Transfer Tomorrow!

We have tackled a few bumps but are smoothly running toward the goal line of transferring one healthy and strong little embryo tomorrow morning!

On Friday, January 6th, I received my box of medications, syringes, and needles! It really makes things feel official when that box comes in. Almost like a box of treats only they all have side effects, ha! Maybe they should include treats in the box, like a couple of chocolates?

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Meds arrived!

Last Wednesday I went in for a Lining Check. This is an internal ultrasound where the Reproductive Endocrinologist measures the uterine lining to ensure conditions are ideal to move forward with an embryo transfer. The goal was 7.5mm and mine measured at 10.6mm. We were cleared for the next step!

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Lining Check

Thursday I went in for stat blood work to check my progesterone level. Once that result came in (0.2 ng/mL), our Nurse gave me the go ahead to start daily evening intramuscular injections of Progesterone in Oil of 50 mg/1 cc. Here is an excellent video series about Progesterone in Oil Intramuscular Injection. My husband administers mine, which is very helpful because I have a tendency to hesitate right as I stick myself and then slowly push it the rest of the way in. Definitely not preferable.

On my nightstand is where I have my injection station all set up for a week at a time. This keeps things handy for a rear “stab” and it keeps everything clean.

 

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My injection station

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1 CC PIO

 

On Friday all 7 of the donor eggs began the thawing process. We received an update by the end of the day that all 7 survived the thaw. Then the eggs were fertilized on Saturday and all 7 took. The good news just kept rolling in! Monday, the embryo quality report came through and we found out that there were 3 strong little fighters continuing to divide. At the point of transfer, Wednesday morning, we should have at least one 5 day blastocyst embryo.

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On Monday I also received a call from the on-call nurse at Texas Fertility Center to give me my transfer instructions and times. The transfer is scheduled for 10:30 am and we will be arriving an hour early. My husband will get to accompany me on this special appointment and is looking forward to the experience as I had to travel out of state for the last one and he stayed home with our two girls.

We are all (Amy, Al, Brandon, and Me) getting very excited about tomorrow and praying for a successful transfer. As per Amy & Al’s wishes we will all find out if this little embryo decides to snuggle in after the hcG blood test results. That’s right, another transfer without home pregnancy tests (hpt), it can be done! Typically, surros (and IP’s for that matter) get a little anxious and excited to see if the embryo stuck. As a result, the hpt’s start early and often leading up to the blood test for confirmation. This can have its benefits, but it can also add significant stress.

Tomorrow will be a day of relaxing for me after I get home from the transfer. Our RE hasn’t ordered me to be on strict bed rest but definitely taking it easy. I see knitting, audible, harry potter, and Netflix in my near future.

Updates

I am pleased to say that we have some pretty big updates!

Over the past two months, we have:

  • Completed Legal Contract
  • My initial consult with Dr. Vaughn
  • Began a new cycle
  • My husband and I had lab work done
  • We received our calendar!
  • I started birth control

We are all very excited to have things moving closer and closer to the embryo transfer in mid-January! A big part of visualizing that was when we received the calendar. I’m a very big planner and didn’t get a calendar last time so having this really makes my administrative heart go pitter patter. The calendar shows when certain medications are to begin, ultrasounds, blood tests, transfer, and so on.

Thankfully the first medication on the calendar is almost done, because I am not a fan of birth control side effects. Neither is my poor family I’m sure. It has made me cranky, short tempered, very tired, and an appetite like a rollercoaster. It has been so long since I had to take any form of birth control that I completely forgot some of the emotional side effects. But, like I said, Monday will be the last dose for that and I can wave goodbye to the tiny white pill.

Good things are happening and we are all truly blessed to be in this journey together. What could be a better Christmas present than that?

Psychological Clearance

This journey has already been so different from my first and Psych Clearance has been no exception! As a brief recap, this is what happened last time. Yup, that’s it. One of my biggest criticisms of my previous agency was that there should be a more rigorous screening and psych clearance process. Well that is what I have experienced this time around and as time consuming as it has been I appreciate the thoroughness of it.

To begin, I received a quick call and email from Dr. Carol Pierce Davis with 8 documents (some were multiple pages) that I needed to complete over the weekend. There was even a section my husband needed to complete in his own handwriting. I had an early morning appointment for a gestational carrier screening interview with Dr. Pierce Davis during which we went over my completed documents and went into a little more detail. Then I stepped up to the computer and took the MMPI-2 Test, all 567 T/F questions.

Amy & Al also had an Intended Parents interview with Dr. Pierce Davis. Once we all had completed our separate appointments, then both couples had a Group Evaluation appointment. I had no idea what to expect out of that, which made me a little nervous. Some of the same questions I had been asked in writing and verbally were asked again, only this time with my husband by my side and my IP’s sitting nearby. What possessed you to do such a crazy thing? How did you first learn of surrogacy? What kind of relationship are you hoping to have? Do you still keep in contact with your previous IP’s?

Then, Dr. Pierce Davis turned to my husband and asked what he thought of all this? Will you be a good, attentive, healthy support to your wife while she is pregnant with this child that is not yours?

What kind of communication and level of support do you plan to have from a long distance? How do you plan to include and care for each other during this journey?

All of the answers were lovely. There may have been a few tears. But in the end, it just helped solidify for everyone that this felt right. After the appointment we went to an impromptu breakfast to squeeze in one more visit before Amy & Al fly back to Nebraska for (hopefully) a few more months.

Brandon and I are getting to enjoy watching Amy and Al’s excitement grow as more good news keeps rolling in and more boxes get checked.

May I Introduce

 

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Al & Amy

Greetings from Nebraska! We want to introduce ourselves and tell you our story. We live in Omaha, NE and have been married for 3 years. Al owns a convenient store and I work as an elementary school paraprofessional. We are both originally from the Omaha area and have made it our home.

After several years of dating, we were married in September of 2013  (It took Al a little while to ask the question :). In January of 2014, I suffered a stroke at the age of 37. While I was in the hospital for a month and had 6 months of therapy to regain the use of my right side, I am so blessed to have made a complete recovery. We are so thankful to our medical team as they found the cause of my stroke. I have Factor V, which caused blood clots and 2 bleeds to the brain. I guess I learned that the hard way 🙂 Needless to say, it is all behind us and I have tremendous doctors who have helped me recover. I also had a hysterectomy in 2015 because of a history of breast and ovarian cancer. Both my mom and sister are cancer survivors! I was tested positive for the gene, so we knew a hysterectomy was the best option.

We are a couple who enjoy life to the fullest in a very simplistic, easy going way. We enjoy traveling, playing games, the outdoors, sporting events, watching our nephews, spending time with family and friends and living every day to the fullest. The two of us spend a lot of time at the kitchen table talking about the day we each have had, planning our week, or trying to beat each other in games. (A little friendly competition is never too bad) With laughter, fun and hard work we make the best out of every opportunity.

Our values center around love, respect and acceptance. The love we have for each other and our family is abundant. We respect people for who they are and who they want to be. We have learned to accept people and things the way they are and it certainly makes life much easier for everyone.

Al and I are in our early 40’s. It is our dream and in our hearts to become parents. Al comes from a big family and has 3 other siblings all living here as well. I have an older sister living in California, a step brother who lives outside of San Antonio, and 2 half sisters who live in Virginia.

We have been pursuing adoption since April of 2015, but have yet to be matched.

 

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Amy & Me

 

When One Door Closes…

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After a slow and painful end to the match with my friend, I reached out to a contact to let them know about the change of plans. About a week later she asked if I wouldn’t mind being an educational resource to a couple dear to her that were interested in learning more about the surrogacy process and possibly going down that road. If you’ve read any of my blog posts you’ll probally guess that I said, “Of course!” because I am all for educating and helping others. A few lengthy emails and one conference call and my title started to shift from educator to potential surrogate. I am not a very emotional person, passionate, but not emotional. There were a few times during our conference call that I got goose bumps and my eyes misted up. Sparklers were going off around me and even though I was trying hard to ignore it this match was meant to be. Toward the end of the call I was asked, through a hesitantly hopeful voice, would I consider being their surrogate? I was honored and said that I would consider it, but that we both needed to ask some more questions before making that initial commitment.

A week after the conference call, this sweet couple came out (flew) to meet us in person. We all met for dinner the first night they were here then they came over to our home the following afternoon as well. Between the two visits we covered all kinds of questions from procedures, timelines, family, and general life. We enjoyed food and jokes together like we had known each other for years. What a relief! Toward the end of the visit in our home I agreed to the match and sent off an email to my lawyer to get the legal process started.

The past month has been a busy one filled with emails, legal document drafts, and appointments. My IP’s (I can say that now!) also just came back for a very productive couple of days. After looking into my suggested clinic of TFC and a clinic closer to their home in Omaha, NE they decided to go with TFC. During this trip they had appointments at TFC, Psychological clearance appointments, and more fun visits with us.

We’ve all expressed how thankful we are and how it really feels like God pulled us together at the perfect time. There is a desire for transparency, group communication, and genuine interest in each other’s lives and activities. Following along with that thought process I will be writing a post with my IP’s introduction and their story. You might just melt for them too.

Decisions

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As you may have noticed, I don’t shy away from difficult topics. It may take me a little extra time to finally write it, but it does happen. Because I truly want this blog platform to be a source of educational information. And through such information other people may have the opportunity to learn from my mistakes.
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It is easier for me to give counsil to others but sometimes it take a little longer
to receive and accept my own advice.

After a lot of prayer, tears, and discussion, I came to the final decision to write a letter (via email) to my friend to break our match. Ultimately I know that I made the right decision, but boy did I ever wrestle over this. For the sake of privacy and anonymity for my friend, I will not go into the details behind that decision. But I do want everyone to know that I did not take this lightly. I am very sad that after all of this time we are having to stop the surro plans with each other, but keeping my friendship was more important to me.

Medical Clearance for Journey Two

Over the past week I found myself surrounded by the process of a Medical Clearance. There were so many familiar elements and yet it was such a different and stress free experience from almost two years ago that I found myself double checking the process more than once.

The lab work was done locally on a Friday. I set the appointment for when it worked best for my family and was able to drive by, give several vials of blood and a couple of urine samples then be on my way. That’s it? Wow, OK, I can get used to this. Then the following Tuesday mid-morning on CD 10 I went in to my local TFC office for a saline sono. I got to see the same RE that had monitored my first journey so we were able to touch base and exchange pleasantries before the brief procedure. The procedure itself went smoothly and my uterus looked “beautiful and smooth”. I will say though, I don’t remember the sensation of the saline running back down my legs during the sono… perhaps the last doctor didn’t distend the uterus as much? The RE wished me a good weekend and said he looked forward to following me on another successful gestational surrogacy.


And that was it, that was the Medical Clearance process for me this time. When compared to this it sounds like an absolute breeze and so much less expensive for the IP’s. I really appreciate the lower stress! Granted, I do have the last of the weight that I’m working on, but even with that hurdle there is so much less stress involved with this journey.

We received the group email yesterday, less than one week from the lab work, saying I am Officially Medically Cleared! They gave their blessing to move forward with Legal but understood if the IP’s would rather wait until I’ve gotten closer to the BMI goal weight before proceeding.

You can expect to be hearing from me more frequently again as well as filling in some of the gaps from my recent months with less blog activity as I continue to prepare to be a gestational carrier again.

 

Transformation

Transformation :
a complete or major change in someone’s or something’s appearance, form, etc.

The day baby James was born, I was transformed into a Surrogate.
It was a life-enriching and changing experience.

 

Update

Six whole months. That seems so strange! In one sense I feel as though my body didn’t give birth so recently and at the same time there are little lingering tell-tale signs of the life that I held and cared for all those months.

Surro baby James’ parents and I still talk about once a month for updates, pictures, and video. He is growing big and strong and absolutely adorable!

I had a necklace made by The Dainty Doe that represents both of my girls and baby James (as we refer to him in our household). It is very special to me and I appreciate having something that reminds me of that amazing experience without it being obvious.

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Reflection

Would I do anything differently?

I would not relocate my family for the third trimester and delivery.

It seemed like the ideal situation for us with how many things lined up. My husband’s company was there, we had family and friends there, we knew our way around, my brother was able to house sit… but we essentially were on a 4 month vacation. And that is exhausting. Vacation is fun but only for a week or two then the novelty starts to wear off and the expenses start to pile up and all you want is to sleep in your own bed.

We also had to change our living arrangement and rental vehicle while there and encountered several other unforeseen hurdles. Now that I am able to reflect on all of the details of the entire journey, it isn’t a big surprise that I ended up with PPD. Not because of the surrogacy or giving the baby to his parents, but everything else that went along with the process. Having to face many high stress situations with minimal support from the team I had expected to use as a resource was a big mental blow. Traveling home with so many of our belongings after a major holiday, two weeks (to the day) postpartum, and pumping, was one of those very stressful situations.

What Next?

Several people have asked if I would consider carrying as a surrogate again. So many of the negativities surrounding my first journey were avoidable and not due to the actual parents, pregnancy, or placing James in his mother’s arms. The actual surrogacy was a very positive experience. Which leads me to my answer. Yes.

As a matter of fact I have been working hard to lose weight to bring my BMI down. I am thankfully below my pre-pregnancy weight and only have another 15 or so to go, hopefully by the beginning of September, in order to be medically cleared for a second journey.

Yes, a second journey.

If all goes well, and I dearly hope it does, this would be a very different experience from my first journey. It already is such a different process and full of better communication. This journey would be for a friend and not through an agency. We will still go through all the same steps (Medical and Psychological clearance, Legal Contract, and a Reproductive Endocrinologist) but we have been, and would be, communicating directly with each other instead of primarily through a coordinator.

There has already been a phone interview with their RE during which I was able to cover a list of my questions and concerns. And my sister, who is a RDN, has been monitoring my weight loss to help me ensure that I am losing weight at a healthy pace and being realistic. No fad diets here! Just good hard work, tracking my activity with Fitbit, and tracking my intake on My Fitness Pal app. Weight loss should be done with the goal of creating a healthy lifestyle you can maintain.

As I continue to bypass goals and the hot summer months creep by it is making the reality of the second journey timeline that much more realistic. And we are all very excited!

 

 

Stepping Out of the Fog

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The last two weeks have been a real joy. Due to a migraine I took a sleep aid really early in the evening on a Saturday and got a solid 12 hours of sleep. Sunday was the start of a few days of feeling like I had stepped out of the fog and into the sunshine. I wasn’t having to pretend to be happy by smiling to make other people feel more comfortable and keep their pity at bay. I was genuinely happy and being silly again.

Almost 13 weeks of aggressively seeking help, taking medication, doing all the right things… I was so afraid that the PPD foggy me was my new permanent self. No, I was terrified. And I fought through serious anxiety any time I tried to talk to anybody about it. Thankfully the therapist I saw was wonderful and did an excellent job connecting with me and giving me a sense of safe whenever I was in her office. Having her to help me process what was happening to me was priceless. And I will forever be eternally grateful. I accept that there may be dips in the road as it does take a while for those hormones to settle but I am aware of my surroundings now.

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One of the difficult things for me in the beginning of realizing something was wrong, was that I had this mental image that PPD was somebody that just sat around and cried all day. Now, don’t get me wrong, that is how PPD manifests itself in some people, but it isn’t a one size fits all list of symptoms. So when I was walking around in a Tylenol PM type fog for days on end I wasn’t quite sure what was going on. But I did know I did Not want to put that official label of PPD on my forehead so I researched other possibilities to the point that I refused multiple support groups and took about a month to finally contact a therapist at the strong urging of my OB’s office.

Another big anxiety about my experience, and it came up many times, was the fact that this was my first surrogate baby and my first experience with PPD. Do you think it’s because you’re tired or disappointed or giving up the baby or … “Like anything else, you’ll never truly understand it until it happens to you, and even then, it takes a while to understand it.” If you haven’t experienced PPD, or anxiety, or any type of depression, it is really hard to relate to what is happening in the scrambled eggs brain of a PPD mom. Each time somebody tried to pinpoint what I was going through on the most amazing thing I have experienced it tore through me leaving wounds. The Mayo Clinic says, “There’s no single cause of postpartum depression, but physical and emotional issues may play a role.” You may be a first time mom, or a veteran, and experience PPD only once or after every pregnancy. And if anybody tries to tell you that PPD is more common in Surrogates the only reason they may think that is Surrogates tend to be much more open in communication with each other. But we are by no means more susceptible.

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Some of the main symptoms that I experienced included: Rage (0-60 in 0.2 seconds), Fog, Forgetfulness, Numb, Deep Sadness, Insomnia, Anxiety, Guilt, Some Tears, and Intrusive Thoughts.

I am not a crier and never have been. So for me to cry over something other than a death or extremely emotional moment (and even then sometimes not) is a really big deal. Tears weren’t a daily event during this rough period but they made a debut quite a few times.

Intrusive thoughts make you feel crazy. The harder I said “stop!” the more vivid they would become. It wasn’t until I would dissect the awful image and logically explain it away in my head that it would go away. “Your child is not screaming in the truck, you did not just slam the door on her foot, you saw her in her car seat before shutting the door, you will see her again when you get in the driver seat and she will be just fine.” They were all so bizarre and painfully vivid! Some would come at me in the beginning when I was trying to go to sleep and follow me into my nightmares.

OK, let’s talk Rage. Most PPD symptom sheets say “irritability”. Oh, that’s nice. No, it’s Rage with a capital R. Little things that would have mildly irritated me before made me blow up instantly. There was no filter or fader switch, it was just off/on. Unfortunately my sassy, boundary pushing, going on 16, 4 1/2 year old daughter flipped that switch on a regular basis. It wasn’t until my therapist suggested some intentional space did things start to improve. By intentional space it meant more play dates, or splitting up errands with Daddy so I could have some fun time with our younger daughter, those types of things. I hated that she effected me that way. It brought about a deep sense of guilt. But that is a clear sign of PPD, only in my case it was triggered by my older daughter instead of a newborn.

I want to help raise awareness and get rid of the shame associated with PPD. Too many women go without help and struggle far too long for fear of the shame and guilt of not being a good enough mother. Please know that you are a good mother and that getting help is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family. Talk to someone. Don’t sit in silence and let the poison eat away at you. And friends, if you know somebody struggling with postpartum issues, please reach out to them. Offer a meal, an ear, a coffee. It could save a life.

 

Putting on a Brave Face

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Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety (in Plain Mama English)

You may have noticed an underlying current of exhaustion and negativity in my post 2 weeks postpartum. It only got worse. How could I be this tired? I don’t have a newborn to care for. Why can’t I sleep when I feel like a zombie? My mind did not feel my own and it started to really scare me. Aren’t the people I’m closest to supposed to realize I’m not well? Maybe it’s all in my head… My thoughts and actions have been erratic, foggy, extremely irritable, negative, paranoid, and anxious.

After reaching out to my amazing MOMS Club with my suspicion that I might be experiencing symptom of Postpartum Depression (PPD) with anxiety, they encouraged me to seek medical assistance. Then they took it two steps further by offering child care and checking on me the next day to make sure I had actually made an appointment. It takes a village. And I am so very thankful to be surrounded by my village of mom friends, neighbors, and church.

A big part of my hesitation to reach out for help was that I thought people would blame it on separation anxiety from the surro baby (which I have Not experienced at all). Each time I thought about pulling up wordpress on my laptop to pen this post it caused me so much anxiety for making my struggle public. But that line of thought filled with excuses and doubt is all a part of evil PPD.

I have now seen my OB twice, began taking Zoloft, attended a MOPS event centered around the PPD subject, and have reached out to a Psychologist. I miss feeling like “me”.

One step at a time.

If you or somebody you know is experiencing symptoms of PPD, remember that sometimes the strongest thing you can do is ask for help.