Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Transfer Day

Oh my goodness and holy cow. It happened. We made it to transfer. And, until someone else tells me otherwise, I’m officially pregnant with twins.

Here’s how today, our transfer day, played out.

Chris and I flew out on a 6:30 p.m. flight. It meant that we got into our hotel a bit late, but not too late for a quick “midnight” snack before bed. Sushi for one last time before, hopefully, I’m raw free for the rest of 2016. One of my favorite things about GG is that, when you travel for business, almost all of your costs are taken care of. My flight, my hotel, my childcare, my lost wages from work, even my meals, covered. All I need to do is show up, smile, and focus on getting pregnant. It’s such a lovely retreat from everyday life. I will forever be so grateful to GG for treating their gals so well.

 I woke up clear eyed and bushy tailed at exactly 6:30 am. No going back to sleep, excitement ran high. So I slowly dressed, played around on Twitter for a bit, and then it was off to breakfast and the clinic.

When you arrive at the clinic you tend to go through one final round of blood work to ensure your hormones are optimal for transfer. Mine were. We pressed on.

Next I disrobed from the waist down and waited. And waited. And then it was time.

I was taken into a procedure room and reclined much as you would be for an annual pap smear. An embryologist came in with the embryos on a slide and offered my intended parents the ability to look at them under a microscope. My IPs took a look at the embryos. Their children. How many people get the opportunity to see their child when they’re just cells large? Watching my intended mother’s eyes well up with emotion as she said, “Hey guys!” to her two little boys, her future sons, almost brought me to tears myself.

Next the catheter is inserted into my vagina, through my cervix and into my uterus. A small syringe is attached to the catheter and, when plunged, pushes the embryos into the uterus. We actually watched it all happen live on ultrasound. Two little white dots, that’s all you see. It’s amazing that those two little white dots represent so much. They represent hope, and life, and love, and a ton of investment from so many people.

When it was over I laid flat for about 20 minutes, got dressed, and headed back to the hotel. Now I’ll hang out here for the next day or so while these little boys get cozy inside of me. Then, in just two weeks, we test to see if the boys like their temporary housing arrangement and have decided to stick around.

Two weeks. 14 days. It sounds so short, but it feels impossibly long. For my intended parents, it may feel like the longest wait of their lives. Perhaps even more painstakingly long that the 9 months that will follow our beta test.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Monitoring Appointments

Part of the pre-transfer protocol includes monitoring appointments. These appointments typically consist of a quick blood pull and a transvaginal ultrasound. The blood draw generally monitors the presence of estrogen in the blood and the ultrasounds monitor the lining of your uterus for thickness and pattern

Today was my final monitoring appointment before our targeted transfer next week. This time around I have not had monitoring ultrasounds, just bloodwork. The result, for an experienced surrogate, is anxiety. Not knowing what’s going on inside of the uterus had made me nervous that we might just find a lining that was too thin and without time to correct it.

Luckily for me, my first and only scan of my cycle was scheduled for the luckiest day of all; Saint Patrick’s Day.

Apparently I had a trickster leprechaun following me, though. The day went comically wrong at every turn. I had a laugh in spite of it all more than once. First, I missed the exit off of the highway to the doctor’s office. I go to this part of town and this particular building regularly. This mistake made me nearly late, something I really hate.

Then I was called over for my blood pull. I have picture perfect veins. Both arms, my hands, my wrists, everywhere. Phlebotomists love me. I’ve never had an issue with a technician not being able to find a vein. I’m kind of proud of this fact. Today’s tech even noted how perfect my veins were as we prepared for the pull. But then, for the first time in my life, the tech couldn’t get the vein. He said it rolled, and hid. He had to try three times. He wound up with a bruised ego, and I wound up with a bruise.

After the blood pull it was time for my ultrasound. Boy was I nervous. I had no idea what we might find, but this one picture would determine if our cycle went forward to transfer in 7 days, or would be dropped. I get back to the exam room, disrobe, and wait. The ultrasound technician came in, laid me back and… discovered the machine was broken. I then laid there, half nude, for probably 10 minutes while two different people came in and out and played with the machine. Unplugging it, restarting it, pushing buttons… at one point the entire front panel came crashing off and clattered to the floor. You can’t make this stuff up.

Eventually, after I hastily redressed, I was ushered through the clinic to a new exam room where I would again disrobe. This time the machine worked and, moment of truth, revealed a picture perfect lining. Relief. Sweet relief. I got dressed and left with a smile.

About the time I made it to the parking lot it hit me, we’re good to go. This is happening. In a week we’re transferring two perfect little embryos into my body. In about nine months, if we’re lucky, one or maybe even two new lives will be here. I felt like I could fly, and I couldn’t wait to call my intended parents to share the news.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Needle Nerves

If there is one thing that everyone seems to know about IVF pregnancies, it’s that they require a strict medical protocol. Most notably, IVF requires a lot of self-administered injections.

Here’s the thing about IVF medications that amazes me; every cycle is different. In my first experience I did the entire gamut of medications. From injections into my abdomen to stop me from ovulating to injections into my hip to convince my body it was pregnant, to handfuls of oral medications- I did them all. One medication made me sweat a lot and forced my husband to name me a stinky “Apprentice Supervillain.” But it worked.  The stinky supervillain got pregnant, and the result was a beautiful baby girl. Disclaimer: not everyone will sweat or stink. Apparently that was just a special little gift just for me. 

This cycle my medications are so drastically reduced that it is easy to forget that I’m in the middle of my medical cycle. It’s really kind of nice allowing my body to just do what it does naturally. Right now I’m just taking a simple tablet or two of estrogen per day. But, those big long scary needles are in my (near) future. They’ll start this week and, if we’re lucky, be in my daily future for the next 10-12 weeks. That’s 70-84 injections.

So let’s get down to brass tacks. Here’s what you all want to ask me. Do the injections hurt? Are they scary? Is it worth it?

I’m lucky this time around in that I’ve done this before and I have the gift of perspective. I’ve already mastered the learning curve. It’s old hat. I’m not terrified this time around. Even so, a needle that big is dang scary, no matter how many times you’ve successfully injected yourself. I remember the first time around needing to psych myself up for each injection. It took my breath away to think about it. That’s normal. By my last shot though I had it down. Just point, poke, and push.

Here’s a truth: it does hurt. Come on, it’s a big, long needle going right into your muscle and injecting a decent amount of hormones. It’s not going to feel like a warm hug.

Here’s another truth: it is absolutely, 100%, undeniably worth it. I like to tell people that if the medications, the injections specifically, were really that bad there would be no such thing as a repeat surrogate, or a sibling for any child born of IVF. But there are both.

The injections themselves aren’t really the painful part, it’s the hormone and the oil that causes the pain. The tenderness is a result of the medication being slowly absorbed into the muscle, not the puncture of the muscle itself. There are some common sense things that we can do as surrogates to ease the pain of the absorption of the medication. Things like warming the oil prior to injection (think putting the vial under your arm like a thermometer, not putting it in the microwave on high) and ensuring you’re injecting in the right place can help.

Perhaps the biggest help is confidence and perspective. The shots don’t last forever, they’re usually over before you even reach the second trimester. And that means 6 out of 9 months will be needle free.

These shots aren’t something I’d do for fun on a Saturday, make no mistake. But they are worth every dirty diaper, sleepless night, 2 a.m. feeding, afternoon playdate, junior prom date, and missed curfew that will result from the birth of this future little person.

When put into perspective, 70-84 injections could never outweigh the joy that comes from my gift to this couple. And that knowledge makes them maybe hurt a little less.