Friday, November 25, 2016

Maybe the Hardest Thing I've Ever Done

I've been living with gestational diabetes for a week now.
Though, living isn't what I'd call this.

Guys, this is so real. I cry every single day and I feel like a failure. It looks like I won't be able to be diet controlled. Medical intervention bars me from ever being a surrogate again. While we were 98% sure this would be our last journey anyway, there was always that little voice saying, "never say never..." Well- now we have to say never. Which, of course, drives the depression knife even deeper.

Let's talk about a few things.

The Schedule
My life is lived in a cycle of eating when I'm not hungry, and debilitating crying.

7:00- wake and test blood sugar
7:30 am- eat
8:30 am- test blood sugar
8:31 am- cry
9:30 am- test blood sugar
9:31 am- cry
10 am- snack
11:30 am- lunch
12:30 pm- test blood sugar
12:31- cry
12:35- snack
1:30 pm- test blood sugar.
1:31- cry
3:00 pm- snack
5:00pm- dinner
5:05- cry in anticipation of 6 pm
6:00 pm- test blood sugar
6:01- cry
6:30 pm- snack
7:00 pm- test blood sugar
7pm-9pm- cry
9:30 pm- snack
11pm- sleep. Often crying.

Silver lining? Apparently my makeup is really, honestly, tear-prrof. It's not just good marketing.

Perception
The words that come out of people's mouth, "Oh, this could happen to anyone. You didn't cause this."
The look behind their eyes, "You couldn't put the cookie down, could you? Fatso."

My doctor and diabetes educator have walked me through the truth. This is hormonal. That it's the two placentas. And after a careful review of my food journal, have told me I'm one of (if not the most) nutritionally aware GD patients they've had. Despite their reassurances, that's just simply not how society views this. I feel guilty. I feel judged. It's incredibly hard.

My Failures
They said "You just don't have enough carbs. Up your carb intake"
Well, that led to a LOT of very high glucose numbers. So I said, I'm gonna just do super low carb. I love super low carb.

And my glucose numbers were PERFECT.
So they said, well, if you're eating that low carb, we need to monitor your ketones.
And I had heavy ketones in my urine.
Which is no better than high glucose in my blood.

So, my body is a total, complete failure. At this point I have both (low level) ketones (a sign I'm not getting ENOUGH carbs) and high glucose (a sign I'm having too MANY carbs.) How is that even possible?

On top of that, my fasting glucose number- the one that is before I eat anything- is consistently high. Not a lot you can do about that, now is there?

It seems there is no happy medium, and no way to control this monster without medical intervention.

Back to Perception 
You think society looks at you like a 600 pound fatso for simply having gestational diabetes... don't even mention that you're not able to control it with diet alone. That's like saying, "I had gastric bypass surgery, but didn't lose any weight."

People look at you like, "Oh, they told you to put the cookie down and you just couldn't do it STILL?" 

I've joined a gestational diabetes support group. And even there, people are smug. Most of them are diet controlled... and there is a clear condescension to those of us who aren't able to be diet controlled. We're a lesser breed. We had absolutely no self control. We couldn't follow a simple diet.

One of the HARDEST things for me is to watch these diet controlled women talk about their diets and the glucose numbers that are produced as a result... knowing darn well that if I ate as they do my numbers would be sky freaking high. I mean, they're eating sugary cereals, soda, the occasional PB&J... These are things I don't even have in my NORMAL life because they're just not healthy. Yet these women can get away with it with *diabetes*. I can hardly get away with a Greek yogurt (8g carbs)

It is just, so, so depressing.
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Now, normally I wouldn't share something this raw. I don't want to scare or worry the IPs. But they've told me they don't read the blog....  and this is life consuming. As the schedule shows, it's all I can do or think about. At this point, NOT talking about it, or saying I'm fine, is a bold face lie. So, I'm sorry if this makes anyone uncomfortable.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

If You Look Hard Enough for Anything, You're Bound to Find It

I try to tow a fine line with this blog.

I am guilty of wanting the world to see surrogacy through the same rose colored glasses that I do. The ones that show how wonderful this process can be. I love to share happy and exciting moments here. I am guilty of not wanting to show sad ones. In general, when there isn't happy news to share, I stay silent.

But writing is my therapy. So, I'm going to write about what happened yesterday.
------------------

It has been said that if you look for anything hard enough, you're sure to find it.

I feel like this entire second surrogate pregnancy has been filled with doctors who have not had faith in me or my body, and have spent endless hours and thousands of dollars seeking something "wrong" with me.

First there was the IVF doctor who ordered invasive tests and painful procedures before he'd even consider accepting me as a patient, and then later sent me out for what I still feel to have been unnecessary genetic testing to ensure that I couldn't possibly have a condition that my medical history all but guaranteed that I didn't have. He tried hard, but he couldn't find fault with me.

Then there came the maternal fetal medicine folk who have needed to see me for roughly 90 minutes every 10 days for the past 12 weeks. They've scanned, checked, and done everything in their power to find something wrong with me, too. At one point, just last week, even saying, "You're doing so well, maybe we can talk about cutting back on these appointments..." They weren't able to find anything wrong with me, either. Until yesterday.

As we've mentioned, look hard enough for anything, you're sure to find it.

Yesterday I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
I spent a lot of yesterday crying.
I'm crying now.

Part of me feels so, so foolish. Here I have been, touting my slow rate of gain and healthy babies. I felt so proud of myself. I was happy with my form, and just so proud of my body. Now, here I sit with a disease that is largely attributed to people who can't control their weight. How foolish am I?

In one phone call I went from proud of myself and my confident in my physical appearance to utterly ashamed and embarrassed of how I look. I went from feeling comfortable and cute, to wanting to wear sweat pants and hide in bed for the next 10 weeks.

I feel like such a failure. I feel like my body let these twins down. And I wonder what the IPs will think of this news. Do they blame me? Are they angry? Do they realize that I'm emotionally flailing over this news? Who knows. I know I feel all of those things, though, so they must.

I feel anxiety and incredibly overwhelmed. I know that this diagnosis, with these doctors, means even more appointments. In fact, I've already had to add a 2 hour appointment with a nutrition expert to the schedule for this week. I'm told these are my new norm. A diet expert to tell the big, fat, fatty how to eat. Never mind that I already can't meet their lofty diet goals for me, I now also have to be fat shamed once a week during a time when all I'm going to do is get bigger and bigger anyway.

If you're counting... that takes me up to a minimum of about 4 hours per week at the doctors office right now. In another 2 weeks that goes to 6 hours per week, and in 4 weeks it'll be close to 8 hours per week when we start adding in the non-stress tests.

Frankly, I'm lucky to have a job that allows me to work from home and whatever hours I need. I'm sure I would have lost a traditional job at this point. I am so overwhelmed by the appointments. I just don't know how to make them work with life in general.

I feel like, today at least, my spirit is totally and completely crushed. It's not the diagnosis, not really. While I am incredibly upset over it, I know it happens. I know I'm displacing my other stress onto this one thing. I just feel like I've been fighting so long, trying to prove my body can do this, is capable of this, and now here I am... defective. And crushed.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Twins Diet & Why I'm Failing at It

26 weeks
A while back I posted on the special twins diet that the specialists asked me to keep. It really excited me because, mainly, they gave me free range to eat way, way more than I normally would. Which is awesome, because I like to eat. Like, I really like to eat.

Here's a link to that original post: The Twins Diet.

A big part of the nutrition plan included gaining the mass of my weight in the first and second trimesters, with 20 pounds in 20 weeks a milestone goal. An overall goal of 40-50 pounds of gain. Well, we're in the 3rd trimester now... How have I done?

Spoiler Alert: I've failed miserably.

By my doctor's scales I'm up 19 or 20 pounds... but that's with shoes and clothes that vary in weight from week to week. By my home scale, done at the same time of day and nude (Sexy...), I'm up 14 pounds.


At 26.5 weeks. 

With twins. 

First of all- let's get this out there- the twins looks great. 
They're large for their gestational age, they're growing like weeds, they're so healthy that the "twins team" specialists are a bit baffled on what advice to give me from week to week (which, incidentally, is really fun to watch). 
So, no one is even a bit concerned at my slow gain. It's a non issue at this point. 


But this leads me to what I really want to talk about; the absolute  biggest surprise of this twins pregnancy.

I expected to be ravenous at all times when I learned we were carrying twins. I expected to want to eat the children. I thought I'd have an unquenchable hunger that turned me into something of a cross between Godzilla and the Cookie Monster.

14 Weeks
I was so, so wrong. 

I'm told that the twins are sitting near my stomach... compressing it. That leads to a lack of hunger signals being sent to my brain, and my never, ever feeling "hungry." I'll be honest, I have timers set on my phone to remind me to eat. Because otherwise, frankly, I'd just forget to do it. I'm a mom. A working mom. I'm busy. Don't flame me.  

When I do eat, quite honestly, a cracker could "fill me up." But, obviously, I'm not having a cracker for a meal. I'm still eating balanced, healthy meals. It's just a new experience. I have to put a lot of actual thought into portion size and nutrient density.

It's an interesting feeling. Normally, you get hungry and eat to content. Sometimes you even overeat to contentment. But I can't do that. The fact that I feel content at the start of a meal, means it's sometimes hard to know when to stop. When you're never hungry, you're also never "full." 

26.5 Weeks
I don't know when I'm approaching "too full" until I've sailed right on past it. I overate last week. It was the worst feeling ever. The most pain I've experienced in this pregnancy. I can not do that again. 

So, here I am, with less gain than any of my three pregnancies at this gestational age, and there are TWO babies in there! I actually feel like I look better, healthier, now than I did a trimester or two ago.

So yeah, I've failed miserably at that 3,500 calorie per day goal. But, so long as those babies look great and continue to measure large and grow like weeds... the doctors and I are leaning towards the, "If it ain't broke..." method. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

I'm Going to Pretend I didn't Just Read That

My morning routine is pretty habitual.

Wake up, pee, check my phone for overnight Emails and social media updates.

One of the places I check is a lovely Facebook group specifically for women carrying multiples. This morning I was jolted awake by a post and the commentary that followed from these women.

The post was from a woman in her 30th week who was miserable. She was lamenting that sleep is impossible for her, as laying on her side hurts her hip too much, and laying on her back puts too much pressure on her lungs, making it hard to breathe. The solution, apparently, is to sleep sitting upright on the couch or in a recliner.

Her post was given lots of support and empathy, as I would expect from this terrific group of women, and the comments section quickly filled with other "home stretch" gals in varying levels of discomfort. My back... my hips... my feet.. my heartburn... I can't sleep... I can't walk...

Meanwhile, I'm laying in bed, on my back, after a great night's sleep, breathing comfortably and desperately seeking something wooden to knock on. 

Because, for me, the actual pregnancy part of carrying twins has felt little to no different than my singles. So, now, I'm slightly terrified that in a month or so I'm going to get desperately uncomfortable.

Is this my future calling? Let's hope not... For now, I've got all ten fingers and a few toes crossed that things keep being so easy for me.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Where Has Mandy Been?

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve taken the time to write.
If we’re being honest, there are about a million things I should be doing right now other than blogging.

But, therein lies the subject matter for this blog.

The twins difference; 2nd trimester.

Hello, Viability! 
In general, I’m still waiting to feel as though this pregnancy is different than a singleton pregnancy. Because, for the most part, things are pretty familiar.  The babies are moving, my belly is growing, and I’m told I’m glowing. I’ve officially resumed my 2nd trimester cola craving. It’s getting hard to shave my legs. All normal stuff. The only real surprise is my total absence of appetite. I’ll try to blog about that soon.

While the actual pregnancy is not much different from my single pregnancies, everything surrounding the twin pregnancy could not be more different. At this point in a singles pregnancy you average 1 doctor appointment a month. You’ve had maybe 2 ultrasounds. But this isn’t a single pregnancy.

With twins I average a doctor’s appointment once every 10 days. And we’re only going to be increasing the regularity of these appointments over the next several weeks. Each appointment includes an ultrasound; but not the ultrasounds that lead to cute little profile photos of the baby. 

We’re looking internally at the length and strength of my cervix. We’re measuring amniotic fluid. We’re checking blood flow to the placenta. All very important, but not very photogenic things to be seeing.

The good news is- we’re blessed. 

Very blessed. The babies are measuring big for their age, which is a great sign. At my last appointment baby a (the girl) was just under 2 pounds, and baby b (the boy), was measuring just over 2 pounds. My cervix remains long and strong. I’m told that, at this gestational age, a dream would be a length of 3cm with no reaction to pressure. We’re currently measuring 4.0cm and have no reaction to pressure. Looks like my trusty steel trap cervix is unphased by twins.

Additionally, the amniotic fluid levels look great and my blood pressure and weight gain both remain low. It’s kind of the perfect storm for an ideal twin pregnancy.

The bad news is- I’m exhausted. 

My two girls are both in school, one in 1st grade and the other in a co-operative preschool wherin I
have to spend at least one day per week in class as a teacher’s aide. While not generally a hassle to coordinate, this does take a lot of logistical forethought and planning to pull off. On top of that, both girls are in two extra-curricular activities per week after school. Add to all of this Chris’s work schedule, my newly expanded work schedule, general life stuff, and all those aforementioned doctor’s appointments; and our calendars are about as busy as Time’s Square on New Year’s Eve.

But, Life is Good. I'm Happy. We are well. 


When I’m NOT on the run, I’ve been enjoying placing Belly-Buds on my tummy and allowing the cubs to hear their mother. This awesome technology allows the IM to record herself reading a book or singing a song, and then send it to me as a WAV file. I then place the buds, which act as pre-natal headphones, on my belly and press play. I can’t hear what she’s saying, which I kind of like as I don’t feel like I’m invading their privacy. Pretty cool stuff.

We’ve also reached the point of viability, hooray! I can’t believe we’ve only got 12 weeks left. #wow


So, I’m sorry I haven’t been blogging more. When I do get free time, I kind of prefer to sleep. Which I may go do now… after I fold a load of laundry. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Counting DOWN, & Some Sad News


At some point in every pregnancy women begin to count down instead of up. Instead of, "Oh, I'm 13 weeks..." you'll begin to hear things like, "Halfway there!" or, "Only 10 weeks to go!!!!!"

Typically this begins sometime after the 20th week of pregnancy. But I'm only 19 weeks along, and already my count DOWN has begun.

My OB (and in fact many OBs out there) don't like to allow a twin gestation to be carried past the 38th week of pregnancy. It can lead to more complications than it's worth, and babies typically only gain weight, as opposed to life necessary functions, in those last weeks anyway. So, in most cases, an OB will induce labor (joy of joys) sometime in the 38th week, if it doesn't happen on it's own.

Apart from my OB's countdown clock, I am assured that my body has a biological countdown, too. I've been told time and time again that, with twins, the body kind of throws in the towel around week 34/35. While many women can and do carry twins to full term (40 weeks) that seems to be the exception, and not the rule. I've made my peace with this.

In our case, we have no reason to suspect that I'll have a premature labor or birth. My cervix has always been my, "steel trap" and is "long and strong" as of last week. Even so, mathematically, we've officially past the latest possible "half way" point for this pregnancy. While not technically "due" until February 8, 2017- our plan is to deliver these babies in January. January 12-19 specifically is our "golden window."

And that brings me to my sad news. 

As of last week, my beloved agency, Growing Generations announced that due to complex legal barriers, they will no longer be able to work with surrogates from Washington State. As I've stated before, I had really, really hoped to have one more surrogacy after this; ideally with GG's "HART" program for those living with an HIV+ diagnosis.

It is crystal clear that, with this latest development, that is no longer an option for my future. As Chris continues to tell me, "We still have options, just none of them ideal," for if we want to achieve my goal of one more surrogacy following this one.

The sudden change of life plans has put a bittersweet shadow on me this week. I've always said I'd aim to know at the start of a pregnancy if it were to be my last, so that I could enjoy and memorize every "last first" of the process. What can I say, I just love being pregnant.

So, just this week, as the cubs have gotten *VERY* active... it's been bittersweet. It could be the last time I'm feeling little babies inside of my body, my absolute favorite part of pregnancy. To realize that this could be my last pregnancy when I'm already in the "count down" phase... is sad.

But, I am determined to enjoy and memorize every last ounce of this pregnancy from here on out... just in case. The Intended Parents will be here in a week or so for our big 20 week ultrasound. I'm excited for the visit, and intend to make the most of every moment of pregnancy that I have left!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Surrogacy Means Sacrifice


It's not something most surrogates will talk about openly.
For the most part, the majority of surrogates that I know feel as though there is enough negativity surrounding surrogacy without any potential help from us. So, the sacrifices that we make, we tend to keep those to ourselves.

But they do exist. Things like:

  • Self imposed celibacy
  • Travel restrictions
  • Missed dance recitals or other kid's events (due to required travel or appointments)
  • Submission to certain lifestyle changes (mostly dietary) 
  • Disruptions in annual traditions


In truth is, on a macro level, we're happy to make these sacrifices. The overall good and nobility of what we're doing is, to us, worth every sacrifice or inconvenience we make in exchange.

We "get" that what we're doing...
 is larger than what we're doing without. 

Doesn't mean it isn't annoying. 

Chris and I moved to WA roughly 4 years ago. When we came, we left all of our family behind. That has made for some pretty lonely holiday seasons... party of 4. Six if you count the cats. We've combated this by introducing new traditions. Instead of spending Christmas morning at home, we make sure we're NOT home on Christmas; filling the empty space with experiences. 

Last year we went over the mountains and stayed at a cabin in the snow. This year the tentative plan was to repeat that, or maybe trade snow for sand. For New Years we travel to the WA coast to dig clams, a PNW tradition among the native tribes. These traditions have quickly become near and dear to our hearts. 

This year I will be nearly 34 weeks pregnant on Christmas Day. And, while I'm determined to carry these twins until AT LEAST 36 weeks, I'm told that anytime after 34 weeks is the "Go-Zone" of "anything is possible." Twins mean planning differently. 

Even I must concede that it is careless at best... reckless in reality... to travel over a mountain pass that often closes for days at a time this time of year to keep family traditions in tact. It's downright criminal to travel the 3.5 hours to the coast at nearly 35 weeks pregnant, considering what I've been told about twins.

So.. this year we have a choice. 

I can CHOOSE to be annoyed or angry at the loss of our tradition.

Or, I can CHOOSE to get creative and make our tradition work within our current reality. Making a fun choice that is still responsible to the care of these twins. 

We're toying with making a bigger deal out of Thanksgiving, traveling for that instead. Or about a "Staycation" get away, staying at a hotel in our own hometown and making a big deal of the local holiday festivities. 


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Olympic Promise; The Art of Solid Parenting



I like to time childbirth with the Olympic games.

  • The cubs will be born just 5 months after these Rio games. 
  • Eleanor was born just 9 months prior to the Sochi games. 
  • Emrys was born 6 months prior to the London games. 


And Adelia? 
Adelia was born smack dab in the middle of the Vancouver games. 

Perhaps that's why, when Adelia was just days old, Chris and I made a promise to our tiny 7 pound daughter. It was as much a promise to her as it was to ourselves. Living hand to mouth in Dayton, Ohio we promised, "If our children ever show extraordinary talent for any sport, art, or activity, we will sacrifice ourselves to help their dream grow." 

That promise, however noble, has largely been forgotten over the last 6 years or so. We're blessed with perfectly normal, average kids.

Then today it hit me. I'm about to have to make good on that promise. 

As Adelia, just 6 years old, continues to work her way up in competitive cheer and earn more invitations to advanced squads, we were given a few options for this fall:

  1. Have her repeat Jr. League, but in a leadership capacity and with her sister in tow. 
  2. Move up to Dream Team, as she was invited to do last spring. (Open to kids 7 and up)
  3. Join Jr. power squad and continue to develop her skills as a flyer. (open to kids 8 and up) 
We've really struggled with what to do. It'd be adorable to have her repeat Jr. Squad, since Emrys could be with her. And, to be frank, it's located the closest to our home and is an easy 45 minute time commitment per week.

We've really tried to talk ourselves out of Dream Team & Power Squad. She'll, again, be the youngest on the squad by several years. Not to mention that participation means a 3 hour weekly time commitment (at 6 years old) and a drive through the absolute *worst* rush hour traffic Seattle's Eastside has to offer. 

But then I realized... skipping out on this invitation and opportunity would be 100% and solely for my own personal convenience. 

Where would Simone Biles be if her mother said, "Ugh. MORE time in the gym?" 

Would the world know Michael Phelps as the greatest of all time if his mom said, "I'm not sitting in rush hour traffic for advanced swim team. You can repeat Guppies at the local pool." 

How about Aly Raisman's mom if she had said, "Yes, at 3 years old Aly will be the youngest in her gym class... and maybe it's best to hold her back to be with her age peers vs. her skill peers..." 

Now, I'm not saying Adelia is Phelps or Biles or Raisman quality. But, she's consistently being recognized and invited to "level up."

And, as her mom, it's my job to put on a smile, fill the gas tank, and truck it down to Renton in rush hour traffic for 3 hours a week... to help her continue to develop and see exactly what her potential could be. 

That's solid parenting. Putting her dream, her potential, ahead of my comfort. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

On the Road Again

In Australia for my first FTS Confernece
I'm excited to announce that I'll be participating in the Families Through Surrogacy US Conference!

Scheduled for October 1, 2016 in Los Angeles, California, this one day seminar covers pretty much the entire gamut of surrogacy- from legalities and finding an egg donor, to developing a relationship with your surrogate and bringing baby home. With ticket prices starting at just $20, it's a great (and affordable) way to look into surrogacy.

Learn more about the event, and register to attend, here.

This will be my third appearance with FTS conferences. I've previously spoken in Sydney, Australia and San Francisco, CA.

I've said before, and will say again to anyone who will listen, how much I LOVE participating in these conferences. Officially, I'm in town to speak on a panel, moderated by All Things Surrogacy founder Janae Krell, to speak about my experiences as a surrogate.

I'll talk about why I chose my amazing agency, Growing Generations, and how I approach the matching process. I'll talk about growing a relationship with my intended parents, and why I don't want to keep the child I carry.

My favorite part of the conference though, comes before and after my panel. In those times I hang out at the Growing Generations booth and speak with prospective Intended Parents. It's in these intimate interpersonal conversations that I find my purpose.

The excitement in the eyes of a pair of intended fathers gives me such joy.
The battered, but never broken, look of cautious hope in the eyes of an intended mother inspires me.
The steady, confident reassurance of my friend and colleague Dr. Kim Bergman humbles me.

I'm so every excited to have been asked to be a part of this incredible opportunity. To do it on "home turf" is even more exciting. I'm hopeful that some friends, followers, and surrogacy family will come out to support the cause of surrogacy.

I look forward to seeing many of you there!

Friday, August 12, 2016

I Won't Be My Sister's Surrogate. Here's Why.


When people find out that I'm a surrogate I find that the first question I am asked, more times than not, is, "How do you know her?" or "Do you know her?"

People seem to think that, if you're willing to carry a child for someone else, it must be for a sister, best friend, cousin, or other relationship that is long standing and close to your heart. There seems to be a misconception that carrying for a stranger is somehow less noble than carrying for someone that you've known for years.

Let me make this very clear: surrogacy is noble. It's noble to carry for someone you have long known, loved, and watch struggle with infertility. It's just as noble to carry for someone you've just met.

While many women chose to become surrogates after watching someone struggle with infertility, my choice was based on my love of pregnancy and the childbearing process. It was selfish. I wanted that experience again, without growing our family. Perhaps that is why I have always chosen, on purpose, to carry for people who I did not know prior to engaging in a surrogacy journey.

As the name of this blog suggests, I wanted all that was shared between the intended parents and I (at least at the onset of the journey) to be the baby we'd create together. 

The key reason behind this intentional choice is simple. I want to preserve and separate my surrogate relationships from my existing friendship and familial ones.

Bottom line: surrogacy is an intense, emotional roller coaster that WILL change your life. Period. As I see it, when working with a relationship that existed prior to the surrogacy, I have 50/50 odds that surrogacy improves the relationship or damages it. When it comes to my friends and loved ones; those are odds I'm just not willing to take.

When all we share at the onset of the journey is the goal of creating a family, we can all part ways at the conclusion of our successful journey feeling satisfied and successful. Mission accomplished. If more comes of it, great. That's a bonus. But if not, there truly is nothing lost.

However, when working with people you've known for years prior, there is a risk of losing a pre-established and often long standing relationships and years of memories and experiences. All it takes is unsuspected resentment about the pregnancy, dissenting opinions on selective reduction, unexpected or displaced anger over a failed IVF cycle, or disputes over how to eat or behave during the pregnancy. Potentially even a medical bill paid past deadline could ignite resentment. All of these things are common to IVF and surrogacy.

I feel as though, if I were to carry for someone known to me prior to the journey, I would expect to become the favorite "aunt." I have no right to expect that, but I think human nature would take over and I would feel it anyway. That emotional load isn't fair to put on anyone. Myself, or the friend/ family member that I helped.

My emotional maturity to know what I suspect my limitations to be, and then make choices that keep me within them, does not make me a bad person. In fact, it is precisely what makes me a great surrogacy candidate.

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Author's Note: I have exactly one friend for whom I would throw all of these concerns out of the window. One friend for whom I'd risk it all and gladly carry a child for he and his wife. They know who they are, and we've talked about this privately. When they're ready, I'm ready.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Twins Diet

To quote Meghan Trainor, "Yeah, it's pretty clear. I ain't no size 2..."

Frankly, I haven't been for quite some time. And this pregnancy I got a little lax on my diet during our two rounds of IVF and allowed myself to gain too much weight. The end result is that I'm heavier at the start of this pregnancy than I've ever been at the start of a pregnancy. It's a fact I'm quite self conscious about.

After a pity party I said to myself,
"Self- look. You're pregnant. You're going to get fatter. Right now your vanity isn't the concern. So we're going to make healthy choices and try to keep it in check, not let the scale dictate our self worth, and deal with the weight in a few months." 

Then I learned, at my 10 week check up, that my doc sends all twin patients to a specialty high risk team that comes with a cool perk. A nutrition plan.

Grand.
Just what every woman staring down the barrel of a potential 50 pound weight gain wants.
A diet.

So for roughly 3 weeks I've been walking around with a chip on my shoulder about my upcoming "nutrition" meeting. OK, fine. It wasn't a chip. It was a boulder.

So I arrived at what I will call my "Twins Team" appointment today with a smile. A forced smile perhaps, but a smile nonetheless. Then they called me back to prepare for my ultrasound.

It was like I was being indicted. The technician read my list of crimes aloud to me:

"So I see we're dealing with a surrogacy, twins, approaching advanced maternal age (thanks), and obesity, because I see that belly!" 

This woman really knows how to win friends and influence people. I spent the next part of our ultrasound pouting and trying to suck in my ever growing twin belly. However, try as I may, I wound up liking the technician anyway- despite her total lack of tact.

After the ultrasound I headed into the "consultation" room to meet my "twins educator" and receive my diet. Again, try as I may, I just couldn't help but love the woman. She was tiny, and spunky, and flat out adorable. I almost even let my guard down by the time the nutrition plan came up.

I bristled. I was ready for a fight. I'm pregnant. And If baby wants a bowl of spaghetti, baby gets a bowl of spaghetti, dammit.

She started with my daily caloric limit.
I was sure she was about to tell me no more than 2000.
Wrong.
I am to consume 3500 calories per day.
My jaw dropped.
That's a LOT of calories, and I'm not sure I can do it, if we're being honest.

Next, protein. 
Aim for 175g a day.
Now, for most people that might seem like a ton. But for me, that's really just an added supplement in the morning and Greek yogurt at lunch. I trend towards a very high protein diet on my own. So- bonus.

But then I knew what was coming. 
Carbs.
 I typically try to aim for 100-150g per day when I'm not paying attention to my weight, 50-100g when I am. So I was expecting her to tell me no more than 100g.
Wrong again.
They don't really care.
But, maybe try to keep it to 300g per day or fewer.

And then came the bonus round. Dessert if you will. 

They want me to gain 40-50 pounds.
Say WHAT?
Typically us chunky bottom girls are told try to gain as little weight as possible. 10-15 pounds max. That said, I usually gain right around 30 no matter what I do. So, for me, 40-50 seems absolutely attainable and acceptable. I really let out a sigh of relief.

And, now the challenge....
Most pregnant women try to hold off on their weight gain until the third trimester, when gain is fast and furious. But with twins, we won't make it to 40 weeks. These babies will be born in the 38th week if not before, as waiting longer tends to lead to increased risks. Typically twins come between 34-37 weeks gestation. As a result, my "Twins Team" would like me to try and gain the mass of my weight NOW, in the second trimester, as I won't have much of a third trimester in which I CAN gain weight.

This part will be the challenge for me, as it scares me. It goes against everything I've ever known or tried to achieve in my previous three pregnancies. The math of it baffles me. My home scale says I've gained 0 pounds so far, and we'll go with that one as I'm nude (sexy) when I weigh at home vs. clothed in inconsistent outfits when I weigh at the doc's office.

So, that means they'd like me to gain 30-40 pounds in the next 12 weeks. 
That's 2.5-3.5 pounds PER WEEK. 

While normally this would sound like a lot of fun (bring on the cake!) the hard part will be gaining that much while eating the RIGHT kind of foods. I don't have ROOM in my stomach to eat the wrong things. I have to make every mouthful count.

Plus, if we're being honest, I'm kind of terrified to gain that much, that fast, and then try to stave off all but 10 pounds of gain over the final 4-6 weeks of pregnancy- when the body just starts gaining no matter what you do.

So, that's the twins diet. Not at all what I expected, but I really feel like I can manage it. Live with it. Like all diets, there is some fear and self doubt, and like all diets, there will surely be some cheating (I do have leftover birthday cupcakes you know...). But, in general, I feel empowered.

Let's do this.

__________________________________

So much has happened over the last week or so. I think I'll break it into a few smaller posts over the next several days. So, until next time!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Slaves to a Coffee Cup

When I was in elementary school, I learned this song. It's called coffee cannon, and it was my first ever vocal audition. I killed it, by the way. 



For those of you who won't watch the clip (you really should because it's awesome and funny) the lyrics go as follows:

"Coffee is not for me. It's a drink some people wake up with. That it makes them nervous is no myth. Slaves to a coffee cup, they can't give coffee up." 

The tune and words have stayed with me over the years as I've morphed into a slave to the coffee cup myself. I've developed a solid cup to two cups a day habit. On especially hairy days I've been known to polish off a whole pot. Blame it on the years of graveyard shifts.

I do have doctor's and intended parents' permission to continue to self caffeinate (so no hate mail, please) but I do try to temper my habit when expecting.  But it seems I've been asking the wrong people for permission in this pregnancy. Because apparently the cubs are 100% anti coffee. 

I've been increasingly sick the last two weeks or so. I've now puked three times... a number that comes close to matching the amount of vomiting I did in my prior pregnancies... combined. Every time coffee has been a factor. I've either just had it or smelled it. I've learned my lesson. Avoid coffee at all costs. 

This lesson has developed into a full fledged case of Tourrette's Syndrome. 
Allow me to explain. 

There I was just enjoying a delicious warm, cinnamon rich bread pudding topped with sweet caramel goodness. It was a perfect sweet that cried out for a bitter balance to complete the palate. So, at a table inside a well packed restaurant, I said, 

"This is delicious. I think I'll get a cup of coffeeNNOOOO!" 

Every head within 5 tables snapped to the crazy woman at table 6. My husband jumped. 

And this wasn't the last time this would happen in the next 24 hours. 

Just 12 hours later I awoke at a beautiful Equine farm bed and breakfast; my birthday gift. I walked out of our tack house accommodation to the front porch where I was greeted with a brisk breeze and the sweet aroma of morning dew. Out loud I said, 

"All I need to make this perfect is a cup of coffNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOO"

I may or may not have startled a nearby rabbit. 

Sigh. Guess I'll go make myself a nice, warm cup of no, thank you.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

How Many Times Are You Going to do This?

I took the girls to their annual pediatrician check up last week.  During the delightful visit I shared that I was pregnant with twins in a second surrogacy journey. His reaction was along the lines of:

That's so wonderful!
What a great gift you're giving! 

and... of course...

How many times are you going to do this? 

It is not an uncommon question for surrogates who choose to do more than one journey. While most people will still cheer you on, it sometimes feels as though the assumption of your motives goes from truly altruistic... to somewhat greedy. I've heard tale of multiple time surrogates being on the receiving end of comments such as, "Wow. Do you really need the money?" and "Got yourself a nice little side job there, don't ya?"

For me, the motives to do this again are pretty much the same as they were the first time. I still love being pregnant. I still don't mind the labor and delivery process. I still have a perfect record of complication free pregnancies and deliveries.

The only difference is, this time, I have the gift of hindsight. It's not scary this time. I know I can do this. I know how it feels to give the child back after birth. And, most importantly, I know just how INCREDIBLE and life affirming surrogacy is for everyone involved. It's safe to say it's a high, and I'm kind of hooked.

So, how many times am I going to do this? 

I've always felt like, if possible, I'd like to know at the start of a pregnancy if I intend for it to be my last. Emotionally, I'd like to say goodbye to each phase as they go. I've always known, deep in my bones, I'd be at least a two time surrogate.

When Chris and I started the road to our second experience, we started with the thought of, "What if M & T want a sibling?" Would that be our last experience, or would we still feel pulled to help another family, too?

We decided that we'd want to help a second family. That meant that, had M&T wanted a sibling, we'd have had to have our hearts open to a total of 3 surrogate experiences. That seemed doable. Realistic. Noble. 4 just seemed like too many. For us, anyway.

As it turned out, M&T felt their family was full enough with just Ellie. But, by this point, the idea of three journeys was ingrained my heart and head. So, if all things go to plan, we are hoping for 3 surrogate experiences. I have a little "surrogacy bucket list" with just one or two more things I'd like to accomplish before I retire.

That said, carrying twins, in my 30s, might be cause for me to say enough is enough. I reserve the right to say I'm done after this journey. Also, as a surrogate I look up to and respect very much often says, "When it comes to surrogacy... you're retired...unnnnnnnnntil you're not." So while I say the idea of a 4th is something we're in no way interested in- never say never, I suppose.

The summary here is that the choice to become a repeat surrogate is as incredibly personal and unique to each woman as the initial choice to become a surrogate. Just as you "know" when you are done building your biological family, surrogates have an instinct to  "know" we're done building our surrogate families. Some women know they're a, "one hit wonder." Others know they'll do this until someone tells them they can't.

For me, my uterus isn't ready to retire just yet.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Difference with Twins: Part 1

Can you believe we're 2/3rds of the way through the first trimester already? I must have slept through that fact. Just 4 weeks to go!

Lots of people have already started asking me if I notice a big difference in my singleton pregnancies and the twins. The answer is yes and no. It's pretty much the same experiences, but everything is just kind of "turned up."

Or, in the case of heartburn, "turned on" for the first time. Most days the heartburn doesn't bug me anymore. I've been told that this is not likely because it's stopped being a problem. More likely that I've just gained a tolerance to it. I will say though, on the days that the heartburn is bad, it's B-A-D.

Chris says I'm not any more tired that I was with my previous three pregnancies. I'd argue it with him, but I'm just too tired.

The biggest "difference" I've noticed thus far is in my waistline. For comparison sake, here's a photo of me at 8 weeks with the twins (left) and...  13 weeks with E(right).

See what I mean? I'll be fair. I'm fatter at conception this time than I was with E. But, at 8 weeks, I'm already feeling uncomfortable in my jeans. It's time for more yoga pants... and maternity band pants aren't far off. I have real self esteem issues with that. But, 4th pregnancy. 2 babies. Cest la vie. 

OK, Time for another nap.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Welcome Home, Little Joey

Then...
I am so excited to make this very special announcement!

This October, a little more than 3 months from now, The Emerald City will play host to my adoring first surrogate family.

For the first time since that tearful goodbye more than 2 years ago, M, T, and my Ellie Belly will be coming back to Seattle for a visit.


And now. 
This is super exciting for so many reasons. Of course I am excited to visit with them again. I'm excited for it to be in my own hometown. I'm excited that E is old enough now to really PLAY with my girls. Her "Womb-mates" as the guys call them.

I may be romanticizing this just a bit, but the idea of sipping coffee with Mike and Traff while the girls run and play together, making their own memories and bonds, just gives me goosebumps.

Surrogacy. It's really something special, isn't it?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Gut Check: It's Twins

The First Ultrasound

Man. This is a big day. If you think the 10-14 days between transfer and beta day were tense, this is even worse. Especially when your numbers are looking really, really strong.

The time between transfer and Beta is rich with anxiety: did it work or didn’t it?
The time between beta and ultrasound is straight anticipation: It worked. So is it one baby… or two?

During the first waiting period, we at least have the option to cheat. To break the rules and take home pregnancy tests to help give us an edge at knowing what outcome to expect. But this time around, there is no way to cheat. No Christmas present under the tree to shake, and no one to play 20 questions with for a hint at the outcome. All we can do is wait with patience of steel.

Except, from experience, I’ve learned that most surrogates really stink at being patient.

So, instead, we overanalyze our beta numbers, our doubling rates, and our symptoms to try and get a sneak peak at what’s going on inside of our uterus.
 
I’m guilty of the above myself. Blame it on my severe type A personality. I actually have a self made excel spreadsheet wherein I chart the betas and doubling rates from every IVF transfer I’ve had… and perhaps the results of a few friends as well. Don’t judge me.

Here’s what my chart tells me. Absolutely nothing. Even when they look good, betas and doubling rates tell us just one thing: there is something inside of the uterus that is growing appropriately. Beyond that, these numbers offer little to no insight as to how many little babies may be growing inside of the uterus.

This reality means that I walked into the doctor’s office today much like a little kid creeps down the stairs on Christmas morning. Anxious. Excited. Nervous. Straight up sick of waiting.

So they called me back, I put on the gown, laid on the table, dialed my intended parents in on a Skype call, and prepared for the big show.

In goes the ultrasound wand… and in less than 2 seconds the tech says something I’ve never heard before.

“We’ve got two.”

That’s right, we’ve got two babies in there. The intended parents, who were live via Skype video call, erupted in a hoot of cheers and celebration. My heart soared! I’ve always wanted to carry twins. We were aiming for twins! This was indeed a glorious moment. SO incredibly excited.

Along with that over the moon excitement though, came the realization that we are no longer day dreaming about carrying twins. We are actually doing it. While it is incredibly exciting, it’s also a little overwhelming. I’m old hat at carrying and delivering one baby at a time, but this will be a completely new experience for me. It’s all new territory, and it’s a lot to take in. It’s probably incredibly normal to have feelings of both excitement and a few nerves.


Mostly though, I’m just thrilled. The nerves will work themselves out. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

When a Surrogate Goes to the Emergency Room

I spent last night in my local Emergency Room.

First of all, I want to start by saying that I am OK. The baby(ies) are OK. I'm going to be OK.

The visit needed to happen after I woke up in the middle of the night experiencing anaphylaxis. As someone with no known food allergies, I wasn't even sure what I was experiencing. My face was swollen, my right eye heavily hooded, and my throat was nearly swollen shut. That hangy ball in the back of your throat? It's called a uvula. Mine was so swollen that I was in a cycle of swallowing it, and then coughing it back up.

 Despite this, I could breathe fine. I woke Chris and asked him to take me to the hospital, thinking I was just being, "better safe than sorry" since I am pregnant. We would only learn latter how severe my condition was, and that the doctor on call was a heartbeat away from intubating me and admitting me to the ICU.

I share this story here, on my surrogacy blog, for a reason. In the heat of the moment I was given a choice. Intubate, or submit to IV steroids. The obvious choice is steroids, right? Here's the jab. Steroids at this phase of pregnancy have a very minute chance of causing birth defects. The chances are so, so very slim, especially off of a one time steroid administration, but they still exist and I still had to make a massive decision, on my own, at 2 am.

Friends, it was the hardest decision I've ever made as a surrogate. And I had to make it in about 15 seconds. I had to choose a potential risk to the baby, or an invasive procedure for me. We chose the steroids. Late this afternoon I heard from my IVF doctor that the amount of steroids given to me would be highly unlikely to cause any complications. He approved of my decision. I could exhale.

In the hours that have followed my release from the hospital I have gained such a huge respect for food allergy sufferers. Apparently I'm now part of the club. Armed with an Epi-Pen, I'm scheduled to undergo a full allergy panel in the next two weeks to try and learn what villain did this to me.

Many people often say, "If a surrogate is on life support, who makes those calls? Whose life comes first?" This is a complex question that isn't easily answered in one word. But, if the support and approval I have received from Growing Generations, my intended parents, and a battery of doctors today is any indication, the well being of the surrogate matters greatly.

I feel lucky to live close to a hospital. To have amazing friends who helped us in the middle of the night, a husband who took me seriously when I said, "I think we need to go to the hospital", and a surrogacy community of doctors, case workers, surro sisters, and intended parents who supported my split second decision.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Well. Someone is in a Hurry

Today we completed our third Beta blood draw. The next scheduled appointment was set for our ultrasound on June 24th. That's when we'd learn if I'm carrying 1 little belly buddy... or a small pack of Californians.

But then I got an email from my nurse. We're moving ultrasound up. Way up. By a whole week. Ultrasound will now be a week from today, June 17th.

I have no idea why we're moving things up. I suspect it may have something to do with my beta numbers, which have continued to be stellar. Here's how they compare to my numbers with E.

14 days after transfer:
E--       741
Now--  2083

17 days after transfer:
E--      1708
Now-- 8115

Considering this, I decided to take an evening poll of what my family think's I'm cooking.
Adelia- 1 boy
Chris- 1 girl
Emrys- 2 girls (this would be an identical twin. A true surprise)
Mom-to-be- 1 boy, 1 girl

As for me? I think we've got two in there. But I still just don't think my boy is ready for a boy. So I'm going with Emrys and saying 2 girls.

What do you all think?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

First Trimester Woes

I love being pregnant. I do pregnancy well. It's why I became a surrogate.

I don't get morning sickness. I've never had gestational diabetes. Heartburn is something other women complain about, but not me. Sure I get tired a bit more easily, but not enough to change my lifestyle. Typically, at about 37 weeks pregnant when I start to feel "done" I'm still getting complimented. My friend Aleisha once told me, "You look better than anyone has a right to at 38 weeks pregnant."

Even this morning a friend asked me how I'm feeling and said, "Just fine! Except the heartburn, but really, I'm great!"

I'm not lying. Not really. Most of the time I am feeling pretty great. But this morning? Here I sit, exactly 5 weeks pregnant, with the "yuck bucket" on my bedside table, my half empty shaker of tums at arm's reach, and at 9 am, already contemplating a nap.

First of all, let me just say, I'm not complaining. Not really. I know the "side effects" of pregnancy. I know why I'm feeling this way, and, deep down, I promise I'm actually happy to be feeling crummy today. It's a good sign. I signed up for this and I don't regret my choices to pursue my 4th pregnancy. Someday there may be a 5th. We'll see.

Every pregnancy is different. Adelia was dramatic. Emrys was a spaz. Eleanor was particular. This pregnancy, this kid, is just extreme. Perhaps a drama queen cooking in there. Or... yes... as many of you keep insisting, perhaps I'm finally carrying twins. Maybe my 30 year old body is a bit more... finicky... than my 20 year body was.

T- minus 7 weeks until the first trimester is over.
But, if history and past behavior is any indicator, I'll have this kiddo and her dramatic nature whipped into shape before then. :)


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Houston... We May Have a Problem

In the surrogacy world.... well, heck... in the IVF world in general, blood is not at all uncommon. I've read that up to 70% of pregnancies achieved through IVF will have some level of bleeding during the pregnancy. It can be caused by any one of a hundred things. Anything from inconsistent hormone levels, disturbance of the cervix (often from vaginal hormone therapies needed to sustain the early pregnancy), or even an internal- and often harmless- hemorrhage can cause bleeding.

But yes, sometimes bleeding does mean miscarriage.

Typically we only become concerned if the blood is bright red, if there are clots, or if the bleeding becomes heavy and is accompanied by cramps. 

My head is so often buried in IVF research for work that I tend to think about these things academically as opposed to emotionally. But It still knocked the breath right out of my chest when, last night, I had some bleeding.

I had no cramps, so the bright red blood was... surprising. Luckily, because I have my head buried in IVF research for work, I knew just what my doctor would tell me to do.

Stay calm. Increase fluids. Feet up.

So I emailed the nurse to let her know what was going on, and followed the directives I knew she'd give me first thing in the morning.

I did wind up passing a small clot before the bleeding stopped. But, by morning, the bleed was done and I still felt fine. Even so, the doctor ordered a repeat beta test to make sure my hormone levels and HCG levels were still in the appropriate ranges.

Waiting for the new numbers was stressful. I felt scared, apprehensive, and not at all as prepared for the results of this beta as I was for the one last week.

Back to my computer to await the email from my nurse.

Refresh.Refresh.Refresh.

And then there it was.

2,083.

HOLY.COW.
Just Friday my beta was 383.8! This is a big jump. It is an exciting development, accompanied by a huge sigh of relief.

I am still pregnant... very pregnant in deed... and proof that , while bleeding does indeed happen in IVF pregnancies, it doesn't always mean disaster. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

One of "Those" Women

The average American household has 2.5 children. 

This means most people have two kids. A few have three. 
I have to think very hard to come up with anyone I know raising 4 kids. 
I don't know anyone with 5. 

Growing up my grandma would see "those" women out and about and say things like, "Oh. They must not have figured out what causes it." It being pregnancy. 

We'd have a giggle and go about our business. 

Today I realized... I've pregnant with a 4th child. 

I'm now "one of those women."

Only, I know exactly what causes it. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Results are IN!


It’s Beta Day. Again.
It’s the day that I donate a bit more blood to the lab, and the lab tells me if I am or am not pregnant.
Just to catch you up, we had a negative Beta test a couple of months ago following our failed transfer. 

But this is a new day. A new transfer. A new Beta test.

And this time I’m feeling… heartburn. And a lot of it. I’ve also experienced a fair amount of “implantation bleeding."

I strutted into that lab pretty sure of myself. I’m feeling pretty absolute that this time the transfer worked. Perhaps part of that confidence stems from the fact that the scent of a banana made me cry the other day.

It’s a whole other ball of wax when you feel certain the transfer worked. Now, instead of wondering when the nurse will call me telling me I’m not pregnant, I’m wondering when she will call me and tell me just how high my beta number is.

As surrogates, we put a lot of stock in that first number. Our pride tends to swell in direct proportion with how high that first Beta number is. This is absolutely silly, by the way. A low number doesn’t make you less of a surrogate than a high number, and it’s not like anything we do can impact how big or small that number is.  Most of us know that. We still want a high number.

Beta numbers tell you how much HCG (the human pregnancy hormone) is present in the blood. That’s it. While some people may tell you that a bigger number suggests multiples in the womb, the reality is, a higher number just means there is more HCG in the blood. This can be the result of twins, yes, but it can also be the result of an earlier implantation, a differing response from one woman’s body to the next, or any other variety of factors. The only thing we really NEED to see today is a positive number, hopefully over 100.

Even so, I am sitting here pressing refresh on my Email browser window like a maniac. I need that number. I want a high number. I’m like a moth to the flame.

Refresh.Refresh.Refresh.

And then there it is.
383.8

I’m pregnant.
It worked.

Allison and Orin are going to be parents, so long as everything goes well, sometime just before Valentine’s Day. 
Right after Emrys turns 5, and a few days before Adelia turns 7. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Playing with my Pee V 2.0

A couple of years ago I penned a post about my urine. Specifically, how I had been breaking all of the rules and taking home pregnancy test in anticipation of my up coming Beta (blood pregnancy test).

Well, folks... some things never change.

I'm still breaking the rules, and still peeing on every pregnancy test I can get my hands on.

They're positive.
Like, waaaaaaaaaaaaay positive.

So positive in fact, that yesterday the scent of a banana (a scent I generally love) made me gag. Then, I cried over it. Briefly following the tears, I laughed at how obnoxious my tears had been. A banana, folks. I cried over a banana.

In my post from two years ago I talk about how it's impossible to get a positive result before day 5, so I waited until then to start testing. This time however, I tested earlier. Here's why.

With each of my conceptions I have had "implantation bleeding." It's very, very light spotting that occurs when an embryo buries itself into the blood rich uterine lining. It's always been my first no fail sign that I was pregnant.

While in L.A. for transfer, I did notice some spotting the day of transfer. That's normal and usually caused by the transfer itself. So I ignored it. It cleared up. But then, a day later... WHAM-O. Implantation bleeding.

So, I took my first test on... ahem... uh... day 2 after transfer.

And guess what... I swear there was a ghost shadow line there.
I got my first "squinter" on day 3... and my first blazing obvious yes on day 4.
With Eleanor I got my first hint of  a shadow on day 5, my first squinter on day 6, my first blazing obvious on day 8.

This leads me to the question on everyone's lips, "Is it twins?"

Well, less of a question and more of an assertion from the peanut gallery this time, as most of you are telling me, "Oh! It's twins!"

So, nuts and bolts. Do I think it's twins? Probably not. We transferred a boy and a girl embryo and, if you've been paying attention, you know that my uterus prefers girls. My husband is kind of a numbers guy and has calculated the odds of my conceiving as many girls in a row as I have. It's 6% probability. So, given that, I think that my body is unlikely to switch gears now and accept a male embryo.

BUT... if it has accepted the male, then I do believe it's twins. No way my body is saying, "no thank you," to a female embryo.

So tomorrow is our beta.
I'm super excited to see what that number is. The test shows how high my hormone levels are, in essence, how pregnant I am. And, for me, how much irrational hormonal crying over bananas I can get away with.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

This is dangerous...

But I think I'm going to do it anyway.

One of the things that happens after an embryo transfer for surrogates is that (many of us) become women with super duper in tuned senses and practically X ray vision. We begin to pay very close attention to our bodies and examine every single twinge that we feel.

I usually keep these things under wraps because:

  • A- I don't want to get myself worked up- or down- based on things that are 100% NOT based in scientific reality. 
  • B- I don't want my intended parents to see the blog and have the same reactions- positive or negative- to what I report feeling or not feeling. 


But.... my IPs this time have told me they're specifically avoiding the blog for that very reason. They'll come read it all later. When things are certain.

And... I'm a writer, and getting it all out feels good. So... It's dangerous to publish this in case it's all just a farce, but I think I'm going to do it anyway.

**Disclaimer**
None of what I'm about to share means anything. Not at all. It has less chance of being accurate than old wive's tales about gender selection. No matter what I think, feel, or notice... chances of pregnancy are still 50%. I either will be, or I won't be.



Day of Transfer
We transferred two embryos. 1 boy, 1 girl. As you all know, In my life I've delivered 3 beautiful girls... and transferred 3 boys into my uterus. None of them felt like sticking around. I've jokingly said that my body only accepts girls. The girl that we implanted on Tuesday was hatching just a little bit at 9 am when her photo was taken. By our transfer around noon though, she was almost completely out. The embryologist and IVF doctor both commented on what an aggressive change that was in such a short period of time. That gave me a lot of hope.

A couple hours after transfer I had a few wipes of light pink blood after I would pee. No big deal, totally normal. The catheter that transfers the embryos into the uterus can cause some very minor damage to the medically thickened uterine lining, and some blood is about as common as tears when you cry. It stopped after an hour or so.

Wednesday
Wednesday afternoon I started to notice a bit of pink discharge again. I told myself it could still be from the transfer cath and tried to ignore it. I was not worried in the slightest, and was trying to keep myself from getting excited over the potential that this new pink discharge could possibly represent implantation bleeding- bleeding caused by an embryo burying itself into the uterine lining where it will begin to grow. Given how aggressively our little girl embryo was developing yesterday, I knew this was a possibility, but I really wanted to keep my excitement down and expectations in check. I told myself it must be cath blood still, and went on with my day.

Later that evening I started to notice cramping. Usually, at this stage of the game, this is a very good sign- not a bad one. It often represents the embryos implanting into the uterus. Wednesday night I noticed cramping in two very distinct places. One in the center rear of my uterus, and one in the extreme lower left. Could this be implantation cramping? Perhaps of both embryos? Or, more likely, is it just Mandy trying very hard to look for a sign, any sign, that this transfer worked.

Thursday
Thursday morning came with a healthy dose of bright pink spotting. I'm still trying to tell myself it could be from the catheter... but... really, it's been 48 hours. If the pink spotting was from that the blood would now be brown, not at all pink. It has to be implantation. And there was a fair amount of it over several bathroom trips. I'm feeling like this has to be a very good sign.

What else am I feeling? Sick. Very sick. I tried to tell myself that it was because I had a cup of coffee on an empty stomach, as sometimes that can happen to me. But then I ate a whole balanced breakfast... and felt heartburn, and weak limbs, and nausea. I can tell you that I am *not* imagining this bought of nausea or fatigue- but I can concede that they may be in no way related to a potential pregnancy.

Later in the day the sick feeling did eventually go away, but was promptly replaced with sore breasts and an overwhelming feeling of simply being full.

Friday
If I were a betting gal, and I'm not, I'd tell you it's twins for sure. I've had my second bought of implantation bleeding. So this marks three distinct "pink on the paper" occurrences. Each one marked with a distinct period of no pink discharge between them. For me, my 100% no fail sign of pregnancy has ALWAYS been implantation bleeding. So yeah... I must be pregnant. And it must be twins.

...10 days until we know for sure. 240 hours to go.

I'm going to kill the next several of those hours napping.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Cravings at 2 WEEKS PREGNANT?

So, if you've been following along, you know that surrogates are technically pregnant before IVF transfer. If you haven't been following along, here's a link to a nice little article that explains it.

Also, I'm on all the hormones that a body produces while pregnant. This is also part of the IVF process. Surrogates inject ourselves with, or take orally, hormones way before the embryo transfer in hopes of faking our bodies into thinking they are already with child. This is done in hopes that, when we do transfer the embryo, it takes and grows seamlessly. Here's a link to an article about THAT.

So as I sit here and type, even though the embryo that will eventually be my belly buddy is still frozen in a tank, I am technically 2 weeks pregnant.

As I learned with the last cycle, these hormones indeed do fake pregnancy. That explains why, despite my negative pregnancy test, I had pregnancy symptoms last time. Sore breasts, insane aversion to the smell of BBQ sauce, and even nausea.

Maybe, just maybe, that explains last night's unquenchable desire for deep fried pita and garlic roasted humus from George's Greek in West Hollywood. Chris and I had it delivered last time we were in California, and you'd better believe it's on my to do list for next week, too.

So apart from the cravings, what's new with me?

I look pregnant. No kidding. Wish I was.

Sometimes I gain weight with the medical protocol, sometimes I don't. I gained a few pounds in the last (failed) cycle, and I was unable to shed them in the six weeks between cycles. Med weight is always stubborn. I've gained a few pounds in this medical cycle, too. The end result is... I feel massively huge.

I recently had a tank made that says, "Worth the Weight" as I believe surrogacy is. Even if the weight happens before there is ever a baby.

So, I'm craving carbs, have a growing belly, and have noticed my patience with the blondesters is a bit... abbreviated... Yup, I MUST be pregnant.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Next Steps

The days following the news of a failed transfer seem painfully slow. Will the intended parents throw in the towel, or will they want to try again? If they do want to try another transfer, how long will there be between now and then? What can I do differently this time to make sure it works?  
Generally following a failed transfer you can expect to receive a phone call from your case specialist, and maybe even Dr. Kim, as well as from your nurse. All of the support is meant to help you realize one thing; you didn’t do anything wrong, things like this happen, and the big one, we will (or will not) be trying this again.
My case specialist and intended parents let me know pretty much straight away that we would be trying again as soon as possible. We did have to wait to the doctor to sign off on another transfer, so that pushed us out a bit.  Of course he wanted more tests, this time to see if my body is host to one of two very rare genetic diseases that would case my body to attack and kill embryos. It seemed nonsense, since I've given birth to 3 babies complication free and had no miscarriages, but I complied. And we waited. After about a month, I got a new calendar. The outline for our next try.
So now we get to start all over. I’ve just started medications today, and it’s time to begin gearing up for round two. I’ll be honest, having never had a failed transfer, I hadn’t given a lot of forethought to writing about the emotions surrounding a second try. I find myself feeling very guarded. More tentative than before, cautious about every step of the process.
I'm scared, too. If THIS transfer fails, I feel anxiety that the doctor or my IPs might decide to move on from me. In short: the pressure is on.
I find myself reminding my heart of what I know to be true, surrogacy is worth it. Whatever “it” is, surrogacy is worth it. Every needle, every tear, every pound, and every cheer. Surrogacy is worth it all. So, here we are. Back at square one and determined to make it work this time.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Beta Day


It’s Beta day! Usually on Beta day I wake up jazzed. Super excited. I even have a little song:



Beta Day, Beta Day

Goody, Goody,

Hip Hooray!



Don’t judge me. Beta day has always been an exciting day for me. Just exactly HOW pregnant am I? How high will that first number be, and is it one or two babies? Let the guessing game begin!



This time around though, I gave in to temptation and broke the cardinal rule of the two week wait, “Don’t take at home pregnancy tests.” The tests can be misleading. I know this. But I did it anyway, and my tests were negative.



So today, walking into the clinic, I wasn’t singing. I wasn’t excited to see just how big that first number would be. I already knew. My perfect transfer record was broken. I wasn’t pregnant.



As someone who has done –literally- hundreds of hours researching all things IVF and surrogacy, here’s what I know:

·       Nothing I did, didn’t do, or could have done differently would have changed the outcome of this Beta.

·       Sometimes you can do everything right, have perfect looking embryos and an ideal uterus, and it still doesn’t take. Sometimes it snows in July.



As a surrogate though, my heart is screaming this:

·       You failed.

·       You let your intended parents down.

·       You promised something you couldn’t deliver.



It’s hard to make the head and heart reconcile. It’s hard to have to be humbled and share my bad news with the world. I’m supposed to be telling everyone that the transfer took, Allison and Orin will be parents by Christmas, and isn’t surrogacy an amazing, wonderful thing? I still think surrogacy is an amazing, wonderful thing, by the way. But a baby by Christmas? Well, that’s not the route our Atlas is giving us for this journey.



Have you ever heard the expression, “Everything is sales?” In this case, I was selling myself. My reproductive prowess. My ability to grant wishes, make dreams come true, and help people have babies… all while whipping up a 5 course dinner for my family in 3 inch heels. I’m left feeling like I tripped over the cat and fell flat on my face in the kitchen. Looks like we’re ordering a pizza!  



One of the best things about surrogacy with an agency is the support that comes with it. I was able to turn to my fellow surrogates, my surro-sisters, for support immediately. While this may be my first failed transfer, it is far from the first one we’ve dealt with as a community. It’s just part of IVF. My surro-sisters knew exactly what to say to help me pull it together, get my game face back on, and prepare for what’s next.



I also know that in the next day or so I’ll hear from   GG Co-Owner & psychologist Dr. Kim Bergman. She’ll call me to see how I’m doing and if I need anything. I don’t, I know my feelings are normal, but isn’t it nice to have that professional line of support available in case I did need it?





Here’s something else I know. Even Babe Ruth didn’t hit a home run every time he stepped up to the bat. So now we gather ourselves and we try again. Because while today we may have “struck out,” this game is far from over.