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.