot?

A: This is my least favorite question. While I can certainly appreciate that it is an investment for the IP’s to use a surrogate, as there are many costs involved, carrying as a surrogate is not a get rich quick scheme. It is a benefit to receive compensation but it is not the driving source for why I pursued this method of helping other families. And I wish people would stop asking about the financial side of things (unless they are potential IP’s doing research).

Q: Do you know the parents / IP’s?

A: We were referred to each other by a mutual connection. But we have since enjoyed getting to know each other through visits and regular group chats between all four of us.

Q: Would you have done anything differently?

A: No! Even with the bumps that we have experienced this has been an amazing journey so far. There have been wonderful staff and doctors involved throughout, I have continued to see my therapist every six weeks, there has been clear and constant communication, and we have grown a bond between the four of us that will last for many years to come.

Interview Series

Over time I have received a lot of questions about my surrogacy journeys, which is only natural, and I fully encourage. I thought it would be a good idea to refresh my interview series and address some of the most common questions received. If you have a question to add, please submit them to me and they’ll be added to the appropriate post.

This will be a three part series, with interviews of each:

  • Gestational Carrier /Surrogate (me)
  • Surrogate’s Husband
  • Intended Parents

Growing right along

The past month has been a very busy one for me and my family! Finally, I have a moment to sit down and get up to date.

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Normally, ladies with non-high risk pregnancies have their first OB appointment around 8 weeks to confirm pregnancy via ultrasound, then continue with OB visits every 4 weeks until 28 weeks. The appointments increase frequency to every 2 weeks until 36 weeks and at the end they are every week. Since the first OB appointment was around 10 weeks I was scheduled to come back two weeks later to get on the typical schedule. At the 12 week appointment we were able to get the baby on the Doppler right away. I love that galloping horse sound! It was a relatively short appointment compared to the first as I didn’t have any extra procedures. After discussing the anatomy scan and fetal echo I was on my way!

The anatomy scan and fetal echo were referred to Austin Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Because Amy and Al will be flying out for the big ultrasound we wanted to try to get the appointment on the books as soon as possible. There was a little back and forth with the office to coordinate everybody’s schedules but we were able to land on August 18th, the day baby will be 19 weeks. There is a possibility that I will need to do a follow up ultrasound a couple of weeks later if they aren’t able to get clear enough images of some of the organs at 19 weeks, but we all agreed that was OK.

A couple days after scheduling the big ultrasound was when we were supposed to leave for vacation. As a result of me being on vacation and not being able to have blood work done during that time frame, I had to continue PIO injections through the 21st. I’ll go in tomorrow for a blood draw to see if I get to stay off of the PIO injections. The last blood work just before 14 weeks showed my progesterone at a 31 after already reducing my dose to 1/4 cc so I’m hopeful that I am officially done with my night time routine. (all fingers crossed!)

This Friday marks 16 weeks, which also means that since I last wrote we passed into the wonderful second trimester! Thankfully there wasn’t really any weight gain during the first trimester even though I was extremely lethargic and not on my feet a whole lot. Food is starting to even out a little bit (eggs are back on the menu), but there are still some “wet dog food” surprises. Energy is kicking back into gear… just in time for the dog days of summer to hit central Texas. Overall things are going very smoothly pregnancy wise!

I have tried to remember to take weekly pictures on Fridays to document each week of growth. Here is a line up of all of the pictures through 15 weeks, enjoy!

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Baby Is Looking More Like a Baby

Curious why your body is finally looking pregnant? It’s because at 15 weeks pregnant your baby is quickly growing bigger each week — he’s as long as four inches right now. Need a better visual (and a snack)? Hold a large navel orange in your hand — that’s how big your little darlin’ is. (Now that you’re done looking, peel that orange and eat it for a delicious two servings of vitamin C!). And with each passing week, your fetus is also looking more and more like the baby you’re picturing in your dreams. By now, the ears are positioned properly on the sides of the head (they used to be in the neck) and the eyes are moving from the side of the head to the front of the face — where they’ll soon meet your loving gaze.

First OB Appointment

Tuesday was a packed day! I started off with another weekly blood draw. Thankfully I got my favorite phlebotomist (it’s a little funny that I have a favorite)! Hopefully I should only have one or two more weeks of that.

Later in the afternoon was my first OB appointment at Oakwood Women’s Centre-Seton Williamson with Dr. Rebecca Teng. This is my first time having a female OB/GYN so I’m interested to see if there are any differences. The appointment started off with another book of paperwork, for several of the questions I had to write “Gestational Surrogate” next to them without an answer. Standard with most prenatal appointments is leaving a urine sample at the beginning. I’ll just have to remind myself to wait until I get to my appointments instead of before I leave the house.

Dr. Teng had me go in for a super quick ultrasound to check the heart beat as Doppler can be hit or miss at 10 weeks. Baby was wiggling all over the place but we were able to get the strong heart beat of 169 bpm. We tried to get a couple of pictures too but that proved to be a little more tricky.20170620_130505[1]20170620_130518[1]

There were a few chunks of waiting but I tend to forget all of the things covered during a first OB visit so it didn’t bother me too much. The nurse took me back to get my vitals and to fill in my medical history. Dr. Teng gave me a physical exam then had a lengthy discussion with me about some of the things to expect, some questions for me to relay to Amy and Al, and to discuss her maternity leave (she’s 35 weeks pregnant). One of the things I had expected due to my PCOS, is that she will have me do an early glucose screening test to check for gestational diabetes and then I will repeat it again at the normal time (24-28 weeks). Thankfully, I haven’t had it yet, but I do know other moms without PCOS that had three healthy pregnancies only to have a forth or fifth pregnancy with GD. We will see what the Lord sees fit to hand me this time.

Not too long after finishing the OB appointment, my blood results came back along with Dr. Vaughn’s orders for the next week. My Progesterone was 28 and Estradiol was 1,082, which are excellent numbers! Today was my last dose of Estradiol and Saturday I start to decrease my PIO injections from 1cc to .75cc. I have definitely reached the point that I am greatly looking forward to my last intramuscular injection! With the two failed cycles I’ve had quite a lot more injections this time around than I did last time and I’m running out of non-tender real estate. Hopefully next week after my blood draw I will know when that magical final injection will be.

Ultrasound at 9w3d and RE Graduation

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Monday’s visit to Texas Fertility was full of smiles! The ultrasound went really well. Little one was wiggling all over the place and had doubled in size since the last appointment 2 weeks prior. Isn’t the miracle of growth in utero amazing to witness?! Dr. Vaughn did a quick sweep to make sure there was just one happy little one swimming around in there, which there is. I took video of the monitor again for Amy and Al and uploaded it as soon as the appointment was over. I love that they get to save the videos and watch them as many times as they want.

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Dr. Vaughn officially released me from TFC and said to go ahead and schedule my first OB prenatal appointment. He will continue to monitor my hormone levels with weekly blood draws until my progesterone level is around 30, at that time I will get to stop my nightly intramuscular injections. Today I reduced my Estradiol intake down again and Dr. Vaughn anticipates I will get to stop it completely next week.

Today also marks 10 weeks gestation, here is what is going on with the little one:

Your baby’s growth is fast and furious when you are 10 weeks pregnant. She’s nearly an inch-and-a-half long and the size of a prune, but not nearly as shriveled (even with all the time spent in water). In fact, your baby is really taking a human shape now. Bones and cartilage are forming and small indentations on the legs are developing into knees and ankles. The arms, complete with elbows, can flex already (how’s that for magical?), but don’t run to the store for a baseball bat just yet. Though your baby’s arms are taking shape and getting stronger, each one is still teeny-tiny.

Ultrasound at 7w5d and Sick During First Trimester

Hi there! We had the first big ultrasound/sonogram… which leads me to a rabbit hole. The terms ultrasound and sonogram are interchangeable in most prenatal examples. The ultrasound is the actual procedure using high frequency sounds waves, and sonogram refers to the picture of the baby created from that procedure. Which term do you prefer or use? I like ultrasound for some reason. OK, back to my original train of thought. The first big ultrasound was Wednesday, May 31st just over a week ago and right as I was coming down with a behemoth cold. It zapped what was left of my depleted energy, then took my voice for a few days, and finally settled into an ugly sounding “get away from me now” cough for a few more days. Thankfully, today was a good day and looks like the worst is over. Yay! Due to being in my first trimester, I was pretty limited on remedies. So, I drank as much water as I could along with a little vitamin C, Zinc, and plenty of naps/earlier bed times. I’m very thankful my girls were relatively good for my several randomly timed naps and they only made normal messes, nothing lethal.

On to the good parts! The ultrasound went really well. I told Dr. Vaughn that I was going to be taking video for the parents and he said “Go for it! Do whatever you want.” He found the little one (singular) pretty quickly. After taking a few key measurements it was time to get a heart beat confirmation recording. This little one was drumming right along at 163 bpm. After a brief discussion about what to expect next, I was free to dress and start uploading my video so that Amy and Al could get an instant replay and pop the champagne. 20170607_194348[1]20170607_194358[1]

For now, I will continue my weekly blood draws to monitor the two hormones that I am putting into my body, Progesterone (P4) and Estradiol (an estrogen), and to follow-up with a growth ultrasound about two weeks out. If numbers continue to look good and the ultrasound goes well, I will begin to wean off of hormones and “graduate” to my OB/GYN’s office for “normal” prenatal care. It is exciting to get to that point but it will be a bit of an adjustment for Team B as we go from constant detailed monitoring to monthly prenatal appointments. The next big thing won’t be until the anatomy scan around 20 weeks gestation, which would be the second half of August. It sounds so far away but I know it will be here before any of us know it.

In the meantime I am definitely fluffing up. It’ll be fun to see how quickly I go from “fluffy” to “pregnant”. There is a difference! I’d rather look pregnant than look like I ate a whole platter of burritos and have the gas gut to match. With each pregnancy it seems the body pops faster so I have a feeling it won’t be long before I’m sharing weekly comparison pictures.

In the world of baby development, this Friday will mark 9 weeks gestation.

Here are some fun facts about the 9 week mark:
She’s now about one inch long, the size of a medium green olive (but no martinis, please). The head has straightened out and is more fully developed and the ears are continuing to grow, making baby look more human. Plus, toes are visible, and all of baby’s essential organs (heart, brain, kidneys, liver and lungs) have begun to develop.