My First Journey (June 2009-July 2010)

These are some of the things I wrote on another group during my first Gestational Surrogacy, and wanted to record here since it was such a big part of my life.  I started my first journey in June of 2009, which ending happily with the birth of a baby on July 30,2010.  I am currently preparing for a second journey, but I am blogging about that in the main part of my Blog.

(please remember these were written while I was already pregnant.  I have not edited them, so they are copied exactly as they were in the original posts.)

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My Surrogacy Journey and Why I’m doing it (Spring 2010)

OK, as anyone reading this probably know I am currently pregnant as a Gestational Surrogate, carrying a child that is not genetically related to me or my husband. What this means is that I decided to enter into an agreement with an “infertile” couple (called the Intended Parents) and had an embryo created from the Intended Mothers egg, and the Intended Fathers sperm implanted into my Uterus.

The Parents that I am working with are 2 really amazing people. I’m so happy that I decided to do this surrogacy for them.

My family (and extended/in-law family) have all been great about this whole thing. I know that it really caught them off guard when Mike and I told them, but once they got over the initial shock, their openness and positive support has been amazing. I know that some of them still think we are crazy to be doing this at all, but they are positive about it none the less.

This is something that I have thought about doing for years. It first came up shortly after Haylee was born in 2004. I remember watching something on TV and as a new mother thinking that it was such an amazing thing that people do for others, and that I would love to help in that way if I could. I told Mike and he was really good with the idea, only asking me to make wait until we were done having our own children first. Seeing people struggle with fertility has effected both of our lives, and it seemed like something we could do to help someone less fortunate than us in that way.

But the real thing that tipped the scales for me wanting to be a surrogate was my Sister in Law (even though she doesn’t know it). A few years ago she was diagnosed with Cancer. She fought and won a really hard battle (THANK THE POWERS THAT BE!!!) but there is no way of knowing what long term effects the meds may have had on her body. Dave and Nikki had already been blessed in their daughter Teagan before the cancer, but I know I’m not alone is wondering what would happen if they wanted to try again? Would it be safe, or would it put Nikki at further risk? She’s one of the toughest women I know, but would they be willing to risk her life? Would they even be able to conceive?

So a couple more years went by. I’d read about success stories on the internet, and about people’s hearts that were broken by the adoption process over and over again. i’d read stories of Gay men finally being able to have biological children through surrogacy and egg donations, and yes I’d even read about Cancer survivors that had biological children by using a Gestational Surrogate (like me) because they couldn’t conceive, or maintain a pregnancy after the chemo and remissions.

But reading up on the medical procedures involved, and the legal requirements, etc etc….didn’t deter me, but I did start to wonder if surrogacy would ever be a reality for me. i didn’t know anyone who had done this, and had no idea where to even begin!

that is until it was time for me to go back to work after my Maternity Leave with Jackson. I started researching child care providers and daycare online, and on day on Kijiji, I came across an ad of someone looking for a surrogate. Well I hemmed and hawed for a few weeks, and I kept going back to that ad, since I just couldn’t get it out of my head! So I started doing the “serious” research into the laws of surrogacy in Canada, and what to expect medically from it all, and that’s how I met Leia.

Leia runs a service that helps to match potential surrogates to intended parents. There was a whole application process, and a phone “interview” at first, and then only 2 weeks after getting in contact with Leia, i had a couple that liked my profile.

Next step was the conference call. Basically we set up a time for Leia, myself and the Intended Parents to have a 3 way conversation (led by Leia) to go over some of the more important parts of what a surrogacy might hold. Basically Leia would give a situation or ask a question, and then each of us would have the chance to answer the question. Doing this helps to figure out if the Intended Parents and the surrogate are on the same page about some pretty important issues that might need to be faced throughout the pregnancy.

These are things like: would I be willing to carrying twins? If testing revealed certain conditions in the baby and I was asked to abort, would I? would I agree to the parents taking part of appointments and the birth? was I willing to go through all the medical and psychological testing that is required? and so many more!

So the Intended parents and I liked the things we heard from each other that night, so we exchanged contact information and started talking and emailing for the next few months to get to know each other better. Everything was going good, and we liked each other so we decided to go ahead and start working on the contract. And then once those details were all hashed out and agreed on, we starting the medication cycles.

So I “met” the parents on the phone on june 30th, and in July we did all the medical and psychological testing (Mike had to do it too) and then in August the Dr L. (the fertility doc) had me start birth control again in order to match my cycle to the Mothers cycle. I took those pills until October 14th, and then was told to stop, wait for my period, and then start the Estrogen pills which are called Estrace. These are funny little green pills that I had to take 2 pills, 3 times a day to get my uterine lining nice and thick to help the embryos to implant.

On the day that I started the Estrace the Mother had to start taking all kinds of pills and daily injections (into her stomach) to stimulate her ovaries to produce more eggs. After 2 weeks of all these meds the mother had 6 eggs growing, and after having my lining checked (and being 9mm thick) they set the date for the egg retrieval, and I had to start doing daily injections of Progesterone into my butt.

Egg Retrieval happened on November 4th. They were able to get 4 of the eggs, and from those 4, they had 2 that fertilized into embryos. And then on November 6th, those 2 embryos were transferred into my uterus.

The next 2 weeks after the transfer is what we call the 2 week wait. During this time I had to limit some of my more strenuous activities, not take baths, no sex, no heavy lifting….and keep taking the 6 Estrace pills everyday, and the injection of Progesterone every night too. If the blood tests came back positive for pregnancy I would be continuing those medications until I was 12 weeks pregnant (or end of the first trimester)

What these medications do is to basically trick your body into thinking that it’s pregnant so that it will accept the embryos. The Estrogen and Progesterone are normally released naturally by your body at the time of ovulation, but because I wasn’t conceiving naturally, we needed to use the medication to maintain the pregnancy for the first trimester until the placenta kicked in to start producing those hormones by itself. Even one missed dose of these hormones could basically end the pregnancy so I had to be religious about taking things on time.

So at the end of the 2 weeks, I went for blood test #1 (called a Beta HCG test)….and it came back positive! But at that point you are still holding your breath, because the levels that they measure need to double or be close to doubling every 48-72 hours for the first little while. And anything over a 5 is considered pregnant, but over 50 is better for a first test.

These were my results:

14dp3dt – 463
16dp3dt – 969
18dp3dt – 2144
24dp3dt – 14859

-dp means the number of days past/after the transfer to my uterus
-dt means the number of days they let the embryos grow before transferring them to the uterus

So it was official! I was pregnant! Next step was to continue my medications, and to go for an ultrasound at approximately 7 weeks after transfer to confirm a viable fetal heartbeat, and do a “head count” to see how many little embryos stuck. We had one strong heartbeat and it was amazing to see the parents faces that day! The mother cried because she was so happy, and the father just looked shell-shocked with a big smile on his face.

So then after that was more ultrasounds to make sure the fetus was still growing and as it should, and then the NT test at 12 weeks (which is just blood work and ultrasounds that can show very early signs of certain conditions like Downs or Spina Bifida) and then after that I was released from the fertility clinics care, and sent to my OB here is St. Catharines.

I chose to go with Dr. Viljoen since my mother worked with him years ago, and I know that she respected him, and I trust her judgement, especially with Doctors. I would have like to go back to Dr. Nwebube in Grimsby, but since we moved it just didn’t make sense to drive all the way back there on a regular basis for the appointments….I’d miss way to much work, and I get the impression that this whole surrogacy thing freaked out a couple of my co-workers (and possibly my manager) enough that I thought it best not to miss more time there than is necessary right now.

So we just kept going on as we had been. Me taking all my meds and the IP’s being happy, nervous, scared and every other emotion in the book. But they are really kind people, and we email almost every day. I’ll admit that on occasion they have frustrated me a little bit, but I do understand where they are coming from…I just wish they would focus more on the good news that we’ve been getting all along, than on the bad things that “could” happen….

So in March at my 20 week ultrasound we found out that the baby I am carrying is a little Girl! They are so happy, and excited to know this! But the name is a big secret because they are Jewish, and there is a superstition that the name shouldn’t be spoken until the birth. i got them to tell me the first letter at least, and I have a few other clues that have given me a couple of really good ideas, but I won’t know until this little princess makes her appearance.

My due date is July 27th, but I am hoping that this little girl will come a little earlier than that, but who knows what will happen! Haylee was a week late, and Jack was a week early…so it’s really anyones guess.

There are a hundred things that I’d like to include but I think this note is long enough. If anyone reading this has any questions about any of this, please ask….so many people just don’t understand what surrogacy really is and what it does, and after having gone through all of this so far, I just want to help people know all the good things about surrogacy, and not just the bad stories that we all read about in the papers, or see on TV. There are so many more success stories, than one that end badly, but sadly they don’t get the recognition that the negative stories do.

If you made it this far….thanks so much for reading!

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The first thing that most people ask me. . .  (Spring 2010)

Lots of people have asked me how I will feel when I have to “give away” the baby. So I thought I’d address that question here.

Basically in my mind, I’m not giving away anything, I’m giving this little baby girl BACK. She was not mine to begin with. I expect to feel some sadness and to miss her at first, but I don’t think I’ll fall into a deep dark depression over all this. But never say never right? I think the best plan of attack on the “after” part is to Hope for the best, but know the risks and warning signs and have a plan ready in case the “worst” rears its ugly head.

It’s a very different feeling mentally and emotionally than with my own 2 pregnancies. I think it would be foolish of me to think I’ll walk away without any problems at all, but I’ve gone into this from the beginning knowing that this is someone else’s baby, and I really don’t have an emotional attachment.
The way it has felt so far is very surreal because I’m the one feeling all the physical movements and getting the big belly, (which I love by the way!) but attachment wise it’s been like when one of my friends has been pregnant….

One of the things that is usually required before becoming a surrogate is that you have your own children, and that they are also in your custody. This is for many reasons, but 3 big ones are….

1) if you have your own kids your less likely to cause problems and try to keep the surro-baby from
its real parents (sadly this has happened before)
2) Some people believe the theory that a woman can’t really understand what she will go
through emotionally and physically during a pregnancy unless she has done it before.
3) Having successfully carried a baby, and giving birth proves her fertility, and that her body is
more likely to be able to successfully carry a pregnancy again.

Basically what I went into this knowing is that:

a) This is not my baby. It is not genetically related to me or my children since it was not created
from one of my own eggs.
b) I would be required to attend a LOT of doctors appointments and take A LOT of medications
c) I enjoy being pregnant and am glad to have a positive way to help someone less fortunate
d) I have a very firm support group in my family and friends.
e) There is never any kind of guarantee of a good outcome, or even being able to conceive at all
f) There is no guarantee that I wouldn’t end up being hurt in the process, as pregnancy always carries
risks. And it is possible that if something happened I could lose my own fertility or even my life
g) This is 100% right for me to do with my life

I’m lucky though. This baby is due to be born on July 27th (give or take) and I have so many things to look forward to after the birth. One of my best friends is getting married in August, and there are several birthdays that need celebrating, including my own and my friend’s daughter Abby turning 1 yr old as well. And I’m hoping to get Mike to commit to a road trip to Pennsylvania to visit some family he has there too…but that is yet to be planned officially.

Plus I will have my own 2 little monkeys to keep me busy since it will be summer, there’s no school, and as an added bonus I’ll be off work until at least Labour Day in September which should give me lots of time to shed the pregnancy pounds too!

By having so much to focus on after the birth, I’m hoping that it will get me over the initial “hormonal” adjustment phase that all women go through after a pregnancy. By no means will I ever forget this baby, and of course I’ll care about what happens to her in the future…but she isn’t mine, and was never intended to be.

When you commit to a surrogacy, the relationship that you have with the Intended Parents is completely up to you. I never expected us to be BFF’s or anything, but it has always been my hope to stay in contact, and to maybe get updates and pictures once in a while….but only the future will know what our friendship grows into after the birth. I’ve gotten to know them pretty well over the last year, and I don’t feel that they will just “take the baby and run”.

On some level I believe that we are linked through this pregnancy, and I hope that our friendship will continue, but if it doesn’t I am very confident that they will be good parents to this child, and give it so much love….and knowing that is what makes this so worthwhile.

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My Birth Story (Aug 1, 2010)

My day started running around my house like crazy trying to make sure I had everything that I needed for the hospital. My In-laws showed up around 7:50am and hubby and I were on our way to the hospital. Registration was pretty quick, so we ended up relaxing on the maternity floor for about 45 minutes before Weenah (our nurse) came in to start getting me ready.

My mom decided to come by for about an hour before she had to get to work to make sure I was ok, and I’m pretty sure she wanted to sneak a peek at the IP’s too. They were really nice to my Mom and when they all stepped out of the room for me to get changed, my Mom said they were telling her all about themselves and families and such, which surprised me since they hadn’t wanted contact with my family to start with, and all the talk they did of privacy over the last few weeks.

So I got all ready, and comfy in the bed, and we were just waiting for my OB to come downstairs to check my cervix. Turns out since Tuesday I had only gone from 2.5 to 3cm but was almost fully effaced already, so we decided to just rupture the membranes, let me walk for an hour, and then check again and go from there.

We did have one scary moment, just after they ruptured the membrane when the monitor showed the baby having some D-cells (which I guess equates to irregular heartbeat) so my Doctor stayed for 10 minutes to make sure it stayed where it belonged after that….which it did, so it was back to business as usual.

After the first hour we were only at 4cm, but the doctor was ok waiting a little more since I was fully effaced at that point. Another hour went by, contractions were less than 2 minutes apart, and getting pretty sharp. Then in the 3rd hour the contractions were only 1 minute apart but we still weren’t dilating.

With how fast and hard the contractions were coming I decided to go with the epidural since I wasn’t dilating, and to start the Pitocin. I knew that if they kept hitting me that hard for hours and hours that I just wasn’t going to have it in me when it came time to push. The Anesthetist was there is less than 5 minutes (thank goodness!) and was extremely efficient. He had the whole thing done in less than 2 minutes, and the relief was unbelievable. So much better than my last epidural experience where I couldn’t even move my toes. This time my left leg was VERY numb, but I could still move, but they had me roll on my right since the meds weren’t really kicking in there very well at first. It was weird because every time there was a contraction I felt it in my pubic bone on the right side, but I didn’t feel anything else.

That was at about 2pm. It made me quite drowsy for the first hour, and when they checked me just before 3pm I was almost fully dilated, so they called my OB back, and right when he got there we were ready to go. We had already discussed earlier where everyone was supposed to be standing so they could see, and not be in the way of the medical staff. I only had to do about 3 pushes and the baby was born. They put her on me at first until they could cut the cord, and I kept trying to get IM to come closer to see her daughter, but she was so overcome with emotion she just couldn’t move. Huge smile, and lots of happy tears, and eyes only for her daughter. I couldn’t see IF’s face, but I could hear his whispering over and over “she’s beautiful” and “thank you god” and things like that. It was so amazing.

So baby girl N was born at 3:05pm, and was 9lbs 11oz.

My husband was perfect through it all. He was so supportive emotionally and verbally all day. And when the baby was born, I remember how happy he looked, and his smile. I could feel how proud he was of me, and excited for the IP’s….he kept telling me over and over what a wonderful job I did, but I had to keep telling him that WE did it together, because without him, I couldn’t have done this.

So they took the baby after the doctor cut the cord, and put her in a warming bed that was in the delivery room with us to do her Apgar scores. She got an 8 on the first and a 9 on the 10 minute check.

IM brought N over for me to hold before they went next door to their own room to bond, and for IM to have skin to skin contact with her daughter. And N also got her first bottle. She’s a very hungry little girl!

So after about 1 ½ hours IM brought her back in all dressed and cleaned up a bit for a better visit. I got to hold her for about 10 minutes that time. She was awake and just kept staring at me. It was so amazing, but I just didn’t have that feeling I had when holding my own newborn babies. It really was just like meeting one of my friends baby for the first time.

We got a couple of pictures at that point, and then IM took her back to their room again so that I could rest. So I sent my husband to get me some Timmies Tea, and a super awesome cupcake from the Subs Plus across the street.

I decided to send Mike to work for 6:30 that night. He didn’t have to go, but I thought it would be good to help him burn off his energy, and I just planned on napping and relaxing the rest of the night anyways because they decided they wanted to keep me overnight until at 3pm because my iron was still low, and a couple other reasons I don’t remember.

My mom came to visit me in the evening, and IM invited her to their room to see No, which totally blew me away, but they really liked my mom. They invited her back today too because she couldn’t hold her last night, and they really wanted her to have that chance.

IM came to visit me again after my Mom had left just to talk, and then today Mike brought our kids to see the baby too. They even had gifts for my kids which I wasn’t expecting. Nothing fancy, but the perfect choices for my 2 munchkins. They also bought Mike this fancy leather day planner, with his name engraved on a plaque on the front. And for me they chose this beautiful heart-shaped silver jewellery box that they engraved on the top as well. And they also got me an early birthday present of a silver necklace with a heart-shaped pendant.

So after Mike left with the kids, I napped a little more, and then IM and IF brought N to visit again for almost 2 hours. They were so tired because Ndidn’t want to sleep last night, but they were still just so happy!

So the hospital kept me until 3pm the next day, and my IM, IF and the baby went home this morning. They asked me to come back again to say goodbye today, so now we’ll just have to wait and see how things go from here.

I’m just still in the limbo of “I can’t believe that I actually did this!”. It’s hard to believe that a year ago June 30th I had my conference call, and that yesterday I delivered a beautiful Girl for this couple. They are amazing people, and despite all the ups and downs of the journey….I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Almost a year later – June 2011

Well, here I am almost a year after delivering my surro-baby.  It has been a year of emotional ups and down, but I wouldn’t change what I have done for anything.

I recovered quickly from the birth, and was back to work 6 weeks after I delivered.  I could have taken more time off but for reasons related to my job I decided not to postpone my leave of absense for to long. Physically I had healed, and mentally I was ready to get back to normal.

I knew right away that surrogacy was something I would do again, and even after the initial “glow” wore off and I got over the first emotional hurdle, I still felt strongly that this is what I am supposed to be doing.

You can see the details of how my second journey started and is going by visiting the special blog I have started just for that purpose.

http://baby2beforyandc.wordpress.com/

Several months after was born, all the paperwork was almost complete.  I actually hadn’t had anything to do during those months since I had already signed everything before the birth regarding custody, but in order for the courts to make everything official, I had a few more papers to sign, and was lucky that my IP’s lawyer planned to drive all the way down to our home so that I wouldn’t be inconvenienced. So in December I signed the last of the papers required by the courts and everything was finally done!

Since the birth I have had very little contact with the parents of the baby.  They have decided that for the sake of their privacy and their daughters community standing that contact might be harmful.  I have not received a picture since they left the hospital, and since December the only email contact we have had was me sending the new mother my best wishes on her first Mother’s Day.  She wrote back to thank me, but said nothing of the baby.

I made my peace many months ago when I signed those papers, that future contact would probably never happen. I knew at the birth that they no longer wanted me in their lives, and that is perhaps the way it should be.  We did not forge a very strong friendship, and I can imagine how much easier it is for them to just close that chapter of their lives and enjoy their new little family.

I have my days where I am sad by this, or that I am angry for being mislead, since at the beginning I was led to believe there would be contact, but in all honesty I am ok with that decision. I know that I did a good thing, and I never once regretted carrying that child.  She was never mine, and holding her in the hospital I felt no great connection to her as I do to the children of my friends and family. She seemed to find comfort in my arms in those few precious times I got to hold her, but she did not feel like “mine”.

I think sometimes that my IP’s and I were just to different to maintain a lifelong relationship.  We had age differences, as well as cultural and religious differences.  None of those things on their own would mean much, but put all 3 together with people that demanding secrecy at all costs…

I don’t fault the IP’s for their choices.  They are only doing what they feel is right for their daughter, but I can’t help but wonder sometimes what that little girl looks like now.  If she still looks like her mother, if her hair is turning out straight or curly, or what her smile looks like. I wonder what song her mother sings to put her to sleep, and if she has a favourite blanket or stuffed toy to cuddle.

I don’t feel empty or lost not knowing those things, but I can hope that someday a picture might arrive in my email…

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