Surrogacy update- it’s a match

We decided to move forward with the surrogate candidate we spoke with.

I’m still not feeling 100% good about her and this decision.  Our agency continues to be a bunch of jerks and basically said that they wouldn’t be able to find us any match if we can’t clearly tell them what’s wrong with her (obviously they don’t care about us or our gut instincts).  So we are moving forward.  And I’m counting the days that we can be done with this f***ing agency.  I really wish I could prevent others from working with this agency.  It’s awful enough to have to go through this journey after 6 losses and the loss of my fertility- I don’t need people I am paying to HELP me to be treating me like shit.

I do think our carrier is nice and hopefully together we can have as good of a journey as possible.  On to contracts and hopefully a quick transfer.  (not that anything moves quickly in surrogacy!)

Little steps and no gut instinct

So we finally talked to our first surrogate candidate.  She was very nice.  But…  I don’t know.  I have never interviewed surrogates before and it feels very odd to choose this person who is going to fill this massive role in your life based on a 2 hour phone call.  But I am getting absolutely no gut instinct on this.  I think my gut instinct is feeling so damaged after all the recent shi**y decision making that I am just out of touch with myself.  And the bad part is that I want SO BADLY to be moving forward that I think I would pretty much let the Devil carry my baby if we could transfer soon.

For those of you who don’t know the process of matching with a surrogate, here’s a brief summary:  We are using a (crappy, I hate them now) Agency to match us with potential surrogates.  We have filled out an Intended Parents (IP) profile and the surrogates all fill out their own version.  The profile feels very much like internet dating as does the initial phone call.  The Agency notified us they thought they had a potential candidate and we reviewed her profile.  We said we thought initially that things would work so then we get together on a three-way phone call with our carrier, my husband and I and the Agency rep.  Kinda awkward.  Then you try to make small talk until you can get around to asking more details which are far more personal than anything else you have ever asked a stranger over the phone!  At the same time, you really, really want this person to like you back, so you feel the need to be cautious and likable.

We don’t have a ton of criteria when it comes to a surrogate-  I have heard of IPs demanding their surrogate eat all organic or vegan or not have a single gram of caffeine for 10 months.  We are not in that camp.  We want someone healthy and trustworthy.

So do I think this person will be that?  Yes.  But I am still feeling no peace of mind in saying yes, she should carry our baby.  And the only horrible thing about saying ‘no’ to her at the moment is just the amount of time we will have to wait until another candidate is identified.  It’s taken us this long to see one profile, when supposedly our agency had dozens available (insert eye roll at Agency’s blatant lies), do we really want to turn her down and wait another 3-4 months?  So you really feel like if you don’t say ‘yes’, you are screwed.  But if my gut doesn’t say ‘yes’ about her, aren’t we screwed that way too?  What do you do when you don’t trust your gut anymore?  Or when you have suppressed it so much that you can’t even feel it?

 

So on other lovely life and uterus news, I am going to pretty much have to have surgery.  I am yet again without a period since that disastrous hysteroscopy.  Lots of cramping, lots of pain.  Too many different hormones to try to kick-start a period again.  Thank you all for your thoughts on my drastic action against my uterus- I need to look for another OB who could potentially operate.  I am actually at that lovely time of the year where I’ve paid out so much in medical bills (once again, I’m floored that it’s far more expensive to have a dead baby at 16w than to have a live baby at 39w at my hospital) that it would make far more sense to try to have a free surgery before next year resets our out of pocket maximums.  We’ll see what I can accomplish.  If nothing else, I need them to remove the scar tissue so I can get a cycle and stop this endless cramping.

 

 

 

Surrogacy battles: Part 4 (what others think)

So, this Sunday was better than last Sunday.

Although, I guess that’s easy when you just stay at home and play with your toddler and lots of water outside.   Life is just easier without happy pregnant women in your face at every turn.  It’s easier if I just focus on my one child and try to forget about the six that aren’t here with me.  And it’s physically impossible to toss your cookies in public if you never go out in public.  I’m voting for several more months of hermit-hood.

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I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me what other people think when they hear you are having/trying to have a baby via a surrogate.  There are so many misconceptions out there and I just hate to think that the only possible route for me to have a child anymore is viewed in a negative light.

I’ve told several more people that we are moving to surrogacy to try to have another child.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised that most responses have been positive.  One friend offered to take Sweetie anytime we need to go to surrogacy appointments.  Another friend said it’s awesome we are doing this and she hopes it works easily for us because we ‘deserve’ it.

Then you get the strange responses that you aren’t really expecting.  A friend asked if we were open to having a surrogate who is a different race than us.  I must have had a strange look on my face as she continued to talk about it until I realized she thought we were adopting a baby who was already due and she wondered if we would be open to a “black baby or brown baby”! (and really, I wouldn’t care, but biology is a giant reason many choose surrogacy over adoption)  I really don’t mind the questions and we had a good discussion about adoption vs. surrogacy.  I really don’t mind asking questions about it- I’d rather be able to educate people than have them not ask or assume incorrectly.

Then there was my last friend (who has three children) who said ‘Meh, I wouldn’t be able to ever trust a surrogate.  There are too many crazies out there.’  Turns out that this friend worked with someone a few years ago who was apparently ‘crazy’ and acting as a gestational carrier.  So much of her opinion was based on this person (who may or may not have been a good surrogate).  I explained that there are lots of background checks, psych exams, clinic and agency requirements, etc. to screen out any possible bad candidates.  But she wouldn’t hear it.  I finally left it alone and just said this was my only option, so I wasn’t going to put up barriers where they don’t need to be.  I don’t want to have to trust a surrogate to carry my baby, but we all do things we don’t want to do sometimes, especially when you don’t have a choice.  I have had enough challenges in my journey.

Then there are the people who we are NOT telling about surrogacy.  My husband doesn’t want to tell his family.  At all.  Until we have a baby in our arms.  I’m pretty blown away (and at the moment pretty pissed off about his reasoning on this) but I figure it’s his family, his choice.  He says that his mother, in particular, has been so let down by our other losses (even though she only ever heard about 2 of them- our first loss and Abby, because we were so far we figured there was no way it wouldn’t work) that she just can’t handle it.  This makes me feel like shit on so many levels-  like jeez, I’m such a horrible daughter-in-law to have a killer uterus that we shouldn’t even talk about any more potential grandchildren.

So, on the more challenging side of things, we are traveling to physically meet with our agency this next week.  Both my husband and I are pissed off with them at the moment and we are really hoping that a personal meeting will get some more communication and hopefully results.  I keep trying to think what we should have done better/differently in choosing an agency and I’m drawing a blank.  I checked other Intended Parents’ references, read all the reviews and word-of-mouth we could find, we talked to them several times, we closely reviewed the contract we signed with them.  Everyone said that you don’t need to be geographically close to an agency, you can use anyone, but I’m wondering now if that might be making this harder.  If it hadn’t been a major financial investment in signing with this agency (many agencies ask for a large portion of their fee- 50%-100% upfront), we would just cut our losses and find a different agency, but I think we need to wait a bit more before we can do that.

 

 

 

 

 

Surrogacy battles- Part 2 (the agency)

So, since my uterus is now retired, our only option for our remaining frozen embryos is to use a gestational carrier (surrogate).

So I’m probably not the best person to describe the process of surrogacy, but the basics are that you first need to find a good candidate to be your carrier.  Some people are fortunate in having a sister or cousin or close friend who is able to carry for you.  You want someone who has a good history of healthy pregnancies and ideally who is done with her own family.  Once you identify that person, you need them to be screened by your RE as a good candidate for IVF.  Then you need to ensure you have done psychological exams as well as background checks to make sure you are all ready for the process of surrogacy.  Finally, both parties need separate lawyers to draft up a contract to ensure that everyone has the same expectations of the process and that there are provisions to protect both parties.  Once those are signed, the surrogate will prepare for an IVF transfer-  in our case, we have made the embryo’s already, so that simplifies the process.   Once the surrogate is pregnant, you ideally want a state that supports the Intended Parents (us) in getting a Pre-Birth Order (PBO) that allows for us to go directly on the birth certificate as parents instead of the surrogate.  Sounds easy, right? (Ha!)

Since we didn’t have any close family or friends to act as a carrier, we chose to find an agency who would find a match for us.  It’s also very common for an agency to guide you through the whole surrogacy process making sure that you don’t miss any steps.

We chose an agency that we initially found to be professional, responsive, and had good word of mouth (in general).  In our discussions, they claimed they had over a dozen surrogates ready to go and we were told that we would be an easy match.  We chose our agency over some other agencies who told us that a timeline to match with them would be 4-6 months.  Obviously, we want thing to move quickly and smoothly, so we paid the gigantic agency fee and sat back.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.

We still have yet to speak with a single surrogate in 10 weeks.

I guess I know I should be more patient, you can’t rush some things, right?  Ok, I would be patient, except when this agency was trying to get us to sign on with them, they insisted they had ‘over a dozen ready to go’.  Um, why tell us that if it’s clearly not true (which we have learned by now)?  Doesn’t that strike you as a way to have lots of unhappy Intended Parents by lying to them in your very first conversations?

Then it’s made worse by the responses we get from the agency when we try to get more information on what’s happening.  I’ve gotten snippy responses that piss me off to no end, had emails ignored for over a week,  and one email response told me that all their carriers are rigorously screened and I won’t get to be ‘picky’ about who we get!  It took every ounce of decency I have to not send back the nastiest piece of email I could think up!  (Thank goodness my dear husband knows how to calm me down!) How can an agency take thousands of dollars from their clients and then turn around and send rude, dismissive emails to them?  Easy, they know that they are controlling the process until they match us and I imagine if we piss them off, then they can just delay things that much more.

I unfortunately am keeping their identity completely confidential as we did sign a non-disclosure and I take that seriously, no matter how disgusted I am.   I really wish they would have been honest from the get-go before we spent so much money to sign on with them- we may still have signed even if they had been honest about match time.   Unfortunately now, even if they found us the perfect candidate tomorrow, I would still be wary of them for the rest of this whole process because of the way they have lied and communicated so poorly already.

Maybe at the end of this, I will look back and be thankful that we had an agency.  Doubt it, but stranger things have happened!  And here’s hoping that this agency is the most difficult part of this journey, I can’t take much more.

Working on a plan

Day 7 of provera and still no period, although I guess it’s not technically supposed to start until after I stop the pills.  I still hate the waiting!

I met with my OB this morning and she was wonderful.  They did put us in the conference room, so I didn’t have to endure the exam rooms  (so the mean receptionist came through- I thanked her when I checked out!).  And bottom line is that my OB is willing to do anything and everything to try to help us out with a future pregnancy, even ordering possibly odd therapies that are not ‘approved’.  It’s so helpful to hear her say that, because you hit a point where you wonder if your doctors are really trying to help you as a person instead of just treat you so they can be done with you (or move you off to another doctor because you are complicated with so many losses).

I did hear some extremely frustrating news at my appointment-  I told my OB’s colleague (my OB was not on call when my last baby died) that I wanted all possible genetic and pathologic testing done on my baby (even though we had done PGS and believed the baby to have normal chromosomes).  I wanted a microarray done in addition to the standard tests.  Well, they did attempt to do a microarray and they just confirmed last week that they did the microarray testing on me.  Now, I can understand that things get contaminated when a fetus is only a few weeks along, the fetal tissue is not as easy to distinguish.  But I lost my baby at 16 WEEKS.  My baby was almost 6 inches long.  How could they not get a clean tissue sample for the microarray?  My OB expressed similar annoyance.  So they think now that they do have fetal cells isolated/growing that they can test by the end of the week.  Fingers crossed.

Honestly, I don’t expect to really learn anything more.  I think everything is going to come back normal.  But I would be so angry to lose a piece of the puzzle when we could have had it.  More information and data always feels useful to me, I guess that’s just the kind of person I am.

And no word from Agency S-  ARGH, they are so bad with communication.  Nothing on that front, unfortunately.

More waiting and hard decisions

So I had blood drawn today to see where the heck my period is.  Progesterone is low, so I haven’t ovulated yet and I’m just sitting in limbo.  At least my HCG=0 (three weeks ago it was 3, so at least it’s gone now).  Starting a course of Provera tonight (assuming the RN gets the prescription called in!) so I can hopefully get the show on the road.  She was nice and warned me that it may be a heavy, painful period.   I just had to shake my head because ANY period after losing a baby in the second trimester is going to be painful, physically and emotionally.

So what’s next for us?  I really wish I knew the answer.

OPTION 1:  FROZEN TRANSFER TO ME 

I have several PGS normal embryos on ice, so that’s an option I guess.  We had a monstrous load of bloodwork done with Expert #3 in NY, so I’m waiting to hear what he thinks about all that.  I don’t want to attempt this again in my own body unless I’m trying SOMETHING/ANYTHING different and there’s some reason to do so.  I’ve already been on the progesterone, aspirin, dexamethasone, intralipids, etc. route and that obviously hasn’t helped. I’m not going to do the exact same thing again and expect a different result.  I’m insane enough without doing that to myself again.

My RE, Dr. D., is SO incredibly conservative, I really can’t get him to order some of the more extreme things that people are trying these days to treat Recurrent Pregnancy Loss.  On the one hand, I can see his point- there aren’t good, published studies that prove them safe and beneficial.  But on the other hand, I don’t understand how doctors can look at RPL patients and just say ‘sorry, we don’t understand why your babies all died and we won’t try anything outside-the-box to help’.

At least Dr. B. is willing to look into some of the possible immunological causes, even if I don’t know if I want to try those therapies.  I have a feeling he’s going to come back and suggest Neupogen (filgrastim) and IVIG infusions.  I am not thrilled about doing the IVIG, but I’m not opposed to it.  I think it’s expensive and inconvenient, but I’m open to trying it.  I don’t know if I want to take Neupogen while I’m in the early days of pregnancy.  It scares me to take something that has not been studied at all really in pregnant patients.  It’s funny to talk about drugs that are ‘safe’ for pregnancy because I know none of them really are proven safe.  During my pregnancies, I’ve always tried to be very cautious and not take any medicine period, it just wasn’t worth it to me.  But to take a medicine to increase my WBC (neutrophil) counts with no knowledge of what they may do down the line to a growing fetus is just downright scary.  If my child someday develops leukemia or some illness like that, I know I would blame myself taking Neupogen during pregnancy.  But I blame myself now for losing my precious girl at 16 weeks, so is that any different?

OPTION #2: SURROGACY

We have put a deposit in with a surrogacy agency, Agency S.  My embryos seem to be good (we got 5 normal blasts out of 6 the last IVF cycle and 2 normals out of 6 the first cycle), so that doesn’t seem to be our biggest problem.  At least 3 of my 6 miscarriages have been chromosomally normal, so something is wrong with my body and pregnancy.  Of course, I want to carry my baby myself, but if my baby will do better in a Gestational Surrogate’s body, we are not opposed to that.  I do think there is such a stigma surrounding surrogacy, and that makes me nervous.  I really don’t need people making negative comments about it (or I’ll lose it and end up in jail and that wouldn’t be good!)  or lumping us in the camp of people who use carriers because they just don’t want to get fat from pregnancy.  On the other hand, I don’t give a flying leap what anyone else thinks about how we grow our family.

And our agency which seemed great on the front end has been nothing but disappointing this last month.  They talk so big about communication and they have not bothered communicating with us at all.  Their owner has spent more time on vacation than in the office and she doesn’t respond to emails when she is in the office.  When you are investing SO MUCH MONEY with them it is frustrating beyond all reason, but they really have the power until you are matched with a surrogate, so you have to sit back and twiddle your thumbs hoping you don’t piss them off.  In our initial contact with them, they acted like they had surrogates waiting to be matched, now I wonder if that’s true at all.  Other agencies were honest and said they had a 4-6 month waiting period, we were hoping things would move quicker with the agency we selected because that’s what they indicated.  I did check references and the Intended Parents we talked with were happy about them.

So we are in limbo with surrogacy.  We passed the initial hoops you have to jump through.  Hopefully something moves along on that front because already the waiting is driving me crazy.  It’s hard to give up so much control.  It sucks to have to give up so much control when it’s so easy for so many people to just get their baby.