Thursday, February 25, 2010

My First Attempt... Failed

When it comes to infertility, life just isn't fair.  When I see women who have struggled for years and years trying to have a baby, and then hear about a teenage girl who gives birth in a bathroom and throws her baby in the trash, I begin to question why some of us get this amazing gift of natural pregnancy taken away from us.  We are not created equal. 

I just got the most shocking news from an old friend that I took classes with.  Ever since I met her, she had been struggling to have a baby for a few years.  Even though she was young, she was experiencing infertility issues.  She never gave up and is now pregnant with triplets!!  And no, she had no fertility treatments... all natural!!  I still cannot believe it.  But, she is one of the lucky ones.  I know it's hard to believe that I consider her "lucky" because it took her 4 years to conceive, but I have seen much worse.

After months of doing the surrogacy research, I decided I was ready to take on the challenge.  My agency was so excited about the timing; a close friend of theirs was in need of the perfect surrogate.  Meeting the couple for the very first time was so nerve racking.  It's impossible to imagine what you are going to say, what you are going to ask, what the couple will be like, and what questions they might ask you.  The couple has been together since they were in their twenties.  Now in their early forties, they admit that they have been trying to conceive for the past 12 years.  They have gone through so many fertility treatments to find out that her body could not conceive or carry a child.  In these past 12 years, they were able to have one son through surrogacy.  They found an amazing egg donor and used the father's sperm.  They also found a very experienced surrogate, and now have a 2 year old son.  After having this wonderful little guy in their lives, they wanted to try again.  If anyone has children out there, you know how much the first one changes your life.  They cause this yearning for more children, even more than before your first.  However, their surrogate discovered a medical issue and could not help them out again.  They went through a couple more women, and to sum it up, experienced many disappointments throughout the process.  On one occasion, a surrogate had 4 of their embryos transferred without their approval.  As a result, she got pregnant with quads.  She then went behind the couples back, and attempted to reduce to two babies.  Unaware of the situation, the couple learned that all of the babies died in the process of reduction.  To say the least, this couple has gone through so much that it made me want to help that much more.  They had 3 frozen embryos left... I would be their last hope.

So, the process began.  This past October, I began 2 hormone injections a day, folic acid pills once a day, 6 prescribed prenatal vitamins a day, and daily steroid medication.  It was about 6 weeks of preparation.  Not only did all of that take so much dedication, but also sacrifice.  Before the transfer, I gained 13 pounds from all of the medication!!!  We had a great fertility doctor, over an hour away.  I had to go in every 3 days for either blood work or vaginal ultrasounds in order to see if my uterus was doing what it was supposed to be doing (I have a beautiful one!!!).  Throughout this process, the intended mother and myself became very close.  Between lunches, birthday parties, golfing, and trips to the zoo, we became good friends.  I was so happy we chose each other.

Transfer day came.  The embryos were thawed over night, and the doctor gave us the report when we came in.  Sadly, one didn't make it.  For some, this is no big deal.  It's microscopic so many don't see it as a life.  But for me and the intended mother, we were very disappointed because it was more than an embryo, it was their baby.  So, the doctor transferred 2 beautiful embryos.  This process is very easy and takes about 15 minutes.  It's amazing how you are able to watch the whole process on the ultrasound screen.  From what we saw, everything looked perfect...

The 9 day wait to confirm success, wasn't too bad for me except the 3 days of strict bedrest.  I never imagined that it wouldn't work, and I would not be pregnant.  I had the entire next 9 months planned out and never did I prepare myself for failure.  Getting that one phone call was very shocking.  The intended mother told the nurse she wanted to be the one to tell me.  I knew the call was coming, so when I heard the tone in her voice I knew it wasn't good news.  She was handling it so well.  She acted like she knew it was going to fail, and prepared herself for this moment the day she met me.  There was nothing I could say or do for her.  I just broke down and cried.  I could think of nothing more than to blame myself.  I was their last chance and I failed.  I could not be sorry enough.

I guess God has a plan for each of us, and this wasn't what he had planned for them.  They are now in the process of adopting, so maybe God has an amazing child waiting for them.  What kills me the most throughout this experience is what people tried to comfort me with.  The phrase I have learned to hate the most is "count your blessings".  People began catorgizing this family as greedy just because they wanted a chance to have another child.  Does that mean I am a greedy person because I have two children?!?  As much as I love and cherish my oldest son, I could not imagine life without my youngest.  How does wanting to share love with others make you a bad person?   

It all came to an end, and I wasn't sure I had enough in me to move on and help another family.  I was tired; tired of all of the meds and doctor appointments, but most of all, I was tired of feeling the disappointment.  But, I originally set out to help a family in need.  It took months of planning to get to this point, and I wasn't going to let anyone stop me from reaching my goal.  There are millions of people out there who need people like me to help.  So, I decided to put the past behind me and search for another great couple.  As guilty as I feel for the first couple, I have learned that everything happens for a reason.  



Sunday, February 21, 2010

More than one bun?!?

This past week has been an event I have been waiting for what seems like forever!!  Looking back at old emails, I have been working with my WONDERFUL agency for an entire year now.  These women that run this amazing group, have become great friends throughout this whole process.  It seems so long ago since our first conversation.  Even though I was their "diamond in the rough" (not to brag or anything), never did they pressure me to jump into something that I was not ready for.  Since beginning working with my first family (one day I will reflect on that process), the days seem to drag on.  Not that this past October is that far behind us, but with all of the medications and anticipation you go through, days feel like weeks.  The beginning stages of the path to surrogacy is not as easy as everyone may think.  Besides putting yourself through pain with at least one injection a day, you are also KILLING your husband who is unable to "touch" you for several weeks!!  Not only have I been causing this suffer to my husband in this manner, but he had to cancel his Super Bowl party because transfer day suddenly moved up (however, the morning of, the embryos weren't quite ready and we had to wait until the following day)!!  The transfer is very time sensitive, so it definitely tests your patience.  

From my first attempt, which failed, I learned a lot and somewhat became accustomed to all of the medications, blood work, vaginal ultrasounds, and bedrest.  I was also prepared for failure.  This time around, we were working with the most amazing egg donor.  She has had so many successes, most resulting in twin births! We had quite a party the moment these little ones were transferred (the doctor placed two).  There was nothing but positive energy in that tiny little room.  We had my husband- who cares more about my health and emotions than anything in the world, my agency- who treats her surrogates as if they were her own sister, the doctor- who is an angel with all of the miracles he performs, the couple- who had so much hope and love for these babies already that you could not stop them from smiling, and myself- who was hoping and praying that I wouldn't have to go through another harsh reality that my body would reject these miracles.

Waiting those LONG 9 days to find out if it was successful is killer!!  After a couple of days, am I feeling sick or is it all in my head?  Did my boobs just grow a whole cup size overnight or did I shrink my bra?  Am I feeling exhausted every minute of the day or has all of this worrying got me stressed?  Okay, so they say not to take a home pregnancy test because of the hormone medication I am on.  It doesn't give accurate results.  But who can resist, especially when your mom works in Labor and Delivery and brings home a life-time supply of tests?!?  So, we cheated more than once.  I will never forget the discussion I had with both Cameron and the intended parents about the visibility of the second line.  "It's there right?"  "Of course, it's there, but it is so light!"  "But if it's there, it's there!!"  Nothing more we could do but just wait...    

I had nothing but good feelings about the blood test.  I didn't feel the same- I must be pregnant.  I went into the doctor to have my blood drawn this past Wednesday.  We only had to wait a few more hours.  Finally, the call came... POSITIVE!!!!  Wow, I had an extremely high hormone level (they look for anything over 40 and mine was 411)!  So that the couple felt assured, I had a repeat test two days later.  Still positive, and this time the level jumped to 941!!!  What?  And what does this mean?  Well, the only answer I got was that there is a high chance of multiples.  Now, that leaves us with another waiting game.  We have to wait for our first ultrasound to know for sure how many "buns" we have, which is scheduled in 2 weeks.  I never imagined myself being able to carry someone else's baby, but to carry more than one is absolutely thrilling!!  Whatever we find out, I'm sure it is meant to be.  That is what I constantly hear throughout this process... Whatever is meant to be will happen. 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

All of those FAQ's answered...

Why did you decide to become a surrogate?
This is what I get asked most often.  I really don't have a specific answer.  There was no life threatening experience I had that made me want to go out and become "Super Ashley" or anything.  Nor did I have a close friend or relative that was completely struggling with infertility that it made me want to help in this particular subject.  I am, however, a young woman who has been blessed with the most amazing babies.  Besides having monster-sized boys (my first was 10.3 pounds), I have had perfect pregnancies with very healthy outcomes.  Becoming a mother so easily (we call our oldest our honeymoon baby and our youngest was conceived on our first shot) is a gift that many people take for granted.  Many people struggle for years and years trying to conceive and get nothing.  This is no reason for them not to be able to become parents.  There is a need for good surrogates like myself.  Heck, why don't I do it then!!

So, how much are you getting paid?
Man, is this an awkward question!!  I'm not going to sit here and lie, saying I'm not getting any sort of compensation.  But then if I disclose that I am getting paid, I will get the "are you doing it for the money?"  You can't always win with people.  I don't think there is a price you can put on children.  I'm not saying I would do this whole thing for free, but I don't think it should be a topic of conversation with anyone.  There are so many sacrifices a surrogate has to make; daily injections for months, bedrest, travel, doctors appointments, and the average struggles of being pregnant.  Being a surrogate is a 24/7 job and there is no amount you can put on the whole process.  So, am I getting paid? Yes.  How much are you getting?  Why don't you become a surrogate yourself and find out if you are that concerned!!

How can you give up the baby/babies?
First of all, these aren't my babies.  This is what they call gestational surrogacy.  They use a woman's eggs along with a man's sperm and place it in my body.  The baby/babies have no genetic ties to me whatsoever.  I can't guarantee how I will feel when the time comes to deliver.  I have never done this before and I am prepared for any situation.  I think it is fair to say that I will be a little emotional after they are gone, but what woman, who has a good heart, wouldn't?   

You want to get fat for someone else's baby?
This is a funny one.  There are some very heartless people out there that care so much about their appearance.  I guess these are the ones who are not yet mothers themselves, and should wait a long while until they have children.  Pregnancy is not always as beautiful as people make it seem.  It involves lots of weight gain, skin discoloration, stretch marks, etc.  But I would sacrifice any of that in order to give birth to a child.  Children are worth anything and I think body changes are the least I would do for them.  Who care if I gain 50 pounds in this surrogacy process?  Could you imagine if your wife turned to you and said, "The only reason I don't want to have your baby is because I will get fat, have to revert to tankinis in the summer, and never be able to fit in my old jeans again because my hips have permanently grown!?!"  

My Journey Begins...

As many of you know, or have found out by the title of my blog, I am a new surrogate for a wonderful couple.  It feels like this process has been extremely long and intensive, but the journey has just begun.  I have so much that is going to be life changing, not only in the next nine months, but for the rest of my life.  I have been given an amazing gift of wonderful pregnancies and I am so proud to be able to share this with a couple in need.

I have been encouraged to write this blog and share my experience with the world.  Surrogacy is a very unspoken process, but most of us don't know how many people struggle with infertility.  I want to give everyone a close look at what it really takes for a successful miracle.  It is not an easy process for either the surrogate or the intended parents.  It takes a lot of time and dedication, and only the strongest people can continue their journey no matter how many things have gone wrong.

Since sharing my decision with some family and friends, I have been asked a billion questions about the process, the couple, the experience so far, and the reasons to why I chose to do this.  I hope this blog will answer most of those questions and encourage people to become more supportive in surrogacy (trust me, there are quite a few individuals who disagree with what I am doing).  I want to share my journey that is ahead of me, as well as reflect on how I got here.