Some positive news (for once?!)

Hi to anyone from ICLW!  If this is your first time reading, you get the rare post that seems to have some positive news!

So, after the devastating news from our clinic that our last surrogate was already pregnant, the agency jumped on things and we spoke to a new surrogate yesterday (ok, even I’ll say a little ‘yay’ for my freaking awful agency for FINALLY prioritizing us and trying to provide good service).  This new surrogate has had one failed transfer with her last Intended Parents and they aren’t able to cycle again, so we are able to jump in more quickly.  She has been screened already and best yet… she’s had her tubes tied!!  Whew!

So we are moving forward with her and will get to work on contracts.

On a personal level, she seems slightly more business-like.  This may or may not be a good thing, but I’ll take it as a positive for now.  We just need someone we can trust to carry our baby, I’m not looking for a lifelong BFF.

And, if things go well I have a surgical consult this FRIDAY regarding removing this awful, painful, useless uterus of mine.  I’m still cycle-free since the last horrible hysteroscopy because I can’t bring myself to take more birth control right now.  (and no, I’m not pregnant, I of course had to pee on a stick-  that will hopefully be the last one EVER where I psych myself out with the pee sticks.)

And just like that- it’s over yet again.

Well, I don’t have to worry about trying to feel better about our selected surrogate anymore.  Guess my gut was kinda right on this one.

We sent our surrogate to be screened at the IVF clinic this week to determine if she’s fit to be a surrogate and she is PREGNANT already.

There are no words to describe how I’m feeling right now.  Like I really needed this gigantic slap in the face from the universe.

Back to the drawing board.

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 3 (the cost)

Surrogacy feels like it’s gotten popular in the last decade or so.  Several times a year, it seems there are announcements about celebrity x or y who has used a surrogate to carry their child(ren).  I don’t envy them because I know they are in a similar sucky position of not being able to carry themselves, but I do envy that the financial hit for them is probably nothing like it is to the average couple.

Surrogacy is not cheap.  We are digging into money that had many other purposes to even begin to fathom paying for a surrogacy journey.  We are putting off things like remodeling, updating cars, eating out, taking vacations, etc.  to be able to afford surrogacy.  This is a massive new stress that I never had contemplated, needing to pay all these extra people who will help with various angles along the process.

A brief estimate on costs if you are not familiar with the surrogacy process (and keep in mind, this is just from my reading and limited experience at the moment):

IVF cycle with PGS (we already paid this when we intended to transfer to me, but I still count it in the total as it is what created our embryos)- $18k

Agency (not required, you can do a journey independently but it’s nice to have the protection and matching service that an agency provides.  There is such a wide variety in cost and every agency seems to include different things in the process)- $10-25k

Lawyers (for us and our surrogate)- $3-8k, plus $3-5k for filing the pre-birth order to establish us as parents

Medical bills for surrogate (who knows?! So many group insurance policies do not cover surrogacy anymore and many others will not give you individual coverage that includes maternity at the moment.  Then there is the massive fear that we get done with this process and the insurance company takes back all their payments leaving us with massive medical debt)- $2k-15k+

Compensation for surrogate (this one is the easiest fee to pay out, IMHO.  I’m so thankful that anyone would do this for us that I do not begrudge them compensation for doing this for a person they barely know)- $20-30k plus $3-5k more for twins

Expenses for surrogate ( When someone is carrying your baby, they should not ever have any out of pocket expenses, so we cover things like prenatals, mileage, childcare for appointments, etc)- $3k+

Fees for surrogate (these include some of the less desirable things to pay for- fees for various procedures, fees for a D&C, fees for starting meds, fees for each embryo transfer, fees for having a c-section)- varies widely

Travel expenses (Either having our surrogate travel to our clinic and/or us traveling to be at appointments with our surrogate)- We’ll try to use reward points, etc to save a bit here whenever possible

So at the very minimum, this will probably cost us $80,000 at the upper level it could go up to $125,000+.  Whew, that’s such a scary number.

I was raised to be very thrifty, but there are unfortunately not many things you can do to make surrogacy much cheaper.  Most Reproductive Endocrinologists and lawyers don’t have coupons to print or double coupon days ;)! It makes we wary sometimes to try to use cheaper providers because if it’s not done right the first time, it often ends up costing more to fix.  I also don’t want to try to save money by taking away reasonable compensation from whomever carries our child.   There are some things that we will do to try to make this less of a financial hit- like I said above about using rewards points for travel and negotiating inclusive costs with lawyers, etc.

It’s still daunting.  I’m trying not to let this be (yet another) thing that I’m bitter about.  Not only do most other women get pregnant easily AND not miscarry AND THEN they don’t have to spend six figures to have a child.  I just can’t think about that today.  I’ll pull a Scarlett O’Hara and think about that tomorrow.

Not spending the money (ie, just stopping our journey and living with the one child we have) is just not an option yet.  There’s nothing my husband and I want more- any child is worth far more money than we could sink into this process.  The flipside of this is that this is money that would have been put away for my children’s college or other expenses while growing up that they will not have anymore.  It also makes my decision to stay at home with Sweetie that much harder, because trying to do this on my husband’s income (and our savings) is just scary.  So I may have to go back to work sooner rather than later and Sweetie will no longer have me stay home with her because of needing to pay for surrogacy to grow our family.  Just not fair, but at least it’s within our grasp to be able to try this.   I am vowing to not let the money side of this make me more bitter.  It’s just money.

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.